Monday, August 14, 2017

I'll mark those Termagants, Hormagaunts and Spore Mines down as finished

In theory the holidays should be a perfect time to get some painting work done. In practice however...As a freelancer I get rather a lot of extra work over the summer severely reducing my hobby time. With a possible move up in housing in the future well time has been a bit limited. I did however find a few hours over the past weeks to finish painting my 'Gants, 'Gaunts and Spore Mines.

Not the best paint job ever, but it serves.
Just to be sure, these are not works of art. But as in my Tyranid army they will serve as additional cannon fodder so I did not aim for high quality here. Not sticking out as especially ugly in the rest of the army is quite ok here. I started with an airbrush basecoat, heavy wash and drybrush of the skin color. Then I forced myself to sit down in one or two hour bursts to assembly line paint the red carapace, wash it and finally highlight them. After that it was a flesh color for the guns, flesh wash and finally a bit of purple for lolling tongues and a random dark wash around the mouths to make the teeth stand out a bit more. I did get a chance to listen to some interesting lectures while painting (thank you YouTube).

I have seen some horde armies that were meticulously painted on a model per model basis, mine isn't one of those. 

I acquired most of these models second hand (I love buying and (occasionally selling) old miniatures). Most of these were sent in an old shoe box and they smelled of frying pan. I had to strip them and a small number were so badly put together (or damaged) that they are lying in a 'to be smashed and used as bits box'. One of the painted models is missing it's left arm, quite a few others have a gap between the left arm and the gun. All reasons not to go overboard painting them. On the plus side. They were extremely cheap. After this additions my Tyranid horde has 40 Termagants with Fleshborers, 10 with Spike Rifles and 20 Hormagaunts. The shoe box still contains a badly damaged Hyve Tyrant and about 5 Tyranid Warriors on sprue. I should consider painting these soon.

I love Spore Mines in the new edition. 
Quite a few of these spore mines are made of metal with some plastic ones from an older starter set rounding things out. I had to fix the tails on two of these with green stuff as they had broken off. Unfortunately I'm not much of a sculptor, but luckily grass tufts help cover the worst of it. With 8th edition a lot of enemy troops can teleport/drop pod/burrow and fly anywhere onto the board as long as they stay 9 inch away from your models. The Tyranids offer quite a nice counter to these shenanigans with their cheap Spore Mines units. You can quite easily acquire enough to cover your deployment zone against unwanted visitors. And if they enter it a few turns later you can float towards them and explode. As the Spore Mines are flying units they can even give flyers a nasty hit. Basically 40K now has a mine field that actually does what mine fields are supposed to do (discourage the enemy from entering a particular zone).

These final four Hormagaunts round out a unit of twenty.
Spore Mines are also quite useful for taking over enemy area's. Allowing you to float down at a distance of 12 inches and be obnoxious in other board quadrants. Add the burrowing activities of Rippers, Trygons and the like and you can make an the life of an enemy overly dependent on deep strikes very hard indeed. Now I can even do this with reasonably painted models. I painted the 4 Hormagaunts on the last picture to expand my existing unit from the silly 16 to a nice even 20. Now I think I'll stop painting 'Gants and 'Gaunts for a long while. As a matter of fact I ended up working on the purple and blue Genestealers for my cult. Yes I'm sticking with purple and blue even if it means not fitting with the red and cream of this army.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Inquisitor Obiwan Sherlock Clousseau arrives (unexpectedly)

With the rise of my Genestealer Cult it was only a matter of time before the inquisition showed up. Turns out it was sooner rather then later. And none other then the very first inquisitor ever conceived: Obiwan Sherlock Clousseau. Now to wait for a datasheet...(and wait, and wait, and don't hold breath etc...)

"Did someone mention Genestealer Cults?"
For people scratching their heads at this. Obiwan has an illustration and back story in the original Rogue Trader book. Here is his original picture.

"I hunt psykers and mutants!"
No clue why, but I really felt like owning a model of him. Searching for conversion bits I mentioned him on the Oldhammer community. It turned out there was a model and a member was kind enough to give me his . I got a brownish sense to his coat from the picture and I tried to faithfully replicate his intimidating yin yang and checks (I should have used the picture above for reference as my yin yang is 90 degrees off).

"Did I hear the chitter of multiple arms?"
In between this I have been at a short painting hiatus. I can't shake the feeling that I should paint my cult in the colors of my existing Tyranid army. That has caused a delay. I've also been getting in multiple eight edition games. That didn't help either (only so much spare time). My first game was with my badly planned Asta Militarum army. It actually manages to perform reasonably well on the battlefield in eight edition. Next up where my Eldar. These guys are still magnificent (except for Swooping Hawks, they are really useless now). I like my Eldar so much that the start of a small Ynnari force is on mail order (the triumvirate to begin with). The last couple of games where played with my Tyranid army. They have changed a lot in eight, and boy are they fun to pester (and finally eat) your opponent with. Here is a quick action shot of my last battle.

Spore mines have turned into excellent area denial weapons in eight (sort off what mines are supposed to be for if I''m not mistaken). 
At this point one or two of the more puritan readers of this blog may have sprayed their screens with coffee (or another beverage of choice). Yes I occasionally play with unpainted models (and very often against). In this case I needed to add some units to army on short notice. As I still had a shoebox with second hand Tyranid models (and sprues) gathering dust in the shed I could quickly get my hands on some spore mines and extra Termagants and Hormagant. Unfortunately I did not have the time to paint those (just strip and basecoat). To make amends (and because Tyranids are most likely on the program in the future) I've started a sloppy mass paint of my 'gants and spore mines.

 
Step one: ignore how badly these models have been assembled by the previous owner(s). Step two: strip paint then basecoat. Step three: Ushabti Bone from the airbrush. Step four: slop on too much Sepia wash while trying not to think of mr. two-thin-coats.

And here are even more (badly assembled) 'gants.
It is a bit of a personal challenge to see if I can paint these guys to reasonable tabletop standard before going insane and throwing them back in a box with other half-painted models. We'll see how it goes. After this, it is back to the cult (hopefully with a decision on the color scheme).

Monday, July 10, 2017

The rise of the Genestealer Cult (with some fancy basing work (in progress))

With only a few new snap-fit Death Guard on the horizon and the codex announced for somewhere later this year there is room to complete one of my other open projects....or I could just start a new one! Squirrel! I love Genestealer Cults. When they where first introduced (at least to me) in the back story of the original Space Hulk (Suicide Mission) they where intriguing. But what blew me (and many others if the Oldhammer Group is a guideline) away where the limousines introduced with a heavily converted (and part scratch built) Genestealer Cult that appeared in White Dwarf 124 (1991). Finding no decent pictures on the internet I took my copy out of storage to snap a quick (hopefully crisper) picture. More can be read on these models on the Eldritch Epistles blog here and a few snaps are available on the venerable Realm of Chaos 80s blog here.

