+ inload: Calth +

+ Make new friends, but keep the old +

+ It's nice getting near a stage of completion. It might be a squad, it might be the whole army, or it might be all the bits you need for a particular game. The anticipation is often sweeter than the event! +

+ In this instance, I've nearly built up sufficient Word Bearers to play the first mission of Betrayal at Calth – just two more to polish off and I can talk a willing victim volunteer to give me a game. +

+ Of course, such an event is all the sweeter when the element is part of a larger project –  in this case, I'm getting to the stage when I can make some fun dioramas and play some games between my beloved Ultramarines and these new pretenders. +

+ Building +

+ The marines above are more Word Bearers – I've managed to trade for some of the new Chaos Marine bits, so the helms and pauldrons shown above will be dotted through both squads. +

+ inload: Objective creep +

+ The Mazzikim – and historical accuracy in a future war +

+ Markings, weathering and a few little details to go +

+ More painting, more progress. While still WIP, these chaps are crawling along. However, with just twenty-one (and a Dreadnought) to paint, they're not an insurmountable project. I definitely find it easier to push myself on a slog when a project has a definite scope. +

+ The WIP shot about shows ten marines, including a couple of specialists (flamer, heavy bolter and possessed), so getting near to being halfway through. The majority of these will likely end up in the Mazzikim – one of two hotch-potch remnant squads fighting in the Underworld War – but at least one will need to join the other squad, in order to create space for a Sergeant. +
  • Sergeant Clotho Harphagos
  • Mugla of the Blasted Cedar – boltgun
  • Kimon of the Inscribed – boltgun
  • Coran of the Blasted Cedar – boltgun
  • Arrian the Medean – boltgun
  • Urka Madis – boltgun 
  • Bac Vorkar of the Third Hand – heavy bolter
  • Vannis Gen of the Inscribed – boltgun
  • Tantal – boltgun
  • Sart Kayi – flamer

+ Emboldened names here are figures that were already ready for play (i.e. they just need finishing touches). I now need to pick who's who for the three in the picture at the top. Since I have some WIP shots, here's a pic of them a bit earlier in the painting process, with just the red done:

+ After this, I played around with some more glazes and final highlights, then painted in the metals. Adding the metals and eyes goes a surprising way to getting these near completion. +

+ Objective creep +

+ We've all been there – you put your main projects to one side in favour of 'a quick sideproject'. It's 'just come off the backburner'; you wanted 'a quick palette cleanser' before getting back to your main project... only it isn't. The side project catches your imagination, and before you know, you've got really deep into the lore, ordered a load of extra bits, and the project's taken on a life of its own. The infamous hobby butterfly strikes again! +

+ Not inherently a problem, of course – and I'm an advocate of running with your enthusiasms where possible. Few things are more tiresome than having to force yourself to paint – it makes your hobby a job. +

+ The problem I do have with this is that indulging the hobby butterfly can mean that early parts of the project end up looking a bit half-hearted. As mentioned in an earlier inload, these Word Bearers were intended as a quick side-project; minimal conversion in order to get them on the table. In practice, I found myself enjoying the process, and have been lavishing more attention on the more recent members. +

+ Here, I think the painting has remained relatively consistent, but the underlying conversion work is gradually becoming more complex, hiding more of the Mark X basis of the figure, and drawing out more of the familiar Horus-Heresy look. Finding a balance between time available and simply getting figures done has become more important for me in recent years, so the underlying figures above have not been converted to the extent that I might once have done, as shown in a couple of examples below. +

+ Mark II Crusade plate – a conversion that led to Praetor plate becoming 'canon'. +

+ Mark IV Maximus plate; full conversion +

+ Anvils of Konor picked up on this on a post I put up on Instagram last night to say that they're not as obviously Horus Heresy-era as they could be. By the time I got back to the picture this morning, it had escalated into quite a heated discussion on the relative merits of what makes a figure fit into the Horus Heresy or not, and it was interesting to see the back and forth. +

+ Altogether simpler – Mark IV Maximus with minimal sculpting. +
+ I hasten to make it clear there's no hard feelings on either side. AoK is a fantastically talented converter and painter, well-known for the care and attention he pays to his miniatures – I'd thoroughly recommend your check out his stuff. +

