Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Unboxing: Adeptus Mechanicus Skitarii Rangers/Vanguard

Glory to the Machine God!

Having only just unveiled a high profile release in the new Harlequin models, Games Workshop continues its relentless pace with an even more exciting release, the Skitarii of the Adeptus Mechanicus!  Although the followers of the Machine God have been in 40k lore since the beginning, and have been explored extensively by Jes Goodwin and John Blanche, there have been very few models to represent them in Warhammer 40k.  Back in 2000, GW’s Skullz program gave people a chance to get a few promotional Mechanicum models, but it was really only when Forge World started to create models for the Horus Heresy that people began to seriously consider starting armies dedicated to the Machine God.  So when rumors started to circulate that Games Workshop might create a line of plastic Mechanicum models, it was hard not to get excited, particularly when the FW models are so stunning.  I am pleased to say that these rumors have become a reality, and although the models are quite divergent from those released by FW, they are no less imaginative and exciting.  Always being partial to the line and file soldiers of an army, I decide to get a box of Skitarii Rangers/Vanguard (the troop choices in the new codex), to see what the new models are like.

For the first Mechanicum release, I do not really think we could have hoped for much better.

When first hearing that Mechanicum models were going to be released, I was cautiously optimistic about them.  Certainly the concept behind the Mechanicum is quite awesome, but there was always a chance that they would be rushed into production and underdeveloped (random mechanical bits mashed together, with a cog or two thrown in there to tie everything down).  While I admit this sort of thing is getting rarer for GW, it still happens from time to time.  When the first images of the Rangers/vanguard leaked, I was immediately relieved.  They are delicate and thin looking, yet retain an iron strength through mechanical limbs and segmented armor.  They wear the classic long red coats from Mars and have glowing goggle eyes, hidden behind a bulky respirator and snaking cables.  Fantastically, they even have unique weapons, archaic and technical at the same time, rather than simply oversized boltguns with Mechanicum cogs.  All told, the models’ general aesthetic fits the wealth of classic Mechanicum imagery, while maintaining some individuality and subtlety.

One of the most remarkable design aspects about the new Rangers/Vanguard models (and nearly the entire Mechanicus range) are their basic battle rifles, the Galvanic rifle and the Radium carbine. In both cases, the rifles actually have legitimate stocks and iron sights. They even include some sets of arms where they are shouldering the rifles and ‘almost’ looking down the sights of the rifles. Additionally, both rifles take inspiration from various real world weapons, infusing each with a sort of steampunk flare. The Galvanic rifle looks like a cross between a Lee-Enfield bolt-action and an M1 Garand. The Radium carbine resembles a fusion of a range of WWII carbine/submachine guns, including the M1 carbine and the MP40.  

Both the Galvanic rifle and Radium carbine have many visual elements borrowed from WWII weaponry.

One curious visual motif on nearly all of the Adeptus Mechanicus weapons is the inclusion of a drum/cylinder above or around the trigger guard. Initially I took these to be a kind of drum magazine for the weapons, feeding them with ammunition. Looking at the Galvanic rifle, the drum is placed directly in front of the trigger guard, right beneath where you would imagine the receiver of the rifle to be. Things get a little stranger when when you look at the placement of the drum on the other weapons. For the radium carbine, the drum motif is placed higher on the weapon, almost as though it were a revolving cylinder in a revolver (while the gun also has what appears to be a vertical cylindrical magazine). The arc rifle has a large drum (reminiscent to a Chicago typewriter Thompson machine gun), but is supplemented with a powerpack on the soldier’s back, as well as a huge battery/coil on top of the gun.  The Sicarians’ weapons are even more questionable, but I will cover that in a future post.  Perhaps I am over thinking things, and GW is just trying to make the weapons look mysterious, ha ha.   

Despite the long list of positives for the weapons in the kit, there are a number of aspects that I am not too fond of. First and foremost, while I seem to say this with every new 40k release, I can’t help but think all of the weapons are oversized. While I love the overall look of the Galvanic rifles, they are taller than the Rangers themselves. Even more outrageous is the Transuranic arquebus. I understand they were trying to pay homage to the arquebus weapons of the 15th century, but I think they took it a little too far (about the height of two Rangers, ha ha), detracting from the more realistic scaling of the rest of the models (in comparison to the mammoth hands and feet of the new Scions, amongst others).  I decided to try to shorten the Galvanic rifles for the Ranger that I am working on because of this.  It was actually quite a simple conversion, where I removed a 4mm section from the middle of the rifle.  I simply clipped the rifle in two and used an x-acto blade carefully shave at both ends such that the two pieces could fit together flushly, without damaging the little decorative hook modeled on the underside.  I think the resulting rifle looks nice, and when looking at one on the final model, it hardly even looks like a conversion.  In fact, I still think the rifles look a bit large after shortening.  Although I am tempted to experiment with shortening them even further, I am going to resist; Adam and I might try this when converting a few compatriots for Inquisitor Molnar (so look for that in the future!).

It was very simple to shorten the Galvanic rifle to a more reasonable length.

