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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 Morbäck, 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 😉

 

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 resembles 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! 😉

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 😉

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! 😉
  • 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, Morbäck 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 Morbäck’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 😉

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 😉

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… 😉

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!

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The 2016 Eternal Hunt Awards, pt. 2: The Industry

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, Traitor Guard, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2017 by krautscientist

Awards

Okay everyone, forgive me for dropping off the radar for a bit there, but work has been pretty crazy for the last couple of weeks, and my free time has mostly been dedicated to the wonderful world of digital entertainment for quite a while (as an aside, if you like this blog, you should probably check out Dishonored 2 and Last Guardian, if you haven’t already).

Anyway, if you’ll indulge me, I would still like to get the Eternal Hunt Awards gig done and dusted before properly starting into a new hobby year — and it’ not as though I already have a whole lot of new stuff to show, either, so it’s finally time to continue this year’s…erm or rather: last year’s Eternal Hunt Awards.

For today’s installment, let’s take a look at the stuff GW released in 2016: I am going to outline the best and worst parts of the 2016 catalogue of releases. What were the highest and lowest points? And what else was cool …or curiously missing from the releases? Read on to find out!

 

I. Best releases

After a pretty strong 2015, 2016 was yet another spectacular year when it comes to GW’s releases — and if there’s one thing that was extremely surprising to me, it’s how many of GW’s 2017 releases seemed to bring to life stuff many hobbyists, myself included, have been dreaming of for years (often to the amusement of others, who dubbed things like updated Genestealer Cults or models for Daemon-Primarchs completely unlikely). So there 😉

This, along with a massive change in GW’s outward communication, might just be a hint at something bigger, a bit of a policy change, if you will. And whether or not you agree with all of the stuff GW has been doing over the last twelve months, I think we can all agree that it’s been a rather fascinating ride 😉

But even in a spectacular year, there were some things that stood out, so allow me to share my favourite 2016 kits and models:

 

1. The Burning of Prospero

burning-of-prospero-release-1Betrayal at Calth (the game, not the unfortunate event) was one of the great unexpected surprises of 2015, and another HH era boxed set in 2016 serves as clear proof that plastic Horus Heresy is very much a thing now!

And what a boxed set it is: The Burning of Prospero contains a somewhat more eclectic collection of models than Betrayal at Calth, but it arguably refines some of the latter’s contents: Regarding the vanilla angle, we got pretty excellent plastic Mk. III Tactical Marines, making my favourite Heresy era armour mark available in a material I am much more comfortable with. Excellent!

burning-of-prospero-release-11
The real surprise, however, was the inclusion of a squad of plastic Custodian Guard and plastic Sisters of Silence, respectively — for those models to have been revealed would certainly have made enough of a splash, but for them to be included in a boxed set, and in plastic, no less —  frankly, my mind was blown!

burning-of-prospero-release-13
It helps that the models are mostly excellent, of course.

If you want to start a plastic Horus Heresy army, you’ll probably find Betrayal at Calth a bit more flexible and useful than The Burning of Prospero. But Prospero is like a slightly strange distant cousin: A bit less dependable, certainly, yet also rather eclectic and eccentric — and all the more fascinating for it!

See my detailed review of the boxed set here.

 

2. Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower

Silver Tower Release (1)

I have gone on record saying that, while I don’t actively dislike the Age of Sigmar setting, I still have a hard time getting a feeling for the new world and its idiosyncrasies. Much of this might have something to do with trying to see WFB in Age of Sigmar, which is probably the wrong approach altogether, as the new setting strieves to be very much its own thing.

So it was a good thing when yet another excellent boxed set tried to present a different, more intimate, look at the world of Age of Sigmar, and I have to say that Silver Tower pushed all of my HeroQuest nostalgia buttons:

The idea to create this as a self-contained boardgame in the vein of the classic HeroQuest was a brilliant approach, because it makes you care about little snippets of the world before trying to make you care about the entire (still rather vaguely defined) setting. We also get a look at the different “good” factions (The Golden Dudes (TM), Duardim, Aelf and what have you), and presenting them condensed into a single hero character each works great to give us an idea of the respective faction’s identity. To wit, the Stormcast Eternal hero included in the set is probably one of the best Sigmarine models so far:

Silver Tower Release (15)He also defines the look and feel of the faction more concisely than the entire slew of golden dudes we have been getting.

And, once again, I am getting such a HeroQuest vibe from the Sigmarite Priest and Darkoath Chieftain:

Silver Tower Release (22)

Silver Tower Release (25)
The bad guys are no slouches either, with an excellent new version of the Gaunt Summoner and a warlock ogre — or should that be ogre warlock? Anyway, characters like the Ogroid Thaumaturge are the kind of thing that differentiates the new setting from the old, and it’s great to finally get to know them!

Silver Tower Release (3)Possibly the biggest achievement of Silver Tower is how it makes me like the Tzeentchian aesthetic – something that’s usually not exactly my cup of tea – by simply applying it to fantastic models, such as the aforementioned sorcerers, the Kairic Acolytes or the simply stunning Tzaangors — and the latter are even a shout out to the golden Oldhammer days!

Silver Tower Release (10)You know what? In a perfect world GW would have used a self-contained boardgame like Silver Tower to introduce us to the setting in the first place! A tighter, more focused experience might have made us care far more about the new setting. There are many reasons why such an approach would probably have been madness (they needed to replace a wargame, after all). But the fact still stands: I find myself caring more about Silver Tower than about almost the entire Age of Sigmar catalogue so far (Khornate models notwithstanding, for obvious reasons).

Plus you get a model of a fish on legs. That is all.

Silver Tower Release (14)Anyway, the boxed set stands as a rather charming introduction to the setting, and like I said, it manages to pull at my HeroQuest heartstrings, plus the models are pretty amazing as well. Which makes Silver Tower one of my favourite releases of 2016. ‘Nuff said.

 

3. Genestealer Cults

genestealer-cults-release-19

Genestealer Cults are easily one of my favourite parts of the 40k setting — and arguably the one thing that not only makes Tyranids interesting, but also removes them a bit from their very obvious main inspiration. And over the years, I’ve gone back time and time again to that one page from the 2nd edition rulebook showing some genestealer hybrids, wondering why GW had left this fascinating little part of the lore fall by the wayside. At the same time, it seemed very unlikely that we would ever see a new version of the Genestealer Cults.

And yet here we are, with the Genestealer Cults now an official sub-faction of their own — and with some seriously brilliant models, no less! Everything started with yet another fantastic boxed set – Deathwatch: Overkill – and the absolutely brilliant new hybrid models contained within it.

Deathwatch Overkill release (31)

So GW actually revisited one of the favourite retro-factions of my youth, but they also managed to bring it into the modern age with some cutting edge kits: The hybrids stand tall, with both the excellent snap fit models from the boxed set and with a dedicated multipart plastic kit of their own, providing us with a tool to not only build an excellent Genestealer Cult, but to also use the new parts in all kinds of INQ28 and Necromunda-related shenanigans:

genestealer-cults-release-21There’s just so much about those models that hints at the more “civilian”, for lack of a better word, side of 40k, the side we keep seeing in Dan Abnett’s Inquisitor novels: These guys are creepy Xenos soldiers, yes, but they are wearing miner’s garb and wielding repurposed tools and rather pedestrian weapons, making for a wonderfully workmanlike, low-level look that provides something visually new and appealing (and, again, also makes for exquisite INQ28 kitbashing).

genestealer-cults-release-23
There are also some rather beautifully subtle touches about the whole design: Call me crazy, but the ribbed structure of the miner’s armour reminds me not only of the actual Xenomorph in Alien, but also of the industrial design defining the look and feel of Ridley Scott’s classic series.

