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Dark Imperium – Nurgle

“Sickness, disease, plague and pox, suffering and the slow, living rot. Such wondrous gifts does Nurgle seek to bestow upon the unworthy human cattle of the Imperium. We are merely the vectors by which his virulent beneficence may be spread to the undeserving masses”

– Urgloth Rotheart, Plague Champion of the Death Guard.

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So, having cast my eye over the Space Marines in the Dark Imperium boxset, now we turn our attention to Mortarion’s sons, the plague infested legion of the Death Lord and the most devoted of Nurgle’s followers; the Death Guard. Move over loyalist scum – this is the real release that I’m excited about!

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Lord of Contagion

Chaos worshipper’s being a fractious lot there was always going to need to be someone in charge who could stamp their authority on the Nurgly warriors in this boxset. Indeed, in a generous move on GW’s part, we get three of them. Of those three however it doesn’t take an expert to spot which one is in overall command. A hulking warrior-king glad in slab-like Terminator armour the Lord of Contagion stands out at a glance and will be both a staple of painting contests and an imposing presence on the tabletop for years to come. Expect to see this guy showing up at Golden Daemon a lot (don’t worry – as an entry, not a contestant!).

Lord of Contagion

In a recent interview sculptor Maxime Pastourel said he intended the model to be a 40k iteration of the Brian Nelson Nurgle Lord, justly regarded as a modern classic. However, in spite of some superficial similarities – they’re both champions of the Plague God with distended guts, pitted armour and outsized axes – there’s not a huge crossover between the two. The Nurgle Lord is a paragon of simplicity, without frills or fussy details. Its strength is its minimalism, without a single extraneous element. It’s this that makes it so popular with convertors, to the extent that it is often joked that everyone in the world has converted at least one.

The Lord of Contagion however is the exact opposite of this. It’s hard to imagine anyone but the most talented and dedicated making much of it as the basis for conversions, and it’s decked out with the kind of details that will have painters rejoicing and convertors tearing their hair in frustration. What it is however is an outstanding example of the sort of single figure plastic characters that GW excels at.

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Having said that I couldn’t help but stand it next to the leader of my Nurgle army, Ghisguth the Reaper. Once an impressive figure (in my eyes at least), poor Ghisguth now seems a little on the small side (a recurring theme throughout this release you may have noticed). Next to this rival his chances of remaining in charge for long look almost as poor as Theresa May’s (and the similarities don’t end there – just look at the scythe I’ve armed him with, you wouldn’t let him anywhere near a field of wheat either). Thus I find myself wondering about the potential of converting a new version of Ghisguth from the Lord of Contagion. It wouldn’t require any major changes to the new model, which is a relief as anything more than altering a few details looks to be hideously difficult. It’s also fair to say that I really like the original model so making any major alterations risks destroying the character of the piece that I loved to begin with. However, the one downside I see in the excellent HQ figures released in GW’s starter sets is that their popularity soon means one is bombarded with them – every greenskin army in the world contains this Ork warboss for example. By making at least some changes, I get around the problem of having the same centrepiece figure as everyone else – after all, it was a desire to own unique models that drew me to Chaos in the first place!

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The Lord of Contagion towers over his loyalist kin and looks more than capable of putting the Corpse-God’s servants in their place!

Noxious Blightbringer

Could this be my favourite model in the box? That would be a high honour, and the competition is stiff, but there’s no denying this is an impressive figure. There is a restrained horror to the model, the hideous diseases and weird mutations that presumably wrack it are hinted at, but never openly shown, which allows the imagination to glut itself on the possibilities. What vileness is concealed behind the heavy iron mask or sagging apron? Rather than just showing us the sculptors allow us to draw our own conclusions, a move which displays a real maturity on their part. Anyone can splatter greenstuffed guts around the place but in their moderation and self-discipline they have created a model of lasting impact and quality.

What’s more the bells that swing at the model’s sides, and most obviously the great sweep of bone above his head, give the Blightbringer a real elegance – not a word often associated with Nurgle but definitely applicable here. The bell itself has a genuine sense of weight, you can imagine it rocking slowly back and forth in time with the monstrous space marine’s trudging steps.

