Those of us familiar with the Realms of Chaos know that all blood serves Khorne in the end, so it is only fitting that, at the end of the huge maelstrom of bloodshed that is the WFB End Times, there should be the servants of the Blood God. So we get a release in red and brass, adding some substantial new material to the legions of Khorne in WFB and, with a little cutting and gluing, 40k. It should not surprise you that I consider this a pretty good month, and will only be too happy to walk you through this release. Yay!
This is only one way of looking at it, of course: Fans of Tzeentch and Slaanesh are rightly annoyed that Nurgle and Khorne seem to be getting all the love, once again. But with a plastic Greater Daemon forming a substantial part of this release, I think it is safe to say that followers of the other chaos gods are probably not all that far behind. Take heart in that conviction, brothers and sisters in chaos! ;)
Until then, however, let us focus on the hordes of He who hunts at the head of the pack: The release brings us one huge kit, one clamshell character and one multi-kit for rather monstrous infantry. So let’s take a look at each of the kits in turn and talk about their strengths, their shortcomings and, of course, their glorious conversion potential. Grab your axes and step this way, please!
To say that this has been a hotly anticipated model would probably be quite an understatement: People have been beggingfor plastic Greater Daemons for a very long time now — so long in fact that it seemed almost guaranteed that GW could never possibly do all the expectations enough justice. And some people even stepped up to fill the void, among them Creature Caster, offering some very impressive alternate Greater Daemons as part of their Kickstarter campaign.
I’ll be honest with you: I was very impressed with CC’s Warrior Demon when I first saw it, and I actually asked myself whether GW would be able to produce a new Bloodthirster to match. Sure, there was the amazing Forgeworld Bloodthirster, but the presence of that model only made the designers’ task yet more difficult. And when I saw the first few fuzzy photos of the new Bloodthirster appearing on the internet, my biggest fears seemed to become reality.
I was wrong, fortunately: Once the official pictures appeared, along with the release of the kit, I really fell in love with the new Bloodthirster. After taking forever to redesign the model – and I don’t even hate the old Bloodthirster, mind you. It’s just that it’s very much a product of its time – GW’s designers have really managed to deliver an amazing new version. And we get three different variants out of the kit, no less! Let’s take a look at each of them in turn:
The Wrath of Khorne Bloodthirster, pictured above, does not merely have the most idiotic name of the bunch (seriously, guys: Whatever happened to adjectives?), it’s also my least favourite version by a few degrees. It’s still a pretty stunning model, make no mistake, but it has a couple of elements that don’t sit well with me:
The meteor hammer, for one, seems like a somewhat counter-intuitive weapon choice for a horned, winged daemon, because wielding it effectively might be quite a bit of a task with all those extra appendages in the way, but that in itself would’nt be too much of a problem. What I really don’t like though, is how the head of the hammer seems just about to smash down onto the daemon’s own head:
Sure, the model just serves as a kind of “freeze frame”, but that detail really stuck out to me. There’s also the fact that I think the pillar of flames that comes as an optional part is a pretty tacky and goofy way of elevating the model’s height:
While the bit itself has been beautifully sculpted, there’s something ever so slightly off with the whole concept. And it doesn’t really work all that well on the Wrath of Khorne Bloodthirster specifically, because it makes the already slightly awkward pose created by the weapons even stranger, making the whole model seem as though it doesn’t know whether it’s landing or taking flight.
There are really cool things about this specific variant, though: The axe head is a work of art, even though it looks slightly wrong held at that particular angle — more as if the daemon were presenting it to its opponent instead of preparing for some actual chopping action. The HeroQuest and Oldhammer inspired head with its stylised headdress is a wonderful idea, though — what a fantastic shout out to the vintage models! And the armour worn by the Bloodthirster is also wonderfully detailed and very cool. All in all, even the weakest variant of the kit is a massive, threatening and highly dynamic daemon, and certainly a centre piece for any chaos army.
