2016 – what a year eh! In many ways it was actually a pretty bad year, particularly if you’ve been following political developments around the world – or just happen to be a fan of living on Planet Earth. A lot of celebrities also died although sometimes it felt like they were just checking out early to avoid the rush.
For me though it’s actually been a very good year; I’ve moved in with my long term partner, I’m no longer a nomad living out of a rucksack and my job situation has actually settled down into something which, for the next year or so at least, almost resembles stability. It’s also been quite an exciting year for our hobby with Games Workshop both plundering its past and setting up what looks to be an equally exhilarating future. In the last twelve months we’ve seen the Wulfen come howling out of the warp (not with the best models mind, but it’s the thought that counts), the genestealer cults rising from the deepest hives and, just a few weeks ago, the dramatic return of a Daemon Primarch – Magnus the Red – at the head of a legion of simply beautiful Thousand Sons. In fact the Thousand Sons enjoyed two back-to-back releases this year, the first being the Burning of Prospero which featured the legion at the start of its journey into darkness. Combing models from both releases, alongside the aforementioned Wulfen, has the potential for some great games, modelling and general storytelling to book-end the Imperial era.
Age of Sigmar has been equally packed, we’ve seen the (often maligned) Fyreslayers – the second race to join the game as a completely new concept, alongside other Old-World-Warhammer factions re-imagined in the new setting. These latter have included the Sylvaneth – a new race developed from the treemen and dryads that used to hang out with the Wood Elves, and the Ironjawz, developed from the old Black Orcs and Big uns. We’ve also seen the return of the Old World of Warhammer (the World That Was – Age of Sigmar kids) through Total War: Warhammer (a game to which, I have to confess, I’ve developed a considerable addiction and which has sparked my interest in Warhammer like never before). Meanwhile White Dwarf itself came back – Grombindal having realised that this whole weekly-pamphlet idea was a mistake and what we really wanted was a gloriously chunky magazine full of interesting articles.
Oh, and I finally realised a longstanding ambition and went to Warhammer World!
Excitingly, and for the first time ever, a side effect of having a proper house to live in is having all my miniatures in the one place. No longer must they lurk, lonesome and unloved, carefully packed in boxes. Instead they can stand proudly on a shelf built specially for them and that means we can have some group shots!
The largest part of my collection – by a long shot – are the Chaos Space Marines of the Beasts of Ruin. At the core of the army are a large number of marines, cultists and war-engines, dedicated to Chaos Undivided, and at the centre of that army is a host of Chaos Marines. Having completed my first 20-man squad of chaos marines late last year this year I started work on a second. Somebody told these lads there might be a Black Crusade on soon and as you can see they’re rather excited (they also heard conflicting rumours about a Penitent Crusade but luckily they don’t know what that is…)
Alongside them we have the pestilent servants of Nurgle. They too saw a boost to their numbers this year with the addition of a small squad of malodorous, yet still cheerful looking, terminators and a few boisterous Nurglings.
The worshippers of Khorne also saw a big boost this year, with plenty of berserkers, terminators and even an ogren, storming across the painting desk. Sadly Rannoghar Garran, the brutal Chaos Lord who will someday lead them, remains just a heap of bits. In his absence however Kharn the Betrayer was kind enough to step in and cover for him.
The Slaaneshi contingent remains a much smaller part of the collection but, thanks to Dreadtober (this year ably orchestrated by JoeB of the Broken Paintbrush), they have at least been bolstered by the arrival of a Sonic Dreadnaught.
As for the Tzeentchian element, well they remain the smallest faction of all but who knows, with all those Thousand Sons now available 2017 might just be their year…
Of course, not everyone who worships Chaos wears power-armour, which brings us to the massed ranks of the lost and the damned themselves, the traitor guard. In the early months of 2016 they saw quite a lot of growth but progress has been decidedly slow since (read; nonexistent). Nonetheless the itch to paint more scruffy tech-barbarians hasn’t gone away so don’t imagine you’ve seen the last of them yet.
Over the last few months I’ve also put in a bit of work on my Orks. Some readers may recall that back in 2014 I set about repairing, repainting and generally ‘fixin’ up’ my entire Ork collection – with the result that by the time I’d finish I didn’t want to see the colour green ever again. Fast forward the best part of two years however and the call of the Waaagh was strong once more. Time to gather more boys and get ready to smash up the hoomie Imperium but good! Expect to see a few more of them in the new year.
Because of the sheer size of the Ork collection, coupled with a severe lack of natural daylight to work with, that picture probably isn’t going to win any prizes unless they’re giving out awards for causing eyestrain, so here’s a group shot of all the greenskins I added to the collection in 2016.
