Tag Archives: AoS

Squabblin’ Goblins – Part 9

Not wishing to rest on my laurels – suitably green though they may be – when it comes to my Night Goblin army, I’ve added a couple more recruits, a pair of fanatics whirling destructively into battle. These two were half finished at the end of October and rather than allow myself to get distracted and leave them incomplete for who knows how much longer I wanted to put brush to model and finish them off properly.

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Unleash the fanatics!

Night Goblin Fanatics Convert Or Die (6)

Something I have been keen to avoid, especially after pouring so much effort into the army over the past few months, is allowing progress to stall entirely whilst I concentrate on other projects. Thus, whilst I was working on the fanatics I decided to press on and paint up this goblin shaman as well.

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With these latest additions the heap of unpainted greenskins continues to reduce in a pleasing manner but there is still plenty more to finish and, with signs of a forthcoming Moonclan/Night Goblin release from GW which may well lead to me relapsing into my old goblin-purchasing ways, I’ll keep chipping away at them for now.

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Spiritual Awakening

I’ve always been a big fan of the undead. Back in the old days when bases were square I dreamed of a vast host of walking corpses with which to dominate the living. Then I discovered how many skeletons I’d have to paint and rather went off the idea, plus the models for the zombies were ancient and terrible – and believe it or not they still are. Games Workshop; by far the most successful miniatures company in the world and they still can’t find the time to replace a staple of the fantasy genre like the zombie.

It wasn’t so much the number of bodies I needed to paint that put me off (I went for Skaven in the end after all) but the real world cost of buying them all, especially when compared to the rats which were at that time rumoured to be in the starter set for a forthcoming 8th edition. In the end though I did acquire a small collection of revenants and last year I even got around to painting them. I should probably have put them on round bases whilst I was at it but even then AoS was hard to take seriously, it’s background fiction a slapdash, cobbled together nonsense of copyrightable names and unfinished ideas.

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My zombie apocalypse begins – without the zombies.

Now, however, Games Workshop have recognised the value in expending some time and energy fleshing out the setting and the rest of us are reaping the rewards. It’s still a bit pompous and overly convoluted, it’s still a mishmash of ideas carried over from previous iterations and it still doesn’t always know when to be serious and when to be silly but that’s Warhammer for you. Things weren’t any different before the Age of Sigmar came along.

Anyway, the undead are back in town and my interest has been rekindled. The ghosts that we met in the Soul Wars starter set have been bolstered into a fully fledged fraction. Some of the new releases are the same or similar to the models that appeared in Soul Wars so I won’t go over them again here, if you want to know what I thought of them you know where to look. In the meantime let’s turn our attention instead to the rest of the new ghosts, starting with the big boss, Lady Olynder, the Mortarch of Grief.

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Looking around online I find myself wondering if I am the only person on the planet who’s not a huge fan of Olynder. Then again I’m not terribly enamoured with Nagash either, his model is just a little bit too over the top and special effect heavy for my taste. Released at the beginning of the End Times he falls down for me between his two incarnations – a little too big and showy to be the great necromancer of the old world, a little too small and unspectacular to be an actual god. Gods in my opinion should be too big and awe inspiring for the tabletop. Imagine a miniature of Khorne or Nurgle for example. Alarielle gets away with it, firstly by being awesome and secondly because there’s an exception to every rule.

As for Olynder, she’s nice enough but I’m not sure I share the rabid enthusiasm for her that others have displayed. The clever trick the designers have pulled here is that she is essentially a large, detail-light space, framed by detail-heavy elements; a blank canvas but one you would never really be able to play with without spoiling the illusion. I’ve got no doubt that there will be Golden Daemon entrants using her as an opportunity to create eye-aching works of technical perfection but to my taste I don’t think I’d find her either interesting or relaxing to paint. She’s not my least favourite Mortarch, that dubious honour falls to Arkhan the Black who shares his employer’s taste in ludicrous hats, but she’s a long way from the downright gorgeous Neferata.

That said there are some truly wonderful elements and the whole design is undoubtedly extremely clever. Look at the way she holds up the trailing hem of her dress for example, a very human gesture which grounds her as a person rather than just an ambulatory sheet. She doesn’t have to worry about tripping over, she doesn’t even have any feet, but we expect a bride to need to worry about her train and so the gesture humanises her and helps to turn a faceless absence into a relatable person.

