Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Hammer of the Gods – Part 2

Just a quick update, as promised, here’s the Bone ‘ead for my renegade Ogren squad. And yes, I know there’s no Bone ‘eads in Imperial Armour 13, I just don’t like leaving my Ogrens without someone in charge!traitor-guard-convert-or-die-traitors-27

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As you can see, he’s considerably bigger than the others. Never mind eh – at least he looks like the boss!traitor-guard-convert-or-die-traitors-26

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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.


Agents of Brutality Part 1

Work and other commitments have me pretty busy at the moment but I’m still slaving away behind the scenes, finding time to paint a little here and there. I’ve finally got round to making a model for my Chaos warlord Kallamoon Kell and hopefully he’ll be finished and ready to show off soon. In the meantime I’ll take the chance to post up some pictures “from the archive” of some of the older miniatures in the collection that, until now, hadn’t been revealed.
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This model was shown way back in the very first post on Convert or Die and was also the test model when I was first working out the colour scheme and concept behind the Beasts of Ruin. He remains a personal favourite of mine.
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His squad-mate, armed with a heavy flamer.
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And another, this time with a chainfist.
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New Banner!

Don’t look at these words – look at the top of the page! There’s no denying it – I’m as excited as a kid by my new banner. As pieces of small rectangular 40k fan art go I think it’s pretty hard to beat (certainly it knocks my own efforts which it replaces into a cocked hat).
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It, and this avatar, are the creations of the enormously talented Janice Duke who, when not being prevailed upon to draw servo-skulls, is a full time professional artist and illustrator. Take a look at the examples below and head over to her blog, facebook, twitter or DeviantArt pages to see more of her work.

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Hecate


Follow the Reaper

As I mentioned in the last couple of posts I’ve been working on adding my own “counts as” version of Typhus for a while. Originally I was going to add the torso and shoulder-pads from Forgeworld’s Nurgle Terminators to the legs and scythe of the Deathshroud and have done with it and I still think this could create quite a nice effect. However although I was able to get my hands on the Deathshroud components easily enough the other bitz proved elusive. Although my enthusiasm for the project remained high I was getting a little frustrated until I spotted the gas-masked head in the new Space Marines kit. Presumably it’s unintentional but there’s something about it that just screams “Nurgle”. The project was reborn – or at least brought shambling back into some kind of degenerate half-life.
Here’s the result at last; Ghisguth the Reaper finally finished in all his putrid glory.ghisguth-the-reaper-nurgle-lord-convert-or-die-2One of the things I like about the official Typhus miniatures, both from GW and Forgeworld’s Heresy-era Typhon, are their grim, unrelenting aspect; a powerful, almost medieval, death figure. Thus although I enjoy the carnival, celebratory element of Nurgle I wanted this model to be a little more stern, capturing Nurgle’s aspect as a god of despair and decay – Death the Reaper rather than Death from Diskworld.

To this end I posed him surveying the battlefield, as though selecting his next victim. Nurgle, after all, is never in a hurry. Khorne’s followers may rush forwards into battle, the slaves of Slaanesh must dash desperately from one high to the next, but Nurgle knows that someday they shall die, rot and inevitably come to him.

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ghisguth-the-reaper-nurgle-lord-convert-or-die-8I confess I already struggle to understand how anyone managed to paint anything prior to the release of the new Special Effects paints (definitely the most important and exciting thing to come out of Game’s Workshop last year). Typhus Corrosion (of course) and Ryza Rust were used on the corroded metal work, Nurgle’s Rot helped produce a wonderfully slimy effect on the base and a liberal dose of Blood for the Blood God was added to the exposed guts. Perhaps the most useful paint though was Agrellan Earth which I used on all the corroded metalwork.ghisguth-the-reaper-nurgle-lord-convert-or-die-3I talked about this in the previous post but here’s a quick illustrated “step-by-step”. I started by painting the Agrellan Earth directly onto the bare plastic of the model. The paint is then left to dry and crack.

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Once it had dried I sprayed everything black to seal it in and protect it. Scythe

A couple of layers of browns and some Boltgun Metal (or whatever you kids call it nowadays) are drybrushed over the top. Drybrushing is key to preserve the texture of the surface.

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A quick layer of Ryza Rust (or any other grimy orange) finishes the job. Lovely.


