Grimdark Miscellany — a look at GW’s recent mini-releases

With the Admech Skitarii behind us and the Cult Mechanicus just arriving on our doorstep, let us take a moment to examine GW’s releases for the period between the Machine Soldiers and their masters: The last month has seen multiple releases for different armies, and for the sake of simplicity, we’ll look at them all in one go. It goes without saying, of course, that we will be focusing on the models and on the various conversion opportunities arising from them, as is tried and true tradition here at Eternal Hunt.

I. Eldar mini-release: Rounding out the catalogue

Eldar (1)While we were still reeling from the sheer brilliance of the Skitarii release, GW surprised us with some kits to round out hobbyists’ Eldar collections, along with the new Codex: Craftworlds. I won’t comment too much on GW’s hyperactive, almost erratic, release schedule when it comes to new army books, although you’ve got to wonder where this book actually stands in relation to the actual Eldar Codex…? Anyway, let’s take a look at the models, shall we?

 

Eldar Windriders

Eldar (17)Oh my, here they are at long last: Those redesigned jetbikes Eldar players have been anticipating for what seems like a century. The old models were long overdue a facelift, to be sure, and this is it, bringing the Eldar jetbikes in line with their younger cousins, the Dark Eldar Reaver jetbikes and Harlequin Skyweavers. And while the kit seems like a competent and much awaited addition to the Eldar catalogue, it’s pretty hard to get to excited about these models at this point. I mean, Jes Goodwin’s prototype for new Eldar jetbikes has been out there for years, and after the Reaver jetbikes and Skyweavers respectively pioneered and refined the new look, these “vanilla” jetbikes almost feel like an afterthought. In fact, it feels like these should have been released years ago, which would have given them more of a day in the limelight.

Eldar (19)But let’s not get too negative here: They are here, after all, and I doubt any Eldar player will be too disappointed with the new look — even though it’s hardly surprising at this point.

One thing I’d like to point out is that I really like this particular paintjob:

Eldar (21)Anyway, this is a solid kit that should have been released much sooner. It seems like a pretty basic part of the Eldar’s catalogue, which makes it all the more baffling that there have been three (!) non-Craftworld Eldar jetbike variants released before GW ever got around to redoing these.

 

Eldar Farseer Skyrunner/Warlock Skyrunner

Eldar (2)
With new jetbikes now finally available, releasing a Farseer/Warlock on jetbike along with the new bikes seems like a pretty logical option. So what we have here is a clamshell character that finally frees us from the need to convert out own jetbike characters. The model’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, with optional bitz for both the Farseer and Warlock.

The Farseer is very close in design to the fairly recent clamshell Farseer, which is a nice bit of visual consistency (although I personally prefer my Farseers without the slightly silly “pharao beard”, thank you very much): The model looks pretty cool atop its jetbike, although the legs do seem a little clunky, or is that just me?

Eldar (5)Anyway, the model clearly puts the excellent Eldar aesthetic to very good use, and the extra detailing on the jetbike itself is also pretty cool.

The Warlock is actually my pick of the litter here, mostly because I am really in love with the classic 90s Warlock helmet design, and it’s great to finally have that particular helmet type available as a plastic piece:

Eldar (9)
I also really like the Hagun Zar — and what is certainly great about the kit is that the bitz you don’t use will be very useful for building yet another Farseer or Warlock on foot!

Eldar (11)So it’s a pretty cool model, and at a fairly solid price point (at least for GW’s recent standard), considering you get both the jetbike and the rider in the clampack. But not unlike the jetbikes, this guy feels like he should have been released before. He’s a solid reimagining of some of Jes Goodwin’s classic Farseers and Warlocks, and all on a jetbike, no less. But the model feels fairly safe and unexciting. A solid, middle of the road, bread and butter character model.

 

Eldar Autarch

Eldar (12)
And finally, another clamshell character brings up the rear of this mini-release. I’ll have to call the Autarch the best part of the bunch, both because he’s a mostly original sculpt and because there are some parts of the model that I really like — particularly the feather motif present both in the model’s wings (DUH!) and helmet. I also love the flow of the cape!

Eldar (14)
Both the helmet and sword are great pieces, lending the model the kind of elegance and majesty you would expect of an Eldar warlord. I do have two nitpicks about the model, however:

One, the landing pose is a bit of an acquired taste, as it can give the model a somewhat “undecided” look, if that makes any sense. It’s excuseable here, seeing how the model is so clearly built around the whole wing and feather motif, but it’s certainly not for everybody. Two, what I really liked about the older Autarch models is that they gave you quite a few equipment options, allowing you to add touches of several warrior aspects to your particular Autarch. This clamshell character, however, is pretty short on options, basically allowing for one build, and one build alone.

