Category Archives: 40k

Infested! – Part 6

In spite of my ongoing real-life business eating in my hobby time like a tyranid hive fleet with a particularly tasty planet I’ve still managed to get both my Fembruary models finished before the end of the month (cue a little self-congratulatory back-patting). Alongside the witch I showed previously I also wanted to finish off this assassin, who also serves as part of my contribution to the Nestorian Infestation. Rather than repeat myself too much those who want to know what Fembruary is should look here, those who’re interested in the Nestorian Infestation can read all about the infested population here, and those who want to know why when the brief calls for genestealer infested civilians my first contribution is neither a genestealer nor a civilian can see me justifying myself here.

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Now Fembruary has started me thinking about few female miniatures I have in my collection, although given that so few of my models are even human (Space Marines non-withstanding) I feel I have at least a sliver of an excuse. Hopefully soon I’ll have some Escher gangers painted up to show you and, although they wouldn’t be seen dead without their combat heels and form-fitting outfits, will at least serve to reduce the proportion of my troops with only one X chromosome. In the meantime here’s a group shot of my favourite females from my collection.

Fembruary Group Shot Convert Or Die

Who needs Grey Knights? Three Imperial ladies taking on the worst filth Nurgle can throw at them.

Fembruary vs Nurgle Convert Or Die

Of course this just leaves time to offer congratulations once more to Alex of Leadballoony for making Fembruary a “thing”, and to all the miniature’s designers willing to create female subjects beyond the impractical world of chainmail bikinis.

 

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Black Magic Woman

I planned this model to be my second contribution to Fembruary, alongside the genestealer hunting Imperial agent I showed previously, although truth be told she could equally fit in with Azazel’s call to make February “finish a neglected model month” as she’s been sitting untouched and unloved for almost a year. The wait is over however and, with both community challenges chaining me to my painting desk she’s finished at long last.

My aim for Fembruary was to paint powerful, non-sexualised women and I like to think that nothing ticks that box quite so well as a thousand year old, possibly possessed witch.

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Of course, continuing the theme of cross-over projects and community challenges that seems to surround this model, she was originally envisioned as part of HeresyOfUs’ Chapel project. However as the rest of my Ordo Mors warband continues to languish in unpainted purgatory here she is with a squad of Imperial guardsmen for company. How the poor guardsmen feel about this we can only guess.

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The Golden Legion

It is often stated that in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war and this may well be the case. Nonetheless two battles stand out, head and shoulders above all others both in scale and importance. The great tank battle at Talarn, the sacking of Prospero, the devastation of Baal or the Fall of Cadia? These are mere skirmishes! Armageddon, Calth, Isstvan, Macragge? Simple border disputes! The great conflicts which rage unseen in Octarius, the Legion Wars in the Eye of Terror or the long lost struggles between the Old Ones and the Necrontyr? Hardly the stuff to define the Imperium-centric universe of the 41st Millennium. No, the battles of which I speak are of course the First Siege of Terra – in which two Primarchs are slain, the Emperor is placed within the Golden Throne and an age of darkness truly dawns, and the Second Siege of Terra, the one yet to come in which Abaddon brings the traitor legions and their daemonic primarchs back to humanity’s birth world for the final, apocalyptic showdown to define our species’ fate.

For those immersed in the world of the 41st Millennium one is the cornerstone of all history, the other the overshadowing conclusion to the future, the ultimate Ragnarok and day of judgement rolled into one. One cries out to be chronicled in a series of novels, the other demands to be left purely to the imagination.

Auric Custodians

I don’t want to see the final battle for Terra, either through official rules, global campaigns or Black Library novels. I don’t want the Long War to end. Yet with the ghoulish fascination that makes us rubberneck at car crashes my eye is drawn back to it, to that final apocalypse which ends only with chaos standing triumphant over the Emperor’s broken realm or breaking against its defences like a failing wave.

This is mankind defining our own fate. We shall come to this war in many guises, be it the common soldiers of the Astra Militarum or the frothing cultists that oppose them, the astartes rebuilt in the Emperor’s image, the Primarchs fabricated to be demi-gods among men, the bestial creatures of chaos or even the daemons grown from our nightmares and ambitions like the mould that sprouts from the yeast in bread. Xenos will not fight in this war, at least not in a major, defining way. There may be the odd Eldar sneaking about, a genestealer cultist or two in the shadows, an ork who heard this was the place to come for an especially good fight, but ultimately this is our war, fought amongst ourselves for the soul of our species. This is us taking back control.

