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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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 Ulthwรฉ

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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:

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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:

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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…):

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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 Khรขrn 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:

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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:

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The inclusion of already establised visual elements,ย 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:

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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:

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Seems like we’ve been stealing some tech from the Necrons, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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:

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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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!

An Orc is an Ork is an…Orruk?! A look at the Ironjawz release

Posted in Conversions, Orcs & Goblins, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2016 by krautscientist

Oh my, it seems like I am really lagging behind with those reviews and in-depth explorations of GW’s recent releases. Sorry for that! In my defense, however, it just takes a certain dedication (not to mention motivation) to sit down and do detailed writeups about new models, particularly when it would probably more instantly-gratifying to build new stuff! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Then again, there are just some thoughts about GW’s recent offerings that I would like to share, so I hope you’ll indulge me, even when the models I’ll be talking about have been with us for a while.

Ironjawz Release (1)

So for today, let us talk about the Ironjawz, GW’s first Age of Sigmar foray into the greenskin faction: In the interest of full disclosure, let me just preface this post by saying that I have loved GW’s greenskins ever since I got into this hobby: I loved the greenskin models in HeroQuest, even though there were basically only two designs. I loved the greenskin armies back when fantasy armies were still predominantly made from pewter models (so I bought the pretty expensive army book as a lad, only to realise that an army really wasn’t an option, given the limits of my monthly allowance). I loved the fact that GW included an Orc starter army in the 6th edition box and wanted to start an army — it didn’t really happen. But I still like GW’s greenskin designs to this day, whether they appear in 40k or AoS — I even created a kitbashed Blood Bowl team from plastic GW greenskins. So yeah, I am a fan, and have been for quite a while.

For me, GW’s greenskins have always managed to straddle the line between legitimately scary and darkly humorous. I am aware of the fact that some hobbyists, particularly in the Oldhammer scene, prefer the slightly more lighthearted take of the yesteryear to the heavily muscled and more intimidating modern Orcs (or “Orruks”, for that matter), but I like the modern look well enough, and I think having the greenskins be both funny and scary at the same time actually adds to their character.

So this release was interesting for me, both due to my general affection for the greenskins, but also because I was curious about how GW would bring the greenskins over into the Age of Sigmar setting: So far, AoS has mostly seemed like an escalation of vintage Warhammer designs to me: Like a redesigned Warhammer by way of videogame tropes, Masters of the Universe and particularly cheesy heavy metal album cover art — and this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, mind you!

The problem is that Age of Sigmar doesn’t really seem to have found its own voice yet, mostly due to the seeming lack of depth to its lore and setting: So far, it has mostly seemed like “Warhammer turned up to eleven”. This is a problem that should arguably diminish with each army and faction getting more fleshed out, so looking at the way GW has chosen to revisit one of its most iconic factions should be interesting. And, to address the elephant in the room, how much will the new greenkins resemble something out of World of Warcraft?

This is a really obvious question, of course: A wealth of anecdotal evidence suggests that Warcraft was basically born out of heaps of inspiration taken from GW’s greenskin designs. Some rumours even say that the whole Warcraft franchise might been intended as a GW-licensed Warhammer game at some point. Whether or not that’s true, there’s more than a little overlap between both universes, and now GW redesigns its own Orcs, with a feature length Warcraft film just around the corner — interesting times, indeed!

With those thoughts firmly wedged into the back of our collective head, let’s take a look at each of the new kits in turn:

 

Godrakk, the Fist of Gork

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Every new release needs that huge centrepiece model, and the Ironjawz are no exception. They do get quite a beast of a model, though, and one that is, at once, pretty different from the Orc warlords on huge beasts we have seen so far and also fits right in. Allow me to explain:

For the last couple of releases (and, for that matter, editions), Orc warlords would invariably be riding on some kind of ambiguously serpentine reptilian — mostly a Wyvern. During the early 90s, those creatures shared the same precarious posing and general “S-shape” as all of GW’s dragons, and I imagine the similar design outline was mostly due to the problems of producing a huge metal model that wasn’t just a solid lump of pewter while still looking like some kind of dragon.

And somehow it never quite worked out: There was just some kind of visual disconnect between the burly, heavyset Orcs and those serpentine mounts. Which makes me like the new orcish — pardon, “Orruk-ish” riding beast, called the “Maw-Krusha” looks far more massive and imposing, as this just seems a far better match for the rest of the catalogue!

At the same time, it’s great how the Maw-Krusha manages to incorporate elements of various creatures that have been part of Greenskin armies for a long time: It even resembles the old wyvern to some degree, yet manages to replace the slightly awkward, serpentine look with something more fitting. The overall body shape and scaled hide also manages to recall the plastic River Trolls, which makes for an extra bit of visual consistency.

The kit provides two different heads for the Maw-Krusha: The one intended for “Bigteef” is masked and muzzled and features some slightly strange cloth drapings — I originally thought this was supposed to be some kind of enemy banner being devoured by the creature, which would have been pretty cool, but it really seems to be a decorative element. Oh well…
The alternative, unhelmenetd head, on the other side, may just be one of my favourite monster heads ever produced by GW:

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It’s suitably monstrous, sure. Yet it also has that “crocodilian inquisitiveness”, for lack of a better word: You can definitely imagine the creature staring curiously at something before some neural switch at the centre of its tiny, tiny brain goes from “0” to “1” and it just goes crazy — just watch any documentary about crocodiles or alligators, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Anyway, the head just captures that expression perfectly, while also adding some subtle humour to the whole deal — which is, once again, a great fit for the greenskin faction!

In addition to the huge creatire, we also get an equally impressive Orruk warlord on top, of course. One option would be to use the kit to build Gordrakk himself:

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And he really looks the part: From the massive armour to the impressive twin axes, this guy really looks like he means business! I also really like his screaming, one-eyed face:

Ironjawz Release (20)Greenskin models are often sold by the quality of their faces, really, and this one has a lot of character. Jolly good show! The necklace with the dwarven beard and the back banner may be a tad much, but that’s not really a big problem, seeing how it should be easy enough to just leave those parts off, or replace them with some alternate bitz.

Speaking of which, the kit also provides alternate parts to build a generic Ironjawz warlord, and it’s certainly nice to have the extra options!

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However, the idea of pairing a massive spear/halberd/thing with a monstrous knife/sword/thing (held in a reverse grip, no less), seems kind of nonsensical to me, even for an Orruk warlord (and believe me, as a World Eaters player, I am no stranger to modeling audacious weapon combinations). The alternate face is also slightly less interesting than Gordrakk’s ugly mug, unfortunately:

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Then again, the iconic iron jaw bit and different back banner are interesting enough alternatives. All in all, though, it’s clear that Gordrakk was the focus of this model. And, in any case, there’s only so much leeway and customisation that the kit will allow, due to the specific poses of both the Maw-Krusha and its rider, so building three of these that look totally different would be quite a task indeed!

But all in all, the kit certainly provides a massive and impressive and thoroughly orky – or should that be “orruk-y” – centrepiece model for any greenskin force, and I really like the audacity of this guy. Very cool!

 

Orruk Megaboss

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In addition to the massive warlord on Maw-Krusha, we also get a generic warlord on foot, and the easy way of looking at it would be to say that this is basically the Maw-Krusha rider without a Maw-Krusha ๐Ÿ˜‰

But seriously, what’s great about this model, right out of the gate, is that it marks the concept of huge Orcs (or, again, “Orruks”) finally arriving in the GW’s fantasy setting: In 40k, the idea of Ork warlords being far bigger and more massive than their followers has long been a staple of both the lore and the actual models, yet in the world of WFB, orcish generals weren’t that much more imposing than their soldiers — and it’s great to finally see that remedied with this model.

I really like the look of the massive, crude armour. It seems a bit more extreme than the greenskin armour we have seen in WFB, but it’s still well within the parameters of GW’s established design without seeming as stylised as something you’d see in, say, WoW. Even so, a certain “escalation” is clearly obvious in the design. But it makes for a nice enough looking model.

My one substantial complaint about this model is that it would arguably have needed alternative weapons more urgently than the Maw-Krusha rider, seeing how this guy is meant to represent your generic Orruk warlord. Granted, it should be easy enough to swap in some weapons from some of the other kits, but it still seems like a bit of an oversight.

On a slightly less serious note, don’t get me started on those skulls,…

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Aw, screw it, I just can’t help myself, so here goes: The obvious thing first: The model’s whole silhouette and look is really dominated by that huge saurian skull strapped to its right shoulder, and it’s an element that not everybody will be keen on. I have to admit that I would probably carefully cut it off myself, and replace it with something slightly less ostentatious.

The real headache begins once you start thinking about where that skull came from, however: It looks like the remains of some kind of Lizardma…ehhh Seraphon creature, doesn’t it? But aren’t the Seraphon ghostly creatures now? So how do they leave any skulls in the first place?

Sure, this could be the remains of any huge predator from any of the new realms, and not really a Seraphon skull. But what’s that on the Megaboss’s other shoulder? A Bloodletter skull? But aren’t Bloodletters daemons? Then how do they leave skulls in the first place…? Like I said, it’s best not to even start thinking about it — how can an Orruk Megaboss make creatures without bones leave bones? Because he’s just that awesome! ‘Nuff said! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Semantics aside, however, it’s a nice enough model and certainly one of the release’s most interesting pieces of conversion fodder. One or two parts of the model may be a bit too cartoony for my taste, but those should be easy enough to get rid of, so this guy gets a pass.

On a semi-related note, wouldn’t you agree with me that the model just looks so much better with red armour…?

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Orruk Weirdnob Shaman

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Shamans and magicians have always been a thoroughly weird part of greenskin society — it’s even part of their name there, see? – and so this guy’s slightly spastic look and pose are a great fit! He really looks as though he were being controlled by powers beyond his control (or by far too much fungus beer, but yeah…), and the model does a great job of communicating that feeling. Maybe the best part of the shaman is the priceless look on his face:

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On the other hand, there are two parts of the model I really don’t like. One is the pair of horns or tusks awkwardly bound to the shaman’s head. A quick look at the sprue reveals that this part should, once again, be easy enough to get rid of, though.

My least favourite part is that smoke effect emerging from the top of the staff: It just seems silly – as sculpted smoke and magical effects are wont to do – and I’d get rid of it in a heartbeat. Kudos to the ‘Eavy Metal Team, though, for managing to paint it exactly like something from the cover of a 70s prog-rock album! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, all in all, it’s a nice enough model, and having a plastic Shaman/Weirdboy available should be very useful for both AoS and 40k players alike.

