Xenos: Werwolf Schülers

Xenos: Werwolf Schülers

As described in my previous article, the sample Detachments in Xenos are divided into five different genres, the first of which is Weird War Two. Although Xenos is setting-neutral, the sample Detachments assume a scenario in which the Werwolf partisan group, which in reality was a bunch of Nazi holdouts intended to fight a guerrilla war against the invading Allies, was subverted by two rival factions of paranormal researchers within the SS.

The Third Reich burned a lot of books. This Detachment represents the Schülers, who are the Nazis who read the books that really, really should have been burned.

The theme of the force is sorcerous horror and, of course, Nazi Zombies, a concept that disproves the idea that ‘The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi’, because in this case, the dead ones are even worse.

Schüler and Assistants (Light Infantry – Close Quarters Doctrine, Alpha-Class Psychic)

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One unit in each Detachment must be designated as the Commander. In this case, it’s quite obviously going to be the officer. This unit is currently a Reduced Model Unit of three models (ignore the stray zombie at the back!), where the Schüler is accompanied by two assistants: a paratrooper with an Iron Cross and a presumably fascinating back-story about how he ended up working with the Schülers, and an apprentice with some sigils drawn in his notebook. Since none of the models are armed with anything larger than an MP-40 submachine gun, I’ve downgraded them with the Close Quarters Doctrine rule. This makes them less effective at shooting at range, but that’s fine, because the main battlefield role of this unit is to cast spells… uh, I mean, psychic powers.

The Psychic Xeno Rule is divided into four levels (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta). Delta-class psychics know one power that they can use as their action in a turn, Gamma-class know two powers, Beta-class know three and Alpha class… also know three, but cast on a lower activation roll.

In Xenos‘ parent game, Dragon Rampant, the ability to summon units to the battlefield is a separate ability from the Spellcaster rule, and cost quite a few points. This was occasionally controversial, with some players not wanting to sink points for both Summoner and Spellcaster into, for example, a single necromancer unit. For Xenos, I’ve made Summoner a psychic power that can be taken by any unit with the Psychic rule, but it can only summon units with the Special Insertion rule, which helps spread the points around the army a bit. In game, aside from casting whatever other powers he has access to, the Schüler can summon the ‘resuscitated casualty’ units to the battlefield.

As it is a 5 Strength Point unit, I’ll probably eventually add a couple of extra soldiers to bulk it out a bit, possibly women. I’m thinking more Elsa Schneider from Indiana Jones than Helga from ‘Allo ‘Allo, but either will do.

The models from this unit are old Wargames Foundry models and were apparently sculpted by Alan and Michael Perry, now of Perry Miniatures.

 

Waffen-SS Squad (Heavy Infantry – Increased Squad Size, Heavy Weapon)

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Most World War Two soldiers units would probably be classed as Light Infantry, who are mobile but tend to fall apart under enemy fire. Tougher or more experienced units, such as the US Army Rangers, British Commandos or the German SS, may find Heavy Infantry a better fit. With these guys toting assault rifles and a light machine gun, I’ve also given them the Heavy Weapon upgrade, which (obviously) makes their shooting more effective, and will definitely give them the edge over most Red Army troops. Unfortunately, the Red Army has a lot more bodies to hurl at Werwolf than Werwolf has bullets.

The models are Late War German Grenadiers from Warlord Games.

 

2 Rescuscitated Casualty Squads (Berserk Infantry – Undead, Special Insertion, Increased Squad Size, Slow)

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Inspired by Wolfenstein, Call of Duty and numerous B-movies of varying quality, these are what Overlord described as ‘thousand-year soldiers for a thousand-year Reich’, or SS zombies.

There is a troop type in Xenos called Militia Rabble, who are a trash unit that can’t shoot straight, fall to bits if the enemy breathes on them too hard, and can trade in their guns for a very minor increase in their combat stats. In other words, ideal for representing zombies. However, for this army, I wanted something a little different. Something a little scarier, so I went for one of the best assault units in the game, Berserk Infantry.

Berserk Infantry have the Wild Charge rule, which means they will try to charge anyone within their Movement distance. In this case, the resuscitated casualties have the Slow Xeno Rule, so they have to lurch quite close to the enemy before they get to do that.

The Undead rule means they’ll never become suppressed (i.e. they won’t run away or hide in the way that mortal troops will), but they’ll collapse into inanimate corpses if they take enough penalties to Courage tests.