Noxious Blightbringer

Those wanting to add a second Blightbringer to their army could adjust the angle of the bell or, by carefully cutting away the mask, give the model a headswap. The bell itself would look magnificent mounted atop almost any Nurgle vehicle you can imagine (tanks, dreadnaughts, palanquins etc) or as a piece of terrain or objective marker.

The one element I don’t find particularly necessary are the maggots which crawl over the model’s pitted armour. What do they bring to it that wouldn’t exist without them? To my eye they look like a box ticking exercise, as though the model fell short on some supposed scale of disgustingness, and could be raised a few percentage points towards a preset repugnance threshold through the addition of a few wriggling larva. Take them away and the mind is drawn back to all that is hidden from view and all the revolting possibilities thus contained.

Malignant Plaguecaster

And then they went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like “Hey, we need an extra model, this one will do!” The poor old Malignant Plaguecaster has crawled from the Garden of Nurgle into a torrent of universal distain, cheap jokes and general abuse. There’s no denying that it’s a hard model to love, seemingly cobbled together from a grab bag of bad ideas into one disappointing whole. From the weird baby face to the silly-looking headgear, from the staff – apparently borrowed from the Sylvaneth – to the farty lump representing some kind of spell, it’s a mish-mash of failed ideas that somehow manages to be even worse than the sum of its parts.Malignant Plaguecaster (2)

Seen from the side the cape is revealed, another attempt to make this model flashier than it should have been. Clearly intended to echo the shape of a fly’s wings, and balance out the spell effect, it instead adds another dimension of mistakes to an already troubled miniature. Capes billowing out at head height are an effect that many sculptors have attempted over the years but none have succeeded at and this model was never going to be the place that it suddenly came into its own.Malignant Plaguecaster (1)

Overall then this is a model which would have benefited greatly from a more conservative approach. Rather than attempting to show off GW could simply have copied the old Forge World Nurgle sorcerer, creating a model which was both a highly customisable blank canvas for convertors and a striking miniature in its own right.

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The question that thousands of Nurgle fans across the globe are currently asking themselves is; can it be saved? Personally I’m fairly certain it can and intend to attempt just that, so check back over the next few weeks to see how I get on.

Plague Marines

Moving on to more instantly appealing models we have the Plague Marines. On the Nurgle side of the box these form the core of the set, the lynchpin around which the rest of the army is built. Nail this and any mistakes elsewhere can be forgiven, mess it up the whole release starts to look like a flop. Did they manage it? With Maxime Pastourel, the man who made the Plague Bones, as lead sculptor? Of course they managed it! After putting up with frankly less than impressive Plague Marines for years these are a revelation and a true joy to see at last.

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The sheer amount of detail that’s been packed into them is astounding. Each one is a character in his own right, hulking brutes festooned with elements that combine to instantly characterise them as the ten-thousand year old plague infested warriors they are. The only downside is that, much like the Chosen from the Dark Vengeance box, they look to be a real headache to convert – although far from impossible – but I’ve not given up hope that a multi-part kit is somewhere in our future. What is exciting is the way that some components have been re-used, meaning that – in a huge improvement on previous boxsets – even without making any adjustments every one of these Plague Marines is unique. Those wanting to take things further should look to the Putrid Blightkings, the ever reliable workhorse of Nurgle kits – some wonderfully disgusting conversions await!

Standing next to my old Plague Marines the new models look positively gigantic, although the blame for that lies with the shortness of the old models who barely reach the shoulder of the lowly cultists that serve them.

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Even my beloved (although as yet unfinished) ‘tall’ Plague Marines come up a little small next to these chaps, matching them in height but not in bulk.

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My converted Plague Terminators still have the edge in terms of size although there’s not a lot in it. Of course I’m still praying (in a suitably filthy and germ-infested fane!) for an official Plague Terminators kit, whilst at the same time worrying that it’ll make my lovingly converted models look as stunty as the finecast Plague Marines do next to their new plastic brothers. Ah the complex duality of being a Chaos fan!

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Of course having painted a second edition Plague Marine last week we can now take a look at a family photo charting the development of Nurgle’s followers down the years. The newcomers may be bigger and more impressive but they’re still models that recall their history from the spidery arms of their backpacks to the tips of their hooves.

