+ inload: Lamb's World recruitment +

+ It's all been a bit quiet while I grind away at the next entry in the Creating your own army series [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], so I thought I'd post up some miscellaneous bits and bobs to feast your occulo-visors on; and look at some more of my Imperial Guard from Lamb's World – because who doesn't love the poor bloody infantry struggling through the grim darkness of the far future? +

+ New Recruits +

+ I've used the models of this latest Lamb's World army to represent different regiments – a new commander and some thematic auxiliaries/additions is enough to give an army a fresh feel for a different time period. This works particularly well for monolithic or unchanging organisations like the Imperial Guard or Necrons; letting you try a different approach with your force without painting a whole new army. +

+ Adapting an army for a different setting – and it doesn't need to be a completely different time period; it may simply be a different region of your campaign – changing the personalities at the top goes a long way to giving a sense of realism and verisimilitude. After all, your colonel/warboss isn't going to deal with everything personally, and can't be everywhere at once: it's good to let trusted underlings take charge. This also adds to a sense of scale; preventing your campaigns turning into the same old characters fighting each other, with all the tension of a saturday-morning cartoon. +

+ Introducing new characters – and allowing them to be captured, injured or even die – can be very immersive and enjoyable. The figures above show some reinforcements for Lamb's World, who will represent the army during the M35 time period. To fit with the Nova Terra Interregnum's 'retrohammer' concept (that is, to evoke the Rogue Trader background using modern miniatures), I've drafted in some classic Mark Copplestone sculpts kindly given to me by Stuntwedge. They're front and centre of the image above, and will be Caef Whittaker (named after the Commander of my very first guard army back in the 90s) and his trusted banner bearer. Note I've used Elysian arms, shoulder guards and weaponry to update them a bit, without compromising what I like about the originals. The other figures are a motley mix of bits and bobs, mostly Victoria Miniatures' awesome Arcadian Guard (and a characterful dog from Anvil Industries), and will swell the ranks of the infantry. +

+ To make sure that the Victoria Miniatures figures blend in with the existing guardsmen of the army – mostly based on Forge World's Elysian – I'm also building some figures that overlap and combine bits from both Forge World and Victoria Miniatures. +

+ Sicarian Infiltrator: Bezoa Forge [Pict-capture: Lucifer216] +
+ Why the renewed interest in Lamb's World? Well, fellow PCRC member Lucifer216 has recently completed a rather gorgeous Adeptus Mechanicus army from his Forgeworld of Bezoa [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] – you can see an example of his beautiful work to the right – and we thought we'd get a big game in. +

+ We're aiming for 150 power level, which is certainly the biggest game I've played for a long while – and possibly the largest I've ever played one-on-one. My aim is to get some shots for a battle report that I can post up here; so watch this space. +

+ My existing army just about reaches that level, but if I can get some extra stuff painted before the game (it's nice to field something new for a big game like this), that'd be the aromatic unguents on the tech-altar . +


+ For every battle honour, a thousand heroes die alone, unsung, and unremembered. +

+ I've been posting up shots of individual Guardsmen – and how they mey their inevitable ends – on the Death_of_a_Rubricist Instagram account recently, so I wanted to make sure the main blog readers didn't miss out. +

+ XI: Morus Llew. Bezoa. KIA confirmed – background rads. +

+ XII and XIII:  Osto Eo and Broker Wyn. Bezoa. KIA unconfirmed – artillery strike. +

+ XIV: Harris Cain. Battle of Blosto Plains. KIA – confirmed.

+ XV: Zor Pirkens. Luther MacIntyre IX. KIA confirmed – local fauna. +

+ XVI: Asc Oakentop. Luther MacIntyre IX. KIA confirmed. +


+ Also in the forges +

+ Some other projects that are bubbling under: +

+ Mordheim XIX +

+ The basic shapes of the warband are in place – some greenstuff work and then onto paint. +

+ Allies and enemies +

+ How's a Space Marine to show off how tough he is without guardsmen to provide contrast? These two are from Victoria Miniatures' [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] Arcadian line – a thoroughly awesome homage to the Cadian miniatures of late 2nd edition: perfect for the Nova Terra Interregnum period of my setting. +

+ A scale shot helps drive home the physical size of the underlying Plague Marine model. +

+ But being big isn't necessarily enough when you're fighting the worst the rim can throw at you. This space-fimir is from Knightmare Miniatures [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], who also made the Saharduin figures in this inload. He (and his species) will get an 'Anatomy' inload of his own sometime. +

+ A very cool figure with a great mix of pulp sci-fi and prehistoric Celtic detailing, I'm going to try out some green-grey glazing on the skin. I've therefore created a much lighter underlayer than I normally would. +


