Category Archives: Editorial

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!


Return To Prospero

On the whole, we who follow the Ruinous Powers have enjoyed an excellent few years. In many ways the story of Chaos-loving 40k fans and the story of Chaos in the 41st millennium can be seen to mirror each other, surely a case of the warp twisting reality and reflecting it back at us! For many years we were isolated in the wilderness, forgotten by the Imperium that had birthed us, reduced to sticking spikes on to loyalist marines by way of generating new recruits and brooding on our bitterness. The glory days of the Heresy (that would be Realm of Chaos and Codex 3.5 then!) lay far behind us and, despite the occasional Black Crusade to enliven things (2012 was a good year) we were undoubtedly surviving rather than thriving. Then, after an eternity in exile, our luck finally changed. The Cadian Gate fell, the little green army men tasked with defending it receiving at long last the kicking they so richly deserved, the Cicatrix Maledictum split the galaxy in two and we were back in action! Since 2016 we’ve seen the appearance of the Thousand Son, Death Guard, Chaos Space Marines, Chaos Knights, Gellerpox Mutants, a growing army of traitor guard thanks to Blackstone Fortress and choirs of daemons for all four of the gods. Assuming that western civilisation doesn’t collapse in the meantime (hardly a safe bet these days) it seems sensible to assume that the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children will come bellowing and screaming out of the warp sooner or later, probably within the next couple of years. It’s a good time to be bad! Even if the worst happens and the dubious leadership of our political masters leaves the planet as a wasteland us Chaos fans will at least find a comforting familiarity to life as mutant tech-barbarians whilst the oldhammer fans amongst us will survive the fallout in style, comfortably ensconced behind a wall of lead.

Despite the fact that Games Workshop haven’t dropped so much as a single hint to this effect (and it’s worth noting that traditionally they don’t) few fans feel any real doubt that the Khornate and Slaaneshi legions are on their way. After all, the idea that GW might abandon the Chaos project unfinished seems desperately unlikely. What about the Thousand Sons though? Surely they are a finished entity, done and dusted for the foreseeable future? Allow me to argue otherwise.

Ahriman2

When the Thousand Sons were released at the tail end of 2016 for many Chaos fans it was a revelation. Writing about it now it’s easy to sound hyperbolic, after all these are still just toy soldiers we’re talking about right? Nonetheless for fans of the legions this changed everything. Suddenly Chaos went from just two fractions (Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Daemons) to potentially dozens – something GW hasn’t failed to capitalise on since. I think we’d all hoped to see a plastic kit for Rubrics someday but Scarab Occult Terminators had always floated close to being a pipedream for me, and seeing things like tzaangors or a living primarch fell well out with even my most enthusiastic daydreams.

In days of yore the range of models available to any given chaos legion were all drawn from a single codex (Codex: Chaos Space Marines to be precise). There were a few upgrade packs and/or metal bits for cult troops (these being the plague marines, rubrics and noise marines), plus the distinctly elderly looking berserkers and a small group of special characters, but in the main the way to distinguish one legion from another came down to the colours in which they were painted. With the release of the Chaos Space Marines and Death Guard codexes we’ve seen a widening of the gap between Nurgle affiliated Chaos Space Marines like the Purge and the true Death Guard legion of old. There are commonalities but each is a distinct entity – allowing one, if you so wished, to create two very different collections of models. The same however really isn’t true of the Thousand Sons.

Rubric

For one thing I think it’s worth noting that whilst there are many similarities between the Death Guard and the Purge, or the Emperor’s Children and the Flawless Host, the Thousand Sons and any given Tzeentchian warband are worlds apart. If anything of the Thousand Sons deserve more uniqueness not less. Despite this the Thousand Sons find themselves leaving much more heavily on Chaos Space Marine units than the Death Guard. The former share 15 units with the chaos space marines, with 8 units unique to them, whilst the proportions for the latter are 13 each (by my count – and my figures may be wrong, I’m no plaguebearer).

Those differences serve to really define the Death Guard as more than just Nurgly Chaos Marines, allowing them a radically different aesthetic and range of units available to them. Of course we cannot know the future but it is to be hoped that the Emperor’s Children and World Eaters, assuming they do appear, will follow a similar format. Where once some models would be painted green for Nurgle and others pink for Slaanesh, now the potential interest and depth in the Chaos range at last begins to be tapped.

However by sharing so much common ground with the Chaos Space Marines the Thousand Sons feel to me to be a lot less unique than their Death Guard cousins. Despite having their own troops, even their own terminators (albeit only the one type compared to the Death Guard’s two) by falling back on the same vehicles and other kits as the Chaos Space Marines that uniqueness is diluted. A heldrake for example shares a lot of aesthetic ties with the wider Chaos Space Marines range that makes it fit in perfectly alongside them but no amount of a blue and yellow paint will make it look like anything more than an outsider amongst the Thousand Sons. I must confess to cursing when the heldrake was removed from the Death Guard range but time has proved the wisdom of that decision (for me at least). Heldrakes based on zombie dragons swooping above maulerfeinds kitbashed from maggoths, whilst warpsmiths surrounded by semi-organic mechadendrites bursting from there cancerous armour and bloated plague bikers roaring alongside – it’s a wonderful and entirely attainable image for an army and yet a very different entity to the Legion commanded by Mortarion.

Crucially despite these differences a Nurgly chaos space marine remains similar aesthetically to a member of the Death Guard. Both start out as fairly standard looking space marines upon which are layered the unpleasant attentions of Nurgle. The same however cannot be said of the Thousand Sons and their peers amongst the Tzeentchian chaos space marines. Magnus’ legion already looked unique at the time of the Horus Heresy. With their ornate armour and tall crests they deviated far further from the marine aesthetic blueprint than even the most radical of their cousins. Since then they’ve been essentially trapped in amber – spared the mutation which blights their fellow traitors by Ahriman’s rubric which turned them to dust within their armour. A later-day space marine breaking his vows to the Imperium and swearing his soul to Tzeentch would be unlikely to choose to cosplay ancient Tizcan ceremonial dress as he hurries to make his escape into the Great Eye. Likewise mutation will be rife, Tzeentch being rather keen on gifting his followers with a constantly changing array of mad appendages, something the modern Tzeentchian needs to learn to cope with without the dubious benefits of Ahriman turning him into a mindless automaton.

Sorceror

Perhaps the most striking example of the aesthetic divergence between the Thousand Sons and the Chaos Space Marines is the helbrute. These fleshy giants are to the traitor legions what dreadnoughts are to the loyalists, huge and powerful walkers piloted by mortally wounded space marines. Rather than see a great hero of the Imperium die he is placed within one of these engines to battle on – yet whilst for a loyalist space marine there are few higher honours, for the traitors incarceration within a helbrute is a terrible punishment and curse, and the result is a lifetime of torture.

Featuring as much bulging mutated flesh as it does metal the helbrute fits in well with chaos marines of all stripes, with the exception of the Thousand Sons. Here its meaty, bloated form seems out of place – although it would fit in well with other Tzeentchian marines. The developers acknowledge this contradiction and attempt to explain it away with a little success.

In the early days following the Heresy the Thousand Sons were wracked by mutation as Tzeentch showered his gifts upon them. Rather than see the whole legion degenerate into idiot spawn Ahriman cast his infamous rubric and the majority of the Legion were saved from mutation – instead ending up as perambulatory suits of armour, containing nothing more than weak psychic ghosts and the dust of their former occupants. By the time this happened however many of the legion’s dreadnoughts had already mutated out of control turning into the first helbrutes. Recognising their utility in battle some sorcerers decided to try making more of them. Finding themselves mysteriously short on applicants from within their own legion the Thousand Sons set up the internship program from hell, inviting wannabe sorcerers to join them to enjoy a full training program. Rather than the 41st millennium Hogwarts they had been promised the unlucky aspirants find themselves bundled kicking and screaming into a helbrute’s central coffin. Why such an elaborate scheme is considered necessary when any injured space marine would do, and how word has failed to spread amongst the cut-throat warriors of the chaos legions that unexpectedly generous offers by the Thousand Sons might not be entirely trustworthy, is glossed over.

Helbrute

Personally I love the helbrute model but, despite this explanation, I find myself sceptical and I just don’t think it fits in all that well amongst the Thousand Sons. I’d rather convert a loyalist dreadnought to represent a member of the old Legion turned to dust inside his sarcophagus. However what I’d really love to see someday is something akin to the Blood Angel’s Librarian Dreadnaught, a psyker dreadnought by which a sorcerer might continue to work his schemes in a mechanical afterlife. After all, whilst the other Chaos forces must make do with helbrutes, a legion devoted to hunting out secret knowledge should be more than capable of getting a dreadnought up and running satisfactorily, allowing a powerful psyker to stamp his way across the galaxy in style.

