They have finally given us plastic AdMech!
I repeat: THEY HAVE FINALLY GIVEN US PLASTIC ADMECH!
Seriously, though: I am pretty sure it’s no exaggeration to say that, for many hobbyists, the introduction of the Adeptus Mechanicus Skitarii as a separate faction is wish-fulfillment of the first order. There’s just something about the Adeptus Mechanicus that’s so quintessentially grimdark and 40k that it makes the faction almost irresistible to some of us — myself included.
If you grew up with 40k at a certain time and share a certain mindset, then you will have looked forward to any AdMech release just as much as me: I remember coming across illustrations like this John Blanche piece…
Illustration by John Blanche
or this equally brilliant piece by Jes Goodwin…
Illustration by Jes Goodwin
…and starting to wonder what the deal with those Mechanicus guys was. Those ponderings formed the foundation for an ongoing fascination with the Adeptus Mechanicus, and I think the main reason for this fascination is the fact that, not unlike the Adepta Sororitas, the Adeptus Mechanicus is very much at the heart of what makes 40k such a memorable setting: The eclecticism, rampant anachronisms and grimdark feel of these ancient guardians of knowledge (or should that be ignorance?) are what make them so cool. Their heavily augmented, red-robed forms are as iconic of the darker, more Blanchian side of 40k as the colourful, slightly more modern Space Marines are of mainline 40k.
And to be honest, we never really expected there to be an official plastic AdMech release, did we? I think I speak for all of us AdMech aficionados when I say that we would probably have been happy with a clamshell character or two. And many people were overjoyed at Forgeworld making the Mechanicum a faction in the Horus Heresy setting. But plastic AdMech in 40k proper? Unthinkable!
And yet, here it is! So let us take a look at all the new kits and discuss their high and low points. And it goes without saying that we will also be looking at the possible conversion options. All hail the Machine! ;)
Skitarii Rangers/Skitarii Vanguard:
Okay, this is our very first AdMech plastic infantry kit, and right out of the gate, we can see that GW means business.
The kit gives us the option to assemble two types of infantry: Skitarii Rangers and Skitarii Vanguard. Let’s start with the Rangers, because these guys are so quintessentially AdMech with their red robes, cowled and masked heads and heavy augmentations: And not only do they closely resemble the picture many hobbyists have had of the Skitarii, but I also think it’s really stunning how closely these models…
..resemble the Skitarii artwork by none other than John Blanche himself. Just check it out:
Skitarius by John Blanche
This is just the first of several instances where the new models tap into the well established look for the faction, but once again, it’s really amazing to finally have the models to fit the artwork!
One thing that stands out about this kit as well as the whole release is the use of anachronism in the design of the models, particularly the weapons. The inclusion of a very WFB Empire-like sniper rifle serves as a sterling example of this:
Now this certainly goes for all of 40k to some degree, but it’s especially obvious with the Skitarii weapons, both due to their design as well as their idiosyncratic nature: On the surface, these are some really elegant weapons, with beautifully decorated grips and delicate, slender designs, lending a strong 19th century feeling to the models. At the same time, there’s a rather chilling contrast between the very classy, elegant design of the weapons and their terrible function: In a world as grimdark as 40k, the Tech Priests of Mars alone are big enough bastards to let their troops use weapons that not only irradiate the surroundings but also the very soldiers wielding them.
In any case, these guys are very close to the well established Skitarii image and provide us with some wonderful plastic renditions of the art we all love so much — very nice!
The other option is to assemble the kit as ten Skitarii Vanguard, with different weapons and heads:
And while the very different look of the Vanguard helmets when compared to the usual, cowled AdMech look did take some getting used to, I find myself growing more and more fond of these guys: There is something very neo-Prussian about them, which adds to the 19th century feeling of the models. And at the same time, there’s also a palpable influence of 50s SciFi evident in the models’ design.
