Time to delve once more into the dark streets of the Cursed City, and this time it’s the turn of one of the Vyrkos Blood-born. These were once the young nobles of the city who traded society do’s for an unlife of bloodthirsty immortality, throwing in their lot with the city’s new vampire overlord in an effort to save their own skins.
They’re odd-looking creatures these, and I’m not entirely sure I like them as models (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I’m in two minds about them). I certainly don’t like the studio colour scheme for them so I’ve used this one to try out a slightly different, and more bestial, colour pallet and I think I’m happy enough with it so this will probably be the way I paint the other two when I get around to them.
Life is still fairly busy at the moment so painting remains firmly on the backburner but I’m still itching to get my teeth into the rest of this box so expect to see more creatures of the night showing up sooner or later…
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but some of my absolute favourite models in the Nighthaunt range are the Glaivewraith Stalkers, the sinister, animal-headed ghosts that hunt down those who have earned the ire of the death god Nagash. I painted one a while ago for my Nighthaunt Warcry warband but I’ve got a few of them kicking around from the Soul Wars boxset and these two, with the dread inescapability for which they are famed, have drifted slowly across the painting desk until my paint-stained fingers finally succumbed to the inevitable and I got them finished.
I do find these ghosts very relaxing to paint, especially when things are busy as they are just now, so I imagine there will be a few more showing up here sooner or later.
Back in the late 2000s I went through a brief flirtation with Wyrd Miniatures and the crazy steampunk world of Malifaux. It never really stuck but it did leave me with a handful of models which are either unpainted or painted in a manner that at the time I mistakenly believed looked good but which, in the cold light of day, was actually a bit shit. Anyway, I stumbled on this little dude in amongst some other stuff and decided that he really deserved a repaint (I won’t show you how he looked before – suffice to say that, for a ninja, he was rather garish…).
Apparently this is a witchling stalker – and not, as I always believed, some kind of goblin ninja. It seems that these are sorcerers who have been enslaved in some manner (my understanding of the Malifaux lore is a bit sketchy as you can probably tell) and are now used by the Witch Hunters of the Guild to hunt down other mages.
In theory I have two more somewhere, although god only knows where at the moment. When I find them, or any of my other Malifaux gear for that matter, I’ll probably give them a quick update as well.
Us Necromunda fans have a fairly good idea of what’s coming our way over the next few months. Gang warfare on the polluted planet has traditionally centred around the six great houses, each of which received a set of plastic models in the wake of the game’s 2017 relaunch. In January 2020 the Goliaths were bolstered by the addition of new gang champions and prospects and this pattern has continued ever since at a rate of roughly one house per quarter (Covid related delays notwithstanding). Now the reinforcements for House Cawdor are almost upon us and the shadowy agents of House Delaque are only a few months behind. I’ll confess my love for the new Redemptionists has waned somewhat since they were first revealed but that’s just left me wanting to kitbash and improve them until they look the way they ought to.
However what I’m wanting to talk about today is the final section of the “road map” revealed by Games Workshop, the part which covers the last quarter of 2021 (and beyond). Now that we’ve seen the key releases from the “House of…” series it’s time to turn our attention to the further future. Care to join me for some baseless speculation and wild guessing?
Despite their significance there’s a lot more to Necromunda than just the big six houses. In this edition we already have rules and models for Enforcers, Genestealer Cults, Helot Cults, Corpse-Grinder Cults, Slave Ogryns and Venators. The possibilities don’t end there either. If they want to Games Workshop have a host of possibilities and potential new factions to explore. Indeed I would argue that this is exactly what they intend to do. It’s understandable for fans to fear that support for Necromunda may be inconsistent, or even nonexistent, in the future. GW have already dropped the game entirely from their catalogue once back in the 2000’s and even now support for some of the other “specialist games” like Adeptus Titanicus and Aeronautica Imperialis remains patchy and even Blood Bowl hasn’t seen much attention since last autumn. When the going gets tough, as it has in the wake of the Covid outbreak and Brexit for instance, the specialist games suffer so that the big cash cows like 40k can continue to thrive. Still, I don’t think it’s wishful thinking to suggest that Necromunda is well placed to remain an established part of the GW catalogue for a long time yet. At least, let’s hope so. Anyway, let’s leave those worries for another day and indulge in some guesswork instead! Here are a few of the gangs I think might be tearing up the underhive near you over the next few years – I’m sure we can all look forward to having a good laugh at how wrong I turned out to be!
Ash Waste Nomads
It may be grim in the hive but it’s even worse outside. The whole planet is a hellish, polluted wasteland, the only water is the toxic run-off from the great factories, storms of scouring wind and acid rain sweep over the tortured landscape and the people you encounter are as wild and dangerous as any underhive scummer. You wouldn’t think anyone would be mad enough to live out there but the Ash Waste Nomads have been getting the odd mention in recent books – with the Orlock book in particular offering some choice titbits on these outlanders. A couple of years ago we even saw some concept art, albeit fairly vague, for these road warriors…
… not to mention their dangerous looking steeds…
Somewhere else which has been getting a lot of mentions in the recent Necromunda books is Hive Mortis, enough to have caught my eye and got me thinking. A terrible plague has run rampant through the hive, leaving the entire population dead and their possessions unguarded. If you’re a ganger who wants to get rich quick and isn’t frightened of a little thing like plague then this is the place to go. However not all of the locals have taken death lying down. Plague zombies have been a part of Necromunda for a long time and Hive Mortis is apparently crawling with them.
The Corpse-Grinder Cults have already brought us a Necromundan spin on Khorne which leaves me wondering how long before the other Chaos gods try to get in on the act. Could the pudgy hand of Nurgle and his ghastly, disease-ridden cultists be reaching out from the fallen hive even as we speak?
