With many of the rank-and-file Blackstone Fortress baddies now complete it’s time to turn my attention to the big boss himself; Obsidius Mallex. Lord of the Chaos forces present in the fortress and the architect behind their villainous schemes, Mallex is an imposing presence in the game. Even though we never encountered him when we played I think we were all faintly terrified that he might put in an appearance and wreak terrible havoc on our beleaguered band of explorers, who already had to contend with all of the other hostile creatures present and our often shaky grasp of the rules.
When it came to painting him I stalled for a little while trying to decide whether to go with the colour scheme of my Beasts of Ruin Chaos Marine army or paint him in the black and gold of the Black Legion. in the end, despite using the former scheme for the games’ other Chaos Space Marines, I decided that the latter option was the way to go. After all, I didn’t want him to represent just any old generic Chaos Lord (something for which the model is now also available) but Obsidius Mallex himself. To me he isn’t “just” a chaos lord in the same way that Janus Draik isn’t just a rogue trader. Plus I wanted to practice painting the Black Legion colour scheme before I tackled what remains for me the best miniature released this year, Abaddon the Despoiler. And anyway – just look at that face! There’s no denying he’s a son of Horus!
As for why two of the Beasts would be fighting under the command of a Black Legion lord my reasoning is that my Beasts of Ruin are allied with Abaddon’s legion and some were fighting alongside Mallex when his ship was snatched from the triumph at the Cadian Gate and swallowed up by the Blackstone Fortress. I suspect that Chaos Marines often move from one warband to another in this way, and they would eventually adopt the Black Legion colours, unless of course they manage to rejoin their old warband in the meantime. At some point I’d like to paint a few more Black Legion marines to accompany Abaddon (when I finally pluck up the courage to tackle painting the true Warmaster himself!).
With Mallex done that’s the main cast of villains out of the way apart from the ranks of the traitor guard. Until now I’ve been content to leave these and draw upon the collection I’d already painted for my old Chaos army. Now however their moment has arrived so expect to see the dregs of the Great Eye putting in an appearance soon.
Floating eerily over the battlefield the Rogue Psykers are another of my favourite models from the Blackstone fortress set. I was a big fan of Forge World’s Rogue Psyker, although perhaps foolishly I never saved up the money and bought one, and as a result was rather disappointed when it was removed from the range last year. For those who don’t know what I’m on about here’s a reminder.
Thankfully he’s now back, although sadly without his tortured victim, joining the Necromunda range as Bounty Hunter Thaetos 23-2. My initial disappointment at the loss of the Forge World psyker however was very much ameliorated by the arrival of Blackstone Fortress and the two Rogue Psykers within, very much the spiritual successors of the aforementioned model, with the added advantages of being produced in a lighter and more flexible material.
Driven insane by the warp-spawned powers crowding their minds and at constant risk of being possessed by daemons, yet equally unwilling to be dragged away onto a Black Ship and used to keep the Emperor alive in a tortuous soul-flaying process, these two gents have instead offered their cruelty and megalomaniacal hatred of mankind to the chaos gods with predictably evil results.
As I was painting them it struck me that one or other would make a fine witch for my nascent Necromunda chaos cult gang (the one that I’m painting at a downright glacial pace!) and, as a witch can be accompanied by a familiar, I dug around in the bits box for something suitable to accompany them into the Underhive. Given the amount of toxic industrial runoff in every body of water on the hive world a mutant fish seemed perfect – and even the most learned of the helots would struggle to recognise the sigil of the god trapping them ever further in damnation…
With these done it’s time to turn my attention to the biggest, baddest villain to haunt the halls of the Blackstone Fortress, Obsidius Mallex himself. Despite my long affiliation with Chaos and my deep and abiding respect for Abaddon (the true Warmaster) this is my first attempt at painting a member of the Black Legion so it’ll be interesting to see how I get on.
With the Negavolt Cultists out of the way the next step for my Blackstone Fortress project was to turn my attention to the fearsome beastmen. In Games Workshop’s fantasy universes, beastmen are uniformly savage and chaotic – indeed the name “beast man” derives from “best man” and refers to their hedonistic, untamed nature combined with their tendency to consume alcohol in quantity and instigate shenanigans. In the 41st Millennium beastmen enjoy a greater range of personalities and many are loyal to the Imperium, serving in Imperial Guard regiments and even appearing as one of Necromunda’s most famous faces. Despite this they are generally abused, looked down upon and used as cannon fodder with the result that many choose to throw in their lot with the servants of the Ruinous Powers, who also tend to abuse them, look down upon them and use them as cannon fodder. The models from Blackstone Fortress, it should be noted, fall firmly into the latter camp.
Being crude and hairy myself I’ve always had a soft spot for these rowdy creatures and often planned, usually without much actual progress, to model some of my own during the long years in which they vanished from 40k almost entirely. Thus finding them in the Blackstone Fortress set was a real thrill and I’ve been looking forward to tackling them ever since.
It took me a while to get the colours right on these but I’m definitely pleased with the outcome. What more they’ve left me so enthused about all things bestial that I’ve already started working on some more, this time destined to rampage around the Mortal Realms instead. All being well I’ll have them ready to show you all soon.