 

Orruk Warchanter

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This is probably my least favourite part of this release: The concept of a drummer/chanter/shaman type character seems pretty tired and unoriginal at the best of times. What makes matters even worse, however, is that, while the other models from the release manage to carefully flirt with the cartoony, videogamey Warcraft look, this guy just embraces it as hard as he can and ends up looking like some kind of WoW reject: The armour, those clunky bones — my immediate feeling was that this wasn’t a GW model at all, but a model produced by some other, smaller company during the late 90s. He just seems overly cartoony and bland to me.

The model’s only saving grace is, once again, the face: It’s really rather lovely:

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But all things considered, it’s not enough to excuse the clunky, unoriginal rest of the miniatured. The Warchanter is easily the weakest part of this release, in my opinion, as the model seems more like an afterthought.

 

Orruk Brutes

Ironjawz Release (24)At first galnce, this basically seems like the fantasy version of 40k’s Ork Nobz kit. And just like that kit, this box allows us to build five rather massive …Orruks that are armoed to the teeth — so far, so good!

The bulky models in their massive, crude armour should be quite a sight on the tabletop, and I really like the juxtaposition of the heavily muscled bodies and the jagged, primitive armour plates:

Ironjawz Release (27)These guys really seem tough as nails, and they manage to fit the new Age of Sigmar aesthetic while also fitting in with older greenskin models, which is certainly not mean feat! I also like the wealth of options provided in the kit, at least according to a closer look at the various sprues!

If I have one gripe with the Brutes, it’s that some of the weapon designs just seem a bit too much: That massive, two-handed cleaver? The strange crab-claw? Those look more like toys than weapons, really — like the designers were trying just a bit too hard to make those weapons “uber-awesome”:

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Maybe the problem is that these guys are just a bit too serious: They seem to be trying just as hard as GW’s sculptors ๐Ÿ˜‰

All in all, however, the kit itself seems to provide a lot of options and a wealth of extra bitz, so it still stands as one of the best parts of the release, in my opinion.

 

Orruk Goregruntaz

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This kit seems like an interesting addition, mostly because the plastic Orc Boarboyz are one of the more recent greenskin kits — and arguably one of the coolest. And now we are already seeing yet another escalation of the concept in the shape of even bigger and more heavily armoured Ironjawz Boarboyz — or rather, “Goregruntaz” (*sigh*).

The overall concept of a more heavily armoured greenskin cavalry is pretty cool in and of itself, though, and so are the riders: In fact, they are possibly my favourite part of the kit for a somewhat strange reason: Call me crazy, but their armour seems strangely reminiscent of the vintage Horus Heresy Cataphractii design , complete with the topknot sadly missing from FW’s Cataphractii. The jagged spears are, once again, ever so slightly over the top, but it’s less obvious here than with some of the more outlandish brute weapons. What’s more, the kit also seems to be packed to the brim with excellent bitz and faces. I mean, just check out that guy with the eyepatch. That has to be one of the coolest greenskin faces around:

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The kit’s bigges weakness, on the other hand, are the boars, unfortunately: GW already had the perfect boars with their plastic Boarboy models, but it seems like they needed to turn this design up to eleven for the Goregruntaz, and they weren’t entirely successful with that. Some parts of the boars are quite cool (the armour matching the riders, for instance), but then you get to those enormous, far too large heads with those teribbly clunky beards and OTT dagger teeth, and you just cannot unsee that part.

Granted, the problem is less prominent on some heads. The armoured one is looking quite okay:

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But the one with the wide open maw is easily the worst offender: It just seems clunky and, once again, overly cartoony to me:

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Which brings me back to one of my main points of cricticsm about quite a few AoS kits, really: In order to make them ever more extreme and ultra-awesome, some of the restrain that makes a truly outstanding model is lost. If anything, those models need to be somewhat less extreme and over the top! I would argue that the Goregruntaz would have profited from a slightly more restrained design — or maybe even from reusing the existing boars with some additional armour plates?

As it stands, the kit is hurt by the somewhat silly design of the mounts and doesn’t provide the more awesome version of the Boarboyz it was probably iintended as.

 

Orruk ‘Ardboyz

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Right, these obviously aren’t new, they are merely the “old” Black Orcs with a new name. I’d still like to discuss them in this review for two reasons: One, it’s interesting to see how these originally formed the most heavily armoured, badass Orcs and are now relegated to the position of fairly standard footsoldiers — this nicely shows the kind of escalation we are dealing with, in a way. The other aspect that stands out to me is that, surprisingly enough, they still manage to hold up fairly well, all things considered! I think they would need some leftover trophies and extra skulls to bring them in line visually with the newer kits, but that shouldn’t really require that much work, so the kit still seems to work fairly well!

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Conversion ideas:

Let’s get the obvious things out of the way first: One, even if you have little love for Age of Sigmar and stick to the older rules, many of these models should still work in your army from a visual standpoint, as they are still recognisably GW greenskins. So there’s nothing stopping you from using those Ironjawz models to build, say, a particularly vicious looking Black Orc army — in fact, I like that idea a lot, come to think of it…

The other overarching idea for these kits is that it has never been so easy to create a really awesome Feral Ork army for 40k: Seriously, many of the new kits should be really easy o 40k-i-fy with a chainblade here and an exhaust pipe there, and I can easily imagine a fantastic looking Feral Ork force based on these new kits!

Beyond these broad approaches, let me also share a couple of more specific – if rather rough – ideas:

Gordrakk on Maw-Krusha

I think that Maw-Krusha would also work as a huge Squig (or even a small Squiggoth, maybe?) Anyway, wouldn’t it be fun to use this monster as some kind of Feral Ork attack beast? Or an alternate trukk? Or just mount some crazy contraption on its back and use it as artillery or a war machine or what have you? The possibilities are really endless here! ๐Ÿ™‚

Orruk Megaboss

Now this guy is possibly the most versatile and useful kmodel for converters. Possile uses for the model include…

  • using him as an Ork Warboss in mega armour: Seriously, he’s huge and intimidating, and tech-ing up that armour should be lotsย  of fun! Just add a mean-looking circular saw or a claw and a huge shoota and you’re golden!
  • while we’re at it, why not go the extra mile and turn him into a plastic Ghazghkull? In fact, just check out this incredible WIP conversion by JeffyP to see how well this works!
  • on a similar note, I imagine the model would also work well as a basis for a huge and hideous mutant warlord for all our LNTD players and/or INQ28 aficionados! Sure, you would need to get rid of some of the more obviously orky elements, but the armour definitely looks crude and nondescript enough to work for some kind of big mutant!
  • speaking of INQ28, why not use this model as a “true scale” Ork as a worthy opponent for all those true scale Marines floating around? Or as a suitable end-boss for your Ordo Xenos Inquisitors to fight against?

Orruk Weirdnob Shaman

This one’s obvious: the model provides an excellent plastic Weirdboy for 40k, with as much or as little conversion work as you like involved ๐Ÿ˜‰

Orruk Warchanter

Maybe, just maybe, if one were to get rid of those stupid bones and some of those surplus horns, I think he could make for an intersting gladiatorial type — he does have a suitable “Are you not entertained?” pose, after all. Yeah, on second thought, maybe that would be the best possible use for this model: Use him to convert a particularly huge and ugly pitfighter for INQ28 or Necromunda (Bull Gorg anyone?).

Orruk Brutes

These would be great as Ork Nobz — or even Meganobz, for that matter. I think they more original looking armour could make them look cooler than the stock Meganobz, especially if you take the time to add some suitably brutal weapons and augmetics to them. Once again, by the same token, the model could also become mutant overlords, provided you swap in some less orky weapons and heads.

Orruk Goregruntaz
You know what? I just cannot get that Cataphractii resemblance I mentioned out of my head. Therefore, what I would really love to see is a kitbash using those Goregrunta riders to make a squad of Ork Cataphractii, complete with orkish versions of classic Cataphractii weapons and corrupted Astartes iconography. I think that woul be an amazing project — and arguably a fun way of bringing Orks into the 30k timeframe?! If anyone does this (or discovers somebody else doing this), please feel free to send me a link! ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

All in all, I am fairly happy with the release: There are a few missteps here and there, but what we have here, at the end of the day, are greenskin models that are still recognisably GW greenskins. Now this may not seem like a huge achievement, but I beg to differ: I think there was actually a pretty big danger of these guys basically ending up as Warcraft models. There’s a clear tendency visible in the models created for Age of Sigmar so far to feature designs that are slightly more videogame-y in nature than GW’s classic fantasy models. I am not saying that GW’s sculptors are consciously aiming for WoW as a design template (which would be fairly ironic, giving the somewhat intertwined past of Warhammer and Warcraft), but there is a certain visual “escalation”, for lack of a better word. And maybe the greenskins were in danger more than some of the other factions because Warcraft provides this large cultural influence — or maybe I am just imagining it All, who knows?

What I am getting at, however, is this: The new Ironjawz models still clearly read as greenskin models in the Brian Nelson school of design. They are still their own thing. And I am beginning to see what GW may be going for with the look they are trying to establish for Age of Sigmar, a design eking out a niche for itself between the established visuals of vintage Warhammer on the one hand and the more cartoony visuals you might expect of a videogame like Warcraft. It’s a delicate balance to maintain, certainly, and they may not be getting it right all of the time, but I can repect it for what it is now, instead of just considering it a mere Warhammer-knock-off. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, whether or not you appreciate Age of Sigmar as a setting or a game: If, like me, you enjoy GW’s greenskin designs, then you should find something to like about this release. And you can always get rid of the parts you don’t like with a trusty hobby knife ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

So what is your take on the Ironjawz? Do you love them or hate them? Or something in-between? And is there a cool conversion idea that I missed? Feel free to let me hear your opinion in the comments section?

