Category Archives: Editorial

Disposable Heroes – Part 1

Although the Imperial Guard has often appealed to me I’ve always found the miniatures themselves to be amongst the least inspiring in the Games Workshop cannon (sharing a space next to the Tau and the High Elves at the very bottom of the list of things I’ll probably never paint). The filth and insanity, the sheer alienness of humanity in the 41st Millennium, simply hasn’t rubbed off on them. This is something I’ve written about, at length, on many occasions, but it’s taken the second Iron Sleet Invitational to get me to do something about it.

Ultimately it’s the humble guardsman who defines life in the 41st Millennium, who shows us what it is to be a human amongst the stars. It’s a well-trod complaint that Age of Sigmar lacks personality whilst the focus remains on the superhuman Stormcasts and not the mortals who actually live in the Mortal Realms (and yes, I’m aware that this is something GW have attempted to address although to my mind they still have a way to go there). Likewise the space marines may be supermen, and the horrors of the galaxy horrifying, but only when stood in comparison to a normal human, a person like you or I.

Of course I’m a big fan of the Vostroyan Firstborn and the Armageddon Steel Legion  – indeed I’d like to see all the existing guard regiments given plastic kits to replace the ageing metal models. They capture the range of diverse cultures within the Imperium. However what I want to see are the normal soldiers, the fighting men raised from worlds without particularly unusual climates or cultures. It’s like only having the Space Wolves without the Ultramarines, the weird is only weird when we have a baseline of normality to compare against.

Imperial Guard (6)

My mental image of the Imperial Guard has always mixed together elements of the Death Corps of Kreig, the Solar Auxilia and the Bretonian peasantry – all seen through the lens of the Regimental Standard. To me part of the problem with the Cadians is not that they’re normal people – I’m all in favour of that – but that they’re normal modern people. If you or I ended up in 41st Millennium and managed to stay alive long enough to be press-ganged into the Guard we’d probably look a lot like a Cadian. The thing is the everyday people of the 41st Millennium aren’t like us. They grow up with incredible hardship. They think one square meal a day is a luxury, they wouldn’t know what to do with a bath and medical treatment for minor injuries is out of the question. They’re all indoctrinated from birth into a state religion that calls for fanatical worship. They think nothing of having limbs or organs chopped off and replaced with mechanical odds and ends (assuming of course that they are considered worthy of this). Whilst we are raised to believe we’re individually special they are taught that they are disposable, mere cogs in a dystopian machine that has kept mankind alive against the odds for ten millennia. Very little of this is represented on the actual models however.

Imperial Guard (5)

Take a look at this picture and we see the classic image of the Imperial Guard at war. Thousands of soldiers pour forth, backed up by strange characters; priests, wizards and the cybernetic hybrids of the Mechanicum. Rather than blending the medieval with the futuristic the two have been rather lumped together so that the good old Cadians look like part of a completely different army to the specialists.

Imperial Guard (1)

In the painting we see both the weird denizens of the 41st Millennium…

Imperial Guard (3)

…And the unmodified Cadians…

Imperial Guard (4)

…but only occasionally, such as with this commander, are there signs that the two originate from the same culture, let alone belong to the same army.

Imperial Guard (2)

The painting is reminiscent of what may be a formative memory for many of us; a few 40k figures mixed into an advancing horde of little green army men. One expects to see a few dinosaurs lumbering along behind them, and perhaps your sister’s Barbie striding in the background like some amazon colossus, as they storm their way across the flower beds and onto the lawn – only for the war to be called off at short notice when one’s mum calls one in for dinner. (I however don’t have a sister and never played with toy soldiers. I was all about the dinosaurs baby!)

Imperial Guard (8)

We’re often presented with the idea that there is a level of progression from the PDF (planetary defence force) and the Guard – and that the Guard are better soldiers. To my mind this doesn’t quite add up however. Those in the PDF can be career soldiers, and actually gain some degree of exposure to combat hunting down local pirates, escaped convicts, minor cults and whatever else threatens the Emperor’s peace. In the Guard one is handed the best equipment that hasty mass-production can buy and thrown into the path of the nearest rampaging enemy. One’s experience of actual fighting probably lasts about 20 seconds and ends badly. The aim is not to outfight the enemy, that’s what the astartes are for, but simply to choke it with weight of numbers. Much like Khorne the Imperium cares not from where the blood flows, so long as in the end the enemy drowns in it.

In a recent post on his facebook page Aaron Dembski-Bowden, discussing something he’d received from some knuckle-dragging bigot, noted;

“If you think the Guard give a shit who they hand out flashlights to or who is fed into the meatgrinder, then you don’t understand the Guard.”

In those few words he sums up much of what I’m trying to convey in this rather long and wordy post. The Imperium is beset by a myriad of enemies, including those vastly technologically superior (the Eldar and Necrons for example) or with functionally limitless forces at their command (Orks, Tyranids, Daemons). All the Imperium really has on its side is sheer size and bullishness. People it has in abundance. The mathematics are harsh but honest – no matter how seriously an individual guardsman may be outgunned the Imperium can afford to keep throwing more and more into the breach. Best case scenario one of them get’s in a lucky shot. Worst case scenario eventually the enemies gets tired out killing them all and has to stop for a rest.

Imperial Guard (7)

My aim is to capture Guardsmen like these who appear to actually belong in the 41st Millennium, rather than being imported from our own.

Imagine then the life of the poor Imperial functionary. Their orders are to raise a (probably quite unobtainable) number of soldiers in a ludicrously short span of time before the enemy finishes killing the last lot and turns their attention towards more important targets. No-one cares how good they actually are at fighting, and they’re unlikely to live long enough for anyone to find out. It’s not his job to inspect them, or worry about their health, their mental state, their equipment. They’re given a lasgun and told to do their best, and by the Emperor they damn well do it. The appeal of the Guard is not merely that they “are but men” but that they do their best even when the odds are stacked against them.

It’s this that I’ll be trying to convey with the five models I create for the Invitational. Each model should be;

  • Distinctly an inhabitant of the 41st Millennium (rather than just a modern soldier with an aquila on his gear).
  • Woefully underequipped for the task in hand
  • A character in his own right (after all these people had their own lives before recruitment and have their own personalities and character quirks, they’re not just members of a mass-spawned horde like a guant or a necron). We should care about them enough that their impending death is a tragedy as well as an inevitability.

When it comes to my own vision of the Guard the Cadians remain a good place to start, but they’re still crying out for a few critical changes to give them the sense of grubby weirdness that otherwise encapsulates 40k. I’ve armed myself with five Cadians (rescued from induction into my traitor guard army – something which I might include in any background I end up writing for them) and started tacking together bits. Watch this space!

All images used are copyright Games Workshop.

Advertisements

For Those About To Rot

As if the Thousand Son’s release last autumn wasn’t exciting enough the Death Guard are here, a fully realised Chaos Legion as distinct – indeed arguably even more so – from the Chaos Space Marines as the Space Wolves are from the Space Marines. This is something that we Chaos fans have been banging on about wanting to see pretty much forever so there’s no way I was going to let the occasion pass without comment. Let the suffering of the False Emperor’s servants begin!

Nurgle 2

Needless to say this release has been hotly anticipated not just since GW teased us with shots of the Sons of Barbarus back in the spring, nor even since we saw the Thousand Sons last autumn, but pretty much as far back as there have been chaos fans who looked at the love and attention GW lavished on their loyalist cousins and dared to dream. Let’s not forget after all that the first ever codex to be released covered the Space Wolves, yet for a very long time it seemed that even to hope for the same treatment for the traitors was to imagine the ridiculous. To even suggest that such a thing might some day be possible was to invite ridicule with many chaos fans, as stubborn and bitter as the legionaries they unleash on the tabletop, insistent that GW would never indulge us as they have the Emperor’s pampered lapdogs.

Unsurprisingly then this release has also been hotly debated. We’ve been waiting for it for so long that expectation management has gone out of the window. Everyone agrees that something foul has been unleashed upon the galaxy but the gloves are off when it comes to the question of whether that’s in a good way or not. Hobbyists are divided; is this mana from a particularly pestilent heaven or an affront to the eyes and an affront to the sensibilities? For some anything less than perfection will be an insult, for others the fact that GW has acknowledged our existence at all is justification for grovelling abasement. For those of you without a strong opinion on the subject, but who want to join in on the general bickering, I’m here to help. Simply pass off my thoughts as your own and hey presto – heated argument can be yours!Death Guard (1)One of the most popular criticisms levelled at the Death Guard is that they are too heavily mutated, that they should be more restrained, the dreadfulness of their disease ravished forms a subtle horror that creeps up on the viewer as the model is explored rather that leaping at them bombastically from the moment you open the box. It’s a complaint I can certainly sympathise with, although I enjoy a good mutation myself my vision of the 41st Millennium also calls for a degree of nuance and realism.

Part of the problem, as ever, are the studio paint jobs. With almost every release from GW you hear the same refrain (and I’ll confess I’m as guilty of this as the rest of us). “I don’t like it”, we cry, “it looks too cartoony!” Then we see the bare plastic, or a version painted in a suitably grubby, gritty, Blanchian style and suddenly we realise it’s not so bad after all. The Death Guard encapsulate this to a T – and we shouldn’t blame GW for that, their hands were tied on this from the beginning.

At the end of the day the Citadel house style is all about making the models look bright and sharp, having them pop out at a distance, and not about making them look too real. This is particularly true with Nurgle – these models are thick with open sores and weeping wounds, spilled guts hanging from rotting flesh, fly-like mutations and crawling maggots. Paint these bad boys as too realistic and people will be loosing their lunches left, right and centre. Certainly that kid who’s trying to convince his mum to put some Blightlord’s on her credit card is going to be out of luck if the outside of the box looks like a still from a particularly gruesome slasher flick.Blight Lord TerminatorWe’re also familiar with Plague Marines of a less mutated stripe than we’re seeing now. We’ve been sticking horns and spikes onto loyalist space marines and greenstuffing on guts to create our own Plague Marines that we’ve become used to it. Now when we see a bunch of hideous mutants shambling towards us with murder in mind we react with horror rather than embracing them as we should. Yet our situation hasn’t really changed, it’s just reversed. Whereas once we had to stick extra mutations on to our models now we need to snip them off but the result is the same, if you don’t like the models that come in the box then change them. Nothing will ever be good enough to please everyone after all.

Many dislike the level of mutation on the new models, accusing them of being cluttered and defined by their horns, tentacles and other mutations. Personally I like my 40k models to be “blinged-up” but it really is a matter of taste. That said I’m pleased to see that most of them don’t have their guts hanging out – it’s a powerful look but the shock value of it has been reduced by the fact that for a while every Nurgle model was suffering from it.

Beneath the mutations however these models still owe a lot to the original Death Guard designs.

