Tag Archives: Editorial

To Boldly Go…

For over three decades the Rogue Traders who once gave their name to the entire Warhammer 40,000 setting have been lost in the warp or drifting on the shadowy edges of the map. Now they’re back, and they’ve brought a bunch of gribbly Chaos beasties with them. How could I resist this chance to pontificate!

Rogue Trader Art

Despite Warhammer 40k having existed for over thirty years now, there remain a number of prominent factions who have seen little or no attention from the miniatures’ designers. From Kroot mercenaries to Eldar Exodites there are plenty of options for the developers of the game to explore over the coming years. In recent times many fractions previously lurking in the background have come to prominence, genestealer cults, the adeptus mechanicus and the households of the Imperial Knights amongst them. Launching a whole new race however demands considerable investment of time and resources on the part of the company, and must make for an intimidating proposition. Games Workshop tested the waters with Deathwatch: Overkill, a boxed game which served primarily as a vehicle by which the Deathwatch and Genestealer Cults could be brought back into the game. Now we have Kill Team, building on the concept to form the perfect gateway through which new fractions can be introduced. Some may never grow beyond a handful of models, whilst others could develop in time into mighty fractions hundreds strong. Suffice to say I was already excited about Kill Team but this only serves to increase my interest.

First off the blocks then, we have Kill Team; Rogue Trader starring a plucky band of adventurers on a thirty-odd year mission in outer space to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before and to exterminate anyone who looks funny in the name of Him Upon Terra.

RT Banner

I actually pre-ordered this set, an unusual move for me, although I’m still not completely convinced of its qualities. When it hits it does so with incredible style, but equally when it misses it really misses. Much has already been made of the idea that this is GW bringing the Inq28 aesthetic back into its main range, with repeated assertions in all the promotional materials, that these models spring straight from the mind of John Blanche. Which is great, of course, and to be celebrated and encouraged, of course, but isn’t enough to make a set of models great by itself. What tipped the balance for me however was imagining all of the ways that what I perceive as mistakes could be rectified – and surely for the dedicated converter there’s no bigger draw to a model than that!

Before I go any further I’d highly recommend you check out Krautscientist’s excellent review of this set, indeed it was when the comment I intended to post on his blog sprawled to truly epic length that I decided to finish off this review and post it so he actually deserves a lot of credit/blame for the fact that you’re actually reading this.

Anyway, without further ado – let’s take a look at the contents of the box, starting with the brave men and women of the New Dawn.

Elucia Vhane

Vaine

The boxset is called Kill Team: Rogue Trader so it makes sense to assume we’d be seeing something suitably impressive from the Rogue Trader herself. The result however is rather subtle, and at first glance almost underwhelming, although it rewards proper scrutiny.

Aesthetically the veil over her face is an odd choice. As a concept it works well, and I find myself wanting to like it, plus it puts a stamp of individuality on her as a character. On the other hand it actually strips her of character, making her more aloof, enigmatic and unique but also fades her into the background somewhat when she should be the kind of person demanding everyone’s attention. In Universe it probably serves to increase her authority – after all a person like you is hardly important enough to merit the honour of looking at her face. Out of Universe however she’s a tiny lump of brightly coloured plastic and so needs to work a little harder to be engaging. Having a face would help with that a lot. Ultimately I’m left in two minds by it. If I decided to paint her as Elucia Vhane then of course I’ll keep it, it’s already as iconic of the character as Abaddon’s topknot. If, on the other hand, I decide to use the model as a Rogue Trader of my own devising I’ll replace it with a different head, I have one from a female vampire which might be perfect.

I must confess I also expected something a little more blinged up from our first Rogue Trader. The clothes and equipment she wears are nice enough and probably high fashion in the Imperium but I’m surprised we haven’t seen a more ostentatious display of wealth here. Where is the jewel encrusted servo-suit, the feathered riding beast or the servitor-borne sedan chair? Surely she doesn’t just walk everywhere like a commoner?

Before I’m accused of damning her with faint praise let me emphasize that Elucia Vhane is a very nice model indeed. The trouble is, she shares a boxset with the likes of Larsen van der Grauss, Knosso Prond and the voidsmen. A Rogue Trader should really be the most commanding and impressive model in any given room, yet poor Elucia is rather overshadowed by her sidekicks and employees. In part Elucia is burdened by being the first of her kind. If she was just another Rogue Trader I think she’d get a lot more leeway in terms of her looks. It’s not fair, and history will probably judge her very kindly, but for the moment this model needs to represent not only Elucia Vhane (something it does very well) but also all Rogue Traders (something which will always be beyond its scope).

Something I do really enjoy about her pose is how relaxed, confident and non-competitive it is. This model doesn’t represent her locked in the heat of battle as much as it does her standing at the helm of her starship or perhaps attending a briefing or the most exclusive of parties. If there is a fight going on she’s not launching herself into it like a barbarian queen but standing back and employing others to get their hands bloody on her behalf.

Also, in spite of its aesthetic failings, top marks to whoever on the design team recognised that a woman in a veil can also be a woman in charge – there are quite a few bigots across several cultures who need waking up to that idea.

Knosso Prond

Knosso Prond

There are some truly excellent models in this set but even amongst them Knosso Prond stands proud. There are few characters as iconic of the Inquistiot/Inq28 scene as the Death Cult Assassin. Like the Rogue Trader this was one of the key models in the set to get right and this time GW have managed it in style.

I particularly like how the model’s Asian aesthetic has been combined with that of 40k. Here we have someone from an Oriental culture which has changed and evolved over 40,000 years, with a result which is far more engaging than, for example, the cut-and-paste Viking trappings of the Space Wolves.

Also, take a look at that head she’s carrying. It’s not wearing a metal mask, making it our only glimpse of the “normal” mutants amongst the Gellerpox. On a more serious note however it’s probably the only thing I don’t like about the model. Surely carrying heads around has been done to death by now? I’d have preferred another blade (a fairly easy conversion to achieve at least) or an open hand as she invites her next adversary to join her in a dance of death.

Knosso Prond 2

Prond has been manoeuvred by her cult in  swearing a vow of silence never to be lifted until she has slain a thousand enemies of the Imperium. Of course it turns out that simply firing a warhead into an ork encampment and loudly shouting “Done” is cheating but thanks to the arrival of the Gellerpox she should be well on her way now. Perhaps she should be accompanied by a squat based off Gimli from Lord of the Rings just in case she goes up against a Chaos Knight or Greater Daemon. “It still only counts as one!”

Larsen van der Grauss

Every crew of spacefaring adventures needs a quirky scientist to look after the tech and amongst the Starstiders that roll falls to Larsen van der Grauss. Of course, given the Gellerpox currently infesting what is arguably the most important bit of the ship (the bit that stops daemons getting in and eating you) it’s fair to suggest he may have been falling down on the job. That’s not something I’m going to hold against him however because once again the miniature is absolutely gorgeous. His complex and archaic equipment ties him in nicely both to the Rogue Traders and to the Adeptus Mechanicus, making him a neat bridging model in a combined Imperial force.

Larsen van der Grauss

The Starstiders team introduces us to the Rogue Traders as a faction and Larsen repeats the trick in microcosm by showing us a previously unseen agent of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Lectro-Maesters. Like the electro-priests we’ve already seen these are initiates of the Motive Force but whilst those previously released models represent frothing fanatics these are artisans and explorers constantly questing for new sources of energy with which to supply their Forge Worlds. Indeed the background fiction compares them to missionaries, a popular position amongst the priests of Mars.

Sanistasia Minst

Dammit Elucia, I’m a doctor not the unwitting pawn of a dark god!

Sanistasia Minst

When times get tough and the bullets start flying it’s great to have a doctor on your team. Of course if her increasing obsession with battling diseases has turned her into a puppet of the plague god Nurgle then that’s unfortunate…

As every crew of space-faring adventurer’s knows it’s a long way to the nearest hospital so it pays to bring a doctor with you. The task of providing medical support to the Starstiders falls to Sanistasia Minst, and as is often the case with medical professionals in the Warhammer universes, the more closely you read her background the more you start to discover her involvement in sinister goings’ on.

As well as being a doctor she’s also a Rejuvenat Adept, charged with extending the lives of wealthy clients alongside performing various other act of healing. Of course, this is the Imperium where doctors carry concussion grenades and a life isn’t saved for its own sake but rather to ensure the wounded get back in the fight as soon as possible.

Like Vhane, she’s not shown in a combat pose (unless you count stepping on the head of a Nurgling, itself a nice metaphorical touch). Once again this is a good thing, and although she could undoubtedly give someone a nasty scratch with those scalpel fingers – which is probably the point of them – her job is to be a healer and the killing is best left to other people. She even manages to look very young which, giving up her job is to keep other people looking young too, is a clever bit of design work. it also creates a slight air of naivety about her which ties in neatly to her backstory.

Sanistasia Minst Art

There’s a lot of debate going on at the moment over whether the coloured plastics used by GW in some of the more recent sets is more brittle than the grey stuff we’re used to. Lots of technical information has been thrown around and as ever I’ll bow to the greater knowledge of the experts, but I will note that, based on this set the green plastic used for the Gellerpox Mutants seems to be fine whereas the red is distinctly more brittle, leading to real problems with fine details such as Sanistasia Minst’s bladed fingers in a way that I just wouldn’t expect in a normal GW kit.

Voidmaster Nitsch

Continuing to plunder the wonderful world of classic sci-fi tropes, here’s the chief of security, the guy we all look to when the killing starts, Voidmaster Nitsch.

Voidmaster Nitsch (1)

I know it’s just my personal taste  but I find models wielding two-handed weapons one-handed irritates me a little, especially when they’re using the free hand to wield yet another weapon. Space Marines are particularly guilty of this but Nitsch flirts with it too. I see the story that the model intends to convey, the switching from one weapon to another, the range of firepower that he brings to bear, the fact that here is a man who can never have too many guns, and it works – but only just.

What I do like however is the way he looks smartly turned out but still utterly lethal and competent as a killer. From the bodyguards of a mafia don to James Bond there have been plenty of people willing to prove that wearing a suit in no way prevents one from becoming proficient at the art of murder and Nitsch looks ready to step from having dinner with the planetary governor to handing the wet-work and back again without breaking sweat. Overall then he’s another success – it’s just a shame about the guns.

