SRM’s Ongoing Imperium Review: Week 21

Imperium is a weekly hobby magazine from Hachette Partworks. In this 80-week series, our intrepid magazine-receiver will be reviewing each individual issue, its included models, and gaming materials. A Premium subscription was provided to Goonhammer for review purposes.

I have previously waxed in a most lyrical fashion about the particular bouquet possessed by Imperium magazines and the GW factory olfactory experience as a whole. My delight turned to horror with this most recent shipment, as it had been left on my porch, sitting in the sun on a 110 degree day. When I cracked the tape on this curiously large box, the scent of hot mylar came rushing out, flushing my senses with a deeply unpleasant chemical stink. We’re nowhere near the 220°F melting point of even the most pedestrian plastic wrap, even in the Central Oregon high desert, but that wasn’t a smell-based experience I want to reproduce.

The Magazine

Skitarii Rangers
Skitarii Rangers by Zuul the Cat

From page 1 we get a full rundown of Skitarii Rangers, their flintlock depleted-uranium warcrime rifles, and the organization of Adeptus Mechanicus Macroclades and Maniples/Manpiles. This is followed up with a dizzying array of charts to roll on with which to generate your own characters. Fortunately, it does not call upon the reader to come up with a name and bionic enhancement for each member of the squad, but there’s still room for expression:

Skitarii Ranger Alpha Tyr -0.43 stood beside their vat-mate, Kor -089, and together they watched the sun rise over the killing fields of Derek’s Mom’s Dining Table IV. Squad Primus of the Tsiphosian Vanguard Maniple, Alpha Fulminatus Cohort, Fury of Mars Macroclade, had been tasked with recovering the lost technoarcana supposedly hoarded here. To date they had found but a single relic; a timeworn cartridge of unclear purpose encased in wood pulp, with but two words written on it in ancient Terran:
“Say Anything”
The trenchcoat worn by the pre-Imperial human on the cover reminded Tyr -0.43 of their own Mechanicus-issue duster. Tyr -0.43 thought they too could lift that strange device on the cover aloft, using the enhanced strength their bionics had lent them. A feeling akin to nostalgia swept over them as they stroked the disintegrating box containing the cassette. Someone insufferable once told Tyr -0.43 that “nostalgia” meant “the pain from an old wound”. While such feelings were well behind Tyr -0.43’s perfected machine form, the thought still stuck.

We learn about the armies of the Adeptus Mechanicus and their quest for knowledge; something that might even seem benign in this setting. Things aren’t quite as weird as I remember reading about as a young’un, seeing as they’re a fully fledged army now and less is left to the imagination. What’s here still paints a vivid picture of vat-born clone cyborgs who’ve had their personalities stripped away, and that’s the grimdark stuff I come here for. Curiously, among all the art both new and old, there are a couple of Tech-Priest portraits that are very obviously 3D renders and not digital or physical illustrations. I’m pretty sure they’re pulled from Mechanicus, the previous attempt at a 40k XCOM-like before this year’s excellent Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters.

Tech-priest Manipulus. Credit: Corrode

I, being the pot, do not mean to call the kettle any particular shade or hue today, but the fiction in this issue is one of the weaker inclusions in Imperium thus far. Crimson Doom (emphasis theirs) has a Skitarii Ranger squad fight some Necrons. It’s your very typical pyrrhic victory emblematic of the 40k setting, but the story could have really used another editing pass. There are frequent sentences where pronouns are confusingly placed, making it unclear who is doing what and where.

“The Electro-Priests chanted feverishly as they rushed further into the fray, singing their praise to the almighty Omnissiah. Xexos-155.51’s Rangers gave them what covering fire they could, but their galvanic rifles made little impact, skipping off their skeletal android forms.”

Between passages like this one, a sentence containing the wrong version of its, and some repetitive verbiage, this definitely could have used another editing pass. I understand this fiction is supposed to be utilitarian – I doubt anybody is going to be brought to tears by the fate of Xexos-155.51 – but the word forked shouldn’t have been used twice in such a short story.

The Hobby Materials

Skitarii Vanguard. Credit: Rockfish
Skitarii Vanguard. Credit: Rockfish

This issue is the first of two containing a unit of Skitarii Vanguard/Rangers. The kit can be built as either, so I’ve included pictures of both, even if the magazine only wants you to build them in the Ranger configuration. In my case, issue 21 did not come with any bases for these models, but issue 22 came with enough for everybody, so hopefully someone picking these up à la carte from Barnes and/or Noble doesn’t end up with a bunch of dudes who can’t stand up. The included instructions are extremely detailed, which I think is a must for models this spindly and small. Individual instructions are given for each model, with the occasional written instruction to help guide the reader. The hot tip provided here which I am going to take with me on all my capes, cloaks, or Matrix trenchcoats, is to dry fit the parts of the cloak and apply plastic glue inside the cloak, then quickly wipe off the excess before there’s time to dry. This means you won’t get a glob of plastic glue on the outside of the cape where everyone can see it. I honestly hadn’t thought of this, so credit is due to Imperium for teaching me something new.

The Gaming Materials

Imperial Fists Primaris Lieutenant
Imperial Fists Primaris Lieutenant. Credit: Booley

A slew of new, full-fat 40k Datasheets are presented here, detailing the Primaris Lieutenant, Assault Intercessors, Necron Overlord, and Necron Warriors. While Stormshields and Resurrection Orbs have their functionalities explained, the juicy steak at the heart of this section is learning how Command Phase and Aura abilities work.

The battle this week, Orbital Defense, takes us for the first time to Tsiphos, a pale imitation of Moonbase Klaisus. On a larger mat, it’s up to 5 Intercessors and the Lieutenant to charge and destroy a block of 10 Necron Warriors and their Overlord. Players keep fighting until one player is out of models. Part of me thinks this could end very much in a Charge of the Light Brigade situation, as there is no terrain for the Marines to take cover behind. However, the moment they get stuck in, it’s going to be a rough situation for the Necron Warriors, so it might not be too bad. As always, players are invited to swap sides and try again.

Final Verdict 21/80:

Skitarii Vanguard
Skitarii Vanguard. Credit: Pendulin

Judging this issue entirely on its own merits is a challenge, as it is but one half of a greater whole. With Skitarii now reaching $50 for a box of 10, picking up a full squad for 2 easy payments of $13.95 is downright lucrative, adding up to $27.90 and saving you a not insignificant amount of dosh. This issue is also anvil-dense with lore and unevenly written narratives, getting a new hobbyist up to speed on these cyborg tech-fetishists remarkably quickly. While issue 20 was something of an untimely fart in a crowded elevator, 21 is a wrinkled $20 bill found on the ground on your way to the laundromat, and that money still folds. In conjunction with issue 22, we’re looking to have a particularly strong run of magazine-shaped delights.

See you next issue, warhams.

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