We’re into the last week of Fembruary now so it’s time to put the finishing touches on my Daughters of Khaine Warcry warband. Just like the two Witch Elves I showed earlier in the month these two come from the Morgwaeth’s Blade-coven set. Of course this also means that I only need to paint up Morgwaeth herself to complete another Warhammer Underworld’s warband so at some point I’ll do that too. For now though let’s concentrate on the final Warcry recruits.
First of all here’s a savage Sister of Slaughter, the berserker she-elves so savage that even the Witch Elves must look at them from time to time and think “Steady on”.
Alongside her we have a second snake-bodied Melusai, this time in the form of a Blood Stalker. I must confess that I was struggling a bit with this one but, very fittingly for Fembruary, my fiancée gave me some very helpful pointers and stopped me from making a hash of things. The benefits of having a professional artist in the house!
Finally here’s a shot of the whole warband gathered together.
Although the warband is finished for now I’ve got various other Daughters of Khaine models I’d like to add so at some point I’ll come back to this project and add a few more recruits. We’re also almost at the end of Fembruary and for me work and other “real life” commitments are starting to get particularly busy. That said there are a few more models I’d like to complete that are within stretching distance of getting finished so we’ll see what, if anything, I can manage over the next few days.
I spent some of the weekend working on something a world away from the blood-thirsty savagery of the Daughters of Khaine, but still distinctly violent and elvish – my Elven Union Blood Bowl team. Readers may remember that back in December I dipped my toe into starting an elf team (after claiming I’d paint a human team to follow up my Orcs – something I’ve still done naff all about). I’d come up with the idea of putting heads from the Warhammer 40k Harlequins onto the bodies of Blood Bowl elves some time ago, and even built a few of them, but it wasn’t until December that I found a colour scheme I really liked. Here’s a reminder of how the two test models look.
I’ve been keen to get back to the rest of the team ever since so, when I started looking out models for Fembruary, I took the opportunity to dig through the elves I’d built and check if any of them were female (there’s probably a joke in there about it being hard to tell with elves…). Turns out three of them were so I started chipping away at them through January, whenever I felt like a change from working on the Tzeentchian cult that was preoccupying my mind at that time, and once Fembruary rolled around I knuckled down properly and got them all finished. Looking at them now I realise they actually show something of an evolution of the team concept (if that doesn’t sound too pretentious!). This one is built straight out of the box, with no converting whatsoever.
This one is a straightforward head-swap, much like the two boys I showed previously.
And this one is where things got a bit strange and scary, a reminder that elves don’t just waft around being poetic and melancholic, they also curdle milk and steal children. Getting that mask to fit was a right nightmare too I can tell you!
Anyway, with these ladies ready to take to the pitch the team is already almost half done.
Usually this is the point in a project where I’d starting thinking about focussing and trying to get the whole set completed, but at the moment there’s only a couple more that are built (and they’re both boys so won’t be getting touched this month). I’ll keep chipping away at them though, and we’ll see how it goes. For now though, it’s time to dig around in the pile of neglected models and see what I feel like tackling next.
Time to get properly started on my coven of Daughters of Khaine for Fembruary. When I first thought of putting the warband together (quite some time ago now) my plan was to base it around the Melusai and Khinerai and leave the old fashioned Witch Elves out of it. I like these bloody-handed killers well enough but the miniatures never quite interested me enough to consider buying them. However that was before Morgwaeth’s Blade-coven was released for Warhammer Underworlds.
I really like the models in the set, so if I was ever going to paint a Witch Elf then these were the ones for me.
Whilst the first one was built straight out of the box this second one was tweaked slightly to give her a shield instead of a second dagger. No real reason for this beyond allowing us to use a variety of equipment in games of Warcry.
It can be easy to see the Witch Elves as falling into the “hormonal teenage fantasy” class of female miniatures, given that they spent their entire costume budget on boots and underwear. The savagery of their expressions gives the lie to that however, at least on these particular miniatures, and the end result looks – to my eye at least – more cruel than sexy.
Finally I’d like to give a shout out to that well-known blogger and podcaster, all round top bloke and friend of this blog, the Imperial Rebel Ork. Despite his many virtues he persists in the belief that all elves are foppish, pretentious wimps, a patently ridiculous argument which he laid out in Episode 47 of his podcast. Hopefully these ladies will be sufficient to show him the error of his ways – if not the rest of the warband are on their way!