To be fair, a look at the sprue reveals that it should be every easy to basically splice in any Eldar weapon or bit you desire…

Eldar (16)…but it still feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

In spite of this, however, this is a very pretty model, and a suitable centre piece for an Eldar army, no doubt about that.

 

So what about the release as a whole? A bit disappointing, to be honest. Now I do of course realise that GW probably didn’t plan this as a huge release to blow us away, but they have really upped the ante when it comes to hobbyists’ expectations, and this just seems like giving us some kits that should have been released before. Which is why these are mostly interesting for Craftworld Eldar players, who will certainly find a lot to like about having yet more plastic options at their fingertips. For the rest of us, however, this seems like a bit of a middling effort. All of the kits are solid, 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 back:

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 (..). There’s nothing wrong with it (…) but it’s not exactly high-hanging fruit, either.

That’s how I felt about the Harlequins, and they certainly had their share of original ideas. The new Eldar kits, however, are mostly carried by excellent design decisions Jes Goodwin made about two decades ago. That doesn’t make them any worse, but these kits just don’t match up to some of the crazy stuff we’ve seen recently. Sorry 😦

 

II. Assassinorum: Execution Force: Buy one, get four free

Hmm, now here’s where it gets a bit more interesting, both because GW decided to bring back some very classic archetypes and because they did it in a way we haven’t seen yet:

Execution Force (1)Assassinorum: Execution Force is a standalone game that also happens to contain four new plastic Assassins, one for each of the major temples of the Officio Assassinorum. The game doesn’t seem to be nearly as complex or self-sustaining as, say, Space Hulk, but then its models are completely compatible with 40k proper: In additon to the Assassins, we get one Chaos Terminator Lord, three snapfit Chaos Space Marines and fifteen DV Chaos Cultists — quite a way to move that old stock, GW 😉

To be fair, it seems like pretty good value for the money: The Chaos Termie Lord is one of my favourite multipart kits, somewhat clunky design notwithstanding, the chaos cultists are brilliant and versatile conversion fodder (although they can be had for a song on ebay and similar places), and let’s just forget about those pushfit CSM. I’ll just say that, if I had an entire warehouse full of them, I’d want to get rid of them too 😉

Anyway, if you can use all (or most) of the models, this is certainly a good deal! If you’re just in it for the Assassins, though, it seems a little iffy. I’ll be honest with you: I am really torn between considering this a clever case of cross-promotion and a bit of a dick move, especially since we don’t know with any certainty whether or not we’ll ever see those Assassins as a separate release.

Better to take a look at the Assassin models, then, and quite some models they are!

Each of these are fairly close representations of the earlier metal designs, with some subtle changes here and there. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn:

Execution Force (6)
The Vindicare Assassin seems to get the most flak online for his static pose, but I kinda like him. I may be the only person feeling that way, but neither of the older versions had a pose that I found satisfying. This guy, however, comes down slap bang in the middle between the two metal versions, and he just works for me. I think the static pose is a good way of showing that this is the long range guy. I also like the (optional) ruin on his base. Not a spectacular model at first glance, but he does have a quiet confidence to him that I really like!

Execution Force (3)Oh my, the Callidus Assassin is a bit too dynamic for her own good! While the basic design is very cool (and very close to the original metal models), the combination of the pose and the pillar on the base is just a bit too much. Which is why I think the model needs some tweaking: A different base and a slightly less hokey pose (check out Heretek in Extremis’ wonderful conversion — it gets rid of all the problematic areas, thereby improving the model a lot).

Execution Force (5)The Eversor Assassin seems to be everybody’s darling, and rightly so: The model is absolutely fantastic, and it’s hard to believe that the above picture actually shows an 28mm model and not an action figure — the detail is just something else, and every part of the classic Eversor equipment is perfectly rendered on this piece. Wonderful!

Two remarks, though: The ‘Eavy Metal paintjob seems to be letting the model down a bit, if you ask me: Those red areas make the character look a bit too cartoony — and you don’t want to make this guy look any more like a comic book character than he already does. The other thing is that many people seem to dislike that piece of architecture on his base, although there’s a very simple solution to that problem — just don’t use it! I think it’s great to give his pose a Matrix-like quality, because this guy is basically The Matrix turned up to eleven…thousand, right? “WRYYY!”, anyone? 😉

So yeah, the Eversor is certainly my favourite of the bunch, and the one I would definitely pick up, if he were to be released by himself.