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In spite of being considerably bigger than the previous incarnation of the Plague Marines however these models don’t quite match the Primaris marines for height, at least partly because they still lack the fully developed abdomen of their loyalist cousins. It’s not a major issue, the quality of the models is so high it’s easy to overlook and the bloated guts cover up most of the abdomen anyway, but it’s something GW will have to watch when they come to working on the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children (which given the long lead in time required to create these models probably happened long ago).

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On Sunday Games Workshop announced the first follow up release to bolster the contents of Dark Imperium. Alongside a new Captain and Librarian we see the new Space Marine Reivers who wear leering skull masks intended to inspire terror in their enemies. What was it Konrad Curze said about death being nothing compared to vindication? Don’t worry Konrad, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

More excitingly however we also saw new Plague Marines, each easily the equal of those included with Dark Imperium.New Plague Marines

 

What’s as yet unclear however is how many models will be included in these new boxsets. At the time of writing only three have been revealed and none of them look like this chap. Hopefully that means a multipart kit is still waiting for us over the coming months but as yet we have to wait and see.

More New Death Guard

Foetid Bloat-Drone

The biggest model in the entire set, and therefore one that was bound to grab attention, is the Foetid Bloat-Drone. Again this is an outstanding model, the fly icon on the carapace is an excellent touch whilst the three spiked-turbines – echoing the shape of Nurgle’s sigil – gives it an instantly striking and recognisable silhouette. It’s also a real chimera, combining elements of the organic and mechanical with considerable flair. Look over it and you’ll spot elements that suggest both buzzing insect and bloated, earth-grubbing mammal, drifting sea-creature and archaic machinery. In spite of this it remains a tightly co-ordinated model, without any unnecessary details, making it another example of the kind of blank canvas that convertors of all stripes will love. I’m already pondering how easy it would be to remove the spikes and horns and turn it back into whatever Mechanicum engine it originated as, before Nurgle started to mutate it (the fleshy belly would be a problem – but not an insurmountable one…). Those thinking even bigger might start to wonder how the front part of the model – from the fly icon forward, without the turbines, guns or trailing cables – would look as the head of a corrupted Knight.  Bloat Drone 4

Using something slightly more unusual as the vehicle kit was always going to be a gamble (people know where they stand with a dreadnaught and those who know what they like and like what they know may have raised an eyebrow at this) but they pulled it off with aplomb. By putting the weirdness front and centre have stamped their creativity very firmly on this set, whilst still remaining true to the Death Guard’s roots and providing the fans with plenty of “wish list” kits, the kind of thing we’ve been banging on about wanting to see for years all wrapped up in a single straightforward kit.

Of course the Bloat-drone is a plastic reinvention of Forge World’s classic Blight Drone (now known as a “Greater Blight Drone” – presumably to differentiate it further from the Bloat-drone). It’s something that GW have made use of many times before, using Forge World as a test bed for new ideas from the Trygon to Heresy-era Space Marine armour. Who knows, perhaps when they get around to a full World Eaters release we’ll see plastic Blood Slaughterers as well. A man can dream eh!

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It’s easy to wax lyrical over the qualities of the new GW but for Chaos fans there is a particular joy in this box. For how long have we been putting up with our ancient plague marine models and wishing, but never believing, that we might someday see Zombies or Blight Drones in plastic? Yet throughout most of that time extracting a single scrap of corrupted power armour from Citadel’s forges has been a particularly arduous exercise in pulling teeth. Now, after what’s felt like ten millennia of fighting over scraps and kitbashing loyalist models with bits of daemons, the Great Rift has torn reality from here to Nottingham and the models we’ve been crying out for have started to spill out.

Poxwalkers

For some time now Nurgle’s legions have been described marching to war preceded by a shambling host of infected corpses; the Plague Zombies. Spread by Typhus, the Death Guard’s most famous son after the Primarch himself, the infection reanimates the dead and sends them lurching towards their former allies in the sort of terrifying horde familiar to horror movie fans everywhere. In the most recent Chaos Marines codex these zombies could be created as an upgrade to chaos cultists, if Typhus himself was in play, but models were not forthcoming. Instead players converted their own, often mixing parts from the Imperial Guard range with the zombies from Warhammer’s Vampire Counts range – itself almost ten thousand years old. Until recently I was pondering making my own by applying greenstuff to Cadians – and then the Poxwalkers arrived and saved the day.