I’m sure the presence of gaps within the Thousand Sons range, particularly as opposed to the Death Guard, won’t come as news to Games Workshop. In an effort to flesh things out they delved into their other ranges in search of kits which might find a suitable home amongst the sons of Magnus. Alongside a range of daemons (mirroring the approach taken with the other chaos forces and harking back to my early days as a collector when daemons and mortals fought side by side) they also borrowed two tzaangor units to swell the ranks of the beastmen. The tzaangor shaman is an excellent model and fits in perfectly here, whilst the Tzaangor Enlightened may risk looking like fantasy escapees when armed with bows but fit in much better when given chainswords and pistols.

Mutalith Vortex Beast

Lastly we have the hulking Mutalith Vortex Beast. It’s a bit of an odd model, a giant beast with a mass of tentacles for a face and a huge magical star mounted on its back. The kit can also be used to build a Slaughterbrute, a model I’ll confess I find impossible to like. The Mutalith Vortex Beast is better but still flawed. Perhaps if I saw it in the flesh it would help me make up my mind but I can’t recall ever encountering one and so I remain on the fence regarding it’s questionable aesthetic charms. Even at my most charitable however it’s hard to see it as anything other than an ugly old model shoehorned into an army it wasn’t originally intended for. Giving its unappealing appearance and meaty price tag, it’s easy to assume it didn’t sell as well as they hoped and that shoving it into the Thousand Sons range is a desperate attempt to boost its sales. In my opinion the Thousand Sons deserve better.

Indeed I’d go further than that. Chaos deserves better; the legions should be explored in full, with the Death Guard and Chaos Space Marines ranges as the model for the depth and quality to which they are treated. The fans deserve better; whether they love Chaos or simply want to see a fully realised adversary against which to pit themselves (and indeed see their own faction given the same care and attention). Games Workshop deserve better; to hold their heads high and say “This is what we do, and we do it well, and even if something seems a bit niche or strange we have the talent to pull it off”.

And yes, I’m aware that these things take time, the resources are finite, that not every faction can be given their full attention all the time. Rome was not built in a day. GW however are fond of advertising “aspirational armies” at me all day so I shall respond by describing aspirational product!

Magus

Part of the reason for the Thousand Sons being on my mind is that my birthday is coming up soon (aye, happy birthday me!). Last year my partner gave me Magnus the Red and so far I’ve only got as far as assembling him before my trepidation for tackling large miniatures, combined with my determination to clear my desk of half-finished projects, caused me to stall. I did promise myself that I’d tackle him as soon as the Chaos Knight is done, and yes – I’m aware that I owe you all a progress report on that too! In the meantime I’ve made a pretence of progress by thinking about the Thousand Sons a lot instead.

Magnus, Magnus I call it gladness

Tzeentch has always been a tricky god for GW to tackle. Khorne and Nurgle are relatively straightforward – if in doubt a roaring chainaxe or some exposed guts will go a long way. Slaanesh was harder, a heady mix of sex, drugs and rock and roll, which has both attracted and repulsed the company over the years. Tzeentch however the most problematic of all, combining magic with mutation – neither of them easy to achieve. Mutation may be a hallmark of Chaos but it’s a double-edged sword. Played right and the result is fantastic and creative models, played wrong and you end up with the Chaos Forsaken from old Warhammer, an ill-defined mess.

Meanwhile magical effects are a clear case of less being more, and even with the undoubted talent of the GW design team and the advances in modern model making its hard to render sheets of living lighting or warp-flame in plastic. The Tzeentchian daemons range captures this neatly; some are good (the Lord of Change, blue horrors and heralds), some are bad (the less said about the pink horrors the better) and some are just plain weird (even after many years of careful study I can’t honestly tell you if I like the flamers or not…). Given these challenges you can hardly blame them for concentrating on the ever popular Khorne and Nurgle.

Returning to the Thousand Sons, GW showed remarkable restraint in not throwing magical fireworks everywhere, whilst the Rubric of Ahriman saved them from the thorny mutation issue. However the Rubric also creates an issue in that it serves to limit the range of roles available to be explored with future models. Regardless of what you did before the Rubric, afterwards you were either turned to dust or psychically powerful enough to survive. If you fell into the latter camp then a career as a sorcerer was yours for the taking, with all the power that brought. If you were amongst the former then you didn’t get much say in the matter anymore. What’s more the traditional specialist ranks become essentially redundant, with no-one having much call for apothecaries, tech-marines and so-on when magic can fix anything. New specialist sorcerers would have a certain merit, perhaps based on the cabals and disciplines of ancient Prospero which take a prominent role in the Horus Heresy novels. However the further the sorcerers are explored the more top heavy the legion risks becoming, with loads of HQ’s and not a lot else.

More troops would be nice but it’s hard to picture rubrics doing anything fancy and although in theory I’m sure you could have rubric assault marines (if the controlling sorcerer gave the appropriate psychic nudge) it doesn’t really fit with my mental image of the army to see them hurtling through the skies. Plus the Thousand Sons, sadly, exist in a scale of their own – the models being a little bigger than the older Space Marines but still a bit short compared to the Chaos Marines and Death Guard that came after. As a result I suspect  GW might not want to draw attention to the fact by returning to the rubrics any time soon. Rubric Havocs and phalanxes of close combat rubrics are nice to imagine but I suspect they might be a long time in coming…

More Tzaangors and mutant beasts are always nice (I’ve never met a Tzaangor I didn’t like) but the greater their presence in the army the more the power-armoured element is diminished and the less it feels like a Thousand Sons army.

One thing it would definitely be nice to see is some more vehicles and daemon engines. The Death Guard have the Plagueburst Crawler, the Foetid Bloat-drone and the Myphitic Blight-hauler to call their own, the poor old Thousand Sons have to borrow the Black Legion’s wheels when Abaddon isn’t using them. Surely some uniquely Tzeentchian vehicles aren’t beyond the wit of GW’s designers to conjure up? Or how about replacing the heldrake with something more uniquely Prosperine?

Thousand Sons

On the whole the Thousand Sons remain one of my favourite factions in 40k. Seeing them reborn in 2016 was one of the defining moments of my hobby career and I have no real complains about the range of models we received. However I do feel that it’s not just greed that leaves me wanting more. Right now the range feels as though it’s been bulked out with filler rather than being afforded the attention that was lavished on the Death Guard (wonderful though that was too). Hopefully the time will come when GW recognises that something is needed to elevate the range to the giddy heights enjoyed by their peers. Even if we have to wait until other legions are explored I’ll be happy enough, just so long as they don’t leave Magnus and his boys in the dust forever.

Do you agree or are you too busy standing around on Fenris widdling on a tree? Do you have a dream model you’d love to see added to the Thousand Sons some day? The comments box is all yours!

All images copyright Games Workshop and half-inched by Ahriman when he went in to renew his membership of the Black Library.


Warcry

My love of Chaos is no secret. if you’re looking for someone to take up an axe and lead his barbarian tribe against the Empire of the Old World, to stand at Abaddon’s right hand as Cadia burns, or conduct dark rituals on some grim and bitter moor to conjure daemons into the Mortal Realms, then I like to think I’m the man for the job.

Likewise I’m drawn to skirmish games, to small bands of warriors packed with character and personality. Thus, if Games Workshop’s developers had reached into my head by some arcane means – and who’s to say they didn’t? – and tried to craft the perfect game based to what they found there, then the result would have been something a lot like Warcry. Given the hype that’s been generated recently it seems I’m not the only one who feels this way – indeed the concept of small groups of Chaos-loving warriors beating merry hell out of each another is starting to feel like the most obviously popular, yet previous unexplored idea, since Games Workshop invented dogs.

For those who’ve managed to avoid that overenthusiastic juggernaut that is GW’s promotional engines, Warcry is the latest of their skirmish games, the tale of small bands of Chaos worshippers drawn from all corners of Age of Sigmar’s Mortal Realms to gather at a place called the Eightpoints. Once there they attempt to inveigle themselves into Chaos overlord Archaon’s  good books through committing heinous acts of violence to each other, armed with everything from swords to whips to meat tenderizers, bones, even live snakes. Don’t try this at home kids!

