+ inload: Anatomy of the Enemy II: Janii [Guestpost by K0rdhai] +

+ Anatomy of the Enemy II: Janii +

+ I'm delighted to be able to exhibit a Janii on display today – one example of the weird and varied xenos encountered during the Alien Wars. +

+ This fantastic model was built and painted by Nicholas Tredidgo, who goes by the handle K0rdhal on Instagram. Check out K0rdhal's instagram here [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] for some more strikingly imaginative and well-realised conversions, from Imperial Knights to daemon kings. +

+ He says 'if people want to make their own Janii, I would certainly encourage them and not be worried about stepping on my toes!' and I must confess to being keen to give one of these blue-skinned aliens a go myself. Perhaps I'll be able to get K0rdhal to give us a run-down of the build , and some notes on the great paintjob at some point in the future. +

+ In the meantime, thanks again for your wonderful contribution to the Alien Wars; now over to the meat of the inload. All of the good bits of the background text below are also his – you can blame the rest on me! +


Betrayal is only a consideration, if one considers the betrayed an equal.
Inquisitor Willem Svrost, Ordo Xenos

+ First contact +

Aboriginal inhabitants of the southern reaches of what would later become the Segmentum Pacificus, the Janii are a xenos species that extended a long-lasting and relatively stable empire over more than a hundred star systems in the pre-Imperial era.

Imperial records are silent on the supposed first contact event, but second-hand copies of the xenos' own notoriously hard-to-decipher accounts (necessarily incomplete owing to their peculiar means of recording information) imply that the species has been in intermittent contact with isolated branches of humanity for thousands of years; the chronology dating well back into the Dark Ages of Technology.

+ Janii biology +

Physically intimidating, a typical bull is sturdy and robust, standing roughly eight foot to the shoulder. The Janii demonstrate bilateral symmetry; with a form of duplicated bicephaly that gives them a distinctive head shape, with what appears to human eyes as two distinct faces. Unsurprisingly, this gave rise to numerous unflattering slang terms amongst Imperial Guard and Navy forces: 'Bicos' and 'twinfreaks' to list two of the less obscene.

The 'brain' of a Janii is likewise partially divided, with a mutually shared section. This peculiar evolutionary trait is noted to have been common on the species' homeworld; and seems to have evolved as a survival trait that allowed individuals to rest while remaining partially alert – somewhat akin to the Astartes' catalepsean node. The organ is otherwise dissimilar to human brains, being a coral-like structure that extends throughout the creatures' hump.

The creatures' skin is typically loose, dry and smooth, dotted throughout with cuprous chromatophores that give it a bluish hue. In a healthy specimen, these are capable of emitting a faint bio-luminescence. 

The species is three-gendered, but the bull, kine and carriers are outwardly very similar in structure, making sileraioi courtship a subtle and complex affair that they never discuss openly.

Sileraioi evolved to breathe an almost inert 'air' of nitrogen, neon and other noble gasses, and fare poorly in human-tolerant envrionments. It is for this reason that they exclusively prefer orbital habitats or hermetic cities on planetary surfaces, where environments can be tailored to their specific needs.

+ Janii linguistics +

The Janii language is a considerable challenge for xeno-linguists to master, requiring significant study and augmetic modification. This is down to it consisting of two different ‘words’ spoken simultaneously, one by each ‘mouth’. Translation is possible but is convoluted to all but the most seasoned linguists.

As an illustration, the statement 'I am pleased to speak to you', would be vocalised as:
/Iemphasiser/ /amspeak/ /emphasiserpleased/ /toto/ /youclarifier/
The bracketed linguistic components are split evenly between mouths; alternating between the provision of syntactic operators; and quantifiers; with any non-paired elements being accompanied with coos and grunts from the 'off-mouth' to provide emphasis, direction or clarification. The effect is a bewildering stream of noise, with no gaps or pauses within statements. 

The Janii themselves are capable of speaking various Low Gothic dialects, though with considerable difficulty, often lapsing into their native mode of speaking and using two words simultaneously, leading to much confusion. Of particular interest to Inquisitorial-clearance readers: Janii have been encountered speaking proto-gothic languages, indicative of their encounters with Pre-Imperial Humanity.

+ Nomenclature +

Members of the species refer to themselves as /Varak-Koi/, meaning 'the people of two mouths/tongues'. However, the term Janii is a linguistic gloss used by the species to refer to its members during contact with humans and similar single-voiced groups.

Despite the potential for offence, many xenobiologists continue to use janii and sileraioi almost interchangeably; the latter term being more familiar to the Imperium owing to the events leading up to the Alien Wars. Xenolinguists make it clear that the use of sileraioi is rude to the point of insulting in a face-to-faces meeting, as the term applies specifically to a mercenary combat clade of the broader Janii Dominion. Seemingly of loose cultural morals, sileraioi translates loosely as 'those with small/stunted heads, whose tongues speak falsehood'.

