Archive for dark eldar

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

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2015 by krautscientist

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

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

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

 

Harlequin Shadowseer

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Harlequin Death Jester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Harlequin Solitaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Harlequin Troupe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Harlequin Skyweavers

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

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

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

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

 

Harlequin Starweaver/Voidweaver

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Conversion options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Another day in the flesh pits – a look at the 2014 Dark Eldar release

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2014 by krautscientist

The 2010 Dark Eldar release was possibly one of the most spectacular GW releases ever. After basically fumbling every attempt at handling the Dark Eldar for over a decade, GW managed to entirely redesign an entire army, putting it on the map as one of the most beautiful and visually arresting factions in 40k, while also keeping all that had been cool about the army to begin with. Whatever they pay Jes Goodwin over at GW, it cannot possibly ever be enough…

The release also brought me back to the hobby, albeit in a rather roundabout way — Dark Eldar had been my first 40k army, after all! And even though I eventually settled on revisiting my World Eaters instead, it was the first look at the new Dark Eldar that rekindled my interest in little plastic men — the release was just that good!

All of this makes for a pretty tough act to follow, yet here we are, four years later, with another helping of Dark Eldar. In all fairness, this release doesn’t constitute another dramatic revamp, but rather serves to fill out the existing army with some of the kits yet missing from the lineup. But it is may just be the curse of the Dark Eldar now that any release will always be compared to that legendary offering of ’10.

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This release also brings a new Codex — which, by the look of it, already gets hotly debated all over the internet. But instead of shouting over the din, let’s rather focus on the models, because we’re all here for the plastic crack anyway, right? 😉

So, as has become a treasured custom here at Eternal Hunt, allow me to walk you through the various parts of this release and to share my impressions about the models as well as a couple of ideas for possible kitbashes and conversions. Here goes:

 

Voidraven Bomber

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This kit seems to be marketed as the big thing about this release — and indeed, DE players have been without a kit to represent the bigger of their two fliers for the last four years. Here it is now, the Voidraven — quite a beast!

Probably the biggest pitfall for GW’s designers to avoid was the danger of ending up with a model looking like a bigger version of the Razorwing, and they seem to have been very aware of this particular problem. Because, while the Voidraven clearly takes quite a few design cues from its smaller brother, it is still immediately recognisable as its own thing. This is mostly due to its “double cockpit”, and element that manages to give it a very distinct look and silhouette, while also immediately communicating the idea that this is a bomber rather than a quick fighter aircraft. Plus the model’s silhouette also recalls real-world cutting edge bombers, only with a serrated, sinister twist:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (4)In any case, the cockpit not only defines the model’s silhouette, but also serves as one of its key visual features: I really like the idea of the gunner being surrounded by glass panes, the better to see his enemies at all times. The HUD elements molded into the clear plastic canopy have appeared on other (Dark) Eldar vehicles before, but are really taken up to eleven here: I love it as a concept, although I’d probably suffer a heart attack if I actually had to paint these finicky details 😉

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The rest of the model basically adheres to the design cues laid down by the Razorwing: This is very obviously a vicious looking, serrated Dark Eldar aircraft — no doubt about it.

The model also comes with the results of GW’s attempt at designing an evil looking bomb — and boy did they succeed with that! By adding a hideous, organic spine to the thing, it really ended up looking quite disturbing: You don’t want that thing anywhere near or army — or, for that matter, yourself:

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You better believe that this is one dirty bomb! Just look at the thing!

It’s certainly a great kit, all in all, and if it fails to utterly blow me away, then that is not due to lack of quality, but rather due to my general lack of interest in vehicles. Moving on.

 

Dark Eldar Wracks

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Okay, this is where it gets far more interesting: When the Wracks were first released as during the second wave of the Dark Eldar revamp, GW finally delivered on the torturer archetype they had introduced with the Grotesques over a decade earlier. We all know what came next: The Grotesques were promoted to rather more monstrous creatures, while the newly created Wracks moved into the Grotesque slot — but the important part was that the new Wrack models were truly glorious! The only caveat to these models was that they were only available in Finecast.

Well, no longer, because enterprising sadists and torturers all over thh Webway are now free to field the glorious new plastic Wracks.

Apart from the material, the Wracks‘ design was already pretty much perfect as it was, so Steve Buddle made a good call by basically re-envisioning the existing models as a more versatile plastic kit without changing the overall aesthetics. He also added a ton of customisation options along the way, creating what may just be my new favourite Dark Eldar infantry kit. I mean, just look at these guys:

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Maybe my favourite part about the models are the slowly advancig legs: While the Wracks certainly share some of the other Dark Eldar’s elegance, their poses make it clear that they slowly but purposefully stride forward, making them all the more sinister and threatening!

Some of the weapons are also truly something to behold: I really love the hideous, curved twin blades held by the Acothyst in this picture:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (12)Or the creepily sinister scissor hand that also comes with the kit:

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Of course, there is a bit of silliness as well: One of the heads in the kit has a little friend:

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But even if you – like me – are not a big fan of this particular element, it’s all cool! The kit has so many heads and weapons that you can get rid of whatever you don’t like! Speaking of extra bitz, GW even included some additional bitz to make sure your vehicles could be piloted by Wracks as well:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (13)Although I suppose driving (or hitting anything) with those maks on must be quite a daunting task…

Seriously, though: The kit seems to be a great toybox that allows you to tailor your own wracks to your needs and aesthetic preferences! I only have two minor issues with the kit:

One, the transfer to plastic and modularity of the kit creates a new problem too: The arms of the models can now end up having a slightly tacked-on look. This is only a minor problem, and one that should be easy enough to address by carefully aligning the arms and sanding off a bit of plastic where necessary — and this problem is merely the price of poseability.

The second concern is the amount of models you get: The Wrack kit certainly fills a role similar to that of the Kabalite Warrior and Wych kits, yet it only gives you five models, compared to the ten that come with the other kits. Maybe that’s the price for the amount of options you get, but at the end of the day, it could be seen as a bit less bang for the buck.

But those are really minor quibbles! All things considered, it’s really awesome to have three distinct kinds of foot soldiers for a DE army now, with each of the kits following the same system and being fully compatible.  And the Wracks provide a great kit, chock full of conversion options — definitely the high point of the release for me!

 

We also get three new plastic HQ models, with each of them serving as one of the Dark Eldar generic HQ options, so let’s take a closer look at those as well:

 

Dark Eldar Haemonculus

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The Haemonculi have always owed a huge debt of inspiration to Clive Barker’s Cenobites, and the new plastic Haemonculus makes the visual connection even more obvious, in some ways (just check out the way his cloak seems to be sewn to his very chest). At the same time, the model also seems to serve as a remix of several elements already seen on earlier models: The sewn on face and weapons seem rather reminsicent of Urien Rakarth, for example.

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At the same time, the new Haemonculus seems somewhat more flamboyant, for lack of a better word, than his Finecast predecessor: He has more bare skin on show, for one, and there’s the flowing hair. To be honest, I did prefer the slim, leather-clad form of the Finecast Haemonculus to this new guy, but that may just be a matter of preference. And in any case, the Urien Rakarth model still hews pretty close to that design, while the new plastic model seems to represent a slightly different kind of “artist”. So while I personally prefer the older model, the added variety is still appreciated!

There are still one or two areas about the model I am not completely sold on, however. The way the skin-cloak falls seems a little messy when compared to the overall composition of the model. And the curved dagger seems surprisingly clunky when compared to some of the rather disturbing surgical implements wielded by the Haemonculus.

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A look at the sprue reveals that more involved conversions using this kit as a base would be slightly tricky, but certainly not impossible:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (17)All in all, it’s a solid model. If I am sounding slightly disappointed, that is mostly due to the fact that I had high hopes for the concept of a plastic Haemonculus and was looking forward to using it for a particular conversion project. As it stands, the new model is nice enough — but working with the Urien Rakarth model seems like the better way.

