Tag Archives: Space Marines

For Those About To Rot

As if the Thousand Son’s release last autumn wasn’t exciting enough the Death Guard are here, a fully realised Chaos Legion as distinct – indeed arguably even more so – from the Chaos Space Marines as the Space Wolves are from the Space Marines. This is something that we Chaos fans have been banging on about wanting to see pretty much forever so there’s no way I was going to let the occasion pass without comment. Let the suffering of the False Emperor’s servants begin!

Nurgle 2

Needless to say this release has been hotly anticipated not just since GW teased us with shots of the Sons of Barbarus back in the spring, nor even since we saw the Thousand Sons last autumn, but pretty much as far back as there have been chaos fans who looked at the love and attention GW lavished on their loyalist cousins and dared to dream. Let’s not forget after all that the first ever codex to be released covered the Space Wolves, yet for a very long time it seemed that even to hope for the same treatment for the traitors was to imagine the ridiculous. To even suggest that such a thing might some day be possible was to invite ridicule with many chaos fans, as stubborn and bitter as the legionaries they unleash on the tabletop, insistent that GW would never indulge us as they have the Emperor’s pampered lapdogs.

Unsurprisingly then this release has also been hotly debated. We’ve been waiting for it for so long that expectation management has gone out of the window. Everyone agrees that something foul has been unleashed upon the galaxy but the gloves are off when it comes to the question of whether that’s in a good way or not. Hobbyists are divided; is this mana from a particularly pestilent heaven or an affront to the eyes and an affront to the sensibilities? For some anything less than perfection will be an insult, for others the fact that GW has acknowledged our existence at all is justification for grovelling abasement. For those of you without a strong opinion on the subject, but who want to join in on the general bickering, I’m here to help. Simply pass off my thoughts as your own and hey presto – heated argument can be yours!Death Guard (1)One of the most popular criticisms levelled at the Death Guard is that they are too heavily mutated, that they should be more restrained, the dreadfulness of their disease ravished forms a subtle horror that creeps up on the viewer as the model is explored rather that leaping at them bombastically from the moment you open the box. It’s a complaint I can certainly sympathise with, although I enjoy a good mutation myself my vision of the 41st Millennium also calls for a degree of nuance and realism.

Part of the problem, as ever, are the studio paint jobs. With almost every release from GW you hear the same refrain (and I’ll confess I’m as guilty of this as the rest of us). “I don’t like it”, we cry, “it looks too cartoony!” Then we see the bare plastic, or a version painted in a suitably grubby, gritty, Blanchian style and suddenly we realise it’s not so bad after all. The Death Guard encapsulate this to a T – and we shouldn’t blame GW for that, their hands were tied on this from the beginning.

At the end of the day the Citadel house style is all about making the models look bright and sharp, having them pop out at a distance, and not about making them look too real. This is particularly true with Nurgle – these models are thick with open sores and weeping wounds, spilled guts hanging from rotting flesh, fly-like mutations and crawling maggots. Paint these bad boys as too realistic and people will be loosing their lunches left, right and centre. Certainly that kid who’s trying to convince his mum to put some Blightlord’s on her credit card is going to be out of luck if the outside of the box looks like a still from a particularly gruesome slasher flick.Blight Lord TerminatorWe’re also familiar with Plague Marines of a less mutated stripe than we’re seeing now. We’ve been sticking horns and spikes onto loyalist space marines and greenstuffing on guts to create our own Plague Marines that we’ve become used to it. Now when we see a bunch of hideous mutants shambling towards us with murder in mind we react with horror rather than embracing them as we should. Yet our situation hasn’t really changed, it’s just reversed. Whereas once we had to stick extra mutations on to our models now we need to snip them off but the result is the same, if you don’t like the models that come in the box then change them. Nothing will ever be good enough to please everyone after all.

Many dislike the level of mutation on the new models, accusing them of being cluttered and defined by their horns, tentacles and other mutations. Personally I like my 40k models to be “blinged-up” but it really is a matter of taste. That said I’m pleased to see that most of them don’t have their guts hanging out – it’s a powerful look but the shock value of it has been reduced by the fact that for a while every Nurgle model was suffering from it.

