Archive for eldar

Bringing a boltgun to a masked-ball — a closer look at Death Masque

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2016 by krautscientist

Hey everyone, it has been quite some time since the last review here on the blog, because for what is probably the first time in my hobby life, I am productive enough to keep showing you finished models instead of talking about releases. Go me! 😉

At the same time, however, the backlog of released stuff I want to talk about keeps building up, so the recent release of Death Masque seemed like a good excuse to dip my toes into this particular pool again (I also want to discuss Silver Tower in more detail one of these days, probably as the last hobbyist in the world, but that will have to wait until I finally get my act together and write the rather comprehensive post I know the game deserves).

Death Masque release (1)
Anyway, here we are with a new boxed game, and it’s centered around the Deathwatch once more. Which is pretty cool, because the Deathwatch has always been a bit of a red-haired stepchild, at least when it comes to the Inquisitorial Ordos’ Chambers Militant: The Ordo Malleus’ Grey Knights have now enjoyed full faction status for years, and the Sisters of Battle, allied by ancient decree to the Ordo Hereticus…well, let’s not get into the whole drama and tragic release history surrounding them right now — suffice to say that they at least did form a complete army at one point.

The Deathwatch, on the other hand, was always restricted to a couple of conversion bitz, so if you wanted to run a Deathwatch killteam or, god forbid, an entire army, some OOP metal conversion bitz and a couple of plastic shoulder pads were all the material at your disposal.

All of this has changed with Deathwatch:Overkill, which provided us with some pretty excellent characters that already defined a general outline of what the modern Deathwatch could look like. And now we get another boxed game — this time chock-full of actual multi part kits and delicious conversion fodder! We also get a Deathwatch Codex to boot, but as my perspective is chiefly that of a converter, let’s focus on the models and discuss their strenghts and flaws as well as possible conversion ideas:

 

Team Xenos

The Xenos are definitely getting the short end of the stick in this box — at least in terms of new sculpts: All of the models (except one, but we’ll be getting to that in a minute) are the plastic Harlequin kits that were released a while back. They are still pretty cool, of course, but there’s really no need to talk about those models again — all my thoughts on the plastic Harlequin models can be found here, in case you’re interested.

But like I said, there’s one notable exception. This guy:

 

Eldrad Ulthran, Farseer of Ulthwé

Death Masque release (2)
Well, quite a surprise, this one! I don’t think many people were expecting a plastic version of this classic 2nd edition character, seeing how Eldrad seemed to have died a typical Disney villain death at the tail end of the Eye of Terror campaign all those years ago, but mostly because the original Jes Goodwin sculpt is certainly one of the most iconic 40k models:

Death Masque release (3)
Confession time: I consider this one of the best 40k models ever, period. Easily one of my top five if one considers the whole 40k catalogue, and certainly one of the models you should show somebody if you were trying to explain to them what 40k is. Sure, the model is slightly two-dimensional, being very much a product of its time, but the amount of detailing, strong triangular composition and perfect pose make this model one for the ages, in my opinion. And now they have chosen to update this piece. Ho hum…

GW’s respect for the original Eldrad model shows in that they basically chose to keep almost every part of the original model: The staff and sword are virtually identical, as are most of the clothes and various doodads dangling from Eldrad’s belt and arms. The helm is also really similar, although I really hate the fact that Eldrad now sports one of those silly “pharao beards” that have been the bane of every Farseer design for quite a while now.

The pose is also very similar to the original, but while adding a bit of depth to the original sculpt, it also ends up looking ever so slightly less iconic. Now maybe this is just nostalgia getting the better of me, but for some reason the new Eldrad, for all his excellent detail, doesn’t seem to be quite as tightly composed as the original piece:

Eldrad comparison
While some will certainly welcome the slightly airier pose and sense of depth and motion to the model, but I just cannot get over how brilliant the original is. Nothing is better proof of this than the fact that the new Eldrad instantly becomes far inferior if you drop the sword arm and use the alternate, “casting” hand for him:

Death Masque release (4)
Of course it’s a huge boon that the new model is plastic, so it lends itself to converting much better than the old metal model, allowing for using it as the base as a customised Farseer conversion (or for smaller tweaks like, for instance, getting rid of that beard…):

Death Masque release (5)
When all is said and done, it’s a very nice and fitting model when taken on its own merits. When compared to its legendary predecessor, however, I have to admit that it doesn’t quite hold up: If I were to build the new plastic Eldrad, I would do my darnedest to make him look as much as the original metal model as possible by tweaking the pose (and by GETTING RID OF THAT BEARD!), and I think that says al lot about which version is the superior one…

I wonder what this means for the (rumoured) plastic update of Khârn the Betrayer…?