So let’s move on to the next model in line, the Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage:
This guy supposedly works as some kind of hero and character killer, and what better way to go about that task than to be wielding an enormous axe, right? The axe is very much the focal point of the model, and it is a truly awesome piece:
The design of the weapon manages to balance daemonic/organic and metallic elements perfectly, for once, giving us something that looks like an organic chain axe, without being too creepy crawly. I also love how the arms and axe give the model a very striking pose and silhouette — I still don’t like the flame pillar on this model, but it works much, much better with this weapon setup!
The partly bestial face may be my least favourite part about the model:
It’s not even bad, mind you: It just seems like the designers could not decide whether they wanted this guy to look like a daemon, a dog or a troll. Even so, the detailing is top notch, and the icon of Khorne dangling from the head’s chin as some kind of piercing is a very cool touch.
And finally, the third variant of the kit: The Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury:
This guy is described as the weakest kind of Bloodthirster in the background, but you know what: He is by far my favourite of the bunch! Maybe it’s the fact that he hews so closely to the original, iconic Bloodthirster design? He also happens to be a pretty good representation (at long last) of one of my favourite pieces of artwork by Mark Gibbons:
For me, the Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury is just a perfect representation of what I want a Bloodthirster to look like: I love the iconic combo of axe and whip, for one. And this particular axe head works better than the more ornate one used on the Wrath of Khorne Bloodthirster, if you ask me: Due to its asymmetrical, more workmanlike design, it actually looks as though the Bloodthirster is preparing for an attack with it.
But the face really has to be my favourite part of the model: It’s just perfect, a brilliant mix of bestial, skeletal and human. The quintessential demonic face, if you ask me:
The fact that the ‘Eavy Metal paintjob on this guy is pretty much perfect helps, of course. This version of the Bloodthirster is really close to Tolkien’s seminal Balrog as well — and I’ve always imagined Bloodthirsters as the Warhammer version of Balrogs, anyway ;)
I also like the highly detailed whip, both for its iconic quality and for the depth it adds to the model (even if sorting out the whip arm is a bit of a pain, as I can say from painful experience). Maybe my one small gripe with the model is the chaos star used as a tip for the whip, though:
Oh, and the model also serves as proof that the Bloodthirster’s running legs work really well without that stupid flame pillar: In fact, the model seems to be more aggressive and have a greater sense of agency without it, if you ask me.
When all is said and done, I think you should just choose your favourite visual elements from across all three variants of the kit and then happily mix and match. If anything, I actually dislike the fact that GW chose to create different rules for the different Bloodthirsters: In my opinion, the different weapons, heads and pieces of armour should have been a visual choice, above all else. But that’s just me.
In any case, there are some strengths and weaknesses shared by all three versions of the Bloodthirster:
First up, the amount of detail on this guy has to be seen to be believed. Every part of the model is beautifully and lavishly detailed: Seriously, just take a look at that armour:
You even get several optional parts and variants to mix and match, which is amazing (on a related note, those breastplates would look great on a Chaos Knight, and they are just about the right size to replace a standard Imperial Knight breastplate too — just sayin’…).
Another thing I have ended up liking quite a bit is the model’s size: Sure, the avatar of bloodshed and war could always have been bigger, but at least it seems like the designers put quite a bit of thought into this particular choice. As a consequence, the model works really well from a scale perspective when compared with some other models: The Nemesis Dreadknight, for instance, was created to go toe to toe with Greater Daemons. The new Bloodthirster finally looks like it would make a worthy opponent for the machine! The Bloodthirster also looks perfect when placed next to a bog standard plastic Daemon Prince (or the more impressive FW Daemon Prince of Khorne). And while the model is noticeably smaller than an Imperial Knight, it still looks like it could give one of these quite a headache, thanks to the bulk added by the wings.
As for things that I didn’t like, I have already touched upon that (optional, thankfully) flame pillar, but there’s more: The wings take some getting used to. For quite a while there, I just kept referring to them as “mac & cheese wings” when talking about the model, due to the somewhat gooey looking texture. That was something that I grew used to over time, but one problem remains: Who ever thought the addition of chaos stars and icons of Khorne to the model’s wings would be a good idea?
