Archive for wfb

Striking a rich vein

Posted in 40k, Blood Bowl, Chaos, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, old stuff, Orcs & Goblins, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2014 by krautscientist

Late last week, the most wonderful thing happened to me: While browsing through the stuff at my FLGS, I found out that the owner was currently selling two huge lots of assorted miniatures and bitz: One of those lots came from a former hobbyist who wanted to get rid of the last part of his collection, while the reason for the other lot being sold was, sadly enough, its owner having passed away. Anyway, the owner of my FLGS found himself in the (temporary) possession of two huge piles of models — and it shouldn’t surprise you that I was very eager to have a look at all of that stuff.

This provided me with one huge moving box and several smaller shoeboxes of stuff to sift through, which was already brilliant fun in itself: With the internet so full of collectors, professional sellers and general information as to the worth and availability of miniatures these days, finding such a hoard of stuff has become increasingly unlikely, and so the simple act of digging through the piles of models alone was an experience to savour! Most of the models came from WFB, but there was such a mass of different models (and factions) present that it took quite a bit of discipline not to just buy the whole thing outright.

Anyway, I tried to reign myself in and only dragged away about a shoebox’s worth of stuff. And whether or not my haul was all that spectacular surely lies in the eye of the beholder. But I went home utterly content, I can tell you that much 😉

Anyway, let’s take a look at the best parts of my haul (and also at the provisional ideas I have for this stuff), alright?

First up, tucked away in a plastic bag labeled “Vikings” was most of the dwarf army from the WFB “Battle for Skull Pass” boxed set from a few years back:

Lucky purchase (1)
While some of the regular models are missing, all the special characters, standard bearers, champions and musicians are still accounted for. Plus there are also the little additional bitz and bobs and terrain pieces. I basically picked this up as a bonus, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I might already have a new home for these guys (Michael, if you’re reading this: Make sure to bring a big enough suitcase, when you’re in the area again, okay? 😉 ).

I also picked up two more pieces from the same boxed set:

One, the plastic troll accompanying the Night Goblin army:

Lucky purchase (2)
This was actually one of the high points of the purchase for me, because this guy will look perfect as a troll player for my orcish Blood Bowl team, the Orkheim Ultraz  — as a matter of fact, you can already see the first parts of his Blood Bowl gear in the picture above. Nothing’s glued together yet, but I already like where this is going!

Two, this strange shaman’s tent/tree trunk hut:

Lucky purchase (3)
This might come in handy for my Blood Bowl team or for the Mordheim Orc warband I’ve been planning for a while. Come to think of it, including terrain pieces like this in the starter boxes was a really neat touch! They should do that again!

Upon closer examination, it becomes obvious that the sculpts and level of detail for starter box minis have increased dramatically since these models were released. But I still like them well enough, and finding them all together like this without a hassle certainly was a nice surprise!

While we are on the subject of greenskins, I also bought this assortment of brilliant goblins and snotlings:

Lucky purchase (4)
These are part of the still available Doom Diver Catapult — as a matter of fact, pretty much the whole catapult was included in the deal, although the greenskins themselves are definitely the stars of the show! Again, these will probably be used for Mordheim or Blood Bowl (the winged goblin would be perfect for the latter…).

Like I said, most of the stuff available was from WFB, but I did manage to find a 40k treat or two. First up, a small pile of Tyranid nuts and bolts that, while not all that impressive in and of itself, will come in handy for a future INQ28 project of mine…

Lucky purchase (5)
And there’s this lovely OOP Eldar Warlock from the 90s, sculpted by Jes Goodwin. It’s trange: Even though I have always loved Jes’ Eldar models to bits, I have never owned any of them, so picking this guy up was an absolute no-brainer:

Lucky purchase (6)
And, last but not least, a lucky find at the bottom of a box of bitz: Exactly half a Delphan Gruss model from Inquisitor:

Lucky purchase (10)
This guy may actually become my first (and, quite possibly, only) foray into the world of Inq54 — just watch this space 😉

And as for the WFB universe, there are some final highlights to share:

First up, this guy (from one of the old WFB mercenary regiments, if I recall correctly):

Lucky purchase (9)
I keep racking my brain for a way to make this guy into an INQ28 character — maybe a member of a particularly archaic Astra Militarum regiment? I am very open to suggestions 😉

Then there are three of the 6th (?) edition metal chaos knights:

Lucky purchase (7)
Pictured here is their champion, but I also purchased a standard bearer and an additional knight. While I don’t have any actual plans for these, I just had to pick them up due to nostalgia:  I loved them so much back when they were released, but they were completely unaffordable to me. I just bought the riders, btw, because there is no more room for those terrible, generic 90s plastic horses in my life. But as you can see, the new chaos knight horses work like a treat with the older metal models.

And finally, another lucky discovery:

Lucky purchase (8)
The Dark Emissary from the Albion campaign. This guy was re-released in Finecast a while back and is still available. But finding him in a pile of shoddily painted Hormagaunts was still a rather nice surprise!

I’ll spare you the piles of Catachan, Night Goblin and generic Space Marine bitz that were also part of the bundle: Much of this stuff will come in handy sooner or later, but it lacks the appeal of the highlights shown above 😉

In addition to the models, I also picked up some older 40k related books:

Lucky purchase (11)
From left to right: The 40k 3rd and 4th edition big rulebooks (believe it or not, I have never owned those until now), one of the hallowed Chapter Approved compendiums (containing wonderful but somewhat outdated Index Astartes articles on the creation of Space Marines, Dreadnoughts, Librarians and on various chapters and legions: Dark Angels, Emperor’s Children, Iron Warriors, White Scars & Flesh Tearers) and Codex: Witch Hunters (obviously a must for any fan of the Inquisition).

All of these are in excellent condition, and I suspect the old 40k source books will merit a more detailed writeup in the not too distant future…

So yeah, quite a haul! I am immensely pleased, both with the stuff I did and didn’t buy: By sheer force of will, I resisted the urge to just grab the whole, enormous box — although my restraint made me miss a mint 2002 Games Day Chaos Champion which my colleague Annie later picked up (*sigh*). And I did find a 1998 Games Day Female Commissar, but pointed it out to the owner of my FLGS, since I knew that, as an avid IG player, he would probably be extremely interested in the model — I was right 🙂

But even beyond the stuff I purchased (at a very good – albeit not unreasonable – price, by the way), digging through the various strata of the boxes served as a trip down memory lane. Before long, me and the owner of the store were exchanging old hobby tales and thinking back on innocent days long past. Good times 😉

Anyway, so much for a very nice, hobby-related surprise! And wherever the original owners of these models may be now (in this world or in the warp), they may rest assured that their lead and plastic have found a good home with me!

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

The End is Nigh – a look at the Undead release

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2014 by krautscientist

Right, I do of course realise that I am a bit behind on my stuff — even as I write this, we are already seeing the next release rolling around. But man, this breakneck pace is just too fast for me to keep up 😉 Seriously, though: The latest release for what is referred to as “The End Times” in WFB surely warrants a closer look, even if I have taken my own sweet time to finally get around to it…

Undead End Times Release (1)
By the look of it, The End Times will be receiving a chain of books that are less centered around single armies and more around greater factions and the accompanying campaign — not unlike the various Forgeworld publications, come to think of it… It’s also very interesting to see that GW seems to be using the End Times scenario as an opportunity to introduce several things into the WFB world that a number of very vocal 40k fans have been clamoring for for years, such as…

  • significantly advancing the timeline and general background of WFB…
  • …while introducing a big narrative event that seems like it will shape the future of the setting
  • murdering quite a few darlings along the way

Whether GW are using WFB as a testbed for these changes due to its lower popularity compared to 40k or even because, as some suspect, the setting is in a terminal state anyway, seems hard to ascertain at this point. I am reasonably sure that WFB isn’treally going anywhere, even if it sells less stuff than 40k, but given GW’s track record and reluctance to advance their settings’ narrative beyond a certain point, this new development does seem pretty astonishing. In any case, it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here, what the WFB setting will look like afterwards, and what implications these new developments will have for 40k…

For now, let’s focus on the first slew of modeld accompanying the release, because these are quite something. And what better way to start than with the return of one of GW’s most notorious characters…

 

Nagash, Supreme Lord of the Undead

Undead End Times Release (3)
Boy, did this model come out of the left field when it was released! Plus I can’t help feeling the release of a new Nagash model (and a gigantic one, at that) as a bit of an “Up yours” towards all of the endless bickering about the old Nagash:

Undead End Times Release (4)
Alright, confession time: I know that the old Nagash is a staple of countless “most horrible models ever released” lists on the Internet, but here’s the thing: Once upon the time, I really loved this guy to bits! He was actually one of the first (non-HeroQuest) GW models I owned, and the very first big model I ever tried my hand at! Unfortunately, the model was taken apart (and partially stripped) a long time ago, or this would have been the perfect time to show him to you. A shame, really 😉

In any case, the vintage Nagash may not seem like much if judged by the standards of 2014 (or 2000, for that matter), but I think it’s important to remember that this used to be the basic design approach for many of GW’s bigger models at that time, and there was a time when this model seemed like such a cool thing — at least to me.

