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#HeroQuest2019: Game on!

Posted in Battle report, Conversions, heroquest, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2019 by krautscientist

My quest to completely assemble and paint my vintage HeroQuest set has taken over much of my hobby time this year, as some of you may have noticed, but last week, the time had finally come to give the finished game set an actual spin.

Now for those of you who are not that much into HeroQuest – or who don’t even remember the days of yore when the game was first released – this may all seem a bit eggheaded and not all that interesting, for which I apologise. It has to be said, however, in terms of my personal hobby voyage, for lack of a better word, that this has really been a moment thirty years in the making, and that to be able to play a game of HeroQuest (with the full rules, no less) with a fully painted set that I have managed to complete myself does feel like a rather huge achievement.

Anyway, without further preamble, let’s get into the meat of this post: Annie and T. were awesome enough to join me for this special game night (cheers for that, guys!), and we decided to play a one-off game (at least for now), using the first quest from the second edition Quest book called “The Trial”

The quest is actually not entirely unproblematic as a starting point, because it’s much tougher than “The Labyrinth”, the beginners’ quest from the 1st edition of the quest book. While “The Labyrinth” features nothing tougher than a bunch of greenskins, “The Trial” pulls out all the stops and features just about every monster within the HeroQuest box, the dreaded Gargoyle included. However, this also makes it the perfect showcase game for HeroQuest, as it uses all of the monsters (and of the furniture) — what better way to make the most of my completely painted set, eh?

So I made some very small tweaks to the quest (including a house rule for searching rooms and added wandering monsters) and we were off: Annie and T. chose to play two heroes each, with Annie taking control of Tonriel Silkspinner (the Elf) and Braband the Fierce (The Barbarian), whereas T. would play Thorin (the Dwarf, obviously ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and Garo von Stein (the Wizard).

These four brave adventurers would boldly enter the catacombs of Verag the Gargoyle, slaying vile creatures and discovering priceless treasures along the way…

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s start at the beginning: Our journey started, as every journey does, with a first step:

The plot quickly thickened, however, as the heroes ventured out from their starting room, encountering the dungeon’s first denizens:

And they kept getting in more trouble by opening additional doors — just as planned ๐Ÿ˜‰

Even at this early point, a streak of bad dice rolls already reared its ugly head, so the fights against the first couple of greenskins turned out to be more troublesome than expected. Little did the heroes know, however, of the monstrous legions arrayed against them:

For now, both the exploration and the fighting continued — and the first treasure chest was uncovered!


Braband the Fierce added another bead to his string of disappointments, however, when he discovered the chest he had fought so hard to reach turned out to be empty.

Thorin, on the other hand, needed some alone time and took a walk around the centre room of the dungeon.

…before coming to Tonriel’s assistance, since the elf had managed to disturb some more denizens of the dungeon.

Exploration moved to the upper left corner of the board — very much the home of a couple of undead horrors and of one of the quest’s “minibosses”, as it were.

Our heroes yet remained oblivious to this fact, but they were at least smart enough to team up before advancing further (and Braband even got in a second, more successful, attempt at emptying a treasure chest of its contents):

There was a collective intake of breath around the table as the fell guardian of Fellmarg’s tomb arose from his long slumber…

…only to be instantly KO’ed by a well-placed Genie spell:

Strangely fitting for a mummy champion to be knocked out by a Genie, come to think of it… Anyway, it may have been a short guest appearance, but the creation of a custom model was still totally worth it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Shortly afterwards, Braband and Tonriel were hard at work running into yet more trouble a couple of rooms further down. And thanks to a spectacularly unfortunate dice results, the lowly Orc pictured below turned out to be much more resilient than he should have been — once again, that is…

Here’s a look at my fortress of evil as seen from the players’ perspective…

And here’s a look at Annie’s side of the table: Her experience with RPG groups and deck-building games is clearly evident in the efficient way she organised her materials… (just compare it to the utter chaos behind my GM viewscreen…):

In any case, the heroes had learned their lesson, electing to form a neat conga line for their further exploration of the environment.

Returning to the centre of the catacombs for what seemed like this quest’s inevitable showdown…

But wait, had our heroes managed to overlook a room towards the bottom of the board? “Come hither, Braband!”, called Tonriel, “’tis probably just more greenskin vermin in this room!”

“Oh sh….!”

The two chaos warriors and Fimir were vanquished, but not without taking a toll on the heroes’ HP: In fact, things were looking pretty dire at this point, with all heroes down to their last couple of HP and all healing spells and potions already used up.

So it was at the worst possible moment that the foul Verag’s lair was revealed:

But our heroes were nothing if not unconventional in their problem solving: Garo von Stein jumped right into the fray, as you would expect from someone with only one defense dice and only three more hitpoints to his name.

His audacity paid off, however, as Verag was instantly slain by a well placed Ball of Flame — while some of the heroes actions were slightly eccentric (bordering on idiotic), I have to admit they really made the best possible use of their offensive spells against dangerous targets!

Unfortunately, his advance had put the Wizard into a bit of a fix:

But he managed to dodge a full round of attacks, right in time for Braband and Tonriel to show up as backup and provide him with a clear route for a strategic escape.

It was a close call, but in the end, our heroes prevailed:

In fact, Thorin the Dwarf even chose to celebrate the occasion by dancing on the table — a bit rich, really, considering his less than stellar combat performance…

But in spite of everything, the heroes were victorious! They did manage to win by the skin of their teeth, though: One more round of combat could have produced the first hero casualties. For this reason, the heroes didn’t perform any further searching in the rooms that were left, but chose to end the quest then and there.

In all fairness, however, they did manage to vanquish quite a few monsters along the way:

So yeah, that was my first HeroQuest game in a long time — and definitely the first game using a fully painted set. So how does it hold up?

We actually had a blast, but then we’ve all grown up with HeroQuest, seeing the game as a bit of a gateway drug into the hobby. So there’s at least some nostalgia involved. There were many legitimately great moments, though: the surgical obliteration of the quest’s two most dangerous creatures by magic, for instance. Or Thorin’s inability to score a single hit on a consecutive five or six rounds: T. just didn’t roll a single skull, to his mounting frustration. On the other hand, the same skill also made him defend lots of damage when it really counted, keeping him alive longer than should have been possible:

“If you are defending, that’s an excellent result. If you are trying to kill something, not so much…”

But the fact remains that the game worked really, really well, in spite of being 30 years old. Granted, it was ever so slightly clunky in places and lacked some of the quality of life features we are all used to from more modern games — both of these problems were ameliorated by the fact that we were still (re)learning the ropes while playing, however, and so we were happy enough to be able to grasp the rules in a speedy fashion: They are really straightforward and robust enough to let you dive right into the game!

Thanks must also go to Annie and T. for indulging me in this venture. We had great fun, and to be able to serve as the evil dungeon master using my own toys again was a lovely, nostalgic moment — one that I hope we’ll be able to repeat sooner rather than later.

But that is a story for another time! For now, everything goes back into the box:

Before we tune out for today, however, let me say that I would love to hear any thoughts, feedback – or, indeed, old HeroQuest war stories – that you may have! Please feel free to leave me a comment below!

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

Seven years of blogging — and a return to the very beginning

Posted in heroquest, old stuff, paintjob, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2019 by krautscientist

Eternal Hunt is officially seven years old as of today — little would I have expected the blog to last so long when I started it back in 2012, as a way to chronicle my way back into the tabletop wargaming hobby. Since then, I have beeen fairly productive, if I do say so myself, and explored parts of the hobby I would never have considered beforehand. I’ve gotten in touch with lots of hobbyists all over the world and received lots of bitz drops and awesome models — let’s not forget that! In fact, a particularly awesome gift arrived just the other week, as you may remember, a bit early for the anniversary. Anyway, it has been quite a ride!

The blog currently stands at 414 posts, some 1.200,000 views, 450,000 visitors and 410 followers — all pretty cool numbers, considering the fact that this is merely little old me screaming into the void here ๐Ÿ˜‰ In fact, after a somewhat slower year in 2017 (with just 25 posts), I would say 2018 saw a bit of a rebound, with 40 published posts, and arguably some of my finest hobby work (especially in the field of INQ28) to date. Joining different, forum-related painting events as well as Azazel’s community challenges on a fairly regular basis, as well as getting together with my friend Annie for joint painting sessions fairly often, has given me a fairly steady stream of new content to share with you all, and I fully intend to keep up the pace!

At the same time, as I’ve said before, it has become more and more difficult to keep people interested in this place, given the encroaching age of Instagram. I’ve already beaten that particular drum quite enough, however, and remain committed to keeping this blog alive, in spite of everything. At the same time, I have also discovered (or, in some cases, been pointed towards) some truly cool blogs in the very recent pasts, such as Larsonic Miniatures, J’ai un planning chargรฉ, or Eastern Empire,ย  to name just a few. And some of the new blogs I have been following were even started fairly recently — so maybe blogging is not quite dead after all?

In any case, let’s make a deal: I’ll keep posting here if you keep reading, liking and – most importantly – commenting. Sound fair? I think we should give it a go!

