One of the heroes (if that’s the right word) of the Cursed City game is the dubious character of Octren Glimscry. Octren is a founder member of the order of wizards known as the Pact Mortalis, who are just as jolly as they sound, an organisation dedicated to finding the secrets to immortality by any means necessary. He used to be best pals with Torgillius the Chamberlin, until the latter stole his research and ran away to become a lord of undeath and one of the leading villains in the game (still unpainted sadly but his time will come…). Now Octren is out to give his old pal a serious shoeing and get his research back (to use it for good, obviously, who could think ill of such a charming and friendly-looking old man?).
We still need at least two more characters painted up before we can start adventuring in the Cursed City but, after a long time of not much progress, getting Octren finished is another step in the right direction.
Back in March I painted up one of the Kosargi Nightguard for Cursed City and it’s been weighing on my mind ever since that I never painted the other one. Time to roll up my sleeves and do something about that!
With him done both of these undead ogres are ready to go stamping through the streets and terrifying the locals…
…and I’m one set of models closer to getting the game fully painted up!
Hulking undead Ogres, the Kosargi Nightguard are amongst the most dangerous servants of the Cursed City’s vampire overlords. The game contains two of these mighty brutes and you would think, if I had my brain properly engaged, that I would have painted both of them at same time. I didn’t though, I got all excited about painting this one whilst the other is still lurking in the box.
He was a lovely model to paint though so at some point soon I’ll get it together to paint up his partner in crime.
Summoned into a horrifying semblance of life by the necromantic powers invested in my paintbrush, more zombies shamble forth to enact my dread will!
Having worked on these I’m feeling that I really ought to crack on with the ones from the Cursed City set now. Then again a zombie is a zombie in my book and these will undoubtedly end up getting used in games of Cursed City anyway.
Well, that was 2021 was it? It’s been a funny year in some ways, as I look back I realise that quite a lot seems to have happened yet at the time it was over in a flash. Maybe that’s just a sign of aging and you’ll have me pensioned off and stuck in a home before I know it! At times it’s easy to look at the world beyond the hobby and fear that globally things are getting worse and worse.
But let’s not worry too much about our increasingly uncertain future and instead, gather round for a rambling and self-indulgent look back at my year in miniatures. Truly I spoil you all! Over in Games-Workshop-land the decline and fall of civilisation continued to bugger up the release schedule, although to be honest they release so much stuff, and at such a frenetic pace, that slowing things down a little actually helped me catch my breath. As the year began, Slaanesh – that most long-neglected of the Chaos Gods – received a well deserved boost in the form of new mortal followers. Time to indulge in some outrageous hedonism! As with any Chaos release I got quite excited and tried to budget for how to buy and paint absolutely everything. And as so often happens the limitations of having just 24 hours in each day and only 2 hands to work with slowed me. I did manage to paint up a Myrmidesh Painbringer though and I still absolutely love most of the new models so expect to see more of these appearing in the months ahead.
Hot on the heels of these party animals came animals of a different sort – specifically marsupials. The Lumineth Realm-Lords, released back in 2020, received a second wave of releases – bolstering the ranks of the range nicely. With the first wave of models falling into the odd position of being almost – but not quite – High Elves the second wave shifted them firmly into a new and creative direction. To be honest most of the new models aren’t really to my taste and I still think – despite many of my readers disagreeing – that it looks as though some of them are bouncing around on kangaroos, but there’s no faulting their originality.
April saw the arrival of one of Games Workshop’s biggest, and most heralded, releases of the year; Cursed City. This latest addition to the Warhammer Quest series launched with enormous fanfare, proving an instant hit with the fans, and continued to be talked about and hyped for months afterwards… Oh wait, scratch that last part, apparently Games Workshop suddenly decided just after it was released that it was only intended as a limited edition and started feverishly airbrushing it out of photographs and rewriting the history books. Naturally we mere mortals amongst the fanbase respected their sudden desire not to talk about it and didn’t indulge in wild speculation… Then, just before Christmas the saga took another unexpected twist when Games Workshop proudly announced that the game was coming back after all.
Anyway, as it happens I was one of the lucky ones who managed to snag a copy, and I’ve started chipping away at the models. At one time I planned to have enough painted to get in a game over Christmas but as so often happens my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Still I have managed to make a start, finishing the first few models from the set.
As it turns out however Cursed City was just the beginning and a whole wave of very cool-looking undead followed. So far I’ve not done very much about them apart from writing another enthusiastic editorial but given time I suspect a few more of these will be making their way onto the painting desk to join the ones I’ve already done.
One of the most controversial – not to mention biggest – models to appear this year was Kragnos, the End of Empires. Needless to say he inspired me to a great deal of pontificating and I stand by my assertion that he’s one of the coolest things that GW have done over the last few months. That said I doubt I’ll be painting him myself, and as things stand he really looks out of place alongside the orcs and goblins that make up the rest of the Destruction grand alliance.
