Tag Archives: Chaos Space Marines

Cursed In Eternity – Part 5

Some readers may recall that amongst my various hobby plans I’m trying to reclaim my favourite models from my old chaos space marine army and recreate them using the new kits released this year.  Thus those of you familiar with the deepest recesses of this blog’s archives (you poor souls!) may recognise this chap from his previous incarnation.

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For those who need a reminder however here’s version 1.0 – now broken up to provide the bits needed to complete his rebirth.

Whilst I was working on him I convinced myself (against all logic) that it would be just as easy to paint two models as one – it’s all the same colour scheme right? With a second model already assembled and sitting close at hand it was easy enough to hitch him up to the enthusiasm I’d already built up and power through him as well.

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All this is very good and worthy of me and I was feeling suitably pleased with myself when, halfway through painting them, Azazel announced his latest monthly challenge “Squaddie September“. The goal of the challenge is to paint squads of models (this being a fairly rough number – with a suggested minimum of three models – check out Azazel’s original post for a full explanation, especially if you’re thinking of joining in yourself). Although I’m not a gamer by any means I am aware that a squad of chaos space marines need between 5 and 20 miniatures – one of whom has to be an aspiring champion. Why not use this opportunity, I found myself thinking, to paint up a champion as well? Somehow the will of the dark gods carried the day and rather than seeing all three stall as a result I built up a feedback loop of enthusiasm that saw them all over the finish line.

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With these three done I’ll allow myself a small pat on the back (the dark gods being generally in favour of hubris amongst their champions after all). However once again thanks are owed to Azazel for running his challenges, I’m not sure when I would have got around to tackling all three of these otherwise so I really can’t recommend them enough as a way of getting things done.

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What’s more, with three new recruits added the squad is starting to look more like a millennia old warband of hardened killers – how could I say no when they demanded a group shot?

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For now I think that’s scratched the itch for power-armoured chaos but the eye of the warp never closes so I’ll undoubtedly be drawn back to the worship of the thirsting gods soon enough.

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Return To Prospero

On the whole, we who follow the Ruinous Powers have enjoyed an excellent few years. In many ways the story of Chaos-loving 40k fans and the story of Chaos in the 41st millennium can be seen to mirror each other, surely a case of the warp twisting reality and reflecting it back at us! For many years we were isolated in the wilderness, forgotten by the Imperium that had birthed us, reduced to sticking spikes on to loyalist marines by way of generating new recruits and brooding on our bitterness. The glory days of the Heresy (that would be Realm of Chaos and Codex 3.5 then!) lay far behind us and, despite the occasional Black Crusade to enliven things (2012 was a good year) we were undoubtedly surviving rather than thriving. Then, after an eternity in exile, our luck finally changed. The Cadian Gate fell, the little green army men tasked with defending it receiving at long last the kicking they so richly deserved, the Cicatrix Maledictum split the galaxy in two and we were back in action! Since 2016 we’ve seen the appearance of the Thousand Son, Death Guard, Chaos Space Marines, Chaos Knights, Gellerpox Mutants, a growing army of traitor guard thanks to Blackstone Fortress and choirs of daemons for all four of the gods. Assuming that western civilisation doesn’t collapse in the meantime (hardly a safe bet these days) it seems sensible to assume that the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children will come bellowing and screaming out of the warp sooner or later, probably within the next couple of years. It’s a good time to be bad! Even if the worst happens and the dubious leadership of our political masters leaves the planet as a wasteland us Chaos fans will at least find a comforting familiarity to life as mutant tech-barbarians whilst the oldhammer fans amongst us will survive the fallout in style, comfortably ensconced behind a wall of lead.

Despite the fact that Games Workshop haven’t dropped so much as a single hint to this effect (and it’s worth noting that traditionally they don’t) few fans feel any real doubt that the Khornate and Slaaneshi legions are on their way. After all, the idea that GW might abandon the Chaos project unfinished seems desperately unlikely. What about the Thousand Sons though? Surely they are a finished entity, done and dusted for the foreseeable future? Allow me to argue otherwise.

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When the Thousand Sons were released at the tail end of 2016 for many Chaos fans it was a revelation. Writing about it now it’s easy to sound hyperbolic, after all these are still just toy soldiers we’re talking about right? Nonetheless for fans of the legions this changed everything. Suddenly Chaos went from just two fractions (Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Daemons) to potentially dozens – something GW hasn’t failed to capitalise on since. I think we’d all hoped to see a plastic kit for Rubrics someday but Scarab Occult Terminators had always floated close to being a pipedream for me, and seeing things like tzaangors or a living primarch fell well out with even my most enthusiastic daydreams.

In days of yore the range of models available to any given chaos legion were all drawn from a single codex (Codex: Chaos Space Marines to be precise). There were a few upgrade packs and/or metal bits for cult troops (these being the plague marines, rubrics and noise marines), plus the distinctly elderly looking berserkers and a small group of special characters, but in the main the way to distinguish one legion from another came down to the colours in which they were painted. With the release of the Chaos Space Marines and Death Guard codexes we’ve seen a widening of the gap between Nurgle affiliated Chaos Space Marines like the Purge and the true Death Guard legion of old. There are commonalities but each is a distinct entity – allowing one, if you so wished, to create two very different collections of models. The same however really isn’t true of the Thousand Sons.

Rubric

For one thing I think it’s worth noting that whilst there are many similarities between the Death Guard and the Purge, or the Emperor’s Children and the Flawless Host, the Thousand Sons and any given Tzeentchian warband are worlds apart. If anything of the Thousand Sons deserve more uniqueness not less. Despite this the Thousand Sons find themselves leaving much more heavily on Chaos Space Marine units than the Death Guard. The former share 15 units with the chaos space marines, with 8 units unique to them, whilst the proportions for the latter are 13 each (by my count – and my figures may be wrong, I’m no plaguebearer).

Those differences serve to really define the Death Guard as more than just Nurgly Chaos Marines, allowing them a radically different aesthetic and range of units available to them. Of course we cannot know the future but it is to be hoped that the Emperor’s Children and World Eaters, assuming they do appear, will follow a similar format. Where once some models would be painted green for Nurgle and others pink for Slaanesh, now the potential interest and depth in the Chaos range at last begins to be tapped.

However by sharing so much common ground with the Chaos Space Marines the Thousand Sons feel to me to be a lot less unique than their Death Guard cousins. Despite having their own troops, even their own terminators (albeit only the one type compared to the Death Guard’s two) by falling back on the same vehicles and other kits as the Chaos Space Marines that uniqueness is diluted. A heldrake for example shares a lot of aesthetic ties with the wider Chaos Space Marines range that makes it fit in perfectly alongside them but no amount of a blue and yellow paint will make it look like anything more than an outsider amongst the Thousand Sons. I must confess to cursing when the heldrake was removed from the Death Guard range but time has proved the wisdom of that decision (for me at least). Heldrakes based on zombie dragons swooping above maulerfeinds kitbashed from maggoths, whilst warpsmiths surrounded by semi-organic mechadendrites bursting from there cancerous armour and bloated plague bikers roaring alongside – it’s a wonderful and entirely attainable image for an army and yet a very different entity to the Legion commanded by Mortarion.

