Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Horus Heresy Book I; Betrayal. A curmudgeon's review.

Okay, to start I have become jaded.  Maybe I've been playing with my toy soldiers too long, maybe I'm too old or maybe a year of infant/toddler induced sleep deprivation has brought an even greater level of curmudgeon-itude to the fore, but this last year has brought me only a little GW joy.
I keep looking for that next 'thing' to bring me back into the fold, bring me a new joy in the sandbox I like to play.
I have become pessimistic in my assessments, more negative than ever in my 'anticipation' of releases and utterly unforgiving in my final analysis'.

I think no more.  It may just have taken Forge World to fix what ails me!

The Good (fluff);
-It is a cornucopia of background.  It boils down years of collected pre-Heresy/Imperial 'history' into a tome that delivers some of the most comprehensive information I have ever had in a single reference.
-It gives a sense of the Istvaan III massacre, events leading up to it and the state of the Imperium, all in one go...while sacrificing none of the 'tone' of the novels/WD articles and musings we could reference to date.
-The book delivers a comprehensive history of each Primarch, their Legions and the impact their coming together had.  It also shows the divisiveness within the Legions, as the disparate philosophies and strategies (for some) of the Terran and Homeworld Astartes are brought together into singular fighting forces...foreshadowing what was to come.
In the Legion sections alone, I was reminded of far more than I realized and introduced to newer elements that have either never been revealed, or I was never exposed to.
-It gives us a more comprehensive buildup, prosecution and disintegration of the great crusade than any one source (that I have read) can deliver in a single sitting.
-This Book delivers a rich history and background that ANY player, or hobbyist, can thoroughly enjoy.
The Good (rules);
-Quite simply, 'Betrayal' gives us the Legions.  All the rules fit.
Some things, as with all new rules sets, don't seem to initially be canon(as much as you can call a fiction based game canon)...but as you begin to read further, and see how application of units, HQ rules and 'archaeotech' begin to create a unique flavor that meshes with the Horusy Heresy novels and genre.
-Primarchs work.  Fear of 'overpowered' or 'nerfed' characters, representing these paragons of the legions, have stayed the hand of many GW designer in the past.  Not wishing to offend the masses, or create something so unplayable as to never see the table top (or sell a miniature) kept them 'off the books' as much as any drive to preserve the mystery of these figures from the past.
Forge World managed to do it.  They have delivered (at least in the first four examples) Primarchs that are both believable, exceptionally potent, yet not excessively undercosted.
Again, as with so much else in these books...they 'fit'.
-Legion character is maintained.  The feel of the Legion era is there.  Vast hordes of Astartes, specialist formations, the faint hints of the Codex to come...all these things can be found here, and more.  You can make a 'swarm' of basic bolter-marines, you can simulate modern tactical squads and you can field specialist units that make sense in an organization much larger than the standard chapters of today.
Yet with all these elements, they took care to balance things carefully.  Sure, legion 'blobs' are cheap...but they get no special/hvy options, do not have ATSKNF, and many of the other abilities that reflect modern doctrine in the Codex Astartes.
Heavy options, and mission specific weapons (etc) are focused more into their specialist units as is appropriate.
Overall, I can't think of much that I would have personally included in the Legion rules.
-Lords Of War/Apoc light.  What can I say?  For those that want to play your primarchs, here's how you do it.  A special FOC choice that allows you to throw in a number of elements.  It's optional, it's nasty and it allows Super Heavies (one choice per detachment).
In addition to allowing you to field your Primarch, it allows for an 'Apoc Light'.  It is almost that step that makes 'Apoc only' elements playable in regular (not tourney, but pickup) games.  The book itself incorporates these choices in such a fashion that you can play with that fellblade, or thunderhawk (etc), yet at the same time have a far more structured game than the furball Apocalypse frequent devolves into.
It is a simple solution, that allows for even more variety than 6e already introduces.
-Balance.  Though I have not looked at it outside a vacuum yet, I think it may even be balanced for regular 40k interaction.  Not tourney (maybe, we'll see how newer 6e codices develop over time), but regular game days etc.  this will require me to experiment, though.
-Value.  See my wife's quote in the next section!  I am biased, it's great.

For the good, I say more along the lines of 'GREAT'!

The Bad (price);
-Okay, $112-ish (exchange rate dependent) is a bit pricey for a book that will (for the nonce) require permission/pre-planning to use.
That being said, when you see it you will NOT be disappointed with your expenditure.
(to quote my Spouse, when she came home from work and saw me perusing my copy upon arrival, "now THAT is what I would expect from a $100 game book...hell, any $100 book").
-That's the only 'Bad'.

The Ugly (flaws);
-Okay, I really don't want to beat up on this book...my personal take is that I wasted NO money in purchasing it and will continue to collect the books (and Primarchs etc)....BUT, truth time.
-The cover art picture, while quite lovely, is an insert.  Well rendered, on quality poster-like print etc...and it is print-glued into an embossed recess in the 'leather' (edit; bonded leather, or a type of faux-leather incorporating leather fibers) cover...and glued poorly.
Mine has begun to curl off (now 1/3 separated), in response to environmental factors (such as fluctuating humidity or some such) or an initial print-run that will point out correctable errors in the future I'm not certain.  I have not gone internet searching for other related complaints, and I hope that I am an isolated incident, but be warned.
-Editing is poor.  Not egregious, but there are enough misspellings and bad syntax (etc) for me to notice that someone relied a bit too heavily on 'spellcheck'.  With something of this magnitude, and years of anticipation, it should have been proofread by EVERY member on the developmental staff, and at least one 'out of hobby' editor...and it is clear it was not.

These are the only two things I can honestly say take it down out of its price/quality range.

In conclusion, while there are some flaws in the physical book itself...I see nothing in the execution of the rules, fluff or tone that makes me question my purchase.
I am more than pleased, and considering my ennui toward GW/FW of late, that is saying a lot.
I have been a huge fan of the 40(&30)k Universe since my 'indoctrination' back in the old Rogue Trader days, and the potential for disappointment/rage was high.

I couldn't have asked for a better culmination to my hopes and gaming desires for the 'Grim-Dark' haunted past to come to life.
This Curmudgeon is quite pleased!