With 2016 coming to a close, we thought that it would be fun to take some time to consider what miniatures were released this year, and comment on our favorites. Anyone who has followed the site for awhile will know that we largely focus on Games Workshop models, though we have tried to give mention to quality releases from other ranges. This year, however, nearly all of our time was spent with Games Workshop models, with nothing beyond that spectrum really capturing our attention. Feel free to let us know in the comments what other companies we overlooked in 2016, however.
Age of Sigmar Orruks:
One of Games Workshop’s most exciting releases (for the three of us) this year was the introduction of the Orcs (Orruks) to the Age of Sigmar setting. Ever since Brian Nelson revolutionized the Orc/Ork range, we have been a big fan of the orcs. Nelson added a brutal savagery to the race, along with a new level of anatomical realism (eschewing the gangly and comical wonkiness of earlier GW designs). After sculpting most of the 3rd edition 40K Ork range, Nelson largely stepped away from the orks, letting others emulate his style for new releases (usually with reasonable success, despite never capturing magic that Nelson always did). We were all unreasonably excited when we saw the new Orruk releases for Age of Sigmar, noticing right away that they had a level of vitality that only Nelson can deliver.
The entire new range of orcs is strong, from the mammoth Maw-Krusha which finally gives the orcs a mount that matches their brutish physiology, to the beetle armored Brutes. Each time Nelson revisits the orcs, he subtly modifies their physiology, making them more fully realized and distinctive. This time, he further emphasized the ogre-build of their torso, making their necks thicker and more pronounced, jutting directly forward rather than sitting atop the shoulders. The entirety of their brutal frames are pronounced by the decision to make their heads smaller (relative to their bodies); they truly are walking bulks of muscle.
We are particularly thrilled that the release had a squad of “regular” warriors (the Brutes), rather than focusing solely on character models and special units. This allows for the creation of an entire army of orcs based on the new design aesthetic, and gives converters even more possibilities. Furthermore, while not like the multipart kits of the past where you had complete freedom of what arms and legs you used, the kit still provides a lot of options to create unique warriors. How the arms attach is particularly brilliant, allowing complete control of what arms are used without sacrificing anatomical realism of how they attach. Instead of the arms being attached via flat contact points like most of the previous orc kits, these are cut at contours of their muscles, allowing them to all be interchangeable and not have obvious contact points.
Warhammer Quest - Silver Tower:
|Silver Tower Heroes|
|Silver Tower Familars|
In an effort to tap into the increasingly lucrative boardgame market, Games Workshop resurrected their classic dungeon crawl game, Warhammer Quest. The game was re-imaged for Age of Sigmar, showcasing GW’s staunch commitment to their new property. Instead of populating the game with the hallmarks of Age of Sigmar, the Stormcast and the Khorne Bloodbound, they explored the followers of the Chaos God Tzeentch. They re-introduced beastmen to Warhammer, but with avian features to fit the Lord of Change. The muscular Kairic Acolytes manage to look distinctly different from many of the Bloodbound models, who are also outrageously muscular. The Kairic Acolytes are in more natural and realistic poses than what we have come to expect from most of GW’s “He-man” models, and will likely see a lot of use in conversions. The game includes a new sculpt for the Gaunt Summoner model that is in a more interesting pose than the original model, and is refreshingly not on a Disc of Tzeentch. Brian Nelson sculpted four familiars for the game, at least two of which are updates to classic familiar models (a legged book, and a crescent moon headed minion). My favorite of the familiars, and perhaps my favorite model in the game, is a legged fish! Beyond the forces of Chaos, the game comes with a interesting collection of heroes, including the first two elf models in Age of Sigmar (a Dark Elf berserker, the Tenebrael Shard, and an elven sorceress that they did not go out of their way to sexualize, the Mistweaver Saih). It would not be Warhammer Quest without a barbarian, and they managed to make a likeable model that does not look overly static despite his “I’m standing here” pose. The entire game is filled with excellent models, each offering a slight twist on fantasy tropes, making it a delightful release for anyone, regardless of whether you are a fan of Age of Sigmar or not.
|Silver Tower enemies|
As a year, 2016 has been defined by GW delving back into their past and revitalizing old concepts for a new generation. Older gamers around the world rejoiced when Deathwatch Overkill was released in March, bringing the Genestealer Cultists back into 40k with the aplomb of a fully fleshed out army. And then later in the year, GW released a Codex book for the Genestealer Cult and a host of plastic kits to complement what came in the Overkill boxed game. Instead of just relying on the models released in the Overkill game for the army, they produced new multipart kits of many of the units featured in the game. It would have been easy for them to just rest on the laurels of Overkill, and simply repackage all of the models in the boxed game, not feeling the need to make multipart versions of the units. Fortunately for us, that is not what they did.
