+ inload: Bleak Vespers painting progress +

+ Bleak Vespers: painting progress +


+ Buoyed by time to paint, I've cracked on with the Death Guard. Above you can see the Blightbringer. Not finished yet, but coming along. I pontificated wrote about that in an earlier inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], where I described the plan to mute the plasma pistol; build up the bell in his hand as asecondary focal point, and draw the eye to the main tocsin. +

+ This is coming along, but you'll spot that the main bell is still too close in tone to its surroundings – I'll have to work something out to catch the eye – and the plasma pistol is still a bit too striking. With that said, I quite like it as it stands, so the challenge may be to simply make the tocsin stand out more. +




+ With regards to the handbell, that's looking much warmer. A bit more highlighting and that's going to be done, I think. It's not as striking as I'd aimed, but I like the beaten bronze feel. In addition, I'd not taken this cheery little nurgling into account. Now I've got him painted up – isn't the little blighter a cutie? – he adds a lot of visual weight to this side, helping to balance the piece. +

+ What's my point? Simply that while planning is good, it's also okay to adapt on the fly to take into account things not working, or happy accidents. +


+++

+ Concentrating on the Blightbringer left little time for anything else, but I did touch in the eyes on the batch, along with rebasing details – cables, weapon handles, basically anything that isn't white or green – on the three below in brown-black. This stages tidies and redefines areas that need attention, and helps clarify what's what. +


+ Basing is on my mind. The test model was on urban grey, but I'm having second thoughts on that. The scheme is already drab, and I wonder if a warm earthy colour could work. +


+ It's satisfying to see things progress day by day; even if just by a little. +


+ When painting something, I often look up photographs for source material. Somehow, I don't fancy doing it for infected/necrotic flesh... +


+ inload: Alien Wars – Anatomy of the enemy V: Ymgarli +

+ Anatomy of the enemy V: Ymgarli +

+ [guestinloadID: Bob_Hunk] +


When we think of the Enemy Within, our minds often turn to the secret servants of the Ruinous Powers; the mutant, the witch and the heretic. Yet there is another threat – just as insidious – that worms its way along the trade arteries of the Imperium like a cancer of the blood. I speak, of course, of the Ymgarlii.

De Rerum Xeno - Master Algernon Traegus of the Crimson Fists

+++

+ Abstract +

The 'Cult of the Ymgarli' is the name given to the the product of the Ymgarli gene-curse; a hideous network of alien subversion that infects and undermines the domains of human and other xenos alike.


+ First contact +

Once believed to be endemic to the moons of Ymgarl, from which the species takes its name, the exact date of first contact with the Ymgarli is lost in the mists of time. The Ymgarli's parasitic nature further complicates a hard date, and it is possible that a number of minor xenos – and abhuman groups –identified as new forms were, or are, in fact hybridised Ymgarli.

+ A combination of psychic domination, and agitprop presenting forbidden concepts such as 'equality' and 'democracy' allow Ymgarli to infiltrate and influence unwary members of Imperial society. +
The tireless research of xenoarchaeologists indicates that the Ymgarli have in fact been an ever-present xenos threat during the Age of the Imperium; lurking in the shadows, waiting for the time that Humanity lowers its guard.

Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that Ymgarli were amongst the myriad alien threats that contributed to the fall and enslavement of man during the Age of Strife. Certainly, Ymgarli forces seem to have been encountered by advancing Expedition Fleets during the Great Crusade. The xenos-biologists of the day did not understand the Ymgarli in the level of detail that we do today, but reference can be found in Legion records to 'wyrm-faced xenoforms' who held their human subjects in 'hypnotic bondage'.


+ Ymgarli biology +

The germinal or 'pure' form – if such a term can be applied to such abominations – of the Ymgarli is a six-armed bipedal nightmare, able to dart from the shadows on two swift legs to tear apart its prey with four preternaturally strong limbs. Two of these arms terminate in razor-sharp claws, the other two in blasphemously human-like hands that allow them to operate basic mechanisms like levers and door handles, should the need arise when they are stalking their prey.

Even this pure form is seemingly subject to numerous variations – some exhibiting taloned limbs, muzzles ending in probosces, waving masses of tendrils or split jaws. Some are seemingly blind, while others bear multiple sets of eyes. A number of examples have been identified with adaptation to aquatic environments, and it is possible there are further specialised populations that inhabit environments inimical to man. Whether there is an underlying stability, or these represent different clades of related species, is unknown. Further populations must be studied.

