Last week Games Workshop previewed Chalnath, the next expansion to be released for Kill Team. Kill Team, for those who’re unfamiliar, is the skirmish answer to Warhammer 40k and often seems to have been regarded by its parent company as very much the junior sibling, making do with hand-me-downs in the form of repackaged models, rather than dedicated releases of its own. With the release of the new edition a month or so ago however the company appears to have finally taken the bull by the horns and started giving the game the kind of attention that it deserves. Releases have been promised for every quarter year for the foreseeable future, with new warbands likely to be a regular occurrence. Already we have seen Ork Kommandos and Death Korps of Kreig, and now Chalnath brings us T’au Pathfinders fighting Sisters of Battle Novitiates.
These, however, are known quantities and I’m not here to talk about them. Instead join me as I speculate wildly, and entirely without basis, about what might over the horizon in the unknowable mists of the future!
The Emperor’s Finest
The process of turning a male adolescent into a fully fledged space marine doesn’t take place over night. As well as all the surgery and genetic tinkering involved the subject also requires a great deal of training. Youngsters who are undergoing this process are known as scouts and tend to be given the kinds of missions that call for a bit more stealth and a bit less brutal shock and awe than those undertaken by their elders. Missions, in other words, that are perfect for games of Kill Team. Indeed this isn’t a million miles away from the Sisters of Battle Novitiates already announced for the game.
Wargamers are an argumentative and opinionated bunch but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who regards the current space marine scouts as anything other than dreadful. Squat, ugly and unlovable the dustbin of history has been calling out to them from the very moment they were released.
Lately the old fashioned, oddly short and ill-proportioned space marines of yesteryear have been pushed aside in the release schedule by a new breed of space marines, the bigger and better looking primaris. Amongst these newcomers the scout’s battlefield role – sneaking around performing ambushes and acts of sabotage ahead of their fully initiated brothers storming in all guns blazing – has been given over to fully trained and developed specialist space marines like the Eliminators, Infiltrators (below) and Incursors. I must admit I’m not a big fan of these latter two, although I do see a lot of potential in them as the basis for converting decent looking Scouts. That said I’ve not got around to it yet so if Games Workshop wanted to save me the bother by just releasing some decent looking Scout models in the meantime they should feel entirely free.
One of the most iconic factions in Games Workshop’s stable, the haughty space-elves of the Eldar also have one of the oldest ranges of models, and one of the most deserving of an injection of new kits and miniatures. The obvious choice for Kill Team has to be the Rangers…
Far from the craftworlds of their people the Rangers act as scouts, seeking out potential threats, spying out danger and reporting back to the Farseers and Autarchs. They’re cool looking models and I’ve long had an affection for them, but really they deserve to see the benefits of modern miniatures design lavished upon them. Plus their role in sneaking around, ensuring that fate favours their race by assassinating anyone liable to prove a menace them in the future, makes them perfect for a game like Kill Team.
However this is my wishlist and I’ll dream big if I want to! How about taking the things even further along the path of the outcast and creating a kit that makes both Rangers and Corsairs? Whilst some young Eldar find life aboard the Craftworlds too restrictive and leave to become Rangers others slip even further from their society, becoming pirates and raiders. These Corsairs live much as Eldar did thousands of years ago, neither embracing the asceticism of the Craftworlders nor the sheer cruelty and decadence of the Dark Kin. There were even models for them produced by Forgeworld until comparatively recently.
Imagine a pirate crew of Eldar (peglegs and xeno-parrots optional) made up of specialists and hardened veterans and doing the jobs too dirty for their Craftworlder kin to touch – or working for whoever will pay them to keep their ships in void and continue their lives of adventure. Perfect for Kill Team I’d say!
Lurking in the darkness of rusting space hulks, gloomy underhives and tangled jungles, the predatory genestealers are every honest Imperial citizen’s worst nightmare and never to be confused with a man who sells Levi’s. These terrifying alien monsters have been leaping out at unsuspecting gangers and space marine terminators alike for decades. The current crop of models may be old but they’re not bad so much as simply less than they could be.
In recent times their peers, models released at around the same time and representing similar roles in the rank and file of their respective ranges – the ork boys and necron warriors for instance – have been updated and look much the better for it. Genestealers, I would argue, deserve the same treatment. Around a decade ago they actually received a rather nice suite of new models (below) via the limited edition re-release of Space Hulk (another game from years gone by that GW really ought to look at bringing back). However when said limited edition was sold out (and then sold out again after Games Workshop “found some in a warehouse that they’d overlooked… honest…”) we were back to being stuck with the old models.
They might not be the most traditional kill team but small packs of genestealers leaping out of the shadows to slaughter your elite operatives is the stuff that the very best action movies are made of. In fact why not go all in and package them in a boxset with some nice jungle terrain and an updated squad of Catachans? Failure to quote all the best lines from Predator whilst playing will be deemed a criminal offence!
Nobody Expects the Emperor’s Inquisition…
One of the best things about a skirmish game like Kill Team is the opportunity to break out of the restrictive structures of traditional armies and build unique bands of unusual operatives. Enter the strange world of the Inquisition. Granted near limitless authority to act in defence of the Imperium, Inquisitors can – and frequently do – take command of entire armies when they need some serious muscle on a project. Traditionally however we tend to picture Inquisitors working in the shadows, aided by small groups of carefully selected agents – many of whom are amongst the weirdest characters the strange world of 40k has to offer. I’ve often dreamed of seeing the Inquisition developed further in 40k and given a suite of new models, but realistically 40k is a game of armies and Inquisitors don’t have armies, they just borrow other people’s (and heaven help the Imperial Guard commander who even thinks about saying “no”). Kill Team however is exactly the kind of set-up that favours the Inquisition and gives Games Workshop a golden opportunity to give them their due at last.
The Less Well-known Players
Until now I’ve been thinking in terms of kill teams acting on behalf of the 41st Millennium’s big players. Each of the factions I’ve described so far would operate behind enemy lines on behalf of a faction which already commands entire armies on the tabletop in 40k. However that’s still falling into the trap of seeing Kill Team as 40k in miniature, rather than as a game in its own right. The galaxy is a strange and multifarious place full of wonders – many of whom are keen to strike the big players where it hurts but lack the manpower to do it in a straightforward military engagement. Mustering a few elite operatives however is much more within their remit – and gives Games Workshop the chance to play around with concepts that might otherwise be left to gather dust on the drawing board. How about the weird and unsettling Hrud for instance? Just look at this beastie – it’ll give you nightmares!
Or what about the hyper-violent Barghesi, the secretive Eldar Exodites, the various races of beastmen, murderous mandrakes, the ancient constructs from the Blackstone Fortresses, or even the much-missed Squats? Dig a little deeper into the lore of 40k and the possibilities are almost endless.
Anyway, that’s my current Kill Team wishlist, but I’m all ears to hear what you think. Is there a squad that would be perfect for Kill Team, something that’s crying out to be made but which I’ve not included? Get your crazy ideas in the comments box below then!
Fans of the Orks in Warhammer 40k have long been familiar with the humble Ork Boy. Mobs of these green thugs have been forming the core of Ork armies since the very earliest days of the game, and the miniatures have remained pretty much unchanged since the 3rd edition, making them older than many of the people currently playing. With the Ork range currently seeing its biggest shake-up in at least a decade many people are casting a critical eye over their Ork mobs and naturally, I’m one of them.
First things first, let’s remind ourselves of the models I’m talking about. This is an Ork Boy, built especially for this article and armed with the standard gear – a slugga and a choppa. He originates from the Assault on Black Reach set, the starter set from the 4th Edition of Warhammer 40k but aside from being “push fit” he’s identical to the Boyz you can pick up from your local GW store today.
I have a long-standing affection for this kit, in fact I’ve painted 100 of them and will undoubtedly paint a few more in the future. Want to take a look at what 100 angry greenskins looks like? Of course you do!
For the most part these lads have stood the test of time fairly well but, with the quality of modern miniatures improving on a seemingly daily basis, I’ve started to expect that Games Workshop will soon decided that they should be shuffled off to wherever Orks go when they retire and replaced by something newer (and possibly also greener and meaner). Of course, as those who’re familiar with Games Workshop’s sometimes anarchic, sometimes simply arcane, business decisions will no doubt have already surmised, that would be far too straightforward. Yes, new Ork Boyz have indeed been released but no, the old Ork Boyz don’t appear to be going anywhere. Rather than just discontinue the old kit and release a new version like normal people (and I’m sure that it’s because I make comments like this that puts them off from sending me cool stuff for free like they do with those fancy-pants Youtubers and Instagram kids) GW decided to release their new Ork Boyz exclusively in a new box set: Combat Patrol: Orks.
Now in all fairness this box has a lot of good stuff in it. Alongside the boyz there’s a warboss in mega-armour, three new deffcopters and a deffdread. In fact there was no way I wasn’t going to buy myself one, so the fact that the Boyz are currently only available there is no real skin off my nose. However Boyz are something that many Ork armies contain a lot of. This box will get you 20 of them, but my army contains 100. I’m not much of a list builder and I don’t have access to the latest points values, but based on my fairly rough calculations you could get almost 400 Boyz into a 2000 point army. Would it be any “good” in 9th Edition 40k? Would it get you to the top tables and the big prizes at your next tournament? Buggered if I know but it would surely impress your opponent and you’d have to employ a team of people to roll all your dice for you. However to assemble this mighty green hoard you’d need to purchase 20 of these boxes, which wouldn’t just be hard on the wallet but would leave you with a lot of spare plastic from all the other models that come packaged as part of the deal. Quite what GW are about here isn’t entirely obvious (beyond wanting to sell more models as fast as possible) but then isn’t that often the case? I’m sure it’ll all become clear in time…
That aside let’s take a look at the new Boyz. Here’s one I made earlier.
I chose to build this one specifically because he echoes the old Black Reach boy I showed above, even going so far as to hold his slugga and choppa in the same hands as his predecessor. Now let’s now beat about the bush – much as I loved the old Orks this beats them hands down. As miniatures go he looks fantastic, full of character and crisp details whilst still maintaining the various traits iconic of his faction.
Standing next to the old boy he’s clearly superior, a little bigger and more natural in his pose. The old Boyz could often end up looking a bit static and awkward, whereas this lad practically breathes, his warlike bellow almost echoing from the plastic. If I planned to paint just one Ork the new lad would win over the old hands down. However he’s not without his flaws. For one these new Boyz are all “easy to build” with tabs that can be used to push them together without using glue. It’s a clever idea, when it works, but usually I just snip the tabs off and glue them together properly like an adult. All too often the tabs aren’t quite the right size for the holes they’re meant to fit into and pieces get stuck, necessitating fiddly cutting and pushing to rectify things, by which point some fragile detail or other has been irrevocably damaged. However the real issue I see here is that each of the Boyz in the Combat Patrol box is designed to be built in one specific way. Unlike the old Boyz which could mix and match heads, arms and so on freely these Orks are designed to go together in one way only and woe betide if you start changing things.
