Wednesday, 19 October 2016

+ inload: Revelations +

+ King of Suns +

+ or, Whatever happened to the Sun King? +

Much, much later; Master Inquisitor Veck leads his band on Grovsenor II.

+ Enthusiasm for projects naturally ebbs and flows, and circumstances can make it difficult or impossible to work on something, then allow for a window of frenzied attention. +

+ Such is the case with the Court of the Sun King, a project very close to my ticking mechanical heart, as it contains my blog's titular Rubricist – otherwise known as Childeric – as well as another character that I've been mulling over for more than a decade; Sciriusc the Sunne Cyng himself – although much like the Rubricist, that's not the only name he goes by... +

+ The project stalled somewhat when, having built the model (below) and cranked up to a 'big reveal' of the Sun King, Games Workshop released Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, and rather stole the thunder of the imagery :D +

+ So, here's the Sun King – I hope he's not a disappointment! +

Sciriusc the Sunne Cyng, in all his glory
+ This – fairly understandably, I think – took the wind from my sails somewhat; which is much of the reason for the long delay in the project. However, with the benefit of a few months' breathing space, I think I'm reconciled to the Sun King model now. On a second look, I think he's got enough about him that stands on his own merits; so with a little more work, he'll be ready to get involved in putting his plans into action. +

+ Needless to say, Childeric had better watch his step. On a feudal world where a lasrifle would raise stares of wonderment amongst the population, the Sun King has some very powerful friends... +


+ Aims of the project +

+ One of the core things that I wanted to do with this project is to look at an unremarkable world of the Imperium. I think all planets have their distinctive character and culture; but they tend to play second fiddle to great events beyond their borders. Cepheus has millennia of history, diversity of population and lots of interesting things that I want to hold a mirror up to through the Rubricist. For this reason, I'm determined to keep things fairly low-key. +

+ For this reason, You're more likely to see flintlocks and swords than conversion beamers; and skirmishes than armies. I want to make the scale more intimate; so that readers and players (I encourage you get involved in the events, by the way) don't expect mighty heroes and powerful monsters, but rather terrified militia and weakling scribes nevertheless doing the work of the Emperor, unsung and unremembered. To me, the actions and resistance of the weak are more interesting for their very lack of power against the swarming, oppressive, maddening atmosphere of the 41st Millennium. +

+ So why the devil have I introduced Astartes? Of all the overplayed elements of the 41st Millennium, the Space Marines have got to be the apex. I can give just three reasons. The first is fairly throwaway – I simply like making up Astartes; they give the project a hook for a lot of people that wouldn't otherwise be interested in the small grubby backwater of Cepheus and the City. Even then, these won't be storied Chapters of Legend; these will be the Astartes equivalents of the rest of the cast – unknown, untested. Look for some stories of the Stellar Steeds and the Chapter Castellan, along with the last scion of the Scarlet Blades. +

+ The second is contrast. As with painting, as with writing; there's nothing that makes a hero feel heroic than some genuinely dangerous enemies – and it's looking like the Sun King's gang – the Walker Boliti, the Scion of the Scarlet Blades, his as yet-unnamed Scyld guard, the Indocksman and the Owlingmanne to name just a few – are more than a match for a middle-aged Inquisitor and his pals. +

+ Finally, the twist. The plan is for events to ramp up somewhat; and hopefully you'll come along with my story to see why a few choice Astartes will prove utterly necessary... +

+ What's going on on Cepheus? +

If you are new to the project, and don't fancy going back through everything, here's a summary to bring you up to speed. We know the following:

  • A stranger has arrived on the planet Cepheus, a chilly backwater Feudal-class planet. He has seized the role and office of the Imperial Commander – here known as the 'Sun King'. 
  • A civil war has erupted in the City; a vast and grubby urban wasteland. Regiments of ill-disciplined and scruffy soldiery, loyal to the various 'Welltheyareborne' aristocratic families, are fighting, looting and burning each others' territories.
  • After a few brief weeks, the Sun King closed off the space port, leaving no official route to the planet.
  • The Rubricist, Childeric - or rather, Inquisitor Unfortunus Veck - has arrived clandestinely, just before the port's closure. He is now trapped without hope of reinforcement – except for those few allies he sent ahead of him; or can cultivate on Cepheus itself. 
  • Childeric is attempting to make contact with Magos Manderghast, an old ally who he feels sure has information on the Sun King's true nature.
  • The Sun King has rallied his forces, and with the City in disarray, is planning the first moves in his ultimate - and heretofore inscrutable - goals...

+ inload: Sebastian Ottavus Arcimboldo, Scion of the Scarlet Blades +

+ inload: In the Coürt of the Sunñe Cyng +

+ The four advanced down the hall under Boliti's watchful, hidden gaze. Thrown by wall-mounted sconces that bled as much smoke as light, the illumination was patchy. More than half of the torches were unlit – either a cost-saving measure, a sop to the effects of the months-long War, or perhaps simply the sconce's absence through time and lack of maintenance. If it bothered any of the four, they gave no sign. Their pace was purposeful, if not particularly hurried. Like the Sun King himself, it seemed to Boliti as though the four were deliberately repressing a more martial air. +

+ A gaggle of nervous servants came trailing a respectful distance behind and the Watcher shook his head, as though mazed. The Sun King was the smallest of the group of four by a large margin; but the appearance of the servants in the cone of ruddy light threw everything into perspective. Conjured partly by the hallway – immense, mouldering and dust-caked – but mostly by the colourful figures at its heart, the illusion now seemed obvious. +

+ The Sun King was undoubtedly large and heavy-set, of a demeanour as confident and languid as a Prime Felid. Besides his charisma and his gold-chased armour, he was physically impressive. Boliti's experienced gaze knew him to be gene-bulked; enhanced. Next to the others, however, he appeared like a stripling; a doll. +

+ 'They do not call you Brother.' The Sun King's voice was commanding, easily projecting up the hallway to Boliti's ears. Without missing a beat, the figure nodded, his face steeped in shadow as the four met an area of still, damp, darkness. 

