Tag Archives: Review

Bigger And Better Than Ever Before

For quite a while now rumours have been circulating of a new breed of Space Marine on the way; bigger, tougher and generally meaner than their brothers. Today, after remaining fairly tight-lipped on the subject, Games Workshop have finally made the big reveal; the Primaris Space Marines are just around the corner, ready to dispense justice to filthy heretics like me. What’s more as I’m laid up on the sofa feeling sorry for myself after a trip to the dentist, and lacking the energy to paint anything (that Chaos Marine you saw earlier was finished yesterday, before the old toothwright got his drills out) I find myself with the time to actually write a few words on the subject whilst it’s all still fresh in my mind.

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First off I’d better issue an apology, or at least a retraction, for having insisted for so long that the rumours of these new “big marines” was unmitigated rubbish. In my defence however, 99% of the ‘rumours’ spread around online turn out to be nonsense of the highest order so who can blame me for thinking this one was also?

Part of the reason behind my scepticism is a general aversion to too much hyperbole. These marines are bigger and better and even more awesome than ever before, ten thousand years in the making and the most heroic yet! Even Grey Knights are envious! Rush out and buy them now! Perhaps I should have seen it coming just based on that, after all in spite of what we fans of the grim darkness like to tell ourselves GW has never been as subtle as we want to believe and whilst we bury our heads in the clever complexities of the Inq28/Blanchitsu side of the universe, front of house remains bright and brash and over-the-top.

Then there’s the questionable fiction that frames these new marines – that Guilliman has swept aside ten millennia of religious fanaticism, technological stagnation and apocalyptic thinking and succeeded where Corax and Fabius Bile alike have failed; in improving on the Emperor’s vision for the ultimate warriors. Perhaps he’ll make some new Primarchs are well (you read it here first folks!)

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More and more the size of the Space Marines has started to look like an albatross around Games Workshop’s neck. On the one hand they are their most popular range, the iconic poster boys for the setting with a number of spin offs – each an army in its own right (Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Grey Knights and Deathwatch alongside the standard codex marines, and the various Chaos-worshipping variants). On the other hand they’re a long way from the power-armoured giants they’re supposed to be, with the result that a whole scene has developed around the art of true-scaling (that is to say, converting Space Marines to be as big as the fiction describes them). This is a problem for Games Workshop; not only are their poster-boys conspicuously flawed but third-party companies are already circling, looking for ways to give the customers what they want without infringing GW’s IP and finding themselves in court. The first company to break into that market stands to make a tidy profit off the back of Games Workshop’s promotional effort. However simply replacing all the existing kits would cost them a fortune, take a very long time to roll out (all the while hurting sales of those Chapters not yet updated) and hacking off lots of fans who’d already poured time, effort and money into collections of the old, smaller marines. Quite the conundrum.

For Games Workshop the solution comes in the form of Roboute Guilliman’s plus-sized marines. By making them bigger than standard marines they neatly fulfil the function of true-scale marines, without all the expensive hassle that comes from invalidating the existing range. Better yet their helmets and shoulderpads are cross compatible with the existing Space Marine ranges so, even if various alternative versions aren’t immediately available, you can easily convert them into Space Wolves, Blood Angels and so on. Even Chaos versions shouldn’t be too much work, so that ghastly, ancient legionary you’ve always wanted stalking the ruins of the your Inq28 game can now be a reality.

Of course in some ways GW have failed to recognise the first axiom of being in a hole; stop digging. The new Primaris Space Marines are just as out of scale as the old Space Marines were, they’re just bigger. The Primaris are roughly the right size for Space Marines but still considerably smaller than the Primaris themselves are said to be meaning that true aficionados will soon be buying up Primaris models to use as Space Marines and more Primaris models to true scale into Primarises*. Even more confusing; some people will be using Primaris models as Primaris Space Marines and some will be using them as true-scale Space Marines. It’s enough to make your head spin.

*what is the plural of Primaris anyway? Somebody get Roboute on the phone, he knows these things!

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Overall though, in spite of the liberties that have been taken with the background (a subject on which I’m somewhat mollified by reports that Aaron Dembski-Bowden is working on a novel about them), I’m rather exited about these new Marines. I’ve always fancied an Imperial army to stand against my Chaos forces; a rag tag combination of the Cult Mechanicus and the Imperial Guard bolstered by a core of Custodes, Sisters of Silence, Assassins and other elite units. Of course such a collection would never be complete without a few true-scale Space Marines but the work involved in converting them kept putting me off. For this job the Primaris models could be perfect, especially as I very much doubt I’d want any actual Primarises in the collection (unless ADB manages something positively superhuman to convince me of their place in the background).

Especially exciting is the announcement that, as well as new vehicles, a Primaris Redemptor Dreadnought will be on its way. It’s enough to get me wondering if they’ll get their own Terminator armour as well – after all, true-scaling Terminators is hard work but life without Terminators is hardly life at all.

Plus, there’s no denying this is good news for fans of Inq28 who’ll have a ready source of appropriately sized Marines, it’s almost a shame they’ll never need more than one or two. What is a little sad however is that this may represent the death knell of the art of true-scaling. Having produced some real craftsmanship down the years it may now be a redundant art.

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So, will you be using these as true-scale marines or will you be adding them to a Space Marine army in the function for which they were originally intended? Is this an exciting new development in the story of the Dark Millennium or one abuse of the fiction too many? If you have a feeling this is a safe space, get it off your chest in the comments’ box below.


Empire of the Clouds

We all, I’m sure, have one or two “dream armies” lurking in the backs of our heads, the races we’ve never got around to buying but always said we will, someday. For me there’s the forces of the Imperium ready to counter my Chaos hosts; massed ranks of ragged Imperial Guardsmen, a few true-scaled Space Marines and the weird and inhuman agents of the Cult Mechanicus. Then there’s my elven Wild Hunt, mixing Wood Elves, Dark Elves and Sylvaneth together into a bloodthirsty cavalcade, racing from the depths of the forest upon a stormy winter’s night to feast upon the terrified villagers cowering beyond.

The big one for me though remains the dwarves. It’s the great white whale army, forever just around the corner but never quite started. In the past I always imagined it as the last defenders of Karak Drak, the great hold in the far north of the Warhammer World, believed – but never confirmed – to be overrun by Chaos.  I loved the idea of those tenacious little dwarves sealing themselves off under their mountain whilst gibbering daemons and bloated spawn roamed the halls of their ancestors.

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Furthermore, as I’m already a big fan of both Skaven and Goblins the Dwarves always seemed like a natural addition to the tryumvate. The war in the underway was for me one of the most compelling ideas in the Warhammer story and the time will come when I want to explore the good alongside the bad and the ugly. When I do finally get around to painting some Dwarves however, GW models may not be the first onto my desk. Both Avatars of War and MOMintituras have turned out some excellent models whereas GW’s record on the race is distinctly shaky. Part of the trouble is they don’t seem able to settle on an aesthetic for more than an edition or so, do they want tough little Vikings, iron-clad steam warriors or jolly little Santas with candles on their hats? The result is a jumble of styles that misses the mark of all-things-to-all-men and instead plunges into the abyss of not-quite-any-of-them.

With Age of Sigmar however GW have been offered a fresh start. No longer do they have to conform to the expectations of a wider marketplace which is already offering them stiff competition. They are free once more to innovate and explore. Rather than pursuing their competitors, constantly struggling to undermine and outdo them, they can lead, spinning off novel ideas without fear and bounding on to the next before the wider industry has woken up.

In some ways it seems odd then that, until now, they’ve been so conservative. Khorne Bloodbound, Disciples of Tzeentch, Ironjaws and Sylvaneth could all have fitted comfortably into the old Warhammer world. Stormcast Eternals may seem a little more unusual at first glance but they’re essentially just Space Marines ported from one setting to another, regardless of what pedants will tell you. Only GW’s other post-end times Dwarf release, the Fyreslayers, has dared to go break the mould. Without seeing some sales figures I’ve no idea if a silent majority are out there lovingly painting the angry sons of Grimnir but there’s no denying that the torrent of criticism aimed at them would be enough to turn even the hardiest Hearthguard’s beard white. I’ll admit that, until I got a good look at them at Warhammer World, I wasn’t too sold on them myself.

Fyreslayers Convert or Die

It’s a shame that the Fyreslayers came in for such a bum deal (I couldn’t help myself) as some of the models are excellent – for my money the Runemaster and Battlesmith remain some of the best models GW has released in recent years (and if it wasn’t for the fact that my wallet makes painful whimpering sounds every time I look at them I’d have painted them long ago).

The majority of people I suspect were still holding out for plastic Slayers that they could use in old-Warhammer, which – so long as one doesn’t mind a few aesthetic differences – one still could. Others were just upset with the aesthetic break from the dwarves they were familiar with and a few were just good, old-fashioned homophobes bleating pitifully about painting near-naked dudes. They at least have nothing to fear from the Kharadrons as there isn’t a scrap of flesh on them. It seems that, in whatever divorce settlement followed the breakup of the Dwarven peoples, the Kharadrons got all the clothes and the Fyreslayers were left hammering bits of metal into their own flesh for protection and growing their beards long enough to cover their goolies.

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At the time of the Fyreslayer’s release Age of Sigmar was yet to bed in. Most people were still looking at it as Warhammer plus Space Marines, rather than as a universe in its own right. When we heard that new, slayer-esque dwarves were being released many of us jumped to the conclusion that we would be seeing plastic slayers at last, perhaps with a few new units mixed in. Nothing that we couldn’t add to our existing armies safe in the knowledge that we could still use them in Warhammer 9th Edition when Games Workshop recognised that it had all been a huge mistake and resurrected the Old World. What a surprise when instead it was bum flashers as far as the eye could see.

Time has knocked that idea out of us. Orruk brutes may pass for Orc Big ‘uns and Kurnoth Hunters may be the basis of for tree-kin conversions, but overall the cold light of Sigmar has cut through our Warhammer hangover.  This can only be a good thing because these releases deserve to be seen on their own merits rather than on how well they fit into a world they weren’t designed for.

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Like the Fyreslayers the Kharadron Overlords may prove to be an acquired taste for some, although they’ve certainly escaped the torrent of wrath that was poured upon their pert-buttocked brothers. Another reason for this may be that GW made the shrewd move of previewing them what now seems like months ago and any potential negativity towards the idea of sky-dwarves was drowned out by the outpouring of positivity towards the company’s more open and fan-focussed attitudes.

Brokk Grungsson

Some, like the Arkanaut Company, will already look fairly familiar, taking design cues from the Irondrakes of old. Others, like the great Lord-Magnate Brokk Grungsson, might take a little more getting used to. Ultimately the top hat and curly moustache combo may be somewhat like marmite – some will love it, others will hate it – although speaking for myself I’m still on the fence (unlike on the subject of marmite which is foul death-paste).

Then there’s the balloons which have proved to be equally divisive. In some quarters the idea of heavily armoured floatation devises has gone down like, well, a lead balloon. However I have to admit I rather like them, they’re chunky and powerful, just as you would expect from Dwarven equipment, with none of the fancy sails or fabrics that you’d expect from the likes of the elves (material which would only melt and fray in the harsh chemical clouds anyway).

Kharadron Overlords Skyship

The result is a heady mix of Jules Verne and Jack Sparrow, less Tolkien, more Tolkien-bout a revolution (industrial of course). They’re a steampunk race for those who don’t like the body horror of Skaven (or who’re just afraid of rats). As necessitated by their lifestyle among the corrosive clouds of the upper atmosphere the Kharadron Overlords are entirely clad in armour, although they manage to do so with more personality than the clone wars Stormcasts.

They also have a bit of a pirate theme, emphasised by the leader of the Grundstok Thunderers who has a peg leg and a mechanical parrot. Luckily they stopped short of a hook for a hand – possibly because nowadays that reads more as “radical preacher” than “Peter Pan villain”.