Common to almost all Ymgarli germinals is their tough, leathery skin supplemented with a chitinous exoskeleton. This tough outer carapace functions as a rudimentary form of natural armour. However, Ymgarli are rarely forced to rely on this for protection, as they have lightning fast reflexes that allow them to dodge most incoming attacks. Ymgarli germinals are found in a range in colours from the green to purple through to black, and this coloration is partially passed to their blasphemous offspring.

+ Ymgarli apex germinal [accreditation: Bob Hunk] +
The most horrifying aspect of Ymgarli biology is their reproductive cycle. This begins with the so-called 'Ymgarli Kiss'. The germinal will pin their chosen victim in place with a hypnotic gaze and implant their germ seed with an ovipositor hidden in their tongue, infecting the host species with a terrible gene-curse. The offspring of the infected creature will be a monstrous crossbreed of the Ymgarli and the host species, the Ymgarli having in effect 'stolen' the genes of its victim. These misshapen Ymgarli half-breeds will grow and mature, flocking together to interbreed, creating – through a process that is little understood – more half-breeds and Ymgarli germinals.

The first germinal of its brood to initiate this process will develop to become an apex form of this unclean xenos. Referred to within the brood by paternal nomenclature, apex germinals are powerfully psychic and form the centre of a telepathic web with the brood of hybrids that they have spawned. The 'All-Father' will become like a god to their extended family, a centre of worship that usually takes on a cultic or church-like structure that serves to shroud the germinal forms and give the hybrids license to proselytise. Many confirmed Ymgarli infestations have been found using this subterfuge, hence why the species is commonly referred to as the Cult of the Ymgarli. 

The most truly heretical aspect of this Cult is that they will often pose as a subdivision of the Ecclesiarchy, cloaking their xenos nature in the benevolent shroud of the Emperor. Once the brood has reached a critical mass, they will erupt from their hiding places, tear down the host society of the city or planet that they are infecting, and claim lordship over the ruins.

Ymgarli are opportunistic, and do not limit their infiltration to humanity. There are corroborated records of hybridised/dominated Barghesi, Orks, Thyrrus, Saharduin, Galg, and Q'orl; along with dozens of instance reports of other species manifesting similar or relatable evidence of interaction with Ymgarli.

+ Posited early-generation Mastokar hybrid: Coomb';s World Theatre +


+++

Ymgarli technology +

+ Lacking military hardware, Ymgarli often utilise re-purposed industrial gear. +
Ymgarlii germinals do not use tools or weapons as we understand them. They have little need for weapons though, as their claws are more than capable of rending apart even the blessed plate of an Astartes. They are particularly dangerous in large numbers where they attack in an unstoppable avalanche of limbs that it is impossible to guard against.

As for the Ymgarli half-breeds, they are armed in the same manner as the society they are subverting. This can be anything from the crude autoguns and lascarbines of frontiersmen and underhive gangs to the bolt weapons and custom beam-casters of Rogue Trader or the personal lifeguards of a Spire Nobel.

+ These Ymgarli halfbreeds operated as miners of the Pan-PS Corporation before being exposed. They bear a selection of low-velocity small arms common to void-mining outposts, such as shotguns. +
Ymgarli half-breeds that have infected non-human populations demonstrate similar use of the host species' technology: yet another reason for humans to avoid pollution by trading with or interacting with xenos.


As with their weapons, so to are the vehicles of the Ymgarli forces taken from the society that they infest. Lacking voidcraft of their own, Ymgarli stow away on the craft of other species.

Merchantmen are easier to infiltrate than the strictly controlled craft of the Imperial Navy, so this inevitable draws Ymgarli infiltrators along trade routes. Therefore repurposed commercial and industrial vehicles are common, as are armour unit from Guard forces on both sides of the Nova Terran schism.

Although the armour of civilian vehicles cannot compare to a dedicated war engine, it’s ability to blend in and avoid suspicion until too late is almost unparalleled. When the time comes to emerge from hiding, the Ymgarli cults will play to this strength, favouring ambush tactics and guerilla warfare.




Ymgarli domains +

Beyond the jungle moons of Ymgarl in the galactic north – believed with a reasonable degree of certainty to be their point of origin – the Cult of the Ymgarli have no domains of their own. Instead they infest and subvert the domains of others. Therefore it is impossible to draw their boundaries on a galactic map with any degree of certainty. The chart below shows a selection of confirmed and suspected domains, along with selected major shipping routes.



A notable exception is of course the Ward of Yiid, a pocket empire in [Redacted] and protectorate of the Imperium for over [Redacted] before the truth of its hidden xenos masters were uncovered. There were many vital lessons learned from this embarrassing incident, the not least of which was [Redacted].