A Man of Outstanding Character

Increasingly I find that I both love and don’t love – hate is too strong a word – special characters. I love them because they add to the background, to the immersion in the world, to the sense that the 41st Millennium is a living, breathing place and the battles that take place matter – never mind how vast and uncaring the galaxy is purported to be. We’re often reminded that “…the Universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed”. Special characters redress the balance, the Imperium may be on its beam ends but it is still possible for someone to make a difference one way or another. When the Emperor admitted that Horus’s last blow had stung a little and he was going to lie down for a bit it turned the Imperium on its head. If Marneus Calgar or Abaddon the Despoiler died tomorrow it’s safe to say that someone would miss them – or at least notice. Thus although the average Imperial Guardsman or worker in a hive sump might not be missed Special Characters are, well, special. However I also feel that, to a degree, they divorce me from my collection – that ownership of them lies not with me but with other people; the writers and creators of the game and its cannon of fiction and other players who also use them in the collections.

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I love to see a collection modelled around specific units and characters from the background fiction. An excellent example of this is the Son’s of Horus army by Duncan Rhodes showcased in White Dwarf (November 2013) that featured Loken and Abbadon during the early part of the Horus Heresy. The collection both captures a moment in time and tells a story – specifically one to which I’ve already developed an attachment through reading the series of books from Forge World and the Black Library. I also enjoy being able to open a codex and read that in the year X, or at the time of battle Y, and see the whole army presented in a structured manner; the names of every sergeant, the title of every captain, all the way from the Chapter Master to the servitor that cleans his boots (I know that’s an exaggeration but you get my drift – pages of heraldry or chapter organisation are very cool. Several of the armies in Warhammer already have whole books covering just this and something similar for 40k could be very interesting).

However whilst I love to see a collection modelled around specific units and characters from the background fiction I don’t see myself collecting them any time soon. Part of that is my own chaotic approach to collecting armies, I add units based very much on whim, rather than following any kind of structured approach. It’s safe to say that Roboute Guilliman would have been disgusted with me! Then again with the three armies in my collection being Orks, Chaos and a Space Marine chapter that’s as close to being renegade as you can get, this is hardly surprising. Thus although there are stories in the 40k background which excite me (for example the Third War for Armageddon, the Badab War and of course the Heresy itself) none of them grip me to the level of the story I’ve imagined myself. That story is personal, it belongs exclusively to me.

This attitude extends beyond the army and into the characters that make it up. Take Abaddon the Despoiler for example. The Black Library novels have done a cracking job portraying him, from the bullish dedication shown in Wolf of Ash and Fire (excellent incidentally – I was lucky enough to get the chance to read a copy and it’s well worth it if you get the opportunity), through the inevitable path that follows through the Horus Heresy series as he transforms into the belligerent Despoiler that haunts the Imperium today. Needless to say I’m hugely excited about Talon of Horus. Sadly although the Black Library have made Abaddon into a deep and fascinating character his appearances in pieces of in-codex short fiction (for example in the last edition of Apocalypse or the Cypher dataslate) depict him as so paper thin and clichéd its almost embarrassing. If they are to be believed then it’s no wonder it’s taken him so long to prepare his final crusade against the Imperium, he’s been too busy twirling his moustache and cackling. It’s partly this dichotomy that puts me off from including him in my collection.

Then there’s the matter of sharing the limelight. The characters I’ve imagined as leaders are key to the story that forms the cornerstone of the collection as a whole. What would happen then if Kallamoon Kell found himself sharing the stage with Abadddon? The only reasonable explanation, without either stretching my credulity or abandoning the tenants of the setting, is for Abadddon to take command – and that would never do.

This is where I start to encounter a conflict. On the one hand I don’t want to include special characters in my army for all the reasons stated above. On the other hand I do – these are exciting personalities after all. In the end it comes back to a feeling of ownership, when all is said and done I want my own characters – but I’m inspired by the possibility of taking pre-existing characters and personalising them.

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All of which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Fabius Bile. I like the idea of him as a character but at the same time felt that he didn’t fit in with the rest of my collection. Of course I could have invented a reason for him to be fighting alongside the Beasts of Ruin, as a nomad and mercenary it would make perfect sense for him to join up with another rising Chaos warband, but I preferred the idea of having something personal, something that belonged to me. Enter Pharol, the Bleak Physician. Rather than the Primogenitor himself I simply based my own character off a similar concept, creating my own twisted apothecary to harvest geneseed from dead loyalists and create fresh marines for the Beasts. He carries the same wargear as Apothecary Fabius and I would field him using the same rules but otherwise he’s my own creature.

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  Rather than use the original Fabius as the base model for the conversion I chose a Dark Angel veteran and bought the Chirurgeon separately as part of a bitz-pack. However, doing this also got me a set of the backpacks usually used for the model of Cypher. Now, having read his dataslate, I’m starting to think that the next appearance of the most mysterious character in 40k should be amongst the Beasts of Ruin. Looks like everything I’ve written here might be hypocrisy after all eh?

Edit re: Wolf of Ash and Fire.
And what do you know – now it’s up to download FOR FREE from the Black Library website. Looks like it’s a limited time only offer though so get over there sharpish!