Waste not, want not — a look at the 2014 Blood Angels release

Right, before Christmas is finally upon us next week, let’s fit in one last review for this year, shall we?

Linked together with the Tyranid release by way of the Shield of Baal:Deathstorm boxed set, we get another round of Blood Angels models before the year is out. Now the Blood Angels are one of the chapters that have already seen a rather substantial (and very good) dedicated release at an earlier point, providing us, among other things, with rather gorgeous kits for the Death Company and Sanguinary Guard, respectively, plus a very versatile Dreadnought kit. The new release, therefore, serves to nicely round out the Blood Angels’ catalogue — but does it stack up to the quality of the earlier release? Let’s find out! And let us also look at all the delightful conversion options — for the last time this year! 😉

Blood Angels release 2014 (1)
The first thing that quickly becomes obvious with this release is that the various new kits make pretty heavy use of existing resources, such as the Tactical Marine kit, the Sternguard and even the Space Hulk BA Terminators, recombining and changing around elements from either to create some new toys for our Blood Angels. This “recycling” of existing assets is neither difficult to spot, nor – I would argue – such a big secret to begin with. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing either. But while GW have been content to release slightly touched up single characters so far, this is one of the first time this happens on such a scale — with both good and bad consequences, but we’ll be getting to that in a minute. Let’s take a closer look at each of the kits in turn:

 

Blood Angels Sanguinary Priest

Blood Angels release 2014 (4)
Alright, this is an interesting piece, both because it’s the most original (as in “freshly sculpted”) part of this release and because it’s also the first time that we get a plastic version of the Blood Angels’ very own brand of priests/apothecaries. So what do we have here?

The model clearly takes some cues from the vintage Brother Corbulo, with certain elements (such as the face and the skull chalice) clearly resembling that character. At the same time, the design of the armour clearly calls back to the Sanguinary Guard (and, by extension, to the vintage models for Commander Dante and Captain Tycho). The addition of flowing robes (an element mostly seen on Dark Angels models so far) provides a nice and individual touch to the model, and the many trinkets dangling from his armour serve as a great reminder of his status.

One thing I really love about the model is the highly ostentatious chain sword — such a beautiful, yet menacing weapon! And though it’s hard to make out in the official pictures, the face is also a bit more interesting than your standard, unhelmeted Blood Angels head (more on those later…).

A look at the sprue reveals that it should really be easy enough to swap in all kinds of Marine parts for smaller or bigger conversions. And using the arms, the backpack or the head on different models should also be really easy:

Blood Angels release 2014 (5)
Space Marines seem to make for pretty good clamshell characters, since the way their armour goes together makes the resulting model stay pretty versatile, in spite of being single pose.

All in all, this guy is basically one of the high points of the release for me — and definitely the most interesting of the new kits from a converter’s perspective! Very nice!

 

Blood Angels Librarian in Terminator armour

Blood Angels release 2014 (2)
This model clearly takes some cues from the Librarian that came with Space Hulk (the double headed psy-axe is a dead giveaway), although I like the new model’s dynamic pose better than the really statuesque Space Hulk Librarian. The model also seems to resemble GW’s older metal/Finecast Terminator Librarian — to the point that it was initially pretty hard to decide whether this was a new model or a kitbash when the first, fuzzy pictures of this release emerged.

And again, this is an excellent character, continuing the trend of strong clamshell plastic characters for the Space Marines! It should also be reasonably easy to convert this guy with an influx of external bitz, and for all the same reasons I mentioned above:

Blood Angels release 2014 (3)
I only have two minor gripes with the model: One, the position of the head seems ever so slightly strange, even though it makes sense in context. But the way the model goes together means that the head is basically locked at that precise angle, unless you invest more time and create a more involved conversion.

