A word in advance: When GW changed their magazine publications, part of the collateral damage also extended to my regular look at the new releases: Until this month, I always wrote up a comprehensive look at the releases for the new “flavour of the month” army at the beginning of that month. With the releases now arriving in weekly spurts, that approach no longer works, obviously. But instead of doing a partial review each week, thereby cluttering up my posting schedule with additional posts, I have decided to stick with my usual approach, only that the comprehensive review will now be posted towards the end of the month. While also less stressful for me, I hope that this works for those of you actually reading my pointless ramblings on the new plastic crack 😉
So, without further ado, let’s cut to the chase: GW’s mags may have changed, but we still get a huge update for one particular army, and this time it’s the Dwarfs’ turn (actually, I was really hesitant to write dwarfs instead of dwarves, until I learned that even Tolkien himself wasn’t all that pleased with the latter way of spelling the plural, so yeah…):
The Dwarfs are one of the archetypal fantasy races, along with Elves and Orcs, so everyone interested in fantasy generally has a picture of them in his mind: heavily armoured, bearded warriors armed with heavy axes or hammers. And, indeed, GW’s own treatment of this particular fantasy race has always been patterned after this archetypal look, broadly speaking. Still, I guess we all know what we expect when we hear the word “Dwarf”. So what do we get? And does it look like we all think dwarfs (or dwarves, or dwarrow) should? Let’s take a closer look:
Isn’t this guy actually a bit tall for a dwarf? Anyway, the model has all the hallmarks of both a dwarf and an ostentatious WFB commander model: Beard, check. Hammer, check. Enormous, massively impractical back banner, check. It’s fair to say that Belegar makes for a nice enough centre piece model for any dwarf army!
I do have two minor gripes with the model, though: The first one is the Oathstone, which seems like a slightly dull manner of making the model taller: Personally, I would have preferred a rocky outcrop or something similar. But in all fairness, not only is this purely a matter of personal preference, but the Oathstone is also completely optional, making this a non-issue.
The bigger problem is the model’s face: In my opinion, the face is a point of focus on every model, but especially so for dwarfish characters: Whether you want to go for the “grizzled veteran” look or are trying to take a more humourous approach, the face is a major point in selling a dwarf as a character.
In this case, however, the helmet design actually obsures the face, especially the eyes, leading to a slightly bland look. Now this wouldn’t be all that bad for a rank and file model, but on an army commander, it seems slightly unfortunate. Again, just my personal taste, of course, but I would have liked a more expressive face…
…which really leads us to this guy: You actually couldn’t get much more expressive than the Dragon Slayer model: The pose is amazingly dynamic, and the stylised dragon head seems like a great way to both add to the model’s dynamism and height and make the character interact with his base in a meaningful way: The slayer really looks like he’s in the middle of throwing himself at a huge enemy, which is basically the perfect look for the character!
At first glance, the face seems a little unwholesome…
…but then you remember that this guy has quite likely lost most of his marbles by now, so the pinched, not quite sane expression really works, after all. My one nitpick is that the hair seems a little hokey, because those three-piece hairstyles never ever work. That’s only a fairly minor concern, though: The model looks great and is both iconic and fun — certainly one of the high points of the release for me!
Ah, yes, now we’re getting to the steampunk part: Master Engineer Grimm Burloksson surely looks tech-savvy enough, with all the crazy steampunk equipment of his! He also seems like a guy who can really hold a grudge, judging by his facial expression — another really characterful sculpt, even though there is so little actual face visible underneath that huge beard.
As for the various equipment options, the Cog Axe is far more interesting from a visual standpoint than the pointy hand:
I also really love the rifle, but the great thing is that you really get to choose which option you prefer with this kit, because Grimm seems quite modular, especially for a one-pose plastic model:
Of course this means that, regardless of which options you choose, you also get some bitz out of the deal, which is always a plus. And even though I think that the back mounted furnace may be a bit much, once again, there’s no one stopping you from leaving it off or converting it into something more suitable. In fact, this kind of modularity is something that also extends to the third plastic character:
A generic HQ this time, but once again a pretty modular one: The kit gives you enough parts to build your Runelord with several different equipment options and one of two different heads (with the remaining bitz once again a sweet addition to your bitzbox!)
