Black Library Live 2018

I had the pleasure of attending Black Library Live 2018 last Saturday (16th June) and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  Despite a round trip of six hours after a tough week at work, it was worth the journey.

After arriving just in the nick of time, I started at 10am with an Age of Sigmar Seminar about the War of Souls with Josh Reynolds.  My knowledge of the Age of Sigmar is limited to bits I’ve read from short stories and White Dwarf.  I’m a huge fan of the world that was and Age of Sigmar has never floated my boat, though I’m not overtly hostile to it like a few people I know.  Josh was engaging, funny and was able to talk about the subject without confusing those like myself without a huge knowledge of the subject.  Listening to him talk about the current War of Souls event and the linked literature alongside it, I’m almost convinced to delve in to the lore of Age of Sigmar a bit more.  Any tips out there for where I should start with?

Next up was the highlight of the day: The Horus Heresy: Traitors United with Dan Abnett, John French and Neil Roberts.  Essentially it was Horus Heresy catch-up session as John French’s new novel, Slaves to Darkness was out that day, and it depicts the Traitor Legions getting ready for the final assault on Terra.  Dan and John confirmed that we are at ’10 minutes to midnight’ and that the siege is imminent.  They didn’t confirm but my best guess would be late 2019 for it to kick-off.  As ever, Dan and John were engaging and managed not to give too many spoilers away.  Perhaps more interesting was Neil Roberts talking about how he creates the Horus Heresy covers.  It was interesting to hear a different creative process to that of the authors and Neil was an excellent speaker.

The lunch break was next and I decided to avoid the cues at Bugman’s and get my shopping done instead.  I bought a lot more than I meant to…but that happens every time!  I picked up the next three novels in the HH series that I haven’t yet read – The Silent War, Praetorian of Dorn and Angels of Caliban.  I also picked up War of Secrets (latest Space Marines Conquests novel), Valuts of Terra: Carrion Throne and the new Primarchs Anthology, Sons of the Emperor…and the first book the Forge World Horus Heresy Campaign Series.  That should keep my busy for a while at least!

After my shopping spree it was time for Angels of the Emperor with Phil Kelly, Darius Hinks and Neil Roberts.  This was focussed mainly on Phil and Darius’ new novels, War of Secrets and Mephiston: The Revenant Crusade respectively.  War of Secrets sounds very interesting as it is about the Dark Angels and how the chapter is dealing with the influx of primaris marines.  Phil’s enthusiasm about it was very clear and I’m looking forward to getting started with it. Mephiston is mainly unknown to me, apart from his part in the Devastation of Bhaal; when I get through my current mountain of books though I might give him a go.  Again Neil Roberts spoke very well about creating the covers for the Space Marine Conquests series, where he gets to focus on one character for each cover, rather than the epic tapestries more common for the HH covers.

I ended the day with the Coming soon from Black Library session.  They went through a lot of new titles they will release in the next 12 months but the ones I am most excited about include:

  • Horus Heresy – Titans Death by Guy Haley – due out for Christmas and will involve more titans than we’ve ever seen before in an epic battle
  • Horus Heresy – Heralds of the Siege – an anthology that should provide a nice set of prologues before the siege commences
  • Celestine: the Living Saint by Andy Clark – a main character in the current 40k storyline and I expect it will be an epic story, if slightly different from the norm
  • Emperor’s Spear by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – our first look at a fully primaris chapter and as ever with Aaron’s books, it will be a hell of a story
  • Realmslayer by David Guymer – an audio drama with none over than the returned Gotrek Gurnisson…voiced by none other than Brian Blessed.  Maybe this is the story to get me in to Age of Sigmar.

All-in-all I had an excellent day and I’m looking forward to the Weekender in November.


Inquisitor: Martyr Review

I began backing Inquisitor: Martyr (IM for short) during early access back in early 2017 and I’ve been excited about the finished product ever since.  During early access, as is often the case, it was a rough and ready experience, but I did enjoy the gameplay and the potential behind the use of the lore.

My first impressions of the finished game are that it is an unpolished diamond.  If you are a casual gamer and not in to 40k, then I can see this game not having much appeal for you.  If you are a 40k fan though, then the use of the lore and the atmosphere the game generates make this a must-play experience.  I’ve always wanted to play something like this as an Inquisitor, ever since I read the Eisenhorn series by Dan Abnett…now I can!

