Archive for space marines

The 2017 Eternal Hunt Awards, pt. 2: The Hobbyists

Posted in 30k, 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, Traitor Guard with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2018 by krautscientist

Awards

Welcome back, everyone: It’s a new year, and here we are — later than I had originally planned, I must admit. Sorry for the delay, but I just had to spend the entire holiday season sleeping, eating and near-obsessively hunting robot dinosaurs. I actually also managed to paint my very first model of the new year, but that’s a story for another time. For today, we still have a part of my annual Eternal Hunt Awards to get out of the way, even if it’s no longer 2017. That being said, I am confident you beautiful readers will always appreciate the chance to discover a couple of amazing hobby projects, right?

Because that’s what we’ll be dealing with today: The best work from fellow hobbyists from the last twelve months, according to yours truly. Now the level of quality many hobbyists manage to achieve these days keeps going through the roof all the time, with more and more stunning creations appearing online every year, but here’s my little selection of particularly noteworthy projects and blogs from last year, so please enjoy!

One small disclaimer, however, before we begin:
It goes without saying that all the photos you’ll be seeing in this post show other people’s work, and I cannot claim credit for any of the stuff depicted — apart from the small but delightful task of collecting it all together here and giving those fantastic hobbyists a much deserved shout out 😉

 

I. Projects of note:

Let’s start with the hobby projects that blew me away in 2017, be they single models or army projects. Having spent a sizeable chunk of my online hobby time with the vibrant and lively community at The Bolter & Chainsword, it occurs to me in hindsight that my selection may be leaning a bit heavily on the Space Marine side of things this year, but I hope you’ll still appreciate the following, wonderful projects. So, in no particular order and without further ado:

Nemac Vradon’s First Claw:

Back in 2016, Augustus b’Raass built what I would consider the definitive true scale representation of First Claw, that merry band of rascals (read: insane murderers) devised by Aaron Dembski-Bowden for his Night Lords Trilogy:

First Claw by Augustus b’Raass (1)

I was lucky enough to see these guys in person on my visit to Amsterdam last summer, and they are just breathtaking: Perfect little representations of the different characters from the book, with lots of little tweaks that bring the models to life and amazing paintjobs to boot. The bigger scale gives them a real presence and also adds some – much needed – space for all of those extra bitz and trinkets.

So imagine my surprise when Nemac Vradon actually came up with an equally brilliant rendition of the same group of characters, albeit in regular 28mm scale this time, without the benefit of all that extra space:


Now building models to represent actual characters from the lore can be a fun – but also an incredibly challenging – proposition. Even moreso when everyone who has read the Night Lords novels probably has an idea about what Talos and his brothers should look like. Nemac Vradon has done an absolutely fantastic job of capturing the essence of the different characters, though, making them instantly recognisable. Nowhere is that more evident than on Talos, First Claw’s absolute poster boy:

Nemac has come up with a truly excellent model here, with all the cues that sell the piece as a representation of the character: With the Mk. V armour, deathmask, relic Blood Angels blade and the rune on the forehead, this guy clearly reads as Talos!

Similar care has been taken with each of the members of First Claw, with a careful selection of bitz and effective poses that manage to embody the essence of each character, while none of the models end up looking cluttered or overly-busy.




Surprisingly enough, while Talos may be First Claw’s most prominent member, he is not, in my opinion, the best part of Nemac Vradon’s interpretation of First Claw: That particular honour has to go in equal parts to Uzas and Xarl.

Now Uzas may strike you as a bit of an obvious choice – after all, he’s basically my favourite character from the books in the first place: A follower of Khorne, Uzas is a typical ADB character in that he may seem one-note by definition, yet is shown to possess surprising – and fairly tragic – depths. So my love for the character is always on my mind when looking at the model. That being said, the conversion is simply a study in elegance and unity of effect: Once again, all the cues that sell the character are there, while the strong pose and effective paintjob make for a model where everything’s in ist right place.

Xarl, on the other hand, is a very different beast:

Highly dynamic and quite ostentatious (in his ceremonial Chyropteran helmet), he immediately draws the eye. And once again, the particular composition of parts just makes for a perfect model. To wit, Nemac Vradon even managed to get away with using one of the – normally terrible – winged helmets from the old NL conversion kit.

The whole squad really stands as a triumph of both creating excellent representations of the actual characters as well as a collection of models with a perfect unity of effect. So while Augustus b’Raass has managed to come up with the definitive version of First Claw at true scale, Nemac Vradon can now claim the same award for the “smaller 28mm scale”. Splendid work!

Check out Nemac Vradon’s version of First Claw, along with the rest of his excellent Night Lords here.

 

Dark Ven’s Night Lords

And while we are on the subject of Night Lords, let’s not forget DarkVen: A longtime collector of the 8th legion, he has returned to his army in 2017 with some rather stunning new additions. Now the most impressive thing about Dark Ven’s Night Lords has to be how he combines kitbashing with kick-ass sculpting to create models that are both highly intricate conversions and yet perfectly at home next to stock GW models. His Night Lords army is a fantastic and incredibly customised collection of models: Just take the warband’s current leader, the enigmatic Warpsmith Tarantula: You could spent ages poring over those photos, trying to figure out which parts are stock (very few) and which have been expertly (re-)sculpted (nearly all of them).


Because, if anything, DarkVen‘s extrapolations of GW’s designs create models that sometimes seem like the perfect missing link between various official models: Take his brilliantly converted and customised Night Lords Dreadnought, for instance, that would seem equally at home next to both the old 2nd edition metal CSM Dread and the more recent plastic models:

Extra kudos for the different weapon options – I love stuff like that!

The incredible amount of customisation is evident in each and every unit in DarkVen’s Night Lords army. Here are his Atramentar:


At first glance, they merely look like some really well done Chaos Terminators, but there’s so much more there: Underneath all the spikes and blades, there’s still a hint at something more honourable, at the elite Astartes formation they used to be, and DarkVen does an excellent job of communicating this idea through the models.

Also, once again, I dare you to take a closer look and actually find out precisely how customised those guys are, especially the amount of scultping and additional detailing that has gone into their armour!

Or his Raptors: Those models perfectly combine officially established visual cues with DarkVen’s own take on GW’s archetypes, channeling both the new plastic Raptors and the “bird of prey” style of the older metal/Finecast Raptors – while also throwing in a generous helping of Predator creepiness:




The fact that DarkVen further supplements most of his more recent conversions with fantastic and elaborate concept art is just the icing on the cake!

If there’s one negative point to be mentioned here, it’s that DarkVen’s Night Lords currently lie dormant once more. However, you still can (and definitely should) check out the current status of his project here:

BrotherCaptainArkhan’s Black One Hundred

Can you remember how hip it used to be to hate the Ultramarines? In all fairness, GW’s poster boy Space Marine legion/chapter has appeared in official material so often and has been so idolised by many official authors, that it’s rather easy to be fed up with them, especially when they are written like they can do no wrong. And with the introduction of the Primaris Marines and the return of Roboute Guiliman, the XIII Primarch, to the stage of the 41st millennium, there are probably yet more Ultramarines with their heroic feats waiting for us in the wings.

What then if I were to tell you that one of the most riveting Horus Heresy project in existence at the moment dealt with the XIII legion in a way that you haven’t seen before and that turns Ultramarines into something genuinely fascinating?

Enter BrotherCaptainArkhan’s Black One Hundred: A Censuria company of Ultramarines, that is to say: Those members of the legion whose failures, sins or merely oversights have damned them to the fate of serving in an entire company of rejects, expected merely to fight and die without making too much noise, lest their legion remember how embarrassing they are.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Well, BCA takes this already promising premise and runs with it, coming up with an ongoing project log where every new update is spectacular, be it a new model, a new piece of background lore, or merely his musings about the ideas and motifs that go into his army.

It helps that the actual models are killer, of course: The Black One Hundred are about the dustiest, grimiest and most downtrodden Ultramarines you are ever going to see, but BrotherCaptainArkhan shows us that there can be something forlornly beautiful about armour this dented and scratched. And that Ultramarines Blue goes very well with black, indeed!


If I had to pick a favourite from this particular collection, I would choose the Black One Hundred’s (former) commanding officer, Brother-Captain Ludvic Augustus:


Now as far as I am aware, Augustus’ personal story arc has already run its course, but he remains my favourite piece of BrotherCaptainArkhan’s work, and arguably the perfect embodiment of the Black One Hundred: a perfect blend of a powerful Ultramarine and a down-to-earth, workhorse soldier that would rather not be remembered by history.

The quality evident in the special characters really extends all the way down, though, as even the various objective markers are little works of art (as well as tributes to the Ultramarines’ unbending spirit, in spite of everything):

Hard as that may be to believe, however, the – truly stunning – models are just part of the charm here: The storytelling at play, the fluff and soundbites, are equally riveting. These guys are members of a Censuria company, and it’s clear that they will never be able to make up for their past wrongdoings. Even their own Primarch would prefer them to be forgotten in silence. And in spite of everything, they are still Ultramarines. They fight. They endure. Only in death does duty end. And BrotherCaptainArkhan does such a fantastic job of telling their story!

Probably the biggest compliment I can offer is that, were BrotherCaptainArkhan to write a BL novel focusing on his Censuria company, I’d buy and read it right away, without a moment’s hesitation.

There are many Horus Heresy projects these days, as everybody and their cousin (yours truly included) seems to want a piece of that sweet Heresy goodness. The Black One Hundred, however, stand tall above the rest as probably one of the best Horus Heresy projects in existence right now, and as a constant inspiration: When I work on my own 30k World Eaters, I constantly try to capture the merest fraction of depth and gravitas of the Black One Hundred. That is how awesome they are.

Check out BrotherCaptainArkhan’s landmark project here.

Malcharion’s Space Sharks


A couple of years ago, the Carcharodons used to be all the rage: Reintroduced to the 40k background by Forgeworld as part of their treatment of the Badab War, these mysterious and brutal Space Marines from the farthest reaches of the galaxy captured many a hobbyist’s imagination and launched dozens of army projects. It also made an entire generation of hobbyists learn about Tamiya Clear Red, back before Blood for the Blood God had been developed 😉

Because most people were content to just paint their Space Sharks flat grey, slap lots and lots of glossy blood effect on there and call it a day. Even Forgeworld’s own painters only paid occasional service to the idea of the Carcharodon’s use of tribal markings and intricate designs.