 

Dark Eldar Archon

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This guy replaces a model that was arguably one of the more iconic parts of the 2010 revamp: The Archon released along with that wave, with his daemon face helmet and hideously organic husk blade, really encapsulated the Dark Eldar’s visual change to a more baroque (and also more visceral) design.

When it comes to equipment and basic constituent parts, the new Archon model seems to mirror his predecessor pretty closely: We get the same basic armour design, almost the same weapons and also a cloak (although this one is made from tanned skin — nice touch…).

Let me address the elephant in the room right away: I think this new Archon model falls flat when compared to the earlier version, and that is mostly due to the pose. Oh, I certainly see what they were trying to do here — the Archon is shown in full magnificent bastard mode, and those arms are certainly a clever bit of engineering. No doubt about that.

But there are a couple of problems for me: First of all, the pose doesn’t look relaxed and natural, it looks like this guy is trying too hard. And what were they thinking when they added that rock to the base: That element makes the pigeon-toed stance even worse! And then there’s the face:

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Again, I get the basic idea: The Archon is supposed to be wearing an arrogant smirk — but this guy just looks like a doofus, trying his darnedest to seem like a tough cookie.

The other problem with this pose and composition is that it gets really awkward once you end up with two of these in the same army or on the same table: Now you’ve got two of those prancing idiots facing off in a posing contest. What a horrible thought! Anyway, I think a generic HQ model might be better served with a slightly more neutral pose!

Now don’t get me wrong: There are parts of the model I really like: The stitched together skin cape, the trophy rack (why does it punch through the cape, though? That doesn’t make sense…) — those are great touches. But the pose and face really ruin the stock model for me — why on earth didn’t they include a helmeted head? The older version had two to choose from, for crying out loud…

The really good news is that all that is horrible about the model should be quite easily remedied by a bit of kitbashing: The Archon is advertised as being fully compatible with the different DE plastic kits, and a closer look at the sprue reveals that this is no understatement:

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It looks like the arms could simply be swapped out for basically any DE arm in existence. The head, likewise, would be easy enough to replace (and good riddance!). As a matter of fact, it might even be possible to replace the legs with a regular set of Kabalite Warrior or Wych legs.

So, all’s well that ends well, then? Yes and no: As a stock  model, the Archon is the worst part of the release for me. It’s also a pretty poor replacement for the 2010 Archon. It can be used as a base for a great Archon model, no doubt about that. But one could argue that it’s equally possible to kitbash an awesome Archon without this kit altogether. Just off the top of my head, Picta Mortis’ amazing Archon conversion is far more awesome, and it doesn’t use a single component from the new model.

One last thing that strikes me as slightly odd: This new Archon seems to be designed to look very similar to the guy depicted on the 2010 edition of the codex while the new codex shows a character who is the spitting image of …the 2010 Archon model — is that some kind of hidden message or trolling on GW’s part?

 

Dark Eldar Succubus

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Okay, now we’re talking! Like the Archon, the new plastic Succubus seems to be a re-envisioning of its earlier Finecast version, but the transition ended up beeing a much smoother one with this lady! I love the fact that the model is now pictured in running pose (which seems more apt for a Wych), and several flowing elements about the model support the sense of movement and dynamism.

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I have to say I also really like the glaive!

At the same time, the model shares the Archon’s flexibility, so swapping in a new head or alternate arms would be really easy, as a look at the sprue reveals:

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All in all, the new plastic Succubus may not be a revolutionary revamp: Rather a re-envisioning of the earlier model that actually manages to improve on the original — at least in my opinion. Good job!

 

Conversion options:

No review on this blog would be complete without a look at the conversion options that the new kits bring, so let’s get right down to it:

Dark Eldar players are obviously the big winners, because they now have even more highly versatile plastic kits at their disposal: Almost the entire army is available in plastic now, with all of the kits perfectly in line with the current design, and all of them fully compatible and, in some cases, interlocking. Not only does this make the Dark Eldar one of the most stunning armies from a visual standpoint, it also pretty much turns them into a kitbasher’s dream! So yeah, good for you, Dark Eldar players! 😉

Looking beyond this army, however, there are certainly quite a few areas where some of the new kits could become pretty useful as well:

The Wracks are very much the jack-of-all-trades in this respect: For instance, they could be used as a wide variety of different cultists, among them Death cultists (or rather, torture cultists, as it were) Imperial traitors, renegade medics (!), Slaaneshi cultists — the sky is really the limit here! All it takes is some shaving down of the DE-like characteristics and some external bitz, and you’re golden! In fact, these could even become a very interesting base for very sinister Genestealer cultists with a bit of work — just sayin’…

But the forces of the Imperium may also profit from these: Just imagine an added brass etch =][= added on top of the wrack’s facemask, and you have a pretty serviceable Inquisitorial torturer! In fact, I think we can be fairly confident that the enterprising INQ28 scene will come up with all kinds of uses for these bad boys.

One last idea: Imagine a radical Genetor of the Adeptus Mechanicus, having made a name for himself as an expert flesh-crafter. Or even a Heretek of the Dark Mechanicus pursuing a similar career: Maybe some suitably twisted followers of these magi could also be built using the Wrack kit? Interesting thought, isn’t it?

The Haemonculus seems nearly as interesting for conversions: Like the Wracks, he could be turned into a flesh-crafting member of the Dark Mechanicus with a couple of changes. The dangling feet also remind me of a Daemonhost — or a rogue Psyker for a force of Traitor Guard, or as a character in games of INQ28 — once again, I am pretty sure that the INQ28 scene won’t disappoint when it comes to finding creative uses for this guy!

And, finally, the Succubus seems like an interesting base model as well. Maybe she could be turned into a lithe Imperial assassin? A Death Cultist? Or an Inquisitor’s beautiful and deadly operative? Again, due to the models being avaiable in plastic, it should only take a bit of kitbashing and a small cut here and there to truly change their overall look!

 

So, what’s the verdict about this release? All in all, I am inclined to call it a solid offering. This certainly doesn’t revolutionise the Dark Eldar catalogue like the prior release, but that was never the point. Rather, this release builds on the fantastic foundation laid down by the 2010 redesign and fills out a some of the few remaining gaps in the army’s catalogue.

Speaking of which, some of the gaps that still remain are maybe my biggest gripe with this release: Sure, I would have loved to see an Inccubi/Trueborn combi-kit in glorious plastic — but the Wracks were really the more essential infantry kit to be released. So far so good. But no model for Asdrubael Vect? Or any other of the named characters? That seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, especially since most of these characters have been dropped from the codex altogether! I mean, Dark Eldar players have gone without a model for Keradruakh for more than 15 years — why drop him now?

Even if some (any) of these characters should eventually get patched back into the army via an additional supplement, this does seem like a bit of a dick move on GW’s part. But I guess hobbyists can just never be happy, myself included 😉

 

Again, this seems like a solid, middle of the road release. But that’s just my take on it: How do you feel about the new Dark Eldar? Any opinions you’d like to share? Any conversion idea? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Post birthday ponderings & a blast from the past

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2014 by krautscientist

Happy Birthday
Last Saturday marked my 33rd birthday, and among other fleeting moments of introspection befitting such an occasion, the date made me realise that I’ve been in the business of messing around with little plastic men for about 20 years now — which seems pretty unreal, to tell you the truth. But instead of getting all sentimental and contemplative on you, let me take this opportunity to present you with a “blast from the past”, as it were, granting you a look at my very first army for Warhammer 40k — an army that, in many ways, started it all.

