Tag Archives: Chaos Lord

Rising From The Ruins: The Rebirth of Warhammer

So, almost a year on after Games Workshop spectacularly blew it up the Old World of Warhammer is back. The tabletop version may be officially dead but the world itself has been pulled from the grave by the digital necromancy of the Total War series.empire_vs_chaos_by_janiceduke-da3u5xl

Warhammer: Total War is a game I’ve been excited about for a little over a decade. As a student I was a big fan of the Total War series and recall expounding the idea of a fantasy version based on the Warhammer world to my (undoubtedly disinterested) friends and housemates. A digital format would allow me to indulge in the mass battles and complex campaigns to which I’ve aspired without the abstraction of the to-hit tables and dense rulebooks that come with tabletop games. It allows the introduction of characters like Kholek Suneater, without the need for it to be sculpted from a metric ton of resin. It also frees me from the need to paint hundreds of models, allowing me to focus on the creative conversions and detailed painting that I enjoy most.

Please note that this is not me trying to claim credit for the idea, unless of course you are an employee of Sega and want to send me a big, fat cheque. Furthermore, having played little in the way of computer games in recent years I’m probably not the best person to attempt to review one now, so instead I’ll philosophise in my usual rambling fashion about Warhammer instead.

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As it stands the game includes five races; the Empire, Vampire Counts, Dwarves, Greenskins and Chaos (available as a downloadable add-on), plus a sixth race to be added for free later – probably Bretonia. The developers have also stated that, by the end of the trilogy, the game will feature all the major races. Exactly what this means however remains unclear. Is it safe to assume that if a faction had models in the tabletop game it will feature in the digital incarnation? It seems sensible to conclude that High Elves are a major race and Keislev is not but what about Beastmen, or followers of individual Chaos gods? I’d be being facetious if I suggested that Chaos Dwarves might make it in but whilst the Bretonian line has been cleared from Games Workshop’s stock over in the digital world some pretty broad hints have been dropped that the Knights of the Lady will soon be a playable race. Does that mean we can look forward to Tomb Kings in the future as well?

It’s all very exciting but here’s the interesting thing – Warhammer is dead. The word is repeated everywhere, on every forum online, in every gaming establishment and convention where the dice-loving public gather to bitch and moan. Games Workshop brought us a series of (impressively well produced) books that together make up the End Times, during which they effectively took off and nuked the entire world they’d spent over three decades creating from orbit. Rumour has it that the game wasn’t making any money, that it was creatively dead and that it just didn’t contain enough Space Marines to be viable. In many ways I was part of the problem, always dreaming about starting a Warhammer army yet never really getting round to it – then complaining when they took away something I wasn’t using anyway.

For those of you thinking ‘what about Warhammer Online? Surely we’ve been here before’ let me say three things. Firstly Warhammer Online was an MMO and thus appealed to its players in a very different way to a strategy game like Warhammer: Total War, Warhammer or Age of Sigmar. Secondly, it was released long before the End Times and so its significance as a window on the Old World was considerably less. Thirdly I never played it and don’t want to make too much of a fool of myself making assertions about it that I can’t substantiate.

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Let me define my position here. I’m generally opposed to tabletop games advancing the storyline. This is a setting in which people can and should create their own stories, not a series of novels or a computer game in which a characters advance along a journey (literal or metaphorical) and the world changes around them. The well-argued and highly recomended piece written at the launch of Age of Sigmar over at Ex Profundis argues that Tolkien would have saved the world, with Sigmar recovering at home surrounded by wellwishers, whilst Moorcock would have blown the whole thing up. I would have told both of them to back the hell off and stick to stories, not settings, where they belong. I love seeing the world change through a series of novels, love reading the history that leads up to the ‘present day’ in a war-gaming setting, but find progression beyond that to be generally a pointless, self-indulgent exercise. Bored of seeing the Emperor sitting on the Golden Throne for the last thirty years? Still waiting for Abaddon to make it out of the Cadian Gate or the Orks to win at Armageddon? Then pick up a book or watch a film. Asking for a setting like the Old World or the Imperium to change radically is like saying ‘The Mona Lisa is alright but I’ve been looking at it for years now and I don’t think it’s changed a bit!’

Having said all that the Old World was nothing like the Mona Lisa, but rather a roughly cut-and-pasted version, the off-cuts of better artists stuck together with poster-paint and PVA. Much of it was lifted directly from real world history with other influences crudely stitched on, from pulp horror Egyptians to knock-off hobbits. Depending on who was writing it at the time it was either gritty and driven by the actions of flawed mortals or mythic and driven by the actions of flawed gods. It was also generally extremely convoluted and relied heavily on every outcome being reached only through a series of highly improbable steps. You can’t blame them for wanting to rebuild with something new rather than just papering over the cracks.  It may have done the business back in the 80’s but it was hardly a world befitting of a company of Games Workshop’s stature. When they put a match to it I wasn’t sorry to see it going. I certainly did not want it to go all ‘there-and-back-again’ with Chaos packed off back to the northern wastes, the status-quo re-established and the peoples of good and order celebrating whilst their destructive neighbours plotted in their dens and swore their revenge.

The End Times were a good thing for Warhammer. It was the pruning it desperately needed, the infusion of new ideas and creativity that encouraged fresh growth coming alongside the forest fire that burned away the old and the stagnant. I enjoyed every moment, right up to the end where it all actually ended.

In Age of Sigmar the cracks are still there and bigger than ever with the tortuous narratives of old replaced by a lot of handwaving. It’s not even the case that everything in these realms is actually that original. Instead of borrowing from the real world it borrows from Warhammer.

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In Sigmar’s name!