The Talons of the Emperor

Of course, one can’t think of war on Terra without thinking of the Adeptus Custodes. For a long time they’ve floated at the edge of 40k fans’ wildest imaginings, yet for all we dreamed of seeing them on our tabletops and bestriding the battlefields of the 41st Millennium, it seemed at best a pipe-dream. After all the custodes were confined to Terra, having sworn oaths of penance in the wake of the Emperor’s death at the hands of his son Horus. GW were never going to make an army that only fought on one planet out of the hundreds of thousands in the galaxy, especially a planet that, almost by definition, wouldn’t see war on a grand scale until the setting itself reaches its ultimate end.

Times however have changed and 40k is an evolving beast. Like the Imperium itself stagnation has been replaced by transformation, and we’re yet to see for sure what shape its final form shall be. Many of us, myself included, cried out against the changes being wrought to the setting. Yet so far whilst the universe has developed it hasn’t strayed as far from the darkness at its core as many feared. We may have raged against the Primaris marines for the disregard of the background lore but we forgave them for giving us easy access to true-scale marines. Likewise I may not be thrilled to see the custodes leaving Terra at long last but I’ll let it pass because we now have the range of glorious golden-armoured warriors we long dreamed of.

Custodians

That said my pleasure at seeing the custodes doesn’t mean they get a free pass from criticism.  After all the custodes may be the Emperor’s golden boys with a long list of victories (almost) unmarred by defeat but they’re still a long way from perfect. They say the man who never made a mistake never made anything and true enough the custodes have spent the last ten millennia making damn sure they never made a mistake.

For those unfamiliar with the background to the custodes the crux of the matter is this; after a history in which they had never known defeat the custodes, sworn to protect the Emperor from all threats, were separated from him as they teleported aboard Horus’ battle barge. By the time they reached their master’s side he had been mortally wounded. Failure strengthens us, it teaches us both how to avoid failing again and how to cope if we do. The custodes had never failed before and now that they had they didn’t know how to cope. They carried the Emperor back to Terra and swore an oath never again to leave the Imperial Palace (admittedly a loosely defined area around the Sol system).

In many ways the custodes exemplified the ignorant, inward-looking nature of the Imperium and its cruelly wasteful treatment of its resources – most notably human lives. It’s always been one of the great ironies of the Imperium that whilst ork waarrghs and black crusades smashed thousands of worlds to rubble and whole chapters of space marines and regiments of imperial guard were being swallowed up by war the finest army at the Imperium’s disposal sat idle. Where were the custodes when Armageddon or Macragge were burning? Sitting on Terra feeling sorry for themselves that’s where.

Was it dereliction of duty on their part that saw the Emperor slain? I feel that’s a harsh judgement. Blame for Horus’ invasion of Terra, and the Emperor’s fateful decision to teleport aboard the Vengeful Spirit and take the fight to his wayward son, could hardly be laid at the custodes’ door. Yet the ten millennia of mourning and self-recrimination and penance that followed, whilst all around them the galaxy burned, that can be called dereliction of duty of the highest order.

Golden Legion

Yet whilst the custodes have exemplified the stubborn ignorance of their era they are not of it. Almost uniquely amongst the people of the Imperium they are granted access to all knowledge and trained in all things. Beyond their superlative combat abilities each is educated to the very limit that their superhuman brains can handle. They are statesmen, philosophers, artists and historians, cartographers of the heavens and a thousand other things beside. They are not oblivious to the threats that fall upon the Imperium, or to the state of decline into which that once great empire has fallen. They must have seen the doom that was swallowing everyone, from the lowliest tech-serf to the Emperor Himself, yet they chose to stay on Terra anyway, allowing self-indulgent misery at the failings of their long-dead ancestors to blind them to the fact that they’d been letting the side down for rather a long time.

They’ve sat on their hands, gathering dust whilst the Imperium collapsed around them. This isn’t a complaint mind you – although if they knew the truth a denizen of the 41st Millennium might feel otherwise. Rather I’ve always found it to be a wonderful part of the 40k background, the idea of a superlative army able to overcome any foe standing idle whilst enemies rage unchecked simply because they believe that they failed ten thousand years ago.