Stromian Grell

Grell

With mutant hoards on the march a big man with a rotor cannon is just the kind of chap you want around. It’s a classic of action movies and for good reason, so Grell makes for an excellent addition to the squad. My only criticism is that I would have preferred an alternative, preferably helmeted, head – the little cap really doesn’t work for me at all. Expect a quick head swap when I get around to him.

He is quite big compared to a guardsman but this is the Imperium where the scale of a normal unaugmented human varies considerably anyway. After all if a Goliath ganger can indulge in a growth stim habit then a rogue trader can undoubtedly afford to make the guy  who carries the rotor cannon suitably sturdy as well.

The Voidsmen

Tough though Nitsch and Grell appear to be they’re not going to fight off the Gellerpox alone. Luckily they don’t have to, because there are three more Voidsmen in the box.

Voidsman

I know it’s a common refrain of mine but there’s really nothing original, exciting or “40k” about the Cadians and Catachans. The Tempestus Scions are great, never let it be said otherwise, but we could still really use a kit for making baseline human soldiers of the Imperium. Like the Scions the Voidsmen demonstrate just what GW could do here if they put their minds to it. In fact just looking at one finds oneself wishing for a multi-part kit and the chance to start a whole army of them. And before you snort your derision and dismiss this as wishful thinking keep in mind that we just saw this with the genestealer aberrants so who knows what the future might hold?

Voidswoman

As a little aside it’s nice to note that although one of the Voidsmen is in fact a Voidslady this wasn’t something I noticed immediately. It’s not that she’s sexless or lacking in femininity, just that it’s rather more subtle than it once would have been. Hopefully the days are past when she would have gone into battle wearing enormous armoured cones on her chest like the love child of Maddona and Magnus the Red. I know this is hardly news these days, especially since the latest Stormcast release, but it’s still a welcome development and worth acknowledging and praising, especially with new Sisters of Battle on the way.

Lineup

It is worth noting that the Voidsmen are rather big compared to a baseline guardsman. In part this will be due to scalecreep, in part to the better diet they enjoy working for a Rogue Trader. Overall it’s not a bad thing, it still falls well within the range of heights normal amongst human’s today, but it worth being aware of nonetheless. Fear not though – next to a Primaris Space Marine they still look suitably frail and mortal.

Aximillion

Finally we have what may be the best model GW has released in the entirety of their history. Rather overenthusiastic praise? Perhaps, but would you say it to his face? After all, he’s such a good boy! It’s that true hero of the Imperium; Aximillion.

Dog

So naturally and obviously popular has he proven that it seems crazy that GW didn’t create him sooner. Surely not everyone in Nottingham is a cat person? Surely with retrospect it’s a little odd that we got a pet octopus before a dog? Picture the heated debate as GW’s board members wrestle with the eternal question of how to make even more money. Another space marine release? More stormcasts perhaps? How about the Primarch Leman Russ riding in a Leman Russ tank pulled by giant wolves with Nagash at the wheel, life getting complicated and the weasels closing in, loaded up on heinous chemicals and driving like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas? And then some mad genius says “how about a dog?”. Oh they must have laughed then but I’ll bet that same great mind will be being pounded on the shoulder by his colleagues now and told “you’re a maverick but dammit you get results!”

Something I hadn’t realised until I actually got the kit was that he’s really quite a little dog. Here he being taken for a walk by an Imperial Guardsman.

Dog and Guardsman

It’s also nice to see that GW’s skill at sculpting canids has come on a long way in the years since the terrible Fenrisian wolves were released. Next to Macula from Necromunda however he looks like he’d be little more than a snack for the bigger dog. Insert joke about cheering for the underdog here.

Ax vs Max

Of course one of the many nice thing about dogs is that they come in all shapes and sizes so although any fans of House Orlock who are hoping for an alternative model to represent a cyber-mastiff maybe slightly disappointed by his lack of stature he’ll still work nicely in all kinds of other Inq28 scenarios.

The Gellerpox Infected

So, whilst Elucia Vhane and her crew have been busy claiming new worlds for the Imperium, down in the engine room things have been going very wrong indeed. Ready to frustrate the plans of the Rogue Traders and spread all kinds of merry havoc we have the other half of the box; the Gellerpox Infected. As a notorious fan of Chaos you’d think this would be the part I’m most excited by but in my view this is where we see the greatest design miss-steps. I must emphasise, it’s not all bad, indeed most of it is very good, but it’s on this side of the box that I see the most things that I’d prefer to have been done differently or that I’d like to change. In part though that may be because I am such a fan of Chaos and so I have my own aesthetic expectations which I’m imposing on these models. However whilst the Starstriders feel very much like a team this lot seem more like a loose affiliation of monsters, giant mutants, outsized insects and zombies with no common purpose or mission beyond running amok. Again this is not necessarily a bad thing, and I’ll certainly find plenty of uses for them in my collection, but there is no denying that whilst the Starstriders are a tight knit team these are a collection of odds and ends cobbled together, and it shows.

Vulgrar Thrice-Cursed

Vulgrar Thrice-Cursed

The big boss of the mutants is, Vulgrar Thrice-Cursed, also known as the Twisted Lord, a towering, stamping, three-headed, four armed machine man with a boiler for a belly. Unlike his opposite number Elucia Vhane he’s unquestionably the one in charge and definitely one of the standout models from the Chaos set. The marks of Nurgle’s influence are present but they’re subtle and whilst this could have been a grab bag of clichés the designers have demonstrated the courage to get outside their comfort zone with the god of plagues and have reaped the rewards for doing so.

He reminds me of the Remade from China Miéville’s New Crobuzon novels, condemned criminals who are grafted with machine parts by way of punishment. As I recall there was at least one who had a boiler installed in place of their guts and had to beg and steal to find enough coal to feed it.

The boiler however is actually my main issue with the model. I know space on sprues is going to be an issue and all kinds of other design issues must come in to play but I really would have preferred it if the flames emerging from the grill on his gut were a separate piece that could be left off easily. To my eye the sculpted flame here is an example of overdoing things which sadly blights this half of the release.

That said I still think he’s ace and even went so far as treating myself to a second model of Vulgrar via eBay, which I’m hoping to turn into a Goliath ‘zerker. Watch this space!

Nightmare Hulks

On the Chaos side of the set the centrepiece models are the Nightmare Hulks, towering mutants grown from the most blessed of the Gellerpox infested crew. Twisted almost beyond recognition by the power of the Warp these men are mere steps away from becoming Chaos Spawn, and indeed would serve very nicely as proxies for exactly that.

As befits creatures spawned from humanity’s nightmares these three each play to a certain archetype; the mad butcher, the man-beast and the horror from the deeps. First up then, the butcher, or as he should properly be called, Gnasher-Screamer.

Gnasher Screamer (1)

Just when you thought GW had done all they could with the trope of Nurgle models having mouths in their stomachs eh?  With all them leading directly into his belly he’d also make a fine ogre Gastromancer (assuming those still exist in AoS).

There’s something truly horrifying about all the mouths erupting from the stomach, but then the designer has over-egged everything by adding cartoon faces to the arms. In my opinion this is a real miss step, distracting attention away from what should be the key feature whilst bringing little to the model themselves. My first move on getting hold of him was to carve them off, not too difficult to do but definitely demanding have a steady hand and a sharp knife. I also went for a different head, the big-haired cartoon redneck look doing the model no favours. Personally I’m much happier with the model now but of course if you feel differently please let me know in the comments box below.

Gnasher Screamer (2)Gnasher Screamer (3)

The sheer size and bulk of these chaps also bears repeating, despite of the promotional photos I don’t think I’d realised how big they are until I saw them in the flesh. Here’s the Gnasher-Screamer towering over my long-suffering guardsman.

Gnasher Screamer (4)

Whilst Gnasher-Screamer is a cannibalistic monstrosity, the Writher appears to have been sewn together from deep-sea beasts and bloated corpses. The designers definitely deserve extra points for this one, despite its bulk it seems to float forward as though carried by the tide. The ghastly face looking out through the hole in his belly is a nice touch, albeit one that the official paint job covers up rather than accentuates.

Writher

The hooded head would be a fine addition to a unique looking Nurgle lord or similar character, whilst the octopus arm would make an excellent head for a marine-themed monster or daemon prince.

Perhaps it’s my resurgent interest in Blood Bowl, perhaps it’s just the fact that Nurgle’s Rotters were released only a couple of weeks ago, but it strikes me that the Writher would also be perfect as a Rotspawn, the “big guy” for Nurgle teams (he certainly features, as the rules describe, a Foul Appearance and a Disturbing Presence, and he has plenty of tentacles to boot!). Now at the time of writing we have just seen early images of an official model for the Rotspawn but frankly I’m not a huge fan of it compared to my mental image of a converted Writher.

Rotspawn

The designers have a really laid the nautical theme on thick here, beyond the octopus arm he is encrusted with barnacles, impaled by a harpoon, snagged with fish hooks (one of which even has a fish attached) and even wearing a seaweed loincloth. Even alongside the hook hands, peg legs and other piratical trappings of the Glitchlings and Gellerpox mutants he just doesn’t quite fit in to 40k. Indeed there is not a single futuristic component on him which means he could transfer to AoS with ease. Indeed, if he was an AoS model I’d be sceptical that he could easily be made to fit into 40k. Slap some suitable shoulder pads and a helmet onto him however and he’d be more than ready to take to the Blood Bowl pitch.

Big Spike

The third hulk is Big Spike, who’d probably be the best of the three if it wasn’t for the fly head that replaces his arm. I do enjoy it when chaos comes with lots of crazy mutations but for my taste the fly arm is just a bit too much. a tiny withered arm on one side to offset the huge claw on the other would be great but this is overkill – most likely I’ll be chopping off the fly head and using it elsewhere, (unsurprisingly I’ll probably use it as a head).

Gellerpoxes (3)

Gellerpox Mutants

Falling somewhere between the plaguebearers and poxwalkers in design, but with a touch of punk-rock peacocking to boot, we have the Gellerpox Mutants, undoubtedly the models about which I’m feeling the most divided.