The Immortal Cult
The Necromunda core rulebook also contains a brief description of the Immortal Cult, a cabal of rogue psykers who seek to bring about a psychic awakening in all of mankind. The cult first appears around the 34th Millennium and is still active in the setting’s “present day”, gathering outlaw wyrds who would otherwise be taken to the Black Ships to their banner. Just as the Corpse Grinder Cults put a new, and distinctly Necromundan, spin on Khorne and Hive Mortis could well be the start of a Nurgly invasion, so these sound to me like the Tzeentchian equivalent. House Delaque may think they’ve cornered the market in unsanctioned psykers but there are plenty more witches lurking in the depths of the hives…
If you’re looking for entertainment in Hive City and getting cheated and shot in a Delaque gambling den, or drinking until your innards explode with a bunch of down-and-out scummers in an Escher bar doesn’t sound like sufficient fun then you need to head to the fighting pits! Here you can enjoy the sight of cybernetically-enhanced, stimmed-up gladiators beating the hell out of each other or fighting against monstrous wild animals.
Of course, when it comes to finding people to actually get in the ring and fight demand tends to exceed supply and although Goliaths are known to enjoy getting stuck in most fans prefer to watch from the sidelines. Fall foul of the Guilds, fail to pay your debts or otherwise end up on the wrong side of the law however and you might just find yourself sold into a life as a pitslave, and rewarded with a few “enhancements” to make your life of vicious, crowd-pleasing violence and mayhem a little more interesting for the spectators. However it turns out that taking a bunch of hardened criminals, throwing in a few honest citizens who’ve suffered one punishment too many, arming them to the teeth and giving the best combat training available by making them fight each other until only the strong survive, might not be a good move in the long run. Pitslaves are known to revolt, butcher their way to freedom and enjoy a life on the run down in the underhive – where things are no less violent but at least they get to keep the profits.
Pitslaves have been a part of Necromunda for many years but back in the old days the models were, to be frank, less than inspiring. Imagine how good they could look now though…
Whilst most people in the underhive are just trying to stay alive and avoid catching too many bullets, the Spyrers are there for a little fun. Rich arseholes from the upper part of the hive these spoiled young nobles have spent daddy’s money on the best guns around and have headed down into the very worst part of town to live like common people and do whatever common people do – which on Necromunda means “shoot each other”.
I know a lot of people really want to see these making a comeback but frankly I’m not entirely convinced. By my memory they always seemed disastrously powerful in game back in the old days, not to mention a little out of place amongst the rag-tag gangs, and as a result I never really liked the spoilt gits. That said I’m not going to lie to you, if GW produces some models my addiction to Necromunda will probably see me starting a small army of them. Plus I’d not be averse to seeing how the braying oiks enjoy a kicking from an ambot! I’d still rather see something else though. Speaking of which…
Scavies and Muties
At the very opposite end of the Necromundan social hierarchy from the Spyrers we have the scavies, muties and their ilk. Hive City being the polluted pit that it is the odd minor mutation like an extra finger is given a bit more leeway than it might be elsewhere in the Imperium but any more than that and it’s only a matter of time before either the Redemptionists or the Enforcers turn up to “have words” (and by “have words” we mean, kill everyone and burn the settlement down to make sure). If it turns out that the reason your friend, family-member or neighbour never takes off their hood or ragged robe is because they’re hiding a couple of tentacles then the best thing to do is to drive them off into the underhive as fast as possible. There they can do what muties do best, sneaking around in the dark and gobbling up unwarey hivers.
Only those who’ve fallen on the very hardest times, houseless scummers without the common decency to drink themselves to death, would sink so low as to fight alongside these muties or join scavie gangs.
Needless to say I have a real love for the muties and scavies. Back in the old days they would drive herds of mindless plague zombies into town to spread mayhem, employed hulking mutants known as “scalies” as enforcers and even had their own mutant dogs. I’d absolutely love to see them making a comeback and in the meantime I’ve even made a few of my own.
I already have my eye on turning a few of the new Kruleboyz Gutrippaz into scalies. A nice new kit for these dregs of the hive would be a dream come true though – and undoubtedly well received by anyone looking to spice up their collection of chaos cultists for 40k as well.
For some strange reason that’s never been made entirely clear, the overpopulated, polluted, industrial hell of Necromunda gave rise to a race of carbon copy Native Americans (as envisioned by spaghetti westerns at least). I’m sure people can and do enjoy many a happy hour debating (read: yelling at each other on social media) over whether they actually were racist or just seemed racist, but one thing that can’t be denied is they were woefully out of place and extremely lazily designed.
Something you could never accuse the writing for modern Necromunda of is laziness however. A vast amount of love and attention to detail has been poured into the world in recent years and it’s paid off with some wonderfully well developed factions. It can be hard to overlook the rather heavy handed Native American aesthetic of models for the Redskins – sorry, that should be Ratskins! – and the use of terms like “chief” instead of leader and “brave” instead of ganger (and yes, that is a bit racist). However if you strip away these trappings, at their heart this is a tribal people, trying to live a peaceful, spiritual life away from the rest of Necromundan society, but who keep being bothered by local thugs shooting up the place until they have nowhere left to run to – and that’s a concept with a lot of potential. Cut away the “cultural appropriation” before the online activist brigade work themselves up into a collective aneurism, get back to the core concept behind the Ratskins and have the current writers rebuild them from the ground up and I reckon they still have a lot of potential.
Beastmen and Squats
No, not all together in the same gang. However something that Necromunda has done very cleverly has been to dig back, not just into the game’s own history in the late ’90s and early 2000s but even further back, to the very earliest days of Warhammer 40k itself. Until recently the vast majority of us didn’t really expect to see Squats stamping around the landscapes of the far future ever again, and then Grendl Grendlsen showed up in the underhive and proved us all wrong.
