I think I’ve mentioned this before, but some of my absolute favourite models in the Nighthaunt range are the Glaivewraith Stalkers, the sinister, animal-headed ghosts that hunt down those who have earned the ire of the death god Nagash. I painted one a while ago for my Nighthaunt Warcry warband but I’ve got a few of them kicking around from the Soul Wars boxset and these two, with the dread inescapability for which they are famed, have drifted slowly across the painting desk until my paint-stained fingers finally succumbed to the inevitable and I got them finished.
I do find these ghosts very relaxing to paint, especially when things are busy as they are just now, so I imagine there will be a few more showing up here sooner or later.
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.
It may be hard to believe but the Ossiarch Bonereapers were first released back in November of 2019 and not “just a few months ago” as my brain otherwise insists. At the time I dreamed of assembling a mighty army of them, but in the time since I’ve painted precisely zero. On the other hand I haven’t bought very many of them either so at least they aren’t gathering dust in the unpainted pile like some other projects I could name…
However that’s not to say I don’t have any of them at all, so – with Death on the rise amongst Games Workshop’s latest wave of releases – I decided that this was a fine moment to paint up a couple of Mortek Guard, the elite foot soldiers of Nagash’s legions.
I’m not sure if I ever will build my Bonereapers army, or if this is one of those projects that will remain forever on the wishlist, but I did enjoy working on these two enormously so expect to see the rest of their squad show up sooner or later. Probably later if I’m honest but luckily Nagash is infinitely patient…
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!
Time to dip a toe into the filthy streets of the Cursed City and what better place to start than with Watch Captain Halgrim. Once a senior member of the city watch, when the vampires took over the city and the purges began Halgrim betrayed his oaths and turned his coat, signing on with the new overlords in exchange for joining the ranks of the undead nobility. Sadly for him his treachery failed to pay off in quite the manner he was expecting. To this day however Halgrim leads the ranks of the city watch – though now both he and they are nothing more than decaying automatons.
It might be a while before I get around to painting the troops under his command but I’m certainly looking forward to them. Before that though, my next targets are a few skeletons of a different stripe…
I do enjoy a good pun so discovering that this ghost who flies around hitting people with a bell is called an Extoller was almost enough to make me paint him by itself.
This model is intended to serve as the leader of a squad of Grimghast Reapers but as these come in squads of ten and I only own the four that come in the Soul Wars boxset (and I don’t even know where all of them are at the moment) he’ll be restricting himself to serving as an alternative leader for my Nighthaunt warband in Warcry. He’ll also be another entry to the “Paint The Crap You Already Own” challenge from Ann’s Immaterium.
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…
I’ve no idea what the origin of this old Orc is. He’s been knocking around in my collection, started but not finished, for a good decade at least, possibly longer. The aesthetic of him reminds me very much of the models produced by Rackham for the – sadly defunct and much missed – game Confrontation. However I’m pretty familiar with that range and I’m fairly certain he’s not one of them. Any readers who happen to know where he came from please shout out in the comments.
Anyway, needless to say he’s been neglected for a long, long time – but he was never forgotten, which means he’s perfect for the Neglected But Not Forgotten challenge being run by Ann’s Immaterium.
He didn’t actually take me that long to get him from his half-finished state to completed, maybe an hour or so, which goes to show I could have done it any time in the last ten years or so. Still, he’s done now and I’m pleased with how he’s turned out. Big thanks to Ann for running the challenge, I’m fairly sure he’d still be gathering dust without it!
Whew – I don’t think I’ve painted so many different things in such a short space of time in my life! There have been times when I’ve painted a lot more models (69 miniatures in October 2018 being the highest monthly output since I started keeping a record although that was mostly a case of batch-painting Night Goblins so perhaps not quite as impressive as it first appears). This month I “only” managed 21 models, but they covered as wide a range of subjects as I could find – united by a single common theme, all of them were women. Yes we’re talking once again about the Fembruary challenge run by Alex of LeadBalloony.
For those unfamiliar with the challenge Fembruary is “a time of year for us to collectively challenge the male domination of our collections, and commit to painting some female miniatures”. The description adds “it’s a simple affair, just paint & post one or more female miniatures from your piles-of-shame, in the name of fair representation within the hobby” and notes “given that this is intended as an encouragement to think about inclusion in the hobby then it makes sense if your entries are kick-ass ladies”.