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Slightly more nuanced than simple zombies, these combine elements of Nurgle cultists and mutants with the living dead, leading one to surmise that – whilst some are undoubtedly unwilling victims of Nurgle’s afflictions – others have gleefully embraced their infections. Brilliantly they also include lots of visual references to the Plague Bearers, suggesting that their eventual fate is to become part of Nurgle’s daemonic legions.

Some, like this one, are simply brilliant little character sketches, packed with the kind of personality that we’re used to seeing from GW’s character models.

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This little chap just wants to be as cool and iconic as his big brother.

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Others seem faintly ridiculous, the various tentacles and appendages flailing around without any apparent common direction to suggest co-ordinated motion. Of course zombies are given to shambling awkwardly, no-one ever heard of a lithe or balletic zombie, but a unified direction at least is vital to creating a sense of threat. Many of the Poxwalkers appear to be looking right at you, plotting behind that rictus grin how to cross the distance between you and them as quickly as their rotting limbs will allow and mess you up as badly as fate has messed them up. This one however appears to be doing the hokey-cokey.

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A bit of snipping and slicing went a long way towards improving him though, taking away or adjusting those elements which deviated from the direction of the model’s gaze. The result, hopefully, is something with an appearance of singular purpose and threat.

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Meanwhile, this one is appears to be wearing some kind of chem-suit, presumably designed for use in the most hostile of environments, but still utterly wasted against Nurgle.Poxwalkers Convert Or Die (3)

The one thing I really dislike about this one is the gas tank swinging at his side, a feature which only serves to make the model look ungainly without bringing any positive benefits. Cue some more swift converting as the gas tank is snipped off and a new one added (taken from the Kharadron Overlords). Whilst I was about it I adjusted the positioning of the knife he’s carrying to make him a little more aggressive and a little less flailing.

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When I first saw the Poxwalkers this disparity between the models I loved and the ones that jarred with me left me dissatisfied by the whole set. However after I spotted this chap I started to rethink a little.

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Poxwalker – painted and converted by Nic from Mystarikum.

Painted by Nic over at the Mystarikum this is a rather grubbier Poxwalker than those produced by ‘Eavy Metal. It’s also, in my opinion, a rather more fitting look for them, the clean, sharp style preferred by ‘Eavy Metal doing no favours to these filthy walking corpses.

Those planning a Poxwalker horde over their own should also take a look at WilhelMiniatures. Wilhelm has toned his models down considerably in comparison to the exotically mutated originals, to create a set of nicely restrained zombies. Even if you want to keep the crazy mutations among your own ranks I’d still highly recommend following his progress – after all a bit of variety is a must in any zombie horde.

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Poxwalker by WilhelMiniatures.

Fresh Fevers

Back in March Games Workshop announced a forthcoming Death Guard release and, in spite of the many Nurgle worshipping models in the Dark Imperium boxset, it’s safe to say that this isn’t it. Various models shown in the video remain unaccounted for, this Plague Marine for example, which suggests a further release is still to come.

New Death Guard Incoming

Precisely what models will emerge alongside said release remains a topic of hot debate wherever fans of the Plague God are gathered together. Just as the Thousand Sons release included both Ahriman and the Primarch Magnus the Red so it seems likely that a new model for Typhus will appear alongside the Primarch Mortarion – a character widely referenced in recent 40k fiction. A multi-part Plague Marines box seems likely, Plague Terminators would be a safe bet and many people have pointed to the similarity between the grub-like monstrosities appearing alongside the Death Guard in recent artwork and hints shown in GW’s “Rumour Engine” promotional material. Of course a new model for the Great Unclean Ones would also be wonderful. Allow me, however, to suggest another contender for a forthcoming release. Alongside all the wonderful miniatures I’ve been pouring over in the last two posts the Dark Imperium box contains the full rulebook for Warhammer 40,000. Those with a copy handy should turn to pages 159 and 161 which detail, respectively, the forces engaged in the Plague Wars of Ultramar and the Fall of Cadia. Alongside the familiar Nurgle forces we find reference to Blight Towers – most likely a new name for the Plague Towers of Nurgle – and two Pestigor Legions.

