Continuing my showcasing of the dioramas on display in Warhammer World today we take a look at the rest of the displays focussing on the Old World of Warhammer and the new Realms of Age of Sigmar. First up we have a pair of small displays exhibiting the Ironjaws – a new faction which grew out of the old Black Orcs – and opposite them the Sylvaneth, which were developed from the treemen and dryads who used to hang out with the Wood Elves.Orc brutes march past tribal boundary markers whilst a warboss, crouched on his hulking reptilian mount, watches from a neighbouring hillock.The tide of red armour stands out against the black rocks and wilted vegetation.The neighbouring display is considerably more green and lush. The Orcs have left their semi-desert homeland and invaded the forest only to find themselves ambushed by the Sylvaneth guardians of the woods led by Alarielle herself and several ancient treemen……including this impressively bearded individual……and these tree revenants. Alarielle, a woman after my own heart! Keen on trees she’d have undoubtedly enjoyed my other outing whilst in Nottingham – a trip to visit the ancient Major Oak in Sherwood Forest.Of course that would have left her unable to oversee the defence of her woodland from the marauding orcs, although by the looks of things her followers were managing fine by themselves.Next along, one of the displays that was top of my list to see ever since a friend showed me pictures from her own trip. Here the Skaven and Dwarves do battle in the depths of the Underway, deep beneath the World’s Edge Mountains.The war under the ground remains one of my favourite parts of the Warhammer background. As a fan of Skaven, Dwarves and Night Goblins alike the subterranean struggle is a compelling battle for survival, all happening out of sight of the races living above.Here dwarven stoicism meets the mad brew of science and magic wielded by the ratmen, the two sides divided by a jagged canyon criss-crossed by swaying rope bridges.The scene contains over three hundred miniatures, which probably explains why I failed to spot Joseph Bugman who is allegedly hiding in there somewhere.Slayers seeking an honourable death take on a Hell Pit Abomination (without a trace of Fyre in sight…)Once again I hope you’re enjoying this look through the Warhammer World displays and I really do recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the armies of the Imperium in the dark days of humanity’s future.
Tag Archives: Elves
In spite of their popularity as perhaps the most iconic of all fantasy races (sorry dwarves!) it wasn’t until recently that I started to recognise the appeal of elves. Too often they have been presented in a way that focussed only on their glory and never on their flaws. Hyperbole is everywhere – they are wiser and more talented in every way than mere humans and long-lived to the point of near immortality. Whilst we are often ugly, cowardly and uncultured, and always bedevilled by age, sickness and death, these natural aristocrats remain forever young and beautiful, an eternal master race. Generally their only flaw is their arrogance, which only serves to make the face that they are practically perfect in every way so much more grating. I like my heroes grubby and imperfect and my fey folk devilish wildwood dwellers, the treacherous creatures of northern European myth and Brian Froud paintings, not the gentle, civilised people of Tolkien but the otherworldly shamanic creatures feared by the Gaels and Norse alike.The idea of collecting any elven miniatures therefore was, for a long time, a non-issue. If I wanted a superior race of magically powerful immortals to contemptuously survey the human herd then my allegiance was to the Vampire Counts, and that was that. It wasn’t until the release of the newest edition of the Wood Elves from Games Workshop, followed swiftly by the merging of the elven races in the End Times that I began to change my mind. Partly it’s the fact that many of the new Wood Elf kits are just gorgeous, a welcome result for a faction which had previously suffered from having some of the worst sculpts in Games Workshop’s catalogue. More than that however, I became drawn to the idea of creating a wild hunt, blending elements of the Dark and Wood Elves to create a savage sylvan host, the elemental ferocity of the forest unleashed. It’s an image which has stuck with me, yet to be built but growing organically in my mind’s eye; packs of witch elves and blood-fed dryads, sorceresses leading the host from atop their mobile shrines, treemen and ancient forest gods awaking to furious life.
All of which brings me to this weekend’s Sylvaneth release. Through Silver Tower we’ve already seen some of Games Workshop’s concepts for a new, much more savage and alien aspect to the elves, now it’s the turn of the dryads and treemen. Age of Sigmar has been categorised by the over-the-top appearance of its models. Restraint has been cast aside and everything needs to be bigger and crazier than ever before. Now this is far from a bad thing, this is fantasy after all, but it has meant that when they’ve overcooked things they’ve tended to do it quite spectacularly. Thus I awaited this release with a degree of trepidation. If they pulled it off this could be a treasure trove for my elves, but for every hit recently there’s been a miss; for every slaughterpriest or maw-krusha there’s been a warchanter or celestant-prime. Luckily, my fears have not been realised and, for the most part, the Sylvaneth stay just the right side of silly. There are a few close calls – Alarielle herself comes close to overegging it but somehow remains brilliant rather than ridiculous. Likewise the new incarnation of Drycha is a little silly (I feel like someone at the design studio said “Trees are cool, dreadnaughts are cool, why not?!’) although adjusting the pose the snipping off the trailing insects should be more than enough to redeem her. These are balanced by some moments of real brilliance; the Branchwytch for instance, the revenants and or the huge slabs of honeycomb on Drycha’s armour (which is almost enough for me to forgive them for dragging another Warhammer character back from the grave).
The longer I looked at this release the more I became convinced I’d seen something in this style before and, looking at Alarielle’s giant beetle steed it suddenly clicked. This is not a reimagining of Games Workshops Wood Elves but a resurrection of Rackham’s Daikinee.