Lady Olynder

By dressing Olynder as a Miss Havishamstyle bride the designers have also defined her by the absences around her. Instead of the groom and wedding ceremony she has only two little ghosts for company. She is forced into a role, and weakened by it. Neferata is a queen, Olynder will at best only ever be the wife of a king. That king certainly is not Kurdoss Valentian however, hunched on the looming throne he appears subservient to it, as though his incorporeal arse is only keeping it warm for someone stronger and he expects to get kicked off at any moment.

Olynder is also without doubt the most original of the four Mortarchs, the others harking back to the same motif; an undead general mounted upon a flying steed. Thus of the three named heroes available to the Nighthaunt, Reikenor the Grimhailer is the most immediately familiar.

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His steed is also surprisingly traditional for AoS where no-one seems to ride horses anymore when you can scoot about on a half-cat, half-dragon or a flying shark instead. With his winged horse, Kyallaron, which could easily pass for a Hellsteed he wouldn’t have looked out of the place in a Vampire Counts army and thus he acts as something of a sop to fans of a more traditional aesthetic.

Like the other Nighthaunt there’s nothing terribly fancy about Reikenor himself, a carved mask and a few candles being his only concessions to grandeur. Kyallaron however makes up for it, from his battered armour to the candelabra’s worth of candles stuck to his nose this horse is one of the most extravagantly dressed heroes in the Nighthaunt army. Or maybe he’s just angling for a job with House Cawdor.

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The angel statue deserves a special mention. A wonderfully evocative addition it almost feels wasted tucked away under Reikenor’s hooves and would make for a cracking terrain piece for either AoS or 40k were one willing to construct something else for the Grimhailer to gallop over the top of.

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Of the three new leaders however by far my favourite is Kurdoss Valentian, the Craven King. As a leader he’s a perfect exemplar of the army as a whole. He looks physically weak, hunched on the edge of his crumbling throne, his glory faded, the stone work of his dais breaking to dust beneath him. Unlike the rest of the range, which is defined by being ethereal to varying degrees, there is a distinct solidity to him; his throne may be floating but it is still a big lump of rock and the mace he clutches looks more than heavy enough to crush heads and break bodies. Kurdoss himself however is a wretched and frail creature, lacking the solid presence of the throne and weighed down both actually and figuratively by the weight of his crown.

The Craven King

Having three named characters, each of which could easily be the faction leader, serves to emphasise the feeling of weakness at the heart of the Nighthaunt. Can you imagine Neferata, Arkhan or Mannfred suffering competitors to their thrones? Yet whilst those three were powerful rulers in the Old World, with an independence and authority that defined their characters, these newcomers are nothing more than puppets for Nagash. No wonder Kurdoss Valentian sits so awkwardly on his throne.

Ghosts riding down their victims on spectral horses makes for a suitably terrifying image but for a long time the only way to represent this was with the less than spooky hexwraiths. Oddly, despite sharing a kit with the wonderful black knights, the hexwraiths are, at least to my eye, rather naff. Their upright poses and chunky garments make them quite the opposite to the spectral Nighthaunt we’ve seen released this month. Rather than being ghostly they’re just skeletons with lumps of plastic flame stuck to them at random. Luckily those wanting to paint spooky horsemen of actual quality are at last being rewarded. As well as the Knight of Shrouds and Reikenor we have the Dreadblade Harrows which sounds like the title of a Harry Potter book in which the plucky boy wizard joins a long and illustrious list of people who have aggravated Nagash and got away with it.

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We already received one spirit torment in the Soul Wars box now we have another, this time wearing a gibbet but still looking every inch the jailer. He carries a huge padlock clearly intended to serve as some kind of bludgeoning flail and it looks downright heavy too pulling the whole model towards the ground and needing both hands to support it. The narrative here is clearly and cleverly conveyed. He may carry the padlock and keys but he is the prisoner forced to lug them around and struggling under their weight.

He also comes with two spookily faceless bodyguards presumably to stop other ghosts trying to nick his keys. It would have been nice however if his mask had matched that of his peer in the Soul Wars box to tie the two together a little more and to help differentiate him from his body guards.

