With the first leaked pictures of the coming Wood Elves release already making the round, I am confident we can consider the Imperial Guard …erm Astra Militarum release completed for now. So what better time to take a fairly comprehensive look at the new kits and the various conversion opportunities they bring, right?
As per my usual approach, this post will focus on the models to the near exclusion of all rules-related stuff. However, let me make one small exception, because the release of the Codex Astra Militarum seems to introduce a rather dubious element: It looks like, as of this book, GW will be using universal naming conventions for all of the various units, even across several languages. What this means is that the English unit names will be used, even in a rulebook that has otherwise been fully translated into German, French, Spanish or what have you. Now this shouldn’t be such a big thing, right? After all, games between 40k aficionados are already a gobbledygook of different languages anyway, so what’s the big difference? Besides, there are certainly sensible reasons for this decision: There will be no disconnect between the translated hardcopy rulebooks and the digital supplements only released in English, for instance. And yet. And still…
I realise that this need only concern non-native speakers of English to begin with, and then a blog written in English may not be the perfect venue for a criticism like this. But GW have always gone through quite some trouble to produce fully translated books in the past. Sure, the Blood Angels were always the Blood Angels, the Leman Russ was always the Leman Russ. But this new approach just leads to books that seem awkward chimerics, lost somewhere in limbo between the original English and the different language version. It reads terribly, to tell you the truth, and while it may make lots of sense, both from a business and rules perspective, this development actually makes me consider getting all my 40k related books in English from now on — I’d rather have the whole book in English than being served snippets of it at every turn. And I don’t suffer horrible prose style.
Anyway, excuse the minor rant: Moving on to the models now!
Officio Prefectus Commissar
I think I am not the only person happy about a commissar model being available in plastic at long last, and the Ordo Prefectus Commissar is definitely a fine specimen to boot: Suitably grizzled and gnarly, this guy looks every part the discipliary officer one might have expected. One interesting thing about the model is that its pose is more dynamic than what we are used to from past commissar models. This dynamism leads to a rather striking silhouette, though:
The face is another really strong point, looking suitably lined and pinched for a veteran commissar! In fact, the one thing I am not completely sold on is the saber: It seems a bit too clunky for once, and there’s also the fact that the blade tapering to a point as much as it does seems slightly wrong, for some reason: I think I would have preferred a more slender saber in the style of the DKOK commissars.
A closer look at the sprue for the model, however, reveals that not only should it be possible to replace the saber without a hitch, but further modifications to the modelt by way of using a different head or change the equipment in the right hand should be really easy, too:
This makes the commissar model even more useful: Having a plastic commissar is already pretty cool in and of itself, but being able to use him for all kinds of INQ28 kitbashes makes the purchase of the model even more tempting, the slightly inflated price tag notwithstanding. Definitely one of the high points of the release for me!
I have never made much of a secret of my general lack of interest in tanks, so it may not surprise you that the Hydra/Wyvern kit didn’t exactly set my heart aflutter. Based on the same undercarriage as the trusty Chimera, these tanks are not exactly visually exciting, at least if you’re not a tank nut.
For tanks like this, the one thing that usually interests me are the little touches used to individualise the vehicle, and I am happy to see that GW have included a suitable crew of gunners for once:
If anything, this is where the character of the piece comes from, if you ask me! On a semi-related note, I always thought it was a shame that the Basilisk loading crew was only available as a set of semi-obscure, OOP metal bitz.
Where the Hydra is mainly used for AA duties, as it seems, you can also assemble the tank as a Wyvern and use it for anti-infantry work:
Again, what can I say? Another chimera-based tank? I certainly won’t go wild over this. I will say that the gunner models and various cogitator arrays that come with the kit might be fairly interesting for a variety of conversions, even though the overall model leaves me rather cold. Sorry!
Quite the opposite for this vehicle though, but I am getting ahead of myself. A better place to start would be to point out that this is obviously that one divisive kit that every self-respecting GW release needs! Already, the Taurox has emerged as the one kit that many, many people love to hate, probably due to its somewhat unconventional design…
…which, in all honesty, really isn’t just as preposterous as many people seem to believe, pointing to several real-world sources, ranging from some rather gimmicky German WWII vehicles or armoured transports used by the English Army during the 70s and 80s to the modern MRAP. As a matter of fact, those influences make for a nice bit of realism that become all the more striking when combined with the hallmark heraldic and baroque elements of the 40k universe! The seeming clash between these elements enhances the model for me instead of ruining it.