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

Corruption has never felt so good – a look at Deathwatch: Overkill

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2016 by krautscientist

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So here we are, at long last, with my look at Deathwatch: Overkill. Sorry for being so awfully late to this particular party, but I really had to force myself to sit down and create a suitably long writeup, especially given the huge amount of conversion potential inherent in these new kits. But I persevered, and here I am, probably the last person in the world to discuss this new board game release on their blog. I hope you’ll be taking a look, nevertheless ๐Ÿ˜‰

Say what you want about the constantly escalating scale and rules complexity of 40k or about GW’s somewhat aimless treatment of Age of Sigmar, but I cannot deny that GW has been steadily ticking boxes off my personal Most Wanted list for quite a while now: An 28mm Imperial Knight, check. More and better Khornate models, check. A fully fledged plastic AdMech release, check. Plastic Sisters,…no, wait, we haven’t seen those yet.

But possibly the only thing quite as interesting as a proper Sisters release is a new version of Genestealer Cults, and lo and behold: That’s exactly what we are getting with Deathwatch: Overkill, the latest boxed game by GW. Oh yeah, some Space Marines are also included, of course, but I suppose that’s a given ๐Ÿ˜‰

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So join me as I ponder the new models and their possible use in all kinds of conversion projects — in fact, several highly talented hobbyists are already hard at work, putting the new sprues through their paces, and it goes without saying that I’ll be pointing you towards their work as well. Also make sure to check out Heresy & Heroes` and Wudugast’s posts on the matter, as I enjoyed reading them and they should make excellent companion pieces for my take on the matter.

So here goes:

 

Team Deathwatch:

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You simply cannot have a Deathwatch centered game without a Deathwatch Killteam, obviously, and here we are. Now it’s of course perfectly obvious that this collection of models is a pretty shrewd move by GW, because what we are getting here, beyond the scope of the game at hand, is basically a collection of eleven custom Space Marine clamshell characters that would look great in any Astartes army. What’s more, there’s also a model for nearly every popular chapter, probably making this box an auto-purchase for Space Marine players while also giving rise to a healthy shadow economy of selling the different models on ebay.

But what of the models themselves? Let’s take a look at each member of Killteam Cassius in turn:

 

Ortan Cassius:

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Well, what do you know: It’s a great little surprise to encounter a younger version of one of the Ultramarines’ special characters, dating back to before he fell, head-first, into the meatgrinder known as Hivefleet Behemoth — or it was a surprise for me, at least, because I didn’t follow BL’s string of Deathwatch related short stories. But let’s talk about the model:

The obvious thing is to check for parallels to the older version of the character, and it’s nice to see how quite a few parts of the model create a nice sense of continuity: The general design of the armour, the crocius, the book at the hip. What I really like is how some of Cassius’ equipment yet seems free of the Tyrannic influence: the book of prayers will end up bound in Tyranid hide, and his crocius will one day be crowned with a winged Tyranid skull. But his is a younger version of him, so his equipment is still more generically imperial — a good thing for once ๐Ÿ˜‰

I also like the model’s powerful pose, and even though it’s fairly static, the flowing seals and dangling chain create a nice, subtle sense of dynamism.

All in all, Cassius is a worthy leader of the Killteam and also, arguably, a much better chaplain model than the one included in the Reclusiam Command Squad.

 

Drenn Redblade:

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Drenn seems like the archetypal Space Wolves Blood Claw: Running forward? Check. Bareheaded? Check. Mohawk? Check. But there’s an elegance to the model that I really appreciate: The running pose is well done, but I especially like the way the sculptors have treated Drenn’s gear: The underslung bolter with the strap running across the model’s chest, the empty scabbard for the combat knife — stuff like that. I realise that many people are unhappy with the unsubtle “Vikings in Space” look of the 40k Space Wolves, but while Drenn shows all the hallmarks of modern SW design (the pelt, the runes, the totemic doodads), there’s also an air of restraint and focus about the model that has been pulled off rather beautifully — easily one of my favourite Astartes from this box!

 

Jensus Natorian:

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Jenus is the first plastic Blood Ravens model we get, so hooray for that! Beyond that, he’s a fairly standard Librarian model. I like the implementation of his heraldry, but his face seems a bit too “generic angry dude 101” for my taste. A solid model, certainly, but no match for the awesome, bearded clamshell Libarian, if you ask me.

 

Garran Branatar:

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Am I the only one reminded of Pat Benatar by that name? Anyway, the model: The inclusion of a Terminator certainly makes for a nice change of pace — unfortunately, the model itself is a bit underwhelming, though, especially the somewhat generic pose. Space Hulk really showed us how to make loyalist Terminators look great and imbue them with lots of character, even with their helmets on, but Brother Branatar seemingly never got the memo. I also think the heavy flamer/melta combo seems a bit iffy, although I realise that it’s probably a Salamanders thing. Speaking of which: FW’s Firedrakes are some of the cooler legion-specific Terminators, and I guess I would have liked GW to have taken a few more design cues from them instead of going for an – ultimately fairly generic – set of Indomitus Pattern Terminator armour.

 

Jetek Suberei:

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Another standout model in that the character comes with a bike, being a White Scar and all. But while the idea is cool enough, it’s all a bit much really: The bike, the gear, the topknot and the cyber eagle. It feels like the model is just trying to do too much at once, where a bit more restraint would have been the better way to go, in my opinion — in fact, this is an ongoing tendency for some of the Deathwatch models from the box (and also one or two of the Genestealer pieces).

It’s not all bad, however: I really like the sabre with its scabbard and the hybrid head trophy! And I am pretty sure that Brother Suberei would make for an excellent Khan. He just seems a bit OTT for a Deathwatch Killteam.

 

Edryc Setorax:

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Raven Guard models often oscillate between badass and silly, and it’s good to see Brother Edryc fall into the former camp. While the pose seems, once again, slightly awkwardly balanced between landing and jumping (it seems like GW’s sculptors have some issues with jumping/flying models…), there are some touches that are really well executed: The more beaklike design of the Mk VI helmet, complete with nostrils, really works for once.ย  The lightning claws have just the right curvature to make them suitably sinister and menacing. And the spiked toecaps are a very nice touch. All in all, certainly one of the stronger models from Team Deathwatch!

 

Vael Donatus:

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A very iconic Ultramarine, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if it’s as well executed as here: strong pose, very good detail, looking suitably different from the other Ultramarine in the box. Vael Donatus seems like the quintessential Space Marine, really, and I rather like that quality. I also think he would look absolutely terrific in Ultramarines coloursยฐ

 

Zameon Gydrael:

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A nice enough model, but not that different from what is already available (or convertable) from existing Dark Angels bitz, which makes this character a bit of a letdown. The way the belt is picking up the model’s motion is a nice touch, and he instantly reads as a Dark Angel, but he really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Solid enough, but not really all that special.

 

Antor Delassio:

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Also pretty similar to models you can already create from existing Blood Angels bitz, but the face really saves the day here, as it’s more delicate than your usual, broad-featured Astartes mug — something that not even the other available BA heads have managed to pull off so far.

That bit of plumbing serving as the attachment point betweeen the model and the base does seem a bit silly, though. Why not use a nice, chunky rock? And I am also wondering whether the left arm would work far better rotated outward by a few degrees. All in all, however, Brother Delassio boasts enough cool touches to make him one of the better models from the box.

 

Rodicus Grytt:

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The gun is fairly close to looking helplesly OTT. That helmet is excellent, though, providing exactly the right sense of knightly armour. I expect this guy to look great if painted in Imperial Fist colours. the head arguably works even better on true scale models, as the slightly bigger scale gives it a bit more room to breathe. I also like the subtle Devastator touches on the armour and the inclusion of a targeting servo-skull.

 

Ennox Sorrlock:

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Easily one of my favourite Space Marines from the kit, mostly because he adds some really nice elements to the – very small – pool of possible Iron Hands bitz: The face and backpack, in particular, are excellent, and we also finally get a plastic bionic leg — yay! All of that makes for a model that looks at once heavily augmented and suitably implacable. Very nice!

 

All in all, the aim with these models seem to have been to create models that were archetypal avatars of their respective chapters — and by and large, this objective has been accomplished rather successfully. At the same time, however, this seems to make the group somewhat less coherent, beyond the common colour of their armour. Compare Space Hulk to see how a squad (of Terminators, no less!) can be made to look coherent and effective as a collection, while also having each of its members read as an individual in their own right. Granted, all of those Terminators belong to the same chapter, which must have made things a bit easier. But the fact remains that the Deathwatch Marines do seem a bit too much like solo artists where a band would be required.

Oh, and before we move on, let’s not forget the inclusion of a servo-skull and teleport marker! Even though both of these elements seem to be slightly touched-up versions of earlier bitz, it’s still a nice bonus and something I would love to see more often!

 

 

Team Broodkin:

 

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Now these guys are the real starts of the show, and have certainly been highly anticipated by many hobbyists, myself included: The concept of Genestealer Cults has always been one of the more interesting parts of 40k lore for me, especially since it moves the Genestealers a bit beyond their, very obvious, Xenomorph inspirations by creating something that is arguably even more disturbing: The idea of aliens not only invading human society, but of also interbreeding with our species with horrific results. This part of the background had seemingly been dropped by GW, so it’s a fantastic surprise to see it return with aplomb! So let’s take a closer look at the members of Team Broodkin:

 

Genestealer Patriarch:

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First of all, I am actually glad to see that GW has moved away from the old concept of a Patriarch that’s bloated to the point of immobility. Sure, the old models had a grotesque charm, but the Patriarch should work more as an “end boss”, if anything, and the new model is much better suited to that function. There are also some parts of the model that I really love, such as the mean and grotesque face and head and the way some nameless alien …residue has been used to coat those skulls on the base in a coat of vile mucus:

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I do think, however, that the Patriarch falls victim to the aforementioned problem of trying to do too much at once: Trying to have him mimick the design of the cult’s wyrm seal in silhouette is a very clever idea, but it also means that quite a few elements have to be crammed together in very little space: That stinger (or ovipositor, possibly?), for instance, is a cool idea in and of itself, but it does look pretty awkward, wedged in there between the model’s legs and the ventilation shaft the Patriarch is standing on. And those dorsal spines are just a bit much, aren’t they?

What’s more, if you ask me, GW already had a pretty much perfect template for an eventual Genestealer Patriarch on their hands. This guy:

Space Hulk Broodlord

The Space Hulk Broodlord gets it all right, in my opinion: The pose is fantastic, creating a sense of menace and malice, but also one of alien elegance and lethal mobility. This guy already looked like a perfect Patriarch for me even before Genestealer Cults were, once again, a thing.