Of course many people will decide to take this further and convert these into pirates, perhaps even taking advantage of the freeform nature of AoS to mix in Orcs and Dark Elves. Personally though I’m looking forward to the first person who recreates scenes from the movie Titanic (a film I’ve never actually seen all the way through, though judging from the bits I have caught would have been immeasurably improved by the addition of some steampunk dwarves).

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The idea of using them to convert Squats has often been mooted and, although the rank and file are likely to be a little on the large side (supposition but scale creep has definitely had its part to play since the Space Dwarves went extinct all those editions ago), there’s certainly plenty of potential to be explored there.

Arkanaut Frigate

Of course no discussion of the Kharadron Overlords is complete without mentioning the skyships. Ranging from the massive Ironclad down to the nippy Gunhauler these airborne vessels fill the role of heavy-hitting centrepiece traditionally given over to giant monsters in other armies. Unlike many of those monsters however, which serve as something half-way between useful backup and outsized pet, the skyvessels are the cornerstone of the faction. Without them they couldn’t travel between their aerial cities, mine the clouds or build their empire among the clouds.

Each ship also comes with its own crew of models built in, or hanging on. Each is a character in their own right and, in spite of GW’s early previews, we’re only now starting the see the vessels close up enough to get a proper look at them.ArkanautFrigateCrew

Even bigger ships are described in the background and the more advanced scratchbuilders will already be breaking out the plasticard ready to work wonders. In April’s White Dwarf designer Oliver Norman noted “The ships were city-sized warships in John (Blanche)’s first sketches… We had to scale it back, as brilliant as a six-foot long flying model battleship would be”. As usual when I get an idea that I know I have neither the time, money or space to realise, I’ll attempt to use the reach of this blog to plant the idea in someone else’s head instead. Picture a model of one of these mighty sky-ships, big enough to serve as both display shelf for a Kharadron collection, and terrain board for them to battle over. It would be a mighty undertaking of course but it’s creator would rightly be the envy of their friends. Why battle over a green table cloth ever again when your army could instead be racing across the decks of a bespoke titan of the skies or scrambling across narrow walkways to reach the smaller vessels anchored above?

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The Kharadron Overlords have broken away from their dwarven forebears, but they’ve done so far more elegantly than the Fyreslayers. Many of the new units, even the skyships, could be added to an old school dwarf army and blend in nicely – sometimes with a little conversion – a regard in which the Fyreslayers are always going to struggle. Put them all together however and they have a character all their own.

At this point its seeming more and more that Dwarves who live in mountain holds are a thing of the past for GW, a sideline but hardly a priority. If you want to march out of your mines to drive off the grobi scum you’d better do it in the company of another manufacturer. GW have left their hidebound competitors trudging in the dust, employing a degree of innovation which, ironically, none of their Old World Dwarves would ever have approved of.Arkanaut Admiral

Whilst the other races were subjugated by Chaos, or hid behind the walls of Sigmarland, the Kharadron got down to the business of building an empire in the clouds, presumably because none of those winged chaos daemons ever thought to look up. The source of their power comes from the (presumably magical) aether-gold they found there. To quote Oliver Norman again “The Kharadron Overlords are a race of duardin that don’t mine the earth like Dwarfs of old, but engage in something like gas mining in the clouds high above the realms”. Doesn’t that sound fantastic – a race of dwarves in their skyships, drawing rare metals from the clouds high above the realms, gathering a precious resource far out of the reach of their competitors through a combining of newfangled technology and old-fashioned gumption? And then they overegg it by making everything about aether-gold.

To write good fantasy or science fiction one has to keep a close eye on how many wacky ideas one includes. Naturally one wants one’s setting to be distinct from reality and alive with creativity. What one should avoid however is making it so “out there” that the readers feel disconnected from it, without any solid ground to stand upon. When it comes to convincing people of the fantastic, less is always more.

Thus the introduction of aether-gold as a kind of dwarven midichlorians does more to shake me out of my sense of immersion in the setting than it does to draw me in. In terms of ridiculous plot tokens it’s not quite as grating as the ur-gold of the fyreslayers (really, text-speaking dwarves, what will they think of next – ghost dinosaurs?) but it’s still enough to jar with me. Then again I never had any issue with warpstone, the Skaven’s preferred chemical, so perhaps I’m just a big hypocrite?

Arkanaut Company Captain

Not everything has changed though, the dwarves may live in the sky and have done away with gods and kings alike, but they’re still dwarves at heart. Craftsmanship and grudges (so long as they don’t impact profits) are still important, and I doubt that a single one of them is clean-shaven under those suits. Meanwhile the keeps and holds of the Old World have becomes the Skyports of the new. The Karak’s (that’s “hold” for those who don’t speak Khazalid) have become Baraks (ports, think of Barak Varr, the huge dwarven seaport in the Old World). A host of these Baraks have been built, with six main ones controlling the empire; Barak-Nar,  Barak-Zilfin, Barak-Zon, Barak-Urbaz, Barak-Mhornar and Barak-Thryng. No mention of Barak Obama though…

Aethermatic Volley Gun

Of course, some people are naturally cheesed off at the arrival of a high-tech race in flying ships waving gatling guns around whilst their chosen faction is still stuck with axes and bows. On the tabletop however this is apparently countered by a lack of powerful wizards and giant magical monsters whilst in the background fiction the balancing factor is this faction’s lack of military aspiration. We’re used to the idea of Warhammer as being about large-scale organised violence all-day every-day, it’s not called “peace-hammer” after all, so they idea of a race that’s more mercantile in nature tends to catch us off guard. It’s fair to say that if the Kharadron Overlords combined their technological might with the social attitudes of Khorne worshippers the Mortal Realms would be a very different, and markedly less populated, place. Of course what happens when the Stormcasts buy themselves some aether-gold weaponry remains to be seen. Hopefully GW have another plot device up their sleeves, otherwise the rise of a particularly powerful world police becomes inevitable. In the meantime however these dwarves don’t necessarily want to exterminate the other races they encounter, they want to trade with them if they can.Arkanaut Frigate 2

The Kharadron Overlords are a demonstration of what Age of Sigmar is capable of if allowed to stretch its wings a little. More and more the setting steps out of Warhammer’s shadow and becomes a creature in its own right. I for one welcome our new Kharadron Overlords.

All artwork and images belong to Games Workshop and are used without permission. Grobi scum will be shot on sight!


Greenskin Wars

Just before I took off on my holidays I received a parcel. Normally I don’t do ‘unboxings’ and I try to avoid banging on about projects I know I won’t be able to start for a few months. This time however I’m going to break with that because time spent showcasing Greenskin Wars is, in my opinion, time well spent.

For those of you unfamiliar with Greenskin Wars the range incorporates the old Crooked Claw models (good news for those like me who skipped blithely through life, unaware that Crooked Claw even existed until suddenly it didn’t) alongside a range of new models courtesy of “Goblin Master” Kev Adams* and spearheaded by Diego Serrate.

*Apparently he thinks being called “Goblin Master” is a bit silly, but everyone does it anyway, Well if it bothers him he shouldn’t make such amazing looking goblins should he?

Late last summer a kickstarter campaign was used to fund the range, sculpt the new models and so forth, although those who missed it should keep an eye on the Knightmare Miniatures store, soon to be home to the range, as well as various Chaotic creatures from the astonishing Pantheon of Chaos range and various Rogue Trader-esque Space Raiders. Those of you who’re on facepuke (and sadly, nowadays, who isn’t?) would also be well advised to join the Greenskin Wars group to keep up with the latest developments.

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I’ll confess, I’ve always loved the greenskins. They’re not, as such, an evil race like Chaos, the Undead or the Skaven – although undoubtedly it must feel like that when they’re burning down your village. Rather they’re mischievous, always up for some rough-housing or spectacularly destructive practical humour, squabbling amongst themselves, needing to be kicked into line and living by the maxim “to have a good time, all the time” even if that ends up being horribly violent for everyone else. As Warhammer races go they’ve undoubtedly evolved the furthest from fantasy’s roots. Tolkien would recognise the elves of Ulthuan but Sauron would have been lucky to get out of Mordor if his armies had been made up of the squabbling goblins we know and love today. (Digging back a little further of course a norseman wouldn’t have recognised either of them, but that’s a blog for another day). Likewise 40k may have pretensions of grandeur, as a great, decaying dystopia, but the Orks still go roaring through the middle of it on their motorbikes, scattering the serious-faced eldar and space marines, and making fart jokes in front of all the grandiose fall-of-empire sobriety.

What’s more we let them get away with. No matter one’s attachment to the funereal grim darkness of the far future or the grubby madness of the Old World everyone cracks a smile at the arrival of a thuggish ork or a scheming goblin. Perhaps it’s because they’re all, at heart, naughty schoolboys, and most of us discovered them when we too were naughty schoolboys. In the greenskins we recognise ourselves as we would like to be; carefree and burning with the joy of life, not burdened by duty and responsibility like a Space Marine, not bravely facing the yawning grave like the Eldar, but racing through life laughing, never worrying about hardship or want and when we go, going out with a bang that leaves our mates’ ears ringing for a week.

Until recently however I have pretended to myself that I am above such things as fantasy greenskins. My love of Orks in 40k means I’ve tended to focus all my greenskin tendencies in that direction. The orcs and goblins of the fantasy realms would only serve to dilute my creative energy, divide my ideas and distract me from those projects I should be focussing on. How foolish of me – didn’t I see that goblins thrive on distraction and that nothing possesses more energy and (generally destructive) creativity?

It was inevitable, then, that the odd model would start to sneak in. This one was on sale, this one was a good deal, someone was practically giving this one away, and thus they gathered on the edge of my painting desk, pushing and shoving and flicking snot at the stern Chaos space marines who continued to get all the attention. Somehow, whilst I continued to deny to myself that I was even buying them, a sizeable army accumulated. Greenskin Wars has been the final straw, pushing me over the edge and forcing me to finally face the goblin horde, to stand tall and proudly say “I love goblins and I’m not afraid to admit it!” Now I just need to paint them all…

In the meantime though let’s take a look at what actually arrived in that box of exciting metal figures!

First of all we have this raucous band of feral goblins.

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This feral goblin standard-bearer prepares to annoy PETA…

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Whilst his impish-looking mate isn’t much better, he’s wearing a bat!

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As goblins go some of them are quite large, although that’s understandable given the level of detail that’s been packed onto them. I also tend to assume that goblins, and orcs, are all different sizes anyway so it doesn’t particularly matter. Here’s the chief of the feral goblins posing with a GW night goblin and a WIP 40k ork by way of a size comparison.

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As well as the band of feral goblins I also got myself this catapult, originally sculpted for the Crooked Claw range. I’ve not assembled it yet so you’ll have to make do with this picture of the crew, plus a stock image of the catapult itself.

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As usual with kickstarters there were a few ‘bonus’ models to sweeten the deal for supporters, including this (decided non-greenskin) clothes-phobic Conan look-alike.

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On a more goblin-esque note we have this hobgoblin, who’ll probably be serving as taskmaster to the catapult crew.Greenskin Wars Convert Or Die (5)

Again he’s a rather big lad, although as the taskmasters are usually orcs that’s actually quite fitting. The hobgoblin was included in the original kickstarter campaign as a stretch goal which, if achieved (and clearly it was!) would unlock a whole new hobgoblin faction and previews shown over on the facebook group show this to be well underway.

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However my favourite thing has to be these mushrooms. I’ve always liked the mushroom gardening aesthetic of the goblins, particularly the night goblins, and these giant ‘shrooms bring that to the collection with aplomb.

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That’s not all though, we also have these smaller mushrooms, perfect for planting amongst the ranks of the goblins.