Now then, since absolutely nobody is interested in boring numbers, it has become a bit of a tradition here at Eternal Hunt to illustrate each year’s anniversary post with a look at something that is truly retro — and boy do I have some old skool goodness for you this year!

In order to discover just what the heck I am talking about, let us return to the beginning of the year for a bit and, ultimately, all the way back to my very first steps in this hobby: Back In January, I had a hard time getting my arse in gear once again and deciding on which model to paint next, when my gaze fell on this unlucky fellow:

The Dwarf from Advanced HeroQuest, horribly mangled from my earlier paintjob — this must have happened sometime during the early-to-mid 90s, but that’s still no excuse: That poor model was a stain upon my honour, so I decided to try and salvage him, just on a whim, and it spite of it not having anything to do with any of my current hobby projects.

Here’s what I ended up with:


Ahh, much better, wouldn’t you agree? In fact, the heroes from Advanced HeroQuest have aged pretty poorly, but I am still reasonably happy with the outcome. So happy, in fact, that I next eyed up this guy, the warrior, from the same game:

Seriously, what was I thinking? The tip of his sword had snapped off years ago, so I quickly replaced it with a newer Empire sword and decided to finally paint him up properly. And at the same time, there was this model:

The Wizard, this time from HeroQuest proper. As you can see, I really did a number on these poor models back in the day. And that’s not even mentioning the HeroQuest Barbarian, one of the first models I have ever attempted to paint. He was already repainted during a previous attempt at salvaging ancient models.

So after a bit more painting, I had managed to go from this…

…to this:

And by that point, a plan was already gestating in the back of my head: So I dug out my old copy of HeroQuest (only a few odds and ends remain from my original first edition box, received as a Christmas present, back when the game was originally released in 1989, but I was lucky enough to snap up an Advanced Quest – or “Master Edition”, in German – set when they were sold off cheaply at a local supermarket back in the mid-90s), and to my delight, most of it was still there, except for a couple of cardboard parts . So I set it all out and started to think about whether I could actually achieve one of my all-time hobby goals: to finally own a fully painted set of HeroQuest, the very game that got me into the hobby:

Illustration by Les Edwards

Because, like so many others, I was actually introduced to the entire wargaming/tabletop/roleplaying conglomerate of hobbies by way of HeroQuest. I remember playing the first games on the evening of December 24th, 1989 with my parents, and following that, many hours spent coming up with my own games, playing with or against friends and trawling fleamarkets and garage sales for all kinds of retro-GW games and miniatures back in the day — as long as it had HeroQuest-esque models, I bought it and entered it into my growing collection: HeroQuest, Advanced HeroQuest, Battle Masters and two of the “Dark World” board games (that were, weirdly enough, marketed as boardgame versions of longrunning German RPG series “Das Schwarze Auge” here in Germany) — it all grew into one huge pantheon of heroes and monsters for me, and I still have fond memories of that time. I also made my first attempts at painting models back then. And they were absolutely horrible, of course — you saw some of those abominations further up in the post ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, here I was, returning to the game at long last. And looking at the models I would need to paint, it did seem achievable:

Of course there would also be the furniture to take care of — and maybe the odd extra model here and there…

So I decided upon a plan: For this project, I would mostly stick to the models that were part of the original HeroQuest set, with a couple of additional monsters thrown in here and there for good measure. Once that was completed, I would add the Men-at-arms at a later date. This left me with a sizeable, but still manageable, amount of models to paint, which was crucial because I am a bit of a hobby butterfly and occasionally have the attention span of a chimpanzee that’s been set on fire — as evidenced by a prior, ultimately abandoned, previous attempt at painting a HeroQuest set.

As an added incentive, however, HeroQuest actually turns 30 this year, so that should give me an extra push to go through with it. And I have also discovered all kinds of places online that are dedicated to HeroQuest, Ye Olde Inn chief among them, and I was surprised how much HeroQuest seems like an entire sub-hobby unto itself. Anyway, down the rabbit hole we go…

My first port of call was to finish the four hero models, and those will be the main course for today. So take a look at them:

 

The Barbarian:


You are the Barbarian, the greatest warrior of them all. But beware of magic, for your sword is no defense against it!

The Wizard:



You are the Wizard. You have many spells that can aid you. However, in combat you are weak. So use your spells well, and avoid combat.

The Elf:



You are the Elf. A master of both magic and the sword. You must use both well if you are to triumph.

The Dwarf:


You are the Dwarf. You are a good warrior and can always disarm traps that you find. You may remove any visible trap in the same room or passage.

 

I already had fond feelings for those HeroQuest models before, but painting the four heroes has given me a whole new appreciation for them: I think they have really managed to age terrifically gracefully, given the fact that they are, when all is said and done, one-piece board game models from 30 years ago. Granted, they are nowhere near as detailed as modern GW miniatures. But their striking design and instantly recognisable silhouettes still work really well, and seem to draw out my will to really paint them well.

As for the actual paintjobs, I had a blast going for that classic, bright high-fantasy look. The paintjobs were mostly inspired by Les Edward’s art from the game’s cover artwork (and the character artwork from the different role cards).

Is this my Oldhammer moment, then? Possibly so. At the same time, and unlike a sizeable amount of the Oldhammer community, however, I fully retain my appreciation of modern day GW models (in fact, I should think the work on these bright, characterful HeroQuest hero models should probably be a rather helpful inspiration for my eventual – inevitable – treatment of the characters from Blackstone Fortress.

It’s just that this return to the distant past happens to feel like such a nice palate cleanser right now — and like a veritable breath of fresh air, if cou can believe it.

Oh, and lest I forget: All of those models should be a rather fitting contribution to Azazel’s “Neglected models challenge” for February — after all, most of them had been neglected for more than two decades…

So wish me luck in my endeavour — and here’s a little something, just to get you in the right mood for this project as well:

I would love to hear what you think about the finished models so far, so please leave a comment! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more! ๐Ÿ™‚

Coming full circle?! A closer look at Kill Team: Rogue Trader

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2018 by krautscientist

As some of my readers have already pointed out, I no longer do many reviews these days. But I will gladly make an exception for Kill Team: Rogue Trader, one of the most delightful hobby surprises to come out of 2018 so far:

Kill Team: Rogue Trader is remarkable in several ways: For one, it’s a look at a part of the 40k universe that has appeared in background lore every now and then, but – apart from some Inquisitor models – has never been explored in depth in model form. There’s also the fact that this actually feels like an attempt to take the – already fairly promising – killteam concept into a more narrative and, dare I say it, inquisitorial direction. And at the same time, it also feels like coming full circle, in that both the subject matter and scope of the boxed set seems like a modernised look at the old Rogue Trader, as in: the first version of Warhammer 40k.

 

Enough reasons, then, to give this release a closer look. And it goes without saying that I will be focusing on the models that come with the set, looking at their strengths and shortcomings as well as thinking about possible uses for them in the wider hobby and the odd conversion opportunity. So here we go. Just like old times, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

I. The Elucidian Starstriders

To get this right out of the way, I am simply in love with this kill team: GW’s sculptors have done an amazing job at making the team look like the actual household of a Rogue Trader, with an actual background story and some really interesting characters. That alone makes this part of the release a triumph!

I also really appreciate how not only are there strong shared design elements between the models (the baroque armour, the stylised heraldic animal crests for different ranks and functions), but the design also manages to both fit the 40k universe and expand its visual language (with a decidedly baroque influence versus the classic “gothic” approach), making it clear that Rogue Traders are a force unto themselves.


Rogue Trader Elucia Vhane

So, let us start with the actual Rogue Trader, Elucia Vhane: For the most part, this is a lovely and eclectic figure befitting the status of a Rogue Trader. Moreover, since most of the depictions of Rogue Traders so far have invariably shown dudes in some kind of 19th century-ish military uniform, I think we’ll have to give GW some extra kudos for going with a female Rogue Trader!

The detail on the model is rather lovely: The filigreed armour and ruffles are a great touch, as is the slightly old timey aquila clasp on her right shoulder.

My one gripe with the model is how her face is mostly covered by a veil: I get how this was probably supposed to show the eclecticism of Rogue Traders and also add an air of mystery, because you cannot help but wonder how Elucia looks under the veil: a woman kept young and beautiful by rejuvenat treatments? A hideous crone? Something altogether more mysterious? I can also really imagine the veil working great in one of John Blanche’s concept sketches.

The thing is, however, that it fares less well in actual model form. As it stands, the part of the model that should be its absolute focus point ends up looking, well, rather uninteresting. And given the fact that GW’s catalogue absolutely lacks interesting and characterful female faces, this choice seems like an even more egregious copout. Personally speaking, I think a half-veiled face, some kind of stylised porcelain mask (or, even better yet, half-mask) would have been a better solution here, and obviously made for an even more interesting character — therefore, the face is definitely the one thing I would personally convert.


Knosso Prond

Elucia Vhane’s personal assass…erm “bodyguard” has to be one of my top three models from this release: You can never go wrong with a poised, stylised pose with a sword, and Knosso illustrates this very well. I also love how there’s such a clear asian influence to her design – particularly evident on her sword and facemask – but it’s an influence that gets reflected through the general 40k look and feel, and the result is really lovely, if you ask me. That mask and hairdo, in particular, are just great touches! One of the high points, certainly!