+ He (quite unnecessarily, but very kindly) got in touch to apologise about what he felt was his slightly abrupt phrasing, and we fell to chatting about 'historical accuracy' within the HH era, a topic that has popped up a few times, and tends to end up with two entrenched camps. He and I are going to put together a future inload to discuss this concept of historical accuracy in Horus Heresy-era gaming, and in wargaming in general. +

+ It's an issue that's got more complexity than the partisan issue of 'rivet-counters' vs. 'lazy modellers' it often devolves into, so I'm hoping we can put together a more nuanced discussion of the topic; one with a vibe that's more 'friendly chat around the fire with a brandy' than 'debate with the enemy'! +

+ Best of all, I hope I'll be able to showcase some of AoK's stunning work here, and share it with you. +


+ Ahead of the article, I'd love to hear your thoughts on 'pseudo-historical accuracy' within wargames in general, in order to get as broad a set of discussion points as possible. +

  • How important is personal creativity and individuality to your hobby? How does that relate to fitting your models in with the established universe?
  • How far do you consider compatibility with others' work when painting, modelling or gaming? 
  • Do you like playing with and against more familiar 'canon' figures and armies, or more unusual and individualistic 'counts-as' forces?
  • How does it relate to the implied social contract of gaming or sharing your work? 
  • Where does the line lie for you between including everyone and setting particular standards?
  • Do you see the official lore/'canon' simply as a starting point, or a common factor to be included where possible?

+ inload: Bleak Vespers and Word Bearers +

+ We could be heroes +

+ Death Guard +

+ Series 3 of the Space Marine Heroes collectibles were these Death Guard Plague Marines. PCRC packmate TrojanNinja was heading out to Japan, and kindly picked up a box for me. Apparently, Japan applies a 'no gambling' rule to things like collectibles, so boxes of random packs like these have to include every possibility – very useful for me, as it guarantees a box of six contains all six, with no duplicates. +

+ A very enjoyable day of hobbying (and a belated Burns' Supper) with the PCRC lads over at Chateau Stuntwedge gave me some valuable building time. Fantastic models to put together, and I've left them uncoverted save for the head swaps to better fit the theme of my Bleak Vespers Company. For those of you tempted to pick 'em up when they come over here, they're push-fit, come with cool sculpted bases, and – to my eye at least – there isn't much 'filler'; all the poses are cool. +

+ Beyond that, there's not a huge amount to say. They'll make a nice Kill Team as well as being a good – and oddly affordable – source of specialists. While the kits aren't cheap, to get a champion, icon bearer and Plague Marines with flail and plaguespewer from GW would be considerably more expensive. +

+ Word Bearers +

+ The same day out saw me build another couple of Word Bearers, using some Chaos Marine parts that I traded for. +

+ Very simple conversion; little more than kitbashing, really. I've trimmed the kneepad trims and ankle bobbles, removed the Imperial eagle on the chest and reduced the collar height. The remainder is kitbashing – heads and shoulder pads from the new Chaos marine kit fit without adjustment, as do arms from the Revier kit (these lack the forearm reinforcement on the Intercessor kit, if you're being very fussy about 'historical authenticity' – I just wanted them for the cool boltguns with the front handles). The backpacks from the Mark III power armour kit require a bit of additional trimming at the top of the back. +

+ Not quite sure about the horned helm and chaos backpack – perhaps a bit too on-the-nose for Heresy-era stuff – so I might swap a couple of bits on the melta gunner. +

+ inload: Word Bearers Possessed +

+ Mekholta Dmalachi, Twiceborn of the Blasted Cedar +

+ Odd what you miss, isn't it? I could have sworn I'd written an inload about this fellow in the dim and distant past, but my mem-banks have seemingly suffered a cascade-fail. Never mind; it's an opportunity to revisit an old model, now that he's been updated. +

+ Possession +

+ Insofar as any warp-related phenomenon is explicable, possession usually implies the dominion – forcible or otherwise – of an alien's life-force (i.e. soul, ba, psyche – call it what you will) over another's physical corpus. Extra-material species such as the Krell use such methods to procreate and spread, their common names of Enslavers or Dominators making their methods clear. +

+ The possessing entity circumvents the host's life-force, either destroying it completely or displacing it to the status of impotent witness. Such are the majority of the known cases of possession of Imperial citizens: an aggressive warp-predator 'taking over' the body of a peon; usually a psyker of some minor talent. +

