Warhammer 40K

Farewell to The Independent Characters ;-(

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IC PodcastIn Episode 116 of The Independent Characters podcast Carl Tuttle announced that the IC podcast will be coming to a close in April 2015. This is certainly very sad news indeed. For five years The Independent Characters has not only been the best Warhammer 40,000 podcast but one of the better hobby podcasts in general. They always approached the hobby with great intelligence and good humor. We understand the great time and effort it takes to put on a quality show and wish Carl well and indeed hope he continues with The ICs Unbound videos and the occasional show. Thankfully Carl is not quitting the hobby otherwise we’d be reporting the collapse of Forgeworld as well! Thank you Carl, Geoff and all those who helped and supported The Independent Characters. We wish you all the best. Happy hobbying. View from the Turret, out.

Space Hulk Computer Game — Now Available

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Space HulkSpace Hulk the computer game is now available for PC and Mac on Steam. There is a video interview where you can see a nice overview of the game from the designer.

I have now finished all of the missions in the game. Simply, it is Space Hulk! The game is very close to the original board game. The minor changes are noted below. For many, especially veteran players, this is a good thing. But it can present a mild hurdle to new players. The game has a good introduction but one will still need to spend a bit of time reading the rules to fully understand what is going on — and some of the current bugs can cause new players even more confusion. Mission variety seems very good but there are only 12 missions in the campaign plus the training missions. The AI also seems quite good. It is not amazing but puts up a reasonable fight. Three levels of difficulty help players match their skills with the AI.

Changes from the Board Game: As noted by the designers,

“We have made a video game out of the board game, and not made a 1:1 translation. There are certain rules and mechanics that we changed to make it play as a video game.

These include:

  •  Flamer uses a template and does not target a section only (since those do not exist in a video game)
  •  As long as a unit has action points left, you can return to it and do actions on it
  •  We automated move+fire against visible enemies for Storm Bolters. Terminators will shoot while moving if they have an enemy in line of sight. Targeting doors is a manual process using the “Set move and fire target” button. Manual process is also required for limited ammo weapons like the assault cannon.
  •  You can move multiple units at the same time
  •  Space Marine timer is optional
  •  Reworked and automated the command point usage in the enemy turn. Jammed weapons will automatically unjam if there are command points left. Interrupting enemy turn is not possible
  •  Librarians charge their force axe automatically if they would otherwise lose a close combat fight
  •  Guard mode and parry rolls are automated”

I wanted to comment on one complaint that some are making regarding the changes. Some are claiming that the ability to intermix unit commands fundamentally changes the game. I disagree with this sentiment. While this change is certainly a departure from the literal rules of the board game it is a very natural change. In fact, I was on the second mission before I even realized I was mixing the actions of units because it is such a natural thing to do. Doing this in the board game would be tricky as one would have to track the remaining APs for everyone. This change is of course a departure from the board game but one can argue it makes it better and provides for more tactical choices. The change does perhaps make it a little easier for the Marine player because you can now see the outcomes of actions and decide on actions that in the board game you could not. But overall it still retains the spirit and fundamental play of the board game even if it is not a strict implementation of it. Moreover, this change does not force you to play that way. If you want to play with the board game rules of having to perform all APs on a particular Marine before moving to another then you can. So you have the best of both worlds.

The counter argument to the above is that the AI moves the Genestealers with the same intermixing of APs. True but I just can’t see how this really matters. Either a Genestealer is being fired at when it moves or it is not. If it is not under fire then all units are going to be able to move as they wish anyway. If it is under fire then either it is killed or not and the unit behind revealed. The one situation where this matters is when a group of Genestealers is advancing and being fired on by Overwatch. In the board game it would be one Genestealer at a time moving. So say you had three squares of movement under Overwatch. Each Genestealer would have to brave the full three squares of fire. In the computer game one Genestealer could move up behind another and thus get cover for the portion of that movement where the lead Genestealer survived. This can make it slightly harder on the Marine player but considering the AI could generally use a tad bit of help this seems like a good thing. Yes it is a departure from the board game and if you are concerned over whether the game is a literal translation of the board game then this is indeed a difference, but also one that simply does not matter to the spirit and play of the game. Lastly, in my last two missions I watched for this action specifically and did not see the AI employee the tactic even once. It sent the Genestealers at me one at a time. So if the AI does use this ability it is certainly not frequent.