Crucially despite these differences a Nurgly chaos space marine remains similar aesthetically to a member of the Death Guard. Both start out as fairly standard looking space marines upon which are layered the unpleasant attentions of Nurgle. The same however cannot be said of the Thousand Sons and their peers amongst the Tzeentchian chaos space marines. Magnus’ legion already looked unique at the time of the Horus Heresy. With their ornate armour and tall crests they deviated far further from the marine aesthetic blueprint than even the most radical of their cousins. Since then they’ve been essentially trapped in amber – spared the mutation which blights their fellow traitors by Ahriman’s rubric which turned them to dust within their armour. A later-day space marine breaking his vows to the Imperium and swearing his soul to Tzeentch would be unlikely to choose to cosplay ancient Tizcan ceremonial dress as he hurries to make his escape into the Great Eye. Likewise mutation will be rife, Tzeentch being rather keen on gifting his followers with a constantly changing array of mad appendages, something the modern Tzeentchian needs to learn to cope with without the dubious benefits of Ahriman turning him into a mindless automaton.

Sorceror

Perhaps the most striking example of the aesthetic divergence between the Thousand Sons and the Chaos Space Marines is the helbrute. These fleshy giants are to the traitor legions what dreadnoughts are to the loyalists, huge and powerful walkers piloted by mortally wounded space marines. Rather than see a great hero of the Imperium die he is placed within one of these engines to battle on – yet whilst for a loyalist space marine there are few higher honours, for the traitors incarceration within a helbrute is a terrible punishment and curse, and the result is a lifetime of torture.

Featuring as much bulging mutated flesh as it does metal the helbrute fits in well with chaos marines of all stripes, with the exception of the Thousand Sons. Here its meaty, bloated form seems out of place – although it would fit in well with other Tzeentchian marines. The developers acknowledge this contradiction and attempt to explain it away with a little success.

In the early days following the Heresy the Thousand Sons were wracked by mutation as Tzeentch showered his gifts upon them. Rather than see the whole legion degenerate into idiot spawn Ahriman cast his infamous rubric and the majority of the Legion were saved from mutation – instead ending up as perambulatory suits of armour, containing nothing more than weak psychic ghosts and the dust of their former occupants. By the time this happened however many of the legion’s dreadnoughts had already mutated out of control turning into the first helbrutes. Recognising their utility in battle some sorcerers decided to try making more of them. Finding themselves mysteriously short on applicants from within their own legion the Thousand Sons set up the internship program from hell, inviting wannabe sorcerers to join them to enjoy a full training program. Rather than the 41st millennium Hogwarts they had been promised the unlucky aspirants find themselves bundled kicking and screaming into a helbrute’s central coffin. Why such an elaborate scheme is considered necessary when any injured space marine would do, and how word has failed to spread amongst the cut-throat warriors of the chaos legions that unexpectedly generous offers by the Thousand Sons might not be entirely trustworthy, is glossed over.

Helbrute

Personally I love the helbrute model but, despite this explanation, I find myself sceptical and I just don’t think it fits in all that well amongst the Thousand Sons. I’d rather convert a loyalist dreadnought to represent a member of the old Legion turned to dust inside his sarcophagus. However what I’d really love to see someday is something akin to the Blood Angel’s Librarian Dreadnaught, a psyker dreadnought by which a sorcerer might continue to work his schemes in a mechanical afterlife. After all, whilst the other Chaos forces must make do with helbrutes, a legion devoted to hunting out secret knowledge should be more than capable of getting a dreadnought up and running satisfactorily, allowing a powerful psyker to stamp his way across the galaxy in style.

I’m sure the presence of gaps within the Thousand Sons range, particularly as opposed to the Death Guard, won’t come as news to Games Workshop. In an effort to flesh things out they delved into their other ranges in search of kits which might find a suitable home amongst the sons of Magnus. Alongside a range of daemons (mirroring the approach taken with the other chaos forces and harking back to my early days as a collector when daemons and mortals fought side by side) they also borrowed two tzaangor units to swell the ranks of the beastmen. The tzaangor shaman is an excellent model and fits in perfectly here, whilst the Tzaangor Enlightened may risk looking like fantasy escapees when armed with bows but fit in much better when given chainswords and pistols.

Mutalith Vortex Beast

Lastly we have the hulking Mutalith Vortex Beast. It’s a bit of an odd model, a giant beast with a mass of tentacles for a face and a huge magical star mounted on its back. The kit can also be used to build a Slaughterbrute, a model I’ll confess I find impossible to like. The Mutalith Vortex Beast is better but still flawed. Perhaps if I saw it in the flesh it would help me make up my mind but I can’t recall ever encountering one and so I remain on the fence regarding it’s questionable aesthetic charms. Even at my most charitable however it’s hard to see it as anything other than an ugly old model shoehorned into an army it wasn’t originally intended for. Giving its unappealing appearance and meaty price tag, it’s easy to assume it didn’t sell as well as they hoped and that shoving it into the Thousand Sons range is a desperate attempt to boost its sales. In my opinion the Thousand Sons deserve better.

Indeed I’d go further than that. Chaos deserves better; the legions should be explored in full, with the Death Guard and Chaos Space Marines ranges as the model for the depth and quality to which they are treated. The fans deserve better; whether they love Chaos or simply want to see a fully realised adversary against which to pit themselves (and indeed see their own faction given the same care and attention). Games Workshop deserve better; to hold their heads high and say “This is what we do, and we do it well, and even if something seems a bit niche or strange we have the talent to pull it off”.

And yes, I’m aware that these things take time, the resources are finite, that not every faction can be given their full attention all the time. Rome was not built in a day. GW however are fond of advertising “aspirational armies” at me all day so I shall respond by describing aspirational product!

Magus

Part of the reason for the Thousand Sons being on my mind is that my birthday is coming up soon (aye, happy birthday me!). Last year my partner gave me Magnus the Red and so far I’ve only got as far as assembling him before my trepidation for tackling large miniatures, combined with my determination to clear my desk of half-finished projects, caused me to stall. I did promise myself that I’d tackle him as soon as the Chaos Knight is done, and yes – I’m aware that I owe you all a progress report on that too! In the meantime I’ve made a pretence of progress by thinking about the Thousand Sons a lot instead.

Magnus, Magnus I call it gladness

Tzeentch has always been a tricky god for GW to tackle. Khorne and Nurgle are relatively straightforward – if in doubt a roaring chainaxe or some exposed guts will go a long way. Slaanesh was harder, a heady mix of sex, drugs and rock and roll, which has both attracted and repulsed the company over the years. Tzeentch however the most problematic of all, combining magic with mutation – neither of them easy to achieve. Mutation may be a hallmark of Chaos but it’s a double-edged sword. Played right and the result is fantastic and creative models, played wrong and you end up with the Chaos Forsaken from old Warhammer, an ill-defined mess.

Meanwhile magical effects are a clear case of less being more, and even with the undoubted talent of the GW design team and the advances in modern model making its hard to render sheets of living lighting or warp-flame in plastic. The Tzeentchian daemons range captures this neatly; some are good (the Lord of Change, blue horrors and heralds), some are bad (the less said about the pink horrors the better) and some are just plain weird (even after many years of careful study I can’t honestly tell you if I like the flamers or not…). Given these challenges you can hardly blame them for concentrating on the ever popular Khorne and Nurgle.

Returning to the Thousand Sons, GW showed remarkable restraint in not throwing magical fireworks everywhere, whilst the Rubric of Ahriman saved them from the thorny mutation issue. However the Rubric also creates an issue in that it serves to limit the range of roles available to be explored with future models. Regardless of what you did before the Rubric, afterwards you were either turned to dust or psychically powerful enough to survive. If you fell into the latter camp then a career as a sorcerer was yours for the taking, with all the power that brought. If you were amongst the former then you didn’t get much say in the matter anymore. What’s more the traditional specialist ranks become essentially redundant, with no-one having much call for apothecaries, tech-marines and so-on when magic can fix anything. New specialist sorcerers would have a certain merit, perhaps based on the cabals and disciplines of ancient Prospero which take a prominent role in the Horus Heresy novels. However the further the sorcerers are explored the more top heavy the legion risks becoming, with loads of HQ’s and not a lot else.