+ Once in control, the warp-predator or daemon will usually twist and adapt the physical structure to better suit its alien whims, causing rampant physical deformation considerably beyond more regulated mutation. +

+ Possession is usually an involuntary process, but cultists are known to invite warp-entities to possess bodies – usually unwilling victims, but occasionally the cultists themselves. +

+ Voluntary possession +

+ Where possession is voluntary, the inhabitant's life-force may be able to continue to enforce itself upon its body, living alongside the invited entity. If the inhabitant is strong-willed enough, they will gain access to the daemon's strengths – hyperphysicality, extra-sensory perception and so forth – an tempting offer for a typical low-status cultist. +

+ Such co-habitation is usually short-lived, as daemons are rarely willing to co-operate where they can control. Unless the inhabitant is strong-willed and attentive enough to resist the daemon permanently, he or she will almost inevitably be tricked, forced or convinced to drop their guard – at which point the daemon will assume full control. +


+ Astartes and possession +

+ Steeped in the warp, the Traitor Legiones Astartes are known to field shock troops made up of possessed warriors. Some are simply shells of Astartes, while others are hybridised, retaining both their original Astartes strengths and the insights and skills of the possessing daemon; some able to switch back and forth – in essence giving one or other 'soul' temporary control to better serve battlefield conditions as felt appropriate. +

+ Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus believe this practise dates back to the Horus Heresy, under the auspices of the treacherous Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers. The Chapter of the Serrated Sun was possessed en masse, and they and their possessed successors were fielded in a number of crucial campaigns including the Isstvan Dropsite Massacre, the betrayal at Calth, and the Siege of Terra. Seeing the effectiveness of the 'Gal Vorbak', other Legions soon sought counsel with daemons, leading to other, similar, formations such as the Lupercii of the Sons of Horus, and the Woesmiths of the Iron Warriors. +

+ The Word Bearers treated possession as a form of ascendancy, seeing bodyshare with a warp-entity as a natural next step in their post-human progression, akin to the surgeries that had transformed them from human to Astartes. Their belief was that possession was a necessary consequence for humankind to survive and prosper. +

+ For these reasons, Word Bearer possessed forces refer to themselves as the 'Twiceborn'; believing possession to be a form of second birth into a new life. +

+ Betrayal at Calth +

+ The deep blood-crimson of the Word Bearer's armour came as a shock to XIII Legion forces during the Battle for Calth, though nowhere near as shocking as the presence of the twisted forms of the Word Bearers' elite Twiceborn. +

+ The daemon-ridden Twiceborn were at the Vanguard of the Blasted Cedar's assaults on Trenchant Ridge. It proved impossible to meaningfully quantify the Twiceborn's effacity, as their combat effectiveness seemed to vary substantially from engagement to engagement. +

+ The distinctive sigils of Colchisian script dotted their armour, but much more alarming was the corona of nameless colours that danced around their bodies, crackling and arcing onto the ice and snow of the region. +

+ inload: Flow, rhythm and composition: army-building for impact +

+ Flow, rhythm and composition: building for impact +

'I love the smell of Calth in the morning. Smells like... victory.'

+ What makes Space Marines look awesome? Puny hu-mans next to them. But why? In this inload, we're going to have a look at (artistically) composing your figures – and how that can relate to the (structural) composition of your army. The idea is to make an army that not only plays well, but looks cool. +

+ As an illustration here, the next three Word Bearers are on the painting blocks, and accompanying them are some 'blessed' unfortunates. We'll kick off here with discussion of composing a squad. +

+ Framing figures +

+ When building squads, I always have to restrain myself from making every model very different and individualistic. Such an approach works well for disparate bands of specialists (such as Inquisitorial henchmen) or ragged rabbles like orks, but with Space Marines, you risk making things look too busy. For this reason, it's usually worth including a few figures in fairly restrained poses, like those above. These work as a frame for your more eye-catching focal figures. +

+ Note that restrained doesn't necessarily mean boring or dull. While these two figures share a basic pose – advancing and attacking – one is reloading on the move. A simple addition that adds some flavour without grabbing the attention. +

