The bird-headed man is finished at last and ready to promote the labyrinthine schemes of Tzeentch with the business end of his shotgun.
The bird-headed man is finished at last and ready to promote the labyrinthine schemes of Tzeentch with the business end of his shotgun.
With the Nurgle caravan rolling into town some might have feared that my butterfly mind has flitted away from Tzeentch but worry no longer – the Changer still has me firmly in his grasp. However I have been taking some time out to think about my biggest problem with my Tzeentchian cultists, the fact that they are all difference sizes. Now really that shouldn’t be an issue, after all the god of mutation is probably the most likely of all the Chaos powers to have followers short and tall, thin and wasted scholars marching alongside bloated horrors tumbling into spawndom. However when I put the models all together it never looked right, they were a jumble without anything to give them cohesion or create the appearance of a unified force. Bases were also an issue, the big models hung off the sides of 25mm bases, the smaller ones were lost in the middle of 32mm bases and when I tried a mix of base sizes in the squad it only served to highlight the disparity in sizes. Time for a re-think.
The answer came to me when I was considering the Tzeentchian cultists in Age of Sigmar and their ambition of ascending through service to their God and being transformed into Tzaangors. Surely the cultists of the 41st Millennium would harbour a similar purpose. With this in mind I split my Tzeentchian collection into three groups depending on how far along the road to ascension they have travelled. Some of these regular readers will have seen before, some will be new. Yet under Tzeentch’s influence not all that appears familiar is unchanged…
The weakest, and often the least experienced, of the Great Architect’s many followers, the Least are desperate to prove their value and rise in their master’s gaze. Already some have begun to manifest changes and ambition seethes around them for truly each is bound for unrivalled power and glory.
A raw recruit, risen from a worker gang, determined that a better life can be his if he has sufficient will.
This one may possess a bestial form but he is still a long way from achieving true ascension into the ranks of the Tzaangors.
This one is watchful… ever watchful… What schemes and visions boil and churn within his birdlike skull?
Whilst countless of their brothers have fallen along the way the Ascendant care not. The glory for which they strive is almost within their grasp and even as those around them are pulled down into darkness and spawndom they force onwards, towards the light and the spiralling laugher that echoes from it.
This one has grown in stature but his head remains a tiny, half-moon. Tzeentch does not need wits to challenge his own amongst his followers, sometimes raw strength is enough to achieve what must be done.
This one is just a straight up, unconverted Silver Tower acolyte. I just happen to really like the look of him.
This one is well on his way to becoming a Tzaangor.
However the Changer clearly has a much stranger fate in mind for this one.
And this one is no less twisted!
The True Children
Only the strongest and luckiest survive Tzeentch’s labyrinth of trials to join at last in the braying flocks of the Great Conspirator’s chosen. They have seen many things along the road however, exposed to the raw energy of the Warp and the capering flocks of daemon’s therein. They know now that to become a Tzaangor is not the end of the road, merely a stepping stone from which the ambitious can rise toward a greater destiny. Princedom calls and the Changer’s twisting web pulls ever tighter.
I’ve only made one Tzaangor so far, converted from one of the Silver Tower models. More will come eventually.
A comparison shot to demonstrate the differences in size that have been troubling me.
Next steps will be to bolster the ranks with more cultists of various stripes, plus coming up with some characters to lead the flock in enacting its labyrinthine schemes.
In something that Games Workshop have been referring to as Tzaanuary, the last few weeks have seen a series of releases dedicated to the chaos god Tzeentch. Now events are reaching a crescendo with the appearance of the spectacular Lord of Change so this seems like a good time to look back over these releases and try to determine who’re the architects of fate and what’s just loose change.
The Cult Rises
First out of the gate were the Kairic Acolytes. Like many of the Tzeentchian models released this month they first saw the light of day last May with the release of Silver Tower. Now they’re back in numbers, throwing off their disguises and revealing themselves to be almost as muscular and clothes-averse as the Fyreslayers. Perhaps they go to the same gym?
As Age of Sigmar shrugs off the shackles of the Warhammer-That-Was GW’s designers are clearly enjoying the chance to make some models that aren’t so closely tied to one particular place – no need for these lads to be swaddled in furs against the cold of the polar wastes.
Quoting myself, with my usual hubris, I claimed in pervious editorial that ” Of all the gods Tzeentch is the chance for them to be the most creative, to come up with something visually arresting and unique”. At times this is something they’ve pulled off spectacularly; The Thousand Sons, the Tzaangors, the Gaunt Summoners and, of course, the Lord of Change itself. On other occasions however they’ve flopped badly, the Pink Horrors – not including Heralds and those in the Silver Tower boxset – are wonky-looking cartoon characters and I’m still rather undecided on the Flamers. Now the Kairic Acolytes find their way into what is, for me, a growing list of Tzeentchian misses.
