games workshop

Books, short stories once again (again)

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so, another batch of short stories read through.

 
The Sleep of the Dead by Darius Hinks. Fantasy

A group of well to do individuals meet for a regular drink and smoke and to share stories of horror, chaos and other unseemly tales. One individual recounts the tale of his doctors journey north in the hunt for gold. The story was presented as a group of curious men with too much time and money looking into things they shouldn’t, yet the tale they heard (that scared them) was dull. It also gained little from the setting, and would have been better presented as just a standard tale over an anecdote within a tale.
Path of Warriors by Neil McIntosh. Fantasy

An origin story for the Stefan Kumansky books. I haven’t read them, but from the description I found they’re typical warriors. In this book the boys are young and face an invasion of Marauders. While they are hidden the men of the village prepare to fight off the enemy. The story was ok, but ended fairly quickly.
Rat Trap by Robert Earl. Fantasy

A mercenary is hired by a down on his luck merchant whose staff have been seeing strange ratmen in the well. Seeing easy money the mercenary heads down the well to look for the rats. I enjoyed this, the focus on the disbelief in skaven is always entertaining given the broade knowledge readers have of how serious a threat there is. The tension and danger is well placed too.

Rotten fruit by Nathan Long. Fantasy

A prologue to the Blackhearts novels (another series I haven’t read), setting a dirty dozen style suicide squad in amongst a beleaguered castle under seige by chaos forces. Seeing no way of victory the team look to escape and bring back reinforcements before they’re missed and killed. Unfortunately whilst they have the protection of their ‘controller’ the reinforcements may not be so lucky. I enjoyed this, the small squad focus is often fun and the not quite good guys allows for far more flexibility in its characters. 

Leechlord by Frank Cavallo. Fantasy

A fairly standard short story about Festus Leechlord, a character of the warhammer world Iv liked without knowing much about. A knight is recovered from a battle with horrendous wounds. His fevered shouting calls for his healers to kill him. Flashbacks show Festus enhancing the infections in the Knights wounds. Whilst the story itself was a little straightforward and predictable the sheer amount of description of Festus and his motivations and desires made it a really interesting one to read.

 
Necessary Evil by Rob Sanders. 40k

A sequel to the Atlas Infernal novels (another I haven’t read), as Bronislaw Cvezak lands on a world in the Eye of Terror in the hunt for a powerful relic. Taken in by the indigenous people/mutants he needs to find it quickly as the Thousand Sons are approaching to claim it for themselves. This was entertaining, I don’t know the history between the inquisitor and Ahriman but seeing another renegade from the imperium still fighting the good fight was nice. The open ending was interesting too, I may need to find Atlas Infernal to have a read.

 Faith by Robert Earl. Fantasy

A bretonnian knight is deep in the wilds with winter approaching and no sign of a visit from the lady, or of a suitable trophy to return home. With his brother recently having been graced by a visit the jealousy is driving him onwards to find glory. This story however is seen from the perspective of his servant, an ageing man who served the Knights father. Whilst the adventure is average, the point of view and observations are really good, and add some additional focus in the light of recent End Times events. There’s a semi twist at the end which highlights the pride of the Knights.

Portrait of my Undying Lady by Gordon Rennie. Fantasy

A worn out, out of favour artist is employed by a vampires to paint her portrait, if it’s perfect she’ll reward him, of its not he’ll be ‘rewarded’ in another way. These stories that focus on the non war elements of the warhammer world are often a nice distraction and this definitely provided that. If have maybe preferred a slightly longer story with more delving into the vampiress’ character as I feel this would have enhanced the painters finding her ‘true’ self.
The Rite of Holos by Guy Haley. 40k

A beleaguered female imperial guard / planetary defence force is reinforced by a force of Blood Drinkers in a a battle against Genestealer Hybrids, but as the Astartes head into battle they’re fighting their own red thirst too. A fairly standard storyline though the collateral damage and loss to guard life is well covered.
Death Stares Back by Alex Helm. 40k

Not strictly speaking a black library publication, but the winning entry in a spoken short story competition. A tank crew on a standard mission against tyranids suffers engine failure and are soon swamped and surrounded by ‘nid forces, slowly hacking through the armoured panels. This was over quickly (not surprising given the word limit) but the closed environment and issues that causes were well handled.

