Send in the clowns! A look at the Eldar Harlequin release

Oh boy, the mythical and elusive Harlequins are here, and in plastic, no less! So while the rest of the world is already salivating over the new servants of Khorne (we will be getting there, don’t you worry 😉 ), let us take a look at the recent Harlequin release and at all the wonderful conversion options it brings. Follow me into the ring, if you please:

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My first contact with the Harlequins happened during the glorious days of 2nd edition, when I saw a couple of Harlequin models in the colour section of the 40k rulebook. I instantly fell in love with one of the models (that, incidentally, resembled the modern design for the Shadowseer rather closely). Alas, my sympathy for the model never amounted to much, as my FLGS back then simply didn’t stock the models, and ordering something in those wild and medieval days always felt like a bit of an adventure. And after those early-to-mid-90s models, the Harlequins just seemed to fall by the wayside, until GW decided to give them a new lease of life a couple of years ago, in the form of some uniformly excellent metal/Finecast models sculpted by the one and only Jes Goodwin.

This new release, then, mainly attempts two things: Translating Jes Goodwin’s beautiful designs into plastic versions, and rounding out the Harlequins’ catalogue into something that can support an entire supplemental Codex. So let us take a look at all the parts of the release in turn and gauge the success of the endeavour, shall we?

 

Harlequin Shadowseer

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The Shadowseer has always been my favourite Harlequin model, all the way back to those models from the early 90s. And the great thing is that the design has only become cooler over the years: Jes Goodwin’s Shadowseer from a few years back is one of my favourite Eldar models of all time — and may just be one of my favourite 40k models altogether. There’s just something about the cowled, faceless look of the model that speaks to me (maybe the fact that the design recalls the brilliantly designed villain from Vidocq has something to do with it…).

Good thing, then, that the new plastic Shadowseer turns out to be an almost perfect, step by step recreation of the earlier metal/Finecast model in plastic. Here’s the earlier version again, for comparison:

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The main differences between the two versions are a different leg pose and a new pistol (which serves as a great little shout out to an incidental piece of artwork from the 3rd edition rulebook, if I am not mistaken). If anything, the slightly more acrobatic leg pose does a good job of bringing the Shadowseer in line with his fellow Harlequins, while he also retains his mysterious aura.

It seems like all the detail from the earlier version has managed to make the cut, including the characteristic staff and the facemask dangling from the Shadowseer’s hip — I’ve always liked the idea, that the Shadowseer actually wears his stylised face on his belt, while his facemask remains a mirrored visor.

Harlequin release (6)A look at the sprue reveals that it might be interesting to figure out ways to convert the model and tweak some of the details, as is always the case with GW’s clamshell characters:

Harlequin release (7)But when all is said and done, the truth of the matter is that the Shadowseer was pretty much perfect in design to begin with, and you know what they say: If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! If anything, the fact that this character is now available in plastic makes it more likely for me to finally pick him up. Very nice!

 

Harlequin Death Jester

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Okay, this is where things get slightly more interesting, because while the Death Jester is also very similar in design to its earlier incarnation, the pose is markedly different this time around. Here’s the old version, for the sake of comparison:

Harlequin release (29)And you know what? I hate to be that guy, but I actually like the “classic” version better (funny feeling to apply the word classic to a fairly recent model, but there you have it): The very composed, even somewhat static pose works great for the sinister, reaper-like aspect of the character, while the one extended leg does hint at a little playfulness after all — as I’ve said before, whatever they pay Jes Goodwin, it cannot ever be enough!

The new model doesn’t share this amount of subtlty, unfortunately, with the Death Jester crouching on a piece of fallen Eldar masonry in best Dark Knight pose. There’s also the fact that I like the full skull facemask better than the half-mask version of the plastic model. And let’s not forget that the classic version is actually a fair bit cheaper as well!

What we get out of the new version, of course, is flexibility: A look at the sprue reveals that it should be fairly easy to replace the Death Jester’s legs, creating something closer to the original pose, if one wanted:

Harlequin release (4)And the new Death Jester is certainly a beautiful model in his own right, with all the abundance of detail we have come to expect from GW’s plastic characters:

Harlequin release (3)Although that piece of Eldar architecture on the base just seems a bit much, doesn’t it? It almost threatens to overwhelm the model atop it…

All in all, it’s an expertly made and beautifully detailed model, no question about that. In my opinion, however, the new Death Jester loses out against his earlier incarnation. It’s a cool model, but it’s also good that the classic version is still available!

