Category Archives: Editorial

Indomitus

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since we saw the launch of Dark Imperium, the rebirth of a loyalist Primarch and the arrival of a whole new kind of space marine. The adorable little space marines of yore with their squashed torsos and undersized power armour were swept aside by newcomers which actually looked the way GW has been claiming they looked for decades, whilst Abaddon reached out his claw, tore the belly of the galaxy open and let the armies of Nurgle spill into real-space. Now the passage of the years brings us the inevitable arrival of another new edition of 40k (the 9th for those keeping score) and with it a launch box packed to the gunnels with power armour and living metal. The Necrons are on the march and in response the Emperor’s Finest have been thoroughly reinforced.

It goes without saying that the wise and the foolish alike have been bumping their collective gums about this for weeks now, so do we really need another rambling appraisal of the Indomitus launch box written by someone who hasn’t even seen the damn thing in the flesh yet? Of course you do – this one is written by me!

As usual with these things it’s a box of two halves, one half – as expected – the power-armoured majesty of the Space Marines, the other half the implacable alien legions of the Necrons. A new edition of 40k may have the rules fans in a lather but for me this is where the interest lies, the new miniatures. Let’s start by taking a look at the space marines.

Space Marine

When the Primaris range first arrived I was fulsome in my praise. Despite the odd minor flaw and some new background fiction that still hasn’t quite bedded in, the Primaris marines were for me, and a great number of others, an unparalleled success. It took me a while to realise therefore that I really wasn’t actually in love with Primaris marines, only with Intercessors, their cousins the Hellblasters and one or two others. Beyond that the range has struggled to make much of an impression on me. The slimmed down Phobos armour pattern does nothing for me, nor am I in any way keen on the “not terminators” in their odd looking Gravis armour. Oh and the less said about the Suppressors the better!

Should have been supressed

A concept which surely should have been suppressed.

Likewise I’ve not been particularly blown away by the various vehicles, the flying tanks (why?) and the oddly leggy dreadnaughts. The only one that has somewhat interested me has been the Invictor Tactical Warsuit, although even then the concept doesn’t really fit in with my mental image of the space marines. I think I would have liked it better had it been modified into some kind of “super-sentinel” for the Imperial Guard. Someday, if I’m feeling flush, I may get one and kitbash it into some kind of industrial rig for Necromunda (think the powered loader that Ripley makes use of in the film Aliens – only much bigger.

Invictor Tactical Warsuit

These latest space marines however are a lot more like it. Ultimately space marines, as befits their enormous popularity, mean different things to different people. Some enjoy the sleek, high-tech look of the Phobos crowd, but personally I’ve always found it too reminiscent of a better future than 40k represents. I prefer the gothic knights and warrior monks that tap deeply into the neo-medieval aesthetic of the setting – and the ones in Indomitus have that in spades.

Take the captain who heads up the space marine forces in the box for instance. I’ve been imagining space marines that look like this for years and at last here one is. It’s unfortunate, of course, that he has to turn his entire shield upside down every time he wants to time an egg but apart from that he’s pretty awesome.

Captain

Likewise the Bladeguard Veterans. The enormous holsters make them a little busy but that’s a small thing (unlike the holsters themselves!) – overall these may be amongst my all time favourite space marines, at least amongst the ranks of the loyalist scum.

Bladeguard

Whilst some of the marines in the set capture this gothic knightly aesthetic others are rather more straightforward and austere. Generally these are models which will be familiar from years past, recreated in the larger and more imposing style of the Primaris range from the tiny and faintly adorable look of yore. Space marine bikers example have grown from these squashed proportions…

SM Old Bike

… into these brutish outriders. Personally I struggled to like the space marine bikers of yore but these I could get excited about painting!

Bikers

Similarly we have the new assault marines (or Assault Intercessors as they are called in their Primaris incarnation). A quick look at some of my favourite Games Workshop ranges (Khorne, Orks, Goliaths…) should be enough to tell you that charging headlong into close combat is very much the kind of thing I approve of (or as Khârn the Betrayer so wisely said “attack is the only order worth remembering”).

PAM

Back when the primaris were first released I tried my hand at making primaris assault marines of my own, and although I remain happy enough with the results the project never really got off the ground. Still, now might be a good time to resurrect them. As far as I’m aware the rules still don’t allow primaris assault marines with jump packs (although I’m sure that’ll change sooner or later) but rules are for wimps anyway!

Whilst we’re talking about the “primarisising” of the old space marine range it’s worth noting that this makes some people online very angry indeed. That said pretty much anything, no matter how innocuous, is liable to get someone on the internet frothing with rage. Next someone will say that women are people too and the internet really will be “triggered”. Quite why they get so cross is hard to explain, at least in part because they become so incensed that they struggle to articulate the issue themselves. If you happen to have a strong opinion on this matter you’re welcome to share it via the comments box below, even if all you can manage is to bellow with rage and headbutt the keyboard you’ll still make more sense than a lot of the online angry brigade. Plus, as a servant of Khorne myself, I can reassure you that your blood too is welcome.

My own attempts to understand where they’re coming from have been hampered, partly by the anger they’ve been known to direct at me personally (apparently doing what I want with the miniatures I bought with my money is somehow doing the hobby wrong) and partly because I just don’t give a shit. I really would like to address this issue without being catty or making straw men of the pro-short marine crew but despite rolling up my sleeves and daring the dangerous straits of social media to investigate, I’m not really any clearer. Is it just the ropey background when they were first introduced? Do the new primaris somehow invalidate the old marines (surely an issue when any model is replaced – my metal Jain Zar doesn’t really match up to her athletic plastic replacement for example, and I know that’s held me back on painting her)? Is it something obscure to do with the rules (are they broken, overpowered, underpowered, too good on the tournament circuit?)? Frankly I’m buggered if I know – all I can say is that some people get very upset about it. I like them though (the big marines, not people – those I can take or leave). If you can explain to me in simple terms why this makes me a horrible human being then please do, I really would like to understand.

I’m increasingly tempted to make my own space marine chapter into Blood Angel successors, amongst whom lots of assault marines are a natural fit. This got me thinking that, with more and more of the old space marine range converted into primaris variants (and let’s be honest, the days of the little marines are numbered now), there’s a good chance that this edition will see the specialist units of the major chapters also being upgraded. The Psychic Awakening already brought us primaris death company, although an expansion on that – with some cool new miniatures – would be very welcome. In the meantime these would be an excellent base from which to convert one’s own. Primaris sanguinary guard would be equally awesome.

Returning to the contents of the box, the chaplain is an interesting addition to the roster. We already have one Primaris chaplain and so I’d not entirely expected another so soon – although to be fair Games Workshop don’t normally let that kind of thing inhibit them, just look at the number of Primaris Lieutenants that are kicking around these days.

Chaplain

Sure enough another chaplain has come roaring in to join the ranks, looking unbelievably stylish on his motorbike and ready and able to smite heretics and/or promote reading anywhere on the battlefield at a moment’s notice.

Chaplain Biker

Just a man coming back from the shops with his overpriced limited-edition Black Library novel… Not in the Indomitus box by the way.

The old chaplain is, for my money, one of the best models in the primaris range, and stands tall in my mental road map of things I intend to paint. Admittedly he is a little odd in comparison to the wider space marine range, but that only serves to emphasise his otherness as an outsider amongst the ranks, feared – in as much as a space marine can fear – by his battle brothers as a walking icon of their fury. The new one is more traditional, both as a marine and as a chaplain, and whilst being an excellent model in its own right doesn’t quite match the sheer original brilliance of the first one. His partly mechanical face is brilliant, although I might be inclined to use it on a different model and give him a traditional chaplain’s skull helm instead.

Alongside the chaplain we have the Judiciar, which seems to be a new rank amongst the space marines. I must admit I’m still very much on the fence about this guy. Part of me really likes him, there’s no denying he’s a stylish and technically well executed model, but on the other hand there’s something just a bit weird about him. The skull helm combined with the mask looks a bit odd to my eye (although it’s nice to see at least one of these space marines is taking Covid-19 seriously). As a visual it’s a little bit too close to the genestealer cultists, whilst his curved, stylised armour is closer to that worn by the stormcast eternals than to that of his battle brothers. Like his captain he too is enthusiastic about egg-timers – the one he carries being known as the tempormortis – and apparently representing a new item of wargear that can influence time itself (handy for getting those eggs just right).

Judicar

Cool though he is he’s an odd fit amongst the other marines, and based on what I’ve seen of him would have worked better had the design been tweaked a little to turn him into an inquisitor instead, which would have fitted both his unusual armour and fancy archeotech weaponry. Whilst we’re on the subject of marines that just don’t quite look right the Eradicators are the only unit on this side of the box which just don’t appeal to me at all, looking oddly hunched in their gravis armour and appearing to have the squashed down torsos that the old range of space marines were so often criticised for.

Erradicators

There was a time there when it really started to feel as though the space marine range had run out of road in which to manoeuvre. The range was pretty much complete, with plastic kits available for almost every conceivable unit. The Imperium being infamously stagnant and distrustful of new ideas was hardly going to invent new types of space marine – especially when only the Emperor Himself possessed the power, insight and authority to do that and He was stuck on the Golden Throne. On the other hand Games Workshop had no wish to slaughter the goose that laid the golden eggs and so they found themselves between a rock and a hard place – public demand for new space marines was as high as ever (and those shareholders wanted the sales to keep rolling in) but to the fans the background has always been sacrosanct – and that background left them with no room in which to cook up any new marines. Clearly something had to be done – and it was this I’m certain that drove the return of Roboute Guilliman and saw the rebirth of the space marine range more than any other factor. Now they can sell us space marines all over again, and what’s more they have the room to invent new kinds of marine to their hearts’ content.

Now I’ll hold up my hand and admit that so far I’ve not always been terribly keen on the new varieties of marine, as I’ve already discussed above I’ve got little love for Phobos or Gravis armour and flying tanks do nothing for me at all. However the potential is still rather exciting – and makes me wonder what they might decide to do with the space marine concept in years to come. After all if there’s one thing we can be absolutely certain of it’s that space marines aren’t going anywhere (although the short ones probably are).

There’s an argument to be made that the sneaky, lightly armoured scouts of yore have been expanded into the likewise sneaky and lightly armoured Vanguard space marines – the Incursors, Infiltrators, Reivers and Eliminators. Meanwhile the old Tactical Squad has an analogue in the new Intercessors, and the heavy-weapon wielding Devastators have begun to be expanded into the Hellblasters and their new colleagues the Eradicators. Throw the forthcoming Primaris Techmarine into the mix (and as you can probably guess that made my day and no mistake!) and more and more of the old range has found its new niche.  Of course with Guilliman and Cawl at the helm the range is no longer painted into a corner so that, when all the old models do have a new analogue there will still be almost infinite possibilities left for the designers to explore. In this regard the design team has been sensible in introducing really unusual designs like the Inceptors right from the start – and I say that as someone who doesn’t like the look of the Inceptors at all. Last time the Space Marine range started to look “complete” they rustled up the Centurions and the fanbase reacted in horror at the way in which new designs had been introduced (clearly violating the lore and causing the sky to fall on our collective heads). Had the Primaris range simply been an upscaling of the old marines there would inevitably have come a time when the exact same problem would have occurred. The limits of the existing concepts would have been reached, new ideas would be required and we would be back to having either no new space marine models (cue wailing and gnashing of teeth) or – equally bad – models for new kinds of space marines (cue equal levels of wailing and, for that matter, gnashing of teeth). In the meantime the release of the Primaris range would have risked feeling rather formulaic, as each new wave sought only to tick boxes and fill gaps.

Not a Terminator

An Aggressor – pictured busy wishing he was cool enough to be a Terminator…

As it stands the biggest thing missing in the Primaris range today is a lack of new Terminators. I wonder how much Terminators mean to new players who’ve only begun to delve into the 41st Millennium since the release of 8th Edition and the Dark Imperium. Do they carry the emotional weight which they do for us older hands? I doubt it – and why would they? So far the roll of “heavily armoured marines” has been given to the Aggressors, and if I’m honest there’s nothing wrong with them at all. It’s taken me a good chunk of the last three years but I’m slowly growing to like and appreciate them for what they are, rather than just cast vitriol upon them for failing to be Terminators. It’s unfair on them, and it’s unfair on me – especially as these are the kind of models I would have loved if it wasn’t for the fact that I hated them for not being something they aren’t.

Terminator

A Terminator… looking old, bless him.

Still Terminators have a special place in the childhoods of many of us, the ultimate space marines, stamping through the dark depths of a space hulk in search of lurking xenos horrors. Indeed it’s past time for Games Workshop to stop being stubborn and bring back the Space Hulk game – alongside new, bigger and better Terminators (not Aggressors!) and some revamped Genestealers to boot. Come of GW, you know as well as I do that it would be a hit – what’s stopping you?

Space Hulk

Anyway, speaking of the foul xenos it’s time to turn our collective attention away from the Space Marines and take a look at the Necrons half of the box instead. I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for the Necrons for a long time now, roughly as long as I’ve been a hobbyist in fact. Indeed my first proper encounter with 40k came when a friend of mine tried, unsuccessfully, to sell me his Necron army. Despite not breaking out the cash in the end I’ve had one eye on the mechanical xenos ever since, although until now I’ve only ever painted one. Shall we take another look at him? Of course we shall!

Nice for a little nostalgia hit though he is, the new range is an order of magnitude better in pretty much every way. What’s more it’s fast becoming apparent that the Necrons in this box represent the speartip of a wave of new models for the army, something they wholly deserve.

Necron Warriors

For starters the box contains plenty of necron warriors, the shambling mechanical skeletons which make up the majority of the race. These outshine their processors which looked every one of the several million years they’d supposedly spent hibernating. These are much more like it, diverse and packed with personality whilst still looking like very much the overwhelming horde.

Necron Warriors 3

Just as the Eldar are Space Elves and the Orks are… well, Space Orcs (remember when that was what they were called?), so the Necrons have always been essentially Space Undead. Ranks of Space Skeletons march beneath the steely gaze of Space-Lichs and the influence of the Tomb Kings has always been strong. Some readers will know I’m a big fan of the undead so this is by no means a criticism, indeed my favourite piece of art showing this Necrons has been this one which really emphasises them as shambling, corpse-like creatures rather than sleek sci-fi machines. For a long time I dreamed of Necron Warriors which captured this ghastly, cadaverous aesthetic and at last here we have them.

Necron Warrior

Often however this has come at the expense of them seeming particularly alien. They may have evolved millions of years ago on a planet far from – and ecologically different too – Earth but they still like to hang out in pyramids and chose humanoid skeletons as the wardrobe in which to spend eternity. Now although I enjoy sci-fi in which the aliens are realistically alien, I also very much enjoy the Star Trek style universes where all the aliens are just humans with lumpy faces (I’ve been discovering Next Generation during lockdown – and very glad I am that I have too!). Nonetheless it’s hard to see the Necrons as supremely and utterly alien when they go around looking exactly like you or me if we forgot to put on our meat and skin before we left the house in the morning. Surely having transcended one’s biological limitations and achieved immortality and god-like technological prowess one would choose to become something a bit more imposing than an articulated skeleton? That’s fine for your ranks of slaves but for the masters of the empire let’s think big here!

With this release we see the more alien elements that have been entering the Necron range in recent times taken up a further notch. Whilst characters like the Overlord and Royal Warden are still very much humanoid…

Royal Warden

… the wizardly Plasmancer takes off in a new direction, with a model that recalls both the ghostly side of the undead – taking many cues from the Nighthaunt – and the spidery, insectile side of the Necrons that has previously been seen more in their technology – for example the Canoptek Wraiths and Spiders. He also has the finest metal beard since the Kharadron Overlords.

Plasmancer

His bodyguards, the Cryptothralls, are similarly unlike anything we’ve seen from the range previously, and oddly adorable to boot.

Cryptothralls

The strangeness doesn’t stop there either. The Necrons are the ultimate high-tech race of the 41st Millennium – the Adeptus Mechanicus, humanity’s finest minds on this front, would gladly turn their granny into a servitor for a fraction of the knowledge they hold (if they hadn’t already that is – and what finer way for the old girl to continue to serve the will of the Omnissiah). It’s only fitting then that we see some of their machines as well, the diminutive plasmacyte (with his even smaller scarab pal)…

Plasma Guy

… and the mighty Canoptek Reanimator.

Canoptek Reanimator

Again these push into territory quite unlike anything we’ve seen in the 41st Millennium previous, yet the results play on elements that are already familiar from the Necron range (the bladed limbs, the back carapace reminiscent of the destroyers, the flat faces with large lamp “eyes” and other insectile facets).

Taken together these expand the Necrons into something which feels really unique, pushing them out of the tech-undead niche in which they’d sat previously. On the other hand this isn’t a reboot or a re-invention, the mechanical baby hasn’t been thrown out with the million-year-old bathwater. These, and the other new Necron models that are soon to be released, sit very comfortably alongside the existing range and I’d imagine Necron fans are feeling very happy about things indeed.

The one thing I don’t particularly like on this side of the box is the Skorpekh Lord. He’s rather busy, with all the various weapons he’s waving around, and as a result the model seems unfocussed and cluttered, whilst his pose isn’t particularly threatening. Both his gun (an enmitic annihilator for those who like unpronounceable names) and his blade (a hyperphase harvester) are held up to the side rather than ready to attack, whilst the talon is held out – presumably to threaten his adversaries and not simply to pat a large invisible dog. He reminds me somewhat of the early conversions people create (I know I was guilty of this when I started out) that awkwardly clutch every possible piece of wargear on their profile and end up looking less like they’re heading into battle and more like they’ve gone to the gun supermarket, and are regretting not taking a trolly.