Beneath the mutations however these models still owe a lot to the original Death Guard designs.

Plague Marine

Exciting though the new Death Guard are, we do not need to be passive consumers here, fat little baby birds glutted with new plastic toys but still begging hungrily for more from GW. The New GWTM prides itself on listening to the fans, but listening to the fans is a dangerous and soul destroying business akin of wading through a river of sewage. Visit any website where more than a handful of GW fans are gathered together and the complaining of the entitled becomes a deafening chorus. Yet why should we build our shrines to the GW cargo cult and wait for the gods in Nottingham to deliver us a bounty only to moan that the sculpts we receive have too many tentacles (or not enough)? No-one was asking for Sky-dwarves or crying out for an expanded range of treemen whilst Sisters of Battle fans continue to pour their rage into the uncaring void and receive nothing.

Our hobby is one of craftspeople and it is at its best when we embrace that. If you love the new Death Guard get them painted. If you hate them make them better. If you want to see Chaos developed to the level and depth which it deserves get on and develop it. We don’t need to sit in a passive aggressive-sulk waiting for GW to see fit to provide us with a fully realised suite of plastic models for the Iron Warriors or an Alpha Legion codex – we are Chaos fans and born convertors. Our hobby lives and breaths through the efforts of those who push the envelope, who refuse to accept what they have been given by GW but strive to make it better, to fit it to their own vision. Without such creatives it would wither and become stale and be swept aside by newer, flashier pastimes (and now you know why I chose to name this blog the way I did).

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It’s this that makes events like #MakeTheDeathGuardGreatAgain so exciting to me. Now without wishing to open up a political debate or imply criticism of any politicians or their voters, the phrase “Make (insert cause here) Great Again” has been used by such massive arseholes lately that it’s now so toxic even Mortarion won’t touch it. Truthfully just that hashtag was enough to put me off the whole idea at first, especially as I think the new Death Guard are pretty damn great to begin with. However once I got over that I actually got pretty excited about the idea.

Plus, as I’ve noted above, I love a grittier, darker, more honest version of the 41st Millennium than the somewhat over-the-top style favoured by GW. Hopefully #MDGGA will bring out the Inq28/Blanchian creative streak which would lend so much to Mortarion’s sons and I highly recommend that anyone who’s dissatisfied with the new models (or even those like me who love them) get’s involved.

Malignant Plaguecaster Conversion Convert Or Die (4)

The Malignant Plaguecaster – a model simply crying out to be made great.

Another complaint levelled at the new Death Guard is the odd proportions of their torsos (the old rib-cage-fusing-straight-onto-the-pelvis ailment that marred pre-primaris space marines). Having suffered for my art and googled images of fat men I’m still unconvinced by this.

People will say “of course their proportions are odd, it’s Nurgle, they’re all mutated in there” but that’s a cop-out. The truth is their proportions are odd because they’re really fat. These are not the Primaris marines who have the chiselled torsos of Greek gods under that armour. The Death Guard may well be muscular but they carry a lot of weight with it.

Then we need to factor in the weight and thickness of power armour. After all this is the 41st Millennium where everything is outsized and over-engineered. Sci-fi which chooses to depict a shiny, hopeful future may provide its soldiers with formfitting, bullet deflecting body-armour which owes its life-saving properties to the wonders of technology but in the 40k universe such heresy is best left to filthy xenos like the Eldar. Humans, regardless of which gods they worship, know that the best way to make armour better is to make it thicker.

So is it really fair to claim that their proportions are wrong? Time to break out the artist’s dummies!Plague Marine Proportions

Well, I’m satisfied but, as a picture is worth a thousand words, you can make up your own mind.

Another complaint about the marines we saw released in the past was just how short they were – hardly the towering warrior giants described in the background. Thankfully GW seem have woken up to this glaring error at last. Seen next to a Primaris marine the new models remain suitably bulky and imposing.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (1)

And now we see why the defenders of the Cadian gate were so worried – there were fully armoured Chaos Marines in there that were actually taller than guardsmen!