'There were only six others.' This voice was sonorous, deep, and tinged with an emotion Boliti struggled to place. 'I am the last. It is a mark of respect that your Scylds do not address me as such.' He paused. 

The Sun King's reply was simple. 'That is a part-truth.' He kept his gaze fixed firmly ahead, but Boliti could see that the shadowy figure had twitched. Anger? Uncertainty? 'They refrain from calling you Brother because they see you as ill-omened.'  +

+ The humming of their powered armour was becoming obvious to Boliti as they approached the cubby in which he was ensconsed, and so he could hear the momentary hesitation of the other two; even if they showed no visible break in movement. The first warrior's reply was terse; badly-hidden anger kept repressed. 

'That may be so.' The group continued. If the Sun King was aware of any tenseness, he made no sign. If anything, his walk seemed to gain a slightly jovial step. 

'An orphan, then.' The figure bristled. 'Hmm. It seems to me that I have met many orphans in my time. On Cambylon. On the fifth world of Melissa. On Veet Ling. I seem to attract them.' +

+ All of a sudden, less than a dozen yards from Boliti, the Sun King drew to a halt. The three warriors, and the servants behind, stopped a moment later. The three Astartes – for now there was no mistaking their nature – turned to the Sun King. The warrior removed his orange-and-white helm. His skin was deeply tanned, his hair close-cropped. The Sun King looked at him, his mask – as always –impassive. +

+ 'You came to me pursuing the trail of your last brother, Sebastian.' All of a sudden, the Sun King's voice was comradely; sympathetic but uncondescending. 'I regret that you found him dead.' Boliti had experienced a lifetime of false sympathy. He detected none in the Sun King's voice or manner. 'I make you this promise, Sebastian Ottavus Arcimboldo. If you will help me cleanse this world of its vicious infection, I will turn the strength of three worlds to tracking down word of the Scarlet Blades. I will find any of your brethren that remain; and if I cannot, then I will name you brother myself.' He reached out, unflinchingly, and placed a hand on the Space Marine's arm. There was a disarming sincerity to the Sun King, quite at odds to his station. 

+ Given their shared history, Boliti recognised the effect the Sun King's words – almost childlike in its optimism and zeal – were having. Arcimboldo gave no immediate reply; but simply dipped his head. His face became cloaked in shadow for a moment. At length, he looked up. 
'I pledge my oath, then, before those here present. I will be the tool of mankind; no more. With faith in the God-Emperor and my King; I pledge that I will not be the last Scion of the Scarlet Blades.' +

+ 'Direct me.' +

Thursday, 13 October 2016

+ inload; Iron Warrior Basilikoi +

+ inload: Black-hearted bastards of the Basilikoi +

An old rogue makes the best watchman.
+ Proverb, archaic. Provenance unknown.

+ The Basilikoi Lodges were not organised into Musters, as were the rest of the Great Company, but rather were set as overseers to monitor the other Musters, giving rise to their alternative High Gothic title, Invigilati. Needless to say, this did nothing to dispel the Iron Warriors' reputation as paranoiac obsessives. +

+ While this reputation had some basis in fact – certainly towards the later years of the Horus Heresy, as Perturabo's humours became increasingly mercurial – the original purpose of Invigilation had a very worthwhile origin as an effective safety valve for the Musters. +

+ As with all groups of fighting men, their sense of competition – mostly positive and outwardly directed – often led to friction and occasionally threatened to erupt into violence. The stand-offish nature that most of the IVth's legionaries cultivated in imitation of their master meant that these bursts of violence were more unexpected and lethal than in the other Legions; who often had ritualised methods of dispersing such tension – the honour duels of the Imperial Fists and Emperor's Children, or the fighting pits of the Luna Wolves and World Eaters. +

+ The deputisation of the Basilikoi to moderate and identify such brewing confliict, was thus both a useful method of ensuring the Musters remained positively competitive, and a sign of the web of control Perturabo held over his legion. +

+ Their blank honour masks; fitted in imitation of the Legion's symbol, was intended as a brooding reminder of the subsumation of personal ambition to the greater whole. Eventually, however, such an outlet proved insufficient to the task. Even by the latter years of the Great Crusade, the Invigilati commonly saw themselves as elevated above the common Musters and began to order them about on an unofficial level, in direct opposition to their original purpose. +

+ Doubtless Perturabo must have been aware of the subtle politicking emerging amongst his Legion's elite after the Warmaster's betrayal – indeed, it seems impossible that none of the Basilikoi themselves could resist turning informer in the hope of currying favour at the highest level – but he certainly acted as a neutral party; perhaps secretly pleased; perhaps appalled. +

+ By the time of the Siege of Terra, many Basilikoi – particularly those still garrisoning distant worlds, had all but enslaved the Musters and Militia under their command, forming the kernels of marauding warbands, some of which went on to plague the Imperium during the Great Scouring and beyond. 
...and what of the Officia Monstrosa? A number of Basilikoi were sighted with this force during the siege, operating with all the professionalism, duty and heroism one might expect of the most virtuous Ultramarine or Blood Angel. This is a mournful reminder that while the Legions who followed the Warmaster proved rotten at the core, their treachery was committed by their leaders. The Legionaries who followed them are now lost to the Imperium forever, but few were initially evil – merely dutiful.
More troublingly, it is a sobering reminder that if such exemplars as the Basilikoi could fall, we can be certain of no Legion at all...