 

Harlequin Solitaire

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Oh boy, here’s the Harlequin character we’ve been waiting for for the last twenty odd years. At last! The Solitaire is here! And he’s…well, a bit underwhelming, if you ask me.

Let’s start with the good stuff: The model is amazingly dynamic, which is definitely a plus. I also like the casual way the model interacts with its base – a forté of the new Harlequin models, and the Solitaire is certainly no slouch in this department.

But this guy is supposed to represent Slaanesh, right?…

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Maybe it’s just me, but he just doesn’t seem threatening enough. Sure, it’s only a stylised representation of She-Who-Thirsts, but such a big deal is made about the dark and sinister and, well, solitary nature of the Solitaire in the background that the actual model just seems slightly bland. I do like the tron-like embellishments on his coat, though…

All in all, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the Solitaire seems much more interesting as conversion fodder than in his actual function — but we’ll be getting to that. Suffice to say for now that a look at the sprue reveals that the model should be deliciously easy to convert into something else:

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Maybe there was really no way to win this: Everybody has been waiting for years and years, so whatever model gets released cannot possibly keep up with the hype. And yet, I somehow expected more — is that weird?

 

Harlequin Troupe

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Okay, this is basically the bread and butter of the release, and the one part GW needed to get right: They’ll be selling more of these than of any of the other Harlequin kits, I suppose, so the kit had better be good, right?

And it is. As is the case with the Shadowseer and Death Jester, the new plastic Harlequins mostly seem like a recreation of  Jes Goodwin’s earlier metal/Finecast models, and that was definitely the right way to go!

What’s more, this approach works exceptionally well for the most part, creating a bunch of very dynamic models that have all the strengths of the earlier versions, with a couple of really nifty details added on top: I really love the idea of having more facemasks than you actually need, for instance.

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But I won’t beat around the bush here: Unfortunately, the one model to take a tremendous hit is the troupe master. The Trinity-pose of his earlier incarnation may not have been all that realistic, but it was still pretty fantastic. In my opinion, they should just have recreated that pose step for step, because it was pretty much perfect:

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But maybe it was to special for a multipart plastic kit? Whatever happened, the new pose just seems like we’ve caught the troupe master during an awkward moment between jumps:

Harlequin release (12)The legs may not even be the worst part of the pose, come to think of it: It’s the way he’s stretching out his arms. The older troupe master looked like a magnificent bastard fully in control of the situation — the epitome of a sinister clown. The new guy seems to be yelling “Look Ma! No hands!” at the top of his lungs.

Now don’t get me wrong: This should be easy enough to fix with a bit of cutting and reposing, and one slipup like this doesn’t devalue an entire kit. But it’s still unfortunate that the most iconic and characterful model in the old kit was the one thing they messed up in the new version.

Beyond this unfortunate fact, it’s a fantastic kit, make no mistake. I imagine it’ll be lots and lots of fun to play around with, both for Eldar players and conversion nuts (like me).

Harlequin release (16)All in all, it’s a great kit, marred by one unfortunate design decision. But we’re all men (and women) of the world here, eh? We’ll make do 😉

 

Harlequin Skyweavers

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Giving the Harlequins some fast and dynamic attack vehicles and means of transports seems like a bit of a no-brainer — and here we go! Personally, I would have wished for a return of the old Harlequin jetbikes, with the entire front canopy being made up of a giant, grinning face. Those things were rad! But alas, you cannot win them all.

Harlequin release (18)What we get instead is still very cool: An elongated jetbike with a design squarely between a Craftworld Eldar jetbike and a Dark Eldar Reaver jetbike — with some distinct Harlequin touches added on top.

.Harlequin release (20)And that’s what I really like about these: The way they seem so much like a missing link between Craftworld and Dark Eldar jetbikes — although I cannot shake the feeling that this kit seems like a bit of a “Screw you!” to all the hobbyists who have been waiting for new craftworld jetbikes for years on end…

All in all, however, it’s a cool kit, and they come in sets of two — what’s not to like, right?