The chief advantage of these two units though is that they don’t need to be deployed at the start of the game, even if the scenario normally requires that. As mentioned earlier, Psychic units, in this case the Schüler Commander, can use the Summoner power to deploy units with Special Insertion onto the table mid-way through the game. They can also deploy themselves, either because they’re needed too far away for the Schüler to summon them, or if the Schüler is killed or flees the field. This gives the Detachment a degree of tactical flexibility that can prove useful in a tight situation, although it does mean that nearly two thirds of the force’s infantry is not present until late in the game, meaning that those Waffen-SS men will take quite a lot of enemy small arms fire until then.

Although the squads are armed in almost the same way as the living SS troops, their sluggishness means that they’re as bad at shooting as any other Berserk Infantry; they’re for ripping the enemy to bits at close quarters.

The models are from Studio Miniatures, who produce the only plastic World War Two zombies I’ve found, with weapons and some arms from the Warlord Grenadiers set. They’re a tad taller than the Warlord models, but not fatally so. The arms in two-handed rifle poses also needed a bit of filling at the back, but again it was only a minor issue.

 

Dämonenpanzer (Heavy Vehicle – Demonic, Regeneration, Teleport Jump)

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Apologies to any German-speakers out there if that’s incorrect, but this is a possessed Panzer III.

Why a Panzer III when it was pretty much obsolete by 1944-45, when the Schülers were in the ascendant, rather than the more modern Tigers? Because the Schülers had a very low budget, their experiments were at least as unreliable as the alien-loving Handwerkers, and no one in either the SS or the Heer was willing to send any of the more modern tanks away from the front line for some weirdo to start casting spells on.

Also, I wanted a tank with lots of flat surfaces to add candles to.

In game terms, this is a tough, powerful unit, with a few fun special rules added. It’s hard to damage a Heavy Vehicle without relying on dedicated anti-tank weaponry, and even then, seeing it regenerate lost Strength Points is as frustrating for your opponent as it is terrifying for enemy troops. The Teleport Jump is mainly there for the rule of cool, but also has a tactical use when you suddenly move a tank through the enemy’s defensive line to attack their troops from their exposed rear.

The model is from Warlord Games/Italeri, with a Studio Miniatures zombie in the turret, and candles from Anvil Industry.

 

Opel Blitz Trucks and Opel Maultier Half-Track

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These trucks were painted primarily as objectives in Convoy missions, but they can also be used as Recon Vehicles with the Transport upgrade, allowing for almost the entire army to be mechanised, though I’d probably have to drop the tank in order to keep the Detachment within the points restrictions for vehicles. To fully mechanise the Detachment, I may, at some stage, add a staff car or similar for the Schüler and his squad.

Xenos: The Red Army

Xenos: The Red Army

When writing Xenos, I’ve split the sample detachments (of which there are currently 37) into five different science fiction genres, as rambled about in my last post, Beware of the Xenos.

The first of these settings, chronologically, is Weird War Two. The Xenos rules cover skirmish battles from the early 20th Century onwards, and I decided to resist the urge to pick up some First World War models, although there’s a Mark IV tank sat in my cabinet that might end up in a steampunk space opera force at some point…

Because the scale of Xenos is smaller than a mass battle, we’ve tried not to refer to the forces used as ‘armies’, since they’re generally about platoon-sized. After some thought, we’ve settled on ‘detachment’, as it’s a nicely generic term that applies just as well to soldiers with bolt action rifles as it does to those with plasma guns or phasers. (Maybe less so with post-apocalyptic barbarians or unspeakably ancient sentient rocks, but you’ve got to draw a line somewhere.)

The first two detachments I’ve put together for this setting are a group of conventional (i.e. nothing wibbly and alien) Soviet Red Army troops, and a very much unconventional group of occult SS, as you’ve seen in lots of period horror films, Indiana Jones and the Wolfenstein video games. Let’s do the Soviets first.

As a side-note, the detachments I’m listing are all 24-point forces, which is the assumed standard size of game for Xenos. (You can go smaller or bigger, and I’ve written guidelines for fielding multiple detachments.) I’ve not given points costs here, because a) they don’t mean much to the average reader, who’s not read the rules, and b) they’re work-in-progress and so might change, potentially dramatically, before eventual publication.