The Hybrids are a remarkable kit in their own right, allowing for a diverse set of warriors to fill out the Genestealer Cultist army, but more exciting to us at Between the Bolter and Me is their potential for conversions. At long last, there is good alternative to the subpar plastic Chaos Cultist models for making mercenaries and other human warriors! And there are shotgun options that do not rely on the bulky husks of metal that the Space Marine Scouts carry. Regardless of how popular the Genestealer Cult army is, the Neophype Hybrids box will be Inquisitor/Inq28 kit of choice for many years to come.
|Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves|
For the past few years we have been graced with Simon Egan’s vision of some of the iconic Primarchs of the Space Marine Legions of 30k. 2016 was no exception to this, seeing the release of one of the most anticipated Primarch models, the bestial Leman Russ! Like the other Primarch models, Egan captures some of Russ’s temperament in the model’s sculpt and pose. He is sprinting across a broken Prospero, weapons in hand, grimace on his face. All the classic elements are there, flowing braided hair, rune tampered armor, and a wolf pelt as a cloak. His face is one of the most striking elements of the model, a noble physiognomy, braced with a grim determination for the task he must do, yet a hint of sorrow is still visible in his eyes. Some may be upset that he lacks a beard, but I find it hard to complain when the face is so well realized and expressive. Once again, even though none of us play Space Wolves, we still are tempted to buy the model!
Burning of Prospero:
|MkIII Iron armor|
|Adeptus Custode and Sister of Silence|
|Magnus the Red, Damon Primarch of the Thousand Sons|
Perhaps the most impressive model of the Thousand Sons’ range is not Magnus, but the re-envisioning of Jes Goodwin’s classic Ahriman model. Goodwin’s line of Chaos Special Characters (Khârn, Ahriman, Fabius Bile, Abaddon) have been around since 2nd edition and have aged really well, making resculpts somewhat superfluous. This was evident when Khârn was redone this year, resulting in a model that does not really improve on the original (Particularly with the massive, gaudy chains hanging from the new model). With the Thousand Sons’ release, however, David Waeselynck tackled Ahriman and managed to create a model that lives up to the original. Importantly, the model maintains many of the original’s iconic features, including his massive horned helm, ram sigil shoulderpad, and slender staff tipped with a powered spade-shaped blade. The new sculpt also gave the model a little more depth, due to the advances in plastic mold technology over the aging metal molds. Unlike with the new Khârn, however, it was kept a lot more reserved, resulting in a dynamic model that does not seem overdone. The model also comes with a disc of Tzeentch, which is optional. It will be interesting to see if Games Workshop continues to redesign Goodwin’s classic character models, but if they do, Ahriman gives us hope for the future!
Model of the Year:
While it was a difficult decision, at the end of the day we all decided that Brian Nelson’s Orruk Megaboss was our favorite model of the year! We have always had a soft spot for orcs, but had not gotten a release that stood up to Nelson’s 3rd edition 40K redesign. We were beginning to think that GW’s orcs would forever trying to recapture the spark that made Nelson’s models great, but always falling short. The Megaboss, based on a sketch by John Blanche, and sculpted by Nelson himself, put these fears to rest. Age of Sigmar was the perfect setting to revitalize the orc range, and show that the setting had something to offer for even the humble orc. The Megaboss shows the improved physiology of the new orc design, while maintaining all the furiousity and beastial rage inherent in all orcs. Furthermore, the model shows how far Games Workshop has come with sprue design, effectively minimizing moldlines and hiding seams, decreasing the amount of green stuff needed to build the model. If you have not actually seen the model in person, we would recommend you do so. While the images on Games Workshop’s site look great, it looks even better in the physical form. It is much easier to appreciate the scale and depth of the sculpt. The Megaboss is a truly remarkable model that everyone should have in their collection!
2016 was a remarkable year for Games Workshop. And if it is any indication, 2017 will be an exciting year as well. Thirteenth Black Crusade here we come!