If anything, the model instantly becomes less interesting when you leave off the extra bling and use it to create a standard Taurox:
But that’s just my opinion, of course. If nothing else, however, the Taurox provides a much needed breath of fresh air in a setting where nearly all of the tanks seem to be based on the same two or three basic kits. I’ll admit I’ve been waiting for a kit like this for ages, in order to be able to build a slightly more interesting vehicle for my Traitor Guard, and the Taurox perfectly fits the bill. Again, this is clearly a matter of personal preference, but I really like the design!
Beyond questions of personal taste, I think we can all agree that the production values are ridiculously high, with lots and lots of customisation options and even an entirely sculpted interior:
I am really looking forward to what all the crazy converters and kitbashers will do with this kit! Commissar Molotov recently pointed me towards an amazingly thorough thread outlining lots and lots of possible Taurox conversions, so even if you don’t like the model out of the box, there’s nothing stopping you from modifying it to your heart’s content, but more on that later!
All in all, this is one of the more exciting parts of the release for me!
Now these are definitely the stars of the show for me! Which, in all fairness, shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering my rather extensive recent experimenation with the kit. Still, let me explain why I love these guys so much:
One thing that always baffled me was how much of the potential coolness of the Imperial Guard went mostly unused: When I was still a newcomer to 40k, the Guard mainly seemed to be a mashup of pretty much every histrocial military force: Red Army (Valhallans), Germans (DKOK), American Troops during the Vietnam War (Catachans),… the list goes on and on. Then there were some slightly more futuristic elements thrown in (the Cadians would be a good example). And the tanks were mostly based on various WWI and WWII designs.
And while I can see the appeal of an army like that, it was only when the more colourful regiments began to emerge that the Guard really came into its own for me: I love the idea of thousands of years of military history mashed together, but why should it run along the lines delineated by the 20th century? Why not more hi-tech soldiers in overblown 19th century garb (like the brilliantly eclectic Vostroyans)? Why not more WWI Trenchers with noticeable medieval influences (I am looking at you, Aexe Cardinal)? The more Gaunt’s Ghosts novels I read, the more it felt like the actual models on offer were failing to address the possible coolness of regiments hailing from a million worlds.
Now the Scions are finally fulfilling at least a part of that promise: They are clearly hi-tech soldiers, but with a very noticeable baroque, maybe even medieval feel:
There are design cues from many different centuries in their armour and equipment, which not only makes for stunning models but also perfectly channels the look and feel of the 40k universe.
The other really great thing about the kit is the amount of equipment options and bitz you get: Whether you want to assemble a brilliantly ostentatious command squad or just some – only slightly less impressive – “standard” Stormtroopers, it’s all there in the kit:
And finally, as I myself have tried to prove, the kit is also brilliantly versatile, because the barqoue design makes sure that these guys will be useful for all kinds of conversions:
They can become your elite Imperial soldiers, sure. But it’s also easy enough to imagine them as AdMech Skitarii with a bit of work. Or they could be your faceless Traitor Guard elites. The kit really allows for all these different options with only a minimum of modification.
In short, it has taken GW ages to finally release a plastic Stormtrooper kit, but the result is definitely worth the wait!
These guys are the other slightly divisive kit to come out of this release, with many people already hating them with a passion. In all fairness, running against a kit like the Tempestus Scions seems like a pretty dire prospect on the best of days, but are the new Ogryns really that bad? Let’s take a closer look:
One really amazing feature of the kit is that it can actually be assembled in four different variants, and that alone deserves a round of applause. So let’s address each of those variants in turn, shall we? First up, the bread and butter option: The kit will give you three bog standard Ogryns:
I think these are getting some flak due to the somewhat …nonplussed facial expressions on some of the heads. But let’s not forget that Ogryns aren’t exactly rocket scientists. So maybe the faces are a pretty good fit, after all? The good thing is that, even if you don’t like the Ogryn heads, you can always use some of the extra heads that come with the kit, but more on that in a minute. For now, let me just point out that I really like the screaming head with the aquila brand on its brow!
