It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since we saw the launch of Dark Imperium, the rebirth of a loyalist Primarch and the arrival of a whole new kind of space marine. The adorable little space marines of yore with their squashed torsos and undersized power armour were swept aside by newcomers which actually looked the way GW has been claiming they looked for decades, whilst Abaddon reached out his claw, tore the belly of the galaxy open and let the armies of Nurgle spill into real-space. Now the passage of the years brings us the inevitable arrival of another new edition of 40k (the 9th for those keeping score) and with it a launch box packed to the gunnels with power armour and living metal. The Necrons are on the march and in response the Emperor’s Finest have been thoroughly reinforced.
It goes without saying that the wise and the foolish alike have been bumping their collective gums about this for weeks now, so do we really need another rambling appraisal of the Indomitus launch box written by someone who hasn’t even seen the damn thing in the flesh yet? Of course you do – this one is written by me!
As usual with these things it’s a box of two halves, one half – as expected – the power-armoured majesty of the Space Marines, the other half the implacable alien legions of the Necrons. A new edition of 40k may have the rules fans in a lather but for me this is where the interest lies, the new miniatures. Let’s start by taking a look at the space marines.
When the Primaris range first arrived I was fulsome in my praise. Despite the odd minor flaw and some new background fiction that still hasn’t quite bedded in, the Primaris marines were for me, and a great number of others, an unparalleled success. It took me a while to realise therefore that I really wasn’t actually in love with Primaris marines, only with Intercessors, their cousins the Hellblasters and one or two others. Beyond that the range has struggled to make much of an impression on me. The slimmed down Phobos armour pattern does nothing for me, nor am I in any way keen on the “not terminators” in their odd looking Gravis armour. Oh and the less said about the Suppressors the better!
Likewise I’ve not been particularly blown away by the various vehicles, the flying tanks (why?) and the oddly leggy dreadnaughts. The only one that has somewhat interested me has been the Invictor Tactical Warsuit, although even then the concept doesn’t really fit in with my mental image of the space marines. I think I would have liked it better had it been modified into some kind of “super-sentinel” for the Imperial Guard. Someday, if I’m feeling flush, I may get one and kitbash it into some kind of industrial rig for Necromunda (think the powered loader that Ripley makes use of in the film Aliens – only much bigger.
These latest space marines however are a lot more like it. Ultimately space marines, as befits their enormous popularity, mean different things to different people. Some enjoy the sleek, high-tech look of the Phobos crowd, but personally I’ve always found it too reminiscent of a better future than 40k represents. I prefer the gothic knights and warrior monks that tap deeply into the neo-medieval aesthetic of the setting – and the ones in Indomitus have that in spades.
Take the captain who heads up the space marine forces in the box for instance. I’ve been imagining space marines that look like this for years and at last here one is. It’s unfortunate, of course, that he has to turn his entire shield upside down every time he wants to time an egg but apart from that he’s pretty awesome.
Likewise the Bladeguard Veterans. The enormous holsters make them a little busy but that’s a small thing (unlike the holsters themselves!) – overall these may be amongst my all time favourite space marines, at least amongst the ranks of the loyalist scum.
Whilst some of the marines in the set capture this gothic knightly aesthetic others are rather more straightforward and austere. Generally these are models which will be familiar from years past, recreated in the larger and more imposing style of the Primaris range from the tiny and faintly adorable look of yore. Space marine bikers example have grown from these squashed proportions…
… into these brutish outriders. Personally I struggled to like the space marine bikers of yore but these I could get excited about painting!
Similarly we have the new assault marines (or Assault Intercessors as they are called in their Primaris incarnation). A quick look at some of my favourite Games Workshop ranges (Khorne, Orks, Goliaths…) should be enough to tell you that charging headlong into close combat is very much the kind of thing I approve of (or as Khârn the Betrayer so wisely said “attack is the only order worth remembering”).
Back when the primaris were first released I tried my hand at making primaris assault marines of my own, and although I remain happy enough with the results the project never really got off the ground. Still, now might be a good time to resurrect them. As far as I’m aware the rules still don’t allow primaris assault marines with jump packs (although I’m sure that’ll change sooner or later) but rules are for wimps anyway!