The pirate theme hangs heavily here in peg legs and hook hands. I found myself half expecting them to throw in a few eye patches and some servo parrots whilst they were about it.

Gellerpoxes (1)

This chap has an ear on his ankle. Talk about keeping your ear to the ground… 

Individually each one is great when you put them all together the result is a little gimmicky. As cool as zombie pirate punks may seem on paper they don’t quite gel in practice. As for the metal masks they make for fine bits for conversions or simply by way of adding some suitably weird 40k vibes but the fact that all three have them calls for an explanation and we end up with some faintly shoehorned sounding talk about metal flowing out of the Geller drive and encasing their heads.

If they had to have masks then why not give them some more in keeping with their role as engineers? Gas masks, welding mask, ad-mech gribby masks, pre-infection cybernetics, there were surely a range of better possibilities than goofy metals skulls? Once again it seems that GW chose a quirky cartoon zanyness over the dark realism some of us would have preferred but that’s true across the set, indeed across their whole range, look no further than some of the faces on the Nightmare Hulk’s for instance. The masks do however make for rather stylish additions to other models (in my humble opinion). I’ve already shown you this model but dammit I’m proud of him so I’ll show him again!

Necromunda Goliath Convert Or Die (2)Necromunda Goliath Convert Or Die (1)

What strikes me as odd is how few of them there are. We’re used to zombies appearing as great hoards and so it’s easy to conclude that a huge tide of plague mutated crewman would be trying to overwhelm the comparatively elite voidsmen. The background even describes them as a “gruesome horde”. In actuality however we only get three of them, which only serves to emphasise their flaws. If any one of them was released alone as a special character it would look excellent, and equally if there were a few more the whole thing might start to work as a gestalt carnival style mass.

Gellerpoxes (2)

In what may be an attempt to explain this we’re told that these three are the Apostles of the Twisted Lord, special characters whilst – presumably – the rest of the horde are lurking out of sight somewhere in the wings. Personally I might be tempted to convert a few more out of spare poxwalkers although that would entail reigning in my desire to decapitate the other existing Gellerpox to make more Goliath champions

Despite these criticisms I actually really like these models, in fact I wish there were a few more of them instead of all the giant insects.

Glitchlings

The Glitchlings are basically Nurglings with a tech/pirate veneer. There’s not a lot to say about them but there’s certainly nothing to complain about either.

 

Glitchlings

There’s also not a lot to add regarding the various other small gribblies to be found in the box. Collectively known as Mutoid Vermin these are the various invertebrates which live in the guts of the ship and, once exposed to the energies of Chaos, have grown to unnatural sizes. In appearance they’re painfully generic which is both a blessing and a curse.

Grubs

On the plus side they’d fit in almost anywhere in either 40k or AoS, from the marshlands of Ghyran to the sump-drains of Necromunda. Regardless of where your interests lie amongst GW’s universes there’s a good chance you’ll find a use for these. On the other hand there’s really nothing unique about them. The same warp energies that turned machines to living metal and gave men claws and screaming mouths for stomachs just took normal insects and made them bigger. Personally I think I would have preferred to see something more iconic of the setting; hybrid beasts, insectile chimeras, corrupted servo-skulls and the like. By making them so generic these feel a lot like filler designed to bulk out the otherwise fairly lean body count amongst the chaos range.

The grubs especially remind me of the larvae from Rackham’s Dwarves of Mid Nor although – despite the technological leaps and bounds we’ve seen since those were released – the newcomers still don’t hold up in comparison.

Larva 2

Overall then it’s a mixed bag although on the whole I’m pleased with it. The Skywalkers – sorry, Starstriders – are an excellent little crew that I can only hope will pave the way for a future Rogue Trader range. On the other hand the Gellerpox set contains a mixture of standout models bulked out by insectile filler with the designers seemingly not quite sure where to draw the line on mutation. The nightmare hulks are generally great, or can be made so with a little work, and the other Gellerpox mutants are nice enough individually but rather too quirky as a group and fail to really fit in with the broader chaos range. The insects, whilst I’ll find a use for them, are definitely the weak link here however and should have been thinned down with at least some of them replaced by more interesting gribblies.

In the end it’ll take a little work to turn me into a devoted worshipper of the Geller Drive but the Rogue Traders were well worth the thirty year wait. Of course I’m always interested to hear your views, if you agree or disagree tell me so and if you have any clever conversions planned for these I’m all ears (I even have one on my ankle).

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Soul Survivors

It’s all kicking off in the Age of Sigmar. A whole new edition has arrived, bringing with it a stack of new models, which I’ll be gushing over shortly (or reviewing them dispassionately like the cold and emotionless agent of the grave I am, depending on your perspective). Once again we’re also seeing the timeline moving forward as Nagash makes his play to replace Chaos as the biggest baddie around. After all he’s been around for millennia and, despite being burdened with a truly terrible hat and getting murdered by the Skaven on a semi-regular basis, he’s risen to attain a well deserved godhood. Until now however he’s been stuck with the same bunch of minions he commanded back in the Old World, minus the Egyptian-looking ones. Of course, never one to back down from a fight or miss out on the merest hint of limelight, Sigmar has sent his Stormcast Eternals to give the agents of his old frenemy a good kicking. Don’t worry, it’s all in fun, none of them can really die.

A new edition means a new boxset and this time we get Soul Wars, the successor to the rather unimaginatively named “Age of Sigmar Starter Set”. Naturally lots of intelligent, literate people who actually have the box in front of them have already shared their opinions about it so you might be forgiven for thinking I wouldn’t bother, but of course you’d be wrong because here I am.

Soul Wars 2

Most excitingly of all I can now look forward to some nutter raving in the comments section about how much he hates AoS and what a truly terrible person I am because I personally murdered Warhammer and ruined everything. If you’re out there mate, the reason I don’t publish your comments is because I genuinely believe you’re unwell and need help and in a rare moment of frankness from me to you I would beg you to consider what this obsessive rage is doing to you and your life. Of course I’ll add that the misplaced bile you pour in my direction also brings a warm glow to my heart and makes me feel that I’ve truly arrived as a reviewer and commenter because I can’t imagine that a busy man like yourself has time to rage at every two bit blog around and you save your burning rage for those platforms where it will garner the most attention. Plus as you are happy to tell me, a stranger, that you hate me, I’m not above mocking you for  a cheap laugh.

So, having agreed that Age of Sigmar is responsible for every unpleasant and terrible thing that has ever happened, from flicking a cigarette butt towards the Hindenburg to producing the music of Shania Twain, let’s acknowledge our shared infamy in still being interested and take a look at the new models.

AoS 2

Faced with a rising tide of ghosts, and discovering that the Scooby-doo gang were unavailable, Sigmar has called in the support of another chamber of Stormcast Eternals; the warrior-mages of the Sacrosanct Chamber. Apparently he heard about the Grey Knights and decided that an army of armoured wizards were just the thing he needed to tackle an incorporeal adversary.

Of course, with tiresome predictability, some sectors of the internet are positively electric with self-satisfied outrage that once again Stormcast Eternals are featured in the boxset. It’s a bit like the people who complain constantly about there being Space Marines in the 40k starter-sets (indeed, it’s probably exactly the same people). Have the courage to admit that you’re just a tedious moaning bore rather than stretching for a silly complaint, especially when that complaint is one that you know will be fulfilled. “I’ll be upset if they put Stormcasts in the starter set” they bleat, smugly knowing that this is as inevitable as if they said “I’ll not buy it if they put the words Games Workshop anywhere on the packaging – after all that’s an anagram of Shag Pokes Worm!” Do you see a giant statue of an Idoneth Deepkin or a Bride of Khaine outside GW HQ in Nottingham? Neither do I – although there’s no denying that the latter would send a powerful message to Games Workshop’s competitors and local burglars alike.

Golden Boy

Still not marrying Khaine

When the first Age of Sigmar starter set was released the Khornate half represented something fairly traditional and familiar. Swap out the round bases for square ones and it would have fitted in nicely as a 9th Edition starter set for Warhammer. Korghos Khul would have made a fine lord of Khorne, the Bloodsecrator a champion with the battle standard, the blood warriors could have been chaos warriors with the mark of Khorne – and likewise the bloodreavers as marauders. Even the Khorgorath could have been a chaos spawn with the mark of Khorne. Alongside this the Stormcasts were the radical choice, making it indisputably clear that here we had something new and different, that the old world was gone and the new was defined by more than round bases and silly names.

This time things are different. This time it is the Stormcasts who are the conservative choice of faction to showcase in the starter set. Like Space Marines for 40k it’s safe to assume that for decades to come each new addition of Age of Sigmar will contain Stormcasts in the boxset.

Secateurs

The core of those Stormcasts are the rather stylish looking Sequitors. I’m not always that keen on Stormcasts, there’s something a little too uniform and faceless about them, but I’ll give the Sequitors two thumbs up. The robes help of course, giving the designers more to play with than plain armour would, but overall these have a lot more individuality and character than previous Stormcasts, whilst still maintaining their cohesiveness. After all, each one is a storied hero – a champion even before Sigmar raised them up – not a clone or another faceless soldier. Early Stormcasts were accused (often rightly) of being a bit repetitive but with these GW have got into their stride. Rather than lacking character each one is a character, and one could imagine oneself ascribing traits to them, identifying them from battle to battle and coming to regard them as individuals in their own right, more like Necromunda gangers than, for example, the twelfth ork in the unit.

Sequitors

I keep telling myself that I don’t need to buy the boxset because I’ll never paint an army of Stormcasts but if I ever do these will form the bulk of it.

Sequitors 1

There’s no denying the visual impact of the Castigators. Stormcasts with grenade launchers? What did the poor followers of Chaos do to deserve this?! As with the Sequitors the robes look great and there’s a real sense of power and weight to the models.

Castigators 2

It’s also good to see more female models as Games Workshop responds slowly to repeated reminders that women have a place in fantasy and science-fiction too (somewhere a fat and unhygienic Star-Wars obsessive is crying into his keyboard at this baldy-stated news but I’ve never sugar-coated anything and I’m not about to let the creepy lard-arse down gently). By subtle narrowing of the masks, waist and legs, and softening of the brow, the designers have rather cleverly managed to incorporate female Stormcasts into the ranks of the Castigators and Sequitors without needing to go down the road of form-fitting armour, boob-armour or even bare heads.