Now it only takes a quick glance at the name of this blog to realise that I’m a convertor at heart. I like my models to be unique. The Combat Patrol box contains two sets of sprues to make two sets of identical Ork boyz (the boyz with heavy weapons and the Nobs can be built in one of two different ways but the other 8 models on each sprue have one “correct” build each so if you stick religiously to the instructions you’ll end up with 4 unique models and 8 pairs of twins). Obviously that’ll never do for me, I made sure that every single one of my 100 Ork boyz was unique and even to the 100th Ork it remained a fun challenge. With these guys it’s going to be harder work and I don’t see myself reaching 200 without things changing. That’s not the same as “impossible” of course, and I’m damn well going to find a way to convert every last one them, but it won’t be easy, and there will always be a risk of the converted version loosing something of what makes the unconverted version great without really gaining anything. For now however that challenge still lies ahead.
It’s also worth noting that Boys can be armed with either a slugga and choppa (that’s a pistol and an axe or big knife for those of us who don’t speak ork) or a shoota (a gun). These new lads are mostly armed with sluggas and choppas, although some are armed with shootas. If you want to convert a shoota boy into a slugga boy with these you’d better bring your converting A-game and even then you’ll be pushed – whereas with the old kit it was simply a case of choosing different arms from the sprue. Presumably someone in an ivory tower in Nottingham can explain why this was done but we mere mortals can only guess.
At the end of the day I’m very happy with the new Ork Boyz as models, but as replacements for the old kit they’re pretty terrible. What would delight me would be if GW kept these models as exclusives to the Combat Patrol set and released a new kit for making Ork Boyz separately, something which combines the quality and character of the new boyz with the ease of making lots of unique models that the old kit provided. I think it’s safe to say this isn’t going to be happening anytime soon, but someday – who knows?
Now as it happens these are not the only new Ork Boyz to have been released over the last little while. We’ve also recently seen the arrival of the Beast Snagga Boyz – orks who supplement their lives of fightin’ with wrangling any savage animals they can get their hands on. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear I’ve built one of them for this article too!
I’ve heard these referred to a lot as “Primaris Orks” – a nod to the Primaris Space Marines which were released over recent years, and which are considerably bigger than the old Space Marine models which preceded them. This seems to stem from a misunderstanding that the Beast Snaggas are much bigger than the Boyz so let’s put that to bed once and for all – they aren’t.
Indeed, apart from a few bits of fur which any Ork might choose to wear these aren’t that much different to the other new Ork boyz. That aside there’s not much to add here that I haven’t already said about the Boyz – they’re lovely models and I’m looking forward to painting them but they’re not multi-posable – if you want lots of these in your army you’d better either accept a lot of clones or get to work converting (naturally I strongly suggest the latter). They’re damn cool but I don’t really know what they bring to the range that couldn’t have been achieved by just branding them as Ork Boyz. They’re nice to have and I’m not going to turn my nose up at them but they’re not what I was asking for any more than the new Boyz are. I can’t help but wonder if they sprang from some piece of concept art depicting Boyz from the Snakebite clan – which in turn makes me dream of seeing Boyz themed around each other the other clans (snazzy-looking Bad Moons, hulking Goffs, wild-eyed Evil Sunz running full pelt and dreaming of the day they can save up enough teef to buy a motorbike of their own). I know it’ll never happen but if I’m going to dream I might as well dream big right?
Anyway, you’d think that these lovely (albeit imperfect) new kits would be all the new Ork infantry we’d be getting in this wave of releases but you’d be wrong about that because I’ve been saving the best for last. New Kommandos have come sneaking out of the undergrowth and they’re perfect – everything I was hoping they would be and more.
Despite being an elite unit, which is only likely to appear in small numbers in most armies, these are the most poseable and convertable of the lot. Each Kommando has two “standard” builds straight out of the box – that is to say just by following the instructions you can build two radically different miniatures around each body and if you bought two sets you could build two entirely different looking units. Compare that to the new Boyz which have one standard build each from which you diverge at your peril. GW would have done very well to have applied a few lessons from these to the rest of the new infantry but never mind. Expect to see me painting lots of Kommandos in the future.
Sneaky though they are I managed to coerce this one into lining up with the rest of the ladz for a nice comparison shot.
Anyway, with that I’m going to draw my ramblings to a close. Needless to say, strange though some of the decisions GW have made here seem to me as an outsider, I’m still going to be having a lot of fun with these green gits over the next little while. After all, Orktober is just around the corner…
GenCon, which likes to remind us all that it is “the biggest four days in gaming” happened this weekend. Despite the fact that some American acquaintances of mine seemed to believe that it is the only four days in gaming it might well have passed those of us who live outside Indianapolis by, were it not for the various companies which attended and used it as a platform to show-off the next big things to be assaulting our wallets.
Games Workshop were there of course, and although they’re far from being the only company who’s miniatures I buy I’ll admit to being enough of a fan that I was watching with keen interest. Plus they announced that they would be previewing forthcoming goodies for Necromunda, Warcry, Blood Bowl and Kill Team – and you know they had me at Necromunda. Now that the dust has settled I’ll take the opportunity to cast my eye back over the announcements and share a few of my thoughts. Needless to say there’s a lot we still don’t know about all this, we really only have Games Workshop’s own promotional bumph to go on and I’m sure much of what I have to say will look laughably out of date in a few months time. Is that going to stop me bumping my gums and rattling my keyboard? Of course not!
Before we got to the good stuff (and I’m sure I’ll be shot at dawn for saying that!) the first thing to be revealed was the forthcoming fifth season of Warhammer Underworlds. As a game Underworlds doesn’t really attract me, the emphasis on collecting cards and competitive gaming is a bit of a turn off I’m afraid. The models however have been generally outstanding, with rarely a duff miniature in the game’s entire stable. Given its popularity a new edition (sorry – “season”) seemed pretty much inevitable and GW had already announced that this was on the way. Now we got to find out a little more about it – this time it’s set underwater – and features a new game mode that other reviewers will undoubtedly be able to share far more educated opinions on than me. I just like looking at the miniatures! And as for those miniatures – well, they’re a little bit of a mixed bag for me I’m afraid. Underworlds warbands tend to attract me either as models to paint for the sheer pleasure of painting them – and again let me emphasise that the vast majority of them have been outstanding – or because I can use them for something else (normally Warcry). This time the set features Kruelboy Orcs fighting it out against Stormcast Eternals which is very much the match-up of the moment in Age of Sigmar as these two posterboys for good and evil slug it out across the Realms.
So far I’ve yet to buy one of the core sets for the game and I’m pretty certain that this latest – Harrowdeep – will go the same way. The models are nice, and I might be tempted by the Kruelboys if they were available separately, but they come packaged – and priced – with a lot of extraneous cardboard that just isn’t for me.
Stormcast Eternals aren’t generally a faction that appeals to me that much and although the latest models added to the range have been amongst the best so far the crew from Harrowdeep fall short of that. Take this guy for instance – it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I don’t like about him but there’s something off there. The boar carved into his armour is pretty cool though – I’m enjoying seeing all the animal motifs popping up on Stormcast armour. We’ve seen hawks, lions, bears and now a boar and (on one of the others in this set) what appears to be an owl. What next I wonder? My money is on a hamster.
Games Workshop have invested a lot of effort and attention in Underworlds and it seems to have paid off, I may not be that excited about it – although as I say I’m very much looking forward to seeing what other new warbands will be arriving this season – but I know I’m in something of a minority there. Kill Team – the skirmish-scale sidekick of Warhammer 40k – on the other hand has suffered from a lack of love, all too often making do with repackaged kits and “trickle down” attention from it’s much more lucrative big brother. With this latest relaunch however GW claim to have finally got the message and have promised us something new for Kill Team ever quarter year for the foreseeable. This is a big improvement, previous editions having barely seemed to stay on GW’s radar for three months before vanishing into the murky depths – outcompeted for their parent company’s limited attention by the plethora of other games the studio produces. Already – mere weeks after the game was launched – the first new expansion has been revealed. First we had Orks fighting the Death Korps of Kreig, now the Sisters of Battle are taking on the Tau in a new box entitled Kill Team: Chalnath.
Now I’ll acknowledge that neither the Sisters nor the Tau particularly interest me – in fact I wouldn’t have realised that the Tau half of the box was made up of models already available, supplemented with a new sprue of upgrades, if I hadn’t been told. Similarly, whilst I’m pleased to see GW investing properly in the Sisters of Battle for the first time in decades and I can barely think of another faction that deserves attention to the same degree (cough-Skaven-cough) they’re still not really my bag. That said these particular Sisters are pretty interesting. Whilst the majority of Sisters of Battle go around in power armour (thus answering the question of what a female space marine would look like and saving anyone the trouble of getting on their high horse…) these ladies are still just initiates and so go into battle defended only a corset, a wimple and what looks like reinforced jodhpurs. Mixing the futuristic with the medieval in true 40k style these girls will be great for Inq28 conversions and even though I probably won’t get a full set myself I’ll have my eye on get some spares to use in converting downhive fanatics and witch hunters for Necromunda. The matriarchal agents of House Ko’iron, with their close ties to both House Cawdor and the Sisters of Battle spring immediately to mind.
Given the quality of these models, and the preceding Death Korps and Ork Kommandos also released for Kill Team I’m feeling genuinely positive about the future of the game and very keen to see what might be coming in the quarter after next. Oh and speaking of the Death Korps and Kommandos these will also be getting separate releases soon, not entirely surprising but nice to have it confirmed – especially given how odd GW’s releases can sometimes be.
For a while there Blood Bowl was riding high with new teams emerging roughly every three months. Things got a little bumpy during the height of the covid epidemic but that was true of everything, and as 2020 drew to a close we even got a new edition of the game. As we stepped bravely in 2021 you could almost hear the baying of the crowd around every corner, see the discarded McMurty’s burger wrappers blowing in the breeze, taste the Bloodweiser and feel the crunch of fragile flesh hitting unyielding astrogranite. Then everything went suddenly and strangely quiet. Yes we got things like new pitches, and dice and so on but we’re fans of miniatures – we want new teams! Some people might argue that we already have 21 teams available to play in the game and I should have used this lull in activity as an opportunity to paint some of the models I already own and learning how to play the game properly but I won’t tolerate nonsense like that!
Anyway, at last our prayers have been answered and a bunch of very angry men have stormed the pitch – and for once it’s not just the fans. Blood Bowl has long had a Chaos Undivided team and a Nurgle Team and now the developers turn their attention to one of the other Chaos Gods; Khorne. If ever there was a Chaos faction likely to be drawn to Blood Bowl it must be the followers of the Blood God (the clue is in the name). Somehow I can’t imagine that these guys will be tactically challenging to play, or rely on a subtle passing game over good old-fashioned brutality.
The team contains three types of players, the Bloodborn Marauder Linemen (above), Bloodseekers and bestial Khorngors. The Bloodborn Marauders and Bloodseekers are roughly analogous to the Bloodreavers and Blood Warriors from the Blades of Khorne faction from Age of Sigmar.
