Monthly Archives: February 2016

Team hug!

I think a quick explanation for the uninitiated is probably required here. My friend Iris is, as well as being an excellent human being, a cracking artist (and so although you’ll find a distinct dearth of Orks, Space Marines, Chaos worshipping mutants or any of my normal fare I strongly recommend you check out her work). Recently she’s being working on a series of pictures showing people hugging in various situations. For reasons I can only assume to be insanity induced by knowing me for so long she’s decided to draw my traitor guard enjoying a group hug. The mind boggles! Needless to say – I’m thrilled. Take a look at the original post here

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The Other Gods: The Rise of the Four Armed Emperor

By the time I got into 40k proper a lot had changed from its early days. I was aware of it before, even as a child I had a basic idea of it all, but it wasn’t until much later that I really started to properly dig into the world of the 41st Millennium. By that time the Genestealer cults had faded into the background almost to the point of disappearing. Of course, I quickly found I wanted more than the codices alone were offering me and I started to dig deeper, pouring over Codex Imperialis, Slaves to Darkness, Waargh the Orks and other seminal tomes. I still never really spared much thought for the Genestealer cults though. To me the Tyranids were always a ravenous horde pouring in from the galactic fringe, or at least stealthy alpha predators who lurked in crumbling space hulks. I loved the Alien films (the old ones – it all went downhill a little as the franchise progressed) and my vision of the Tyranids was very much in keeping with this. Either they were lone genestealers picking off Space Marines ala Alien or they were hordes of Guants swarming embattled Imperial Guard regiments ala Aliens. At no point did anyone feel the need to travel around in a limo.

Thus if you want to know the story of the rise and fall (and rise!) of the Genestealer cults I’m not the best person to ask. However I highly recommend you head over to Heresy and Heroes for a far more erudite and comprehensive version of the story than I could ever hope to give. Because, after a long, long time in the shadows the Genestealers are back and ready to stir things up all over again.


Suffer Not The Alien To Live
Before we get too overexcited about the Genestealers however its worth giving a quick mention to the other faction represented in the new Deathwatch: Overkill boxset – the Deathwatch themselves. Whilst the Genestealers dwindled into the background of 40k their adversaries the Space Marines have gone from strength to strength. Today the Emperor’s Finest boast a muscular slew of models, an impressive series of codices, star in more books than a sane man could count and generally dominate the grim darkness of the far future in a way no other race can come close to. They even have a whole period of the game’s history (and a very financially successful one for Games Workshop at that) dedicated to them; the Horus Heresy when the Space Marines took a tip from the Orks and got so good at fighting that they had to fight each other.

However, because never a day goes by without Games Workshop dreaming up more ways to sell Space Marines, and because it really wouldn’t be the Genestealer Cults without them, here they are again.

If you collect any of the chapters represented then you’re undoubtedly already thinking about trawling ebay to pick up a stylish new captain (or better yet making use of the rules Games Workshop has provided to allow you to take your new models straight into 40k). Here we have representatives of the nine legions which remained loyal in the Horus Heresy (minus the Alpha Legion of course!) Some of these will be very familiar to everyone (the Wolves and both types of Angel have their own codexs and everyone knows an Ultramarine). The others, however, have been less well represented, especially outside of Forgeworld. Given that these are Games Workshop’s power armoured posterboys – and the First Founding at that – it’s startling to realise how little there’s been lately in terms of models for the White Scars, Iron Hands, Imperial Fists etc.
The presence of a Blood Raven also came as a little bit of a surprise to me, since the Dawn of War days they seem to have slipped into the background somewhat. In fact, had you asked beforehand I would have guessed that the tenth marine would have been a Black Templar.

In spite of the prevalence of the Space Marines though it’s hard to be churlish about them when most off the models look so damn good. Perhaps because of their novelty it’s the less well represented chapters that are the stars here – at least on the Marines side of the box. My particular favourites are the Iron Hand, the Imperial Fist and of course the Salamander (although I still hate sculpted fire!)
The Dark Angel is a mere couple of snips away from becoming a nifty looking plastic Cypher (cut off the sword, find him a suitable gun and hey presto).

