Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Year Of The Rat – December

And so, as the lights go down on 2017, it’s time for a final update on the progress of my Skaven army. Roughly a year ago I made a promise, to add something to my Skaven army every single month in 2017 – even if it was only a lone clanrat. For too long my dreamed-of verminous horde was nothing more than unpainted, unlovely grey plastic. At times I would pick up a model or two and get painting but the scale of the task was too great and time and again they were set aside in favour of more immediate projects, or the next idea to captive my feverish imagination. By setting a modest target however I kept the ball rolling, I forced myself to keep picking up those rats and stopped the motivation from guttering out. Of course some months I managed more than others (turning out just a single model in November, compared with a rather more inspiring 14 In July) but all in all it’s been enough to transform my Skaven collection from this…

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…to this…

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In old Warhammer money that’s a tidy little army of 1151 points. I’m afraid I’m still behind the times with Age of Sigmar so I’m not sure what it tallies up to nowadays but it looks good to my eye anyway.

Indeed so pleased am I by the success of this little project that I’ve decided to do it all again next year (albeit under a new title – “The Second Year of the Rat” would sound a bit silly and, as keeps being pointed out to me, this wasn’t the year of the rat anyway). However before we get onto that let’s take a look at what I’ve managed to add this month.

I decided to make December all about finishing squads (or at least bringing them up to fighting strength – despite the fact that I’m highly unlikely to play any games with them any time soon). Most in need of bolstering were the stormvermin who gained a banner last month but still needed a Fangleader…

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…and a musician.

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With the squad’s commanders suitably bolstered the whole pack is ready for action.

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That done I turned my attention to the hulking rat ogres that act as the muscle for the army. In my opinion these are some of the ugliest models still in the GW range (against stiff competition from the likes of the zombies and the Khorne berserkers). The best I could hope to do was turn their ugliness to my advantage and try to create something in keeping with the hideous lab-experiments that the Skaven use as shock troops. After all if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and if you can’t make something less ugly try making it more ugly.Skaven Convert Or Die (23)

Two heads are better than one and all that.

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Back in May I added a warpfire thrower to support one of my clanrat squads so, in the interests of preventing any inter-squad jealousy boiling over in vicious backstabbing, I decided it was about time I added a poison-wind mortar to accompany the other.

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That may be all the finished models for this year but there’s still plenty to come for my verminous horde. Lurching its way onto my painting desk comes a rather bigger model than I usually tackle, the wonderfully ramshackle screaming bell. This one’s been waiting for a coat of paint for a while and, thanks to Azazel of Azazel’s Bitz Box its time has come at last.

In order to encourage his fellow hobbyists to tackle those bigger, centre-piece kits that tend to get pushed to the back of the shelf (something I’m extremely guilty of) in favour of smaller and easier to completely infantry models, Azazel has inaugurated Decemb-uary. The aim of the exercise – simply to get a big model painted up between the start of December and the end of January. As it stands the bell still has a fair way to go but the early layers and down, the first washes are applied and the whole crumbling edifice is slowly rolling in the right direction.

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Whilst the bell itself still needs a lot more work before it can be called complete the grey seer that rides on it is pretty close to being finished (unless of course someone points out a glaring flaw that I’ve overlooked).

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Beyond that I’m planning to paint up a warlord to replace Queek at the head of the army, the battle standard bearer I showed back in July, a few ramshackle warmachines and, of course, lots and lots of clanrats. Roll on 2018!

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A Darker World Is Not Far From Us

Chaos has always been portrayed as more than just another enemy. Whilst the Imperium stood at the heart of the 40k story with the xenos races arrayed around it like wolves waiting to pull the big beast down, Chaos was the Imperium’s equal – its dark reflection. One is led to believe that the Imperium could hold back any one of the xenos threats with ease, if only they were attacking it one at a time like bad guys in a martial arts film. The eldar are too few now to present a real danger, the tau too small and isolated. The orks, as is always noted, could destroy us all – if only they stopped fighting each other for long enough to knock over humanity’s sandcastles. Of course we’re told that the tyranids and/or necrons will soon kill everyone, but this is generally presented as something of a “by-the-way” which to me means it has often seemed either a distant threat, or so overwhelming as to make all other faction’s involvement seem pointless.

