+ inload: Roots +

+inload: Roots+

+ For many of those reading this blog (well, the dozen or so that know about Death of a Rubricist!), a large part of the appeal of the miniature hobby is the background that underpins the gaming. The Warhammer 40,000 universe is particularly developed, having built up over twenty-five years to encompass pretty much any theme for which you could wish, from Lovecraftian horrors beyond space and time to the Kafkasesque absurdity of filing millennia-old petitions for people – even populations – long dead.

+ These only scratch the surface of the sheer amount of material that has been generated to populate and deepen the shared world. Providing the driving force behind this are the commercial pressures of the various games produced in the setting. For every Imerial Guard regiment produced in plastic, metal or resin – and Imperial Guard enthusiasts have been very well-served over the years on that front – there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, mentioned in passing.

+ The sheer scale of the universe puts insurmountable pressure on the ability of a company to produce everything, and this has meant that some things have long been put to one side, such as Rough Riders.

+ The Imperial Guard have changed a lot since Rogue Trader, where Rough Riders were introduced. While the basic premise of 'regular human soldiers fighting against terrifying foes' has remained constant, the range became increasingly focussed upon real-world armies, with the sidelining of the more esoteric elements like ogryns, ratling snipers and beastmen.

+ It's fairly undeniable that a big part of the appeal of the army is its relatability – brave humans are easily recognisable and admirable in a way that biological horrors and alien species are not. I'd also hazard a guess that many Imperial Guard collectors are interested in the real world military, either academically or as a member of the armed forces. Its very understandable to want to use that information to personalise your army and combine interests – something I think is admirable and well worth people's time.

+ However, in concentrating on the more realistic side, the Imperial Guard has lost some of the feeling of sheer horror and absurdity of the setting. Men are shovelled up and sent to far-off planets to die under alien suns for wars that signify nothing. In this context, the sheer variety of guard regiments, from starched Napoleonic-theme troops to flesh-eating criminals really helps to capture this idea. By the stroke of a distant scribe's pen, highly-trained special forces are sent to man a muddy trench in grinding static warfare; painted savages are deployed to man artillery batteries; desert-dwellers are deployed to capture an ocean world... all madness; all perfectly in theme.

+ Rough Riders, which I think were probably developed in true early GW style of reusing bits, are basically Guardsmen on horses. Modern cavalry warfare is largely dormant, if not dead (though I believe mounted warfare is still used in some militaries), and many Guard players dismiss the idea of using the troops as absurd. 

+ I think that's a shame. Not every battle is a gunfight against laser-wielding troops. The Imperial Guard are just as likely – perhaps more so – to face armies that they outclass technologically, and cavalry have historically been very important. Even if you are from a high-tech world, having horses, camels or the equivalent who are able to forage and remain operational without industrial infrastructure is valuable when invading a feral world, for example. 

+ Leaving realism and trying to justify them on a logical level behind – after all, I've just argued that that's missing the point! – Rough Riders have great imagery. Horse warfare might be largely defunct, but it has a huge cultural weight behind it in Europe and beyond. Mounted men bring connotations of danger, of excitement, nobility, aristocracy. They represent speed and rapidity – all elements that are fantastic to explore in miniature form.

+ Painting-wise, Rough Riders offer a great opportunity to look at horses. They're beautiful animals that have many different appearances. These offer some exciting opportunities to painters.

+ In pulp terms, Rough Riders bring to mind actions like the charge of the Light Brigade, of cowboys, mongols and conflicts from antiquity to the American civil war; of Conan and knights in shining armour. All of these are great and common inspiration for our hobby – and as I mentioned earlier, I think it's great to combine interests and add little nods here and there to spark conversations and discussion.

+ The Rough Riders shown here are from my Lamb's World 117th regiment. They're based on Games Workshop Wood Elf horses with Empire pistolier legs (metal ones from the good old days of bits orders). The rest of the models are Forgeworld Elysians, with various bits sprinkled from the plastic Imperial Guard ranges. I deliberately wanted to steer clear of any very distinctive image, and create troopers that combined imagery of modern warfare with the romantic aspects of historical cavalry warfare. To me, the Imperial Guard are the Good Guys, in a way that my Ultramarines (for example) are not. Space Marines are distilled war; with no possibility for existence beyond battle, and as such are peculiarly outside of ethics. In contrast, the Imperial Guard are men and women like us, with all the potential for heroism and villainy, cowardice and courage, that we have.+

All that stands between humanity and the dark is the courage – or insanity – of another human being.


+inload addendum: Astartes+

+ Speaking of Ultramarines, I got cracking on building more last night. Here's the work-in-progress:

Number 1
+ Number 1: Pleased with this chap – the pose is not super-dynamic, but sufficiently open to interpretation to provide interest. Is he reaching for a door handle, or tenatively signalling for his squad to hold?

Number 2
+ Number 2: Hmm, least successful so far. The smaller Mk IV shoulder pads rob him of some presence, and the shield confuses the angle of movement. I'm tempted to strip these shoulder pads and go to the usual Mk II ones I had printed. He will likely receive a combat blade or similar weapon in his right hand – or have his arms replaced entirely with arms aiming his boltgun.

Number 3
Another angle on number 3, showing the
discarded magazine in the background.
+Number 3: Definite potential here. The reloading/reaching for a new magazine pose is working fairly well. He needs a pouch (obviously!) and I'll probably tilt the head differently – he's staring off into space at the moment, which robs the piece of immediacy.

+ Where possible, I'm trying to add distinctiveness and interest through minor variations from the basic set of armour. It's a delicate balance between making the model interesting and keeping it looking uniform. Number 1 has a Praetor pattern helm, an Umbra(?) boltgun and a different powerpack, but is otherwise standard. Note that number 2 sticks out the most due to the absence of the big Mk II shoulderpads, a very distinctive part of my vision of marines. Aside from this change, he is the most standard, which shows what an effect changing iconic/focal points can have. In contrast, number 3 has non-standard legs, non-standard torso, but still looks more like the basic marine pattern of this army.+

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