+ Sileraioi technology +

A Sileraioi ground combat form is typically armoured in a robust carapace of hard plates incorporated into a thick rubber-like suit that provides excellent protection from ballistics, and limited atmospheric protection. Sileraioi are extremely vulnerable to radiation – likely a result of their homeworld's dim sun – and any exposed skin is routinely slathered in an unctuous lotion to protect them.

Portable charging plate for the microwave beam emitter
The crew of their void-vessels are up-armoured elites, whose suits are enclosing and allow them to fight in airless environments. During the height of the Alien wars, the majority of Janii forces encountered were wielding a mixture of microwave beams and more esoteric weaponry including electron displacers and the feared implosion lance. Since the losses of the Dominion's major industrial zones, Janii forces are now reliant on the more basic microwave beam emitters, though some capability to produce the more advanced weapon types, or substantial stored caches, remain.

The military as a whole is divided into several clades, each representing a sub-category of warfare such as naval, ground, or void combat, as well as other minor specialisms. Janii military as a whole is commonly referred to as the Lochos, which translates 'Those who speak of/bring death'. An exception to this structure are the Sileraioi, who ply their trade as mercenaries, and thus encompass all the clade specialisations. Though not well regarded in Janii society, their ultimate loyalty still lies to the Dominion. They are occasionally encountered today.

+ Rise and fall of a Dominion +

The Sileraioi's supposed homeworld is a dim and rocky moon that orbits a promethium-rich gas giant, itself slowly travelling around a dim brown star. The moon certainly once harboured a diverse web of life. It has since been terraformed and has been colonised as the Imperial Feral world of Dis.

The species achieved space flight sometime during the Dark Age of Technology, and expanded its holdings rimwards; seeking out the dimmest stars near the south-western halo regions. Preferring to seed gas giants with orbitals than land on rocky worlds – perhaps due to cultural taboos – the species and humanity unknowingly expanded alongside one another for a long time; perhaps millennia, before an seemingly accidental meeting occurred.

Xeno-archaeological remains of Janii Float-orbitals, recovered from the gravitic wells of gas giants in systems bordering the Veiled Region, indicate that at the height of the power the Janii Dominion encompassed approximately seven hundred systems. This zenith roughly falls in the centuries preceding the emergence of Old Night. Technological remains, and documents translated from this time indicate the Janii had large-scale atmospheric-manipulation capability and the resources to manufacture stellar megastructures (see Magos Kaive's seminal Treatise on the Ring Worlds of the Neiven Zone for further information).

The Sileraioi Dominion's high point saw it extend in a roughly L-shaped region of space that – owing to its lack of M-class stars and isolation – was of relatively little interest to many other star-faring species, humanity included. This undoubtedly contributed to its hidden expansion over the course of millennia.

Information on the pre-historical branch of humanity that the Janii claim contact with is infuriatingly vague; but it appears that the humans and Janii reached a non-aggression pact after some limited wars and border skirmishing. Janii envoys have even claimed that the two species worked together in a number of campaigns to combat ork and krell encroachment, but this is today regarded as black propaganda by the Imperium. In any case, the human empire died out during Old Night, leaving only tantalisingly vague hints as to its fate.

+ Old Night +

What little has been gleaned of the species' own pre-Imperial history, suggests that the Janii Dominion was reduced to their ancestral holdings in the veiled region of the Galactic East (an area known to Imperial Cartographers as the Shrouded Marche) during the Age of Strife – though whether this was a voluntary retreat or the result of emergent threats similar to those facing humanity at the time is unknown. A small but influential number of scholars have tentatively advanced the theory that the reduction in the Janii's holdings owed to cultural shock at seeing their allies brought to their knees. Best translation of the Janii's convoluted records suggests the species called this period 'A Retreat into the Mists'.

Best estimates of the Dominion’s holdings are estimated to shrunk to fewer than fifty star systems at this point, remaining this way until the Great Crusade was underway.

+ The Great Crusade +

The species became known to the Imperium in the closing years of the Great Crusade – or 'The Age of Reclamation' to the Janii – although no large-scale xenocidal campaigns, or even contact, are on record. It is possible that this is because the species met with one of the Traitor Legions – and thus the records have been redacted – but it is more likely that the cobweb-thin nature of intergalactic empire meant that the Expeditionary Fleets, treating the dim brown stars that the Janii favoured as low-priority, found only ancient cultural 'footprints' and dismissed the then-thriving species as another example of an extinct civilisation. 

Evidence subsequently gathered indicates the Janii Dominion expanded in the wake of the Expeditionary Fleets, seemingly taking advantage of Imperial momentum during the Great Crusade and claiming more of their favoured systems, while fortifying their core worlds. This process was presumably only facilitated by the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, as distant frontiers like the Halo zones became all but abandoned as large Imperial forces redeployed, and piracy and xenos attacks increased almost inevitably.

Records of this era are patchy, but a number of xenoarchaeologists now agree that a species fitting the description of the Sileraioi intervened to fight alongside bemused human forces in at least two separate occasions during this period. It is possible that the species supplied assistance in other instances; but less successfully in those campaigns.

