+ inload: Variance Hammer contest +

+ Meanwhile, in other news +

+ I entered a writing/model contest on a blog called Variance Hammer a few weeks back; and was slightly startled (and very flattered) to find out yesterday that I won. You can read about it – and see the other awesome entries here: [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] +

+ The contest was themed around the 'unsung heroes of the Horus Heresy – my entry was Zaricus Cjarn: 

+ Centurion Cjarn: Aquila +

'Dheneb. The inhabitants might not call it that, but it is. It's an old one.' Zaricus Cjarn sat in the cold chamber alongside a scattered few of his Mustermates, listening to the gritty voice of the Palatarch of the Chain. He couldn't remember the speaker's name; or rather – like anything of little importance to him – he had determined not to remember it. The Kheledakos demanded discipline; and sometimes that required wilful ignorance. The lodge could always rely on its brethren to be circumspect.

The Palatarch continued. 'It's the last star in the zodiackal chart for the region.' Cjarn had remembered that. The fanciful shapes the Ancients had drawn between the stars might serve little practical use, but they were somehow iconic, unforgettable. They spoke to something deep within Cjarn, within the Iron Warriors as a whole: a need to draw patterns, forms connections.

Priding themselves on pragmatism, on the Imperial Truth, the Iron Warriors refused to confront or discuss this urge, even as they conquered the stars, even as they justified their irrationality to themselves. The Signs had demonstrable propaganda purposes, they reasoned. The Remembrancers shape their work into lions, and sea-goats, and weighing scales in turn as, one after another, the constellations came into the Emperor's realm. Humanity will respond. 

Even so, the primarch Perturabo would not have deigned to recognise this inefficient structure; but for the increase in recruitment for the Imperial Army – and the concomitant support for his Legion – that such  symbolism attracted. This star, then, was particularly special. This star marked the final point in the constellation Aquila.


Ah, to the Legions, there is no speed too fast; no achievement too rich. They are too eager, too capable,  too fast for human frailty to concern them; certainly not to delay them. They are harriers loosed; darting out to find new lands, and bring them, forcibly if necessary, onto the stuttering, swelling maps of mankind. The Reserves become the IVth, become – briefly, quietly – corpse grinders, then spill over Olympia, and then...

And then... they make pause, for a little while. They are reforged; beaten into shape. They become the  Iron Warriors.


The promethium-rich caverns of Dheneb Primary are a net of tunnel fighting; the Astartes of the Footsore 242nd Grand Company clashing with the combat rigs of the defenders, bottling them into boltholes and bringing down the fury of the Legion on them. Fury is not enough on its own. Reactive piledrivers give the combat rigs a punch that shatters ceramite; and debased STC trans-rifles give particles of heavy metal sufficient stopping power to reduce even armoured Space Marines to cooling corpses.

Cjarn is at the forefront, Comitas in hand. Cjarn fights well with the axe. The blade is flat-edged and a dull carbon-black at the apex of an unusually long handle. With the nudge of a runekey, it glows a subtle violet, just at the edge of sight – eye-watering and uncomfortable, like staring at an open fire from just too close.

The knob of the eagle-chased generator on the poll robs the bit of weight – but when your blade is hefted overhand by the swollen musculature and poise of an Astartes, and aided by the crackling, matter- disruptive technology of Old Mars, the difference is rendered moot.

In any case, the poll acts as a counterweight – which allows Cjarn the speed to de-power Comitas, add his other hand to the grip and heave. Ten foot tall and braced against the tunnel walls by secondary limbs, the combat rig nevertheless staggers forward, the axe embedded within the outer carapace like a fishing hook. The Iron Warrior releases his off-hand and reaches for a grenade, blindly.

His hand scrabbles at an empty belt. He turns his head to look.


Deneb Al Okab Australis. The south star in the tail of the eagle. In truth, it was nowhere near the other
stars. As soon as craft left Terra, the lie was put to the constellations through simple astronomical
parallax; the still, glittering stars proving nebulous and reluctant to accede to humanity's dreams.

Reluctant. But dreams are sometimes irresistible.