Of course when playing against a human opponent the above changes make a larger impact. But considering both sides gain an advantage I, again, don’t think it fundamentally changes the game. Whether it changes the balance of some missions will only be known after dozens if not hundreds of plays. Again, both sides could agree to use all APs for each unit to emulate the board game so players still have a choice.

One could argue the flamer rule change is significant as well but we played with essentially the same change as a house rule to the board game for decades because the tile-based flame rule simply never made any sense to us. In fact, over the years we have made all sorts of house rules and balance changes as we’ve played. Does this mean we were not playing Space Hulk? It just seems like an argument without purpose. It is still Space Hulk. Enjoy!

Bugs: Version 1.03 is now available. I finished the entire game with the only bad bug being the Mission 6 bug fixed in 1.01.

  • Even in 1.02 there are still problems with the Manual. Some omissions and typos and many of the images are not visible.

Minor Complaints: The character animation is quite good but the Marines move very ponderously. Realistic and fitting perhaps but after a few minutes you’ll wish they’d just hurry up. Surprisingly, while I was very annoyed by this slow pace at first after a few missions it became a non-issue because you learn to give an order and move on to another Marine while the prior one is moving. Between that and just thinking of tactics the Marine pacing stopped mattering. But I do think there should be an option to speed the Marines up. I can understand how it will really bother some players. Panning the screen with the mouse is too slow but you can right-click and drag it around quickly. Keyboard commands work just fine. It can be a bit difficult to see doors in the 3D view and you have to sometimes pan/zoom around or jump to the strategic map to see what is going on. Door location and status is very important in Space Hulk so this is a concern. Animations can sometimes be off with shooting going off on a tangent yet still killing the target. It would also be nice to maybe be able to play as the Genestealers against the AI although the AI may not be able to pose a good enough challenge as the Marine player. Lastly, the inability to customize the look of your forces or pick other Chapters is disappointing, but I suspect this will come as an add-on later for sure.

A larger issue is the lack of a true campaign where you follow units through various missions and see them increase in abilities. This could hurt larger acceptance among some gamers. Ultimately Space Hulk is about sacrificing some units to achieve the mission so such a campaign system would need to be designed well and/or have unique missions. Of course XCOM showed you can have a good campaign even where units die a lot.

Graphics and Sound: I almost hate to comment on these because they really come down to personal preference. Space Hulk does not have the latest cutting edge graphics and effects. It is more than good enough for me but only you can judge that for yourself. There is a fair amount of clipping. I am enjoying the 3D view more as I play. Some of the levels are quite nice with walkways that go over seemingly bottomless pits and equipment that hums and glows. I’ve found myself just zooming around sometimes looking at things from different points of view just because it looks cool. Considering this is not a first person shooter it all seems more than adequate. Animations are ok with some better than others. If you are expecting amazing flawless animations you will be disappointed. Certainly some of the zoomed-in ‘action’ shots show some oddities. Sound, when it isn’t being buggy, is good but not great. There is nice ambient noise. The various sound effects are ok but not amazing. Overall I’d say graphics and sound are good and more than sufficient for a turn based game.

Conclusion: Overall if you liked the board game you will probably like the computer game. If you liked XCOM you should give the game a try. It is a bit slower paced and somewhat less varied than XCOM but it is still an interesting and tactically challenging game with good atmosphere. The ability to play over the Internet and hotseat (not to mention against the computer) should keep re-playability high. But Space Hulk has always been a good occasional pick-up game not something you play constantly over the long term and the computer version does not really change that. I look forward to seeing how they expand the game in the future.

For a somewhat more negative look at the game see Wot I Think: Space Hulk from Rock, Paper, Shotgun but this was written before the 1.01 patch. I think the current issues are minor annoyances at worst (unless you are suffering from a technical issue).