Plague Marine

Exciting though the new Death Guard are, we do not need to be passive consumers here, fat little baby birds glutted with new plastic toys but still begging hungrily for more from GW. The New GWTM prides itself on listening to the fans, but listening to the fans is a dangerous and soul destroying business akin of wading through a river of sewage. Visit any website where more than a handful of GW fans are gathered together and the complaining of the entitled becomes a deafening chorus. Yet why should we build our shrines to the GW cargo cult and wait for the gods in Nottingham to deliver us a bounty only to moan that the sculpts we receive have too many tentacles (or not enough)? No-one was asking for Sky-dwarves or crying out for an expanded range of treemen whilst Sisters of Battle fans continue to pour their rage into the uncaring void and receive nothing.

Our hobby is one of craftspeople and it is at its best when we embrace that. If you love the new Death Guard get them painted. If you hate them make them better. If you want to see Chaos developed to the level and depth which it deserves get on and develop it. We don’t need to sit in a passive aggressive-sulk waiting for GW to see fit to provide us with a fully realised suite of plastic models for the Iron Warriors or an Alpha Legion codex – we are Chaos fans and born convertors. Our hobby lives and breaths through the efforts of those who push the envelope, who refuse to accept what they have been given by GW but strive to make it better, to fit it to their own vision. Without such creatives it would wither and become stale and be swept aside by newer, flashier pastimes (and now you know why I chose to name this blog the way I did).

ghisguth-the-reaper-nurgle-lord-convert-or-die-4

It’s this that makes events like #MakeTheDeathGuardGreatAgain so exciting to me. Now without wishing to open up a political debate or imply criticism of any politicians or their voters, the phrase “Make (insert cause here) Great Again” has been used by such massive arseholes lately that it’s now so toxic even Mortarion won’t touch it. Truthfully just that hashtag was enough to put me off the whole idea at first, especially as I think the new Death Guard are pretty damn great to begin with. However once I got over that I actually got pretty excited about the idea.

Plus, as I’ve noted above, I love a grittier, darker, more honest version of the 41st Millennium than the somewhat over-the-top style favoured by GW. Hopefully #MDGGA will bring out the Inq28/Blanchian creative streak which would lend so much to Mortarion’s sons and I highly recommend that anyone who’s dissatisfied with the new models (or even those like me who love them) get’s involved.

Malignant Plaguecaster Conversion Convert Or Die (4)

The Malignant Plaguecaster – a model simply crying out to be made great.

Another complaint levelled at the new Death Guard is the odd proportions of their torsos (the old rib-cage-fusing-straight-onto-the-pelvis ailment that marred pre-primaris space marines). Having suffered for my art and googled images of fat men I’m still unconvinced by this.

People will say “of course their proportions are odd, it’s Nurgle, they’re all mutated in there” but that’s a cop-out. The truth is their proportions are odd because they’re really fat. These are not the Primaris marines who have the chiselled torsos of Greek gods under that armour. The Death Guard may well be muscular but they carry a lot of weight with it.

Then we need to factor in the weight and thickness of power armour. After all this is the 41st Millennium where everything is outsized and over-engineered. Sci-fi which chooses to depict a shiny, hopeful future may provide its soldiers with formfitting, bullet deflecting body-armour which owes its life-saving properties to the wonders of technology but in the 40k universe such heresy is best left to filthy xenos like the Eldar. Humans, regardless of which gods they worship, know that the best way to make armour better is to make it thicker.

So is it really fair to claim that their proportions are wrong? Time to break out the artist’s dummies!Plague Marine Proportions

Well, I’m satisfied but, as a picture is worth a thousand words, you can make up your own mind.

Another complaint about the marines we saw released in the past was just how short they were – hardly the towering warrior giants described in the background. Thankfully GW seem have woken up to this glaring error at last. Seen next to a Primaris marine the new models remain suitably bulky and imposing.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (1)

And now we see why the defenders of the Cadian gate were so worried – there were fully armoured Chaos Marines in there that were actually taller than guardsmen!

Death Guard Convert Or Die (7)

Whilst old-fashioned space marines look more ridiculous than ever now that they’re surrounded by sensibly proportioned models.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (4)

Plus, I’m pleased to see that my old Blightking based Chosen fit rather well alongside the new Plague Marines and can look forward to being incorporated into the ranks of my new squads.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (3)

Ah, how our little family has grown!

Death Guard Convert Or Die (6)

This also seems like a good time to mention the Thousand Sons. Although not quite on the same scale as the Death Guard and the Primaris they come pretty close and, in spite of my inclination to rail at GW for the kind of fence-sitting that’s left the sons of Magnus looking a little short beside their brother legions, they’re close enough that a few spacers will save the day. Simply by blue-tacking this one together I’ve added enough height that he can meet a Primaris’s gaze.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (2)

And I could hardly move on without a power-armoured line up for those like me who like to see who’s tall and who’s not. Just keep in mind that the Thousand Son is a little longer in the neck than he will be once his head is glued in place.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (5)

One thing that’s slightly marred this release for me has been the number of extra releases tacked on, seeming only by way of spinning a little extra money for GW. Whilst the plague marines in Dark Imperium and First Strike were excellent, did we really need things like the Plague Brethren as well? Surely with so many plague marine champions already available (one in the Dark Imperium boxset, one in First Strike and one in the plague marine box itself), did we really need another one; particularly one that’s aimed straight at the completists and hobbyists on higher incomes? Nice though this model may it brings nothing to the release beyond a unique head and a humorous nurgling – the latter of which could be converted easily from a spare nurgling and leftover helmet, both things that Death Guard fans are likely to have lying around in abundance.

Plague Champion with Funky Nurgling

Plus, amazing though this banner is, surely it could have been added to the main plague marines kit rather than justifying a £15 price tag by itself?

I've Got Standards

Terminators

In the run-up to this release a betting man would have guessed that some kind of terminators would be present. The return of terminators dedicated to the individual gods has been at the top of many a wishlist for years, the Thousand Sons have the Scarab Occult and loyalists like the Blood Angels, Space Wolves and Dark Angels all have their own variants so something for Nurgle sounded like a safe bet. Those of us who were boldest (or most fanciful) even speculated that there might be some kind of duel kit, providing alternative heads and scythes so that one could build one’s Nurgle terminators as Mortarion’s elite Deathshroud. Two entirely separate kits though – that was a bounty we didn’t dare dream of.

Deathshroud

With the Death Guard terminators we actually get to see a nice microcosm of the knife edge path walked by a champion of the dark gods. The Deathshroud stand tall and proud. Their proportions are accurate, their mutations generally functional. Chaos has bloated them in strength and stature but they retain an appearance which implies autonomy of will. They look like humans, albeit humans which have been empowered by the very best that Chaos and the pre-heresy Imperium could offer. Look at a Deathshroud miniature and one sees a character and, by implication, a mind.

Not so the Blightlords. Their mutations are more severe and crippling. Their poses are hunched, their stance feral. Here are men who’ve been killing so long they’ve forgotten how to do anything else. The weapons and armour they carry on themselves are remnants, the collected scraps that hint at the kind of men they once were. These are not the accoutrements selected by a warrior to aid him in battle but the part-sloughed skin of a creature on the path to becoming something other. The Deathshroud are stationary, controlling an objective, letting the enemy come to them through the flesh-devouring toxic fog. Meanwhile the Blightlords are lunging forwards, desperate to bring the battle to their unfortunate victims. The suggestion is that these are warriors who have lost their way, their instincts becoming animalistic, their bodies mere puppets to Chaos. Whilst the Deathshroud appear to be on the path of champions with Princehood lying within their grasp, the Blightlords are each on the slippery slope to becoming spawn.

99120102074_DeathGuardBlightLordTerminators12

Look at this one for instance – he’s turning into a fly. He’s not going to be making any tactical decisions apart from how to get into the jam.

99120102074_DeathGuardBlightLordTerminators11

Typhus

The new incarnation of Typhus has certainly proved to be a divisive model, not least because of the lofty pedestal the old version was placed upon. Yet whilst the old model was contemplative the new one is anything but, showing the captain of the Terminus Est as a dynamic warleader urging his rotten troops onwards to victory. That said I’m not entirely sure I love the new pose, there’s something slightly over the top about it that recalls an anime character more than the brutal hostility of the 40k universe. Personally my inclination would be to build him with the pose adjusted, scythe held at his side as he scans the battlefield for his next victim, rather than the super-power-up pose GW have gone for.

Typhus (2)

That said this disappointment is tempered by the fact that he can be build without the ridiculous looking cloud of gas and flies venting from the destroyer hive. What’s more this one, clipped free of the trailing gas, would make for a fine sidekick/familiar/pet to a Nurgle character.

Typhus Flies

 In spite of these reservations, and the vigorous slagging that the model has received in some quarters, I’m actually rather fond of the new Typhus. Notwithstanding the radical difference in pose a lot of elements from the old model have been repeated in the new, from the head to this cheeky nurgling fishing around in his guts.

Typhus Nurgling

Indeed if one really wanted to one could recreate the old Typhus fairly easily  as the old model has been translated almost exactly into plastic as part of the Deathshroud set. In fact the designers probably had little choice but to amp up Typhus’ pose a little to make him stand out from Mortarion’s impressive new bodyguard.

Typhus Comparison

Please note, this isn’t a size comparison, old Typhus is dwarfed by the new Deathshroud.

Another nice thing about this release is the level of effort that’s been put into expanding the Death Guard as a legion. From being just plague marines, a colour scheme and some greenstuffed boils they’ve been rebuilt into an army packed with depth and character. Nowhere is this more apparent than the range of specialists that have been added to the army. By giving the Death Guard their own unique units in this way GW have moved the army out of the shadow of the legions and turned them into their own entity. No longer are they a Nurgle version of the space marines whereby one took the same base units and added furs for Space Wolves, hoods for Dark Angels and boils for Death Guard – and in the later instance renamed the Librarian as a Sorcerer and stuck some spikes on all the tanks. These guys have spent their time in the warp evolving, both in appearance and in organisation. Just as each loyalist chapter has become a separate entity from the codex adherent Space Marines so too have the Thousand Sons and Death Guard evolved away from being just another flavour of Chaos Space Marines. Nor is the Death Guard simply a copy of the Thousand Sons release – an event that seemed staggeringly generous at the time but which now almost seems miserly in comparison. It would have been easy enough for GW to turn out a similar package to that received by the sons of Magnus; a squad in power armour, some terminators, a character, a primarch and something to add flourish – hell, if they’d kept to the Thousand Sons framework exactly and given us pestigors in place of the tzaangors I’d have been happy enough. Instead, probably inspired by the popularity of Nurgle, they went above and beyond, choosing to release the Lords of the Plague Planet as a legion entire with a fleet of Nurgly vehicles and a cast of specialist individuals.

