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!