There are good things about the model mind you – not least of which is the sense of weight it’s been given as its claws sink into the ground, and even straight through a slab of rockcrete. Hope it manages to pull that claw back out and doesn’t end up clumping around with it stuck to its foot for the rest of the day…

Skorpekh Lord

As previously mentioned this isn’t everything that’s coming for the Necrons, not by a long way. All kinds of weird and wonderful things have been announced by Games Workshop, including mighty new warmachines, he truly outstanding Shard of the Void Dragon, and the Silent King of the Necron empire himself. As a precursor to this release we saw the arrival a few weeks ago of Illuminor Szeras, the megalomaniacal genius who oversaw the process by which the ancient race of the Necrontyr became the mechanical Necrons we know today. In many ways this model represents a very clever coded meta-narrative in which the large figure of Szeras represents Games Workshop, the broken man frantically crawling away is me trying desperately to resist starting a Necron army, the tiny scarab is the part of me that remembers how many other half-finished projects are already waiting for my attention and the stream of blood is the money being skilfully extracted from my wallet.

Illuminor Szeras

So, will I be buying a copy of the Indomitus box? Well, by the time you read this I guess I’ll know. Unlike previous editions of 40k, WHFB and AoS (and indeed the “specialist games” like Necromunda and Blood Bowl) this isn’t a starter set per se, which will remain in circulation throughout the lifespan of the edition thus giving people plenty of time to decide whether or not they want to buy a copy. Instead this is a limited run “launch set” which means it’s very likely to sell out within hours, perhaps even minutes, of being released. Quite how many of these miniatures will become available again is something Games Workshop is keeping very close to its chest. Likewise the price remains (at the time of writing – less than a week before launch) a closely guarded secret, making it hard for people to budget accordingly. Will I still be willing to pay the price when I know what it is? I’m going to have to make my mind up pretty quickly!

Games Workshop have been keen to assure everyone that they’ve made plenty of boxes, whilst at the same time urging us to mark our calendars so that we’re standing ready to hit “buy” the moment it goes on sale. They’ve also limited the number of copies available in any individual sale to 3, which is a good move when it comes to battling the scalpers, whilst still allowing those who wish to grab themselves a bigger army at a bargain price. Originally they planned to limited sales to 6 copies, which didn’t go nearly far enough I felt – and clearly GW felt likewise. Who the hell needs 6 copies, especially when they’re probably going to end up squirrelled away under the bed anyway... I do understand that some people buy multiple copies of these thing and, if you can afford the initial outlay, it can be a good way to save some cash in the long term by getting all the models at a knock-down price. Six copies though – surely that’s just greed, especially when it’s widely believed (and seems highly likely) that if you’re not quick off the mark then you’re going to miss out? Of course now a number of hobbyists that I respect will pop up in the comments section to say “I’ve bought myself 10!” and I’ll have to eat some humble pie…

I tend to write these posts over a number of days in the run-up to a release so although by the time you read this I will, or won’t, have bought my copy (sitting card in hand as the clock ticks down to 10am UK time and thinking how handy it would be to have a tempormortis to hand when the inevitable rush to buy-buy-buy begins…) at the moment I remain undecided. Certainly the set looks good, and – assuming the price is as its likely to be – a bargain for the models it contains. I’ve been feeling the temptation to get back to my space marines lately and if I was to dip a toe into the world of the Necrons – something I’ve been thinking about for at least fifteen years – then what better way to do it.

(Edit: it probably goes without saying given how fast it sold out but I didn’t manage to nab one. I’ll leave discussion of how badly GW seems to have screwed this up for another time, or at least until the outrage currently running through the sense has settled down a little and we find out what, if anything, GW might decided to do about what currently looks like something of a public relations own-goal. For myself I was pissed off for about ten minutes and then I remembered all the other things I could be painting and got over it).

Of course I still have that pile of unfinished projects lurking on, under and around the painting desk waiting for attention, and then there’s this snippet from the new rulebook which has been doing the rounds online and getting Chaos fans very excited indeed…

Red Angel

Say it with me slaughterbrothers! The Red Angel comes! Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn!


A Right Pile Of Potential

Earlier today I was looking through some of the blogs that I follow, sipping at my coffee and looking blearily out at the world around me much in the manner of a hibernating mammal forced out of its den. Some people start the day with the news but I like to have at least a pint of the black stuff (coffee for those times when Guinness isn’t socially appropriate) before I dare to expose myself to that much rage and misery, so I turn my attention instead to what, if anything, my fellow hobbyists have managed to produce overnight. In this case it was this post from Scent of a Gamer which caught my attention and got me thinking about something which I’ve considered writing about for some time – “The Pile of Shame vs the Pile of Potential”. I started to write a comment in reply and it grew and grew into something so sprawling and lengthy that I decided to post it here instead.

Firstly allow me to recommend, if you haven’t already, that you take a look at that post on Scent of a Gamer and indeed the blog in general – it’s well worth reading at the best of times and this post is very much a reply to it. We’re talking, to quote davekay himself, about “something every wargamer has: the pile of shame. Those unpainted miniatures bought on impulse or with intent years ago, but never touched”.

Unpainted Miniatures

He also links to a video by Goobertown hobbies which isn’t a channel I’ve watched before, in which the presenter digs through a (vast) collection of unpainted miniatures looking for something which takes his fancy to paint – a process which I’m sure will be familiar to many of us. I’ll confess that I didn’t watch all of the video, there’s only so long you can look at a man showing off how many miniatures he’s bought over the years whilst listening to elevator muzak, but I enjoyed what I saw and I’ll take a nose at the rest of his channel when time allows.

I’ll admit too that I had a moment of being “triggered” (as da yoof would have it) into a brief rage when he produced a copy of the Looncurse box out of his stash – a box I myself craved as the start of my long-planned Sylvaneth army, with a whole heap of lovely Night Goblins thrown in for good measure. Looncurse famously sold out in next to no time and I missed out, so it was damn annoying to see someone else proudly admitting to having snagged a copy and not even touched it. On the other hand, I realised with a growing sense of discomfort, I picked up various other kits at around the same time which I’ve yet to do anything with so could I honestly say I wouldn’t have neglected my own copy in just the same way?

Looncurse

This isn’t the first time I’ve had the pile of shame on my mind lately. In fact, a recent inventory of my unpainted collecting revealed a worrying fact – there’s a hell of a lot of it. Years of bargain hunting and snapping up good deals have taken their toll and the “to paint” pile has grown into a mountain large enough to influence the local climate. By my rough count, assuming that I keep painting at my current rate (something I wouldn’t bet on by any means) it’d still take me several years to clear the backlog. Add to that the forthcoming releases for Necromunda and Warcry, the new Space Marines (which would go very nicely with my existing collection), the new Necrons (and you know I’ve always thought a Necron army would be cool…), the mate who’s slowly but surely convincing me to try out Bolt Action, and whatever else emerges over the coming months and years and it starts to feel as though the lead mountain and the grey tide are very much here to stay.

Necron

Resistance is futile!

I don’t like the term “pile of shame” very much. Shame is a terrible emotion, and rarely one that inspires us to action. Excitement and enthusiasm is what gets us to pick up the brushes, whilst shame and embarrassment put us off, killing the joy that our hobbies are intended to engender and starving us off the passion that would otherwise help to overcome the unpainted masses.

At the end of the day miniatures are there to be enjoyed. A particularly good game can stay in the memory for years, even decades. There are plenty of ways of making that happen of course, and for me some of the most memorable contained no painted miniatures at all (indeed in a few cases no models were involved, just blank bases with post-it note labels to tell us what was what and a whole load of imagination). However it’s a fairly safe generalisation to make that well painted miniatures on thematic terrain will stick with us longer than unpainted models on a bare kitchen table. Add to that the fact that “check out this model I painted” is a far more engaging conversation starter than “check out this stuff I just bought and will now shove under the bed and never touch or look at again for as long as I live” and we find ourselves drawn to an inevitable conclusion; our hobby ought to have as its crux the collecting and painting of miniatures. A large number of us however would be hard-pressed to deny that our hobby is collecting unpainted models, with assembling, painting and gaming a sideline at best.

Ogre

Why won’t you paint me? I’m so beautiful…

On the other hand I really don’t like the term “pile of potential” either. The implication is very much that ending up with lots and lots of unpainted models is something to be celebrated, that buying things and then never painting them is inherently a good thing to do. This is quite a comforting idea, after all I have lots of unpainted models already, and there are new things that I’d like to own, and I’d far rather be telling myself that adding to this great mountain of plastic and lead and sitting on it like Smaug is something to be proud of. However I can’t shake the feeling that actually it’s just profligate, that all I’m doing is showing off how much money I would have had in the bank if I hadn’t squandered it instead on miniatures that I’m not painting.

I know that I’m not just speaking for myself here, I’m also undoubtedly addressing something that a lot of my readers will be very familiar with from their own collections, and I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad. After all we’re not really doing much harm, we’re not selling drugs, stabbing grannies or mismanaging the national response to a pandemic, we’re just hoarding bits of plastic. On the other hand I’ve never looked at a miniature and thought “I’d love to store that somewhere and be vaguely embarrassed that it’s cluttering up my house”. Quite the opposite in fact, I want to paint them, perhaps even play with them.

So how to go about it? Well there are a few tricks that have helped me over the years. Firstly, although I’m an occasional gamer at best, planning a game in advance is a great motivator to get something finished. I’ve boosted Necromunda gangs, Warcry warbands and the contents of Blackstone Fortress over the finish line using exactly this method.

Then there’s the old “model a month” trick. Some readers will already be familiar with this, as I’ve described it often enough in the past, but for anyone who’s not encountered it the premise is simple; paint at least one miniature for a project every month (for a year, or until it’s done – it’s up to you really). Now one model isn’t very much, especially when you’re dealing with a horde army like the Skaven (as I was). However Newton’s First Law of Motion can be applied here; Objects in motion tend to remain in motion, objects at rest remain at rest. If you’re painting one clanrat it’s easy enough to paint a second or perhaps even a third, and then your enthusiasm for Skaven is rekindled, you remember what it was about the project that made you want to paint hundreds of the little bastards in the first place, you get some more work done on the warp-lightning cannon whilst you’re waiting for the shade to dry and the whole project keeps shambling forward. Leave them sitting, allow them to gather dust, push them to the side of the desk and finally pack them away and months, then years will go past without so much as a kiss of a brush upon a ratty whisker. By applying this method I went from this (at the beginning of January 2017)…

… to this (at the end of December 2019).

Another trick I’ve been applying recently is simply to keep track of exactly what I’ve added to the collection. I keep a note of what I’ve bought each month and I check it before I buy anything else. For one thing this is just sensible fiscal prudence, but more than that it helps to remind me of all the things I was really excited about before I saw the thing I’m currently really excited about. More than that I also keep a note of all the models I’ve painted this month as well, and I aim (although of course I don’t always succeed) to make the latter number bigger than the former. It’s early days yet, I’ve only been doing this for a few months, but so far it’s helped me a great deal in keeping on top of the “pile of unrealised projects” and even helped me chip away at it a little, so I may come back to it and talk about it more in the future if it proves to be useful in the long term.

Finally, the most valuable tip I ever received was “paint what you’re passionate about”. If you’re excited about painting something then get on and paint it. If you want to paint something you’ll find the time to paint it, and if you don’t want to paint it you’ll find an excuse. Enthusiasm for a project will do far more to get you painting than all the tips, tricks and tutorials in the world and when that enthusiasm inevitably drains away to be replaced by something else you’ll have done a lot more than if you didn’t act on it.

Do you have a pile of shameful potential, and if so how do you tackle it? As usual if you have words of wisdom to share I want to hear all about them and the comments box is open to all comers.


28-Mag; Telling War Stories

The second issue of 28-magazine is here! It’s been a while in the making but it’s been released at last and those of us who’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms at the ongoing lack of the Blanchitsu article in White Dwarf can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Just like the first issue it’s packed to the gunnels with all kinds of dark, strange and wonderful miniatures, some very insightful interviews, beautiful artwork and excellent tutorials. Needless to say I highly recommend it giving it a look whatever your taste in miniatures is (it’s free after all!) but particularly if you’re a fan of Inq28, AoS28 or any of the hobby’s darker and weirder corners.

28 Mag Cover

The editorial team have worked incredibly hard to put this issue together and deserve all the credit and praise that’s been sent their way – it really is a very stylish and professional-looking production. Possibly driven into some kind of exhausted delirium by their efforts they even invited me to contribute an article, which you can find on page 74, published under my real name Paul Stagg (because it doesn’t say Wudugast on my birth certificate, even though my passport photo is a picture of a bionic skull). The article focuses on adding a background narrative to your hobby – be that painting, converting, playing games or a combination of all three. It’s a subject close to my heart and one that I may well revisit here in the future, especially as I had quite a lot of ideas that I simply ran out of space to cover. I did at least manage to wax philosophical about goliath gangers, tech-peasants and Khornate philosophers, all of which I intend to return my attention to in the coming months.

For now though all that’s left is for me to offer a big thank you to the team for putting together another great issue and to recommend that you go and check the magazine out and show them some support. I’ve also been asked to deny once and for all the rumours that I modelled for the front cover, instead you can find my portrait in its proper place – on page 3…


Fembruary 2020

Time continues to speed by with its usual unseemly haste and, even though I’m pretty sure Christmas was just last week, we’re striding into February already, which means it’s also time for Fembruary. By now the annual Fembruary challenge will be well established in a lot of hobbyists calendars but that’s no reason not to give it another mention, to remind anyone who might have been planning to take part and to alert anyone who’s not come across it in previous years.

To quote the man behind the challenge, Alex of Leadballoony, Fembruary works like this;

“…the deal is ‘Paint at least one Female miniature’ – it’s that simple! I’m not bothered what genre, game, manufacturer, painting style or material you go with. It can be a squad, a single mini, a diorama, or whatever takes your fancy… I’m just looking for awesome portrayals of the feminine in miniature form, as part of an ongoing conversation about how women are presented within our hobby.”

Originally I was just going to post something brief aimed at directing people towards the challenge and encouraging anyone who read it to take part, however I actually ended up writing quite a long post all about the representation of women in miniatures. In the end however I pushed it onto the back burner for now and went back to my original plan. At some stage however I’ll tidy it up and post it – after all it was both erudite and witty, and contained a number of well-structured and intelligent arguments without ever becoming rambling or preachy. You should try to imagine it – it was really something! In the meantime here’s a few of my favourite female models that I’ve painted in recent years.

Speaking of female miniatures, a recent release that stuck a particular chord with me is Fecula Flyblown of the Wurmspat, the Nurgle worshippers who’ve oozed their way into the latest expansion for Warhammer Underworlds. Allow me to pretentiously quote myself when I reviewed the Maggotkin of Nurgle in January of 2018.

“Disease affects all living things so here was a chance to show what happens when Nurgle’s ailments are contracted by someone other than a well-built male barbarian. We could have seen a sickly elf, twisted with bitterness as his immortality became a curse. We could have had a disease ravaged dwarf in a rust-caked suit of armour, great vats of toxin on his hunched back whilst intestinal pipes, throbbing with peristaltic action, spew jets of filth ahead of him? We could even have had a woman. Of course Nurgle isn’t all that interested in high heels and boob-armour but this is an age of equal opportunities and girls can worship an unglamorous god of disease and putrefaction just as well as boys.”

And what do you know, two years on here she is. What a joy to discover sometimes they do listen to me after all! And thank goodness they didn’t give her a chainmail bikini…

I’ve got a few ideas in mind for things to paint this year, although time is going to be very pressing this month so I suspect I may not manage very much. At the very least I’d like to tackle some more of my unpainted Warcry collection, and I know there’s a lady amongst the ranks of the Iron Legionaries, as well as the awesome Beastspeaker amongst the Untamed Beasts so if I manage nothing else I’ll at least take a shot at painting those two. Maybe, if I’m very lucky and clever with my time management I might even find the time to tackle Nayam Shai Murad from Blackstone Fortress, and Severina Raine (the lead character in my favourite Black Library novel of 2019).

In the meantime I implore you to take a look through the unpainted pile of shame and join in the challenge, as well as spreading the word on your social medias or down the local gaming club. The days in which female miniatures were thin on the ground are thankfully receding (although there’s still plenty more ground to make up – GW, if you’re reading this, female Orlocks stat!) so you should have plenty to choose from. Anyone who treated themselves to a new Sisters of Battle army last month for example now has no excuse to let them gather dust…


Martian Madness and Pointy Elves

This weekend sees the Las Vegas Open, which is apparently some kind of big deal if you’re a tournament gamer who lives in Las Vegas. The rest of us might not pay that much attention, were it not for the fact that GW sees this as a grand opportunity to reveal some of their forthcoming releases. Needless to say I have plenty of thoughts about these and I’m not going to miss the chance to share them with the world because that’s how the internet works nowdays.

First things first we have the announcement of a substantial wave of new models joining the Adeptus Mechanicus. I’m not sure if I’ve apologised for this before but I’m a huge fan of the Ad-Mech. I say apologised because for many years I harped on about how awesome they were to anyone who couldn’t think of a suitable excuse to leave, about how great it would be to see a range of miniatures for them, about what a missed opportunity it was that GW failed to do anything with what must be one of the finest ideas they’d ever come up with. Then finally GW got the finger out and created a truly wonderful range of models, tapping into the weirdness of the Ad-Mech with real aplomb and I’ve painted nothing. In the five years since they first appeared I’ve managed to get about half-way through painting two Skitarii and that’s it. I didn’t rush out and clear the shelves of my nearest stockist but I have snapped up bargains and Start Collecting sets until I’ve gathered myself a sizeable heap of the Sons and Daughters of Mars and I love them as much as ever but I just haven’t got any of them painted. My soul may have long ago been sold to Chaos, and my heart will always be green and orky, but the Adeptus Mechanicus speaks to me to quite a profound degree, and yet I’ve done naff all about it.

Nonetheless this might be the moment to take the plunge. After all I’ve just finished off my Skaven so maybe I ought to roll up my sleeves and tackle the Martians. I wasn’t particularly wowed by the Skorpius tanks that emerged last summer, and in part that may be because I’m just not that big into tanks. To me the Skorpius are just a little plain, sensible and straightforward which is not at all how the barking-mad scholars of Mars like things. On the other hand the Archaeopter looks like much more my kind of thing, as weird and archaic as all the best Adeptus Mechanicus creations should be.