 

Team Deathwatch

It takes no rocket scientist to figure out that the Deathwatch are the more appealing faction in this particular set, mostly because there’s more original content for them. But even so, the Deathwatch side of things also makes heavy use of pre-existing kits: It looks like you basically get one Vanguard and Venerable Dreadnought kit and then the new Deathwatch Veteran sprue to build five Veterans and use the remaining bitz to spice up the other models to your heart’s content. Regarding the base kits, all of them are excellent kits, whether you’re starting a new Astartes force or adding to an existing one. Some detailed thoughts of on the Vanguard kit can be found here.

But yeah, beyond those kits, there’s the new Deathwatch Veteran sprue — and quite a sprue it is:

Death Masque release (9)
Looks like we are getting lots of weapons and decoration, but also a dedicated set of bodies and legs, which is very nice! And here’s what the bitz from the sprue will look like when used to create a squad of Deathwatch Veterans:

Death Masque release (10)
The inclusion of already establised visual elements, such as the Inquisition symbols, shoulder pads covered in scripture and special bolters, was a given, of course. What I really like, however, is how the main point of this new sprue seems to be to give the Deathwatch its own visual identity: Deathwatch Marines basically used to be standard Marines with a special bolter and one slightly more interesting shoulder pad. The new parts, however, really create a new look for them:

Death Masque release (12)
Their armour has a more streamlined and modern look to it (is that an Mk8 breastplate, I wonder?), which befits an Inquisitorial special force. If anything they have a sleek “Spec Ops” looks that is rendered even stronger by their armour being black.

It’s very interesting to see how they differ from their obvious counterparts, the Grey Knights: The Grey Knights look like, well, Knights: very ornamental and medieval. The Deathwatch, on the other hand, look like a particularly bad-ass black ops team from your favourite 90s military shooter, thrown into a blender and turned up to eleven — which also happens to make them look far more believably like an Inquisitorial sub-organisation now!

In addition to the sleek new armour designs, the sprue also seems to be featuring some of the Ordo Xenos’ more…esoteric gear, such as the sword on the squad leader:

Death Masque release (11)
Seems like we’ve been stealing some tech from the Necrons, eh? 😉 Now while this particular weapon seems a bit hit or miss to me, I still think it’s neat that some of the equipment seems to be both more esoteric and seemingly inspired by Xenos tech.

For those of you who want boisterous and ostentatious instead of sneaky and subdued, however, the good news is that the new Deathwatch bitz seem to allow for that option as well:

Death Masque release (13)
Ah, what would we be without huge hammers and crazily ornate boarding shields, eh? They are looking awesome, though!

But whatever happened to the handle on this poor fellow’s hammer…?

Death Masque release (14)There’s also a collection of shoulder pads bearing quite a plethora of different chapter symbols on the sprue, which should really help to make any given Deathwatch force look like it has actually been assembled from Astartes hailing from many different chapters. And the fact that we don’t just get yet more heraldic elements of the “big” chapters like the Ultramarines, Dark Angels or Blood Angels, but rather a collection of more obscure iconography, is both a great shout out to the wider 40k lore and a great modeling opportunity!

And finally, the bitz on the sprue can also be used to convert Dreadnoughts into a Deathwatch variant:

Death Masque release (15)All in all, the new sprue seems like a deliciously versatile new toy, and I can see it becoming really popular, both with 40k players and the INQ28 crowd alike! For instance, Commissar Molotov, being both the Godfather of INQ28 and quite the Deathwatch fiend, will probably find much to like about the new sprue 😉

 

Watch-Captain Artemis

Death Masque release (6)
Well, this was another really excellent surprise: Whom do we get as the Deathwatch commander but a veteran of 54mm Inquisitor? For those of you who haven’t been into this hobby for years and years, Artemis will merely seem like a cool enough Deathwatch model. But if you remember the old 54mm Inquisitor line of models, you will also remember Artemis, arguably one of the most spectacular models at the bigger scale. And just check out this comparison to see how closely the new model matches the earlier incarnation:

For the sake of the comparison, both models are displayed at the same size, when they are really anything but...

For the sake of the comparison, both models are displayed at the same size, when they are really anything but…

It’s really crazy how GW’s sculptors have managed to incorporate almost all of the visual elements from the 54mm Artemis! Especially if you consider that one of the huge draws of the original Inquisitor models was how 28mm plastic couldn’t hope to capture the same amount of detail — I think it’s a testament to the quality of GW’s modern plastics that almost all of the detail has been retained at about half the size!