Seriously, this is just overdoing it a bit for the sake of coolness, isn’t it? The best way to deal with this particular detail would be to just paint it to look as inconspicuously as possible, if you ask me, in order to make it look like these were brands of some kind.
All in all, however, I’ll have to call this model a triumph! I wasn’t sure whether GW would be able to produce a Bloodthirster that could live up to the fans’ expectations, but this kit just delivers. Small gripes aside, I would call this a landmark release, and if this model is serves as the standard for the new plastic Greater Daemons, then chaos players will have a lot to look forward to!
Oh, by the way, allow me to share one small anecdote: When talking to Jeff Vader about the model, Jeff complained that the Bloodthirster even had horns and spikes on his arse — and he was right, too:
Jeff pointed out that no Bloodthirster would ever be able to sit down because of this — and I was just about to agree with him that this seemed pretty stupid. But then the fridge brilliance kicked in: If there is one daemon in the warp whom his patron would never ever want to merely be sitting around, it would be this guy, right? So maybe those spikes are not such a bad design idea, after all…
We have grown accustomed to each (End Times) release providing us with at least one new clamshell character, and this time is no exception. Giving us something more interesting than just another towering, fully armoured chaos warrior, though, was a very good call! In fact, Skarr Bloodwrath reminds me of Haargroth the Blooded One, a converted champion of Khorne from the 6th edition WFB WoC army book (and subsequent Storm of Chaos campaign).
The model itself is looking excellent, with its twisted and mutated body perfectly straddling the line between a mighty warlord of chaos and a daemon of Khorne. Let’s just address the elephant in the room, though: Removing those stupid chain flails should be the first order of the day! Seriously, they just don’t work. Even the description of how Skarr uses them in GW’s own materials doesn’t work. Imagining these weapons in motion actually makes my head hurt. They also completely ruin the model’s silhouette and composition. It’s really hard to understand why someone would have considered this element a good idea. Off with them, I say!
Beyond this very obvious gripe, the weapons themselves are rather stunning:
The model’s armour is also very cool, with lots and lots of detail, and a pretty cool and rather original horned helmet to match. What’s more, we even get a bare headed option for Skarr:
Granted, the bare head does seem a bit …challenged, for lack of a better word, but maybe that’s just the unhealthy red skin tone? In any case, it’s great to have the additional option — maybe this would make a pretty sweet plastic Abaddon head, come to think of it?
There’s one more thing beyond the chain flails that I don’t like: If you take a closer look at the way Skarr’s legs interact with the base, you will see that his reverse-jointed daemon legs are posed on a bit of rock:
So far, so good, right? They even added some skulls to the base of the rock. Good job! My only problem with the whole arrangement stems from the fact that this seems to be the only rock of that size in the immediate vincinity. So Skarr seems to have carefully picked a suitable rock in order to perform his little charging forward pose, doesn’t he?
Seriously, though: This would be easy enough to solve with some additional rocks on the base, but it does look a bit strange on the stock model, if seen from the right angle.
A glance at the sprue reveals that…we actually get two sprues this time around. This might actually be a first!
Beyond that particular novelty, the model should be easy enough to convert. You can even leave the chains off from the start — what a relief! And it looks like you could possibly replace the legs with something less mutated (or more 40k).
All in all, a very cool and original Khornate warlord with some pretty minor shortcomings.
In many ways, these can be seen as a Khornate version of the brilliant Putrid Blightkings — and those guys are certainly a tough act to follow. What both kits have in common is that they provide us with massive warriors of chaos pledged to a particular god. The Blightkings’ approach seems to have been to work as a “best of collection” of everything that has ever been cool about a Nurglite model. And on the face of it, the Skullreapers/Wrathmongers seem to be going for a similar attempt.
So we get huge weapons, lots and lots of skulls, horned heads, helmets with bunny ears and yet more skulls, an unbelievable amount of Khorne runes and some mutations resembling Khornate daemons and/or daemonic hounds. And two ways of assembling the kit, no less. Sounds great, right?