More troops would be nice but it’s hard to picture rubrics doing anything fancy and although in theory I’m sure you could have rubric assault marines (if the controlling sorcerer gave the appropriate psychic nudge) it doesn’t really fit with my mental image of the army to see them hurtling through the skies. Plus the Thousand Sons, sadly, exist in a scale of their own – the models being a little bigger than the older Space Marines but still a bit short compared to the Chaos Marines and Death Guard that came after. As a result I suspect  GW might not want to draw attention to the fact by returning to the rubrics any time soon. Rubric Havocs and phalanxes of close combat rubrics are nice to imagine but I suspect they might be a long time in coming…

More Tzaangors and mutant beasts are always nice (I’ve never met a Tzaangor I didn’t like) but the greater their presence in the army the more the power-armoured element is diminished and the less it feels like a Thousand Sons army.

One thing it would definitely be nice to see is some more vehicles and daemon engines. The Death Guard have the Plagueburst Crawler, the Foetid Bloat-drone and the Myphitic Blight-hauler to call their own, the poor old Thousand Sons have to borrow the Black Legion’s wheels when Abaddon isn’t using them. Surely some uniquely Tzeentchian vehicles aren’t beyond the wit of GW’s designers to conjure up? Or how about replacing the heldrake with something more uniquely Prosperine?

Thousand Sons

On the whole the Thousand Sons remain one of my favourite factions in 40k. Seeing them reborn in 2016 was one of the defining moments of my hobby career and I have no real complains about the range of models we received. However I do feel that it’s not just greed that leaves me wanting more. Right now the range feels as though it’s been bulked out with filler rather than being afforded the attention that was lavished on the Death Guard (wonderful though that was too). Hopefully the time will come when GW recognises that something is needed to elevate the range to the giddy heights enjoyed by their peers. Even if we have to wait until other legions are explored I’ll be happy enough, just so long as they don’t leave Magnus and his boys in the dust forever.

Do you agree or are you too busy standing around on Fenris widdling on a tree? Do you have a dream model you’d love to see added to the Thousand Sons some day? The comments box is all yours!

All images copyright Games Workshop and half-inched by Ahriman when he went in to renew his membership of the Black Library.


Blackstone Fortress: Obsidius Mallex

With many of the rank-and-file Blackstone Fortress baddies now complete it’s time to turn my attention to the big boss himself; Obsidius Mallex. Lord of the Chaos forces present in the fortress and the architect behind their villainous schemes, Mallex is an imposing presence in the game. Even though we never encountered him when we played I think we were all faintly terrified that he might put in an appearance and wreak terrible havoc on our beleaguered band of explorers, who already had to contend with all of the other hostile creatures present and our often shaky grasp of the rules.

When it came to painting him I stalled for a little while trying to decide whether to go with the colour scheme of my Beasts of Ruin Chaos Marine army or paint him in the black and gold of the Black Legion. in the end, despite using the former scheme for the games’ other Chaos Space Marines, I decided that the latter option was the way to go. After all, I didn’t want him to represent just any old generic Chaos Lord (something for which the model is now also available) but Obsidius Mallex himself. To me he isn’t “just” a chaos lord in the same way that Janus Draik isn’t just a rogue trader. Plus I wanted to practice painting the Black Legion colour scheme before I tackled what remains for me the best miniature released this year, Abaddon the Despoiler. And anyway – just look at that face! There’s no denying he’s a son of Horus!

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As for why two of the Beasts would be fighting under the command of a Black Legion lord my reasoning is that my Beasts of Ruin are allied with Abaddon’s legion and some were fighting alongside Mallex when his ship was snatched from the triumph at the Cadian Gate and swallowed up by the Blackstone Fortress. I suspect that Chaos Marines often move from one warband to another in this way, and they would eventually adopt the Black Legion colours, unless of course they manage to rejoin their old warband in the meantime. At some point I’d like to paint a few more Black Legion marines to accompany Abaddon (when I finally pluck up the courage to tackle painting the true Warmaster himself!).

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With Mallex done that’s the main cast of villains out of the way apart from the ranks of the traitor guard. Until now I’ve been content to leave these and draw upon the collection I’d already painted for my old Chaos army. Now however their moment has arrived so expect to see the dregs of the Great Eye putting in an appearance soon.


Cursed In Eternity – Part 4

Since the release of the Chaos Marines back in April I’ve been feeling enthused about painting some more of these murderous power-armoured warriors. However having also set myself the task of painting up the contents of Blackstone Fortress I don’t want to allow myself to become too distracted by other projects just yet. Luckily there is a way to combine the two, by painting the pair of Chaos Marines who serve as henchman to Obsidius Mallex, the terrifying chaos lord who dwells in the heart of the fortress and serves as the games primary bad guy. Thus I’m able to kill two birds with one stone – and they say men can’t multitask!

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Rather than paint the second Blackstone Fortress Marine I decided to add some visual interest and paint one, suitably armed with a bolter of course, that I’d kitbashed based around the new plastic kit. Sooner or later I’ll get around to painting the second Blackstone Fortress chaos marine but for now this guy will do nicely.

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With these two done I’m another step closer to being able to play a game of Blackstone Fortress using only painted models, rather than the shameful display of bare plastic that I inflicted on my (very polite and tolerant) friends last time we played.

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What’s more, when I add them to the two I’ve already painted I have the beginnings of a squad which only needs a champion to be ready for action.

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Hopefully these two will scratch the chaos marine itch for a little while longer, allowing me to focus my attentions on the other inhabitants of the Blackstone fortress. Of course given the lure of Chaos its almost inevitable that, even with numerous mortal servants of the ruinous powers lurking in the fortress, I’ll find myself painting another power armoured giant or two  before long…


Cursed In Eternity – Part 3

Time for painting has been thin on the ground lately but over the last few days I have at least managed to squeeze in a bit of kitbashing and assembling models. Back when I reviewed the latest Chaos Space Marine releases I theorised that both the Master of Executions and the Dark Apostle would be greatly improved by a few judicious tweaks and adjustments. Time to put my money (or my foot) where my mouth was.

First off let’s take a look at the Master of Executions. For anyone who needs a reminder here’s the official studio model in all his gristly glory.

Master of Executions

My hypothesis was that this model would be a lot more inspiring, for me at least, if he was wearing an imposing Khornate helm, as opposed to either of the standard heads included in the kit. Did it work? Well I’m happy with it, although of course you’re welcome to draw your own conclusions…

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The only other major change I made was snipping away the helm of the Primaris marine impaled on the top of his backpack – it was making that part of the model rather busy and its impact was lost behind the Khornate crest. I’ll find a use for it somewhere else though – you can always use more spiked loyalists in a Chaos army!

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The Dark Apostle was a little more complex, whilst the Master of Executions just needed a little added visual interest this one had some elements I thought were genuinely bad, which – combined with a general overabundance of details – made for a model in dire need of improvement. Again, let’s remind ourselves of how the studio model looks.

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…And that was the last time he was allowed in the library…

Given my often-expressed dislike of sculpted flame that was the first thing that had to go, followed by a lot of careful scraping and cleaning to hide the resultant damage. Some slight greenstuff touch-ups will undoubtedly follow before he’s completely ready for paint. The flames on the backpack also went although I kept the hideous drool emerging from the book. I also swapped out the head for something more reminiscent of a Space Marine chaplain – of which the Dark Apostles are very much the dark reflection. I’ve always thought the reaver heads would work nicely on Chaos models but so far I’ve only been using them for loyalists so this should be a fine chance to do something a little more grim and twisted with this particular component when it comes time for painting.