Sanistasia Minst

Yet another female character (which is great), and also an exploration of a character archetype we haven’t seen all that often: the medic. The model does an awesome job of straddling the line between a clean, clinical look very fitting for a medicae, and the more ostentatious and baroque elements that are a part of the household’s visual language. I especially like how her equipment (the helmet, shoulder pad and gloves, in particular) seem functional and ostentatious at the same time.

Oh, and that Nurgling is a nice touch, obviously, creating a cool little shout out, both to the background of the game and to the Gellerpox Infected.


Larsen van der Grauss

The Starstriders’ resident tech-priest, Larsen has a very cool and weird design with a strong silhouette. There’s enough weird equipment and tech-y elements to keep us guessing how everything works. I especially like the head!
Funnily enough, the model doesn’t even look all that AdMech at first glance, but it’s cool to see the Tech-Priest look extended a bit, particularly for a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus who has been embedded with a different faction for a longer time.

The look and angle of the left arm seem like a shout out to the old 2nd edition characters that were fairly flat and needed to be all about silhouette — slightly anachronistic in these more modern times, but it actually seems like a conscious choice here, given the many shout outs to older lore and concepts.

ย 

Elucia also comes with her own household guard, which I think deserves extra compliments because these are a part of any given warband or retinue we normally don’t get to see — the actual soldiers doing the dirty work ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stromian Grell

A burly man with a massive gatling gun — what’s not to like, right? Very iconic pose. Almost reminds me of one of the old Warzone Imperial (or Capitol) models, although in a good way. The boat cap is a lovely touch. I also love how his almost modern SciFi look gets tampered by the baroque influences, such as the filigree on the armour (and even on the weapon). The scarred forearms are also a cool little touch and a nice bit of visual storytelling that hints at an eventful life.

Also, kudos for actually going with a non-caucasian skin colour, ‘Eavy Metal Team! ๐Ÿ™‚

Voidmaster Nitsch

Another very 2nd edition pose — and frankly, it’s amost a bit too much with the two guns. At the same time, I really love the clean lines of the model. And possibly my favourite part is how Nitsch foregoes the usual “pants in boots” look for some actual suit pants and a far more suave setup — very interesting, and also a rather interesting resource for converting INQ28 characters and Imperial civilians…

He also looks like an officer, a gentleman, but also a hard-as-nails veteran.

Nitsch’s Squad

Nitsch’s small squad ofs Voidsmen is actually one of my favourite parts of this release. Even though they are fairly uniform, the different poses and weapons (as well as the fact that their actual uniforms are really cool) still make them a great visual addition to the kill team. Even better, there’s yet another female character in there, and for once she doesn’t suffer from the endemic boob armour problem (and is arguably the coolest of the bunch). These three really bring the household vibe to life!

Plus the squad also features what must be the boxed set’s best model bar none: Aximillion the cyber-mutt:

 

Seriously, I just love this guy! The attentive pose and armour plates matching his handlers are just so cool. How I would have loved to have access to this model, back when I wanted to build a cyber-mastiff for my INQ28 collection! Granted, I found a different solution. But it’s still awesome to have an “official” GW model to fill the function!

 

II. The Gellerpox Infected

On the other side of the aisle, we get one of the weirdest and eclectic collections of mutants, monsters and creepy-crawlies I have ever seen in a GW boxed set. The Gellerpox Infected don’t seem so much like an actual killteam, but rather like a “toolkit” for a GM to populate a setting with monsters and opponents for the party to fight. Like the collections of monsters you would see in, say HeroQuest or Space Crusade.

So let us take a look at all of those creatures in turn:

Vulgrar Thrice-Cursed

The leader of the Gellerpox Infected, Vulgrar is huge and brilliantly detailed — the latter really was to be expected, given GW’s standard for plastic models these days. The model is a rather disturbing amalgamation of distressed flesh and crude bionics. While the Nurglite touches are subtle, I still like them: The three heads,ย  the pockmarked skin – they hint at the source of the Gellerpox plague without turning the model overwhelmingly Nurglite, which is pretty cool.

Those heads are particularly excellent and seem like they would just look fantastic on a wide variety of conversions. At the same time, the burning furnace, complete with flames licking out if it…may be a bit much ๐Ÿ˜‰

In spite of many very cool design elements, I am still not in love with the model. I cannot quite put my finger on what’s the problem here, but it still feels like all the really cool individual components come together into a model that is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Is Vulgrar a terrifically detailed monstrosity? Without a doubt. But he’s not a showstopper or standout piece in a boxed set, like, say, the Dark Vengeance Helbrute used to be. My two cents ๐Ÿ˜‰


Nightmare Hulks

Now these big guys obviously add a lot of visual oomph to the Gellerpox Infected. And I really love how they were designed with archetypal nightmare monsters in mind: the monster from the deep, the cannibalistic abomination, the relentless engine of destruction — I think we can all agree that these are some brilliantly disgusting abominations ๐Ÿ˜‰


Gnasher-Screamer


Now this guy actually looks like a John Blance sketch come to life, which I think was the whole point. Giant Butcher-like brutes are always great fun, and Gnasher-Screamer hits all the right notes on this accord: He has the butcher’s apron, the giant cleaver, and also the unhinged, inbred redneck look to pull it all off. Like something from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, only turned up to eleven and refracted through the particular breed of body horror supplied by the ruinous powers.

If I had to find something to criticise, it would be that the model is maybe a tad too stylised for its own good: The fact that it looks like the 3d version of a drawing is both a blessing and a curse in that respect. But still, Gnasher-Screamer is a brilliant monstrosity, and that’s obviously enough! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Big Spike

In some ways, this guy is actually my favourite Nightmare Hulk: There’s just something about the juxtaposition of a grotesquely overmuscled arm with a withered and decayed limb on the other side that works every time. Now replacing the withered right arm with some weird fly-body may be seen as slightly too gimmicky by some, but I just love the sheer grotesqueness of it.

At the same time, I also have a gripe about the model: the face. It just seems weirdly pedestrian and normal to me, and the goggles (ostensibly the remains of the creature’s formal life) actually make it worse. I think Big Spike would work much better with some kind of weird breathing apparatus strapped to his face (the obvious insectile connotations would also work really well with that little fly buddy growing out of this right shoulder).


The Writher

Ah, yes: You’ve got to have one chaos monster with tentacles, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now this guy reminded me of an old WD article where the sculptors discussed how tentacles were such a difficult element of sculpting because they could make a model look weak and also because they would also often recall some kind of deep sea creature, which seemed a bit ridiculous in the 40k setting. Interestingly enough, the designers seem to actually have embraced the deep sea look on the Writher, as his tentacles and pseudopods resemble nothing so much as the limbs of a giant octopus.

In all fairness, it actually works in the model’s favour: The tentacles, weird distended flesh and hideous shoulder area actually reminded me a bit of the – brilliantly scary – creatures in the (deep sea) videogame SOMA (*shiver*), plus there’s arguably a deep sea angle to the warp that seems like it might be fun to explore.

I also really like the way the Writher’s features are covered by a crude saccloth hood that leaves some parts of his countenance up to our imagination while also still showing us a fair share of disgusting stuff ๐Ÿ˜‰

pose seems a bit more unbalanced than the rest of the hulks, especially with the massive belly — although I suspect they were going for a bloated corpse look, in keeping with the deep sea angle. The scared face of a victim peaking from the Writher’s abdomen is just a little silly, though… And maybe the sculptors have taken the deep sea angle a tad too far, what with the harpoon sticking from the model’s left shoulder? ๐Ÿ˜‰


The Vox-Shamblers

Now these guys are hands down my least favourite part of the boxed set. Poxwalkers? Pirates? Plague Bearers? They seem a bit like the unfocused kitbashes some people come up with when they really want to go crazy and chaotic for the first time, just throwing everything and the kitchen sink together. The weirdly Necron-like skull masks don’t really help either. I’d say the Poxwalkers actually work better as mutated crewmen than these guys…

I appreciate wanting to go more interesting than mere shambling zombie archetypes, but these guys just seem to have too many things going on at the same time. On the other hand, while they may not be my cup of tea, maybe they are also intended as a shout out to the general weirdness that was all over the vintage Rogue Trader and its models from the 80s — that weird mohawk on the middle guy, for instance, seems like evidence for this.

When all is said and done, however, these are pretty much the low point of the release for me, if only because, when compared with the very well realised characters that are part of the Elucidan Starstriders, they just seem a little thin and generically monstrous.