For the whippersnappers out there Rackham was a French miniatures company rightly famed for the quality of their miniatures. Sadly they collapsed following a radical shift in direction that alienated many fans, switching from a square-based skirmish game to a round-based rank-and-file set-up. The name of this new game, for those not already feeling a vertiginous sense of déjà-vu was ‘Age of Rag’narok’. The nail in the coffin was the decision to abandon their former range for pre-painted plastics and, with recession already haunting economies around the globe and their fans abandoning them, they went to the wall in short order. Rumour has it that Games Workshop recruited many of the suddenly unemployed Rackham sculptors although I confess I’m sufficiently out of the loop on these things now that I may barking up the wrong tree (pun very definitely intended). Whatever the truth of what happened the Daikinee remain one of the most beautiful and original interpretations of the wood elf concept ever created, especially when compared to Games Workshop models of a similar vintage. If this is their rebirth then that alone is worthy of celebration.
Of all the chaos gods Tzeentch has always been the one who’s image is hardest to define. Slaanesh is lithe and unnatural, a punk-rock dominatrix who’ll leave soul begging for more. Nurgle is a jolly fat man, slow and generous and ripe with disease. Khorne is a beast-faced bullet, a roaring, stamping wall of bullish muscle waving a chainaxe at the world. All relatively easy to sculpt and paint – whether in violent pastels, putrid greens or bloody reds. Tzeentch is change, mutation and illusion and his colour is the colour of magic. The studio models may be painted in blue and purple shades but that’s only because Games Workshop have yet to find a way to add glittering octarine to their paint range.
In the past official efforts to capture the essence of this ever challenging god have been distinctly hit and miss. Indeed there have been a couple of fan projects recently which have more than equalled the studio’s output. Just take a look at these by Big Boss Redskulls, or these, by Nordic, showcased at the Convertorum. This weekend however the boys at Games Workshop have taken another crack at it, porting their success with boxed games in 40k over to Age of Sigmar and resurrecting Warhammer Quest into the bargain.
A few months ago I commented on this blog “Tzeentch’s followers are now fairly well represented. I might have preferred something a little more ‘Lovecraftian crawling horror’ and less ‘cartoon character’ but that’s a matter of personal taste. Now it would be nice to see some more emphasis on the god’s mortal followers; mad sorcerers, mutants, beastmen and of course the Thousand Sons themselves”. I promise that, at the time, I had no idea that this might be coming – being as I am extremely sceptical of the “rumour’s scene” that surrounds Games Workshop’s output in a haze of wild theories, wishlisting and general tin-foil-hat-ery.
I went on to say “Of all the gods Tzeentch is the chance for them to be the most creative, to come up with something visually arresting and unique”. Did they manage it? A quick look at this release reveals the answer to be a resounding yes.
A leaf through books like Realms of Chaos should be enough to remind anyone that there was a time when Games Workshop was much more adventurous than they’ve allowed themselves to be in recent years. Creatively they’ve become a little timid, preferring to explore already popular concepts rather than gamble with more outlandish ideas. Tzeentch knows however that change is inevitable. The creative team at Games Workshop have the power to be a creative force and it seems the fans are willing to follow them out of the power-armoured security blanket and into stranger realms. The Adeptus Mechanicus, the Wulven, the Genestealer Cults and now the Changer of Ways himself – all recent releases which have demonstrated that, for good or bad, Games Workshop are no long afraid to dig through the good ideas that had previously been thought resigned to the history books.Take the beastmen for example. Once upon a time concepts like this rendered them as true children of Chaos, the first offspring of the gods, an eclectic mix of creatures that over the years became safer and less complex, until we ended up with the goatmen of today. Personally I love the modern goats – as evidenced by my 40k Bloodgors – but I’d never deny that something is lacking; and that something is Chaos. Thus the Tzaangors are in many ways the most exiting bit of this release for me, representing as they do the return of the god-specific beastmen of old. Those wishing to keep their Thousand Son’s armies in line with the fiction can now add the native beastmen from the Planet of the Sorcerers to their ranks, and mix in some Kairic Acolytes for some really impressive cultists.
In this release a good creative balance also appears to have been struck – between the shapeless horror that Tzeentch represents and the almost comical or cartoon-like vibe which grants this god’s followers a particular element of unreality. When pulled together correctly, as in this image from the 1980’s, this creates a particularly malevolent horror which must resonate particularly with anyone who’s afraid of clowns.Sadly the modern horrors have emphasized only the cartoon-like elements, something the Silver Tower model does a little to address. Still with only one sculpt in the box it’s rather too little to make a significant difference. It would serve nicely as another alternative Herald of course – but Tzeentch isn’t really short on those.
This release isn’t just about Tzeentch however. Games Workshop have also taken the chance to show us something of the direction they’re planning to take the Elves in. I’ve always fancied creating a collection based around a Wild Hunt, with the more feral elements of the Dark and Wood Elf ranges combined into a single ferocious force, riding out in the heart of winter to fall like a blizzard upon the weak civilised races. In my madder moments this turns into a force of Exodite Eldar instead. This release contains two wonderfully elemental elves – a mage and an assassin – both powerfully reminiscent of the much-missed Rackham. If these really are a sign of things to come then I look forward to my self control crumbling altogether as I launch myself head-first into another project.If there’s a mistake with this release however it’s the lack of variety in the sculpts. Having pulled out a combination of creativity (the spider goblins are just the sort of mad genius that always brings a smile to my face) and high quality sculpting (the Skaven Deathrunners are particularly nice) they rather dropped the ball by repeating the same models, something which the already eye-watering price tag makes unacceptable. Still, so long as they keep pouring this level of creativity into the followers of Chaos then I’m inclined to be reasonably forgiving… so long as I can find a few bargains on ebay of course…