This weekend sees the Las Vegas Open, which is apparently some kind of big deal if you’re a tournament gamer who lives in Las Vegas. The rest of us might not pay that much attention, were it not for the fact that GW sees this as a grand opportunity to reveal some of their forthcoming releases. Needless to say I have plenty of thoughts about these and I’m not going to miss the chance to share them with the world because that’s how the internet works nowdays.
First things first we have the announcement of a substantial wave of new models joining the Adeptus Mechanicus. I’m not sure if I’ve apologised for this before but I’m a huge fan of the Ad-Mech. I say apologised because for many years I harped on about how awesome they were to anyone who couldn’t think of a suitable excuse to leave, about how great it would be to see a range of miniatures for them, about what a missed opportunity it was that GW failed to do anything with what must be one of the finest ideas they’d ever come up with. Then finally GW got the finger out and created a truly wonderful range of models, tapping into the weirdness of the Ad-Mech with real aplomb and I’ve painted nothing. In the five years since they first appeared I’ve managed to get about half-way through painting two Skitarii and that’s it. I didn’t rush out and clear the shelves of my nearest stockist but I have snapped up bargains and Start Collecting sets until I’ve gathered myself a sizeable heap of the Sons and Daughters of Mars and I love them as much as ever but I just haven’t got any of them painted. My soul may have long ago been sold to Chaos, and my heart will always be green and orky, but the Adeptus Mechanicus speaks to me to quite a profound degree, and yet I’ve done naff all about it.
Nonetheless this might be the moment to take the plunge. After all I’ve just finished off my Skaven so maybe I ought to roll up my sleeves and tackle the Martians. I wasn’t particularly wowed by the Skorpius tanks that emerged last summer, and in part that may be because I’m just not that big into tanks. To me the Skorpius are just a little plain, sensible and straightforward which is not at all how the barking-mad scholars of Mars like things. On the other hand the Archaeopter looks like much more my kind of thing, as weird and archaic as all the best Adeptus Mechanicus creations should be.
With the Serberys cavalry they’ve continued to up the Ad-Mech’s game as troops go thundering into battle on weird, bio-mechanical dogs. It’s utterly mad of course but then that’s how the Cult of Mars ought to be. I’m sure a few Imperial Guard fans are cursing that these have appeared but Rough Riders remain a thing of the past and although I agree with them entirely that Rough Riders deserve a new kit ASAP these models are one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a while (and it’s been non-stop cool things lately).
Speaking of madness we have the Pteraxii, another new unit of troops, this time with wings. Again the strangeness of the Ad-Mech is on full display and although I’m not so over-excited by them as I am the Serberys cavalry there’s still a lot to like here – not to mention what looks to be a lot of useful parts for Inq28 conversions.
I must confess the first thing I thought of when I saw them were the Bird Men of Catrazza, an old regiment of renown from the days of WHFB. To be honest the similarity probably starts and ends with them being men with wings but it gave me a little thrill of nostalgia all the same.
All this Martian madness is due to be released soon, which makes me hopeful that GW will finally get around to releasing the Tech Priest Manipulus properly too. Until now it’s only been available as part of a Kill Team set, which would have been a bargain if I’d been in the market for any of the other contents – as it was it just looked like a very expensive way of getting the Manipulus model so I’ve been stubbornly holding off. Either way it now appears to be out of stock (unless I’m just failing to find it on the GW website) so fingers crossed the fat lad will see a proper release shortly.
Moving across to Age of Sigmar we discover that Teclis, once the premier mage of the WHFB setting and now elevated to godhood in the Mortal Realms, has been at it again. Following the capture of Slaanesh who was forced to disgorge the glut of elven souls they’d consumed during the End Times (I’m picturing someone sticking their fingers down a Chaos God’s throat until they puked – something Slaanesh probably gets off on) Teclis took his share of the available souls and turned them into a race of his very own. Sadly he made, not to put too fine a point on it, an absolute balls of things, and the result was the Idoneth Deepkin, a culture defined by their deep-seated trauma at being consumed by Slaanesh (not the mention vomited out again) and with a deeply difficult relationship with their spiritual father. With the majority of their race born with weak and withered souls they took to stealing the life-force of others and Teclis attempted to wipe them out, which only served to sour relations even further. You’d have thought old Teclis would have decided to write the whole business off as a bad job and leave creating new Elven races to others, but apparently he’s decided to take another shot at it and his latest effort are the Lumineth Realm-lords.
Perhaps worried about what they’ll get up to without him keeping an eye on them Teclis himself has joined the range, with a gloriously over-the-top miniature (although personally I still prefer Morathi and Alarielle when it comes to Elven Gods in miniatures form). Whilst Teclis himself looks suitably impressive the star here is Celennar, Spirit of Hysh, who may be intended as a creature of purity and light but could just as easily be something chillingly inscrutable and madly Tzeentchian.
These are very much old-fashioned elves in the style of the High Elves of yesteryear – some of them even ride around on horses! After the part-tree, part-elf hybrids of the Sylvaneth, the part-snake Daughters of Khaine and the weird, eyeless aquatic creatures of the Idoneth Deepkin these harken back to something much more traditional and Tolkienesque.
Incidentally I’ve recently discovered that the word “Aelves”, which GW now uses in place of the desperately outmoded “Elves” to differentiate their copyrightable pointy-eared people from the kind of pointy-eared folk that everyone else produces, should be pronounced “Elves” just the same as every other company’s elves. Until now I’d been pronouncing it “Aleves” with a hard “A” – which would have made all those fans crying out for some old-fashioned elves like these part of the Campaign for Real Aelves.