As it turned out Kragnos signaled the beginning of a new phase in the Age of Sigmar story and the dawn of the Era of the Beast and this summer saw the launch of a new edition of the game (the 3rd for those keeping count), spearheaded by a boxset of Stormcast Eternals battling a new type of Orc, the Kruelboys. Again I didn’t miss the opportunity to share my thoughts with the world, and rattled my keyboard enthusiastically whilst indulging in some wild testiculation (that is to say, waving my hands around whilst talking bollocks). Now Stormcast Eternals aren’t really my thing but I was never going to resist new Orcs and managed to snag myself their half of the set from which I’ve so far assembled this little warband.
Nor are these the only orcs that I tackled this year, I also got around to painting up a bunch of Savage Orcs.
As for the Stormcasts I’ve managed to shock everyone, not least myself, by painting a whopping 2 of them. Wonders will never cease! Again though expect to see a few more popping up in the coming year.
As autumn rolled around we saw one of the biggest and best releases of the year as the Orks joined their cousins the Orcs and got their well deserved moment in the sun. When it comes to 40k Orks really are my first love, and my greenskin horde has been smashing its way through the 41st Millennium for many years now. Needless to say I’m over the moon about all the new models and even managed to paint some of them during the Orktober painting challenge (more on that below). Here’s all the Orks I painted this year (minus this Nob because I already had a group shot I took at the end of Orktober and I’m too damn lazy to dig everything out again to take another).
The final big release of the year for 40k came in the form of the return of the Black Templars. These are one of my all time favourite factions in the setting, and close rivals of the Blood Angels for being the best Space Marine chapter. The models didn’t disappoint and so needless to say I’ve been pouring over pictures of them with rabid enthusiasm since day one.
So far however I’ve remained strong and kept my wallet closed (for once) – I do have quite a lot of Space Marines to paint already after all. How long I maintain my resolve however remains to be seen. Then again it’s looking very likely that new Chaos Space Marines are looming threateningly on the horizon, with a few of them having already been previewed. Chaos Space Marines stand alongside the Orks as my favourite 40k faction (I just love a horde of angry barbarians!) and so it came as a bit of a surprise to me to discover that I didn’t paint a single one this year. I know, I’m as shocked as you are, I’ll change my name from Wudugast to Flabbergast! Still, with models like this soon to be released I reckon I’ll do better in 2022.
And whilst the ordinary Chaos Marines may have been neglected their Nurgle-worshipping cousins in the Death Guard were… well, they were neglected too to be honest, but they did at least enjoy enough attention to bring them up a (un)healthy 50 power.
Nurgle also got his greasy foot in the door over in the Mortal Realms as I put together a couple of warbands for Warcry, one of mortals sworn to the Plague Lord…
…and one made up of his daemons.
I started working on a duo of Tzeentchian warbands as well, and then got distracted and never managed to finish them. Still, change is always in the air so maybe next year will turn out better for them.
Necromunda remains one of my absolute favourite GW settings and this year we saw books released for the remaining Clan Houses (Cawdor and Delaque), expanding greatly on their background. The Delaque also got a new set of models, the Cawdor however were not so lucky. Instead of new champions and specialists that the other houses have enjoyed the House of Faith got a new kit for Redemptionists instead. This is something I’ve harped on about a lot this year so I won’t go over it all again, in summary my feelings are that the new Redemptionists are amazing but for me they will always be a separate faction to the Cawdor and the latter deserved new models of their own. Still, it is what it is and I’ve had a lot of fun kitbashing Redemptionists so all being well I’ll start getting some of them painted up soon.
As the year drew to a close we also got a new set of miniatures for clanless Hive Scum, and again I’ve been having fun putting these together so expect to see them appearing in due course. Both these and the Redemptionists can be fielded either as part of another gang or as a gang in their own right. That aside however 2020 and 2021 have been very much focussed on bringing new kits to existing factions – time well spent in my book, although I’m hopeful that 2022 will see new players taking to the stage on the polluted hive world.
As for myself I seem to have spent more time writing about Necromunda this year than I have painting or playing, my main contribution being these three House Escher ladies. Again hopefully I’ll do better next year.
Meanwhile Blood Bowl suffered an oddly quiet year. After all a new edition of the game was released at the tail end of last year, with all the fanfare that entails, I expected to see a few new teams appearing but in the end we only got the one, made up of the berserk warriors of Khorne. Still I didn’t do all that much better, I claimed that by now I would have painted up a Human team and an Elven Union team yet as things stand I managed just these three elven ladies. Of the humans there remains no sign…
On the other hand not all was lost, I did manage to paint a second greenskin team – the Black Orcs – which I managed to complete just a few days ago.
It wasn’t just about Gee-Dubz either. I may not have painted as many things from the wider world of miniatures as I have in previous years but there were still a few that managed to stick out their elbows and push their way through the Warhammer ranks. A Witchling Stalker from Malifaux snuck through like a sneaky ninja…
Meanwhile Corwyn the Hunchback was the first Drune Kelt from Confrontation I’ve painted in a decade. I’ve dug out the rest of his tribe from the box in which they were lurking so expect to see them popping up sooner or later.
Speaking of barbarians however one of the projects I’m most excited about at the moment are the savages of Hate.
