Wassup? Been busy, as I said last time I was here. I’ve three novels to write in four months (+++STATUS UPDATE 1.4 NOVELS COMPLETE +++BLEEP+++), and also my dog, Magnus died. I mentioned it on twitter, but I was so cut up about it I didn’t feel like sharing in the modern-day way with a 3000 word eulogy. He was my friend. I was very upset. Enough.

So, all this is bit frustrating actually, as there is a TON of stuff I want to write about on this blog; some, as you know from past performance, I’ll never get around to communicating. But some things are timely, and if I have time to take advantage of the timeliness, I should. So I do. So here we go.

Today I got this message from Thor Odinson (@Thor_Odinson). I’m pretty sure he’s not the Thor, but you never know.

POINTS VALUES WERE NEVER BALANCED. They were actually unfair. Warhammer devolved into an exercise where power-mad dice chuckers would spend every waking moment breaking the latest army book. “Well, the points are equal. Therefore it is fair,” they would say of their latest hell-combo, when quite patently it was not fair, and what they really meant was “This arbitrary system of points attribution provides a cloak of legitimacy to my frightening need to prove my validity as a human being by winning at toy soldiers.”

So have you heard that GW’s adding points to Age of Sigmar?

I was going to answer this anyway, so I thought I’d share with everyone.

In short: Points in Age of Sigmar are a not a good idea, they’re a great idea.

What?! Yeah, you read that right. Let me explain.

I have nothing against points in games. I play plenty of games that use points-based army selection systems – X-Wing, Bolt Action and Saga among them. The difference with these systems is that the points values – more or less – have some correlation with how useful something is in the game (though X-Wing is edging its way out of that bracket).

But in Warhammer – and I definitely mean Warhammer 40,000 here too – not so much. Both 8th Edition Warhammer and current 40k are so complex, with so many layers of rules, supplements, exceptions and so forth that the points values were/are essentially meaningless. Games Workshop have always had a tendency to make their latest models more powerful. In the main this is just out-and-out “wouldn’t it be way cool if this could do that?” gaming geekery. Rules creep has been the norm in Warhammer right from when I was a nipper. Watch tourney players debating the 40k  “meta” as I believe the youngsters call it these days, and most of the top lists are drawn from the more recent codexes. I reiterate, this is nothing new. You should have heard me endlessly rant about how overpowered 2nd and 3rd edition Wood Elves were (and they bloody were).

Points values started out very simple. As did Warhammer. The more complex the game got, the less accurate points became as a metric of how powerful something was, and the more open to abuse the system was. Points gaming was the default way to play, therefore winning at all costs by breaking the army books became the game. As a more thematic, story-driven, hobby gamer, this bored and frustrated me.

However, points are good, if the system works. We’ve all heard the arguments for the need for them during pick-up games, and then there’s the tournament community, who were put out by the lack of pointage in AoS.

There was great debate about the points value thing within GW when AoS was launched. They wanted to get away from points as default gaming style. But the community didn’t entirely agree, and Games Workshop are listening to their fans again. That’s the really important thing here. I think they’ve moved from a position of “We’re the market leader, our customers will follow whatever we do,” because, well New Coke.

I’m all for it. Provided points don’t become again practically the only way to play, and they are executed with the same elegant simplicity as the Age of Sigmar core rules, then they’ll be really cool.

By dint of the timing of this decision, when open play is already embedded in the public consciousness,  I am reasonably confident that points gaming won’t come to completely dominate as it did in the past, and even if it does, then we’ve now all been freed from the “must have a 2000-point army that beats everything” mindset. Open play will continue to be a viable option. If the campaign system proves to be good too, then we’ve exciting times ahead.

I’m also confident that the points system will be balanced. Of key importance here, GW seem to be involving people who have lots and lots of experience in organised play like tournaments.

Every playing style will be accommodated in the upcoming General’s Handbook. That’s a good thing. I’m sure I’ll play all three ways.

Rules creep will happen. It happens everywhere. But AoS, with its free rules and warscrolls, offers the chance for constant tweaking and rebalancing. The core rules are so short that should they need adjusting it can be done relatively easily. It won’t take a 300 page rulebook every four years and a dozen codexes/army books.

I used the word “devolved” in my original post. Well, it looks like we’re getting a touch of progressive evolution.

Does that answer your question, Mighty Odinsson?


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I’m breaking radio silence briefly today to announce the release of The Emperor’s Railroad, the first in my brand, spanking new series of novellas from Tor.com.

Here’s the blurb:

Global war devastated the environment, a plague of the dead wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

I’ve put a lot into the world building here and there is a whole lot of adventure as well as zombies, gun-slingers, and more! There is literally something for everyone in this. If you like cross-genre, you’ll dig it. Promise.

Best of all, the ebook version is less than two pounds (audio and paperback are also available). Part two, The Ghoul King, is out in July. US readers, check out The Emperor’s Railroad at your Amazon store.  Naturally, citizens of any nation can head over to the book’s page at Tor.com where a variety of formats may be purchased.

