Of all the chaos gods Tzeentch has always been the one who’s image is hardest to define. Slaanesh is lithe and unnatural, a punk-rock dominatrix who’ll leave soul begging for more. Nurgle is a jolly fat man, slow and generous and ripe with disease. Khorne is a beast-faced bullet, a roaring, stamping wall of bullish muscle waving a chainaxe at the world. All relatively easy to sculpt and paint – whether in violent pastels, putrid greens or bloody reds. Tzeentch is change, mutation and illusion and his colour is the colour of magic. The studio models may be painted in blue and purple shades but that’s only because Games Workshop have yet to find a way to add glittering octarine to their paint range.
In the past official efforts to capture the essence of this ever challenging god have been distinctly hit and miss. Indeed there have been a couple of fan projects recently which have more than equalled the studio’s output. Just take a look at these by Big Boss Redskulls, or these, by Nordic, showcased at the Convertorum. This weekend however the boys at Games Workshop have taken another crack at it, porting their success with boxed games in 40k over to Age of Sigmar and resurrecting Warhammer Quest into the bargain.
A few months ago I commented on this blog “Tzeentch’s followers are now fairly well represented. I might have preferred something a little more ‘Lovecraftian crawling horror’ and less ‘cartoon character’ but that’s a matter of personal taste. Now it would be nice to see some more emphasis on the god’s mortal followers; mad sorcerers, mutants, beastmen and of course the Thousand Sons themselves”. I promise that, at the time, I had no idea that this might be coming – being as I am extremely sceptical of the “rumour’s scene” that surrounds Games Workshop’s output in a haze of wild theories, wishlisting and general tin-foil-hat-ery.
I went on to say “Of all the gods Tzeentch is the chance for them to be the most creative, to come up with something visually arresting and unique”. Did they manage it? A quick look at this release reveals the answer to be a resounding yes.
A leaf through books like Realms of Chaos should be enough to remind anyone that there was a time when Games Workshop was much more adventurous than they’ve allowed themselves to be in recent years. Creatively they’ve become a little timid, preferring to explore already popular concepts rather than gamble with more outlandish ideas. Tzeentch knows however that change is inevitable. The creative team at Games Workshop have the power to be a creative force and it seems the fans are willing to follow them out of the power-armoured security blanket and into stranger realms. The Adeptus Mechanicus, the Wulven, the Genestealer Cults and now the Changer of Ways himself – all recent releases which have demonstrated that, for good or bad, Games Workshop are no long afraid to dig through the good ideas that had previously been thought resigned to the history books.Take the beastmen for example. Once upon a time concepts like this rendered them as true children of Chaos, the first offspring of the gods, an eclectic mix of creatures that over the years became safer and less complex, until we ended up with the goatmen of today. Personally I love the modern goats – as evidenced by my 40k Bloodgors – but I’d never deny that something is lacking; and that something is Chaos. Thus the Tzaangors are in many ways the most exiting bit of this release for me, representing as they do the return of the god-specific beastmen of old. Those wishing to keep their Thousand Son’s armies in line with the fiction can now add the native beastmen from the Planet of the Sorcerers to their ranks, and mix in some Kairic Acolytes for some really impressive cultists.
In this release a good creative balance also appears to have been struck – between the shapeless horror that Tzeentch represents and the almost comical or cartoon-like vibe which grants this god’s followers a particular element of unreality. When pulled together correctly, as in this image from the 1980’s, this creates a particularly malevolent horror which must resonate particularly with anyone who’s afraid of clowns.Sadly the modern horrors have emphasized only the cartoon-like elements, something the Silver Tower model does a little to address. Still with only one sculpt in the box it’s rather too little to make a significant difference. It would serve nicely as another alternative Herald of course – but Tzeentch isn’t really short on those.
This release isn’t just about Tzeentch however. Games Workshop have also taken the chance to show us something of the direction they’re planning to take the Elves in. I’ve always fancied creating a collection based around a Wild Hunt, with the more feral elements of the Dark and Wood Elf ranges combined into a single ferocious force, riding out in the heart of winter to fall like a blizzard upon the weak civilised races. In my madder moments this turns into a force of Exodite Eldar instead. This release contains two wonderfully elemental elves – a mage and an assassin – both powerfully reminiscent of the much-missed Rackham. If these really are a sign of things to come then I look forward to my self control crumbling altogether as I launch myself head-first into another project.If there’s a mistake with this release however it’s the lack of variety in the sculpts. Having pulled out a combination of creativity (the spider goblins are just the sort of mad genius that always brings a smile to my face) and high quality sculpting (the Skaven Deathrunners are particularly nice) they rather dropped the ball by repeating the same models, something which the already eye-watering price tag makes unacceptable. Still, so long as they keep pouring this level of creativity into the followers of Chaos then I’m inclined to be reasonably forgiving… so long as I can find a few bargains on ebay of course…