+ The Nova Terra Interregnum +

'Why do allies of old raise gun and blade against us Janii? Do you not remember when we strode the stars together? We come palm outstretched and are greeted with the fist...'
– final recorded transmission of Janii envoy ship The Mouths of Reason. Suppressed by the Inquisition.
Little appears of the Janii explicitly in Imperial records for the following millennia, though a number of isolated mercenary forces and Rogue Trader's reports hint at the species' continuing presence in the region. 

The outbreak of the Nova Terra Interregnum saw the border beween Segmenta Pacificus and Tempestus become highly militarised and contested, and this would ultimately come to spell doom for the hitherto overlooked Janii Dominion.

Records of the time are understandably garbled and – to be charitable – lacking in fair balance. What is known for certain is that the Sileraioi attacked and destroyed a border world known as Xanadu. The most complete account is given by the Lexicographer Hilde, an adjutant to the Ur-Council of Nova Terra, who confidently recorded:
Takin[g advantage of wh]at they mistakenly presumed was a period of relative stability for the Imperium, the Janii despatched an envoy ship to the Terran-controlled system of Xanadu. Upon translating from the warp, records indicate that the envoy ship was fired upon and destroyed by system defence pickets under orders from the notoriously xenophobic Abbot of the Burning Mount.
[APPENDNOTE: Hilde's writing is sometimes taken as evidence that the Janii were well aware of Imperial turmoil during the Nova Terra Interregnum; but most other sources suggest the Janii were unaware of the Imperium as a political entity. Surviving Janii transmissions were always addressed to unknown governments or organisations, never mentioning the conflicting opinions and claims of Terra or Constantium. Perhaps this was sheer naïvite on the xenos' part; or perhaps evidence of slyly diplomatic circumspection.]
This ‘misunderstanding’ resulted in the Xanadu Conflagration; wherein Janii Combat Clades and supporting Silearioi ele[ments(?) translated in-system several(?)] months later, laying siege to the Monastery of the Burning Mount on Xanadu. Despite brave effort by the attendant Frateris Templar and its picket defence ships, the world was put to the torch by the incensed Janii, and the Monastery itself levelled by repeated antimatter bombardment. The loss of such a prominent Temple world, including several hundred precious relics, earned the Janii the ire of the Ecclesiarchy, who petitioned several Space Marine chapters to hunt down and engage the Janii defi[...]
A section of Hilde's record has been lost to the ages here, but it picks up later. Her bias against the Old Terrans is notably absent from any references to the Astartes:
[T]he [Janii fleet which] had stayed to examine the ruins of Xanadu, was caught off guard by the rapid arrival of the vanguard of the Astartes force, primarily consisting of elements of the Silver Gua[rds a]nd Void Revenants, was devastated and forced to make a fighting retreat back towards Dominion territory.

Despite this, several
Lochos offered their services to the forces of Nova Terra throughout the Interregnum. Always using the same broken and garbled proto-gothic phrase , 'In defence of the long [indecipherable] summer-men'. How many Admirals and Forces took them up on this offer is a mystery lost to the ages. 
Reports of Janii disc-cruisers, and a single super capital ship (tentatively designated Timingila) are recorded as aiding the Nova Terran forces at the Battle of Mieville, lend credence to the theories that the pragmatic Nova Terra did make use of Janii forces. 

This was taken as evidence by recordists and iterators on both sides of the divided Imperium; with demagogues, priests and munitorum agents on both sides variously claiming the others as tainted, xenos-loving monsters; or claiming that the friendly use of xenos mercenaries proved the righteousness of their side, as even xenos stood against the rival Imperial faction. 

What is clear from this is that both the High Lords' and Ur-Council's advisors were engaged in a vicious propaganda war; simultaneously willing to employ Janii/Sileraioi mercenaries, while condemning their employ by the other faction. What the Janii made of this is unknown; but the previously safe position of their Dominion was fatally undermined by the deployment of Astartes in response to the Xanadu Conflagration.

+ The Janii during the Alien Wars +

Belligerent identified as Janii species, Varden Drifts
Eventually the Janii found themselves caught between the hammer and anvil, their formerly isolated dominion becoming vital strategic territory to the Secessionists and Greater Imperials.

The Sileraioi's fleets found themselves fighting alongside ships of both sides, and suffering horrendous losses as ruthless human admirals pushed the xenos into positions of greatest danger.

The Janii found themselves once more in a hostile galaxy. Within a short number of years, the Janii broke off contact with humanity, and began a defensive war of their own.

Commentators on Hilde's later recordings generally take the vulgar view that the Janii's initial vacillating and unsure response to war owing to some inherent cultural unwillingness to attack unprovoked; or to confusion at strategic levels brought on by a crucial misunderstanding of the scale of events or interactions between the rival Imperial factions.

Similarly, Hilde gloatingly states that the Janii were 'Shocked by their old allies’ betrayal, and rampant [xenophobia]' after the Varden Drift campaign; but experience has taught us to beware the attribution of such human emotions when applying them to an alien species. In such cases, the truth will never be known for certain, as alien motivations and drives are just that: alien.

