Wait, wasn’t there a Space Marine release fairly recently? In fact, it’s already been almost two years, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Granted, the Space Marines are 40k’s most popular faction and main cash cow, but even so, it feels like we only received a new Codex a very short while ago. But here it is, nevertheless, a new book, complete with a bunch of new kits to accompany it, so who am I to argue, eh?
The thing is: 2013’s Space Marine release was a pretty big release all around, thoroughly revamping the standard Tactical Squad, giving us plastic Sternguard and Vanguard, introducing Centurions, grav weapons and two new, Rhino-based tank variants. Plus we got new models for a couple of generic Space Marine HQ choices. So it feels like this new release does have quite a bit to measure up to. Let’s take a look at whether or not the new kits manage to hold up — and it goes without saying that we’ll also be taking a look at the various conversion options along the way!
Space Marines Terminator Librarian
The clamshell characters are often a very interesting part of each release — one need look no further than the Tech-Priest Dominus as proof. And the Space Marines receive another HQ option via this Librarian in Terminator armour.
Tell you what: I think there’s something off about the model. Something I cannot quite put my finger on. Sure enough, all the required boxes have been ticked: The model clearly reads as a Librarian, psi-staff, psychic hoods, lots of scrolls parchments and doodads — all accounted for. And the various details on the armour certainly look cool enough!
But there’s something about the model’s design that makes it seem like the upper and lower halves don’t mesh: Maybe it’s the fact that the torso and head have a slightly squashed look about them? Maybe it’s the slightly iffy pose? Or maybe it’s just the angle of the picture? Whatever the reason may be, the model seems subtly wrong to me, almost as if the upper and lower parts of the body belong to different models and have been grafted together semi-successfully…
The good news is that I think the effect is slightly less of a problem when using the model’s alternate arm with its cool wizard pose:
Well, I’m not sold on the model, to be honest: There’s the slightly strange overall feeling described above, for starters. There’s also the fact that a look at the sprue reveals that most of the model, bar the arms, is made up of two massive slabs of plastic, with very little leeway for modifications, rendering conversions beyond arm or weapon swaps pretty complicated:
But all of this would probably be excusable, if not for the fact that the new plastic model is an inferior replacement to its predecessor and a better alternative is readily available. But all in good order!
Let’s look at the Terminator Librarian’s previous incarnation:
Now you all know that I am a huge fan of plastic models, but even I have to admit that the older Librarian model had a lot more character and dynamism going for it. It also seems less dubious anatomically. It does have the beefy look you would expect of a Terminator, but it still seems fairly plausible and natural — well, as plausible and natural as can be expected, that is…
There’s also a much better flow about the model — something that can arguably be hard to capture in multipart plastic models. But then, the new Librarian isn’t even that multipart to begin with (compare the sprue above).
What’s even worse, though, is that the Blood Angels Librarian in Terminator armour, released fairly recently, also seems like a more balanced model:
Granted, the BA Librarian is costs one Euro more and might require some minor conversion work to get rid of the BA iconography. That seems like a good investment, however, seeing how much better the model looks overall, and is quite a bit more flexible when it comes to conversion options (as it’s closer in construction to a standard, multipart Terminator). Back when this model was released, I was wondering whether it shouldn’t have been a generic Termie Librarian to begin with — and seeing the actual generic Termie Librarian now only enforces this notion: The BA Libby seems like the superior design, essentially rendering the new model obsolete, as long as you don’t mind some minor conversion work…
All in all, the new Terminator Librarian certainly isn’t terrible. But the model is a bit of a letdown, especially seeing how a superior plastic model is already available. I think I’ll pass on this one…
Space Marines Assault Squad
The Assault Marines were possibly one of the oldest plastic Space Marine kits still in service, so it certainly makes sense to give them a facelift. The new kit carefully updates the models and adds in some new options, yet at the end of the day, it still provides us with all the neccessary parts to build five Assault Marines, either with or without jump packs.
This means the models have to work in both running and jumping poses, which seems to be the case. What’s more, we get some nifty pieces of crumbled masonry for our jump infantry, which is pretty nice. These small basing parts seem pretty interesting and are a nice bit of service — it’s especially cool that they come as separate parts, unlike the rubble in the Raptor/Warp Talon kit that is attached to the legs. And if you don’t like them or want to build your Marines without jump packs, just leave them off and the models will look like they are running:
Some of the poses do seem a little awkward, though (like the guy on the left in the above picture) — although, in all fairness, assembling running Marines that seem natural always takes a bit of doing and fine-tuning.