Overall, the Soviet force is an experiment in fielding lots of infantry. Xenos uses a single generic army list, where each unit type fulfills a role in the game, and allows players to customise units with upgrades, downgrades and special rules (aka Xeno Rules), so several units in this list were made cheaper by purchasing the Recruit option, which makes them more likely to run away when they start taking fire or suffering casualties. Although the campaign system in Xenos doesn’t include the development of individual units’ experience, it does allow for detachments to increase their overall points value, thus allowing you to ‘buy off’ downgrades if you feature the same units in future games, as either regular or upgraded veteran troops.

(Most of the models in this detachment are from Warlord GamesBolt Action range, with the exception of the female soldiers, who are from Bad Squiddo Games. Although the latter models’ scale is very slightly smaller, it’s not overly noticeable, particularly since you can just assume the female soldiers are less heavily-built than their male comrades.)

 

Command HQ (Light Infantry – Commander, Brutal Leader, Close Quarters Doctrine, Fire Support)

All detachments in Xenos must upgrade one unit, for free, to be the Commander. The Commander, similar to Leader units in Lion or Dragon Rampant, rolls a random Commander Trait, representing their personality and how that affects the functioning of their troops on the battlefield. Although some are good and some are bad, none are truly devastating. They just provide a bit of flavour. It’s not entirely random though; you get to pick which of four charts you roll your Commander Trait from: Aggressive, Tactical, Strategic and Warlord.

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These Soviets have a Light Infantry unit for their Commander, upgraded with the Brutal Leader and Fire Support Xeno Rules. The former (represented in this unit by the angry-looking NKVD officer with the blue cap and pointy finger) lets you re-roll failed Courage tests for nearby units that would otherwise become Suppressed… but at the cost of one of their soldiers getting executed by the Commander unit. Fire Support, represented by the radio operator and the two officers with binoculars, allows the unit to call in off-table artillery barrages on an enemy unit within line of sight. It’s a powerful action, but difficult to activate successfully.

(As a side-note, although various upgrades have been represented on the models used,  this is just a cosmetic thing. Upgrades and Xeno Rules remain in force throughout the unit’s existence on the battlefield, regardless of which models have been removed as casualties. It just keeps the rules simple.)

Light Infantry are assumed to be armed with rifle-style weapons, but since the biggest guns these guys have are a couple of submachine guns and pistols, the unit’s been downgraded to have Close Quarters Doctrine, which just reduces their range. This also counteracts the extreme cost of Fire Support.

In game terms, this unit hangs back, dropping artillery barrages on any enemies it sees, but tries to stay close enough to the advance to provide the Commander’s usual boost to morale or, failing that, a bullet to the head of any coward who betrays the Soviet Union.

 

2x Rifle squads (Light Infantry – Increased Squad Size, Recruits)

DSC05126DSC05124Not so much the backbone of the army as meat for the grinder, these two units of Light Infantry are there to seize objectives and get shot at in preference to more valuable units. Most units in Xenos begin with 5 Strength Points, which in the case of regular humans tends to represent one soldier (elite troops, heroes or monstrous aliens might have a different ratio of SP to models). This unit has been upgraded in size to 10 SP, which increases its ability to absorb casualties and also marginally enhances its effectiveness in battle (ten rifles are better than five, after all). As mentioned earlier, the Recruit downgrade makes them more likely to run away when they do start taking casualties though, meaning that it’s a good idea to keep the Commander and his NKVD sidekick nearby.

 

Veterans in Snow Suits (Heavy Infantry – Increased Squad Size, Armour-Piercing)

DSC05048These are the guys that are the actual backbone of the army, being hardened veterans of Stalingrad, Kursk or other battles that turned the tide against the fascists. Like the rifle squads above, these veterans have been increased to 10 Strength Points, but they’ve also been bought the Armour-Piercing upgrade, representing those panzerfaust rocket-propelled grenades they’ve looted from retreating Germans. Armour-Piercing reduces the enemy’s Armour stat by 1, reducing the number of hits the unit needs to cause casualties on the enemy. I could have added Heavy Weapon to the unit as well, for the light machine gun they’ve got, but I decided to keep the unit’s cost down a bit. There’s space there for a potential upgrade later in the campaign.

Heavy Infantry are slower-moving than Light Infantry, but are more resilient (they have an extra point of Armour). The biggest difference though is that they have Shoot as their Free Action, rather than Light Infantry’s Move. This gives them a different combat role. The rifle squads storm the enemy lines, seizing objectives, while the veterans take on tougher enemy units or defend ground that’s already been taken.