+ inload: Creating an army of your own II: Heraldic paint schemes +

+ Creating an army of your own – part II: paint schemes +

+ This is the second part in a series of articles on creating and developing your own personal army. Part I can be found here: [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] +

+ In the previous inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], we looked at picking a name and generating the seed of a culture for your army. This theoretical work then led into you building the first model of your force. +

+ In this inload, we look at what can be the first big stumbling block in creating your own army: coming up with an effective scheme. +

+ Noosphericinloadlinks +

I – Invitation and overview
II – Paint schemes and heraldic schemes 
III – Muted schemes
IV – High impact schemes [This inload]
V – Analogous schemes [Spooling]
VI – Enemies and allies [Spooling]


+ Choosing an effective paint scheme +

Whether you're a beginner or award winner, and whether the piece is intended for the tabletop or a display case, a strong paint scheme will improve the appearance of your model. The choices of colour will, of course, depend on your taste, but the sheer breadth of possibility can be daunting. Where do you begin?

Colour theory is a huge, complex and contentious subject, so the first thing I want to do is set out some limits to give us a framework. Over the next couple of inloads, we're going to look at four broad types of paint scheme: heraldic, muted, high-impact, and analogous; each of which has their own set of guidelines that make them very useful to generate ideas.
  • Heraldic – Inspired by traditional heraldry, these schemes are defined by vibrant primary and secondary colours laid out with clear structural rules that you define. 
  • Muted – Using naturalistic and often earthy colours, muted paint schemes make a virtue of subtlety. 
  • High-impact – The polar opposite of muted schemes, high-impact schemes bring instant clarity and definition to miniatures. 
  • Analogous – This sort of colour scheme makes use of closely-related colours to give a harmonious effect.
For each type, we'll look over some specific examples, then consider why – and how –  you might choose a particular paint scheme type for your own personal army. The example Gatebreaker model I've used below is intentionally work-in-progress, as I want the emphasis to remain on the basic paint scheme for your force. I'll develop my basic scheme – along with yours – further in a future inload; where we will look more closely at how we can use our 'culture seed' to inform and develop the basic scheme into something with more atmosphere and character.


+ Painting models and painting armies +

Before we begin, I want to make it clear that the advice below is necessarily limited. Each of these approaches has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so from the start it's important to know that there is no single right answer to getting a good scheme. The guidelines below are artificial limits to help you find a handle on how you want to paint your force to make it personal and distinctive.

Secondly, this isn't primarily advice on how to apply paint. While I outline how I've painted the example figures below, the aim is not to show you how to paint, but what to paint. Your painting techniques and style are key to giving your models character, so the key advice here is really hung around answering the questions of 'what colours do I use, and where do I put them'?

Finally, I want to arm you with techniques that work both for single models and can scale up to a whole force; so I've included information that will help you apply the schemes to infantry, tanks and monsters. Whether you choose to paint just that one figure you built last time, or go on to build a bigger army, this article aims to help give you striking, distinctive and personal models.


+ Heraldic schemes: Theoretical +

These schemes typically involve bold, bright areas of rich colour and marked contrast. Different areas are strongly delineated; either by the physical structures of the model (i.e. gaps between armour plates are obvious), or by freehand work. Heraldic schemes typically make use of primary or secondary colours; which are consistent across the army.

The GW studio Space Marines and Eldar are good examples of heraldic schemes. Infantry and vehicles share the same bold, saturated colours; and the placement of those colours usually follows some sort of pattern – helms are one colour; trim another etc., for example. Even less brash armies, like the Black Templars Chapter or Ulthwé Craftworld, are examples of heraldic schemes.

+ Iyanden Craftworld: an example of an heraldic scheme using
bold blue and yellow +
The specific hues you choose are largely unimportant for this type of scheme – almost anything can work as long as they are distinctly different in tone and applied relatively consistently. The scheme I have chosen for my Gatebreakers is an example of an heraldic-type scheme:

+ First steps: Gatebreakers colour scheme +

It gives equal weight to two colours, yellow and green, which are our dominant colours. In addition, we have an accent colour – purple. For the work-in-progress piece above, the accent colour is used just for the eye lenses. Note the proportions of the colours. The yellow and green cover equal amounts of the model's surface, while the accent is restricted to a very small area. 

Dominant colours should be just that. Using too much of the accent colour will confuse the eye and spoil the effect. A good rule of thumb when painting an heraldic scheme is to default to your dominant colour(s) when working out what colour a part should be painted. Only use an accent when you can't avoid it.