Of these one of my personal favourites is the Plague Surgeon, a lean, reaper-like figure who looms, ghastly and imposing, over the ranks of his brothers. Unlike the other Nurgle models, all of whom feature a distinct distended gut, the Plague Surgeon is a gaunt figure, tall and thin in a way that is both instantly befitting a servant of Nurgle and yet strikingly new in a range otherwise dominated by jolly fat men. Indeed the slender, slightly spiky look of the figure helps emphasise its grim bitterness, especially in comparison to the malevolent cheer of his allies. After all this was once an Apothecary, and one only need look at the rest of the Death Guard army to see how badly he failed in his duty.

Plague Surgeon

Sadly they can’t all be winners and the Foul Blightspawn, like the Plaguecaster from Dark Imperium, feels a bit like a grab bag of crazy ideas. In essence a miniature should represent a character doing something (locked in battle, standing guard, casting a spell, pointing out an interesting local attraction). The trouble with the Blightspawn is that he appears to be doing a bit of everything. He’s throwing a grenade, and he’s stepping forward to do so, but the implied lack of speed suggests he’s only chucking it a few feet away rather than lobbing it maliciously into a trench full of cowering guardsmen. Meanwhile he’s also filling another grenade from the noxious pump on his back but the fact that he’s not looking where he’s pouring suggests he’s about to slop the toxic gunk all over both himself and his nurgling sidekick. Luckily they’d both enjoy it but that’s hardly the point. In the end he should pick one thing and stick with it, rather than trying to do both at once, and this lack of co-ordination suggests a level of incompetence in the character portrayed. The nurgling itself is described as an optional component (although any convertor would tell you that every component is optional) but including an element in a kit and then telling people not to use it if they don’t like it seems a little redundant. Indeed, speaking personally I’d rather have a model that was concentrating on loading the grenade with gunk, assisted by his diminutive sidekick, rather than trying to multitask.

Foul Blightspawn

The cross-eyed appearance of the helmet doesn’t help and, cool and quirky though it is, it doesn’t fit with the model and adds another layer of oddness at a stage where less would very definitely have been more.

Blighty McBlightface

Blighty McBlightface Strikes Again!

Ultimately, the Blightspawn is just a bit too odd for me as is, although that could be fixed with some careful cutting to remove the head and replace it with something more restrained. Not that I don’t love his odd, horse-faced gasmask, I do. I just feel that it overeggs an already complex model, turning its gleefully grubby eccentricity into out and out zaniness. Perhaps it would look better on a terminator?

Biologus Putrifier

The Biologus Putrifier, on the other hand does weirdness with far more aplomb. Whilst the Blightspawn is muddled by its many quirky components the Putrifier is a model of greater maturity and co-ordination. The model may have lots of odd or impractical elements (if one is going into battle whilst carrying a large number of fragile glass vials perhaps attaching them to frail wooden wings on your back where they’re hard to reach may not be for the best) but because everything is kept to a single theme it works. Indeed, in spite of some stiff competition, this may actually be my favourite of the new Death Guard character models.

Tallyman

Whilst the other characters develops the Death Guard’s use of biological weapons the Tallyman stands in for the Dark Apostles of other Chaos factions and explores their relationship with their patron god. Combining Nurgle (and the Death Guard)’s love of order with a Chaos factions’ need for a priest class, the Tallyman counts and records every aspect of battle in an attempt to divine their noxious god’s will. It’s a very structured, some might even say scientific, approach to religion. Rather than just taking things on faith the Death Guard seek to further their understanding and force order onto the esoteric. After all a paranoid like Mortarion would never just accept an interpretation of Nurgle’s will unquestioningly, especially not if it is whispered to him by some treacherous warp entity. He’d want to get as much inside knowledge as he could so as to plan his campaigns appropriately.

Nurgly Shopping List

Furthermore the inclusion of the Tallymen helps to emphasise that the Death Guard remain a structured, co-ordinated Legion, not just a bunch of rampaging fanatics. Furthermore whilst the Plague Surgeon represents the outcome of leaving a morbidly obsessed Apothecary in the Warp for ten thousand years the Tallymen are something new, a result of the Death Guard’s evolution in Nurgle’s service rather than a holdover from their days fighting for the Emperor.

Scrying The Warp

So what’s next? With Mortarion and Magnus on the loose, plus their do-gooder brother holding the Imperium together, it seems like a fairly safe bet that over the next few years we’ll see Khorne and Slaanesh receiving the same treatment as Tzeentch and Nurgle with full army releases for the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children, and their respective primarchs to boot. It also seems like a sensible line of reasoning to assume that Imperial customers won’t be left out – no-one at the head of GW will be thinking “do we really need to open another goldmine? Surely we have enough money by now?” Imagine though if GW was brave enough to really pursue the possibilities, and plunge into the potential that the background offers. Could we ever live in a world where the likes of Lorgar or Perturabo bestride the tabletop, directing the fanatical priesthoods or massed heavy artillery of their (very different) legions?

Mortarion

As for the loyalists three chapters in particular have received a lot of attention in the past and it seems sensible to assume they will in the future; the Space Wolves, Dark Angels and Blood Angels. From GW’s point of view Leman Russ must look like a licence to print money (although the fact that they already sell a model called the Leman Russ is bound to be a source of confusion…). Indeed an older, wilder, wolfier Russ loping back out of the Eye of Terror after ten thousand years would contrast nicely with the clean shaven young Russ Forge World produced for the Heresy era. The Lion too just needs to wake up from his Rip Van Winkle style nap beneath the Rock and reignite his partnership with Guilliman from the Imperium Secundus days. Sanguinius of course is still rather dead but have no doubt, a money-man in Nottingham is thinking right now about how much cash could be made and some poor designer is trying to work out how it could be done without bringing all the nerd-rage in the world down on their heads. I may not particularly like having any loyalist primarchs back in action but now the jar has been opened it’s unlikely to be stoppered again soon although GW must be aware that something as extreme as Sanguinius would be a risky move and likely to alienate more fans than it attracts.

In the nearer future, if I was asked to guess, I’d put my money on seeing a Nurgle release for Age of Sigmar coming soon, mirroring that we saw for Tzeentch earlier in the year. The Blightwar boxset introduced the next phase in the story of the Mortal Realms as Nurgle takes over from Khorne as the main protagonist.

Already we’ve seen the arrival of this hideous model, a miniature so ugly that it’s crying out to be #Made Great Again (although given that I’m fairly short on funds at the moment I think I’ll restrain myself – buying an ugly model specifically because I think it’s ugly sounds counterintuitive even to me).

Damn Ugly

A further release seems likely, with sensible money being on a new Great Unclean One joining the pantheon of bigger, better Greater Daemons. Those who read my review of the Death Guard half of the Dark Imperium boxset may also recall that I predicted we’d see pestigors as part of this release (and so know not to trust me when it comes to predictions) but I still wonder if they might be forthcoming for AoS.

Anyway, having made my predictions (and prepared myself for the shame of their wild inaccuracy) I’ll wrap this post up before I write myself into a corner. Consider a pun about gutsy moves to have been made and if you have thoughts of your own the floor (or at least the comments box) is yours.

As ever if the pictures aren’t mine then I’ve pinched them off GW without asking. Don’t get on your high horse with me GW – you could have made the Thousand Sons bigger!


Dark Imperium – Nurgle

“Sickness, disease, plague and pox, suffering and the slow, living rot. Such wondrous gifts does Nurgle seek to bestow upon the unworthy human cattle of the Imperium. We are merely the vectors by which his virulent beneficence may be spread to the undeserving masses”

– Urgloth Rotheart, Plague Champion of the Death Guard.

+++

So, having cast my eye over the Space Marines in the Dark Imperium boxset, now we turn our attention to Mortarion’s sons, the plague infested legion of the Death Lord and the most devoted of Nurgle’s followers; the Death Guard. Move over loyalist scum – this is the real release that I’m excited about!

Nurgle Header

Lord of Contagion

Chaos worshipper’s being a fractious lot there was always going to need to be someone in charge who could stamp their authority on the Nurgly warriors in this boxset. Indeed, in a generous move on GW’s part, we get three of them. Of those three however it doesn’t take an expert to spot which one is in overall command. A hulking warrior-king glad in slab-like Terminator armour the Lord of Contagion stands out at a glance and will be both a staple of painting contests and an imposing presence on the tabletop for years to come. Expect to see this guy showing up at Golden Daemon a lot (don’t worry – as an entry, not a contestant!).

Lord of Contagion

In a recent interview sculptor Maxime Pastourel said he intended the model to be a 40k iteration of the Brian Nelson Nurgle Lord, justly regarded as a modern classic. However, in spite of some superficial similarities – they’re both champions of the Plague God with distended guts, pitted armour and outsized axes – there’s not a huge crossover between the two. The Nurgle Lord is a paragon of simplicity, without frills or fussy details. Its strength is its minimalism, without a single extraneous element. It’s this that makes it so popular with convertors, to the extent that it is often joked that everyone in the world has converted at least one.

The Lord of Contagion however is the exact opposite of this. It’s hard to imagine anyone but the most talented and dedicated making much of it as the basis for conversions, and it’s decked out with the kind of details that will have painters rejoicing and convertors tearing their hair in frustration. What it is however is an outstanding example of the sort of single figure plastic characters that GW excels at.

Dark Imperium Convert Or Die (3)

Having said that I couldn’t help but stand it next to the leader of my Nurgle army, Ghisguth the Reaper. Once an impressive figure (in my eyes at least), poor Ghisguth now seems a little on the small side (a recurring theme throughout this release you may have noticed). Next to this rival his chances of remaining in charge for long look almost as poor as Theresa May’s (and the similarities don’t end there – just look at the scythe I’ve armed him with, you wouldn’t let him anywhere near a field of wheat either). Thus I find myself wondering about the potential of converting a new version of Ghisguth from the Lord of Contagion. It wouldn’t require any major changes to the new model, which is a relief as anything more than altering a few details looks to be hideously difficult. It’s also fair to say that I really like the original model so making any major alterations risks destroying the character of the piece that I loved to begin with. However, the one downside I see in the excellent HQ figures released in GW’s starter sets is that their popularity soon means one is bombarded with them – every greenskin army in the world contains this Ork warboss for example. By making at least some changes, I get around the problem of having the same centrepiece figure as everyone else – after all, it was a desire to own unique models that drew me to Chaos in the first place!

Dark Imperium Convert Or Die (6)

The Lord of Contagion towers over his loyalist kin and looks more than capable of putting the Corpse-God’s servants in their place!

Noxious Blightbringer

Could this be my favourite model in the box? That would be a high honour, and the competition is stiff, but there’s no denying this is an impressive figure. There is a restrained horror to the model, the hideous diseases and weird mutations that presumably wrack it are hinted at, but never openly shown, which allows the imagination to glut itself on the possibilities. What vileness is concealed behind the heavy iron mask or sagging apron? Rather than just showing us the sculptors allow us to draw our own conclusions, a move which displays a real maturity on their part. Anyone can splatter greenstuffed guts around the place but in their moderation and self-discipline they have created a model of lasting impact and quality.