Whilst we’re talking about the “primarisising” of the old space marine range it’s worth noting that this makes some people online very angry indeed. That said pretty much anything, no matter how innocuous, is liable to get someone on the internet frothing with rage. Next someone will say that women are people too and the internet really will be “triggered”. Quite why they get so cross is hard to explain, at least in part because they become so incensed that they struggle to articulate the issue themselves. If you happen to have a strong opinion on this matter you’re welcome to share it via the comments box below, even if all you can manage is to bellow with rage and headbutt the keyboard you’ll still make more sense than a lot of the online angry brigade. Plus, as a servant of Khorne myself, I can reassure you that your blood too is welcome.
My own attempts to understand where they’re coming from have been hampered, partly by the anger they’ve been known to direct at me personally (apparently doing what I want with the miniatures I bought with my money is somehow doing the hobby wrong) and partly because I just don’t give a shit. I really would like to address this issue without being catty or making straw men of the pro-short marine crew but despite rolling up my sleeves and daring the dangerous straits of social media to investigate, I’m not really any clearer. Is it just the ropey background when they were first introduced? Do the new primaris somehow invalidate the old marines (surely an issue when any model is replaced – my metal Jain Zar doesn’t really match up to her athletic plastic replacement for example, and I know that’s held me back on painting her)? Is it something obscure to do with the rules (are they broken, overpowered, underpowered, too good on the tournament circuit?)? Frankly I’m buggered if I know – all I can say is that some people get very upset about it. I like them though (the big marines, not people – those I can take or leave). If you can explain to me in simple terms why this makes me a horrible human being then please do, I really would like to understand.
I’m increasingly tempted to make my own space marine chapter into Blood Angel successors, amongst whom lots of assault marines are a natural fit. This got me thinking that, with more and more of the old space marine range converted into primaris variants (and let’s be honest, the days of the little marines are numbered now), there’s a good chance that this edition will see the specialist units of the major chapters also being upgraded. The Psychic Awakening already brought us primaris death company, although an expansion on that – with some cool new miniatures – would be very welcome. In the meantime these would be an excellent base from which to convert one’s own. Primaris sanguinary guard would be equally awesome.
Returning to the contents of the box, the chaplain is an interesting addition to the roster. We already have one Primaris chaplain and so I’d not entirely expected another so soon – although to be fair Games Workshop don’t normally let that kind of thing inhibit them, just look at the number of Primaris Lieutenants that are kicking around these days.
Sure enough another chaplain has come roaring in to join the ranks, looking unbelievably stylish on his motorbike and ready and able to smite heretics and/or promote reading anywhere on the battlefield at a moment’s notice.
The old chaplain is, for my money, one of the best models in the primaris range, and stands tall in my mental road map of things I intend to paint. Admittedly he is a little odd in comparison to the wider space marine range, but that only serves to emphasise his otherness as an outsider amongst the ranks, feared – in as much as a space marine can fear – by his battle brothers as a walking icon of their fury. The new one is more traditional, both as a marine and as a chaplain, and whilst being an excellent model in its own right doesn’t quite match the sheer original brilliance of the first one. His partly mechanical face is brilliant, although I might be inclined to use it on a different model and give him a traditional chaplain’s skull helm instead.
Alongside the chaplain we have the Judiciar, which seems to be a new rank amongst the space marines. I must admit I’m still very much on the fence about this guy. Part of me really likes him, there’s no denying he’s a stylish and technically well executed model, but on the other hand there’s something just a bit weird about him. The skull helm combined with the mask looks a bit odd to my eye (although it’s nice to see at least one of these space marines is taking Covid-19 seriously). As a visual it’s a little bit too close to the genestealer cultists, whilst his curved, stylised armour is closer to that worn by the stormcast eternals than to that of his battle brothers. Like his captain he too is enthusiastic about egg-timers – the one he carries being known as the tempormortis – and apparently representing a new item of wargear that can influence time itself (handy for getting those eggs just right).
Cool though he is he’s an odd fit amongst the other marines, and based on what I’ve seen of him would have worked better had the design been tweaked a little to turn him into an inquisitor instead, which would have fitted both his unusual armour and fancy archeotech weaponry. Whilst we’re on the subject of marines that just don’t quite look right the Eradicators are the only unit on this side of the box which just don’t appeal to me at all, looking oddly hunched in their gravis armour and appearing to have the squashed down torsos that the old range of space marines were so often criticised for.
