Monday, March 31, 2014

Militarum Tempestus: Plastic storm troopers finally arrive!

There are no miracles, only men.
Rumors have been circulating on the internet for years that Games Workshop has been working on a unit of plastic Imperial Guard storm troopers. I always looked at these rumors with a cautious optimism. The caution born from many false leads and the disappointment of not getting them when the Imperial Guard rolled into the 5th edition with steel treads and the stomp of standard-issue boots. But it was hard to not get excited about each of the rumors, because more so than for any other army in the 40k universe, the Guard are something that we can all relate to. Flesh and blood of men and women trying to survive the brutal dictatorship of the Imperium and the continual assaults from virtually any imaginable horror. Afterall, there are no miracles, only men (a line that has always stuck with me, from John Bergin’s ambient industrial rock soundtrack for Dan Abnett’s seminal novel Traitor General). But with the release of this week’s White Dwarf magazine, all of that uncertainty is gone. Plastic storm troopers are finally being released next week along with a supplemental codex, Militarum Tempestus, detailing an entire army composed of storm troopers (renamed Scions)! Now seems like as good a time as any to discuss the new plastics and consider them in light of the earlier versions of storm troopers (and to find my 30-40 metal storm troopers and prepare them for battle, he he).

The original storm troopers were sculpted by Michael Perry and had a very British paratrooper/ commando vibe to them. Each wore pretty standard combat fatigues, lacking any serious body armor. They carried modified las-rifles that were wired into massive backpacks.  Most notably however were their berets! While I was never quite sure what to think of them, they certainly cemented the models in my memory. They were also interesting in that they actually had a few heavy weapon options available, unlike all of the subsequent renditions of the unit. Surprisingly, they made both metal and plastic variants of the standard troopers. A fact that I remember vividly, because you were able to get a set of five of the plastic ones for free if you subscribed to White Dwarf back in the day (those days are long gone, heck you can’t even subscribe to White Dwarf now!).

A progression of artwork from the 2nd edition Codex through the 5th.
The second version of Imperial Guard storm troopers were released during the 3rd edition of Warhammer 40,000, sometime after the release of the Imperial Guard codex. I distinctly remember paging through the codex and stopping excitedly at the illustrations of the storm troopers, hardened veterans encumbered with all manner of tactical gear and wielding the most unique lasrifles I had ever seen, the barrels covered in some form of heat shroud and the stocks removed. The actual miniature representations were sculpted by Mark Bedford and they matched the illustrations quite closely. While I always liked Bedford’s storm troopers, it was with a few reservations. Some of their features are remarkably exaggerated and wonky looking, something which takes away from the overall tone of the models. They have massive boots that are emphasized by their narrow legs that almost appear to taper as they near the waist and that look paper-thin when viewed from the side. They are equipped with heavily modified las-weapons, called hellguns, that have heat shrouds and lack stocks entirely, just like in the illustrations. Unlike the original storm troopers, these guardsman wear carapace armor covering their torsos and replace the berets with armored helmets with built-in rebreathers and targeters.

Bedford's storm trooper design was a vast departure from the original, sporting a covert operative vibe.

The third rendition of the storm troopers were sculpted by Juan Diaz to coincide with the release of the plastic Cadian Imperial guardsmen. These storm troopers were to represent the elite fighting force of Cadia and were renamed the Kasrkin. Overall, visually they look quite similar to Mark Bedford’s storm troopers in that they wear carapace armor and combat helmets (their helmet/facemasks always reminded of dirt bike helmets...). Unlike the carapace armor on Bedford’s, they have armoured grieves and shoulder pads, all of which closely resemble the standard Cadian armor. Similar to the original storm troopers, their las-weapons are wired into a powercell on the soldier’s back. While their rifles still do not have proper stocks, the Kasrkin are actually holding them in a more believable fashion. The neatest aspect of the Kasrkin are their poses, with each of them looking like they are in the field. One has their rifle shouldered convincingly (aside from the aforementioned fact that their rifles don’t have real stocks...). My favorite looks like he is cautiously stalking forward, his rifle at the ready.