Last of all we have a scheming clan of man-sized rats. My Skaven have come on a great deal this year (they’re a whole different colour for one thing) but they’re still a long way from the chittering, scabrous horde I have in mind. The trouble is I’m not really an ‘army painter’. I admire anyone who’s able to sit down and batch paint hundreds of models, especially if they can do it to a high standard, but it isn’t me. At best I can manage two or three like this and that makes for slow going when one is painting legions of clanrats.
In an effort to set things right I’m setting myself a little challenge; every month in 2017 I will complete at least one model for my Skaven collection. Hopefully, by the end of the year, the army will have increased by more than just twelve clanrats but even if that’s all we see it will at least be a step in the right direction. Watch this space – and please, please do mock and shame me if I fail in this rather simple endeavour.
Other plans for the new year include more Orks (you didn’t think this was the only Meganob in the works now did you?) and getting my Slaaneshi gladiator painted up. Oh and then there’s this fellow, who’s going to be joined by a few friends…
Things I’m looking forward to in 2017:
Games Workshop have already announced that 2017 is going to be “bigger and better” than 2016 (although to be fair we never expected them to say “2017 will be slightly worse than 2016 and everything we have planned will disappoint you”). I’ve already waxed enthusiastic about the new models they showcased last week in their own review of the year but, having taken a few deep breaths and gone for a little lie down, here’s my slightly more considered thoughts on the year ahead.
Breaking the Habit
“For where two or three 40k fans are gathered together, there one will find a Sisters of Battle player complaining about how unloved they are” as Jesus could have said. Over the years many people have wondered what the origins of the “40,000” in Warhammer 40,000 is and at last Games Workshop have provided an official answer; it’s the number of years between each Sisters of Battle release. Perhaps they shouldn’t have put Axel Rose in charge of the project?
Personally I’m not even that interested in the Nuns with Guns but seriously Games Workshop, for the love of all that is holy, just give them their damn models! Over the last few years the level of fevered fantasising about nuns in bondage in the Wahammer scene has reached peaks normally only seen in the bar at the Conservative Party conference.
In the video which first revealed Magnus the Red (hiding in a bin because even the sons of the Emperor fall on hard times) the Thousand Sons were described as “coming soon”. The Sisters of Battle teaser at the end of the video featured Warhammer TV’s intrepid bin-raker Eddie commenting “cool – this isn’t released for months yet”. Yet the sages of the Internet gave it a good quarter of an hour after Magnus hit the shelves before deciding that the whole thing was a hoax. Games Workshop then upped the ante by including the Sisters in the Imperial Agents codex, alongside various other factions that don’t have plastic models and never will like the Grey Knights and Deathwatch. Deeply insulted Sisters fans frothed their rage up and down the Internet and Games Workshop responded by flashing this image at them.
For those lucky enough to have been on a penitent crusade lately this is Saint Celestine, who – early in the New Year, will be heading into the Eye of Terror to give Chaos a good kicking. (Why us? What did we ever do to her?) Now one would assume she’d be doing this at the head of an army of the Brides of the Emperor – but no, she’s taking the Black Templars instead. One can only imagine that the Black Templars fighting the Black Legion in the dark will be a painter’s delight. Personally I’m looking forward to the scene in which Grimaldus blunders into a table and barks his shin, and Abaddon trips over the cat.
Now one might assume that this drip feeding of releases allows Games Workshop to build up interest in a faction that has been under-represented for a long time, and helps to space out what might otherwise be a rather overwhelming tide of models. However it’s starting to feel a little bit like a tug of war; Games Workshop admitting bashfully that they have the models but still unwilling to give them up, the fans – desperate to have the ball thrown for them – simultaneously wagging their tails and growling. Frankly the sooner the Sisters fans are put out of my misery the better. It’s getting to the stage where Chaos fans can’t hear ourselves complain over the sound of Sisters fans complaining. Still I think we can all hope that by the end of 2017 Games Workshop will have finally relented and handed over the models. The Sisters, like the Dark Eldar before them, can then ride off into the sunset with their new range of shiny models, and the rest of us can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Not that this will stop the Sisters fans moaning of course – they are creatures of habit after all…
It’s Chaos Out There!
Depending on who you ask there are two facts you’ll discover about Chaos. One; we never get any models ever and Games Workshop actually hates us. Two; every release is Chaos, we’re always hogging the limelight and should give the (insert name of anyone apart from Space Marines here) a chance. It’s all a bit confusing until you remember that the faction loosely referred to as Chaos encompasses four gods (plus generally treacherous undivided baddies) – covering both deamons and mortals, nine Space Marine legions, and two games systems. To a fan of the Emperor’s Children the release of some Blood Reavers for Age of Sigmar may be Chaos but it’s as much use as telling an Imperial Guard fan “what are you complaining about – they released Space Wolves the other month!” (This is not the Leman Russ you’re looking for).