And we even get a more civilian 40k vehicle in the Goliath Truck/Rock Grinder, a wonderfully utilitarian looking workhorse that should be right up your alley, whether you’re trying to provide a sweet ride for your cult or searching for a vehicle for your pitslave gang:

genestealer-cults-release-28
With the Genestealer Cults, GW has revisited one of the most interesting ideas from the vintage 40k lore and brought it into the 21st century with a bang — what a wonderful surprise!

My first observations about the cool hybrid models that were released as part of the Deathwatch:Overkill set can be found here.

 

4. Thousand Sons

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The new Thousand Sons, arriving at the tail end of 2016, were great for a number of reasons: For me as a chaos player, seeing these guys being given a proper modern age plastic treatment was really a bit of a dream come true — and it’s all even better if you consider the new Thousand Sons as a possible precedent for what could be a full new set of cult legion models! I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed on this account.

But even beyond the forces dedicated to a single chaos god, the new Thousand Sons also serve as a bit of a template for a new, modernised CSM design, showing us some tweaked proportions and definitely a much improved level of detail — nowhere is that more obvious than when looking at the new Rubric Marines:

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And frankly, that would already have been enough to turn the Thousand Sons into one of my favourite 2016 released, but there were two more bombshells buried within this particular release.

One, a redesigned Ahriman:

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Out of all the four or so classic, archetypal characters GW decided to revisit in 2016, Ahriman is arguably the best by far: He keeps pretty much everything that was awesome about the original model and adds an amount of three-dimensionality and dynamism that are hallmarks of GW’s modern plastic design. He’s also actually closer to Jes Goodwin’s original design sketch than the vintage model, and that is certainly saying something! While the original Ahriman is still a classic, the new version is a worthy successor. Well played, GW!

And of course, there’s the pink elephant in the room: Magnus the Red, the first (discounting those rather embarrassing Epic 40k versions) Daemon-Primarch model released by GW:

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And while the model itself is certainly nice enough, I cannot help actually feeling more excited by what Magnus actually represents: That GW is now willing to explore Daemon-Primarchs in model form. Now this might yet all go horribly wrong, with ulta-cheesy fluff and a WFB End Times-level brouhaha for the entire setting. But right here and now, having a plastic model of a Daemon-Primarch that so excellently draws from all the depictions of the character in the classic artwork certainly feels like a rather exciting moment!

I know that chaos players carry a – not entirely undeserved – reputation for constantly bitching about getting the short end of the stick. But at the same time, it’s also true that GW has fumbled the ball more than once when adding to the Chaos Space Marine faction. But the new Thousand Sons show that GW still knows how do to chaos right, and just imagining that we could be getting more of this at some point in the future gives me goosebumps — just imagine the possibilities…

You can find my thoughts on the entire release here.

 

 

5. Canoness Veryidian

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This last item on the list is particularly close to my heart, as the Canoness Veryidian model was an even bigger surprise to me than Daemon-Primarch Magnus!

You see, if somebody asked me what 40k was all about, I would point them to two particular pieces of artwork by the venerable John Blance. And one of those two pieces of art would be this, invariably:

Adepta_Sororitas_by_John_Blanche

It’s really all there: 40k’s particular blend of religious iconography, grimdark dystopian sci-fi and medieval madness. The glitzy, 80s fantasy style warrior woman with the crazy hairdo. And the influences from classic painters like Bosch, Breughel, Rembrandt et. al. It’s 40k in a perfectly formed nutshell.

And to get an almost picture perfect model representing that character, courtesy of Martin Footit, was a very particular delight, and one I wouldn’t have expected in a million years.

A sizeable chunk of my Christmas holiday was spent trying to get my hands on one of the elusive Canoness Veryidian models, and when I finally succeeded, it felt like a true triumph indeed! What a wonderful surprise! I hope I’ll be able to do the model justice with my paintjob!

 

6. Honorary mention: Seeing Artemis again…

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

Featured in a boxed set that was somewhat more pedestrian than some of the more spectacular sets released this year, but even so: Seeing Artemis released in a 28mm version was definitely a nice surprise!

 

II. Worst releases/biggest disappointment

The quality of GW’s 2016 output was pretty astounding, overall, but there were some kits that somehow fell short of the mark. Don’t ge me wrong, none of the following models were completely terrible. But in the light of so many great releases, some designs were a bit of a letdown for me, and they arguably feel all the more disappointing for all the brilliant stuff released by GW last year — so here’s what I didn’t like:

1. Wulfen

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Out of all the new kits released in 2016, there is really only one kit that came dangerously close to actually qualify as “bad” in my personal opinion — the new plastic Wulfen models.

Now to cut GW’s designers some slack, designing Space Marine werevolves that actually look cool and suitably believable cannot be a simple task. And to be fair, the kit definitely looks like they gave it their all, trying to incorporate as many cool touches as possible.

But in the end, it all just collapses in on itself, because the groundwork was never sound to begin with. Much of this has something to do with the Wulfen anatomy: Now the original Wulfen models certainly had their own share of problems, but one thing the classic models did really well was to convey a sense of chaotic devolution, their armour being cracked and broken away in different places by the terrible changes in their physiology:

classic-wulfen-models

At the same time, they certainly didn’t take any big chances with the overall anatomy, basically keeping a standard human setup.

By comparison, the new Wulfen look far animalistic, but also like a strangely stable – if hairy – genotype, with every model sharing the same general build. But shouldn’t the transformation into a Wulfen be somewhat more haphazard and unstable? In fact, the longer I think about it, the more this drives me up the wall: They are even wearing contoured armour that seems to have been carefully adapted to their new build. Who in the world is making that stuff for the heavily muated Wulfen, along with the backpack-mounted pistols and custom wargear? Another Wulfen? A Wulfen scientist, if you will? Or are they fortunate enough to have kept a few sane fellows around?

Instead of looking like feral, yet tragic, creatures tortured by the changes wrought upon their bodies by unstable genetics, the new Wulfen look more like a World of Warcraft character class. And there’s also the fact that the faces remind me of the Wolf Man, for the most part:

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And let’s not even get in the squad leader’s awkward, overdesigned jumping pose…

What we end up with is a collection of pretty amazing conversion parts — but the completed models somehow become less than the sum of their parts. And what really amazes me that I have yet to see the new Wulfen assembled or painted in a way that makes them work. So even while the designers probably had their cards stacked against them from the beginning – SciFi werewolves seems like just about the most thankless imaginable archetype – I am sad to say that the Wulfen are my personal GW low point from last year.

2. GW basing sets

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The idea itself was brilliant: GW putting out some bases and bitz-based basing sets on their own is long overdue. So I was really happy when the new bases for 40k were announced.

I picked up the Sector Imperialis Large Base Kit, because it seemed like the most immediately useful addition to my bitzbox, and I was really looking forward to having some dedicated basing bitz at my disposal.

The problem was that the quality of the cast was absolutely abysmal, with very soft detail and a general clunkiness to the cast that would have been slightly embarrassing in the mid-90s, but simply seems baffling from a modern standpoint. Here’s a company that can put out the most delicate plastic models imaginable to man, and the cast of their basing kits seems more appropriate for a cheap aftermarket knock-off?

I’ve heard rumours that the first batch of those basing kits was produced in China — but seriously, that excuse doesn’t cut it for me: They were still on sale at a GW store, for the same premium price as the rest of their kits.

