GenCon, which likes to remind us all that it is “the biggest four days in gaming” happened this weekend. Despite the fact that some American acquaintances of mine seemed to believe that it is the only four days in gaming it might well have passed those of us who live outside Indianapolis by, were it not for the various companies which attended and used it as a platform to show-off the next big things to be assaulting our wallets.
Games Workshop were there of course, and although they’re far from being the only company who’s miniatures I buy I’ll admit to being enough of a fan that I was watching with keen interest. Plus they announced that they would be previewing forthcoming goodies for Necromunda, Warcry, Blood Bowl and Kill Team – and you know they had me at Necromunda. Now that the dust has settled I’ll take the opportunity to cast my eye back over the announcements and share a few of my thoughts. Needless to say there’s a lot we still don’t know about all this, we really only have Games Workshop’s own promotional bumph to go on and I’m sure much of what I have to say will look laughably out of date in a few months time. Is that going to stop me bumping my gums and rattling my keyboard? Of course not!
Before we got to the good stuff (and I’m sure I’ll be shot at dawn for saying that!) the first thing to be revealed was the forthcoming fifth season of Warhammer Underworlds. As a game Underworlds doesn’t really attract me, the emphasis on collecting cards and competitive gaming is a bit of a turn off I’m afraid. The models however have been generally outstanding, with rarely a duff miniature in the game’s entire stable. Given its popularity a new edition (sorry – “season”) seemed pretty much inevitable and GW had already announced that this was on the way. Now we got to find out a little more about it – this time it’s set underwater – and features a new game mode that other reviewers will undoubtedly be able to share far more educated opinions on than me. I just like looking at the miniatures! And as for those miniatures – well, they’re a little bit of a mixed bag for me I’m afraid. Underworlds warbands tend to attract me either as models to paint for the sheer pleasure of painting them – and again let me emphasise that the vast majority of them have been outstanding – or because I can use them for something else (normally Warcry). This time the set features Kruelboy Orcs fighting it out against Stormcast Eternals which is very much the match-up of the moment in Age of Sigmar as these two posterboys for good and evil slug it out across the Realms.
So far I’ve yet to buy one of the core sets for the game and I’m pretty certain that this latest – Harrowdeep – will go the same way. The models are nice, and I might be tempted by the Kruelboys if they were available separately, but they come packaged – and priced – with a lot of extraneous cardboard that just isn’t for me.
Stormcast Eternals aren’t generally a faction that appeals to me that much and although the latest models added to the range have been amongst the best so far the crew from Harrowdeep fall short of that. Take this guy for instance – it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I don’t like about him but there’s something off there. The boar carved into his armour is pretty cool though – I’m enjoying seeing all the animal motifs popping up on Stormcast armour. We’ve seen hawks, lions, bears and now a boar and (on one of the others in this set) what appears to be an owl. What next I wonder? My money is on a hamster.
Games Workshop have invested a lot of effort and attention in Underworlds and it seems to have paid off, I may not be that excited about it – although as I say I’m very much looking forward to seeing what other new warbands will be arriving this season – but I know I’m in something of a minority there. Kill Team – the skirmish-scale sidekick of Warhammer 40k – on the other hand has suffered from a lack of love, all too often making do with repackaged kits and “trickle down” attention from it’s much more lucrative big brother. With this latest relaunch however GW claim to have finally got the message and have promised us something new for Kill Team ever quarter year for the foreseeable. This is a big improvement, previous editions having barely seemed to stay on GW’s radar for three months before vanishing into the murky depths – outcompeted for their parent company’s limited attention by the plethora of other games the studio produces. Already – mere weeks after the game was launched – the first new expansion has been revealed. First we had Orks fighting the Death Korps of Kreig, now the Sisters of Battle are taking on the Tau in a new box entitled Kill Team: Chalnath.
Now I’ll acknowledge that neither the Sisters nor the Tau particularly interest me – in fact I wouldn’t have realised that the Tau half of the box was made up of models already available, supplemented with a new sprue of upgrades, if I hadn’t been told. Similarly, whilst I’m pleased to see GW investing properly in the Sisters of Battle for the first time in decades and I can barely think of another faction that deserves attention to the same degree (cough-Skaven-cough) they’re still not really my bag. That said these particular Sisters are pretty interesting. Whilst the majority of Sisters of Battle go around in power armour (thus answering the question of what a female space marine would look like and saving anyone the trouble of getting on their high horse…) these ladies are still just initiates and so go into battle defended only a corset, a wimple and what looks like reinforced jodhpurs. Mixing the futuristic with the medieval in true 40k style these girls will be great for Inq28 conversions and even though I probably won’t get a full set myself I’ll have my eye on get some spares to use in converting downhive fanatics and witch hunters for Necromunda. The matriarchal agents of House Ko’iron, with their close ties to both House Cawdor and the Sisters of Battle spring immediately to mind.
