Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Horus Heresy plastics: MKIV Armor Impressions

Plastic Space Marines have come a long way from their humble beginning. 
For the past few months there have been several rumors going about the possible release of plastic Horus Heresy miniatures. I had done my best to pay them little mind, sure it would be exciting, casting aside that hateful resin, and giving a good reason to give 30k a chance, but why get ones hopes up for something that might not happen? You can imagine my shock to find pictures leaked all across the internet, revealing what appears to be the current tactical squad box redesigned to feature all Mark IV ‘Maximus’ armor. I wanted to take some time to talk a little about why this upcoming release excites me.

The moment Forge World began releasing Heresy era Space Marines, I was thrilled.  Their first release was a redesigned version of MKIII ‘Iron armor’, reminding me of those lovely Rogue Trader pewter models.  Forge World have since redesigned most of the old variants to fit with aesthetic of the modern plastic space marines. Despite this, I have always had a few reservations about these new renditions of the power armor variants. Much of this revolves around the extremely awkward leg posing of some of the models and their unusually thin, ‘stretched’ legs and arms. This gives many of them a ‘spindly’ scarecrow-like appearance, very much at odds with what I typically envision when thinking of Space Marines. It is interesting to note that this actually harkens back to the original plastic Rogue Trader Space Marines (but the Forge World models are missing the old school charm and nostalgia). This thin, spindly look also makes the feet of the marines look comically large when compared to the standard plastic Space Marines. All of the FW’s variants, aside from MKIII, have this weird misproportion to them, something that detered me from buying many of the FW basic infantry (aside from the aforementioned MKIII armor that actually looks suitably bulky, without distended knees).
When compared to the plastic marine on the left, the resin ones from Forge World have much thinner legs and arms. 

When viewed from the back, some of the awkward proportions become even more apparent (red arrows). Owing to the extra armor plates, the MKIII armor is much better balanced and lacks most of the problems seen with the other Forge World armor variants.
The prospect of Games Workshop making plastic versions of the Horus Heresy armor seemed like an excellent opportunity to fix some of these anatomical issues, as well as move away from the pitfalls of resin. The quality of resin casts is simply too variable for me to ever get excited about buying a resin model when a plastic or metal version exists. It is a given that every resin model that I assemble will require a wealth of greenstuff and modelling putty work to fix miscasts and imperfections. Each time I get a resin model, I hope against hope that the miscasts will not be too severe (some imperfection will always be there…).  And while FW is good about sending out replacement parts, there is very little guarantee that the replacements will be any better than the originals, and it just adds weeks to the assembly time. Furthermore, I feel that the majority of models released in resin do not hold the level of detail that requires resin to achieve (much of the decision to cast models in resin has more to do with the cost of mold production, I imagine though).  Currently, by my eye, only the Primarch models really have a level of fine detail that would not be able to be effectively transitioned to plastic.

Thankfully all of the awkwardly thin and positioned legs seen on the Forge World MKIV armor is not seen on these new plastics.

I am pleased to say that having seen the pictures of the new MKIV plastic sprues, most of my hopes where answered.  When looking at the sprues, it is pretty clear that they redesigned the current 40k tactical squad box to contain all MKIV armor.  It appears to still be three sprues, containing most of the relevant options. Importantly, it contains 10 pairs of MKIV styled legs that do not look stretched and thin, as well as over 10 of the broad-plated MKIV breast plates. Excitingly (and expectedly), they also include 10 of the older style backpacks (the FW resin ones were always a nightmare of mold shifts). There are a large assortment of plain, crisp shoulderpads; some might be disappointed to see that there are only 4 studded ones, however. There is a single flamer, meltagun, and plasma gun (all with the FW/Rogue Trader designs).  Absent are any Volkite weaponry or grav weapons (possibly a way to make the box more suitable for both 30k and 40k?).  Like the 40k box, they also include a missile launcher (one of the old magazine loaded, shoulder mounted ones!). Additionally they include one of the neat FW styled underslung heavy bolters.  Notably, instead of recycling the 40k bolters, they give you 10 Tigrus pattern ones along with a single pistol (although this might be my least favorite of the FW bolter variants, it is still cool to see them in plastic).

All of the Space Marines in the kit appear to be suited in MKIV Maximus armor. This decision helps reinforce the notion that in the times of the Heresy there were vast legions of marines all outfitted in the same fashion. 

The sprues also looks to contain a lot of other neat parts. They include seven holstered bolt pistols (and an empty holster!), and a single combi-weapon that maintains the two part assembly like the new 40k ones, but maintains the FW aesthetic. There is also one of FW’s more compact plasma pistols. Two powerfists are included, with a separate claw piece that can be added to create a lightning claw (another nod to FW). Another neat inclusion is a set of 10 single-edged swords. Interestingly they look a lot like the combat daggers from the standard plastic marines resized into swords (or the large blades carried by the Catachan Imperial Guard). They all look to be held in a simple sheath to be attached somewhere to the marines, apparently taking place of the traditional combat daggers. This is an exciting addition, however I would have liked to have had the option of the smaller daggers (it would not be too hard to get them from another kit, though). Aside from the sheathed swords, the kit has a single chainsword and an excellent power sword with a Roman gladius look to it.

