Category Archives: Blackstone Fortress

Blackstone Fortress: Espern Locarno

Next to emerge from the labyrinthine depths of the Blackstone Fortress, my partner’s favourite character – Espern Locarno. I must admit, I don’t think she was entirely sure about her choice to begin with but once she saw the kind of effect a glance from a Navigator’s warp-filled third eye has on a hapless traitor guardsman she was sold. Given her enthusiasm for the character I probably should have painted him sooner but, in my defence, I was terrified of messing up the pattern on his cape. It still isn’t perfect but it looks good in hand and that’s good enough for now.

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The Navigator households are one of the most interesting parts of the Imperium for me, and ripe for future exploration by GW’s miniature’s designers. I’m also pleased to see that a novel featuring them, Rites of Passage by Mike Brooks, is forthcoming – given his masterful handling of Necromunda in Wanted: Dead and A Common Ground (itself apparently a prequel to Rites of Passage) this will definitely be on the “to read” list as soon as it’s released.

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The Cult of Ruin – Part 6

Next up, something I can only describe as a rabble of Chaos cultists. As I’ve mentioned before work has been particularly crazy recently and, despite actually managing to finish some models last week, painting time has been thin on the ground. Thus when I did manage to claw back some painting time I went for a few “easy wins” and tackled some of the part-painted chaos cultists that have been waiting on the edge of the desk for some time.

First up there’s this savage beastman. I built him a number of years ago (indeed a quick look back into the archives of this blog tells me it was 2015) but he’s spent most of the intervening time with nothing more than a few basecoats to his name. Time to put in the (fairly minimal when it came down to it) extra effort to get him finished and ready to rage through the Underhive in full colour!

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Whilst I was working on him I found my attention drawn to the traitor guardsmen from the Blackstone Fortress box. Now as I’ve previous noted my aim with Blackstone Fortress is to paint up those models that I can’t easily proxy from elsewhere in my collection and then work on the rest – that way we can actually play it with a full set of painted models sooner rather than later. Traitor guard are something which isn’t in short supply so my plan was to shove them to the back and crack on with things like Negavolt Cultists and Ur-Ghuls in the meantime. A good plan sure enough, but not one which survived first contact with the painting desk! After all, it’s all very well to have these organised and sensible aspirations but how could I allow models as cool as these to sit unpainted for long?

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In turn working on these gave me the impetus to go for a few more “easy wins”. All of the above models may well find their way into my long-gestated Chaos Cult gang for Necromunda. When I originally planned this gang last year the idea was that it would be quick and easy to put together, just a case of gathering models I’d already painted and going for it. However I quickly became dissatisfied with this idea. The models I had to hand had mostly been painted several years ago and the quality of the painting really didn’t hold up next to the newer stuff. Thus I picked out several cultists that I wanted to use in the gang and decided to make a start by giving them a quick repaint – and of course having made this plan then proceeded to do absolutely nothing about it.

However with other chaos models on the painting desk and feeling the temptation to do something quick and easy with what little painting time I could scrape together I finally got around giving these three the love and attention they deserve.

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Now I just need to find the time to get this month’s Skaven photographed and write some words about them. Perhaps if I give up sleep…


Blackstone Fortress: Pious Vorne

When we first sat down to play Blackstone Fortress we all grabbed our favourite characters and naturally I went for the mad lady with the flamethrower strapped to a chainsaw. Don’t you judge me! Thus having already painted UR-025, the not-so-Imperial robot, I couldn’t help but continue my love-affair with Pious and paint her next.

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Navigator Espern Locarno (who more than proved his worth by frying enemies aplenty with his soul-stealing third eye) and debonair king-of-style rogue trader Janus Draik, made up the rest of our original party so I may well paint one of them next – or I may decide to mix things up with one of the other heroes.


Blackstone Fortress – UR-025

“Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind”

– Dune; Terminology of the Imperium, Frank Herbert

I’m aware that I’m juggling projects a bit at the moment but I’ve been inspired to try and get my Blackstone Fortress set painted up as soon as possible. Part of the blame (or, more accurately, credit) for this decision has to be laid at the feet of KrautScientist, who has been busy painting up a full set of HeroQuest models – if you’ve not seen this work of art I highly recommend you check it out at once.

As mentioned back when I showed the Spindle Drones I have quite a lot of models kicking around which could stand in for some of the adversaries (traitor guard for instance are not in short supply!) so I’m starting off by trying to fill in the gaps where useful proxies aren’t easily available. Today it’s the turn of one of the most interesting heroes in the set; the Man of Iron UR-025.

Of course this model isn’t just wearing a suit of armour, it is a suit of armour and thus, to my mind, definitely counts towards Azazel’s Armoured April hobby challenge.

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I’ve been curious about the Men of Iron ever since I first heard of them, tucked away in one of the little snippets of text that hint at pre-Imperial history in the 40k setting. We’ve only ever seen hints regarding them before although that in itself was enough to demonstrate how awe-inspiringly terrible they were in all their sun-quenching, planet-devouring might – and by extension how powerful the humans of the Dark Age of Technology must have been to have defeated them. Factor in that the Eldar of that era still regarded the humans as little more than animals scampering for scraps around their feet and we begin to see that, despite the Emperor’s best efforts, by the 40k era we truly are living in the twilight of the gods.

In the war with the Men of Iron we see that once again humanity ended up battling with the weapons that outgrew them, just as they would go on to do to the Thunder Warriors and Space Marine Legions. Those chapters still loyal to the Throne beware!

