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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Godrakk, the Fist of Gork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Orruk Megaboss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orruk Weirdnob Shaman

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

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

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

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

 

Orruk Warchanter

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

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

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

 

Orruk Brutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Orruk Goregruntaz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Orruk ‘Ardboyz

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

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Conversion ideas:

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

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

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

Gordrakk on Maw-Krusha

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

Orruk Megaboss

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

  • using him as an Ork Warboss in mega armour: Seriously, he’s huge and intimidating, and tech-ing up that armour should be 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 😉

Orruk Warchanter

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

Orruk Brutes

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

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

 

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!

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Eternal Hunt is four – drawing from the distant past…

Posted in Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2016 by krautscientist

yearfour

Eternal Hunt turns four this week, and while I am still going through a bit of a rocky patch in my personal life, this does like a pretty cool achievement to me: Who would have expected this blog to keep running for such a relatively long time, back when I posted my first dodgy photos of some World Eaters back in 2012? Not me, I can tell you — especially since blogging tends to get more and more work the longer you keep at it, at least if you’re trying to put some actual effort into it 😉

But here we are, four years later, with exactly 305 posts (including this one), about 590,000 views and 255 followers from all around the world — what a wonderful development!

A heartfelt thank you to all the readers, commenters, referrers and people who keep sending me little pieces of plastic from halfway across the globe! In fact, as if to prove the incredible amount of generosity fellow hobbyists have been showing me over the last couple of years, I received a package from PDH only today, containing – incredibly enough – his version of Lord Zhufor the Impaler!

Lord Zhufor by PDH (1)
Lord Zhufor by PDH (2)
I recall Peter painting this guy in another life, when he was still a follower of the one true chaos god 😉 But actually seeing the model before me on my desktop as I am writing this just makes me grin like a madman.

And here’s Zhufor hobnobbing with his new BFF:

Zhufor and Lorimar
Those two guys are doubtlessly sharing the best skulltaking tricks from ten millennia of warfare…

Anyway, this is an incredibly gift – thank you so much, Peter! – and it’s also one of many examples for the good things that have happened to me hobby-wise ever since I started up this blog: Having you join me on this Eternal Hunt has really made the hobby so much better for me. And I remain committed to keeping this blog going as long as I can — in fact, I’ve had a rather successful hobby year in 2015, in spite of everything, so let’s hope it’ll be the same way this year!

 

Now, in addition to all the self-congratulatory babble, I would like once again to use this birthday post to give you a look at a veritable blast from the past in the form of some exclusive material from my earlier hobby years: I recently came upon a folder with lots and lots of drawings, half-baked background texts and ideas for grand sweeping narratives that never really went anywhere from my teenage years, and I thought it might be fun to share some of the artwork with you, at least.

Just to put this into perspective, I used to do a ton of drawing during my youth, from cartoons and caricatures to the stuff you’re about to see. And while I was certainly no Johan Egerkrans, for instance, I do think my fineliner pen and me had a couple of pretty good years 😉 It seems strange – and slightly inappropriate – to show you my somewhat dodgy sketches back to back with a celebration of Wayne England’s wonderful work — and yet, maybe it’s really rather fitting, because it’s proof of how important artwork and illustrations were for me when getting into this common hobby of ours. So let’s take a peek, shall we?

A couple of pointers, however, before we begin:

  • Most of this stuff is about twenty years old at this point, some of it even older. So be gentle with me, okay? 😉
  • What strikes me is how utterly derivative some of this work is — or let’s rather say: how heavily it draws from the seminal influences of the time, ranging from Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf books to videogames and, of course, GW’s various offerings. You’ll find a wild mish-mash of all those influences, so I guess looking at those cobbled together drawings gives you a pretty neat psychological study of my formative hobby years, I suppose…
  • back then, I didn’t yet have a grasp of the intricacies of the Warhammer background, as my only real GW publications back then were the booklets from HeroQuest and the Advanced HeroQuest sourcebook. This is why you’ll see lots of symbols from the Warhammer background, especially the Skaven symbol for some reason, crop up in entirely inappropriate places…

 

So with that out of the way, here we go, just step into the time machine with me:

It’s the early 90s, and totally high on a mixture of Choose your own adventure books, HeroQuest and classical pen and paper RPGs like D&D and the German blockbuster “Das Schwarze Auge”, my younger self decides to come up with a roleplaying campaign. While some of the details escape me now, I remember the campaign was about infiltrating the keep of a powerful undead warlord (yeah, I know, shockingly original material…), and since it would ultimately have played out as some kind of pen & paper RPG, it was clear to me that I would need lots and lots of flavour material to really set the stage for the adventure.

I had always loved the way Gary Chalk’s small illustrations were used in the Lone Wolf books, so I just stole them wholesale for my own story and sprinkled them throughout my – thoroughly unoriginal – background section.

Blatantly stolen from Gary Chalk
I also had a number of maps ready for use, including the arch villain’s retreat:

Dungeon Floorplan
Those of you familiar with D&D will probably recognise many of the map symbols from there.

In addition to copying artwork I liked left and right (I remember carefully tracing several characters from a huge illustration by Chris Achilleos, for example), I at least tried to come up with some concepts of my own. For instance, my idea was for the story to use a number of pre-defined player characters, and some of the sketches for those remain. Here’s the character I liked most back then:

early 90s PC

I really had a bit of a thing for mysterious, cowled characters in those years, as you can see. And the “Schwarze Auge” rulebook provided me with an abundance of armour designs I could copy in my own drawings. In hindsight, the most original thing about this guy are probably the bold colours of his outfit — quite a fashion statement, if I do say so myself… 😉

There’s also this wizard who may or may not have become another possible PC:

early 90s Wizard
And while it’s easy enough to see the numerous shortcomings in those drawings in hindsight, I am still enormously fond of them, warts and all, because they really show what kind of stuff influenced me back then and how I tried to disassemble the parts I liked and put them together again while trying to put a personal spin on them — something not at all unlike the conversion work I love so much these days, come to think of it…

Ultimately, my bold RPG venture never amounted to anything much. It’s probably safe to say that I had bitten off more than I could chew.

That didn’t stop me from trying again several years later, during the mid-to-late 90s: This time around, evene more influences had been added to the melting pot, among them Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy as well as Blizzard’s Warcraft 2 (yes, children, there were actually games set in that universe before WoW. They were pretty great).

Anyway, once again I drew it all together in my adolescent mind and created a scenario that drew from each of these sources. I even started to write my own fantasy novel – provisionally named “Ydgard” – to provide the setting with the necessary sense of depth (I still have the ancient .txt document for the first third or so of that novel, although I shudder at the prospect of ever having to look at it again — maybe for the blog’s 5th birthday).

So I wanted to tell another sweeping fantasy story, but I was a little more clever about it this time around, basing it on the – rock solid – foundation of the Advanced HeroQuest rules: My idea was to take a part of the background I had come up with and run Advanced HeroQuest games in that setting to tell the whole story as seen from the worm’s eye-view, so to speak. If I remember correctly, I even managed to run some of those games with both my dad and my best friend at the time, and they were really fun. Then I went and wrote up “novelised” versions of those games to make up a part of the greater background story. Fun times! 😉

Now what’s interesting about this whole endeavour is that I decided to accompany it with lots and lots of drawings. I came up with all kinds of stuff, including flags for the various provinces of the evil overlord’s realm (heavily inspired by the various clan symbols from Warcraft 2):

Evil Nations

Oh my, it just occurs to me that the blade of that halberd at the top was actually influenced by one of my all time favourite illustrations by John Blanche:

"Fight to the Finish: Law Against Chaos" by John Blanche

“Fight to the Finish: Law Against Chaos” by John Blanche

But anyway, what really made the drawings rather interesting this time around is how many of them were actually based actual models.

For instance, I had all those different greenskin models from various (GW) games, and I decided to use them as different ranks and enemy types. And then I drew up some art based on the actual models in order to create a kind of bestiary for the background section of my scenario. Take a look:

gobbos01
First up, the goblins: From left to right, we have the humble footslogging gobbo (based on the goblins from Battle Masters), a goblin rifleman (based on a Space Crusade model) and finally a wolf rider (once again inspired by the corresponding Battle Masters) model.

The drawings from the various types of Orcs followed the exact same approach:

Orcs02
On the left, you can see a bog standard Orc resembling one of the classic HeroQuest Orcs. The guy on the right was, once again, based on a model from Battle Masters (I am actually still rather happy with that drawing, apart from a few minor minor quibbles).

The rest of the Orc ranks were firmly based on the GW Warhammer plastic models of the time:

Orcs01

The two guys on the left are basically the plastic Orcs that could be bought in small boxes of ten. Those models seem so rough and silly nowadays, but back then, the discovery of plastic models depticting Orc archers really blew my mind. The big guy on the right was my drawing of a Black Orc, from the same series of one-pose, single piece plastic kits.

I think it’s really rather entertaining how those sketches capture an entire generation of Citadel plastic greenskins, wouldn’t you agree? 😉

As a matter of fact, these drawings really had their day in the limelight some time in 1998, when my good friend Phil and I actually used them to illustrate a school presentation about the various races appearing in Tolkien’s Hobbit — since we were reading the book during English classes in the eleventh grade. That was really a triumph, to be able to use some of my fantasy drawings to actually scoop a high grade 😉

While we are on the matter of illustrations copied from GW plastic models, here’s another example:

Warrior of Chaos

A Chaos Warrior heavily inspired by these guys:

My first chaos army (15)
Take note of the completely nonsensical use of the Skaven rune on the warriors, breastplate, though…

GW wasn’t the only source I was happily stealing inspiration from, however. Just take this demon lord…

Demon Lord (totally not Diablo)
…and compare his face to the cover illustration for the – then brand new – Diablo. Yeah…

In spite of the derivative nature of my work, however, I did occasionally have my moments. I still rather like this – original – drawing of a Minotaur, for instance (except for that pesky Skaven rune that has once again managed to sneak into the picture…):

Minotaur
This wizard is another one of my favourite drawings from that time, and I think the illustration has managed to age fairly gracefully:

90s Wizard

Once again, however, the heraldry is all over the place, with a (WFB greenskin) Bad Moon making an appearance alongside the symbol for Mutant Chronicles’ Brotherhood. Oh well…

And to round things out, here’s a pretty detailed, yet anatomically rather wonky dwarf warrior for you:

90s Dwarf

At least this guy doesn’t feature any Skaven symbols for a change…

And once again, while I can easily see the many hokey parts in each of these illustrations, I was probably at the top of my game back then, at least when it came to drawing fantasy pieces.

Soon after, I properly got into Warhammer Fantasy Battles (and finally learned the meaning behind all of those runes and symbols — no more misplaced Skaven runes). And for some reason, the drawing of characters more or less fell by the wayside — maybe because I could now actually build them? I think it also had to do with my dabbling in designing stuff digitally and using layout software: Having to draw it all out on paper started to feel pretty old-fashioned — what can I say? I was young and foolish.

This must have been around 1999/2000, and while I would still occasionally sketch some fantasy creature or other – like these two sketches made to kill some time, if I recall correctly,…

Late 90s Dragon sketches (1)

Late 90s Dragon sketches (2)
…you can basically tell that my heart was no longer really in it at this point. Those dragons are just idle scribblings without any greater narrative (or, for that matter, a corresponding Citadel model) to inspire them.

But those were fun times, and they paved the way for my hobby activities today: Maybe the derivative quality of my drawings explains why I have so much fun converting models, because, in a way, it’s just the same approach in a different medium: I take all kinds of elements that I like and reorganise them into something new that embodies the qualities and characteristics I enjoy about the background.

Looking at those drawings, I also feel that maybe I shouldn’t have given up drawing, even if I wasn’t a genius or anything: These days, I can still pick up a pen and make a fairly brave attempt every once in a while, but I no longer feels as natural, nor does it come to me as easily as it used to, making rendering my ideas on paper quite a challenge more often than not. If anything, it feels like a muscle I haven’t exercised in years, and I suppose that’s a very apt comparison. That said, I can still occasionally pull it off with a bit of work, as I discovered when a friend working in employe recruitment commissioned me for a spot of graphic recording a couple of months ago.