All the parts in the kit are beautifully detailed and present some of GW’s finest work in plastic. The resulting models are wonderfully scaled, slender and detailed, with a brilliant contrast between flowing robes and highly busy technical components. One piece of criticism I have seen leveled at the kit is that the models seem relatively “safe” and “clean”, mostly devoid of the rampant body horror and man/machine fusion we get in some of the more extreme AdMech artwork. But while that may be true, I would argue that it seems sensible to make the main infantry kit for the faction a bit more restrained — there will be ample body horror later, for one, plus it should also be really easy to make these guys as distressed as you want them to be via some kitbashing. But more on that later!
One last thing I love about the kit is how it gives us ten models to play around with — and at a fairly reasonable price, at that. Sure, ten squad members used to be norm rather than the exception, but so many of the more recent kits have used five models as a new standard that it’s really nice to see a bigger squad again!
All in all, this kit is fantastic and feels like an almost compulsory purchase for every 40k aficionado. Excellent job!
Sicarian Infiltrators/ Sicarian Ruststalkers
Another multi-kit, so we are certainly getting our money’s worth out of this new plastic crack! Both variants of the kit make for some very unique models, so let’s take a look at both of them in turn:
Let’s start with the Infiltrators: Man, I just love these guys: They look every bit the lithe, deadly assassins they are supposed to be. The grafted-on augmetic stilts do a perfect job of making them taller and giving them a more unique silhouette, and their bionic arms with the transonic blades add to that effect. I also really like the gas-masked heads: These guys just have the “Clockwork Ninja” look down pat:
It also looks like their arm blades can be used to achieve all kinds of bad-ass ninja poses. And I love how they are tall and impressive enough to use Termie bases, yet their slender silhouette still ties them in with the classic AdMech look. It’s also noticeable how the lack of robes actually works in their favour, making them look far more dynamic and deadly — beautiful!
Speaking of robes, there’s also the squad’s Princeps:
And, if anything, he’s even cooler than his charges! Seriously, I love this guy: The cowled, heavily cabled face, the voluminous robes extra set of servo-arms — he’s just everything I would expect of a highly combative member of the AdMech. If I have one gripe with this guy, it’s that he almost looks a tad too far removed from the rest of the squad — more like a proper Tech Priest and less like a mere unit champ. But the model itself is pretty much perfect, which is why I’ll let it slide. One more thing: You’ve got to love that evil looking claw, don’t you think?
Apart from that, my only point of critique about the Infiltrators is that the various doodads dangling down from the models’ backpack seem to work against the models’ otherwise very clean and uncluttered silhouette. I guess how these are supposed to be recurring elements all across the army, but they are slightly surplus to requirements here, if you ask me. But ultimately, that is a very minor problem — I just love these guys, period.
There’s also the option of assembling the models as Sicarian Ruststalkers, a squad of high-tech soldiers jamming transmissions and frying enemy brains with their constant broadcasting of the AdMech version of deadly white noise:
These guys have a very obvious 50s SciFi look going on, and their domed helmets really do a good job of communicating their function. I also like the alternative set of weapons — especially the grimdark uzis ;) One thing that I really want to point out is how similar these guys are to a 1990s concept for Imperial robots, courtesy of Jes Goodwin. Just see for yourselves:
What a wonderful way of giving a shout out to these older, yet still wonderful, concept sketches!
Ultimately, I like these guys slightly less than the Infiltrators, but that may just be me: They are a bit goofier and slightly less sinister and lethal looking. What I really like is how a change of heads and weapons really transforms the models!
One thing, though: Doesn’t it just look like the squad leader has a Santa Claus beard made of cabling:
I just cannot unsee this now, especially with that red cloak… Erm…that is one bad ass looking servo-skull, though, so I think that makes up for the slightly dubious head ;)
It also bears mentioning that these guys are less clean and more sinister than the Vanguard/Rangers, hewing closer to the more demented side of AdMech lore. So if the other footsloggers feel too safe for you, these guys should be right up your alley! There’s also something chilling about their backstory: Skitarii so damaged by their prior years of service that their only use is to be turned into utterly terrifying killing machines.