Despite getting that Ogryn painted the other day I sense a real danger of my Blackstone Fortress project starting to stall so I’ve been reapplying myself to the task over the last few nights. As I can lay the blame for the slow down firmly at the feet of the Negavolt Cultists (a set of models which regular readers will know I’ve been grousing about for some time) I decided that the best way to get back on track was to face my fears and get them finished.
There’s actually a lot to love about them; they are unusual models, subtle and cleverly designed and our first sighting of the Dark Mechanicum in plastic – surely a boon to any servant of Chaos. However they are also a real challenge to paint, as though the whole model was made up of nothing but nooks and crannies into which one has to find a way to insert one’s brush (stop giggling at the back!). That, combined with their pale and sickly skin – never my forte – turned them into a bit of a headache and I kept finding excuses to put them off and paint other things instead. No more however! Our brave explorers shall face the depths of the fortress and when they do they shall find bondage clad luddites with optical dreadlocks waiting for them.
…And of course this allows me the minor thrill of crossing off the Negavolt Cultists from my, by now slightly battered, “to do” list.
Although there’s still quite a lot left to cover there we now have pretty much everything we need to play a game (assuming that we only use the same four heroes and that we recruit traitor guardsmen from the ranks I made previously for 40k). The biggest things missing from the basic game now (leaving aside the expansions) are the beastmen and the rogue psykers so that’s where my attention will be focused next.
As noted previously my plan for Blackstone Fortress is to start by painting up everything we need to play a game, beginning with anything I can’t proxy from elsewhere in my collection and focusing as much as possible on the basic units first, before moving on to those that only appear in more advanced missions or expansions. Of course I also aim to take a fairly relaxed attitude towards this, so long as everything gets painted to a standard I’m happy with in fairly short order I don’t mind being casual about the process itself.
One of the key things that you require for every game, regardless of the mission played, is a band of heroes willing to enter the alien labyrinth. Regardless of the number of players each game contains a party of four heroes, so with three already painted it made sense to get a fourth finished in order to round out the company. In addition, well-known blogger and one man painting machine Azazel has launched his latest monthly challenge – the Jewel of July – which calls for, amongst other things, the painting of great heroes and other characters so this seemed like a fine opportunity to round out the adventuring party. In our previous games my partner Janice played the navigator Espern Locarno, her brother Tom the robot UR-025, whilst I took the pyromaniacal Pious Vorne. Control of the rogue trader Janus Draik was passed between us. Thus he was the natural choice to be bumped up the queue for a coat of paint.
Like all of the characters from Blackstone Fortress that I’ve tackled so far he was a real joy to paint, the model packed with clever elements with which to convey his personality. Much as I enjoyed novelization of the game by Darius Hinks (perhaps not great literature but well written and solidly entertaining nonetheless) I must confess that his vision of Draik never really gelled with my own. Rather than the tragic figure – generally noble (in both senses of the word) – who has fallen on hard times as the book portrays, I always envisioned him as a high-class bastard, ruthless, cunning, self-interested and self-aggrandising, a profiteering privateer, a ladies’ man, a do-er of derring-do and a buckler of considerable swash. Here, I always thought, was a man always ready to face death armed with nothing but a razor sharp quip – so long as the money was right and there was someone nearby to capture the moment for posterity.
Next up I want to tackle a few other projects by way of a quick palate cleanser, but I’ll be returning to Blackstone Fortress in the near future. Really I should crack on with some more of the adversaries, the decidedly tricky to paint negavolt cultists or perhaps the beastmen. On the other hand it’s very possible that Jewel of July will encourage me in my temptation to paint another character or two – watch this space I guess…
The first time we played Blackstone Fortress the Ur-Ghuls which leapt from the shadows to savage our brave heroes may not have been the unpainted horrors which represented some of the other inhabitants of the fortress, but were instead crypt ghouls – still square based and fresh from the graveyards of Sylvania. Although this was better than some of the proxies we came up with (grots acting as Spindle Drones?! Desperate measures indeed!) it still wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted to tolerate in the long term so, on the grounds that I thought they looked fairly quick and easy to paint, I boosted them up the queue for getting painted.
One thing I wasn’t keen on about them was the duplicate poses. If built as instructed you end up, not with four distinct individuals, but with two pairs of clones. I didn’t think there was any need to make radical changes but I did want to do something about this, adjusting one from each pair slightly so that the end result looked a little more organic. Here’s they are as they looked before they were painted. The original is on the right, the converted version on the left.
And here they are again, fully painted and ready to prowl the dark corridors of the fortress.
In order to add a little more diversity I tried to add some variety to their skin tones whilst still keeping them uniformly pale and ghastly.
Next up I’ll try to finish off Janus Draik so that we have a full set of adventurers with which to tackle the fortress, after which I’ll probably try to get the Negavolt Cultists painted. As models I really like them, and there really isn’t a suitable proxy in my collection, so they make a natural choice to prioritise but unfortunately they’re proving to be a real headache to paint so expect much swearing and gnashing of teeth before they’re done…