 

But anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane — or you’ve at least gotten a chuckle out of some of those crude drawings of mine. In any case, thanks once again for taking an interest! It goes without saying that I’d love to hear any feedback you might have. And here’s to the next year of Eternal Hunting, eh? 😉

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

Wayne England – In Memoriam

Posted in 40k, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2016 by krautscientist

It’s only February, but 2016 certainly hasn’t been pulling its punches so far, with some spectacularly talented people sadly departed from this planet these last few weeks. Unfortunately, Wayne England is now among those departed, and I was very sad to learn yesterday that he had passed away, because he has been an all time favourite among GW’s artists for me: His very stylised, angular illustrations of heavily armoured – and mostly very evil – guys were one of the most effective gateway drugs for getting me in this hobby and played a big part when permanently roping me into assembling and painting little spiky plastic men. In fact, Wayne England’s work was probably just about as important for getting me into the hobby as the iconic illustrations by John Blanche, especially during my younger years, when the latter’s work sometimes just seemed a bit too trippy for me to grasp 😉

By the same token, some of GW’s publications – and indeed some stages of my own hobby life – will always be inextricably tied to Wayne England’s artwork, so in honour of this great artist, allow me to reminisce for a bit:

 

Army Book Realm of Chaos and the Champions of Chaos Supplement

These were the first chaos army books I ever owned, and I can still remember poring over Wyne England’s tableaus of jagged chaotic weaponry and armour in search of possible conversion ideas as a lad:

Wayne England artwork (18)

And his cover for the Champions of Chaos supplement was probably even more iconic (and also served as the cover for my first ever issue of White Dwarf, incidentally):

Wayne England artwork (17)

This bad boy really embodied everything that I loved about the hordes of chaos back then: He’s heavily armoured, faceless, spiky and utterly menacing – what’s not to love?

 

3rd edition Codex Chaos Space Marines cover

My first CSM Codex  — and the one iteration of the book that I think most chaos players would rather like to forget: This Codex was one of the first to follow GW’s somewhat questionable idea of radically reducing the Codices in scope (in order to be able to produce more of them at a faster rate). Alas, it didn’t end well, as the resulting books ended up feeling rather thin in more ways than one. But something that still stays with me is the warped, iron-toothed champion of the ruinous powers to adorn the book’s cover, once again courtesy of Wayne England:

Wayne England artwork (8)

In a way, this illustration actually serves as a perfect companion piece to the aforementioned cover of “Champions of Chaos”, with both pictures creating perfect avatars of the WFB and 40k sides of chaos, respectively.

 

3rd edition Warhammer 40k rulebook
This book ‘s background section has often been called one of the darkest versions of the 40k universe, and this is at least true when looking at the very dark, brooding black and white artwork appearing throughout the book. Wayne England created a couple of extraordinarily dark pieces, giving us, among other things, some very grimdark interpretations of the three monkeys,…

Wayne England artwork (20)

Wayne England artwork (19)

…a brilliantly creepy illustration presumably showing a Dark Eldar Haemonculus that had me marveling at how monstrous these guys seemed…

Wayne England artwork (21)

…a splash page perfectly capturing the Astartes’ duality between noble and righteous warriors and creepily inhuman weapons of mass destruction:

Wayne England artwork (22)

….and finally what may still be my favourite piece of Dark Eldar art, even after all these years:

Wayne England artwork (11)

 

2nd edition Codex Chaos

Actually published earlier than at least the two previous entries on this list, of course, but I didn’t own the book until well into the 2000s. It remains one of my favourite GW books ever, as you may remember. Of course I was delighted to discover some very cool Wayne England artwork in this book as well. Such as one of my all time favourite World Eaters:

Wayne England artwork (23)

I actually think Wayne England may also have been responsible for the original version of the various traitor legion symbols published in this book – at the very least, they seem to show quite a few hallmarks of his style. I still love these symbols and the amount of detail that has gone into them – Forgeworld’s treatment of the traitor legion heraldry notwithstanding, these older versions blow all of the newer interpretations out of the water, if you ask me.

 

And all of this is really merely scratching the surface: How can I not mention the excellent illustrations for Kharn the Betrayer or Angron from the Horus Heresy trading card game, along with more excellent work from the same source (In fact, his work for the setting really managed to give the Heresy an epic and mythical quality, something that seems to be missing from the more codified, cleaner artwork of recent years)? Or the beautifully forlorn voidborn? Or the seminal Sons of Sekh art? In fact, let me just share just a few of my favourite pieces by Wayne England that appeared beyond the books mentioned above:

In short, Wayne England’s work has always been emblematic of GW’s style during some of my formative hobby years, especially when it came to portraying the forces of chaos. I remember reading about him participating in the Oldhammer scene a fair bit recently, and while that scene’s old school sensibilities don’t always fully agree with me, I was still very happy to see him make an appearance there. He also created a brilliant illustration for morbäck, depicting the latter’s Chaos Lord Korthalis a while ago. It’s an excellent piece of art with all the strengths of his vintage GW artwork, and Maxime must be incredibly happy to have received it – even moreso in the light of recent events.
Wayne England’s artwork still speaks to me many years later, and his trademark style added a layer of visual identity to GW’s publications that is sadly lacking from the newer books – and has been for quite a while.

My heart goes out to his family. And thank you, Mr. England, for all the wonderfully spiky evil guys! And all the best to you, wherever you may be now!

The more things change… — a look at the Khorne Bloodbound release

Posted in Chaos, Conversions, Uncategorized, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by krautscientist

It has been a while since I last posted a review focusing on a new GW release, and I intend to change that today. Considering current RL circumstances, I hope you’ll bear with me when I choose something fairly close to my heart to get back into the swing of things. So let’s talk about the new Khorne Bloodbound kits today:

Khorne Bloodbound release (1)
Followers of the blood god really can’t complain: With every WFB or AoS chaos release, we have received a substantial addition to our toy box. I am quite aware that many non-Khornate chaos fans are rolling their eyes by now, seeing how Khorne seems to be getting all the love. And indeed, Khorne seems to be GW’s preferred fallback position whenever a new chaos release rolls around. For Age of Sigmar, this means that the Bloodbound have not only been elevated to a proper sub-faction, but they have also been the focus of the first wave of new chaos kits released for the revamped system. And while the Stormcast Eternals seem like GW’s attempt at radically re-envisioning the Empire by way of the Space Marines, the new Khorne kits hew far closer to the “traditional” chaos look. So, what do we get? Let’s take a look at each of the new kits in turn and also consider some of the possible conversion options. So sharpen your axe and step this way, please 😉

 

Skarbrand

Khorne Bloodbound release (4)
Well, this was certainly a pleasant surprise, seeing how Skarbrand has been on hobbyists’ short list to finally receive a proper model for quite a while now. So here he is — can the model live up to all the expectations?

It’s quite obvious that the Skarbrand kit allows GW to get some more mileage out of those Bloodthirster designs they must have done prior to the release of the new plastic kit, as there is an overall similarity in design between Skarbrand and the stock Bloodthirsters (both share the spiky butt cheeks, for one 😉 ). On the other hand, the new model deviates from the prior kit in several ways: There’s the very different pose, of course, making Skarbrand look like he’s taking a moment to bellow in rage at the enemy. In fact, the pose is really rather excellent and one of my favourite parts about the model: While it does maintain some forward momentum, it really adds some presence to the character. And it also works rather beautifully with the twin axes wielded by Skarbrand.

Khorne Bloodbound release (5)

The other very noticeable thing about the model, and one of the aspects that define the character, is the pair of tattered, torn wings. And I think GW’s designers have done a rather nice job on this particular part of the model:

Khorne Bloodbound release (7)
Keeping most of the bones intact and limiting the damage to the wing membranes was a pretty good move, if you ask me: The design avoids the lopsided look you see on many Skarbrand conversions. Andwhile the wings still have a vestigial, damaged look to them, they do add some presence to the model. I also like the idea of having spiked chains between the bones: Is that some kind of additional torture, one has to wonder, or Skarbrand’s own attempt at making his damaged wings more presentable…?

The model also has some rather heavy scarring on the right side of the face. Let’s not get into the metaphysics of this too much (do daemons have bones in the first place? Aren’t they just warp energies given form…?), and rather focus on the actual design: While I like the broken horns, the flayed face may just be a bit much. Then again, I love how the ‘Eavy Metal team chose to paint the right eye as white and – possibly – blind:

Khorne Bloodbound release (9)
And there’s the beard, of course. I’ll be honest with you: I am not a fan. But it should be easy enough to just leave it off or use it as a braid of hair on virtually any big model, so I’ll let it slide.

Khorne Bloodbound release (11)
The twin axes are very nice and daemonic in design — the organic aspect really fits for a Greater Daemon, and I also like how they are far shorter and more hatchet-like than the axes the stock Bloodthirster gets. And while they are pretty ornate, they still seem workmanlike enough to work, from a visual standpoint. They also rather beautifully complement Skarbrand’s pose, as mentioned above.

And one more thing that differentiates Skarbrand from the stock Bloodthirster: a (mostly) custom set of armour plates, giving us yet another set of options for our Bloodthirsters’ wardrobes 😉

Khorne Bloodbound release (10)The armour looks great, too — I’ll even forgive that one skull playfully wedged into the eye socket of a skull ornament, there 😉 Anyway, the slightly more ornate look seems fitting for a daemon that used to be one of Khorne’s most exalted champions.

Seen on its own, the model is really cool and makes for a fitting centre piece for every Khornate army — the fact that it doubles as both an AoS and a 40k release is a nice bonus, of course.

Things really get interesting, however, when taking a closer look at the Skarbrand sprue: In additon to the actual parts needed to build Skarbrand, you also get a fair bit of stock Bloodthirster parts in the box:

Khorne Bloodbound release (14)
Khorne Bloodbound release (13)
For the record, you get the alternate pair of legs, two alternate heads and most of the weapons of the stock ‘Thirster. The undamaged wings, alternate armour pieces, third head and two-handed axe seem to be unaccounted for, though.

In any case, this should allow you to build either Skarbrand or your own, custom Bloodthirster, with additional parts from the stock kit multiplying the options even further, right? Well, yes and no: While you can make some changes to Skarbrand and use some of Skarbrand’s parts on your stock Bloodthirster, the kits are unfortunately not 100% compatible. Fellow hobbyist Khorga informs me that the running legs, for instance, are not really compatible with Skarbrand’s custom armour, while the amour plates from the stock kit, in turn, don’t fit together too well with Skarbrand’s standing legs. At the same time, depending on which pair of arms you use, the shape of the wing sockets on the model’s back will change accordingly, so not every set of arms will work with both sets of wings. While this shouldn’t present accomplished converters with any unsolvable problems, it would still have been nice to have all the parts compatible with one another — or even to have a kit that will make Skarbrand and all of the three stock ‘Thirster variants? Granted, that may have been to much wishlisting. But with today’s kits being so meticulously planned, it seems like having all the parts fit together wouldn’t have been that much more complicated for the designers.

Another piece of criticism frequently leveled at Skarbrand (as well as the stock Bloodthirsters, for that matter) is the models’ size: Quite a few hobbyists feel that these beasts should be quite a bit bigger. I am honestly not as bothered by the size issue, though: I think GW’s designers have managed to imbue both Skarbrand and his brethren with a sense of presence and brutality that makes them look as though they could go toe to toe with an Imperial Knight and still come out on top. If there is one size issue that bothers me, it’s that Skarbrand used to be the most powerful of Khorne’s Bloodthirsters, yet he’s about half the size of this guy…? Talk about a pint-sized powerhouse, right there! 😉

Khorne Bloodbound release (12)But that’s not really a major concern, and in spite of such minor quibbles, what we have here is a rather stunning model, and possibly the star of this release. Would I have enjoyed a huge multi-optional kit for Skarbrand and each of the ‘Thirster variants? You bet! But this is what we get, and it’s still pretty great, if you ask me.

 

Exalted Deathbringer

Khorne Bloodbound release (15)
Whoa, that’s a pretty big guy, isn’t he? One of the new Khornate characters is quite interesting in how the model seems to blur the line between mortal and immortal servant of Khorne: He’s not quite a daemon yet, but also no longer purely mortal either. At the same time, the overall look of the model did remind me of a souped-up version of the priest from the warshrine kit.

Anyway, I like the model well enough, mostly for the excellent detail work adorning both the armour and the bare skin of the piece. I also really like that bestial face!

Khorne Bloodbound release (21)
If I have one gripe, the weapons seem a tad too gimmicky for my taste: That axe is just a bit too cumbersome, maybe, and definitely an acquired taste, for one. And it really wouldn’t make any sense to have skull trophies dangling from there, would it…?

Beyond that, the only thing that really doesn’t sit well with me is that topknot — in fact, the quickest way to make the model look much cooler would be to either significantly shorten the topknot…

Khorne Bloodbound release (17)
…or lose it altogether:

Khorne Bloodbound release (18)
In fact, without a topknot, the model looks like an even more grimdark version of Darkness from the seminal fantasy flick Legend. I wonder if that was intentional…?