Castigators

I was never the biggest fan of Stormcast based truescale marines, finding that the sleeker armour shapes left them looking more like Stormcasts in space than Space Marines. The arrival of the Primaris marines has generally rendered them a thing of the past, as marines of most chapters can be kitbashed with ease from the Primaris chassis. The exception of course is the Sons of the Lion. Now there are plenty amongst the First Legion who go around dressed in plain power armour, and there’s no reason not to just paint your models green and have done with it. However to really capture the Dark Angels you want long monastic robes and between them the Castigators and Sequitors provide a lot of potential. The hammers, lightning bolts and other Sigmarite flourishes would need trimmed away but a virtue could be made of all the lion iconography.

As I say I’m not that keen on Stormcast based truescale marines, nor do I particularly like the Dark Angels (those filthy traitors!) but I might just pick up a few Sequitors to experiment with.

Evocators

After the excellence of the Castigators and Sequitors the Evocators prove to be a bit of a disappointment. The weird looking armpit robes are a bit too odd for my liking, whilst the tabards starting at the rib-cage makes the torso look very short. The tempest blades meanwhile look rather too long and heavy to be wielded one-handed.

In the early days the Stormcasts were often accused of looking rather blade, a charge which can now be firmly refuted.  The Evocators however seem to be trying too hard to put a flourish on the Stormcast aesthetic and the result is a little half-baked and falls short of the elite warrior-wizards these are intended to be.

Lord-Arcanum

This may sound a little overenthusiastic but I think the Lord-Arcanum is pretty damn magnificent. It showcases the glorious heroism of the Stormcasts and the fantastic richness of the Age of Sigmar in one fell swoop. My love of gritty realism and the “aesthetic of the pathetic” is well known but Age of Sigmar is big, bold and bombastic and this model encapsulates that perfectly. If we’re going to replace the toothless, shoeless Empire soldier as humanity’s defender with an immortal golden giant then let’s do it in style and give that giant a glorious haughty half-horse, half-eagle beast to ride around on. No half-measures here, no implied moral complexity, just over the top heroism through and through. Cut this man and he’ll bleed one-dimensional wholesomeness and moral fibre.

Many people – and I include myself here – took one look at the first Stormcasts and feared that Age of Sigmar would be dumbed down, simplistic and lacking the moral depths of old-Warhammer. Needless to say the likes of the Idoneth Deepkin and Daughters of Khaine have put paid to that, leaving the Stomcasts to encapsulate the goody-two-shoes heroism that they’ve become known for. Given that it’s only right that they be allowed to do it well and to the full extent of the designers’ abilities. Criticising this chap for being a bit OTT and overtly heroic would be like criticising the Idoneth for hanging around with fish.

Being harsh I’ll admit though the model does have a few flaws; the staff is a little top-heavy and cluttered with superfluous detail (just give him a hammer – it wouldn’t make him any less of a wizard) and there’s really no need for every beast in the Stormcast army to have two tails, but these niggles aside he’s still excellent.

Lord-Arcanum 2

Second in command to the Lord-Arcanum is the Knight-Incantor. Even at a glance it’s clear she’s a mage of some kind, the outspread arms, subtly upturned gaze and windblown, billowing robes neatly conveying her connection to the storm. Again her staff is a little top-heavy, as is her crest, and the silly armpit capes continue to look uncomfortable and impractical, but overall she’s a fine model who works in spite of her flaws. The sculpted musculature of the torso is an unusual, but very welcome, choice for a female miniature and would have been far better than the layered tabards of the Evocators. We can expect to see plenty of clever Inquisitrix and Cannoness conversions from this one I suspect. 

Knight-Incantor

The forces of the Stormcasts are diversified further by the arrival of their first artillery piece, the Celestar Ballista. No longer just clones in gold armour the faction has grown, chamber by chamber. Sigmar has unleashed legions of heavy infantry, flying warriors, knights on dragons, even adorable mini-gryphons and, finding his enemies are still going strong, now he’s rolled out the big guns. To my mind this model encapsulates a very Sigmarish, bullish attitude to solving a problem. One can almost hear him saying “Ghosts now you say? Have you tried shooting them?” The Stormcasts must be wishing they’d had access to this back when their enemies were a little more corporeal.

Celestar Ballista

A lot of the elements of the model are a little obvious, indeed this is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Stormcast artillery piece, but as it’s their first that’s no bad thing and very much to be expected. Plus it may well be the case that this is setting the template for further artillery and warmachines to come after.

What is interesting is that here is a glimpse of Stormcasts who’re not straight-forward fighters. Whilst previous Stormcasts have clearly been chosen by Sigmar for their combat prowess or tactical acumen, these follow on from the Lord-Ordinator, bringing more to engineering the future of the Realms than just hitting things with a hammer.

Ordinators

Overall I’d call the Stormcast half of the boxset a success. Games Workshop could have used it as an excuse to just churn out more Stormcasts, just as the 40k starter-sets of yesteryear always contained plenty of tactical marines. Instead they seized the chance to broaden the Stormcast range, bringing in mages and artillery and putting a new spin on an already ubiquitous army.

All the usual Stormcast characteristics are present, with hammers, anvils, masked helms, lion faces and more lightning bolts than a Harry Potter convention. Ultimately if you like the look of the Stormcasts then these will add further variety to your collection. If, on the other hand, you’re not so keen on the slightly different style might just sway you.

AoS 2 Knight of Shrouds

Another common complaint from the first edition of Age of Sigmar centred on the lack of mortal threat to any of the participants. Chaos lords were reborn by the gods, Stormcasts and Seraphon were reforged, even the Sylvaneth got in on the act with their soul-pods. Add in the Idoneth and their soul harvesting and a death god like Nagash starts to get seriously irritated. Indeed the situation has now become so grave (sorry – I couldn’t help myself) that he’s unleashed a whole army of ghosts to make his displeasure felt in no uncertain terms.

A number of vocal scoundrels have been calling for Age of Sigmar to give up the ghost since it was launched and, to my personal excitement, now it has. This is what they were wanting right?

First Knight Of Shrouds

Front and centre of the Nighthaunt half of the boxset is the glorious looking Knight of Shrouds. Earlier in the year Malign Portents brought us our first look at a Knight of Shrouds, a magnificently creepy and well executed model which, it is now apparent, was just the precursor to the deathly horde now descending upon us. So impressive is it that even if I wasn’t already a fan of the Death alliance I would have picked one up just to paint. Unfortunately the model was wildly overpriced for a single miniature, a product of Games Workshop’s location (both geographically and philosophically) in the UK’s deeply skewed economic landscape, so I never stumped up the cash for it. Never mind, a nicer one has come along now, and he’s on a horse.

Knight of Shrouds

Once again I may sound a little effusive in my praise here but the Nighthaunt are generally excellent and none more so than their undead general. For the ghosts the pressure to impress was always high. The Vampire Counts range was a well loved staple of Warhammer and for a while new releases were a regular occurrence, with each one including models even bigger and more impressive than the last. The culmination came at the beginning of the End Times with the arrival of the Mortarchs and Nagash himself – the latter being a model I’m not a big fan of but which is otherwise generally well loved.

After the triumph however came the fall. In the purge of Warhammer factions that followed the End Times the Tomb Kings, the Vampire Counts’ sister race and the other branch of the undead in GW’s stable, were swept roughly into the dustbin of history. There followed three years of near silence. The beginning of 2018 saw the arrival of the Malign Portents, something many of us assumed to be Death’s triumphant return. Of course it turned out we were right, just a little premature. Instead of a new army, the undead got an army book and a single overpriced model – but then so did everyone else. Only after two elven factions had appeared did the dead rise at last.

Thus I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who went into this release desperately hoping it would be good and fearing the outcry that would come if it was anything less than perfect. Luckily when it comes to the risen dead GW are still very much on top of their game. If the Knight of Shrouds is suffering from any kind of performance anxiety he doesn’t show it and as a general he can stand proud alongside vampire lords, ghoul kings and Mortarchs alike. Death is back in style, top marks Games Workshop, I should never have doubted you!

Knight of Shrouds 2

There’s something slightly frail about the Knight of Shrouds, a whipped look in his thin arms and hunched shoulders which only adds to his sense of spiteful danger. Here is a ragged and wiry warrior, a pauper general, the very essence of his steed sloughing away in echo of its long rotted flesh. He’s a long way from the wall of golden musculature sent by Sigmar yet one suspects his sword would cut the deeper for the bitterness behind it.

Lord Executionar 2

Alongside the Knight of Shrouds Soul Wars spoils us with three more Nighthaunt characters. First up we have the Lord Executioner, an overenthusiastic headsman in life now bound to eternally serve Nagash. The elements are relatively simple; an executioner’s hood, a gallows and a great big axe. Nonetheless the model does a lot with these few ingredients and the result is delightfully sinister and imposing. A small group of ghosts swirl around him, framing the model’s face and helping to tie these newer models in to older figures like the spirit hosts and mortarchs.

Gallows Gallery

Back when I reviewed the Lord of Blights from the Nurgle release (in January) I described the gallows worn on his back as “a good idea amateurishly executed”. With the Lord Executioner we get to see it done properly.

Lord Executionar 3

An executioner never has to rush around chasing after victims and thus the model encapsulates a sense of slow-moving power. He calmly stares ahead, picking out his next victim, and the model’s golden angle has him looking directly at the viewer. Meanwhile his greater height above the base implies a potential for downward movement, he’s not racing into the sky but preparing for a powerful decapitating downswing. I’m also no fan of sculpted smoke, fire or magical effects, something you would think would put me off the Nighthaunts in general, but here it’s been done with such aplomb that it’s impossible not to be impressed.

Guardian of Souls

The Guardian of Souls is the first Nighthaunt wizard (you can tell by his staff, pointy hat and beard). Apparently his role involves guiding the spirits of the dead back into the Mortal Realms, a story that is subtly but skilfully told by his pose. His sword is held low – he’s not really a fighter after all – and his lantern is outstretched overhead to guide others, with wisps of ethereal flame coiling back behind him.