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Sadly I’m not at all keen on the Dreadscythe Harridans. Perhaps they would have worked better in isolation but looking at them one almost feels that the designers used the best ideas for the Myrmourn Banshees already and were struggling to match them. There are two squads of female ghosts available to this army and whilst one is pretty much perfect the other smacks of trying too hard with too little inspiration in the creative tank. Whilst the veils of the Banshees show little and imply a great deal to create a wonderfully spooky effect the Harridans just come across has a little hammy. As special effects go having a skull for a face has been done to death already and given that this is the Warhammer universe where skills are literally everywhere a ghost with a skull for a face probably doesn’t make the “Top 10 most frightening things I’ve seen this week” list for even the most sheltered of citizens. I do wonder how they would look with the serene death masks of the Sanguinary guard – if I’m right, the answer is downright terrifying.

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Then there are the flowers in their hair. I found myself asking if this might be sexist before deciding I was probably reading too much into it. Of course there is a long association of flowers with death, particularly to cover up the smell of ripe corpse puts out. Then again, as incorporeal beings ghost are not normally associated with being whiffy.

One wonders if the designers asked themselves “how do we represent female ghosts when all we have to play with his a white sheet with a skull on the front?”

“How about long hair?” another would ask.

“Good idea”, says the first, “but they might still be rock musicians”

“Hmmm.. how about flowers then – girls love flowers!”

Ultimately though it’s probably nothing and even if it isn’t it’s still a big improvement on boob armour. I don’t see any of the boy ghosts carrying floral arrangements into battle with them though…

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Apparently the Harridans are all former healers who are being tortured by Nagash. Hands which were once dexterous have been turned into lethal blades and the Harridans are driven forwards against their will to slash at the enemy.

Which begs the question; what does Nagash have against healers anyway? Was he once beaten up by a doctor? Did a surgeon mock his taste in hats? Did Morathi dump him for a sexy neurosurgeon who drove a sports car and was “good with his hands”? Surely it cannot be that by saving lives he feels the healers are denying him souls? It’s not as though any of them are promising immortality. The soul still goes to Nagash, the doctors are only delaying the inevitable. The soul may not arrive quite as quickly but to an immortal like Nagash the delay should be barely noticeable. If that’s what he’s upset about it just seems downright petty. I know that as characters go Nagash can spectacularly small minded when the mood takes him but such an obvious dick move just smacks of lazy writing and makes the whole narrative less compelling. A truly well written baddie is one you find yourself sympathising with but GW stamped out any hope of moral complexity here by firmly reminding us that Nagash is just an arsehole and Sigmar is the good man who we ought to be cheering for.

The opportunity was here to create something truly terrifying but alas the designers bottled out at the last moment and then added insult to injury by saddling them with some rather silly background fiction.

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Much better in my opinion are the Bladegheist Revenants.  There is a sense of speed and motion here unmatched not just in the Nighthaunt range but across the broader spectrum of AoS as well. Zombies and skeletons may have typecast the undead as slow and ungainly but these are anything but.

The masks are also much more imposing than any skull and, being separate components to the rest of the body, can easily be used to make anyone you want look terrifying. Necron lords, dark eldar, the henchmen of radical inquisitors, the elite of the chaos cults, a troupe of particularly malevolent harlequins, if you need to inspire fear simply apply Bladegheist masks. My only fear is that they might be a little on the small side, it can be hard to judge scale exactly until the miniatures are properly released.

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Sadly like the harridans their background seems a little off, at least based on what I’ve read of it so far. Apparently these are the ghosts of those who were murdered in confined spaces or buried alive and their wild swings comes from there frantic attempts to escape death during their final moments.

Their poses on the other hand would seem to imply skill as well as speed, the precise cuts of master duellists rather than the while hacking of those caged in an eternal claustrophobic death. Furthermore these have the look of elite warriors not trapped victims, a look intensified by their grim and fearsome masks. Again it’s a mismatch between design and execution that the writers would have been sensible to avoid. Far be it from me to stifle creative thinking but you can have too much of a good thing. On this occasion it smacks of trying a little too hard to be creative and ending up with something that is just contrived. Does Nagash need to have legions of ghosts defined by highly circumstantial deaths? The ghosts of those who were stabbed (but not shot) in meadows? The ghosts of those who were decapitated whilst on the phone? The ghosts of those who were poisoned whilst looking at a goldfish?