What’s more the bells that swing at the model’s sides, and most obviously the great sweep of bone above his head, give the Blightbringer a real elegance – not a word often associated with Nurgle but definitely applicable here. The bell itself has a genuine sense of weight, you can imagine it rocking slowly back and forth in time with the monstrous space marine’s trudging steps.

Noxious Blightbringer

Those wanting to add a second Blightbringer to their army could adjust the angle of the bell or, by carefully cutting away the mask, give the model a headswap. The bell itself would look magnificent mounted atop almost any Nurgle vehicle you can imagine (tanks, dreadnaughts, palanquins etc) or as a piece of terrain or objective marker.

The one element I don’t find particularly necessary are the maggots which crawl over the model’s pitted armour. What do they bring to it that wouldn’t exist without them? To my eye they look like a box ticking exercise, as though the model fell short on some supposed scale of disgustingness, and could be raised a few percentage points towards a preset repugnance threshold through the addition of a few wriggling larva. Take them away and the mind is drawn back to all that is hidden from view and all the revolting possibilities thus contained.

Malignant Plaguecaster

And then they went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like “Hey, we need an extra model, this one will do!” The poor old Malignant Plaguecaster has crawled from the Garden of Nurgle into a torrent of universal distain, cheap jokes and general abuse. There’s no denying that it’s a hard model to love, seemingly cobbled together from a grab bag of bad ideas into one disappointing whole. From the weird baby face to the silly-looking headgear, from the staff – apparently borrowed from the Sylvaneth – to the farty lump representing some kind of spell, it’s a mish-mash of failed ideas that somehow manages to be even worse than the sum of its parts.Malignant Plaguecaster (2)

Seen from the side the cape is revealed, another attempt to make this model flashier than it should have been. Clearly intended to echo the shape of a fly’s wings, and balance out the spell effect, it instead adds another dimension of mistakes to an already troubled miniature. Capes billowing out at head height are an effect that many sculptors have attempted over the years but none have succeeded at and this model was never going to be the place that it suddenly came into its own.Malignant Plaguecaster (1)

Overall then this is a model which would have benefited greatly from a more conservative approach. Rather than attempting to show off GW could simply have copied the old Forge World Nurgle sorcerer, creating a model which was both a highly customisable blank canvas for convertors and a striking miniature in its own right.

NurgleChaosSpaceMarineSorcerer01

The question that thousands of Nurgle fans across the globe are currently asking themselves is; can it be saved? Personally I’m fairly certain it can and intend to attempt just that, so check back over the next few weeks to see how I get on.

Plague Marines

Moving on to more instantly appealing models we have the Plague Marines. On the Nurgle side of the box these form the core of the set, the lynchpin around which the rest of the army is built. Nail this and any mistakes elsewhere can be forgiven, mess it up the whole release starts to look like a flop. Did they manage it? With Maxime Pastourel, the man who made the Plague Bones, as lead sculptor? Of course they managed it! After putting up with frankly less than impressive Plague Marines for years these are a revelation and a true joy to see at last.

40kFFDeathGuardPlagueMarines

The sheer amount of detail that’s been packed into them is astounding. Each one is a character in his own right, hulking brutes festooned with elements that combine to instantly characterise them as the ten-thousand year old plague infested warriors they are. The only downside is that, much like the Chosen from the Dark Vengeance box, they look to be a real headache to convert – although far from impossible – but I’ve not given up hope that a multi-part kit is somewhere in our future. What is exciting is the way that some components have been re-used, meaning that – in a huge improvement on previous boxsets – even without making any adjustments every one of these Plague Marines is unique. Those wanting to take things further should look to the Putrid Blightkings, the ever reliable workhorse of Nurgle kits – some wonderfully disgusting conversions await!

Standing next to my old Plague Marines the new models look positively gigantic, although the blame for that lies with the shortness of the old models who barely reach the shoulder of the lowly cultists that serve them.

Dark Imperium Convert Or Die (1)

Even my beloved (although as yet unfinished) ‘tall’ Plague Marines come up a little small next to these chaps, matching them in height but not in bulk.

Dark Imperium Convert Or Die (4)

My converted Plague Terminators still have the edge in terms of size although there’s not a lot in it. Of course I’m still praying (in a suitably filthy and germ-infested fane!) for an official Plague Terminators kit, whilst at the same time worrying that it’ll make my lovingly converted models look as stunty as the finecast Plague Marines do next to their new plastic brothers. Ah the complex duality of being a Chaos fan!

Dark Imperium Convert Or Die (5)

Of course having painted a second edition Plague Marine last week we can now take a look at a family photo charting the development of Nurgle’s followers down the years. The newcomers may be bigger and more impressive but they’re still models that recall their history from the spidery arms of their backpacks to the tips of their hooves.

Dark Imperium Convert Or Die (2)

In spite of being considerably bigger than the previous incarnation of the Plague Marines however these models don’t quite match the Primaris marines for height, at least partly because they still lack the fully developed abdomen of their loyalist cousins. It’s not a major issue, the quality of the models is so high it’s easy to overlook and the bloated guts cover up most of the abdomen anyway, but it’s something GW will have to watch when they come to working on the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children (which given the long lead in time required to create these models probably happened long ago).

Dark Imperium Convert Or Die (7)

On Sunday Games Workshop announced the first follow up release to bolster the contents of Dark Imperium. Alongside a new Captain and Librarian we see the new Space Marine Reivers who wear leering skull masks intended to inspire terror in their enemies. What was it Konrad Curze said about death being nothing compared to vindication? Don’t worry Konrad, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

More excitingly however we also saw new Plague Marines, each easily the equal of those included with Dark Imperium.New Plague Marines

 

What’s as yet unclear however is how many models will be included in these new boxsets. At the time of writing only three have been revealed and none of them look like this chap. Hopefully that means a multipart kit is still waiting for us over the coming months but as yet we have to wait and see.

More New Death Guard

Foetid Bloat-Drone

The biggest model in the entire set, and therefore one that was bound to grab attention, is the Foetid Bloat-Drone. Again this is an outstanding model, the fly icon on the carapace is an excellent touch whilst the three spiked-turbines – echoing the shape of Nurgle’s sigil – gives it an instantly striking and recognisable silhouette. It’s also a real chimera, combining elements of the organic and mechanical with considerable flair. Look over it and you’ll spot elements that suggest both buzzing insect and bloated, earth-grubbing mammal, drifting sea-creature and archaic machinery. In spite of this it remains a tightly co-ordinated model, without any unnecessary details, making it another example of the kind of blank canvas that convertors of all stripes will love. I’m already pondering how easy it would be to remove the spikes and horns and turn it back into whatever Mechanicum engine it originated as, before Nurgle started to mutate it (the fleshy belly would be a problem – but not an insurmountable one…). Those thinking even bigger might start to wonder how the front part of the model – from the fly icon forward, without the turbines, guns or trailing cables – would look as the head of a corrupted Knight.  Bloat Drone 4

Using something slightly more unusual as the vehicle kit was always going to be a gamble (people know where they stand with a dreadnaught and those who know what they like and like what they know may have raised an eyebrow at this) but they pulled it off with aplomb. By putting the weirdness front and centre have stamped their creativity very firmly on this set, whilst still remaining true to the Death Guard’s roots and providing the fans with plenty of “wish list” kits, the kind of thing we’ve been banging on about wanting to see for years all wrapped up in a single straightforward kit.

Of course the Bloat-drone is a plastic reinvention of Forge World’s classic Blight Drone (now known as a “Greater Blight Drone” – presumably to differentiate it further from the Bloat-drone). It’s something that GW have made use of many times before, using Forge World as a test bed for new ideas from the Trygon to Heresy-era Space Marine armour. Who knows, perhaps when they get around to a full World Eaters release we’ll see plastic Blood Slaughterers as well. A man can dream eh!

99590102093_NurgleBlightDroneDaemonEngine01

It’s easy to wax lyrical over the qualities of the new GW but for Chaos fans there is a particular joy in this box. For how long have we been putting up with our ancient plague marine models and wishing, but never believing, that we might someday see Zombies or Blight Drones in plastic? Yet throughout most of that time extracting a single scrap of corrupted power armour from Citadel’s forges has been a particularly arduous exercise in pulling teeth. Now, after what’s felt like ten millennia of fighting over scraps and kitbashing loyalist models with bits of daemons, the Great Rift has torn reality from here to Nottingham and the models we’ve been crying out for have started to spill out.

Poxwalkers

For some time now Nurgle’s legions have been described marching to war preceded by a shambling host of infected corpses; the Plague Zombies. Spread by Typhus, the Death Guard’s most famous son after the Primarch himself, the infection reanimates the dead and sends them lurching towards their former allies in the sort of terrifying horde familiar to horror movie fans everywhere. In the most recent Chaos Marines codex these zombies could be created as an upgrade to chaos cultists, if Typhus himself was in play, but models were not forthcoming. Instead players converted their own, often mixing parts from the Imperial Guard range with the zombies from Warhammer’s Vampire Counts range – itself almost ten thousand years old. Until recently I was pondering making my own by applying greenstuff to Cadians – and then the Poxwalkers arrived and saved the day.

40kFFDeathGuardPoxwalkers

Slightly more nuanced than simple zombies, these combine elements of Nurgle cultists and mutants with the living dead, leading one to surmise that – whilst some are undoubtedly unwilling victims of Nurgle’s afflictions – others have gleefully embraced their infections. Brilliantly they also include lots of visual references to the Plague Bearers, suggesting that their eventual fate is to become part of Nurgle’s daemonic legions.

Some, like this one, are simply brilliant little character sketches, packed with the kind of personality that we’re used to seeing from GW’s character models.

Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (8)

This little chap just wants to be as cool and iconic as his big brother.

Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (1)

Others seem faintly ridiculous, the various tentacles and appendages flailing around without any apparent common direction to suggest co-ordinated motion. Of course zombies are given to shambling awkwardly, no-one ever heard of a lithe or balletic zombie, but a unified direction at least is vital to creating a sense of threat. Many of the Poxwalkers appear to be looking right at you, plotting behind that rictus grin how to cross the distance between you and them as quickly as their rotting limbs will allow and mess you up as badly as fate has messed them up. This one however appears to be doing the hokey-cokey.

Thats What Its All About

A bit of snipping and slicing went a long way towards improving him though, taking away or adjusting those elements which deviated from the direction of the model’s gaze. The result, hopefully, is something with an appearance of singular purpose and threat.

Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (6)

Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (7)

Meanwhile, this one is appears to be wearing some kind of chem-suit, presumably designed for use in the most hostile of environments, but still utterly wasted against Nurgle.Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (3)

The one thing I really dislike about this one is the gas tank swinging at his side, a feature which only serves to make the model look ungainly without bringing any positive benefits. Cue some more swift converting as the gas tank is snipped off and a new one added (taken from the Kharadron Overlords). Whilst I was about it I adjusted the positioning of the knife he’s carrying to make him a little more aggressive and a little less flailing.

Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (4)

Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (5)

When I first saw the Poxwalkers this disparity between the models I loved and the ones that jarred with me left me dissatisfied by the whole set. However after I spotted this chap I started to rethink a little.

Poxwalker by Mystarikum

Poxwalker – painted and converted by Nic from Mystarikum.

Painted by Nic over at the Mystarikum this is a rather grubbier Poxwalker than those produced by ‘Eavy Metal. It’s also, in my opinion, a rather more fitting look for them, the clean, sharp style preferred by ‘Eavy Metal doing no favours to these filthy walking corpses.

Those planning a Poxwalker horde over their own should also take a look at WilhelMiniatures. Wilhelm has toned his models down considerably in comparison to the exotically mutated originals, to create a set of nicely restrained zombies. Even if you want to keep the crazy mutations among your own ranks I’d still highly recommend following his progress – after all a bit of variety is a must in any zombie horde.

Wilhelm Poxwalker

Poxwalker by WilhelMiniatures.

Fresh Fevers

Back in March Games Workshop announced a forthcoming Death Guard release and, in spite of the many Nurgle worshipping models in the Dark Imperium boxset, it’s safe to say that this isn’t it. Various models shown in the video remain unaccounted for, this Plague Marine for example, which suggests a further release is still to come.

New Death Guard Incoming

Precisely what models will emerge alongside said release remains a topic of hot debate wherever fans of the Plague God are gathered together. Just as the Thousand Sons release included both Ahriman and the Primarch Magnus the Red so it seems likely that a new model for Typhus will appear alongside the Primarch Mortarion – a character widely referenced in recent 40k fiction. A multi-part Plague Marines box seems likely, Plague Terminators would be a safe bet and many people have pointed to the similarity between the grub-like monstrosities appearing alongside the Death Guard in recent artwork and hints shown in GW’s “Rumour Engine” promotional material. Of course a new model for the Great Unclean Ones would also be wonderful. Allow me, however, to suggest another contender for a forthcoming release. Alongside all the wonderful miniatures I’ve been pouring over in the last two posts the Dark Imperium box contains the full rulebook for Warhammer 40,000. Those with a copy handy should turn to pages 159 and 161 which detail, respectively, the forces engaged in the Plague Wars of Ultramar and the Fall of Cadia. Alongside the familiar Nurgle forces we find reference to Blight Towers – most likely a new name for the Plague Towers of Nurgle – and two Pestigor Legions.

Youngsters may be scratching their heads at this but older hands may remember that the beastmen of Chaos once contained four distinct breeds, one for each of the Gods. Slaangors served Slaanesh, Tzaangors Tzeentch, Bloodgors or Khorngors Khorne and Pestigors Nurgle. With the Tzaangors unexpectedly resurrected alongside the Silver Tower release and then gathered into the fold of the Thousand Sons Legion  it suddenly seems entirely possible that the Plague God’s cloven followers will soon join them, especially given their unexpected referencing in the fiction. Time to resurrect my Bloodgor conversions I think…

As for the Blight Towers this may simply be a reference to an old Epic model that’s continued to pop up in the background but, given that Plague Towers had rules in Apocalypse until very recently and that the Lord of Skulls demonstrates GW’s willingness to experiment with god-specific super heavy vehicles, it’s not entirely outside the realms of possibility that a new kit might be on its way for these as well. I’m not holding my breath for them mind you but if I was a betting man then the Pestigors would have my money.

Passing On The Infection

So now it’s over to you. Do you love the new models with an uncritical passion, or should I face the Emperor’s judgment for expressing such heretical views. Do you think I’m talking rot (boom boom!) or do you already have some pestilent models in the works? The comment’s box, as ever, is your stage and soapbox.

 

All images are either mine, credited to their respective creators or belong to Games Workshop. Let the galaxy burn!


Dark Imperium – The Marines

By now the eighth edition of Warhammer 40,000 has well and truly launched, with copies of the new Dark Imperium boxset falling into the grubby paws of hobbyists the world over and the internet groaning under the weight of unboxing videos and reviews. Some might go so far as to wonder if another one is really necessary but when has that ever stopped me before? Indeed this release is proving to be so seminal, and my resultant spiel so lengthy, that I’ll be splitting it over two posts. In the second half we’ll don our rebreathers, daub the mark of Nurgle on our foreheads and wallow in the Death Guard side of the box but for today let’s armour ourselves in faith and ceramite and tackle the models everyone’s been talking about; the Space Marines.

The Avenging Son

Much has already been made of this newest addition to the 40k back-story with the fan-base polarising between those who’re overjoyed at seeing progression in a stagnating universe and those who’d have preferred if those responsible had been drowned at birth. Pity the poor Games Workshop writer who must tread the fine line between the fanatical fans and the equally frothing outraged, especially when the former seems able to become the latter in a heartbeat if things don’t play out exactly as they’d have liked.

Whilst much sound and fury has been expended over the fiction however the models themselves have been almost universally praised, and rightly so. These are the towering, powerful warriors that have always been described in the background fiction, not the stunted figures that we’ve been forced to contend with on the table top.

Space Marine Intercessors

The meat of this release, on the Space Marine side of the box, are the Intercessors  and their plasma firing buddies the Hellblasters. Essentially these are Tactical Marines scaled up to the size they should have been to begin with. People may bang on about Cawl-pattern bolters and Mark X armour with subtly different trims but at the end of the day these are True-scale marines gift-wrapped in just enough fiction (of hotly debated quality) to avoid invalidating the existing range. Whether or not that proves to be a good move remains to be seen.

In many ways there’s not a whole lot to say about them, they’re Space Marines plain and simple, just  a bit bigger than we’re used to. This simplicity is their greatest strength however, allowing one to adorn them as much or as little as one wants to, to create the Space Marines you’ve always imagined. Even I, an avowed heretic, who’s struggled in the past to conjure much more than disinterest when it comes to the Emperor’s Finest (in spite of painting quite a few of them a couple of years ago) will admit to sketching out ideas for a new Chapter when I’m meant to be thinking about work.

It’s worth noting however that although these are essentially just up-scaled space marines there have been some subtle tweaks which create a much needed appearance of functionality. The squashed torsos of the old marines are gone replaced with a longer abdomen, providing the Space Marine with much needed storage space for all his internal organs, and a bit of extra height into the bargain. Not only does this mean the Primaris marines are taller, they look taller too – or to put it differently, the old marines not only suffered from being short they also had specific design features which made them look even shorter than they were.

Space Marine2

Making them bigger has also given the designers more space to work with, enough that they can expand on details which themselves add to the functional appearance of the armour. Take a look at the ribbed material which provides the suit’s flexibility and you’ll find there’s more of it, creating the impression that the wearer could actually move and fight at speed, without constantly having to struggle against the friction of scraping armour panels.

Nice Arse Convert Or Die

A nice comparison shot of Space Marine bums – bet you didn’t think you’d be seeing that when you woke up this morning!

Best of all, in my opinion, we now have nice big power-packs for our marines. The silhouette of the Space Marine is so familiar to us all that there’s something subtly wrong with truescaled marines saddled with tiny backpacks.Backpack Space Marine

However, whilst a lot of elements have scaled up, two key components have stayed the same size; the heads and the shoulder pads. Again this relieves the Primaris marines from the problem of having outsized heads and shoulders that the old-marines suffered from, with the neat knock-on benefit of allowing Space Marine fans access to a huge range of customisation options right from the get-go. You want Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Grey Knights, or to cobble in bits and pieces of older armour marks? Knock yourself out! No need to wait for them to get their own dedicated Primaris release, just dig into your bits box and get started now! Bits sellers and ebayers must be rubbing their hands with glee and expanding their property portfolios as we speak.

Snarky comments aside though the great benefit of this is the ability to customise the new Space Marines straight off the bat and naturally I was unable to resist. Once a multipart version of the kit is released (pretty much inevitable I’d say) with separate shoulder-pads the options will really expand and whole armies of individualised true-scaled space-knights will suddenly be within the grasp of everyone, without the tremendous effort that was once required.

Space Marine Convert Or Die (1)

Space Marine Convert Or Die (2)

Space Marine Convert Or Die (3)

” Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it…”

Space Marine Convert Or Die (4)

Just for fun, and because I’m an unrepentant heretic at heart, I cobbled together a Chaos marine from Primaris parts; a three dimensional sketch if you will, to help me plan out some future projects. Of course I’m looking forward to it popping up on Natfka any day now, tagged as “New plastic Chaos Marines spotted!”

True Scale Chaos Convert Or Die (1)

True Scale Chaos Convert Or Die (2)

Of course not everything in the box is perfect. I think by now my feelings on Space Marines wielding bolters one handed are probably well know. This chap may have the rule of cool on his side but think about how he’d look in action, blazing away with that huge, unwieldy bolter in one hand (the kickback alone sending shots all over the place) and the pistol in the other.

60010199015_40KDarkImperiumENG05

Seen side by side with the Mark IV helmet (right) the similarities are clear, although the Primaris has a flatter face and more slanted “ears” which helps it to fit into the family of Space Marine helmet designs, whilst remaining its own entity. In this way the Primaris models are actually given a degree of personality, as most of the other featured changes represent an up-scaling of the armour and the introduction of greater functionality, nothing that one would not have expected from a straightforward truescaling of the old astartes.

Space Marine Helmets Convert or Die

In spite of all the celebrating that must be going on at Games Workshop HQ and the congratulations echoing from every corner of the internet as reviewers get their hands on the new kits, spare a thought for those who already have armies of power armoured warriors painted and waiting for battle. Thanks to GW’s insistence on putting Space Marines front and centre in every conceivable release over the last three decades there are now quite a lot of us. At one time a widely quoted statistic (veracity unknown) was that one in four miniatures purchased, across all companies (not just GW) was a Space Marine. Whilst I’ve no idea if that’s true there’s certainly a lot of us out there.