I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with CMON over the years, and after falling foul of their business practices one time too many I swore I’d never buy anything from them again. Time however has softened my youthful idealism. In recent times I’ve come to realise that by stubbornly boycotting them I’m only really punishing myself and as they make some damn fine miniatures it’s really only me that’s missing out. So, as well as the Hate barbarians I’ve decided to treat myself to some models from A Song of Ice and Fire, and started listening a bit more carefully to those mates who’ve been encouraging me to give Zombiecide a look. Expect to see something in this vein appearing in 2022.
One of the real highlights of the year for me was the Orktober painting challenge that arose between myself and my fellow warboss IRO. Here’s what IRO had to say about it in his own round-up of the year.
The Ork challenge in Orktober with fellow hobbyist and all round cool dude Wudugast was an absolute standout hobby thing for me in 2021. I liked trying to keep up with him. I like that we are both mad Ork fans. I liked that it was a draw, 37 all. Haha. Great fun and I’m really looking forward to doing exactly the same thing in 2022. Hopefully others might join in the fun too.
I honestly couldn’t have put it better myself; I really am an all round cool dude! For that matter IRO isn’t a bad bloke himself. Here’s a reminder of all 37 greenskins that I managed to complete in the month. Needless to say I’m already looking forward to the rematch in 2022.
With one painting challenge under my belt I headed straight into another one. I’d already set myself the task of adding something to my Adeptus Mechanicus collection every month of the year. In November however I decided to up my game and painted up the contents of the first Start Collecting set.
Added to everything else I managed to paint this year (and the few models I managed the year before) and here’s the state of the army as things stand.
Once again, I’ve still got a few more of these to paint so expect to see more recruits for the legions of Mars appearing in the new year.
Nor was that the only painting challenge I tackled in November, I also threw myself into the Movember painting challenge being run by Roger from Rantings From Under The Wargames Table. Here’s the mob of hairy gents I managed to paint, and I really do advice you to check out the rest of the participants if you haven’t already.
Of course no summary of the year would be complete without looking all the way back to Fembruary, the annual challenge to “for us to collectively challenge the male domination of our collections, and commit to painting some… kick-ass ladies” run by my blog-brother Alex of Leadballoony. This year I really threw myself into it and managed a total of 21 women covering everything from the Underhive to the Blood Bowl pitch, and the war-torn battlefields of the 41st Millennium to the Chaos Wastes.
One of the key challenges I set myself for the month was to paint up a warband of Daughters of Khaine, the savage she-elves of Age of Sigmar. Not only did I succeed but since then I’ve managed to add a few more, and I’m planning to tackle even more of them in the coming year (so expect to see an influx of them in Fembruary 2022!).
And if that wasn’t already enough elves to make people think I’d lost my Orky way and turned into some kind of flower-picking, daisy-tripping, tree-hugging, pointy-eared wimp I only went and painted a bunch of Sylvaneth as well. Don’t these fairy-folk just look delightful!
Anyway, that’s been my year in miniatures. Once again keeping the blog and reading about what other hobbyists have been getting up to has been a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me. Now with 2022 looming over us all in dramatic fashion there’s just time to wish all of my readers a Happy New Year and I’ll see you on the other side!
With all those skeletons shambling onto the streets of Ulfenkarn on Friday the people of the Cursed City are going to need a hero if they hope to survive for long. Step forward the first of the game’s champions – Emelda Braskov.
Once a warrior fighting to defend the city from hostile invaders she now finds herself a victim of that old phrase “it is the duty of every true patriot to take up arms against their country”. In the ruins of her former home, she finds herself surrounded only by the hungry dead.
To save her from having to make a heroic last stand I’ll need to get to work on painting up some allies for her. That however will have to wait a little longer as I’ve got a few other things on the painting desk that I’d like the tackle first.
One of the most powerful and iconic pieces of artwork from Cursed City is this image of the city watch on patrol. As soon as I saw it knew this game was for me.
We’re used to seeing battle scenes in which the undead rampage against hapless mortals, or two armies are pitted against one another in desperate and pitiless combat. This however is something more subtle, and more sinister. This is life under vampiric rule. The undead have conquered the city and there’s not a lot poor mortals can do about it. Skeletons walk the street brazenly in broad daylight – and there’s something particularly spooky about that I always think. No tricks of the light to confuse the eye, no uncertainty about just what might be lurking in the shadows, no all-to-human fear of the dark to add a spice of dread to something which – once the sun is up – will prove to be quite mundane. Nor is there any hope that if one were to survive the night – barricading oneself inside one of those crumbling buildings, dousing the lights and waiting out the darkness with one’s heart hammering in one’s chest – that daybreak will make the bad things go away. The sun is well up, but the dead still walk.
What about the child? Somehow the threat to them feels more inevitable than immediate. Yes, they might well be cut down any moment – and clearly civilians have been killed here, we can see at least two corpses in the background. My interpretation however is that the skeletons will pass on by, that the child will live – at least for now – scavenging through the rubble for sustenance, their playthings skulls and bones – if they play at all. In the faces of the adults all around them they will see only constant fear. It will be a life, to use a topical phrase, in constant lockdown; a life with little room for love or joy – and someday the dead will come for them.