The original (Khorne worshipping) Genestealer Cult that got me hooked to their background.
Way back then I was wasting my spare cash on Skaven and Space Orks. I sold the few hybrid models I bought (with the plan to make their own matching limousine) off a few years ago to a collector. No regrets there as the release of the Deathwatch Overkill boxed set in 2016 saw the return of the cult (and the scale is (as usual) off with the older stuff). It turned out the plastic Space Marines in this box where rather more popular than the Genestealers so I managed to pick up a set of sprues for a very low-ball price. These have been languishing on the plastic-pile ever since, as the elegance of Age of Sigmar turned me off Warhammer 40K completely. Now with 8th edition, it was about time for them to make a comeback, so I took them out of storage and set to work. Here is a group shot of the assembled models.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Now the sprues for Deathwatch Overkill pose a slight conundrum as you get odd amounts of cultists that don't fit with the unit structure on the new datasheets. You get 16 neophytes (including two equipped with heavy mining lasers) while a squad has 10 or 20 members. The Hybrids number 12 while a squad is made up of a multiple of 5 members. For now I put 2 hybrids and 6 neophytes in storage. Going by the shots of the sprue if (when) I buy a Goliath Truck I'll get four extra neophyte bodies I can keep off the truck and use these to fill out my squats. But let's paint this lot first. I had a lot of fun making small conversions to fit the other models with the new rules. For instance this group of hybrids has been equiped with hand flamers by cutting the middle bit off regular flamers (and taking their autopistols from them).

I had to cut up five flamers to build these guys, as you can see from the metallic paints on the front ones, some models in my display cases are now without flamers.
Insert a quick enthusiastic rant here about the return of the good old autogun with the advent of Chaos Cultist and Genestealer Cult models. Anyway the sprues also contained an underwhelming 2 Genestealers (minimum squad size is 5). Here my hoarder-like habits came to the rescue as I had some old second hand Genestealers from an old starter set at hand.

As a degenerate wargames hoarder I always have a chance to find some missing models in the shed.

The Neophyte squad required a bit of extra cutting and slashing. First off I found an old spare bit to give my leader a web pistol (don't know/don't care what it does on the table, worth it as an homage to Rogue Trader). I also gave him a chainsword by cutting some hand and swapping them. I'm not entirely sure what I think about his head, but at the time I thought it was a nice pose of someone not entirely sure of what to do with his fancy stolen weapons. We'll see what happens while painting.

Still not entirely sure about the pose of the squad leader. Let's see what happens after painting and proper basing.
Already slightly visible in the back is the icon bearer. He has been equipped with a new hand holding a pole arm to which the top of a Space Marine banner pole was added. In the end I cut of the entire left arm and re-positioned it so the banner was held high (the same might happen later on to someone's head). One addition that deserves special mention is the limousine I ordered off Aliexpress when I bought the Cult sprues. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to make this look a bit more futuristic, but I'll keep it around for inspiration (it looks way too big from this unfortunate angle, but it actually scales reasonably well with the models)

This thing is not as huge as the picture would have you believe.
Aside from the models I also wanted to do something special with the bases. Earlier this year I ordered a bunch of green stuff textured rolling pins of Green Stuff World here was a chance to use them with actual green stuff (in stead of polystyrene). I took a few false starts to get the hang of rolling the Factory Floor texture onto my bases (push blob of green stuff on base first, make it very wet, then roll). Here is a shot of the texture roller with a few 25 mm round bases.

It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of these. Also note the raised bit on the top left of the picture, I opened a fresh tube of superglue and instantly decided to incorporate the protective ring into a base.
I don't mind the wobbly parts on some bases as it will be representing old warped metal. I am planning to go for the original Genestealer purple/blue color scheme for the band and I will most definitely steal GW's grey/orange mining revolt scheme for the cult. Old rusting industrial bases will I think work quite well with that. Here are the required 32mm and 25mm round bases together.

Slightly wobbly, but for a first batch, they'll do fine.
Although not quite the evil grinning patriarch on his own throne I rather like this interpretation of the monster stat 'got the cult together'. I had a hell of a time getting the green stuff patern on his base right. In the end I decided to cover up the biggest failures with a bit of debris (yeah I cheated). I added some extra skulls to blend the plastic base of the model with the 60mm base. A light sprinkling of PVA and sand was added to the part where the pattern just didn't stick (and to a few parts where it did, just to blend it all together. The green broken (metal ;) spar is part off a balloon stick, having kids ensures you can always find some creative basing materials around the house...

Now where is Ellen Ripley when you really, really need her?
 I actually got around to a first few coats of paint on the bases as well. I started off airbrush priming Vallejo Black, followed by Vallejo Sombre Grey and topped with a light spray of Vallejo Wolf Grey. Then I found out I had multiple pots of Army Painter Strong Tone so I decided to use some of that to drown the bases in wash.

Two thin coats? Recess wash? I say: drown them in the stuff and try to salvage what you can with Q-tips!
I used a q-tip to take excess wash off the middle of tiles and then used a hair dryer to speed the drying along. In the meantime I checked some pictures of modern Genestealers to figure out what is carapace and what is not. Turns out it depends on who is painting. I want extra purple so I'm going to go for less blue carapace. In anticipation I sprayed a coat of 3:1 Genestealer Purple:Slaanesh Grey on the Genestealers, followed by a light Zenithal of 3:1 Slaanesh Grey:Genestealer Purple. The Genestealers took position beneath the hairdryer in anticipation of a purple Army Painter wash.

A bit of purple showing up on the Patriarch (bottom left).
After washing the bases I went back in with the Airbrush and I sprayed an extra light layer of Vallejo Wolf Grey back on to re-establish the grey.

A bit more clean-up and a session under the hairdryer later the bases are ready to be detailed. 
As a last move I used Nuln Oil to darken the openings in the grates. Now the bases are ready to have some color, rust, metal and dried blood added to them, but I got the chance to play a spontaneous game of 40K so I cleaned up my tools for the weekend and quickly slapped my ragtag Astra Militarum force together (Catachan Jungle Fighters) to tell the Cult Mechanicum what was what. Lesson of the day: yelling "stand and deliver" to a Onager Dunecrawler does not get you any loot (it does get the damn Adam and the Ants song stuck in your head though).

Miraculously the sergeant actually survived this encounter with the Dunecrawler, the same cannot be said for the nine guys that where around him at the start of the battle.
Last night I quickly slapped together this base for a very nostalgic side-project I'll be working on as well. The subject is top secret, but attentive readers might spot what is going to be glued to this base.

What will sit on this base? It is a enigma, wrapped in a mystery (actually it is covered in Biostrip-20 after my first painting attempt failed miserably...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Day of the living Death Guard

My final four models from Nurgle's side of the Dark Imperium box have been painted. It took a day longer than planned as I completely forgot to sand the bases. In the caes of the Blight Drone I also cut a plastic barrel in half to make it a little more interesting. Anyway the command group featuring (from left to right) a Noxious Blightbringer, Lord of Contagion and Malignant Plaguecaster.

You to can get the full Nurgle treatment! Just call 555-Death-Guard and the nice men and women of our promotion team will be around!

The Noxious Blightbringer carries a lot of bells. The one on his back is called the Tocsin of Misery it reduces enemy leadership and helps Death Guard units move slightly faster (by re-rolling run dice). For some reason the cloth tabard just screamed 'paint me white' at me. Being vulnerable to warp influence like that I decided to practice a bit of wet blending.