There’s all kinds of elves in Games Workshop’s Mortal Realms. As well as the various survivors from Old Warhammer who’ve been gathered until the mish-mash banner of the Cities of Sigmar, there are the underwater dwelling Idoneth Deepkin, the blood-mad part snake/part bat/part woman/all lunatic mob of the Daughters of Khaine and the Sylvaneth, who’re arguably not elves at all but part of the shrubbery. Then there’s the Lumineth Realm-Lords, who used to be thought of as “the normal ones”. Until now that is…
I’m not usually that keen on elves, and when I am I tend to enjoy the savage forest-dwelling type far more than their pompous “civilised” kinsfolk. Nonetheless I have a bit of a soft-spot for the immaculately turned out Lumineth. I often felt that their launch last year did them something of a disservice, delayed as it was by the outbreak of Covid-19 and falling close to the limelight-hogging launch of Warhammer 40k’s 9th Edition. The initial range was fairly small, and full of relatively expensive models, and I often thought they could use receiving an injection of new miniatures to expand the range. Now, it seems, that is exactly what’s going to happen. Blurry photographs began circulating online, either taken by a eejit with a very old phone camera or deliberately released by GW themselves, and have been followed up by a full preview of the forthcoming miniatures, the Hurakan Windchargers. They’re not what I was expecting…
Regular readers will know I’m all in favour of creativity. Fantasy should be about exploring new ideas, embracing originality rather than rehashing the same old ground. Just because Tolkien liked a concept doesn’t mean it’s all there is to life. On top of that I support those artists and writers willing to look beyond the borders of Europe in search of ideas. It’s currently very trendy to scour the world for as broad a range of concepts as possible (except when that’s cultural appropriation of course – gotta walk that fine line!) but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. However, and I’m sure you knew there was going to be a “but” in here somewhere – kangaroos? Kanga-bloody-roos?!
Now I know, before anyone says “well actually”, that these aren’t really kangaroos but rather mish-mash animal that attempts, and sadly fails, to sell the idea of a species which has evolved in the Mortal Realms rather than been borrowed entirely from Earth’s ecology. However there’s so much kangaroo in there they might as well not have bothered.
I have no beef with kangaroos personally (some of my best friends are kangaroos!), and I know they can be vicious in a fight. If someone came charging at me on a kangaroo that was two meters tall at the shoulder I wouldn’t be laughing about it I can tell you. However you’d be hard-pressed to argue that they are noble looking beasts.
It’s clear from looking at them that these new beasts move with an inverted-pendulum motion, one limb planted firmly on the ground, one raised, just the same as ourselves and many other biped and quadraped animals do. However once again the mental association with kangaroos rears its head because from childhood we’re introduced to kangaroos and every toddler knows that kangaroos bounce. We can’t help but look at these and picture them hopping around, with the poor elves clinging on for dear life and trying not to lose their lunches whilst arrows go flying all over the place. What works for goblins with squigs just doesn’t work for High Elves. Despite all the qualities of these models, and all the arguments that could be made in their favour, one has to ask – did no-one at Games Workshop have the courage to stand up at a meeting and say “Kangaroos? Are you sure?” Have no doubt about it, for every person who thinks these look cool and adds them to their army, there will be a dozen mates who see them across the table and say “Strewth mate”, “What’s that Skippy?” and as many other antipodean clichés they can think of. To be honest the rather painful cod-Australian accent attempted by the Warhammer Community team in their preview video may not have been a wise move, there’s steering into the skid and then there’s just deliberately driving off the road and into a field.
It was perhaps unfortunate that the first image to be leaked online, and seized upon by those sites which specialise in Warhammer Roomours (I couldn’t resist!) was this, the most kangaroo-like of the lot.
There’s something about these that makes me think of creatures from the Star Wars universe. It’s probably this which made me realise that they could work well as steeds for Eldar Exodites. Quite why I’m comfortable with that idea but can’t quite get my head around seeing them in the Mortal Realms is another issue, and probably says more about me than it does about the models themselves.
