Oh my, it seems like I am really lagging behind with those reviews and in-depth explorations of GW’s recent releases. Sorry for that! In my defense, however, it just takes a certain dedication (not to mention motivation) to sit down and do detailed writeups about new models, particularly when it would probably more instantly-gratifying to build new stuff! 😉
Then again, there are just some thoughts about GW’s recent offerings that I would like to share, so I hope you’ll indulge me, even when the models I’ll be talking about have been with us for a while.
So for today, let us talk about the Ironjawz, GW’s first Age of Sigmar foray into the greenskin faction: In the interest of full disclosure, let me just preface this post by saying that I have loved GW’s greenskins ever since I got into this hobby: I loved the greenskin models in HeroQuest, even though there were basically only two designs. I loved the greenskin armies back when fantasy armies were still predominantly made from pewter models (so I bought the pretty expensive army book as a lad, only to realise that an army really wasn’t an option, given the limits of my monthly allowance). I loved the fact that GW included an Orc starter army in the 6th edition box and wanted to start an army — it didn’t really happen. But I still like GW’s greenskin designs to this day, whether they appear in 40k or AoS — I even created a kitbashed Blood Bowl team from plastic GW greenskins. So yeah, I am a fan, and have been for quite a while.
For me, GW’s greenskins have always managed to straddle the line between legitimately scary and darkly humorous. I am aware of the fact that some hobbyists, particularly in the Oldhammer scene, prefer the slightly more lighthearted take of the yesteryear to the heavily muscled and more intimidating modern Orcs (or “Orruks”, for that matter), but I like the modern look well enough, and I think having the greenskins be both funny and scary at the same time actually adds to their character.
So this release was interesting for me, both due to my general affection for the greenskins, but also because I was curious about how GW would bring the greenskins over into the Age of Sigmar setting: So far, AoS has mostly seemed like an escalation of vintage Warhammer designs to me: Like a redesigned Warhammer by way of videogame tropes, Masters of the Universe and particularly cheesy heavy metal album cover art — and this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, mind you!
The problem is that Age of Sigmar doesn’t really seem to have found its own voice yet, mostly due to the seeming lack of depth to its lore and setting: So far, it has mostly seemed like “Warhammer turned up to eleven”. This is a problem that should arguably diminish with each army and faction getting more fleshed out, so looking at the way GW has chosen to revisit one of its most iconic factions should be interesting. And, to address the elephant in the room, how much will the new greenkins resemble something out of World of Warcraft?
This is a really obvious question, of course: A wealth of anecdotal evidence suggests that Warcraft was basically born out of heaps of inspiration taken from GW’s greenskin designs. Some rumours even say that the whole Warcraft franchise might been intended as a GW-licensed Warhammer game at some point. Whether or not that’s true, there’s more than a little overlap between both universes, and now GW redesigns its own Orcs, with a feature length Warcraft film just around the corner — interesting times, indeed!
With those thoughts firmly wedged into the back of our collective head, let’s take a look at each of the new kits in turn:
Godrakk, the Fist of Gork
Every new release needs that huge centrepiece model, and the Ironjawz are no exception. They do get quite a beast of a model, though, and one that is, at once, pretty different from the Orc warlords on huge beasts we have seen so far and also fits right in. Allow me to explain:
For the last couple of releases (and, for that matter, editions), Orc warlords would invariably be riding on some kind of ambiguously serpentine reptilian — mostly a Wyvern. During the early 90s, those creatures shared the same precarious posing and general “S-shape” as all of GW’s dragons, and I imagine the similar design outline was mostly due to the problems of producing a huge metal model that wasn’t just a solid lump of pewter while still looking like some kind of dragon.
And somehow it never quite worked out: There was just some kind of visual disconnect between the burly, heavyset Orcs and those serpentine mounts. Which makes me like the new orcish — pardon, “Orruk-ish” riding beast, called the “Maw-Krusha” looks far more massive and imposing, as this just seems a far better match for the rest of the catalogue!