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I’m aware of GW’s desire to create unique and copyright-able concepts but surely this is over-egging it. One look at these models is enough to tell you everything about their battlefield role. They are fast moving and wield large, double-handed swords. Their job, therefore, is to punch through the enemy lines, forcing a breech for the other ghosts to pour through. Surely you don’t need to have died in a confined space to be a ghostly shock trooper? Surely you just need to be good at fighting and not afraid of dying and as a ghost you should have one of those things down pat already.

Black Coach 01

We really can’t talk about the Nighthaunt without sparing a moment for the black coach. Unlike the rest of the range it’s been around for quite a while and the outgoing model was already old when I first discovered the vampire counts range. The old coach however was a distinctly solid and earthbound affair drawn by skeletal horses with none of the dynamism that today’s techniques make possible. The old one was so sedate it was probably stationary, its wheels locked solidly to the ground and the driver fast asleep, whilst the new one rattles along so fast it’s become airborne. Where a sleeping vampire needs to go in such a hurry remains unknown but it plays right to the core of the vampiric mythos, an undead lord rushing through the night to perform some unspeakable business or speeding back to his lair before the coming of the dawn.

Black Coach 2

Since the coming of the Age of Sigmar there has been a fear amongst long time fans that many old classics maybe gone for good. Across the fence in 40K the grim darkness of the far future has been more than willing to plumb the glories of the past for inspiration. From Wulfen to Genestealer Cultists concepts long thought forgotten are back on centre stage. AoS however has preferred to be new and innovative. Who cares about old square based fuddy-duddy’s when you have flying dwarves and fish elves riding giant turtles?

In the old days things were predictable; sure the rat ogres and plague monks, the squig hoppers and zombies might look a little past their best but sooner or later Games Workshop would get around to them just as they had with countless other old kits. In this new era however nothing is set in stone. The plus side is that we’ve delved into a world of boundless creativity, the negative is that we might never see new versions are well loved old models. Now old does not necessarily equate to bad, I enjoy a lump of lead as much as the next man, but some of the early plastics especially really do deserve to be replaced and soon. The black coach then offers a little glimmer of hope that Games Workshop haven’t left their history behind entirely here.

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Speeding alongside the coach are a little flock of ghosts. I think these are intended as attendance carrying precious items for the convalescing vampire; a sword, a book and a chalice. The more I look at them however the more I think they are actually stealing things. There’s something conspiratorial about the glance exchanged by the two at the top, whilst the one at the side twitches the curtain aside for a nosey peek inside. The effect is emphasised by their positioning, hidden behind the coach’s driver and out of his line of sight. Of the lesser ghost we’ve seen these are the first not to be wearing iron shackles making me wonder more and more if they might be mischievous spirits who have temporarily escaped Nagash’s clutches and are now indulging in some stealthy high-jinx.

Thieving Ghosts

Back when I first got into Warhammer all the various sorts of undead where to be found under one banner, barring the Tomb Kings who were by then off doing their own thing. There were skeletons, zombies, ghouls and ghosts, all of them fairly generic, and generally there was one sort of each. Over time the range diversified but the idea of a whole army with a similar number of units to the Vampire Counts of that era made up exclusively of ghosts is still novel enough to blow my mind a little. Imagine if Games Workshop brought the same commitment to skeletons, zombies, even – dare I say it – mummies? And before you remind me that the Tomb Kings are dead and gone, never to rise again let me suggest that not all mummies are Egyptian. Imagine a race of bog bodies or corpse driven golems!

There is a line in the new Age of Sigmar rulebook which describes how, during the Age of Chaos, enslaved spirits were forced to dig up their own cadavers and mount their skulls on fortress walls. I wonder if Nagash has thought to do the same thing, sending the ghosts into the Nighthaunt and the corpses to become zombies – a sort of buy one get one free on undead armies.

In the old days the undead were defined by a lack of character. Hordes of zombies, skeletons or savage ghouls were puppeteered by powerful vampire lords and commanded to do their will. Beyond the most dominant undead creatures the person they had once been was entirely gone, all that remained was a cadaver shambling about doing its master’s bidding. The old Vampire Counts were equal opportunities employers, albeit also controlling micromanagers. Lords and peasants alike were welcome in their armies, your achievements in life made meaningless. Once they had you, you became a husk to do their bidding and nothing more. Not so the Nighthaunt. They are defined by their former lives and their deaths. Sometimes this is well written, the Craven King for example, at others it seems a little tagged on (the Harridans again I’m afraid).