(Incidentally, I normally paint models using a base coat, drybrush/highlight and then a Quickshade ink wash, before doing the snowy base, which isn’t Quickshaded, separately.  That’s how I did the rest of the detachment. This squad worked a little differently, as I wanted their snow suits to match the terrain they’re playing on. I painted their faces, weapons and equipment the normal way, including Quickshade, and then painted their snow suits at the same time as I did their bases. I think it works quite well.)

 

Shock Troops (Berserk Infantry – Increased Squad Size, Demolitions)

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The Red Army had entire units armed with modern submachine guns, which helped them on the offensive, as they can be fired from the hip more easily than a rifle. I could have fielded these models as a Light Infantry unit with Close Quarters Doctrine, but instead I went for Berserk Infantry (again bulked up to 10 SP). Berserk Infantry always have a shorter range than other infantry types, as they’re either not equipped for ranged combat (as with these guys) or they just can’t shoot straight due to being frothing berserkers.

Aside from being better than other infantry types at hand-to-hand combat (or, in this unit’s case, point-blank automatic shooting followed by bludgeoning with heavy wooden stocks), Berserk Infantry also have the Wild Charge rule. This means that if there is an enemy unit within movement range, they must attempt an Attack action to charge it.

Something this detachment lacks is anti-tank weaponry, which is something the Soviet Union lacked throughout the war (and why so many German panzerfausts were looted from the battlefield). This squad attempts to remedy that by being armed with anti-tank grenades and Molotov cocktails (aka the Demolitions upgrade), which allows them to halve the Armour value of any enemy vehicles or buildings they attack in hand-to-hand combat.

 

Maxim Machine Gun Section (Support Infantry)

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The Soviets lacked modern machine guns for most of the war, instead relying on old-fashioned Maxims as used by other nations in the First World War and earlier.

Support Infantry are very good at shooting. There are various options available for different kinds of shooting (mortars, flamethrowers, light artillery and so on), but machine gun teams are the most basic Support Infantry, so no upgrades are needed. The officer leading the section is painted in an NKVD cap, because I’ve seen Enemy at the Gates. If I expand the army in size, I may add Brutal Leader to this unit, so that they can act as a ‘barrier unit’ and deter allies from fleeing.

 

Spare Models

DSC05098That’s the end of the 24-point detachment, but I enjoyed painting the Soviets so much that I threw together a few more models. They’re not really units in their own right, but can be swapped out for individual models from other units to represent various upgrades.

The light machine gunners can add Heavy Weapon to the Light Infantry units, while the NKVD officer bravely lying in the snow while looking for cowards who hide in the snow can add Brutal Leader to any unit that wants the privilege of being watched over by a murderous communist.

Finally, the medic adds the Combat Medic Xeno Rule to a unit, which can reduce the number of casualties taken by nearby friendly units. With the number of Light Infantry units in this detachment, that might be pretty useful.

 

And finally, a T34 (Fighting Vehicle)

DSC05060Although there was no space in the 24-point detachment for any vehicles, and the theme of it was a swarm of infantry, I couldn’t resist adding a tank, which can be swapped in or out of the army depending on the mission of a given game. If I expand the army to a second detachment, it’ll become a permanent presence.

Vehicles come in multiple types, which are currently Fighting, Transport and Recon. The different vehicle types are currently undergoing a bit of a redraft (previously, Fighting and Transport were Heavy and Light), but suffice to say this is a heavily-armoured unit that has the Anti-Tank and Demolitions rules, which makes it far more effective at popping enemy tanks than anything else in the army.

 

Next up: The sorcerous SS of the Schülers faction.

Beware of the Xenos

Beware of the Xenos

They’re rampant.

Or not.

A while ago, I posted a link to Xenos Rampant, a fan-mod of the tabletop miniature wargame Dragon Rampant. About a year ago, I decided to email the author, Daniel Mersey, and see if he minded if I submitted it for proper publication as a standalone game.

Well, the upshot of it is that Xenos Rampant is no more.

These days, it’s just Xenos, and I’m now a co-author.

The game’s still in the play-testing stage, with a long way to go, but I’m quite liking how it’s going.

