It’s come to that time of the year when the competitions I’m most interested in, at the club, have kicked off.
Namely the Warhammer fantasy 8th (which I’m running) and the second Blood Bowl season.
As there are bonus points on offer for fully painted armies, my wood elf painting continues and I managed to finish off my Glade Captain on Great Eagle.
I feel like I’m slacking a bit recently as I’ve completely failed to create any fluff as yet for him. He doesn’t even have a name! (A sure sign that he is destined to become cannon fodder!!!)
The model itself is finecast and I am slowly coming to understand why so many people really dislike the stuff. I now own a number of models in it and by and large the moulds are ok. Even with my limited range of them there are a number that are slightly warped or have casting, let’s call them, inconsistencies. My main issue with them however is I don’t particularly like to paint them. The surface feels different to metal, plastic and other resin (yes that is listed in my order of preference).
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. The model itself was painted in the same scheme as the rest of the army. Yep green and fuchsia. To distinguish the great eagle from its smaller Warhawk brethren, it received a double black banding on its wings. I also tried to paint the leaves on it to resemble ivy and I’m quite happy with the effect.
Blood Bowl Kick off
The second season of Blood Bowl has now started and due to the delay of a Kickstarter (I’m not impressed with Willy miniatures at present. A delay I expect but it’s the poor comms that is inexcusable), combined with moving house, meant that I was totally unprepared and so ended up entering my Norse team again.
The commissioners had decided that last years teams wouldn’t carry over from the previous season, so it was the same faces but no skills in attendance. I once again decided to go against the grain and forgo rerolls in favour of big guys! I also took a thrower, something that most Norse teams don’t (at least in the starting lineup). I also favoured a healer over a 12th player. The team chosen was:
Gronn Fjord Raiders (GFR)
Uday Ragekill (Yhetee) – 140k
Erik Longhorn (Berserker) – 90k
Flokki the Swift (Runner) – 90k
Bjorn Grimurson (Thrower) – 70k
Beorg Two Skins (Ulfwerner) – 110k
Cadoc the Bear (Ulfwerner) – 110k
5 linemen – 250k
Apothecary – 50k
Fan Factor 1 – 10k
1 Reroll – 60k
Total – 980k
First Game – GFR vs The Stirling Strikers
Having failed to play all my league games last season and recognising that my club time is limited, I decided to try something different this year. I’m going to leave off playing any friendlies until after I’ve played my club games! I may be shooting myself in the foot but in this vein I lined up my first game vs Si and his Humans.
I won’t profess to being a top player but I’m far from being a newbie. Si was quite new to the game so I made sure to point out any really bad decisions and let him backtrack on a few occasions.
I won’t go into too much detail of the game but it ended up a 3-0 victory to me.
A couple of highlights (or lowlights perhaps) included:
My team were on the end of a complete ‘shoeing’. Seriously, I’m used to beating 10 shades of shit out of other teams and having 6 of my team in the injuries box (only badly hurt thankfully) was a complete turn around.
Si completely surprised me by laying in the boot a fair bit, even when he was seriously down on players (although the sending off curbed his enthusiasm to do it 😂). Such blatant disregard for the rules and underhanded tactics are to be applauded and were the source of much amusement and consternation. With only armour 7 it was a great tactic to use against my team!
At the start of his second half kickoff, I did my usual heavy flank tactic, looking to steamroller down one side. He then rolled a perfect defence and moved all his players to the other side, out of the ‘danger zone’ and looked to turn the tables as he swept up the field to crush my ball carrier. This turn around quickly reversed again as he proceeded to kick the ball out of touch (even with the kick skill), allowing one of my Ulfwerner to run in a quick two turn touchdown. It just shows how things can change in a game and is one of the reasons I enjoy B.B. so much!
Greetings. After a period of inactivity, I’m back!
Where have I been? Moving bloody house. I can honestly say buying in England is one of the slowest, most drawn out processes you can imagine, mired in rules that probably harken back to ye olden days. Seriously though, this whole area needs a serious shake up, at the very least a financial penalty for anyone who pulls out of a sale. Based on my experience over the last 12 months I feel sorry for anyone who is part of a chain. I even had someone tell me it will be sorted out once we leave the EU. What the hell has that got to do with it? Scotland already have a better system and they are part of the UK!!! Anyway enough of me ranting, I OWN A HOUSE! I’m pleased as punch and thought I’d share it and as a reflection of that I thought I’d post the view of Blackheath Fireworks, two days after I moved in, taken from my skylight window (that turns into a frickkin balcony when it opens!! Seriously a balcony. It’s genius).
We did find one small problem with the house, it had no TV antenna. This meant I was reduced to watching the only dvds I was able to find at short notice. The Wedding Singer (great movie) and the entire back catalog of Peppa Pig (shoot me but at least my daughter was happy).