There was a time there when it really started to feel as though the space marine range had run out of road in which to manoeuvre. The range was pretty much complete, with plastic kits available for almost every conceivable unit. The Imperium being infamously stagnant and distrustful of new ideas was hardly going to invent new types of space marine – especially when only the Emperor Himself possessed the power, insight and authority to do that and He was stuck on the Golden Throne. On the other hand Games Workshop had no wish to slaughter the goose that laid the golden eggs and so they found themselves between a rock and a hard place – public demand for new space marines was as high as ever (and those shareholders wanted the sales to keep rolling in) but to the fans the background has always been sacrosanct – and that background left them with no room in which to cook up any new marines. Clearly something had to be done – and it was this I’m certain that drove the return of Roboute Guilliman and saw the rebirth of the space marine range more than any other factor. Now they can sell us space marines all over again, and what’s more they have the room to invent new kinds of marine to their hearts’ content.
Now I’ll hold up my hand and admit that so far I’ve not always been terribly keen on the new varieties of marine, as I’ve already discussed above I’ve got little love for Phobos or Gravis armour and flying tanks do nothing for me at all. However the potential is still rather exciting – and makes me wonder what they might decide to do with the space marine concept in years to come. After all if there’s one thing we can be absolutely certain of it’s that space marines aren’t going anywhere (although the short ones probably are).
There’s an argument to be made that the sneaky, lightly armoured scouts of yore have been expanded into the likewise sneaky and lightly armoured Vanguard space marines – the Incursors, Infiltrators, Reivers and Eliminators. Meanwhile the old Tactical Squad has an analogue in the new Intercessors, and the heavy-weapon wielding Devastators have begun to be expanded into the Hellblasters and their new colleagues the Eradicators. Throw the forthcoming Primaris Techmarine into the mix (and as you can probably guess that made my day and no mistake!) and more and more of the old range has found its new niche. Of course with Guilliman and Cawl at the helm the range is no longer painted into a corner so that, when all the old models do have a new analogue there will still be almost infinite possibilities left for the designers to explore. In this regard the design team has been sensible in introducing really unusual designs like the Inceptors right from the start – and I say that as someone who doesn’t like the look of the Inceptors at all. Last time the Space Marine range started to look “complete” they rustled up the Centurions and the fanbase reacted in horror at the way in which new designs had been introduced (clearly violating the lore and causing the sky to fall on our collective heads). Had the Primaris range simply been an upscaling of the old marines there would inevitably have come a time when the exact same problem would have occurred. The limits of the existing concepts would have been reached, new ideas would be required and we would be back to having either no new space marine models (cue wailing and gnashing of teeth) or – equally bad – models for new kinds of space marines (cue equal levels of wailing and, for that matter, gnashing of teeth). In the meantime the release of the Primaris range would have risked feeling rather formulaic, as each new wave sought only to tick boxes and fill gaps.
As it stands the biggest thing missing in the Primaris range today is a lack of new Terminators. I wonder how much Terminators mean to new players who’ve only begun to delve into the 41st Millennium since the release of 8th Edition and the Dark Imperium. Do they carry the emotional weight which they do for us older hands? I doubt it – and why would they? So far the roll of “heavily armoured marines” has been given to the Aggressors, and if I’m honest there’s nothing wrong with them at all. It’s taken me a good chunk of the last three years but I’m slowly growing to like and appreciate them for what they are, rather than just cast vitriol upon them for failing to be Terminators. It’s unfair on them, and it’s unfair on me – especially as these are the kind of models I would have loved if it wasn’t for the fact that I hated them for not being something they aren’t.
Still Terminators have a special place in the childhoods of many of us, the ultimate space marines, stamping through the dark depths of a space hulk in search of lurking xenos horrors. Indeed it’s past time for Games Workshop to stop being stubborn and bring back the Space Hulk game – alongside new, bigger and better Terminators (not Aggressors!) and some revamped Genestealers to boot. Come of GW, you know as well as I do that it would be a hit – what’s stopping you?
Anyway, speaking of the foul xenos it’s time to turn our collective attention away from the Space Marines and take a look at the Necrons half of the box instead. I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for the Necrons for a long time now, roughly as long as I’ve been a hobbyist in fact. Indeed my first proper encounter with 40k came when a friend of mine tried, unsuccessfully, to sell me his Necron army. Despite not breaking out the cash in the end I’ve had one eye on the mechanical xenos ever since, although until now I’ve only ever painted one. Shall we take another look at him? Of course we shall!