My wet-blend worked! Oh dear white on a Nurgle model...what was I thinking?
As opposed to usual practice runs (that end up with me painting another color over the failed attempt it actually worked. Now my back was rather sore from slapping myself on it, and I had a Nurgle model with a pristine white tabard I could not countenance painting over. As you can see one picture up, I decided to apply a subtle shade of Agrax, a few dabs of Athonian Camoshade, some Nurgle's Rot and at the bottom the excellent blood painting technique I stole from ThirdEyeNuke over at Tale of Painters.

This years Nurgle look features a black cloak, rusty chainmail and slimy horns. Basically the same look we saw on the runways last year.
Emboldened by my white wet-blend I decided to give black another try. Although the deep red cloaks actually look rather cool I want my death guard slightly more muted giving the fumes a chance to really stand out. I took Vallejo German Grey as my base black and just mixed it with Dead White to get the two black cloaks highlighted. I then followed with Vallejo Game Color Black (a bad black, should be called 'dark grey') to deepen the darkness in the folds. All in all I a happy with the cloaks. The greens are a blend of GW Warpstone Glow, GW Moot Green and Vallejo Yellow Green. For the Noxious Blightbringer I decided to paint all the strange bubbly bits sticking out in the same yellow as the puff of smoke released from his hand. I wanted to give the impression that the same noxious fumes escape from every broken seal in his power armor.

The Plague Drone looks wonderfully menacing, but I have to admit that fixing the guns properly was a bit of a challenge.
Next up was the Blight Drone. I basically followed the same scheme as I used for the rest of this warband, adding a bit of airburshed OSL around the eye lens to make the red glow. It also helped brighten up the red of the lens itself, so that was a nice bonus. The real fun with this model however was to be had on the back.

When in doubt while basing just cut a barrel in half and stick it on, it never fails (at least that's what I think).
This is where the flesh that was fused with the metal of the drone is bulging out. Another chance to go wild with purple, yellow, green, red and brown washes. Whee. I painted every boil red and added a nice yellow dot on top. Larger gashes on the front and the back of the drone where subtly worked with the blood technique mentioned before. Nurgle's Rot  was applied as well as Nihilakh Oxide (both on the drone and on the characters). I always keep a big dry brush handy when working with Nihilakh. The trick is to apply a dot and spread it out over an area. Then apply another dot where I want the oxide to really stand out. It does not quite conform to real oxidation I guess, but it does add a bit more color to otherwise rather drab models. I use it to streak chainmail and breastplates with the same reasoning.

Group shot of the Nurgle warband, I'm in a bit of shock that I painted it (mostly) over the weekends in under a month.
Long story short, my first Death Guard models are now finished and ready to give the new edition a go. My regular gaming night is Wednesday (club night). As I already had an Age of Sigmar game lined up two weeks ago and gave a demo of Age of Sigmar at another club last week I haven't actually had a chance to try the new rules. That will change this Wednesday. Next up, I don't know. I'm a bit spoiled with several very interesting projects on my paint desk at the same time and GW has not released a second wave of Death Guard so there is time. I'll probably try to get some older projects finished or perhaps build a farm...hmmm that was also on the list. Never a dull moment with this hobby :)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Night of the Living Death Guard

Adhering to my schedule I've finished the unit of seven Death Guard from the Dark Imperium box set over the weekend. As with the Poxwalkers these models are beautifully modeled although to my taste some bits are too fragile for gaming. I'm not Atilla the Hun of painters but still two grenade tops broke off during painting and the green smoking incense stencher (center on the picture below) broke off during photography. That said I still think the unit looks fantastic and I can't wait to bring some plague and disease to the corrupt imperium and its corpse god.

"Death to the false...cough hack urgh blegh....emperor!" Perhaps I should call this unit the Charmers....oh dear I should've converted one into a banner bearer.
For the color scheme I opted to stay away from the obvious greens (I admit its hard to tell from the picture). At first I looked through the old Realm of Chaos (Lost and the Damned) book for inspiration, but green seems to be the color of choice for the Plague Legion even back then. I then took seven old metal plague marines and attempted to follow a YouTube tutorial on painting the original Death Guard color scheme (bone armor with green shoulder pads and copper/gold trim). The result was a rather dismal failure that has been quietly stowed into a storage container in the shed (sssh don't tell anyone ;) ).

I love the detail on the models although some of it is a bit too easily snapped off to my taste.
Still unwilling to go for green I ended up going for a base of Zandri Dust. I had some left over in a basecoat rattlecan anyway so why not? After the Zandri I applied a solid coat of Seraphin Sepia, I wanted to avoid Agrax at first because it (in part) ruined my earlier experiment. The trim was painted in Balthasar Gold, it is a lovely base to punt under both gold and copper (in my opinion). I opted to paint the robes green as a nod to the old shoulder pads, applied Leadbelcher to the metal parts that weren't gold already and used Incubi Darkness for anything that had to be black. Every bit of tentacle was based with Screamer Pink. In the end the Sepia just wasn't dark enough to my taste (and I had to wash all the other colors as well) so I used Agrax Earthshade anyway. I went for a thick layer, hoping to really get some contrast in there. With one tragic consequence.

Noooooooo! Another shade pot empty, at least this time it wasn't due to knocking it over.
After the way too thick wash dried I applied a thinned down layer of Zandri back onto the armor and finished off with Ushabit bone highlights. I used Sycorax Bronze on the copper (or should I now say bronze?) bits with no reinstating the Baltahsar Gold base. Regular metal I softly layered with Stormhost Silver. I did this mostly because every Nurgle guide tells you not to go for bright silvers and I was feeling particularly contrary at the time. One of the bigger problems where the horns sticking out left and right. I painted these Ushabit Bone with the (in hindsight) obvious problem of zero contrast with the armor. Remembering the effect on the Poxwalkers I tried fixing this with a wash of Athonian Camoshade. That did not really do the trick. I highlighted the purple/pink fleshy bits with Vallejo Squid Pink. Not wanting to go for the standard layer of Kabalite Green I mixed the Incubi Darkness with some light grey to make a highlight.

I suddenly realize I should've made the rim of my bases brown, or did I go for black on the Poxwalkers? Oh no it was brown and Dryad Bark there, German Grey and black here. Something to be fixed at some point I guess.
With all the base parts painted I went for the details. The eyes or lenses (where present) were given a base layer of Evil Sunz Scarlet, followed by a dot of Lugganath Orange and a glaze of Bloodletter to give a glow effect. The plasma coil was painted with a few blue colors. I briefly considered giving it a sickly green glow but I decided it would contrast more if I changed things around. I also freenhanded some lines on the bloated fly's wings just to have something to point at during a battle. With these steps finished (and everything dried) I affixed the models to bases I actually made for the failed experiment. That was a bad idea as the models don't quite fit on the bases. Still, I'm unwilling to switch this around. Maybe I'll go back in later with some textured paint to fit the feet in a bit better. As the last step it was time to Nurgle the models up.