Still, these are not the first unusual animals to make their way into the Lumineth range. The elves can already call upon the Spirits of the Mountain, a beast that is part bull and part mountain (so that would be a Moontain then wouldn’t it?). Some fans, myself included, think these look downright magnificent, whilst others complain that there’s nothing scary or warlike about a cow (and from that we can deduce which of us have been chased by angry cows and which have not…).
That said neither cows nor kangaroos are traditional war-beasts. Perhaps in the next wave of models we’ll see a creature that combines these two species into a monster that bounds over blocks of enemy troops whilst spraying them indiscriminately with milk. They could call it the Roominant.
Living in an ivory tower can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Games Workshop have often come across as being wilfully out of touch with what the fanbase thinks and wants. Now this is no bad thing, it certainly hasn’t hurt our enjoyment or their profits. Sure there are times when we end up shouting “Why won’t you release (insert miniature I want to see currently here)” but a quick glance at the “pile of shame” lurking on, under and around the painting desk tells me that they’ve still managed to release plenty of things I did want to buy. So whilst the fact that, for example, they seemed utterly unaware for years that Sisters of Battle might just be a tiny bit popular and worthy of a kit or two seems like wilful ignorance, it’s worth keeping in mind that the fanbase is a many headed beast, unable to agree on anything beyond a general satisfaction with what Games Workshop produced. It’s very much a self-policing system, if we’re not happy with what they make then we stop buying it, and the evidence is clearly there in GW’s executives’ bank balances that, on the whole, we’re very happy indeed. Yet if you look around online you’d be left thinking that the fan base stood on the verge of open revolt, mere moments from storming Nottingham and dragging the entire design studio out into the street by their heels. Perhaps it’s simply the case that, with time for hobbies being a finite resource, some people spend it buying and painting miniatures and others spend it sitting on the internet bitching.
Still, this feels like a case in which Games Workshop’s traditional secrecy has done them no favours. These are the kind of models where I feel that, within the confines of the studio, an echo-chamber of enthusiasm built up, with everyone working on the models being too close to see them for what they are. Which – love ’em or hate ’em – is kangaroos. Saying “They’re not really kangaroos, they’re Hurakan Windchargers on Treerunners” whilst throwing in some self-deprecating humour by doing only-vaguely credible Oz accents is bolting the stable door long after the horse has gone hopping off down the street.
It’s much like telling a joke, if you have to explain it then it hasn’t worked. Similarly if you have to say “look, the position of their legs clearly shows that they run with a side-to-side motion much like a horse. They don’t hop, their necks are far too long and who ever heard of a kangaroo with horns?” then it’s probably because people are looking at them and only seeing kangaroos. Perhaps in time I’ll change my mind, but for now these miss the mark for me. Probably because their steeds keep bouncing up and down…
However despite all this mickey-taking that I’ve indulged in here, it hasn’t all been bad news and questionable models. Alongside the Hurakan Windchargers we’ve seen the new Vanari Lord Regent. I don’t imagine that I’ll start a Lumineth army (although I’ll admit I do feel tempted at times) but if I did then this would be the guy I’d want to lead it.
Elves riding kangaroos may not do much for me but combining a cat with a wildebeest turns out to be a spark of uncommon genius. Anyway, now you know all about kangaroos but do you know what a kangaroot is? Why it’s a Scotsman stuck in a lift of course!
I know I said that my next Blood Bowl project would be the humans (modified to make them feel a bit more “Warhammer” and a bit less like real world sportsmen) but I’ve only gone and been distracted by some elves. I’ve had this project in mind for ages, since way back before the Elven Union Blood Bowl team was even released in fact. Following the release of the 2016 edition of the game, but before the production of an official plastic elven team, many people used the Harlequin models from Warhammer 40k as able substitutes. I liked the concept but at time I wasn’t particularly enthused about Blood Bowl, and if I’m honest even less about filthy elves, so it looked likely that that would be that. Then GW launched the elf team and I found myself less excited still. The models didn’t seem terribly interesting and the colour-scheme used for the studio models has to rank amongst the most ghastly combinations they’ve ever come up with, which only served to put me off even further. I think it was safe to say I wouldn’t be buying a box of these guys, uh uh – no way!