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Not chaos though. Chaos is in all of us. Every man who marches in the armies of the Imperium could someday turn his coat and fight beneath the eight-pointed star instead. If the Imperium fielded an army of just one man then that man might turn his back on the Emperor and fight instead for the Ruinous Powers. If they sent an army a billion strong to defeat him then they might win… or they might find a billion new enemies marching back towards them. The tau can be eradicated, the eldar driven to extinction, the Imperium brought to ruin and the numberless swarms of the tyranids exhausted, but so long as a single human remains alive in the galaxy Chaos will never die.

Like an infection it leaps from one carrier to the next. No-one is entirely immune, regardless of what the Grey Knights will tell you, and once a person is corrupted they will inevitably seek to corrupt others. Should the right person fall billions more can fall with them. Corrupt a planetary governor and a whole world can tumble. When Horus fell half the Imperium followed.

Fight it head on and you only feed it. Try to ignore it, deny its reality, smash the churches and burn the holy books, and Chaos sneaks back in via the back door.

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We know of course that there are various factions within all of the races, clans of orks, necron dynasties, tyranid hive fleets and so on. You’re encouraged to paint them different colours, and – especially since the arrival of Warhammer 40k’s 8th edition – there are even rules so that they perform differently in the game. The eldar have a bit more depth; there are the craftworlders, the dark kin of Commortagh, the dancing harlequins of the Black Library, the newly formed Ynnari and, for enthusiast convertors, even exodites and corsairs. Really though it’s the Imperium to whom the greatest attention has been devoted. We have six brands of space marine alone, various imperial guard regiments, the wonderfully weird tech-cult of the Adeptus Mechanicis, the towering knights, the golden armoured Custodes, the shadowy Inquisitors, the one man armies of the Assassinorum and those perpetually overlooked nuns with guns – the Sisters of Battle. The thing is, Chaos is always described as having all that and more. Four distinct gods place their influence upon chaos space marine legions, traitor primarchs, rebel guard regiments, beastmen herds, daemonic choirs, fallen knight households and the daemon-smiths of the Dark Mechanicus. It’s as if there was another Imperium, a twisted reflection of the first, a Dark Imperium if you will.

The battle between the Imperium and Chaos then is not the story of the old empire falling to the barbarians at the gates but the story of two equals fighting for dominance. The Empire of the Eye has stood almost as long as the Imperium and its history is just as rich and complex as that of its real space reflection.

Roboute Guilliman

When Roboute Guilliman arrived in the 40k setting earlier this year I was furious. I even wrote a long and extremely angry blog post, which thankfully I never posted, decrying the state of the world and GW’s decision to put profit over quality. To me the daemon primarchs belonged in the setting and their return was welcome but their flesh and blood brothers should have stayed dead. I got over it though. Guilliman may walk and talk but the galaxy is a big place and his presence hasn’t impinged on my enjoyment of the game one way or another. I even read Guy Haley’s Dark Imperium (and, beneath my dwarf-like contempt for this newfangled tinkering with the established lore, secretly rather enjoyed it).

The age of the Emperor ended when he was placed upon the golden throne. This is the story of twin empires locked in a struggle to the death and of brothers fighting over their father’s kingdom.

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Warhammer as was told the story of many races, empires and nations. Age of Sigmar is a veritable soup of them. Nor do all of those stories focus around human protagonists. Central themes in the World That Was included the age long struggle between the self-righteous Elves of Ulthuan and their infinitely superior kin in Naggaroth, whilst dwarves, skaven and goblins battled in the sunless depths without anyone in the Empire or Bretonnia even knowing about it.

Without Chaos however 40k runs the risk of being a one horse town, with the Imperium at the heart of every story. Sure there are epic confrontations going on in the margins, the Eldar battling the Tyranids at Valedor, the Orks also fighting the Tyranids in Octarius, but in the main it’s all been about the Imperium. What’s more, for all the Chaos has traditionally been presented as the biggest baddy of them all, in recent years it’s star had started to wane. Bigger threats were descending on the galaxy, threats which would see all human life obliterated regardless of whether they worshipped a corpse god or grew tentacles from their ears. Either the Necrons were going to wake up and obliterate all organic life with the flick of a switch or the Tyranids were going to eat everyone. Against this Chaos was starting to feel a little weak. To criticise poor old Abaddon because you’ve never read the background and his arms keep falling off has long been akin to waving a flag and publicly declaring you’re an ass but even so one started to wonder if his long war wasn’t taking a little bit too long. Surely if he didn’t crack on his hordes would eventually come pouring from the Eye of Terror only to find a galaxy stripped of life and nothing left to fight but a lone genestealer fighting a broken necron in the ruins of the Imperial Palace. It’s one thing to unite the warring Chaos legions beneath one banner, quite another to take so long doing it that you end up missing the apocalypse you were planning to unleash. Yet whilst Abaddon was running the risk of being the big baddie who get’s beaten at the end of every episode some filthy xenos were about to blow up the whole galaxy – and that would never do.