The article at Ex Profudis asks “What good is an apocalypse without a post- apocalypse? …what is the point of an apocalypse if there is nothing left afterwards? This was the main question I had upon reading about Age of Sigmar. Why destroy everything? Surely there should be something left, a few hundred years in the future – to provide familiar elements and give a sense of narrative continuity: the ruins of Altdorf strangled by poisonous forest; an Elven child’s doll from Ulthuan washing up on daemon-scarred shores”.

During the End Times this was pretty much what I was expecting. The Old World would be changed, not so much that it was rendered unrecognisable, but enough to refresh it. I was fairly certain that the final battle would end in a draw, the portal collapsing in a cataclysmic explosion as the Chaos Gods withdrew in order to continue toying with the world. In the aftermath Chaos warbands would continue to rampage around the countryside, many Empire cities would burn – or turn into something similar to Mordheim, and the Elves would seek to re-establish themselves with many unable to accept their new king. Finecast characters would have gone out in blaze of glory and the ruined Bretonia would be ready for a reboot more complex than just ripping off the conservative romantic clichés of medieval feudalism. The world would be smaller with lots of the previously underdeveloped regions ripe for exploration. The Lizardmen – which people often complained were geographically too remote to make sense as protagonists in the majority of Warhammer battles – could bring their floating pyramids to drift sedately through the sky over the Empire. With Chaos still merrily setting fire to the countryside and much of their previous infrastructure lost, the forces of civilisation would be in need of any help they could get and, with a crack of thunder, Sigmar’s golden supermen could have descended from on-high to provide it.

Alternatively Nagash could have created a vast host of morghasts and used them to push Chaos back through the polar gate, using it to access the realms beyond and continue to expand his empire out into the stars. Then again perhaps that’s just because I think an undead emperor commanding legions of super-warriors to fight the servants of Chaos in space is quite a nifty idea for a setting…

The world would be ripe for new ideas but not so much as to alienate and divide the player base to the extent that the actual release of Age of Sigmar did. A game like AoS could still have been released, with Warhammer lingering in the background to be marketed to veteran players. At the time of the Old World’s destruction – still less than a year ago – the range of games produced by Games Workshop was very much in decline. Only 40k and Warhammer remained, with the Hobbit resting its head uncomfortably on the executioners block (the sort of image that would be produced if George R.R. Martin was allowed to re-write Lord of the Rings). In that culture it seemed unlikely that Warhammer could survive alongside Age of Sigmar. A mere few months later however Specialist Games was relaunched (although the name remains one euphemistic step away from ‘adult entertainment’). By keeping the Warhammer world we could have had our cake and eaten it, with both flavours of wargame existing to compliment each other, and a changed but recognisable world remaining to appeal to old-timers and newcomers drawn in by Warhammer: Total War alike. Plus, regardless of how hard-nosed and businesslike Games Workshop may be, no-one wants to launch their new golden (armoured) boys into the teeth of a hurricane of grousing.

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I’ve been so excited by all things Warhammer lately I painted my first Skaven in years.

In 40k the End Times have already happened. Of course there remains an abiding sense of impending, galaxy-wide apocalypse which characterises the setting (and plenty of doomsaying that threatens an End Times style destruction ahead) but the really big showdown happened ten millennia ago in the Horus Heresy. That is the point when the Imperium stopped being an expanding nation and turned into a bastion, when mankind stopped being a defining force in the galaxy and entered an age of inevitable decline that has defined it ever since. The Heresy has also spawned a hugely successful spin off game and series of books, which exists in partnership with 40k. I honestly expected something similar would happen with Warhammer, with Age of Sigmar becoming the ‘modern’ version and the Old World the Heresy-era equivalent.

Even after a year the background to Age of Sigmar still seems too strained and too abstract to be compelling, even when it manages to escape the marketing men’s hyperbole. Not that this should suggest that good stories can’t be pulled from the material – Godless by David Guymer is a cheap and highly entertaining way of disproving that – but the realms remain too big, the wars too infinite and everlasting, and the human perspective too distant to conjure the sense of hope that the setting aspires to.

Gav Thorpe (of Black Library fame) recently noted that for a long time “the idea of being able to translate the appeal of Space Marines into the fantasy setting had been something of an ambition, if not a specific objective.” The Warhammer universe was crying out for something to make it unique amongst its Fantasy peers and the introduction of the Stormcasts would have done that in spades –few things being so instantly recognisable as part of the Games Workshop brand as Space Marines. In principle then I have no issue with the Stormcasts, although once again I find the manner in which they were introduced rather contrived, with too much shown openly and too little mystery to fuel the imagination.

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Gnawing at the roots of the world: my little rat army so far.

So people were upset by the destruction of the Old World. The vehemence of customer dissatisfaction seems to have caught Games Workshop off guard. People were – and still are – angry that the world they had grown to love had been so ruthlessly put to the sword. In some ways it all smacks of unbelievable levels of entitlement. Why should I kick up a fuss about changes being made to the story of a fantasy world when around the world a very real End Times are in progress? When real wars and famines slaughter millions what does the fate of a fictitious elf or two matter? When the jungles of Indonesia burn who cares that the jungles of Lustria do likewise? Surely we would be better served diverting our rage away from Games Workshop and pointing it at the governments and corporations around the globe who continue to put personal profits over the wellbeing of the environment? Or are we so divorced from reality that we would prefer to bury our heads in fantasy lands than face the sea of hungry faces at our doorstep?

Yet that misses the point. In fact it’s as lazy as criticising Tolkien’s writing simply because one is a devout socialist. It buys into a brutal work ethic that assigns value based purely on effort, where achieving a goal is less important than demonstrating that one worked hard to do it. Escapism is demeaned, as if only the lazy do not labour constantly. Let’s put the sackcloth and ashes aside for a moment before we find ourselves accepting the accusation that every fantasy fan is already familiar with – that we should have grown out of it by now. Rest and escapism is not a sin, and real life is hard enough without seeing the world we love blown to smithereens just because the current employees of the company that created it are bored of maintaining it.