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Now I know I said I wouldn’t be doing anything with these for a couple of months, and I won’t – but I couldn’t resist digging around in the bits box and assembling a couple of additional goblins to join the forthcoming mob.

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Now I just need to get some of my other projects finished and I’ll be ready to tackle this rascally green mob. That’s if they don’t steal the brushes and fart in the paint in the meantime…


Magic Is For All

In something that Games Workshop have been referring to as Tzaanuary, the last few weeks have seen a series of releases dedicated to the chaos god Tzeentch. Now events are reaching a crescendo with the appearance of the spectacular Lord of Change so this seems like a good time to look back over these releases and try to determine who’re the architects of fate and what’s just loose change.

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The Cult Rises

First out of the gate were the Kairic Acolytes. Like many of the Tzeentchian models released this month they first saw the light of day last May with the release of Silver Tower. Now they’re back in numbers, throwing off their disguises and revealing themselves to be almost as muscular and clothes-averse as the Fyreslayers. Perhaps they go to the same gym?

As Age of Sigmar shrugs off the shackles of the Warhammer-That-Was GW’s designers are clearly enjoying the chance to make some models that aren’t so closely tied to one particular place – no need for these lads to be swaddled in furs against the cold of the polar wastes.kairicacolytes

Quoting myself, with my usual hubris, I claimed in pervious editorial that ” Of all the gods Tzeentch is the chance for them to be the most creative, to come up with something visually arresting and unique”. At times this is something they’ve pulled off spectacularly; The Thousand Sons, the Tzaangors, the Gaunt Summoners and, of course, the Lord of Change itself. On other occasions however they’ve flopped badly, the Pink Horrors – not including Heralds and those in the Silver Tower boxset – are wonky-looking cartoon characters and I’m still rather undecided on the Flamers. Now the Kairic Acolytes find their way into what is, for me, a growing list of Tzeentchian misses.

In small doses, scattered through a squad or guarding the depths of the Silver Tower, I actually quite like them. The problem, however, develops when one starts to see them on mass. In my mind these were the elite of the Tzeentchian cults, bloated with magical power and using their strength to lord it over their weaker acolytes, so discovering that they was intended to be the rank-and-file of the cults was a little disappointing.

To expand on my point let’s take a look at this John Blanche illustration that formed the initial concept art for the Kairic Acolytes. Of course many of the features show here made it right the way through to the finished models, the weird mask, the curved blade, the naked torso and kilted legs.

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There are however, a couple of big differences. For one thing this chap has started to mutate, sprouting a third arm (more on that below). More noticeable however is the thinness of the character in comparison to the bodybuilders that were finally released.

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When I built this Tzeentchian cultist I captured my idea of what an Acolyte of the Changer of Ways should look like. Not for him the raw muscles and brute strength that Khorne’s thugs use to batter their way through life. Rather he’s light and slim, relying on cunning schemes to get him through. The Kairic’s however are very much cast in the mould of the Bloodreavers with their Schwarzenegger muscles. Clearly these chaps have their grimoires on audiobook so they can listen to them whilst they pump iron. That seems a little odd to me, of all the Chaos gods Tzeentch is the one who’s cultists are most likely to be stuck in the library all day and so unfamiliar with the gym that they have to call it James.

As I’ve noted the Kairics are also rather lacking in the mutations that are Tzeentch’s stock-in-trade. Now too many overt mutations run the risk of creating a mess of miss-matched that struggle to create a coherent looking model. Take a look at the old Forsaken box from Warhammer – a great resource for spicing up one’s Chaos collection but some truly terrible models when constructed straight from the box. forsaken_8

The Kairic Acolytes however seem to be a little too far in the opposite direction. There’s something a bit too uniform about them and whilst this is great for creating unified collections it also reduces their Tzeentchian appearance. They also don’t tie in particularly closely with any of the other Tzeentchian miniatures available, and so looking at a mixed force of Tzeentchian daemons, Kairic Acolytes, Tzaangors and Warhammer-era Chaos Warriors is rather like looking at four different armies which all happen to be marching in the same direction.

40k fans may find a use of them as cultists dedicated to Tzeentch but, as you’ll already be wanting to convert them anyway to give them suitable guns and other futuristic accoutrements, one might as well go the whole hog and borrow components from this kit to Tzeentch-up your cultists and traitor guard. Of course that would be easier if GW would get the finger out and sort out a multi-part chaos cultist kit for us but, as no amount of moaning on my part will make that happen any faster, I’ll carry on grumpily making do. Mind you, by the time they do that I’ll probably have already built a lifetime’s supply of cultists but never mind, you can never have too many fanatics to choke the Imperial guns!

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Ultimately then, although these are decent models in their own right, they fail to fit in with the rest of the release and compared to the depths of creativity displayed elsewhere they are undoubtedly the weak point.

The Warflocks Emerge

Far more exciting to me are the Tzaangors which emerged last week. The rank and file we’ve seen before of course, roaming out of the wastelands of Sortiarius, but the Skyfires, Enlightened and Shaman are new additions.

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As a tribal race dedicated to the god of magic its no surprise that the Tzaangors now have a leader in the form of a Shaman, borne aloft on a disk of Tzeentch. As well as being rather exciting for those who’ve dedicated themselves to the Changer of Ways in Age of Sigmar there’s no reason this chap couldn’t be converted into a leader for the bestial herds that roam in the wake of the Thousand Sons. The 40k incarnation of the Tzaangors rank and file provides plenty of spare bits to aid in the process. Of course what rules you use for such a beast would require more thought but really that’s up to you, I can wash my hands of the matter by declaring that story is king and rules should be evocative, not competitive.

More unexpected are the  Enlightened and Skyfires (which I keep misnaming “Skygors” – perhaps because I’ve been unconsciously influenced by AoS’s seemingly slapdash naming conventions) who swoop into battle atop Disks of Tzeentch.skygore

It strikes that these would combine nicely with a Thousand Sons force. For what is, these days, a remarkable moderate price (£22.50 in UK money), you get three Tzaangor unit champions, plenty of bits to add a bit of a spin to your herd, and three disks upon which your Exalted Sorcerers can ride to war in style.

With such lavish attention being paid to the beastmen for just one god one starts to dream of someday seeing Slaangors, Bloodgors and Pestigors putting in an appearance. Of course GW is under no obligation to do so, part of the aim of Age of Sigmar seems to be freeing them from the structures that Warhammer, with its weight of accumulated history and lore, had imposed on them. Furthermore both Bloodgors and Pestigors are fairly easy to convert – the former from the plethora of Khornate kits now on the market, the latter from a blending of beastmen and plaguebearers. That being said why should we not dream of seeing models for the units and creatures we’ve dreamed of for so long? I’ll always be a convertor but that joy should be a bonus, a way of adding something unique to your collection, not an expectation – but more on that below!

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For me one of the most exciting things about the Tzaangors is the fact that, at last, we have a rank-and-file unit for Tzeentch that actually looks good. Personally I’ve always fancied a few daemonic heralds swooping into battle on their disks, but I wanted a mass of troops trudging (or bounding) beneath them and frankly the pink horrors are terrible. Now, at long last, Tzeentch can hold his head high in the presence of the other gods and I wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of tzaangor based conversions standing in for pink horrors in the future.tzaangor

My enthusiasm for the Tzaangors is no secret, first expressed when they emerged in Silver Tower, reiterated when they got the multi-part kit treatment in November and expounded once again now as they’re reinforced with a choice of elite units. However one has to wonder if my surprise at seeing such lavish treatment for these beastmen is indicative of the unhealthy, and at times downright antagonistic, relationship we, the fans, have had with GW in the past. Both sides seemed to feel that ours was not to question why, merely to accept with good graces whatever they chose to throw our way (normally more space marines). If we got something genuinely exciting it always felt like a special treat, which would have to be paid for with a few months of the space marine releases which GW needed to churn out to pay the bills. At one time a number widely quoted and believed in the industry (note that this doesn’t mean it was true – just that lots of people working in fields related to miniatures gaming thought it was) stated that one of every four miniatures sold, by all companies – not just GW – was a space marine. The story went that if the production of space marines faltered the customers would up and leave, GW would go to the wall and without them the whole industry surrounding tabletop miniatures would shrink into untenable oblivion. Most people, the consensus went, wouldn’t buy anything that didn’t wear shiny power armour and by asking for anything else we were displaying the height of selfishness. Any break from the space marine production line risked bankrupting GW and then there would be no nice things for anyone ever again.

For us older hands this way of thinking has become so engrained that it’s hard to cogitate the idea of seeing not merely one but multiple releases all focussed on a species of beastmen (already a fringe faction) dedicated to an equally fringe chaos god. Years of psychological programming is compelling me to go barefoot to Nottingham and prostrate myself before the studio doors crying “thank you master, thank you” every time someone goes in or out before popping into the shop to buy a few boxes of tactical marines just to “do my bit” economically. Is this really an appropriate response or have our ideas of what the normal relationship between a company and its customers is become muddled up? If any other company produces products that aren’t of interest to its customers those customers take their money elsewhere, they don’t hang around on the internet murmuring to each other like a hive of passive-aggressive bees and hoping that some day, if they wait long enough, whatever it is they want to buy will be made available to them. Luckily GW’s attitude towards its customers seems to have improved dramatically in recent times yet we fans continue to be surprised that we’re getting what we want rather than simply being doled out a diet of more of the same and told to enjoy it.

Alternatively of course it may be simply the case that, in creating two universes of such outstanding complexity and depth, GW have set themselves up to face the outrage of their fans. After all with 28 factions in 40k, plus who knows how many in Age of Sigmar, a wait of only a few years between releases still makes your faction one of the lucky ones, whilst others must languish far longer before GW finally frees up the resources to consider it. We may have had to wait a ridiculously long time for god-specific beastmen but any celebration is likely to be drowned out by Sisters of Battle fans demanding to know when attention will turn to them. You can have no doubt however that when those long awaited models do arrive there will be plenty of people, even those who’re cheering on the poor long suffering Sisters fans, who’re silently thinking “but when are they going to get to us!?”

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New Eldar – breaking up a wall of text and looking downright amazing while they do it.

Exacerbating the situation is the range of models each faction enjoys which means all too often something new comes at the cost of replacing something old. Take the Eldar for instance – they’re soon to be bolstered by some amazing new models dedicated to the newborn god Ynnead. Yet even in my excitement at seeing them – and what kind of heathen would one have to be not to be excited – part of my brain was thinking “what about a new Avatar of Khaine? Where are our plastic Aspect Warriors?”

On the final note of what has been a rather meandering off-topic ramble I feel that the level of quality in miniature’s design is now hitting a peak. It’s hard to imagine how much further they’ll be able to push things and still remain within the bounds of the medium. Kits can’t get much more detailed and still remain straightforward enough for the average person to assemble and paint. In the past the march of technological progress meant that many kits started to look dated after a few years on the shelves and that which was once praised became fodder for complaints as it was compared to its newer, better brethren.

