Thursday, 26 April 2012

Iron Hands: In with the new Clan

As I said a while ago, I had put a massive amount of work and words into my Iron Hands Codex back in the day before jingles and ugh, ‘40k power’ ^shudder^.  It’s a project that I was quite proud of at the time, and I still have a soft spot for now.  Some good ideas in that book.

However, it fell into disuse for a while and I never resurrected the project.  But recently (since BLL at least), I’ve been working on an alternative.  You see I didn’t want to bring the old fandex out of retirement just in time for 6th Ed to spring up and force a rewrite.  So instead I decided to just do an Iron Hands expansion pack of sorts to add to the regular Space Marines Codex and add their (woefully underrepresented) style to those other fine Chapters.  The idea was simple enough, and the alteration needed to be small enough to rattle through them quickly pre-game.  After lots of umming and ahhing (and probably erring as well, while we’re at it), I finally reached a solid conclusion.  Seeing as this is my blog, I’ll rattle through them now, just so I’ve got them written down somewhere.

Chapter Tactics:  Iron Hands gain “Relentless-Bolt Weapons” at the cost of Combat Tactics.

Wargear:         Non-Terminator-armoured Independent Characters can purchase a servo-arm for+25 pts and a full servo-harness for +40.  This cost does not include Artificer armour, which must be bought separately (if available).  Models with either a servo-arm or harness gain ‘Blessing of the Omnissiah’ as per the Techmarine entry in the main codex.
                        Veteran Sergeants may purchase a suit of Terminator Armour for +30pts.  The armour itself comes with one of the following loadouts: Storm Bolter & Power Fist, Storm Bolter & Power Weapon, Two Lightning Claws or Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield.  For +5pts, a Terminator may replace its Storm Bolter with a Heavy Flamer or its Power Fist with a Chain Fist.  It may not choose both. Scout Sergeants do not get this option.

Force Organisation:     The Iron Hands count as a Codex Marine Chapter for all forge-world entries, including the Storm Eagle Gunship and Contemptor Dreadnought.
                                                The Iron Hands may use the Storm Raven as a Fast Attack choice.  All options and rules are identical to the Blood Angels entry, except that the Bloodstrike Missile are replaced with Multiple Rocket Pods (as per the Imperial Guard Valkyrie) for no change in cost.  This exchange is not optional.

And that really is it.  I’ve also been thinking about giving the Command squads the option to upgrade to Terminator Armour, as it would look cool as all hell and tie in nicely with the theme.  However, it opens up a bit of a can of worms when it comes to equipment loads and points costing.  However, if anyone has any ideas, suggestion or objections on that score, let me know.  It’s all grist to the mill.

The key shift I think is the Chapter Tactics.  I initially thought to give them Stubborn, as they are meant to be singularly unyielding and focussed, but the Imperial Fists and their successors already have that.  Having read the Iron Hands novel and Chris Wraight’s stuff, the steady, relentless advance with bolters really seemed a prominent part of their fighting style, and reflects well on the tabletop without tipping the balance too far.  Plus, extending the relentless ability to the Heavy Bolter guys as well makes clearly the worst heavy weapon option available into something cool and usable.  It will never be as effective as a missile launcher, but the ability to move and fire, to reposition and still keep the pressure on enemy infantry really elevate this weapon to a viable choice.  Plus cinematically it looks cool as well (in my head, anyway).  Naturally, in my clan, Heavy Bolters abound!

Speaking of which (and seeing as I’ve clearly gone of the deep end at this point) I am creating my own Clan, both in concept and in models.  This is clearly a stupid idea, but I have plans to have a full Clan deployment sorted out by the end of the year.  I’ve worked it at about 5,000 points.  It’s going to have back-story and everything!

Behold the rise of Clan Dr├╝kkskar!
Purge the weak! The rest is secondary!

There’ll be more to come on this theme later.
So long, lads.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Iron Hands: Compare and Contrast

The Iron Hands novel and the short story ‘Flesh’ both present very different views of the Iron Hands.  So I thought I’d compare and contrast and provide a brief review of the two works.  The first is ‘Iron Hands’ by Jonathan Green.

Jonathan Green has written various bits and pieces in the 40K universe, but I think this has been his only novel.  I read the re-release but the original was published in 2004 (I think) and this is very telling.  I reckon we can all agree that the shape of 40K fiction now (particularly in the case of the Astartes) is very different to how it was 8 years ago, and it shows in the book.  The depth to the characters that we almost expect now is just not there.  Most of the characters are just names attached to suits of power armour and only a few of the cast are fleshed out (apologies for the pun) beyond their combat role.  The only four actual characters in the book are Iron Father Gdolkin, Librarian Melchor, Magos Omega Thule (no relation to Davian, although it would be strangely awesome if that were the case!) and the final antagonist, a Word Bearer named The Iscariot.  Oh, and an Iron Hands Shipmaster called Strake.  So make that five.