It is precisely because the world is so often grim and dark that we need a little light, a little hope. I might prefer a Joe Abercrombie anti-hero struggling in the mud to a jolly rural farmboy who turns out to be a prince (or the son of a Jedi) but I’d be sounding damn stupid if I claimed that Lord of the Rings would have been better if Sauron had triumphed and the book had ended with a orc’s jackboot stamping on a hobbit’s face forever.

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Grimgor Ironhide: Gone from Games Workshop but still stamping ‘umies in Total War

People have been telling each other stories for as long as we’ve existed as a species. Those myths have often become the cornerstone of whole cultures, only to wither or evolve into new forms as those cultures were swept aside by history. The cultures may have vanished overnight but their stories did not. Imagine the horror of a tribal group who were told by their elders “we’ve thought about it and decided that all the gods and ancestors are dead now”. Suddenly those super-fans burning their armies on YouTube don’t seem so crazy after all. Fans of the Horus Heresy will know how Lorgar, the Emperor’s own super-fan, reacted when slighted by the subject of his devotion.

A question I’ve seen posed a lot in the last year is: “Games Workshop killed Warhammer, how can we ever trust them again?” I would ask why we were trusting them in the first place, and why that trust has now been violated. This isn’t about jobs or the environment, not even about overzealous legal teams and sky high prices. This is about the fans outsourcing the source of their enjoyment to another, allowing a commercial entity to take custody of their imaginations and then getting upset when it was demolished in order to balance the books.

The fact is that we humans are social creatures. Our memories and experiences are intrinsically linked to those of the group. I may revel in what I perceive to be my independence but, at an unconscious level, it matters to me that so many of my peers believe the Warhammer world I knew is dead.

And yet, in spite of what I joked in the first blog I wrote about this, Warhammer has never been destroyed, your army books and models have remained safe and sound, the rules and background did not crumble into dust on the 4th of July 2015 and no-one from Games Workshop has forced you at gunpoint to purchase Space Marines. Some might even suggest that, through Warhammer: Total War the Old World is now more real than ever before, although I would argue that something that’s been imagined over years will always be more real to the imaginer than something that’s merely shown. Nonetheless it’s harder to swallow the idea that iconic locations like Hel Fenn and Blackfire Pass have been consumed by a tidal wave of daemons when you can deploy your armies and march around it in a manner far more vivid than anything that was possible before.

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Some Warhammer armies are larger than others, as this group shot of my Warriors of Chaos serves to demonstrate…

The question then; does Warhammer: Total War replace Warhammer? And the answer; of course not, how could it? There’s no craftsmanship here that leads to the creation of a collection of models, none of the satisfaction of seeing an army growing through honest effort, none of the relaxation that hours of painting brings. What it does do is remind us that Warhammer is only dead if we want it to be. Just because a company decides to stop producing a range of books and re-labels a few models doesn’t mean you have to stop imagining. It’s not up to the developers at Total War to keep Warhammer alive. It’s up to you.

Artwork by Janice Duke. Click on them (I implore you!) to see the impressive full scale images.

Grimgor Ironhide and the Empire Captain by my mate Sam, check out more of his Warhammer models here.


2015 – For Anyone Who Missed It

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Well here we are at the very end of 2015 and what a year it’s been! In fact as I sit down to write this review it’s hard to know what to pick as the standout moments. The death of Warhammer? The birth of its golden armoured offspring Age of Sigmar? Bloodthristers tearing their way out of the Warp and onto tabletops across the world? Harlequins?

If I had to pick one though it would be the arrival of the AdMech as a fully realised range of plastic miniatures. Now some of you are probably shaking your heads a little at that and thinking “What’s he on about? He’s not painted a single Skitarii! He can’t spell half their names! He’s a foul heritek, what does he care about the loyal servers of the Omnissiah?”

On that front I’ll admit to being guilty of all charges, but let me offer a few words in my defence. To me the Adeptus Mechanicus is the most iconic of all 40k’s factions (yeah, take it Space Marines!) but for a long time it looked like they were forever lost in the warp, their emergence onto the tabletop nothing more than a pipe dream. In many ways (and I’m sure some of you will be accusing me of being a GW apologist for this) their appearance gives me hope that – even if it takes a while – Thousand Sons, Noise Marines, Sisters of Battle, and all the other overlooked elements of 40k will someday make it onto the production line and into our homes. As a society we’re not very good at being patient but I’ve got plenty of models to paint and time enough to wait. The chances of anything coming from Mars was a million to one they said. Yet still they came.

I already expressed my enthusiasm for the release back here and trust me – I may not have painted any yet but their time will come.

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Now before delving into my own output this year I do want to (briefly) mention Age of Sigmar (cue groans from the crowd and a hasty assumption of entrenched positions).

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WHFB fans study the latest rules for Age of Sigmar.

I’ve not learned to stop worrying and love Age of Sigmar – in fact my long standing issues with Warhammer have been replaced by a rosy nostalgia that glosses over the cracks and makes AoS seem even more bland and uninspired than it would on its own merits. I’m from 40k after all where neophobia is less of a problem and more of a way of life. However I just read Godless by David Guymer and the Slaaneshi warriors are just spot on. The disappearance of their god has rendered them complex and nuanced in a way they could never quite reach when they were winning. Their lamenting, aching horror at the denial of their prince grants them a real depth and poignance. I almost don’t want them to find Slaanesh (in the overall story-arch of AoS I mean, not the short story itself – no spoilers here!). However I’m willing to guess that everything we’ve seen so far is the set up for the quest to see Slaanesh freed – accompanied by new models for the Elves and their Slaaneshi opponents. When that day comes I hope they take a few tips from Guymer’s text in describing the appearance of the Dark Prince’s servants – seeing characters of that style captured by the same team that brought us the Putrid Blightkings and Bloodreavers would restore Slaanesh to the glory she deserves both in the hearts and the collections of Chaos fans everywhere.

