So here we are, at long last, with my look at Deathwatch: Overkill. Sorry for being so awfully late to this particular party, but I really had to force myself to sit down and create a suitably long writeup, especially given the huge amount of conversion potential inherent in these new kits. But I persevered, and here I am, probably the last person in the world to discuss this new board game release on their blog. I hope you’ll be taking a look, nevertheless 😉
Say what you want about the constantly escalating scale and rules complexity of 40k or about GW’s somewhat aimless treatment of Age of Sigmar, but I cannot deny that GW has been steadily ticking boxes off my personal Most Wanted list for quite a while now: An 28mm Imperial Knight, check. More and better Khornate models, check. A fully fledged plastic AdMech release, check. Plastic Sisters,…no, wait, we haven’t seen those yet.
But possibly the only thing quite as interesting as a proper Sisters release is a new version of Genestealer Cults, and lo and behold: That’s exactly what we are getting with Deathwatch: Overkill, the latest boxed game by GW. Oh yeah, some Space Marines are also included, of course, but I suppose that’s a given 😉
So join me as I ponder the new models and their possible use in all kinds of conversion projects — in fact, several highly talented hobbyists are already hard at work, putting the new sprues through their paces, and it goes without saying that I’ll be pointing you towards their work as well. Also make sure to check out Heresy & Heroes` and Wudugast’s posts on the matter, as I enjoyed reading them and they should make excellent companion pieces for my take on the matter.
So here goes:
You simply cannot have a Deathwatch centered game without a Deathwatch Killteam, obviously, and here we are. Now it’s of course perfectly obvious that this collection of models is a pretty shrewd move by GW, because what we are getting here, beyond the scope of the game at hand, is basically a collection of eleven custom Space Marine clamshell characters that would look great in any Astartes army. What’s more, there’s also a model for nearly every popular chapter, probably making this box an auto-purchase for Space Marine players while also giving rise to a healthy shadow economy of selling the different models on ebay.
But what of the models themselves? Let’s take a look at each member of Killteam Cassius in turn:
Well, what do you know: It’s a great little surprise to encounter a younger version of one of the Ultramarines’ special characters, dating back to before he fell, head-first, into the meatgrinder known as Hivefleet Behemoth — or it was a surprise for me, at least, because I didn’t follow BL’s string of Deathwatch related short stories. But let’s talk about the model:
The obvious thing is to check for parallels to the older version of the character, and it’s nice to see how quite a few parts of the model create a nice sense of continuity: The general design of the armour, the crocius, the book at the hip. What I really like is how some of Cassius’ equipment yet seems free of the Tyrannic influence: the book of prayers will end up bound in Tyranid hide, and his crocius will one day be crowned with a winged Tyranid skull. But his is a younger version of him, so his equipment is still more generically imperial — a good thing for once 😉
I also like the model’s powerful pose, and even though it’s fairly static, the flowing seals and dangling chain create a nice, subtle sense of dynamism.
All in all, Cassius is a worthy leader of the Killteam and also, arguably, a much better chaplain model than the one included in the Reclusiam Command Squad.
Drenn seems like the archetypal Space Wolves Blood Claw: Running forward? Check. Bareheaded? Check. Mohawk? Check. But there’s an elegance to the model that I really appreciate: The running pose is well done, but I especially like the way the sculptors have treated Drenn’s gear: The underslung bolter with the strap running across the model’s chest, the empty scabbard for the combat knife — stuff like that. I realise that many people are unhappy with the unsubtle “Vikings in Space” look of the 40k Space Wolves, but while Drenn shows all the hallmarks of modern SW design (the pelt, the runes, the totemic doodads), there’s also an air of restraint and focus about the model that has been pulled off rather beautifully — easily one of my favourite Astartes from this box!
Jenus is the first plastic Blood Ravens model we get, so hooray for that! Beyond that, he’s a fairly standard Librarian model. I like the implementation of his heraldry, but his face seems a bit too “generic angry dude 101” for my taste. A solid model, certainly, but no match for the awesome, bearded clamshell Libarian, if you ask me.
