+ inload: Theoretical: Tanks and markings +

+ inload: Theoretical: Tanks and markings +

+ A column of armoured vehicles is an image likely familiar to anyone who watched movies about the second world war; and since 40k warfare is fairly similar, it's an image that works well. Above, a Land Raider Proteus leads three Rhino APCs across a peculiar landscape. +

+ Painting tanks +

+ The Land Raider's at an earlier stage, but none of them are finished yet. A quick rundown of the approach to painting I use for these:
  1. Prime black.
  2. Necron Abyss basecoat.
  3. Dilute Mordian Blue built up in layers.
  4. Space Wolf Grey added to Mordian Blue and roughly 8–10 layers of drybrush.
+ This is considerably different to the infantry, so I thought it might be of interest to explain why. Firstly, I usually use grey primer for infantry because it helps to produce a muted midtone. Tanks have lots of metallics and (because they're larger) naturally reflect more light. A black undercoat therefore makes sense to save re-painting the metals more than necessary. 

+ The Necron Abyss basecoat is used in place of the lighter Mordian Blue of the infantry  because I find it very hard to build up good highlights through wet blending on such large surfaces. So rather than shading down and highlighting up from a basic midtone (as I do with the infantry), I prefer to work from the deepest tone up to the highlights. Necron Abyss also has a sligthly purple gloss, which serves two purposes: it removes the necessity of using a purple wash (as I do on the infantry) which would be awkward and frustrating to apply on such large surfaces, and also gives a slightly different hue to the infantry's armour. To me, the Legion colour is heraldic, and should be reserved for the Astartes themselves – it's a potent symbol of their heritage. As a result, equipment (like small arms, support weaponry and tanks) are painted in a similar but distinctly different hue. This allows me to maintain a small palette without sacrificing the identity of the components. +

+ The boltgun, as equipment, is painted a different blue to the armour +
+ Getting a smooth midtone layer of Mordian Blue is useful, but not vital. Most real-life armoured vehicles aren't smooth due to wear and tear, so a little texture and variance in tone won't hurt the finished effect. That said, it's not an excuse to be lazy – obvious brushstrokes will still be clearly brushstrokes, and you don't want paint to pool or be too heavy. I use acrylic medium to help the flow of paint. You can use a (tiny!) touch of detergent and water to the same effect as long as you don't scrub (or you'll end up with bubbles). +

+ As an aside, construction equipment like cranes, lorries and diggers offer good reference material for tanks, as both types of vehicles are sturdily constructed and see more physical wear and tear than road vehicles. +

+ Drybrushing is a much-derided technique for highlighting, but ultimately it's just another tool. I think edge highlighting tends to be a bit too stark on vehicles at this scale, whereas proper drybrushing can bring out a more subtle gradation that reinforces the shape without exaggerating it. The trick is to use a large soft brush, and work as gradually as you possibly can –  you should not really see the effect until you've worked three or so layers, and even then it should be very subtle. If you get anything other than a 'smoky' effect on the surfaces – such as obvious paint marks or strokes – you've used too much. +

+ This side-on view neatly shows both how to do it, and how not to do it! The central door show how I've gradually reduced the area that has been drybrushed as I work up, so that there's a natural gradient of light. The upper part of the is slightly more highlighted than the lower part, and the repeated layers of drybrushing has naturally deposited a graduated highlight to the upper parts of the hinges and door, rather than a stark 'glow' of an edge highlight. +

+ The exhaust stack on the right (in particular, though the left isn't great either) shows exactly how not to do it! Here, I've had too much paint on the side of the brush, which has deposited in an ugly smear. I'll need to either clean up this area or work over the top of it at the weathering stage. +

+ Markings +

+ I've been a bit hesitant with the markings on these. I was hoping that Tempest would offer something that really leapt out, but the Ultramarines vehicles presented are almost in parade order, which didn't quite fit with the twin themes of the army – rugged old veterans and new recruits. Instead, I've fallen back on a few simple icons, but I may develop them further. If you've got any cool ideas, please let me know! +

+ The front shows the Legion symbol combined with the thunderbolt device (common to Terra and the Great Crusade) below the left-hand viewport, and a row of chequers below the right-hand one. In addition, there's a quartered circle, to which I may add a numeral or symbol. Please excuse the red on the plough. by the way; two of these Rhinos were from ebay and came with a (actually quite nice) World Eaters paintjob. I'll be repainting this bit when I come to approach the metals. As it stands, it provides a good basecoat. +

 + The rear hatch includes a Chapter marking (so this is a Rhino from the XV), and you'll notice a dark grey bar. Each of the squads of Praetors of Calth had a name: Apaesians and Ciconians, as examples, and I'm intending to paint the squad names on each hatch (for intra-Chapter reference). 