And GW must have agreed with me, because they used the basic design template to come up with this guy, the Spawn of Cryptus:

Tyranid Release 2014 (27)But you know what? The added tweaks and details actually watered down the excellence of the initial model instead of adding to it. So the Spawn of Cryptus ended up being a pretty cool model, but arguably inferior to its predecessor.

And, unfortunately enough, the designers seem to have used the Spawn of Cryptus, in turn, as a template for the Patriarch, adding yet more stuff on top. And I just wish they had gone back to the original Space Hulk Broodlord for inspiration, cutting out the middle man, so to speak.

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As it stands, the Patriarch is still a suitably massive and monstrous model, but it lacks some of the finess of the Broodlord and could have profited from just a tad more restraint.

 

Genestealer Magus:

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Confession time: For me, the classic Genestealer Magus from the early 90s is easily one of GW’s all time greats. Just take a look at this picture, taken from the 2nd edition rulebook’s colour section:

Classic Genestealer Magus

Now, slightly tacky retro paintjob notwithstanding, this model just does so much right: It’s diminutive in stature and has a fairly static pose, yet it excudes a palpable sense of menace and alien power. I love the quasi-organic shapes of its armour, especially the high collar. And the face is just something to behold: Those slightly alien features that could never quite pass for human upon closer inspection. That subtle scowl. He knows things, this guy.

Now GW’s sculptors must have known they already had solid gold on their hands with this design, because they simply emulated most of it for the modern incarnation:

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The armour shape, flowing robes, staff and alien head — all of that is still there, nicely updated to the current design standard. Along the way, the Magus became quite a bit taller, but I don’t really mind — I like my centre piece models with a bit of stature. I also really like the way the stole adds another layer to the Magus’ clothing, while managing to incorporate some more cult imageryย ย  — very nice!

If I do have one minor quibble about the model, it’s the head: It just doesn’t match the older version’s quiet malevolence. The main reason for this is that they slipped up and made it look too angry and shouty (why does he need to shout in the first place? Doesn’t he communicate with the brood through some kind of psychic link?) I think much of the original Magus’ impact came from that inscrutable facial expression, and the new version unfortunately falters in this small – but crucial – way. I also feel the head could have been recessed into the collar a bit more, although the converter in me thinks that it’s good that we won’t have to painstakingly dig it out. Anyway, it’s a problem that should be easy enough to rectify by replacing the head with a less shouty one from one of the 3rd/4th generation hybrids, I suppose?

The model is still excellent, though, all the more so because its one disadvantage should be easy enough to get rid of.

 

Familiars:

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The Broodkin get some bonus models as well, and they are even brand new sculpts. Now granted, those familiars do seem ever so slightly awkward and silly (especially the one on the left), but they are also a delicious reminder of the yesteryear, when there were lots of strange little models and familiars like that. An awesome little bonus! And if all else fails, they could make for excellent, subtly disturbing statues when painted in suitable colours, especially the crouching guy on the right.

 

Genestealer Primus:

Deathwatch Overkill release (23)I really like the idea of expanding the various types of hybrids beyond the already established phenotypes, so the Genestealer Primus is a very interesting addition! Although I do have to say that, in the context of the game, this guy seems a bit undecided as to what he wants to be: He’s not quite human enough to blend in with the populace, but also not quite alien enough to work as a killing machine like the Patriarch or the purestrains. And the face is, once again, arguably the model’s weakest point, failing to capture that (admittedly very tiny) sweet spot between believably human and subtly alien (I do like the tube feeding into the model’s nostril, though).

That’s not really that much of a problem, though, as there are so many cool parts about the model: I love the clawed (and augmented) left hand! We finally get a plastic needle pistol! And I think it’s easy to see why the body will become *very* popular with converters — in fact, half a dozen of my fellow Ammobunker forumites are busy cutting up this guy as I write this. And to wit, I already have one of these coming in the post ๐Ÿ˜‰

So while I don’t see this guy as a hugely relevant addition to the Genestealer lore, the model is a godsend for converters! One last thing, though: Let me take a moment to share my thoughts about those alien daggers we see on the hybrids: They…do not make a whole lot of sense, do they? At least not when you think about them: Are they manufactured? That seems like a bit too much work for a mere CC weapon, especially when you’ve got a set of scything claws hidden under your mackintosh, right? Are they organic? Do the hybrids grow these as separate weapons? But that would run counter to the whole Tyranid concept? Or do they, I don’t know, break them off bigger organisms that we have yet to see? The mind boggles…

Probably best not to think about this stuff too closely, however. They do look awesome, and that’s good enough for me ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Purestrain Genestealers:

Now these guys don’t really get much coverage, to the point that the GW homepage doesn’t even feature any pictures of them, but we do get two purestrain Genestealers with the kit. But that’s possibly due to the fact that they are mostly the standard Genestealers we already know. A small voice in the back of my head says they should have taken the effort to give us bigger, “true scale” Genestealers for this game, to really make them look like the Apex Predators they are presented as, easily able to take out a Space Marine, even if the latter is wearing Terminator armour. But that’s well beyond the scope of this game, especially since we already get so many original sculpts in the box. So let me mention one small detail I like: Both models have been outfitted with hideous, Xenomorph-like ovipositors — a very nice and fitting touch, given the setting of the game!

 

Genestealer Aberrants:

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I was really excited about the inclusion of these guys, because, like I said, it always felt like it would be interesting to explore more possible variations of the hybrid concept, beyond the tried and true generations we already saw in the old fluff. GW seems to have decided to do just that, giving us hulking, malformed brutes that seem quite a bit less genetically stable than their smaller brethren, just like theย  kind of unforeseeable half-breed you would probably end up with, were you to wildly tamper with human and Xenos genetics.

And in spite of their rather mono-pose nature, i really like these guys: They are hulking and overmuscled and lopsided and make for a stunning visual contrast among the smaller, more human cultists. Plus they bring back the concept of working with rather striking silhouettes:

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All in all, these are a fun little addition, and I would love GW to experiment with further Genestealer hybrid types (what about lithe, almost daeonette-like female hybrids? Just saying…)

 

Acolyte Hybrids:

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Now here’s where the real fun begins, as the various hybrids are easily the most exciting part of the release for me.
All of the hybrids so a perfect job of recreating the strangely organic shape of the classic models’ armour while also giving it a somewhat believable context: It’s miners’ equipment, complete with lamps and rebreathers, and while it will make the hybrids useful far beyond their original function, it also really beautifully approximated the older design.

The Acolyte Hybrids are the more bestial members of the Brood, looking like a missing link between humans and purestrains. I like the subtle progression between the 1st and 2nd generations: They look very similar when seen from afar, but upon closer inspection, subtle differences become visible. It’s a tough and delicate look to get right, but these really succeed at capturing the look of breeding out certain alien characteristics over the generations.

I only have two, very minor, quibbles with these: One thing I really loved about the classic metal hybrids was how puny some of them looked, with seemingly atrophied claws hidden under their tattered robes. By comparison, the new models seem almost too formidable and monstrous — but then, they arguably make a better fit as dangerous, lethal combattants, so it’s all okay (I can always build my own, pathetic hybrids using Crypt Ghouls, Flagellants, Plague Monks or what have you).

Deathwatch Overkill release (29)The second problem is that they are slightly too uniform for my taste, with the same number of limbs appearing in the same configuration on too many models — this should be really easy to remedy, however, by cutting off and reattaching some limbs for greater variety.

All in all, the hybrids are excellent redesigns of the older versions, taking all the right ideas from the classic models and bringing them into the 21st century.

 

Neophyte Hybrids:

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And finally, arguably the best models to come out of this boxed game: The 3rd/4th generation hybrids brilliantly continue the trend of becoming gradually more human, and its their humanity that makes them into such fantastic and versatile models — but all in good order.

First of all, this is one of the few cases where the classic models were really rather terrible: The almost human hybrids of the yesteryear ended up looking pretty silly and hideous, and in all the wrong ways. The modern versions are far more subtle: These guys could really pass for humans…almost.

I also really like the way their miner’s gear and ribbed armour plates hint at their darker nature, in spite of having a perfectly plausible in-universe explanation.

Possibly the best single model is the guy with the glasses:

Deathwatch Overkill release (32)Now for all intents and purposes, he looks perfectly human and could be used as such. But that’s the beauty of the piece: Place him among his more openly alien brethren, and he becomes one of them, by virtue of a common visual heritage. But remove him from that context, and he could become a voidfarer, a miner, or any other human archetype. I also think that head is one of the best faces produced by GW — Eat your heart out, clunky metal Delaques! ๐Ÿ˜‰

At the other end of the spectrum comes this, rather heavily mutated, heavy weapons guy: Good thing he has that third arm, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Deathwatch Overkill release (33)
To have a collection of models with so much variety yet also such an unified look is nothing short of a brilliant accomplishment. The restraint and subtly evident in these models is something so very rare in recent GW releases that it really needs to be pointed out: This is brilliant stuff!

And possibly the best thing is how freaking many of these guys we get in the box — trust me, converters all around the world are going to have a field day with these. But we’ll be getting to that in a minute!

 

In closing, let me talk about the paintjob GW chose for the official models: In my opinion, ‘Eavy Metal knocked it out of the park with regards to the hybrids’ clothing: The colour of the armour and fatigues are just perfect, evoking the design and colour of the spaceships and props from the Alien series — which seems extremely apt, for obvious reasons. It’s a brilliant little shout out, and one that is far more subtle and delicious than the very overt Giger-influences exhibited by the Genestealers.

There’s also a part of the paintjobs, however, that I am not all that happy with, and that’s the way the actual Genestealers (and Genestealer body parts) have been painted: Now I am pretty sure that we all have a certain fondness for the classic blue and purple Genestealer paint scheme — but it’s really rather a nostalgia thing, and I think those colours just seem a bit too outlandish for alien creatures nestled at the heart of human society. Since the Tyranids so obviously take design cues from Giger, I think they would work far better when painted in a more restrained, organic and ultimately disturbing palette, in order to reproduce some of the Xenomorph’s creepiness. Take, for instance, Stephen Flack’s Genestealer scheme here. I think that’s what modern Genestealers should look like! It’s funny that the ‘Eavy Metal painter seem to have adapted the Alien look so readily when painting the models’ clothes, but have shied away from it on, you know, the actual aliens.

I like this approach much better, and if (when) I am starting my own Hybrid warband, I think I’ll be trying something more along those lines. And even before that, I would really love to see someone take the new models along a more realistic route, such as this.

