Friday, January 29, 2016

Sightseeing in the 40K universe

I find myself often becoming very confused as to the location of important places in the Warhammer universe.  I made myself a quick cheat sheet:

Segmentum Solar (Center)

Holy Terra
Cthonia (Luna Wolves) *

Segmentum Ultima (East)

Chemos (Emperor's Children) *
Chondax (White Scars)
The Maelstrom
Nocturne (Salamanders)
Ultramar (Ultramarines)
Tau Empire
Baal (Blood Angels)
Nostramo (Night Lords) *
Nuceria (World Eaters) *
Prospero (Thousand Sons) *
Olympia (Iron Warriors) *

Segmentum Tempestus (South)

Deliverance (Raven Guard)
Barbarus (Death Guard) *

Segmentum Pacifus (West)

Sabbat Worlds (Tanith)
Colchis (Word Bearers) *

Segmentum Obscurus (North)

Eye of Terror
Medusa (Iron Hands)
Caliban (Dark Angels) *
Fenris (Space Wolves)
Calixis Sector (Dark Heresy RPG)
Gothic Sector (Battlefleet Gothic)
Scarus Sector (Eisenhorn and Ravenor)
Arkona (Eternal Crusade)
Istvaan System *

* indicates currently a dead world in 40K

Thursday, January 21, 2016

More Space Marines

Just some pictures of space marines models with their helmets off.  Not easy to keep a steady hand, leading sometimes to buggy eyes.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Top Five 40K Novels

One of the most compelling aspects of the 40K universe is its fluff.  I'm a pretty voracious reader of Black Library novels, and it's quite possible that I've read over 100 of them.

Here are my five all time favorites:

1.  Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill

"On the nightmare battlefields of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, few foes spark more fear and dread than the Chaos Space Marines. Nurturing a hatred that is millennia-old, they attack without mercy, spreading terror and destruction in their wake. Now hell has come to Hydra Cordatus, for a massive force of terrifying Iron Warriors, brutal assault troops of Chaos, have invaded the planet and lain siege to its mighty imperial citadel. But what prize could possibly be worth so much savage bloodshed and destruction and how long can the defenders possibly hold out?"

A pretty good introductory novel for people not familiar with 40K.  It jumps quickly into action and gives people a good idea of what grimdark is all about.  A little hard to find in print, but available on amazon at very affordable prices.

2.  Soul Hunter by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

"The Night Lords were once among the most potent forces of the Imperium, Space Marines who used fear itself as their weapon. Now, cast adrift from the Emperor's light and hunted as heretics after their monstrous betrayal, the Night Lords clad themselves in symbols of death and fight the Long War, bringing pain and terror to all who worship the corpse-god of Terra. A summons from Warmaster Abaddon sends these rebels on a dangerous journey that leads inexorably to a conflict with the Emperor's chosen warriors: the Blood Angels."

Dembski-Bowden is hands down the finest author in Black Library.  He has a keen awareness of how the Night Lords' unique perspectives on human nature and justice could lead them down a terrifying path of destruction against the Imperium and anything else barring their way.

3.  Skitarius by Rob Sanders

"The skitarii are the soldiers of the Machine God, the tireless legions of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A discovery of ancient technology sends a skitarii legion, commanded by Alpha Primus Haldron-44 Stroika, into battle on a forge world overrun by Chaos. When a cataclysm cuts him off from his tech-priest overseers, Stroika must rally his forces and battle corrupt machines and Chaos Space Marines if he is to achieve victory."

Doesn't exactly have a happy ending, but amazing portrayals of how the adeptus mechanicus goes to war and how demonic possession affects them.  The audio book with Tobey Longworth is even more incredible, as he effectively injects mechanical life into the characters with his versatile talent.

4.  Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight

"It is M32, a thousand years after the Horus Heresy. The Scouring is over and the Imperium at the height of its post-Crusade power. When Magnus the Red is tracked down to Gangava Prime, the Space Wolves hasten to engage the daemon primarch. Even as Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm closes on his ancient enemy, the Fang on the Space Wolves home world is besieged by a massive force of Thousand Sons. A desperate battle ensues as the skeleton forces of Wolf Lord Vaer Greylock attempt to hold back the attacking hosts before the last of his meagre defences gives in."