Whether or not we ever see Squats taking to the battlefields of the Warhammer 40k in force, and taking their well deserved revenge on those Tyranids at last, remains to be seen. Likewise I’m not holding my breath for regiments of beastmen to be pressed into the Imperial Guard (nice new models for ordinary humans in the Guard seems like a big ask at the moment so let’s not set our sights too high!). However there are still plenty of us who love these old factions, and though Games Workshop’s moneymen may not, in their infinite wisdom, be willing to invest in whole armies of them, a Necromunda gang might be a fine place to give them a home and keep them alive. Or perhaps I’ll have to finally make good on my promises and pick up a box of Gors and a box of Kharadron Overlords and make my own.
These are just my thoughts however – now it’s your turn. Was there something obvious I missed from my list that you’re just itching to see unleashed in the hive? As ever the comment’s box below is the place for you to get it all off your chest!
After painting that Chaos Blocker the other day I was feeling the itch to work on some more Blood Bowl and dug out all the various part finished models that are in the queue. However rather than tackle any of the obvious ones my hand settled instead on this little dude. Work and other real life stuff has me running around like a mad thing right now so rather than tackling anything too big or complex I instead decided that the smallest and most straightforward model on the desk was definitely the one for me.
I picked up the Snotling Blood Bowl team last year as a pat on the back to myself for completing the Chaos Knight I’d been working on since forever. At the time I joked that buying 18 snotlings (plus 2 pump wagons and various other gubbins) as a reward for painting 1 knight made my numbers look terrible when it comes to clearing my backlog but it couldn’t possibly take me as long to get the team painted as it did the knight. Will time make a liar of me? The jury is still out… Anyway, my plan was to work on the Snotlings in short order because they looked like a lot of fun to paint but then it occurred to me that I might actually like to try playing Blood Bowl and so should work on my (at the time long neglected) Orc team so I had something sensible to learn the game with, as opposed to the famously silly and challenging to play Snotlings. So this test model was left to gather dust until the other day when I took pity on him and decided he deserved to be finished.
I wouldn’t usually make a post for a single figure that’s as small as this one, preferring to save it and post it alongside a few of its peers, however the truth of the matter is that might well be a long time coming. Once things settle down a bit I want to finish up my various other WIP teams (the Humans, the Elves and finishing up that troll for the Orcs) before this guy gets any more company. Hopefully that won’t take me quite as many years as that Chaos Knight did in the end…
Over the years I’ve painted a lot of bloodthirsty individuals who fight for the Dark Gods, but this is the first time I’ve painted one who plays for the Dark Gods. Work and other “real life” concerns are a bit busy at the moment and I fancied painting something straightforward and uncomplicated – a description that fits this Blood Bowl loving thug perfectly!
Is this a one off or will he someday be the start of a new team? Maybe?!
As promised last month I’ve set myself the goal of adding at least one model to my Adeptus Mechanicus army every month in 2021. Having managed sod all with this project for many a long year I then managed to knock out a series of miniatures in the first few months without really trying. Allow me to delude myself that this was not in fact a fluke and is instead proof that the tide has turned at last for the followers of the machine god. With April’s offering seeing my first squad of Skitarii rangers growing tantalising close to full strength I decided that my first task for May would be to get them up to ten models.
As well as two standard rangers above I also painted up this trooper with their rather fancy looking Transuranic Arquebus.
Whilst I was about it I also went back to the very first two Skitarii I painted for this project and repainted the various cables in yellow rather than green, in order to tie them in to the rest of the squad. I know it’s a minor thing but the Omnissiah demands attention to detail in all things!
With that done here’s the whole squad ready to march forth in the name of Sacred Mars at last.
That’s not all I painted this month though because, infused with the motive force, I also managed to paint up one of the gloriously weird looking Sicarian Infiltrators.
I’d quite like to tackle some more of these soon but I’ve not actually built the rest of the box so they may or may not be putting in an appearance in June. Equally I have a couple of Electro Priests sitting on the painting desk so I might make them next month’s offering instead – and of course it’s always possible that I find the time to paint something else for this project in May although the way work looks at the moment I wouldn’t count on it – as ever watch this space!
Did you hear that? The chiming of the midnight bell, the chitterling of bats, the groaning of the crypt door… The Vampire Counts, once a staple of Warhammer Fantasy, are rising from the grave and they’re doing it in style!
It’s been a while since I wrote one of these reviews for a big wave of AoS or 40k models. I almost did one for the new Lumineth Realmlords but it would have been easily summed up with the sentence “They’re alright but I preferred the first lot”. Likewise I planned to write one for the Slaaneshi mortals but that would have boiled down to “I love all of it” followed by a string of double entendres – so it’s probably a relief all round that I restrained myself.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do one this time though – I bloody love vampires and this was a release I could really get my teeth into. I fell under the spell of the Vampire Counts many years ago, back when Sylvania was the capital of the dead, Shyish was a wind and the Von Carstein family ruled the night. I started an army of them several times but never really got it off the ground although with each attempt I accumulated more – some of which were eventually painted and some of which still linger in dusty obscurity even now. Maybe I’ll start a Soulblight Vampire’s army and finally get them painted up – or maybe they’ll be stuck in their tombs a little longer. Time shall tell – today, let’s grab our shovels and head down to the nearest graveyard to take a look at the new models!
First things first, and where better to begin than with this undead general; the Vampire Lord.
What can I say – it’s a beautiful model ruined by, for some crazy reason, having bats in their hair. There’s a time and a place for being a bit OTT but this just comes off as daft to me, and plays to that silly superstition that bats get caught in ladies’ hair. If I get this model, and I might, those will either be getting snipped off or I’ll be giving them a headswap from elsewhere in the range. Otherwise it’s a damn good model, and its simplicity is its greatest strength, which makes adding a silly flourish in the form of the hair bats even more foolish. Mind you, a female friend did comment “Who hasn’t been running late and wished a few bats would turn up and do your hair? This is Warhammer’s answer to a Disney Princess!” I’ll never look at this particular miniature quite the same way again…
Vampires may be at the heart of this wave of releases but there are other undead shambling forth alongside them, not least of which is the magnificent Wight King.
