Since its birth in 2015, Warhammer Age of Sigmar has walked a difficult path: attempting to reinvent and reinvigorate the gameplay, world, and lore of Warhammer fantasy in a brand new setting and cultivate a new generation of fans, without totally alienating the old guard. It’s often faltered, but ultimately succeeded – and the just-revealed Grand Justice Gormayne character model shows us exactly why that is.
First shown off in an article on GW’s Warhammer Community site on Monday, Gormayne is a new hero for the Flesh-eater Courts – an Age of Sigmar army that’s tended to be middle-of-the-road in gameplay terms, but boasts perhaps the most compelling backstory of any of the game’s factions.
For the uninitiated, many of the warring factions in Warhammer Age of Sigmar are peculiarly transformed reimaginings of well-known forces from the predecessor setting, Warhammer Fantasy Battle. The Lumineth Realm-lords mirror the High Elves; the Daughters of Khaine the Dark Elves; the Gloomspite Gitz the Night Goblins; the ent-like Sylvaneth the Wood Elves, and so on.
In the lore, these groups were, in various ways, rescued from the Old World’s magical apocalypse by the whims of fate and fantasy gods, and reintroduced to the new Mortal Realms in newer, stranger, more copyrightable forms.
None of these rebirth stories is as tragic, as intriguing, as piquant, or as macabre as that of the Flesh-eater Courts. Once noble questing knights of (among others) the Kingdom of Bretonnia, they’re now wretched, cannibalistic ghouls slaved to the will of the necromancer god Nagash.
But, cursed with incurable madness, they know nothing of their own transformation. The pallid vampires of the Soulblight Gravelords commit evil deeds for Grand Alliance Death – but they know what they’re doing – not so the Flesh-eaters.
Where we see twisted monsters, they still see beacons of light; stately kings, queens, lords, and ladies; paragons of virtue, civility, and perfect feudal order – even as they build castles of bone and feast on mortal flesh. To them, their roving packs of rabid, vampiric hunters are cohorts of well-ordered men-at-arms, their screeching, bat-like beast-mounts are liveried warhorses.
Of course, what goes for their line troops, goes also for their noble lords, their grand monarchs – and now, apparently, also their fine upstanding ministers and civil servants. What just and good kingdom could do without the rule of law, after all?
And so we come to Grand Justice Gormayne.
GW’s Monday article sets out many fascinating things about this new character. He “safeguard[s] the nation from within, upholding the spirit of civility, reason, and decency with even-handed judgements,” it explains.
He’s “a keen scholar, with a proficient understanding of the strange elder tongues in which New Summercourt’s ancient codes of law were once inscribed” – and tours the ‘Carrion Kingdoms’ ruled by the Flesh-eater Courts, meting out justice according to that strict legislation.
‘Eavy Metal’s miniature painting job on this glorious model clearly suggests just how well defined and even-handed those laws really are:
What’s more, in a stroke of tragic genius, Gormayne is said to have been seen “expressing sudden revulsion at the fine delicacies of a royal banquet, or being taken by long, brooding silences over the course of an important trial”. In other words, at times, he seems to see through the veil of delusion endemic to the Flesh-eaters, and perceive the horrors they have become. It’s delicious, awful, wonderful storytelling.
While his backstory exemplifies the tragic duality of the Courts’ being with more understatement, his appearance embodies it with spectacular, gut-wrenching aplomb. Around his neck, a chain hung with the severed hands of wrongdoers. Held aloft, his judge’s gavel, wrought from skulls and bones, ready to swing down to cast sentence.
And on his shrivelled, fanged head, a preposterously large wig made from fresh, bloody intestines and other entrails – a perverse parody of the old-fashioned white hair wigs worn by British judges and lawyers to this day.
This is fantasy miniature wargame design at its most creative, expressive, evocative, and fearless – a figurine that shocks, disgusts, and entrances all at once, and which you can’t look at without thinking: “what the hell is that, I want to learn more about what the hell that is, and why”.
This is Age of Sigmar at its absolute best – ditching generic, recognizable, derivative fantasy concepts in favor of models that directly translate the lore’s weirdest, most original concepts into sculpted plastic.
Lots of AoS armies have such eye-catching models in their range (the Kruleboyz‘ Swampcalla Shaman with Pot-Grot springs to mind, along with many of the newer Slaanesh daemon characters) but, for all its vim and vigor, the Sigmar setting is still largely populated (perhaps inevitably) with ‘generic dudes’.
When models like Gormayne come along, it reminds us that GW is capable of creating things just as bizarre and exciting as the darkest horror wargames Wargamer loves to celebrate in the burgeoning indie wargaming scene – and that Age of Sigmar and its sibling Warhammer Underworlds are the best places to find them.
Old-school Warhammer Fantasy Battle fans now have their own bespoke game to look forward to – the revived rank and flank wargame Warhammer The Old World, which we’re expecting to release very soon indeed. Some fans seem to still see AoS as a distasteful pretender that doesn’t properly honor its roots, and can’t wait for WHTOW to supplant it – but those people are really missing out on something special.
Because if Age of Sigmar continues to bulk out its ranges with magnificent pieces of narrative-driven miniature design like Gormayne, it doesn’t just prove that AoS, the hobby, has a well-earned spot in the Warhammer firmament. It strengthens the case that Age of Sigmar is the best thing that ever happened to Warhammer as an art form.
In other ‘Hammer news, there’s another Warhammer preview stream on the way this Friday night – and we strongly predict a major release for the Flesh-eater Courts (possibly including Gormayne himself), along with new reveals for Warhammer 40k, Kill Team, Necromunda, and The Old World, among others.
Our own Tim Linward has also had another hands-on preview and interview with the team behind Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin, the new licensed RTS game, discussing the links with the Dawn of War series – definitely give that a look if you enjoy Warhammer fantasy games.
And we finally have a Warhammer: The Horus Heresy Legions Imperialis release date! To dive deeper into the rich pre-history of GW’s sci-fi setting, read our complete Horus Heresy guide.