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Surprisingly Versatile Spiky Bits

08/10/2013

It’s easy to complain about Games Workshop. They have a habit of acting in ways that irritate gamers, and don’t show any signs of changing these ways any time soon. What they do well, however, is make great looking miniatures (most of the time).

Games Workshop previewed the latest examples of these when they officially announced that Dark Elves would be the next army in their Warhammer range to receive a new army book and a slew of new models. This was only a surprise to those only get their gaming news from GW themselves, of course. Gaming sites had been awash with rumours about the impending release for months. This is par for the course these days, to the point where it’s easy to wonder if the rumour mill is a deliberate part of GW’s marketing strategy. Say nothing, but feed key sources just enough to get people talking. It’s a shame their actual marketing efforts aren’t as well executed.

The Dark Elf range has been a bit hit and miss over the years. Many of the earlier sculpts (Witch Elves, War Hydra) were not so great, while the newer models (Black Ark Corsairs, Cold One Knights) are phenomenal. Much like their Warhammer 40,000 counterparts, the Dark Eldar, the line has needed a revamp for some time now. Not as much as some other armies, but this task at least appears doable. Much like the update the Dark Eldar received a few years back, the Dark Elves are getting two waves of releases. There are only five new miniature sets in the first wave, and nothing but fairly educated guessing about what will be in the second wave in November – though we should have a good idea when the army book releases this month.

This. Is. KAELA! (Mensha Khaine)

This. Is. KAELA! (Mensha Khaine)

My favourite set from the first wave by far is the Cauldron of Blood / Bloodwrack Shrine dual kit. It’s a big vehicle, similar to the Skaven Screaming Bell / Plague Furnace and the magical warmachines of the Empire. It takes the old Cauldron of Blood, puts it on scaffolding, and slaps some wheels on the side. As an added bonus, they’ve thrown in some optional extra pieces to make a new unit, The Bloodwrack Shrine, and the special character Hag Queen Hellebron. One of the best things about this model is how versatile it is. Not just for Warhammer Fantasy, but gaming in general.

Cauldron of Blood Hellebron

Hag Queen Hellebron

Let’s start with Cauldron of Blood version of the model. While the framework is nothing special, the statue of at the back is ripe for conversion. You could use it as a stand-alone terrain piece, or you could save yourself a good chunk of cash and use it as an Avatar of Khaine in a Warhammer 40,000 Eldar army. It’s not an exact match, but then the actual Avatar model is older than most of the kids getting into the hobby today. The cruicifixy post also lends itself to being placed amidst man-sized 28mm models. Perfect for those times when your Avatar wades into a horde of Orks, Imperial Guard, or whichever small-based unit gets in its way. One thing I suggest is getting a small modelling knife or Dremel tool and adding a little depth between the statue’s armour plates. The Avatar is basically a walking suit of armour filled with molten iron, and the gaps will make it easier to portray its fiery core. The model would also benefit from being placed on a decorated base. I don’t mean once you’ve scattered with pebbles and painted funky colours, I mean a base heaped with the bodies of fallen enemies or the remains of a partially melted enemy vehicle. It will give the model a little extra height and make it a true centre piece for your army. I hope to see a few conversions like this on display at upcoming events.

Bloodwrack Medusa

Bloodwrack Medusa

Moving on from the statue, the four Dark Elf models that come with the Cauldron of Blood are equally great. The two guards make excellent warriors, though will need terrain bases to stop them looking at the sky. The Death Hag is a little more versatile, her blood-filled chalice making her an off-beat pick for Bretonnian damsel or Vampire (but more on that another time). Swap her knife for a gun and you have a Chaos Cultists or Dark Eldar Wych. Finally, Hellebron is ready to step into the role of the main villain in a fantasy roleplaying game, or as a lightly armoured duellist character in an evil game. It appears her head is separate from her body, so with a little work you could swap it out for a less follicly-gifted head if you wanted.

The last model in the box, the Bloodwrack Medusa, is possibly the best thing about this kit. Full of character and detail that’s ripe for use in roleplaying games and any wargame it can fit into. With a little converting and the right paint scheme, it could even pass for a follower of Slaanesh. While not armed with a bow like the classical Gorgon, with a little effort you could replace the model’s staff with another weapon; though you might want to check it doesn’t need the staff to stay upright! The Medusa’s mirror on the other hand, is pretty much only useful as fancy terrain, perhaps as an objective for an adventure or as a physical prop. Trimming off the spikes and blades around its edge will go a long way to making it appear less evil.

So, is it worth handing over your hard-earned for this model if you don’t play Dark Elves? Let’s look at some numbers.

Cauldron of Blood/Bloodwrack Shrine kit: £45

Finecast Avatar of Khaine: £23.50 (£54.50 for the Forge World version)
Finecast Dark Eldar character: £9.50
Finecast Bretonnian Damsel/Vampire: £16 (includes mounted model)

Even without factoring the cost of a large base monster (which varies anywhere from £7 to £25) you’re easily making your money back on this model. Sounds like a good deal to me.

(All images in this article are from Games Workshop’s site and used without permission. They’re used here to illustrate the product and help break up the text.)

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