Skeletal steeds can be hard to pull off but they haven’t put a foot wrong here. He’s a very detail heavy miniature but they’ve shown the sense not to add lots of extraneous flourishes so that every one of those details feels necessary and adds to the personality of the model overall. The result is a very conservative design, rather than one which is littered with unique “Games Workshop only” elements, the kind of thing which doesn’t quite work in practice but which no-one else is doing which they so often allow themselves to be tempted by. What’s particularly impressive is the way in which this model is an almost perfect copy of the old Wight King model (a theme which we’ll be revisiting time and again as we look through these releases).
However whilst the old one was well past retirement age the new one swaggers out of the gate looking like the royalty he is. I can’t wait to see him leading a spearhead of Black Knights as they thunder down upon the hapless living. Nor is this the only undead cavalry to come galloping out of the gates…
If you’d asked me a few months ago to come up with a wishlist of models I’d like to see in this release then the Blood Knights would have been second only to the Zombies (more on them below). The old Blood Knights were nice enough models but, and I know this is just personal taste, I never really liked them that much – which is unfortunate because I loved the concept behind them and the artwork which often made them look brooding and terrible to behold.
The price was also a pretty big sticking point, the old models were always phenomenally expensive. The new ones aren’t exactly cheap but this is a rare case of GW’s prices actually going down.
Having set the bar very high by imagining how good these could look for at least the last decade or so these vampires were going to have to work hard to impress me – but they rose to the challenge with aplomb.
Forcing myself to be objective, and putting my personal prejudices aside, the old ones weren’t bad models, especially for their time – but they just don’t match up to the new breed at all.
The new kit appears to contain a range of options, including lances, swords and a variety of heads, allowing you to personalise your own vampiric elite – or put together large numbers of them without having to include any duplicates. Certainly there will be those who build their army around a core of Blood Knights and create all-vampire armies, something that I think will be an impressive sight to behold.
Next we have the zombies, and if ever there was a kit that deserved a do-over it was this one. These newcomers are nice, straightforward walking-corpses, with a sufficient mix of sexes and appearances to suggest a whole town of people have suffered an unfortunately demise, only to be raised again in service to their vampiric lords.
The outgoing zombies kit (below) was hard to love. Like all zombies it kept shambling on long after it should have been laid to rest but at long last it’s suffered the metaphorical headshot to put it in its grave (and this time it can damn well stay there!).
It’s replacement meanwhile is a joy to behold, although that might in part be a reaction the years of suffering that we fans of the undead have endured at the cold dead hands of its predecessor. The zombies therein appear to be both full of character and fairly versatile – perfect for building up an undead hoard.
Being a bit more generic these should appeal to anyone who found the Cursed City zombies a little too gimmicky. Not that I have anything against the Cursed City zombies, who totter around with their graves on their backs, but I do acknowledge that they’re not to everyone’s taste. As an aesthetic unique to the Cursed City game I think it works but for every zombie in the Mortal Realms to look that way would be overdoing things – not to mention making it harder to find alternative uses for these models as kitbashing and conversion fodder – so something a little more generic was definitely in order. And if you do happen to want a zombie in that style but missed out on Cursed City you can still make a few from the contents of this box.
The roots growing through the corpses is an interesting touch, although I can’t help but wonder how they’ve managed to grow so quickly before the bodies rotted away entirely. Probably the blame lies with dark magic, regardless I think it looks cool. That said I’m sympathetic to those who’re not so keen, especially as this means they’ll need a bit more work if you want to use them as generic zombies fit for any setting. However just as part of me wants to snip those branches off and turn these into Necromundan Scavies, so another part wants to incorporate some Sylvaneth spares and make the woods come alive in the most horrifying way possible.
Nor is this element entirely unique, my first thought when I saw them was of the Tribe of Sarrassa from the game Hate, although those guys really were more tree than corpse.
Unlike the old zombies which were well past their best the old skeleton kit had aged fairly well. I still have a fair number of them which I’d accumulated over the years and which I really ought to get painted and although they may not be the best models around they’re a very long way from the worst. I’m also rather fond of the Grave Guard, another older kit which has stood the test of time very well (and, I’ll confess, another which I managed to snag at a bargain price years ago and which has been languishing unpainted ever since). These new Skeleton Warriors fall somewhere between the two aesthetically, with a bit more armour and greater bulk giving them a significantly more imposing appearance than their predecessors. A subtle wrongness to their postures emphasises their undead nature (as if that was needed on a warrior already stripped down to their bones) and adds a creepy, unnatural element that the old kit lacked. Overall I’d call this an improvement, and although at first glance I dismissed it the longer I look the more tempted by it I become.
Now I don’t actually own any of these new skeletons (of course – they’ve not even been released yet) but what I do have are the Cursed City skeletons which, to all intents and purposes, are basically the same models, so let’s line them up next to some of the older skeletons in the range and see how they compare.
Running from left to right we have; a grave guard, a new skeleton warrior, an old skeleton warrior and a mortek guard from the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Before we begin I should also note that, in a moment of silliness, I used a slightly altered model for the old skeleton warrior rather than a standard build. He’s exactly the same as any normal skeleton warrior apart from his head, which I took from the Black Knights kit. The pointed helmet echoes the new skeleton warriors (I was ahead of my time there because I kitbashed him long before these were previewed) but doesn’t add anything to his height – so long as you measure to the eyes rather than the point of the helmet. Anyway, consider my wrist slapped and let’s get on with looking at these models.
