Gridiron and Glory

Another weekend, another big GW preview, another chance for me to roll out my opinions. This time it was the turn of some of the smaller, more “specialist” games in GW’s roster, with a focus on Blood Bowl, Warcry and Warhammer Underworlds. These three being, to various degrees, close to my heart, it was inevitable that I’d have some thoughts to share.

First out of the gate was Blood Bowl, the game of fantasy football, which is soon to launch its second season boxset (that’s the second season of the 2016 edition of a game that’s been on the go since 1986 – so technically it’s the 6th edition – maybe? Best not to get too hung up on that!).

Blood Bowl Box

From my point of view this couldn’t be better timed, 34 years after the game first launched, and about 25 years since I first discovered it I’ve finally started working on painting up a team. All being well I can crack on with painting my orcs, humans and various gubbins and await the release of the new rules, rather than pouring effort into learning the old rules only for them to become outdated in short order.

Bloodbowl Orc ConvertOrDie Wudugast (1)

The new box contains plenty to be excited about – most importantly two new teams. On one side of the pitch we have the humans, in the form of the Imperial Nobles. The quality of the Blood Bowl miniatures has been top-notch lately and these are no exception, each one flawlessly designed and packed with character.

Baron 1

I’ll admit I found the previous human team to be a little bit dull, they’re very nice miniatures in their own right but they are very definitely sportsmen and generally wouldn’t look out of place in a modern, real world setting. They’re not bad but there’s next to nothing about them that says “Warhammer”. Not so the Imperial Nobles who channel the Knights and Lords of the old WHFB Empire.

Reikland Reaver

Needless to say I’ve already started a little kitbashing and converting to turn my team of ordinary humans into something that feels more rooted in the setting. Fancy a cheeky sneak peek? Yeah you do!

Wudugast ConvertOrDie Blood Bowl WIP

Alongside the human players we have a special character – or Star Player in Blood Bowl parlance – Griff Oberwald. Even amongst the never-knowing-underdressed show-offs of the Imperial Nobility he stands out, every inch the arrogant sporting superstar.

Griff

It’s a world away from the outgoing Forge World version, which if I’m honest had very little to recommend it (although it was still nicer than Varag Ghoul-Chewer – more on him in a moment). At least now when he jogs onto the pitch the girls will be screaming for the right reasons…

Old Griff Oberwald

Sure enough the humans need someone to get a match in against and in the previous boxset that roll fell to the orcs. This time round it’s the turn of… the orcs again. Just as the standard issue humans have been joined by the new Imperial Nobility so the ordinary orcs now have competition in the form of the Black Orcs.

Black Orc

These are big lads, reportedly similar in size to the orruk brutes, which makes me wonder how many will be getting bought to convert into members of Ironjaws armies. After all, although taken as a whole there’s a distinct sporting theme to the models, but taken out of context and given a few tweaks and these could easily slot into the ranks of an ordinary orcy horde.

Special mention is also owed to the goblins which accompany the team, regular readers will know I’ve got a soft-spot for the little gits and these are no exception.

Gobbos

Like the humans the orcs have hired a Star Player to join them, this time in the form of the mighty Varag Ghoul-Chewer. The big lad looks like an absolute tank and – I suspect – will be the basis of many a converted Orc Warlord for both 40k and AoS. Take note of his undead snack, still thrashing angrily on his shoulderspike and ready to be devoured at half-time.

Ghoul Chewer

Of course if you thought the old model for Griff was a bit rough wait until you see Forge World’s attempt at Varag. Once upon a time Forge World were rightly praised for the high quality of their models – expensive but worth it – and generally that’s a standard they’ve kept to in recent times. Varag however should probably have been left on the shelf, or perhaps surreptitiously nudged into the bin.

Old Ghoul Chewer

Now exciting though all of this Blood Bowl action is, none of it is exactly new. Pictures leaked online some time ago and GW followed up by doing a full reveal of everything that was already in the public eye back at the start of August. Thus the only real surprises for fans was that the box would include two new models for referees. Both are great models but hardly enough to carry the “big reveal” on their own.

Refs

Next up we had Warcry and this was where my interest was really focussed. I’m a big fan of Warcry, of all GW’s games it’s the one I see myself playing the most so any news was going to be good news in my book. Sadly however said news was thin on the ground. No new models or warbands were announced, which I’m sure came as something of a disappointment to many fans (I know it did me!). Instead we’re getting four new books, one for each of Age of Sigmar’s grand alliances, containing rules, quests, scenarios and monsters.