You'll notice that I haven't counted black amongst the colours used. That's because black (and white) are not considered as part of the scheme. Instead, they're treated as very dark (or very light) tones of the scheme colours. As a result, black and white can be used freely in any heraldic scheme. Think of them as 'freebies' and problem-solvers (we'll look at how they can be used below). 


Heraldic schemes need at least one dominant colour. This can be anything, but for the best effect, pick an eye-catching colour rather than an earthy or muted colour. The primary colours of paint: red, blue and yellow, work well as dominant colours. Bright secondaries – purple, orange and green – are usually bold enough to work as dominant colours, too. Look for vivid, saturated colours, rather than desaturated (pastel) colours. For example, GW's Caledor Sky is a saturated blue, while Hoeth blue is desaturated.

 + The Eldar suit heraldic schemes very well; the tight restrictions
tying into their highly-regimented culture. +
Next, you need to choose whether you want to use more than one dominant colour. A co-dominant colour is given equal weight to the first colour, and is essential for halved or quartered schemes. I advise against using more than two. The more co-dominant colours you use, the more complex the interactions, and the less impact the scheme tends to have; instead disintegrating into visual confusion.

+ Novamarine: Co-dominant blue and white: purple accents. +
When choosing co-dominant colours, they should be markedly different. If they're too similar, you won't get the necessary impact. Holding the two pots up and seeing how they look together is a good, simple way to make an assessment. Another approach is to use the complementary colour to your first dominant colour, as these will always contrast strongly. Red and green are a complementary pair; as are blue and orange; and yellow and purple. Don't be restricted to these classic pairings, however. More unusual pairings are a great way to get some distinctiveness into your scheme. Your favourite colour is always a good place to start!

If you have just one dominant colour, you can pick a subdominant colour using the same approach as for a co-dominant colour. Subdominant colours are used for smaller areas than the dominant colour; and serve to prevent the scheme being monochrome. They should be applied sparingly, and act to support the dominant colour, not distract from it. Co-dominant schemes can involve subdominant colours, but don't need to, as the second dominant colour generally tends to do the same job. If you choose to include one, make sure it works with both co-dominant colours.

+ Scarlet Blade: Dominant orange; subdominant White (legs); red accents +

The final stage is to pick an accent or two. They are used in tiny areas to jump out – just as your final highlights draw the eye due to being different in tone; so accent colours jump our because they are different in hue.

If you have just one dominant colour, the accent can be almost anything as long as it's markedly different from the dominant and subdominant colour. Co-dominant schemes should have accent(s) that differ from both co-dominant colours. This ensures that eye lenses (for example) painted with the accent colour will 'sing out' from both sides.

+ Blood Angels: Dominant red; subdominant yellow/gold; accent blue +

+ Heraldic schemes: Practical +

When choosing your colours:

  • Consider the culture  Heraldic colours aren't picked randomly. They will be invested with symbolism that is pregnant with meaning for your character or force. Spend a little time thinking about what the colour means to them. Perhaps a hive city army picks 'sky blue' as an aspirational colour, a symbol of the ideal, rather than reality, of their polluted homeworld. 
  • Pick pot colours  This stops you having to mix the colour every time, which is both a timesaver and will help you get a consistent colour across the force – important for a finished heraldic effect across a whole force.
  • Take a chance on something unusual  It can be difficult to avoid using colours that you've seen elsewhere, but this is a real shortcut to getting something distinctive. Purple and orange, in particular, are underused colours for forces like Space Marines.
  • Pick something you like  This may seem a bit obvious, but there's no point picking a scheme that ticks all the theoretical boxes but leaves you cold.
  • Make a list  Always useful, but particularly handy for heraldic schemes as they rely on consistency across the force for impact.

+ Applying the paint+

With our scheme chosen, we now need to work out where to place the various colours on our model. If your scheme has just one dominant colour, it should be used for the bulk of the model – basically, anything that can be painted this colour, should be. If you are using co-dominant colours, they should cover a roughly equal amount of space.

Beyond this, spend some time thinking and planning before you begin. These heraldic colours don't just look good; they have significance to the character. In-universe, these colours will be important to the force or character, so will be reserved for important areas. You are more likely to see the heraldic colours on shields, ribbons and such-like, not on pouches, baggage and degradable areas like weapon blades.

  • Avoid breaking up your scheme too much  Split schemes such as halved or quartered are already visually complex. Complicating it further, by breaking it up more (having knee pads different from the rest of the leg etc.), is an easy way to lose impact.
  • Get the proportions right  Accent colours should generally be used where things look odd in the dominant or subdominant colour, and the subdominant colour should never take over from the dominant colour. A proportion of 5:3:1 of dominant:subdominant:accent is a good rule of thumb.
  • Outline  Creating visual breaks lets the viewer's eye rest. Black-lining is a technique that's fallen out of fashion in miniature painting, but it's quick and great for breaking up large vivid areas.
  • Respect the heraldic colours  Don't paint disposable or mass-produced items like grenades or ammunition with the heraldic colours – reserve the heraldry for well-respected and culturally important elements like armour and banners; and use neutrals, black, white or metallics for such disposables.