Tips:

  • Right-click and drag the map to move it around quickly.
  • You can stack orders, you don’t have to wait for one unit to finish before going to the next.
  • Don’t forget to check your Command Points at the start of your turn to see if you want to re-roll.
  • Clicking the square behind a Marine backs him up. Clicking more than one square causes him to turn around and walk to the spot.
  • Use the strategic Map (M key) to easily check for door location/status.
  • Don’t forget to check you have given orders to ALL your units before ending your turn; it is easy to forget a few Marines.
  • Consider saving a Command Point or two so units on Overwatch can clear a jam.

Space Hulk Corridor

[Updated: 23AUG13]

The Best Games Not Yet Published – 2011

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Another new year and new games and miniatures to lust after! Once again we present our annual look at the games and miniatures we are most anxiously awaiting in 2011. Our 2010 prognostications did well. As always, there is no guarantee any of these titles will be published in 2011, nor that they will be any good if they are, but we are always optimistic.
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Black Library — Digital Editions

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Horus RisingThe Black Library has started producing digital editions of many of their publications. This includes not only audio books, as they have done on CD for a few years now, but also fulltext eBooks and unabridged audio. The audio books are now available in downloadable .mp3 format and the books are available as .ePub and .mobi (you get both). Surprisingly all of the formats are provided without copy protection and are licensed so you can load them on multiple personal devices.

All of the publications are in industry standard formats. The .mp3 format is of course playable on just about any audio device at this point including any computer. There are a number of reader options for .ePub and .mobi as well. .mobi is more popular on small form factor devices such as the iPhone or Android phone. .ePub is probably the preferred format for eReaders and computers but with text-only novels either format works just fine. On Apple’s iPad there are numerous .ePub reader apps including Apple’s own iBooks app. For the computer, Adobe’s Adobe Digital Editions is probably one of the better reader applications. The new Barnes&Noble NookColor — a great device for $250 by the way — also reads the .ePub format. There is also a Nook app for the iPad (the Windows Nook app is not so great). The books look great on all of the devices we tried. [Note: The NookColor seems to have a slight bug where random text gets rendered it a slightly larger font. B&N we hopefully fix this with an update.]

Unfortunately, the Black Library eCommerce site only has prices in UK pounds. Most books are ~£6.50 — that works out to about $10.00 at current conversion rates. On Amazon.com you can get most Black Library publications for around $8.99 but if you add in shipping and/or sales tax you are at least breaking even. On the plus side most of the books are ~£6.50 where some cost more on Amazon. The full audio books are probably where the conversion pricing hurts the most. For example, the unabridged audio version of Prospero Burns is £20.00 (~$31) but it is 16 hours of audio.Fireborn

We grabbed a handful of titles including some audio books. We were very impressed with the audio books. We got Fireborn and Heart of Rage both of which are somewhat older publications having been released on CD previously. Both are audio dramas and include dramatic story telling with sound effects and music. They are only about an hour long but are very well done. We liked Fireborn better but that is probably personal taste.

Overall this is an interesting development for fans of Warhammer 40,000 and epublications. The ability to carry multiple titles and read them on multiple devices is a nice convenience. The audio books are a nice diversion and make for some interesting listening while modeling. Hopefully Black Library will continue to publish in electronic formats.

Ultramarines the Movie — Comments

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Ultramarines the MovieWell I won’t bother with a review of Ultramarines: The Movie considering how many are already out there — John Regal’s of DakkaDakka is a useful one. One thing I have not seen are many comments on the DVD extras. The set includes a second DVD full of extra stuff. Some of it is rather simple weapon database type stuff but it also includes some 40K background, information on the actors, as well as a 25min making-of piece that is very good. Overall there is probably another 40mins of material on the second DVD. You will need to go to the Thunderhawk and some of the other sections to unlock access to many of the other extras. Also included is a 36-page full-color comic that is only mildly interesting and probably more useful for those new to 40K in general. All components are of high quality.