Spirit Torment

Whilst the Guardian of Souls and Lord Executioner clearly convey their mortal origins the Spirit Torment looks more like a cross between a deep sea fish and one of the bridges over the Seine that people cover in padlocks. The result is deliciously creepy, the eyeless face and gaping mouth creating a strong impression of something utterly without compassion, driven only by instinctual hunger.

Furthermore whilst most ghosts look soft and ethereal this one looks heavy, it’s pose hunched and bullish, it’s arms pulled low by the weight of the locks it carries, its thin flesh poking from beneath a shell of heavy iron. And whilst the locks are so heavy they almost scrape along the ground the keys float out of reach, hidden from the creature directly behind its sightless head.

Indeed the head itself deserves a special mention, an excellent bit which would prove handy in adding an extra level of creepiness to all kinds of characters, from tech-priests to archons. The only flaw is the padlock earring, a tiny bit silly and a detail too far I feel.

Edit: It has been pointed out to me, quite rightly, by Faust that this is a lock on a collar and not an earring. This is what I get for not double-checking my facts! Indeed on second examination it actually looks quite cool so anyone who was avoiding buying the entire Soul Wars boxset on account of this should now feel free to do so.

Chainrasp 2

The rank and file of the Nighthaunt contingent is made up of the chainrasps, of which we get 20 in the box. These are the middle of the road souls, criminals and bad ‘uns but not evil enough to have sold their souls to Chaos. For those who’ve been crying out to see the normal folk, the great unwashed of the Mortal Realms, this is them – it’s just unfortunate that by the time GW got around to them they were already dead.

Once again the undead maintain the theme of a mighty host of the risen slain at the core of their armies. Now we can choose between skeletons, ghouls, zombies (if you like really ugly models) and now ghosts as well. There’s nothing wildly unusual or creative with these but that’s no bad thing. If you want straight-forward ghosts, or a chassis upon which to build more unusual ghosts, you’ve got it. Whatever the setting, so long as the spectral dead wander around in a sheet moaning, these will have you covered.

Chainrasp 3

It’s safe to say that the Inq28 community will be having a field day with these (not that those geniuses couldn’t make gold out of anything). Expect plenty of little tech-thralls ahead.

Grimghast ReapersIf the Chainrasps are the rank and file of the Nighthaunt then the Grimghast Reapers are the shock troops; blindfolded spectral berserkers  sent to reap a fresh crop of souls for Nagash. Overall these are the closest to the cairn wraith, the spiritual forefather of the Nighthaunt. Indeed anyone still playing Vampire Counts in old-Warhammer would do well to consider these as a great way of making cairn wraith squads, alongside the Myrmourn Banshees as, well, Banshees.

The stereotypical Death archetypes are out in force here, from the tattered black robes to the long scythes. There’s a real sense of speed too, a darting, almost fish-like motion, combined with a sense of savagery in the sweeping blades. The unfortunate exception is the one holding his scythe directly overhead. The sense of motion is still there but the sense of direction isn’t, so whilst the others appear to have just made a killing blow he’s either indulging in some purposeless scythe waving to no real effect or he’s just blindly charging and probably about to suffer a comedic collision with something unyielding.

Charging Ghost

I also wonder if it’s strictly necessary for one of them to be wielding a bell on a stick? In old Warhammer pretty much every squad, regardless of how small, featured an optional command group  comprising a leader or champion, a banner and a musician. This practice has declined in Age of Sigmar and so a musician feels as unnecessary here as a banner would. It’s clear the ghost isn’t using it for its intended purpose, he appears to be smacking someone over the head with it, so why give him a musical instrument at all if he’s just going to break it by using it as a weapon? Plus although bells are closely associated with death in the real world, in the Warhammer universes they’ve become much more closely tied to Nurgle and the Skaven so if GW really wanted an instrument in the squad – presumably to some in-game effect – then why not pick something else? Wind instruments, not usually great for creatures without lungs, could be great here – how about bone pipes sticking out of his back that howl and moan as he flies around with his mouth open, turning the whole model into a giant set of bagpipes?

Bellend

In spite of these minor quibbles there’s a lot to like about the Reapers. They may be the most obvious and least original concepts in the Nighthaunt range but they do it with such style that I’m more than happy to forgive them.

Glaivewraith 2

Creativity and weirdness are becoming the trademarks of Age of Sigmar and although GW have been a little less wild with Soul Wars than they were with, for example, the Idoneth Deepkin or Kharadron Overlords (this is still stormcasts vs ghosts after all) they’ve still managed to sneak in some wonderfully innovative models all the same. Perhaps my personal favourites, and the models that first drew me to the Nighthaunt faction, are the Glaivewraith Stalkers.

Hunters in life the Glaivewraith have been fused in death with their steed creating bizarre hybrids, the hunting beasts of Nagash. I may have poured praise on the Nighthaunt rather exhaustively by this point but here GW have done it again, pulling another star out of the bag.

In theory one presumes a sufficiently powerful necromancer can resurrect almost anything, with the possible exception of a dwarf. In the old Vampire Counts era however the bestial companions of the undead were lifted straight from Bram Stoker’s rather hammy writing, with giant bats and wolves predominating. Sadly the superstition of the dark ages still seems to be associative with these creatures and unnecessary persecution has been heaped on them as a result (and yes, I did have to rescue my neighbour from a bat once whilst she screamed hysterically, and rather imaginatively, that “everyone knows they’re poisonous!” I restrained myself from pointing out that there was only one mad old bat in the room and it wasn’t the unfortunate flying mammal…).

Now I’ll forgive the later edition dire wolves which were suitable terrifying zombies (and even the most gentle of creatures becomes frightening once it’s a zombie as these lovable farm animals painted by Alex of Leadballoony prove). Regardless of how rare or endangered a species becomes I’m all in favour of killing it once its risen as a zombie but until then there’s really no reason for a hobby with its foundations in imagination and creativity to keep repeating the short-sighted ignorance of medieval peasants. Thankfully Nagash, and his mortal servants in Nottingham, have proved themselves capable of shrugging off the hackish prose of old Bram to invent a bestial pack of a rather more creative kind.

Vampire Counts Convert Or Die (2) - Copy

Wolves – majestic wild animals… until they rise from the grave…

Releases like the Kharadron Overlords and Idoneth Deepkin have really cemented Age of Sigmar as a setting in which Games Workshop can let their creative hair down and indulge their talents. With Soul Wars they’ve naturally been a little more restrained, Stormcasts are Stormcasts after all, but that hasn’t stopped them showing off a little on the ghostly side of the set. The Glaivewraith Stalkers are exactly the sort of thing one imagines skulking in the corner of a Blanche painting, or popping up in the margins of a rulebook.

Glaivewraith

I’m also tempted to a couple of pairs of human legs emerging from beneath one of them to create a macabre carnival beast, pantomime horse or suitably weird steed for an Inq28-style knight.

ETBGlaivewraithStalkers

Unfortunately the Easy To Build Glaivewraith Stalkers released to expand the set in Soul Wars don’t bring much more to the unit than was already present on the models in the core box. They do add a drum of course and a crow with a skull for a head, which is probably the cutest thing GW have ever come up with, but neither, to my eye, merits a whole new kit (and separate purchase) on its own when those two items could have been included in the core box just as easily. That said the Easy to Build sets are so cheap, and the models in them so nice, that it seems churlish to make a fuss about this.

Skull Crow

The drummer is apparently called a Deathbeat Drummer which sounds like something a music journalist would come up with to name a sub-genre of death metal. Really they should have gone the whole hog and called it a Deadbeat Drummer, which is after all what everyone will call it anyway.

Banshee 1

More exciting are the Myrmourn Banshees which are without a doubt one of the best bits in a release already full of wonders. Much has already been said about the clever use of negative space and the way that the greater part of what should be the model’s flesh is either hidden or absent. The torsos are hollow, the mouths screaming gaps which, in the absence of the model’s eyes, draw in the viewer’s gaze, and the models writhe and twist as though boneless, like cloth tugged by a breeze.

Banshee 2

Soul Wars picks it’s themes and sticks to them with an unyielding vigour. If you like heroes in shiny armour or lots and lots of ghosts you will not be disappointed. If, on the other hand, your predilections for the undead are more diverse and you’d like a skeleton or two, perhaps a zombie, or even – heaven forbid – a mummy, then you may find this something of a letdown.

I make no secret of my own bias, I started out as a vampire counts fan several editions of Warhammer ago and I’ve been tempted to join the undead legions of Nagash since Age of Sigmar began. I even painted a vampire count just the other day and, like the Lord of Undead himself, I fondly remember the World-That-Was, I have a healthy distrust of Stormcasts and I look silly in a big hat. I’ve tried to remain neutral in this review but if my praise for the Nighthaunts has been a little more emphatic than for the Stormcasts that may be part of it.

That said I really do feel that the Nighthaunt half of the box outshines the Stormcast half by a sizable margin. It doesn’t help that a Stormcast in a robe is still a Stormcast and so the look of the models was very much constrained by what had gone before, whereas with the Nighthaunt the designers were able to create something a bit stranger, darker and more creative, and thus more to my taste. Furthermore whilst the Stormcast set contains models both good (the Sequitors) and less so (the Evocators) the ghosts are consistently top-notch. Needless to say between this and the models already revealed I’m very much looking forward to the full Nighthaunt army when it arrives.

Ultimately I don’t think I’ll be running out to buy Soul Wars, partly because I’m not that excited by Stormcasts (no matter how beautiful the Sequitors are) and partly because GW are bombarding us with other releases more to my taste. I will however be seeking a good bargain on the ghosts, and plotting a spiritual awaking in Shyish. And of course it’s always possible that I’ll change my mind, those Sequitors really are pretty lovely, and I really want to read all about the realms in the new rule book and sometimes it’s easy to forget that I’m trying to save my pennies for all the other lovely things Games Workshop have been previewing lately…

Nighthaunt 1

So what about you? Are you already preparing yourself mind, body and soul by wandering the house with a sheet over your head making “woooo” noises, or are you a valiant servant of the God-King ready to take the fight to the dirty deadies? Or perhaps your sympathies lie with the somewhat under-represented forces of Destruction, in which case here’s hoping that with Stormcasts vs Chaos in the  first boxset and Stormcasts vs Death in the second I’ll be reviewing a box of Ogres (and Stormcasts!) in three years or so. You heard it here first folks!