Nice for a little nostalgia hit though he is, the new range is an order of magnitude better in pretty much every way. What’s more it’s fast becoming apparent that the Necrons in this box represent the speartip of a wave of new models for the army, something they wholly deserve.
For starters the box contains plenty of necron warriors, the shambling mechanical skeletons which make up the majority of the race. These outshine their processors which looked every one of the several million years they’d supposedly spent hibernating. These are much more like it, diverse and packed with personality whilst still looking like very much the overwhelming horde.
Just as the Eldar are Space Elves and the Orks are… well, Space Orcs (remember when that was what they were called?), so the Necrons have always been essentially Space Undead. Ranks of Space Skeletons march beneath the steely gaze of Space-Lichs and the influence of the Tomb Kings has always been strong. Some readers will know I’m a big fan of the undead so this is by no means a criticism, indeed my favourite piece of art showing this Necrons has been this one which really emphasises them as shambling, corpse-like creatures rather than sleek sci-fi machines. For a long time I dreamed of Necron Warriors which captured this ghastly, cadaverous aesthetic and at last here we have them.
Often however this has come at the expense of them seeming particularly alien. They may have evolved millions of years ago on a planet far from – and ecologically different too – Earth but they still like to hang out in pyramids and chose humanoid skeletons as the wardrobe in which to spend eternity. Now although I enjoy sci-fi in which the aliens are realistically alien, I also very much enjoy the Star Trek style universes where all the aliens are just humans with lumpy faces (I’ve been discovering Next Generation during lockdown – and very glad I am that I have too!). Nonetheless it’s hard to see the Necrons as supremely and utterly alien when they go around looking exactly like you or me if we forgot to put on our meat and skin before we left the house in the morning. Surely having transcended one’s biological limitations and achieved immortality and god-like technological prowess one would choose to become something a bit more imposing than an articulated skeleton? That’s fine for your ranks of slaves but for the masters of the empire let’s think big here!
With this release we see the more alien elements that have been entering the Necron range in recent times taken up a further notch. Whilst characters like the Overlord and Royal Warden are still very much humanoid…
… the wizardly Plasmancer takes off in a new direction, with a model that recalls both the ghostly side of the undead – taking many cues from the Nighthaunt – and the spidery, insectile side of the Necrons that has previously been seen more in their technology – for example the Canoptek Wraiths and Spiders. He also has the finest metal beard since the Kharadron Overlords.
His bodyguards, the Cryptothralls, are similarly unlike anything we’ve seen from the range previously, and oddly adorable to boot.
The strangeness doesn’t stop there either. The Necrons are the ultimate high-tech race of the 41st Millennium – the Adeptus Mechanicus, humanity’s finest minds on this front, would gladly turn their granny into a servitor for a fraction of the knowledge they hold (if they hadn’t already that is – and what finer way for the old girl to continue to serve the will of the Omnissiah). It’s only fitting then that we see some of their machines as well, the diminutive plasmacyte (with his even smaller scarab pal)…
… and the mighty Canoptek Reanimator.
Again these push into territory quite unlike anything we’ve seen in the 41st Millennium previous, yet the results play on elements that are already familiar from the Necron range (the bladed limbs, the back carapace reminiscent of the destroyers, the flat faces with large lamp “eyes” and other insectile facets).
Taken together these expand the Necrons into something which feels really unique, pushing them out of the tech-undead niche in which they’d sat previously. On the other hand this isn’t a reboot or a re-invention, the mechanical baby hasn’t been thrown out with the million-year-old bathwater. These, and the other new Necron models that are soon to be released, sit very comfortably alongside the existing range and I’d imagine Necron fans are feeling very happy about things indeed.
The one thing I don’t particularly like on this side of the box is the Skorpekh Lord. He’s rather busy, with all the various weapons he’s waving around, and as a result the model seems unfocussed and cluttered, whilst his pose isn’t particularly threatening. Both his gun (an enmitic annihilator for those who like unpronounceable names) and his blade (a hyperphase harvester) are held up to the side rather than ready to attack, whilst the talon is held out – presumably to threaten his adversaries and not simply to pat a large invisible dog. He reminds me somewhat of the early conversions people create (I know I was guilty of this when I started out) that awkwardly clutch every possible piece of wargear on their profile and end up looking less like they’re heading into battle and more like they’ve gone to the gun supermarket, and are regretting not taking a trolly.