Lo the summer men have turned to winter// bitter and cold.
No more do we dance//under the light of suns//revelling and joyful.
Instead the days and years// are soured//by the acrid taste of war.
-Final Janii transmission directed towards Imperial space. Delivered in High Gothic and intercepted by Void Revenant vessel Ire of Marduk, Late M35. 
Unfortunately for the Janii, their nature made them high-profile targets for Astartes fighting in the region, and they became the victims of a brutal xenocidal campaign headed by the Astartes of the Silver Guards, and supported by elements of four other Chapters.

Pict-capture of Void Revenant command staff confonting a Sileraioi Kine during one of the numerous breaching assaults of the Varden Drift campaign.
Despite a number of victories over the Astartes over the early period of the Alien Wars, Janii forces have consolidated back to their core-world regions in the Shrouded Marches. The Sileraioi, however, remain active throughout the region and have been recorded as taking action to support both Janii Dominion strikes and – perhaps surprisingly – Nova Terran forces.

Pursuing Astartes forces were unable to reach the core worlds, due to unusually electromagnetically unstable Nebula shrouding the region, which made navigation for the prowling Astartes vessels impossible. These storms left Janii vessels un-affected, and has been theorised as an artificial defence mechanism by some. Standing orders are for vigilance; and the situation of currently suits both Nova Terran and Terran interests, as the remnants of the Dominion provide an all-but-impassable anchorpoint of defence, making movement through the region of rival Imperial forces unlikely.

Current efforts to pierce the Shrouded Marches remain unsuccessful; and scout forces are routinely interdicted and driven off by Janii War Fleets. Contact occurs infrequently on Imperial Border Worlds, typically involving Mercenary Sileraioi, but occasionally with main Janii Battle Clades looking to reclaim orbitals or artifacts. Janii Battle Clades are typically outright hostile to human elements, and are more than capable of overwhelming Imperial border worlds. However typical Janii protocol seems to be the avoidance of all Imperial fleet traffic, particularly Astartes Vessels.


+ Post Script +

In closing, it is my considered opinion that the Janii are an excellent example of how even a technologically advanced and successful species can find itself brought down by tolerance and naïvete in a few short years. 

Truly it is said: the rewards of tolerance are treachery and betrayal.

I remain, at your service; Inquisitrix Barbari Kills.

+ conceptinload: Style, balance and what makes an icon? +

+ Stylistic balance +

+ This sub-project of the Alien Wars invitational is a little unusual, as I'm aiming to create affectionate homages to the Rogue Trader era; just as my Blood Angels [+nossphericinloadlink embedded+] are based on the models from White Dwarf 139. +

+ In order to achieve this, I'm having to make quite a few decisions on which parts to emulate, which to duplicate, and which to drop. This is, necessarily, a personal decision. Were you to do a similar thing, I expect you'd find different elements more or less important; because different things appeal to you. +

+ Theoretical +

+ This brings me to a few concepts to identify: style, balance and 'iconicity' (for want of a better term):

  • [Style] We looked at this in an earlier inload here [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], but in short it's your natural, instinctual way of working, as a result of your conscious and unconscious preferences.
  • [Balance] This concept comes into play when you've got a definite aim in mind. The result will lie on a spectrum between an identical copy and something so different as to give no obvious points of comparison. 
  • [Iconicity] The quality that makes a model (or other object) recognisable as itself: the 'basic characteristics', rather than the specific details. This is the quality you're hoping your version will share, even while being its own thing. A good homage will capture distinctive elements of the original's design, style and appeal. 
+ Thus, any attempt to emulate an existing model will give a result that – ideally, at least – is recognisable as your stylistic take on an existing model. This might seem a bit high-brow for orks (Oi! Yer zogger), so we can simplify things by putting the jargon aside and asking ourselves 'Does my model remind me of the original?'; and secondly 'Does my model remind me enough of the original?' +

+ Practical +

Thrugg, not too happy about posing for us.
+ This all becomes a bit clearer when you see it in context. We've looked at Thrugg [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] before, and he's a good example. No-one is going to put the original next to my version and think they're literally the same; but there's enough iconicity in my version to remind you of the original. Once you're in that mindset, your eye will start seeing other similarities – and differences – that hopefully make the model enjoyable to look at. +

+ In terms of style, I think he reads as mine – if you're familiar with my painting and modelling style, you'll spot the dreadful errors palette choices and similar. +

+ The balance, then, comes in the gaps and similarities between the Kev Adams original and the choices I've made for my Thrugg. That simultaneous sense of familiarity and novelty is at the heart of this project, and why I hope that it's activating a few readers' nostalgia glands. +

+ It's worth noting that my choices are necessarily coloured by the raw materials I've chosen to use. Not having the sculpting chops of fellow PCRC member Lord Blood the Hungry, for example, I'm using Brian Nelson's ork models as the basis of the conversion. These models themselves are a great example of how one artist (Brian) has made the models simultaneously distinctly his own, and retained enough iconicity that they are familiar. +


