Tag Archives: Review

Warcry

My love of Chaos is no secret. if you’re looking for someone to take up an axe and lead his barbarian tribe against the Empire of the Old World, to stand at Abaddon’s right hand as Cadia burns, or conduct dark rituals on some grim and bitter moor to conjure daemons into the Mortal Realms, then I like to think I’m the man for the job.

Likewise I’m drawn to skirmish games, to small bands of warriors packed with character and personality. Thus, if Games Workshop’s developers had reached into my head by some arcane means – and who’s to say they didn’t? – and tried to craft the perfect game based to what they found there, then the result would have been something a lot like Warcry. Given the hype that’s been generated recently it seems I’m not the only one who feels this way – indeed the concept of small groups of Chaos-loving warriors beating merry hell out of each another is starting to feel like the most obviously popular, yet previous unexplored idea, since Games Workshop invented dogs.

For those who’ve managed to avoid that overenthusiastic juggernaut that is GW’s promotional engines, Warcry is the latest of their skirmish games, the tale of small bands of Chaos worshippers drawn from all corners of Age of Sigmar’s Mortal Realms to gather at a place called the Eightpoints. Once there they attempt to inveigle themselves into Chaos overlord Archaon’s  good books through committing heinous acts of violence to each other, armed with everything from swords to whips to meat tenderizers, bones, even live snakes. Don’t try this at home kids!

Warcry

Rather than the armies of the gods which we are familiar with these are people born and raised to the cultures abandoned by Sigmar when he hid himself away in Azyr and ceded control of the Mortal Realms to Chaos at the end of the Age of Myth. Rather than the all-encompassing top-down view enjoyed by fans of the game or the blinkered fanaticism of an acolyte bound to a single god, like a blood warrior or a blight king, these are in the main just people to whom Chaos is an ever-present elemental force which must be appeased, for whom being mauled by a spawn is an occupational hazard and who cannot rely on the Stormcast Eternals to come and rescue them, but are otherwise attempting to get on with their lives. Or at least they were until, for one reason or another, Archaon called them to the Eightpoints. That’s not to say that they’re just misunderstood, that they are a top bunch of lads if you just get to know them or that they’re all nice to their mums. Indeed I think it’s fair to assume that they’re a bunch of right bastards, as evidenced by their love of gritty violence and their willingness to throw in their lot with Archaon rather than let millennia old bygones be bygones and give Sigmar another chance. In the main however these are not professional warriors – indeed much like Necromunda these are armed civilians – the man on the street in the Mortal Realms.

+++

Untamed Beasts

Walking adverts for steroid abuse and guaranteed to give every man they encounter body image issues, the Untamed Beasts hail – perhaps unsurprisingly – from the Realm of Beasts. These are your classic barbarians, caked in ’80s charm down to the last loin cloth, oiled muscle and cod-Austrian accent. They’re comfortable enough to at least indulge the trappings of civilisation with the odd metal helmet and so on but for the most part they like to keep things as primal as possible, using bones for weapons and wearing enough fur to turn a Space Wolf green with envy.

Seriously, if you can look at their leader and not hear a shredding guitar solo ringing in your head then you have no soul!

Untamed Beast 1

If you hadn’t already gathered from the above, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned, cheesy barbarian so this warband was always going to appeal to me. Nor are they solely devoted to the art of masculine power posing. Indeed the best model in the group is this dynamic young lady. Note also the tail she’s wearing (or at least we presume she’s wearing it – you know Chaos!) – a nice visual reference to the Beasts and the predatory animals with which they are intrinsically linked.

Untamed Beast 2

And who doesn’t love a part-goat part-lion?

Goat Lion

However it’s not all perfection. Part of the knack of pulling off over the top cheese is not taking it so far that it ends up looking like a pastiche of itself. Making the weapons of some of these warriors a little smaller (something I’m told happens as a side effect of taking steroids anyway…) would have made a big difference. Take a look at this chap for example and see if you agree that the huge bone in their hand (chortle chortle) throws out the proportions of the whole model.

Untamed Beast 4

Another offender is the First Fang. Overall there’s a lot to like here but his pose makes him look awkward and undecided, as though he’s torn between throwing his spear and hitting someone with his axe. I suspect that the intention was to have his sweeping someone aside with the axe, blocking a low blow perhaps or knowing their feet from under them whilst the spear jabs in to make the kill, but it doesn’t quite come across. Personally I’d have preferred to see the axe strapped to his back whilst he goes all in with impaling someone on that spear.

Untamed Beast

These are minor gripes though, things that I’ll either kitbash my way around or learn to live with. They may not be my favourite warband but they still look like they’ll be a lot of fun to paint and frankly it would be a sin not to be listening to Manowar whilst I’m about it!

Iron Golem

Speaking of heavy metal the Untamed Beasts share the Warcry starter set with the Iron Golem, a group of blacksmiths from the Realm of Metal. As someone who enjoys painting bare flesh and battered iron and who’s been feeling the itch to paint some more Goliath gangers lately, these are pretty much perfect for me. They don’t look particularly subtle but who needs cunning when blunt force trauma will do?

Iron Golem

You could see these as being somewhat simplistic, there’s no cloth, nothing soft, no blades or sharp edges, just heavy armour and heavier hammers, the very epitome of Warhammer. It’s a straightforward concept but it’s kept interesting by the style with which it is pulled off and the variety of models to which it is applied. Whilst traditionally such thuggish brutality would have been exclusively the domain of the male, the Golems continue the diversity demonstrated by the Beasts, including amongst the ranks what I can only describe as iron maidens.

Iron Maiden

As though the humans weren’t enough to emphasise their raw power and aggression of this warband they’ve also recruited an ogre (I still refuse to write Ogor) who looks more than capable of taking on anything life throws at them all by himself. We seem to be having a good run of Chaos Ogres at the moment, and I’m already wondering about getting my hands on a second one to turn into a Goliath ‘zerker. Many people have asked how he eats without the use of his hands, which is a fair question although I suspect that the answer is implied by the horrifying, lamprey-like aperture in the front of his helmet. After all it only takes a quick glance at him to confirm that he hasn’t been missing many meals.

Ogre Dammit

Of course if you’re going to have an ogre, why stop there? Who better to join up with a band of craftsmen and metal workers than a dwarf? Fans have been muttering about the absence of Chaos Dwarves for many a year and so it’s nice to see that they’re still around in the Mortal Realms. (I must admit I thought their next official appearance would be for Blood Bowl – I’m sure a team will be along sooner or later). Like the Squats that have been popping up in Necromunda, skirmish games like this are a golden opportunity to keep these concepts current, even if they don’t have an army of their own in the main games at the moment. The dwarf himself obviously feels glad to have been included – rarely has a worshipper of the dark gods looked so delighted!

Iron Dwarf

Cypher Lords

Whilst the Iron Golem may be cloth-phobic and brutally simple, and the Untamed Beasts wild and, well, bestial, the Cypher Lords sit at the other end of the spectrum; civilised, subtle, some might even say downright sneaky. There’s something unearthly about these denizens of the Realm of Light and with their masks and crests many people have suggested something Tzeentchian about them. Personally I’d go so far as to say these are everything that the Kairic Acolytes should have been – I wonder how they’d look wearing those wonderful masks, far and away the best thing about the Kairics? That said there is something rather Slaaneshi about them too, a product of the dancing poses and air of sophistication.

Cypher Lord 2

I’ll admit I’m still in two minds about these. When I first saw them I loved them but the more I looked the more uncertain I became. However the past couple of weeks, and particularly looking at them again as I write this review, has reignited some of my enthusiasm. Part of a problem is their top heavy appearance, a side effect of those wonderfully ornate helmets combined with their trailing hair-do’s. I did consider whether building them without the hair would improve matters but I’ll wait to pass judgement until I’ve explored that option further. That said, I really love those sinister helms and beautiful crests, so my fall to the embrace of madness is surely assured.

Cypher Lord 3

These models are very much defined by their grace, leaping and lunging more like dancers than fighters, and a world away from the straightforward brutality encapsulated by the Iron Golem. With many of us starting our path to darkness in the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy, or amongst the hulking power-armoured marines of Warhammer 40k, our mental image of Chaos is often tied up with muscular barbarians in heavy armour, bludgeoning their way to daemonhood. It’s exciting to get a fresh look at Chaos, and once again explore the creative options opened up by the Mortal Realms. After all, why shouldn’t a servant of the Dark Gods be light on their feet?

Cypher Lord 1

Of course even whilst I took the time to make up my mind about the rank and file of the warband the leader grabbed me from the start. It hardly needs to be said that this Thrallmaster is the epitome of style and a truly outstanding miniature, or at least it will be once I snip off that silly looking smoke effect!

Cypher Lord

In their stylish costume, and with a third arm hidden beneath their robes, one could even convert them into a Locus for a Genestealer Cult that’s infiltrating the very highest echelons of Imperial society.

Splintered Fang

So I there was, sitting on the hillside, eating my sandwich and about to start writing about the Splintered Fang when along came this awesome little dude, sliding right past my boots. It’s a sign I tell ye!

Adder

As it turns out it was a sign that I should really take a second look at the Splintered Fang before giving them the slagging I intended to. The fact is they’re actually quite a nice-looking gang, let down by their leader, the Trueblood. The gladiatorial rank-and-file in their scaled armour are excellent models. Like the Cypher Lords there’s nothing overtly chaotic here, file off the odd blasphemous symbol and these would fit in nicely amongst the loyal Cities of Sigmar, indeed these are closer to my mental image of what the common man of the Realms might look like than the old citizenry of the Empire.

Splintered Fang 1

Continuing at the racially inclusive trend started in the box set they’ve even managed to recruit an elf.

Splintered Elf

Furthermore, as denizens of the Realm of Life, they can bring along a bunch of snakes, reminiscent of the old jungle swarms that used to accompany the Lizardmen.

Snakes Alive

Indeed, despite my initial uncertainty about this warband, the more closely I look at them, and the more I get over the Trueblood and the Serpent Caller and turn my attention to the rest of their colleagues, the more I grow to like them. Indeed, leaving aside those two, the rest of the gang may be amongst my favourites of the whole range.

Splintered Fang

The Serpent Caller however is, in my opinion, simultaneously the best and worst model in the warband. On the one hand the dynamic pose is pulled off in style, the fanged mask beneath the hood is wonderfully sinister and there’s a nice sense of danger and motion. On the other hand I feel like he’s about to hit the floor face first after getting tangled up in all those snakes  whilst the dart in his hand appears to be being flicked away to the side with no suggestion that it might actually hurt anyone, apart from possibly one of the poor snakes. For these reasons I want to dislike it but it’s still a charming model with a lot of appealing qualities, and I suspect once I learn to stop taking it seriously I’ll grow to like it.

Hello I'd Like To Speak To A Serpent

The Trueblood on the other hand is another matter. There are so many other poses that could have been used here to greater effect; casting the net, stabbing with the trident, posing ominously. Instead they’re neither one thing nor the other, stepping forward whilst wafting the net to the side in a manner that leaves them looking awkward and ineffectual. It’s not a terrible pose but it’s a long way from being the powerful, attention capturing stance one expects from a leader. Something with a bit more punch would have made a world of difference. Whether anything can be done about it remains to be seen, without pictures of the sprue available online – we’ll have to wait and see what can be done once I have the model in front of me.

Trueblood 2

That said, when viewed from the side the model has a lot more power, and the tail is a nice touch. There may be hope for it yet!

Trueblood

Corvus Cabal

I’ve mentioned dynamic poses a few times in this review so let’s turn our attention to the gold standard, the warband that consistently gets that (and pretty much everything else) right. Hailing from the realm of Shadows this crow loving tribe are strong contenders to be my favourite of the six warbands we’ve seen so far.

Far more so than the Splintered Fang or the Untamed Beasts they wear their totem animal on their metaphorical sleeves. The crow theme is stamped across all of the models in the warband down to the lowliest Cabalist and the result is a strikingly cohesive, yet wonderfully diverse and original, group of characters.

Corvus Cabal

The dynamic poses are pulled off with universal aplomb, there are loads of details for a painter to get their teeth into and every last one feels like a unique character. Meanwhile the prize for the most spectacularly creative model in the entire war cry range has to go to the wonderful Shrike Talon. Channelling all of the weirdness that’s made the Inq28 scene great, and bound to be the basis of some gloriously strange conversions, this birdman is proof positive that GW are at the top of their game when it comes to creativity. Speaking of crazy conversions I’m very curious to see if I can kitbash these with some Space Marines to create a suitably strange Raven Guard squad. Watch this space!

Corvus Cabal 2

Overall then these are the best of the bunch for me although there is one other warband left to discuss and they’re so mad  that they almost snatched the Cabal’s crown.

The Unmade

What does one do when all of one’s learning and sophistication has come to naught and a hoard of the undead is kicking down the door? Why cut off your own face and swear yourself to the Dark Gods of course! Bringing a whole new meaning to the expression “where will I put my face” it’s the grimmest of the bunch, the hideous masters of body-horror that are the Unmade.

Unmade 1

You could be mistaken at times for thinking that life amongst the Slaves to Darkness might not be so bad. Everyone is welcome regardless of race or gender, there is little sign of hideous mutation or daemon worship here and if you’re lucky you even get a pet. What’s not to like? Luckily the Unmade are here to set the record straight chopping off their own appendages and replacing them with instruments of torture.