To make a long story short, will I be able to still put those bitz to good use? You bet. But seeing a kit I had really been looking forward to deliver such a poor experience was still one of the low points of my hobby year.

3. Ulrik the Slayer…Unmasked!

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In his original incarnation, Ulrik was a rather iconic model, sinister and somewhat mysterious with his wolf skull helmet. Now, more than two decades later, he has finally decided to show us his face, and wouldn’t you know it: He looks just like generic bearded Space Wolf guy no. 101′ — what a letdown!

Now I couldn’t even tell you what it was I expected — maybe the helmet should just have stayed on, is all I am saying. It’s even more of a shame when the rest of the model is really pretty awesome!

4. New Eldrad Ulthran

Eldrad comparison

GW released new plastic versions of several of the most iconic 40k characters last year, and in my opinion, Eldrad was the one to get the short end of the stick. Now the new versions definitely isn’t a terrible model — far from it. But where, say, the aforementioned new Ahriman basically takes all that was great about the original model and tweaks the formula to perfection, the new Eldrad loses (or, at the very least, seriously waters down) the iconic composition that made the original such a classic. Face it guys: This isn’t Elrad. It’s just some warlock guy trying his darnedest to seem as cool as the big man 😉

III. Still on the fence about…

  • Losing Warhammer: Visions: Now don’t get me wrong: I really rather like the new monthly White Dwarf format. In fact, the weekly White Dwarf was a travesty: far too expensive and far too thin on content. And the new mag, at least judging by the first couple of issues, seems to be a return for form in som many ways. Can I be perfectly honest with you, though: I was one of the few people to actually like Warhammer: Visions. I loved looking at pages after pages of glorious armies and models, especially if those were the creations of fellow hobbyisty and featured many personal touches and conversions. Now the new White Dwarf might be a great overall hobby magazine yet again, but the army features, for instance, just cannot compare to the ones in Warhammer: Visions.
    I realise that most people saw visions as a redundant coffee table book, but I find myself kinda missing the format. Is that weird…?
  • No plastic Sisters yet agai….WAIT! Whoa, does this mean we might be getting new Sisters of Battle? In plastic? Oh, pretty please…? Seriously, though: It’s. About. Damn. Time!

 

IV. Also pretty cool

  • New plastic Blood Bowl: I really love how GW has given the classic game more than just a new coat of paint, and if this is any precedent for the new Specialist Games, I am really optimistic about the future!
  • The new attitude: I also really love GW’s new approach to communicating with their cuctomers and with hobbyist: That they are back to actively using social media. That they are actually acting proactively in the whole rumours business instead of merely reacting to all those leaked materials online. That they are posting supremely helpful (looking at you again Duncan Rhodes) as well as genuinely funny video material. Now all of this seems like common sense, really, but let’s not forget that some of us hobbyists can be a fanbase that not even a mother could love. Anyway, good work, guys and girls! Do carry on! 🙂

 

All in all, it’s been a teriffic year for GW, and I am certainly looking forward to the next batch of releases? So much for 2016, then, at least where the industry is concerned. Next up is the third and final installment of the 2016 Eternal Hunt Awards, taking a look at my favourite models from fellow hobbyists all over the blogosphere — arriving soon, hopefully, here on the blog.

Until then, feel free to let me know your feedback: Do you agree (or disagree) with my assessment of last year’s releases? What were your favourite parts, and which models did you hate? Did I forget anything important? I am looking forward to your comments!

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.

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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 😉

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 😉

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 😉
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… 😉

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! 🙂 )

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 😉

 

Ahriman

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After Eldrad Ulthran and Khârn 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 Khârn. 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 😉

 

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 a  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! 😉

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 😉

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 need (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! 😉

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:

Silver Tower Release (10)
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! 😉
  • 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 😉

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!

 

Get out of my head, dammit! A closer look at The Burning of Prospero

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Custodes, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2016 by krautscientist

First of all, forgive me for being phenomenally lazy over the last two weeks, dear readers — or rather, I wasn’t really being lazy but rather focusing my attention elsewhere (on the job, as it stands — YAY!). But it’s now time to return to the world of blogging, and what better occasion than to address the very obvious elephant in the room: GW’s second Horus Heresy boxed kit, The Burning of Prospero:

burning-of-prospero-release-1Prospero has been dangled in front of Horus Heresy aficionados’ noses for quite a while now, and now GW performs a fearsome one-two-punch, turning the occasion into its own boxed set with dedicated rules — and lots and lots of delicious new little plastic men. Interestingly enough, the box seems to be continuing some of Betrayal at Calth’s most successful parts (i.e. giving us Horus Heresy Astartes in multi-part plastic) while also shaking up the formula in other respects (making the HQ models far less generic and adding shiny stuff like the Custodian Guard and the Sisters of Silence). So anyway, it has been a while since the last review, so let’s relish this occasion and use it as an excuse to take a closer look at the models as well as the possible conversion opportunities!

Before we begin, however, allow me to point you towards Wudugast’s article regarding The Burning of Prospero as a possible companion piece to this post. I’ve only skimmed his post so far, mostly for fear of ending up stealing some of his ideas and observations, but it seems like he raises some excellent points, and I know I am already looking forward to reading the whole thing, once my own post has gone up 😉

So let us start with the two HQ models that come in the box: Once again, we get one commander for each side. Now while Betrayal at Calth chose the route of actually naming the characters and giving them background while keeping the models themselves generic to the point of blandness, The Burning of Prospero goes the exact opposite way and opens up with one of the 30k and 40k universes’ big names:

 

Ahzek Ahriman, Chief-Librarian of the Thousand Sons

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Now that was quite a surprise, wasn’t it? Ahriman’s definitely the first major 30k character to be given a plastic incarnation, and I think Maxime Pastourel (aka Morbäck) has done a wonderful job with the model: The armour and detailing are very close representations of several pieces of Horus Heresy artwork, giving you the idea that, yes, this is definitely Ahriman! The blank faceplate is a bit of an acquired taste, but in all fairness, it has been part of the art for quite a while now, so it’s definitely an accurate representation. The engravings and symbols on Ahriman’s armour speaks of the Thousand Sons’ dabblings in sorcery while not overcluttering the model. And I really love how the flowing robes lend motion and dynamism to what is otherwise a rather static pose.

Of course with an important character like this, it’s also important to compare the 30k and 40k versions — and at first glance, there is very little resemblance between Maxime’s 30k Ahriman and Jes Goodwin’s classic 40k Ahriman:

40k_ahrimanHowever, upon closer examination, it’s interesting to see how several elements of the 30k model do seem like a shout out to Jes Goodwin’s model: Maxime himself explains in the current issue of WD how the curved crest behin Ahriman’s head was included to mirror the horns curving from the 40k version’s helmet — and a similar thing can be said about his Heka staff, as the curve of its blade seems to subtly echo the curvature of the horns atop 40k Ahriman’s staff.  The stole around Ahriman’s neck also mirrors a similar item on 40k Ahriman, and it’s fun how the wind seems to be blowing in the opposite direction on both models, respectively 😉

Beyond those visual connections, it’s also fun to compare what is different about the models, however, as there seems to be quite a bit of visual storytelling there: 30k Ahriman is all clean lines and lofty ideals, while 40k Ahriman seems like the quintessential, crooked and corrupt Chaos Sorcerer (much as he himself would probably deny any such notions). Looking at both models beautifully illustrates how far the character has fallen! It’ll be interesting to see whether a possible new 40k version of Ahriman manages to keep the same sense of narrative…

So yeah, I think this guy is pretty great! Anything else? I think that fallen Space Wolf on the base is a rather beautiful touch. And that might just be the best casting hand we have seen so far from GW — job’s a good ‘un!