 

Harlequin Starweaver/Voidweaver

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And finally, a bigger jetbike variant that does the shooting or transport the dangerous clowns into combat! Yay! I think it’s no coincidence that the Starweaver and Voidweaver resemble the Dark Eldar Venom really closely — once again, this does a good job of matching existing (Dark) Eldar designs. I imagine it also shortened design time on this kit by a fair bit, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Starweaver mostly seems to echo the Venom’s role as a quick transport and light attack vehicle:

Harlequin release (24)Yet there’s also the option of assembling the kit as a Voidweaver, a far more shooty version of this particular vehicle type, by the look of it:

 

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Both are pretty similar from a design standpoint. For me, the most interesting part of this particular kit is the fact that – exactly as has been the case with the Venom kit – the crew are some of the finest and most interesting conversion bitz in the entire catalogue. I mean, just check out how awesome these guys are:
Harlequin release (25)And words cannot express how much I want that Voidweaver gunner in my bitzbox: Those robes are just amazing:

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Perfect for a (radical) Xenos Inquisitor or a custom (Dark) Eldar character, don’t you think?

Another solid kit that plays to the (Dark) Eldar’s visual strengths. It’s not exactly extremely creative and original, but it will have its place.

 

Conversion options:

As always, here’s where things get most interesting — at least for me 😉 So what can we do with all these new kits? How can we put them to good use? And how can we cut them up? …erm, sorry, that must have been the Haemonculus side of my personality getting the better of me for a second there…

It’s plain to see that these new kits will probably have the biggest impact on Eldar and Dark Eldar players: Finally, a whole plastic catalogue is available for the race, spanning almost the entire range of possible Eldar factions (Exodites notwithstanding), allowing you to mix and match in order to create whatever custom Eldar army you want: An entirely kitbashed corsair force is now a very simple and exciting possibility!

Beyond that, the release certainly provides lots and lots of interesting bitz. The clamshell characters could make for very nice custom Exarchs, Autarchs or Farseers — and  if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can finally convert the new plastic Craftworld jetbikes you’ve craved so much, Eldar players! 😉

Beyond those who already own an Eldar army, I can easily see the INQ28 folks getting next in line — myself included:

The Harlequin Troupe seems like a perfect go-to solution for all kinds of Inquisitorial agents: These guys could become the base models for death cult assassins- Inquisitorial agents or, obviously, particularly deadly clowns of a particularly sinister Circus Imperialis. What’s more, the models are also great conversion fodder for eclectic underhive gangs in the Confrontation vein! For those of you not in the know: Some of the Confrontation (read: Proto-Necromunda) models and concepts seem to have served as the actual inspiration for the Harlequins, so it seems only right to now use Harlequin bitz for your Confrontation needs — just check out Johannus’ work right here. He is making wonderful brat gangers from all those new Harlequin parts!

There are also quite a few possible ideas for the clamshell characters (and that beautiful Voidweaver gunner): I can see quite a few (possibly radical) Ordo Xenos operatives and Inquisitors coming out of this release. In fact, the Solitaire seems like a very promising base model for an Imperial agent — I actually have an idea right now for a somewhat unhinged and very, very dangerous Inquisitorial agent based on that very model! And there’s always the option of using the Harlequin bitz for Slaaneshi cultists and similarly sinister figures.

In any case, I think we can safely expect to see many, many of those bitz and models in the INQ28 section over at the Ammobunker, in due time…

 

All in all, I think this is a pretty solid release — if a somewhat “safe” one. It seems like GW mainly put the Eldar catalgoue’s visual strengths (and Jes Goodwin’s excellent designs) to good use here, reaping the fruit of earlier design and expanding some pretty brilliant ideas into big enough collection of kits to sustain a sub-faction. There’s nothing wrong with it – I would actually like more factions to get this treatment – but it’s not exactly high-hanging fruit, either.