Am I the only one reminded of Pat Benatar by that name? Anyway, the model: The inclusion of a Terminator certainly makes for a nice change of pace — unfortunately, the model itself is a bit underwhelming, though, especially the somewhat generic pose. Space Hulk really showed us how to make loyalist Terminators look great and imbue them with lots of character, even with their helmets on, but Brother Branatar seemingly never got the memo. I also think the heavy flamer/melta combo seems a bit iffy, although I realise that it’s probably a Salamanders thing. Speaking of which: FW’s Firedrakes are some of the cooler legion-specific Terminators, and I guess I would have liked GW to have taken a few more design cues from them instead of going for an – ultimately fairly generic – set of Indomitus Pattern Terminator armour.
Another standout model in that the character comes with a bike, being a White Scar and all. But while the idea is cool enough, it’s all a bit much really: The bike, the gear, the topknot and the cyber eagle. It feels like the model is just trying to do too much at once, where a bit more restraint would have been the better way to go, in my opinion — in fact, this is an ongoing tendency for some of the Deathwatch models from the box (and also one or two of the Genestealer pieces).
It’s not all bad, however: I really like the sabre with its scabbard and the hybrid head trophy! And I am pretty sure that Brother Suberei would make for an excellent Khan. He just seems a bit OTT for a Deathwatch Killteam.
Raven Guard models often oscillate between badass and silly, and it’s good to see Brother Edryc fall into the former camp. While the pose seems, once again, slightly awkwardly balanced between landing and jumping (it seems like GW’s sculptors have some issues with jumping/flying models…), there are some touches that are really well executed: The more beaklike design of the Mk VI helmet, complete with nostrils, really works for once. The lightning claws have just the right curvature to make them suitably sinister and menacing. And the spiked toecaps are a very nice touch. All in all, certainly one of the stronger models from Team Deathwatch!
A very iconic Ultramarine, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if it’s as well executed as here: strong pose, very good detail, looking suitably different from the other Ultramarine in the box. Vael Donatus seems like the quintessential Space Marine, really, and I rather like that quality. I also think he would look absolutely terrific in Ultramarines colours°
A nice enough model, but not that different from what is already available (or convertable) from existing Dark Angels bitz, which makes this character a bit of a letdown. The way the belt is picking up the model’s motion is a nice touch, and he instantly reads as a Dark Angel, but he really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Solid enough, but not really all that special.
Also pretty similar to models you can already create from existing Blood Angels bitz, but the face really saves the day here, as it’s more delicate than your usual, broad-featured Astartes mug — something that not even the other available BA heads have managed to pull off so far.
That bit of plumbing serving as the attachment point betweeen the model and the base does seem a bit silly, though. Why not use a nice, chunky rock? And I am also wondering whether the left arm would work far better rotated outward by a few degrees. All in all, however, Brother Delassio boasts enough cool touches to make him one of the better models from the box.
The gun is fairly close to looking helplesly OTT. That helmet is excellent, though, providing exactly the right sense of knightly armour. I expect this guy to look great if painted in Imperial Fist colours. the head arguably works even better on true scale models, as the slightly bigger scale gives it a bit more room to breathe. I also like the subtle Devastator touches on the armour and the inclusion of a targeting servo-skull.
Easily one of my favourite Space Marines from the kit, mostly because he adds some really nice elements to the – very small – pool of possible Iron Hands bitz: The face and backpack, in particular, are excellent, and we also finally get a plastic bionic leg — yay! All of that makes for a model that looks at once heavily augmented and suitably implacable. Very nice!
All in all, the aim with these models seem to have been to create models that were archetypal avatars of their respective chapters — and by and large, this objective has been accomplished rather successfully. At the same time, however, this seems to make the group somewhat less coherent, beyond the common colour of their armour. Compare Space Hulk to see how a squad (of Terminators, no less!) can be made to look coherent and effective as a collection, while also having each of its members read as an individual in their own right. Granted, all of those Terminators belong to the same chapter, which must have made things a bit easier. But the fact remains that the Deathwatch Marines do seem a bit too much like solo artists where a band would be required.
Oh, and before we move on, let’s not forget the inclusion of a servo-skull and teleport marker! Even though both of these elements seem to be slightly touched-up versions of earlier bitz, it’s still a nice bonus and something I would love to see more often!