Youngsters may be scratching their heads at this but older hands may remember that the beastmen of Chaos once contained four distinct breeds, one for each of the Gods. Slaangors served Slaanesh, Tzaangors Tzeentch, Bloodgors or Khorngors Khorne and Pestigors Nurgle. With the Tzaangors unexpectedly resurrected alongside the Silver Tower release and then gathered into the fold of the Thousand Sons Legion  it suddenly seems entirely possible that the Plague God’s cloven followers will soon join them, especially given their unexpected referencing in the fiction. Time to resurrect my Bloodgor conversions I think…

As for the Blight Towers this may simply be a reference to an old Epic model that’s continued to pop up in the background but, given that Plague Towers had rules in Apocalypse until very recently and that the Lord of Skulls demonstrates GW’s willingness to experiment with god-specific super heavy vehicles, it’s not entirely outside the realms of possibility that a new kit might be on its way for these as well. I’m not holding my breath for them mind you but if I was a betting man then the Pestigors would have my money.

Passing On The Infection

So now it’s over to you. Do you love the new models with an uncritical passion, or should I face the Emperor’s judgment for expressing such heretical views. Do you think I’m talking rot (boom boom!) or do you already have some pestilent models in the works? The comment’s box, as ever, is your stage and soapbox.

 

All images are either mine, credited to their respective creators or belong to Games Workshop. Let the galaxy burn!


Dark Imperium – The Marines

By now the eighth edition of Warhammer 40,000 has well and truly launched, with copies of the new Dark Imperium boxset falling into the grubby paws of hobbyists the world over and the internet groaning under the weight of unboxing videos and reviews. Some might go so far as to wonder if another one is really necessary but when has that ever stopped me before? Indeed this release is proving to be so seminal, and my resultant spiel so lengthy, that I’ll be splitting it over two posts. In the second half we’ll don our rebreathers, daub the mark of Nurgle on our foreheads and wallow in the Death Guard side of the box but for today let’s armour ourselves in faith and ceramite and tackle the models everyone’s been talking about; the Space Marines.

The Avenging Son

Much has already been made of this newest addition to the 40k back-story with the fan-base polarising between those who’re overjoyed at seeing progression in a stagnating universe and those who’d have preferred if those responsible had been drowned at birth. Pity the poor Games Workshop writer who must tread the fine line between the fanatical fans and the equally frothing outraged, especially when the former seems able to become the latter in a heartbeat if things don’t play out exactly as they’d have liked.

Whilst much sound and fury has been expended over the fiction however the models themselves have been almost universally praised, and rightly so. These are the towering, powerful warriors that have always been described in the background fiction, not the stunted figures that we’ve been forced to contend with on the table top.

Space Marine Intercessors

The meat of this release, on the Space Marine side of the box, are the Intercessors  and their plasma firing buddies the Hellblasters. Essentially these are Tactical Marines scaled up to the size they should have been to begin with. People may bang on about Cawl-pattern bolters and Mark X armour with subtly different trims but at the end of the day these are True-scale marines gift-wrapped in just enough fiction (of hotly debated quality) to avoid invalidating the existing range. Whether or not that proves to be a good move remains to be seen.

In many ways there’s not a whole lot to say about them, they’re Space Marines plain and simple, just  a bit bigger than we’re used to. This simplicity is their greatest strength however, allowing one to adorn them as much or as little as one wants to, to create the Space Marines you’ve always imagined. Even I, an avowed heretic, who’s struggled in the past to conjure much more than disinterest when it comes to the Emperor’s Finest (in spite of painting quite a few of them a couple of years ago) will admit to sketching out ideas for a new Chapter when I’m meant to be thinking about work.

It’s worth noting however that although these are essentially just up-scaled space marines there have been some subtle tweaks which create a much needed appearance of functionality. The squashed torsos of the old marines are gone replaced with a longer abdomen, providing the Space Marine with much needed storage space for all his internal organs, and a bit of extra height into the bargain. Not only does this mean the Primaris marines are taller, they look taller too – or to put it differently, the old marines not only suffered from being short they also had specific design features which made them look even shorter than they were.