Ultimately, I love this kit just as much as the Vanguard/Ranger kit: One of the main pitfalls for this army must have been to maintain the balance between having a strong look of visual coherency (these are machine soldiers, after all) while also having the different units look original enough. These models are a great variation of the look introduced by the Vanguard/Ranger kit, and I will certainly pick up a box of these sooner rather than later! Fantastic!
Ironstrider Ballistarius/ Sydonian Dragoon
Okay, this third kit certainly ups the ante when it comes to grimdark visuals and puts us slap bang in the middle of Blanchian design sensibilities.
The Ironstrider Ballistarius is the AdMech idea of a mobile weapons platform — and didn’t you just expect these guys to have something pretty interesting going for that? The result is a beautifully eclectic, avian walker with some very noticeable design parallels to the Imperial Knight (the armour plates on the legs make this especially obvious), creating a strong and very fitting visual connection between the two subfactions.
Oh, and this has to be one of my favourite heads designed by GW:
By changing around the various rider bitz and main weapon, we actually get a sub-variant of this kit with a sniper focus:
You may call me crazy, but (mostly due to the 19th century design of the weapons) I am getting a massive “big game hunter” feeling from this version of the kit, which I think is fantastic!
The real star of the show, however, has to be the Sydonian Dragoon:
In his recent review of the kit, Dave Taylor calls the idea of a retro-futuristic Knight riding a birdlike walker and wielding a massive taser lance a wonderful case of “bringing a knife to a gunfight”, and that is a very apt description. What’s more, in many ways this embodies the very spirit of 40k itself: Fighting the wars of the future with the weapons of the past. All the weapons of the past, to be precise — and at the same time, no less ;)
The Neo-Prussian look is also back in full force here, with the rider actually going to war complete with a trusty Pickelhaube helmet. This leads to a fantastic and ultimately smooth blend of medieval knight, 18th/19th century design sensibilities and all the clockpunk/dieselpunk touches you could ask for in a single model.
The result is a model that is, at the same time, the quintessential retro-fururistic steampunk knight and also basically 40k in a nutshell. A real triumph! And I can easily see this guy making his way into the display cabinets of countless hobbyists, even if they have no intention whatsoever of starting a Skitarii force.
So, is everything perfect about this kit? Well, I do have one small issue, to be honest:
The servitor controlling the machine’s movement just seems a bit too BDSM for my taste. Now don’t get me wrong: It’s a very grimdark element. It’s just that it’s almost too much (and there’s also the fact that, god help me, it really reminds me of a particular invention by South Park’s Mr. Garrison, called the IT bike — google at your own risk, as it’s definitely NSFW. You have been warned!).
But that’s just my personal taste, of course, and what’s more, it’s just one detail. All in all, this kit is nothing short of spectacular! This release really goes from strength to strength!
And finally, ostrich-like walkers are all well and good, but you certainly cannot have a 40k faction without a beefy tank, can you? ;) So this is it, the Adeptus Mechanicus’ idea of a tank. And it does have insectile legs, of course — no surprise there.
My first thought when seeing this was actually “Oh look, it’s GW doing a Dust:Tactics tank!” And sure enough, there’s more than a little resemblance between this kit and some of the Dust models. But then, spider legged WWII-esque walkers have certainly been done before, so I guess we can let it slide ;)
Obvious inspirations aside, this was possibly my least favourite part of the release, initially. The juxtaposition of the spindly, elegant legs and the bulky main body just seemed a bit off for my taste.
However, the owner of my FLGS – a huge tank aficionado, both when it comes to historical tanks and crazy, half-organic deathmobiles – pointed out to me that some builds of the model look far better than others. The option with the twin-linked autocannon and rocket launcher above is pretty cool, whereas some of the other setups I have seen look overly busy. In fact, the more I think about it the more obvious it becomes to me that the model looks better with a slightly stripped-down silhouette:
Which it why I would probably leave off those strange manipulators/drills and just use the headlights instead- it seems to me like the less busy builds end up looking far better.