I love the look of glowing effects but while painting it I always feel as if I'm deliberately making mistakes and sloshing paint on the wrong part. I have the same feeling while going for OSL through overspray with an airbrush (and that is the reason the plasme gun in this unit produces no glow, should I go back and fix that? hmmm).
I applied dabs of Nurgle's Rot to select bits of the models like rips in the armour, blades and most importantly all the horns. This has fixed them (at least in my opinon). I then used Blood for the Blood God on all the pink tentacles both toning down the pink and making them look even grosser. I then used Vallejo Smoke (I love this paint) to make the bright silver bolters and chainmail dirty. Just dab on a small bit off Smoke and use a second brush to sweep it down into seams. I almost skipped the Nihilakh Oxide for the copper bits but I wanted the Plasma Gun to look really ancient. With the Nihilakh applied there I decided it should be added to the other copper bits as well, it just looks right and adds some extra color. Before the grossing up stage I was still wondering if I should stick these models in the box with the rejected test models, with the filth applied I'll quite happily stick them on the table. Next up the final four Nurgle models from the starter set (although three distracting side projects (five if I include the still open Grudge of Drong projects) are begging my attention...must focus....).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dawn of the Nurgle Poxwalkers

This weekend the new Warhammer 40K was released and I have to admit I was rather excited about this one. In the footsteps of Age of Sigmar it promised a full overhaul of the rules. This past week I took in a lot of Warhammer TV shows (what a fascinating age we live in, Warhammer on tv) and I liked what I saw. The content of the boxed set: Truescale Primaris Space Marines and a band of the most interesting followers of Nurgle since the famous Palanquin of Nurgle was releases (a release I regretfully did not but at the time). My ambition for this getting started box is to get everything painted, preferably in a time scale measured in weeks or months, not years. I decided to start off with the Poxwalkers.

A horde of shuffling Poxwalkers shambles through the ruins of civilization, the new long night is closing in.
These are basically plague infested zombies. I had to get used to their faces at first, expecting a more human look. But as (my slow mind) realized I was looking at a cross between a Plaguebearer and a human they suddenly snapped. The only minus I hold against the models so far is that they are part of the new 'only one way to assemble' strategy. In bouts of enthusiasm I tend to not make time to convert models so I have two batches of ten identical Poxwalkers.

I love the rule that every model slain by poxwalkers joins the unit as a fellow walker. Zombie horde ahead!
For the painting I followed the outline given by Duncan basing the models white and using Reikland Fleshshade for the basic skintone. After that I diverted a bit using patches of purple wash, yellow glaze, camoshade green and red wash. I tried to tie all of it together with Pallid Wytch Flesh highlights/layers. The fun thing about undead flesh is that you can just go into zen-mode, channel your inner Bob Ross and go wild. To my taste the only mistake you can make with (un-)dead flesh is going for flat greens.

I had a lot of fun accentuating vile points on the models using washes, glazes and thinned paints. 
The Poxwalkers look like they've been civilians once, most hold improvised weapons, a few old guns. They are almost begging you to think up their story as you paint. For sanity's sake (I painted these over the course of my Sunday) I decided to split the models into color groups. Five where given camo-green pants (remains of paints). These are the remnants of the PDF forces trying to resist invasion. Another five got Stegadon Scale Green clothing scraps, navy personnel. There are two in what looks like the remains of an NBC suit (or maybe a space suit). Excellent, an excuse to add more color to this dour bunch. I painted one in yellow and had a comrade with decidedly less safe clothing join him in this color choice. They are Hazmat Team #1, formerly the best in the business.

Up until days ago Hazmat Team #1 dressed in yellow and boasted a 100 percent success rate.
I painted the second NBC suit in orange and had five other Poxwalkers join him in that color choice. Hazmat Team #2, they where rebels but they got the job done (used to get...). The orange was just begging for a white(ish) highlight as a nod to X-Wing fighter pilots. I couldn't resist so I picked Screaming Skull to pick out lines and kneepads where possible.

In the back Commissar Helmut, still wearing his coat of office, shuffles around, performing his new calling in life.
The final two poxwalkers walk around in long coats. I painted one white and had a rather messy bit of fun painting crusted blood on the bottom and sleeves of his coat. Working all night to save the poor people from an unknown disease, joining them in the morning in his new occupation as a Poxwalker. The final one got a black coat, I'm quite sure he used to be a commissar so he'll be around te keep order. I treated the guts of both of these guys (and some others) with a mix of Vallejo Smoke and Blood for the Blood God. Building up to pure Blood for the Blood God. This gives it a bit more of a half dried blood look.

I love the pose and the look of the guy all the way in the back there, he reminds me of the Lord of Plagues.
As the models lacked a certain rancidness I decided to take out the Flash Gitz Yellow and thinly coat a selection of the bigger soars on their bodies. Off went my appetite signalling a proper Nurgly choice there. I love the model in the back there, he gives off the same vibe as the AoS Lord of Plagues. The bases where a bit of a rush job as I could not find my collection of spare 25mm rounds to do some proper basing I went for Vallejo Dark Earth paste covered with an Agrax Earth wash. The pools of slime have been painted (into the wet) Dark Earth paste with Ogryn Camo and covered (after drying) with Nurgle's Rot. It had to be on the base somewhere...

Next up I've got seven Plague Marines set-up on my painting station. Now to go for flat greens, bone
color or something darker? I really don't know, we'll see.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Age of Sigmar primer: The Silver Tower, Excelsis, Shadespire and witch hunters

With 8th edition Warhammer 40K appearing tomorrow I’m getting ready to do a bit of sci-fi wargaming in the near future. Having said that, I’m going to finish my overview of the Age of Sigmar background first. This is the third and (for now) final installment of the background overview. In part one I’ve discussed theRealmgates, the transition from the Old World (the world that was) to the newand some of the other (global) changes to the realms, Slaanesh and other races. My second blog was a condensed version of the Realmgate Wars as described in the five hardcover source books (with a few bonus facts from the Black Library novels). This post will deal with the realms as they are now.

Games Workshop has pushed the clock/story forward by about a century (I think) after the Realmgate Wars. The Grand Alliance Order (led by Sigmar) is trying to resettle areas formerly terrorized by Chaos. Grand Alliance Destruction is rampaging across the realms doing what it does best (destroying things). Death (so far) is shaded in mystery. Nagash has refused to ally with Sigmar and Mannfred is somewhere out there betraying (and angering) everyone. Not much action is taken on a large scale.

Last but not least is Chaos. The brunt of the fighting in the Realmgate Wars was against followers of Khorne and Nurgle (and Chaos undivided led by Archaon). In part because the realms Sigmar primarily assaulted (Aqshy and Ghyran) where theirs. Also in part because these two gods do rather well in an open war setting. With Sigmar ascendant the god of betrayal and change is more in his element. So Tzeentch has been given a lot of love in the past year (our time).

The Gaunt Summoners rule the Silver Tower (and are in their turn ruled by Archaon who holds their true names).
The Silver Tower
At the end of the Realmgate Wars the nine Gaunt Summoners of Tzeentch met and created the Whispervane. This is a location that appears in the realms as a silver tower. It offers a direct gateway into the Crystal Labyrinth of Tzeentch. In WarhammerQuest: Silver Tower players get to explore this ‘dungeon’ with its ever shifting hallways and rooms.