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Making them bigger has also given the designers more space to work with, enough that they can expand on details which themselves add to the functional appearance of the armour. Take a look at the ribbed material which provides the suit’s flexibility and you’ll find there’s more of it, creating the impression that the wearer could actually move and fight at speed, without constantly having to struggle against the friction of scraping armour panels.

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A nice comparison shot of Space Marine bums – bet you didn’t think you’d be seeing that when you woke up this morning!

Best of all, in my opinion, we now have nice big power-packs for our marines. The silhouette of the Space Marine is so familiar to us all that there’s something subtly wrong with truescaled marines saddled with tiny backpacks.Backpack Space Marine

However, whilst a lot of elements have scaled up, two key components have stayed the same size; the heads and the shoulder pads. Again this relieves the Primaris marines from the problem of having outsized heads and shoulders that the old-marines suffered from, with the neat knock-on benefit of allowing Space Marine fans access to a huge range of customisation options right from the get-go. You want Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Grey Knights, or to cobble in bits and pieces of older armour marks? Knock yourself out! No need to wait for them to get their own dedicated Primaris release, just dig into your bits box and get started now! Bits sellers and ebayers must be rubbing their hands with glee and expanding their property portfolios as we speak.

Snarky comments aside though the great benefit of this is the ability to customise the new Space Marines straight off the bat and naturally I was unable to resist. Once a multipart version of the kit is released (pretty much inevitable I’d say) with separate shoulder-pads the options will really expand and whole armies of individualised true-scaled space-knights will suddenly be within the grasp of everyone, without the tremendous effort that was once required.

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” Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it…”

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Just for fun, and because I’m an unrepentant heretic at heart, I cobbled together a Chaos marine from Primaris parts; a three dimensional sketch if you will, to help me plan out some future projects. Of course I’m looking forward to it popping up on Natfka any day now, tagged as “New plastic Chaos Marines spotted!”

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Of course not everything in the box is perfect. I think by now my feelings on Space Marines wielding bolters one handed are probably well know. This chap may have the rule of cool on his side but think about how he’d look in action, blazing away with that huge, unwieldy bolter in one hand (the kickback alone sending shots all over the place) and the pistol in the other.

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Seen side by side with the Mark IV helmet (right) the similarities are clear, although the Primaris has a flatter face and more slanted “ears” which helps it to fit into the family of Space Marine helmet designs, whilst remaining its own entity. In this way the Primaris models are actually given a degree of personality, as most of the other featured changes represent an up-scaling of the armour and the introduction of greater functionality, nothing that one would not have expected from a straightforward truescaling of the old astartes.

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In spite of all the celebrating that must be going on at Games Workshop HQ and the congratulations echoing from every corner of the internet as reviewers get their hands on the new kits, spare a thought for those who already have armies of power armoured warriors painted and waiting for battle. Thanks to GW’s insistence on putting Space Marines front and centre in every conceivable release over the last three decades there are now quite a lot of us. At one time a widely quoted statistic (veracity unknown) was that one in four miniatures purchased, across all companies (not just GW) was a Space Marine. Whilst I’ve no idea if that’s true there’s certainly a lot of us out there.

Imperial Fist

On the loyalist side we have Space Marines in a host of different colours and rules, plus Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Grey Knights and the Deathwatch, whilst the traitors get in on the act with our own array of spiky, angry mutant super-soldiers. That’s a lot of power armour that suddenly looks distinctly short and awkward. Many will choose to ignore this, some of us (myself included) will accept that we’ve no-one to blame but ourselves for not true-scaling earlier and begin the work of bulking up those models we think are saveable. Many will see this as an opportunity to set aside old armies and start new ones and cash registers will light up in branches of Games Workshop the world over, to the heartfelt delight of the shareholders. Some people however will feel distinctly cheesed off – and who can blame them? When Games Workshop first released those stunted little marines all those years ago they ignored the first tenant of being in a hole – stop digging! Instead they went on burrowing assiduously and we, the customers, joined them in droves. So energetic was our participation in expediting this screw up that we hit oil down there, enough to make GW rich. For years they must have been aware of the scale of their mistake yet they chose not to attempt to rectify it, continuing to ring every penny from a flawed range until finally it became apparent that more money could be made from reinventing it. Then, and only then, was the decision taken to put right that old wrong. So whilst I’m overjoyed by the arrival of appropriately scaled Space Marines I can empathise with those who’ve poured money and time into armies of short-marines and are now angry enough to put Khorne to shame.