However the Space Marines are a sideline here. They are needed – heroic and xenophobic in equal measure – to offset the horror of the enemy, but that is all. The return of the Cults, missing for such a long time, is what matters here.

Hive Fleet

I Like Big Bugs And I Cannot Lie

As an adversary the Tyranids are in a league of their own. Never mind how they perform on the tabletop (rules change after all and today’s deathstar is tomorrow’s disappointment). It’s their role in the background that concerns me here. In spite of the strength of the Imperium (which remains, let’s remember, an empire of more than a million worlds with the power to scour whole planets of life at the touch of a button) the Tyranids remain a very real threat. Neither the Eldar nor the Tau have the strength to take on the realm of men and make any kind of impression at all. The Orks certainly do but they remain too disorganised to present a credible threat. Even with ideas like the Great Waaargh!! and the rise of Ghazghkull have begun to paint the Orks as – at least potentially – a more single-minded adversary, their tendency towards infighting and the comedic elements remains too much part of their nature to really fear them.

That leaves three factions with the muscle to take down the Imperium; Chaos, the Necrons and the Tyranids. Chaos wears a human face. It’s what makes it so frightening and compelling, the way good men who attempt to stand against the fascism and cruelty of the Imperium are lured, almost inevitably, into the clutches of Daemons. Even the Daemons themselves, which should be the most alien creatures of all, are all too human. Dark reflections of our souls, our baser natures given form, they are built from the good intentions which pave the road to hell and this is what makes the faction so compelling. You can accept the cold brutality of the Emperor’s regime or you can struggle against it, but in seeking an element of personal freedom you all too often set yourself on a path which ends with you raving on some mutant hell-world whilst a tentacle grows out of your ear. All of which feeds back on itself with wonderfully bleak irony – because against such an enemy what choice does the Inquisition have but to become crueller, more distrustful, more oppressive?

The Necrons used to be more of a faceless, shadowy force but that’s changed now. Regardless of whether you love or loath the Newcrons they are no longer mindless robots but creatures with characters and personalities that are easy to understand and relate to.

Tyranids vs Tau

The Tyranids however remain truly alien. They have no interest in empire building, in carving out territories or trading for goods. They do not do the will of the gods. They have no concept of honour or destiny. They are purely an animalistic, elemental force, as impossible to reason with or battle against as a storm or a volcano.

Individual acts of heroism count for nothing here. No amount of firepower is sufficient to stem their limitless numbers. No trickery can turn aside the tide. There is nowhere to run to.

Perhaps the Necrons will rise and unite against the Tyranids as has been suggested, and mankind will cower, the hubris of humanity laid bare as we cringe on bastion worlds whilst mightier forces do battle for the galaxy. Beyond that there is no hope. The best humanity can wish for is to live like rodents beneath the feet of our new robotic overlords. I for one welcome them.

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The Cult Is Alive

When reading the background of 40k the Tyranids are the only faction to truly frighten me. Yet in spite of this I’ve never felt much compulsion to collect the models or paint an army. There’s no hook there to draw me in, no human – or humanesque – face to relate to. I enjoy stories, and for me to really get engaged those stories need compelling characters. The Tyranids are the antithesis of this. They have no generals or heroes, just the gestalt consciousness of the Hive Mind driving them on. The whole idea is that they are without number, that for every one that is killed there are a billion more pouring in from the darkness of intergalactic space. In fact I actually really dislike the attempts that have been made to introduce characters to the Tyranids – Old One Eye, the Doom of Malan’tai and so on. They seemed insignificant in comparison to the greater horde – and by drawing attention to them they reduced the impact of the horde over all.