Before you leap in to the game, you are given a choice of three classes; in-turn each have three sub-classes.  The options are psyker, assasin or crusader.  I went with the Crusader who is essentially a tank and then I selected the heavy gunner sub-class, allowing me to take out enemies from afar.  I’ve played the other two classes during early access and they offer very different gameplay styles.  I think this will be a strength of the game in the future, with good replayability from playing through it with other classes.

The game kicks-off with a tutorial that slowly introduces the controls and main features of the game.  It also doubles up as introducing the main story; the mystery behind the ship – the Martyr.  This use of the main story in the tutorial was an excellent idea; you can often feel like you are ‘wasting time’ during a tutorial instead of getting in to a game properly.  The atmosphere the game creates during the tutorial and the introductions to elements of the lore is also very engaging.

Moving beyond the tutorial, you can either follow the main story or engage in various missions.  These missions are available via a star map where you can move from system to system and planet to star base, with everywhere having something you can do.  I’ve engaged in a few interesting missions already, including rescuing and escorting a VIP (a sanctioned psyker) to safety and taking out some siege guns attacking an imperial outpost.  The formula may essentially be the same, kill everything, but the context provides interest and puts in to the context of the wider world.  For example, the mission briefings are very well written and provide you with a small preview of what you might face.

Levelling-up strengthens your character and allows you to pick a new skill from a variety of options.  You also gain perks and new stats based on feats you’ve completed; e.g. killed 100 enemies with a certain type of weapon.  The customisation options are a bit bewildering at first but you can make your character as a narrowly or as broadly focussed as you like.


Figure 1 – so many skills!


The variety of enemies and their actions is surprisingly wide.  I’ve fought against a lot of plague marines and nurgle daemons, but also against the Black Legion and rebel Imperial Guard.  By far the most interesting so far has surprisingly been the rebel Imperial Guard; the variety of their units and tactics has been surprisingly challenging.  On the other hand though, facing down a Black Legion Legionary is also quite daunting.

Although the sound is probably the biggest component in building the atmosphere, I’m also very impressed with the environments.  The variety has been very interesting and I’ve already played through a spaceship, a frozen world and a plague ridden world.  The frozen was the best so far and I look forward to encountering further varieties.


Figure 2 – A frozen landscape

The variety and style of weapons is a big strongpoint of IM.  With my Crusader I’m currently alternating between a shotgun and heavy flamer; two very different weapons.  Each weapon has four skills, two basic and two powerful.  Each skill has a timer on it, though you can almost always use your two basic skills.  For example with my heavy flamer, I have a normal flame, a flame whilst automatically retreating, an area of effect flame and a long range powerful area of effect flame.  It helps deal with a variety of situations, particularly when retreat is required.  In addition your armour gives you a special skill that is able to be active after you’ve reached certain focus (i.e. caused a lot of damage); for my Crusader Heavy Gunner it is a missile spread that does a huge amount of damage.


Figure 3 – The all important loot

Priority assignments are one of the most interesting parts of the game.  They are special chains of missions that not only form an interesting story, but also provide you with choices that have consequences.  The choices form a short narrative that impact your chance of success in the mission(s) and the collateral damage you may incur.  Collateral damage equals a loss in glory points, the ‘super’ currency of the game.  I found the first one as part of the main storyline very engaging and I hope the game holds a lot more of them.


Figure 4 – What Choice to Make?

Overall I’m really enjoying IM and will probably keep playing it for a while.  I believe the developers are going to continue to support it and bring out more content for it in the future; be it paid or free DLC, I will be getting it.  In conclusion, if you are a 40k fan then this is for you, but I’d also say if you are a general fan of ARPGs then this is at least worth trying.

Book Review – Dante by Guy Haley

I was never a big fan of the Blood Angels until I read James Swallow’s excellent Horus Heresy Novel Fear to Tread.  That opened up to me how complex the Blood Angels can be, even before Sanguinius’ death.  Last year I bought The Devastation of Baal by Guy Haley; an epic novel with the largest battles I ever think I’ve read in a Black Library novel.  I wish before I’d read it that I’d read what is essentially the prequel: Dante. 