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Again any thoughts or suggestions are more than welcome, I feel he still needs a little extra before he’s ready to paint.

Whilst I was about it I also took the chance to explore more of what can be done with the new Chaos Marine kit, including making the champion for my first new squad.

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In turn this led to knocking together a few new plague marines. My love of Nurgle has drifted a bit lately but I felt pulled back to the plague god’s side whilst I worked on these so who knows, sooner or later I’ll give the Grandfather’s Legion the love they deserve.

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There’s certainly a lot of fun to be had by mixing parts from the plague marines and chaos marines kits together, something I’ll definitely explore more as I go on.

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Rather pleased with the choice of head on this one – anyone want to hazard a guess as to where it’s from? It’s not too obscure but I’ve not seen anyone else use it yet and I’m smugly proud of the fact (indeed the same goes for the head on the Plague Champion above).

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Anyway, that’s all for now but the weekend is almost upon us – who knows, I might even find an hour or two for painting!


Cursed In Eternity – Part 2

A few weeks ago I posted some pictures of my first new chaos space marine and noted that, as well as creating lots of new models from this versatile kit, I also wanted to try to recreate some of my favourites that I’d built with the old kit – but in a manner rather closer to the way I’d always imagined them. Well I’m pleased to say that the first of these experiments has now borne fruit.

I’m not entirely sure now when I painted this chap but I first featured him here way back in the heady days of 2014 when this blog was taking its first tentative steps into the world. Let’s take a look at him.

I’m not ashamed to admit, my ability as a painter wasn’t anything to write home about back then. With both my skills and those of GW’s sculptors having come on somewhat it was past time to give this poor warrior a new lease of life, so I plucked him from the box-of-shame in which he was now residing and set about recreating him in a form closer to the way I’d always imagined him.

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And here we have him next to the first of his brothers in depravity.

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Overall I’m pleased with how the evil old so-and-so has turned out, the new Chaos Marines kit is really proving itself to be extremely versatile, so expect to see more in this vein in the coming months.


An Age of Chaos

It’s a fine time to be a heretic. After many fallow years the forces of Chaos are back, and in a big way. First the Thousand Sons came marching back onto the galactic stage, accompanied by our first ever plastic daemon primarch, then the Death Guard joined them (with an even bigger selection of miniatures, and another daemon primarch). Now it’s the turn of the broader sweep of Chaos’ mortal followers, those who have not dedicated themselves utterly to a single god, who have broken from the legions of old or who have turned from the service of the Imperium more recently, and of course the dreaded Black Legion themselves. For an avowed heretic like myself this is a moment to celebrate so indulge me as I take a look back over the past several weeks of releases and enthuse rabidly about my plans to raise a force sufficient to bring the realm of the Corpse-Emperor to its knees once and for all!

Those who’ve read these editorials before (and come back for more? Surely you’re a glutton for punishment!) will know that I do tend to ramble on. Chances are this one will prove to be especially lengthy, covering as it does several weeks worth of releases – including the Shadowspear box – almost worthy of a review in its own right – various WIPs as I test out ideas, a great deal of fanboyish enthusing over my favourite 40k faction (don’t tell the orks!) and (because this is the internet after all) just a little bit of self indulgent moaning. Anyway if you think reading this post is going to take you a while you should try fighting the Long War!

Shadowspear 1

Everything kicked off a few weeks ago with the release of the Shadowspear boxset. This may sound like something the Eldar would use but there are no perfidious xenos here, just power armoured warriors; the servants of the gods and the weaklings who oppose them. On the grounds that reality is for those who can’t handle chaos I’ll be concentrating on the real heroes of this set, although I will grudgingly acknowledge that it also contains a load of filthy loyalist scum, (the less said about them the better!) That said I am harbouring a scheme to convert the stealthy Space Marines of the Ultramarines 2nd Company Vanguard into Alpha Legion and thus ring even more Chaos Marines out of the set. Blame all those years spent sticking spikes onto loyalist space marines because it was the only way to add models to my army – it turns out the habit, once developed, is hard to kick!

Master of Possession

Taking charge of the baddies in the Shadowspear box we have the Master of Possession. Essentially this is a specialist sorcerer who has focussed his powers on binding daemonic entities to living flesh. Indeed they could easily have released it as just a new sorcerer model and no-one would have been any the wiser.

As the warlord heading up the box set – and the only Chaos character in shadowspear – this one had to make an impact. The design pulls out all the stops – indeed to my eye it pulls out too many stops. Let’s start with the good; the skull helm with it curly rams’ horns is pretty much perfection, the staff is also brilliantly executed and the flying pose, which could so easily have looked silly, is pulled off in style. Overall the model is deliciously over-the-top and heavy metal (with an “h”!)

Master of Possession

However I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Master of Possession to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great model but the level of detail is so high the eye is almost overwhelmed (and this is coming from someone who thought the detail on the Death Guard was about right). The model is already flying and equipped with a number of sorcerous accoutrements – including the very eye-catching staff – so to my mind he really doesn’t need for burning skulls as well. What’s worse is that these skulls serve to distract the eye from the otherwise perfectly composed piece and particularly from the fearsome helm. For all their skill and experience GW’s designers do at times seem to forget that less can be more (something we’ll return to when I get on to talking about the Dark Apostle). In this case I decided to do without the burning skulls, although despite my general aversion to sculpted flames I might yet make use of them on a different model. He still needs a little greenstuff and general tidying up but here’s a look at my toned down version so far.

Master of Possession WIP (1)Master of Possession WIP (2)

Greater Possessed

As mentioned above the Master of Possessions isn’t the guy charged with looking after the Chaos Lord’s property but instead is dedicated to manifesting demons in mortal flesh (or as Slaves to Darkness put it “possession is nine tenths of the lore”).  Possession by daemons has always been a shortcut by which those without the moral fibre or work ethic to slaughter their way to ascension honestly can still achieve a modicum of power, or as a means of transforming loyalist space marine prisoners into vicious shock troops. Sometimes however the possessed individual is powerful enough in their own right to attract the attention of a daemonic herald and the result is a Greater Possessed, a fearsome warrior respected by mortal troops and never born alike.

The shadowspear box contains two of these new monstrosities. Rather than tackle the infinite variety of possible possessed they instead decided to create two exemplars. Apparently during the design process they were known as “slimy wet guy” and “bony dry guy” – no prizes for guessing which is which! Top marks to the creators of these models however for managing to conjure such different textures whilst still keeping them looking consistent and matching as a pair.

Greater Possessed 2Greater Possessed 1

These won’t be the easiest things to convert and, although you may find yourself wondering if I’ve had a personality transplant, in my opinion that’s not a bad thing. Truthfully although it may be fun to raid the Possessed kit for parts too much compatibility did it no favours and the streamlined new Greater Possessed have really put their lesser cousins in the shade. Like the Wrathmongers and the (now retired) Chaos Forsaken the Possessed tend to sprawl into an ill-defined morass of useful bits but which struggles to produce a single cohesive model let alone a squad. Hopefully when they do redo it they follow a similar path to that employed with the Greater Possessed, much as I enjoy an infinitely poseable multi-part kit pulling it off with something like the Possessed may well be beyond the skills of even designers of GW’s calibre.

Venomcrawler

Skittering in alongside the Greater Possessed we have another newcomer to the range, the deliciously creepy Venoncrawler. This mechanical arachnid joins the ever growing ranks of the daemon engines, and once again it’s absolutely outstanding. It looks fast, lithe and supremely deadly and even for a fan of spiders like myself there’s something nightmare inducing about the thought of it scurrying through a war torn hive city in search of prey.