If you’d told me before this release that Games Workshop planned a whole army of ghosts I would have questioned its viability. Could they really get a whole faction’s worth of models from such a simple concept without the whole thing becoming a little stretched and thin? Where would the variety come from? Games Workshop however have pulled it off in style. Some of the concepts are undoubtedly weaker than others but there’s nothing here that’s particularly objectionable.

This is the breath of fresh air that the Death range was desperately in need of, yet it’s not actually as radical as some of the things we’ve seen appearing amongst their living adversaries. Regardless of your thoughts on AoS (and frankly if you’re still full of rage and bitterness about the fate of the Old World it’s time to take a seat and re-evaluate) aesthetically and conceptually these tie in quite closely to the Vampire Counts of old, and the Shyishian Legions they’ve become. A High Elf might be a little taken aback if one of the Idoneth Deepkin waded ashore in Ulthuan, a Stormcast Eternal would cause quite a panic in the Empire and no true son of Grungni would tolerate the innovative thinking of the airborne Kharadrons, but a ghost from Silvania setting its eyes on a member of the Nighthaunt would at least know it was looking at a kindred spirit.

As usual however these are just my rambling thoughts and opinions. Are you a fan of the new ghosts or do you want to see them exorcised with extreme prejudice? Let me know what you think in the comments box below.

All the pretty pictures have been borrowed from Games Workshop without permission, barring the one at the top of my own Vampire Lord. He never did grow to become a terror in Silvania but I can hear him stirring in his grave in Shyish…  


All My Freinds Are Skeletons – Part 1

So it turns out that painting skeletons is a lot more labour intensive than I’d been led to believe. Surely it’s just a case of drybrush them with Ushabti Bone and go home?! Instead it turns out to be quite a lot of effort. No wonder I only got half-way through painting this squad the last time!

What’s more I’ve discovered the little devils are an absolute nightmare to photograph – all those shields and swords held over their faces (are they shy or something*?) casting shadows everywhere.

*I mean, I’m aware that they are notorious bashful about attending social functions, on account of having no-body to go with, but surely this is a bit much?

Anyway, enough of my griping, here’s the first half of the squad done at last.

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2015 – For Anyone Who Missed It

Well here we are at the very end of 2015 and what a year it’s been! In fact as I sit down to write this review it’s hard to know what to pick as the standout moments. The death of Warhammer? The birth of its golden armoured offspring Age of Sigmar? Bloodthristers tearing their way out of the Warp and onto tabletops across the world? Harlequins?

If I had to pick one though it would be the arrival of the AdMech as a fully realised range of plastic miniatures. Now some of you are probably shaking your heads a little at that and thinking “What’s he on about? He’s not painted a single Skitarii! He can’t spell half their names! He’s a foul heritek, what does he care about the loyal servers of the Omnissiah?”

On that front I’ll admit to being guilty of all charges, but let me offer a few words in my defence. To me the Adeptus Mechanicus is the most iconic of all 40k’s factions (yeah, take it Space Marines!) but for a long time it looked like they were forever lost in the warp, their emergence onto the tabletop nothing more than a pipe dream. In many ways (and I’m sure some of you will be accusing me of being a GW apologist for this) their appearance gives me hope that – even if it takes a while – Thousand Sons, Noise Marines, Sisters of Battle, and all the other overlooked elements of 40k will someday make it onto the production line and into our homes. As a society we’re not very good at being patient but I’ve got plenty of models to paint and time enough to wait. The chances of anything coming from Mars was a million to one they said. Yet still they came.

I already expressed my enthusiasm for the release back here and trust me – I may not have painted any yet but their time will come.

Now before delving into my own output this year I do want to (briefly) mention Age of Sigmar (cue groans from the crowd and a hasty assumption of entrenched positions).

Warhammer fans study the latest release for Age of Sigmar.