Death Guard Convert Or Die (7)

Whilst old-fashioned space marines look more ridiculous than ever now that they’re surrounded by sensibly proportioned models.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (4)

Plus, I’m pleased to see that my old Blightking based Chosen fit rather well alongside the new Plague Marines and can look forward to being incorporated into the ranks of my new squads.

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Ah, how our little family has grown!

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This also seems like a good time to mention the Thousand Sons. Although not quite on the same scale as the Death Guard and the Primaris they come pretty close and, in spite of my inclination to rail at GW for the kind of fence-sitting that’s left the sons of Magnus looking a little short beside their brother legions, they’re close enough that a few spacers will save the day. Simply by blue-tacking this one together I’ve added enough height that he can meet a Primaris’s gaze.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (2)

And I could hardly move on without a power-armoured line up for those like me who like to see who’s tall and who’s not. Just keep in mind that the Thousand Son is a little longer in the neck than he will be once his head is glued in place.

Death Guard Convert Or Die (5)

One thing that’s slightly marred this release for me has been the number of extra releases tacked on, seeming only by way of spinning a little extra money for GW. Whilst the plague marines in Dark Imperium and First Strike were excellent, did we really need things like the Plague Brethren as well? Surely with so many plague marine champions already available (one in the Dark Imperium boxset, one in First Strike and one in the plague marine box itself), did we really need another one; particularly one that’s aimed straight at the completists and hobbyists on higher incomes? Nice though this model may it brings nothing to the release beyond a unique head and a humorous nurgling – the latter of which could be converted easily from a spare nurgling and leftover helmet, both things that Death Guard fans are likely to have lying around in abundance.

Plague Champion with Funky Nurgling

Plus, amazing though this banner is, surely it could have been added to the main plague marines kit rather than justifying a £15 price tag by itself?

I've Got Standards

Terminators

In the run-up to this release a betting man would have guessed that some kind of terminators would be present. The return of terminators dedicated to the individual gods has been at the top of many a wishlist for years, the Thousand Sons have the Scarab Occult and loyalists like the Blood Angels, Space Wolves and Dark Angels all have their own variants so something for Nurgle sounded like a safe bet. Those of us who were boldest (or most fanciful) even speculated that there might be some kind of duel kit, providing alternative heads and scythes so that one could build one’s Nurgle terminators as Mortarion’s elite Deathshroud. Two entirely separate kits though – that was a bounty we didn’t dare dream of.

Deathshroud

With the Death Guard terminators we actually get to see a nice microcosm of the knife edge path walked by a champion of the dark gods. The Deathshroud stand tall and proud. Their proportions are accurate, their mutations generally functional. Chaos has bloated them in strength and stature but they retain an appearance which implies autonomy of will. They look like humans, albeit humans which have been empowered by the very best that Chaos and the pre-heresy Imperium could offer. Look at a Deathshroud miniature and one sees a character and, by implication, a mind.

Not so the Blightlords. Their mutations are more severe and crippling. Their poses are hunched, their stance feral. Here are men who’ve been killing so long they’ve forgotten how to do anything else. The weapons and armour they carry on themselves are remnants, the collected scraps that hint at the kind of men they once were. These are not the accoutrements selected by a warrior to aid him in battle but the part-sloughed skin of a creature on the path to becoming something other. The Deathshroud are stationary, controlling an objective, letting the enemy come to them through the flesh-devouring toxic fog. Meanwhile the Blightlords are lunging forwards, desperate to bring the battle to their unfortunate victims. The suggestion is that these are warriors who have lost their way, their instincts becoming animalistic, their bodies mere puppets to Chaos. Whilst the Deathshroud appear to be on the path of champions with Princehood lying within their grasp, the Blightlords are each on the slippery slope to becoming spawn.

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Look at this one for instance – he’s turning into a fly. He’s not going to be making any tactical decisions apart from how to get into the jam.

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Typhus

The new incarnation of Typhus has certainly proved to be a divisive model, not least because of the lofty pedestal the old version was placed upon. Yet whilst the old model was contemplative the new one is anything but, showing the captain of the Terminus Est as a dynamic warleader urging his rotten troops onwards to victory. That said I’m not entirely sure I love the new pose, there’s something slightly over the top about it that recalls an anime character more than the brutal hostility of the 40k universe. Personally my inclination would be to build him with the pose adjusted, scythe held at his side as he scans the battlefield for his next victim, rather than the super-power-up pose GW have gone for.