Now these guys are the real starts of the show, and have certainly been highly anticipated by many hobbyists, myself included: The concept of Genestealer Cults has always been one of the more interesting parts of 40k lore for me, especially since it moves the Genestealers a bit beyond their, very obvious, Xenomorph inspirations by creating something that is arguably even more disturbing: The idea of aliens not only invading human society, but of also interbreeding with our species with horrific results. This part of the background had seemingly been dropped by GW, so it’s a fantastic surprise to see it return with aplomb! So let’s take a closer look at the members of Team Broodkin:
First of all, I am actually glad to see that GW has moved away from the old concept of a Patriarch that’s bloated to the point of immobility. Sure, the old models had a grotesque charm, but the Patriarch should work more as an “end boss”, if anything, and the new model is much better suited to that function. There are also some parts of the model that I really love, such as the mean and grotesque face and head and the way some nameless alien …residue has been used to coat those skulls on the base in a coat of vile mucus:
I do think, however, that the Patriarch falls victim to the aforementioned problem of trying to do too much at once: Trying to have him mimick the design of the cult’s wyrm seal in silhouette is a very clever idea, but it also means that quite a few elements have to be crammed together in very little space: That stinger (or ovipositor, possibly?), for instance, is a cool idea in and of itself, but it does look pretty awkward, wedged in there between the model’s legs and the ventilation shaft the Patriarch is standing on. And those dorsal spines are just a bit much, aren’t they?
What’s more, if you ask me, GW already had a pretty much perfect template for an eventual Genestealer Patriarch on their hands. This guy:
The Space Hulk Broodlord gets it all right, in my opinion: The pose is fantastic, creating a sense of menace and malice, but also one of alien elegance and lethal mobility. This guy already looked like a perfect Patriarch for me even before Genestealer Cults were, once again, a thing.
And GW must have agreed with me, because they used the basic design template to come up with this guy, the Spawn of Cryptus:
But you know what? The added tweaks and details actually watered down the excellence of the initial model instead of adding to it. So the Spawn of Cryptus ended up being a pretty cool model, but arguably inferior to its predecessor.
And, unfortunately enough, the designers seem to have used the Spawn of Cryptus, in turn, as a template for the Patriarch, adding yet more stuff on top. And I just wish they had gone back to the original Space Hulk Broodlord for inspiration, cutting out the middle man, so to speak.
As it stands, the Patriarch is still a suitably massive and monstrous model, but it lacks some of the finess of the Broodlord and could have profited from just a tad more restraint.
Confession time: For me, the classic Genestealer Magus from the early 90s is easily one of GW’s all time greats. Just take a look at this picture, taken from the 2nd edition rulebook’s colour section:
Now, slightly tacky retro paintjob notwithstanding, this model just does so much right: It’s diminutive in stature and has a fairly static pose, yet it excudes a palpable sense of menace and alien power. I love the quasi-organic shapes of its armour, especially the high collar. And the face is just something to behold: Those slightly alien features that could never quite pass for human upon closer inspection. That subtle scowl. He knows things, this guy.
Now GW’s sculptors must have known they already had solid gold on their hands with this design, because they simply emulated most of it for the modern incarnation:
The armour shape, flowing robes, staff and alien head — all of that is still there, nicely updated to the current design standard. Along the way, the Magus became quite a bit taller, but I don’t really mind — I like my centre piece models with a bit of stature. I also really like the way the stole adds another layer to the Magus’ clothing, while managing to incorporate some more cult imagery — very nice!
If I do have one minor quibble about the model, it’s the head: It just doesn’t match the older version’s quiet malevolence. The main reason for this is that they slipped up and made it look too angry and shouty (why does he need to shout in the first place? Doesn’t he communicate with the brood through some kind of psychic link?) I think much of the original Magus’ impact came from that inscrutable facial expression, and the new version unfortunately falters in this small – but crucial – way. I also feel the head could have been recessed into the collar a bit more, although the converter in me thinks that it’s good that we won’t have to painstakingly dig it out. Anyway, it’s a problem that should be easy enough to rectify by replacing the head with a less shouty one from one of the 3rd/4th generation hybrids, I suppose?
The model is still excellent, though, all the more so because its one disadvantage should be easy enough to get rid of.