+ Dynasts of Yiid +


+ Ymgarli during the Nova Terra Interregnum +

The events of the Nova Terra Interregnum were both a help and a hindrance to the spread of the Ymgarli. As noted earlier in this report, they tend to spread their gene-curse aboard merchant and cargo vessels. The closing of the borders along the Segmentum Pacificus had the temporary effect of limiting this spread. However, as the Interregnum progressed, the Ymgarli were more easily able to spread on board unscrutinised smuggler’s ships that slipped across the boundary unmonitored, and refugee ships fleeing either to or from the breakaway Segmentum.

Unfortunately for the Ymgarli – and fortunately for Humanity – the governments of both arms of hte divided Imperium were equally quick to stamp down on internal rebellion during this time period, fearing a spread of the Nova Terra insurrection or counter-revolution. As a by-product, Ymgarli infestations were perhaps dealt with more efficiently during this period than at other times.

+++

+ The Ymgarli during the Alien Wars +

Ymgarli typically demonstrate little ambition towards empire-building. There were no sector-scale outbreaks in the Imperium during this time, just a steady background level of infestation. However, as rebellions in Imperial territory were swiftly and mercilessly put down during this period, it is possible that some Ymgarli infestations may have been mistaken for general insurrection, and misrecorded as purely human heresies. During this time period Ymgarli were just as likely to clash with Astra Militarum garrisons as they were to receive the attention of Astartes intervention.

Astartes engage germinal-forms in void-station shipping; an all-too-common lair of the Ymgarli.
Of course, this is not to suggest that the threat was minimal – indeed, it is proof of a pernicious and insidious threat, well-adapted to remaining beneath the notice of the Imperium's typical instruments for dealing with xenos. Incidents of Ymgarli infestation in Nova Terra domains during this period go unrecorded.

+ A Scarlet Blade Astartes is engaged by two Ymgarli germinals on Redlaw. +
The Ur-Council's relative liberalism took a lax view of xenos mercenaries – particularly those that could pass as abhuman – and a number of Nova Terran Governors may well have worked with them if they saw the benefit. Equally, it may be the case that they mistook Ymgarli rebellions in their territory for Imperial Loyalists and crushed them just as ferociously.

+++

+ Post Script +

Ymgarlii remain a pervasive threat, but nowhere near the level of danger posed by the greenskins or the fey eldar. They are simply another quirky indigenous anomaly of this galaxy’s biome. I have no doubt that, much like a common tick, they will be eradicated in due course.

I remain, at your service; Inquisitrix Barbari Kills.





+ inload: Black Vespers +

+ inload: The Bleak Vespers +

+ It seems ages since I got a chance to sit down and paint, so it was nice to pick up a brush and continue working on the Death Guard. The batch I started back at the beginning of the month [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] are coming along nicely; and are nearly at the fun stage of picking out details. +

A couple of boltgun-wielding Plague Marines and the characters.
+ The models are great fun to paint, and very relaxing. Lots of quick work offset by slower, more considered washes and glazes. They look pleasingly messy at the moment, and I want to ensure that I keep some of that painterly feel when I start to tighten them up. It's nice to try out different approaches on different forces. +


+ More Plague Marines, including an icon bearer. These are at a slightly earlier stage: the characters at the top have had an additional layer of highlighting, which pushes the contrast further. It's probably a good illustration of what I mean by pleasingly messy – the additional highlights on the upper image are fairly subtle but do a surprising amount to define the edges of the armour plates etc. It only takes a small amount of effort to create impact and move a model from unsatisfying to work you're happy with.  +


+++

+ Death Guard organisation + 

+ As usual, while painting, my mind wanders and I started thinking about the storyline behind the characters. Doing this is not only fun (who doesn't like making up a good story?), but it also serves the very practical purpose of helping you make decisions on colours, and helping to define what things are. An area on a plastic model might contrast better in metallics, for example, but if it's meant to be a flask or a holster, you might choose something more fitting to the material. It's easy to apply dirt and mud to the lowest parts of the figure, but if the model has a dynamic pose, you have to make sure that the upraised leg (or whatever) has the same effect applied. +

+ I know it sounds rather obvious, but spending time thinking about the practicalities of the model as a living being, rather than an lump of metal or plastic, will guide you better than sticking rigidly to an abstract your plan. +

+ Anyway, this musing led to thoughts about the warband as a whole. I hadn't really thought much about it beforehand, which is quite unusual for me. I'd just got stuck in. Fortunately, the new Death Guard Codex has fleshed out the background of the Traitor Legion quite extensively. It's nicely done, providing some canonical structure while remaining very flexible, so no-one's background should feel invalidated. A quick summary:
'The Death Guard consists of seven Plague Companies, each made up of thousands of warriors with their attendant fleets, aircraft, tanks, daemonic cohorts, and super-heavy vehicles, dwarfing modern Space Marine Chapters. Each Plague Company consists of a number of Sepsis Cohorts each made up of roughly seven hundred Plague Marines. Each Sepsis Cohort is divided into two Maladictums, each with seven Colonies which in turn are broken up into seven squads'
- Codex: Death Guard 

