The Goonhammer Review: The New Mk3 Space Marines

At the recent NOVA Open, Games Workshop previewed the Legiones Astartes Battle Group boxed set containing new models for Warhammer: The Horus Heresy. In this review, Liam, Scott, and Henry take a look at the new Mk3 Space Marines. As ever, we would like to thank Games Workshop for supplying us with this review copy.

Liam: I think it’s fair to say that there was a bit of confusion when the Legiones Astartes box was announced. People have been crying out for new plastic infantry for Horus Heresy to supplement the ones in the Age of Darkness box, but what they’ve typically meant by that has been for kits to support the options currently absent from the range – Breachers and Assault Squads being the big ones. Back in May, GW did show off renders of the latter, but in Games Workshop world “renders” means something that is quite some way from production – it takes a long time to get plastic kits from the design stage onto the shelf! What does appear to have been ready is yet another Dreadnought kit in the form of the plastic Deredeo, and also a redesigned box of Marines in Mk3 armour to replace the existing plastics (plus the already long-available Land Raider Proteus).

Legiones Astartes Battlegroup. Credit – Warhammer Community

There are some good reasons to replace the existing Mk3. The old kit is from an era when Space Marines were generally a little smaller, so they don’t stand as tall as the new Mk6. They also weren’t as easily compatible with the new special weapons and heavy weapons kits, and judging by the Forge World website GW were quite keen to deprecate the older range of upgrade kits and bits that they were designed to work with.

On the other hand is the fairly obvious point that in a game with many, many different infantry units, most of which are still solely represented by resin kits, what GW have chosen to release is… another set of Tactical Marines in a slightly different mark of armour, which already had plastics available for sale. As you might be able to tell, it’s not the decision I would have made. Perhaps I’m an idiot and people will buy these by the fistful. It’s been known to happen.

Let’s move on from the decision making around taking this kit to market in the first place and talk about its actual contents. What you get here is a sprue of five Mk3 Marines, redesigned and rescaled to fit with their Mk6 equivalents from the Age of Darkness boxed set last year. Since there’s 30 of the things in this box, that means you get six sprues, plus three of what I’m going to call the “command” sprue, and one sprue of special weapons – i.e. 5 of each gun. The command sprue is the same one as the Mk6 kit, and contains your upgrade bits for your Sergeant, plus a range of holstered bolt pistols, grenades, and the like. What it notably does not have is the chain bayonet pieces, which come on the main sprue in the Mk6 box, so if you wanted to add those to these you’ll need to source them elsewhere.

When I say that these have been redesigned to fit with the Mk6 kit, I really do mean it. The sprue builds 5 poses, and those poses are identical to the ones from the Mk6 Marines. The reason for this is plain – it means they’re cross-compatible with the special and heavy weapons, which were already very fixed, with the instructions identifying each individual gun and which Marine pose it was intended to fit with.  The frame includes some extra vambrace pieces to add on to your Marines should you choose to use them with heavy weapons, as previewed recently on Warhammer Community.

The kit has all the positives you’d expect from modern GW plastics. They build nicely, they look great (as long as you like the tweaks from the old Mk3 design, anyway), and it is a genuinely good thing for it to be cross-compatible with the special and heavy weapons sprues, because you’re not stuck with any particular armour mark – if you were one of the people looking at Mk6 and thinking well, this doesn’t really fit my Legion, your problems are now solved, you can use these guys instead.

The negatives are, well, how many times do you actually want to build the same five fucking Space Marines? I am not generally one of the people who complains about new kits being “monopose” vs. an imagined past of “multipose” boxes – the past includes a hell of a lot of units comprising 2-3 very slightly different metal or resin guys repeated as many times as you needed them, and plastic kits where yes you could theoretically put them together however you liked but with that freedom quite heavily circumscribed by the limits of how a humanoid figure can be posed before it just looks bad. Between the incredible array of options from Games Workshop itself and the wide world of third-party bits, and the ease with which you can take a hobby knife and a bit of willing to plastic and reshape it how you want, the instructions in the box are only really half the story when it comes to what any particular plastic kit can make. Nevertheless it is quite weird for this to be, at its core, poses 1-5 for Legionary Space Marines repeated again with some of the armour elements switched around. There is presumably quite a lot of competition for production capacity at Games Workshop right now, and the lion’s share goes to 40k and Age of Sigmar in that order. Using the share allocated to you to do Tactical Marines, Again, Yes In Exactly the Same Poses, rather than getting Assault Marines or Breachers or Despoilers or Recon Marines or anything else, really into plastic just does not make sense to me.

Henry: I agree with everything Liam said about the bizarre decisions that have been made about infantry design. It makes no sense to me to be getting ever more esoteric vehicles and dreadnoughts, which few of us need, while core troop units are still only represented with very old resin kits – if at all.

