Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Musings on the Astronomican and Speed Bumps

I've been reading The Book of the Astronomican since it arrived (well, was picked up from the mardy delivery bint) and I have to say I have throroughly enjoyed it. I've had a PDF of said publication for quite some time but haven't read it in much depth. I have now. It's a funny old tome. Half it is pure RT genius and the other half is the thing we have come to fear and loath in 40k, army lists.

The Genius first.

The first part of the book is made up of a campaign called 'The Wolftime' and pitches a force of 50 odd marines against a whole load of Orks. The campaign consists of 4 linked battles, 3 of which are deemed to be happening simultaneously and the 4th is the result of these and it's parameters are effected by the previous games outcomes.

Each battle has it's own unique setting and special rules. The first 3 are raids to knock out the power supplies for the fortress/spaceship in the final game and they each have their risks. The marine commanders must split their forces (10 squads of 5 marines plus 4 characters) between the first 3 battles remembering that they need as many figures to survive as possible for the final game. That's right, you don't get any more marines. Once they're dead, they're dead!

The Wolftime is the only real example of the kind of campaigns that GW used to write so successfully for WFB, Tragedy of Macdeath for example, and is one of the very few published scenarios they ever did for RT. I can only think of 'Skirmish on Rynn's world' and 'Vulture warriors from dimension x meet plenty of cheerful orks with plasmsa canon' as other examples. Obviously the scenario generator in the RT book and one in Siege gives a GM lots of ideas to get stuck into but it would have been nice to have a few more.

There is a question and answers page where one amusing letter describes an encounter with an opponent who would only play against the writers marines if they were painted in the uniforms published in the book. Rick Priestly calmly espouses his principles when writing Rogue Trader were for the universe to be open ended and for people to make stuff up and expand into their own ideas rather than sticking with perceived canon. How ironic?

A painting guide shows off some pics and gives tips on painting Orks, Eldar and Squats but there is nothing we haven't seen before and the middle of the book is full of colour images of all the figures available at the time, a lot of these were repeated on the pages of White Dwarf but it's still nice to see them all together.
A list of imperial characters fill the final bunch of pages. Various Arbites, Administrators, Mechanicus, Assasins, Rogue Traders, Inquisitors and Navigators give the impression of the Imperium as a very nasty place indeed. Lovely little Ian miller portraits of each character really set them off. There are colour illsutrations dispersed through the book as well showing colours and banners and a little bit of backgrounds for some of the races covered (there is one for the squats but they don't have a separate army list and didn't have one till it was published in White Dwarf and then in the Red compilation).

So, the majority of the book is taken up by the dreaded appearance of.....Army lists. Well really, it's not that much of surprise that GW went down this road. It was fairly standard practice for Fantasy so it made sense that they would do it for 40k especially as it was proving so successful. The list cover Marines (in the form of White Scars), Imperial Army (Hylgar's Hell Raisers), Rogue trader (Valerius Borodin), Pirates (Cragnor's Buccaneers), Orks (Luggubs Drop Legion) and Eldar (Eldritch raiders). All of the lists follow a pattern that we all recognise, characters and options followed by sqauds and options. The army, pirates and rouge trader lists are mixed troop type with squats, appearing in all of them. There is nothing outrageous about any of the lists, they are handy ways to organise a competitive game but this is the crux of the matter.
In the intro to the army list, the idea of a 'competitive game' is actually explained as a situation where two matched armies battle it out to find a clear winner. This is presented as an alternative way to play, as opposed to what has been espoused in the scenario driven first half of the book, the 'competitive game' is about finding out who is the winner. And not a lot else. Could this be the point that the rot set in? Could this be where people figured it was easier just to knock seven shades out of each other rather than go to the effort of putting together a scenario and a plan. Is it laziness that killed off the scenario based game?

I'll leave you to think about it but all I'm going to say is that I'll be writing scenario's for the games at BOYL.

Just two months to go till BOYL14 when I get to find out if there really is a community of like minded souls in the world, playing daft games with toy soldiers or if I've been groomed by some elaborate hoax by a sick and depraved individual with fetish for beards and bellies. I'm getting quite excited!
I appear to have hit a bit of a creative speed bump.

After finishing off the Pirates (which I managed to get based at the weekend)  and all the work on Ferrograd, I've kind just gone flat on painting. I'm assuming it's just a rest period. From talking to others this seems to happen to lots of people so I'm not particularly worried and I reckon it's also a bit of my hind brain being silly and rebellious, seeing the gangs and the Jalopy (the two main projects I need to get done) as 'work' and wanting to do something a bit more 'fun' instead. Do I have the time to squeeze another group of figures? I've got 10 figures yet to paint for BOYL, 9 gangers and a camera man for Jenny Tong.

They shouldn't take long (fingers crossed). I need to finish 'The Rusty Blaster' and do some doorways and a bit of touching up in Ferrograd but I reckon I can leave that till the summer holidays (just before the big day itself) but before this the board might be getting it's cherry popped by some snotty teens as I've volunteered to do a wargames day during our schools activity week. That should make for an interesting blog-post as, if last year is anything to go by, I'll have a load of kids who have no idea what wargaming or warhammer is and they will spend most of the morning utterly perplexed before getting into it and having fun.