Torment and cruelty are the order of the day here – just look at this flail for instance and imagine the fate of someone unfortunate enough to be snagged by it.

Awakened One Flail

Unlike some of the other warbands which star all kinds of characters the Unmade are actually quite uniform, although the rank and file are still a long way from being faceless drones (boom boom). However the real star of the show has to be the terrifying scarecrow like figure of the Blissful One. One almost suspect that this figure was approved simply to put to bed once and for all the claims that GW had dumbed down and become family friendly.

Blissful One

Of course that’s still not all. The starter box set also contains a selection of chaotic beasts; the weird looking but oddly endearing Raptoryx…

Chaos Duck 2

… And a reimagined version of the old furies.

Fury

In the latter case this was something desperately overdue, these unaligned chaos daemons being amongst the oldest and least attractive models in GWs entire catalogue.

Ugly Old Furies

What’s more the box also comes with a range of handy train perfect for recreating the three-dimensional environments in which the warbands battle it out. Here we see the ruins of an ancient civilisation long eroded by time and war and now build over by barbaric newcomers.

Warcry City

Amongst the details of these ruins we see a fallen statue of Sigmar and this skeleton which appears to have been queuing for the toilet for quite some time…

Warcry Scenery

Looking at the selection of terrain in the box one wonders if Necromunda had any influence here. When the new edition of the classic game was released many people moaned about the lack of terrain in the box set. Personally I felt that including enough terrain for a game of Necromunda would have made the box too heavy to lift and too expensive to buy, that the terrain of yesteryear which so many people praised may not have been quite as perfect as nostalgia suggests and that the use of tiles was an elegant solution, but the carping was certainly pervasive. Warcry meanwhile follows in the footsteps of Kill Team with a smaller footprint and enough terrain to create a densely packed, immersive environment. Of course I’m still miles behind with my Necromunda terrain collection let alone adding anything else…

+++

So there we have it, plenty for us fans of the Dark Gods to get our claws into regardless of which faction takes our fancy. Much like Necromunda and Blood Bowl I can easily see myself trying out all of these in time – part of the joy of skirmish games for me being that each faction is relatively inexpensive, I’d never have the time or money to apply such a broad brush interest to one of the main games for instance.

Those who refuse to bow before the True Gods can always indulge their craven weakness with one of the other available factions, with everything from Stormcast Eternals to Gloomspite Gits (on a quest to collect glass bottles – I kid you not!) having rules for the game. Indeed I may well take the excuse to paint up a few warbands for these other factions just for the fun of it, regardless of whether I ever actually play the game.

Speaking of playing though, I tend to avoid mentioning the rules in these reviews – I rarely if ever play, preferring to focus on painting, and my rules insights are likely to be less than engaging. However from what I’ve seen so far this does look like a lot of fun, and fairly straightforward to get the hang of, so I may well give it a bash in the near future.

Meanwhile GW have been keen to remind us that this isn’t intended as a flash in the pan, but that plenty more lies ahead for the game. What that might be remains to be seen, although we do know that there are two more Chaos warbands which we’re yet to see revealed. The Scions of the Flame originate from the Realm of Fire and like to catch and eat fire elementals to prove their strength – much like some lads on a night out encountering a particularly vicious vindaloo. They worship Chaos as the Ever-Raging Flame which they believe will someday consume all life, with a little encouragement of course. Turns out some men really do want to watch the world burn!

Having seen warbands from seven of the eight realms I must admit I assumed that the final set, the Spire Tyrants, would be coming from Azyr itself, as hints have been dropped in the background fiction that even amongst Sigmar’s great bastion a few scurrilous rogues have hidden away, plotting the downfall of the God King and the final victory of the Dark Gods. The Tyrants however turn out to be natives of the Eightpoints, champions of the arenas and fighting pits of the Varanspire who have cut their way to freedom and now seek even greater excesses of violence and glory by joining Archaon’s elite. Angron would be so proud!

As for what comes next your guess is as good as mine, although personally I’d love to someday see a Destruction themed spin off. Rather than questing all the way to the Eightpoints it could instead features tribes of Orcs, Gobbos and Orgres knocking seven-shades out of one another down their local cave.

Having got this far I’ll confess that I mostly started writing this whilst waiting for my copy of the boxset to arrive and, having watched the poor postman struggle to the door with it, I’m off to delve into it properly. As usual though I’m interested to hear any thoughts or comments you may have. Will you be starting a warband of your own, and if so which has you tempted? Have you, or a loved one, ever been called to the Varanspire for a life of unremitting violence, or been affected by any of the other issues discussed in this blog? If so, the comments box is as ever, the place to speak your mind.

Advertisements

An Age of Chaos

It’s a fine time to be a heretic. After many fallow years the forces of Chaos are back, and in a big way. First the Thousand Sons came marching back onto the galactic stage, accompanied by our first ever plastic daemon primarch, then the Death Guard joined them (with an even bigger selection of miniatures, and another daemon primarch). Now it’s the turn of the broader sweep of Chaos’ mortal followers, those who have not dedicated themselves utterly to a single god, who have broken from the legions of old or who have turned from the service of the Imperium more recently, and of course the dreaded Black Legion themselves. For an avowed heretic like myself this is a moment to celebrate so indulge me as I take a look back over the past several weeks of releases and enthuse rabidly about my plans to raise a force sufficient to bring the realm of the Corpse-Emperor to its knees once and for all!

Those who’ve read these editorials before (and come back for more? Surely you’re a glutton for punishment!) will know that I do tend to ramble on. Chances are this one will prove to be especially lengthy, covering as it does several weeks worth of releases – including the Shadowspear box – almost worthy of a review in its own right – various WIPs as I test out ideas, a great deal of fanboyish enthusing over my favourite 40k faction (don’t tell the orks!) and (because this is the internet after all) just a little bit of self indulgent moaning. Anyway if you think reading this post is going to take you a while you should try fighting the Long War!

Shadowspear 1

Everything kicked off a few weeks ago with the release of the Shadowspear boxset. This may sound like something the Eldar would use but there are no perfidious xenos here, just power armoured warriors; the servants of the gods and the weaklings who oppose them. On the grounds that reality is for those who can’t handle chaos I’ll be concentrating on the real heroes of this set, although I will grudgingly acknowledge that it also contains a load of filthy loyalist scum, (the less said about them the better!) That said I am harbouring a scheme to convert the stealthy Space Marines of the Ultramarines 2nd Company Vanguard into Alpha Legion and thus ring even more Chaos Marines out of the set. Blame all those years spent sticking spikes onto loyalist space marines because it was the only way to add models to my army – it turns out the habit, once developed, is hard to kick!

Master of Possession

Taking charge of the baddies in the Shadowspear box we have the Master of Possession. Essentially this is a specialist sorcerer who has focussed his powers on binding daemonic entities to living flesh. Indeed they could easily have released it as just a new sorcerer model and no-one would have been any the wiser.

As the warlord heading up the box set – and the only Chaos character in shadowspear – this one had to make an impact. The design pulls out all the stops – indeed to my eye it pulls out too many stops. Let’s start with the good; the skull helm with it curly rams’ horns is pretty much perfection, the staff is also brilliantly executed and the flying pose, which could so easily have looked silly, is pulled off in style. Overall the model is deliciously over-the-top and heavy metal (with an “h”!)

Master of Possession

However I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Master of Possession to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great model but the level of detail is so high the eye is almost overwhelmed (and this is coming from someone who thought the detail on the Death Guard was about right). The model is already flying and equipped with a number of sorcerous accoutrements – including the very eye-catching staff – so to my mind he really doesn’t need for burning skulls as well. What’s worse is that these skulls serve to distract the eye from the otherwise perfectly composed piece and particularly from the fearsome helm. For all their skill and experience GW’s designers do at times seem to forget that less can be more (something we’ll return to when I get on to talking about the Dark Apostle). In this case I decided to do without the burning skulls, although despite my general aversion to sculpted flames I might yet make use of them on a different model. He still needs a little greenstuff and general tidying up but here’s a look at my toned down version so far.

Master of Possession WIP (1)Master of Possession WIP (2)

Greater Possessed

As mentioned above the Master of Possessions isn’t the guy charged with looking after the Chaos Lord’s property but instead is dedicated to manifesting demons in mortal flesh (or as Slaves to Darkness put it “possession is nine tenths of the lore”).  Possession by daemons has always been a shortcut by which those without the moral fibre or work ethic to slaughter their way to ascension honestly can still achieve a modicum of power, or as a means of transforming loyalist space marine prisoners into vicious shock troops. Sometimes however the possessed individual is powerful enough in their own right to attract the attention of a daemonic herald and the result is a Greater Possessed, a fearsome warrior respected by mortal troops and never born alike.

The shadowspear box contains two of these new monstrosities. Rather than tackle the infinite variety of possible possessed they instead decided to create two exemplars. Apparently during the design process they were known as “slimy wet guy” and “bony dry guy” – no prizes for guessing which is which! Top marks to the creators of these models however for managing to conjure such different textures whilst still keeping them looking consistent and matching as a pair.

Greater Possessed 2Greater Possessed 1

These won’t be the easiest things to convert and, although you may find yourself wondering if I’ve had a personality transplant, in my opinion that’s not a bad thing. Truthfully although it may be fun to raid the Possessed kit for parts too much compatibility did it no favours and the streamlined new Greater Possessed have really put their lesser cousins in the shade. Like the Wrathmongers and the (now retired) Chaos Forsaken the Possessed tend to sprawl into an ill-defined morass of useful bits but which struggles to produce a single cohesive model let alone a squad. Hopefully when they do redo it they follow a similar path to that employed with the Greater Possessed, much as I enjoy an infinitely poseable multi-part kit pulling it off with something like the Possessed may well be beyond the skills of even designers of GW’s calibre.

Venomcrawler

Skittering in alongside the Greater Possessed we have another newcomer to the range, the deliciously creepy Venoncrawler. This mechanical arachnid joins the ever growing ranks of the daemon engines, and once again it’s absolutely outstanding. It looks fast, lithe and supremely deadly and even for a fan of spiders like myself there’s something nightmare inducing about the thought of it scurrying through a war torn hive city in search of prey.

Venomcrawler 1

Now it’s true that spiders come in for a bit of a rough press and vast numbers of these harmless and helpful animals are unthinkingly killed as a result of people’s irrational phobias (depending on where you are in the world of course. Readers in Australia are probably looking askance at me right now, or they would be if they had time to read blogs and weren’t busy defending the barricades against a rising tide of ravenous arachnids). Part of me therefore wants to criticise GW for perpetrating this harmful myth and demand that if they want to try and frighten us they should base their models on things that are genuinely scary like climate change, economic recession or a Tory MP. That however would be unnecessarily po-faced and would do a disservice to a wonderfully creepy looking model. The face alone is the stuff of nightmares and the background fiction ups the ante even further by describing it hunting down and devouring daemons which escape the forges – when it comes to being frightening anything which sees daemons simply as prey is going to be hard to beat!

Venomcrawler 2

Often, as a Chaos fan, one find’s oneself sounding rather like an escapee from Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen. I fondly recall the release of the Defiler and the exciting realisation that Chaos vehicles could be something other than loyalist tanks with spikes stuck to the outside (at which point someone should chime in “Tanks with spikes – you were lucky! In my day we were still making tanks out of cereal packets and plans from White Dwarf!” “White Dwarf! You were lucky!” etc etc).

Daemon engines used to be rather thin on the ground, especially outside of Forgeworld. Picture if you will a younger me (looking like a Dickensian urchin) dreaming of plastic Juggernaughts or even a kit for a Chaos Dreadnaught that wasn’t three-quarters of a ton of lead. Understandably, as these kits have started to emerge, it’s been something of a drip-feed so to begin with everything looked rather disparate. We had the crab-like, industrial construct of the Defiler; the bulky, bullish Maulerfiend; the spikey, draconic Heldrake; the fleshy Helbrute – and although all were excellent, and the result was suitably chaotic, until the variety reached a certain, critical mass their shared characteristics were outweighed by those that made them different. Luckily that point now feels as though it has been passed, especially with the inclusion of the various Death Guard beasties and the Lord Discordant’s Helstalker (more on them below).

Obliterators

We live in an age in which much which once seemed impossible or miraculous is now commonplace. Humans have walked on the airless surface of the moon and explored the lightless ocean depths. Armed with nothing more than a normal household computer I am able to write blogs which can then be read by strangers on the other side of the world, in countries I might never visit – but which I could with only a moderate amount of effort, rather than needing to spend months at sea struck down with scurvy. In such an age of wonders however one stands out above the rest; GW have finally managed to create Obliterators which look good. For as long as I can remember these monsters have been represented by ghastly, poorly sculpted lumps with Swiss army knives for hands and nothing at all to recommend them. Saddled with such terrible models it’s no wonder that so many chaos fans have degenerated into bitter, hate-filled heretics.

Now however that cruel era is over and our loyalty (or should that be disloyalty) down those long and pitiless years has been rewarded with a brace of these fearsome mutants.

Obliterators 1

For those who somehow missed the outgoing models, managed to blot out the memory or even started complaining about the Chaos release “going on too long” and eating up valuable time in the GW schedule that could otherwise be devoted to Stormcast Eternals, here’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.

God Awful Old Obliterator

Putting that horror behind us and returning to the new models, a view from behind shows just how wonderfully far they’ve been willing to push the body horror, although it also reveals their only real flaw – that from the back they look a little like a fat man squeezing into a pair of shots far too small for him, an image which – once conjured – is hard to shake.