Probably as a result of the impact this image had on me I’ve been particularly drawn to the skeletons from Cursed City and so even though I’m not yet ready to focus all my attention on the game I couldn’t resist painting a few of them. Here we have the first recruits to the Ulfenwatch; law enforcement Cursed City style.
The 2021 graduating class of the Ulfenkarn Law Academy pose for a group photo.
Time to delve once more into the dark streets of the Cursed City, and this time it’s the turn of one of the Vyrkos Blood-born. These were once the young nobles of the city who traded society do’s for an unlife of bloodthirsty immortality, throwing in their lot with the city’s new vampire overlord in an effort to save their own skins.
They’re odd-looking creatures these, and I’m not entirely sure I like them as models (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I’m in two minds about them). I certainly don’t like the studio colour scheme for them so I’ve used this one to try out a slightly different, and more bestial, colour pallet and I think I’m happy enough with it so this will probably be the way I paint the other two when I get around to them.
Life is still fairly busy at the moment so painting remains firmly on the backburner but I’m still itching to get my teeth into the rest of this box so expect to see more creatures of the night showing up sooner or later…
Did you hear that? The chiming of the midnight bell, the chitterling of bats, the groaning of the crypt door… The Vampire Counts, once a staple of Warhammer Fantasy, are rising from the grave and they’re doing it in style!
It’s been a while since I wrote one of these reviews for a big wave of AoS or 40k models. I almost did one for the new Lumineth Realmlords but it would have been easily summed up with the sentence “They’re alright but I preferred the first lot”. Likewise I planned to write one for the Slaaneshi mortals but that would have boiled down to “I love all of it” followed by a string of double entendres – so it’s probably a relief all round that I restrained myself.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do one this time though – I bloody love vampires and this was a release I could really get my teeth into. I fell under the spell of the Vampire Counts many years ago, back when Sylvania was the capital of the dead, Shyish was a wind and the Von Carstein family ruled the night. I started an army of them several times but never really got it off the ground although with each attempt I accumulated more – some of which were eventually painted and some of which still linger in dusty obscurity even now. Maybe I’ll start a Soulblight Vampire’s army and finally get them painted up – or maybe they’ll be stuck in their tombs a little longer. Time shall tell – today, let’s grab our shovels and head down to the nearest graveyard to take a look at the new models!
First things first, and where better to begin than with this undead general; the Vampire Lord.
What can I say – it’s a beautiful model ruined by, for some crazy reason, having bats in their hair. There’s a time and a place for being a bit OTT but this just comes off as daft to me, and plays to that silly superstition that bats get caught in ladies’ hair. If I get this model, and I might, those will either be getting snipped off or I’ll be giving them a headswap from elsewhere in the range. Otherwise it’s a damn good model, and its simplicity is its greatest strength, which makes adding a silly flourish in the form of the hair bats even more foolish. Mind you, a female friend did comment “Who hasn’t been running late and wished a few bats would turn up and do your hair? This is Warhammer’s answer to a Disney Princess!” I’ll never look at this particular miniature quite the same way again…
Vampires may be at the heart of this wave of releases but there are other undead shambling forth alongside them, not least of which is the magnificent Wight King.
Skeletal steeds can be hard to pull off but they haven’t put a foot wrong here. He’s a very detail heavy miniature but they’ve shown the sense not to add lots of extraneous flourishes so that every one of those details feels necessary and adds to the personality of the model overall. The result is a very conservative design, rather than one which is littered with unique “Games Workshop only” elements, the kind of thing which doesn’t quite work in practice but which no-one else is doing which they so often allow themselves to be tempted by. What’s particularly impressive is the way in which this model is an almost perfect copy of the old Wight King model (a theme which we’ll be revisiting time and again as we look through these releases).
However whilst the old one was well past retirement age the new one swaggers out of the gate looking like the royalty he is. I can’t wait to see him leading a spearhead of Black Knights as they thunder down upon the hapless living. Nor is this the only undead cavalry to come galloping out of the gates…
If you’d asked me a few months ago to come up with a wishlist of models I’d like to see in this release then the Blood Knights would have been second only to the Zombies (more on them below). The old Blood Knights were nice enough models but, and I know this is just personal taste, I never really liked them that much – which is unfortunate because I loved the concept behind them and the artwork which often made them look brooding and terrible to behold.
The price was also a pretty big sticking point, the old models were always phenomenally expensive. The new ones aren’t exactly cheap but this is a rare case of GW’s prices actually going down.
Having set the bar very high by imagining how good these could look for at least the last decade or so these vampires were going to have to work hard to impress me – but they rose to the challenge with aplomb.
Forcing myself to be objective, and putting my personal prejudices aside, the old ones weren’t bad models, especially for their time – but they just don’t match up to the new breed at all.
The new kit appears to contain a range of options, including lances, swords and a variety of heads, allowing you to personalise your own vampiric elite – or put together large numbers of them without having to include any duplicates. Certainly there will be those who build their army around a core of Blood Knights and create all-vampire armies, something that I think will be an impressive sight to behold.
