Book Review: Damocles Warzone - Kauyon

December 3, 2015 ·

Got my hands on the Damocles Warzone Campaign Supplement for Kauyon and Mont'ka.  I will review them separately (partly because I haven't yet had time to read Mont'ka).

The Set

This is more than a novel, Kauyon includes two books. The first book, entitled "Kauyon" details the narrative of the first part of the Warzone Damocles Campaign Series.  The other two parts are the Burning Dawn Miniatures set (the Infiltration Cadre for Tau), and "Mont'ka," the story of Farsight's role in the campaign.  Kauyon contains uniform illustrations, maps, artwork, and a functional story line for the progression of the opening engagements of the war.



The second book in the Kauyon box contains all the rules for the formations. special units, and missions available in the first half of the campaign.

This review covers the literary content of the first Kauyon book, not necessarily a review of the gaming aspects or missions listed in it.  Though I will say that this book set is the only place I have seen the rules for the individual Tidewall components outside their boxes.

Synopsis

Just from the top, Kauyon is the first half of the conflict centered on the Tau incursion into the Damocles Gulf sector of Imperial space led by Shadowsun and Aun'Va.  This incursion is an planned and active expansion of the Tau Empire known to the Tau as the Third Sphere. It is a full scale invasion and occupation. Shadowsun proves herself a brilliant and cunning commander in battles with the White Scars, Raven Guard, and Imperial Knights across several worlds to create growing room for the rapidly expanding Tau Empire. And Aun'Va is pulling the strings.

We all know the general story of the third sphere of expansion from Codex: Tau Empire, it has been there since 5th edition.  It is Shadowsun's rise to power and reason for being.  We learned more about her ascent in the novel that also bears her name.  But this is the first time the account has detailed to this extent with playable missions based on the story.

Here are the opening lines:
When the Tau found a way to cross the deadly string of nebulae known as the Damocles gulf, they encountered the edge of mankind's empire.  There they found a culture they considered moribund. Efficiency and innovation were qualities long forgotten on those frontier worlds; even hope had been smothered by the passing of the ages.  Though it took years to open their eyes to a new future, the people of those planets were slowly swayed by the ideals and negotiations of the Tau Water Caste... World after world fell to the silver-tongued ambassadors of the Tau - those who resisted soon answered to the weapons of the Fire Caste instead.
The first world to fall to Shadowsun is Agrellan, and then Prefectia.  The first chapter outlines her basic deployment on the world crushing the local Astra Militarum garrison, and the Space Marine response.  This first chapter details the forces of the Space marine chapters involved in the conflict. It also outlines the background and units of the Burning Dawn mission (which was released as the campaign miniatures boxes).

I appreciated how interspersed in the story the unit descriptions were, I also enjoyed the side panels (which Black Library is famous for) that went into a little more detail for specific units just mentioned in the storyline.  But something was missing, I will get into that later.

{SPOILERS: highlight these next two paragraphs to read them}

Chapter two details the Tau forces and deployment strategy in place to receive the vengeful response of the Space Marines, and Chapter three goes on to establish the Stalingrad-like conditions of the stealth and shadow war on Perfectia.  Short version?  Aun'do is successfully rescued by the Infiltration Cadre "Burning Dawn," and Shadowsun kills Severax in a desperate battle, and effects the conquest of Prefectia.

But the Tau are handed a major defeat on the knight world of Voltoris. They simply didn't know how to respond to the tenacity of the knights of House Terryn.  Interestingly, There was no mention of Imperial Knights or Adeptus Mechanicus for that matter in my 5th edition Tau codex.  Probably because they were not a playable faction back then


This book closes with the Third Sphere Ascendant, and foreshadows the arrival of massive Imperial reinforcements including Adeptus Mechanicus, Adepta Sororitas, Officio Assassinorum and the good ole Astra Militarum meat shields, the Cadians.

Writing

Overall, I really just couldn't get into the story line.  The last campaign I invested in was the "Shield of Baal" and that was written quite differently than this book.  The narrative of Leviathan was presented as a series of interconnected vignets with actual dialogue, personal detail, emotionsm and drama connecting each moments of the war right down to the last.  It was also written in first person, and I felt like the story was unfloding around me as in a novel.

In between the narrative snippets of Leviathan were the rules, formations, and mission overviews that were associated with the battle/incursion/incident described in the narrative (as it was in this book). This was done so well in "Shield of Baal" that the campaign book quickly became like an interactive novel to me.  I simply couldn't put it down, and it was well worth the heafty price tag for its entertainment value outside the game.  I think this is how it should be.

Kauyon is not written like that at all.  I mean, there is an attempt to make the story cohesive, and to intermingle the game elements with the story line like in Leviathan, but it doesn't work nearly as well. The narrative is written as if by a historian going over the facts from a purely objective point of view after the fact. I couldn't smell the blood, or feel the tension or fear rising as the spore pods started falling like rain. Kauyon is like reading an encyclopedia.  Informative, but overall, impersonal and dry.

Here is an example of what I mean.  This is a typical passage from Leviathan.

Strengel barely had time to curse before the great Carnifex plowed through the Furnacedome's shimmering void shield and crashed into its generator complex. It's tusked jaw gouged into the huge Dornium coils ripping through strata of tightly wound wire as it barged another semicircular array into the dust.  Talons scythed through reinforced pipework and tree-thick cabling with daunting ease, tearing out the guts of each generator as the massive bio form barreled onward. Electric discharge crackled in a halo around it as the beast stormed through forests of industrial wire, trailing strings of the stuff like an eater-fish destroying a pelagic net.
All across Tartoros the rest of the Tyranid wrecking beasts began to emulate their unkillable alpha. Carnifexes forced their way into generatoriums and modulation hubs laying about themselves with oversized claws as they crushed and stamped and roared. Here and there a Haruspex ejected it's clawed stomach to snatch a stumbling servitor and yank it back into its acid-filled gullet.
And here is a similar passage from Kauyon

The catalyst for the formation of Breacher teams dates all the way back to the first Tau invasion of Imperial Space. It was observed at that time that, while foes such as the Orks and Barghesi preferred close-quarter combat and would often force the Tau onto the defensive, Mankind took a more static approach. The sprawling bunker complexes and strongpoints of the Imperium were on a scale never before seen by the Tau, and while crude compared to Earth Caste workmanship, these fortifications were rugged enough to prove troublesome. Furthermore, an alarming number of Air Caste spacecraft were lost to the aggressive boarding actions of Space Marines against which their seemed a little defense. Increasingly, the Fire Caste found themselves forced to commit their strength to one-sided close-quarter battles amid winding corridors and cramped rooms in which there was no space for battlesuits to deploy. Casualties were high during such costly actions, and so the development was begun on the tools necessary to win point-blank firefights with decisive firepower.
I guess it is a nuanced observation in style, but there is a distinct change in the perspective of the author. And this shift made the read boring and difficult.

Analysis

I bought the book, and I am glad I did.  I am an unabashed Tau fanboy, and would have bought it even knowing how it was written. After all, who buys Warhammer campaign books for their literary value? Unfortunately, I cannot say the stand-alone book is worth $74 when you can buy the collector's edition -which includes Mont'Ka (another $74 value) and all the goodies for $205.

I give the book itself a ten, but the storyline an 8 out of 10.

I play Tau.


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