Obliterators 2

That little bit of silliness aside there’s a lot to enjoy here. The new Obliterators share a lot of visual elements with the Helbrute, jagged armour panels emerging from bloated muscle and bruised, tormented flesh, whilst the head is recessed within a fanged maw, all of which brings a pleasing visual consistency to the range. There’s even a mirroring of poses between one of the Shadowspear Obliterators and the Dark Vengeance Helbrute – both have the gun arm thrust forward aggressively and the claw hand upraised, whilst the left foot is propped on a rock. Some things never go out of style I suppose!

Helbrute vs Obliterator

Of course this leaves the Obliterators’ twin kit, the Mutilators, looking even more neglected but there was always going to be a limit to how much GW could do for Chaos in one go. In theory I’m sure it’s possible to convert the new Obliterators into Mutilators the amount of large, sculpted in details means this isn’t for the faint hearted. It seems like a logical progression to assume that, since the Death Guard and Thousand Sons have brought us Nurgle and Tzeentch themed Chaos Marines in recent years, a Khorne focused World Eaters release might not be too far distant – at which point the close-combat focused Mutilators might be the lucky recipients of a new kit of their own. Or, of course, that might be nothing more than wishful thinking, and we’ll be stuck with this for a few decades more…

Mutilator

Chaos Marines

As well as all these bigger beasts Shadowspear also contains a squad of Chaos space marines, and in the weeks since they’ve been bolstered further by a whole new kit. Fans of Chaos Marines have been waiting (I cannot in all conscience pretend we’ve been doing so patiently) for new models for many years now. As the years and editions have passed the loyalists have come to look better and better whilst our poor traitors have wallowed in the ugly lumpen doldrums. At last of the dark gods have rewarded us and as a long-serving heretic, I’m thrilled!

Chaos Marine 2

Like the plague marines released with the Death Guard each of these is a real character in their own right, as befits a fallen hero of the Imperium with ten millennia of villainy under his belt!

Chaos Marine 3

The rank-and-file are head and shoulders above their predecessors (both literally and figuratively) whilst the champion from Shadowspear outshines even some of the special characters of yesteryear.

Chaos Marine 1

There is a plainness to these models with little sign of the rampant mutation found in some of the chaos ranges. It’s a good move on the part of the designers, resulting in a very different texture to the models when compared to the slimy organic surfaces of the Death Guard. Plus it makes them perfect for more austere legions like the Iron Warriors, whilst all Chaos fans know that it’s easier to add mutations than it is to take them away.

I’ve already managed to paint one of my own and although I’ve already shown him here I couldn’t miss the opportunity to show him off again.

Chaos Space Marine Wudugast (5)

In terms of size these compare closely to the Rubric and Plague Marines (and we all love a good size comparison photo!)

Chaos Size Comp ConvertOrDie Wudugast 2

Better yet they tower over the old Chaos Marines, who stood no taller than an unarmoured guardsman.

Chaos Comparison

They are however just a little bit smaller than the Primaris Marines. This is a pity, despite all of the background about Primaris being bigger and better than the standard marines, a lot of us hoped that the new chaos marines would match them for size a little more closely. Thus my first thought when I saw them was to curse them; they had one chance to fix their screw up and rather than commit they fluffed it. However they are certainly a big improvement on the midget marines of yesteryear and the more I look at them the more my eye becomes used to them. Ultimately although an extra millimetre here and there might have been nice it’s really a case of splitting hairs and not worth getting agitated over (for me at least).

Chaos Marine WIP 3

Whilst not quite the blank canvas that we saw with the Primaris Marines there’s still plenty of room to kitbash these to create unique warriors or tie them into your own preferred legion or warband. Those who feel they can suffer another moment with the ugly old Khorne Berserkers kit for instance could do well mixing these with AoS Khorne parts whilst Death Guard fans who found the plague marines too mutated for their tastes might prefer hybridizing them with these to create something a little more toned down. For myself I’m inclined to try them out to kitbash some better raptors and warp talons.

I’ve had a bit of a mixed relationship with the raptors and warp talons. Like many people my age I emerged from university blinking into the harsh light of the 2008 recession, with jobs as scarce as unicorn shit and my hard won degree nothing more than fancy paper. Fast forward a few years, and another round in academia, and my first proper wage cheque was burning a hole in my pocket just as the new raptors kit was released. Bursting with excitement at my new-found fiscal stability and the first opportunity to treat myself since my student days I naturally rushed out and bought it. In the years since however I’ve never actually managed to finish painting a single one. Alongside the Dark Vengeance chosen these are the granddaddy’s of the modern plastic chaos marines, yet to my critical eye they haven’t aged that well. Their proportions are all over the place and rather than soaring dynamically through the air they appear to be engaged in an enthusiastic jig. Would it be possible, I found myself wondering, to kitbash something better using the new chaos marines? Well, here’s my first attempt and overall I’m pretty happy with him.

Warptalon WIP (1)Warptalon WIP (2)Warptalon WIP (3)

Based on this success I’m very tempted to make a whole squad, so as every any comments or feedback is greatly appreciated.

As I’ve noted above, although there has been no official announcement from GW it seems like a safe bet that sooner or later the World Eater’s and Emperor’s Children will be similarly blessed with new models. One thing that seems unlikely to appear however is another new incarnation of Kharn the Betrayer who received a new model just a couple of years ago. Unfortunately I’m no fan of it, the whole model looks awkward and ungainly and I much prefer the old version. I did fear that my old metal Kharne would by now be suffering from SAM syndrome (Short Angry Man) but to my surprise he’s not actually that bad. That said I am tempted by the idea of making my own version using parts from the new chaos Marines kit (the Shadowspear champion – pictured above – practically is Kharn, he just needs a different head, although I’m sure I could come up with something more interesting and challenging with a little time to drum up the bits).

Khaaarn 40k

Havocs

Alongside the new chaos marines we have their heavy-weapon toting brothers, the Havocs. These are the Chaos equivalent of the loyalist Devastators, space marines with big guns who’s main joy in life is to rain down destruction from afar.As you’d expect these are similar to the standard chaos marines, and generally cross compatible, but a little more tech-ed out. They’re more heavily set than their colleagues too, and their braced poses match the weight and heft of the big guns.

Cry Havoc

The chaos marines may have had a plastic kit that was well past its sell-by date but the havocs didn’t even have that, relying instead on an old upgrade set. As a result I never had a squad of these heavy in my old army, even converted, so I’m very intrigued to get to work building them now.

The squad leader comes with an optional bare head, although to my eye this marks him out too much and makes him look like he belongs to a different squad, so I’ll most likely be using the helmeted variant instead.

Havoc

A rather nice touch however is the similarity between the face of the havoc leader and those of Obsidius Mallex from Blackstone Fortress and Abaddon himself. In the Horus Heresy novels it’s noted that many of Horus’s legion, the Sons of Horus (many of who went on to join the Black Legion after the Sons of Horus were essentially driven extinct by the vicious fighting of the post-Heresy Legion Wars) shared Horus’s facial features, and as a result were known as “true sons”. Abaddon was even rumoured to be a clone son of Horus. Thus the decision to give each of them a similar facial structure helps to reinforce this familial effect, as well as being a nice nod to the background.

Sons of Horus

From left to right; Horus (the Dead Warmaster), Abaddon (the Successful Warmaster), Havoc Champion (Big Man With A Gun) and Obsidious Mallex (bothering adventurers down the local Blackstone Fortress).

The squad leader notwithstanding there’s really only two poses in the Havoc kit however, so any variety of appearance is provided by the different guns and details such as the torso fronts. The result is a duplication of profiles  which aesthetically just doesn’t look quite right to me. The compatibility between these and the chaos marines however should give plenty of room to manoeuvre.

Havoc CSM comp

Another thing I’ll have to do something about is the way this one stands with his arm sticking out awkwardly. What’s meant to be happening here? Luckily there’s an alternative way of building the model with a less inelegant pose otherwise some cutting and adjusting to remedy the situation would be vital!

Havoc 2

Noctilith Crown

It’s becoming standard practice at the moment for every major GW release to include a piece of terrain, something I can only applaud. As a result gaming tables the world over become more interesting and hopefully we can leave the flat, tedious landscapes of the past firmly behind us. Thus it didn’t require the predictive skills of Nostradamus to guess that we’d see something of this nature but it was always going to be interesting to find out what.

When it comes to producing terrain the challenge is coming up with enough of the stuff without it being either painfully generic (the galaxy is full of hills and rocks, and sure enough everyone fights over them but who cares?) or so specialised that only a minority will be interested (I’d love to see a Dark Eldar themed city but as I don’t collect Dark Eldar I wouldn’t be buying any of it). Plus terrain is big, expensive, takes up space, is often seen as intimidating to paint, is hard to transport – the list goes on. The solution has been to create a selection of fairly generic terrain, in the case of 40k a war torn Imperial city (which – as a major plus – is also perfect for Necromunda) and then add in kits which tie in to certain races for a little extra flavour. However whilst troops can march and vehicles drive to reach a warzone hardly anyone hauls buildings with them wherever they go (the Tau being the obvious exception with their floating bastions). Therefore anything which isn’t an everyday part of an Imperial city has to have a good explanation for being there – the Eldar webway gate for instance has just “decloaked” having lurked invisibly all alone, the mek-shop has been cobbled together by industrious grots, whilst  feculent gnarlmaw has sprung up with unnatural vigour straight from Nurgle’s garden.

Noctilith Crown

In this regard chaos has almost total free rein. Anything goes because anything can be explained as having been twisted, summoned or spat out by the warp. Given such potential the Noctilith Crown is surprisingly restrained. That shouldn’t be too surprising however, the same has been true throughout this release wave. Compared to the heavily mutated Death Guard who won’t get out of bed in the morning if they don’t have a mouth for a stomach these Chaos Marines are quite austere and the same is true of their building. This is no bad thing in my view, too much mutation could have ended up looking a little over the top or weird for the sake of it – always a potential challenge with Chaos and hard to fix on very large kits (look no further than the mulalith vortex beast for an example of how wrong things can go). Plus this isn’t so overtly chaotic that it would necessarily stand out to the locals, at least not to the same degree that it would if it was covered in eyes and mouths or kept grabbing people with its tentacles. On a backwater Imperial planet it could easily be just another strange old ruin in the wasteland, avoided by superstitious locals but no cause for alarm – at least until its builders turn up to reclaim it or the Inquisition arrive and start asking questions.

Noctilith Crown 2

Despite this lack of warp touched gribblyness the piece still looks immediately Chaotic (the huge chaos star certainly helps with that!) and avoids too many obvious aesthetic choices. It’s worth drawing a comparison here with the Skull Altar recently released for Age of Sigmar.

Skull Altar

Unlike the Noctilith Crown I found the Skull Altar to be a bit dull and workmanlike. It’s not bad by any means but it’s certainly predictable. The Noctilith Crown on the other hand manages to put its own spin on things and that, combined with a masterful use of negative space to create a large piece without forming a solid wall on the gaming table, or quite such a large hole in the wallet as might otherwise have been, must be commended.

Abaddon

Each of the traitor legions released so far has been headed up by a daemon primarch and it seems safe to assume that the trend will continue. Likewise the daemonic choirs each have a monstrous greater daemon, ranging from the corpulent great unclean one to the sinister new keeper of secrets. The rest of us don’t have quite such a big monster to call upon to lead our chaos hordes. Instead we’ve got Abaddon, a miniature who needed to convey an impact and authority at least the equal of Magnus and Mortarion, but making use of a considerably smaller canvas. This isn’t to say Abaddon isn’t a bit of a beast, he’s still a big lad in comparison to chaos lords and terminators but he doesn’t come into the same weight category as his peers. Nevertheless he packs a real visual punch.

Abaddon 2

They could have done so much more here, and thank god they didn’t! They could have had him wondering or leaping into battle, throwing himself through the air or trailing great clouds of semi-sentient fumes, all of which would have served to reduce his impact. Whatever the Daemon Primarchs may like to tell themselves Abaddon remains the big daddy in the chaos ranks and Horus’s true successor. He’s also one of my all time favourite characters from the 41st millennium. In many ways I was dreading seeing them make a mess of him as much as I was looking forward to him. Having already seen the Master of Possession I feared that they might decide to overdo things here so it was with a great feeling of relief that I saw the finished piece and discovered that, with admirable restraint, they had avoided using any gimmicks – and the result is pretty close to perfect.

He comes with a choice of heads (Angry Abaddon, Sneering Abaddon and Gas-Mask Abaddon – for those moments he has no choice but to stand in the same room as Mortarion) and can also be built without his cloak – although personally I’m not sure why you’d want to.

Abaddon 1

This feels very much like Abaddon as he might have been first time around, if only the technology had been available then. At the end of the day if I didn’t have a chaos army already I would want to start one just to have him lead it. Model of the year? Undoubtedly! Go on GW prove me wrong!

Dark Apostle

Nothing is perfect (except Fulgrim) and this wave of Chaos is no exception. After seeing so much quality emerge from the GW vaults it was inevitable that at least something would disappoint and, sadly for the sons of Lorgar, it’s the Dark Apostle. Just as Abaddon displayed a degree of restraint, improving on the predecessor only when they needed to, the Dark Apostle seems determined to turn everything up to eleven with a result that’s more jarring than impactful.