+ Balance in a group +

+ I've inloaded before about the considerations and differences there are between individual models and groups of models, and this project is a good example. The group below contains two models that are directly based on figures from the RTB02 Space Ork Raiders boxed set [central squad leader and the ork on the far right with a neckerchief]. The others are looser interpretations of the same range of models. +

+ In isolation, the remaining orks would not necessarily have the right amount of iconicity. An enthusiast or collector familiar with the originals might get a few of the RT-era nods, but they're much more vague and less obvious: here the balance is swinging more towards the modern ork aesthetic. In the context of the more iconic conversions, however, and with a cohesive paint scheme, the familiarity those individuals engender spreads to the whole group. +

+ It's worth bearing this in mind when working on your own groups of models. More broadly, iconicity applies beyond the physical models – you expect a Space Marine in a written story to behave in a certain way, and if they're breaking the stereotype for a narrative reason, they'll retain some elements of this important iconic quality. This broader application of the iconic quality leads into the theme of the army. A theme of any sorts works best when you restrict yourself to certain choices. Once you add a tank into a Space Hulk-themed project, for example, you've seriously impaired the iconicity of the theme. +

+ That's not necessarily a bad thing – distinctiveness is part of what makes things original and creative. However, if you strip everything iconic from a model or a group of models (or a paintscheme, an armylist theme etc...), they won't have any familiarity for the audience, and you'll have to rely entirely on other elements of the piece to create interest. +

+ [APPENDNOTE: Perhaps a good example of this within the hobby is retconning, or redesiging things. A good retcon or update will nod to certain familiar elements, while tweaking others. A bad retcon will lose the iconic appeal. I guess we'll see where the new Sisters of Battle range announced today fall; but on a personal note, I'm quietly hopeful! [/APPENDNOTE SURCEASE]+


+ Orks inbound! +

+ We looked at Hruk in the last inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], so while he's now completed, I won't go into too much depth. Suffice to say that I've adjusted his arms to more natural positions, and he's got his weapons in place. All that remains is the paintjob. +

A slightly desaturated pict-capture for clarity; minimising the difference between the different materials
+ He's pictured in the pict-capture above alongside two new boyz, both of which require a little more greenstuffing, but are largely 'blocked-in'. I tend to treat building and conversion work just like my painting: add it in quickly and loosely, then gradually neaten and refine it until you start fussing; at which point stop. +

+ The central ork is carrying a rifle made from a Gorkamorka-era Grot blasta, of all things; which goes to show how weapon sizes have got more exaggerated over time. I think the size looks pretty good; striking the right balance for me between the over-exaggerated modern style and the RT originals I'm emulating. Getting a genuinely realistically-sized gun would have looked very out of place – it fits neither the classic style, nor the updated version; and thus breaks the iconicity of the visuals. +

+ The leftmost boy is based on the Trukk gunner's body. He's quite dinky compared with other orks, which proved a blessing in disguise for this retro-led project. Part of the appeal of the older metal models was their uniqueness and individuality. +

+ For all the appeal of modular multi-part plastics, you inevitably sacrifice some individual character. The old boyz, a sample of which are pictured here, are variously gangly, brawny, scrawny, big, skinny... None of which can be replicated in modular form without giving up that modularity.  +

+ The orks I've ringed here are ones that the PCRC encouraged me to have a go at recreating, when I put it to them. They're proving an absolute [SCRAPSHUNTERRORABORT] to do very enjoyable challenge! To put the ideas about iconicity, balance and style into context, can you tell which of the three originals the WIP ork below is intended to be an homage to? +

+ inload: Hruk WIP +

+ inload: Hruk (for real this time) +

+ After an earlier boo-boo in building Hruk, I got down to brass tacks and started building my interpretation of this figure, from the RTB02 'Space Ork Raiders' set:

+ As with my update to Thrugg [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], it's really the pose more than anything that makes the model above distinctive; so my version tried to capture the posture of the original. +

+ What a pain it is to convert the ork nob models! I'm glad I went with a plastic torso/legs, as I had considered working with metal. I trimmed away quite a large portion of the leg/hip area, aiming to keeping the leg itself intact, and worrying less about the waist/hip area, as I knew I'd be sculpting an armoured tunic that would cover the region. +
+ After reattaching it, I built the greenstuff up over two sessions; wadding it around the damaged/empty hip area, then taking more care with sculpting the skirt of the tunic over the top. Once that was cured, I came back to add the areas of tunic on the torso and padded shoulder. +

+ Once that was all in place, I added the head and left arm (right of the picture). The other arm is part of the original torso; a plastic one drawn from one of the more recent boxed sets (Battle for Black Reach?); which was handily in a similar position to the original model. When converting models like this, I aim to find a base body that's as similar as possible. +