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Now this isn’t intended to do down the xenos (some of my best friends are xenos) who enrich the setting so deeply or to claim special treatment for my army just because I’m super special myself. Indeed I’d like to see the various alien races expanded upon further and with luck GW are cracking on behind the scenes with exactly that. However when the threat they pose reaches apocalyptic levels it risks becoming too abstract, too overwhelming, to engage with alone. When one looks at the innumerable hordes of the Tyranids pouring in from the depths of space one tends to think that the Imperium might as well just go home and put their feet up, they’re all going to be eaten whatever they do so there’s not much point struggling especially not when they already have a galaxy-sized guass flayer to their collective heads. Chaos though is an enemy you can fight – not just with your bolters in the burning streets, not just on the tabletop, but in your own heart and soul. No-one looks at a Tyranid and thinks “I really understand where these guys are coming from! If I was living in the 41st Millennium I’d want to strip planets of their biomass too!” I can’t put myself in the shoes of a soulless Necron automaton, and even the Eldar and Orks are relatively inscrutable and inhuman to our gaze. Chaos though speaks to us, to our ambition, to our righteous anger, to our will to freedom and self-determination, to our hunger to live, to our moral drives and the very emotions that make us human.

The Imperium needs an enemy we can empathise with, an enemy that speaks to us in our own voice so that we can cringe with horrified fascination as they tear each other apart. Ultimately if GW are serious about the 40k setting evolving then the Imperium needs an equal. It needs Chaos.

All artwork used belongs to Games Workshop and is used without permission as a result of sheer badness on my part.


Get Sick Or Die Trying – Part 3

Stirred by Nurgle’s fell influence the restless dead walk once more…

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As ever I remain deeply opposed to painting a horde made up of pairs of matching models so I’ll be aiming to convert my Poxwalkers as far as possible so that the same model never appears twice. This one, for instance, is the twin of the first model I showed (way back in July).

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I also threw in a set of easy-to-build Poxwalkers to bulk up the numbers.

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Man’s Best Friend – Part 1

Something I was keen to emphasis with my Inquisitorial retinue for the Chapel is the “aloneness” of Inquisitor Morix. Here is a man who’s dedicated his life to rooting out heresy and specifically to working with the dead. Whilst many Inquisitorial warbands are made up of a cavalcade of crazy characters I felt that having too many friends and sidekicks along for the ride would reduce the sense of isolation I wanted to imbue him with. Of course he does have a few acolytes but I wanted to avoid creating a sense of community around him. Ultimately this isn’t the story of a group of friends fighting crime in the 41st Millennium, it’s the story of Inquisitor Morix and the others are very much just the supporting cast. Without him the group wouldn’t struggle onwards to complete his final mission, or return his body to Terra. They would simply scatter to pursue their own agendas.

As an aside I’ve often fancied putting together a retinue that leaned heavily on the traditional Inquisitorial tropes and my initial idea for this project was to make a group of Chapter-serfs tasked with the returning the body of the Space Marine they had served to be interred in the Chapel. Perhaps someday these projects will come together but in the meantime Morix is where the action is.

As yet I’m not certain which of the characters I’ve been making of the Chapel will actually make it into Morix’s retinue, but even so each has been pitched to avoid reducing the Inquisitor’s sense of isolation. The witch is a shunned, unsanctioned pysker – who may or may not be possessed already. The dwarf is a vat-bred creation who, despite being gifted with a razor sharp intelligence and a wealth of knowledge lacks any empathy or emotional range to avoid him questioning his lowly station or turning upon his rightful masters. The scout is a free agent, roaming alone ahead of the warband where his roguish behaviour and lax attitude to Inquisitorial protocol won’t get him into too much trouble with the boss. And yes, you’ve not seen him yet – but you will soon…

Of course, this is all very well but how to maintain the remoteness of Morix once I started on the rank and file of the warband? As the population of the warband grew it would be harder and harder to maintain the sense that Morix was in it alone. For a while I toyed with the idea of undead servitors but in the end the option I went for was to unleash the dogs.

