Tag Archives: Preview

Templars, Sisters and Scum: GenCon 2021 Previews

GenCon, which likes to remind us all that it is “the biggest four days in gaming” happened this weekend. Despite the fact that some American acquaintances of mine seemed to believe that it is the only four days in gaming it might well have passed those of us who live outside Indianapolis by, were it not for the various companies which attended and used it as a platform to show-off the next big things to be assaulting our wallets.

Games Workshop were there of course, and although they’re far from being the only company who’s miniatures I buy I’ll admit to being enough of a fan that I was watching with keen interest. Plus they announced that they would be previewing forthcoming goodies for Necromunda, Warcry, Blood Bowl and Kill Team – and you know they had me at Necromunda. Now that the dust has settled I’ll take the opportunity to cast my eye back over the announcements and share a few of my thoughts. Needless to say there’s a lot we still don’t know about all this, we really only have Games Workshop’s own promotional bumph to go on and I’m sure much of what I have to say will look laughably out of date in a few months time. Is that going to stop me bumping my gums and rattling my keyboard? Of course not!

Harrowdeep

Before we got to the good stuff (and I’m sure I’ll be shot at dawn for saying that!) the first thing to be revealed was the forthcoming fifth season of Warhammer Underworlds. As a game Underworlds doesn’t really attract me, the emphasis on collecting cards and competitive gaming is a bit of a turn off I’m afraid. The models however have been generally outstanding, with rarely a duff miniature in the game’s entire stable. Given its popularity a new edition (sorry – “season”) seemed pretty much inevitable and GW had already announced that this was on the way. Now we got to find out a little more about it – this time it’s set underwater – and features a new game mode that other reviewers will undoubtedly be able to share far more educated opinions on than me. I just like looking at the miniatures! And as for those miniatures – well, they’re a little bit of a mixed bag for me I’m afraid. Underworlds warbands tend to attract me either as models to paint for the sheer pleasure of painting them – and again let me emphasise that the vast majority of them have been outstanding – or because I can use them for something else (normally Warcry). This time the set features Kruelboy Orcs fighting it out against Stormcast Eternals which is very much the match-up of the moment in Age of Sigmar as these two posterboys for good and evil slug it out across the Realms.

So far I’ve yet to buy one of the core sets for the game and I’m pretty certain that this latest – Harrowdeep – will go the same way. The models are nice, and I might be tempted by the Kruelboys if they were available separately, but they come packaged – and priced – with a lot of extraneous cardboard that just isn’t for me.

Kruelboy 1

Stormcast Eternals aren’t generally a faction that appeals to me that much and although the latest models added to the range have been amongst the best so far the crew from Harrowdeep fall short of that. Take this guy for instance – it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I don’t like about him but there’s something off there. The boar carved into his armour is pretty cool though – I’m enjoying seeing all the animal motifs popping up on Stormcast armour. We’ve seen hawks, lions, bears and now a boar and (on one of the others in this set) what appears to be an owl. What next I wonder? My money is on a hamster.

Stormcast

Games Workshop have invested a lot of effort and attention in Underworlds and it seems to have paid off, I may not be that excited about it – although as I say I’m very much looking forward to seeing what other new warbands will be arriving this season – but I know I’m in something of a minority there. Kill Team – the skirmish-scale sidekick of Warhammer 40k – on the other hand has suffered from a lack of love, all too often making do with repackaged kits and “trickle down” attention from it’s much more lucrative big brother. With this latest relaunch however GW claim to have finally got the message and have promised us something new for Kill Team ever quarter year for the foreseeable. This is a big improvement, previous editions having barely seemed to stay on GW’s radar for three months before vanishing into the murky depths – outcompeted for their parent company’s limited attention by the plethora of other games the studio produces. Already – mere weeks after the game was launched – the first new expansion has been revealed. First we had Orks fighting the Death Korps of Kreig, now the Sisters of Battle are taking on the Tau in a new box entitled Kill Team: Chalnath.