Now before anyone gets too hot under the collar I don’t think this suggests that the Blood Bowl developers are turning to AoS for inspiration, that the Old World of Warhammer has been mined out of ideas (it most certainly has not) or that we’ll be seeing Stormcast Eternals playing Blood Bowl by the end of the week (Satan will be ice-skating to work before that happens). Rather it’s simply the fact that many of the concepts behind the Blades of Khorne were ported over from WHFB to AoS, and have been imported to Blood Bowl in the same straightforward manner. Keep in mind that the warriors of Khorne revealed in recent previews for the computer game Total War: Warhammer III have also looked a lot like their AoS counterparts – that’s just how fantasy Khornate warriors look.
More importantly though via the Blades of Khorne range we have a treasure trove of bits to convert our new Khornate Blood Bowl players – and equally we can always take some bits from Blood Bowl and sneak them into AoS armies. I salute the first person who unleashes a Khornate horde in AoS with a ball carrying Marauder Lineman leading the charge of the Bloodreavers.
Now some of you are probably thinking “This is all very nice but how about seeing some Space Marines, there’s an underrepresented faction if ever I heard of one”, in which case fear not – the boys in power armour were covered too. If you feel that the honour of the Emperor has been intolerably besmirched, that the unclean are being allowed to live and witches are going around without anyone to suitably abhor them then good news – the Black Templars are coming to sort things out.
Every 40k fan, even the staunchest heretic, has a favourite Space Marine chapter and for me the Black Templars are probably it (the Blood Angels give them a good run for their money though – berserk space vampires are hard to beat). The Templars however bring sheer, uncompromising attitude that I find irresistible, they’re ruthless fanatics and stubborn to the point of self-destruction if they choose to be. These are the guys who chain their weapons to themselves because they’re always ready to purge someone, and whilst the Blood Angels find the time to make beautiful art and think about their feelings these mad bastards have been permanently on crusade for 10,000 years.
They also have more gothic flourishes than you can shake a dead heretic at, which means they look like they’d be a real joy to paint, and to top it off they have arguably the coolest colour-scheme of any Space Marine chapter ever.
If all this sounds a bit fan-boyish then it probably is, but if we’re not allowed to enthuse about things we like then what are we allowed to enthuse about? The Templars will be released later this year, starting with a limited edition “launch box” which will sell out in about 12 seconds. I won’t be trying to snag a copy but I will be keeping an eye out for when the kits get a normal release, and waiting with great anticipation to see what other models are added to the range.
The boxset also contains the codex supplement for the faction, with a limited edition cover, and I must admit I let out a very unmanly squeak when I saw it. This was the piece of artwork that, back when I was a lad, transformed me in an instant from thinking “Space Marines – meh, they’re a bit rubbish” to thinking “Space Marines are fucking awesome!!”
Even now it’s a dangerous thing, I can’t allow myself to look at it for too long because every time I do I find myself planning out the Black Templars army of my dreams and really I ought to be concentrating on all my other projects, especially all those lovely new Orks. Dammit, I want to start a Black Templar army now though…
Anyway, moving swiftly on, and finally we got to the part I was waiting for. Games Workshop really saved the best for last here (or almost last anyway – more on that below). Regular readers will know that Necromunda is where my heart lies these days and so of course I was agog to find out what will be coming next to the dirty streets of the underhive. The last two years have been given over to building up the forces of the “big six” houses, bringing new models and expansions to flesh out the gangs of Goliaths, Eschers, Orlocks, Cawdor, Van Saar and Delaque. The last time an entirely new faction appeared it was the Slave Ogryns back in early 2020 but GW had announced that another new gang would be hitting the streets before the end of the year. There were various things that I was hoping we might see – pit slaves, ash waste nomads and muties being particularly interesting. Instead we got something which on the one hand is quite unexpected, and on the other is exactly what I’ve been hoping to see for the last decade or so.
The majority of people on Necromunda belong to one of the great houses in only the loosest sense – that is to say they belong to them as property, not as citizens. Whilst an Escher ganger is fully immersed in Escher culture, the majority of the people working for the house do so only because they are indentured to a factory that the Eschers happen to control. For these ordinary people life is unbelievably harsh and whilst most endure brief lives of cruel drudgery before being worked to death some get out, by accident or design, and find themselves forced to survive on the mean streets without the dubious protection of the Houses. These Outcasts and Hive Scum are what we’re looking at now, down-and-out desperadoes banding together for survival.
Now I’ll start by saying that I’ve been thinking of starting a gang of underhive criminals and outcasts for a while now but couldn’t quite decide where to start so I’m over the moon about these. However let’s think a little broader and look for a moment beyond the walls of Necromunda itself, because these guys are a convertor’s gold mine! Do you want Chaos Cultists? Just add a few spikes and mutations! Thinking of starting a penal legion, or other disreputable Imperial Guard army? These are your guys! Want some frateris militia to march alongside your Sisters of Battle? Just add Cawdor and Redemptionist parts and you’re good to go! What about Imperial civilians, Space Marine chapter thralls, Genestealer Cultists, space pirates, Inquisitorial agents, even inhabitants of the more industrial and shabby Cities of Sigmar? The possibilities from a bunch of generic humans are vast and extremely exciting.
Alongside these we’ll also be seeing an Underhive Market as a set of terrain. Again this is something I’ve dreamed of having for years and when I finally get around to building a little corner of the hive of my very own this will definitely be included – where else can my gangers go to buy extra guns, a few bottles of Second Best and a rat on a stick?
Finally, the very last preview came in the form of a little hint at the future of Warcry. Now whilst Necromunda is the setting I’m most excited about Warcry is the game I’m most likely to play – I’ve been enjoying slugging it out against gangs of thugs across the Chaos wastes of the Eightpoints and beyond since the game first appeared back in August of 2019. However despite an initial flurry of attention the game hasn’t had a lot of official support since then, there have been a few rule books, three monsters and various rules to bring factions from Age of Sigmar into Warcry – all of which is great – but we’ve only seen two new warbands made specifically for the game since it launched and it’s been easy to imagine that Games Workshop planned to let it pass into history, as they’ve done with so many other games in the past. I suppose that wouldn’t be the end of the world, we do have a lot of cool models and content for it already, but I’d love to see it given more long term support. The setting is very intriguing, the models have been outstanding and the game is a lot of fun to play; all good reasons to keep it alive and kicking. Now at last we’ve had a definitive answer to whether or not they have more releases up their sleeves; Warcry – Red Harvest is on its way.
…And that’s all we know. Well that and a lot of hints about spiders being involved somehow. I’d have loved to see a new warband previewed, in fact I’d love to see them give Warcry quarterly updates with four new warbands per year (and the same for Blood Bowl and Necromunda whilst they’re about it!) but I’ll settle for knowing that the game isn’t entirely dead and gone.
Anyway, that’s more than enough enthusiastic wittering from me! What about you – did you enjoy these previews, do you have a particular favourite or would you have preferred something else? As ever the comment’s box is waiting for you to share your thoughts with the world!
Another weekend, another Warhammer preview – this time devoted to the Stormcast Eternals and their latest adversaries, the scheming orc Kruelboyz. Now the Stormcasts do look nice, it’s a range that’s come on in leaps and bounds over recent years, but being essentially a filthy orc myself my attention has been squarely focussed on this new breed of swamp-lurking greenskins.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to any of my regular readers but I like these a lot. They’re nasty, spiky gits, much more in keeping with the wicked hordes of older fantasy fiction than the “misunderstood” tribal barbarians popularised by World of Warcraft and other modern sources. They look exactly like the kind of evil scum that might be found lurking in a wild and overgrown swamp, ready to carry off their unfortunate victims to a terrible fate. It may say nothing good about me at all but that’s exactly the kind of qualities that draw me to a faction and so of course I’ve been watching this release develop with interest, my fingers hovering expectantly over my sadly over-worked wallet whilst my pots of green paint shove their way to the front of the desk ready to be liberally applied.
Beyond this rabid enthusiasm however two things have struck me whilst looking at these models; where are the normal orcs and why are these ones looking so damn serious all the time?
In Praise of Normal Orcs
Over in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium the greenskins are also gearing up for war. This time around the new models will be bring a range of new hunters and beast-wranglers to the faction – the so-called Beast Snaggas, some of whom even ride into battle on giant squigs.
In the world of Warhammer 40k all orks belong to a tribe (that’s your personal collection – my army, Da Murdaboyz, being one example). Most orks are also part of one of six major clans (the Goffs, Evil Sunz, Snakebites, Bad Moons, Blood Axes and Deathskulls). A tribe may be made up exclusively of orks from one of these clans or it may contain members of several or all. Each clan has its own idiosyncrasies and defining traits, Bad Moons are wealthy show-offs for instance whilst the Deathskulls combine a superstitious obsession with the colour blue with a hunger for stealing everyone else’s property as soon as they can get their hands on it. Adding a third layer of complexity are the various ork “kultures” – the Kult of Speed for example, or the new Beast Snaggas. Some of these kultures tie themselves in well with certain clans but, and this is the clever thing, it’s not an exclusive arrangement. Take the Kult of Speed. These orks take their species’ love of hurtling around at a breakneck pace, something every ork enjoys to some extent, and turn it into a lifelong fixation. As a result they find a natural home amongst the nomadic petrol-heads of the Evil Sunz clan. The Goffs meanwhile are the meanest and most brutish orks of all, serious and ill-tempered they like the simple things in life – straightforward fighting with muscles and fists doing all the real work and none of that fancy nonsense getting in the way. They may take a dim view of the Speed Freeks and their time wasting antics, tinkering around with motorbikes or having silly races in the dusty wastes outside the camp when they should be concentrating on proper things like fighting. However that doesn’t mean that a few buggies or bikes will be out of place in a Goff army. After all it stands to reason that a Goff who races his way into combat atop a speeding bike will be able to enjoy a lot more fighting than his mates who have to walk all the way, and probably won’t reach the site of battle until the best killin’ has already been done. Meanwhile a Bad Moon might find himself tempted by a vehicle of his very own, and if he is he’ll buy one that’s fancier than anyone else’s – at least until the local Deathskulls steal it and paint it blue…
In practical terms this means you can make your army your own, choosing the parts of the Ork background that you find most appealing without finding yourself “locked out” of adding particular models to your collection. This works because, stripped back to the bare lead, plastic or resin, all these orks look relatively similar. There’s not much to distinguish a Bad Moon from a Goff until you’ve decided whether to paint him in garish yellow or cover him in black and white checks. These clans and kultures which have brought excitement and pleasure to so many hobbyists over the decades are rarely more than a coat of paint deep.
Over in Age of Sigmar however the differences are rather more intrinsic. A Kruelboy is a lean, spiky creature…
… quite different to a hulking brute like an Ironjaw.
They’re both orcs, and they can certainly look good mixed together in a large army, but what they really need is something to tie them together – a missing link as it were. Where are the ordinary orcs?