 

The Gellerpox Infected come with a pretty vast array of slightly Nurglite critters:

Eyestinger Swarms

At first glance, these models reminded me of the old plastic swarms for 6th edition WFB, obviously with much superior sculpting. They also serve as a shout out to the various flies and daemonic insects that are parts of many of the new Deathguard models, which establishes a nice bit of visual consistency. I also like the fact that we get four original designs — personally speaking, the swarm of tiny flies erupting from a ribcage seems the goofiest to me, if only because


Cursemites


I really like these because there’s something chitinous and disgusting about them. They seem like a nightmare fusion of chestbursters and bluebottle flies, and they still manage to be adorable in that weird, Nurglite sense — especially the little guy seemingly puking his guts out…


Glitchlings

Somebody must have told the Nurglings to keep their masks on, so nobody would recognise them… Seriously, though, like all Nurglings these are good fun, and the resemblance between their masks and those of the vox-shamblers is a neat idea, at least in theory. At the same time, they also come dangerously close to feeling a bit too gimmicky — especially the Two-Bad-style guy…


Sludge-Grubs

Another type of critter, and another set of four unique sculpts, which is nice. There’s a lot of disgusting detail here, as well as some visual shout outs to various Nurgle models. When all is said and done, the grubs are fun, but nothing to write home about.

And I think that may just be my main criticism when it comes to the Gellerpox Infected: That they lack the amount of character and coherence present in the Elucidian Starstriders. They don’t really feel so much like an actual kill team, but rather like a collection of monsters the GM can sick on the player. Now I realise that this probably isn’t any kind of viable criticism at all, because that’s probably exactly what these guys were supposed to be. But while the Gellerpox infected work great as a collection of monsters and creepy-crawlies, they also lack any real characters. Even the Nightmare Hulks seem more like Scooby Doo Monsters of the Week than anything.

At the same time, I think we also need to consider the angle that the whole box seems like a shout out to the vintage Rogue Trader — and to the craziness of those days. So it seems perfectly appropriate when some of the creatures reflect some of those vintage sensibilities.ย  Besides, every chaos player should be happy with this toolkit of monsters and mutants to work with. It’s maybe just that, seeing how the Starstriders work as such a well realised and coherent groups, the mutants fall a little flat in comparison.

III. The Rest

On top of the two kill teams, the boxed set also provides us with some smaller terrain pieces and, I imagine, objectives. These all seem to be beautifully detailed and look like a great match for the new terrain kits. I appreciate the inclusion of consoles and pilot seats, because these could really be useful for all kinds of projects. And I like how the small livepods channel design elements both from the escape pod that’s a part of the 40k objectives set, as well as the larger Space Marine drop pods.

IV. The opportunities

 

Elucidian Starstriders

I think it should be really easy to see how these could be incredible useful for both INQ28 retinues or custom Rogue Trader warbands. Just to outline a few ideas:

  • Elucia works great both as a Rogue Trader or, with some tweaks, as an Inquisitrix. In any case, I would probably replace her face with something a bit more interesting (read: less veiled). Come to think of it, she would also make for a pretty cool commanding officer for a rather baroque and eclectic regiment of the Astra Militarum.
  • Knosso Prond, Sanistaria Minst, Larsen van der Grauss and Stromian Grell would also be perfect for all kinds of Inquisitorial warbands, even without any conversions. They would also work great as specialists for, say, an Astra Militarum army.
  • Voidmaster Nitsch is interesting because his elegant getup turns him into prime material for converting a number of characters: He could be an Interrogator, obviously. Or some kind of Imperial agent. Or a chastener of the Adeptus Arbites. But he would also make a great base model for an Imperial noble or a high-ranking operative of a trading cartel or other Imperial organisation — in fact, I have an idea for an operative for the Mandelholtz Banking House that I think Nitsch would be the perfect base model for…
  • The Voidsmen would make for fantastic Imperial Navy Armsmen, a squad of Hive Cops (or even Arbites), Inquisitorial troopers or a Navigator’s household guard — in fact, we can probably expect to see these guys a lot in the future — trust me on this.

One thing I realise looking at the models is that, since they are so well realised as a coherent group, I almost feel reluctant to think about ways to convert them or cut them up, bar the small tweak here and there. I think that is very much a testament to the quality of the job GW’s sculptors have done on this kill team!

Gellerpox Infected:

  • The Nightmare Hulks would make for perfect chaos spawn, far surpassing the official kit (which really hasn’t aged well).
  • Even though they are all supposed to be – subtly – nurglite, it wouldn’t be much work to turn some of them to the service of the other gods: The Gnasher-Screamer already looks like a servant of Khorne. The Writher’s tentacle look or Big Spike’s claw would work equally well for a Slaaneshi force or warband, given a couple of tweaks.
  • By the same token, Vulgrar Thrice-Cursed, with his crude augmetics, would also be a perfect construct for a Dark Mechanicus-themed force or warband.
  • The Vox-Shamblers are so close in design to both the Plague Bearers and the Poxwalkers that they could work as champions/heralds for either. At the same time, they seem like a perfect template for Necromunda mutants, Scavies or similar, downtrodden creatures.
  • The rest of the various critters would be a cool addition for every Nurgle army, of course, where they could be used both as swarms of vile creatures and to accessorise special characters and champions.
  • At the same time, they would also work really well as hazards, enemies or obstacles in games of Necromunda, as they perfectly recall some of the various critters and hazards from the old Necromunda tables ๐Ÿ˜‰

All in all, this boxed set is a fantastic way to experience both kill team as well as the particular eclecticism of 40k as a background! The Elucian Starstriders are a wonderful achievement, and I applaud GW for creating them! The Gellerpox Infected are a fun and versatile menagerie of monsters to be used in various ways (and settings). And even if I would have preferred another kill team as well realised as the Starstriders, the box as a whole is still a wonderful little surprise. And best of all, it also recalls the vintage Rogue Trader and its inherent weirdness in all the right ways for that extra nostalgia bonus — after several decades of releases, it does seem like GW has, in a way, come full-circle with this release!

At the same time, the set is exciting not only for its contents, but for how it represents GW’s willingness to explore well-loved but underutilised parts of the lore and background. At this point, even Inquisitorial retinues and releases for them probably wouldn’t be out of the question. And even if this should be a one-shot, it’s a wonderful way to explore the grimdarkness of the far future beyond the well-trod paths of massive battles and twenty different flavours of SPESS MEHREENZ ๐Ÿ˜‰

So what’s your take on this release? Do you agree with me or do you find fault with my points? And what are your ideas for the models from this boxed set? I would love to hear from you in the comments section! ๐Ÿ™‚

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more! ๐Ÿ™‚

Dark Imperium — a closer look at the Death Guard models

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2017 by krautscientist


Hey everyone: Once again, sorry for the lack of updates. I returned from my recent trip to Amsterdam full of new hobby ideas — it’s just the sitting down and writing about it part where I seem to falter. It has also been getting harder and harder to get feedback on my posts recently, which makes it all the more tempting to actually build and paint stuff instead of blogging about it…

Be that as it may, here’s another post at long last. And while today’s update started out as a regular (if very late) review of models that come with the Dark Imperium boxed set, it has warped and mutated into something slightly different for a number of reasons: I realised early that I would need to divide my look at the box in two parts, for one. For talking about the Primaris Space Marines will invariably mean taking a look at their implications for the overall setting, both from a modeling and storytelling perspective. And seeing the additional kits they have been receiving recently, that would make for a pretty sizeable post in and of itself.

At the same time, there’s also the fact that I have been bitten by the Nurgle bug on account of the new Death Guard models, and have started to play around with the new sprues. So for today, let us take a closer look at the chaotic side of the Dark Imperium release: The New Death Guard models, designed by Maxime Pastourel and Aly Morrison:


By now, it’s no longer a secret that Maxime Pastourel, aka Morbรคck, is not only one of GW’s sculptors, but also one of the people behind one of the best hobby blogs on the internet, and also the owner of what’s probably the best Nurgle army in existence, the Plaguebones. The army was even featured recently on the Warhammer Community page, yet I would argue that you should really head over to Maxime’s own blog for the bigger picture.

Anyway, back when the first teasers of the new Death Guard models surfaced, I literally made a little squee of delight when I discovered more and more telltale elements of Maxime’s Nurgle conversions both in the artwork and the actual models: I was basically only waiting for him to finally make some Death Guard models, and now they are finally here. And I am more than happy with the outcome! What’s more, I’ve managed to get my hand on most of the Dark Imperium Death Guard models, courtesy of fellow hobbyist BubblesMcBub (cheers, mate!). So let’s take a look at the models and at what I have done so far with some of them.

Oh, and once again, the review over at Convert Or Die should make for some excellent complementary reading — just pointing this out before we get going ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Lord of Contagion


What a beast! I probably have this semi-conscious shortlist of what a Nurglite warlord should be in the back of my head, and this guy really ticks all of the boxes for me: Massive? Check! Clad in ancient, pitted Terminator armour? Check. Intestines squelching out of the collapsed parts in the armour? Check! Wielding a massive, vicious close combat weapon? Check, check and check!

It’s really cool how close the Lord of Contagion comes to basically embodying the archetypal warlord of Nurgle — to wit, it’s probably no coincidence that he resemblesย this iconic piece of artwork, courtesy of Adrian Smith, so much:


By the same token, the Lord of Contagion shows one of the main tenets of the new models’ design: a pronounced medieval influence that is clearly visible on most, if not all, of the new Death Guard models (and, in all fairness, has always played a huge part in GW’s approach to Nurgle). At the same time, the fact that the model is clearly wearing corrupted Terminator armour firmly roots it in the 40k setting — an important balance to get right, but Maxime has really managed to nail it here.

