Old Skool Review: Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight

During the last month, Games Workshop has released a couple rather awesome scenery kits for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. Kits that seem to be both versatile and (in some cases) modular. At the same time, these new scenery kits evoke a rather pleasant ‘ruined’ and somewhat dark fantasy feel that is both fitting for the magical realms of Age of Sigmar and for games in the ‘Old World’ of Warhammer Fantasy. In addition, they have re-released the Citadel Forest last week. A kit that I delved into in my previous post. But even though GW are now releasing loads of fantasy themed scenery kits –some of them also fitting for the grim, dark future of Warhammer 40,000 – they also have a history of releasing nice kits for ‘Old Hammer.’ In this ‘Old Skool Review’ I’ll be delving into two of these kits: the large wizard tower “Witchfate Tor” and its smaller, ruined cousin the “Dreadstone Blight.”

Two boxes: Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight

Outside the box
When looking at the outside of the two boxes, it immediately becomes clear that these two kids are quite similar to one another. Both buildings share the same design ethos, but even though they are similar they also have some clear distinctions. For one, the Witchfate Tor is a large singular tower (that is a free standing tower) that easily dwarfs the tallest models and scenery pieces you might own. The balconies allow for character placement (such as a wizard) and the upper floor is large enough to hold a fully ranked up regiment. In comparison, Dreadstone Blight is a much more modest construct with a fully detailed interior and in terms of scale more akin to the scenery sets you might already have.

This difference also becomes clear in the size of the two boxes. Dreadstone Blight is a relatively modest box, comparable with the smaller battalion boxes for Warhammer Fantasy. Witchfate Tor is another beast entirely: this is a box so large, that even a huge shopping bag cannot hold its sheer size. It’s just a shame though, that all this box real estate is used for a rather poorly painted example of Witchfate Tor. Because even though the box art is only an insignificant part of the product, the box does not look really appealing. In fact, I think that the coloursceme used for Witchfate Tor is rather off putting. But let’s go beyond the poor box art and see what is inside the boxes!

Inside the box
When opening the boxes for both Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight, something rather remarkable is unveiled. Instead of the sprues you’d normally get from a Games Workshop product (be it miniatures or scenery kits), you are greeted by a bunch of plastic zip bags. Yes, all the parts inside these boxes are already taken from their sprues and therefore there is no need for clippers to remove the pieces from their plastic frames.

What is interesting though, is the fact that these pieces do not seem to be sorted in a logical manner. Indeed, the pieces for the crown (the top floor) of Witchfate Tor are divided over three separate bags. And also the different floors of this large wizardstower do not seem to have any form of organisation. All in all, it seems that the Chinese workers – yes these kits are ‘Made in China’ – have cut the pieces from the sprues and then randomly divided them between the bags.

This random assortment of pieces is no problem however. As both Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight are based on a modular system, you could combine the different parts in any way you would want. In addition the assembly instructions are quite clear on the way you could mix and match these different parts and create an interesting building. What is interesting though, it the fact that you get a considerable amount of ‘crumbling’ walls with Witchfate Tor. Parts that do not seem to fit with the rest of the kit as Witchfate Tor is an ‘intact’ building without any ruined pieces. It appears that these extra pieces are part of the mould for Witchfate Tor, and as that mould is also shared with Dreadstone Blight, you get the extra pieces ‘for free’. And who am I to complain? Extra pieces are always welcome as they offer cool bits for other (scenery) projects.

Modular System
As I’ve said before, both the Witchfate Tor and the Dreadstone Blight are based on the same modular system. And as such, they share a lot of similarities. The biggest difference between Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight is the amount (and type) of pieces you get inside the boxes. This is something that will be recognisable to people who are familiar with the Cities of Death Terrain for Warhammer 40,000. In that modular system you can buy smaller buildings – such as the Administratorum or Manufactorum – or buy a District box that gives you enough pieces to build four buildings from three separate sets.

The modular system for Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight is based on quarter circle pieces that slide together like together brickwork. By combining four pieces you can create circles that, when the floors are added, can be stacked on top of each other to create a tower. In addition, you get crumbling wall pieces that slot into the modular system like the normal ‘intact’ parts. This way, you can also construct ruined buildings based on this circular module. And while these ruined bits are not used to construct the large Witchfate Tor, Dreadstone Blight uses these pieces to create a pretty cool ruined scenery piece.

