SRM’s Ongoing Imperium Review: Week 49.5: Premium Issue 3

Imperium is a weekly hobby magazine from Hachette Partworks. In this 80-week series, our intrepid magazine-receiver will be reviewing each individual issue, its included models, and gaming materials. A Premium subscription was provided to Goonhammer for review purposes.

This issue’s models made me feel old in a way I thought only my knees could. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fantastic miniatures that still hold up extremely well, but I feel a decade of my own life is missing between that T’au Fireblade dropping and this magazine finding its way to my door. If you couldn’t guess, this particular quarterly premium issue is all about the T’au, so let’s g’et o’n w’ith th’e sh’ow.

The Magazine

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Our only dedicated lore page is about the T’au Empire Fire Caste, and their fusion of tribal and martial traditions. Fire Caste members are trained to be soldiers from birth, and any who don’t pass muster are disappeared. A distinction from human society is made here, as T’au aren’t raised by their parents, but by totalitarian institutions. That only tends to happen to orphans in the Imperium, of which there are a lot, but who’s counting? The young xenos are then raised alongside their squadmates, often bound in ritual bloodletting. These few short paragraphs speak of a culture with its own history and practices, and really sparks curiosity about the faction.

The remainder of the lore and narrative section is presented in a trio of Battle Records, one for each of our new units this issue. They mark out the wargear and iconography on these models, all before giving us no fewer than 12 tables to roll on to tell their stories:

Exo’kyr Vrane, They who Walk Upon Fire, always preferred to lead from the heart of battle. His steadfast refusal to retreat in the face of the enemy had cost him many comrades during the skirmishes fought on Derek’s Mom’s Dining Table IV, and at this point had to resort to guerilla warfare and skullduggery. With the ongoing war between the Necrons and the world’s human defenders, there was supposedly ample opportunity to recruit the citizenry of the world to The Greater Good and throw off the yoke of their oppressors. Pity they didn’t send a diplomat for this mission. The best the remainder of the expeditionary force could do was disrupt their enemies on this world from the shadows. Strike Team Ka’shal, Exemplars of the Mont’ka, were the last team of Fire Warriors under Vrane’s command. While these veterans had once fought beside Commander Shadowsun, they were slumming it on this backwater. They took this assignment with dignity; all orders must be obeyed without question, after all. The assembled T’au snapped to attention as their displays lit up. Stealth team Ka’kau, The Nighthunters, had closed on the command staff at the rear of the Imperial line. They had taken this foolhardy mission in an attempt to erase the shame of their previous failures on the field, and by killing the Imperial base commander they just may redeem themselves. They asked the Fireblade permission to open fire, and Exo’kyr Vrane solemnly gave it.

The Hobby Materials

Breacher Team. Credit: Rockfish
Breacher Team. Credit: Rockfish

As this is a Premium issue, we get an absolute boatload of plastic to play with. Unlike the Tyranid premium issue back in December, these kits are all fairly recent. I say that, then I look at the four digits on the Fire Warrior sprue that so cruelly spell “2017” and I again remember that time waits for no ‘ham. With this in mind, I shall review these in reverse chronological order, from most recent to oldest.

The Fire Warrior kit, which I swore dropped in 2020, has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a modern GW infantry set – crisp details, multiple head options, a few tchotchkes to slap on some belts, and so on. Unlike many more recent kits though, the upper torsos flatly fit on top of the legs, the heads are all on ball joints, and any arms can be used with any body. This decidedly old-school philosophy meets modern dual kit design where no sprue space at all is wasted, and the squad can be built as either Fire Warriors or a Breacher Team. Should you still build the squad as Fire Warriors, they have a full complement of pulse carbines or pulse rifles, and a few drones to help them out. It’s a genuinely fantastic line infantry kit, and you should be able to see that for yourself with the prolific and prodigal Rockfish’s paintjobs all over this article.

