A Review by Agatheron (admin from The Waaagh)
The release of Imperial Armour Volume 8: The Raid on Kastorel-Novem (IA8) earlier this year follows in the footsteps of the earlier works from Forgeworld.
I received my copy shortly after its release, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I have one of the original 500 signed by writer Warwick Kinrade.
These books are far more than providing a new set of rules for all the fancy resin models that Forgeworld produces, but provides an immersive exploration of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. At one level, we call this “fluff” but in reality, it is the so-called fluff that gives these models a life of their own.
IA8 continues in the same pattern that was originally established with Volume 3: The Taros Campaign, and has been further refined through the Anphelion Project (IA4), as well as the massive Siege of Vraks series. This time, it is an in-depth exploration of a two-day raid staged by the Raven Guard Space Marines along with the 181st Elysian Drop Troop Regiment against a Manufacturing Center on the Ork-occupied world of Kastorel-Novem.
The production values on the Imperial Armour Books has always been of excellent quality, but even the difference between IA1 and IA8 is substantial. The hardcover is a matte finish with gloss elements in the letters. The book’s format is the same size as the previous Imperial Armour Volumes. For those of you who don’t have an Imperial Armour Book, the page sizes are the same as GW’s hardcover Apocalypse book. The work is 224 pages full-colour, which really makes things spring to life. It is definitely a quality production, and shows off the artwork in the book.
In terms of the artwork, there are three different types: the traditional oil/acrylics painting are very high quality, but are very much in the minority. This includes some excellent work from Adrian Smith, Karl Kopinski, and a very welcome return by Paul Bonner. The majority of the remaining artwork in the book can be classified as “Digital Photographic Artwork” which translated means heavy photoshopping of photographed models to look like real battle scenes, as well as excellent technical line drawings that really give the feel of a historical book exploring the participants, tactics, and results of a real-life military engagement.
The first section of the book, from pages 7-73 tells the story of the Raid on Kastorel-Novem over seven chapters. The first chapter sets up the background, and not only gives the specifics on the plan for the raid, but it also gives a real sense of how an Ork Waaagh! forms, develops and grows… not over a short period of time, but literally over decades. The fascinating part about this book is that it taps into the story of Waaagh! Garaghak, which is part of the existing storyline for Warhammer 40,000 from the GW’s studio. It is featured in the Apocalypse Book, so it feels authentically rooted in the 40K universe.
Without spoiling the story, it follows the course of the action of this particular raid while setting into the large context of the much, much larger Waaagh! that has been rampaging through the Forsarr Sector for decades since 936.M41. The raid on an occupied Kastorel-Novem takes place in 992.M41, some 56 years later.
I have to admit that being an Ork player, there is a very strong temptation to skip right over the Imperial material. However, it is very much worth the read. It goes into the new equipment for the Imperium, namely the two variants of the Tauros rapid-assault vehicles, as well as the new Valkyrie Sky-Talon heavy-lift transport craft. Both of these entries can be used in a standard Imperial Guard army, but they also have a special place in the Elysian Regiment Drop Troop Army List, which is updated to be in line with the new Imperial Guard codex, including special orders. Additionally, in the scenarios in the back of the book, there are three special characters who can be included in an Elysian list, and not just within those scenarios, inclusive of a Captain riding in a Tauros.
The Raven Guard get a single special character in Shadow-Captain Korvydae, but an extensive background on the chapter itself. While the Raven Guard are a codex army, they are described in the book as having access to a Land Raider Prometheus, and a Land Speeder Tempest, which are detailed in Imperial Armour Volume 2, but not in IA8. My beefs with the book are very few and far between, but this would be one of them.
The reason why I bought the book. While IA8 may be an optional purchase for an Imperial Guard or Space Marine player, this work is an essential part of an Ork player’s collection. The background on the Orks, the insight into their understanding of battle, as well as all the goodies and equipment they get make it well worth the purchase price. It describes three of the clans with a moderate degree of detail, but backed-up with some excellent artwork. While the book may be light on both Imperial and Space Marines, it more than makes up for it with all the Ork-related entries. Even to the point that there are standard Ork codex entries that make an appearance in this book so as to provide a complete overview on greenskin vehicles and equipment in one place.
The Dread-Mob army list is a real treat. It is not clan-specific, but rather shows off the character of an army that is assembled by a Big Mek, without a Warboss or even “true” Nobz present. While it may not be the best tactical choice to make, it is possible to have up to 35 Walkers in a single list. (15 Deff-Dreads, 15 Killer Kans, 2 Meka-Dreads and 3 Mega-Dreads). The wisdom of taking such, of course, is a much different matter!
It is interesting to say that they had contemplated building clan-based lists, but the designers noted that the existing Ork codex is already well disposed to allowing players to build themed lists with ease. Even so, one of the gems in this book is that there are four Ork special characters, three of whom allow an alteration to a standard Codex Orks army list to suit their respective clans.
In terms of the equipment detailed in the book, much of that has already been described through other rumours threads and posting. I won’t duplicate that here, aside from saying that Stompas and Battlefortresses have a Kustom variant that allows for an immense amount of diversity and creativity when you are trying to describe the monstrosity you have created without paying attention to the rules! Since these two items are Super-Heavy entries, I would not consider these to be unbalancing to the game at all.
My only other beef with an otherwise fantastic book is that some of the list entries in the Ork section of the book do not describe how or if they can be taken with a Codex Orks army. This is a minor oversight on some of the entries, and it can be determined by examining other sources.
The scenarios are top-notch. They show how the narrative of the first part of the book can be played out in specially designed scenarios that range from standard 40K battles, one of which uses the Planetstrike ruleset, to two Apocalypse-Sized fights. It is possible to replay the two-day campaign using a narrative theme.
One of the scenarios that is a must mention is a classic Speed Freek-style scenario which recalls both Mad-Max and Gorkamorka. It uses a special “rolling road” rules to detail a high-speed chase across and around hazardous terrain. The wild part of these rules is that it’s the terrain that moves the most! This is a kind of scenario that could also be played out with any sort of bikes or ‘fast’ vehicles. This is a very welcome addition, and I can see it being a great deal of fun!
While I am certainly biased, IA8 is definitely a must-buy for anybody who plays Orks. If not for the character and feel of what Orks are in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the additional rules and goodies allow for a greater sense of character when one is building up and fleshing out a characterful Ork army. It also shows the creativity that comes out of narrative gameplay that can’t be readily explored through a tournament-based approach. I think that some may be reluctant to collect either an Elysian or a Dread Mob list precisely because they come from non-codex sources and therefore would be disqualified from Tournament play. My response is that Games Workshop has been moving towards a more narrative-style feel in their standard rules intentionally. The folks at Forgeworld have already been there for some time. It’s a good lead to follow.
~The floor is open gentlemen.