The Broodkin get some bonus models as well, and they are even brand new sculpts. Now granted, those familiars do seem ever so slightly awkward and silly (especially the one on the left), but they are also a delicious reminder of the yesteryear, when there were lots of strange little models and familiars like that. An awesome little bonus! And if all else fails, they could make for excellent, subtly disturbing statues when painted in suitable colours, especially the crouching guy on the right.
I really like the idea of expanding the various types of hybrids beyond the already established phenotypes, so the Genestealer Primus is a very interesting addition! Although I do have to say that, in the context of the game, this guy seems a bit undecided as to what he wants to be: He’s not quite human enough to blend in with the populace, but also not quite alien enough to work as a killing machine like the Patriarch or the purestrains. And the face is, once again, arguably the model’s weakest point, failing to capture that (admittedly very tiny) sweet spot between believably human and subtly alien (I do like the tube feeding into the model’s nostril, though).
That’s not really that much of a problem, though, as there are so many cool parts about the model: I love the clawed (and augmented) left hand! We finally get a plastic needle pistol! And I think it’s easy to see why the body will become *very* popular with converters — in fact, half a dozen of my fellow Ammobunker forumites are busy cutting up this guy as I write this. And to wit, I already have one of these coming in the post 😉
So while I don’t see this guy as a hugely relevant addition to the Genestealer lore, the model is a godsend for converters! One last thing, though: Let me take a moment to share my thoughts about those alien daggers we see on the hybrids: They…do not make a whole lot of sense, do they? At least not when you think about them: Are they manufactured? That seems like a bit too much work for a mere CC weapon, especially when you’ve got a set of scything claws hidden under your mackintosh, right? Are they organic? Do the hybrids grow these as separate weapons? But that would run counter to the whole Tyranid concept? Or do they, I don’t know, break them off bigger organisms that we have yet to see? The mind boggles…
Probably best not to think about this stuff too closely, however. They do look awesome, and that’s good enough for me 😉
Now these guys don’t really get much coverage, to the point that the GW homepage doesn’t even feature any pictures of them, but we do get two purestrain Genestealers with the kit. But that’s possibly due to the fact that they are mostly the standard Genestealers we already know. A small voice in the back of my head says they should have taken the effort to give us bigger, “true scale” Genestealers for this game, to really make them look like the Apex Predators they are presented as, easily able to take out a Space Marine, even if the latter is wearing Terminator armour. But that’s well beyond the scope of this game, especially since we already get so many original sculpts in the box. So let me mention one small detail I like: Both models have been outfitted with hideous, Xenomorph-like ovipositors — a very nice and fitting touch, given the setting of the game!
I was really excited about the inclusion of these guys, because, like I said, it always felt like it would be interesting to explore more possible variations of the hybrid concept, beyond the tried and true generations we already saw in the old fluff. GW seems to have decided to do just that, giving us hulking, malformed brutes that seem quite a bit less genetically stable than their smaller brethren, just like the kind of unforeseeable half-breed you would probably end up with, were you to wildly tamper with human and Xenos genetics.
And in spite of their rather mono-pose nature, i really like these guys: They are hulking and overmuscled and lopsided and make for a stunning visual contrast among the smaller, more human cultists. Plus they bring back the concept of working with rather striking silhouettes:
All in all, these are a fun little addition, and I would love GW to experiment with further Genestealer hybrid types (what about lithe, almost daeonette-like female hybrids? Just saying…)
Now here’s where the real fun begins, as the various hybrids are easily the most exciting part of the release for me.
All of the hybrids so a perfect job of recreating the strangely organic shape of the classic models’ armour while also giving it a somewhat believable context: It’s miners’ equipment, complete with lamps and rebreathers, and while it will make the hybrids useful far beyond their original function, it also really beautifully approximated the older design.
The Acolyte Hybrids are the more bestial members of the Brood, looking like a missing link between humans and purestrains. I like the subtle progression between the 1st and 2nd generations: They look very similar when seen from afar, but upon closer inspection, subtle differences become visible. It’s a tough and delicate look to get right, but these really succeed at capturing the look of breeding out certain alien characteristics over the generations.
I only have two, very minor, quibbles with these: One thing I really loved about the classic metal hybrids was how puny some of them looked, with seemingly atrophied claws hidden under their tattered robes. By comparison, the new models seem almost too formidable and monstrous — but then, they arguably make a better fit as dangerous, lethal combattants, so it’s all okay (I can always build my own, pathetic hybrids using Crypt Ghouls, Flagellants, Plague Monks or what have you).