Warcry

Rather than the armies of the gods which we are familiar with these are people born and raised to the cultures abandoned by Sigmar when he hid himself away in Azyr and ceded control of the Mortal Realms to Chaos at the end of the Age of Myth. Rather than the all-encompassing top-down view enjoyed by fans of the game or the blinkered fanaticism of an acolyte bound to a single god, like a blood warrior or a blight king, these are in the main just people to whom Chaos is an ever-present elemental force which must be appeased, for whom being mauled by a spawn is an occupational hazard and who cannot rely on the Stormcast Eternals to come and rescue them, but are otherwise attempting to get on with their lives. Or at least they were until, for one reason or another, Archaon called them to the Eightpoints. That’s not to say that they’re just misunderstood, that they are a top bunch of lads if you just get to know them or that they’re all nice to their mums. Indeed I think it’s fair to assume that they’re a bunch of right bastards, as evidenced by their love of gritty violence and their willingness to throw in their lot with Archaon rather than let millennia old bygones be bygones and give Sigmar another chance. In the main however these are not professional warriors – indeed much like Necromunda these are armed civilians – the man on the street in the Mortal Realms.

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Untamed Beasts

Walking adverts for steroid abuse and guaranteed to give every man they encounter body image issues, the Untamed Beasts hail – perhaps unsurprisingly – from the Realm of Beasts. These are your classic barbarians, caked in ’80s charm down to the last loin cloth, oiled muscle and cod-Austrian accent. They’re comfortable enough to at least indulge the trappings of civilisation with the odd metal helmet and so on but for the most part they like to keep things as primal as possible, using bones for weapons and wearing enough fur to turn a Space Wolf green with envy.

Seriously, if you can look at their leader and not hear a shredding guitar solo ringing in your head then you have no soul!

Untamed Beast 1

If you hadn’t already gathered from the above, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned, cheesy barbarian so this warband was always going to appeal to me. Nor are they solely devoted to the art of masculine power posing. Indeed the best model in the group is this dynamic young lady. Note also the tail she’s wearing (or at least we presume she’s wearing it – you know Chaos!) – a nice visual reference to the Beasts and the predatory animals with which they are intrinsically linked.

Untamed Beast 2

And who doesn’t love a part-goat part-lion?

Goat Lion

However it’s not all perfection. Part of the knack of pulling off over the top cheese is not taking it so far that it ends up looking like a pastiche of itself. Making the weapons of some of these warriors a little smaller (something I’m told happens as a side effect of taking steroids anyway…) would have made a big difference. Take a look at this chap for example and see if you agree that the huge bone in their hand (chortle chortle) throws out the proportions of the whole model.

Untamed Beast 4

Another offender is the First Fang. Overall there’s a lot to like here but his pose makes him look awkward and undecided, as though he’s torn between throwing his spear and hitting someone with his axe. I suspect that the intention was to have his sweeping someone aside with the axe, blocking a low blow perhaps or knowing their feet from under them whilst the spear jabs in to make the kill, but it doesn’t quite come across. Personally I’d have preferred to see the axe strapped to his back whilst he goes all in with impaling someone on that spear.

Untamed Beast

These are minor gripes though, things that I’ll either kitbash my way around or learn to live with. They may not be my favourite warband but they still look like they’ll be a lot of fun to paint and frankly it would be a sin not to be listening to Manowar whilst I’m about it!

Iron Golem

Speaking of heavy metal the Untamed Beasts share the Warcry starter set with the Iron Golem, a group of blacksmiths from the Realm of Metal. As someone who enjoys painting bare flesh and battered iron and who’s been feeling the itch to paint some more Goliath gangers lately, these are pretty much perfect for me. They don’t look particularly subtle but who needs cunning when blunt force trauma will do?

Iron Golem

You could see these as being somewhat simplistic, there’s no cloth, nothing soft, no blades or sharp edges, just heavy armour and heavier hammers, the very epitome of Warhammer. It’s a straightforward concept but it’s kept interesting by the style with which it is pulled off and the variety of models to which it is applied. Whilst traditionally such thuggish brutality would have been exclusively the domain of the male, the Golems continue the diversity demonstrated by the Beasts, including amongst the ranks what I can only describe as iron maidens.

Iron Maiden

As though the humans weren’t enough to emphasise their raw power and aggression of this warband they’ve also recruited an ogre (I still refuse to write Ogor) who looks more than capable of taking on anything life throws at them all by himself. We seem to be having a good run of Chaos Ogres at the moment, and I’m already wondering about getting my hands on a second one to turn into a Goliath ‘zerker. Many people have asked how he eats without the use of his hands, which is a fair question although I suspect that the answer is implied by the horrifying, lamprey-like aperture in the front of his helmet. After all it only takes a quick glance at him to confirm that he hasn’t been missing many meals.

Ogre Dammit

Of course if you’re going to have an ogre, why stop there? Who better to join up with a band of craftsmen and metal workers than a dwarf? Fans have been muttering about the absence of Chaos Dwarves for many a year and so it’s nice to see that they’re still around in the Mortal Realms. (I must admit I thought their next official appearance would be for Blood Bowl – I’m sure a team will be along sooner or later). Like the Squats that have been popping up in Necromunda, skirmish games like this are a golden opportunity to keep these concepts current, even if they don’t have an army of their own in the main games at the moment. The dwarf himself obviously feels glad to have been included – rarely has a worshipper of the dark gods looked so delighted!

Iron Dwarf

Cypher Lords

Whilst the Iron Golem may be cloth-phobic and brutally simple, and the Untamed Beasts wild and, well, bestial, the Cypher Lords sit at the other end of the spectrum; civilised, subtle, some might even say downright sneaky. There’s something unearthly about these denizens of the Realm of Light and with their masks and crests many people have suggested something Tzeentchian about them. Personally I’d go so far as to say these are everything that the Kairic Acolytes should have been – I wonder how they’d look wearing those wonderful masks, far and away the best thing about the Kairics? That said there is something rather Slaaneshi about them too, a product of the dancing poses and air of sophistication.

Cypher Lord 2

I’ll admit I’m still in two minds about these. When I first saw them I loved them but the more I looked the more uncertain I became. However the past couple of weeks, and particularly looking at them again as I write this review, has reignited some of my enthusiasm. Part of a problem is their top heavy appearance, a side effect of those wonderfully ornate helmets combined with their trailing hair-do’s. I did consider whether building them without the hair would improve matters but I’ll wait to pass judgement until I’ve explored that option further. That said, I really love those sinister helms and beautiful crests, so my fall to the embrace of madness is surely assured.

Cypher Lord 3

These models are very much defined by their grace, leaping and lunging more like dancers than fighters, and a world away from the straightforward brutality encapsulated by the Iron Golem. With many of us starting our path to darkness in the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy, or amongst the hulking power-armoured marines of Warhammer 40k, our mental image of Chaos is often tied up with muscular barbarians in heavy armour, bludgeoning their way to daemonhood. It’s exciting to get a fresh look at Chaos, and once again explore the creative options opened up by the Mortal Realms. After all, why shouldn’t a servant of the Dark Gods be light on their feet?

Cypher Lord 1

Of course even whilst I took the time to make up my mind about the rank and file of the warband the leader grabbed me from the start. It hardly needs to be said that this Thrallmaster is the epitome of style and a truly outstanding miniature, or at least it will be once I snip off that silly looking smoke effect!

Cypher Lord

In their stylish costume, and with a third arm hidden beneath their robes, one could even convert them into a Locus for a Genestealer Cult that’s infiltrating the very highest echelons of Imperial society.

Splintered Fang

So I there was, sitting on the hillside, eating my sandwich and about to start writing about the Splintered Fang when along came this awesome little dude, sliding right past my boots. It’s a sign I tell ye!

Adder

As it turns out it was a sign that I should really take a second look at the Splintered Fang before giving them the slagging I intended to. The fact is they’re actually quite a nice-looking gang, let down by their leader, the Trueblood. The gladiatorial rank-and-file in their scaled armour are excellent models. Like the Cypher Lords there’s nothing overtly chaotic here, file off the odd blasphemous symbol and these would fit in nicely amongst the loyal Cities of Sigmar, indeed these are closer to my mental image of what the common man of the Realms might look like than the old citizenry of the Empire.

Splintered Fang 1

Continuing at the racially inclusive trend started in the box set they’ve even managed to recruit an elf.

Splintered Elf

Furthermore, as denizens of the Realm of Life, they can bring along a bunch of snakes, reminiscent of the old jungle swarms that used to accompany the Lizardmen.

Snakes Alive

Indeed, despite my initial uncertainty about this warband, the more closely I look at them, and the more I get over the Trueblood and the Serpent Caller and turn my attention to the rest of their colleagues, the more I grow to like them. Indeed, leaving aside those two, the rest of the gang may be amongst my favourites of the whole range.

Splintered Fang

The Serpent Caller however is, in my opinion, simultaneously the best and worst model in the warband. On the one hand the dynamic pose is pulled off in style, the fanged mask beneath the hood is wonderfully sinister and there’s a nice sense of danger and motion. On the other hand I feel like he’s about to hit the floor face first after getting tangled up in all those snakes  whilst the dart in his hand appears to be being flicked away to the side with no suggestion that it might actually hurt anyone, apart from possibly one of the poor snakes. For these reasons I want to dislike it but it’s still a charming model with a lot of appealing qualities, and I suspect once I learn to stop taking it seriously I’ll grow to like it.

