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Fresh blood for old bones

02/01/2012

Ever since Games Workshop went into rumour control mode, the number and quality of previews has dropped dramatically. Now, almost every preview we get comes directly from GW themselves. I say almost, because there are still a few enterprising folks out there who manage to get their hands on things much earlier than the rest of us. One of these persons was able to get their hands on a copy of January’s White Dwarf magazine and take a few photos. What makes these photos worthy of discussion is that they are of the new Warhammer Vampire Counts army book and some of the new models being released along side it. You can take a look at the photos here.

Aside from a couple of rumours that were more hopes and wishes than anything else, this is the first I’ve heard of a new Vampire Counts book. There has certainly been a lot of speculation about which armies would be upgrading to 8th edition in 2012, but then there’s always a lot of speculation about these things. Games Workshop have shut down the leaks so effectively that this really is a surprise.

From looking at the photos of the new kits, it looks like they’ve done a lot of work in expanding the Vampire Counts range beyond the traditional Vampires, Necromancers, and blocks of undead troops. Sure, they got a Storm of Magic-related boost back in August 2011 with the Zombie Dragon/Terrorgeist and a plastic Necromancer, but this is something a lot more substantial. Sadly, it is also a little sterotypical.

Starting with the most recent Skaven army book, each army has received a few plastic kits that can be modelled one of two ways, with a large model for at least one of the kits. Examples of this are the Orc and Goblin Arachnarok, the Tomb Kings Warsphinx/Necrosphinx, and most recently the Orge Kingdoms’ Thundertusk/Stonehorn. Now, more kits with lots of options are always a good thing, but it’s leading to an odd form of power creep that could lead to some interesting developments further down the track.

In this case, the power creep I’m talking about is really more of a size creep. It seems like each new army book gives its respective army these new ‘big’ units, as well as mid-range models. Based on the photos linked to above, it seems like Vampire Counts is no exception. Their ‘big’ unit is the Coven Throne/Mortis Engine. It’s hard to see all the detail, but they look amazing and remind me a little of the undead army from Return of the King. I don’t know how these will measure up to the other ‘big’ units, but I’m sure they’ll be able to hold their own.

The two other kits are the mounted Black Knights/Hex Wraiths, a welcome upgrade from the old metal Vampire Counts cavalry, and the Vargheists/Crypt Horrors, a unit that fits the midsize infantry slot (alongside Trolls, Rat Ogres, and Ushabti). The cavalry is nice and dynamic, and their increased use should scare people used to the old, shambling undead horde-style armies. The other models are a slightly different story. The Vargheists look like the missing link between the old Strigoi vampires and the monstrous Varghulfs, which isn’t a bad thing (except for the mini-wings adorning the back of one of the models). The Crypt Horrors are basically ‘roided up Crypt Ghouls. Nice and gribbly, and could have some good non-Games Workshop uses, but that is discussion for another post.

The new characters look great as well. I do have one quibble with the plastic Necromancer and Wight Lord, however. Why don’t they come with a mounted option? Both the Empire and High Elves have plastic kits for their characters that include both a foot and mounted model. Sure, this does lead to a small drop in model detail, but then you also don’t end up with all the models looking the same. There probably is a small amount of customisation possible with the kits, but certainly not as much as with the older ones.

Overall, I’m happy with the army’s direction. Making the Barrow aspect more prominent feels like a good option. I’m still a little annoyed that they all buy got rid of the old types of Vampires (especially my favourite, the Strigoi), but there’s not much that can be done about that now. The refocusing of the army has worked well overall, and most of the old factions have reappeared as different units within the army. The Strigoi, for example, are now Ghoul Kings. It sounds like a downgrade, but they do get the Terrorgeist as a mount.

Neither the book nor the models are currently available on Games Workshop’s own site, but Maelstrom Games do have the first wave listed as pre-orders and they are due to be released in about two weeks time. I would place an order myself, but, well let’s not go there (again).

Moving past the new models, this continuing trend of releasing large kits does raise an interesting question. As more army books come out, what will each army receive that fits this formula. The Beastmen have been given an early update with the recent release of the Ghorgon/Cygor and Jabberslythe kits, but what about the rest. There are some armies that seem like they would have more trouble fitting into the formula than others, like the human armies, the Empire and Bretonnia, and the Dwarves. Neither are known for having troll-sized infantry units, for starters. Bretonnia is something of an exception for their heavy preference for mounted units, but the Empire and Dwarves are a different kettle of fish. Both armies have a heavy focus on artillery pieces, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Games Workshop give them some more mobile options. Maybe we’re able to see the return of the Dwarven Gyrocopter (or a new flying unit), or something more mechanical in nature for either army. The Empire already have an engineer riding around on a mechanical horse, so they’re part way there already.

As for each army’s ‘big’ unit, It would be nice to see both the Empire and Bretonnia get a plastic kit of a character riding a monster (like the Vampire Counts Zombie Dragon). The High Elves got a Prince riding a Griffon in the Islands of Blood box – easily one of the best looking models in the Warhammer range – so why not something similar for these armies? The Empire also have one unit entry that hasn’t seen a new model in almost as long as I’ve been involved in the hobby: The War Altar of Sigmar. Sure, the model is still available, but put it next to any of the recent crop of models and it just looks pathetic. Hell, an Arachnarok would probably eat it for breakfast and still feel hungry.

Rumour has it that the Empire are on the list of armies to get a new book this year, and if they are, I hope that Games Workshop are seriously looking at bringing out a new War Altar model. They could even draw a little inspiration from this piece of concept art from the Warhammer MMO. It may need to be scaled down a little, but that is a proper looking War Altar. That will strike more fear into the hearts of the enemies of the Empire than the old cart with comically oversized statue ever could.

As for the Dwarves, we can once again draw some inspiration from the Warhammer MMO with this contraption. With a little work that could be turned into a handy vehicle for an Engineer to ride around in, a bit like a Steam Tank. Ultimately, it may be the fate of the dwarves to end up with no vehicles, opting instead for dwarf-powered methods of getting around. Lords carried into battle on shields held up by specially chosen kinsmen, Runepriest anvil altars pushed into battle in a manner akin to the Skaven Screaming Bell, and special characters borne aloft on ornate palanquins are all good options, but do ignore the mechanical aspect of the army.

I guess only time will tell if any of these actually make it to print. One thing is almost certain, however. They’re going to need something to deal with the gigantic spiders, shaggy mammoths, and varied nasties that assail their borders.

MyJanWriMo Update
This post’s word count: 1398
Total word count: 2111

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