Typhus (2)

That said this disappointment is tempered by the fact that he can be build without the ridiculous looking cloud of gas and flies venting from the destroyer hive. What’s more this one, clipped free of the trailing gas, would make for a fine sidekick/familiar/pet to a Nurgle character.

Typhus Flies

 In spite of these reservations, and the vigorous slagging that the model has received in some quarters, I’m actually rather fond of the new Typhus. Notwithstanding the radical difference in pose a lot of elements from the old model have been repeated in the new, from the head to this cheeky nurgling fishing around in his guts.

Typhus Nurgling

Indeed if one really wanted to one could recreate the old Typhus fairly easily  as the old model has been translated almost exactly into plastic as part of the Deathshroud set. In fact the designers probably had little choice but to amp up Typhus’ pose a little to make him stand out from Mortarion’s impressive new bodyguard.

Typhus Comparison

Please note, this isn’t a size comparison, old Typhus is dwarfed by the new Deathshroud.

Another nice thing about this release is the level of effort that’s been put into expanding the Death Guard as a legion. From being just plague marines, a colour scheme and some greenstuffed boils they’ve been rebuilt into an army packed with depth and character. Nowhere is this more apparent than the range of specialists that have been added to the army. By giving the Death Guard their own unique units in this way GW have moved the army out of the shadow of the legions and turned them into their own entity. No longer are they a Nurgle version of the space marines whereby one took the same base units and added furs for Space Wolves, hoods for Dark Angels and boils for Death Guard – and in the later instance renamed the Librarian as a Sorcerer and stuck some spikes on all the tanks. These guys have spent their time in the warp evolving, both in appearance and in organisation. Just as each loyalist chapter has become a separate entity from the codex adherent Space Marines so too have the Thousand Sons and Death Guard evolved away from being just another flavour of Chaos Space Marines. Nor is the Death Guard simply a copy of the Thousand Sons release – an event that seemed staggeringly generous at the time but which now almost seems miserly in comparison. It would have been easy enough for GW to turn out a similar package to that received by the sons of Magnus; a squad in power armour, some terminators, a character, a primarch and something to add flourish – hell, if they’d kept to the Thousand Sons framework exactly and given us pestigors in place of the tzaangors I’d have been happy enough. Instead, probably inspired by the popularity of Nurgle, they went above and beyond, choosing to release the Lords of the Plague Planet as a legion entire with a fleet of Nurgly vehicles and a cast of specialist individuals.

Of these one of my personal favourites is the Plague Surgeon, a lean, reaper-like figure who looms, ghastly and imposing, over the ranks of his brothers. Unlike the other Nurgle models, all of whom feature a distinct distended gut, the Plague Surgeon is a gaunt figure, tall and thin in a way that is both instantly befitting a servant of Nurgle and yet strikingly new in a range otherwise dominated by jolly fat men. Indeed the slender, slightly spiky look of the figure helps emphasise its grim bitterness, especially in comparison to the malevolent cheer of his allies. After all this was once an Apothecary, and one only need look at the rest of the Death Guard army to see how badly he failed in his duty.

Plague Surgeon

Sadly they can’t all be winners and the Foul Blightspawn, like the Plaguecaster from Dark Imperium, feels a bit like a grab bag of crazy ideas. In essence a miniature should represent a character doing something (locked in battle, standing guard, casting a spell, pointing out an interesting local attraction). The trouble with the Blightspawn is that he appears to be doing a bit of everything. He’s throwing a grenade, and he’s stepping forward to do so, but the implied lack of speed suggests he’s only chucking it a few feet away rather than lobbing it maliciously into a trench full of cowering guardsmen. Meanwhile he’s also filling another grenade from the noxious pump on his back but the fact that he’s not looking where he’s pouring suggests he’s about to slop the toxic gunk all over both himself and his nurgling sidekick. Luckily they’d both enjoy it but that’s hardly the point. In the end he should pick one thing and stick with it, rather than trying to do both at once, and this lack of co-ordination suggests a level of incompetence in the character portrayed. The nurgling itself is described as an optional component (although any convertor would tell you that every component is optional) but including an element in a kit and then telling people not to use it if they don’t like it seems a little redundant. Indeed, speaking personally I’d rather have a model that was concentrating on loading the grenade with gunk, assisted by his diminutive sidekick, rather than trying to multitask.