Imperial Fist

On the loyalist side we have Space Marines in a host of different colours and rules, plus Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Grey Knights and the Deathwatch, whilst the traitors get in on the act with our own array of spiky, angry mutant super-soldiers. That’s a lot of power armour that suddenly looks distinctly short and awkward. Many will choose to ignore this, some of us (myself included) will accept that we’ve no-one to blame but ourselves for not true-scaling earlier and begin the work of bulking up those models we think are saveable. Many will see this as an opportunity to set aside old armies and start new ones and cash registers will light up in branches of Games Workshop the world over, to the heartfelt delight of the shareholders. Some people however will feel distinctly cheesed off – and who can blame them? When Games Workshop first released those stunted little marines all those years ago they ignored the first tenant of being in a hole – stop digging! Instead they went on burrowing assiduously and we, the customers, joined them in droves. So energetic was our participation in expediting this screw up that we hit oil down there, enough to make GW rich. For years they must have been aware of the scale of their mistake yet they chose not to attempt to rectify it, continuing to ring every penny from a flawed range until finally it became apparent that more money could be made from reinventing it. Then, and only then, was the decision taken to put right that old wrong. So whilst I’m overjoyed by the arrival of appropriately scaled Space Marines I can empathise with those who’ve poured money and time into armies of short-marines and are now angry enough to put Khorne to shame.

space-marine-convert-or-die-3

My own Space Marines. Making up in garish paintwork for what they lack in stature.

Last time I discussed this I pondered if the arrival of the Primaris marines would see the death of truescaling. Increasingly however I feel sure that it shall see the death of the Space Marines themselves. Indeed, in the short term, interest in true-scaling will increase as people attempt to get their old models to an appropriate scale alongside the new releases.

Now that we have Primaris marines in our hands the old style “short-marines” of the past will almost certainly see no further releases. Imagine Games Workshop trying to drum up enthusiasm for a new Space Marine release in the old scale now. It would be a flop and they know it.

Of course that’s going to be bad news for pre-existing and well loved Space Marine characters like Dante, Mephiston and Ragnar Blackmane. Will they ever see new models now, and if they do will they have quietly grown to the proportions of their new brothers or will they still be smashing up the galaxy with nothing but short-man syndrome as an ally?

99800101027_RagnarBlackmaneNEW01

Ragnar Blackmane. If you had to face Magnus the Red whilst looking this ugly you’d be angry too.

So how big are the new Primaris marines? By now we’ve all seen plenty of size comparisons online or even in the flesh, yet the difference in scale between the new models and their older counterparts (here a Dark Vengeance marine) remains shocking.

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (1)

Even standing next to a Terminator (from the Black Reach boxset) the Primaris looks big, although the Terminator still has the edge in bulk. As it stands we’re still waiting to discover if GW will be releasing Primaris-scale Terminators over the coming months or if terminator armour has been replaced by Gravis armour (as worn by the Captain in the Dark Imperium boxset). If it’s the latter – surely a mistake on GW’s part – then truescaling terminators will be the next step. Watch this space!

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (2)

Next to the common soldiers of the Imperium the size difference is even more acute. Finally the Emperor’s Finest look as mighty and terrifying as they are supposed to.

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (3)

They’re still shorter than an Ogryn, which is as it should be, but the size difference is no longer as extreme, and the similarity in height to the hulking brutes actually helps to establish the Space Marines as giants in their own right. Mind you I’m suspicious that this particular Ogryn has been exposed to something heretical. Someone phone the Inquisition!

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (6)

I’m also pleased to see that they look suitably bulky next to my old scout conversions, meaning that – with a quick lick of paint – these at least can be migrated over to the new collection.

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (4)

This Imperial family photo shows the progression I was hoping for, the Scout is clearly bigger and bulkier than the Guardsman but is yet to complete the process which will turn him into a warrior-giant able to support and fight in the weight of power armour. And yes, that is a part painted Skitarii on the end there – don’t hold your breath though, he’s been waiting for the rest of his paint for a while!

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (5)

The new marines also scale nicely next to the enemies of the Imperium. The Ork nob still looks suitably brutish but the boy, although an imposing thug next to a guardsman no longer out-performs humanity’s elite on size and muscle mass. The slight visual toning down of the orks that occurs as a result helps to make them into a more believable force – in the old days when they were bigger than space marines, came in hordes and had powerful technology to boot things always looked a little one-sided when they stood face to face with the Imperium. One was left feeling that there must be something terribly wrong with ones orks when one read descriptions of space marines tearing through whole squads of boys single-handedly. Now they look more believable – still terrifying to a guardsman but only a threat to a space marine when there are a lot of them.

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (7)

At times one feels that Games Workshop themselves aren’t quite sure what to make of this release. Are these the Space Marines we’ve always dreamed of, shoe-horned into the background, or are they a faction in their own right, for better or worse? GW aren’t sure. With the Intercessors  and the Lieutenants they’ve simply recreated existing Space Marines on a bigger scale, but the same cannot be said of the Inceptors who have almost as much in common with Centurions as they do with Assault Marines. They may have jump packs to carry them hurling through the skies but they are heavier, more industrial, more in keeping with the over engineered Imperial aesthetic, than their little brothers. Again I expect to see talented individuals converting them into Assault Marines but one has to wonder why GW felt we should be forced to, or even how successful they’ll be. Many will undoubted wait to see what else is introduced to the new Primaris range before taking the plunge, hoping for running legs on a future kit which could be mixed with existing Assault Marine bits to truescale the old models.

Inceptor

Of course it may well be the case that GW are relying on us thinking in a now outdated paradigm. When Age of Sigmar was first released many people looked at it through the lens of Warhammer. The Khorne models all had an equivalent in the old game and people soon took to debating which faction could best be proxied with the Stormcasts and how they could most easily fit into the background of the Old World. With the Primaris marines GW are almost certainly relying on us doing the same thing. We will talk about true-scaling and pretending that Roboute is still on ice whilst new players join the ranks, only dimly aware that there was a world before the Gathering Storm. Meanwhile White Dwarf will be full of pictures of gloriously dramatic Primaris models, and slowly our shelves will fill up with them, the idea bedding in until one day we wake up and find that having two sizes of Space Marine is the new normal and only bitter old grognards are still spitting into their beards about the “good old days”, and being ignored by precisely everyone.

Meanwhile, I suspect, that the old scale Space Marines will quietly go out of stock, slipping away into the night one at a time until only the giants are left. In future editions the supposed size difference between the Space Marines and the Primaris will be reduced until one day the little Space Marines so familiar to us today are as rare on the tabletop as their Rogue Trader era equivalents.

BLWritingDarkImpArt2

It’s only been a few months since Guilliman was released and in that time the 40k galaxy has changed vastly. When the Primarch first woke up I was angry and disappointed. How could the writers be so careless with the universe they had inherited? How could they put their own selfish desire to stamp their own ideas onto the story without considering the effect it would have on the fan base? What about the subtle implications of introducing hope to a universe which had excused the fascism of its central faction as a pastiche of a hopeless and crumbling empire? After all if Guilliman succeeded in making the Imperium great again he implicitly proved that the brutality of the preceding centuries had been a necessary evil, a burden to be borne in order to reach a more glorious future.

In spite of my initial upset however I got over it. Guilliman faded into the background, as far away from the filthy hives and ragged inward-looking tech-peasants that inhabit my own vision of the Imperium as any other high lord. 40k rumbled onwards on its pedestal, no more forgiving in actuality of the right-wing than it is of any other political persuasion. In six months time the Primaris marines will have gone to join him, accreted into the ever growing background of 40k. Meanwhile we who gnashed our teeth in such horror in the immediate aftermath of his reawakening will say “well, bringing back Guilliman was one thing, but resurrecting Ferrus Manus as a talking head really is the final straw!”

We’ll get over it, or we’ll wander off to pastures new if we really can’t stomach the new 40k. If you don’t believe me think how ridiculous that one guy in your local gaming group or favoured forum is, the one who’s still talking about how lame Age of Sigmar is, how much GW sucks for killing off the Old World. His tantrums may have sounded like a passionate rallying cry against the injustices inflicted on your favourite fantasy battle game two years ago, now they’re as dull and monotonous as the traffic passing outside your window – and as worthy of your attention.

In the meantime the Space Marines are dead – long live the Space Marines! Now then, what colour am I going to paint them?

 

Further Reading:

If you’ve not still read enough about Primaris marines there’s an excellent article over at Between the Bolter and Me that I highly recommend.

 

If the pictures you see here aren’t photographs of my own miniatures then I’ve lifted them from Games Workshop’s website without even bothering to ask. Agents of the Assassinorum have inevitably been dispatched to silence me. Not to worry, death shall be nothing compared to vindication!


Bigger And Better Than Ever Before

For quite a while now rumours have been circulating of a new breed of Space Marine on the way; bigger, tougher and generally meaner than their brothers. Today, after remaining fairly tight-lipped on the subject, Games Workshop have finally made the big reveal; the Primaris Space Marines are just around the corner, ready to dispense justice to filthy heretics like me. What’s more as I’m laid up on the sofa feeling sorry for myself after a trip to the dentist, and lacking the energy to paint anything (that Chaos Marine you saw earlier was finished yesterday, before the old toothwright got his drills out) I find myself with the time to actually write a few words on the subject whilst it’s all still fresh in my mind.

Primaris Space Marine (3)

First off I’d better issue an apology, or at least a retraction, for having insisted for so long that the rumours of these new “big marines” was unmitigated rubbish. In my defence however, 99% of the ‘rumours’ spread around online turn out to be nonsense of the highest order so who can blame me for thinking this one was also?

Part of the reason behind my scepticism is a general aversion to too much hyperbole. These marines are bigger and better and even more awesome than ever before, ten thousand years in the making and the most heroic yet! Even Grey Knights are envious! Rush out and buy them now! Perhaps I should have seen it coming just based on that, after all in spite of what we fans of the grim darkness like to tell ourselves GW has never been as subtle as we want to believe and whilst we bury our heads in the clever complexities of the Inq28/Blanchitsu side of the universe, front of house remains bright and brash and over-the-top.

Then there’s the questionable fiction that frames these new marines – that Guilliman has swept aside ten millennia of religious fanaticism, technological stagnation and apocalyptic thinking and succeeded where Corax and Fabius Bile alike have failed; in improving on the Emperor’s vision for the ultimate warriors. Perhaps he’ll make some new Primarchs are well (you read it here first folks!)

Primaris Space Marine (2)

More and more the size of the Space Marines has started to look like an albatross around Games Workshop’s neck. On the one hand they are their most popular range, the iconic poster boys for the setting with a number of spin offs – each an army in its own right (Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Grey Knights and Deathwatch alongside the standard codex marines, and the various Chaos-worshipping variants). On the other hand they’re a long way from the power-armoured giants they’re supposed to be, with the result that a whole scene has developed around the art of true-scaling (that is to say, converting Space Marines to be as big as the fiction describes them). This is a problem for Games Workshop; not only are their poster-boys conspicuously flawed but third-party companies are already circling, looking for ways to give the customers what they want without infringing GW’s IP and finding themselves in court. The first company to break into that market stands to make a tidy profit off the back of Games Workshop’s promotional effort. However simply replacing all the existing kits would cost them a fortune, take a very long time to roll out (all the while hurting sales of those Chapters not yet updated) and hacking off lots of fans who’d already poured time, effort and money into collections of the old, smaller marines. Quite the conundrum.

