+ inload: Kill Team Clawthorn completed – part III +

+ Brother Baraqu +

The oldest member of Clawthorn by nearly two decades, Baraqu was ruthless and deadly. His hard-won experience and cold demeanour made him a deadly foe. Known to have survived to the bitter end of the Badab War, he was not counted amongst the dead at the Palace of Thorns. His body may have been lost or utterly destroyed, but it is possible that he lives on in exile with the Tyrant himself.

+ In addition to the tiger's head heraldry, the Tyrant's Star of Badab is used prominently. As faithful followers of Huron, most of the squad wear this in preference to the head. I thought – foolishly – it would be easier than the cat's head, but it proved quite a challenge! +

+ In addition to the Maximus helm, note the preponderance of gold on heat vents and pauldron trim – I thought this was a good way to mark him out as a veteran. +

+ He bears the wheeling sun symbol of the Maelstrom Warders on his knee – perhaps a memory of happier times? +

+ Another angle. Some figures work best from a particular view – the sergeant above is a good example – but the most successful have multiple 'good sides'. +

+ Brother Ahmos Soter +

Surly, uncommunicative and curmudgeonly, Soter was equally feared and loathed by the humans under his command during his time in the Tyrant's Legion. A vindictive streak sealed his reputation for cruelty – but it also made him amongst the most effective heavy weapon operatives in the Chapter, doggedly pursuing his foes to the limits of endurance. Prior to his death at the hands of what proved to be an equally stubborn and hard-to-kill Son of Medusa, he had made seven confirmed Astartes kills.

+ I never need much of an excuse to show Mark V helms. +

+ As seen in an earlier inload, I think he's a good example of trying to be clear-sighted enough to adjust 'completed' figures. By assessing and changing a single unsuccessful figure, I ended up with two I really like. +

+ Nothing hugely exciting here, but it does shows the subtle weathering around the feet rather nicely. Spending a few minutes ensuring your figures are rooted in their world helps to create a sense of realism – even in space knights. +

+ ...and a shot showing the braced pose. +


+ To finish off, here's some shots of the squads together. +

+ Would love to hear your thoughts – particularly for future expansion. What more does an Astral Claws Kill Team need? +

+ inload: Kill Team Clawthorn completed – part II +

+ Brother-sergeant Todros Aldin +

Aldin had been promoted mere months prior to the start of hostilities, and was freshly returned from a stint in the Tyrant's Legion when he was given squad command. Distant, arrogant and aloof, Aldin drew together his squad based purely on observed ability. His lack of interest in his warrior's personalities led to a team that was as fractious and argumentative as it was capable. He was isolated and overwhelmed in combat by a Kill Team of Novamarines during the Xet Offensive.

+ Squad 6 is Kill Team Clawthorn's designation. The Astral Claws had quite an unusual organisation, with a 'normal' Chapter, a fleet-based shadow Chapter, and the Astartes of the Tyrant's Legion; a sort of hybrid PDF in which Lufgt Huron hid more Astartes assets. Rather than a dedicated permanent group, I decided Clawthorn would be an operational command; drawn mostly from Aldin's squad (number 6), but with the potential to include other specialists he requisitions. +

+ The huge axe draws the eye, but the figure has plenty of other bits going on. I was sorely tempted to use a more unusual helm, but wanted to leave some design space for a potential Commander expansion in the future. +

Vici – 'I conquered', his bolter proclaims. Clearly he's confident! +

+ Brother Nmamde Kain +

Excelling in every aspect of fieldcraft and warfare, Kain seemed destined for greatness. Welcoming the Tyrant of Badab's ambition and vision, he threw himself whole-heartedly behind his master with the fervency of the fanatic. Deadly, but not cruel; and fierce, but not dishonourable, Kain was an exemplar of the Astral Claws – and an bitter example of the double loss the Imperium faced when they drove the Secessionists to rebel.