Not so with Malcharion’s Carcharadons, however, who breathe new life into the chapter’s identity in the most spectacular way:


Malchy’s fantastic paintjobs are one reason for this, particularly his brilliant use of highly intricate, quasi-Polynesian tribal designs. They turn every model into a piece of art without overwhelming the pieces. This is particularly evident on the Dreadnoughts that look like walking totems or shrines, while also seeming every bit as deadly and combat-worthy as you would expect of a Space Marine Dreadnought:


What’s more, while his Carcharodons certainly use a copious amount of blood effect, the combination of blood spatter and the intricate armour markings makes for a fascinating juxtaposition that adds a layer of depth to a chapter that often merely gets characterised as “really violent and mysterious grey dudes that also have this shark thing going on”.

The conversion and kitbashing on display are also truly something to behold. Just take this kitbashed master of the forge, featuring what has to be the best use of a Lizardman/Seraphon claw bit I have ever seen:


Or Malcharion’s version of Company Master Tyberos, “The Red Wake”:


Now this version is actually very different from Forgeworld’s official model, but the character is still instantly recognisable. And he has all the menace of a great white shark, without feeling silly because of it.

Speaking of which, those glittering black eyes really give me the creeps every time I look at the model:


Malcharion also routinely makes excellent use of dedicated legion bitz (and models) from Forgeworld, particularly from the World Eaters catalogue, to make his Carcharodons look even more vicious. Case in point, his Terminators (based on the World Eaters Red Butchers):


And, arguably even more spectacular, this Carcharodon officer based on the Heresy era model for Kharn:


It’s a testament to Malchy’s skill, however, that those models not only work perfectly within the framework of his army, but you wouldn’t really recognise them as World Eaters any longer: They are perfect Space Sharks now, aren’t they?

And while this moves beyond the scope of his Carcharodons, allow me to point out that Malcharion also works on models for the chapter’s Primoginetor legion, the Raven Guard, and he manages to turn even this least interesting of Space Marine legions (at least in my opinion) into something truly breathtaking:

Malchy’s complete project log can be found here.

Daouide’s Kalista

Le blog dé Kouzes is another regular name in my list of perennial favourites, so it shouldn’t surprise you that those wonderful and crazy Frenchmen make another appearance in this year’s Eternal Hunt Awards. By the same token, Daouide’s Emperor’s Children are the epitome of „Slaanesh done right“, so there’s yet another reason for this particular choice.

The above model takes the cake, however: Kalista, a championess of Slaanesh, and easily one of the most stunning models to have come out of 2017. Now any idea of building female Space Marines (or something similar) has been a bit of a hot button issue for a long time, with everyone who tries to work with this basic promise in acute danger of being laughed out of town. At the same time, having a championess of Slaanesh actually seems like such a wonderfully „Realms-of-Chaos“-style thing to do, doesn’t it? And just look at Kalista – isn’t she drop dead gorgeous?

Daouide’s wonderful conversion work, brilliant sculpting and sublime painting work together to create something utterly stunning here. Even better, though, Kalista is actually based on the Stormcast Eternal model Naeve Blacktalon:

Incredible, wouldn’t you agree?

In addition to painting her to match the rest of his EC army, Daouide also built and painted a custom warband for Kalista, and her retinue is certainly no slouch either:

Even in such a fantastic collection of models, however, Kalista stands out – and in spite of being a follower of Slaanesh, she isn’t even all that overtly sexualised. Incredible work!

One last observation: In addition to being such a stunning model, Kalista also really reminds me of the official art for Telemachon Lyras, of The Talon of Horus fame, and makes me wonder whether a fantastic model for Telemachon might not be built from the exact same source model.

In any case, check out Kalista in more detail here.

II. Blogs of note:

In this day and age, thoughtful blogging seems to be turning into a dying art, especially given the prevalence of endless picture streams on places like Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest — god, I’m sounding like a cantankerous old man, am I not? 😉

But the fact remains that, while social media are becoming ever more integral to the online component of our hobby, social networks don’t really lend themselves well to the “longform”content I appreciate. So to me at least, dedicated, well maintained blogs are more precious than ever, and discovering particularly fascinating specimens remains one of the biggest joys in our hobby. Here’s my pick of the litter for 2017:

Lead Plague:

Now Lead Plague is one of those blogs that I cannot believe I didn’t discover much, much earlier, as the very original style of Asslessman’s work is truly something to behold. Maybe the most interesting thing about the blog is how perfectly it mixes both vintage sensibilities and modern design techniques: Now the whole “Oldhammer” movement has been quite a thing for a couple of years now, and at its best, Oldhammer seems to be about celebrating the creative – and often crazy – vintage creations of early GW (and other companies from the same time), and I can totally subscribe to that! Unfortunately, though, at its worst, Oldhammer can occasionally devolve into basically disparaging everything GW did after 1995, and those parts of the movement are really rather tiresome.

And entirely unneccessary, as it turns out, as so much of the content on Lead Plague perfectly bridges the gap between Oldhammer and “modern” GW models. It helps that Asslessman really pulls it off in style, of course, creating highly original conversions with often surprising and original colour schemes:


And while those models are perfectly “modern” in so many ways, they also happen to recall the ‘Eavy Metal sections of vintage GW publications from around the 2nd edition of Warhammer 40k, which is really the best of both worlds, isn’t it?

The blog is also full of fantastic warbands and projects. One of my favourites  is the “Shadow Legion”, a band of traitors and heretics that makes excellent use of some of GW’s more recent plastic kits:


Seriously, aren’t those menacing masked soldiers just perfect for all kinds of chaos and INQ28-related shenanigans?


Again, all of this looks perfectly at home in “modern” 40k. At other times, things get downright Oldhammer-y, as with this vintage Brat Gang, inspired by Confrontation, the semi-official predecessor to Necromunda:


Funnily enough, given the shout out Brat Gangs get in the new Necromunda material, these guys may soon have a home in “modern” GW again 😉

Or take a look at some of the rather excellent oldhammer-ish models appearing in this inquisitorial retinue:


Asslessman shows that this really doesn’t have to be an either/or choice, that it’s possible for a hobbyist to draw from decades of excellent content and turn it all into the kind of custom projects they want — and pull it all together with excellent painting, no less! And of course all of us, whether we are Oldhammerers or not, just love the grimdark:

Anyway, Lead Plague is a fantastic blog and, in spite of its many retro-trappings, a real breath of fresh air! Oh, and it also wins an extra award for best header image! 🙂

The blog can be found here.

 

Wilhelminiatures:

Helge Wilhelm Dahl, of Wilhelminiatures, has been on my radar for quite some time now, but his blog has really managed to kick into overdrive this last year: There’s such a breadth of projects and ideas on display there now, in addition to a particular style of painting and modeling that’s just a joy to behold: There’s more than a bit of Blanchian influence, yet Wilhelminiatures‘ models are also wholly original and immediately recognisable.

Just to give you an idea of the variety on display on the blog:

Already on my shortlist last year, here’s a wondefully creepy and creative Genestealer cult that really pushes the envelope when it comes to adding interesting and disturbing archetypes (and genotypes) to GW’s “official” treatment of Genestealer cults:


There would be so much to say about this particular warband, but I’ll restrain myself and just point out that incredibly creepy babyface walker:


Or there’s the project of making the Silver Tower characters and archetypes more interesting and, arguably, more vintage GW. This endeavour ranges from a number of small tweaks to particular models…


…to rather impressive conversions and rebuilds. And everything is tied together by a wonderful, limited palette.


Or let’s not forget Wilhelminiatures’ wonderfully crazy apocalyptic warband taking cues from 40k, Necromunda and the latest Mad Max film at the same time:



And did I mention the blog also happens to feature some of the best 30k World Eaters around as well? Stupendous!


Given a collection this eclectic and wonderfully weird, it’s hard to pick favourites. If pressed to do so, however, there’s two models I would choose. One, the seashell-based monstrosity that reminded me so much of some very early and weird creature concepts from the video game Bioshock:




Seriously, though: I have no words for how creepy that thing is!

Arguably the best model, however, is this guy here:


A wonderfully weird retro-futuristic Knight on his grimdark steed: Very characterful, very Rogue Trader, very grimdark — and very, very Wilhelminiatures!

Make sure to check out this fantastic blog here.

 

Prometian Painting:

Confession time, I would never have given a single thought to creating an army based on “Hakanor’s Reavers”, a throwaway warband mentioned in an earlier version of the Chaos Space Marines Codex as a possible inspiration for your own colour schemes and/or warbands:


This made me feel like a fool when discovering Alex Marsh’s work – first on Flickr and then on his blog, Prometian Painting, however, because Alex has managed to create a truly spectacular army using the colours of Hakanor’s Reavers:

One thing that quickly becomes evident is that Alex’ Chaos Space Marine army has that one quality that I love above all else: It is chock-full of brilliant kitbashes and conversions. Like this massive Chaos Lord converted using the freebie Slaughterpriest from the White Dwarf relaunch:


Or this Chaos Sorcerer who gives Forgeworld’s conceptually similar event-only model a run for its money:

Now looking at Alex’s fantastic models is also a bit of a bittersweet experience for me, because Alex freely admits to taking quite a bit of inspiration from some of my own models, which is indredibly flattering, of course. The bittersweet part comes from seeing that some of his takes on my models actually improve on my work 😉


Seems like the best thing I can do, considering the circumstances, is to just steal back a whole bag of ideas from Alex in turn — his Chosen, in particular, would be a delightful idea to steal:


They are just so wonderfully massive and menacing:

And there’s much more inspiration to be had here, as Alex doesn’t limit himself to the Chaos Space Marine part of his army: His collection now features dedicated “sub-armies” in the form of Traitor Guard and Chaos Daemons. The Traitor Guard detachment makes excellent use of Forgeworld’s Vraksian Renegade Militia, while also featuring enough common features with Hakanor’s Reavers to tie both forces together visually:



Once again, though, there are some lovely visual flourishes showing off Alex’ talent for creating cool conversions. Such as this traitor commander who is equal parts haughty officer and monstrous servant of chaos:


And let’s not forget the Daemon side of the collection, either! Because Alex’s sprawling chaos collection actually features an entire third army composed of Khorne’s neverborn servants:


As you will already have noticed, one of the most striking features of Alex’ armies is how they use the leitmotif of heat to draw the eye and pull the different parts of the force together: His painting perfectly conveys the feeling of blistering heat, be it in the form of warp-based fire breaking through the Astartes’ armour or via lava on the bases casting a red haze on the models. His daemons really turn this up to eleven, though, looking like their very bodies consist of molten metal and living flame:


In short, this is one of the best chaos armies I have seen in 2017, and a project that’s always a joy to follow!

The blog can be found here.

 

III. Honorary mentions:

Augustus b’Raass’ retro Bloodthirsters:

For a time, back when I properly got into WFB and 40k, Trish Carden’s – then brand new – metal Bloodthirster was my favourite model of all time. And even though time has not been all that kind to the sculpt, Augustus b’Raass’ beautiful modern paintjob for the classic Bloodthirster has made me realise that I still love the model, in spite of the massive hands and the general clunkiness.