Anyway, GW chose the model that probably gets ridiculed the most in online discussions and re-imagined it as this:

Undead End Times Release (6)
It’s such an enormous piece that I’m really not sure where to start. Maybe with Nagash’s size, because this guy is huge — as evidenced by the diminutive skeleton warrior in the lower left corner… I understand Nagash gets prime billing as the Warhammer world’s biggest villain in the new book, and the model’s size and stature definitely match that importance.

What I like most about the model, after giving it a bit of thought, is how it basically keeps all the different elements of the classic miniature: The hat, sword, staff and various details from the old model are still there:

Undead End Times Release (9)

Undead End Times Release (8)
All of these have been thorougly redesigned, but they still hark back to their earlier incarnations, which I like very much! Instead of pretending the earlier Nagash model simply didn’t happen, GW’s designers have re-imagined it in a stunning way while remaining true to the original source, and I love that approach! The other great thing about the model – and an element that carries over to most of the models in this release – is how Nagash is hovering in mid-air, borne aloft by a host of tortured spirits:

Undead End Times Release (7)

There are things about the model I am not entirely sold on, however:

The first of those is the strange collection if twisted spines emerging from Nagash’s back: I see what they were trying to do here, adding the spines in order to give him a more imposing silhouette, presumably. Still, that element just seems slightly iffy to me — maybe some skeletal wings would have been a better idea?

The second thing that seems a bit much for me is the enormous hat:

Undead End Times Release (10)
Seriously, this guy looks like Movie Skeletor on speed! In conjunction with the rest of the armour, the hat just seems a bit too video gamey for my taste (I’ll be coming back to this concern later).

As a matter of fact, make no mistake: While the new Nagash has been heavily redesigned and modernised, his look remains fairly eclectic. I am happy enough with it, but the question remains whether future generations will look upon him as kindly — just remember what happened to the model’s earlier incarnation…

That said, this is a stunning model and a fitting centrepiece, both for any undead army and for this release. Nagash really looks like the immense villain the background paints him as, and the model itself is certainly at the cutting edge of plastic miniature design. Will everybody like his look? No, probably not. But personal preferences notwithstanding, the model itself stands as an achievement (and I applaud GW for engineering a comeback like this for one of their most-maligned models!).

Undead End Times Release (2)

 

Mortarchs of Death

Undead End Times release 37
If the enormous model for Nagash wasn’t an indication that GW meant business, this combi-kit at least will clue you in to the situation: The Mortarch kit gives you the opportunity to build one of Nagash’s closest lieutenants, each of them based on established characters from the Undead background (in fact, one of my favourite parts of this release is how GW brought back these classic characters, turning them into a Quirky Miniboss Squad for Nagash).
And while their mount will always use the same base components, the kit offers a whopping three completely different riders, along with some serious customisation options for the mount itself. Wow! Let’s take a closer look:

Mannfred von Carstein, Mortarch of Night

Undead End Times Release (11)
This is probably my favourite of the bunch for a couple of reasons: First of all, I have always loved the last incarnation of Mannfred, and this new version is closely based upon that appearance, spiky armour, batlike visage and all:

Undead End Times Release (12)
Mannfred’s weapons are also pretty awesome, even if wielding a scythe and longsword at the same time seems to be a bit much. But the design of the weapons is very cool, giving them an ethereal, very sinister aspect (and making them into very interesting conversion bitz…):

Undead End Times Release (13)

Mannfred’s mount, the dread abyssal Ashigaroth, is an enormous beast with a batlike countenance that seems like an escalated version of it’s master’s face. Strangely enough, it also reminds me a lot of the last couple of incarnations of Final Fantasy’s poster dragon god, Bahamuth. Anyway, the beast looks great (as an aside, I also really like the combination of blackened bones and red hot skulls used for the paintjob!).

Oh, and extra kudos to Mannfred for being pretty much the only guy in Nagash’s inner circle without one of those enormous hats 😉


Arkhan the Black, Mortarch of Sacrament

Undead End Times Release (14)
Aw, man, this guy adds quite a bit of nostalgia to the whole release: Arkhan already had a – somewhat clunky but still pretty awesome – model in the olden days, complete with ostentatious chariot and all. This new incarnation turns the bling up to eleven, though. And seeing a classic character brought back and upgraded like that does bring a tear of nostalgia to my eye!

The model itself is also really nice: Arkhan looks like the quintessential undead sorcerer lord, and the Khemri style even makes him look like a slightly smaller (somewhat less improbable) version of Nagash himself:

Undead End Times Release (16)
His hat, while still pretty big, seems to be somewhat more realistically scaled than that of his boss. I also really like the ostentatious (and very clearly Khemrian) armour that is also repeated on his mount! The one thing that I don’t like about Arkhan is his tattered cloak, precisely because it seems so tattered that it’s utterly improbable. I mean, it seems as if the designer really, really, wanted to make this cape as tattered as it could be, and he ended up overdoing it a little.

Undead End Times Release (15)Arkhan’s dread abyssal, Azarak, has a slightly more skeletal, less batlike head than Mannfred’s Ashigaroth. The Bahamut look is still there to an extent, but I think this would also make a fantastic head for a Greater Daemon, Daemon Prince, Heldrake,…erm, sorry, moving on!

Neferata, Mortarch of Blood

Undead End Times Release (17)
Being  the equal-opportunities employer he is, Nagash brings back another classic character: Neferata the Vampire Queen. Those of you who still remember the old model might agree with me that it was terrible: Neferata looked like she had slinked away from a the set of a 50s Hollywood movie about with lots of mummies in ancient Egypt. But what about the new incarnation?

Well, there’s good stuff and there’s bad stuff: On the positive side, I love how Neferata is riding side saddle: Such a wonderfully elegant little touch! Just because you’re riding a hulking undead monstrosity doesn’t mean you get to imperil your modesty, right?

I also love how that sense of elegance seems to pervade the entire model, also covering the armour design and the abyssal’s bearding. Good job, GW!

Undead End Times Release (18)

I have two main problems with the model, though: The smaller of the two is the look of Neferata’s weapon: It seems like it cannot quite decide whether it wants to be a staff or a glaive of some sort, settling into a strange limbo between the two that ultimately makes it look somewhat goofy and ineffectual (although, in all fairness, it would probably easy enough to remedy this by swapping in a new blade).

My main gripe with the model is the head, or rather, the hat: Out of all the models (and out of all the really impressive hats) in this release, Neferata’s headwear somehow seems the most ridiculous to me, may due to the slightly awkward looking, dangling spines, maybe because it actually draws away attention from her face:

Undead End Times Release (19)
As a matter of fact, designing her head like that almost seems like a bit of a cop out on GW’s part: I, for one, would much have preferred a beautiful female face with flowing hair, something closer to the vampires from the Coven Throne. That said, maybe a different paintjob would go a long way here? Anyway, the head seems like a bit of a missed chance, if you ask me.

Neferata’s mount, the dread abyssal Nagadron, again picks up some of the visual cues of its rider. It also gets yet another unique head, this time with an armour plate covering its eyes — a very nice and sinister touch, if you ask me.

Speaking of which, let’s take a closer look at the abyssal and its various variants:

Generally speaking, I really like how the abyssal seems like a suitably apocalyptic mount for an important and utterly evil character! Being a devout follower of Khorne, I also buy into the idea of having a beast whose skeletal form is filled to the brim with skulls — I mean, come on, this is Warhammer, after all 😉

I love all three heads that come with the kit and think that they are doing a great job of tying together the abyssals and respective Mortarchs:

Undead End Times Release (21)

And finally, I like the rather elegant way the abyssal is attached to its base via a combination of its tail and the ubiquitous skeletal spirits — that is really clever design right there!