It may be however that this age is over and that kits will no longer need to be replaced every few years just to stay current. Sisters of Battle haven’t seen an update in twenty years and it certainly shows (medium aside), whereas models released even five or six years ago (Grey Knights, Skaven, Dark Eldar) still look as good today as they did when they first hit the shelves. This frees GW from the need to keep returning to the same factions in order to update them. When the Eldar do get new Aspect Warriors those should last them, not just for the next five or ten years, but for the foreseeable future. Likewise one hopes that new Sisters of Battle will still look as good at twenty as they do on the day of release – which is more than one can say for the current lot. Of course this is a double-edged sword (if you’re disappointed in your army’s rank and file you’re likely to be stuck with them for a while) but, freed of the constraints of needing to constantly update their most popular lines with new iterations of stock units GW are able to play in uncharted waters – both by bringing new and unique ideas to the fore (Sylvaneth, Fyreslayers), exploring long untouched corners of their history (Tzaangors, Genestealer Cults) or adding depth to those factions which are already popular (new Stormcast Eternals or an increased range of Space Marine armour marks). Of course there’s still a way to go on updating those units yet to be treated to new models. Take the greater daemons for example…

The Warp Unleashed

In the wake of all these Tzeentchian goings-on the Changling has thrown off his latest disguise with a new plastic incarnation. Once again GW have shown what they can do with the medium, the model stands tall and imposing, floating on a coil of magical energy, it’s attention clearly focussed on whatever unfortunate is about to be rendered down beneath a barrage of arcane bolts. The characteristics of the model haven’t changed much, it still has four arms, including three grouped to one side, it still wields a long staff and it’s face – if it has one – remains hidden beneath the cowl of its robes. The trick is all the pose which has turned him from a skulking, albeit somewhat mischievous, figure to one with real impact and threat.

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Then we have the Blue Horrors  which attempt, with a fair degree of success I would say, to bring the same boisterous and well-loved cuteness to Tzeentch as Nurglings already brought to Nurgle.

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Nowadays Games Workshop applies a policy of “no model – no rules” a blanket ban presumably intended to avoid driving customers towards third-party companies whilst at the same time making life easier for newcomers to the hobby which has nonetheless seen the demise or disappearance of everyone from Lukas Bastonne to Asdrubael Vect. In the old days however the idea of fans converting models to represent units without models was widely accepted, even encouraged. Even then though blue horrors were something of an oddity. The rules stated that, when a pink horror died, rather than simply vanishing back into the Warp it split into two bickering blue horrors (and so the removed pink horror model should be replaced on the board by a pair of blue horrors). The trouble was, no model existed for blue horrors and successfully converting a half-sized version of the pink horrors was by no means an easy task. With no suitable models of the right scale to use as a base a good knowledge of greenstuff was required – and that’s just to make one. Subjected to the right amount of damage a squad of ten pink horrors would require twenty blue horrors to replace them, at which point most right-thinking people quite understandably gave it up as a bad job. Add to this the fact that the newest iteration of the pink horrors kit has been widely regarded as a bit duff anyway and the grumbling of Tzeentch fans could be heard throughout the land. Since last year this problem has been mediated by the option to loot the blue horrors from the Silver Tower but the option of a full kit is still long overdue and extremely welcome.

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Exciting as blue (and brimstone) horrors and a new incarnation of the Changling are it’s not these which have been drumming up a fever of excitement for this release. That honour goes to the Lord of Change, a beast of real magnificence from its saurian head to the tips of its glorious wings.

It’s been a long time since the greater daemons really cut the mustard and the feeling of dissatisfaction aimed at them has only grown since Khorne came stomping out of the gate with a Bloodthirster which in spite of a few flaws (less said about those sigils on its wings the better) still outclassed its predecessor by an almost infinite degree. From that point on fans of daemonic avian wizards have been praying for something that looks better than this:

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Has GW managed it? Well if my glowing praise a mere paragraph ago wasn’t enough to tip you off then yes, I think it’s safe to say they have.lord-of-changeJust look at it! (Go on, click it to see it full size – revel in its glory!)

With its magnificent wingspan adding considerably to its height it manages to look downright enormous (a must for a greater daemon in this age of Imperial Knights and super-heavies) whilst still retaining the slim, almost snakelike figure conveyed by the artwork.

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As well as the standard version of the bird wizard the kit also allows hobbyists to create Kairos Fateweaver Tzeentch’s vizier and personal oracle who’s twin heads see past and future with perfect clarity but can’t keep track of what’s happening in the present (I’m sure we all know someone like that…)tzeentch-kairos

When the Bloodthirster was released, Skarbrand, the special character variant appeared several months later as a separate model, albeit one which shared many of the components of the original kit. In many ways this decision was forced on Games Workshop, Skarbrand is defined by his ragged, tattered wings – ruined when Khorne kicked him out for getting too fighty and actually attacking the big man himself. Including both sets of wings, as well as Skarbrand’s signature twin axes, would have driven up the cost of the kit to the point at which it would have undoubtedly impacted sales.

This time round they’ve been able to box clever, incorporating Kairos into the same kit as the standard Lord of Change. For us customers this doesn’t make a huge difference – beyond getting both units released in one go – but one can see the immediate benefits to GW in terms of saving shelf space in shops and warehouses. What’s impressive is how well they’ve managed to make the two models look different to one another, whilst still using mostly the same core components. By adding different tips to the wings, altering the top of the staff and switching the staff from one hand to the other there’s a lot more to differentiate them than just an extra head.

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His hand also features a hamsa eye in a nice visual link to Magnus.

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With all kinds of stylish details like this staff top rendered as a living version of the sigil of Tzeentch, there’s a lot more to Kairos than just a pretty face or two.I suppose two heads are better than one and all that.

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When, and although I don’t think it’ll be for a while I also think it is now inevitable, I do get around to buying and painting Kairos that icon of living flame should act as a nice, albeit entirely coincidental, link to Mazzakim, the mortal leader of my (still embryonic) Tzeentchian forces.mazzakim-the-liar-convert-or-die-7

On a final note its worth reiterating yet again how much of the groundwork of this release was laid back in May when the Silver Tower boxed game arrived. With GW announcing this week that a follow up game is on-route its worth taking a quick look at the cover art they’ve shown us so far.

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The bloated, Nurgly figures of the antagonists are distinctive enough to leave little doubt over which God’s followers will be troubling the heroes this time around which begs the question; will this game be the catalyst for a series of pestilent releases to echo that which the Changer of Ways has received over the past year? Given Nurgle’s popularity, with new plague marines and great unclean one long overdue and with Mortarion putting in an appearance in Wrath of Magnus it’s easy to convince oneself that the stars are aligning for a plague ridden 2017. You may wish to start speculating wildly now…


2016 – For Anyone Who Missed It

2016 – what a year eh! In many ways it was actually a pretty bad year, particularly if you’ve been following political developments around the world – or just happen to be a fan of living on Planet Earth. A lot of celebrities also died although sometimes it felt like they were just checking out early to avoid the rush.

For me though it’s actually been a very good year; I’ve moved in with my long term partner, I’m no longer a nomad living out of a rucksack and my job situation has actually settled down into something which, for the next year or so at least, almost resembles stability. It’s also been quite an exciting year for our hobby with Games Workshop both plundering its past and setting up what looks to be an equally exhilarating future. In the last twelve months we’ve seen the Wulfen come howling out of the warp (not with the best models mind, but it’s the thought that counts), the genestealer cults rising from the deepest hives and, just a few weeks ago, the dramatic return of a Daemon Primarch – Magnus the Red – at the head of a legion of simply beautiful Thousand Sons. In fact the Thousand Sons enjoyed two back-to-back releases this year, the first being the Burning of Prospero which featured the legion at the start of its journey into darkness. Combing models from both releases, alongside the aforementioned Wulfen, has the potential for some great games, modelling and general storytelling to book-end the Imperial era.

Age of Sigmar has been equally packed, we’ve seen the (often maligned) Fyreslayers – the second race to join the game as a completely new concept, alongside other Old-World-Warhammer factions re-imagined in the new setting. These latter have included the Sylvaneth – a new race developed from the treemen and dryads that used to hang out with the Wood Elves, and the Ironjawz, developed from the old Black Orcs and Big uns. We’ve also seen the return of the Old World of Warhammer (the World That Was – Age of Sigmar kids) through Total War: Warhammer (a game to which, I have to confess, I’ve developed a considerable addiction and which has sparked my interest in Warhammer like never before). Meanwhile White Dwarf itself came back – Grombindal having realised that this whole weekly-pamphlet idea was a mistake and what we really wanted was a gloriously chunky magazine full of interesting articles.

Oh, and I finally realised a longstanding ambition and went to Warhammer World!

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Excitingly, and for the first time ever, a side effect of having a proper house to live in is having all my miniatures in the one place. No longer must they lurk, lonesome and unloved, carefully packed in boxes. Instead they can stand proudly on a shelf built specially for them and that means we can have some group shots!

The largest part of my collection – by a long shot – are the Chaos Space Marines of the Beasts of Ruin. At the core of the army are a large number of marines, cultists and war-engines, dedicated to Chaos Undivided, and at the centre of that army is a host of Chaos Marines. Having completed my first 20-man squad of chaos marines late last year this year I started work on a second. Somebody told these lads there might be a Black Crusade on soon and as you can see they’re rather excited (they also heard conflicting rumours about a Penitent Crusade but luckily they don’t know what that is…)

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Alongside them we have the pestilent servants of Nurgle. They too saw a boost to their numbers this year with the addition of a small squad of malodorous, yet still cheerful looking, terminators and a few boisterous Nurglings.

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The worshippers of Khorne also saw a big boost this year, with plenty of berserkers, terminators and even an ogren, storming across the painting desk. Sadly Rannoghar Garran, the brutal Chaos Lord who will someday lead them, remains just a heap of bits. In his absence however Kharn the Betrayer was kind enough to step in and cover for him.

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The Slaaneshi contingent remains a much smaller part of the collection but, thanks to Dreadtober (this year ably orchestrated by JoeB of the Broken Paintbrush), they have at least been bolstered by the arrival of a Sonic Dreadnaught.

dreadtober-convertordie-8As for the Tzeentchian element, well they remain the smallest  faction of all but who knows, with all those Thousand Sons now available 2017 might just be their year…

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Of course, not everyone who worships Chaos wears power-armour, which brings us to the massed ranks of the lost and the damned themselves, the traitor guard. In the early months of 2016 they saw quite a lot of growth but progress has been decidedly slow since (read; nonexistent). Nonetheless the itch to paint more scruffy tech-barbarians hasn’t gone away so don’t imagine you’ve seen the last of them yet.

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Over the last few months I’ve also put in a bit of work on my Orks. Some readers may recall that back in 2014 I set about repairing, repainting and generally ‘fixin’ up’ my entire Ork collection – with the result that by the time I’d finish I didn’t want to see the colour green ever again. Fast forward the best part of two years however and the call of the Waaagh was strong once more. Time to gather more boys and get ready to smash up the hoomie Imperium but good! Expect to see a few more of them in the new year.

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Because of the sheer size of the Ork collection, coupled with a severe lack of natural daylight to work with, that picture probably isn’t going to win any prizes unless they’re giving out awards for causing eyestrain, so here’s a group shot of all the greenskins I added to the collection in 2016.

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Last of all we have a scheming clan of man-sized rats. My Skaven have come on a great deal this year (they’re a whole different colour for one thing) but they’re still a long way from the chittering, scabrous horde I have in mind. The trouble is I’m not really an ‘army painter’. I admire anyone who’s able to sit down and batch paint hundreds of models, especially if they can do it to a high standard, but it isn’t me. At best I can manage two or three like this and that makes for slow going when one is painting legions of clanrats.

In an effort to set things right I’m setting myself a little challenge; every month in 2017 I will complete at least one model for my Skaven collection. Hopefully, by the end of the year, the army will have increased by more than just twelve clanrats but even if that’s all we see it will at least be a step in the right direction. Watch this space – and please, please do mock and shame me if I fail in this rather simple endeavour.

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Other plans for the new year include more Orks (you didn’t think this was the only Meganob in the works now did you?) and getting my Slaaneshi gladiator painted up. Oh and then there’s this fellow, who’s going to be joined by a few friends…

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Things I’m looking forward to in 2017:

Games Workshop have already announced that 2017 is going to be “bigger and better” than 2016 (although to be fair we never expected them to say “2017 will be slightly worse than 2016 and everything we have planned will disappoint you”). I’ve already waxed enthusiastic about the new models they showcased last week in their own review of the year but, having taken a few deep breaths and gone for a little lie down, here’s my slightly more considered thoughts on the year ahead.