I’ve not learned to stop worrying and love Age of Sigmar – in fact my long standing issues with Warhammer have been replaced by a rosy nostalgia that glosses over the cracks and makes AoS seem even more bland and uninspired than it would on its own merits. I’m from 40k after all where neophobia is less of a problem and more of a way of life. However I just read Godless by David Guymer and the Slaaneshi warriors are just spot on. The disappearance of their god has rendered them complex and nuanced in a way they could never quite reach when they were winning. Their lamenting, aching horror at the denial of their prince grants them a real depth and poignance. I almost don’t want them to find Slaanesh (in the overall story-arch of AoS I mean, not the short story itself – no spoilers here!). However I’m willing to guess that everything we’ve seen so far is the set up for the quest to see Slaanesh freed – accompanied by new models for the Elves and their Slaaneshi opponents. When that day comes I hope they take a few tips from Guymer’s text in describing the appearance of the Dark Prince’s servants – seeing characters of that style captured by the same team that brought us the Putrid Blightkings and Bloodreavers would restore Slaanesh to the glory she deserves both in the hearts and the collections of Chaos fans everywhere.

First of all though there’s plenty of other gaps need filled if Age of Sigmar is to rise from Warhammer’s shadow and I think we’d all be highly surprised if a big chunk of 2016 isn’t devoted to this. Current rumours suggest that Dwarves may be just around the corner (and apparently they’ve taken to communicating in text-speak and they’re after your gold).

Let’s be honest – after all that talk of Slaanesh the skull is really thinking “5318008”

Anyway, I’m not just here to talk about what’s been going on in the wider hobby. I’m also here to talk about myself because, to be frank, I think I’m really quite interesting. For me it’s been a year in which my hobby output has been defined by Chaos (with both a capital and a small c). My loyalist space marines have slipped to the very back of the backburner and my poor Orks haven’t seen a brush since January but the Beasts of Ruin have gone from strength to strength.

As soon as I’d finished updating my Orks I started work on a little band of Khorne worshipping Terminators. At some point I’ll probably add another four to reach Khorne’s holy number of eight (someone at GW must be kicking themselves thinking ‘They keep adding models to make squads of eight. Why didn’t we think to make Khorne’s holy number 30?!’)

I also upped the number of Helbrutes in my collection to four – including the Nurgle infested Igorin Rotbringer (second from the right). To the left of him you’ll see the Ironghast Fury – another of this year’s new additions and the first model I’ve created as part of an online event. Dreadtober ran through October 2015 and encouraged as many people as possible to produce a Dreadnaught/Helbrute/Deff Dread or similar. If you’ve not already been to the site it really is time you did, feast your eyes on inspiration here. I’m not ashamed to admit that the Fury would still be unpainted if it wasn’t for this event so this won’t be the last time I do something like this either.
As well as the new Helbrutes I also added some new HQ units including a fallen Grey Knight, and finally got around to putting paint on the Chaos Lord from Dark Vengeance.

Nurgle continued to be a big influence on me throughout the year – mostly as a result of my ongoing experimentation with the Putrid Blightkings. As well as the Helbrute I showed above I also created this Daemon Prince – easily one of the most difficult conversions I’ve ever attempted and a forceful reminder to me that if you keep pushing yourself you’ll create better and better models (or stranger and stranger at least). Read more about him here.
Continuing the Nurgle theme I also decided to come back to my Plague Marines, another unit which dates back to the very beginning of my Chaos collection. I felt it was time to bring the squad to a conclusion (and so inevitably started another straight away). You can see what’s planned for the second squad here and here . Don’t worry though, this won’t be the last you see of Golothess and the boys.
I’ve also managed to add three Dark Apostles to the ranks this year. One to speak to the followers of Chaos Undivided.
One to consecrate the skulls taken in Khorne’s name.

