Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chaos Daemons: Impressions of the new models

Another new codex so soon after the Dark Angels?  I did not think it was possible!
Over the years, the Chaos daemons have had numerous waves of releases, some were superb while others have leaned towards abysmal. Now, it seems they will be getting another swath of new models and even new books, both for Warhammer and 40k. This is not long after receiving a White Dwarf update and new miniatures to go along with it last year (including plastic Flamers  and Screamers of Tzeentch, plastic Plaguebears and Nurglings, and a some Slaanesh chariots). While some of these pictures have been floating around the web for a few days now, I wanted to wait for Games Workshop to put up clearer images. In this post I will comment on the new models while referencing the old models to bring up some points about their evolution.  

The daemons have benefited from a collection of very well designed and sculpted plastic units in their Troops section (with the exception of the plastic Horrors which took a huge leap backwards from Alex Hedstrom’s metal ones). Brian Nelson’s plastic Bloodletters of Khorne were the some of the first, and did a wonderful job of reinvigorating the original concepts, maintaining many of their defining aspects while instilling in them a sinister furiosity. This was a huge transition for the daemon model range, shifting the focus from wonky and exaggerated to more refined distinctive forms.

The current range of plastic lesser daemons.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of the current daemon range came with the release of the plastic Plaguebearers of Nurgle, finally giving the world a nice representation of the footsoldiers of Nurgle. In concept, the Plaguebearers are my favorite of the lesser daemons, the shambling pest-ridden fiends with their lone horns and singular baleful eyes have always appealed to me. However, after years of lackluster Plagurebearer models, I scarcely believed it was possible for Games Workshop to release nice versions of them. The new plastic kit may rival the bloodletters in quality.  Not that they are necessarily neater than the bloodletters, but the Plaguebearers had so much stacked against them for getting nice models. More so than perhaps any of the Chaos daemons, the Plaguebearers have seen many renditions, almost all of them bad (although some of the original comical ones do have some charm to them).  The previous ones were the worst of all, little more than indistinct blobs of green stuff; laziness should never be confused with the bloated, seething form of Grandfather Nurgle, but that is what seemed to have happened with them.  But the new models changed all of this, and injected new life into their tired forms.  While maintaining the long held image of them, Mike Anderson and Gavin Newton, like Nelson before them with the Bloodletters, added their own thoughts to the concept and brought them to new heights.  With angular horns (and antlers!), gaping maws, ravaged dislocated looking hands, and wicked barbs of puckered obsidian, they lumber onto the battlefield ready to camp on objectives like no other unit can!  Nurgle is an army that needs a lot skill to visually achieve, but the new Plaguebearers make the task far less daunting and easier to do, without feeling the need to recreate the entire range from the ground up.

The evolution of the Plaguebearer
Maybe it is because of the high standard set by the plastic versions of many of the classic daemons, that most of the new releases seem to fall  a little short. Rather than taking a chance and letting a designer have true creative freedom, it seems that GW decided it would be best to represent the new cavalry models by simply tacking the excellent infantry models onto their mounts with little to no modification.  One can almost hear the design team now: It is going to be riding a beast?  Yeah, big models sell!  We can make it work with the current range as it is; their legs are apart far enough already!  You sure about that? Yeah, just cram them on! 

Thankfully the ant-eater snouts do not have to be used...
Like some of Games Workshop’s more recent releases, I feel most of these new models suffer from a lack of direction. Many seem as if they are pieced together with parts from existing models. While the individual parts are well done, their integration was handled poorly.  To be honest, we have seen this sort of design mentality with some of the daemon kits for a long time. When the Seekers of Slaanesh were redesigned (to fit with the plastic Daemonettes), instead of keeping the fluid and graceful posture the old metal ones had, they just awkwardly attached them on the new mounts.  Nowhere is this displayed better than the new Plague Drones of Nurgle.  While I am not entirely sure what to think of the monstrous bloated flies, replete with chitinous limbs, ragged wings, and grotesque elephant-like trunks, the riders are utterly ridiculous.  They look like an afterthought, added atop the actual drones long after the actual model was finished.  Thankfully, I feel if someone wanted to use them in an army, just removing the Plaguebearers from the the drones would go a long way towards making the models acceptable. 

I am excited that they brought back Khorne’s penchant for cannons (it brings back memories of the crazy brass monstrosities from Epic), as the association has been something that has somewhat been lost over the years.  Unfortunately, the Skull Cannon model suffers from the bloodletter tacked onto it, with seemingly no purpose (waving to the crowd perhaps?).  I like the idea of the cannon being some daemon engine that runs solely on its utter hatred for all things (a bit like the Hellcannon I suppose).  The chassis that the cannon is mounted on is an odd amalgamation of Tzeentchian gaping maws, brass wheels, and pistons fashioned out of juggernaut legs. While it is nicely detailed and sculpted, the frame of the contraption is awkwardly tall and narrow to the point that any slight breeze would surely send it toppling to its side. From the same kit, you can build the Blood Throne, which is the lessor of the two (at least visually).  Quite why the throne is not massed with skulls is hard to say.  More curious still are the two bloodletters hanging out in front of the warmachine, not very menacing.