I don’t imagine I’ll be painting any of these myself any time soon, I’m sure they’ll appeal to a lot of elf fans and I can see that they’re beautiful miniatures, but they’re not really my kind of thing. That said pretty much every other AoS race has found its way into Warcry so perhaps someday these will too, in which case I might find myself tempted to put together a little warband and stretch my creative muscles into painting something bright, clean and noble rather than the filthy degenerates that usually attract me.
They did however get me thinking about the place of elves in the Age of Sigmar, and what that means for the humans which find themselves increasingly pushed to the fringes. In the past humanity stood at the heart of both GW’s key universes. Just as the Imperium has been the central mover-and-shaker of the 41st Millennium so the Empire lay at the centre of the Old World, with the other races scattered around the edge of the map. Elves lived on the outskirts, sailing their craftworlds through the depths of wilderness space or living on far flung, exotic continents like Ulthuan or Naggarond. AoS however has pushed the elves to the centre of the setting whilst humanity barely gets a look in. With the release of the Lumineth Realm-lords we now have four full elven races in AoS, joining the sea-dwelling Idoneth Deepkin, the never-knowingly-fully-dressed Daughters of Khaine and those most wooden of actors the Sylvaneth. Between them these races have sprung from just three of the Elven pantheon, Teclis, Alarielle and that old snake Morathi. That still leaves us with Tyrion and Malerion who are surely bound to usher in elven races of their own sooner or later, not to mention of the off-cuts of the old High, Dark and Wood Elves still knocking around the Realms. Rather than Age of Sigmar this could very easily have been called Age of Elves and one almost wonders why GW didn’t bite the bullet and do just that. Humans have been shoved into the margins of the setting, with most of those still living in the Realms being flesh-eating degenerates or Chaos worshipping thugs. In the purging of their old lines that followed the death of WHFB the Empire was spared the destruction that swallowed their brothers across the mountains in Bretonnia but sometimes you’re left wondering just what GW saved them for. The human perspective is a great narrative tool (most, if not all, of GW’s customers being human) but the old Empire range now look like people out of time, a race of proxies standing in for the fantastical city states described in the background. It’s easy to imagine the kind of strange and extraordinary cultures which might exist in the Realms, until you discover that everyone still dresses exactly like they did thousands of years ago in Reikland. I often dreamed of starting an Empire army myself and I certainly have nothing against them as a faction but they look out of place now, and GW seem to have little interest in developing new human cultures with which to populate their developing setting. Perhaps, with retrospect, they should have been bolder, packing the Empire range off to join the Bretonnias and Tomb Kings in the history books and reducing the human race to tribal savages, scraping by in the Age of Sigmar, with a few chosen champions elevated to join the Stormcast hosts, whilst the light of civilisation belongs exclusively to the Elves. In a decade or two they could have revived a few Empire concepts to the delight of old grognards who would rave to bemused youngsters about the era when bases were square. After all if you wait long enough everything comes round again, even zoats…
Of course, as soon as Teclis showed up with Celennar – who is at least in part a giant cat – Nurgle had to get in on the action with a cat of his own and a crazy cat lady to keep it company. Enter the Wurmspat, a new warband for Warhammer Underworlds. Underworlds hasn’t really grabbed me as a game, I’m not really interested in card games and the focus on the competitive side leaves me cold, but there’s no denying it’s brought us some outstanding models. With the Wurmspat we see not only two more Blightkings, each of which is a chip off the manky old block and a fine looking decedent of the original Nurgle Lord, but we also get Fecula Flyblown, our first Nurgle lady (and her cat). Of course I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth but for traditions sake I will repeat the same mutterings that I make every time there’s a new Nurgle release – that this was a fine chance to bring us a pestigor and they missed it again.
Last but very definitely not least we have a real blast from the past, the first Zoat to grace the worlds of Warhammer since the ’80s (by my memory at least). When I first heard that a Zoat was part of the reveals I assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that this would be Zolcath, the Blood Bowl star player. Who would have thought a second Zoat might be waiting in the wings after all these years?
In many ways Blackstone Fortress has stepped into the same niche as the Specialist Games studio, allowing GW to produce those things which fans still love but which don’t quite fit in to the established armies of the main games. So far we’ve seen Rogue Traders, Imperial Navigators, a Man of Iron, Traitor Guard, Dark Mechanicum, even a stonking great Ambull. Of course nostalgia is all very well but the strength of all of these has been that they stand on their own two (or in this case four) feet as excellent models, more than deserving of attention and admiration in their own right. One wonders what else might emerge from 40k’s shadowy corners to walk the halls of the fortress; Squats, Hrud, Eldar Corsairs or Exodites, perhaps even a Slaan? Of course the question now is, will the Zoat be an adventurer or an adversary? I suspect it’ll be the latter of course but the former would be wonderful. Who wouldn’t feel more comfortable tackling the maddening halls and unravelling corridors of the xenos star-fort with a Zoat at their side?
Finally, in the midst of all this excitement, it would be remiss of me not to mention the appearance of the Eightfold Harvest Lord, a Khorne worshipping maniac now stalking the surface of Necromunda. Having sworn to bring cannibalistic madness down upon my favourite Imperial planet I was already contemplating making my own version but to be honest this beats what I’d come up with hands down. Of course, like all the Forge World bounty hunters he’s a little pricey but I reckon he’s one to save up for (not that this will be easy with all these other lovely looking miniatures crowding the release schedule over the next few months!)
Needless to say I’ll be watching all of these miniatures emerge with great interest, although exactly what I end up adding to the collection and what I allow to pass by remains to be seen. After all there’s clearly plenty more waiting in the wings – and any fellow Ork fans out there will know I’m extremely curious to get a proper look at Makari’s boss. Can the greenskin to rival Abaddon get a model to match? We’ll know soon enough…