But let’s be fair: When all is said and done, this hobby is very much about variety, about options. And this release provides us with new options without forcing our hand. The kits are solid, and it’s all in plastic. Good work! And I think it’s a safe assumption that we’ll be seeing something a little more involved – and daring – next month 😉

Oh, and before we tune out for today, a word about the paintjobs, perhaps: ‘Eavy Metal sometimes seems to take a bit of flak for particular colour choices and their way of doing things, but if there’s one thing I really love, it’s how the new “official” Harlequin paintjobs manage to connect the earlier Harlequin designs with some touches that recall technology like projection mapping and almost seem inspired by TRON — very nice!

 

So, what’s your take on these new kits? Anything you would like to add to my observations? Any conversion ideas you would like to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments section!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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24 Responses to “Send in the clowns! A look at the Eldar Harlequin release”

  1. I, as always, echo your thougts, but is perhaps a bit more negative.

    I´ve always loved harlies and they were some of the first GW models I painted including that awesome smiling jetbike. A friend of mine had the big harlequin box and the WD with the Rogue Trader rules and I was completely mesmerised by the imagery, the background and Jes´s models. I

    So I never thought that the day they were released as a stand alone army I´d be underwhelmed. For me it boils down to three things:

    1. Overly “Dynamic” poses. This is a pet peeve of mine. The models are beautifully sculpted, no doubt, but nothing makes a model more static than sculpting it mid jump or doing something else really specific. A model is a representation of a character, a gaming pice, and almost always looks better in a neutral pose because from there it has the potential to do anything.
    A model sculpted doing a particular action on the other hand becomes stuck in time and looses that potential. Case in point the Death Jester – you immediately think “is he always sitting perched like that?”

    2. Something with the masks. The way they wrap around the cheek making them look unnecessarily big-headed. I also kinda liked the old school masks that looked like the ones hockey players and serial killers wear (but there´s one in the bike kit though)

    3. The Codex. This just made me sad. I actually bought this and just-simply-don´t-like-it.
    Don´t like the kitschy design and layout. Don´t like the new artwork – as they just look like guys in spandex and not at all eldar like ( like in Jes´s sketches). Don´t like the unimaginative photo section with the same models repeated over and over again in very similar images. I especially don´t like the lack of playfulness – there´s some good background but the lack of special characters, conversions, and artwork showing something else than battles makes the whole thing feel as soul-less as a solitaire.

    But I will in all probability buy a box or two – they are beautiful models. I just think this release could have been so much more…

    • Hmm, I can’t really argue with any of your points, but I see where I may feel slightly different about some of them:

      I’ve never been quite as fascinated with Harlequins as you have, for one, so maybe my expectations were lower to begin with. You raise an excellent point about highly dynamic models feeling “frozen in time”, in a way, and I can only suppose that GW chose this approach to make models that recall the various Eldar and Dark Eldar models but still look different enough to read as their own thing — and since the Dark Eldar had previously upped the ante when it comes to dynamism, the only way out was to go hyper-dynamic. As for the Codex, I simply cannot be disappointed with the books all that much because I am no longer all that invested in the game proper — although their art direction does seem slightly less inspired than it used to be…JB to the rescue?! 😉

      • Jeff Vader Says:

        I’d say dynamism yes – hyper dynamism no.
        The wyches were just running which sort of works – some of the harlies are sort of sprinting and thats ok.

        But still – the pair of legs in the wych kit everyone uses for the leader are ones with both feet on the ground…

      • Like I said, I don’t even disagree with you — it’s just that I can understand why they did choose that approach, regardless of whether or not it was a good idea.

      • Jeff Vader Says:

        Fair enough, but its certainly not the only way to go is all I’m saying.
        They could have based the poses on real dancers, ballet positions for instance, or just copied the poses from the witch elfs – they’re dynamic, anatomically correct and look amazing.

    • I haven’t read the new codex so I can’t speak to that, but I agree with everything else you’ve said here.

      I had a Rogue Trader Harlequin army back in the day with the original figures, and it was one of the most enjoyable armies I’ve ever had, for both gaming and painting/modeling. This I’m not so excited about.

      The action poses completely kill it for me. There’s certainly a lot of material here for conversions, but there’s just as many poses that are so specific to the individual model and their actions that it forces the figure to only be used in that singular way – the crouching Death Jester you pointed out is a good example – some enterprising modeller is going to find something cool to do with him, but that’s one compact figure that doesn’t really open itself up for kit bashing.