There are some smaller differences: Artemis seems to have done rather well for himself since we last saw him , earning the right to wear a snazzy cape. His Deathwatch boltgun has also been exchanged with an actual combi-weapon, and both his sword and his backpack have received some additional bling. I kinda miss the Crux Terminatus necklace, though, as it provided a nice extra bit of dynamism to the model. And I think I’d add a purity seal to the front of his left shoulder pad, just for old times’ sake 😉

The main difference is in the face, if you ask me: Where 54mm Artemis’ face is classically handsome (in the way many retro Space Marines used to be), the 28mm models have noticeably broader features — whether this is merely due to technical factors or an actual attempt at giving him the broader, heavier features that seem to be a trademark of Space Marines in some of the literature, I cannot say. Personally, I prefer the 54mm face, not because of the additional detail, but because the callback to the older, more handsome Marines appeals to me in an entirely nostalgic way. Curiously enough, the bare head that came with the old Dark Angels veteran sprue really resembles 54mm Artemis, though, so if you want to change that part, that’s the face I’d recommend — in fact, there’s a fantastic older 28mm Artemis conversion by Siamtiger that happens to be using the head in question.

Death Masque release (7)
But that’s obviously nitpicking: Artemis’ new incarnation is a brilliant call-back to a classic miniature and also a fantastic looking centrepiece for a Deathwatch army in its own right — very nice!

 

Conversion options:

It goes without saying that I won’t be discussing the general conversion options for the older kits contained in the boxed kit, for obvious reasons, although my thoughts on possible conversions may be found in the aforementioned reviews of the respective kits linked above.

So this leaves us with the two special characters and the new Deathwatch sprue to discuss:

Eldrad could obviously become a building template for your own custom Farseer with just a few cuts and a bit of kitbashing. The prospect isn’t hugely exciting, certainly, mostly because we already have a generic clamshell Farseer who can fill that role, although it’s nice to have the option. Seeing how his breastplate (with most of the Eldaresque decoration) seems to be a separate piece, it should be possible to use the model as the base for a non-Eldar robed character, such as an Inquisitor, Imperial Psyker, Chaos demagogue or what have you. And of course it goes without saying that his sword and staff would also be cool conversion bitz for any Eldar players.

But really, when all is said and done, there’s no doubt that this model should probably be used to build Eldrad, above all else. So the most appealing conversion options here would be to make minor tweaks to make him resemble his classic incarnation even more closely (rotating the head counter-clockwise by a few degrees, and OFF WITH THAT BEARD!).

Artemis should be easy enough to tweak as well with some careful cutting — but once again, I find myself strangely reluctant to even think about using the model for a conversion. It’s such a cool shout out to the 54mm model, and using it for anything else would just lose that — and there’s really no shortage of Space Marine bitz to use, so we might as well leave this guy in one piece, eh? Just this once 😉

Come to think of it, the one tweak I think would improve the model would be to slightly rotate its head so as to mirror the 54mm version’s pose even more closely.

So with the two special characters best left untouched, for the most part, the Deathwatch sprue is obviously the true star of the show here, and rumours have it that GW really intends to package it with a huge number of Space Marine kits to give the Deathwatch a real push. And why shouldn’t they? The designers have been building up the compatibility of the various Space Marine kits literally for decades now, and towards this end, releasing a sprue that will allow you to turn virtually every Space Marine kit into a Deathwatch kit is a pretty shrewd move!

There’s also the fact that the sprue seems far more comprehensive than the Dark Angels and Black Templars sprues that were its distant predecessors (and those weren’t half bad either): If you carefully divide the contents of the sprue between your squads, you’ll get quite a bit of mileage out of those bitz!

Possibly the best part of the sprue, however, is that it really plays to the appeal of the Deathwatch: The great thing about them is that they allow you to build a Killteam or force that is very much centered around the individual models, as they all hail from different chapters. So if you want to test some ideas for a DIY chapter or build a model belonging to one of the more obscure chapters, building a model for your Deathwatch project will allow you to do just that without having to commit to an entire squad or army.

And we finally get a distinctive look for the Deathwatch — one that goes beyond the concept of standard tac Marines with black armour and a silver left arm. True enough, these are still Space Marines, but even if they lack the plethora of kits the Grey Knights have nowadays, at least they now have their own visual identity!

The flexibility of the sprue means that it should also become quite popular with converters: Whether you are looking to add a killteam (or a single Deathwatch veteran) to your army or want some suitably original and esoteric equipment for your chapter masters or Inquisitors, there should be something for you on this sprue. Even if you are going for true scale Deathwatch (because true INQ28 aficionados will only ever settle for true scale Astartes), you’ll be thankful for the Terminator-sized Deathwatch shoulder pads.

 

All in all, Death Masque seems like a cool boxed set that basically combines several of GW’s most successful recent ideas: If you look at the kits in the box, that’s some pretty major bang for the buck. The game functions as a standalone entity, drawing in new people and working as yet another gateway drug, so to speak. The redesigned Deathwatch will pluck at the heartstrings of veteran players and hobbyists. And the special characters provide that extra bit of sugar sprinkled on top — well played, GW!