The distraction allows the combat rig pilot to rally; to whirl a primary limb down and across Comitas,
crushing Cjarn's hand and flinging him into the side of the tunnel wall. The rockface explodes with a
cloud of rubble and dust, and his armour begins to chime insistently, warningly.

He is bleeding. He is injured. He is furious.

Disarmed and scrambling backwards, Auto-gyros destabilised, he can't find his feet. His armour is dead weight; blank. It is coming back online too slowly. Cjarn skids over on the detritus as he tries to stand, the mass of his armour slowing him. Tearing off his helmet, Cjarn looks up at the looming combat rig, its primary arms raised to smash him. Comitas is lodged in its flank; yearningly out of reach.

His injured hand is bleeding angrily; the musculature clamping and spasming around shards of his gauntlet. He can feel the cold stone dust settling, turning the wet blood white. Scrambling backwards, his hand clamps around a cylinder. He doesn't look this time. Whatever the object is, it feels metallic in his dust-and-blood-caked grip. It feels solid. It will serve as a weapon.


Cjarn is found, eventually. He is at the centre of a junction, breathing heavily amidst bodies. Blood – in great crimson loops – decorates the walls. Stimms and pain-suppressants render him near-insensible, his eyes wheeling and breath sawing in and out. The Apothecary pauses, before advancing warily towards him, palms up. Cjarn would not be the first Iron Warrior to suffer from combat psychosis.

In any event, the Legion recognises and rewards success. The events of Dheneb make Cjarn a  Palatarch, stepping into his dead sergeant's shoes. After Kolosos, the eye falls on him again, marking him as a brevet officer. And then... the Warmaster calls.


Later, he can't remember how he had come to find the other axe – or rather, it is irrelevant.

He fights well with both, now. Comitas remains reliable; versatile. The other axe... is not. It is slightly too fast; the heavy head drawing on the shoulder. Where it strikes, it bites deep – too deeply, unless arrested. It requires more concentration to wield. Cjarn has had to adjust his expectations of what an axe can do; adapt his style. Now he can catch it by the throat reliably, collaring it. For all its shortcomings, it is a wonderful weapon.

A single piece of some curious metal, engraved and sculpted into a fanciful shape, the blade is otherwise plain. Unlike Comitas, it is unpowered; its technology begins and ends with being weighted, sharpened metal. To assist his grip, Cjarn has bound the whole handle with plaited leather. He did it personally, sceptical of the epimiletis-armourers' ability to match his requests.


The Crusaders return to Terra, abandoning the cold constellations once more. Not in the winding manner in which the routes were found; not in a contracting halo, but in a spear-tip aimed at humanity's cradle. The maps of the Imperium are ignored. Lines and nodes collapse, like a chemical structure buckling; promising and hinting at possible new forms.

Too fast! too much!


'Give me my armour! Give me my armour!' The phrase, which had started as a demand, had become a froth-laden bellow. The bondsmen, their backs to the cell, wince slightly as the marine begins to slam his fists against the dirty armourglass again. Over and over, he repeats his attacks, his hands little more than clubs of blood.

They try to ignore the battering, which continues frenziedly, without rhythm. His words – his mantra – become an atavistic howl, then a wordless shriek. One of the bondsmen nervously peeks over his shoulder. The naked Astartes' eyes are bulging in rage, unfocussed and pink with broken blood vessels. The armourglass is smeared with blood, with spit, with acid burns.

'Should we stum him again?' one of the bondsmen whispers. The other opens his mouth to speak, just as the door to the dimly-lit chamber begins to open. The great wheel in the centre turns, ponderously at first, then more freely. The bondsmen unlimber their rifles and bring them to their shoulder, trying to ignore the garbled, spitting demands of their charge.

'Pax.' The Iron Warrior's command is given as he steps into the room, and the bondsmen relax their aim and step back. As the caged Astartes sees the new arrival, the hammering slows, then renews. 'Give me my armour!' The last word trails off as the Astartes screws his eyes shut in rage and begins battering his  head against the glass, his hands open and trembling. 'I'll kill you! I'll kill you all!'

The new arrival steps forward, and raises a hand to place it against the armourglass, quizzically. He holds it there. It doesn’t so much as tremble under the other's barrage of blows.