One thing I really love about the new kit is that it includes a plastic Eviscerator:
While we are looking at that Sergeant model, however, what is the matter with that face? The brow seems a bit huge, doesn’t it? Maybe this is a conscious effort to create Space Marine faces showing the kind of gigantism alluded to in the background — but it does seem a little weird, since it has never been done before…
I really love the other bare head included with the kit, however: I could easily imagine this guy as a gladiatorial World Eater:
All in all, the kit seems like a sensible and careful redesign, and if you should find yourself in need of some additional Assault Marines (or simpply some running legs), it seems like a sound option: You get five Assault Marines without any massive bells and whistles to speak of.
However, while having an updated kit is nice, it’s also pretty hard to get too excited about these models, because they are treading ground that has been thoroughly explored by several other kits. In fact, I would argue that almost everything this kit does, the Vanguard kit does better. And at merely two Euros more a pop, I know which kit I prefer.
Solid work, certainly, but nothing to write home about.
Space Marines Devastator Squad:
While the Devastator kit has seen more updates than some of the other Space Marine infantry, the addition of a couple of new weapons (with grav weapons being the prime example) obviously neccessitated yet another update. So here we are with a new Devastator kit that gives us lots and lots of weapons options…
Chief among these are the grav weapons, of course, but I’ll be honest: I am still not a fan of them from a visual standpoint. They seem clunky and ill-conceived, and not nearly as iconic as the other heavy weapons in the Space Marine catalogue — but maybe that’s just me being a grumpy old man there for a minute 😉
Beyond such concerns, it’s great to see that the new Devastator kit contains lots and lots of weapons (basically two each of every heavy weapon plus a bunch of combi-weapons, pistols and a full complement of CC weapons for the Sergeant). This makes the new kit very comprehensive when it comes to weapon options — and thus possibly an essential purchase.
However, GW’s designers weren’t simply content with adding more weapons, they also added some visual touches to distinguish the Devastators from your standard Tactical Marines — basically the kind of attention sorely lacking in the new Assault Marines, if you ask me. Each of the Devastators comes with reinforced leg armour and an additional sensor array integrated into the model’s helmet:
Both ideas are pretty cool, because they visually support the Devastators’ battlefield rule and add some identity to the models beyond the heavy weapons they are lugging around. Even so, some of these new elements seem slightly uneven in execution: The extra sensors work far better on some helmets than on others (the one on the Marine with the grav gun in the above picture looks legitimately terrible, for instance).
As for the reinforced armour, it’s a pretty nifty idea! While I would have preferred some plastic versions of older armour marks (Mk. 2 or 3 would have been ideal for Devastators, if you ask me), I can still appreciate the extra effort. And the options for customising the squad leader are actually pretty awesome:
In fact, we get quite a few bitz and bobs for the squad that are pretty interesting: the rockets streaming smoke may be a bit hit-or-miss, but I like the inclusion of a cherub, even if the sculpt does seem a bit clunky — I wonder whether the paintjob is partly to blame for this…?
All in all, this kit seems far more substantial than the Assault Marines, and it should be legitimately useful for Marine players both old and new. A very solid, if not exactly exciting, offering!
Space Marine Chapter-specific conversion kits
Now this is possibly the most interesting part of the release, at least for me: We get one conversion sprue each for the Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Ultramarines and Space Wolves — quite an interesting tool for customising champions and army commanders, and a possible return to offering conversion sets and bitz? We will see.
I do realise that many people seem fairly critical of these, seeing how they sell for 10.50 Euros a pop for a pretty small sprue of bitz. So let’s take a look at each of them in turn in order to figure out whether they are worth it:
The Blood Angels sprue is possibly the least interesting of the bunch, seeing how most of the bitz seem to appear in one of the existing BA kits in similar shape or form. The Mephiston-style torso piece is a notable exception, but most of the other contents of the sprue are very close to the stuff we get with the Sanguinary Guard, Death Company and BA Tac Squad. So while the bitz themselves are fairly cool, there’s nothing super-exciting here. Next.
The Dark Angels sprue suffers from a similar problem, but that’s mostly due to the fact that there are already several kits with lots and lots of DA conversion bitz in existence. The standout parts here are the mastercrafted breastplate, highly ostentatious sword and plasma pistol. The feathered helmet is a staple of DA lore but looks very clunky — I’d pick the Chapter Master helmet from the Dark Vengeance boxed set over this helmet any day of the week. Again, pretty nice, but ultimately nonessential.
The Space Wolves have just as many dedicated plastic kits as the Blood Angels and Dark Angels, yet their conversion sprue still turns out more interesting: The sword and axe are very sweet (and seem to be channeling the look of Krom Dragongaze’s weapons). The backpack also seems similar to his and is very cool — I love the vicious look of those wolf heads. Speaking of which, I thik the wolf head helmet is probably my favourite part of the sprue: Some may think it’s too cartoony, but I love how feral it looks. It’s far less stylised than the helmet we get as part of the existing SW sprue, and I think it would work just as well for a champion of chaos. This is a pretty cool conversion kit, mostly because it manages to move beyond the bitz that are already available as part of the regular kits.