So what’s your take on the new models and conversion bitz? I would love to hear your opinion, so feel free to drop me a comment! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2015 by krautscientist

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

I. Eldar mini-release: Rounding out the catalogue

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

 

Eldar Windriders

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

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

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

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

 

Eldar Farseer Skyrunner/Warlock Skyrunner

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eldar Autarch

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

So what about the release as a whole? A bit disappointing, to be honest. Now I do of course realise that GW probably didn’t plan this as a huge release to blow us away, but they have really upped the ante when it comes to hobbyists’ expectations, and this just seems like giving us some kits that should have been released before. Which is why these are mostly interesting for Craftworld Eldar players, who will certainly find a lot to like about having yet more plastic options at their fingertips. For the rest of us, however, this seems like a bit of a middling effort. All of the kits are solid, no doubt about it, but they just seem to lack that special spark. To quote a point I made in my review of the Harlequins a while back:

It seems like GW mainly put the Eldar catalgoue’s visual strengths (and Jes Goodwin’s excellent designs) to good use here, reaping the fruit of earlier design (..). There’s nothing wrong with it (…) but it’s not exactly high-hanging fruit, either.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Knight Crusader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, well…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Anyway, what do you think about the new Eldar, Knights and Assassinorum:Execution Force? Any thoughts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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

 

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:

Harlequin release (1)
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!

Mine is bigger! A look at the new Eldar models

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , on May 29, 2013 by krautscientist

Another month, another GW release, and this one has been eagerly anticipated, to say the least:

The Eldar are, without a doubt, one of Warhammer 40k’s most iconic factions. And while “Elves IN SPACE!” may sound like a horrible concept in theory, Jes Goodwin’s incredible designs – conceived as early as during the late 80s and early 90s – are so utterly fantastic that not only did they help to sell what might otherwise been a very bad idea, but they also still haven’t lost any of their coolness, even more than two decades later — whatever they are paying the man at GW, it cannot ever possibly be enough!

So it’s no wonder that the Eldar are both an integral part of 40k lore and a faction beloved by many. And an update for them has been a long time coming.

Eldar release (1)

Let me start by saying that the Eldar Codex continues the latest trend of fantastic cover artwork (pretty closely mirroring the design of the new plastic Farseer, by the way). And the special edition cover sleeve, once again, seems very elegant and well designed — and, strangely enough, just as faux-japanese as the S.E. Tau Codex.

When it comes to the models, in my review of last month’s High Elves release, I talked about GW’s more and more formulaic approach to recent army updates. To quote myself on the matter:

One combi-kit for a huge creature, check. One slightly hokey vehicle kit, check. One combi-kit that’ll give you two kinds of infantry, check. One plastic character and two Finecast characters, check.

Now, here we are, one month later, with a new release, and look what we’ve got: one huge creature, one vehicle kit, one combi-kit for two kinds of infantry, one plastic character and two Finecast characters. At first glance, this doesn’t bode too well for the originality of the release. But is it that simple? In order to find out, let’s take a closer look at the new models and the conversion potential.

 

Wraithknight

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Well, this tall boy is certainly this month’s wraithbone elephant in the room. And let’s not beat around the bush here: That thing is a titan, period. A small titan, perhaps, but a titan nonetheless. With the Wraithknight standing noticeably taller than even the recently released Tau Riptide – a fact that’s even played up in GW’s marketing speak – we are looking at a very classic case of “mine is bigger!” here, and I am not sure I really like that prospect…

Before I elaborate, let’s focus on the model, though:

Eldar release (3)
The Wraithknight seems rather easy to customise, regarding both the weapons loadout and its pose. Personally speaking, and without any knowledge of the rules, I think the sword and shield combo looks much cooler. Plus, as with the Riptide, it will be very interesting to see the poses some of the more adventurous hobbyists will get out of this kit. The lower legs seem quite a bit too long at first glance – maybe the designers were just trying buff the model’s heigth that way – but the overall slightly alien look makes sure the proportions still work rather well.

The one part of the model I was initially not sold on was the helmet, since I would have preferred a design closer to that of the FW Eldar titans, i.e. a stylised guardian head, but seeing how the Wraithknight is really more of a wraithbone construct than a regular walker, I guess it makes sense that it would look like a taller version of the other constructs:

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And the pictures in WD show that the head can look very interesting when the faceplate isn’t painted like some kind of viewing window, but rather in the same colour as the rest of the head — that’s just a matter of personal taste, though…

I also noticed that GW seems to have settled on yet another iteration of their box designs. I’ve lost count of the different variants over time (photos, then artwork, then different artwork, then photos again, then photos painstakingly photoshopped to look like impressions from real, grimdark battlefields,…), but the new one seems much more elegant and minimalistic:

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Is this a way of positioning GW models even more as luxury goods? Regarding the Wraithknight which comes at 90,00 Euros a pop, that certainly seems like a possibility…

My main gripe with the model actually has nothing to do with the design, but rather with its size: Are we witnessing a whole different sort of scale creep here? Will players be “required” to add one or several titan-sized models to even their regular 40k armies in the future? Now I do of course realise that huge kits like this may be just what many hobbyists were waiting for, but since I’ve always been drawn to models at infantry-size first and foremost, the prospect of bigger and bigger models – in regular 40k – seems a little disconcerting to me.