The second problem is that they are slightly too uniform for my taste, with the same number of limbs appearing in the same configuration on too many models — this should be really easy to remedy, however, by cutting off and reattaching some limbs for greater variety.
All in all, the hybrids are excellent redesigns of the older versions, taking all the right ideas from the classic models and bringing them into the 21st century.
And finally, arguably the best models to come out of this boxed game: The 3rd/4th generation hybrids brilliantly continue the trend of becoming gradually more human, and its their humanity that makes them into such fantastic and versatile models — but all in good order.
First of all, this is one of the few cases where the classic models were really rather terrible: The almost human hybrids of the yesteryear ended up looking pretty silly and hideous, and in all the wrong ways. The modern versions are far more subtle: These guys could really pass for humans…almost.
I also really like the way their miner’s gear and ribbed armour plates hint at their darker nature, in spite of having a perfectly plausible in-universe explanation.
Possibly the best single model is the guy with the glasses:
Now for all intents and purposes, he looks perfectly human and could be used as such. But that’s the beauty of the piece: Place him among his more openly alien brethren, and he becomes one of them, by virtue of a common visual heritage. But remove him from that context, and he could become a voidfarer, a miner, or any other human archetype. I also think that head is one of the best faces produced by GW — Eat your heart out, clunky metal Delaques! 😉
At the other end of the spectrum comes this, rather heavily mutated, heavy weapons guy: Good thing he has that third arm, eh? 😉
To have a collection of models with so much variety yet also such an unified look is nothing short of a brilliant accomplishment. The restraint and subtly evident in these models is something so very rare in recent GW releases that it really needs to be pointed out: This is brilliant stuff!
And possibly the best thing is how freaking many of these guys we get in the box — trust me, converters all around the world are going to have a field day with these. But we’ll be getting to that in a minute!
In closing, let me talk about the paintjob GW chose for the official models: In my opinion, ‘Eavy Metal knocked it out of the park with regards to the hybrids’ clothing: The colour of the armour and fatigues are just perfect, evoking the design and colour of the spaceships and props from the Alien series — which seems extremely apt, for obvious reasons. It’s a brilliant little shout out, and one that is far more subtle and delicious than the very overt Giger-influences exhibited by the Genestealers.
There’s also a part of the paintjobs, however, that I am not all that happy with, and that’s the way the actual Genestealers (and Genestealer body parts) have been painted: Now I am pretty sure that we all have a certain fondness for the classic blue and purple Genestealer paint scheme — but it’s really rather a nostalgia thing, and I think those colours just seem a bit too outlandish for alien creatures nestled at the heart of human society. Since the Tyranids so obviously take design cues from Giger, I think they would work far better when painted in a more restrained, organic and ultimately disturbing palette, in order to reproduce some of the Xenomorph’s creepiness. Take, for instance, Stephen Flack’s Genestealer scheme here. I think that’s what modern Genestealers should look like! It’s funny that the ‘Eavy Metal painter seem to have adapted the Alien look so readily when painting the models’ clothes, but have shied away from it on, you know, the actual aliens.
I like this approach much better, and if (when) I am starting my own Hybrid warband, I think I’ll be trying something more along those lines. And even before that, I would really love to see someone take the new models along a more realistic route, such as this.
On a semi-related note, painting the Magus’ robe red seems like such a strange idea — Thraxas of Turai’s approach here shows how the Magus will arguably look quite a bit cooler when painted closer to the “classic” colour scheme for once.
All in all, the box certainly provides us with a huge pile of brilliant models! The Broodkin are a fantastic reimagining of the earlier sculpts, a few very minor slipups notwithstanding, and easily one of the best surprises in a long time. If anything, the Space Marines seem a bit lacking by comparison, mostly because GW seems to be going through the motions a bit when designing Astartes these days. Make no mistake, some of those models are very nice, and even the worse ones are still more than solid. But compared to the sheer brilliance of those Genestealer sculpts, they just seem a bit uninspired.