+ I'm pleased with the green lenses. I added a very subtle amount of reflected light to the reflective silver around them, just to help them pop. +

The studded pauldron's the best bit here, I think. I took a leaf from my Iron Warriors in incorporating a broad stripe of colour – blue in this case – down the centre. This sets off the metal bonding studs nicely against the metallic background. +

+ Well-equipped: in addition to a rope and standard frag grenades, he carries some more exotic grenades (from Victoria Miniatures). +

+ inload: Kill Team Clawthorn completed – part I +

+ By Their Fear Shall You Know Us +

+ Giant pic-laden inload today, as I polished off the Astral Claws squad I've been working on. Two in detail today; and the others on Saturday and Monday – keep your occulobes peeled and auspex pinging, troops. +

+ Brother Lyron Acast +

Both pragmatic and cautious, Acest maintained a healthy scepticism of the Tyrant's creation of the Legion; though not to the extent to speak up against it. Loyal to his beloved Chapter above all, Acast maintained the crest of the Astral Claws rather than the Tyrant's own sigil. This was a common indulgence, well-accepted within the Chapter; though such half-heartedness proved no defence in the face of Imperial retribution. His analytical and sceptical mindset proved useful in keeping him and his comrades alive – but not forever. Acast's charred remains were discovered in the wake of the Star Phantoms' first assault on Gonda.

+ Fun with freehand. Breaking down the Astral Claws' original big cat icon was fun. I used off-black and off-white, to avoid it looking too stark. +

+ I introduced a thin wash of the same rusty-red brown used for the base to the lower legs and feet, rubbing it away before it settled. This left it in the recesses, and helps tie the figure to the base. +

+ He may be sceptical, but he's pragmatic, too. He wears the Tyrant's symbol on his right pauldron – y'know, just in case. +

+ Pleased with the freehand here. A very 'standard' space marine, but I rather like the effect you get by back-converting Primaris into classic Mark VII. +

+ Brother Yoruban +

Sharp-eyed and incisive, Yoruban was a popular member of the squad, particularly noted for his wit – and his aim. Fully trained as the squad's support member, his skills were put to use as sharpshooter when Soter – who Yoruban joked needed the practise more – was assigned to the squad.

+ Very enjoyable to get back to some variety in skintones. Most of the recent skin I've been doing has been fairly similar – ruddy dwarfs; so it was fun to experiment with some warm dark skin tones. I worked from a midtone base of even amounts of red, yellow, blue, white and some same red-brown I used for the basing, then worked down into the shades (adding more brown and blue) and up into the highlights (adding more yellow and white). As with almost all the skin I paint, there's a hint more red in the cheeks, chin, nose and lower lip, as these are areas where the blood is closer to the surface. + 

+ I'm fond of the conversion work here, and the paintjob seems to complement it well. The pauldron is relatively simple, bearing the squad number and a campaign honorific. Between the bare head, Mark VI conversion and carried helm, he's already interesting enough to avoid needing help with freehand. +

+ Some gouges were already taken out of the pauldron – I was tempted to develop the weathering a little further, but decided to keep the squad relatively spare for this project. The rest of the PCRC tend to paint very cleanly and neatly, and I want the Astral Claws to fit in. +

+ As well as carrying his helm – really love this bit, taken from the lieutenant model that makes up the basis of Sergeant Aldin – this marine bears a different weapon to the rest of the squad. I think it's an auto-bolter; but that might be what the others are carrying. Perhaps this is a stalker bolter? +


+ inload: Astral Claws progress +

 + inload: Badab painting in progress +

+ Painting continues apace on the Astral Claws. Nothing hugely earth-shattering in the inload today, but a few light notes on some models that are proving a nice change of pace. +The figures below are getting to the fun stage – all the boring work has been done, now it's a case of improvement and refinement. + 

+ First off; let's address the grox in the room. Mouldlines. [+SCRAPSHUNTERRORABORT+] mouldlines. You check and you trim and you file and you... nevertheless see the [+SCRAPSHUNT+] things appear. They seems particularly egregious on the Primaris legs because they run the length of the front of the legs – this is owing to the orientation of the legs in the mould. The set of Hellblaster legs I received were particularly badly affected, and also seem a bit distorted on the rear. +

+ Other than those, I'm pleased with the look of the conversion. Half-tempted to go back and put the cable 'junction box' in the centre of the torso. The cradled helmet pleased me, as it was such a simple change – trim away the Primaris grille and replace with a Mark VII. Turns out the old and new maring helmets aren't as divergent as they first appear. +