+ Note also the variety in helmet and pauldron styles. The figure on the left is showing the incipient signs of the corruption that will envelop his Legion; two teeth emerging from the bottom of the pauldron. This is to provide a visual link between the cleaner lines of the plainer Astartes to the full-bore monstrosities of the Gal Vorbak-based figures [VISREF: Below]. I don't mind a little gap – after all, these are meant to be collections of survivors that have made it into the tunnels, so some distinction between members is fitting (not to mention more interesting to make and paint). +

+ Word Bearer ripe in his corruption +

+ Focal figures +

+ Of course, a frame's pretty boring on its own, so a good squad will have two or three focal figures. I think people tend to have favourite models; generally created without much conscious thought – some combination of bits just seem to work better than others. It's common to load up the sergeant or specialist with extra bits or otherwise lavish more time and energy on them. These are focal figures, they're the ones that the framing figures serve. + 

+ If I have a 'trick', it's simply that I'm just as likely to lavish time and attention on regular grunts as specialists. This fella's a good example. There's nothing inherently different about this figure, but I've selected the parts a bit more carefully, perhaps used some more unusual bits, and generally spent a bit more time composing him. As a result, he's more eye-catching and interesting. +

+ This command group serve to frame the focal commander – but the framing figures aren't boring; just equal in impact to each other, and less than the commander. +

+ Proportions are important here. For a disciplined-looking force, I'd suggest a ratio of 1:4 focal to framing figures – that is, for every focal figure, you should have four framing figures. For more rambunctious-looking forces – orks, harlequins and the like – a ratio of 1:3 or 1:2 is more likely to get the idea across. +


+ Focal, frame and contrast +

+ Having looked briefly at how to make a striking group by distinguishing between framing and focal figures – now let's take that a stage further, and consider how that applies beyond the squad: across the army as a whole. +

+ Contrasts, in hue or tone or size or shape – or any of a thousand other options – are what catches people's attention. Too much is overwhelming, too little is dull. When building a squad, we decide that some figures are going to be the focal points, and others will play a supporting role. There is a sense of contrast created between the two groups, but there's enough similarity between them to create a blend so they look coherent. +

+ No framing/focal figures: All created equal – and thus no-one in particular grabs the eye. The group is elevated over the individuals – perfect for a team. +
+ All focal, no framing. A mix of colours, sizes, textures, and poses. The group is loosely tied together by a few common element including vertical lines (staves, banners, pointy hats etc.), a common muted palette and basing. +

+ It's clear here which are framing models, and which are focal. + 

+ Now, this is nothing new, and you probably already compose things unconsciously – those favourite models we mentioned earlier, for example. When building your army, we can just apply those same principles. Thus, when building a squad, we include some focal figures that are just a little different from the framing figures; and when building an army, we include some focal units alongside framing units. +

+ Composition and scale: Less is more +

+ Centrepiece HQs and tanks are a common concept – and they're an illustration of how the same compositional principles can be applied across an army. By including different squad types along with vehicles and characters, you create visual contrast. +

+ The infantry and vehicles contrast with one another. +
+ In this simple example – an Epic: Armageddon Support Company – the dominant vehicles are the focal figures; the infantry working to frame them. Being different from both focal and framing figures, the Dreadnought offers a complement to the group – similar to how accent colours work in a palette alongside the primary and secondary colours. +

+ The same applies at 40k scale. Here, the Ultramarines squads have both framing and focal figures (an example of the latter is Holion sheltering Cassie at the bottom right) within them at a micro level. At a macro level – that is, considering the platoon as a whole – the infantry all become framing figures, letting the Predator tank and Dreadnought sing out. +

+ Of course, if you look more closely, you'll pick out the focal members of the infantry squads again – but the thing to take away is that the army works on two levels: micro and macro. The principles are thus scaleable, and this can be borne in mind to make a more striking army. By holding something back when creating framing elements, you naturally make more of the focal elements. Less becomes more. +


+ Composition and rhythm +

Repeated elements form patterns. Frames turn out to contain focal features of their own. This concept can be thought of as 'rhythm'. A good painting – or army – has rhythm. +