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Geigor Fell-Hand of the Space Wolves

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Ahriman’s direct opponent for the game is Geigor Fell-Hand of the Space Wolves, and while he’s a beautiful model in his own right, I don’t think he can quite keep up with his Thousand Sons counterpart. First of all, it would have seemed more plausible from a story perspective to include Othere Wyrdmake, seeing how he’s both an already established character AND Ahriman’s nemesis of sorts. But I imagine that would have messed with the game’s premise (sorcery vs. good, honest close combat), so we get a CC monster instead 😉

Now there are many things I like about the model: The artificer armour is definitely a thing of beauty! The shoulder pads are particularly noteworthy, in my opinion: The left one looks deliciously customised while the right one actually shows a Rogue Trader-era style legion badge — brilliant!

In spite of the model’s strong parts, I do have two gripes about Geigor: One, I think the model is too “Space Viking” by a long shot, especially since the Horus Heresy novels (Prospero Burns, in particular) have been doing such a good job so far of selling the wolves as something more interesting than mere generic viking types. And now here comes Geigor, in full Space-Viking regalia — poor guy must not have gotten the memo…

In fairness, I think this problem could be solved in part by making a few minor tweaks and ommissions: That back banner needs to go, if you ask me, and the claw seems a bit over-designed to me.

In fact, that’s my second gripe: I get how the designers wanted this guy to read as a close combat monster, but the combination of a massive lightning claw and a combat knife just seems off to me, somehow, especially in combination with the slightly wonky poses of the arms. I think a pair of claws or a massive sword and knife would have been excellent options, respectively, but the setup we are getting here just seems like a bit of a compromise. I remember that this guy was rumoured to be Bjorn the Fell-Handed, back when the first rumours of the boxed set surfaced, and his equipment would have made lots of sense in that light. But it seems like GW chickened out and turned him into yet another super-important character that we have never heard about — and in that case, a different combination of weapons would have worked better, if you ask me.

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Don’t get me wrong, though: Geigor’s still a beautiful model that should work well both in 30k and 40k armies. He’s just not as good as Ahriman 😉

 

Tartaros Terminators

burning-of-prospero-release-7Getting a full squad of plastic multi-part Cataphractii out of the deal was one of the most pleasant surprises about Betrayal at Calth — and now the new boxed set follows suit and gives us a squad of the other iconic heresy-era pattern of Terminator armour. And it seems like GW’s sculptors have once again done a good job of recreating the design in plastic, at least where the amount of detail is concerned.

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Now I have to admit I am not a big fan of the Tartaros pattern, but that’s just me. Even so, I cannot help wondering whether these are actually a bit clunkier and more angular than their resin cousins. In any case, I do think the models end up looking a bit silly if the shoulder pads are placed too low, however. Just check out this guy:

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Beyond those observations, it looks like the kit comes with just as much customisation as the Cataphractii — and we even get some choom out of the deal! 😉 I also like the extra detail on the sergeant’s armour, which is something I would have loved to see on the Cataphractii as well!

All in all, this is another rock solid plastic rendition of heresy armour, and I imagine many people will be really happy with these guys! My lack of appreciation for the general design of the armour means I am not perfectly sold — but I do think the plastic Tartaros Terminators provide some excellent conversion fodder. But we’ll be getting to that in a minute…

 

Tactical Marines in Mk. III “Iron” armour

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Where the regular Astartes are concerned, the inclusion of plastic Mk. III armour is actually the most exciting part of the boxed set for me! Iron armour is possibly my favourite heresy era armour mark — even moreso than Mk. IV. There’s just something about the very archaic look of the armour and the added mass that’s immensely appealing to me for some reason — maybe it’s the fact that the heavyset Mk. III armour captures the massive, archaic feeling of the classic Wayne England Horus Heresy artwork like nothing else?

Anyway, these guys look great as a squad, and it’s cool that they are getting the whole tactical squad treatment (with all the options that entails) once more. Granted, though: If you are not into Space Marines, then this is just the umpteenth tactical squad — but then I guess you wouldn’t exactly be this boxed set’s chief target demographic, either 😉

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While the basic options and additional weapons are just like what we got with the Betrayal at Calth Mk. IV Marines, there are some additional tweaks that I appreciate: The models come with yet another bolter design (the Phobos pattern) that’s arguably a great fit for the archaic armour and makes for greater visual variety. And we get some chain swords for the Marines to wear at their hips, whoch is nice — and arguably a bit cooler than the somewhat bland combat knives. Maybe next time, we can get some actual chain sword arms, though? Thank you very much! 😉

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The armour design itself seems to have been tweaked ever so slightly during its transition to plastic: The back of the backpack seems to have streamlined a bit, for once. There have been some tweaks to the helmet design. The shape seems ever so slightly different, especially towards the back of the helmet. And the main difference is that the eyes – formerly just eye holes, really – have been turned into actual helmet lenses that can be painted. This definitely makes sense, but the look it creates needs some getting used to.

burning-of-prospero-release-12On the other hands, GW sweetens the deal by giving us several subtly different helmet designs, which is definitely appreciated.

Much as I love the design of the armour, however, my earlier criticism from the Betrayal at Calth release applies once more: Why not include some CC weapon arms (which would have made even more sense given the “physical power vs. sorcery” vibe of the whole game) and leave those to FW upgrade kits? I would have loved to finally see some close combat arms on a wider scale, especially with a kit that is otherwise so big on options and customisability.

Apart from this one piece of criticism, however, the Mk. III Marines are one of my favourite parts of the boxed set, and I can hardly wait to get my hands on them!

 

Custodian Guard & Sisters of Silence

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Right, if you had told me one year ago that we would be seeing plastic Custodes and Sisters of Silence in an upcoming Horus Heresy boxed set, I would probably have laughed long and hard and called you a wishlister of the highest order. And yet, here they are. Of course their inclusion makes sense from a background perspective — seriously, though: I would rather have expected them to be releaed as resin models.

Of course the recently released Deathwatch Watch Captain served as a fair warning, what with wielding a Guardian Spear and all — I was actually going to suggest using him as the base for a Custodes conversion. Clever, GW, very clever 😉

The Custodes in particular have long been a bit of a holy grail for many hobbyists (myself included), and the attempt to recreate them in model for has spawned many awesome armies — with Dave Taylor’s seminal Custodes army being first among them, of course. All the more reason, then, to take a close look at the models:

 

Custodian Guard

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“Oh, right, now I understand: That’s what GW kept doing all those golden Age of Sigmar dudes for: They were merely test runs for the inception of plastic Custodes…” 😉

And, funnily enough, just when we thought we couldn’t stand any more huge golden dudes, GW gives us plastic Custodians — I wonder whether or not the irony behind it all was intended 😉

In spite of never appearing in model form so far, the Custodes have a fairly well-documented history, with quite a few depictions in the Horus Heresy art. Many of the most iconic illustrations featuring the Emperor’s bodyguard were part of the Horus Heresy trading card game and subsequently appeared in the collected Horus Heresy artbooks. Such as this piece:

legio-custodes-artwork-1
I think it’s really astonishing how much of the visual splendour of the Custodian armour appearing in the image above has been faithfully reproduced on the actual models, from the iconic helmet design to the small details of the armour:

burning-of-prospero-release-15I also really like how the armour seems decidedly unlike standard Astartes power armour, thanks to its very different lines, integrated backpack/reactor etc.