Back in the old days of Warhammer Fantasy Battle the Orcs and Goblins range had at its heart mobs of Orc Boyz. The kit, when it was retired with the coming of Age of Sigmar, was well past its best but it continued to serve a key function – tying all the other orcs together thematically.
With these green lads at the heart of your army you could add in some Black Orcs (disciplined orcs in heavy armour), Big ‘uns (orcs but even bigger and tougher) or Savage Orcs (orcs who distain clothes and other trappings of civilisation and go into battle with nothing but bone clubs and loincloths). Standing side by side the Black Orcs looked very different to their Savage cousins (they were wearing a bit more for starters) but a mob of Orc Boys created a visual link that brought them together. As the greenskins have migrated across to Age of Sigmar the various specialised “types” have lived on – the Savage Orcs rebranded as Bonesplitterz, the Black Orcs as ‘Ardboyz and the Big ‘uns getting a swanky new range of models and becoming the Ironjaws. Now there are swamp themed orcs as well. What we don’t have however is the missing link, the ordinary boys who may not be fancy or particularly original, but who bring everything together – who take the disparate mobs of Kruelboyz, Ardboyz, Bonesplitterz and Ironjaws and forge them into an army.
Why So Serious?
For the most part the various settings and games under the Warhammer umbrella are on the one hand very serious, and on the other very silly. Take Blood Bowl for instance, a game which the players can – if they so wish – take very, very seriously indeed, developing for themselves the mindsets of chess grandmasters, whilst at the same time playing with undead footballers, drunken dwarves, pogo-ing goblins, chainsaw-wielding loonies and orc cheerleaders. Warhammer 40k paints itself as a very serious business (look no further than the 700 novels that make up the Horus Heresy series) but it also includes space vampires, space werewolves, all kinds of demons and other craziness that more sober sci-fi would never abide. Orks of course are the ultimate expression of that silly side. Even when 40k is trying to be sensible and grown-up, picturing the grand narrative of a declining and stagnating empire brought low by the flaws within our all too human souls, the orks just fart around at the back enjoying themselves. Collectively, they are the whoopee cushion on Roboute Guilliman’s chair.
Warhammer works well when it can be taken very seriously – look no further than the reams of historical and cultural background in the “House of…” books for Necromunda for example. However it needs that spark of silliness to bring out the flavour. All that Necromundan nitty-gritty is wonderful but it’s still a game of punks vs. aliens, and it still includes the character Smartacus, an ogre who leads an uprising after an accident turns him into a genius.
If the Kruelboyz have a flaw then it’s that they’re not very silly. Indeed for the most part they look serious and scary. Now there’s nothing wrong with that – as I said I really like that aspect of them – but really the Ironjaws aren’t particularly silly either, the Black Orcs/Ardboyz were always grim and dour and that only leaves the Savage Orcs doing their best to keep things daft and looking ever more out of place. But if the orcs aren’t silly then who is?
To me that’s the one remaining problem with Age of Sigmar. The setting has grown from its challenging birth into something genuinely interesting and impressive. When it first launched six years ago it felt unfinished; the backstory little better than fan fiction, the models borrowed from WHFB with confusing new names and the rules leaning as much on players yelling at each other as on rolling dice. Nowadays it’s grown into an engaging, complex world in which even cynical old hands like me look forward to discovering the next chapter of the ever developing story. However these days it’s a sensible world for grown-up people. The goblins – in the form of the Gloomspite Gits – are as silly as ever but the Orcs have their serious faces on, and much as I love the look of the Kruelboyz I miss those daft old orcs. Perhaps in time though we’ll have both – serious orcs for serious battles and silly old orcs farting under the noses of those snooty Stormcasts.
Us Necromunda fans have a fairly good idea of what’s coming our way over the next few months. Gang warfare on the polluted planet has traditionally centred around the six great houses, each of which received a set of plastic models in the wake of the game’s 2017 relaunch. In January 2020 the Goliaths were bolstered by the addition of new gang champions and prospects and this pattern has continued ever since at a rate of roughly one house per quarter (Covid related delays notwithstanding). Now the reinforcements for House Cawdor are almost upon us and the shadowy agents of House Delaque are only a few months behind. I’ll confess my love for the new Redemptionists has waned somewhat since they were first revealed but that’s just left me wanting to kitbash and improve them until they look the way they ought to.
However what I’m wanting to talk about today is the final section of the “road map” revealed by Games Workshop, the part which covers the last quarter of 2021 (and beyond). Now that we’ve seen the key releases from the “House of…” series it’s time to turn our attention to the further future. Care to join me for some baseless speculation and wild guessing?
Despite their significance there’s a lot more to Necromunda than just the big six houses. In this edition we already have rules and models for Enforcers, Genestealer Cults, Helot Cults, Corpse-Grinder Cults, Slave Ogryns and Venators. The possibilities don’t end there either. If they want to Games Workshop have a host of possibilities and potential new factions to explore. Indeed I would argue that this is exactly what they intend to do. It’s understandable for fans to fear that support for Necromunda may be inconsistent, or even nonexistent, in the future. GW have already dropped the game entirely from their catalogue once back in the 2000’s and even now support for some of the other “specialist games” like Adeptus Titanicus and Aeronautica Imperialis remains patchy and even Blood Bowl hasn’t seen much attention since last autumn. When the going gets tough, as it has in the wake of the Covid outbreak and Brexit for instance, the specialist games suffer so that the big cash cows like 40k can continue to thrive. Still, I don’t think it’s wishful thinking to suggest that Necromunda is well placed to remain an established part of the GW catalogue for a long time yet. At least, let’s hope so. Anyway, let’s leave those worries for another day and indulge in some guesswork instead! Here are a few of the gangs I think might be tearing up the underhive near you over the next few years – I’m sure we can all look forward to having a good laugh at how wrong I turned out to be!
Ash Waste Nomads
It may be grim in the hive but it’s even worse outside. The whole planet is a hellish, polluted wasteland, the only water is the toxic run-off from the great factories, storms of scouring wind and acid rain sweep over the tortured landscape and the people you encounter are as wild and dangerous as any underhive scummer. You wouldn’t think anyone would be mad enough to live out there but the Ash Waste Nomads have been getting the odd mention in recent books – with the Orlock book in particular offering some choice titbits on these outlanders. A couple of years ago we even saw some concept art, albeit fairly vague, for these road warriors…
… not to mention their dangerous looking steeds…
Somewhere else which has been getting a lot of mentions in the recent Necromunda books is Hive Mortis, enough to have caught my eye and got me thinking. A terrible plague has run rampant through the hive, leaving the entire population dead and their possessions unguarded. If you’re a ganger who wants to get rich quick and isn’t frightened of a little thing like plague then this is the place to go. However not all of the locals have taken death lying down. Plague zombies have been a part of Necromunda for a long time and Hive Mortis is apparently crawling with them.
The Corpse-Grinder Cults have already brought us a Necromundan spin on Khorne which leaves me wondering how long before the other Chaos gods try to get in on the act. Could the pudgy hand of Nurgle and his ghastly, disease-ridden cultists be reaching out from the fallen hive even as we speak?
The Immortal Cult
The Necromunda core rulebook also contains a brief description of the Immortal Cult, a cabal of rogue psykers who seek to bring about a psychic awakening in all of mankind. The cult first appears around the 34th Millennium and is still active in the setting’s “present day”, gathering outlaw wyrds who would otherwise be taken to the Black Ships to their banner. Just as the Corpse Grinder Cults put a new, and distinctly Necromundan, spin on Khorne and Hive Mortis could well be the start of a Nurgly invasion, so these sound to me like the Tzeentchian equivalent. House Delaque may think they’ve cornered the market in unsanctioned psykers but there are plenty more witches lurking in the depths of the hives…
If you’re looking for entertainment in Hive City and getting cheated and shot in a Delaque gambling den, or drinking until your innards explode with a bunch of down-and-out scummers in an Escher bar doesn’t sound like sufficient fun then you need to head to the fighting pits! Here you can enjoy the sight of cybernetically-enhanced, stimmed-up gladiators beating the hell out of each other or fighting against monstrous wild animals.
Of course, when it comes to finding people to actually get in the ring and fight demand tends to exceed supply and although Goliaths are known to enjoy getting stuck in most fans prefer to watch from the sidelines. Fall foul of the Guilds, fail to pay your debts or otherwise end up on the wrong side of the law however and you might just find yourself sold into a life as a pitslave, and rewarded with a few “enhancements” to make your life of vicious, crowd-pleasing violence and mayhem a little more interesting for the spectators. However it turns out that taking a bunch of hardened criminals, throwing in a few honest citizens who’ve suffered one punishment too many, arming them to the teeth and giving the best combat training available by making them fight each other until only the strong survive, might not be a good move in the long run. Pitslaves are known to revolt, butcher their way to freedom and enjoy a life on the run down in the underhive – where things are no less violent but at least they get to keep the profits.
Pitslaves have been a part of Necromunda for many years but back in the old days the models were, to be frank, less than inspiring. Imagine how good they could look now though…
Whilst most people in the underhive are just trying to stay alive and avoid catching too many bullets, the Spyrers are there for a little fun. Rich arseholes from the upper part of the hive these spoiled young nobles have spent daddy’s money on the best guns around and have headed down into the very worst part of town to live like common people and do whatever common people do – which on Necromunda means “shoot each other”.
I know a lot of people really want to see these making a comeback but frankly I’m not entirely convinced. By my memory they always seemed disastrously powerful in game back in the old days, not to mention a little out of place amongst the rag-tag gangs, and as a result I never really liked the spoilt gits. That said I’m not going to lie to you, if GW produces some models my addiction to Necromunda will probably see me starting a small army of them. Plus I’d not be averse to seeing how the braying oiks enjoy a kicking from an ambot! I’d still rather see something else though. Speaking of which…
Scavies and Muties
At the very opposite end of the Necromundan social hierarchy from the Spyrers we have the scavies, muties and their ilk. Hive City being the polluted pit that it is the odd minor mutation like an extra finger is given a bit more leeway than it might be elsewhere in the Imperium but any more than that and it’s only a matter of time before either the Redemptionists or the Enforcers turn up to “have words” (and by “have words” we mean, kill everyone and burn the settlement down to make sure). If it turns out that the reason your friend, family-member or neighbour never takes off their hood or ragged robe is because they’re hiding a couple of tentacles then the best thing to do is to drive them off into the underhive as fast as possible. There they can do what muties do best, sneaking around in the dark and gobbling up unwarey hivers.
Only those who’ve fallen on the very hardest times, houseless scummers without the common decency to drink themselves to death, would sink so low as to fight alongside these muties or join scavie gangs.
Needless to say I have a real love for the muties and scavies. Back in the old days they would drive herds of mindless plague zombies into town to spread mayhem, employed hulking mutants known as “scalies” as enforcers and even had their own mutant dogs. I’d absolutely love to see them making a comeback and in the meantime I’ve even made a few of my own.