Hello I'd Like To Speak To A Serpent

The Trueblood on the other hand is another matter. There are so many other poses that could have been used here to greater effect; casting the net, stabbing with the trident, posing ominously. Instead they’re neither one thing nor the other, stepping forward whilst wafting the net to the side in a manner that leaves them looking awkward and ineffectual. It’s not a terrible pose but it’s a long way from being the powerful, attention capturing stance one expects from a leader. Something with a bit more punch would have made a world of difference. Whether anything can be done about it remains to be seen, without pictures of the sprue available online – we’ll have to wait and see what can be done once I have the model in front of me.

Trueblood 2

That said, when viewed from the side the model has a lot more power, and the tail is a nice touch. There may be hope for it yet!

Trueblood

Corvus Cabal

I’ve mentioned dynamic poses a few times in this review so let’s turn our attention to the gold standard, the warband that consistently gets that (and pretty much everything else) right. Hailing from the realm of Shadows this crow loving tribe are strong contenders to be my favourite of the six warbands we’ve seen so far.

Far more so than the Splintered Fang or the Untamed Beasts they wear their totem animal on their metaphorical sleeves. The crow theme is stamped across all of the models in the warband down to the lowliest Cabalist and the result is a strikingly cohesive, yet wonderfully diverse and original, group of characters.

Corvus Cabal

The dynamic poses are pulled off with universal aplomb, there are loads of details for a painter to get their teeth into and every last one feels like a unique character. Meanwhile the prize for the most spectacularly creative model in the entire war cry range has to go to the wonderful Shrike Talon. Channelling all of the weirdness that’s made the Inq28 scene great, and bound to be the basis of some gloriously strange conversions, this birdman is proof positive that GW are at the top of their game when it comes to creativity. Speaking of crazy conversions I’m very curious to see if I can kitbash these with some Space Marines to create a suitably strange Raven Guard squad. Watch this space!

Corvus Cabal 2

Overall then these are the best of the bunch for me although there is one other warband left to discuss and they’re so mad  that they almost snatched the Cabal’s crown.

The Unmade

What does one do when all of one’s learning and sophistication has come to naught and a hoard of the undead is kicking down the door? Why cut off your own face and swear yourself to the Dark Gods of course! Bringing a whole new meaning to the expression “where will I put my face” it’s the grimmest of the bunch, the hideous masters of body-horror that are the Unmade.

Unmade 1

You could be mistaken at times for thinking that life amongst the Slaves to Darkness might not be so bad. Everyone is welcome regardless of race or gender, there is little sign of hideous mutation or daemon worship here and if you’re lucky you even get a pet. What’s not to like? Luckily the Unmade are here to set the record straight chopping off their own appendages and replacing them with instruments of torture.

Torment and cruelty are the order of the day here – just look at this flail for instance and imagine the fate of someone unfortunate enough to be snagged by it.

Awakened One Flail

Unlike some of the other warbands which star all kinds of characters the Unmade are actually quite uniform, although the rank and file are still a long way from being faceless drones (boom boom). However the real star of the show has to be the terrifying scarecrow like figure of the Blissful One. One almost suspect that this figure was approved simply to put to bed once and for all the claims that GW had dumbed down and become family friendly.

Blissful One

Of course that’s still not all. The starter box set also contains a selection of chaotic beasts; the weird looking but oddly endearing Raptoryx…

Chaos Duck 2

… And a reimagined version of the old furies.

Fury

In the latter case this was something desperately overdue, these unaligned chaos daemons being amongst the oldest and least attractive models in GWs entire catalogue.

Ugly Old Furies

What’s more the box also comes with a range of handy train perfect for recreating the three-dimensional environments in which the warbands battle it out. Here we see the ruins of an ancient civilisation long eroded by time and war and now build over by barbaric newcomers.

Warcry City

Amongst the details of these ruins we see a fallen statue of Sigmar and this skeleton which appears to have been queuing for the toilet for quite some time…

Warcry Scenery

Looking at the selection of terrain in the box one wonders if Necromunda had any influence here. When the new edition of the classic game was released many people moaned about the lack of terrain in the box set. Personally I felt that including enough terrain for a game of Necromunda would have made the box too heavy to lift and too expensive to buy, that the terrain of yesteryear which so many people praised may not have been quite as perfect as nostalgia suggests and that the use of tiles was an elegant solution, but the carping was certainly pervasive. Warcry meanwhile follows in the footsteps of Kill Team with a smaller footprint and enough terrain to create a densely packed, immersive environment. Of course I’m still miles behind with my Necromunda terrain collection let alone adding anything else…

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So there we have it, plenty for us fans of the Dark Gods to get our claws into regardless of which faction takes our fancy. Much like Necromunda and Blood Bowl I can easily see myself trying out all of these in time – part of the joy of skirmish games for me being that each faction is relatively inexpensive, I’d never have the time or money to apply such a broad brush interest to one of the main games for instance.

Those who refuse to bow before the True Gods can always indulge their craven weakness with one of the other available factions, with everything from Stormcast Eternals to Gloomspite Gits (on a quest to collect glass bottles – I kid you not!) having rules for the game. Indeed I may well take the excuse to paint up a few warbands for these other factions just for the fun of it, regardless of whether I ever actually play the game.

Speaking of playing though, I tend to avoid mentioning the rules in these reviews – I rarely if ever play, preferring to focus on painting, and my rules insights are likely to be less than engaging. However from what I’ve seen so far this does look like a lot of fun, and fairly straightforward to get the hang of, so I may well give it a bash in the near future.

Meanwhile GW have been keen to remind us that this isn’t intended as a flash in the pan, but that plenty more lies ahead for the game. What that might be remains to be seen, although we do know that there are two more Chaos warbands which we’re yet to see revealed. The Scions of the Flame originate from the Realm of Fire and like to catch and eat fire elementals to prove their strength – much like some lads on a night out encountering a particularly vicious vindaloo. They worship Chaos as the Ever-Raging Flame which they believe will someday consume all life, with a little encouragement of course. Turns out some men really do want to watch the world burn!

Having seen warbands from seven of the eight realms I must admit I assumed that the final set, the Spire Tyrants, would be coming from Azyr itself, as hints have been dropped in the background fiction that even amongst Sigmar’s great bastion a few scurrilous rogues have hidden away, plotting the downfall of the God King and the final victory of the Dark Gods. The Tyrants however turn out to be natives of the Eightpoints, champions of the arenas and fighting pits of the Varanspire who have cut their way to freedom and now seek even greater excesses of violence and glory by joining Archaon’s elite. Angron would be so proud!

As for what comes next your guess is as good as mine, although personally I’d love to someday see a Destruction themed spin off. Rather than questing all the way to the Eightpoints it could instead features tribes of Orcs, Gobbos and Orgres knocking seven-shades out of one another down their local cave.

Having got this far I’ll confess that I mostly started writing this whilst waiting for my copy of the boxset to arrive and, having watched the poor postman struggle to the door with it, I’m off to delve into it properly. As usual though I’m interested to hear any thoughts or comments you may have. Will you be starting a warband of your own, and if so which has you tempted? Have you, or a loved one, ever been called to the Varanspire for a life of unremitting violence, or been affected by any of the other issues discussed in this blog? If so, the comments box is as ever, the place to speak your mind.


An Age of Chaos

It’s a fine time to be a heretic. After many fallow years the forces of Chaos are back, and in a big way. First the Thousand Sons came marching back onto the galactic stage, accompanied by our first ever plastic daemon primarch, then the Death Guard joined them (with an even bigger selection of miniatures, and another daemon primarch). Now it’s the turn of the broader sweep of Chaos’ mortal followers, those who have not dedicated themselves utterly to a single god, who have broken from the legions of old or who have turned from the service of the Imperium more recently, and of course the dreaded Black Legion themselves. For an avowed heretic like myself this is a moment to celebrate so indulge me as I take a look back over the past several weeks of releases and enthuse rabidly about my plans to raise a force sufficient to bring the realm of the Corpse-Emperor to its knees once and for all!

Those who’ve read these editorials before (and come back for more? Surely you’re a glutton for punishment!) will know that I do tend to ramble on. Chances are this one will prove to be especially lengthy, covering as it does several weeks worth of releases – including the Shadowspear box – almost worthy of a review in its own right – various WIPs as I test out ideas, a great deal of fanboyish enthusing over my favourite 40k faction (don’t tell the orks!) and (because this is the internet after all) just a little bit of self indulgent moaning. Anyway if you think reading this post is going to take you a while you should try fighting the Long War!