The object of the game is to find an amulet that will force the resident Gaunt Summoner to give the characters a boon (‘let me leave this horrifying tower!’ springs to mind). The Silver Tower gives Tzeentch direct access to the mortal realms and allows promising recruits to be picked up for training. As it turns out this was the vanguard of Tzeentchian machinations. Hopping from realm to realms and causing trouble (or even better: laying the seeds of trouble at a later date).

In tandem with the Silver Tower Games Workshop ran a global Age of Sigmar campaign called Season of War that further reinforced the setting. Three cities in three areas were presented where settlers from Azyr and local survivors tried rebuilding civilization. The four grand alliances fought over these three cities to determine their fate. All three cities where defended successfully by the Order Grand Alliance.

Greenskinz, including Troggoth Hag Mothers, are terrorizing all the Mortal Realms. 
To rebuild the realms
This is the key to understanding (most of) the mortal realms right now. It reminds me of the old Earthdawn roleplaying game by Fasa. The premise of Earthdawn was players emerging from magical fallout shelters to rediscover a world shattered by horrors, in Age of Sigmar the inhabitant try to rebuild realms ravaged by Chaos.

Colonist coming from cramped but safe life in Azyr have to settle newly conquered territories and mix with the locals. The cities are under constant threat from newly risen Chaos armies, roaming forces of Destruction and even the occasional attention from the Undead. Protection is offered by Stormcast although these are mostly aloof and rather overeager to go into exterminate-mode when Chaos is present. Occasionally survivors and even surviving cultures (like the Kharadron Overlords) are rediscovered.

The novel City of Secrets is the first one (as far as I know) that gives us a view of life in the realms as it is for normal humans (and humanlike creatures). It is a rather interesting story about a plot to bring down one of the cities. Without spoiling too much I’ll try to pick out a few nice details from the book to give a taste of the current setting.

With the return of human cities on the Mortal Realms siege warfare (of non-chaotic castles) is a viable game plan again.
Excelsis, the City of Secrets
City of Secrets is set in the bay-city Excelsis. This city is built around a rather suspicious (Tzeentchian?) oracle called the Spear of Mallus. Currency in the city is formed by Glimmerings. These are small shards of the Spear of Mallus that can be used to get a glimpse of the future. The city itself has been built by human and duardin from Azyr. As the world outside is rather dangerous everyone wants to live within the city walls making the poor quarters cramped (think of a shanty town build on a shanty town within the space allowed by the city walls). Duardin technology provides things like limited steam power and electric light analogues, giving the place a renaissance (Old World) meets Steampunk feel. Nothing luxurious like this is available to the regular folks living in the shanty towns of course.

The mix of Old World races makes the setting unique. Dark Aelf Scourge Privateers are responsible for security of the bay. Now there is a deterrent for piracy (or is that a hiring tool?). As we know from their Oldhammer ancestors, Dark Elves are not a nice bunch (neither are their woodland and highborn cousins but that is another matter). The entire city sits on a razor’s edge of tension because the factions living there do not like or trust each other. To complicate this, inhabitants with an Azyr heritage do not trust their potentially corrupted counterparts who stayed behind. This is not entirely illogical as these people have been born and raised in Chaos infested territories.

So Excelsis is, like most other cities in the realms, under constant threat from outside the walls. It has little to no comradeship inside the walls and there is no room to give each other space. Add to this a lot of magic and weird items, most of them very attractive and likely corrupted by chaos. The setting is quite dark. The constant wars against rampaging Orruks draw Stormcast and warriors from the Freeguilds (humans) out into the wilds, upping the pressure. To make matters worse, it is rumored the resident Stormcast have at some point in the past eradicated the entire city population because they suspected chaos corruption had taken hold. Warriors of Order can be as awful as their Chaos counterparts.

The return of witch hunters and a skirmish game almost begs you to rebuild the old Morheim warbands again, here is mine (painted in 2015).
Witch Hunters in the Age of Sigmar
In this setting one of the Old World favorites reappears in a slightly new guise: a Witch Hunter from the Order of Azyr. Apparently Sigmar wants to stem the chaos corruption, but good help is hard to find. The order of Witch Hunters numbers too few to adequately safeguard the lands. They read like their counterparts in His Most Holy Imperial Inquisition of Terra in 40K. These seemingly all-powerful hybrids of spy, politician and warrior rather frequently discover that power doesn’t work if the agencies you’re trying to control have been corrupted by the arch-enemy (or just plain don’t like you).

The Mortal Realms setting differs from the Old World in being more fully high fantasy, but manage to morph with the grim darkness that makes Warhammer what it is. Whereas the Old World featured German (Holy Roman Empire) analogue cities where magic was illegal and trade was by rickety ship and risky coach here we get flying ships, vessels made giant crabs and other odd contraptions. Still the prevalence of magic seems to make the world more dangerous, politics more unstable and it gives Chaos even more room to corrupt and destroy. You just know that even if they manage to settle down and conquer more territory Slaanesh will jump out and add to the mayhem.

The realms give writers room to dream up really unique locations and it shows in the setting. Shadowsover Hammerhal, the second Warhammer Quest game, is situated in the city of Hammerhal. I have to write this based on what I’ve heard described (as I don’t have this game yet and can’t get my hands on a background booklet), but Hammerhal is situated around a permanently open Realmgate that connects Aqshy and Ghyran. A lava flow from Aqshy rolls down the green slopes of Ghyran burning away vegetation that – because of the strength of Ghyran – grows back almost as fast as it burns away. Apparently Tzeentch is busy being naughty underneath Hammerhal.

A city cursed by Nagash and filled with undead? Krell and Kemmler approve!
Shadespire 
The final bit of setting I have come across is the city of Shadespire set in the realm of Shyish. This city was built in the Oasis of Souls on a waypoint between two important realmgates. Some arcane forces keep the malign influence of the realm off Shyish at bay here. As the location also offers water and vegetation grows here, it is inhabitable. The settlers soon discovered a special glass made within the Oasis of Souls called Shadeglass. This allows you to store your soul at the moment of death, preventing it from being sucked into one of the Underworlds of Shyish. Yeah for immortality. The combination of a good waypoint for merchants, food, water and immortality for sale set Shadespire up to become a very wealthy city.

Unfortunately (as shown in the Realmgate Wars) Nagash has little appreciation for people that meddle around with souls (whose name is not Nagash). The inhabitants of Shadespire have been annihilated by the Great Necromancer. Other cities – fearing Nagash – have tried to erase all mentions of Shadespire from their history. But the dusty city of the dead harbors a lot of treasure, not the least of it Shadeglass. This setting forms the basis of the Age of Sigmar Skirmish game that allows you to build a warband from existing warscrolls to fight over treasure and Shadeglass. It brings to mind a certain asteroid destroyed setting called Mordheim that had us fight over Warpstone Shards.