On a semi-related note, painting the Magus’ robe red seems like such a strange idea — Thraxas of Turai’s approach here shows how the Magus will arguably look quite a bit cooler when painted closer to the “classic” colour scheme for once.

 

All in all, the box certainly provides us with a huge pile of brilliant models! The Broodkin are a fantastic reimagining of the earlier sculpts, a few very minor slipups notwithstanding, and easily one of the best surprises in a long time. If anything, the Space Marines seem a bit lacking by comparison, mostly because GW seems to be going through the motions a bit when designing Astartes these days. Make no mistake, some of those models are very nice, and even the worse ones are still more than solid. But compared to the sheer brilliance of those Genestealer sculpts, they just seem a bit uninspired.

 

Conversion options

 

Okay, so much for the models, but what about the possible conversions? Allow me to share some ideas and to point you towards some particularly interesting examples:

Deathwatch:

Now this is the easy part, as the various models will certainly be useable for all kinds of Space Marine projects, especially with a bit of deft cutting: It seems to be easy enough to remove most Deathwatch trappings, turning these into characters for their respective chapters (or, at the very least, Deathwatch veterans). By the same token, it should also be easy enough to turn most of the models to members of different chapters, successor chapters or what have you. And of course some of those helmets, weapons etc. will certainly become sought after conversion bitz: The IF helmet, the IH augmented head — the list goes on.

On the other hand, some of those Deathwatch bitz would of course be perfect for any kind of Deathwatch project moving beyond the chapters included in the game — or even beyond the scale of the models. For instance, Commissar Molotov is making excellent use of the various Deathwatch bitz for his true scale Deathwatch, and some of those bitz really shine when used at the slightly bigger scale.

One of the Space Marines’ biggest strength is the compatibility of their various kits — and even their clamshell characters. So as long as you’re careful and use a sharp knife, those new models should provide you with lots of options, if you’re a Space Marines player.

 

Broodkin:

Here’s where theย  conversion fun really begins, as most of the Broodkin models could be used for several different projects, armies and warbands. Just off the top of my head…

Genestealer Patriarch:

Well, who am I kidding: He’ll always look like a massive Tyrandi/Genesealer monster. That said, he’d obviously make for a pretty cool Broodlord in a Tyranid army — or for a great “boss monster” in games of INQ28 and Necromunda. Moving on…

Genestealer Magus:

This guy is quite a bit more versatile. Personally, I’d try to give him a less shouty head and he would be perfect. But even beyond Genestealer cults, he could be turned into all kinds of characters with a bit of work: A Navigator or Astropath? A radical Inquisitor? A renegade psyker or Chaos Sorcerer? It all seems quite feasible to me!

Genestealer Primus:

Like I said, the INQ28 scene is already in love with this guy. And rightly so, for he’s a great base model for all kinds of possible characters, among them…

  • Inquisitors, especially for the Ordo Xenos
  • Chaos Demagogues or cultist leaders
  • a Magos Explorator of the Adeptus Mechanicus
  • a slightly more militaristic Navigator

Aberrants:

I think it should really be easy enough to get rid of their obvious Genestealer characteristics and turn them into big Mutants, Scalies or Traitor Ogryns.

1st & 2nd Generation Hybrids:

It would take a bit of work, but I think these would make for excellent mutants, Scavvies or particularly downtrodden Traitor Guard soldiers.

3rd & 4th generation Hybrids:

And finally, these may just be some of the most versatile human-sized models ever released by GW, easily on par with the Dark Vengeance cultists! Depending on which bitz you use, these could become…

  • Imperial working crews or miners
  • voidfarers, naval crews or crewmen of a Rogue Trader’s vessel
  • all kinds of cultists or Traitor Guard
  • Tech Gangers (or alternate Delaque Gangers for Necromunda — just use Skitarii trenchcoats and you’re set ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
  • Members of an explorator team, hive delvers, maintenance workers or all kinds of underhive adventurers
  • members of a Navigator’s retinue — their somewhat astronaut-like clothing would work really well for that!
  • members of an Astra Militarum regiment or a planetary defense force

And all of those ideas have only taken me five minutes to come up with. In fact, I would argue that, between the Skitarii, Genestealer Hybrids, Dark Vengeance Cultists and Tempestus Scions, we now basically have the perfect toolkit for making every kind of grimdark soldier/explorer/footman at our fingertips. For starters, check out the following projects:

And it goes without saying that I cannot wait for weirdingway to start using the new models for his Navigator House Merz-Itano. That’s going to be brilliant, trust me! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

So yeah, this is really a rather brilliant kit and a fantastic way of revitalising a part of the lore that we had thought permanently eliminated. As far as I am concerned, they could even have dropped the Space Mariens from the deal — but that just shows my excitement for the new Broodkin models. It seems like GW’s designers are always at their very best when coming completely out of the left field. And the subtlty of the hybrids is certainly something that some of the future kits (especially for Age of Sigmar) would do well to emulate!

So what are your thoughts on the new models? And do you have any crazy conversion ideas to share? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments!

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

The 2015 Eternal Hunt Awards, pt. 1: The Industry

Posted in 40k, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , on January 5, 2016 by krautscientist

Awards

And here we are after all, with 2015’s Eternal Hunt Awards. Kept you waiting, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

It has been …quite a year for hobbyists, no question about that. For today’s first parts of my annual recap, let’s take a look at GW’s releases this last year, as they have been even more crazy than the 2014 lineup. To wit: 2015, the year when we finally got AdMech as a playable army. When GW blew up Warhammer Fantasy Battles and reshaped its broken bones into a new setting. When the first plastic Horus Heresy models were released. When the return of the Specialist Games was announced.

Quite a year, indeed. But what were the great and not so great releases of 2015? Step this way to hear my opinion of the matter:

 

I. Best releases of 2015:

Surprisingly enough, GW has not merely kept up the relentless barrage of releases we saw 2014, but has even managed to up the ante when it comes to some rather huge releases, with some of them really rather surprising. So what are my favourite releases of 2015? It’s a tough call to make, but in the end, here’s my selection:

The Adeptus Mechanicus release(s)

AdMech Skitarii Release (1)

The importance of finally delivering the Adeptus Mechanicus as a playable 40k faction – and all on glorious plastic, no less – simply cannot be overstated. The Adeptus Mechanicus has always been one of the most quintessential and original parts of the whole 40k background. So hobbyists have wanted more AdMech for years — and now we finally get our wish, and it’s glorious!

It helps that the models are utterly stunning, though, turning the two AdMech factions into one of the most visually arresting armies in GW’s catalogue right now. They probably knew they had to pull this off in style, and they did, a few very minor hiccups notwithstanding. From the lithe creepiness of the Sicarian Ruststalkers to the excellent versatility of the Skitarii Rangers/Vanguard, it’s really hard to choose favourites. Some kits that formed a part of the release, however, deserve special mention:

The Sydonian Dragoon for arguably being the most ouright-Blanchian and quintessentially 40k model released for the mainline game so far:

AdMech Skitarii Release (23)

The Tech-Priest-Dominus for its brilliant creepiness, flawless design and disturbing inhumanity:

Cult Mechanicus Release (8)

Seriously, speculating what the guy may actually look like beneath his robes provides endless fun as well as goosebumps…

There also the fact that the Datasmith accompanying the Kastelan robots seems like an 28mm version of the original artwork for Magos Delphan Gruss from the Inquisitor rulebook — that’s the kind of meta continuity porn that just gets me every time ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cult Mechanicus Release (12)

And the list really goes on and on: We got actual models based on the electro priest background that hadn’t been seen since the 2nd edition Codex Imperialis. And some robots whose retro-futuristic design ร  la Fallout is something really new for 40k (which is why they weren’t universally liked, I imagine). And the kits I have worked with so far are beautifully engineered and look stunning when painted up, regardless of whether or not you are an ‘Eavy Metal painter!

The result is a brilliant collection of models that is, arguably, even better than Forgeworld’s Mechanicus models: In short, when it comes to both fanservice and visual design, there is nothing that can quite compare to the Adeptus Mechanicus models. Sure, splitting the release into two sub-factions seems like a slightly dubious move in hindsight, but I’ll let it slide. A triumph, all in all!

In case you’re interested, feel free to take a closer look at my original reviews for the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus releases.

 

Betrayal at Calth
Betrayal at Calth release (5)

Oh boy, where to start. Giving us plastic AdMech was already a pretty big act of fanservice, but finally releasing plastic Horus Heresy models? Who would have expected something like that only twelve months ago?

I suppose it only made sense, though: The Horus Heresy has become a rather massive commercial juggernaut for GW, it seems, so it was only a question of time before some “gateway drug” for people interested in getting started with gaming in the Heresy era became inevitable. But what a gateway drug it is: With three complete and newly designed MK IV tactical squads, a squad of multipart Cataphractii, a freaking plastic Contemptor and two special characters, the box delivers a lot of bang for the buck — and it even includes an actual game to be played with the models, let’s not forget that!

It’s also pretty brilliant how the models included in the box will flawlessly work for both 30k and 40k: Whether you want to dip your feet into the Horus Heresy or are merely looking to spice up your 40k Space Marine army, you’ll walk away happy.

Betrayal at Calth release (7)
Are the models a little too generic, maybe? Does the Contemptor suffer from a rather pidgeon-toed pose? The answer is yes on both counts. And yet, Betrayal at Calth remains a fantastic package — fantastic enough to even get me to paint some Heresy era models, and in white to boot.

Beyond the quality of the actual box contents, it’ll also interesting to see how this all plays out: Will there me more Horus Heresy stuff in plastic? Will the setting thus become more approachable for people like me who are not that fond of resin as a material (or have no more kidneys left to sell in order to pay for their Forgeworld spending). Whatever happens, this was one heck of a surprise!

Take a look at my original review for the Betrayal at Calth models here.

 

The Age of Sigmar starter box

Age of Sigmar starter box (3)

If you can say one thing about GW, is that they really know how to put together rather fantastic starter boxes. Which is why the Age of Sigmar boxed set has made it onto this list alongside Betrayal of Calth. In fact, the AoS starter almost seems like the ying to BoC’s yang: While the latter seems to have been engineered for maximum versatility, allowing you to customise the models any way you see fit, the Age of Sigmar boxed set gives you two small armies composed of highly individual mono-pose snapfit models that should make for fairly spectacular forces on the tabletop And GW really seems to excel at either way of putting together a starter box, which is certainly no mean feat.

