Thursday, December 24, 2015

A look back: The miniatures of 2015

Looking back, it is clear that 2015 was a fantastic year for the miniature wargaming hobby.  And while many companies have had a strong year, I do not think that any miniature company can compare to the frantic release pace of Games Workshop.  Warhammer is gone to be replaced with Age of Sigmar, the Adeptus Mechanicus finally have models, and the Horus Heresy is no longer restricted to resin models.  With the year coming to an end, we would like to take some time to look back at some of the fantastic models released over the year, from Games Workshops, as well as some companies, talking about our favorites.  Finally we will reveal our overall favorite model of the year.  On to the models!

Games Workshop:
I do not think Games Workshop ever had a more polarizing and dramatic year than 2015.  It started off with the unexpected release of a Harlequin codex and the associated models, and was followed by an even larger release of the long dreamed of Adeptus Mechanicus (and two codex books!).  And even more surprisingly, Games Workshop released an entirely new game, Age of Sigmar, completely reenvisioning Warhammer Fantasy.  And finally, as the year was coming to a close, they released yet another game, The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth.  For the first time since Forge World began exploring the Horus Heresy, we have plastic 30k era Space Marine models!

Skitarii/Cult Mechanicus:
Skitarii Rangers

It is not often that Games Workshop releases a new army in Warhammer 40,000, but it is often memorable when they do. This certainly held true with their release of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Few could have been expecting a release as encompassing as the one they delivered, seeing the release of eight new plastic kits, many of which can double as two different units depending upon construction. Among the releases one of our favorites were the the Skitarii Rangers/Vanguard, the rank and file shock troops of the Mechanicus. Surprisingly they mark the first plastic kit in the 40k range that are outfitted in trenchcoats (one of the few 40k kits in general, who else are there? The Death Korp?), and represent the ideal starting point for countless conversions for Inq28 and others. The models are very well proportioned, shying further away from the heroic scale sensibilities seen on most GW models. Much to our delight, they come equipped with a host of new weaponry that is visually distinct from the bolt and las weaponry commonly associated with the Imperium. Many of the weapons even have stocks making them perfect starting points for all manner of weapon conversions.

Tech Priest Dominus:
Tech Priest Dominus

While only getting one headquarters choice between the two Mechanicus codex books, Games Workshop managed to release a model so fantastic that we would feel remiss not to mention it here, and that is the Tech Priest Dominus!  One of the aspects of the Dominus that really impressed us was how they took the model’s design in a new direction from what they have done in the past with Tech-priest models (think of the tech-priest enginseer). The model still however, captures all of the visual elements one would expect from a high ranking member of the Mechanicus. Instead of the power armored legs of previous models, this priest is held aloft by an array of mechadendrites and spidery bionics.  And despite the many weapons he wields, he does not look cluttered, a testament to how well he was designed.  The model even comes with a choice of two heads and two distinct sidearms.  The model is arguably the best and most unique HQ model Games Workshop has released in years.

Horus Heresy MkIV Tactical Marines:
MKIV Tactical Space Marines

Despite rumors having been going around for a while, I was still pretty surprised to see the release of plastic Horus Heresy models by Games Workshop this year.  Although it was clearly a cash grab on their part, surprisingly, GW did a lot to make the plastic versions superior to their resin counterparts, and nowhere is this more evident than in their MKIV tactical marines.  Gone are the awkward stretched and ill-proportioned legs, replaced with 10 unique pairs of legs that are comparable in quality to the most recent 40k tactical squad.  The pairs of arms are excellently cut, with slight indents in them such that they fit against the torsos properly.  Excitingly, the bolters are one of the other classes (Tigrus pattern), and conveniently the marine’s firing hand is pre-attached to the gun, making for easier assembly.  Also, all the old Rogue Trader weapon designs are in plastic, including the old style meltagun and flamers, as well as the ridiculous looking rocket launcher (which has newly sculpted hands on the aiming apparatus, looking far superior to the resin ones).  In addition to the sculpting improvements, it is simply fantastic to not have to rely on resin to have these Horus Heresy models.  The models are substantially quicker to clean/trim and assemble, not having to deal with the prevalent and often egregious mold shifts and bubbles characteristic to resin (particularly with the older FW resin models).