Anyway, I finally managed to find some of my painting stuff after a superb (not!) bit of box labelling by myself (not helped by it sitting underneath a mountain of other boxes) and have managed to start and finish a paltry single character. Still it’s a start and coincidentally it’s the one model I needed to complete for the potential dwarf list I’m looking at entering for our club competition (as normal I am toying with a number of lists and armies). I’ll cover the lists in a different post as I appreciate the majority of viewers are likely more interested in viewing eye candy goodness (ish…) than my list ramblings.
Well, now my verbal diarrhea has run its course (who am I joking, I have a months worth of drivel to spew forth) I should get back on topic. The model, what is this model? Grimm Burloksson or Grimm son of Burlok. The son of the legendary dwarf engineer Burlok Damison (one of the named characters originally in the 4th edition dwarf army book). Burlok was known as a bit of a rogue who managed to blow up his arm in an engineering accident and replaced it with a steam powered prosthetic. After that he confirmed with the guild guidelines but his son is known to have followed in his early footsteps and skirts a dangerous line with the guild. Although he still has both arms, he’s augmented one of them with a similar device as his father giving him boosted strength and is renowned at making dwarf artillery and gunnery even better than it is renowned to be. He is also one of the few instances I’m aware of, where a family connection continues in character progression between editions.
I’ve owned the model for an age but never fancied painting it before. The comp’ gave me the push to do so and I kept fairly true to the ‘official’ GW picture colour. The model was actually easy to paint, surprisingly so and is probably one of my favourites of the 8th edition character releases.
As I normally forget what I have done, I’m going to take a leaf out of other blogs and note the colours etc. so I have a record of it if needed!
Primed – white
Base coat – Abaddon black
Layer – Ironbreaker
Wash – Nuln Oil
Layer – Ironbreaker
Detail – Balthasar Gold
Base – Kabalite Green
Wash – Athonian Camoshade
Layer – warp stone Glow
Axe shaft – Warlock Purple (as if I wouldn’t sneak a bit in somewhere!)
Wash – Carroburg Crimson
Targeting Reticle – Warpstone Glow
Highlight – moot green
Loren forest (if I had goblin green I’d use it, hey it was my era!!)
It’s good to be back (and have TV and internet again!).
With my move (hopefully) happening soon, I’ve been trying to clear my painting board beforehand. The last two pieces on it? I’m pleased to say I’ve finished (more or less).
The first is my wood elf bsb. I attempted some thing new for him, a bit of freehand on the banner. It was meant to be a tree but frankly the trunk ended up a bit botched. Still it’s a first for me and I’m going to try and replicate it (and improve it) on the back of the banner.
The second item was something that has sat unfinished for a good number of months. Mainly as I wasn’t sure how to do the detail I wanted. In the end I bought a black fine line pen to mark out the pattern and once that was done I filled it in with paint, though after reorganising my paints I initially did it in Caliban green and had to go over it in black. The bad thing was I didn’t even realise I was painting green not black at the time!
To break up the yellow, I then attempted my seconded bit of freehand in as many models and did the stripping round the lance. Not perfect in any sense but still I’m not disappointed in it.
I just need to remember where I’ve put the shields.
On the last Wednesday in September, I had the pleasure of meeting up with GrandMasterWang from the Eighth Edition For Life forum for the inaugural EEFL Ashes game. That makes it sound very grandiose. The reality was, he and his wife were over from Australia for a trip around parts of Europe and we managed to arrange to meet up to roll some dice when he was in London.
The venue chosen was the Darksphere store near Waterloo (mainly for convenience) and having discussed army selection and knocked together some lists in advance, I carted up two armies for us to use. We were later joined by one of GMW’s mate: J ‘every dice I roll is a 5 or 6’ D, who is just getting into the noble game of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
Bashor looked around, glaring at the outcasts surrounding him. After the debacle and rout caused by that underhanded, backstabbing, so called Voice of the Gods, Khazbar, he sometimes felt lucky he had salvaged as much of the herd as he had. He had lost all his elite bodyguard in that ill-omened venture to the south but he had found and subdued a particularly large and aggressive Razorgor that would make a suitable mount for a Lord of his stature. He had also had gathered a sizeable number of Gor who were happy to fall under his benevolent leadership. The swift bloody examples made of those who thought otherwise, had quickly bought the rest into line.
Making the decision to head back to their ancestral home had bought him into contact with a tribe of Minotaurs and their giant brethren. Some quick thinking and a depletion of most the remaining halfhorns, as they were offered up as food, secured an uneasy alliance with the frenzied monstrosities and with his forces bolstered they continued their journey north. Despite the brutal editions to his herd, he was slightly worried. The path he had taken, may have been quicker than the one when he came south but it bought him in close proximity to the wood elf lands and their enmity to his kind was sure to cause him trouble.
