Toll the great bell twice – a look at the Cult Mechanicus release
The AdMech madness continues, with another sub-faction of creepy machine men and another slew of new plastic kits — after years and years of yearning for AdMech models to make an appearance, with nothing but a lone Enginseer model to tide us over, this is certainly a great time for veteran hobbyists who grew up loving John Blanche’s and Jes Goodwin’s brilliantly creepy AdMech artwork!
So while the recent Skitarii release provided us with Mars’ endless legions of machine soldiers, we now get a look at the “men” (for lak of a better word) behind the machines with the Cult Mechanicus — and yet more creepy man/machine fusions make an appearance So let us take a closer look at the new kits and think about all the wonderful conversion projects we could use them for… Follow me to my workshop…;)
I was slightly disappointed when the Skitarii release didn’t feature an actual Tech-Priest, which made seeing this guy all the sweeter. Seriously, what a fantastic interpretation of a venerable Magos (and imposing battle commander of the Adeptus Mechanicus, no less)! I am in love with this guy!
But all in good order: The model certainly ticks all the right boxes for me: It’s hunched-over, clad in the tattered robes of the priesthood of Mars, heavily augmented (to the point where only one mostly organic hand remains) and just brilliantly creepy all around. What irony that my attempt at building the most disturbing and out-there AdMech model I could possibly come up with now basically gets overtaken by the Cult Mechanicus standard HQ — oh well… 😉
My favourite part about the model is probably how it seems almost impossible to guess what the Tech-Priest would actually look like underneath those robes: He seems like a stooped, but ultimately humanoid figure at first glance, yet those insectile legs hint at something very creepy and inhuman. There’s a palpable Warmahordes Cryx influence to the whole design, yet also enough of the established 40k AdMech look to firmly bring it into the 41st millennium.
The model is also quite a bit bigger than I had expected, making it tower over most infantry models –maybe that is the one tiny piece of criticism I have: The Tech-Priest Dominus might just be a tad too imposing 😉 A smaller, more frail figure at the centre of all that cyborg firepower could have been an equally interesting idea.
But the design remains fantastic! I was also pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of a second head and some additional weapons options!
Speaking of which, a closer look at the sprue(s) reveals that this is easily one of the most complex clamshell characters so far:
The good news, however, is that while the model seems pretty complicated, it goes together very well — you can even leave off the arms for easier painting without a hitch and glue them on later. In fact, maybe converting this guy wouldn’t even be quite as complicated as I had initially suspected…
All in all, the Tech-Priest Dominus is an absolutely fantastic model that embodies much of what I have always loved about the Adeptus Mechanicus. It is also a great army commander, easily measuring up to the various, hulking characters and creatures commanding the other armies of the 41st millennium. A definite high point of this release for me, and one of the models I have already purchased myself. Excellent!
Adeptus Mechanicus Kastelan Robots
And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the new kit everybody loves to hate 😉 But seriously, we often see kits that are a bit divisive, and the Kastelan Robots certainly fill this role for the Cult Mechanicus release, mostly because they are so different from what we are used to:
The idea behind these robots seems to be that they are relicts from the Dark Age of Technology, merely salvaged and repurposed by the Adeptus Mechanicus. Which is why their look is so very unlike most other 40k warmachines: They have a rounded, slightly minimalist retro 50s SciFi look that seems more at home in Fallout than 40k, at least initially. It is this look, I suppose, that has earned them the scorn of quite a few commenters online.
But allow me to raise several points about this design, possibly in its defense:
One, unconventional as this direction may seem, it is not new — not even for 40k. Just compare this Kastelan:
As has been the case with several parts of the Mechanicus releases, these models provide yet another callback to established parts of the lore from way back when, which is something I like very much (on a mostly unrelated note, doesn’t the model in the top left slot really remind you of Forgeworld’s Vorax battle automata…?). I think it’s great how GW seems to be carefully redesigning and updating certain concepts and visual elements that have been in existence for a long time for the AdMech factions — it seems very fitting, considering the background of the army.
The other thing I find interesting is how the Kastelan shares quite a few visual cues with both the Contemptor and the Mechanicum Thallax: It’s easy to imagine how both machines may have been attempts by the Mechanicum of old to reverse-engineer or evolve the Kastelan template they had salvaged from the clutches of Old Night — a very nice bit of visual storytelling for those who are into such things!
The third thing is that the design unequivocally marks the Kastelan as a robot, rather than a cyborg: The domed heads with their empty visors – an element disliked by some – clearly evokes an unthinking, unfeeling machine. It also seems like an invitation to painters to get creative (I wonder why nobody has tried a Fallout-style effect in green yet 😉 ).