Warcry Books

Now this could be quite exciting, I’ve already started several Warcry warbands based around factions from outwith the core game – the very factions that these books are aimed at covering. However information on the specific contents of the books was pretty much absent so I’ll be reserving judgement until a bit more is known. If the new books turn out to be simply a collated reprint of the already released cards, White Dwarf articles and rules for Monsters and Mercenaries already printed in previous books then I’ll pass, helpful though it would be to have everything in one handy guide I’m not made of money and GW has plenty else to tempt me with. If on the other hand they take the opportunity to revisit some of the previously released factions, bringing in new rules for models such as mid-level heroes and huge monsters that were previously absent, I’ll be a lot more interested. For example the Gloomspite Gits, which were released at the same time as the game’s initial launch, received rules for loonbosses, various shamen and the monstrous arachnarok spider through the Monsters and Mercenaries book – whilst the Sylvaneth who came later have no rules for their own equivalent heroes and monsters such as the branchwych or tree-lord. If these books start filling gaps of this kind I’ll be very interested indeed.

Meanwhile some of the other factions feel distinctly thin on the ground at the moment, Nurgle’s mortal followers being a particularly glaring example.  Whilst the Putrid Blightkings have a range of weapon options available to a modeller the rules represent very little of this. Whilst the rules distinguish Blightking leaders, or those carrying icons or Sonorous Tocsin (that’s the great big bell to you or I) there’s nothing to distinguish the one carrying the massive axe from the one with the spear or the one with the sword and shield. Other factions are given considerably more detail – the mortal followers of Tzeentch for instance have rules for 14 different model types, whilst poor old Nurgle get’s only 5 – despite having the potential available for plenty more.  The god of plagues may be having a fine time out here in the real world but he’s looking a little unloved in the Realm of Chaos – perhaps if GW took the chance to improve the options available to him in Warcry they could tempt him back to where he belongs?

My blightking with a mighty axe, keen to be unleashed against the residents of the Bloodwind Spoil!

Of course many people are rightly concerned about the way Warcry appears to be straying from its roots focussed around Chaos warbands specifically designed for the game and turning into the skirmish version of Age of Sigmar. I’m very much of two minds about this. On the one hand I completely agree, what drew me to Warcry in the first place was the chance to explore something really new, delve into the setting’s underbelly and explore the Realm of Chaos properly for the first time in years. Finding out that every single faction in the wider game is also mucking around outside the Varanspire dilutes the sense that this is Chaos’s world, a place where deamons walk and only the strongest and strangest endure.

On the other hand I love the idea of a skirmish version of Age of Sigmar, I enjoy Warcry (and most unusually I actually understand the rules) and so the more the merrier from my point of view – every additional faction that’s brought into the game opens up more opportunities for painting and modelling as I explore factions that I would never be willing to commit to a whole army of.

How do I square this circle? Simple – in my mind a game featuring Chaos warbands occurs within the game’s official setting – the Bloodwind Spoil – whilst when we play a game with any of the other factions we set it elsewhere in the Mortal Realms.

I’ve also seen a few people worrying, quite understandably, that the lack of any new warbands announced (and leaving aside the Khainite Shadowstalkers and Scions of the Flame set to beat seven bells out of each other in the soon-to-be-released Catacombs expansion) means the game is soon to be shuffled off to a dusty corner and left to wither. GW will pour in no further investment, no new models or warbands will appear and the new books represent simply an exercise in squeezing the last drops of milk from the cash cow before it’s led out into the field and shot.

I however take a more hopeful view – that this is merely the calm before the game get’s it’s second wind. Back when both Blood Bowl and Necromunda were relaunched – in 2016 and 2017 respectively – GW announced that there would be an initial wave of plastic teams/gangs and, if these proved popular, more would follow in due course. This has proved to be exactly how things turned out, with both games seeing an initial flurry of activity and, as people voted with their wallets and demonstrated their commitment to the games, GW set to work producing new things to sell us. Blood Bowl now has 15 teams available, with three more announced as coming soon (and two others which can be built by combing models from other teams). Necromunda followed the same pattern a year later. Both games saw an initial wave of releases followed by a quiet year as GW’s designers worked to catch up, and then settled into a regular pattern that’s kept each game topped up nicely. Warcry, I strongly suspect, is following the same pattern – with the game launching and proving it’s financial chops to the money men in 2019 and 2020 being something of a “filler year” as new concepts are worked up, ready to be released in 2021. Of course this may be false optimism but I wouldn’t be too quick to write the game off yet, Warcry proved very popular from all I’ve heard (if – like me – you’re keen to get a copy of Catacombs for instance I’d recommend hovering with your finger over the “buy now” button when it goes up for pre-order) and GW haven’t achieved their market dominance by failing to recognise when they’re onto a good thing.