The first faction included in the box, the Stormcast Eternals, provided us with a first glimpse of Age of Sigmar’s new posterboy faction, and if nothing else, the models make for a pretty stunning showcase:

Age of Sigmar starter box (4)
Granted, the models may be more videogamey and World of Warcraft-like than many diehard WFB fans may be comfortable with, but you cannot fault the quality of the sculpts or the visual presence of the models. What’s more, the humble snapfit Liberators in the box turn out to be surprisingly versatile, with a bit of experimentation…

The other faction included in the box is a far more traditional WFB army, nevertheless giving us some of the best Khornate models available so far:

Age of Sigmar starter box (13)

Again, there’s slightly zany stuff like the too-large standard on the Bloodsecrator or the crazily mutated Khorgorath, but the models are still excellent. In fact, the small army almost seems like a medieval version of Dark Vengeance’s (equally great) Chaos force.

While hobbyists in general still seem divided over the overall merits of Age of Sigmar versus the dearly departed WFB, there’s no question as to the quality of the starter box: The models are fantastic and make a compelling case for the game. I was quick to pick up the box, and I am not even really planning to play Age of Sigmar. Another fantastic starter box, even if the models are not as versatile as the ones included with Betrayal of Calth. To see two boxes of this caliber released in one year is really rather stunning!

Read my original thoughts on the box here.

 

Third time’s the charm: The new Tau Mechs

The Tau have been one of 40k’s more interesting faction for quite a while now, precisely because they seem so different from the setting’s usual, grimdark stylings and so freely borrow inspiration from Japanese Animรฉ and giant Mecha. And yet, the one thing the faction should have gotten right from the get go – the actual giant Mecha – has always seemed a bit lacklustre. Sure, the battlesuits were a fun idea, but they never looked quite as cool as they could have. Should have. Last year’s Tau release started to rectify that with the Riptide, among other things, but it’s this year’s update that provides some additional huge battlesuit models — arguably some of the best models of the catalogue:

2015 Tau release (3)
One of the most interesting parts about Mech design is when it breaks up the vaguely humanoid shape of the machine in interesting ways, and the Stormsurge manages just that, replacing regular arms with massive rocket launchers, adding support struts to the legs and incorporating a massive railgun that every Metal Gear Solid veteran will fall in love with. The resulting model instantly reads as the massive heavy fire support unit it is supposed to be in-game.

Possibly my favourite part of the model is the open cockpit, though: Cockpit design is so very important when designing cool Mecha, and after dropping the ball on the – otherwise fantastic – Imperial Knight kit, it’s great to see GW make the most of this particular element this time around.

2015 Tau release (8)

The other massive model to come out of this release is possibly even cooler, though: If you ask me, the Ghostkeel may just be the definitive Tau Mecha-suit right now: The model incorporates many, many established Tau design elementes, while combining them into a model that seems massive as well as elegant and flexible. It also has a rather interesting head, for once, something that most of the Tau robotic suits so far have sadly lacked.

2015 Tau release (12)
Even better is the fact that it features what might be my favourite cockpit right now, giving you a closer look at the way the pilot is positioned inside the machine. Much was made of the female Tau head provided for the pilot, and it’s certainly a nice additional bit, but the real star of the show here is the clever engineering that has gone into the entire chest/cockpit area:

2015 Tau release (15)
After fumbling the challenge a bit for so long, it seems like the new Tau battlesuits now finally channel everything that’s great about Animรฉ Mecha design, resulting in two models that actually make it hard to resist starting a Tau army — easily some of the best models of 2015, if you ask me!

 

The new Bloodthirster

Khorne End Times release (9)

The old metal Bloodthirster is one of the outstanding models of my youth: I remember marveling at the model in my very first copy of WD. But in all honesty, the model really hasn’t aged all that gracefully, and a replacement was long overdue. The new Bloodthirster solves this task wonderfully, and I really hadn’t expected that: After waiting so long for new Greater Daemon models, I was convinced any new version of the classic daempns could only end up as a bit of a disappointment — especially given the competition in the form of models like Creature Caster’s spectacular Warrior Demon, for instance.

In spite of it all, however, the new Bloodthirster really makes for a stunning reinterpretation of the classic concept, even resembling one of the coolest pieces of Mark Gibbons artwork from the yesteryear, while also featuring the dynamism and level of detail we have come to expect from modern plastic kits. Some fairly awkward parts remain – especially the meteor hammer weapons option and the flaming pillar designed to optionally boost the model’s height – but the bog standard whip and axe Bloodthirster pictured above is brilliant enough to make me overlook those smaller slipups. Just look at that cute little face:

Khorne End Times release (10)
Awww! Brilliant stuff! In fact, I already have one of these guys completely built and will hopefully paint the model sooner rather than later.

 

II. Worst release/biggest disappointment

Once again, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that none of 2015’s releases were actually really bad or downright horrible. However, some models were less cool than they should have been, while other releases seemed slightly underwhelming. So let’s take a look at the stuff that didn’t blow me away and also at some general tendencies and occurences I found disappointing:

 

The Deluge of Golden Dudes AKA the Stormcast Eternals release

Stormcast Eternals release (1)
Wait, didn’t I just choose the Age of Sigmar starter box as one of my favourite releases of 2015? And now this? What gives?

I stand by my earlier assessment that the Stormcast Eternal models from the starter box are very cool and make for a pretty good showcase for the faction. At the same time, I would have expected something a bit more interesting from the subsequent full release of the faction. It’s very obvious that the Stormcast Eternals are an attempt at creating an iconic army on par with the Space Marines of 40k, as there are just so many parallels between the two factions. Incidentally, the Stormcast Eternals are actually very close in size to the “true-scale” Marines so many hobbyists have been clamouring for. So what’s the problem?

Maybe it’s the fact that the new models lack the Space Marines 30 years’ worth of background: We are told they are amazing warriors capable of unbelievable feats, but we haven’t really seen all that much of them yet, and the AoS lore so far doesn’t really get the job done. In a way, the Stormcast Eternals make me understand for the first time what a Space Marine release must look like for someone not actually interested in Space Marines: Just the same bunch of dudes in heavy armour. Over and over and over.

At the same time, while the models are meticulously designed and crafted, the army does seem a bit samey. Maybe a more human element would have provided a bit of contrast? Or maybe the Stormcast Eternals will finally grow into their own, once the game and its world get developed a bit more? Maybe I’m just disgruntled because there are no more quasi-renaissance soldiers wearing floppy hats and pantaloons?

For now, I’ll say this much: The Stormcast Eternals from the starter box seemed like an interesting first taste. The rest of the release so far has not yet managed to live up to the hype generated by GW’s marketing for these guys. We will see what the future holds. Until then, I have to say that I found the Stormcast Eternals release slightly underwhelming, especially for something that is supposed to be the iconic new fantasy army.

 

Also pretty disappointing: The 2015 Space Marines release

2015 Space Marine Release (1)While we are on the subject of big armoured dudes, the 2015 Space Marines release didn’t exactly blow me away either — not a bad release per se, certainly, but still a bit lacklustre, wouldn’t you agree? Giving their posterboys an update has always been a rather big occasion for GW, yet almost every part of the release had already been done better by another, earlier kit: The Vanguard kit lets you create more interesting assault Marines than the actual new assault Marine kit, the BA Terminator Chaplain is quite a bit cooler than the awkward looking vanilla one, and the updated Devastators, while definitely a highly useful kit, nevertheless suffer from a couple of strange design decisions (those really awkward helmets, for instance, and the ugly grav weaponry). Of course we didn’t know back then that the “real” 2015 Space Marine release would arrive later in the year — in the form of Betrayal at Calth ๐Ÿ˜‰ So maybe that explains why these guys ended up less than spectacular…?

 

Those axe-flail-things on Skarr Bloodwrath

Khorne End Times release (18)

Look, I am seriously willing to excuse a lot of crap and suspend my disbelief as far as it will possibly stretch, but who in the seven hells thought this was a good idea? Did someone actually imagine how this guy’s fighting style would look in motion? I’m just glad those chains are easy enough to snip off…

 

The “Denglish” is getting unbearable

I already described this very problem last year, so let me just quote myself here for a bit:

As of the spring of 2014, all of GWโ€™s publications use the English names โ€“ and only the English names โ€“ for any given unit type or character in all of their game systems. (…) Unfortunately, this creates Codices and publications with lots and lots of gibberish, where plain text is suddenly and rather violently broken apart by seemingly wanton insertion of English terms, even when a perfectly serviceable and well established translation for these terms exists in-universe.

Suffice to say that this already deplorable condition has really been turned up to eleven this last year, which makes the German translations of GW publications almost unbearable to read at this point. The fact that so many of the Age of Sigmar names are pretty overwrought doesn’t help, but it also extends to stuff that has been well established before (and appeared in BL novels, for crying out loud), with words suddenly getting English plurals in the German text. Once again, I realise that it probably all makes sense from a business perspective, but the effect is so jarring and ruins the quality of the writing so thoroughly that it’s almost offensive, especially when GW’s German translations used to make for pretty decent reading.

 

Plastic Sisters of Battle…pretty please?!

For the fourth year in a row, I’ve been pining for some redesigned plastic Sisters of Battle. Sure, one learns to make do, but it’s not the same as finally having access to some sweet new kits. Still, there may be hope: I mean, if we can finally get plastic AdMech with its slender, delicate and highly detailed Skitarii models, certainly new plastic Sisters must now be feasible, right? RIGHT???