Bashor the Bloody (General) – Beastlord – Razorgor Chariot, Armour of Destiny, Dragonbane Gem, Gouge-tusks, Shield – 393pts
Doombull – Sword of Swift Slaying, Ramhorn Helm, Dawnstone, Gnarled Hide, Uncanny Senses, HA, Sh – 343pts
5 Sisters of the Thorn – Standard, Standard of Discipline – 155pts
6 Treekin – 270pts
10 Deepwood Scouts – Hagbane – 160pts
5 Wardancers – 75pts
3 Warhawk Riders – 135pts
5 Wildriders – 140pts
10 Waywatchers – 200pts
1 Treeman – 225pts
Scenario and pre-match rolls
The Terrain was already placed by the store manager when we arrived and consisted of 4 bits of impassable terrain and 2 woods. The final wood was placed as the WE free wood (which was, of course, a Venom Thicket).
To keep things simple we decided to just play battleline.
The Spellweaver ended up with the following spells from the Lore of Shadow:
Okkums, Miasma, Withering and Enfeeble
We started off alternating but then both laid down all our units in one go to save time. After deployment it looked like this:
Turn 1 – Beasts
With no magic or ranged attacks (of any note), the Beastman first turn was exceptionally fast with all the units thundering across the table at top speed, eager to get to grips with the enemy.
Turn 1 – WE
The elves started with the normal cagey movement you would expect from their kind. A bit wishy-washy and scared to get up close to the strong, noble Beasts and the true heirs of the forest.
The sisters started by casting shield of thorns and unnerved by the disappointed stares of the Gor unit looking at them, failing to cast it. They then moved up to block the smaller Gor unit, which the L4 cast Withering on in support of the sisters. Trying to cover up their momentary lapse in magic, the Sisters javelins bought down one of the unit but the warhawk riders who also fired off some pot shots, weren’t able to do the same.
On the other flank, Vega Stormlight took out one Minotaur and wounded another with the HODA. The Gladeguard followed his lead hurting it further. The Waywatchers then double tapped, finishing off the wounded beast and slaying another outright.
The flanking Ghorgon, which had moved in support of them, also received some attention from the Deepwood Scouts. Their poisoned arrows bypassing its natural toughness and causing a couple of wounds.
Turn 2 – Beasts
Bashor, determined to show the newly formed herd how it was done, charged into the giant treeman (affectionally named Groot), in front of him. Between him and his mount, the treeman was left reeling, sap running freely from the numerous wounds inflicted.
The nearby Gor unit was however left unable to engage the Eternal Guard as Bashor’s charge prevented them getting in.
The other Gor unit charged the sisters in front of them and although it lost 5 wounds from them, proceeded to wipe them out and overran into the Dryads that had been exposed as the elves fell. Unfortunately in the process, they lost a further 5 of their number to dangerous terrain, failed their panic test, ran away and to add insult to injury, lost a further member of the unit on the way out.
Turn 2 – WE
The Dryads charged the Gor, who continued to flee, this time losing 2 more of their unit, as the warhawks they fled through caused some opportune casualties (yep more dangerous terrain). The Dryads then redirected into the rear of the nearby Razorgor, making short work of it and over running in order to get closer to the fleeing Gor unit.
The Wildriders loitering nearby, charged into the Ghorgon that was threatening that flank. Their frenzied charge was boosted by Okkum’s Mindrazor and combined with their natural ASF and re-rolls, they completely minced the giant monster and overran off the board.
The other Ghorgon also found its life cut short as the Deepwood Scouts finished what they started the previous turn.
The Bashor/Groot combat continued with the Beastlord failing to wound the Treeman and then failing his initiative test, allowing the treeman to ‘wack’ the chariot causing a couple of wounds.
Vega Stormlight, seeing the Minotaurs had been sufficiently weakened by his shooting, crashed into them, his Great Stag causing carnage and taking out all the rank and file bullocks. The supporting wardancers failed to do anything bar some modern interpretive dance moves but this was enough to thoroughly confuse the doombull, who failed to do anything bar leg it to safety, having had enough of the leotards, 80’s leg warmers and their rendition of Fame.
The Treekin steered clear of the Minotaurs and crashed into a chariot, making swift work of it. They then overran into the second chariot. The Beast’s right flank had well and truly crumbled!
In the centre of the field, the Warhawk riders charged the Ungor Raiders that were protecting the flank of the larger Gor Unit. They decided they didn’t like their odds and ran at first sight of the fearsome birds and in a completely unsurprising turn of events, lost a couple of their number to dangerous terrain tests. The Warhawks then successfully redirected into the flank of the larger Gor unit killing 4 of them for the loss of a single wound. The combat was helped by the lvl4 interfering again, this time casting a miasma on the Gor, reducing their WS by 3. The Eternal Guard decided not to charge in and help out their kindred. The Gor unit, being steadfast and within both the General and BSB’s bubble, didn’t run and reformed to face the Warhawks. This was the only minor victory on a turn of pain for the Beastmen!