Chalanath Kill Team Box

Now I’ll acknowledge that neither the Sisters nor the Tau particularly interest me – in fact I wouldn’t have realised that the Tau half of the box was made up of models already available, supplemented with a new sprue of upgrades, if I hadn’t been told. Similarly, whilst I’m pleased to see GW investing properly in the Sisters of Battle for the first time in decades and I can barely think of another faction that deserves attention to the same degree (cough-Skaven-cough) they’re still not really my bag. That said these particular Sisters are pretty interesting. Whilst the majority of Sisters of Battle go around in power armour (thus answering the question of what a female space marine would look like and saving anyone the trouble of getting on their high horse…) these ladies are still just initiates and so go into battle defended only a corset, a wimple and what looks like reinforced jodhpurs. Mixing the futuristic with the medieval in true 40k style these girls will be great for Inq28 conversions and even though I probably won’t get a full set myself I’ll have my eye on get some spares to use in converting downhive fanatics and witch hunters for Necromunda. The matriarchal agents of House Ko’iron, with their close ties to both House Cawdor and the Sisters of Battle spring immediately to mind.

Sisters of Battle 1

Given the quality of these models, and the preceding Death Korps and Ork Kommandos also released for Kill Team I’m feeling genuinely positive about the future of the game and very keen to see what might be coming in the quarter after next. Oh and speaking of the Death Korps and Kommandos these will also be getting separate releases soon, not entirely surprising but nice to have it confirmed – especially given how odd GW’s releases can sometimes be.

Death Korps

For a while there Blood Bowl was riding high with new teams emerging roughly every three months. Things got a little bumpy during the height of the covid epidemic but that was true of everything, and as 2020 drew to a close we even got a new edition of the game. As we stepped bravely in 2021 you could almost hear the baying of the crowd around every corner, see the discarded McMurty’s burger wrappers blowing in the breeze, taste the Bloodweiser and feel the crunch of fragile flesh hitting unyielding astrogranite. Then everything went suddenly and strangely quiet. Yes we got things like new pitches, and dice and so on but we’re fans of miniatures – we want new teams! Some people might argue that we already have 21 teams available to play in the game and I should have used this lull in activity as an opportunity to paint some of the models I already own and learning how to play the game properly but I won’t tolerate nonsense like that!

Anyway, at last our prayers have been answered and a bunch of very angry men have stormed the pitch – and for once it’s not just the fans. Blood Bowl has long had a Chaos Undivided team and a Nurgle Team and now the developers turn their attention to one of the other Chaos Gods; Khorne. If ever there was a Chaos faction likely to be drawn to Blood Bowl it must be the followers of the Blood God (the clue is in the name). Somehow I can’t imagine that these guys will be tactically challenging to play, or rely on a subtle passing game over good old-fashioned brutality.

Khorne Blood Bowl 3

The team contains three types of players, the Bloodborn Marauder Linemen (above), Bloodseekers and bestial Khorngors. The Bloodborn Marauders and Bloodseekers are roughly analogous to the Bloodreavers and Blood Warriors from the Blades of Khorne faction from Age of Sigmar.

Khorne Blood Bowl 1

Now before anyone gets too hot under the collar I don’t think this suggests that the Blood Bowl developers are turning to AoS for inspiration, that the Old World of Warhammer has been mined out of ideas (it most certainly has not) or that we’ll be seeing Stormcast Eternals playing Blood Bowl by the end of the week (Satan will be ice-skating to work before that happens). Rather it’s simply the fact that many of the concepts behind the Blades of Khorne were ported over from WHFB to AoS, and have been imported to Blood Bowl in the same straightforward manner. Keep in mind that the warriors of Khorne revealed in recent previews for the computer game Total War: Warhammer III have also looked a lot like their AoS counterparts – that’s just how fantasy Khornate warriors look.

Khorne Blood Bowl 2

More importantly though via the Blades of Khorne range we have a treasure trove of bits to convert our new Khornate Blood Bowl players – and equally we can always take some bits from Blood Bowl and sneak them into AoS armies. I salute the first person who unleashes a Khornate horde in AoS with a ball carrying Marauder Lineman leading the charge of the Bloodreavers.

Khorne Blood Bowl 4

Now some of you are probably thinking “This is all very nice but how about seeing some Space Marines, there’s an underrepresented faction if ever I heard of one”, in which case fear not – the boys in power armour were covered too. If you feel that the honour of the Emperor has been intolerably besmirched, that the unclean are being allowed to live and witches are going around without anyone to suitably abhor them then good news – the Black Templars are coming to sort things out.

Black Templars Art

Every 40k fan, even the staunchest heretic, has a favourite Space Marine chapter and for me the Black Templars are probably it (the Blood Angels give them a good run for their money though – berserk space vampires are hard to beat). The Templars however bring sheer, uncompromising attitude that I find irresistible, they’re ruthless fanatics and stubborn to the point of self-destruction if they choose to be. These are the guys who chain their weapons to themselves because they’re always ready to purge someone, and whilst the Blood Angels find the time to make beautiful art and think about their feelings these mad bastards have been permanently on crusade for 10,000 years.

