Better Late Than Never, Folks

Steven Spielberg and Microsoft Creating Live-Action Halo TV Series (via E!)I'm not going to lie, I literally do not understand what took so long.  Halo was an absolute monster at its peak, an entertainment phenomenon.  How did it get nothing more than an anthology of animated shorts?  How did anyone look at the wide-spectrum brand recognition of Master Chief and not think 'we should get three movies and a spinoff tv series in the works right away!'.  This would have been so insanely easy to make ludicrous amounts of money off of; the only real challenge would be finding a decent actor willing to never take off the helmet on camera.  No Robert Downey Jr.s or Tobey Maguires need apply!

Now?  I don't know, actually.  I mean, Halo is still Halo, and the Xbox One (because that makes sense as a follow-on platform to the Xbox and the Xbox 360) is likely to bring Halo 4 out when it launches.  That'll give it a nice little bump back into the public consciousness.  It's not like this is likely to do all that poorly.  But the property isn't what it was, in terms of reaching beyond the particular video game playing market, and I don't think starting with a tv series would ever have been the right move.  Master Chief is a hero in the traditional sense, a larger-than-life character with little to no weaknesses and no great interest in self-examination.  I'm not really sure he could sustain a weekly television series.  And I actually am fairly sure that launching a Halo tv series without Master Chief is not going to bring in the audience a science fiction television series is going to need to stay on the air.

Well, we shall see.   And hey, it's not like I'm rooting for it to fail or anything; the more science fiction on television, the better!  When this thing premieres, you can bet I'll tune in.  I just hope enough other people will, too.

Edit -  "The Halo series will be commissioned exclusively for Xbox Live."  Reading comprehension, FTW!  This is an insanely terrible idea, and really does not bode well at all.  It's one thing for Netflix to commission a new season of Arrested Development; they're a multi-platform content provider, with a reach that transcends any single system.  But if this Halo series is only going to be for Xbox owners, that means its either going to be a small vanity project, in which case it'll barely be better than those aforementioned animated shorts, or it'll be a low-budget long-running series, in which case it'll probably look worse than just going back and watching the original Halo's cut scenes.

And just like that, my enthusiasm for this project dwindles to a dot.


Tau HQ – Part 3: Special Snowflakes, I mean, Suits

The last two special characters in the HQ section of Codex: Tau Empire are the battlesuit commanders, Farsight and Shadowsun. As far as special characters go, these are probably the ones Tau players will be most familiar with, as one of them was taken once in a blue moon and the other was taken occasionally. For the old codex, that was actually pretty impressive.

Farsight was the more infrequently-chosen of the pair, thanks to the sharp restrictions he was burdened with; you could only use him in games of over 1500 points, and he hamstrung your ability to bring a variety of useful units, and also Vespid. Those restrictions are thankfully done away with, though it does raise the question of where the isolated Farsight Enclave is getting its four-fingered hands on XV104s and ion rifles. As a commander, Farsight is pretty well built, with a solid statline, including WS5 and I5, a good Warlord Trait (no scatter when his unit deep strikes), and the option to bring his 7-strong bodyguard team. The combination of a perfect deep strike, six bodyguards with plasma/fusion and target locks and one in support could be absolutely devastating, no matter whose backfield you're dropping into. Of course, at a minimum of 684 points (Farsight, 7 x Bodyguards with 7 x PR/FB/TL, MSS, CCN, PENchip), it had better be.

Strangely, Farsight seems to have left a slot on his commander-variant battlesuit empty, as he takes to the field with just the Dawn Blade (AP2 Armourbane), plasma rifle and shield generator. Where's your VRT, O'Shovah, or your Stims, or a second plasma rifle? Or more to the point, why is the single best challenge character in a book that otherwise has nothing to throw at close combat monsters not wearing Iridum armour standard? It seems like an oversight to me, and more it seems like something that could be justified on the table-top just as well as in the fluff. Farsight leads from the front, preferring a bold, close-in style of combat; why wouldn't the spearhead fighter wear the best armour? He's going to be taking the most firepower right in the chest, after all.

Shadowsun, in contrast, is a veritable tank on two relatively tiny legs. A 3+ save, plus a 5+ invulnerable save, plus Stealth and Shrouded, and if she brings a couple of MV52 shield drones along not only does her unit's average toughness rise to T4, but she has a couple of 3+ invulnerable saves she can pass particularly worrisome wounds off to. She also has Infiltrate, and a perfect Look Out, Sir! when she's in a squad with other stealth suits, and her Command-link drone allows a nearby unit to re-roll its To Hit rolls of 1. Oh, and she's a BS5 model with two fusion blasters that can target two different models. And her unit gets 3D6" for its Thrust move, thanks to her Warlord trait.