A look at the sprue reveals that the model is versatile enough to allow for at least some customisation:

Khorne Bloodbound release (22)
Want to make your Deathbringer look less daemonic and more human? Just drop the stock head and swap in something more marauder-y. Need the claw or the axe for a different model? The world’s your oyster! And by the same token, it should also be possible to swap in an alternate set of weapons for use on the Deathbringer. The fairly open pose of the model should make converting it very easy.

All in all, I rather like this guy. He may not be super-original, but he does explore GW’s usual chaos look from a slightly new angle by blending mortal and daemonic characteristics. Plus the model’s versatility is really nice. Probably my favourite of the new Khornate plastic characters!

 

Slaughterpriest

Khorne Bloodbound release (23)Hmm, now this is an interesting case… Let’s not get into the fact that this guy doesn’t really all that much like a priest to begin with —
because you might argue that Khorne is not a deity to be worshipped at a temple or church, but rather through the act of war itself. What instantly struck me about the model is that it does look fairly different from what we are used to — in fact, it doesn’t even really look like a GW model, does it? My immediate reaction was that it seemed like a piece from a different manufacturer (Rackham comes to mind, or the designs you would see in Dark Age.

Sure, it does have enough Khorne symbols and skulls on it to convince us that it does indeed belong. But there are parts of it that really recall several other manufacturers: a certain lankiness when it comes to the model’s proportions, the design of the face…

Khorne Bloodbound release (24)
In fact, I really rather like the face, to be honest. And the fact that the model doesn’t immediately read as standard GW fare doesn’t have to be a problem in and of itself, of course! I just cannot shake the feeling that this guy doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the family…

Beyond that, it’s certainly a cool looking model! Once again, the detailing is amazing all around:

Khorne Bloodbound release (25)
There’s a dubious design decision or two, though: Why have those horns emerge from the model’s spine? Why have them at all, if you don’t want them on the head? Wouldn’t that be really impractical (and rather uncomfortable as well)?

Anyway, a closer look at the sprue shows that the model might be slightly less flexible when it comes to conversions, but much of that has to do with the specific pose and the two-handed weapon, of course:

Khorne Bloodbound release (26)All in all, I have to admit that I haven’t yet made up my mind regarding this guy: He does stick out a bit, yet there’s also something interesting about the model’s different style that I find rather intriguing. Hmm…

 

 

Skullgrinder

Khorne Bloodbound release (27)
Ah, here we are, back in far safer territory. As a matter of fact, it’s actually rather surprising that it took GW as long as this to make the connection between Khorne and some blacksmith, forge god archetypes. But here we are at last: The Blood God’s very own sinister blacksmith. Huzzah! 🙂

Where the Slaughterpriest almost seemed like a non-GW model, the Skullgrinder looks oddly familiar. But then, it has so many hallmarks of GW’s Khornate design: the bunny eared helmet (with a lovely, somewhat perplexed, expression, if you asked me). The heavy armour. The dangling skulls and icons.

Khorne Bloodbound release (28)
And of course, the weapon on a chain, something that seems to be becoming a defining characteristic of many Khornate models for AoS:

Khorne Bloodbound release (29)
I certainly hope he’s not using that thing for any actual smithing, though — not only should it make for a rather uneven performance, but it also seems like it would wreak havoc on any matters of occupational safety… 😉

Yet once again, there’s something bothering me, although I cannot quite put my finger on it. Maybe the model just seems like a slightly formulaic treatment of the subject matter — like they mostly wanted to tick off a box here. “Murderous Blacksmith archetype? Yep, got that one. Moving on.”

Once again, the rather complicated pose means that you’ll have to plan ahead a bit when converting the Skullgrinder. At the same time, some of the bitz (the weapon and head, in particular) are interesting enough, so I think we should expect to see them on other models before long.

Khorne Bloodbound release (31)
This guy is a Khornate model alright, but he also seems like the least interesting out of the three. Is it just me? Or would it indeed have been possible to do more with the blacksmith archetype — speaking of which: While not call this guy Warsmith or Wrathsmith or something that doesn’t involve the word “skull” for once? Oh well… 😉

 

 

Bloodreavers

Khorne Bloodbound release (32)
Now these are the Marauders we have wanted for at least a couple of years, wouldn’t you agree? I think it’s consensus that the vintage plastic Marauder kit has adged pretty badly by now (although some of the bitz are still rather useful, make no mistake!), while the more recent kits like the Marauder Horsemen hinted at much more pleasing chaotic barbarians. And now we get the Bloodreavers, and I really have to say I like them a lot!

Khorne Bloodbound release (33)
These guys are bullish and warlike and just seem very fittingly brutal and tribal for the job! They also look dangerous enough to hld their own against the more heavily armoured followers of chaos, visually.

Bloodreavers were one of the unit types that came in the Age of Sigmar boxed set, so it’s interesting to see inhowfar these multipart models move beyond the snapfit pieces from that box. And I think the Bloodreavers do a rather good job in this respect, staying true to the overall design while adding some interesting new touches, such as the two-handed weapons and the bigger amount of bare heads:

Khorne Bloodbound release (34)

In fact, some of those heads are especially nice and flavourful (and would work brilliantly on World Eaters, if you ask me). At the same time, I also like the very stripped-down, brutal looking helmets.

Khorne Bloodbound release (36)
At their best, these guys are just as menacing as you would want your mad, bloodthirsty barbarians to be. And without any of the Barbie doll anatomy (especially where the shoulders are concerned) that plagued the old Marauder kit. Some of the models are just brilliant:

Khorne Bloodbound release (38)
Khorne Bloodbound release (37)
The kit is not without its awkward parts, though. Some of the poses do seem a bit static and unnatural. Like the guy in the bottom left here:

Khorne Bloodbound release (35)Or that strange, double-sided dagger wielded by the champion. Whoever thought that looked cool?

Khorne Bloodbound release (40)
All in all, however, I really like these guys! They manage to move beyond the starter box Bloodreavers, presenting some interesting new options and some pretty wicked sculpts. And you get twenty of them in the kit, so what’s not to like?

 

Blood Warriors

Khorne Bloodbound release (42)
Here’s the other unit type featured in the AoS starter box, also rendered as a multipart plastic kit. And while I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I would argue that these models don’t fare quite as well as the Bloodreavers. Let’s take a closer look:

Khorne Bloodbound release (43)

Okay, first things first: Like the models that came with the AoS starter books, the multipart Blood Warriors make for some heavily armoured, quite sinister and very Khornate infantry — so far so good! The detail work is, once again, excellent, with every armour beautifully detailed and adorned with suitably Khornate elements. The amount of different heads is truly staggering, with a pretty big collection of Khornate helmets, as well as some bare variants:

Khorne Bloodbound release (45)

I especially like the bitz used to make up both the unit champion and standard bearer: The champ is such a characterful model, don’t you think?

Khorne Bloodbound release (50)I would never have expected to ever get fed up with axes — but I would have appreciated a sword or two in the kit, if only for some visual variety. Sure, all of the models have the option of equipping the new gorefists or a pair of axes, but a sword or two would have been nice. Speaking of which, the special weapons option here seems to be the, strangely Klingon-like, “Goreglaive” — which tries a bit too hard to be awesome for my taste…

Khorne Bloodbound release (51)That is a particularly lovely helmet, though!

The models generally try to approximate the design outline set down by the snapfit models from the starter kit, with the different helmet designs and optional bare arms the only visual elements to distinguish them. They do seem slightly less …sophisticated, for lack of a better word, than the starter box models, though. Granted, a pre-posed model will have a pretty good chance of looking more dramatic and impressive than a model built from a multipart kit, but it’s fairly noticeable here. There are also some strangely awkward elements about the kit: The aforementioned “Klingon axe”, some of the bare arms or the strange way the chains on the icon bearer’s standard interact with gravity…

In spite of these concerns, the kit remains very versatile and interesting — especially from a kitbasher’s perspective. This seems like the new, comprehensive toolkit for building heavily armoured Khorne dudes, and it should also provide you with many, many bitz to accessorise your World Eaters, Khorne berzerkers, Khornate Chaos Space Marines, Chaos Knights, regular WoC or what have you.

And still, while the kit is pretty cool, it somehow seems less interesting to me than the Bloodreavers — and it certainly brings fewer new elements to the table when compared with the Blood Warriors contained in the starter box. Still, I suppose this will turn into a more or less compulsory purchase for each Khorne player at some point.

 

Conversion ideas

So much for the different kits — but what about the conversion potential? I think it’s pretty obvious that these new kits will mostly come in handy for chaos players, particularly for those running any kind of Khornate army and/or warband. So what are my first ideas after taking a closer look at the new kits?

Skarbrand

  • The most othe obvious conversion use for the kit would be to make a more interesting, customised Bloodthirster — while keeping in mind the aforementioned difficulties when combining Skarbrand and stock Bloodthirster bitz. Even so, with a sharp knife, some GS and a slightly adventurous spirit, the two available Bloodthirster kits should provide converters with quite a few options to make a really unique greater daemon of Khorne.
  • Speaking of which: I think Skarbrand would also make a very nice base model for a conversion of Angron in his incarnation as a Daemon Primarch: The pose is really fitting for the character, and I think the more ornate armour should also work like a charm. In fact, I really don’t understand why we haven’t yet seen any Angron conversions based on the new Bloodthirster kits — maybe it’s time to change that…?!
  • Whichever option you choose, the kit will also provide some nice additional bitz for your Daemon Prince or Chaos Lord. Since you get quite a few of the stock Bloodthirster bitz as part of the deal, there’s nothing stopping you from, say, making your Daemon Prince look more Khornate. And some of the weapons might look good on a daemon engine or even on a Chaos Knight — in fact, most of the ideas I’ve outlined in my review of the stock Bloodthirster kit also apply to Skarbrand!

Exalted Deathbringer

  • I think the model would make for a rather nice alternate Herald of Khorne — especially in a 40k daemon army, where the danger of confusing the model for something else wouldn’t be as big. But the rather daemonic look of this guy, in addition to his bulk, would really make him look the part!
  • Or he could become a mutant overlord — either for your LatD force with a Khornate twist or for an INQ28 chaos warband. Speaking of the latter options, he would also make for a great chaotic high priest with a few touchups.
  • Or, basically the most straightforward option: Make the model a bit less daemonic and use it as a World Eaters arena champion — not unlike my own conversion for Vorl Dustwalker.

Slaughterpriest

  • I somehow get the feeling that this guy might end up as one of the chief suspects when it comes to converting a kit from the new release. I don’t even have all that many ideas about him yet, seeing how I yet need to make up my mind about him, but I think there will be quite a few conversions of the Slaughterpriest in the future, mark my words. Here, let me share my very first idea from just a second ago: What about thinking of that hideous spine painted in metal? That would give him a distinct “Mean Machine” vibe. Now just slap on a monstrous power claw, and you are already half way towards a very sinister looking pitslave champion. Just a though…

Bloodreavers

These guys should be very versatile conversion fodder. Just off the top of my head…

  • …they could be used as some very beefy and intimidating chaos cultists, obviously. Just slap on some autopistols, and you’re golden 😉
  • these would be brilliant as pitslaves! Just shave off the Khorne icons and add some heavy duty power tools and augmetics to them — done. They have the bulk. They have the scars. The rest shouldn’t be much work.
  • And while we are leaning towards the more loyalist (or at least, slightly less chaotic) side of things: Don’t you think these guys would make for some pretty convincing gland war veterans? I mean they certainly look like they have been beefed up via unsavory means. I mean, they could possibly be used to build any kind of barbarian IG troopers hailing from a feudal world, but I think they would be excellent as gland war veterans à la Inquisitor’s Sergeant Stone.
  • With a bit of conversion work, especially where the legs are concerned, these could be used to build some excellent, bare-chested, gladiatorial World Eaters — in fact, had these guys been available at the time, they would probably have been the perfect base models for my own Gladiatorii.
  • And finally, the bitz from the kit would work wonderfully on both Pre and post-Heresy World Eaters: I think the faces really have the kind of personality you want on your blood-crazed madmen. Some of the brutal looking helmets might also be pretty cool on World Eaters officers. And a bare arm here and there would also make for a cool eyecatcher. If I ever get a box of these (and I will, eventually), expect to see the leftover bitz used in this way 😉

Blood Warriors

As I’ve said before, I think these guys will become one of the new go-to kits when it comes to building Khornate models.

