So, before those rumoured Imperial Guar…erm Astra Militarum models hit in the near future, let me just take this opportunity to talk a bit about the recent the “mini-release” for chaos players: Hopes had been high for multiple new kits (among them a Chosen/Havoc combi-kit) or a supplement dealing with the original traitor legions. The bad news is: That’s not what we got. But at least we did get some love from GW in the form of the Crimson Slaughter supplement and a new kit. So let’s take a look at these new toys, shall we?
The rules in the new supplement seem to be reasonably solid, at least that’s what I hear on the forums. People also laud the production values of the book, and I have to say that the art does seem quite inspired and is almost motivation enough for me to go and pick it up, just for the heck of it:
At the same time, you’ve got to wonder: There has been quite a bit of nerd rage regarding the fact that the latest chaos supplement doesn’t deal with any of the major traitor legions, but rather focuses on a fairly new warband that had only been introduced into the background with the release of Dark Vengeance. Several commenters pointed out that this was likely done in an attempt to give newcomers to the hobby a “clean slate” warband that wasn’t so heavily bogged down in all of the background lore — but while this seems like a sensible explanation at first glance, I’m not sure I buy it: Warhammer 40k has always been about the 10,000 years worth of background lore, after all. And what better way to get people into the hobby up to their noses than to motivate them to read up on all the stuff that has happened to “their” legion over the last ten millennia?
Whatever the reason, it seems obvious that GW’s reluctance to publish legion specific rules is actually not an oversight but a conscious decision, at least for now: It feels like they are just not prepared to open that can of worms just yet, which is a bit of a shame, of course. I’ll still keep my fingers crossed for the legions to get a fitting treatment in the future, and I can only hope that this is all some kind of a bigger plan (and a bigger design plan, at that, not just some business tomfoolery).
Such considerations notwithstanding, there were two really positive aspects to come out of this mini-release: One is the fact that the studio CSM army seems to have been switched from Black Legion to Crimson Slaughter, with images of models in the latter warband’s colours now also adorning all of the new boxes. And boy is it a gorgeous colour scheme! I’ll let slide the fact that the Crimson Slaughter has successfully managed to steal what should by rights be the official World Eaters colours: Red and bronze/gold always look great together, and turquoise is just the perfect spot colour for that particular combo (*cough* not that some of us hadn’t already realised that *cough*).
The other positive thing about this release is the new, multipart Helbrute kit. Let’s take a closer look:
For all these past years, ever since the early 2000s really, chaos players have been clamouring for a new Dreadnought kit. Then Dark Vengeance came around, introducing us to the concept of the Helbrute, an Astartes Dreadnought warped and corrupted by the ruinous powers into something halfway between a daemon and a machine. Now, with the release of the multipart Helbrute, we have come full circle: The kit we had been waiting for so long is finally available. And quite a kit it is!
Before we take a closer look, though, let’s get the main problem out of the way first: In order to enjoy this kit, you have to be comfortable with the idea of the stock chaos Dread being much more warped and mutated – more “fleshy”, as it were – than before. If you don’t like that overall approach, well, you’re out of luck — this model just won’t be for you.
Here’s the thing, though: I myself am not a huge fan of overly mutated models. There are very few mutations appearing across my World Eaters army (both for aesthetic preference and fluff reasons). Still, both the Dark Vengeance Helbrute and the new multipart model have managed to win me over, because they just look amazing! They are evil and chaotic, exuding malice and horror in equal measure, so how could I not love them? What’s more, put them to a “regular” Dreadnought, and you’ll see that, in spite of all their mutations, they closely match the proportions and design of a standard Dreadnought underneath all of that fleshmetal: You can almost imagine how these creatures (d)evolved into the monstrosities they are now, and that is just great visual storytelling, period.
And even if you hate that look and approach with a passion, there are many alternative options: All of the loyalist Dreadnoughts are quite easy to convert into suitably chaotic models (as I myself have proven. Twice.). There are also the – still amazing – Forgeworld Chaos Dreads, if you prefer a more conservative design approach. So what I am saying here is that the new kit basically only adds more options instead of taking them away: Everyone can still get the Dreadn…erm Helbrute they like.
As for the kit itself, what strikes me as the best part is the amount of customisability: You get all of the available weapon options plus a huge amount of bitz to make the Helbrute look like an individual or represent his allegiance to a specific chaos legion or warband. It goes without saying that the weapon options follow the mutated look of the main body. In some cases, they are still fairly conservative (the Autocannon or Lascannon would be good examples). Some other weapons are a bit more out there:
Personally speaking, the rocket launcher is just a bit much, though: I love the model and all, but the idea of fired rockets leaving fleshy sockets like pulled teeth is just taking the body horror angle a bit too far for my liking, thank you very much:
Even beyond the different weapons, I really love the additional options for customisation: You get a whopping six heads and three horned crests for the sarcophagus, for instance. Sure, this guy is more expensive than the loyalist dread, but he is also quite a bit more exciting from a visual standpoint, plus you basically get all the weapons option in one place instead of them being spaced out over several kit.
Also, whether or not you like the basic look, you’ve got to admit that there’s a nice bit of visual consistency between the different daemon engine kits: There are little touches that tie them all together and make them look like parts of the same overall faction. Nice!