Execution Force (4)Oh, man, so much win and so much fail in one model! But all in good order: The Culexus Assassin has been made up as being one of the creepiest beings in the 41st millennium — and if you’re playing in the same ballpark as giant alien dinosaurs, transhuman killing machines and, well, Eversor Assassins, that is really saying something.

What I love about the model is how the subtly sinister pose really makes the assassin all the more menacing. The slightly organic, almost gigeresque design of the helmet is also there — but whatever happened to the stylised skull face? Before, it seemed like the uncaring mask of death, now this guy seems like he’s basically in it for the EVULZ. Maybe the mask would look better with a different paintjob, but man, they really dropped the ball here. The good news is that there seems to be an alternate face (which is basically blank), so even if you’re not going to use that, splicing in a really sinister skull face should be easy enough.

This guy would be on par with the Eversor, if not for the face. Oh well…

So yeah, I guess there cannot be any doubt that the Assassins are the stars of the show here:

Execution Force (7)
And all nitpicks notwithstanding, these are fantastic plastic renditions of the traditional designs! As for possible conversions, I think the modes could probably work rather nicely as base models for more specialised Inquisitorial operatives, as making them more (or even less) human should be as easy as exchanging a couple of bits: The standard Assassin bodysuit would work just as well for all kinds of agents and operatives. But seeing how these guys will probably stay a pretty rare commodity (at least for a while), maybe conversions to make them look closer to your personal interpretation of the various assassin temples are probably the better option, instead of just carving up the models 😉 Personally speaking, I’d probably keep the Eversor and Vindicare as they are — both are pretty perfect, and I even like the added bonus masonry on the bases 😉 The Callidus would profit from some toning down, as per Heretek in Extremis’ approach. And I would definitely add a different skeletal face (maybe one of the Cairn Wraith heads or from the Dark Elf Executioners?!) to the Culexus.

I won’t be picking up Assassinorum: Execution Force, however. I thought about it long and hard, but I think I’ll just take my chances and wait for a separate clamshell release. That day may never come, and even if it comes, getting these plus the twenty other models would probably have been a good deal, but I am just not feeling like purchasing another boxed game right now, in spite of the stellar Eversor sculpt…

 

III. Imperial Knight Release — Hey, wait a second: Where’s my gatling gun and rocket launcher?

Oh my, that was a pretty short half-life period for that Imperial Knight Codex, eh? Just a year later, we are getting a revised version of the book, complete with a new set of Knights to field in our armies.

2015 Imperial Knight Release (1)The book is accompanied by a new and updated Imperial Knight kit, which gives us more options than before in order to be able to build those new Knight variants. The first thing to note is that GW chose to basically use the existing Imperial Knight kit as a standard template for the various Knight types, instead of designing additional modern versions of the existing Epic and Adeptus Titanicus designs. And while I don’t harbor any special, nostalgic feelings for those goofy old metal models, it still seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, especially with some hobbyists using their plastic Knights to build versions that are very true to the old models, albeit more imposing and much cooler — I’ll just link Dave Taylor’s Knight Warden here as one particularly cool example. But then, it seems like Forgeworld have the market for alternate Knight designs well cornered, so the decision to stick with one basic template was probably a very conscious one.

The good news is that the basic template is amazing (and easily one of my favourite GW models ever), so what we are getting is a more rounded-out version of an already amazing kit. So let’s take a look at the new Knight variants and the new equipment options we get:

Knight Crusader

2015 Imperial Knight Release (2)First uo, the shooties Knight version imaginable: In addition with the familar cannon, the Knight Crusader comes with a massive gatling cannon as well as what looks like a carapace-mounted AA gun. The latter element just seems wonderfully workmanlike and recalls WW II scale-models, doesn’t it?

2015 Imperial Knight Release (3)The chain gun is also pretty cool, although I felt immediately reminded of Heresy and Heroes’ Slaaneshi Knight conversion. But a gatling gun remains a gatling gun, I suppose.

All of this leads to a model that seems much more geared towards long range firefights, and I like how it really shows in the model’s silhouette. Very cool!

Next up is the Knight Gallant, and I really love how GW’s version of the model seems to be full of anticipation:

"Ho hum, ho hum, what am I going to crush next?"

“Ho hum, ho hum, what am I going to crush next?”