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My own Space Marines. Making up in garish paintwork for what they lack in stature.

Last time I discussed this I pondered if the arrival of the Primaris marines would see the death of truescaling. Increasingly however I feel sure that it shall see the death of the Space Marines themselves. Indeed, in the short term, interest in true-scaling will increase as people attempt to get their old models to an appropriate scale alongside the new releases.

Now that we have Primaris marines in our hands the old style “short-marines” of the past will almost certainly see no further releases. Imagine Games Workshop trying to drum up enthusiasm for a new Space Marine release in the old scale now. It would be a flop and they know it.

Of course that’s going to be bad news for pre-existing and well loved Space Marine characters like Dante, Mephiston and Ragnar Blackmane. Will they ever see new models now, and if they do will they have quietly grown to the proportions of their new brothers or will they still be smashing up the galaxy with nothing but short-man syndrome as an ally?

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Ragnar Blackmane. If you had to face Magnus the Red whilst looking this ugly you’d be angry too.

So how big are the new Primaris marines? By now we’ve all seen plenty of size comparisons online or even in the flesh, yet the difference in scale between the new models and their older counterparts (here a Dark Vengeance marine) remains shocking.

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Even standing next to a Terminator (from the Black Reach boxset) the Primaris looks big, although the Terminator still has the edge in bulk. As it stands we’re still waiting to discover if GW will be releasing Primaris-scale Terminators over the coming months or if terminator armour has been replaced by Gravis armour (as worn by the Captain in the Dark Imperium boxset). If it’s the latter – surely a mistake on GW’s part – then truescaling terminators will be the next step. Watch this space!

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Next to the common soldiers of the Imperium the size difference is even more acute. Finally the Emperor’s Finest look as mighty and terrifying as they are supposed to.

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They’re still shorter than an Ogryn, which is as it should be, but the size difference is no longer as extreme, and the similarity in height to the hulking brutes actually helps to establish the Space Marines as giants in their own right. Mind you I’m suspicious that this particular Ogryn has been exposed to something heretical. Someone phone the Inquisition!

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I’m also pleased to see that they look suitably bulky next to my old scout conversions, meaning that – with a quick lick of paint – these at least can be migrated over to the new collection.

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (4)

This Imperial family photo shows the progression I was hoping for, the Scout is clearly bigger and bulkier than the Guardsman but is yet to complete the process which will turn him into a warrior-giant able to support and fight in the weight of power armour. And yes, that is a part painted Skitarii on the end there – don’t hold your breath though, he’s been waiting for the rest of his paint for a while!

Space Marine Size Comparison Convert Or Die (5)

The new marines also scale nicely next to the enemies of the Imperium. The Ork nob still looks suitably brutish but the boy, although an imposing thug next to a guardsman no longer out-performs humanity’s elite on size and muscle mass. The slight visual toning down of the orks that occurs as a result helps to make them into a more believable force – in the old days when they were bigger than space marines, came in hordes and had powerful technology to boot things always looked a little one-sided when they stood face to face with the Imperium. One was left feeling that there must be something terribly wrong with ones orks when one read descriptions of space marines tearing through whole squads of boys single-handedly. Now they look more believable – still terrifying to a guardsman but only a threat to a space marine when there are a lot of them.

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At times one feels that Games Workshop themselves aren’t quite sure what to make of this release. Are these the Space Marines we’ve always dreamed of, shoe-horned into the background, or are they a faction in their own right, for better or worse? GW aren’t sure. With the Intercessors  and the Lieutenants they’ve simply recreated existing Space Marines on a bigger scale, but the same cannot be said of the Inceptors who have almost as much in common with Centurions as they do with Assault Marines. They may have jump packs to carry them hurling through the skies but they are heavier, more industrial, more in keeping with the over engineered Imperial aesthetic, than their little brothers. Again I expect to see talented individuals converting them into Assault Marines but one has to wonder why GW felt we should be forced to, or even how successful they’ll be. Many will undoubted wait to see what else is introduced to the new Primaris range before taking the plunge, hoping for running legs on a future kit which could be mixed with existing Assault Marine bits to truescale the old models.