I mean just look at that, it’s enough to put anyone off their lunch. And yet, here we are, because despite deciding firmly that I wouldn’t be touching these with a bargepole I promptly became obsessed with how I’d do them differently. I started looking at other people’s models and the colour schemes they’d used and that in turn lead me back to those old Harlequin based conversions. The Elven Union, I came to realise, are actually really nice models, there’s a greater sense of speed and movement to them than almost anywhere else in GW’s stable. It’s just that, much like the aforementioned Human team, there’s not very much about them that looks like it belongs in a Warhammer universe. As sporting elves go they’re painfully generic.
Luckily I managed to get my mitts on some Harlequin heads and tried them out on a couple of models. The results look good to my eye, and feel more “Warhammer” than the untouched models, but without being able to figure out a good colour scheme they sat unpainted for a long time. Then, with the Orc team pretty much complete (for now) I got the itch to pick them up and start playing with paint – and I’m very pleased with the end results (if I do say so myself!).
Now not all of the elves in the team will have Harlequin heads, I’ve already built a couple of them straight out of the box, but I’ll be going for a mix of the two styles and hopefully ending up with something that looks cohesive across the team.
Anyway, that’s not all the Blood Bowl activity I have to show today. Acting on advice I was given by several wise Blood Bowl gurus who frequent the comment’s section of this blog (thanks guys) I stuck the two turn markers I painted for the orc team onto bases to stop the damn things falling over all the time. To my eye it looks a lot better, gives me a chance to decorate them a bit further and of course makes them a lot more functional.
Finally I’ve painted up my first Blood Bowl star player. He’s one part sporting titan, one part adorable forest creature – and his rules were free with November’s White Dwarf. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Akhorne the squirrel!
For anyone wondering, you can get him for free if you buy one of the new treemen (or alternatively if you buy him you get a free treeman – it depends how you look at it). He’s quite the tiddly little dude as this comparison shot next to an Orc and a Goblin demonstrates.
Anyway, that’s it for this time and probably everything for this year. Life is looking set to be busy over the next couple of weeks and although I’ll definitely be trying to find some time to paint I don’t know that I’ll manage to blog about it as well. I will however try to put together a round-up post before we lurch our way into a hopefully-slightly-less-apocalyptic 2021. In the meantime all that’s left is for me to wish all my readers a merry Christmas, wherever you and are and whatever you’re doing I hope you’re able to find a little time to sit back, relax and enjoy our hobby.
Another weekend, another big GW preview, another chance for me to roll out my opinions. This time it was the turn of some of the smaller, more “specialist” games in GW’s roster, with a focus on Blood Bowl, Warcry and Warhammer Underworlds. These three being, to various degrees, close to my heart, it was inevitable that I’d have some thoughts to share.
First out of the gate was Blood Bowl, the game of fantasy football, which is soon to launch its second season boxset (that’s the second season of the 2016 edition of a game that’s been on the go since 1986 – so technically it’s the 6th edition – maybe? Best not to get too hung up on that!).
From my point of view this couldn’t be better timed, 34 years after the game first launched, and about 25 years since I first discovered it I’ve finally started working on painting up a team. All being well I can crack on with painting my orcs, humans and various gubbins and await the release of the new rules, rather than pouring effort into learning the old rules only for them to become outdated in short order.
The new box contains plenty to be excited about – most importantly two new teams. On one side of the pitch we have the humans, in the form of the Imperial Nobles. The quality of the Blood Bowl miniatures has been top-notch lately and these are no exception, each one flawlessly designed and packed with character.
I’ll admit I found the previous human team to be a little bit dull, they’re very nice miniatures in their own right but they are very definitely sportsmen and generally wouldn’t look out of place in a modern, real world setting. They’re not bad but there’s next to nothing about them that says “Warhammer”. Not so the Imperial Nobles who channel the Knights and Lords of the old WHFB Empire.
Needless to say I’ve already started a little kitbashing and converting to turn my team of ordinary humans into something that feels more rooted in the setting. Fancy a cheeky sneak peek? Yeah you do!
Alongside the human players we have a special character – or Star Player in Blood Bowl parlance – Griff Oberwald. Even amongst the never-knowing-underdressed show-offs of the Imperial Nobility he stands out, every inch the arrogant sporting superstar.
It’s a world away from the outgoing Forge World version, which if I’m honest had very little to recommend it (although it was still nicer than Varag Ghoul-Chewer – more on him in a moment). At least now when he jogs onto the pitch the girls will be screaming for the right reasons…
Sure enough the humans need someone to get a match in against and in the previous boxset that roll fell to the orcs. This time round it’s the turn of… the orcs again. Just as the standard issue humans have been joined by the new Imperial Nobility so the ordinary orcs now have competition in the form of the Black Orcs.