I have now seen the new Warhammer 40,000 movie a couple of times. I rate it a 6 out of 10 if you are a WH40K fan. If you are just a sci-fi fan in general it is probably a 5 out of 10. That may not sound very good but I think the movie is in fact worth buying and worth watching. Considering this was the first WH40K movie ever done and the limits of the budget I think they did a respectable job. Considering Dan Abnett wrote the screenplay I was a bit disappointed in the story. But if 40K fans want to see bigger and better movies done in the future they need to support this release or that will surely be the end of that.

  • Animation Quality: Ranges from good to very good. It is nowhere near the level of a Pixar film but is sufficient for the job. In many of the scenes the characters seem to be walking on smoke. In addition, the figure animations are somewhat off and there is a general lack of mass and gravity. Having said that, the Land Speeder animation is very good and it makes you wonder why they did not do a vehicle heavy story instead that would have helped mitigate a lot of the issues they seemed to have had.
  • Model Design: Ranges from good to excellent. They had to modify the look of the Space Marines a tad to actually make them work. The ironic thing is I think one major fault is that they tried to stay too true to WH40K. For example, the weapons are ridiculously huge and in some shots just seem silly. The main complaint really is that there simply are not enough models in the movie (no Rhinos, Terminators, Dreadnoughts, frigates, fighters, etc). But of course this goes back to the limited budget.
  • Set Design: Generally good. Here I think personal preference will rule. They stayed very true to the fluff of 40K and even used the designs of existing 40K building models in the sets. Sometimes the sets look like game boards more than actual environments. Like many video games, many of the sets were very vacant, which just seems odd. Inside the Strike Cruiser are these vast open areas of nothing. I think the movie would have been better off being in a Space Hulk instead of where they did it for both visual and budget reasons. I also think making the environments a bit less literal Gothic would have helped. Sometimes you would think they were making a vampire movie or something.
  • Sound: Generally very good. I would have preferred different sounds for many things but that is just personal taste.
  • Story: Good. More like a 50-100 page short story than a true feature length film (it is, after all, only 70mins long). The story is a bit slow, predictable and somewhat disappointing overall. But even though the movie was certainly made for the hardcore fan I think they were trying to open it up a bit to a more general audience as well. This duality may have thrown things off a bit. The story will probably annoy the hardcore fan more than the casual fan.
  • Voice Acting: Outstanding. Without a doubt the highlight of the film is the voice acting. The actors did a fantastic job and were well cast.

Overall the sum is probably greater than the parts and it was fun to see 40K come to life, even if imperfectly. With luck we will see a bigger, better film next time around.

[Updated: 20DEC10]

Ultramarines the Movie — Now Shipping

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Ultramarines the MoviewWell after a two week delay the first Warhammer 40,000 movie is shipping to customers at last. Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 movie is a 3D animated film set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The screenplay was written by Dan Abnett, of Gaunt’s Ghosts and Horus Heresy fame. The movie was previewed to a number of folks all of whom have given it good marks. The movie is a DVD-only release and will not appear in theaters. 40K Radio has a nice interview with the primary producer of the film from Codex Pictures and discuss their private screening of the movie. Bell of Lost Souls also has an interview with Bob Thompson of Codex Pictures and a preview of the movie. Episode #12 of 40K Radio also has a very good interview with Producer Bob Thompson (forward to 1:23:30 to get right to it).

Read our comments on the film.

[Updated: 19DEC10]

40K Radio is Back!

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40K RadioFollowing the sudden demise of the 40K Radio podcast all of the rights were purchased by Romeo Filip, owner of Battlefoam. They did an intro show #1 a few weeks ago but we were less than impressed. But they have now done shows #2 and #3 and both have been very good. Without Spencer the show lacks a bit of energy but is, so far at least, more on topic. The hosts and Romeo are doing a good job covering the various aspects of Warhammer 40K. There is no more drinking on the show now and it is more family friendly in general. Some may call this a negative but it allows younger listeners to enjoy the show as well as us old timers.

Update: We still like the show but it made a substantial turn to the non-younger audience friendly side. The guys will often slip into less than child sensitive language as well as sophomoric rants in general. Sometimes humorous but certainly not for younger audiences.

[Updated: 12DEC10]