Venomcrawler 1

Now it’s true that spiders come in for a bit of a rough press and vast numbers of these harmless and helpful animals are unthinkingly killed as a result of people’s irrational phobias (depending on where you are in the world of course. Readers in Australia are probably looking askance at me right now, or they would be if they had time to read blogs and weren’t busy defending the barricades against a rising tide of ravenous arachnids). Part of me therefore wants to criticise GW for perpetrating this harmful myth and demand that if they want to try and frighten us they should base their models on things that are genuinely scary like climate change, economic recession or a Tory MP. That however would be unnecessarily po-faced and would do a disservice to a wonderfully creepy looking model. The face alone is the stuff of nightmares and the background fiction ups the ante even further by describing it hunting down and devouring daemons which escape the forges – when it comes to being frightening anything which sees daemons simply as prey is going to be hard to beat!

Venomcrawler 2

Often, as a Chaos fan, one find’s oneself sounding rather like an escapee from Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen. I fondly recall the release of the Defiler and the exciting realisation that Chaos vehicles could be something other than loyalist tanks with spikes stuck to the outside (at which point someone should chime in “Tanks with spikes – you were lucky! In my day we were still making tanks out of cereal packets and plans from White Dwarf!” “White Dwarf! You were lucky!” etc etc).

Daemon engines used to be rather thin on the ground, especially outside of Forgeworld. Picture if you will a younger me (looking like a Dickensian urchin) dreaming of plastic Juggernaughts or even a kit for a Chaos Dreadnaught that wasn’t three-quarters of a ton of lead. Understandably, as these kits have started to emerge, it’s been something of a drip-feed so to begin with everything looked rather disparate. We had the crab-like, industrial construct of the Defiler; the bulky, bullish Maulerfiend; the spikey, draconic Heldrake; the fleshy Helbrute – and although all were excellent, and the result was suitably chaotic, until the variety reached a certain, critical mass their shared characteristics were outweighed by those that made them different. Luckily that point now feels as though it has been passed, especially with the inclusion of the various Death Guard beasties and the Lord Discordant’s Helstalker (more on them below).

Obliterators

We live in an age in which much which once seemed impossible or miraculous is now commonplace. Humans have walked on the airless surface of the moon and explored the lightless ocean depths. Armed with nothing more than a normal household computer I am able to write blogs which can then be read by strangers on the other side of the world, in countries I might never visit – but which I could with only a moderate amount of effort, rather than needing to spend months at sea struck down with scurvy. In such an age of wonders however one stands out above the rest; GW have finally managed to create Obliterators which look good. For as long as I can remember these monsters have been represented by ghastly, poorly sculpted lumps with Swiss army knives for hands and nothing at all to recommend them. Saddled with such terrible models it’s no wonder that so many chaos fans have degenerated into bitter, hate-filled heretics.

Now however that cruel era is over and our loyalty (or should that be disloyalty) down those long and pitiless years has been rewarded with a brace of these fearsome mutants.

Obliterators 1

For those who somehow missed the outgoing models, managed to blot out the memory or even started complaining about the Chaos release “going on too long” and eating up valuable time in the GW schedule that could otherwise be devoted to Stormcast Eternals, here’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.

God Awful Old Obliterator

Putting that horror behind us and returning to the new models, a view from behind shows just how wonderfully far they’ve been willing to push the body horror, although it also reveals their only real flaw – that from the back they look a little like a fat man squeezing into a pair of shots far too small for him, an image which – once conjured – is hard to shake.

Obliterators 2

That little bit of silliness aside there’s a lot to enjoy here. The new Obliterators share a lot of visual elements with the Helbrute, jagged armour panels emerging from bloated muscle and bruised, tormented flesh, whilst the head is recessed within a fanged maw, all of which brings a pleasing visual consistency to the range. There’s even a mirroring of poses between one of the Shadowspear Obliterators and the Dark Vengeance Helbrute – both have the gun arm thrust forward aggressively and the claw hand upraised, whilst the left foot is propped on a rock. Some things never go out of style I suppose!

Helbrute vs Obliterator

Of course this leaves the Obliterators’ twin kit, the Mutilators, looking even more neglected but there was always going to be a limit to how much GW could do for Chaos in one go. In theory I’m sure it’s possible to convert the new Obliterators into Mutilators the amount of large, sculpted in details means this isn’t for the faint hearted. It seems like a logical progression to assume that, since the Death Guard and Thousand Sons have brought us Nurgle and Tzeentch themed Chaos Marines in recent years, a Khorne focused World Eaters release might not be too far distant – at which point the close-combat focused Mutilators might be the lucky recipients of a new kit of their own. Or, of course, that might be nothing more than wishful thinking, and we’ll be stuck with this for a few decades more…

Mutilator

Chaos Marines

As well as all these bigger beasts Shadowspear also contains a squad of Chaos space marines, and in the weeks since they’ve been bolstered further by a whole new kit. Fans of Chaos Marines have been waiting (I cannot in all conscience pretend we’ve been doing so patiently) for new models for many years now. As the years and editions have passed the loyalists have come to look better and better whilst our poor traitors have wallowed in the ugly lumpen doldrums. At last of the dark gods have rewarded us and as a long-serving heretic, I’m thrilled!

Chaos Marine 2

Like the plague marines released with the Death Guard each of these is a real character in their own right, as befits a fallen hero of the Imperium with ten millennia of villainy under his belt!

Chaos Marine 3

The rank-and-file are head and shoulders above their predecessors (both literally and figuratively) whilst the champion from Shadowspear outshines even some of the special characters of yesteryear.

Chaos Marine 1

There is a plainness to these models with little sign of the rampant mutation found in some of the chaos ranges. It’s a good move on the part of the designers, resulting in a very different texture to the models when compared to the slimy organic surfaces of the Death Guard. Plus it makes them perfect for more austere legions like the Iron Warriors, whilst all Chaos fans know that it’s easier to add mutations than it is to take them away.

I’ve already managed to paint one of my own and although I’ve already shown him here I couldn’t miss the opportunity to show him off again.

Chaos Space Marine Wudugast (5)

In terms of size these compare closely to the Rubric and Plague Marines (and we all love a good size comparison photo!)

Chaos Size Comp ConvertOrDie Wudugast 2

Better yet they tower over the old Chaos Marines, who stood no taller than an unarmoured guardsman.

Chaos Comparison

They are however just a little bit smaller than the Primaris Marines. This is a pity, despite all of the background about Primaris being bigger and better than the standard marines, a lot of us hoped that the new chaos marines would match them for size a little more closely. Thus my first thought when I saw them was to curse them; they had one chance to fix their screw up and rather than commit they fluffed it. However they are certainly a big improvement on the midget marines of yesteryear and the more I look at them the more my eye becomes used to them. Ultimately although an extra millimetre here and there might have been nice it’s really a case of splitting hairs and not worth getting agitated over (for me at least).

Chaos Marine WIP 3

Whilst not quite the blank canvas that we saw with the Primaris Marines there’s still plenty of room to kitbash these to create unique warriors or tie them into your own preferred legion or warband. Those who feel they can suffer another moment with the ugly old Khorne Berserkers kit for instance could do well mixing these with AoS Khorne parts whilst Death Guard fans who found the plague marines too mutated for their tastes might prefer hybridizing them with these to create something a little more toned down. For myself I’m inclined to try them out to kitbash some better raptors and warp talons.