If anything, Augustus’ photo above actually sells the model short, since the vibrancy of his paintjob model is absolutely breathtaking, as I can attest to from firsthand experience. In fact, the stunning amount of pop present in the paintjob is arguably a bit easier to see in this picture I took of the model:


In addition to painting a stock Retro-Thirster, Augustus also used a second vintage model to splice in some bitz from the modern plastic Bloodthirster and create a model that combines modern and retro in the best possible way:


So these two guys definitely deserve a shout out here! Fantastic work, buddy!

You can find Augustus’ ongoing WIP thread featuring all of his various hobby projects, over here.

Jeff Vader’s Primaris Reivers


It somehow feels as though this wouldn’t be a proper best of the year post without at least namedropping the ever illustrious Johan Egerkrans aka Jeff Vader, and while Johan’s hobby output last year didn’t quite match his frantic pace in previous years, he still managed to knock it out of the park again and again. Case in point, and particularly noteworthy: The Primaris Reivers from his DIY Chapter, bearing all the hallmarks of his incredibly gorgeous painting style as well as selling me on a slightly dubious new unit type. Congratulations, mate! Nobody does it quite like you!

Jeff Vader keeps blogging over here.

 

IV. The absolute best hobby project of 2017:

Wait, you didn’t think we were finished yet, did you? As it happens, I’ve actually saved the best for last this time around, so allow me to share my absolutely favourite hobby project from last year:

Neil101’s Adepta Sororitas diorama

Some of you may remember my absolute elation when this lass was released late in 2016:

To quote myself for a moment here:

You see, if somebody asked me what 40k was all about, I would point them to two particular pieces of artwork by the venerable John Blance. And one of those two pieces of art would be [the cover of the old Adepta Sororitas Codex], invariably.

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

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

So I spent ages trying to get hold of a Canoness Veryidian model (it’s still sitting in its box, unpainted. That’s irony of fate for you), and one of my half-formed plans for the model was that, maybe, just maybe, I could try and recreate some of the characters from the background of that artwork and have them, along with the Canoness, as some kind of mini-diorama, you know?

Yeah, so…then I saw that Neil101 had done this:

I cannot even begin to put words to the sheer awesomness of this diorama: Neil has really gone above and beyond to create the closest possible representation of the art in actual miniature form — and without any cheap tricks like messing around with the scale or stuff like that, either. It’s an incredible piece that you could possible spend hours examining more closely to get an idea of all the details and genius little touches. Canoness Veryidian remains at the heart of the piece, of course, but it’s truly stunning what an incredible amount of work Neil had dedicated to the attempt of featuring all the crazy and demented characters loitering around in the background of the original illustration:

It goes without saying that seeing Neil’s work has put my own aspirations of doing something similar to rest — I mean, what’s the point, right? 😉

What’s more, since this is a fully fledged 360 degrees diorama, it basically looks great from every angle, lending itself perfectly to the creation of moody impressions of the grimdark future:


Speaking of which, I thought it would actually be fun to create some montages of Neil’s photos, trying to bring them even closer to the original art, so I played around with Photoshop and Pixlr a bit and send these over to Neil quite a while ago:



Looking at the pictures again now, I still cannot get over how awesome this project is: It epitomises the kind of no-holds-barred, crazy inventive hobby projects Neil101 has become known – and rightly revered – for.

So yeah, Neil, mate, you win “best absolute everything” this year — congrats! 😉

After a prolonged hiatus, Neil101 has once again set up shop on the interwebz: Find his new blog, Distopus, over here.

 

So here we are, with another year of incredible hobby endeavours behind us. I hope you enjoyed this show of stunning talent and will take lots of inspiration (and new reading suggestions) away from this! If anything, and I am saying this to myself as much as to my readers, let’s not be discouraged by the breathtaking display of talent, but let’s rather try to be re-invigorated for our own hobby endeavours, eh? So here’s to the next twelve months of cutting up and painting little plastic men and women!

So there may just be one last instalment of the 2017 Eternal Hunt Awards, taking a look at last year’s best (and worst) releases and at their implications for the way forward. Keep your fingers crossed for me not to get sidetracked too much, and it may happen sooner rather than later 😉

Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts about my collection of inspiring content from fellow hobbyists! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ahzek Ahriman, Chief-Librarian of the Thousand Sons

burning-of-prospero-release-4
Now that was quite a surprise, wasn’t it? Ahriman’s definitely the first major 30k character to be given a plastic incarnation, and I think Maxime Pastourel (aka Morbäck) has done a wonderful job with the model: The armour and detailing are very close representations of several pieces of Horus Heresy artwork, giving you the idea that, yes, this is definitely Ahriman! The blank faceplate is a bit of an acquired taste, but in all fairness, it has been part of the art for quite a while now, so it’s definitely an accurate representation. The engravings and symbols on Ahriman’s armour speaks of the Thousand Sons’ dabblings in sorcery while not overcluttering the model. And I really love how the flowing robes lend motion and dynamism to what is otherwise a rather static pose.

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

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

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

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

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Geigor Fell-Hand of the Space Wolves

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tartaros Terminators

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

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

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

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

 

Tactical Marines in Mk. III “Iron” armour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Custodian Guard & Sisters of Silence

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

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

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

 

Custodian Guard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Custodian Squad (2)

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

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

 

Sisters of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

conversion options:

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


Ahriman

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

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

Tartaros Terminators

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

Mk III Marines

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

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

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

Custodian Guard

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

Sisters of Silence

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

So what’s your take on the new boxed set? What do you like or hate about the new models? And do you have any conversion ideas you would like to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments section!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Team Xenos

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

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

 

Eldrad Ulthran, Farseer of Ulthwé

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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 Khârn the Betrayer…?

 

Team Deathwatch

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

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

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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, 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? 😉 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 😉

 

Watch-Captain Artemis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conversion options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Going through the motions – a look at the 2015 Space Marines release

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2015 by krautscientist

Wait, wasn’t there a Space Marine release fairly recently? In fact, it’s already been almost two years, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Granted, the Space Marines are 40k’s most popular faction and main cash cow, but even so, it feels like we only received a new Codex a very short while ago. But here it is, nevertheless, a new book, complete with a bunch of new kits to accompany it, so who am I to argue, eh?

2015 Space Marine Release (1)
The thing is: 2013’s Space Marine release was a pretty big release all around, thoroughly revamping the standard Tactical Squad, giving us plastic Sternguard and Vanguard, introducing Centurions, grav weapons and two new, Rhino-based tank variants. Plus we got new models for a couple of generic Space Marine HQ choices. So it feels like this new release does have quite a bit to measure up to. Let’s take a look at whether or not the new kits manage to hold up — and it goes without saying that we’ll also be taking a look at the various conversion options along the way!

 

Space Marines Terminator Librarian

2015 Space Marine Release (2)
The clamshell characters are often a very interesting part of each release — one need look no further than the Tech-Priest Dominus as proof. And the Space Marines receive another HQ option via this Librarian in Terminator armour.

Tell you what: I think there’s something off about the model. Something I cannot quite put my finger on. Sure enough, all the required boxes have been ticked: The model clearly reads as a Librarian, psi-staff, psychic hoods, lots of scrolls parchments and doodads — all accounted for. And the various details on the armour certainly look cool enough!

2015 Space Marine Release (4)But there’s something about the model’s design that makes it seem like the upper and lower halves don’t mesh: Maybe it’s the fact that the torso and head have a slightly squashed look about them? Maybe it’s the slightly iffy pose? Or maybe it’s just the angle of the picture? Whatever the reason may be, the model seems subtly wrong to me, almost as if the upper and lower parts of the body belong to different models and have been grafted together semi-successfully…

The good news is that I think the effect is slightly less of a problem when using the model’s alternate arm with its cool wizard pose:

2015 Space Marine Release (3)
And since this arm is far more interesting visually than the tired old Stormbolter anyway, all is well with the world, right?

Well, I’m not sold on the model, to be honest: There’s the slightly strange overall feeling described above, for starters. There’s also the fact that a look at the sprue reveals that most of the model, bar the arms, is made up of two massive slabs of plastic, with very little leeway for modifications, rendering conversions beyond arm or weapon swaps pretty complicated:

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But all of this would probably be excusable, if not for the fact that the new plastic model is an inferior replacement to its predecessor and a better alternative is readily available. But all in good order!

Let’s look at the Terminator Librarian’s previous incarnation:

OOP Librarian Terminator
Now you all know that I am a huge fan of plastic models, but even I have to admit that the older Librarian model had a lot more character and dynamism going for it. It also seems less dubious anatomically. It does have the beefy look you would expect of a Terminator, but it still seems fairly plausible and natural — well, as plausible and natural as can be expected, that is…

There’s also a much better flow about the model — something that can arguably be hard to capture in multipart plastic models. But then, the new Librarian isn’t even that multipart to begin with (compare the sprue above).

What’s even worse, though, is that the Blood Angels Librarian in Terminator armour, released fairly recently, also seems like a more balanced model:

Blood Angels release 2014 (2)Granted, the BA Librarian is costs one Euro more and might require some minor conversion work to get rid of the BA iconography. That seems like a good investment, however, seeing how much better the model looks overall, and is quite a bit more flexible when it comes to conversion options (as it’s closer in construction to a standard, multipart Terminator). Back when this model was released, I was wondering whether it shouldn’t have been a generic Termie Librarian to begin with — and seeing the actual generic Termie Librarian now only enforces this notion: The BA Libby seems like the superior design, essentially rendering the new model obsolete, as long as you don’t mind some minor conversion work…

All in all, the new Terminator Librarian certainly isn’t terrible. But the model is a bit of a letdown, especially seeing how a superior plastic model is already available. I think I’ll pass on this one…

 

Space Marines Assault Squad

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The Assault Marines were possibly one of the oldest plastic Space Marine kits still in service, so it certainly makes sense to give them a facelift. The new kit carefully updates the models and adds in some new options, yet at the end of the day, it still provides us with all the neccessary parts to build five Assault Marines, either with or without jump packs.

2015 Space Marine Release (7)This means the models have to work in both running and jumping poses, which seems to be the case. What’s more, we get some nifty pieces of crumbled masonry for our jump infantry, which is pretty nice. These small basing parts seem pretty interesting and are a nice bit of service — it’s especially cool that they come as separate parts, unlike the rubble in the Raptor/Warp Talon kit that is attached to the legs. And if you don’t like them or want to build your Marines without jump packs, just leave them off and the models will look like they are running:

2015 Space Marine Release (12)

Some of the poses do seem a little awkward, though (like the guy on the left in the above picture) — although, in all fairness, assembling running Marines that seem natural always takes a bit of doing and fine-tuning.