 

One last thing…

The new plastic Blood Angels Chaplain with jump pack seems like such an amazing piece, right? I was seriously excited about the model when I saw the first fuzzy pictures. And then the hires photos appeared, and while I still think the model makes for a rather striking figure…

Blood Angels Chaplain (1)
…just take a moment to take a closer look at that face:

Blood Angels Chaplain (2)

Does that…does that skull mask have a little mustache? Awww…
Seriously, it’s just one of those things you can never unsee…

III. Still on the fence about…

  • Age of Sigmar lore and world building: If you blow up a franchise with about three decades of world building behind it, you better make sure you have a terrific plan B in place beforehand, right? However, not unlike the Stormcast Eternals, the Age of Sigmar background has failed to live up to the promise of a compelling new world so far. This certainly has something to do with the lack of hard information: The well-established places of the “world that was”, like the Empire or Naggaroth, have been replaced with rather vague and generic-sounding realms, and those realms have so far been painted in rather broad strokes only. Meanwhile, armies assembled from the same WFB units and characters we’ve been using so far (or the aforemtioned Golden Dudes) are duking it out over a world that feels pretty hard to care about at this point — but then, we hardly know the new world. This seems like a clear case where “show, don’t tell” would be the right approach: Give us more of the new factions, show us more of this new world, so we can grow attached to it! So far, it all seems a bit arbitrary and generic. And the silly names certainly aren’t helping. But maybe it’s all a question of time? We’ll be talking about this same time next year, scout’s honour ๐Ÿ˜‰

IV. Also pretty cool

  • Plastic Horus Heresy: It remains to be seen how much of an impact the release of Betrayal at Calth will ultimately have, but even if nothing new ever comes of it, we now have access to two multipart plastic Heresy kits that were only available in resin up until now. That is pretty amazing, and everything from here on out is just bonus, really ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Specialist Games making a return! I mean, seriously, what’s not to love. Bring. It. On.
  • the GW painting videos on YouTube: GW’s traditional painting articles never did all that much for me, because they always seemed strangely vague or even arguably dishonest when it counted: Up to step number three, everything was peaches and cream, but step number four would invariably feature pictures of a model almost at full ‘Eavy Metal standard while the accompanying text would always assure us that only something very minor had been done between steps three and four. Well, no more, because GW now has a pretty excellent series of YouTube videos to help painters get started on particular models and effects, and while I was initially skeptical, the videos are really great! It helps of course that Duncan Rhodes just seems like the nicest guy in the world, which makes it a joy to follow his tutorials, but seriously: This is quality content, and it comes for free, and especially since GW so often gets portrayed as this ultra-evil and greedy company, they do deserve to be commended for providing a very nice bit of service like that!

 

Another very exciting year for hobbyists, and a relentless barrage of – mostly very good – releases from GW. Once again, it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here, although two things have become clear in 2015: GW is willing to both make a bold move (like the destruction of the Old World and the introduction of Age of Sigmar) and give hobbyists stuff they’ve been wanting for a long time (AdMech and plastic Horus Heresy) — and if nothing else, that certainly seems like a promising starting point for 2016, right?

So much for the industry, but what about the hobbyists? Join me next time for the second part of the 2015 Eternal Hunt Awards and a closer look at my favourite blogs, conversions and hobbyists of the year.

Until then, I would love to hear your feedback: Any thoughts about my favourite releases that you would like to share? Any observations of your own? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section! And, of course, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Betrayal at Calth or: How to engineer the perfect gateway drug

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2015 by krautscientist

It was only a question of time.

Seriously, it’s always easier to say such things in hindsight, but ever since the Horus Heresy has become a massively successful commercial juggernaut, it was pretty obvious that GW proper would get in on the business eventually. And now they have. With a starter box that basically seems like a license to print money. Well played, GW!

Betrayal at Calth release (2)
So let’s take a closer look at Betrayal at Calth today and discuss the models contained in the box, first and foremost. And I’ll also be sharing my first hands on experiences with one of the models — but I am getting ahead of myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

It’s clear that the box is, above all else, a gateway into Forgeworld’s Horus Heresy setting: The timeframe and design of the models make this plain enough, but there’s also a number of smaller telltale signs: The layout of the rulebook accompanying the game mirrors that of FW’s publications. The box artwork is closer in design and colour choice to Black Library’s HH novel covers. The box itself is noticeably sturdier and more luxurious than even GW’s other boxed games — all of this seems to be saying: “We are entering big boy territory now.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

The set provides us with two small Space Marine forces to play the actual game with or, possibly the more interesting and also more realistic option, one combined, decently-sized (if less than ideal) Horus Heresy starter force. By the same token, the one thing that goes for all models contained in the box is the complete absence of legion insignia or more individual design cues: All of these guys are generic to the point of blandness. But, of course, that is their greatest strength as well as their greatest failure. While the lack of legion specific details and multipart nature of the models make the box contents seem a little bland, this choice is also what makes the models so very tempting for each and every Space Marine player out there: These are not exciting display pieces, but rather an amazing toolkit to start a new army or add to your existing collection, even if it comes at the price of a thoroughly vanilla look ๐Ÿ˜‰ In fact, one could say that this box follows the exact opposite approach when compared with Age of Sigmar: Where the latter provides very individual and rather exciting (yet also rather limited) snapfit models, Betrayal at Calth’s models may be less exciting in and of themselves, yet are far more versatile.

Two things before we begin: One, in the interest of full disclosure: I picked up one of the boxes at launch. It seemed a bit frivolous, given my current situation, but I’ve been disciplined enough in my spending recently that I felt I deserved a treat ๐Ÿ˜‰ This is even more significant, however, in how GW makes me eat my earlier words: I’ve gone on record stating that I wasn’t interested in starting a 30k project, and here I am getting Betrayal at Calth on day one — mission accomplished, GW ๐Ÿ˜‰

Two, in addition to my following review, let me also recommend Wudugast’s very interesting look at Betrayal at Calth, which raises some excellent points and makes for a very good companion piece to my post, I think. Anyway, here goes:

 

Legion Veteran Squad

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One of the multipart kits to come out of this box provides us with a whopping thirty (!) tactical Marines wearing Mk 4 armour, which is quite something! Now while I would have loved some variety when it comes to armour marks, it’s pretty clear that GW wanted to test the waters with these, so the fact that all the tactical Marines share the same basic design doesn’t come as a surprise and seems like a sound business decision. Mk 4 seems like a pretty good call, too, because it’s probably the most popular (and, arguably, one of the most iconic) Heresy era armour types. It’s a cool design overall, although one that has been somewhat hampered by dodgy proportions: Forgeworld’s Mk 4 models were pretty cool alright, but the models seemed a little off sometimes, with a lankiness and unevenness that was clearly noticeable. The plastic Mk 4 Marines share none of this dodginess: These models are perfectly and evenly proportioned and perfectly scaled against the already available 40k Marines — in fact, the Legion Veteran squad could (and, in many cases, probably will) serve as a perfect alternate tactical squad for 40k.

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The level of detail on the sprues is absolutely excellent — as was to be expected, given GW’s recent level of quality when it comes to sharpness and detail. The amount of bitz and weapon options is also rather stunning, as the kit not only provides us with all the weapon options for a tactical squad, but also adds swords, pouches and holsters for each of the Marines, as well as bitz for the sergeant, vexillarius and what have you. So far, so good!

I also really like that GW’s designers have gone for the FW approach to Mk 4 armour, with a helmet design that is cooler than the “doglike” plastic Mk 4 helmets seen so far. In fact, my favourite part is that we even get Mk 4 helmets with vertical slits on the facemask, probably my favourite variant. And yes, we are firmly in Space Marine nerd territory here, thank you very much ๐Ÿ˜‰

Unfortunately, while we lose the somewhat dodgy proportions, we also gain the classic, slightly crouched 40k Marine pose so emblematic of GW’s plastic Astartes: While FW’s Mk 4 Astartes sometimes seemed a little strangely proportioned, their poses were a bit more varied and they didn’t look like they urgently needed to go to the bathroom.

My other gripe with the sprues is that, while these will work for every legion, the fact that only standard bolter arms are included makes it a bit complicated to turn them into members of the less uniform legions like the World Eaters or Space Wolves: If you want your tac Marines to have a very regimented, orderly look, you’ll be in heaven. If you favour a more feral, individualistic approach, you’ll need to engage in some serious kitbashing.

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All in all, these sprues are pretty great, although yet another Space Marine tactical kit might not feel like something to get super-excited about. Then again, these form a very decent backbone for any plastic-based HH army, or they give you the bitz to sprinkle some Heresy era goodness across your entire 40k army, and as such these should become very popular with 30k and 40k players alike.

 

Legion Cataphractii

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Okay, these guys were a bit of a surprise: A tactical kit seemed like a bit of a no-brainer for plastic 30k, but I certainly wouldn’t have expected Cataphractii Terminators right out the gate. But here we are: An entire squad of heresy era Terminators. And what’s more, they even get the complete multipart treatment — that was unexpected!

The Cataphractii are probably more interesting from a visual standpoint in how much they differ from the 40k Terminators: They sport a very distinct Heresy era look that isn’t all that easy to emulate with plastic bitz either (not that I didn’t try, of course). So again, these are very interesting as an alternative for both the resin Cataphractii as well as the standard 40k Terminators.

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Once again, the amount of detail and weapon options is quite excellent: We even get enough lightning claws for the entire squad, for instance, or to squirrel away for later use. In fact, it’s particularly cool to have the iconic Heresy era LC design available in plastic.

One thing I think I’ll need to get used to is that the torso pieces are designed in such a way that only “half-heads” are used, although it might be possible to change this with some minor conversion work. – excellent: amount of weapon options, extra weapons.

My one legitimate concern about the kit is that, for all the weapon options, we don’t get any options for CC weapons like power swords, chainaxes or power mauls. While GW’s designers probably had to stop somewhere, I guess I would have preferred those instead of both power fists and chainfists, if only because World Eaters Cataphractii look so sexy with their chainaxes ๐Ÿ˜‰ As it stands, however, we only get one measly power sword for the sergeant. Boo hiss! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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But again, having access to plastic Cataphractii is a rather unexpected turn of events, and the fact that these are a multipart kit with lots and lots of options is a rather nice surprise. While the tac Marines might be more universally useful, these guys are one of my favourite parts of the box!

 

 

Legion Contemptor Dreadnought

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Okay, I am not going to lie to you: The prospect of actually having access to a plastic Contemptor was basically one of the main reasons I purchased a copy of Betrayal at Calth. Yet in an interesting turn of events, the plastic Contemptor is the best part and the worst part of the release at the same time. Confused yet? Allow me to elaborate:

The amount of detail is very nice, and it’s great that we actually get the relict variant. All of this is even nicer given the fact that this is almost a snapfit model, at least when it comes to the simplicity of construction:ย  The Contemptor is very easy to put together (only slightly more complicated than the AOBR Dread, actually). And it seems to be just as tall as an actual FW Contemptor. And we even get a choice of ranged weapons — all of this is quite excellent!