Foul Blightspawn

The cross-eyed appearance of the helmet doesn’t help and, cool and quirky though it is, it doesn’t fit with the model and adds another layer of oddness at a stage where less would very definitely have been more.

Blighty McBlightface

Blighty McBlightface Strikes Again!

Ultimately, the Blightspawn is just a bit too odd for me as is, although that could be fixed with some careful cutting to remove the head and replace it with something more restrained. Not that I don’t love his odd, horse-faced gasmask, I do. I just feel that it overeggs an already complex model, turning its gleefully grubby eccentricity into out and out zaniness. Perhaps it would look better on a terminator?

Biologus Putrifier

The Biologus Putrifier, on the other hand does weirdness with far more aplomb. Whilst the Blightspawn is muddled by its many quirky components the Putrifier is a model of greater maturity and co-ordination. The model may have lots of odd or impractical elements (if one is going into battle whilst carrying a large number of fragile glass vials perhaps attaching them to frail wooden wings on your back where they’re hard to reach may not be for the best) but because everything is kept to a single theme it works. Indeed, in spite of some stiff competition, this may actually be my favourite of the new Death Guard character models.

Tallyman

Whilst the other characters develops the Death Guard’s use of biological weapons the Tallyman stands in for the Dark Apostles of other Chaos factions and explores their relationship with their patron god. Combining Nurgle (and the Death Guard)’s love of order with a Chaos factions’ need for a priest class, the Tallyman counts and records every aspect of battle in an attempt to divine their noxious god’s will. It’s a very structured, some might even say scientific, approach to religion. Rather than just taking things on faith the Death Guard seek to further their understanding and force order onto the esoteric. After all a paranoid like Mortarion would never just accept an interpretation of Nurgle’s will unquestioningly, especially not if it is whispered to him by some treacherous warp entity. He’d want to get as much inside knowledge as he could so as to plan his campaigns appropriately.

Nurgly Shopping List

Furthermore the inclusion of the Tallymen helps to emphasise that the Death Guard remain a structured, co-ordinated Legion, not just a bunch of rampaging fanatics. Furthermore whilst the Plague Surgeon represents the outcome of leaving a morbidly obsessed Apothecary in the Warp for ten thousand years the Tallymen are something new, a result of the Death Guard’s evolution in Nurgle’s service rather than a holdover from their days fighting for the Emperor.

Scrying The Warp

So what’s next? With Mortarion and Magnus on the loose, plus their do-gooder brother holding the Imperium together, it seems like a fairly safe bet that over the next few years we’ll see Khorne and Slaanesh receiving the same treatment as Tzeentch and Nurgle with full army releases for the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children, and their respective primarchs to boot. It also seems like a sensible line of reasoning to assume that Imperial customers won’t be left out – no-one at the head of GW will be thinking “do we really need to open another goldmine? Surely we have enough money by now?” Imagine though if GW was brave enough to really pursue the possibilities, and plunge into the potential that the background offers. Could we ever live in a world where the likes of Lorgar or Perturabo bestride the tabletop, directing the fanatical priesthoods or massed heavy artillery of their (very different) legions?

Mortarion

As for the loyalists three chapters in particular have received a lot of attention in the past and it seems sensible to assume they will in the future; the Space Wolves, Dark Angels and Blood Angels. From GW’s point of view Leman Russ must look like a licence to print money (although the fact that they already sell a model called the Leman Russ is bound to be a source of confusion…). Indeed an older, wilder, wolfier Russ loping back out of the Eye of Terror after ten thousand years would contrast nicely with the clean shaven young Russ Forge World produced for the Heresy era. The Lion too just needs to wake up from his Rip Van Winkle style nap beneath the Rock and reignite his partnership with Guilliman from the Imperium Secundus days. Sanguinius of course is still rather dead but have no doubt, a money-man in Nottingham is thinking right now about how much cash could be made and some poor designer is trying to work out how it could be done without bringing all the nerd-rage in the world down on their heads. I may not particularly like having any loyalist primarchs back in action but now the jar has been opened it’s unlikely to be stoppered again soon although GW must be aware that something as extreme as Sanguinius would be a risky move and likely to alienate more fans than it attracts.