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

+ Painting Word Bearers part II +

+ Painting the Blasted Cedar (cont.) +

+ This is the second part of a tutorial on painting Word Bearers. The first part is in an earlier inload [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] +

_v: Dilute Liche Purple heavily using flow enhancer, then paint it on like a wash, working it into the recesses. While it remains wet, clean and dry your brush and lift it off raised areas, leaving it visible in the recesses and shaded areas.

_vi: Mix Vallejo Scarlet and Vallejo White to make a pink mix, and highlights the edges of the plates that are facing the light source (i.e. upwards). 

_vii: Work Ogryn Flesh into the recesses only, wiping away any excess from flat plates.

_viii: Make a dark mix of Boltgun metal with a little sepia ink and silver ink added. Use this to pick out any metallic areas such as the shoudler trim, backpack and boltgun details.

_ix: Glaze the red armour evenly using Bloodletter glaze. Lay it on thinly; you don't want it to pool.

_x: Once dry, repeat two or three times – this will gradually strengthen the hue without obscuring your highlights, so the more layers you do, the better. (Note how the pinkness of the highlights in step _vi are enriched and become red.)

_xi: Reinstate the finest highlights with a lighter mix (i.e. more white) of Vallejo Scarlet and Vallejo White). These will look pink again, but don't panic – another layer or two of Bloodletter glaze will bring them back to a brooding, rich red.

_xii: Alternatively, you can use red ink, which will give a slightly glossy finish, to knock the pinkness back. I used Winsor & Newton Vermilion ink.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

+ inload: Brotherhood of the Lost II – Iron Bear +

+ inload: Warpathman Dohmnall Sakima of the Iron Bears +

+ As outlined in an earlier inload [+noospheric onlioadlink embedded+], the Bolter & Chainsword has a group that is developing an alternative universe Horus Heresy-style rebellion, called the Icarion Insurrection. This is the second marine I've built for the project – the first can be seen here [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+].  +

+ The poster Chief Captain Redd came up with the Iron Bears, and they're a complex Legion; blending a number of influences. +

+ The Iron Bears +

Numeration: The VIth Legion 
Primogenitor: Daer'dd Niimkiika
Cognomen (Prior): The Sixth, The Giants 
Allegiance: Fidelitas Totalis  
Where Space Marines stand tall, the Iron Bears stand taller. A byproduct of their gene-seed, along with their lengthened implantation process, the Iron Bears are transformed into giants always standing twenty to thirty centimetre higher than their cousins, their physical statures enhanced by their good-natured bravado. A legion of mechanics, the Iron Bears are infamous for their habit of tinkering with their war machines, adding new or unusual features to their mechanical beasts. 
Together, the Iron Bears and their oversized fleet of heavy tanks, form a steel tide that washes over their enemies. Daer'dd, tallest of the Primarchs, leads the legion with his arsenal of warhawks, a figure larger than life on and off the battlefield. In the end, the Iron Bears will be tested to the limit by the tragedy of the Insurrection, as they will suffer one of the greatest losses a legion can suffer.

+ Theoretical +

+ As with the Grave Stalker Legionary made for the same project, I wanted to make sure the figure reflected the background fairly. On the face of things, it'd be easy to see the Iron Bears as a sort of Space Wolves/Iron Hands mish-mash, but the Legion draws as much from Native American (specifically the Ojibwa people) and Celtic societies as it does from Norse. +

+ With such a rich range of areas to draw from, it's easy for a figure to become over-complicated or too busy, and not work as a finished piece. He also had to read as a 'Space Marine', so I didn't want to cover him in bits and bobs. By keeping the silhouette clean, he doesn't read as an odd-coloured Space Wolf. +

+ In terms of modelling, I went for a bare head with a neat beard (the plastic power armoured Librarian) then sculpted on some short hair. This gave the figure a slightly Nordic feel without stepping on Space Wolf imagery. I played around with this by using a relatively dark skintone and dark hair; which gave a good background for some warpaint. + 

+ Note also the dags on the shoulder trim and knife sheath, and the chevrons on the bolt pistol. I introduced copper green to the overwhelmingly metallic palette in order to bring a cool contrasting hue, and used terracotta as a toning colour on the casings. This kept the palette warm – which naturally makes the figure read as energetic and inviting; characteristics which fit with the genial peacetime nature of the Legion. +

+ Armament is a good way to introduce character; and 'power tomahawks' are mentioned in the background. I couldn't resist adding one, using the Justaerin weapon pack. This shot also details the Legion and Clan symbol – a bear's paw (top) surmounting a stylised deer's head. +

+ The dags continue on the pouches, and the faceplate of his belted helm is also terracotta. Note the red-washed runic inlay on the forearm; I thought this was a nice chance to add another flash of colour. +

+ The Legion symbol is repeated on the left shoulder, on a broad white stripe. This shot also shows the warpaint on his face; another distinctive touch that was a [SCRAPSHUNTERRORABORT] to paint. Fun, but it was a pain to balance it against the bearded head. If I were to do another, I think I'd go for stronger colours (yellow and red, perhaps?) but use a cleanshaven and bald or topknotted head to give the greatest area to paint. +

+ Perhaps the most challenging part of the conversion was getting the Bear's stature. They're described as larger than typical Astartes, so in addition to some extra height introduced to the legs and waist, I bulked out the torso more than usual. This shot shows him next to the Grave Stalker – no titch himself, the Iron Bear still looms over him. +

Monday, 10 October 2016

+ inload: Painting Word Bearers +

+ The Chapter of the Blasted Cedar +

+ The Masters of the XVIIth Chapter sent their most fanatical Legionaries to Calth, there to fight – and in all likelihood, die – in service to Lorgar and the fell gods of Chaos. Prior to the assault, many of those chosen believed themselves honoured; seeing in their selection the favour of their beloved Primarch and the Warmaster. By the early days of the Underworld War, many had come to see themselves less as honoured sons, and more as a sacrifice upon the altar of war; abandoned to ignominious ends deep below the earth of Calth. +