Black Templars

They also have more gothic flourishes than you can shake a dead heretic at, which means they look like they’d be a real joy to paint, and to top it off they have arguably the coolest colour-scheme of any Space Marine chapter ever.

Black Templar Martial

If all this sounds a bit fan-boyish then it probably is, but if we’re not allowed to enthuse about things we like then what are we allowed to enthuse about? The Templars will be released later this year, starting with a limited edition “launch box” which will sell out in about 12 seconds. I won’t be trying to snag a copy but I will be keeping an eye out for when the kits get a normal release, and waiting with great anticipation to see what other models are added to the range.

The boxset also contains the codex supplement for the faction, with a limited edition cover, and I must admit I let out a very unmanly squeak when I saw it. This was the piece of artwork that, back when I was a lad, transformed me in an instant from thinking “Space Marines – meh, they’re a bit rubbish” to thinking “Space Marines are fucking awesome!!”

Black Templars Cover

Even now it’s a dangerous thing, I can’t allow myself to look at it for too long because every time I do I find myself planning out the Black Templars army of my dreams and really I ought to be concentrating on all my other projects, especially all those lovely new Orks.  Dammit, I want to start a Black Templar army now though…

Black Templars 3

Anyway, moving swiftly on, and finally we got to the part I was waiting for. Games Workshop really saved the best for last here (or almost last anyway – more on that below). Regular readers will know that Necromunda is where my heart lies these days and so of course I was agog to find out what will be coming next to the dirty streets of the underhive. The last two years have been given over to building up the forces of the “big six” houses, bringing new models and expansions to flesh out the gangs of Goliaths, Eschers, Orlocks, Cawdor, Van Saar and Delaque. The last time an entirely new faction appeared it was the Slave Ogryns back in early 2020 but GW had announced that another new gang would be hitting the streets before the end of the year. There were various things that I was hoping we might see – pit slaves, ash waste nomads and muties being particularly interesting. Instead we got something which on the one hand is quite unexpected, and on the other is exactly what I’ve been hoping to see for the last decade or so.

Necromunda Outcast Gangers 1 (1)

The majority of people on Necromunda belong to one of the great houses in only the loosest sense – that is to say they belong to them as property, not as citizens. Whilst an Escher ganger is fully immersed in Escher culture, the majority of the people working for the house do so only because they are indentured to a factory that the Eschers happen to control. For these ordinary people life is unbelievably harsh and whilst most endure brief lives of cruel drudgery before being worked to death some get out, by accident or design, and find themselves forced to survive on the mean streets without the dubious protection of the Houses. These Outcasts and Hive Scum are what we’re looking at now, down-and-out desperadoes banding together for survival.

Necromunda Outcast Gangers 1 (2)

Now I’ll start by saying that I’ve been thinking of starting a gang of underhive criminals and outcasts for a while now but couldn’t quite decide where to start so I’m over the moon about these. However let’s think a little broader and look for a moment beyond the walls of Necromunda itself, because these guys are a convertor’s gold mine! Do you want Chaos Cultists? Just add a few spikes and mutations! Thinking of starting a penal legion, or other disreputable Imperial Guard army? These are your guys! Want some frateris militia to march alongside your Sisters of Battle? Just add Cawdor and Redemptionist parts and you’re good to go! What about Imperial civilians, Space Marine chapter thralls, Genestealer Cultists, space pirates, Inquisitorial agents, even inhabitants of the more industrial and shabby Cities of Sigmar? The possibilities from a bunch of generic humans are vast and extremely exciting.

Necromunda Outcast Gangers 1 (3)

Alongside these we’ll also be seeing an Underhive Market as a set of terrain. Again this is something I’ve dreamed of having for years and when I finally get around to building a little corner of the hive of my very own this will definitely be included – where else can my gangers go to buy extra guns, a few bottles of Second Best and a rat on a stick?