Although similar to the previous version, Diaz's Kasrkin are a lot better proportioned and sensible.
With three different renditions of Imperial Guard storm troopers over the years, Games Workshop had a lot of influences to draw from when designing the new plastics. Excitingly, a glance at the pictures makes it clear that they took cues from each of the previous releases. The first thing I noticed from the pictures is how their hellguns are an amalgamation of the rifles seen on all the earlier releases. Building off the tried and true plastic lasgun, they added a heat shroud and removed the stock similar to Bedford’s rendition. They have a normal looking powercell fitted to the rifle, but two thick cables sprout from the bottom, snaking to a large backpack. Unfortunately, they have comically large rifle scopes, ones that seem to have been fashioned from the old Space Marine bolter scope. While you might have argued before that they did not have stocks because they were skillfully shot from the hip, with the large scopes it is clear that was not the intent (using a high powered scope would be exceedingly difficult without a stock…). Interestingly, the laspistol included in the kit has the same cylindrical extension at the back that the rifles do, suggesting that it has some function other than filling the void where a stock would have been.

While they were a long time coming, I think the plastic storm troopers (Militarum Tempestus...) were worth the wait!
Aside from the hellguns, the kit comes with an array of other weapon options. The only new option for the kit is the Hotshot volley gun, and at present I am not sure that I like its visual design. It primarily looks like it is just a slightly larger version of the hotshot lasrifle, with two barrels instead of one. Thankfully they left off the scope, aware that the gun was to be fired with rapid bursts from the hip (represented as a 2/4 salvo weapons). I am pleased to say they included all of the special weapons available to the Scions in the box (only one of each though). The flame thrower maintains the look of the Kasrkin/Cadian one rather than recycling the pedestrian Space Marine one that has been around since the 3rd edition. The grenade launcher looks a little odd with its horizontal foregrip, but otherwise is very similar to the Cadian one.

This gives you a sense of the diversity of the new kit.
The next most obvious inclusion was the return of the berets! Looking at the sprues, there appear to be nine heads with berets, many of which have interesting little details such a bionic eye, a mustache, and my favorite, an eye patch! In addition to the heads with berets, they have several with combat helmets and facemasks. Many of the facemasks retain the ‘dirt bike helmet’ look of the Kasrkin, while maintaining the circular lens seen in Mark Bedford’s storm troopers (The Red Spectacles or Jin-Roh anyone?).

It is nice to see that they honored all the previous versions of the storm troopers in some capacity with the new heads.
Compared to the earlier renditions of storm troopers, the Scions are the most heavily armored Imperial Guard veterans yet. The Scion’s carapace armor strangely has resemblances to that of a medieval knight. This is particularly evident when looking at their wide, domed breastplates. While they are certainly well sculpted I am not thrilled with how bulky they make the Scions look, as it takes away from the covert-ops aspect of the models. As they are now, they have, dare-I-say, a steam-punk vibe to them, not quite the Vostroyans, but steam-punk nonetheless.
Perhaps it is only the helmet spike, but these new storm troopers really have an archaic steam-punk vibe.
Another surprising and welcome addition to the kit is the inclusion of components to make a command squad. There are pieces to make a banner bearer, a vox-cast operator, and a medic. The medic has a cleverly designed las/hellpistol that has a built-in chain-blade (kind of weird actually… ha ha). They even included an overcoat to drape over the commander’s shoulder akin to the model of Lord Castellan Creed, complete with little winged-skull buckles. They also included an excellent looking powerfist, one that is not simply a copy of a Space Marine one, and therefore looks to scale and unique. Furthermore, the kit comes with all manner of other little details, including ceremonial daggers, sheathed Hotshot lasguns, and even little infantry primer books!

A plastic overcoat is a welcome addition, one that will surely find its way into many conversions.
The redesigned powerfist is scaled properly for the Scions! The medic has an optional pistol with a built-in chainblade! And the vox-operator has a nice and boxy radio set.

Overall, the models look quite impressive and I am excited to get some to play around with and consider for Inq28 conversions. I am interested in modifying their hellguns by adding stocks (maybe collapsible ones?) and removing the power cables and scopes. Furthermore, I want to see how feasible it would be to replace their bodies with ones that are a little more reserved and form-fitting (possibly the plastic Cadian bodies?). And although it does not appear that they can get shotguns anymore, I am tempted to try to convert one or two with a trusty 12 gauge.

