Saturday, August 7, 2021

Friday, August 6, 2021

40K Friday: Grey Knights for 9th Edition


Pretty fired up about this one - the Grey Knights have been around since Rogue Trader  where they were a very specialized unit - not an army - that dropped in to fight big daemons typically. They are Space Paladins after all and they definitely look the part.

This continued on into Epic which is where I painted my first batch - the requisite 4 squads of terminators that were something any Imperial force could use. That was around 91-92 when the second edition of that game came out so I can say that on some level I've been playing Grey Knights for 30 years, right?

So I've always liked them but I never built them up in 40K, even after their emergence as a separate army and subsequent domination in 5th edition. I finally decided to fix this gap a few years back in 8th edition and I am very happy about it - I love the lore and I love the models.

Lots of good news this week with a new codex coming next week:

I think it looks very promising  - it's always hard to tell with isolated chunks like this but I like the pieces I have seen so far. 

I have probably 4000 points total now with around 3000 of that painted so I'll be ready to go when the book comes out but it is a good reason to dive in and finish the rest of those units too. I don't really need anything new at this point  - maybe the new Crowe model - but it would be nice to have another one that I could call "finished" with a shiny new codex.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Tomorrow War


It's a new movie on Amazon Prime that you may have heard of ... Chris Pratt, time travel, aliens, fate of the human race ... it checks a lot of typical sci-fi boxes.


I kind of want a prequel to tell us about this guy now.

Longtime 40k player take: It's Imperial Guard vs. Tyranids

But I have to admit ... I liked it better than I expected to ... a lot better.

The premise: Current day Chris Pratt is an ex-special forces sergeant who is now married, has a daughter, and teaches high school biology while trying to get a more scientific research type gig.  He's happy but frustrated. Then a terminator bubble/gateway pops open in the middle of a soccer match and humans from 30 years in the future walk through and announce that humanity is being eaten by aliens in their time and they need help. That help involves sending humans from "now" forward to "then" to help shoot aliens for a week, after which they return home ... if they live. Somehow the entire world agrees that this is legit in fairly short order so a worldwide draft is set up and people get notified at random that it's their turn to go. They get a brief training period - a week or less - and then they get sent forward 30 years to shoot aliens. 

As you might guess, this does not typically go well. Humans are still losing and the survival rate is something like 20% for the draftees. 

This is where I have some questions:

  • They do go out of their way to cover the potential paradoxes in that only people who are dead prior to the current future time are drafted - no running into yourself.
  • They also explain that they can only travel a fixed distance so it's only 30 years forward or back - to the day. This avoids some other questions and considering time travel was developed during an apocalyptic war it makes sense that  there might be some limitations.
  • I'm still not sure how it works from our end - apparently you just need the one transmitter in the future and you can jump back and forth. Seems pretty loose but ok. 
  • Location is never defined - apparently you can drop a shipment wherever you want and pick up form wherever you want. So it's kind of a teleporter too. This isn't discussed at all in the movie but it's hardly a dealbreaker. 
My biggest problem with the film is the aliens. A completely non-technological species the size of a horse ... there's just no way. There's no way they are going to take over almost the entire planet facing modern military technology. 
  • They have tentacles that can shoot a spike to maybe pistol range. Wheeee! It is not particularly lethal because we see multiple characters get hit by one and survive so they aren't poisoned or anything. They are also not terribly accurate as we see many, many spikes embedded in walls or cars or other objects and they are not always surrounded by bloodstains. Plus we see a lot of missed shots during the action scenes. 
  • Typical assault rifles can shoot 600 rounds per minute or more. Even with a 30 round magazine that's a lot more lead in the air than the aliens can toss and Planet Earth does not lack for bullets. They also have a much greater range, hundreds of meters, than anything we see from the aliens.
  • A lot of time the movie acts as though assault rifles and pistols are the only weapons humanity has against these things. Sure, in a room maybe - but how did they get into the room? I don't think we see a single grenade used in the entire thing. We do see an M2HB in action so that was nice. 
  • If the aliens had some superior technology or were spewing out some contagion I could see the problem but they don't - no heat rays, no black smoke, no force fields or super-tough alien metal ... they are basically animals. Mean animals that eat people sure, but still just animals to all appearances. They don't even have acid blood as an up-close hazard! We don't see them reproducing by laying bunches of eggs or anything like in some other movies so we don't know how any of that works. 
  • If they have overrun so much of the world then presumably they have exhausted the food supplies on those other continents in the course of this 3-year war, right? Once the Russians are gone, what do the monsters in Russia eat? Given their size and activity level they would need to eat a lot.
  • Back to how do these things overrun the world - They are roughly horse-sized. They are bright white in color. They are not particularly stealthy - no predator camouflage here. So again, how do they overrun any reasonably defended position? Helicopter gunships don't have to be  50 feet off the ground and in jumping distance to do what they do. We have infrared, night vision, thermal sights ... they're not going to sneak up on anyone really.