Dark Apostle 1

Part of the problem is that the outgoing Apostle was pretty much spot on, albeit cursed by an extremely small stature that made him out of scale with the rest of the range even when he was newly released.

Old Apostle 1

Simply taking that model and scaling him up would have more than sufficed. Instead the wonderful halo which topped the old version has been replaced by a candelabra, the striking “preaching” pose has become an awkward “jabbing whilst waving a book” and the spiky head of the crozius has been toned down, the one thing that should probably have been toned-up. The streamers of parchment, surely a feature easier to reproduce in plastic than in resin, have been reduced and – at the back, where they previously formed a unique cape – been replaced by a normal, tatty cloak.

Dark Apostle 2

Then there’s the book. Did the designer not know when to stop? It’s drooling (presumably noxious) fluids, whilst at the same time blazing with unnatural fire – surely a librarians worst nightmare. Either would have been a bit over-the-top for my taste, both is just ridiculous. It’s not an irredeemable model mind you and with certain art of cutting and kitbashing I reckon I can make something of it, but straight out of the box it leaves a lot to be desired.

Dark Disciples

The redeeming element however is the two willing sacrifices known as the dark disciples. This grubby duo you wouldn’t look out of place in any Inq28 collection and indeed will undoubtedly prove to be grist for that particular mill – looking at them only makes me realise what could have been if only GW had seen fit to furnish us with a proper kit for new cultists (more on that particular rant later!)

Terminators

Speaking of taking pre-existing models and scaling them up that’s exactly what happened with the terminators. From a reviewers point of view of course this doesn’t leave a whole lot to add. If you liked the old terminators then here they are again, just bigger, meaner and more imposing. There are a few tweaks to nod to modern miniature design but no major changes to the core concept.  Ultimately I loved the old models but thought they were looking past their best and so these fit the bill nicely for me, scaling everything up and adding bulk whilst not attempting any unnecessary reinventions.

Terminator 2

I remember the first time I saw the outgoing chaos terminators being blown away by the bullish power implicit in those tusked helms – everything I already loved about terminators but with all the brutish spiky aggression of Chaos.

Terminator 4

The one thing I’m not particularly fond of is the little crest used to mark out the leader. It’s a design element shared with the helbrute and personally I think it looks awkward there and worse here.

Terminator 1Helbrute Crest

Despite being such a fan of the old Chaos terminators kit I’m not sure I’ve ever actually painted one, and I certainly never bought the kit as a straight-forward box of miniatures. Instead I ended up acquiring bits and pieces of it from various sources and cobbling them together with whatever else I had to hand. Thus my attempt at a size comparison between old and new leaves a little to be desired, although I’ve given it my best shot.

Terminators New and Old ConvertOrDie Wudugast

Of course the question on everyone’s lips is; how do they compare in size to the other Chaos Terminators that are out there (and what a wonderful question that is for Chaos fans of my generation to find ourselves asking!). Well, as it happens, I have a member of the Scarab Occult and a Blightlord Terminator handy, so let’s take a look.

Chaos Terminators Size Comp ConvertOrDie

As with so many things the warrior from the Thousands Sons appears a little slight in comparison to his colleagues, although its nothing a plasticard spacer under his feet and the odd dab of greenstuff wouldn’t fix if it bothers you.

Master of Executions

If the Dark Apostle is the token Word Bearer in this release then the Master of Executions is the token World Eater. He’s a loner, an executioner, a gallowsman, one-eyed and warlike, a slayer of champions. Stick a wide-brimmed hat and a couple of ravens on him and he’d be Odin! Another new leader amongst the ranks of the Chaos Marines the Master of Executions is a close combat specialist, a man interested in little else but chopping off the heads of enemy champions. Well everyone needs a hobby, I paint little models so who am I to judge?

Master of Executions

GW have been making models that carry other people’s heads around for decades now and at last they’ve found the perfect candidate for it – it’s just unfortunate that they’ve overused it so many times previously that the impact is almost entirely lost. Likewise he’s lugging around a downright massive axe, and again he’s the perfect choice to do so, but after seeing so many comically outsized weapons in the past it’s power is somewhat lost.

Master of Executions 2

I do rather like this model but if I was to be harsh there is something a little uninspired about him. All the infinite variety and possibility of Chaos and we end up with a chap who likes chopping off heads. Surely they could have come up with something a little more interesting? Again let me stress that I think he’s rather cool, should be a lot of fun to paint, and – despite having a choice of two rather stylish heads (and those are just the ones on the end of his neck) – will probably look even better with a Khornate helmet. Nonetheless, and despite my being a huge chaos fanboy, I can accept the accusation that this one appears at first glance to be just a little bit bland.

Lord Discordant

Last but not least we have the Lord Discordant. With a name like that he may sound like he belongs amongst the Emperor’s Children but in fact he has more in common with the Dark Mechanicum. Here we have a strange fusion of Warpsmith and something akin to a mediaeval knight, who scurries into battle atop a bizarre insectile riding beast. It really shouldn’t work but somehow it does so perfectly.

A new type of commander for the chaos legions the Lords Discordant are obsessed with machines, working constantly to destroy all orderly functional engines and harvest their power to fuel the arcane daemon engines of there warbands. Apparently his mere presence is enough to make technology short circuit and fail, something which many of us will find all too familiar.

Lord Disco 4

It’s a complicated figure and I can imagine that many serious gamers will complain about bits snapping off as they try to transport it to their next tournament. Fans of painting and modelling however have a challenging and potentially very rewarding kit to get their teeth into, and one which encapsulates the weirdness of Chaos at its best.

Those Left Behind

Having received such a bounty of excellent models it seems almost churlish to complain about things we didn’t get – but never mind, it’s my blog and I’ll churl if I want to!

The fact is the Chaos range was neglected for a very long time, which means now GW come to work on it there are an inordinate number of gaps to fill and models to update. Rather than simply housekeeping they instead provided us with a range of new units, but wonderful though this is it did mean they lacked the resources to fill in all the existing gaps. Even though I’m delighted with everything we’ve seen so far, and my wallet is now in serious need of a rest and a lie down, I didn’t think it would hurt to acknowledge those gaps anyway and think about where GW might hopefully turn their attention in the future. As usual this is wishlisting, plain and simple, and most likely the passage of time will demonstrate it to be nonsense, but it’s fun to speculate all the same.

Berserkers and Noise Marines

The mortal followers of Chaos, whether they be the barbarians of the Old World, the savage nations of AoS or the power armoured super-soldiers of the far future, can be crudely separated into five camps. There are those sworn to each of the four gods, and those allied to Chaos (to a greater or lesser degree), either as a pantheon or as a single primeval force – the so-called followers of Chaos Undivided. Of this latter camp the Black Legion are the 41st Millennium’s posterboys, whilst the followers of Nurgle have already been blessed with the release of the Death Guard, whilst Tzeentch’s servants set the ball rolling for Chaos with the emergence of the Thousand Sons. As I’ve mentioned above, it seems like a logical progression to assume that Slaanesh and Khorne will soon follow, bringing their legions onto the galactic stage.

Khorn Berserkers Embarrassing Themselves

Nonetheless the old berserkers now look so embarrassingly poor quality compared to the newer kits that one finds oneself cringing on GW’s behalf, it’s hard to imagine that they’re actually asking for  people’s money in exchange for these things. At least they have a kit of course, the Noise Marines only have a finecast upgrade sprue.

These days GW usually steer away from showing kitbashes and conversions in official publications, reasoning that this is confusing for newcomers to the hobby who might be put off by discovering that they have to stick random kits together to make a unit rather than just buying it off the shelf (whereas when I started it wasn’t just encouraged it was downright compulsory). However the Noise Marines don’t have an official kit, even an old one, and instead rely on the sonic weapons upgrade kit to tide them over. Thus, I find myself wondering why GW chose to illustrate the Noise Marines in the codex using the old (and now unavailable) chaos marines kit rather than the newer version. I ever planned to build a new chaos marine wielding a sonic blaster by way of demonstration but alas time ran out on me.

Noise Annoys

Of course wishful thinking says it’s because a new Noise Marine kit is just around the corner so building anything else to stand in temporarily wasn’t worth the bother – no harm in hoping right! More likely however it was simply an oversight, or a case of running out of time, or – most likely of all, GW recognising that the fans of Fulgrim’s legion have been suffering and, given that they’re probably enjoying it, they should be rewarded with one more painful turn of the screw to counteract the pleasure of the forthcoming Slaaneshi daemons.

Cultists

Ultimately I knew there would be a limit to how much GW could produce in one go but I’ve been bumping my gums about wanting new cultists for long enough that I couldn’t let the occasion pass without dragging my arguments out for another airing.

Cultists

Like a lot of people I felt a brief thrill when the chaos cultists kit was marked as “sold out” on the GW website, only for it to reappear repackaged a few days later. It’s true that you can kitbash some fine looking cultists from existing kits but just imagine the things we could be kitbashing if we had a proper kit for them as well. Plus that’s a lot like saying we don’t need space marine miniatures because with sufficient time and practice most of us could sculpt our own. The existing push-fit cultists are very nice but there’s not a lot of converting potential in there and given that I always envisioned cultist in massive maddened hoards that’s a problem. Whenever I encounter such a horde only to see the same five faces repeated over and over again, such as in the photograph used to illustrate the cultists in the new codex, I feel as though something has gone badly wrong with my eyes. Unlike the Noise Marines and Khorne Berserkers I don’t really expect to see them with World Eaters or Emperor’s Children release either. A theoretical future Slaaneshi faction might come with its own cultists but these are liable to be of a “specialist” nature (able to reach all the places normal cultists can’t!), whereas for a warrior of Khorne the only good baseline human is a blur of arterial spray in their peripheral vision. Yet whilst those two factions seem likely to make an appearance sooner or later cultists will probably have to wait until GW return to the chaos marines – whenever that turns out to be. For now the armies of duplicate cultists will continue – when Fabius Bile told us he was working on a clone army this wasn’t what I had in mind!

Huron Blackheart

With Abaddon now strutting his stuff centre stage, and the other characters from the old legions having either recently received new models (Typhus, Ahriman, Kharn and Cypher) or probably coming soon(-ish) (Lucius and Fabius) poor old Huron Blackheart is starting to look a little left behind. Then again there are still plenty of gaps in the Chaos range that need to be filled (have I mentioned cultists? And what about Chosen, Mutilators, a generic plastic Sorcerer?). Add in the fact that Abaddon gave away one of his Blackstone Fortresses to Huron (don’t say he’s a nice guy – the prick forgot my birthday altogether) and we have the possibility of a second, smaller wave of Chaos releases coming at some point in the future as Huron launches a crusade of his own out of the Maelstrom. Not only would this break up the Chaos releases to everyone’s satisfaction, allow the bank accounts of the faithful to recover and lulling the weaker races into a false sense of security, but it would avoid Huron and Abaddon launching at the same time and one overshadowing the other. As usual of course, it’s just a theory.

Huron

The Galaxy Must Burn

I’ve long argued that Chaos is the Imperium’s shadow – humanity’s shadow even – and for the various factions of the Imperium to really function as sympathetic protagonists they need an enemy who can truly threaten them with something more than just bigger guns or more soldiers. Chaos represents the corruption of human qualities not simply via external pressure but through the twisting of noble ideals. At best the decline of a character should stem from an over abundance of positive rather than negative qualities (although as ever the Night Lords are the exception that proves the rule, remaining compelling despite being utter bastards to begin with!). The result creates room for enormous narrative depth and complexity. Add in the range of aesthetic possibilities (who knows what Noise Marines might look like nowadays but I can guarantee it won’t be Plague Marines in pink!) and the diversity of potential rules for gamers to take advantage of, and it would be fair to say that GW has been sitting on a treasure trove, seemingly ignorant of the wealth of concepts their IP could have been laying open to them. Imagine if the Imperium was lumped together into a single fraction with nothing but a special character to differentiate the Space Wolves from the Dark Angels, and the Imperial Guard relegated to 5 push fit models, and you have some idea of the discrepancy between the way in which the Chaos range has been treated historically and the potential it contains. Luckily the tide seems to be well and truly on the turn (as usual, and as an outsider it’s hard to say anything with 100% confidence, it’s worth noting that the departure of Kirby as CEO has, as on so many other matters, coincided with a rush of common sense to the company’s collective head).

For a long time GW neglected Chaos and got away with it. These power armoured baddies haven’t had it as bad as some races or factions (I’d like to nominate my poor hard-done-by Skaven for that dubious honour) but the range has always been considerably less than it could have been, its potential often hinted at but never fully realised. Naturally some fans complained but as whining and nerd rage is as much a part of Warhammer as rolling dice and accidentally drinking paint water I’m not convinced anyone took much notice (we have all encountered people who claim not to be involved in the hobby anymore since GW ruined everything  yet who still managed to spend around 18 hours per day online moaning about the latest developments and then trundle down to their local store at the weekend to fill a wheelbarrow with the latest releases. Well here’s hoping they enjoyed this one, Chaos needs the support – especially from the bitter and corruptible).