A Darker World Is Not Far From Us

Chaos has always been portrayed as more than just another enemy. Whilst the Imperium stood at the heart of the 40k story with the xenos races arrayed around it like wolves waiting to pull the big beast down, Chaos was the Imperium’s equal – its dark reflection. One is led to believe that the Imperium could hold back any one of the xenos threats with ease, if only they were attacking it one at a time like bad guys in a martial arts film. The eldar are too few now to present a real danger, the tau too small and isolated. The orks, as is always noted, could destroy us all – if only they stopped fighting each other for long enough to knock over humanity’s sandcastles. Of course we’re told that the tyranids and/or necrons will soon kill everyone, but this is generally presented as something of a “by-the-way” which to me means it has often seemed either a distant threat, or so overwhelming as to make all other faction’s involvement seem pointless.

Plague Marines 2

Not chaos though. Chaos is in all of us. Every man who marches in the armies of the Imperium could someday turn his coat and fight beneath the eight-pointed star instead. If the Imperium fielded an army of just one man then that man might turn his back on the Emperor and fight instead for the Ruinous Powers. If they sent an army a billion strong to defeat him then they might win… or they might find a billion new enemies marching back towards them. The tau can be eradicated, the eldar driven to extinction, the Imperium brought to ruin and the numberless swarms of the tyranids exhausted, but so long as a single human remains alive in the galaxy Chaos will never die.

Like an infection it leaps from one carrier to the next. No-one is entirely immune, regardless of what the Grey Knights will tell you, and once a person is corrupted they will inevitably seek to corrupt others. Should the right person fall billions more can fall with them. Corrupt a planetary governor and a whole world can tumble. When Horus fell half the Imperium followed.

Fight it head on and you only feed it. Try to ignore it, deny its reality, smash the churches and burn the holy books, and Chaos sneaks back in via the back door.

Horrors

We know of course that there are various factions within all of the races, clans of orks, necron dynasties, tyranid hive fleets and so on. You’re encouraged to paint them different colours, and – especially since the arrival of Warhammer 40k’s 8th edition – there are even rules so that they perform differently in the game. The eldar have a bit more depth; there are the craftworlders, the dark kin of Commortagh, the dancing harlequins of the Black Library, the newly formed Ynnari and, for enthusiast convertors, even exodites and corsairs. Really though it’s the Imperium to whom the greatest attention has been devoted. We have six brands of space marine alone, various imperial guard regiments, the wonderfully weird tech-cult of the Adeptus Mechanicis, the towering knights, the golden armoured Custodes, the shadowy Inquisitors, the one man armies of the Assassinorum and those perpetually overlooked nuns with guns – the Sisters of Battle. The thing is, Chaos is always described as having all that and more. Four distinct gods place their influence upon chaos space marine legions, traitor primarchs, rebel guard regiments, beastmen herds, daemonic choirs, fallen knight households and the daemon-smiths of the Dark Mechanicus. It’s as if there was another Imperium, a twisted reflection of the first, a Dark Imperium if you will.

The battle between the Imperium and Chaos then is not the story of the old empire falling to the barbarians at the gates but the story of two equals fighting for dominance. The Empire of the Eye has stood almost as long as the Imperium and its history is just as rich and complex as that of its real space reflection.

Roboute Guilliman

When Roboute Guilliman arrived in the 40k setting earlier this year I was furious. I even wrote a long and extremely angry blog post, which thankfully I never posted, decrying the state of the world and GW’s decision to put profit over quality. To me the daemon primarchs belonged in the setting and their return was welcome but their flesh and blood brothers should have stayed dead. I got over it though. Guilliman may walk and talk but the galaxy is a big place and his presence hasn’t impinged on my enjoyment of the game one way or another. I even read Guy Haley’s Dark Imperium (and, beneath my dwarf-like contempt for this newfangled tinkering with the established lore, secretly rather enjoyed it).

The age of the Emperor ended when he was placed upon the golden throne. This is the story of twin empires locked in a struggle to the death and of brothers fighting over their father’s kingdom.

Plague Bearers 2

Warhammer as was told the story of many races, empires and nations. Age of Sigmar is a veritable soup of them. Nor do all of those stories focus around human protagonists. Central themes in the World That Was included the age long struggle between the self-righteous Elves of Ulthuan and their infinitely superior kin in Naggaroth, whilst dwarves, skaven and goblins battled in the sunless depths without anyone in the Empire or Bretonnia even knowing about it.

Without Chaos however 40k runs the risk of being a one horse town, with the Imperium at the heart of every story. Sure there are epic confrontations going on in the margins, the Eldar battling the Tyranids at Valedor, the Orks also fighting the Tyranids in Octarius, but in the main it’s all been about the Imperium. What’s more, for all the Chaos has traditionally been presented as the biggest baddy of them all, in recent years it’s star had started to wane. Bigger threats were descending on the galaxy, threats which would see all human life obliterated regardless of whether they worshipped a corpse god or grew tentacles from their ears. Either the Necrons were going to wake up and obliterate all organic life with the flick of a switch or the Tyranids were going to eat everyone. Against this Chaos was starting to feel a little weak. To criticise poor old Abaddon because you’ve never read the background and his arms keep falling off has long been akin to waving a flag and publicly declaring you’re an ass but even so one started to wonder if his long war wasn’t taking a little bit too long. Surely if he didn’t crack on his hordes would eventually come pouring from the Eye of Terror only to find a galaxy stripped of life and nothing left to fight but a lone genestealer fighting a broken necron in the ruins of the Imperial Palace. It’s one thing to unite the warring Chaos legions beneath one banner, quite another to take so long doing it that you end up missing the apocalypse you were planning to unleash. Yet whilst Abaddon was running the risk of being the big baddie who get’s beaten at the end of every episode some filthy xenos were about to blow up the whole galaxy – and that would never do.

Bloodthirster

Now this isn’t intended to do down the xenos (some of my best friends are xenos) who enrich the setting so deeply or to claim special treatment for my army just because I’m super special myself. Indeed I’d like to see the various alien races expanded upon further and with luck GW are cracking on behind the scenes with exactly that. However when the threat they pose reaches apocalyptic levels it risks becoming too abstract, too overwhelming, to engage with alone. When one looks at the innumerable hordes of the Tyranids pouring in from the depths of space one tends to think that the Imperium might as well just go home and put their feet up, they’re all going to be eaten whatever they do so there’s not much point struggling especially not when they already have a galaxy-sized guass flayer to their collective heads. Chaos though is an enemy you can fight – not just with your bolters in the burning streets, not just on the tabletop, but in your own heart and soul. No-one looks at a Tyranid and thinks “I really understand where these guys are coming from! If I was living in the 41st Millennium I’d want to strip planets of their biomass too!” I can’t put myself in the shoes of a soulless Necron automaton, and even the Eldar and Orks are relatively inscrutable and inhuman to our gaze. Chaos though speaks to us, to our ambition, to our righteous anger, to our will to freedom and self-determination, to our hunger to live, to our moral drives and the very emotions that make us human.

The Imperium needs an enemy we can empathise with, an enemy that speaks to us in our own voice so that we can cringe with horrified fascination as they tear each other apart. Ultimately if GW are serious about the 40k setting evolving then the Imperium needs an equal. It needs Chaos.

All artwork used belongs to Games Workshop and is used without permission as a result of sheer badness on my part.


Exciting Times Lie Ahead!

Right, I don’t usually do over-excited, spur of the moment blog posts, but I just couldn’t miss this. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet the ever-entertaining Warhammer TV team have just put up a video recapping the releases of 2016. All very nice, and justifiably self-congratulatory, but the real interest is in the last ten seconds or so as a series of images flicker across the screen. For those who still think that their previous claim that there were plastic Sisters of Battle coming up was just a joke this might be of interest…

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Based on that I think it’s fair to say that their claim that Saint Celestine is about to lead a crusade into the Cadian Gate might also not be a joke. Time for us Chaos fans to start working on our defences then…

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Fans of the Adeptus Mechanicus (such as myself) might be a little more excited by this machine-man…

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And it looks like we haven’t seen the last of Tzeentch either…

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Exciting times ahead indeed!

All Images belong, of course, to Games Workshop and are used without permission.


Dust No Longer

You didn’t honestly think I was going to let this one pass without comment now did you?

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The skies above Fenris are ablaze and the internet is electric with chatter! Magnus the Red and his legion, the Thousand Sons, are back! Why has he returned? What are his aims? What does this mean for the future of the Space Wolves, for Chaos fans and for the Imperium itself? Is a 40k End Times event just around the corner?* And why does he have such huge horns for nipples? Let’s take a look!

*There isn’t. That would just be silly.

Incidentally I almost entitled this post Rubricae, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. Aren’t you glad I restrained myself?

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Magnus

For the first time in a long time* a demigod walks in the 41st Millennium, one of the Emperor’s own sons returned to see in the end of days. Overwrought descriptions follow in his wake; skies cracking, earth writhing, madness ensuing.

*Hush Epic fans, we know you had a model for him long ago. It was rubbish.magnus-sideThere’s no beating around the bush – this is the big one. As probably the last major release of 2016 Games Workshop are bowing out with a bang, and setting the stage for the year to come. There is no turning back from this for them. Bigger and crazier models are on their way; more daemon Primarchs, perhaps even a few Loyalist Primarchs. If you thought that 40k was about to reinvent itself into a Necromundaesc skirmish game then those hopes are probably dashed I’m afraid. 2017 will  undoubtedly be bigger and more hyperbolic still.