+ Were Lorgar's orders a purge of his least reliable followers? Was their sacrifice an essential part of the esoteric ritual for the Ruinstorm? The mercurial Primarch's thoughts will never be known in full. Many of those deployed to Calth maintained hope that Lorgar and the Legion would return to rescue and reclaim his sons; others bitterly decried what they saw as another treachery to add to the Primarch's crimes. +

+ What can be said for certain is that the Chapter of the Blasted Cedar was deployed in its totality to Calth. As with many of the XVIIth Legion sent on this mission, they wore their true nature beneath masks; adopting the sigils of their brother Chapters to exaggerate their numbers. +


+ Painting Word Bearers part I +

+ Word Bearers have relatively non-standard livery. The broad strokes – red, black and gunmetal – are fairly solid, but much else is fluid, varying from Chapter to Chapter and cult to cult. Black helms, gold trim, and non-standard elements like hoods or gags or chains are common. For this reason, this paint scheme is necessarily fairly loose – I encourage you to vary it! +

_i: Prime the model with Halford's matt grey primer. I use grey primer to get a dirtier look to the finished model. Use white if you prefer a cleaner or brighter look. 

_ii: Use Vallejo Scarlet to paint the red parts of the armour.

_iii: Paint metal areas (shoulder trim, the boltgun, chains etc.) with Abaddon Black. Add a hint of Calthan Brown to the black to soften it and use this to undercoat areas like scrollwork, leather straps etc.

_iv: Once thoroughly dry, wash the armour with Agrax Earthshade. Rinse and dry your brush, and touch it to any areas where the wash is pooling. The bristles will lift some of the excess paint and prevent unpleasant marks. Leave it to dry.


Friday, 7 October 2016

+ inload: Iron Warrior multi-melta Heavy Support Squad +

+ Made for Better Things +

I know how hard it is in Latian verse/ 
To tell the dark discoveries of the Greeks/ 
Chiefly because our pauper-speech must find/ 
Strange terms to fit the strangeness of the thing//


This terror, then, this darkness of the mind/
Not sunrise with its flaring spokes of light/
Nor glittering arrows of morning can disperse/
But only Nature's aspect and her law/ 
Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:/ 
Nothing from nothing ever yet was born//
+ extr. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book I +

+ I remember initial issue. I was assigned to the Euthytonoi; Muster 442. Anti-vehicle; anti-fortification. Multi-meltas. +

+ Maxima-pattern, 22–27 Megathule output multi-meltas. Vape-guns. Cookers. Death rays. Heat radiation of an intensity that blistered rock. Against organics, ruinous; deleterious. I took mine in my hands. My multi-melta. Torrent. +

+ Most of Muster 442's work was second-line; but Torrent became a living thing when I was called to serve against the Kine on Sensiva. I remember washing the blindray over the first greenskins at a hundred yards – premature – ill-disciplined. I was flogged, later. +

+ The kine only flinched, and squinted, and kept on coming. A second burst at eighty-five yards (again, too early, too eager) raised blisters and made their war-cry into a howl of pain. After that, discipline – and the necessity of not cooking off the ventscreen – made me wait. At thirty yards, Palatarch Cebrail gave the order, and my Mustermates and I vapourised the kine. The multimeltas simply washed them away, converting them to a cloud of black-grey ash in an instant. +

+ Their charge, and the suddenly still air, carried them onwards. The cloud wrapped around us, coating us in the death of xenos. It felt like vaftiz –a baptism of ash. +


+ Later, Torrent tasted on Terra. It was different there. My hands were not as still as they should have been. Blood was sheeting down my torso, my loins, my legs. My blood. Below the abdomen, I was crimson. +

+ Still, Torrent was there. The yellow-armoured figure rose in front of me, and I pulled the trigger. +

+ Torrent caught it on her vid-capture. Recorded it; though the sonics were corrupt. I have watched it since, many times, very slowly. The haze and dust in the air is filtered out; so there is simply an odd wavering in the visuals. It is mesmeric. The figure's plasma rifle wilts and folds like wax for an instant; before it abruptly changes colour as the radiator coils catch and spring up. They begin to spring away as the barrel folds back like a flower. The Legionary's lead gauntlet and forearm begin to course and spray, before igniting; white-hot. +

+ He has not yet taken a second step, but his momentum is carrying him forward. All of a sudden, his torso and helmet and pauldron begin to distort, as though they are wax held before a hearth. Tiny waves appear in his armour as the power of Torrent pushes and pushes – until a dozen tiny motes appear: weaknesses, or damage, or chips in his armour. They flash, magnesium-bright, and grow like yawning mouths, hungry and incandescent. +

+ Here I always dial the vid-capture down to the slowest setting; losing the illusion of motion and breaking the motion into jumpy still images. Even so, it is quick. Barely seven frames split the figure from completeness to an empty husk. There is one image that I fixate upon most strongly. The frontispiece of his helm flakes away and reveals – for one frame alone – his mouth. It is distorted and red. +

+ By the next it is black and unrecognisable. +

+ By the next he is gone. +


Palatarch Cebrail

Muster 442

Muster 442; note Legion IV Heavy Support designate-ikons and microauspex vis-panels

Thursday, 6 October 2016

+ inload: Return to Terra +


The officer looked down. 'Iron without, certainly'. He glanced around, disinterestedly. 'Looks mainly like he was meat and blood, within.' Another dead Iron Warrior couldn't be mourned. Not here. Not now. Deep underground, the Officia Monstrosa had not seen daylight for a long time – not that there was any to be found on the scorched surface.