 

Breaking the Habit

“For where two or three 40k fans are gathered together, there one will find a Sisters of Battle player complaining about how unloved they are” as Jesus could have said. Over the years many people have wondered what the origins of the “40,000” in Warhammer 40,000 is and at last Games Workshop have provided an official answer; it’s the number of years between each Sisters of Battle release. Perhaps they shouldn’t have put Axel Rose in charge of the project?

Personally I’m not even that interested in the Nuns with Guns but seriously Games Workshop, for the love of all that is holy, just give them their damn models! Over the last few years the level of fevered fantasising about nuns in bondage in the Wahammer scene has reached peaks normally only seen in the bar at the Conservative Party conference.

In the video which first revealed Magnus the Red (hiding in a bin because even the sons of the Emperor fall on hard times) the Thousand Sons were described as “coming soon”. The Sisters of Battle teaser at the end of the video featured Warhammer TV’s intrepid bin-raker Eddie commenting “cool – this isn’t released for months yet”. Yet the sages of the Internet gave it a good quarter of an hour after Magnus hit the shelves before deciding that the whole thing was a hoax. Games Workshop then upped the ante by including the Sisters in the Imperial Agents codex, alongside various other factions that don’t have plastic models and never will like the Grey Knights and Deathwatch. Deeply insulted Sisters fans frothed their rage up and down the Internet and Games Workshop responded by flashing this image at them.

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For those lucky enough to have been on a penitent crusade lately this is Saint Celestine, who – early in the New Year, will be heading into the Eye of Terror to give Chaos a good kicking. (Why us? What did we ever do to her?) Now one would assume she’d be doing this at the head of an army of the Brides of the Emperor – but no, she’s taking the Black Templars instead. One can only imagine that the Black Templars fighting the Black Legion in the dark will be a painter’s delight. Personally I’m looking forward to the scene in which Grimaldus blunders into a table and barks his shin, and Abaddon trips over the cat.

Now one might assume that this drip feeding of releases allows Games Workshop to build up interest in a faction that has been under-represented for a long time, and helps to space out what might otherwise be a rather overwhelming tide of models. However it’s starting to feel a little bit like a tug of war; Games Workshop admitting bashfully that they have the models but still unwilling to give them up, the fans – desperate to have the ball thrown for them – simultaneously wagging their tails and growling. Frankly the sooner the Sisters fans are put out of my misery the better. It’s getting to the stage where Chaos fans can’t hear ourselves complain over the sound of Sisters fans complaining. Still I think we can all hope that by the end of 2017 Games Workshop will have finally relented and handed over the models. The Sisters, like the Dark Eldar before them, can then ride off into the sunset with their new range of shiny models, and the rest of us can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Not that this will stop the Sisters fans moaning of course – they are creatures of habit after all…99810108001_sistersofbattlecannonessveridyan01

 

It’s Chaos Out There!

Depending on who you ask there are two facts you’ll discover about Chaos. One; we never get any models ever and Games Workshop actually hates us. Two; every release is Chaos, we’re always hogging the limelight and should give the (insert name of anyone apart from Space Marines here) a chance. It’s all a bit confusing until you remember that the faction loosely referred to as Chaos encompasses four gods (plus generally treacherous undivided baddies) – covering both deamons and mortals, nine Space Marine legions, and two games systems. To a fan of the Emperor’s Children the release of some Blood Reavers for Age of Sigmar may be Chaos but it’s as much use as telling an Imperial Guard fan “what are you complaining about – they released Space Wolves the other month!” (This is not the Leman Russ you’re looking for).

It would be unfair to ask or expect the kind of expansion and revamp of the Chaos line that it so desperately deserves – unfair on GW for setting such an ambitious expectation, unfair on fans of other races who may be less than enamoured by seeing nothing but spikey marines for the next twelve months and unfair on us Chaos fans and our wallets (I for one prefer a drip feed of releases that I can get my teeth into). In time however it would be nice to see the other Chaos factions get the treatment that the Thousand Sons just enjoyed. Everyone’s personal wishlist is different but if there’s one thing I’d like to see this year it’s a Thousand Sons -eque expansion upon the Emperor’s Children. Nurgle and Khorne are in need of love too of course, the other Greater Daemons would be nice to see, Obliterators are just terrible and all of the cult marines (with the exception of the Rubricae obviously) could use an update but it’s hard to deny that no-one has been neglected like Slaanesh’s followers among the Chaos Marines. Come on GW – give the Prince of Pleasure a little love. Who knows – you might enjoy it…

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Fulgrim – this could be you!

 

Not The End Times

So this year 40k turns 30, which many people believe makes it a fine time for it to have a mid-life crisis. There have always been a few voices calling the 40k timeline to be advanced, as though this was a novel and we’ve been waiting on a sequel to resolve the cliff-hanger ending for the last three decades. 40k however isn’t a novel, rather it’s a setting and the cliffhanger ending is the whole point.

Since the End Times event in Warhammer those voices have become a lot louder. Surely, they cry, it’s time for the same thing to happen in 40k! The problem is that a post-40k automatically invalidates the sense of doom in 40k itself. Based on the projections suggested by the current setting if a 41k existed at all it would mostly be about a post-apocalyptic version of the Tau throwing rocks at the last few genestealers, on a daemon world. The cornerstone of 40k is its spirit of apocalypse – a character which – sadly – is as familiar today as it was when they first designed it in the shadow of the Cold War. The forces which threaten to consume humanity at the close of the 41st Millennium are so vast, so terrible, that humanity’s insignificance is rendered in the starkest possible sense. That’s what makes it such great escapism – its potency is its mixing of the familiar with the alien. As a species we too have 99 problems – but at least the carnivorous swarms of the Tyranids aint one. It provides the comfort of action even if that action is ultimately futile – and have no doubt that for all the complaints that the Imperium wins every campaign those victories are fleeting and the wolves are at the door (not those Wolves obviously!). Unless something utterly unforeseen occurs to shake things up the fall of the Imperium is now inevitable and the galaxy of the 42nd Millennium will be a desolate place, scoured of life by the inhuman forces that have warred over it. There is no hand-waving our way out of this one and into an Age of Sigmaresque future. Any attempt to do so by Games Workshop will feel forced and will diminish the power of the setting they’ve already created.

Having said all that – and argued against the return of loyalist Primarchs – I’m still looking forward to seeing the setting progress, if not quite to the point at which Dante, Calgar and Azrael link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne as the bells ring for the closing of the 41st Millennium then at least getting a little closer to the moment of atomic midnight.

Ultimately that’s what we’re going to see and any suggestion otherwise seems like silliness. The End Times, much as many didn’t like their execution or outcome, now seem a necessary development for Warhammer. 40k has no need for such an event and perhaps never will. The road to that apocalypse is exciting enough without ever needing to reach the destination. There’s no point in wishing for the murder of the Golden Goose when the old bird still has so much life in her – but what a joy it’ll be to see the full might of the Dark Millennium’s forces clashing! Daemon Primarchs will walk, the Traitor Legions will return and all the races of the galaxy will be forced to escalate in return. The return of Magnus changed everything and the Imperium will never be the same again, but that doesn’t mean GW are planning to put a match to it quite yet.

Perhaps after another thirty years 40k will seem out of place, a bitter dystopian dinosaur in a more hopeful world. Our grandchildren will wonder what we saw in it and listen wide-eyed when we say “those were darker times kid, they shot a gorilla and the whole world went to pieces”. Then, and only then, can Abaddon tear his grandfather’s corpse from the Golden Throne as GW puts the old beast to bed. Until then let the galaxy burn!

 

The Siege of Terra

Lurching from one apocalypse to another the Black Library recently announced that after over a decade the Horus Heresy series is closing on the final battle. Some people complain that it’s too long, that there are too many books (42 so plus short stories), that it’s too damn complicated, that Horus fell too quickly (three books) and then advanced on Terra too slowly (he’d agree). Still it’s been quite the ride and the showdown should be suitable spectacular. Most likely it’ll take several (dozen) books to cover the siege itself, and that’s no bad thing, so we can’t expect to see the last shot fired before the end of the year but anticipate drama and destruction nonetheless.

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That’s it for me for this year so there’s just time to wish all my readers and internet-friends a very happy New Year and a suitably miniature-filled 2017. Unless of course it all ends before then in a fiery nuclear holocaust and only Oldhammer players survive, shielded behind their walls of lead models. That really would give anyone with a substantial collection of Sisters of Battle the last laugh…


Dust No Longer

You didn’t honestly think I was going to let this one pass without comment now did you?

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The skies above Fenris are ablaze and the internet is electric with chatter! Magnus the Red and his legion, the Thousand Sons, are back! Why has he returned? What are his aims? What does this mean for the future of the Space Wolves, for Chaos fans and for the Imperium itself? Is a 40k End Times event just around the corner?* And why does he have such huge horns for nipples? Let’s take a look!

*There isn’t. That would just be silly.

Incidentally I almost entitled this post Rubricae, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. Aren’t you glad I restrained myself?

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Magnus

For the first time in a long time* a demigod walks in the 41st Millennium, one of the Emperor’s own sons returned to see in the end of days. Overwrought descriptions follow in his wake; skies cracking, earth writhing, madness ensuing.

*Hush Epic fans, we know you had a model for him long ago. It was rubbish.magnus-sideThere’s no beating around the bush – this is the big one. As probably the last major release of 2016 Games Workshop are bowing out with a bang, and setting the stage for the year to come. There is no turning back from this for them. Bigger and crazier models are on their way; more daemon Primarchs, perhaps even a few Loyalist Primarchs. If you thought that 40k was about to reinvent itself into a Necromundaesc skirmish game then those hopes are probably dashed I’m afraid. 2017 will  undoubtedly be bigger and more hyperbolic still.

It’s easy to get caught up in the wider impact of this release and the inexact science of prophecy and forget about the model itself. Before we find ourselves plunging into the rabbit hole of rumour and counter-rumour let’s see what we have here and how. Like Forge World’s Angron a few years ago Magnus emerges already straining under the weight of expectation. The narrative of Warhammer 40,000 is one of apocalypse. For almost as long as the 40k universe has existed we have been being told “soon Chaos will rise, the Daemon Primarchs and their Legions will ride out at the head of a tide of daemons and the Imperium of Man shall fall”. Every battle fought in the 41st Millennium is one of desperation, the last fading strength of the Imperium bleeding out in the hopeless struggle of cruel order being crushed by the inrushing tide of absolute disorder. As a direct result of that narrative, I would argue, we’ve been waiting – unconsciously – to see models for the Damon Primarchs for years, perhaps even decades. Set against such a weight of expectation the model itself is undoubtedly going to be in for a fairly divisive reviewing – pulled apart or held up as an avatar of quality depending on how the reviewer feels about what it represents. Thus, in the interests of full disclosure let me restate my position on Primarchs in 40k, as set out a month ago with the release of The Burning of Prospero (which for those less familiar with the setting could be considered a sister release to this one, covering as it does the events which led to Magnus getting so narked off with the Space Wolves in the first place).

