While everyone was busy settling into the beginning of the new year and getting back into the swing of things, GW has been hard at work bringing us the next End Times release: This time, it’s the Skaven’s turn, and although I have never owned a Skaven army (or even a haphazard collection of Skaven models, for that matter), I find myself strangely fond of these filthy, backstabby guys for some reason. But how does this release compare to the rest of the – amazing – End Times output? And do converters get their money’s worth out of this latest batch of plastic crack? Let’s find out!
I first encountered the Skaven when I bought a used copy of Advanced HeroQuest at a jumble sale many years ago: A pile of plastic Skaven formed the entire villain faction of the set, which seemed slightly disappointing at first, given the fact that the original HeroQuest had contained so many different types of monsters and villainous creatures. Then again, I didn’t even make the HeroQuest connection back then, at least not at first, because Advanced HeroQuest was marketed as “Herr des Schwertes” in Germany, with no HeroQuest connection whatsoever on the box (apart from a strangely similar piece of cover artwork).
Anyway, my disappointment quickly turned into interest as I delved into the sourcebook, because the somewhat samey plastic Skaven models were imbued with a very interesting background, offering glimpses at the various Skaven clans, their devotion to the Horned Rat and also at some of the (pretty excellent) early late 80s/early 90s Skaven metal models — so while it would yet take a couple of years for me to discover the role of the Skaven in the bigger Warhammer universe, my fondness for the race started back then.
Ever since, the Skaven have been a pretty fascinating faction to follow, with their culture based on entropy, backstabbing, plague and body horror, and their steampunk-ish technology that wouldn’t look out of place in the 40k setting. Meanwhile, some of the more recent Skaven releases are some of the coolest and most characterful WFB plastic models, in my opinion (there’s a reason why so many people use those Blood Island Rat Ogres as conversion fodder, for instance) — and now everybody’s favourite entropic Ratmen get the End Times treatment — what’s not to love? So let us take a closer look at the new kits and at all the fun we could have with them. Quick-quick! This way!
Every End Times model release so far has featured some kind of huge model, and the Skaven don’t disappoint in this respect, providing us with a kit that can be used to assemble one of four different, towering avatars of the Horned Rat, including the special character Skreech Verminking (as seen above). Let’s look at these one by one:
Skreech Verminking actually seems like a modernised version of the original metal Verminlord. Just check out this picture:
It’s all there: the glaive, the patches of mangy fur, the half-skeletal face — even the pose, albeit mirrored:
The other variants of the kit, interestingly enough, each seem to embody one of the leitmotifs of the Skaven, with some of them also closely fitting the design paradigm of a specific the Skaven clan. It’s interesting to see how subtle changes to the same body create a set where each model has a rather different feel:
The Verminlord Warpseer is closest in design to Skreech Verminking, sharing the same set of horns, the same glaive and the same pose. This seems to be the Verminlord most attuned to magic, and it shows in the magic orb he holds aloft.
What I love about both Skreech Verminking and the Warpseer is the extremely complex set of horns, because it’s a nice callback to the appearance of horns on the Grey Seers, for one, but also because the design seems quite unlike most of the horns we’ve seen so far in WFB (and we’ve seen quite a few), lending the model a fairly unique and recognisable silhouette.
The Verminlord Warbringer embodies the warlike quality of the Skaven, which is immediately obvious due to the heavily armoured head and the sinister looking punching dagger. There’s quite a resemblance with the various Skaven warlord models and the Stormvermin, and the less ornate looking horns also underline the blunt, more openly aggressive feeling of the model.
The Verminlord Corruptor is slightly more interesting in that he deviates from the Skreech Verminking model a bit more, with a different set of weapons and different resting place for his right foot, making for a pretty different look overall. I also like the signs of rot and decay, such as the broken horns and the diseased face. And the sickle weapon almost gives him a bit of a druid feel, if you ask me…
And finally, the Verminlord Deceiver, who is basically….an enormous ninja rat (probably in keeping with the Skaven’s predilection for subterfuge in general and Clan Eshin’s antics in particular). This version of the model comes with all the hallmarks of a Skaven assassin: a vicious looking dagger, an equally sinister throwing star and, of course, a bad ass ninja cowl. So far so good, right?
It’s a cool model, make no mistake, but there’s actually something undeniably ridiculous about the thought of a rat ninja the size of a house…
All in all, it’s a cool and fairly flexible kit that should provide a great centrepiece for your Skaven army. There are, however, some issues with the kit that extend to all the various Verminlord characters: The pose of the right leg seems very precariously balanced — especially on those versions of the model where the Verminlord actually has one of his feet on his own glaive (which, let’s face it, seems like a pretty dumb thing to do). The version with the rock is better, but still looks a bit hokey — it would probably have looked better if the rock had been more massive, with the foot firmly placed on its surface. As it is, the Verminlord looks as though a strong gust of wind might knock him over.
The multi-pronged tail may just be a tad too much for my taste. Granted, he adds a pretty flashy element to the model, but I am wondering whether it was really needed.