For my Gatebreakers, I chose Flash Gitz yellow, a vivid, saturated and cool primary as my first dominant colour, and Warpstone Glow; an equally vivid cool green as the co-dominant. The grass green and sun yellow were informed by the cultural seed I created; but – more importantly to me – they looked good together. Although both are given equal weighting, I applied the yellow first, on the basis that green covers yellow better than vice versa. Use your first model for such experiments.

+ Gatebreaker basic colours +

I chose a quartered scheme, which is a simple way of breaking things up evenly. However, you can be much more ambitious. My Whisperprince, below, is an example of a complex co-dominant heraldic scheme (purple and crimson). The colours are used both on their own and blended together on the banners; but the balance is such that both are given equal visual weight. A subdominant neutral beige is used for much of the equipment.

+ Whisperprince +

Note that the rest of the scheme is stripped-back. The armour is black, the skin is near-white, and the parts where I could have used accents (hair highlights, jewel) instead use variations of the dominant colours.


+ Consistency and variety +

Most Space Marine heraldry is usually uniform across the army – that is all Novamarines will have a white upper right quarter and a blue upper left quarter, for example; but heraldic schemes don't necessarily need to be uniform.

Understanding this is vital to ensuring you are in control of the paint scheme, and not held hostage by it. For quartered, halved or similar split schemes, the same rules can be applied:

+ Novamarines infantry and vehicles +
... but this is not always the case. If your first figure is painted with a red arm, you know that the next infantryman needs a red arm. This can be applied to other, similar figures – Dreadnoughts, for example, can easily be tackled with the same 'rules'. What, however, do you do when faced with a Rhino?

As long as you keep the proportions of the colours right, you can paint different parts of your force in very different ways. This is a fantastic way to keep your interest up for the whole army, while ensuring visual coherence across the force. Knowing that it is the proportions and not necessarily the placement of the colours will allow you to tackle a vehicle as easily as a second infantry figure. 

+ Brown and blue-grey co-dominants make an unusual harmonious pairing.
Although split in quite a complex way, and differently across the models,
note that they are still used in roughly equal proportions in both cases. +

+ While a very different shape, the Falcon grav-tank here can be tackled
 easily by keeping the proportions of the co-dominant colours the same.


+ Universal principles for paint schemes +

I've looked into heraldic schemes in quite some detail here because they lend themselves well to analysis. I'll cover the other types of scheme – muted, high contrast and analogous – in a follow-up inload soon, but to close this inload I wanted to talk about a few universal principles of getting a good result.

Part of the appeal of making your own army is simply doing something a bit differently; and I encourage you to pursue that way of thinking for your paint scheme – imagination will always trump theory when it comes to personal taste. However, that's not to say that theory is useless. Awareness of the following will help you to achieve a good result; if only to help you head off common pitfalls.

+ Tonal contrast +

A strong scheme will demonstrate contrast in tone (the relative lightness or darkness of a colour). A model should have both light-toned and dark-toned areas; though whether these are within a single colour (i.e. an area that goes from light blue to dark blue), or across the scheme as a whole, is not important.

+ Gatebreakers in colour +
Note that each area is highlighted and shaded individually; it's not just the differently-toned base colours doing the work.

+ Reduced to black and white, the scheme is still rich with impact. +

+ The importance of leaving gaps +

Breaks are important in a colour scheme. If everything is clamouring for attention, the scheme dissolves into confusion. Similarly, if everything is muted and hushed, the scheme can be hard to read. Leave visual gaps to punctuate your scheme.

+ Flat yellow is broken up with contrasting bold blue stripes. +

High-contrast lining and edging prevents this ivory-white scheme
from blurring into a boring mass. +

+ Lead the eye +

Your scheme should let you lead the eye to the point you choose. Well-chosen accents and subdominants allow you to drive the viewer's eye to parts you choose.

+ Black-skinned, bright-armoured Salamanders provide
a challenge – how to draw attention to the face? +
The red salamander skin cloak surrounds and leads the eye to an otherwise muted face. Note a hint of the same colour has been used in the cheek – joining the otherwise muted face to the bold rest of the scheme. 


