+ inload: The Alien Wars – Anatomy of the Astartes III: Gatebreakers +

+ Anatomy of the Astartes III: Gatebreakers +

"It is written in the odes that the seventh divine prince pronounced that some men wear masks; because they seek to share the true self beneath with a select few. The sage Hinn disagreed. He said that there is nothing beneath the mask except another mask."

- Oto Yeng, Gatebreakers Claviger apothecary-errant

+ Abstract +

By M34, the Gatebreakers are a Chapter in some distress. Nominally Lords of Andocrine – a system on the very edge of Imperial territory at the Galactic rim – their homeworld has, through necessity, long been abandoned. It is used along with the other inhabited planets in the region by the Chapter only for snatch-and-grab recruitment.

The Chapter itself occupies the vast wilderness space of the region, with the Astartes roving nomadically, only intemittently returning to largest of the ammonia-wreathed dwarf planets of Androcrine. The Chapter specialises in void warfare and ship-to-ship assault.

Or at least; that is its boast. In truth, the Gatebreakers are suffering from numerous and growing gene-rune problems. Their melanchromic organ and neuroglottis are non-functional, and more than ninety per cent suffer catastrophic collapse of the sus-an Membranes prior to leaving the Scout Company-analogues. Many suffer irregularities of the oolitic kidney or paralysis of the multi-lung; while a minority also suffer failures of the occulobe or Lyman's ear, necessitating bionic replacement. While it is officially no shame to bear geneseed with failed or misgenic organs (the Imperial Fists being a good example) the sheer level of failure to the Gatebreakers' seed is a point of deep shame to the Chapter, and they go to huge lengths to conceal the extent of their sickness.

Recruiting heavily in order to make up for the sheer level of catastrophic failure, the Gatebreakers harvest the three worlds of Andocrine regularly, launch slaving raids on any non-Imperial human worlds they come across, and demand payment in the form of a planet's youth when they come to its aid. As a result both of this and of the weak influence of the geneseed, the Gatebreaker's phenotype is hugely diverse.

The Chapter's culture – insular to the point of isolationism – has deemed this inner corruption must be hidden; to the point of short-stocking or withholding their tithe completely. Thus far, their distant galactic position and mobile nature has meant few Imperial parties are particularly interested.

+ Absent guardians +

The Gatebreakers are not unusual in being isolated. There are, after all, said to be just one thousand Chapters Astartes, spread across the vast cobweb that is Imperial space. Further, by virtue of their demesne's position in the galactic halo, contact is inherently harder to maintain in comparison with a Chapter positioned within the galaxy. 

The tenuous nature of their position has been further exacerbated by galactic drift, poor record-keeping and their roving behaviour. Over the millennia, supplies from within the Imperium became lost en-route, found no-one authorised to receive additional equipment and materiel, or – latterly – emerged in an area of space where Andocrine no longer sits. This fed a vicious cycle: low on supplies, the Chapter adapted to become more dependent on roving and raiding, and thus their few established supply drop positions dwindled. By the opening of the Alien Wars, the Gatebreakers had become listed amongst the Chapters Inperceptus – a status of inability to be contacted. Suspected to be lost or destroyed by the Adeptus Terra, their heraldry and Chapter number were reserved, as occasional reports from Rogue Traders and the like brought legends, if not confirmation, of the Chapter's continued existence. 

From the Gatebreakers' own point of view, of course, they had remained adherent to their ancient oaths, and continued to send a scanty but sufficient tithe to Mars. They are, as with so many Imperial institutions, largely forgotten; and when recalled, assumed by the High Lords to be performing their duty.


+ The Gatebreakers during the Nova Terra Interregnum +

Although unusual in their many divergent traditions and patchwork approach to war, the Gatebreakers are typical in one way – they are dutiful. Their ancient role is to guard a region of the rim-worlds of the Imperium from extra-galactic xenos threats, and to enforce the Emperor's will over his Imperium. This means they rarely have contact with other Imperial institutions. This is in many ways fortunate. So isolated are the Gatebreakers that their belief system has become hugely divergent – were they better-known to the Adeptus Ministorum, it is almost certain that their beliefs would be termed heretical, even given the leeway of the Chapter Cults.

While they have little official contact with the broader Imperium, they do respond to calls of aid, and have on occasion served besides other Imperial forces. In such instances, they remain secretive, reserving their contact to missives and Chapter serfs where possible. On those rare occasions when the Chapter are called upon to send an Astartes delegate, they nominate a Claviger – or Macebearer – an in-Chapter term for Astartes granted leave to liaise with other Imperial authorities. 

Clavigers are almost invariably members (or 'Gentles') of the Apothecarion, and tend to be well-respected, as the Chapter's pragmatic and adaptable apothecaries are highly skilled and intimately knowledgeable about biochemistry and the Astartes form. They are few and far between, but most Deathwatch who have served alongside a Gatebreaker tend to admire their medical knowledge and skill; if not their social graces. Clavigers serve with honour, with faith... and with the understanding that they must bring back information, evidence or – better still – samples of other Astartes Chapters' gene-organs.