A small gripe is the abyssal’s slightly awkward leg pose — although it seems like that is to be expected with a four-legged, wingless (!) creature designed to be floating in mid-air. But maybe it’s precisely the lack of wings that proves to be a bit of a visual deficiency here, making it hard to imagine how this beast would actually look in motion.

But by and large, the Mortarch kit is very impressive indeed — maybe even more impressive than Nagash, as a matter of fact! While the latter has the shock and awe tactics on his side, the Mortarch kit seems like a brilliant and expansive toolbox, both for creating an imposing centrepiece for an undead army and as a great source of conversion fodder — maybe my favourite part of this release!

 

Morghast Archai/ Morghast Harbingers

Undead End Times Release (22)
These guys definitely add something new to the undead armies: A daemonic, skeletal footsoldier for the Nagash’s armies. Both variants of the kit are reasonably similar, and both share many design elements with the abyssals, like the skeletal body structure and the heaps of skulls inside the skeletal bodies.

So let’s take a closer look at the kit’s two variants:

Morghast Archai

Undead End Times Release (23)

The Morghast Archai are Nagash’s elite guard, and – fittingly enough – their helmeted heads and glaive weapons give them a somewhat more official, regimented look

Undead End Times Release (26)
One of the best parts of the models are their two-handed glaives…

Undead End Times Release (27)
These are just wonderfully creepy and threatening, with their look halfway between ethereal and organic.

My gut feeling is that their armour and helmets somehow give these a slightly egyptian/Khemrian look: They would look right at home in a Tomb Kings army (and are a slightly more awkward fit for the Vampire Counts).

Morghast Harbingers

Undead End Times Release (28)I actually like these better than the Archai, because it somehow feels like the lack of ornamental helmets makes them look less like some kind of temple guard, and more like actual individuals — does that make any sense? I also like the sense of dynamism created by the twin swords setup:

Undead End Times Release (30)There’s also something wonderfully creepy and evil about the rather unnatural looking heads.

And again, I expect the weapons to become really popular with converters, because they would just make for very nice Daemon weapons. We’ll see…

The tattered wings are a bit of an acquired taste…once again, the objective seems to have been to make them as tattered as humanly possible. And while  I do like the way the Morghast are attached to their bases by way of ghostly apparitions…

Undead End Times Release (20)
…the leg poses of the models just seem a bit awkward to me. This is less of a problem for the Harbingers, in my opinion, since their slightly more dynamic poses make the legs seem more believable, but the Archai just seem ever so slightly awkward, hovering in mid-air like that…

Such minor gripes notwithstanding, I can see this kit become rather popular, simply by the amount of conversion fodder it offers for various armies — but we’ll be getting to that in a minute!

 

Spirit Host

Undead End Times Release (33)Now these guys may be the least obviously spectacular part of the release, but they are certainly no slouch! The Spirit Host is cleverly engineered to seem ethereal, but also give the model’s a fair bit of presence. And similar spirits do appear in everykit of this release, making for a nice bit of visual consistency.
Actually, you’ve got to wonder whether, having used these ghosts in pretty much all of the other kits, GW designers finally decided that it was only fair to give these guys their own little spot in the limelight…

Anyway, these make for very effective and evil looking ghosts! And my absolute favourite part has to be how the ghosts of the spirit host emerge from tortured skeletons:

Undead End Times Release (35)
That’s just an excellent little touch right there!

Conversion options:

So, time to deal with my favourite subject: How useful will these new kits be for converters and kitbashers? Allow me to share some early ideas with you:

Interestingly enough, my conversion ideas mostly deal with Nagash’s followers and not so much with the big man…skeleton…thing. Maybe the model is still too huge and intimidating in my mind for it to actually register as conversion fodder? The two spontaneous ideas I came up with were to either use Nagash as the base for a conversion of Mortarion, Primarch of the Death Guard, in his ascended form. Or he could be turned into a new and terrible C’Tan by a crafty Necron player? In any case, seeing what converters come up with for this model will surely be interesting!

Anyway, looking at the entire release, the big winner when it comes to conversion options seems to be …40k chaos, surprisingly enough. Now maybe I am not exactly neutral in this regard, seeing how chaos armies seem to be one of my main areas of interest, but the options just seem too good to ignore. Let me just list a few off the top of my head:

The Mortarch kit seems to be a treasure chest of conversion bitz: the abyssal could be converted into a Greater Daemon, a Maulerfiend or even into a mount for a chaos lord, a Heldrake — you name it! Likewise, part of it could be mixed with existing daemon engine and/or daemon kits in order to create new and terrible monstrosities. Even the leftover heads from the Mortarch kit alone would be great little bitz to play around with…

Oh, and wouldn’t you agree that Mannfred’s head would look great on a Chaos Lord — especially on a Night Lord?

The Morghast seem to provide an almost ridiculously versatile resource for chaos armies, the possible uses of the kit including but not limited to…

  • Daemon Princes: Even on their own, the Morghast could make for fairly convincing Daemon Princes: the slightly Khemrian/Egyptian look of the Archai would make them ideal for Tzeentchian Daemon Princes, while the amount of skulls stored in their bodies would also make them a nice fit for Khorne. They could even conceivably be used to represent Nurglite daemons, if one were to focus less on a visceral, slimy and mouldering approach and more on a skeletal, reaper-like aspect. Only Slaanesh seems to be left out in the cold a bit (don’t fret, though: The new Dark Eldar release will provide you with all the toys you need).
  • Obliterators/Mutilators: For those (like me) who don’t like the stock Obliterator/Mutilator models one bit, the Morghast might be a very interesting alternative: Just check out VonKessler’s gorgeous Thousand Sons Oblitz, based on Morghast models: I think those are really just the tip of the iceberg!
  • Parts of the Morghast models should also be supremely useful for chaos players: I expect to see those evil looking swords and glaives all over chaos armies before long, and both the skeletal body pieces as well as the mounds of skulls forming the Morghast’s inner workings should become really popular with chaos players!

This may be a somewhat far fetched idea, but what about using the Spirit Host as chaos spawn in a Thousand Sons army? Just imagine the swirling souls of destroyed Rubric Marines (or, alternately, their victims) filling the same role as the usual, boring mutated creepy crawlys. Or maybe those spirits are the Thousand Sons’ familiars? Anyway, it would be a nice change to see these new models used instead of the same old spawn models…
Another faction that I can see profiting from the new kits are the Necrons: The Khemrian look of many of the new models might make it possible to use their wargear and decoration on Necron models (who are, after all, often referred to as “Tomb Kings IN SPACE!”)  to great effect. Arkhan might make a stunning Phaeron with a bit of work (and an influx of mechanical skeleton bitz. And, like I said, Nagash could be an interesting base model for a new and terrible C’Tan…

And finally, there’s the wonderful world of INQ28, of course: It shouldn’t surprise you that I think some parts of the release would be really useful for INQ28 as well, both because of my love of the setting as well as the wide scope of the game:

  • again, the Morghast variants would make for interesting daemons or daemon princes — even moreso in the INQ28 setting, where undivided daemons are still an actual thing…
  • the Spirit Host could be used as unbound daemonhosts, or they could be turned into familiars for chaos magi — the possibilities are probably endless.
  • I think Neferata might make a cool Matriarch for a Death Cult, enormous hat and all.
  • And maybe, just maybe, Mannfred could be turned into a (ultra-)radical Inquisitor with a bit of work?

 

All in all, this release was certainly designed to blow WFB players away, and it seems like it mostly suceeded. One thing I think we can all agree upon is that the sheer size and complexity of GW’s recent plastic kits gets ever more baffling.

What I love about all of the new models is how certain elements are used to tie the various kits together from a visual standpoint: The ghostly apparitions resembling the models from the Spirit Host appear on all of the models in some shape or form. The armour based on fused bone. The skulls making up the interior of many of the undead creatures. And yes, even the huge hats 😉 Additionally, it’s fascinating how GW’s designers have managed to make these new undead models fit both the Vampire Counts’ and Tomb Kings’ look and feel, while also imbuing them with an identity of their own. These factors are quite impressive and a big design achievement, in my opinion.