The Jalopy needs finishing touches added to it and painting but I think that'll get done a blurt of activity one weekend (kids not with standing).

Right. That should suffice. I needed a good talking to! Now I just need to get on with it!

 Pull yer finger oot!


  1. Hi!

    Glad to hear the review of The Book of the Astronomicon! I had a copy a few years back that I paid rather a lot for on ebay thinking it was going to be some sort of epic addition to the classic Rogue Trader and indeed the first section was but as you mention, the army list thing kind of lets it down. Saying that the army lists do have some interesting concepts and characters in it but its still a bit meh and I ended up selling my copy on soon after.

    With such a diverse collection of oldhammer fans out there nowadays, I do wonder if it might be worth getting our heads together and starting to put some new campaigns onto paper and producing some sort of fan based campaign pack ala McDeath or the Lichemaster for Rogue Trader...

    I do find that trying to paint too much for a set project does result in a drop of motivation and have discovered that rummaging the lead pile for something random to paint just for the sake of it seems to work a charm. The break in the tedium of having to paint something and choosing something completely different on a whim allows you to recharge the motivation and crack on with the task in hand!

    Can't wait to see your full gangs in action either as the bits and bobs you've been showing look the business!

    All the best!

    1. It happens 2 people are working on ancient scenario packs portings to RT. I'm in charge of Mc Death (becoming Stardeath) but it's actually quite a lot of work especially when english is not your mother tongue... I still have motivation about that, there's a thread on the forum if you want and any help would be appreciated :D !
      Havng this one ready for BOYL2015 would be ace for example !

    2. Maybe we should start a thread on the forum where people can post up RT scenarios or even better we could set up a blog with several people having access rights and we could take turns in posting scenarios and campaigns.

  2. I will just second your view on th ebook of the astronomicaon, I agree with every bit you worte on the matter.

    As OYL is approaching, I also sense the dangers of the "to pain" list. I've included random models in the paintline just to keep the mojo but it seems some won't make it. I know I'll have more than what's needed to play though.

    Now, my only real concern are rules, especially for the confrontation game. I have to think and propose something taht works well but keeps th ebest of the original rules.

    1. We'll figure it out. We can sort out solo test plays just to check it all works.

  3. I played this campaign some time ago and it was exhilarating. I encourage everyone to play it, the possibilities are endless. I'm unfortunately quite out of the forums these days, but I'd love to see what you are mumbling around :D and (eventually, if time wasn't an issue) give a hand. I'll try have a look!

    1. Come and say hiya Suber, it'd be great if you joined us.

  4. Excellent, glad you have got a copy and can enjoy it properly. It is a really lovely book to own and I enjoy just soaking up the atmosphere of it. Be a little careful, the spine on them are delicate, mine fell to bits and I had to transfer it to a folder :(

    I really like the book and all the contents, it really captures that early Rogue Trader feel of things. It is why I used the Luggrub's Drop Legion army list as the basis for my Ork Army, and Eldritch Raiders for my Rogue Trader Eldar.
    The Army lists are good fun, but some of the weapon options/choices are a bit strange, but it is made clear in the book that you are free to tinker with the lists and they are part of that open approach of Rogue Trader. The great thing about the lists is you can add the White Dwarf articles to the lists to add the models they released over 1988/9, or just those they revised the rules for.

    I have never played the Wolf Time scenario, but you are right it does still retain that mid 1980's scenario feel. You're correct, I can also only recall the two 40k scenarios, and I must say kudos to you for remembering the Paranoia/40k crossover scenario as most people forget about it. I assembled and painted the Loyal Citizens of the Computer forces for the scenario from old Paranoia/Guard models, and they are in a box somewhere, I'll dig them out sometime :)

    When I look at the book it does still suprise me how much 40k had changed by about 3 years later. I must say I really do love Tony Hough's artwork all of the Orks, as well as Ian Millers. The catalogue pages and painted miniatures all through the book are great. By the way, strangely Hylgar's Hell Raisers were referenced in one of the Imperial Guard Codexs about 10 years ago in the background material.

    Have fun, and I hope you enjoy reading it :)

  5. I've had this book (in PDF form) for over five years now, but I had restrained myself from reading it because I didn't know what role I would end up playing in it. I stuck to reading the back section, and even though it had the dreaded army lists in there, it still has quite a lot of interesting material. I especially liked the pre-made character's and the collection of colour photographs of the minis is a bit of a boon for us oldhammerers too.

    I ended up reading it the other day, after my friend suggested that I could/should GM it. Yeah, it's great stuff!
    To do it justice though, I think, requires a bit of work.....good looking floor plans, converting/finding minis for the character models & having decent terrain, even though Rick espouses the use of "whatever you have at hand", I'd still prefer to make up some groovy scenery for it.

    Might get to work on it soonish, and give it a proper play through.

    Thanks for the article Whiskey :)


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