Saturday, September 7, 2019

Hurray! A New Death Faction– Oh Wait...

At Nova last week, GW previewed a new Death faction, The Ossiarch Bonereapers. As a fan of all things undead, I was eagerly anticipating what they had in store for us. GW has always hit the mark with its undead models, but this might be the first time they've released an entire range that I don't quite like...


I've only heard the barest of rumors about the rules, so this is purely from an aesthetic perspective– a sort of forensic analysis of why I don't like these guys. When it comes to tabletop wargaming, I've always been more interested in how the game looks (particularly when it comes to the models in which I'll be investing tons of cash and hundreds of hours painting), rather than the rules. Don't get me wrong, rules matter too, but I approach them from the position of making the game simple and fun, rather than unnecessarily convoluted to the point of bogging the game down with no appreciable benefit. (For example, when they say that the Necropolis Stalkers can shift between their four personalities mid-battle to change their fighting style, I interpret that not as "awesome, I can min-max my tactics to best suit the situation," but rather "great, I'll need to keep track of four different sets of rules for one unit.")

The first real tease came in the form of the "coffin lid" guy. I think he looks fantastic– His skull face, the coffin shell on his back, the scroll, the heads on his staff all work to make this a pretty grizzly-looking model.



This guy with the reaper scythe is pretty nice, too. There's a lot of movement in his robes and the spirits on his scythe look great. I'm sure we'll find out in the lore, but this model could be read as either infusing the weapon with a spirit essence from the charm he's holding, or he could have reaped those souls in battle, and is siphoning the collected souls from his blade. Either way, he looks sweet.


There was another model in today's preview that looks like some kind of king sitting cross-legged on a walking throne, with a spirit overhead. It's blurry, but it looks like it has the potential to be another unique-looking, dynamic character:



But as we move further down the food chain, I'm less impressed. The cavalry looks okay...

... but the infantry, not so much. I know the army has a samurai-esque motif, which I like, but I don't care for their faces (which I assume are supposed to be evocative of samuari men-yoroi masks), or their "bone suits."


And then we come to the "cover girls" for the Bonereaper battletome. These guys just aren't doing it for me at all. I can get behind the idea of the four-faced heads, but the two-handed swords held on the same side of the body doesn't really work. The samurai versions with the shield and halberd don't help either. The halberds look even worse when held that way. I think I'd just drop the second arm when using the double-handed weapons.



I was very excited when the trebuchets appeared in the animated teaser video:



But the model itself is a bit of a turn-off. Those little Termagant legs sort of ruin the whole thing for me.


Now, a lot of people have been comparing these to Necrons. Why, simply because they're constructs with souls in them? I guess that's accurate, but they look nothing like Necrons. Necrons at least resemble skeleton anatomy. The Bonereapers look more like animated chitinous armor, which reminds me of Tyranids. In fact, they look too much like Tyranids for my taste. And that's my main sticking point with these models, because if I liked the way Tyranids looked, I'd already be collecting and playing them in 40K.

You tell me: Tyranid or Necron?



The rumor engine photos were all focused on the undead bits of the characters, and were pretty obvious that they were Death-faction or at least Age of Sigmar-themed. None of it revealed the armor of the models. But what if these had been the rumor engine images? I guarantee everyone would have been speculating about new Tyranid models:


(And by the way, one of those is a Tyranid model, and if you didn't notice, it kind of proves my point.)

The Tyranids have chitinous exoskeletons, and that's what most of the Bonereaper models look like.



These don't make me think of skeletal bone constructs, the make me think of people wearing skeleton costumes:



And it's a shame, because this army is supposedly inspired by the Morghasts, and I really like the way the Morghasts and Dread Abyssals of the Mortarchs look. They look like they could be the skeletons of actual creatures, with some extra bone-ribbing grafted to them and the cavities filled with skulls. The Morghast's leg has a pelvis, femur, and bones making up the lower leg, feet and claws. The ribbing is likely added, but it's obvious where and what the creature's anatomical structure is (or was).