For Games Workshop the solution comes in the form of Roboute Guilliman’s plus-sized marines. By making them bigger than standard marines they neatly fulfil the function of true-scale marines, without all the expensive hassle that comes from invalidating the existing range. Better yet their helmets and shoulderpads are cross compatible with the existing Space Marine ranges so, even if various alternative versions aren’t immediately available, you can easily convert them into Space Wolves, Blood Angels and so on. Even Chaos versions shouldn’t be too much work, so that ghastly, ancient legionary you’ve always wanted stalking the ruins of the your Inq28 game can now be a reality.

Of course in some ways GW have failed to recognise the first axiom of being in a hole; stop digging. The new Primaris Space Marines are just as out of scale as the old Space Marines were, they’re just bigger. The Primaris are roughly the right size for Space Marines but still considerably smaller than the Primaris themselves are said to be meaning that true aficionados will soon be buying up Primaris models to use as Space Marines and more Primaris models to true scale into Primarises*. Even more confusing; some people will be using Primaris models as Primaris Space Marines and some will be using them as true-scale Space Marines. It’s enough to make your head spin.

*what is the plural of Primaris anyway? Somebody get Roboute on the phone, he knows these things!

Primaris Space Marine (4)

Overall though, in spite of the liberties that have been taken with the background (a subject on which I’m somewhat mollified by reports that Aaron Dembski-Bowden is working on a novel about them), I’m rather exited about these new Marines. I’ve always fancied an Imperial army to stand against my Chaos forces; a rag tag combination of the Cult Mechanicus and the Imperial Guard bolstered by a core of Custodes, Sisters of Silence, Assassins and other elite units. Of course such a collection would never be complete without a few true-scale Space Marines but the work involved in converting them kept putting me off. For this job the Primaris models could be perfect, especially as I very much doubt I’d want any actual Primarises in the collection (unless ADB manages something positively superhuman to convince me of their place in the background).

Especially exciting is the announcement that, as well as new vehicles, a Primaris Redemptor Dreadnought will be on its way. It’s enough to get me wondering if they’ll get their own Terminator armour as well – after all, true-scaling Terminators is hard work but life without Terminators is hardly life at all.

Plus, there’s no denying this is good news for fans of Inq28 who’ll have a ready source of appropriately sized Marines, it’s almost a shame they’ll never need more than one or two. What is a little sad however is that this may represent the death knell of the art of true-scaling. Having produced some real craftsmanship down the years it may now be a redundant art.

Primaris Space Marine (5)

So, will you be using these as true-scale marines or will you be adding them to a Space Marine army in the function for which they were originally intended? Is this an exciting new development in the story of the Dark Millennium or one abuse of the fiction too many? If you have a feeling this is a safe space, get it off your chest in the comments’ box below.


Empire of the Clouds

We all, I’m sure, have one or two “dream armies” lurking in the backs of our heads, the races we’ve never got around to buying but always said we will, someday. For me there’s the forces of the Imperium ready to counter my Chaos hosts; massed ranks of ragged Imperial Guardsmen, a few true-scaled Space Marines and the weird and inhuman agents of the Cult Mechanicus. Then there’s my elven Wild Hunt, mixing Wood Elves, Dark Elves and Sylvaneth together into a bloodthirsty cavalcade, racing from the depths of the forest upon a stormy winter’s night to feast upon the terrified villagers cowering beyond.

The big one for me though remains the dwarves. It’s the great white whale army, forever just around the corner but never quite started. In the past I always imagined it as the last defenders of Karak Drak, the great hold in the far north of the Warhammer World, believed – but never confirmed – to be overrun by Chaos.  I loved the idea of those tenacious little dwarves sealing themselves off under their mountain whilst gibbering daemons and bloated spawn roamed the halls of their ancestors.

Dwarves vs Skaven Convert Or Die

Furthermore, as I’m already a big fan of both Skaven and Goblins the Dwarves always seemed like a natural addition to the tryumvate. The war in the underway was for me one of the most compelling ideas in the Warhammer story and the time will come when I want to explore the good alongside the bad and the ugly. When I do finally get around to painting some Dwarves however, GW models may not be the first onto my desk. Both Avatars of War and MOMintituras have turned out some excellent models whereas GW’s record on the race is distinctly shaky. Part of the trouble is they don’t seem able to settle on an aesthetic for more than an edition or so, do they want tough little Vikings, iron-clad steam warriors or jolly little Santas with candles on their hats? The result is a jumble of styles that misses the mark of all-things-to-all-men and instead plunges into the abyss of not-quite-any-of-them.

With Age of Sigmar however GW have been offered a fresh start. No longer do they have to conform to the expectations of a wider marketplace which is already offering them stiff competition. They are free once more to innovate and explore. Rather than pursuing their competitors, constantly struggling to undermine and outdo them, they can lead, spinning off novel ideas without fear and bounding on to the next before the wider industry has woken up.

In some ways it seems odd then that, until now, they’ve been so conservative. Khorne Bloodbound, Disciples of Tzeentch, Ironjaws and Sylvaneth could all have fitted comfortably into the old Warhammer world. Stormcast Eternals may seem a little more unusual at first glance but they’re essentially just Space Marines ported from one setting to another, regardless of what pedants will tell you. Only GW’s other post-end times Dwarf release, the Fyreslayers, has dared to go break the mould. Without seeing some sales figures I’ve no idea if a silent majority are out there lovingly painting the angry sons of Grimnir but there’s no denying that the torrent of criticism aimed at them would be enough to turn even the hardiest Hearthguard’s beard white. I’ll admit that, until I got a good look at them at Warhammer World, I wasn’t too sold on them myself.

Fyreslayers Convert or Die

It’s a shame that the Fyreslayers came in for such a bum deal (I couldn’t help myself) as some of the models are excellent – for my money the Runemaster and Battlesmith remain some of the best models GW has released in recent years (and if it wasn’t for the fact that my wallet makes painful whimpering sounds every time I look at them I’d have painted them long ago).

The majority of people I suspect were still holding out for plastic Slayers that they could use in old-Warhammer, which – so long as one doesn’t mind a few aesthetic differences – one still could. Others were just upset with the aesthetic break from the dwarves they were familiar with and a few were just good, old-fashioned homophobes bleating pitifully about painting near-naked dudes. They at least have nothing to fear from the Kharadrons as there isn’t a scrap of flesh on them. It seems that, in whatever divorce settlement followed the breakup of the Dwarven peoples, the Kharadrons got all the clothes and the Fyreslayers were left hammering bits of metal into their own flesh for protection and growing their beards long enough to cover their goolies.

06

At the time of the Fyreslayer’s release Age of Sigmar was yet to bed in. Most people were still looking at it as Warhammer plus Space Marines, rather than as a universe in its own right. When we heard that new, slayer-esque dwarves were being released many of us jumped to the conclusion that we would be seeing plastic slayers at last, perhaps with a few new units mixed in. Nothing that we couldn’t add to our existing armies safe in the knowledge that we could still use them in Warhammer 9th Edition when Games Workshop recognised that it had all been a huge mistake and resurrected the Old World. What a surprise when instead it was bum flashers as far as the eye could see.

Time has knocked that idea out of us. Orruk brutes may pass for Orc Big ‘uns and Kurnoth Hunters may be the basis of for tree-kin conversions, but overall the cold light of Sigmar has cut through our Warhammer hangover.  This can only be a good thing because these releases deserve to be seen on their own merits rather than on how well they fit into a world they weren’t designed for.

Endrinmaster

Like the Fyreslayers the Kharadron Overlords may prove to be an acquired taste for some, although they’ve certainly escaped the torrent of wrath that was poured upon their pert-buttocked brothers. Another reason for this may be that GW made the shrewd move of previewing them what now seems like months ago and any potential negativity towards the idea of sky-dwarves was drowned out by the outpouring of positivity towards the company’s more open and fan-focussed attitudes.

Brokk Grungsson

Some, like the Arkanaut Company, will already look fairly familiar, taking design cues from the Irondrakes of old. Others, like the great Lord-Magnate Brokk Grungsson, might take a little more getting used to. Ultimately the top hat and curly moustache combo may be somewhat like marmite – some will love it, others will hate it – although speaking for myself I’m still on the fence (unlike on the subject of marmite which is foul death-paste).

Then there’s the balloons which have proved to be equally divisive. In some quarters the idea of heavily armoured floatation devises has gone down like, well, a lead balloon. However I have to admit I rather like them, they’re chunky and powerful, just as you would expect from Dwarven equipment, with none of the fancy sails or fabrics that you’d expect from the likes of the elves (material which would only melt and fray in the harsh chemical clouds anyway).

Kharadron Overlords Skyship

The result is a heady mix of Jules Verne and Jack Sparrow, less Tolkien, more Tolkien-bout a revolution (industrial of course). They’re a steampunk race for those who don’t like the body horror of Skaven (or who’re just afraid of rats). As necessitated by their lifestyle among the corrosive clouds of the upper atmosphere the Kharadron Overlords are entirely clad in armour, although they manage to do so with more personality than the clone wars Stormcasts.

They also have a bit of a pirate theme, emphasised by the leader of the Grundstok Thunderers who has a peg leg and a mechanical parrot. Luckily they stopped short of a hook for a hand – possibly because nowadays that reads more as “radical preacher” than “Peter Pan villain”.

Of course many people will decide to take this further and convert these into pirates, perhaps even taking advantage of the freeform nature of AoS to mix in Orcs and Dark Elves. Personally though I’m looking forward to the first person who recreates scenes from the movie Titanic (a film I’ve never actually seen all the way through, though judging from the bits I have caught would have been immeasurably improved by the addition of some steampunk dwarves).

Squats

The idea of using them to convert Squats has often been mooted and, although the rank and file are likely to be a little on the large side (supposition but scale creep has definitely had its part to play since the Space Dwarves went extinct all those editions ago), there’s certainly plenty of potential to be explored there.

Arkanaut Frigate

Of course no discussion of the Kharadron Overlords is complete without mentioning the skyships. Ranging from the massive Ironclad down to the nippy Gunhauler these airborne vessels fill the role of heavy-hitting centrepiece traditionally given over to giant monsters in other armies. Unlike many of those monsters however, which serve as something half-way between useful backup and outsized pet, the skyvessels are the cornerstone of the faction. Without them they couldn’t travel between their aerial cities, mine the clouds or build their empire among the clouds.