Next we have the zombies, and if ever there was a kit that deserved a do-over it was this one. These newcomers are nice, straightforward walking-corpses, with a sufficient mix of sexes and appearances to suggest a whole town of people have suffered an unfortunately demise, only to be raised again in service to their vampiric lords.
The outgoing zombies kit (below) was hard to love. Like all zombies it kept shambling on long after it should have been laid to rest but at long last it’s suffered the metaphorical headshot to put it in its grave (and this time it can damn well stay there!).
It’s replacement meanwhile is a joy to behold, although that might in part be a reaction the years of suffering that we fans of the undead have endured at the cold dead hands of its predecessor. The zombies therein appear to be both full of character and fairly versatile – perfect for building up an undead hoard.
Being a bit more generic these should appeal to anyone who found the Cursed City zombies a little too gimmicky. Not that I have anything against the Cursed City zombies, who totter around with their graves on their backs, but I do acknowledge that they’re not to everyone’s taste. As an aesthetic unique to the Cursed City game I think it works but for every zombie in the Mortal Realms to look that way would be overdoing things – not to mention making it harder to find alternative uses for these models as kitbashing and conversion fodder – so something a little more generic was definitely in order. And if you do happen to want a zombie in that style but missed out on Cursed City you can still make a few from the contents of this box.
The roots growing through the corpses is an interesting touch, although I can’t help but wonder how they’ve managed to grow so quickly before the bodies rotted away entirely. Probably the blame lies with dark magic, regardless I think it looks cool. That said I’m sympathetic to those who’re not so keen, especially as this means they’ll need a bit more work if you want to use them as generic zombies fit for any setting. However just as part of me wants to snip those branches off and turn these into Necromundan Scavies, so another part wants to incorporate some Sylvaneth spares and make the woods come alive in the most horrifying way possible.
Nor is this element entirely unique, my first thought when I saw them was of the Tribe of Sarrassa from the game Hate, although those guys really were more tree than corpse.
Unlike the old zombies which were well past their best the old skeleton kit had aged fairly well. I still have a fair number of them which I’d accumulated over the years and which I really ought to get painted and although they may not be the best models around they’re a very long way from the worst. I’m also rather fond of the Grave Guard, another older kit which has stood the test of time very well (and, I’ll confess, another which I managed to snag at a bargain price years ago and which has been languishing unpainted ever since). These new Skeleton Warriors fall somewhere between the two aesthetically, with a bit more armour and greater bulk giving them a significantly more imposing appearance than their predecessors. A subtle wrongness to their postures emphasises their undead nature (as if that was needed on a warrior already stripped down to their bones) and adds a creepy, unnatural element that the old kit lacked. Overall I’d call this an improvement, and although at first glance I dismissed it the longer I look the more tempted by it I become.
Now I don’t actually own any of these new skeletons (of course – they’ve not even been released yet) but what I do have are the Cursed City skeletons which, to all intents and purposes, are basically the same models, so let’s line them up next to some of the older skeletons in the range and see how they compare.
Running from left to right we have; a grave guard, a new skeleton warrior, an old skeleton warrior and a mortek guard from the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Before we begin I should also note that, in a moment of silliness, I used a slightly altered model for the old skeleton warrior rather than a standard build. He’s exactly the same as any normal skeleton warrior apart from his head, which I took from the Black Knights kit. The pointed helmet echoes the new skeleton warriors (I was ahead of my time there because I kitbashed him long before these were previewed) but doesn’t add anything to his height – so long as you measure to the eyes rather than the point of the helmet. Anyway, consider my wrist slapped and let’s get on with looking at these models.
The first, and most obvious point here, is how tall the new skeletons are. The pose helps here, they stand a lot straighter than their hunched predecessors, I reckon if the old models had worked on their posture a bit there wouldn’t be much difference. Of course it’s worth remembering that skeletons should be smaller than their flesh and blood allies, strip away all your meat and organs and you’d be considerably smaller too. Back when these guys were alive they must have been giants! Marching alongside the old skeleton warriors however they actually work quite well, looking like professional soldiers in their rusted armour, with the old skeletons appearing more like undead militiamen. If, like me, you still have old skeleton warriors in your collection I reckon you can add in some of the newcomers as well and the results will still look cohesive.