What’s more, you may not like those massively clunky bolt-pistol swords, internet, but if nothing else, there’s a precedent for them in the classic HH artwork, and they are just as clunky there:

legio-custodes-artwork-2
The shout outs to the artwork don’t stop there, however: In his aforementioned post, Wudugast points out how much the bare head included with the kit resembles the various depictions of Constantin Valdor, Captain-General of the Legio Custodes:

legio-custodes-artwork-3

All of this makes it seem like GW’s designers have really gone above and beyond in the attempt to do these guys justice and make them resemble the classic artwork as much as possible.

Even so, I will say that – beyond the sheer surprise of these guys being featured as part of a boxed set, and in plastic, no less – I did have to warm to the Custodes models for a number of reasons:

First up, they seemed so big and clunky to me: Sure, so many of the elements from the classic artwork have been expertly reproduced in model form, including the contoured armour that separates them from regular Astartes, but they still felt so massive to me at first glance, when some of the old artwork rather suggested something more lithe and elegant:

legio-custodes-artwork-4
Of course John Blanche’s style is always rather open to interpretation, and the actual models usually end up looking fairly different, but there are also different pieces of art that have the Custodians look powerful, but in a rather elegant way. Just check out the guys on the far right in the picture below:

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The actual models seem incredibly massive, however. Especially so in certain configurations:

burning-of-prospero-release-16At the same time, I have come to like the bigger scale when compared to regular Astartes: Sure, it seems a bit strange at first, but the Custodians really should be between an Astartes and a Primarch in size — just imagine how stupid they would look surrounding the Emperor otherwise 😉

Still, the added mass takes some getting used to. But even as I write this, I can feel myself liking the models more and more. So I don’t think it’s much of an issue.

The other gripe I have doesn’t seem quite as substantial, admittedly, but it just keeps bothering me: Why are the Custodes models lacking any kind of robes or capes? This feels like a pretty baffling design choice on GW’s part, because if you look at the various pieces of artwork above, the crimson robes and capes seem as emblematic of the Custodes as their Guardian spears and their iconic helmets. Yet they are completely missing on the models, not even showing up on the Shield-Captain.

Now I do realise that this probably has something to do with technical issues and/or the way the models are assembled — but come on, these models are so spectacularly detailed, and you have gone out of your way to feature elements from the artwork. So how hard could it have been to add some (optional) capes on the sprue?

To add insult to injury, the Custodian appearing on the pictures of FW’s new antigrav tank even sports an added cape:

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Looks like I’ll have to source some plastic capes, then — any suggestions? 😉

Of course having Custodes available in plastic also carries a bit of a bittersweet taste for me: After all, I happily kitbashed together a small Custodes army a couple of years ago, and I think I had a pretty good recipe as well:

Custodes (2b)
Custodian Squad (2)

Custodes army Teaser Shot
And these guys have now obviously been rendered rather irrelevant by the new models — bugger! 😉 I really only have myself to blame, though, as my last models for the army were painted back in 2013 — I should have been faster!

All in all, these guys have grown on me quite a bit — and to actually see them as what looks like a multi-part plastic kit still seems kind of unreal to me. What’s more, the amount of detail on the various parts of the kit is really rather outstanding, and I imagine playing around with the bitz should be quite a bit of fun. Sure, the swords are too big (even if they are accurate), but at least we get a full set of Guardian Spears, so that’s not much of a problem. It really is a shame about those missing capes, though…

 

Sisters of Silence

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Where the Custodes depart from the artwork in some rather surprising ways, the Sisters of Silence seem like a perfect representation of the various pieces of artwork from the Horus Heresy artbooks: The design of the armour, the iconic weapon and facemasks, and the weapons wielded by the various squads in the artwork: all accounted for.

In addition to this, it’s always a treat to see some additional female models, and the Sisters of Silence are an especially welcome breath of fresh air in between all those bulky killing machines in the boxed set!

Another thing I really like about the models is that they feature all of the weapon loadouts we have seen in the art so far, allowing for swords as well as bolters, which is a very nice option to have (and also adds even more possible conversion parts).

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Oh, and that Sister Superior ist just a stunning model — it’s going to take all of my (almost nonexistent) willpower to resist the temptation to convert her into an Inquisitrix…

Incidentally, a squad of kitbashed Sisters of Silence were part of my Custodes project as well, although I’d argue they are still close enough to the new models to actually still work once painted:

SoS (15)

Do I see any negative points about the Sisters? I think some of the hair looks ever so slightly unnatural — but that’s not a huge problem and should be easy enough to sort out. In closing, let me just state the obvious, though: If GW can do these, they can do plastic Sisters of Battle. Just sayin’…

 

conversion options:

So much for the models, but what about possible conversions? I think the boxed set provides us with lots and lots of promising bitz and opportunities. Let me just outline some initial ideas for you:


Ahriman

I think the model could easily be turned into your own, customised Thousand Sons Librarian or even Praetor, for that matter: Just a head and/or an arm swap, and you are there. By the same token, he would work really well as a Chaos Space Marine Sorcerer in 40k: His armour is just ornate enough to work, and adding some spikes, trophies and chaotic symbols as well as a suitably chaotic staff and head shouldn’t be a huge challenge.

Geigor Fell-Hand
Like Ahriman, it should be easy enough to turn him into a custom Praetor with a new head, new arms or what have you. It’s also important to point out that the thing I consider the model’s biggest weakness (his over-the-top Space Wolfiness) is what makes him a great fit for a 40k Space Wolves army.
Given the amount of detail on his armour, I think it would be pretty difficult to convert him into a member of another legion. However, I might eventually try to turn him into a member of my Traitor Wolves. We’ll see…

Tartaros Terminators

I am pretty sure we can look forward to all kinds of crazy kitbashing involving these guys, especially if it comes to recombining existing parts to create new (or customised) marks of Terminator armour.
Possibly the most interesting thing about the models, however, is how they provide excellent parts for true-scale conversions! My first true-scale Marine, Praetor Janus Auriga, uses Tartaros legs, and they work really well for true-scale Marines because there are few visual cues that actually make them read as Terminator legs, making for very uncomplicated conversions. By the same token, I have seen some very convincing true-scale conversions making use of Tartaros torso pieces, so I definitely think that true-scalers across the blogosphere will appreciate these new toys. For instance, I can hardly wait for Apologist to get his hands on these guys… 😉

Mk III Marines

It’s easy to imagine how versatile a tool these will become for Space Marine players — after all, they should work great in both 30k and 40k, and it’s easy enough to mix and match with all of those plastic parts now available. This is great because it allows for extra flavour in your Space Marine army, regardless of which legion you are playing. It also means that you can now create a plastic Horus Heresy Astartes army without having to rely on a single armour mark for most of the models. What’s more, mixing different parts will lead to a more improvised, ragtag appearance that would be a great fit for specific legions (yes, World Eaters, I am looking at you! 😉 )

I also love the fact that the Mk. III Marines would arguably work really well for Chaos Space Marines as well: The added detail and mass make them look just archaic and sinister enough, and some legions immediately come to mind —  such as the Death Guard, Iron Warriors or World Eaters.

Man, I really want to get started on those guys…

Custodian Guard

Well, these would be great fíf you wanted to build a suitably massive Inquisitor, of course, but I am pretty certain that we are going to start seeing actual Custodians appear in INQ28 and Necromunda games, especially if they happen to be set on Terra 😉
Beyond that, I am already considering using leftover Custodian parts to turn some of those Sigmarines into yet more Custodians — this should be interesting! And finally, those very same leftover parts should make for excellent conversion fodder for Space Marines and Inquisitorial retinues alike — those shields alone are almost worth it! Invictarii, Breachers or Honour Guard, anyone…?