At the same time, it’s great how the Maw-Krusha manages to incorporate elements of various creatures that have been part of Greenskin armies for a long time: It even resembles the old wyvern to some degree, yet manages to replace the slightly awkward, serpentine look with something more fitting. The overall body shape and scaled hide also manages to recall the plastic River Trolls, which makes for an extra bit of visual consistency.
The kit provides two different heads for the Maw-Krusha: The one intended for “Bigteef” is masked and muzzled and features some slightly strange cloth drapings — I originally thought this was supposed to be some kind of enemy banner being devoured by the creature, which would have been pretty cool, but it really seems to be a decorative element. Oh well…
The alternative, unhelmenetd head, on the other side, may just be one of my favourite monster heads ever produced by GW:
It’s suitably monstrous, sure. Yet it also has that “crocodilian inquisitiveness”, for lack of a better word: You can definitely imagine the creature staring curiously at something before some neural switch at the centre of its tiny, tiny brain goes from “0” to “1” and it just goes crazy — just watch any documentary about crocodiles or alligators, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Anyway, the head just captures that expression perfectly, while also adding some subtle humour to the whole deal — which is, once again, a great fit for the greenskin faction!
In addition to the huge creatire, we also get an equally impressive Orruk warlord on top, of course. One option would be to use the kit to build Gordrakk himself:
And he really looks the part: From the massive armour to the impressive twin axes, this guy really looks like he means business! I also really like his screaming, one-eyed face:
Greenskin models are often sold by the quality of their faces, really, and this one has a lot of character. Jolly good show! The necklace with the dwarven beard and the back banner may be a tad much, but that’s not really a big problem, seeing how it should be easy enough to just leave those parts off, or replace them with some alternate bitz.
Speaking of which, the kit also provides alternate parts to build a generic Ironjawz warlord, and it’s certainly nice to have the extra options!
However, the idea of pairing a massive spear/halberd/thing with a monstrous knife/sword/thing (held in a reverse grip, no less), seems kind of nonsensical to me, even for an Orruk warlord (and believe me, as a World Eaters player, I am no stranger to modeling audacious weapon combinations). The alternate face is also slightly less interesting than Gordrakk’s ugly mug, unfortunately:
Then again, the iconic iron jaw bit and different back banner are interesting enough alternatives. All in all, though, it’s clear that Gordrakk was the focus of this model. And, in any case, there’s only so much leeway and customisation that the kit will allow, due to the specific poses of both the Maw-Krusha and its rider, so building three of these that look totally different would be quite a task indeed!
But all in all, the kit certainly provides a massive and impressive and thoroughly orky – or should that be “orruk-y” – centrepiece model for any greenskin force, and I really like the audacity of this guy. Very cool!
In addition to the massive warlord on Maw-Krusha, we also get a generic warlord on foot, and the easy way of looking at it would be to say that this is basically the Maw-Krusha rider without a Maw-Krusha 😉
But seriously, what’s great about this model, right out of the gate, is that it marks the concept of huge Orcs (or, again, “Orruks”) finally arriving in the GW’s fantasy setting: In 40k, the idea of Ork warlords being far bigger and more massive than their followers has long been a staple of both the lore and the actual models, yet in the world of WFB, orcish generals weren’t that much more imposing than their soldiers — and it’s great to finally see that remedied with this model.
I really like the look of the massive, crude armour. It seems a bit more extreme than the greenskin armour we have seen in WFB, but it’s still well within the parameters of GW’s established design without seeming as stylised as something you’d see in, say, WoW. Even so, a certain “escalation” is clearly obvious in the design. But it makes for a nice enough looking model.
My one substantial complaint about this model is that it would arguably have needed alternative weapons more urgently than the Maw-Krusha rider, seeing how this guy is meant to represent your generic Orruk warlord. Granted, it should be easy enough to swap in some weapons from some of the other kits, but it still seems like a bit of an oversight.