There’s also a fair bit of Typhus in there — in fact, seeing this massive guy, I cannot even begin to imagine how impressive the Death Guard’s First Captain might end up looking, if he gets a redesign, that is.

Speaking of which, it would be really easy to turn the Lord of Contagion into a Typhus conversion: It looks like the head comes as a separate part, so using the head from one the stock Typhus models (or converting something similar) would go a long way towards making this guy look like Typhus. The blade of the weapon should be easy to enough with a suitably impressive scythe as well — although I find myself balking at the mere idea of getting rid of that magnificent axe blade…

Speaking about that axe, it’s obvious how it was inspired by the massive axe from Maxime’s incredible Lord of Skulls conversion, and I was really happy to see it make a return on an “official” GW model! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oh, and I just love those poor little Nurglings being squashed by the Lord’s left food: It’s a neat touch that provides the suitable amount of Nurglite humour without beeing too on-the-nose about it.

My one possible nitpick is the back mounted icon, as it can seem a bit overwhelming. But having seen the model firsthand, it works fantastically well as an ensemble, so consider this a very minor complaint.

All in all, this guy is a fantastic centre piece model for any Death Guard army — or, indeed, any 40k collection, period. Brilliant work!

 

Malignant Plaguecaster

Now this guy was a slightly tougher sell for me, mostly because it took me quite a while to even make sense of the model when first seeing it. If nothing else, it’s clearly obvious that we are dealing with a Nurglite Sorcerer here. And indeed, upon closer examination, the Malignant Plaguecaster shares quite a few visual elements with Forgeworld’s older Death Guard Sorcerer:

And yet, it’s precisely by comparing the Plaguecaster to Forgeworld’s model that we can see the problems: Forgeworld’s take is fairly down-to-earth — almost pedestrian, really. And yet it works so well because the pose is sound and powerful. Whereas the Malignant Plaguecaster is hampered by the way his very pose seems strangely unbalanced. The fact that there’s so much going on with the model – a veritable flurry of shapes and curves – doesn’t help either.

Beyond this main aspect, my other two points of contention are the model’s face and staff: Now the the creepy cherub face is an interesting idea — however, I have to say it doesn’t quite come together for me, and is one of the element’s I would change about the model.

And why is the staff so short and silly — it almost looks like a toy. Why couldn’t it have been a scythe — or at the very least, a good bit longer?

On the other hand, one thing I really like, is something you only see when taking a closer look: The ragged shroud pinned to the Plaguecaster’s backpack:


Now this obviously looks like a deathshroud — but it also recalls an insectile wing, wouldn’t you agree? In fact, taking a closer look at the model’s copious mutations, there’s a very cool sense of something dreadful and insectile just waiting to break from the sorcerer’s body any moment now, while also being barely contained by his still almost-human outer shell. What a cool and creepy concept, indeed! It’s just a shame that so much of it gets lost amidst the flurry of different shapes and clashing design elements…

My own approach for the model, therefore, was to keep the sense of something twisting and gestating just underneath the Plaguecaster’s skin, while cutting back on the clutter. I also changed the face and staff, while I was at it:


The face has been covered up with a Cadian rebreather (the hood even has a small indentation in exactly the right spot, which was an awesome coincidence). The staff was turned into something less toylike by splicing in some parts from the bell that came with the Putrid Blightking kit. And I do think the right arm works better at a different angle, giving the model a slightly more grounded pose. As for the right hand, I experimented with the option of giving him some kind of casting hand, but in the end it seemed like he needed some visual counterweight, so to speak, to balance out the staff, and the clunky plasma pistol from the Noxious Blightbringer just did the job rather nicely.

Here’s the Plaguecaster next to my (earlier) sorcerer conversion:


I actually like him much better now, mostly because the slightly streamlined version should be easier to make sense of. I also hope I’ve managed to keep all the cool parts. All things considered, I love this guy’s inclusion in the Dark Imperium box, because where the Lord of Contagion is a perfect model right out of the box, the Malignant Plaguecaster is a delightful little puzzle to be solved by converters, and I had quite a bit of fun, making some tweaks to him!

 

Noxious Blightbringer:


This guy presents an interesting new character archetype halfway between a sorcerer and a standard bearer, and it seems like the model tries to capture this somewhat new and adventurous concept by having a bit of fun with the established visual language: All of the hallmarks are there, but some get turned up to elevene — such as the bell dangling from the massive, jutting horn growing out of the Blightbringer’s backpack.

It’s also obvious that the Blightbringer leans rather heavily on the medieval parts of the design — or even moreso than the rest of the models, that is. And in fact, this goes a long way to giving this guy his own identity: Between the slightly WFB-styled helmet and the tabard/smock covering the front of the armour, there is something rather darkly medieval and apocalyptic about this guy. Even better then, that he is wearing a clearly identifiable – and mostly standard – suit of Mk. III armour underneath it all!

If I have one piece of criticism, it’s that – once again – there’s almost too much going on with this guy, especially with the massive number of censers dangling from his armour and backpack

All in all, however, it’s a cool and fun little character model, and an interesting exploration of how far the medieval angle can be pushed. I also love the little Nurgling hanging from his shoulder pad ๐Ÿ˜‰

As for conversion options, the model also makes for an excellent Plague Champion (or even Nurglite warlord) with just a minimum of conversion work, as I found out myself: Due to an ebay mixup, I found myself in the possession of an extra Blightbringer model, and having cannibalised it for bitz, I wanted to do something cool with remaining pieces, so here’s what I did:




It was easy enough to carefully cut away the head (while keeping it intact for use on a future project). The weapons were replaced, and I also got rid of some of the censers — while moving one to a different location on the backpack to create a “chain cape” look of sorts:


On a related note, the leftover bell from that same Blightbringer’s backpack turned out to be just the missing piece I needed to breathe some new life into a slightly strange conversion I originally built all the way back when the Putrid Blightkings were released, using some Blightking bitz and an old AOBR plastic Terminator. The model ended up in a strange place between a regular Plague Marine and a Terminator in the end. Pretty cool, but also slightly confusing. Now with the very real scale creep of the new Death Guard models, and with the help of the last leftover parts of my extra Blightbringer, I was able to turn this guy into something that nicely fits the theme of the models I have built so far. An alternate Blightbringer, if you will:




 

Foetid Bloatdrone:


The Foetid Bloatdrone fills the obvious Dreadnought/Helbrute slot for the Death Guard force contained in Dark Imperium, and it’s certainly interesting to see something that’s almost a Dreadnought, only not.

Of course the Bloatdrone channels some of Forgeworld’s own Blight Drone model:


But while I could never quite bring myself to like the Blightdrone, I actually think the Bloatdrone is really cool — maybe it’s the fact that it’s actually closer in design to the rest of GW’s (plastic) chaos catalogue. Maybe it’s because the Bloatdrone almost seems like a missing link between the Blightdrone and a Dreadnought. Anyway, I really like it, with all its nice Nurglite touches (such as the single eye, the arrangement of the thrusters in an obvious nod to Nurgle’s own symbol, and the “garden syringe” look of the weapons. Oh, and the beautifully disgusting, fleshy back, of course:


It’s also really cool that the Death Guard get their first original vehicle/warmachine beyond the stuff we already know. Now the Helbrute was a bit of a standout model in the Dark Vengeance boxed set, and the Bloatdrone mostly continues this trend, giving us a cool model that should be fun to play around with.

Speaking of which, I think converters should find lots of useful conversion fodder on this model: The thrusters whould work rather beautifully on a Nurglite Daemon Prince, while the main body and faceplate could probably be kitbashed into some rather cool Helbrute and/or fiend variants. We’ll see…

 

Plague Marines


Definitely the high-point of the release for me! I really love how these guys breathe some new life into one of GW’s most interesting chaos archetypes. There’s just so much going on here at the same time — and in a good way. To wit:

  • the models have many iconic elements that go back to Jes Goodwin’s seminal Plague Marine from the early 90s and, by extension, his original design sketches from the same time:Take a look: the Pickelhaube-styled helmet, the bloated breastplate, the pipes — all accounted for. By the same token, you can find many more classic touches on the models, such as the backpacks basically recalling classic second edition chaos backpacks. I love continuity porn like that! ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Once again, there’s a distinctly medieval feel about these guys: You’ve got chainmail, decayed wood, and all of those bells…
  • there are some subtle trencher and WW1 touches, even beyond the spiked helmet, such as some of the Blight grenades being designed like German stick grenades. A very fitting and grimdark touch!
  • At the same time, and in spite of all those different visual touches, I love how all of the models are wearing clearly identifiable Mk. III plate!
  • The models also have a great sense of grim determination, which is very fitting for the Death Guard. Yes, they are decayed, shambling monstrosities. But they are also the galaxy’s most resilient footslogging Astartes troops, and they have been for more than ten millennia!
  • And last, but very definitely not least, Morbรคck has succeeded at splicing in some very iconic, yet also completely fitting, elements of his own Plaguebone conversions:The guy in the bottom left is basically a Plaguebone (and also one of the best models of the bunch). The cyclopean head on the Marine with the plasma gun is a dead ringer for the converted head on Morbรคck’s Lord of Skulls — the list goes on and on!

