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THE ART OF WAR(S)

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ISSUE 96

Greetings, and welcome back to the first Canon Fodder of 2017! It’s been a while since we last met like this, with understandable cause of course – with the Halo Wars 2 Blitz Beta nigh upon us, and the full game launch itself barely a month away, the studio has been abuzz with activity on a myriad of fronts.

With these things in mind, we thought it prudent to kick this year off the right way – with a salvo of salivation-inducing sweetness that we hope will satisfy the many lore-leaning fans who love to linger around these parts. We’ve got awesome new Halo Wars 2 Blitz art, an in-depth look at some rad new recent additions to the Halo: Ground Command arsenal thanks to fellow 343 lore liaison Kenneth Peters, cool community contributions, and more. Shall we begin?

KICKSTART MY ART

While the “standard” Halo Wars 2 arsenal of incredible vehicles, weapons, and characters is already epic enough, the game’s bandied-about Blitz Mode will feature a crazy cadre of additional variations, sometimes in form, sometimes in function. With the mode’s beta experience at our digital doorstep, I thought it might be fun to share just a few of my favorite pieces of art that adorn the various cards that make up one of Blitz’s key components. These gorgeous swaths of eye-candy are brought to you by the talented team at Creative Assembly alongside 343's Art Director for Halo Wars 2, Jeremy Cook. Of course, we can’t just leave you hanging without some all-important context in relation to the greater Halo universe, can we? Let’s check out some of the new (and old) favorites!

BANISHED BANSHEE

The earliest models of Banshees were fashioned after the ’sKelln, a leathery winged flying predator from the Sangheili homeworld, Sanghelios. However, the Banished have since twisted this ancient ancestry to incorporate design details more closely related to an aerial predator hailing from their own homeworld of Doisac. Many of the Banshees in Atriox’s fleets have been modified with brutal and experimental weaponry, usually designed to inflict maximum damage from both a physical, and psychological, perspective.

BRUTE WARLORD

Favored chieftains in Atriox’s retinue have the unique opportunity to be promoted to the status of Warlord – vicious agents positioned to intercede on the Banished leader’s behalf to bring recalcitrant packs to heel and direct critical faction operations. Answerable only to Atriox and Decimus, Warlords are no doubt feared by lesser Brutes and hated by the Let ‘Volir’s troops, though none can deny the Warlords’ loyalty or violent proficiency in culling the Banished ranks of weaker links. Indeed, many a prideful chieftain has forgotten who their work should be enriching and have wound up on the receiving end of a Warlord’s personally-fashioned gravity hammer.

GRUNT INFANTRY

Unggoy may not always be strong, brave, intelligent, hygienic, or even particularly fearsome warriors, but those pledged to serve the Banished have a healthy enough fear of their Jiralhanae leaders to stay on-task and motivated. Even if their fellows are used as target practice by bored Brutes or disintegrated by Forerunner sentinels, these seasoned survivors can at least look forward to a full food nipple and an occasional brief nap in the methane atmosphere they call home.

SUICIDE GRUNTS

Truly aggressive and violent Grunts are rare, but without Covenant oversight or the environmental hazards of Balaho to cull them from the population, the number of aberrant Unggoy has increased dramatically in thrall colonies. The Banished have adapted existing indoctrination protocols to turn the aggression and natural cleverness of these legions to their own violent purposes.

CONDOR GUNSHIP – G81 HEAVY GUNSHIP

The Vulture is still currently “officially” the heaviest standard combat air unit the UNSC has to offer – but rest assured, there’s nothing official about the Condor Gunship. This imposing flying fortress is actually a repurposed and highly weaponized civilian dropship. While the Condor Gunship does break a large number of UNSC weapons platform regulations, its effectiveness in battle is truly undeniable.

The G81 is a slow-moving but powerful craft armed with multiple pulse-laser turrets and a light magnetic accelerator cannon (MAC) – all of which are capable of independently targeting enemy units. The pulse lasers offer a high rate of fire, making the Condor effective against mass units, while the light MAC provides devastating burst damage for hard target elimination.