Underhive Market

Finally, the very last preview came in the form of a little hint at the future of Warcry. Now whilst Necromunda is the setting I’m most excited about Warcry is the game I’m most likely to play – I’ve been enjoying slugging it out against gangs of thugs across the Chaos wastes of the Eightpoints and beyond since the game first appeared back in August of 2019. However despite an initial flurry of attention the game hasn’t had a lot of official support since then, there have been a few rule books, three monsters and various rules to bring factions from Age of Sigmar into Warcry – all of which is great – but we’ve only seen two new warbands made specifically for the game since it launched and it’s been easy to imagine that Games Workshop planned to let it pass into history, as they’ve done with so many other games in the past. I suppose that wouldn’t be the end of the world, we do have a lot of cool models and content for it already, but I’d love to see it given more long term support. The setting is very intriguing, the models have been outstanding and the game is a lot of fun to play; all good reasons to keep it alive and kicking. Now at last we’ve had a definitive answer to whether or not they have more releases up their sleeves; Warcry – Red Harvest is on its way.

Red Harvest

…And that’s all we know. Well that and a lot of hints about spiders being involved somehow. I’d have loved to see a new warband previewed, in fact I’d love to see them give Warcry quarterly updates with four new warbands per year (and the same for Blood Bowl and Necromunda whilst they’re about it!) but I’ll settle for knowing that the game isn’t entirely dead and gone.

Anyway, that’s more than enough enthusiastic wittering from me! What about you – did you enjoy these previews, do you have a particular favourite or would you have preferred something else? As ever the comment’s box is waiting for you to share your thoughts with the world!


Scum’s Thoughts – Part 4

Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to put on your favourite mask, set fire to your hat and say a prayer to the God Emperor – the Redemptionists are back in town and if you don’t look suitably devout they’re going to want to know why! I’ve been using this blog as a platform to bump my gums about the Redemptionists for a while so now we’ve had a good look at them, via Games Workshop’s latest round of previews – the appropriately titled “Faith and Damnation“, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to talk about them some more!

Klovis the Redeemer Purge

I’ve previously discussed some of the controversy around the Redemptionists and frankly it’s something I’ve hashed out more than enough. Anyone who wants to can look back at the previous posts, today let’s concentrate on some models! 

Redemptionist 1

Now let’s not beat about the bush here, I think these are fantastic. Necromunda, not to put too fine a point on it, has always been a bit silly. Nowhere in the entirety of 40k, indeed in any of Games Workshop’s universes, do we see such depth devoted to a single setting. The “House of…” books have only built on this, adding layer upon layer of nuance and complexity, showing us in unrivalled detail the history of the world, it’s industries, societies, economy, even languages. If you want to take something in the Games Workshop stable seriously then this is it. However that shouldn’t distract us from the fact that it’s also unbelievably daft and OTT.

It would be easy to see the Redemptionists simply as grim, even scary; the worst excesses of religious fanaticism – already a scourge that has made a hell on earth out of countless real world societies – running amok in the overcrowded nightmare cities of the distant future. If I imagine myself living on Necromunda there’s no faction I think I’d like to meet less, with the possible exception of the Corpse Grinder Cults (and if you don’t know what kind of people they are – well, the clue is in the name…). The sinister, eyeless Delaque, the brutally authoritarian Enforcers, even the daemon worshipping Helot Cults, seem to me less frightening than the thought of the Redemptionists and their heretic pyres.

This is balanced out however by characters like Klovis the Redeemer (who appeared in the cartoon that opened this article). It’s easy to paint the Redemptionists as the worst of all men, but that is to overlook the bombastic, tragicomic, and – most importantly – satirical aspect of them. It’s hard to see a man who arms himself with a chainsaw almost as big as he is and then straps a flamethrower to it because it still isn’t deadly enough, then sets his hat on fire and goes out looking for a fight as anything other than a figure of ridicule. These models play that up with aplomb. The tall hoods and unsubtle nods to the KKK are out but who cares because these are still Redemptionists through and through.

Redemptionist 4

I think regular readers will already be well aware that I’m no fan of sculpted flame on models. It’s not a hard and fast rule, sometimes it’s appropriate and works well – although GW in my opinion have a tendency to overuse it. All too often however it just ends up looking static and lumpy. I did worry that they were going to apply the fire effects liberally here but it seems that common sense has prevailed, and the fiery effects have remained most concentrated around the flammable headgear department.