AdMech Flyer

With the Serberys cavalry they’ve continued to up the Ad-Mech’s game as troops go thundering into battle on weird, bio-mechanical dogs. It’s utterly mad of course but then that’s how the Cult of Mars ought to be. I’m sure a few Imperial Guard fans are cursing that these have appeared but Rough Riders remain a thing of the past and although I agree with them entirely that Rough Riders deserve a new kit ASAP these models are one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a while (and it’s been non-stop cool things lately).

Serberys Sulphurhounds

Speaking of madness we have the Pteraxii, another new unit of troops, this time with wings. Again the strangeness of the Ad-Mech is on full display and although I’m not so over-excited by them as I am the Serberys cavalry there’s still a lot to like here – not to mention what looks to be a lot of useful parts for Inq28 conversions.

Pteraxii

I must confess the first thing I thought of when I saw them were the Bird Men of Catrazza, an old regiment of renown from the days of WHFB.  To be honest the similarity probably starts and ends with them being men with wings but it gave me a little thrill of nostalgia all the same.

Bird Men

All this Martian madness is due to be released soon, which makes me hopeful that GW will finally get around to releasing the Tech Priest Manipulus properly too. Until now it’s only been available as part of a Kill Team set, which would have been a bargain if I’d been in the market for any of the other contents – as it was it just looked like a very expensive way of getting the Manipulus model so I’ve been stubbornly holding off. Either way it now appears to be out of stock (unless I’m just failing to find it on the GW website) so fingers crossed the fat lad will see a proper release shortly.

tech priest manipulus

Moving across to Age of Sigmar we discover that Teclis, once the premier mage of the WHFB setting and now elevated to godhood in the Mortal Realms, has been at it again. Following the capture of Slaanesh who was forced to disgorge the glut of elven souls they’d consumed during the End Times (I’m picturing someone sticking their fingers down a Chaos God’s throat until they puked – something Slaanesh probably gets off on) Teclis took his share of the available souls and turned them into a race of his very own. Sadly he made, not to put too fine a point on it, an absolute balls of things, and the result was the Idoneth Deepkin, a culture defined by their deep-seated trauma at being consumed by Slaanesh (not the mention vomited out again) and with a deeply difficult relationship with their spiritual father. With the majority of their race born with weak and withered souls they took to stealing the life-force of others and Teclis attempted to wipe them out, which only served to sour relations even further. You’d have thought old Teclis would have decided to write the whole business off as a bad job and leave creating new Elven races to others, but apparently he’s decided to take another shot at it and his latest effort are the Lumineth Realm-lords.

Vanari Auralan Wardens

Perhaps worried about what they’ll get up to without him keeping an eye on them Teclis himself has joined the range, with a gloriously over-the-top miniature (although personally I still prefer Morathi and Alarielle when it comes to Elven Gods in miniatures form). Whilst Teclis himself looks suitably impressive the star here is Celennar, Spirit of Hysh, who may be intended as a creature of purity and light but could just as easily be something chillingly inscrutable and madly Tzeentchian.

Teclis

These are very much old-fashioned elves in the style of the High Elves of yesteryear – some of them even ride around on horses! After the part-tree, part-elf hybrids of the Sylvaneth, the part-snake Daughters of Khaine and the weird, eyeless aquatic creatures of the Idoneth Deepkin these harken back to something much more traditional and Tolkienesque.

Incidentally I’ve recently discovered that the word “Aelves”, which GW now uses in place of the desperately outmoded “Elves” to differentiate their copyrightable pointy-eared people from the kind of pointy-eared folk that everyone else produces, should be pronounced “Elves” just the same as every other company’s elves. Until now I’d been pronouncing it “Aleves” with a hard “A” – which would have made all those fans crying out for some old-fashioned elves like these part of the Campaign for Real Aelves.

Vanari Dawnriders

I don’t imagine I’ll be painting any of these myself any time soon, I’m sure they’ll appeal to a lot of elf fans and I can see that they’re beautiful miniatures, but they’re not really my kind of thing. That said pretty much every other AoS race has found its way into Warcry so perhaps someday these will too, in which case I might find myself tempted to put together a little warband and stretch my creative muscles into painting something bright, clean and noble rather than the filthy degenerates that usually attract me.

They did however get me thinking about the place of elves in the Age of Sigmar, and what that means for the humans which find themselves increasingly pushed to the fringes. In the past humanity stood at the heart of both GW’s key universes. Just as the Imperium has been the central mover-and-shaker of the 41st Millennium so the Empire lay at the centre of the Old World, with the other races scattered around the edge of the map. Elves lived on the outskirts, sailing their craftworlds through the depths of wilderness space or living on far flung, exotic continents like Ulthuan or Naggarond. AoS however has pushed the elves to the centre of the setting whilst humanity barely gets a look in. With the release of the Lumineth Realm-lords we now have four full elven races in AoS, joining the sea-dwelling Idoneth Deepkin, the never-knowingly-fully-dressed Daughters of Khaine and those most wooden of actors the Sylvaneth. Between them these races have sprung from just three of the Elven pantheon, Teclis, Alarielle and that old snake Morathi. That still leaves us with Tyrion and Malerion who are surely bound to usher in elven races of their own sooner or later, not to mention of the off-cuts of the old High, Dark and Wood Elves still knocking around the Realms. Rather than Age of Sigmar this could very easily have been called Age of Elves and one almost wonders why GW didn’t bite the bullet and do just that. Humans have been shoved into the margins of the setting, with most of those still living in the Realms being flesh-eating degenerates or Chaos worshipping thugs. In the purging of their old lines that followed the death of WHFB the Empire was spared the destruction that swallowed their brothers across the mountains in Bretonnia but sometimes you’re left wondering just what GW saved them for. The human perspective is a great narrative tool (most, if not all, of GW’s customers being human) but the old Empire range now look like people out of time, a race of proxies standing in for the fantastical city states described in the background. It’s easy to imagine the kind of strange and extraordinary cultures which might exist in the Realms, until you discover that everyone still dresses exactly like they did thousands of years ago in Reikland. I often dreamed of starting an Empire army myself and I certainly have nothing against them as a faction but they look out of place now, and GW seem to have little interest in developing new human cultures with which to populate their developing setting. Perhaps, with retrospect, they should have been bolder, packing the Empire range off to join the Bretonnias and Tomb Kings in the history books and reducing the human race to tribal savages, scraping by in the Age of Sigmar, with a few chosen champions elevated to join the Stormcast hosts, whilst the light of civilisation belongs exclusively to the Elves. In a decade or two they could have revived a few Empire concepts to the delight of old grognards who would rave to bemused youngsters about the era when bases were square. After all if you wait long enough everything comes round again, even zoats…

Nurgle

Of course, as soon as Teclis showed up with Celennar – who is at least in part a giant cat – Nurgle had to get in on the action with a cat of his own and a crazy cat lady to keep it company. Enter the Wurmspat, a new warband for Warhammer Underworlds. Underworlds hasn’t really grabbed me as a game, I’m not really interested in card games and the focus on the competitive side leaves me cold, but there’s no denying it’s brought us some outstanding models. With the Wurmspat we see not only two more Blightkings, each of which is a chip off the manky old block and a fine looking decedent of the original Nurgle Lord, but we also get Fecula Flyblown, our first Nurgle lady (and her cat). Of course I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth but for traditions sake I will repeat the same mutterings that I make every time there’s a new Nurgle release – that this was a fine chance to bring us a pestigor and they missed it again.

Fecula Flyblown

Last but very definitely not least we have a real blast from the past, the first Zoat to grace the worlds of Warhammer since the ’80s (by my memory at least). When I first heard that a Zoat was part of the reveals I assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that this would be Zolcath, the Blood Bowl star player. Who would have thought a second Zoat might be waiting in the wings after all these years?

Zoat

In many ways Blackstone Fortress has stepped into the same niche as the Specialist Games studio, allowing GW to produce those things which fans still love but which don’t quite fit in to the established armies of the main games. So far we’ve seen Rogue Traders, Imperial Navigators, a Man of Iron, Traitor Guard, Dark Mechanicum, even a stonking great Ambull. Of course nostalgia is all very well but the strength of all of these has been that they stand on their own two (or in this case four) feet as excellent models, more than deserving of attention and admiration in their own right. One wonders what else might emerge from 40k’s shadowy corners to walk the halls of the fortress; Squats, Hrud, Eldar Corsairs or Exodites, perhaps even a Slaan? Of course the question now is, will the Zoat be an adventurer or an adversary? I suspect it’ll be the latter of course but the former would be wonderful. Who wouldn’t feel more comfortable tackling the maddening halls and unravelling corridors of the xenos star-fort with a Zoat at their side?

Finally, in the midst of all this excitement, it would be remiss of me not to mention the appearance of the Eightfold Harvest Lord, a Khorne worshipping maniac now stalking the surface of Necromunda. Having sworn to bring cannibalistic madness down upon my favourite Imperial planet I was already contemplating making my own version but to be honest this beats what I’d come up with hands down. Of course, like all the Forge World bounty hunters he’s a little pricey but I reckon he’s one to save up for (not that this will be easy with all these other lovely looking miniatures crowding the release schedule over the next few months!)

Eightfold Harvest Lord

Needless to say I’ll be watching all of these miniatures emerge with great interest, although exactly what I end up adding to the collection and what I allow to pass by remains to be seen. After all there’s clearly plenty more waiting in the wings – and any fellow Ork fans out there will know I’m extremely curious to get a proper look at Makari’s boss. Can the greenskin to rival Abaddon get a model to match? We’ll know soon enough…


2019 – For Anyone Who Missed It

Well, that was 2019 was it? In terms of miniatures releases it’s been an incredible year, packed to the gills with exciting releases – the downside of which is that, despite painting like a dervish all year I’ve still got projects queued round the block waiting to be completed (or in some cases even started). Never mind eh, there are worse problems to have – although I’ll certainly be aiming to buy a bit less and concentrate on catching up with myself in 2020.

The early part of the year was certainly non-stop with the kind of releases I dream of, to the point where I started to pray they’d turn their attention to the Tau, Stormcast Eternals or something else which doesn’t really interest me, if only to give me a chance to catch my breath. No such luck!

In January GW opened the batting with the arrival of the Gloomspite Gits, an AoS reinvention of the old Night Goblins accompanied by lumbering trolls and a sea of bouncing squigs. For me this was a bit of a weird one. I’ve always regarded Night Goblins as the iconic WHFB species, representing for the Old World what Stormcast Eternals do for AoS or Space Marines for 40k. Seeing them in the new Realms was just weird, they looked out of place, visitors from another world scurrying around the ankles of Sigmar’s golden champions, flying dwarves, undersea elves and other inhabitants of this new and creatively-inspired setting. To me they represented the “proxied” quality of early AoS. Much in the same way as we’ve all seen new games tried out with existing models standing in for those as yet unpainted or unpurchased, the early years of AoS saw the Realms populated by the existing WHFB races, many of whom had seen next to no effort spent on incorporating them into the new setting.

Feeling strongly that Night Goblins had no place in the Mortal Realms, and that when I started painting up an AoS collection it would be for one of the new races, I went ahead and – in the closing months of 2018 – finally tackled my unpainted WHFB Night Goblin army…

…only for GW to produce the Gloomspite Gits at the beginning of 2019 and throw everything I thought I knew into disarray. Like a fanatic crashing through the front ranks of my preconceptions  they overturned my previous conviction that Night Goblins could never be successfully integrated into the Mortal Realms. At first I decided I’d pick up some of the new kits and incorporate them into my WHFB army (almost all of the new releases having suitable Old World equivalents), then I decided to leave the Gobbos as they are and make a Trogherd (that’s an all troll army to you and me) and now I’m slowly being corrupted by the Gloomspite and starting to get tempted by the idea of rebasing the whole lot of them, covering the land in fungal spores and dancing beneath the sickly glow of da Bad Moon. To begin with common sense tells me to paint some of the new stuff and see where I decide to go next. After all, despite falling for the new range in a big way so far I’ve only got around to painting these three squigs.

Hot on the heels of the gobbos came the next major release from GW, the genestealer cults. Again, this was something I’d been working on during the latter part of 2018, putting together a gang for my partner to use in Necromunda. As it stands I’m only planning to roll some of the new kits into this gang but if I only complete half the ideas I’ve come up with we’ll probably still have more than enough for Apocalypse!

However almost as soon as they’d appeared they were overshadowed, for me at least, by a full scale Chaos invasion of realspace, spearheaded by Abaddon himself. As a devoted servant of the Ruinous Powers this was huge news; we saw new Chaos Marines, new Obliterators and all kinds of new characters, headed up by the big man himself. Again other projects have eaten up a lot of time so I’ve yet to really get my teeth into these, although I have started chipping away at a new squad of Chaos Space Marines with which to found my next Black Crusade.And things didn’t stop there either. The forces of Chaos continued to go from strength to strength, with the arrival of new Daemons of Slaanesh (including a downright gorgeous Keeper of Secrets), a few more Khornate daemons (you can never have too many of those after all) and a kit for Chaos Knights (and yes, I know my converted Chaos Knight remains unfinished after yet another year, you don’t half nag you know!).

However the really big news for Chaos fans, apart from Abaddon and co. of course, was the arrival of Warcry in the middle of the summer. I may not have painted very much for it (a solitary dwarf so far) but that hasn’t stopped me enthusing about it non-stop ever since. The fact that it’s Chaos meant it was always going to grab me, as was the chance to really explore a corner of the Realms entirely warped by the Dark Gods, but it was the sheer quality and originality of the miniatures that had me hooked. Plus it’s that rarest of things, a game system that I’m actually enthused about playing. I’ve got my fingers tightly crossed that GW continues to pour support into it in 2020 (early indications look hopeful anyway) – either way expect to see plenty of models appearing here over the next few months, with the Untamed Beasts and Iron Golem leading the charge.

 

Warcry Iron Golem Chaos Dwarf Wudugast (1)

Dipping my toe into the Bloodwind Spoil…

The second half of the year was a bit more sedate in terms of releases, from my point of view at least. In many ways that’s no bad thing, having so many of my favourite factions enjoying attention one after another is great in theory but my unpainted pile, and my unpurchased wishlist, were attaining truly mountainous proportions, with the former now so big I needed to install a ski-lift just to get to the top. There were plenty of Space Marines, mostly of the modern, stealthy type that forms the Vanguard Chamber, and as these aren’t really my cup of tea at all I was more than content to let them pass me by. That said they did release a few others including a Salamander so stylish and imposing that he almost made me forget my deep-seated enmity towards the Sons of Vulcan.

Stylish Salamander

Midsummer also saw Contrast paint arriving, which promised to revolutionise painting into an almost magically quick and simple process. For my money this can only be a good thing; the fact is that there are plenty of people out in the world who like to play games but don’t have the time/interest/skill to paint their models well. On the other hand nobody actually wants to play with unpainted models, despite what edge-lords might pretend. All other things being equal you’ll have a better time playing with painted models than unpainted ones, just as you’ll have a better time playing on beautifully crafted terrain rather than a bare tablecloth. Secondly, if you can paint something quickly and have it end up looking decent you’ll undoubtedly feel more enthused about the process and are more likely to paint more, and to put more effort into your painting, than if you struggle laboriously to end up with something that looks a bit duff.

Ultimately there is no technique or tool that will magically make you a better, quicker painter apart from enthusiasm. The way to paint more is to want to paint more, and if Contrast makes your painting experience quicker, easier and better then you’ll be more likely to do more with it. Looking forward to painting = spending more time painting = getting more things painted = painting better; it’s as simple as that.

For me I’ve not found myself overturning my old painting techniques and relearning everything with Contrast, I’ve got close to two decades of experience as a miniatures painter and I have no inclination to learn something completely new. On the other hand I know I’m something of a neophile when it comes to paints and I’ve found that mixing Contrast into a project alongside your traditional paints can lead to some very useful results, so even if it’s not your thing I recommend picking up a couple of pots and having a play.

October saw Jain Zar receive a new and wildly dynamic new miniature (which only serves to remind me that my old metal version remains stubbornly unpainted) alongside a rather pedestrian looking Drazhar (I must confess I expected more from a man who calls himself “The Living Sword” but there you go). It did however get me thinking about all the other old GW models that it would be nice to see replaced, something that crystallised into a bit of fun wishlistingaround the time that Mephiston appeared.

However the really big news for the latter part of the year was the Ossiarch Bonereapers, a new faction of undead bone constructs which served to demonstrate AoS’s continued evolution away from the Old World. I’ve been a fan of GW’s Undead since I fell under the spell of the Vampire Counts years ago and having been drawn ever further into Nagash’s service by the Nighthaunt that appeared last year I was very curious to get a look at these newcomers. On the whole I’d say this range is a bit more hit and miss than the Nighthaunt but when they get it right they really knocked it out of the park – and despite my longstanding love affair with Neferata I’m forced to admit the Bonereapers have far and away the best looking Mortarch of the lot (more on him below!). It’s almost inevitable that I’ll be starting a small collection of these undead taxmen, the tithe must be paid after all!

The final major event on GW’s calendar for the year was the arrival of the Sisters of Battle, who came marching out for a brief but dramatic crusade of faith. A full release for the range is due early in the new year but it was preceded by a limited edition boxset which – to the surprise of precisely no-one at all – sold out in less time than it takes to blink. I may not be a big fan of the Sisters but some of these models are really outstanding, and after twenty years of waiting fans of the range are in for a real treat. Junith Eruita, for instance – a Canoness Superior character soon to join the range – rides around on a flying pulpit, which may very well be the coolest ride in the entire setting. Needless to say I’m sorely tempted to evict her from it and put a tech-priest up there in her place – praying to the Emperor is all very well but the truly devoted need look no further than Holy Mars!

Junith Eruita

Meanwhile some scurrilous individuals have been asking how this lady manages to hold up a banner made of solid stone. Faith, heretic scum – that’s how!