The book and hammer combo has a classic quality, for some reason, while the ornate armour really makes it clear that this guy is not you average rank and file dwarf. Personally, speaking, though, I like the tongs gripping a blazing rune even more, both because it’s such a cool and iconic idea, but also because it could be a really cool element to paint!
It’s a good thing we get two heads to choose from, though, because it seems like the dwarfen [sic!] faces seem to be a bit hit and miss this time around:
The left one seems slightly…strange for some reason, with a fairly angular beard and piggy little eyes. Luckily, the second one is quite a bit better, and once again, it’s easy enough to choose your favourite combination:
This versatility and modularity in plastic characters is certainly something I would love to see much more of! All in all, the Runelord is a pretty competently designed model. Good job!
Ah, now we are getting to the really quirky stuff! Both the Gyrobomber and Gyrocopter are just unabashedly goofy, and really all the better for it. Of course, a flying machine that seems quite early 20th century-ish may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it’s just a part of what makes the WFB universe so eclectic and recognisable!
The bomber is quite a monster, and I am certainly not going to argue for or against its realism. Could it actually stay in the air? Who cares! The bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly either, after all…
In all fairness, the rotor design does take a little getting used to:
The design is quite effective, though, in that it instantly reads as both a bomber and a dwarfish war machine. There are also some really nice touches, such as the pilot looking like a dwarf version of an WWI biplane pilot (only missing the trailing shawl) and the impressive cluster of bombs:
The kit can also be assembled as a Gyrocopter:
This flying machine looks like it uses a shortened version of the bomber’s chasssis, making the whole thing look even quirkier, if you ask me: There’s just something about its bublebee-ish proportions that you simply have to love! Using the kit to build a Gyrocopter should also give you lots and lots of leftover bitz, by the look of it.
While I usually like my wargaming serious, these flying machines are just adorable: Yes, they are quirky and goofy and not at all realistic. But they are also totally awesome, and a perfect embodiment of the inherent eclecticism (and even silliness) of the WFB universe, and you’ve got to love them for that!
When it comes to the new infantry kits, the Dwarfs actually yet more combi-kits, making this whole release quite versatile. Let’s take a closer look at the foot sloggers:
The first combi-kit gives us two varieties of heavily armoured dwards with imposing weapons: The Hammerers really look like they mean business, and I like the correspondence between their two-handed war hammers and the anvil-inspired helmet design! Their armour is also fairly ostentatious and ornate, making them look like the elites they probably are!
The Longbeards manage to look even more blinged-out, probably due to their highly ornate axes and helmets and the odd stylised shield popping up. Again, the detail on these is awesome, and they look like the living legends the fluff makes them out to be.
I will be honest with you, though: While I quite like the design of both kits, I somehow cannot shake off the feeling that they look subtly different from the older dwarf kits. And I don’t just mean different as in newer, more recent: The overall design approach seems to have slightly readjusted, and my first impulse was to think that these, while awesome, don’t look like GW models — is that weird?
Granted, the feeling gradually wore off after some time, and I couldn’t really quite explain to you what gave me the impression. But the new armour design seems quite different in places — which, of course, doesn’t have to be a bad thing!
Ironbreakers / Irondrakes
Another infantry combi-kit, and just like the Hammerers/Longbeards, these guys also seem excellently detailed, with lots and lots of neat little touches. The Ironbreakers also get quite a few equipment options, from hammers and axes to twin pistols:
Yeah, that’s the ticket! The picture above serves to illustrate two things, though (apart from the blue armour looking beautiful): One, the bare head’s pinched features once again seem a bit off, underlining the impression that the designers either really nailed the faces or ended up with some pretty …original material, for lack of a better word. The other thing is that this model once again illustrates how the armour design seems quite different from the older models: Look at the legs and feet, for example.