Turn 3 – Beasts
Even with Miasma impeding them, they tore up two of the warhawks for the loss of a couple of their number and the remaining hawk fled sharpish. They then reformed to face the Eternal Guard.
Groot was final bought low by Bashor but not before he killed the giant Razorgor Bashor was riding (yet again failing a 5+ Initiative test).
We didn’t even bother rolling for the second chariot and just removed it, assuming that the 18 treekin attacks would demolish it.
In a surprising turn of events both the decimated unit of Gor and the Doombull rallied and turned, ready to go down fighting.
Turn 3 – Wood Elves
The remaining Warhawk annoyingly rallied and the Wildriders appeared back on the board.
The Dryads continued their romp on that flank and crashed into the freshly rallied Gor, killing them to a beast.
And then the main event occurred.
Feeling cocky due to his earlier success (and a minor enfeeble that had been cast on his foe), Vega shouted to his comrades, holding them back as he charged in, to go one on one with the Doombull. Between him and his mount, the only wounds caused were absorbed by the Bulls armour and added to its considerable number of attacks. Vega’s arrogance came back to bite him and even with only one arm (ok that was due to a transport accident), the Doombull swiftly ripped him apart.
This moral victory wasn’t enough to help the overall picture, which looked exceedingly bleak for the beasts and with the store closing time fast approaching, we decided to call this the last turn action of the game.
A Romping for the wood elves!
An absolute joy of a game. It was great to meet one of the forum users at last and despite my wife worrying that I was off to meet some random stranger and his wife that I met on a forum on the internet with 2 easily ‘robbable’ armies, he turned out not to be (a) a psychopath or (b) a mugger (ha take that doubting wife) and I had a great evening of very chilled out dice rolling in a very uncompetitive game.
GMW teaming up with JD made a formidable combination, if only because GMW was guaranteed to always roll pitifully low with his dice and JD always rolled abnormally high. As they split all the dice rolling between them, each roll was almost dead average. It was truly something to see.
In terms of the lists, the Wood elf list seemed very well balanced and worked well together, although it is often difficult to criticise a list when it trounces the opponent. I’m hoping GMW will give some thoughts on it.
On the beast’s side, much of the list was put together to use bits I hadn’t in a while so there were definitely holes in it.
I really liked the Razorgor chariot mount for the general. Primal fury on the razorgor made it much more of a threat and I will definitely take them under special choices going forward if not as a character mount again. Giving the Beastlord the brass cleaver would have been good if he had gotten into combat with troops but the army was already packed with components who could do that as well, so he would have been better off with something to boost strength.
The minotaurs were enough of a threat that they were picked on early. With only toughness 4 and no save to speak of, you just can’t take them in small units. They are definitely a unit that you have to go big or go home.
Giving the Ghorgans a 6+ regen save didn’t really change too much but it does give them a slim hope of saving and it did help a few times in the game. Against another foe they may have done better but poison robbed one of its only defence and not much stands too much of a chance against a charge of wildriders, especially boosted to str 8 with Okkum’s!
My final brief thought is, not taking a bray shaman was a gamble and definitely not one I will do going forward. GMW getting a +4 or +5 advantage when casting meant that I don’t think I successfully dispelled anything all game. Not getting any dispel modifier just felt too much of a disadvantage.
After posting this on the forum, GMW kindly added some of his thoughts.
I will write more in detail later but just to say that in the main event between Vega and the Doombull, it was not exactly a fair fight, despite the end result.
After the Wood Elf mage priestess cast Occam’s Mindrazor to help the Wild Riders make shish kebab out of the Ghorgon (i hate that spell, but had to use it in this instance) I refused to use it again (or was it just the Unicorn riding priestess mage refusing to buff the arrogant and narcissistic Vega?)
However while the priestess was unwilling to enhance the already cocky Vega Stormlight she did put her personal feelings aside and attempt to save his life by ‘enfeebling’ the mighty Minotaur. The Doombull’s unmatched constitution enabled him to shrug off the worst of the effects of the spell but he still found his strength diminished as the cocky Elven wood prince charged into him atop his fearsome great stag.
It was not enough however and the minotaur of minotaurs avenged his slain kin and rightfully bashed the elf (and unfortunately his heroic and hoofed steed) into the forest floor.
Doombull’s/gorebulls aside I think that elves of all races are a terrible matchup for minotaurs. As mentioned minotaurs are very susceptible to shooting and really need to ‘fatty up’ to prove their worth. With elves striking first (usually with rerolls) they can often take out the slower, low armor minotaurs before they can unleash their devastating attacks. I think minotaurs match up well with tomb kings, dwarfs, orcs, ogres and the like where they can often win some combats to ‘fatty up’ and be a real threat.
On a side note, Vega Stormlight was great fun to use and I’m really glad he got to show his worth. At 200 points (roughly 4 minotaurs) he did a great job with his hail of doom arrow and noble steed’s impact hits and additional durability really helping him do a number on the much slower minotaurs.