I already have my eye on turning a few of the new Kruleboyz Gutrippaz into scalies. A nice new kit for these dregs of the hive would be a dream come true though – and undoubtedly well received by anyone looking to spice up their collection of chaos cultists for 40k as well.
For some strange reason that’s never been made entirely clear, the overpopulated, polluted, industrial hell of Necromunda gave rise to a race of carbon copy Native Americans (as envisioned by spaghetti westerns at least). I’m sure people can and do enjoy many a happy hour debating (read: yelling at each other on social media) over whether they actually were racist or just seemed racist, but one thing that can’t be denied is they were woefully out of place and extremely lazily designed.
Something you could never accuse the writing for modern Necromunda of is laziness however. A vast amount of love and attention to detail has been poured into the world in recent years and it’s paid off with some wonderfully well developed factions. It can be hard to overlook the rather heavy handed Native American aesthetic of models for the Redskins – sorry, that should be Ratskins! – and the use of terms like “chief” instead of leader and “brave” instead of ganger (and yes, that is a bit racist). However if you strip away these trappings, at their heart this is a tribal people, trying to live a peaceful, spiritual life away from the rest of Necromundan society, but who keep being bothered by local thugs shooting up the place until they have nowhere left to run to – and that’s a concept with a lot of potential. Cut away the “cultural appropriation” before the online activist brigade work themselves up into a collective aneurism, get back to the core concept behind the Ratskins and have the current writers rebuild them from the ground up and I reckon they still have a lot of potential.
Beastmen and Squats
No, not all together in the same gang. However something that Necromunda has done very cleverly has been to dig back, not just into the game’s own history in the late ’90s and early 2000s but even further back, to the very earliest days of Warhammer 40k itself. Until recently the vast majority of us didn’t really expect to see Squats stamping around the landscapes of the far future ever again, and then Grendl Grendlsen showed up in the underhive and proved us all wrong.
Whether or not we ever see Squats taking to the battlefields of the Warhammer 40k in force, and taking their well deserved revenge on those Tyranids at last, remains to be seen. Likewise I’m not holding my breath for regiments of beastmen to be pressed into the Imperial Guard (nice new models for ordinary humans in the Guard seems like a big ask at the moment so let’s not set our sights too high!). However there are still plenty of us who love these old factions, and though Games Workshop’s moneymen may not, in their infinite wisdom, be willing to invest in whole armies of them, a Necromunda gang might be a fine place to give them a home and keep them alive. Or perhaps I’ll have to finally make good on my promises and pick up a box of Gors and a box of Kharadron Overlords and make my own.
These are just my thoughts however – now it’s your turn. Was there something obvious I missed from my list that you’re just itching to see unleashed in the hive? As ever the comment’s box below is the place for you to get it all off your chest!
Did you hear that? The chiming of the midnight bell, the chitterling of bats, the groaning of the crypt door… The Vampire Counts, once a staple of Warhammer Fantasy, are rising from the grave and they’re doing it in style!
It’s been a while since I wrote one of these reviews for a big wave of AoS or 40k models. I almost did one for the new Lumineth Realmlords but it would have been easily summed up with the sentence “They’re alright but I preferred the first lot”. Likewise I planned to write one for the Slaaneshi mortals but that would have boiled down to “I love all of it” followed by a string of double entendres – so it’s probably a relief all round that I restrained myself.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do one this time though – I bloody love vampires and this was a release I could really get my teeth into. I fell under the spell of the Vampire Counts many years ago, back when Sylvania was the capital of the dead, Shyish was a wind and the Von Carstein family ruled the night. I started an army of them several times but never really got it off the ground although with each attempt I accumulated more – some of which were eventually painted and some of which still linger in dusty obscurity even now. Maybe I’ll start a Soulblight Vampire’s army and finally get them painted up – or maybe they’ll be stuck in their tombs a little longer. Time shall tell – today, let’s grab our shovels and head down to the nearest graveyard to take a look at the new models!
First things first, and where better to begin than with this undead general; the Vampire Lord.
What can I say – it’s a beautiful model ruined by, for some crazy reason, having bats in their hair. There’s a time and a place for being a bit OTT but this just comes off as daft to me, and plays to that silly superstition that bats get caught in ladies’ hair. If I get this model, and I might, those will either be getting snipped off or I’ll be giving them a headswap from elsewhere in the range. Otherwise it’s a damn good model, and its simplicity is its greatest strength, which makes adding a silly flourish in the form of the hair bats even more foolish. Mind you, a female friend did comment “Who hasn’t been running late and wished a few bats would turn up and do your hair? This is Warhammer’s answer to a Disney Princess!” I’ll never look at this particular miniature quite the same way again…
Vampires may be at the heart of this wave of releases but there are other undead shambling forth alongside them, not least of which is the magnificent Wight King.
Skeletal steeds can be hard to pull off but they haven’t put a foot wrong here. He’s a very detail heavy miniature but they’ve shown the sense not to add lots of extraneous flourishes so that every one of those details feels necessary and adds to the personality of the model overall. The result is a very conservative design, rather than one which is littered with unique “Games Workshop only” elements, the kind of thing which doesn’t quite work in practice but which no-one else is doing which they so often allow themselves to be tempted by. What’s particularly impressive is the way in which this model is an almost perfect copy of the old Wight King model (a theme which we’ll be revisiting time and again as we look through these releases).
However whilst the old one was well past retirement age the new one swaggers out of the gate looking like the royalty he is. I can’t wait to see him leading a spearhead of Black Knights as they thunder down upon the hapless living. Nor is this the only undead cavalry to come galloping out of the gates…
If you’d asked me a few months ago to come up with a wishlist of models I’d like to see in this release then the Blood Knights would have been second only to the Zombies (more on them below). The old Blood Knights were nice enough models but, and I know this is just personal taste, I never really liked them that much – which is unfortunate because I loved the concept behind them and the artwork which often made them look brooding and terrible to behold.
The price was also a pretty big sticking point, the old models were always phenomenally expensive. The new ones aren’t exactly cheap but this is a rare case of GW’s prices actually going down.
Having set the bar very high by imagining how good these could look for at least the last decade or so these vampires were going to have to work hard to impress me – but they rose to the challenge with aplomb.
Forcing myself to be objective, and putting my personal prejudices aside, the old ones weren’t bad models, especially for their time – but they just don’t match up to the new breed at all.
The new kit appears to contain a range of options, including lances, swords and a variety of heads, allowing you to personalise your own vampiric elite – or put together large numbers of them without having to include any duplicates. Certainly there will be those who build their army around a core of Blood Knights and create all-vampire armies, something that I think will be an impressive sight to behold.
Next we have the zombies, and if ever there was a kit that deserved a do-over it was this one. These newcomers are nice, straightforward walking-corpses, with a sufficient mix of sexes and appearances to suggest a whole town of people have suffered an unfortunately demise, only to be raised again in service to their vampiric lords.
The outgoing zombies kit (below) was hard to love. Like all zombies it kept shambling on long after it should have been laid to rest but at long last it’s suffered the metaphorical headshot to put it in its grave (and this time it can damn well stay there!).
It’s replacement meanwhile is a joy to behold, although that might in part be a reaction the years of suffering that we fans of the undead have endured at the cold dead hands of its predecessor. The zombies therein appear to be both full of character and fairly versatile – perfect for building up an undead hoard.
Being a bit more generic these should appeal to anyone who found the Cursed City zombies a little too gimmicky. Not that I have anything against the Cursed City zombies, who totter around with their graves on their backs, but I do acknowledge that they’re not to everyone’s taste. As an aesthetic unique to the Cursed City game I think it works but for every zombie in the Mortal Realms to look that way would be overdoing things – not to mention making it harder to find alternative uses for these models as kitbashing and conversion fodder – so something a little more generic was definitely in order. And if you do happen to want a zombie in that style but missed out on Cursed City you can still make a few from the contents of this box.
The roots growing through the corpses is an interesting touch, although I can’t help but wonder how they’ve managed to grow so quickly before the bodies rotted away entirely. Probably the blame lies with dark magic, regardless I think it looks cool. That said I’m sympathetic to those who’re not so keen, especially as this means they’ll need a bit more work if you want to use them as generic zombies fit for any setting. However just as part of me wants to snip those branches off and turn these into Necromundan Scavies, so another part wants to incorporate some Sylvaneth spares and make the woods come alive in the most horrifying way possible.
Nor is this element entirely unique, my first thought when I saw them was of the Tribe of Sarrassa from the game Hate, although those guys really were more tree than corpse.
Unlike the old zombies which were well past their best the old skeleton kit had aged fairly well. I still have a fair number of them which I’d accumulated over the years and which I really ought to get painted and although they may not be the best models around they’re a very long way from the worst. I’m also rather fond of the Grave Guard, another older kit which has stood the test of time very well (and, I’ll confess, another which I managed to snag at a bargain price years ago and which has been languishing unpainted ever since). These new Skeleton Warriors fall somewhere between the two aesthetically, with a bit more armour and greater bulk giving them a significantly more imposing appearance than their predecessors. A subtle wrongness to their postures emphasises their undead nature (as if that was needed on a warrior already stripped down to their bones) and adds a creepy, unnatural element that the old kit lacked. Overall I’d call this an improvement, and although at first glance I dismissed it the longer I look the more tempted by it I become.
Now I don’t actually own any of these new skeletons (of course – they’ve not even been released yet) but what I do have are the Cursed City skeletons which, to all intents and purposes, are basically the same models, so let’s line them up next to some of the older skeletons in the range and see how they compare.
Running from left to right we have; a grave guard, a new skeleton warrior, an old skeleton warrior and a mortek guard from the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Before we begin I should also note that, in a moment of silliness, I used a slightly altered model for the old skeleton warrior rather than a standard build. He’s exactly the same as any normal skeleton warrior apart from his head, which I took from the Black Knights kit. The pointed helmet echoes the new skeleton warriors (I was ahead of my time there because I kitbashed him long before these were previewed) but doesn’t add anything to his height – so long as you measure to the eyes rather than the point of the helmet. Anyway, consider my wrist slapped and let’s get on with looking at these models.
The first, and most obvious point here, is how tall the new skeletons are. The pose helps here, they stand a lot straighter than their hunched predecessors, I reckon if the old models had worked on their posture a bit there wouldn’t be much difference. Of course it’s worth remembering that skeletons should be smaller than their flesh and blood allies, strip away all your meat and organs and you’d be considerably smaller too. Back when these guys were alive they must have been giants! Marching alongside the old skeleton warriors however they actually work quite well, looking like professional soldiers in their rusted armour, with the old skeletons appearing more like undead militiamen. If, like me, you still have old skeleton warriors in your collection I reckon you can add in some of the newcomers as well and the results will still look cohesive.