+ Lucifer216's stellar Adeptus Mechanicus force is a great example of what I mean. Tanks and characters stand out from the infantry, but note that the infantry themselves are varied. Look closely (micro) and you pick out different squad types; but from tabletop (macro), the common palette helps them work together to frame the focal tanks and characters. Look at the tanks and characters as a group, and you'll see that the Dunewalkers cease to be the focus and instead frame the Archmagos. These overlaying points of view are an example of rhythm, and how it can be successfully applied to an army. +


+ Theoretical: illumination +

+ Compare the two forces below. One is more carefully composed than the other. Beyond that, they're very similar – both include Primarchs, walkers and infantry, there's roughly the same amount of figures... but one definitely looks more striking – and it's nothing to do with the colours or quality of the paintwork, but simply how they're arranged on the table. +

+ Low impact +

+ The Ultramarines here appear as an almost undifferentiated mass. There's no space between the figures on the board, so it's hard to pick out different groups. The naturally-focal figures – the Contemptor Dreadnought and Primarch – fail to stand out. +

+ Little rhythm is created, because there are no gaps; and little differentiation between frame and focus. Where focal figures do appear, they're swamped by the imbalance of framing figures, so the eye doesn't hop back and forth. +

+ A general sense of uniformity is created. Nice for certain effects, but it's not giving the drama we'd hope a game or display should have. +

+ High impact +

+ A variety of different sizes here, structured and separated by visual breaks. Infantry, war engines (rapiers, robots) and a large centrepiece (Leviathan Dreadnought) create three tiers of interest, so the eye hops between the groups. +

+ Rhythm is created by repetition – six groups of infantry; three robots; two rapiers. Within each group, there are points of interest. There are different types of infantry; differences in pose and armament of the robots. The eye hops, and lingers, and moves again. The mind recognises patterns and repetition. +

+ Whether in-game or simply for display, having a nicely composed army will improve the look of our collection. +

+ Practical: application +

+ All very well in theory, but what are some practical steps to we take to use this information? Here are some starting points for you to consider.

  • When planning your army, think in terms of focal and framing rather than 'normal' army composition rules.
  • Decide what the main focus will be (i.e. pick a particular focal unit to be your centrepiece).
  • Leave your centrepiece unique – don't have a competing figure.
  • Maintain a proportion of at least three framing units to each focal unit. It's hard to have too much framing, but easy to have too many focal units competing for attention.
    • Remember that framing units doesn't mean boring – they can be exciting and varied within themselves, too.
  • Include a variety of sizes of figures – infantry, medium vehicles and large vehicles/infantry, cavalry, war engines.
    • Within each group, aim to create internal variety, rhythm and repetition.
  • Look at each unit from a micro perspective, and your army from a macro perspective. Does the balance feel right?
+ As in any analysis, these terms – rhythm, repetition, focus, frame – are simply aids to understanding. They're ways to help you identify and discuss things we often already know instinctively. There's no need to get caught up in them; but if you're trying to work out why your collection of beautiful figures doesn't quite hang together, you might look at your army composition. +

+ inload: Las Vegas Open reveal +

+ Regular inloaders will be aware of the... rather leisurely approach to things on + Death of a Rubricist +. I'm currently chewing my way through a breaking release boardgame from – *checks notes* – 2015, so I can't imagine too many of you pop in here for the latest breaking news. However, Games Workshop has revealed some awesome stuff at the latest Las Vegas Open day, and I wanted to froth about them a bit. +

+ Alien Wars and the Augustine Crusade +

+ The recent release of the Ambull (amongst other retrohammer goodies) should have given us all a nod that this was on its way, but I didn't think the zoat was going to look this awesome. +

+ Big scary aliens battling beleaguered Guardsmen and brave Astartes are one of the two most important and iconic themes in 40k for me (the other being the Law/Chaos split), and the reason I started The Alien Wars project [+REF: banner above to requisition further information+]. Along with the Krell that I'm working on, this Zoat is a sure-fire thing for me to pick up. Just hope the pricing is a bit less than the Ambull box... +

+ This year I'm aiming to be hobby neutral (i.e. paint more than I buy!), so while I wait for the Zoat to be released, I'll be cracking on with some new Lamb's Worlders. +

+ New aliens, after all, require new heroes to battle them; so Caef Whittaker [PICTREF: above] will need his reinforcements sooner than ever. While Whittaker here will be firmly rooted in M36, along with the Nova Terra Interregnum, the remainder of the force will be doing double-duty for the Augustine Crusade. +