In addition to the modifications I made to their Galvanic rifles, I also went about modifying the Transuranic arquebus to resemble a more modern bolt action sniper rifle. Fortunately not much really needed to be done to the rifle because the base model already has a great looking bolt action mechanism and a traditional box magazine for its ammunition (something rarely seen in 40k where it is assumed everything is fully automatic, ha ha).  The main modifications consisted of shortening the weapon’s barrel and replacing the monopod with an integrated bipod. The bipod was pieced together from the bipod legs found on several of the Elysian Drop troop special weapons (plasma gun, meltagun, etc).  Using greenstuff I also added a kind of rail or mount for a scope.

Like the Galvanic rifle, I shortened the Transuranic arquebus, making it look more like a modern sniper rifle.

Although I may have come off a bit negative about the Skitarii weapons, I am pretty impressed with them as a whole. Any model GW releases which actually has a stock on their rifles and sights is a victory in my book.  Just the fact that the Skitariis’ weapons look so distinct from bolters or autoguns is exciting.  And even if there are a few questionable elements, they should be easily modified to ones more to my liking.  I think they will serve as an excellent foundation for all manner of conversions for years to come; I know I certainly will be using them!

The poses for the Ranger models are fantastic, full of life, while still looking natural.

Aside from the modifications I made to their weapons, I have also made a few other small changes to the models themselves. The models themselves are covered in a swath of extraneous cables. They are everywhere, snaking between their legs, covering their chest armor, and even hanging aimlessly from their backpacks. Some of these, particularly those dangling from their powerpacks, I opted to remove. With them gone, I think the models look a little tidier and less encumbered.  The last thing I am considering modifying is the light/targeter array on the Rangers’ backpacks.  I am not entirely sure what the designer’s intent was for them.  They look a lot like miniature search lights (from a multitude of Space marine kits), which seems fitting for a Mechanicum warrior, it wired into the soldier’s neural circuits so that it could be positioned with a single thought.  After playing around with the backpacks, however, I noticed that it is seated too low, such that the device would get blocked by the back of the Ranger’s head if it were to pivot to aid them while aiming a rifle.  If it were on the other side of the backpack, it might be able to work, since all of the Rangers are right handed.  But as it is, it seems to be unable to fulfill its primary function, aiding the Ranger with their marksmanship.  Perhaps it is simply to be a single position light, always facing forwards.  All these considerations have me uncertain what I should do with them.  Should I try to switch them to the other side, allowing me to have it positioned with the Rangers’ heads, should I remove them entirely, considering them superfluous detail, or should I just leave leave them alone?  I would love to hear people’s input!

Even after shortening his rifle, it is still gigantic.

While I still have a long way to go until I finish all 10 of the Rangers, I have been having a great time working on them.  The models are so nicely designed and fit together smartly.  It has been very easy to modify them slightly (primarily toning down the weapons a bit), while maintaining the spirit of the models.  After assembling the rest of this unit, I could see getting more just to use in conversions; I foresee them being heavily used in Inq28 conversions for many years to come!

-Eric Wier


  1. The Skitarii release is amazing! GW did a very good job and I can't wait for more AdMech stuff! My only gripe with them, indeed; the weapon length. The rifles are okay-ish IHMO but that plasma gun and the Galvanic rifle/Transuranic arquebus are ridiculously long. So those three will definitely get a trim ;) but overall I'm very excited by these kits and can't wait to give 'em some paint. Thanks for the review Eric!

    1. Thanks! I am amazed at how well GW did with the models. I agree the plasma rifle looks pretty ridiculous, which is a primary reason I did not even touch it, ha ha. Good luck assembling some of your own and tackling the weapons!

  2. Hurrah for guns! Definitely the best part about these figures is the new guns. I have mentioned it elsewhere, but the guns seems like they should fit nicely on Cadians to make some Tech Guard too...

    And while even the cut down Galvanic rifle seems long, the original MLE was over 50 inches long! Just needs a fixed sword bayonet for a proper turn of the century look.

    The other special weapons are probably best cut down as well. The arc rifle for instance looks like cutting the box off the top will make for a much better weapon.

    As for the sensor/light thingy on the backpack, I think it would look best following the gaze of the trooper, like the scions. Seems like it might be not worth it to switch to the left side though.

    1. Yeah it is pretty exciting that they finally introduced to some weapons, ones that are not just modified bolters. I have to compared the arms to any of the Cadian models, but they do seem to be begging for it, he he.

      I agree that the box on top of the arch rifle probably has to go, admittedly it is the most characteristic part of the weapon. I think removing the box at the top might make for a good machine gun, sort of like a Thompson (if not a little large though).

      I think positioning the sensor to be following the troopers gaze makes the most sense, but if I do that, it will be pointing directly at the back of their heads, completely blocking it from functioning...

    2. What about putting it on the gun itself somehow? maybe linked with a cable to the backpack... sort of big for that (and I know you love giant GW scopes), but it might be a way to get it back to being "useful".

  3. glad to see that I'm not the only one who has "de-tailed" their Skitarii! Especially on the walkers, the cables and dendrites hanging from the power plants just looked out of place. Looking forward to seeing more custom Skitarii!

    1. It is good to hear that others also felt that all those cables were out of place. I think the models look a lot cleaner with some of them removed. I am slowly working on more Skitarii and hope to show more soon!