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What’s on my table? 19th July 2015

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so, I had planned for this to he a regular weekly post but Iv been a little lax. Then again I have been busy painting so have a lot to catch up on 

   
  
A few WIP shots of Miedo a Morir for the Brotherhood faction of Freebooters fate. The plan had been to kep his cloak dark, but I liked the red cloaks I gave to my other models amd kept food one in place. I may go back and darken it soon.  

    
    
 
Mining drill for the Resistance of Dropzone Commander. I haven’t played the game her, but I’m not that fussed and only really like the models. This drill was really fun to paint, and games workshops Ryza Rust paint is excellent.
  
Some Welshmen for Saga. A bigger post on this will be coming soon as I put together the full force.
A few other projects I will put into seperate posts as they have a lot of pictures in them 
   
 
I also finally mastered the Basius, using green stuff made it so much easier than milliput as its not grainy. My entire Wild West Exodus faction is now based with unique homestead bases and now just need painting (as with everything else)

Life, what was it like working for Games Workshop? 

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so, some time after I had planned to I intend to look back at my time with Games Workshop and consider whether they were a good company to work for.

I worked for about 15 months as a trainee store manager, before earning the opportunity to run my own store which I did for a similar length of time. The job roles within each were completely different.  Working in a top store, with staff and a manager meant I was performing alongside a team, allowing me to bounce off of other people as well as providing a group interaction on decision making- even if the manager had the final say.

Working as manager of a single staff store was entirely different, gone were the other staff members to bounce off, gone was the manager safety net, also gone was the high customer numbers of a busy city centre store and also the kick up the bum when needed from the people around you. 

Now, i can say right now I spent most of my time as a trainee thinking it was hard and a pain having a manager pushing you to do it better and always jumping on mistakes made, but looking back now it was that time that was the most fun I had working for the company. Fun is a key word as a games workshop employee- you’re working with toy soldiers and mostly playing games all day so fun shouldn’t be hard to find. However, I found as time went on the fun dropped off to be replaced with a functional approach to the games and toys- it wasn’t a game, we were having to sell things to children. It was about the time this happened that my performance improved sufficiently that I began to be noticed by the people that mattered- managers, area managers, regional directors. It’s a fine line between that approach and just cynically selling overpriced toys to children and a lot of people I encountered were well entrenched in that cynical side (some for the better other the worse).

Upon getting my own store (and when covering other stores) the big realisation was just how much ‘freedom’ I had to do things my way. Iv put that in inverted commas because freedom isn’t an accurate enough word to describe it. Certainly there was some flexibility to do things your way, store setup, opening times, activities etc just so long as you could justify it and show in store performance that it was the best option. However, the big stuff- stock, releases, merchandising, approach to customers was tightly controlled- you will do it this way, meaning less freedom. Even the areas I mentioned where there as the freedom to decide was open to the regional managers to push for change. A huge example of this was the shift from the idea that filling the shop with people who could be customers was the best way of making money to the idea that the only people in the shop should be customers who have come to purchase something or take part in an activity which they have purchased something for. Whilst I can see the benefits of reducing the numbers in a single staff store, it ignored the fact that so much of what the store staff do is spontaneous- yes you can run a game in which everyone buys a model for, but the big money comes from getting people around the introductory tables and convincing them to start the hobby (£20-£30 for a model or a minimum £100 starter bundle). This was a pressure that was put on me, prompting me to cancel the gaming nights and regular activity in favour of an invite only approach. This worked for some customers- the regular spenders- but inevitably meant the casual spenders who needed convincing had no real reason to come to the store and so weren’t convinced to buy things.

This would suggest that support was lacking for managers, however I found it was there when asked for , if not always there as standard. When Rox was hospitalised the support was overwhelming, I had time off, my shop covered and plenty of calls offering help. When I locked myself out of the shop a locksmith was arranged and paid for. Even when I got the manager job, the relocation package was generous and helped us get settled in the area quickly. However, when my sales figures were low, or my performance dipped there was just a phone call or visit to say ‘do it better’ rather than an attempt to help improve. Additionally, when changes were made there was no open discussion, simply a ‘this is happening, get on with it.’ This is fine, higher ups make decisions, however when I was told that my holidays would no longer mean my shop being covered by a trainee, but instead being closed for the week, whilst my sales targets were expected to remain the same I needed an opportunity to discuss this and what it would mean (matching 52 weeks of sales against 46 seemed mental), but any attempt to do so was met with ‘don’t be negative.’