…It’s certainly a dramatic development and many are insisting that this means the return of many other primarchs is now imminent. Certainly the background has it that the daemonic Primarchs have been preparing for a return to the mortal universe for some time, …For me the thought of being able to include them in my armies as we surge out of the Great Eye at last and bring ruin to the Corpse-God’s Imperium is hugely exciting. However, perhaps hypocritically, I’m not all that keen on seeing the loyalist Primarchs appearing in 40k… After all Warhammer has already made the transition from a world in which the aesthetic of the pathetic ruled, where a man with no shoes and fewer teeth took up a rusty sword to battle daemon princes and orc hordes, into a glittering universe of superhuman heroics, where gods do battle and the great unwashed are strangely absent…The return of the loyalist Primarchs would send 40k in the same direction. The fate of the Imperium would hang less on the actions of a band of guardsmen defending a trench against the horrors of a hostile galaxy and more about two demi-gods duelling over their father’s throne…

The model itself is certainly dramatic although I’ll confess that at first I felt a slight disappointment based largely on my own unrealistic expectations. However, with his angelic wings and haughty demeanour, he plays the part of the fallen angel with aplomb. What’s more it’s literally packed with occult and metaphorical symbols and it’s clear that the designers had a great time creating a model with real meaning and depth. As a wizard Magnus lives in a world where symbolism is key and in recognition of this the designers have lavished him with clever details. Look for instance at his right hand which appears to form a Hamsa eye, a symbol believed to have magical properties that dates back at least as far as Mesopotamia. In many images of the Hamsa eye three of the fingers are elongated and emphasised, with the thumb and little finger reduced to vestiges. In Magnus’s case this appears to have been taken even further, with the little finger missing altogether. In the centre of the palm an eye looks out, warding the bearer against the evil eye. The evil eye itself may be represented by the glowing eye tattooed on his forearm, representing the wizard in his dualistic role of both protector and destroyer.

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Let us not forget that Magnus is a man with excellent hand-eye co-ordination.

What the symbols around it might mean however remains unclear (I’ll admit my first thought was to dig through symbolic alphabet for the Dark Tongue of Chaos in The Lost and the Damned but to no avail). As ever any theories, no matter how wild or outlandish, are welcome in the comments.

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On his wings we find a number of eyes reminiscent of the tail of a peacock, the Cauda Pavonis of the alchemists, to whom it represented both the white light in which all colours are united and, conversely, the failure of the process by which one believes illusions to be real. Much like Magnus himself then who, although he has claimed enormous power, will forever remain far less than he could have been, trapped forever by Tzeentch. Note also how the colours of the alchemical process progress from black, to white, to gold and finally to red, whilst across the Thousand Sons range gold appears with ever greater prevalence on the higher ranked figures, whilst red appears on the robes of the sorcerers, increases on those of Ahriman and becomes dominant on Magnus, the Crimson King himself.

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His armour is likewise covered in the intricate details. In one a snake looms over a skeletal figure. Various theories have already been put forth to explain this including in White Dwarf itself; that the snake represents Tzeentch whilst the doomed figure is either the Emperor or Magnus, signifying how Magnus’s quest for vengeance upon his father shall ultimately doom both. Of course such symbolism often contains multiple layers of depth and my personal theory is that the snake also represents the incoming Tyranid swarms who’s animalistic hunger shall soon see the Imperium devoured. We know from statements by the developers that Magnus’ attack on Fenris is just the first step on a plan of galaxy-changing scale. By finally slaying the Emperor and snuffing out the light of the Astronomicon the forces of Chaos shall scatter humanity to the winds, preventing all hope of a co-ordinated response, and yet also removing the one thing which was drawing the Hive Fleets towards the inner worlds and perhaps offering some small hope for those who remain. After all if the Tyranids eat everyone who shall sustain the Chaos gods through their suffering?

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In Egyptian myth, from which much of the imagery associated with the Thousand Sons is sourced, the serpent Apep devours all – life, light and magic – much as the Tyranids themselves do. Humanity is only saved by the intervention of Set, not a particularly noble or traditionally heroic figure, but a god of storms, disorder, violence and – most importantly – Chaos.

The kit also contains three different faces, unusual for a unique character (apart from politicians which come with two as standard) but perfect for Magnus who was capable of transforming his appearance and looked different depending on who was looking at him. Emphasising this one of the faces is a mask, perfect for concealing his ever shifting features. magnus-face-1magnus-face-2magnus-maskIt’s not all quality however. For example the various the cables and other assorted ironmongery emerging through his arm seems slightly unnecessary. In the latest issue of White Dwarf it’s suggested that this is a result of whatever restoration was required following his battle with Russ. Surely however someone so magically powerful as Magnus, already capable of enormous feats of physical regeneration even before his ascension to daemonhood, would have no need for such augmetics? If this were Perturabo, or even Angron, I would understand, their cybernetic components are part of their character and would undoubtedly remain so even in the wake of their demonic-rebirth. It may be that Magnus wishes to wear his wounds openly so that his sons might see how he too suffered at the hands of the Space Wolves – but again these don’t look like ragged injuries but clean, intentional features and most of his Legion are automatons anyway, whilst the rest are egomaniacs who probably couldn’t give a monkeys what he looks like. Thus to me they end up looking like they were only added in order to fill a space on the model.

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The book of Magnus itself is incredibly detailed, with torn pages sticking out and even a bookmark.

The trouble is actually working out what is intended as part of a subtle reference or clever hint on the designers’ part and what was simply added because they thought it looked cool. Does the three fingered hand really represent the Hamsa eye? What are the nipple horns actually for (apart from making him hard to hug)? Do they represent some form of symbolic feminine, the wizard combining male and female elements into a hermaphrodite form – a union of all the opposing forces within himself – or are they only there because John Blanche put them in the original artwork? Does the fact that he lives in a big tower with a huge eye at the top mean he’s only emerged from the Warp to hunt down hobbits?

Ultimately Magnus is a miniature which, when I first saw him, failed to really engage me – but the longer I’ve looked the more I like him. Even in this review I’ve rewritten passages multiple times as repeated looks have unlocked him further and further and I’ve shifted from being rather harshly critical to actually embracing him (not literally of course, nipple horns again). Thus although I may not be running down to the shops for him at once I suspect he may make his way into my collection at some point.

I’ll also be interested to see what other convertors do with such a large and impressive canvas. Certainly if we don’t see a new Lord of Change released soon I can imagine a number of hobbyists replacing Magnus’s head with the bird head from Archaon Everchosen.

Finally, before we move on to the rest of the release, let us remind ourselves of that Epic model which was Magnus’ first tabletop incarnation.

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Ahriman

Here we have him – the real star of the show! The second of the classic chaos characters to be given a redesign in 2016 Ahriman joins Kharn in receiving a plastic reincarnation of a well-loved metal model. Unlike Kharn however, who received an extensive – and to my mind unnecessary – redesign – Ahriman is very much as he always was, with a few tweaks representative of twenty years of technological progress. 99120102064_ahriman02It’s a risky business taking on a classic but all the iconic features are still in place, from the sweeping antelope horns to the instantly recognisable facemask and staff. Thus unlike Kharn, and for that matter Eldrad Ulthran, who both ended up looking slightly less than their metal predecessors, the new Ahriman is actually an improvement.

There was always something aggressive about his pose but that’s been turned up to eleven, no longer merely casting a spell but actually lunging into wizardly combat. The fact that he’s now riding on a disk only serves to emphasise the effect. He’s also divested himself of his gun (it’s holstered under his robes), preferring instead to fry his enemies with whatever magical effect is swirling around his fingertips. Normally I’m no fan of sculpted ethereal elements/fire/smoke/what-have-you but on this occasion it feels right. After all if Ahriman, easily one of the most powerful mages in the 41st Millennium, can’t be throwing a few spells around then who can? I’ll probably still be snipping it off though!

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Rubricae

Here it is at last; the thing we’ve all be waiting for – a set of Space Marines who aren’t squatting! Better yet it’s the Rubricae, the rank and file of the Thousand Sons who were turned to dust by Ahriman’s disastrous rubic thousands of years ago, and left to gather dust by Games Workshop for almost as long. Now, at long last, they’re back – with a stylish range of wonderfully ornate models.

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The Aspiring Sorcerer also has an eye in the palm of his hand, a neat and subtle link to Magnus.

Note the similarity between the Aspiring Sorcerer and the 30k incarnation of Ahriman released last month, a nice bit of visual storytelling that helps to tie the chief librarian’s past and future incarnations together in spite of his own changed appearance. The key difference is that the Ahriman model is casting with his right hand, the Aspiring Sorcerer with his left. Or, to put it differently, the staff – the focus of his power – is held in the Aspiring Sorcerer’s right hand, representing him choosing the right hand path of magic and accepting power from without. At the time of the Heresy Ahriman holds his staff in his left hand, choosing the left hand path of independence and channelling power from within himself. By the 41st Millennium however his staff has switched hands, perhaps because Ahriman’s struggle for self-determination has been for naught and he is now shackled forever by Tzeentch.

Whatever the meaning, if you’ve ever fancied creating a Sorcerer who’s casting a spell with both hands outstretched now’s your chance.azeck

The Scarab Occult

Clad in Tartaros terminator armour in another nod to last month’s Burning of Prospero the elite warriors of the Scarab Occult join their brothers at last. When the rubric of Ahriman turned the legion into walking suits of dust-filled armoured it wasn’t just the power armoured marines who were affected. For years fans have been pointing this out and muttering about Rubric Terminators and finally their hopes have borne fruit.cool-staff

Like the power armoured Rubricae the terminators carry an elegant assortment of weapons. Even the Hellfyre missile rack is stylish and ornate, although I’m still not entirely sure if the look of that particular set up appeals to me. Otherwise however the arrival of these terminators is a welcome addition to the range.

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Exalted Sorcerers

Life’s always better when it contains a Chaos sorcerer or two so the arrival of a boxset to make them with can only be a good thing. Packed full of mutations, extra staff tops and alternative heads this has the makings of being a kitbashers dream come true. It’s just unfortunate that the official models themselves are all a little disappointing. farting-wizardThis one appears to be farting himself into the air. At first I assumed it must be an effect of the angle at which he’d been shown but no, however you look at it, there it is. I hoped it was just me who saw him this way but sadly it seems it was just the designer who didn’t. Never mind, the joy of plastic models is that it should be easy enough to convert something else.

Luckily these should be compatible with most of GW’s other space marines – both loyalist and heretic – so I’m looking forward to all kinds of fantastic kitbashes emerging over the coming months. With seven different heads in the kit it should be possible to come up with plenty of unique-looking characters to lead one’s mindless Rubricae to battle. In a particularly nice touch the disk of Tzeentch is double-sided allowing it to be reversed to create two different looking disks for your sorcerers to ride.

…And look, this one is reloading his pistol with magic (a touch which is either brilliance of a simply inspired nature or too silly for words – I’m undecided)! sorcerer-2

Ultimately there are so many clever components in the kit that, in spite of its flaws, I’m looking forward to raiding it for conversion materials. I doubt these two masters of the occult will be alone for long.

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Tzaangors

Time and again lately Games Workshop have plundered their own history and brought forth brilliant ideas too long left in the shadows. When the first pictures of Magnus appeared online it seemed natural to expect the Thousand Sons to emerge with him and, in the wake of Wulfen and Genestealer Cults alike, I dared to hope that they might be bringing their thrall-herds with them. To actually see them come snorting and braying onto the tabletop at last however is exciting beyond words. Newcomers to the hobby might be scratching their heads at this – after all the Tzaangors were part of the Silver Tower back in the spring so why would they not make the jump to 40k now? Older hands however will recall the years in which 40k seemed to be slipping ever further into safe, sci-fi territory with the crazier elements abandoned or forgotten. Surely it was too much to hope that they might actually appear in model form – until now of course.