Without going into specifics (not least because anything’s subject to change before the final product), the Dragon Rampant rules have been tweaked to make them fit a style of skirmish warfare more suited to science fiction than the medieval fantasy of the original. Specifically, I’m looking to shape something that replicates the broad strokes of firefights from the early twentieth century to the present day and into the hypothetical beyond.

The morale rules are being revisited, as are the shooting rules, and there are, of course, rules for vehicles. What we’re not going to do is go BIG. You know, with tank companies clashing with thirty-metre high bipedal war machines armed with enough firepower to level a city. This is platoon-level stuff, with roughly half a dozen units per side and only a limited number of vehicles.

The game’s setting-neutral, so you can use any appropriate models you like, with generic unit types that can be customised to represent virtually any science fiction setting through the addition of special abilities and upgrades. There aren’t any firm army lists, not even ones in the fantasy trope style of Dragon Rampant. Instead, there are sample armies to demonstrate how to compose an interesting force using the generic Xenos army list.

To simplify things, I’ve split that section of the game up into a couple of genres. This, conveniently, helps me organise my own hobby plans for the next couple of years, as I want to put a couple of forces together for each genre, not least for playtesting purposes. Handily, several of these genres lend themselves quite nicely to non-science-fiction games as well. Almost like I planned it.

Operation Werwolf – Weird War Two: The closest to a specific setting that Xenos gets, this is the style of occult fantasy-horror that you know from films like Indiana Jones, Overlord or video games like the Wolfenstein series. The idea is that the historical Werwolf organisation was subsumed in the latter stages of the war by two factions of Nazi occultists – the sorcerous Schülers and the xeno-technologist Handwerkers. On the other side are British magicians of the Strange Research Group, the US Operation Paperclip (where do you think the flying saucers at Roswell came from?), and the Soviet Union’s… basic rank and file soldiers because no good communist believes in the supernatural. I’ve already painted up a platoon of Soviets and am halfway through a Schüler force.

The Meanest Streets – Urban Fantasy: Modern-day cops and cultists, basically. I’ve come up with separate sample detachments for British and American style police, as well as urban and rural cults (think gangbangers and militias, with added demons/aliens/undead). Think the ‘secret war’ style of science fiction, as seen in The X-Files, Fringe, Threshold and the like, but when things have escalated to all-out shooting. Alternatively, this genre could cover the day-to-day ultraviolence of Robocop and other cyberpunk pieces. My armies for this genre are going to be a well-funded and well-armed occult research organisation, a pack of feral, desert-dwelling ghouls, and a US militia group that fell into the worship of something they found in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

The War on Terra – Five Minutes Into The Future: Another modern day genre, but focusing more on the military response to overt alien invasion than the secret wars of The Meanest Streets. Various types of modern military forces are covered, from professional Western-style forces through PMC’s, conscripts, warlord militias and insurgent groups, which can be fielded against each other (or forces from The Meanest Streets, I guess), but are meant to be pitched against a couple of lists for alien invaders and their human collaborators. Influences for this sprawling genre are too numerous to list in full, but The War of the Worlds is an obvious one, as are numerous modern war films. I’ve already painted up an extremely small army of US special forces operators (24 points for twelve models), and intend to add an army of alien collaborators.

After The End – Post-Apocalypse: Inspired by Metro 2033Mad MaxFallout or a million zombie apocalypses, the sample armies cover several types of survivors, barbarians, bandits and road warriors, as well as a zombie horde and, as a beacon of hope in a dying world, an actual, honest-to-God angel and her followers. Or maybe she’s just a mutant and they’re murderous zealots. It’ll be a while before I get around to painting these guys, but Metro-style nuclear winter Muscovites are tempting (I have some bits left over from my Weird War Soviets, which is handy), as are the angel’s disciples, and the road warriors and their custom cars, and then there’s always the zombies…

Beyond The Final Frontier – Space Opera: If you were wondering where the ‘proper’ science fiction was in Xenos, it’s here, available in all shades from shiny to grimdark. Sample armies include landing parties (some of whom wear red shirts), the storm troopers of the evil empire, boarding parties, space pirates, xenomorph swarms, primitive pulp-style barbarians, artefacts left behind by the Ancients, artificial humans (“The masters created us, gave us intelligence, but then they… left.”), super-soldiers and pan-dimensional demonic horrors. Even more so than After The End, I’m spoiled for choice, but I’ve already painted up a force of near-future UN peacekeepers (as seen in the header image), and have plans for steampunk neo-Victorians in pith helmets, plus some Firefly Reaver-style pirates and a heavily-armoured space dwarf boarding party painted in the same colours as my Dragon Rampant Chaos dwarves.