One thing I really love about the new kit is that it includes a plastic Eviscerator:

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While we are looking at that Sergeant model, however, what is the matter with that face? The brow seems a bit huge, doesn’t it? Maybe this is a conscious effort to create Space Marine faces showing the kind of gigantism alluded to in the background — but it does seem a little weird, since it has never been done before…

I really love the other bare head included with the kit, however: I could easily imagine this guy as a gladiatorial World Eater:

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All in all, the kit seems like a sensible and careful redesign, and if you should find yourself in need of some additional Assault Marines (or simpply some running legs), it seems like a sound option: You get five Assault Marines without any massive bells and whistles to speak of.

However, while having an updated kit is nice, it’s also pretty hard to get too excited about these models, because they are treading ground that has been thoroughly explored by several other kits. In fact, I would argue that almost everything this kit does, the Vanguard kit does better. And at merely two Euros more a pop, I know which kit I prefer.
Solid work, certainly, but nothing to write home about.

 

Space Marines Devastator Squad:

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While the Devastator kit has seen more updates than some of the other Space Marine infantry, the addition of a couple of new weapons (with grav weapons being the prime example) obviously neccessitated yet another update. So here we are with a new Devastator kit that gives us lots and lots of weapons options…

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Chief among these are the grav weapons, of course, but I’ll be honest: I am still not a fan of them from a visual standpoint. They seem clunky and ill-conceived, and not nearly as iconic as the other heavy weapons in the Space Marine catalogue — but maybe that’s just me being a grumpy old man there for a minute 😉

Beyond such concerns, it’s great to see that the new Devastator kit contains lots and lots of weapons (basically two each of every heavy weapon plus a bunch of combi-weapons, pistols and a full complement of CC weapons for the Sergeant). This makes the new kit very comprehensive when it comes to weapon options — and thus possibly an essential purchase.

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However, GW’s designers weren’t simply content with adding more weapons, they also added some visual touches to distinguish the Devastators from your standard Tactical Marines — basically the kind of attention sorely lacking in the new Assault Marines, if you ask me. Each of the Devastators comes with reinforced leg armour and an additional sensor array integrated into the model’s helmet:

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Both ideas are pretty cool, because they visually support the Devastators’ battlefield rule and add some identity to the models beyond the heavy weapons they are lugging around. Even so, some of these new elements seem slightly uneven in execution: The extra sensors work far better on some helmets than on others (the one on the Marine with the grav gun in the above picture looks legitimately terrible, for instance).

As for the reinforced armour, it’s a pretty nifty idea! While I would have preferred some plastic versions of older armour marks (Mk. 2 or 3 would have been ideal for Devastators, if you ask me), I can still appreciate the extra effort. And the options for customising the squad leader are actually pretty awesome:

2015 Space Marine Release (19)In fact, we get quite a few bitz and bobs for the squad that are pretty interesting: the rockets streaming smoke may be a bit hit-or-miss, but I like the inclusion of a cherub, even if the sculpt does seem a bit clunky — I wonder whether the paintjob is partly to blame for this…?

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All in all, this kit seems far more substantial than the Assault Marines, and it should be legitimately useful for Marine players both old and new. A very solid, if not exactly exciting, offering!

 

Space Marine Chapter-specific conversion kits

Now this is possibly the most interesting part of the release, at least for me: We get one conversion sprue each for the Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Ultramarines and Space Wolves — quite an interesting tool for customising champions and army commanders, and a possible return to offering conversion sets and bitz? We will see.

I do realise that many people seem fairly critical of these, seeing how they sell for 10.50 Euros a pop for a pretty small sprue of bitz. So let’s take a look at each of them in turn in order to figure out whether they are worth it:

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The Blood Angels sprue is possibly the least interesting of the bunch, seeing how most of the bitz seem to appear in one of the existing BA kits in similar shape or form. The Mephiston-style torso piece is a notable exception, but most of the other contents of the sprue are very close to the stuff we get with the Sanguinary Guard, Death Company and BA Tac Squad. So while the bitz themselves are fairly cool, there’s nothing super-exciting here. Next.

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The Dark Angels sprue suffers from a similar problem, but that’s mostly due to the fact that there are already several kits with lots and lots of DA conversion bitz in existence. The standout parts here are the mastercrafted breastplate, highly ostentatious sword and plasma pistol. The feathered helmet is a staple of DA lore but looks very clunky — I’d pick the Chapter Master helmet from the Dark Vengeance boxed set over this helmet any day of the week. Again, pretty nice, but ultimately nonessential.

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The Space Wolves have just as many dedicated plastic kits as the Blood Angels and Dark Angels, yet their conversion sprue still turns out more interesting: The sword and axe are very sweet (and seem to be channeling the look of Krom Dragongaze’s weapons). The backpack also seems similar to his and is very cool — I love the vicious look of those wolf heads. Speaking of which, I thik the wolf head helmet is probably my favourite part of the sprue: Some may think it’s too cartoony, but I love how feral it looks. It’s far less stylised than the helmet we get as part of the existing SW sprue, and I think it would work just as well for a champion of chaos. This is a pretty cool conversion kit, mostly because it manages to move beyond the bitz that are already available as part of the regular kits.

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And finally, the sprue for everybody’s favourite Do-Gooders, the Ultramarines. And you know what? This is definitely the best of the bunch! Because, for all their appearances in the background and posterboy status, the Ultramarines have never received any dedicated plastic kits, so this is our chance to finally make our Ultramarines characters look like true Ultramarines: The shoulder pads are obviously useful for that, but my favourite parts have to be the breastplate, sword and gladius combo and the knightly veteran helmet. I have never been a huge Ultramarines fan, but I really like this conversion kit because it provides something new in plastic — very cool!

All in all, the pricetag on these sprues may indeed be a bit steep, but I am prepared to call them a fairly promising experiment: If you want to use these for your whole army, you’ll be spending quite a lot of money — but that’s not the point: Each of the sprues would work perfectly for customising one or two models per army and really make them stand out — all you need are some Marine legs and bodies, and you’re golden. Which puts them at an ultimately reasonable price point below the – fairly expensive – new clamshell characters. What’s more, they certainly don’t force you to pick these up: You’ll still be getting lots and lots of leftover bitz that can work just as well from your regular kits. But as it stands, these new kits seem like a promising prospect, and it’ll be interesting to see what GW does with this approach. And I wonder whether these have anything to do with Forgeworld’s own, legion-specific upgrade packs…?

 

Bonus Content: HQ Command Tanks

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I do of course realise that this kit is a Warhammer World exclusive, but seeing how it’s certainly vanilla-Marine themed, we might as well throw it in with the rest, don’t you think? 😉

I think the boxy Space Marine tanks can use all the help they can get in order to look more interesting, and offering conversion kits to turn them into suitably ostentatious command vehicles seems like an interesting option. From my impressions, some things about the kit are pretty awesome, and some are pretty awful. Let’s start with the bad stuff: Those aquila-shaped radar dishes and the sensor array on top of the Rhino are pretty terrible. Seriously, there is such a thing as too clunky.

What I really like, however, are the alternate side panels, because they really make the vehicles look like relicts of a bygone age — ancient artifacts of the chapter that also happen to be warmachines. And I do have a bit of a thing for the Chapter Master atop the Land Raider — pretty cool!

So does this kit alone warrant a trip to Warhammer World or is it worth the hilarious prices some folks are asking on ebay? The answer to either would be no, if you ask me — although there are probably enough reasons for wanting to check out the new Warhammer World.

When all is said and done, this kit made me want to think about how to kitbash command tanks that are just as cool, but much less expensive — and I think it really wouldn’t be all that hard, given a reasonably well-stacked bitzbox. Still, it’s a cool idea, and I think one that many converters should be able to have a field day with 😉

 

Conversion options:

One of the biggest strengths of the entire Space Marine catalogue is how it provides an interlocking system of fully (or mostly) compatible kits, and the same goes for the new kits, of course: Whichever of these you pick up, you’ll always end up with more stuff for the huge Space Marine toolbox. And there’s no question that, for instance, all the extra stuff within the Devastator kit will prove hugely useful. So the release certainly provides new tools for all the (Chaos) Space Marine players out there.

I’ll be honest with you, though: No part of the release strikes me as particularly exciting or fantastic from a converter’s perspective. The things that interest me are mostly different bits and bobs: The pieces of rubble, Eviscerator and mostly bald head from the Assault Squad (because the latter would be great for a World Eaters officer). The servo-skull and cherub from the Devastators (because one can never have enough servo-skulls and cherubs in INQ28). The sword from the DA conversion set (because one can never have enough blinged out swords). And possibly the entire SW and Ultramarines conversion sprues (the SW sprue is, once again, full of cool options for World Eaters, and I just like the design of the Ultramarine bitz and the novelty of having Ultramarine parts available in plastic).

Many releases can become exciting even for those hobbyists who don’t play the army at hand. But this certainly isn’t one of those releases: It’s rather a workhorse of a release, replacing some outdated kits and tentatively offering some customisation and conversion options that might become more interesting in the future. I have always loved Space Marines, but even I cannot really get excited about the new kits — the most interesting part for me are the conversion kits, and even those are mostly interesting for what they could become for other armies or factions somewhere along the line.

 

Comparing this release to the recent AdMech extravaganza, one cannot help to see the new Space Marine kits as a disappointment, because they are ultimately just more of the same. The 2013 Space Marine release was more interesting, because we actually got something new (the Centurions, whether you like them or not), and the redesigned kits (Vanguard and Sternguard) were pretty exciting.

This time around, we mostly get small updates, which is nice. And taking an even-handed approach, we can probably call this a solid, if a little bland, bread and butter release. But in a world where the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus have just turned the entire GW catalogue on its head, maybe solid just doesn’t cut it any longer? But then we knew AdMech would be a tough act to follow 😉

 

So what do you think? Do you feel differently about the new Space Marine kits or would you like to discuss some crazy conversion ideas of yours that I didn’t think of? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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

Waste not, want not — a look at the 2014 Blood Angels release

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by krautscientist

Right, before Christmas is finally upon us next week, let’s fit in one last review for this year, shall we?