So there we have it. It’s not been a perfect release, there are certainly things I would have liked to have seen included or done differently, but these are small things and not worth any more than a brief acknowledgement. Predominantly this has been about the resurrection of the Chaos Space Marine range and on the whole the result is nothing short of outstanding. Now when we turn up to burn down the Emperor’s palace we won’t have to worry about the loyalists laughing at our ugly old miniatures. How’s that old saying go? From shame and shadow recast – in snazzy new plastic reborn. Something like that anyway…


Ambots Assemble

This weekend saw the long-awaited release of the new Ambot kit and naturally I bought a brace of these glorious beasts and set aside a couple of hours to get them built. As I was doing so it struck me – alas slightly too late to take WIP shots – that this might be of interest to fellow Necromunda fans so here’s a few early thoughts on the models from someone enthusiastic enough to grab them straight away.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (4)

Like most people I was expecting this model to be a big, expensive, lump of Forgeworld resin so getting a plastic kit instead was a really nice surprise. Rather than sticking religiously to the same set-up as the studio models for fear of ruining a ludicrously pricey model one can relax a little and adjust things as you see fit. To begin with I wanted to stick fairly close to the design of the originals as they’re cracking models in and of themselves, but I must admit I’m tempted to buy a second pair and go to town on kitbashing them (not something I’d ever do with a Forgeworld model).

Building the kit according to the instructions (an absolute must with Necromunda models where kits are often so complex that even the neck is separate to the head – hence Neck-romunda) one ends up with four natural subassembles; the legs, torso and each arm. Rather than build the first model to completion then start over with the second I recommend building each one up to the point that the subassembles are complete and then mixing them around to create a pair of unique models. Again, I’ve been fairly conservative with mine so far but I’ve got a lot of ideas brewing so now I’ve built two I’m increasing tempted by another pair with which to go a bit more crazy. Let’s take a look at what I’ve built so far.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (7)

I’ve already come to think of this one as “Aggressive Ambot” with his lunging pose and powerful grav-fists.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (6)

His colleague meanwhile is “Surprised Ambot” – he’s either been startled by an enemy ganger sneaking up on him or the fail-safes have just stopped working and he’s suddenly released some bastard has stuck his brain in a robot…

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (5)

There are only two styles of head in the kit, the mandibles of A being moulded to the face whilst those of B are separate. However it certainly wouldn’t be difficult to snip off A’s mandibles and exchange them with those intended for B to create two more unique faces.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (8)

Ambot A – “Stabby!”

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (10)

Ambot B – “Bitey!”

Perhaps not the most exiting shot in the world but I’ve been curious to know what the back of the models looks like, as none of GW’s previews have shown it.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (11)

Another thing that hasn’t been entirely clear from official previews is exactly how big they are. When faced with a kit like this the first thing that springs to mind is generally a dreadnaught and although I assumed these would be smaller it was still tricky to picture exactly how big they were going to be until they were finished. Thus, for your assistance and edification, here are a few handy size comparisons.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (12)

Right now, on the mean streets of the Underhive, these are definitely the biggest dudes around, looming over humble gangers in exactly the way one would expect from a monstrous alien which has been crammed into a deadly robot without the slightest consideration for health and safety.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (1)

For those whose mindset is associated with the more traditional side of 40k here we see one posing next to those staples of the size-comparison shot; a space marine Intercessor and a humble, if probably terrified, guardsman.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (2)

And, just in case I’ve caused any confusion with my earlier comment about dreadnaughts, here one is dwarfed by a dead space marine in a walking coffin.

Ambot Wudugast Convert Or Die (3)

And of course if any of you were wondering how big he was before he was a brain in a jar, now you know that too…

Anyway, hopefully you’ve found this useful and/or entertaining, particularly if you’ve been thinking of getting yourself an Ambot. These won’t get painted for a little while as I need to think up a suitable generic colour scheme to use with them but all being well I should have something painted to show off by later on in the week.


Squabblin’ Goblins – Part 11

Last weekend saw the long-awaited release of new plastic squigs from Games Workshop. Formerly part of the Orcs and Goblins range these crazy little beasts have now found a home amongst the Gloomspite Gits, a re-imagining of the old night gobbos in the Mortal Realms. As a long-standing fan of greenskins in general and squigs in particular it’s fair to say that I’ve been looking forward to this release since long before the models were even sculpted, let alone announced. Having got my hands on them* I wanted to take the opportunity to share a few thoughts regarding my early impressions – illustrated with a few moody and atmospheric black and white images to compensate for the fact that I haven’t painted anything yet.

*I know I have plenty of other things to paint at the moment, and I know buying new models when I haven’t painted what I have is profligate, but how could I resist after dreaming of them for at least a decade?

The new Gloomspite Gits are an interesting proposition. Despite it being three years since the arrival of Age of Sigmar this release would have fitted quite comfortably into the Old World of Warhammer. Previously Age of Sigmar releases have either been entirely new races, such as the Stormcast Eternals or the Idoneth Deepkin, or have evolved old races into new forms, such as the Daughters of Khaine or the Sylvaneth. Sometimes models for this latter group would have fitted in well in the Old World, and some might even be effective proxies for older units – like Ironjaw Brutes as Orc Big ‘uns, but never have we seen such comprehensive coverage of models widely desired for an old Warhammer army as part of an Age of Sigmar release. Long before the End Times, before Nagash returned and with the Stormcasts no more than a games developer’s fevered imaginings, people were crying out for new squigs.

Having waited all these years for a nice plastic kit for the squigs (surely always a glaring gap in the Games Workshop roster) I found myself giving in to temptation and snapping them up as soon as I could. Acquiring them however has led to considerable food for thought. Many old school players will be rejoicing at the opportunity to add this iconic creature to their Orcs and Goblins armies but with the scale of many GW models creeping larger every year will these newcomers even fit on an old 20mm square base? They, at least, can relax, the answer is a firm “yes”.

squigs convert or die wudugast (1)squigs convert or die wudugast (2)

Indeed although many things have become bigger over the years the boisterous squig remains roughly the same.

squigs convert or die wudugast (3)

For myself I’m still debating exactly what to do with my newly acquired squigs. Long ago I started to build a Night Goblin army for WHFB and last year I actually got a sizeable chunk of it painted. When I painted the army last year I threw in a handful of squigs but left the squad incomplete in the hope that sooner or later more would come bouncing along. All too often such manoeuvring proves to be wishful thinking but this time it seems I guessed right.

Night Goblins Convert Or Die

As squigs were always intended to be a part of that army surely I should just pop the little beasts onto square bases and get painting. On the other hand however the style of base very much directs the game for which the model is intended. As it stands I’m unlikely to actually play with these, so the point is probably entirely academic. Nonetheless the idea of some AoS skirmish has a distinct appeal. In the unlikely event that I do ever decide to play some old fashioned Warhammer it’ll be my Skaven that hit the tabletop.

It’s also worth considering that despite the aesthetic punch which an old Warhammer army with its ranks of troops neatly defined possesses, a quality which no AoS army can quite capture, some models just don’t look as good in ranks. By putting them on round bases I’d be able to really enjoy and show off everything these dynamic models can do, rather than struggling to make the best of things and force them into ranks which they were never intended to form. After all “ranking up” was a rightly cursed aspect of old Warhammer, a chore which impeded miniatures design and made hobbyist’s lives a misery in equal measure, so burdening myself with it unnecessarily seems like foolishness.

Convert Or Die Squigs

A release as long awaited as this was always going to be of key importance to GW. This was a chance to win over lingering WHFB sounds to the new world of AoS. Furthermore there must have been a temptation to indulge the freedom of the new realms to push the Night Goblins in new and crazy directions, an urge they have wisely resisted. The Night Goblins and Squigs have always been amongst the company’s most classic and iconic races and as the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Look no further than the wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanied the upscaling of the space marines, a range who’s undersized proportions meant it certainly was broke and did need fixed.

On the other hand as a species so intrinsically associated with the Old World there was always a real danger that these little dudes would seem glaringly out of place amid the Mortal Realms. Luckily good models save the day. Just as the sudden availability of truescale marines made it easier for many of us to swallow the new landscape of 40k so too do Night Goblins in the Mortal Realms seem much more palatable when accompanied by these glorious new squigs.

This is not to say that everything is just a rehash of the “good old days” however. New ideas have been brought in but they’ve done so in a way that sympathetic to the old. Take the new Boingrot Bounderz for instance. Again old school WHFB fans could use them as alternative squig hoppers (which the kit also makes) but there’s something irresistible entertaining about goblin knights. Picture, if you will, a whole court of them in full heraldic pageantry, with the squig hoppers as squires and a suitably deranged-looking king bouncing in the lead. Of course, in a process which will be familiar to all hobbyists, now I’ve thought of it I can’t stop thinking about it. Bretonnia may be gone but there is still room for a green knight or two.

squigs convert or die wudugast (6)squigs convert or die wudugast (7)

The only thing I’m not entirely happy out regarding these is the way they are held aloft on heaps of mushrooms. It’s just a little over the top for my tastes, although I stress that’s just a personal opinion, but it’s also rather tricky to do very much about it. The fungi are sculpted directly to the legs of the squigs, probably a sensible move when it comes to supporting the weight of the model but making it distinctly tricky to separate them. I did manage it with this one but, given what a faff it was, I don’t think I’ll be losing too much sleep over the others.

squigs convert or die wudugast (8)

The Night Goblins were always a race which combined spite and silliness with aplomb. there was an element of slapstick comedy about them that brought something uniquely enjoyable to their murderous ways. Whilst still clearly evil creatures this cheeky, quirky element put them in a class of their own, a long way from straightforward baddies like Chaos or the Vampire Counts, whilst their status as weak yet cunning distinguished them from the loutish Orcs. Again it’s pleasing to see that this trait lives on in their new iteration. Goblins of all kinds have always enjoyed seeing their mates suffering misfortune and goblin fans are no better. Can you imagine Stormcast fans universally applauding a model of a liberator being swallowed by a dracoline, as this poor little grot is gobbled up by a squig?

squigs convert or die wudugast

Amidst all this praise for the new models it would be remiss of me not to take a moment to mourn the passing of the Doom Diver from the range. It was a true icon of the old Orcs and Goblins army which seems not to have made the cut for a new model and has been quietly shuffled into retirement. Luckily for me I was given one a few years ago which will be joining my Night Goblins sooner or later.

Likewise goblin wolf riders, a staple of many childhoods thanks to The Hobbit, have been shuffled off into the great dank cave in the sky. These days if you want to go riding into battle on a big bad wolf you need to be a power-armoured futuristic Viking with a questionable hair-do’s.

squigs convert or die wudugast (5)

Few things are as evocative of GW’s stable as Night Goblins and Blood Bowl, so I’ve also found myself pondering how the two could be combined, a subject I’ve found myself returning to lately following conversations with fellow blogger and blood bowl enthusiast Faust. So far I’ve only dipped my toe into it but as this combination of Blood Bowl player and the (now retired) Night Goblin Fanatics shows, there’s certainly room to create some alternative members for a diverse looking team.

squigs convert or die wudugast (4)

Once again though I’d like to emphasise that I have plenty of other projects I ought to be concentrating on so although these squigs and gobbos will definitely get a turn on the painting table it won’t be straight away. In many ways however this is a blessing. I’ve been thinking about what to do with a release like this for a number of years so I won’t be rushing into anything, but instead will be taking the chance to explore the models, see what other hobbyists do with them, and bounce a few ideas around before I commit to anything. At this point I often say watch this space but this time I’ll add don’t hold your breath as well. However if you have any suggestions, ideas or words of wisdom, I’m all ears.


2018 – In Case You Missed It

As the curtain falls on 2018 or (depending on where you are in the world and assuming you’re not reading this at the very moment of publication) the sun rises on 2019, it’s time to take a rambling look back at the year that’s past.

For fans of the various universes created by Games Workshop it’s been a packed twelve months. 40k has continued to grow into its post- Guilliman landscape and although at first I feared the impact a loyalist Primarch would have on the flavour of the setting I have to say I’m pleased with how things have developed so far. Guilliman himself, often maligned as the most boring of the Primarch (even by the other Primarchs), has developed into a strong character and may now hold the title of my second favourite loyalist (after the Khan of course). The reason this has been successful, in my view, is that GW have not forgotten the grim darkness which lies at the heart of 40k. Rather than allow Guilliman to become the super-heroic “good man” who saves the day at every turn, they’ve allowed the speck of light and hope he’s brought to the galaxy to emphasise how truly dire the setting truly is. 2016 saw the first Primarch making a return (the spectacular Magnus the Red), followed by two more in 2017 (Guilliman and Mortarion). 2018 gave us a bit of a rest, allowing us to become familiar with the new setting whilst turning the focus onto the dark corners and less explored parts of the galaxy, the shadows where Inquisitors roam and mighty heroes are few and far between. Thus, much like buses, after waiting thirty years for a Rogue Trader, this year we saw two of them come along at once, accompanied by a whole host equally interesting, but traditionally sidelined, characters; from mutants to death cult assassins, ratlings to navigators and beastmen to dogs. Who, at the start of the year, would have guessed that GW could reveal both a glimpse of the Old Ones and an actual Man of Iron, and what’s more do so to almost universal acclaim?

Doggo (1)

The only truly good boy in the 41st Millenium

My own relationship with 40k as a game remains complicated. Much as I love the setting, and building armies to fit within it, the game itself still fails to engage me. My heart as ever belongs to small-scale, “crunchy” games, which is why I’m being drawn ever further into the embrace of Necromunda. Thus the arrival of Kill Team did manage to excite me as a chance to engage with smaller, character driven, forays into the 41st Millennium, rather than the sprawling maths-fest of 40k proper. As yet I’ve not given the game itself a shot but the idea of creating some teams is certainly compelling, as is the opportunity to dip a toe into some of the factions which don’t engage me sufficiently to build a whole army around. For instance the likes of the Dark Eldar, Tau or Necrons have never really interested me but the chance to make a little Kill Team and see what I make of them could be a lot of fun.