+ Practical +

If you've opted for a heraldic scheme, get on with painting that first model you built after the previous inload; then please do share your results (both models and cultures):

+ inload: Creating an army of your own I +

+ Creating an army of your own – an invitation +

+ This inload is intended as the first in a mini-series that looks at my approach to world-building, with an eye to creating compelling narratives for your artwork, modelling and gaming. If all goes well, by the end you'll have your very own unique background for a force of orks, guard, eldar (or whatever else you fancy) – along with a couple of painted models; all achieved through a series of bitesize steps; and with examples and exercises to help guide you along the way. +

+ I've chosen Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000 as the main example, owing to their popularity, but the broader principles can be applied to anything – from Age of Sigmar forces to Titan Legions, to your own minor xenos for the Alien Wars. If you've ever been even slightly tempted to come up with a faction of your own, then I invite you to join me and follow along with the series. +

+ Before we begin, it goes without saying that all that follows is just, like, my opinion, man; so feel free to take as much on board as you like, ignore everything that you don't, and argue vociferously in the comments! The aim is simple: to make something that feels like it's yours. +

+ Noosphericinloadlinks +

I – Invitation and overview
II – Paint schemes and heraldic schemes 
III – Muted schemes
IV – High impact schemes [This inload]
V – Analogous schemes [Spooling]
VI – Enemies and allies [Spooling]


+ Why create your own force? +

Those scribators who've been inloading for a while will know I talk a good talk about being creative; but many of the armies I've built have been based on ones made up by other people. My Ultramarines and Iron Warriors, for example, may have my spin on them (being, as they were, exercises in fleshing out factions that have a reputation for being dull or generic) but they are, at heart, someone else's creation.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with making your own interpretation of an existing faction. Besides the ease of making decisions on colours, rules, army composition etc., it's also a good way of connecting with other hobbyists quickly. This is particularly apposite if you play with strangers in pick-up games or events, as it aids with gaming clarity. You can expect 40k players to knows what the Evil Sunz are; but not so much with the Howling Spiderz tribe. It's also fun to try and get things 'correct', or accurate – it's got a trainspottery vibe and appeal, and meeting like-minded players who recognise the depth you've gone into can be rewarding.

From the narrative hobbying perspective, there's also great pleasure in digging through old or obscure material to find an existing 'canonical' faction that you can bring to life. Having people recognise your Griefbringers Company or squat league is a rewarding and fun way to find like-minded people – and this is a social hobby at root, after all. This is a nice half-way house, and one I've followed quite a bit.

...and then we come to 'homebrew' factions. Even the name sounds a little down-at-heel; a little suspect. While the freedom such an approach offers is exciting, it can also be intimidating – and that can put a lot of people off; fearing sneers from other hobbyists doing 'proper' armies – and I think that's a terrible shame. In my experience, bespoke armies – however they're executed – invite far more interest and praise than jeers. Besides, It's a big universe, and it's only enriched by seeing unique colour schemes and histories.

At heart, the main reasons for creating your own force are threefold:

  • Telling your stories, with your men (or women, or post-human freaks, or bug-eyed monsters) is fun.
  • Challenging yourself to create is fantastically rewarding and liberating.
  • Creating your own force lets you explore a little (or big!) corner of a shared universe, and in so doing, gives depth to other hobbyists. 

I have created some factions of my own – notably my various Imperial Guard regiments, and my Eldar – but aside from a few one-offs, I've never really dug into making a Space Marine Chapter.

So I thought I would.

+ Founding a Chapter: the Gatebreakers +

+ Gatebreaker marine alongside two Imperial Armsmen +

At heart, I'm a contrary soul. For my Chapter, I want to make sure that they've got a distinct identity – no 'Blood Angels, but blue'; and not a caricature of an historical group. Jes Goodwin, being interviewed on Games Workshop's Voxcast podcast, made an excellent point that the best bits in 40k have their own distinct spin on existing concepts. 

It's not just a case of taking something and looking at it through a Warhammer lens; but combining complementary or even conflicting elements. Thus the Blood Angels, for example, are a distinctly 40k construct of pop-culture vampires, renaissance-era artwork, and Aliens-style future soldiers. It's a weird mix, but works because it offers lots of ways in. It can appeal equally to those who want a serious, pseudo-historical force and those who want an over-the-top fantasy vibe. The name has similar features: at once slightly ridiculous and compellingly iconic.

