Friday, December 30, 2016

A look back: The miniatures of 2016

With 2016 coming to a close, we thought that it would be fun to take some time to consider what miniatures were released this year, and comment on our favorites. Anyone who has followed the site for awhile will know that we largely focus on Games Workshop models, though we have tried to give mention to quality releases from other ranges. This year, however, nearly all of our time was spent with Games Workshop models, with nothing beyond that spectrum really capturing our attention. Feel free to let us know in the comments what other companies we overlooked in 2016, however.

Age of Sigmar Orruks:
Orruk Brutes

One of Games Workshop’s most exciting releases (for the three of us) this year was the introduction of the Orcs (Orruks) to the Age of Sigmar setting. Ever since Brian Nelson revolutionized the Orc/Ork range, we have been a big fan of the orcs. Nelson added a brutal savagery to the race, along with a new level of anatomical realism (eschewing the gangly and comical wonkiness of earlier GW designs). After sculpting most of the 3rd edition 40K Ork range, Nelson largely stepped away from the orks, letting others emulate his style for new releases (usually with reasonable success, despite never capturing magic that Nelson always did). We were all unreasonably excited when we saw the new Orruk releases for Age of Sigmar, noticing right away that they had a level of vitality that only Nelson can deliver.

Brute boss

The entire new range of orcs is strong, from the mammoth Maw-Krusha which finally gives the orcs a mount that matches their brutish physiology, to the beetle armored Brutes. Each time Nelson revisits the orcs, he subtly modifies their physiology, making them more fully realized and distinctive. This time, he further emphasized the ogre-build of their torso, making their necks thicker and more pronounced, jutting directly forward rather than sitting atop the shoulders. The entirety of their brutal frames are pronounced by the decision to make their heads smaller (relative to their bodies); they truly are walking bulks of muscle.

We are particularly thrilled that the release had a squad of “regular” warriors (the Brutes), rather than focusing solely on character models and special units. This allows for the creation of an entire army of orcs based on the new design aesthetic, and gives converters even more possibilities. Furthermore, while not like the multipart kits of the past where you had complete freedom of what arms and legs you used, the kit still provides a lot of options to create unique warriors. How the arms attach is particularly brilliant, allowing complete control of what arms are used without sacrificing anatomical realism of how they attach. Instead of the arms being attached via flat contact points like most of the previous orc kits, these are cut at contours of their muscles, allowing them to all be interchangeable and not have obvious contact points.

Warhammer Quest - Silver Tower:
Silver Tower Heroes

Silver Tower Familars

In an effort to tap into the increasingly lucrative boardgame market, Games Workshop resurrected their classic dungeon crawl game, Warhammer Quest. The game was re-imaged for Age of Sigmar, showcasing GW’s staunch commitment to their new property. Instead of populating the game with the hallmarks of Age of Sigmar, the Stormcast and the Khorne Bloodbound, they explored the followers of the Chaos God Tzeentch. They re-introduced beastmen to Warhammer, but with avian features to fit the Lord of Change. The muscular Kairic Acolytes manage to look distinctly different from many of the Bloodbound models, who are also outrageously muscular. The Kairic Acolytes are in more natural and realistic poses than what we have come to expect from most of GW’s “He-man” models, and will likely see a lot of use in conversions. The game includes a new sculpt for the Gaunt Summoner model that is in a more interesting pose than the original model, and is refreshingly not on a Disc of Tzeentch. Brian Nelson sculpted four familiars for the game, at least two of which are updates to classic familiar models (a legged book, and a crescent moon headed minion). My favorite of the familiars, and perhaps my favorite model in the game, is a legged fish! Beyond the forces of Chaos, the game comes with a interesting collection of heroes, including the first two elf models in Age of Sigmar (a Dark Elf berserker, the Tenebrael Shard, and an elven sorceress that they did not go out of their way to sexualize, the Mistweaver Saih). It would not be Warhammer Quest without a barbarian, and they managed to make a likeable model that does not look overly static despite his “I’m standing here” pose. The entire game is filled with excellent models, each offering a slight twist on fantasy tropes, making it a delightful release for anyone, regardless of whether you are a fan of Age of Sigmar or not.