+ You can see the odd distortion/dip in the plastic around the calf area here. I'm guessing this is a common fault in the casting, perhaps caused by the thickness of the plastic here, or the sheer amount of casts that must have been pushed through for these cornerstones of the new Primaris army. Struck me as unusual, as GW's plastic manufacturing is normally free of such minor defects. Maybe I've just been spoiled by the flawless engineering of the Adeptus Titanicus Warlord Titan. +

+ With metallic schemes, it's important to build in contrast, or it just looks boring. Worse, it loses verisimilitude. A quick trick is to use different tones for different types of metal. On this Kill Team, I've used a relatively bright metal for the armour plates – i.e. the bits that make up the Chapter's uniform – and a duller gunmetal for the boltgun and backpack. A quick, subtle and simple way to add interest.

+ In the same vein, I've added a blue stripe to break up the studded shoulder pad. The silver then stands out against the blue. Note also the soft armour joints and rope here are painted in a dark green. Since metals are monotone, they can be very boring – introducing some hints of chroma elsewhere help lift the scheme. + 

+ The marine with the Maximus helm shows another way of introducing colour to a metallic scheme; use glazes and touches of coloured wash – I've added greens, blues, purples and sepias across these marines. A lot of this will get knocked back when I build the midtones and highlights back up at the next stage of painting. +

+ The colour blue has been used not just on the pauldrons, but also on pouches and similar non-armour areas, like tabards, knifesheaths etc. +

+ The Astral Claws scheme is a bit unusual in being quite varied – the colour plates in Imperial Armour IX show a variety of colours being used, particularly on the pauldrons, which vary between blue and silver; and with silver or gold trim. +

+ It's all left up to your own interpretation. Mazer Rackham, on the Bolter & Chainsword forum, offered these following ideas, which I rather like:
It's not canon, but I always saw the silver and blue pauldrons of my own Astral Claws company thusly:
  • Silver Pauldrons, the old guard, ones who follow Huron, but did not approve of him and so are herded into the back end of the requisition line.  They have the most banged-up plate, the older weapons, the hand-me-downs and all the pants jobs.  They can be found with the black and yellow lioness, the old iconography.
  • Silver pauldrons, gold rims, Veteran Sergeant of the old guard.
  • One blue Pauldron, silver rims, these are the converts to Huron's cause, they will have the astral claws now familiar star and claw.
  • Two blue Pauldrons, silver rims, veterans and committed to the new kool-aid.  Better gear, better missions.
  • Blue pauldrons, gold rims, Veteran Sgt of the Kool-aid variety, the best gear, best missions.

+ That all seems quite fitting to me, so while I haven't gone into quite as much detail yet, I like the sense of progression and transition. The marine above, then, with his varied pads, is made to look off-balance and uncertain – which suggests some character, perhaps based on a hesitancy in following Huron's cause. It's a nice conceit. +

+ The difference between the metals on the backpack is quite clear here: silver top, gunmetal remainder. Like the pauldrons, the exhausts (the bobbly things on the sides of the backpack) vary in the artwork between silver and gold. Might tweak one or two to reflect this. +

+ Dakka dakka dakka! Heavy bolters aren't Primaris equipment, but rules should always come second to the models you want to build. I've mentioned how I like the echo between the studs on the helm and pauldrons before; I've emphasised this by breaking the trim on the pauldrons into separate areas, which help to frame the head. +

+ I often use purple wash over gold. It's always effective at creating a sense of opulence, and it's great for depth. +

+ Finally, here's the first casualty for the group. I love the idea of casualty markers – they vastly improve the aesthetic of a game, to my mind – and the small size of a Kill Team means that it's realistic to make one for each model. I've left the heads off this figure as I'm intending to try a press-cast. Not only will this make reproduction easier, but it'll let me customise the resulting figures with heads that match the injured marine. +

