Warhammer: Island of Blood

Following closely behind the new Warhammer 8th edition rulebook is Games Workshop’s accompanying boxed set Island of Blood.
I opened my preview copy this week, and its contents are produced to the same high quality as the rulebook. Speaking of which, they are as follows:

  • One ‘Read this first’ booklet, containing an introduction to the hobby and background text about the various units and characters included in the box. All the characters and unit champions are named, and it suggests magic items that they carry. It also gives an example of a Warhammer battle.
  • One ‘mini’ Warhammer rulebook, containing the first third of the large Hardback, i.e. all the rules to play the game. It also includes all the summary pages from the main rulebook, so all eight lores of magic, the common magic items and the statistic lines for all the races and their units (particularly important for this box as this is where the stats for the Skaven and High Elves included are). It’s in full colour again, and is an ideal size to take to your friend’s house, the games club or to tournaments. Certainly compared to the huge hardback, anyway.
  • One set of templates – the usual 3” blast, 5” blast and teardrop-shaped flame template
  • One set of dice, including ten white D6 with black spots, one artillery dice and one Scatter dice
  • Two of the infamous red pointy sticks, measuring up to 18”. GW staffers of a certain period will remember these with fondness and/or terror.
  • Two starter armies, Skaven and High Elves, consisting of 74 models:
    • One High elf Mage
    • One High Elf Prince on Griffon
    • Ten High Elf Lothern Sea Guard, including champion, standard bearer and musician
    • Ten High Elf Swordmasters of Hoeth, including champion, standard bearer and musician
    • Five High Elf Ellyrian Reaver Horsemen, including champion and musician (???)
    • One Skaven Warlord
    • One Skaven Warlock
    • Twenty Skaven Clanrats with spear and shield, including champion, standard bearer and musician
    • Twenty Skaven Clanrats with hand weapon and shield, including champion, standard bearer and musician
    • Two Skaven Rat Ogres plus Master Moulder with Electro-Prod
    • One Skaven Warpfire Thrower team
    • One Skaven Plague Wind Mortar

It’s a great box and the two starter armies look fantastic. The first and most obvious thing is the sheer quantity. There are 74 models in there and they look great as a combined army, particularly the Skaven with their two big units (although given the way Warhammer 8th edition has gone, I guess we should call these medium sized units now). GW reckons that there are over £170 worth of models in here, and whilst they’re almost certainly comparing them to existing expensive, metal models, it’s still good value. And the individual models look great too.  The Prince on Griffon is particularly good with his swooping pose, and the new Rat Ogres are also very nice, with their Dr. Frankenstein construction a really nice touch. Games Workshop’s miniature designers have done a particularly good job of making dynamic, three-dimensional models despite the limitations of the sprues. I’m a manufacturing engineer by training, so I’m interested in that sort of thing, but I think most people will appreciate the clever design on how the Mage is assembled! It’s also nice that GW has produced some models for items that didn’t have models, for example the Skaven Poisoned Wind Mortar. They’re all nice, but the models with the least ‘wow’ impact are probably the clanrats, as they’re little different from the ones in the current regiment set, but that’s no bad thing as they look great already. Overall, though, the lovely models really make the box, and it’s a great showcase, and starter, for the hobby. I’m planning on making a Skaven army from a couple of boxes. There are only a couple of minor complaints that I can see with the box:

  • The models look great. Really great. The only issue with this is they rather show up the poorer models in each armies range. The Rat Ogres in particular make the current plastic box look like horrible monkey men sleepwalking with their arms in front of them. Again, the Island of Blood High Elves only reinforce how badly their core units need new plastic sets. The Spearmen and Archer sets look extremely dated compared to the Swordmasters and Sea Guard. The faces and hands in particular are much better proportioned on the new models. And don’t even get me started on comparing the Reavers’ horses to those of the old Silver Helm box. Please, GW, release a new Silver Helm box.
  • Again, the models look great. But we’re going to see a million Skaven and High Elf armies based on this box. This really isn’t a huge problem, but the models are very… integral, for want of a better word. They’re beautifully posed, but most are going to be difficult to convert because of it. With the infantry, this isn’t a huge problem, but I’m thinking primarily of the Rat Ogres here. The ideal unit size is more than two, and that’s how many poses you get in this set. And rather than pollute my unit with sleepwalking monkey-men, I’m going to need to use extra Island of Blood models. And without some heavy duty converting, they’re going to be clones of just two Rat Ogres. I’m probably being too harsh here – I’ll give the converting a go and report back!
  • I think it’s a great starter set, but I’m not sure how even the starter armies are. I remember as a GW employee, intro-gaming the 3Rd edition Warhammer 40,000 box. When Little Johnny took the Space Marines, Little Jimmy decided the game was ‘no good’, because all his pointy headed guys suddenly got set on fire. I‘m concerned there could be the same issue here due to the sheer number of models the Skaven get, and how destructive that Warpfire thrower can be in the right situation. On the other hand, Little Johnny always bought the game…
  • Some scenery would have been nice! Even if it was just the Arcane Ruins.

The first two complaints aren’t really complaints at all, more an observation that “this box is so good it makes everything else rubbish”. So there you have it – the new Warhammer Island of Blood Box: it’s the HMS Dreadnought of boxed wargames.

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