Sisters of Silence

I predict a bright future for the Sisters of Silence models, especially among converters and the INQ28 crowd: Additional female models are always a much-appreciated resource, and it looks like the new sisters could be the legitimate heirs to the female Dark Eldar Kabalite Warriors and Wyches when it comes to building female assassins, death cultists and Inquisitorial operatives. Beyond that, like I said, the Sister Superior looks like she would make a teriffic base model for an Inquisitrix. And if you have already given up hope that GW will ever release plastic Sisters of Battle, then these girls might be your final way out 😉

 

So what’s the final verdict? Back when Betrayal af Calth was realised, my main criticism was the generic look of the models: I realised that this choice arguably ensured that the box would have a wide appeal to more people, but the lack of character still felt like a problem, especially with regard to the HQ models. The Burning of Prospero addresses this criticism, giving us squads that are once again generic enough so as to be useful to everyone, while imbuing the HQ characters with a lot of character. And then they added some of the most eagerly awaited Horus Heresy troop types on top of it all in a move that seems to have been plucked from the big all time wish-list in the back of my head — well played, GW, well played indeed!

With regard to the Horus Heresy setting at large, I think the writing’s definitely on the wall now: GW seemingly wants to move the Astartes squads to plastic and leave the special upgrade kits and characters to Forgeworld. At the same time, we have now seen the first important character in plastic, and we have proof that the Daemon-Primarchs (or at least one of them) will be produced as plastic kits. So I think we can expect a sizeable part of the future Horus Heresy output to be produced by GW proper (and in plastic) at this point, and I applaud that choice. I realise that not everyone is quite as enthusiastic as me about this change, since many hobbyists seem to fear a sellout of the setting (to that I say: No shit, Sherlock 😉 ) or a decline in quality. But if the boxed sets are anything to go by, I do not think there’s that much to fear.

If anything, it’ll be interesting to see what comes next: Additional armour marks in plastic? More named characters as clamshell versions? And let’s not forget the Custodes and Sisters of Silence: I feel myself being drawn back to that one massive piece of classic artwork time and time again:

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This hints at additional troop types, such as Terminators and jetbikes, to name just a few. And with the models we have now so clearly inspired by classic artwork, the obvious question is: What if this is just the beginning…?

Wishlisting aside, though: What we have here is another very tempting Horus Heresy starter box. And how does the new box compare to Betrayal at Calth? I think that, between the two, Betrayal at Calth is still arguably the better “starter kit”: The contents are a bit less exciting, but also slightly more useful. That being said, the new box still seems like a more refined sequel: If Betrayal of Calth was the teriffic proof of concept, The Burning of Prospero is GW’s pièce de résistance — at least for now…

 

So what’s your take on the new boxed set? What do you like or hate about the new models? And do you have 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!

The State of the Hunt — Week 39

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, paintjob, Pointless ramblings, state of the hunt, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2016 by krautscientist

And so, here’s another post dealing with ongoing projects. With the second issue of the new White Dwarf just having arrived on my doorstep earlier today and with the recent release of Genestealer Cults as a dedicated faction, it’ll sure be time to take a closer look at GW’s current shenanigans, but for now, you’ll have to deal with my own hobby activities — bugger 😉 I’ll try to make it worth your while, though!

 

I. Finally making the headlines!

 

I was rather surprised earlier this week to find out one of my models had actually made the cover of the latest issue of The Golden D6, a very cool hobby mag I talked about a while ago. Yet there he is, Lord Captain Lorimar, right in the spot of honour:

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As I have already told you earlier, the mag is an excellent read for people who are yearning for the kind of broad hobby reading exemplified by the back issues of White Dwarf, so the surprise was very much a welcome one! What’s more, I have a two-part series about enhancing miniature photos (based on this blog post) in issue 6 and 7, so all the more reason to finally check out the mag in more detail! Head over to The Golden D6 website in order to find out more — Adam is also offering a cool bundle deal for the early issues.

II. Heeding the call…once again

After a pretty successful recent ETL V event over at The Bolter & Chainsword, I’ve already thrown myself into the next hobby event hosted by the forum, as a part of a long-term strategy to try and make a dent in my sizeable backlog of unpainted stuff. So I’ve joined this year’s Call of Chaos IX, pledging to complete the following models before December 15th:

call-of-chaos-2016-vow-1

  • a winged Daemon Prince of Khorne with a decidedly gladiatorial look. More about him can be found here.

gladiatorial-daemon-prince-of-khorne-wip

  • an Iron Warriors Apothecary that I originally built as part of an attempt to create a small Iron Warriors kill team — a project I would like to re-invigorate, now that kill teams are actually a thing once more!iron-warriors-apothecary-wip
  • a massive Flesh Hound conversion, originally built last year:giant-flesh-hound-wip-3
  • The excellent Khornate Chaos Lord converted for as a gift from fellow hobbyist BrotherJim: 

    Model converted by BrotherJim

    Model converted by BrotherJim

  • And finally, something special, seeing how this year’s Call of Chaos is actually Tzeentch-themed. Now Tzeentch has always been the least-appealing Chaos God to me, from a visual perspective: I am just not into all the abstract and OTT mutation stuff 😉
    But I did have a pretty nifty idea for a Tzeentchian contribution to my vow: My very own version of Iskandar Khayon, viewpoint character of Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s novel “The Talon of Horus”. Now here’s how Khayon is pictured in the book’s limited edition artwork:iskandar-khayon

    Already pretty cool! But I did feel the need to make some minor tweaks to the concept to make the actual model match my mental image of the character even more closely. So here’s what I came up with:

    iskandar-khayon-wip-1
    iskandar-khayon-wip-2

Now Khayon and BrotherJim’s Chaos Lord are new models, but the bigger part of my vow consists of models that were built last year. So I hope to finally get these stragglers finished for good! Like I said, all of these models will have to be completed before December 15th, so wish me luck! As it happens, I have already made some good progress on my vow, however, because the first model has already been finished…

 

III. The Dog of War

I decided to start my Call of Chaos activities with the giant Flesh Hound conversion:

giant-flesh-hound-wip-3
Now the model does have its minor kinks, mostly because it was assembled from a collection of wildly disparate parts, but I am still very fond of it, so I was really looking forward to getting it painted!

My tweaked skin recipe for Khornate daemons turned out to be super-effective once again, although this time around, although I chose to supplement it with some further tweaks taken from another one of Duncan Rhodes’ excellent video tutorials. So after a short time, the biggest part of the model was finished:

giant-flesh-hound-pip-4
From here on out, all that was left to do was some detail work and the paintjob for the base. Regarding the base, I didn’t want to go completely overboard this time, but I thought the daemon doggie deserved something a bit more elaborate than your rank and file daemon, so I built a base with yet another fallen Astartes:

Giant Flesh Hound's base WIP
Now the special effect this time around was the inclusion of the Astartes’ broken ribs sticking out from his shattered torso. I realise that Space Marine ribs are supposed to be fused together into something like a ossified armour plate, but I chose to have the Rule of Cool trump background lore this time around 😉

When it came to painting the base, I chose Ultramarine colours once again, mostly to get even more routine painting the XII legion for when I tackle the rest of Daemon-Angron’s display base 😉

So here’s the finished base, blood and all:

giant-flesh-hounds-base
And, without further ado, here’s Fido:

giant-flesh-hound-2
giant-flesh-hound-3
giant-flesh-hound-4
giant-flesh-hound-5
giant-flesh-hound-6
giant-flesh-hound-7
giant-flesh-hound-8
I also took a picture of the giant Flesh Hound with one of my recently painted Bloodletters, allowing you to compare both the scale of the model as well as the skin tones:

giant-flesh-hound-1
I am happy to see this guy finished at long last — and now I really can’t wait for GW to release some decent plastic Flesh Hounds, following the same design as the hound accompanying their Khorgos Khul model. I really want a squad of flesh hounds, and they would be super-fluffy for my army — but there’s just no way I am going to purchase those terribly clunky Finecast models…

Anyway: One down, four to go!

giant-flesh-hound-9

 

IV. In closing…

Here’s one last thing I would like to share with you today: A picture I took a while ago, showing all the models I have managed to paint so far this year:

class-of-2016-1

It’s missing my gladiatorial Angron conversion as well as the Flesh Hound, but it’s still a cool little picture, wouldn’t you agree? Only 24 models, all in all, but I am still pretty happy with my output so far — and the year’s not over either!