Shadowspear 1

Everything kicked off a few weeks ago with the release of the Shadowspear boxset. This may sound like something the Eldar would use but there are no perfidious xenos here, just power armoured warriors; the servants of the gods and the weaklings who oppose them. On the grounds that reality is for those who can’t handle chaos I’ll be concentrating on the real heroes of this set, although I will grudgingly acknowledge that it also contains a load of filthy loyalist scum, (the less said about them the better!) That said I am harbouring a scheme to convert the stealthy Space Marines of the Ultramarines 2nd Company Vanguard into Alpha Legion and thus ring even more Chaos Marines out of the set. Blame all those years spent sticking spikes onto loyalist space marines because it was the only way to add models to my army – it turns out the habit, once developed, is hard to kick!

Master of Possession

Taking charge of the baddies in the Shadowspear box we have the Master of Possession. Essentially this is a specialist sorcerer who has focussed his powers on binding daemonic entities to living flesh. Indeed they could easily have released it as just a new sorcerer model and no-one would have been any the wiser.

As the warlord heading up the box set – and the only Chaos character in shadowspear – this one had to make an impact. The design pulls out all the stops – indeed to my eye it pulls out too many stops. Let’s start with the good; the skull helm with it curly rams’ horns is pretty much perfection, the staff is also brilliantly executed and the flying pose, which could so easily have looked silly, is pulled off in style. Overall the model is deliciously over-the-top and heavy metal (with an “h”!)

Master of Possession

However I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Master of Possession to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great model but the level of detail is so high the eye is almost overwhelmed (and this is coming from someone who thought the detail on the Death Guard was about right). The model is already flying and equipped with a number of sorcerous accoutrements – including the very eye-catching staff – so to my mind he really doesn’t need for burning skulls as well. What’s worse is that these skulls serve to distract the eye from the otherwise perfectly composed piece and particularly from the fearsome helm. For all their skill and experience GW’s designers do at times seem to forget that less can be more (something we’ll return to when I get on to talking about the Dark Apostle). In this case I decided to do without the burning skulls, although despite my general aversion to sculpted flames I might yet make use of them on a different model. He still needs a little greenstuff and general tidying up but here’s a look at my toned down version so far.

Master of Possession WIP (1)Master of Possession WIP (2)

Greater Possessed

As mentioned above the Master of Possessions isn’t the guy charged with looking after the Chaos Lord’s property but instead is dedicated to manifesting demons in mortal flesh (or as Slaves to Darkness put it “possession is nine tenths of the lore”).  Possession by daemons has always been a shortcut by which those without the moral fibre or work ethic to slaughter their way to ascension honestly can still achieve a modicum of power, or as a means of transforming loyalist space marine prisoners into vicious shock troops. Sometimes however the possessed individual is powerful enough in their own right to attract the attention of a daemonic herald and the result is a Greater Possessed, a fearsome warrior respected by mortal troops and never born alike.

The shadowspear box contains two of these new monstrosities. Rather than tackle the infinite variety of possible possessed they instead decided to create two exemplars. Apparently during the design process they were known as “slimy wet guy” and “bony dry guy” – no prizes for guessing which is which! Top marks to the creators of these models however for managing to conjure such different textures whilst still keeping them looking consistent and matching as a pair.

Greater Possessed 2Greater Possessed 1

These won’t be the easiest things to convert and, although you may find yourself wondering if I’ve had a personality transplant, in my opinion that’s not a bad thing. Truthfully although it may be fun to raid the Possessed kit for parts too much compatibility did it no favours and the streamlined new Greater Possessed have really put their lesser cousins in the shade. Like the Wrathmongers and the (now retired) Chaos Forsaken the Possessed tend to sprawl into an ill-defined morass of useful bits but which struggles to produce a single cohesive model let alone a squad. Hopefully when they do redo it they follow a similar path to that employed with the Greater Possessed, much as I enjoy an infinitely poseable multi-part kit pulling it off with something like the Possessed may well be beyond the skills of even designers of GW’s calibre.

Venomcrawler

Skittering in alongside the Greater Possessed we have another newcomer to the range, the deliciously creepy Venoncrawler. This mechanical arachnid joins the ever growing ranks of the daemon engines, and once again it’s absolutely outstanding. It looks fast, lithe and supremely deadly and even for a fan of spiders like myself there’s something nightmare inducing about the thought of it scurrying through a war torn hive city in search of prey.

Venomcrawler 1

Now it’s true that spiders come in for a bit of a rough press and vast numbers of these harmless and helpful animals are unthinkingly killed as a result of people’s irrational phobias (depending on where you are in the world of course. Readers in Australia are probably looking askance at me right now, or they would be if they had time to read blogs and weren’t busy defending the barricades against a rising tide of ravenous arachnids). Part of me therefore wants to criticise GW for perpetrating this harmful myth and demand that if they want to try and frighten us they should base their models on things that are genuinely scary like climate change, economic recession or a Tory MP. That however would be unnecessarily po-faced and would do a disservice to a wonderfully creepy looking model. The face alone is the stuff of nightmares and the background fiction ups the ante even further by describing it hunting down and devouring daemons which escape the forges – when it comes to being frightening anything which sees daemons simply as prey is going to be hard to beat!

Venomcrawler 2

Often, as a Chaos fan, one find’s oneself sounding rather like an escapee from Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen. I fondly recall the release of the Defiler and the exciting realisation that Chaos vehicles could be something other than loyalist tanks with spikes stuck to the outside (at which point someone should chime in “Tanks with spikes – you were lucky! In my day we were still making tanks out of cereal packets and plans from White Dwarf!” “White Dwarf! You were lucky!” etc etc).

Daemon engines used to be rather thin on the ground, especially outside of Forgeworld. Picture if you will a younger me (looking like a Dickensian urchin) dreaming of plastic Juggernaughts or even a kit for a Chaos Dreadnaught that wasn’t three-quarters of a ton of lead. Understandably, as these kits have started to emerge, it’s been something of a drip-feed so to begin with everything looked rather disparate. We had the crab-like, industrial construct of the Defiler; the bulky, bullish Maulerfiend; the spikey, draconic Heldrake; the fleshy Helbrute – and although all were excellent, and the result was suitably chaotic, until the variety reached a certain, critical mass their shared characteristics were outweighed by those that made them different. Luckily that point now feels as though it has been passed, especially with the inclusion of the various Death Guard beasties and the Lord Discordant’s Helstalker (more on them below).

Obliterators

We live in an age in which much which once seemed impossible or miraculous is now commonplace. Humans have walked on the airless surface of the moon and explored the lightless ocean depths. Armed with nothing more than a normal household computer I am able to write blogs which can then be read by strangers on the other side of the world, in countries I might never visit – but which I could with only a moderate amount of effort, rather than needing to spend months at sea struck down with scurvy. In such an age of wonders however one stands out above the rest; GW have finally managed to create Obliterators which look good. For as long as I can remember these monsters have been represented by ghastly, poorly sculpted lumps with Swiss army knives for hands and nothing at all to recommend them. Saddled with such terrible models it’s no wonder that so many chaos fans have degenerated into bitter, hate-filled heretics.

Now however that cruel era is over and our loyalty (or should that be disloyalty) down those long and pitiless years has been rewarded with a brace of these fearsome mutants.

Obliterators 1

For those who somehow missed the outgoing models, managed to blot out the memory or even started complaining about the Chaos release “going on too long” and eating up valuable time in the GW schedule that could otherwise be devoted to Stormcast Eternals, here’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.

God Awful Old Obliterator

Putting that horror behind us and returning to the new models, a view from behind shows just how wonderfully far they’ve been willing to push the body horror, although it also reveals their only real flaw – that from the back they look a little like a fat man squeezing into a pair of shots far too small for him, an image which – once conjured – is hard to shake.

Obliterators 2

That little bit of silliness aside there’s a lot to enjoy here. The new Obliterators share a lot of visual elements with the Helbrute, jagged armour panels emerging from bloated muscle and bruised, tormented flesh, whilst the head is recessed within a fanged maw, all of which brings a pleasing visual consistency to the range. There’s even a mirroring of poses between one of the Shadowspear Obliterators and the Dark Vengeance Helbrute – both have the gun arm thrust forward aggressively and the claw hand upraised, whilst the left foot is propped on a rock. Some things never go out of style I suppose!