Direchasm

Thirdly, the big reveal showed us the new core set for Warhammer Underworlds; Direchasm – which brings the popular tournament game into its fourth season. Given that I’m not by any means a hardcore gamer I don’t tend to pay much attention to Underworlds, beyond drooling over the miniatures at regular intervals. That said I’m looking at this new box with great interest. As with the majority of GW’s boxsets it features two rival factions, in this case the elves of the Lumineth Realm-lords vs the mortal followers of Slaanesh.

The elves alone wouldn’t be enough to grab me. I actually quite like the (much maligned) Lumineth range which has been released in recent weeks – although not enough to consider starting a collection I hasten to add – but these do less for me. They’re alright, but for my taste they’re nothing really to write home about – each one being basically a little bit of a step down from its AoS equivalent. The warband’s leader appears to be troubled by constipation, something not helped by his gravity-defying pose…

Lumineth Leader

On the other hand the warriors of Slaanesh are downright gorgeous! Many of us have been bumping our gums about a lack of attention for Slaanesh, especially the god’s mortal followers, for at least as long as I’ve been in the hobby and probably a lot longer – and at last we have something to get excited about.

Slaaneshi Leader

As if that champion wasn’t wonderful enough we have a suitably twisted beastman.

Beastman

Beastmen remain one of the most potentially interesting Chaos factions aesthetically speaking, yet all too often they’ve been relegated to the sidelines. A few years ago Tzeentchian beastmen appeared in the form of the Tzaangors to general delight, and Blood Bowl features an amazing looking Nurgle beastman, but beyond that beastmen specific to each god have been thin on the ground. Of course, one swallow doesn’t make a summer (or at least that’s what Slaanesh said!) but its hard to deny that nothing says “chaos and decadence” like a goat in thigh-high boots. We can only hope that soon GW will satisfy us all and give the god of excess the kind of vigorous affection it desires.

Exciting though these Slaanshi warriors are this preview over felt a little bit thin. The Blood Bowl set looks amazing but it’s really nothing new, the qualities of the Warcry books are anyone’s guess but look likely to be at least in part a reprint of pre-existing material and the elves need to eat some prunes. That left us with previews of some upcoming films being produced by GW and which to me look like a bit of a mixed bag. The Blood Angels film looks intriguing…

Blood Angel

… but the anime series with its prominently featured Eldar Striking Scorpions does less to grab me, although that may just be because it’s anime.

Striking Scorpions

Truthfully I’ve never been terribly interested in anime, in fact the style tends to put me off. Maybe it’s because I used to have a couple of flatmates who were obsessed with anime and anything else Japanese, and seemed truly to believe that Japan was the source of everything good in the world whilst all other countries were the source of everything bad. I understand that Japanese includes a word for westerners like that and I’m pretty sure it translates as “patronising tossers”.  I’m sure this prejudiced me against the style, and by extension the sprinting Striking Scorpions and their ilk, especially as I’d really much rather see some new models for the Scorpions (not to mention the rest of the neglected Eldar aspect warriors).

One thing I did expect to see here, and which was glaring by its absence, was a hint at what’s coming next for Age of Sigmar. After considerable build up the Lumineth Realm-lords and Sons of Behemat have both been released, and the immediate future of the game is rather sparsely populated. We know that books are planned which move the narrative forward and a new boxset lies ahead, containing mostly models which have already been released (plus another truly wonderful Slaaneshi lord to the delight of the Mortal Realms’ S&M community – you wait a couple of decades for a champion of pain and pleasure to come along and then two appear at once). What we don’t know, even by the merest hint, is what kind of major releases might be planned or what new factions might be around the corner, and I was half expecting some kind of teaser in this direction. Not to worry though, between Blood Bowl and the new Slaaneshi models there’s enough here to keep me interested. Whilst I go in search of a pair of thigh-high studded leather football boots in my size the comments box is open for anyone with a strong opinion to hold forth!


19 responses to “Gridiron and Glory

  • Kuribo

    Ha, I saw this yesterday and thought the same exact thing about your Blood Bowl painting. I also was like we just talked about black orks too! 😀 GW is hard to predict in terms of what games they will support and they often go silent for a while and suddenly release new stuff. Blackstone Fortress got a ton more support than I thought it would (I might have actually bought it had I known they were going to release THAT much stuff for it) but other games like MESBG seem to get very sporadic releases at the same time so you just never know. Boxed games used to get an expansion or two and you never knew when that was going to be it for a game.