Linked together with the Tyranid release by way of the Shield of Baal:Deathstorm boxed set, we get another round of Blood Angels models before the year is out. Now the Blood Angels are one of the chapters that have already seen a rather substantial (and very good) dedicated release at an earlier point, providing us, among other things, with rather gorgeous kits for the Death Company and Sanguinary Guard, respectively, plus a very versatile Dreadnought kit. The new release, therefore, serves to nicely round out the Blood Angels’ catalogue — but does it stack up to the quality of the earlier release? Let’s find out! And let us also look at all the delightful conversion options — for the last time this year! 😉

Blood Angels release 2014 (1)
The first thing that quickly becomes obvious with this release is that the various new kits make pretty heavy use of existing resources, such as the Tactical Marine kit, the Sternguard and even the Space Hulk BA Terminators, recombining and changing around elements from either to create some new toys for our Blood Angels. This “recycling” of existing assets is neither difficult to spot, nor – I would argue – such a big secret to begin with. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing either. But while GW have been content to release slightly touched up single characters so far, this is one of the first time this happens on such a scale — with both good and bad consequences, but we’ll be getting to that in a minute. Let’s take a closer look at each of the kits in turn:

 

Blood Angels Sanguinary Priest

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Alright, this is an interesting piece, both because it’s the most original (as in “freshly sculpted”) part of this release and because it’s also the first time that we get a plastic version of the Blood Angels’ very own brand of priests/apothecaries. So what do we have here?

The model clearly takes some cues from the vintage Brother Corbulo, with certain elements (such as the face and the skull chalice) clearly resembling that character. At the same time, the design of the armour clearly calls back to the Sanguinary Guard (and, by extension, to the vintage models for Commander Dante and Captain Tycho). The addition of flowing robes (an element mostly seen on Dark Angels models so far) provides a nice and individual touch to the model, and the many trinkets dangling from his armour serve as a great reminder of his status.

One thing I really love about the model is the highly ostentatious chain sword — such a beautiful, yet menacing weapon! And though it’s hard to make out in the official pictures, the face is also a bit more interesting than your standard, unhelmeted Blood Angels head (more on those later…).

A look at the sprue reveals that it should really be easy enough to swap in all kinds of Marine parts for smaller or bigger conversions. And using the arms, the backpack or the head on different models should also be really easy:

Blood Angels release 2014 (5)
Space Marines seem to make for pretty good clamshell characters, since the way their armour goes together makes the resulting model stay pretty versatile, in spite of being single pose.

All in all, this guy is basically one of the high points of the release for me — and definitely the most interesting of the new kits from a converter’s perspective! Very nice!

 

Blood Angels Librarian in Terminator armour

Blood Angels release 2014 (2)
This model clearly takes some cues from the Librarian that came with Space Hulk (the double headed psy-axe is a dead giveaway), although I like the new model’s dynamic pose better than the really statuesque Space Hulk Librarian. The model also seems to resemble GW’s older metal/Finecast Terminator Librarian — to the point that it was initially pretty hard to decide whether this was a new model or a kitbash when the first, fuzzy pictures of this release emerged.

And again, this is an excellent character, continuing the trend of strong clamshell plastic characters for the Space Marines! It should also be reasonably easy to convert this guy with an influx of external bitz, and for all the same reasons I mentioned above:

Blood Angels release 2014 (3)
I only have two minor gripes with the model: One, the position of the head seems ever so slightly strange, even though it makes sense in context. But the way the model goes together means that the head is basically locked at that precise angle, unless you invest more time and create a more involved conversion.

By the same token, I realise that this guy is part of the Blood Angels release, but wouldn’t a generic Librarian have made more sense? Sure, the two or three BA icons should be easy enough to get rid of, but this makes it all the more strange that GW didn’t just release this guy as a vanilla model — he would have been quite a bit more useful that way…

All in all, it’s a pretty strong model, though.

Blood Angels Tactical Squad

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Okay, here’s where the “recycling” process I mentioned above hits full swing, because the Blood Angels Tactical Squad is basically a mashup of the recent “vanilla” tactical kit, the Sternguard kit and some Death Company and Sanguinary Guard bitz thrown in for flavour. It’s easy enough to spot a multitude of familiar bitz, so this is really pretty obvious.

Among the new parts are a few pretty nice head variants, by the look of it. I really like the helmet of the Marine on the right, for example:

Blood Angels release 2014 (10)Interestingly enough, the “BA-ification” really falls flat on some of the parts. For instance, the rebreather head was possibly one of the coolest bitz from the tactical kit, but looks pretty silly with an added BA hairdo added on top:

Blood Angels release 2014 (9)
In fact, can I just say that I am really not a big fan of the one Blood Angels hairstyle we get? Seriously, I see what they were going for, but that kind of hairstyle just ends up looking pretty daft when combined with a Marine’s somewhat exaggerated features — and it’s the only type of hair we get for our Blood Angels, for crying out loud. Instead of making them look like classical statures, they just seem like pampered children with that stupid hair — but maybe that’s just me.

Beyond such nitpicking, however, I think this is a rock-solid kit. Does it bring something new to the table? No, because it’s mostly a mashup of pre-existing assets. But that is actually its strong suit: It gives Blood Angels players an updated troop box with all the recent weapon options and some nice bitz thrown in for flavour and decoration. Certainly a nonessential purchase if you already have 3,000 points of Marines knocking about, but a very useful resource for starting a new army!

So, great for (new) BA players, everyone else may pass.

 

Blood Angels Assault Terminators

Blood Angels release 2014 (15)
As with the “vanilla” Assault Terminators, these guys come in two flavours and can be armed with either twin lightning claws or thunder hammers and storm shields. Let’s look at both variants in turn:

Blood Angels release 2014 (12)
I am a huge fan of Lightning Claws, but the LC Termies get the short end of the stick, if you ask me: Maybe I’ve just never realised this before, but loyalist lightning claws seem to have a way of jutting out of their gauntlets at a slightly strange angle, taking away some of the dynamism. This is especially obvious on the more dynamically posed models:

Blood Angels release 2014 (14)Just look at the model on the left: It looks like the claws should really be curved inwards, in order to better underline the model’s composition, but there they are, straight and clunky — has this been as noticeable on the generic assault Terminators as well, I wonder?

The Terminators with thunder hammer fare far better, at least in my opinion:

Blood Angels release 2014 (15)
There’s just something wonderfully massive and threatening about Terminators armed with the old hammer/shield combo. Plus I really like the champion, with his added armour plates and robe:

Blood Angels release 2014 (11)
Both variants profit from beautifully detailed armour and lots and lots of BA trinkets that really make them look like the chapter’s elite first company. It’s also very obvious that huge parts of this kit have been heavily inspired by (and reused from) the Space Hulk Terminators — just look at the small armour plates on the thunder hammer sergeant, for example. But that in itself is really a good thing, because it allows players to field Terminators that are visually on par with the truly excellent Space Hulk models without having to pay over-inflated ebay prices for the original models.

There is one substantial problem however: You pay for this opportunity by way of a serious reduction in modeling flexibility! A look at the sprue reveals that the bodies are constructed pretty much like those of snap-fit Terminators: Each Terminator’s legs and torso are one piece, with the chestplate and head also fused together. The arms and shoulder pads are separate parts — but the fact remains that these Terminators are a huge step back from the versatility we know!

Granted, if you like to build your models by the book, this shouldn’t even be such a big problem to begin with, but if you’re an avid converter and kitbasher, like me, this seems somewhat worrying, because we end up with a multi part kit that is severely less flexible than some of the kits we know and love. If this is only limited to one kit, it becomes a bit of a non-issue, since you are free to get the regular, more flexible Terminators. But one has to wonder what ramifications this may have for future releases…

 

Bonus Content: First Captain Karlaen

Blood Angels release 2014 (18)
During my release of the Tyranid second wave, I threw in a look at the Spawn of Cryptus, seeing how Shield of Baal: Deathstorm was basically released back to back with the new kits. So let’s do the same for the Blood Angels character from the same kit, Captain Karlaen.

At first glance, what we have here is a massive Blood Angels Captain wearing suitably ornate Terminator armour, purposefully striding forward — so far so good, right?

The problem is that Karlaen suffers from exactly the same problem as the Spawn af Cryptus, although it’s even more pronounced here:
Where the Spawn of Cryptus was a more or less straightforward “remix” of the Space Hulk Broodlord (with most of the strengths of the original model being kept intact),  Karlaen tries something a little more adventurous in that the model seemingly attempts to incorporate elements from two different sources. Just compare the picture above with this…

Blood Angels release 2014 (20)…and this:

Blood Angels release 2014 (19)
It looks like the model for Karlaen is a hybrid between these two Space Hulk models — and the bad news is: It’s decidedly less interesting and imposing than either of them. Now this wouldn’t be much of a problem if Karlaen were any old Termie, but he is supposed to be the Blood Angels’ first captain — their most accomplished warrior and commander,  second only to Lord Commander Dante — and he ends up looking like an okay-ish kitbash made from two superior Space Hulk models. And again with the stupid hair — sorry GW, not nearly good enough!

 

Conversion options:

It goes without saying that this release has really been tailored towards Blood Angels players first and foremost, with the amount of BA iconograpgy present really making conversions and kitbashes  beyond Blood Angels and their successor chapters slightly more complicated. That said, I still have a few simple ideas for conversions using the new kits.

  • The most obvious point is that many bitz from this release should make very nice additions to BA players’ bitzbox, allowing them to introduce even more flavour and ornamentation into their armies — and that’s always a good thing!
  • By the same token, some of the bitz should be equally useful in other Space Marine armies — I am especially thinking of stuff like heads, armour plates or cool weapons. Come to think of it, some of those swords should look pretty cool on INQ28 characters as well.
  • It should be easy enough to convert the Terminator Librarian to represent a Librarian from a different chapter — just shave off some of the iconography and you’re there. But then again, that’s why the model should have come in vanilla flavour in the first place 😉
  • The ostentatiousness of BA armour makes these kits a really good source for bitz when it comes to something as eccentric as, say, kitbashing a Legio Custodes army: So far, I’ve made ample use of BA bitz for that project, and I imagine some of the new bitz will come in handy as well, sooner or later.
  • Finally, the Sanguinary Priest has to be the most interesting part of this release when it comes to conversions: He could be used as a great base for a suitably impressive BA character — or even for a plastic Mephisto conversion? And I think he would make a pretty awesome Inquisitor with a bit of work — in fact, I’ve recently purchased the model in pursuit of exactly such a conversion, so watch this space… 😉

 

All in all, this is certainly a solid  release, even if it’s mostly useful for BA players. Where most of the other releases this year tried to bring something new to the table, this release wave for the Blood Angels mainly focuses on refining and rounding out the existing catalogue — which is an equally viable approach, I might add! But the models are looking great and the amount of bitz we can get out of the new kits should be a pretty big help to those with BA and BA successor armies.

The general direction of the release does outline one thing that does have possible ramifications for the future that are both good and a little worrying:

In the age of digital sculpting, it is obviously possible to re-use assets and, what’s more, to recombine them with other kits in order to quickly generate custom kits for different chapters — and that is certainly a great option, because it opens up the possibility for all kinds of conversions and customisations: We are already pretty close to having dedicated troop boxes for most of the first founding legions, but this becomes even more interesting when you think about Traitor Legions, Eldar Craftworlds or what have you.