  • They could be used as Khornate Chaos Space Marines and/or World Eaters with a bit of work (or barely any conversion work, depending on how adventurous you’re feeling). Face it, slaughter-brothers and -sisters: This is the closest we will ever come to a new plastic Khorne berzerker kit 😉
  • And basically all of the bitz will certainly be in high demand for (Khornate) chaos armies all over the place: Expect to see all the extra heads and weapons on AoS Chaos Warriors and Chaos Knights, 40k Chaos Space Marines, Chaos Lords or Khorne Berzerkers.

 

So, what about this release on the whole? I have to say that I basically have two reactions to this release:

As a World Eaters fan (and a hobbyist still hopelessly in love with the Khornate design, even after all these years), I consider this a rock-solid release that provides lots and lots of new toys and several very interesting new toolkits. I now have more options than ever, and it won’t surprise you to hear that my hands are already itching when I look at some of those delicious bitz.

As a hobbyist in general, I cannot help but be a bit less impressed. Sure, all of this is high-quality work, but it also hardly treads any new ground. Which is why I can perfectly understand why some people are growing fed up with the seeming deluge of Khornate kits.

So, what to make of it all?

It seems very obvious that the Bloodbound are GW’s attempt at creating a faction that “plays it safe”, relatively speaking: These models could be used just as well in vintage WFB, and the design of the new kits is close enough to the older Khornate kits released over the last couple of years — and maye this was really a conscious decision, taken not so much from laziness, but rather from the attempt at providing something people are familiar with? Think about it: Yes the Stormcast Eternals are very similar to Space Marines in some respect, but they are also a fairly radical change of direction for GW’s fantasy setting. Maybe they did want to be the other faction included in the starter (and expanded upon in the following release) to be closer to something fans of vintage WFB could relate to?

In any case, if you are a fan of Khorne, you’re in luck: You have so many new toys now, and most of them are pretty cool. Some are even rather awesome! If, however, you find Khorne uninteresting and boring, these kits will do little to change your mind.

 

What’s your take on the Khorne Bloodbound? Do you love ’em or hate ’em? Is there anything you would like to share, or a conversion idea I didn’t think of? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section!

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

Age of Sigmar: Fun with freebies

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Custodes, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, WIP with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2015 by krautscientist

While the ruinstorm of nerd rage is still going strong elsewhere on the internet, I am slowly coming to grips with the implications of the recent Age of Sigmar release — maybe my terribly wordy post on the matter did function as some kind of therapy, after all? 😉

Anyway, I picked up my own copy of the game yesterday. A first look at the sprues reveals that the amount of detail on the models is really off the charts. At the same time, formulating a plan for all of these models will take some time — I am basically committed to converting quite a few, if not all, of them at this point, but I will have to think carefully before the knife comes out.

In the meantime, let’s deal with something related: Everyone and their cousin have been messing around with the freebie Liberator that came with White Dwarf, and it has been a regular pasttime of mine for the last several days to google for awesome conversions involving the model. So I would like to share two things with you today: One, my favourite kitbashes and conversions involving the Liberator so far. There are many people happily cutting away at the little guy, yet some models manage to stand out regardless. Two, I would like to show you the conversion I have settled on myself, lest this post become totally dependant on other people’s excellent work.

But first, a showcase of my favourite Liberator conversions. It’s rather noticeable how most (if not all) of the conversions I’ve seen so far neatly fall into one of the following categories:

 

I. Marines

The obvious choice, really: These guys haven’t been nicknamed “Sigmarines” for nothing, right? It’s no surprise that Truescalers all around the globe are enthusiastically checking out the possible ways of using the Stormcast Eternals as material for building bigger Astartes — and there are already quite a few rather impressive examples for this approach!

Blood Angels (Terminator Librarian) by Jair Nunez (via Spikey Bits):

model converted by Jair Nunez

model converted by Jair Nunez

This model certainly goes for shock and awe tactics, transforming the Liberator into something that almost looks like a Primarch at first glance! There’s a lot to love about this model: The Liberators’ more form-fitting armour is a great fit for Blood Angels anyway, and Jair underlines this with a very effective use of BA bitz. I especially love the hammer, since doesn’t remotely look like the fairly clunky Liberator weapon even longer — even though its head has been kept 100% intact! I am not yet wholly sure how I feel about the slightly extended midsection, but such minor quibbles notwithstanding, this is certainly an excellent kitbash!

Space Marine by DogZombie:

model converted by DogZombie

model converted by DogZombie

While DogZombie hasn’t done much to change the basic makeup of the model, his kitbash still ends up quite convincing because there’s just something about the combination of that clearly Imperial sword, Sternguard face, power fist and servo-skull that instantly makes this guy read as a Space Marine. A fairly straightforward, yet very effective job!

Space Marine by Wilhelminiatures:

model converted by Wilhelminiatures

model converted by Wilhelminiatures

Easily the most iconic Liberator-based Astartes conversion I have seen so far! Wilhelm has gone for the good old bolter setup, and has really nailed the look, if you ask me: Those Mk. III arms just work so well, and the praetor head really makes the model look like a grizzled veteran. The conversion shows an admirable restraint and ends up quite lovely because of it — possibly my favourite “Sigmarine” Astartes so far!

Thunder Warrior from the Oldhammer Facebook Group (via Sepulchre of Heroes):

conversion from the Oldhammer Facebook group

conversion from the Oldhammer Facebook group

Some hobbyists have even gone further back in time, using the Liberator for conversions from the Pre-Heresy or even Unification era: This Thunder Warrior is an excellent proof of concept, showing the Stormcast Eternals provide great material for such a conversion. If anything, this works even better than the standard Astartes conversions, seeing how Thunder armour doesn’t neccessarily conform to the design templates established by the later armour marks. As this model shows, if you have ever wanted your own Thunder Warrior army, you now have the perfect base models at your fingertips — as it happens, Mikko from Iron Sleet seems to be planning an entire army of these guys. A project I am really looking forward to!

As an aside, I was unable to find out who originally built and painted this, so if you recognise your model (or know the creator), please give me a holler, and I will of course give credit where credit is due!

II. The Legio Custodes

While we are already in the 30k time period after discussing that Thunder Warrior, let’s addresst the other very popular idea involving the Stormcast Eternals: using them as base models for Custodes conversions. There’s a clear resemblance here – arguably an even bigger resemblance than the one with the Astartes, and fortunately enough, some excellent Custodes conversions have already turned up as well:

Constantin Valdor by Ryan Stevenson:

model created by Ryan Stevenson

model created by Ryan Stevenson

Who better to build first than the Legio Custodes’ Captain-General, Constantin Valdor? As you can see, the model is wonderfully chunky and impressive, while also seeming rather dynamic in spite of its bulk. I am still very happy with my own (Space Marine based) conversion for Valdor, but wow, that guy is just huge! I also really like the guardian spear! The only thing I am not quite sold on is the third party shield, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.

Custodian by Noctus Cornix:

Liberator conversion by Noctus Cornix
Ever the inspirational kitbasher, Noctus Cornix has knocked it out of the park once more with his Custodian conversion: The model may be less dynamic than the Constantin Valdor conversion shown above, but there’s something strong, yet contemplative in this guy’s pose that I really love. And the way Noctus has used that left hand from the Chaos Lord on Manticore kit is just beautiful. A lovely model all around!

III. Automata

As part of my recent Age of Sigmar review, I wonderedd whether or not the Stormcast Eternals could be turned into gilded automata, serving the Adeptus Mechanicus or representing relics from ages long forgotten — and I didn’t really have to wait long before some hobbyists endeavoured to find out:

AdMech Automaton by Nuclearhawke:

model converted by Nuclearhawke

model converted by Nuclearhawke

Nuclearhawke is currently working on an AdMech warband anyway (make sure to check out his Ammobunker thread linked above!), and so he has turned his Liberator into a wonderfully chunky, fairly gladiatorial combat servitor via an influx of Forgeworld AdMech bitz. I love how merely replacing a couple of key elements completely changes the look and feel of the model!

“Tick-Tock Man” by Leadballoony:

model converted by Leadballloony

model converted by Leadballloony

Interestingly, while Alex from Leadballoony has gone for a structurally similar approach (electing to replace some key features, while leaving an equal part of the model unaltered), he has come up with a completely different mechanical creature: His “Tick-Tock Man” is a relict from a bygone age, stalking the depths of the underhive. The baroque armour possibly speaks of pre-Imperial times, while the hideous mechanical claws and weapons (from the Kataphron kit, I believe) hint at the machine’s true, much more sinister function.

IV. There’s no school like the old school…

Of course there are also hobbyists who are not trying their darnedest to turn their freebie Liberator into a 40k model, but are perfectly content to use him as a character for WFB or Age of Sigmar. In fact, some of the best conversions seem to have come about this way.

Warrior of Chaos by Xander:

model converted by Xander

model converted by Xander

Xander’s straightforward, yet effective kitbash shows how easy it can be to turn the Stormcast Eternals into servants of the Dark Gods — Aren’t chaos players lovable little rascals, always trying to corrupt everything that gets released into gristle for their dark lords’ wars? You’ve gotta love ’em 😉 Erm, anyway, what occurs to me is that the rounded armour and detailing makes the Liberators a pretty good fit for Tzeentch or Slaanesh (or whatever may have taken Slaanesh’s job, that is…).

Warrior of Chaos by smile:

model converted by smile

model converted by smile

Fellow German hobbyist smile was even more adventurous, using GS and some wonderfully oldskool OOP plastic bitz in order to make his warrior of chaos. I really love the no nonsense nature of this guy, and some of the detail (such as the belt buckle or the chain running across the chest) are really quite wonderful! Excellent job! In fact, smile started the thread linked above in order to entice people to post their own Liberator conversions — let’s hope people go for it, but so far, smile and me seem to be the only ones…

Undead Knight by Matthew Davies:

model converted by Matthew Davies

model converted by Matthew Davies

Another rather original idea, this one! Matthew’s skeleton knight ends up looking far more formidable and bulky than the undead you normally see, but I guess in a world where the toothless old men in pantaloons have been replaced with ironclad demi-gods, the undead will have to keep up as well, eh? Once again, the addition of some carefully considered bitz end up completely changing the model — very nice! Personally speaking, I would probably add some rust holes to the armour, but that’s just my two cents.

Franz Ascendant by Bishmeister (via Clan Khorvaak):

model created by Bishmeister

model created by Bishmeister

Okay, there’s really not much to say here except this model literally blew me away when I first saw it: The conversion is brilliant (recalling a fairly recent Golden Demon entry based on the plastic Nurgle Lord, if I am not mistaken), and the paintjob is just wonderfully lush and warm — and just check out that shield! Not only is this possibly my favourite Liberator conversion right now, but it’s also a perfect embodiment of the Empire now lost to us (sniff). But what a send-off! Brilliant!

Stormcast Eternal Liberator by Heaven’s Teeth:

model created by Heaven's Teeth

model created by Heaven’s Teeth

One final model, and a wonderfully sublime one, at that: Heaven’s Teeth didn’t perform any outlandish conversion work, but merely made some subtle touches, creating a small vignette of a proud demigod at rest. Coupled with a great paintjob and a wonderfully natural looking base, the result makes for a rather stunning piece — very nice!

V. My own Liberator conversion

Worry not, I won’t wind up this post without adding my own conversion to the pile. In fact, I started converting the model the day after picking up the issue of White Dwarf it came with.

While the idea of turning the model into a Custodian was fairly tempting, there was also the fact that I already own a fully converted (if not fully painted) Custodes army, so I was able to resist the call. The same was true for the idea of building a truescale Marine: Brother Auriga fills that role rather admirably right now, and while I won’t rule out building more true scale Marines in the future, I wanted to do something different with the freebie Liberator.

In the end, I decided to turn the model into a rather impressive Inquisitor — not outlandishly creative, admittedly, but also not something I have seen done a lot (yet). So I started messing around with some bitz and soon had this very early WIP:

Stormcast Inquisitor
It quickly became clear that the model’s size and armour would make it a good candidate for a fairly warlike Malleus or Hereticus Inquisitor, which is why I decided for a GK stormbolter on the Inquisitor’s off-hand. Beyond that, I mainly attempted to make the armour look more imperial by adding a bit or two. One thing that ended up feeling wrong, however, was the hammer: While it seemed like a fitting weapon for a member of the Ordo Malleus, at least, both the weapon’s design and angle looked slightly wrong for the type of character I was trying to create.

Then I saw Logan’s version of the Liberator, which was fairly similar and convinced me my own Inquisitor needed a sword as well:

model converted by Logan

model converted by Logan

This turned out to be slightly tricky, however, because the sole, loyalist-looking sword I still had in the old bitzbox was the GK sword with an impaled Plaguebearer head on its tip. So quite a bit of cutting and glueing was in order to replace the blade with that of an Empire Wizard’s sword and to reverse the grip of the hand on the sword.