Each ship also comes with its own crew of models built in, or hanging on. Each is a character in their own right and, in spite of GW’s early previews, we’re only now starting the see the vessels close up enough to get a proper look at them.ArkanautFrigateCrew

Even bigger ships are described in the background and the more advanced scratchbuilders will already be breaking out the plasticard ready to work wonders. In April’s White Dwarf designer Oliver Norman noted “The ships were city-sized warships in John (Blanche)’s first sketches… We had to scale it back, as brilliant as a six-foot long flying model battleship would be”. As usual when I get an idea that I know I have neither the time, money or space to realise, I’ll attempt to use the reach of this blog to plant the idea in someone else’s head instead. Picture a model of one of these mighty sky-ships, big enough to serve as both display shelf for a Kharadron collection, and terrain board for them to battle over. It would be a mighty undertaking of course but it’s creator would rightly be the envy of their friends. Why battle over a green table cloth ever again when your army could instead be racing across the decks of a bespoke titan of the skies or scrambling across narrow walkways to reach the smaller vessels anchored above?

Gromthi-a-Grund

The Kharadron Overlords have broken away from their dwarven forebears, but they’ve done so far more elegantly than the Fyreslayers. Many of the new units, even the skyships, could be added to an old school dwarf army and blend in nicely – sometimes with a little conversion – a regard in which the Fyreslayers are always going to struggle. Put them all together however and they have a character all their own.

At this point its seeming more and more that Dwarves who live in mountain holds are a thing of the past for GW, a sideline but hardly a priority. If you want to march out of your mines to drive off the grobi scum you’d better do it in the company of another manufacturer. GW have left their hidebound competitors trudging in the dust, employing a degree of innovation which, ironically, none of their Old World Dwarves would ever have approved of.Arkanaut Admiral

Whilst the other races were subjugated by Chaos, or hid behind the walls of Sigmarland, the Kharadron got down to the business of building an empire in the clouds, presumably because none of those winged chaos daemons ever thought to look up. The source of their power comes from the (presumably magical) aether-gold they found there. To quote Oliver Norman again “The Kharadron Overlords are a race of duardin that don’t mine the earth like Dwarfs of old, but engage in something like gas mining in the clouds high above the realms”. Doesn’t that sound fantastic – a race of dwarves in their skyships, drawing rare metals from the clouds high above the realms, gathering a precious resource far out of the reach of their competitors through a combining of newfangled technology and old-fashioned gumption? And then they overegg it by making everything about aether-gold.

To write good fantasy or science fiction one has to keep a close eye on how many wacky ideas one includes. Naturally one wants one’s setting to be distinct from reality and alive with creativity. What one should avoid however is making it so “out there” that the readers feel disconnected from it, without any solid ground to stand upon. When it comes to convincing people of the fantastic, less is always more.

Thus the introduction of aether-gold as a kind of dwarven midichlorians does more to shake me out of my sense of immersion in the setting than it does to draw me in. In terms of ridiculous plot tokens it’s not quite as grating as the ur-gold of the fyreslayers (really, text-speaking dwarves, what will they think of next – ghost dinosaurs?) but it’s still enough to jar with me. Then again I never had any issue with warpstone, the Skaven’s preferred chemical, so perhaps I’m just a big hypocrite?

Arkanaut Company Captain

Not everything has changed though, the dwarves may live in the sky and have done away with gods and kings alike, but they’re still dwarves at heart. Craftsmanship and grudges (so long as they don’t impact profits) are still important, and I doubt that a single one of them is clean-shaven under those suits. Meanwhile the keeps and holds of the Old World have becomes the Skyports of the new. The Karak’s (that’s “hold” for those who don’t speak Khazalid) have become Baraks (ports, think of Barak Varr, the huge dwarven seaport in the Old World). A host of these Baraks have been built, with six main ones controlling the empire; Barak-Nar,  Barak-Zilfin, Barak-Zon, Barak-Urbaz, Barak-Mhornar and Barak-Thryng. No mention of Barak Obama though…

Aethermatic Volley Gun

Of course, some people are naturally cheesed off at the arrival of a high-tech race in flying ships waving gatling guns around whilst their chosen faction is still stuck with axes and bows. On the tabletop however this is apparently countered by a lack of powerful wizards and giant magical monsters whilst in the background fiction the balancing factor is this faction’s lack of military aspiration. We’re used to the idea of Warhammer as being about large-scale organised violence all-day every-day, it’s not called “peace-hammer” after all, so they idea of a race that’s more mercantile in nature tends to catch us off guard. It’s fair to say that if the Kharadron Overlords combined their technological might with the social attitudes of Khorne worshippers the Mortal Realms would be a very different, and markedly less populated, place. Of course what happens when the Stormcasts buy themselves some aether-gold weaponry remains to be seen. Hopefully GW have another plot device up their sleeves, otherwise the rise of a particularly powerful world police becomes inevitable. In the meantime however these dwarves don’t necessarily want to exterminate the other races they encounter, they want to trade with them if they can.Arkanaut Frigate 2

The Kharadron Overlords are a demonstration of what Age of Sigmar is capable of if allowed to stretch its wings a little. More and more the setting steps out of Warhammer’s shadow and becomes a creature in its own right. I for one welcome our new Kharadron Overlords.

All artwork and images belong to Games Workshop and are used without permission. Grobi scum will be shot on sight!


Greenskin Wars

Just before I took off on my holidays I received a parcel. Normally I don’t do ‘unboxings’ and I try to avoid banging on about projects I know I won’t be able to start for a few months. This time however I’m going to break with that because time spent showcasing Greenskin Wars is, in my opinion, time well spent.

For those of you unfamiliar with Greenskin Wars the range incorporates the old Crooked Claw models (good news for those like me who skipped blithely through life, unaware that Crooked Claw even existed until suddenly it didn’t) alongside a range of new models courtesy of “Goblin Master” Kev Adams* and spearheaded by Diego Serrate.

*Apparently he thinks being called “Goblin Master” is a bit silly, but everyone does it anyway, Well if it bothers him he shouldn’t make such amazing looking goblins should he?

Late last summer a kickstarter campaign was used to fund the range, sculpt the new models and so forth, although those who missed it should keep an eye on the Knightmare Miniatures store, soon to be home to the range, as well as various Chaotic creatures from the astonishing Pantheon of Chaos range and various Rogue Trader-esque Space Raiders. Those of you who’re on facepuke (and sadly, nowadays, who isn’t?) would also be well advised to join the Greenskin Wars group to keep up with the latest developments.

2d40bf5ebd92a9c950680b8f81553be5_original

I’ll confess, I’ve always loved the greenskins. They’re not, as such, an evil race like Chaos, the Undead or the Skaven – although undoubtedly it must feel like that when they’re burning down your village. Rather they’re mischievous, always up for some rough-housing or spectacularly destructive practical humour, squabbling amongst themselves, needing to be kicked into line and living by the maxim “to have a good time, all the time” even if that ends up being horribly violent for everyone else. As Warhammer races go they’ve undoubtedly evolved the furthest from fantasy’s roots. Tolkien would recognise the elves of Ulthuan but Sauron would have been lucky to get out of Mordor if his armies had been made up of the squabbling goblins we know and love today. (Digging back a little further of course a norseman wouldn’t have recognised either of them, but that’s a blog for another day). Likewise 40k may have pretensions of grandeur, as a great, decaying dystopia, but the Orks still go roaring through the middle of it on their motorbikes, scattering the serious-faced eldar and space marines, and making fart jokes in front of all the grandiose fall-of-empire sobriety.

What’s more we let them get away with. No matter one’s attachment to the funereal grim darkness of the far future or the grubby madness of the Old World everyone cracks a smile at the arrival of a thuggish ork or a scheming goblin. Perhaps it’s because they’re all, at heart, naughty schoolboys, and most of us discovered them when we too were naughty schoolboys. In the greenskins we recognise ourselves as we would like to be; carefree and burning with the joy of life, not burdened by duty and responsibility like a Space Marine, not bravely facing the yawning grave like the Eldar, but racing through life laughing, never worrying about hardship or want and when we go, going out with a bang that leaves our mates’ ears ringing for a week.

Until recently however I have pretended to myself that I am above such things as fantasy greenskins. My love of Orks in 40k means I’ve tended to focus all my greenskin tendencies in that direction. The orcs and goblins of the fantasy realms would only serve to dilute my creative energy, divide my ideas and distract me from those projects I should be focussing on. How foolish of me – didn’t I see that goblins thrive on distraction and that nothing possesses more energy and (generally destructive) creativity?

It was inevitable, then, that the odd model would start to sneak in. This one was on sale, this one was a good deal, someone was practically giving this one away, and thus they gathered on the edge of my painting desk, pushing and shoving and flicking snot at the stern Chaos space marines who continued to get all the attention. Somehow, whilst I continued to deny to myself that I was even buying them, a sizeable army accumulated. Greenskin Wars has been the final straw, pushing me over the edge and forcing me to finally face the goblin horde, to stand tall and proudly say “I love goblins and I’m not afraid to admit it!” Now I just need to paint them all…

In the meantime though let’s take a look at what actually arrived in that box of exciting metal figures!

First of all we have this raucous band of feral goblins.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (10)

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (11)

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (9)

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (8)

This feral goblin standard-bearer prepares to annoy PETA…

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (14)

Whilst his impish-looking mate isn’t much better, he’s wearing a bat!

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (12)

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (13)

As goblins go some of them are quite large, although that’s understandable given the level of detail that’s been packed onto them. I also tend to assume that goblins, and orcs, are all different sizes anyway so it doesn’t particularly matter. Here’s the chief of the feral goblins posing with a GW night goblin and a WIP 40k ork by way of a size comparison.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (17)

As well as the band of feral goblins I also got myself this catapult, originally sculpted for the Crooked Claw range. I’ve not assembled it yet so you’ll have to make do with this picture of the crew, plus a stock image of the catapult itself.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (7)

bd0bbce8beba1c1695d0f012665ca951_original

As usual with kickstarters there were a few ‘bonus’ models to sweeten the deal for supporters, including this (decided non-greenskin) clothes-phobic Conan look-alike.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (1)

On a more goblin-esque note we have this hobgoblin, who’ll probably be serving as taskmaster to the catapult crew.Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (5)

Again he’s a rather big lad, although as the taskmasters are usually orcs that’s actually quite fitting. The hobgoblin was included in the original kickstarter campaign as a stretch goal which, if achieved (and clearly it was!) would unlock a whole new hobgoblin faction and previews shown over on the facebook group show this to be well underway.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (4)

However my favourite thing has to be these mushrooms. I’ve always liked the mushroom gardening aesthetic of the goblins, particularly the night goblins, and these giant ‘shrooms bring that to the collection with aplomb.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (2)

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (3)

That’s not all though, we also have these smaller mushrooms, perfect for planting amongst the ranks of the goblins.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (6)

Now I know I said I wouldn’t be doing anything with these for a couple of months, and I won’t – but I couldn’t resist digging around in the bits box and assembling a couple of additional goblins to join the forthcoming mob.

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (15)

Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (16)

Now I just need to get some of my other projects finished and I’ll be ready to tackle this rascally green mob. That’s if they don’t steal the brushes and fart in the paint in the meantime…