So while some of the additional detail, as well as some of the more esoteric weapons, may be beautifully designed, I feel that the model works better with a tidier, more workmanlike look. Interestingly enough, its design makes this tank more futuristic than your regular old IG tank, yet also more retro in a sense, as there is a very palpable WWI /WWII feeling to the whole affair — only with some added spider legs ;)
Speaking of which, the spider legs once again form a visual connection with the Imperial Knight kit — and I think the Onager could even be seen as a bit of a missing link between Imperial warmachines and the dreaded Defiler: While the Defiler was designed from the ground up by the Traitor Legions, I like the idea that the Magi of the Dark Mechanicum should have come up with designs not all that different from those of their loyal counterparts ;)
All in all, while the Onager lacks the shock and awe brilliance of the other kits in this release, I have to say that it’s a kit that grows on you over time. And in a game full of boxy, uninspired tanks, something like the Onager is certainly a welcome change of pace!
It shouldn’t surprise you that the first AdMech conversions using the new kits are already cropping up all over the internet — after all, we’ve had to make ends meet for years, with no “official” AdMech plastic parts available. And what a treasure trove of conversion options these new kits provide to the enterprising converter! Let’s take a look:
The INQ28 crowd are already going nuts over this kit, so I think we can look forward to seeing all kinds of Inquisitorial and unsavoury characters seeing the light of day due to this release. I’ve collected a couple of very cool examples for you:
- Weirdingway is really putting the kit through its paces, creating some wonderful hybrids of Skitarii and other models. His Tech Gang is especially noteworthy, proving that the Skitarii can work wonderfully as Confrontation-style Tech Gangers (seriously, GW, what is it with all the hidden Confrontation conversion bitz lately? Is there some bigger plan at play here?), voidship crews or similar archetypes.
- EdT, well known for his brilliant warband concepts, is hard at work on another fantastic crew of characters, with some excellent insectile Skitarii on the way that bring the kit more in line with the darker, more inhuman side of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Morbäck of Le blog dé Kouzes has come up with a wonderful way of using Skitarii bitz for converting an excellent Imperial Rogue Trader/Pilot: The way the Vanguard helmets can be made to look like pilot helmets is especially brilliant!
- And John Blanche himself has been working on some truly excellent and evocative kitbashes using some of the new Skitarii parts — check them out over at the Ammobunker!
All these examples are ample proof that the kit will work great for any kind of AdMech related conversion, even though kitbashing these guys requires a bit of thought, due to the way the body and legs go together. That said, even beyond the Skitarii bodies, the kit also provides some beautiful conversion bitz: Those hooded Ranger heads will make Tech Priest conversion much easier, and the beautiful Vanguard helmets would look great on mechanised IG regiments: Maybe this would be a cool way of giving your Astra Militarum detachment that special AdMech look, supposing you want to use a combination of both factions. Come to think of it, there’s even a noticeable Solar Auxilia resemblance, so these heads may be an interesting way of approximating the Solar Auxilia look without having to purchase the FW models. At the same time, they will also work well for Enforcers or even Arbites for Necromunda or INQ28. It would also be interesting to play up the knightly angle of these guys and go for steampunk cavalry — or whatever else you can think of. And what about combining the Skitarii kit with some Dark Eldar Wrack parts? Wouldn’t that be a perfect start for some really creepy Dark Mechanicum models…? In fact, the whole Dark Mechanicum angle is pretty fascinating, with the Skitarii as a possible jumping-off point for all kinds of demented kitbashes. Even now, I find myself thinking of combining Skitarii with Skaven Stormvermin, Empire Flagellants or what have you. For starters, here are some very cool Dark Mechanicum Skitarii courtesy of InsanePsychopath, who has managed to come up with great models with just a few clever tweaks to the models and their paintjobs
Okay, let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first: Since these models work so well as lithe, sinister assassin types, they would be great for any Inquisitor’s retinue: It would just take a few tweaks to turn them into Death Cultists with a penchant for body modifications or even a sub-variety of arco-flagellants. They could also be turned into Spyrers with a bit of work, because you can easily see these guys stalking their prey in the underhive, right?