Nuns on the run

Of course 40k and AoS are all very well but I prefer something a little more gritty. Glorious crusades of faith and titanic struggles are to be applauded but most of the time you’ll find me down in the grubby back alleys and beneath the streets, where rats rule and Inquisitors roam. Thus the setting which speaks to me the most of all those which GW has to offer has to be Necromunda. After a hugely enjoyable 2018, which saw all of the original six houses given new plastic gangs, 2019 was considerably quieter. In the first half of the year we saw only an Ambot and of course that never-knowingly-humble hero of the Underhive that is Kal Jerico, but it wasn’t until August that things realy kicked off again with the arrival of the Palanite Enforcers (that’s the long arm of the law to you and me). Later in the year these were backed up with more Enforcers, this time the shock troops of the Subjugators, which is just as well because a bloodthirsty cannibal cult is on the loose and looking for their next meal. Needless to say, I have plans…

Necromunda

I’m hopeful that the relatively quite spell for Necromunda in the early part of the year was just the calm before the storm and next year will see the inhabitants of the Underhive back in the spotlight. Blood Bowl also saw a quiet year after the first wave of teams that followed it’s re-release and now they enjoy a new team every quarter. This year saw Halflings, Wood Elves, Lizardmen and Ogres arriving on the pitch and I’m hopeful we’ll see a similar performance next year. I love the aesthetic of this game and once again I’m reminded that I really need to get a team or two painted up.

Gnoblars

I’ve not been paying quite such rapt attention to the world beyond GW as I might have been but there have been a few highlights that have caught my eye. Anvil Industry’s Daughters of the Burning Rose kickstarter arrived – and although so far I’ve only painted this Alchemist I’ve got a box of models just waiting to get my teeth into. In some ways I feel a little sorry for Anvil here, after years of GW ignoring the Sisters of Battle range entirely they decide to tackle them with their “not-Sisters” range, and GW immediately get the finger out and start producing some truly outstanding miniatures of their own. Not that I’m conflating the two events, the argument that “GW had to do it ‘cos Anvil was” is frankly ludicrous when you compare the relative sizes of the two companies and their fan bases. Anyway, I’ve never been that interested in the Sisters of Battle – either GW or otherwise – but the Daughters of the Burning Rose range also contains some miniatures which are just great for Inq28 without any conversion at all (which is probably some kind of heresy).

Meanwhile Knightmare Miniatures continued their series of kickstarters, expanding their ranges for Chaos, Greenskins (of various types), Greenskin Hunters (can’t an honest gobbo live in peace?!) and even Space Goblins. As I’m a sucker for old school Chaos and Goblins I couldn’t resist dipping a toe into these and now I have a nice box of lead waiting to be tackled soon.

Space Gobbos

Finally Ana Polanscak of Gardens of Hecate ran a kickstarter for some of her wonderfully dark and weird models. I’ve been a fan of Ana’s work for some time (if you’re not following her already where on earth have you been?!) so there was no way I was letting this one pass.

Gardens of Hecate

Miniatures of the Year:

Mostly, I’ll confess, this is a thinly veiled excuse to look at some cool miniatures. This year saw a whole heap of really outstanding miniatures released and I’m not going to pass over an opportunity to take a look at them again! As with many things on this blog my focus has been heavily slanted towards Games Workshop and so that’s what I’ll be focussing on here, although I’ve no doubt there’s been some amazing models from other companies which have managed to pass me by. Nonetheless GW really did the business in 2019, from the hulking beast that is the Ogre Tyrant to Nayam Shai Murad who seems to have stepped straight out of the Inq28 scene’s collective unconscious, to the underrated brilliance of the Chaos Sorcerer and of course the character-packed (and monumentally wasted) Shroomancer. Here’s a quick rundown of some of my favourites.

I almost declared Orpheon Katakros to be my favourite and it remained a close-run thing, he really is a wonderfully imposing and powerful miniature. I’ve been tempted to buy him ever since he was released and sure enough he turned up under the Christmas tree thanks to my amazing fiancée, so expect to see him appearing here sooner or later.

Katakros Chrismas Tree

However there can only be one winner and my top-pick has to be the Warmaster himself, Abaddon the Despoiler, probably my favourite 40k character (and easily one of the most important figures in the story of the 41st Millennium) and now with a miniature to match his stature. Needless to say, as well as being simply awesome he’s also proved to be deeply intimidating to paint so as yet my Chaos forces will have to make do without his authoritative presence, hopefully I’ll pluck up my courage and break out the brushes soon though.

Top 5 Black Library Novels of 2019

As well as painting miniatures, and all the other hobbies I enjoy, I’m a keen reader – and I’ll confess that Black Library novels are something of a guilty pleasure for me. A lot of them – I’ll be the first to admit – are basically pulp silliness, high of melodrama and blazing bolters, low on the kind of emotional or intellectual punch that makes a book stick with you for life. Never mind that though because most of them are good fun, and that’s good enough for me. Plus some of them are actually, dare we whisper it, really bloody good. Inspired by a conversation with Savageddt of Wordaholicanonymous I decided to pick my top Black Library novel of the year.

It’s been a strong field, with some cracking novels appearing. Spear of the Emperor by Aaron Dembski-Bowden was as excellent as you’d expect, and although I’m only part way through Requiem Infernal by Peter Fehervari is shaping up to be another contender. This was also the year that Horus finally reached Terra in the Horus Heresy series. Things started well enough with The Solar War as the heretics fought their way across the solar system but things really kicked up a gear when we reached the throneworld itself in The Lost and the Damned. Partly it’s just a case of the new series finding its feet, partly it was the tighter cast of characters – as opposed to the zoo that populated Solar War, and partly it’s because – for my money – Guy Haley is one of Black Library’s better authors. Sanguineous of course is front and centre – he’s on the cover after all, but all the Primarchs get a good showing (Angron rampaging around being himself is always a fine thing to see). Zardu Layak remains a wonderfully moustache-twirling baddy, that rascal Gendor Skraivok, ‘The Painted Count’ reappears, Lucoryphus of the Night Lords puts in a cameo that fans of the Aaron Dembski-Bowden Nights Lords series are bound to enjoy, and the relationship between Lotara Sarrin and Khârn remains as compelling as ever. Oh and Legio Solaria walks, which is usually worth the price of admission by itself for me! However the real standout here is Abaddon, clearly well on his way to becoming the next Warmaster as Horus is consumed by the forces to which he has bound himself.

However if called upon to pick a favourite I’d have to choose Honourbound by Rachel Harrison. I’d been following Commissar Severina Raine and the 11th Antari Rifles since their first appearance in the short story Execution and it was great to see them get a full novel to really stretch their legs and demonstrate the depth of their characters. The plot is good enough, there’s nothing wildly out of the ordinary here, simply the long shadow of treachery and corruption against the flames of grinding, attritional war, a small group of people trapped between the enemy without and the enemy within, and a woman attempting to prove her worth from beneath a family legacy that contains vaunted heroes and hated traitors in equal measure. It’s the characters however that really make the book; Raine herself is always compelling, Andren Fel continues to demonstrate that you can have a straight-up “good guy” even in the grubby darkness of 40k, whilst Daven Wyck leans to the opposite end of the spectrum, a hero so deeply flawed he totters constantly on the edge of damnation. Meanwhile The Sighted make for excellent baddies, subtly Tzeentchian in much the same way as the Corpse Grinders of Necromunda are Khornate, it’s there if you’re looking but we’re not seeing Thousand Sons and Pink Horrors tramping all over the place – and that alone adds to the sense of scale and depth in 40k.

Honourbound

I had hoped to include a picture of my finished Severina Raine miniature but alas she’s going to need a lot more work before she’s done – and an Imperial heroine of her stature deserves the time and effort that will require.

My Projects

Anyway, enough about a model I didn’t paint, let’s turn our attention to things I did. Necromunda continued to dominated my painting desk in 2019. After a slow start in 2018 House Escher spent the year growing into a veritable army of the 41st Millennium’s best dressed…

… whilst the similarly tardy Chaos Helots eventually unleashed a horde in the name of workers’ rights and some poorly understood rituals involving “dark gods”.

Inevitably, drama ensued!

They wouldn’t be allowed to dominate the Underhive alone however, with the murderous nerds of House Van Saar soon putting in an appearance.

Inspired by the Genestealer Cultists released early in the year the Cult of the Abyssal Gaze did a bit of recruiting, and I plan for more to emerge in 2020.

Genestealer Cults Wudugast ConvertOrDie

And not to be left behind House Goliath called in a few more boys as well, before their turf is entirely over-run.

Even House Cawdor got in on the act at last, with the first steps on the road to a crusade of faith to shake the hive to its roots and remind these heretics and non-believers that the God-Emperor judges all.

About time they turned up really – this place has been crawling with muties lately!

And speaking of ugly creatures I also painted the deeply divisive bounty hunter Ortruum 8-8 (known in some places as “the flying testicle”). GW pushing the boundaries of their creativity to new heights or the most hideously unsightly thing you can imagine painting – I’ll let you judge for yourselves.

It’s not just muties, gangers and other scum though, the Underhive does contain a few upstanding citizens, just trying to make a living. I have a lot of plans for this, as yet mostly unrealised, but here to set the ball rolling are three weird looking characters from Black Crab Miniatures. 

The other project which dominated my attention in 2019 was Blackstone Fortress. After playing a few games of it last winter, in which unpainted models fought various unlikely proxies in the twisting halls of the xenos starfort, I decided that this year I’d get the whole set painted. And, barring a few of the explorers, I have – we’ve certainly got enough now that never again need our heroes step into the unknown without a coat of paint to armour them, or face a mob of goblins pretending to be spindle drones.

My Chaos Space Marines army is looking a bit straggly at the moment. Having grown over recent years into a veritable Black Crusade progress slowed down following the arrival of 8th edition 40k. The coming of the Primaris marines only served to emphasise how tiny and oddly proportioned those old Chaos Marines were and my enthusiasm for the project, once so unassailable, began to dwindle. The release of the new models earlier this year was a real shot in the arm however and I’m hungry to get back to them now. As a precursor to this the army has been split into three parts; models I’m happy with, models I plan to retire and pack away (or break up for bits) and models I still like but which need a bit of a re-paint. It’s these latter which are causing the hold up, I do want to sort them out and include them in the collection but right now they really don’t look that good, and there are a lot of them. Sooner or later however the Beasts of Ruin will be unleashed once more. In the meantime here’s the start of my first squad of the new models (and there will be plenty more to come in the years ahead).

My Death Guard, on the other hand, look considerably healthier (if such a word can be used here!). With their first plague marine recruited and a reborn daemon prince to lead them, they trudge into 2020 with an air of purpose. I’m aiming to complete the poxwalkers early in the year and then tackle adding some more plague marines. After that – who knows, maybe some terminators, a daemon engine or two, or perhaps something even bigger…

Death Guard Wudugast

However my biggest 40k achievement was the completion, after over a decade of slow progress, of my horde of 100 ork boyz. Regular readers will know the story all too well by now so I won’t bore you all by repeating it, if you’ve not read it before or if you want to hear it all again click this link and all your questions will be answered! For the rest of you, here’s a reminder of what 100 angry orks looks like. Waaagh!

And here’s the whole army, a sea of green and rusty metal – and with plenty more waiting in the wings ready to join the ranks.

2019 was the year that HeroQuest turned 30 and so, inspired by KrautScientist who painted up an entire HeroQuest set (plus extras) in one of the year’s “must see” projects, I dug out a couple of old models and got them painted. I’m rather proud of the Chaos Warrior, and for my money the miniature still holds up very well even today. The same cannot be said of the Fimir of course – perhaps there’s a reason why one range continues to stand out amongst GW’s catalogue whilst the other has rarely emerged from the mists over the past three decades…

And if that doesn’t sate your hunger for old plastics I also painted this elderly proto-Necron, scavenged from the same box of dusty miniatures.

Whilst we’re looking at odd, one-off projects, I also painted my first ever Lord of the Rings miniature this year. Will it be the only one? Despite a long standing love of Middle Earth (books and films) the miniatures have never really grabbed me but who knows, the future may surprise us all.

This year also saw me taking my first steps into the Age of Sigmar. Up to now AoS has been something of a closed book to me – not because I was fundamentally opposed to it or married to WHFB – but simply because I understood the Old World and found it difficult to get enthused by the combination of pseudo-mythology and open-ended vagueness which characterised the new setting in its early years. The second edition has tightened that up considerably and the result is a living world of fantastic dimensions and possibilities. Inspired to give it a go I put together a small skirmish warband of Khornate savages led by a brutal Slaughterpriest.

Khorne With The Wind

Naturally these violent barbarians needed someone to fight so I followed them up by putting together a Nurgle warband, combining some new models with others cannibalised from my 40k chaos army.

Nurgle AoS Groupshot Wudugast

Despite assembling these Chaotic savages I’ve still not actually played any AoS Skirmish. Perhaps I’ll find the time during these dark mid-winter nights, although really I’d like to take a crack at Warcry – and for that I’m going to need to finish off some miniatures…

2019 Hobby Goals

In my round-up of 2018 I set out a series of hobby goals for 2019 – and then spent the year failing to complete most of them. With retrospect I’m not sure that annual hobby goals really work for me, for most of the year the deadline is comfortably far-off and I can relax and ignore it, focusing instead on whatever takes my fancy at the time. Then suddenly it’s bearing down upon me with no time to spare, by which time it’s far too late to do anything about it. Smaller monthly goals work a lot better to my mind so next time I’m aiming to finish off a project like that this is likely to be the technique I use.

It’s also worth noting that hobbywise I had a very productive year indeed, completing a not-inconsiderable 250 miniatures in 2019. That’s down a little on the 277 I painted in 2018, although in fairness those numbers were boosted considerably by the fact that many of them were Night Goblins, and it’s certainly well up on the 129 I painted in 2017 – the first year that I kept any kind of record. Nor was I entirely scattershot, I knuckled down on a lot of projects – some of them longstanding. I powered through almost the entirety of the Blackstone Fortress set, knocked out some Necromunda gangs and AoS Skirmish warbands, finished off my Skaven army (more on that below) and completed my long-planned horde of one hundred Ork boyz. However the goals I set out at the end of 2018 remained mostly unfinished. Let’s take a look and remind ourselves.

Skaven; one of my key plans for 2019 was to finish off my WHFB Skaven army and I’m proud to say that one is very much in the bag. Well where is it then, some of you might be asking? Fear not, although the final models might be finished (pending, perhaps, the odd added detail if I find a spare few minutes to fuss over them in the next couple of days) I’ve not managed to get the time (or sufficient ambient daylight) to get them photographed. Expect them to come crawling in at some point in the next week or so, as soon as I manage to get the whole army set up and some decent pictures taken. In the meantime here’s the army as it looked back in June, suffice to say we’ve seen plenty of growth since then!

Necromunda; again I’ll count this one as a success, especially because my original goal was pretty vague (basically amounting to “paint some gangs”). I certainly managed that, adding to the Goliaths and Genestealer Cults and getting the Eschers, Chaos Helots and Van Saar up to fighting strength. Last January I put together a post summarising everything I’d done so far and everything I had planned for the future and it really helped to focus my ideas, so I’ll probably do something similar this year – if nothing else it’ll certainly encourage me to get some of my current batch of test-models finished!

Terrain; this is where the wheels start to come off. I knew this was going to be a big and intimidating project and I expected progress to be slow but I did intend to do a lot more than I have. This is a bit of a “white whale” project for me, something I’ve planned to tackle for many years, and I’ll definitely be coming back to it soon – especially as Dark Uprising has equipped me with a lot more of the materials I need to construct the Underhive. However as terrain is bulky, and we’re planning to be moving house in the next couple of months, I’m pushing this onto the backburner for now, until I see what kind of space we have to work with at the new place.

Poxwalkers; I may not have finished this one but I have managed to break some ground. My aim was to complete a horde of 40, yet as it stands I’ve only finished 32. Still, better than a poke in the eye as they say, and with luck I’ll get the rest done in the early part of 2020.

Poxwalkers Wudugast ConvertOrDie Nurgle

Chaos Knight; I’ve been chipping away at building and painting a Chaos Knight of my very own for a number of years now and I really thought 2019 would be its year – especially since GW released Codex: Chaos Knights and a multipart kit for them back in the summer, giving my enthusiasm for the project a huge boost. Alas, the year has ended and the knight remains as unfinished as ever…

Blood Bowl; 2019 was supposed to be the year I finally got around to painting a Blood Bowl team yet the year has ended and I’m no closer to that goal. The game continues to interest me however so hopefully 2020 will be the time that it all comes together at last.

Given that setting myself goals for 2019 didn’t really pan out as intended I’m cautious of repeating the idea for 2020. In fact, when I add in the forthcoming move, and all the various other “real life” events that either will or are likely to take place in the coming year, I think it’s very probable that I’ll be a lot less active over the coming year than I have been in the past. That doesn’t mean I’m going to vanish entirely, spending time painting miniatures is extremely important to me and I’ve no intention of stopping, but – beyond the odd quite spell in the height of summer – I’ve kept up a torrent of posts here over the last couple of years and I don’t foresee myself managing to maintain that. We’ll see how it goes, I would like to tackle a couple of Warcry warbands, some more Necromunda gangs, the rest of the Blackstone Fortress heroes and finally get that Blood Bowl team painted so don’t relax entirely – you haven’t see the last of me!

Whilst we’re at it however, a couple of pieces of housekeeping in regards to the blog. Firstly, as some of you may have noticed, I now have a links section in the side-panel, something I’ve wanted to include for some time. All the people listed are interesting, talented hobbyists and I do highly recommend you check out any or all of them. This is where I go for my inspiration, and these are the people from which I steal all the best ideas and pretend that they were mine to begin with. If you’re a talented blogger yourself and I’ve not included you on the list it’s probably because I’m an airhead and I’ve forgotten, please don’t take it as an insult (if I mean to insult you I’ll come round your house and do it properly). I do intend to keep expanding the list so just keep being awesome and sooner or later I’ll realise I’ve missed you, suffer a twinge of embarrassment and update the list.

Secondly, I’ve discovered that many of the older posts were missing their pictures (a side effect of using various external hosts in the early days and then not moving everything to wordpress as I thought I had). I think I’ve fixed them all but one or two may have slipped through so if you’re reading one of these old posts and you think there ought to be pictures but there aren’t please help me out by leaving a comment to catch my attention and I’ll go and fix it.