+ The names are predictably baroque (one might argue kitsch...) but it gives a certain structure. A typical tabletop army for 40k is going to represent a Colony-sized force. I'd already decided that my army was going to be from the 6th Company, as this Company garrisons the fleet. That gives it the best excuse (in my eyes, at least) for it to be present in Antona Australis. +

+ My Warband will thus represent the Bleak Vespers Colony of the First Maladictum of the Eighth Cohort of the Sixth Company of the Death Guard. The name has a vaguely religious feel, which fits the 'Angels of Death' idea. Vespers is an evening service, which ties in with the Legion's origins as the Dusk Raiders – just a little nod. They'll be a fairly middle of the road group, with no particular specialism beyond an affinity for using bells – both as weapons and in their symbology – owing to their commander, Simargi of Moroz-Morok [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]. +

+ That decision gives me a good simple shape for a logo that I can use across the army, and helps suggest weapon swaps and part choices for the future. I'm sure there are some cool Nurgle daemon models, for example, that use bells – and if there aren't, I can convert them! +


+++

+ A few individual shots +


+ Tallyman +


+ Plague Surgeon +


 + Plague Marine with boltgun and plague knife +


 + Plague Marine with boltgun and blight grenade +


 + Plague Marine with boltgun and painted visor. +

+++

+ inload: Building Mortarion +


+ Something stirs in the warp... +


+ Lucky me received reinforcements – to the tune of one Daemon Primarch, no less. As befits a prince of Chaos, he jumped right up the queue and demanded to be built. +


+ Largely stock – it's a wonderful base model – I couldn't resist tweaking a few bits and bobs. For the most part, my changes were simply stripping things back to the base silhouette, by removing extraneous sculpted detail. I've left off or trimmed down the majority of the hanging chains. +


+ To make sense of how the fabric hangs, I needed to add something with a little weight, so I replaced the giant chains and censers with rather more subtle Nurgle/Death Guard icons and bells (in keeping with the theme of the rest of the force). +


+ I also rotated Silence, Mortarion's scythe, about halfway along. The shape seemed very odd, beforehand, and while I'm no expert in scythes, the shape and way it was held felt slightly off. Realism isn't at the heart of a GIANT FLOATING ROT DAEMON, but verisimilitude – making it look like it could work – is important. Regardless, I think the rotation helps gives a sense of motion to the figure, and Silence now leads the eye in towards the body, rather than drawing all the attention to itself. +


+ I left the icon off his right shoulder pad [left of pict-capture above], leading me some space for freehand; and I replaced the honking great horns on the other with some fly-ridden smoke/incense. +


+ They're minor alterations, but give a little distinction to personalise the model for me. I've used sand texture paste medium for the base, to help integrate the rocks. +


+ Even taking my tweaks into account, the model went together well, and builds into a really imposing and impressive centrepiece. I'm usually not one for big models or heroes, but Primarchs seem to be an exception! +


+ How – and whether – he'll end up seeing much time on the table, I don't know; but I'm looking forward to painting him up. +

+ inload: Lamb's World +

+ Poor bloody infantry +

+ Human lives and human tears; the stuff of which Imperium is made. +

+ As with all of the wars during the dark days of Nova Terra Interregnum, it was the ordinary men and women of the Imperial Guard – both Old Imperial and Nova Terran – who made up the bulk of the combatants. +

+ Illustrated below are a selection of warriors from a single unremarkable planet – Lamb's World – as a representative sample of the fates of the majority of the Imperium's sons and daughters who found themselves in the Imperial Guard during this turbulent period. +

+ It is perhaps notable that a single planet had birthed warriors that fought on opposing sides. Such is the tragedy of civil war. +



+++

+ Shale Campaign +

+ Shale is a small desert world in the Bothusion system of Antona Australis. It is covered in uneven dusty terrain and vast seas of finely ground rock. Small scale mining colonies, designed to harvest the modest mineral resources, are dotted across the solid areas of Shale's surface. +

+ Its residents broadly remained loyal to the Old Imperium during the Nova Terra Interregnum. It was attacked on three occasions by Eldar of the Ythranmir Craftworld, the xenos advance gradually being brought to a bloody stalemate on the Northern Plains by the Planetary Defence Force. A detachment of Lamb's World soldiers were diverted to support. As rear-line support, they suffered light losses during the war, and the survivors remained for long years afterwards to stabilise the lawless region. +