By the accounts of the fragmented reports – by necessity, gathered from psychic spore by their Byblios – the surface was apocalyptic. The seas had boiled. The land, always hard, had become rad-scorched and haunted by the strange beings of the between-veil. It was constantly tormented by tectonic shifts, as though the bones of Old Earth were trying to shake off its monstrous children. Billions, if not trillions, were dead, displaced, or had been driven insane.

'Within. Without. All over the sarding place.' the other Iron Warrior's tone was flat, measured. 'Another dead eidikos. We're dangerously close to statistical failure, Cjarn.' The officer whipped around, bristling, his fingers playing on his axes.

'You will remember your place, legionary,' he barked. 'I couldn't give two steaming shits whether I confront the Old Stone with the Warmaster's Legions gathered at my back, or crawl at him single-handed and bare-arsed. As long as one of us lives to place one solid cut on that stone-faced, black-hearted monster, we continue. Dorn is going to rot in a cage.'

The two stood facing for a moment, slits in their blank faceplates giving each other nothing. After a moment, the legionary bowed his head.

'We'll need Charisto's gun.' He said, without rancour. Cjarn nodded, and the legionary bent to salvage what he could from the dead Iron Warrior.

They no longer observed the rituals of obscuring the honour marks. Honour was becoming a foreign concept in this war.


+ Markings of the Officia Monstrosa +

+ Metallic schemes can suffer from looking a bit dull, or even unfinished; and so adding some eye-catching details is important. Compare the two figures below:

+ Both are finished to the same degree, but the first includes yellow markings around the faceplate along with a bright blue glare from the cycloptic eye lens. As a result, he's a more satisfying figure to look at. The other is very anonymous – useful if that's the effect you're going for, but certainly not great for a standalone or centrepiece figure. +

+ In terms of an army, sometimes it's good to have anonymous background models – think of them as the frame which serves to bring the viewer's eye to the models you're most proud of. That said, they should still receive attention – the armour of the second figure above still includes a level of tonal variation and detail; simply not as much as the other. +

Details like the yellow band on the pauldron and hazard markings
on the boltgun can break up and enliven muted schemes.

+ State of play +

+ I've not painted anything new for my Officia Monstrosa project recently, but equally I haven't shown you the squads in a completely finished state, with transfers, squad markings and so forth. I broke the Iron Warriors out for a photoshoot, so I'll be posting those up soon, along with some proper shots of the Leviathan and accompanying bits. Golg, while not strictly part of the project, is also all ready to be shown!. +

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

+ inload; How Old is a Space Marine? part II +

+ This inload continues an earlier article [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] +

+ Recruitment, Replacing Scouts, and 'Oops' +

+ To recap, we're trying to see what the typical age is for different types of Space Marines; and whether that can inform what we know of the structure of a typical Chapter. The standard Codex Chapter I'm using to illustrate this is split into four 'Armies', each consisting of one Battle Company supported by a quarter of each of the other Reserve, Scout and Veteran Companies (for a total of two hundred and fifty Marines in each Army). At any one time, three Armies are on campaign (taking casualties), while one remains at the Fortress Monastery. +

+ Unfortunately, as my (patient and very indulgent) wife pointed out, the maths for this model don't quite work. In order to sustain that level of attrition, the Chapter would need a Scout Company of around 200 – too large for the Codex strictures. We have the option of reducing the casualty rate, but I think that would take it too low to fit the rest of the background we know (it makes the Space Marines wars a bit 'soft', which is entirely inappropriate for the background). +

+ The other option is for less of the Chapter to be fighting, but again, that goes against the 'only war' feel. In order to square the circle, we add a three-month travel time for each fighting Army, which essentially reduces by a quarter the ongoing casualties, in turn reducing the number of recruits that need to exist at any one time. +

+ That gives us a bit of breathing room in which the Armies are not sustaining casualties, and allows us to reduce the pool of Scouts to between 120 and 150; still high, but within the background strictures. Of this pool of 120–150, only 100 will be 'officially' battle-ready Scouts; the remainder being either Neophytes (pre-Stage 1 implants), or out of action for another reason. +

+ Pleasingly, this also gives us an answer to how we account for casualties taken by the Scouts while on campaign (not covered in my earlier inload, but I think this sounds about right, given their role and the emphasis on survival their Veteran Sergeants are said to take), and what happens to these Neophytes during ongoing recruitment – namely that they join the twenty-five Scouts in the Army at the Fortress-Monastery, benefitting from their experience and receiving training. + 

+ These 20–50 Neophytes will be allocated to fill Scout roles as fighting Armies cycle round and return. In order to honour the Codex, these Neophytes will not be progressed in implant stages until a spot in the Scout company proper opens up for them. Luckily, the Codex allows around a two-year window for each main stage – which dovetails well with the suggested year-long campaigns and three-month travel time. +


+ Why does the Imperium need Astartes? +

+ Building on the following thoughts (the reasons for which are outlined in the previous inload):

  • Scouts are between 12–21 years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Reserve Company will be 18–55 years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Battle Company will be 34–72 years old

+ It's worth taking a moment to think about this, as it lets us work out a few interesting facts. First of all, this model allows for young and headstrong Marines fighting alongside much older and more experienced Battle Brothers – just as we see in the background. It also hits home that Marines are not human. +

+ Though there are, of course, plenty of older soldiers and sailors in modern and historical armed forces, I think it's fair to say that very few men and women would be at their physical peak beyond their thirties; but this age only marks the point at which our Astartes can expect to be promoted from the Reserves. + 

+ It's also worth noting how experienced these Marines are. Modern warfare tends to have relatively few tours of duty – perhaps one every three or four years – which each typically last around six to nine months. Again, I add the proviso that there are of course exceptions to this, but I think the point stands that a typical Marine from our model Chapter will prosecute three year-long Campaigns in the space of five years, with nine months spent travelling and a year at the Fortress Monastery – more than is typical for modern armies, and with virtually no time for proper rest or recuperation. +

