The Dominion Box Has Dropped. What's In it?
For starters let me say that I have never been a fan of the Stormcast Eternals. While I'm not with the group who call them Sigmarines, I'm more with the group that has called them lifeless and boring. I've liked the concept behind them, but I've never been able to get over the sculpts. They've seemed static and lifeless, more like statues of warriors than of warriors themselves.
I am delighted to say that the announcement of Age of Sigmar 3.0 and the new Dominion box, I am fully converted. The models look incredible, full of life, full of passionate intensity, and full of personality. These are the models that the Stormcast always could have, and should have, been.
I am also incredibly delighted by the new version of the Orruks, though I admit that they have their flaws (but don't all models have their flaws?) The early money, when we knew Age of Sigmar was coming, was on new Orruks, but then the trailer dropped and that all seemed to disappear. The enemies we saw in the trailer were living in bogs and fens, and were sneaky and sly. I must admit that I really wanted them to be Primaris Skaven (because that would be AMAZING) but we knew (kinda) that they had to come from Destruction and Skaven are Chaos. So everyone was left scratching their heads.
The biggest fan theory that I saw was that it was going to be an all-new race, the Fimir (who existed in the Old World and seemed to fit into the bog, fen, sneaky aesthetic). But, to me, the images of the Fimir were so... blah. It would have taken some serious reimagining to make them into not only a competitive race, but THE competitive race that would launch Age of Sigmar 3.0.
And instead we got Orruks that are no longer silly but realistic, and Orruks who are no longer "bash 'em on the 'ead" as they are "slit their throats while they sleep." We still don't know how they play, but aesthetically they're terrific.
So lets get into the models as they have been revealed.
Yndrasta, The Celestial Spear
I adore this model, because she is everything that Stormcast Eternals were supposed to be: angelic creatures with a hint of humanity that slayed monsters and looked amazing doing it. Let's look at her piece by piece: first the wings. They're feathered, and they're not stylized or metal or mechanical in any way. She looks like she's the real deal, a real angel with honest-to-goodness angel wings. Then the armor: this looks like armor that a person would wear. It fits her form, it looks like it would work in a battle, both giving her room to maneuver as well as give her protection. It is SO unlike the old Stormcast armor it hardly looks the same. Then the spear: This is a weapon that means business. She is, after all, a beast slayer, and this spear looks like it can (and has) done its fair share of killing beasts. The stairs that she's standing on are the icing on the cake, as they tie her to the overall narrative of swamps and bogs, while still seeming to be some ancient form of Order.
Lord-Imperatant with Gryph-hound
This is the Stormcast character who got the most airtime in the trailer, and it seems like rightly so. Once again, this is a Stormcast who looks like a real person in that armor,--a celestial being, to be sure--but a real living creature. Honestly, the old Stormcast Eternal armor had the vibe of enchanted armor that fought on its own without anyone inside it. The addition of the unmasked head makes a great addition to this sculpt, but I love the halo over his head (which surprises me, because I very much don't like the Iron Halos in Warhammer 40k). Both weapons look good, the cloak looks great, and it's awesome that he has brought along his pet Gryph-hound to the fight. (I like that it looks like Gryph-hounds are going to be a them throughout this army.)
Another gorgeous sculpt, but this one completely surprising and beautiful. Who would have ever thought that we would get a featureless white mask over the head of a Stormcast? It looks almost like the type of head that you would see on a 40k Harlequin, but at the same time it looks like it fits this Knight Arcanum perfectly. Described by Warhammer as "an eccentric wizard" that certainly seems to fit the bill. All of the books and scrolls at her belt are great, and I even like the weird armored collar thing she has going on in the back. I don't think the featureless face would look nearly as good if it didn't have that to balance it out.
Knight-Vexillor with Banner of Apotheosis
Part of me hopes that this flag is going to come embossed with the pattern that will allow painters to follow it to great results, but the other half of me really wants to see some of the top amazing painters I know do some incredible freehand with such a large canvas. Also, something needs to be said about this guy's helmet, because that thing is completely unique and yet fits into the look and aesthetic perfectly. In fiction that's called "surprising, yet inevitable" and I think that's exactly what we got here. One last thing: I'm not one for overly-engraved swords, but I think this is a good balance and looks great.
They are said to be elite bodyguards, and yes, they totally sell it. I love that he has his massive halberd, but that he's walking straight at you, staring you down, and drawing that short side. You are about to get messed up.
If you were going to make the argument that Stormcast Eternals are Sigmarines (which, again, I am not) then the Annihilators would be the Terminators. This beefy guy looks like he is ready for anything you can throw at him. The solid look of the armor makes the massive (and gorgeous) shield almost superfluous, but together he is a man to be reckoned with. I love the lion detail on the chest plate, which is over the top but still seems like it works perfectly. The lightning that seems to sizzle in the hammer is perfect.