Before we do that, though, take a moment to marvel at the birthday image shown above which Annie sent me, totally making my day in the process: Not only did she put most of her Blood Bowl models to work on wishing me a happy birthday, but the picture also hints at some finished (or near finished) models for her new Piratz team — very awesome, and definitely something to look forward to! So, once again, thanks so much for the amazing surprise! 🙂

 

So yeah, back to the past. Before we take a look at this venerable project of mine, let me give you a little background, okay?

It was October 1998, and a new edition of Warhammer 40k had just been released. 2nd edition had been straining to accomodate hobbyists growing armies for a while, but in the end the rather cumbersome ruleset that had originally been designed for skirmishes, above all else, finally gave out. 3rd edition, then, brought some thorough streamlining to the system, and even then, this turned to be a bit of a divisive direction.

Back then, though, I didn’t know anything about this: I had gotten into WFB a while earlier, raising my first tabletop army ever. But even then, I realised that 40k called out to me, maybe even more than WFB did: I had been in love with what little of the setting I had been able to grasp from the butchered German version of Space Crusade, and a weekend spent blazing through the wonderful books from the 2nd edition starter box sold me on the setting.

So the new edition arrived at a time where I was contemplating a closer look at the 40k universe anyway. I eagerly gobbled up all the information about this new version of 40k, discussed in detail on the pages of (German) WD 34. Possibly even more important than any rules changes was the giveaway miniature the issue came with: A brand new plastic Dark Eldar warrior, the first representative of a completely new faction for 40k, and also the model that would launch my very first 40k army, pictured below: The Kabal of the Black Sun.

Old Dark Eldar (1)
In all fairness, it’s a rather boring army in many ways, because, like so many other first armies, it was build on what I could afford to buy from my weekly allowance at the time. So the army was assembled piecemeal, whenever I could afford to drop a bit of pocket money into my growing collection of spiky, pointy eared Space pirates.

This clearly reflects in the somewhat lopsided army composition: Lots and lots of plastic warriors (because these were the easiest to get hold of and delivered quite a bit of modeling bang for the buck), a couple of metal models (bought one at a time, except for the squad of Wyches), a squad of jetbikes (a rather expensive combi-kit back then, so I had to save up in order to be able to buy it) and, lastly, a Raider (the biggest purchase in pure monetary terms, and also possibly the most disappointing: I really only bought this model because it seemed to be absolutely compulsory for running a Dark Eldar army, but I was never all that fond of it, and it shows in the shoddy paintjob).

Anyway, even then, this army wasn’t really collected as a fighting force supposed to win any games (which, fittingly, it didn’t), but rather as an ongoing attempt at creating something cool. And while pretty much all of the models are horribly outdated – especially when compared to their modern counterparts – and while I am fully conscious of the technical shortcomings of my painting (which was even worse back then, if you can believe it…), I still think there are quite a few things to be proud of in this army, so let us take a closer look at some of the squads and individual models:

First up, one of my warrior squads. This one was supposed to serve as some kind of honour squad for my Archon, if the situation demanded it:

Old Dark Eldar (15)
In hindsight, I do of course realise that the true Stars of the show in the 3rd edition release were the multipart plastic Space Marines — as evidenced by the fact that it took a whopping 15 years for the kit to be substantially redesigned, and even then, today’s Space Marines still follow the basic recipe laid down by the 1998 release. The Dark Eldar Kabalite warriors were merely the byproduct of this process, and while they did help to pave the way towards a future of wonderful plastic kits to come, their first incarnation was probably a bit lacklustre even back then: The sprue only held the bare minimun of parts, with only a single special weapon and not much extra bitz to speak of: If you wanted different special weapons or more interesting squad leaders, you had to buy additional (metal) models — or you had to get creative!

And that’s exactly why I’ll always be indebted to those venerable plastic Xenos: It was both because they looked so samey and because they were so easy to convert, that I discovered how immensely fun it was to kitbash and convert plastic miniatures — still my favourite hobby activity today!

I can say without any hyperbole that I really went to town on the unassuming Kabalite Warriors sprue, creating an endless stream of conversions from it: running Kabalite warriors, more impressive Sybarites — I even used it to build a squad of Mandraks, because there weren’t any official models available for them back then. I also discovered the joys of kitbashing! For instance, this guy is a conversion I was enormously proud of for a very long time:

Old Dark Eldar (16)
Not even brain surgery, really: I just cut off the blades from a couple of Dark Eldar weapons and glued them to an old Craftworld Eldar power fist (that old CC weapons sprue was the best!), creating a very sinister and Dark Eldar-ish bladed gauntlet:

Old Dark Eldar (18)
This seemed like such an enormously fiddly conversion back then, but it filled me with a nearly unprecedented sense of achievement. And it also taught me something else: That converting each and every model in a given army in order to make each model special was a very worthy endeavour indeed! So where I had mostly been content to assemble the models by the book for my Warriors of Chaos army, the Dark Eldar taught me to be more adventurous, to try and push the envelope on my hobby projects!

But even I arrived at a point where I had burned myself out on the plastic Dark Eldar warriors and started to look for other resources. My eyes fell on the – then brand new – Eldar Guardians, and so I built a huge squad of kitbashed, bigger and meaner Kabalite warriors:

Old Dark Eldar (12)
Old Dark Eldar (11)

Old Dark Eldar (10)

Old Dark Eldar (9)
Again, none of these conversions are all that spectacular. But they surely felt that way back then — with detailed multipart plastic kits available for the first time!

Here’s the Sybarite for the squad of “Not Guardians”:

Old Dark Eldar (8)
Old Dark Eldar (7)
To tell you the truth, even in spite of all its obvious failings, I am still rather happy with the model’s slightly sinister elegance, even now.

Let me take this chance to address the paintjobs for a minute here: As you can see, I chose a very simple approach for my Dark Eldar: They were undercoated in black, then the armour plates were simply coated in gloss varnish, giving the models a slightly insectile look. The details were painted in gold and silver. Turquoise served as a spot colour (a habit I still keep up today ;-)) And while such a bare bones approach to painting might no longer fly today, I still think that this army made me realise that simple, striking colour schemes are the way to go. Sure, none of the models are anything to write home about from a painting perspective, but they still manage to look rather coherent and striking as a collection. At least until you get closer to them… Also take note of the classic 90s basing recipe: Goblin Green and green flock FTW! 😉

But back to the models themselves: My experience with these plactic kits even made me slightly more adventurous when it came to filling up the lack of official Dark Eldar models with my own creations. For instance, I added a Dark Eldar bit to an old Dark Elf plastic Sorceress in order to create a subcommander for my Dark Eldar:

Old Dark Eldar (14)

And while we’re on the subject of army commanders: The – rather limited – collection of (metal) characters and specialists was, of course, the other thing that defined the Dark Eldar back then. These models created some much needed variety and also seemed so cool in those days. Not all of them have managed to age all that gracefully, but I suppose that’s a given. Anyway, let us take a closer look at that side of my army:

Old Dark Eldar (5)
Old Dark Eldar (6)
First up, my Archon. I used GW’s stock Archon model which is very much a product of its time, of course, with huge shoulder pads and an almost ridiculous headdress (and I am still not sure whether I like the flayed face…), but I think it’s also a pretty apt representation of the Dark Eldar’s essence: The model is spiky and undeniably evil, but it also has this sinister, slightly depraved elegance. It’s also important to remember that this particular niche didn’t exist in 40k back then (because the Slaaneshi Chaos Space Marine models were far too bulky and out there to truly register as elegant). Plus I do have a soft spot for this guy!

The lances glued to the model’s back were originally intended as a trophy rack. I would have added a new trophy for each defeated enemy. A neat concept, but, alas, it never came to that: I never defeated a single enemy, for one. And looking back now, it was probably for the best, because the quality of the bitz back then would probably have made the trophy rack look absolutely hideous!