I’ve had a bit of a mixed relationship with the raptors and warp talons. Like many people my age I emerged from university blinking into the harsh light of the 2008 recession, with jobs as scarce as unicorn shit and my hard won degree nothing more than fancy paper. Fast forward a few years, and another round in academia, and my first proper wage cheque was burning a hole in my pocket just as the new raptors kit was released. Bursting with excitement at my new-found fiscal stability and the first opportunity to treat myself since my student days I naturally rushed out and bought it. In the years since however I’ve never actually managed to finish painting a single one. Alongside the Dark Vengeance chosen these are the granddaddy’s of the modern plastic chaos marines, yet to my critical eye they haven’t aged that well. Their proportions are all over the place and rather than soaring dynamically through the air they appear to be engaged in an enthusiastic jig. Would it be possible, I found myself wondering, to kitbash something better using the new chaos marines? Well, here’s my first attempt and overall I’m pretty happy with him.

Warptalon WIP (1)Warptalon WIP (2)Warptalon WIP (3)

Based on this success I’m very tempted to make a whole squad, so as every any comments or feedback is greatly appreciated.

As I’ve noted above, although there has been no official announcement from GW it seems like a safe bet that sooner or later the World Eater’s and Emperor’s Children will be similarly blessed with new models. One thing that seems unlikely to appear however is another new incarnation of Kharn the Betrayer who received a new model just a couple of years ago. Unfortunately I’m no fan of it, the whole model looks awkward and ungainly and I much prefer the old version. I did fear that my old metal Kharne would by now be suffering from SAM syndrome (Short Angry Man) but to my surprise he’s not actually that bad. That said I am tempted by the idea of making my own version using parts from the new chaos Marines kit (the Shadowspear champion – pictured above – practically is Kharn, he just needs a different head, although I’m sure I could come up with something more interesting and challenging with a little time to drum up the bits).

Khaaarn 40k

Havocs

Alongside the new chaos marines we have their heavy-weapon toting brothers, the Havocs. These are the Chaos equivalent of the loyalist Devastators, space marines with big guns who’s main joy in life is to rain down destruction from afar.As you’d expect these are similar to the standard chaos marines, and generally cross compatible, but a little more tech-ed out. They’re more heavily set than their colleagues too, and their braced poses match the weight and heft of the big guns.

Cry Havoc

The chaos marines may have had a plastic kit that was well past its sell-by date but the havocs didn’t even have that, relying instead on an old upgrade set. As a result I never had a squad of these heavy in my old army, even converted, so I’m very intrigued to get to work building them now.

The squad leader comes with an optional bare head, although to my eye this marks him out too much and makes him look like he belongs to a different squad, so I’ll most likely be using the helmeted variant instead.

Havoc

A rather nice touch however is the similarity between the face of the havoc leader and those of Obsidius Mallex from Blackstone Fortress and Abaddon himself. In the Horus Heresy novels it’s noted that many of Horus’s legion, the Sons of Horus (many of who went on to join the Black Legion after the Sons of Horus were essentially driven extinct by the vicious fighting of the post-Heresy Legion Wars) shared Horus’s facial features, and as a result were known as “true sons”. Abaddon was even rumoured to be a clone son of Horus. Thus the decision to give each of them a similar facial structure helps to reinforce this familial effect, as well as being a nice nod to the background.

Sons of Horus

From left to right; Horus (the Dead Warmaster), Abaddon (the Successful Warmaster), Havoc Champion (Big Man With A Gun) and Obsidious Mallex (bothering adventurers down the local Blackstone Fortress).

The squad leader notwithstanding there’s really only two poses in the Havoc kit however, so any variety of appearance is provided by the different guns and details such as the torso fronts. The result is a duplication of profiles  which aesthetically just doesn’t look quite right to me. The compatibility between these and the chaos marines however should give plenty of room to manoeuvre.

Havoc CSM comp

Another thing I’ll have to do something about is the way this one stands with his arm sticking out awkwardly. What’s meant to be happening here? Luckily there’s an alternative way of building the model with a less inelegant pose otherwise some cutting and adjusting to remedy the situation would be vital!

Havoc 2

Noctilith Crown

It’s becoming standard practice at the moment for every major GW release to include a piece of terrain, something I can only applaud. As a result gaming tables the world over become more interesting and hopefully we can leave the flat, tedious landscapes of the past firmly behind us. Thus it didn’t require the predictive skills of Nostradamus to guess that we’d see something of this nature but it was always going to be interesting to find out what.

When it comes to producing terrain the challenge is coming up with enough of the stuff without it being either painfully generic (the galaxy is full of hills and rocks, and sure enough everyone fights over them but who cares?) or so specialised that only a minority will be interested (I’d love to see a Dark Eldar themed city but as I don’t collect Dark Eldar I wouldn’t be buying any of it). Plus terrain is big, expensive, takes up space, is often seen as intimidating to paint, is hard to transport – the list goes on. The solution has been to create a selection of fairly generic terrain, in the case of 40k a war torn Imperial city (which – as a major plus – is also perfect for Necromunda) and then add in kits which tie in to certain races for a little extra flavour. However whilst troops can march and vehicles drive to reach a warzone hardly anyone hauls buildings with them wherever they go (the Tau being the obvious exception with their floating bastions). Therefore anything which isn’t an everyday part of an Imperial city has to have a good explanation for being there – the Eldar webway gate for instance has just “decloaked” having lurked invisibly all alone, the mek-shop has been cobbled together by industrious grots, whilst  feculent gnarlmaw has sprung up with unnatural vigour straight from Nurgle’s garden.

Noctilith Crown

In this regard chaos has almost total free rein. Anything goes because anything can be explained as having been twisted, summoned or spat out by the warp. Given such potential the Noctilith Crown is surprisingly restrained. That shouldn’t be too surprising however, the same has been true throughout this release wave. Compared to the heavily mutated Death Guard who won’t get out of bed in the morning if they don’t have a mouth for a stomach these Chaos Marines are quite austere and the same is true of their building. This is no bad thing in my view, too much mutation could have ended up looking a little over the top or weird for the sake of it – always a potential challenge with Chaos and hard to fix on very large kits (look no further than the mulalith vortex beast for an example of how wrong things can go). Plus this isn’t so overtly chaotic that it would necessarily stand out to the locals, at least not to the same degree that it would if it was covered in eyes and mouths or kept grabbing people with its tentacles. On a backwater Imperial planet it could easily be just another strange old ruin in the wasteland, avoided by superstitious locals but no cause for alarm – at least until its builders turn up to reclaim it or the Inquisition arrive and start asking questions.

Noctilith Crown 2

Despite this lack of warp touched gribblyness the piece still looks immediately Chaotic (the huge chaos star certainly helps with that!) and avoids too many obvious aesthetic choices. It’s worth drawing a comparison here with the Skull Altar recently released for Age of Sigmar.

Skull Altar

Unlike the Noctilith Crown I found the Skull Altar to be a bit dull and workmanlike. It’s not bad by any means but it’s certainly predictable. The Noctilith Crown on the other hand manages to put its own spin on things and that, combined with a masterful use of negative space to create a large piece without forming a solid wall on the gaming table, or quite such a large hole in the wallet as might otherwise have been, must be commended.

Abaddon

Each of the traitor legions released so far has been headed up by a daemon primarch and it seems safe to assume that the trend will continue. Likewise the daemonic choirs each have a monstrous greater daemon, ranging from the corpulent great unclean one to the sinister new keeper of secrets. The rest of us don’t have quite such a big monster to call upon to lead our chaos hordes. Instead we’ve got Abaddon, a miniature who needed to convey an impact and authority at least the equal of Magnus and Mortarion, but making use of a considerably smaller canvas. This isn’t to say Abaddon isn’t a bit of a beast, he’s still a big lad in comparison to chaos lords and terminators but he doesn’t come into the same weight category as his peers. Nevertheless he packs a real visual punch.