Mobile Artillery

A plucky band of heroes who could someday become an Imperial Guard Kill Team, if only that Catachan would get off the phone!

Speaking of games which sound like they might be fun to play this year saw new editions of both Lord of the Rings and Adeptus Titanicus. Lord of the Rings has always been something of an oddity for me. I grew up with the books, indeed some of my formative memories are of my dad reading me the Hobbit, and later Lord of the Rings, when I was a child, something which undoubtedly paved the way for my love of fantasy and science fiction. The Lord of the Rings films remain some of my all time favourite movies, and are amongst the few films I’m happy to re-watch on a semi-regular basis (less so the Hobbit films which were a little hit-and-miss, although when they got it right they too proved to be outstanding). Thus I do find myself wondering why, given my love of Tolkien’s worlds, and my even greater love of painting miniatures, I’ve never been that interested in painting Lord of the Rings’ models? Admittedly some of the sculpts are less than impressive but some are truly outstanding, and from everything I’ve seen and heard the game itself looks like a lot of fun to play, but beyond the occasional brief flash of enthusiasm the thought of painting any models for it rarely raises any more than a mental shrug. I do have a heap of goblin town goblins lurking amongst my hobby stuff, but in typical fashion I’ll be converting them into Necromunda mutants. That said I did recently receive a warrior of Minas Tirith as part of a bits drop sent by the inimitable IRO so who knows, this could be the start of something.

Adeptus Titanicus is another game that looks genuinely entertaining. After all have many of us not dreamed of piloting a titan, duelling like metallic Godzillas as buildings tumble around us, or simply stepping on your boss’s flash new car on your way into the office? Watching a few demo games online it struck me that this one could be a lot of fun, but luckily the miniatures have failed to really capture my imagination, probably a good thing as the cost is quite eye-watering. Instead I think I’ll stick to things like Necromunda and Blood Bowl, where one can start a new faction without needing to give up food or take up crime to pay for it.

Unicorn Convert Or Die

Without a hobbit or a titan to my name, here’s a handsome unicorn instead.

2018 was also the year in which Age of Sigmar began to realise its potential, outgrowing the (frankly shoddy and underdeveloped) early years and tapping into the rich veins of creativity that the setting allows for. Morathi became perhaps the first of the established characters of old Warhammer to transition to the new setting without seeming jarringly out of place, a whole faction of ghosts were summoned (including some truly outstanding models) and GW even managed something previously thought impossible and created a faction of Stormcasts that seem genuinely interesting. In one of the standout releases of the year GW completed their elemental quartet, adding the watery Idoneth Deepkin to the firey Fyreslayers, earthy Sylvaneth and airy Kharadron Overlords (and proving at last that Fishmen would indeed get models before the Sisters of Battle).

As it stands I’ve yet to dip my toe into AoS properly. For me an interesting setting is one of the most important things when it comes to getting me into a new game and until recently AoS was almost completely lacking in this area. Like 40k the Old World had plenty of dark corners which you could make your own, and thus for me struck the right balance between the potential to develop your own ideas and still having a framework to work within. The “anything goes/make it up as you go along” blank canvass of early AoS was a little too intimidating and so I stuck with what I knew and kept my Skaven and Night Goblins firmly in the dank caves and filthy cities of the World That Was. The new edition however has reinvigorated my interest. At last the world has come alive and I’m finding myself drawn in. Over the last six months or so I’ve found myself increasingly tempted to sell my soul into Nagash’s service and recreate my Vampire Counts army in the Mortal Realms. I managed to get my hands on the ghosts from the AoS starter set when they were first released and I’ve enjoyed putting the first few together, so who knows – 2019 could be their year.

Ghosties

So what about the developments in my own collection? Tallying up the numbers I’ve discovered that, in 2018, I managed to paint a total of 277 models. This may not equate to  the same giddy heights which some hobbyists can accomplish but I’m still rather proud of this achievement, especially as I feel I’ve managed to achieve a reasonably high standard on all of them. It certainly beats (indeed it more than doubles) my 2017 output of 129, even if many of this year’s recruits were the (relatively easy to paint) Night Goblins.

Although I like to avoid deadlines as much as possible in my hobby activities I still took the chance to get involved in a number of challenges throughout the year, in addition to my self-imposed goal of “at least one Skaven per month”. Probably the most defining of these, in terms of my own output, were the monthly challenges organised by Azazel, a phenomenon which is fast becoming an institution amongst the blogging community, and which I’m pleased to hear is set to continue in 2019. Once again therefore Azazel deserves a huge “thank you” from me, and if you’ve not been following his blog, or getting involved in his challenges, I strongly urge you to do so. I’m not entirely sure how many models I painted this year that I wouldn’t have completed without Azazel’s challenges but there’s no denying it was a fair number, ranging from mighty centrepieces like the Screaming Bell to hordes of little Night Goblins. May, for example, was Neglected Model Month, aimed at encouraging participants to pick up that miniature which had been gathering dust and just finish the damn thing. With this as a spur I managed to complete this heap of chaotic characters, each of which had been abandoned on the shelf of shame for far too long.

Convert Or Die (3)

Meanwhile February was renamed Femruary by Alex of Leadballoony which aimed to encourage us to add some female models to our respective collections. This year I took the opportunity to paint up this little group of 41st Millennium ladies, and I’m already thinking ahead to Femruary 2019, with a heap of unpainted women ring-fenced to tackle.

Fembruary Group Shot Convert Or Die

February also saw Big Boss Redskullz putting out a call for genestealer corrupted civilians to take part in the Nestorian Infestation. This ongoing project is the product of collaboration between Big Boss RedskullzEchoes of Imperium and Wilhel Miniatures, and is set around a world overrun by genestealer cultists and the arrival of Imperial forces in the form of the Deathwatch.  The whole story has been a joy to follow and it was a real pleasure to be able to get involved. Here’s a few shots (courtesy of the guys themselves) of my models lurking on Wilhel’s beautifully grubby terrain, and probably only moments away from being casually murdered by the Imperium’s finest.

img_1154img_1155img_1153

Meanwhile at the opposite end of the year Orktober continued the longstanding tradition of greenskin fans building up their collections. Despite being an Ork fan for over a decade now I’m fairly certain this is the first year I’ve actually participated in it, turning out this mob of new recruits for the Waaagh!

Convert Or Die Orks (1)

I’ve already shown you the current state of my Skaven army but I’m not ashamed to show it off again (although you can read the full story here).

Skaven Convert Or Die Wudugast (29)

Their dominance of the tunnels won’t go uncontested however as a green menace has begun to emerge in the form of a growing clan of rapscallion Night Goblins. Most of these were painted in September and October which goes to show what one can achieve if one put other projects aside and focuses one’s efforts. Speaking of Night Gobbos I’m sure it comes as no surprise to many of you that, having seen the latest previews from Games Workshop, I’m already planning to expand my greenskin horde in the new year.

Night Goblins Convert Or Die

They are not the only greenskins I’ve worked on either as, in the grim darkness of the far future my Ork Waaagh! continued to gather in strength. Since the end of Orktober I’ve only managed to add a single Ork nob to my collection so this image still shows almost the full extent of the army.

Convert Or Die Orks (7)

That said when I finished the aforementioned nob I also completed his squad and as I never took a group shot of them all together at the time here’s one now.

Ork Nobs Convert or Die Wudugast

Greenskin fans will be pleased to hear that there are still plenty of Orks and Goblins on the painting desk waiting for attention so expect further additions to both collections in the new year.

Another army set to grow soon is my Death Guard collection. With the recent change in scale of the plague Marine models I’ve decided to retire many of my old models, whilst some of the others will be tweaked and improved upon. Expect to see this army growing larger and stranger over the next twelve months. Here’s a look at how it stands currently;

Nurgle Convert Or Die 2018 Wudugast

Of course whilst some of the older models have been banished to Nurgle’s garden a host of new recruits have crawled from the plague pits in the form of a growing hoard of poxwalkers – and you can definitely expect to see a lot more of them in 2019.

Poxwalkers Convert Or Die Wudugast

Faced with such a foul hoard it’s a good thing that the Imperium has received reinforcements in the form of a growing number of space marines, imperial guardsman and even a dog.

Imperium Convert Or Die Wudugast

2018 has also been the year in which I’ve really started to take an interest in Necromunda. Regular followers of the blog over the last month or so will have seen me painting up a gang of Genestealer cultists with which to carve out a corner of the Underhive in the name of the four armed emperor.

Genestealer Cultists Convert Or Die Wudugast (2)

Their foul xenos scheming will not go unopposed however, with the muscular men of the Goliath Irondogs gang standing ready to defend their turf.

Goliath Necromunda Convert Or Die Wudugast

The Ladykillers of House Escher are slightly further behind, boasting only six (exceptionally well dressed) ladies so far. Expect to see them undertaking a recruiting drive early in the new year.

Escher Convert Or Die Wudugast

Finally I also started work on a large terrain project for Necromunda. With each piece being so big this is taking me a while to produce but fear not, a desolate industrial hell will soon be revealed.

Terrain Imperial Convert Or Die Necromunda (8)

New Year’s Resolutions.

As noted above I don’t usually go in for setting myself strict targets when it comes to my hobbies, after all the aim of the exercise is to relax and enjoy myself. Deadlines are for work. That said here are a few things I’d like to do in the coming year.

Skaven; as mentioned previously I’m now at a point where I have pretty much everything I want for my Skaven army (unless of course Games Workshop decide to release some new models for the rats – no harm in hoping eh!). All that needs to be done now is to get them painted. Getting it all done by the end of 2019 looks quite achievable if I just knuckle down and get on with it.

Necromunda; this one almost goes without saying but you can expect to see plenty more of the denizens of the Underhive coming up. I’ve got another Goliath I want to finish, a few Eschers to work on plus various bounty hunters, scum and hangers on. I also have several new gangs planned, although I’m not sure which I’ll start with first but it’s safe to assume there will be plenty more of them appearing in the coming months.

Cawdor Convert Or Die

Terrain; this is a big project and as a result slow going. Nonetheless I’m keen to crack on with it and aiming to get it done in 2019 should be the spur I need to make sure the project doesn’t stall.

Chaos Knight; speaking of larger projects, it seems that every year I think “let’s get the Chaos Knight done this time” and every year it gathers another layer of dust. This time though right, this time I mean it!

Poxwalkers; a hoard of part-built/part-painted plague zombies is currently occupying my painting desk. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were all finished instead?

Blood Bowl; I know I’m about 20 years behind everyone else but I do like the look of Blood Bowl, I’ve just never got around to painting a team. Will I do it in 2019? I’m sure with people like Faust to chivy me I’ll get something done!

Blood Bowl Orcs

Of course only time will tell how many of these goals I actually managed to achieve, or whether some of the other projects I have planned manage to seize the entirety of the limelight.

Lastly I’d like to wish all of my readers a very happy New Year (there really are an intimidatingly large number of you now!) and to offer a particular thanks to everyone who has commented, offered feedback or encouragement, or just appealed to my ego in 2018 – here’s to plenty more hobby shenanigans in the coming year.

 


Rhythm and Blues; from Rock Gods to Ultramarines

This weekend has seen Games Workshop’s latest showcase event, the Vigilus Open Day. For the avoidance of doubt I’d better clarify that I wasn’t there myself but, like so many other hobbyists and fans, I was glued as best as I was able to the updates and reveals coming out of the event via social media. Being at work over the weekend I’m only just getting the chance to catch up properly on everything that was announced now, long after the rest of the internet has had its say, but I still couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pontificate a little and share my thoughts on the things we saw.

 

Boys In Blue

Poor old Marneus Calgar. One of the most iconic and long established space marine characters, he’s been the posterboy for the Ultramarines and, as a result, the man everyone loves to hate, since the early days of 40k, when he wore the kind of coat any pimp would be proud of, cultivated an imposing man-spread and kept dinosaurs as pets.

Commander Calgar

Ultramarines Commander Calgar, as painted by David Gallagher.

Alas, whilst it’s all very well being second only to Roboute Guilliman himself when the Primarch is lying in state it’s a lot less impressive when he’s walking, talking and taking command of the Imperium. Love him or loathe him, and for many of us it’s a little of both, it’s been hard not to feel a little sorry for Calgar over the last couple of years. The return of Roboute has seen him pushed firmly into the backseat, a poor man’s Primarch if ever there was one.

Since the arrival of Primaris marines a popular theory (although I stress that it remains only a theory) is that GW will seek to weed out the old, distinctly undersized, marines of yesteryear through a process of slow attrition, allowing the old-style small marines to look increasingly dated, moving them out of the limelight, promoting the newer, more imposing Primaris models whilst the background describes a winnowing of the older troops. It’s a convincing theory but it leaves us with the problem of the special characters. Whilst it’s one thing to get rid of a tactical marine in this manner and replace him with an intercessor, it’s quite another to dispose of Azrael, Ragnar Blackmane, Mephiston or Dante. The answer; to see them reforged, renewed and reborn as newer, bigger, better Primaris warriors -and who better than Calgar to lead the charge.