Forge World:
Forge World had another strong year, as expected, seeing a slew of excellent Horus Heresy releases.  There were also a host of impressive 40k releases, such as the massive Tau KX139 Ta’Unar Supremacy Armour.  But nothing really compares to longtime-coming release of their Mars-Alpha Pattern Warlord Titan!

Roboute Guilliman:
Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines

If you have been following the blog for a while, you are probably aware of how fond we are of anything sculpted by Simon Egan, which for the last few years has been focussed almost entirely on creating Primarch models for the various Space Marine legions.  This year he created the astounding Roboute Guilliman, the Avenging Son, Primarch of the Ultramarines.  More so than probably any of the other Primarch figures, Guilliman looks like archetype of what a Space Marine should be.  He has thick, bulky armor that looks very much like traditional power armor (not the graceful and thin armor of Angron and Fulgrim, for example).  Fitting his stately, commanding role, he is one of the few Primarch models not depicted in the heat of battle, but rather in an oratory pose, ready to conclude a rousing speech to those he is leading.  Along this vein, he is not screaming in rage (common in 40k models), or trying to hack a foe to pieces with his sword.  As such, the model’s theme is a nice change of pace for the Primarch models as a whole, and one of Egan’s best.

Leviathan Dreadnought:
Leviathan Dreadnought

Despite their ineptitude in the actual game of Warhammer 40k, I love dreadnoughts. The walking sarcophagus/tanks are possibly the most threatening looking thing in the Space Marine army.  As such, I am always excited to see new FW dreadnoughts, and this year they released one that might even rival their seminal Contemptor, the Leviathan Siege Dreadnought!  While the Contemptor shied away from the classic blocky aesthetic, with a more bulbous design, the Leviathan sits somewhere in the middle, keeping the armored reliquary look of the standard, but maintaining the more articulated legs of the Contemptor.  Although it was only just released, I think it is going to have a long, exciting life in the 30/40k  community, and will be used in many conversions for years to come!

Mars-Alpha Pattern Warlord Titan: 
Mars-Alpha Pattern Warlord Titan

One cannot talk about Forge World this year without mentioning that they finally, after years of nebulus rumors, created a Warlord Titan!  Standing substantially taller than the Warhound titan, and even the Reaver (their previous largest titan), it is an impressive mass of armor plates and guns rivaling the size of the largest 40k vehicles.  But the model is significant not just for its scale and level of detail; the release of the warlord also heralded Forge World’s inclusion of detailed assembly guides, akin to Games Workshops’ current models, complete with CAD images of every aspect of the process.  This is a major step forward for FW as a company, since they pride themselves with releasing huge, complex models, that are aimed at veteran hobbyists, despite having next to no instruction for putting the expensive kits together properly.  The model also comes in a series of impressive printed boxes, complete with bubble wrap, to ensure that the pieces survive shipping.  This is a welcome change from the nondescript plastic bags FW is famous for.

Kingdom Death:
Gold Smoke Knight, The King's Hand, The Storm Knight (from left to right)

While most of the Kingdom Death models were not necessarily sculpted this year, it was when the board game Monster was finally released, complete with plastic versions of some of their excellent models, making them far more accessible than their resin counterparts.  While the boxed game is almost prohibitively expensive, it is filled with all manner of creepy, imaginative foes, in addition to some fantastic survivor models.  There are also a host of multipart survivor models, but they lack most of the imagination and sculpt quality of the other models included in Monster.  I am particularly happy to have plastic versions of the regal, yet subtly deranged knights, like the Kingsman, the Hand, and the Butcher.