Yes, well… Let’s just say that not everything works out quite that well. But all in good order. First up, let’s take a look at the Skullreaper variant of the kit:
Let’s point out the good things first: These guys are pretty massive, very threatening and do look pretty Khornate, too! So far so good! The bare arms are a nice shout out to the look of Kharn the Betrayer, and combined with their size, this should make them stand out from regular warriors of chaos. The amount of detail on the models is also rather stunning.
But it seems if the designers weren’t quite content with that alone and just kept adding stuff until they finally snapped and lost their minds. And that’s when those mutated weapons happened. I mean, just look at them:
The weapons are certainly one of the divisive elements of the kit: In addition to the extremely organic and mutated swords and axes shown in most of the offical photos, there’s also a slightly less OTT set of weapons included in the kit — but even those are extremely ostentatious and decorated to the point of ridiculousness. They are almost too ornate to be considered Khornate, but they might still work if used sparingly. But using two of these on each character in a unit? Definitely overkill!
There’s also the fact that the organic weapons remind me of nothing so much as the demon blade SoulEdge, from the Soul Calibur series of video games:
Sorry, but this cannot have been a coincidence. Recent WFB model releases have occasionally been slightly videogamey in their aesthetics, but this is certainly a new milestone when it comes to that particular development!
All in all, it just seems…a bit much. As if some of those ideas should better have been left on the cutting room floor. Each of the visual elements could probably have worked on its own. But the bare arms, hooligan heads, mutations, organic or highly ostentatious weapons and super-spiky armour just seem like overkill if appearing on each of the five models. Where the Putrid Blightkings work as a collection of awesome, Nurglite elements while also looking fairly cohesive as a unit, the Skullreapers just seem a bit over the top. Like the designers were possessed by their 12-year-old younger selves. Which leaves us with a kit that provides some absolutely amazing conversion fodder, but will also produce some fairly …eclectic models if assembled as intended.
But wait, there’s also a second variant to build the kit: The Wrathmongers.
If you can get behind the idea of followers of Khorne swinging around huge hammers, these guys are actually slightly less silly than the Skullreapers. At the very least, they do seem a little more balanced and less cluttered.
There are some pretty brilliant touches, too: Those helmets may just be some of the very best Khornate helmets currently available! And I just love the idea of the champion’s torso being studded and quasi-metallic, like the body of a juggernaut!
Yet there’s also a bit off silliness here and there: Some of the hammer poses do seem a little too stylised for their own good (the unit champion is a prime example). And let’s not get into that three-armed Wrathmonger: He’s just silly, really. Although maybe I just dislike guys with three arms?
All in all, this kit is extremely interesting, because it combines some of the best Khornate bitz released in the last decade or so with some of the worst clichés I’ve ever seen on a wargaming model. The resulting models seem a tad…uneven, to say the least: They make you want to facepalm and pump your fist in excitement at the same time — which is a pretty rare feeling…
On its own, this kit is a bit of a mixed bag: Almost great, but with some dubios design decisions and questionable visual influences. If seen as a conversion kit, however, this becomes and almost compulsory purchase. Seriously, use this as a conversion kit and a toolbox to customise your warriors of chaos, chaos lords or 40k berzerkers, and this should become one of the best purchases you’ve ever made. Use the kit as intended, and you may just end up with a unit that you hate. I’ve never seen anything quite like it (with the possible exception of the warhsrine of chaos kit): The mind boggles…
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I have been thinking about possible conversions involving these new kits for quite a while now. In fact, I think that converters with a Khornate army of any kind will probably be the most happy with this release — and with good reason! So allow me to share a couple of ideas with you:
This guy might be quite a bit more interesting for converters than seems obvious at first glance. The first thing that really warrants some exploration is the amount of customisation options, giving you the chance to build your very own, personalised Bloodthirster:
First up, you can happily mix and match between the three different kinds of Bloodthirster, combining different configurations of heads, armour plates, horns and weapons. And while the kit is constructed in a fairly straightforward way, there may be yet more options for possible customisation: What about using the lower part of the two-handed axe’s handle (or the hand holding the whip) as a base to convert a second hand axe, building a ‘Thirster equipped with twin axes (Skarbrand, anyone?). And while we are at it, it should definitely possible to use the Bloodthirster as a base for a Daemon Primarch Angron conversion. In any case, when it comes to customising the Bloodthirster, you should really head over to Noctus Cornix’ thread over at The Bolter & Chainsword: He is currently working on an amazing Bloodthirster conversion and is really putting the kit through its paces. Highly recommended!