Cadre Fireblade
Cadre Fireblade. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Fireblade is a compact little HQ choice to lead this collection of dudes, and is just dolled up enough to stand out from his Fire Warrior or Breacher compatriots. His neck join is not compatible with the newer Fire Warriors, their previous incarnation, or his 2012 contemporaries in the Pathfinder squad, so unless you get creative with cutting and green stuff, he’s stuck with that head. He is otherwise a simple kit to put together – 9 pieces including his scenic base – and the joins are all well hidden by his overlapping details. It horrifies me to think that this model is now 11 years old.

XV25 Stealth Battlesuits. Credit: Rockfish
XV25 Stealth Battlesuits. Credit: Rockfish

Lastly are a squad of XV25 Stealth Suits, the smol bean battlesuits what you can’t shoot good. I’ve always thought these guys had powerful Gonk Droid Energy, and generally prefer the aesthetic of the slimmer XV15 stealthsuit, but will admit this armor pattern is the more visually distinctive of the two. Holding this sprue in hand, I feel the weight of years – 18 of them to be precise – and realize I have been playing Warhammer 40,000 for more than half of my life. I still have the 2005 White Dwarf issue these miniatures were announced in, with their at the time sharp details and new features. Nowadays, these 3 troopers, their drone and single marker are boldly sold as “5 miniatures” which feels a bit rich, but the design of these models has still held up rather well. The joins of the models are fairly well hidden among the details of their armor, and their loping gorilla poses look natural enough. This kit doesn’t feel modern exactly, but it still looks good. I am beginning to think that xenos and the like age far better than more humanoid models. While I’ve seen an awful lot of humans in my life, even soldiery strutting about my country which fetishizes the armed forces so strongly, I have not once seen a T’au XV25 Stealth Suit or Genestealer in the flesh. This is likely for the best, but it does mean there is less uncanniness to be found in the proportions and posing of these miniatures.

Instructions are provided for building and painting each of these kits, as one may expect. The build guide is helpful, clearly illustrating what arms match, what options are available, and how to mark upgrades and unit options easily. These are more freeform than most Imperium instructions, as the kits aren’t prescribed easy to build affairs, but full multipart plastic kits as you would buy off the shelf at a GW store. There are only instructions to build the Fire Warrior team, not the Breacher team option, but the bits are all in there. The painting instructions will get a decent approximation of the current Vior’la scheme that adorns most T’au box art. In a first for this magazine, there are some instructions for weathering. The results look rather good, and would make painting this scheme much easier for a new painter. Personally I would have gone with Ulthuan Grey or even Grey Seer instead of Corax White for the white Vior’la armor so I could highlight it up to a pure white, but they have to work in the constraints of what is included in Imperium.

The Gaming Materials

Black Templars vs. Tau. Credit: SRM and Andy

The appropriate datasheets for Cadre Fireblades, Fire Warrior teams, and Stealth Suits are included here, with an extra page just for Drone units and Markerlights. These new xenos get to take to the battlefield in this week’s mission, On Holy Ground. A T’au expeditionary force has landed on Yudono, one of many worlds in the Nephilim sector affected by The Stilling. A force of Adepta Sororitas has arrived to drive these T’au back, and the xenos need to activate a homing beacon to summon reinforcements before it’s too late. The Fireblade, Fire Warrior team, Stealth Suits, and accompanying drones must take on a Sisters Canoness, 10 Battle Sisters, and 5 Seraphim. There are two objectives in the middle of the field as well as the homing beacon, which lies just outside the T’au deployment zone. Players score points every turn for holding those regular objectives, with a T’au objective to progressively score points by performing an Action on the beacon, or a Sisters endgame objective to perform an Action and destroy it. It’s not a bad mission, although with such small forces, it’s going to be hard to devote a whole unit to performing an action each turn.

Final Verdict 49.5/90:

Cadre Fireblade. Credit: Rockfish
Cadre Fireblade. Credit: Rockfish

There are $128.50 worth of models here, and as I have figured out in previous Premium issues, you’re spending about $60 for each of these big quarterly bois. At over 50% savings, you’re getting a great deal if they’re a faction you’re interested in. The painting instructions are the best featured in Imperium so far, and the mission is decent. I think these issues always suffer a little bit in the lore department due to how much space has to be given over to hobby instructions, but what’s there is cool and I think with savings this significant, it’s really hard to argue against the value of this issue.

See you next issue, warhams.

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