This was a major bugbear for me, the constant requirement to be positive about anything and everything Games Workshop was hard. It created a world where staff don’t have opinions, or at least can’t express them. Sometimes models didn’t appeal to me, other times I loved them. Being able to be myself and honest would allow for a more personable service with everyone, as opposed to “isn’t this latest thing the best thing ever, at least until next month when something even better will come out.” Of course we have to be positive in negative times- such as price rises and the like, but ‘always postive’ just feels forced.

One big area of forced positivity was in dealing with customer grievances; price rises of course please nobody, but I found a real struggle the disappointment when Codex changes weren’t to people’s liking. It inevitably led to the kind of outrage you’ll read on any warhammer forum, as the new things are of course absolutely wrong. One key change that sticks in the mind is the release of a new Chaos Daemons codex for 40k, a customer glanced through the new book and immediately became incensed. Daemon princes had been moved from heavy support to HQ choices “What? That’s ridiculous! A nurgling wouldn’t listen to a Daemon Prince! This shits all over the fluff!” Hmm, yes ok. Firstly, you’re wrong- a Deamon Prince has been elevated to that position by the Chaos Gods. Also, the fluff is of course going to change- it’s Games Workshops to develop.  It went on, as he discovered the troop choices had had their abilities reduced (as well as points cost), “well that ruins my army- I can’t take plaguebearers now they’re rubbish.” Yeah, well it’s a new book, you’re naturally going to have to make tweaks. And actually everything you previously did with your nurgle army is doable, you just need to get the upgrades in the right places to do so.

Of course, the forced positivity meant I couldn’t respond as I wished and instead had to push the positives. Unfortunately this guy was a classic example of the socially incompetent stereotype of warhammer players and the outrage and indignation was only increased. At this point a second staff member would have been handy to allow me to back off and someone else break his flow, but as a single staff store it’s not possible. The hardest thing was by far the lack of company, as well as the natural competition that comes from having other sales staff around you. The lack of company meant the temptation (probably subconsciously) was there to think of anyone coming through the door as a chance to have a chat, not as a chance to sell something. This was exacerbated for me as the nearest store was over an hour away so I got few opportunities to discuss work.

The most common opportunity was at the quarterly manager meetings in Nottingham, an expenses paid trip, with free beer. These varied from fun to boring, being mostly boring once the venue was changed from Warhammer World to a hotel miles from anywhere- meaning no breaks to wander around. This coincided with a ‘train yourself’ mentality, allowing us to choose what we wanted to train in. This in theory is fine, but given all but ten managers have spent the last few months training alone it didn’t seem particularly sensible.

A major issue I had with the ideology  was the entire focus on new collectors at the expense of ‘veterans.’ Whilst it is absolutely essential to constantly recruit new people, it is naive to ignore the established spenders. The focus was on getting new people to invest whilst providing no real reasons for the others to buy. Of course a lot of the so called veterans will spend little, already having done so, but others will spend heavily on their collections, constantly adding to them. This was another area closed for discussion, even though the majority of new releases are geared towards established players over new ones.

So, reading back through this it would seem it’s an awful company to work for, which I don’t think is true; i think for a young person with no real responsibilities it can be a fun and enjoyable job, however the low salary and solitary working, as well as the loss of weekends can be a major issue for anyone with a family to look after. By far my best time was working as a trainee instead of as a manager.