+ Theoretical: Picking a name +

Speaking of names... There are many ways to start, but I think coming up with a good catchy name is amongst the easiest. A good name also leads on nicely to helping decide on your force's culture and way of war later on. When picking a name, I recommend considering the following:

  • Ease of use  Shorter names are punchier, and easier for both you and other hobbyists to remember. I suggest you look first and foremost to names familiar to you, if only for ease of pronounciation: don't make things harder than they need to be for other people.
  • Exoticism  That first point needs to be balanced against originality. There 40k universe is a huge place, and there's space to bring a mirror to any real-world culture, modern or historical. 
  • Make it about you  Since this is a personal army, only you can decide what you want it to say about you, but exploring your own family history will likely throw up some cool ideas; as will the place you live. Look into local history and see if that brings something up.
  • Say it out loud  If you can't even bring yourself to say it, you'll struggle to convince anyone else to – I'd suggest it's a duff idea. Equally, if it's sounds awesome when you say it, you're onto a winner.
  • Avoid nominative determinism  That is to say, your army's name doesn't need to describe its behaviour, as that'll limit your choices later. 

Taking the irreverent spirit I mentioned earlier forward, I want to make sure that there are contradictions and surprises within the Chapter. First and foremost, in the name. My Chapter will be the Gatebreakers – a name I settled on because it fits the existing schema of being simple, martial and short. A typically bombastic and aggressive name for a Space Marine Chapter, it has associations of siegework – but that's the obvious path to take. All Space Marine Chapters – from White Scars to White Consuls – can do sieges; so naming themselves after their speciality seems a bit self-referential and limiting.

In short, the name you pick doesn't need to determine the force's behaviour. For my example, it's precisely because Gatebreakers suggests 'sieges' that I want to avoid any suggestion of siege specialism – it's reductive.

+ Practical

Now it's your turn to pick a name. Look beyond existing 40k tropes, at what inspired them in the first place. I've listed some starting points below:
  • Craftworld Eldar: Look at the Gaelic/Celtic festivals which inspired some of the Craftworld names – it's not a big jump between bealtaine, samhain and lughnasadh to Biel Tan, Saim-Hann and Lugganath. You might explore other Gaelic terms – perhaps relating to war or geographical regions. Flowery allusions are another route – try looking at Romantic-era poetry to select some choice verbiage.
  • Orks: The easy route is to go with 'Waaa-[insert warboss name here]', but if you want to try something else; orks tend to pick wonderfully blunt and earthy names based around physical objects – often animals, of weapons – and simple adjectives, such as 'fast' or 'yellow'. Given a quick 'orkification', we end up with 'Boar Runnaz', 'Skarlet Stikkas' and the like.
  • Imperial Guard: Guard naming is simple and fun – pick a planet, pick a number, and pick a nickname. The latter is perhaps the most creative part – and thus the part that offers your the most creativity. Look at existing real-world regimental nicknames, such as the 'Brickdusts'; 'Screaming Eagles'; or 'Immortals'.
What I'd like you to do is get your dataslate (or a piece of paper) and scribble down the first name that comes to mind – don't worry if it's crap, or derivative – keep going. Write down three of four more than are variations on the name; swapping out a word, or changing it slightly. If you want help trimming down, here are some ideas to avoid common pitfalls and clichés:
  • Avoid 'The' anything  It can work; but often comes across as needlessly portentous. It's also awkward when you come to situation when you need lists. A good name works without a determiner or prefix.
  • Less is sometimes more  Try to keep the name as short as possible – if you've used an adjective ('red', 'blood' etc.) try the name without.
  • Say the name out loud  40k can have a campy aspect, but if you feel silly just saying the name, it's probably a non-starter.
Next, write down four or five more that spring to mind: having a back-up choice is very useful! You don't need to share these with anyone; and we're not going to make a final choice yet. Nothing stifles creativity like feeling restricted, so we're going to keep our options open. In any case, it may be that the other options get put to use elsewhere – perhaps as names for units, relic wargear, or as honorifics. Put a star or something next to your current favourite before moving on to the next part – we'll use this as a placeholder.

Remember, the name doesn't determine the behaviour; so try to pick something that, first and foremost, sounds good to you.


+ Theoretical: Seeds of a culture +

With a name, we now do a small amount of world-building. We'll build on this later, so for the moment, a tight focus will help. Conflict is at the heart of these forces, so one way in is to look at how they fight – and how it differs from other groups of the same faction/species. You then follow the thread to see where it leads.

Having decided that the Gatebreakers are not a one-trick siege force, I need to decide what my Chapter is going to be. The main pitfall to avoid is making them too different – remember that your force must fit into the broader universe. Exceptionalism is a siren song, but it's the 'standard' stuff against which such talents sit which will ground your army. Think of the special stuff as your final highlights – they need the base coats to work properly.

  • Where does the army's faction stand in the game universe? 
    • Is it usually fast and fragile, slow and tough? 
    • Is it a horde or smaller?
  • Is my army a typical example of the faction, or does it differ?
    • If it differs, how?
  • Do these exceptions provide an advantage?
    • If so, why does the faction as a whole not use them?