    In terms of the new models, both Blood Bowl sides had me wishing I actually played the game. The minis look great! I actually (shockingly!) like some of the new elf models too. Yoga Elf, who you pictured is my least favorite but the others look surprisingly decent.

    I will be rooting for Kill Teams and Warcry as I think GW needs to put out more true skirmish wargaming products. It is the best way to hook casual fans by far!

    • Wudugast

      I know – great minds think alike right! 🙂

      Yeah, the games GW supports and the ones it doesn’t seems a bit all over the place at times. Kill Team seems to be a bit on the backburner for them since they did the big Rogue Trader set, which is a shame (although they did hint that there’s more stuff coming for it so fingers crossed it’s something decent) – and MESBG went from seeming like the only show in town for a while (back when the films were coming out you couldn’t move for hobbits!) to feeling a bit unloved these days. Likewise Horus Heresy, for a while it seemed to be non-stop HH releases from Forge World, nowadays it hardly gets a mention. And like you I didn’t think Blackstone Fortress would get half as much attention as it did in the end. I keep wondering what they’re going to replace it with.

      I think the great thing about skirmish games is that it’s so easy to dip a toe into a faction without investing lots of time and money. Want to start a new Warcry warband/Necromunda gang/Blood Bowl team/Kill Team/whathaveyou? Buy a fairly cheap box, paint it up and you’re done – not much cash or time required. Want to start a new AoS or 40k army? That calls for a lot more money, not to mention all the time spent painting them.

      I’ll admit I have mixed feelings about the new elves. I want to love them because if I do it’ll be much easier to convince myself I need to buy the boxset, rather than shelling out for the whole thing just to get the Slaaneshi models. Hopefully as I see more angles on them GW’s advertising team will successfully brainwash me into feeling good about parting with my cash. I could always use them as the core of a Warcry warband after all…

      • Kuribo

        Well said on GW’s seemingly unpredictable releases and on the advantages of skirmish gaming! I love the low cost of entry both in money and time for skirmish gaming. That is a huge blessing for anyone who is a slow painter like me.

        I do think the elves could be painted in much more interesting colors than what GW has chosen. They’re a bit bland with the light bone colors and I would go for something much bolder if I ever get any. Not sure if a non-studio color scheme can get you excited for them but its about the only thing I can think of at the moment 🙂

      • Wudugast

        Yeah, the studio scheme for the Lumineth has echoes of the old High Elves but isn’t quite the same (much like the Lumineth themselves now I think about it). Even with those models I like I’m still not mad about the colour scheme. I was looking at the Ymetrica variant scheme that Warhammer TV posted a tutorial for on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk1gp0c1SP8&list=PLEaPE4sLDA7tYF5SPPlZPAZ_fi7ezcj0_&index=2) and I do like the look of it, so I’d be tempted to go down that road I think.

      • Kuribo

        I took a look at all of the army schemes that Youtube recommended and I like the one you picked out best too. It matches the regal coloring of the elves well. Blue shading with washes on steel looks great and is easy to pull off too so I definitely think that scheme would be a great one to try out! 🙂

  • backtothehammer

    I’ve been massively into BB since the second edition (actual one 😉). The rule set for this will be the biggest shakeup to the game since they introduced the block dice way back when. It always gives me a bit of trepidation when they ‘improve’ a ruleset that is solid. I have my fingers crossed that it is better. At the very least I’ll be getting it as the miniatures are excellent, though I’m also expecting the box price point to be boosted over the current £70 one.

    • Wudugast

      Yeah, I’m dreading seeing the price of that thing (and the new Warcry set for that matter). Mind you I would very much like to get it so some clever budgeting will probably be called for. Likewise I’m a little worried about them changing the rules of Blood Bowl, not that it’ll really affect me as I haven’t learned to play yet, but everything I’ve heard said has emphasised that Blood Bowl has the most solid ruleset of any GW game and you know what they say about things that ain’t broke…

      • backtothehammer

        I’m hoping that the box will ‘only’ be around the £100/105 price point (so £75 from your FLGS). My worry is it will be closer to the £120 mark or even higher, due to it having 2 big guys, 2 star players and 2 refs on top of the normal team players

      • Wudugast

        Aye, that’s my hope and my fear as well, price wise. The cost of the Warcry box this weekend will be very telling though I reckon.

  • davekay

    I expect I will just get the book for the new Blood Bowl edition. That new slaanesh champion for Underworlds looks great though – very tempting!