There’s also this model, a Sybarite for the Kabalite warriors:

Old Dark Eldar (13)
And, to be honest with you, this may be one of my favourite tabletop models ever, and one that I still love. Sure, it looks to big and bulky when stood next to the regular Kabalite Warriors. Sure, the thickness of the various blades and the model’s claws harken back to a different period of casting. And yes, the pose is a bit clichéd. But it’s still an all-time favourite of mine, because it perfectly embodies what the Dark Eldar are about. It’s really a shame that this guy looks even bulkier when placed to the new (2010) Dark Eldar, because he would be an essential addition to any pointy eared army, otherwise. Oh yes, for the record: I am none to happy with the crappy blending on the claw 😉

Of all the models in the old Dark Eldar catalogue, I think it’s the Haemonculi that have best managed to hold up by modern standards. In fact, if I were to start a Dark Eldar army today, I would seriously consider using them as “regular” Haemonculi, with the floating, multi-limbed new Haemonculi only used as elders or army commanders. Anyway, take a look:

Old Dark Eldar (2)
First up, the older version of Urien Rakarth. I am still reasonably happy with my paintjob — especially so since the model was actually repainted at one point to bring it more in line with my Kabal’s colour scheme.

And here’s his colleague, a regular Haemonculus (insofar as the term “regular” can be applied to these guys):

Old Dark Eldar (4)
This model was also pretty much the first instance of really stepping outside my comfort zone during painting. It may not look like much now, but painting the face by highlighting the prominent areas in ever more delicate layers of paint really showed me that there might be more to painting than just doing the bare minimum. Sure, I could probably do much better today, but it still started here.

Old Dark Eldar (3)

I actually own the third unique Haemonculus sculpt as well, although I haven’t painted the model yet. Perhaps I should, though, because these guys would probably work equally well in a radical INQ28 retinue…

All in all, the Haemonculi were one of the most original and new concepts about the Dark Eldar back when they were released, and it’s cool to see that these models still hold up — at least in my opinion.

Another model that I am still rather fond of is the older incarnation of Lelith Hesperax:

Old Dark Eldar (21)
Old Dark Eldar (19)
Old Dark Eldar (20)
Sure, there is much to be said for the much more restrained, modern version of the model, but I cannot help feeling fond of the sci-fi dominatrix look of the old model. Plus this model holds a special place in my heart for the challenge it presented painting-wise: Getting the contrast between the spiky armour and the softer, organic shapes of the unarmoured parts just so was quite a challenge for someone only used to painting bulky Chaos Warriors — and probably especially difficult for any lad still mired in the late afterpains of puberty 😉

Alas, her accompanying retinue of Wyches has not fared quite as well:

Old Dark Eldar (22)
Again, the are just a little too 90s, with their unbelievably big hair and clunky, retro-futuristic musical performer design — especially when compared to their gorgeous modern incarnation. They are still good fun, of course, but in a slightly corny way. Still, these guys and girls make me scratch my head in wonder at how I managed to paint all those tiny pupils back then — this seems to be one of the things I have actually managed to unlearn since those simpler days…maybe it’s the onset of middle age?

 

We all know the rest of the original story, of course: The Dark Eldar went through a pretty rough patch, being kept at arms length by GW for a very long amount of time. It took until an – admittedly spectacular – relaunch in 2010 to finally update the army, and even though that relaunch was one of the factors getting me back into the hobby after a longer hiatus, it didn’t see me return to the army: Although I did try to continue where I had left off, I realised that my heart was no longer in it, despite the amazing new models. So I turned to the forces of chaos instead, my other great hobby love. And you know the rest (or can at least read up on it on this blog in case you don’t).

In the larger scheme of things, however, this army is still immensely important for my personal hobby life, not only because it was my first 40k army, but mostly because it managed to teach me so many important lessons that are still helpful today. Granted, many of my growing pains of my hobbyist are clearly evident in the models themselves. But the army was instrumental as a means of departing from the slavish adherence to the pretty pictures on the boxes in many ways, and for that alone, it marks an important step in my personal hobby history.

 

So yeah, the things you think about in the aftermath of your birthday, right? 😉
Anyway, I hope this little blast from the past has been as enjoyable for you as collecting my thoughts on the matter has been for me! It goes without saying that I would love to hear any feedback you might have!

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

Pointy is the new evil – the Dark Elves’ second wave

Posted in Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2013 by krautscientist

Here we are, one month later, with something we haven’t seen in a while: a second release wave for an army! Seems like GW weren’t messing around when they announced they wanted to reinvent the entire Dark Elves’ line of models.

This month’s release brings another slew of combi-kits and a new plastic character. So let’s take it all in stride and, most of all, let’s take a closer look! Here goes:

 

Dark Riders/Doomfire Warlocks

Dark Elves release (23)
This – quite moderately priced – kit is truly brimming with options, starting with the fact that you get two unit types out of it. The first of these are the Dark Riders, outriders quickly zooming ahead of the army and causing all kinds of mischief for the enemy. GW’s designers actually underlined their function as a fast and highly mobile selection by having them posed astride their mounts like jockeys at a horse race, which is a pretty nice touch if you ask me.

Overall, I really like the design of these riders as cloaked, shadowy soldiers. And the different bitz you get with the kit let you build fairly different versions of the same models:

Dark Elves release (24)
My favourite detail has to be that you get three different sets of heads and are free to either have each of your riders follow the same style or happily mix and match. While the helmetless heads suffer from some rather eclectic hairstyles, I really like the heads with helmets and cowls:


Dark Elves release (25)

The helmets are, once again, a callback to classic Dark Elf design sensibilities, while the cowls may be my favourite option. Great job!

All in all, this is a rock solid representation of the Dark Riders, and it’s quite nice to finally have them available in plastic. I do have one small gripe about the kit, but we’ll be getting to that in a minute.

The other option is to assemble the kit as Doomfire Warlocks

Dark Elves release (26)…and, in all honesty, they should have gone the whole hog here and called these guys Doomfire Warlocks of DOOOM! Just kidding 😉

These guys are male sorcerers damned to a horrible fate by the Witch King: Their souls are forfeit to Slaanesh, should they not find suitable sacrifices to keep the Dark Prince at bay. And once again, the very different nature of the models compared to the Dark Riders clearly comes across, even though they are using the same base models.

Where the latter are shadowy, cowled and cloaked figures, the Doomfire Warlocks very much look like the damned souls that they are: With bare upper bodies and their hair streaming behind them, these have an eerie, spectral quality.

For some reason, the faces on these models are highly reminiscent of Chris Fitzpatrick’s work on the older Dark Elf models, which seems like a bit of an odd choice when most of the release is obviously hell-bent on doing away with this look altogether…

Dark Elves release (27)
I do like the slightly twisted faces, though, since they make the models look unlike everything else in the army. My one problem with these is that the hair does look a little hokey — and really not all that much like hair to begin with. But this may have been intentional in the first place.

The horses are now far more twisted and demonic looking than before, ostensibly to make them look like the sinister influence of both the Dark Elves’ black magic and Naggaroth itself have influenced their bloodline:

Dark Elves release (29)

The twisted, lipless heads are quite scary! And while the new look might fit the darker nature of the Dark Elves when compared to their goodie two shoes brethren, herein lies my main gripe with the kit:

Dark Elves release (28)
Take a look at the horse in the picture above. Now I might be wrong about this, but doesn’t it seem like those legs are far too spindly and sticklike to actually look realistic? And slightly too long as well? Now it is important to notice that we here at Eternal Hunt are certainly not sticklers when it comes to realism, but in this case, the model seems to lack anatomical plausibility, which is a very different problem.