Price and size notwithstanding, I like the design. The model will certainly be a centre piece for any Eldar army — so much so, in fact, that the rest of the force will probably have to struggle to keep up…

 

Hemlock Wraithfighter / Crimson Hunter

Well, this kit is a bit of a conundrum for me, because I feel entirely differently about it when I see model from different perspectives. Allow me to explain:
The first look I got at this particular kit was this picture:

Eldar release (10)
And to be honest, I instantly hated it! It looks like one of those G.I.Joe fighter jets I loved so much in my childhood, yet managed to outgrow (fortunately, I might add). The colour doesn’t really help either. And those additional wing/fin things just seem goofy.

But then, there’s also this:

Eldar release (6)
The Hemlock Wraithfighter, the other fighter variant that can be assembled from the same kit. And I have to say quite like it! I was initially put off by the slightly “drooping” lines of the model, but seeing how the Eldar do not assemble their vehicles so much as “grow” them from semi-organic wraithbone, it seems plausible that the flyer’s lines would be more organic than those of the Dark Eldar Razorwing (which is conventionally built from anorganic materials).

Eldar release (7)
And while some of the design reminds me of a present day fighter jet, there’s still enough to make it look like an Eldar vehicle – all those small visual cues that manage to tie it in with the rest of the army.

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The fact that the paintjob on this is truly gorgeous also helps, of course. I’ve always felt that everything lo0ks better in Saim-Hann colours, but in this case, the patterns and lines on the model do a great job of breaking up the huge empty space, making it look less like a toy and more like an elegant warmachine.

I also really love the fact that they managed to get one of the guys from Daft Punk to pilot the thing:

Eldar release (9)
Seriously, though: That head is great! Note to myself: Based on this head, check options for two Daft Punk-based character conversions for use in INQ28 😉

So let’s take another look at the other variant, the Crimson Hunter:

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At second glance, and without that dopey star background, it’s really not so bad. But it’s not as good as the Hemlock either. Much of what I don’t like about the model may be based on the paintjob, to be honest, so I may just have to reserve final judgment until I’ve seen a slightly different colour scheme on this. But I am not keen on those fins behind the cockpit and would likely leave them off if I ever were to build the model.

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And one thing I find really disappointing, especially since the Hemlock got its own (brilliant) pilot head option, is the fact that the Crimson Hunter’s helmet looks just like that of a regular Guardian. Granted, the actual aspect armour in this case is probably the fighter jet itself, but it would have been cool to get a more stylised mask, adding some visual distinction to the aspect. After all, the helmets have been the element that viusally defines the aspect warriors for a long time.

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As it stand, this guy just looks like an Eldar Guardian in purple armour, doesn’t he?

 

Wraithguard / Wraithblades

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An already existing unit choice, these are now finally available in plastic. The new version doesn’t fundamentally change the design, which is quite alright – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and all that. It’s also cool to have these as a plastic kit now, especially since a special HQ selection seems to transform them into troops.

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To be honest though, I find it rather hard to get too excited about the models, apart from a general appreciation of the fact that they are now available in plastic. Sure, there are lots of well-considered details to individualise the five models, but it’s really a design we are already very familiar with.

The other option for the kit is a bit more interesting at least, allowing us to assemble the models as the more CC focused Wraithblades:

Eldar release (18)According to GW’s description in WD, these ghostly warriors are so furious that their very wraithbone frame vibrates with their anger — only there’s very little anger evident in their poses. That probably cannot be helped, seeing how the same bodies and legs have to be used both for the shooty and the killy variants of the unit, but to make these guys look truly like the (angry) CC specialists they are supposed to be, one would have to do quite a bit of work regarding their poses — which, in all fairness, should be easy enough, seeing how they are plastic models.

While I like shape of the axes, I think I prefer the option of arming them with twin swords, if only because it’s possible to achieve great – if static – poses like this:

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This guy really seems like an ancient, dignified ghost swordsman, doesn’t he? In my opinion, it’s swords all the way for these guys!

 

In addition to the squad and vehicle kits, there are also three new characters for Eldar players. Let’s take a closer look:

 

Plastic Farseer

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This model was already leaked a couple of weeks ago, stirring up quite a buzz on the net. It seemed reasonably certain in advance that the Eldar would receive their own plastic clamshell character as well, and it was certainly a good decision to use the ever versatile Farseer for this. The model was designed by none other than Jes Goodwin himself, which is a bit of a no brainer really, because it was possibly the only way of having this new Farseer hold up to Jes’ older models — it’s truly baffling how those old Seer models of his are still just as great as they were ten or, in some cases, almost twenty years ago.