Of course they’ve not been entirely shiftless, there have been shadow wars and hidden conflicts conducted out of sight in the veiled byways and alleys of Terra as the forces of the arch-enemy attempt to corrupt the throne world. From the grander conflicts that the Imperium has endured however they have been absent, leaving the space marines and Imperial Guard to do the leg work.

Golden Throne edit

As far as we’ve seen the wars in which the custodes have taken part have hardly been taxing. Whilst many space marine chapters have come close to extinction the Golden Legion have managed to maintain their numbers at a rough ten thousand. This leads me to wonder; if the custodes are functionally immortal and can only be killed by catastrophic trauma, and they never leave the Emperor’s palace – the most heavily defended site in the galaxy, and when they do have to fight it is almost certainly against someone less skilled than themselves, then how do they ever die at all? The codex describes some as being over a thousand years old but surely many of them should be even older than that.

What happens to them? Surely the warriors who fought in the Horus Heresy aren’t still standing vigil now? It’s something I’ve often wondered, especially nowadays when Bjorn the Fell-handed’s claim to being the oldest living human has been knocked aside by the return of other Heresy-era oldsters like Guilliman and Cawl.

Thankfully we now have an answer. If a custodian finds himself no longer at the peak of fighting perfection he returns his equipment, resigns from his watch and, clad in hooded black robes, set’s off into the galaxy to act as a watchman, spying out any threats to the Emperor and sending word back to his former brothers. It’s a powerful image; a hooded giant, face almost hidden, watching from the shadows with his retinue of agents gathered around him, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t inspire a few Inq28 warbands.

Vertus Praetors

Now in the Imperium’s darkest hour the custodes are unleashed. With a loyalist primarch back in the fight, a new, more pro-active Captain-General at the helm and an attack by Khornate daemons at the very gates of the Imperial Palace to goad them into action, they begin to strike out into the galaxy at large. Cue much back-patting at GW HQ as they finally have the excuse to make the range of models they know we’re always wanted.

It would have been all too easy to make these golden armoured supermen into two-dimensional goodies but, perhaps learning from the accusations fired at the Stormcast Eternals, the writers have done a good job of describing a well rounded and distinctly human force. The custodes may have grown in stature, prowess and intellect above the common man but their flaws have grown with them and this keeps them rooted firmly in the 41st Millennium. Of course with the Sol system under threat from several directions one cannot help but wonder if the final battle might not be close at hand. Is it the wisest move on the part of the custodes to be abandoning their posts and going in search of battle at the precise moment that the battle they have long prepared for is finally coming to them? Perhaps not, but have pity on the Golden Legion as they attempt to find the right path through the pitiless horror of the 41st Millennium. They’re only human after all.

All artwork is copyright Games Workshop and is used without permission.


Infested! – Part 1

It turns out Inquisitor Nestorian has been a very, very naughty boy indeed. Whilst he was supposed to be defending the Imperium from xenos threats he’s instead fallen in with a bunch of genestealers – and as we all know nothing good can come of that in the long run.

For those not in the know the Nestorian Infestation is the product of collaboration between Big Boss Redskullz, Echoes of Imperium and Wilhel Miniatures, set around a world overrun by genestealer cultists and the arrival of Imperial forces in the form of the Deathwatch. As a mere onlooker I could hardly do justice to describing it but I do recommend taking a look at the aforementioned blogs to find out more about the corruption that’s taken hold.

In order to unleash the next stage of the project however the team require civilians to populate their planet, the ordinary working men and women of the world who have been corrupted at a genetic level by the star children and their heralds. Drumming up a crowd takes time so Big Boss Redskullz has put out the call to the community to make some civilians. By the time he made the announcement I was already feeling the itch to make some genestealers of my own, and given my love of collaborative projects I realised at once that I too would inevitably be drawn into the service of the cult.

I’ve got a few ideas buzzing in my brain at the moment but the first to emerge is this workman who probably finds his extra arm to be a huge assistance in whatever manual labour he spends his days on.

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He’s not the most radical of conversions but keep in mind that he’s intended to be a background character in someone else’s game, to lend immersion to the world without overshadowing the warbands of the players themselves. Nonetheless I suspect that he’s not quite done yet, to me he still looks a little bit too much like a goliath, so if you have any thoughts on what to do about that I’ll hear them.


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.

Plague Marines 2

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.

Horrors

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.

Bloodthirster

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…