Another weekend, another big Games Workshop preview, another chance for me to get up on my soap box and harangue the crowds of internet users as they shuffle past before me. Yes it was Warhammer Day 2021, the chance for us mere mortals to find out exactly what it is that Games Workshop expects us to buy next. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that I will end up waxing lyrical about all the projects I may or may not actually end up painting and enthusing rabidly to my unfortunate readers about models which, after the passage of time and the opportunity for more sober thought, I may not buy in the end after all. Things like budgeting my money, time and energy, or examining the pile of unpainted sprues already waiting for attention, are problems for the future however. Today it’s time to look at new stuff and indulge in some childish overexcitement!
Shadow Throne – Genestealer Cults vs Adeptus Custodes
The first thing to be announced was a new boxset for Warhammer 40k. Titled “Shadow Throne” it focuses on the battles being fought between the guardians of the Emperor’s throne – the Adeptus Custodes – and those sneaky, xenos-loving rebels, the Genestealer Cults. It also gives us our first opportunity to get our hands on two new models, one for each faction. The servants of the Emperor are joined by a stylish-looking Blade Champion.
Even amongst the elite ranks of the Custodes these are favoured warriors of exceptional skill and the model certainly looks the part. My reaction to the Custodes so far has been fairly mixed, some of the models are outstanding whilst others don’t really do much for me. This guy falls entirely into the former camp and if I ever started a Custodes collection he would undoubtedly be front and centre. However I’m far more interested in his rival, the Reductus Saboteur of the Genestealer Cults.
I’m a big fan of the Genestealer Cults, even if I’ve not painted quite as many of them recently as I’d have liked to. This miniature brings them another excellent character model, and one which fits nicely into their theme as the ultimate schemers and guerrilla warriors. Whilst other armies enjoy overwhelming invasions the Genestealer Cultists fight defensively, knowing ever inch of their territory and seeding it with bombs and booby traps ready to repel invasion. This lady clearly knows a thing or two about planting bombs, as evidenced by the alternative head with serious burns which suggests her on-the-job training may not have gone entirely without a hitch.
One thing the Genestealer Cultists are not short on however is characters. The range is already packed with individual specialists of every sort you can imagine. Much as I like this model it would have been nice to see something else, a new kind of troops for example or some kind of repurposed industrial warmachine. I’d love to see Cultists stomping around in heavy-lifting exo-suits, partly because it would fit the range nicely and partly for the nod to the suit Ripley wore to fight the alien queen in the film Aliens (although this time the humans would be fighting for the aliens not against them!).
Or how about just some new models for the Genestealers themselves, the cultists might be even more enthusiastic about laying down their lives for the true children of the star gods if the miniatures didn’t predate the invention of the wheel.
In some ways the Custodes and the Genestealer Cults aren’t the most obvious adversaries. The Custodes, after all – and despite what the Space Marines will tell you – really are the Emperor’s Finest. Each one has been rebuilt on a cellular level, given the best training and armour available and made capable of truly superhuman feats. Whereas the Genestealer Cultists are very definitely enthusiastic amateurs, armed with equipment borrowed from their day jobs. So far we’ve mostly seen Cultists from mining and industrial worlds but I’m sure somewhere out there is a Genestealer Cultist from Admin, trying to beat a Space Marine to death with a stapler.