Abaddon 2

They could have done so much more here, and thank god they didn’t! They could have had him wondering or leaping into battle, throwing himself through the air or trailing great clouds of semi-sentient fumes, all of which would have served to reduce his impact. Whatever the Daemon Primarchs may like to tell themselves Abaddon remains the big daddy in the chaos ranks and Horus’s true successor. He’s also one of my all time favourite characters from the 41st millennium. In many ways I was dreading seeing them make a mess of him as much as I was looking forward to him. Having already seen the Master of Possession I feared that they might decide to overdo things here so it was with a great feeling of relief that I saw the finished piece and discovered that, with admirable restraint, they had avoided using any gimmicks – and the result is pretty close to perfect.

He comes with a choice of heads (Angry Abaddon, Sneering Abaddon and Gas-Mask Abaddon – for those moments he has no choice but to stand in the same room as Mortarion) and can also be built without his cloak – although personally I’m not sure why you’d want to.

Abaddon 1

This feels very much like Abaddon as he might have been first time around, if only the technology had been available then. At the end of the day if I didn’t have a chaos army already I would want to start one just to have him lead it. Model of the year? Undoubtedly! Go on GW prove me wrong!

Dark Apostle

Nothing is perfect (except Fulgrim) and this wave of Chaos is no exception. After seeing so much quality emerge from the GW vaults it was inevitable that at least something would disappoint and, sadly for the sons of Lorgar, it’s the Dark Apostle. Just as Abaddon displayed a degree of restraint, improving on the predecessor only when they needed to, the Dark Apostle seems determined to turn everything up to eleven with a result that’s more jarring than impactful.

Dark Apostle 1

Part of the problem is that the outgoing Apostle was pretty much spot on, albeit cursed by an extremely small stature that made him out of scale with the rest of the range even when he was newly released.

Old Apostle 1

Simply taking that model and scaling him up would have more than sufficed. Instead the wonderful halo which topped the old version has been replaced by a candelabra, the striking “preaching” pose has become an awkward “jabbing whilst waving a book” and the spiky head of the crozius has been toned down, the one thing that should probably have been toned-up. The streamers of parchment, surely a feature easier to reproduce in plastic than in resin, have been reduced and – at the back, where they previously formed a unique cape – been replaced by a normal, tatty cloak.

Dark Apostle 2

Then there’s the book. Did the designer not know when to stop? It’s drooling (presumably noxious) fluids, whilst at the same time blazing with unnatural fire – surely a librarians worst nightmare. Either would have been a bit over-the-top for my taste, both is just ridiculous. It’s not an irredeemable model mind you and with certain art of cutting and kitbashing I reckon I can make something of it, but straight out of the box it leaves a lot to be desired.

Dark Disciples

The redeeming element however is the two willing sacrifices known as the dark disciples. This grubby duo you wouldn’t look out of place in any Inq28 collection and indeed will undoubtedly prove to be grist for that particular mill – looking at them only makes me realise what could have been if only GW had seen fit to furnish us with a proper kit for new cultists (more on that particular rant later!)

Terminators

Speaking of taking pre-existing models and scaling them up that’s exactly what happened with the terminators. From a reviewers point of view of course this doesn’t leave a whole lot to add. If you liked the old terminators then here they are again, just bigger, meaner and more imposing. There are a few tweaks to nod to modern miniature design but no major changes to the core concept.  Ultimately I loved the old models but thought they were looking past their best and so these fit the bill nicely for me, scaling everything up and adding bulk whilst not attempting any unnecessary reinventions.

Terminator 2

I remember the first time I saw the outgoing chaos terminators being blown away by the bullish power implicit in those tusked helms – everything I already loved about terminators but with all the brutish spiky aggression of Chaos.

Terminator 4

The one thing I’m not particularly fond of is the little crest used to mark out the leader. It’s a design element shared with the helbrute and personally I think it looks awkward there and worse here.

Terminator 1Helbrute Crest

Despite being such a fan of the old Chaos terminators kit I’m not sure I’ve ever actually painted one, and I certainly never bought the kit as a straight-forward box of miniatures. Instead I ended up acquiring bits and pieces of it from various sources and cobbling them together with whatever else I had to hand. Thus my attempt at a size comparison between old and new leaves a little to be desired, although I’ve given it my best shot.

Terminators New and Old ConvertOrDie Wudugast

Of course the question on everyone’s lips is; how do they compare in size to the other Chaos Terminators that are out there (and what a wonderful question that is for Chaos fans of my generation to find ourselves asking!). Well, as it happens, I have a member of the Scarab Occult and a Blightlord Terminator handy, so let’s take a look.

Chaos Terminators Size Comp ConvertOrDie

As with so many things the warrior from the Thousands Sons appears a little slight in comparison to his colleagues, although its nothing a plasticard spacer under his feet and the odd dab of greenstuff wouldn’t fix if it bothers you.

Master of Executions

If the Dark Apostle is the token Word Bearer in this release then the Master of Executions is the token World Eater. He’s a loner, an executioner, a gallowsman, one-eyed and warlike, a slayer of champions. Stick a wide-brimmed hat and a couple of ravens on him and he’d be Odin! Another new leader amongst the ranks of the Chaos Marines the Master of Executions is a close combat specialist, a man interested in little else but chopping off the heads of enemy champions. Well everyone needs a hobby, I paint little models so who am I to judge?

Master of Executions

GW have been making models that carry other people’s heads around for decades now and at last they’ve found the perfect candidate for it – it’s just unfortunate that they’ve overused it so many times previously that the impact is almost entirely lost. Likewise he’s lugging around a downright massive axe, and again he’s the perfect choice to do so, but after seeing so many comically outsized weapons in the past it’s power is somewhat lost.

Master of Executions 2

I do rather like this model but if I was to be harsh there is something a little uninspired about him. All the infinite variety and possibility of Chaos and we end up with a chap who likes chopping off heads. Surely they could have come up with something a little more interesting? Again let me stress that I think he’s rather cool, should be a lot of fun to paint, and – despite having a choice of two rather stylish heads (and those are just the ones on the end of his neck) – will probably look even better with a Khornate helmet. Nonetheless, and despite my being a huge chaos fanboy, I can accept the accusation that this one appears at first glance to be just a little bit bland.

Lord Discordant

Last but not least we have the Lord Discordant. With a name like that he may sound like he belongs amongst the Emperor’s Children but in fact he has more in common with the Dark Mechanicum. Here we have a strange fusion of Warpsmith and something akin to a mediaeval knight, who scurries into battle atop a bizarre insectile riding beast. It really shouldn’t work but somehow it does so perfectly.

A new type of commander for the chaos legions the Lords Discordant are obsessed with machines, working constantly to destroy all orderly functional engines and harvest their power to fuel the arcane daemon engines of there warbands. Apparently his mere presence is enough to make technology short circuit and fail, something which many of us will find all too familiar.

Lord Disco 4

It’s a complicated figure and I can imagine that many serious gamers will complain about bits snapping off as they try to transport it to their next tournament. Fans of painting and modelling however have a challenging and potentially very rewarding kit to get their teeth into, and one which encapsulates the weirdness of Chaos at its best.

Those Left Behind

Having received such a bounty of excellent models it seems almost churlish to complain about things we didn’t get – but never mind, it’s my blog and I’ll churl if I want to!

The fact is the Chaos range was neglected for a very long time, which means now GW come to work on it there are an inordinate number of gaps to fill and models to update. Rather than simply housekeeping they instead provided us with a range of new units, but wonderful though this is it did mean they lacked the resources to fill in all the existing gaps. Even though I’m delighted with everything we’ve seen so far, and my wallet is now in serious need of a rest and a lie down, I didn’t think it would hurt to acknowledge those gaps anyway and think about where GW might hopefully turn their attention in the future. As usual this is wishlisting, plain and simple, and most likely the passage of time will demonstrate it to be nonsense, but it’s fun to speculate all the same.