Given the quality of these models, and the preceding Death Korps and Ork Kommandos also released for Kill Team I’m feeling genuinely positive about the future of the game and very keen to see what might be coming in the quarter after next. Oh and speaking of the Death Korps and Kommandos these will also be getting separate releases soon, not entirely surprising but nice to have it confirmed – especially given how odd GW’s releases can sometimes be.
For a while there Blood Bowl was riding high with new teams emerging roughly every three months. Things got a little bumpy during the height of the covid epidemic but that was true of everything, and as 2020 drew to a close we even got a new edition of the game. As we stepped bravely in 2021 you could almost hear the baying of the crowd around every corner, see the discarded McMurty’s burger wrappers blowing in the breeze, taste the Bloodweiser and feel the crunch of fragile flesh hitting unyielding astrogranite. Then everything went suddenly and strangely quiet. Yes we got things like new pitches, and dice and so on but we’re fans of miniatures – we want new teams! Some people might argue that we already have 21 teams available to play in the game and I should have used this lull in activity as an opportunity to paint some of the models I already own and learning how to play the game properly but I won’t tolerate nonsense like that!
Anyway, at last our prayers have been answered and a bunch of very angry men have stormed the pitch – and for once it’s not just the fans. Blood Bowl has long had a Chaos Undivided team and a Nurgle Team and now the developers turn their attention to one of the other Chaos Gods; Khorne. If ever there was a Chaos faction likely to be drawn to Blood Bowl it must be the followers of the Blood God (the clue is in the name). Somehow I can’t imagine that these guys will be tactically challenging to play, or rely on a subtle passing game over good old-fashioned brutality.
The team contains three types of players, the Bloodborn Marauder Linemen (above), Bloodseekers and bestial Khorngors. The Bloodborn Marauders and Bloodseekers are roughly analogous to the Bloodreavers and Blood Warriors from the Blades of Khorne faction from Age of Sigmar.
Now before anyone gets too hot under the collar I don’t think this suggests that the Blood Bowl developers are turning to AoS for inspiration, that the Old World of Warhammer has been mined out of ideas (it most certainly has not) or that we’ll be seeing Stormcast Eternals playing Blood Bowl by the end of the week (Satan will be ice-skating to work before that happens). Rather it’s simply the fact that many of the concepts behind the Blades of Khorne were ported over from WHFB to AoS, and have been imported to Blood Bowl in the same straightforward manner. Keep in mind that the warriors of Khorne revealed in recent previews for the computer game Total War: Warhammer III have also looked a lot like their AoS counterparts – that’s just how fantasy Khornate warriors look.
More importantly though via the Blades of Khorne range we have a treasure trove of bits to convert our new Khornate Blood Bowl players – and equally we can always take some bits from Blood Bowl and sneak them into AoS armies. I salute the first person who unleashes a Khornate horde in AoS with a ball carrying Marauder Lineman leading the charge of the Bloodreavers.
Now some of you are probably thinking “This is all very nice but how about seeing some Space Marines, there’s an underrepresented faction if ever I heard of one”, in which case fear not – the boys in power armour were covered too. If you feel that the honour of the Emperor has been intolerably besmirched, that the unclean are being allowed to live and witches are going around without anyone to suitably abhor them then good news – the Black Templars are coming to sort things out.
Every 40k fan, even the staunchest heretic, has a favourite Space Marine chapter and for me the Black Templars are probably it (the Blood Angels give them a good run for their money though – berserk space vampires are hard to beat). The Templars however bring sheer, uncompromising attitude that I find irresistible, they’re ruthless fanatics and stubborn to the point of self-destruction if they choose to be. These are the guys who chain their weapons to themselves because they’re always ready to purge someone, and whilst the Blood Angels find the time to make beautiful art and think about their feelings these mad bastards have been permanently on crusade for 10,000 years.
They also have more gothic flourishes than you can shake a dead heretic at, which means they look like they’d be a real joy to paint, and to top it off they have arguably the coolest colour-scheme of any Space Marine chapter ever.
If all this sounds a bit fan-boyish then it probably is, but if we’re not allowed to enthuse about things we like then what are we allowed to enthuse about? The Templars will be released later this year, starting with a limited edition “launch box” which will sell out in about 12 seconds. I won’t be trying to snag a copy but I will be keeping an eye out for when the kits get a normal release, and waiting with great anticipation to see what other models are added to the range.