It’s easy to get caught up in the wider impact of this release and the inexact science of prophecy and forget about the model itself. Before we find ourselves plunging into the rabbit hole of rumour and counter-rumour let’s see what we have here and how. Like Forge World’s Angron a few years ago Magnus emerges already straining under the weight of expectation. The narrative of Warhammer 40,000 is one of apocalypse. For almost as long as the 40k universe has existed we have been being told “soon Chaos will rise, the Daemon Primarchs and their Legions will ride out at the head of a tide of daemons and the Imperium of Man shall fall”. Every battle fought in the 41st Millennium is one of desperation, the last fading strength of the Imperium bleeding out in the hopeless struggle of cruel order being crushed by the inrushing tide of absolute disorder. As a direct result of that narrative, I would argue, we’ve been waiting – unconsciously – to see models for the Damon Primarchs for years, perhaps even decades. Set against such a weight of expectation the model itself is undoubtedly going to be in for a fairly divisive reviewing – pulled apart or held up as an avatar of quality depending on how the reviewer feels about what it represents. Thus, in the interests of full disclosure let me restate my position on Primarchs in 40k, as set out a month ago with the release of The Burning of Prospero (which for those less familiar with the setting could be considered a sister release to this one, covering as it does the events which led to Magnus getting so narked off with the Space Wolves in the first place).

…It’s certainly a dramatic development and many are insisting that this means the return of many other primarchs is now imminent. Certainly the background has it that the daemonic Primarchs have been preparing for a return to the mortal universe for some time, …For me the thought of being able to include them in my armies as we surge out of the Great Eye at last and bring ruin to the Corpse-God’s Imperium is hugely exciting. However, perhaps hypocritically, I’m not all that keen on seeing the loyalist Primarchs appearing in 40k… After all Warhammer has already made the transition from a world in which the aesthetic of the pathetic ruled, where a man with no shoes and fewer teeth took up a rusty sword to battle daemon princes and orc hordes, into a glittering universe of superhuman heroics, where gods do battle and the great unwashed are strangely absent…The return of the loyalist Primarchs would send 40k in the same direction. The fate of the Imperium would hang less on the actions of a band of guardsmen defending a trench against the horrors of a hostile galaxy and more about two demi-gods duelling over their father’s throne…

The model itself is certainly dramatic although I’ll confess that at first I felt a slight disappointment based largely on my own unrealistic expectations. However, with his angelic wings and haughty demeanour, he plays the part of the fallen angel with aplomb. What’s more it’s literally packed with occult and metaphorical symbols and it’s clear that the designers had a great time creating a model with real meaning and depth. As a wizard Magnus lives in a world where symbolism is key and in recognition of this the designers have lavished him with clever details. Look for instance at his right hand which appears to form a Hamsa eye, a symbol believed to have magical properties that dates back at least as far as Mesopotamia. In many images of the Hamsa eye three of the fingers are elongated and emphasised, with the thumb and little finger reduced to vestiges. In Magnus’s case this appears to have been taken even further, with the little finger missing altogether. In the centre of the palm an eye looks out, warding the bearer against the evil eye. The evil eye itself may be represented by the glowing eye tattooed on his forearm, representing the wizard in his dualistic role of both protector and destroyer.

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Let us not forget that Magnus is a man with excellent hand-eye co-ordination.

What the symbols around it might mean however remains unclear (I’ll admit my first thought was to dig through symbolic alphabet for the Dark Tongue of Chaos in The Lost and the Damned but to no avail). As ever any theories, no matter how wild or outlandish, are welcome in the comments.

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On his wings we find a number of eyes reminiscent of the tail of a peacock, the Cauda Pavonis of the alchemists, to whom it represented both the white light in which all colours are united and, conversely, the failure of the process by which one believes illusions to be real. Much like Magnus himself then who, although he has claimed enormous power, will forever remain far less than he could have been, trapped forever by Tzeentch. Note also how the colours of the alchemical process progress from black, to white, to gold and finally to red, whilst across the Thousand Sons range gold appears with ever greater prevalence on the higher ranked figures, whilst red appears on the robes of the sorcerers, increases on those of Ahriman and becomes dominant on Magnus, the Crimson King himself.

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His armour is likewise covered in the intricate details. In one a snake looms over a skeletal figure. Various theories have already been put forth to explain this including in White Dwarf itself; that the snake represents Tzeentch whilst the doomed figure is either the Emperor or Magnus, signifying how Magnus’s quest for vengeance upon his father shall ultimately doom both. Of course such symbolism often contains multiple layers of depth and my personal theory is that the snake also represents the incoming Tyranid swarms who’s animalistic hunger shall soon see the Imperium devoured. We know from statements by the developers that Magnus’ attack on Fenris is just the first step on a plan of galaxy-changing scale. By finally slaying the Emperor and snuffing out the light of the Astronomicon the forces of Chaos shall scatter humanity to the winds, preventing all hope of a co-ordinated response, and yet also removing the one thing which was drawing the Hive Fleets towards the inner worlds and perhaps offering some small hope for those who remain. After all if the Tyranids eat everyone who shall sustain the Chaos gods through their suffering?

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In Egyptian myth, from which much of the imagery associated with the Thousand Sons is sourced, the serpent Apep devours all – life, light and magic – much as the Tyranids themselves do. Humanity is only saved by the intervention of Set, not a particularly noble or traditionally heroic figure, but a god of storms, disorder, violence and – most importantly – Chaos.

The kit also contains three different faces, unusual for a unique character (apart from politicians which come with two as standard) but perfect for Magnus who was capable of transforming his appearance and looked different depending on who was looking at him. Emphasising this one of the faces is a mask, perfect for concealing his ever shifting features. magnus-face-1magnus-face-2magnus-maskIt’s not all quality however. For example the various the cables and other assorted ironmongery emerging through his arm seems slightly unnecessary. In the latest issue of White Dwarf it’s suggested that this is a result of whatever restoration was required following his battle with Russ. Surely however someone so magically powerful as Magnus, already capable of enormous feats of physical regeneration even before his ascension to daemonhood, would have no need for such augmetics? If this were Perturabo, or even Angron, I would understand, their cybernetic components are part of their character and would undoubtedly remain so even in the wake of their demonic-rebirth. It may be that Magnus wishes to wear his wounds openly so that his sons might see how he too suffered at the hands of the Space Wolves – but again these don’t look like ragged injuries but clean, intentional features and most of his Legion are automatons anyway, whilst the rest are egomaniacs who probably couldn’t give a monkeys what he looks like. Thus to me they end up looking like they were only added in order to fill a space on the model.

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The book of Magnus itself is incredibly detailed, with torn pages sticking out and even a bookmark.

The trouble is actually working out what is intended as part of a subtle reference or clever hint on the designers’ part and what was simply added because they thought it looked cool. Does the three fingered hand really represent the Hamsa eye? What are the nipple horns actually for (apart from making him hard to hug)? Do they represent some form of symbolic feminine, the wizard combining male and female elements into a hermaphrodite form – a union of all the opposing forces within himself – or are they only there because John Blanche put them in the original artwork? Does the fact that he lives in a big tower with a huge eye at the top mean he’s only emerged from the Warp to hunt down hobbits?

Ultimately Magnus is a miniature which, when I first saw him, failed to really engage me – but the longer I’ve looked the more I like him. Even in this review I’ve rewritten passages multiple times as repeated looks have unlocked him further and further and I’ve shifted from being rather harshly critical to actually embracing him (not literally of course, nipple horns again). Thus although I may not be running down to the shops for him at once I suspect he may make his way into my collection at some point.

I’ll also be interested to see what other convertors do with such a large and impressive canvas. Certainly if we don’t see a new Lord of Change released soon I can imagine a number of hobbyists replacing Magnus’s head with the bird head from Archaon Everchosen.

Finally, before we move on to the rest of the release, let us remind ourselves of that Epic model which was Magnus’ first tabletop incarnation.

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Ahriman

Here we have him – the real star of the show! The second of the classic chaos characters to be given a redesign in 2016 Ahriman joins Kharn in receiving a plastic reincarnation of a well-loved metal model. Unlike Kharn however, who received an extensive – and to my mind unnecessary – redesign – Ahriman is very much as he always was, with a few tweaks representative of twenty years of technological progress. 99120102064_ahriman02It’s a risky business taking on a classic but all the iconic features are still in place, from the sweeping antelope horns to the instantly recognisable facemask and staff. Thus unlike Kharn, and for that matter Eldrad Ulthran, who both ended up looking slightly less than their metal predecessors, the new Ahriman is actually an improvement.

There was always something aggressive about his pose but that’s been turned up to eleven, no longer merely casting a spell but actually lunging into wizardly combat. The fact that he’s now riding on a disk only serves to emphasise the effect. He’s also divested himself of his gun (it’s holstered under his robes), preferring instead to fry his enemies with whatever magical effect is swirling around his fingertips. Normally I’m no fan of sculpted ethereal elements/fire/smoke/what-have-you but on this occasion it feels right. After all if Ahriman, easily one of the most powerful mages in the 41st Millennium, can’t be throwing a few spells around then who can? I’ll probably still be snipping it off though!

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Rubricae

Here it is at last; the thing we’ve all be waiting for – a set of Space Marines who aren’t squatting! Better yet it’s the Rubricae, the rank and file of the Thousand Sons who were turned to dust by Ahriman’s disastrous rubic thousands of years ago, and left to gather dust by Games Workshop for almost as long. Now, at long last, they’re back – with a stylish range of wonderfully ornate models.

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The Aspiring Sorcerer also has an eye in the palm of his hand, a neat and subtle link to Magnus.

Note the similarity between the Aspiring Sorcerer and the 30k incarnation of Ahriman released last month, a nice bit of visual storytelling that helps to tie the chief librarian’s past and future incarnations together in spite of his own changed appearance. The key difference is that the Ahriman model is casting with his right hand, the Aspiring Sorcerer with his left. Or, to put it differently, the staff – the focus of his power – is held in the Aspiring Sorcerer’s right hand, representing him choosing the right hand path of magic and accepting power from without. At the time of the Heresy Ahriman holds his staff in his left hand, choosing the left hand path of independence and channelling power from within himself. By the 41st Millennium however his staff has switched hands, perhaps because Ahriman’s struggle for self-determination has been for naught and he is now shackled forever by Tzeentch.