This actually goes for both variants of the kit, since they are using the same horses. Granted, this will probably not be too much of an issue when the regiment is properly lined up, but it is my main point of contention with the kit.

 

Scourgerunner Chariot / Cold-One Chariot

Dark Elves release (30)
In an interesting subversion of expectations, the Dark Elf chariot design is quite different from that of the High Elves: With a mono-wheel and the general design supposed to resemble nothing so much as the prow of a ship, the chariot carves out a very distinct design for itself.

My one problem with this decision is that, even though I acknowledge the intended effect, the chariot doesn’t look like it could actually go all that fast:

Dark Elves release (33)The chariot itself comes in two possible flavours: The Scourgerunner Chariot is being piloted by a Beastmaster crew, and the design of the models really makes them look the part, with the Beastmasters wearing the hides of wild beasts and resembling the handlers that come with the Hydra kit:

Dark Elves release (31)

The High Beastmaster is easily identifiable by his ostentatious cloak and and the facial scars that probably come with the territory in his line of work:

Dark Elves release (32)
This guy is probably my favourite part about the kit, and I could easily imagine him being used as a special character or even a Dark Eldar Archon with an adventurous streak…

The other option is to use the kit to build a Cold-One Chariot:

Dark Elves release (34)
Now Cold Ones win absolute best everything all the time in my book, simply by virtue of being a more badass version of the already awesome, real-life Velociraptor or Deinonychus. I have always loved the Cold Ones, and their latest incarnation is simply brilliant, so it stands to reason that this chariot would be pretty cool as well, right? Unfortunately, though, beyond the awesome reptilian members of the crew, the warriors steering the chariot are pretty standard fare. And even more of those topknots. Yeesh…

All in all, it’s really a nice enough kit though. I have to admit that I am not perfectly sold on the mono-wheel look, but that’s just me. As with any chariot (combi-)kit, the fact that it comes with many cool bitz should make it useful even beyond its original function.

 

Executioners/Black Guard

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Now here’s a high point about this release! Some of the Dark Elves’ most elite units are finally available as a plastic kit. Even better, you can build both unit types using this combi-kit!

Looking at the Black Guard first, it’s plain to see that these are, once again, a very nice callback to the 4th edition models, although some design cues of the last edition clearly remain. The design actually takes cues from the best elements of both versions, with the Black Guard looking heavily armoured and suitably pointy and spiky. Like more badass versions of last month’s Dark Elf warriors, these have all the discipline and elegance that you would expect from an elven regiment, yet also clearly come agross as evil and sinister — mission accomplished, I guess!

I really love the sinister look created by the helmets, although the champion head is certainly a matter of personal preference:

Dark Elves release (38)
What is it with all of those topknots? Is there something innately evil about that kind of hairstyle?

Anyway, the Black Guard are looking excellent, period!

Since this is also a combi-kit, it’s possible to build a regiment of Black Guard or Executioners:

Dark Elves release (35)
While using the same bodies, the Executioners get different weapons, different heads and, in a nice touch of variety, are holding their swords in both hands. The skull masks show a nice, elven take on the recurring WFB motif of skulls (and also double as a stylised symbol of Khaine).

It goes without saying that the kit also comes with some brilliantly morbid details, such as a severed High-Elf head:

Dark Elves release (36)

My favourite part about the kit has got to be how nothing more than a change of heads and weapons is needed to thoroughly change the silhouette of the same base model:

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Definitely one of my favourite kits from the new Dark Elf catalogue!

 

Black Ark Fleetmaster

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And here’s my other favourite: Yet another plastic character (which is always great), and one that truly embodies some archetypal qualities of the Dark Elves: The Fleetmaster looks vicious and arrogant. The trophies of bone and skin and his spiky leg prosthesis give him a slightly feral quality, yet there’s also a sinister kind of elegance. Granted, the hair may be a bit over the top, but there’s nothing stopping you from changing it according to your preferences.

I also love the fact that the naval commanders of the Dark Elves haven’t been explored too thoroughly so far – one special character notwithstanding – so the Fleetmaster gives us an interesting glimpse at this side of Dark Elf culture.

Converting the model will need some thought, as with all the single pose plastic characters, yet I am confident that this model would make a great base for all kinds of Dark Elf, Dark Eldar or even Eldar commanders.

 

Conversion options

Possibly the most interesting part for me about this whole release: What can the enterprising hobbyist use all these new toys for? And what could be done to transform them into something else?

As with last month’s release, these kits will probably be most useful from a conversion perspective to Eldar and Dark Eldar players: The Black Guard and Executioners could be transformed into very menacing looking Trueborn for a Dark Eldar force (or pretty sinister Guardians for an allied Eldar detachment). The Executioners‘ skull masks would doubtlessly look great on Harlequins and/or Wyches. And if you can find a way of kitbashing Reaper Launchers, those Executioners themselve could become brilliant Dark Reapers, in my opinion.

The Dark Rider/Doomfire Warlock kit could also be used in interesting ways: What about transforming those Dark Riders into slightly sinister Exodites? Their cowled heads could also be really useful for basically any pointy-eared army in both 40k and WFB. And those Doomfire Warlock bodies would be pretty cool as daemonhosts. Or they could be used as a way of kitbashing plastic Mandraks — just sayin’…

The chariot mostly seems interesting for its crew members: Those beastmasters would make great beastmasters (DUH!) in a Dark Eldar army, while the High Beastmaster would be an excellent base for an Archon or special character conversion. Some of the chariot bitz could also be used to decorate Dark Eldar vehicles (or to make Eldar tanks and jetbikes look suitably sinister in an allied detachment…).

And then, there’s the Fleetmaster: With the Dark Eldar styling themselves pirate kinds and sinister freebooters, he would make for a fantastic Archon to lead a pirate force. Or a corsair-styled Eldar army. Or you could use him as a counts as Duke Sliscus — he exudes just the right blend of menace and decadence for that role…

 

While this month’s part of the Dark Elf release seems slightly less exciting to me than last month’s kits, it’s still an impressive release. Last month, I asked myself whether this redesign was on par with the reinvention of the Dark Eldar in 2010. With two months’ worth of beautiful models now in our hands, I have to say that the completely revamped he Dark Elves are now one of the most stunning armies in WFB from a visual standpoint. If I were to return to WFB (not likely…), they would probably be one of my preferred army choices.

But even beyond the confines of WFB, the new kits should provide converters and kitbashers with some very interesting material. And I, for one, am very much looking forward to seeing all the brilliant Dark Eldar conversions that will come out of this release! Why is it that GW always seem to reserve their best work for evil, pointy elves, I wonder?

On a mostly unrelated note, isn’t it weird how much we’ve grown accustomed to a new army coming out every month? This release gives us a bunch of awesome new toys to play with, yet I cannot help feeling an – admittedly very faint – feeling of disappointment that this is “merely” a second wave of an army that was already released. So while so many hobbyists like to criticise GW for just about everything, the breakneck speed of quality releases is really astounding, and it’s almost shocking to see how quickly we have adapted to it…

 

But what do you think? Are you happy with the new Dark Elves? Have you already started an army of them, just to get your hands on these beautiful kits? Or do you think that they could have been even better? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Spiky pointy people – a look at the new Dark Elves

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2013 by krautscientist

Another month, another new release: This time, it’s the Dark Elves’ turn: The army reveives a complete design overhaul that rivals the redesign of their dark future counterpart, the Dark Eldar. So, once again, let’s take a look at this month’s release in order to figure out the good and the bad and to come up with some conversion ideas.