+ The head went in later to allow me to reach in around it for the tunic sculpting. Brian Nelson's ork facial sculpts are amongst my favourites (the metal ork nobs he sculpted for 3rd edition are probably my favourite orks of all time) so as with Thrugg [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] and the other squad leader [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], I used one of the metal heads from this set, adding a few tweaks to make it unique: in this case, there's a neck built up from greenstuff to alter the angle to match the Kev Adams' sculpt, and a lower lip added to make the head unique. The final touch was a series of small spikes on top; again to emulate the original. +

For this project, I'm aiming for each ork to have a unique face;
to match the classic character of the original models.
+ The model still needs weaponry, and I'm tempted to slightly tweak the angles of the arms a bit further, but he's coming along well, I think. +

+ Here's the original model, without the desaturation applied at the top. This makes the conversion work easier to see, and also reveals that I'm working on top of a painted model. Old models picked up from eBay or other second-hand sources are often at the heart of my conversions, as they're much cheaper, and – often being pre-built and painted – I feel less hesitation in getting stuck in and hacking them up. +

+ Keep an eye out for when Hruk gets kitted out with his shootas. Being a 'personality', he warrants something a bit special, so I've got vague plans for giving him a space marine boltgun. This fits with the scenario – the invasion of the Crimson Fists' home planet, Rynn's World – and also ties into the original Rogue Trader armament (as orks wielded bolters rather than 'shootas' back then). +

+ Of course, just sticking a plastic boltgun on is going to be a bit unimaginative, so I thought I'd run with a bit of Judge Dredd-style sci-fi. Like Dredd's lawgiver, space marine boltguns are sometimes noted to be keyed to the owner's genetic coding or armour, so that they can only be fired by the owner. Hruk will this have to apply some orky-know-wotz and get round this – so I'll have the unfortunate Crimson Fists' gauntlet nailed on and wired in to provide the correct protocols to get it to fire. Whether the hand remains inside will likely remain up to your imagination! +

+ inload: Instar paints review +

+ Instar paints review +

+ New paint ranges are few and far between, so when one pops up, I prick up my audioscourers. Instar Paints [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] are a start-up company who have the laudable aim of combining the best bits of existing paint ranges while removing the downsides. Their marketing blurb lists their selling points as a series of bullets:
  • Shades comparable (up to 99%) accurate to major brands
  • Squeezable bottles
  • Various sizes so you can order smaller sizes for colours you use less of and larger sizes for those that you use more of
  • Super small nozzle for accurate dispensing
  • Lower costs than competitors without comprimising [sic] quality
  • Pre-thinned - Upto 20% thinner than major brands
  • No harsh chemicals required to clean brushes and surfaces, just plain, warm water
+ I placed a small order to try 'em out, tempted by the mention of equivalents to some of my favourite colours from Games Workshop's defunct Foundation range. +


+ Theoretical +

+ First impressions of the site aren't great. The visuals, particularly the huge banner images, obscure quite a lot of the practical aspects of the site – finding the shop itself took a bit of digging – and there are quite a few typos (as you can see in the blurb above). On the other hand, this is a garage start-up rather than a huge multinational, and I'm sure a bit of refinement and polish will sort things out in short order. +

+ Making the shop front and centre, with thumbnails of the different paint colours, should be a priority, I think. Either way, don't let it put you off, as Instar have got some good, innovative and well-priced products. +

+ The order +

+ I placed a small order of four paints – IV02, Instar's equivalent to GW's Charadon Granite, a white, and two other colours. IV02 was the main reason behind the purchase; the remainder I intended to effectively use as testers – if they were good, I'd carry on using them; if disappointing, they'd find a use in terrain or as mixers. +

+ I also picked up white, as I'd intended to do a review. I find white a good exemplar of a range, as it's so widely used, and quickly shows drawbacks of a paint manufacturer, such as chalkiness, poor mixing etc.. I find that if a range has a good white, the others are often similarly high quality. +


+ Practical +

+ The parcel arrived very quickly indeed – the day after the order was placed, in fact, which I was impressed with, particularly for a small company. +

+ As you can see, the box size was perhaps a little excessive, given the lack of padding, but a proper box (rather than a padded envelope) and a sealed plastic bag to help prevent spillage from damage gets a thumbs-up from me. +

+ The important thing is that everything arrived undamaged. In any case, the box will also probably end up being useful for storing models, so I'm certainly not going to complain too bitterly about the excess space! +

+ The box also contained two attractively-designed and double-sided cards, which contain a 40k-style stat summary on one side, and a space for paint reference on the back. A fun little freebie, and one that I could see being useful, both for gaming and modelling. The stat side is obviously 40k-centric, but the paint mix side is universally useful. +

+ While not a dealmaker or breaker, getting a nice little surprise like this definitely added a little gilding to the purchase. I don't know if it's something Instar are planning to keep doing, but the cards might turn out to be something people might want more of – in which case, perhaps they could look into developing some cards for the more common gaming systems? +