When I charged Vega Stormlight solo into the Doombull I think we both knew the result but it just had to happen
Vega was worthy of the Street Fighter name we gave him … Mini boss indeed.
I’m starting to get the hang of Azael’s challenges now. Randomly half paint a bucket load of things, wait for the next challenge and then finish them off in the first few days of the month!
Ok that’s not quite what happened here but happily enough I finished off a squad of models tonight, that I’d been working on, in preparation for our next competition.
The Kurnoth Hunters are by far my favourite model to have been released since AOS came out. I heard a story that the design had actually be done towards the end of 8th edition/during end of times but the decision had been made or to release it at that point. I’m not sure of the truth of that but either way they are sweet models and I am more than happy to field them as Treekin. They will be joining my two old Marauder treemen and original Durthu model to form a 6 strong unit.
I will have to credit Turkaldactyle for the blossom colour inspiration and he has done a far better paint job than me but I’m still pleased with how they turned out, especially the swords (though as ever as soon as I took pictures, I couldn’t but help note bits I want to go back and do, such as the fungus on the champions body etc.).
Inquisitor, the listening post based in the gedron cluster picked up this scrambled message. Despite running Terran protocols the data serfs were unable to reconstruct the full message. Heavy interference and jamming occurred from the originating location.
Inquis%#+^^ Marleck. It is as we suspected $€}%*+^#] I have seen it with my own eyes. The &^}%*€€* a contemptor, ancient, Shadow Sentinel @*^^**+$€<. ALPHA LEGI**+}€#€#. Lucius Grit£&@*^%**
+ + + + + Message Terminated + + + + +
The last few months have seen me make my first Forge World purchases. The first was an impulse buy to pick up the last chance purchase of the Mann’s Blades command group. I mainly got these as I thought the musician model was really unusual. With only limited Empire models (and no inclination to start that army) they are going to be remaining in the blister for the present, though I have thoughts of Mann having fallen on hard times and being reduce to leading my halfling contingent (just need to strip the 30 odd old hammer halflings painted my sister in the late 80’s!).
My second foray into its products was more of a planned purchase. Just two items (because frankly I couldn’t justify buying anything more at their prices). The first was Leitpold the Black. A gorgeous mounted Empire general model (if you haven’t seen it: https://www.forgeworld.co.uk/en-GB/Lietpold-the-Black). I’m planning on using him as my general in my slow build Bretonnian Army.
The second was a Contemptor Dreadnought. If you know me, you will be well aware of my love of Dreadnoughts. Even in the previous edition of 40k I used them a lot (probably why I was trounced so much). Thankfully they are much improved this time round. “But why did you buy a forge world model when GW already produce a cheaper plastic version”, I don’t hear you ask?
Good question. Firstly, I buy dreadnoughts for their aesthetic appearance and the standard GW one is a very horrible static rigid pose. Not something that normally bothers me too much but I just don’t like the standard model. Secondly, forge world sell a number of chapter specific dread’s and some of them look stunning (two of which had really caught my eye, the first of which was the Raven Guard one). Thirdly I had an idea for my Shadow Sentinels Chapter fluff and the other Dreadnought ticked all the boxes.
So enough rambling. I present the hidden secret, the only visible link to the chapter’s gene sires. The most Ancient and Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought: The Twin is Cleft.
Yep it’s an Alpha Legion Dread. Having my own space marine chapter was always a no brainer. With that decided, I had to come up with a back story and having an unimaginative, unknown founding (mainly so I could try out different chapter tactics) was nothing new. Reading the Horus Heresy series, some of the stories that really captured my imagination were the those where members of the traitor legions found themselves defending the imperium, sometimes against their own legion brothers. The Alpha Legion in particular originally only defected in order to hasten the eventual defeat of Chaos. Would it not then be plausible that some of them would remain on the Loyalist side fighting incognito (as their legion was known to do)? Who knows, 40k lore is not my strong point but it’s my chapter and it’s what I’m going with.
In terms of the model, in the main it was easy to put together, even lacking any instructions. The one fiddly bit was the assault cannon. That was a total bitch to fit together. Seriously, why would you cast it in 6 parts just for the rotary section and connectors. If I had to do another, I’d seriously consider trying to pick up the plastic GW kit and using the cannon from that (assuming it comes in a single piece that is).
Inspired by a post by Luke on Start your Meeples and GW launching their new range of graphic novels for younger readers, I thought I’d add capture some of the fantasy series that held my hand and introduced me to the genre when I was younger, perhaps moving onto more recent books if I think they are worth a look.
I love books and reading so really this post is just a thinly disguised reason to waffle on about my favourite past time (yes it rates even above my plastic crack addiction). I’ve just picked the genre that links in nicely with the blog.
You’ll notice that many of the first/second books shown below don’t match the style of the later books. This is because I’ve had to replace many of them over the years where they’ve fallen apart due to the numerous re-reads!
1. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy
I’m not sure if it was possible for any boy of a certain age in the 80’s to not have owned or read at least one choose your own adventure book. The concept was recognised to have started by R.A Montgomery and came to prominence after Bantam got behind it in 1979. In the next decade it seemed like everyone got in on the act from the Famous Five to Starwars.
My personal exposure to the genre was through Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston’s (yes them of GW fame) Fighting Fantasy series. I won’t claim to have read Warlock when it was released in 1981 but I definitely got Deathtrap Dungeon in ’84 and that book together with the sequel, Trial of the Champions, was likely the reason I was so interested in the MB/GW collaboration board game Heroquest when it was released in 1989 and we all know where that led!
This was the first game world that I really got into. It was helped along by the release in 1986 of Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World. This was the first time I had come across a source book and I lapped up the artwork, maps and descriptions of the various peoples and cities. It was fair to say it blew my young mind and started my love affair with these types of books. Following on, it was then only natural that I would buy and love the Trolltooth Wars (the first actual novel based in the setting) when it was released in ’89.
It was a shame that the world wasn’t further developed outside of the CYOA books, as it really caught my imagination as a child but it definitely paved the way to all things GW.
2. Lloyd Alexander – Chronicles of Pyrdain
This set of five books was written in the late 60’s and to quote David Robert of Vox.com (who has done a great article on the books), “it was one of the first true high fantasy series written by an American, and the first to rival the British greats like Tolkien”. I won’t go into this too much as he has done it far more eloquently than I could.
In essence, the plot is nothing out of the ordinary, it follows the exploits of a young, orphan, assistant pig keeper who undertakes various adventures, confronts evil, discovers himself and earns the trust of the people becoming a leader. Although you might think, “oh the same old story we’ve heard many times before”, this was one of the earliest examples of it and it is an endearing, easy to read story, that even now i’ll re-read.
It will likely be the stories that I use to introduce my children to fantasy (even above the Hobbit).
P.S. The 1985 Disney Black Cauldron film was slated but as an under 10 year old watching it (being deliberately vague on my exact age but you get the ballpark), I really enjoyed it. Now I couldn’t tell you how well it has stood the test of time but I suspect not.
3. Joe Dever – Legends of Lone Wolf
As a child I had no exposure to the actual Lone Wolf gamebooks. I’m aware that Joe and Gary Chalk were early writers at GW (Bloodbath at Orc’s Drift being one of their works) and then they moved on to write/illustrate Lone Wolf. My only contact with their world was in the form of the novels released in ’89 (noticing a trend here?), after fans were eager for more, after the initial run of game books finished. They started with with Eclipse of the Kai and followed the story of Lone (Silent) Wolf, last of the Kai (basically an order of warrior monks), together with his allies (such as Banedon the wizard) and a further 11 books were released in the series, each apparently based on and fleshing out characters and plots from the original game books. How closely, I can’t comment on, as stated before, I never read them. I will say that I loved the first 6 or so of the books and they were also re-read to death. I was less of a fan of the later releases.
Sadly he passed away in Nov 2016 but not before showing his generosity in giving away all his online content and books for free on Project Aon. What a total legend and he deserves a mention just for that!
4. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance
It may not have been the first fantasy series I read but it was one of the first and without a doubt my favourite as an impressionable adolescent. Above all other series, I had a fascination with the world of Krynn and the adventures of our favourite gang led by Tanis Half Elven. Part of the appeal of the series was the interactions and differing motivations of the group and even the friendships between members of the group.
The most endearing (damn, I’ve now used this word twice in a blog post) is probably that of Flint the gruff hill dwarf and the light fingered Kender Tasslehoff.
It is worth noting that the sheer number of Dragon Lance books can be overwhelming and they weren’t (in the main) released in any kind of chronological order (the books cover 9000 years of the world of Krynn!). As such a number of lists have been produced of what books to read and in what order. The folks at The Dragonlance Nexis probably have the best advice but everyone agrees that you should start with the Chronicles trilogy, starting with the Dragons of Autumn Twilight (and that book, together with Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawn, are definitely worth a read).
As with all big sprawling series written by multiple authors (Starwars/Warhammer etc.), the quality of stories can vary but in the main they are good, if easy to read, books. If you, like me, tend to get invested in characters (especially if you re-read books so they end up as old friends), then I recommend reading Flint the King. All i’ll say about it is he ends up captured by Gully Dwarves and it fills in the plot of some of the years he refuses to talk about in other books.
5. Forgotten Realms (Various Authors but R.A. Salvatore is probably the standout)
Forgotten Realms was a setting created for AD&D way back before my time (though perhaps not for some of my readers). The first novel wasn’t released until 1987, a few years after the first Dragonlance release. My journey with them started in ’89 with the trilogy below but I soon found Drizzt Do’Urden and grew to love the writing of R.A Salvatore. Although the setting broadened my fantasy horizons, it never quite reached the same prominence as the Dragonlance setting (at least in my younger mind).