First of all though there’s plenty of other gaps need filled if Age of Sigmar is to rise from Warhammer’s shadow and I think we’d all be highly surprised if a big chunk of 2016 isn’t devoted to this. Current rumours suggest that Dwarves may be just around the corner (and apparently they’ve taken to communicating in text-speak and they’re after your gold).

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Anyway, I’m not just here to talk about what’s been going on in the wider hobby. I’m also here to talk about myself because, to be frank, I think I’m really quite interesting. For me it’s been a year in which my hobby output has been defined by Chaos (with both a capital and a small c). My loyalist space marines have slipped to the very back of the backburner and my poor Orks haven’t seen a brush since January but the Beasts of Ruin have gone from strength to strength.
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As soon as I’d finished updating my Orks I started work on a little band of Khorne worshipping Terminators. At some point I’ll probably add another four to reach Khorne’s holy number of eight (someone at GW must be kicking themselves thinking ‘They keep adding models to make squads of eight. Why didn’t we think to make Khorne’s holy number 30?!’)

Khorne Terminators

I also upped the number of Helbrutes in my collection to four – including the Nurgle infested Igorin Rotbringer (second from the right). To the left of him you’ll see the Ironghast Fury – another of this year’s new additions and the first model I’ve created as part of an online event. Dreadtober ran through October 2015 and encouraged as many people as possible to produce a Dreadnaught/Helbrute/Deff Dread or similar. If you’ve not already been to the site it really is time you did, feast your eyes on inspiration here. I’m not ashamed to admit that the Fury would still be unpainted if it wasn’t for this event so this won’t be the last time I do something like this either.
HellbrutesAs well as the new Helbrutes I also added some new HQ units including a fallen Grey Knight, and finally got around to putting paint on the Chaos Lord from Dark Vengeance.
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Nurgle continued to be a big influence on me throughout the year – mostly as a result of my ongoing experimentation with the Putrid Blightkings. As well as the Helbrute I showed above I also created this Daemon Prince – easily one of the most difficult conversions I’ve ever attempted and a forceful reminder to me that if you keep pushing yourself you’ll create better and better models (or stranger and stranger at least). Read more about him here.
NurgleContinuing the Nurgle theme I also decided to come back to my Plague Marines, another unit which dates back to the very beginning of my Chaos collection. I felt it was time to bring the squad to a conclusion (and so inevitably started another straight away). You can see what’s planned for the second squad here and here . Don’t worry though, this won’t be the last you see of Golothess and the boys.
Plague MarinesI’ve also managed to add three Dark Apostles to the ranks this year. One to speak to the followers of Chaos Undivided.
Chaos 2One to consecrate the skulls taken in Khorne’s name.
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And one to preach to the servants of Nurgle, from the smallest virus to the mightiest Daemon Prince.
Nurgle 2Obviously that means I ought to make one each for Slaanesh and Tzeentch as well. A job for 2016 then…

Another job for 2016 will be continuing to build up my squads of Nurgle Chosen and Terminators. As it stands most of them are still in need of paint but here’s the first two finished.Nurgle 1And of course I finished off my first full squad of Chaos Marines (which you may recall I showed just the other day).
Chaos MarinesNot all of the followers of the Dark Gods wear power armour however and this year I was able to get started on a long standing ambition; the Lost and the Damned. Alongside Ad Mech this is the army that I’ve aspired to most over the years so I’m extremely pleased to have this little lot painted at last. Expect to see a lot more of them in 2016.
Chaos 1If recaps of the year are your thing and you’re starting to panic that I’ve almost run out of words then I highly recommend heading to Heresy and Heroes or Big Boss Red Skulls (the latter is particularly exciting because he talks about me!). I’m also waiting (im)patiently for KrautScientist’s annual Eternal Hunt Awards but sadly they’re not up yet. Keep an eye out though – he assures us they’re on their way and they’re always well worth a look. Edit: And as promised the first part of the Eternal Hunt awards are now up so if you’ve missed them, have a look here.

Hopefully that little lot should give you something to read until I’m back in the new year, accompanied by a retinue of cheerful, excitable and unhygienic sidekicks. You have been warned!


No Guts, No Glory – Part 6

In the last post I showed you some Nurgle Terminators I’ve been working on (still building up the gut of the standard bearer for anyone who’s wondering). Did I ride a wave of Nurgley enthusiasm and get paint on some of the models I’ve already built? Did I hell! No, I made more! Here’s the first of two new additions to my Chosen of Nurgle – a big fat brute with a flame-thrower.

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As you can see the basic model is finished but there’s still a bit of work to be done, particularly around the head where I’ll be building up the greenstuff to cover the join between the Space Marine helmet, the Blightking neck and the horn. I also went for the old grey-scale images, partly because it helps cover up the jarring colour combinations from scavenged, part-painted bitz but mostly because it makes me look super arty and cool.

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Joining him – and so new he doesn’t even have a base yet – is the squad’s champion.

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I’m really pleased with him (no false modesty here!) especially as I’ve been wanting to use that model with the huge mouth in his stomach for ages. It’s just so classically old-school chaos, no mere warrior down on his luck and dabbling with the dark powers but a fully fledged servant of the mad gods, a walking embodiment of their savage insanity.

Anyway, thoughts on either of them? Apart from ‘put a base on the champion or he’ll fall over’. As usual comments, feedback and suggestions are welcome in the box below.


Into Damnation Eternal

One of the first to join Kell in rebellion Zo-Kalar is now perhaps the oldest, and most ambitious, of his senior lieutenants still surviving. Having wisely avoided the petty internal rebellions of the early days that saw many of Kell’s rivals interred in Helbrute sarcophagi Zo-Kalar has managed to remain close to his master, serving both as an advisor and a trusted field-commander. Yet Zo-Kalar has not simply exchanged servitude to the Imperium for the chains of another. He seeks a loftier goal than mere conquest; immortality and Princedom in the Immaterium, and he will shirk neither danger nor shame to achieve it.