+ Io Merioneth. Shale Northern Theatre. KIA - confirmed: blood loss. +



+ Cole Apseth. Shale Northern Theatre. KIA - confirmed: Partial disintegration. +


+ Enzo Acton. Shale Northern Theatre. KIA - unconfirmed (body unrecoverable) +

+++

+ Karminos Void Clearances +


+ The Karminos Void clearances were an onerous but necessary duty to ensure the passage of evacuees from the world of Saltkind – a lone bastion of Nova Terran sympathisers – to safer regions closer to the Segmentum Pacificus. +

+ The clearances took the form of a series of running engagements between greenskin pirates of the Moonbreakers and the Imperial Navy, with Imperial soldiery deployed to clear and secure the numerous dwarf planets of the region. Lamb's World troopers adapting to the microgravity difficult, and suffered catastrophic losses. +


+ Prentice Iones. Karminos Void. Executed for cowardice. Justification: obeying the orders of an officer found wanting. +

+++

+ Orar's Star +

+ The prosperous and heavily-polluted worlds orbitting Orar's Star descended into a microcosm of the civil war raging across the Imperium; and Lamb's World auxiliaries found themselves fighting on both sides of the war. Beginning the war under the command of the infamous Marshal Fenkmann, his defection saw the Eighteenth Lamb's World Rifles ('Dricc's Dusties') overrun by the Fourth Lamb's World Armoured. The defeated soldiers were drafted back into Old Terran lines for the Siege of Bree, serving as a penal battalion. +




+ Japeth Ffiniog. Orar's Star Campaign. KIA - confirmed: blood loss and exposure +



+ Ascer Caper. Orar's Star Campaign. KIA - confirmed: disarticulation +

+++

+ Trimunda +

+ The Queen of O was the human face of an insidious xeno threat that emerged on Trimunda Secundus, and led much of its population in a counter-uprising against the Nova Terran occupiers. Its forces were initially supported by the Old Imperium, though the findings of Inquisitrix Barbari Kills led to the Old Imperium instead enacting saturation bombing on their former allies' fastnesses, at the hands of the Sons of Spectra. +

+ The Lamb's World II were deployed in the aftermath, spending two decades picking through the sodden ruins to end the worm-ridden threat of the Queen once and for all. +


Rhuddion Caul. Trimunda Plains. KIA – confirmed: drowning.  +


Ogof Moel. Trimunda Plans. KIA - confirmed: gunshot. +

+++

+ Intercession of Vega Rim +

+ During the early years of the Nova Terra Interregnum, the soldiers of 'Riker's Bloody One Hundredth' (confusingly, officially the 46th Lamb's World Cavalry Regiment, under Caef-Maior Vedder) were diverted to the distant Vega Rim to stymie an advancing K'nib assault on the worlds of the Rim. +

+ The bulk of the fighting occurred over the critical salt flats of Varrasland, with an ever-shifting front and sporadic vicious battles. During the later years of the war, many of the worlds declared independence from the Imperium, and the Bloody One Hundredth – still in garrison – were wiped out by punitive strikes enacted by the vengeful Gatebreakers Chapter Astartes. +


+ Mordecai Frin and Otio Cymer. Intercession on Vega Rim. KIA – confirmed: bombardment strike. +


+++

inload: The Chiron Anomaly

+ The Alien Wars: The Chiron Anomaly and the Ordo Chronos +

It is said that time waits for no man. Fortunately, as the more observant of my colleagues will have already gleaned, I am no man.
– attr. Inquisitrix Barbari Kills, during her hearing before the Chronos Coven of Eight.


+ The Chiron Anomaly is a radiation-bathed region of wilderness space on the very borders of the galactic rim; both a memorial to the ancient warfare of the Great Heresy and – so it is whispered – a vision of a dark millennium yet to come. +


+ The Chiron Cabal +

+ Long quarantined by the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Nova Terra Interregnum saw the picketing Ark Mechanicus Assertive Denominator and its attendant fleet drawn to assist in the conflict over the Nova Terran outpost Jin Gi. With its guardians absent, numerous rogue traders, pirates and other opportunists were quick to descend. None emerged unchanged. +#

+ The divided Inquisition also sent a number of agents to investigate the Anomaly; resulting in the formation of the Chiron Cabal; a group of Inquisitorial servants dedicated to the investigation of the Anomaly. +

+ The Chiron Cabal were subsequently (at least, as far as such a term can be used of the group) to form the core group of the Ordo Chronos.  +