With the end of the Realmgate Wars the time has come to really start carving out the setting of the Mortal Realms in Age of Sigmar. So far I love the intriguing locations Games Workshop has dreamt up. It also invites you to go wild inside your own mind (or borrow wildly where imagination fails). You can be sure that whatever you think up van easily be added to the wider setting. I can’t wait for the announced RPG in the Age of Sigmar setting. It has been slated for release in 2018 (after a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy (we live in a golden age of gaming)). With the Age of Sigmar roleplaying game I’m already planning to have my players revisit the remnants of Maisontaal, this time deep in an Underworld of Shyish. Perhaps I’ll followed this up with a visit to Hammerhal, Shadespire, one of the ruins described in the Realmgate Wars or the shifting hallways of a Silver Tower. Only another years wait, and a new edition of 40K to fill that wait with. Now about family, work and those other things….ah never mind ;).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Age of Sigmar background primer: The Realmgate Wars

In an effort to give the Age of Sigmar background more love I previously madea post with a general Age of Sigmar background primer. Here you can read (a bit) about the fate of the Old World, the Mortal Realms and their gods and – most importantly – the realmgates and the setting in general. This post deals with the Realmgate Wars. These are the wars that kick off the Age of Sigmar, got us started on the current background story and are dealt with over the course of five sourcebooks.

Black Library published a number of novels and audio books on the Realmgate Wars. More importantly Games Workshop released five hardcover books telling the story, adding rules and giving rules for themed battles. I’ll be using these books as the basis for this post. In the books Games Workshop tells the story by jumping from one realm to the next, slowly following the timeline up to the finish. I’ll be summarizing in a slightly different fashion, giving descriptions of the events on a per realm basis. As with the other post here’s a ‘here be spoilers’ warning. I recommend getting the Realmgate Wars books. They are quite an entertaining read and a collection onto themselves.

I don't have any Stormcast painted up to show here, so I went with a nice old Skaven model instead. Ignoring the fact that this makes no sense whatsoever. 
Stormcast Eternals
It is quite impossible to tell any wargamer you play Age of Sigmar without having to talk about Stormcast. For troops riding the lightning to battle, they sure act as lightning rods for the ire of some. Personally I did not like the models when they were released. I’ve painted a few test models so far and I’m still torn. Occasionally I love them and get ready to build a small army. At other times I hate their constipated faces and stuff what I have back in a project box. Recently I’ve seen a few paint schemes that really bring them to life. Now here’s to hoping I can steal one of those (and add some uncovered faces to the lot, I like seeing faces).

As characters in the story they work surprisingly well. They get nicely fleshed out backgrounds and read like fascinating tragic heroes. The Stormcast form the vanguard forces fighting Chaos. Basically Sigmar took the souls of the most defiant heroes from the start of the Age of Chaos to Azyr. He re-forged them (gave them new bodies) and armored them in Grugni-designed battle-plate. Stormcast are organized by Stormhost, each host has a different battle doctrine and its members have a shared background (they were all royalty of a certain nation, all died defying chaos with their last breath, etc.). When a Stormcast dies, his soul is whisked back to Azyr in a flash of blue. There he is reforged over an unpredictable period of time. After being reforged the warrior loses a bit of his old self (mostly memories), so over time the Stormcast seem to slowly turn into animated suits of armor.


The Realmgate wars
At the start of the Realmgate Wars Sigmar unleashes his first host of stormcast on Aqshy to re-open a gate to Azyr. His plan is to open many more Realmgates on every realm and use these to send reinforcing waves of Stormcast. The overall goal is to find the Seven All-Gates and close them. These are the Realmgates that lead to the All-Points that is currently hosting the citadel of Archaon the Everchosen. By cutting Archaon off it might become possible to fight Chaos armies that don’t have an endless supply of reinforcements coming in.

Secondary goal of the Realmgate wars is to reconnect with old allies and reforge the alliances. This will be a difficult as quite a few of the other gods do not like Sigmar. Nagash, the god of death, considers him a traitor and a thief. GorkaMorka is bored by Sigmar and just wants to fight everything. The Everqueen Alarielle might just be rather angry about Sigmar leaving her to her fate, and so on. For clarity’s sake I’ll describe what happens in the wars on a per realm basis. If you want a more chronological order, read the books.

Ghorkos Khul is introduced in the Age of Sigmar starterset as a very mighty lord of Khorne.
Aqshy, the realm of fire
The Age of Sigmar begins on the Brimstone Peninsula in the realm of fire Aqshy. The first Stormhost commanded by Lord-Celestant Vandus Hammerhand takes on a mighty Chaos lord called Khorgos Khul (both the main characters in the boxed starter set). Vandus wishes to open the first realmgate to Azyr and summon reinforcements. Khorgos has been spending an inordinate amount of time looking for the skull of an immortal to complete his tower of skulls for Khorne (and ascend to daemonhood). They fight and Vandus manages to both keep his skull and open the realmgate.

The story continues with another Stormhost contacting Fyreslayers living in Aqshy. These are Duardin (Dwarves) that live in the realm of fire. They use Magmadroths (a sort of magma emitting dragon) to tunnel around active volcanoes. Fyreslayers paint their hair in bright colors, are nearly immune to heat and spend most of their time looking for Ur-Gold. This is a special type of gold left behind when their god Grimnir was shattered. The Fyreslayers hope to resurrect their god by finding all his pieces and putting them together. The Stormcast buy the loyalty of the Fyreslayers by emptying the vaults of Azyr of Ur-Gold.

At first a Fyreslayer and Stormhost alliance attempts to enter Bloodkeep. This is a huge fortress that features a prison where Skarbrand is locked away. Skarbrand is the greatest of Bloodthirster Greater Daemons of Khorne. Tricked by Tzeentch he once attacked Khorne himself and was punished rather severely. Now Skarbrand is chained in Bloodkeep and occasionally released to cause mayhem. The Stormcast plan to steal Skarbrands chain. It is forged by Khorne himself and as such the only thing that can hold Skarbrand down. In the end they fail and (without realizing it) they accidentally release a bit of true name of Kiathanus, a Greater Daemon of Tzeentch.

Kiathanus has been a naughty daemon and Tzeentch has him locked up on Anachron Plateau where he has to serve as the Oracle of Thruths. For a Tzeentch daemon there is no greater punishment than being forced to always be truthful. A Stormcast Stormhost fights to get access to the oracle of truth. Unfortunately for them Archaon has received the last bit of the true name their colleagues released in Bloodkeep. In the end Archaon wipes out the Stormcast and claims the oracle as his personal property.

Another big battle is fought over the Orb Infernia. This is a gigantic malevolent eye in the sky that is closed as long as four floating islands are out of alignment. A rather clever Slann starmaster called Lord Xen’phantica has manipulated the four daemon princes (The Infernal Tetrarchy) inhabiting this orb to constantly fight each other. In the end they betray Khorgos Khul on another battlefield. The Lord of Khorne hops on by, bashes in (a lot of) Chaos heads and takes control. Khul follows up by defeating the Seraphon, killing Xen’phantica and by that action destroying a bit of the soul of the Slann. In the end thanks to Khorgos Khul the malevolent eye of the Orb Infernia looks out over Aqshy. I’m not fully sure what that does in the end, but it does not sound very promising.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on Aqshy, a fight to control the Hengegate Realmgate ends up with Stormcast and ragtag human survivor allies fighting a joint Nurgle and Khorne force. This force features the raging Greater Daemon Skarbrand. A rather clever Stormcast realizes that the local bloodquartz crystals amplify hate and rage. He lures Skarbrand between cystal pylons and the amplified rage of the daemon kills all mortals Choas followers present, and the Stormcast, and their human allies. It also the lands of Nurgles taint. A bit of a Phyrric victory there, at least no one is around to complain about it.