The two warriors on the ends of the line-up are where things get a bit more complicated however. It wasn’t until recently, when I sat down and painted a pair of mortek guards for myself, that I realised how short these guys are. The Ossiarch Bonereapers are presented as Nagash’s elite, an army build from the ground up for war rather than simply harvested from whatever corpses happened to by lying around by a plucky necromancer in a hurry. These are the death god’s counter to Sigmar’s Stormcast Eternals, crafted from the near-infinite supply of bones he has access to, so why did he decide to make them so stunty? However the mortek guard are at least part of a different army, albeit one loosely allied to the Soulblight. The grave guard however are supposed to be the Soulblight’s elite infantry, yet once again we find them to be shorter and less imposing than the new rank-and-file. As I noted above I’ve always been very fond of the grave guard but standing next to the new skeleton warriors you wouldn’t immediately pick them out as the tough veteran troops in the way that you would have done if you’d been comparing them to the old skeleton warriors. Had I been looking to refresh the range of Soulblight models I think my inclination would have been to leave the old skeleton warriors alone, and update the grave guard instead. As it is I would suggest that anyone who wants to really invest in a Soulblight army that stands out from the crowd should consider kitbashing grave guard and black knight parts with the new skeleton warriors to make their own grave guard (and in fact this is something I might play around with myself once I get my hands on a few bits – I’m not sure I have the enthusiasm to put together a whole squad but it would be a fun way to add some skeletal muscle to a Warcry warband). As a cheaper alternative you could always use the old skeleton warriors as skeleton warriors and the new ones as grave guard – but gamers should keep in mind that’s likely to be confusing for both you and your opponent.
Another kit from the Vampire Counts era that has been desperately overdue for a refresh is the monstrous Fell Bats. Once again, let’s take a quick look at the old models…
… and then compare them to these newcomers who have come flapping out of the gloom to carry off the townsfolk and their livestock.
I’ve always felt that bats get a bad press and I’ve never been able to follow why a small, insect-eating mammal inspires such terror (unless you’re a moth of course, in which case you have my sympathies). For the rest of us though so long as you don’t go around eating them and starting a pandemic there’s really no cause for alarm. That said they’ve been a staple of nocturnal horror since long before Bram Stoker hammered out his overwrought prose and have a well established association with vampires. Plus, let’s be honest here, absolutely no-one who took a sane and compassionate view of bats prior to seeing these models will be transformed into a chiroptophobe just by looking at them. If we accept, and I think that most sensible people do, that painting a unit or two of Afrika Korp Soldiers won’t turn you into a neo-Nazi as osmotic pressure draws evil out of the miniature, up the brush and into your hand, then it stands to reason that painting these little horrors won’t lead you into the shady world of batophobia. No matter how much I might have preferred to see a more innovative monster here rather than pandering to anyone daft enough to fear death by echolocation bats are what we got, and they deserve an honest appraisal. And if I’m honest I like them. I probably won’t go rushing off to buy them but if you want some leering, furry gargoyles for your collection I don’t think you can go far wrong with these.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record the Dire Wolves are yet another kit from the old Vampire Counts era that was overdue for replacing. I must confess that I actually rather liked the old version, and even painted up a squad of my own (see image below), but I know I was in the minority there.
Although I was a fan of the old Dire Wolves I’m not blind to their flaws. Time for them to shuffle off into woods unknown and be replaced by the new dogs on the block.
Much like bats wolves get a bad press. Despite being pretty much harmless unless you’re a sheep wolves have carved out a special place in European nightmares, ready at any moment to set upon hapless peasants, blow up the houses of little pigs or dress up as people’s grandmothers. These wolves navigate neatly around the debate over whether we should live in existential dread of these animals by being zombies – and everything is scary once it’s a zombie! Personally I like these new wolves, they have a nice sense of movement to them and the poses look suitably hungry and predatory. Games Workshop have really struggled to sculpt decent looking wolves in the past but with these, and Belladamma Volga (below) they’ve at last managed to pull off something quite stylish. All the trailing drool is a bit unnecessary and over-eggs things a bit but it’s nothing a hobby knife won’t cure.
Kritza the Rat Prince
Games Workshop’s vampires tend towards the bestial, with even the more human looking ones snarling with talons raised, ready to tear their victims apart in their bloodlust. Kritza on the other hand is extremely restrained and reserved. There’s something resigned, almost mournful about him; you suspect he would apologise before and after biting you, and possibly during as well.
It’s only after a second glance that one spots the sinister tide of rats scurrying beneath his long cape, and recognise exactly what kind of animals he’s used to decorate his robes. They seem to be quite dead now of course, just stuffed heads with glassy eyes – but are they? These are the vampire lords after all, and no-one is quite as dead as they ought to be.
As a vampire Kritza doesn’t really do it for me, there are plenty of other new lords of the night which to my eye look a lot more powerful and vampiric, but I am tempted to pick him up and turn him into a Necromundan crime lord.
Whilst the Rat Prince tends towards an appearance of civilised melancholy Lady Annika appears to be a much more vicious creature indeed. If you like your vampires to keep their murderous inclinations beneath the thinnest veneer of civilisation then this could well be the girl for you.
Her big hair-do is a bit OTT of course but it suits the model. Taken as a whole the miniature combines barely contained savagery with faded grandeur, and of all the vampires in this wave of releases she looks the most undead – the bloodlust and decay only just masked, and only for now…
Unlike the Nighthaunt or Ossiarch Bonereapers these new Soulblight and their minions would for the most part fit seamlessly into the old Warhammer world as well. If you’re still marching around on square bases and flying the banner of Sylvania as the Empire burns then this release looks like a welcome opportunity to refresh your collection. Equally – and unlike the aforementioned Empire models – these appear completely at home in the Age of Sigmar. A corpse is still a corpse after all, regardless of where you raise it, and with the possibility of a dwarf no-one clings to the old ways like a vampire.