+ Chocks away! +

+ Speaking of the Augustine Crusade, I was very lucky to receive Aeronautica Imperialis as a Christmas gift, so I've been enjoying putting the models together. The new models are considerably larger – perhaps an extra third or more. Since the new version is a hex-based wargame, they wouldn't be incompatible. If you've got the old models (or the still-smaller Epic metal versions), they'll work nicely. If not, I'd thoroughly recommend the new ones. The casts are crisp, and they assemble beautifully. +

+ I'd played the old card-based version of the game – it worked a little like X-wing, for those familiar with it. Long-time inloaders may recall Captain T'Moro of the Starfire Skybears [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]. I can't decide whether to paint these up as Skybears, or go for a new, different scheme to explore the Red Hand Region. +

+ Fighta-bommas! These are hugely characterful, and mix and match very nicely. I'd thoroughly recommend building them as a pair, and swapping bits between. The turrets would magnetise nicely, too, if you've got any bits left over from Titans. +


+ Talking of Titans, news on the Specialist Games from LVO was notable by its absence. I'm assuming that's because this was just a main studio reveal, and we'll have some Specialist Games news on my beloved Adeptus Titanicus sometime around the Forge World Open Day. +

+ As the very aesthetic of the blog suggests, I've loved the Adeptus Mechanicus since the creepy Techpriest images from Rogue Trader, and while the release of the Skitarii army didn't quite get the balance between 'forbidden technology' and 'obsessive priest' right for me, the kits just keep on improving. +

+ With these cyber-cowboy Rough Riders, I think they've hooked me. I've a soft spot for cavalry, and these just look awesome! +


+ Bits plea +

+ Finally for today, anyone got any of these going begging? If so, please get in contact on the Facebook group [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], and I'll see what I can find to trade. +

+ inload: By the blade of an ally +

+ One last push, and the first Word Bearers for Betrayal at Calth will be ready – just basing and Legion markings to go. However, I'm going to try and do those all in one fell swoop, to ensure some consistency. For the moment, then, this is as far as they'll go – I'll move on to building some new ones now. +

+ Kurtha Sedd, of the Third Hand +

+ I wanted to do a brown leather cloak, then decided a patterned interior lining would look nice. It needs a little polishing, but I thought a Mesopotamian fishscale pattern might be fun. It suggests a slightly different cultural touchstone to those normally associated with the Word Bearers (and Astartes in general); and as a little added touch, suggests the sea, and the underworld. + 

+ The rear of the cloak was painted as battered leather – lots of browns, stippling and washes. +

+ The lower leg shows a good example of the Word Bearer's distinctive inlaid constellation patterns. Fun to paint! I've used a complementary orange for the plasma pistol glow so that it draws the eye to the centre of the figure, but doesn't completely draw attention away from the focal point of the head.  +


+ Kimon of the Inscribed +

+ This figure was a test colour scheme, and came out much brighter than the others – more akin to my Blood Angels. I've gone back and used some glazes to match him better to his brothers. Hi loincloth was painted with the same technique and colours as Sedd's leather cloak. +

+ Simple rear view, showing the slight tweaks to the Primaris armour. I sometimes fill in the curve left by trimming away the 'ankle ball', but here I quite like the fact it echoes the Word Bearer's inscribed markings. You'll note I incorporate it into a lot of these figure's freehand. +


Mugla of the Blasted Cedar +

+ Sometime you have a model you like; sometimes a model grows on you. I wasn't too fussed about this figure when I'd built him, but the eyes and blade came out really well to give him a really mean appearance – happy accidents, I guess. +

+ Another rear shot. Not too interesting, these buttplates, so this is the last one of the inload. +

+ Mekholta Dmalachi, Twiceborn of the Blasted Cedar +

+ An older figure, this chap has received some additional glazing (the original highlighting was verging on pink) to fit him nicely alongside the others. +


+ Bac Vorkar of the Third Hand +

+ This Legionary has appeared before on the blog, but here you can see the transfer applied. I'm... not convinced. It looks so utterly at odds with the rest of the scheme, I think I'll remove it and freehand the markings. +


+ Vannis Gen of the Inscribed +

+ Another figure that has received only minor tweaks, you can see that the ankle bits have been filled in on this figure; giving me the space to try some different patterns. +