I’m going to post more images and write-ups of my armies as I finish them off. Currently, the only ones finished are the Weird War Soviets, the War on Terra special forces team and the Space Opera UN peacekeepers. Although, as we all know, no wargaming army is ever ‘complete’. There’s always another cool set of models to add. When you’re a grown-up with a full-time job, collecting models is as much about restraining yourself as it is splashing out your disposable income.

Anyway, back to compiling playtest suggestions.

I wasted some more money on Kickstarter

Anyone tempted to buy an Amabrush, the next-gen electric toothbrush that cleans all of your teeth simultaneously, so it’s over in in just 10 seconds?
Don’t bother. Complete and utter waste of money. They had a great goal, but failed miserably at making it work.
My mouth tastes minty at the front. It did nothing else whatsoever.
Kickstarter? More like Kickintheteeth. I need to stop backing unproven tech start-ups.
Here’s a review that goes over it in tooth-nerd-like detail that I can’t be bothered with:

Poem – Summer Garden

Poem – Summer Garden

There was another prompt night last week, with the theme of Summer. My prompt was a quote from Roman Payne’s Rooftop Soliloquy:

“Life, now, was unfolding before me, constantly and visibly, like the flowers of summer that drop fanlike petals on eternal soil.”

I decided to do a poem. As per my last few attempts at poetry, it got dark. In a similar vein to last November’s Winter Keen, it’s a cautionary tale from a fantasy world where people really don’t like their kids. I may do ones for Spring and Autumn at some point, if I can think of another way of terrorising children.


 

Summer Garden

 

Down forgotten paths of the deepest wood,

Lies a garden watered in crimson blood

Of slaughtered spring lamb, or sometimes a child,

Offered, by shepherds, to gods of the wild.

 

Forever renewed, this eternal earth,

Unfolds constant life, compelling the birth

Of saplings of flesh, skin leaves, heartwood bones;

Their pulsing red sap drawn straight from the loam.

 

The trees’ blossom eyes grow wider with fear,

When the garden’s guardian draws too near.

Imprisoned in bark, they dream of old life,

Their sap has memory, dread of his knife.

 

The wild gods’ gardener tends to these trees,

Lovingly watching for signs of disease.

His eyes are precise, judgement not fickle,

His old hands are as one with the sickle.

 

No foulness will he allow in his glade,

If a tree sickens, he sharpens his blade.

Spring damp, autumn rot or cold winter’s bite,

He trims off deadheads afflicted with blight.

 

Wood screams for mercy, but none is allowed.

Blood-spattered, the garden-butcher is proud

Of his service in his sacred mission;

He never thinks to seek recognition.

 

His endless labour is frequently hard

But he’s happy; work is its own reward.

From the deadheads, he extracts new seed-teeth

And plants them anew, to grow from beneath.

 

You seek an excuse, my young shepherd son,

For sleeping on watch; well, you will find none.

Guard the flock to evade gods of the wild;

If wolves take our lambs, we have but one child.


 

The header image is of branches cut from a bloodwood tree, which is exactly as gruesome as it sounds.

 

Poem: Tristyn and Adeline

Poem: Tristyn and Adeline

It’s Valentine’s Day(ish), so that can only mean a romance-themed Writers’ Soc prompt night. Last year, I wrote a superhero story about a monster destroying a city, so there’s some flexibility.

This year, I wrote a poem. It’s set in the same vague fantasy world as Winter Keen and, I guess, The Privilege of Fools (though it’s not comedic).

The prompt was a quote from Lao Tzu: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

 

Tristyn and Adeline

Sir Tristyn, atop his steed draped in mail,

Rode boldly into the depths of the vale

Where his love, Adeline, the Maiden Blade,

Had fallen, lost when her band was betrayed.

 

He found her amongst the wounded and dead,

Her arm in a sling, a rag ‘round her head.

‘Fair Adeline,’ said he, ‘I feared you be slain,

‘Though now I will see the dawn’s light again.’

 

‘My lover,’ she said, ‘The dawn is yet stilled,

‘For my warriors were tricked, ambushed and killed.

‘Our guide was a ghoul, disguised in man’s skin.