However it’s at this point that things start to get a bit bloody weird. Quite why someone decided that a part-bat, part-dragon, part-woman was the centre piece the army needed but needless to say it’s been divisive. Enter Lauka Vai, the Mother of Nightmares.
I’m not going to lie to you, I think she’s really damn cool. She’s a truly weird and unsettling creature who has crawled forth from the same dark pits of the human imagination that HP Lovecraft once indulged. She speaks directly to the part of the human mind that recoils at death, and doubley so at undeath. As our civilisation has grown so the undead have been made safe, gathering around spooky clichés, fun-loving ghosts, Halloween parties, sparkling vampires. An age of reason, science and enlightenment has taught us that there is nothing to fear here. Lauka Vai reaches out and touches the inner medieval peasant lying alone in his hut, heart racing and ears straining to hear the creak and rustle of something lurking just beyond the door, the part of us that knows that reason is for daylight hours and lies awake when all the lights go out.
I’m not terribly keen on the rosary, or whatever it’s meant to be, that Lauka is holding, it seems like the kind of unnecessary detail that GW sculptors have a habit of including purely to avoid leaving a space, without actually adding anything to the narrative of the model. Apart from that however there’s a lot to like here.
Despite all this enthusiasm however I do see why she might not be everyone’s cup of tea. What’s more although I think she’s great I actually prefer her as a special character, a one-off horror rather than part of a whole bizarre species. Much though I like her I struggle to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for the Vengorian Lord, the generic version of the same kit.
The Vengorian Lord isn’t a bad model, although the Nosferatu vibe is perhaps a little heavy handed and that distracts from the model’s other qualities for me. Beyond that he echoes her quite closely, they’re just different ways of building of the same model at the end of the day, so if you particularly like or dislike one you’ll probably feel the same way about the other. If I hadn’t already seen Lauka I’d probably quite like him, but I have and so I can’t help but see him as an inferior version.
One thing that I don’t really like on either version of the model is the head. Lauka works well enough but I think I’d probably replace it with one from elsewhere in the range (with the plethora of spares on the Blood Knights being the first contender) in order to put my own spin on it. I’m still trying to judge the exact size of the head however, it may be a little larger than the other vampires in the range but it’s hard to tell exactly with only photographs to go on. Again however I do have a few demented ideas I’d like to explore here…
Indeed the longer I look at Vengorian Lord the more I start to think of the ways I’d tweak him (a new head for starters!) so perhaps, should I decide to get this kit for myself it’ll be an altered version Vengorian Lord rather than Lauka Vai by the time that I finally put brush to plastic. Of all these releases this is the one which has my creative juices flowing the most as a converter so don’t be surprised if some twisted nightmare comes crawling up out of the dark depths sooner or later.
Radukar the Beast
The central villain of the ill-fated game Cursed City (surely a case of nominative predeterminism if ever I heard one!) was the vampire lord Radukar the Wolf.
Now I’ve not played through the game yet and I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else but I think it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that, if you win the game where the central objective is to defeat the vampire then the vampire will end up dead(er) at the end. However that fails to account for one of the central tenants of horror, that the baddie always come back. Horror movie bad guys, much like action movie heroes, have a phenomenal ability to come crawling back from the verge of death, shrug off apparently mortal wounds and get all murderous on those who done them wrong. Poor old Radukar has been very wronged indeed, having been “cancelled” by Games Workshop (perhaps he held the wrong opinions?) he’s come back swinging, having swapped rulership of the Cursed City for a gym membership and a lifetimes’ supply of protein shakes. Better yet he’s got a new miniature, which replaces the old one that was available for all of about 15 minutes just a few weeks ago. Seeing all the other replacements for old models that form part of this release actually only serves to make this more striking – the first Radukar having been on sale for about as many minutes as the old zombies outstayed their welcome in years.
The new incarnation is a muscular brute and as subtle as a brick, and I love him for it. As well as being an awesome model in his own right I can’t help but think that he could be converted into a Khornate lord, or a Space Wolf who has succumbed to the curse of the wulfen. Kritza the Rat Prince will undoubtedly take one look at him and start twittering about toxic masculinity, bless his little soul.
Scampering around his feet we have a pair of little Vyrkos Blood-Born. These diminutive vampires were once the nobility of the Cursed City who swore themselves to Radukar and were reborn as these half-feral creatures. Seeing them on Radukar’s base is a nice touch, providing a nod to the Cursed City game whilst also serving to emphasise how big the vampire lord has now grown. However I can’t help but wonder if, in the future, they might look a little out of context. Without the game from which they originated, and with it having remained on the shelves for such a brief time, there’s very little that looks like them elsewhere in the range. Who knows though, maybe someday the little scamps will get their own kit?
Prior to this release I certainly wasn’t expecting the sheer number of vampires that have been revealed, nor the range of styles. Truly there is a vampire here for every occasion, from Kritza, who I feel might actually sparkle if you catch him in the right light, to the murderous Annika or the Lovecraftian strangeness of Lauka Vai. I must admit however that I certainly wasn’t expecting Radukar to bring his gran along.
