Book Review: Damocles Warzone - Mont'ka

December 10, 2015 ·

{SPOILERS: this entire article contains spoilers.}

Synopsis & Analysis
 (because they are inseparable in this case)

Mont'ka is the second release in the Warzone Damocles Campaign.  This review concerns the storyline, and not the campaign maps or missions associated with it.

A note about the titles of these books:  In Codex Supplement: Farsight Enclaves, Farsight and Shadowsun study together under General Puretide.  Shadowsun follows the war doctrine of "patient hunter" or Kauyon. She relies heavily on deception, stealth, and misdirection to lure her opponents into over-extending their lines and falling into her carefully laid traps. Farsight prefers the "killing blow" or Mont'ka doctrine where victory comes from hitting the enemy hard in one decisive and definitive battle thereby destroying his ability and will to fight.

The Imperium has reinforced its forces in the Damocles Crusade on a massive scale.  Astra Militarum, Adeptus Sororitas, Imperial Knights, Adeptus Mechanicus, and the Officio Assassinorum have all descended on the Dovar system to purge the alien menace. Shadowsun's forces are vastly outnumbered and on the verge of defeat when thousands of red-clad battlesuits drop from the sky and deliver the killing blow to the attacking Cadian forces. The Cadians are routed, Shadowsun's forces are saved, and Farsight shows his true loyalties to the Tau Empire once again. Aun'Va is not pleased, and the two get into a pissing contest. As it turns out, Farsight's is bigger.

After a number of shifts in the tides of the war and several major battles involving our favorite characters including Knight Commander Pask and Commander Longstrike, things turn around for the Tau. Toward the end of the hostilities the Imperium forces suddenly start to withdraw, and the four assassins are sent to kill Farsight, Shadowsun, and Aun'Va.

After a challenging duel, Darkstrider manages to kill the Vindicare sniper sent for Farsight, and Farsight manages to kill an Eversor in a crazy battle. Shadowsun is seriously wounded by the Callidus assigned to her, but manages to slice her in half with one of her fusion blasters. This bit was all-in-all fairly well written. It was more personal than most of the Kauyon half. And even though it was still written in third person, the drama in the struggle was foreshadowed in such a way that there was tension.  That alone made it readable. 

This book closes with Agrellan and the surrounding space being dirty-bombed by the Adeptus Mechanicus leaving the new sept world virtually unusable to its new masters.  The massive build-up of Imperium forces is now in full retreat, the Cadian foot-sloggers are mostly left to die as the Imperial Fleet departs, and the Tau are left with a hollow victory. We all knew from previous Codex fluff that the Imperium retreated from the Damocles Crusade to deal with a greater threat (nids at 6:00) but I have always wondered why the Imperium never came back to retake these lost worlds once that greater threat had been dealt with.

This dirty-bomb twist (that was never mentioned before) explains it in a convoluted way, after all, why would the Imperium want this system now?  Mystery solved, and that is what an expanded story should do, resolve a few unanswered questions, and create a few more.  Questions like, which leader is going to die?

It was leaked in a comment/rumor on Faeit 212 that one of the Tau leaders would not survive the Damocles war.  As there were only three there, Farsight, Shadowsun, and Aun'Va, my bet was that space pope would get the rope. After all, Shadowsun and Farsight are virtually irreplaceable in both the storyline and in the game. I have NEVER seen anyone use Aun'Va.  Like many Tau enthusiasts I have the model, but will likely never use him for anything other than the centerpiece of my Ethereals shelf in my display cabinet.

All the web-trolls bet against and blasted Shadowsun calling her Mary Sue, and blah blah blah.  She was their favorite to die because they're just haters devoid of rational thought. And they are typically wrong, and I wanted them to know it. We knew that Aun'Va would be the one, and I posted that along with my reasons. But it didn't matter. Trolls are incapable of reason.  I was correct.

At any rate, Aun'Va is dead.  This fact is concealed and a look-alike is installed to give a report back to the Tau homeworlds -for the Greater Good.  Maybe this is why they call him the Master of the Undying Spirit... This is where I think the story actually shines. All along we get the whole culture plot that the Tau are communal, kinda Marxist in their ideology, open to other races serving in their military so long as they drink the blue kool-aid and are basically willing to give all for the greater good -like the Tau.  This calls up images of Soviet Russia or North Korea. 