Beyond the weapon swap, I also started seriously working on the armour in an attempt to make it look more Inquisitorial:

Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (1)
Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (2)
Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (3)
Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (4)
As you can see, I also added Skitarii backpack in order to create some kind of nonstandard power source for the Inquisitor’s armour.

At this point, I was pretty happy with the model, but felt it needed a cape — both for the additional bulk and for the extra bit of ostentatiousness it provided — the Inquisitor just seems like that kind of guy to me 😉

Once again, I had to improvise a bit, because the model’s size made finding a cape at the appropriate scale slightly tricky. Fortunately, I still had a cape from the Deathwing Knights/Deathwing Terminators that worked very well, after a bit of cutting:

Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (5)
The model was almost done at this point. DexterKong suggested adding a techy bit or two to the legs, seeing how the model was looking very medieval below the beltline. I chose a fairly restrained solution though, since I didn’t want to overclutter the model, adding a tech-y connection port and some cabling to the model’s legs.

And with that, my “Stormcast Inquisitor” conversion was completed:

Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (11)
Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (12)
Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (13)
Stormcast Inquisitor WIP (14)
I think he really looks like a Lord Inquisitor, Grandmaster of an Ordo or what have you. Commissar Molotov pointed out the model reminded him of an alternate take on Forgeworld’s Hector Rex — which really made me happy, seeing how Rex had become one of the main inspirations for the conversion somewhere along the way!

One thing that is a bit of a problem, however, is the model’s size: The Inquisitor is indeed taller than a standard Terminator. Here’s a scale comparison image:

Stormcast Inquisitor scale comparison
The image makes it clear that the Inquisitor would look plain ridiculous if placed next to a standard Marine. However, as you can see, there’s still a small difference in heigth and a more noticeable one in bulk between the Inquisitor and Brother Auriga, my true scale Marine. Which makes me thing that the model, while admittedly very tall, still ultimately works in the scale framework I have set for my INQ28 characters. I imagine the Inquisitor had undergone gene-therapy and heavy augmentation, in addition to wearing a suit of custom armour: His size and bulk evoke the picture of a human augmented to the very limits of the human frame, while still not quite on par with an Astartes.

The next big challenge will be to figure out a colour scheme for him: Golden armour would be the obvious – but maybe slightly boring – option. Cream-coloured armour with golden trim would be cool, but there may not be enough actual trim for this to work. Silver armour is out because I don’t want the model to be mistaken as a Grey Knight — a very real danger, given the fact that it uses GK weapons!

My current idea, after some input from DexterKong, is to actually attempt to paint the armour in a marble effect. I’ve already spent quite some time downloading suitable marble textures, and I think something along these lines could work really well:

marble texture mockup
I really want the Inquisitor to have a very luxurious feel, so the current idea is to combine the marble effect with golden armour trim and glossy red as an additional spot colour (on the model’s pauldrons and heraldic plate, for instance). Of course whether or not I’ll be able to pull if off painting-wise remains anyone’s guess… At the very least, Apologist’s recent tutorial for painting marble should really come in handy for this project…

Anyway, so much fun with a single freebie miniature — isn’t that just crazy? Just imagine what it’ll be like when I finally tuck into the rest of the Age of Sigmar box… 😉

One thing I can safely say is that messing around with the Liberator models is quite a lot of fun. Sure, they are started box models and lack some of the flexibility we have come to love. But the way they are designed makes it very easy to convert them into any number of character archetypes — I think this post provides ample proof of that!
Have you converted your own Liberator yet? Or are there any excellent conversions you’ve seen online that you would like to point out? I’m always happy to hear from you in the comments section!

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

At the end of an age — some rather jumbled thoughts on Warhammer and Age of Sigmar

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2015 by krautscientist

Oh boy, where to start…?

I am not the first blogger faced with the task of writing something about the Age of Sigmar release — people who are far smarter than me have already talked about the subject, and yet the challenge remains a rather massive one.

If nothing else, this release seems like a rather gutsy move, doesn’t it? Age of Sigmar has a very real chance of alienating an enormous part of the traditional WFB user base. Then again, it seems like the dwindling sales are what led us to this point in the first place, so maybe GW is even prepared to lose a hefty chunk of that very user base, trying instead to get some new people interested in the game’s latest incarnation?

In any case, it’s safe to say that the discussion about Age of Sigmar is raging like a wildfire on the various blogs and forums, and it’s easy to get burned.

Age of Sigmar starter box (1)
Tell you what, I’ll try to make my life easier by focusing on the models and staying clear of the whole rules brouhaha. Although I have to say I am rather flabbergasted by the viciousness of the debate, especially when it comes to the utterly new and shocking concepts of having to agree with your opponent about the kind of game you want to play and not being a dick when it comes to army composition — in a way, the rules do seem like a return to more innocent RoC and Rogue Trader times, don’t they? And there’s certainly a lot to like about that!

But like I said, let’s take a look at the models: We’ll be doing this in the usual, tried and true fashion — and it goes without saying that we will also be looking at the conversion options (oh my, the conversion options!). So fasten your seatbelt, and we’re off!

Age of Sigmar starter box (3)
The starter box comes with a whopping 47 models, giving us two core armies for the Stormcast Eternals and the Goretide of Khorne. So let’s take a closer look at the two factions in turn, starting with the completely new army: Sigmar’s Stormcast Eternals, obviously the poster boys of the new Warhammer:

 

Stormcast Eternals

Age of Sigmar starter box (4)
These guys are possibly the big surprise in this release, mostly because they initially seem like such a radical departure from the old WFB style: At first glance, the army seems to mostly do away with the zaniness and steampunk/medieval mashup of armies like the Empire and Bretonnia, introducing a more heroic and somewhat videogame-y look and feel in its place: Instead of roughly armed peasants, steam-powered contraptions and medieval knights on speed, we now get hulking, heavily armoured warriors that seem to be taking design cues from several factions at once (at least it feels like there’s a subtle but palpable High Elf influence there, as well as more than a passing resemblance to 40k’s Space Marines). At the same time, I cannot help feeling reminded of designs from video games (like World of Warcraft or Diablo) — which is interesting when you consider how Warhammer obviously inspired the Warcraft universe to begin with, but yeah…

Anyway, let’s take a closer look:

 

Lord-Celestant Vandus Hammerhand

Age of Sigmar starter box (5)The Stormcast Eternals’ army commander seems like GW’s attempt to win us over with shock and awe tactics: What a beast of a miniature! If nothing else, there can be no doubt that this guy is commanding the army, right?

I had several inital reactions when first seeing the model. The first was: “Oh look, it’s GW’s version of He-Man on Battlecat!” Then I thought: “It’s GW’s version of a high level Alliance character from World of Warcraft! And I think you’ll agree that both are pretty obvious associations. I mean, when all is said and done, what we have here is a massive guy in ornate golden armour riding a dragon…cat…thing while wielding an enormous…Warhammer (I see what you did there, GW 😉 ).

What’s really interesting, though, I how the model clearly recalls the sources mentioned above, yet also reads more and more clearly as a GW (and Warhammer) piece the longer you look at it: There are several elements recalling the style of the Empire, for instance, hinting at a common cultural heritage: the Dracoth’s armour looks similar to that of the Demigryphs, Vandus’ helmet being cast in the shape of a snarling lion or panther recalls a similar helmet from the Empire General kit. And the overall composition and detail are very Warhammer-esque in a way that seems rather complicated to explain, yet easy enough to see — in the end, it’s probably the designers’ talent that did the trick 😉

Maybe it’s a very eclectic piece, maybe it’s all a bit much. But it’s a bold statement in that it tries to nail down the entire new Sigmarite look in one model. A model that still looks like it was made by GW, in spite of the new direction — and I think that is no mean feat.

I do have some minor quibbles, though: The Dracoth’s right foreleg does seem a little precariously balanced atop that piece of ruin, while the left foreleg hanging in the air like that comes across as a bit half-baked. The tip of the Dracoth’s tail may also be a tad too toylike for my taste — like the straw that broke the camel’s back, in a way.

But when all is said and done, I cannot help liking this guy. He’s massive and ostentatious and over the top and everything a the champion of a god serving as the army general should be.

 

Lord-Relictor Ionus Cryptborn

Age of Sigmar starter box (6)
The case seems slightly less clear-cut with the Lord-Relictor, as the WoW influence seems to have been dialed up to eleven with this model: the spiky halo and pauldron decoration seems very videogame-y to me, as does the parchment running down the model’s back. What’s more, the design of the model’s head makes it slightly difficult to decide whether it’s a stylised death’s head or the character’s actual, desiccated face. While it does seem to be some kind of facemask upon closer examination, it remains slightly ambiguous, and it’s not an abiguity that works in the character’s favour for once — maybe it’s simply the fact GW has managed to come up with better skull faces on other models?

The scrolls forming the model’s cape also show another visual change that seems to affect the entire range: Where the Empire models were covered in faux-German or Latin scripture, we’ve now moved to mysterious, meaningless squiggles that don’t look like any particular language — or like anthing much really, beyond a clearly discernible “Sigmar” here and there. I actually liked the older approach better — not neccesarily because I am a huge fan of faux-German lettering, but rather because this new design doesn’t really read as scripture quite as easily — it could also just be some kind of squiggly design.

What actually brings this guy back into Warhammer territory for me is that enormous standard: It’s totally over the top — and totally awesome because of it! I like the reliquary look with the candles (although I am pretty sure we’ve already seen that little bag dangling from the standard on the Skaven Stormvermin standard 😉 ). All in all, I like the model slightly less than the Lord-Celestant, not because it’s badly designed, but rather because it looks less like an actual Warhammer model, lacking some of the trademark visual cues to bring it more firmly into the setting.

 

Retributors:

Age of Sigmar starter box (7)
These guys look like a more ornate version of the Liberators, and they are really rather lovely for it: I guess I am not the only one who instantly felt reminded of the Legio Custodes when looking at the models 😉

It seems like different helmet designs are used to denote different unit types for the Stormcast Eternals, and I think it works to great effect here: The stylised thunderbolts combined with the horsehair crests work really well! I also like the flow of the armour, especially when it comes to the enlarged left pauldron — there’s just something instantly likeable about these guys 😉

Age of Sigmar starter box (8)

One particularly nice detail I would like to point out to you is the cloth draped around the haft  of the hammer wielded by the guy in the middle in the above picture: such a small detail, but beautifully executed!

The models strike a better balance between the WoW influence and the Warhammer look than the Lord-Relictor, mostly because the more outlandish elements of their armour seem to have been applied slightly more thoughtfully. At the same time, these almost seem to be the most Space Marine-y Stormcast Eternals, probably due to their silhouette and the strong Custodes vibe — it’s easy to imagine these guys being used in 30k and 40k.

All in all, these might just be my favourite iteration of the new armour design, mostly because the balance seems to be pretty much perfect here: The amount of detail and ostentatiousness is just right and, combined with fairly static but very strong poses and some flowing cloth to break up the static silhouettes, makes for a visual strongpoint in the army — very nice!

 

Prosecutors:

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Where the Retributors are closer to the “classic” GW look, these guys come down more on the side of the World of Warcraft (and general videogame) influence — with a vengeance! The wings are something GW certainly hasn’t tried before, yet they also seem instantly familar to someone who regularly plays videogames. At the same time, it’s also nice to see how the designers have managed to work Sigmar’s iconic comet in there 😉

When it comes to the rest of the models, the armour seems similar to that of the other Stormcast Eternals, with yet another helmet design to point out the models’ different role. The idea of having the models kept aloft (in real life, not in-universe) via the flowing pieces of parchment is a very cool idea and adds to the distinct silhouette. However, it does seem ever so slightly strange to see these rather massive guys floating through the air like that — maybe they just seem a bit too beefy for that kind of motion, maybe it’s the pose of the legs. It just feels like the illusion doesn’t quite work.  I also think they would have profited from a different kind of weapon — a lance or spear, rather than the omnipresent hammers. I get that hammers are Sigmars shtick and everything, but the blunt shape of the weapons doesn’t work all that well with the elegance and finesse of these models.

come with their own champion, Anactos Skyhelm who, in all fairness, doesn’t seem all that different save for his extended wingspan:

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All in all, these feel a little more adventurous than the Retributors, yet also somewhat less balanced. They should make for a rather stunning presence on the table, certainly, but I cannot help feeling that some minor tweaks would have gone a pretty long way here.