Doom of Malan'tai

The Doom of Malan’tai – a short-lived horror from the last codex which, despite never having a model of its own, was the subject of furious debate and much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So where does this leave me? I want characters to become invested in the Tyranids as anything more than an adversary – yet I dislike the idea of the bugs themselves as characters. The answer is the genestealer cults themselves.
The Tyranids are a limitless, animal swarm – like violent, predatory locusts their only instinct is to feed until the entire galaxy is stripped bare. So vast and overwhelming is the threat that one can quite imagine how small and insignificant a human would feel when faced with such a threat. Rendered so utterly irrelevant by the scale of the approaching menace one can quite understand a planetary governor or Imperial Guard officer turning to worship, deifying the monsters descending upon him and throwing himself upon the mercy of a Genestealer Patriarch and his hybrid brood in the hope that his end will be mercifully quick. In this way the Tyranids move away from being the Alien and become more like H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods – terrifyingly other, monumentally powerful, utterly insane by human standards, yet rendered less hyperbolic through the lens of their cultists. Those humans which catch a glimpse of the horrors and are driven insane by them provide the window through which the monster can be seen without ever being fully revealed. It remains a shadow, lurking just off stage, its arrival always pending, the doom it brings always inevitable.
Like the Wulfen before them the return of the Genestealer cults has made 40k a richer place (and unlike the Wulfen the models are magnificent straight out of the box). They also serve to make it darker, making the Tyranids more nuanced – and simultaneously more terrifying – in much the same way as the followers of Chaos define the innumerable choirs of daemons. In the end then, the fate of humanity is determined not by Admirals of the Imperial Navy, not by the High Lords of Terra or the Emperor’s Holy Inquisition, and most certainly not by Space Marines. It will be determined by thousands of tiny actions, by Chaos cultists battling against Genestealer cultists in the shadows of crumbling hives, to determine whether the light of Terra will be snuffed out by thirsting gods or the fangs of a billion, billion hungry mouths.

All images copyright Games Workshop and used without permission.


Our Doubts Are Traitors

Somehow, and I’m not quite sure how this has happened, I appear to have concentrated and painted another full squad of traitor guard without getting distracted. It may be because the lost and the damned are so riveting to convert and straightforward to paint – or it may simply be the will of the dark gods themselves. Either way I now have a second ten man squad wrapped up. Let’s take a look at the final two additions.

First off there’s this thuggish individual. Truthfully I see a lot of flaws in him; I’m in the middle of moving house and decided I wanted to get him (and thus the squad) done before I moved. Perhaps that’s led to me rushing him a little (…excuses, excuses…), perhaps I’ve just started to have artistic-doubts about how he’s turned out. Either way I think I’ll probably go back to him soon and make some adjustments.
However there are some things about him where I’ve pushed myself and feel I’ve really nailed the result (the ragged skin tabard for instance was an experiment in using greenstuff which I didn’t really expect to work but feel has come out nicely).
And in case anyone still thought he was just a loyalist courting a reprimand for failure to take care of his allotted weaponry a view from the back should settle the matter beyond any doubt.

Really his commanding officer should have had him shot for displaying a non-standard body structure. However that didn’t happen, mostly because his commanding officer is this guy…convert-or-die-spider-face-1Does he give you the creeps a little? He certainly does me…
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Anyway, this calls for a family photo of the whole squad together (you know how this works – click it to see them properly). Next week I should be able to sit down and work comfortably so expect even more villainous treachery then. In the meantime if you have any thoughts at all the God-Emperor’s Devoted Inquisitors want to know about it! Submit them for scrutiny in the comments box below.


In Ashes They Shall Reap

Another day, another vicious tech-barbarian joins the ranks. Was it the cajoling of heretic priests that led him from the righteous path, or was it the calling of his own dark nature? What nightmares now drive him on, what whispering voices pursue him in his sleep, what rictus scream twists his features behind that mask?convert-or-die-traitor-guard-5

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convert-or-die-traitor-guard-8What about this mutant? Did desperate pacts with the dark gods see him changed, tormented in flesh and recast in spirit to become the creature we see now? Or did he live a life of shackled ignominy beneath the Imperial heel, too lowly even to be harvested for servitor-spares lest he sully the holy-machines to which he was bound, until the coming of Chaos saw him freed? Did he recognise the secret masters of his heart as unnameable things ran wild through the temple avenues beneath which he toiled? Did he kill the guardsman that once wore this uniform, pulling him apart with claw and tooth and rage, garbing himself in discarded flack armour and taking up his fallen grenade launcher that he might serve the Lords of the Abyss?  convert-or-die-traitor-guard-3