Helbrute vs Obliterator

Of course this leaves the Obliterators’ twin kit, the Mutilators, looking even more neglected but there was always going to be a limit to how much GW could do for Chaos in one go. In theory I’m sure it’s possible to convert the new Obliterators into Mutilators the amount of large, sculpted in details means this isn’t for the faint hearted. It seems like a logical progression to assume that, since the Death Guard and Thousand Sons have brought us Nurgle and Tzeentch themed Chaos Marines in recent years, a Khorne focused World Eaters release might not be too far distant – at which point the close-combat focused Mutilators might be the lucky recipients of a new kit of their own. Or, of course, that might be nothing more than wishful thinking, and we’ll be stuck with this for a few decades more…

Mutilator

Chaos Marines

As well as all these bigger beasts Shadowspear also contains a squad of Chaos space marines, and in the weeks since they’ve been bolstered further by a whole new kit. Fans of Chaos Marines have been waiting (I cannot in all conscience pretend we’ve been doing so patiently) for new models for many years now. As the years and editions have passed the loyalists have come to look better and better whilst our poor traitors have wallowed in the ugly lumpen doldrums. At last of the dark gods have rewarded us and as a long-serving heretic, I’m thrilled!

Chaos Marine 2

Like the plague marines released with the Death Guard each of these is a real character in their own right, as befits a fallen hero of the Imperium with ten millennia of villainy under his belt!

Chaos Marine 3

The rank-and-file are head and shoulders above their predecessors (both literally and figuratively) whilst the champion from Shadowspear outshines even some of the special characters of yesteryear.

Chaos Marine 1

There is a plainness to these models with little sign of the rampant mutation found in some of the chaos ranges. It’s a good move on the part of the designers, resulting in a very different texture to the models when compared to the slimy organic surfaces of the Death Guard. Plus it makes them perfect for more austere legions like the Iron Warriors, whilst all Chaos fans know that it’s easier to add mutations than it is to take them away.

I’ve already managed to paint one of my own and although I’ve already shown him here I couldn’t miss the opportunity to show him off again.

Chaos Space Marine Wudugast (5)

In terms of size these compare closely to the Rubric and Plague Marines (and we all love a good size comparison photo!)

Chaos Size Comp ConvertOrDie Wudugast 2

Better yet they tower over the old Chaos Marines, who stood no taller than an unarmoured guardsman.

Chaos Comparison

They are however just a little bit smaller than the Primaris Marines. This is a pity, despite all of the background about Primaris being bigger and better than the standard marines, a lot of us hoped that the new chaos marines would match them for size a little more closely. Thus my first thought when I saw them was to curse them; they had one chance to fix their screw up and rather than commit they fluffed it. However they are certainly a big improvement on the midget marines of yesteryear and the more I look at them the more my eye becomes used to them. Ultimately although an extra millimetre here and there might have been nice it’s really a case of splitting hairs and not worth getting agitated over (for me at least).

Chaos Marine WIP 3

Whilst not quite the blank canvas that we saw with the Primaris Marines there’s still plenty of room to kitbash these to create unique warriors or tie them into your own preferred legion or warband. Those who feel they can suffer another moment with the ugly old Khorne Berserkers kit for instance could do well mixing these with AoS Khorne parts whilst Death Guard fans who found the plague marines too mutated for their tastes might prefer hybridizing them with these to create something a little more toned down. For myself I’m inclined to try them out to kitbash some better raptors and warp talons.

I’ve had a bit of a mixed relationship with the raptors and warp talons. Like many people my age I emerged from university blinking into the harsh light of the 2008 recession, with jobs as scarce as unicorn shit and my hard won degree nothing more than fancy paper. Fast forward a few years, and another round in academia, and my first proper wage cheque was burning a hole in my pocket just as the new raptors kit was released. Bursting with excitement at my new-found fiscal stability and the first opportunity to treat myself since my student days I naturally rushed out and bought it. In the years since however I’ve never actually managed to finish painting a single one. Alongside the Dark Vengeance chosen these are the granddaddy’s of the modern plastic chaos marines, yet to my critical eye they haven’t aged that well. Their proportions are all over the place and rather than soaring dynamically through the air they appear to be engaged in an enthusiastic jig. Would it be possible, I found myself wondering, to kitbash something better using the new chaos marines? Well, here’s my first attempt and overall I’m pretty happy with him.

Warptalon WIP (1)Warptalon WIP (2)Warptalon WIP (3)

Based on this success I’m very tempted to make a whole squad, so as every any comments or feedback is greatly appreciated.

As I’ve noted above, although there has been no official announcement from GW it seems like a safe bet that sooner or later the World Eater’s and Emperor’s Children will be similarly blessed with new models. One thing that seems unlikely to appear however is another new incarnation of Kharn the Betrayer who received a new model just a couple of years ago. Unfortunately I’m no fan of it, the whole model looks awkward and ungainly and I much prefer the old version. I did fear that my old metal Kharne would by now be suffering from SAM syndrome (Short Angry Man) but to my surprise he’s not actually that bad. That said I am tempted by the idea of making my own version using parts from the new chaos Marines kit (the Shadowspear champion – pictured above – practically is Kharn, he just needs a different head, although I’m sure I could come up with something more interesting and challenging with a little time to drum up the bits).

Khaaarn 40k

Havocs

Alongside the new chaos marines we have their heavy-weapon toting brothers, the Havocs. These are the Chaos equivalent of the loyalist Devastators, space marines with big guns who’s main joy in life is to rain down destruction from afar.As you’d expect these are similar to the standard chaos marines, and generally cross compatible, but a little more tech-ed out. They’re more heavily set than their colleagues too, and their braced poses match the weight and heft of the big guns.

Cry Havoc

The chaos marines may have had a plastic kit that was well past its sell-by date but the havocs didn’t even have that, relying instead on an old upgrade set. As a result I never had a squad of these heavy in my old army, even converted, so I’m very intrigued to get to work building them now.

The squad leader comes with an optional bare head, although to my eye this marks him out too much and makes him look like he belongs to a different squad, so I’ll most likely be using the helmeted variant instead.

Havoc

A rather nice touch however is the similarity between the face of the havoc leader and those of Obsidius Mallex from Blackstone Fortress and Abaddon himself. In the Horus Heresy novels it’s noted that many of Horus’s legion, the Sons of Horus (many of who went on to join the Black Legion after the Sons of Horus were essentially driven extinct by the vicious fighting of the post-Heresy Legion Wars) shared Horus’s facial features, and as a result were known as “true sons”. Abaddon was even rumoured to be a clone son of Horus. Thus the decision to give each of them a similar facial structure helps to reinforce this familial effect, as well as being a nice nod to the background.

Sons of Horus

From left to right; Horus (the Dead Warmaster), Abaddon (the Successful Warmaster), Havoc Champion (Big Man With A Gun) and Obsidious Mallex (bothering adventurers down the local Blackstone Fortress).

The squad leader notwithstanding there’s really only two poses in the Havoc kit however, so any variety of appearance is provided by the different guns and details such as the torso fronts. The result is a duplication of profiles  which aesthetically just doesn’t look quite right to me. The compatibility between these and the chaos marines however should give plenty of room to manoeuvre.

Havoc CSM comp

Another thing I’ll have to do something about is the way this one stands with his arm sticking out awkwardly. What’s meant to be happening here? Luckily there’s an alternative way of building the model with a less inelegant pose otherwise some cutting and adjusting to remedy the situation would be vital!

Havoc 2

Noctilith Crown

It’s becoming standard practice at the moment for every major GW release to include a piece of terrain, something I can only applaud. As a result gaming tables the world over become more interesting and hopefully we can leave the flat, tedious landscapes of the past firmly behind us. Thus it didn’t require the predictive skills of Nostradamus to guess that we’d see something of this nature but it was always going to be interesting to find out what.

When it comes to producing terrain the challenge is coming up with enough of the stuff without it being either painfully generic (the galaxy is full of hills and rocks, and sure enough everyone fights over them but who cares?) or so specialised that only a minority will be interested (I’d love to see a Dark Eldar themed city but as I don’t collect Dark Eldar I wouldn’t be buying any of it). Plus terrain is big, expensive, takes up space, is often seen as intimidating to paint, is hard to transport – the list goes on. The solution has been to create a selection of fairly generic terrain, in the case of 40k a war torn Imperial city (which – as a major plus – is also perfect for Necromunda) and then add in kits which tie in to certain races for a little extra flavour. However whilst troops can march and vehicles drive to reach a warzone hardly anyone hauls buildings with them wherever they go (the Tau being the obvious exception with their floating bastions). Therefore anything which isn’t an everyday part of an Imperial city has to have a good explanation for being there – the Eldar webway gate for instance has just “decloaked” having lurked invisibly all alone, the mek-shop has been cobbled together by industrious grots, whilst  feculent gnarlmaw has sprung up with unnatural vigour straight from Nurgle’s garden.