+++

+ Torans +

The Anomaly itself permanently affects two star systems; neither with inhabited planets in the current period (M35); owing to the constant projection of mereolgical ejecta. This has a matter-dilating effect that – from space – causes the surfaces of the planets to be a nonsensical soup of quantum contradictions. Further out, the unpredictable waxing and waning of the Anomaly's effect occasionally touches a third system, which contains the planet of Solemnace, intermittenly inhabited by hardy frontiersfolk and time-miners. +

+ Solemnace is inhabitable only in certain regions; those within the influence of the chthonic toran structures that predate colonisation. Beyond their reaches, the planets are bombarded with hard radiation remaining from an exterminatus-event executed during the Great Heresy. What garbled records remain are closed on who precisely executed the planets, but it is clear that at least one Astartes Legion was involved. +

+ The torans themselves are speculated to be of xeno origin; with some comparing their time-dilation effects to the technologies of the noxious hrud; though the gateways bear little similarity to other structures known to be 'constructed' by these aliens. Whatever their origin, the toran's effects on the planet are unmistakable; creating temporary localised regions of normalised space-time. Their cycling is relatively predictable, allowing the nomadic inhabitants to move to another pocket before the region winks out of stability. +

+ It is within these unstable regions that the Ordo Chronos – and others – delve, as they potentially allow a sufficiently briefed and trained operative to experience – and, so the theory goes, potentially affect – different periods of time. Thus, a number of different Ordos have brought their elite forces to the world; hoping to force their way through to change the past. Some aim to send word to distant regions; others to find an instantaneous method of galactic communion; prevent the rise of Nova Terra; or to expand the breakaway Empire's influence. The most ambitious – or insane – attempt to dive further back or forward in time, gathering tools and weapons to conquer a future galaxy, or prevent the Emperor's death. +

+ Of course; so the theory goes. In practise, most chronoagents are driven irrevocably insane, killed by timedisplacement, or otherwise lost forever. The planet has become a near-infinite mass of petty temporal skirmishes, with ever-escalating warbands reporting the appearance of new forces dating from pre-Imperial timelines to strange glittering warriors. +

+++

+ Thought for the day: Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper truly judge what is sane. +

+ inload: Simargi of Moroz-Morok +

+ Simargi of Moroz-Morok +

+ Argh! Where are my arms? +
+ A work-in-progress of Simargi of Moroz-Morok; the leader of my Death Guard during the Tzi'Na Crisis, [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] and one of Kainan's lieutenants (though like all champions of the Fell Powers, doubtless harbouring ambitions of his own!) +

+ Building the model +

+ The base of the figure is one of the new Deathshroud models, with the legs repositioned to improve the sit of the hips. It's also given him a bit more height, which I like. +

+ I wanted to change the silhouette, so I've trimmed away the arms, too. The distinctive cataphractii shoulder pads will be replaced with domed pads, like those shown (from Master-Crafted Miniatures). I'll likely use the original forearms, but replace the upper arms to give a distinctive pose. +

+ The remaining bits and bobs are details – thanks to our resident Khorne-worshipper Lord Blood the Hungry for allowing me to have some Tau skulls from this brazen throne. The barbed wire coronet wrapped around his head is from Hasslefree Miniatures, while the head itself is from the new Intercessors. +

+ I've popped him on a 50mm base decorated with some Anvil Industry rubble and bound together with sand paste from Golden Acrylic. +

+ While not yet tacked on, here are his weapons, Deathknell and Calcatrix:




+ Would love to hear your thoughts on the model so far. +

+++

+ Character +

It was clear, and bright, and fresh. A gleaming sun sat in a sky of astonishing clarity, warming a landscape of softly rolling hills, carpeted with glistening grasses and punctuated with copses of yellow-orange tree-analogues. Then came a sour scent on the breeze. 
His movements were halting as he lowering himself to the ground, bulky plates scraping and groaning against each other. Reaching out with a filthy gauntlet, he grasped a sod of the soil, and tore it from the ground.  
The grass here was almost emerald green, glossy; the earth black and loamy and rich. He lifted it to his face and drew a halting, sclerotic breath, inhaling the clear air of the world. For a moment, his expression flickered; though with anticipation or regret was unclear. 
"Harvest-ripe." His voicebox was clotted, his tongue septic and weeping; but his voice was as gold. It rippled out from the kneeling figure. Though a mere whisper, every one of his men heard it, and began preparations.
A great tocsin-bell began to toll behind him, sonorous and atonal. Then another. More. The warriors assembled, a host of Plague Angels gathered before their Master. 
He had borne many names, all inscribed on the Woe-Bell of Moroz-Morok. Son of Sorrow. Chosen of Daravek. War-king of Calcatrix. He was Simargi of Moroz-Morok; Captain of the Death Guard, and he would have these worlds for Nurgle.