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The Evil That Men Do

Right, after that brief dalliance with the uncaring Throne-World let’s get back to more important matters – the rise of a horde of ragged traitors. I know I’ve said it before but I’m really getting a lot out of my current traitor guard project. It’s something I’ve wanted to work on for a long time so it’s exciting to have the chance to finally get to grips with it. What’s more the models themselves respond well to simple conversions with the result that one can quickly create a warband that is both cohesive and chaotic.convert-or-die-traitor-guard-11

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convert-or-die-traitor-guard-13Just in case any of you are thinking ‘this is a con – he showed us that model the other week!’ I can assure you it’s not true, they just happen to look similar (and here’s the proof). Perhaps they’re brothers?convert-or-die-traitor-guard-14Of course even oath-breaking scum and the dregs of the galaxy know that life is better with a friend, so here’s another one to keep him company.convert-or-die-traitor-guard-9

convert-or-die-traitor-guard-10As usual feedback is welcome!


Heroes Beyond Number

I’ve often harped on about the Imperial Guard and how, in terms of their aesthetics as a faction, I don’t really like them. Part of what draws me to 40k is the sheer strangeness of it all, the cultural melting pot of the Imperium and the grubby insanity that rises to the surface. All too often however the guard have been immune to this. Forgeworld have brought us the Death Korps of Kreig and, more recently, the Solar Auxilia, and there are always weird characters like the Enginseers amongst the ranks, but in the main the eerie strangeness of the 41st Millennium seems to have passed the Guard by. Some of the old regiments were quite interesting (I love a Vostroyan as much as the next man) but in general there seems to have been a policy of cutting and pasting real world, historical military into the far future (Space Russians, Space Arabs, even Space Rambo) rather than thinking about how those themes or environmental factors might have led to a convergent evolution in tactics, outlook or appearance. I’d actually love to see the Guard reappraised in a more nuanced manner – in the same way that the Space Marine Legions have developed into more complex, interesting creatures under the guidance of the Forge World and Horus Heresy designers, as opposed to the Space Vikings, Space Mongol Hordes and so on that we once had. Perhaps the solution would be to do something similar to FW’s Legion Upgrade kits, where a set of heads and torsos that allowed us to convert other regiments from the Cadians (a solid enough kit in itself but a bit too ‘little green army men’ for my tastes). The Talarns and Mordians could be created this way, whilst a new kit featuring longer coats to cover the legs would allow Vostroyans, Valhallans and Steel Legion. Who knows, they could even push the boat out and come up with some new regiments based around original ideas

Anyway I’ve wandered slightly from my original point which is my dissatisfaction with the current Imperial Guard in terms of their appearance and aesthetics. What I was looking for was more in the vein of the mad counts from Warhammer’s Empire, or perhaps the filthy peasants of Bretonia, men armed with nothing but hand-me-down weaponry and grim determination facing down the rampaging horrors of a hostile galaxy. I wanted incompetent commanders, bombastic priests, heraldic beasts and chimerical weapon-servitors. I wanted an army based around hubris and overwhelming firepower that makes up for its ineffectual military tactics with a callous disregard for human lives and the everyday heroism of unremembered martyrs.

By now some of you may be wondering if all this musing is actually going somewhere. Working on the ranks of my traitor guard recently, as well as the Imperial Serf I showed a few weeks ago, has led to me thinking about their loyalist adversaries more than I normally would, with the result that – by some organic process – I ended up building this guy. Whilst the fickle muse was still working for me, rather than against me, I even got him painted. He’s quick and crude, and I could use going back and adding a few details (some text on the oath scroll for instance). Consider him a little test of concept should I ever decide to explore the Guard more fully.

As it stands I remain an unrepentant heretic but I do feel a certain draw towards the Imperium at times so who knows, someday he may have some squadmates to back him up or, as is more likely, die valiantly by his side. Otherwise he’s going to have to take on my entire chaos collection by himself and some challenges are beyond even the humble guardsman.