Beyond that, these guys look more or less like you would expect standard Ogryns to look: There are the sleeveless shirts, the crude armour plates and the robust (and somewhat improbable) Ogryn gun. Certainly not the most exciting models in the world, but a great replacement both for the old metal/Finecast Ogryns and for the option of having to work with those extremely static WFB Ogre bulls!
Oh, one thing I really love is how these guys are using gasoline cans as canteens — what a brilliant little touch! 😉
There’s also the option of assembling your Ogryns as Bullgryns, heavily armoured giants protecting the less robust part of your army. And these can, in turn, be armed in two different ways. The first option is to equip them with a combination of grenadier gauntlets and slab shields:
The armoured bodies themselves look rather cool, and I really like the tank treads used as some kind of heavy duty loincloth! The slab shields have some rather nice touches (for instance, the spikes at the bottom to ram them into the ground, and the fact that the three shields in the squads were designed to look like they interlock to form a makeshift defense line). My problem with them, however, is that they look slightly too busy with the Imperial iconography, the sculpted chevrons and all the additional lines: There’s just too much going on, from a visual perspective. I would have preferred a more restrained approach, something similar to the elements of the Aegis Defense Line, for example.
The grenadier fists may be my least favourite part of the kit, because while the idea itself may be awesome, they just look goofy: Maybe they should have been designed to look less hi-tech? Maybe shoulder-mounted panzerfausts would have been cooler? Whatever it is, that element just doesn’t work for me. So in my opinion, this loadout would need some work to make it look really cool.
The one part of the Bullgryns I love unecquivocally, however, are the heads. Well, maybe apart from the bearded one…
“I say! Apparently, they are letting all kinds of riff raff join the fighting these days, old boy!”
…but even that has a kind of corny charm. Maybe the beard’s an attempt at emulating the finesse and elegance of a high-ranking officer by the slightly more refined Ogryn squad leader ?
The gas mask heads are absolutely amazing, though, especially the one with the goggles:
Not only are these your readily apparant solution if you don’t like the standard Ogryn heads, but they would also work great for a DKOK or Steel Legion sinpired force! Or for traitor Ogryns — there’s just something sinister about those gas masks, you know…
As for the Bullgryns themselves, I much prefer the second equipment option for them: battle mauls and suppression shields:
These seem far less awkward and actually nicely complement the Bullgryns’ lumbering poses. Again, I think it would be really fun to transform these into a squad of hulking traitor berserkers! But then, I have some very fond memories of building traitor Ogryns, so I might be biased…
The final option would be to assemble one of your Ogryns as the special character Nork Dedogg, trusty Ogryn bodyguard extraordinaire:
And, like the whole kit, this guy is just one more case of love it or hate it.
Let’s start with the good part: He really looks like an elite Ogryn, which was probably the whole point. There’s also an inherent goofiness about the model that certainly was a deliberate choice on the designers’ part, but much of the goofiness has been stripped away from the Imperial Guard over the last years, leaving this guy a little stranded, so to speak.
My main gripe with the model from a design perspective is that his armour, intended as an updgraded version of the Bullgryn equipment, looks quite unlike every other armour in the IG catalogue: The decorative trim actually makes it resemble chaos armour more than anything else. Plus that goofy vox skull with the commissar cap needs to go, in my opinion.
That said, I cannot help looking at Norg from a chaos player’s perspective, and see him as great conversion fodder for a traitor ogryn: The armour would need precious little work to suitably chaos-i-fy it, and just imagine a gas mask or crudely implanted vox grill instead of that cigar-smoking grin. Very promising!
In any case, I really love the fact that the option to build a special character from extra bitz included in a kit has now made it to 40k as well! I’m all for more plastic characters, and having them as some kind of bonus in a regular kit really rocks!
All in all, there are some slightly goofy elements in the Ogryn/Bullgryn kit, but maybe that’s at least partially due to the fact that Ogryns are in fact rather goofy in and of themselves. That said, I think it’s also a kit with lots of promise — and maybe the models would actually look much cooler with less colourful, grittier paintjobs?
