Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Age of Sigmar: Initial Impressions of the Miniatures

The Age of Sigmar begins.

Warhammer Fantasy has seen a slow but steady demise since the release of 8th edition back in 2010. Although they released revised rules for most of the armies in the new edition, they tended to be sparsely updated versions of their previous books, to bring them inline with the ill-favored new rule set.  Interestingly, it took GW destroying everything in the setting through the End Times to renew people's’ interest in Warhammer (admittedly, I think the increased interest had more to do with them finally releasing truly exciting models and remaking old classics, accompanied with new interesting background and artwork, rather than the fact that things were ending, but I digress). Although people were excited about End Times, it inherently left fans uncertain what was going to happen to their beloved game, and we have all been in an uneasy limbo since the Warhammer world ended, waiting to see where Games Workshop would go. After months of vague rumors and unsatisfying teases from GW, pictures of their new game Age of Sigmar have finally leaked across the internet (thanks Lady Atia!).  While these pictures have left more questions than provided answers, they are quite striking, and I wanted to talk a little about my impression of the new models and the direction their design seems to be going.




The contents of the Age of Sigmar boxed game.

I am going to be honest, the moment I laid eyes on the fuzzy initial leaked images of the new models, I thought: they have finally introduced Space Marines to the Fantasy setting. These Stormcast Eternal’s appear to be the elite forces of the human race, each warrior clad in a brazen suit of full plate mail. Interestingly, instead of having traditional looking plate mail, the armor is fashioned into smooth form-fitting plates that exaggerate their already heavily muscled forms.  Their faces are also masked in bronze, each a polished angelic face with a stern mouth and wrathful eyes.  Each carries a broad tower shield with their icon on it, the Hammer of Sigmar adorned with two bolts of lightning.  Fittingly, in their other hand they carry a warhammer that mirrors those carried by Vulkan before he rose to prominence (with the heads of the hammer comically oversized for effect). All of the other Stormcast Eternal models in the game maintain this general he-man aesthetic, with varying degrees of ostentation.  There are a group of three more elite foot soldiers that wield massive two-handed hammers, gripped in ornately wrought gauntlets, with stylized bolts of bronze protruding from their brows. Building upon this absurd masculinity and grandeur comes  a trio of angel-winged warriors, kept afloat with long tapers of parchment. Leading this armored cohort is a similarly clad warlord with a flowing cape and a cyclopean warhammer that serves as a banner, riding atop a heavily plated beast.

The new Space Marines of Warhammer, the Stormcast Eternal Liberators.

Probably my favorite models from the whole box, the Retributors armor actually looks bulky and imposing.
For a second I thought I was looking at the Angelic Host from Blizzard's Diablo, rather then a new Warhammer unit.

As I am writing this, information is more scare about the Chaos contingent of Age of Sigmar (along with fewer high quality images). It is clear that it is a Khorne warhost, primarily consisting of a hoard of heavily muscled and scantily clothed marauders. The models look to be a cross between the classic plastic warhammer marauders and the newer End Times Khorne Skullreapers.  Each is corded with muscles, with prominent six packs (almost looking like eight-packs, ha ha), brandishing needlessly over-detailed and oversized axes.  There are also 5 armored Khorne Chaos Warriors (Blood Warriors), which look rather promising, combining elements from the seminal Goodwin/Nelson plastic Chaos Warriors, and the Skullcrushers, complete with elaborate helmets with the stylized crests mimicking the Khorne icon.  Like the other models, they do appear to be victims of over-detail to the point of looking gaudy at times.  Additionally, their axes are even larger and less plausible than their smaller, less armored brethren, but I suppose that has always been true with GW models.

Although clearly based on the classic plastic Chaos Warriors, I feel these Blood Warriors look a bit awkward and top heavy.
While nicely sculpted, I cannot help but think the new Eternals' armor falls short of the more traditional platemail seen on Vulkan.  

The designs and color palette used with Age of Sigmar really draws parallels to GW's "Red" phase. 

Ultimately, I think all the models look very nice at a technical level;  they are highly detailed and dynamic, despite being only a few pieces (thankfully they are in multiple pieces, however, lest the models would be particularly static). Personally, however, I am not very enamored by any of them.  Many are detailed to the point of being gaudy. They are all steroid-fueled walls of muscle, going into battle with over-wrought weapons the size of the warriors themselves.  As more pictures get revealed of the models, I suspect I will come to like some of them a little more, however.  I do like that the models have transitioned into using round bases, as I was never a fan of having to constrain my modeling to ensure they would rank up properly. I also have no doubt that they will be fantastic for all sorts of conversions, for Warhammer and 40k. I am sure I am not the only one who thought of the Blood Angels when I saw the Stormcast Eternal.  They also seem to be a pretty good starting point for creating a group of honor guard for a haughty Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor, or even as Custodial guards for the Emperor Himself.  And the Khorne models will easily be able to find their way into all manner of Chaos armies, particularly with the recent excitement over the Khorne Daemonkin.  I am sure we will start seeing the marauders turning into cultist of the Blood God, and start seeing some of the axes and heads end up on Berserkers of the World Eaters.

