Thursday, 22 March 2018

Sisters of Battle, some whispers and prattle.

So, unless you've been living under a rock and also not reading Faeit, the latter of which is statistically impossible since it's pretty much my only traffic source, you'll know that among the many exciting reveals from Adepticon was the news of plastic Sisters of Battle in 2019. I thought I'd talk a little about that, and also slip in a review of Black Library's recent Sisters short, Mercy

Girl Power (Armour)
Of course the first thing that all existing SoB players want to know is whether what we're getting here is a new Sororitas range that looks similar to the existing models in design, or whether the Studio is going to take the opportunity to redesign the Sabbat-pattern power armour. The first thing we can say with some certainty is that the new models will be bigger. At the very least, their posture and proportions will be updated, so that those of us (like me) with large existing armies will at the very least have units that look like they're suffering from some sort of spinal condition. That's par for the course, and anyone who expects that the new models will slot right into their current force without standing out at all is likely to be disappointed.

The case for the status quo
So, should the overall look of the Sisters stay the same? There are quite a few arguments to support this. People with existing SoB collections, who have been patiently waiting for in some cases two decades for new models, will be understandably miffed if the new releases so radically redesign the faction that their old models become utterly useless overnight. Some of the current models, notably the Sororitas Rhino and Immolator, are great kits that really don't need to change, and if the basic Battle Sisters changed too much they'd look odd. Likewise, changing the look of the Sisters (particularly the Seraphim) to any great extent would make the Celestine model obsolete which would be met with more than a little irritation.*

The case for change
On the other hand, some people (and this is weasel words but I don't have any real data to go on) really don't like the look of the Sisters. The old 'boobie armour' argument pops up again here, but I've also heard some people refer to Sabbat-pattern armour as a 'bondage outfit', in part due to the leather corset that covers the chest, though in practice whether or not it's any such thing is often down to the painter's interpretation. GW have said that they're going to be keeping us updated on the progress of the new Sisters, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they do some sort of survey to gauge whether there's any mass support for such a view- as we all know, the Internet can be a very shouty place at times and people who want things changed usually do it louder than people who don't.

The Third Way
There may be at least some potential for a compromise here. Marine power armour, after all, has long had the various 'Marks' which allow for some fairly radical variations of design. One approach GW could take is to create a new Mark or Pattern of armour for the SoB, with a more 'practical' (i.e. less boobie) chest-plate as an optional part for the new Sisters kits, much like many models at the moment which have back and front pieces for the torso. That would allow those players who really can't stand the sight of the accursed Lady Lumps to exorcise them without alienating the old-school purists. Of course some people on both sides would still probably complain that the other lot even got an option, but I tend to think everyone should be able to do their own thing as much as possible.

New Toys**
So, what extra things might we Sisters players be able to look forward to? I think the combination Heavy Bolter/ Heavy Flamer weapons used by the Deathwatch are the sort of thing that Retributors would kill to get their hands on, if they can lift the things. Certainly, the Aggressors with their mix of bolt and flame weapons and liking for mid-range combat would fit right in if Cawl can come up with a way to get a Battle Sister into the suits. (One possibility might be a 'lighter' version with either two Storm Bolters or two Flamers.)

More realistically, a few more weapon options for Seraphim Superiors would be nice to see (since the existing rules and models only allow for a power sword for melee) and I doubt I'm alone in wanting to see the Jump Pack option for a Canoness return, especially given that Celestine's retinue are Canonesses and have them. The Palatine, a lower-ranking Sisters commander, may well also make a comeback and serve a similar role to a Lieutenant. Some sort of air support, either in the form of a plastic Avenger or some other new flyer, would be good to see, though a stop-gap might be an anti-air variant or fire mode for the Exorcist. Still, speculation at this stage is a little pointless.

(Short) Short Story review: Mercy by Danie Ware

As a die-hard Sisters fan, I snapped up this new short from Black Library on the grounds that it's just this sort of thing that shows people are still interested in the faction. I'm also working on my own short story pitch for Black Library again so it was interesting to see what sort of thing they were putting out. In this case, however, the answer was.... a little worrying. Now, it's important to note a few things here- apparently Danie Ware is the author of some other books called the Ecko series and has a RPG background so I don't know how much she knows about 40k. It's evident that she's done at least some research because everything has the right name and is described as looking as it should, etc. I also had no problem with the writing style, which was fine and didn't waste too much time, always an issue with a short story.


The big problem I had was that it read like the writer had never played 40k in their life and didn't understand how things work. (Again, this is only from reading the story, for all I know Danie plays 40k all the time.) EDIT: Apparently this isn't true, according to this Warhammer Community interview.
 'Plot armour' is a notorious issue in 40k fiction, but in this story not only do a five-strong squad of Sisters defeat Orks led by a Warboss in melee with no casualties, but the one loss they do take is to a direct hit from a Stikkbomb, which is odd considering the Orks have a Rokkit launcher that they use precisely once. For some people, none of this would be an issue and the 'punchline' of the story works fine, but for me it was a bit of a deal-breaker and an unnecessary one given that the squad was in a strong defensive position and had both a Heavy Bolter and a Flamer (which I don't remember actually firing) and so could well have held the Orks. The entire squad struggling to take down a wounded, angry and flaming Warboss would have made for a much better final scene, IMHO, as opposed to the Sisters actually picking Orks up and throwing them around or punching them to death. (These feats could have been explained by an Act of Faith, but nothing of the sort is described as happening).

In summary, 'Mercy' is competently written and has a solid sting in the tale, but feels a bit 'off'. The benchmark for Sororitas 40k fiction is still very much James Swallow's work, as collected in the Omnibus

*i.e. utter, Internet-scouring fury.

** not those sort of toys, get your head out of the gutter. Honestly, I know I talk about Slaanesh a lot, but some people...


  1. Check out the interview with Ware on warhammer community -

  2. As well as her own blog - I think she knows the setting very well, and I think literally applying the tabletop to a literary story just doesn't work. Furthermore, best to check out an author before suggesting 'never played a game in their life'...

    1. Thanks, I hadn't seen the interview. Have you read 'Mercy'? I only ask because what goes on in it is really, really odd. As I said in the review, 40k fiction does tend to exaggerate the capabilities of the heroes at times, but this is on a par with a single Hobbit defeating five Uruk-Hai with a broom. It just feels out-of-kilter and took me out of the story.

    2. Anyway, regardless of that I've updated the post with a link to the interview, in the interests of fairness :)

  3. Not read, yet, although I'm curious to. I wonder is it exaggeration? Should the rules or the codices be benchmarks - when over years and editions they change so often? I don't think authors should be limited by them or their constructions of the world - they are too limited, and dependent on brief periods of time. Better a story or novel is written as a timeless addition to lore than something which illustrates the rules of a given edition's manual. That's not literature.

    Secondly, why should the stories be 'realist'? That's quite a limitation.

    1. Seriously, you'll see what I mean if you read it. Based on what happens in 'Mercy', if you then read something like The Beast Arises or the Dark Angels story set during the Piscina campaign, you'll come away thinking Marines must be terribly feeble considering how much trouble they had with Orks. It reads more like the Sisters are attacked by a mob of Grots lead by a Runtherd.