‘I swear, on our love, he’ll pay for his sin.’

 

Head bowed low, Tristyn agreed to the quest,

‘Til the traitor was slain, ne’er would they rest.

Their quarry sent forth vile servants in swarms;

Together, the lovers weathered such storms.

 

The storm broke and they reached the ghoul king’s throne,

A cannibal wretch on a seat of bones.

‘You have slaughtered my kin,’ the foul ghoul said,

‘But you are both wounded, soon to be dead.’

 

The ghoul leapt, fuelled by hunger eternal

Its eyes burned bright with fire infernal.

Adeline and Tristyn did hold their ground,

In love for the other, victory was found.

 

Love gives you courage, a reason to die;

To be loved grants strength to hold up the sky.

As one, the lovers could not be withstood;

Their swords stained black with their enemy’s blood.

 

Heroes are known for cutting off their kin,

For barring their hearts from those they’d let in.

To spare their loved ones mortality’s dread,

They walk alone, with none mourning them dead.

 

But Tristyn and Adeline held no fear;

For them, their loved one was always stood near.

They knew if one fell, then so would their love,

To meet again in those fields above.

 

—–

The header image is The Ghoul King, by Dmitry Burmak, from Frostgrave: The Thaw of the Lich Lord.

Review – The Post

Review – The Post
The Post (2017)
The Post, although it’s going to win loads of awards (and already has a few), isn’t one of Steven Spielberg’s best, but that’s praising with faint damnation. This is Spielberg we’re talking about here; he’s probably one of the greatest living film-makers.
Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks were as solid as ever, and it was an excellent period piece, but the first half was somehow overly-expositionary without explaining stuff well enough for people who aren’t already up on their American political history. Basically, they spent too long setting the plot up, before it became good.
The opening Vietnam battle scene, was as atmospheric as you’d expect from the guy behind Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers and The Pacific, but I wasn’t even sure until afterwards whose perspective the audience were meant to be following, and it felt like it came from a different film entirely – the rest of the film is composed entirely of dialogue scenes.
This was a problem throughout the early stages of the film. It felt disjointed, as if the dominos were being set up in time for the second half to begin. (Hehe, a ‘domino theory’ joke.)
Also, the final scene, in which some guy interrupts a burglary at a certain hotel, didn’t fit logically into the film’s events at all. Although critical to the downfall of the film’s villain, Richard Nixon, there didn’t seem to be an obvious link to the Pentagon Papers, other than to show the length and breadth of Nixon’s corruption following his threats of reprisal against The Washington Post. (As a point of curiosity, were those telephone conversations genuine Nixon tape recordings, of which I understand quite a few were made, or an actor? EDIT: Yes, apparently they were genuine.)
How would I have improved the film? By which I guess I mean how would I have done it better than Steven Goddamn Spielberg? Well, my partner thinks it went on way too long. I’m inclined to go the other way. It could have benefited from being longer, but spending more time making us care about the characters (although Streep’s character development was done nicely), maybe conveying the importance of the historical events that characters referred to in passing (but then, this is a major period of modern US history that I assume an American audience is more acquainted with than someone from this side of the Atlantic). Also, courtroom drama. Injunctions were sought and fought and this case got to the Supreme Court of the United States, only for the film to skip over most of the arguments and then provide the result via telephone/telex in the newsroom. Spielberg can do controversial American history courtroom drama, as demonstrated in Amistad. It’s a shame we didn’t see some of that, even heavily fictionalised, here.
The film was clearly topical (and Spielberg’s said as much), with the Trump administration’s hostility to the press in its sights. Aside from several mentions of the First Amendment when discussing whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers, this is emphasised in a slightly on-the-nose comment that Streep makes towards the end about the press being ‘the rough first draft of history’, and that even if it doesn’t always get it right, it still needs to do its job. The Post was in production for less than a year. Maybe if Spielberg had spent as much time on it as he does his other films, it would have been a more polished film.
As a final note, I spent ages trying to work out if the Washington Post lawyer that turns up midway through the film was being played by Matt Damon or not, because it didn’t look quite like Matt Damon, but then it did, and then it didn’t, and then… and then Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad) appeared in the same scene and I realised it was Meth Damon wearing a suit.
Hey, I didn’t think I’d get to re-use the promo image from Olympus Has Fallen quite so soon. Not trying to draw any equivalence between the two films, honest.