Tau Empire XV104 Riptide Battlesuit review

The XV104 Riptide is the latest Battlesuit to have been developed by the Earth caste. It stands twice as tall as the XV8 Crisis Suit but retains the fluidity of movement typical of all Tau Battlesuits.

The Riptide Battlesuit box contains a multi-part plastic kit featuring 108 components which provides parts to make all of the weapon and support system options from the new Codex, two Shielded Missile Drones and a Tau transfer sheet

It is always nice to tackle a larger kit from time to time as there is often much less fiddling with smaller pieces involved in the build. Construction of this kit should be a lot easier than many kits, especially for those of us who are not blessed with slender fingers.

Tau Empire XV104 Riptide Battlesuit Sprue 1
Riptide Battlesuit Sprue 1
Tau Empire XV104 Riptide Battlesuit Sprue 2
Riptide Battlesuit Sprue 2

In fact it turns out that the Riptide kit is so simple to build that there is little to mention in the construction part of this review, certainly there is little to criticise. The instructions are clear and parts fit together with little fuss.

Tau XV104 Riptide Battlesuit
Tau XV104 Riptide Battlesuit

One feature of the build to note however, the Riptide has “location pins” on the hip joint of the legs which hold the legs in the default pose, but these can be snipped off, freeing the ball joint and making a greater range of poses possible. This is a great idea – for a quick and easy build use the pins – to build something a little more unique, snip them off. The knees and ankles also have some movement complementing this flexibility at the hip. The arms are basically ball sockets also allowing a wide range of positioning.

The Smart Missile System, Fusion Blasters & Plasma Rifles, the additional weapon systems, could be easily magnetised to allow weapon swapping. The main weapon, either Heavy Burst Cannon or Ion Accelerator, also looks magnetisable as they attach underneath the arm, but there is a small pipe that runs between the weapon and arm that might make this slightly tricky. However this can either be left off or could potentially be pinned or magnetised separately if desired.

Tau XV104 Riptide Battlesuit size comparison
Tau XV104 Riptide Battlesuit size comparison

Visually, I have to say I’m undecided on the Riptide. Some of the weapon options look like after thoughts rather than parts of the kit – specifically the Fusion Blasters / Plasma Rifles than can replace the default Smart Missile System. Also the head is out of proportion with the rest of the Battlesuit – I know what the designers were doing here, they were thinking “It is simply a group of sensors so why should it be bigger on a bigger suit” and this is only a personal gripe, but it does look odd / unbalanced.

I want to just quickly discuss the fluff (background) for a moment. From a personal perspective I’m not happy about a few things in the new Tau Codex and the Nova Reactor fielded by the Riptide is one of them. In previous Tau Codexes I have always had the feeling that the Tau were cautious in battle (not cowardly but cautious), for example they do not sacrifice Tau lives without reason and more to the point their plasma technology has always specifically been low Strength but stable. We now have numerous entries in the Codex for items, like the Nova Reactor, that can be overcharged or used with a risk to the Tau that uses it. To me this seems to go against what we have been told of the Tau in the past. With that said, if putting your life on the line is for the “greater good” who am I to argue?…

Lastly, value for money, at £50 RRP the Riptide represents reasonable value for money, for a Games Workshop kit. Looking at it compared to the Slaughterbrute we reviewed a couple of months ago it is a much more substantial model at the same price point, whilst compared to the Broadside we reviewed yesterday it is at least double the size for less than double the price.

Summary

The Tau XV104 Riptide kit is a pleasure to build and contains parts for all of the various options that are included in the Tau codex.

The kit is highly pose-able and lends itself to magnetisation/weapon swapping, so you are not stuck with only a single build.

Visually it is not my favourite model from the new release but that is just down to person taste.

All in all a very nice kit indeed!

Overall score: 8/10

Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels Death Company Review: 8 out of 10

Warriors of Chaos Slaughterbrute review

The Slaughterbrute is the largest kit in the new Warriors of Chaos release. It is a multi-part plastic kit including 78 parts with which it is possible to build either a Slaughterbrute or a Mutalith Vortex Beast.

A Slaughterbrute is a huge vicious muscle bound monster, while the Mutalith Vortex Beast is a terrifying fusion of monster and magic, a creature mutated beyond all reason by the power of Chaos.

Looking at the box this is one cool looking beast!

Contained within the Slaughterbrute box are two sprues & a 50mm x 100mm monster base.

Slaughterbrute Sprue One
Slaughterbrute Sprue One
Slaughterbrute Sprue Two
Slaughterbrute Sprue Two

On inspecting the sprues the model initially looks quite difficult to build, a feeling that is re-enforced by the 24 page instruction booklet. After an easy start, putting the legs together, it seems this initial impression was correct. The body must be built in a very specific order, otherwise the various parts will not fit together properly. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows for a very neat looking result, no obvious ball joints or similar from some older kits, but it does mean that following the instruction booklet is highly recommended.

There are other features of the build that are also of note – the way the back ridge fits together for example, the join weaves between the spines avoiding running straight down the middle, this has the effect of concealing the join nicely. Also, the sprue join points are well placed and don’t interfere with assembly, nor do they occur on delicate parts overly much. The sprues are well laid out with the body on one and the options and extras on the other .

A side effect of all this complex build is that the model is not terribly poseable – that said it does include a huge number of options (more on this later).