What’s even better, however, is that each of them is a character! While two of the models share almost the same body, they still end up looking suitably different that we get a squad where every model is an individual exploring slightly different visual archetypes, while the models still make up a coherent squad. That’s just lovely!

So, is there anything I don’t like? Once again, and this is basically spitballing of the highest order, but maybe some of the models are just a tad too busy and stylised for their own good. I’d feel tempted to maybe take of a chain here and a dangling detail there, just to improve the overall flow of the models and de-clutter them a bit. The champion is also arguably the weakest of the bunch, because he just moves too far away from the Plague Marine archetype and looks more like a sorcerer to me (that being said, on the other hand that means he would make for a sweet alternate Plaguecaster) . And the molten face doesn’t quite do it for me, personally speaking.

As a squad in a starter kit, however, these are an improvement over the – already fairly spectacular – Dark Vengeance Chosen. And they also finally provide us with some excellent Plague Marine models once again, when previous iterations were just constantly getting worse, diluting the fantastic concepts of the early models further and further and relying on mushy sculpting and gooey, nondescript mutations.

When it comes to converting these guys, like I said, I don’t think I’ll be making any massive changes to them, as I mostly like them exactly the way they are. Maybe I’ll take off a detail here or change something small there, but nothing too involved, so as not to mess with the models’ inherent character. However, if you should find yourself with two sets of Plague Marines, cutting them up for extra variety should provide lots and lots of fun: Like the Dark Vengeance Chosen that came before, the new Plague Marines seem like challenging, yet all the more promising conversion material — and that’s without even considering the very real prospect of a multipart kit in the (hopefully not too distant) future.

One thing I found really surprising when working with the actual models, however, was how big they actually are: They seem to be using standard plastic Mk. III armour as a template, but it has been scaled up quite a bit, making the models about 1.5 times the size of standard Mk. III models. So my kitbashed Plague Marines do seem ever so slightly stunted next to the new official models:


For the record, I think they still work pretty well — if you don’t look too closely ๐Ÿ˜‰

However, the real surprise came when I compared the new Plague Marine with one of the Putrid Blightking-based models I converted a while ago: The latter were originally conceived as true-scalish and ended up being about the size of standard Terminators. But now…


…it turns out they would actually work very well as standard Plague Marines: Sure, they are slightly more bloated and a bit more medieval, but that can be explained away as a bit of variation between squads. Seems I have five more Plague Marines now ๐Ÿ˜‰

In fact, Impact1 has found out that the Plague Marines can be turned into rather fantastic Death Guard Terminators with a bit of work, on account of their impressive size.

One last thing that should be mentioned about the new Plague Marines is that there’s also the additional set of three snapfit models:


Now I love the fact that these are actually three more original sculpts! At the same time, their poses are noticeably more rigid and betray their snapfit origins. Still, these should make a nice addition to the seven guys from the Dark Imperium box, and they are already making their way to me as of this writing.

If I have one major complaint, it’s the fact that we actually have to get these models to get our hands on the Blight Launcher, seemingly the Death Guard’s new signature weapon. As it happens, I am actually planning to convert another of the three to wield a Blight Launcher, and I already have the weapon mostly prepared:


Really not brain surgery, this one: Just combine a plastic Mk. IV or Mk. III Heavy Bolter with the barrel from a Cadian grenade launcher, throw on some Nurgly bitz as needed — DONE. I cannot even claim being the first to come up with this idea, either: Credit must go to Satarin, among others.

Let me also point out that DuskRaider has made an excellent conversion for Forgeworld’s Necrosius (their aforementioned Death Guard Sorcerer) using the snapfit champion.

 

Poxwalkers

Now these were the other part of the new Death Guard release that I didn’t immediately fall in love with: The models just seemed too goofy and over the top to me at first. However, I’ve really grown fond of them over the last couple of weeks, so hear me out:

One reason I like them is because the amount of detail on the models is just insane, with their boils, mutations and disgusting textures rendered in a way that is almost sublime — seriously, you have to see the plastics firsthand to realise how sharp and wonderfully gross the detail on these guys is!

There’s also the fact that so much of their inherent weirdness – the strange angles of their limbs and their manic grins, for instance – gets explained really well, for once, in their background: Those are all symptoms of the disease they are suffering from, and it’s seemingly slowly turns them into something resembling nothing so much as Nurgle’s own Plaguebearers — in fact, this is an excellent callback to established background, were victims of Nurgle’s Rot originally slowly turned into Plaguebearers as well!


In another fairly cool touch, the Poxwalkers pick up on something that was already fairly excellent about the plastic Chaos cultists that came with Dark Vengeance: We get to see some remains of civilian life in the Imperium, as the tattered remains of the Poxwalkers’ clothing show their former station in life: There are miner’s suits and uniforms as well as hazmat suits — or even something that might be a medicae coat. There’s something very fitting (and disturbing) about the thought that people might have been infected while trying to fight an outbreak of the disease — or, even more sinister, while trying to engineer biological weapons? After all, this is the grimdarkness of the far future we are talking about here… ๐Ÿ˜‰

A propos of nothing, let me just point out that the guy wielding what looks like a pipe wrench is actually a perfect model!

So by and large, the Poxwalkers have really managed to win me over — or should that be: get me infected? But still, some of the models are still a bit too out there, though, with features that seem a bit too exaggerated and details that are just one bridge too far. Therefore, my own approach with these models will be to prune back some of those OTT touches while keeping the models’ overall strangeness in place.

I’ve already attempted this with the Poxwalker wearing a torn hazmat suit. Here’s the result:




Now this may not seem like a huge change, but I am far more happy with the model now: Here’s what I did:

1. The oxygen tank messing up the model’s silhouette was cut off and reattached to the model’s back.

2. The hand holding the plague knife was rotated, so it looks less weird

3. On the other hand, the left arm and head were tweaked to actually make them look weirder: The disease is what mutates these guys and locks their joints at strange angles, right? Now in my imagination, the Poxwalkers’ movements should be full of weird twitching and spastic cramps — like something out of Jacob’s Ladder or Silent Hill. Which is why I carefully bent the arm to look even more unnatural. And I significantly changed the angle of the head to make it look like it too was subject to the strange cramps and spasms of the body.

As with the Plague Marines, there’s also a second, snap-fit kit of Poxwalkers available:


Yet for the most part, there’s nothing about these models that the guys in the starter kit don’t alreeady do better. The fat guy is interesting, mostly because that angle hasn’t really been explored in the first batch of Poxwalkers, and I really wish the guy with the goggles and rebreather had been included on the Dark Imperium sprues. But apart from that, these guys are really nothing to write home about.

 

So, all in all, I am really very happy with the Death Guard part from the Dark Imperium starter box! The Plague Marines, in particular, are a true return to form after years and years of fairly sub-par models from GW. As a starter army, these actually seem like a refined, even more interesting (if also less versatile) version of Dark Vengeance’s CSM starter force. In any case, it goes without saying that they are terrific value for the model and have really given me quite an appetite for all kinds of Nurglite shenanigans — and I am really looking forward to finally seeing the rumoured multipart kits and *gasp* the Plague Terminators! Fantastic work, gentlemen!


So what’s your take on the new Death Guard models? Are you feeling as enthusiastic about them as I am or do you have any gripes? Are there any cool conversions or additional thoughts you would like to share? I would be happy to hear from you in the comments section!

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

Change we can believe in — a closer look at the Thousand Sons release

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2016 by krautscientist

Oh my, it has really happened… The rumours seemed far too crazy at first, but now here we are with the first actual Daemon-Primarch and what could be the beginning of a complete (and much needed) design update for the entire CSM faction, especially when it comes to models for the cult legions (I am crossing my fingers so hard it hurts, as you can probably imagine).

That remains to be seen, though. For now let us focus on the new Thousand Sons, as that means we have enough on our plate as it is.

thousand-sons-release-1
I may have mentioned before that I usually find Tzeentch the hardest chaos god to like, mostly due to the whole wanton mutation angle: The daemonic servants of Tzeentch are often too abstract for my taste, and the often heavily mutated mortal servants also tend to leave me cold — what can I say, I am a Khorne “heavy armour and no nonsense” kind of guy through and through ๐Ÿ˜‰

That being said, I have always liked the concept of the Thousand Sons very much, precisely because they put such a nice spin on the usual Tzeentchian approach: Ahriman’s Rubric was an attempt to stop the very mutating powers that usually plague servants of the Architect of Fate, and it ended up creating an army of unfeeling, disembodied combat automata — the exact opposite of what you would expect of a Tzeentchian host (and then again, the subversion is delicious, of course, this being Tzeentch we are talking about). Anyway, there’s something clever and interesting about the legion, and the Thousand Sons are also, arguably, one of the most tragic traitor legions, so there’s much to like there in concept. And now we finally see them as a fully fleshed out model release — I never thought I’d see the day!