Dante tells the story of the Blood Angels Chapter Master through the early part of his life but interspersed with Dante’s battles to slow down Hive Fleet Leviathan in the Cryptus System.  Flashbacks (or whatever the opposite is) don’t always work, but Haley has managed it impressively, showing Dante’s character at the two opposite ends of his very long life.

Dante is both a complex character, as would be expected from 1,500 years of life, but even as a child he comes across as thoughtful and a little bit different from the others.  His vitality and excitement at the beginning of his life are juxtaposed with his weariness in the fight against Leviathan.  The constant though, is his sense of duty and purpose; that never wavers throughout his life and keeps him going.

One of the highlights for me was reading in great detail the initiation and training of a Blood Angel.  I don’t think I’ve ever read such a detailed story for any other chapter and it was really interesting to see how the Blood Angels choose their candidates and whittle them down to the best of the best.  For me seeing Dante’s early life made him a much easier character to understand and I’d love to see something similar for some other famous Space Marines; the early life and times of Marneus Calgar anyone?

As a stand-alone book or as a duo with The Devastation of Baal, this is an excellent read.  I think Guy Haley is one of the Black Library’s best authors at the moment and I look forward to his next novel.

Top 5 Kickstarter Games this Week

It’s been a while but I thought I’d go back round to Kickstarter and see what games are currently looking for funding.  Here are my Top 5 this week:


1. Monster Crown by Studio Aurum

A Monster Taming Game with True Crossbreeds, a Dark Story and filled to the brim with content and imagination

Funding Goal – £3,512 by Thursday 10th May (already met!)

Kickstarter Link

Game Website


2. Dolmen by Massive Work Studio

Dolmen is a new action RPG game whose epic journey takes you to the horror of the unknown.

Funding Goal – £62,224 by Wednesday 9th March

Kickstarter Link

Game Website


3. Pantropy by Brain Stone GmbH

A sci-fi faction multiplayer shooter with mechs and focus on building and crafting.

Funding Goal – £17,324 by Thursday 10th May (already met!)

Kickstarter Link

Game Website


4. Sentinels of Freedom by Underbite Games

A digital turn-based strategy game inspired by the Sentinel Comics RPG. Create your hero. Build your team. Save the world.

Funding Goal – £21,074 by Saturday 5th May (already met!)

Kickstarter Link

Game Website


5. Renaine

Guide Aine, the Phoenix Knight, on her impossible quest through Lineria’s colorful kingdom as she sets out to avenge her friend, Ren.

Funding Goal – £3,512 by Friday 4th May (already met!)

Kickstarter Link

Ashes of Prospero by Gav Thrope – Review

Ashes of Prospero by 40k stalwart Gav Thorpe, is the second in the Space Marine Conquests series.  The series is a successor to the Space Marine Battles series and is focusing on the events that make up the new 40k universe post the great rift opening.

Unsurprisingly Ashes of Prospero involves old sparring partners the Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons.  I’ve read A Thousands Sons, Prospero Burns and the War of the Fang, so I’m pretty au fait with the emnity between the two and it was interesting to read a new story in this long saga.

The story centres upon Njal Stormcaller, the pre-eminent Rune Priest in the Space Wolves.  A mistake leads to a Thousands Sons sorcerer from the heresy era enter his mind, leading Njal to mount an expedition to Prospero.  The expedition is in the hope of finding the remnants of the 13th company and maybe even hope for a sign of Russ himself.

Image result for ashes of prospero

For me, the story was one of two halves.  The first half was the set-up and focussed on Njal and his mistake.  I enjoyed his interaction with the great Logan Grimnar but I also found myself struggling through it a bit, I think because very little actually happens.  I usually enjoy the non-action parts more than the action parts, but in this book it was definitely the other way around.

The second half is excellent and as good as some of my favourite other Black Library novels.  The action starts as soon as they hit Propsero and the battles through the portal maze are excellently described and very exciting.  The suspicion Njal is held in by Arjac is also very well done.

Overall it is a good book but you have to persevere through the first half.  I think Bjorn and Lukas are criminally under-used, though Lukas at the end is very entertainingly portrayed.  The revelations of the book should make future Space Wolf novels interesting, as well as opening up possibilities for other chapters…or should I say legions?


Remembering…Forgotten Realms 3rd Edition

The Forgotten Realms Campaign setting is my favourite D&D setting and in particular the 3rd edition of it.  Most people would probably say 2nd edition is their favourite but I came to the game just as 3rd edition was released so it will always be that bit more special to me.

