Despatch: Plastic Minotaurs

Acknowledging that I am probably a hard-sell--I love the existing Citadel pewter Minotaur models, they were the core of my previous edition Beastmen army for Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and I had a small hand in creating the Minotaur HQ option for same (what became the Doombull) so I have a certain entirely-unearned-but-real-nonetheless emotional sense of ownership toward them--my initial reaction to the all-plastic, multipose Minotaurs released along with the all-new Beastmen Army Book was *not* enthusiastic.

Having assembled my first unit of three, however, my opinion has modified, to the positive.

The negatives remain: I do not like how oversized they've become compared to the existing metals, I do not like some of the strange anatomical decisions made by the sculptors (chiefly the weird non-hooved hybrid feet and the 'bubble-muscle' look), I do not like how fur/pelt detail has become stylized rather than realistic (an aesthetic choice across the new Beastmen line which looks cartoonish and fake and doesn't work at all, for me), and I do not think the heads resemble either the existing Citadel Minotaur look or real bovine creatures. It has been suggested there is a World of Warcraft influence....

Those points made, I observed in building the actual models that much of these (admittedly subjective) aesthetic issues could be pretty-easily modified by a painting approach which geared the Minotaurs either toward the existing GW look, or just toward a more subdued, realistic approach generally; it appears the Eavy Metal versions seen in advance of their release in White Dwarf uniformly opted to accentuate the design choices made in the sculpts (an admittedly understandable marketing decision). This is particularly true of the heads, which are more recognizably Minotaurish in bare plastic.

And as has been the case with GW's multipart plastic figure kits for some time now, the technical execution is impeccable (sharply-cast details in high-quality plastic with little flash and outstanding fit) and the parts value is high (after assembling my three Minotaurs I had two heads, three sets of horns, four sets of arms, almost a dozen weapons and myriad optional extra detail bits left over). Particularly impressive is the ability to model full command, or three hand-weapon-and-shield, two-hand-weapon or double-handed great weapon armed Minotaurs in each box.

Will they replace my mighty pewter beasts, if I ever return to fielding Beastmen? No. But might they augment those worthies? That they might...

The Hoard of Arthur?

In July 2009, an amateur with a metal detector uncovered on of the greatest hoards of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver yet found, buried in Staffordshire, England. The find has now been tentatively dated to the AD 600s--an era to conjure with--and the nature of the treasure does not suggest noble burial, as at Sutton Hoo, so much as hastily-hidden war gain: virtually all of it is military, from helmet fragments to sword hilts, virtually all of it appears to have been used (and recently) as opposed to ceremonial or ornamental in nature, and such things as still-evident rivets on the gear suggest it was ripped from it's original owners hastily, and buried to hide it. 'It looks like war booty,' according to the archeology head of Staffordshire. 'Losing these objects, (a Saxon) king would have lost his status and authority.'

So much is lost and unknown from these dark ages--called the Insular Period in Great Britain as it seems almost completely isolated from events occurring across Europe, about which little enough is even known--we may never know who the defeated Saxon was...much less who conquered him, stripped him and his warband of the objects which demonstrated their power, and threw them into at least temporary disorganization and chaos by hiding away their status symbols. But it fires the imagination to consider literature, folklore and tradition's likeliest candidate.

Modern 'historical' Arthurian scholarship tends to put its favorite candidates for an historical King Arthur earlier than this, into the early sixth and even likelier fifth centuries...and given what the two great historical documents (the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and the History of Gildas) of the era say--or rather *don't* say, at least explicitly--about the dux bellorum of Roman Britain's successful-if-brief turning-back of the Germanic invasion of the isle, they are probably right. There is no shortage of evidence--including in their own literary tradition, the epic Beowulf--of Anglo-Saxon internecine warfare in these dark times.

But could it have been 'the Bear' and his mounted champions of the Romanized and perhaps Christianized British tribes, who struck this blow against barbarism and brute tyranny on the Staffordshire plain a millennia-and-a-half ago? Fortunately for the poet or romantic in us all, the times were too dark to definitively answer no....

'And here we leave Arthur...who was never historical, but everything he did was true.' --Thomas Berger, Arthur Rex

Source: Kate Ravilious, 'Archeology' Jan/Feb 2010, page 22, Archeological Institute of America