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GW’s holiday ghoul king wastes a great concept – again

The holiday Ghoul King is another Warhammer Age of Sigmar ghoul mini that doesn’t come close to the Flesh Eater Courts bone-cracking good lore.

Warhammer holiday model is mediocre - ghoul archregent with crown of delusion

You’ve made it through Christmas, and to celebrate, Games Workshop have a brand new, special edition miniature, available to buy in Warhammer stores today. The Abhorrent Ghoul King with Crown of Delusion is a mad, undead monster, a new hero for Flesh Eater Courts armies – and he’s insufferably bland.

He’s a naked bodybuilder sitting on a stone chair, holding a big sword in one hand and a skull in the other like its the TV remote. Is it a cool stone chair, like the awesome hovering throne that the Nighthaunt Craven King rides around on? It is not. Is he a cool naked bodybuilder, like Slaanesh-worshipping Sigvald the Magnificent, who goes into battle with gold armour and a bare arse? He is not.

Warhammer holiday ghoul miniature is mediocre - photograph of The Craven King, a Nighthaunt model by Games Workshop, a spectral monarch on a hovering stone throne, surrounded by ghostly attendants

Like all the other Ghoul hero characters, this guy looks like a monster from an 80s Arnold Schwarzenneger fantasy movie, and not one of the good ones. He looks like the lovechild of Sesame Street’s Count and Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch. Like a cosplayer’s indecision between Dracula and a Lord of the Rings Orc. Like you asked for Nosferatu, and mum told you: “We’ve got Nosferatu at home!”

It’s infuriating, because the Flesh Eater Courts have some of the best lore out of all the Age of Sigmar armies. These poor wretches perceive themselves to be gallant knights and their noble retainers, riding forth in defence of the realm. In truth, they are gore-slicked, grave-reeking monsters, a tide of horrors draped in tattered flesh who claw the meat from their enemies’ bones.

Even in the rocky, early days of Age of Sigmar, when the fanbase was still smarting from the unceremonious destruction of the Old World, everyone could see the grimdark potential in the Flesh Eater Courts. Many Warhammer: The Old World fans think the ghouls are a grim allusion to the fate of Bretonnia, a nation of errant knights whose whole model range was erased along with the World That Was.

Warhammer holiday ghoul model is mediocre - photographs by Games Workshop of The Grymwatch, a band of naked ghouls accompanied by bats

Although it took a long time for new Ghoul minis to show up in AoS, they seemed to be off to a good start! The Grymwatch warband for Warhammer Underworlds does a great job updating the basic ghoul foot troops, modernising their hunched posture and feral gait with more natural humanoid proportions and far nastier looking bone piercings. They look like a fantasy version of the cannibal troglodytes from The Descent, and if you’ve seen that movie you’ll know that’s absolutely spot on for their lore.

But the next ghoul character we saw was the Abhorrant Archregent, and all hopes were dashed. He looks like a Spawn character Todd McFarlane never managed to make popular. Or one of those Spiderman villains who shows up in a “comic cells taken out of context” meme. That was strike number one, and the boxing day ghoul makes strike number two.

Warhammer holiday ghoul mini is mediocre - photograph of the Abhorrant Archregent model by Games Workshop, a batlike monster man climbing a ruin

While some of the ghoul range dates back the better part of a decade, I’m not judging the old minis here, just the new ones. GW is utterly crushing it with other undead miniatures. The Nighthaunts range that came out with Age of Sigmar second edition was packed with gloriously gothic spectres, 2021’s range revival for Soulblight Gravelords was mind-blasting, and while the Cursed City board game was extremely cursed in many ways, the models were utterly cracking. Yet somehow these ghoul lords are just… average. Quotidian. Mid.

It’s disappointing, is what I’m getting at, and I don’t have much hope for the eventual range refresh the Flesh Eater Courts are surely scheduled for. There’s so much scope for belting ghoul miniatures – doomed kings and queens in ragged finery, gory flagbearers hoisting banners made from human skin, grotesquely deformed knights crammed into ill-fitting armour. But when the character models, who should loudly announce the design intentions for the range, are so bafflingly bland, it’s hard to get my hopes up.

If you have an insatiable hunger for quality undead content, we’ve got a thorough guide to DnD’s Strahd von Zarovich, the grief-maddened master of Ravenloft. You could also check out the indie wargame Necropolis28 – which thoroughly answers the question “what happens when Warhammer meets Dark Souls?”,