NIGHTINGALE – EV-44 SUPPORT VTOL

The EV-44 Nightingale is a dedicated support unit that uses its complement of multipurpose Restoration Drones to repair allied units. Its relatively simple construction (aside from the advanced drone system) has made it possible to adapt the Nightingale’s design blueprint to the Spirit of Fire’s older factory models.

The Nightingale has no offensive abilities, lacking even a basic weapon system. However, the craft is equipped with various countermeasures to survive harrowing battlefield situations, including the ability to deploy multi-spectrum smokescreens and disposable jammers capable of camouflaging all units within the target area.

ODST

Vigilant and venerable, Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs) are elite soldiers eager to deploy into even the most dangerous battlefield to make quick work of most opposing infantry units. Operating primarily as a special forces raiding unit of the Marines, ODSTs are deployed from the Spirit of Fire to tip the scales in a close battle, raid enemy bases, capture strategically valuable points, and eliminate high-value targets. These heroes have spent nearly three decades cut off from their calling, and are more than eager to begin making up for lost time against the best that the Banished have to throw at them.

PELICAN GUNSHIP – G77S GUNSHIP

Building upon the versatile foundation of the venerable D77 airframe, the G77S Pelican is an impressive gunship design cooked up by Isabel and the Spirit of Fire’s engineers to help turn the tide of battle against Banished forces on the Ark. The G77S Pelican Gunship boasts a powerful range of armaments, including top-mounted ANVIL missile pods, four payload hardpoints, a forward M370 chaingun turret, and multiple 12.7mm Vulcan cannons.

UNSC SNIPER

The Spirit of Fire’s Sniper teams have traditionally operated in the background, serving as the true unsung heroes of many skirmishes and aerial strikes. Drawn from experienced Marine force reconnaissance and Army cavalry scouts, Snipers are experts at monitoring enemy movements and detecting cloaked units. Among the impressive array of weapons at their disposal are signature-suppressed anti-material rifles and the deadly Stanchion portable rail cannon.

SPARTAN DOUGLAS-042

Hailing from an affluent family of the Asphodel colony, Douglas-042 had a tough time adjusting to the SPARTAN-II program. However, after an initial bout of culture shock, his anger gave way to a quiet confidence. Even among other Spartans, Douglas is considered something of a giant, and he soon came to believe he’d found a purpose in life. This faith in his destiny marks Douglas as an optimist by Spartan standards, and his hopefulness often lifts the spirits of his more cynical comrades.

As core components of Mjolnir powered assault armor cannot be replicated by the Spirit of Fire, the Spartans of Red Team will look to take advantage of GEN2 parts recovered from UNSC outposts, ingenious reverse-engineered solutions developed by Serina, and deft modifications made by Isabel to stay in the fight. The potential amalgamation of these changes and Red Team’s original Mark IV armor could eventually allow for completely new design permutations customized to the needs of each Spartan.

HORNET – AV-14B ATTACK VTOL

Hornets are versatile fast-attack aerial gunships used for combat reconnaissance and surprise attacks on high-priority targets. They’re armed with medium autocannons that are effective against all targets, and are particularly adept at taking out light vehicles. Typically, Hornets are comparatively fragile, relying primarily on their speed and versatility to make them a valuable tool in the field. However, the crew of the Spirit of Fire have also begun using a variety of modified Hornet chassis – like the one seen here – with unique attributes in attempt to gain any competitive edge available against the Banished.

COMMAND AND CONQUERING!

We’ve avoided our own Winter Contingency here in Redmond due to a lack of city-destroying snowfall, but the UNSC forces engaged with Covenant legions on Reach have only just started the fight for their world in Halo: Ground Command! Next week we’ll be previewing upcoming models that collectors and gamers alike will want to snag, but this week let’s take a look at what has been released since the holiday break! 

COVENANT COMMAND PACK

This expansion adds two Elite command bases to your War Host, and is another step on making an all-Sangheili legion or augmenting a mass of lesser warriors on the march to glorious salvation. The Officer himself is a new sculpt, armed with a Plasma Repeater and a bad attitude towards humanity. And if you’re thinking ahead to Halo Wars 2 and preparing a mercenary troop loyal to Let ‘Volir, these can be an excellent investment. The storage crates are added freebies.