Many western observers speculated that Kim Jong Il had died several months before his actual demise, and that the North Korean central military power had used a look-alike to shore up public support through a crisis with the South until he could "officially die" and be replaced at a more convenient time. 

The great leader croaking while in conflict with their southern neighbor whould have made the regime look weak, and that simply would not do.  The Tau seem to do the same thing.
Aun'Vas death in the war with the Imperium might have caused the rank and file to question the validity and high price of the war.  So like the communist dictatorship they seem to be modeled after, the Tau covered up his death. 

And I loved it.

The book closes with Farsight returning to the Enclaves before he is arrested and put on trial. Shadowsun, "Aun'Va,"and the remaining Tau forces in the region are trying to figure out how to return home.  And Space Pope's model is still available in the GW webstore.  All is right again in the Empire.

This one I give a 10.  Not because it was necessarily more readable than the first book, but because it made a significant contribution to Tau fluff.  It filled many unanswered holes in their story, and opened several new ones.  It also left open the door to another campaign between Farsight's Tau and the Tyranids.

I play Tau.

3 comments:

Nick Thrower said...
December 10, 2015 at 4:50 AM  

Thanks for the review - it was really interesting! As someone who's probably not going to cough up to buy the book (unless I get really really tempted by the formations) it was really good to see someone do a full and frank breakdown of what happened.

Reave said...
December 11, 2015 at 7:18 PM  

I agree about the fluff in this one - Kauyon read like a very dry battle report that was often difficult to follow. Mont'ka seemed more like an actual grimdark battle - horrible losses on both sides, muddy battles, mass casualties.

And yes, I totally fluttered my eyes and exhaled a breathy sigh (in a MANLY way!) when Farsight and his forces arrived. The storyline was actually interesting - the Cadians fought in a way the Tau honestly wasn't prepared for - waves of men and armor marching to their constant and inevitable deaths over and over. The Tau used clever/amazing/cheese tactics constantly (sometimes successful, sometimes not so much) but kept having to pull back to each plan and backup plan and backup's backup plan - finally ending with the "the only way to win this is to control the weather" plan (which I assume is Plan W). It is, frankly, the only way the smaller Tau forces can overcome the more-or-less infinite Cadian forces.

I won't get into the space fleet issue and how the Tau's fluff needs to be updated to allow them to be more effective in space combat. As it stands, they had to invent a new stealth ship prototype just to sneak Farsight onto the planet - no manner of Tau battleships could hope to counter the utterly massive cathedral fleet that arrived.

And why it wasn't constantly bombarding the Tau I'll never know.

I like two of the assassin fights and was fuzzy on the other two. Shadowsun's fight was excellent, and the reasoning for IDing the shapechanged assassin was fluffy - she lacked that inexplicable Ethereal mentality (though the Fire Warriors escorting her should have been suspicious). Farsight and the Eight had a great fight with the Eviscor - especially with Farsight's Shield being down from the Vindicator's sniper rifle!

The Vindicator fight bugged me a little - not the fight, but Darkstriders comments. They originally wrote Darkstrider as a Tau Pathfinder who ignored his chances to become a Crisis suit pilot - an unheard of action that pissed off the brass. He was beloved by the Pathfinders and Fire Warriors for his skill and prowess. So... why did he assume "the rebel Tau forces" were responsible for killing his Pathfinders? I don't really see the rough-and-tumble master Pathfinder making such an obviously incorrect observation about the Vindicators removal of his fellow Pathfinders. I honestly appreciate the Tau being very revered and respectful of Farsight (as was seen when he showed up to meet Aun'va and Shadowsun), and Darkstrider seeing similar traits in himself as in Farsight.

The Culexis fight was... bad. First of all, I don't really see how a Culexis even has an effect on Tau. It was written like he was using psyker attacks on the Tau warriors. But... Culexis are pariah - they have no psyker abilities at all (hence why they are so effective at killing psykers).

...unless they ARE trying to imply the Ethereal are psykers, but that would be... rather wrong.

Regardless, I'm happy to see the stupid Space Pope down. I'm hoping to see some new stuff (maybe a new Aun'va?) in a future supplement.

Shawn Denham said...
December 18, 2015 at 4:52 AM  

Excellent review. This increases my interest in running some cadians with my firewarrior teams.

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