The two warriors on the ends of the line-up are where things get a bit more complicated however. It wasn’t until recently, when I sat down and painted a pair of mortek guards for myself, that I realised how short these guys are. The Ossiarch Bonereapers are presented as Nagash’s elite, an army build from the ground up for war rather than simply harvested from whatever corpses happened to by lying around by a plucky necromancer in a hurry. These are the death god’s counter to Sigmar’s Stormcast Eternals, crafted from the near-infinite supply of bones he has access to, so why did he decide to make them so stunty? However the mortek guard are at least part of a different army, albeit one loosely allied to the Soulblight. The grave guard however are supposed to be the Soulblight’s elite infantry, yet once again we find them to be shorter and less imposing than the new rank-and-file. As I noted above I’ve always been very fond of the grave guard but standing next to the new skeleton warriors you wouldn’t immediately pick them out as the tough veteran troops in the way that you would have done if you’d been comparing them to the old skeleton warriors. Had I been looking to refresh the range of Soulblight models I think my inclination would have been to leave the old skeleton warriors alone, and update the grave guard instead. As it is I would suggest that anyone who wants to really invest in a Soulblight army that stands out from the crowd should consider kitbashing grave guard and black knight parts with the new skeleton warriors to make their own grave guard (and in fact this is something I might play around with myself once I get my hands on a few bits – I’m not sure I have the enthusiasm to put together a whole squad but it would be a fun way to add some skeletal muscle to a Warcry warband). As a cheaper alternative you could always use the old skeleton warriors as skeleton warriors and the new ones as grave guard – but gamers should keep in mind that’s likely to be confusing for both you and your opponent.
Another kit from the Vampire Counts era that has been desperately overdue for a refresh is the monstrous Fell Bats. Once again, let’s take a quick look at the old models…
… and then compare them to these newcomers who have come flapping out of the gloom to carry off the townsfolk and their livestock.
I’ve always felt that bats get a bad press and I’ve never been able to follow why a small, insect-eating mammal inspires such terror (unless you’re a moth of course, in which case you have my sympathies). For the rest of us though so long as you don’t go around eating them and starting a pandemic there’s really no cause for alarm. That said they’ve been a staple of nocturnal horror since long before Bram Stoker hammered out his overwrought prose and have a well established association with vampires. Plus, let’s be honest here, absolutely no-one who took a sane and compassionate view of bats prior to seeing these models will be transformed into a chiroptophobe just by looking at them. If we accept, and I think that most sensible people do, that painting a unit or two of Afrika Korp Soldiers won’t turn you into a neo-Nazi as osmotic pressure draws evil out of the miniature, up the brush and into your hand, then it stands to reason that painting these little horrors won’t lead you into the shady world of batophobia. No matter how much I might have preferred to see a more innovative monster here rather than pandering to anyone daft enough to fear death by echolocation bats are what we got, and they deserve an honest appraisal. And if I’m honest I like them. I probably won’t go rushing off to buy them but if you want some leering, furry gargoyles for your collection I don’t think you can go far wrong with these.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record the Dire Wolves are yet another kit from the old Vampire Counts era that was overdue for replacing. I must confess that I actually rather liked the old version, and even painted up a squad of my own (see image below), but I know I was in the minority there.
Although I was a fan of the old Dire Wolves I’m not blind to their flaws. Time for them to shuffle off into woods unknown and be replaced by the new dogs on the block.
Much like bats wolves get a bad press. Despite being pretty much harmless unless you’re a sheep wolves have carved out a special place in European nightmares, ready at any moment to set upon hapless peasants, blow up the houses of little pigs or dress up as people’s grandmothers. These wolves navigate neatly around the debate over whether we should live in existential dread of these animals by being zombies – and everything is scary once it’s a zombie! Personally I like these new wolves, they have a nice sense of movement to them and the poses look suitably hungry and predatory. Games Workshop have really struggled to sculpt decent looking wolves in the past but with these, and Belladamma Volga (below) they’ve at last managed to pull off something quite stylish. All the trailing drool is a bit unnecessary and over-eggs things a bit but it’s nothing a hobby knife won’t cure.
Kritza the Rat Prince
Games Workshop’s vampires tend towards the bestial, with even the more human looking ones snarling with talons raised, ready to tear their victims apart in their bloodlust. Kritza on the other hand is extremely restrained and reserved. There’s something resigned, almost mournful about him; you suspect he would apologise before and after biting you, and possibly during as well.
It’s only after a second glance that one spots the sinister tide of rats scurrying beneath his long cape, and recognise exactly what kind of animals he’s used to decorate his robes. They seem to be quite dead now of course, just stuffed heads with glassy eyes – but are they? These are the vampire lords after all, and no-one is quite as dead as they ought to be.
As a vampire Kritza doesn’t really do it for me, there are plenty of other new lords of the night which to my eye look a lot more powerful and vampiric, but I am tempted to pick him up and turn him into a Necromundan crime lord.
Whilst the Rat Prince tends towards an appearance of civilised melancholy Lady Annika appears to be a much more vicious creature indeed. If you like your vampires to keep their murderous inclinations beneath the thinnest veneer of civilisation then this could well be the girl for you.
Her big hair-do is a bit OTT of course but it suits the model. Taken as a whole the miniature combines barely contained savagery with faded grandeur, and of all the vampires in this wave of releases she looks the most undead – the bloodlust and decay only just masked, and only for now…
Unlike the Nighthaunt or Ossiarch Bonereapers these new Soulblight and their minions would for the most part fit seamlessly into the old Warhammer world as well. If you’re still marching around on square bases and flying the banner of Sylvania as the Empire burns then this release looks like a welcome opportunity to refresh your collection. Equally – and unlike the aforementioned Empire models – these appear completely at home in the Age of Sigmar. A corpse is still a corpse after all, regardless of where you raise it, and with the possibility of a dwarf no-one clings to the old ways like a vampire.
However it’s at this point that things start to get a bit bloody weird. Quite why someone decided that a part-bat, part-dragon, part-woman was the centre piece the army needed but needless to say it’s been divisive. Enter Lauka Vai, the Mother of Nightmares.
I’m not going to lie to you, I think she’s really damn cool. She’s a truly weird and unsettling creature who has crawled forth from the same dark pits of the human imagination that HP Lovecraft once indulged. She speaks directly to the part of the human mind that recoils at death, and doubley so at undeath. As our civilisation has grown so the undead have been made safe, gathering around spooky clichés, fun-loving ghosts, Halloween parties, sparkling vampires. An age of reason, science and enlightenment has taught us that there is nothing to fear here. Lauka Vai reaches out and touches the inner medieval peasant lying alone in his hut, heart racing and ears straining to hear the creak and rustle of something lurking just beyond the door, the part of us that knows that reason is for daylight hours and lies awake when all the lights go out.
I’m not terribly keen on the rosary, or whatever it’s meant to be, that Lauka is holding, it seems like the kind of unnecessary detail that GW sculptors have a habit of including purely to avoid leaving a space, without actually adding anything to the narrative of the model. Apart from that however there’s a lot to like here.
Despite all this enthusiasm however I do see why she might not be everyone’s cup of tea. What’s more although I think she’s great I actually prefer her as a special character, a one-off horror rather than part of a whole bizarre species. Much though I like her I struggle to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for the Vengorian Lord, the generic version of the same kit.
The Vengorian Lord isn’t a bad model, although the Nosferatu vibe is perhaps a little heavy handed and that distracts from the model’s other qualities for me. Beyond that he echoes her quite closely, they’re just different ways of building of the same model at the end of the day, so if you particularly like or dislike one you’ll probably feel the same way about the other. If I hadn’t already seen Lauka I’d probably quite like him, but I have and so I can’t help but see him as an inferior version.
One thing that I don’t really like on either version of the model is the head. Lauka works well enough but I think I’d probably replace it with one from elsewhere in the range (with the plethora of spares on the Blood Knights being the first contender) in order to put my own spin on it. I’m still trying to judge the exact size of the head however, it may be a little larger than the other vampires in the range but it’s hard to tell exactly with only photographs to go on. Again however I do have a few demented ideas I’d like to explore here…
Indeed the longer I look at Vengorian Lord the more I start to think of the ways I’d tweak him (a new head for starters!) so perhaps, should I decide to get this kit for myself it’ll be an altered version Vengorian Lord rather than Lauka Vai by the time that I finally put brush to plastic. Of all these releases this is the one which has my creative juices flowing the most as a converter so don’t be surprised if some twisted nightmare comes crawling up out of the dark depths sooner or later.
Radukar the Beast
The central villain of the ill-fated game Cursed City (surely a case of nominative predeterminism if ever I heard one!) was the vampire lord Radukar the Wolf.
Now I’ve not played through the game yet and I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else but I think it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that, if you win the game where the central objective is to defeat the vampire then the vampire will end up dead(er) at the end. However that fails to account for one of the central tenants of horror, that the baddie always come back. Horror movie bad guys, much like action movie heroes, have a phenomenal ability to come crawling back from the verge of death, shrug off apparently mortal wounds and get all murderous on those who done them wrong. Poor old Radukar has been very wronged indeed, having been “cancelled” by Games Workshop (perhaps he held the wrong opinions?) he’s come back swinging, having swapped rulership of the Cursed City for a gym membership and a lifetimes’ supply of protein shakes. Better yet he’s got a new miniature, which replaces the old one that was available for all of about 15 minutes just a few weeks ago. Seeing all the other replacements for old models that form part of this release actually only serves to make this more striking – the first Radukar having been on sale for about as many minutes as the old zombies outstayed their welcome in years.
The new incarnation is a muscular brute and as subtle as a brick, and I love him for it. As well as being an awesome model in his own right I can’t help but think that he could be converted into a Khornate lord, or a Space Wolf who has succumbed to the curse of the wulfen. Kritza the Rat Prince will undoubtedly take one look at him and start twittering about toxic masculinity, bless his little soul.
Scampering around his feet we have a pair of little Vyrkos Blood-Born. These diminutive vampires were once the nobility of the Cursed City who swore themselves to Radukar and were reborn as these half-feral creatures. Seeing them on Radukar’s base is a nice touch, providing a nod to the Cursed City game whilst also serving to emphasise how big the vampire lord has now grown. However I can’t help but wonder if, in the future, they might look a little out of context. Without the game from which they originated, and with it having remained on the shelves for such a brief time, there’s very little that looks like them elsewhere in the range. Who knows though, maybe someday the little scamps will get their own kit?
Prior to this release I certainly wasn’t expecting the sheer number of vampires that have been revealed, nor the range of styles. Truly there is a vampire here for every occasion, from Kritza, who I feel might actually sparkle if you catch him in the right light, to the murderous Annika or the Lovecraftian strangeness of Lauka Vai. I must admit however that I certainly wasn’t expecting Radukar to bring his gran along.