This year I was feeling both particularly enthusiastic about clearing my backlog and at the same time thinking a lot about the situation facing women both in my own country and abroad. Currently the government here is looking to bring in legislation which could severely limit our ability to even discuss issues affecting women, whilst taking away the sex-segregated services they need. It goes without saying that a lot of women, both in my circle of family and friends and the wider public, are frankly terrified. I don’t really want to get into the specifics of the debate, partly because this is a blog about miniatures and not really the right forum for the discussion and partly because there are activists out there who think that the appropriate response to someone saying “women are people too” is to make death threats and I don’t need that shit.
I try to walk a fine line with this blog. On the one hand I try to make my posts thought provoking when I can, and to dig a little deeper than simply saying “here’s a thing wot I painted”. On the other hand I’m very conscious of the fact that the world can be difficult, distressing and depressing at times and our hobbies are intended to be a release from all that. Then there’s the fact that, although the blogosphere is considerably more civilised than, for example, Facepuke or Twitter, many people fear any kind of online social or political discussion in case it erupts into an orgy of spittle-flecked outrage. At the end of the day people come here to look at pictures of miniatures, and although it’s my party and I’ll say what I want to, equally I don’t want to be a bore or start a fight.
It’s also a long and complex matter to try to dissect but we find ourselves in the odd position where, when I participate in Fembruary 2022, I may have to describe the kind of miniatures I’m painting without using the word “woman”, in case by doing so I cause someone offence – which under new laws could see me sent to prison. I know that sounds ludicrous to most readers but misogynist activists are already jeering themselves hoarse and claiming that they’ll exploit the new legislation to silence anyone who disagrees with them.
It should go without saying that, no matter what cause someone claims to be standing for, if a women says she feels unsafe and someone responds by threatening her with sexual assault and murder then the aggressor should not be hailed as brave. Such behaviour will always be abhorrent, regardless of how they try to dress it up. Regardless of what happens with this particular instance of state-sponsored misogyny watching events unfold has really emphasised to me the viciousness with which women in particular are attacked for speaking up.
Ours is a hobby which traditionally has been primarily male. The cliché of the out-of-shape, unwashed, nerdy (and of course single!) male gamer is a persistent one – despite the fact that my readers are to a man handsome, hygienic and erudite sexual stallions. We have worked hard to invite women into our hobby and the increased number of women – both in terms of miniatures on our tabletops and human beings painting and playing with those miniatures – is something well worth celebrating. Of course there are areas in which things could and should improve, and of course there will always be those for whom nothing is ever good enough. We just need to keep trying, keep discussing, and keep working towards something that works fairly well for everyone in the room who isn’t a total arsehole – and that’s basically the best that any society can hope for.
Anyway, in an effort to stop myself grinding my teeth right out of my head, I’ve found myself leaning heavily on my “go to” for calming my nerves and maintaining my mental health; painting miniatures. As a result what started out as simply an exercise in gathering together all the unfinished female models on my desk and trying to get a few completed turned into something of a marathon charge into the “pile of shame”. Let’s take a look at everything I managed to complete (don’t knacker your eyes peering at it, click on it for a decent sized picture!).
Not bad eh! I’m sure there will be plenty of hobbyists out there who could paint a lot more in a month, and to a much higher standard to boot, but this isn’t a race and I’m rather proud of my output. Along the way I added models to various ongoing projects and started a few new ones. We have three daughters of House Escher…
…three Blood Bowl playing elves…
… two explorers delving into the Blackstone Fortress…
…the Imperial Guard commissar Severina Raine from the Black Library novel Honourbound…
…a Stormcast Eternal…
…two Chaos Sorceresses…
…a Genestealer Cult Magus…
…an agent of Tzeentch…
… an old goblin witch…
…one of the grand ladies of the Adeptus Mechanicus…
…and a warband made up of the Daughters of Khaine.
Things might be a bit quiet here for the next little while, and certainly quieter than they’ve been recently. This is the time of year when my work goes into overdrive and this year is scheduled to be particularly hectic. I’ll still be painting miniatures when time allows though and I’ll try not to vanish from the world of blogging altogether, especially as I have a lot of projects up my sleeve that I’d like to be tackling soon.
Finally I’d like to give a shout out to Alex of LeadBalloony who organises this challenge every year. If you’re not already familiar with his work I highly recommend you go and check it out right away, and of course keep an eye out for the Fembruary round up, which he should be posting in the next few days, for a look at all the other talented people who’ve taken part.