The first, and most obvious point here, is how tall the new skeletons are. The pose helps here, they stand a lot straighter than their hunched predecessors, I reckon if the old models had worked on their posture a bit there wouldn’t be much difference. Of course it’s worth remembering that skeletons should be smaller than their flesh and blood allies, strip away all your meat and organs and you’d be considerably smaller too. Back when these guys were alive they must have been giants! Marching alongside the old skeleton warriors however they actually work quite well, looking like professional soldiers in their rusted armour, with the old skeletons appearing more like undead militiamen. If, like me, you still have old skeleton warriors in your collection I reckon you can add in some of the newcomers as well and the results will still look cohesive.
The two warriors on the ends of the line-up are where things get a bit more complicated however. It wasn’t until recently, when I sat down and painted a pair of mortek guards for myself, that I realised how short these guys are. The Ossiarch Bonereapers are presented as Nagash’s elite, an army build from the ground up for war rather than simply harvested from whatever corpses happened to by lying around by a plucky necromancer in a hurry. These are the death god’s counter to Sigmar’s Stormcast Eternals, crafted from the near-infinite supply of bones he has access to, so why did he decide to make them so stunty? However the mortek guard are at least part of a different army, albeit one loosely allied to the Soulblight. The grave guard however are supposed to be the Soulblight’s elite infantry, yet once again we find them to be shorter and less imposing than the new rank-and-file. As I noted above I’ve always been very fond of the grave guard but standing next to the new skeleton warriors you wouldn’t immediately pick them out as the tough veteran troops in the way that you would have done if you’d been comparing them to the old skeleton warriors. Had I been looking to refresh the range of Soulblight models I think my inclination would have been to leave the old skeleton warriors alone, and update the grave guard instead. As it is I would suggest that anyone who wants to really invest in a Soulblight army that stands out from the crowd should consider kitbashing grave guard and black knight parts with the new skeleton warriors to make their own grave guard (and in fact this is something I might play around with myself once I get my hands on a few bits – I’m not sure I have the enthusiasm to put together a whole squad but it would be a fun way to add some skeletal muscle to a Warcry warband). As a cheaper alternative you could always use the old skeleton warriors as skeleton warriors and the new ones as grave guard – but gamers should keep in mind that’s likely to be confusing for both you and your opponent.
Another kit from the Vampire Counts era that has been desperately overdue for a refresh is the monstrous Fell Bats. Once again, let’s take a quick look at the old models…
… and then compare them to these newcomers who have come flapping out of the gloom to carry off the townsfolk and their livestock.
I’ve always felt that bats get a bad press and I’ve never been able to follow why a small, insect-eating mammal inspires such terror (unless you’re a moth of course, in which case you have my sympathies). For the rest of us though so long as you don’t go around eating them and starting a pandemic there’s really no cause for alarm. That said they’ve been a staple of nocturnal horror since long before Bram Stoker hammered out his overwrought prose and have a well established association with vampires. Plus, let’s be honest here, absolutely no-one who took a sane and compassionate view of bats prior to seeing these models will be transformed into a chiroptophobe just by looking at them. If we accept, and I think that most sensible people do, that painting a unit or two of Afrika Korp Soldiers won’t turn you into a neo-Nazi as osmotic pressure draws evil out of the miniature, up the brush and into your hand, then it stands to reason that painting these little horrors won’t lead you into the shady world of batophobia. No matter how much I might have preferred to see a more innovative monster here rather than pandering to anyone daft enough to fear death by echolocation bats are what we got, and they deserve an honest appraisal. And if I’m honest I like them. I probably won’t go rushing off to buy them but if you want some leering, furry gargoyles for your collection I don’t think you can go far wrong with these.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record the Dire Wolves are yet another kit from the old Vampire Counts era that was overdue for replacing. I must confess that I actually rather liked the old version, and even painted up a squad of my own (see image below), but I know I was in the minority there.
Although I was a fan of the old Dire Wolves I’m not blind to their flaws. Time for them to shuffle off into woods unknown and be replaced by the new dogs on the block.
Much like bats wolves get a bad press. Despite being pretty much harmless unless you’re a sheep wolves have carved out a special place in European nightmares, ready at any moment to set upon hapless peasants, blow up the houses of little pigs or dress up as people’s grandmothers. These wolves navigate neatly around the debate over whether we should live in existential dread of these animals by being zombies – and everything is scary once it’s a zombie! Personally I like these new wolves, they have a nice sense of movement to them and the poses look suitably hungry and predatory. Games Workshop have really struggled to sculpt decent looking wolves in the past but with these, and Belladamma Volga (below) they’ve at last managed to pull off something quite stylish. All the trailing drool is a bit unnecessary and over-eggs things a bit but it’s nothing a hobby knife won’t cure.
Kritza the Rat Prince
Games Workshop’s vampires tend towards the bestial, with even the more human looking ones snarling with talons raised, ready to tear their victims apart in their bloodlust. Kritza on the other hand is extremely restrained and reserved. There’s something resigned, almost mournful about him; you suspect he would apologise before and after biting you, and possibly during as well.
It’s only after a second glance that one spots the sinister tide of rats scurrying beneath his long cape, and recognise exactly what kind of animals he’s used to decorate his robes. They seem to be quite dead now of course, just stuffed heads with glassy eyes – but are they? These are the vampire lords after all, and no-one is quite as dead as they ought to be.
As a vampire Kritza doesn’t really do it for me, there are plenty of other new lords of the night which to my eye look a lot more powerful and vampiric, but I am tempted to pick him up and turn him into a Necromundan crime lord.
Whilst the Rat Prince tends towards an appearance of civilised melancholy Lady Annika appears to be a much more vicious creature indeed. If you like your vampires to keep their murderous inclinations beneath the thinnest veneer of civilisation then this could well be the girl for you.