The first Black Library book I read and still the best space wolf novel.

5.  Path of the Warrior by Gav Thorpe

"The ancient eldar are a mysterious race, each devoting their life to a chosen path which will guide their actions and decide their fate. Korlandril abandons peace for the Path of the Warrior. He becomes a Striking Scorpion, a deadly fighter skilled in the art of close-quarter combat. But the further Korlandril travels down this path, the closer he gets to losing his identity and becoming an avatar of war."

The writing admittedly can be a little clunky and the subsequent novels in the series are not as strong, but Path of the Warrior does an excellent job of explaining how to an eldar the path of life is primarily one of personal exploration and development and not just of survival.  

Admittedly there are no Horus Heresy or Dan Abnett books on this list.  If I had to choose a favorite HH novel, I'd probably pick A Thousand Sons by McNeil.  I very much like Legion and Xenos as Abnett novels, although most people will probably agree that Horus Rising is the seminal book for both categories.    

Monday, January 11, 2016

McNeil's Perspective on Perfection

Once a Legion dedicated to perfection in all its pursuits, the Emperor's Children succumbed to the call of forbidden knowledge, making them victims for Slaanesh.

In the Black Library novel Fulgrim, author Graham McNeil explains the evolution of the legion as being one of seeking perfection, to art, to pleasure, to experience, to hedonism.  When I read this novel I was somewhat unconvinced that this was a logical progression.

McNeil provides an interesting lens through which one can partially view the transition: that of first captain Julius Kaesoron.   Kaesoron accompanied his Primarch Fulgrim during the Cleansing of Laeran and was present during the attack on that xenos race's capital city as the genetically-modified serpentine Laer warriors died to protect their central temple which was dedicated to Slaanesh. Like many of those that entered the temple, Julius was enraptured by the sights and strange discordant music as the cacophonous flood of sensations assaulted him with a surge of light and noise in the building.

Thereafter, Julius obtained the writings of Cornelius Blayke from the expedition's archivist.  A visionary from childhood, Blayke had, it appeared, been affilicted with visions of an ideal world where every dream and desire could be realized.  This Cornelius Blayke is almost certainly a nod by McNeil to the real life William Blake, an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Movement.  The Romantic movement was a 19th century response to the 18th century age of Enlightenment, which had posited similar to the 30th millennium Imperial Truth that man could stand unaided at the center of his own rational universe.  Blake was notable for his belief that there was no separation between spirit and matter, a rejection of authoritarianism, and a belief that sexual activity should not be criminalized.  

Perfection is a term that is hard to define.  To some being perfect means being complete.  To others, being perfect means something exactly correct for its purpose.  Going with the latter definition, what is the purpose of mankind?  One could argue that, absent any assurance of eternal truth, our purpose may be to seek to embody the the purest and most complete form of positive experience in material form.  This positive experience can be expressed in the form of modes such as art, beauty and pleasure.  A quest for perfection / pleasure nevertheless often relies on certain rather questionable assumptions: such as (1) that perfection is unchanging,  (2) that perfection is achievable in the material world,  (3) that ultimate pleasure is in fact a worthwhile goal and not a subversion of life's purpose, and (4) that pleasure is valuable even if it provides no concrete gains based in reality.

The Emperor's Children seem to equate pleasure with excess sensation.  If pleasure is good, more pleasure is even better.  Continued exposure to sensation runs the risk of becoming jaded, requiring more extreme exposure.  Once again, there are a number of questionable assumptions made in this progression: (1) that pleasure can remain perfect even if it causes negative outcomes to others, such as pain and harm of others, (2) that pleasure can remain perfect even if it causes negative outcomes to oneself, such as underdevelopment, addiction, long term loss, lack of empathy or failure to evolve, (3) that excess sensation (possibly including pain) is in fact more pleasurable, and (4) that something can be perfect even if it is ephemeral and fleeting in nature, requiring greater and more extreme future applications.