However, at the same time, I do have one overarching gripe with the new models, and that is what I would like to call their “WOW-ness” . What I mean by that is that parts of the new models seem so over the top that they wouldn’t look out of place in a PC game such as World of Warcraft or Diablo — and seeing how Blizzard’s own Warcraft universe owes GW more than a bit of inspiration, it seems pretty ironic that GW’s designers would now, in turn, produce something that seems at least partially inspired by designs from World of Warcraft

Nevertheless, it still seems like a rather strong release, both for the actual kits and for the new conversion options they bring to the table. It just seems like a hearty portion of videogame design sensibilities have been added to the WFB universe — at least to the undead factions.

I hope the next books/releases for the End Times will keep up the effort to revitalise existing armies while adding something new and special to them. For instance, there are rumours floating around about a coming End Times book focusing on chaos and giving various classic characters – Archaon, Arbaal, Valnir,… the Mortarch treatment — and even though I don’t play WFB anymore, the sheer prospect at seeing some of the iconic chaos characters revisited that way has me very excited indeed!

 

So, what do you think about this release? Did you love it or hate it? Did you feel a resemblance to WoW designs as well, and were you happy with that? And would you like to share your own conversion ideas for the new kits? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section!

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

Lost in the woods – a look at the new Wood Elves

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2014 by krautscientist

I realise that the next release is already rolling – or rather stomping, as it were – around, but let’s still take a moment for a look back at a release that has been sligthly overshadowed by the advent of the 7th edition: Today I would like to talk about the new Wood Elves.

Almost exactly one year after a sizeable High Elves release and about eight months after a rather spectacular relaunch/redesign of the Dark Elves, the Wood Elves are the final elven faction in WFB to receive an update. And after many fears that the army might be going the way of the dodo (or, indeed, the Squats), I guess seeing an update must have been a pretty huge relief for Wood Elf players! But what about the models themselves? Are they any good? Will they be able to keep up with the revamped Dark Elves? And what about the conversion potential?

Wood_Elves_release (1)
A newcomer to the world of Warhammer might question the need for three distinct elven factions, but in all honesty, I’ve always felt that GW has done a pretty good job of visually distinguishing these armies from one another so far: The High Elves are an orderly, clean and highly stylised army with lots of bright colours and elegant lines. The Dark Elves are no less elegant, but they function as a dark mirror of their High Elf brethren, spiky and sinister, yet with a depraved sense of beauty. So what about the Wood Elves?

As all Warhammer Elves, they do certainly have a healthy dose of Tolkien in them, and at their worst, they are very reminiscent of the archetypal image you’d have of the Elves of Lothlórien — all the more so after seeing the Lord of the Rings films. But there’s also something wild and untamed about them, and that’s where it gets interesting: Their symbiotic relationship with the forest of Athel Loren goes beyond the usual tree-hugging tropes, recalling instead the capricious and often dangerous nature of faeries and spirits in folk tales, with myths like the Wild Hunt thrown in for good measure. In fact, when at their best, GW’s Wood Elves remind me of what might be one of my favourite illustrated books ever, the 1970s classic Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee (on a related note, hobby prodigy Jeff Vader’s beautifully illustrated book Nordiska Väsen seems very reminiscent of the Brian Froud’s work at times — I’ll definitely have to pick up a copy at some point!).

Anyway, while I am not the owner of a Wood Elf army, I was nevertheless happy to see that wild, ultimately slightly alien, element brought to the fore with models like the plastic Dryads and the strange faeries crawling over various Wood Elf models, adorning their bases etc, because this influence from classic mythology is what ultimately transforms the Wood Elves into something more interesting than just “pointy eared guys wearing green”.

So, in order to find out whether the new release actually manages to embrace those rather interesting elements, let’s take a look at the actual models, shall we?

 

Araloth

Wood_Elves_release (2)
What would a new GW release be without at least one new clamshell plastic character? For the Wood Elves, Araloth fulfils this role, and he is another beautiful miniature. What really gets me every time with these mono-pose plastic models is the amount of depth and three-dimensionality GW manages to get out of them (albeit at the cost of customisability).

Araloth is a great example of this, and he also hits all the right cues for a Wood Elf character: Flowing clothes, check. Antlered helmet giving him a slightly mystical appearance, check. He even has a bird. God, how I love birds on Wood Elf models 😉

At the same time, a look at the sprue reveals that Araloth is indeed quite a bit more modular than one would have expected, so a couple of conversions with this model as a base would definitely be an option — but more on that later.

Wood_Elves_release (3)All in all, a competent Wood Elf character with some very nice visual touches. Nothing more, but also nothing less.

 

Eternal Guard/Wildwood Rangers

Wood_Elves_release (4)
The first combi-kit to come out of this release gives us two types of elite infantry.

First up, the Eternal Guard: These look more ostentatious and formal than the Glade Guard, which only seems appropriate. At the same time, they share clear similarities, both with their less armoured and regimented Wood Elf kin as well as with other elven infantry: A couple of visual elements like the basic helmet and shield shapes still hint at a common cultural heritage with the High Elves and Dark Elves.

All in all, these are well made models, similar enough to other elven infantry to read as the same species, but still with enough clearly Wood-Elven flourishes to make them visually distinct. Good job!

Wood_Elves_release (5)
The kit can alternatly be assembled to make a unit of Wildwood Rangers, leading to a slightly different outcome:

Wood_Elves_release (6)While using the same base models, the Wildwood Rangers are distinguished by their cowled heads and their two-handed glaives. The hoods once again recall some of the heads in the Glade Guard kit, which strengthens the visual consistency across the army, while the glaives are a really nice touch. As an aside, while it seems that these are used pretty much exactly like the Dark Eldar Incubi’s Klaives, the Rangers’ weapons somehow seem a tad more plausible to me…

All in all, the cowls and equipment lead to a somewhat more shadowy, mystical look, which I guess was the whole point. If I have one gripe, it’s the fact that the unit champion looks somewhat less impressive than I would have liked:

Wood_Elves_release (7)
All in all, this looks like a pretty versatile kit for two types of elite infantry. Both options seem equally interesting from a visual standpoint, and the kit should provide some rather interesting conversion bitz — but we’ll be getting to that…

 

Wild Riders/Sisters of the Thorn

Wood_Elves_release (8)Another combi-kit, this cavalry clearly embraces the mystical, faerie-like aspect of the Wood Elves. This is evident in the magical deer serving as their mounts (it seems that these can become Steeds of Kurnous or Steeds of Isha, simply by virtue of a different paintjob) as well as in the riders, whose design makes it delightfully ambiguous whether they are/were regular Wood Elves or are rather something more ethereal, like spirits of the forest.

The male Wild Riders carry forward a kind of beautiful, yet subtly sinister helmet design seen before on a certain Glade Lord model, and indeed their helmets might be one of my favourite things about the models. I also really like their capes, covered in ivy and briars, and the deer make for some rather dyamic posing, with the champion’s pose possibly my favourite:

Wood_Elves_release (9)
All in all, these models embody rather nicely what is interesting and original about the Wood Elves — with the Wild Hunt connotations obviously turned up to eleven on these guys.

The bad news is that, precisely as has been the case with the last elven male/female combi-kit, the girls definitely get the short end of the stick once more. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at the Sisters of the Thorn first:

Wood_Elves_release (10)The magical deer stay the same, so no objections there. However, I think that from a design standpoint, these models are really far inferior to their male counterparts — which is just a shame! Maybe it’s just me, but the models have that “She-Ra, Princess of Power” look that makes it really hard to take them seriously. And, once again, the faces (the part that will make or break a female model for me) just seem like something from really bad 80s’ fantasy art.

Then there are those spears on the models’ backs: Maybe they were supposed to recall butterfly wings, underlining the faerie motif, and maybe they weren’t –whatever they were supposed to do, it  just doesn’t work, if you ask me.

Wood_Elves_release (11)

You’d think that, after the female portion of the last “equal opportunities” combi-kit turned out pretty lacklustre, GW would have learned their lesson and make it work this time around. But once again, the female models just look slightly goofy. A crying shame and definitely the weakest part of the release for me! Come on, GW! Give us some well-made female faces already. I know your designers are up to it!

 

Treeman / Treeman Ancient / Durthu

Wood_Elves_release (13)
Can I just say, right off the bat, that I really dislike the older Treeman models: The old, early 90s metal models may have a corny charm today, but they were pretty terrible. And the slightly updated Treeman released along the last batch of Wood Elves was just neither here nor there: He didn’t have the goofiness of the older “Look, I am a walking tree” models, but ended up looking like a strange cross between a tree and an alien-dinosaur…thing in return. So a new Treeman kit was overdue, and it makes a lot of sense that GW chose this particular unit type as their “huge” kit for this release.