Anyway, all that remains is to wish all my readers a happy New Year and here’s to plenty more hobby shenanigans in 2020!


Reboot-me Guilliman

The galaxy of the 41st Millennium was in a terrible state to begin with, with war and madness everywhere, xenos baying at the gates and daemons cavorting amid the ruins. What’s more things seem set to get even worse, which is obviously a very good thing, as the latest of Games Workshop’s 40k “events”, the Psychic Awakening, spills across the war-torn Imperium. Even I, a huge fan of the background lore that GW have created, am struggling to keep abreast of all the new developments in the advancing storyline, and who knows what all the rules mean (although I’m sure, as usual, parts of the Internet are seeing conflicts just as ferocious as anything that 41st Millennium has to offer over the question of who deserves a 2+ save and how broken the game now is) but never mind all that because what really matters is the new miniatures.

Traditionally GW have saved up all the new models for a faction and then released them in one lump sum, or sometimes in a series of “waves”. If a particular model or unit didn’t get an update this time round don’t worry about it – they’ll come back to it sometime in the next decade or so. With Psychic Awakening they’re taking the opportunity to do something different, filling in corners as it were, and releasing single models, or small groups, to replace those looking passed their best – without revamping the whole range whilst they’re about it. So for example we’ve seen the ancient model for Jain Zar, that most dynamic and top-heavy of the Eldar Phoenix Lords, replaced with this stylish new version (which of course only reminds me that I still need to paint my old one).

Jain Zar

We’ve also seen new Howling Banshees (also for the Eldar), Incubi (which are frankly gorgeous and everything I hoped they would be), Drazhar “The Living Sword” (an ok model at best but you can’t win them all), a new Chaos Sorcerer (the hidden gem of the release in my opinion) and most recently the jaw-dropping new model for Mephiston “the Lord of Death” (put that in your pipe and smoke it Nagash).

Mephiston

Inspired by these new arrivals, and finding myself stuck twiddling my thumbs in the truck waiting for the rain to stop so I could go back to work, I decided to play a little game. If GW where to release just one new kit for each faction to replace an old model or unit which has either been discontinued or which hasn’t aged well, what would it be? Rather than tackle every faction I’ve decided to focus on those which are a little older, passing over those which have fully plastic ranges (although I may break my own rules from time to time).

 

Space Marines

You would think, given how many models GW releases for this particular faction – not to mention their enduring (and well deserved) popularity, that there wouldn’t be a lot of gaps here – but one has stood out to me for a long time and still hasn’t been addressed. Recent years have seen this range reborn as properly-proportioned, cleverly designed primaris marines. It’s not just the rank and file either – if you need someone to command your forces there’s a choice of stylish looking captains, if you want to address the spiritual health of your battle brothers there’s a primaris chaplain which looks simply outstanding, if wizards are more your thing I can recommend an imposing librarian, but if you want your tanks or dreadnaughts repaired you’ll have to turn to a stumpy old techmarine.

Techmarine

Earlier this year we finally saw a primaris techmarine but sadly only as a special character for the Iron Hands, Iron Father Feirros. Now I’ll stress that Feirros is an awesome model in and of himself, and the Iron Hands certainly deserved to have their own special character at last, but that doesn’t make me want to see a normal primaris techmarine any less.

Feirros

Blood Angels

Given that Mephiston has just been revamped (boom boom) the other key candidate for a new model amongst the Sons of Sanguinius has to be Commander Dante. The chapter master of the one of the setting’s most illustrious chapters, the great hero of Baal and Armageddon, and the Lord Regent of Imperium Nihilus he’s one of the key figures in the 41st Millennium. He’s also probably the oldest loyalist space marine still alive (not counting those entombed in dreadnaughts that is), having fought in the name of the Emperor for at least 1,100 years. It’s unfortunate that his miniature was also released 1,100 years ago. Time to give the old boy a refresh I reckon.

Dante

Space Wolves

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words so rather than waiting for me to write two thousand words let’s look at a couple of pictures instead. First up let’s take a look at Marneus Calgar, the great hero of the Ultramarines.

What about the Space Wolves though – do they have a mighty and storied champion beloved by generations of hobbyists who might stand as a peer to the lord of Ultramar? No not the old boy in the dog sled – I’m talking about Ragnar Blackmane!

Ragnar Blackmane

‘Nuff said really!

Dark Angels

Unpainted, one space marine looks a lot like another. A squad of Ultramarines may look distinctly different to their peers in the Imperial Fists or White Scars but it’s almost entirely down to the colour scheme. There will be flourishes of course, a few pelts, fetishes and big hairdos for the Space Wolves being the most obvious, but in the main most chapters have shared the same basic profile. You bought a box of space marines and painted them yellow and they were Imperial Fists. Had you painted them black instead they would be Raven Guard. Your friend buys the same box and paint them dark green with an orange flame pattern and they were Salamanders (which begs the question of why you’re friends with a Salamanders player – don’t waste your excuses on me, you’re guilty by association). Not so the Dark Angels. Whilst other chapters trusted blessed ceramite to keep them alive these closet traitors spruced it up by donning monastic robes over the top of their power armour. Part of me likes to imagine that this foray into fancy dress is intended to allow them to creep up on the less observant of the Fallen by pretending to be monks.

Dark Angels

I may not the biggest fan of the Dark Angels but I’m happy to admit that they look damn cool. As with all of the old space marine range however they were a little on the short side. The other chapters have been reinforced with the new(-ish), imposing and generally awesome looking primaris marines but without the robes these just don’t look like Dark Angels to me. We have seen one example of a primaris lieutenant in his dressing gown but really it would be great to see a multipart kit that allowed us to make entire squads. The fact that I could then convert these into the Fallen is just a happy coincidence of course…

Zakariah

Imperial Guard (or Astra Militarum if you must).

Of course whilst the Space Marines grab all the glory the real work is done by the hard-done-by grunts of the Imperial Guard, the normal men and women of the Imperium who – without the blessings of power-armour, high-tech weapons and fancy additional organs, hold back the savage tide which otherwise threatens to sweep our species from the stars. In the olden days we have all kinds of different regiments, all raised from different planets and cultures across the Imperium’s hundreds of thousands of worlds. Today we have only the Cadians – which to my eye are painfully generic – and the Catachans – musclemen who’ve escaped from an ’80’s action flick. Neither are particularly resonant of 40k, particularly when compared with the wonderfully gothic figures in the Imperium’s other ranges (the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Sisters of Battle, the Custodies and of course the primaris space marines). What’s more, with Cadia blown to smithereens by the advancing forces of Abaddon the Despoiler, now seems like a fine moment to release a new regiment.

Necromunda has served to remind us that a single planet in the Imperium can be home to dozens of very different cultures. There are no Goliaths or Delaque on any of the Imperium’s million or so other worlds but there will be a huge range of social structures and ethnicities, each shaped by their planet of origin – be that an industrial hell like Necromunda, a shrine world, an ice world, a desert world, a jungle-covered death world and so on – and each a potential candidate for raising a new regiment. We’ve seen a little of this with the Space Marines but even the more unusual of these are still Space Marines first and exemplars of their culture a long way second. The Cadians work well enough as generic humans, and make for a fine basic frame for kitbashers and convertors, but there’s very little of the 41st Millennium about them if built straight out of the box.

Blame Cadia

If you’re going to force me to pick one of the old ranges I’d probably suggest the Armageddon Steel Legion, although recreating Forge World’s Death Korps of Krieg or Solar Auxilia in plastic would be even better. Or how about something entirely new, something which relies less on recreating real world armies in space and instead draws upon the wealth of creativity and original ideas possible in the 41st Millennium. Just a thought…

The Adeptus Mechanicus

I said I’d not be tackling the newer, fully plastic ranges but I’m going to break my own rules here because a)a piece of my heart will always lie on Mars and b)there’s an obvious candidate for new models that just doesn’t fit in anywhere else. Whenever you read more than a few sentences of 40k’s background lore you discover that pretty much everything is done by servitors. They’re an intrinsic part of the world, built or modified for pretty much every task imaginable and hardwired into every sort of machine. However despite being so ubiquitous we’ve not seen many models for them, which to my mind is a bit like designing a game set on the modern planet Earth and not including any computers or motor cars. Plus, those models we have seen are mostly old, and either discontinued or rather ropey looking, or represent expensive specialists like the Kataphron. Some nice new (and eminently convertible) servitor models would go a long way in 40k – and what better place to include them than amongst the ranks of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Whilst they’re about it they can re-release the Tech-Priest Manipulus outside a Kill Team box and throw in a load more new Martian goodies to boot.

Servitors

Craftworld Eldar

There are a lot of potential options here, despite the recent addition of the aforementioned Jain Zar and the Banshees (a fine name for a band if ever there was – Siouxsie should have changed her name). Much of the range continues to rely on old metal models (now converted to finecast). New kits for the aspect warriors and their attendant phoenix lords are something that people have been crying out for, and who can blame them? An injection of new kits would do a great service to one of GW’s most iconic and well established ranges.

On the other hand however the majority of those old aspect warriors have held up fairly well. The phoenix lords are definitely showing their age, and again Jain Zar really serves to demonstrate what could be if this range was given a little more attention, but for my money the kit that really needs replacing is the Guardians. I’ve often said that the rank and file are the most important kit to get right in any army, because they’ll be the heart of the project and the models you end up painting the most of. If one commander or elite unit doesn’t take your fancy you can simply pick an alternative but the core troops are far harder to avoid, and far more important to the aesthetic appeal of the collection as a whole. The Guardians have heaps of potential to bring to the Eldar, a goldmine of character that springs from seeing alien civilians taking to the battlefield. Instead they’re dreadfully dull and lacking in personality, and that’s a missed opportunity. These are Eldar poets, artisans and workers – they should be beautiful, exotic and inspiring but instead they’re drab, tedious and ugly.

Eldar Guardians

Dark Eldar

I thought long and hard about this one. If you’d asked me a month or so ago it would have been easy – I would have picked the Incubi of course – but they have their new kit now (and indeed inspired this blog post in the first place). Thus my first instinct was to go for the Mandrakes. They’re wonderfully creepy creatures, emphasising the place of the supernatural in 40k and bringing a really sinister element of chilling horror to a setting which otherwise often falls back on revving chainaxes and sprays of gore.

Mandrakes

However the current models aren’t too bad and although I’d love to see what modern plastics design would make of them there’s another candidate who really deserves to go first; Asdrubael Vect.

asdrubael vect

Vect, for those too young to remember him, is the ultimate big boss of the Dark Eldar; a grandiose gangster-turned-autocrat who rules the dark city of Commorragh and likes to ride around on a transport named – in gloriously heavy metal style – the Dias of Destruction. He’s the epitome of swashbuckling, moustache-twirling evil (he once gave a rival a present with a black hole in it, because if you’re going to do it you might as well overdo it) and he’s older than Slaanesh to boot. Sadly he hasn’t had a miniature for a number of years now, which is like depriving Chaos of Abaddon, or leaving the Ultramarines without Marneus Calgar. Things hit rock bottom for him when recent background developments saw him betrayed and murdered but he’s now back (resurrected at his own funeral no less) and more powerful than ever – and if that isn’t an excuse to give him a brand, spanking new model then I don’t know what is.

Orks

Speaking of xenos overlords it’s time to turn our attention to da best of da aliens, those rambunctious boyz, the Orks. The greenskins have actually been fairly well served with miniatures, despite what you might hear in some quarters, and some of the older models, such as the Kommandos and Tankbustas, remain amongst my favourites. That said it would be nice to see them get the multi-part plastic treatment at some stage so that I might gather an even greater and more varied army of these warlike hooligans. However my pick for the model most deserving of replacement has to go to the boss of bosses, Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. His current miniature isn’t bad by any means but, with 40k luminaries like Calgar, Abaddon and Mephiston demonstrating just how outstanding modern character sculpts can be it would be wonderful to see the Beast of Armageddon returned bigger and meaner than ever.

Ghazghkull Thraka

Tau

Another one that had me scratching my head here, and for quite a while I was inclined to suggested something Kroot. However I still think that if GW do decide to introduce a new xenos race as a fully fledged faction the cannibal bird-men of Pech have to be the most likely candidates. The Kroot rank and file have aged relatively well but the same cannot be said of the Krootox or Kroot Hounds, both of which I feel are best left to the history books.

Krootox Rider

Refresh all these kits, with a few alternative builds to create new units, and a revamped Knarloc in place of heavy armour and a whole new race could take their place on the galactic stage. It’s worth noting as well that not all Kroot are subjects of the Tau empire so separating them from the faction could be as straightforward as splitting the Plague Marines from the Chaos Space Marines – with some units remaining available to both.

However the Tau Empire was always more than just a coalition between the dominant Tau and their Kroot allies.  Indeed the background describes a whole swath of client races, united by a belief in the Tau’s guiding principle of the Greater Good. Nowadays however those kits that remain are old and ailing – yet seeing them relegated more and more to the sidelines does the Tau as a whole a disservice. A new kit for the Vespid Stingwings would, therefore, go a long way towards maintaining the diversity of both the Tau and the 40k setting as whole. After all despite the Imperium killing off most of the xenos species that once called the galaxy home during the Great Crusade it’s nice to see the occasional reminder that wilderness space remains vast and uncharted and not all of the aliens dwelling beneath those distant suns are those few powerful enough to have full model ranges of their own.

Vespids

Necrons

My first 40k army was almost the Necrons, which a friend tried to sell me not long after I started university. I didn’t buy it, having only the vaguest understanding of what 40k was at that time, but I’ve always had a soft spot for those legions of metal men. Since that time the range has expanded and improved considerably and now contains some really excellent models. They’ve also shrugged off many of the undead cliché’s that once dominated them and have grown into their own entity. Yet whilst the other Necrons have marched to power on the back of utterly relentless, unfeeling efficiency, the flayed ones continue to scuttle along the fringes – wearing someone else’s face in an attempt to disguise the fact that these are basically just WHFB’s ghouls transposed into space. To me they’ve always seemed shoe-horned in, out of keeping with the rest of the faction, but if we’re going to keep them around then some better models wouldn’t hurt.

Flayed Ones

Tyranids

The Tyranids have had a pretty good run of things over recent years, building up their range over multiple editions and replacing most of their older models with new kits. Of course this makes my life all the easier, the only real contender for replacement being the lictor (with an optional build for the Deathleaper of course). I suspect that many of us hoped that the current clash between the Blood Angels and the Hive Fleets, in the third chapter of the Psychic Awakening, would be accompanied by a new lictor model but alas it seems now that this was merely wishful thinking. Still, one has to wonder, once a new lictor does emerge from the shadows the range will be well stocked with modern plastics – so where might the Norn-Queens of Nottingham decide to go next?

Lictor

Chaos Space Marines

It’s been a damn good year for us fans of the Chaos Space Marines but, unsurprisingly given our megalomaniacal hunger for more, we’re still not satisfied – and why should we be? After all there are still plenty of gaps in the ranks of our beloved  traitors. The most obvious contenders have to be the Noise Marines and the Khorne Berserkers, the latter being amongst the oldest and ugliest plastics in the GW catalogue, the former having only a resin upgrade kit. However both are, I suspect, strong contenders to become the seed of fully developed ranges in the coming years, as the Emperor’s Children and World Eaters join the Death Guard and Thousand Sons in breaking away from the Chaos Space Marines. Likewise there are various heroes (and I use that term loosely of course) which could use a revamp – a new version of Fabius Bile being particularly welcome, but it would be good to see Huron Blackheart, Lucius the Eternal and a generic Warpsmith whilst we’re at it. The Possessed are looking past their best and although the Obliterators which were released as part of Shadowspear are excellent a multipart box for them would be nice to see soon (especially if it also allowed an alternative build to replace the Mutilators as well). However, if there’s one kit which really cries out for replacing above all the rest it has to be the chaos cultists.

Chaos Cultists

I’ve made this case more times than I can count so, at risk of boring my regular readers, I’ll keep it brief. When the traitorous legions invade real-space they bring with them hordes of cannon-fodder, the ragged dregs of their cursed society, the lost and the damned. Meanwhile demagogues raise secret cults which burst from their hovels and manufactorums. By their very nature these cults should form large mobs, making up in strength of numbers what they lack in strength of any other kind. What’s more these are not trained troops but at best a militia, and at worst an ongoing riot. No two should ever look the same, or even similar, as each has armed and armoured themselves with whatever they can scavenge. The rise and rise of Necromunda, and it’s range of plastic gangs – especially the new Corpse Grinders, has helped to give us more options, and Blackstone Fortress has added a few more, but in terms of official models we still need to fall back onto five sculpts, none of which are particularly easy to convert. Put some effort in and you can swap heads and weapons without too much trouble but imagine what could be if we had access to a truly versatile kit – and of course it would be a goldmine for Inq28 as well. Make it so GW, and my money is as good as spent!

Chaos Daemons

Like the Tyranids the Chaos Daemons are nowadays mostly plastic models, the old kits – many of which were pretty ropy – swept aside by modern versions. There are still a few gaps however, with the legions of Slaanesh being the worst offenders. A few new models earlier this year covered most of the gaps but She Who Thirsts still has a lot of ground to catch up against the other gods. However, despite this fact, and despite how strongly I feel that Slaanesh deserves to be my pick here, I must instead give my vote to another. The kit which I believe needs to be replaced more than any other – perhaps even in the entire GW catalogue – has to be the Pink Horrors. Horrors they certainly are, but perhaps not quite in the way that one might have hoped. Here’s the previous version, twisted creatures of raw magic gifted with spiteful sentience.

Pink Horrors Old

And here’s the current crop (and I may have misspelled that that last word).

Pink Horrors New

If that isn’t proof that upgrading to plastic isn’t always a good thing I don’t know what is. Come on GW – you know we all deserve better than this!

+++

So there we have it, my pick of those kits I’d most like to see replaced with a new iteration. Do you agree or disagree? Did I pick on your favourite model, or do you have a candidate of your own which you think surpasses my suggestions in its desperate need to be renewed? As ever the comments box is all yours!