And one to preach to the servants of Nurgle, from the smallest virus to the mightiest Daemon Prince.
Obviously that means I ought to make one each for Slaanesh and Tzeentch as well. A job for 2016 then…

Another job for 2016 will be continuing to build up my squads of Nurgle Chosen and Terminators. As it stands most of them are still in need of paint but here’s the first two finished.And of course I finished off my first full squad of Chaos Marines (which you may recall I showed just the other day).
Not all of the followers of the Dark Gods wear power armour however and this year I was able to get started on a long standing ambition; the Lost and the Damned. Alongside Ad Mech this is the army that I’ve aspired to most over the years so I’m extremely pleased to have this little lot painted at last. Expect to see a lot more of them in 2016.
If recaps of the year are your thing and you’re starting to panic that I’ve almost run out of words then I highly recommend heading to Heresy and Heroes or Big Boss Red Skulls (the latter is particularly exciting because he talks about me!). I’m also waiting (im)patiently for KrautScientist’s annual Eternal Hunt Awards but sadly they’re not up yet. Keep an eye out though – he assures us they’re on their way and they’re always well worth a look. Edit: And as promised the first part of the Eternal Hunt awards are now up so if you’ve missed them, have a look here.

Hopefully that little lot should give you something to read until I’m back in the new year, accompanied by a retinue of cheerful, excitable and unhygienic sidekicks. You have been warned!


Life Among The Ruins

Someone go to Holy Terra quick and toll the great Bell of Lost Souls once – Warhammer is dead. A world burns and, regardless of what you may have heard to the contrary, a man from Games Workshop is on his way to your house right now to smash up your models and force you to buy Space Marines.

Before he arrives let me share a few of my own thoughts on the passing of Warhammer. Be warned however, I am a long time 40k collector and painter – and nowadays a player of nothing. If you’ve just rage-quit in disgust rather than face the dawn of the Age of Sigmar then this may not be a good place to be. Spam your hatred of me in the comments box below, if it’s erudite – or even legible – I may just let it stay.

The truth is Warhammer never quite grabbed me in the same way 40k did. The miniatures are pretty nice, and that should be enough in itself, and it looked like it would be fun to actually play – something that never really clicked for me with 40k. I started several Warhammer armies over the years; my Skaven I’ve already shown, my Vampire Counts deserve an outing at some point as well. I’ve often dreamed of an Empire army (lots of black-powder, crazy contraptions and handlebar moustaches) or perhaps Wood Elves (especially post End-Times when I could add in some of the more feral elements from the Dark Elves to create a truly savage Wild Hunt). The only reason I never did much with either Chaos or Orcs was because I was already throwing all my ideas in that department into 40k. I even have a few Bretonian knights kicking around somewhere.

Skaven

My first Skaven – a gift from a friend a long, long time ago…

As it turned out none of these ideas went anywhere. As I have come to discover the hook I need to get me involved in a setting is the background. This is why, sidetracking slightly, I hate the term ‘fluff’. Fluff implies that what we are dealing with is extraneous extra stuff, designed to go around the key elements (the miniatures? the rules?) but hardly vital to them. Which, may I add, rather comes across as one in the eye for the ancient art of storytelling. No-one has ever put down a well-thumbed copy of Lord of the Rings, or sat in a cinema watching the latest Hollywood extravaganza and thought “Well that was some rather good fluff”.

The point I’m attempting to make is that a solid background makes a game. The Emperor has sat decaying upon the Golden Throne of Terra for more than two and a half decades now. What has happened to your miniatures in that time? How about your rules? With each new armybook or codex armies have risen or fallen in the “meta” and units have gone from “deathstars” to disposable and back again. Yet the fluff remains inviolate, the pillar upon which all else is built. And, when all is said and done, the 40k ‘fluff’ continues to excite me in a way that of Warhammer never did.

This isn’t a fantasy vs sci-fi debate, in fact I’d argue that 40k is far more fantasy than sci-fi (yes, it’s set in the future, but it’s also packed to the gunnels with magic, wizards, knights, dragons and elves – and not a single actual scientist in sight).