I’ve always liked the idea of cyber-hounds but until GW gets around to making them (maybe if they add Arbites to Necromunda he said wishfully) the only option was to grab a set of gryph hounds and a load of greenstuff and make my own.

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Do keep in mind that these are all WIPs at the moment. For instance I’m still working out exactly what’s going on with the cables on the pack alpha’s head.

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I know that in theory one is never lonely with a dog but I can’t imagine Morix petting these beasts. This is not the relationship of friends, the deep bond between human (perfectly crafted in the Emperor’s image) and animal (intrinsically lesser but still descended from the line of Blessed Terra) that crosses the boundary between species. Rather this is a master and his servants, a power-armoured alpha male and the savage hunting beasts which will undoubtedly kill and eat him if he becomes weak. I suspect he doesn’t get invited to many parties either…


The Bird Is The Word

I know it’s been a while since I’ve shown anything of my Chapel warband (insert appropriate excuses about the busyness of real life here) but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle. Indeed my determination to bring my best work to the project has seen me putting in many hours tinkering away with the various members of Inquistior Morix’s retinue – but has also meant that whenever work and life have piled on the pressure I’ve been content to turn my attention to more straightforward projects, rather than burdening myself with an additional suite of challenges. Plus, as the initial Chapel game has been and gone, there’s no particular hurry to get them finished, no looming deadline encouraging me to put in long nocturnal hours with brush in hand when I’m already putting in long diurnal (mostly) hours at work. That said there’s plans for a return to the Chapel and as ever the Imperium may be slow to respond but with xenos, witches and unquiet spirits alike abroad in the Emperor’s domain the arrival of Inquisitorial sanction remains inevitable.

Last time I showed pictures of Morix (back in July dare I admit it) I noted that the “skellie-bird”, his cyber-familiar which had been perched on his fist in the earliest WIPs had flown off somewhere but would be returning “shortly”. Who knew then that “shortly” would turn out to be such a long time away? Not I that’s for sure. However I’m pleased to announce that he’s back at last, perched where he belongs, and undoubtedly chattering secrets into his master’s ear.

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However he doesn’t need to sit there permanently. After all his role is to be a spy and a scout and to do that he must be able to flit away, leaving his master looking as though he’s punching someone whilst looking the other way and shouting.

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Where then does the skellie-bird go when he’s not at Morix’s side? Naturally he needed a perch from which he can spy out the route ahead or listen in on the whispered conversations of those who believe themselves free from the pitiless gaze of the Inquisition. Inspired by pictures of the Albino Woods board I put together this warped, bio-mechanical tree.

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Without wishing to over promise and under deliver I’m planning to show some pictures of the rest of Morix’s retinue before the end of the week – in the meantime any thoughts or feedback you have on the bid and his perch are much appreciated.


The Emperor’s Angels – Part 4

Having completed one truescale space marine devastator I was keen to try making a second. Whilst the first was a very straightforward build there are limits to the compatibility of the Primaris kits with the older space marine models. A bit of greenstuff was needed to lengthen the arm so that the multi-melta sat correctly relative to the body, and more work is still needed to tidy up both this and the additions to the cabling (I’m well aware that at the moment it looks a bit guff), but overall I’m pleased with how he’s looking so far.

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The Emperor’s Angels – Part 3

So having demonstrated, to my satisfaction at least, that it’s possible to make truescale assault marines from Primaris bodies, what about devastators? Then there’s the fact that I’ve been looking for a way to use the wonderfully old-school missile launcher from Betrayal at Calth since the moment I saw it.

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I’ll admit to feeling a bit conflicted over using the Mk.X head. On the one hand they’re a bit of a guilty pleasure for me (I’ve got no time for Primaris marines but I really, really like those flat face plates – don’t judge me ok!). On the other hand I don’t want to include anything that makes him look like a Primaris marine with a rocket launcher, he’s supposed to be a truescale marine. Hopefully if I just don’t mention it no-one will notice.

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So far so good I reckon – although of course feel free to tell me if you think otherwise. That said the missile launcher was always going to be the most straightforward of the heavy weapons to convert. Time to dig around in the bits box in search of something a little more challenging…