There are already several, mostly positive reviews up at Goodreads. To further whet your appetite, here’s a snippet from Publisher’s Weekly, who rather enjoyed it…

“Haley serves up equal helpings of horror, fantasy adventure, and SF in this stark, intriguing story of a ruined Earth where the remaining humans are determined to survive.”

I will of course be answering questions on the book here and on my Goodreads profile, so if you’ve any questions, ask away. I will answer.

Eagle-eyed sorts (actually, anyone with basic sparrow eyes can spot it) will have noticed I’ve not been very present on the net these last six weeks. This is because I’ve had a very hectic period that is still ongoing. Once it is over, normal service will resume. Thank you.


More greenskins, of course. What do you take me for, some kind of elf-fondler?

After last week’s AoS game, I decided to split my two units of 30+ and 40+ Orruks into three. After snipping some arms off and rearranging things, I now have one unit of 23 with two choppas, one unit of 24 with two choppas, and one unit of 23 with pigstikka spears and Waaagh! shields. The larger units were just too unwieldy. With their low-sh bravery, I was losing far more to battleshock than actual fighting, plus you can’t bring the numbers of a large unit to bear. I’m hoping this will allow more flexible movement, while preserving that vital +1 attack for having 20 or more models, for at least one turn, anyway.

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I cannot cure my orc addiction, now matter what you call them.


I’m still playing and enjoying Age of Sigmar. I’m not quite used to the tactical niceties of it yet, I’m talking about things like optimal unit size for my Orruks and how to use the various mobs in conjunction with each other. One of the things I like so much about the game is the more organic feel the unit formations have. You can have a line of choppa armed Orruks backed up by two lines of spear orruks, employ skirmish screens of archers or embed your larger creatures in less powerful units. Sounds ridiculous to say in a game about dragons and such, but it feels more realistic not having this absolute separation of units from one another (although I still wish you could merge different groups together). I have also learned the hard way that a handful of Fyreslayers are more than a match for nearly one hundred Orruks, especially if you feed them one unit at a time like an arse.

We played The Watchtower on Tuesday night, with some hastily concocted homebrew rules to more adequately reflect the solid, stone built nature of the Mighty Fortress tower we were using, including wounds for the building, and the need to break down a reinforced door before the units inside could be attacked. My Orruks were pounded, but not before slaying my good buddy Steve’s Magmadroth. Finally. After it ate most of my army. But I still win, morally.

Here are some pictures.

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The Orruk battleline. I’ve added my old spear chukkas to the army, and painted some more boys. Slowly getting there in terms of the grey plastic to paint ratio.

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Orruks supporting my giant. Of course, like a knob I separated them, didn’t I?

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Waaaagh! Etc. I do actually shout this, as someone I know recently commented on the internet.

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Watch out boys, naked, unpainted dwarfs! The worst kind of nakedness.

 


As spring has arrived, with its soggy load of pissing rain (rain! How much I haven’t missed thee), let’s take a look back to last week when we had a fleeting taste of proper cold in this, the mildest winter on record. I love snow, and have been most disappointed by the last couple of years, but hey, that’s climate change for you.

On Saturday Benny, Magnus and I went up to the tops to our favourite place, The Bridestones, whose magnificent, wind sculpted formations have appeared here before. The snow fell on Friday. It didn’t last in the valley, but as usual, the moors were practically arctic. Very cold, and dazzling bright in the intermittent sun. Up there, there was around 25 centimetres of snow, or thereabouts. We did a bit of sledging, with Magnus doing a little pulling.

The Bridestones are amazingly beautiful whatever the season. I recommend you visit them, should you get the chance.

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A view down the Calder Valley.

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My lad Benny, giving the thumbs up before he got wet and cold.

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Looking out Todmorden way.

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The majestic Magnus in his natural environment. He’s on his lead because, you know, sheep.


Baneblade

A few eagle-eyed folks out there have spotted Black Library books from the far future on Amazon and tweeted about them. This is because Amazon gets GW’s catalogue nice and early. So, as it’s out there, I’ve been given the go ahead to talk about these titles a bit here.

Two of mine have been mentioned on the net. The Beast Arises 12 is the first. I’ve been pretty open about writing the conclusion to the series but it seems to be news to some people. Finishing off this massive run of books is a big privilege and I’m raring to get going on it. The finale has loads of that political chicanery that I love, so it’ll be totes awesome to pen (as they say. Or probably used to say about 20 years ago).

However, first I have to write Shadowsword. This sequel to my first ever Black Library book has been a long time coming and I am so excited to be writing it. Which I am doing right now, in fact. It is a direct sequel, and follows on from Baneblade and the two shorts “Iron Harvest” and “Stormlord”. Bannick is back in his new baneblade, Cortein’s Honour, battling the enemies of the Imperium. There will, of course, be a shadowsword in it too.  More than this, I cannot say.

And these are but two of the many projects I’m currently working on for BL. Check back here from time to time, I’ll be talking about them when I can. If I say too much, it’ll be inquisitorial trouble for me, so don’t expect too much!