+ This hits home how important the psychological aspect of becoming a Marine is. Fighting at that rate would be psychologically harrowing, particularly with the knowledge that you will be expected to keep it up for decades, if not longer. This fits very well with the black humour of 40k: 'Only those who prosper truly judge what is sane.' +


+ The life and times of Brother Genericus +

+ In terms of raw experience, then, lets follow a marine through the Scouts, through the Reserve Companies and into the Battle Companies, and work out how many wars that he'll have fought in. We'll take the median age at each stage:
+ Recruited at the age of ten, our Neophyte became a full Scout at the age of thirteen (a median of the age range of the first phase of implantation) and joined the garrison at the Fortress Monastery. He fought his first campaign by the age of fourteen (at the latest), and by the time he returned to the Chapter, is either be midway through his third campaign, or travelling on his way to it. By this point, our seventeen-year old Scout will have been out of the Neophytes for between five and seven years. + 
+ Our Scout then needs two more years to reach the average age to join the Reserve Companies (nineteen/twenty), during which time he will complete his third tour and then serve back at the Garrison. By the time he reaches the median age for the Reservists (thirty-seven/thirty-eight), he will have fought in fifteen more campaigns – and that's including three months travel back to the Fortress Monastery every time he returns. If you remove that, he fits in a sixteenth campaign. +
+ After many more years – fifteen, in fact, to reach the median age of fifty-five for a Battle Brother in the Battle Companies – our example Marine will be in the midst of his twelfth year-long campaign in the Battle Company. +

+ To put this into context, it is relatively rare for a modern soldier to serve more than half-a-dozen tours in his or her career. Even by the time he has settled into the Reserve Company, our example Marine has fought in nineteen campaigns. By his mid-fifties, our Marine has the experience of thirty-one wars behind him. +

+ However, there're a couple of statistical notes that tweak these figures and inform on other parts of the Chapter. Even though the Battle Company are taking the heaviest casualties in the scenario I've advanced, that doesn't mean they're necessarily happening completely randomly.


+ Fog of war +

+ We assume that the oldest Scouts are the most experienced (very likely, owing to the fact they're on constant rotation as explained above – there's no opportunity for a marine not to be involved in at least some warfare over a two-year period) and that the oldest are preferentially inducted to fill casualties in the Reserve Companies. We apply the same model for promotion between the Reserve and Battle Companies, for the same reasons. +

+ There is some room for variation – Scouts recruited later, left as Neophytes for longer, timing issues around the Fortress Monstery and travel times, for example – but broadly speaking, this should give us a roughly even spread of ages, with increasing experience. +

+ Casualties, however, cause a problem. Assuming these happen randomly, we're going to end up with quite a lot of variety – if the Reserve Companies two fatalities see earlier post) happen to the oldest two members, for example, then the Battle Company will be forced to take the third, fourth, fifth and sixth in age from the Reserves to fill its four fatalities. +

+ However, while anyone is a potential casualty, greater experience tends to bring its own benefits to survivability. This is backed up by the background, where Veteran Space Marines tend to be 'above and beyond' even the qualities that makes up the rest of the Chapter, and tend to be very old. We can thus give a slight narrative tweak to the statistics to fit better with the background... +


+ Veterans +

+ We necessarily have some variation in age, as explained above. This means that while the mathematical spread for age in the Battle Companies is between thirty-four and seventy-two years old, as there is no standard promotion out of the Company, there's no actual upper limit. Seventy-two is simply the flattening of the bell curve. If marines have extended lifetimes, there's no reason that a member of the Battle Company can't be centuries old, if he's skilled and lucky enough not to become a casualty – and this is backed up by the background (viz. Codex: Ultramarines; 5th ed. Codex: Space Marines et al.), where marines are mentioned to start showing signs of extreme age around the three century mark. Therefore, for our model to work, we need to have some potential for marines to make it to these extreme ages – and that's where the Veterans come in. +

+ In my example Chapter, I'm going to assume that the Veteran Company is made up of the most worthy Battle Brothers; not necessarily simply the oldest. This presents a problem, as with no upper limit, it's hard to work out the age of the Veterans as-is, even without the added complication that we're allowing for exceptional younger members to join the veterans. +

+ However, because we're allowing for some century-old plus marines to exist, we necessarily have to have slightly higher casualty rates for newer (i.e. younger) members of the Battle Company. Luckily, this fits the idea that your skill at surviving increases a little with age, and so while the average age in a battle company will go up slightly (to allow for the exceptionally old), it goes up only slightly; remaining around the late fifties to early sixties. Again, this sort of age sounds about right to me – by this point, we can truly say that the Battle Brothers of our example Chapter have 'decades of experience'; because they will literally have fought in thirty or more year-long wars. +

+ The method of promotion to the Veteran Company, as with the rest of the Chapter, is 'dead-men's-shoes'. However, when a Veteran dies, there's not a single Reserve company to draw from; but rather four Battle Companies. We now need to work out what a sustainable casualty rate for veterans is within the Codex strictures – remember, there are only one hundred spaces in the First Company – which will help us work out their age and experience. +


+ Cold lists and hot blood +

+ In my earlier inload [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], I outlined my thoughts that, on average, a Battle Company can expect four permanent casualties per campaign as they do the bulk of the fighting, while the supporting Reserves took half that. We saw earlier that the supporting Scouts also took fewer casualties; but what about the Veterans in each army? We can't expect them to be doing less work than the Battle Company. In fact, if anything, they'll be the linchpin of the line and tasked with the hardest, most difficult fighting. So do they take the same casualties as the Battle Company? +