For all this complexity, it looks like it would be a doddle to build this model in such a way that it could be used as both monsters that can be built from this kit through magnetising the head and just slotting the alternate back mounted options in place, both can be completely built from the parts in a single kit.

Warriors of Chaos Slaughterbrute-mutalith-vortex-bast
Warriors of Chaos Slaughterbrute-mutalith-vortex-bast

The way we have built the kit also leaves lots of tentacles left over, these make for a cool addition to any bits box.

With regard to value for money – this is a pricey kit and although there is the option of getting two kits for the price of one through the use of interchangeable parts, £50 is a lot of money for a single plastic model. Only much larger Warhammer 40,000 vehicles are of comparable price – this is the most expense individual Warhammer Fantasy Battle model available.

Summary

This is a fantastic looking model that comes supplied with a good number of extras and has the potential to be built in such a way that it can be used either a Slaughterbrute or Mutilith Vortex Beast.

The only downside is the particularly high price point…

Overall score: 7/10

7 out of 10

Puppet Wars from Wyrd Miniatures available from Wednesday

Puppet Wars Board GamePuppet Wars gives you insight into the lives of Puppets when no one is around to watch. It’s simple, just find the other army’s leader, and rip him. If he’s more frayed thread than stuffing, you’ve won. Start by wielding Pins and Needles to go on the offensive, or Hide Under the Bed if your enemy approaches. Animate all your friends from your Toy Box or yell Mine! to take over your opponent’s Toy Box so he has nowhere left to sew up the wounded.

Puppet Wars is a board game from Wyrd Miniatures the guys behind steampunk skirmish game Malifaux. Many of Malifaux’s characters find there way into the Puppet Wars board game including  Lady Justice, Seamus & Pandora.

The game contains:

The starter box for the Puppet Wars game. This box includes:
Game Board
2 Puppet Decks
Rulebook
Pattern Book
18 Metal Game Pieces
Several Game Tokens

Pre-order now and get 15% off: Puppet Wars Board Game

Warhammer Tomb Kings Khemrian Warsphinx / Necrosphinx review

The Warsphinx/Necroshinx kit (hereafter referred to as the ‘sphinx’) was the worst kept secret of the recent Tomb Kings overhaul. To bring the TK’s up to standard they were always going to get a ‘big guy’ and the sphinx was the logical choice. The fact that they were never mentioned in any previous literature didn’t mean a thing! This review will deal mostly with the sphinx’s aesthetics and how it will play in games rather than its build (dealt with better here).

On opening the box it was immediately apparent that this was not a complex kit. All of the components were contained on just two, albeit dense, sprues. This was accompanied by a much clearer instruction sheet than many of those of late, which included a number of well thought out, logically progressive graphics.

When looking at the preview pictures, it was clear to see that, regardless of your choice of build, the model was replete with beautiful detailing that kept its flavour distinctly ‘Tomb King’. Looking at the pictures when the kit was first announced I felt that it would not be possible to build both a Necrosphinx and a Warsphinx  from one box, in this I was thankfully proved wrong,  see our guide here: Magnetising the Tomb Kings Warphinx/Necrosphinx. An (un)intentional masterstroke on the part of GW?

Tomb Kings Khemrian Warsphinx / Necrosphinx Painted

I also freely admit that looking at the images of this kit I was initially disappointed. I don’t know why, or what I had been expecting, but it wasn’t what I was looking at! I have since changed my opinion. Both sphinxs are elegant in their simplicity (but, then as a stone statue, shouldn’t it be?). The model enhances every TK army it graces, not just with enviable battlefield performance, but with its towering stature fitting in amongst the armies’ low profile masses. If they had to have their ‘big guy’ then, better this than the grotesque Carmen Miranda Bone Giant?…… Every time!

Regarding in game performance: this is where the Sphinx really comes into its own. With the highest toughness of anything available (8) this fella is not to be trifled with! It has three uses within any TK list.

1) Using the Warsphinx as a mount for any Tomb King or Prince. At additional cost to the character and adding a whopping 210 points to the Heroes/Lords allocation I can’t see this as the optimal choice, even though it would make either rider extremely hard to take out!

2) As a rare choice in the ‘Necro’ build mode. This is a ‘toughie’ as the ability to kill absolutely ANYTHING in the game with a lucky dice roll (decapitating strike) and flight, are hard to balance with the fact it’s up against four other very good rare options (I still luuurve those catapults at only 90 points each!) and the fact you might want to keep more points for your ‘special’ choices. This brings us on nicely on to our third and final option…..

3) As a plain, common or garden, Warsphinx. With a howdah full of very ‘killy’ Tomb Guard, Terror, toughness 8, the options for a fiery roar or envenomed sting upgrade and weighing in at a very ‘compact and bijou’ 210 points. At this rate why not take 2 or 3? They come in at well under 50% of your allocation (assuming your playing 2000pts or more) and your opponent will be laying enough bricks to build his own pyramid just thinking of how to deal with them!

So, all in all, an overdue but most welcome addition to the Tomb Kings list. Simple, elegant, hard as nails.

The sphinx gets a ripping 8/10!

8-10

Also checkout out other Warsphinx/Necrosphinx articles:

*Price correct as of 3rd May 2011.

Warhammer Tomb Kings Army Book review

Entombed beneath the sands, awaiting resurrection as the sun-bronzed warrior kings they were promised to be and subsequently resurfacing as withered, undead abominations has left the Tomb Kings vengeful and jealous of all living beings. Driven by vengeance & the unending need to conquer new territory, they along with legions of their loyal former troops and towering enchanted constructs have one goal……to defeat all who stand in their way!