+ inload: Painting Astral Claws +

+ inload: Painting Astral Claws +

+ Painting small groups of figures – whether for skirmish games like Shadespire or Kill Team, or for board games like Blackstone Fortress – is a different challenge to painting armies for bigger games. With fewer figures, it's a great change to experiment. Whether you use complex mixes or experiment with new (or old and tested) techniques, you can bring something new to your painting desk. As the old adage has it, a change is as good as a rest. +

+ The spirit of experimentation is particularly important for figures like this. The Astral Claw scheme is harmonious [+noosphericinloadlink {PENDING}+]: silver with blue and gold accents. I've used silver a lot on the Iron Warriors of Officio Monstrosa [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], and both blue and gold in the Ultramarines of the Praetors of Calth [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], so this should be a doddle, right? +

+ Well, the problem I find with following recipes or set procedures is that you get very predictable results. It's easy to get into a rut, and never move on anywhere. Besides, the silver of the Astral Claws' plate is not the battered aeons-old gunmetal of the Iron Warriors. Trying something new extends your repertoire. +

+ Work in progress Sergeant +
+ For the Iron Warriors, I used a lot of brown and sepia in the mix; while here I wanted to have less of a sense of age. I've used Prussian blue and Payne's grey ink to give the Astral Claw's steel an effect that is more neutral. Payne's grey has similar qualities to sepia, granulating and adding depth; but it is cool rather than warm. +

+ I also tried priming grey – though I think that's robbed the effect of some depth, so I'll be turning to black for future figures. +

+ Note that because Payne's grey is blue-tinged, it works nicely with both the metal and the blue shoulder pads. For my Ultramarines, I shaded with purple; a hue that enriches the blue. Here, the Payne's grey deadens it, again giving a neutral effect. +

+ Why do I want the figure to look neutral? As I've mentioned in earlier inloads, warm colours advance and appear inviting, while the opposite is true of cool figures. This can help to give an unconscious effect that the figure is 'good' or 'bad' – or at least the protagonist or antagonist – because the viewer has an instinctive reaction to this. The Badab War is an example of a 40k event where you can see noble aims on both sides, and complexity in the moral issues. I wanted to hint at this in the scheme by keeping things neutral. +

+ Of course, this has the potential side effect of making the figure a bit boring, so I'll need to incorporate some eye-catching 'hot spots' or warm areas into the scheme: a perfect excuse for the warm, opulent gold accents. Note also the eyes are a piercing acid green, intended to catch the eye. +

+ Clawthorn refinements +

+ Refining miniatures +

+ As with most decisions, sometimes your gut feeling or snap judgement is correct; and other times it's best to sleep on it. Coming back to the group yesterday, I made a few tweaks. +

+ Warning! Rivet-counting Space Marine nerdery ahead! +

+ While I liked the head this chap had before [VisREF: above right], the pose was very similar to another marine in the squad. Not a problem in an army, where you want things to look cohesive, as though following orders in synchronicity; but for a desperate kill team living on their wits, I wanted these to look a bit more individual. I swapped the head for a more standard Mark IV, altering the angle, too. The slit-eyed helm he had previously will likely appear on some future Iron Warrior. +

+ The overall pose for this marine just didn't feel right to me before [VisREF: above right]. With his arms down by his side, his legs needed to be more planted, his weight more centred. I built another body, and transplanted the arms and head. I ended up altering the suit with a lot of Mark VI elements, just for a bit of variety. This involved reshaping the lower legs – ankles and knees, and removing and replacing detail on the torso. He also has a RTB01 backpack. +

+ Note that he's not pure Mark VI – none of the marines are a pure mark. I like the slightly patchwork, peronalised feel of M41 marines. It highlights their ritualistic, knightly nature as well as the sense of constant warfare. It also provides me with some welcome creative relief from my more uniform projects, like the Blood Angels. +

+ With the changes made to the unhelmed marine above, I ended up with a spare body. A quick bit of conversion later and I had this bruiser, toting a drum-fed heavy bolter. The Mark V helm is a bit of a favourite of mine; combining the brutal grille of the Mark VII with some interesting greebles. I married this up with rimmed shoulder pads from the Mark III plastic kit, to echo the reinforcing studs on the helm. +