There’s a wonderfully subtly to this model that to me makes her one of the best things in this release. At first glance she could almost be a fairly normal old woman, albeit one with an unusual choice of steed but allowances can be made for riding around on wolves in a fantasy setting. Then you spot her feet pocking out the bottom of her dress and have to suppress a shudder as she slips across the border into the uncanny valley in search of a gingerbread cottage to lurk in. What sharp teeth you have grandmama…
Anyway, if you haven’t gathered as much by now I think this is an excellent set of releases and I can’t deny that I’m thinking very seriously about raising some dead of my own. As I mentioned above I’ve already got a whole heap of undead knocking around that I’ve gathered over the years, and this is giving me the itch to get stuck in about them at last. I don’t know how many of the new kits I’m going to rush out to buy (metaphorically of course – who goes out to buy things these days?), especially given the aforementioned stack of corpses in the spare room (and there’s a line you don’t want to hear quoted out of context…). At the very least I’m going to treat myself to a set of zombies though, you can never have too many of them, and then we’ll take it from there.
One thing that does strike me though, especially as I look at the new vampire characters, is how much old Neferata and Mannfred feel out of place. For the uninitiated these were two of the most powerful vampires in the old Warhammer setting and when the great necromancer Nagash became a god in the new Mortal Realms he raised their souls once more and bound them into his service, reasoning that as their miniatures had only been released in 2014 it might be premature to kill them off without giving people a proper chance to buy them – a fate which Radukar the Wolf can only envy. Now I’m certainly not complaining that the models are still available, both of them are excellent miniatures and I certainly intend to paint one or other of them someday – probably Neferata (sorry Mannfred, you’re a much more interesting character and your devious villainy is a hoot to read about, but I have a secret love for Neferata so she jumps the queue).
I’ve always felt however that they don’t really belong to Age of Sigmar, they’re borrowed from old Warhammer and ever since the setting was created they’ve felt like a fish out of water, allowed to linger on in the new setting because we’re all too polite to tell them that the setting they belong to burned to the ground six years ago and they weren’t on it. Whilst some of the other old world survivors, Morathi for instance, or Nagash himself, have really grown into their new roles these two old timers never really seemed to fit. Introducing new vampire characters has only emphasised this divide. I suppose Belladamma Volga could almost come riding across the steps of Kislev and perhaps Lauka Vai might lurk on some lonely island off the coast of Lustria or Naggaroth, but really these are creatures of the new Realms – and Neferata and Mannfred belong to the old. Perhaps as the new range beds in I’ll change my mind, or perhaps they’ll just be allowed to live out their days quietly on the shelves of Games Workshop stores until the Old World project is finally unveiled and they’re able to find their way home at last.
Death has had a strong showing over the past few years, with the arrival of first the ghosts of the Nighthaunt, then the skeletal legions of the Ossiarch Bonereapers and now the old fashioned undead of the Soulblight Gravelords. I suspect, and I’m happy to be proved wrong, that we might not see a great deal more from the forces of undeath over the next few years, as Games Workshop switch their focus to the savage hordes of Destruction currently gearing up to take their turn as the big baddies of the setting and give those Order gits a propa kickin’. That said I think there’s still a lot of creative potential to be explored here, as and when Games Workshop get around to it. Most deserving of a little attention are the Flesh-eater Courts. The ghouls are nice models, and the background – which describes them as deluded, Quixotic knights who believe themselves to be noble and heroic rather than degenerate cannibals – is very clever. It’s unfortunate however that the background has no visual link to the models whatsoever, there’s not a single miniature in the range which so much as hints at knightly qualities. What’s more I really like the available models but I’m put off from even considering an army of them because the range leans so heavily on just a handful of kits, with many units differentiated from each other simply by having a slightly different head. If I had a seat amongst Games Workshop’s team of designers I’d make sprucing up the ghouls my next priority, and I’d want to emphasise the knightly aspect whilst I was about it.
Anyway, the sun is creeping over the horizon so it’s time for me to slink back to my crypt to wait out another day. I may lie in my coffin, my flesh as cold and white as marble, but I am not dead – nor am I sleeping. I’m waiting, specifically to hear what you might have to say about all this. As even, my fellow lords of the night, the comments box is all yours…
All images of models or artwork belong to Games Workshop – apart from the photos of my own models of course. No garlic was harmed in the production of this post.
Last week was Warhammer Fest 2021, and this year – thanks to Covid – it was held online and open to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. I had thought I might put together a blog or two as events progressed, mostly so I could indulge myself and froth with excitement over each new model that was revealed, but sadly for me (and to the possible relief of my readership) I just didn’t have the time. However as I was reading the review of the event on No Rerolls (which is entertaining, informative and well worth a look by the way) I realised that I could “borrow” (read: blatantly steal) his idea and pick my favourite reveal from each day.
So without further ado let’s take a look back through the past week and thrill at the sight of me squirming to pick only one thing per day out of the veritable tidal wave of new models, books and other goodies soon to be available.
Monday was all about the Age of Sigmar. I’ve already talked a lot about the mighty centaur Kragnos who’s soon to be shaking up the Mortal Realms. However despite being very curious to see where this new addition to the Destruction range might be leading my attention was mostly focussed on the shambling masses of the living dead. I’ve been a fan of the Vampire Counts for a long time so I’ll definitely be spending some of my hard earned pennies here as soon as these are released (and the first few will be going on sale in just under a week). There was a lot of very cool stuff shown here, and you can expect a review of the full range soonish, but for now I’ll have to make the difficult choice and decide on a favourite. I swithered over this for some time, I really like the twisted creature that is Lauka Vai, the Mother of Nightmares and so I’m going to bend my own rules and give her an honourable mention anyway.
However my current favourite has to be Belladamma Volga, the matriarch of the Vyrkos clan of vampires. That’s right – we’ve seen Radukar the Wolf in the game Cursed City, now we get to meet his grandmother!
Time to switch over to the 41st Millennium for the first of the week’s two 40k themed sessions. This one was focussed around the Sisters of Battle and as a result excited me less than most of the other days. Not that I have anything against the Sisters, and I’ll be the first to tell you that they’ve deserved every single one of their new models after so many years in the wilderness, but they’re not a range I’m particularly thrilled by either. That said there are a few really nice models in the army so perhaps, someday, I could see myself putting together a small crusade. Given my well known appreciation for a phalanx of troops it’s fair to say that should that day dawn a squad of shielded Celestian Sacresants will be marching at the head of my holy warriors.
Wednesday was all about the books published by Black Library, and as someone who reads even more than he paints I was especially keen to see what was revealed here. Having read almost the entire Horus Heresy series so far (I’m part way through the most recent novel – Mortis by John French) I can’t wait for the next instalment. Sadly wait is exactly what I’ll have to do, Black Library having the irritating habit of releasing special limited editions of their novels then keeping the rest of us hanging around for months before the standard release (I suspect this is because rich people read very slowly and have to be given a head start but I’ve yet to have this confirmed). Warhawk is written by Chris Wraight, to my mind one of the best authors in the Black Library stable, and stars Jaghatai Khan (the eponymous Warhawk of Chogoris), who’s probably my favourite loyalist primarch, as he makes his famous strike for the Lion’s Gate space port in one of the key battles of the war. Needless to say I think it’ll be worth the wait.
Thursday was boxed games day, which meant it was probably the day I was looking forward to the most. Still I feel I could be excused for being a little disappointed here. Partly that’s because the bar was always going to be set high, the range of things they might possibly cover being much greater than the time they had available. Still it would be nice to see what’s next for Blood Bowl, since the release of the most recent edition things have been very quiet on that front and I felt certain we’d be seeing a new team. Equally Warcry has been kicking along almost entirely on models borrowed from Age of Sigmar since its release back in 2019 and, given its ongoing popularity, it would be nice to know if GW have any more models planned specifically for it. Then there’s Adeptus Titanicus which just received a book dedicated to the loyalist legios who fought in the Horus Heresy – and thus surely deserve a book to cover the traitor legios (and more importantly some warped Chaos Titans to unleash!). Finally, and it was always going to be a long-shot, it would have been nice to see some kind of official comment on what the hell happened to Cursed City. I know they’re not going to stand up and say “Oh, we’re terribly sorry, it was all a big misunderstanding, the game is back in stock and expansions are on their way” but a man can dream eh!
However, enough about what we didn’t see, because what we did see was downright awesome. The Delaque are back in the underhive of Necromunda, bolstered by some wonderfully weird new recruits. Honestly I didn’t expect to see the new Delaque so soon, the Redemptionists haven’t even been released yet – hopefully that means the twisted fire-starters are just around the corner.
The Nacht-Ghul are just fun to say, and stand ready to spring from the shadows and do some murdering on behalf of the House of Secrets.
Alongside them we have the creepy Psy-Gheists, one of whom appears to be… ahem… wrestling with a snake.
Oh and there were also some fish elves and a tiny plane but who cares about that when there’s new Necromunda!
Friday took us back to the 41st Millennium and for me proved to be a lot more exciting than Tuesday had been. I’ve been gathering a mighty horde of Orks for many a long year (over a decade by my counting) but I can never get enough of the big green thugs. Now there’s a whole new wave of them approaching and it goes without saying I’m an overexcited boy already.
Much as I would like to choose “all of them” as my personal favourite my own rules say I can pick only one so if you put a shoota to my head and made me pick I’d have to choose this guy, Zodgrod Wortsnagga.
Oh who am I kidding, that’s what he looked like back in the early 90’s (and damn cool he looked back then too). Nowadays however he looks a bit more like this…
And because I simply can’t resist I’ll have to give another honourable mention, this time to this enthusiastic little git and his squig buddy. Those Space Marines won’t know what hit them!
Rounding out the week we had a surprise reveal (although I’m not sure it was all that surprising) in the form of the new edition of Age of Sigmar.
AoS has come a long way since it launched, the once controversial offspring of Warhammer growing into a respectable beast in its own right. With three years having passed since the launch of the second edition many people surmised that the third would soon be upon us. The real surprise however came in the form of Stormcasts that I actually rather like the look of. I know readers, I’m as shocked as you are!
Who am I kidding, I’ve been known to enjoy a Stormcast Eternal in the past (I’ve even painted one). Still I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed as I was, these are truly fine looking models and if I was a Stormcast collector (something I doubt I’ll ever be in a serious way) I’d be over the moon with these.
However I think I’m most curious about their adversaries in the forthcoming boxset. Games Workshop have already announced that the next edition will be era of Destruction, as the orcs, goblins, ogres and their allies finally get stuck into the fight in a big way. Furthermore the preview revealed that something is lurking in the swamps, ready to fall upon those unfortunate Stormcasts. Could we be about to see a return of the long lost Fimir? Either way something for the Destruction alliance that lurks in a mire is always going to be enough to grab my attention!
So, that was my pick of the week’s previews. Did I miss out your favourite or pick something you thought was rubbish? As ever the comment’s section is all yours.
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the forces of Destruction in Age of Sigmar. Hulking barbarians in crude armour and the diminutive rascals that scurry alongside them, seeking only to tear civilisation apart and stamp up and down on the ruins for the sheer fun of it, you may not want to see them charging towards your village but it’s hard not to love their devil-may-care, joyous approach to life. If you want to bring nations to their knees and enjoy yourself whilst you do it then Destruction are the lads for you. Formed primarily of orcs, goblins, ogres, trolls and giants these are the villains of many a fantasy novel – yet mostly these are the thugs and goons who provide a bit of muscle, whilst the evil masterminding is done by someone else. Thus whilst Chaos and Death (and even Order to an extent) can come across as distinctly evil at times Destruction just seem to be having a good time – even if it’s at the expense of your army, settlement or nation.