And finally, the sprue for everybody’s favourite Do-Gooders, the Ultramarines. And you know what? This is definitely the best of the bunch! Because, for all their appearances in the background and posterboy status, the Ultramarines have never received any dedicated plastic kits, so this is our chance to finally make our Ultramarines characters look like true Ultramarines: The shoulder pads are obviously useful for that, but my favourite parts have to be the breastplate, sword and gladius combo and the knightly veteran helmet. I have never been a huge Ultramarines fan, but I really like this conversion kit because it provides something new in plastic — very cool!
All in all, the pricetag on these sprues may indeed be a bit steep, but I am prepared to call them a fairly promising experiment: If you want to use these for your whole army, you’ll be spending quite a lot of money — but that’s not the point: Each of the sprues would work perfectly for customising one or two models per army and really make them stand out — all you need are some Marine legs and bodies, and you’re golden. Which puts them at an ultimately reasonable price point below the – fairly expensive – new clamshell characters. What’s more, they certainly don’t force you to pick these up: You’ll still be getting lots and lots of leftover bitz that can work just as well from your regular kits. But as it stands, these new kits seem like a promising prospect, and it’ll be interesting to see what GW does with this approach. And I wonder whether these have anything to do with Forgeworld’s own, legion-specific upgrade packs…?
Bonus Content: HQ Command Tanks
I do of course realise that this kit is a Warhammer World exclusive, but seeing how it’s certainly vanilla-Marine themed, we might as well throw it in with the rest, don’t you think? 😉
I think the boxy Space Marine tanks can use all the help they can get in order to look more interesting, and offering conversion kits to turn them into suitably ostentatious command vehicles seems like an interesting option. From my impressions, some things about the kit are pretty awesome, and some are pretty awful. Let’s start with the bad stuff: Those aquila-shaped radar dishes and the sensor array on top of the Rhino are pretty terrible. Seriously, there is such a thing as too clunky.
What I really like, however, are the alternate side panels, because they really make the vehicles look like relicts of a bygone age — ancient artifacts of the chapter that also happen to be warmachines. And I do have a bit of a thing for the Chapter Master atop the Land Raider — pretty cool!
So does this kit alone warrant a trip to Warhammer World or is it worth the hilarious prices some folks are asking on ebay? The answer to either would be no, if you ask me — although there are probably enough reasons for wanting to check out the new Warhammer World.
When all is said and done, this kit made me want to think about how to kitbash command tanks that are just as cool, but much less expensive — and I think it really wouldn’t be all that hard, given a reasonably well-stacked bitzbox. Still, it’s a cool idea, and I think one that many converters should be able to have a field day with 😉
One of the biggest strengths of the entire Space Marine catalogue is how it provides an interlocking system of fully (or mostly) compatible kits, and the same goes for the new kits, of course: Whichever of these you pick up, you’ll always end up with more stuff for the huge Space Marine toolbox. And there’s no question that, for instance, all the extra stuff within the Devastator kit will prove hugely useful. So the release certainly provides new tools for all the (Chaos) Space Marine players out there.
I’ll be honest with you, though: No part of the release strikes me as particularly exciting or fantastic from a converter’s perspective. The things that interest me are mostly different bits and bobs: The pieces of rubble, Eviscerator and mostly bald head from the Assault Squad (because the latter would be great for a World Eaters officer). The servo-skull and cherub from the Devastators (because one can never have enough servo-skulls and cherubs in INQ28). The sword from the DA conversion set (because one can never have enough blinged out swords). And possibly the entire SW and Ultramarines conversion sprues (the SW sprue is, once again, full of cool options for World Eaters, and I just like the design of the Ultramarine bitz and the novelty of having Ultramarine parts available in plastic).
Many releases can become exciting even for those hobbyists who don’t play the army at hand. But this certainly isn’t one of those releases: It’s rather a workhorse of a release, replacing some outdated kits and tentatively offering some customisation and conversion options that might become more interesting in the future. I have always loved Space Marines, but even I cannot really get excited about the new kits — the most interesting part for me are the conversion kits, and even those are mostly interesting for what they could become for other armies or factions somewhere along the line.
Comparing this release to the recent AdMech extravaganza, one cannot help to see the new Space Marine kits as a disappointment, because they are ultimately just more of the same. The 2013 Space Marine release was more interesting, because we actually got something new (the Centurions, whether you like them or not), and the redesigned kits (Vanguard and Sternguard) were pretty exciting.
This time around, we mostly get small updates, which is nice. And taking an even-handed approach, we can probably call this a solid, if a little bland, bread and butter release. But in a world where the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus have just turned the entire GW catalogue on its head, maybe solid just doesn’t cut it any longer? But then we knew AdMech would be a tough act to follow 😉
So what do you think? Do you feel differently about the new Space Marine kits or would you like to discuss some crazy conversion ideas of yours that I didn’t think of? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!