 

So let me hear any feedback you might have! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

The State of the Hunt — Week 37

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, paintjob, Pointless ramblings, state of the hunt, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2016 by krautscientist

Hey everyone,

I think I’ll be turning “State of the Hunt” into a semi-regular feature to show you smaller stuff I am currently working on and to discuss various subjects that maybe wouldn’t warrant a post of their own but are still important to me. So today let’s look at a collection of Khornate Miscellany:

 

I. A Champion Reborn…

What else could be the first item of interest for today, if not the release of the new plastic version of Khârn the Betrayer? There have been rumours about new versions of the iconic Chaos characters for a rather long time now, and now here’s Khârn, hopefully ushering in a slew of releases (one can always dream…):

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-1Now before we take a look at the new model, allow me to mention that I have written at lenght about Khârn and his various incarnations in the art, the lore and in model form, so you may consider the following thoughts a late addendum to the respective post from 2014.

So as I’ve said in the aforementioned post, I really consider the original Khârn the Betrayer a model for the ages (but then that’s Jes Goodwin for you). I would also argue that the old model has managed to age far more gracefully than most special characters from 2nd edition. For instance, while Abaddon just looks rather puny next to the much bigger modern models in Terminator armour, Khârn still seems imposing, even twenty+ years later. He’s also a thoroughly iconic piece, debuting (or at least refining) so many of the visual elements that define the look of the World Eaters and the Khorne Berzerkers in particular to this day: the chains, the skull motifs, the bare arm. And, of course, the iconic crested helmet.

Now updating such an iconic model is not without its dangers, and when a new plastic version of Eldrad Ulthran was recently released, I felt it lacked the original model’s iconic quality. So what about Khârn then?

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-5
When we look at both versions side by side, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that the new version still definitely reads as Khârn — and that alone is no small feat! In my opinion, the best decision of the new model was to basically stick to the classic design of the helmet and only make very minor tweaks to it. Back when I converted my own true scale version of Khârn, I quickly found out that no model will look like Khârn unless that particular helmet design enters the equation, and by the same token, Khârn’s helmet is the one helmet that isn’t easy to kitbash by using available bits. So basically leaving the helmet alone was a fantastic – and ultimately crucial – design decision, in my opinion!

All of the other classic elements are there as well: The bare right arm (after Forgeworld’s Khârn version switched the axe to the other arm, it’s interesting to see how GW chose to stick with the layout of the 90s version), the chains wrapped around it, the various skull motifs adorning the armour, and countless other little touches. All of this sells the model as Khârn without a doubt!

Of course things only really get interesting when one considers the parts that have been changed when compared to the original model: First of all, Khârn seems to have bulked up quite a bit, to account for about two decades of scale creep. And he wears it really well, as a look at some additional angles reveals:

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-1
plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-2
Another really cool part is how GW has managed to bring the armour in line with the very baroque look of the Dark Vengeance Chosen or the plastic Raptors/Warp Talons without resorting to adding any wanton mutations: I think this basically works as the perfect template for new chaos models: Give us more jagged and baroque looking armour that clearly differs from the smooth contours of loyalist Astartes armour, but focus the gribbly stuff on optional bits and upgrades. That way, everyone would be happy, right? 😉

Anyway, the redesign achieves the trick of making the new Khârn look right at home next to both vintage and modern chaos models, which is great, and arguably my favourite part about the model!

Then there’s the pose, of course: Where Khârn’s pose used to be very static (and powerful), he is now running forward like mad — which, admittedly, is a pretty great fit for the character. Now to be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn’t have minded a static pose on the new Khârn, but then most people seem to have taken issue with it, and the new running pose also creates a nice resemblance with Forgeworld’s Khârn model, albeit mirrored:

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-6
Of course the problem with highly dynamic running poses is that the model in question might end up looking as though it were tripping over its own feet, and the new Khârn is getting a bit of flak over possibly tripping over those dangling skulls — but seriously, I am not really seeing it. In my opinion, the running pose is more believable than the slightly awkward pose of Forgeworld’s version. And if you take a look at the 360 degrees view of the new model over at the GW website, there’s a depth and three-dimensionality to the model now that is hard not to admire.

So do I love everything about the model? No, I do have my gripes, of course. So let’s take a look at the bad parts:

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-1
Those weighed down chains dangling from Khârn’s left wrist are easily my least favourite part of the model: They just seem too clunky and kill the flow of the model. I think I would have gone with something a bit more subtle, and my first tweak to the model would be to take off those chains or pare them back a bit.

It also seems to me that the ripped muscles on Khârn’s bare arm look slightly too angular and sculptural, although that could always come down to the paintjob. I will say, however, that the pose is maybe slightly too stylised for its own good, with Khârn looking more like the statue of a running guy that an actual running guy, if that makes any sense.

And my third gripe with the model is the design of Gorechild, Khârn’s axe:

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-2
Considered on its own, it’s a very cool and vicious looking Khornate axe — and look, they’ve even redesigned the teeth to more closely resemble the Mica-Dragon teeth from the lore. So the design is pretty cool, but by changing it, the entire sense of visual continuity goes out of the window. Because one thing I have always loved is that, regardless of whether you were looking at Forgeworld’s Angron, Forgeworld’s 30k Khârn or the 40k Khârn model, they were all definitely wielding the same axe, and that sense of continuity is now lost. Now you could argue that the axe had probably undergone some warping and mutation over the 10,000 years of the Long War, but after so much work on the sculptor’s part has gone into ensuring that the axe looks exactly the same on all three models, this change almost seems like an oversight now, and while the axe itself looks cool enough, that really, really bothers me (because I’m an obsessive weirdo like that 😉 ).

I have one very minor gripe: The backpack seems strangely narrow to me, but I’ll reserve judgement until I have seen the model firsthand.

Interestingly enough, a closer look at the sprue reveals that the model might actually be pretty conversion-friendly:

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-3
For one, it should be pretty easy to return the new model to a more static standing pose, should you want to: Just some careful cutting and maybe a set of DV Chosen legs, and Bob’s your uncle! Those bothersome chains should be easy enough to leave off or tweak as well, seeing how they come as a separate part. And I guess one could even replace Gorechild’s blade, if one were that way inclined.
The fact that the plasma pistol arm, axe and backpack could easily be used as conversion bits is a definite plus as well!

So, what’s the final verdict?