6. J.R. Tolkein – The Hobbit and LotR
I couldn’t write a list without at least a mention of these two. I have great memories of the hobbit. Not just the story but it’s the only thing I can ever remember my Dad ever reading to me when I was younger and we also listened to the story when it was read over a number of episodes on BBC Radio 4 a few years later. I also remember a few English lessons at school where we looked at the dwarf runes and had to decode them. I’m not sure that was necessarily on the school syllabus but I didn’t complain! Suffice to say I have a real soft spot for these.
7. Terry Brooks – Shannara
The Shannara range was my next evolution in fantasy. Although I don’t remember the exact year of purchase I do know it was from an airport shop and was around 1986 and it started with the Elfstones. It was the artwork that caught my eye (the original rather than the version below as, yes, once again my original copy fell apart). This book, the Wishsong and the Scions series set the benchmark for me at that point. I think part of it, was the fact it had been set in a post apocalyptic world (again my first exposure to this premise).
Later series expanded the world but didn’t add anything very different to it until he released the Word and the Void series. This was set in our world and had the story of events leading up to the apocalypse. I will add that this is considered a separate range from the Shannara books and maybe my memory is failing and I’ve incorrectly linked them together.
This lead onto the Genesis of Shannara which is set during the events of the apocalypse and ties a number of things into the books that follow. I have to say this was also a very enjoyable read and well worth the time if you like back stories.
All in all this is a very enjoyable fantasy settings and one of my staples through secondary school.
8. David & Leigh Eddings – Belgariad and Malloreon Series
This is hands down one of my all time favourite fantasy series. I’ve probably read one or both once a year, for the last 25 years. I love both the character interplay (one of the strengths in their writing) and the story immensely and both series intertwine well. I actually prefer the Malloreon series of five books but I’ve included the Belgariad as they are so intrinsically linked you can’t list one without the other. They also released two prequels, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress that cover these characters back stories
If you enjoy these (and I really do recommend them) then the two trilogies: Elenium and Tamuli, following the adventures of Sparhawk (though in a different fantasy setting from the above books) are also worth looking at.
I really can’t recommend their final set of books (The Dreamers). Compared to the earlier books they are seriously lacking in both depth and character interaction.
9. Katherine Kerr – Deverry Cycle
Split into 4 sets of 4 books, this was one of the longest running series I have read. Being released over the course of years, meant you inevitably had to re-read them each time to catch up on where the story had gotten too. Not that i’m complaining as I often re-read all my books. The first 2 sets of books are fairly self contained but the final 8 books are more of a continuous story so if you get that far you will want to finish them. Thankfully the series is now finished so you won’t have the large wait that earlier readers encountered!
The story is heavily influenced by celtic themes, with each book having multiple parallel story lines containing the same characters but in different reincarnations, (to quote someone else) weaving a rich tapestry of stories reminiscent of the celtic knot.
They are an excellent read and anyone who enjoys fantasy should give them a go.
As an aside, you’ll note that the covers below are very similar to other covers of the period (David Eddings books come to mind) and don’t necessarily have any relation to the stories within. Still I do like the artwork, which takes me back to my youth almost as much as the stories
10. Terry Pratchett – Discworld
For a bit of easy reading, light hearted, fantasy humour I don’t think you can beat Pratchett’s discworld series (disclaimer, I’ve not read any of his other books).
The series is mainly based round the city of Ankh Morpork and the whole thing is a parody of our world, sometimes depressingly so.
Although Colours of Magic and Light Fantastic are nominally the first two books in the series, if you haven’t read any of them before, I would very much suggest skipping them as apart from introducing one of the staple characters, they are unlike any of the following books and could almost be excluded from the reading list.
If you had to read just one book, I would probably recommend Small Gods. It is almost a stand alone book in the series (featuring only Death as one of reoccurring Discworld characters).
The death of Pratchett in 2015 was a real loss as his books had been going from strength to strength in recent years, especially with the introduction of Moist Von Lipwig, though perhaps his last few books were slightly weaker than others but this could be down to his Alzheimer’s.
11. Stephen Donaldson – Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
These books definitely have an unusual twist on the normal fantasy hero and is probably the first time I encountered the idea of an anti-hero.
The main character, Thomas, is a reclusive outcast in our world due to his leprosy and when he is thrust into the new world as the reincarnation of their most famous hero, he struggles to both believe it is anything bar a series of hallucinations or overcome the natural self preservation that has been drilled into him as part of the defence against his disease. He is definitely not a likeable character something reinforced by his actions throughout the books. Never-the-less the story is immersive and not your run of the mill fantasy offering.
The second series is also very good and adds further twists to the ongoing story. The only negative of this series is the second book. I feel it could have almost have been left out.
I can’t comment on the recent third series as I’ve yet to read it (I was waiting for all the books to be released in paperback and then got distracted!).