Whether or not you like the design of these, one thing that certainly seems like a thoroughly underadvertised feature is the models’ sheer poseability. Now let’s take a look at the second robot. Out of the box, the pose may seem a bit underwhelming:
You know what, though? You can basically pose this guy any way you like! The legs, in particular, are every bit as flexible as those of a Contemptor: You simply cut off the nubs that lock them into place, and different poses (even running or walking) are really easy to achieve.
If there is one real shortcoming to the kit, it’s the lack of options: While the model’s pose may be unbelievably flexible, there are actually only very few ways of equipping these guys: the – delightfully Contemptor-esque – power fists or the slightly goofy gauntlets with integrated guns (reminding me of the equally goofy Batman villain KGBeast, for some reason). And while the shoulder mounted weapons are a pretty clever shout out to the model’s earlier incarnation, they do seem like a bit of an afterthought, from a visual standpoint.
And there’s a personal gripe of mine: The arms are just too short. It’s easy to see that this was a deliberate choice on the designers’ part, but it just seems slightly strange that the Kastelan would probably have difficulties hitting anything with its power fists.
But wait, it’s not all about the robots! In addition to the two Kastelan models, we also get a Datasmith as part of the deal!
I really love this guy for a number of reasons: He’s instantly recognisable as a Tech-Priest, for one, but there are also several interesting things about him: He’s more massive and imposing than your average, hunched over Magos. He’s pretty heavily armed. And while he has the robes, his heavily augmented head remains uncovered, giving him a rather distinct look. And you’ve got to respect the amount of thought that must have gone into the array of servo-arms designed to slot his datacards into the Kastelan robots on the fly.
But what is possibly my favourite thing about the Datasmith is how the model seems like a reunion with a long-lost friend. Come on, guys, doesn’t he remind you of someone…?
Which makes the Datasmith model yet another wonderful callback to several older Mechanicus concepts. Man, I just love that kind of meta stuff 😉
It helps that the model itself is, once more, beautifully detailed, with lots and lots of tech-y gubbinz to feast your eyes on. And we get yet another optional head for the bitzbox:
All in all, this is probably the most interesting kit from this release, at least for me. Because, when all is said and done, what you get are two easily Dreadnought-sized, highly customisable models that will be immensely useful for a lot of conversion projects plus a very distinct, Space Marine sized Tech-Priest — and all at a fairly reasonable price point, no less. I think it won’t be a big surprise for you to hear that this was the first kit from this release I actually picked up 😉
Adeptus Mechanicus Kataphron Battle Servitors
While the Kastelan Robots didn’t meet unanimous enthusiasm within the 40k crowd, I think we can safely say that this is a kit that many hobbyists have been waiting for, seeing how Praetorian servitors with track units for lower bodies have been a long-established part of AdMech lore. Personally speaking, the concept has never resonated all that strongly with me, but that’s probably just a matter of personal taste — so yeah, here we go: tracked servitors. Good job, GW!
Seriously, though: The designers certainly delivered on the concept, providing us with yet another spectactularly detailed multi-kit that allows us to build one of two kinds of Kataphron servitors. Let’s look at each of them in turn:First up, the Kataphron Destroyers, which basically work as mobile weapon platforms: While both variants of the kit use the same general template of a humanoid torso grafted to a track unit, the design seems to work slightly less well on the Destroyers, because the models seem less human, due to the spindly arms and crude augmentations. I am pretty sure that this effect is entirely deliberate, although the resulting model just seems a tad ill-proportioned to me.
The constituent parts of the models are great, though, with excellently designed weapons that are both instantly recognisable as well as slightly more sophisticated and “tech-y” than their IG or Marine counterparts:
All in all, however, this particular setup doesn’t really agree with me: It just looks slightly too haphazard and hokey for my taste.
The Kataphron Breachers, on the other hand, are far more to my liking, even though they are basically very similar to the Destroyers:
What really improves the models in my book is the addition of extra armour plates, which adds a more centauroid look to the entire model: The human torso seems less incidental and more integrated with the machine, which is definitely a plus! I also love the shoulder pads, high collars and the more imposing left arms: The Breachers are every bit as sinister and creepy as the Destroyers, yet they seem more balanced and have a much better flow:
Once again, the detailing on each part of the models is something to behold. And I just love those upper bodies with just the slightest bit of organic face peering out from all that armour. Brilliantly creepy!
Like I said, the whole concept of servitors with track units as their undercarriage has never really worked all that well for me, but I can still recognise these models as excellent iterations of that concept. What’s more, these should be really excellent conversion fodder for a variety of projects — but we’ll be getting to that 😉
Adeptus Mechanicus Electro-Priests
When the first, fuzzy pictures of the two kinds of Electro Priests emerged, I wasn’t sold: In these washed out leaked pictures, they looked like crude kitbashes made from Dark Eldar Wracks and the robed legs from the old Dark Angels Veterans. Fortunately enough, the finished models have ended up looking far more convincing, and they also use another vintage character concept that I remember from my happy days of reading the 2nd edition Codex Imperialis. Yay!