On the other hand these differences, with a highly elite force in pristine golden armour on one side and a rabble of balding miners on the other, make for a striking visual distinction. The set-up for the conflict is also based around this particularly ominous snippet from the Eighth Edition Codex: Custodes…
A Genestealer Cult calling themselves the Wyrms of the Ur-tendril are discovered by Ordo Xenos agents, entrenched amongst the Nordafrik under-archives on Terra. Captain-General Valoris refuses a request by the Deathwatch to send Kill Teams against this threat, instead leading the purge in person at the head of a huge Adeptus Custodes shield host. The Cult put up a brutal fight, their sheer numbers and fanaticism allowing them to drag down one Custodian after another and tear them limb from limb. Yet for every one of the Custodians that falls, hundreds upon hundreds of malformed cultists and Aberrants are slaughtered. At last, Valoris himself beheads the monstrous Broodlord that ruled over the cult. He orders the creature’s disturbing inner sanctum burned despite the protests from the Ordo Xenos investigators – Valoris refuses to let anyone other than his comrades witness the foul mural that decorates the sanctum’s back wall, of a nest of fanged tendrils emerging from the heart of Sol itself to devour Terra whole…
I really liked this when I first read it and so it’s nice to see it brought back into the light as it were. Whilst more obviously powerful adversaries like Abaddon the Despoiler, the Tyranid hive fleets or the mighty Ork invasions unleashed by Ghazghkull Thraka himself might rampage through the outer parts of the Imperium it is the Genestealer Cultists, reliant on guts and guile and armed only with what they can scavenge that have come to threaten the Throne World itself.
The boxset itself I’ll skip, I’m not short of Genestealer Cultists to paint and I’m not particularly interested in starting a collection of Custodes. It also looks rather light on content to my eye. I expected the Custodes side to have a fairly low model count, these are a highly elite force, but the Genestealer Cultists are looking sparse as well. I’ve bought a few of these kinds of boxes over the years and in the past they’ve proved to be a great source of lots and lots of models at a bargain price. This one however doesn’t seem to have much too it and even if I was planning to start collections of both armies I think I’d be more tempted to see what bargains I could get elsewhere.
Maggotkin of Nurgle
For Age of Sigmar meanwhile we got the news that the Maggotkin of Nurgle are the next army due for an update. As well as a new battletome there’s also a new miniature (something that’s much more important in my book!) a ghastly and baleful sorcerer.
He’s a wonderfully evil and twisted looking model, and best of all he’s not fat. Now before you decide to “cancel” me for being “fatphobic” (although hopefully you’re not that kind of person anyway) hear me out. I do like the bloated, swollen appearance of Nurgle’s favoured but variety is the spice of life, and absolutely intrinsic to those factions sworn to Chaos. With the vast majority of Nurgle’s followers being rather on the tubby side therefore it’s nice to see one who has been left withered in the arms, if still a little potbellied, by his afflictions. This suits a magic user, who doesn’t need to rely on raw bulk to crush his enemies, and is an aesthetic already associated with the Plaguebearer daemons – allowing the sorcerer to form a neat visual link between the mortal and daemonic sides of the army.
All in all I like him and I’ve been feeling the temptation to paint a little more Nurgle lately so I might treat myself to him when he’s released. Equally I reckon he could make a cool looking underhive shaman for Necromunda with a few tweaks.
I’ll admit I’ve been surprised by the lack of attention that Blood Bowl has received over the past year. Having seen a new team released every quarter for the last few years, and with the new Second Season boxset launched at the tail end of 2020 I expected to more teams rolled out as we made our way through 2021. Instead it’s been pretty quiet, not crickets entirely but hardly the roaring bustle of activity of a packed stadium either. Mind you I’ve been unconvinced by the woe, woe and thrice woe wails coming from some commentors who, perhaps unaware that we’re going through a global crisis and that everything from food to fuel is getting harder to buy, believe that Blood Bowl is being uniquely targeted and the game will soon be done away with entirely. Fans of the Specialist Games, and I know I suffer from this myself, do tend to be twitchy and expect our beloved games to face the executioner’s axe at any moment, but I’m confident that when it comes to Blood Bowl there’s life in the old dog yet.
Now, as if to prove my point, along comes Dungeon Bowl – exploding back from the distant past and onto our gaming tables once again. This, from what I remember, is Blood Bowl at its silliest, as Orcs, Elves and others race around a cramped dungeon – stepping through portals, avoiding the lava pits and battling each other for control of the ball (assuming they can find where the damn thing has been hidden!).