Them Bones

They say that the only things in life which are inevitable are death and taxes. Nagash, being a particularly formidable fellow, has found a way to combine the two, creating a legion of undead bureaucrats with which to harry to Mortal Realms. Today the Ossiarch Bonereapers come marching out of their crypts ready to demand everyone pay the Tithe of Bones. I’m not a huge fan of Nagash himself but no matter what I do I find myself around ever more tightly to his service. It seems that I have more in common with Mannfred Von Carstein than anyone realised..! Indeed my relationship with the undead dates back to an era in which Nagash was just an ugly miniature in a big hat and the swaggering gangsters of the Von Carstein family ruled the night. In many ways falling under the sway of GW’s undead proved to be the gift that keeps on giving because – in a phenomenon that space marine fans will doubtless find familiar – every few years they empty the crypts and shower the range with new models. Last year it was the turn of everything spooky, spectral and liable to go bump in the night, this time the focus is on the mailed fist of Nagash; the Ossiarch Bonereapers.

Naturally, given the scale and impact of this release, and my long-established affiliation with the living dead of the Warhammer universes, this seemed a fine moment for another of my rambling appraisals, not a review as such but a chance to chew over the release like a ghoul with your arm.

Bonereapers Art 1

First things first then, who are the Ossiarch Bonereapers? On the face of it these are a new faction which joins the Death Grand Alliance for Age of Sigmar, and represent the military elite of Nagash. They join the Legions of Nagash (a fairly traditional mix of the undead, based around the Vampire Counts of yore), the Nighthaunt (ghosts) and the Flesh-Eater Courts (ghouls). To all intents and purposes these are a race of skeletons, although closer examination reveals them to be something a little more complex and interesting. Rather than being raised from the dead like the others and making do with whatever mother nature provided – and whatever decades of decay has left behind – these are built from the ground up using sculpted bones and imbued with a cocktail of souls, granting them a swathe of knowledge and skills beyond that possessed by any individual mortal, and providing even the most junior with a brilliant mind and an enviable degree of combat skills.

Unusually for the undead this is a professional army. The majority of the other three Death factions are essentially an armed rabble. Had they not been called to war they would most likely be doing something else, be that lurking in a crypt or simply mouldering. The Ossiarch Bonereapers however were built for war, with bodies literally engineered for battle and imbued with the spirits of great warriors past. In this regard the comparison with the Stormcast Eternals is so obvious it hardly needs to be made.

Typically the undead are mindless. Zombies, in books and films alike, either shamble laboriously from one meal to the next or, if they’re a bit more modern and scary, run frantically after survivors with impressive athleticism. Skeletons are even dimmer, being essentially bone automatons, whilst ghouls may possess animal cunning but let themselves down as the thinking man’s undead by being barking mad. Only vampires buck the trend but their blood-craving still defines them. They may fight like a black-belt and think like a Mensa member but they’re still junkies at heart and all too easily undone by their addictions. Not so the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Unlike the majority of the walking dead they can be reasoned with, and whilst a zombie won’t stop to chat whilst it’s chewing your arm off the Bonereapers have plenty of time to discuss things like grown-ups and avoid any fighting (which after all leads to broken bones). The problem seems to be that whilst Sigmar was gathering warrior souls to reforge into Stormcast Eternals Nagash was on the look-out for lawyers. Try dealing with the Bonereapers and soon enough documents will be signed, bills submitted and before you know it you’re paying them in bones to go away and leave you in peace (for a while at least). Of course if the haggling doesn’t work then they always have their skill at arms to fall back on. After all it’s easy to sign up to a bad deal in perpetuity when there’s an army on your border saying things like “Nice country, shame if something happened to it”. This protection racket is known as the Tithe of Bones, and is right at the heart of the relationship between the Ossiarch Bonereapers and the rest of the races in the realms. Play by the rules, pay up on time, don’t try to rip them off, and they’ll go on their way. In the short-term you can just dig up all the bones from the local graveyard. In the long term it may end up costing you an arm and a leg – but they might not come back for years, or even decades. You’ll think of something, or your children will. Ultimately GW knows as well as the rest of us that zombies are scary but they’ve got nothing on the taxman.

The problem with the Tithe of Bones, from a mortal’s point of view, is that everyone has bones to sell. Unless you happen to be a jellyfish you’re not going to be able to convince them that you don’t have anything with which to pay. If a fearsome looking army arrives looking for gold, for instance, you can try explaining to them that there isn’t any gold near here, or if that doesn’t work you can just hand over whatever gold you own – leaving yourself poorer but, on the plus side, not dead. The Ossiarchs on the other hand are only interested in collecting bone, and are well aware that whoever they’re speaking to probably contains quite a few. On the other hand the person who currently has their flesh wrapped around said bones is unlikely to be willing to give them up, at least in the immediate-term. One wonders if they leave the Sylvaneth in peace or if, for some reason, they have a desperate need for kindling?

Bonereapers Art 2

Meanwhile, amongst those who serve Sigmar, the Stormcast Eternals are suffering a slow decline, becoming increasingly orderly and inhuman over multiple reforgings. In this respect the Ossiarch Bonereapers can be seen as a natural shadow or counter to Sigmar’s chosen, in much the same way as the chaos space marines are to their loyalist cousins. Of course it’s a crude comparison, the Stormcasts do not turn their coats and join up with Nagash’s legions. Rather what we see is a glimpse of the challenge Sigmar is struggling to avoid. After all despite their name the forces of Order are a (small ‘c’) chaotic bunch, given to indulging mortal foibles, when compared to the totally structured, unquestioning, authoritarian and above all orderly society planned by Nagash.

Furthermore we now start to see why the creation of the Stormcasts was such an insult to Nagash. According to the background we’ve seen so far Nagash has been left enraged by Sigmar robbing him of souls which he believed belonged in death to him. A notoriously petty individual, even before he became a god, it’s easy to imagine him as a miser, hoarding souls but never spending them, a big-hatted Scrooge of the underworld. Surely a more entrepreneurial outlook would suggest that the solution would be to invest a few heroic souls  in expectation of a good return. With the realms firmly beneath the boot of the dark gods most souls would be swallowed by chaos long before reaching Shyish. In time the realms would be scoured of life and Nagash would starve. With the living gone the supply of dead would dry up and the Mortal Realms would become just another corner of the Realm of Chaos, ruled over by drooling spawn and capering daemons. Allow Sigmar a few souls and, with Chaos driven back, cities would grow, populations would flourish  and soon a plentiful supply of souls would be making their way to the underworld. As any capitalist would tell you sometimes you have to spend money to make money, and the same appears to go for souls.

Allow Sigmar a few heroes today and tomorrow you can enjoy more butchers, bakers and candlestick makers than you know what to do with (and one look at the Nighthaunt should be enough to assure you that candlestick makers are something Nagash needs a lot of). Plus the percentage of souls collected by Sigmar was surely negligible. He sought only great heroes and even then he’s selective. Organising a tombola to raise money for disabled kids is to be celebrated and people will rightly call you a local hero but Sigmar isn’t going to make you immortal unless you’re willing to try and kill a bloodthirster using only your own face. And what was Nagash going to do with them anyway – make more zombies?

Now however we see the bigger picture. Those heroic souls were undoubtedly intended for the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Many of us are nodding in agreement and wishing that GW too had pouring more resources into something other than Stormcast’s back in the early days of AoS.

Bonereapers Art 4

The Ossiarch Bonereapers miniatures are a mixed bunch. Some are simply outstanding, others are rather more ropey, although overall there’s little here that I really dislike. The real stand-out model however has to be Orpheon Katakros, the Mortarch of the Necropolis. Really this isn’t a miniature, it’s a diorama in a box, and easily one of the best miniatures released by Games Workshop this year.

Orpheon Katakros

Looming over the rest of his army he looks like a true god of war, outshining Nagash by a million miles and simply oozing with assured arrogance and authority. Look, for instance, at the way he’s holding his shield – not wearing it as he launches himself into battle, but standing back, observing the fight before him but clearly seeing no reason to lower himself to actually getting his hands dirty.

Details 1

Some of my favourite elements however are actually the figures gathered around his base. These two bodyguards are particularly interesting, representing as they do troops with a very different appearance to anything else in the range. It’s a pity, I’d have actually much preferred these in place of the Necropolis Stalkers or Immortis Guard as the elite troops of the army. It’s nice that they’ve taken this opportunity to give us a glimpse of some of the other troop types or characters not represented elsewhere but a couple of units of these would have been just the thing.  Likewise the bird-faced messenger is also fantastic and a great example of the kind of creativity that AoS does so well. The ghost crow is a bit naff but you can’t have it all and apart from that he’s pretty damn brilliant.

Details 2

This is also the first of the Mortarchs to really click with me in AoS. As noted in my Nighthaunt review I wasn’t particularly enthused by Lady Olynder (unusual though I know this is!). The other three meanwhile were all very much products of the Old World and much as I love them (well, two of them, Arkhan  is a teacher’s pet in a silly hat) it took me a long time to get used to seeing them in the Mortal Realms. Mannfred for instance was one of my favourite characters from Warhammer, a perfect villain, a swaggering gangster and a real lord of the night (indeed I loved the whole dysfunctional Von Carstein family). The miniature released for him during the End Times more than did him justice and so I was pleased to see him live on in the new era. On the other hand he does feel a little out of place, a character so iconic of a very different setting that his appearance almost feels like a cameo. Neferata is no better. Again the miniature is outstanding (she pulls off the big hats with far greater aplomb than either Arkhan  or their boss Nagash – and presumably looks better in a bodice than they do too!).

Neferata

I’ll admit to being a little bit in love with her, which is complicated because I already have a man crush on Mannfred. As a vampire it makes sense that she would have survived the ages and would continue to haunt the Mortal Realms just as she did the Old World. This doesn’t change the fact that it took me a long time to get used to seeing her as part of the new setting. It didn’t help that, with no chance of her returning to her old home in Lahmia thanks to the destruction of the world, she set up anew in Nulahmia (that’s right, Nu Lahmia – presumably when she’s at home she wears baggy trousers and a backwards red baseball cap. Mind you, this originated during the same era of AoS background writing which gave us the fyreslayers and their quest for Ur Gold – as in “We’re here 4 ur gold” – it seems that the spirit which brought us lizardmen with names like Xhoqui Bikki lives on but without the same degree of subtly…)

Not all of Katakros’ troops are on the same level as him however. Some miniatures just look awesome and as soon as you see them you are convinced of their qualities and want to paint them. others are dreadful and you can safely put your money back in your pocket knowing you’ll never inflict your brushes with such an abomination. Then there are those which are spoiled by an obvious flaw but which could be improved by a bit of converting or kitbashing. However the hardest to handle from a reviewers point of view are those about which you just can’t decide. I mean, what on earth are you supposed to say about them? Take the Necropolis Stalkers for instance. Four-armed, and thus presumably forewarned, they are one part General Grievous and one part Tyranid size zero model. They’re also just a bit unexciting, not a good sign for what should be the army’s elite.

Necropolis Stalkers

Yet whilst the Necropolis Stalkers could be better at least they’re an improvement on the Immortis Guard, who failed to grab me at all. I don’t have any issue with detailed models, something that I know upsets some hobbyists to a startling degree, but these are fussy and over-detailed to an incredible degree, cluttered with odd elements that do nothing for the overall look of the things. The multiple faces of the Necropolis Stalkers take some getting used to but they’re a vast improvement on the silly grins worn by the Immortis Guard (and yes, I know that skeletons can’t help but grin but do they have to look so damn smug about it?)

Immortis Guard

For me they fall somewhere between two stools and are made the lesser for it. They’re not good enough to have me jumping up and down with excitement but they are not terribly bad either. They could have been improved by a bit more human, a bigger nastier version of the Mortek Guard which make up the rank and file. Alternatively they could have been more monstrous – with even more arms or roaring animal skulls. After all, Nagash could make whatever kind of soldiers he felt like from all those bones he’s been collecting, so why craft a pin-up from a teenage genestealer cultist’s bedroom wall?

However the concept behind them definitely deserves acknowledgement. The Ossiarch Bonereapers are not simply skeletons but constructs, golems of bone animated by warrior spirits. Rather than being forced to rely on recycling mother nature’s efforts Nagash was able to innovate, creating better bodies for his warriors. When someone suggested he take up bodybuilding he clearly got quite the wrong impression… More arms allow them to carry more weapons whilst multiple spirits, each of which specialised in their own martial tradition, allows them to switch seamlessly from one combat style to another mid battle.

Looking at them I wonder if we might be catching a glimpse into the future of the Stormcast Eternals. Whilst space marines always have the opportunity to better themselves by turning to Chaos the Stormcast Eternals, as previously mentioned, become less human with each reforging, compassion and mercy fading with each cycle of death and rebirth. How long before Sigmar start to see this not as a curse but as an opportunity? A human soul rescued from death will doubtless be glad to wake up in a human body, and if said body is tall and buff so much the better.  However once all humanity has faded to be replaced by cold and ruthless logic why return the soul to a flawed human frame? I’m no expert on the reforging process but I wonder if these lost Stormcasts might find themselves awakening as something akin to dreadnoughts or other war constructs. After all Sigmar is in an arms race and given how many arms these guys have Nagash is in it to win it. The poor Stormcasts, cold, merciless and yet unfailingly driven to destroy the enemies of Order regardless of cost or consequence, would probably welcome the greater prowess of their new bodies, whilst their colleagues will be equally glad if they come fitted with some kind of off switch.

Mortek Guard Group

To a great extent the aesthetic success of an army rides on the quality of the rank and file. After all the core troops are something you’re likely to be painting a lot of. If they look awesome then a sizeable proportion of your collection will look awesome regardless of what other troops or characters you include. If they look rubbish then chances are, although you might pick up a few other models just for the joy of painting them, you’ll not be starting a whole new army. Luckily for the Bonereapers the Mortek Guard fall firmly in the former category.

So far the core of the undead armies that we’ve seen have been made up of the lowest of the low; skeletons, ghouls and hordes of ghosts. Weapons, if they have them at all, are rusty and ill maintained – the ghouls even make do with rocks, bones and their natural claws.  Armour is even rarer and shabbier. The implication is that these are disposable troops, their value only in numbers – and as death comes to us all, especially in times of war, there will be plenty more where they came from. Weapons and armour of quality go only to the leaders, those elite lords who rule the night and command the hordes. For the undead it’s all about the 1%.

Mortek Guard 1

The Mortek Guard are clearly a cut above however. In any other undead army they would be the elite troops. There’s a real sense of weight to the models, reinforced by their heavy shields. A block of these tramping across the tabletop towards you would look very imposing indeed. Plus, admitting my bias, I’m a sucker for an armoured phalanx, and that’s not something we see much of from GW. When, oh when, will they heed my prayers and produce space marine breachers in plastic, preferably as Primaris Marines in reinforced Mk III style armour?!

The stylised masks are an unusual touch that helps them to stand out from the usual skeletal horde. Some of them also have bony crests, which makes for a nicely exotic touch, but the cleft in the chin is so deep it looks less like a manly jaw and more like a bum. As is traditional the commander shows his face, or in this case his skull, presumably just in case the enemy forgets that they are fighting the undead.

Bonereapers Art 1

Nosey parkers 

It may seem odd but, as one peruses the internet, one discovers that a lot of people are very, very upset – and not for any of the usual reasons. The cause of all this outrage? Simply that some of the models in the Ossiarch Bonereapers range have noses. Skeletons, as everyone nose, have no noses. Allegations that the legendary tirelessness of Nagash’s legions is a result of excessive cocaine consumption remain unconfirmed. I’m sure there’s another joke about supermodels just waiting to be made. The retort, of course, is that these aren’t really skeletons at all but construct made of bone and their faces are not skulls but masks. If only GW had taken this to its logical conclusion and named the Mortarch Axel Nose.

If you are someone who has been ranting about this online it’s worth keeping in mind that old proverb, nose whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. If it really bothers you why not chop the nose off and carve out a suitable gap (although the average skeleton needs that like he needs a hole in his head). Then again you may decide that this is a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Or why not simply incorporate the Briar Queen from Nightvault into your army as an ally? Every nose has its thorn after all.

Despite the potential of these options it appears that, on this issue at least, the noes still outnumber the ayes. And why has all this angst occurred? Nobody nose.

Deathrider 1

Being an old-fashioned sort of chap Nagash never seems to miss an opportunity to include some horsemen in his armies. The Legions of Nagash have the Black Knights, the Nighthaunt have the Hexwraiths and Dreadblade Harrows and now the Ossiarch Bonereapers have the Kavalos Deathriders. Only the flesh-eater courts have missed out, somewhat ironically given that they believe themselves to be knights. Just imagine how ghoulish cavalry in battered knightly armour might look. Surely a gap to fill if GW revisits the range.

Kavalos Deathriders

However there’s slightly more to it than that. Despite appearances the steeds of the deathriders are not horse skeletons but bone constructs in the shape of horses (and indeed from what I’ve read ahead of this release it seems that the spirit animating it comes from the same source as the rest of the army, and may at times even be a warrior or general who’s managed to disappoint Nagash). I used to walk past a horse skeleton everyday at university (and who knew that horse skeletons even went to university?) but just in case you haven’t enjoyed such regular contact with horse bones they emphasise the point with large skulls, clearly not of equine origin. One appears to have belonged to some kind of rhinoceros, another to a large bird or griffin. There are other more subtle hints as well – a giant’s skull poking out from a shoulder blade for example.

The riders meanwhile look suitably fearsome although the effect is spoiled slightly by the fact that they appear to be wearing crop tops. We know that they are skeletons under their armour – we don’t need to see bare midriffs to prove it! Of course this is intended to tie them in with Nagash who also likes to flash a bit of belly but it’s no less silly for all that. That detail aside these are not bad on the whole. I say not bad because skeletons riding skeleton horses is a look that’s notoriously hard to pull off. GW nailed it with the most recent incarnation of the black Knights and these fall short in comparison. Overall though I like them, although I’m not quite jumping up and down in excitement.