Personally, this was of huge importance to me. Having been, without doubt, my most eagerly awaited wargames release of perhaps the last decade! Since GW first mooted the concept of an undead army based upon Ancient Egypt it has had me gripped.

First Impressions

The new Tomb Kings army book is 96 pages of fantastic imagery that continues the new hardback format. The entire publication is presented in glorious full colour, although, in keeping with the new format, it has a much darker feel. As one has come to expect from GW the book is replete with many beautiful, new works of art. All of the information is presented in an updated and easily understandable way.

On Closer Inspection

What was really important to me was what changes the near nine-year-wait for a second book would bring? Again, a book review coming on the basis of not having ‘field tested’ the army under 8th edition rules, one could not hope to unlock all of the subtle nuances that will no doubt arise given the sands of time (pun intended!). I could not help but feel that this time they had got it right.

As with any change of army book, there are winners & losers, ups & downs or comings and goings.

Biggest Positive Changes:

Too many to mention!

The addition of the much-needed Necro/War sphinx (reviewed separately) adds the, now mandatory, ‘Big Guy’. This direction was almost inevitable to keep the army ‘in pace’ with all the rest, while the iconic sphinx made the choice almost obvious.

But the addition of the Necropolis Knights/Sepulchral Stalkers, the as yet unseen Heirotitan (wave 2 anyone?), and the Ushabti with strength 6 bows were all a little less obvious (but all very welcome indeed!) as was the ability of the Tomb Prince/King to bestow his WS on all in his unit. Reduction in points for the basic skeletons was a must along with the introduction of Arkhan and the Necrotect character.

Bringing the previously unique magic phase into line with 8th Ed rules was a move, which to my mind, was both inevitable and necessary. Removing the ‘stumbling around’ created by the lack of knowledge on the part of any opponent (or, indeed, the player himself) of a magic system which was anathema to the newer, faster rules was a sure sign that this was an army to be taken much more seriously this time around.

Biggest Negative Changes:

The removal of the ‘uniqueness’ of the Tomb Kings magic is a two-edged sword.

I could whine about my favourite models (the Ushabti) taking a hit from strength 6 changing to 4 and the lack of reinstatement of any Mummies being a chance left wanting.

However, these issues are all cosmetic. Otherwise, everything is much better.

On the Tabletop

A somewhat unknown quantity due to the timing of this review, however, I sincerely believe the Tomb Kings time is at hand and many seasoned players will underestimate them at their peril! My initial gut feeling, is that this new army book will put the Tomb Kings much higher up in the rankings. Definite tourney winners in the near future me thinks!

Rating

The production values, quality, appearance etc. are all unequalled in the hobby. An essential purchase for any serious Warhammer Fantasy Battle player. 8/10.

Robin Cruddace, step on up! A surefire hit certainly not a hint of disappointment, at least, not on my part. as a time-served apprentice in the Khemrian way! What has been so long in the making has been worth the wait.

Having been of the opinion that the Tomb Kings concept was brilliant in 2002, the preceding army book had a feel of having been ‘rushed out’. This book by comparison shows much greater consideration and understanding for the subject matter. 8/10.

Still, that’s an average of 8/10 overall & my Mummy gives a big, bandaged thumbs up!

8-10

 

*Accurate as of 28th April 2011.

Warhammer 40,000: Codex Grey Knights review

The famous psychologist, Kurt Lewin, once said: “if you want to truly understand something, try to change it”.  Something true for the process of writing codices: if you want to write a good codex you need to understand what you’re writing about, and if you’re going to make changes, you really have to understand what is being changed.  The Daemonhunter codex has indeed changed, it doesn’t get much bigger than a name change.  And so now we’re talking about Codex: Grey Knights, but what else has changed ?

Knight Shift

The section on the geography of Titan is not particularly well written and its inclusion seems all the more pointless for that.  In the Dark Eldar codex you got a real sense of Dark Eldar and how they have an almost symbiotic relationship with their environment; in this book it has all the atmosphere of a surveyors report.  The background also labours the point of how the Grey Knights ruthlessly kill or mind-wipe other Imperial agents, to the point where it seems that they usually end up killing more of their own side than the enemy – a very repetitive part of a section that is shorter than normal and bereft of ideas.  The only two-page story the author manges to put together comes to the inevitably brazen, GW-sales pitch conclusion, where the shiny new item saves the day.

Of course, with the change in name the focus of the material was always going to be different.  But in a book where the Inquisition should still be an important factor there was a severe lack of information on this important part of the Imperial machine, mere sentences in comparison to the GK material.  If the Daemonhunters codex talked too much about the Inquisition, to the detriment to the Grey Knights, then this book has gone too far the other way to the point where it seems the Inquisition parts were included merely to stop this being just another Marine Codex.

This is also reflected in the rules.  Whilst the three main Ordo’s of the Inquisition are represented with rules, they seem to be included as an afterthought.  There are not many options for how you can kit out your Inquisitors, immediately invalidating a large number of conversions around the world.  Added to that is the fact that this elite arm of the Imperium have worse statistics than a Commissar Lord and you begin to think that maybe the author didn’t understand what he was changing.