This new model is really dynamic and three dimensional, with a great pose and lots of nifty details. Just check out the hand:

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Some people online voiced an immense dislike for the farseer’s neck — go figure! But since this is a plastic release, there’s nothing stopping you from changing that! I would have liked a helmet without that strange pharao beard that has been creeping into Farseer designs for a couple of years, for instance, but again, it should really be easy enough to get rid of that element. All in all, this a really good entry into the 40k plastic character library, and I can easily see myself picking up one of these — if only for the conversion possibilities (more on that later!).

 

Spiritseer

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This guy is obviously the choice for people who want to use lots and lots of wraithbone constructs in their army, and the model’s designer Martin Fores did a really nice job of including a number of shout outs to those ghostly warriors, especially the featureless faceplate (which I love!). The satanic horns pose for psykers is getting a little long in the tooth, if you ask me, but I’ll let it slide this time, because it’s a lovely model all in all. My only gripe is, once again, that this had to be a Finecast release in the first place: It should have been very easy to release this guy as a plastic character as well (or, indeed, make one clamshell with different head and staff options for either a Farseer or Spiritseer — wouldn’t that have been neat?). It seems like they’re doing some of these models in Finecast just because it’s in the business rules somewhere, and that seems slightly dopey — just sayin’…

 

Illic Nightspear

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Ah, well, here’s the best part of this particular release for me: Illic is a beautiful model with a brilliant pose, and I can easily see people picking him up just to paint him for their display cases — he makes for a stunning display piece, on par with the brilliant model for Lelith Hesperax. In this case, I can even forgive the model being Finecast, since the character’s elegance and the stunning amount of detail probably make good use of the medium. I also really like how the piece of ancient ruin is incorporated into his pose. A true winner, this one. My one gripe is that I am not really all that fond of the hair, but since that’s strictly a matter of personal taste, I won’t hold it against the model. The fact that the designer, Edgar Ramos, was also responsible for last months rather unimpressive plastic Loremaster of Hoeth is a bit of a conundrum, however. Why release something like that when Illic shows Mr. Ramos is capable of infinitely better work?

 

Jetbike Autarch upgrade kit

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Having this available as an upgrade pack is a nice bit of service. Let’s just hope that the parts will still be useable once the new jetbikes are released *wink*wink*, *nudge*)…

 

Dire Avengers

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Oh, and GW also repackaged the (old) Dire Avenger models into a smaller squad of five — seems like a bit of a dick move, to be honest. Or is there any non-economic reason for this?

 

What’s missing?

With a release as strongly anticipated as the Eldar, it goes without saying that wishlisting abounded prior to the release: The fans would have loved twenty new kits at the very least, and, in all fairness, anticipation like that cannot possibly be fully satisfied by any release. Still, some things seem to be conspicuously absent from the release: What about the rumoured new jetbikes? WIP sculpts of these have been floating around on the net for years, and the new release would have been a good chance for updating them and bringing them more in line with the look of the DE jetbikes. Plus a jetbike / Shining Spears combi-kit would also have made a great itam for the combi-kit slot. Even more painful is the absence of any plastic aspect warriors, since at least some of these should lend themselves to a combi-kit rather beautifully. I don’t doubt that both of these units will be released in time, and GW’s strategy is to make sure all units in the codex are available in model form before doing any huge redesigns. But still, jetbikes and new aspects were the things fans were probably most eager to see, so it’s still a bit of a shame…

Conversion potential

Like the Tau, the Eldar have a very distinct and iconic look, which makes them instantly recognisable but also renders their different kits rather hard to use as “conversion fodder” in the classical sense. So most parts of this release will be useful for Eldar, Dark Eldar or Eldar Corsair armies, above all else. The models themselves should allow for quite a bit of customisation and reposing, so it will be interesting to witness what hobbyists all over the world come up with.

Illic Nightspear not only makes for a stunning display piece, but could also realistically be used as a lone Eldar operative during games of INQ28 — he looks the part.

The most interesting conversion options stem from the plastic Farseer, if you ask me. Let’s take a look at the sprue to illustrate what I mean:

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Seeing how the model’s head, forearms and chest are all separate pieces, the Farseer should not only be really easy to customise for your Eldar army, he should also make for a pretty useful base model for all kinds of INQ28-related conversions. I could easily see him transformed into an Ordo Xenos Inquisitor, with a bit of work! And the fact that the model is plastic makes it even more useful. Looks like I’ll be getting one of these sooner rather than later…

 

All in all, the Eldar release was so highly anticipated, and people were hoping for so many different things to come out of this release that GW’s designers were facing a bit of an insolvable problem. That said, the lack of new jetbikes and plastic aspect warriors does seem a little disappointing. However the actual new models are very well designed and make great visual additions to the Eldar catalogue.