Dark Elves release (1)

You might be surprised to learn that I have always had a huge soft spot for the Dark Elves: Back in my WFB days (during the 90s), a box of metal Cold One Knights may actually have been the first GW models I ever purchased, and  I even bought the 4th edition army book and had some grand notion of building a Dark Elf army. Alas, the price of assembling such a force proved to be far too steep for my pocket money as a lad: Most models were also only available in metal. So, apart from a squad of Cold One Knights that I bought and painted piecemeal, and a small unit of plastic Dark Elf warriors, my plans of an army of Druchii never quite got off the ground: Instead, I turned to chaos, my one true tabletop love (and, coincidentally, the army with the most plastic kits available back then). But I still marveled at the background of the Dark Elves. But what did I find so interesting about them?

The Dark Elves are truly an evil race, no surprises there. But where chaos as a faction is evil in an archetypal, almost incomprehensible way, the Dark Elves have this strong leitmotif of fallen glory. Champions of chaos only follow their own ambition and the twisted reasons of their dark gods, but the Dark Elves believe that it is their birthright to rule, a birthright denied them by their High Elf kin. It’s great fun to imagine the courts of Naggaroth, rife with perverted beauty and intrigue, a society turning on itself in the desperate struggle to maintain their power and majesty. And it’s also very interesting to have a force that looks every bit as elegant and disciplined as a High Elf army, only with a more spiky and sinister design and some seriously disturbing, even monstrous additions.

So, how does this translate to the new release? Those familiar with the 4th edition army book will immediately notice that the new models were very much inspired by the Dark Elf designs of the early to mid 90s: They look less like Dark Eldar with medieval equipment and more like sinister reflections of High Elves. I think the overall visual direction for these models is a fantastic blend of nostalgia and modern design trappings. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a look at the different kits:

 

Cauldron of Blood/Bloodwrack Shrine

Dark Elves release (2)

Let’s begin with a huge kit, and arguably the visually most impressive addition to the Dark Eldar catalogue: The Cauldron of Blood shares quite a few design cues with the Vampire Counts Coven Throne, if you ask me, so if you didn’t like that one, it seems you’re pretty much out of luck. If, like me, you found the Coven Throne to be a fantastically over the top, beautifully eclectic piece, chancec are you’ll find a lot to like about this model as well!

Of course, you could always argue that there’s a slightly silly concept at the heart of it all, with the basic frame of the cauldron making it look like the Witch Elves are bringing along their own set of stairs for their special show act. But even a cynic interpretation like that would be strangely fitting for the Dark Elves for whom evil and style always go hand in hand, don’t you think?

My favourite part of the model has got to be the imposing and immensely spiky statue of Khaine towering above the cauldron. This statue turns the model into a great centre piece for any Dark Elf army, plus it should make for a brilliantly sinister (plastic!!!) Avatar of Khaine for all you (Dark) Eldar players out there. Some work on the pose would probably be required, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Whether you intend to use the statue as a standalone model in your 40k force or in its original function, though, it’s a brilliant element.

I also quite like both the actual cauldron and the statue bearing it on its back:

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The kit comes with several Witch Elves, all of them in suitably theatrical poses:

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The Death Hag would also make a great character model (both for WFB and for 40k…):

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And finally, the model for Crone Hellebron is another high point. This bonny lass really exemplifies what Dark Elves have always been about for me: spiky bitz, theatrical poses and extremely huge hair:

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I do of course realise that this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I love the design. Again, used on her own, she could make a great character for a Dark Elf army, a great Dracon for Dark Eldar Kabal or even a Slaaneshi cult leader for INQ28.

In addition to all of this, there’s also the option of assembling the kit as a Bloodwrack Shrine, which gets rid of the Khaine statue and replaces it with a mirror, used to keep a particularly pissed off Bloodwrack Medusa in check:

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Some may feel that the inclusion of a Medusa comes a bit out of the left field, but strange, serpent-bodied creatures have been a part of Dark Elf iconograpgy at least since the 4th edition army book, so it all works out.

While the basic construction remains the same between both variants, some of the additional bitz are really cool. Granted, that mirror will be a hell of a chore to paint if you want to pull of a convincing effect and don’t work for the ‘Eavy Metal team 😉

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But from the beautifully decorated back of the mirror to the alternate face masks for the witch elves, there’s a lot of variety if you assemble the kit this way. The ornaments on the back of the mirror are also an excellent example of the Dark Elves sinister but stylish culture.

The star of the show should be the Bloodwrack Medusa, of course, so let’s take a closer look at her:

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I love the pose! And this girl should be a real looker on the table, both if you use it as part of the shrine or as a standalone model. My favourite part has to be the clawed gauntlet:

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The face is a bit of a letdown, though: I would have loved the snake hair to billow around the face more, for one, and that facial expression makes her look like a dumbstruck idiot. I know GW can pull of much better female faces (as is evident with several models in this very release), so this one is a bit of a bummer. On a more positive notice, for all those who have been lamenting the decrease in bare breasts over the last years: Seems like you at least get one uncovered boob out of this kit. Yay! 😉

One last though: Wouldn’t the Bloodwrack Medusa be an interesting option for a plastic Fulgrim conversion? Just sayin’…

 

War Hydra/Kharybdiss

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Okay, I’ll be honest with you: The War Hydra is the absolute low point of this release for me: The pose seems slightly awkward (what on earth is happening with those hind legs?) and the heads are just plain terrible. It boggles the mind how GW’s designers have gone through three different versions of this creature without ever coming up with a cool looking model. And seeing the awesome monsters Trish Camden is designing for Forgeworld, it’s hard to come to grips with the silliness of this model.

In all fairness, one of the different paintjobs showcased in this month’s WD has the model look slightly less horrible, but there’s really no way of seeing beyond those silly snake heads… Anyway, I just want to put you through anymore of my ranting: The Hydra is my least favourite model coming from this month’s release, period.

That being said, the kit has another option, however: It can also be used to build the sea-dwelling Kharybdiss:

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Let’s just ignore the fact that the whole sea-dwelling thing doesn’t seem to make too much sense, given the fact that this monster will only ever be used on land in Dark Elf armies. And, to get this out of the way as well:  I may not be huge on classical education, but that particular spelling of Charybdis made me die a little inside. Plus did you guys do realise that the original Charybdis wasn’t a monster but a whirlpool, right? Scylla’s the one you want for the monster, people.

That aside, the Kharybdiss variant of assembling the kit does, strangely enough, solve much of what seems wrong about the hydra: The different heads make the creature look completely alien. And since you’re hard pressed to tell what this thing is supposed to be in the first place, the pose doesn’t really matter that much. Strange, I know, but for the, those heads make the model much better, precisely because they are so strange. The one thing I’m not keen on is that growth on the tip of the tail, but that should be easy enough to replace.

So, for me at least, the Kharybdiss is the definite way to go with this kit. It’s just strange enough to work, while the hydra is just silly.

Oh, and let’s not forget the beastmasters: On the one hand, both models are sporting what may be my least favourite elven hairstyle. Still, it’s nice that they got their own, distinct look, with clothes made from tanned monster hide and all.

A final thought: Maybe those Hydra heads could at least be used as Alpha Legion ornaments? I don’t know…

 

Dreadspears/Darkshards/Bleakswords

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Phew, they really know how to motivate the Naggaroth citizens to join the Dark Elf armed forces with those unit names alone, don’t they?
Anyway, these will bascially be the main troops for any Dark Elf army, so it’s clear that this is a pretty important kit.

And GW has really managed to deliver with these: From a visual standpoint, the models  are a definite callback to the older metal warriors, and for me at least, they are everything you could ask of Dark Elf soldiers: They are clearly identifiable as evil, pointy gitz, yet they retain the discipline and sinister elegance that defines the elves.

The one problem I have with these is that, from a converter’s point of view, you lose a lot of flexibility with this kit: All the bodies and heads are single piece, with only the hands and some doodads left as separate bitz. That means they don’t exactly lend themselves all that well to expansive conversions.