The Wolf Is Loose

The world of Warhammer 40k is not like our own. That really should be clear by now but sometimes I feel it’s still overlooked. There may be super-soldiers, space battles, teleporters and lasers aplenty but this is not the future. In spite of the knights, the medieval and monastic overtones, the zealotry of the Inquisition and the daily burning of heretics this isn’t the past either. This is its own beast, a complicated fantasy where daemons really do walk amongst us, legions of ten thousand year old villains plot eternal revenge and elves laugh from the gulfs of space as the realms of men crumble. Dying heroes are locked within walking sarcophagi so they might march out and fight again. The power of wizards is a known, albeit rarely trusted, element in the fabric of society. The Imperium of Man is a crumbling fortress, a bastion of civilisation surrounded not by the dark depths of the wildwood but the even darker depths of space. It’s just that some of the wolves that lurk out there in the wild places are not devils but heroes.

Some would accuse modern 40k of being sterile, of lacking the feral intensity it possessed back in the early days. Leaving the shackles of nostalgia aside for a moment (and let’s be honest, that has a lot to do with it) do they have a point? Much as the oldhammer crowd might love to keep the spirit of the elder (not eldar) models alive there’s no shaking the fact that modern sculpting blows the old stuff out of the water. Want proof? Take a look at the old Bloodthrister, the one we suffered until less than a year ago. Sculpting, however, does not equate to spirit.
Old 40k was weird and rebellious. New 40k is nuanced and complex. We’ve pushed back the boundaries of the known, filled in the blank spaces with official cannon and driven the wild beasts of our imagination into the darkest corners. Now even those dark weird corners are coming under the spotlight; the strange things that make 40k different and iconic are being realised in modern plastics. We’ve had the eldar’s clown-actors that guard a secret library. We’ve had the priest-engineers that coax life into the troubled ghosts of ancient engines they no longer understand. Now it’s the turn of the barbarian super-solider knights who’re actually werewolves.
Any drunk fool can come up with ideas this mad, hodgepodgeing concepts together into a messy lump of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’. The brilliance has been in making it compelling.
I know people, and I’m sure we all do, who struggle with fantasy and science fiction. They flounder, unable to stretch their imaginations around it all. Please keep in mind that I mean to cast no aspersions here – it is what it is. They’re flustered by it. “But it’s not real”, they cry, “It’s just a fantasy. Orcs and elves don’t really exist!” Most, if not all, of us reading this blog do not, I suspect, suffer from this problem. We almost certainly find orcs and elves altogether too real. Nonetheless when someone told me, via the pages of a very old White Dwarf magazine, that some heroic werewolves had spent 10,000 years hunting down a (compelling if regularly villainous) baddie through a weird patch of space where actual daemons lurked around every corner and I bought into it without missing a beat… Well, suffice to say that was a fine day for the imagination.

I loved Abnett’s shamanic portrayal of the Wolves in Prospero Burns (and in spite of the book’s flaws it remains a standout from the Horus Heresy series). I have high hopes that when I sit down to read Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s depiction of Ragnar Blackmane I’ll be similarly enthralled. Beyond this however the poor old Wolves haven’t had the best of times in recent years. Whilst other factions have developed layers of complexity and depth the sons of Fenris have turned into Space Vikings who somehow manage to maintain close friendships with wolves – whilst at the same time wearing wolves. Then again this is 40k where the average serf dreams of someday finding work as a servo-skull so maybe things aren’t so different for the average wolf who hopes that, if he works hard and dedicates himself to the Allfather, he might end up becoming a Space Marine’s coat.

Yo dog, we heard you liked wolves so we put a wolf on your werewolf Space Wolf…

There’s a bit of a recurring theme of Space Wolf miniatures showing good ideas shoddily executed. I rather like the current crop of dreadnaughts – and Murderfang, much though he is hated in some corners of the internet, smacks of raw genius to me. Whoever thought “Hmmm…. Wulfen are cool. Dreadnaughts are cool. Let’s put a Wulfen in a Dreadnaught!” and then actually pulled it off is owed a pint by me. I’m also rather fond of the Stormfang (I known right, everybody hates that model, whatever is wrong with me?). In fact I continue to believe that covering the front end of it with orky-buzzsaws and turning it into a World Eaters attack craft is one of the best things I haven’t built yet.