Her big hair-do is a bit OTT of course but it suits the model. Taken as a whole the miniature combines barely contained savagery with faded grandeur, and of all the vampires in this wave of releases she looks the most undead – the bloodlust and decay only just masked, and only for now…
Unlike the Nighthaunt or Ossiarch Bonereapers these new Soulblight and their minions would for the most part fit seamlessly into the old Warhammer world as well. If you’re still marching around on square bases and flying the banner of Sylvania as the Empire burns then this release looks like a welcome opportunity to refresh your collection. Equally – and unlike the aforementioned Empire models – these appear completely at home in the Age of Sigmar. A corpse is still a corpse after all, regardless of where you raise it, and with the possibility of a dwarf no-one clings to the old ways like a vampire.
However it’s at this point that things start to get a bit bloody weird. Quite why someone decided that a part-bat, part-dragon, part-woman was the centre piece the army needed but needless to say it’s been divisive. Enter Lauka Vai, the Mother of Nightmares.
I’m not going to lie to you, I think she’s really damn cool. She’s a truly weird and unsettling creature who has crawled forth from the same dark pits of the human imagination that HP Lovecraft once indulged. She speaks directly to the part of the human mind that recoils at death, and doubley so at undeath. As our civilisation has grown so the undead have been made safe, gathering around spooky clichés, fun-loving ghosts, Halloween parties, sparkling vampires. An age of reason, science and enlightenment has taught us that there is nothing to fear here. Lauka Vai reaches out and touches the inner medieval peasant lying alone in his hut, heart racing and ears straining to hear the creak and rustle of something lurking just beyond the door, the part of us that knows that reason is for daylight hours and lies awake when all the lights go out.
I’m not terribly keen on the rosary, or whatever it’s meant to be, that Lauka is holding, it seems like the kind of unnecessary detail that GW sculptors have a habit of including purely to avoid leaving a space, without actually adding anything to the narrative of the model. Apart from that however there’s a lot to like here.
Despite all this enthusiasm however I do see why she might not be everyone’s cup of tea. What’s more although I think she’s great I actually prefer her as a special character, a one-off horror rather than part of a whole bizarre species. Much though I like her I struggle to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for the Vengorian Lord, the generic version of the same kit.
The Vengorian Lord isn’t a bad model, although the Nosferatu vibe is perhaps a little heavy handed and that distracts from the model’s other qualities for me. Beyond that he echoes her quite closely, they’re just different ways of building of the same model at the end of the day, so if you particularly like or dislike one you’ll probably feel the same way about the other. If I hadn’t already seen Lauka I’d probably quite like him, but I have and so I can’t help but see him as an inferior version.
One thing that I don’t really like on either version of the model is the head. Lauka works well enough but I think I’d probably replace it with one from elsewhere in the range (with the plethora of spares on the Blood Knights being the first contender) in order to put my own spin on it. I’m still trying to judge the exact size of the head however, it may be a little larger than the other vampires in the range but it’s hard to tell exactly with only photographs to go on. Again however I do have a few demented ideas I’d like to explore here…
Indeed the longer I look at Vengorian Lord the more I start to think of the ways I’d tweak him (a new head for starters!) so perhaps, should I decide to get this kit for myself it’ll be an altered version Vengorian Lord rather than Lauka Vai by the time that I finally put brush to plastic. Of all these releases this is the one which has my creative juices flowing the most as a converter so don’t be surprised if some twisted nightmare comes crawling up out of the dark depths sooner or later.
Radukar the Beast
The central villain of the ill-fated game Cursed City (surely a case of nominative predeterminism if ever I heard one!) was the vampire lord Radukar the Wolf.
Now I’ve not played through the game yet and I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else but I think it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that, if you win the game where the central objective is to defeat the vampire then the vampire will end up dead(er) at the end. However that fails to account for one of the central tenants of horror, that the baddie always come back. Horror movie bad guys, much like action movie heroes, have a phenomenal ability to come crawling back from the verge of death, shrug off apparently mortal wounds and get all murderous on those who done them wrong. Poor old Radukar has been very wronged indeed, having been “cancelled” by Games Workshop (perhaps he held the wrong opinions?) he’s come back swinging, having swapped rulership of the Cursed City for a gym membership and a lifetimes’ supply of protein shakes. Better yet he’s got a new miniature, which replaces the old one that was available for all of about 15 minutes just a few weeks ago. Seeing all the other replacements for old models that form part of this release actually only serves to make this more striking – the first Radukar having been on sale for about as many minutes as the old zombies outstayed their welcome in years.
The new incarnation is a muscular brute and as subtle as a brick, and I love him for it. As well as being an awesome model in his own right I can’t help but think that he could be converted into a Khornate lord, or a Space Wolf who has succumbed to the curse of the wulfen. Kritza the Rat Prince will undoubtedly take one look at him and start twittering about toxic masculinity, bless his little soul.
Scampering around his feet we have a pair of little Vyrkos Blood-Born. These diminutive vampires were once the nobility of the Cursed City who swore themselves to Radukar and were reborn as these half-feral creatures. Seeing them on Radukar’s base is a nice touch, providing a nod to the Cursed City game whilst also serving to emphasise how big the vampire lord has now grown. However I can’t help but wonder if, in the future, they might look a little out of context. Without the game from which they originated, and with it having remained on the shelves for such a brief time, there’s very little that looks like them elsewhere in the range. Who knows though, maybe someday the little scamps will get their own kit?
Prior to this release I certainly wasn’t expecting the sheer number of vampires that have been revealed, nor the range of styles. Truly there is a vampire here for every occasion, from Kritza, who I feel might actually sparkle if you catch him in the right light, to the murderous Annika or the Lovecraftian strangeness of Lauka Vai. I must admit however that I certainly wasn’t expecting Radukar to bring his gran along.