In all fairness, though, players will probably need a lot of these guys, so flexibility in posing them is really less important than ease of assembly (and the ability to rank them up without a hitch). And it’s great that they have all the equipment options in the box this time around, giving you three possible regiment types:

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And while I certainly don’t hate the older plastic warriors – they were pretty cool for their time – it’s good that the new warriors’ proportions are now finally in tune with the Black Ark Corsairs and Cold One Knights (although those hands still seem to be a bit on the big side, if you ask me…).

One small thing that bugs me, though: Why is it that helmetless Dark Elves always have to default back to one of two pretty horrible hairstyles?

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However, all in all, these are just what you would ask of your most important troop choice. Good job all around, GW!

 

Witch Elves/Sisters of Slaughter

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While the Dreadspears were the obligatory part, these girls are the freestyle performance, so to speak. And they are definitely the stars of the show for me for a number of reasons, but we’ll be getting to that in a minute.

First of all , these are also very much a callback to the 90s’ metal Witch Elves — the colour of the hair in the official ‘Eavy Metal paintjobs couldn’t be any more telling… The fact that these are plastic now means we get some much cooler poses, and these ladies really excel at dynamism!

And to address the elephant in the room: Yes, these models are clearly on the more stripperific side, but GW at least clearly resisted the temptation of making them too busty.  And in contrast with some of the recent High Elves (yes, I am looking at you, Sisters of Avelorn!), at least these gals really look feminine enough to actually pass for females!

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The alternate option for the kit is to assemble some Sisters of Slaughter, and this is where things really gets interesting:

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With their sinister facemasks and whips made from hair, these models are quite different from the Witch Elves while using the same bodies and poses. They would also make for excellent Wyches, Death Cultists or, indeed, Slaaneshi cultists, if you ask me. Or you could even kitbash them with some Daemonettes for very interesting results…

The one little thing I really don’t like about the kit is the awkward pose of the musician:

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Seems like she has to coordinate some rather complex actions there…

Apart from this one small gripe, this is clearly my favourite part of this release, and as soon as I had seen this kit, I was pretty sure that I would pick up one just for the heck of it.

And then I saw the price tag.

Wow. Just wow. 45 Euros for ten of those? No matter how many bitz you get, that is a bit of a ripoff. Sure, I can see how one of the big kits would cost that much. But ten – rather small – infantry models? I don’t want to keep ranting about GW’s prices, believe me, but it’s really a shame they took what is probably the most interesting kit of this whole release and priced it like that. I mean, that’s almost a hundred Euros for a decent sized regiment of these girls. And even for a huge plastic crack enthusiast such as myself, that seems a bit much…

 

Shadowblade

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And finally, the one new character so far — and the model’s plastic — yay! The standout parts of the model are the highly dynamic pose and the impressive cape flowing behind it. This last part is very obviously GD painter bait, if you ask me…
What’s really cool is that the way Shadowblade is posed on his base means that you’ll be able to almost pose him above his designated target — only a fun little detail, of course, but I still like it. My main gripe with the model is that it seems little devoid of personality, although I guess that is pretty much the whole point of the exercise in this case.

Let me also say that Dark Eldar players could be looking at a pretty cool base model for a counts as Kheradruakh here…

 

Conversion potential

Another thing this release excels at is the amount of conversion potential it brings:

First up, most of the new stuff will prove immensely useful to Dark Eldar players, obviously. The Death Hag or Crone Hellebron would make for awesome female Dark Eldar commanders. The Witch Elves are brilliant alternate Wyches. And the Sisters of Slaughter would be a very interesting and equally sinister way of representing Wyches in a Haemonculi Coven themed army. But all of this seems pretty obvious.

An even more interesting option would be to use parts from the Dreadspears and/or Witch Elves to build more sinister Eldar Guardians, either for use in an Ulthwé army, or in a mixed force of allied Eldar an Dark Eldar. And, like I said earlier, that Khaine statue would make for a fantastic, if sinister, Avatar.

All in all, for fans of the pointy eared armies, the options for creative kitbashing are really endless here.

But worshippers of chaos should also find a lot to like about this release: Many of the models would look great in a WFB or 40k army dedicated to Slaanesh: From the serpentine Bloodwrack Medusa to the daemon masked Sisters of Slaughter, there are all kinds of options (with the one for alternate cultists maybe the most interesting, if also most expensive one).

And finally, INQ28 aficionados should also take a close look at this release: They’ll find ample material for several varieties of cultists and some of the best female GW models to date — always a challenge for every fan of Inquisitor played at the 28mm scale!

 

As you will have gleaned from my enthusiasm for the models so far, I think that this is a very strong release with only very minor design slipups. My main point of contention isn’t even the horrible War Hydra model, but rather the pricing on the Witch Elves — it doesn’t even seem to fit the rest of the model range at all. Apart from that, though, it’s plain to see that the GW designers have poured lots of attention into this complete redesign.

So, the final question remains: Is this a redesign on par with the fabled 2010 relaunch of the Dark Eldar? It seems official now that the new Dark Elves will be released in two waves, and with leaked pictures of the next slew of kits already making their rounds all over the internet, I think it’s fair to say that, yes, this is a redesign every bit as involved as that of the Dark Eldar. I, for one, am very much looking forward to next month already! Will I begin a Dark Elf army now? No, I do have that much impulse control at least. But my dark and forbidden love for the Druchii will fester, and who can say what will happen?

 

So much for my take on the new models, but what do you think? Do you like the new designs as much as I do? Are you already contemplating all kinds of crazy conversions? Or do you feel completely differently about this release? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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

The campaign trail

Posted in Battle report, Chaos, Fluff, Pointless ramblings, Uncategorized, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by krautscientist

Right in time for the release of the Crusade of Fire book, I noticed quite a few people mouthing off on the forums how campaigns and narrative gaming were basically a waste of time. Now while I may not have years and years of gaming experience under my belt, I feel I would still like to present the other side to that argument.

Instead of talking about GW’s new campaign book, though, let’s rather take a general look at what narrative gaming can do for you:

One of the criticisms leveled at narrative gaming in general and campaigns in particular tends to be that both can end up feeling rather gimmicky: After all, all the special rules and setpieces can make for a rather unbalanced gaming experience, right? But does it really take all those special rules in the first place in order to have a narrative experience? Case in point: The small campaign I have been running for quite a while now with cousin Andy and a couple of his buddies:

Haestia Primaris’ Mardias subcontinent – the stage for our campaign

The campaign is set on the world of Haestia Primaris, in the Segmentum Pacificus. The planet has been isolated from much of the rest of the Imperium of Man by the warp storm Maluriel for some fifty years, and it has taken all the power of the authorities to keep the planetary population in line in the face of adversity. Now the storm is over, but what should be a joyous occasion for the people of Haestia Primaris takes a turn for the worse as several sinister forces arrive to lay claim to the undefended world.

This was all the background we needed for having all kinds of battles involving our different armies, although I decided to add some smaller narrative hooks, in case anyone wanted them: The Craftworld Eldar are trying to retrieve an ancient artifact of their race from Haestia Primaris (known to them as Y’lanth’Ine, a former jewel in the crown of their galaxy spanning empire). The Dark Eldar originally desired nothing more than to prey on the planetary population, but find themselves forced into an uneasy alliance with their Craftworld kin when the warriors of Khorne’s Eternal Hunt try to capture the artifact as a worthy prey and tribute to their god. And during all of this, dark things walk the jungles of Candolfus: Is a Daemon invasion inevitable?

We devised a fairly simple set of campaign rules, based on moves on a hex grid. Occupying certain grids bestows smaller buffs to the controlling army. Whenever two (or more) players try to occupy the same grid, there’s a battle. Pretty simple, really. We have also been using the experience system for campaigns from the 5th edition rulebook so far, to show how certain units tend to get stronger over time.

our campaign map halfway through turn three. The green arrows mark games that have yet to be played.