Also on Aqshy Fyreslayers fight with Stormcast to stop Archaon from capturing the godbeast Ignax. Godbeasts are humongous creatures, like dragons that curl around the sun for a quick nap or giants that name a gigantic floating island their ‘torc’. Archaon manages to snap the chains binding Ignax (not a mean feat, as they are forged by Grugni himself). He misses a defiant action by a Fyreslayer Runesmiter. This guy manages to secretly place Ariakh the Father Rune of Binding on Ignax, giving the Fyreslayers a secret way to control the Godbeast.

In the end it all comes down to a fight over the Brimstone Gate. This is the All-Gate on Aqshy and it is protected by the eight-castles-that-were-one. Sigmar decides to attack the eight castles at once, slay all champions and leaders in them and use the confusion to capture the gate. A humongous battle follows. Near the end Archaon sends Ignax to kill everybody, but the Fyreslayers use the secret rune to force Ignax to kill only a large part of the Chaos horde. Lord-Celestant Vandus Hammerhand duels and vanquishes Skarbrand in the end. The Stormcast take control of the Brimstone Gate and close it, making Aqshy (slightly) safer from Chaos.

Ghyran, the realm of life, gives you the best excuses for sticking fake plants on homemade scenery.
Ghyran, the realm of life
The realm of life Ghyran has the special attention of Nurgle. As a disease god he is rather interested in adding this realm to his garden in the Realm of Chaos. The realm also hides the Everqueen Alarielle. Nurgle wants to cage her and use her to decorate his garden (if only Nurgle had heard of garden centres, so much trouble could’ve been avoided). On Ghyran we meet unpleasantly filthy champions of Nurgle like Rotgut Spume and Toglug the Despised. Lord-Celestant Gardus enters the realm looking for the Everqueen to make an alliance.

During one of the first fights Gardus falls through the Gates of Dawn to stop a Great Unclean One called Bolathrax. The Gates of Dawn is a corrupted realmgate that leads straight into the Garden of Nurgle. With the help of Sylvaneth voices Gardus manages to escape the Garden of Nurgle. The Sylvaneth are a new faction consisting of Dryads and Treelords (and some new models) that serve the Everqueen (she has soured on elves during the End Times).

Meanwhile Lord Castellant Lorrus Grymn takes over command of Gardus’s Stormhost. He continues searching, meets up with an escaped Gardus just in time to find the Everqueen in her hiding place The Hidden Vale. With their discovery they accidentally reveal this location to Nurgle’s henchmen. A fight ensues, Gardus is killed and returns for a reforging. Grymn takes charge again and defends the retreat of Alarielle’s court but the Everqueen herself is badly hurt and turns into a seed.

Grymn defends the remnants of the court during their long retreat all over Ghyran. After a lot of running and battles and a mysterious voyage through mystic pathways, the Stormcast make a last stand on an ice plain. There the Celestant Prime, wielder of Ghal Maraz, appears and saves the day. In the end they plant Allarielle’s seed in the remnants of a warriors civilization and wait.

A rather interesting thing storywise is the death of Torglug the Despised. It turns out this rather tortured general of Nurgle was an involuntary fighter to the cause. Inside his disease wracked frame he held on to a sliver of good. Sigmar takes this sliver, and uses it to cleanse Torglug’s soul. He is turned into a Stormcast. The reborn Tornus the Redeemed joins the fight against Chaos.

The next part of the Ghyran campaign is fought on the Scabrous Sprawl. Beneath this part of Ghyran is the sleeping form of Behemath, father of all Gargants (giants). On Archaon’s orders Clan Skryre has built rather imaginative parasite engines. These huge machines poison the land in an effort to turn Behemath insane (mental not: must make a Parasite Engine as a terrain piece some day). The Stormcast fight Nurgle’s warriors, Skaven and Beastmen up onto a floating landmass called the Great Green Torc. There they fight more Beastmen, are tricked into a fight with Spiderfang Grots and fight Gargants. In the end an insane Behemat arises. The Celestant-Prime shows up and uses Ghal Maraz to split Behemat’s skull.  

The final battle for Ghyran is fought over the Genesis Gate (no relation to the band). The gate is situated in a fortress on a disease infested lake. The lake is fed filth through the Filthfall waterfall. After some scouting it turns out that a Pox Behemoth called pustrol is responsible. Tornus the Redeemed takes some friends along and kills it. A final battle around the fortress ensues and the Glottkin, of End Times fame, enter the fray. Just as everything seems to go wrong Alarielle, now in her warrior form riding a giant beetle appears. The final chapter is called Wrath of the Everqueen. To keep it short and simple: the All-gate to Ghyran is closed.

You can't beat old school Nurgling bases for sheer amount of character per square centimeter.
Chamon, the realm of metal
But where did Ghal Maraz and the Celestant Prime come from? If I’d put this in chronological order, it would have made sense... In the realm of metal Chamon is another special Realmgate called The Silverway. It can transport you to any realm, the problem is it is a one way trip. On the new realm you’ll have to find another realmgate to travel elsewhere. The Stormcast enter Chamon and – to their surprise – easily find and capture The Silverway. Turns out, thanks to Duardin protections, the Tzeentch sorcerer living in Chamon, Ephryx is his name, failed to find it over the decades.

Ephryx commands a fortress in the Hanging Valleys of Anvrok. He is also one of my favorite characters in the series. A complete tool of man with the social graces of a piece of sandpaper and a vile attitude to complete the horrific package. Ephryx takes power and betrays everyone to get a girl (who hates him, doesn’t want him so he kills her rather gruesomely, turning her into a banshee) he ends up with a gigantic fortress around a magical artifact (he can never use) and his best friend is Kairos Faithweaver (who has no best friends and is rather uncharacteristically obvious about that).

Ephryx fights the Stormcast but keeps being defeated until they almost take his castle right from under him. Luckily for Ephryx he has a teleportation spell on his inner citadel and zaps away before his defeat is total. Unluckily for him the Stormcast spot the artifact he is hiding in his castle. It is Ghal Maraz, Sigmar’s magic hammer! Apparently the god threw the hammer away after being tricked by Tzeentch. Ephryx managed to conquer the civilization holding the hammer in a secret vault and has been trying (and failing) to get it to work for him since, building a giant castle around it in the process.