'Is it meet to treat with us so, because a stranger is dead?'

The bondsmen look uncertainly at one another. Were the visitor's words a question? Again, the second bondsman opens his mouth to speak, and again stops short. The two Astartes lock gazes. They pause for a moment, their faces preternaturally alike; their individual birth-seed overcome and subsumed beneath the bleak dominance of the Emperor's genetic manipulation. Their faces, like so many of the legion, are scarred and imperfect reflections of Perturabo's; their features hard, as though chipped from a great flint. Their expressions are similarly bitter and bilious. Hard lines cluster around the free Iron Warrior's pinched, thin-lipped mouth. In its fury, the other's face has become a patchwork of strained white-yellow and red-purple, the skin pulled taut by muscle and clusters of tendons. Their faces are inches apart. His nose and brow are pressed against the glass, straining, desperate. His eye wheels, searching.

All of a sudden, as though a switch had been flicked, the caged Space Marine stops. His hands drop, smearing wetly down the glass. His breathing slows, though ragged puffs of condensation beneath his nostrils belie the suddenly-chilly exterior. He seems to relax a little, though his face remains pressed firmly against the glass, the flesh distorted, any nobility made grotesque under the pressure. The silence is as eerie as the rage.

He wets his lips, slowly. Then, his eye fixed on the visitor, and in a voice no louder than a whisper, he

'Give me my armour.'

The new arrival appears to reach a decision. His face remained dour, but the bondsmen detects a hint
of amusement as he turns to address them.

'Give him his armour. Tell the centurion a very particular duty awaits.'


The Primarch. Orders from the Primarch! Direct from his mouth; special orders, a special duty – and on
Terra! The hubbub, while low, is audible. The officers and specialists, variously seated or standing around the tiered chamber, try to anticipate Perturabo's purpose here; to find patterns or meaning in the choices of personnel summoned to the lodge chamber.

Cjarn, alone of those gathered, remains truly impassive. The others wear their masks: whether literally, in the shapes of their formal helms, or emotionally, their faces carefully – and wisely – blank as their mercurial Primarch steps in.

Words are spoken.

Comitas is belted at his waist. The other axe is in front of him. Cjarn's armoured thumb toys with a loose strand of the braided, bloodstained leather. The movement is not born of distraction. Cjarn's impassiveness is not a lack of care, or empathy. Nor is it a desire to reject this terrible duty – for the truth is that it is not merely onerous, not merely dangerous.

It is a duty monstrous in its implications: to cage and preserve a Primarch.

Neither for anger; nor cold revenge, but for the simple act of trapping an immortal in an eternal cage of iron, and allowing isolation to break the unbreakable.

Cjarn's humours remain in balance for one simple reason: because it is no longer just Cjarn that influences them.


+ inload: The Perfidious Eldar +

+ More Blood Ange- no, wait – something else. The heading's probably given it away. +

+ A group of fay Eldar; most inscrutable of the xenos. When I saw the Van Saar models, I thought they might make a nice basis for some retro-styled Eldar to fit in with my Alien Wars project. I'll let you be the judge, but I'm pleased with how these came out. 

+ It's a relatively simple conversion; mainly consisting of trimming down the raised details on the legs. The arms were a bit more time-consuming owing to the odd multipart arrangements of Van Saar arms and guns. The heads are metal, from an Ulthwé Black Guardian kit; with the Eye of Isha trimmed away. For any future ones, I think I'd stick with plastic for ease (though I'd love to use heads from the current resin Rangers, as they're a bit pointier and more sleek). +

+ Speaking of guns; the weapons and some arms come from a few Rogue Trader-era spares I had lying around. It's surprising what a difference slightly smaller (I hesitate to say more realistically-sized) weapons have on the feel of the models. +

+ What to do, what to do.. +

+ With the itch scratched on building the models, I now need to decide how to paint them. I think I've thinned it down to the following options:
  • Paint them as Alaitoc.
    • Fits with the WD138–141 feel of my Blood Angels.
    • Nice scheme; good complement to the red Angels and green/grey orks
    • Bit slavish and predictable.
  • Use the opportunity to explore the Halator Eldar [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]
    • More freedom
    • Moves away from the theme I've followed with the Orks and Blood Angels.
    • Explains the difference in models/scheme.
  • Explore a more obscure Craftworld.
    • Fits with the concept behind the WD138 period; where the authors picked Alaitoc precisely because it was obscure and little-explored.
+ I'd appreciate any thoughts on the matter; and any comments on the models. +