And what wonderfully weird forms those are! Combining elements of birds, goats and humans they create a figure which is far from anything we know from rational biology, yet which still appears functional. What’s more the brutal, bestial elements are entwined wonderfully with the ornate armour and weapons. They look alien, but believable.

tzaangors-2For me then this may be the best bit of this release. I’m already a big fan of beastmen in 40k and the chance to add some more of these savage warriors to the those I’ve already picked up from the Silver Tower boxset will not be missed. They’ve also reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed working on my Bloodgors so perhaps we’ll see more of those soon as well. And then there are Pestigors and Slaangors to consider as well…

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Mazzakim the Liar

Before describing my own future plans for these models I’ll need to explain a little about the idea behind my Chaos collection over all. Hard to believe though it may be behind  what might at first look like a random pick ‘n’ mix of Chaos forces, with cults of all four gods and none piling in together, exists an underlying plan that ties it all together. Kallamoon Kell, the so called Lord of Ruin, is the lynchpin that holds it all together. His is the ultimate command and it is on his orders that the fleets sail and the Chaos Marines make war. Beneath him are a number of sub-commanders, and whilst Kell himself leads an inner circle of troops loyal(-ish) to him above the gods, these lieutenants each have command over one of the cults. Ghisguth the Reaper leads the followers of Nurgle, whilst the as yet unbuilt Rannoghar Garran commands those warriors who have sworn themselves to Khorne. Later I have plans to create the clone-twin lovers who lead the Slaaneshi warband The Choir of Spite. The Tzeentchian element will be led by an exile from the Thousand Sons who goes by the name High Magister Mazzakim the Liar.

For almost as long as he’s been plotting in the dark corners of the Eye of Terror I’ve been plotting how to make him with, as yet, no actual results to show you. All that, however – I like to imagine anyway – is soon to change. The last time a miniature for Azhek Ahriman was released – a mere month ago – I got hugely excited and bought one, plus a Gaunt Summoner and started kitbashing wildly in the hopes that soon Mazzakim would emerge from my thoughts into solid reality. The High Magister however stubbornly stayed away. No matter what bits I assembled where nothing looked right for the great sorcerer. Worse, pictures started emerging thick and fast showing the upcoming Thousand Sons and the whole project got kicked onto the backburner until I saw what the new models had to offer.

Now this isn’t to suggest that my enthusiasm for the project is on the wane, if anything it’s higher than ever. However I have been hanging back to get a proper look at the new kits – after all Mazzakim needs to lead them and that means no half measures. In the background I’ve created he’s one of Kell’s most senior and valuable advisors (or as valuable as an advisor who willingly calls himself ‘the Liar’ can be that is) and I don’t want him overshadowed by his own lieutenants. Because of that I’m almost tempted to base him on Ahriman, or even Magnus, but both are awesome characters in their own right and I’ve no wish to make my own character into a mere spin-off. It’s a problem I can assure you I’ll be pondering a great deal over the coming weeks.

Whatever form his model takes in the end, Mark from Heresy of Us was kind enough to send me a little care-package of bitz, including these books and candles – vital accoutrements for any wizard which will undoubtedly be used in summoning Mazzakim.

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So who is Mazzakim? Long since estranged from his Legion Mazzakim has spent the millennia roaming the Eye of Terror and beyond, driven by a fierce hunger for knowledge. He rose through the ranks of the Pyrae, swimming in fire, but soon turned his attention to the other cults, consuming their knowledge and never sated. From the Athanaeans he took the power to scour minds, stripping them of all thought and memory. From the Raptorae he claimed terrible destructive power, whilst his shifting form and bloated ego was undoubtedly a gift of the Pavoni. Yet it was the Corvidae he studied most avidly, using their powers of precognition to plumb the depths of what is yet to come. Always he seeks knowledge and always one secret dances just beyond his grasp for Tzeentch has bound him into a web of lies and the key to his freedom is forever out of reach.

Thus Mazzakim has plundered the future and knows that the answer he seeks can only be claimed at a confluence of time and place. He must walk at Kell’s side into the throne-room of shattered Terra. Without the Lord of Ruin the moment will pass unmarked, even if Terra falls and Abaddon stands triumphant.

Yet the future does not give up its mysteries easily and time and again his prophetic visions return the same result; that the road to Terra is bloody and Kell will die long before they reach the surface of humanity’s cradle. Mazzakim has lived a life defined by selfish desires, heaping mockery upon those of his brothers, like Ahriman and Khayon, that hold lofty ideals and strive for greater ends. Yet he knows without doubt that without his aid Kell’s death is inevitable and all the scheming and questing of his long and evil life will have been for nothing. Thus Mazzakim gathers his Rubricae and marches to stand at Kell’s side. He will serve the Lord of Ruin, guarding him even to his own death, for without Kell the long millennia will close about him like a cage, Mazzakim’s path narrowing down to a single road which he is cursed to see, rolling out ahead of him, down the unbroken aeons of eternity.

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Eat Our Dust Imperials!

What’s particularly exciting about this release is the level of depth and character that the legion has been provided with. We’re used to seeing this from Forgeworld but it somehow feels fresh and exciting to see it from Games Workshop itself. Many of us have been hoping to see the Chaos Legions given proper recognition for years but I think that even the most enthusiastic expected at best to see some rules, ‘legion tactics’ and special issue wargear to differentiate one collection of spiky marines from another (and indeed something of this nature appears to be scheduled for release in the next few weeks). The idea that we might see unique models to represent our chosen legions always seemed unthinkable. Our loyalist brothers got everything from Wulfen to Sanguinary Guard to Deathwing Knights whilst we kitbashed and became increasingly good at using greenstuff, grateful for any scraps the Empire of the Eye could provide. Some loyalist chapters got their own unique versions of stock units like tactical squads and terminators whilst we were told we could always paint our helbrutes red to show they are World Eaters, or a slightly different shade of red if we collect Word Bearers. Like the Legions themselves we have grown strong in our exile, developing our creative skills in a way the loyalists have never needed to, learning to loot as well as any ork and cobble new legionaries from loyalists, daemons and our better supplied brothers over the fence in Age of Sigmar.

At the same time however many of our number have become bitter. Bereft of hope they have descended into a kind of spawndom and, gathering together in lost brotherhoods, they roam from forum to forum, bleating and braying their distrust of the God-Emperor enthroned in Nottingham and conducting running battles with equally disaffected Sisters of Battle players.

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For the rest of us though this release represents hope for the first time in years. Imagine what could be if we dared to dream! Dare we imagine something of this quality released for the World Eaters, Death Guard, Emperor’s Children or any of the other Legions? I think we do. More than that I think we should! For Games Workshop to remain at the  head of the industry they must continue to innovate, to delve ever deeper into the worlds they have only hinted at before, to no longer expect us to make do with second best but to unshackle their own creative spirit and delve into the possibilities they know themselves to be capable of.

Ultimately the question must be; do you want your grandchildren to live in a world where the only difference between a Night Lords army and an Emperor’s Children army is the colour of the paint? Do you want to see the Novamarines and Angels of Absolution get their own model lines whilst we fight in the dirt for an upgrade sprue with a useful looking shoulder pad on it? Of course not brothers! The fightback starts today!

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As ever with a Tzeentchian release these days I’m already waiting to see what Big Boss Redskullz comes up with and naturally I’ll be keeping an eye on Kraut Scientist in the hopes that another of his signature release reviews is in the works. In the meantime if you have any thought on this release get them in the comments box below (even Space Wolves players are allowed – providing they’re house trained…).

All pictures snatched from Game’s Workshops vaults and planted on my blog by the Changeling as part of an elaborate Tzeentchian plan. Apart from the ones I took myself obviously.

 


The Burning of Prospero

So here we are, a year on from the Betrayal at Calth and the landscapes of both 40k and the Horus Heresy are both constantly evolving and ever more entwined. Following the discovery of Daemonic Primarch Magnus the Red hiding in the recycling bins at GW HQ it’s time to return to the civil war that started it all. Even before Horus played his hand at Isstvan he was sowing discord and through his machinations, the hot-headedness of his brothers and what could easily be regarded as wilful idiocy on the part of the Emperor, it all came down to blood in the cities of Prospero. Without the traitors even needing to deploy two loyal Legions would come close to mutual destruction.

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Given the huge success of the Horus Heresy in general, and Betrayal at Calth in particular, there can’t be many who’re surprised to see GW returning to the cash cow for another bucket of milk. What’s striking however is that this time round they’re being a lot more adventurous – in keeping with the surge of creative energy we’ve been seeing over recent months. Alongside the space marines and terminators that GW packs into every boxset they release we have, for the first time ever, the Emperor’s loyal bodyguards – the Custodes – and the bane of witches everywhere, those psychic nulls the Sisters of Silence.

With Calth they played it safe as befits its status as the gateway drug to the setting. Cataphractii terminators and Contemptor dreadnaughts were already popular thanks to Forge World, there were two characters which could easily fit into any Legion or Chapter from either 40k or the Heresy, and a whole bunch of that ever popular money-spinning workhorse, the space marines. It would have been easy for them to repeat the trick with Prospero but instead they’ve opted for bigger risks – with arguably more to play for. This time the characters are far more Legion specific, and whilst we were encouraged to paint the Calth characters to fit our Legion of choice it would take more than a coat of paint to make Geigor Fell-Handed into an Ultramarine or Ahriman into an Iron Warrior. Likewise those who’ve thrown in their lot with Horus won’t find much use in the Custodes or the Sisters of Silence, representing as they do perhaps the only two facets of Imperial society that wasn’t split in two by the Heresy.

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Before we dig into the models themselves allow me – in my notorious hubris – to quote my comments from this time last year when Betrayal at Calth was freshly released:

“…for anyone thinking ‘what about Prospero?’ – well those two Legions (Space Wolves and Thousand Sons) would require very distinct miniatures and rules, rather unsuitable for a mass-appeal starter set. They’d also take away some of the thunder from Forge World exploration of that iconic campaign – although one wonders if GW might be planning some kind of follow-up or expansion set to coincide? At this stage one can only guess.”

Well I wasn’t entirely right, we’re still waiting for Forge World to tackle Prospero and when I imagined unique miniatures I was picturing something more akin to Ahriman and Geigor than the Custodes. Still, there’s no denying Prospero makes a natural choice for the follow up to Calth. Its early in the Heresy (in fact it’s arguable that this is where the first shots were fired) so there’s no danger of getting ahead of the popular Black Library series. Only two legions were present (unlike the zoo at Istvaan where pretty much everybody turned up) and it was an infantry fight (as opposed to the tank battle at Talarn or the space battle at Phall). Mind you – not that I’m attempting to repeat my Nostradamus-like prediction trick – the boarding action on Perturabo’s flagship the Iron Blood by the Imperial Fists at Phall could make for an interesting game in this vein, somewhat akin to a Heresy-era Space Hulk. Or maybe they’ll decide to do something completely out of the blue and base the next boxset around the Fall of Mars with loyalist Mechanicum guerrillas battling their scrapcode warped brethren for control of the red planet. We shall see…

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The Space Marines

Calth gave us space marines in Mk IV power armour, providing fans with a lot of extra variety when it comes to building their own Legion or Chapter. Now it’s the turn of the Mk III, also known as Iron Armour, to get in on the action. Now some people might be throwing up their hands and saying “Not another kit for making tactical marines?!” and fair enough there isn’t exactly a shortage of them. I can argue until I’m blue in the face about the qualities of Iron Armour, the joy of extra variety, the enriched background and appearance of GW’s posterboys, but frankly if you don’t love Space Marines with an unhealthy passion it may be hard to regard this as filling a gap in the market. Of course the standard issue Space Marine flaws are still in evidence – the weird, splay-legged half-squatting stance remains and they haven’t decided to true-scale them overnight either. Still if you love Iron Armour, and I do, then this is one to get excited about.

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I’ll admit I’m not quite at the stage of being an expert on Space Marine armour marks but there’s no denying the Mk III has a brutal, slab-faced and slightly archaic appeal that’ll work nicely for anyone wanting to model their marines ready for a Zone Mortalis or kitbash their own breachers. By my count this gives the discerning space marine general go-to boxsets for Mk III, MkIV, Mk VI (debatably the tactical marines kit) and MkVII and Mk VIII (if you count the Death Watch kit). With this in mind I’m going to take a wild stab and suggest that this time next year we might well be looking at a box full of Mk V, the wonderfully studded and weird-looking Heresy armour. Mind you I wouldn’t be averse to seeing a Unification Wars game with Mk I clad Thunder Warriors slugging it out against tech-barbarian tribesmen.