In addition to the Scions, they are also releasing a new vehicle to transport them in the form of the Taurox Prime, or standard Taurox for the Astra Militarum (the newly named Imperial Guard). It has striking similarity to any number of real world armored personnel carriers (APC), with a boxy angular frame and an optional light turret. Instead of being situated on bulky aggressive tires, or even a combination of treads and tires (half track), it has two sets of treads.  These four individual treads are attached separately in a manner you might expect for a vehicle with wheels. As though they feel they owe us as 40k players, they covered the vehicle with brass scrollwork, pipes, and curiously placed smoke stacks. Additionally, the optional side-mounted hot-shot volley guns or autocannons available for the Taurox Prime look ridiculous. On a more positive note, the model has a detailed interior showing the driver and gunner of the vehicle. Overall I think I could grow to like the vehicle with a little conversion work stripping down some of the overwrought details of the kit (side mounted smoke-stacks and engine pipes).

I think the Taurox looks substantially better without all the extra heraldry and simply olive drab paint scheme.
If you have made it this far, hopefully you have enjoyed hearing my ramblings about Imperial Guard storm troopers (and enjoyed looking back at some of the old art and models!). The coming Militarum Tempestus release looks to be a very interesting one and one that I am looking forward to. As always, I would love to hear any thoughts or opinions about the new models.

- Adam Wier


  1. I loved this article - thanks very much :) I've been watching the leaked images pop up with glee, but I'd somehow missed that beautiful powerfist! I hate the ones in the Cadian/Catachan command squads - un-detailed with crap poses. This one is great, and I love the piston details. I like that they seem to have fixed the size issue of the plasma gun (just taking a space marine plasma and whacking it on a Cadian body) and hopefully the meltagun has been modified too. I would guess the lack of stock is explained by the weapons being low recoil? The do look like accuracy would be an issue without it though :) I'll probably get a box for Inq28 too! The Taurox looks nice without the bling - I like the idea of an unarmed civilian model. One of my friends is already talking about replacing the front tracks with wheels from Zinge Industries, which gave me the idea of using the leftover tracks to build a rapier platform :) one daft thing in the white dwarf these are released in - there's a little plate on the bottom of the vehicle with a couple of coils - they said that it's an anti-grav plate to help the vehicle get out of difficult terrain. Hmmm...

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post! The new plastic Scions do add a lot of wonderful pieces for use in all sorts of conversions for Imperial Guard or otherwise. The powerfist is certainly one of my favorites; I love how wide and flat it is (piston details are nice too). I was also really surprised and impressed that they reworked the plasma gun and made it a little smaller. I still wish they were even smaller and narrower like the plasma rifles used by the 2nd edition Imperial Guard (but you can’t have everything...) Looking a little closer at the sprues, it looks like the meltagun they give you is also a little different than the stock Space Marine one we have seen for years (it is still think it too large, but at least it does not have some massive precision scope).

      I was not aware of Zinge Industries, but it looks like they have a lot of nice accessories, including some wheels that would be suitable for replacing the front tracks. I would love to see how it works out if they attempt it. I will probably end up getting at least one Taurox to play around with and depending on my thoughts of it, maybe a few more to make a Militarum Tempestus army with all my old Kasrkin models. That anti-gravity box on the bottom of the vehicle seems a little strange and out of place for the Guard, but at least it is on the bottom and out of sight ;)

  2. Cracking read Adam. The Troopies have had some great art over the years. I still quite like the Bedford sculpts personally but never really noticed the leg thing until now.

    I will pick up the Scions at some point. Too many cool bits to ignore it. I fancy up-blinging my normal Guard with the spare bits.

    The grenade launcher is the only awkward pose out of the set that I'm not too bothered with. The blaster thing looks a tad too Tau fur me. Ditto the ones that appear on the blinged out truck.

    1. I am really looking forward to seeing the plastics in person. Some of the components are difficult to see in the pictures and it is tricky to accurately judge the sizes of everything. The plasmagun and meltagun for instance, I want to see how they compare in size to the Space Marine ones. They look to be a little smaller; hopefully that is the case. I also want to get a closer look of all the available heads they offer and start considering where I could use them!