Then again, although one of the key narrative points of the 40k setting is the Imperium’s struggle to make do and mend, facing the horrors of the galaxy without access to the technologies they once possessed, what little we’ve seen of the Men of Iron at their height should be more than enough to confirm that some things really are best forgotten!

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“War to the death should be instantly proclaimed against them. Every machine of every sort should be destroyed by the well-wisher of his species. Let there be no exceptions made, no quarter shown; let us at once go back to the primeval condition of the race.”

– Darwin Among The Machines, Samuel Butler

UR-025 isn’t about to single-handedly bring the Imperium to it’s knees of course (or is it?). It’s just a friendly robot, a survivor from a lost age, trying to make its way through a hostile galaxy, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that be a surprise for Abaddon and Guilliman alike if it managed to turn the Blackstone Fortress into a factory for making new Men of Iron and the galaxy fell, not to the daemons of the Warp or to a horde of hostile xenos, but to the return of humanity’s first spurned angels?

All that aside I think it’s very unlikely we’ll be seeing the Men of Iron return to the setting in a big way (although of course I may find myself eating my words). Rather I prefer them lurking in the corners, hidden by thousands of years of corrupted history or vanished off the edges of the map, into the dark spaces of the galaxy where human feet do not tread, where the lone survivor of a long ended war can live in peace, free from the depredations and paranoia of the species that spawned it.

“I am not a machine as you would understand, I am not a slave. I am not a thing. I am beyond and above you. I am a Man of Iron. And I am free.”

– UR-025, in the short story Man of Iron by Guy Haley


Blackstone Fortress: Spindle Drones

Despite having an inordinate number of miniatures in the house, all our games of Blackstone Fortress have so far featured a mix of unpainted models (the heroes) and various proxies (the villains). Traitor guardsmen and chaos marines are easy to come by on my shelves, and fantasy ghouls were pressed into service as ur-ghuls, but for the rest a more esoteric approach has been required. Rather than spindle drones drifting serenely through the corridors the first adversaries the explorers encountered were a small band of grots, presumably sent on a scavenging mission by their ork bosses.

Fun though the little blighters are however, and despite the space-gobbos have more in common with traditional dungeon dwelling baddies, I really wanted to get the real spindle drones painted up. To me they add a great deal to the atmosphere of the game, calling to mind the fact that this is a strange and incredibly ancient structure, constructed by enigmatic beings in a long lost and now unknowable age (although it’s probably a safe bet that in the grim darkness of the far past it was mostly war as well). They’re also quite beautiful models, often overlooked alongside fan-favourites like the long-awaited traitor guard or the showstopping cast of heroes, but wonderfully evocative nonetheless.

They’re also gloriously alien. There’s really nothing quite like them in the 41st Millennium (perhaps they’d fit in with the Eldar but even then it would be a stretch) – and indeed it was because of this lack of suitable proxies that I ended up using the aforementioned grots.

Anyway, for all of these reasons, I decided to tackle them first so that next time we play we’ll be able to do so with a bit more style.

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Normally I’d tend to steer away from having duplicate models in a collection (indeed regular readers will know this borders on being an obsession) but in this case I think the uniformity actually adds to the impression of anonymous worker drones (plus to tinker with them too much risked destroying the very qualities which drew them to me in the first place). I will however be trying to individualise the Ur-ghuls and traitor guardsmen when I get around to them.

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As I was working on them I realised that these would actually qualify neatly for both halves of Azazel’s latest hobby challenge. This month it’s a two-part challenge – on the one hand we have “Squad: March!” (nothing complicated – just a case of finishing a squad in March), on the other it’s a gender-ambiguous model painting challenge. The idea apparently spun off from Fembruary (edit; not strictly true, as I’ve since been corrected – see Azazel’s comprehensive and interesting comment below or, better yet, click on the link above to see the original challenge in his own words), the annual event organised by Alex of Leadballoony which encourages hobbyists to add female miniatures to our male dominated collections. If you’ve not already seen it the gallery of this year’s contributors is well worth a look (not least because he gives a particular shout-out to this hairy heretic).

Essentially the gender-ambiguous half of this challenge therefore makes for a reappraising of the idea that miniature’s are automatically “male” unless proven otherwise (honestly I don’t think I ever made that assumption but it’s fun to play with nonetheless). That space marine? Definitely a bloke. Those Escher gangers? Women without a doubt. But what about those squigs or fleshhounds? Does a lady night goblin really look different to a male one under all those robes? Who knows what those ranks of skeletons looked like when they were fully fleshed?

Naturally these are just perfect for this, being as they are bio-mechanical alien robots. How they go about making new spindle-drones we can only guess – and sadly, this being the internet, someone probably has… (assuming they do and these creatures haven’t been drifting around the Blackstone Fortress for however many hundreds of thousands of years it’s been floating in space without replenishing their numbers). Of course this could be the perfect moment for me to sidetrack onto a long ramble about human-esque aliens in science fiction and how much it exasperates me (narrow budgets and limited costume department’s notwithstanding) when science fiction writers assume that species developing along an entirely separate evolutionary pathway, on a planet with very different environmental pressures, would naturally end up looking just like human’s with unusual foreheads. I’ve grown more relaxed about this over the years (at least in part because if you let it bother you then the range of sci-fi available to you narrows alarmingly) but it used to hack me off righteously I can tell you. Warhammer 40,000, of course, get’s away with it by giving science fiction a body-swerve and instead pitching itself as old fashioned fantasy in space (and anyone caught with a funny looking forehead is purged before they infest the entire planet with their deviant xenos creed!). However, rather than plunge any further down this particular rabbit hole, I’m off to rummage around for more aliens to paint (gender notwithstanding!).