The Elder Thoughts

RPGs, miniatures, books and other rants

Book Review: Gods of Mars

Book cover

Gods of Mars closes the trilogy of Priests of Mars and Lords of Mars. I finally had the time to read it and, while I have enjoyed a lot the full journey, and indeed this third act, this resolution, is good and well written... But I feel left with a taste of "it could be more". Most story arcs get closed, but not all (I won't spoil things, but the book starts with a really interesting "discovery" that is not really used much in the narrative).

The book is full of tension, as many characters in different situations have to resolve sometimes multiple problems, and most events unfold at once, the book jumping from one group of characters to another each few pages. But well done, keeping the tension and usually cliffhangers. Although some battles are quite convenient and some details a bit vague on purpose (to avoid probably impossible scenarios), I enjoyed reading so much about the Adeptus Mechanicus. It has been a good timing to release the books and then the new Warhammer 40,000 army indeed.

A recommended trilogy, although at the time of this writing this ebook costs more than twice than the other two, so maybe start with the others while price goes a bit down.

Note: Careful with The Black Library book description as it spoils a lot. You've been warned.

Assassinorum: Execution Force

Assassinorum: Execution Force logo

People were asking for new boxed games, GW answered... although not exactly as we expected.

Assassinorum Execution Force is a very especifically themed game in which 1 to 4 players command a squad of four assassins that infiltrate a cultist base to kill a chaos sorcerer before it finishes a dark ritual.

Assassinorum: Execution Force logo

The boardgame pieces are really good, both strong (really thick cardboard) and high quality (think latest Space Hulk pieces). There are no doors but some additional room tiles, event cards, markers and dice. Not impressive, and definetly not equal in quantity to Space Hulk, but still ahead regarding quality compared to for example Deadzone or Sedition Wars board pieces and tokens. Expensive or not, but GW's general high bar of control in boardgames is there.

The instructions are small but effective, although I haven't yet read them. The minis are 4 new plastic assassins, one of each specialty (Vindicare, Eversor, Culexus and Callidus), 15 chaos cultists, 3 chaos space marines and a chaos sorcerer with a small familiar demon (that acts as turn counter). One interesting bit is that as they are reusing existing plastic sprues for all foes, the chaos sorcerer is actually the full Chaos Lord double sprue, so you can make the Lord, the Sorcerer or a Terminator Lord. Only four new, but all are nice and good looking. Of course the new assassins are just incredible and very dynamic.

For those seeking the price/value ratio, some quick maths of the prices as of May 2015 of the individual miniatures:

3x Chaos SM: 8.30€

15x Chaos Cultists: 8.30€ x 3 = 24.90€

1x Chaos Sorcerer/Chaos Lord/Terminator Chaos Lord: 19.50€

4 Assassins: 21€? x 4 = 84€ (not yet released standalone)

Total: 52.70 + 84 = 136.70€ retail cost

At Games Workshop's website the game is 100€ but you can easily get it around 20% cheaper (at Wayland for example costs around 82€ at current exchange, with free shipping).

All this means that even without discounts, you will get at least around 36€ of miniatures "free". But truth be said, at the original price it is an expensive game: Most miniatures reused, limited variety of gameplay and scenarios, not too complex rules... Also for advanced Chaos Warhamer 40,000 players (people already with non-basic CSM armies) most minis won't add much value to their collection.

Discounted, for me is a good buy: Reviews say in general the game is fun and engaging (and not easy), for a collector (like me) just the assassins will cost more than 20€ each once sold separately in the future (I did wanted them), and as Dark Vengeance made me start a small Chaos Space Marines force, the minis of this game are a really nice addon to grow that army.

So... make your choice, but definetly hunt online, it does make a big difference and I got no problems finding my copy.

Assassinorum: Execution Force logo

Counts Grand Theft Auto V as an RPG?

After more than 1.5 years of wait, we PC games finally have the pleasure of being able to play GTA V in all its glory. I had already pumped some 20-something hours, maybe 30, in the XBox 360 version but now I aim for, if not a 100% completion, at least doing every mission and at least attempt every challenge. And oh boy, playing it for a second time feels just as great as if was new (I'm just more proficient with the controls, know a few tricks and remember how to complete most missions).