On the other hand, a possible pitfall of such a way of design seems to be the threat of kits that are far less flexible: The clamshell characters are an example of this, albeit not an egregious one — it’s still fairly easy to use them for kitbashing and converting. At the same time, however, the multi part Space Marine kits have always been among the most flexible and versatile kits produced by GW, and seeing a Terminator kit that gets rid of a substantial chunk of flexibility like that does seem a little worrying — at least to a passionate kitbasher like me…

It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here, to say the least!

 

So, what’s your take on the new models? And do you have any conversion ideas of your own to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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

More Dakka!

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2013 by krautscientist

Even after my seaside vacation, my current enthusiasm for working on my World Eaters remains. While that may be bad news for all those of you who frequent my blog for one of my other projects, don’t fret: I am very likely to resume work on the INQ28 and Custodes stuff before long! I just want to make the most of the motivation for working on my main army while it lasts. So let me show you the things I am currently working on, most of them squarely falling into the category of heavy fire support…

 

1. Just for fun…

The first thing I did after finishing my – rather involved – Wargrinder conversion was to kitbash another humble gladiator for my growing squad of gladiatorial World Eaters. Working on a humble 28mm footsoldier was a great way to relax, and so I was quickly able to get this guy built. Take a look:

World Eaters Gladiator 03 (4)
World Eaters Gladiator 03 (5)
World Eaters Gladiator 03 (6)
I believe I have mentioned before how I wanted to try and feature different kinds of gladiatorial weapons across the squad, so the newest recruit is wielding the ever-stylish chain glaive. Not a big project, to be sure, but a nice way to unwind after a more involved piece…

 

2. The Forge never sleeps….

Next up is a Forgefiend. I picked up the kit way back when I started working on my Heldrake conversion and never really managed to move beyond the basic construction. So I sat down to assemble and undercoat the model right after returning from my holiday — must have had something to do with renewed energies and all that…

While I realise that many people don’t like the Forgefiend design, dubbing the model “Dinobot” (or even worse), I have to admit that I am really rather fond of the kit: It adds a visual flourish to the CSM army that other forces don’t have. And for a World Eaters force, the fact that the fiend looks a lot like a larger Juggernaut of Khorne (the model was even inspired by the juggernaut, according to Jes Goodwin) helps, of course.

So I almost feel a little guilty admitting that I left the stock model virtually unaltered — I know, a shocking turn of events 😉

Here’s a look at the model so far:

Forgefiend WIP (2)
Forgefiend WIP (3)
Due to the fact that almost every model in my army has been converted in some way, leaving the Forgefiend as it was almost felt a little lazy. However, I didn’t really want to convert for the sake of conversion, and I didn’t feel I had any huge changes to make to the model. Using the Maulerfiend arms and the Forgefiend cannons at the same time (with the cannons mounted on the model’s back, as has been done my multiple hobbyists) would have been a pretty cool idea, but in the end I decided against it. That way, I had more leftover bitz to play around with — one of the Forgefiend cannons was already used on my Wargrinder, as you might recall, and you can expect to see those Maulerfiend arms pretty soon, as well.

Anyway, my main addition to the model, apart from some decorative skulls on the shoulder armour, was the tail of an Ogre Kingdoms Stonehorn: I really love the horrible, bony growth at the tip of the tail, and I also thought having a longer tail really improved the model’s overall silhouette:

Forgefiend WIP (1)
Forgefiend WIP (4)
Oh, and I also added a juggernaut’s collar to the Forgefiend’s neck, representing the archetypal Collar of Khorne:

Forgefiend WIP (5)
All in all, I am rather happy with the model, a slight lingering guilt over not doing a super-involved conversion notwithstanding… I guess that this will be the next bigger model to be painted, once I manage to summon up the motivation for it.

 

3. The Behemoths

And finally, what is probably my most ambitious project at the moment: The Behemoths. So what is this about?

It’s no secret that Obliterators are a rather valuable part of the Chaos Space Marine army list. At the same time, I also have this strange urge to own an appropriate version of all (or at least most) of the unit selections in the Codex for my army. So far, this has made me convert a custom Dark Apostle and Warpsmith for the HQ slot, come up with some renegade Space Wolves to serve as “regular” CSM, and so on.

The one selection I could not find a suitable approach for were the Obliterators: I really dislike the current models for these guys, for one. And the mutated, fleshy look really didn’t fit the concept of my army (where mutation is kept to a minimum, due both to my aesthetic preferences and background reasons). I also didn’t want to go the easy route of simply getting some stock Obliterators, painting them in the colours of a different legion or warband, and using them as “allies”, because that seemed like a rather cheap cop out to me.

So I waited and collected pictures of Obliterator conversions I liked and quietly prayed for inspiration to hit. And I swore to myself that I wouldn’t use Obliterators until I had found a way of representing them on the table in a way that felt true to both my taste and the overarching concept of my army. I didn’t find such an option for the best part of two years.

But then, the new Space Marines were released, and as I mentioned in my recent review, the longer I looked at the new Centurions, the more I felt that these could be my ticket to finally building the Obliterators that I wanted: not mutated and unsightly giants, but hulking and baroque combat suits, a holdover from the more civilised days of the 12th Astartes Legion. So I started throwing around some ideas, and I ended up with this small background sketch:

Even in an army as focused on combat at close quarters as the World Eaters‘ 4th assault company, there are those who hunt by different means. These brothers of the company are called the Behemoths, and they are an enigma to even their brethren.

During the Great Crusade, the armies of the Legiones Astartes were faced with an ever increasing number of deadly adversaries. Often enough, wars were only to be won by attrition, and the head-on assaults led by the death seeking Primarch Angron were threatening to bleed the 12th Astartes legion dry before long. While Angron seemed oblivious or even indifferent towards such concerns, there were those among his officers who sought a more balanced kind of warfare, at least until the bite of their Butcher’s Nails consumed the remnants of their sanity.

It is said that, during this time, First Apothecary Fabrikus himself experimented on a number of battle brothers, trying to adapt their cranial implants to a different kind of fight. These warriors were outfitted with heavy combat suits, almost on par with the fabled Dreadnoughts. Their suits were equipped with a plethora of heavy weapons, and where the regular World Eaters would throw themselves at the enemy with wild abandon, the so-called Behemoth squads would hang back and lay down a barrage of heavy fire. For Fabrikus had changed the battle brothers’ minds yet again, hardwiring their implants to their weapons systems. The members of the Behemoth squads started to find grim joy in killing, just like the rest of their legion, but the greatest joy for them was to pick out enemies from afar, tearing through flesh and steel alike with bursts of laser fire and plasma, and seeing a red marker turning green in their targeting recticles.

The Behemoths remained and experimental unit that only saw limited use during the Crusade and subsequent Heresy: The weapons systems they were outfitted with proved too difficult to maintain during the arduous campaigns, and Angron would always favour a more hands-on approach. Yet some of the Behemoths endured, most of them among the warriors of Khorne’s Eternal Hunt.

There, these frightening giants still fill the role of heavy fire support, yet the long centuries and millennia have wrought havoc upon their minds: Growing ever more divorced from their humanity, Behemoths are more machine than man, gripped by a tranquil fury where their regular brethren are openly angry. They can only perceive life through their targeting systems, and each situation becomes an equation that can only be solved by heavy fire. They tend to see living beings as either targets or inconsequential elements, even referring to their battle brothers as “fleshkin”.

When away from the battlefield, the Behemoths are normally content to spent time in deep, deathlike sleep. They dream of worlds burning and planets shattering under a barrage of heavy fire, while the other members of the company take relief in the knowledge that their troubled brethren are not at large. Even in an army of frenzied killers, the Behemoths are perhaps the most inhuman of all, since for them life and death are the only variables at any given time, and death is always the preferable outcome…

So it was decided: I would build a squad of counts as Obliterators, and I would use the Centurion kit for it. I won’t lie to you, there was also the fact that I had the somewhat silly ambition to build something cool from the kit everybody loves to hate 😉

So, ironically enough, the most-reviled kit of the release was actually a day one purchase for me.

It has to be said, though, that I am at the very early planning stages of this project, and am currently just messing around in order to discover what I could do with the kit. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the kit as I go along — maybe it’ll be helpful for you too! So consider this a mini-review/early WIP kind of affair — seems like you’ll be getting quite a bit of mileage out of this one post, dear readers…

Anyway, after picking up the kit, this is what I ended up with:

Centurions_first_look (1)
Let’s not talk about the decal sheet, obviously, because it’s standard fare. The instruction booklet is a rather hefty tome, however, on account of the kit being rather complex. Each of the three sprues that come with the kit is packed with bits, containing all the possible equipment options as well as a unique pose and individual (loyalist) decoration for each of the models:

Centurions_first_look (2)
The thing to note here is that assembling a Centurion with any given kind of equipment will invariably give you lots of leftover weapon bitz: You get three sets of long range weapons (lascannons, heavy bolters and a grav cannon) and one set of CC weapons (siege drills that come with optional flamers or meltaguns) for each model, so there will be a lot of leftovers.

As an interesting aside, I also discovered that the Centurions’ bases (slightly bigger than a Terminator base in diameter) are a perfect fit for those resin parts that come with the 40k basing kit:

Centurions_first_look (4)
So it obviously wasn’t some kind of production slip up after all…

Centurions_first_look (3)
Why GW would make these resin parts fit a type of base that virtually never gets used across the whole catalogue instead of the much more prolific terminator base is clearly beyond me. Still, mystery solved!

Deciding how my Obliterators will be armed will take some time, I believe: I will probably go for mixed weapons, representing their ability to use different weapons each turn. The lascannons can be used out of the box. Beyond that, I guess I’ll convert the heavy bolters to look like autocannons / assault cannons. Plus I’ll swap in a flamer or plasma cannon here and there. For now, let’s focus on some of the bitz that come with the kit, because these could come in handy even if you’re not trying to build Centurions in the first place!

The kit comes with seven heads: four of them with helmets, three bare. The helmet crest that you can see on the sergeant in the official photos is a seperate, optional part (which is pretty cool). I played around with the heads a bit and took some photos to show you how they look on regular Marine models:

Centurions_first_look (5)
First up, the helmeted head variant on a regular (Chaos) Space Marine body: Although it seems a little clunky, it clearly works. With its look halfway between a terminator and regular power armour helmet, this could be an interesting option for Iron Warriors or Iron Hands. Or a suitable headdress for a Techmarine/Warpsmith? Unfortunately, the heads don’t fit into a terminator body’s head cavity, so you won’t be able to use them on your terminators without some serious cutting.