 

Liberators:

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These are possibly the new bread-and-butter infantry for the Sigmarite faction or, as some have called them, the new Sigmarite Space Marines or “Sigmarines”. And indeed, there are quite a few parallels between these models and the warrior monks of the 41st millennium: the stature, for once. Or the massive pauldrons. In fact, fellow hobbyist weirdingway had this pretty interesting idea about the new models:

I’m tempted to read the Sigmarites as a version of how GW wishes they could reboot the space marine model line if they weren’t (rightly perhaps) afraid of invalidating such a huge line of kits and alienating so many fans. In the 40k background and artwork marines have slowly transformed from the hunched, human-sized ex-convicts and psychos of Rogue Trader to the giant avenging noble knights of today, but because space marine model releases have been sequential updates they’ve only been ale to increase the scale by such tiny increments, leaving a big disparity between the models and the background. Exacerbated by how much baseline human models have grown over the years. Maybe if the Eternals are a huge success GW will be emboldened to redo the whole marine line in similar proportions and size? Probably not, but fun to speculate about.

Whether or not there is any truth to this, the similarities are too obvious to ignore — maybe these guys are GW’s attempt at replicating the Space Marines’ success in their fantasy setting?

What strikes me about the Liberators is how similar they are in layout to the Putrid Blightkings and Skullreapers/Wrathmongers. Sure, the final look of the models is pretty different, but both the size and stature are very similar — maybe models of this particular size and layout are WFB’s new mainline standard for footsloggers?

One problem I have with these is that while they are looking pretty cool on their own, they do end up seeming a bit samey as a unit. Maybe it has something to do with these models being starter minis, but it feels like the army could do with something to break up the ranks of huge guys in mostly identical golden armour — or maybe that was the whole point…? In a way, they share this flaw with the Space Marines — but make no mistake, the models are still pretty cool! They are just less interesting than the flashier parts of the army.

The unit champions are doing a good job of providing some extra bling, though:

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All in all, these guys make for rather impressive soldiers, yet they are also a massive departure from most of the human factions in the “old” WFB — although their armour (and by extension, the entire faction) seems to take some visual cues from the fully armoured version of Valten. While the Stormcast Eternals move far beyond that particular model, it’s still nice to see a bit of visual consistency like that in a faction that seems entirely new at first glance!

One last thing to point out about these models are their masks: Many people have likened these to the deathmasks of the Sanguinary Guard, and there are some clear parallels, of course. However, I actually think the Liberator masks are more versatile and interesting because the heads are more delicate and less clunky — which makes them far more interesting for all kinds of conversion projects, seeing how you won’t need to shave them down as much as the Sanguinary Guard heads, if you want to use them on human-sized modeld.

Anyway, as far as starter box models go, these are certainly impressive. It’ll be interesting to see whether an army completely composed from huge golden dudes ends up looking interesting enough, though.

 

The Goretide of Khorne

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There I was, trying to sit this release out, and then they went and included an entire freaking Khornate army in the starter set — yeah, thank you very much, GW! 😉

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I am pretty much in love with this part of the boxed set, yet I hope I’ll still be able to remain fairly unbiased when looking at the models. One thing I am definitely aware of is that many people seem to be pretty tired with Khorne as GW’s default chaos faction — and I can definitely see where these people are coming from: Tzeentch and Slaanesh have yet to receive their own dedicated WFB models, and here we are, getting even more followers of Khorne once again. But you’ll have to forgive me, I can never get tired of Khorne, and I love these guys! Ahem, sorry, moving on 😉

What’s interesting about the chaos models is that they almost seem like the WFB version of Dark Vengeance’s chaos models. Just do the math: A Chaos Lord, check. Second champion, check (if we consider the re-released Dark Vengeance with the additional champ, that is). Helbrute-sized abomination, check. Five Chosen, check. Twenty cultists, check. It’s really rather uncanny!

The other thing that occured to me is that these models seem like the “safer” design when compared with the Sigmarites: While the latter can be a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, the Khornate models basically follow the look that has been established for followers of the blood god ages ago. I’ve seen some people state that they find this look too ostentatious, but I’ve really wanted Khornate warriors of chaos to look precisely like this ever since I laid eyes upon this Adrian Smith illustration from the 6th edition BRB (this particular look was also heavily featured throughout the entire army book from the same edition, by the way):

Adrian Smith Warriors of Khorne

So if you’re a chaos player, you won’t have to get used to a totally new design paradigm — as it happens, this seems to extend to the entire faction, seeing how Daemons and Beastmen seem to have been folded back into one army with chaos warriors (as per the older editions), and Skaven were added on top (as per Realms of Chaos, I suppose…?).

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the models, shall we?

 

Khorgos Khul, Mighty Lord of Khorne

Age of Sigmar starter box (14)I’ll be perfectly honest with you: In many ways, this basically seems like the perfect, quintessential Khorne lord to me: The pose and armour are excellent, and I really love the flesh hound, especially since I’ve wanted some new plastic flesh hounds that are less clunky than the Finecast version for quite while now, and this beast gives rise to the hope that there may be more plastic hounds where this one came from. The inclusion of a hunting hound in this way also makes me stupidly happy because it’s so close to the image I have of Khorne’s followers as relentless hunters. The two also make for a smashing ensemble, don’t they?

Khorgos’ axe seems slightly reminiscent of Skarr Bloodwrath’s weapons — fortunately, the stupid flails have been ommitted this time around! And the rather subtle mutations have also been implemented rather well: Both the chitinous looking claw and the disturbing, fleshy stomach are not immediately noticeable, yet only make the model even more sinister once you notice them.

There are merely two very minor points of contention I have about the model: One, I am not 100% sold on the helmet yet, although that may just be the angle of the photo. Using a skull-like facemask like that seems like a cool enough idea — I’ll just have to see whether the actual head really works for me. It’s a bit hard to make out in the pictures. The other thing that does get some getting used to is the icon of Khorne on the model’s back — it’s pretty cool, but seems ever so slightly too big to me. I may get used to it, though 😉

So what can I say: Khorgos Khul is an excellent Khornate Chaos Lord and makes for an exciting centrepiece in every chaos army. He’s certainly on par with Kranon the Relentless, which is no mean feat. Excellent job!

 

Bloodsecrator Threx Skullbrand:

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The Goretide’s “Bloodsecrator” (I swear to God I am not making these names up!) seems to be a mix between an army standard bearer and shaman. Threx goes for a more gladiatorial look, with a mostly unarmoured upper body showing off his impressive physique. While the overall model is pretty cool, he is somewhat less well designed than Khorgos Khul, though:

First, the good stuff: I love the collar around the model’s neck and the collection of skulls hanging from it. The leg armour is also very nice. And I love the weapon, which seems to be a 50:50 mix between an axe and a mace. The spine forming some kind of braid seems a bit much, though — it’s simply one of those things that seem slightly too juvenile to me.

The biggest problem is the icon, though — in a very literal sense. While it’s beautifully designed (and actually perfectly mirrors the design of the smaller icon Khorgos Khul is wearing — a nice bit of visual consistency there), it’s simply too big for the model: While it would probably look excellent on a 40k Chaos vehicle or walker, it does seem too massive and cumbersome on an infantry model, even on a beefcake like Threx here.

The good news is that all of these problems should be easy enough to solve with a bit of converting, so the model is still a very good base for a suitably impressive champion or standard bearer. It just takes some minor adjustments to make him even cooler, if you ask me.

 

Khorgorath Skuldrak

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Oh my, this big guy certainly was a surprise, wasn’t he? The Khorgorath basically seems to be a massive, chaos spawn-like beast composed of mutated flesh, bone and, well, lots of skulls, basically. The first thing that struck me is how similar the model’s pose seems to the Helbrute included with the Dark Vengeance boxed set — seriously, that cannot have been a coincidence! The second thing I noticed: Whatever is the deal with that head…?

Let’s see if we can make some sense of it:

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Okay, it seems like the lower jaw is actually an original part of…whatever the creature was before it became a Korgorath. Then we have a crossbar decorated with icons of Khorne, and atop that a blackened skull that may or may not be the creature’s original skull — or maybe this skull is some kind of chaotic artifact that has been placed there to work as the creature’s head…?  And on top of that, a strange, warped bone crown that looks like Khorne’s rune while also looking like a secondary face…? I give up! 😉

The head is certainly a case of “love it or hate it”. Some will love it, precisely because it’s so strange — it recalls some of the utterly inscrutable mutations from the Realms of Chaos books. Personally, I think it’s a little too abstract for my taste, but I will reserve final judgement until I’ve seen it firsthand. In any case, replacing it with something a little less out there would probably be easy enough.

The rest of the model seems like a massive, heavily-muscled and gruesomely mutated chaotic monstrosity — which, I guess, was the entire point of the exercise. While I am not a huge fan of rampant mutations, I think it really works here, because it provides a nice contrast with the more restrained infantry models in the army. Even if I am not 100% sold on the model yet, I think it will at least make for perfect and very promising conversion fodder!

 

Bloodstoker Vekh the Flayer:

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It’s great how the Khorgorath comes with its own minder, and Vekh the Flayer really looks the part. Rather atypically for a servant of Khorne, this guy seems to be rather corpulent. But the look works very well for a beast herder like this. Plus there are still enough clues as to this guy’s allegiance — like the trident shaped like a Khornate rune that has been brutally rammed into Vekh’s right arm or the multiple runes adorning his armour. The model’s increased bulk makes it seem almost Ogre-sized, which I think adds some nice variation in height and build to the Goretide.

The one thing I don’t particularly care for is the exposed lower part of the face — I think the model would be more menacing with a completely covered, utterly expressionless face. In fact, I think there’s quite a resemblance with God of War’s version of Hades, and like that character, the head would work so much better if it were completely closed, obscuring any facial features and making the model look even more inhuman and implacable.

Once again, though, this should be easy enough to remedy. What we have here is a pretty interesting addition to the core army, when it comes to the visuals. And he looks great together with the Khorgorath. Very cool!

 

Blood Warriors:

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Well, we can keep this short: These guys are basically the stars of the show for me, period. But then I already told you that I simply love this particular kind of Khornate warrior: It’s the look I have always wanted for champions of the Blood God, and it seems just about perfectly realised on these models. Some people may think they are too ornate, but I would argue that they are dialed back when compared with the totally OTT weapons from the Skullreaper kit — in fact, these guys seem far more believable and less creepy-crawly, which I love! Each armour is a work of art, while also looking functional enough for a follower of Khorne: Each decoration also works as a blade (or, at the very least, a hideous spiky surface). And while GW seems to have been trying new iterations of this particular helmet design for quite a while now, the heads on these guys are pretty much perfect: Even the visible mouths perfectly complement the helmet design. Sure, the bearded guy may be a bit of an acquired taste, but all in all, the heads are fantastic!

There is also something wonderfully disturbing about the gaping maw the unit champ has been gifted with: Ewww!

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These are possibly the models from the starter box I am looking forward to most — it’ll be great to finally get my hands on them (and to promptly turn them into members of Khorne’s Eternal Hunt, in all likelihood).

 

Bloodreavers:

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These are very interesting in that they seem like mix between the older Chaos Marauders and the chaos cultists from Dark Vengeance — seriously, I don’t think these guys would look out of place next to the cultist models.

And right enough, the design seems to be going for a look between Chaos Marauder and cultists, which works well enough. But while the models sport many cool Khornate touches, some of them do look a bit rough around the edges: The naked torsos seem a little dubious from an anatomical perspective, and some of the poses could have used some fine tuning.

On the other hand, I really love some of the helmets, and having the added benefit of a standard bearer and musician is also a nice touch. When all is said and done, I suppose these could become just as versatile and prolific for conversions as the Dark Vengeance cultists — at least when it comes to converting all kinds of Khornate madmen. They would also make for teriffic chaos cultists in 40k with some added autopistols — but we’ll be getting to that in a minute.

All in all, these are pretty cool. They have a bit of a hard time against spectacular models like Khorgos Khul or the Blood Warriors, though. Even so, pretty good.

 

 

Conversion Options:

Stormcast Eternals:

As has been pointed out by many people before me, the Stormcast Eternals should lend themselves especially well to any number of true scalish conversion projects: Custodes are the very obvious (and very awesome) idea here, seeing how the models seem to be halfway there anyway: Just add some White Lion helmets and Nemesis Psi-Halberds, and you have yourself some pretty convincing (and rather correctly scaled) Custodes — there’s even the new golden spraypaint to make painting even easier for you.

An equally interesting idea would be to use the models as base models for Thunder Warriors: Their less tech-y and more medieval armour and size make them ideal for the Emperor’s Proto-Astartes, and I am looking forward to seeing Mikko Luoma’s Thunder Warrior project take shape — the Stormcast Eternals seem like a brilliant resource for such an endeavour! And as Eric Wier has pointed out very recently: Don’t those Retributors slightly remind you of one of the vintage Mk 1 Terminators? Maybe that could be a very cool conversion project as well!