Silver Tower enemies

Genestealer Cults:
Neophyte Hybrids

As a year, 2016 has been defined by GW delving back into their past and revitalizing old concepts for a new generation. Older gamers around the world rejoiced when Deathwatch Overkill was released in March, bringing the Genestealer Cultists back into 40k with the aplomb of a fully fleshed out army. And then later in the year, GW released a Codex book for the Genestealer Cult and a host of plastic kits to complement what came in the Overkill boxed game. Instead of just relying on the models released in the Overkill game for the army, they produced new multipart kits of many of the units featured in the game. It would have been easy for them to just rest on the laurels of Overkill, and simply repackage all of the models in the boxed game, not feeling the need to make multipart versions of the units. Fortunately for us, that is not what they did.

Neophyte Hybrids
And while all of the releases were strong, particularly with the Goliath truck, showing a slightly less militarized 40k, the true triumph of the release was the Neophyte Hybrids, designed by Darren Latham. With the hybrids, GW took the stellar civilian miner design from the Overkill game, but created a “true-multipart kit” with fully interchangeable legs, arms, and torso. They also used it as an opportunity introduce some new weapon options for the cultists, most of which were taken from the second edition of 40k and Necromunda, including heavy stubbers and webrifles. They also brought back the second edition flamer design and introduced new bolt pistol variant. Possibly best of all, however, was the creation of an assortment of realistic shotgun designs (from classic pump-action mechanisms, to double barrel ones, and even an over-and-under design).

The Hybrids are a remarkable kit in their own right, allowing for a diverse set of warriors to fill out the Genestealer Cultist army, but more exciting to us at Between the Bolter and Me is their potential for conversions.  At long last, there is good alternative to the subpar plastic Chaos Cultist models for making mercenaries and other human warriors!  And there are shotgun options that do not rely on the bulky husks of metal that the Space Marine Scouts carry.  Regardless of how popular the Genestealer Cult army is, the Neophype Hybrids box will be Inquisitor/Inq28 kit of choice for many years to come.

Leman Russ:
Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves

For the past few years we have been graced with Simon Egan’s vision of some of the iconic Primarchs of the Space Marine Legions of 30k.  2016 was no exception to this, seeing the release of one of the most anticipated Primarch models, the bestial Leman Russ! Like the other Primarch models, Egan captures some of Russ’s temperament in the model’s sculpt and pose.  He is sprinting across a broken Prospero, weapons in hand, grimace on his face. All the classic elements are there, flowing braided hair, rune tampered armor, and a wolf pelt as a cloak. His face is one of the most striking elements of the model, a noble physiognomy, braced with a grim determination for the task he must do, yet a hint of sorrow is still visible in his eyes. Some may be upset that he lacks a beard, but I find it hard to complain when the face is so well realized and expressive. Once again, even though none of us play Space Wolves, we still are tempted to buy the model!

Burning of Prospero:  
MkIII Iron armor
One of the biggest surprises of last year was Games Workshop’s venture into making plastic Horus Heresy models, cutting into a territory previously only attempted by Forge World. Importantly, they redesigned and dramatically improved the MKIV marine models, while also putting the Cataphractii terminators in plastic. In 2016, Games Workshop continued the trend of putting some of the Forge World Horus Heresy models into plastic with the release of Burning of Prospero, allowing you to play out the chaotic moments when the Space Wolf Legion went to bring the Thousand Sons to justice. Like the previous release, they took a mark of power armor and a class of terminator armor, MkIII Iron armor and Tartaros armor respectively. And while these two kits did not need the same level of improvement of their counterparts in Betrayal at Calth, the transition to plastic was a good one, giving each a host of new options, including holstered bolt pistols and chainswords. Ultimately, these will make it easier to build both 30k and 40k Space Marine armies in the future, without having to deal with the moldshifts and bubbles inherent in resin.