By the same token, I realise that this guy is part of the Blood Angels release, but wouldn’t a generic Librarian have made more sense? Sure, the two or three BA icons should be easy enough to get rid of, but this makes it all the more strange that GW didn’t just release this guy as a vanilla model — he would have been quite a bit more useful that way…

All in all, it’s a pretty strong model, though.

Blood Angels Tactical Squad

Blood Angels release 2014 (6)
Okay, here’s where the “recycling” process I mentioned above hits full swing, because the Blood Angels Tactical Squad is basically a mashup of the recent “vanilla” tactical kit, the Sternguard kit and some Death Company and Sanguinary Guard bitz thrown in for flavour. It’s easy enough to spot a multitude of familiar bitz, so this is really pretty obvious.

Among the new parts are a few pretty nice head variants, by the look of it. I really like the helmet of the Marine on the right, for example:

Blood Angels release 2014 (10)Interestingly enough, the “BA-ification” really falls flat on some of the parts. For instance, the rebreather head was possibly one of the coolest bitz from the tactical kit, but looks pretty silly with an added BA hairdo added on top:

Blood Angels release 2014 (9)
In fact, can I just say that I am really not a big fan of the one Blood Angels hairstyle we get? Seriously, I see what they were going for, but that kind of hairstyle just ends up looking pretty daft when combined with a Marine’s somewhat exaggerated features — and it’s the only type of hair we get for our Blood Angels, for crying out loud. Instead of making them look like classical statures, they just seem like pampered children with that stupid hair — but maybe that’s just me.

Beyond such nitpicking, however, I think this is a rock-solid kit. Does it bring something new to the table? No, because it’s mostly a mashup of pre-existing assets. But that is actually its strong suit: It gives Blood Angels players an updated troop box with all the recent weapon options and some nice bitz thrown in for flavour and decoration. Certainly a nonessential purchase if you already have 3,000 points of Marines knocking about, but a very useful resource for starting a new army!

So, great for (new) BA players, everyone else may pass.

 

Blood Angels Assault Terminators

Blood Angels release 2014 (15)
As with the “vanilla” Assault Terminators, these guys come in two flavours and can be armed with either twin lightning claws or thunder hammers and storm shields. Let’s look at both variants in turn:

Blood Angels release 2014 (12)
I am a huge fan of Lightning Claws, but the LC Termies get the short end of the stick, if you ask me: Maybe I’ve just never realised this before, but loyalist lightning claws seem to have a way of jutting out of their gauntlets at a slightly strange angle, taking away some of the dynamism. This is especially obvious on the more dynamically posed models:

Blood Angels release 2014 (14)Just look at the model on the left: It looks like the claws should really be curved inwards, in order to better underline the model’s composition, but there they are, straight and clunky — has this been as noticeable on the generic assault Terminators as well, I wonder?

The Terminators with thunder hammer fare far better, at least in my opinion:

Blood Angels release 2014 (15)
There’s just something wonderfully massive and threatening about Terminators armed with the old hammer/shield combo. Plus I really like the champion, with his added armour plates and robe:

Blood Angels release 2014 (11)
Both variants profit from beautifully detailed armour and lots and lots of BA trinkets that really make them look like the chapter’s elite first company. It’s also very obvious that huge parts of this kit have been heavily inspired by (and reused from) the Space Hulk Terminators — just look at the small armour plates on the thunder hammer sergeant, for example. But that in itself is really a good thing, because it allows players to field Terminators that are visually on par with the truly excellent Space Hulk models without having to pay over-inflated ebay prices for the original models.

There is one substantial problem however: You pay for this opportunity by way of a serious reduction in modeling flexibility! A look at the sprue reveals that the bodies are constructed pretty much like those of snap-fit Terminators: Each Terminator’s legs and torso are one piece, with the chestplate and head also fused together. The arms and shoulder pads are separate parts — but the fact remains that these Terminators are a huge step back from the versatility we know!