    • theimperfectmodeller

      As I gaze into your future all I see are posts containing very well painted BB figures. 🙂

    • Wudugast

      That’s wise. Getting the full BB box will certainly be a bit of a blow to the old wallet, and throw out my efforts to keep on top of the painting pile (especially on top of the new Warcry box). I reckon it’s worth it though, given the quality of the contents – I just hope the price isn’t too massive. I keep oggling the Slaanshi guys as well, that’s the set I’m more on the fence about – I really want those models but will I be able to justify the price? It would certainly be easier if I liked the look of the elves more!

  • Faust

    Yea, the price point on BB has me concerned as well. I doubt I will be able to paint either of the new teams really soon. For the Orcs I would be better off just painting a few extra Black Orcs and Goblins to use on either team. So, 1 team with options to play either. Which means I don’t *need* the minis. The rules and pitch I want.

    I don’t think we got to see the new pitch in the leak. It’s hard to say if the green side is easier to read, but the Astrogranite is super clear. Previous pitches made it really difficult to see the squares you were on. Looks like they are hopefully correcting that.

    I’m looking forward to the new rules. Some of the changes I’m wondering a bit about, but until people really start getting games in, I don’t think we will know how bad/good those changes are. On the plus side, it looks like most all of the rules are in one book this go. The previous rule set had me looking through 2-3 books most of the time, which was a pain.

    Last comment, I liked your conversion on the Humans. Pretty sweet. The first few models from 2016 were not the best, but I think they have gotten better over time. They went overboard with spikes on the Humans and Orcs. Most of the poses were not stellar, and lack of individual positionals made it worse. Better stuff coming though!

    • Wudugast

      I’m working on the assumption that GW will release the teams from the boxset separately sooner or later (in fact I’d pretty much guarantee it). So I guess you could just wait, budget things out and if you decide you fancy getting them then pick them up somewhere down the road. Then maybe look for the book and pitch on ebay? I think I’ll just go for it, even if I have to budget out other hobby stuff carefully to balance the books. I really like the look of both teams, and if I’m going to learn the rules I might as well come in with the new book – it’s hard enough to hammer a set of rules into my skull at the best of times, let alone having to start over a few weeks in. Hopefully because I want pretty much everything in the box it’ll work out as a saving.

      I think you’re spot on re the new rules, we won’t know until people have tried them out and got used to them. I think partly it’s an (understandable) fear of change but partly it’s that old truth – if you take something terrible and change it you probably won’t make it much worse, but if you take something excellent and change it well, that’s a risk isn’t it? Hopefully it’ll be fine, and as I say it doesn’t really affect me because I’m learning from new anyway, not trying to unlearn something that I thought was better before.

      Glad you like the humans, I’m having fun with tweaking them. Haven’t done very much yet but it’s a project I’m looking forward to getting stuck in about properly. A lot of the teams I don’t really think need converting, all the recent ones have been outstanding in my book (in fact I don’t think I’ve seen a duff one since Chaos). In the case of the humans they’re not bad miniatures by any means, they just don’t have that Warhammer touch that grounds them in the universe. As for the orcs they’re great miniatures but I don’t like the fact that they’re all pairs of clones – I will accept no cloning in my collection! 😉 A few tweaks have sorted them out nicely though.

      • Faust

        As long as the boxed set isn’t stupidly expensive, I’ll likely pick it up. I will probably build the Imperials team, but they will likely be low on my list to paint. Whatever I don’t end up using or wanting, I could certainly Ebay.
        For new people, it’s quite awesome and way better than the set we got back in 2016.
        Yea, the minis have been getting better and better. I don’t know that I will paint the new Orcs right away but I am excited about those minis and will be interesting trying out the new team.

  • Alex

    Good stuff mate – totally on board with the new Slaaneshi minis, I hope that range gets expanded! Not so sure about the BB Nobles though… :-/

    • Wudugast

      Aye, it would be good to see more Slaaneshi mortals, it’s a big gap in the range from my point of view. Hopefully they’re cooking up something there, and if not maybe the positive reactions to these (I’ve yet to see anyone expressing anything other than praise) will encourage GW to get off their collective bums and make it happen.

      As for the Imperial Nobles, much as I love them myself, I think they’re one of those kits where your options are going to be limited. They are what they are so clearly and unashamedly that if you don’t like them there’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre. The old human team, for all that they’re kind of boring, makes for a great armature to stick other bits onto. The Chaos team is similar, they’re a bit dull in and of themselves but they make a good frame which you can then personalise. The Nobles have plenty of personality of their own, but if you don’t like it it’s so intrinsic that it probably wouldn’t be worth the effort of trying to shift. Wonder how they’d look converted into Imperial Guardsmen though…

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