This feeling is only enhanced by the fact that the elite of the elite now have the statistics of a normal marine, are no longer fearless (perhaps not the worse change though) and have lost their shrouding ability.  Instead you have a number of different Nemesis Force Weapons that give different bonuses to the wielder (to Strength, Initiative, Saving Throw etc).  With an anything goes, mix-and-match attitude to how your squads have access to these weapons there will be more than the normal amount of beginners confusion as players try out and settle on their builds of choice.

As is increasingly the case with new Codices and Army Books, most of the time seems to have been spent on writing up the rules for the Special Characters.  Mordrack’s teleportation and other benefits stand out for the little extra he costs above a standard Grand Master, and of course those who want to field an old-school, non-GK, Daemonhunters army have no choice but to take Coteaz in order to access henchmen as a Troops choice; this could and should have been a purchasable upgrade for any Inquisition HQ, to give the players some say in what they they are ultimately investing a lot of time and money into.

Shades of Grey

This extra attention given to the special characters is annoying because it only highlights the lack of detail and precision given to other units in the codex. Surely the Imperium-wide vehicle types (Rhino, Land Raider etc) should have been able to take GK-specific weapons such as Heavy Incinerators or twin-linked Psycannons ? The much-discussed Nemesis Dreadknight though does seem to be a good addition, bringing a rare (or even unique ?) monstrous creature to the ranks of the Emperor’s servants.

As with the Vanilla Space Marines Codex, why are there only two Troops choices ?  I can understand why GW would want to limit you to play a Grey Knights only army in Codex GK, but if that isn’t viable due to a lack of options then why remove the Stormtroopers as a Troops choice at all ?  Another Force Organisation Chart travesty is the small number of Fast Attack choices compared to the Elite section.  Of the two choices we have the Stormraven Gunship, which looks like it will be rolled out to all the other Space Marine chapters in the future, and the Interceptor Squad, which rules-wise gives something different and unique, but uses the same basic plastic kit as three other units in the army, not lending itself to much visual variation on the field.

Maybe that’s why the pictures that accompany the codex are not as inspiring as in other releases.  The focus on GK means that you are looking at variations of the one type of paint job, and the large group shots just feel overcrowded, with too many models in shot and too many buildings in the background giving an overall impression of muddy-greyness.

Grey Matters

The author of this book has done the equivalent of tending to a bonsai tree with a chainsaw, leaving not much more than a stump for the the reader to play with.  The number of entries available for selection may have increased, but it feels like the amount of choice has decreased, making this a mostly poor read from start to finish.  Hopefully they will not play in as tiresomely repetitive way as the book has been written, and hopefully your local games scene will not see a repetition in builds that a book like this can often lead to.

As you have probably guessed, this release has really disappointed me.  The golden rule is if you have to change something, make sure that change is for the better.  Heraclitus once said that “nothing endures but change”, but lets just hope that we don’t have to endure these changes for as long as between the last edition and this one.  And if (god forbid) the same author is given the same job again, lets hope his understanding has improved over the intervening years.

Changers in the Knight: 4/10

Warhammer Orcs & Goblins Arachnarok Spider review

A veritable behemoth that builds it’s lair in the deepest darkest depths of the forest, where nothing is safe from it’s rapacious appetite from careless Beastmen herds to the mighty Cygor. Canny and cunning as ever, the shamen of Forest Goblin tribes have developed methods of cajoling or coercing the services of these gargantuan beasts. Bedecking their enormous carapaces with comic-looking howdahs, weapon platforms or shrines, enables even the least threatening greenskin to command ultimate respect as they power forth crushing all in their path…..

The Arachnarok is a rare troop choice from the Orc & Goblin army book, but may also be taken as a shrine mount for a Goblin Great Shaman or carry an upgrade ‘flinger’ that is a unique war-machine.

First Impressions

Like a child fed on E-numbers for a week (I’m a dyed in the wool Greenskin at heart!), I was almost unable to control my excitement at being given the opportunity to assemble and review this creation. When I finally got my clammy mitts on the goodies I was blown away! I must admit to being a little intimidated as reality hit home, could I do justice to the sheer level of detail portrayed over such a huge kit? Only time would tell…….

On Closer Inspection

The 95 part kit was, as expected, up to the usual phenomenal standard one would come to expect from GW’s current plastic output. The individual details are portrayed perfectly in every aspect of the kit, from the humour of the goblins to the utter horror & revulsion created by a spider the size of a large two-storey building. Warning! Staring at the components can cause delay in assembly.

Sprue Thumbnails:

Arachnarok Spider Sprue 1
Arachnarok Sprue 1
Arachnarok Spider Sprue 2
Arachnarok Sprue 2

Assembling the Kit

I’m an experienced model maker (with 30 years experience), but was under no illusion, having perused the instructions, that I would not be calling on ALL those years experience. The build got under-way at a flying start. The assembly of the actual spider proper (up to and including part 41), was a cinch. The parts were expertly designed to ‘click’ reassuringly into place during dry-fitting and each overlapped subtly to hide prominent seams.

My  relationship with this kit began to show signs of strain as the instruction manual entered phases 6 & 7. At this point you are going to be putting some terra-firma under your not-so-wee beasty (basing). The manual will have you believe that your base is square (which it clearly isn’t!).

 

 

Arachnarok Spider Complete

TOP- TIP 1. Remember your spider needs to face one of the short sides of your RECTANGULAR base! ( I nearly didn’t!).
From part 8 of the instruction manual we were heading for marriage guidance! The assembly & attachment of your howdah, (prior to deciding your final choice of build), requires a steady hand, persistance & an inexhaustible patience!