On the other hand, the model is generic to the point of blandness (which, I’ll admit, was probably the point: You are supposed to be able to use this for every legion, after all). This is easily remedied by adding some bitz. But they did choose the least interesting pose on the planet for some reason — I especially dislike the slightly inwards turned legs that make the Contemptor look like Paris Hiltonย  posing on a red carpet. Seriously, I get why they went for a neutral pose, but it surely could have been slightly more interesting…?

So what to make of the model? It’s one of the most exciting parts of the boxed game in that it’s fantastic to have access to a plastic Contemptor. Yet it will take a bit of work to truly make it shine and to get rid of some of the blandness — but we’ll be getting there in a minute ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Captain Streloc Aetheon / Legion Praetor wearing Cataphractii armour

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The actual army commanders are often my favourite part of every starter box, and Captain Aetheon (who, of course can also be used as a generic Astartes Praetor wearing Cataphractii armour) is certainly a rather imposing model: Both the bulk and the ostentatiousness of his armour make him a rather nice centre piece. I also like the inclusion of a cape!

The model is not entirely without its problems, however: First of all, while the pose is alright, the Captain seems to be giving it his all in order to look along the barrel of his combi-bolter. He seems to be mirroring one of Forgeworld’s Legion Praetors to some degree, but the pose does seem a bit forced to me, and less natural than that of the resin model. I also prefer the cc weapon on the Forgeworld Praetor, as a chainfist seems like a rather unheroic weapon for such a centre piece character — in a box geared towards universal usefulness, this seems like the strangest possible place to go for individual characteristics… It seems like a relic blade of some sort would have been a cooler option. Maybe it’s the fact that the confined nature of the Underground Wars at Calth would make a chainfist the more sound option…?

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All in all, however, I rather like the captain. He’s quite a beast, and more interesting to look at than GW’s plastic Terminator Captain for 40k. I think the model will not only make for an excellent Praetor, but also for a great Chaptermaster in 40k. Nice job!

 

Kurtha Sedd / Legion Chaplain

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We also get a praetor variant in regular power armour — a chaplain to be exact (although it would certainly be easy enough to turn him into something else). First things first, this model doesn’t really look like a Word Bearers chaplain to me: This is probably the one model hurt most by the decision to have the contents of the box look as generic as they do, because while this guy may make for a decent Chaplain for just about every legion, he just seems too clean and uncluttered for a Word Bearer

I also really hate the top of that crozius, because it’s too clunky by far and looks like the designer ran out of ideas at the last possible moment.

Apart from that, the model also has some elements that I really like: The decoration of the armour is very nice, especially given the fact that all the other suits of Mk 4 armour in the set remain woefully unadorned. I also like the advancing pose and the cape. And it’s nice that the model should be flexible enough to allow for head and weapon swaps without a hitch, in spite of being a snapfit assembly.

Betrayal at Calth release (18)All in all, it’s a pretty nice character model, although I think Captain Aetheon comes out slightly on top. But that’s just a matter of personal taste.

 

So, those are the models we get in the box — quite a boatload, I must say! And judging by these pictures from the Games Workshop website, they make for a rather impressive combined starter army:

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Interestingly enough, the pictures also show that Kurtha Sedd works far better as an Ultramarine, while Aetheon looks great in Word Bearers colours, as pointed out in Wudugast’s aforementioned review of the models.

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Another very interesting factor is how buying Forgeworld’s resin versions of the box contents would be much, much more expensive, making Betrayal at Calth terrific value for the money, in any case. And that’s before you consider that there’s also an actual game to be had here (although you will forgive me for not dwelling on this fact — other people do rules far better than me ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

One last thing I’d like to mention is that I really like the dedicated decal sheet that comes in the box. Sure, it’s pretty tiny, but I like how it seems to have been made with the actual contents of the box in mind, instead of just providing a very stripped down version of a bigger decal sheet. And all those “XIIIs” will be really easy to turn into “XIIs” with a sharp knife ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Conversion ideas:

Well, to address the elephant in the room, first and foremost: This is, of course, a box for those hobbyists who already enjoy Space Marines. If you don’t find Astartes all that compelling to begin with, chances are this box is not going to change your mind. For those who do have a modicum of love for GW’s posterboy transhuman killing machines, though, it’s clear that the box provides an enormously versatile toolkit: While the models themselves may not be as exciting and individual as, say, some of the stuff in the Age of Sigmar starter box, the fact that most of the kits are multipart makes this a very interesting purchase, both for 30k and 40k Space Marine aficionados. In fact, the true beauty of this box is that it’ll make both 30k and 40k players happy, allowing you to either start a Horus Heresy force or add some Heresy bling to your 40k Astartes. The lack of unique decoration on the models also makes them equally attractive for all legions and/or successor chapters (with a few possible exceptions, as I’ve said before).

While my own burgeoining Heresy project will be featured in more detail at a later date, let’s focus on one particular model for today. Because I really couldn’t help myself and had to start working on the Contemptor right away:

Like I said, there are a number of problems with the stock model that I felt I needed to address: I wanted to make the pose a bit more interesting, for one. And I really didn’t like the very bland stock head. Oh, and I wanted the model to be recognisable as a World Eater, of course — I hope his doesn’t come as a huge shock to you guys ๐Ÿ˜‰

So here’s my own Contemptor after a few initial changes:

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My initial idea was to tweak the pose with some careful cuts. So I cut the model apart at the waist, in order to allow for more articulation. I also added two elements for a suitably World Eater-ly look: an ogre gut plate doubling as the legion badge as well as a skull and chain ensemble from the Age of Sigmar Bloodsecrator model. And I used a shaved-down Defiler facemask as an alternate head.

But I wasn’t quite happy yet, so I also worked a bit on the Kheres arm: Cut between the pauldron and the elbow, and not only can you repose the arm, but this would also be the perfect position for inserting a magnet, I guess. And I wasn’t quite done with the legs, either: I wanted to get rid of the pidgeon-toed look, so I cut the right leg from the pelvis area and glued it back on at a slightly different angle:

World Eaters Contemptor 30k WIP (1)

It’s a fairly subtle tweak, to be sure, but I think it makes for a far less awkward pose. As for the general idea of reposing the legs, it’s easy enough to separate the legs from the pelvis, and this allows for some essential conversion options, allowing you to get rid of that pidgeon-toed stance. Everything that involves making the legs bend at the knee, however, seems very complicated and hardly worth the trouble: I suppose it might be possible, but you’ll lose either the upper legs or the kneedpads (or both). One possible way would be to carefully cut out the lower legs and use (40k) Dreadnought legs to rebuild the upper legs — they are virtually indistinguishable.

I did go back to change the head at this point, though: I had originally chosen the Defiler mask for itsย  slightly more brutal and original look. But while I was fairly happy with the cleverness of my conversion, the size of the head also made the model look a bit clunkier than it should, as was pointed out to me by several fellow hobbyists. So I did try a different head in the end, going for one of the Cataphractii helmets that came in the same box:

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And I have to admit that I do prefer this version, after all: Granted, it’s a bit smaller than a Contemptor head, but it does make for a sleaker, more agile look, don’t you think? Plus it makes the model resemble the “official” FW World Eaters Contemptor.

World Eaters Contemptor 30k WIP (8)
I’ll still be adding some touches to the model before painting, although I’ll try not to go overboard with the detailing, as some of those smooth surfaces will provide a great occasion to use the more interesting, larger decals from the FW decal sheet. Because I really want to paint this guy in the Heresy-era World Eaters colours after all. I was torn between 30k and 40k for a while there, but decided to make the Contemptor a 30k model because I basically already own a counts-as Contemptor for 40k:

World Eaters Contemptor 30k scale comparison
Remember the guy on the right? In case anyone was wondering, the above picture shows that converted Kastelan robots will actually work rather nicely as stand-in Contemptors, at least from a scale perspective! So I guess I’ll be using the conversion made earlier this year as a Contemptor in games of 40k, while the actual Contemptor joins my eventual 30k project — of which more later, like I said ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

So, what’s the final verdict? I think we have to hand it to GW: Betrayal at Calth will be flying off the shelves. The models in the box are extremely interesting to Space Marine players in 30 and 40k, for one. But there’s also the fact that the box seems to have been designed to whittle down the defenses of those who had yet managed to resist getting in on the Heresy business.

Case in point, I really didn’t want to start a Heresy era army (or warband), save for my Custodes (and those were born from a somewhat different desire). The cost of Forgeworld’s models seemed prohibitive, and the prospect of having to work with that much resin wasn’t very appealing to me. Betrayal at Calth entirely bypasses both concerns, and here I am, joining the fray. I’m feeling a bit like Pavlov’s dog, to be honest… ๐Ÿ˜‰

It is an excellent starter box, though, in spite of its blandness (arguably because of it). It capitalises on GW’s most successful properties, which seems sensible from a business standpoint. It also contains nothing but Space Marines, which may rightfully be a bit of a turnoff for many of you. I am pretty sure the people at GW did the maths beforehand, though…

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here: Will Betrayal at Calth merely function as some kind of gateway drug to get people into the 30k setting, while the main bulk of the models will still be sold by FW? Or will GW add to their Horus Heresy plastic kits over time? Will we be getting additional armour marks in plastic? Has that decision even been taken yet? And how does it all work together with the recent announcement of a new Specialist Games devision? Interesting times, indeed!

What is already obvious is how they have set themselves up in a very clever position: Both the Legion Veterans as well as the Cataphractii can (and probably will) be released as their own multipart kits without any further need for additional design or production capacities. And the characters would be easy to release as clamshell characters. So whatever happens, I am pretty sure that Betrayal at Calth will earn back its development cost, even if it remains a standalone piece. Speaking of which, I think the approach of making one-off games to include along with the models seems like a cool idea, and I would actually love GW/FW to do more along those lines and really bring back Adeptus Titanicus, Epic, Necromunda or even Inquisitor. But that will be a story for another day.

Let me wind up this review by mentioning one tiny thing I really liked about the box: The sides of the lower part actually feature the different painted models:

BaC box nostalgia

I got such a huge HeroQuest vibe from that, and maybe it’s the kind of detail that shows what we can expect from the new FW Specialist Games division? Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking…

 

So, what do you make of it all? Are you happy with Betrayal at Calth, or do you merely see this as another money grab? Or both? What do you think about the models? And will you be getting into there Heresy after all? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section!

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