Los Santos

While I'm playing it, slowly, enjoying the story, trying to catch all the small details, the almost alive city, the animals, the pedestrians with their impressive artificial intelligence, the random chases, robberies, accidents or traffic jams... The world feels so alive that I can't but wonder if actually GTA can be played as an RPG, because it really feels like an RPG.

I'm the kind of videogame player that tries to maximize Final Fantasy character levels (except in those like FF VIII where enemies level along with you), the one that pumped dozens and dozens of hours on Fallout 3, finished all DLCs and got the explorer achievement (IIRC, exploring 100 different points of interest from the map). When I finished Elder Scrolls Oblivion, my character was so powerful I did all the main story arc almost in a speedrun. But the amount of things you can do in this GTA entry... is so amazing.


You can invest in stock options and alter the world to make them go up or down (e.g. invest in a car firm after destroying many cars to buy low, then destroy other firms so their price rises and sell your stocks), you can buy houses and fine-tune cars, buy clothes and each character has their own stats you can increase... you can even change the haircut or tatoos. World setting aside, it is quite similar to any Elder Scrolls game, and ages above the degree of customization you can do at most "action RPGs" like Diablo 3, which many times are quite linear and only the loot or the chosen skills actually "customizes" the character.

Here you can literally spend hours doing side-missions, travelling by cab or train, learning to fly planes, or even diving in search of UFO pieces. NPCs get scared if you follow them and might call the police or not. Steal a car and many things can happen, from them running to even taking out a gun and shooting you. So many variants in general that as I already said the world feels almost real. Hell, even the radio news reflect the latest events that have happened (of course all around you, but anyway adds a lot of inmersion).

So what makes an RPG so? Old school ones had lots of text, GTA has hours and hours of conversations, phone calls, sms and emails; RPGs have stats, GTA has them (even money and owned properties are separate for each character); Visual customization as said is present; Lore, NPCs and a credible world, more than present; Choices and side-missions, a lot of both. Free-roaming, more than any Final Fantasy title would dream about.

Yes, is not turn-based or pausable; No, you cannot fully customize the main characters but you can create online characters and there you have way more freedom... I am no expert in the subject, but I think many of the last years' so-called xxx-RPGs have way less right to use that acronym than other recent titles like Grand Theft Auto 5.

In the end, it's all about how you play, how you live the virtual setting created for your pleasure.


Note: Photos taken from Snapmatic uploaded trending photos, another clever idea from Rockstar: use the in-game phone to take photos (even selfies) and upload them so people mimic real-world Instagram.

Book Review: Lords of Mars

Lords of Mars book cover

Following the events of Priests of Mars, this second book Lords of Mars narrates how Magos Kotov comes apparently near his objective, along Black Templars and Cadian forces, but some unexpected events will make the journey harder, way harder than anyone expected. Being a trilogy of course we don't read how things finish yet but we'll enjoy new adventures, perils and amazing discoveries along the Speranza spaceship. I won't enter into spoilers but expect more of the same [high quality content].

This book took me more time to read due to lack of spare time. Sadly I've felt asleep more than once not due to lack of interest but pure exhaustion from work. The same intrigue and pacing of events, discoveries and "internal affairs" from the first title is replicated, adding to the mix quite interesting plot twists. I've directly started reading the third and final book and I am eager for more adeptus mechanicus lore and tales...

Again, highly recommended if you liked the first bok. Let's see if the trilogy ends as good as has been so far.

Total War: Warhammer announced!

Total War: Warhammer logo

Wow, this is so great! In a smart move after launching all Warhammer End of Times books and miniatures but before announcing "the new" , Warhammer 9th edition, and of course with the incoming Mordheim and Warhammer Vermintide videogames, it looks like Warhammer world might change, but the franchise is far from dissapearing.

Empire and Dwarfs versus Orks, Undead and chaos (at least Tzeentch) can be seen at the video, including "mighty beasts". Also the company behind, The Creative Assembly, are really good making strategy games and have a long story (15 years), so we can exppect a top-notch title (unlike the latest avalanche of mobile-based not-so-good-and-money-grabber titles).

This really got me excited, it's been quite a few years since we last had a Warhammer Fantasy strategy title...

Anyway, here's the nicely looking video:

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