TOP-TIP 2. When the instructions advise a dry-fit assembly, heed the advice!

On fitting the howdah, it’s decision time. For our review model, I took the decision to build the one choice that would use the most parts! So, we were going to end up proud owners of a ‘flinger’ (an impressive mobile artillery platform).

It was from here on in that the kit became a little ‘testing’.

The various howdah options all required some seriously fiddly work, and it was at this point that my one and only gripe arose. I found the instruction manual to be not only inaccurate, but the diagrams were often misleading or at best unclear. Fortunately, the kit was so good it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the overall experience.

On the Tabletop

Arachnarok Spider Complete
Arachnarok Spider Complete

As a basic model with no upgrades your Arachnarok will weigh in at a hefty 290 points. So if you’re playing 2400 point games why not take two?! The flinger upgrade is only 30 points and the Catchweb Spidershrine only 40.

The bog-standard 290 pointer hits home with 16 attacks on a 100mm frontage. Eight of those are poisoned & strength 5!

For 320 points your added ‘flinger’ will enable you to shoot as a stone thrower with strength 1 (3) (even on the move!) from 12-48 inches, deluging your target in sticky webs that cause them to ‘Always Strike Last’ next turn (not so great against High Elvsies, but will put a damper on just about everyone else!)

For just 10 more points, the added shrine will give your Great Shaman the ‘Loremaster’ special rule.

If you consider that the upgrades are in addition to the basic attacks and then add the thunderstomp as a final flourish you can rest assured that the Orc & Goblin Army has just joined the big league…..quite literally!

Rating

Without doubt a high scoring delivery from GW with an overall web-tastic 9 stars! Only (maybe harshly) reduced from the maximum by the problems arising from a poor set of instructions.

9/10

Accurate as of 18th February 2011.

Dark Eldar Wyches Review

Wyches are Dark Eldar who have devoted their entire existence to the mastery of gladiatorial fighting. In the arenas of Commorragh they battle each other, slaves and captured beasts all for the amusement of the depraved spectators coming from all levels of Dark Eldar society. Whenever the Kabals gather force to raid real space the Archons will go to great lengths to enlist the support of the Succubi and their Wyche Cults.

Wyches are a Troops choice for the Dark Eldar, though this kit can also be used to build a Succubus HQ model or even the Elite Hekatrix Bloodbrides.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Hekatrix

I have always been a fan of the Dark Eldar, heck I even enjoyed the old models, especially the Wyches. However the test of time wasn’t very kind to them, luckily GW finally revisited the Dark Eldar this year. The Wyches may be my favourites models in the new range, they just looks so dynamic and agile.

The Dark Elder Wyches boxed set contains enough parts for 10 Wyches on two plastic sprues and costs 15 pounds (or 12,30 if you buy them from Big Orbit games).

ON CLOSER INSPECTION

The box gives you a whopping 92 pieces to put together 10 Wyches in a large variety of ways. Each Wyche comes in a minimum of seven pieces; 2 chest pieces, a set of arm, a set of legs and a head. Wyches are described as being pre-dominantly female and the box gives part for six female and four males, interesting to note though is that nearly all men have partially obscured faces. So the focus is definitely on the ladies in this kit.

All the legs have been labelled to make assembly more straightforward, although with a bit of cutting and conversion work you will be able to put legs together that normally won’t fit. Though this will require more work it will enable you to add even more poses to a large Wyche Cult army.

In addition to enough bits to arm all your Wyches with their basic kit you also get the necessary materials to put together a Hekatrix leader, as well as a set of all the special Wyche weapons. The Hekatrix comes with all the available options, save for a Venom Blade and the Phantasm Grenade Launcher. The first is easily solved as a quick green wash over a metal blade will make it look rather venomous. The Launcher is more challenging to solve, though you can of course borrow one from a Kabalite Warriors box.

The only downside of the kit is that you only get one of each special Wyche weapon while a standard Wyche unit will be able to upgrade one mini per five with a special weapon (Hekatrix Bloodbrides can even upgrade one per three mini). So if you want to add two of the same weapons you will need to get a second box or get a little creative.

TIP: Want to add more of the same weapon, but don’t have the bits or extra cash? Then take a hint from the Imperial Guard and field those special weapons in weapon teams. Simply give one Wyche the Impaler and another the Shardnet, the same goes for the Razorflails and the Hydra Gauntlets. Don’t forget to remove the splinter pistol or close combat weapon from the other hand, this as the special weapon is meant to replace both of these.

The special Wyche Weapons also look great and even come with some extras. The Shardnet and Impaler are not much more than a net and spear, but this isn’t true for the other weapons. The Razorflails are weapons that can be fielded as both swords and whips and you actually get two weapons, one in each form. I thought it is also rather cool that you get a special, ritually-scarred head to go with the set. And finally we have the Hydra Gauntlets, whose wielders have a fully armoured helmet that will offer the needed extra protection when wielding these sharp and shattering weapons.

ON THE TABLETOP

Wyches are superb close combat fighters but they definitely need an effective delivery device in order to get the most out of them. If left to walk across the battlefield they won’t last long, possessing on a 6+ save. You basically have three different methods of getting them into close combat, mount them on a Raider, a Venom (only suited for small units up to 5 models) or let them arrive through a Webway Portal.