Redemptionist 3

Looking at these models it’s easy to get excited about them as Redemptionists and forget that they are also intended as an expansion to House Cawdor. Following the relaunch of Necromunda in 2017 (hard to believe it’s coming up for four years already!) each of the six major houses got a box of models with which to make up a gang. Starting in early 2020 each then received a second box of models, with which to add various house specific specialists. These new Redemptionists can either be added to a House Cawdor gang or used to form a standalone gang of their own. As a result the sculptors have had to walk a fine line – make them too different to Cawdor and they won’t fit in to an existing gang, make them too similar and they won’t stand out as something different if you decide to go it alone. As Redemptionists these are pretty much spot on, but as Cawdor they miss the mark in a number of crucial ways. Take the weapons for instance. The weapons wielded by House Cawdor all appear to have been cobbled together from scrap. The same men who think strapping bombs to rats is a wise idea use bones, candles and scavenged machinery to make flamethrowers. These chaps on the other hand wield weapons which might be utterly ridiculous but at least appear to have been professionally manufactured.

Redemptionist 6

Compare these newcomers to the Redemptionists of yesteryear and you’ll see that, despite the odd tweak here and there, these are much the same as the ever were. Indeed they have a lot more in common than their predecessors than some of the other gangs.

Redemptionists 3

However part of me does feel that we who follow House Cawdor might have been a little bit short-changed here. The Redemptionists may have had a long and close relationship with Cawdor but they are not the same thing – as the issue with the weapons described above serves to demonstrate. By keeping these models fairly close aesthetically to the Redemptionists of old they’ve had to make some sacrifices on the side of tying them into Cawdor. I always knew it was wishful thinking but wouldn’t it have been nice if Cawdor had enjoyed a new set of Champions/Prospects just like the other houses AND we’d got new Redemptionists at a later date as well. Is that greed? Ratskin fans would say we should be bloody grateful to have new models at all. 40k enthusiasts would argue that a faction without at least a dozen kits to its name is woefully underrepresented. At the end of the day we didn’t get a bolt-on to Cawdor like the other houses, we got (admittedly kickass) Redemptionists instead.

Anyway, this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully the resources freed up by turning this release slot over to the Redemptionists will be reinvested in the setting and we’ll see another new faction added once the House of… series is concluded (something I intend to talk about in a future post). If that happens I’ll forgive them.

Redemptionist 2

Something that does have me curious however is the number of models we’ve been shown. Each Necromunda kit (and this is true of Blood Bowl also) follows the same format – two identical sprues are packaged together and each model can be built in one of two standard patterns (with the possibility of kitbashing available to the more adventurous hobbyist). Observe for example the Death Maidens and Wyld Runners kit for House Escher.

Escher Death-maidens and Wyld Runners

In this kit we see two Death Maidens, two crouching Wyld Runners, two Wyld Runners standing tall, two leaping Phelynx and two prowling Phelynx. The core of each model appears twice but by adding different arms, heads, weapons, and so on you end up with very different models – or at least models which are different enough to fool the eye. Sure enough the same trick is carried out with the Redemptionists as this handy image shows.

Redemptionist Group

You’ll notice that the two models to the right of the screen are based on a single core, as are the two in the centre and the two on the left. You’ll also notice that there are six of them. The Eschers I showed above also have six human models, plus four alien cats. Likewise the Orlocks have six human models… and two dogs. The Van Saar have six human models – four of whom are flying around on great big hoverboards. The Goliaths just have six models in their gang expansion – but two of those are the enormous Stimmers who tower over almost every other human in the game. The Enforcers also have just six human models in their gang-expansion, the Subjugators, but again these have above average bulk and are lugging around riot shields which eat up a lot of space on the sprue. My point is this – the basic gang box for each house manages to fit ten miniatures onto each pair of sprues. The gang expansions have only six human models per pair of sprues, plus various extras that fill out the remaining space. With the Redemptionists we’ve only seen six models, and none of them nearly as big and bulky as the Goliath Stimmers or Enforcer Subjugators. What’s taking up the missing sprue space?

My initial assumption was that with this reveal they’d shown us everything that’s coming in this kit, but part of me can’t help but look at these models and wonder if something has been obfuscated. After all there doesn’t seem to be sufficiently more weapons, heads and other gubbins on these models in comparison to the Orlocks or Van Saar to be using up the same amount of space as a dog or a couple of hoverboards. Maybe it’s wishful thinking but we’ve come this far and damn it, I’m going to think wishfully!

If you doubt that there’s more to come here I can’t blame you but – before you leave a comment to tell me I’m talking mince take a look at this, the very first teaser image which Games Workshop showed for this release just over a month ago.

Redemptionist Preview 1

Now look back at the group shot of the six Redemptionists previewed today. The book you’ll recognise as the one being clutched by the gang’s leader – but where, oh where is that skull from?