In small doses, scattered through a squad or guarding the depths of the Silver Tower, I actually quite like them. The problem, however, develops when one starts to see them on mass. In my mind these were the elite of the Tzeentchian cults, bloated with magical power and using their strength to lord it over their weaker acolytes, so discovering that they was intended to be the rank-and-file of the cults was a little disappointing.
To expand on my point let’s take a look at this John Blanche illustration that formed the initial concept art for the Kairic Acolytes. Of course many of the features show here made it right the way through to the finished models, the weird mask, the curved blade, the naked torso and kilted legs.
There are however, a couple of big differences. For one thing this chap has started to mutate, sprouting a third arm (more on that below). More noticeable however is the thinness of the character in comparison to the bodybuilders that were finally released.
When I built this Tzeentchian cultist I captured my idea of what an Acolyte of the Changer of Ways should look like. Not for him the raw muscles and brute strength that Khorne’s thugs use to batter their way through life. Rather he’s light and slim, relying on cunning schemes to get him through. The Kairic’s however are very much cast in the mould of the Bloodreavers with their Schwarzenegger muscles. Clearly these chaps have their grimoires on audiobook so they can listen to them whilst they pump iron. That seems a little odd to me, of all the Chaos gods Tzeentch is the one who’s cultists are most likely to be stuck in the library all day and so unfamiliar with the gym that they have to call it James.
As I’ve noted the Kairics are also rather lacking in the mutations that are Tzeentch’s stock-in-trade. Now too many overt mutations run the risk of creating a mess of miss-matched that struggle to create a coherent looking model. Take a look at the old Forsaken box from Warhammer – a great resource for spicing up one’s Chaos collection but some truly terrible models when constructed straight from the box.
The Kairic Acolytes however seem to be a little too far in the opposite direction. There’s something a bit too uniform about them and whilst this is great for creating unified collections it also reduces their Tzeentchian appearance. They also don’t tie in particularly closely with any of the other Tzeentchian miniatures available, and so looking at a mixed force of Tzeentchian daemons, Kairic Acolytes, Tzaangors and Warhammer-era Chaos Warriors is rather like looking at four different armies which all happen to be marching in the same direction.
40k fans may find a use of them as cultists dedicated to Tzeentch but, as you’ll already be wanting to convert them anyway to give them suitable guns and other futuristic accoutrements, one might as well go the whole hog and borrow components from this kit to Tzeentch-up your cultists and traitor guard. Of course that would be easier if GW would get the finger out and sort out a multi-part chaos cultist kit for us but, as no amount of moaning on my part will make that happen any faster, I’ll carry on grumpily making do. Mind you, by the time they do that I’ll probably have already built a lifetime’s supply of cultists but never mind, you can never have too many fanatics to choke the Imperial guns!
Ultimately then, although these are decent models in their own right, they fail to fit in with the rest of the release and compared to the depths of creativity displayed elsewhere they are undoubtedly the weak point.
The Warflocks Emerge
Far more exciting to me are the Tzaangors which emerged last week. The rank and file we’ve seen before of course, roaming out of the wastelands of Sortiarius, but the Skyfires, Enlightened and Shaman are new additions.
As a tribal race dedicated to the god of magic its no surprise that the Tzaangors now have a leader in the form of a Shaman, borne aloft on a disk of Tzeentch. As well as being rather exciting for those who’ve dedicated themselves to the Changer of Ways in Age of Sigmar there’s no reason this chap couldn’t be converted into a leader for the bestial herds that roam in the wake of the Thousand Sons. The 40k incarnation of the Tzaangors rank and file provides plenty of spare bits to aid in the process. Of course what rules you use for such a beast would require more thought but really that’s up to you, I can wash my hands of the matter by declaring that story is king and rules should be evocative, not competitive.
More unexpected are the Enlightened and Skyfires (which I keep misnaming “Skygors” – perhaps because I’ve been unconsciously influenced by AoS’s seemingly slapdash naming conventions) who swoop into battle atop Disks of Tzeentch.
It strikes that these would combine nicely with a Thousand Sons force. For what is, these days, a remarkable moderate price (£22.50 in UK money), you get three Tzaangor unit champions, plenty of bits to add a bit of a spin to your herd, and three disks upon which your Exalted Sorcerers can ride to war in style.