+ inload: Tzi'Na Crisis – Invasion of Cha'Anxi +

Por'bo wrinkled her face in distaste. There it was again. When the sea-breeze dropped, the faint tang of the ocean was replaced with a scent of corruption: a sour, bitter aroma. Hearing a comms-ping, she pulled her helm back on, feeling it slide down over her hairless grey-blue pate. As she ran a finger around the neck to check the seal, she hefted her pulse rifle. Whatever these invaders were, she didn't like the scent of them...


The PCRC have been playing narrative campaigns for over a decade now. They've all helped to populate Sector Antona Australis, our far-flung corner of the 40k galaxy – and provided a great excuse to paint up models and get them on the ground. The Tzi'Na Crisis represents an invasion by Chaos forces (represented by the Curdling Armada [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]) of a newly-settled region of Tau space, the Tzi'Na Enclave [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+].

+ Game type: Open Play
+ Mission: Blitz, 100 Power Level
+ Combatants: Apologist, commanding the Iron Warriors 242nd Footsore; vs Bob Hunk, commanding the Hunter Cadre Hun'k.
+ Battleground: A pair of newly-settled and highly-miitarised Septworlds, the twin planets Tsu'as and Or'na boast bountiful and beautiful oceans. Both have a population of little over a million each, with around seven per cent believed to be under arms. In Tau terms, these are essentially military bases, though to Imperial eyes the civilian population is relatively under-exploited.
+ Background: Tau of this Sept most commonly bear coral-coloured equipment and uniforms, though many exceptions exist according to the campaign and purpose. The armies are not experienced; though a core of veterans has been tasked by the Sept's military command with bringing the new troops to an elite level. This battle records the initial stages of invasion: the Iron Warriors have made planetfall in typical fashion, and are advancing on the regional capital in M'Kel Bay. With the Or'Na Defence Corps still fortifying the city itself, it falls to Hunter Cadre Hun'k to delay the advancing Astartes...


+ Deployment and early turns +

+ The Blitz mission uses hidden deployment, so the Iron Warriors – a mixed force of tanks and infantry – deployed fairly evenly. The Armoured Column, spearheaded by a Land Raider, planned to swing round to the right flank, pushing through the ruins of the farm, while a cluster of infantry advanced beneath the cover of the cliffs to approach the bastion unawares. +

+ Iron Warrior deployment +

+ A short rush across open field would see the Iron Warriors safe in the dead ground beneath the hill – assuming the bastion itself was not too heavily defended +

+ The Tau forces were revealed as the air support swept over, dropping the pre-battle barrage. A number of crucial strikes were made, with Commander H'unk himself gravely wounded, along with a Broadside destroyed and a Hammerhead suffering heavy damage. +

+ Even as the fresh, clean breeze cleared the smoke and dust, the Iron Warriors were pushing forward, the Predators and Land Raider landing a number of punishing blows on the Hammerheads. In return, the Hammerheads badly damage a Predator; but even the canny deployment of an orbital laser strike fails to stop the advance. +

+ A drone squadron negotiated the steep hills, but quickly came under fire from advancing Iron Warrior infantry supported by a Predator tank. +

+ Casualties remained light overall, and advanced sub-repair systems kept the Hammerheads at full fighting capacity. Hun'k cautioned his force to be patient, waiting for the crucial time to strike. The Hammerheads and reserve mounted forces hovered in place. +

+ As Pathfinders guided their forces during the firefight, Iron Warrior infantry started to fall, and the damaged Predator was reduced to limping forwards trailing smoke, critically damaged. +

+ The return fire was all but undimmed, however, and the Iron Warriors armour continued to thin the Tau lines. A formation of Kroot, sent forward to pounce on Iron Warriors emerging from their wrecked transports, found themselves facing a wall of armour – damaged but unbroken! +