I stumbled across the campaign setting book in a Waterstones in Bristol and was completely mesmerized as a teenager by the book.  It was full of maps, tales of interesting lands and was beautifully made.  After buying it, I must have read it cover to cover that same day.  Off the back of buying it I properly got in to D&D and started being a DM, running campaigns set in the Forgotten Realms.


I won’t do a blow by blow account of the book but in summary the chapters are:

  1. Characters – including the races of Faerun you can play as and a number of new prestige classes – my personal favourite being the Harper Scout
  2. Magic – what magic is in Faurun and many new spells for Wizards and Clerics
  3. Life in Faerun – an interesting section looking at people do live in Faerun, including seasons, climate, government and commerce
  4. Geography – the best section by far, covering all the lands of Faerun in various degrees of details.  The Dalelands have the biggest section but I was equally enamored with the sections on the Cold Lands, The North and the Old Empires.
  5. Deities –  a description of the main Deities of Faerun, including Bane, Cyric, Helm, Mystra and Tempus.
  6. History – a potted history of the realms – as a first timer it was particularly useful for me understanding the Time of Troubles.
  7. Organizations – looking at some of the main organisations in the realms, including the Zhentarim, Lords Alliance and the Harpers.
  8. Running the Realms – an excellent section for aspiring DMs
  9. Monsters –  just a few new monsters specific to the realms, including the Dracolich

You can still get this edition through –


A Beginner’s Guide to Professional Cycling

Professional cycling is one of the most difficult sports to follow, but also the most rewarding once you understand it.  I got in to it after seeing the 2012 Olympic Road Race in Bushy Park, but it still took me months to get my head around it properly.  This guide will endeavor to explain things as simply as possible! I’m going to focus on the types of races rather than tactics and terminology; I’ll save that for another day.

One-Day Races

The easiest place to start isn’t the Tour de France, it is with a one-day race.  The simplicity of the rider who finishes first wins the race is much easier than with a stage race.

Teams consist of usually 7 riders and within that team, one or two will be designated leaders who the rest of the team will ride for.  They will chase down attacks, fetch food & drink and protect their leader(s) from the wind.  The leader(s) will then try to attack near the end of the race or wait for the final sprint.  There are usually approximately 20 teams in a race.

The types of one-day races are where it can get confusing.  There are different terrain types and these suit different riders and teams.  The most common types of terrain are hilly, flat and cobbles.  Hilly races often have an uphill finish and can be quite unpredictable and exciting.  Flat races can be the dullest with the pelaton riding for hours before a final exciting sprint to finish the race.  Cobble races are my personal favourite and as the name suggests, much of the riding is over sectors of cobblestones.  These races are the most unpredictable, particularly if there has been wet weather.

I would recommend trying the following one-day races:

  • Hilly – Il Lombardia – an end of season race in October set in Northern Italy.  Stunning scenery and riders desperate to get something out of the season makes for an exciting race
  • Flat – Scheldeprijs – Set in early April, this Pan-flat with a few cobbled sectors and cross winds that can break up the pelaton makes this one of the more exciting one-day races
  • Cobbles – Paris-Roubaix – set in mid-April, this is the most famous cycling race after the Tour de France is probably the single best day of racing in the cycling calendar.  Endless cobbled sections break the pelaton up early on and make for an unpredictable race, though the strongest is likely to be in the final group at the finish.


Stage Races

Stage races is where a lot of newcomers fall down.  The usual question is how come the rider that wins the most races (stages) doesn’t win the race?  The simple answer is time – the winner of a stage race is the rider with the least accumulated time over the stages; that’s the easiest way to understand it.  There are also different competitions in most stage races, including:

  • Points – riders gain points for high finishes, rewarding either consistency, or a sprinter if many of the stages are sprinter-friendly
  • Climber – most climbs in a stage have points on offer at the climbs, giving an incentive for riders to break away from the pelaton.  This competition is often competed for by those that don’t have other objectives of winning a stage or the overall race
  • Young Rider – the best rider under-25 with the least accumulated time

Stage races can consist of anywhere from 2 to 21 stages.  Most at the top level are between six and nine, with the three Grand Tours (see below) consisting of 21.  The best stage races have a mix of terrain and types of races.  Many of them also have individual time trials and team time trials (a subject for another post).