Not scientists…

The problem with the Warhammer fiction, for me, is that it appeared to be founded on a principle of ‘Never make a single, logic narrative step when twelve highly improbable ones would do’. As a result my credulity was constantly being stretched and I spent more time trying to follow the plot and remember which convoluted steps which led us here.
From what I’ve seen so far this reboot seems to be continuing the trend. If they wanted to move the timeline forward then surely this could have been done without destroying the world they had created in its entirety? Why not stop the End Times at one minute to midnight with the world reeling, every faction battered but Chaos suddenly on the defensive as the Gods withdrew their power from Archaon, preferring to toy with mortal lives for another age than see the world destroyed outright? And before you tell me that’s daft let me remind you, a precedent has already been set by a little known guy named Horus… Of course the world would still be in trouble, its cities in ruins, its armies shattered, its people driven to their knees. Chaos Lords, enraged by the nearness of the victory that had been snatched from them, would still be rampaging around the countryside seeking to make their mark in the power vacuum left by the death of Archaon. Orcs and Skaven fight over the ruins and everyone is out to seize limited resources off everyone else just to survive. Luckily for the forces of Order golden armoured heroes are descending from the heavens! The tide is about to turn!
Perhaps you think my ‘post End Times solution’ is rubbish fan-fiction, in which case fair enough, but surely it seems more believable than all this nonsense about some guy flying through space, hanging onto a speck of reality, then rebuilding some worlds by magic or what-have-you. Also my way would have allowed any characters players wanted to survive into the new era to do so. That elf prince you wrote all that background about? Well in my version he survived the End Times by being terribly heroic (your Skaven hero hid until it was all over). In the official version they both snuffed it and if you want them in the new world some unlikely miracle must have occurred. No, the only way they can exist ‘in game’ (and they do – there are rules for Special Characters in the pdfs on the Games Workshop website) is if one is playing ‘pre End Times’ – in which case why not just leave things at one minute to mid-night and skip out the whole ‘Sigmar flies through space’ thing altogether?

All of which should not give you the impression that I’m anti-Age of Sigmar, I’m actually pretty excited about it. As I’ve often said I don’t really game at all nowadays, but I still maintain an interest in game design and some of the decisions made in the creation of AoS strike me as well worth investigating. It remains pretty doubtful that I’ll play it but I’ll still be reading the rules with interest.

This brings us to another key point – the fact that I can just pick up the rules and read them. I’m not being asked to invest large sums in buying rule books, I can just grab everything I need for free, legitimately and without fear of prosecution. Welcome, Games Workshop, to the world of modern business! It’s a strange and exciting place but I’m sure once you catch your breath you’ll fit right in!

The fact of the matter is, the rules have been available for free for quite some time. Piracy, once the sole domain of dashing looking men with eye-patches and poor dental hygiene, has come ashore and made its way online. If you know where to look – and who doesn’t – then all the rule books you require can be yours for free (albeit not legally). The aim of this piece isn’t to justify piracy, you can make up your own mind about that, but to deny its happening is the height of foolishness, especially for a company in Games Workshop’s position. The solution? Cut the rug from under the pirates’ feet, give the rules away for free and use them to sell a product that people are excited to buy – the miniatures.

As someone who’s main interest in the hobby is painting and converting models this is the real meat of the release for me; the warriors of Khorne doing battle with Sigmar’s holy warriors, the Stormcast Eternals. Obviously as a devoted servant of the dark gods I’m pretty excited about the former as I can already see all sorts of possibilities for adding them to the ranks of my own black crusade. As for the latter they too should translate to the dark future, one way or another.

Before I go on let me stress the point – these models looks pretty amazing as fantasy models, my 40k slant is purely that’s probably where I’ll be using them.

Anyway, as absolutely everyone has been saying, the Stormcast Eternals would look fierce as Custodes. Of course to truly match the Custodes they’d need those tall helms that must make them bump their heads if they ever find themselves fighting indoors. Still, there are plenty of options available to make that possible whilst the death masks of the sigmarites can be recycled onto Blood Angels, psykers, mutants, navigators, mechanicum thralls, Slaaneshi warriors or anyone else you can think of who looks debonair in a mask.

A few bolters, backpacks and chainswords away from being the best Space Marines you’ve ever seen.

Even if you don’t want to turn these guys into Custodes they could still make for some damn fine Space Marines (to be honest I think the popularity of the Custodes idea springs in part from them being painted gold). Indeed if these models are as large as they’re said to be, and as plentiful as starter set models generally become, then we could be looking at a golden opportunity for true-scaling space marines. The Lord-Relictor is a few minor conversions away from being a jaw dropping Chaplain and how about taking the skeleton he’s holding and mounting it on the front of a dreadnaught?

New Chosen of Khorne for my Beasts of Ruin? I rather think so!

Anyway, I’m writing this with hasty over-excitement in a cafe, so before they throw me out I’m going to wrap this up. As usual if you have any thoughts feel free to put them in the box below. Cheers!