Adeptus Custode and Sister of Silence

More interesting, however, was the release of plastic models for two pivotal sects of Imperial warriors, the gold clad Adeptus Custodes and the psychic null Sisters of Silence. While long an important aspect of the 40k lore, there was little indication that they would ever be made into models until this release. The Custodes are particularly impressive in that they are not simply larger Space Marines; instead, steps were taken to improve the anatomy of them, making them quite suitable for true-scale Space Marine conversions. At long last, we have a Space Marine that has legs that attach to the hips in a reasonable way, that actually looks to have a abdomen (and not just a chest), and has arms that attach below the neck! Their armor is filled with fine filigree and eagle crests, that when coupled with the classic conical helms and bolter-glaives, makes them instantly recognizable as Custodes to anyone moderately familiar with 40k lore. The Sisters of Silence are a little more esoteric, lithe warrior women that are all psychic nulls.  Like the Custodes, they were modeled closely after illustrations that have appeared over the years (Blanche and others), including their iconic chin visors. The models look suspiciously like modified Dark Eldar warriors, but this works in their favor, giving them a nice simplicity. Impressively, they come with three weapon options, long double-handed blades, umbra pattern bolters, and flamethrowers.

Thousand Sons:
Magnus the Red, Damon Primarch of the Thousand Sons
Although not released alongside Burning of Prospero, before 2016 ended, Games Workshop expanded the Thousand Son’s model range in the 41st millennium as well, to continue their Warzone Fenris series with the Wrath of Magnus. It heralds the upcoming 13th Black Crusade, and does it in a major way by releasing the first daemon primarch, Magnus the Red! Magnus is suitably huge, almost as tall as a Knight titan, with impressive wings and segmented brazen armor.  The armor is filled with interesting Tzeentchian imagery and all-seeing eyes. True to John Blanche’s original artwork, the armor has prominent nipple horns erupting from his chest.  Impressively, however, the model is sculpted such that you do not need to put all the armor on, and still maintains the musculature underneath. The model also comes with a number of assembly options including three different heads and a choice of weapons. Regardless of your opinion on the model’s design, it is hard to deny the quality of the sculpt.


Perhaps the most impressive model of the Thousand Sons’ range is not Magnus, but the re-envisioning of Jes Goodwin’s classic Ahriman model. Goodwin’s line of Chaos Special Characters (Khârn, Ahriman, Fabius Bile, Abaddon) have been around since 2nd edition and have aged really well, making resculpts somewhat superfluous. This was evident when Khârn was redone this year, resulting in a model that does not really improve on the original (Particularly with the massive, gaudy chains hanging from the new model). With the Thousand Sons’ release, however, David Waeselynck tackled Ahriman and managed to create a model that lives up to the original. Importantly, the model maintains many of the original’s iconic features, including his massive horned helm, ram sigil shoulderpad, and slender staff tipped with a powered spade-shaped blade. The new sculpt also gave the model a little more depth, due to the advances in plastic mold technology over the aging metal molds. Unlike with the new Khârn, however, it was kept a lot more reserved, resulting in a dynamic model that does not seem overdone. The model also comes with a disc of Tzeentch, which is optional. It will be interesting to see if Games Workshop continues to redesign Goodwin’s classic character models, but if they do, Ahriman gives us hope for the future!