Berserkers and Noise Marines

The mortal followers of Chaos, whether they be the barbarians of the Old World, the savage nations of AoS or the power armoured super-soldiers of the far future, can be crudely separated into five camps. There are those sworn to each of the four gods, and those allied to Chaos (to a greater or lesser degree), either as a pantheon or as a single primeval force – the so-called followers of Chaos Undivided. Of this latter camp the Black Legion are the 41st Millennium’s posterboys, whilst the followers of Nurgle have already been blessed with the release of the Death Guard, whilst Tzeentch’s servants set the ball rolling for Chaos with the emergence of the Thousand Sons. As I’ve mentioned above, it seems like a logical progression to assume that Slaanesh and Khorne will soon follow, bringing their legions onto the galactic stage.

Khorn Berserkers Embarrassing Themselves

Nonetheless the old berserkers now look so embarrassingly poor quality compared to the newer kits that one finds oneself cringing on GW’s behalf, it’s hard to imagine that they’re actually asking for  people’s money in exchange for these things. At least they have a kit of course, the Noise Marines only have a finecast upgrade sprue.

These days GW usually steer away from showing kitbashes and conversions in official publications, reasoning that this is confusing for newcomers to the hobby who might be put off by discovering that they have to stick random kits together to make a unit rather than just buying it off the shelf (whereas when I started it wasn’t just encouraged it was downright compulsory). However the Noise Marines don’t have an official kit, even an old one, and instead rely on the sonic weapons upgrade kit to tide them over. Thus, I find myself wondering why GW chose to illustrate the Noise Marines in the codex using the old (and now unavailable) chaos marines kit rather than the newer version. I ever planned to build a new chaos marine wielding a sonic blaster by way of demonstration but alas time ran out on me.

Noise Annoys

Of course wishful thinking says it’s because a new Noise Marine kit is just around the corner so building anything else to stand in temporarily wasn’t worth the bother – no harm in hoping right! More likely however it was simply an oversight, or a case of running out of time, or – most likely of all, GW recognising that the fans of Fulgrim’s legion have been suffering and, given that they’re probably enjoying it, they should be rewarded with one more painful turn of the screw to counteract the pleasure of the forthcoming Slaaneshi daemons.

Cultists

Ultimately I knew there would be a limit to how much GW could produce in one go but I’ve been bumping my gums about wanting new cultists for long enough that I couldn’t let the occasion pass without dragging my arguments out for another airing.

Cultists

Like a lot of people I felt a brief thrill when the chaos cultists kit was marked as “sold out” on the GW website, only for it to reappear repackaged a few days later. It’s true that you can kitbash some fine looking cultists from existing kits but just imagine the things we could be kitbashing if we had a proper kit for them as well. Plus that’s a lot like saying we don’t need space marine miniatures because with sufficient time and practice most of us could sculpt our own. The existing push-fit cultists are very nice but there’s not a lot of converting potential in there and given that I always envisioned cultist in massive maddened hoards that’s a problem. Whenever I encounter such a horde only to see the same five faces repeated over and over again, such as in the photograph used to illustrate the cultists in the new codex, I feel as though something has gone badly wrong with my eyes. Unlike the Noise Marines and Khorne Berserkers I don’t really expect to see them with World Eaters or Emperor’s Children release either. A theoretical future Slaaneshi faction might come with its own cultists but these are liable to be of a “specialist” nature (able to reach all the places normal cultists can’t!), whereas for a warrior of Khorne the only good baseline human is a blur of arterial spray in their peripheral vision. Yet whilst those two factions seem likely to make an appearance sooner or later cultists will probably have to wait until GW return to the chaos marines – whenever that turns out to be. For now the armies of duplicate cultists will continue – when Fabius Bile told us he was working on a clone army this wasn’t what I had in mind!

Huron Blackheart

With Abaddon now strutting his stuff centre stage, and the other characters from the old legions having either recently received new models (Typhus, Ahriman, Kharn and Cypher) or probably coming soon(-ish) (Lucius and Fabius) poor old Huron Blackheart is starting to look a little left behind. Then again there are still plenty of gaps in the Chaos range that need to be filled (have I mentioned cultists? And what about Chosen, Mutilators, a generic plastic Sorcerer?). Add in the fact that Abaddon gave away one of his Blackstone Fortresses to Huron (don’t say he’s a nice guy – the prick forgot my birthday altogether) and we have the possibility of a second, smaller wave of Chaos releases coming at some point in the future as Huron launches a crusade of his own out of the Maelstrom. Not only would this break up the Chaos releases to everyone’s satisfaction, allow the bank accounts of the faithful to recover and lulling the weaker races into a false sense of security, but it would avoid Huron and Abaddon launching at the same time and one overshadowing the other. As usual of course, it’s just a theory.

Huron

The Galaxy Must Burn

I’ve long argued that Chaos is the Imperium’s shadow – humanity’s shadow even – and for the various factions of the Imperium to really function as sympathetic protagonists they need an enemy who can truly threaten them with something more than just bigger guns or more soldiers. Chaos represents the corruption of human qualities not simply via external pressure but through the twisting of noble ideals. At best the decline of a character should stem from an over abundance of positive rather than negative qualities (although as ever the Night Lords are the exception that proves the rule, remaining compelling despite being utter bastards to begin with!). The result creates room for enormous narrative depth and complexity. Add in the range of aesthetic possibilities (who knows what Noise Marines might look like nowadays but I can guarantee it won’t be Plague Marines in pink!) and the diversity of potential rules for gamers to take advantage of, and it would be fair to say that GW has been sitting on a treasure trove, seemingly ignorant of the wealth of concepts their IP could have been laying open to them. Imagine if the Imperium was lumped together into a single fraction with nothing but a special character to differentiate the Space Wolves from the Dark Angels, and the Imperial Guard relegated to 5 push fit models, and you have some idea of the discrepancy between the way in which the Chaos range has been treated historically and the potential it contains. Luckily the tide seems to be well and truly on the turn (as usual, and as an outsider it’s hard to say anything with 100% confidence, it’s worth noting that the departure of Kirby as CEO has, as on so many other matters, coincided with a rush of common sense to the company’s collective head).

For a long time GW neglected Chaos and got away with it. These power armoured baddies haven’t had it as bad as some races or factions (I’d like to nominate my poor hard-done-by Skaven for that dubious honour) but the range has always been considerably less than it could have been, its potential often hinted at but never fully realised. Naturally some fans complained but as whining and nerd rage is as much a part of Warhammer as rolling dice and accidentally drinking paint water I’m not convinced anyone took much notice (we have all encountered people who claim not to be involved in the hobby anymore since GW ruined everything  yet who still managed to spend around 18 hours per day online moaning about the latest developments and then trundle down to their local store at the weekend to fill a wheelbarrow with the latest releases. Well here’s hoping they enjoyed this one, Chaos needs the support – especially from the bitter and corruptible).

So there we have it. It’s not been a perfect release, there are certainly things I would have liked to have seen included or done differently, but these are small things and not worth any more than a brief acknowledgement. Predominantly this has been about the resurrection of the Chaos Space Marine range and on the whole the result is nothing short of outstanding. Now when we turn up to burn down the Emperor’s palace we won’t have to worry about the loyalists laughing at our ugly old miniatures. How’s that old saying go? From shame and shadow recast – in snazzy new plastic reborn. Something like that anyway…