Even more interesting are the bare heads, since those are scaled to perfectly fit the existing Marine models. Take a look:

Centurions_first_look (6)
I chose the one with the open mouth and mohawk, since I thought it was a pretty good fit for a World Eater. These have pretty nice facial expressions, and while I think they do look rather silly when combined with the hulking Centurion bodies, they should be really useful for your other infantry models.

They also look really good on Terminators:

Centurions_first_look (7)
Another thing you can see in the picture above is that the Centurions’ shoulder pads are great if you want to add that special Pre-Heresy/artificer armour look to your Terminators, since they make for rather convincing terminator pauldrons as well:

Centurions_first_look (8)
Centurions_first_look (9)
Centurions_first_look (10)

So there’s really nothing stopping you from replacing those shoulder pads with something different on the Centurions and using the originals on your army commander or something similar.

And finally, the flamers and meltaguns that come with the kit are just about the right size to be used on regular infantry, if you want to be thrifty:

Centurions_first_look (12)
Centurions_first_look (13)
Granted, the meltagun might need some work to fit perfectly. But if you ask me, the slightly shorter muzzle on the flamer makes it look more special ops like, if that makes any sense.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, really. So whether or not you like the Centurions, the kit will give you lots of extra stuff. Even if you use it to build a squad of three Centurions, there will be quite a few leftovers, which is always a plus in my book.

As for my own “Behemoth” squad, like I said, I am in the very early planning stages. It quickly became obvious that the Centurions are a rather complex kit, and I will need to take some sound decisions about what to glue together before painting, so I will take my time with this project. For now, I have tacked together one Centurion body and begun experimenting with a couple of bitz. This is all really WIP, and nothing is finalised. So if you think the model looks rather silly, rest assured that I’ll be doing my best to change that 😉

Anyway, here goes:

Centurions_first_look (14)
So far, I have only shaved some loyalist engravings off the right leg armour and replaced them with an icon of Khorne. Apart from that, the body’s still as stock as can be (as evidenced by the sprawling Aquila on the chest plate). As for the conversion, I am considering replacing the armour plates on the upper legs with ogre gutplates or Chaos Marauder shields for a more chaotic look (and a visual connection to the rest of my army).

Apart from that, my one main experiment for now was to use several chaotic heads on the body:

Centurions_first_look (15)
Centurions_first_look (16)
Centurions_first_look (17)
Centurions_first_look (18)Centurions_first_look (19)
As I said, nothing spectacular so far — although it’s nice to know that some of the heads look quite alright (I really like the WoC skull helmet). All in all, I’ll probably be using the regular Centurion heads with added bunny ears, though.

Anyway, I am still in the very early stages of this particular project, although I can promise you I’ll give it my all to make these guys look as cool as I have envisioned them.

 

So yeah, those are the next World Eaters projects I am working on! I’ll keep you updated about their progress, of course! And I would love to hear your opinion, so you’re very welcome to share any thoughts you might have in the comments section!

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

The Big One: A look at the new Space Marines

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by krautscientist

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last fee weeks, the relentless barrage of Space Marine related rumourmongering cannot have escaped your notice. And now, the cat is finally out of the bag: The new Space Marines are here in the kind of ‘no holds barred’ release that I would have loved to see for chaos as well. But let’s not get bitter here: The Space Marines are undoubtedly GW’s most recognisable property as well as a cornerstone of both the 40k universe and, one would imagine, GW’s business. So it’s no surprise that they should give it their all this time around.

With the new models now upon us, it is once again time here at Eternal Hunt to take a closer look at the release, point out the good and the bad and, of course, think about all the delicious conversion opportunities that arise from this release. Let’s go:

Space Marine release (1)
The book itself once again features the kind of cover artwork introduced by the last releases. Unfortunately, the art itself isn’t quite as awesome this time around, if you ask me. But that’s not really a problem, because if you’re fast enough, you can order yourself a special edition in almost any colour of the rainbow:

Space Marine release (1b)
Seriously, though, offering separate covers for some of the more influential first and second founding chapters is certainly a nice touch and a bit of fanservice! Plus it may actually make the Black Templars players around the world a little less grumpy. I mean, yeah, they folded your army back into the Marine Codex, sure, but at least they’re throwing you a bone. I, for one, am still holding out for those rumoured supplements detailing the mono-god traitor legions.
Funnily enough, of all the different variants, the Ultramarines art appeals most to me for some reason, and I am certainly not a huge Ultramarines aficionado. In any case, the price for these editions is just silly, so I think I’ll pass…

It goes without saying that the contents of the book will be passionately discussed for the weeks and months to come: Already, cries of outrage can be heard all over the hobby scene, since it seems like Marines do it all — and better. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how all of this plays out eventually. In any case, we’re not here to talk about the rules, so let’s take a look at the models already:

 

Space Marine Centurions

Space Marine release (2)
Ah, yes: The elephant in the room. The kit everyone already loves to hate. Let me start by saying that having to wedge completely new Space Marine units into an already meticulously defined lore and game system cannot be an enviable task for a designer. Last time around, they took the safe route with the Sternguard and Protector Guard  – basically regular (Assault) Marines in blinged out armour – then they got a little more gutsy with the Stormtalon, and we all know how that went. So this time, the Space Marines get what basically amounts to loyalist Obliterators.

I’ll be honest with you: At first, I was less than impressed with the models. In fact, I was prepared to cry blue murder, along with the best of them. But then something funny happened: The more I saw of these guys, the better I liked them. Oh, make no mistake, the sculpts are not without their problems (the legs still look too clunky for me and will probably take a lot of getting used to, for instance). But for some reason, I find these guys rather fascinating.

Now I don’t have any idea yet how these were retconned into the existing fluff: I guess they’ll either pretend that these existed all along, or have them be based on a rediscovered STC design. But for one crazy moment there, I thought to myself: I get it. The Astartes have seen what the Tau can do with their crazy combat suits and are now saying: We want a part of that.

I have no idea whether that’s actually where the design came from (probably not), but if seen from that perspective, the models suddenly make a lot of sense: They really look like Tau suits reverse engineered by way of the clunky Imperial technology.

I also like them not so much for what they are but for the conversion potential: As somehow who has always disliked the rather unwholesome looking Obliterator models, I cannot help feeling that the Centurions could finally be a perfect way of converting some truly awesome Obliterators for my army. But more on that later…

The one thing I really dislike about the models is the look of the CC option that comes with the kit:

Space Marine release (3)
Those siege drills really don’t work for me. Maybe it’s because they look too much like something you would find at the dentist’s. Maybe it’s the fact that these guys seem to fill a slot that didn’t need any filling in the first place. In any case, the artillery option makes more sense and looks better, in my opinion.

Let me just point out a couple of small details that occured to me:

Space Marine release (5)
One, Dave Thomas, the designer of the kit, pointed out in WD that the Marine piloting the suit has his arms crossed over his chest. While that sounds like an enormously uncomfortable position to hold for an entire battle, I really like how the Centurions’ dedicated unit badge reflects that small bit of lore.

I am also fascinated with the helmets, halfway between a regular power armoured helm and that of a Terminator. Oh, and it seems like that helmet crest (seen on the right) is an optional bit. Very nice! I also think the bare heads that come with the kit (and that do look slightly silly on the heavily armoured models) could work great for World Eaters with their extremely angry expressions, shouting mouths and head implants that would make for fairly convincing Butcher’s Nails.

I also like the fact that the back of the leg is really similar to the legs of a Dreadknight:

Space Marine release (4)
A very nice bit of visual consistency there!

So, all in all, I started out hating these, but now I am beginning to grow rather fond of them. A sign of my rampant fanboyism, perhaps? Maybe. But even though these guys may not be for everyone, at least the designer wasn’t afraid to try something new, and I can always appreciate that!

In closing, let me get one small nerd gripe off my chest: Centurion was an actual commander rank during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy, right? Now why would they call a completely unrelated combat suit by the same name 10,000 years later? Couldn’t they have come up with a different name? Couldn’t they have been called Colossus, for crying out loud? Yeah, I know, I need to get a life…

 

Space Marine Tactical Squad

Space Marine release (6)
Well, this one was possibly overdue: Even though the old tactical sprue had been slightly touched up for one of the last Codex releases, the tactical Marines were pretty much the oldest kit still in existence, having originally been introduced at the start of 3rd edition. So now they finally get a true update. And, well, what did you expect? These guys still look like Space Marines, that much is for sure.

Seriously though, instead of just adding some inconsequential decoration, the designers seem to have gone for some serious re-engineering this time around, making sure the tactical sprue – certainly the bread and butter of every Marine army – now boasts lots and lots of options.

For Marine players, the most important ones will possibly be the weapons options, complete with new grav weapons, although the improvements don’t stop there: For one, it seems like some of the models now boast a somewhat more upright pose due to their legs. This is a very welcome change, since the notoriously crouched legs really get old once you have built about a hundred Astartes models.

We also get a bigger variety of parts from armour marks, among them some Mk IV legs and a full suit of Mk VI Corvus armour:

Space Marine release (7)
For someone like me, who has been experimenting with kitbashing older armour strictly from GW plastic parts for my Legio Custodes project, this is  a very welcome addition indeed! And call me a little weird, but my favourite parts in any Marine kits are usually the bare heads:

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I love building my (traitor) Marines bareheaded, because (while it makes no sense from a combat perspective) it’s a great way of adding individuality and character to the models. And the new heads certainly don’t disappoint: The one on the left with the slightly gladiatorial mohawk would be great for eather a World Eater or a Custodes model, while the rebreather mask is awesome (and would work like a charm on a champion of Nurgle, if you ask me…).

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With the old tactical Marines slowly beginning to show their age, It’s also interesting to note how the new kit seems to be all sharp lines and crisp detail:

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This is especially evident on the new Corvus helmet that now seems to have some murch sharper lines as well (almost making it look a little duck-like…):

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Anyway, having a new version of this kit probably was a sheer necessity, and GW did a nice job of  making it as comprehensive as possible. At 35 Euros for ten Marines, this is also possibly the best bang for the buck out of all the new kits, although the new Marines are still more expensive than their older incarnation. On the other hand, they do come with lots and lots of options. With the new design, these can finally hold their ground against kits like the Space Wolves or Blood Angles Death Company again. Nice job, GW!

 

Space Marine Sternguard:

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Wow, this kit is certainly one of the stars of the show for me! While nice, the old Sternguard models always seemed a little conventional to me. But the new kit not only provides a way of building plastic Sternguard, but should also be a great kit for simply adding a little oomph to your commanders and squad leaders and basically for building badass-looking models.

Once again, the kits comes with lots and lots of options. And once again, it’s the heads that I am drawn to first:

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The head on the left has to be one of my favourite Astartes heads ever: It looks just as grizzled and noble as befits an honoured warrior of the Legiones Astartes. That makes it a perfect fit for chaptermaster, a Legio Custodes character or even an Inquisitor. The head on the right is not quite as awesome, but it also gets the grizzled veteran look right, at least.