With such lavish attention being paid to the beastmen for just one god one starts to dream of someday seeing Slaangors, Bloodgors and Pestigors putting in an appearance. Of course GW is under no obligation to do so, part of the aim of Age of Sigmar seems to be freeing them from the structures that Warhammer, with its weight of accumulated history and lore, had imposed on them. Furthermore both Bloodgors and Pestigors are fairly easy to convert – the former from the plethora of Khornate kits now on the market, the latter from a blending of beastmen and plaguebearers. That being said why should we not dream of seeing models for the units and creatures we’ve dreamed of for so long? I’ll always be a convertor but that joy should be a bonus, a way of adding something unique to your collection, not an expectation – but more on that below!
For me one of the most exciting things about the Tzaangors is the fact that, at last, we have a rank-and-file unit for Tzeentch that actually looks good. Personally I’ve always fancied a few daemonic heralds swooping into battle on their disks, but I wanted a mass of troops trudging (or bounding) beneath them and frankly the pink horrors are terrible. Now, at long last, Tzeentch can hold his head high in the presence of the other gods and I wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of tzaangor based conversions standing in for pink horrors in the future.
My enthusiasm for the Tzaangors is no secret, first expressed when they emerged in Silver Tower, reiterated when they got the multi-part kit treatment in November and expounded once again now as they’re reinforced with a choice of elite units. However one has to wonder if my surprise at seeing such lavish treatment for these beastmen is indicative of the unhealthy, and at times downright antagonistic, relationship we, the fans, have had with GW in the past. Both sides seemed to feel that ours was not to question why, merely to accept with good graces whatever they chose to throw our way (normally more space marines). If we got something genuinely exciting it always felt like a special treat, which would have to be paid for with a few months of the space marine releases which GW needed to churn out to pay the bills. At one time a number widely quoted and believed in the industry (note that this doesn’t mean it was true – just that lots of people working in fields related to miniatures gaming thought it was) stated that one of every four miniatures sold, by all companies – not just GW – was a space marine. The story went that if the production of space marines faltered the customers would up and leave, GW would go to the wall and without them the whole industry surrounding tabletop miniatures would shrink into untenable oblivion. Most people, the consensus went, wouldn’t buy anything that didn’t wear shiny power armour and by asking for anything else we were displaying the height of selfishness. Any break from the space marine production line risked bankrupting GW and then there would be no nice things for anyone ever again.
For us older hands this way of thinking has become so engrained that it’s hard to cogitate the idea of seeing not merely one but multiple releases all focussed on a species of beastmen (already a fringe faction) dedicated to an equally fringe chaos god. Years of psychological programming is compelling me to go barefoot to Nottingham and prostrate myself before the studio doors crying “thank you master, thank you” every time someone goes in or out before popping into the shop to buy a few boxes of tactical marines just to “do my bit” economically. Is this really an appropriate response or have our ideas of what the normal relationship between a company and its customers is become muddled up? If any other company produces products that aren’t of interest to its customers those customers take their money elsewhere, they don’t hang around on the internet murmuring to each other like a hive of passive-aggressive bees and hoping that some day, if they wait long enough, whatever it is they want to buy will be made available to them. Luckily GW’s attitude towards its customers seems to have improved dramatically in recent times yet we fans continue to be surprised that we’re getting what we want rather than simply being doled out a diet of more of the same and told to enjoy it.
Alternatively of course it may be simply the case that, in creating two universes of such outstanding complexity and depth, GW have set themselves up to face the outrage of their fans. After all with 28 factions in 40k, plus who knows how many in Age of Sigmar, a wait of only a few years between releases still makes your faction one of the lucky ones, whilst others must languish far longer before GW finally frees up the resources to consider it. We may have had to wait a ridiculously long time for god-specific beastmen but any celebration is likely to be drowned out by Sisters of Battle fans demanding to know when attention will turn to them. You can have no doubt however that when those long awaited models do arrive there will be plenty of people, even those who’re cheering on the poor long suffering Sisters fans, who’re silently thinking “but when are they going to get to us!?”
Exacerbating the situation is the range of models each faction enjoys which means all too often something new comes at the cost of replacing something old. Take the Eldar for instance – they’re soon to be bolstered by some amazing new models dedicated to the newborn god Ynnead. Yet even in my excitement at seeing them – and what kind of heathen would one have to be not to be excited – part of my brain was thinking “what about a new Avatar of Khaine? Where are our plastic Aspect Warriors?”
On the final note of what has been a rather meandering off-topic ramble I feel that the level of quality in miniature’s design is now hitting a peak. It’s hard to imagine how much further they’ll be able to push things and still remain within the bounds of the medium. Kits can’t get much more detailed and still remain straightforward enough for the average person to assemble and paint. In the past the march of technological progress meant that many kits started to look dated after a few years on the shelves and that which was once praised became fodder for complaints as it was compared to its newer, better brethren.