Tartaros  Terminators

Although not as immediately iconic as last year’s Cataphractii the Tartaros are still great looking models. As models they’re visually distinct from both the Cataphractii and the standard terminators in 40k and thus, if nothing else, they provide a little additional diversity to the terminator options available. After all, with Space Marines remaining the most popular army ever, a little more visual variety has merit of its own. By sharing design cues with both the Contemptor and the MkIV tactical marines the addition of the Tartaros also allows players to create an army with a strong visual theme running through it – perfect if you want your marines to stand out from the crowd.

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In comparison to the Cataphractii which were armed almost exclusively for ranged combat the kit contains enough close combat weapons – in the form of lightning claws – to kit out the whole squad, perfect if your legion of choice is one of those like the Space Wolves or World Eaters who enjoys getting up close and personal with the enemy.

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Sisters of Silence

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Now this is where things get really interesting. For most of us a new armour mark for the space marines is only so exciting, but the appearance – for the first time ever – of models for the Sisters of Silence (and the Custodes for that matter) is big news in anyone’s book. Although the models themselves have come in for a degree of – perhaps justified – criticism (why oh why inflict models with armour which could so easily prove fatal to the wearer?) after consideration I’m coming down on the side of those who love them. After all so much in 40k is impractical and as dangerous to the user as it is to their enemies that it hardly seems fair to make a fuss about this. I’m also inclined to put the blame on the studio paint scheme. Had the armour been painted as leather the question would probably never have arisen. Leather armour would also make more sense given how close to the skin its being worn – and whilst I’m sticking my neck out and criticising the ‘eavy metal painters her outstretched hand is clearly bare and not made of a solid lump of gold like some futuristic female version of Jamie Lanister. sister-of-silence

Leather would also suit a light, fast-moving warrior like the Sisters. Leave the bulky metal and ceramite to the Custodes and Astartes – these girls want to be quick and lithe and, as shown in this painting by David Hudnut, leather and cloth is the answer to that. sisters-of-silence-by-david-hudnutStrange, ornate and archaic  these are everything the elite troops of the Imperium should be, and the release of these models represents another voice tempting me away from Chaos and into the arms of the Imperium. Of course, if I did decide to tackle such an army the Sisters wouldn’t be the only models from this set to have a place in the ranks.

Custodian Guard

Step aside Grey Knights, here we have the real Imperial elite. When Abaddon’s Khorne worshipping frontrunners come bursting through the final gate and onto the steps of the Golden Throne to claim the Emperor’s skull these are the men who’ll be waiting for them.custodes

Of all the models in the Burning of Prospero box these are the ones I’ve stared at longest since GW started releasing their pictures. For a while I doubted them but time has soften me. There are flaws of course, the huge shoulder pads mean that from some angles they look a little squat, and the swords in particular are a little too big (although what kind of filthy heretic arms Custodes with swords when there are Guardian Spears to go around?). The way the shoulder pad of this model sits proud of the body also concerns me…

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… but on the other hand take a look at this shield!
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… or how about the way the powerpack is incorporated into the back of the model. custodian-3

Overall then it’s fair to say that these models have grown on me to become my favourite thing in the box – a tough choice given that I’m a huge fan of Iron Armour and Sisters of Silence alike.

GW have also released rules to allow players to field Custodes and Sisters of Silence in 40k, an interesting development as neither is an active military force in the modern Imperium. In a statement on their facebook page GW took note of this but stressed that both factions still exist, adding “… who knows, we might just see more of them in future”. Whether this is a cheeky nod to planned developments or simply an attempt to keep their options open only time will tell but with Daemonic Primarchs entering the fray the time may be approaching for the Imperium to call all of its agents to arms. Who knows, perhaps someday we may even see Sagittarus Custodian Dreadnaughts such as the one shown in this picture by Adrian Smith. Edit: And indeed Forge World have been fast off the mark – already revealing this Custodes transport.custodes-dreadnaught

On a final note it’s interesting that, although he’s not a character in the game, the shield-captain of the Custodes squad bears a striking resemblance to Constantin Valdor, the Captain General of the Custodes who took personal command of those amongst his troops who were sent to Prospero (painting by Adrian Smith again – please excuse the tiny picture of the model, I’ll replace it as soon as GW releases something better).

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Ahriman

Calth was both criticised and praised for its generic characters and, perhaps as a result, GW have taken the opposite approach here. Azhek Ahriman is one of the most important characters in the Heresy and continues to plague the Imperium ten thousand years later. Forge World have already produced models for a number of the Heresy’s most influential figures but Ahriman has the distinction of being the first to appear in plastic and what a model he is. azeck-2

For the designers the challenge must have been significant. Not only is this character well known and loved, but also one who’s appearance must reflect clearly the fact that he is a loyalist – whilst remaining clearly the same character as his 40k incarnation. azeck

At first one might question if they’ve even succeeded – after all would someone unfamiliar with the background know that this was the same man who stood on the surface of Prospero all those centuries ago? Still the clues are there, albeit subtle, in the two strips of cloth hanging over his chest, the gently curving horns behind his head and, most of all, the third-eye in the middle of his forehead. 99800102009_ahrimannew_01

Of all the models here this is the one I’m mostly likely to buy in the near future. I’ve already got my eye on using him to create a custom sorcerer lord for my Chaos collection and of course plenty of people will be converting him into a 40k version of himself (the current Ahriman model being both iconic and rather old and clunky). The adventurous might  even make a Librarian out of him (as if the Space Marines don’t have enough of those) something I’m sure Magnus the Red will find quietly amusing as he waits in the Warp for his moment to return.

Geigor Fell-Handed

If anyone was feeling the lack of another wolf lord for their space wolves then here we have the man for you. With his ornate power-armour, trophies and fetishes he’s a striking figure – enough to have any fan of the Rout excited. Indeed, in my opinion he’s up there with Krom Dragongaze as among the very best of the recent Space Wolves models. With a model just restrained enough to avoid looking silly (and no more) he’s ironically wolfy and will no doubt find a home in collections of Fenrisian warriors from both 40k and the Heresy. As mentioned above however he won’t be an easy one to convert so if you don’t want a Space Wolf in your collection you’d better find someone who does to flog him off to. Even if you do want a force of Wolves to take the fight to the Thousand Sons there’s nothing distinctly Wolf-like about the rest of this boxset so he’ll always look a bit out of place unless you dig out a few spare trophies, wolf-skulls and totems from the bits box to decorate his followers. geigor

In comparison to Ahriman Geigor is something of an every-wolf, with so little in the way of preceding background that many people assume his chances of surviving Prospero in any accompanying fiction are slightly lower than those of a red-shirted man living through a mission in Star Trek. A popular rumour doing the rounds online is that this was originally intended to be Bjorn (later to be the Fell Handed) who’s better known to 40k fans as the oldest Dreadnaught of them all. Of course this would be a wonderful piece of storytelling, revealing this iconic character prior to his incarceration in an ambulatory metal box. The only downside is that, at the time of the battle of Prospero, Bjorn was the Quite-Normal-Handed, a rank-and-file space marine with very little to mark him out as the hero he would become. Supposition has it that the developers realised this rather late in the game, hence the last minute renaming of the character as Geigor Fell-Handed instead. As yet this remains purely a hypothesis but one has to wonder in either case, why name him Fell-Handed at all? After all it’s a title so closely associated with such a famous character in the story of both 40k and the Heresy – a character who was even present for the battle featured – that reusing it was bound to cause confusion. Perhaps there’s a clever explanation waiting to be revealed but for now, his name at least remains something of an enigma.

Leman Russ

Honourable mention with this release goes to Russ himself, the Lord of Winter and War, unleashed alongside the Burning of Prospero in a clever bit of cross department co-ordination between GW and Forgeworld. With Black Library getting in on the act with The Great Wolf this is a great weekend to be a Space Wolves fan. leman-russ02To me however Russ leaves something to be desired. His lunging pose is slightly awkward, as though he’s about to fall forward, the back leg kicking up too high in a way that’s reminiscent of the running Khorne Berserkers (a kit that should have been replaced long ago, not replicated). Compare him to the other running Primarch – Angron – and you’ll see the benefit to being slightly more restrained with the placing of the legs. Likewise his sword – admittedly an iconic design – is a little too over-the-top, early 90’s for my taste. What’s the use in all those spikes and blades apart from to snag on everything he hits? Thus in contrast to the Primarchs already released which, with the exception of Corax, have been universally outstanding, Russ is a bit of a miss for me. Hopefully others disagree however as the Wolf King has been one of the most anticipated models in the Horus Heresy series and it would be a shame if fans of the Rout are as disappointed in him as I am.

Magnus the Red

Now if we’re going to talk about Russ then what better time to mention his rival Magnus? Recent revelations emerging from the recycling bins at Games Workshop HQ (alongside the good news that they’re so environmentally conscious) reveals that the Primarch of the Thousand Sons is soon to be released – not for the Horus Heresy when he walked the galaxy as a man of flesh and blood, but for his return in daemonic form in the twilight days of the Imperium.

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Magnus the Red by John Blanche (of course)

It’s certainly a dramatic development and many are insisting that this means the return of many other primarchs is now imminent. Certainly the background has it that the daemonic Primarchs have been preparing for a return to the mortal universe for some time, and some – such as Angron and Magnus – having involved themselves violently in mortal affairs since the Heresy. For me the thought of being able to include them in my armies as we surge out of the Great Eye at last and bring ruin to the Corpse-God’s Imperium is hugely exciting. However, perhaps hypocritically, I’m not all that keen on seeing the loyalist Primarchs appearing in 40k. Of course it’s exciting to imagine that they might be out there somewhere but, much like bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, that doesn’t mean I actually want them in my house. The loyalist Primarchs represent hope. Perhaps the day may come when the Lion awakes or Guilliman heals and, in the Imperium’s darkest hour, they ride out in Arthurian fashion. Until then men must suffice.

Perhaps this represents the views of a luddite clinging to the past, refusing to allow the setting to evolve beyond the moment in which I discovered it, forcing it – with unintentional irony – to stagnate into a worship of its past self. Perhaps it is simply that I am being left behind by the evolution GW envisions for its most popular creation. After all Warhammer has already made the transition from a world in which the aesthetic of the pathetic ruled, where a man with no shoes and fewer teeth took up a rusty sword to battle daemon princes and orc hordes, into a glittering universe of superhuman heroics, where gods do battle and the great unwashed are strangely absent.

The return of the loyalist Primarchs would send 40k in the same direction. The fate of the Imperium would hang less on the actions of a band of guardsmen defending a trench against the horrors of a hostile galaxy and more about two demi-gods duelling over their father’s throne.  Abaddon has launched thirteen crusades to wrest the galaxy from gene-gods and back into the hands of men and I’ve been with him every step of the way. Leave the Primarchs where they belong; in a lost mythic age. Let the Lion keep napping, leave Guilliman in state like a power-armoured Lenin – the only loyal Primarch that belongs in the modern 40k universe is Sanguinius’s golden-armoured ghost.

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So what do you think? Is this a worthy successor to Calth or will you be making your own Custodes out of Stormcasts instead? Do you think the model of Leman Russ is magnificent or are you too excited to concentrate by the thought of seeing Guilliman in 40k?  As usual the comments box is open for your thoughts so have at it.

Edit: If you just can’t get enough of reading about this new boxset I highly recommend KrautScientist’s in-depth look at the models (and of course their conversion potential).