What really stands out to me is that the new Verminlord kit seems very different in design to Forgeworld’s Exalted Verminlord: The new plastic model is very slender, very flashy and quite busy, while FWs treatment of the character looks more pudgy and closer in proportion to an actual rat. While the somewhat “videogamey” look of the plastic model appeals to me (being a videogame nerd, and all), it’s quite interesting to see GW’s and FW’s approaches differ so significantly.
Ultimately, it’s an interesting kit that very much goes for visual shock and awe tactics. It’s not without its issues, though…
Thanquol and Boneripper
Another shout out to a classic Skaven character, this modernised version of Thanquol and his personal killing machine has probably been long awaited! It is also where the release really hits its stride, if you ask me!
The huge, malformed monstrosity that is Boneripper really steals the show here, especially given the fact that you actually get different weapon options and heads out of the deal, potentially leading to two fairly different models:
At first, I was slightly unhappy with how Boneripper’s upper set of arms have been implemented, because they look like they really shouldn’t be there… this became a bit of fridge brilliance, however, when I realised that this may have been the entire point: The ill-fitting and ill-muscled way his extra pair of arms has been grafted on underlines what a strange and malformed creation he is — pretty cool!
The model is also exquisitely detailed, with lots and lots of fine detail to be discovered (such as the stitching on Boneripper’s torso or the very cool bionic leg). Where the older incarnations of Boneripper always felt a bit ridiculous to me, I really love this guy! Excellent job!
Thanquol himself ends up playing second fiddle to Boneripper, but ist still a cool model in his own right: What seems interesting is that this version of Thanquol lacks the terrible dignity of his earlier, cleaner and more collected 90s’ style incarnation, looking rather frantic and unhinged instead:
But then, this is probably a good fit for a fanatic, slightly mad Grey Seer. The one thing that I am not sure about are the warpstone horns: Once again, they are just a bit much, overcluttering the model’s head portion — maybe it’s the colour, but it’s warpstone after all, it has to be glowy, right?
All in all, I really love this model! There’s something excellent about the concept of a spindly, highly dynamic model riding on the back of a huge, hulking brute “Master-Blaster-style”, and the concept is really pulled off wonderfully here — probably my hight point in this release!
What do you do when you have a perfect idea, like the design for Boneripper above, on your hands — easy, you make more of them! The Stormfiends very obviously share many of Boneripper’s visual traits, making for a unit of hulking, partly bionic monster rats — which ends up every bit as awesome as it sounds!
The old Rat Ogres were some of the first GW models to have been designed digitally, if I remember correctly, and they are some of the most terrible sculpts still around today, making them stick out like a sore thumb when placed to their more recent kin. These new Stormfiends, by comparison, take lots of visual cues from the more recent Rat Ogres designed for the Blood Island boxed set and the adding more than a pinch of Dark Eldar Talos on top for seasoning.
The resulting models are huge, heavily armoured, hideous, and covered in totally over the top and fully insane Skaven gadgetry. Just take a look at this guy:
This leads to a pack of very impressive and highly detailed models with almost too many tech-y gubbinz: They look every bit like the mad, crudely stitched together Skaven experiments that they are supposed to be:
That said, the amount of weapon options you get with the kit seems to be pretty staggering, so there’s nothing to stop you from coming up with a combination that suits your preferences. And these guys just look totally badass, don’t they?
One beautiful little detail that I only discovered due to the comment of a fellow hobbyist over at Faeit212 pointed out: Each of the Stormfiends seem tso have a tiny, atrophied Skaven embryo plugged into sockets on their backs: Ewww!
When all is said and done, what we end up with is a teriffic kit full of options and details that will allow us to build three huge, monstrous and completely whacky brutes. Maybe you’ll have to get used to these as a Skaven player, but I think it’s safe to say that this is the one kit to come out of this release that has converters and kitbashers foaming at the mouth in anticipation — but we’ll be getting to that! I really like these guys. I can easily see myself picking them up. The only really bad thing about them is how the old Rat Ogres will now look even more terrible…
Skaven Grey Seer
As one of two clamshell characters and as one of the Skaven’s well established HQ models, this guy really forms the bread and butter part of the release — and it shows, to be honest. After the zaniness of the Thanquol/Boneripper combo and the Stormfiends, the Grey Seer seems almost pedestrian by comparison.
It is a nice enough model, though, nicely detailed and with the depth and threedimensionality we have come to expect from the plastic clamshell characters. The standout element about this guy is the little rat perched atop his staff, reminding me of Terry Pratchett’s Death of Rats, for some reason…
A look at the sprue reveals that it should be easy enough to swap in a new head, leave off the tail or make some other adjustment to the model, also making it interesting for conversion purposes.
Another clamshell character, and the one I personally prefer: The Skaven Warlord really looks the part, managing to seem suitably imposing for a warlord and suitably cowardly for a Skaven at the same time — no mean feat! I also like how the pose and base make him look like he’s surveying and commanding his army — because that’s the right place for any ambitious Skaven warlord, right? Not at the front lines, but safely behind them, sending his skittering underlings to their doom!