Calgar 1Calgar 2

Speculation of other loyalist Primarchs making a return and joining Guilliman in defending the Imperium continues to rumble on, and could easily fill a blog or two by itself, but it’s worth noting that, however things turn out, the creation of some imposing, modern models for the heroes of the Blood Angels, Space Wolves or Dark Angels could still provide centrepiece models to be proud of, without such controversial moves as bringing back Russ, the Lion or even – whisper it – Sanguinius.

Of course I still find myself wondering how GW would, under this scenario, choose to handle those amongst the Space Marines like Gabriel Seth, who has expressed a distinct disapproval for the Primaris newcomers, historic characters like Tycho or the Grey Knights who, we’ve been repeatedly told, have no Primaris brothers at all. Then there are the stranger elements, reflecting 40k’s more mythic and fantastic side. Will the likes of the Sanguinor and the Legion of the Damned find themselves growing bigger over the coming years or will they end their days as bizarrely short characters, manifesting at little more than chest height amongst their younger brothers? Only time will tell.

As an aside, interesting though Calgar is from a theoretical point of view, I’m actually more impressed by his Honour Guard. They haven’t had the same attention paid to them as their boss so far but their predecessors were amongst my favourite Space Marine models, real exemplars of how the range could look at its best and these are worthy successors.

Honour Guard

In the old days the rules allowed for every Chapter Master to have a squad of Honour Guard so part of me is already wondering about how these can be converted to serve the Chapter Master of my own Knights Mortis. Then again converting them might involve removing some of the features that make them so iconic so who knows, maybe, just maybe, I’ll cross the Rubicon and paint them as Ultramarines.

 

In Black And Gold Reborn

First off let me note that the size of the new Chaos Marines is still something that I’m struggling to establish my thoughts on. At some point I’ll write a full post on the subject once I have something to say that I’ve not already said multiple times before. In the meantime though I simply wanted to acknowledge the fact and move on. Instead, let’s take a look at Haarken Worldclaimer – a man who, true to his name, has sworn to claim Vigilus in the name of Abaddon. Given that the Despoiler has little patience for those who waste his time we’d better hope for Haarken’s sake he lives up to the hype…

Haakan back to the old days

Haarken Worldclaimer may undoubtedly be a member of the Black Legion but his origins amongst the Night Lords remain stamped upon him too, from the skull helm to the flayed skins to the Nostraman spear he’s armed with. It will be interesting to discover if this is a new special character for the forces of Chaos or simply a generic chaos lord with a unique name and a little background as we’ve seen with the likes of Kranon the Relentless in the past.

I’ve actually been wondering what might become of the special characters set out in the Chaos Marines codex. Already we’ve seen the likes of Typhus and Ahriman farmed off into their own respective legion codexes and it seems likely that in time the Emperor’s Children and World Eaters will see the same treatment, taking Kharn, Lucius and Fabious with them. Is Abaddon to be left on his own or will GW take the opportunity to bring in more characters that exemplify other aspects of the traitor legions. Nice though it is to imagine I suspect that the other traitors – the Night Lords, Word Bearers, Iron Warriors and Alpha Legion – may not get the full codex treatment for quite some time, if at all. Of course all of them could be made into a unique army, both in terms of rules and aesthetic, but who could blame GW for shying away from concentrating exclusively on Chaos for the length of time that would require. Instead I imagine that as the Chaos Marine range is developed in the future we’ll see more of these legions and less of their monotheistic brothers. Then, assuming that these prove popular, and the god-specific legions are a financial success for GW, we might someday see Lorgar or Perturabo emerging from the warp at the head of a horde of cultists and possessed, or massed ranks of daemon engines. In the interim some new characters might just be the way in which they decide to drip-feed us with a little taste of the direction they could someday choose to follow.

Regardless Haarken himself is a striking model, if just a little over the top for my tastes. Now we wait to discover if he’ll be bringing any new friends with him in his campaign to seize Vigilus in the form of more new Chaos models. Who knows, perhaps when Marneus Calgar inevitably beats him up his boss Abaddon will have to put in an appearance…

 

Joining A Cult

For me, the best bit of these reveals are, without doubt, the genestealer cultists. It’s an army I have a real affinity for in both 40k and Necromunda and I can see myself using these both in my long planned 40k army and in narrative, house-ruled scenarios around the Underhive. I’m already considering transforming a Goliath Rockgrinder into an Orlock rig and one could easily do something similar with these to make outriders to accompany it, House messengers who need to be intercepted by your gang or, turning the tables as so much of the recent genestealer cult range has been borrowed from the Imperial Guard, how about making them into rough riders. Plus there are probably several clever people already cooking up house rules to incorporate these into Speed Freeks.

Cultist Bike 2Cultist Bike 3Cultist BikeCult Quad

Accompanying them we have the tactician pondering his already famous map of Warhammer World, a model which old timers will recognise as a remake of a much older, and extremely rare, figure from the early days of the range.

Again this is a brilliant model, with the expressively grumpy face being an excellent touch. Give it a few tweaks and once again it could fit in well with an Imperial Guard army or an Inq28 retinue (where it will doubtless prove popular). The only downside is the defaced aquila which sadly just looks amateurish. All of us who are fans of Chaos Marines or Traitor Guard have scratched through an aquila at one point or another so we could make use of a torso or piece of equipment that wasn’t otherwise available, and for all that it’s a rite of passage it’s also a cliché. I’m sure GW could have thought of something better here.

GSC

In some of the more frothy corners of the Internet there’s been a little chatter that GW have somehow “forgotten” about the genestealer cultists, simply because their codex hasn’t arrived yet (and despite the fact that GW haven’t been shy about promoting them lately). Of course GW has form here, they essentially abandoned the Sisters of Battle for over two decades, but I think that the idea that genestealer cultists have been booted to the kerb so soon after their relaunch in 2016 seemed farfetched. Did we really imagine that they were going to leave them without an 8th Edition codex forever, or perhaps mark their demise only with a glib assertion that the Squats must have eaten them all?

 

The Wrathful and the Rapturous

Over the last little while GW have been drip feeding us images of the contents of the forthcoming Wrath and Rapture box set, an all-daemons collection starring the forces of Khorne and Slaanesh. With the release date confirmed as falling within the next month they’ve shown us the two new characters which will be joining the new Flesh Hounds (good thing I finally got my old ones painted eh!) and Fiends of Slaanesh in the box.

Karanak

Karanak looks a little odd but frankly a dog with three heads is always going to look rather weird as a physical object rather than as a mythological concept. Overall I’d say they’ve made the best job they could of done without straying too far from the design elements that had gone before. Meanwhile the Slaaneshi harpist has yet to be shown off properly beyond what can be made out from the promotional video and the photographs taken by those who attended the event. However it’s fair to say it’s looking very interesting already and packs a punch of body horror that should put paid to those claims that Slaanesh was going to be removed or toned down.

 

Not So Tiny-Titans

I almost overlooked the titan amongst all the other exciting stuff that was appearing, and judging by the chatter online I’m not the only one. For such a big and imposing model from me at least it’s only managed to generate a shrug.

Titan

The trouble with titans is that they are so astoundingly expensive. One could buy a few good armies for the price of a single warlord model so as a result the audience for them is extremely limited. I for one very much doubt that I will never own one. Of course I’ve always fancied the idea of riding to war in a Titan (or even just turning up to work in one) but not so much painting one (and certainly not applying for the bank loan required before buying one of the damn things).

Plus, as a small image on a screen they just don’t look their best. Nothing beats seeing a Titan in person. Even a gaming table isn’t really big enough for them, and the best place to really appreciate them is in huge dioramas such as the one at Warhammer World which shows the Ultramarines battling the World Eaters. Of course GW are a wealthy company and can afford to indulge in vanity projects such as this. However creating such a monster will have undoubtedly consumed a great deal of staff time and production resource. Surely that would have been better spent on subjects with a broader range of appeal such as Horus Heresy, Lord of the Rings, Necromunda characters and brutes or Blood Bowl star players, all of which still have plenty of gaps unfilled? Don’t get me wrong, the range we have already is great but do we really need more at this scale? perhaps I’m alone in this but for me the best place for Titans is Adeptus Titanicus.

angelus-prime-convertordie-18

Bring The Noise

Saving the best for last we have this attention commanding model. Before you scroll down put on your eye protection and prepare yourself to return to an era when the grim darkness of the far future had a distinctly green understory…

Noise Marine 2

Isn’t he just a sight for sore eyes? Or perhaps it’s more the case that he’s a sight which causes sore eyes. Yes, GW are continuing to pillage the archives, this time bringing back this iconic old model.

Noise Marine

Now honestly I wouldn’t want every Noise Marine to look like this, guitars as sonic weapons as just too silly even for me (although if GW fancied a modern revamp of the old Ork Goff Rockers I wouldn’t say no!). I’m hopeful that sooner or later we’ll see a full Emperor’s Children release, complete with a proper kit for Noise Marines, and if they all look like this I might grumble a little, but as a one off he’s excellent, a real nod to the hobby’s past and a great trip down memory lane for us old hands. Newcomers however, raised to a 40k of unrelenting seriousness, must be trying to work out what hit them!

 

Overall then a very interesting set of reveals that give us plenty to look forward to as we head towards 2019. As ever if you have any thoughts on what we’ve seen here I’d be very curious to hear them, after all if you don’t share your thoughts in the comments box how am I supposed to rip them off and claim them as my own later?


Blackstone Fortress

Well isn’t that always the way? You spend 30 years waiting for a rogue trader and then two of them show up at once! Yes, it’s time to take a look at Blackstone Fortress, the latest of what now seems like a tidal wave of boxsets to emerge from GW over recent months. From a rare glimpse of a robot in 40k to a pair of Rammstein loving hobbits this one really does have everything you could ask for! Naturally I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enthuse a little, after all with pre-orders running for a fortnight I’ve got to pass the time waiting for it somehow right?

For those who’ve been living under a rock, or who’ve somehow found a way to hide from the Games Workshop hype machine (and well done if you have – that’s no easy task!) Blackstone Fortress features a band of explorers braving the twisting and labyrinthine depths of the aforementioned fortress. Best of all it features a whole raft of new models including lurking ghouls, ancient robots (of various descriptions), a small army of Chaos worshippers (enough to get me inspired by themselves) and of course the various roguish, self-serving troublemakers who act as the “good guys”. Let’s take a look at them first.

Heroes of the Blackstone Fortress

Every mysterious dungeon needs a party of brave adventurers to explore it, a ragtag band of unlikely heroes with clashing personalities and questionable motivations bound together by a common cause. Rather than fall back on old tropes GW have seized the opportunity presented to them and furnished us with a veritable smorgasbord of characters from the shady corners of the universe. Much like Necromunda this offers us a peek into the wider world of 40k, the individual heroics of people just going about their lives away from the monumental struggles of Space Marines, Titans and Primarchs. Even more so than Kill Team; Rogue Trader, which similarly brought us a small band of heroes struggling against the machinations of Chaos, this is GW flirting with everything good that the Inq28 scene brought to the feral underbelly of the setting and for that reason alone it’s worth celebrating. It also demonstrates a willingness on their part to explore what can be done with warbands made up of just a handful of characters, rather than the massed armies we’ve become used to. Surely two boxsets in as many months mean this is more than just a passing phase for them (backed up by repeated assertions that both Blackstone Fortress and Kill Team will receive further updates in the future)? Where might they go next? Suddenly even an inquisitorial retinue in plastic doesn’t seem unimaginable.

Space Hobbit

One of the glorious things about Necromunda is the way it has kept its focus narrow (a product of the long established setting but welcome nonetheless). In the past GW ran global 40k campaigns in which every faction would end up fighting over a single planet, a veritable circus that strained the credulity of even the most enthusiastic fan. Vigilus is starting to head in that direction too, although as the gateway to the Imperium Nihilus at least they’ve come up with a good excuse. For the most part Necromunda has kept its focus on Imperial humans, the occasional xenos or chaos cultist notwithstanding, and so has allowed us to see the true depths of culture present on a single planet in the 41st Millennium. Consider how many thousands of planets exist within the Imperium and the creative potential is jaw-dropping. Blackstone Fortress indulges a different take on this theme and broadens its scope to include various xenos and abhumans, even a robot, whilst still avoiding the temptation to throw in one of everything. 40k is home to an eclectic mix of cultures and species, yet all too often this has boiled down to little more than various colours of Space Marine. Here we see a real slice of life in the 41st Millennium, the sort of scum and villainy to be found in any Imperial star port, and just as the characters in the game explore a new corner of the universe so these models explore the kind of characters previously reserved for background fiction and artwork. For a perfect example of what can be done with this look no further than the two characters who, between them, reflect differing aspects of the Imperium’s state religion. On the one hand we have Taddeus the Purifier, a well dressed figure clearly used to the better things in life who undoubtedly consumes in a single meal more than a family of hive workers do in a month.

Space Pope

Meanwhile Pious Vorne is marked and driven by her faith, a restless crusader whose devotion to the God-Emperor compels her to a life of hardship and violence. Suffice to say I’m hopeful we’ll see more models in this style when the Sisters of Battle put in an appearance.

Burninating The Countryside

Top marks to GW also for the degree to which character and personality have been poured into these models. You can almost hear the bombastic oratory of Taddeus whilst that sharp-dressed man, the Rogue Trader Janus Draik simply oozes self-serving arrogance.

Sharp Dressed Man

The Kroot mercenary meanwhile has the confident professional bearing of the career soldier – this won’t be the first danger filled space station he’s found himself employed to explore.