There's a clear distinction between the anatomy of the creature, and the added armor plating with bone trim that they are obviously wearing over top.


But the Bonereapers don't look like they're made of bone, they look like they're wearing bone suits, or have the same chitinous structure as Tyranids. There doesn't appear to be any core anatomy, just a creature that's an armor suit with more armor plates overtop, that's all worn by... something? (Probably just "inhabited" by souls.)



And this is all summed up by the mortarch. He is wearing a suit of bone armor, but what is he made of? The armor works on him more than on the little guys. I don't know... I guess I just like my undead models to look like undead things, not aliens dressed up as skeletons.



And again, they hit it out of the park with the characters. The mortarch piece is a gorgeous diorama. I'd prefer these to be stand-alone characters, though, rather than a group model.

I was holding off on saying anything until we saw more (as I said, I like the characters in this army), but today's release didn't do anything to sway me. At least the Gothizzar Harvester doesn't look like it's wearing an exo-suit, but it also doesn't look like any kind of creature, either– Just a mish-mash of bones and armor with an unappealing silhouette. (And I really need a monster to fill out my hobby bingo card!)



There's been a lot of speculation about the scenery in the background of the release video:



GW doesn't really make unique scratch-built scenery for their photo shoots anymore. Background scenery is based on parts from their existing scenery kits, or is something nondescript and inconsequential, like rocks and cliffs. Each of these wall sections has repeating detail, so this is definitely going to be some sort of bone-castle kit, similar to the Dreadhold fortress.

Well, I think I've gone on for long enough. I don't think I'll be collecting a stand-alone Bonereapers army. If I pick up any, there's going to be some serious conversion work required, and it will depend on whether or not they can ally with Nighthaunt and Legions of Nagash. I definitely want a few of those character models, though. On the bright side, it leaves me with plenty of time to continue working on my Nighthaunt army.

'Til next time!


  1. I agree about the Tyranid aspect: there's a biomechanical theme there. I thought that the big chaps could make reasonable warriors if converted. I'm not sold on any of them, especially the Harvester. I wonder if they would look better painted so as not to look like bone: perhaps black, like the Alien. But I think they've gone too far from the original concept of "undead" for me.

    1. I agree that it's too far off the concept of undead. Coloring the armor could help alleviate some of the issues, but I'm afraid won't always be clear distinctions between the parts that are bone "armor" and bone "person." The rotation images and seeing the models in person will probably help.

  2. Totally with you on this. As a tyranid player, I'd been looking at the elite bodyguard guys and thinking about Tyrant Guard conversions for a Swarmlord. It's a very bold departure from their other undead stuff at least, and there are some very striking pieces, but it's kind of a bridge too far for me.

    1. Yeah, there are definitely some worthwhile pieces in there. But this might be a "cannibalize it for the good parts" kind of faction. Pick their bones, so to speak! ;)

  3. With a lot of these models I end up thinking "What exactly is that meant to be?" about the details, which is never a good thing. All the guys in the diorama at least look different and it's clear what they are there for. On the other models it's less clear. As you say, it's hard to tell where the armour stops and the creature begins. Maybe better images will help.

    1. The harvester seems to be the worst of the bunch. Looking at the "basket o' bones" on its back, it's difficult to tell which parts are the creature itself, and which parts are collected bones.

  4. I guess that makes them... tybonids

  5. I don't know how things work in AoS but in 40k if you got the same faction (death, order...) you can ally in separate detachments

    1. In AoS, there are allegiances *within* the Grand Alliances. Each sub-allegiance lists what other keywords can ally with it.

      For example, An army with the "Soulblight" Allegiance (the vampires) can ally with Nighthaunt (ghosts) and Deathrattle (skeletons), but NOT Flesh-eater courts (ghouls).

      The Bonereapers will have their own unique Keyword, and they'll have to errata all the ally lists to specify which allegiances can take them as allies.


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