Applying these to my Gatebreakers, I step back a bit and look at what Space Marines in general are – and that's effectively special forces. Astartes are brought in to solve problems that other Imperial institutions can't deal with. That's good enough for me; and I decide to keep their general approach Codex standard. In essence, then, the name 'Gatebreakers' can simply be an allusion to their role as solving problems – presumably with maximum violence – rather than a sign they do things hugely differently.

In short, whatever faction you're building, they're already distinctive and special – eldar are deadly fast; orks are tough and ramshackle. Our challenge is to find a niche that makes our faction different rather than better – and character does not rely on exceptionalism – in fact, it's often the weaknesses and ways of overcoming them that suggest interesting ideas.

With a couple of variables in place, we now pick somewhere for them to inhabit. We'll look at this later, so for the moment I suggest you simply pick from the following list:

  • Their own planet.
  • Roving from place to place.
  • Something more exotic.

I decided to have the Gatebreakers as a nomadic force, and place their holdings near the galactic rim. This is a favourite location of mine, as it's isolated, desolate and far from the centre of things – a perfect combination as far as I'm concerned, giving me a blank page to fill with strange new aliens, weird human cultures and all the implications of an unexplored frontier.

What effect does that choice of location have on the Gatebreakers? Well, their location on the rim suggested a fleet-based Chapter to me; constantly battling with resupply issues and scarcity owing to their isolation – and that lean, ruthless feel is something gives me a core to build upon.

Practical +

Over to you. Look for something that shares the core aspects of the existing background, and find a twist:
  • Craftworld Eldar: A core aspect of Craftworld Eldar culture is the sense of decline; of an inevitable terrible doom. How does your Craftworld deal with this? Defiance? Despair? Resignation? Duty? Last stands, declining empires and defiance are rich sources of inspiration.
  • Orks: The six clans offer a shortcut – but potentially a cul-de-sac that quickly becomes exaggerated to caricature. Evil Sunz do more than race; and not all Death Skulls are lootas. If you go for a mono-clan approach, be careful to give your warband some cultural quirk – perhaps a fondness for warpaint or some decorative element; perhaps a necessary reliance on some technology or cultural taboo to survive the planet they're on? If you go for a mixed-clan tribal approach; what clan is the warboss? Why?
  • Imperial Guard: As orks have the clans, so Guard have the real world to fall back on – but be careful not to make your Guard '[culture] in space'. As with the Blood Angels example above, try combining seemingly incongruous history with mythology or pop culture – Zhou dynasty China with werewolves, for example; or Classical Athenian naval troops with a world dominated by godzilla-like monsters.

Some tips for thinking out the framework of a culture:
  • What do they call themselves? This can give a good lens on a culture. Does the force refer to itself by its formal title, or by an affectionate nickname/honorific? Why?
  • Where do they come from? It's a cliché in sci-fi, but the place something comes from affects it. This can be a world (or craftworld); but could equally be a fleet. More abstractly, consider where your force comes from in time. Are they veterans, newly-formed, or something else?
  • What do they want? What are the short-term and long-term goals or aims of your force?
  • What do they fear? Weakness and frailty pose questions and create the potential for conflict – fantastic for creating character. It's also a good way to ensure you avoid that dreaded 'Mary Sue'
  • Are they a caricature of an existing culture? If so; think again. Chuck something new into the mix – something incongrous. If you've gone for a realistic feel, throw in something silly, and vice versa. (To reassure you here; consider Eldar Harlequins. On paper they're ridiculous: deadly space clown ninjas? Nevertheless, because the culture is sufficiently deep and compelling, it works.)

Jot down the answers to the questions above; then look again at your list of names. Does your initial favourite (marked with a star) still fit the bill? If not, do the others fit? For any you reject, can you use them elsewhere? Don't worry about things becoming incongruous at this stage – an Ethiopian-inspired culture having a Russian-sounding rank title, for example. These incongruities can add depth and interest. As always, you don't have to share these ideas with anyone – in fact, I'd encourage you not to. If you've come up with something awesome, the need to share it will push you forward to making a model...