+ At this point, Hun'k springs his trap: the Hammerheads sweep forward to add steel to the Fire Warriors' line – and bail out their auxiliaries! The Rhino  cresting the ridge is halted as the damage mounts up, and the squad inside are forced to bail out. +

+ The Fire Caste of the Hunter Cadre are determined and experienced, veterans of campaigns against the orks of the Scallop Stars and the Imperial Guard of the region – but the Iron Warriors prove to be frighteningly tough. As the Space Marines close, their physical superiority begins to tell. +

+ The kroot launch a whooping, cackling assault on the squad evacuating the Rhino, but are pulled apart in short order by the ferocious Space Marines. Aghast but unbowed, Hun'k himself emerges, his missile pods striking down one of the monstrous Astartes – but more are emerging over the hill. +

+ The Hammerheads soak up firepower until first one, then the other, are sent crashing to the ground. Worse, one explodes in the midst of the Tau line, shredding Fire Warriors and painting the ground cyan with blood. +

+ As the Tau line wavers, the Iron Warriors push forward on the crumbling right flank. The Devilfish sweep in to bolster the centre, even as the Iron Warrior heavy weapons reach the top of the hill. +

+ At this point, the Iron Warriors' armour has broken through into the first line; but another turn or two will see them deep in the second line. +

+ Things look bleak for the Fire Warriors, but they dutifully keep fighting for the Greater Good. Every moment the invaders are held at bay is another moment their comrades can reinforce M'Kel Bay City. +

+ The burden of command is heavy. Hun'k wisely orders his Cadre's Orca to wheel round and begin an evacuation. At close range, pulse rifle shots start to tell; the valiant Fireblade getting the most out of the troops under his command. Iron Warriors start to fall... +

+ ... though not fast enough. The Iron Warrior armoured column brushes past contemptuously, gunning their engines for the border. Things look bleak for Hun'k as the Iron Warriors infantry make the line – and blood starts to flow. The Tau begin to fall back in good order – their officers stopping a retreat becoming a rout.  +

+ The battle is at risk of becoming an extermination, and Hun'k is relieved to see the Orca swooping down. A haptic motion detonates a pre-prepared series of blind-baffles, giving the few survivors precious moments to scamper to the Orca and escape. +

+ Result: Decisive victory for the invaders. The shadows begin to draw around the Tzi'Na Enclave; and a crucial foothold has been made on Or'Na.

+ inload: Brother Schirru (Ixael 6:05) +

+ inload: Brother Schirru (Ixael 6:05) +

+ As with the rest of the army, I've used the pre-described method for painting the red here [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], though I've swapped out the mix of Vallejo vermillion and GW Mephiston Red in step 4 for Vallejo Flat Red. This is a lovely colour that is a great match for the mixes I was making at that stage; which helps to speed things up. +

Like the rest of the squad, he's got a kneepad honorific.
+ The shading was achieved with the textural approach to painting I prefer – you can read more about that here, if it's of interest [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] +

+ Schirru is a member of Tactical II – or Squad Lazarus, Third Company 'Mano Sacra, under Lord Dahavauron, Prince of the Erelim, 3rd Strateia of the Host of Angels', to give them their full title. +

+ Schirru (pre-paint) is second from right here.+

+ I really like the contrast between their honorific and official names. I wanted the feel to be reminiscent of the pre-Codex period we see during the Horus Heresy series, where every Legion has a much more distinctive culture and way of doing things. While the Nova Terra Interregnum is going on, things are still in transition. +

+ I had an enjoyable time adding a few scratches and dinks across the armour; and added a small white teardrop beneath his eye. An honorific? A mark of penitence? Who knows? +

+ Four more remain of this squad, and then it's on to the Devastators. +

+ inload: Squad Furiel completed +

+ Landmarks, fatigue and enthusiasm +

+ We're not all bio-enhanced übermensch that never tire; and glanding syncro-adrenochrone is frowned upon socially. For these reasons, we sometimes need to find other ways of keeping out enthusiasm up. The first part is simple. Remember that it's a hobby. While putting effort in is worthwhile – sometimes the best part is rising to a self-imposed challenge – no-one is going to tell you off if you don't get finished. +