It may be however that this age is over and that kits will no longer need to be replaced every few years just to stay current. Sisters of Battle haven’t seen an update in twenty years and it certainly shows (medium aside), whereas models released even five or six years ago (Grey Knights, Skaven, Dark Eldar) still look as good today as they did when they first hit the shelves. This frees GW from the need to keep returning to the same factions in order to update them. When the Eldar do get new Aspect Warriors those should last them, not just for the next five or ten years, but for the foreseeable future. Likewise one hopes that new Sisters of Battle will still look as good at twenty as they do on the day of release – which is more than one can say for the current lot. Of course this is a double-edged sword (if you’re disappointed in your army’s rank and file you’re likely to be stuck with them for a while) but, freed of the constraints of needing to constantly update their most popular lines with new iterations of stock units GW are able to play in uncharted waters – both by bringing new and unique ideas to the fore (Sylvaneth, Fyreslayers), exploring long untouched corners of their history (Tzaangors, Genestealer Cults) or adding depth to those factions which are already popular (new Stormcast Eternals or an increased range of Space Marine armour marks). Of course there’s still a way to go on updating those units yet to be treated to new models. Take the greater daemons for example…
The Warp Unleashed
In the wake of all these Tzeentchian goings-on the Changling has thrown off his latest disguise with a new plastic incarnation. Once again GW have shown what they can do with the medium, the model stands tall and imposing, floating on a coil of magical energy, it’s attention clearly focussed on whatever unfortunate is about to be rendered down beneath a barrage of arcane bolts. The characteristics of the model haven’t changed much, it still has four arms, including three grouped to one side, it still wields a long staff and it’s face – if it has one – remains hidden beneath the cowl of its robes. The trick is all the pose which has turned him from a skulking, albeit somewhat mischievous, figure to one with real impact and threat.
Then we have the Blue Horrors which attempt, with a fair degree of success I would say, to bring the same boisterous and well-loved cuteness to Tzeentch as Nurglings already brought to Nurgle.
Nowadays Games Workshop applies a policy of “no model – no rules” a blanket ban presumably intended to avoid driving customers towards third-party companies whilst at the same time making life easier for newcomers to the hobby which has nonetheless seen the demise or disappearance of everyone from Lukas Bastonne to Asdrubael Vect. In the old days however the idea of fans converting models to represent units without models was widely accepted, even encouraged. Even then though blue horrors were something of an oddity. The rules stated that, when a pink horror died, rather than simply vanishing back into the Warp it split into two bickering blue horrors (and so the removed pink horror model should be replaced on the board by a pair of blue horrors). The trouble was, no model existed for blue horrors and successfully converting a half-sized version of the pink horrors was by no means an easy task. With no suitable models of the right scale to use as a base a good knowledge of greenstuff was required – and that’s just to make one. Subjected to the right amount of damage a squad of ten pink horrors would require twenty blue horrors to replace them, at which point most right-thinking people quite understandably gave it up as a bad job. Add to this the fact that the newest iteration of the pink horrors kit has been widely regarded as a bit duff anyway and the grumbling of Tzeentch fans could be heard throughout the land. Since last year this problem has been mediated by the option to loot the blue horrors from the Silver Tower but the option of a full kit is still long overdue and extremely welcome.
Exciting as blue (and brimstone) horrors and a new incarnation of the Changling are it’s not these which have been drumming up a fever of excitement for this release. That honour goes to the Lord of Change, a beast of real magnificence from its saurian head to the tips of its glorious wings.
It’s been a long time since the greater daemons really cut the mustard and the feeling of dissatisfaction aimed at them has only grown since Khorne came stomping out of the gate with a Bloodthirster which in spite of a few flaws (less said about those sigils on its wings the better) still outclassed its predecessor by an almost infinite degree. From that point on fans of daemonic avian wizards have been praying for something that looks better than this:
Has GW managed it? Well if my glowing praise a mere paragraph ago wasn’t enough to tip you off then yes, I think it’s safe to say they have.Just look at it! (Go on, click it to see it full size – revel in its glory!)
With its magnificent wingspan adding considerably to its height it manages to look downright enormous (a must for a greater daemon in this age of Imperial Knights and super-heavies) whilst still retaining the slim, almost snakelike figure conveyed by the artwork.