In theory, this modular system could have been combined with other kits with straight walls. I do not know if Games Workshop had any intentions to expand the Witchfate Tor range to include any sets with straight walls, but if they had, this system would have allowed some interesting buildings with both straight walls, angular and curved corners and circular elements. All in all, I think it is a shame they have not used this potential to create a range of scenery kits that allowed for this, as the potential opportunities would have been awesome.

Lots of detailed parts
Because Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight share the same module, the parts you get are basically the same. The foundation of both kits is identical and is a richly detailed rocky base with the wheel of magic in the centre of the ground floor. On the outside of this circle is a ring of cracked stones that is both detailed and typical Games Workshop with lots of skulls. A nice touch is a barred trapdoor in the base that suggests an entry point to dungeons or a cellar beneath the tower. All in all the base for the two towers is rather impressive and induces a magical theme to the two buildings.

When working towards the top of Witchfate Tor, we continue our journey through the different parts with the walls in the box. For Witchfate Tor, you get a wide assortment of circular walls. These walls come in six different ‘flavours’ and each piece is included twice in the box. All pieces are richly detailed on both the outside and the inside. Although an interior is not really needed for war games like Warhammer, this last bit is an important point because it makes the Witchfate Tor also an interesting object for Role Playing Games like Dungeons and Dragons or miniature games like Mordheim. In fact, I can already see a group of adventurers fighting their way up the Witchfate Tor to get to the ‘evil’ overlord on the top floor.

What is nice about these pieces is the fact that they all have a distinct look. Some have detailed ‘Empire style’ stone sculpture, two other designs have a cool looking wooden parapets that break up the round shape of the tower a bit. Of course there is also one design that features more skulls than can be counted, and to be honest, this is also the piece that I like least…

Skulls!!!
Skulls!!!

Finally there are two designs with gated doorways. These doorways allow an entry point on the ground floor, but on the upper floors you can attach a small balcony where you can place your characters. What is a shame is the fact that you cannot ‘close’ these doorways with a small ‘wall piece’ if you do not want to use the balconies. So when you do not want to add the balconies, this means that you have strange gated openings on the second and third floors. The balconies are also a small point of criticism. Basically these are small slabs that you can glue underneath the door step. But when you do this, you end up with a strange and unsupported slab hanging on the side of the tower. Not only does this look unnatural, it also makes for a relatively weak connection that can easily break of the tower. All in all, when using the balconies, I’d recommend that you add some small support struts for extra support and for a more natural look.

The last part of the main tower is the ‘crown’ of Witchfate Tor. Unlike the other wall pieces, this part of the tower is made out of four identical pieces. These pieces feature Romanesque window openings and large pinnacles that top of the building. Also, between the window openings, there are large pilasters that are topped with some pretty big skulls. What I do like is the fact that there are loads of small ‘shields’ that add a little bit of extra (Imperial) detailing in addition to the twin tailed comet iconography that is featured on the pinnacles. There is one big issue though, and that is the fact that the pinnacles are hollow on the backside. This is something that is rather odd, as hollow stone work would seem rather unusual, so for the best effect you’d need to fill these pieces with some greenstuff or cover the ‘holes’ with some plastic card. Not ideal I think, but this is probably something that is caused by production needs and the way the moulds need to be separated.

Besides the large wall pieces, you also get a number of smaller pieces. Pieces that you use for floors feature rich texture and make of easy painting of this wood. Crumbled walls that can be used for other scenery projects or for Dreadstone Blight. And finally some small trapdoors for the topfloor and staircases and ladders to ‘connect’ the different levels with one another. It might not be the most pieces, but in general they are well detailed and are welcome to create a convincing interior of the Tower.

While Witchfate Tor is obviously a ‘centrepiece’ compared to Dreadstone Blight, all points raised above also apply to the smaller Dreadstone Blight kit. The biggest difference between the two kits is the fact that, in addition to the crumbling wall pieces, you only get four wall pieces (one with a door, one with sculpture, the skull wall and a wall with a parapet). In addition, no parts for the top floor of Witchfate Tor are included, so the special walls floor and ladders are not included in the box.