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Another nice thing to come out of #DreadTober, beyond seeing all the inspiring work others are producing and working on a Helbrute of my own, is the push it’s given me to finish off outstanding projects – including one that’s been cluttering the painting desk for far too long.

I bought the Dark Vengeance set as soon as it came out and set about the Cultists and Helbrute with gusto. The Dark Angels contingent were intended to join my Space Marines chapter, or perhaps form the basis of a small group of allied Dark Angels, but so far both projects seem to be on indefinite hiatus. I never really got started on the Chaos Lord or Chosen either and whilst the latter are still lying in an unassembled heap somewhere I’m proud to be able to show off the former at last.
chaos-lord-convert-or-die-2I know he’s ‘just’ the Dark Vengeance Chaos Lord, without any conversion to speak of, but have you looked at this model lately? Like much of the starter set it blew my mind when it was first released. Three years on and I hardly look at it twice. It wasn’t until I decided, pretty much on a whim, to get on and assemble it, that I realised all over again just how damn good it is. Just look at the sheer level of detail in this model; the screaming faces in the armour, the mouth on the helm, the spine in the backpack, that sword!chaos-lord-convert-or-die-3

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Of course, I have also been working on my #DreadTober pledge; this Helbrute. As you can see the metalwork and armour is now mostly filled in. Still, with less than a week to go now I’m not entirely filled with dread (boom boom) but there’s still a lot to be done if he’s to be finished in time. Here goes!

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Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day

After all the Nurgle in the last post I reckon it’s time for a little break from the bells and bowels (but don’t worry there’s more on the way – my pact with the God of Life and Death remains strong!). In the meantime though, here’s a model that’s been sitting on my painting desk for far too long waiting for me to get around to finishing him off. Noise Marine I’ve always wanted my Black Crusade to take in the supporters of all four gods, yet up to this point I’ve ended up with a primarily Nurgly/Khornate force (plus a large undivided contingent). Mostly this is because Nurgle and Khorne have some unbelievably amazing models whilst Slaanesh and Tzeentch are a little lacking. This isn’t to repeat the rants that many people have had already about this imbalance, rather I see the treatment of Khorne and Nurgle as a positive sign and hope that someday we’ll see their brother gods fleshed out in the same way. In the meantime though I’ve found myself making several abortive attempts to add some converted Noise Marines to my collection in the stead of the lacklustre official models. This chap, however, represents the first time I’ve actually been happy with the result. Noise MarineNoise Marine When making the rest of the squad I’m not sure if I’ll continue using the Dark Eldar torsos – although I’m pleased with the result it took a lot of fiddling around with greenstuff to cover the gaps that resulted from the slimness of his torso compared to the larger space marine parts. Again as I’ve got various other projects on my desk at the moment I won’t be doing anything with them for a while so I’ve got plenty of time to think about it. Noise MarineNoise Marine Having finished the Noise Marine I thought I’d take the opportunity to show off this chap as well (although how much he deserves to be ‘shown off’ is debatable). He’s an early conversion from a time when my untamed imagination rather overreached my meagre skill and the result, although containing (in my opinion) some gems, rather fell short. I’ve picked him up a few times over the years, tweaking him here and there to make improvements but I doubt he’ll ever form a part of the finished Noise Marine squad. Take a look: Noise Marine I’m still quite pleased with the blastmaster and the head (a fairly new addition replacing the frankly awful old one), but somehow it doesn’t quite work as a cohesive whole. Never mind, I’m fond of him all the same. Noise ChampionNoise ChampionNoise Championnull Anyway, as usual any comments on how I could improve things for the rest of the squad are more than welcome in the box below (but don’t give me abuse – as a new convert of Slaanesh I’ll only enjoy it!) More Nurgly guts soon!


Days of Rage

Back in January, when I showed off the rest of my Chaos Terminators, I claimed, with a faintly pretentious air of mystery, that there was a tenth member of the squad which was yet to be revealed. I’d removed him from the squad in order to start a new – Khorne worshipping – terminator squad which he would lead. Now it’s time for the big reveal.
The timing of this is no coincidence. Rumour has it that the next – some say final – phase of the Warhammer End Times are upon us and reinforcements for the followers of the Blood God are just around the Khorner (see what I did there? I know, I know, I’m a funny man). As a result I’ve been fired with enthusiasm for all things Khorne and finally got myself in gear to upload pictures of this chap, as well as working on getting two of his followers painted and assembling a fourth (see below).IMG_9135

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His name, by the way, is Sapir Redwolf and his squad are the Skullrippers (no prizes but if you know where the names come from but feel free to have a little boast in the comments box below – I’m one of the few people in the world who’ll be impressed so show off whilst you can!) I made the hulking angry brute a while ago, intending him to serve as the ferocious and power-hungry second in command of my Chaos Terminators, the Blessed Slaughter. Since then however I’ve grown rather fond of him, and frankly he looks too fierce and proud to be anyone’s right-hand man for very long. In my mind only my Chaos Lord Kalamoon Kell possesses the sheer presence and authority to bring him to heel.

I also can’t imagine that having someone like the Redwolf remain part of my main Terminator squad would make anyone terribly happy. Sapir and squad champion Avar the Twisted would undoubtedly be locked in a struggle for command, whilst Kell can hardly rely on the effectiveness of his Terminator elite if Sapir spends the greater part of every battle lost to his rage and bloodlust. Plus it doesn’t make me happy to see this model used as one of the rank-and-file when he should be standing proud in command.

Put all these factors together with the fact that I need no excuse whatsoever to make more Chaos Terminators and I decided to promote Sapir, and create a new squad – The Skullrippers – commanded by him and dedicated to Khorne.