While not officially acting in the Alien Wars in any consulted sense, the rise in xenos activity across the galaxy was inevitably felt by the Gatebreakers, and their tenuous grip on their territory slipped further as they were forced into a number of stand-and-fight wars that drained their thin resources further.

So depleted were they that Andocrine itself fell to the brutal assaults of the zhote, and while their homeworld was liberated by the end of the Nova Terra Interregnum, the Gatebreakers lost a huge amount of their Chapter history. They became a Chapter in danger of extinction; and a salutary example of the fate of numerous Chapters in the face of a resurgent xenos threat.


+ Member-ordinary Eo Daur +

Pictured during a border skirmish with the halator Eldar, Eo Daur wears the Chapter's quartered grass green and sun yellow heraldry. His armour, like all Gatebreakers, is a mongrel suit that incorporates a number of unusual elements. Much of the Chapter's armoury is antique and much-patched, and where new pieces are forged, they are based on ancient STCs.

In a stark break from Astartes norms, the Gatebreakers maintain no Techmarines proper. Having long forgotten the necessity of sending delegates to Mars, their weapons and forges are maintained purely by tech-adepts overseen by an Astartes official called the 'Salt-Master'. This dangerous situation places them in a continual war of attrition, and has frequently placed them in the debt of pragmatic Magi of local Forgeworlds, who exploit the situation for their own gains.

The Chapter symbol is a swinging mace, the handle of which symbolises the galaxy, with the Emperor at the centre. The Chapter itself, then, is represented by the mace head, striking the enemy at the edge of the galaxy. The five pointed spikes of the mace head evoke the multiple directions the Chapter takes – a metaphor both for their roving nature and for their adaptability.

Daur bears a wrist-mounted bio-monitor, jury-rigged to his power pack with thick cabling. Many such external devices are borne by the Gatebreakers, both to monitor their own weakened states and to substitute for absent autosenses, auspices and similar devices common to most Chapter's power armour suits.

Gatebreakers rely heavily on consultation of the Tenets of the Ten Divine Princes – a garbled holy text that combines a surprisingly early edition of the Codex Astartes with centuries worth of the Gatebreakers' own traditions and sayings. Each Member-ordinary (the Chapter's idiosyncratic term for battle brothers) is expected to master the art of reading and writing and then to transcribe the Tenets himself. The resulting notes are understandably varied both in quality and accuracy. Far from consistency being encouraged, however, such accidental development is seen as a sign of favour; unconscious inspiration gifted by one or more of the Ten Divine Princes, the Emperor's Sons.

A Member's copy of the Tenets is frequently consulted, amended, annotated and swapped, Above, you can see a number of calligraphic extracts used as purity seals.

Company and squad markings vary, but will be familiar to scholars of the Astartes. The upward pointing arrow here denotes a Tactical squad, the '4' in the circle at the top clarifying membership of fourth squad. Frequently understrength, squads are kept fluid, with members moving from one to another freely within the strikeforce. The strikeforce itself is the nearest equivalent to a Company, with the Chapter having no permanent Company-analogue organisation. Here, Daur is marked as belonging to strikeforce IX, as denoted by his bracer.

Strikeforces are simply those Astartes assigned to a particular squadron group of ships from the Chapter's much-battered fleet, and placed under command of a senior warrior, usually a Gnostic. For the Gatebreakers, members of the Librarius are not always psychic (though most are), instead regarding the making of records and communications as their critical role. Non-psychic Gnostics therefore make use of Chapter astropaths and similar non-Astartes personnel for battlefield support.

The small circular marking at the front of the pauldron above is an archaic marking denoting him as being equipped with a boltgun.

Marked on Daur's chest is an hierarcic ferroglyph, styled after the petroglyphs of the Androcrine homeworld. This is a sign of holy favour granted by the Sages as intercessionaries for the Ten Divine Princes, a step below the Emperor himself: the symbol is thus a cross between a medal and a religious fetish.

+ Gatebreakers way of war +

Gatebreakers' culture is a peculiar mix of direct self-reliance and highly abstract reasoning. When two strikeforces meet, they will spar both physically and rhetorically; each contestant expanding the audiences understanding of the core beliefs espoused in the Tenets of the Ten Divine Princes and their supporting texts. In this way, the Chapters' lessons are kept flexible. Through continual application to the innovative ways of warfare with which the region's innumerable alien races fight, the Chapter never fights in quite the same way twice, allowing it to quickly adapt and overwhelm their foe.