These are big lads, reportedly similar in size to the orruk brutes, which makes me wonder how many will be getting bought to convert into members of Ironjaws armies. After all, although taken as a whole there’s a distinct sporting theme to the models, but taken out of context and given a few tweaks and these could easily slot into the ranks of an ordinary orcy horde.
Special mention is also owed to the goblins which accompany the team, regular readers will know I’ve got a soft-spot for the little gits and these are no exception.
Like the humans the orcs have hired a Star Player to join them, this time in the form of the mighty Varag Ghoul-Chewer. The big lad looks like an absolute tank and – I suspect – will be the basis of many a converted Orc Warlord for both 40k and AoS. Take note of his undead snack, still thrashing angrily on his shoulderspike and ready to be devoured at half-time.
Of course if you thought the old model for Griff was a bit rough wait until you see Forge World’s attempt at Varag. Once upon a time Forge World were rightly praised for the high quality of their models – expensive but worth it – and generally that’s a standard they’ve kept to in recent times. Varag however should probably have been left on the shelf, or perhaps surreptitiously nudged into the bin.
Now exciting though all of this Blood Bowl action is, none of it is exactly new. Pictures leaked online some time ago and GW followed up by doing a full reveal of everything that was already in the public eye back at the start of August. Thus the only real surprises for fans was that the box would include two new models for referees. Both are great models but hardly enough to carry the “big reveal” on their own.
Next up we had Warcry and this was where my interest was really focussed. I’m a big fan of Warcry, of all GW’s games it’s the one I see myself playing the most so any news was going to be good news in my book. Sadly however said news was thin on the ground. No new models or warbands were announced, which I’m sure came as something of a disappointment to many fans (I know it did me!). Instead we’re getting four new books, one for each of Age of Sigmar’s grand alliances, containing rules, quests, scenarios and monsters.
Now this could be quite exciting, I’ve already started several Warcry warbands based around factions from outwith the core game – the very factions that these books are aimed at covering. However information on the specific contents of the books was pretty much absent so I’ll be reserving judgement until a bit more is known. If the new books turn out to be simply a collated reprint of the already released cards, White Dwarf articles and rules for Monsters and Mercenaries already printed in previous books then I’ll pass, helpful though it would be to have everything in one handy guide I’m not made of money and GW has plenty else to tempt me with. If on the other hand they take the opportunity to revisit some of the previously released factions, bringing in new rules for models such as mid-level heroes and huge monsters that were previously absent, I’ll be a lot more interested. For example the Gloomspite Gits, which were released at the same time as the game’s initial launch, received rules for loonbosses, various shamen and the monstrous arachnarok spider through the Monsters and Mercenaries book – whilst the Sylvaneth who came later have no rules for their own equivalent heroes and monsters such as the branchwych or tree-lord. If these books start filling gaps of this kind I’ll be very interested indeed.
Meanwhile some of the other factions feel distinctly thin on the ground at the moment, Nurgle’s mortal followers being a particularly glaring example. Whilst the Putrid Blightkings have a range of weapon options available to a modeller the rules represent very little of this. Whilst the rules distinguish Blightking leaders, or those carrying icons or Sonorous Tocsin (that’s the great big bell to you or I) there’s nothing to distinguish the one carrying the massive axe from the one with the spear or the one with the sword and shield. Other factions are given considerably more detail – the mortal followers of Tzeentch for instance have rules for 14 different model types, whilst poor old Nurgle get’s only 5 – despite having the potential available for plenty more. The god of plagues may be having a fine time out here in the real world but he’s looking a little unloved in the Realm of Chaos – perhaps if GW took the chance to improve the options available to him in Warcry they could tempt him back to where he belongs?
Of course many people are rightly concerned about the way Warcry appears to be straying from its roots focussed around Chaos warbands specifically designed for the game and turning into the skirmish version of Age of Sigmar. I’m very much of two minds about this. On the one hand I completely agree, what drew me to Warcry in the first place was the chance to explore something really new, delve into the setting’s underbelly and explore the Realm of Chaos properly for the first time in years. Finding out that every single faction in the wider game is also mucking around outside the Varanspire dilutes the sense that this is Chaos’s world, a place where deamons walk and only the strongest and strangest endure.