I Am Kroot

Between them, our party band serve as a valuable reminder of the untapped potential still existing in 40k. Kroot mercenaries, navigator households, rogue trader fleets, even ratling militias (don’t laugh, it would be awesome!), could someday be expanded into full armies. As the range fills out GW are once more able to look beyond they’re power-armoured bread-and-butter and this little lot hints at the range of options still open to them for future exploration.

Flight Of The Navigator

Robots are a rare sight in 40k, the wars against the Men of Iron back in the Dark Age of Technology having rather soured humanity on the question of Abominable Intelligence. Thus UR-025 presents us with something rather interesting, and with photos of its background fiction circulating online many people will be aware of his true origins and motivations. I’ll keep my comments brief but anyone wanting to save the surprise for when they open the box should skip the next paragraph.

All too often we see fan theories being passed off as fact (Abaddon’s crusades have generally been very successful, and there are still no Necrons on Necromunda) so I’ll avoid too much wild speculation regarding the fate of the Men of Iron, and the question of how one has survived into the 41st Millennium without being corrupted by Chaos (assuming, of course, that he hasn’t…). Suffice to say that many long term fans will be as intrigued as I am by the appearance of a Man of Iron. Allegedly, by playing the game more of his background is revealed so allow me to say, with just a touch of hypocrisy, to those of you who play this faster than I do “no spoilers eh!”

I Am Ironman

Speaking of robots, aren’t these intriguing little beasts? As anyone who, like me, spent several years in their late teens and early 20s immersed in the Halo universe will be aware, when a mysterious ancient race leaves behind a huge space station that doubles as a super weapon they make sure to leave it staffed by little robot drones.

Spindle Drone

Smoothly mixing together clean organic lines with sleek technological components these little chaps blend together elements of the Eldar and Necrons to give us our first real glimpse of the Old Ones. Hopefully this will remain our only glimpse – it’s enough to savour this tantalising peak at the shadowy forerunner race, anything more would spoil the mystery.

Send In The Dancing Ghouls

Formerly known best from the courts of the Dark Eldar, where they serve as savage pets, the Ur-Ghuls appear to be living as feral denizens of the Fortress. Quite what they were eating up until now is best left to the imagination but luckily a whole mob of characters have turned up which should help to fatten them up nicely.

Seeing them here is great of course, and beyond Blackstone Fortress they’re sure to come in handy as Inq28 adversaries and Underhive baddies alike. It’s unfortunate then that their poses are so strange, awkward and samey. Anyone looking to convert an all ghoul cheerleading squad need look no further but personally I’d have preferred more personality here, perhaps crouched ready to lunge or hackles raised as they face the unfamiliar glow of the explorer’s lamps.

The Baddies

Of course a good adventure story needs serious villains, a crew of baddies racing for the prize and presenting a more challenging prospect for our heroes to overcome than can be mustered by mere ancient robots and dancing ghouls. Enter those perennial rascals, the forces of Chaos. Abaddon the Despoiler has demonstrated a real enthusiasm for Blackstone Fortresses in the past, launching entire Black Crusades just to claim them, and sure enough his boys are here to stake a claim to this one. Once again GW haven’t been backwards in taking the opportunity to explore some of the less often seen aspects of their worlds.

Just as space marines are willing to turn their backs on the God-Emperor and embrace instead the Ruinous Powers so too are regiments of the Imperial Guard. Traitor guard have long been popular amongst fans of Chaos with many of us going so far as to convert our own. For a long time the only official support for our endeavours was Forge World’s upgrade kit so there were rumblings of disquiet when these were retired earlier in the year. Now however all is (mostly) forgiven. After all, these models are simply gorgeous and worthy inheritors of the role left vacant by the outgoing Forge World kit.

Blackstone Fortress Traitor Guard (1)

A common criticism of the Imperial Guard range is the way in which most of the infantry only pay lip service to their place in the 41st millennium. The same however cannot be said of their rebellious colleagues. The 40k aesthetic is writ large here in their ragged blending of the post-apocalyptic and the medieval, the spiky and the impractical. The baddies of the Rogue Trader box had a slightly cartoony aspect to them, nothing which couldn’t be turned down by a suitably grubby paint job but present nonetheless. This little lot however are far more subtle yet also distinctly darker, Blanchian straight out of the box as it were. They may not have trailing guts and explosive mutations but they’re equally villainous in appearance. Ragged capes, furs, chainmail and gas-masks abound. The only downside is the fact that two identical sprues are included, leading to a squad made up entirely of twins. As with the Poxwalkers of Dark Imperium, and the Chaos Cultists of Dark Vengeance before that, I’ll be treating this as a challenge and trying to convert every single one of them into an individual.

Blackstone Fortress Traitor Guard (2)

A little food for thought occurred as I am looked at these. It’s often been suggested that the introduction of the Primaris Marines has been GW’s answer to the issue of Truescale Marines (more on that below). Rather than simply replace the tiny old models outright they brought in the new bigger boys and (theoretically) can allow attrition – both on the battlefields of the background and in the collections of their customers – to slowly erode the numbers of the little marines of yore. Over time the older kits would be quietly retired whilst the eyes (and wallets) of the public are distracted by the release of yet another Primaris lieutenant in a marginally different pose. It’s a compelling theory, although of course we’re yet to discover if there’s any truth to it at all. What if – I find myself wondering – the same is true of the Cadians? For a long time these poster boys of the Guard have been lambasted as painfully generic little green army men in space. Since the Chapterhouse court case and the dawning of the Age of Sigmar Games Workshop have retreated from clichés and common tropes with alacrity and fortified themselves in a realm of IP protectable names and concepts. Where once we had names like Eldar and Imperial Guard now we have a froth of Dog Latin (and the less said about the “Oh Grrrs” the better!). Where once we had High Elves and Dwarves now we have soulless fishmen and steampunk sky pirates. Do the clichéd Cadians live on borrowed time?  Is this why Abaddon was given carte blanche to blow up their homeworld? It seems entirely likely that the next Imperial Guard regiment to receive a plastic kit will be one closer to the 40k core aesthetic, and all the while the Cadians will get older, sell less, fade Into the background and finally vanish. Of course it’s only a theory…

Beastman

I’ve always had a real soft spot for the beastmen. For a while it looked like they might be excised from 40k altogether,  vanquished like the squats and genestealer cult limos to a faintly embarrassing chapter of the history books that speak of a time before 40k learnt to take itself seriously. Thankfully beastmen and squats are back (and best of all genestealer limos aren’t!). Better yet these aren’t just a rehash of fantasy beastmen with guns. In the old days beastmen came in all shapes and sizes, as befits creatures of Chaos. For many years however we saw only goatmen, Panish creatures with a stable morphology. Long faces, hoofs and horns were in, other bestial characteristics were out. The appearance of the Tzaangors suggested that this era might be coming to an end (and not a moment too soon). These newcomers don’t diverge as far from the goats of recent years but they put a sufficiently different spin on things to suggest that GW are warming up to the idea. Plus they look wonderful fearsome and savage. More please!

Witches

Meanwhile the rogue pyskers follow on from the Nighthaunt to really demonstrate what can be done with modern plastic models. In what is a very clever piece of miniature design they appear to be floating, their robes flapping as they are borne aloft by the unnatural powers at their command. Especially praiseworthy is the way the two of them are so radically different in appearance, whilst still being built from the same base model with just a few swapped components. Beyond being cracking miniatures in their own right (and perfect for witches in Necromunda) these should also make for fine Daemonhosts for those radical Inquisitors amongst you.

Dark Mechanicum

Chaos is us. It is our own nature twisted and turned back at us, and it’s weapons are our better instincts, our fears and aspirations, all clawing at us and dragging us down to hell. As a matter of course therefore any Imperial institution will almost certainly have an equivalent amongst the servants of the Primordial Annihilator. Just as there are Heretic Astartes, traitor guard and renegade knights, so there is a Dark Mechanicum. Until recently however even the loyalist worshippers of the Machine God had no official models. Only since their arrival in 2015 has the idea of seeing their daemon-binding former colleagues on our tabletops begun to glimmer with distant possibility. Once again GW give us a taste of what might someday come to be with the Negavolt Cultists.

Negavolt

The first thing that struck me about these, and perhaps my favourite aspect of them, is that they are not grossly Chaotic. Indeed compared to the loyal soldiers of the Mechanicum they’ve retained much of their human form. They still have their own arms and legs and all the other normal human accoutrements that most of the loyalists have long since done away with in favour of becoming giant mechanical centipedes. Indeed beyond what appear to be ocular dreadlocks these guys don’t have too many inbuilt machines at all – probably a wise move as their cult is dedicated to destroying and corrupting machines wherever they go!

Despite these differences they are instantly recognisable as a sect of the Mechanicum. Paint them in the red robes of Mars and they would fit in fairly well with a loyalist army, far more so than say a plague marine would amongst the Ultramarines.

It may be that these are another sign of things to come, or equally this could be an evolutionary dead end, a splinter cult which will never be developed any further than this even if the Dark Mechanicum become a fully fledged range in time. Either way they’re an interesting twist, even if those head tentacles look set to be a monumental faff to paint.

Black Legion Blackstone Fortress (1)

If it wasn’t for the Black Legionaries one could almost headline this as “40k boxset in no space marines shock!” (and yes, I know the same could be said of Rogue Trader, don’t try to use facts against my cheap mockery!). Speaking as a Chaos fan these are some of the most interesting models to appear here, representing as they do our first hint as to what a future Chaos Marines kit may look like. Power armoured warriors on both sides of the heretic/loyalist divide have enjoyed an eventful couple of years. For a very long time Games Workshop’s most popular line suffered from a fairly monumental flaw which the company seemed doggedly determined to ignore; namely that they appeared to be in an entirely different scale to the rest of the range. Whilst the background described the space marines as warrior-giants, genetically reforged into towering heroes, the actual models stood roughly the same height as an a normal guardsman, even clad as they were in thick plates of armour. Eventually GW got the finger out and decided to do something about this ridiculous situation. The Thousand Sons and Death Guard both saw releases of more sensibly scaled models, although the former do still have a few issues which need to be overcome, namely a distinct lack of lower torso and a general slimness of build. Mind you, who needs organs below the ribs when you’re made out of dust? Plus the Death Guard have more than enough guts for everyone! Whilst the traitor legions grew significantly in stature the loyalists did likewise, although fans waking up to discover that their existing models looked like children next to the new boys were at least offered the sop of some controversial new background involving a reborn Primarch and a 10,000 year mission to achieve what the Emperor could not and make the space marines tall. It’s something that I’ve discussed often on this blog so I won’t rake over it all again. The upshot is however that the old chaos space marine kit is left looking somewhat on the short side. Naturally this has led to an increasing desire from fans to see the vertically challenged and chunkily sculpted marines of yesteryear replaced with something a bit more imposing. Whether or not a new kit, or even a revamp of the whole range, really is on the way on if this is all just wishful thinking remains to be seen but with these three warriors we at least get a taste of what could lie ahead.

As yet it’s still early days for these models. Once I have the set in hand I’ll sort out some comparison photos, assuming a surfeit of them haven’t appeared online already, allowing a proper assessment of their portions alongside their brothers in the Death Guard and Thousand Sons – as well as the Corpse Emperor’s Primaris lap dogs of course! Needless to say if they prove to be smaller than they should GW will once again have an army of grumbling Chaos fans on their hands.

As it stands it appears that, as with the Death Guard, the bulkier armour of the Black Legion – as opposed to the slim fit Thousand Sons – hides a multitude of sins in the lower gut area, an element further disguised by their ‘at ease’ pose and low help bolters. Until I have the models in front of me I’m cautious to say more but needless to say of all the miniatures in the set these are the ones I’m approaching with the greatest uncertainty.

Black Legion Blackstone Fortress (2)

The models themselves are nice enough, recalling the more recent Chaos plastics such as the Raptors and Chaos Chosen (both kits sadly hamstrung by their diminutive scale). As an aside it’s also pleasing to note that the chaos space marine contingent is limited to just three figures. In this way these veterans of the Long War are really given their place as set out by the background. Here we have warriors who’ve been fighting to survive in hell itself for ten thousand years. Three should be more than enough to present any party of adventurers with a serious problem.

+++

Overall then I think GW nailed it here. They’ve walked a tightrope, pouring in an eclectic mix of units whilst keeping the focus sufficiently tight that the whole thing didn’t turn into a circus. I’m sure I could be accused of being a little fan-boyish and in all honesty that’s probably not too far from the truth. The world of 40k tournaments, rules beards and min-maxed death stars has always left me cold, and titanic clashes between space marines – whilst thrilling in small doses – represents only the surface layer of the universe. Give me gangs in the Underhive, give me Inquisitors and their retinues, give me rag-tag bands of mismatched adventurers chasing secrets in the grubby shadows; that’s the 40k I love best!

It’s often said these days that to guess GW’s future look to the past and in this respect the Blackstone Fortress box is almost a synopsis of where they are now, hinting at possible next moves whilst offering a respectful nod to what went before. It’s just a shame they didn’t include a Zoat!

Naturally (and having given it such a glowing review you might have guessed as much already) I’ve declared “hang the expense” and pre-ordered a copy, so expect to see plenty of models from this set popping up here over the coming months. Of course I’m always curious to know what you think. Has your unhealthy obsession with Space Hobbits led to you camping outside the store already or would you have preferred to see some more support for the terminally overlooked space marines? Share your thoughts – the God Emperor’s Holy Inquisition demands it!