I would recommend the following stage races as a starting point:

  • Paris-Nice – set in early March, this early season race takes the riders across 8 stages from near Paris all the way down to Nice.  There is often a good mix of terrain and an excellent field of riders.  The last few editions have been excellent with the race still undecided until the final stage.
  • Tour de Romandie – this is a great short stage race in late April with 6 stages throughout the Romandie region of Switzerland.  There are often time trials, high mountains and a high quality field that are gearing up for the Giro d’Italia that will be just around the corner.
  • Bink Bank Tour – this is my wild card choice that is set in mid-August.  Consisting of 7 stages and set across the low countries, it often takes the routes of some of the classic races set in that part of the world in March and April.  That means there are often cobbles and short explosive climbs, making for attacking and exciting racing.


The Grand Tours

This is where most people start, having seen the Tour de France first.  It is also the most difficult to follow!  For a start there are 21 stages set across three weeks; it doesn’t make for casual viewing.  If you understand the sport though, then the Grand Tours are the most rewarding to follow, particularly if the race is undecided until near the end.

The three grand tours are:

  • Giro d’Italia – set in Italy in May, this is often a race targeted by up and coming stage race riders.  The field is usually quite good, though often missing the best riders.  Recent editions have been excellent, with the 2017 edition decided on the final day time trial.
  • Tour de France – the big one that all the best riders are at.  The scenery is stunning and the stages can often be exciting but for me, one of the problems with the race is its size.  Gaining a high placing at the Tour de France means more to teams than it does at other grand tours.  This can often lead to quite defensive riding and I can’t remember an exciting finale to the Tour since I started watching.  I still never miss a stage though!
  • La Vuelta – my personal favourite, set in Spain in September.  It is the last chance of the season for stage race riders and also includes a pelaton where at least half of the riders are already exhausted.  The result is an unpredictable race with often more attacking riding than at the Tour.


5 Kickstarter Success Stories

Every week, a dozen or so games go on kickstarter hoping to be funded.  Quite a few don’t hit their target or fail in their expectations of delivery.  Only a very few games out there can claim to be success stories from kickstarter, but their successes should serve as hope to all other game developers out there.

They all have something in common though:

  • Excellent presentation and marketing
  • Clear ideas of what they want to achieve
  • Relatively realistic funding targets
  • An IP that people are interested in
  • The simplest – games that already look pretty good

At least three of the above are required to make it on Kickstarter – if you are serious about getting funding, don’t put your game up until you are ready.

My personal favourites that I’ve played and enjoyed that have come through Kickstarter are:

  1. Pillars of Eternity by Obsidian Entertainment – I was a huge Baldur’s Gate fan so it was easy to give me backing to this project.  I wasn’t disappointed by the game either, with an engrossing story and familiar gameplay, this is been of my favourite RPGs since its release.
  2. Kingdom Come: Deliverance – an excellent concept and a pretty decent execution.  Wandering around in Medieval Europe has never been so much fun
  3. Elite: Dangerous – It isn’t an easy game to get in to and it can be very frustrating at times, but if you persevere, this is the best space game out there.
  4. Divinity: Original Sin – I spent hours playing this co-op with a good friend.  The story is unique and the gameplay excellent. The recent sequal has taken the series to an even higher level
  5. The Banner Saga – One of my all time favourtie games.  It is a wonderful way to tell a story, with lovely artwork and a compelling narrative.  This is a must buy for any RPG fans and the second edition is pretty good as well

Thoughts on…The Magos by Dan Abnett

As anyone who has read this blog before will know, I am a huge fan of Dan Abnett’s Black Library novels.  I’ve read all of the Eisenhorn, Ravenor, Gaunt’s Ghosts and Horus Heresy novels, and a few of his other stand-alone books as well.  Without exception, I’ve enjoyed every one of them.  Imagine then my excitement when his new Eisenhorn novel was announced!

I’ve just finished the novel, which includes all of Eisenhorn’s short stories (and some Ravenor as well) plus the new novel, The Magos.  It was an excellent read all-round, with the short stories building perfectly and linking in to to the new novel.  The book also includes a suggested reading order for the entire series and next time around, I’m going to try and follow it and see if that improves the overall experience.