All of the weapons seen in the kit closely mirror their Forge World resin counterparts.
Some might be disappointed to see that the sprues only contain MKIV armor, and there is not a mix of some of the other variants. And while I would love to see plastic versions of these other variants too, I think focusing on a single one is a good move. It removes that awkward “bits seller” mentality of hoarding that single pair of ‘unique’ legs included in a kit.  I also like how it emphasizes the dramatic scale of the Great Crusade, Legions of over 30,000 Astartes in their newly forged power armor, enacting their manifest destiny over the galaxy.  At the end of the day, this simply gives Games Workshop the ability to create similar boxes with other variants of power armor in the future.

And if the plastic MKIV armor was not enough, a single plastic character sprue was also leaked. The sprue looks to contain two character models, a Praetor suited in Cataphractii terminator armor and the other in MKIV power armor. The marine in terminator armor is equipped with what appears to be a combimelta  and a chainfist.  The MKIV armored guy looks to be a Consul with the Chaplain specialization, evident by his Crozius Arcanum. Like the more recent plastic character models Games Workshop has been producing, each of the models was designed to be assembled in a single pose. Based on how the individual pieces are cut for the models on the sprues, reposing them will require a fair amount of conversion and greenstuff work. Both models also have cloaks making conversions even more tricky. It will be interesting to see if they have more plastic character models planned, because there is a huge list of character types in Horus Heresy (Master of Signal, Primus Medicae, Siege Breaker, Moritat, Librarian, Forge Lord, Legion Champion). I imagine they would stick to the more common character types however such that there is more overlap with the 40k community.

As with all the other character models in recent memory, these ones are single pose models.

There are still many unknowns with these plastic Horus Heresy marines.  Will it be a stand alone release, or does Games Workshop plan to start making plastic versions of many of the basic infantry models to remove strain from Forge World, so they can focus on creating larger tanks, Chapter-specific models, and characters? Likewise, will they be packaged up and sold as a new game, or will they simply be released to supplement the current 30k and 40k games? I could see it going either way, and see merits with each. Regardless, I feel it is an exciting time for new and old players. With these new plastics, it seems much more likely that I might actually get that fledgling Alpha Legion army into a playable force. I am Alpharius!

-Eric Wier


  1. I don't want to sound like a negative Nancy, but I just can't get excited by toy-scale Marines at this point. In fact, every new release makes the possibility of GW revising them even less likely.

    That said, there looks to be some nice bits on those sprues.

    1. That is a very valid point. I think it is the sad fact that they will likely never redesign Space Marine to be 'true-scale,' since such a huge range of their miniatures are Space Marines...

    2. At this point it would be easier to redesign the guard to be true scale to the marines!

      (although that would not fix the wonky anatomy of the marines)

    3. Ha ha, there is truth to that. The Imperial Guard would also benefit from something a little bit less 'Heroic."

    4. well boys and grills, they've done it, now all marines are true-scale, wont be long until they bring them into heresy

  2. Great review of these sprues...I believe the current rumor is for a boxed set containing these sprues (marines x20) and a contemptor dread.

    i would be more excited about these if I did not have most of a company in 3rd edition plastics. (actually, now that I think about it, I have pretty close to a whole company!) I would be more excited about these if they were true scale, or looked like apologist's stuff. As it is, I think these will be mostly bitz buy targets for me.

    1. The entire 3rd company? Wow that is quite a bit! I do not have nearly that many marines, but still have too many, ha ha. Having a plastic contemptor would be pretty rad, though. To be able to use a dreadnought again would be excellent, as they have been horrible for many many years.

  3. I honestly thought I was the only one who noticed.... this blog.. this entire blog is so well tohught out and informed and gives an opinion of the bloggers but not without a subjective look of the how and why;s of that opinion. You're like the prefect Canadian politician without all the business bee's-wax in the way...

    I love this blog! I have a lot of reading to do.

    1. Sorry I was so excited there's a bit of errors in that post.
      I agree that the MkIII Astartes are the most properly proportioned without the overly skinny appearance the other marks have. I kinda cringe a little inside whenever Forgeworld makes more Legion specific kits in that same "Wee-man" scale, such a loss.

    2. I am glad you like the blog! It certainly has been a labor of love :).

      It is good to hear someone else is as bothered by the spindly fw legs. I feel FW expanded so rapidly after the massive success of of the Horus Heresy, that they started to spend less time with some of their kits, particularly the legion specific upgrades...