On a slightly less serious note, don’t get me started on those skulls,…
Aw, screw it, I just can’t help myself, so here goes: The obvious thing first: The model’s whole silhouette and look is really dominated by that huge saurian skull strapped to its right shoulder, and it’s an element that not everybody will be keen on. I have to admit that I would probably carefully cut it off myself, and replace it with something slightly less ostentatious.
The real headache begins once you start thinking about where that skull came from, however: It looks like the remains of some kind of Lizardma…ehhh Seraphon creature, doesn’t it? But aren’t the Seraphon ghostly creatures now? So how do they leave any skulls in the first place?
Sure, this could be the remains of any huge predator from any of the new realms, and not really a Seraphon skull. But what’s that on the Megaboss’s other shoulder? A Bloodletter skull? But aren’t Bloodletters daemons? Then how do they leave skulls in the first place…? Like I said, it’s best not to even start thinking about it — how can an Orruk Megaboss make creatures without bones leave bones? Because he’s just that awesome! ‘Nuff said! 😉
Semantics aside, however, it’s a nice enough model and certainly one of the release’s most interesting pieces of conversion fodder. One or two parts of the model may be a bit too cartoony for my taste, but those should be easy enough to get rid of, so this guy gets a pass.
On a semi-related note, wouldn’t you agree with me that the model just looks so much better with red armour…?
Orruk Weirdnob Shaman
Shamans and magicians have always been a thoroughly weird part of greenskin society — it’s even part of their name there, see? – and so this guy’s slightly spastic look and pose are a great fit! He really looks as though he were being controlled by powers beyond his control (or by far too much fungus beer, but yeah…), and the model does a great job of communicating that feeling. Maybe the best part of the shaman is the priceless look on his face:
On the other hand, there are two parts of the model I really don’t like. One is the pair of horns or tusks awkwardly bound to the shaman’s head. A quick look at the sprue reveals that this part should, once again, be easy enough to get rid of, though.
My least favourite part is that smoke effect emerging from the top of the staff: It just seems silly – as sculpted smoke and magical effects are wont to do – and I’d get rid of it in a heartbeat. Kudos to the ‘Eavy Metal Team, though, for managing to paint it exactly like something from the cover of a 70s prog-rock album! 😉
Anyway, all in all, it’s a nice enough model, and having a plastic Shaman/Weirdboy available should be very useful for both AoS and 40k players alike.
This is probably my least favourite part of this release: The concept of a drummer/chanter/shaman type character seems pretty tired and unoriginal at the best of times. What makes matters even worse, however, is that, while the other models from the release manage to carefully flirt with the cartoony, videogamey Warcraft look, this guy just embraces it as hard as he can and ends up looking like some kind of WoW reject: The armour, those clunky bones — my immediate feeling was that this wasn’t a GW model at all, but a model produced by some other, smaller company during the late 90s. He just seems overly cartoony and bland to me.
The model’s only saving grace is, once again, the face: It’s really rather lovely:
But all things considered, it’s not enough to excuse the clunky, unoriginal rest of the miniatured. The Warchanter is easily the weakest part of this release, in my opinion, as the model seems more like an afterthought.
At first galnce, this basically seems like the fantasy version of 40k’s Ork Nobz kit. And just like that kit, this box allows us to build five rather massive …Orruks that are armoed to the teeth — so far, so good!
The bulky models in their massive, crude armour should be quite a sight on the tabletop, and I really like the juxtaposition of the heavily muscled bodies and the jagged, primitive armour plates:
These guys really seem tough as nails, and they manage to fit the new Age of Sigmar aesthetic while also fitting in with older greenskin models, which is certainly not mean feat! I also like the wealth of options provided in the kit, at least according to a closer look at the various sprues!
If I have one gripe with the Brutes, it’s that some of the weapon designs just seem a bit too much: That massive, two-handed cleaver? The strange crab-claw? Those look more like toys than weapons, really — like the designers were trying just a bit too hard to make those weapons “uber-awesome”:
Maybe the problem is that these guys are just a bit too serious: They seem to be trying just as hard as GW’s sculptors 😉
All in all, however, the kit itself seems to provide a lot of options and a wealth of extra bitz, so it still stands as one of the best parts of the release, in my opinion.