Over the past few years, since WHFB gave way to the Age of Sigmar, the various factions that the new setting inherited from the old have evolved, often in innovative and surprising ways. Death has armies of ghosts and elite bone golems, Order has fish-elves, tree-elves, snake-elves (they do love their elves!) and flying dwarves. Destruction has much the same bunch of meatheads that went around kicking over fortresses back in the days of Karl Franz. Whilst other races have grown into the new setting Destruction has stayed stuck in the past – albeit with some very impressive new models. An Orruk Brute is just an Orc Big ‘un with a new name, the giants have grown a little taller and… that’s about it.
For some time now I’ve felt that Destruction was being left behind and although I’ve had no complaints about the models they’ve received I’ve harboured a suspicion that this couldn’t last and that sooner or later something new would come their way. Back in October of 2019 I ever tried to predict what it would look like, and claimed rather erroneously that new even-bigger giants was hardly something that was likely to occur…and then a year later that’s exactly what they did.
What I wouldn’t have guessed at though was anything like Kragnos, the truly massive, living demi-god of destruction who was showcased for the first time at the 2021 Online WarhammerFest this week.
There’s no two ways about it, he’s a pretty damn awesome model in my view, a towering champion of testosterone who more than deserves the respect he’s gained both from the orcs, goblins and ogres that serve in his armies and from the painters already gathering their brushes in preparation for his release. He’s an unashamedly macho figure who speaks to the barbarian in all of us, the part of every man who’d love to wield a hammer made from the heart of the land itself and fight dragons because nothing else presents a challenge.
And if you hadn’t already guessed he’s a big lad, towering over even the meatiest orc or ogre.
Sadly for him, despite having risen to godhood by roughing up absolutely everyone he could get his hands, Kragnos has spent the last few ages ensnared and now he’s loose once more he discovers that his people are gone. “Gone” however is not exactly the same as extinct. Perhaps the people who Kragnos once led have been swept into the grave by the march of time, or perhaps he’s just been too busy hitting things to take the time to look for them – and perhaps the return of their ancient king might just be enough to lure them out of hiding. After all, entire peoples are rarely eradicated entirely, at least in fantasy stories. Their settlements may be ruined and their tribes scattered but there are always a few embittered survivors hiding in the wilderness, growing strong and praying to their lost god to bring them vengeance. Because cool though Kragnos is, he’s no orc. He may look the business right now leading an army of orcs or ogres or whatever it takes for people to get him onto their tabletops, but in a year or two’s time, when we’ve overcome our excitement at seeing him and familiarity has bred, if not contempt then at least a dulling of the hype, then Kragnos is going to seem a little odd rocking round at the head of a mix of greenskins.
Right now there’s not much in terms of visual cues to tie him into the wider Destruction range. He has very little in common with the ogres beyond being primeval and muscular, even less to connect him to the green-skinned orcs and next to nothing with the diminutive goblins. As a shaggy, brown centaur he has more in common with the beasts of Chaos range, particularly the dragon ogres, and anyone looking for a model to convert into Kholek Suneater for a WHFB army could do a lot worse than using him as a starting point. Likewise his technological trappings speak of a greater degree of sophistication than that shown by his peers who tend to start and stop with how effective something is at hitting people with and leave decoration, beyond a few spiky glyphs of course, to wusses. Kragnos on the other hand has dressed to impress, by barbarian standards, with torcs, earspools and a rather meta shield depicting Kragnos himself, holding his shield.
I’ve long argued that human barbarians need not always be worshippers of Chaos. Some tribes could fit in nicely to the Order alliance, worshipping Sigmar as a god of war and thunder. It’s taken me until now however to realise that Destruction also has space for a few human(ish) tribes of their own. In my mind’s eye I’m envisioning something akin to the Sessairs from Confrontation, wildmen, warriors and centaurs who turned to the wilderness, abandoning their settlements with the coming of Chaos.
I’m not saying that Kragnos will be given a race to lead by GW’s sculptors, and I’m certainly not saying that they’ll look anything like this. What I am saying is that Kragnos deserves some followers of his own, and that Destruction is overdue for the kind of treatment that Order, Chaos and Death have enjoyed. With Kragnos they’ve taken a bold step out of the Old World’s shadow, now let’s see where they go next. After all, GW have given us a broad hint that the little icon on Kragnos’ base is an allusion to things to come. Someone out there amongst the mountains and forests is excited about Kragnos’ arrival and it’s not just me!
Now despite all this I don’t think I’ll be painting Kragnos myself, he’s a bit big for my current painting plans (I have a whole lot of other monstrous figures I’d like to tackle first) but I’m itching to see what followers he may or may not have, and what direction GW decide to take this side of their range. In the meantime I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for more barbarian wrath on the way!
I don’t often promote kickstarters here, mostly because by the time I become aware of them it’s about six months after funding closed and I’ve missed out. This one however is one that I’ve had several enquires about from readers so more than merits me paying attention and giving a mention. In the past I’ve posted a few models from Black Crab, including these three weird looking characters…
… and this raggedy man.
I also have several more which I’m aiming to get painted… sooner or later. They make perfect civilians, particularly for the grubbier corners of the various Warhammer settings and would make fine additions to Mordheim or Cursed City, whilst being generic enough to sneak into a sci-fi setting like Necromunda. I’ve had several people ask me where I got them from but unfortunately the Black Crab range has only been available via their kickstarter campaigns. Right now however they’re having another campaign, this time to fund the creation of a beggar king and his court.
What’s more this means the older models are available once again. If you’re reading this right at the moment I hit publish then you have about four days to get your order in. If on the other hand you’re reading this several years in the future, well I tried to warn you!
Yesterday I managed to knock off work early – which is nothing short of a miracle at the moment I can tell you – and spent my hard-won free time assembling some of the models from the new Cursed City game. Let me say this first and foremost, they are downright gorgeous miniatures and will be a real pleasure to paint. However, having found myself enough time to catch up on world events I also discovered this week’s big news – that Cursed City has mysteriously vanished, as though into thin air.
I must admit, I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised that the game sold out so quickly. This has been a trend with recent releases from Games Workshop, with supply being far outstripped by demand – particularly on these boxed sets. Knowing that I wanted a copy, and reasoning that I would treat myself and get it straight away rather than wait until whenever it came back into stock, I set an alarm to remind myself and was waiting, wallet in hand, as soon as it went up for pre-order. I did not for a second imagine however that once it had sold out it would be gone forever. Indeed Games Workshop were quite openly promoting the idea that this game would be around for a while. It seemed natural to expect that this successor to Blackstone Fortress would be available in the long term, and just like Blackstone Fortress would have plenty of expansions to enjoy in the months and years to come. To illustrate the point here are a few comments that were made by Games Workshops promotional team on social media over recent weeks (cropped to protect the privacy of those members of the public who were being replied to).
Based on that one could be forgiven for assuming that you could take your time before ordering, plan your budget and buy a copy when it suited you, rather than having to shell out mere seconds after discovering the (not insignificant) cost of the damn thing. However the message from Games Workshop has now changed radically. As far as I’m aware the only official statement from GW has been this “tweet” posted on Twitter, which makes it clear that the game is now gone and gone forever…
Nor have they tried to make this announcement obvious. Instead it’s hidden away in a reply to a comment on a different topic, on a social media platform that many people don’t use (I know precisely zero people with a Twitter account) where it would be remarkably easy for it to go overlooked. Not that it has of course, judging by all the chatter that’s been generated online and the number of angry comments that appeared in that Twitter thread alone.
“But the plans were on display…” “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.” “That’s the display department.” “With a flashlight.” “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.” “So had the stairs.” “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?” “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
So what happened? Frankly your guess is as good as mine, although lots of people are guessing and very few of them are giving GW the benefit of the doubt. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity but right now it looks a lot like GW just spent the last couple of months drumming up interest, generating hype and focussing the attention of their fanbase on what then proved to be a spectacular own goal. It’s similar to the situation that arose with Indomitus last summer – with a few key differences. For one thing Indomitus was the “launch box” for the latest edition of Warhammer 40k – and that remains GW’s goose that lays the golden eggs, the behemoth that – regardless of what you think of it – dwarfs everything else in the miniature’s hobby without breaking a sweat. It was always going to be popular. Secondly GW made it very clear that Indomitus was going to be a limited release – and much as I disapprove of limited run releases at least they were upfront about it. Thirdly, when it sold out in precisely 3.5 seconds – reportedly making an absolute mint for GW in the process – they kept it on sale for a few weeks on a “made to order” basis. This time around none of that has happened.
Instead the game has vanished like a vampire caught in the rays of the morning sun, and GW would appear to be engaged in pretending it never happened. Scent of a Gamer reports that references to the game are even being removed from GW’s various websites and social media platforms. The past has never been altered. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. There never was a Cursed City and there’s nothing to see here…
Based on what we, as outsiders, can see this appears to have been a last minute decision, made after the game launch was already well underway. Despite all the (completely understandable) ire that’s being flung in GW’s direction I don’t see any evidence that they set out to lie to their fanbase, although the above screenshots demonstrate that time has indeed made liars of them. We live in a world where politicians cry “Fake news” every time they encounter a story they dislike, NGO’s promote a platform of “no debate” rather than attempt to convince a sceptical public that their ideologies have merit, and campaigners will stubbornly repeat “That never happens” regardless of how much evidence is brought to them that the thing they want to assure us never happens actually happens all the bloody time. Is it any wonder that businesses too prefer to obfuscate their way out of trouble? Equally is it any surprise that a public which trawls through a slurry pit of conflicting lies and counter-lies on the daily news might be feeling averse to bullshit? I, at least, will attempt to be honest with you and say I really don’t know and can’t guess at what happened. Perhaps some catastrophic breakage occurred which left the mould needed to cast the models beyond repair? Perhaps they strayed into someone else’s Intellectual Property and found themselves at risk of being sued – just a little bit ironic given their past behaviour – although I admit I can’t see what exactly that might be.
Regardless of what happened I managed to snag myself a copy so I can now sit here, looking over the rage and disappointment that GW have spun for themselves like the smug, self-satisfied bastard I am. As I’ve previously mentioned the models in this box are amazing and I’m looking forward to getting to work on them – although I acknowledge that this will no doubt rub salt in the wounds of those who missed out.
Anyway, I’m off to pat myself on the back for having managed to quote both George Orwell and Douglas Adams in this post, then cry in the shower whilst muttering “Must get clean, must get clean” (a normal side-effect to looking at Twitter and no cause for alarm) before getting back to painting my lovely, and apparently now very rare, miniatures. If you have a Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker, or a tinfoil hat for that matter, feel free to wear them and expound on your pet theories in the comment’s section below. It may well be that they are as close to the truth of what happened as we ever come – although I’d have loved to be a fly on GW’s office wall over the last few days…