Indeed, the setup doesn’t seem all that sophisticated. But that actually works in our favour: Running a campaign with many players and maintaining a tightly paced narrative may be fantastic, but it is also an enormous challenge. As soon as more than two people are involved, things tend to get complicated rather quickly. And so many a campaign have been running for years and years, without any conclusion in sight. Frustrating, right?

Not necessarily: Our own campaign has been tottering on for more than a year now, with only half a dozen games played so far. But since we are taking a very laidback approach to the whole thing, it’s not that much of a problem. Indeed, we are trying to leave out all the stressful parts (micromanaging the participants’ schedules, writing angry e-mails back and forth,…) and just run the odd game every once in a while. Whenever we do play, however, the game can easily be slotted into the running campaign. After all, the campaign is there as a tool for making games more enjoyable, not as something that should stress us out more than a regular day job.

The games themselves can be as standard or elaborate as we want them to be. But due to the background, all kinds of narrative hooks start presenting themselves, even during the most pedestrian battles. For instance, when three of us were coincidentally vying for control of the same hex, we devised a battle where a coalition of Eldar and Dark Eldar would defend a priceless Eldar artifact against the World Eaters’ fourth assault company (the battle report can be found here).

The forces of Khorne’s Eternal Hunt and a mixed Eldar force, duking it out at the Y’lanth’Ine basin

When that game ended in a draw (due to a pretty stupid tactical oversight on my part), the next game was all about the angry Chaos Lord Charun trying to get his revenge on the Xenos filth. When I lost that game, it made me think about how this outcome would affect the officer in charge, and once again, the narrative continued

All of this not only provided more context for our games, but also transformed some of my models from mere playing pieces into veritable characters: I don’t think I would never have come up with such elaborate backstories for Huntmasters Bardolf and Charun and for their simmering rivalry, if not for the campaign.

Huntmaster Bardolf. He and his fellow officer Charun have really come into their own as characters.

Consequently, I have started to conceive my models with at least one eye firmly on their background at all times, creating a collection of characters worthy of a millennia-old Traitor legion. And using them in consecutive games has made me think what their interactions with one another may look like when they are off the battlefield. And you really start growing fond of your little guys, too: For example, I’ll never forget how Skull Champion Bruul lobbed a grenade at an Eldar tank, blowing the damned thing sky high in the process — truly a moment worth remembering!

And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg: Playing narratively will also give you all kinds of cool ideas along the way: At one point I decided to build a custom objective marker for each army I defeat during the campaign. While this makes for a fun hobby project, it’s also a great way of injecting more character into your army and of interacting with other players.

Custom objective markers: a fun way to honour (or ridicule) your opponent

Or you could start to convert your squads to reflect their triumphs, adding trophies or killmarks to the models. Or give some more character to your squad leaders and generals. Granted, you should probably do that anyway, but it feels more satisfying if those additions are actually the consequence of something that happened during a game (or a string of games, for that matter).

All of this is not exactly rocket science, of course: It is certainly possible to have far more involved, narrative campaigns than ours, or more spectacular setpieces for single games. But even a small, laidback campaign is far more rewarding than basically just rolling dice all day to see who ends up with more sixes.

All in all, narrative gaming gives your games a sense of context and consequence. It offers all kinds of cool hobby opportunities. And it can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. So what are you waiting for?

Do you have any remarks on narrative gaming and campaigns you’d like to share? I’d be glad to hear them in the comments section!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

The Ruinous Powers – Hedonism

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Fluff, paintjob with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by krautscientist

There I was, yesterday, pondering how I had never created a follower of Tzeentch in all my hobby life. And what do you know, today I realise I’ve never done a follower of Slaanesh either.

This particular blunder is quite a bit easier to explain however: First of all, Khorne abhors Slaanesh, so there’s the most basic explanation for you. But it’s also the fact that I could never seem to find an angle about the Slaanesh followers that interested me. All the sexual innuendo (severely pared back in the last decade or so, probably to make the hobby more family friendly) some hobbyists keep making such a fuss about seemed rather trite — but that’s just me: I like my wargaming served without any cheesecake, thank you very much 😉

I also wasn’t all that fond of the horribly loud and clashing pastel colours. But as the legion came to be more and more defined and their pursuit of perfection twisted into hedonism and relentless pursuit of new experiences, I started to get a handle on the Emperor’s Children.

It still took a long time until I finally built my first Slaaneshi model. When I planned the conversion, I once again started to reflect on the different archetypes that were available to me: The classic Noise Marine, fixated on visual and aural stimuli, wielding clunky sonic weaponry and armour painted in hues that will would make you bleed from your ears. The, well, Alien Sex Fiend of ambiguous gender, clad in studded leather and sporting either more or less breasts than would be anatomically sound. Those two concepts did not seem all that compelling to me.  I rather chose to explore the third possible avenue, namely the Emperor’s Childrens’ pursuit of perfection, the original vice that led to their fall. My idea was to build an accomplished warrior, elegant and refined, and so twisted as to appear almost daemonic.

Luckily, I still had a rather eclectic collection of leftover parts. So I got to work and ended up with this:




The model is mainly a combination of the leftover half of the WFB Sorcerer Lord I used to built the champion of Tzeentch, combined with a pair of backwards-jointed legs ending in hooves that came from the plastic Possessed kit.

I added an arm from the regular Chaos Space Marines and another from the WFB Chaos Marauders. I also used a wing from the Sanguinary Guard kit to represent a stylised version of the Emperor’s Children legion badge on the champion’s shoulder. And I thought that for an elegant and distinguished warrior such as this, a half cape across the shoulder was quite appropriate.

As for the weapons, I chose a Plasma pistol (if only because it gave me an excuse to add a small OSL effect) and a wickedly shaped sword (originally a Dark Eldar weapon). Using the WFB sorcerer’s horned heas as well as his torso was a bit of a spontaneous idea, but I think it works.

Even though the post-Heresy Emperors’ Children are usually portrayed wearing armour of pink and black (or, like I said, a combination of all kinds of eye-watering pastel hues, but let’s not go there…), I decided on a different colour scheme: Even though this guy was a twisted monster, I wanted to make him look almost regal, so I chose a deep, luxurious purple for his armour and added gold trim.



I went for very pale skin to contrast the armour and to give an almost marble-like quality to the champion’s flesh. As usual, the application of washes and accents nicely rounded out the paintjob. When it came to the point were I needed to decide what backpack to use, I surprised myself by going for yet another backpack from the Possessed kit, which you’ll see below, along with the finished model:





Regarding the base, I originally wanted to add something pointing to either a defeated servant of Khorne or a loyal Marine. But then I thought about who would have even more reason to hate and fear the Emperor’s Children, and the Dark Eldar came to mind: Surely, the Dark kin would be an object of contempt for the servants of Slaanesh, fearful hypocrites, who hadn’t dared to follow the path of hedonism to its logical conclusion. So I went for a defeated Kabalite warrior, trodden into the mud by the Chaos Marines’ hooves, and built what is maybe my favourite of all the bases I have done to date. Take a look:



I realise that I may have gone a bit overboard with this guy, but after the initial complications in marrying all the seemingly disparate parts, he was just so much fun to build and paint. And should I ever decide to build an Emperor’s Children force (unlikely as that may be), he can definitely serve as their leader: He looks the part!

Captain Gades Elphenor, of the Emperor’s Children Traitor Legion

A dance of death
A line of crimson
The sweet caress of pain
What does it matter
Who lives, who dies?
When all is rapture
And pleasure alike
Show me more!

 

Three down, one to go. You know what’s next…