Once they get stuck in though things get very interesting as they are both able to assault into cover and have a healthy 4+ save once in close combat. Add in a Hekatrix and a few weapons and you have a very formidable fighting force that will rack up a pain token very fast giving them Feel No Pain as a bonus.

The special Wyche weapons are also rather interesting. The Impaler and Shardnet will allow you to take away attacks, which can be very effective again strong and high attack opponents. Razorflails, on the other hand, will allow the wielder to re-roll failed to hit and to wound rolls. And, finally, Hydra Gauntlet will give you +D6 rather than the normal +1 attacks, making this an ideal weapon when wielded against large masses of weaker opponents.

The Elites version of the Wyches, the Hekatrix Bloodbrides, quite simply do the same as Wyches just better and with more special weapons. Furthermore you can also make a HQ Succubus mini with this kit. Being the cheapest HQ choice and adding them to a Wyche squad will often ensure they make it into close combat to do quite a bit of damage.

PAINTING AND CONVERSION OPPORTUNITIES

Like pretty much all the new Dark Eldar toys Wyches require a bit of time and work to look decent. With the many different layers (skin, Wyche suit, Wyche armour, trophies etc) and segmented armour it is easy to mess things up. My main advice would be to take your time with each mini as it will really show once they’re all done.

For conversion opportunities you could look at the unhelmeted heads from the Kabalites kit, leftovers from the Hellions and there are even a few ideal bits on the Raider sprue to make your own Impaler and Shardnet! The pictures of painted Wyches in this article make use of these simple, yet quite effective bitswaps to add even more variety to the unit.

You could also use a combination of Wyche and Hellion bits to make a custom Beastmaster. Finally, if we are to believe the rumors, Games Workshop will be releasing a plastic Venom kit in a few months which is supposed to come with some Wyche crew hanging off it. Those bits are bound to add even more cool bits to make your Wyches even more dynamic and deadly! Given that Wyches are quite affordable it may even be worth to buy an extra box to replace the Raider and Ravager crews, which would look great in a full Wyche Cult-themed force.

SUMMARY

The Wyches plastic kit comes with enough bit to make 10 Wyches with nearly all of the options available to them in the codex. The models are very dynamic and versatile, being interchangeable with most other Dark Eldar and even Eldar plastic kits.

The minis are easy to put together, requiring minimal preparation work, which is a good thing as the paintjob can be challenging at times. There is no arguing with the end result though, they really do look the part of sci-fi gladiators!

Furthermore the kit is quite affordable, so those amongst us who have been dreaming of fielding a full Wyche Cult army can finally have a go at them. Heck the only flaw I can find with this kit is that you only get a single set of each of the special Wyche weapons

So the final verdict is 9 out of ten stars!

Dark Eldar Wyches

*Accurate as of the 18th of December 2010

Dark Eldar Mandrakes review

Though their origins are shrouded in mystery, there is one thing all Dark Eldar are in agreement about: Mandrakes are to be feared by all. Part Dark Eldar, part something much, much worse, Mandrakes are creatures of darkness. Darting from shadow to shadow they feed upon the suffering of others, utilizing the harnessed, raw power to freeze the unsuspecting with blasts of shilling energy.

With dark, rune-carved skin, while wielding wicked, saw-edged blades and wearing the flayed skin of those who betrayed them, the Mandrakes stalk the battlefield appearing out of nowhere, channelling their chilling auras to reduce their victims to shattered heap of frozen flesh and armour.

Mandrakess are an Elites choice for the Dark Eldar, competing with such units as Incubi, Grotesques, Wracks, Harlequins, Kabalite Trueborn and the Hekatrix Bloodbrides.

First impressions

There is no denying that people got really, really exciting when the first Mandrake preview popped up on the Games Workshop site. For those in doubt about the Asian influence in the Dark Eldar design, it became quite clear when looking at the excellent design of these miniatures.

The Dark Eldar Mandrakes boxed set contains 5, multi-part, metal miniatures, and costs 18 pounds (or 14,56 if you buy it from Big Orbit games!). Thus making the set equally expensive as the five men strong Incubi boxed set. Though the box is certainly not cheap, this is to be expected given we are dealing with metal miniatures.

On closer inspection

Upon opening the box we are met by five metal miniatures, though sadly there are only three different poses in there. I can’t help but feel that it wouldn’t have taken GW a lot of extra effort to add two more poses. Each Mandrake comes in two parts: the body and their flaming left arm. In principle, each arm is modelled to fit one, specific body. So, without investing some extra time and effort, this does mean that you will end up with only three, differently posed Mandrakes.

Naturally I wanted to make my Mandrakes a bit different than the usual, straight out of the box unit. As a result all Mandrakes you can see in the pictures have been subtly converted. Two additional tools were used to accomplish this, a pinvice and green stuff modelling putty:

TIP – To add some easy variation to your Mandrakes you can exchange some of their weapons by gently cutting them off at the wrist. Next use a pinvice with a small drill to carefully drill holes in both the loose hand and sword, as well as the arms. It is a good idea to first use a sharp modelling knife to drill a starting hole in both the hand and the arm, as this will prevent nasty slips with the pinvice. Once you’re done drilling, cut a paperclip up and use the newly acquire metal rod to securely attach the hand to its new arm. Sure this takes some extra work, but the pin will prevent silly breaking accidents. For those wanting to add even more special touches to their Mandrakes I’d suggest having a go a using Green Stuff modelling putty to, for example, cover up a rune or two, make their Balefire larger, add extra hair or even to adjust the shapes of the skirts worn by the Mandrakes.