The kit gives us three alternate builds, which is pretty cool. All three Treeman variants look a lot like bigger Dryads, as can be seen in this comparison:

Wood_Elves_release (15)
Now I really think the Dryads are a brilliant (and hugely underappreciated) plastic kit, so it won’t surprise you to learn that I am a fan of the overall new Treeman design: I think even the (comparatively) lowly standard Treeman looks like a awe-inspiring mythical creature, with its wooden, masklike face a great chance for painters to bring out the eerie quality of the sculpt. I am not perfectly sold on that slightly strange vine whip, to be honest, because it almost looks like something you’d see on a Tyranid model, but at the very least, it’s an interesting idea.

The Treeman Ancient uses the same kit and base model to give us a pretty different looking character:

Wood_Elves_release (16)What I really like about this guy is that he does indeed look like a more senior Treeman and also like an object of worship, with a carefully braided beard and loincloth, huge “antlers” growing from the branches on his head, and a rather different, more proactive pose.

And finally, there’s also the Treeman named character, Durthu:

Wood_Elves_release (17)
This guy’s background is that he has been terribly damaged and deeply scarred, both in body and soul, and has become a pretty angry guy as a consequence. And it definitely shows, from the damaged and partly caved-in face to the lots and lots of skulls woven into the ivy hanging from Durthu’s limbs and into his branches. The branches on the model’s head also nicely add to its dynamism, and there’s also the huge (yet elegant) sword, of course.

All in all, I think the Treeman kit is a rather great success: It will produce a standout piece, no matter which configuration you choose. But the truly stunning fact is the amount of customisability evident in the kit, with the finished models sharing a clear common heritage but still looking fairly distinct. Take a look:

Wood_Elves_release (18)
Seeing these guys in a row like that, it also seems to me like Treemen get progressively more pissed off the more ancient they get — which actually makes a lot of sense, considering they get to see more and more damage done to their forest over the course of their long lives! However, this also makes for a pretty neat bit of visual storytelling over the different configurations of the kit!

An honourable mention must also go to the myriad of forest spirits you get as conversion bitz in the Treeman kit. The three-eyed owl, partcularly, continues the wonderful tradition of awesome birds hidden away in Wood Elf kits:

Wood_Elves_release (19)
If there is one negative aspect about these new Treemen, it’s that, well, to be honest, they don’t look all that much like actual trees. But one need look no further than the old metal Treemen to see that GW made a good call here: I’d rather have a stunning model than a biologically accurate one. And these are not Tolkien’s Ents, but rather more visceral, for lack of a better word, Treemen that seem perfectly at home in the dark world of Warhammer. In any case, the Treeman kit is certainly one of the high points of the release for me!

 

Conversion options

Figuring out a way of using new bits and kits in various conversion and kitbashing projects  is obviously always my favourite part of any new release, so let’s look at the possible conversion options this time around:

First of all, it shouldn’t surprise you that players of elven or Eldar armies should get the most out of this release when it comes to useful bitz. Let me share just a couple of quick ideas with you:

To begin with, a fairly straightforward observation: I suppose the Eternal Guard could be transformed into pretty good High Elf spearmen with a bit of work and a change of shields — Lord knows the High Elves need some better spearmen…

Then there’s the Wildwood Rangers, with their shadowy, cowled look. I think their design would make them perfect as base models for kitbashed plastic Dark Elf Assassins, in case you don’t want to use Shadowblade multiple times. Come to think of it, the same qualities also make sure they are really promising conversion fodder for INQ28 Death Cultists, assassins or the like.

Aralor, as all clamshell plastic characters, will doubtlessly be at the centre of many, many conversions. While I have not yet figured out a cool way of making him into an INQ28 character, I am fairly confident one of my fellow hobbyists will blow me away with their imagination — Jeff Vader, Spiky Rats, PDH, anyone? He could of course be used as a base model for a rather interesting Farseer conversion, that much is certain…

In fact, this leads me to the two most promising conversion projects I can think of regarding this release:

The first one probably isn’t all that original to begin with: If someone were to build a characterful Eldar Exodite army, I believe some of the new models would be perfect conversion fodder for that: Just take some of the new infantry kits, some Eldar Guardians and happily kitbash away! For the more adventurous spirits, wouldn’t Durthu make a promising start for a truly stunning Exodite Avatar? Just sayin’…

The other option is to use parts from this release in a Dark Eldar army project: I can really see the stylised plant motif work enormously well with a Dark Eldar Kabal. Just keep in mind that the Dark Eldar have a depraved kind of elegance that should work exceptionally well with floral motifs 😉 And there’s also the fact that poisons feature prominently in Dark Eldar culture, so a bit of poison ivy here and there would look doubly at home.

 

All in all, this feels like a relatively small, but rather focused release to me. More models would have been nice, but the stuff we get is very well done, both in concept and execution. The only true disappointment is the lack of quality in the Sisters of the Thorn (well, and maybe a lack of plastic Wardancers), but this still seems like a rather strong release to me! It’s just a shame that it seems to have been rather overshadowed by all of the 7th edition shenanigans…

Another thing I realised: One of my main criticisms regarding the new Dwarf models was that, while pretty cool, the new models looked so different from some of the older kits in the catalogue that using armies composed of older and newer models might create a bit of a jarring contrast. No such contrast is evident in the Wood Elf kits — quite the opposite, actually: Not only will Wood Elf players be able to use older and newer models together without creating any visual “continuity errors”, but the new models also seem to have been created with the old models very much in mind, continuing much of the earlier design paradigms or even further developing them. Thumbs up for that!

One final question: Where does that leave this release in comparion with the High Elves and Dark Elves? If cou ask me, smack dab in the middle: The new Wood Elves obviously cannot compare with the Dark Elves release, because for the latter almost the entire line of models was spectacularly redesigned from scratch. However, both the Wood Elves release as well as their overall catalogue of models seem slightly more interesting to me than the High Elf offerings. Sure, there are standout kits in the High Elf catalogue that are some of the best models available for WFB, but their release not only contained some slightly wonky models, but also failed to address the parts that actually needed addressing (the hopelessly overaged core troops, for one). Plus the overall level of quality seems more even for the Wood Elf line of models, whereas the High Elves are held back by some pretty old (and rather clunky) kits.

So yeah, if you ask me, Dark Elves come in first, with Wood Elves on a safe second and High Elves bringing up the rear.

 

So, what do you think of the new models? Were you as pleasantly surprised as me, or are you rather disappointed? Have any cool ideas for possible conversions or kitbashes? Want to vent your anger? I’d love to hear any feedback you might have in the comments section!

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

Shorty got axe – a look at the new Dwarfs

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2014 by krautscientist

A word in advance: When GW changed their magazine publications, part of the collateral damage also extended to my regular look at the new releases: Until this month, I always wrote up a comprehensive look at the releases for the new “flavour of the month” army at the beginning of that month. With the releases now arriving in weekly spurts, that approach no longer works, obviously. But instead of doing a partial review each week, thereby cluttering up my posting schedule with additional posts, I have decided to stick with my usual approach, only that the comprehensive review will now be posted towards the end of the month. While also less stressful for me, I hope that this works for those of you actually reading my pointless ramblings on the new plastic crack 😉

So, without further ado, let’s cut to the chase: GW’s mags may have changed, but we still get a huge update for one particular army, and this time it’s the Dwarfs’ turn (actually, I was really hesitant to write dwarfs instead of dwarves, until I learned that even Tolkien himself wasn’t all that pleased with the latter way of spelling the plural, so yeah…):

Dwarf Release (1)
The Dwarfs are one of the archetypal fantasy races, along with Elves and Orcs, so everyone interested in fantasy generally has a picture of them in his mind: heavily armoured, bearded warriors armed with heavy axes or hammers. And, indeed, GW’s own treatment of this particular fantasy race has always been patterned after this archetypal look, broadly speaking. Still, I guess we all know what we expect when we hear the word “Dwarf”. So what do we get? And does it look like we all think dwarfs (or dwarves, or dwarrow) should? Let’s take a closer look:

 

Belegar Ironhammer

Dwarf Release (2)
Isn’t this guy actually a bit tall for a dwarf? Anyway, the model has all the hallmarks of both a dwarf and an ostentatious WFB commander model: Beard, check. Hammer, check. Enormous, massively impractical back banner, check. It’s fair to say that Belegar makes for a nice enough centre piece model for any dwarf army!