+ Stop banging on about boxes and tell me about the paint +

+ Onto the meat of the review: the paint itself. The order was all correct; Instar's Dark Purple, Deep Brown, Arctic White and IV-02, all in matt finish. One of Instar's innovations is allowing you to select either a matt or gloss finish for the carrier. I don't personally have much use for this, but I can imagine that the gloss effect would be great for models like tyranids and other icky aliens. I won't comment further on this aspect, as I didn't get any paints with of the gloss carrier; opting for matt for all four. If anyone does give the gloss version a try, I'd be interested to hear your findings. +

+ The paints come in dropper bottles, like the Vallejo range. As a direct comparison there, Instar's bottles feel a bit less premium – not bad in quality, but softer, less sturdy, and with rattly safety tops that I found a bit annoying at first. The plastic is also quite milky and unclear which, in concert with the large labels, makes quick identification of a colour tricky. However, the finer nozzle and thinner consistency (see below) made it much easier to control getting the paint onto the palette, and that completely outweighs any reservations about wobbly blue tops. +

+ I'm very conscientious about replacing lids on my paint immediately, and nevertheless a couple of my Vallejo bottles have clogged from time to time – which has meant occasional 'spurts' and wasted paint. So far at least, Instar's haven't done the same (in fairness to Vallejo, their bottles only clogged towards the end of their lives), and that's another point in their favour. +

All the paints are available in various sizes, with the relative price dropping for larger amounts. I bought 10ml (small) and 20ml (medium). The translucent plastic used for the pots and the large labels make identifying colours quickly a bit of a chore on the 10ml-sized pots; though the 20ml one is fine.

+ Instar, rather sensibly, recognises that a lot of purchasers will have come from using GW's current Citadel Colour paints, and provide a conversion chart for their colours. (As a minor suggestion, I'd find it useful to have the equivalent GW listed on the individual paint page, rather than in a separate list, but that's splitting hairs a bit. Providing equivalents in other ranges would also be a valuable addition.) Instar's Dark Purple is equivalent to GW's Naggaroth Night; their Deep Brown is equivalent to GW's Dryad Bark. Arctic White is, unsurprisingly, equivalent to White Scar; and IV-02, as mentioned, is equivalent to Charadon Granite. +

+ Having more sensible names is definitely a point in Instar's favour. GW's whimsical/trademarkable names have got very self-referential and undescriptive even if you're familiar with their model range (XV-88, anyone? Incubi Darkness?), and it's frustrating to pick up the wrong colour because you've forgotten whether a Dryad or a Rhinox is darker brown. +

+ Using the paints +

+ Having tried the paints out a bit, I'm impressed. Coverage is decent, hues are strong, and they mix readily both with each other and with the other acrylic ranges I use; including Vallejo Game Colour, Coat d' Arms, Citadel Colour and Winsor & Newton's Artists' Acrylics. Instar's paints also work with acrylic mediums such as Daler Rowney's Flow Enhancer, and inks including Daler Rowney's dropper bottles and Winsor & Newton's calligraphy inks. +

+ All of the Instar paints have a lovely fluid consistency; slightly thinner than Citadel Colour or Vallejo Game Colour – it's closer to semi-skimmed milk than the whole milk consistency of GW – and this is the main difference I found in terms of working from other ranges. If, like me, you use a dry palette, you'll find the reduced prep time useful for working quickly and for preparing consistent glazes, but if you're used to using a wet palette, you may need to adjust a little to avoid overthinning. +

+ The fluid consistency makes them great for mixing – particularly useful for the white – and for fine details like eyes, where unthinned GW or Vallejo colours may dry too readily, and the small amounts you need make thinning to a particular consistency more difficult. The downside of the consistency is that it slows you down when you want textural effects, and you'll waste more when using techniques like drybrushing. It does also reduce the coverage slightly, though that does mean you can't lazily rely on one thick coat(!) +

The grey used on the torso armour is one coat of IV-02, applied from the bottle with no dilution over a grey undercoat (Halford's primer). The shoulder pad is painted with Charadon Granite.
+ My only real gripe about the colours being pre-thinned is the use of this approach for the Vintage range, as these are supposedly equivalents for GW's Foundation paints. Part of the reason I liked the Foundation paints so much was their fantastic one-coat coverage and heavy clay base, which gave them a beautiful muted quality, and a slight 'grip', for want of a better word – it stayed where it was put. Basing's a good example of where this was useful – the Foundation range's consistency meant it stayed proud of details and gave a flat, consistent effect where the Vintage range flows slightly into recesses. The pre-thinned consistency means I can't use IV-02 in quite the same way as I could Charadon Granite. +

+ With that said, I think the consistency is good on balance; and certainly a useful option that makes Instar's range stand out from other paint ranges. It may take a bit of getting used to, but that's the case for nearly all new materials. I suspect its particular qualities will prove to give new opportunities that I haven't yet found. +

Arctic White was used here for the freehand on the torso armour, and mixed with GW colours for the lenses/cloth.