Books, more short stories again

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so, despite my issues deciding what I want to read I’m still hitting the short stories regulary 

  
Nightspear by Joe Parrino. 40k

The first in a related trilogy published in The Carnac Campaign, this story focuses on Illic Nightspear and his eldar exiles attempting to ambush an awakening necron force. Unfortunately it goes wrong and becomes a race back to their webway portal before the Necron Deathmarks kill them all. This story was basically pants. There was no real insight into a major character of the Eldar, no real background or insight into the history of the exiles, Rangers or characters and no actual story. Illic lines up a kill shot, necrons disappear, necrons ambush the ambushers. Beyond that point it became an exercise in introducing an Eldar before having him killed by necrons, there wasn’t even any detail to that.  I’m hoping it was acting as a prologue to a meatier story in the other two short stories but I’m not holding my breath.

Sky Hunter by Graeme Lyon. 40k

Well that’s the way to drag me right back into interested. Set fairly soon after Nightspear this story focuses on the pilots of Eldar- the Crimson hunters and the pilots of the hemlock wraith fighters which apparently the Eldar consider to be anything from heretical an abomination, but that have a use against such foes as the Necrons. The story jumps quickly from character to character opening up so many distraught personalities before a segment in  which a spiritseer jumps (mentally) from mind to mind of various warriors on the battlefield of Carnac witnessing death and destruction through the eyes and bodies of basically every kind of Eldar warriors in the armies Codex army book. Far better than Nightspear with a large set up for the final story of the noon. However I’m leaving that one for the moment to catch up on a different book.

  

The Sound that Wakes You by Ben Chessell. Fantasy

A small forgotten village on the outskirts of Bretonnia is ruled by a tyrannical former knight and his henchmen. Everyone accepts this as the norm except the troublesome son of a blacksmith, he gets a bit overexcited and attempts to start a rebellion by burning a rose bush and his father is killed before he realises acceptance isn’t the same as patience. It was ok, no real surprises and the ending was too obvious, but it was an ok little tale of Bretonnia. It feels a bit weird reading these now that The End Times are coming and the relevance will be gone, it’ll be interesting to see where the background is taken.

Spirit War by Rob Sanders. 40k

After reading the previous two stories in the Carnac Campaign book I’d had a poor experience and a better one so was interested to see where a longer ‘short story’ would go. This one sets an army of Wraithguard, Wraithblades and Wraithlords against a Necron invasion force. The ‘dead’ warriors are sent to hold back the Necrons until Eldar civilians can retreat from the world via a Webway portal. This story could have been an interesting conflict between two unliving forces, but instead just seemed to be a blur of action without giving enough detail to actually explain what was happening. When the story reached a ‘last stand’ of the Wraiths I really lost interest.

 
The forever kitten by Peter F. Hamilton. Science fiction.

A geneticist in prison for breaking too many ethical boundaries is freed and whisked off to an obscure tropical island by a rich sponsor who wants him to complete his research, but his motives aren’t purely financial. This was a four page short story (so genuinely a short story) and initially felt a little too much like a standard accusation levelled at big pharmaceutical companies funding research outside of the law, but the twist midway through suggested some additional potential consequences of genetic manipulation. The twist made it very enjoyable.

 
 Dead Mans Party by Josh Reynolds. Fantasy

When you’re trusted with showing a potential donator a good time and he’s assassinated what do you do? Strap him to you and fight through a city of other assassins of course. This one was stupid, but a really fun read- as well as revisiting Dubnitz of Mananns blades.

The Mouth of Chaos by Chris Dows. 40k

An Elysian Imperial Guard force drop into a fortified volcano to take out a rebel force. The idea was very James Bondesque, and it worked well initially as the high speed drop allowed for a fast pace, however the lack of breaks in the text meant it felt too much. Perhaps if I’d read it through in one sitting I’d have enjoyed the non stop pace, but as its a human force I don’t want superhuman stamina. There was a nice Imperial Guard moment at the end as the debriefing leads into the briefing for the next war zone as the survivors are directed into another battle.

The Butchers Beast by Jordan Ellinger. Fantasy

A unit of Imperial Greatswords hold the line against the forces of chaos, post battle a chaos monstrosity rampages through their camp, bringing the attentions of a vindictive Witch Hunter. The story felt too much as though it had been taken from 40k, with the witch hunters replacing the inquisition. 