+ I'd argue no. Not only are they (as discussed) experienced at survival, but some are also equipped with the best protective armour the Imperium can offer: Tactical Dreadnought Armour. As a result, I'm going to suggest that Veterans suffer casualties at the same rate as the Reserves – two fatalities per campaign. Note, however, that since there are only twenty-five in the Army (i.e. quarter of the First Company), this statistic is divided by four, for 0.5 fatalities per army per campaign. +

+ Since three Armies are active, this gives us a statistic of 1.5 dead Veterans per fifteen-month period (year-long campaign plus three month travel), or roughly one space opening up every ten months. This sounds fairly workable – as we've seen, the Scout to Reserve to Battle Company replenishment of the standard Codex model only just works, and requires a slight excess of Neophytes. If we add to the losses the Battle Companies take by creaming away too many from the top, then it falls apart again. +

+ This suggested rate of three dead Veterans every thirty months (based on 1.5 every fifteen-month campaign) is low enough to mean that the attrition from the Battle Companies is sustainable – it's spread across four Companies; so the statistical difference is minimised, and can be accounted for by an occasional extra Battle Brother being promoted from the Reserve Company. In turn, there's a slight excess of Neophytes to take the place of the Scout that replaces the Reserve Marine in turn, so we slightly reduce the 120–150 size of the Scout Company I mentioned earlier, back down to Codex measures. Great! +


+ Enough blathering, how old are the Veterans? +

+ To summarise, we've got four Battle Companies feeding the Veteran Company. We've decided we're taking the best and most experienced to fill the occasional casualties, and that older marines tend to be more experienced. Thus I'd say that potential new members for the Veteran Company are going to be drawn from at least the older half of the Battle Companies – the mean age is (as discussed) late fifties to early sixties, so we're looking for members to be at least that age, and probably between that and the upper end. +
+ [APPEND]  The upper age range of our earlier estimate was 72, but owing to the adjustments we've made to due the absence of an upper limit (discussed above), this might be a little older. Let's say seventy-five, for the sake of argument. +
+ This gives us a lower end of the Veteran Company's average age as around 65. I think (and I'm a bit shaky on the maths here; can anyone jump in to correct or corroborate?) that since a Veteran dies only every ten months on average, a Veteran can expect to live another eighty-three years (100/12 x 10*) once he joins the First Company, giving us an average veteran of around one-hundred-and-fifty years old. If we apply the same principles of the youngest dying slightly more often, and marines showing signs of deleterious aging around the three century old mark, I think it's reasonable to suggest that it wouldn't be particularly exceptional for Veterans to be two centuries old. +


+ Veteran Sergeants and Officers +

+ Okay, so we've worked out how marines work up from being a Scout to a Veteran, and the 1,000 marine limit just about works within the model I've outlined. How about officers – can we answer the age-old question of whether they're included in the 1,000 marine limit? I think this is down to your personal preference and interpretation. Fortunately, there's enough slack in the maths for a number of approaches:

+ Model one: Officers are not part of the Codex limit and are in addition to the 1,000 Battle Brothers +

+ The officers and specialists are drawn from the occasional excess Marine from the Battle or Veteran Companies left during the gap between the ten-month casualty rate and the fifteen-month war rate. The advantage of this model is that it gives sufficient 'spare' marines to run the Librarium, Apothecarian, Armoury, Chaplaincy etc. The disadvantage is that you end up with rather more than 1,000 marines – probably an addition fifty or more. +

+ Model two: Officers are counted amongst the 1,000 +

+ This neatly fits the hard line of the Codex, and still fits within our model for ages. However, it does make things a bit awkward – you lose the neat 'ten squads of ten' feel. +
+ I prefer the second model for the reasons listed in bullets below, and think that there are ways to work out potential problems. The first part is by saying that the three campaigning Armies of the model are supplemented by the Marines seconded from the fourth army that garrisons the Fortress-Monastery. With this approach, members of (for example) the Third Company will draw their officers from within their ranks, filling the spaces this leaves in their squads with visiting members of (for example) the Second Company. This has the pleasant knock-on effects that:

  • It allows narrative space for cross-company competition and training.
  • It keeps as many marines as possible fighting – you're likely to have around fifty marines of the Garrison Battle Company on secondment. There are no 'spare' or 'lazy' marines; and increases the experience of each individual marine.
  • It still keeps two hundred marines at home to protect the Fortress-Monastery, recruit, train etc.
  • It provides flexibility to allow the garrison force to crew the fleet, monitor the armoury etc.
  • It fits the 1,000 marines model.

+ This second model also has the benefit that it can account for the Veteran Sergeants in a Battle Company: they are simply seconded from the twenty-five Veterans of the garrison army. +

+ Consider: each campaigning army includes a quarter of the Tenth Company: twenty-five Scouts. This is sufficient for five pure squads of Scouts. By adding six Veterans from the garrison, each campaigning army can now field six squads of Scouts led by a Veteran Sergeant (pleasingly, enough to fill the Troops choices of a standard Force Organisation Chart, providing support for armies of Scouts on-table). We're told they're driven to preserve the Scouts' lives, and this also offers support for the idea that Veterans take fewer casualties than Battle Company marines. +

+ By allocating six Veterans from the garrison to each campaigning army, we account for Scout Sergeants without reducing the fighting number of the twenty-five Veterans originally allocated to the campaign. That still leaves us with seven Veterans in the garrison – who can either be allocated as occasional 'fillers' for campaigning Battle Company squads, or simply left at home to train. +


+ Officers' ages +

+ In either case, to answer the original question, how old is an officer? Let's assume that a Marine has to at least have made it to the Battle Companies to be considered. That gives us a lower age range of around thirty-five – long enough to have joined a Battle Company and proven himself exceptional in at least one campaign. That age sounds right to me; it offers narrative space for dashing young officers like Ragnar Blackmane and Cato Sicarius, though they are necessarily exceptional. +