On the other hand I love the idea of a skirmish version of Age of Sigmar, I enjoy Warcry (and most unusually I actually understand the rules) and so the more the merrier from my point of view – every additional faction that’s brought into the game opens up more opportunities for painting and modelling as I explore factions that I would never be willing to commit to a whole army of.
How do I square this circle? Simple – in my mind a game featuring Chaos warbands occurs within the game’s official setting – the Bloodwind Spoil – whilst when we play a game with any of the other factions we set it elsewhere in the Mortal Realms.
I’ve also seen a few people worrying, quite understandably, that the lack of any new warbands announced (and leaving aside the Khainite Shadowstalkers and Scions of the Flame set to beat seven bells out of each other in the soon-to-be-released Catacombs expansion) means the game is soon to be shuffled off to a dusty corner and left to wither. GW will pour in no further investment, no new models or warbands will appear and the new books represent simply an exercise in squeezing the last drops of milk from the cash cow before it’s led out into the field and shot.
I however take a more hopeful view – that this is merely the calm before the game get’s it’s second wind. Back when both Blood Bowl and Necromunda were relaunched – in 2016 and 2017 respectively – GW announced that there would be an initial wave of plastic teams/gangs and, if these proved popular, more would follow in due course. This has proved to be exactly how things turned out, with both games seeing an initial flurry of activity and, as people voted with their wallets and demonstrated their commitment to the games, GW set to work producing new things to sell us. Blood Bowl now has 15 teams available, with three more announced as coming soon (and two others which can be built by combing models from other teams). Necromunda followed the same pattern a year later. Both games saw an initial wave of releases followed by a quiet year as GW’s designers worked to catch up, and then settled into a regular pattern that’s kept each game topped up nicely. Warcry, I strongly suspect, is following the same pattern – with the game launching and proving it’s financial chops to the money men in 2019 and 2020 being something of a “filler year” as new concepts are worked up, ready to be released in 2021. Of course this may be false optimism but I wouldn’t be too quick to write the game off yet, Warcry proved very popular from all I’ve heard (if – like me – you’re keen to get a copy of Catacombs for instance I’d recommend hovering with your finger over the “buy now” button when it goes up for pre-order) and GW haven’t achieved their market dominance by failing to recognise when they’re onto a good thing.
Thirdly, the big reveal showed us the new core set for Warhammer Underworlds; Direchasm – which brings the popular tournament game into its fourth season. Given that I’m not by any means a hardcore gamer I don’t tend to pay much attention to Underworlds, beyond drooling over the miniatures at regular intervals. That said I’m looking at this new box with great interest. As with the majority of GW’s boxsets it features two rival factions, in this case the elves of the Lumineth Realm-lords vs the mortal followers of Slaanesh.
The elves alone wouldn’t be enough to grab me. I actually quite like the (much maligned) Lumineth range which has been released in recent weeks – although not enough to consider starting a collection I hasten to add – but these do less for me. They’re alright, but for my taste they’re nothing really to write home about – each one being basically a little bit of a step down from its AoS equivalent. The warband’s leader appears to be troubled by constipation, something not helped by his gravity-defying pose…
On the other hand the warriors of Slaanesh are downright gorgeous! Many of us have been bumping our gums about a lack of attention for Slaanesh, especially the god’s mortal followers, for at least as long as I’ve been in the hobby and probably a lot longer – and at last we have something to get excited about.
As if that champion wasn’t wonderful enough we have a suitably twisted beastman.
Beastmen remain one of the most potentially interesting Chaos factions aesthetically speaking, yet all too often they’ve been relegated to the sidelines. A few years ago Tzeentchian beastmen appeared in the form of the Tzaangors to general delight, and Blood Bowl features an amazing looking Nurgle beastman, but beyond that beastmen specific to each god have been thin on the ground. Of course, one swallow doesn’t make a summer (or at least that’s what Slaanesh said!) but its hard to deny that nothing says “chaos and decadence” like a goat in thigh-high boots. We can only hope that soon GW will satisfy us all and give the god of excess the kind of vigorous affection it desires.