Noctilith Crown

In this regard chaos has almost total free rein. Anything goes because anything can be explained as having been twisted, summoned or spat out by the warp. Given such potential the Noctilith Crown is surprisingly restrained. That shouldn’t be too surprising however, the same has been true throughout this release wave. Compared to the heavily mutated Death Guard who won’t get out of bed in the morning if they don’t have a mouth for a stomach these Chaos Marines are quite austere and the same is true of their building. This is no bad thing in my view, too much mutation could have ended up looking a little over the top or weird for the sake of it – always a potential challenge with Chaos and hard to fix on very large kits (look no further than the mulalith vortex beast for an example of how wrong things can go). Plus this isn’t so overtly chaotic that it would necessarily stand out to the locals, at least not to the same degree that it would if it was covered in eyes and mouths or kept grabbing people with its tentacles. On a backwater Imperial planet it could easily be just another strange old ruin in the wasteland, avoided by superstitious locals but no cause for alarm – at least until its builders turn up to reclaim it or the Inquisition arrive and start asking questions.

Noctilith Crown 2

Despite this lack of warp touched gribblyness the piece still looks immediately Chaotic (the huge chaos star certainly helps with that!) and avoids too many obvious aesthetic choices. It’s worth drawing a comparison here with the Skull Altar recently released for Age of Sigmar.

Skull Altar

Unlike the Noctilith Crown I found the Skull Altar to be a bit dull and workmanlike. It’s not bad by any means but it’s certainly predictable. The Noctilith Crown on the other hand manages to put its own spin on things and that, combined with a masterful use of negative space to create a large piece without forming a solid wall on the gaming table, or quite such a large hole in the wallet as might otherwise have been, must be commended.

Abaddon

Each of the traitor legions released so far has been headed up by a daemon primarch and it seems safe to assume that the trend will continue. Likewise the daemonic choirs each have a monstrous greater daemon, ranging from the corpulent great unclean one to the sinister new keeper of secrets. The rest of us don’t have quite such a big monster to call upon to lead our chaos hordes. Instead we’ve got Abaddon, a miniature who needed to convey an impact and authority at least the equal of Magnus and Mortarion, but making use of a considerably smaller canvas. This isn’t to say Abaddon isn’t a bit of a beast, he’s still a big lad in comparison to chaos lords and terminators but he doesn’t come into the same weight category as his peers. Nevertheless he packs a real visual punch.

Abaddon 2

They could have done so much more here, and thank god they didn’t! They could have had him wondering or leaping into battle, throwing himself through the air or trailing great clouds of semi-sentient fumes, all of which would have served to reduce his impact. Whatever the Daemon Primarchs may like to tell themselves Abaddon remains the big daddy in the chaos ranks and Horus’s true successor. He’s also one of my all time favourite characters from the 41st millennium. In many ways I was dreading seeing them make a mess of him as much as I was looking forward to him. Having already seen the Master of Possession I feared that they might decide to overdo things here so it was with a great feeling of relief that I saw the finished piece and discovered that, with admirable restraint, they had avoided using any gimmicks – and the result is pretty close to perfect.

He comes with a choice of heads (Angry Abaddon, Sneering Abaddon and Gas-Mask Abaddon – for those moments he has no choice but to stand in the same room as Mortarion) and can also be built without his cloak – although personally I’m not sure why you’d want to.

Abaddon 1

This feels very much like Abaddon as he might have been first time around, if only the technology had been available then. At the end of the day if I didn’t have a chaos army already I would want to start one just to have him lead it. Model of the year? Undoubtedly! Go on GW prove me wrong!

Dark Apostle

Nothing is perfect (except Fulgrim) and this wave of Chaos is no exception. After seeing so much quality emerge from the GW vaults it was inevitable that at least something would disappoint and, sadly for the sons of Lorgar, it’s the Dark Apostle. Just as Abaddon displayed a degree of restraint, improving on the predecessor only when they needed to, the Dark Apostle seems determined to turn everything up to eleven with a result that’s more jarring than impactful.

Dark Apostle 1

Part of the problem is that the outgoing Apostle was pretty much spot on, albeit cursed by an extremely small stature that made him out of scale with the rest of the range even when he was newly released.

Old Apostle 1

Simply taking that model and scaling him up would have more than sufficed. Instead the wonderful halo which topped the old version has been replaced by a candelabra, the striking “preaching” pose has become an awkward “jabbing whilst waving a book” and the spiky head of the crozius has been toned down, the one thing that should probably have been toned-up. The streamers of parchment, surely a feature easier to reproduce in plastic than in resin, have been reduced and – at the back, where they previously formed a unique cape – been replaced by a normal, tatty cloak.

Dark Apostle 2

Then there’s the book. Did the designer not know when to stop? It’s drooling (presumably noxious) fluids, whilst at the same time blazing with unnatural fire – surely a librarians worst nightmare. Either would have been a bit over-the-top for my taste, both is just ridiculous. It’s not an irredeemable model mind you and with certain art of cutting and kitbashing I reckon I can make something of it, but straight out of the box it leaves a lot to be desired.

Dark Disciples

The redeeming element however is the two willing sacrifices known as the dark disciples. This grubby duo you wouldn’t look out of place in any Inq28 collection and indeed will undoubtedly prove to be grist for that particular mill – looking at them only makes me realise what could have been if only GW had seen fit to furnish us with a proper kit for new cultists (more on that particular rant later!)

Terminators

Speaking of taking pre-existing models and scaling them up that’s exactly what happened with the terminators. From a reviewers point of view of course this doesn’t leave a whole lot to add. If you liked the old terminators then here they are again, just bigger, meaner and more imposing. There are a few tweaks to nod to modern miniature design but no major changes to the core concept.  Ultimately I loved the old models but thought they were looking past their best and so these fit the bill nicely for me, scaling everything up and adding bulk whilst not attempting any unnecessary reinventions.

Terminator 2

I remember the first time I saw the outgoing chaos terminators being blown away by the bullish power implicit in those tusked helms – everything I already loved about terminators but with all the brutish spiky aggression of Chaos.

Terminator 4

The one thing I’m not particularly fond of is the little crest used to mark out the leader. It’s a design element shared with the helbrute and personally I think it looks awkward there and worse here.

Terminator 1Helbrute Crest

Despite being such a fan of the old Chaos terminators kit I’m not sure I’ve ever actually painted one, and I certainly never bought the kit as a straight-forward box of miniatures. Instead I ended up acquiring bits and pieces of it from various sources and cobbling them together with whatever else I had to hand. Thus my attempt at a size comparison between old and new leaves a little to be desired, although I’ve given it my best shot.

Terminators New and Old ConvertOrDie Wudugast

Of course the question on everyone’s lips is; how do they compare in size to the other Chaos Terminators that are out there (and what a wonderful question that is for Chaos fans of my generation to find ourselves asking!). Well, as it happens, I have a member of the Scarab Occult and a Blightlord Terminator handy, so let’s take a look.

Chaos Terminators Size Comp ConvertOrDie

As with so many things the warrior from the Thousands Sons appears a little slight in comparison to his colleagues, although its nothing a plasticard spacer under his feet and the odd dab of greenstuff wouldn’t fix if it bothers you.

Master of Executions

If the Dark Apostle is the token Word Bearer in this release then the Master of Executions is the token World Eater. He’s a loner, an executioner, a gallowsman, one-eyed and warlike, a slayer of champions. Stick a wide-brimmed hat and a couple of ravens on him and he’d be Odin! Another new leader amongst the ranks of the Chaos Marines the Master of Executions is a close combat specialist, a man interested in little else but chopping off the heads of enemy champions. Well everyone needs a hobby, I paint little models so who am I to judge?

Master of Executions

GW have been making models that carry other people’s heads around for decades now and at last they’ve found the perfect candidate for it – it’s just unfortunate that they’ve overused it so many times previously that the impact is almost entirely lost. Likewise he’s lugging around a downright massive axe, and again he’s the perfect choice to do so, but after seeing so many comically outsized weapons in the past it’s power is somewhat lost.

Master of Executions 2

I do rather like this model but if I was to be harsh there is something a little uninspired about him. All the infinite variety and possibility of Chaos and we end up with a chap who likes chopping off heads. Surely they could have come up with something a little more interesting? Again let me stress that I think he’s rather cool, should be a lot of fun to paint, and – despite having a choice of two rather stylish heads (and those are just the ones on the end of his neck) – will probably look even better with a Khornate helmet. Nonetheless, and despite my being a huge chaos fanboy, I can accept the accusation that this one appears at first glance to be just a little bit bland.

Lord Discordant

Last but not least we have the Lord Discordant. With a name like that he may sound like he belongs amongst the Emperor’s Children but in fact he has more in common with the Dark Mechanicum. Here we have a strange fusion of Warpsmith and something akin to a mediaeval knight, who scurries into battle atop a bizarre insectile riding beast. It really shouldn’t work but somehow it does so perfectly.