+ The upper range will be at the top of the Veterans – and as we've seen, these can make it to the full three centuries we're allowing ourselves (more on this later). In the case of exceptional Chapters, like the Blood Angels, they can be much older; but the Codex model outlined here matches nicely with the exemplars of the Codex; the Ultramarines; who have a 300-year old Chapter Master and an (exceptional) 400-year old Chaplain. +


+ Adjustments and revisions +

That discussion on Veterans slightly tweaks things, but we're now showing the broader shape of the Chapter and the Codex structure, and it's sustainable. The following is an updated list of ages incorporating a slightly upward adjustment in average from earlier due to the Veteran Company distorting the bell curve. 

  • There are between twenty and fifty Neophytes between ten and fourteen years old, who are not part of the 1,000 marine limit
  • The Scouts of the Tenth company are between twelve and twenty-one years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Reserve Company will be between eighteen and fifty-five years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Battle Company will be between thirty-four and eighty-one years old, with members exceptionally reaching one-hundred-and-fifty years or more
  • A Veteran of the First Company will be between sisty-five and two-hundred-and-thirty-five years old, with members exceptionally reaching three-hundred years old
  • An Officer will be between thirty-five and three-hundred years old


+ Only in Death Does Duty End – or Does It? +

+ What happens to old marines? Can we work anything out from the hints we have? Does it inform the emerging Codex structure we've outlined above? +

+ The Horus Heresy series gives us marines at the close of the Great Crusade wondering if they were immortal – none had lived long enough. The Great Crusade had lasted two hundred years, and some marines pre-dated that by a few decades – Iacton Qruze, Nathaniel Garro et. al. Some of these showed signs of aging, some didn't, but none had died of 'natural causes'. +

+ We know Blood Angels are the longest lived, and some Space Wolves are up around the seven-hundred plus years mark, so perhaps there's some variation based on geneseed. For the moment, we'll stick with a typical Codex Chapter, as we can use the Ultramarines as a model. This probably works best for a typical baseline, as most Chapters are descendants of the Ultramarines. +

+ Back in the mists of time, Codex: Ultramarines explicitly gave marines a lifespan of three hundred years, after which they would start to show signs of extreme old age. This still fits neatly with the info from the Horus Heresy series, and since we know Calgar is three hundred and looking old, that still seems to fit. Cassius is noted as remarkable for being four centuries old and still fighting. Codex Ultramarines also went on to say that marines who began to slow were given non-combat duties. This is fairly crucial, and gives us a little wiggle room for the 1,000 marine limit. +

+ We probably don't hear much of these non-combatant marines for two reasons: firstly, the books and background concentrate on warfare. Secondly, they're vanishly rare. As we've seen, only exceptional Veterans and officers make it to three hundred – probably only one or two every century or so. What do they do? +

+ Because they are so rare, I suspect they're fairly revered, and each would have an exceptional or unique role best suited to him. There's a lot of narrative potential here. Perhaps they represent the Chapter during ceremonial affairs, perhaps they are granted suzerainty of a Chapter Dominion or far-flung fortress, perhaps they oversee recruitment, or advise the officers of the Chapter. In any case, these exceptional members of the Chapter would not be counted as part of the 1,000 marines; they would be something other. +

+ The active Captains have honorific 'Master of' titles, but if we assume they are part of the 1,000, they'll be away fighting three-quarters of the time. It's difficult to organise victualling when you're on the other side of the galaxy. Chapter serfs could organise this, but I like the idea that a non-combatant ex-Marine has command over the serfs. Another appealing idea would be to give them practical command of the Chapter fleet or vehicle pool – tasks that otherwise raise questions about numbers . Aged ex-Marines could command a fleet just as well as an active marine, and that's one more fully capable Battle Brother on the field, fighting. It also allows us to stay within the strictures of the 1,000 man limit. +


+ Even in death +

+ ...and so, that brings us to the last group – marines too gravely injured to fight, but not fatally injured. We accounted for approximately a quarter of casualties being in this category – wounded too gravely to ever fight on the front line, but not fatally. There's an Ultramarines novel which has a mostly-bionic Marine. He's unable to fight as a full frontline member of the Chapter, but is still capable of commanding. He's essentially retired and put out to monitor a planet. He still wears what armour he can, and would still appear as an Ultramarine, but he sits outside the 1,000 limit. +

+ These, I think, offer some of the best potential to answer those nagging questions about staffing. The first, most obvious role, is as Dreadnought pilots. Dreadnoughts are kept with their Companies, not drawn from a pool, so this neatly explains why not all Dreadnoughts contain First Company Veterans: there are practical concerns about keeping a fatally injured marine alive long enough to get him home. Pilots must be interred during campaigns. +

+ Secondly, these injured marines can operate the non-combatant vehicles (i.e. those not on the field – individual vehicles would be seconded from the Brothers of the garrison Army) and transport flyers. They have all the necessary abilities and physical links to pilot Thunderhawks etc. (unenhanced humans can't cope), and it explains where the non-Techmarine staff for these roles comes from. +


+ Conclusion +

+ Well, phew. This is an essay I had been thinking about for a bit; I've aimed to show my thinking for how a standard Chapter operates, taking into account the limitations we're told, and allowing for the narrative background we're shown. I think it offers a fairly reasonable general overview for how a Space Marine chapter operates, and it stays within the guidelines of the lore. +

+ I hope it was enjoyable. More than that, I hope it provides you a baseline to come up with your own Codex Chapter, or to use it as a springboard to come up with a more unusual or exciting structure for your army. Good luck! +