At the moment I’ve got three members of his squad on the painting desk. As it stands two of them are at the ‘faintly rubbish looking’ half-finished stage, with lots of undercoated armour panels, unfinished washes, no highlights, you know the drill. Unfortunately I was so carried away by enthusiasm that I never took photos of them before I started so I’ll hang fire on showing them and get them finished, photographed and posted up soon.

However, common sense eventually took root and I remembered to grab a couple of photos of this fourth member of the squad before he went out to the shed to be undercoated.

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Last of all we have this chap, undoubtedly still a ‘work in progress’. As you can see I’ve just tacked on a spare left arm for the moment to get a feel for how he’ll look once he’s finished. He won’t be joining the Skullrippers but instead will be stepping into the vacated role in the Blessed Slaughter and bringing the numbers back up to a full squad of ten.

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And that’s it until next time – when hopefully I’ll have at least one more angry man of Khorne to show off. As always comments, feedback and bellows of fury are welcome in the box below.


Wherever I May Roam

Working on this Chaos Breacher reminded me of this guy who’s been lingering at the back of the shelf in dusty shame for far too long. He’s a model with a long and storied history but one which never really seemed to find a home in the Beasts of Ruin – until now. In many ways that nomadic shifting as he’s moved from one role to another in the army may have been unconsciously reflected the background I wrote for him.
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I decided to make this mysterious killer after reading the description of Wulfrik the Wanderer in the Warriors of Chaos Army Book. Naming him Kogoroth the Faceless I see him as having suffered a similar fate to Wulfrik, cursed by the gods to wander the galaxy in search of fresh adversaries. Hence his striding pose and faceless helm, the aim being to keep him somewhat anonymous, a silent, unknown but murderous figure, constantly on the move in his quest for fresh kills. The mask also serves to reinforce the mystery behind his title “the Faceless” – is it because his face is never seen or does it refer to something fouler hidden behind that steel grill? Or did he once lose face in a more figurative sense – fleeing from a challenge and cursed to wander forever as penance?
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At first I intended him to be the leader of my Khorne Berserkers, but he never really fitted there (appearing neither Khornate, nor particularly berserk). I retired the model half-finished and replaced him with Magok Bloodcaller instead.
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Given that, especially in the early days, 40k included a lot of elements from Warhammer translated into the far future I kept toying with the idea of making a 40k incarnation of Wulfrik – although, as the Games Workshop designers probably also found, the idea had by then evolved into its own creature. I finished the model off, intending him to be a Chaos Lord, but was never quite convinced by him in this role either. Wulfrik, after all, has a pirate crew to lead and so should Kogoroth be a leader of men – albeit a strange and singular one – rather than a lonely killer. Thus he was consigned to an uncertain fate at the back of the shelf. Some of you may find this a little odd, that my inability to work out a suitable piece of background fiction for a model should see it effectively kicked out of the army. What can I say – I’m clearly a little eccentric!

Anyway, with my Breacher squad I finally had a role for him as their Sergeant. It also adds to the background of the squad, a band of roving mercenaries, serving alongside their Gods-cursed master for centuries – perhaps even since the day they fled with the rest of Horus’s routed horde from before the walls of the Emperor’s Palace on Terra itself? For him Kalamoon Kell and the Beasts of Ruin provide just another opportunity to find battle and seek redemption in their enemies’ blood. Alas the Gods are uncaring and, having turned their backs on him, will never relent. There shall be no daemonhood for Kogoroth, only battle until war at last puts an end to his quest forever.
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The end result of this is not only that I have a model, and a story, that I’m really rather pleased with for but also that I’ve started thinking about how other Warhammer characters could provide inspiration in 40k. The story of Vilitch the Curseling is one I especially enjoy, and it helps that I really like the model as well. Sayl the Faithless and his spawn Nightmaw, from the Tamurkhan book, would be pretty fun (what is it with me and treacherous wizards?) Oh and maybe I could build a hugely mutated Ogren King based off Throgg (perhaps with an enhanced cybernetic brain to explain why he’s smarter than the average bear?). Then there’s the question of how one would tackle the likes of Galrauch (mutated Heldrake? Possessed giant Eldar reptile? Twisted wraithbone construct with a Tzeentchian daemon trapped inside?) or Kholek Suneater (maybe an ancient Forgefiend or similar daemon-engine – pre-Heresy of course!) Who knows what the possibilities are?

Have you transferred a character from Warhammer to 40k – or vice versa (daemons don’t count!)? Does Imperial Governor Karl Franz lead the massed forces of the Astra Militarum from atop his cyber-griffon in your army? Do you have an Eldar Tyrion, or a Archon Malekith ? A Von Carstein inquisitor perhaps? How about Ungrim Ironfist leading a Squat army in search of glorious vengeance against the Tyranids or Durthu as a strange wraith-bone construct, grown from the heart of a shattered craftworld? Well don’t keep it to yourself, get your thoughts (and links) in the comment box below!