+ The other side, showing the black bar above the door. +

+ A final little note on the placement of markings and decoration. I think that details should be added so that they make sense in-universe. The only people likely to use the identifiers on top of a vehicle are aircraft and those on distant vantage points. Both would require large, simple icons, rather than fussy details. + 

+ Personal notes and specific squad information, meanwhile, would be used by foot soldiers etc. approaching from the same level, so they need to be on the sides and rear of the vehicle, probably on or near the hatches. +

+ The enemy should be intimidated by the use of striking iconography that proclaims the power of the vehicle and the warriors inside, so the front of the vehicle can receive Legion markings that show off – martial decoration and finery. More important or famous vehicles might have more decoration; perhaps painted or even sculpted on by Legion artificers, but for workhorses like these 31st Millennium Rhinos, I think a more spartan look is appropriate. +

+ Finally, in addition to these official markings, soldiers of all stripes have superstitions and traditions, so things like kill markings, mottoes and slogans can be added almost wherever there's space. However, I think these should be mostly kept relatively unobtrusive; and when you do apply them, remember that someone has had to physically apply it – so make sure it's in a position someone could realistically reach. + 

+ The tank below, from the Lamb's World LV, shows a scrawled 'No Hitchers' sign on the rearmost door at eye-level for a 28mm figure – doubtless some obscure in-joke for the crew. Note that the marking has been kept small and relatively unobtrusive. It's intended as a fun little detail for someone looking more closely at the vehicle, not something that's immediately obvious. For this reason, I'm been careful not to use pure white or black for any markings, as these extreme tones really jump out. +

+ inload: The Battle of Urba Sanctium +

+ inload: The Battle of Urba Sanctium +

I'm gearing up with some pals from The First Expedition forum to have a ruck up at the new Warhammer World in Nottingham in August. Sanction City (or Urba Sanctium) is the principal battleground of the Byblos campaign; where the Ultramarines meet the Death Guard and Word Bearers in combat. +

+ Of course, to fight a war, you need an army! For that reason, I've been painting away... +

+ A transport pool, and (in the background) Rapiers. The infantry will be the focus of this army, so I'm steering clear of lots of elites and flashy unusual tanks. +

+ Whatever happened to the Praetors of Calth? +

+ When I heard that Black Library and Forge World were releasing books that detailed the history of the Horus Heresy, I was excited and also slightly nervous about whether they'd mention the 15th Chapter; which is the one my army were based on. I picked the Chapter because I assumed it'd never be detailed or touched on, giving me freedom to do what I liked in terms of history, markings and personalities. +

+ On reading Tempest (the big book about the atrocity of Calth), I found there are indeed a few mentions of the 15th. Fortunately for me, they're fairly vague and – happily for me – fit in rather nicely with the story I'd built up over the years. +

+ The section entitled 'The Calth Muster' states that the 15th were:
[D]eployed to Calth after seeing heavy combat in the Eastern Fringe, all at a nominal strength of at least 6,000 Legionaries and slated for full resupply at the munitions plants of Dainhold before loading for transport outsystem.
+ That's perfect for me – the Hypon conflict (the big campaign I'd made up that was set immediately prior to the 15th's recall to the Calth Muster) was implied to be in the Galactic east, and they'd certainly had a good kicking from some orks. Best of all, the Dainhold area of Calth is a heavy industrial area, which fits in nicely with the ideas that Doghouse and I have been working on in our joint blog. +

+ So, what happened to the 15th? Here are the relevant extracts: +

+ Oh dear, that doesn't sound promising for them..! Note the reference to the Satric Wilds; a throwaway line that fits in nicely with the idea I've developed for the 190th Company – training in the tundra with the supervision of a small number of veterans of the 15th Chapter. +

+ Cool – a confirmed set of 'bad guys' to build into the background of the army. +

+ So, a desperate last stand before being murdered and hung up on the walls... That rather reminds me of a very cool picture by Paul Bonner from Epic: Space Marine (1st edition): 

+ The story accompanying the original picture is of Ultramarines 'Captain Gatham' leading his men to avenge the strung-up fellas on the left of the image. They're fighting Sons of Horus in the bit of colour text that accompanies it, but the imagery is very strong and familiar – it wouldn't surprise me if this were an intentional little nod to readers of the older material. I know Doghouse and myself have both taken a lot of inspiration from this picture. +

+ While you might think I'd be upset (in a rather nerdy way!) that the 15th get killed, I'm actually really pleased. This is for two reasons: Firstly, Forge World always seem to be careful to provide evocative hints rather than outright statements, and the limitations this provides are actually very useful for guidance when structuring your force, as I'll illustrate below. Secondly, it's relieving to have an 'ending' to a six year wait. The fact that 'my' army, which has been built up for year, gets wiped out in a few curt sentences is just what I want to see from the Horus Heresy. One of me favourite 40k quotes is 'For every battle honour, a thousand heroes die alone, unsung and unremembered.' I can think of few quotes that sum up the pathos and misery of the galaxy in this universe. It really helps to hit home that not everyone gets to be the defiant hero, and that makes the misery and horror of 40k much more effective to me. +

+ So a (fittingly) hopeless, miserable death rather than a heroic victory against the odds – but where do I go from there? Well, I've already established that the 190th Company are training under veterans of the 15th, so in my own background, a few of the Praetors of Calth will live on (and probably be seeking some vengeance). This also has the potential for feeding into new background for the 190th – fresh recruits led by vengeful veterans into the horrors of galactic civil war... How will that shape them? The book has also provided named places such as the Satric Wilds and Dainhold – perfect to shape a story around, and vague enough that I can quite happily build them into the tundra area in which I've said the 190th are training. +

+ As another example, there's a reference to the 15th in the colour plate section, where a legionary is mentioned as Honour Guard to a Captain Teutona (who then promptly dies in the accompanying colour text). I think I might have to have a go at building a Captain Teutona – that way, when he dies on the table, we'll have done an historical refight. +

+ However, note that this adds to the potential background of the army, rather than limiting me. For example, we know that Teutona was a Captain of the 15th, but there's also mention of Line Captains and Company Captains – so if I wish to, I can keep my own character (Captain Mercian) as the overall leader, or adapt him to become a subordinate. If Teutona dies, who succeeds? Who proceeded him, and what happened to that guy – killed, or promoted/demoted away? That's just a very minor example of how the 'canon' of the background can be used for creative purposes instead of bemoaning apparent changes or retcons. +

+ All the material GW publishes is intentionally left open in this way – Everything you have been told is a lie – so the additional information can only add texture to whatever story I (or you) want to make up. I think that's fantastic. +

+ inload: Byblos +

+ inload: Byblos +

The civilised and populous world of Byblos lies in the Galactic East, one amongst the Warrior-King's Guilliman's Five Hundred Worlds. Glittering on the cusp of the pocket Empire, Byblos sits gazing out across Plaintive Rift, an area of wilderness space containing nothing beyond flecks of ancient stardust and the maddeningly empty depths of the star-sea.

Far-flung and isolated, strategically unimportant and distant from normal void routes, the inhabitants of Byblos might have hoped to avoid the excesses of any other conflict; but in the bitter throes of civil war, all are called. 


The Ruinstorm

Following the Calth Conjunction, the Ruinstorm draped over Byblos like an unwanted embrace, isolating the inhabitants from outside contact. Assuming it to be merely a particularly severe warpstorm, the populace continued mostly as before, pausing only occasionally in their labours to turn a nervous eye to the newly-argent skies.

Matters took a more sinister turn when Umul Sistro – one of the astro-gazing mathemagicians tasked with re-establishing lines of communication with the rest of Ultramar – turned his instruments away from the familiar coreward reaches and towards the Plaintive Rift. Idly hoping to find the suggestion of echo-signals or ghost-vox that had bypassed the planet, he was astonished to detect the presence of a distant battle fleet.


Plague Fleet

Relief turned to celebration, and then to suspicion as repeated hails over the next month elicited no reply. The vox ominously silent, the fleet remained lurking in the void. Gradually at first, unrest rippled and spread across the world as inevitable rumours leaked. Space Hulk, murmured some. Xenos whispered others. Such flotsam had emerged from the Rift in times past. Rumours fed rumours. 

The days stretched into weeks, with no news from Ultramar. Perhaps, some said, the warpstorms of Old Night had returned. Compliance – which had been a bruising affair for many of the older inhabitants – was resented in some quarters. In the charged atmosphere of the Ruinstorm, resentment bred and tempers frayed easily. Talks of secession and freedom were bandied in the resthouses – laughingly at first, then more darkly. By the end of the month, the Byblans usually even-handed rulers were forced to draft and deploy Imperial Militia regiments as portions of the population erupted into open rioting in the larger cities.

Thirty-three days after the first hail, a faint new star appeared in the sky. For those with access to primitive telescopes or vision enhancing technology, it became clear that the fleet had lit their engines. The mysterious craft began drifting slowly but inexorably towards the system. The famed Metauran Immortals and Silvermen of Trimundi, veterans of the Great Crusade, were drawn back from their new lives and reissued their equipment. Tough, resourceful and well-equipped, these powerful regiments had fought in some of the worst campaigns of the late Crusade. They were amongst the elite of the Imperial Army, well-led and with staunch morale. Well-prepared and dug-in on fortified home turf, they were confident any Xenos assault could be forced back in short order.

They were to last less than thirty-two hours against the Death Guard and Word Bearers.


+ inload: Brother Trimenos +

+ inload: Brother Trimenos +

+ 'Silver-footed' Trimenos (the epithet is untraceable) is another member of the 15th, one of the veterans sent to monitor the Acadmemy of Aelea, one of the newly-founded training centres established on Calth. Ultramarine Evocatii were beginning to be trained at such centres at the outbreak of the Heresy, decentralising the Ultramarines' traditional tactical base away from Macragge and Armatura and to the Principal worlds. Alas, the project was never seen to completion. The terrible losses of the Heresy meant that the far-sighted Akadamios project, championed by a number of Chapter Masters, was an unnecessary – and unaffordable – luxury in the dark years that followed. By the relative peace of M33, the Legions had long been divided into Chapters, and the project was forgotten. +

+ What might have been? The Akadamios project's aim was to expand Astartes from soldiers into pioneers. Without neglecting their martial purpose – and more than ninety-five per cent of their daily time went into rigorous training – the newly-inducted Astartes were shaped with lessons such as natural philosophy, rhetoric, and governance. Experienced Astartes, including specialists from certain other Legions, were cycled in to provide valuable lectures on particular aspects of war-craft. The dark days of the Great Scouring meant openness and learning were in short supply; supplanted by suspicion, grief and vengeance. +

+ Like many others present on Calth during the Atrocity, most records of this legionary have been lost. Nevertheless, it is possible to make some assumptions from this collection of pict-links. For example, it is likely that his plate – an unusually uniform (if battered) set of Mars-pattern Mark II means that he was either a Terran veteran of the so-called 'War-born' (unlikely, given other aspects of his dress) or, more likely, recruited during the 15th during one of their tours nearer a supply line that connected to the galactic core. 

+ Such recruits were drawn from the populace of worlds rendered Compliant by the Ultramarines. Many were orphans or ex-soldiery, keen to see and fight for the new Imperium, and found a home in the Ultramarines. If this is the case, Trimenos would likely have been trained on-ship, and issued equipment from fleet stores rather than direct from the forges of the Five Hundred Worlds. +

Trimenos' character is perhaps illuminated a little by the details of this pict-capture – a combat crouch while he reloads his boltgun, a well-secured combat blade at his hip, and a full supply of boltgun ammunition at his waist suggest a dutiful warrior. One exception to the Mars-uniform is shown here – the distinctive crested pauldron, seemingly patterned after Mark III reinforcement and common amongst the 190th Company. Members of the 15th were accustomed to adorning their left pauldron with personal heraldry. It is possible that this is a field-repair (perhaps taken from a luckless casualty), but the lack of Legion symbol on the right-hand pauldron suggests that this suit of plate is all Trimenos' own. Scanty reports suggest that the 15th were undergoing a period of transition prior to their deployment on Calth: the older personalised heraldry was becoming less common amongst line troopers, who more and more appreciated the value of uniformity and the value of the unbroken and indivisible line. +

+ Certainly this philosophy was encouraged by the Akadamios, and it is entirely likely that Captain Teutonos (acting-regent of the Chapter) had ordered any troops delivering lectures to appear in standard uniform plate in order to inculcate this idea upon the impressionable Evocatii to whom they spoke. For this reason, it is impossible to be certain of Trimenos' demeanour – for all we know his preferred armour was elaborate and complex, and he had been forced to substitute it whole for this new version here. The truth will never now be known, but the idea is a valuable one, as it shows just another reason why the Legions showed such variety in uniform and detail. +

+ This final pict-capture neatly shows Trimenos' chest-plate, proudly emblazoned with the Legion symbol in silver mounted on onyx, an unusual honorific which indicates service in a breacher squad. Perhaps the speciality on which he lectured was void-boarding assaults. He was recorded MIA on the fourth day post-Atrocity, and his body was never recovered. It is likely whatever scraps of his body and armour remain lie bleached in one of the innumerable mass graves on Calth's blasted surface even now. +

+ inload: My Armour Is Contempt +

+ Contemptors! A whole Talon (and a bit) of them. +

+ The two new chaps (below) were built from a kitbash of the standard Contemptor and the Death Guard Contemptor. The conversion work was very minor, restricted mainly to trimming away a few details – one of the purity seals, just to differentiate him from others; some Legion numbers etc. In particular, removing the spikes around the Death Guard symbol reduce it to a haloed skull; perfect as a little bit of Ultramarine heraldry or an honorific. I like modifying and retaining some detail, as together with the right paintjob, some modifications can help the finished piece look less like a conversion by suggesting unfamiliar detail. +

+ The extra shoulder guards of the Death Guard Dreadnought echo the pauldrons of my marines very well, and I like the slit visor, reminiscent of many of the Mark II helms I've used in the force +

+ This chap has some more practical molecular bonding studs added to his armour. I trimmed some extra rivets from a Sons of Horus Contemptor head and added them to the standard head (down the forehead) to continue the detail theme from the torso. It also suggests Mark V armour, as well as service studs. +

The rear detailing on the Death Guard Contemptor legs is similar to mark II armour, too. A great little touch.

+ inload: Caput meam +

+ Building on the torsos made last time, here are two officers – a Master of Signal, and a Captain. +

+ Built from Justaerin Cataphractii legs – for the spikes, which are reminiscent of Captain Ventanus' shoulder pad – a Grey Knight terminator torso, Gorgon Terminator arms, 3D printed shoulder pads, a head from one of the Imperial Fist packs (I got this in a trade, so not sure which), and weapons from the Red Scorpion and Mark II power weapon packs, this fellow required a very deep dig in the bits box!

+ Whether he ends up as the de facto leader of the army is up for debate. I'm quite tempted to simply build a load of different officers and just swap between them as I fancy. +

+ The Master of Signals is part of the Ultramarines' special army selection (Rite of War) from the new Age of Darkness rulebook. In any case, I've wanted to build on for a while as I prefer my leaders to do command and control rather than be brawlers. +

+ He uses a hand from the Space Hulk Omnio figure, as it has a cool auspex/monitor thingie built into the palm. Unfortunately, Masters of Signal don't seem to be able to have power fists. Still, I'm sure it can either be deactivated, or simply be large to hold the auspex equipment, rather than powered. +

+ inload: Armorum Ferrum +

+ inload: Armorum Ferrum +

+ A quick inload to show some WIP marines in a new style, based on the style created by the excellent Monkeyballistic, of Those Whom the Gods. +

+ They're based on Grey Knight Terminator torsos, and require much less putty work. Great technique, MB! :) +