+ The establishment of the Tzi'Na Enclave by the Tau has had the side-effect of creating many nascent cults, as freedom of religion was granted by the Tau to the masses. Believing the region to now be fecund ground for conversion to the Pantheon's paths, Simargi has – like many other Chaos warlords – pledged his arms to the Dark Apostle Kainan, adding to the Curdling Armada. Beyond duty to the Plaguefather, it is his belief that the veil can be pulled aside here to draw Mortarion himself to the region, dooming – or blessing – the worlds to the eternal service of Nurgle. +

+ As an officer of the Ferrymen, the Death Guard's Sixth Company, Simargi commands a Cohort (that is, a force roughly 500 strong) of the Legion, plus a large band of renegade auxiliaries. His forces – as well-disciplined and reliable as any in the Armada – thus represent a substantial proportion of the Astartes currently present in the region. Accordingly, he has placed a substantial number of transport vessels at the broader service of the Armada – though each remains crewed and maintained by the Death Guard. +

His appearance in a theatre of war is marked by degradation in the enemy's morale, for chief amongst Simargi's gifts is his softly insidious and beautiful voice – his demands and promises as corrosive to enemy morale as they are invigorating to his loyal warriors. He is also vector of the faith-fever, a dreadful disease that rapidly weakens its victims body with wracking spasms; while simultaneously besetting its victims with harrowing hallucinations that erode even deeply-held beliefs. +

+ Considering himself as much a herald and proselyte as a warrior, Simargi's forces contain large numbers of Blightbringers used to spread the word of Nurgle; and the toscin features on his Cohort's banner, along with his personal heraldry, a cockatrice. +

+ Clad in Terminator armour, Simargi is typically found in the centre of the battleline, directing his forces with the relic plague-blade Calcatrix. He also bears the grand bludgeon, Deathknell, used both as weapon and as a striker for the Woe-Bell of Moroz-Morok, a device borne to the field and sounded twice – once to announce the Host's presence, and once to declare the end of hostilities. +


+++

+ Rules +

+ Based on the Lord of Contagion stats with some weapon swaps (Calcatrix is a Plague Sword with an extra pip of damage, while Death Knell is a Mace of Contagion); and the Lord of Contagion's special rules substituted for rules from the recent Character Creation rules in Chapter Approved 2018. Feel free to give him a go in your Open Play games. +


+++

+ Thought for the day: All lies are told with a straight face. +

+ inload: Composition and the importance of contrast +

+ Count the Seven! +


+ Painting progress – nothing major, as hobby time has been slim – but the vanguard of the Death Guard are starting to look a bit closer to being ready.+

+ Blergh! +
+ Seven are being worked up from their base coat, including three leaders – the Blightbringer (bell chap); plague surgeon and Tallyman (the one with the loudspeaker backpack on the right). The step-by-step is here [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]; and beyond that I've been working in with very dilute brown paint, touches of neat sepia ink, and glazes of sepia. This last stage is what gives them the warm yellowy tint. +

+ It's an organic process, by which I mean I have lots of pools of gungy brown/black mixes on my palette, and dip in and out of them freely. It's not quite random, but it's certainly a world away from the tight control I apply to (say) my Blood Angels. These Plague Marines are much more in my comfort zone, in terms of style [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]


+++

+ Theoretical: The importance of contrast +

+ One thing you will notice above is that although many of the details are unfinished, I've painted in the eyes on a couple of them. For practical reasons, I wanted to check the colours I was planning (Vallejo's Prussian blue, for the record) would work and secondly, that there would be enough contrast. +



+ Contrast is really important for composition, as the viewer's eye will go to the areas of contrast first. There's a saying – 'tone does the work, colour gets the credit', which I rather like. Usually, if you have a dark-shady area, a light tint will look good, regardless of colour. The opposite is also true: the important bit is the contrast. +

+ Contrast in tone – that is, between light and dark areas – grabs the eye; but it's not just tone. Contrast can come in hue, in colour temperature, in detail, and even in texture. If you want to create a focal point, adding high contrast in some way on it will be effective. This Plague Marine's eyes are a good example of using other methods of finding contrast when the tones are similar. Here, both the light blue lenses and the grungy white helm are fairly bright, so there's not much contrast in tone. Instead:

  • The cool blue hue contrasts with the warm yellow-tinged white that surrounds it.
  • The clean, smooth surface of the lenses contrasts with the battered textural helm in which they sit. 