I also think it’s a rather clever approach to release 30k and 40k Thousand Sons back to back like that, and once again, there’s delicious irony in the fact that both are released at the same time while 10 millennia have passed in the background between both incarnations of the legion. A clever bit of planning there — if it was planned in the first place, of course. But, again, it’s Tzeentch we are talking about here, so yeah…

 

Before this all gets a little bit too meta, however, let’s just focus on the models, take a look at all the different parts of the release and consider some of the possible conversion opportunities.

Before we begin, allow me to point out that, once again, there is something I would like to think of as an unofficial companion piece to this review over at Wudugast’s blog, and I recommend you check it out as well.

So here we go:

 

Magnus the Red, Daemon-Primarch of the Thousand Sons

thousand-sons-release-3So yeah, it seems like Daemon-Primarchs are now officially a thing in 40k. Good thing I already made one earlier this year ๐Ÿ˜‰

But anyway, it’s obvious that this is a pretty exciting development, especially given the fact that our only look at the Daemon-Primarchs in model for so far were the respective Epic 40k versions — and the less said about them, the better…

If we look at the model at hand, I have to say that Magnus looks pretty much exactly the way I always envisioned him — well, except for the chicken feet, maybe ๐Ÿ˜‰
But even an element as unexpected as the avian feet works pretty well for giving the model a Tzeentchian look without sacrificing any of Magnus’s impressive physicality.

It pleases me immensely that there is quite a lot of Wayne England’s interpretation of Daemon-Primarch Magnus in the model, because you just cannot go wrong with taking cues from Wayne England, if you ask me:

illustration by Wayne England

illustration by Wayne England

What’s more, all the changes made to Wayne England’s design certainly make sense: I already mentioned the avian feet above, and the inclusion of feathers on strategic points of the model (and the choice of replacing the classic daemon wings in the art with feathered wings) all enforce Magnus’ connection with classic Tzeentch imagery. These elements also make him look like a scintillating hellish bird of prey — rather fitting for Tzeentch’s favoured daemonic servant. One could argue that the finished model is almost too fabulous — but come on, which other Primarch would warrant a look as exalted as this, if not the lord of sorcerers? Well, Fulgrim perhaps, but we’ll be getting there, I suppose… ๐Ÿ˜‰

The model is also pretty enormous, easily towering over even greater daemons (which probably doesn’t bode well for my Angron conversion. Bugger!):

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As is always the case, however, it’s the small things that make or break even a huge model like this, and GW has certainly put in the required work:

I really love the inclusion of three different heads, for one: The actual cyclopean face – for all its dorkiness – echoes the classic Epic model and the vintage depiction of Magus in the fluff. What’s more, the three different faces also mirror a particular scene in Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Betrayer where Magus’ face seems to be jumping between different versions while you look at him — and I really, really love that little bit of lore represented in model form!

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Personally, I prefer the masked face, both for its mysterious and regal qualities and because it’s not quite as gnarled as the other two.

I also like the fact that we get the choice of arming him with either a glaive or a Kopesh. If you ask me, the sword seems like the more elegant solution, mostly because that huge ball of energy forming above the glaive’s blade doesn’t quite come together visually:

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I wonder if this “multiple choice” version of characters will happen more often in the future, as the classic approach is to have one version for a special character and no options whatsoever. Such are the liberties of plastic models, I suppose…

There’s also an incredible amount of detail on Magnus’s armour, and all of those embellishments don’t merely serve as decoration: It seems like there’s a real depth of symbolism here, with layers and layers of callbacks to the lore – or, indeed, to real world culture – for us to figure out. Wudugast has done a fantastic job of pointing out many of these elements in his aforementioned post, and it would be remiss of me to steal his work here, so make sure to give it a look.
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I wonder why his right hand is so freakishly big, though. Is there some explanation for this in the lore? Or is that just his literal Red Right Hand? (Badum-Tish! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Speaking of red, though, I have to say that the ‘Eavy Metal paintjob of the new model – while technically impeccable, of course – makes Magnus look a tad too pink for my taste. Fellow hobbyist Tzen is currently doing a paintjob in a darker red, and with feathers that almost look crystalline — I am really looking forward to the results! Check out his progress here.

All in all, I think Magnus is a really worthy first Daemon-Primarch, and I am really looking forward to seeing his brothers rendered in equally monstrous forms! At the same time, I cannot stop wondering whether was it really clever to release the Daemon-Primarch version before the regular FW Primarch version. I think there’s a very real danger of the “mortal” version ending up feeling slightly underwhelming now — oh well, I guess FW’s sculptors will just have to give it their best shot ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Ahriman

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After Eldrad Ulthran and Khรขrn the Betrayer, Ahriman is the third classic 2nd edition Jes Goodwin model to be given a redesign, and it should be obvious that these models are the ones to be nervous about, given the originals’ iconic quality.

The first thing to note, then, is that the model definitely reads as Ahriman, and in a bit of a surprise, the new version might actually be closer to Jes Goodwin’s original sketch than the classic version:

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Nearly all the iconic elements of Ahriman’s previous incarnation are accounted for: the horned helmet, the sorcerer’s staff topped with the same gazelle horns, the robes and high collar — even the pose is very close to the original! This is obviously the same guy, only in a slightly more modern version.

thousand-sons-release-11There are a couple of devations (or rather, evolutions) of the classic design, however: For one, the new model has much more depth and dynamism, whereas classic Ahriman is very much a product of his time: I remember a WD article where Jes Goodwin said that Ahriman was one of the first 40k models to get actual additional pieces for added depth instead of being single-piece. Now the new model continues this approach and adds lots of depth to the character, making him look dynamic and like he has some agency while basically standing still:

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At the same time, the model neatly keeps the original’s arrogant pose — the addition of a disc of Tzeentch arguably even enforces Ahriman’s haughtly look: He’s just too important and powerful to merely walk.

Now I’ve never been a huge fan of the whole disc idea, which is why I appreciate the fact that a) the disc is an optional part of the model and it’s just as feasible to just have Ahriman on a base like the original version and b) the designer went for a less creepy crawly approach, making the disc look more like an arcane machine, which is a great fit for Ahriman’s character! And there’s even a scarab symbol on top of the disc — a very nice touch!

In fact, it’s subtle touches like these that really sell the model as an evolution instead of a mere retread of the older model: For instance, the buffalo skulls dangling from the stole around Ahriman’s neck on the original model, have been exchanged for more delicate occult doodads, which seems like a much better fit for the character.

However, I do have some very minor quibbles with the model, even if all of these are plainly based on personal preference: That sorcerous flame in Ahriman’s left hand is a bit of an acquired taste for me — but can arguably look amazing when painted well. While I love the rest of the official paintjob, though, the flame just doesn’t work all that well in green and blue. Or maybe I just miss the hand holding the bolt pistol? For some strange reason. It’s a surprisingly iconic part of the original model for me.

On a related note, I find myself going back and forth over whether I like the original helmet better (I think I do — it has something to do with the precise proportions and angles of the faceplate).

But when all is said and done, Ahriman stands as possibly the best re-envisioning of a classic Jes Goodwin model to date. Much better than Eldrad and even with a bit of an edge over the new Khรขrn. And what’s simply beautiful is that – due to the new model being so similar to the classic version – the excellent mix of similarity and contrast between the 30k and 40k versions I described in my last review remains firmly in place:

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Thousand Sons Exalted Sorcerers

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I love building characters, so this is really the perfect kit for me, allowing for three highly individualised sorcerers with lots and lots of options. One thing that strikes me about the kit is how many mutated bits are featured, as this seems like a slight readjustment in the fluff to me — didn’t the Rubric of Ahriman stop the flesh change outright in those with enough sorcerous power? Then again, maybe the millennia in service to the god of change were just too much. Anyway, expect lots of mutations of the avian variety.

In all fairness, however, those bitz are fairly excellent, especially the plethora of staffs and heads we get out of this kit!

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There are also many charming little touches on those parts: The sorcerous hand using an ectoplasmic flame to reload a bolt pistol might be a bit much, but I do love the avian skulls on this guy’s stole seemingly snapping at the enemy:

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Also, can we just spend a moment in quiet contemplation at the beautiful way the cloth has been attached to the same sorcerer’s backpack:

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In fact, the backpacks are probably one of the best parts of the kit, making the best possible use of Egyptian and Tzeentchian elements to create a unique silhouette for each of the sorcerers — this is an excellent touch that we need to see more of, especially because, for the most part, CSM backpacks only used to be a bit of an afterthought so far.

I also rather love the avian feet on this guy:

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Upon closer inspection…what exactly is keeping him aloft, though? Is it sorcerous power or…erm, something altogether more nefarious?
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Nice as the three models featured on the product page are, however, I almost prefer the alternate builds that were showcased earlier, on GW’s new community site:

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Even when the sorcerers are more mutated than their ghostly brethren, they are arguably more disturbing when fitted with concealing helmets, leaving their exact nature ambiguous (I also really love the raptor-like look of the top left guy with that sweet Mk. VI variant helmet).

Maybe the biggest strength of this kit lies in how it gives you the freedom to build your sorcerers exactly how you like them best: As overly mutated, massively corrupted creatures of chaos. As masked and mostly unchanged, yet also subtly touched, master planners. Or as something in between.