Whatever the meaning, if you’ve ever fancied creating a Sorcerer who’s casting a spell with both hands outstretched now’s your chance.azeck

The Scarab Occult

Clad in Tartaros terminator armour in another nod to last month’s Burning of Prospero the elite warriors of the Scarab Occult join their brothers at last. When the rubric of Ahriman turned the legion into walking suits of dust-filled armoured it wasn’t just the power armoured marines who were affected. For years fans have been pointing this out and muttering about Rubric Terminators and finally their hopes have borne fruit.cool-staff

Like the power armoured Rubricae the terminators carry an elegant assortment of weapons. Even the Hellfyre missile rack is stylish and ornate, although I’m still not entirely sure if the look of that particular set up appeals to me. Otherwise however the arrival of these terminators is a welcome addition to the range.

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Exalted Sorcerers

Life’s always better when it contains a Chaos sorcerer or two so the arrival of a boxset to make them with can only be a good thing. Packed full of mutations, extra staff tops and alternative heads this has the makings of being a kitbashers dream come true. It’s just unfortunate that the official models themselves are all a little disappointing. farting-wizardThis one appears to be farting himself into the air. At first I assumed it must be an effect of the angle at which he’d been shown but no, however you look at it, there it is. I hoped it was just me who saw him this way but sadly it seems it was just the designer who didn’t. Never mind, the joy of plastic models is that it should be easy enough to convert something else.

Luckily these should be compatible with most of GW’s other space marines – both loyalist and heretic – so I’m looking forward to all kinds of fantastic kitbashes emerging over the coming months. With seven different heads in the kit it should be possible to come up with plenty of unique-looking characters to lead one’s mindless Rubricae to battle. In a particularly nice touch the disk of Tzeentch is double-sided allowing it to be reversed to create two different looking disks for your sorcerers to ride.

…And look, this one is reloading his pistol with magic (a touch which is either brilliance of a simply inspired nature or too silly for words – I’m undecided)! sorcerer-2

Ultimately there are so many clever components in the kit that, in spite of its flaws, I’m looking forward to raiding it for conversion materials. I doubt these two masters of the occult will be alone for long.

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Tzaangors

Time and again lately Games Workshop have plundered their own history and brought forth brilliant ideas too long left in the shadows. When the first pictures of Magnus appeared online it seemed natural to expect the Thousand Sons to emerge with him and, in the wake of Wulfen and Genestealer Cults alike, I dared to hope that they might be bringing their thrall-herds with them. To actually see them come snorting and braying onto the tabletop at last however is exciting beyond words. Newcomers to the hobby might be scratching their heads at this – after all the Tzaangors were part of the Silver Tower back in the spring so why would they not make the jump to 40k now? Older hands however will recall the years in which 40k seemed to be slipping ever further into safe, sci-fi territory with the crazier elements abandoned or forgotten. Surely it was too much to hope that they might actually appear in model form – until now of course.

And what wonderfully weird forms those are! Combining elements of birds, goats and humans they create a figure which is far from anything we know from rational biology, yet which still appears functional. What’s more the brutal, bestial elements are entwined wonderfully with the ornate armour and weapons. They look alien, but believable.

tzaangors-2For me then this may be the best bit of this release. I’m already a big fan of beastmen in 40k and the chance to add some more of these savage warriors to the those I’ve already picked up from the Silver Tower boxset will not be missed. They’ve also reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed working on my Bloodgors so perhaps we’ll see more of those soon as well. And then there are Pestigors and Slaangors to consider as well…

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Mazzakim the Liar

Before describing my own future plans for these models I’ll need to explain a little about the idea behind my Chaos collection over all. Hard to believe though it may be behind  what might at first look like a random pick ‘n’ mix of Chaos forces, with cults of all four gods and none piling in together, exists an underlying plan that ties it all together. Kallamoon Kell, the so called Lord of Ruin, is the lynchpin that holds it all together. His is the ultimate command and it is on his orders that the fleets sail and the Chaos Marines make war. Beneath him are a number of sub-commanders, and whilst Kell himself leads an inner circle of troops loyal(-ish) to him above the gods, these lieutenants each have command over one of the cults. Ghisguth the Reaper leads the followers of Nurgle, whilst the as yet unbuilt Rannoghar Garran commands those warriors who have sworn themselves to Khorne. Later I have plans to create the clone-twin lovers who lead the Slaaneshi warband The Choir of Spite. The Tzeentchian element will be led by an exile from the Thousand Sons who goes by the name High Magister Mazzakim the Liar.

For almost as long as he’s been plotting in the dark corners of the Eye of Terror I’ve been plotting how to make him with, as yet, no actual results to show you. All that, however – I like to imagine anyway – is soon to change. The last time a miniature for Azhek Ahriman was released – a mere month ago – I got hugely excited and bought one, plus a Gaunt Summoner and started kitbashing wildly in the hopes that soon Mazzakim would emerge from my thoughts into solid reality. The High Magister however stubbornly stayed away. No matter what bits I assembled where nothing looked right for the great sorcerer. Worse, pictures started emerging thick and fast showing the upcoming Thousand Sons and the whole project got kicked onto the backburner until I saw what the new models had to offer.

Now this isn’t to suggest that my enthusiasm for the project is on the wane, if anything it’s higher than ever. However I have been hanging back to get a proper look at the new kits – after all Mazzakim needs to lead them and that means no half measures. In the background I’ve created he’s one of Kell’s most senior and valuable advisors (or as valuable as an advisor who willingly calls himself ‘the Liar’ can be that is) and I don’t want him overshadowed by his own lieutenants. Because of that I’m almost tempted to base him on Ahriman, or even Magnus, but both are awesome characters in their own right and I’ve no wish to make my own character into a mere spin-off. It’s a problem I can assure you I’ll be pondering a great deal over the coming weeks.

Whatever form his model takes in the end, Mark from Heresy of Us was kind enough to send me a little care-package of bitz, including these books and candles – vital accoutrements for any wizard which will undoubtedly be used in summoning Mazzakim.

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So who is Mazzakim? Long since estranged from his Legion Mazzakim has spent the millennia roaming the Eye of Terror and beyond, driven by a fierce hunger for knowledge. He rose through the ranks of the Pyrae, swimming in fire, but soon turned his attention to the other cults, consuming their knowledge and never sated. From the Athanaeans he took the power to scour minds, stripping them of all thought and memory. From the Raptorae he claimed terrible destructive power, whilst his shifting form and bloated ego was undoubtedly a gift of the Pavoni. Yet it was the Corvidae he studied most avidly, using their powers of precognition to plumb the depths of what is yet to come. Always he seeks knowledge and always one secret dances just beyond his grasp for Tzeentch has bound him into a web of lies and the key to his freedom is forever out of reach.

Thus Mazzakim has plundered the future and knows that the answer he seeks can only be claimed at a confluence of time and place. He must walk at Kell’s side into the throne-room of shattered Terra. Without the Lord of Ruin the moment will pass unmarked, even if Terra falls and Abaddon stands triumphant.

Yet the future does not give up its mysteries easily and time and again his prophetic visions return the same result; that the road to Terra is bloody and Kell will die long before they reach the surface of humanity’s cradle. Mazzakim has lived a life defined by selfish desires, heaping mockery upon those of his brothers, like Ahriman and Khayon, that hold lofty ideals and strive for greater ends. Yet he knows without doubt that without his aid Kell’s death is inevitable and all the scheming and questing of his long and evil life will have been for nothing. Thus Mazzakim gathers his Rubricae and marches to stand at Kell’s side. He will serve the Lord of Ruin, guarding him even to his own death, for without Kell the long millennia will close about him like a cage, Mazzakim’s path narrowing down to a single road which he is cursed to see, rolling out ahead of him, down the unbroken aeons of eternity.

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Eat Our Dust Imperials!

What’s particularly exciting about this release is the level of depth and character that the legion has been provided with. We’re used to seeing this from Forgeworld but it somehow feels fresh and exciting to see it from Games Workshop itself. Many of us have been hoping to see the Chaos Legions given proper recognition for years but I think that even the most enthusiastic expected at best to see some rules, ‘legion tactics’ and special issue wargear to differentiate one collection of spiky marines from another (and indeed something of this nature appears to be scheduled for release in the next few weeks). The idea that we might see unique models to represent our chosen legions always seemed unthinkable. Our loyalist brothers got everything from Wulfen to Sanguinary Guard to Deathwing Knights whilst we kitbashed and became increasingly good at using greenstuff, grateful for any scraps the Empire of the Eye could provide. Some loyalist chapters got their own unique versions of stock units like tactical squads and terminators whilst we were told we could always paint our helbrutes red to show they are World Eaters, or a slightly different shade of red if we collect Word Bearers. Like the Legions themselves we have grown strong in our exile, developing our creative skills in a way the loyalists have never needed to, learning to loot as well as any ork and cobble new legionaries from loyalists, daemons and our better supplied brothers over the fence in Age of Sigmar.

At the same time however many of our number have become bitter. Bereft of hope they have descended into a kind of spawndom and, gathering together in lost brotherhoods, they roam from forum to forum, bleating and braying their distrust of the God-Emperor enthroned in Nottingham and conducting running battles with equally disaffected Sisters of Battle players.

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For the rest of us though this release represents hope for the first time in years. Imagine what could be if we dared to dream! Dare we imagine something of this quality released for the World Eaters, Death Guard, Emperor’s Children or any of the other Legions? I think we do. More than that I think we should! For Games Workshop to remain at the  head of the industry they must continue to innovate, to delve ever deeper into the worlds they have only hinted at before, to no longer expect us to make do with second best but to unshackle their own creative spirit and delve into the possibilities they know themselves to be capable of.

Ultimately the question must be; do you want your grandchildren to live in a world where the only difference between a Night Lords army and an Emperor’s Children army is the colour of the paint? Do you want to see the Novamarines and Angels of Absolution get their own model lines whilst we fight in the dirt for an upgrade sprue with a useful looking shoulder pad on it? Of course not brothers! The fightback starts today!

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As ever with a Tzeentchian release these days I’m already waiting to see what Big Boss Redskullz comes up with and naturally I’ll be keeping an eye on Kraut Scientist in the hopes that another of his signature release reviews is in the works. In the meantime if you have any thought on this release get them in the comments box below (even Space Wolves players are allowed – providing they’re house trained…).

All pictures snatched from Game’s Workshops vaults and planted on my blog by the Changeling as part of an elaborate Tzeentchian plan. Apart from the ones I took myself obviously.