I do have two minor gripes with the model, though: The first one is the Oathstone, which seems like a slightly dull manner of making the model taller: Personally, I would have preferred a rocky outcrop or something similar. But in all fairness, not only is this purely a matter of personal preference, but the Oathstone is also completely optional, making this a non-issue.

The bigger problem is the model’s face: In my opinion, the face is a point of focus on every model, but especially so for dwarfish characters: Whether you want to go for the “grizzled veteran” look or are trying to take a more humourous approach, the face is a major point in selling a dwarf as a character.
In this case, however, the helmet design actually obsures the face, especially the eyes, leading to a slightly bland look. Now this wouldn’t be all that bad for a rank and file model, but on an army commander, it seems slightly unfortunate. Again, just my personal taste, of course, but I would have liked a more expressive face…

 

Dragon Slayer

Dwarf Release (3)

…which really leads us to this guy: You actually couldn’t get much more expressive than the Dragon Slayer model: The pose is amazingly dynamic, and the stylised dragon head seems like a great way to both add to the model’s dynamism and height and make the character interact with his base in a meaningful way: The slayer really looks like he’s in the middle of throwing himself at a huge enemy, which is basically the perfect look for the character!

At first glance, the face seems a little unwholesome…

Dwarf Release (4)
…but then you remember that this guy has quite likely lost most of his marbles by now, so the pinched, not quite sane expression really works, after all. My one nitpick is that the hair seems a little hokey, because those three-piece hairstyles never ever work. That’s only a fairly minor concern, though: The model looks great and is both iconic and fun — certainly one of the high points of the release for me!

 

Grimm Burloksson

Dwarf Release (5)
Ah, yes, now we’re getting to the steampunk part: Master Engineer Grimm Burloksson surely looks tech-savvy enough, with all the crazy steampunk equipment of his! He also seems like a guy who can really hold a grudge, judging by his facial expression — another really characterful sculpt, even though there is so little actual face visible underneath that huge beard.

As for the various equipment options, the Cog Axe is far more interesting from a visual standpoint than the pointy hand:

Dwarf Release (6)
I also really love the rifle, but the great thing is that you really get to choose which option you prefer with this kit, because Grimm seems quite modular, especially for a one-pose plastic model:

Dwarf Release (7)
Of course this means that, regardless of which options you choose, you also get some bitz out of the deal, which is always a plus. And even though I think that the back mounted furnace may be a bit much, once again, there’s no one stopping you from leaving it off or converting it into something more suitable. In fact, this kind of modularity is something that also extends to the third plastic character:

 

Dwarf Runelord

Dwarf Release (10)
A generic HQ this time, but once again a pretty modular one: The kit gives you enough parts to build your Runelord with several different equipment options and one of two different heads (with the remaining bitz once again a sweet addition to your bitzbox!)

Dwarf Release (8)
The book and hammer combo has a classic quality, for some reason, while the ornate armour really makes it clear that this guy is not you average rank and file dwarf. Personally, speaking, though, I like the tongs gripping a blazing rune even more, both because it’s such a cool and iconic idea, but also because it could be a really cool element to paint!

Dwarf Release (9)
It’s a good thing we get two heads to choose from, though, because it seems like the dwarfen [sic!] faces seem to be a bit hit and miss this time around:

Dwarf Release (11)
The left one seems slightly…strange for some reason, with a fairly angular beard and piggy little eyes. Luckily, the second one is quite a bit better, and once again, it’s easy enough to choose your favourite combination:

Dwarf Release (12)
This versatility and modularity in plastic characters is certainly something I would love to see much more of! All in all, the Runelord is a pretty competently designed model. Good job!

 

Gyrobomber/Gyrocopter

Dwarf Release (13)
Ah, now we are getting to the really quirky stuff! Both the Gyrobomber and Gyrocopter are just unabashedly goofy, and really all the better for it. Of course, a flying machine that seems quite early 20th century-ish may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it’s just a part of what makes the WFB universe so eclectic and recognisable!

The bomber is quite a monster, and I am certainly not going to argue for or against its realism. Could it actually stay in the air? Who cares! The bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly either, after all…

Dwarf Release (15)
In all fairness, the rotor design does take a little getting used to:

Dwarf Release (14)
The design is quite effective, though, in that it instantly reads as both a bomber and a dwarfish war machine. There are also some really nice touches, such as the pilot looking like a dwarf version of an WWI biplane pilot (only missing the trailing shawl) and the impressive cluster of bombs:

Dwarf Release (16)
The kit can also be assembled as a Gyrocopter:

Dwarf Release (17)

This flying machine looks like it uses a shortened version of the bomber’s chasssis, making the whole thing look even quirkier, if you ask me: There’s just something about its bublebee-ish proportions that you simply have to love! Using the kit to build a Gyrocopter should also give you lots and lots of leftover bitz, by the look of it.

While I usually like my wargaming serious, these flying machines are just adorable: Yes, they are quirky and goofy and not at all realistic. But they are also totally awesome, and a perfect embodiment of the inherent eclecticism (and even silliness) of the WFB universe, and you’ve got to love them for that!

When it comes to the new infantry kits, the Dwarfs actually yet more combi-kits, making this whole release quite versatile. Let’s take a closer look at the foot sloggers:

 

Hammerers/Longbeards

Dwarf Release (18)
The first combi-kit gives us two varieties of heavily armoured dwards with imposing weapons: The Hammerers really look like they mean business, and I like the correspondence between their two-handed war hammers and the anvil-inspired helmet design! Their armour is also fairly ostentatious and ornate, making them look like the elites they probably are!

Dwarf Release (19)
The Longbeards manage to look even more blinged-out, probably due to their highly ornate axes and helmets and the odd stylised shield popping up. Again, the detail on these is awesome, and they look like the living legends the fluff makes them out to be.

I will be honest with you, though: While I quite like the design of both kits, I somehow cannot shake off the feeling that they look subtly different from the older dwarf kits. And I don’t just mean different as in newer, more recent: The overall design approach seems to have slightly readjusted, and my first impulse was to think that these, while awesome, don’t look like GW models — is that weird?

Granted, the feeling gradually wore off after some time, and I couldn’t really quite explain to you what gave me the impression. But the new armour design seems quite different in places — which, of course, doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

 

Ironbreakers / Irondrakes

Dwarf Release (20)
Another infantry combi-kit, and just like the Hammerers/Longbeards, these guys also seem excellently detailed, with lots and lots of neat little touches. The Ironbreakers also get quite a few equipment options, from hammers and axes to twin pistols:

Dwarf Release (21)
Yeah, that’s the ticket! The picture above serves to illustrate two things, though (apart from the blue armour looking beautiful): One, the bare head’s pinched features once again seem a bit off, underlining the impression that the designers either really nailed the faces or ended up with some pretty …original material, for lack of a better word. The other thing is that this model once again illustrates how the armour design seems quite different from the older models: Look at the legs and feet, for example.

The alternate assembly will give you a kit of Squat…erm Dwarf Irondrakes, wielding what is, for all intents and purposes, flamethrowers:

Dwarf Release (22)
These may actually be the most heavily armoured dwarfs so far, with even their beards appearing as stylised, metal parts of their protective helmets. I really like how the dragon motif is repeated across several pieces of their equipment:

Dwarf Release (24)
And man, those drake guns are awesome: If you’re going to have a steampunk flamethrower, you might as well go the whole hog and make it look like a stylised dragon. And the Trollhammer Torpedo pictured below doesn’t only look awesome, it also wins the award for the best weapon name ever!

Dwarf Release (25)
The different heads used in the combi-kit are once again very interesting, with the Ironbreakers quite heavily armoured, but their natural beards still visible. The Irondrakes, meanwhile, seem to subscribe to the “safety first!” rule, with their protective gear incorporating stylised, metal beards:

Dwarf Release (23)
Another expertly designed kit, and the Irondrakes add yet more steampunk-quirkiness to the army, which is a plus in my book!