12. Robert Jordan – Wheel of Time
This is by far the biggest single continuous fantasy story I’ve ever read, weighing in at 14 books in the main series plus a prequel (they also released some source books and a few short stories as well).
It is also currently, by far, my favourite fantasy epic. I love the story, the characters and the setting. There is some criticism that the story dragged on and I can see that, though I’d also argue that it could have been expanded further to give more depth (though perhaps that is proof that I fall into the ‘fan boy ‘ category…).
When he died in 2007 after book 11, Knife of Dreams, I was devastated. Thankfully he knew he was ill and had the foresight to write copious notes and outlines for how he wanted the story to end. His wife (an editor) picked out a younger fantasy write, Brandon Sanderson, to finish off the series, a job he preformed admirably.
It’s here that i’ll end the early years books and move on to a few newer series and authors. Not all the books are necessarily well written masterpieces but I’ve picked them as they are all great reads, have different world building premises and are generally gripping stories.
13. Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn Trilogy
As stated above, Brandon finished off Robert Jordan’s epic series. I’m glad about this as it introduced me to him and his many books. Brandon’s great strength is the number and depth of his ability to create unique worlds and how the character’s powers work. It helps that the stories are also very good.
If you had to start with any of his books, then the Mistborn trilogy is the one I recommend. It is set in a world where the dark lord ostensibly won. The trilogy is a very enjoyable read but what makes this world setting unusual, is the next set of books follows the evolving world and it set hundreds of years in the future where is moves more to a Victorian steam punk setting and even the powers have evolved. It’s very unusual to get this in a series where follow up series don’t normally jump so much.
His other series are also good and i’ll give a special mention to the reckoners, a story set in a world where nearly every super hero is ‘evil’.
14. Joe Abercrombie – First Law Trilogy
When two of the main heroes are basically a schizophrenic blood thirsty berserker and a crippled torturer, you know you are in for something different. These books draw you in, pull the wool over your eyes in one and then shatter all your pre-conceived thoughts in the next.
I have yet to meet one person who has read them who hasn’t liked this series which I think is rather telling and I can’t recommend them enough.
He then expands on the world in a series of stand alone books and these are good but not in the same league as the original trilogy. It is definitely crying out for a prequel series
15. Trudi Canavan – Black Magician Trilogy
I suppose the best way to describe the start of this book is what happens if you took a street urchin and put them into Eaton as the first scholarship program. This is not entirely accurate but much of it is based around a school for magicians (it’s no bloody Hogwarts though).
One of the strengths of this series is the description of magic battles (though as with the rest, the characters and plot are also good).
She has done several further series, one based in the same setting, which is also good if not quite on a par with the black magician. I did very much enjoy her Age of the Five trilogy too.
16. Antony Ryan – Raven’s Shadow Trilogy
This series is a bit of a wildcard to throw in here. The reason being that it is by far the newest of the books in the post (they were released between 2011 and 2015) and also I’ve only read them twice.
That said they were complete page turners and I couldn’t put them down till I finished each of them.
Plot wise, the story had undertones of the Lone wolf series with the main protagonist being a survivor of a school of warrior monks. However it is there the similarities end and it deviates into a fast paced well written series. I will caveat that I found the 3rd book to be the weakest of the three but that is because it probably didn’t quite go the way I thought it should.
17. Warhammer Fantasy – Various authors and series.
I couldn’t include a list of fantasy books without including a selection from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. As with all settings that include such an extensive list of books, by so many authors, released over such a length of time, there are a number that aren’t great but in the main I’ve enjoyed most that I’ve read. This is probably helped by being immersed in the setting for decades and many of the stories linking to the various army books used to shape the lead pile and plastic crack addition.
Still many of them stand on their own two feet as great pieces of fantasy writing and being set within the Warhammer world might have actually been detrimental to gaining the recognition that they should of.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some of my stand outs.
I’ve missed out things such as CS Lewis’s Narnia (though it was a favourite as a child) and Game of Thrones was deliberately not put in as the series isn’t finished yet and frankly I’m fed up waiting for him to write the next instalment. I’ve not included either Melvin Peake’s Gormenghast of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series as both I just didn’t enjoy.
Other notables I’ve not included (but feel I should mention) are Tad Williams: The Dragonbone Chair series. I really enjoyed this but always find the first book a bit of a slog to get through. David Gemmell, Raymond E Feist, Anne McCaffrey are also worth a mention. Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London and further books are also easy reads but are slightly different to the above style (think of a far less annoying version of Harry Potter getting a job in an offshoot of the London Met Police). I’ve also often had the Dresden files recommended a number of times but I’ve yet to read one.
I’ve also never tried an audio book. Some of my US friends love them but I tend to think it partially comes down to how you commute to work. They tend to do so in cars (where reading books would be somewhat challenging) whereas I do so in a train which is ideal for books.
I hope this gives you some ideas for you next holiday reading. Are there any fantasy series/books that you’ve read that I’ve missed and you would recommend?