To put it mildly, the presence of Ghal Maraz motivates Sigmar to send more troops. They travel through a lot of very interesting Chamon scenery including a huge lake of molten silver. The silver is molten due to constant heat being applied to it by a Godbeast. In the end Sigmar’s own friend and godbeast Dracoth is needed to distract and fight the other godbeast so the Stormcast can cross the now solidifying silver. They take on Ephryx at his castle’s new location. In the end Ephryx is forced by Kairos to cast the teleportation spell on the castle again. It is placed there to teleport Chamon straight into the realm of chaos. Ephryx tries to use Ghal Maraz to power this spell. It turns out he can’t do this and dies. Kairos’s plan fails and the Stormcast gain access to Ghal Maraz. This leads to the creation of the Ghal Maraz wielding Celestant Prime.

The final fight on Chamon is over the All-Gate called the Mercurial Gate. It is defended by the Ironhold. A clockwork fortress that constantly shifts its configuration. The Stormcast enlist help from Fyreslayers. They use the Magmadroth’s abilities to burn a tunnel straight to the center of the fortress. There they fight their way towards the Mercurial Gate over a broad bridge. During this fight Archaon appears. His appearance explains the name of the chapter ‘Bridge of Butchery’. He swings the fight into Chaos’s favor and slays Lord-Celestant Thostos Bladestorm in a duel, sucking the soul out of the Stormcast and keeping it. At the end of the Realmgate Wars the All-Gate to Chamon remains in Archaon’s hands.

I have a shortage of good pictures of my Death army, so I'll be using this picture of my Skaven Doomwheel for now (no this does not make sense).
Shyish, the realm of Death
I think the realm of death is interesting as in ‘how are you going to portray people living there?’ So far the few inhabitants we’ve met are working quite well. The first is a group of pilgrims on the Blood Wastes. These people go off to voluntarily feed a monastery inhabited by Vargheist vampires as a gift of gratitude for their protection against chaos. The second is a (by now ruined) civilization in Age of Sigmar Skirmish that traded in Black Glass, a magic material that holds the souls of the departed. Nagash took exception to this and ended the city.

On Shyish we also meet Mannfred von Carstein, chained to a wall and hated by everyone (I love this character as well, he is just such an awful person). The Stormcast free him and spend a large amount of time wondering if that was the right idea. In the end they spend even more time regretting it. Mannfred does lead the Stormcast to Nagash. We also meet Arkhan the Black as he reenters the Age of Sigmar from the End Times. On meeting Nagash Mannfred instantly turns on them and offers them as sacrifices. Nagash takes some time to describe just how much he hates Sigmar. Then he tells the Stormcast all their souls belong to him. Being the god of death, he might just have a point there. He also tells Mannfred he is still angry with him. In the end a lot of Stormcast die and their souls do not return to Azyr. Mannfred hightails it out of Nagash’s sanctum and the remaining Stormcast set off after him in pursuit.

Meanwhile elsewhere (in the sourcebooks) we meet Queen Neferata of Nulahmia just as she’s losing her final castle to the forces of Slaanesh. She gets unexpected help from another group of Stormcast and together they drive off the Chaos forces. They celebrate by forging an alliance. Nagash speaks through Neferata but is rather vague on whether he accepts the request for an alliance or not.

In the end we go back to the All-Gate Gothizzar that connects Shyish to the All-Points. Stormcast patiently wait for back-up by Nagash but the Great Necromancer never shows up. In the end the Stormcast decide to go at it without help. They fail, die and the gate connecting Shyish to Archaon’s Citadel remains in the hands of Chaos.

As I don't have any Ironjawz in my collection (so far), I'll make do with some truly ancient Orc Arrer Boyz.

Ghur, the realm of Beasts
On Ghur we meet the Ironjawz for the first time. In the traditional Warhammer background Orcs never stop growing until they die. Age of Sigmar may rename them Orruks, but it keeps this and takes this up to eleven. Ironjawz recruit from regular Orruk tribes by taking the ‘Ardboyz (formerly Black Orcs) with them. These are the biggest and strongest Orruks in a regular warband and the ‘runt of the litter’ in an Ironjaw band. On Ghur is a place called Deffgorge, sort what you get when you fill the Grand Canyon with predators. Ironjawz are expected to travel the Deffgorge alone. If they come out, they have proven themselves. If they come out without new scars and wounds they are assumed to have cheated and have to run the Deffgorge again. If they don’t come out, they weren’t ‘ard enough to be Ironjawz. Shortly put, Ironjawz are big, bad and nasty.

The Stormcast manage to make a few deals with the Ironjawz. Among other things they get help in their hunt for Mannfred. He has fled from Shyish to Ghur and taken refuge on the Plains of Bones (a useful piece of geography for a necromancer). One of the impressive things we see on Ghur are Ancient Orruks the size of mountains, also a rancid bunch of reanimated Ogors (Ogres) in the service of Mannfred. Most of this takes place in the novels.

In the sourcebooks we learn about the Mawgate called Fangathrak. This is the All-Gate connecting Ghur to the All-Points. Being the realm of beasts, Ghur has a rather lively All-Gate. Fangathrak is described as “a burrowing worldworm of immense proportions held chained by six Crawlerforts.” Think of Shai Hulud from Dune chained in place by six Chaos Castles on legs. In the end the Stormcast assault the forts. The Ironjawz, led by Gordrakk, Fist of Gork, join the fight. Orruks being Orruks they attack everyone. In the end both the Chaos defenders and the Stormcast are pummeled into the dust. The Crawlerforts are demolished (we think, or perhaps looted (we hope)) and Fangathrak is free to roam Ghur again. It is no longer controlled by Chaos but it’s also not been sealed off. In theory Archaon can still send troops through, but he’ll never know where on Ghur they will pop-out exactly. Well done Orruks.

No word from Hysh and Ulgu yet, and no new Aelfs either.
Hysh, the realm of Light
Aside from the fact that Teclis and Tyrion are on the realm of light we learn next to nothing of Hysh. The final message in the All-Gates sourcebook is that it “was difficult to decipher whether the war had brought victory or defeat.” Maybe a release of new Aelfs/Elves will bring us more news.


Ulgu, the realm of Shadow
As with Hysh we also know next to nothing of Ulgu. It is inhabited by (at least) two former Dark Elves (who turned out to be mostly right all along in the End Times). Of the Penumbral Gate in Ulgu the fate “remained a mystery, for no word returned.” As with Hysh I think a release of new Aelfs might shed some light.


The end of the Realmgate Wars
At the end of the Realmgate Wars the score is three for Sigmar who controls/closed off: Azyr, Aqshy and Ghyran. Archaon sits at two controlling Chamon and Shyish and still occupying his citadel at the All-Points. The realm of Ghur is doing its own thing (Orruk Style) and the fates of Ulgu and Hysh are a mystery.

At the end of the Realmgate wars we get the news that the Nine Gaunt Summoners of Tzeentch meet and create the Whispervane. This is a magical construct that, among other things, offers entry to the Crystal Labyrinth of Tzeentch. The Whispervane manifests itself on the Realms as a Silver Tower. This concept was also featured in the excellent reimagining of Warhammer Quest: The Silver Tower.


In my next post I’ll be looking at the most current Age of Sigmar background. As opposed to previous games Games Workshop has turned the story into a living document that changes over the years. But we’ll get back to that later.