And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg: Consider Drazuul’s “Mecha-Nid”, for instance: Could there be a more chilling example of the (Dark) Mechanicum’s ingenuity than the thought of an enterprising Magos Genetor (or radical Inquisitor) trying to improve upon the biological killing machines constructed by the Hivemind?
In fact, the Infiltrators would also work as basic templates for all kinds of Dark Mechanicum killing machines, such as Bronze Malifects. Likewise, I could easily see those domed helmets from the Sicarian Ruststalkers for all kinds of robot/killdroid/drone conversions! And finally, the unit champ works great as a particularly combative Magos for INQ28, right out of the box.
Sydonian Dragoon / Ironstrider Ballistarius:
While it almost seems a bit sacrilegious to use this kit for anything else than its intended use, there are a couple of possible ideas knocking around in the back of my head: My first idea was that this kit would provide a pretty cool base for a – Blood Pact style – stalk tank for Traitor Guard forces. The model’s slightly more organic, creepy vibe when compared with the trusty old Sentinel would certainly make it a viable option for enterprising chaos converters!
Likewise, the legs and main body would probably be great for whenever an even more elaborate, ostentatious walker chassis is needed — for an Ecclesiarchy walker, a walking pulpit or even a kitbashed Penitent Engine. And the kit provides a great pair of legs for every biomechanic monstrosity you could possibly think of, of course — what about making a Helbrute a bit more impressive by adding those Ironstrider legs, I wonder…?
Once again, the model should make for an excellent basic template when converting traitor (stalk) tanks: At the very least, the spider-legged build provides a visually much more interesting option for chaos players than the same old boxy Imperial tank models. Speaking of which, this kit should also come in handy when planning possible daemon engines. For instance, AMaxmius recently shared idead for a daemon engine with me that I am confident will put these legs to excellent use –check out his first post on the matter here.
Beyond that, suffice it to say that these legs should work wonderfully for your daemon engine needs, if you don’t want to use the Defiler legs, as those haven’t aged all that well by today’s standards…
So, when all is said and done, what to make of this release? To be honest, I was blown away by these kits! Just when we thought we’d seen it all, GW gives us the most Blanchian models in over a decade, channeling not only the wealth of AdMech artwork created over the years, but also lots of visual influences, from 50s SciFi to clockpunk, dieselpunk and steampunk. The result is something that seems pretty unique, yet also perfectly at home in the 40k setting. Pieces like the Sydonian Dragoon are just wonderfully evocative, while the Skitarii infantry kits provide us with lots of excellent tech-y conversion fodder. And even the less brilliant parts of the release (yes Onager, I am looking at you) are still fairly strong offerings, if seen on their own.
One thing that is interesting to note is the absence of actual Tech Priests (so far): Does GW intentionally stay out of the actual Cult Mechanicus in order not to step on FW’s toes? Or do the Skitarii serve as a test balloon or a mere prelude, with the Magi of Mars held back for a potential future release? The beauty of it is that it really doesn’t matter that much: Even if we never get a Mechanicus second wave, this release stands on its own as a fantastic design achievement — and it provided converters and kitbashers with all the toys they need for their AdMech needs.
All in all, I will have to call this a stellar release, both for its quality and focus as well as for the very fact that plastic AdMech is really happening at long last! I also have to say that these kits speak to me in a way that the FW Mechanicum designs do not (except for a few noteable exceptions like the Tech Thralls and that one tank looking like an art déco car). So yeah, fantastic work, GW! Respect where respect is due!
But what do you think about this release? Are you as happy with the new kits as I am, or do these men of metal leave you completely cold? And would you like to discuss any more conversion ideas? I would be happy to hear from you in the comments section!
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!