Sadly the GW team are still struggling to design decent looking wolves. The Fenrisian wolves may be better than those awful lumps that the Warhammer goblins have to ride around on but they still look fairly ropey to anyone who’s seen an actual wolf. Or a modern miniature for that matter. The Thunderwolf Cavalry are a bit better but not to such a degree that they can carry the show on their own. As for Logan Grimnar’s wolf-drawn flying boat – I want to love it, I really do. If we’re going to have space Vikings then let’s really go for it with a model that’s burst out of Norse myth via the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium. I keep trying to tell myself that the model itself isn’t too bad, that it’s the studio colour scheme and cartoony style that lets it down. Some days I almost believe myself…

Leman Russ – back in the days when Primarchs were smaller and wolves were sculpted to look like wolves. No idea who painted this I’m afraid, or if its an official model or not, so if anyone knows who deserves credit speak out.

I want to like the Wolves. Maybe it’s fair to say I want this too much. They are a proud, feral warrior brotherhood, a holdover from more heroic days. They are the Imperium’s outsiders, the noble savages who go their own way. Regardless of who tells them otherwise they stand together and fight for what’s right. Heroes are thin on the ground in 40k. Outside of a dog a wolf might just be man’s best friend. When the Wolves drove off the agents of the Ecclesiarchy I cheered with the best of them.
None of which changes the fact that, more often than not, the complexities of these shamanic warriors are pushed aside and we end up stuck with the cartoon Space Vikings – and none of the nuance of real Vikings. At times it all feels a little cut-and-pasted. They feast in mead halls (in space!), they worship Space-Odin, they cover themselves in Space-runes. It brings us back neatly to the discrepancy between complex-40k and simplistic-40k. Sometimes the people of Fenris appear as a shamanistic hardship culture, tribal, totemistic and predator emulating. Other times they live in a Hagar the Horrible theme park. And can someone explain how a planet with no obvious plant life still manages to support such a large population of alpha predators – all of whom have nothing to do all day but battle each other? Far better the haunting glimpses of beasts in the icy wastes and the chilling question – if there are no wolves on Fenris then who howls in the night?
In the most recent codex the fiction took another turn for the worse with the introduction of a crudely bolted-on ‘magical-winter’ theme. Glimmerfrost crystals are used to power ice-weapons and at one point the wolves even battle a pack of Ice Trolls. One feels that smart-arse remarks like “World of Warcraft just called, they want their IP back” might send GW’s layers into a flurry though so let’s move swiftly on.

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I’ve never painted a Space Wolf so here’s one by mate Sam instead. Check out more of his work here.

The background fiction for the Wulfen has always been pretty unequivocal – their return to real-space heralds the Time of Ending – or more accurately The Wolf Time. Obviously, given what’s happened just across the wall in Warhammer itself, this has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst those who think that GW may be about to kill the golden goose. What about the models themselves though? Are they worthy of all the hype and consternation that surrounds them?

Well, at first glance I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. Overall it’s undoubtedly a mixed bag with some definite hits and, unfortunately, a few misses as well. Take a look at this one for instance:
Overall I think he’s rather impressive and a lot of boxes are definitely being ticked. The snarling expression is suitably fierce and animalistic and the hair is a wildly dishevelled mane without the appearance of being styled that way (some of the ‘standard Space Wolves’ undoubtedly spend too long in front of the mirror applying gel). The armour is battered and has clearly been subject to numerous field repairs down the millennia and all the expected trinkets and trophies are in place. The pose is full of power and energy and those wolf skulls on the backpack are dying to be snipped off and used as helms for your wolf lords, wolf priests or whomever else.
On the other hand the gun on the backpack looks a bit tacked on and impractical and GW still haven’t worked out how to transition between bare flesh and fur (having presumably learned nothing from the fantasy beastmen and their chest wigs).

Not all of them however are quite so successful. The squad’s leader, for instance, appears to be the victim of the creative team trying too hard, robbed of instant-classic status by his weird dancer’s pose. All the components are in place, and the paint job is considerably better than on his squad mates (more on that later) but his stance suggests landing with style rather than launching with ferocity and that’s not right. It’s all about displaying the character of the creature depicted, rather than simply what it’s capable of. Yes, a Wulfen does have the poise, balance and acrobatic skill to make an excellent ballerina – it’s just that it would rather be ripping your head off.