It would be unfair to ask or expect the kind of expansion and revamp of the Chaos line that it so desperately deserves – unfair on GW for setting such an ambitious expectation, unfair on fans of other races who may be less than enamoured by seeing nothing but spikey marines for the next twelve months and unfair on us Chaos fans and our wallets (I for one prefer a drip feed of releases that I can get my teeth into). In time however it would be nice to see the other Chaos factions get the treatment that the Thousand Sons just enjoyed. Everyone’s personal wishlist is different but if there’s one thing I’d like to see this year it’s a Thousand Sons -eque expansion upon the Emperor’s Children. Nurgle and Khorne are in need of love too of course, the other Greater Daemons would be nice to see, Obliterators are just terrible and all of the cult marines (with the exception of the Rubricae obviously) could use an update but it’s hard to deny that no-one has been neglected like Slaanesh’s followers among the Chaos Marines. Come on GW – give the Prince of Pleasure a little love. Who knows – you might enjoy it…
Fulgrim – this could be you!
Not The End Times
So this year 40k turns 30, which many people believe makes it a fine time for it to have a mid-life crisis. There have always been a few voices calling the 40k timeline to be advanced, as though this was a novel and we’ve been waiting on a sequel to resolve the cliff-hanger ending for the last three decades. 40k however isn’t a novel, rather it’s a setting and the cliffhanger ending is the whole point.
Since the End Times event in Warhammer those voices have become a lot louder. Surely, they cry, it’s time for the same thing to happen in 40k! The problem is that a post-40k automatically invalidates the sense of doom in 40k itself. Based on the projections suggested by the current setting if a 41k existed at all it would mostly be about a post-apocalyptic version of the Tau throwing rocks at the last few genestealers, on a daemon world. The cornerstone of 40k is its spirit of apocalypse – a character which – sadly – is as familiar today as it was when they first designed it in the shadow of the Cold War. The forces which threaten to consume humanity at the close of the 41st Millennium are so vast, so terrible, that humanity’s insignificance is rendered in the starkest possible sense. That’s what makes it such great escapism – its potency is its mixing of the familiar with the alien. As a species we too have 99 problems – but at least the carnivorous swarms of the Tyranids aint one. It provides the comfort of action even if that action is ultimately futile – and have no doubt that for all the complaints that the Imperium wins every campaign those victories are fleeting and the wolves are at the door (not those Wolves obviously!). Unless something utterly unforeseen occurs to shake things up the fall of the Imperium is now inevitable and the galaxy of the 42nd Millennium will be a desolate place, scoured of life by the inhuman forces that have warred over it. There is no hand-waving our way out of this one and into an Age of Sigmaresque future. Any attempt to do so by Games Workshop will feel forced and will diminish the power of the setting they’ve already created.
Having said all that – and argued against the return of loyalist Primarchs – I’m still looking forward to seeing the setting progress, if not quite to the point at which Dante, Calgar and Azrael link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne as the bells ring for the closing of the 41st Millennium then at least getting a little closer to the moment of atomic midnight.
Ultimately that’s what we’re going to see and any suggestion otherwise seems like silliness. The End Times, much as many didn’t like their execution or outcome, now seem a necessary development for Warhammer. 40k has no need for such an event and perhaps never will. The road to that apocalypse is exciting enough without ever needing to reach the destination. There’s no point in wishing for the murder of the Golden Goose when the old bird still has so much life in her – but what a joy it’ll be to see the full might of the Dark Millennium’s forces clashing! Daemon Primarchs will walk, the Traitor Legions will return and all the races of the galaxy will be forced to escalate in return. The return of Magnus changed everything and the Imperium will never be the same again, but that doesn’t mean GW are planning to put a match to it quite yet.
Perhaps after another thirty years 40k will seem out of place, a bitter dystopian dinosaur in a more hopeful world. Our grandchildren will wonder what we saw in it and listen wide-eyed when we say “those were darker times kid, they shot a gorilla and the whole world went to pieces”. Then, and only then, can Abaddon tear his grandfather’s corpse from the Golden Throne as GW puts the old beast to bed. Until then let the galaxy burn!
The Siege of Terra
Lurching from one apocalypse to another the Black Library recently announced that after over a decade the Horus Heresy series is closing on the final battle. Some people complain that it’s too long, that there are too many books (42 so plus short stories), that it’s too damn complicated, that Horus fell too quickly (three books) and then advanced on Terra too slowly (he’d agree). Still it’s been quite the ride and the showdown should be suitable spectacular. Most likely it’ll take several (dozen) books to cover the siege itself, and that’s no bad thing, so we can’t expect to see the last shot fired before the end of the year but anticipate drama and destruction nonetheless.
That’s it for me for this year so there’s just time to wish all my readers and internet-friends a very happy New Year and a suitably miniature-filled 2017. Unless of course it all ends before then in a fiery nuclear holocaust and only Oldhammer players survive, shielded behind their walls of lead models. That really would give anyone with a substantial collection of Sisters of Battle the last laugh…