The alternate assembly will give you a kit of Squat…erm Dwarf Irondrakes, wielding what is, for all intents and purposes, flamethrowers:
These may actually be the most heavily armoured dwarfs so far, with even their beards appearing as stylised, metal parts of their protective helmets. I really like how the dragon motif is repeated across several pieces of their equipment:
And man, those drake guns are awesome: If you’re going to have a steampunk flamethrower, you might as well go the whole hog and make it look like a stylised dragon. And the Trollhammer Torpedo pictured below doesn’t only look awesome, it also wins the award for the best weapon name ever!
The different heads used in the combi-kit are once again very interesting, with the Ironbreakers quite heavily armoured, but their natural beards still visible. The Irondrakes, meanwhile, seem to subscribe to the “safety first!” rule, with their protective gear incorporating stylised, metal beards:
Another expertly designed kit, and the Irondrakes add yet more steampunk-quirkiness to the army, which is a plus in my book!
My main question for all of the new infantry kits is this, however: How will any of these look next to the older models? Compare the new Longbeards…
Granted, these are different unit types, and the extra detail in the new kits is certainly a result of better technology being available today. But the difference seems more fundamental, somehow, and it’ll be interesting to see whether these will still read as one army on the tabletop — it seems like I’ll have to wait for Warhammer: Visions 80+ pages of dwarf pictures for my answer, though… 😉
When it comes to the question of using the new stuff for non-dwarfish projects, that really seems like a bit of a toughie: The models and bitz are usually very recognisable as dwarfish in origin, from the shape of the blades to the dwarfish runes everywhere. Sure, some of the steampunk-y bitz might be useable in various 40k armies, and the dragon-themed accessories from the Irondrakes kit might be an interesting addition to a Salamanders or Black Dragons Space Marine army. But by and large, all of the new stuff seems very dwarfish and rather difficult to adapt to other armies.
The truly interesting approach, then, might be to use the kits and bitz for dwarf projects with a twist: Could it be possible to use some of the new infantry kits as a base for a Chaos Dwarf army? Sure, none of them look especially chaos-y at first glance, but the Irondrakes could become really sinister with some added spikes and horns. And experimenting with the new plastic kits might be quite a bit cheaper than going for FW Chaos Dwarfs…
The real elephant in the room lies in the options for 40k, though: If you’ve ever wanted to build a Squat army, this release should give you lots of useful toys: The Irondrakes and Ironbreakers would need nothing more than some back packs and slightly modernised weapons to fit the 40k look, and Grimm Burloksson even has what looks like a bionic eye, for crying out loud! I think the new kits would make it really easy to build an all-plastic Squat force used as a counts-as Space Marine army of your choice. Just imagine the Gyrocopter/Gyrobomber kit used in conjunction with Storm Talon parts — wouldn’t that be a kitbashing extravaganza?
Granted, the result would be a blast from the past, but if retro is your thing, and you’ve waited for the Squats to make a reappearance, this might just be your best bet!
All in all, I’m going to call this a pretty strong release for dwarf players! Granted, all the armoured dwarfs can get a bit long in the tooth, and the new design paradigm might need some getting used to, but the versatility and modularity of the new kits is really nice! And the sheer quirkiness of a kit like the Gyrocopter almost tempts me into getting one for fun…
Seriously, though: My WFB days are over, and even if I were to return, I wouldn’t choose dwarfs as my army. But the models are still beautiful and just on the right side of humourous, and the release feels comprehensive and creative enough to be interesting nevertheless. And certainly more inspired than the Tyranids’ bread and butter update last month — but that’s just my opinion.
So, what do you think of the new dwarfs? Were you as charmed by the bumblebee-copter? Did you feel the same about the different design? Do you have any crazy conversion ideas for the new kits? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!