On the tabletop

Mandrakes are able to appear out of nowhere and move about rather fast due to their Fleet, Infiltrate, Move Through Cover and Stealth rules. Much like most Dark Eldar, they are fairly fragile being only Toughness 3 and having a 5+ Invulnerable Save. Mandrakes will really benefit from getting a Pain Token, as this will give them the Feel No Pain bonus available to most Dark Eldar. Not only will the Pain Token make them more durable, it will also activate their ranged Balefire shooting attack.

Sadly I fear that Mandrakes will have way too much competition from the other Elites choices available in the Dark Eldar codex. They require even more finesse and planning to use effectively than other units. And as a result there will not be many competitive gamers, especially those attending tournaments, that will include this stunning looking unit in their army.

Regardless Mandrakes are fantastic for gamers putting together themed armies, painters will have a blast with the many different textures and let’s just face it, they really look fantastic! I am even tempted to use them as count as Ur-Ghuls (tough fighting pets that can be included in an Archon’s Court).

Painting and conversion opportunities

Let me be frank here, Mandrakes are a serious challenge. The runes on their skin are quite small, their dark skin takes time and painting fire isn’t always the easiest thing. Nonetheless I absolutely love these miniatures! In the past I have dealt with tough minis taking me less time than the Mandrakes, but that almost drove me insane nonetheless. The Mandrakes, challenging as they may be, are a delight to paint up. With every new element you add paint to they really start coming alive.

Click on picture for a closer look!

TIP – Dealing with the Mandrake runes can be a tricky thing, this is mainly because you are working with an inverted colour scheme. Normally the deeper areas are darker, however the Mandrake runes glow with eldritch energies. I would advice starting from a white, or light, undercoat. After all it is no problem to paint the dark skin of a Mandrake over a white undercoat. The runes and their Balefire arms as well as the flayed skin skirts, on the other hand, will greatly benefit from the lighter undercoat.

Secondly, there is the matter of Balefire. Personally I like to paint fire in a realistic manner, meaning that the combustion source (in this case the Mandrake’s arm) is the place where the most energy is released. As a result this spot is the lightest part of the flame, the further away from the combustion source the greater the chance of other colours showing up in the flame.

Summary

The Mandrakes boxed set contains enough metal parts to make five Mandrakes, in three basic poses. Without some conversion work you are unfortunately stuck with these distinct poses, something that does impact my final evaluation of this product.

If you do decide to invest the extra time to do some converting you can fairly easily make your unit unique. Even if you decide not to convert your Mandrakes you will be spending quite a bit of time to make their paintjob look good. On the one hand I have a hard time justifying spending so much time on a unit that, at its maximum, is 90 points, On the other hand though they are fantastic to paint up, the minis really come alive as you come closer and closer to their completion.

Gamewise the Mandrakes are certainly not a bad choice, they are quite good at what they do. However, I can’t help but feel that we will only rarely see them used in the more competitive armybuilds. Given that you can only buy the boxed set you are basically forced to take Mandrakes in multiples of five, something that is sadly also true for the new Incubi.

In conclusion, I personally love the Mandrakes, but given their limited poses and the significant amount of time you have to invest to make them look have decent, particularly if you are a starting painter, I can only give this boxed set seven stars.

7/10

7 out of 10

Dark Eldar Mandrakes

*Accurate as of the 4th of December 2010

Dark Eldar Hellions review

Hellions are Dark Eldar that have live an existence outside the normal ‘protection’ of a kabal, instead they roam the desolate regions of Commorragh in large groups, who move about on agile, fast-moving skyboards.

Wild and unpredictable the different Hellion gangs have been known to hire out their services to Kabals on raids, using their Hellglaive and skyboards to capture victims and claim grizzled trophies in battle.

Hellions are a Fast Attack choice for the Dark Eldar.

First Impressions

When the first picture of the new Hellions was released I was rather uncertain about them, but know I have the actual sprues in my hands I do have to say that these models continue the excellent design seen on the other Dark Eldar releases.

The Dark Eldar Hellions boxed set, which contains 2 A5 sized sprues, and costs the same as both the Kabalite Warriors and Wyches boxed sets.

Dark Eldar Hellions Sprues
Dark Eldar Hellions Sprues

On Closer Inspection

On the sprues you will find enough bits and bobs to put together 5 Hellions, one of which can be a Helliarch leader. In addition, all options available in the codex for a Hellion troupe of 5 men, are also included. Your Helliarch can be armed with a phantasm grenade launcher, a venom blade, a power weapon, an agoniser and even the rather cool-looking stunclaw. And, of course, these sprues also come with an assortment of extra skulls, spikes and trophies to add to your Hellions.

Naturally the kit has a small instruction manual giving details about what is what and how everything goes together. A nice little bonus is that the spare page of this manual has an excellent Hellion artpiece on it, which you can also see in the codex on page 16.

The Hellions themselves, though in line with the design of both the Reavers and Wyches, have a quite unique feel to them. They come across more tribal and brutal as a result of their tighter, torn Wyche suites, screaming mouth masks and grizzled trophies.