Now, I realise that the previous paragraph may have sounded a little harsh.  The novel is by no means a bad book.  The fight scenes are very good and there are plenty of them, across a variety of opponents which helps keep things interesting.  The prelude involving a reading of the Emperor’s tarot is excellent; easily a high point for the book, even if there are no Iron Hands in the scene.  There’s an epic fight with a defiler and an encounter between a squad of Cadian guardsmen and some Death Guard makes for excellent, albeit highly queasy reading.  But I feel that this book, in common with many Space Marine centred works at the time focussed on action to the detriment of character, and a lot of the personalities end up feeling flat and one-note.

Gdolkin himself, the protagonist, does not come across at all sympathetically.  He’s just a very angry, humourless individual with a machine fetish, which is a very common view to take of the tenth legion.  In fact, minus the whole cybernetic angle, the Iron Hands are interchangeable with almost any other Astartes Chapter.  It was the way of things at the time.  Even in the established chapter series of books, it was more that individuals were given more personality, rather than adding personality to the chapter as a whole.  As the individual characters in this book aren’t lavished with attention, then little is gained in terms of chapter insight. That said, although the character of the Iron Hands isn’t really built on, there is a lot of detail about them included and referenced in the book.  Their training exercises, the selection process of the novitiates, the clan system, the rules and strictures.  Iron Hands Dreadnoughts for example always have a close combat arm.  No irritating riflemen dreads in the chapter.  You can still gain a lot of information about the chapter from the book.  You just don’t get into their heads.

This moves us on to Flesh, the short story by Chris Wraight.  It was originally in an issue of Hammer & Bolter (no idea which one I’m afraid) but released as a mini e-book by Black Library for £1.50.  One of my mates (who is an avid reader of Hammer & Bolter) recommended this story to me, and he was damn right to do so.  So; thanks Alex!

It’s not a long book.  It’s a short story concerning a Chaos-plague epidemic in an Imperial Hive and the mutant uprising it causes.  Think of it like a zombie virus scenario.  Except Chaosified and with mutants.  Lots of disgusting imagery going on, which certainly plays as a strength in the story, the explicitly fleshy nature of the infection and enemy involved making a perfect counterpoint to the Tenth.  The story is told from a variety of viewpoints, a prospective Iron Father, a relatively fresh Iron Hands tactical marine and the commanding officer of the local PDF.  All contribute very well to the atmosphere of the story and contribute greatly to the major strength of the piece; the Iron Hands themselves.

For such a short story, it really packs in a lot of detail.  The relationship between the chapter and the Mechanicus, the trials of the Iron Hands aspirants, the hand-amputation rite of passage; all of these are touched upon and briefly explored.  Various interesting elements and ideas are brought forth such human reaction to the Astartes.  The description of a Space Marine from one of the human officers to another is a high point in the story for me and really helps portray the fear that the Astartes can inspire in the common man.  You hear various rumours circling about the Iron Hands from the human troopers and, brilliantly, these are neither confirmed nor denied.  It lends a further menacing aspect to an already scary concept and is aided by the already inhuman nature of both the Astartes in general and the Iron Hands in particular as portrayed in the work.
In terms of the personality of the Legion, Wraight manages to get a great deal across to the reader in such a short space.  The Legion have changed greatly from how they were in the Heresy, becoming increasingly removed and disinterested.  Far from the hair-trigger temper of their Primarch, they present as singularly cold and dispassionate.  It would be easy to write them off as emotionless automatons, but Wraight has done a very good job of portraying them as suppressing emotion rather than simply removing it.  He has done an excellent job of injecting a note of sympathy into what could be a very cardboard archetype, and it’s exactly what I wanted to see from the Tenth.

I advise anyone with even a peripheral interest in the Iron Hands to give this a read.  It’s cheap, quick to get through and provides a lot of character and atmosphere as well.  Highly recommended.  Seeing as Wraight is the guy who’s written the upcoming Wrath of Iron (the Iron Hands entry in the Space Marines Battle series), his short story has made me very excited about what that book will bring!

Anyway, lunch is over; you know the drill.

With any luck, soon I’ll go through a Tenth Legion minidex I’ve been cooking up and hopefully help in adding some Iron Hands character to the tabletop.

So long!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Iron Hands: A little back-story

Ahem…

Hello everyone.

It’s been a while.

How are you?

Well, that’s nice/unfortunate (delete as applicable).

Anyway, back to it.