In the nearer future, if I was asked to guess, I’d put my money on seeing a Nurgle release for Age of Sigmar coming soon, mirroring that we saw for Tzeentch earlier in the year. The Blightwar boxset introduced the next phase in the story of the Mortal Realms as Nurgle takes over from Khorne as the main protagonist.

Already we’ve seen the arrival of this hideous model, a miniature so ugly that it’s crying out to be #Made Great Again (although given that I’m fairly short on funds at the moment I think I’ll restrain myself – buying an ugly model specifically because I think it’s ugly sounds counterintuitive even to me).

Damn Ugly

A further release seems likely, with sensible money being on a new Great Unclean One joining the pantheon of bigger, better Greater Daemons. Those who read my review of the Death Guard half of the Dark Imperium boxset may also recall that I predicted we’d see pestigors as part of this release (and so know not to trust me when it comes to predictions) but I still wonder if they might be forthcoming for AoS.

Anyway, having made my predictions (and prepared myself for the shame of their wild inaccuracy) I’ll wrap this post up before I write myself into a corner. Consider a pun about gutsy moves to have been made and if you have thoughts of your own the floor (or at least the comments box) is yours.

As ever if the pictures aren’t mine then I’ve pinched them off GW without asking. Don’t get on your high horse with me GW – you could have made the Thousand Sons bigger!

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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.

Space Marine2

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.

Nice Arse Convert Or Die

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!”

True Scale Chaos Convert Or Die (1)

True Scale Chaos Convert Or Die (2)

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.

Space Marine Helmets Convert or Die

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.


Dust No Longer

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

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

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

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

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Magnus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ahriman

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

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

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Rubricae

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

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

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

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

The Scarab Occult

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

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

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Exalted Sorcerers

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

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

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

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

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Tzaangors

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

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

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

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Mazzakim the Liar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eat Our Dust Imperials!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Warhammer World – Part 4

Continuing our exploration of the displays on show in Warhammer World today we take a look at the Armies of the Imperium section, starting with the clash between the loyalist Iron Hands and the treacherous Emperor’s Children on Istvaan V.0102Before Isstvan V the Horus Heresy is a story of commonplace treachery, an ambitious son betraying his father, an internal matter for the Space Marines to thrash out amongst themselves. What follows is a three hour window in which in which hundreds of thousands of Space Marines are slaughtered, three entire legions  are broken and an age of darkness and suspicion is born. Of the eleven Primarchs fighting at the start one is dead, two others are missing and there’s no going back for anyone. The brutality and tragedy of the Drop Site Massacre is some of the hardest to read in any Black Library fiction I’ve come across, unrelentingly honest about the hellish reality of war, just violence without glory, the bleeding of the many for the ambition of the few. Set against that this diorama captures just one fight of many and the scale of the tragedy is lost. The scene is pivotal, the diorama intended to capture it less so. That’s not the fault of the model makers, it’s simply the case that this scene is much to big to capture on such a small canvas.0304Although a solid display  the lack of any interesting conversions or stand out miniatures beyond the two Primarchs themselves (I didn’t even spot any Kakophoni although that may have been a failure to look hard enough) meant it didn’t keep my interest for long.05istvaan-1istvaan-2istvaan-3istvaan-4Then we have this old(-ish) display showing Space Wolves defending the Fang from the Tyranids has been updated recently to include newer models not available when it was first built.01For example these bikers racing the front lines have been joined by a pack of thunder wolf cavalry.02A servitor about to meet a messy end.030405A wounded wolf lord is carried from the field by his battle-brothers and thralls. I love the way this scene, almost a tiny diorama of its own within the larger piece, poses questions of its own. Is it just an illusion created by his injuries or is his hand warping into an animal’s claw? Are his men carrying him from the field, partly hidden by his cloak, to protect him – or to protect themselves?0607Meanwhile Genestealers swim through the icy waters below, ready to launch another sneak attack on the Wolves.08Next along – this is where it all began, the cover art from Rogue Trader reinterpreted in model form. The scene captures the last stand of the Crimson Fists during the fall of the their chapter planet, Rynn’s World.03Now this is how an Imperial tank should look – the perfect combination of hubris and impracticality! From it the Commissar looks out over three hundred Cadians marching by.imperial-guard-2imperial-guard-3And here we have the Imperial Guardsmen of the Death Corps of Kreig doing what they do best; looking grim whilst standing in a trench. The light dusting of snow only serves to add to the chill of the image – indeed it all looks much colder and harsher than the snowy landscape around the Fang (above). Even the lack of action implies a forbidding inevitability to the scene; these men have hacked their trenches from the frozen ground, now they stand ready to face the death they know is coming.imperial-guard-1imperial-guard-4Once again I hope you’re enjoying this look through the dioramas on display at Warhammer World. Tomorrow we take a look at the Imperium’s adversaries, the aliens!