But seriously, what we are getting here is a massive power fist, seemingly with fully articulated fingers, which is very cool! As a matter of fact, there have been many power fist conversions for Imperial Knights so far, using everything from a plastic spoon to a Dreamforge Games Titan fist as a base, so I guess many Imperial Knight players will really love the inclusion of this weapon! The fact that it should be easy enough to repose the fingers as needed is also very cool!

the other addition is a carapace mounted rocket launcher — aha, so that’s what that hole was for! I really love how this element recalls the Reaver Titans’s rocket launcher, creating a strong bit of visual coherency between the two models!

And finally, the Knight Warden: No longer the turtle-shelled machine of the yesteryear, but rather a remix of the Crusader and Gallant, with three of the new weapons added to the Imperial Knight chassis:

2015 Imperial Knight Release (7)
2015 Imperial Knight Release (8)
The model is looking amazing, and surprisingly close to some of the bigger Titan classes. Who would have thought that all it takes are some weapons that are more similar to those of the Warhound and Reaver Titan?

So, what we basically get out of the new kit are five new bigger weapons (the gatling gun, the fist, the carapace mounted gun and two rocket launcher variants) and a couple of alternative secondary weapons. But that’s not all: There are also three new faceplates:

2015 Imperial Knight Release (11)Interestingly enough, the top and bottom left options really remind me of the classic Epic Warhound Titan — which is kinda ironic, seeing how Forgeworld is currently hard at work phasing out the old design in favour of something farm more Imperial Knight-like. Both are quite cool, however, with the top one making for an almost doglike muzzle, while the one on the lower left somehow seems rather gladiatorial to me. The half mask in the bottom right seems a bit like the odd one out here, mostly because it reuses one of the existing designs, but that may just be a matter of preference. Together with the existing three masks, these provide quite a collection to make your Knight individual — and that’s before you start splicing together various masks into new designs!

So all of those additions are very cool and give Knight owners quite a few new options to play around with. So all’s well with the world, right?

Yes, well…

Now, don’t get me wrong: The Imperial Knight released last year was an utterly fantastic kit then — and it very much remains so now, even without the new options. The revised Imperial Knight provides a more rounded-out version of that brilliant kit, which is great. I am really happy with the Imperial Knight I purchased, scout’s honour…
…and yet, I cannot quite shake the feeling that the kit should have been as comprehensive as this from the start: All the signs where there to see: The kit looked far more modular than it was (back then). Now we see the options for modifying the model beyond the initial weapons options were there all along, and while I don’t want to sound like an entitled neckbeard, maybe the release of both a new Codex and a revised kit after such a short amount of time is an indicator that the version we get now should have been the original release.

Again, I’m not mad. I am happy with my Knight model, and I will probably find a way to build the additional weapon options that I like. But making people buy yet another Knight just to get some additional weapons seems like a bit of a ripoff, in spite of the fantastic kit. Maybe there should be an option to purchase the extra sprue on its own, you know, for those of us who already bought five of those Knights? Pretty please…?

Let’s not kid ourselves, though: It’s probably not going to happen. So what to do?

Short of hitting ebay or swapping for the weapons we need, I think there are a couple of ways to kitbash proxies for the new weapons: The fist has already been done several times — and done well, at that: You can use a plastic spoon as the housing and make the fingers from leftover sprue. You can work with plasticard. Or you could purchase one of those Dreamforge Games weapons, seeing how they can be purchases separately.

The wonderful carapace mounted AA gun would be easy enough to build with several available cannons: A leftover quad gun from the Aegis Defense Line would work, or a gun from an Imperial tank? Or maybe even the trusty old Reaper Autocannon that comes with the Defiler kit?

The gatling cannon is probably the least problematic one to kitbash: Just use one of the Hades Autocannons from the Forgefiend kit, and you’re there (as Heresy and Heroes’ model linked above shows).

And the rocket launcher? Seeing how there are two in each of the new kits, it should be possible to get your hands on one. And if not, there’s always plasticard…

All in all, I feel a bit torn here: The new Imperial Knight kit seems amazing — even better than its already spectacular predeccessor. But I don’t see myself shelling out another 100+ Euros for some additional weapon options, and a single Imperial Knight is more than enough to keep me occupied converting and paint-wise, thank you very much…

 

So, anyway, what to make of it all? It goes without saying that the April release cannot be compared to a huge “flavour of the month” release, because it’s simply too scattershot for that — and intendedly so. As it stands, the release does provide some pretty nice service for Eldar players Imperial Knight players and people who have been yearning for new Assassin models. Conversion options seem a bit thin on the ground this time, mostly because two of the mini-releases seem like add-ons, more than anything else, and the Assassin models are just too rare right now to just cut them up with impunity.