Model of the Year:

Orruk Megaboss

While it was a difficult decision, at the end of the day we all decided that Brian Nelson’s Orruk Megaboss was our favorite model of the year! We have always had a soft spot for orcs, but had not gotten a release that stood up to Nelson’s 3rd edition 40K redesign. We were beginning to think that GW’s orcs would forever trying to recapture the spark that made Nelson’s models great, but always falling short. The Megaboss, based on a sketch by John Blanche, and sculpted by Nelson himself, put these fears to rest. Age of Sigmar was the perfect setting to revitalize the orc range, and show that the setting had something to offer for even the humble orc. The Megaboss shows the improved physiology of the new orc design, while maintaining all the furiousity and beastial rage inherent in all orcs. Furthermore, the model shows how far Games Workshop has come with sprue design, effectively minimizing moldlines and hiding seams, decreasing the amount of green stuff needed to build the model. If you have not actually seen the model in person, we would recommend you do so. While the images on Games Workshop’s site look great, it looks even better in the physical form. It is much easier to appreciate the scale and depth of the sculpt. The Megaboss is a truly remarkable model that everyone should have in their collection!

2016 was a remarkable year for Games Workshop.  And if it is any indication, 2017 will be an exciting year as well.  Thirteenth Black Crusade here we come!


  1. Cheers for a great review!
    I think that the true strength with the orruk release is that despite the massive armour it still comes down to less is more :) For me Silver Tower was this years biggest release despite my love for greenskins :)

    1. Yeah, less is certainly more! The orruks are a perfect example. Silver Tower is really fantastic. We really have to get a copy one of these days...

  2. I had completely forgot the Orruk release was this year. I have been on the fence about picking up the brute and megaboss models. Re looking at the size comparisons it looks like they are exponentially larger than the Nob models.

    1. Their bodies are larger, but their heads are a little smaller, such is the slight redesign of their anatomy. It is worth noting that the size of ork heads has varied dramatically over the years though (old metal 40k warboss for example).

  3. The Orcs really captured that raw bestial nature that BN's originals had when they came out all those years ago.

    For me, the Cult was the highlight - all those nods to the past on the frame, old school flamers, webbers, shotguns. The overall look of the minis in general, both troops and HQ options - to me it was a complete release and gives me great hope for a future Necromunda re-release.

    All the best to you lads for 2017 - your blog is certainly up in my top 3 of blogs I most look forward to posts from with either quality hobby content, or interesting discourse on the state of the game/release/community. Well done on a great 2016 (your trip to the UK and coverage of the Pilgrym game was fantastic

    1. The choice between the Orruks and the Cult was really difficult. The release of the Genestealer Cult was practically a dream come true, and as you said it give us hope that Necromunda might get rereleased!

      Thank you for being with us every step of the way throughout 2016, and before, your support is what motivates us to keep going! I believe 2016 was our best year yet, and we never would have gotten here without your comments and suggestions!

  4. On the hobby front this has been an exceptional year. Some smashing miniatures has been released and getting to know the three of you better has been an absolute pleasure.

    1. It has been a fantastic year, one that has been made so much better getting to know you better too! On to 2017!

  5. Great end of year post as always!
    The Orruks were a half and half situation for me. As sometimes, the ammount of armor was overdone and made me miss the classic 'wall of green muscle'the Orcs used to have. The gruntas seemed like a desperate attempt to replace the boars. Other than that, they were pretty good.
    The Kairic acolytes were a favorite of mine because of their better proportioned anatomy. Although still a bit too muscular, venturing off from John Blanche's concept illustration where it had them as gangly and skinny men.
    The best for me were the Sisters of Silence, although it still does stay true to the stereotypical corset and skintight armor(What?!), I don't mind it too much. As long as there are Sisters of Silence/Battle, I'm up for it!
    Again, great post and I already can't wait for the 2017 miniatures look back :D

    1. It would be really great if GW released some not Orruk models that are not so armored (ie not part of the Ironjaws army). They could be used for more general applications then.

      I think the Kairic acolytes are great too, but would also have preferred if they were toned down a little in the muscle department. Regardless, I still think they are far better than many of the Khorne stuff.

      The sisters of silence are really nice, something I would like to get my hands on and see what we could do with them. I am pretty excited to see what GW does with the Sisters, the two that accompany the new Saint model look really good, when you get past that the design was not changed. More than ever before, it looks like the women are actually wearing armor that is anatomically correct, proper placed shoulders, not outrageously thin, etc. 2017 is here and I am ready for some new models!