A new type of commander for the chaos legions the Lords Discordant are obsessed with machines, working constantly to destroy all orderly functional engines and harvest their power to fuel the arcane daemon engines of there warbands. Apparently his mere presence is enough to make technology short circuit and fail, something which many of us will find all too familiar.

Lord Disco 4

It’s a complicated figure and I can imagine that many serious gamers will complain about bits snapping off as they try to transport it to their next tournament. Fans of painting and modelling however have a challenging and potentially very rewarding kit to get their teeth into, and one which encapsulates the weirdness of Chaos at its best.

Those Left Behind

Having received such a bounty of excellent models it seems almost churlish to complain about things we didn’t get – but never mind, it’s my blog and I’ll churl if I want to!

The fact is the Chaos range was neglected for a very long time, which means now GW come to work on it there are an inordinate number of gaps to fill and models to update. Rather than simply housekeeping they instead provided us with a range of new units, but wonderful though this is it did mean they lacked the resources to fill in all the existing gaps. Even though I’m delighted with everything we’ve seen so far, and my wallet is now in serious need of a rest and a lie down, I didn’t think it would hurt to acknowledge those gaps anyway and think about where GW might hopefully turn their attention in the future. As usual this is wishlisting, plain and simple, and most likely the passage of time will demonstrate it to be nonsense, but it’s fun to speculate all the same.

Berserkers and Noise Marines

The mortal followers of Chaos, whether they be the barbarians of the Old World, the savage nations of AoS or the power armoured super-soldiers of the far future, can be crudely separated into five camps. There are those sworn to each of the four gods, and those allied to Chaos (to a greater or lesser degree), either as a pantheon or as a single primeval force – the so-called followers of Chaos Undivided. Of this latter camp the Black Legion are the 41st Millennium’s posterboys, whilst the followers of Nurgle have already been blessed with the release of the Death Guard, whilst Tzeentch’s servants set the ball rolling for Chaos with the emergence of the Thousand Sons. As I’ve mentioned above, it seems like a logical progression to assume that Slaanesh and Khorne will soon follow, bringing their legions onto the galactic stage.

Khorn Berserkers Embarrassing Themselves

Nonetheless the old berserkers now look so embarrassingly poor quality compared to the newer kits that one finds oneself cringing on GW’s behalf, it’s hard to imagine that they’re actually asking for  people’s money in exchange for these things. At least they have a kit of course, the Noise Marines only have a finecast upgrade sprue.

These days GW usually steer away from showing kitbashes and conversions in official publications, reasoning that this is confusing for newcomers to the hobby who might be put off by discovering that they have to stick random kits together to make a unit rather than just buying it off the shelf (whereas when I started it wasn’t just encouraged it was downright compulsory). However the Noise Marines don’t have an official kit, even an old one, and instead rely on the sonic weapons upgrade kit to tide them over. Thus, I find myself wondering why GW chose to illustrate the Noise Marines in the codex using the old (and now unavailable) chaos marines kit rather than the newer version. I ever planned to build a new chaos marine wielding a sonic blaster by way of demonstration but alas time ran out on me.

Noise Annoys

Of course wishful thinking says it’s because a new Noise Marine kit is just around the corner so building anything else to stand in temporarily wasn’t worth the bother – no harm in hoping right! More likely however it was simply an oversight, or a case of running out of time, or – most likely of all, GW recognising that the fans of Fulgrim’s legion have been suffering and, given that they’re probably enjoying it, they should be rewarded with one more painful turn of the screw to counteract the pleasure of the forthcoming Slaaneshi daemons.

Cultists

Ultimately I knew there would be a limit to how much GW could produce in one go but I’ve been bumping my gums about wanting new cultists for long enough that I couldn’t let the occasion pass without dragging my arguments out for another airing.

Cultists

Like a lot of people I felt a brief thrill when the chaos cultists kit was marked as “sold out” on the GW website, only for it to reappear repackaged a few days later. It’s true that you can kitbash some fine looking cultists from existing kits but just imagine the things we could be kitbashing if we had a proper kit for them as well. Plus that’s a lot like saying we don’t need space marine miniatures because with sufficient time and practice most of us could sculpt our own. The existing push-fit cultists are very nice but there’s not a lot of converting potential in there and given that I always envisioned cultist in massive maddened hoards that’s a problem. Whenever I encounter such a horde only to see the same five faces repeated over and over again, such as in the photograph used to illustrate the cultists in the new codex, I feel as though something has gone badly wrong with my eyes. Unlike the Noise Marines and Khorne Berserkers I don’t really expect to see them with World Eaters or Emperor’s Children release either. A theoretical future Slaaneshi faction might come with its own cultists but these are liable to be of a “specialist” nature (able to reach all the places normal cultists can’t!), whereas for a warrior of Khorne the only good baseline human is a blur of arterial spray in their peripheral vision. Yet whilst those two factions seem likely to make an appearance sooner or later cultists will probably have to wait until GW return to the chaos marines – whenever that turns out to be. For now the armies of duplicate cultists will continue – when Fabius Bile told us he was working on a clone army this wasn’t what I had in mind!

Huron Blackheart

With Abaddon now strutting his stuff centre stage, and the other characters from the old legions having either recently received new models (Typhus, Ahriman, Kharn and Cypher) or probably coming soon(-ish) (Lucius and Fabius) poor old Huron Blackheart is starting to look a little left behind. Then again there are still plenty of gaps in the Chaos range that need to be filled (have I mentioned cultists? And what about Chosen, Mutilators, a generic plastic Sorcerer?). Add in the fact that Abaddon gave away one of his Blackstone Fortresses to Huron (don’t say he’s a nice guy – the prick forgot my birthday altogether) and we have the possibility of a second, smaller wave of Chaos releases coming at some point in the future as Huron launches a crusade of his own out of the Maelstrom. Not only would this break up the Chaos releases to everyone’s satisfaction, allow the bank accounts of the faithful to recover and lulling the weaker races into a false sense of security, but it would avoid Huron and Abaddon launching at the same time and one overshadowing the other. As usual of course, it’s just a theory.

Huron

The Galaxy Must Burn

I’ve long argued that Chaos is the Imperium’s shadow – humanity’s shadow even – and for the various factions of the Imperium to really function as sympathetic protagonists they need an enemy who can truly threaten them with something more than just bigger guns or more soldiers. Chaos represents the corruption of human qualities not simply via external pressure but through the twisting of noble ideals. At best the decline of a character should stem from an over abundance of positive rather than negative qualities (although as ever the Night Lords are the exception that proves the rule, remaining compelling despite being utter bastards to begin with!). The result creates room for enormous narrative depth and complexity. Add in the range of aesthetic possibilities (who knows what Noise Marines might look like nowadays but I can guarantee it won’t be Plague Marines in pink!) and the diversity of potential rules for gamers to take advantage of, and it would be fair to say that GW has been sitting on a treasure trove, seemingly ignorant of the wealth of concepts their IP could have been laying open to them. Imagine if the Imperium was lumped together into a single fraction with nothing but a special character to differentiate the Space Wolves from the Dark Angels, and the Imperial Guard relegated to 5 push fit models, and you have some idea of the discrepancy between the way in which the Chaos range has been treated historically and the potential it contains. Luckily the tide seems to be well and truly on the turn (as usual, and as an outsider it’s hard to say anything with 100% confidence, it’s worth noting that the departure of Kirby as CEO has, as on so many other matters, coincided with a rush of common sense to the company’s collective head).

For a long time GW neglected Chaos and got away with it. These power armoured baddies haven’t had it as bad as some races or factions (I’d like to nominate my poor hard-done-by Skaven for that dubious honour) but the range has always been considerably less than it could have been, its potential often hinted at but never fully realised. Naturally some fans complained but as whining and nerd rage is as much a part of Warhammer as rolling dice and accidentally drinking paint water I’m not convinced anyone took much notice (we have all encountered people who claim not to be involved in the hobby anymore since GW ruined everything  yet who still managed to spend around 18 hours per day online moaning about the latest developments and then trundle down to their local store at the weekend to fill a wheelbarrow with the latest releases. Well here’s hoping they enjoyed this one, Chaos needs the support – especially from the bitter and corruptible).

So there we have it. It’s not been a perfect release, there are certainly things I would have liked to have seen included or done differently, but these are small things and not worth any more than a brief acknowledgement. Predominantly this has been about the resurrection of the Chaos Space Marine range and on the whole the result is nothing short of outstanding. Now when we turn up to burn down the Emperor’s palace we won’t have to worry about the loyalists laughing at our ugly old miniatures. How’s that old saying go? From shame and shadow recast – in snazzy new plastic reborn. Something like that anyway…