But there’s more: Whatever configuration you choose, there will be a pretty tidy pile of leftover bitz to use on different conversions: What about using the two-handed axe on a World Eaters Contemptor (as Augustus b’Raass is currently planning to do)? Or using the head of the big axe as an alternate weapon for a Chaos Knight conversion? And speaking of Chaos Knights: Those Bloodthirster brestplates and the skull pauldron would definitely work as armour plates (and, in the latter case, an additional facemask) on an Imperial Knight!
It would also be really easy to cut apart that meteor hammer and use its head as a weapon on a Khornate Dreadnought/Helbrute, while the chain would look great on pretty much any chaos vehicle (or bigger model).
While these may be a bit of an acquired taste if seen on their own, I will go out on a limb here and claim that these guys will become a highly popular conversion kit when it comes to spicing up Warriors of Chaos, Chaos Space Marines and Chaos lords of every stripe. Just off the top of my head, you could use the kit in order to…
- convert champions for your warriors of chaos or Chaos Space Marines — it goes without saying that the Skullreaper bitz will look excellent on World Eaters champions, Lords and Chosen.
- they are also big and intimidating enough to work perfectly as stand alone Chaos Lords in both WFB and 40k
- some of them would make a great base for custom Kharn the Betrayer conversions…
- …or for actual true scale World Eaters: They may seem slightly too small for that at first, but these guys are easily as tall as Terminators! And they will look great when combined with parts from the Dark Vengeance Chosen — trust me on this ;)
- the running, mutated legs could form the base for a very interesting plastic Skulltaker conversion for those of you who would like a slightly more massive, muscular Herald of Khorne. Skarr Bloodwrath would also work wonderfully for this!
- If I didn’t already have a squad of gladiatorial World Eaters, I’be be building one now — based on these guys!
- And finally, the models could be combined with the Skullcrusher kit to either make more ostentatious Skullcrushers or slightly less OTT Skullreapers: The two kits should work really well together, giving you the option to make massive, Khornate warriors that are as detailed or as simple in their design, armour and weapons as you want. And it goes without saying that just a few additional touches will transform the models in question into suitable 40k characters as well.
There’s nothing stopping you from using these for other chaos gods, either: While they may seem utterly Khornate at first, just leave off some of the icons and more Khornate bitz, and they could just as well work as huge, hulking champions of Slaanesh of Chaos Undivided. Oh, and even the INQ28 crowd may find something to like here: All those fleshy, organic weapons would work really well as daemon weapons for particularly radical Inquisitors (or downright heretics). The head that has been partly flayed would be great for a death cultist, a chrono-gladiator or a similarly unsavoury type. And the mutated, dog-like head might make a cool xenos mercenary.
All of this is really just the tip of the iceberg, and I should add, in the interest of full disclosure, that I already own two kits from this release (the Bloodthirster and Skullreapers/Wrathmongers), so you may look forward to reading some in-depth observations about both kits and my first conversion projects involving them on this blog in the very near future!
When all is said and done, how could I not call this a strong release? I am heavily biased, after all. Even so, I think the Bloodthirster alone is very exciting, while the other two kits may indeed be a bit of an acquired taste. For converters and kitbashers and for owners of chaos armies, however, this release contains an enormous pile of new toys and conversion options — it’s just a shame that some of the models, especially the Skullreapers, are a bit problematic in their standard configuration. I am also not actually sure whether the general development towards a more videogamey look for certain characters will really pay off in the long run: Will the World of Warcraft crowd really start liking Warhammer if the designs are just zany enough? Those seem like long odds. We shall see.
I, however, am pretty happy with this release and shall keep tormenting you with projects and conversions stemming from it for quite a while to come. But what’s your take on the new kits? Are you happy? Are you disgusted? Or would you like to share some additional conversion ideas that I might have missed? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments!
And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!