While some of the new kits are already really awesome as they are, the possible conversion options are probably the best part of this whole release for me, so let me share a couple of observations and ideas:
The Tempestus Scions really take the cake here, because they are just amazing, both as a kit and as a toolbox for all kinds of conversions. My own experiments have shown that it’s very easy to use scion bitz for all kinds of craziness, be it to build specialists from more colourful Guard regiments or, indeed, elite soldiers for your Traitor Guard. Another excellent example for the kit’s versatility would be Jeff Vader’s wonderful Primaris Psyker that just uses a couple of bitz from the Tempestus Scions to make a wonderfully characterful miniature. And don’t even get me started on all the possible uses for INQ28 related conversions: Those scions could be Inquisitorial Stormtroopers, or the bitz could be used to accessorise your Inquisitorial agents, or even your Inquisitors. The scions could even be turned into Arbites, with a bit of work. And whatever approach you choose, the remaining extra bitz will prove helpful for a myriad of conversion projects.
For me, the Tempestus Scions are easily one of the best kits GW have released in a while, and if you’re at all interested in INQ28 conversions or kitbashes, they are pretty much a compulsory purchase. The fact that they are pretty reasonably priced – considering the amount of stuff you get in the kit – helps, of course!
And while many people online already love to hate the Taurox, the same goes for that kit: I can easily see the Taurox being transformed into a transport for Ogryns (just make it look more like a mobile cage than a mere APC), a civilian or industrial vehicle for games of INQ28 or Necromunda, a traitor APC heavily reminiscent of Dave Taylor’s amazing Blood Pact lorries and half-tracks or even something as exotic as a modern Genestealer limo. The thread I linked above is basically just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possible conversions, and seeing all the crazy vehicles coming out of this kit will be a very special treat — trust me! As for my own detachment of Traitor Guard, I can easily see myself picking up a Taurox kit: The prospect of building and painting it certainly excites me far more than any old Chimera ever could!
Then there’s the Commissar — another really nice model to serve as conversion fodder: PDH already pointed out some time ago that this guy would be a great base model for a fairly easy Rogue Trader conversion, and I am sure the model would fare just as well as any kind of high-ranking officer or even as an Inquisitor (preferrably one with ties to the Ordo Militum).
But there’s more: Just add an Ork power claw and he could become a pretty cool Commissar Yarrick stand in. Or replace his bionic arm and face and turn him into a plastic model for Ibram Gaunt. Long story short, I imagine this model will be extremely popular with converters in general and INQ28 aficionados in particular, and I certainly intend to pick one up at some point.
And even the Ogryns are quite interesting from a conversion standpoint: Like I said earlier, turning these into a squad of sinister, crudely augmented and/or mutated traitor ogryns or big mutants should be quite a bit of fun! Indeed, if I didn’t already own an entire squad of converted traitor ogryns, I am pretts sure I would already have picked up a box of the new guys.
In fact, and this is just brilliant if you ask me, this release is just as interesting for Traitor Guard players at it is for actual Guard players: Until now, building suitably impressive traitors and renegades (without falling back on Forgeworld’s – admittedly wonderful – Vraksian Renegade Militia) was always a bit of a challenge. The new kits should make this quite a bit easier and more interesting, and I applaud GW for that!
So what about the release as a whole? It probably won’t surprise you that I’ll call this a strong release. The Tempestus Scions alone would probably be enough to carry the day here, but I love how nearly all of the new kits (the slightly underwhelming Chimera-based tanks notwithstanding) seem to have multiple possible uses and allow for lots and lots of neat conversions. The release has certainly re-invigorated my interest in the Traitor Guard side of my chaos army, so don’t be surprised if you see some projects towards that effect in the future!
So what about you? Are you as happy with the potential conversion projects as I am, or were you underwhelmed by the new Astra Militarum release? Are you already planning a couple of conversions yourself, perchance? I’d be happy to hear any ideas and impressions you might have in the comments section.
Now, if you’ll excuse me: I still need to wring the last possible drops of conversion fun from that Tempestus Scion kit 😉
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!