Sunday, 2 November 2008

Ciaphas Cain Review and Special Character Summary

Hi, Suneokun here! (soon I will be him ... Fritz, and then all the jetbikes will be mine!)

As a varied and fairly well read SciFi reader I sometimes am gripped with despair, when halfway through the latest 40k special, I'm greeted with something like...

"Methiason gazed in awe at the mighty space marine, with the body of an immortal god, lineage of the immortal Emperor and the intellect resounding in battle and the clash ... clang ... boing ... drip"

Which is effectively what happens as my brain drips out my ears after reading such dross. It's a similar sensation as one UK commentator made about recent Marvel and DC comic book movies (excluding batman - obviously!) where Ironman, the Hulk or another get a percentage way through the plot of the film, before the producer get frustrated and unleash the mighty special effects demon, and robots/heroes/monsters/transformers hit eachother a lot for the last 30-40 minutes of the film.

Don't get me wrong, I like robots hitting eachother as much as the next child of the eighties, it's gristle to the mill as far as I'm concerned. However, the critic part of me thinks ... come on guys, that plot what actually going somewhere and is now buried - how frustrating.

As similar sensation escalates through me during certain GW 40k novels, Graham O'Neill and James Swallow are particularly apt to run into the "out of time - quick write any old crap" prose form - which is disapointing.

Up until this point I thought the only person holding the lamp for 40k is the venerated Dan Abnett, I still prefer Jack Jeovil, but Dan's portrayal of titans, terminators, traitor inquisitors and tanith first and only are the de-facto "dogs bollocks" on the scene...

Until I read Sandy Mitchel (ergo Alex Stewart) first three books with Ciaphas Cain... Stewart freely dedicates his inspiration to both Harry Flashman and Edmund BlackAdder (gods of the English comedic anti-hero) and within the confines the the dark and dank 40k ennvironment his light, witty, self deprecating and hilarious banter is a great counter point to a masterful painting of life in the 41st millenium.

Stewart's touch is magic. He turns guard into likeable professional soldiers, he manages to make the sometimes inconceivable odds totally conceivable and he relishes in the fact that only his own character (like many a player looking at their own Tyranid/Ork/Necron force) is terrified on facing xenos all the time, all of which are bigger, uglier, nastier and twenty times more deadly then the puny humans facing them with their flashlights.

As much as I enjoy Dan Abnett works, he can sometimes stray into the inconceivable, as his men are too tough, too dependable, too loyal - through Ciaphas' critical and suspicious gaze we see a universe shaded in grey rather than black and white. His insights are brilliant, and some of his quips are simply genius.

Ciaphas is the genius antihero to Gaunt superhuman. The Id to the Ego - great work!

Put it this way ... if I had to live in the 40k world I'd rather be Ciaphas than Gaunt, Eisenhorn or Ventris. For starters, he knows when to leg it!

In dedication to the Ciaphas Cain character I have put together the following Independent Character Specification.

Ciaphas Cain and Jurgen: 75 pts. Cain can be purchased instead of a commissariat advisor. Cain counts as an independent commissar and is accompanied by Jurgen - his aide.

Ciaphas Cain - Hero of the Imperium

6 4 3 3 3 5 1 10 4+

Carapace Armour (stolen from Gravalax), Laspistol (or boltpistol), chainsword, medallion crimson.

Special Abilities: "I'll be over here!", Self Preservation, Paranoid, "Get Behind me, Sir!", Hero of the Imperium.

"I'll be over here!": Cain only ever cares about the safety of his own skin, if Cain passes a morale test during close combat, Cain can choose whether to pass or fail that test. Jurgen will automatically stick with Cain.

Self Preservation: Cain is a superb and celebrated swordsman and this is reflected in his weapon skill and initiative, however, his primary objective is to defend himself and therefore Cain only has one attack and gains no additional attack for carrying two close combat weapons. He gains any other bonuses (charges bonus etc) as normal.

Paranoid: Cain is totally obsessed over dangers to his person. As such he is never taken by surprise. To represent this Cain's saving throw is invulnerable.

"Get behind me, Sir!": As a result of Cain's impressive oratory skills and the inspiration and loyalty he inspires (many as a means of self protection) combined with his Heroic fame and the well stoked fable of his care for the troops, the rank and file of the Imperial Guard adore him. Once every turn, the player can choose to allocate any hit against Ciaphas to any friendly model within 2". This rule even overrules sniper abilities (like for Assassins).

Hero of the Imperium: Cain's legendary fame and unsought and undesired celebrity bouys up any unit. Cain counts as a leader and any unit within 12" may use his Ld for their morale test.

Jurgen: Aide

Cain's batman and aide. Jurgen is odious and smelly and plays a strong part in keeping undesirable adminstration at arms reach. He accompanies Cain everywhere.

4 3 3 3 1 3 2 10 4+

Carapace Armour, Meltagun, Hellgun, frag and krak grenades.
Abilities: Null point, Bodyguard, Melta Leveller.

Null point: Jurgen is a Null, an anti-psyker. This has saved Cain when facing Necrons, Genestealers, Tyranids, Orks and Tau. Any psyker within 12" of Jurgen (friend or foe) has their leadership reduced to 7 for all psychic tests. An psychic ability used against Jurgen and any unit Jurgen is part of has no effect (Jurgen simply 'earths' the power). Any psychically controlled creature (such as minor Tyranid or Wraithlord) within 12" of Jurgen is subject to the same nulling and reverts to unescorted behaviour. Deamon's within 12" of Jurgen roll 3d6 for stability tests and choose the highest dice.

Bodyguard: Jurgen is Cain's self appointed bodyguard. At the beginning of any combat, if Cain and Jurgen are within 2" of eachtother they can swap places, Jurgen will fight Cain's adeversaries and Cain will fight Jurgen (albeit unenthusiatically!)

Melta Leveller: Jurgen has finished off many a fight for Cain with his trusty melta, including killing a genestealer Patriarch and Worldeater Bezerker is close quarters. Jurgen may use his meltagun in close combat. It counts as a S8 power weapon, but Jurgen is counted as I1 (just like a powerfist). Jurgen can choose to fight normally or with his metagun, if he fights normally, his normal initiative applies.