Now despite all this I still liked the movie. I just had to let go and take it as a given that somehow some way a series of colossal screw-ups meant that humanity was losing and losing badly to these things. I kept waiting for the big conspiracy-expectations-subversion-twist that the aliens were really from an experiment gone wrong on earth or some government or corporate bad guy was responsible for them but there was none of that - thank goodness. The movie stuck to its' original premise and that made me quite happy. There are some interesting twists along the way but nothing that is flat-out stupid beyond the core premise of the aliens over-analyzed above.

Well other than the final defense of the last human holdout. Seriously - it's in the middle of the ocean and they are totally surprised when a huge wave of creatures swarms up out of the ocean. They apparently had no early warning system set up, no picket ships, no mines in the water ... it's laughable and whoever was responsible for that should have been fired - if they weren't eaten.  

This movie does steal/homage from a LOT of other films. Alien, Aliens, Apocalypse Now, Terminator (it's sort of a reverse terminator in concept anyway), The Thing, Independence Day, Starship Troopers, ... even Stranger Things feels like an inspiration for some of the scenes here. 

Chris Pratt's family figures in significant ways, not just a motivation to "get back". The supporting characters are given just enough personality and capability to cover why they are there and to make it enjoyable while they are. The special effects look pretty good. 

It's not Star Wars. It's not super-deep. It is one of the better sci-fi action movies to come out in quite a while though and that surprised me. If you like this kind of thing it's definitely worth a couple of hours of your time. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Cortex Prime Handbook


I really like this book. It is exactly the kind of shoring-up or reinforcement that is useful to someone who already has a Cortex game like, say ... Marvel Heroic Roleplaying! Yet it is also an up-to-date full presentation of the system and the concepts behind it that a new player could use to begin playing. 

I won't break down every part of it because if you've played one of their games before then you have a good idea of how the system works. This is the most comprehensive presentation of that system published to date. The structure:

  • The Core system - tests are the big focus here
  • Characters - Stats, powers - all the different categories that might appear on a character sheet, experience, and yes - character creation, which was a source of complaints in the Marvel version at least. I don't see any gaps here.
  • Scenes - this is a primer on how the game is structured and how conflicts work - combat and other types of conflict as well.
  • Sessions - GM advice and how NPCs work in this system.
  • Settings - this is one area I mainly skimmed because it has some good advice on defining a setting for this system specifically, with examples. I liked that. Then it goes into 3 new settings for the game. They're fine but I wasn't really looking for new settings with this book.
  • Powers, Abilities, sample milestones, vehicles, and some sample characters.- it's the "stuff you can use in play" chapter. 
One refreshing thing is the way options are presented - as "Mods": equally valid choices you might use in any game, not as a Standard with some optional Variant rules. This is nice and it does discuss why one might be a better fit than another depending on the setting or just on what the GM and players want the game to do. The Doom Pool form Marvel is one option. Assets and Complications have some options. Your "Prime Sets", those different categories on your character sheet, are variable depending on the campaign. It looks to me like it takes every option they have ever presented in one of their prior games, refines them, and presents them side by side. It makes me think a lot of the 4th edition Champions BBB where we finally saw all of the options that the Hero System had been building over the prior decade presented in one volume. It's that good. 

I still love these character layouts - everything you need to know is right here!

Like that Hero book I think this one might be a lot to digest for someone totally new to the system. It's great but it's also somewhat generic in presentation and given the abstract approach of the rules it might be hard to picture what is happening with some of the rules interactions. There are examples and they do help but it is quite a bit different than most RPG's, especially if someone is coming from a strictly 5th edition D&D background. I think a totally new player would be better off finding a copy of one of their prior releases that covered a specific setting. Like ...

Yes, I will probably always view Cortex through a Marvel lens - a superhero lens at least as you could easily run DC characters with this as well. I think it's a great setting for playing characters you already know which is probably why they had so many licensed settings and why character creation was not tightly defined when this book was released. I've never been big on playing "known characters" in any other genre, and not many other systems, but for this one it just became the default for me and my kids and friends have had a ton of fun with it over the last 9 years. This book should only add to the fun.

If you want to see the system in play here are some examples of how it can go:

Session 1 from our campaign

Some thoughts after building some new characters in the system

There have been additional sessions beyond these but I never wrote them up. It has been one very drawn-out campaign with players and characters coming and going but it has always been a great game to play, with much laughing and much quoting of old books/shows/movies of course. A lot of that is the setting and characters but the system drives that as well. I am very happy to see a current, in-print book that could allow others to discover the fun we have had with this game. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

New Marvel RPG - I Went Ahead and Pre-Ordered It


I don't do pre-orders most of the time - outside of the occasional kickstarter ... and it's not going to be released until March ... and I don't like paying for playtest versions of games ... but it's ten bucks and I decided it was worth a shot. Superhero RPGs are an area of interest and I have been playing them for 40 years so I can step outside the lines here. No idea how the system will turn out but it's probably worth keeping an eye on Matt Forbeck's blog for clues.

If you're interested here's a link to the pre-order on Amazon.