Whatever you do, the models you end up with will look powerful and arcane, and there’ll be a really nice contrast between their warped, dynamic forms and their more regimented Rubricae brethren. This is easily one of the most tempting parts of the release for me, in spite of the odd moment of silliness ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Thousand Sons Rubric Marines

thousand-sons-release-19In a way, this was the one kit they just had to get right, even moreso than Magnus and Ahriman: The Rubricae are what defines the look of the Thousand Sons more than anything else, so they had to make this count. And if you ask me, boy did hit it out of the park with the new Rubric Marines!

I remember the first Thousand Son I ever saw, one of Jes Goodwin’s iconic set of models for the cult legions, appearing in the colour section from the 2nd edition rulebook:

jes-goodwin-cult-legionariesIt’s utterly astounding how – even decades later – those four guys still stand among the best models ever designed for the cult legions. And the Rubric Marine was just lovely, hinting at an arcane and mysterious legion through visual cues: You got an excellent idea of what the legion was about simply by looking at this model, without ever needing to read a single line of background.

During the 2000s, we saw a dedicated Thousand Sons conversion set, based on some of the design cues from that first proof-of-concept model. And while the conversion set was nice enough for its time, it never really lived up to the quality of Jes Goodwin’s original Thousand Son. Then several Space Wolves models tantalisingly featured the iconic helmet as a trophy – trampled underfoot, no less – and ever since I have been hoping for a true successor to that first Rubric Marines.

And the new guys really fit the bill:

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Seriously, I just love them! The strongest part of the cult legions’ design was always in strong silhouettes and clear visual cues. And the new Rubric Marines absolutely deliver on that, clearly reading as Chaos Space Marines, followers of Tzeentch and Thousand Sons at the same time. The helmet designs are just beautiful, and the flowing lines of the armour trim really takes the classic CSM design to the next level. The added tassets are an excellent little touch. I also love how the new Rubric Marines have their own dedicated backpack designs!

As aย  bonus for fans of the Horus Heresy, there’s a marked resemblance between the Rubricaes armour and Mk. IV power armour, which begs the question: Will we go back to certain armour types being associated with certain cult legions? I would really love to see bulky Mk. II Plague Marines and massive Mk. V World Eaters whose armour is covered in studs and bolts!

In addition to the beautifully redesigned bolter-wielding Rubricae, we also get some new weapon options, which certainly makes sense:thousand-sons-release-23
Well, those flamers certainly look Tzeentchian to me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Plus we also get the most arcane looking rotary cannon ever witnessed by Man:

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If I have one minor gripe about the kit, it’s merely the fact that the new sorcerer cannot quite match the excellent old one, a model only available as part the classic upgrade set:

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What can I say: I just love that guy ๐Ÿ˜‰

But all things considered, this is a stellar new kit for the Rubric Marines, and arguably a cornerstone of this release. Excellent work!

 

Thousand Sons Scarab Occult Terminators

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Oh wow, dedicated traitor legion Terminators — yet another pleasant surprise! Even better, though, is that the Scarab Occult Terminators look completely unlike vanilla CSM Terminators and yet perfectly read as Thousand Sons. Make no mistake, I am really fond of the classic CSM Terminator look, spikes and tusks and all. But for the Thousand Sons, something more elegant and less barbaric seems far more appropriate.

By the same token, all the strengths of the new Rubric Marines are present on the Terminators as well, — in fact, there’s a palpable sense of visual coherency between the two kits, with many of the design elements (the Keltaran helmet crests, the flowing lines of the armour trim, the avian skulls and weapon designs) appearing across both kits, allowing you to field very different troop types that still look like they belong to the same traitor legion.

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thousand-sons-release-29And in another parallel to the Rubric Marines, the Scarab Occults’ Terminator armour also clearly resembles an established Heresy era armour mark, namely the Tartaros pattern. Again, this seems like a very interesting (and possibly promising) design decision that I hope will be used again on possible future traitor legion releases — it also really enforces the notion that the armour dates back to the actual Heresy era, which certainly makes sense, given the fact that the victims of Ahriman’s Rubric have been bodyless automata for millennia, with no needย (or even ability) for changing their armour.

Let me also mention that the squad champion/sorcerer just exudes a sense of elegance and terrible dignity

thousand-sons-release-27Also, chain kopesh swords FTW! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Between the Rubric Marines and Scarab Occult Terminators, it’s possible now to build a Thousand Sons army that is visually distinctive, with a strong identity for the legion. And that’s really a brilliant development for CSM players, even moreso considering the quality of the new sculpts!

 

Tzaangors

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The inclusion of these guys is certainly a bit of a surprise — although I guess all the signs were there to see back when plastic Tzaangors first appeared as part of the Silver Tower boxed set. Even so, it’s certainly nice to have dedicated Tzeentchian beastmen available now, mostly because the classic goatman look doesn’t really fit the Changer of the Ways all that well…

While its’s fairly obvious that the multipart Tzaangors share many common design traits with the Tzaangor models from Silver Tower, I would argue that the multipart models are not quite as good as the Silver Tower guys: The latter just seem to have the more iconic poses — which is easier to achieve with a monopose model, of course, but what can I say: Just look at those fantastic poses:

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On the other hand, there’s a real benefit to the multipart nature of the new kit that goes beyond the usual flexibility offered by plastic kits: It looks like kits that cross over between 40k and Age of Sigmar are now officially a thing again (even beyond the Chaos Daemon line of models, that is), as a closer inspection of the sprues reveals an extra sprue that can only be considered a dedicated 40k weapons sprue, when the other sprue seemingly has the more medieval looking weapons intended for AoS.

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All things considered, these guys are maybe the weakest parts of the release for me. But I think we can let it slide, both because we didn’t even expect 40k Tzaangors in the first place, and because the proper Thousand Sons models make for a pretty robust competition. When all is said and done, it’s still a nice kit that provides Tzeentch players with some interesting new option!

 

Conversion options

Oh man, the chaos community is going to have a field day with these new kits! And I, for one, can hardly wait for talented folks like Aasfresser, for instance, to put the new bitz through their paces! For now, let me just jot down some quick ideas for possible conversion projects involving the new models:

First up, the obvious idea: I think that many parts of this release would work brilliantly for 30k Thousand Sons as well!
To wit:

  • the Scarab Occult Terminators could be used as, well, 30k Scarab Occult Terminators with next to no need for further conversion. In fact, the kit almost seems like the first dedicated unit for a specific legion to appear in plastic and not as a FW upgrade set. I would like to see more of this, please! ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • by the same token, it’s also possible to use parts from the Scarab Occult for 30k Thousand Sons Praetors and officers.
  • there’s also nothing stopping you from you from sprinkling some of those new Thousand Sons bitz on top of your 30k Thousand Sons, seeing how the legion grew more and more towards the arcane by its latter days as a loyalist legion, and how things like the iconic Keltaran crests had obviously taken root within the legion far before the present day of 40k (at least judging by their mention in “The Talon of Horus”, which is set not too long after the Heresy). The brilliant thing is that you bascially get to decide “how far gone” you want your Thousand Sons to be: Have they only started their descent? In that case, just add a staff or helmet from the new kits here and there. Do they already embrace the sorcerous powers more actively? Then you can use more and more 40k Thousand Sons bitz to create Marines that look more and more like sorcerers –and have begun to display physical changes.
  • expanding on that last part, mutation bitz from the Exalted Sorcerers could be used to depict 30k Thousand Sons in the throes of the flesh change.

I also think that all of those gorgeous helmets, mutation bitz and arcane doodads also allow for quite a bit of crossover between 40k and WFB/Age of Sigmar: So why not use some of those helmets and bitz to create a warriors of chaos warband that really looks Tzeentchian?

Back to 40k – and, arguably, INQ28: The Tzaangor weapons could be used to turn Khairic Cultists from Silver Tower into Tzeentchian cultists for the 40k setting. Or you could use the same weapons to give chaos cultists from Dark Vengeance that extra bit of Tzeentchian oomph.

And finally, why not use those Tzaangor bodies and heads to create your own, strangely avian xenos species for INQ28 — or your Tau army? Speaking of Tau, maybe those Tzaangor parts would also be promising if spliced together with Kroot bitz?!

 

All in all, this is a truly stellar release for CSM players, arguably made even better by the fact that it wasn’t really expected in the first place. Even if we don’t get any more modernised CSM models, it’s already a great addition to the armouries of chaos. Certainly more than I expected in every conceivable way!

I also love the fact that a chaos god other than Khorne or Nurgle is finally getting some love. I’ll never tire of Khornate and Nurglite kits, of course, but let’s just face it: It was really somebody else’s turn this time around ๐Ÿ˜‰

At the same time, it won’t surprise you to learn that I really wish for more plastic cult troops (we *need* new Khorne Berzerkers! And Plague Marines!) and updated vanilla CSM. Let’s just dream for a moment: How awesome would it be if we could only get this amount of quality for the rest of the traitor legions — maybe only one kit each? We can always hope! And if nothing else, if the sheer quality of the new Thousand Sons is anything to go by, we may be in for quite a ride indeed!

 

So what’s your take on the new models? Are you as pleased as me or did you expect more? And are there any conversion ideas you would like to share? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments!

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