Okay, so much for the models, but what about the possible conversions? Allow me to share some ideas and to point you towards some particularly interesting examples:
Now this is the easy part, as the various models will certainly be useable for all kinds of Space Marine projects, especially with a bit of deft cutting: It seems to be easy enough to remove most Deathwatch trappings, turning these into characters for their respective chapters (or, at the very least, Deathwatch veterans). By the same token, it should also be easy enough to turn most of the models to members of different chapters, successor chapters or what have you. And of course some of those helmets, weapons etc. will certainly become sought after conversion bitz: The IF helmet, the IH augmented head — the list goes on.
On the other hand, some of those Deathwatch bitz would of course be perfect for any kind of Deathwatch project moving beyond the chapters included in the game — or even beyond the scale of the models. For instance, Commissar Molotov is making excellent use of the various Deathwatch bitz for his true scale Deathwatch, and some of those bitz really shine when used at the slightly bigger scale.
One of the Space Marines’ biggest strength is the compatibility of their various kits — and even their clamshell characters. So as long as you’re careful and use a sharp knife, those new models should provide you with lots of options, if you’re a Space Marines player.
Here’s where the conversion fun really begins, as most of the Broodkin models could be used for several different projects, armies and warbands. Just off the top of my head…
Well, who am I kidding: He’ll always look like a massive Tyrandi/Genesealer monster. That said, he’d obviously make for a pretty cool Broodlord in a Tyranid army — or for a great “boss monster” in games of INQ28 and Necromunda. Moving on…
This guy is quite a bit more versatile. Personally, I’d try to give him a less shouty head and he would be perfect. But even beyond Genestealer cults, he could be turned into all kinds of characters with a bit of work: A Navigator or Astropath? A radical Inquisitor? A renegade psyker or Chaos Sorcerer? It all seems quite feasible to me!
Like I said, the INQ28 scene is already in love with this guy. And rightly so, for he’s a great base model for all kinds of possible characters, among them…
- Inquisitors, especially for the Ordo Xenos
- Chaos Demagogues or cultist leaders
- a Magos Explorator of the Adeptus Mechanicus
- a slightly more militaristic Navigator
I think it should really be easy enough to get rid of their obvious Genestealer characteristics and turn them into big Mutants, Scalies or Traitor Ogryns.
1st & 2nd Generation Hybrids:
It would take a bit of work, but I think these would make for excellent mutants, Scavvies or particularly downtrodden Traitor Guard soldiers.
3rd & 4th generation Hybrids:
And finally, these may just be some of the most versatile human-sized models ever released by GW, easily on par with the Dark Vengeance cultists! Depending on which bitz you use, these could become…
- Imperial working crews or miners
- voidfarers, naval crews or crewmen of a Rogue Trader’s vessel
- all kinds of cultists or Traitor Guard
- Tech Gangers (or alternate Delaque Gangers for Necromunda — just use Skitarii trenchcoats and you’re set 😉 )
- Members of an explorator team, hive delvers, maintenance workers or all kinds of underhive adventurers
- members of a Navigator’s retinue — their somewhat astronaut-like clothing would work really well for that!
- members of an Astra Militarum regiment or a planetary defense force
And all of those ideas have only taken me five minutes to come up with. In fact, I would argue that, between the Skitarii, Genestealer Hybrids, Dark Vengeance Cultists and Tempestus Scions, we now basically have the perfect toolkit for making every kind of grimdark soldier/explorer/footman at our fingertips. For starters, check out the following projects:
- Jagganath is using the more human cultists for a very interesting project to build underhive explorers, cultists and similarly shady characters here.
- Marcominius has recently begun using those hybrids as building blocks for creating some absolutely unbelievable Proto-Mechanicus Techno-Barbarians. Must see!
And it goes without saying that I cannot wait for weirdingway to start using the new models for his Navigator House Merz-Itano. That’s going to be brilliant, trust me! 🙂
So yeah, this is really a rather brilliant kit and a fantastic way of revitalising a part of the lore that we had thought permanently eliminated. As far as I am concerned, they could even have dropped the Space Mariens from the deal — but that just shows my excitement for the new Broodkin models. It seems like GW’s designers are always at their very best when coming completely out of the left field. And the subtlty of the hybrids is certainly something that some of the future kits (especially for Age of Sigmar) would do well to emulate!
So what are your thoughts on the new models? And do you have any crazy conversion ideas to share? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments!
And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!