Granted, if you like to build your models by the book, this shouldn’t even be such a big problem to begin with, but if you’re an avid converter and kitbasher, like me, this seems somewhat worrying, because we end up with a multi part kit that is severely less flexible than some of the kits we know and love. If this is only limited to one kit, it becomes a bit of a non-issue, since you are free to get the regular, more flexible Terminators. But one has to wonder what ramifications this may have for future releases…

 

Bonus Content: First Captain Karlaen

Blood Angels release 2014 (18)
During my release of the Tyranid second wave, I threw in a look at the Spawn of Cryptus, seeing how Shield of Baal: Deathstorm was basically released back to back with the new kits. So let’s do the same for the Blood Angels character from the same kit, Captain Karlaen.

At first glance, what we have here is a massive Blood Angels Captain wearing suitably ornate Terminator armour, purposefully striding forward — so far so good, right?

The problem is that Karlaen suffers from exactly the same problem as the Spawn af Cryptus, although it’s even more pronounced here:
Where the Spawn of Cryptus was a more or less straightforward “remix” of the Space Hulk Broodlord (with most of the strengths of the original model being kept intact),  Karlaen tries something a little more adventurous in that the model seemingly attempts to incorporate elements from two different sources. Just compare the picture above with this…

Blood Angels release 2014 (20)…and this:

Blood Angels release 2014 (19)
It looks like the model for Karlaen is a hybrid between these two Space Hulk models — and the bad news is: It’s decidedly less interesting and imposing than either of them. Now this wouldn’t be much of a problem if Karlaen were any old Termie, but he is supposed to be the Blood Angels’ first captain — their most accomplished warrior and commander,  second only to Lord Commander Dante — and he ends up looking like an okay-ish kitbash made from two superior Space Hulk models. And again with the stupid hair — sorry GW, not nearly good enough!

 

Conversion options:

It goes without saying that this release has really been tailored towards Blood Angels players first and foremost, with the amount of BA iconograpgy present really making conversions and kitbashes  beyond Blood Angels and their successor chapters slightly more complicated. That said, I still have a few simple ideas for conversions using the new kits.

  • The most obvious point is that many bitz from this release should make very nice additions to BA players’ bitzbox, allowing them to introduce even more flavour and ornamentation into their armies — and that’s always a good thing!
  • By the same token, some of the bitz should be equally useful in other Space Marine armies — I am especially thinking of stuff like heads, armour plates or cool weapons. Come to think of it, some of those swords should look pretty cool on INQ28 characters as well.
  • It should be easy enough to convert the Terminator Librarian to represent a Librarian from a different chapter — just shave off some of the iconography and you’re there. But then again, that’s why the model should have come in vanilla flavour in the first place 😉
  • The ostentatiousness of BA armour makes these kits a really good source for bitz when it comes to something as eccentric as, say, kitbashing a Legio Custodes army: So far, I’ve made ample use of BA bitz for that project, and I imagine some of the new bitz will come in handy as well, sooner or later.
  • Finally, the Sanguinary Priest has to be the most interesting part of this release when it comes to conversions: He could be used as a great base for a suitably impressive BA character — or even for a plastic Mephisto conversion? And I think he would make a pretty awesome Inquisitor with a bit of work — in fact, I’ve recently purchased the model in pursuit of exactly such a conversion, so watch this space… 😉

 

All in all, this is certainly a solid  release, even if it’s mostly useful for BA players. Where most of the other releases this year tried to bring something new to the table, this release wave for the Blood Angels mainly focuses on refining and rounding out the existing catalogue — which is an equally viable approach, I might add! But the models are looking great and the amount of bitz we can get out of the new kits should be a pretty big help to those with BA and BA successor armies.

The general direction of the release does outline one thing that does have possible ramifications for the future that are both good and a little worrying:

In the age of digital sculpting, it is obviously possible to re-use assets and, what’s more, to recombine them with other kits in order to quickly generate custom kits for different chapters — and that is certainly a great option, because it opens up the possibility for all kinds of conversions and customisations: We are already pretty close to having dedicated troop boxes for most of the first founding legions, but this becomes even more interesting when you think about Traitor Legions, Eldar Craftworlds or what have you.