Tyrant of Nightmares

A storm comes, like the keening of the wind in the Immaterium, rattling the windows of the Imperium, prying fingers testing around every loose door or latch. The Warp is full of ghosts, the lonely cries of the dying, helpless, unanswered calls for aid. Vox channels once deemed secure are suddenly invaded, secrets spilling like blood. Ships fall burning in the void. From sump to spire, workers in every hive riot in terror, fouling the engines of their masters with their own bodies. Contagious madness spreads like fire. None are immune. Planetary governors fire upon their own men. Servitors, suddenly cognisant, turn their once vacant minds to treachery. Primitives on feral worlds acquire devastating knowledge, arcane secrets hidden since Old Night divined by haruspices from  the guts of their goats. Cogitators stutter with gusty laughter, the machine spirits within them howling like beasts. Across the sector all astropaths together begin the chant the same refrain. “Kell, Kell, Kell is upon us. The Lord of the Coming Night is here”.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-1Brutal tyrant. Peerless general. Visionary. Madman. Traitor. Following on from my last post which mostly focussed on Chapter Master Calgacus here’s the other side of the coin, Kallamoon Kell – Lord of Chaos and Master of the Beasts of Ruin. Unlike Calgacus, where the design of the model fed directly into his background and inspired many of my ideas about his chapter, Kell was already well established in my imagination long before I began gathering together the components needed to build him. By that time I had already built a sizeable collection of Chaos Space Marines, and their Daemonic allies, so with Kell the challenge was creating a model that suitably lived up to the legend and would stand out as the leader without looking impractically over the top.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-5In building Kell I used, by my count, pieces from at least fifteen different kits. The majority of these were from the Chaos range (both 40k and Warhammer) but various loyalist and xenos bits have snuck in there as well.
Unlike many other chaos lords he has not dedicated himself to any one god, nor does he flit anxiously from one to another. Rather he courts the favour of all four, building his empire and burning world after world in their names. He knows that to attempt to play the Chaos Gods against one another is to take a terrible risk for they are unlikely to be amused by what they must perceive as a pawn trying his hand at the Great Game. For now however he remains too valuable and too successful to idly quash. So long as he continues to wreak significant havoc in their names he retains their grudging favour but should he slip they will turn on him, united in their rage.
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kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-2I don’t for a moment believe that Kell trusts the chaos powers or sees them as anything other than a way of increasing his personal empire. Part of that distrust, I suspect, comes from the degeneration of his left arm into a trashing tentacle. Originally I used the part purely because I thought it looked good. As I worked on Kell however I started to think about why the most obvious physical manifestation of the warp’s influence on him was this vestigial limb, especially when so many of his followers are wildly mutated. The tentacle, then, became part of Kell’s story; the first gift he received from the dark gods. Given his monumental ego and the scale of the destruction he has perpetrated in their name it’s safe to say Kell would regard this “gift” as something of a disappointment. Rather than chop it off however he has kept it as a permanent reminder of the danger of relying on any higher power – be it the Imperium or the Gods themselves. To him the tentacle is a way of keeping his bitterness and hate for the Gods fresh, a token by which he ensures he never falls for the whispers of temptation that each offers him.
I also can’t help but imagine the tentacle limb as possessing a sentience of its own, rebellious to the body it adjoins and jealous of the bio-mechanical talon arm Kell has had grown to replace it. Thus Kell plots against the Dark Gods, constantly playing them against each other and subverting their attempts to control him whilst his own arm remains a devoted agent of the Gods, secretly working against him. I would say that someday it will strangle him in his sleep but between the Gods he spurns, the monsters he rules, the brothers he betrayed and his own relentless desire for power I can’t imagine he ever sleeps anyway.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-6In terms of the concept behind the model I drew pretty heavily on Abaddon the Despoiler for inspiration. He is, after all, in many ways the arch-adversary of the 40k universe. Amongst the big players only Ghazghkull Thraka, the Tyranid Hive-Mind and Imotekh the Stormlord really come close in terms of destructive, empire-burning power and ambition, and none of them combine that with the human element, the way in which Abaddon remains, at core, just a man. It’s this that, to me, makes him most interesting as he remains something of a self-made Lucifer, every victory and scrap of power won by his own efforts. This makes him rather different to his genetic father, Horus, or the surviving deamon-primarchs, all of whom were gifted their enormous powers by the Emperor and who achieved dominion over worlds and solar systems simply through the fact that they were almost unimaginably stronger, tougher and quicker to learn than any other candidate.
In spite of having based the model on Abaddon, the background I wrote for Kell falls closer to that for Lugft Huron, the deposed Tyrant of Badab (and originator of some of the finest and most quotable lines in 40k). Particularly it was this line in the Chaos Space Marines codex that grabbed my attention, when Huron declares “The Imperium is a weak old man, ready and waiting to be broken apart by his vengeful sons”. Kell does not have his eye on the throne of the Imperium, he knows it would be an albatross around his neck, a grim anchor to drag him down. No man can command the Imperium, it is too vast, too complex, to choked with internal strife and external assault. Even the Emperor, easily the most powerful and wise individual (human is too small a word) to have ever lived, could not hold it together for long before his bickering sons turned upon him. Abaddon will discover, almost as soon as his power-armoured bum is settled upon the throne of Terra, that an empire is a very different thing to command than an army. There are worlds to be governed, taxes to be collected, laws to be enacted. Hold too much power to himself and it will be overwhelming, give too much away and those he promotes will soon begin to imagine themselves taking his place. His allies too make for powerful warlords but less than useful administrators (unless you can imagine Kharn or Tyrphus governing a sector with any degree of aptitude). The Warpsmiths may be rather sharp at making warmachines but what about the hum-drum tools of everyday living that the servants of the Imperium require to do their duties? Amongst the stinking mutants he has gathered from the death worlds of the Eye of Terror he is unlikely to find suitable replacements for the Inquisition, the Arbites, the Astra Telepathica or the Ministorum and yet if he allows those organisations to stand they will plot against him, a ruthless, restless resistance that will take generations to crush. All the while the Great Waaargh will gather pace, the Tyranids will swarm through the galactic east, the Necrons will rise from their ghastly tomb worlds and his new Imperium will burn.
Better by far to carve out an empire on the fringes, to lay claim to a few systems and plunder from the rest as it falls.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-7With both Kell and his adversary Calgacus poses were deliberately chosen to reflect their personalities. The line between good and evil is pretty hazy in 40k, with even the supposed heroes coming out a rather dirty shade of grey. A good summation can be found in Forge World’s Badab War series, describing the Space Marines.