+ This chap remained unchanged, save for some addtional pouches and holsters and things. These help bulk out the waist and add visual interest – something that'll be important for the silver and blue scheme. Please excuse the {SCRAPSHUNTERRORABOVE] mouldlines! +

+ As above, this guy just seemed to work. A nice standard firing pose, a model like this in any squad helps to set the mood for more unusual models to 'sing out' against. +

+ ...and the sergeant; again unchanged. +

+ inload: Astral Claws kill team +

+ Kill Team Clawthorn +

'Though my guards may sleep and my ships may lay at anchor, our foes know full well that big guns never tire.'
+ — Lufgt Huron, the Tyrant of Badab +


+ The idea of a 'mirror match' – whether guard versus guard, ork infighting or Eldar civil war – never fails to capture my imagination and suggest stories, but Space Marine civil wars are particularly  tricky to justify. +

+ Fortunately, Rick Priestley wrote a great example of just such a campaign in White Dwarf 101: the Badab Uprising. With great characters, great Chapter ideas and a relatively mature, complex storyline – more than just 'baddies and goodies – it quickly became the de facto setting for gamers looking to fight marines against marines. It's been revisited and updated and revised and become quite a well-worn path for many hobbyists. Nevertheless, not one we've tackled for many years. +

+ So; the PCRC started up a little project to scratch a couple of collective itches; to try out Kill Team and to paint some small groups of Space Marines in unusual Chapters. +

+ I would have loved to have tackled a similar prospect in our own region, Antona Australis [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], using it to explore and carve out some long-neglected or hinted-at Chapters like the Stellar Steeds, Kings Martial, Sons of SpectraIshilites, Emperor's Hawks, Hammers of the EmperorScarlet Blades, Adamants, Chapter Castellan or Lions of Sol, but Badab offered the reassuring hand of 'officialdom/canonicity' which makes the setting more accessible, so we plumped for that. +

+ Clawthorn +

+ The main thrust of the project was to build cool space marine models, but as a nod to the period Badab is set in, we've largely decided to convert them back to 'Firstborn' – that is, the classic style of Marines – from the new Primaris figures. There is, of course, no requirement to do so – after all, everything you have been told is a lie – but doing such small groups makes converting every model a possibility for everyone. +

+ Last time we had a bash at the setting, we ended up with loads of loyalists and very few traitors (something I suspect happens a lot, with many gaming groups), so I plumped for Astral Claws. After all, what's the Badab War without the Badabaddies? [+inload audi-vox file: *rimshot*+] +

+ Below you can see the fruit of an evening's work chopping and kitbashing, using the same techniques and consideration that I outlined in an earlier inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] for my Alien Wars Blood Angels. +

+ At core, Badab is set in M41, and the Astral Claws are not meant to be that old (in relative Chapter terms); so I've mainly stuck with Mark VII. +

+ With that said, individuality looks key in Kill Team. Each model needs to be identified by both sides, and that's got to be taken into account. For that reason – and because I think Space Marines are most interesting when they have a certain personalisation and variety in their armour, I've not gone super-uniform. The chap above has a vintage helm, pauldron and shoulder pad. +

+ While I just did this for aesthetics, it occurs to me now that these would be a perfect excuse to give him the veteran skill from Kill Team – which just goes to show that sometimes you can plan your ideas then build, and sometimes the models you build will suggest their own ideas. +

+ Kill Team offers some space for fun 'hero' poses or one-off details – subtle things like the use of this African-featured head that would get lost in a broader army. With Space Marines being so uniform, little bits like this help suggest stories and characters. +

+ The sergeant's a good example of the PCRC's attitude to this campaign: after building him, we realised axes weren't allowed to Primaris sergeants, but 'rule of cool' overrode that. After a bit of discussion, we've ended up with some laissez-faire house rules on equipping figures that basically boil down to 'models first, rules second.' 

+ Converting figures for sneaky skirmish games like Kill Team lends itself to subtlety and slightly more cinematic poses than the all-out charges typical of mass battle games. +

+ A simple group shot. I enjoyed building these, and have some spare Primaris marines, so I'll likely build some more – perhaps make a round dozen or so – then pick the best ones to play with. +