Sangheili who advance in rank among the ground troops are seasoned and battle-hardened soldiers first, officers (by human reckoning) second. They lead by personal example, exhorting their comrades to press the attack from the front lines while displaying the martial qualities that the Sangheili perceive as invaluable for their commanders. Combat losses among these veterans are high, but there is also much honor to be won for family and clan while carrying out the Prophets’ orders to exterminate humanity.

The promise of honor and glory ensures that there is no shortage of Sangheili looking to prove their worth on the Great Journey’s path. Sangheili that survive and temper their enthusiasm for violence are promoted to the host of Obedientaries, taking on missions that require both cunning and courage in equal measure. The Sangheili term for these acolytes roughly translates as “lesser chosen” or “charged with glory,” but among humans they are known as simply “Officers” or “Majors.”

Spartan Games put in a lot of work to match the distinctive combat harness of the Elite Officer from Halo: Reach. The amount of detail captured in the final model, despite its comparatively diminutive size, is very impressive!

COVENANT GRUNT LEVIES

Grunts are the backbone of any Covenant assault, providing seemingly innumerable bodies to crash against the failing walls of humanity’s final fortress word, Reach. It’s hard to pick out, but in this unit shot you can see Yam-Blim’s nephew and fifth cousin. Yes. THE Yam-Blim, who later went on to be a thrall-taskmaster under the command of Decimus, shortly before his fateful encounter with Alice-130 on the Ark. This particular release was created as a booster pack for existing legions, and as a way for new players to get basic troops without requiring purchase of the entire starter box.

COVENANT ASSAULT JACKALS

Equipped with an energy pavise that protects them from incoming projectiles, these Kig-Yar can methodically advance on fortified UNSC positions. Though we did try and get Spartan Games to make the energy shields cast in clear resin, it turns out that they were a bit too small to get high-quality results in the volume needed. We specifically wanted Kig-Yar to be added ASAP both because they iconic, and we want to give Covenant commanders the option of building highly specialized mono-species War Hosts (or Raiding Parties, in the case of Kig-Yar), if they so desire. The Banished do not employ Kig-Yar mercenaries on the Ark, but wherever there is plunder to be had the Kig-Yar will find a way to get a piece of the action.

The Jackals are a fractious species who serve the Covenant out of a well-developed sense of self preservation and opportunism rather than any particular religious fervor. Were they to cooperate, the Kig-Yar could be a deadly threat to the Prophets, but blood feuds and other internal rivalries continue to undermine long-term gains. Nevertheless, while their matriarchs plot and scheme, Jackals selected to fill the Prophets’ endless tithes as foot soldiers are always on the lookout for information and resources that could be of benefit to kith and kin once the Covenant’s attention turns elsewhere.

COVENANT MARKSMEN JACKALS

Many Kig-Yar scout-executors who honed their craft on Reach would later be deployed to Earth, perching in buildings to pick off unsuspecting humans that dared to impede the Covenant’s holy tasks. These guys are new to Halo: Ground Command, and we absolutely love them. You’ll note that these are armed with Needle Rifles rather than Focus Rifles or Beam Rifles. That’s intentional, but as is tradition you can expect the terrors of New Mombasa to appear when you least expect them.

“Jackal” is the human nickname for the diverse Kig-Yar species, who are often encountered in scouting and sniper roles among the Covenant ground forces. Loyal only to their families and matriarchs, the Kig-Yar serve the Covenant for their own ends, with service to the Great Journey a distant consideration. Those with demonstrably superior dexterity and a controlled bloodlust are elevated from the ranks of shock infantry to serve as scout-executors, ranging throughout the war zone to eliminate impediments to the War Host’s advance. These ruthless assassins have no rules of engagement, no laws of war they must adhere to, only targets of opportunity.

UNSC ARMY COMMAND TEAM

The Army has been running planetary combat operations since the UNSC Marine Corps was fumbling for the door hatch of their first drop pods, and they’re not going to let Reach fall without one hell of a fight. This pack includes a UNSC Army officer (wearing a soft cap for ease of identification) who has the clearance to call upon a team of Spartan-III super-soldiers if the situation warrants deployment of WMDs. This can augment the command team and Spartans included in the starter box, or be the start of a new army! Two weapon storage crates are also included to use as objectives and diorama building.