And while we are on the matter of power armoured characters, I am pretty sure the models could be used to kitbash a Space Marine hero or two wearing Artificer armour — although the differences between the Stormcast Eternals and Astartes are certainly big enough to make such a conversion challenging.

Speaking of Space Marines, wouldn’t you agree that the Dracoth might make a pretty cool mount for a Salamanders Captain — and speaking of Salamanders, all those massive hammers would be a perfect fit for the army. Just sayin’…

And finally, a slightly more out-there idea: What about using some of the Stormcast Eternals for a Mechanicus-related project: Wouldn’t it be cool to use some techy bitz and turn the towering Stormcast Eternals into massive clockword automata? They are looking like tin men anyway, and I could really imagine some of them as the personal bodyguard of a particularly powerful and eccentric Archmagos.

Oh, and let’s not forget Inquisitors of course, because who else would wear ostentatious armour like that. As it happens, I have already started messing around with the freebie Liberator that came with White Dwarf, starting to build an Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus or Hereticus (or maybe even an Inquisitor Lord?). Here’s a very early WIP:

Stormcast Inquisitor
In fact, the very straightforward way the Liberator models are designed makes them very easy to use for simple conversions like head and weapon swaps, so I think we can look forward to all kinds of crazy projects involving these models. And regarding head swaps, I believe those Liberator masks would work like a charm for sun cultists, death cult assassins, Navigators who have to hide their deformities and similar denizens of the wonderful world of INQ28…

 

Goretide of Khorne:

For those of you who are playing a World Eaters or Khorne:Daemonkin army: Good news, everyone! We now have our very own starter box army: Just add some backpacks and bolt pistols — BAM! Instant Khornate CSM army 😉

Seriously, though: These should mix wonderfully with the CSM catalogue. I already pointed out the structural similarities with the chaos side of Dark Vengeance, and I think both core armies could be combined perfectly into a Khornate army: The Chosen and the Blood Warriors seem like they would be really easy to mix and match, and with some CSM weapons, backpacks and (for the more adventurous) lower legs) spliced in, the Blood Warriors would make for excellent World Eaters Chosen and/or champions.

The same goes for the Blood Reavers, as they are looking like the chaos cultists’ Khornate cousins. Combining both kinds of models multiplies the variations we can get out of our cultists, and I imagine the Bloodreavers would also work really well for INQ28 conversion projects, such as chaos cults (DUH!) or something a little more original — like Necromunda-styled Pitslaves, for instance!

Khorgos Khul seems pretty much perfect the way he is — just slap on a pistol holster, and he’d make for a wonderful World Eaters lord.

The Bloodstoker seems almost Ogryn-sized — which would make him an interesting option for a traitor Ogryn (or even a – slightly smaller – plastic version of this Forgeworld model).

The Khorgorath could work as a pretty convincing Helbrute stand-in, a huge arena beast for a World Eaters army, bigger chaos spawn or even as a base model for a Daemon Prince conversion. One thing I will have to figure out is how to make sense of that head — or else, I guess I’ll have to replace it with something a little less abstract.

The “Bloodsecrator” (I still cannot get used to actually typing that out) would make for a fantastic World Eaters arena champion in 40k, while his standard would be great for accessorising a Khornate Landraider or Knight Titan — or any other kind of chaotic vehicle or walker, really.

Whatever happens, I think we can really look forward to seeing an amazing plethora of conversions involving these kits sooner rather than later — I, for one, can hardly wait!

 

 

So, what to make of it all? The starter box is pretty spectacular and certainly a highlight after last month’s rather lacklustre Space Marine release. The models are excellent and provide lots of value for the money. GW’s designers often seem to be at their best when designing starter boxes, and Age of Sigmar is no exception to this rule!

But while the set is chock full of amazing models, I cannot help coming back to the question as to how this will change the landscape for Warhammer. One thing I think we can all agree on is that the new direction constitutes a pretty big shift in many ways. Jeff Vader’s own, very succinct piece on the matter here perfectly echoes some of my own thoughts, although I would like to expand on one particular point. Jeff writes:

The average thirteen year old given the choice between an army of bad ass armoured Space warriors and an army of toothless men with pantaloons and floppy hats is most likely going to leave the store with a box of space marines. I may think the Empire and Bretonnia has their merits now that I’m older, but I remember how godawfully boring I found them as a kid… (I played nightgoblins).

And I think this changing of the watch, if you will, between the heroic and the pathecic really sits smack-dab in the middle of a rather massive paradigm shift — and by “pathetic” I mean a certain kind of style that has always been a cornerstone of GW’s particular treatment of low fantasy: There were always mighty heroes, true enough, but many of the models ended up looking like frightened everymen utterly ill-suited to face the murderous challenges of an entirely hostile world. Just look at the Empire State Troops (as outlined in the citation above), the Bretonnian Men-at-arms or some of the older, more humorous greenskin models. This aesthetic of the pathetic has been written about a lot, especially in Oldhammer circles, and while it has been slowly dialed back over the last few years, I think we can safely say that it’s probably gone for good now. And in a way, and in spite of everything that may be awesome about these new models, it’s sad to see Warhammer getting rid of one of the things that made it so great. Because, at the end of the day, the old toothless men were very much at the heart of what made the setting unique.

In an interesting twist,  the Old World and Warhammer basically started as a mashup of every fantasy race ever in one game, continuously waging war in a battle royale event. But over the years, the setting became less generic and established itself as its own thing: The low fantasy undercurrent really transformed it into something interesting. Granted, not all of it may have been equally fascinating, but there was a lot of narrative potential in places like the Empire (I still think Jack Yeovil’s classic Warhammer novel “Beasts in Velvet” serves as perfect proof of this).

The new narrative doesnt seem quite as compelling – yet – but seemingly goes back towards a more generic approach: Sigmar meeting and befriending a huge dragon? Sigmar raising up the mortal tribes over millennia? So far, it all seems like a severe case of “tell, don’t show” — we have very little attachment to this new setting, mostly because we haven’t seen all that much of it. The different realms sound like a concept that could be interesting, but with so little backstory in place, it all seems more like all the colourful backgrounds from a 90s 16bit fighting game of the Streetfighter II variety: In that game, we also get to visit all those countries, but they never provide more than a highly stylised background to the fight — the analogy seems rather apt, I think.

The treatment of WFB’s established armies is another interesting point: There are rumours about one reason for this rather radical revamp being that concepts like “Lizardmen” or “High Elves” are simply impossible to trademark — often because they weren’t even GW’s idea in the first place. I don’t know whether that really was an important part of this redesign, I don’t know much about copyright law, but Warhammer as an IP must have been a nightmare to protect sometimes. So now we get the “Aelf” instead of the Elves and the “Orruks” instead of the Orcs, and the new Lizardmen are called Seraphon,…and while it may make the IP more solid (in legal terms) and while it’s a nice service for WFB players to be able to hang on to their armies in AoS, it also seems a little hokey right now, at least until we know what the long term plan is — will there be more support for those races, or is their inclusion maybe a way for GW to cut its losses (revamping that entire Dark Elf catalogue, for instance, cannot have been cheap)? We don’t know yet.

Which, I guess, leads us to my main criticism: One thing I would really have loved to see accompanying this release is some proactive communication on GW’s part: There are probably many reasons for them having taken this route, and it should be no dark and dirty secret that some of those reasons are probably business-related. By the same token, it’s easy now to see a lot of what they did during the End Times releases as preparation for this: The End Times got players used to combining different armies into bigger alliances, something that is now turned up to eleven with AoS. The WoW aesthetic is also something that has grown more and more noticeable during the End Times. And finally, looking at the size and basic design of the Stormcast Eternals and Khornate warriors in the AoS starter set, it almost seems like the Putrid Blightkings and Skullreapers/Wrathmongers were basically a test run for this new kind of infantry — or, at the very least, designed with AoS firmly in mind. In hindsight, things fall into place rather beautifully.

But I think this would have been an excellent time for a bit of a “fireside chat” with the customer. So instead of glossing this all over as the next great thing and an option for having even more amazing battles, they should have been a bit more open about it: “Look, guys, we all love WFB to bits, but it just didn’t work any more. It didn’t sell well enough. The rules became more and more cumbersome. We felt like there was nowhere else to go. Which is why we decided to try something new. You might initially dislike our approach, but please give the game a go before you ragequit!” I think some of the hatred and frustration we are seeing from WFB players right now stems from the feeling of being ignored and/or not really addressed at this time.

The models are certainly looking fantastic, though, which is why I am at least willing to hear them out on this. The Khornate part of the deal is basically a compulsory purchase for me, and chaos seems to be closer to its prior incarnation, if a bit more ostentatious. In fact, I have preordered the box merely on the merits of the models, without even knowing whether I’ll ever play the actual game. In that way, I am probably GW’s ideal customer, because the one thing that will always win me over are cool models. And a game that allows enforces army selection based on the models I like is certainly more interesting to me than one where I have to field lots of stuff I find dull.

But it’ll be interesting to see whether this move wins GW more patrons than it alienates. Some of the visual influences make it obvious that Age of Sigmar may have been designed to appeal to additional demographics — videogamers, for instance. I think people who grew up with tabletop based roleplaying and wargaming naturally fell in love with MMORPGs and console RPGs because, well, these were their fantasy world come to life. The same may not be true in the opposite direction: Why would a WoW player go through the drag of having to build up an army. And time will tell whether or not the market can sustain another faction of massive, heavily armoured dudebros, however cool the models may be.

When all is said and done, I can watch all of this unfold from a fairly comfortable position: It’s been years since I last played WFB, so my attachment to the section is mainly nostalgic. I don’t have 15,000 points of models that have been invalidated by a change in rules. And if nothing else, the new release will provide me with lots of lovely conversion material. I do realise of course that other people stand to lose more from this than me. So for those you who are veteran WFB players and who are – maybe rightly – furious that GW killed of “their” game, let me tell you this – and I am utterly, deadly serious here, this is no attempt at being snarky or condescending:

This may feel awful now, but it could be a blessing in disguise. GW has killed off systems before (older editions of WFB and 40k as well as the specialist games like Necromunda, Gorkamorka and Inquisitor). Yet those systems now enjoy a second lease of life because they have been given over to the fans, to do with as they will. And it works! One need look no further than the brilliantly creative and highly prolific INQ28 scene as proof. Granted, games that have been officially cut loose will probably never be a mainline game again, but there is something very reassuring in the knowledge that the game is “finished” in a way. It belongs to you. Take a look at the Oldhammer community and rejoice: You can pick any version of Warhammer you like and play it. Will it be less comfortable than before? Peobably. But it’s possible. And nobody can ever take that away from you, whatever happens next. And who knows, maybe Age of Sigmar turns out to be a fun game after all? Then you will have even more options at your fingertips. Keep calm and carry on, as they say 😉

 

So yeah, this is all my terribly wordy and rather roundabout way of saying that I think it’s a brilliant starter box, once again, and certainly some excellent value for the money (as long as you buy into the thought that little plastic men can be excellent value for the money, that is). But it might take more than a sweet starter box this time around, and as for Age of Sigmar’s future I think the jury is still out on this one…

That new logo is pretty awful, though…And to the person responsible for all of those names: Please just stop! Please…! 😉

 

So, what is your take on this release? Are you happy with the new direction? Are you frothing at the mouth with rage at the new game and the new designs? Do you love or hate the models? Or do you want to share some additional conversion ideas? As always, I would love to hear from you in the comments section!

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

 

There will be blood — a hands on with the Bloodthirster and Skullreaper kits

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Pointless ramblings, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2015 by krautscientist

In my last post, I promised you an account of my first practical experiences with the new Bloodthirster and Skullreaper/Wrathmonger kits, and today’s post will deal with just this subject. So you may look forward to quite a bit of kitbashing. Huzzah! 😉

But all in good order: Before we do anything else, there’s something that I absolutely need to share with you guys. It would probably be far more modest and professional not to talk about it at all, but I am just too much of a blabbermouth — sorry! 😉

So yeah, here’s what happened over at Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s blog a while ago:

YES!

I was chuffed to bits, as you can probably imagine! Unbelievable! I just couldn’t stop grinning afterwards!

But enough about my ego: I promised you Khornate WIPs, and you shall have them. So allow me to show you what’s been happily bubbling away in the depths of my kitbashing laboratory for the last days and weeks. One last warning, though: Beware ye, who enter here: There be lots of unpainted grey plastic ahead!