But that doesn’t take away from this kit itself. I think it’s pretty good and arguably an upgrade on the previous version, despite losing some options for posing.

The thing I really like about this kit, and the mk6 guys from last year, is how quickly they go together and paint up. In 30k you often field large units of marine infantry. The simplicity of these kits makes it feasible to get them on the battlefield in a reasonable amount of time, without sacrificing too much in terms of appearance. Compared to the old kit, or to more recent 40K marines,  there’s a lot less time spent cleaning mould lines and assembling these models.

One difference Liam didn’t mention is that there’s quite a lot more flat-ish space on this version of Mk3 armour. The chest and knees are plainer and this may be a good thing. It’s less fiddly to paint and gives you more places to put transfers for things like unit markings.

There’s no denying that there are way fewer customisation options, which is a shame. They could have given us a bit more stuff on a bigger “command” sprue, like other types of arm, the odd pistol and maybe a bolt gun without two hands moulded onto it. All 50 of my Raven Guard tactical marines are stood holding their bolters in two hands and that’s pretty boring.

So when I got hold of some of these new Mk3 models I wanted to have a bit more fun with them. Luckily, I had a load of resin bits, including spares and whole projects I’d never got round to finishing, from the Imperial Fist army I’d made for the first edition of the game.

I first made a squad with Iliastus Assault cannons. I’ve wanted squads of Space Marines with assault cannons pretty much since I played Space Crusade, so I’d bought a bunch of these guns years ago and then left them in a drawer… for years. Happily, this meant I was in a great position to make a fresh start with the new kit.

For this I used the arms and handles of some of the new plastic autocannons, along with assault cannons and ammo feeds from the upgrade set – after cutting the terminator arms off them. This all fitted together reasonably easily and even gave me an opportunity to use the new cuffs. A good start, except I couldn’t find the ammo feed I need for the 5th guy, which is annoying! I might do a tiny bit of Green Stuff filling where the gun parts meet and around the ammo box but otherwise it’s all pretty seamless.

Imperial Fists Heavy Support Squad with Iliastus Assault Cannons (WIP)
Imperial Fists Heavy Support Squad with Iliastus Assault Cannons (WIP). Credit: NotThatHenryC

Next I wanted to do something a bit trickier, to test how easy it was to convert these kits. I had an unbuilt Templar Brethren set, which includes detailed resin chests, designed to fit on the legs of the old resin despoilers. I’ve never really liked those leg poses, so I got an assortment of cutting tools out and attacked some of the new models.

The challenge turns out to be the armour plate that protects the marine’s groin. I realised I wasn’t going to be able to simply cut through the plastic bodies because there was no way these would match up. I had to remove this groin plate and make the whole resin chest fit on in its place. This is easier on some of the poses than others, depending on how separate the groin plate is. Most of them are going to need a bit of filling, but nothing too serious.

The result is not a whole lot of the new kit is being used – just a pair of legs and the backpack. And that’s fine as it’s all I would have previously used from a far more expensive resin despoiler set.

For one of the bodies I experimented with cutting the front half of the resin chest off, so as to keep the back of the plastic marine. This makes it easier to attach the backpack, but took much more effort otherwise for an identical end result. You need to do a lot of cutting of both the resin and plastic chest halves to make this fit and it’s not worth the hassle. Instead I just cut the studs off the back of the resin torsos so I could glue the backpacks on in the right place.

I’m pretty happy with how my Templar squad has come out. Just the little bit of extra height and better-proportioned legs makes them look much better, in my opinion. However, it’s only possible because I still have some resin arms and bolt pistols, which aren’t easy to get hold of. I’m now seriously thinking of reviving my first edition Fists as a Templar Strike force led by Sigismund. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for me to finish!

Imperial Fist Templar Brethren (WIP)
Imperial Fist Templar Brethren (WIP). Credit: NotThatHenryC

Soggy: I feel at this point pretty much everything that could be said has been said. Similar to the MK VI kit, the MK III kit is a solid workhorse to build your army up with – if you have the bits to convert with. After a year of being into Heresy I’m still desperate for bolt pistols and chainswords.

MKIII White Scars Veterans. Credit – Soggy

I went with a less adventurous conversion to Henry, making a squad of Veterans who could also double as Destroyers if my opponent let me count the power weapons as chainswords. I’m happy with the end result – these were only a hand swap from the baseline kit and don’t look too out of place.

I’m personally not the biggest fan of MK III armour, but most of that is addressed by lopping off the spike – which comes off cleanly with a sharp knife. I could see myself picking some more up when a Breacher kit drops, as the heavier set of the armour looks more fitting to that role for games of Zone Mortalis.