Some of the old daemon engines from Epic.
I love the bloodletters, but think would be better if they were not a part of this kit.
Both of the Tzeentch chariots look surprisingly good (probably the highlight of the new models), with the riders more naturally perched on their mounts than the other offerings in this release.  Although the Horrors included take after the lackluster new plastics, they seem slightly better sculpted and appear to be optional. The plastic herald, in particular, looks good, allowing you to mount him separately if making the other variant.  He has multiple assembly options, one with a wicked looking kriss, the other a staff.  The part I am most pleased with however is the option of three different heads.  All of them are suitably weird and unique, highlighted by this sickening looking crescent moon, bringing back old Tzeentchian associations that have not been capitalized on in years. I admit I am not a big fan of all the books the herald has strapped to his chariot. It is a shame the model was not released years ago, as it was one of the better options in the previous book (flying about the battlefield bringing Bolt of Tzeentch wherever it was most needed). The Burning Chariot of Tzeentch looks nice too, although the flames spewing from the Flammer’s limbs are a bit over the top (they look like they may be optional however).

Probably the nicest of the new kits and it provides the much needed Herald on chariot for Tzeentch.

Along with the Storm of Magic sorcerer, Tzeentch has some excellent herald models. 

I am happy they are putting some effort into making heralds of the different gods, however none of the ones being released here are anything to write home about (aside from the plastic Tzeentch herald from the chariot). The Herald of Khorne looks passable but suffers greatly from a dumbfounded facial expression, stubby fingers on his left hand, and a ridiculous looking chain of skulls hanging from his back. I question why you would spring for this new model when you could use the one expertly sculpted by Simon Egan from Forge World (or just fashion one on a Juggernaut from the excellent plastic kit released a while back). The Herald of Nurgle is the weakest of those being released, looking as if they took one of the plastic Plaguebearers and simply stuck on as much extra detail as possible. The result is a model that is overbearing and unbalanced. Since the model is plastic you could likely remedy it by removing some of the excess ornamentation and replacing his ridiculous looking head.

Both this model's face and chain of skulls I find lacking.
It is as if they tried to incorporate everything remotely Nurgle in this model...
But perhaps the biggest disappointment of the upcoming release is the apparent lack of new Greater Daemons for the different chaos gods. The current Greater Daemon models have all been around for ages, and have not aged well (with the exception of maybe the Nurgle one). Rumors have been circling around for awhile now suggesting that new versions have been produced. With a little luck they will release one or two of them in the coming months, because as it stands you would be better served to look to Forge World or another outside company for a Greater Daemon.

On a more positive note, I am happy with the cover illustrations for both the Warhammer 40,000 and Fantasy army books. They continue the recent tradition of displaying a single character, and in the case of these new ones, a Bloodletter of Khorne. Of the two I think I like the Fantasy one better because the Bloodletter is a little more interesting, brandishing a flaming sword and a collection of skulls that are also appropriately on fire. It is also nice to see that they brought Raymond Swanland back to do the cover for the third hardcover Warhammer 40,000 codex, adding a subtle sense of uniformity to the books.

Both of the new cover illustrations look great, making it one of the first for fantasy...
While I was initially pretty upset with many of these new releases, now that I have had time to examine them in greater detail, I think most of the stuff is pretty good. And if you are willing to make some subtle modifications, most of the models could be something you are proud to put on the tabletop. That about covers it for my initial thoughts about the new daemon release. Any of your thoughts and opinions on the new releases are welcome.

- Harlon Nayl


  1. I've gotta say that burning chariot looks like a great deal. Just parting it out, you get a herald of tzeentch on a disk, 3 horrors, a flamer, and 2 screamers

    3 of them gets you 3 disk heralds, 9 horrors, 3 flamers and 6 screamers. Not a terrible way to start an army. You'd need to buy more horrors and flamers and screamers, but still this costs

    3 flamers - 20
    6 screamers - 60
    10 horrors - 30
    Herald on Disk (this is finecast of course) 40

    So 150 worth of models for 120. Less if you buy online.

    3 Burning Chariots 120
    2 boxes of Flamers - 40
    2 boxes of horrors - 60
    4 boxes of screamers - 120

    340 bucks for a pure tzeentch army. If the heralds wind up working like a royal court, toss in an ushabti with some pilfered wings as a daemon prince, maybe a greater daemon and a soul grinder.

    1. That is a great idea I'll have to remember!

    2. Having just gotten the kit, unfortunately it is not as easy to break up into separate units as it initially seemed. First off, the flamer is much bigger than the standard ones (at least twice the size. The screamers would work, although they do not come with flying bases. Additionally, their tails are attached to either these whisping, fluid like projections or flames (which hold the disc up, which would have to carefully be removed and the tail reshaped. The horrors would work though (they may be a bit smaller then the current plastic horrors, being that they are to be blue horrors rather than the pink ones that are fielded as troops). The herald is really nice, with a lot of different options (3 heads, two variations on the staff, a kris, and many hand options). If the kit is made into the version with the flamer, there is still enough in the kit to not only make the herald, but also put it on a disc of Tzeentch, which pleasantly surprised me.

  2. Yeah, the Tzeentch chariots are a great deal. This is particularly true when considered in light of some of the other releases as of late from GW (take the $85 Slaughterbrute/Mutalith Vortex Beast for instance). It will be very interesting to see how viable all of the different Tzeentch units will be in the new Daemon Codex/Army book.