“Beyond their martial trappings and the endless roll of glorious victories, doomed last stands and courage in the face of a hostile universe a Space Marine fundamentally is a superhuman engine built, bred and trained for war… a monster by any other name”
Imperial Armour Volume 10 – The Badab War Part Two (Alan Bligh)

Thus rather than a glorious champion I wanted Calgacus to appear bullish and relentless, revealing his aggressive, at times even bloodthirsty, nature as he parries and slashes with his lightning claws. Kell, on the other hand, is a leader of men, a general who takes the long view in his campaigns, whilst Calgacus is solely a warrior, albeit a valiant and inspiring one to those under his command. Kell is a tactician, a cunning and charismatic orator who has united both daemons and mortals in his cause. Doing this has required his wits and strength of character as much as raw brawn so I posed him shouting an order and urging his men forward towards an unseen target.


Last of the Free

Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion… Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace
Calgacus “the Swordsman”, describing the Roman Empire, as quoted by Tacitus in the Agricola.

So, at last – after rattling on about it for ages now – Kallamoon Kell is finished. Needless to say I’m rather excited. Not only is Kell the warlord of my chaos army but the completion of the model brings to a close a project I started long ago, and which has seen plenty of ups and downs to get this far. I’ll start by talking a bit about his rival, Chapter Master Calgacus of the Hawkmoths, and hopefully upload a post on Kell later in the week.
As I’ve mentioned before one of the key narrative elements that fuels my interest in my Space Marine and Chaos Space Marine collections is the idea of a brotherhood torn apart. It’s the cornerstone of some of the finest storytelling to emerge from the Warhammer 40k background – particularly the Horus Heresy and the Badab War. More than simply the metaphorical or spiritual brotherhood that unites all Space Marines in the Emperor’s service I went for a far more personal conflict, a single chapter divided into bitter enmity. I especially wanted to capture this in the leaders of the two factions, creating two individuals who would be the focus of this background – a pair of characters once united by common cause but now sworn to the destruction of the other. On the one hand we would have Kallamoon Kell, a rising lord of chaos who led his brother space marines into rebellion and torn his chapter apart, and on the other we have Calgacus, the Chapter Master of the surviving loyalists, dedicated to hunting him down and seeing vengeance enacted.
Starting this project approximately three years ago I built and painted the first incarnations of my two central characters. Here’s Chapter Master Calgacus (version 1).
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space-marine-convert-or-die-6And here’s the first incarnation of Kell.
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chaos-lord-convert-or-die-6Of course it’s easy, retrospectively, to pick holes in both of these models. Calgacus V.1 especially was a project which I struggled with, losing faith in it part way through. To my eye it shows in the finished miniature. Attaching the shield was a real nightmare and the tarnished gold of the armour proved to be a series of headaches that left me relieved rather than proud when I finally stuck him on the shelf.
There are some elements I’m rather proud of, for one the skeletal servitor mounted on the top of his armour which always strikes me as the epitome of decaying Imperial arrogance (and is something I’d like to replicate elsewhere – possible as a gun servitor on a tank).
Kell V.1 meanwhile is workmanlike, fit for purpose in my eyes but hardly the tyrant of nightmares I had envisioned. Also, there’s something distinctly Khornate about him (just look at his helmet) which didn’t fit with the vibe I was looking for; a lord grudgingly respected by all four gods. Thus Kell V.1 was demoted, becoming Avar the Twisted, champion of my Terminator squad The Blessed Slaughter. Meanwhile Calgacus V.1 was retired to the shelf and I started work on new versions of both.

In both cases I now had a much clearer image in mind of what I was looking for, a model in keeping with the background I imagined. In the case of Calgacus I wanted a real “working man’s” Chapter Master, not the enthroned master of worlds but a space marine first and foremost, someone unafraid to get stuck in at the speartip of the most gruelling and brutal assaults. I also decided that the Hawkmoth’s Chapter Master had been killed during Kell’s betrayal, thus leaving the field open for a new man to lead a transformed chapter. From being relatively static guardians of territory the Hawkmoths have reinvented themselves as a fast moving, fleet-based strike force, with tactics reminiscent of the Minotaurs, Carcharodons or even pre-Heresy Night Lords. The first step in that rebuilding process must have been the selection of a new Chapter Master. The field however would have been limited, with most of the prime candidates either turned traitor or slain. Thus they would have been forced to select a candidate who, although in keeping with the ruthless, vengeance hungry mood of the time might in another era have been considered less than stable. Enter the pugnacious Calgacus, a fearsome yet loyal wardog of the Imperium.
space-marine-chapter-master-convert-or-die-2To reinforce the idea that this is a man who’s fought at the forefront of numerous battles (and has the scars and cybernetic reconstruction to prove it) I gave him what must be my favourite Space Marine head of all time. With half his skull (and doubtless some of his brain) replaced by a bionic substitute he’s hardly likely to be the most calm and easy-going individual but I’d say it’s a safe bet that he’s handy in a fight. Suffice to say I’m much happier with this version.
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space-marine-chapter-master-convert-or-die-4In my efforts to imagine his background he has come to be representative of his chapter as a whole. His ruthless brutality in battle and black, blood-thirsty rages at other times have led many to believe he is unhinged, and as dangerous to the Imperium he is sworn to protect as Kell himself. As a result his is a fairly dark reputation, though whether the butchery he is responsible for is a result of calculated brutality or berserk rage remains a contested issue. Nevertheless his merciless wrath may be just what the Hawkmoth’s chapter requires for many have slipped into bleak fury since their betrayal and each time Calgacus has dispatched his Death’s Heads to hunt them down and bring back their bones. For those few amongst the Holy Ordos who have tracked the near renegade Hawkmoths into the deep void his methods may be distasteful but, with the Imperium crumbling, they accept that – for now – this baleful and secretive chapter and its rapacious master may be an ally they cannot do without.