Books, Khârn Eater of Worlds by Anthony Reynolds

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So, recently Iv been feeling some apathy towards warhammer 40,000- so long playing other game systems and probably overexposure to the offerings of the black library have dulled my interest. This coupled with the constant stream of releases (most quite good) it’s felt as though 40k is everywhere. However, upon being dragged to Cribbs Causeway I popped into the Games Workshop and was handed some cash by Rox. With a painting backlog of probably years it was books.

Fantasy is about to he reset so the books are in short supply, so instead it was 40k only, one of which was Khârn Eater of Worlds by Anthony Reynolds. Set after the Horus Heresy the armies of Chaos are scatter and divided with no leaders of note anywhere to be found. This book naturally focuses on the World Eaters, barbaric bloodthirsty Astartes who are turning on each other and bleeding their numbers dry. Unfortunately the one man (marine) who could unite them is dead: yeah, that’s right Khârn starts the book dead, dragged from a pile of Imperial Fist corpses on Terra he’s been enshrined on a ship within the World Eaters fleet. I say dead, he isn’t strictly speaking dead- but when he was picked up he was. Now his body functions barely function and his brain activity is negligible, enough to keep his heart beating and his lungs breathing.

With the Workd Eaters dying a power struggle ensued and an anonymous warrior arranges an assassination attempt on Khârns corpse. This is at the midway point of the book.

Something happens and Khârn lives and wakes up, just in time to encounter the remainder of the Emperors Children legion and be involved with the tensions between the legion.

The book didn’t do much to reinvigorate my 40k excitement, I had hoped for a book of Khârn slaughtering anything and everything, but instead got a book in which he plays barely more than a bit part role, and instead focusing on his lackies and hangers on. Even the battle towards the end of the book (two chapters worth) was from the perspective of others, barely hinting at Khârn doing anything.

In addition, SPOILER ALERT AHEAD…















The idea that Khârn would reunite the World Eaters had potential- who better to lead an out of control Warband of berserkers- the first thing he did was lead them into a war against the Emperors Children- equal in stature yet far outnumbered, so the hoped for prevention of them killing each other instead led to them losing far greater numbers against a superior foe, further restricting their capabilities. Given the lack of new recruits and apothecaries replenishing the force seems unlikely.

Life, what am I doing on my IPad a follow up 

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so, as you may have read previously I came to the realisation that a huge amount of my time was spent playing time wasting games on my iPad. You can read about them below

Part one.
Part two.
Part three.
Part four.
Additional.
The final result being that I had only a handful of games left on there, these ones:

 
Blood bowl the classic games workshop game. Having played this to death initially I haven’t touched it since my cull.

Space Wolf another games workshop game, Iv played this a bit more recently but at there seems no way of pausing games it isn’t particualarly frequent

Tap Titans a tapping game, simple and addictive. Iv been playing this a lot as it has the feel of a quick check in before you realise you’ve wasted half an hour.

Warhammer Quest yet another games workshop game, again unplayed since the cull.

Ticket to Ride a game based on the board game, again unplayed.

In summary Iv played one game a lot the others little to never. Given the time wasting of Tap Titans, it has gone. The others will remain for now to give them the opportunity to earn some play time, but I’ll be interested to see what I’m playing in a month or so.

What’s interesting is that Iv not got any new games. I downloaded one or two but just couldn’t enjoy them. For a while I was tempted to download the Simpsons tapped out again but the regular events require constant tapping and I just can’t be bothered.

Edit. In the couple of hours since writing this Iv lost count of the number of times Iv picked up my IPad to ‘tap’ though I haven’t gained any benefit from the time gain yet

I have a dream, of damage and repairs

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so, yesterday the landlord was in fixing a minor wallpaper tear (it was a tiny one but of course the children picked at it) and of course my stupid brain incorporated it into my broken sleep
The landlords just left after patching holes in my house, which is converted from my old games workshop store, and I go upstairs to find someone has snuck in, taken the wallpaper and made two large holes in the wall. As well as this they’ve graffitied two words ‘twit’ and another I can’t recall now (equally tame). As I’m wondering how I can fix it without upsetting the landlord a group of builders turn up with chipboard and cover the wall entirely. Apparently a different landlord has fixed it as part of a regeneration of the buildings in the street. At this point I remember there are high value toys behind the walls and consider how to get to them without rebreaking the wall.