My main question for all of the new infantry kits is this, however: How will any of these look next to the older models? Compare the new Longbeards

Dwarf Release (19)
to this…
Dwarf Release (27)
Granted, these are different unit types, and the extra detail in the new kits is certainly a result of better technology being available today. But the difference seems more fundamental, somehow, and it’ll be interesting to see whether these will still read as one army on the tabletop — it seems like I’ll have to wait for Warhammer: Visions 80+ pages of dwarf pictures for my answer, though… 😉

 

Conversion options

When it comes to the question of using the new stuff for non-dwarfish projects, that really seems like a bit of a toughie: The models and bitz are usually very recognisable as dwarfish in origin, from the shape of the blades to the dwarfish runes everywhere. Sure, some of the steampunk-y bitz might be useable in various 40k armies, and the dragon-themed accessories from the Irondrakes kit might be an interesting addition to a Salamanders or Black Dragons Space Marine army. But by and large, all of the new stuff seems very dwarfish and rather difficult to adapt to other armies.

The truly interesting approach, then, might be to use the kits and bitz for dwarf projects with a twist: Could it be possible to use some of the new infantry kits as a base for a Chaos Dwarf army? Sure, none of them look especially chaos-y at first glance, but the Irondrakes could become really sinister with some added spikes and horns. And experimenting with the new plastic kits might be quite a bit cheaper than going for FW Chaos Dwarfs…

The real elephant in the room lies in the options for 40k, though: If you’ve ever wanted to build a Squat army, this release should give you lots of useful toys: The Irondrakes and Ironbreakers would need nothing more than some back packs and slightly modernised weapons to fit the 40k look, and Grimm Burloksson even has what looks like a bionic eye, for crying out loud! I think the new kits would make it really easy to build an all-plastic Squat force used as a counts-as Space Marine army of your choice. Just imagine the Gyrocopter/Gyrobomber kit used in conjunction with Storm Talon parts — wouldn’t that be a kitbashing extravaganza?

Granted, the result would be a blast from the past, but if retro is your thing, and you’ve waited for the Squats to make a reappearance, this might just be your best bet!

All in all, I’m going to call this a pretty strong release for dwarf players! Granted, all the armoured dwarfs can get a bit long in the tooth, and the new design paradigm might need some getting used to, but the versatility and modularity of the new kits is really nice! And the sheer quirkiness of a kit like the Gyrocopter almost tempts me into getting one for fun…

Seriously, though: My WFB days are over, and even if I were to return, I wouldn’t choose dwarfs as my army. But the models are still beautiful and just on the right side of humourous, and the release feels comprehensive and creative enough to be interesting nevertheless. And certainly more inspired than the Tyranids’ bread and butter update last month — but that’s just my opinion.

So, what do you think of the new dwarfs? Were you as charmed by the bumblebee-copter? Did you feel the same about the different design? Do you have any crazy conversion ideas for the new kits? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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

Spiky pointy people – a look at the new Dark Elves

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2013 by krautscientist

Another month, another new release: This time, it’s the Dark Elves’ turn: The army reveives a complete design overhaul that rivals the redesign of their dark future counterpart, the Dark Eldar. So, once again, let’s take a look at this month’s release in order to figure out the good and the bad and to come up with some conversion ideas.

Dark Elves release (1)

You might be surprised to learn that I have always had a huge soft spot for the Dark Elves: Back in my WFB days (during the 90s), a box of metal Cold One Knights may actually have been the first GW models I ever purchased, and  I even bought the 4th edition army book and had some grand notion of building a Dark Elf army. Alas, the price of assembling such a force proved to be far too steep for my pocket money as a lad: Most models were also only available in metal. So, apart from a squad of Cold One Knights that I bought and painted piecemeal, and a small unit of plastic Dark Elf warriors, my plans of an army of Druchii never quite got off the ground: Instead, I turned to chaos, my one true tabletop love (and, coincidentally, the army with the most plastic kits available back then). But I still marveled at the background of the Dark Elves. But what did I find so interesting about them?

The Dark Elves are truly an evil race, no surprises there. But where chaos as a faction is evil in an archetypal, almost incomprehensible way, the Dark Elves have this strong leitmotif of fallen glory. Champions of chaos only follow their own ambition and the twisted reasons of their dark gods, but the Dark Elves believe that it is their birthright to rule, a birthright denied them by their High Elf kin. It’s great fun to imagine the courts of Naggaroth, rife with perverted beauty and intrigue, a society turning on itself in the desperate struggle to maintain their power and majesty. And it’s also very interesting to have a force that looks every bit as elegant and disciplined as a High Elf army, only with a more spiky and sinister design and some seriously disturbing, even monstrous additions.

So, how does this translate to the new release? Those familiar with the 4th edition army book will immediately notice that the new models were very much inspired by the Dark Elf designs of the early to mid 90s: They look less like Dark Eldar with medieval equipment and more like sinister reflections of High Elves. I think the overall visual direction for these models is a fantastic blend of nostalgia and modern design trappings. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a look at the different kits:

 

Cauldron of Blood/Bloodwrack Shrine

Dark Elves release (2)

Let’s begin with a huge kit, and arguably the visually most impressive addition to the Dark Eldar catalogue: The Cauldron of Blood shares quite a few design cues with the Vampire Counts Coven Throne, if you ask me, so if you didn’t like that one, it seems you’re pretty much out of luck. If, like me, you found the Coven Throne to be a fantastically over the top, beautifully eclectic piece, chancec are you’ll find a lot to like about this model as well!

Of course, you could always argue that there’s a slightly silly concept at the heart of it all, with the basic frame of the cauldron making it look like the Witch Elves are bringing along their own set of stairs for their special show act. But even a cynic interpretation like that would be strangely fitting for the Dark Elves for whom evil and style always go hand in hand, don’t you think?

My favourite part of the model has got to be the imposing and immensely spiky statue of Khaine towering above the cauldron. This statue turns the model into a great centre piece for any Dark Elf army, plus it should make for a brilliantly sinister (plastic!!!) Avatar of Khaine for all you (Dark) Eldar players out there. Some work on the pose would probably be required, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Whether you intend to use the statue as a standalone model in your 40k force or in its original function, though, it’s a brilliant element.

I also quite like both the actual cauldron and the statue bearing it on its back:

Dark Elves release (3)

The kit comes with several Witch Elves, all of them in suitably theatrical poses:

Dark Elves release (4)
The Death Hag would also make a great character model (both for WFB and for 40k…):

Dark Elves release (6)

And finally, the model for Crone Hellebron is another high point. This bonny lass really exemplifies what Dark Elves have always been about for me: spiky bitz, theatrical poses and extremely huge hair:

Dark Elves release (5)

I do of course realise that this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I love the design. Again, used on her own, she could make a great character for a Dark Elf army, a great Dracon for Dark Eldar Kabal or even a Slaaneshi cult leader for INQ28.

In addition to all of this, there’s also the option of assembling the kit as a Bloodwrack Shrine, which gets rid of the Khaine statue and replaces it with a mirror, used to keep a particularly pissed off Bloodwrack Medusa in check:

Dark Elves release (7)
Some may feel that the inclusion of a Medusa comes a bit out of the left field, but strange, serpent-bodied creatures have been a part of Dark Elf iconograpgy at least since the 4th edition army book, so it all works out.

While the basic construction remains the same between both variants, some of the additional bitz are really cool. Granted, that mirror will be a hell of a chore to paint if you want to pull of a convincing effect and don’t work for the ‘Eavy Metal team 😉

Dark Elves release (8)
But from the beautifully decorated back of the mirror to the alternate face masks for the witch elves, there’s a lot of variety if you assemble the kit this way. The ornaments on the back of the mirror are also an excellent example of the Dark Elves sinister but stylish culture.

The star of the show should be the Bloodwrack Medusa, of course, so let’s take a closer look at her:

Dark Elves release (9)

I love the pose! And this girl should be a real looker on the table, both if you use it as part of the shrine or as a standalone model. My favourite part has to be the clawed gauntlet:

Dark Elves release (10)

The face is a bit of a letdown, though: I would have loved the snake hair to billow around the face more, for one, and that facial expression makes her look like a dumbstruck idiot. I know GW can pull of much better female faces (as is evident with several models in this very release), so this one is a bit of a bummer. On a more positive notice, for all those who have been lamenting the decrease in bare breasts over the last years: Seems like you at least get one uncovered boob out of this kit. Yay! 😉

One last though: Wouldn’t the Bloodwrack Medusa be an interesting option for a plastic Fulgrim conversion? Just sayin’…

 

War Hydra/Kharybdiss

Dark Elves release (11)

Okay, I’ll be honest with you: The War Hydra is the absolute low point of this release for me: The pose seems slightly awkward (what on earth is happening with those hind legs?) and the heads are just plain terrible. It boggles the mind how GW’s designers have gone through three different versions of this creature without ever coming up with a cool looking model. And seeing the awesome monsters Trish Camden is designing for Forgeworld, it’s hard to come to grips with the silliness of this model.