While Farsight is clearly designed to be the burning heart of the Farsight Bomb, it feels like Shadowsun is meant to babysit the Riptide. If she only brings the Command-link drone the three-strong unit has three different T values, meaning it sticks with the superior T6, plus the Riptide is more mobile, and it's got a constant 4+ cover save against shooting. Having Shadowsun along basically provides a slightly inferior version of two different Nova charge results at once, without having to risk rolling for the reactor in the first place. And since she's LD10, you could even bring a couple of shielded missile drones along without having to worry that the loss of one of them will send the Riptide scampering. Curiously, though, despite being the Tau character most closely associated with drones, Shadowsun does not herself come with a drone controller.

Shadowsun and Farsight can technically be fielded in the same army together, giving the Farsight Bomb Stealth and Shrouded and adding the ability to deal with yet more units. You know, just in case you weren't already reducing any clustered target to a smoking crater. If you do this, however, be prepared for anyone even passingly familiar with Tau fluff to roll their eyes at you as hard as is humanly possible. It will be the least you deserve.


I Demand Those 133 Minutes Back

God damnit, J. J. Abrams. God. Damnit.

The 2009 Star Trek reboot was launched for ostensibly one reason; modern Trek scribes were simply too hamstrung by decades of continuity. There was no way to tell fresh, new stories with all that established history clinging to the franchise, like barnacles on a ship's hull.  In order to tell twenty-first century stories, we needed a twenty-first century Star Trek.  I never actually accepted that argument, and would hold up the 'Typhon Pact' book series as being clear evidence that this is in fact complete nonsense, but at least it was something. And heck, even if the reboot wasn't necessary, at least there was talk of bold, new ideas. Coming off the pathetically anemic Star Trek: Enterprise and the simultaneously backwards-looking and continuity-ignoring Nemesis, that was worth something.

And then, apparently to prove all that was simply the most epic case of trolling imaginable, Abrams makes Khan the villain. No wonder he called it 'Star Trek Into Darkness'; if he'd called it anything even remotely like Star Trek 2 and had it use Khan as the villain, even his omnipresent lens flare and Apple Genius Bar-looking starship aesthetic couldn't have hoped to disguise the absolutely shameless and transparent failure of imagination that is this movie.

Also, the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the most quintessentially white actors imaginable, as Khan Noonien Singh, an Indian Sikh 'prince', is downright offensive. Like, 'The Last Airbender' levels of offensive. Or beyond, even.  It was bad enough that the racial and sexual dynamics were being recycled from a nearly fifty year old product, completely ignoring three series' worth of progress (Enterprise offered no forward motion for any group) in terms of crew breakup and reflection of present multiculturalism.  But to actually be less willing to cast non-white actors than an American network television series from the 60s?  That's so far beyond sad it starts to look suspicious.

Star Trek Into Darkness is, like 2009's Star Trek, worthless.  It's an interesting premise utterly squandered, with nothing to say about present day issues, a half-baked 'homage' to a movie that was already done as well as could be done wrapped with enough pyrotechnics and lazy action scenes to hopefully bamboozle the viewer into thinking something meaningful is going on.  This movie is bad, not in the way a Michael Bay or Friedberg/Seltzer movie is bad, but in the way it absolutely squanders all of its admittedly-considerable promise in favour of lazily 're-imagining' existing stories and characters while not only adding nothing, but actually subtracting a great deal.  Yet again, the new Star Trek team has given us a film, and a villain, that requires considerable supplemental material to actually connect with.  This is beyond lazy.

I think I'm done with Star Trek films.  I gave it two chances, and it failed me in each case.  And that's okay, because the book series is fantastic.  Maybe when the studio gets tired of wallowing in nostalgia and decides to try a new sreies I'll take a look in, but for now?  Screw it, I have better things to do with my time than watch Abrams and crew completely fumble every pass they're thrown.

And I hope you do, too.


Tau HQ – Part 2: Leaders on the Hoof

In the old book, there were two basic HQ choices, and you only ever took one of them because the other one was simply awful. There were also three special characters, and maybe you took one of two, because they were okay-ish, but the third one was awful. Well, brace yourselves for a shock, longtime cadre commanders; infantry HQ units don't suck!


Tau HQ – Part 1: The Commander

When a new codex comes out, you can basically count on things to either stay the same, or get cheaper. The Tau Commander bears the rather dubious honour of being the only unit in the book to actually get more expensive; 10 points more than the old Shas'O, and a whopping 35 points more than the Shas'El.

But you know what's really surprising? It was worth the cost increase.