The Burning of Prospero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Space Marines

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

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

Tartaros  Terminators

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

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

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Sisters of Silence

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

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

Custodian Guard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ahriman

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

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

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

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

Geigor Fell-Handed

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

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

Leman Russ

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

Magnus the Red

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

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Magnus the Red by John Blanche (of course)

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

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

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

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

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


Showcasing Sam: The Dark Millennium

When I first got into the hobby one of my biggest inspirations came from my friend Sam, already something of a veteran and a painter of no mean skill. All these years later and he’s pretty much hung up his brushes (the demands of being a responsible adult – I’m told – comes for the best of us in the end). What he’s left with is a cupboard full of beautifully painted miniatures and, after visiting him recently, I couldn’t resist getting some photos so I could show them off to you. In the end I turned up so much cool stuff I’ve split the blog into two parts – expect to see the fantasy half soon. I should also mention that Sam has a blog and, although it’s been distinctly quiet over there lately, it’s well worth taking a look at. Who knows, if we drop enough hints we might even coax him out of retirement. He also passed me on a few of his unpainted models which I’ll be attempting to do justice to, so keep an eye out for them in the future as well.

As usual if you want to get a better look at any of the pictures, just click on them.

Njal Stormcaller
As I’ve mentioned before I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Space Wolves. Njal Stormcaller however remains very firmly in the “cool” camp through his combination of shamanic trappings, psyber-raven familiar and fierce control over the furious Fenrisian elements. Sam’s really brought out the rich colour of his armour, from the hearth-warmth of his shoulderpads to the frosty wolf-grey of his rune-carved greaves. The wolf pelt is also, in my opinion, about as close to perfect as you can get, and the unnatural glow of its dead eyes is a brilliant touch. All in all, one of my favourite of his models – even against stiff competition.Marneus Calgar
Marneus Calgar – the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines and one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. Not my favourite incarnation of him to be honest, compared to the version accompanied by the honour guard this one is really showing it’s age. The model always looks a little squat (by which I don’t mean to imply that he’s actually a space-dwarf – although that would be twist to the 40k story wouldn’t it?). Nonetheless I rather like how he’s been painted, goes to show that a decent paint job can make a world of difference to any model. The ice effect on the base really adds to the model as well.

Trygon
The world of 40k is not all about the Space Marines though (in spite of what you may have heard!) The Great Devourer is tearing its way into the galaxy and though my opinion of the Tyranid miniatures range is mixed there’s no denying the Trygon is an absolute beast. Sam’s painted this one in the colours of Hive Fleet Kraken. Of the three main Hive Fleets I’ve always felt Kraken’s scheme to be the most organic and believable. I want my Tyranids to look like real animals and there’s definitely something reminiscent of a giant centipede about this model.

I’ll admit that, as hinted above, I have something of an ulterior motive here – to encourage Sam to pick up his brushes again. After all, as his friend, I know what’s best for him far more than he does! If you agree with me pop a comment in the box below – and just wait until I’ve sorted out the photos of his fantasy miniatures!