In comparison with the DV Helbrute, GW seem to have taken the hobbyists’ feedback onboard: The two main points of contention about that model were the somewhat uninspired back (less detailed than would have been preferrable, probably due to production conditions for a snap fit model?!) and the strangely organic feet: By comparison, the new Helbrute has some additional armour plating on his back, recalling the design of both loyalist Dreadnoughts and the FW chaos Dreads. The feet have been also been redesigned, now looking far more like standard Dreanought feet.
So, are there any problems with the model? For one, I think that the pose could have been a bit less static, but that’s always a problem with a multipart kit that has to balance awesomness and flexibility. Still, if you want this guy to be more dynamic, you’ll have to put in a bit of work (and when you do, the rather organic nature of the model when compared to standard Dreads means some GS sculpting may be in order).
The biggest problem seems to be that, at least for those into the background of the setting, the new Helbrute may not be a good fit for some of the traitor legions: Sure, he should work like a charm for at least four of the three “cult legions” (Emperor’s Children, Death Guard and, of course, World Eaters) as well as for two of the undivided legions (Black Legion and Word Bearers). But after that, it might get a little iffy: While I could see the Night Lords using a mutated Helbrute like this as a terror weapon (as well as an instrument of torture for one of their own), I think the model doesn’t work quite that well for, say, the Iron Warriors: I think you’d be better of converting an Ironclad Dreadnought (or go with the FW option). In the case of the Thousand Sons, the mutated look matches Tzeentch’s penchant for twisting and warping his followers, but clashes somewhat with the legion’s background. And I think the model just doesn’t work for the Alpha Legion, at least not when you keep the most recent fluff in mind. But then again, there are alternatives for those cases (see above).
A small, if insubstantial, disappointment is the fact that, unlike the heads in the Venerable Dreadnought kit, the leftover Helbrute heads will not work on regular Chaos Space Marines, as is evident from this photo, kindly provided by fellow hobbyist Daemonclaw:
They might arguably work in Terminator armour, but only with a fair bit of cutting. Just imagine if we were to get a helmet like the one on the left for our Khorne berzerkers one day…
Then there’s the whole dataslates business: The new Helbrute dataslate supposedly adds some quite viable ways to use the new model — or, indeed multiple models. But, as has been the case for prior dataslate releases, it’s the downloadable content discussion over again. And while I do see digital publications as a viable avenue of income for GW, I still don’t see why they could not have put these rules into the same issue of WD featuring the new model: Wouldn’t that be precisely the kind of content that would make people pick up the mag, after all?
And there’s one final problem: Maybe it’s just due to a couple of crude comments over at Throne of Skulls, but don’t you agree that there’s one particular element about the new Helbrute’s design that seems a little…suggestive?
…ah, never mind 😉
It’s a great model, though, fair and square: Great job, GW!
So, I also promised you a surprise model in the title, so let’s make good on that promise: After longingly looking at pictures of the new Helbrute kit in WD Weekly, I surprised myself by not running out to buy the kit right away, but rather grabbing that unpainted DV Helbrute I still had sitting on my desk and finally starting to paint that instead — and it’s about time, too, seeing how it’s been quite a while…
While the model remains an amazing piece, I can safely say now that it’s certainly not a lot of fun to paint: It took what felt like ages, but then the model finally started to come together, and it’s mostly finished at last. Take a look:
As you can see, in another case of fairly atypical behaviour, I left the model mostly unconverted, but then I really like the model a lot as is. I just got rid of the stubby melta arm — the one truly bad piece of design on an otherwise amazing sculpt, if you ask me.
I also added a little “special effect” on the model’s back, using Tamiya Clear Red:
Not an ‘Eavy Metal grade paintjob, admittedly, but considering the amount of time I spent on this guy (and how long it took to finally get to the point where I wasn’t feeling like I was messing up horribly), I am really pretty happy with the outcome so far:
As of this writing, I still need to do some final touchups on the model, add some final highlights etc. But I hope you’ll agree that it’s coming together.
Here’s the new Helbrute with his future “colleagues”, Marax the Fallen and Khoron the Undying:
In comparison with the new multipart kit, the DV Helbrute does of course lack a bit of flexibility as well as a whole lot of weapons options. Then there’s the fact of the slightly redesigned back and feet on the new model. However, at least in my opinion, the DV Helbrute isn’t necessarily the inferior model: The pose is excellent and dynamic, whereas the new model looks quite static (provided you’re not going with the two power fists). The face on the DV Helbrute is also quite excellent, and slightly better than the bare faces included with the multipart kit, at least in my opinion. And while it was designed as a single pose model, using it for rather extensive and exciting conversions is absolutely possible! For inspirations about how to truly make this model sing, look no further than the work of Daemonclaw or Biohazard — the latter’s particularly great Helbrute is a model I am truly envious of! Plus you can get the DV Helbrute for a song on ebay, which makes sure that this version remains a very viable option, especially for converters. And just imagine what one could achieve with one of the new multipart kits and a DV Helbrute: All that leftover bitz would be amazing for making two standout models at an onlslightly bigger cost.
So, in closing, while the lack of additional kits or any legion-specific supplement is of course a bit of a disappointment, the new Helbrute kit is amazing enough to tide me over until the true next chaos release comes rolling around. Will I get one at some point? Quite possibly so, yes. I am not exactly looking forward to painting another of these fleshy behemoths, though: The more mechanic, angular Dreadnoughts are far easier to paint and make for far more pleasant work.
Let’s not think of any further Helbrutes just yet: For now, I am really happy that I finally managed to paint one of my favourite pieces from the Dark Vengeance boxed set!
As always, I’d love to hear any feedback you might have. And, of course, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!