LiegeKavaloi

The commanders of the army, the Liege-Kavalos and the character version – Arch-Kavalos Zandtos, also come riding on large bony beasts. Alas the level of fussy detail hits new heights here, swamping even my tolerance for it. Zandtos’ for instance rides something akin to a skeletal gryph-charger with three tails, which to my eye is two tails too many. Clearly someone on the GW design team thinks adding extra tails brings something to a model but to my eye it’s just overkill, and often spoils the miniature in question. I know it’s a matter of personal preference but this is my review and I’ll cry if I want to. Overall the idea of creating something which reflects the Stormcast Eternals is a clever one, and goes a long way to bedding these new miniatures into the existing world, but it just doesn’t quite come off here. Less would have been more with these, although I suspect they could be improved greatly by snipping off a few extraneous details and replacing some parts with plainer components harvested from the lower ranks. Kitbashing these with some parts from the Kavalos Deathriders for instance might make all the difference, as well as allowing you to create a unique-looking general for your army.

Girl Named Zandtos

The range also incorporates three new types of wizard, each in my view vastly better than the Liege-Kavalos. The Mortisan Soulmason for instance is a nicely character-packed piece, looking downright curmudgeonly as he’s harangued by an escaping soul and actually managing to pull off the outrageous hats beloved by Nagash and his ilk. He’s also riding on a suitably weird ambulatory throne, which is just the kind of strange and creative thinking that AoS was made for.

Soulmason and ghost

The Mortisan Boneshaper  meanwhile is a fantastic model spoiled by a silly spell effect. The floating, reforming skeleton has its merits but it over-eggs what is otherwise a rather cool figure. If it’s possible to build him without it I might be tempted though.

Mortisan

Seen from behind the effect looks more clever and less jarring, but it’s still a little OTT for me.

Mortisan Boneshaper 2

My dislike of fancy magical effects is well-known so how come I like Mortisan Soulreaper so much? The answer is that, in my opinion, most such effects are either overdone,  unnecessary or both. The Soulreaper however is a perfect example of what it looks like when they get it right. The design here is extremely clever – observe for instance the way in which the eye is drawn around from any point on the model, along the haft and blade of the scythe, down the ghostly trail to the arm and back to the face, which is framed within a series of spirals. Continuing the style exemplified by the Nighthaunt there’s a sense of weightlessness to the character, their feet actually floating above the ground, which just wasn’t possible until recently. Furthermore the model has an alien quality, further evidence of the Realms breaking free of their Old World roots. We’ve not seen anything like this before but it isn’t quirky just for the sake of it and the result is weird and uncanny, but still functional and believable.

There’s also something faintly elven about him, with his slim features and the suggestion of pointed ears. Indeed I can see this model being used as the basis for converting a Ynnari farseer.

Flying Bonereaper Man

Meanwhile, it turns out that Nagash has a brand new Gothizzar Harvester and he’ll give you the key.

Gothizzar Harvester 2

It’s a weird beast this one, part dinosaur and part corpse cart, a walking charnel pit with wrecking balls for hands. Luckily I have an affection for weird beasts. The problem with weirdness is that sometimes things are just too strange, too far out with the known or simply strange for the sake of it, and the result is something that’s hard for the viewer to engage with. Thus it took me a while to make up my mind about the Gothizzar Harvester but, after considerable consideration, I’ve decided it works for me.  There’s a nicely ramshackle feel to it, it looks as though it’s been cobbled together out of all the leftovers once are the useful harvested bones have been used to build the rest of the army. We also get a choice of heads and weapons which by themselves go a long way to differentiating multiple models. This is always good to see and I’ll be interested to find out how much adjustments to the pose can add emphasis to this. Variety is always better. I also wonder how the spare head would look on a Chaos Knight, or for that matter an Adeptus Titanicus Titan.

Gothizzar Harvester 1

It’s not a model without flaws however. This gory effect for instance just doesn’t work and should have been left on the drawing board.

Gothizzar Harvester 3

You’ll also want to practice painting different styles of bone. There are a lot of different parts of this model but almost all of them are made of bones and the result risks being a bit of an undifferentiated blob, although if you’re in a hurry to get this onto the tabletop then washes will do a lot of the legwork. Take some time and enjoy it however and the result will be a striking an unusual centrepiece.

HarvesterDetail-WC3

Just in case anyone thinks that they might be able to hide from the Ossiarch Bonereapers behind a nice big wall they’ve brought along a catapult big enough to make short work of even the sturdiest fortification. Again, it’s an odd one – far from the traditional catapults of old which were generally based pretty closely on a historical equivalent with some minor tweak (like being made of bone) to tie them into a fantasy universe. Not so the Mortek Crawler, which scurries into battle on bony legs and fires magical skulls at anyone who stands in its way.

The crew are especially detailed, a band of industrious skeletons (some might even say a skeleton crew), hard at work aiming loading adjusting, there’s even one in a giant wheel – presumably a means by which the arm of the catapult is tensioned prior to firing.

Mortek Crawler

Just as the Nighthaunt borrowed the Black Coach from the Vampire Counts and rebuilt it, bigger, better and far more dynamic so the Mortek Crawler can trace its roots to the Tomb Kings Screaming Skull Catapult. Yet whilst the new Black Coach had a lot in common with the old one, the Mortek Crawler is clearly a very different beast to the Screaming Skull. Both are catapults (obviously), both are made primarily of bones and crewed by skeletons, both fire magical skulls of one kind or another, both even feature a carrion bird hoping for a meal. Yet despite these obvious similarities there is no more that separates them. Whilst the screaming skull catapult is made out of bones it is clear that these are just skeletons, or parts of skeletons, lashed together in place of more traditional materials. Where there wasn’t a bone to fit wood has been used instead and even a couple of mummies have been pressed into service. Skulls predominate and a couple of dinosaur skeletons have been used as a (rather impractical) base – presumably the mummies brought them along when they escaped from the museum.

Screaming Skull

The Mortek Crawler on the other hand is a much more fantastical creation. The vastness of the Realms (and the range of mighty beasts which presumably lurk there) has allowed them to create a huge skeletal construct more like a tank than an artillery piece. Other materials are almost entirely absent – even the chains are made of bone. The structure is far more complex too (as befits modern design) and considerably more creative – the dinosaurs replaced by a number of bone legs and the aforementioned wheel. Rather than three tomb kings standing around nearby the crew are all interacting with it – and I’m curious to get a proper look at what they are all doing.

Mortek Crawler 2

When the first signs of the Ossiarch Bonereapers appeared on the horizon many people, myself included, jumped to the conclusion that we were soon to see a Tomb Kings revamp. With retrospect that was always a rather silly idea, although there’s no harm in wishful thinking GW are very unlikely to revisit the sands of Khemri when they can be stretching their creative muscles. Honestly I suspect that the only time we’ll ever see a Tomb King again they’ll be in a Blood Bowl team, and this reinvented Screaming Skull is the nearest GW will come in the Mortal Realms. Any tomb kings fan wishing to include these models in their WHFB army will need to do a lot of kitbashing and converting to create a seamless blend. This may be the best material they’ve received in years but the gap between the ranges is still wide, and not easily crossed.

Morghast

Finally, it’s impossible to consider the Ossiarch Bonereapers without comparing them to the Morghasts. These winged undead appeared during the End Times of WHFB, by which time the doom of the Old World was already rolling towards its inexorable conclusion and the Age of Sigmar glimmered just over the horizon. Back then they stood out amongst both the Vampire Counts and the Tomb Kings. Clearly undead but not at home in either faction they were an enigma – and thus they have remained. Only now amongst the Bonereapers do they truly fit in. Much like an undead chicken and its eggs it leaves one wondering which came first – were the Morghast early concepts for the Ossiarch Bonereapers or did their design go on to inspire them?

Vokmortian

Despite my affiliation with the undead I don’t plan to rush out to buy an army of these – my already scarce hobby budget being husbanded carefully for Necromunda; Dark Uprising, and my AoS painting plans focused more on all of the Nighthaunt I picked up cheap when Soul Wars was released. That said I did treat myself to Feast of Bones, managing to snap one up in the brief ten minutes or so that it was available.

Back in the spring I hummed and hawed over the Looncurse boxset. On the one hand I have an affinity for the Night Goblins (now Gloomspite Gits) and a long-standing, as yet unrealised, plan to start a little Syvaneth army (these being the two factions included in the box). On the other hand I’m not made of money to throw at every miniature that comes along, nor do I have enough time for the projects I’ve already started – let along adding any others. So I took some time to ponder and the set sold out whilst I was still scratching my head. This time, given my affiliation with both Nagash and Gorkamorka – and more specifically my interest in starting a little collection of ogres and dipping my toe into the Ossiarch Bonereapers – I snapped up Feast of Bones as soon as it was released, and not a moment too soon either because it sold out even quicker than Looncurse did. It’s almost like GW planned it that way…

I have mixed feelings about this however, because great though the miniatures in the box are there’s a lot to be pissed off about. Alongside a range of other models at a knock down price the set also contains an ogre tyrant and a Bonereapers character called Vokmortian. Both are cracking models and I have no regrets or trouble justifying the purchase to myself, but I won’t deny that GW’s increasing use of limited edition models and boxset-only characters leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Generally these models are released separately eventually but the wait to see them given a non-limited release seems to be growing longer and longer, whilst the prevalence of such limited releases only increases. A miniature appearing in a boxset a few weeks or even a month or two ahead of its full-scale release seems fair enough to me and serves to make the box feel a bit more special. However that kind of timetable is becoming the exception rather than the norm. Clearly this must suit GW’s corporate strategy but there’s no denying that it feels like a dick move. In the wake of these releases the limited edition models inevitably appear on eBay at vastly inflated prices courtesy of those cynical enough to exploit the situation to make a quick buck.

CarrionEmpireWarlock

Often it seems as though GW is using clever marketing to sell a few new models at a price well beyond even their steep prices. Take the warlock engineer with the doom rocket – or Warlock Bombardier to give it its AoS title – which appeared in the Carrion Empire box earlier this year. The box set featured Skaven vs Flesh Eater Courts, neither of which particularly appealed to me. I already have an army of the former and certainly don’t need to get any more and whilst I like the latter well enough to be putting together a little Warcry warband, I certainly don’t have any interest in acquiring a larger collection than that at the moment. I did however like the look of that warlock engineer, but not enough to buy the entire box just for him – not at a cost of £95 anyway! Instead I decided to wait for him to appear separately – something which has yet to occur at the time of writing, some ten months later.

Where this becomes particularly exasperating is in cases such as the Skaven or the Ogres, which haven’t seen much attention from GW for a number of years. A new miniature is quite a big deal for fans of said army, and releasing it for only a brief window is simply irritating. Add in the fact that it starts to make part of the hobby feel rather elitist, with some miniatures aimed only at those who can afford to snap up a box set, racing against time as others rush to claim the limited stock as well, without the chance to plan ahead and budget. Sadly some elements of the fanbase have made such a habit out of permanent outrage that I imagine it just sounds like background noise now from GW’s perspective, and with so many people crying wolf all day every day genuine complaints will be lost in the tumult. On the other hand I know two people who abandoned the hobby after describing exactly this situation as the final straw so I felt I couldn’t let the occasion pass without comment, even if I have no doubt that the avarice of the GW finance department we’ll keep the entire company deaf and blind to the ill feeling these shenanigans create.

Ogre

This handsome young man was available briefly in Feast of Bones, how long before we see him again however?

Anyway, let’s move on to a more cheerful topic. Looking at these latest additions to the armies of the dead one finds oneself wondering where Nagash, and GW, might go next. The undead have been a popular range, receiving regular updates and reinforcements over a number of years, and there is no reason to suspect that might be about to change. Assuming, as I think we must, that GW don’t intend to withdraw their support from one of the four grand alliances of AoS, what form might the next update take?

In comparison to Death the other grand alliances seem divided and discordant. Destruction can look like a bit of a hodgepodge but their core  aesthetic is that of a ramshackle horde and this, combined with the fact that the two sprang from a single faction – the Orcs and Goblins – and of course that they all share the same green skin helps to draw them back together. The ogres are the obvious outlier and exception here but as monstrous, roving barbarians these pink skinned brutes have enough in common with the rest of the hoard to ensure that they fit in without too much trouble. Chaos is a bit more, well, chaotic. The background has them at each other’s throats far, far more often than they team up, with the primary enemies of each god being his brothers in the pantheon – leaving other forces and deities, even material reality itself, a very distant second. Aesthetically speaking there is even less to pull them together, the visual similarities between a Tzaangor and a Blightking for instance would fit into a thimble.

On the other hand, despite containing some very different aesthetic elements the Death Grand Alliance still feels very much like a single (albeit huge) faction. The ghouls may be scrawny hunchbacked humans, the skeletons bare bones in crumbling armour, the ghosts incorporeal wraiths, but they still manage to fit in well together and the result looks like a cohesive whole. There are several reasons for this. Firstly they all originated amongst the Vampire Counts. Just a few years ago they were all one army and many hobbyists will remember this all too well. Secondly we’re used to the idea of mixed undead armies from a range of fantasy fiction and games. it may be said that demons are a ghoul’s best friend but most of the time we see them hanging out with skeletons and zombies (which is odd when you think about it as these are a ghoul’s natural prey). Thirdly Nagash remains the undisputed overlord of the entire grand alliance. Both the Order and Chaos alliances have often fractious pantheons, whilst Destruction may pay lip-service to Gorkamorka in his various guises but he’s not exactly a hands-on kind of god, seeming to prefer to allow everyone to seek their own path to violence, especially as the conflicts this provokes allows for some propa’ fightin’.

The Ossiarch Bonereapers manage to repeat the trick, looking significantly different from their peers, but still slotting in neatly alongside them. However I wonder if this will continue to be case in the future. Will every Death faction continue this trend or will we start to see the divisions arising?

Vampire Counts

This was where it all began for me – a long slide into darkness followed…

Despite attempts to liken the Ossiarch Bonereapers to the Tomb Kings the spiritual predecessors of the Death Grand Alliance as a whole is undoubtedly the Vampire Counts. During the later years of WHFB they received attention on what seemed like an almost annual basis. Meanwhile the Tomb Kings were left to wither. The Vampire Counts range could then be divided down into a series of thematic parts. There were ghouls of various sizes, ghosts, skeletons, zombies, necromancers and vampires. It was like a Halloween party without the sexy nurse and the killer clown. The ghouls went on to become the Flesh Eater Courts whilst the ghosts formed the inspiration for the Nighthaunt. Now the skeletons are fleshed out (boom boom) to give us the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Necromancers would be challenging – creating a whole army of powerful wizards always is, visit your local occultists and you’ll discover that they bicker over hierarchy like academics whilst expecting someone else to do all the real work. Of course before we dismiss them or the vampires, especially on the grounds that they only made up a very small part of the old vampire counts range, it’s worth remembering that so did the ghosts – until last year when they erupted into a spectral army.

However my money is on fresher corpses. The zombies are now amongst the oldest and ugliest kits in GW’s stable. If there was ever a time when they look good it’s far behind us now.

Zombies

How about making zombies the theme of the next expansion in the Age of Nagash? As well as the shambling hordes we’re used to (refreshed with a nice new kit of course) we could see zombies of all shapes and sizes; stitched together flesh hulks, flying zombie beasts, corpse-cavalry (because Nagash would need to get horses in somewhere). All kinds of giant beasts could be raised as zombies – we’ve already seen zombie dragons for instance, and  there could be specialist corpse carts, necromancers riding on flesh constructs, necro-surgeons to stitch everything back together and of course the Mortarch of Flesh to rule over it all. It would be a little gross of course but GW have shown they can make that work both aesthetically and financially with Nurgle, and the end result could still look very different to the plague god’s legions.

There is another possibility which is well worth future exploration; mortals. In the old days, in Sylvania, mortals were degenerate peasants living in filthy hovels and suffering in constant terror as they waited for their vampire masters to prey upon them. In Shyish however the relationship with the living seems to be rather more nuanced. Some of course like Warcry’s Unmade, struggle against Nagash and even throw in their lot with Chaos in defiance of his rule. Others worship him, venerating the god of death for saving them from still darker gods. I am reminded of the city of High Chromlech described in the novels by China Miéville. Although the city doesn’t get a lot of attention in the books that I recall the picture which is painted is one of a society in which the undead rule and zombies do the work, whilst the living are farmed only to be killed to create more zombies. Yet whilst zombies possess great physical strength they lack dexterity and complex motor skills and so the living are still able to secure an important place in society doing all the jobs that a zombie can’t. Ambitious social climbers may even go on to join the ranks of the undead themselves. It’s the sort of social setup which didn’t really seem possible in WHFB but could easily be imagined in the Mortal Realms.

Meanwhile in AoS itself the short story The Dance of the Skulls by David Annandale features human nobles attending a ball alongside their vampiric peers, whilst the AoS core book contains a passage in which an old woman is delighted to see her grandsons returning safely from battle – despite the fact that, to our eyes, they’re undead horrors.

Of course there are already living creatures fighting as part of the Death Grand Alliance; the ghoulish Flesh Eater Courts. These deluded maniacs turned to cannibalism during the Age of Chaos but, in a bizarre mass delusion, believe that they are heroic knights and men-at-arms. Crying out “for the lady” whilst you play isn’t compulsory, but it’s guaranteed to annoy any fans of Bretonnia! My congratulations to anyone who converts a ghoul to be bashing two half coconuts together.

Looking at the Flesh Eater Courts I do wonder if GW will ever do any more with them. Much like the lizardmen the miniatures were all designed long ago and the background that sets them in AoS was tacked on at a later date, in order to pad out the game in its early years. At that early stage in its evolution the backstory of AoS was very much a circus to which very little effort had been given and ideas seemed to be getting thrown around with little to tie them to the miniatures. Certainly one doesn’t look at the ghouls and think “oh yeah, these guys are knights”. Despite this the idea of the ghouls as deluded knights seems to have struck a chord with many people (and I’ll admit I’m one of them). Will they even incorporate any new models that actually reflect this background I wonder? There’s no real need to start reinventing them, the current models remain of a high standard, but something knightly would be fun to see. The recent release of the Grymwatch for Warhammer Underworlds was a fine chance to do this and sadly one that GW didn’t take. I do rather like Duke Crakmarrow and his crew but they could have done a lot more with them.