There’s also something about the combination of Skaven armour and tattered robes that really works for me, for some reason.
Once again, a look at the sprue reveals the model’s usefulness: It should be really easy to freely customise this guy:
This release provides Skaven players with quite a few new and amazing new toys. But the true value of the release, at least for me, lies in the conversion options, because some of these new kits could really be a converter’s dream come true: My cup runneth over with conversion options! Let’s take a look:
The first idea that came to me when looking at the blurry, leaked pictures of the Verminlords was: This kit would make for an amazing Greater Daemon of Slaanesh: And it’s really not hard to imagine, isn’t it? The pose is there, as is the lithe build. The ostentatious pair of horns would be perfect! Add a second pair of arms (complete with Tyranid pincers), a different face (something bull-like from the Beastman range? Or a golden mask made from the human head of the Necrosphinx?), lose the silly tail, and you’re almost there! Sure, you’ll have to get rid of the Skaven runes and maybe the fur, but I think this might be a very promising conversion endeavour. It’s also one of the ideas I’ve seen crop up online fairly often, so I imagine it won’t be long before we’ll be seeing results.
So the Verminlords would make for excellent Greater Daemons (or Daemon Princes, for that matter) of Slaanesh. But what about the other chaos gods? Nurgle’s association with filth, decay and plague is no secret, so a giant rat could have its uses in his legions — maybe the Verminlord Corruptor could have a place in a Nurglite army as a very different Daemon Prince? Once again, with even more work, I think one could make a very cool Daemon Prince out of this kit — or maybe even a base for a Mortarion Daemon Primarch conversion?
The build of the kit would even make a Lord of Change conversion imaginable: Maybe the Verminlord body could be coupled with the head and wings from the High Elf Flamespyre Phoenix kit? Just sayin’…
All in all, the only chaos god I cannot see profiting from this is Khorne: The Verminlord body looks far too gangly for the Blood God — we prefer our warriors heavily muscled, thank you very much! 😉
Boneripper and Stormfiends:
Now this is where it gets interesting, because both kits offer some crazy conversion potential. To wit:
- both Boneripper and the Stormfiends would make perfect base models for Dark Eldar Grotesques! Just add some Talos facemasks, and you’re golden! They’ll even look great next to those Blood Island Rat Ogre-based grotesques you converted last year! 😉
- If you’ve been looking for an interesting alternative to the existing Chaos Space Marine Obliterators and Mutilators, look no further! The Stormfiends could work as either, right out of the box! And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, it should be easy enough to swap in suitably chaotic heads, add more armour, replace the Stormfiend weapons with actual CSM weapons or what have you.
- If the teeming hordes of the Lost and the Damned are more to your liking, well, you’re in luch too, because Boneripper and the Stormfiends would work brilliantly as Renegade Ogryns, Ogryn Berserkers, big mutants or simply alternate Ogryns or Bullgryns, if you’re still using the Astra Militarum Codex: The crudely stitched-together and mutated look would be a perfect fit! You could even replace the head of that atrophied rat fetus on the model’s back with a crypt ghoul head (or the gas mask of a DV cultist) for a super creepy surprise, once your opponent sees the back of your model 😉
- This should be obvious, but the models would also work beautifully as Chaos Spawn — although they are almost too awesome for that.
- And, of course, (Dark) Mechanicus Flesh constructs, weapon servitors or what have you: The crude augmetic implants, stitches and highly experimental looking weapons make this one of the best possible conversion uses. Just writing about it almost makes me want to build a warband consisting of a rogue Magos Genetor and his warped creations — MUST.RESIST…
- It goes without saying that almost all of the above options would also work for the wonderful world of INQ28, where crude, monstrous brutes are the rule rather than the exception.
Grey Seer, Warlord and Thanquol himself:
These would basically be perfect for any kind of unhinged, frayed-around-the-edges character you can think of: rogue psykers, heretics, (Nurglite) cultists or Scavvies — basically anything that might crawl from the underhive at some point. The Skaven Warlord is pretty much the perfect Scavvy king (even the similar names are a dead-giveaway 😉 ).
So, all in all, I really like the Skaven End Times release — but I believe that I am clearly biased here, due to all the lovely conversion potential. Taking back a step and taking a more even-handed approach, I have to point out that, while I personally love the design of the new models, I do realise that they are fairly flashy and stylised, almost cartoony or, as I’ve said above, videogamey. If that is your cup of tea, you will love these guys, just like me. But I can easily imagine that many people will not appreciate the look quite as much, and in all fairness: This kind of design can be a bit of an acquired taste. One need not look any farther than the difference between the GW and FW Verminlords I outlined above to see what I mean, and not everyone will be happy with this visual direction.
From a purely technical standpoint, these new kits certainly continue the trend of astonishing kits we have seen so far under the End Times label — and I can only repeat myself here: I am really excited at all the conversion potential in these new kits!
So, how do you feel about this release? Any thoughts you’d like to share or conversion options I have overlooked? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section!
And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!