Big Child Creatives:
Kaptain Gorak the Red

Although a very small studio based out of Madrid, Big Child Creatives had made quite an entrance into the miniature hobby with their Black Sailors - Pirates, Orcs, Fantasy Miniatures! Kickstarter.  The project created a crew of characterful pirate orcs, scaled to 54mm, making them tower over traditional 40k models.  The larger scale is put to excellent use, with the models brimming with detail that seems natural and never forced.  Each member of the band is a unique character, from the burly first mate, to the regal Kaptain, and even a deranged shark hunter.  What stands out most about the models, however, is how well they capture the feral quality of orcs that Brian Nelson created so many years ago (during 3rd edition of 40k), a look that I feel has rarely been equaled, and never beaten.  The amount of bestial energy and mischief captured in the orcs’ faces is quite remarkable.

Model of the Year:

Papa Jambo

Few would argue that 2015 was a fantastic year for miniature gaming; there were so many notable models that it was hard to select a favorite, but the more we talked about about it, it became clear.  No studio took us by surprise as much as Big Child Creatives did with their swashbuckling orcs.  In particular, we were taken aback by Joaquin "Freeman" Palacios’ work on the shaman Papa Jambo.  The model is full of more character and life than most entire armies. From the tiny crabs scuttling up his leg, to the squawking pelican on his shoulder, he is the model of an addled shaman, ready to bring favor down on his mates by beseeching Gork and Mork (or whatever god(s) exist in their universe).  The sheer creativity and inspiration poured into this model makes me proud to call it Between the Bolter and Me’s Model of the Year! As 2016 is about to begin, nothing would make me happier than to see more orcs from Big Child Creatives and Joaquin Palacios!

Goblin King!

To celebrate the end of this fantastic year and Big Child Creatives’ accomplishment (and because orkses iz the bestest), we would like to give one lucky winner the promotional Goblin King model given to backers of the Pirate Orc Kickstarter!  Just leave a comment below telling us your favorite model of the year, and we will randomly pick a winner on January 15th (2016)!

-Between the Bolter and Me


  1. Great review :) For me it was undoubtedly the admech releases with the Dominus up front. I'm hard pressed at seeing these miniatures topped any time soon tbf :)

    1. Yeah, the Dominus certainly is fantastic; I am still amazed GW had it in them to create such an imaginative model!

  2. Outside of FW and their fantastic releases,I think the Ad Mech did was some if the finest minis GW has put out,rivaling some of Jes' earlier seminal works.

    Outside of GW Black Sailors was a great release too from a stand alone miniature perspective, showing how creative this industry can be when some of its finest minds collaborate. The same could be said for a lot of the Mierce Miniatures releases this year. They may be massively delayed on fulfilment, but some of their stuff has been beautiful.

    All the best to you and yours at this time of year lads. Looking forward to more of your posts in 2016.

    1. Thanks! All the best to you in 2016!

      I agree that GW has not released an entire army as impressive as the Ad Mech, since Jes completely redesigned the Dark Eldar some 6 years ago (has it really been that long?!). It certainly will be interesting to see where GW goes from here, and if they can outdo themselves again.

  3. My favorite model of the year would definitely have to be the Tech Priest Dominus too, its easy to dismiss GW for catering to the mass market but in recent years their plastic characters have only got better.

    1. Yeah, it is easy to criticize GW for all sorts of things, but ever since Brian Nelson introduced the clampack single pose character model, GW has released some of its most characterful models ever. Some might argue that they are not multipart for ease of converting, but I think they look better for it.

    2. I think we all get caught up in criticising them and it means we can miss when they do things right, I think all of the clampack character models have been amazing, real top of the field stuff, especially when you consider the volume they're putting out, they're not making a run of 200, you're looking at tens of thousands at least! Helps you remember exactly why they're the biggest company.

  4. For me, after a bunch of thought, I'm going to go for the 45 Highlander Regiment by Corvus Belli for Infinity.

  5. Indeed. The AdMech Dominus is probably the best single mini that came out this year, with the Vanguard/Rangers being the best kit.