This one in particular bothers me and one has to ask if the studio team were having an off day when they put it together. Unfortunately the only image I’ve managed to find of it so far is rather small – it’s almost as though GW were hiding it at the back and hoping we wouldn’t notice. Hopefully once better images start to circulate I’ll be able to update this post with something easier to make out.
Of course there’s a lot to be said for the twisted, animalistic super-warrior looking into the dead eyes of the skull and recognising the humanity that both have lost (regardless of the fact that they undoubtedly nicked the idea from me). However why would he do that whilst running full pelt? Is he in fact just throwing the skull over his shoulder? What’s going on with his other paw – swatting at a fly? If someone had put this together as a conversion I’d suggesting they swapped out a few components to make the model more cohesive and give it more direction – as a part of the studio showcase though I’d say it’s unacceptable.
Oh and I’m sure I’m not the only one who, when he saw the first blurry images that ‘leaked’ online, thought this wolf was looking at himself in a little hand-mirror or possibly taking a selfie?

The last time the Wulfen were roaming our tabletops this was how they looked. I’m not going to pretend, out of nostalgia or otherwise, that they were without their flaws but they’re still models I remember fondly. The teeth on the blade of the leader is a nice touch and the faces are generally far superior to most of their modern counterparts. The biggest difference though is in the legs. Where the new Wulfen have bestial hocks and paws the older models simply had the legs of ordinary Space Marines. Whilst the latter lacks a little in terms of imagination I actually prefer it to the new iteration which at times seems overly obvious and equally uninspired. Surely something midway between the two could have been possible? After all this is the studio itself were talking about, the creative fountainhead from which Games Workshop’s world renowned product line springs. Surely when there are people out there creating Space Wolf models as good as these GW should be rising to the challenge of making models that are even better, even fiercer and more impressive. They’ve shown time and again recently that there is a reason that they still stand at the top of their field – the Blightkings, the Bloodthirster, the Ad Mech, all have proven their skills as leaders in miniature design. There is no need to aim low here, these are the Wulfen. Any potential customer already knows what they are buying into, knows that we’re off the edge of the map, into the dark corners of the 40k universe. Here be dragons indeed. The lowest common denominator have no place here. In the end I almost feel that the designers have acted like the Adeptus Mechanicus themselves – not fully capturing the creativity of yesteryear, merely replicating it.

It’s become a bit of a cliché but I suspect that the Wulfen would look better painted differently. The studio scheme makes them too clean ad that robs them of a lot of their impact. I understand the need to maintain visual cohesion across the range as a marketing tool but just think how much more impact the Wulfen would have if they were painted in pre-heresy colours. Take a look at the two schemes side by side (30k on the left, 40k on the right):
Regardless of whether the 13th Company paused in their marauding, set aside the hunt for Abaddon and Magnus and sat down to repaint their armour, wouldn’t the darker scheme alone give them greater visual impact? Right now they are too bright, too heroic, too much like cartoon characters. Look again at the first piece of art I showed above. That to me is how the Wulfen should look, the Imperium’s own monsters, equal in their ferocity and rage to the daemons they battle. These are creatures of nightmare, monsters who come tearing out of the darkness and never for a moment seem like golden heroes. There is no glorious war here, no champions, just vicious, rage-filled animals tearing their victims apart with their hands.

Wolf gone bad: leaving aside the hints of chaos these traitor Space Wolves from Alex of Leadballoony has a feral intensity that the official Wulfen fail to match. Mördaren (on the left) in particular has something of the werewolf about him.

Overall though I’d call this kit a success, although it’s not one that will reach its full potential painted to the studio style and assembled to match the figures on the box. Swap a few components in, paint them darker and grubbier, emphasise their monstrousness and you’ll be well on the way to creating your own pack of werewolves truly worthy of the 41st Millenium.

The Wulfen have always been exemplars of everything that makes 40k so magnificent, everything that pulls me back to it time and time again. The models themselves could have been better executed but there’s always room for clever converters to make improvements. 40k was missing its wolves, it was weaker without them and regardless of their flaws I’m glad to see them back.

All images, unless otherwise credited, belong to Games Workshop and are used with a flagrant disregard for permission.