The boxset also contains the codex supplement for the faction, with a limited edition cover, and I must admit I let out a very unmanly squeak when I saw it. This was the piece of artwork that, back when I was a lad, transformed me in an instant from thinking “Space Marines – meh, they’re a bit rubbish” to thinking “Space Marines are fucking awesome!!”
Even now it’s a dangerous thing, I can’t allow myself to look at it for too long because every time I do I find myself planning out the Black Templars army of my dreams and really I ought to be concentrating on all my other projects, especially all those lovely new Orks. Dammit, I want to start a Black Templar army now though…
Anyway, moving swiftly on, and finally we got to the part I was waiting for. Games Workshop really saved the best for last here (or almost last anyway – more on that below). Regular readers will know that Necromunda is where my heart lies these days and so of course I was agog to find out what will be coming next to the dirty streets of the underhive. The last two years have been given over to building up the forces of the “big six” houses, bringing new models and expansions to flesh out the gangs of Goliaths, Eschers, Orlocks, Cawdor, Van Saar and Delaque. The last time an entirely new faction appeared it was the Slave Ogryns back in early 2020 but GW had announced that another new gang would be hitting the streets before the end of the year. There were various things that I was hoping we might see – pit slaves, ash waste nomads and muties being particularly interesting. Instead we got something which on the one hand is quite unexpected, and on the other is exactly what I’ve been hoping to see for the last decade or so.
The majority of people on Necromunda belong to one of the great houses in only the loosest sense – that is to say they belong to them as property, not as citizens. Whilst an Escher ganger is fully immersed in Escher culture, the majority of the people working for the house do so only because they are indentured to a factory that the Eschers happen to control. For these ordinary people life is unbelievably harsh and whilst most endure brief lives of cruel drudgery before being worked to death some get out, by accident or design, and find themselves forced to survive on the mean streets without the dubious protection of the Houses. These Outcasts and Hive Scum are what we’re looking at now, down-and-out desperadoes banding together for survival.
Now I’ll start by saying that I’ve been thinking of starting a gang of underhive criminals and outcasts for a while now but couldn’t quite decide where to start so I’m over the moon about these. However let’s think a little broader and look for a moment beyond the walls of Necromunda itself, because these guys are a convertor’s gold mine! Do you want Chaos Cultists? Just add a few spikes and mutations! Thinking of starting a penal legion, or other disreputable Imperial Guard army? These are your guys! Want some frateris militia to march alongside your Sisters of Battle? Just add Cawdor and Redemptionist parts and you’re good to go! What about Imperial civilians, Space Marine chapter thralls, Genestealer Cultists, space pirates, Inquisitorial agents, even inhabitants of the more industrial and shabby Cities of Sigmar? The possibilities from a bunch of generic humans are vast and extremely exciting.
Alongside these we’ll also be seeing an Underhive Market as a set of terrain. Again this is something I’ve dreamed of having for years and when I finally get around to building a little corner of the hive of my very own this will definitely be included – where else can my gangers go to buy extra guns, a few bottles of Second Best and a rat on a stick?
Finally, the very last preview came in the form of a little hint at the future of Warcry. Now whilst Necromunda is the setting I’m most excited about Warcry is the game I’m most likely to play – I’ve been enjoying slugging it out against gangs of thugs across the Chaos wastes of the Eightpoints and beyond since the game first appeared back in August of 2019. However despite an initial flurry of attention the game hasn’t had a lot of official support since then, there have been a few rule books, three monsters and various rules to bring factions from Age of Sigmar into Warcry – all of which is great – but we’ve only seen two new warbands made specifically for the game since it launched and it’s been easy to imagine that Games Workshop planned to let it pass into history, as they’ve done with so many other games in the past. I suppose that wouldn’t be the end of the world, we do have a lot of cool models and content for it already, but I’d love to see it given more long term support. The setting is very intriguing, the models have been outstanding and the game is a lot of fun to play; all good reasons to keep it alive and kicking. Now at last we’ve had a definitive answer to whether or not they have more releases up their sleeves; Warcry – Red Harvest is on its way.
…And that’s all we know. Well that and a lot of hints about spiders being involved somehow. I’d have loved to see a new warband previewed, in fact I’d love to see them give Warcry quarterly updates with four new warbands per year (and the same for Blood Bowl and Necromunda whilst they’re about it!) but I’ll settle for knowing that the game isn’t entirely dead and gone.
Anyway, that’s more than enough enthusiastic wittering from me! What about you – did you enjoy these previews, do you have a particular favourite or would you have preferred something else? As ever the comment’s box is waiting for you to share your thoughts with the world!