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Dungeon Bowl over the years and I’m pleased to see it back, but to be honest I’m not that excited yet. After all, I’ve still not really got to grips with the rules for normal Blood Bowl – although I have heard that Dungeon Bowl is a good way to start learning the game. In the meantime this is something that will undoubtedly be discussed much more knowledgeably elsewhere. As someone who’s much more interested in new models than new rules I would have loved to see a new team – but then again I still need to paint most of the ones I’ve already got. For now I’m watching this space with an open mind.
For a while there the Horus Heresy game seemed to be everywhere. Like Lord of the Rings before it the releases seemed to pour out of the Games Workshop studio in an unending tide, a great tsunami of miniatures that grew larger by the second. And then, again much like LotR, the wave broke and rolled back, perhaps never to rise again. Following the death of the extremely talented Alan Bligh the Horus Heresy, as a game, seemed to vanish from the release schedule almost overnight.
Not that it’s been entirely abandoned of course, there has been the odd release here and there. The entertainingly named Ultramarine hero Remus Ventanus for example is available to pre-order as we speak. However this is but a trickle in comparison to the flood that came before it. Now however we finally have the last of the Primarch models, Jaghatai Khan of the White Scars.
I’m sure every Horus Heresy fan has a favourite primarch and for me, on the loyalist side of things anyway, Jaghatai Khan is the guy. Unlike many of the other primarchs he seems like the kind of person I could actually get along with, and throughout the stories he proves to be a dynamic, free-thinking hero. I’m currently reading the latest Siege of Terra novel, Warhawk by Chris Wraight, (no spoilers please!) in which the Khan is once again proving himself to be downright awesome dude.
This also brings the series of primarch models released by Forge World to a close. Beginning with Angron in 2012 the studio has released a miniature for each of the Emperor’s sons (apart from the clone Omegon of course, but I’m sure you could always buy the Alpharius miniature twice). This leaves me wondering what they might have planned next. Already we’ve seen various other heroes and villains from the series released as miniatures and I’m sure there will be plenty more in the future. Meanwhile two of the traitor Primarchs who ascended to daemonhood during the Heresy – Magnus and Mortarion – have already had plastic models released for them and it seems more likely that the others will enjoy the same treatment rather than having daemonic versions released in Forge World resin. In many ways it depends a lot on what Games Workshop decides to do next with the Heresy series. Despite the decline in the number of releases which the game has suffered in recent years persistent and believable rumours continue to circulate that a new boxset is soon to appear to inject fresh blood to the system. With the series of novels hurtling towards their cataclysmic conclusion I’d say it’s now or never.
Warhammer Underworlds – Blackpowder’s Buccaneers
Warhammer Underworlds continues to play host to some truly outstanding models and the latest warband to be revealed is no exception. Blackpowder’s Buccaneers are a bunch of pirates, lead by an ogre, his gnobblar crew and his various pets. Gyaaar!
I don’t follow the Underworlds fanbase that closely, but judging from the comments of those friends that do, people seem to have been asking for a pirate warband – specifically an undead pirate warband – for ages. Clearly these lads are not in any way undead but they do have a sinister looking monkey.