Duke Crackmarrow

Anyway although the ghouls are technically alive and believe themselves to be civilised, sophisticated and heroic, aesthetically they still the naked cannibals that were inherited from WHFB. What about some miniatures to represent the armies of the city-states sworn to Nagash? These wouldn’t be ghoulish cannibals or shuffling zombies but ordinary people who live in houses, pay taxes, hold down jobs and fight for Nagash instead of a distant and uncaring Sigmar. Perhaps we could even see a mixture of elves and dwarves alongside the human citizenry. Would the living really work on behalf of the dead? It may seem counter-intuitive at first glance but most major religions, current and historical, would argue that they would.

Tomb Kings

All the thoughts of Tomb Kings which surrounded the Bonereapers in their early days turned my thoughts to another, less explored, aspect of the undead; mummies. Despite all the skeletons they had to call upon the Tomb Kings were at heart an army based around mummies. When we think of mummies we tend to think of Egypt and indeed the Tomb Kings were very much a a pseudo Egyptian culture – something which always felt a little lazy to me. That said they were a product of their time and despite looking down my nose at them at the time (something most skeletons can’t do but the Ossiarch Bonereapers can!) I still get the odd outbreak of nostalgia for these lost rulers of the desert. Imagine the kind of mummies that AoS might make available however. After a very shaky start they’ve been coming up with cultures far more original and interesting and many of the inhabitants of the Old World (outraged comments incoming in 3…2…1…). What might they do with a race of mummies. Let’s leave Egypt behind here, mummification was practiced all over the globe. Perhaps it’s a result of my own geographical location but I’ve always liked the sound of a race of ancient bog bodies reanimated by Nagash.

It’s worth acknowledging that all of these possibilities are rooted in what we already know of the undead faction as it exists currently and, at least to a degree, in things which have been imported from WHFB. This has been the model for everything released so far for Death, Destruction and Chaos since AoS first emerged (with the Warcry warbands as the key exception in the latter case). There really is very little for any of these three grand alliances which wouldn’t have fitted into the old world. The Gloomspite Gits are the same old Night Goblins we knew and loved, the Ironjaws are orc big ‘uns by any other name, the Nighthaunt could easily have emerged from the graveyards of Sylvania and the Chaos gods and their followers are much the same as they ever were. The same however cannot be said of the forces of order. The Sylvaneth admittedly could have lived happily amongst the wood elves of Athel Loren and the Cities of Sigmar are, of course, very much a grab bag of Old World survivors but that’s where the comparison ends. The Daughters of Khaine have their origins amongst the Dark Elves but they’ve evolved along their own path. The two dwarven races have fallen a long way from the tree indeed whilst the Stormcast Eternals and Idoneth Deepkin have almost no clear link to their progenitors in Warhammer, if it can even be safely said that they have them. Should we not expect the same treatment for the other three grand alliances? In this respect the Ossiarch Bonereapers really do represent the bleeding edge of AoS’s potential. Imagine a time traveller stepping back a decade and showing a fellow hobbyist one of these new Warhammer models. It wouldn’t be immediately obvious which faction they belonged to. Neither the Vampire Counts nor the Tomb Kings really fit, nor is there a known corner of the map from which they can have arisen. Thus for all we know the next step for the undead, or for the tribes of Chaos or Destruction for that matter, could well be a step into the unknown.

 


Whither Now Destruction?

What with it being Orctober I find myself thinking about greenskins even more than usual, from hulking boyz to stabby little gobbos, and even their big – and distinctly pink skinned – friends the ogres. In combination these form the Destruction Grand Alliance, the warlike hordes who smash their way through the Mortal Realms in a riot of brute strength and low cunning.

Orcs Brutes Ironjaws Wudugast

Over the past year or so Games Workshop have given Age of Sigmar some much-needed housekeeping. The myriad factions of yesteryear have been pared down into something much more manageable and less intimidating to a newcomer. In the early days of AoS each Grand Alliance (for the uninitiated that’s Order, Chaos, Death and Destruction – the overall groupings of factions by which the setting is defined) contained dozens of mini-factions, some of which contained only a single model (the Shadowblades or Firebellys for example). For a veteran of the Warhammer era that had gone before it was totally baffling and formed an almost impenetrable barrier between people like me and the brave new world that GW were developing.

Naturally they wanted to look to the future and to get to work on the new and creative ideas they had been cooking up. However before they could really get on with it they needed to put their house in order. If you want your pudding you have to eat your greens and if they wanted to concentrate on the next Idoneth Deepkin or Stormcast Eternals it was getting harder and harder to do with the survivors of the Old World hanging around and embarrassing GW in front of their fancy new friends.

In order to resolve this many of the small factions, with only a handful of models to their name, were rolled together and, unlike the higglety pigglety, anything-goes approach of the early days, found themselves combined like with like. The humans, elves and dwarves who survived the destruction of the Old World have been clumped into the Cities of Sigmar for example, whilst the disparate clans of the Skaven have been reunited into a single faction. At the same time various models were removed from the range, some not a moment too soon, some well before their time, and some were kept on which surely should have been replaced decades ago. At times the logic behind which models were cut and which were kept was hard to fathom for a fan without insider knowledge of the company. The orc boar boys for instance got the chop as part of the dissolution of the greenskins faction. At the time it made a degree of sense to me, despite being relatively modern – not to mention rather nice looking in comparison to many of the other greenskins kits – they didn’t really fit in with either the Ironjaws or the Bonesplitters, both of which had their own version of boar boys anyway. With the arrival of the Orruk Warclans army book however one wonders if more could have been done to save their bacon. With the orc factions rolled back together again surely the boar boys could have found a home amongst them? Most likely the answer comes down to shelf space, combined with the aforementioned alternative boar boys but I’m still sorry to see them go.

Boared Already

I’m just a boar boy, nobody loves me
He’s just a boar boy from a boar family

However whilst I can suggest a logic behind the removal of the boar boys I’m left confused as to why this goblin shaman was shown the door…

Goblin Shaman 2

… whilst these two weren’t.

Night Goblin Shaman

Is it just the lack of Night Goblin accoutrements like a big hood? If it really bothers you a head swap isn’t hard to accomplish. Speaking as a fan of the Gloomspite Gits I’d rather have a nice looking shaman with a bare head than this duff-looking duo (although looking again the one in the foreground isn’t quite as bad as I remembered him). At least I have a couple of alternative shamen I can call upon however.

Age of Sigmar deserves to tap into its potential for creativity but it was tricky to do that until the ghosts of WHFB were laid to rest. Now that that task nears completion we can turn our attention to the future and start to ask just where that creativity might lead.

Until now GW have reserved the greater part of that creativity for the Order Grand Alliance. In part however I suspect this reflects the ideas of the past and the areas in which they felt their line was at its weakest. After all the Skaven, or the warriors of Khorne, are far more distinct to GW’s IP than elves or dwarves which can be found through fantasy fiction. Thus the company has focused on Order and Chaos, the former requiring perhaps the most work, the latter already well-formed and desperate to stretch its wings in AoS’s new universe and tap into the vast potential which previous iterations had seen stifled. The other two Grand Alliances fell behind although Death is starting to come into its own through the Nighthaunt and the forthcoming Ossiarch Bonereapers. As it stands order contains eight factions, chaos seven and death just four with the inclusion of the Bonereapers*. Destruction also has four at the moment although it’s safe to assume that two of these, the Beastclaw Raiders and Gutbusters will be rolled into a single Ogors faction soon.  Likewise the Orcs of the Ironjaws and Bonesplitters have recently become the Orruk Warclans (with any old Orcs from the greenskins faction herded to the exits). Similarly the goblins, trolls and squigs have been gathered into the ranks of the Gloomspite Gits. The result is three neatly packaged factions; orcs, goblins and ogres.

*For those who want to check my workings, I’m counting as supported those factions which have been given their own section on the GW website and a book – not anything  that’s currently discontinued or anything from Forge World. Based on that we have;

Order – Cities of Sigmar, Daughters of Khaine, Fyreslayers, Idoneth Deepkin, Kharadron Overlords, Seraphon, Stormcast Eternals and Sylvaneth.

Chaos – Beasts of Chaos, Blades of Khorne, Disciples of Tzeentch, Everchosen/Slaves to Darkness, Hedonites of Slaanesh, Maggotkin of Nurgle and Skaven (treating Everchosen and Slaves to Darkness as one faction and leaving Creatures of Chaos out because that’s not a proper faction round my house, that’s just some monsters conveniently gathered in the same place!)

Death – Flesheater Courts, Legions of Nagash, Nighthaunt, Ossiarch Bonereapers.

Destruction – Gloomspite Gits, Orruk Warclans and Mawtribes (or whatever the Ogors end up being called).

Ogre

I’m sexy and I know it

Where do they go next then? There isn’t a natural and obvious answer to this. When Khorne, Nurgle and Tzeentch were given army books of their own it was safe to assume that Slaanesh would get their turn sooner or later. The same can no longer be said. A tipping point has been reached and we find ourselves stepping off the edge of the Old World’s map and into the uncharted lands of the new Age of Sigmar.

As hobbyists we often pull at loose threads of information, trying to second guess what might be released in the months and years to come. In the past it was easy to say “this faction or that faction ought to be coming soon” simply because they haven’t had any fresh releases in a while. This was never a very reliable way of divining the future but it had its merits, and those who made a habit of such guesses where right often enough to weave themselves an illusion of foreknowledge. Nowadays you might as well try to read the tea leaves in the GW staff canteen.

By naming the Orc faction Orruk Warclans rather than Ironjaws and Bonesplitters (or some more pleasing and marketable equivalent) the implication is that these are all the Orcs we’re going to be seeing for the next little while. Beastgrave contains a rather lovely looking warband of goblin wolf riders (that’s part of the Gitmob in the modern parlance) but my gut tells me – with nothing more than an intuitive guess to go on – that these are more of a nod to the past than a hint of things to come. The goblins certainly have potential for further exploration – I’m still surprised that we didn’t see a new plastic kit for the doom-diver catapult as part of the Gloomspite Gits release for instance – but much like the Orruk Warclans I suspect that the Gloomspite Gits are a packing up of the existing gobbos, for now at least.

Snarlfang Gitbiters

Nor are there any subfactions which seem like contenders for establishing themselves as fully-fledged factions in their own right. The trolls have made themselves at home amongst the Gloomspite Gits and, thus established, have really come into their own. The giants may have enjoyed a brief stint as a one model faction in the early days of AoS but the big oafs have been reined in by their destruction colleagues and I’d be surprised to see them go it alone again.

If it was up to me I’d love to see the snotlings brought back and explored in full but I can’t imagine that anything other than wishful thinking. Then again at least they could double up as Orks in Adeptus Titanicus!

Of course, I can’t miss an opportunity to make my pitch for a Destruction themed version of Warcry. Just imagine the fun that could be had shifting the setting from the Chaos wastes of the Bloodwind Spoil to the rust warrens and dank caves of Skrappa Spill. Instead of Chaos warbands we could see examples of the various types of Orc, Goblin and Ogres that must be found in the Mortal Realms, fighting it out for the sheer joy of it.

Meanwhile, lurking in the corner of the Destruction Grand Alliance, overlooked and underloved, we have the Fimir. These weird cyclopean beasts have skulked on the fringes of Warhammer since the early days, never fully accepted into the game, never entirely kicked out. Every time you think they are gone for good they pop up again, shoving their snouts briefly above the parapet every decade or so before vanishing once more into the gloom. Earlier this year I even painted one, a model from Hero Quest that’s almost as old as I am.

With the launch of AoS the Fimir abandoned the overcrowded Chaos raft and found themselves a new home amongst Destruction (rather than vanishing once and for all, as I was expecting, with the purging of so many other things GW wanted rid of). Thanks to Forge World we even have a few Fimir models and as ever there is speculation that they might make a comeback. Honestly I wouldn’t hold my breath (unless I was standing downwind of a real Fimir that is).

Fimirach Noble

One thing the Fimir do however is emphasise that from here on out we no longer need to expect the Destruction forces to adhere to tradition. For these warlike races things have remained pretty much the same for a very long time. The Orcs and Goblins, and Ogres, were well established in WHFB and stamped into AoS as if nothing much had changed. Whilst a time traveller from a decade ago would barely recognise the flying dwarves and fishy elves as descendants of the game they knew the greenskins and their allies remain much as they ever were, just with a few nice new models to show for the passage of time. It’s easy to believe that nothing need ever really change. Yet a glance towards the Order Grand Alliance reveals this need not be the case. The once hide-bound, subterranean dwarves now zoom through the skies, carving out trade empires above the clouds where once they carved mines beneath the roots of the mountains. Some elves are half snake, others are eyeless and aquatic. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Ulthuan anymore…

I’m not for a moment suggesting that we are about to see aquatic orcs or half-snake ogres, simply that the expansion of possibilities that was applied to Order could just as easily be lavished upon the other Grand Alliances. What is certain is that GW aren’t done with the brutish followers of Gorkamorka, and that, after decades of popularity they’ll be cast aside. Equally we can’t guess with even a scrap of accuracy what form those future releases might take. We could see orcs, goblins or ogres of a kind completely unknown to us, or we could see something entirely new. Good or bad the future is looking like a very different place from the past. After so many years of seeing the same old factions from one decade’s end to the next that’s something that we’re going to have to get used to. I still can’t begin to get guess what it might look like, but I for one am agog to find out!


Squaddie September 2019

I’m not going to lie – this one is sheer self indulgence! September turned out to be a very productive month for me and I couldn’t resist acknowledging that with a post summarising everything I managed to paint. However, just in case this seemed too gratuitous, I decided to use Azazel’s latest monthly challenge as a thinly veiled excuse for a bit of back-patting. For those not in the know (assuming there actually are any hobbyists left who haven’t heard of this phenomenon) blogger Azazel runs a painting challenge each month and encourages anyone who’s interested to join in – the aim being to clear our collective backlogs of unpainted models. After all the purpose of these miniatures is to be painted, enjoyed, perhaps even played with if you’re so inclined. It’s not to sit around in boxes getting dusty, be that base-coated, under-coated, or even still on the sprue. Usually I try to use the challenge to push myself to get something done that I otherwise wouldn’t. This month however I seem to have gone completely mad on it! Let’s take a look a look shall we? This month’s subject was Squaddie September and – to quote the man himself – set out this definition for what counted;

“Obviously a “Squad” (a term I’ve chosen this month for alliteration’s sake) is often a military term, and often means a unit of about 10 or so individuals….Though in the interests of flexibility, inclusion and achievability, the “squad” size we’ll be using is a minimum of three models. This lets many of those boardgame units also qualify…Of course, not everyone is a gamer of any kind, so Hell, the models don’t even have to be a strict “unit” or squad. Figures from different forces, ranges, manufacturers. All good, as long as they fit together thematically…”

Obviously that gave me a lot to get my teeth into, and with heaps of models half-finished and waiting for attention I set about painting with abandon. Let’s take a look.

To start with I tried to focus my attention on my Necromunda gangs, of which I have several on the go – including two that I’d been failing to complete for quite some time. First off the block were the Ladykillers of House Escher. Like all my Necromunda projects I have plenty more ideas I’d like to explore but with these three warrior women joining the ranks my initial plan for the gang is finished at least 

Wudugast Escher Necromunda ConvertOrDie (11)

My Necromunda Chaos Cult was originally planned as a quick and easy project but once started it grew in unexpected directions (much like a Chaos spawn then). Once again I decided that this month would be a fine time to tie it down into something I was happy to call complete – for now at least.

Necromunda Chaos ConvertOrDie Wudugast (2)

Not wanting to rest on my laurels I turned my attention to another of the Great Houses of Necromunda, the tech-geniuses of Van Saar. At the moment the project is still in it’s infancy but I plan to learn my lesson from the previous two and get the rest of the current crop of models finished up in the next few weeks.

Van Saar Necromunda Wudugast ConvertOrDie (1)

Turning my attention to the bigger picture of the 41st Millennium I added three new recruits to my Chaos Space Marine squad. My interest in this army has been reinvigorated since the release of the range of new models earlier in the year and I plan to get my teeth into them properly as soon as I’ve completed a few other outstanding projects.

Chaos Marines 40k Wudugast ConvertOrDie (14)

Continuing the chaos theme I also added a few newcomers to my horde of poxwalkers, bringing the total population of foul plague-zombies up to 28. My plan is to complete a swarm of 40 so I’m aiming to tackle a few more of these very, very soon…

Poxwalker ConvertOrDie Wudugast Group

Nor did my chaos focus end there. Turning my attention to the Mortal Realms I also rounded out my Blades of Khorne warband for AoS Skirmish, first adding a flesh hound and then completing the group with three bloodreavers. Its particularly auspicious, and completely co-incidental, that it took my eight posts to complete the warband – eight being the unholy number of Khorne – but I suspect that there will be plenty more attention focused on the Blood God’s hordes in time.

Bloodreavers ConvertOrDie Wudugast

Continuing my exploration of the Age of Sigmar I painted three squigs. I’ve been a fan of the Night Goblins for a long time and it took me a while to get used to seeing them in the Mortal Realms as opposed to the Old World of WHFB but, after too many nights peering out of my dank cave at the baleful light of the bad moon, I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to the reinvented Gloomspite Gits.

Squigs Convert or Die Wudugast Gobbos (3)

However in case anyone fears I’ve lost touch with the Old World I’m still chipping away at my Skaven army and finally, after a lot of mumping and moaning, got the last of my Stormvermin painted. Anyone who’s been avoiding the blog for fear of my constant carping can come out of hiding now!

Stormvermin Wudugast Skaven ConvertOrDie (1)

And there we have it – not a bad month’s output by any means. Indeed by my count I managed to paint 35 models, more than 1 per day – something I once thought was quite beyond me. A big thanks once again to Azazel for running his challenge, I already have plenty of plans for this month (it’s all about Orks, Orcs, Orruks and anything that’s been neglected – if you’re thinking of giving it a shot yourself I strongly recommend it). Expect to see plenty of greenskins here in the coming weeks, not to mention the rest of the Van Saar and whatever else takes my fancy. Watch this space!