 

I. Bloodthirster

I bought my own Bloodthirster on the day of the release, although I hadn’t even planned to: I just couldn’t resist when seeing the box at my FLGS, and seeing how there was still one of the kits available for purchase, I jumped right in. So far, building this model has been a lot of fun, since it continues the trend of well-planned huge kits begun with the Imperial Knight. But let’s take a look at some pictures, shall we?

Bloodthirster Impressions (1)
This is my Bloodthirster after an hour or so. Now I did take it fairly slow, even though it may not look like it: Like I said, it’s a wonderfully engineered kit, and it went together extremely well, for the most part.

For those of of wondering about the size of the model, here he is, next to a standard Space Marine:

Bloodthirster Impressions (2)
The Bloodthirster could always have been bigger, of course, but I am rather happy with the model’s size and bulk. There’s also a very handy scale conversion pic here, for those of you who want to know how the model measures up next to the other Bloodthirster models released so far.

One interesting thing is that nobody forces you to build your Bloodthirster all armoured up: Here’s what he looks like with all the armour plates removed:

Bloodthirster Impressions (4)
In fact, Noctus Cornix’ Bloodthirster conversion (which I already recommended you check out in my last post) goes for a mostly unarmoured look, and it works like a charm!

The only armour you will positively need is that belly plate, since he’ll have a pretty big hole in his torso, otherwise.

Oh, and I know you all want to know about the size of that axe, so here’s another scale comparison for you:

Bloodthirster Impressions (6)
Pretty big, huh? I added some measurements, for those of you who are planning a conversion involving the axe:

axe_measurements
So, what’s in the kit beyond that? First and foremost, you’ll get the option to build either of the three advertised variants, of course. You also get to mix and match between them to a certain degree. I suppose it should even be possible to create new weapons setups (twin axes, for example) with a bit of cutting and gluing. Now when it comes to extra bitz, here’s a a quick overwiev of my observations so far:

  • You get an additional set of arms (for the two handed axe) plus an additional left arm, depending on whether you go with the whip or that – very ridiculous – meteor hammer.
  • There’s an alternate breastplate, loincloth and belly plate. You can mix and match between different setups with these.
  • You get three complete heads (except for a tongue bit that is shared between two of the designs). The leftover heads are slightly larger than those in the plastic Daemon Prince kit, so they might even be usable on your DP conversions.
  • There’s a bunch of chains and talismans of Khorne that you can use on the wings or be used on different models
  • you get two axe heads for the one-handed axe.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the bitz:

Bloodthirster Impressions (5)
I. The optional skull shoulder pad is interesting in that it would possibly work as a facemask on a daemon engine or *gasp* even an Imperial Knight conversion (it works fairly well on an Imperial Knight head — I checked 😉 ).

II. If – like me – you think that flame pillar is a stupid way to elevate the model on the base, you’ll get it as a leftover bit that might make a cool objective marker or something similar…

III. Here’s the alternate armour set you get: Those belly plates work pretty well as bespoke pauldrons for Chaos Terminators. And the breastplate could be used for an Imperial Knight, with a tiny bit of bending.

IV. The chains and talismans for the wings — I think I’ll rather be using these on a couple of different models, as the Bloodthirster seems cluttered enough for my taste 😉

In closing, let me point out two more interesting bitz:

First up, the chaos icon used on the Bloodthirster’s whip:

Bloodthirster Impressions (3)
I think this would make for an excellent squad standard or a back-banner. I also decided not to use it on my Bloodthirster, because I preferred a whip without a bulky object on its end, but the part is still very cool on its own. More on this in a minute!

There’s also the Rogue Trader-era styled bone crown:

Bloodthirster Impressions (7)
As you can see, it comes as a separate bit, so you could also use it on your DPs, juggernauts or even on a Terminator lord (it almost looks like the top of a Terminator torso front anway…).

So, what about my own Bloodthirster, then?

The model is still in its building stage, and I have settled on the axe/whip combo now, because it’s just so brilliantly iconic that I couldn’t resist it. Here’s what the model currently looks like:

Bloodthirster Impressions (10)
Bloodthirster Impressions (8)
I’ve glued the model to the fantasy base for now, so I can have it upright. A couple of observations:

  • As you can see, this guy is fairly massive, even without his wings. I really like that!
  • After much deliberation, I chose the asymmetrical axe head: While the other axe is beautifully designed, it just looks slightly wrong to me, held at that particular angle — more like the ‘Thirster is presenting it to the audience. The asymmetrical version doesn’t have that problem, at least not to the same degree, and looks like he is actually preparing for a swing, so it was definitely the way to go for me.
  • You wouldn’t believe how much messing around it took to sort out that whip arm — the instructions are slightly ambiguous, with pictures that aren’t all that helpful, so getting the whip into a position where it both cleared the floor and didn’t interfere with the head did take some doing. In all fairness, however, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you use something to elevate the model a bit on its base. As you can see, I also left off the chaos star, shaving down the whip so it tapers down into a pointy end instead — this seems more natural and plausible to me, plus I got to keep that burning chaos star for something else 😉

Most of the assembly work has been completed at this point: Only the wings remain, and they seem like a fairly straightforward affair. All in all, the model really went together very well for such a huge piece, with well-planned seams making the model look organic and natural — well, as natural as a daemonic killing machine the size of a house could ever realistically look, at least…

That’s not all though: At the same time, I have also been using some leftover bitz on some other projects:

Since I knew I wasn’t going to use the meteor hammer weapon, no matter what, I used the chain from it to add a final, gladiatorial dash to one of my Daemon Princes:

World Eaters Daemon Prince (34)
World Eaters Daemon Prince (32)
World Eaters Daemon Prince (33)
Some leftover icons of Khorne (and two runes from the vambrace of a leftover Bloodthirster arm) were used to add some extra oomph to his armour and make him look more Khornate. The main attraction is his weapon, though: Both hookswords are now joined by a length of daemonic chain, courtesy of the Bloodthirster’s meteor hammer:

World Eaters Daemon Prince (30)
World Eaters Daemon Prince (29)
I think this pushes the gladiatorial look even further, which I really like! And while we are at it, here’s a scale comparison picture with the WIP Bloodthirster and the Daemon Prince:

Bloodthirster Impressions (9)
I also promised you that I would be using that flaming chaos star for a conversion, right? Well, I did:

Dark Apostle Belzas Azalon (3)
As you can see, it makes for a teriffic Crozius Maul for my Word Bearers Dark Apostle, Belzas Azalon (I also touched up the right shoulder pad, while I was at it).

So in addition to the Bloodthirster itself, the kit has already provided me with a way to make two models considerably cooler — very nice! 😉

II: Skullreapers/Wrathmongers

I have also started experimenting with the Wrathmonger/Skullreaper kit.

First up, take a look at this scale comparison between a (slightly modified) Chosen model and a Wrathmonger:

Wrathmongers_first_impressions (1)
While the Wrathmonger may be slightly taller, the scale is still pretty similar — so similar, in fact, that parts from the Chosen will fit the new models without much of a hitch. It’s also important to stress that the guy on the right doesn’t even qualify as an early WIP — I just tacked together some bitz, in order to show you the scale.

I also find it interesting that some of the – almost comically brutish – Skullreaper heads work much better when used on “regular” CSM models. Take a look:

Wrathmongers_first_impressions (2)
Much better, don’t you think? I’ve merely shaved off those stupid “cheek horns”, but now the head makes for a very fitting World Eaters berzerker!

Oh, and one thing that really excites me is that you basically get twice as many torso pieces as you need: One set for the Skullreapers and one for the Wrathmongers. And each of those pieces has its own breastplate, which can be used as intended or cut apart to use on your other WoC/CSM models — all in all, this kit provides an enormous pile of leftover bitz for conversions, which makes it a pretty good purchase, if you are not totally disgusted by the look of these guys.

I also decided to follow my idea above, playing around with a combination of Skullreaper/Wrathmonger parts and Dark Vengeance Chosen. Let’s start with something boring: The same Wrathmonger pictured above, now with a tacked on Chosen arm:

Wrathmongers_first_impressions (3)
Everything’s just tacked together for now, in order to show you how well those Chosen arms work with the models.

And here’s something more involved: A mix of Wrathmonger/Skullreaper and Chosen parts:

Wrathmongers_first_impressions (4)
Wrathmongers_first_impressions (5)
Once again, all the parts have only been tacked together with modeling putty for now, but there’s something suitably gladiatorial and feral about this guy that I like. I also think the model serves as proof that those leftover Wrathmonger chests can really be put to good use!

One important thing, though: Once again, the stock Wrathmongers/Skullreapers are a bit taller than the DV Chosen:

Wrathmongers_first_impressions (6)

So the best approach would probably be to save the Wrathmongers/Skullreapers for unit champs, Chaos Lords etc. Or you could choose an approach similar to that of Wonkobaggins and use the Skullreapers as counts as chaos spawn and/or Red Butchers. Check out his first experiments with the kit here.

One last thing I did was to play around with the reverse-jointed set of legs for a while: I think it would make for an excellent start for building a plastic Herald of Khorne — or even a counts as Skulltaker! After a bit of messing around, here’s what I ended up with:

Plastic Skulltaker counts as WIP (1)
Plastic Skulltaker counts as WIP (2)
Plastic Skulltaker counts as WIP (3)
Plastic Skulltaker counts as WIP (4)

All in all, this has been a surprisingly easy conversion: Most of the model is simply a stock Skullreaper, with the arms and head replaced with Bloodletter (and Bloodcrusher) bits. The body already has the characteristic, pocked skin, so it looks like it belongs to a Bloodletter anyway. And the armour is jagged and organic enough to pass for daemonic, don’t you think? One thing I did was to graft on a Bloodletter neck, so I would have a more natural way of attaching the head.

I am still thinking about adding a cape like the one the original Skulltaker has: On the one hand, it seems like a fun challenge (and I do have an idea that might work), but on the other hand, I am really happy with the dynamic posing and striking silhouette the model has right now, and I fear an added cape would just overclutter the model…

And finally, in an act of nearly unprecedented heresy, at least for my own standards, I used some of the hip plates from the Skullreapers’ armour in order to make the armour of a true scaled Slaaneshi Marine I built at an earlier point look more, well, Slaaneshi:

Emperor's Child (3)
Emperor's Child (4)

So far for my first round of experiments with the Skullreaper/Wrathmonger kit. In any case, I’d like to point out that I am really going to take my time with these guys, so it will probably be a good long while before I complete all five models. Even so, I’ll be using some of the additional bitz from the kit for all kinds of projects, so you’ll be seeing a lot of stuff from this kit making an appearance in Khorne’s Eternal Hunt! 😉

III. Generosity

In a move of nearly unbelievable generosity, Commissar Molotov recently sent me a huge pile of stuff, including a lot of leftover Dark Vengeance Chosen and Chosen parts. It’s his generosity that has made my experiments above possible, for which I am very thankful. But that’s not even all: Mol provided an amazing bitz drop with lots and lots of fantastic contents. For instance, he sent me this wonderful Kharn conversion: Malthus Dire, a champion of Khorne:

Model converted by Commissar Molotov

Model converted by Commissar Molotov

Mol informed me that this conversion is actually about ten years old! Which goes to show that good, clean conversion work never goes out of style. It also goes without saying that I’ll make sure to paint him up to the best of my abilities, in Mol’s honour!

I have also used yet another Chosen from the batch he sent me for a different conversion: Taking inspiration from DexterKong’s brilliant World Eaters counts as Huron Blackheart, I have created my own version of the character for Khorne’s Eternal Hunt. Now my version is certainly somewhat less impressive than Dexter’s, and it’s not a true scale model either, seeing how it needs to be scaled correctly to fit the rest of my army, but I am nevertheless very happy with it. Take a look:

Counts as Huron WIP (7)
Counts as Huron WIP (8)
Counts as Huron WIP (9)
As you can see, most of stock Huron’s characteristic elements are there — I even got a bit of a kick out of having the model in a pose similar to that of the stock model, albeit more dynamic. Oh, and let me just add that the axe was inspired by a similar (albeit much more elegant) weapon conversion done by Biohazard!

One thing I really like is how carefully shaving off the original head allowed me to keep some of the cabling from the stock head and make it look like they are feeding into the bionic side of the head:

Counts as Huron WIP (6)
The model’s pretty much finished at this point — although I am still considering whether or not to add some longer claws to the left fist…

 

So, as you can see, the great forges of the Blood God are running hot right now! I’d be happy to hear any feedback you might have about these models! Just drop me a comment and feel free to share suggestions or ideas of your own! And expect more Khornate madness soon 😉

Until then, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!