Here we reach the central issue.  The Warhammer universe is grimdark in nature.  There is no perfection or eternal salvation in this setting: only a brief spark of reason which will inevitably be snuffed out in time.  A quest to achieve perfection in the material world therefore is bound to be futile, because there is no eternal truth to the universe (whether physical or spiritual) other than chaos.  So the Emperor's Children quest for perfection was always doomed to fail.

McNeil further expounds upon this harsh reality in his novel Vengeful Spirit.  In Chapter 17, Raeven of the Imperial Knight House Devine meets Fulgrim, in the guise of the White Naga.  As he approaches the demon, the landscape erupts with sensation.  Fulgrim tells him that there is "no such thing as too much", and introduces himself as the "ontological ideal of perfection."  Raeven resists, insisting that there is "no such thing in the world as perfection" and that if a thing were perfect "it could never improve and so would lack true perfection".  "Perfection depends on incompleteness!" he admonishes the serpent, prior to striking it and running for his life.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

White Hair Purple Eyes

The Horus Heresy Book 1 Betrayal indicates that Fulgrim's gene seed "produced warriors with finely sculpted physiques, a noble bearing, and finely controlled thought processes, with psychological tendencies driven toward personal achievement and competition to prove individual superiority.  The only abnormality registered was the occasional incidence of albinism, and a shift in iris colour to violet in some recruits."  In other words the Emperor's Children took after their primarch, with a tendency for white hair and purple eyes.

The idea of white hair not related to age is a common enough trope marking a character as mystical, pure, aristocratic, cruel and/or unstable in literature.

For example, Elric, the antihero protagonist created by Michael Moorcook seems to be a clear prototype for Fulgrim.  The last emperor of the ancient Melnibone civilization, he is an accomplished sorcerer and albino.  Elric uses ancient pacts and agreements with demons to aid him and also wields a possessed black blade called Stormbringer that feeds on souls and is destined to destroy him.

Another example is the Targaryens from R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones.  The Targaryens are the deposed rulers of Westeros and tend to have silver-blond hair as well as violet eyes.  Their rise and fall was closely associated with their mystical control over dragons. 

The trope is also very common in anime and video games.  Sephiroth of the Final Fantasy series is a white haired villain who has been endowed with cosmic powers as a result of a megacorporation injecting him with cells from an extraterrestrial lifeform.  He is considered one of the most beloved video game characters by many of the fans of the series.

In comics, Magento is a silver haired proponent of mutant superiority whose role has varied from supervillain to anti hero to superhero.  His ability to generate and control and generate magnetic fields and closed fist politics make him one of the most powerful and compelling characters of the X-men comic books.  While he is considered to be old enough to have lived through WWII, his hair color is considered to be genetic as it has not changed with age and is also a distinguishing characteristic of his son, Quicksilver.

In films, characters such as Prince Nuada from Hellboy 2 and Roy Batty from Blade Runner also stand out as notable tragic, charismatic white haired male characters with dark futures.   

Crusader army list required units

Finally completed HQ (Eidolon) and two squads of troops (20 tacticals) last night.

I gave the sergeants power swords to allow them to remain nimble in challenges.

The question is what models to work on next.  It's nice to have the freedom at last to work on whatever I like.  I was thinking either a support squad, a sicarian venator, or palatine blades.  ;)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Eidolon WIP

I decided to post my work in progress Eidolon, just to have something up on the blog to start off with.

Eidolon served as one of the eleven Lord Commanders of the Emperor's Children Legion during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras. At one time, Lord Commander Eidolon was hailed as the exemplar of all that the Emperor's Children aspired to. He was elevated to Company Captain by the IIIrd Legion's Primarch Fulgrim himself, becoming the first Space Marine to lead an entire company within the Legion. He achieved such perfection that he went on to become the Legion's pre-eminent Lord Commander. Eidolon was commonly regarded as the most proficient of all the Lord Commanders having been a dedicated student of the art of warfare in all its aspects.

If Eidolon had any imperfection, it was overconfidence, a characteristic that bore rotten fruit as it was twisted into overweening arrogance. In striving towards the perfection embodied by his Primarch, Lord Commander Eidolon submitted himself to the attentions of Chief Apothecary Fabius, receiving biological augmentations that allowed him to project a psycho-sonic dirge as formidable as any weapon.