Assembly

As Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight are both based on a modular system, assembly should be a breeze. In theory the different parts should slide together like LEGO pieces and a few drops of plastic glue should stick the pieces in place. However, there is a big gap between theory and reality… In fact, the gap is so big, that assembly turned out to be quite a chore for me.

The reason why Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight are such a pain to assemble is because the pieces do not lock together as they should. All pieces feature large mould lines that need to be cleaned before assembly. But even with the mould lines removed, the different wall parts still do not fit together. You’ll need to file or cut away quite a bit on every wall piece before you can even begin assembly. And if you were not thoroughly enough, you’ll end up with small gaps between the wall pieces as can be seen in the pictures above.

Another problem is the fact that you need to have some rubber bands to keep the circular walls together while the glue dries. This ensures that the walls are round, but getting the rubber bands around the walls is quite hard. In fact, I’ve had it multiple times that I warped my assembly while I was trying to get the rubber bands around the walls. In addition, you need to be sure that the wooden floors (of the 2nd and 3rd levels) can still fit inside the round walls and that the wooden support beams of these floors stick out enough so they slot into the lower level.

Finally are there problems with the assembly of smaller pieces such as the staircases that do not line up properly with the outer walls. Balconies keep falling off while the glue is drying because there is no ‘support’ structure for these floating slabs or plastic. Also, the buttresses that need to be glued to the base but are moulded in such a way that the lean outwards and leave a large gap between the wall and the buttress, something that is handy when you remove the 2nd floor, but looks horrible. This is reinforced by the fact that the buttresses are hollow.

All in all, even for an experienced modeller like me assembly has been quite a challenge. The end result is rather satisfying and I look forward to painting these two towers. But some extra quality control on the moulding side of things would have been very welcome. It’s these small things that I have not seen often from a Games Workshop product and it’s something I think you should be well aware of when you might want to get one of these old kits.

Conclusion
Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight are two massive and good looking scenery kits. Both these kits will look suitably impressive on your gaming table and are two objectives that ask to be fought over. Witchfate Tor also comes with quite a few ‘spare’ bits – that is, ruined walls – that can be used in other scenery projects. Another good thing is the fact that these sets are well detailed and feature fully detailed interiors. This makes both Witchfate Tor and Dreadstone Blight suitable for non wargaming games such as skirmish miniature games like Mordheim and role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. Finally does the modular setup of the kit allow for some variation. Don’t get your hopes up too high though, because the amount of variation is limited due to the shape of the kit and the lack of other kits that fit the modular setup.

Not everything is good about these two scenery kits though. The amount of skulls that decorate these kits (a trademark characteristic of many Games Workshop scenery kits) is not to everyone’s taste. Assembly is also a problem: the different parts do not line up properly and require quite a bit of trimming to fit together. This goes beyond removing mouldlines and instead require a lot of filing. The hollow parts in the ‘crown’ and buttresses of Witchfate Tor are another disappointment and need to be filled with some modelling putty or need to be covered with some plastic card.

In conclusion I must say that I like these two kits. They look impressive, are quite versatile in the way you can use them and have a character of their own that fits the ‘grim’ fantasy setting of Warhammer Fantasy. However, these kits are definitely not suitable for people who are new to the hobby and/or lack modelling experience. Parts that do not fit ‘out of the box’ and the amount of trimming can be chore. It made me use foul words quite a few times in fact. But if you want a challenging kit that stands out on your battlefield, both terrain pieces offer just that.

The good
+ Impressive eye catcher for your battlefield
+ Great detailing on almost all parts
+ Removable floors allow for entry ‘inside’ the tower (Witchfate Tor only)
+ Fully detailed interior makes it useful for RPG’s and more
+ Modular setup allows for various assembly options and even multiple smaller buildings
+Not unreasonably priced

The Bad
– A pain to assemble
– Besides the different wall pieces, little customization options
– Style is not for everybody (lots of skulls, imperial iconography)
– Huge gaps between tower and buttresses
– Hollow pinnacles and buttresses look bad and ‘unnatural’
– Not expandable with other (modular) terrain kits

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