On the other hand, a possible pitfall of such a way of design seems to be the threat of kits that are far less flexible: The clamshell characters are an example of this, albeit not an egregious one — it’s still fairly easy to use them for kitbashing and converting. At the same time, however, the multi part Space Marine kits have always been among the most flexible and versatile kits produced by GW, and seeing a Terminator kit that gets rid of a substantial chunk of flexibility like that does seem a little worrying — at least to a passionate kitbasher like me…

It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here, to say the least!

 

So, what’s your take on the new models? And do you have any conversion ideas of your own to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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9 Responses to “Waste not, want not — a look at the 2014 Blood Angels release”

  1. Another great review. Well written, thoughtful and considered. I always enjoy your release reviews and feel somewhat shamed in my own somewhat incoherent blogging when i recall that English isn’t even your first language.
    In fact I enjoy reading all your posts and should make the effort to reply more often since you take the time to write such great articles.
    It’s an interesting point you raise with the somewhat static poses and retrograde design of the terminator kit… I hope it’s a one off and not the shape of things to come as it does seem to rather limit your options for converting….come to think of it wasn’t that one of your gripes with the blight kings? That design philosophy does suprise me as kit bashing is one of the best ways for gw to sell otherwise irrelevant kits from other ranges.

    • Thank you very much for the kind words, Phil! And it goes without saying that I always appreciate more comments, so have at it 😉

      You raise a good point regarding the Blightkings, but I do think there’s a difference: The Blightkings are designed in a way that makes working with them for conversions a bit more complicated, but it’s really a challenge that improves the conversions in the end, because you have to plan a bit better and get a better idea of where you want to go with the model. The kit itself is still full of opportunities, though. The BA Terminators, on the other hand, are only one step removed from starter box minis, and you have to put in quite a bit of work for something as simple as a headswap.

      And that doesn’t even have to be a bad thing: If this is just some service for BA players, awesome! I just hope it doesn’t become the standard for Marine kits from now on.

  2. inqmikaelovich Says:

    I will post a link to my 1st Company Captain converted around Karlaen if I ever get around to taking pictures. I’m going to make him slightly Cataphracti, as well as having already swapped his head and left arm. He’s actually fairly versatile.

  3. Another fantastic and honest review this time for the Blood Angels. Thanks for sharing this. I made a similar review for the Deathstorm kit, drop by if you’re interested 🙂

    I agree that the Space Hulk Terminator models look outright fantastic (just look at Gideon, damn that’s menacing) and the new captain falls short compared to them. However I think that’s where GW is trying to market the product: Space Hulk with superior models in limited edition and higher price versus readily available (so far Deathstorm didn’t seem to sell out, a lot to my surprise actually) Captain Karlaen at a great price. I think it’s quite a bargain considering the price of the kit it comes with, and the sculpting quality really shows itself.

    The Custodes army looks fantastic so far by the way.

    • Hmm, that’s an interesting point — keep the Space Hulk models a notch above the regular kits in order to generate more interest in the boxed set.

      In any case, both Shield of Baal:Deathstorm and Sanctus Reach certainly offer amazing value for the money, with the special characters merely the icing of the cake — and maybe I wouldn’t even have said anything if the BA terminator Captain hadn’t been the chapter’s first captain. But as one of the best warriors of the chapter, he just doesn’t hold up — sorry 😉

      • inqmikaelovich Says:

        Here’s my latest (and 5th) blog post, containing my take on the Karlaen model. If you wouldn’t mind looking, I’m rather proud of some of the work posted here, and a lot of it only happened because your work motivated me to get out of my comfort zone! warindarkness.wordpress.com

  4. […] even worse, though, is that the Blood Angels Librarian in Terminator armour, released fairly recently, also seems like a more balanced […]

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