Ages back, I wrote an Iron Hands fandex for a codex competition.  I possibly wrote too much, as the word count for that little project topped that of my University dissertation.  There might be something wrong with me.  The Iron Hands are, I think, the least representing of the loyalist Legions.  Even now, I believe that’s true, although the White Scars are similarly under-represented (but at least they get a Special Character in the Marine Codex).  The Iron Hands get nothing.  They don’t get a Special Character, they don’t get their own Chapter Tactics, they don’t even get a larger than average chapter description in the codex.  They are paid as much heed as the Mentors or the Death Spectres.  Nothing against those two chapters, but as one of the original Legions, I would expect a whole lot more.

Especially as they were one of the things that got into 40k in the first place.  The idea of genetically enhanced super-soldiers in hulking power armour was cool enough to the fourteen year old me, but ones that voluntarily cut off their own limbs and replaced them with robot ones?  That was just creepy.  In precisely the right way.  Anyway, this is all just a roundabout prelude to what I actually wanted to talk/write about today.

Chatting with people at the Black Library Live event last month got me thinking about the tenth legion, and I decided to invest myself in them a little more.  The epically overblown fandex had been lying fallow for yonks and I thought that if I wanted to make the Iron Hands feel right in the game, I’d need to find out a bit more about them before crafting rules.  So I picked up the Iron Hands novel, which was available there in its reprint format.  It helped that the book is very nice looking to boot.  There is precious little illuminating back-story for the Iron Hands (until Wrath of Iron comes out, I think that they only have one novel), but this has the side-effect of almost allowing me a greater sense of authorship in deciding (at least in my own head) what this chapter is like.  Wow, that was a crappy sentence.  I’ll try to phrase it better.

It’s one thing to be told that a chapter does this thing and that thing and have these habits and so on, but another thing to be told why.  With little pre-existing written about them, I was relatively free to make up my own personalities to give the chapter.  They favour Dreadnoughts; they prefer the mechanistic to the biological, considering the latter to be flawed and inferior.  They don’t brook weakness and (in the 41st millennium at any rate), they are relatively outcast; partially due to unacceptably close ties to the Mechanicus and partially of their own volition.  They are looked down on by most of the other chapters and they look down on most of the other chapters in turn.  But these are all superficial aspects, all effects rather than causes.  What type of personality would be the root of all these quirks?

That is one of the things that I had most fun with and that I found most gratifying in creating the Iron Hands fandex.  Constructing the personality that I felt best fit the preferences of the chapter and I found that personality fascinating.  I understand that this may seem like egregious self-praise.  It’s not meant to be.  I’ve always been good at rationalising things so, when it came to the bizarre nature of the Iron Hands in the grand scheme of things, the personality I hit upon was a mix of self-loathing and arrogance.  A constant striving towards improvement, to overcome perceived weakness in themselves.  A lot of this reaches back to the Heresy.  The value of replacing the ‘flawed’ biological system with machinery was something that had existed since Manus, so that was not new.  However, back then it was in emulation of a father figure and according to a creed of instruction.  The Heresy, I believed, had turned this into a full-on psychosis.

The Iron Hands were hit early by the Heresy and hit hard.  In practically the first full engagement against the fresh traitor legions, their Primarch was cast down and desecrated and much of the Legion was destroyed.  This had caused the self-loathing of the chapter, the belief that they were not strong enough, that they were imperfect.  Their father had told them that through the Creed of Iron after all.  Their contempt for the other legions though was probably because the betrayal of Manus by Fulgrim was that much more personal.  Anyone who’s read the Horus Heresy series (or pieces thereof) will have figured out pretty quickly that a lot of the Primarchs don’t like each other.  In fact, full-on friendships between them were quite rare.  The friendship between Fulgrim and Manus was one of the rare, honest ones (at least before it all kicked off).  And Fulgrim tore it up, killing his friend and brother brutally.  And if a friend can do that, it is natural to shy away from such bonds in the future.

This happens (albeit less hyperbolically and more metaphorically) in real life.  If a good friend betrays you if you perceive that s/he has done so, then it’s not only that friendship that suffers.  The seed of doubt has been planted in all your other relationships too.  Are they really you’re friends?  You thought this other one was your friend and s/he betrayed you.  Why are these other friendships so different?  It’s natural to close yourself off, to isolate yourself from future possibilities of betrayal.  It’s a variant on the whole Night Lords ‘betray before you are betrayed’ ethos, but focussed more on preventing betrayal by never giving anyone the opportunity.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on a little, and lunchtime is definitely over.  So I’ll leave this cod-psychological analysis where it is.  Next time, I’ll go over a couple of pieces of literature about the tenth legion and review and compare: Iron Hands (the novel) and Flesh (the short story).  Who knows, I may even try and wax pseudo-psychological again.

So long!