In summary, the book contains the following stories:

  • Pestilence – the story of an outbreak of a disease and a journey to find a cure for it
  • Master Imus’ Transgression – a story originally available as an audio and concerning the far of poor Master Imus, who has come across a problem he has flagged to the inquisition
  • Regia Occulta – also originally available in audio and one of my favourites, concerning an early case of an Eisenhorn in a backwater town – his only encounter with an Ork I think
  • Missing in Action – Eisenhorn’s loses a hand…a sad tale of former misguided veterans
  • Backcloth for a Crown Additional – Eisenhorn and the carnival. A very different story that reminds of something from Midsomer Murders (though in a good way)
  • The Strange Demise of Titus Endor – also the sad demise of Titus Endor. Broken and confused, this is the story of Eisenhorn’s old friend and his final days
  • The Curiosity – our first encounter with the excellent Magos Drusher and his crazy adventures.
  • Playing Patience – How Patience Kys came to be part of Ravenor’s group
  • Thorn Wishes Talon – Ravenor meets his old mentor who warns him of future events
  • Gardens of Tycho – Drusher returns with Macks with another curiosity to solves
  • The Keeler Image – Eisenhorn’s hunt for the Cognitae takes a bad turn. The link back to the Horus Heresy is excellent
  • Perihelion – Ravenor and Eisenhorn meet again under very different circumstances
  • The Magos – Eisenhorn investigates the Cognitae again and finds himself needing the help of Drusher and Macks.  It’s an excellent story and explains a lot about Eisenhorn, with Drusher as a catalyst for maybe making Eisenhorn think about who he really should be.  I won’t say much more but it is one of my favourite stories already, with the cast of characters possibly the best of any of Abnett’s Black Library novels.

I won’t spoil the links between the stories but they are very rewarding when you notice them.

If you’ve read Pariah I strongly recommend that you read this volume first, I think everything will make a lot more sense and make for a more rewarding experience.


For the Love of Paradox

I’ve been a huge fan of Paradox Interactive’s games, ever seen I somehow stumbled across the original Europa Universalis as a teenager.  The original Hearts of Iron, Crusader Kings and Victoria soon followed, and I’ve been playing their games ever since.

I’d say there are currently four ‘classic’ Paradox games out there at the moment, all of which are must haves for any fan of strategy games.


Europa Universals IV

Paradox’s flagship series is Europa Universalis.  The best way to describe would be a renaissance sandbox game where you control a country from the 15th to the early 19th centuries.  You control diplomacy, warfare, the economy and colonisation.  It is ridiculously addictive, even though at times nothing of any interest happens!  It is a bit slow for beginners and you definitely have to be a patient player and a fan of strategic historical games, but for the dedicated player out there, it is endlessly rewarding.


Crusader Kings II

My personal favourite.  Instead of controlling a country, you take charge of a dynasty (creating your own if you want) throughout medieval times.  It is a character based game and that sets it apart from any other strategy game out there.  There is so much diversity as well; you can start as a dynasty that is Christian, Viking, Muslim, Hindu or many others and all of them play differently.  Not only that but the maximum timeline is approximately 700 years! Even if you play only a few hundred years (!) the satisfaction of seeing your dynasty control half the world is immense.


Hearts of Iron IV

The most complicated game on this list takes us to the lead up and events of World War II.  Playing the long campaign you take charge of any country in the world from 1936 through to the late 1940s.  You control the economy, diplomacy and most importantly, the army.  What sets HoI IV apart from its earlier incarnations is the National Focuses mechanic.  Every couple of months you choose a new national focus that mimics an historical event; for example for Germany this could be the remilitarization of the Rhineland.  This gives it a historical feel but allows you to deviate from what happened.  It’s still hard to beat playing the UK though and finding yourself alone in 1940, desperately hoping the USA joins the war sooner rather than later.



This is the wildcard and the most innovative game Paradox have produced.  If you took all the learning from the above games and then decided to put it all in to space, that is Stellaris.  You take control of a space empire from its humble beginnings, to first contact and beyond across the galaxy.  Again there is diplomacy, warfare, the economy and technology but all in space and without any historical context, you have no idea how events might/should play out. It is slow to begin with and if you start badly there may be no coming back from it, but if you get it right it is an awesome game.