Like almost no other 40k army, the Eldar are fantastic proof of how far a brilliant initial design will carry an army, informing each and every model and unit. The new additions play to the strengths of the Eldars’ overall design, and, small gripes notwithstanding, will fit right in on the table. My only bigger concern is the new kind of scale creep I already mentioned: Will we see an even bigger Tyranid bio construct or Imperial walker, once Apocalypse hits? Will these huge models make up more and more of the game? And will those who, like me, are rather drawn to normal, infantry-sized models, have an option to resist playing with what are basically action figures, at least from a scale perspective? Let’s wait and see…

In any case, Eldar players have received some beautiful new toys. And while last month’s High Elves seemed a little half-baked to me, the new Eldar models are quite a bit nicer. And even though I don’t plan on starting an Eldar army any time soon, I simply love looking at well painted Eldar armies and appreciating their models for what they are: Some of the best designed and most gorgeous pieces in GW’s entire catalogue.

So how did you like this new release? Any favourites? Any gripes? Any conversion ideas? Share your opinion in the comments section!
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!

Power from pain

Posted in 40k, Conversions, paintjob with tags , , , , , , , on June 15, 2012 by krautscientist

I already showcased the Grotesques cousin Andy converted for his Dark Eldar army some time ago, although the photos were rather more grainy than I would have liked. So it was a nice coincidence that Andy recently took them along to the FLGS in order to paint the squad’s last model (instead of using them to utterly annihilate me for a change). I told you already that I love those models, so I jumped at the opportunity of taking a couple of new pictures to put on this blog. Let’s start off by taking a look at the newest member of Andy’s happy familiy of twisted monstrosities:




This one’s a pretty straight kitbash, basically taking nearly all of its parts from the WFB Minotaur kit. However, the addition of a Talos/Cronos faceplate instantly transforms the model into quite a convincing Grotesque, in my opinion. I also like the pose a lot.

Next up, the squad’s champion:


This guy is always the star of the show for me, using more parts from the Talos/Chronos kit to create a really disturbing monster. I think this model is a great example of why the Minotaurs make great Grotesques right along with the the Blood Island Rat Ogres and Crypt Fiends.

And finally, the squad’s third member.



I can’t keep from shivering when I look at those horrible, spiny tentacle things. Brrr…

I learned during our last game that these guys can be very bad news for armies focused on close quarters combat. So I think it’s great that now they also really look the part…

So, while we are on the topic of twisted abominations, let’s also take a look at one of my newest creations! Cousin Andy has been looking for a good recipe for building the Wracks to go along with his Grotesques and Haemonculi for quite some time now. Of course, he could just buy the official GW models, which are quite nice, but he doesn’t like Finecast all that much and would rather convert the models from something else. He’s funny like that, but then I like to imagine it’s me who got him infected with the whole conversion business, so I won’t judge him.

We spent some time bashing around a couple of ideas, and I tried to talk him into using my beloved WFB Crypt Ghoul kit in his conversion. He was not that easily convinced, however. Well, I couldn’t let it go, so I built him a Wrack model as a proof-of-concept:



This conversion is, once again, basically a simple kitbash. The legs are from the WFB Empire Flagellants (the upper body was clipped off at the waist). The torso and arms are from the Crypt Ghouls. The left hand and forearm are from the Dark Eldar Kabalite Warriors — although you could ostensibly use any Dark Eldar arm and weapon you like. I added a couple of vicious looking Kroot knives. Again, there are many grisly trophies and suitably sharp and wicked implements across the whole GW range to use here.
And finally, the head came from an old Dark Eldar jetbike pilot — a part that almost every Dark Eldar player in the world will probably consider all but completely useless. I shaved off the eyes to make it look more like some kind of alien gimp mask. I took this idea from a blog somewhere, though I cannot recall where (if you are reading this and it was originally your idea, just drop me a comment and I’ll be glad to add a link to your blog!).

The conversion took some cutting to make sure everything was a nice fit. I shortened the Ghoul neck to make it look less like a vulture’s and added a bit of GS to smooth out the gap between legs and torso, but apart from that, it was a fairly easy affair.

When painting the Wrack, I tried to adhere to cousin Andy’s colour scheme as closely as possible, using a mixture of bronze and red that is the trademark of his Dark Eldar army. The skin was the only departure from this, as I defaulted back to my tried and tested recipe for pale skin. I think it’s more plausible for Wracks to look less like suntanned bodybuilders and more like pale, sickly creatures of the dark.