There’s a wonderfully subtly to this model that to me makes her one of the best things in this release. At first glance she could almost be a fairly normal old woman, albeit one with an unusual choice of steed but allowances can be made for riding around on wolves in a fantasy setting. Then you spot her feet pocking out the bottom of her dress and have to suppress a shudder as she slips across the border into the uncanny valley in search of a gingerbread cottage to lurk in. What sharp teeth you have grandmama…
Anyway, if you haven’t gathered as much by now I think this is an excellent set of releases and I can’t deny that I’m thinking very seriously about raising some dead of my own. As I mentioned above I’ve already got a whole heap of undead knocking around that I’ve gathered over the years, and this is giving me the itch to get stuck in about them at last. I don’t know how many of the new kits I’m going to rush out to buy (metaphorically of course – who goes out to buy things these days?), especially given the aforementioned stack of corpses in the spare room (and there’s a line you don’t want to hear quoted out of context…). At the very least I’m going to treat myself to a set of zombies though, you can never have too many of them, and then we’ll take it from there.
One thing that does strike me though, especially as I look at the new vampire characters, is how much old Neferata and Mannfred feel out of place. For the uninitiated these were two of the most powerful vampires in the old Warhammer setting and when the great necromancer Nagash became a god in the new Mortal Realms he raised their souls once more and bound them into his service, reasoning that as their miniatures had only been released in 2014 it might be premature to kill them off without giving people a proper chance to buy them – a fate which Radukar the Wolf can only envy. Now I’m certainly not complaining that the models are still available, both of them are excellent miniatures and I certainly intend to paint one or other of them someday – probably Neferata (sorry Mannfred, you’re a much more interesting character and your devious villainy is a hoot to read about, but I have a secret love for Neferata so she jumps the queue).
I’ve always felt however that they don’t really belong to Age of Sigmar, they’re borrowed from old Warhammer and ever since the setting was created they’ve felt like a fish out of water, allowed to linger on in the new setting because we’re all too polite to tell them that the setting they belong to burned to the ground six years ago and they weren’t on it. Whilst some of the other old world survivors, Morathi for instance, or Nagash himself, have really grown into their new roles these two old timers never really seemed to fit. Introducing new vampire characters has only emphasised this divide. I suppose Belladamma Volga could almost come riding across the steps of Kislev and perhaps Lauka Vai might lurk on some lonely island off the coast of Lustria or Naggaroth, but really these are creatures of the new Realms – and Neferata and Mannfred belong to the old. Perhaps as the new range beds in I’ll change my mind, or perhaps they’ll just be allowed to live out their days quietly on the shelves of Games Workshop stores until the Old World project is finally unveiled and they’re able to find their way home at last.
Death has had a strong showing over the past few years, with the arrival of first the ghosts of the Nighthaunt, then the skeletal legions of the Ossiarch Bonereapers and now the old fashioned undead of the Soulblight Gravelords. I suspect, and I’m happy to be proved wrong, that we might not see a great deal more from the forces of undeath over the next few years, as Games Workshop switch their focus to the savage hordes of Destruction currently gearing up to take their turn as the big baddies of the setting and give those Order gits a propa kickin’. That said I think there’s still a lot of creative potential to be explored here, as and when Games Workshop get around to it. Most deserving of a little attention are the Flesh-eater Courts. The ghouls are nice models, and the background – which describes them as deluded, Quixotic knights who believe themselves to be noble and heroic rather than degenerate cannibals – is very clever. It’s unfortunate however that the background has no visual link to the models whatsoever, there’s not a single miniature in the range which so much as hints at knightly qualities. What’s more I really like the available models but I’m put off from even considering an army of them because the range leans so heavily on just a handful of kits, with many units differentiated from each other simply by having a slightly different head. If I had a seat amongst Games Workshop’s team of designers I’d make sprucing up the ghouls my next priority, and I’d want to emphasise the knightly aspect whilst I was about it.
Anyway, the sun is creeping over the horizon so it’s time for me to slink back to my crypt to wait out another day. I may lie in my coffin, my flesh as cold and white as marble, but I am not dead – nor am I sleeping. I’m waiting, specifically to hear what you might have to say about all this. As even, my fellow lords of the night, the comments box is all yours…
All images of models or artwork belong to Games Workshop – apart from the photos of my own models of course. No garlic was harmed in the production of this post.
It may be hard to believe but the Ossiarch Bonereapers were first released back in November of 2019 and not “just a few months ago” as my brain otherwise insists. At the time I dreamed of assembling a mighty army of them, but in the time since I’ve painted precisely zero. On the other hand I haven’t bought very many of them either so at least they aren’t gathering dust in the unpainted pile like some other projects I could name…
However that’s not to say I don’t have any of them at all, so – with Death on the rise amongst Games Workshop’s latest wave of releases – I decided that this was a fine moment to paint up a couple of Mortek Guard, the elite foot soldiers of Nagash’s legions.
I’m not sure if I ever will build my Bonereapers army, or if this is one of those projects that will remain forever on the wishlist, but I did enjoy working on these two enormously so expect to see the rest of their squad show up sooner or later. Probably later if I’m honest but luckily Nagash is infinitely patient…
Last week was Warhammer Fest 2021, and this year – thanks to Covid – it was held online and open to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. I had thought I might put together a blog or two as events progressed, mostly so I could indulge myself and froth with excitement over each new model that was revealed, but sadly for me (and to the possible relief of my readership) I just didn’t have the time. However as I was reading the review of the event on No Rerolls (which is entertaining, informative and well worth a look by the way) I realised that I could “borrow” (read: blatantly steal) his idea and pick my favourite reveal from each day.
So without further ado let’s take a look back through the past week and thrill at the sight of me squirming to pick only one thing per day out of the veritable tidal wave of new models, books and other goodies soon to be available.