It’s great how both variants of the kit work with some of the elements established in the lore so long ago: The burnt-out eyes and electoos, for exaple. The contrast between the bare upper bodies and robed legs also add a monkish look to the models — almost like the 40k, AdMech version of flagellants, which is a great idea and produces a squad with a very distinctive look amongst all the mechanoid monstrosities.
So far so good, but let’s take a closer look at the two kinds of Electro Priests we get:
First up, the Corpuscarii Electro Priests:
I really love these guys for their decided Steampunk/Diesel Punk vibe. The main reason for this are the massive electric coils around their heads and hands, complete with fairly crude cabling and massive backpacks grafted to their spines:
This gives the impression of individuals very crudely reshaped into organic lightning rods: Their equipment is so cumbersome and eclectic that you’ve really got to love it! At the same time, the cluster of coils around their heads also works as a kind of halo, adding a nice twist to their monkish, priestly look and turning them into living angels of electricity, so to speak.
There’s something wonderful about the contrast between the organic, flowing lines of the bodies and the crude, invasive augmetics and cables, making these guys very interesting to look at. Very cool!
The Fulgurite Electro Priests, on the other hand, seem somewhat less impressive to me. Yes, they retain most of the visual strenghts of the kit, but the two-handed weapons just don’t speak to me the way the Corpuscarii Electro Priests‘ crazy and cobbled-together looking equipment does:
They are still pretty cool, make no mistake, but the weapons result in a kind of “SciFi-Shaolin” look that seems slightly less interesting than the Steampunk vibe the Corpuscarii have going on.
What I love about these models is how they bring something very new and distinct to the AdMech catalogue: I a collection of models that is mostly characterised by monstrous cyborgs or utterly inhuman machine soldiers, these guys make for a very interesting and grimdark contrast, which is great. I can also imagine they’ll be very popular with the converters. All in all, a very cool kit giving us one outstanding and one slightly less interesting, yet still fairly cool, type of infantry.
I think the Cult Mechanicus kits will prove to be a real treasure trove for converters, and we are already seeing the first results online. So allow me to share a couple of ideas with you and point you towards some inspirational best practice examples:
First of all, it should be mentioned that all of these kits would be just as great for a Dark Mechanicus army, obviously. They are already pretty disturbing and sinister as it is, and I think it would be a lot of fun to take them even further via an influx of chaos, Dark Eldar and Skaven bitz. The Cult Mechanicus models are arguably even better suited to this fate than the Skitarii, seeing how many of them are more grimdark and less clean and stylised than the Skitarii kits.
The other big winners of this release are the INQ28 aficionados, once again. While it’s true that an enterprising INQ28 fan can use almost anything for a conversion project, it’s great to finally have so many options for building AdMech characters and their disturbing creations for our own warbands and retinues.
So, after this short prelude, let’s check out what might be in store for all the different kits:
This model initially seems pretty complicated to convert, yet one need look no further than Omegon’s excellent conversion of the model to see that it’s fairly easy to make an already rather disturbing stock model about 100% creepier! I think we can look forward to many people tackling conversions of this particular model, especially when it comes to INQ28. Beyond the confines of the Adeptus Mechanicus, I also think the Dominus would work really well as an alternate Chaos Lord or Warpsmith!
Probably the most interesting kit for converters — I am actually hard at work on these myself (and will share my conversions with you soon). The sheer flexibility of the models turns them into a perfect canvas for converters. Just to outline a few options…
- as recently suggested by TJ Atwell, they could work really well as counts as Contemptors or as a possible base model for converting your own plastic Contemptor. These comparison shots – kindly provided by Kilofix – shows the models are reasonably close in size, so it would definitely work.
- If you don’t feel up to the task of making a full-fledged Contemptor out of them, that’s fine too! Why not use them as alternate Dreadnoughts or Helbrutes (Alpha Brute, anyone…?) or something a little more exotic — such as Shibboleth’s fantastic Penitent Engines?
- But maybe you need not even go that far: For those of you merely slightly unhappy with the design, particularly with the heads, it can be really easy to change the look of the models with a few small tweaks. Just check out Andreas Kentorp’s excellent Kastelan to see what can be achieved with just some small changes (and a gorgeous paintjob, of course).
The Datasmith accompanying the models also warrants a couple of sentences, since he seems like a brilliantly versatile model to me:
- He can obviously be used as a very cool Tech-Priest character for INQ28. Seeing how similar he is to both Delphan Gruss and that FFG illustration shown further up in this post, I think I’ll make him into a Magos Explorator, for instance.