+ The second thing that keeps my enthusiasm high is making sure I take note of 'staging posts' – that is, giving myself a pat on the back (servo-arms are useful for this) when I get something completed; even if it's not the whole project. To put it another way, it can be disheartening to work and work and see an unfinished army. Try not to see the army; and instead see it in discrete parts. A squad, or character, or war machine are examples of 'staging posts'. +

+ Once you pass a staging post, take a little while to be pleased with your achievement. Don't crack straight on; but enjoy the fruit of your labours. +


+ [+Access Progapplication Subroutine: BLUEPETER+] +

+ In a strange coincidence, here's a staging post I prepared earlier – the two outstanding members of the first Tactical Squad in my Blood Angels army:

Brother Engel (Narieal 4:10) and Brother Lucian (Abacyel 3:12), shown on patrol. Engel is a particularly nice 'staging post', as he's named after one of the very first models I painted. He's been kept deliberately stripped-back, in homage to that model. +

+ Lucian is a bit more elaborate, with a tilt shield, variant helm (though note this keeps the same silhouette as the original inspiration), and some chequerboarding on his pauldron. +

+ 'Wotchulookinat?' +


+ The completed Wards of Furiel +

+ Polishing off the two remaining members of the second Combat Squad means that the squad is complete – hurrah! For those who've been following the project, you'll know I'm basing it on an army from WD139; so here's the originals alongside the new versions:

+ Combat Squad Raphael +
 + I have popped these up a lot, so I'm relying on your forbearance here; but these shots should finally demonstrate the line between homage and update that I've been trying to walk. The poses and details aren't identical, but are evocative of the originals. +

+ Combat Squad Mephisto – again, note the posing and details +
  • Brother Donato (Duhael 4:12)
  • Brother Malatesta (Durbael 2:17)
  • Sergeant Raphael (Furiel 8:04)
  • Brother Farnese (Shemhamphorae 1:20
  • Brother Barbarigo (Durbael 4:11)
  • Brother Lucian (Abacyel 3:12)
  • Brother El-Aster (Ambriel 1:01) 
  • Squad Leader Brother Mephisto (Rashin Rast 2:05
  • Brother Thaddeus (Saditel 4:04, called the lost)
  • Brother Engel (Narieal 4:10)

+ The staging post here is not just the sense of completion (though that's a relief!), but also the thought that I can now refight some of the games from the Battle for Armageddon campaign booklet that came with the second edition box; and which provided the names of the squads. It's a full-on nostalgia-fest. +

+ inload: 8th edition squats +

+ For home and hearth: Squats in Warhammer 40,000 +

"Do not underestimate the Squats. They survived for millennia cut off from the Imperium and assailed from all sides. Their determination and resilience is an example to all."

Meditations on Imperial Command, Book XVIAttr. Leman Russ, Primarch of the VIth Legion +


+ Those who have been inloading Death of a Rubricist for a while may have noticed a certain soft spot for dwarfs [inlink the DWARFS and SQUATS flow-cascade nodes on the right, if you'd like to do a little light reading]. I've long harboured the ambition of bringing some squats into Antona Australis; judging by the dates of the Iron Staff Dominion colour text [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]; at least half a decade. Yikes! +

+ Of course, applying a 'models first, rules second' approach relies on building a bunch of models, and that's what I was working on over the weekend:

+ These new models join a previously-completed squad: 

+ I've idly kicked the idea of squats around before, and now I've got some models, it'd be fun to try them out. It's been a long time since the squats had rules in 40k, and since 8th edition has been a breath of fresh air, what better time to write some stuff up? +

+ A brief consult with the PCRC hivemind gives us some basis stats, which you are more than welcome to play around with:

+ My intention with this isn't to reinvent the wheel; just to get the models I've built on the table; but I'd very much appreciate any feedback you have. With regards to the available weapons, I'd suggest the following:

Special weapons:

  • Graviton gun
  • Volkite blaster
  • Melta gun
  • Flamer
  • Grenade launcher
Heavy weapons:
  • Heavy bolter
  • Seismic cannons
  • Mining laser
  • Multimelta
  • Volkite culverin