Mark my words: I will always mispronounce this as Vindicators. I don't have a lot to say about them that I haven't said about the previous new Stormcast. They look like real people in real armor getting into real battles that are dangerous and close-up. The Vindictor without the helmet is particularly good.
As someone who wasn't 100% on board with Kragnos when he was released, he has definitely grown on me, and I have come to really like the idea of a massive demonic force that can unite the powers of Destruction (who don't seem like they are very amenable to being united). But the fact that the Kruleboyz worship and venerate Kragnos actually really works.
Overall, I'm happy with the Kruleboyz. I've heard some of the criticisms about them, two of which I'll address:
First, they have stumpy legs. Yes, they do. They have long bodies and short stumpy legs. This seems to be a major sticking point for a lot of people, but to me it is just an aesthetic choice that doesn't bother me. It also seems to fly in the face of the other comment about the Kruleboyz, which is:
They look too much like Middle Earth Orcs. I can kinda see this. They're not as cartoony as the classic Orks or Orruks, with slimmer bodies and smaller faces with less-pronounced jaws. There's also the fact that one of them appears to be riding a Warg (albeit a hairless one). I can definitely see similarities, but it doesn't ruin anything for me. If anything, I like the change. The Orruks/Orks have always been the silly faction (less so in Age of Sigmar than in 40k) and they can do with a facelift that makes them a little more menacing--and by "menacing" I don't mean "they can pound your face in", I mean "They're going to appear in your nightmares."
Killaboss on Great Gnashtoof
For starters, I love that this guy looks like he just crawled out of a swamp. The moss and debris seem to cling to him, and it looks properly disgusting and perfectly in character with the army. Even the Great Gnashtoof (which I admit is a silly name for a monster that looks like him, but this guys is called a Killaboss, so what're you gonna do?) looks like it grew up in a bog, not on land. There is nothing squig-like here. This is creepy swamp killer all over. Could his legs be a little longer? Sure. Big deal.
Swampcalla Shaman and Pot-grot
Perhaps my favorite new model in the Dominion box (though that Annihilator gives him a run for his money) this is a swamp thing through and through. His clothes look like you can't tell where the slime ends and the cloth begins. All the dangly bits are perfection, and that massive skull that he's wearing on his back definitely has a story to tell--a story I hope we get in the lore. The Pot-grot is a fun little addition--the Stormcast get their Gryph-hounds so the Kruleboyz get their grots.
Killaboss with Stab-grot
I find it interesting that this set gives us two Killabosses, which makes me wonder what the hierarchy of the Kruleboyz is going to be like. Does each force have more than one Killaboss? It seems so. Are they like Nobz? Either way, I love that he's standing on a downed Stormcast, and the shields on all of these Kruleboyz are great and evocative. I read that they're supposed to be representative of the person who's carrying them and, while I can't always see it, I like the concept.
Murknob with Belcha-banna
Without the backstory he's just a cool-looking Kruleboy with an awesome totem, but with the knowledge that that Belcha-banna is supposed to be a likeness of Kragnos and that it protects them from magic--that is something that I can really get behind. I love the heads dangling off of this guy in various states of decay. I admit that, with this model, I really can see quite a bit of Middle Earth in his face.
Okay, so these guys are right up there in contention with my favorite models of the whole box. I love that we're seeing a crossbow that looks half-war machine and half-hunk of broken parts. And I love that, instead of being unarmored archers who stand in the back, these guys get great-looking armor, especially the faceplates. And the tie-in of the red shield to his shoulder pad is a nice touch that keeps the whole army looking cohesive.
Now I'm going to start to get a little critical. Not about the gutrippaz, because I think they look terrific and terrifying. But because, in my opinion, these should have been the rank-and-file troops, the guys who are out in front and taking the hits. They look great, they match the army, and they look scary. But instead, we get...
I'm not a fan of the Hobgrot Slittas. Not exactly a grot, not exactly an Orruk, they don't look scary and they don't look silly. They seem out of place in an Orruk army. I totally recognize that they were trying to give us an evolved and tougher grot, but these guys just look bad. Their facial expressions are weak, their bodies are weak. Their armor is even not that good. These don't seem like they crawled out of the same swamp that the Kruleboyz did.
We'll end on the big picture of everyone together, because it does indeed look really cool. As much as I don't like the Hobgrots, I love virtually everything else in this box. I'm currently working on an Age of Sigmar army so I don't technically NEED this set, but I do need the new 3.0 rules, and I can always use more models. I'll be surprised if I don't pre-order this box as soon as I can.
What are your thoughts? Do you hate the Hobgrots as much as I do? Is there anything I love that you don't like?