It seems that providing lots and lots of modelling and equipment options was once again the order of the day. And while Space Marine players will be happy with the many equipment options (especially the combi-weapons, I imagine), it’s bitz like this that make me stupidly happy:

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When it comes to the models themselves, the greatest things about them are the highly ostentatious pieces of armour as well as the added bulk when compared to normal Marines:

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You instantly know that these guys are bad news. Also, that power fist is looking fantastic…

All in all, I expect this kit to sell like hotcakes: Not only does it offer the option to build plastic Sternguard, but it looks like the new go to kit when it comes to making awesome character kitbashes. Definitely one of the high points of the release for me, and possibly one of the kits I might purchase myself.

 

Space Marine Protector Guard

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You can’t have one without the other, so we get a Protector Guard kit along with the Sternguard. And while it’s great to get yet another unit type in glorious plastic, I somehow think these are less impressive than the Sternguard. Maybe it’s the fact that they look like a similarly impressive unit could be built by simply using some additional bitz on a regular squad of assault marines? Maybe it’s a problem with the picture, though, because the alternate squad of Raven Guard built and painted by the GW studio looks awesome:

Space Marine release (17)I especially love the sergeant’s helmet!

Still, while the last incarnation of both unit types had the Protector Guard looking much cooler, the roles are reversed this time: The Protector Guard looks nice enough, but I feel the Sternguard takes the cake. However, I suppose this kit will be similarly succesful, since the amount of bitz makes it a useful purchase.

 

Hunter/Stalker

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There’s also a new vehicle combi-kit, albeit one based on the trusty old Rhino. The kit may be assembled as one of two tank variants, the Hunter or the Stalker. The design is nice enough and some of the visual touches (like the stabilisers) are nice, but you’ll probably forgive me for being unable to get excited over yet another Rhino variant.

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In all fairness, though, the Space Marines have received a couple of rather more interesting vehicle kits out of turn in the past, so it’s really not that much of a problem that this release doesn’t bring us a spectacular new vehcile kit. Moving on.

 

Characters

The Space Marines also get some new characters, and the most interesting thing to note is that they’re all plastic models. Are we seeing a change of strategy regarding Finecast? In any case, let’s take a closer look at the new models:

 

Space Marine Commander

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This guy certainly looks the part! But is it just me, or does he look like a slightly rejigged version of the Commander from the Assault on Black Reach boxed set? Here’s a comparison photo for you:

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Nope, definitely not my imagination: They seem to have used the same base model and then slightly redesigned it. Which, in all fairness, doesn’t have to be a bad thing: I have always liked the Black Reach Commander, and some of the added detail is really cool.  The fact that you get a crested helmet with the kit also means that you can build a plastic version of Captain Sicarius on par with (if not better than) the slightly malproportioned FC version.

The kit also gives you a different head option…

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…which is standard, slightly constipated looking Marine fare. Still, it’s good to have the option!

A look at the sprue reveals that not only should the model be easy enough to customise even further, but some of the bitz (like the heads and backpack) can easily be used on different models as well. I like that!

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The model is nice enough on its own, and I think it can be made to really shine with a bit of work. Here’s the catch, though: Seeing how this is basically a Black Reach Captain 2.0, the price point of 25 Euros seems particularly egregious in this case. If I wanted to build a new Marine commander similar to this one, I’d simply get a cheap Black Reach mini online and kitbash it into something on par with the new model. And there’s always the multipart Space Marine Commander as a cheaper option (although that one is slightly hampered by the fact that it is based on pretty standard Marine physiology and posing). Anyway, considering the price, there are lots of alternative options that will give you an equally impressive model.

 

Space Marine Chaplain

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Seeing how this is the first vanilla Marine chaplain available in plastic (the Dark Vengeance S.E. chaplain obviously doesn’t count), this is a nice addition to the Space Marine catalogue. However, the chaplain is only available as part of the Reclusiam Command Squad:

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While this makes lots of sense from a business perspective, using the new model to give the older kits in the set a bit of a leg up, it also seems like a bit of a dick move on GW’s part.

However, their website has this to say on the matter:

This includes a new plastic Chaplain, armed with a crozius arcanum and bolt pistol, which is currently only available with this box set.

That sounds like a separate release somewhere along the line isn’t totally out of the question, at least. So in case you don’t need that additional command squad and Razorback, I’d probably hold my breath for now, if I were you.

The model itself is pretty nice, but not really all that spectacular. The skull mask even looks silly in a slightly Skeletor-esque way, if you ask me. Fortunately, the kit also comes with an alternate head option that is much cooler (and seems like a shout out to a great 2nd edition metal chaplain):

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But a chaplain always looks more like a chaplain with a deathmask. Just sayin’…

A look at the sprue shows that it should once again be easy enough to use the different parts of the model for different projects as well.

Space Marine release (32)Again, considering the price, this is another model where it’s quite possible to kitbash something similarly impressive with existing bitz. But I appreciate the option of fielding yet another HQ option in plastic, even if it’s far too expensive 😉

 

Space Marine Librarian:

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Now we’re talking! This guy is certainly the best of the new characters, and maybe even my favourite part of the entire release. It’s great that Space Marine players now basically have plastic versions for all of their generic HQs, but even beyond that, this guy really shines. I especially love the fact that they have moved beyond the smooth shaven look for the Librarian’s face:

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His bearded face has an almost Merlinesque quality to it, and is a great fit for an experienced psyker. The head would also look great on a GK character or an Inquisitor! And in any case, the model is basically worth it for the creepy little cherub alone! One of the best bitz in GW’s entire catalogue!

The sprue picture also reveals that the Librarian should lend himself rather nicely to conversions:

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As you can see, it should be easy enough to swap in different legs or arms, which is brilliant. And both the head and cherub are separate pieces! Awesome!

From among the three plastic characters, this is the one I am almost guaranteed to purchase at some point. Sure, the price is just as high as that of the Commander, but the model is by far the most exciting and unique sculpt out of the three plastic characters. Defintely one of my favourite Space Marine models, hands down.

 

Conversion potential:

Right off the bat, I’ll happily admit that I may be slightly biased this month: With two of my hobby projects (my World Eaters and my Legio Custodes army) partly or mostly based on Marine parts, it goes without saying that the new stuff from this release would be easier to put to good use than, say, a Lizarman or Tau model.

That said, flexibility is one of the greatest strength of GW’s marine based kits: The fact that most bitz can be merrily mixed and matched makes kitbashing (traitor) Astartes models both one of the easiest as well as one of the most satisfying hobby activities for me. It goes without saying that the new kits bring lots and lots of interesting bitz to use for all kinds of conversion projects. Indeed, Marine players will probably have a field day with these, kitbashing and splicing bitz into their existing forces with gusto.

For me personally, I am really interested in some of the bare heads. This seems a silly detail, to be sure, but those faces should be great for adding some character to my armies, and some of the heads would work perfectly for both my World Eaters and Custodes.

The most interesting infantry kit would be the Sternguard, since the partly robed bodies seem perfect to build Custodes Praetorians or veterans of the Legio in older marks of power armour. For the other kits, I will probably try to stick to ebay, bitz sites and bitz swaps for getting my hands on some of the interesting parts.

Regarding the characters, I think I’ll pass on the commander and chaplain: The former is so similar to my already painted Black Reach Captain that I don’t see any room for yet another version of the model. And the latter, apart from being part of a pretty expensive boxed set for now, isn’t all that fantastic — I’d rather kitbash my own model if I ever had to. The Librarian, however, is truly awesome, and I will certainly get one at some point. I expect he will end up as some kind of Inquisitor, though, since neither my World Eaters nor my Custodes seem like ideal employers for a psyker.

And then there’s the one kit that really has me thrilled. The one kit everybody seems to hate: the Centurions. I know they are goofy. I know it will be a lot of work. But I have half a mind to use these as a base for converting some Obliterators for my World Eaters. Already, ideas are beginning to form in the back of my head. And what is there to lose: They probably won’t end up looking as horrible as the existing models, right? 😉

 

Anything else?

Actually, yes. It may feel like beating a dead horse, but I can’t wind up this review without talking about the price of some of these kits. I realise that GW’s pricing is a highly controversial subject, and I certainly won’t go into economics here. That said, a certain divide is evident with this release’s pricing:

The tactical Marines come at 35 Euros a pop. While that’s more expensive than the older tactical squad, the new kit looks sharper and features lots and lots of bitz. So in the context of GW’s overall catalogue, paying 35 Euros for a highly customisable infantry squad of ten doesn’t really seem so bad.

The Sternguard and Protector Guard are quite a bit more expensive, coming at 40 and 35 Euros for five models, respectively. Once again, I am inclined to let it slide, because the amount of (really useful) leftover bitz you’ll end up with even after completing the squad manages to sugarcoat that particular bitter pill for me.

The Centurions are a problem, though: 62 Euros for a squad of three? Whoa, that is a pretty penny! Sure, these guys may be big, but given the fact that the sculpt doesn’t seem to be all that popular, GW had better hope this works out for them (it probably will, though: I bet these will be super effective on the table, making them an auto-include). Still, even though I am interested in using these for a conversion project, the price tag is giving me pause.

The biggest problem for me, though, are the characters: For WFB, the plastic characters are usually a great – and fairly affordable – purchase. For some reason, however, 40k plastic characters are much more expensive than their WFB counterparts right off the bat. And 25 Euros for a standard size, single pose plastic model does seem pretty egregious — all the more so if it’s simply a touched up starter box model (the original of which can be had for a song on ebay). It’s true, in my opinion, that GW still produce the best 28mm plastic models available, but they also charge us rather outrageous prices for the benefit of using these delicious pieces of plastic, and it’ll be interesting to see how long this will realistically continue. Regarding the Space Marine characters, I’d advise you to check if kitbashing isn’t the more sensible option – apart from that Librarian, of course: That guy is wicked.

 

In closing…

All in all, this is certainly a rather strong release, but what did you expect? Space Marines continue to be GW’s most successful product, as evidenced by their site crashing under the onslaught auf pre-orders. The release provides Marine players all over the world with some fantastic new toys, and seeing all that beautiful plastic crack turn up in all kinds of different army and conversion projects will be a lot of fun. You’ll have to pay rather handsomely for the benefit of getting to play with the new stuff, though, so even the most diehard Space Marine fans should carefully consider which of the new kits are essential purchases. So, long story short: some fantastic models. Some not so fantastic prices. Business as usual in the 41st millennium.

 

So, what do you think of the new release? Are you itching for some Astartes goodness? Or are you foaming at the mouth when looking at  the price tags? Or both? And do you love or hate the Centurions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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