Ball & Socket Joint
Flying Stand Ball & Socket Joint

Each Hellion is mounted on a stylish and rather speedy-looking Skyboard. Each of these boards is mounted on a 3” base using a clear plastic rod. These rods both solve an old issue and leave another unresolved. On the one hand the rods are still notoriously difficult to fully insert into the hole on the base, pressure is needed and the danger of breaking is quite real. At the same they we no longer need to worry about the rod breaking off clean at its connection point on the mini. Heck no, each rod now comes with a ball at the end and the Skyboard has a nice socket on its bottom half. So we have less unrepairable breaking and more posing opportunities not only with this kit, but also with the Raider, Ravager and Reaver Jetbikes.

TIP – I would advice using clippers to remove the Skyboards from their sprues, this as most of the points were they are attached to the sprues are curved. That way you can easily use a hobby knife and a file later to keep the curved surfaces intact.

Hellion Skyboards
Hellion Skyboards

We then come to the Hellion bodies. Like the other plastic kits each torso comes with a front and back part and allows you to make three male and two female Hellions. You also get five pairs of legs, four of which are split in half. Luckily GW added a nice little A-D on the inside of each leg to prevent any botched poses.

TIP – It is best not to glue the Skyboard to the base until you have finalized the pose of its rider. This way you can get the most out of the ball-socket, making your Hellions even more dynamic. Blu-tac, or an equivalent, is your best friend when trying out poses!

Hellion with Hellglaive
Hellion with Hellglaive

We then come to the heads and arms with Hellglaives. You get a whopping 10 different heads; 3 male without mask, 4 with mask, 2 females without mask and 1 with mask. Additionally there are 7 Hellglaives, 6 with arms attached, on the sprue. Several of these come in two parts, with one of the upper arms being separate. Personally I am not a huge fan of the semi-dreadlock hair style of the heads, though the detailing is excellent. Although it adds a further unique touch to the Hellions, it does look slightly out of place if you try to add one of these heads to another unit like Kabalite Warriors or Wyches. So it works just fine for the unit, but may look out of place when kit-bashing.

Another Speed Obsessed Hellion
Another Speed Obsessed Hellion

The posability of the arms and equipment are quite good and can be further expanded with only mild cuts and adjustment that even basic modellers shouldn’t have any problems with. The only real issue I ran into was trying to get the Stunclaw off the sprue in one piece, that thing is one fine and delicate piece of plastic!

On the Tabletop

Hellions, being jump troops, add another very mobile unit to an already very fast army. And although they lack any kind of high Strength long range attack their Splinter Pods and higher Strength provided by the Hellglaives makes them a quite dangerous harassment unit to most enemy Infantry units.

The Helliarch leader also has access to the rather interesting Stunclaw, which is able to drag an Independent Character with the unit as they Hit-and-Run. By itself this isn’t all that useful, as a normally sized Hellion squad is unlikely to be able take down some of the powerhouse characters out there. However, the 3D6 movement provided by a successful Hit and Run attack does mean that even a 5-men strong Hellion unit can potentially drag a vital enemy commander within range of one of your tougher units (Hellions, Ravager, Archon etc.). And I am certain all Tau Ethereals out there will be scared of this unit!

Paniting & Conversion Opportunities

The Hellions will be a blast to paint, though I do have to admit they will take quite a bit of time as the result of the many layers you will find on, particularly, the riders. I also really like that the blade on the Skyboards are a large, flat surface, allowing the painting fanatics out there to pour their hearts out with some free-hand, tribal work!

All in all, I think it will be relatively easy, though taking longer than say a normal Space Marine, to get an excellent looking mini on the table. The more advanced modellers and painters will also have a blast with all the different materials (skin, metallics, leather, trophies and cloth) and free-hand opportunities.

Helliarch converted with Spare Wyche Bits
Helliarch converted with Spare Wyche Bits

The Hellion kit is also the essential place to start for those wanting to add Beast masters to their army. These arena beast-taming Wyches also ride around on Skyboards and only have slightly different equipment The codex even described them as not always wearing their special masks, so a normal Hellion, straight of the sprue, with a spare Wyche weapon will already net you a legal Beast master miniature!

Finally by swapping heads and torsos with the excellent Wyches sprues, you can easily add a ton of extra variety to both a Hellion and Wyche unit. The cool thing here is that both units wear the same type of bodysuit, meaning everything still fits together perfectly. So you loose zero parts and do not have to sacrifice any miniatures at all. And, naturally, if you decide not to use the Stunclaw, I am certain it will look great in a Wyche unit. Those ladies love all kind of gladiatorial weapons after all!

A Unit of 5 Hellions
A Unit of 5 Hellions

Summary
The Hellion kit contains enough parts to build 5 Dark Eldar Hellios, one of which can be built as a Helliarch and includes all the weapons options and upgrades available to them in the codex.

The Hellions are easy to build and definitely look the part with their dynamic poses and the nifty ball-and-socket system on their Skyboards. Their bases and the plastic rod you have to insert into them do provide a potential weakness in the kit though.

Their excellent posability and the potential to swamp bits with the Wyche kit, without sacrificing miniatures, makes it fairly simple to make a large, but still diverse looking, unit of Hellions. Now we just need to figure out where to find the bits to make a convincing Baron Sathonyx model!

So in conclusion, this kit provides excellent quality for your money, accommodates both the Hellion and Beastmaster units and is great in combination with the Wyche kit, making it a solid 8 for me. I will definitely be including a unit in my upcoming Wyche Cult army!

8/10

Pick up the Dark Eldar Hellions from this review at Big Orbit Games and save 18% off RRP*.

Dark Eldar Hellions

*Accurate as of 24th November 2010