+ Theoretical: Making models +

While I have already fleshed out the Gatebreaker's background a bit further – details in a future inload – I encourage you not to build the background too far too soon, as it inevitably puts restrictions on what you can eventually build. That in turn leads to lost opportunities. Leave yourself wanting to write more, as this creative urge will feed into and inform your modelling. Thus, with the broad strokes in place, I got started: 

+ Eo Duar, Gatebreaker +
 + Based on one of the new Plague Marine sculpts, I removed the obvious mutations and filled in the larger pockmarks. I did leave a few bullet holes and popped rivets, complementing them with some score marks of my own to suggest some relatively minor damage. This mix helps to visually blend the plastic areas with the greenstuff. +

+ I wanted a sense that the Gatebreakers' equipment is much-repaired (to go with the cultural markers we talked about earlier) rather than out-and-out scavenged or damaged to the point of uselessness. To suggest this, I chose a specific armour mark (in this case Mark 3) with a few replacement parts such as the mark V helm and mark VII arm. This hopefully suggests that there was a full suit once upon a time; rather than it being a completely scavenged patchwork (as you might expect with a renegade Chapter). +

+ Note the crude forearm system – presumably replacing a damaged in-suit system, or a jury-rigged repair. Visually, this serves to create some asymmetry and interest; moving the piece as a whole away from the Plague Marine origin. Sometimes it's about removing detail as much as adding it – and that applies to the background as much as the model. +

+ I left the tubules from the Plague Marine sculpt in place, but filled the holes and gaps to make them into cables. Again, the idea is to walk a line between 'old and much-repaired' and 'ancient to the point of decrepititude'. Taking opportunities offered by the base model can help generate challenges. The way you deal with them – whether paisntakingly removing and resculpting them; or building them in – will depend on your ambition as much as your ability. +

+ When you build, pause every so often, and check that you're not only showing the viewer what makes your force special; but what makes him fit into the existing world. Here, the mark III power pack and shoulder pads re-establish that this is an Imperial Marine. An equivalent for (say) a Guardsman would be to include the iconic lasgun – even a caveman miniature with a lasgun will 'read' as a Guardsman. +

+ I wavered on the boltgun. The figure already has lots of 'historical' elements that mean he wouldn't be out of place in the Horus Heresy setting; and the boltgun I used is often associated with that period too. However, in-universe it's just another boltgun – and for me it has associations with the real-world period of the 90s that I'm evoking with the Alien Wars project, so I left it on. +

+ In the context of the rest of the squad the associations will (hopefully) not be so marked – but even if they are, who cares? This process should, first and foremost, please you. +

Practical +

Last exercise for this inload, but easily the most rewarding: Making the first model for your force. The task is to build a single line trooper that exemplifies the culture you've created. I've listed starting points below for Craftworld eldar, orks and guard, but don't feel restricted to that – the advice applies equally to other xenos species.

The model you make will be informed by the answers you gave to the practical exercises above. Try to apply the same magpie approach to your modelling – look beyond the obvious sources to other ranges. Remember: it's just one model. Importantly, it's a line soldier. Not a leader, not a character – a basic warrior. The reason for this is simple: if you can exemplify the name and convey the culture on a relatively anonymous figure, you'll know you've come up with something good and distinctive.

The following are some starting points to help you exercise your creativity:
  • Craftworld Eldar: Even with GW, the Eldar are spoiled for kitbashing with the new Age of Sigmar elves. Historical figures often have a slighter stature than GW heroics – that can be put to good use here.
  • Orks: Orks have a wealth of third-party options open to them, and most ork players are dab hands at conversion, so my suggestion here is simple: don't underestimate the impact simple parts choice can have in suggesting culture. Challenge yourself with restriction: pick two ork sprues from different kits, and have at it. Cut, repose and have fun – just don't use anything beyond those two. It'll force you to adapt.
  • Imperial Guard: The opposite applies to the ork advice here. Too often, cool kitbash ideas are put on the backburner because the thought of repeating them a hundred times is demoralising. Focus on building one model, using all those parts you (deep down) really want to.

Look again at the example Gatebreaker marine I made. If I've done it right, the pose and pieces should give the impression of the embattled but ruthless culture I want to evoke – but that's for you to decide. If I've failed, then I'll do my best to fix it in the next inload! If you're struggling for a starting point, try one of these:
  • Pick a single part from a kit you've used before and know you like. Build a non-standard model around it.
  • Pick a single part from a kit you've always had your eye on, but never had a good reason to use.
  • Pick a kit that's lurked at the back of the cupboard for too long. If it's numbered, roll an appropriately-sided die to get the bit you have to incorporate.
  • Combine elements of two kits from different model lines.
The aim of this exercise is not to splurge money on getting exotic bits – indeed, another reason to do a basic trooper is that you may have some spares lying about that you can use to do this. If you do want to try something new, but are on a budget, Warlord Games currently have a sprue sale on [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] – their Gates of Antares plastics can be picked up for a couple of quid, and are great sources of cool models.
Of couse, if you want to really go for it and make something truly outré with loads of random bits; then all the better – godspeed you!


+ Summary +

I hope this article's been interesting; and I really do encourage you to have a go at following the exercises. Follow through to build just one unique model, and you'll have a great sense of accomplishment. Better than that; you'll have unlocked your inherent creativity.

In the meantime, please do share your results (both models and cultures):