+ Colour matching +

+ As advertised, they match the GW equivalents in hue closely. As the image below shows, they're not quite identical, but near-as-damnit. It's certainly the closest hue match that I've found off the shelf for one of my favourite colours, so thumbs-up to Instar for that. Consistency aside, the Vintage range has given me back some of my favourite colours, and I can only hope that they continue to expand the range so I can get hold of a new supply of Mordian Blue and Dheneb Stone. +

IV-02 on the left; Citadel Colour Charadon Granite on the right.


+ Conclusion +

+ Overall, I'm quietly impressed. This is a range of paints that exceeded my expectations, and made painting very enjoyable. The owners are either hobbyists themselves or very good at listening, as the qualities of their paints makes them a pleasure to use for a journeyman painter like myself. +

+ There are a few niggles: the website is doing them no favours, and I'd suggest Instar look at the packaging of the paints themselves (reducing the label size to make identification at a glance easier would be a quick and cheap way to improve), but these are minor issues common for start-ups. +

+ As a standalone paint range, Instar paints are excellent in quality, are priced competitively, and have some interesting unique features. As an addition to your existing paints, they'll slot right in; their slightly different qualities being complementary to GW or Vallejo rather than requiring much adaptation. +

+ The company clearly has some great ideas – varied sizes and finishes, replacements for obsolete colours – and I'd like to see them rewarded for innovating in a crowded market. I wish them the very best for the future. +

+ inload: More Orks and Blood Angels +

+ Keeping motivation +

+ Have you ever reached a project plateau? A burst of work has finished a model (or a group, or a stage) and you realise that you've got to do the whole lot again to get them finished; or move on to the next lot and do it all again... It's odd how demotivating this can be – after all, you've just achieved something! +

+ I've had this happen to me a few times with various projects, and I find three approaches help to get me back on track:

1_ Push on with your routine. This is the simplest, and requires the most willpower. In my experience, forcing yourself to sit down for fifteen minutes will quickly reveal whether you're genuinely uninterested – in which case, stop for the day and come back refreshed – or it'll turn into a proper painting/building session. Having a routine, and keeping your work area ready for instant work (by keeping it relatively clean and tidy) will help you to make the most of small periods of time, too.

2_ A change is as good as a rest. Swap out to another project or discipline. If you're bored with painting, swap to building. If you've got another project, change to that for the evening. If you're a bit burnt-out with hyper-detailing, splash some basecoat on a group... Anything that gives you a bit of novelty will help.

3_ Get out; get away. If you feel really demotivated, try a little light exercise. I find a relaxing walk or jog will blow out the cobwebs and get me feeling happier; and there's nothing better for your hobby than coming to your workspace enthused and excited. 

+ Remember, your hobby's not your job; and if it becomes stressful rather than involving, it's not serving its purpose. That's not to say your painting and modelling shouldn't challenge you (that's what makes it interesting, after all), but remember that you're the boss, and there are no deadlines. +


+ Anyway, here's one of those plateaux I mentioned at the start – a mob at a 'nearly complete' stage. I felt a bit burnt out, having completed my favourite bit – the skintones – and unwilling to push on to the warpaint/tattoos that could easily spoil them. +

+ I decided to put them on the bench for a bit and built another ork (right of the picture), which got me fired up for more. I'm awaiting a delivery of bits to carry on with the orks, but since I had both time and motivation, I decided to switch tracks and build some marines. +

+ Mark VI Devastator marines, in fact; built from the plasma-wielding Hellblaster set. I haven't seen too many of the multipart Hellblaster kit used, but they provide some valuable alternative poses to the Intercessors that'll help to keep things varied. As with the rest of the army, these are based on the squad from WD139:

+ I've started with the second combat squad; another little trick I have to motivate myself – having a completed 'second half' helps to nudge me towards building the first half for neatness' sake! +

+ Probably of most interest is the heavy bolter-armed marine. The weapon itself came from Stuntwedge's bits box (ta!), which is another benefit of hobbying mates! +

+ Motivation for The Alien Wars +

+ Of course, there's a fourth option – joining in a group project. That way, you'll be inspired and pushed on by your friends. That's the way we used to do things with the PCRC's annual campaigns, and while they've taken a back seat in recent years as life makes it harder to meet up, they remain a very useful tool in keeping me motivated. +

+ The Alien Wars is proving a great motivation to me; I'm able to share my modelling, painting and writing, and the world gets fleshed out through the fantastic efforts of hobbyists like DeathCat147 [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+], Lex Bigal of Servitor Crusade [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+], and Robin of Paint Water Diaries [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+]. You can see some more through the Alien Wars tab at the top of the blog here; and I'm hoping to share some guest inloads on the Alien Wars with you soon. +

+ Of course, there are lots of other groups you can get involved with – Azazel's Bitz Box [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] is running a monthly motivational that luminaries like Krautscientist of Eternal Hunt [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] are involved with, as just one example. Part of the joy of getting involved with a group project on the noosphere is that you get exposed to lots of new people and ideas, and make contacts across the globe. Long-time blogs like Ann's Immaterium [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] and the gang at Starship Vorenus [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] are new to me, but full of inspiration. +