This kit seems like an interesting addition, mostly because the plastic Orc Boarboyz are one of the more recent greenskin kits — and arguably one of the coolest. And now we are already seeing yet another escalation of the concept in the shape of even bigger and more heavily armoured Ironjawz Boarboyz — or rather, “Goregruntaz” (*sigh*).
The overall concept of a more heavily armoured greenskin cavalry is pretty cool in and of itself, though, and so are the riders: In fact, they are possibly my favourite part of the kit for a somewhat strange reason: Call me crazy, but their armour seems strangely reminiscent of the vintage Horus Heresy Cataphractii design , complete with the topknot sadly missing from FW’s Cataphractii. The jagged spears are, once again, ever so slightly over the top, but it’s less obvious here than with some of the more outlandish brute weapons. What’s more, the kit also seems to be packed to the brim with excellent bitz and faces. I mean, just check out that guy with the eyepatch. That has to be one of the coolest greenskin faces around:
The kit’s bigges weakness, on the other hand, are the boars, unfortunately: GW already had the perfect boars with their plastic Boarboy models, but it seems like they needed to turn this design up to eleven for the Goregruntaz, and they weren’t entirely successful with that. Some parts of the boars are quite cool (the armour matching the riders, for instance), but then you get to those enormous, far too large heads with those teribbly clunky beards and OTT dagger teeth, and you just cannot unsee that part.
Granted, the problem is less prominent on some heads. The armoured one is looking quite okay:
But the one with the wide open maw is easily the worst offender: It just seems clunky and, once again, overly cartoony to me:
Which brings me back to one of my main points of cricticsm about quite a few AoS kits, really: In order to make them ever more extreme and ultra-awesome, some of the restrain that makes a truly outstanding model is lost. If anything, those models need to be somewhat less extreme and over the top! I would argue that the Goregruntaz would have profited from a slightly more restrained design — or maybe even from reusing the existing boars with some additional armour plates?
As it stands, the kit is hurt by the somewhat silly design of the mounts and doesn’t provide the more awesome version of the Boarboyz it was probably iintended as.
Right, these obviously aren’t new, they are merely the “old” Black Orcs with a new name. I’d still like to discuss them in this review for two reasons: One, it’s interesting to see how these originally formed the most heavily armoured, badass Orcs and are now relegated to the position of fairly standard footsoldiers — this nicely shows the kind of escalation we are dealing with, in a way. The other aspect that stands out to me is that, surprisingly enough, they still manage to hold up fairly well, all things considered! I think they would need some leftover trophies and extra skulls to bring them in line visually with the newer kits, but that shouldn’t really require that much work, so the kit still seems to work fairly well!
Let’s get the obvious things out of the way first: One, even if you have little love for Age of Sigmar and stick to the older rules, many of these models should still work in your army from a visual standpoint, as they are still recognisably GW greenskins. So there’s nothing stopping you from using those Ironjawz models to build, say, a particularly vicious looking Black Orc army — in fact, I like that idea a lot, come to think of it…
The other overarching idea for these kits is that it has never been so easy to create a really awesome Feral Ork army for 40k: Seriously, many of the new kits should be really easy o 40k-i-fy with a chainblade here and an exhaust pipe there, and I can easily imagine a fantastic looking Feral Ork force based on these new kits!
Beyond these broad approaches, let me also share a couple of more specific – if rather rough – ideas:
Gordrakk on Maw-Krusha
I think that Maw-Krusha would also work as a huge Squig (or even a small Squiggoth, maybe?) Anyway, wouldn’t it be fun to use this monster as some kind of Feral Ork attack beast? Or an alternate trukk? Or just mount some crazy contraption on its back and use it as artillery or a war machine or what have you? The possibilities are really endless here! 🙂
Now this guy is possibly the most versatile and useful kmodel for converters. Possile uses for the model include…
- using him as an Ork Warboss in mega armour: Seriously, he’s huge and intimidating, and tech-ing up that armour should be lots of fun! Just add a mean-looking circular saw or a claw and a huge shoota and you’re golden!