There are good things about the model mind you – not least of which is the sense of weight it’s been given as its claws sink into the ground, and even straight through a slab of rockcrete. Hope it manages to pull that claw back out and doesn’t end up clumping around with it stuck to its foot for the rest of the day…
As previously mentioned this isn’t everything that’s coming for the Necrons, not by a long way. All kinds of weird and wonderful things have been announced by Games Workshop, including mighty new warmachines, he truly outstanding Shard of the Void Dragon, and the Silent King of the Necron empire himself. As a precursor to this release we saw the arrival a few weeks ago of Illuminor Szeras, the megalomaniacal genius who oversaw the process by which the ancient race of the Necrontyr became the mechanical Necrons we know today. In many ways this model represents a very clever coded meta-narrative in which the large figure of Szeras represents Games Workshop, the broken man frantically crawling away is me trying desperately to resist starting a Necron army, the tiny scarab is the part of me that remembers how many other half-finished projects are already waiting for my attention and the stream of blood is the money being skilfully extracted from my wallet.
So, will I be buying a copy of the Indomitus box? Well, by the time you read this I guess I’ll know. Unlike previous editions of 40k, WHFB and AoS (and indeed the “specialist games” like Necromunda and Blood Bowl) this isn’t a starter set per se, which will remain in circulation throughout the lifespan of the edition thus giving people plenty of time to decide whether or not they want to buy a copy. Instead this is a limited run “launch set” which means it’s very likely to sell out within hours, perhaps even minutes, of being released. Quite how many of these miniatures will become available again is something Games Workshop is keeping very close to its chest. Likewise the price remains (at the time of writing – less than a week before launch) a closely guarded secret, making it hard for people to budget accordingly. Will I still be willing to pay the price when I know what it is? I’m going to have to make my mind up pretty quickly!
Games Workshop have been keen to assure everyone that they’ve made plenty of boxes, whilst at the same time urging us to mark our calendars so that we’re standing ready to hit “buy” the moment it goes on sale. They’ve also limited the number of copies available in any individual sale to 3, which is a good move when it comes to battling the scalpers, whilst still allowing those who wish to grab themselves a bigger army at a bargain price. Originally they planned to limited sales to 6 copies, which didn’t go nearly far enough I felt – and clearly GW felt likewise. Who the hell needs 6 copies, especially when they’re probably going to end up squirrelled away under the bed anyway... I do understand that some people buy multiple copies of these thing and, if you can afford the initial outlay, it can be a good way to save some cash in the long term by getting all the models at a knock-down price. Six copies though – surely that’s just greed, especially when it’s widely believed (and seems highly likely) that if you’re not quick off the mark then you’re going to miss out? Of course now a number of hobbyists that I respect will pop up in the comments section to say “I’ve bought myself 10!” and I’ll have to eat some humble pie…
I tend to write these posts over a number of days in the run-up to a release so although by the time you read this I will, or won’t, have bought my copy (sitting card in hand as the clock ticks down to 10am UK time and thinking how handy it would be to have a tempormortis to hand when the inevitable rush to buy-buy-buy begins…) at the moment I remain undecided. Certainly the set looks good, and – assuming the price is as its likely to be – a bargain for the models it contains. I’ve been feeling the temptation to get back to my space marines lately and if I was to dip a toe into the world of the Necrons – something I’ve been thinking about for at least fifteen years – then what better way to do it.
(Edit: it probably goes without saying given how fast it sold out but I didn’t manage to nab one. I’ll leave discussion of how badly GW seems to have screwed this up for another time, or at least until the outrage currently running through the scene has settled down a little and we find out what, if anything, GW might decided to do about what currently looks like something of a public relations own-goal. For myself I was pissed off for about ten minutes and then I remembered all the other things I could be painting and got over it).
Of course I still have that pile of unfinished projects lurking on, under and around the painting desk waiting for attention, and then there’s this snippet from the new rulebook which has been doing the rounds online and getting Chaos fans very excited indeed…
Say it with me slaughterbrothers! The Red Angel comes! Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn!