+ inload: WD138 Blood Angels +

+ Gather the Host! +

+ The release of Dark Imperium – or 8th edition 40k – saw me start to plan a new project [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] based around the Blood Angels of yesteryear. +

+ The Games Workshop studio's Blood Angels army was featured in the White Dwarf just around the time when I started the hobby (I think White Dwarf 136 was the first I read); in the latter years of Rogue Trader and a little while before the 2nd edition of the game hit. We saw the army planned, painted and used in battles – which eventually stretched into Epic, too. +

+ This force must have launched a thousand armies. Blood Angels became a sort of default chapter following this army, and were very popular around that period. This army also marked a transition within White Dwarf between the more varied Rogue Trader style and the 'red period', with the painting sections of White Dwarf looking less at technique and personalisation on individual models and more concentrating on getting a uniform result and painting for effect. +

+ That's not intended as a 'doom-and-gloom' comment, by the way, and no criticism is intended. As with everything, variety is the key to learning, and there are fashions in model painting just as much as anything else. Looking back over this period, we start to see the White Dwarf team really getting into teaching how to paint armies, which is a very different (and worthwhile) discipline to painting models. It certainly came as something of a revelation to me – these weren't the heroes of the stories and cartoons I'd read and watched, but something depersonalised and uniform. It certainly felt a bit more grown-up, an aesthetic which clearly appealed to me! +

+ Anyway, that's why this army – along with the Eldar that preceded them, and the orks of Waaagh da Orks! – have stuck with me. Rebuying the White Dwarf to see the army made it clear how much it affected my vision of what a Space Marine army should look like: lots of basic infantry, a fairly stripped-down hero, and guns over speed. Almost all the Space Marine armies I've built since have had this army reflected in them. +

+ Theoretical: Building the army +

+ As mentioned in my earlier inload, I want to evoke the army rather than recreate it. Andy Chambers' and Tim Prow's notes on choosing and painting the army infers that there were practical reasons behind a lot of the decisions – the non-existence of a particular model or weapon at the time; a desire to spend points on men rather than gear; the relative difficulty of conversions, and so forth. While there's no hint that there was a marketing angle, I get the impression that someone wanted the then-new metal Mark VII marines to feature – but that's likely to be because they were cool kick-ass models! +

+ Here's the first combat squad from the original army:

A big part of the appeal for me is that uniform look; but how to update it sympathetically?

+ It's probably clear from the purple prose that the army is, to me at least, fairly iconic.  However, that's no reason not to look at things critically, and to learn from development in the years since. The original army divided the older Mk VI plastic models from the newer Mk VII lead models, with the Devastators being the older models and the Tactical squads the newer. +

+ Looking back now, I wonder whether this was a background or aesthetic decision – just like the new Mark X Primaris marines look very odd next to the older Mark VII (etc.) marines, the two types looked very different. The background has also been expanded to imply that it's rare for a squad to all be in one mark of power armour. + 

+ That puts me in a quandary. I like the uniformity, but suspect that the spirit of the original army would be to introduce some variety. Certainly the accompanying text mentions in-universe personalisation and honours, but that's balanced against the painting approach to make them work well as game pieces. +

+ Practical +

+ For these reasons, then, I've decided that I'll include a bit more variety in the armour marks, but to try and evoke the 'feel' of the division by emphasising Mark VII in the Tacticals, and Mark VI for the Devastators, without that literally meaning uniformity within the squads. +

+ Here, then, is the first 'updated' squad, which I hope hits the marks I've identified, and is readable both as homage to the original, and a fond extension of the concept:

+ A rundown on some important details +

Comparing the image above to the originals, you'll (hopefully) spot enough similarities that the reference is clear. Here are some bits I'm particularly pleased with:

  • Posing: I've aimed to use similar poses, but made use of the greater dynamism modern materials allows me. Compare the sergeants between the squads, in particular. I think the new 'guns up' pose is what the originals would have been posed as, had the available bits made it feasible.
  • Detailing: The banner and head on the sergeant are particularly important details in helping him 'read' as homage; as was the choice of the Rogue Trader-style missile launcher.
  • Armour marks: As elucidated above, I've been careful to keep the majority of the models as Mark VII. There is a Mark IV helm (and backpack) in there as a nod to modern continuity, and to break things up a bit.
  • Era-appropriateness: The plastic missile launcher models in second edition post-date this army a little, but I think they'll be familiar to most viewers who are looking for references within in the army. These had a cool detail, which was a hand-held trigger device. I converted this from an auspex.

+ Vive la difference +

+ I didn't want to make a slavish copy, but rather get the spirit of the force across. For that reason, there are nods to later developments in the background, and personal bits like the tilt shields on the sergeant (this is continued on the squad leader, which you'll see in a bit). +

+ While RT/2nd ed. marine models looked quite stripped-back and sci-fi, the more modern aesthetic has become slightly gothic and punk-grotesque. I wanted to strike a balance between the two, and so the conversion work has involved reshaping the ankles (to look more like Mark VI/VII armour) and also removing the chest eagles. The reason is towfold: I want to have a go at freehand on certain models; and I want to get that striking 'all-red' feel of the originals on others. +

+ What else? +

+ I build as enthusiasm takes me, so while putting these five together, I've also built a few others:

+ In the centre is the combat squad leader from squad 1 (the other half of the squad we've been talking about above). The banner marks him out, as in the original army, but I've also taken the opportunity to give him a tilt shield, some purity seals and a special backpack to mark him as veteran, without compromising the Mark VII silhouette and pose. +

+ The other two marines are the Mark VI Devastators I alluded to earlier. As you can see, they fit in alongside the Mark VII conversion well (not surprising, the only difference is the head). +

+ At the time, the army list included things that didn't, for one reason or another, get models for this issue. It's noted that some things didn't get painted (I know that feeling), and I suspect other things – like the five techmarines mandated by the way the army list worked at the time – were simply victims of lack of enthusiasm. I'll have to work out how I'll tackle that – lots of techmarines, or go with the spirit of the idea and have lots of maintenance serfs, or something? A challenge for another day.

+ One thing that was included, but didn't have a model at this point was the Lieutenant. This was a compulsory choice, but (as far as I'm aware) never got painted for this army. He turns up in a later battle report as a gunner in a land speeder – a clever way to deal with the lack of a model! +

+ However, I wanted to build a Lieutenant, as they're now a legal choice again – the opportunity was too good to miss. Here's the result:

+ Taking inspiration from the Captain, I've included a halo (though not the death mask; that'll be reserved for Captain Tycho). He has a banner – as these were very popular at the time – and a loincloth similar to the Blood Angels Captain model used for Tycho. +

+ Modern details include the wrist-mounted control pad thingie (which seemed suitable for a commander), while old background came back in the use of the skull-headed eagle pauldron and leg decoration. +

+ I didn't want him wielding two weapons, so he's carrying a scroll case (doubtless of some religious or spiritual quality), though I might try and replace that with some prayer beads. +


+ Finally, I also added a banner bearer. The original army had a medic with the banner, but since I have quite a thing for painting banner-bearers, I decided I'd split the concept into two separate models. +

+ Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think – hit that inload commentary submission form below. +


  1. For me you have captured the initial wow factor I first felt when I was first introduced to the hobby. I remember the time well, as I flicked through issue after issue of White Dwarf in which the Red era was at it's peak. They read as Blood Angels in a subtle yet confident way, without being too ott. Looking forward to painting! (Also, first comment on the blog, but I love it. Really enjoy the narrative sensibility you bring to the models that make them feel like lived in characters!)

    1. Well, welcome to the Death of a Rubricist; and thanks – I'm looking forward to getting these on the table and exploring the backstory.

  2. I am a fan of folks taking the vibe of the era I started in and bringing in modern elements. Looking forward to seeing were this goes with paint.

  3. Very nice indeed.... I'm painting my Primaris marines in the style of 2nd ed era Ultramarines.

  4. Excellent all around, but that LT is a real standout for me, the posing, the halo helm... wow.

    Are you going to include more contemporary Blood Angels imagery like golden muscle armor, or sandal feet, or the grail? All of those seem like they would be great... in sufficiently small quantities.


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