      They all look great, but they’re not doing it for me in the same way the Harlequins did back in ’89. (that just made me feel really old)

  2. legatho30 Says:

    As always, what a review mate ! you definitly are good at it! With your reviews and my interviews… we both could make a monthly fanzine !

    • Cheers, mate! No more fanzines for me, though, sorry! I spent years during my time at university putting out a small magazine, and the amount of work that went into it was just bonkers!

  3. Nice review. Definitely some strong conversion opportunities in all of those kits. I agree that they probably could have gone a little more sinister with the Solitaire, but I like the blank stare and the sense of quiet action the figure has – like a silent killer coming quickly and quietly to snuff you out, and all you can do is watch.

    People are going to go crazy for that mask and hood assembly for kit bashing.

    • Cheers, Odie! Funnily enough, the hood and mask seem like the least interesting part of the model to me — but maybe that’s because I already have a conversion in mind…?

      • I guess I mean that the hood and mask will be the most used for conversions – they’re basic enough to be utilitarian modelling pieces, but just interesting enough to spawn some unique conversions.

  4. Excellent review as usual. While I think the models are very nice, I must say the leg-base connection scream “Snap me off!”. Well executed display models (apart from the leader, that pose is, as you say, not very convincing), but not really something I would be happy to play with.

    • Cheers, mate! Don’t underestimate those connections, though: I can be very clumsy with my models, and I’ve still only had a couple of mishaps at most.

      • Jeff Vader Says:

        They wont snap off unless you actually bend them on purpose. The plastic on a model this small has too little weight to build up any strain on the connection. Thought it might be a problem on some of the new enormous kits like the bloodthirstier who is sort of posed like the harlies…

  5. Love your review, great as always. I agree on most of your points, like Jeff I’m slightly more disappointed. But there is only one clear failure and that is the Troupe Master who looks completely idiotic. The old one was so good I just cannot understand who had the idea to make him jump like that with the arms in the air. Shudders.

    However the prospects of more of these mini armies are of course enthralling.

    • Cheers, mate! Yes, that troupe master is a bit of a headscratcher, isn’t he? Maybe he was an attempt by GW to bring back some of the “aesthetic of the pathetic” that the Oldhammer guys keep going on about…? 😉

  6. Great review as always!

    I pretty much agree with you on all of your main points. I am overall pretty happy with the release as they essentially made plastic versions of Goodwin’s wonderful metal ones. The Troupe Master is the obvious failure in my view. His posing is really bad as you mentioned.

    I am also a little sad they did not include any chainswords in the plastic kits. There was at least one chainsword in Goodwin’s old metal/finecast ones that I was always fond of. I also would have liked if they scaled down the size of some of their weapons (like seen in some of the artwork in the codex). Their Harlequin Kisses look more like clubs than stabbing weapons.

    My favorite part of the release is the new Death Jester. While I am not completely sold on his pose, it is at least interesting. The kit also gives you two masks to choose from, one being his classic all skull mask. Also, I like how the new model has a synthetic third arm to help support his massive weapon. Finally while his base might be a little overkill, I like how they included those little shuriken blades stuck in the ruins.

    • Jeff Vader Says:

      +1 regarding the weapons. They are frickin’ huge!
      Especially these newfangled shuriken pistols with that strange banana magazine – the looked sleeker back in the old days when they had flat cylindrical mags. Grumpy ‘ol timer hat off…

      • Adam: well spotted – I hadn’t noticed that third-arm hidden in there. It’s a clever little touch and it does make me feel a little better about the gun (still ludicrously big though). As for his base I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. Maybe worth magnetising him so he can be lifted off and put on a more normal base as an option (similar to the Horus Heresy primarchs)?

    • Cheers, Adam! And thanks for pointing out the additional detail on the Death Jester! I hadn’t seen the additional mask, yet its presence makes me feel much better about the model. Not sure about the synthetic third arm, though — that sounds pretty bad. Will check it out with a magnifying class right away 😉

  7. […] no doubt about it, but they just seem to lack that special spark. To quote a point I made in my review of the Harlequins a while […]

  8. […] talk about those models again — all my thoughts on the plastic Harlequin models can be found here, in case you’re […]

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