In all fairness, one of the different paintjobs showcased in this month’s WD has the model look slightly less horrible, but there’s really no way of seeing beyond those silly snake heads… Anyway, I just want to put you through anymore of my ranting: The Hydra is my least favourite model coming from this month’s release, period.

That being said, the kit has another option, however: It can also be used to build the sea-dwelling Kharybdiss:

Dark Elves release (12)
Let’s just ignore the fact that the whole sea-dwelling thing doesn’t seem to make too much sense, given the fact that this monster will only ever be used on land in Dark Elf armies. And, to get this out of the way as well:  I may not be huge on classical education, but that particular spelling of Charybdis made me die a little inside. Plus did you guys do realise that the original Charybdis wasn’t a monster but a whirlpool, right? Scylla’s the one you want for the monster, people.

That aside, the Kharybdiss variant of assembling the kit does, strangely enough, solve much of what seems wrong about the hydra: The different heads make the creature look completely alien. And since you’re hard pressed to tell what this thing is supposed to be in the first place, the pose doesn’t really matter that much. Strange, I know, but for the, those heads make the model much better, precisely because they are so strange. The one thing I’m not keen on is that growth on the tip of the tail, but that should be easy enough to replace.

So, for me at least, the Kharybdiss is the definite way to go with this kit. It’s just strange enough to work, while the hydra is just silly.

Oh, and let’s not forget the beastmasters: On the one hand, both models are sporting what may be my least favourite elven hairstyle. Still, it’s nice that they got their own, distinct look, with clothes made from tanned monster hide and all.

A final thought: Maybe those Hydra heads could at least be used as Alpha Legion ornaments? I don’t know…

 

Dreadspears/Darkshards/Bleakswords

Dark Elves release (13)

Phew, they really know how to motivate the Naggaroth citizens to join the Dark Elf armed forces with those unit names alone, don’t they?
Anyway, these will bascially be the main troops for any Dark Elf army, so it’s clear that this is a pretty important kit.

And GW has really managed to deliver with these: From a visual standpoint, the models  are a definite callback to the older metal warriors, and for me at least, they are everything you could ask of Dark Elf soldiers: They are clearly identifiable as evil, pointy gitz, yet they retain the discipline and sinister elegance that defines the elves.

The one problem I have with these is that, from a converter’s point of view, you lose a lot of flexibility with this kit: All the bodies and heads are single piece, with only the hands and some doodads left as separate bitz. That means they don’t exactly lend themselves all that well to expansive conversions.

In all fairness, though, players will probably need a lot of these guys, so flexibility in posing them is really less important than ease of assembly (and the ability to rank them up without a hitch). And it’s great that they have all the equipment options in the box this time around, giving you three possible regiment types:

Dark Elves release (14)

And while I certainly don’t hate the older plastic warriors – they were pretty cool for their time – it’s good that the new warriors’ proportions are now finally in tune with the Black Ark Corsairs and Cold One Knights (although those hands still seem to be a bit on the big side, if you ask me…).

One small thing that bugs me, though: Why is it that helmetless Dark Elves always have to default back to one of two pretty horrible hairstyles?

Dark Elves release (17)

However, all in all, these are just what you would ask of your most important troop choice. Good job all around, GW!

 

Witch Elves/Sisters of Slaughter

Dark Elves release (18)

While the Dreadspears were the obligatory part, these girls are the freestyle performance, so to speak. And they are definitely the stars of the show for me for a number of reasons, but we’ll be getting to that in a minute.

First of all , these are also very much a callback to the 90s’ metal Witch Elves — the colour of the hair in the official ‘Eavy Metal paintjobs couldn’t be any more telling… The fact that these are plastic now means we get some much cooler poses, and these ladies really excel at dynamism!

And to address the elephant in the room: Yes, these models are clearly on the more stripperific side, but GW at least clearly resisted the temptation of making them too busty.  And in contrast with some of the recent High Elves (yes, I am looking at you, Sisters of Avelorn!), at least these gals really look feminine enough to actually pass for females!

Dark Elves release (19)

The alternate option for the kit is to assemble some Sisters of Slaughter, and this is where things really gets interesting:

Dark Elves release (20)

With their sinister facemasks and whips made from hair, these models are quite different from the Witch Elves while using the same bodies and poses. They would also make for excellent Wyches, Death Cultists or, indeed, Slaaneshi cultists, if you ask me. Or you could even kitbash them with some Daemonettes for very interesting results…

The one little thing I really don’t like about the kit is the awkward pose of the musician:

Dark Elves release (21)

Seems like she has to coordinate some rather complex actions there…

Apart from this one small gripe, this is clearly my favourite part of this release, and as soon as I had seen this kit, I was pretty sure that I would pick up one just for the heck of it.

And then I saw the price tag.

Wow. Just wow. 45 Euros for ten of those? No matter how many bitz you get, that is a bit of a ripoff. Sure, I can see how one of the big kits would cost that much. But ten – rather small – infantry models? I don’t want to keep ranting about GW’s prices, believe me, but it’s really a shame they took what is probably the most interesting kit of this whole release and priced it like that. I mean, that’s almost a hundred Euros for a decent sized regiment of these girls. And even for a huge plastic crack enthusiast such as myself, that seems a bit much…

 

Shadowblade

Dark Elves release (22)

And finally, the one new character so far — and the model’s plastic — yay! The standout parts of the model are the highly dynamic pose and the impressive cape flowing behind it. This last part is very obviously GD painter bait, if you ask me…
What’s really cool is that the way Shadowblade is posed on his base means that you’ll be able to almost pose him above his designated target — only a fun little detail, of course, but I still like it. My main gripe with the model is that it seems little devoid of personality, although I guess that is pretty much the whole point of the exercise in this case.

Let me also say that Dark Eldar players could be looking at a pretty cool base model for a counts as Kheradruakh here…

 

Conversion potential

Another thing this release excels at is the amount of conversion potential it brings:

First up, most of the new stuff will prove immensely useful to Dark Eldar players, obviously. The Death Hag or Crone Hellebron would make for awesome female Dark Eldar commanders. The Witch Elves are brilliant alternate Wyches. And the Sisters of Slaughter would be a very interesting and equally sinister way of representing Wyches in a Haemonculi Coven themed army. But all of this seems pretty obvious.

An even more interesting option would be to use parts from the Dreadspears and/or Witch Elves to build more sinister Eldar Guardians, either for use in an Ulthwé army, or in a mixed force of allied Eldar an Dark Eldar. And, like I said earlier, that Khaine statue would make for a fantastic, if sinister, Avatar.

All in all, for fans of the pointy eared armies, the options for creative kitbashing are really endless here.

But worshippers of chaos should also find a lot to like about this release: Many of the models would look great in a WFB or 40k army dedicated to Slaanesh: From the serpentine Bloodwrack Medusa to the daemon masked Sisters of Slaughter, there are all kinds of options (with the one for alternate cultists maybe the most interesting, if also most expensive one).

And finally, INQ28 aficionados should also take a close look at this release: They’ll find ample material for several varieties of cultists and some of the best female GW models to date — always a challenge for every fan of Inquisitor played at the 28mm scale!

 

As you will have gleaned from my enthusiasm for the models so far, I think that this is a very strong release with only very minor design slipups. My main point of contention isn’t even the horrible War Hydra model, but rather the pricing on the Witch Elves — it doesn’t even seem to fit the rest of the model range at all. Apart from that, though, it’s plain to see that the GW designers have poured lots of attention into this complete redesign.

So, the final question remains: Is this a redesign on par with the fabled 2010 relaunch of the Dark Eldar? It seems official now that the new Dark Elves will be released in two waves, and with leaked pictures of the next slew of kits already making their rounds all over the internet, I think it’s fair to say that, yes, this is a redesign every bit as involved as that of the Dark Eldar. I, for one, am very much looking forward to next month already! Will I begin a Dark Elf army now? No, I do have that much impulse control at least. But my dark and forbidden love for the Druchii will fester, and who can say what will happen?

 

So much for my take on the new models, but what do you think? Do you like the new designs as much as I do? Are you already contemplating all kinds of crazy conversions? Or do you feel completely differently about this release? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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