- But it doesn’t stop there: The fact that he’s scaled very similarly to a Space Marine, he would make for a fantastic base model when converting a Tech Marine, Master of the Forge, Iron Hands Officer, Warpsmith, Iron Warriors Commander or what have you — some additional bitz and you’re there!
- and there’s always the option of using him as an alternate Enginseer model in your Astra Militarum army.
- Maybe he could even be converted into an Inquisitor of the Ordo Machinum…? Just sayin’…
Kataphron Battle Servitors:
Another kit that should lend itself really well to conversions, since each part of the model could be used for something different. Or you could just keep them mostly as they are and use them as alternate (Iron Hands) Centurions — or Obliterators for your CSM army, in case you still haven’t found an option for representing Obliterators that you are happy with.
As for some more involved conversion projects, what about…
- using a Kataphron as a base model for an Iron Warriors Lord or even Daemon Prince?
- using the upper bodies on top of Terminator legs? This should work pretty well, and you could end up with pretty brilliant true scale Iron Hands, Iron Warriors, bipedal Skitarii battle servitors, particularly imposing Necromunda Pitslaves or similarly augmented warriors.
- The track units, on the other hand, could be used to kitbash your own plastic Rapier weapon batteries…
- …or even Grot Tanks?!
These should really come in handy for all kinds of 40k and INQ28 kitbashes, including but not limited to:
- the Corpuscarii would work excellently as an alternate highly experimental psyker battle squad for the Astra Militarum: I can just imagine someone in the Imperium crazy enough to use implants and augmentations in order to make psykers easier to control and/or more powerful
- one of these as a penitent psyker or augmented warrior in a radical Inquisitor’s retinue would probably look pretty cool!
- the blind heads would be excellent for all kinds of psyker and Astropath conversions
- the models could be used to convert members of a particular unhinged cult…
- …and the options for chaos are basically endless: tainted psykers? Dark Mechanicus cultists? Kitbashes involving the gribbly bitz from the Dark Eldar wracks and/or gas mask heads from the snap fit cultists? The world’s your oyster here!
Oh, and one final thing: If you haven’t already done so, you should definitely check out John Blanche’s own, recent AdMech warband. Either via the brilliant photo feature in this month’s issue of Warhammer:Visions or by browsing through this thread over at the Ammobunker. John not only showcases the versatility of the new kits, but also ends up with a truly spectacular and unbelievably grimdark collection of models, as should be expected from one of the fathers of 40k!
So what about the release on the whole? While I am prepared to call this a very strong offering, I cannot help feeling the Skitarii may have been the slightly better release of the two. Sure, the Cult Mechanicus is more eclectic and disturbing, yet at the cost of some divisive design decisions. The Skitarii, on the other hand, played it a bit safer, yet ended up the more even, consistently great release. At least in my book.
However, such considerations are ultimately moot, of course, because these two releases should definitely be seen as one, overarching faction: After all, the division between the two sub-factions still seems pretty artificial to me. Maybe this is just the way GW would like us to think about armies from now on: as multiple, smaller sub-factions that can be freely allied to each other, rather than monolithic blocks?
If considered as a bigger whole, the combined Adeptus Mechanicus faction is certainly one of the most spectacular armies available right now, easily on par with the redesigned Dark Eldar. And that’s without talking about the extra options you get by adding the Forgeworld Mechanicum catalogue! Speaking of which, I actually prefer the plastic 40k models over Forgeworld’s offerings in this particular case: The kits are eclectic and versatile, and really cutting edge when it comes to the detail level and sculpt, whereas the Forgeworld Mechanicum models have mostly left me cold so far, with the exception of one or two kits.
Another thing that I really love about the whole Mechanicus faction is how the new models manage to serve as shout outs and callbacks to pieces of art and character concepts we have known for years – or, in some cases, decades – while managing to turn it all into one coherent army (or two coherent armies that can be allied, to be exact). This makes the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus an enormous bit of fanservice towards long time fans of the grimdark 41st millennium — at least that’s what it feels like to me.
So is there nothing negative about the AdMech models? Well, one thing: Modeler and painter extraordinaire Jeff Vader recently leveled one particular criticism at this release, and it is one I share wholeheartedly: For all the brilliant new kits, GW didn’t nearly do enough with the Tech-Priests themselves: It would have been awesome to be able to build Magi of different shapes and sizes with all kinds of bizarre augmentations. As it stands, enterprising converters will still be able to make it happen via the bitz provided by the release, and it is certainly something I will attempt myself when I inevitable build an AdMech retinue for INQ28, but actually having this reflected in the release would have been the icing on the cake.
In spite of that, we have a spectacular new faction for 40k and some brilliant new kits to play around with, and it feels like it’s been worth the wait.
But what do you think? Are you happy with the Cult Mechanicus kits or were you looking for something else? And do you have any conversion ideas you would like to share? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section!
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!