As well as the standard version of the bird wizard the kit also allows hobbyists to create Kairos Fateweaver Tzeentch’s vizier and personal oracle who’s twin heads see past and future with perfect clarity but can’t keep track of what’s happening in the present (I’m sure we all know someone like that…)
When the Bloodthirster was released, Skarbrand, the special character variant appeared several months later as a separate model, albeit one which shared many of the components of the original kit. In many ways this decision was forced on Games Workshop, Skarbrand is defined by his ragged, tattered wings – ruined when Khorne kicked him out for getting too fighty and actually attacking the big man himself. Including both sets of wings, as well as Skarbrand’s signature twin axes, would have driven up the cost of the kit to the point at which it would have undoubtedly impacted sales.
This time round they’ve been able to box clever, incorporating Kairos into the same kit as the standard Lord of Change. For us customers this doesn’t make a huge difference – beyond getting both units released in one go – but one can see the immediate benefits to GW in terms of saving shelf space in shops and warehouses. What’s impressive is how well they’ve managed to make the two models look different to one another, whilst still using mostly the same core components. By adding different tips to the wings, altering the top of the staff and switching the staff from one hand to the other there’s a lot more to differentiate them than just an extra head.
His hand also features a hamsa eye in a nice visual link to Magnus.
With all kinds of stylish details like this staff top rendered as a living version of the sigil of Tzeentch, there’s a lot more to Kairos than just a pretty face or two.I suppose two heads are better than one and all that.
When, and although I don’t think it’ll be for a while I also think it is now inevitable, I do get around to buying and painting Kairos that icon of living flame should act as a nice, albeit entirely coincidental, link to Mazzakim, the mortal leader of my (still embryonic) Tzeentchian forces.
On a final note its worth reiterating yet again how much of the groundwork of this release was laid back in May when the Silver Tower boxed game arrived. With GW announcing this week that a follow up game is on-route its worth taking a quick look at the cover art they’ve shown us so far.
The bloated, Nurgly figures of the antagonists are distinctive enough to leave little doubt over which God’s followers will be troubling the heroes this time around which begs the question; will this game be the catalyst for a series of pestilent releases to echo that which the Changer of Ways has received over the past year? Given Nurgle’s popularity, with new plague marines and great unclean one long overdue and with Mortarion putting in an appearance in Wrath of Magnus it’s easy to convince oneself that the stars are aligning for a plague ridden 2017. You may wish to start speculating wildly now…
Following on from the return of Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons to 40k the maddening schemes of Tzeentch are now reaching into the Mortal Realms of Age of Sigmar. The warflocks are gathering for battle, the flux-cairns are daubed with dark sigils, all kinds of models from the Silver Tower boxset are enjoying separate releases and there are plenty of rumours (and not a little wishful thinking) that even more is on its way.
Of course, in spite of the fact that I’ve got more than enough projects to be concentrating on, I too am feeling the pull of the Changers of Ways’ insidious influence. With that in mind I’ve started work on a little coven of Tzeentchian cultists, ready to do some of the heavy lifting and pave the way before my Sorcerers finally arrive.
First of all we have this chap, converted from a Kairic Acolyte and ready to spread havoc in the 41st Millennium.
Alongside him we have this shotgun-wielding metaphysician. Who knows what elaborate schemes his masters plan to inflict upon the universe whilst he watches from behind that inscrutable bird mask?
Then we have this beastman, who you may recall I showed before, upgraded to a larger base in keeping with his new comrades.
…and just to prove that I can build a model without converting it here’s a Kairic Acolyte straight from the Silver Tower box.
Last of all here’s a group shot of the whole coven so far. As ever suggestions, feedback and any good ideas that I can steal are more than welcome in the comments box!
Right, I don’t usually do over-excited, spur of the moment blog posts, but I just couldn’t miss this. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet the ever-entertaining Warhammer TV team have just put up a video recapping the releases of 2016. All very nice, and justifiably self-congratulatory, but the real interest is in the last ten seconds or so as a series of images flicker across the screen. For those who still think that their previous claim that there were plastic Sisters of Battle coming up was just a joke this might be of interest…
Based on that I think it’s fair to say that their claim that Saint Celestine is about to lead a crusade into the Cadian Gate might also not be a joke. Time for us Chaos fans to start working on our defences then…
Fans of the Adeptus Mechanicus (such as myself) might be a little more excited by this machine-man…
And it looks like we haven’t seen the last of Tzeentch either…
Exciting times ahead indeed!
All Images belong, of course, to Games Workshop and are used without permission.
With the power of Tzeentch on the rise I couldn’t resist summoning this cultist to do my bidding.
You didn’t honestly think I was going to let this one pass without comment now did you?
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?
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.There’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.
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.
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.
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?
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. It’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.
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.
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. It’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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. This 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)!
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.
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.
For 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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.