If you want to start a Redemptionist gang, rather than adding these to a Cawdor gang, then you’re starting off with only six miniatures – four less than any other gang gets in their core box (apart from Slave Ogryns and Subjegators but don’t split hairs – I’m probably boring people as it is!). Maybe the missing space – if it really exists out with my fevered speculation – is given over to more alternative heads and weapons so that, even if it means buying two sets of these models, you still have loads of options for outfitting a purely Redemptionist gang. Yeah, that sounds like reeeally wishful thinking to me too… More likely is an upgrade set from Forgeworld with alternative heads and weapons – and much as I would mutter about having to part with my hard-earned cash I’d be happy enough with that.

At the end of the day though as a fan of the Redemptionists I’m very happy with this kit. As a fan of House Cawdor I’m a little disappointed – I’d have liked to see more options coming our way, just as the other Houses have enjoyed. Then again Cawdor are the poorest House, and making do with the scrap others leave behind is in our nature. I’ve already kitbashed more Cawdor gangers than I have members of any other gang and I’m showing no signs of stopping – indeed once I’ve got them all painted up I won’t have a gang but a small army. Perhaps I don’t actually need another kit when I’ve managed to get so much mileage out of the one we already have?

Cawdor Necromunda Wudugast ConvertOrDie (3)

Anyway, it probably goes without saying that I’ll be painting my new Redemptionists in traditional red and starting a gang of them separate to my Cawdor. After all if the Cawdor were doing their job properly and purging all the heretics like they’re supposed to I wouldn’t need a Redemptionist crusade to come storming in and set everything on fire now would I?

All that will have to wait until we get our hands on the new models, and that won’t happen for a month or two yet I’d estimate. In the meantime maybe I ought to paint some more of my unfinished Cawdor…

I’ve tried to keep this post themed to Necromunda and focused on the forthcoming Redemptionists but before I go it’s worth giving a nod to some of the other things that were revealed in this preview. Needless to say it’s not just the thought of setting fire to the underhive that has me excited!  As a long time fan of the Orks the thought of seeing fresh recruits for da boyz has me very keen to get back to my greenskin army in earnest.

New Orc

In addition the new undead range, the Soulblight Gravelords, are absolutely gorgeous (for a given value of gorgeousness of course!) and as a fan of the Vampire Counts range of old I won’t deny I’m very interested in some of these. The old zombies kit was probably the worst thing in GW’s catalogue so seeing those replaced can’t come a moment too soon. The new version are a huge improvement and avoid the slightly gimmicky look of the  batch which come with Cursed City, every one of which is carrying the top of their grave around on their back.

Zombies

The new Blood (Dragon) Knights are also stunning models – although I suspect that when I see the price I’ll suddenly find myself feeling a lot less enthusiastic!

Blood Dragon

 It also gives me hope that some of the other old ranges – and here regular readers will know I’m thinking of the Skaven most prominently – will be given a similar treatment to the Vampire Counts and Night Goblins (or Soulblight Gravelords and Gloomspite Gits if you prefer) rather than being heavily reinvented for the Mortal Realms like the Dwarves or High Elves. Anyway, I’m going to sign off now before I get completely distracted from Necromunda and turn this into a broader discussion of the forthcoming releases in general. Suffice to say that, from my point of view, this is the most exciting preview we’ve had lately. As a fan of the Cawdor I’m a little disappointed but as a fan of the Redemptionists, the Orks and the Vampire Counts I’m a very happy chap indeed! Did anything in this preview take your fancy? Will you be joining me in purging the underhive of heretic filth or will you be taking a stand for law and order (even if only by Necromundan standards!)? Do you have any ideas where that mysterious skull might belong? As ever the comments box is all yours!


Gridiron and Glory

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!).

Blood Bowl Box

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.

Bloodbowl Orc ConvertOrDie Wudugast (1)

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.

Baron 1

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.

Reikland Reaver

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!

Wudugast ConvertOrDie Blood Bowl WIP

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.

Griff

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…

Old Griff Oberwald

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.

Black Orc

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.

Gobbos

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.

Ghoul Chewer

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.

Old Ghoul Chewer

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.

Refs

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.

Warcry Books

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?

My blightking with a mighty axe, keen to be unleashed against the residents of the Bloodwind Spoil!

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.

Direchasm

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…

Lumineth Leader

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.

Slaaneshi Leader

As if that champion wasn’t wonderful enough we have a suitably twisted beastman.

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…

Blood Angel

… 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.

Striking Scorpions

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!