+ The latter point is another reason I painted them: after liberally sloshing on browns and blacks and washes, things looked messy. I wanted to reassure myself that I can paint cleanly when I want to! +



+ On a related point, note the thin border of black around the eyes. This acts as a border between the two similarly-toned areas of white and blue, preventing them bleeding into one another visually. This technique – black lining – is a good one for keeping similar areas apart. You can see the same effect used to break up the armour at the joints and details. All very quick and simple, but effective and eye-catching (exactly the same reason eyeliner draws the gaze – it provides detail and contrast between the white of the eye and the surrounding skin). +


+++

+ Contrast and composition +

+ A final note on contrast and focal points: While the figure above is unfinished, I don't have plans to add much in the way of freehand detail (though never say never) or develop the sculpted detail beyond regular highlighting and shading. The sculpt is already very complex, and I think picking everything out will make it all look a bit messy. The skulls on the wrist and so forth are given enough weight by the regular shading and highlighting; I don't need to gild the lily by painting them in a contrasting colour.  +

+ By leaving the gauntlet details unadorned – that is, with less contrast – they draw the eye less; and the lenses on the helm are thus left uncontested as a focal point. For similar reasons, the organic tentacles etc. will be painted with warm neutrals rather than vivid greens and purples, so the contrast is minimised and they sit quietly beside the armour plate. +

+ This is where composition and planning come into things. Generally speaking, I want the figures in this force to look slow and lumbering, to build the sense of inevitability that's in their background. That partially relies on having a single focal point for the eye to rest on. This doesn't need to be the head. Banners, weapons, shields and so forth are great spots for focal points. The important bit is that the viewer's eye is guided where I want it, and then rests there. +

+ Multiple focal points lead the eye around the figure. This is not necessarily a problem – sometimes you want to build a sense of movement or dynamism. Eldar, particularly Harlequins, for example, look great with multiple focal points – and it's for this reason that they tend to look best nice and clean, because then there's less contrasting texture to distract. The contrast is restricted to hue and tone. +

+ As well as imparting dynamism, multiple focal points mean the eye moves around the figure, and they're thus important if you want someone to really spend time looking at your work. If you look at single figures painted for competition, you'll probably find two or more focal points in order to encourage the judges to keep looking. +

+ For armies, you've already got lots of figures; so the most striking tend to subsume the individual within the whole, to prevent everything looking messy and confused. Instead, certain figures – your centrepieces' – act as the focal point for the whole army. If you want them to stand out, you've got to apply the principles of contrast to the army as a whole, not just the individual model. Consider picking them out or adding details in a different colour; and – perhaps more importantly – keep the rest of the army uniform, or you'll draw the eye away from the centrepieces. +

+ Currently the pistol is the focal point – not necessarily as planned. +
+ As an example, consider this Blightbringer. On an individual level, I want the bell to be the focal point, as it's his 'thing', but there's too little contrast there at the moment, and too much on the plasma pistol. To fix this, I'll have to play around. I have the choice of incorporating the pistol into the composition as a secondary focal point, or I muting the pistol entirely. In either case, the bell needs a lot of work. +

+ To help make the decision, I think in terms of the army's visual composition. As a character, he deserves a little extra to make it clear he's important – particularly in this case, when he's already competing with some very complex and interesting sculpts. I've added some simple detailing to his tabard to reward a closer look (though note it's in the same hues as the rest of the scheme, so as not to be too obvious), but he needs a little more oomph. +

+ As it stands, the plain is to include the pistol as a secondary focal point to lead the eye to the main focus – the bell. In order to do this, I'll mute it a little; perhaps using a dimmer warm orange as an accent colour. I'll balance this by building up another secondary focal point; the handbell on the other side. These secondary focal points will (hopefully) lead the eye upwards to the main bell, then around again, forming a trianglular path for the eye to follow around the model – which subtly echoes the triangular pattern on the tabard. + 

+++

[+APPENDEDIT+]

In the +commentarysubmission+ form, WestRider has very acutely noted that the eyes sit in the centre of the triangle the focal points will form, and that a pop of blue-white there would help clarify things. Alas – here my decision to change the head of the sculpt works against me. As you can see, the vision slit is painted to match the others, but the depth of the recess means that it's just not visible except from underneath. +

+ Nevertheless, it's an excellent point, and links back to the use of multiple focal points. Were I able to create a pop here on the head, it would create a fourth focal point (main bell, head, hand bell, pistol), which sounds unwieldy. However, in this example, it wouldn't unbalance the model, as the fourth sits within the 'route' the eye is guided (pistol to bell to bell). +

+ If you are considering multiple focal points, check you can lead the eye effectively at the modelling stage – sometimes the decisions you make with the sculpt can prevent you. +