Painting the model was a quick job: Using a fair amount of washing, it took me about 30-45 minutes, and I imagine it would be quite easy to further streamline the process and work on several models at once. Here’s the result:



I am rather pleased with how the model turned out. Now I am definitely not saying that this guy looks as good as the official models released by GW – those are fantastic! But if you don’t like to use Finecast models or are looking for a bit more variety in your squad (or are a conversion nut like me), this is a nice and easy alternative recipe. It’s also pretty cost-effective: Buying a box of flagellants and ghouls each costs less than buying two boxes of Finecast Wracks (42,75 € versus 52 €) and will give you the same number of models with lots and lots of leftover bits that may be squirrelled away for other projects. Granted, you’ll need some additional Dark Eldar bits, but most DE players should have those lying around anyway. The one setback is that you’ll end up with ten clipped-off flagellant torsos and ten pairs of ghoul legs, respectively. If only there was a way of combining those for yet another conversion. Hmmm…definitely some food for thought!

Anyway, so much for converting suitably gross abominations for your Circle army! C&C always very welcome!
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Cousin Andy’s grotesque models

Posted in 40k, Conversions, paintjob with tags , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by krautscientist

I believe I did repeatedly mention my cousin Andy. You may remember that he was the one dragging me back into all of this in the first place with a seemingly innocent Christmas present. I also cited his Dark Eldar army as a constant wellspring of inspiration when I posted one of my own Dark Eldar Kabalite Warriors that I painted on a whim last Friday. So it seems only logical to allow you a glimpse of what my dear cousin is working on in his dark laboratory beneath Commorragh.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, though: While the new Dark Eldar models are fantastic, I think that the one definite slipup in the line is the Grotesque (oh, and the Beastmaster. That sculpt is just lazy when you consider the pure epicness of the other models). While I cannot fault the concept of the model per se, the pose is …strange to say the least. And there is only one version. And it’s Finecast only. Need I say more?

In all fairness, it is clearly a testament to Jes Goodwin’s artistic vision that only one or two models across the whole line are a bit disappointing while the rest is uniformly excellent. But then, it’s also a bit of a shame that it had to be the Grotesques that got the short end of the stick. Oh well, you cannot win them all, I guess.

Anyway, it doesn’t really surprise me that people have begun converting their own Grotesques left and right. The most viable approach seems to be to base these conversions on either Ogres or the Blood Island Rat Ogres. While the former variant usually turns out a bit static, the latter option admittedly usually looks very nice. But nearly everybody is doing it now, so it was a no-go for my cousin who likes to make things a bit harder on himself. So he built this:

Totally going against the grain, he based his conversions on the much-maligned plastic Minotaurs for Warhammer Fantasy. These models have been slammed as horrible on multiple websites, mostly due to their overexaggerated musculature. Well, with Andy’s conversions, the steroid look really plays to the models’ advantage, seeing as how Grotesques are supposed to be these genetically engineered, spliced up abominations bulging with muscle and horrible surgical extensions. By adding leftover parts from the Talos/Cronos kit, Andy gave the models an unmistakeable Dark Eldar feel, tieing them in with all the other Coven models. It’s also fortunate that one Talos/Chronos kit will leave you with lots and lots of leftover bits – just what you need to stitch together your own horrible experiments!

Here’s one of the regular grunts — inasmuch as the word “regular” can be employed when dealing with a gigantic hulking nightmare from the depths of the Dark city:

As you can see, cousin Andy used the strange vertebrae bits as equally strange weapons, formed perhaps from the Grotesques own twisted bones. The cloven hooves of the Minotaur add to the unnatural look of the model in my opinion.

And below, once again, you can see my personal star of the show: The unit’s champion. A Talos tail and arm were used to make the model even more intimidating. The heads in his right fist were a small touch from my own bitzbox, a meagre recompensation for cousin Andy’s unending generousness in donating bits for my own projects. You really do not want to encounter this guy in close quarters combat! And who knows where that horrible syringe has been?

As you can see, there’s a reasonably simple kitbash at the heart of this project. But the choice of model to base the conversion on is sheer genius! I don’t think I have seen the Minotaur kit being used in this way before, so I guess Cousin Andy did it first 😉

When painting the models, Andy used the Bronze typical of his Kabal’s colour scheme to tie them together with the rest of his force. While personally I would have preferred a paler, sickly skin colour, I cannot argue with the effectiveness of the paintjob. On a related note, please excuse the fuzzy pictures! I am entirely to blame!

I also like how the right arm is much more muscular than the left one. Granted, this was more of a lucky coincidence, but it gives the model a somewhat lopsided, disturbing look.

So there you have it. It’s when I look at these models from my cousin’s army that I dream of my own, sinister force of Dark Eldar time and time again. And there’s much more cool stuff where this came from! Maybe we’ll have another look or two in the future.

I like to imagine that it was me who got cousin Andy infected with the conversion and kitbashing bug (in exchange for his getting me addicted to plastic crack once again). But it’s models like these that show me that he has truly come into his own as a converter. In fact, I am quite envious of these beautiful, horrible models. What do you think?

But enough with the Xenos scum already! Come next Wednesday, this blog will once again return to dealing with the glorious legion of the World Eaters. Until then, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!