There’s a wonderfully subtly to this model that to me makes her one of the best things in this release. At first glance she could almost be a fairly normal old woman, albeit one with an unusual choice of steed but allowances can be made for riding around on wolves in a fantasy setting. Then you spot her feet pocking out the bottom of her dress and have to suppress a shudder as she slips across the border into the uncanny valley in search of a gingerbread cottage to lurk in. What sharp teeth you have grandmama…
Anyway, if you haven’t gathered as much by now I think this is an excellent set of releases and I can’t deny that I’m thinking very seriously about raising some dead of my own. As I mentioned above I’ve already got a whole heap of undead knocking around that I’ve gathered over the years, and this is giving me the itch to get stuck in about them at last. I don’t know how many of the new kits I’m going to rush out to buy (metaphorically of course – who goes out to buy things these days?), especially given the aforementioned stack of corpses in the spare room (and there’s a line you don’t want to hear quoted out of context…). At the very least I’m going to treat myself to a set of zombies though, you can never have too many of them, and then we’ll take it from there.
One thing that does strike me though, especially as I look at the new vampire characters, is how much old Neferata and Mannfred feel out of place. For the uninitiated these were two of the most powerful vampires in the old Warhammer setting and when the great necromancer Nagash became a god in the new Mortal Realms he raised their souls once more and bound them into his service, reasoning that as their miniatures had only been released in 2014 it might be premature to kill them off without giving people a proper chance to buy them – a fate which Radukar the Wolf can only envy. Now I’m certainly not complaining that the models are still available, both of them are excellent miniatures and I certainly intend to paint one or other of them someday – probably Neferata (sorry Mannfred, you’re a much more interesting character and your devious villainy is a hoot to read about, but I have a secret love for Neferata so she jumps the queue).
I’ve always felt however that they don’t really belong to Age of Sigmar, they’re borrowed from old Warhammer and ever since the setting was created they’ve felt like a fish out of water, allowed to linger on in the new setting because we’re all too polite to tell them that the setting they belong to burned to the ground six years ago and they weren’t on it. Whilst some of the other old world survivors, Morathi for instance, or Nagash himself, have really grown into their new roles these two old timers never really seemed to fit. Introducing new vampire characters has only emphasised this divide. I suppose Belladamma Volga could almost come riding across the steps of Kislev and perhaps Lauka Vai might lurk on some lonely island off the coast of Lustria or Naggaroth, but really these are creatures of the new Realms – and Neferata and Mannfred belong to the old. Perhaps as the new range beds in I’ll change my mind, or perhaps they’ll just be allowed to live out their days quietly on the shelves of Games Workshop stores until the Old World project is finally unveiled and they’re able to find their way home at last.
Death has had a strong showing over the past few years, with the arrival of first the ghosts of the Nighthaunt, then the skeletal legions of the Ossiarch Bonereapers and now the old fashioned undead of the Soulblight Gravelords. I suspect, and I’m happy to be proved wrong, that we might not see a great deal more from the forces of undeath over the next few years, as Games Workshop switch their focus to the savage hordes of Destruction currently gearing up to take their turn as the big baddies of the setting and give those Order gits a propa kickin’. That said I think there’s still a lot of creative potential to be explored here, as and when Games Workshop get around to it. Most deserving of a little attention are the Flesh-eater Courts. The ghouls are nice models, and the background – which describes them as deluded, Quixotic knights who believe themselves to be noble and heroic rather than degenerate cannibals – is very clever. It’s unfortunate however that the background has no visual link to the models whatsoever, there’s not a single miniature in the range which so much as hints at knightly qualities. What’s more I really like the available models but I’m put off from even considering an army of them because the range leans so heavily on just a handful of kits, with many units differentiated from each other simply by having a slightly different head. If I had a seat amongst Games Workshop’s team of designers I’d make sprucing up the ghouls my next priority, and I’d want to emphasise the knightly aspect whilst I was about it.
Anyway, the sun is creeping over the horizon so it’s time for me to slink back to my crypt to wait out another day. I may lie in my coffin, my flesh as cold and white as marble, but I am not dead – nor am I sleeping. I’m waiting, specifically to hear what you might have to say about all this. As even, my fellow lords of the night, the comments box is all yours…
All images of models or artwork belong to Games Workshop – apart from the photos of my own models of course. No garlic was harmed in the production of this post.
Time to dip a toe into the filthy streets of the Cursed City and what better place to start than with Watch Captain Halgrim. Once a senior member of the city watch, when the vampires took over the city and the purges began Halgrim betrayed his oaths and turned his coat, signing on with the new overlords in exchange for joining the ranks of the undead nobility. Sadly for him his treachery failed to pay off in quite the manner he was expecting. To this day however Halgrim leads the ranks of the city watch – though now both he and they are nothing more than decaying automatons.
It might be a while before I get around to painting the troops under his command but I’m certainly looking forward to them. Before that though, my next targets are a few skeletons of a different stripe…