UNSC ARMY INFANTRY

Take and hold! The Army may not be the prestigious UNSC branch of service, but none can deny that their valor and resolve brings great credit to Reach and the Unified Earth Government. This expansion augments the troopers provided in the starter box, or can be used as the starting point of a UNSC task force that is starting from scratch!

UNSC ARMY WEAPONS TEAM

Grade-A bang-bang, delivered fresh to the Covenant, no questions asked. We couldn’t resist approving an expansion pack that gives the UNSC player even more heavy firepower to bring to the table.

UNSC ARMY RECON TEAM

Even if the Covenant smashes the UNSC’s main field forces on Reach, they will have to spend valuable time, resources, and troops rooting out the Army snipers and marksmen who can live off the land indefinitely and have planned for this terrible contingency for years. This is a new unit for the UNSC commander in Halo: Ground Command, and we think you’ll agree they are very cool looking!

All UNSC snipers receive similar training and equipment, but their method of employment varies by service and unit. Army snipers are arranged into specialized reconnaissance units at the battalion level, and are scouts and forward observers first, snipers second. Though they provide valuable anti-infantry and anti-vehicle capabilities to the teams they work with, the recon unit’s primary job is defined as augmenting the main strategic effort of their task force by placing sensors and extending the UNSC battlenet into enemy territory.

If your interested in starting – or adding to – an army of your very own, remember that all of the amazing miniatures from Halo: Ground Command (and Halo: Fleet Battles) are available at https://shop.spartangames.co.uk/ or can be ordered at most local gaming shops. These are highly detailed resin and pewter 1:100 scale models and do require some assembly before you paint them in your army's color scheme.

MOAR TOUR

As many of you might remember, back during our 15th anniversary Halo Livestream, we debuted a tour through the Halo museum hosted by Frank O’Connor, Brian Jarrard, Joseph Staten, Corrinne Robinson, and yours truly. Well just today, we released an epic “Director’s Cut” version offering more stories, shenanigans, and sweet Halo stuff to look at. If you find yourself sad that you can’t make it out to Seattle to visit this treasure trove for yourself, you can at least get an in-depth glimpse from the comfort of your favorite YouTube-viewing screen. Enjoy!

THE SHROUD

Our friends over at the awesome lore-focused site, ForwardUntoDawn.com, recently released a really great piece on a rather important San’Shyuum: Ord Casto – or as most would know him, the Prophet of Truth. The article is an insightful and well-thought out look at Truth’s early days, motivations, and eventual undoings. Definitely pop over and give it a read!

RED-Y FOR THE SEQUEL

There’s a lot of great preparatory pieces out there in the Halo lore community that are priming fellow fans for what to expect with Halo Wars 2. One particular stop that you might want to make is at the ever-awesome Halo Canon YouTube page. Toa Freak has put together some really awesome Halo Wars story primers that will help you catch up on the adventures and upcoming adversaries of the Spirit of Fire. Check out the deep dive on the history of Red Team right here…

Speaking of community, you might want to keep an eye this week on a few of the Halo community’s best story-stop shops for some additional exclusive details on a few more Halo Wars 2 units. I’m not saying you should keep an eye out on Hidden Xperia, Covenant Canon, and the aforementioned Halo Canon YouTube channels… actually, yes I am. 

Oh, and one more thing on the community front: 343's own aforementioned Art Director for Halo Wars 2 put together a little Community Content Care Pack featuring official logos and assets for the upcoming RTS title, all to help out community content creators as they look to put that extra bit of polish on their YouTube videos, blog posts, and more. You can head over to the forum post we made about it to learn more and download the files for yourself. Check it out!

Aaaaaand that will do it for us this time around. Be sure and stay tuned though, as I don’t think we’re quite done with the Halo Wars 2 goodness just yet. After all, we still have a month to go…

Until next time…Live well, play Halo, and Happy New Year!

<3

Grim

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