All in all, I am pretty happy with the new Khârn! Where the plastic version of Eldrad failed to capture the coolness and iconic nature of the original model, it feels like Khârn is definitely a step into the right direction! While I do have a couple of minor complaints about the model, the new version also brings enough to the table to be a strong model in its own right. Maybe it’s not quite as timeless a classic as the original Khârn, but that also seems impossible to ascertain right now, especially given the fact that I’ve grown up with the original 2nd edition model. Anyway, I like this guy! Where Eldrad was a bit of a disappointment, Khârn is – at the very least – a modest success.

At the same time,  I still think my custom, true scale Khârn from 2014 manages to hold up:

true-scale-kharn-the-betrayer-conversion
At the same time, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll also be purchasing the new version: I think it’s a pretty awesome new interpretation of an iconic character, and the parts I don’t like about the model should be easy enough to tweak. I’ll keep you posted 😉

plastic-kharn-the-betrayer-release-4

 

II. Travelers from afar…

My hobby life has been massively improved by other people’s generosity for a rather long time now, and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive two more incredible additions for my collection from fellow hobbyists recently.

First came BrotherJim, who recently completed a rather stunning Nurglite CSM force as part of the ETL V event: I provided some feedback to him, and he actually built me a model and sent it over to me by way of thanks — how awesome is that? Now the really cool thing about BrotherJim’s conversions is how much they are inspired by Adrian Smith’s rather iconic art from the 3.5 Codex Chaos Space Marines, and how BrotherJim is pretty much the first person to have managed to give his models the same, massive, lumbering look. This leads to a very distinctive style, and I was really happy the day one of his creations arrived allll the way from Australia to bolster the forces of Khorne’s Eternal Hunt:

Conversion by BrotherJim

Conversion by BrotherJim

Note the amount of gear and the imposing backpack, both trademarks of BrotherJim’s style. Now I was really happy with the model, but wanted to make one small alteration – a different head – mostly because that particular berzerker head already appears on more than one model in my army, and I felt this guy deserved something more original. So I spliced together a suitably ornate helmet, and here’s the new Huntmaster soon to be part of the 4th assault company:

Model converted by BrotherJim

Model converted by BrotherJim

 

Model converted by BrotherJim

Model converted by BrotherJim

 

Model converted by BrotherJim

Model converted by BrotherJim

 

Model converted by BrotherJim

Model converted by BrotherJim

 

Model converted by BrotherJim

Model converted by BrotherJim

Just get a load of the amount of weapons on this guy! 🙂

Anyway, thanks again to BrotherJim for this amazing gift! And make sure to check out his excellent work on a growing chaos collection here.

But wait, there’s more: When I came home yesterday, the cutest little package had arrived from the UK. Inside I found this wonderfully sinister and bloodied champion of the War God built and painted by none other than spectacularly talented Terrain-Overlord extraordinaire Neil101 of Opus Maius’ fame:

Model built and painted by Neil101

Model built and painted by Neil101

 

Model built and painted by Neil101

Model built and painted by Neil101

 

Model built and painted by Neil101

Model built and painted by Neil101

Now I was already aware that Neil had built this model for me a while ago, but the fact that he also chose to paint it in his trademark style was a wonderful surprise indeed! The result is something far more painterly and visceral than anything I could have come up with, and I am really in love with this guy right now. And that wasn’t all, because accompanying the Khornate champion came a wonderfully macabre “Bucket o’ Blood” (followers of Khorne never leave home without it!):

Model built and painted by Neil101

Model built and painted by Neil101

As is usually the case with Neil’s work, there’s a wonderfully macabre and demented nature to the whole affair, calling to mind both the infamous Yggdrassilliumme as well as the kind of characters you would see in the golden days of Realm of Chaos. And while I am already hard at work figuring out a suitable angle for this guy as a part of the Velsen Sector (he’ll be a member of the so-called “Duelists”, an insidious Khornate lodge operating in the sector), Neil was also kind enough to provide his own little vignette of background:

Models built and painted by Neil101

Models built and painted by Neil101

 

Coal black eyes kindled the embers of hate, as the headsman daubed his breastplate with the aged ichor of his enemies. His skull face plate chafed at the nape of his neck, the fitting too tight for comfort.

So much he had given, but the Blood God’s bucket had a hole. Never enough, always more.

The unsaturated hunger for power, for glory, always gnawed at his soul. Like the itch of his helm, the one he couldn’t scratch…reminding him that his work was never done. His bucket never full.

 

Anyway, thanks to Neil for the fantastic model! Job’s a good ‘un, mate! 🙂

 

III. Twenty years of bloodshed…

I myself have not been idle either, even though I felt I needed something small and fun to unwind after my recent, rather massive Daemon-Primarch-related shenanigans…

But the right opportunity did present itself, fortunately enough! Back when I showed you this OOP mid-90s Bloodletter…

Old Skool Bloodletter (2)
…fellow hobbyist AMaximus offered to send over some old metal Bloodletters of his own. Now the models he offered me were a slightly never incarnation, released around the turn of the century (teehee), between the mid-90s design you see above and the modern plastic Bloodletters. I had never been a huge fan of those particular models, feeling they didn’t really bring anything new to the table, but there’s always time for a little fun, so Andrew and I worked out a small bitz swap, and I got my hands on another Bloodletter version.

My eye was instantly drawn to one of the models that was missing his two-handed axe, and I decided to paint him right away and add a small tweak or two while I was at it. So here’s the mostly finished model (still missing its base):

bloodletters-wip-9
bloodletters-wip-8
Like I said, the standard armament for this model would have been a two-handed axe, but I decided to replace it with one of the modern plastic Hellblades (once again, I might add). And I actually think the model is improved by the change! I also had to replace the left hand, and a severed head seemed like a logical choice. It has been pointed out to me – and correctly so – that the head seems to be the victim of some wonky physics, but I think we can just consider this a match for the stock model’s inherent clunkiness and move on, eh? 😉

Seriously, though, this guy has really grown on me! This particular incarnation of the Bloodletters turned out to be a bit of an evolutionary dead end, and from a time of occasionally strange and slightly uneven releases on GW’s part, no less, but I think the model works pretty well with my established daemon recipe in place 😉

And while I was at it, I also painted one of the modern plastic Bloodletters in the exact same way:

bloodletters-wip-4
bloodletters-wip-3
And, once again, I am pretty happy with the result — take note that this model still makes used of the slightly tweaked skin recipe taken from Duncan Rhodes’ Bloodthirster tutorial!

Ultimately, the guy above will be joined by a full unit of Bloodletters. Until then, I have a nice little comparison of Bloodletter models from the last twenty years:

bloodletters-wip-6
I should probably paint one of the spindly, serpentine first edition Bloodletters to complete the set, but I really don’t like that particular version of the daemon, so this is not really a priority project at the moment. If someone wants to get rid of an old Bloodletter, though, I am always open to suggestions… 😉

On a related note, AMaximus was also awesome enough to include a pretty old vintage Bloodthirster head in his bitz drop:

vintage-bloodthirster-head-2
vintage-bloodthirster-head-1
Now what am I going to do with this lovely face…?

 

IV. Out of the woods, at last…

Now this last subject has nothing whatsoever to do with cutting up little plastic men, but I am still very happy to inform you guys that my time as an unemployed slacker is finally at an end: Starting October, I will finally have gainful employment once more! Yeehaw!

Now it’ll only be for a limited amount of time so far, but it sure feels good to be back in business! And while this could mean less hobby time in the immediate future, my sigh of relief when I learned the news could still have extinguished a raging bonfire. Work for the Work god! 😉

 

So anyway, so much for this latest news roundup. It goes without saying that I would love to hear any feedback you might have! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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

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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.

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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!