Saturday, 27 July 2013

Spotlight: Other fan-made Army Books

While this may or may not be news to you, there are actually *gasp* more people than me who have made their own army books, and I am going to dedicate this post to do a little review of some of my favorites (of those updated for 8th edition).

(Note: I have tried to be as impartial as possible, and I'm well aware that my own books are far from perfect. If I could make an unbiased review of them as well, I would!)

Chaos Dwarfs

by Thomas Heasman-Hunt

This book has been supported for a very long time and seen a ton of revisions, and is today one of the best unofficial books out there. There's a multitude of choices all nicely laid out, and it's pretty well balanced too. The author also wrote the whole thing himself, which is more than I can say for my version, where I only wrote a few unit entries from scratch and edited the rest. The layout and formatting is also incredibly well done, with every row on the pages being filled and each paragraph ending right at the border of each page or column. It almost feels like a machine made it, in that it looks almost too perfect!

Criticism would have to be against the somewhat lackluster presentation in the page backgrounds - they are not bad, but the simple parchment feels rather generic and could use a bit more of a "Chaos Dwarf feel" to it in my opinion. Then again, I'm a sucker for graphic design, and this doesn't really affect the overall quality of the book that much.

I do think that some of the units lose their charm with war machines simply being divided into "mortal engines" and "daemonic engines" with upgrades to allow you to build your own unit. While this was understandably partly done to avoid IP-infringement on GW, it feels a bit impersonal to have to build your own Deathshrieker rather than picking "the real one" from the bestiary, as the background generally suffers for it. All in all though, it's a really great book.


Layout: 5/5
Graphics: 3/5
Rules: 4/5
Background 4,5/5

Overall: 4,5/5

Tribes of Norsca

by Grim Squeeker

A truly all-encompassing Norse book, containing 2 whole army lists, one for the southern tribes, and one for the northern ones. Though this diversity comes at a cost, as the lists feel a little stretched thin in places. With Norse essentially being a sub-army of WoC, having two Norse lists stretches the material even further to a point where it feels both rather overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time, with a multitude of choices that ultimately feels rather samey.
That's not saying that either part of the list is bad, only that it would probably have been a bit more flavorful with sticking to making one great list rather than two merely good lists. That said, there's quite a bit of cool stuff to find, and each unit do have it's own unique special rule to make it stand out, even if many of the units from Ejsgard and Midgard are essentially mirror versions of one another.

Graphics are quite nice as well, with quite a bit of Norse influences to go around. The normal pages can feel a bit empty sometimes, and the unit entries can be a little light on fluff in some cases. There's also quite a lack of colour images in the book, and the art selection is a bit uneven in terms of quality. Layoutwise the book is pretty damn good though, even if some images are stretched more than they should. The background is - like my version - a mix of Citadel Journal, Tome of Corruption and other sources, though the author also wrote quite a bit himself in the unit entries. He expanded upon the differences between the Chaos-influenced northern tribes and the neutral southern tribes, whereas I made more of a "generic" Norse list myself - which you prefer I'll leave up to you. All in all, the background is nicely done, so no real complaints in that department.


Layout: 4/5
Graphics: 3/5
Rules: 3,5/5
Background 4,5/5

Overall: 4/5


by Tyler Stone


A rather newly released book, this version of Nippon is brimming with personality - a little too much perhaps. This book focuses heavily of Japanese culture and mythology rather than historical accuracy realism, making it a good choice for those preferring the more exaggerated nature of  the Samurai from anime and manga, though history buffs are likely to be a bit disappointed in how unrealistic it is. Each Samurai is at the same power level as a Chaos Warrior, which is personally not something I would have done myself, though I'm sure some people will prefer it over the more realistic Samurai. There are a ton of mythological creatures as well, even more so than my book, for those who like that aspect. The background was also written from scratch and is mostly really good, although I was not a fan of the portrayal of Cathay as it felt rather haphazard and illogical in some places.

Graphically speaking, it's really good-looking, even more so than my own version in some places to be honest (though I have a patch planned to remedy that ;). The artwork is mostly from L5R which feels a little out of place since the clans are wholly different, but it is of high quality at least, even if some of pictures are a bit low-res and blurry. Layout fares a little worse though, with images often being to close to each other or the text, or not reaching the page borders properly. Fluff blurbs also clip through each other some times, and have a bit too thick borders to really fit properly. That said, it is generally a gorgeous book to look at it, and really evokes that Japanese feeling.

Rules-wise it's very interesting, but also cluttered. The list has a ton of flavour, perhaps more-so than mine, but unfortunately the sheer number of rules might deter new players. There are special rules for weapons, general Samurai special rules, unique Kei special rules for each unit, Taiko Drum bonuses, spell bonuses, Clan Mon bonuses, you name it. Coming from a similar early version of Araby, having to remember that many rules for each unit (sometimes 8 or more!) I fear the gameplay would be stifled and more time would be spent looking through the rules than actually playing the game. Sometimes streamlining is for the better, even if it means trimming down features. Points costs have been rather uneven, but have mostly been patched now from the looks of it.

Layout: 3/5
Graphics: 4/5
Rules: 3/5
Background 4/5

Overall: 3,5/5

Other mentions should go to:
Dwarfs of Chaos by Kevin Coleman (7th ed)
Cathay by Stefan Rarton-Ross (6th ed)
Estalia by Rodrigo Merino (Spanish, 7th ed)

If there are any other fan-made army books out there that you think should be added here, let me know in the comments, it's very much possible I've missed a few!

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