Monday was all about the Age of Sigmar. I’ve already talked a lot about the mighty centaur Kragnos who’s soon to be shaking up the Mortal Realms. However despite being very curious to see where this new addition to the Destruction range might be leading my attention was mostly focussed on the shambling masses of the living dead. I’ve been a fan of the Vampire Counts for a long time so I’ll definitely be spending some of my hard earned pennies here as soon as these are released (and the first few will be going on sale in just under a week). There was a lot of very cool stuff shown here, and you can expect a review of the full range soonish, but for now I’ll have to make the difficult choice and decide on a favourite. I swithered over this for some time, I really like the twisted creature that is Lauka Vai, the Mother of Nightmares and so I’m going to bend my own rules and give her an honourable mention anyway.
However my current favourite has to be Belladamma Volga, the matriarch of the Vyrkos clan of vampires. That’s right – we’ve seen Radukar the Wolf in the game Cursed City, now we get to meet his grandmother!
Time to switch over to the 41st Millennium for the first of the week’s two 40k themed sessions. This one was focussed around the Sisters of Battle and as a result excited me less than most of the other days. Not that I have anything against the Sisters, and I’ll be the first to tell you that they’ve deserved every single one of their new models after so many years in the wilderness, but they’re not a range I’m particularly thrilled by either. That said there are a few really nice models in the army so perhaps, someday, I could see myself putting together a small crusade. Given my well known appreciation for a phalanx of troops it’s fair to say that should that day dawn a squad of shielded Celestian Sacresants will be marching at the head of my holy warriors.
Wednesday was all about the books published by Black Library, and as someone who reads even more than he paints I was especially keen to see what was revealed here. Having read almost the entire Horus Heresy series so far (I’m part way through the most recent novel – Mortis by John French) I can’t wait for the next instalment. Sadly wait is exactly what I’ll have to do, Black Library having the irritating habit of releasing special limited editions of their novels then keeping the rest of us hanging around for months before the standard release (I suspect this is because rich people read very slowly and have to be given a head start but I’ve yet to have this confirmed). Warhawk is written by Chris Wraight, to my mind one of the best authors in the Black Library stable, and stars Jaghatai Khan (the eponymous Warhawk of Chogoris), who’s probably my favourite loyalist primarch, as he makes his famous strike for the Lion’s Gate space port in one of the key battles of the war. Needless to say I think it’ll be worth the wait.
Thursday was boxed games day, which meant it was probably the day I was looking forward to the most. Still I feel I could be excused for being a little disappointed here. Partly that’s because the bar was always going to be set high, the range of things they might possibly cover being much greater than the time they had available. Still it would be nice to see what’s next for Blood Bowl, since the release of the most recent edition things have been very quiet on that front and I felt certain we’d be seeing a new team. Equally Warcry has been kicking along almost entirely on models borrowed from Age of Sigmar since its release back in 2019 and, given its ongoing popularity, it would be nice to know if GW have any more models planned specifically for it. Then there’s Adeptus Titanicus which just received a book dedicated to the loyalist legios who fought in the Horus Heresy – and thus surely deserve a book to cover the traitor legios (and more importantly some warped Chaos Titans to unleash!). Finally, and it was always going to be a long-shot, it would have been nice to see some kind of official comment on what the hell happened to Cursed City. I know they’re not going to stand up and say “Oh, we’re terribly sorry, it was all a big misunderstanding, the game is back in stock and expansions are on their way” but a man can dream eh!
However, enough about what we didn’t see, because what we did see was downright awesome. The Delaque are back in the underhive of Necromunda, bolstered by some wonderfully weird new recruits. Honestly I didn’t expect to see the new Delaque so soon, the Redemptionists haven’t even been released yet – hopefully that means the twisted fire-starters are just around the corner.
The Nacht-Ghul are just fun to say, and stand ready to spring from the shadows and do some murdering on behalf of the House of Secrets.
Alongside them we have the creepy Psy-Gheists, one of whom appears to be… ahem… wrestling with a snake.
Oh and there were also some fish elves and a tiny plane but who cares about that when there’s new Necromunda!
Friday took us back to the 41st Millennium and for me proved to be a lot more exciting than Tuesday had been. I’ve been gathering a mighty horde of Orks for many a long year (over a decade by my counting) but I can never get enough of the big green thugs. Now there’s a whole new wave of them approaching and it goes without saying I’m an overexcited boy already.
Much as I would like to choose “all of them” as my personal favourite my own rules say I can pick only one so if you put a shoota to my head and made me pick I’d have to choose this guy, Zodgrod Wortsnagga.
Oh who am I kidding, that’s what he looked like back in the early 90’s (and damn cool he looked back then too). Nowadays however he looks a bit more like this…
And because I simply can’t resist I’ll have to give another honourable mention, this time to this enthusiastic little git and his squig buddy. Those Space Marines won’t know what hit them!
Rounding out the week we had a surprise reveal (although I’m not sure it was all that surprising) in the form of the new edition of Age of Sigmar.
AoS has come a long way since it launched, the once controversial offspring of Warhammer growing into a respectable beast in its own right. With three years having passed since the launch of the second edition many people surmised that the third would soon be upon us. The real surprise however came in the form of Stormcasts that I actually rather like the look of. I know readers, I’m as shocked as you are!
Who am I kidding, I’ve been known to enjoy a Stormcast Eternal in the past (I’ve even painted one). Still I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed as I was, these are truly fine looking models and if I was a Stormcast collector (something I doubt I’ll ever be in a serious way) I’d be over the moon with these.
However I think I’m most curious about their adversaries in the forthcoming boxset. Games Workshop have already announced that the next edition will be era of Destruction, as the orcs, goblins, ogres and their allies finally get stuck into the fight in a big way. Furthermore the preview revealed that something is lurking in the swamps, ready to fall upon those unfortunate Stormcasts. Could we be about to see a return of the long lost Fimir? Either way something for the Destruction alliance that lurks in a mire is always going to be enough to grab my attention!
So, that was my pick of the week’s previews. Did I miss out your favourite or pick something you thought was rubbish? As ever the comment’s section is all yours.