- while we’re at it, why not go the extra mile and turn him into a plastic Ghazghkull? In fact, just check out this incredible WIP conversion by JeffyP to see how well this works!
- on a similar note, I imagine the model would also work well as a basis for a huge and hideous mutant warlord for all our LNTD players and/or INQ28 aficionados! Sure, you would need to get rid of some of the more obviously orky elements, but the armour definitely looks crude and nondescript enough to work for some kind of big mutant!
- speaking of INQ28, why not use this model as a “true scale” Ork as a worthy opponent for all those true scale Marines floating around? Or as a suitable end-boss for your Ordo Xenos Inquisitors to fight against?
Orruk Weirdnob Shaman
This one’s obvious: the model provides an excellent plastic Weirdboy for 40k, with as much or as little conversion work as you like involved 😉
Maybe, just maybe, if one were to get rid of those stupid bones and some of those surplus horns, I think he could make for an intersting gladiatorial type — he does have a suitable “Are you not entertained?” pose, after all. Yeah, on second thought, maybe that would be the best possible use for this model: Use him to convert a particularly huge and ugly pitfighter for INQ28 or Necromunda (Bull Gorg anyone?).
These would be great as Ork Nobz — or even Meganobz, for that matter. I think they more original looking armour could make them look cooler than the stock Meganobz, especially if you take the time to add some suitably brutal weapons and augmetics to them. Once again, by the same token, the model could also become mutant overlords, provided you swap in some less orky weapons and heads.
You know what? I just cannot get that Cataphractii resemblance I mentioned out of my head. Therefore, what I would really love to see is a kitbash using those Goregrunta riders to make a squad of Ork Cataphractii, complete with orkish versions of classic Cataphractii weapons and corrupted Astartes iconography. I think that woul be an amazing project — and arguably a fun way of bringing Orks into the 30k timeframe?! If anyone does this (or discovers somebody else doing this), please feel free to send me a link! 😉
All in all, I am fairly happy with the release: There are a few missteps here and there, but what we have here, at the end of the day, are greenskin models that are still recognisably GW greenskins. Now this may not seem like a huge achievement, but I beg to differ: I think there was actually a pretty big danger of these guys basically ending up as Warcraft models. There’s a clear tendency visible in the models created for Age of Sigmar so far to feature designs that are slightly more videogame-y in nature than GW’s classic fantasy models. I am not saying that GW’s sculptors are consciously aiming for WoW as a design template (which would be fairly ironic, giving the somewhat intertwined past of Warhammer and Warcraft), but there is a certain visual “escalation”, for lack of a better word. And maybe the greenskins were in danger more than some of the other factions because Warcraft provides this large cultural influence — or maybe I am just imagining it All, who knows?
What I am getting at, however, is this: The new Ironjawz models still clearly read as greenskin models in the Brian Nelson school of design. They are still their own thing. And I am beginning to see what GW may be going for with the look they are trying to establish for Age of Sigmar, a design eking out a niche for itself between the established visuals of vintage Warhammer on the one hand and the more cartoony visuals you might expect of a videogame like Warcraft. It’s a delicate balance to maintain, certainly, and they may not be getting it right all of the time, but I can repect it for what it is now, instead of just considering it a mere Warhammer-knock-off. Does that make any sense?
Anyway, whether or not you appreciate Age of Sigmar as a setting or a game: If, like me, you enjoy GW’s greenskin designs, then you should find something to like about this release. And you can always get rid of the parts you don’t like with a trusty hobby knife 😉
So what is your take on the Ironjawz? Do you love them or hate them? Or something in-between? And is there a cool conversion idea that I missed? Feel free to let me hear your opinion in the comments section?
And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!