I am pleased to see that the models come in at least a few pieces, allowing for more dynamic models.

I could not help but think of the original Terminator design when looking at these new models; a conversion may be in order...

It is looking to be an interesting time for Warhammer fans.  With the introduction of a new system to play Warhammer, new ways to build army lists, new models, and new background, it appears to be a complete rebranding of the Fantasy hobby.  It even sounds as though most of the new rules will be free to download, not something I expected to see from Games Workshop.  Although I am sure there will be a lot of pushback from veteran players, since it is so different, I am hoping GW really does support the system and it grows into something worthy of the Warhammer name.  Because even though the End Times occurred, I really do not want to see Warhammer truly die.

-Eric Wier

10 comments:

  1. It's ironic, and just a Little bit irritating, that Warhammer Fantasy now has better Space Marine miniatures than 40k. I feel GW should have bitten the bullet years ago and redone the Marines in"True Scale" proportions. Either way, I think the Sigmarites are awesome. I wouldn't be surprised if Brian Nelson had a hand in the design, the guy got a Midas touch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not sure if I would go so far as to say they are better then the classic Space Marine models, but I admit it would certainly have been great if they redesigned the Marines a while back to be more to "scale." Nelson could certainly have had a hand in the new models; it would be great to have him back again. For that matter, it would be great if GW credited their sculptors again...

      Delete
    2. Well, yes and no. The general design of the Space Marines is as iconic as they come, so in that respect the Sigmarites are no match. On the other hand, I feel that their bulk and proportions are much more in line with the Kopinski/Boyd depictions of Marines.

      Agreed about sculptor credit, I wonder what the reasoning is.

      Delete
    3. Yeah I agree with you there, it certainly would be awesome to get some marine models with that Kopinski bulk.

      I really do not know why they would stop crediting the sculptors (even FW stopped). But I suppose it is not surprising, considering they stopped crediting their artists years ago, and even do not credit the authors of their books anymore.

      Delete
  2. I just can't stop staring at that truncated "W" in the logo...

    The models are beautifully rendered - especially the leader on the battlecat - but I can't shake the feeling that they don't feel warhammery. They look like rathet generic paladins from Chronopia or Warcraft or some other extremely "fantastical" fantasy world. Which I suppose is the point...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do look like rather generic paladins; nothing overly exciting more inspiring. I feel they will be a good source for conversion material, with people adding more interesting elements to the models.

      Delete
  3. Well, in any case, this is turning out to be rather interesting, isn't it?

    This certainly seems to mark the end of the low fantasy times for WFB, as well as the "pathetic" look that dominated the setting for such a long time (I don't mean the older models were bad, just that they were often less than heroic -- just take a look at the various Empire State Troops). The new look is far more high fantasy and seems to have been inspired by cleaner settings (as pointed out by Jeff Vader) and videogames at the same time. It's strange that GW, a manufacturer that used to define fantasy aethetics, both on the tabletops and in video games, now follows elements introduced by competitors and different media, but oh well.

    The models are certainly looking fantastic, though, which is why I am at least willing to hear them out on this. The Khornate part of the deal is basically a compulsory purchase for me, and chaos seems to be closer to its prior incarnation, if more ostentatious by far -- in fact, both the Wrathmongers and Blightkings now basically seem like test runs for Age of Sigmar in hindsight.

    That new logo is simply awful, though...

    Anyway, interesting times, indeed...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting indeed. They do appear to be going for much more of a "High" fantasy this time. It will be particularly interesting to see how they expand current armies, rather then just introduce new ones.

      When I saw the Khorne stuff I immediately thought of you. I am honestly more excited to see what you do with them, then I am with the base models themselves; they are sure to make great additions to the Hunt.

      Delete
  4. Hello, I am wondering could you take a commission for me? If you take commissions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Up until this point, we have not really done any commissions, but if you would like to send us some details about what you where thinking, we might be able to work something out!

      The blog email address is as follows:
      betweenthebolterandme@gmail.com

      Delete