Inceptor

Of course it may well be the case that GW are relying on us thinking in a now outdated paradigm. When Age of Sigmar was first released many people looked at it through the lens of Warhammer. The Khorne models all had an equivalent in the old game and people soon took to debating which faction could best be proxied with the Stormcasts and how they could most easily fit into the background of the Old World. With the Primaris marines GW are almost certainly relying on us doing the same thing. We will talk about true-scaling and pretending that Roboute is still on ice whilst new players join the ranks, only dimly aware that there was a world before the Gathering Storm. Meanwhile White Dwarf will be full of pictures of gloriously dramatic Primaris models, and slowly our shelves will fill up with them, the idea bedding in until one day we wake up and find that having two sizes of Space Marine is the new normal and only bitter old grognards are still spitting into their beards about the “good old days”, and being ignored by precisely everyone.

Meanwhile, I suspect, that the old scale Space Marines will quietly go out of stock, slipping away into the night one at a time until only the giants are left. In future editions the supposed size difference between the Space Marines and the Primaris will be reduced until one day the little Space Marines so familiar to us today are as rare on the tabletop as their Rogue Trader era equivalents.

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It’s only been a few months since Guilliman was released and in that time the 40k galaxy has changed vastly. When the Primarch first woke up I was angry and disappointed. How could the writers be so careless with the universe they had inherited? How could they put their own selfish desire to stamp their own ideas onto the story without considering the effect it would have on the fan base? What about the subtle implications of introducing hope to a universe which had excused the fascism of its central faction as a pastiche of a hopeless and crumbling empire? After all if Guilliman succeeded in making the Imperium great again he implicitly proved that the brutality of the preceding centuries had been a necessary evil, a burden to be borne in order to reach a more glorious future.

In spite of my initial upset however I got over it. Guilliman faded into the background, as far away from the filthy hives and ragged inward-looking tech-peasants that inhabit my own vision of the Imperium as any other high lord. 40k rumbled onwards on its pedestal, no more forgiving in actuality of the right-wing than it is of any other political persuasion. In six months time the Primaris marines will have gone to join him, accreted into the ever growing background of 40k. Meanwhile we who gnashed our teeth in such horror in the immediate aftermath of his reawakening will say “well, bringing back Guilliman was one thing, but resurrecting Ferrus Manus as a talking head really is the final straw!”

We’ll get over it, or we’ll wander off to pastures new if we really can’t stomach the new 40k. If you don’t believe me think how ridiculous that one guy in your local gaming group or favoured forum is, the one who’s still talking about how lame Age of Sigmar is, how much GW sucks for killing off the Old World. His tantrums may have sounded like a passionate rallying cry against the injustices inflicted on your favourite fantasy battle game two years ago, now they’re as dull and monotonous as the traffic passing outside your window – and as worthy of your attention.

In the meantime the Space Marines are dead – long live the Space Marines! Now then, what colour am I going to paint them?

 

Further Reading:

If you’ve not still read enough about Primaris marines there’s an excellent article over at Between the Bolter and Me that I highly recommend.

 

If the pictures you see here aren’t photographs of my own miniatures then I’ve lifted them from Games Workshop’s website without even bothering to ask. Agents of the Assassinorum have inevitably been dispatched to silence me. Not to worry, death shall be nothing compared to vindication!


Bigger And Better Than Ever Before

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Empire of the Clouds

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

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

Dwarves vs Skaven Convert Or Die

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

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

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

Fyreslayers Convert or Die

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

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

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

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

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

Brokk Grungsson

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

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

Kharadron Overlords Skyship

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

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

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

Squats

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

Arkanaut Frigate

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

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

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

Gromthi-a-Grund

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

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

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

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

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

Arkanaut Company Captain

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

Aethermatic Volley Gun

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

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

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


Greenskin Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This feral goblin standard-bearer prepares to annoy PETA…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Magic Is For All

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

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The Cult Rises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Warflocks Emerge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Warp Unleashed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2016 – For Anyone Who Missed It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Things I’m looking forward to in 2017:

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

 

Breaking the Habit

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Chaos Out There!

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

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

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Fulgrim – this could be you!

 

Not The End Times

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Siege of Terra

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

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