They’re not due out until early 2022 so I’ll keep my powder dry – a vital skill for a pirate – but they do look like they’d be fun to paint, I guess I’ll decide if they still tempt me nearer the time. In the meantime it’s interesting to see where Games Workshop decides to go with the warbands for the game as they move beyond the existing Age of Sigmar factions. Until now almost every warband in Underworld’s has been based on one of the AoS armies, albeit sometimes putting quite a unique spin on them. Every faction in AoS now has a warband to represent them in Underworlds however and so the studio have announced that they will be exploring new and creative ideas, something the format is perfect for. Needless to say I’m extremely curious as to what they come up with in the months ahead. And speaking of warbands that showcase creative ideas…
Regular readers will know that Warcry is one of my favourite GW games, and the only one that I play on a semi-regular basis. So far I’ve painted up 11 warbands, and it’s safe to say that more are in the pipeline. Only two of these however are what I think of as “official” Warcry warbands. Let me explain. In my mind Warcry is really two different games, one in which various gangs of Chaos worshipping maniacs battle each other in the ruins of the Eightpoints and one which serves as a skirmish game for any of the Mortal Realms various races. Just as I’m not interested in seeing Eldar or Orks in Necromunda I don’t tend to imagine the Eightpoints as busy with anyone and everyone from the wider Mortal Realms. Yes there will be times when the big players attempt to invade, and yes there will be small bands of brave and foolish treasure hunters attempting to loot the lost cities and fallen temples. However in the main this is supposed to be the Chaos Wastes re-imagined, a place twisted by the madness of the Gods, the crumbling streets haunted by dark magic and mutant beasts, populated only by the degenerate and the insane and dominated by the dark citadel of the Everchosen himself.
Now Warcry in its guise as “Age of Sigmar Skirmish” has been fairly well served. Warcry the game of scrapping Chaos gangs on the other hand has been fairly quiet in terms of releases. We had an initial wave of warbands, each of which was striking and original, and a few monsters and then it all tailed off. I couldn’t help but find myself wondering; was that it? Was Games Workshop just waiting for an opportunity to slot Warcry back into their frantic release schedule or had the game lived and died, abandoned on the road as the company marched onwards, to lie beside Mordhiem, Cursed City and all the rest, mourned by cultish followers who gnash their teeth in lonely darkness every time a space marine is released?
Long story short I was pretty excited to see what they had to show us and Red Harvest did not disappoint.
A new boxset for Warcry Red Harvest pits two new gangs against one another in the ruins of a Chaos mining facility. On one side we have the Darkoath Savagers, a brutal bunch who fight partly in the hopes of one day standing at the Everchosen’s side and partly because they’re trying to seize control of a reliable supply of shirts.
Boys and girls are represented in the warband, with the ladies looking just as brutal as the gents.
You really can’t put together a mob of under-dressed barbarians without a nod to Conan, although in this case GW are really making a nod to the barbarian from Heroquest – who was himself a nod to Conan.
Meanwhile the tribe’s shaman is this old woman who, like the Graeae from Greek mythology, has only one eye – and it’s not in her head.
Facing up against them we have Tarantulos Brood, spider men who do whatever a spider can. Having spotted that the Chaos star has 8-points and that spiders have eight legs these arachnophiles have put two and two together and made eight.
These are another of the strikingly original warbands that Warcry does so well, pushing the creative boundaries of the setting and exploring all the weird and wonderful cultures that arise in a land riven by the dark power of Chaos.
Needless to say I’m hard-pressed to say which of these warbands is my favourite and this is a boxset I will undoubtedly be buying. The set also provides loads of new terrain with which to expand the twisted landscape of the Eightpoints. Apparently this is what a Chaos-run mine looks like. What next, a Chaos market, farm or arena?
So far we’ve no way of knowing what, if anything, might lie beyond the horizon for Warcry. Will this boxset be a one off, or is it the start of another wave of regular releases? Looking on the bright side we know that there’s plenty of potential in the setting (one of the developers mentioned in an early interview that at least 50 warbands were considered at the concept design stage) and it’s proved to be popular. If we assume that they were testing the waters with the initial wave of warbands and the moneymen were pleased with the results and immediately order more to be made then, accounting for Covid and the delays associated with it, we should be due for a second wave of warbands to appear round about…now. Could Red Harvest be just the beginning? Might we see a new warband for Warcry appearing every quarter for the foreseeable future, alongside a new Blood Bowl team and a new gang for Necromunda? We would if I was running the world anyway!
Anyway, these are my thoughts, now I want to hear yours. Will you be joining me in the Eightpoints, preparing to overthrow Holy Terra or heading down to your local dungeon for a bit of Blood Bowl? As ever the comments box is all yours.