But that’s not all: Yes, this may be a collection of three mini-releases, but wedged in between the absolutely spectacular Skitarii release and the highly anticipated Cult Mechanicus, the April release just seems a little lacklustre — could it be that GW’s frantic pace when it comes to releasing new stuff has also changed our expectations? Maybe potpourris like this just don’t cut it any longer, because we are so used to spectacular new products at this point…?

Anyway, what do you think about the new Eldar, Knights and Assassinorum:Execution Force? Any thoughts you’d like 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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12 Responses to “Grimdark Miscellany — a look at GW’s recent mini-releases”

  1. Jimmy Carmine Says:

    With the new Knights I’m excited that from looking at the sprues and the instructions in my friends Warden box, it seems you can build both a missile pod and an autocannon turret from one kit. From what I can see it looks like I’ll be able to upgrade an existing Knight with one of these turrets when I get a Warden.

    • Cheers, Jimmy! Yes, that’s certainly a clever bit of design alright! I just wish they’d let us order the sprue separately, at least so long as there are still people like me who don’t really need a second Knight, but would enjoy the additional weapons…

      • greggles Says:

        Because the only difference between the IK and the new IK kit is that extra sprue, I imagine there will be buckets of them on ebay.

        Great article as always! It should be noted, that if you order from your favorite shop (like FLG), you can get the assassins box for 20% off GW’s retail, which means you are getting all the mini’s in the box for around 100 USD, which is a decent bargin considering they’ll charge 26 an assassin if they are ever sold separately.

      • Cheers, greggles! I certainly hope the new sprue will be easy enough to get hold off — chances are, a lot of ebay tricksters will try to have people pay through their teeth for the extra bitz. As for Execution Force, I suppose even a 20% discount wouldn’t win me over right now: I’m just feeling a bit apathetic about the thought of picking up a boxed game where about 80% of the contents are familiar miniatures…

  2. masterslowpoke Says:

    The Culexus has a second face included in the kit, is that one more to your liking over the standard one?

    • Yeah, I was surprised to see it in a picture of the sprues — as I mentioned in the review, though, it seems like it’s just a blank facemask. Just for the record, I like a stylised skull face as much as the next guy, it just needs to be less derpy than the one on the new Culexus 😉 That’s the one area where I actually prefer the older model.

  3. Yep. Dios Toros was definitely before this. But I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the first person to stick the big chain gun on a knight (though obviously I’m happy to take the credit until someone else comes forward to claim it). 😉

    Great article too – a thoroughly interesting read. I think with the sheer amount that GW are pushing out at the moment, we’re going to have to go through the housekeeping releases and army essentials at some points in the year, and then get spectacular stuff in later weeks.

    • Thanks, man! I will say this much: I researched a huge amount of Knight conversions before starting with my own model, and yours was the first using that particular modification. Take that as you will 😉

      As for the “housekeeping releases”, you are probably right — maybe my issue lies not with the lack of brilliance, but rather with the fact that two of the three releases could have (should have?!) happened at an earlier point? But maybe I’m just being grumpy 😉

  4. Good run down of the models there.

    I haven’t even remotely wanted a knight before the Warden kit though. But now…

    • Cheers, man! Well, if you’ve held back until now, you really get the best possible outcome, as the first Knight kit you purchase will actually be the one with all the new options! I can only recommend the kit, judging from my experiences with “version 1.0”: It’s wonderful!

  5. Good review as ever. I actually really like the Vindicare, he looks practical and workmanlike. The Callidus is just a bit too over the top for my taste, dynamic poses are fine but she’s just ridiculous. Oddly the Eversor kind of gets away with, perhaps because he looks both believable as a futuristic killing machine and practical as a miniature (the Callidus on the other hand appears to be neither). The Cullexus is probably the one I liked least from the old models and most from the new. I see what you mean about the new head but I really, really hated the old one whilst the new may have a touch of the theatrical evil about it but it’s pretty damn cool as well. For a while I’ve had a fancy for making a Khornate Cullexus, a living chaos weapon which combines the blood god’s hatred of psykers with his love of killing things. If this model becomes more generally available I might just go for it.

    As for the knights I agree on the new weapons, especially the powerfist and gattling cannon, but I think I’d have preferred to see them enhancing the original kit a year ago, rather than making an appearance now. As for the new heads I’m not really loving any of them. They look like rejected designs from the first knight and I’m sure the design team could have come up with something better. The snout face is alright, the gladiator head seems like a bit of a missed opportunity and the half-mask is just naff (should have gone full skull and given the Night Lord fans something to play with!). Part of the problem, I think, is that this is a solid update to a spectacular kit and as a result rather overshadowed by the ‘wow factor’ of its processor.

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