Exciting though these Slaanshi warriors are this preview over felt a little bit thin. The Blood Bowl set looks amazing but it’s really nothing new, the qualities of the Warcry books are anyone’s guess but look likely to be at least in part a reprint of pre-existing material and the elves need to eat some prunes. That left us with previews of some upcoming films being produced by GW and which to me look like a bit of a mixed bag. The Blood Angels film looks intriguing…
… but the anime series with its prominently featured Eldar Striking Scorpions does less to grab me, although that may just be because it’s anime.
Truthfully I’ve never been terribly interested in anime, in fact the style tends to put me off. Maybe it’s because I used to have a couple of flatmates who were obsessed with anime and anything else Japanese, and seemed truly to believe that Japan was the source of everything good in the world whilst all other countries were the source of everything bad. I understand that Japanese includes a word for westerners like that and I’m pretty sure it translates as “patronising tossers”. I’m sure this prejudiced me against the style, and by extension the sprinting Striking Scorpions and their ilk, especially as I’d really much rather see some new models for the Scorpions (not to mention the rest of the neglected Eldar aspect warriors).
One thing I did expect to see here, and which was glaring by its absence, was a hint at what’s coming next for Age of Sigmar. After considerable build up the Lumineth Realm-lords and Sons of Behemat have both been released, and the immediate future of the game is rather sparsely populated. We know that books are planned which move the narrative forward and a new boxset lies ahead, containing mostly models which have already been released (plus another truly wonderful Slaaneshi lord to the delight of the Mortal Realms’ S&M community – you wait a couple of decades for a champion of pain and pleasure to come along and then two appear at once). What we don’t know, even by the merest hint, is what kind of major releases might be planned or what new factions might be around the corner, and I was half expecting some kind of teaser in this direction. Not to worry though, between Blood Bowl and the new Slaaneshi models there’s enough here to keep me interested. Whilst I go in search of a pair of thigh-high studded leather football boots in my size the comments box is open for anyone with a strong opinion to hold forth!
Until now I’ve never painted a high elf. It’s not something I’m famous for per se, people don’t point me out in the street, nudging their friends and saying “there goes the man who’s never painted a high elf” but it is something I spoken about in the past, usually in connection with my typically dirty, grimy painting style. War is a famously filthy business, with lots of tramping through mud and dust interspersed with occasionally being splattered with blood and other fluids and I tend to reflect that in my miniatures. I enjoy seeing armies that are beautifully painted in parade-ground uniforms but for me it’s not done until it’s dirty. Thus the high elves, which are famed for being clean and bright have often been used as an example of something I don’t or wouldn’t paint.
On the other hand I don’t tend to see not having done something as a mark of pride. You meet people, for example, who will boast about the films or TV shows they haven’t seen, books they haven’t read, and so on, and I must admit I find that rather odd. Trying something and not enjoying it is fair enough, or not getting around to seeing or doing something because there’s only so much time in the day. It’s not doing something and treating this as a great achievement and a mark of specialness that I find odd. I haven’t found it to be a constant daily battle to restrain my unhealthy compulsion to paint high elves and as a result I don’t feel I deserve to be congratulated for it.
Anyway, enough waffle, the point I’m driving at (rather laboriously!) is that I’ve painted one now – here’s a Swordmaster of Hoeth for your enjoyment.
I’m quite pleased with the blue-tinge on the sword (just a straightforward coat of Grey Knights Steel with a highlight) but it really doesn’t show up well in the picture from the front. You can see it a bit better in the shot from behind though.
This isn’t the start of a new project, I just realised it was something I’d often said that I’d never done and decided that now was as good a time as any other to change that. That said I do have a few more, which I got as part of the Island Of Blood boxset that accompanied the release of WHFB 8th Edition (which I bought for all the lovely Skaven of course) so who knows, if people start nudging each other in the street and saying “there goes the man who’s only ever painted one High Elf” I might just be forced to break out some more…
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.
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.
To my memory the only elf I’ve ever painted; acquired long ago as part of a Mantic giveaway. Quite how he fights with a bow in one hand and a sword in the other (and no arrows) remains a mystery…
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.
A Mandigorn Warrior by Rackham. Like Alarielle the Daikinee were gripped by bettlemania.
Spot the difference; a Daikinee Sylvan Animae and a Sylvaneth Spite Revenant.
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…