"When the Odes were first bound to parchment, it is said that the King of Al-Yinn declared them complete and perfect; that nothing more was to be written on the scrolls, nor to be taken away." 
Yeng's voice was soft, but not conspiratorial.
"The Sage Mem nodded, knowing the King's quick temper, and had the scrolls placed in their blank silver case and taken away. It is also said that for each day that it was in the Sage Mem's care, the case grew larger and more elaborate, and its decoration ever more fine." 
He smiled, and Solastion detected a sad sincerity to the Gatebreaker's words. 
"When the King of Al-Yinn went to join the Emperor, his Son demanded to see the scrolls. His servants brought the case to the King, and as four men struggled to place the case on the ground before him, so heavy and finely decorated was it, the front swung open, revealing nothing but grub-chewed fragments. 
'Alas!' cried the King, 'the weight of time has turned their wisdom to dust.' And so it was; for paper is like the hope of man; fragile, and easily lost. The new King wept, then, for he thought the wisdom of the ancients lost forever." 
Yeng looked straight at the Sanguinary Priest, meaningfully, as he went on. 
"The Sage Yinn bowed deeply. 'My treasured Lord, weep not. Though the words are gone, the wisdom remains.'"
Sample extract from the Tenets of the Ten Divine Princes, as espoused by Gatebreaker Oto Yeng during his M41 tour of the Deathwatch, to Solastion of the Blood Angels.

The Tenets of the Ten Divine Princes are highly metaphorical, combining hard-won battle reports with mystic claims and esoterism. It is a complex and opaque text to outsiders, and requires much reading and discussion for any claim of understanding. It is, however, highly valuable in terms of tactical and strategic advice, and is a holy text to the Gatebreakers.

Their unusual and divergent beliefs and organisation are a source of strength for the Gatebreakers, and one of the few things that unites the vastly divergent cultures of the Chapter.

Eo Daur, Member-ordinary


+ Post script +

Being so divergent, what lessons can we learn from the Gatebreakers? Should we condemn them as blasphemers? Set the forces of our divided Imperium to persecute a lost scion? 

No. I present them in order to demonstrate the absurdity of a reductionist desire to frame everything in simple terms of the Nova Terran secessionists or Old Earth classicists. There are more things under the Emperor's domains than such binary divisions; and the Gatebreakers are a perfect example of such.

Flawed? Failing? Perhaps. But at core they remain loyal to the Emperor's will – and in such circumstances as the present civil war, such isolated bastions of honour and loyalty serve as an example to all. 

Perhaps more importantly, perhaps it is a blessing to have guardians so distant from events that they are blind. It leaves our war in the shadows all the more free.

I remain, at your service; Inquisitrix Barbari Kills.

+ inload: Diversity and uniformity +

+ Diversity and uniformity +

+ One of the most appealing parts of collecting and painting miniatures is that you can invest each one with character. Part of this character, of course, may rely on uniformity to suggest discipline – but rarely do you want literally identical figures side by side. How do you balance making models look like part of a group without making them boring to paint or look at? +

+ The modern dwarf models are a great case in point. They are very similar in pose and equipment – they're differentiated by little more than having four styles of heads and four weapon options across two boxes. It's quite limiting – particularly when I've been spoiled by the sheer cross-compatibility of ranges like orks, marines and guard. +

+ Both of the dwarf infnatry kits are, as with most multipart kits of their vintage, cross-compatible within the range. The Hammerer boxed set, for example, also builds Longbeards; but both Hammerer and Longbeard heads fit on the Ironbreaker bodies from the other box. +

+ You can introduce a measure of variety to a unit by including heads from as many different groups as possible. This gives a believable lack of uniformity to the unit – after all, if you call up troops from your lands and tell them to bring their gear, you're unlikely to have them all equipped with the same style of helm. It also adds some welcome variation in faces and heads, something that often makes multipart plastic kits less characterful than their one-off metal sculpts equivalents. +

+ That doesn't get you too far, however, and it can create an additional problem that you can no longer distinguish between different types of units within the army. This is where you can distinguish between functional differences – perhaps the particular weapon a unit uses – and purely aesthetic differences, such as the pattern of Space Marine armour, or design of a shield. +

+ As long as you avoid mix and matching the functional differences, playing around with aesthetics is great for visual variety. It will also hopefully be useful when playing games, making it clear where one unit begins and another ends. It's not just about bringing in elements from other kits, either – such differentiation can be made by intentionally limiting your options. +

+ Here, for example, I've used an ancestor face designs for all the shields, and further linked them with a yellow colour scheme. If you know you're going to be building an army using multiples of the same kit, pre-planning might be worth it. Picking a particular design of shield (or weapon, or helmet, or body style) for a unit offers a nice way to add some subtle character – and if you plan it carefully enough, using bits from different kits doesn't mine your bits stash: you simply use the bits left over from the first kit on the second. +

+ You often don't have to be completely exclusive; there are often sub-variants – the standard dwarf kits include a few ancestor head variants. Similar enough to hang together, but not completely uniform. +

+ inload: Are you a Catachan, or a Catacan't? +

+ If it bleeds we Catachan kill it +

+ No prizes for guessing who this Hasslefree miniature [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] represents. The first of those Rogue Trader-themed models I posted about recently to receive paint, he's proving good fun. The over-muscled arms and chiseled features make it fun to play around with lighting, giving an almost cel-shaded look at this stage. I'll be refining him with some highlights, but it's been good to get some variety in pinks and ochres to – hopefully – give some realism. +

+ Not sure how I'll tackle the fatigues etc. Urban or desert could work, letting him tie in respectively with my Red Hand or Imperial guard; but there's also the option of running with the jungle theme of the inspiration. +

+ The same painting session saw me tackle some beards and skin on the dwarfs – there's only tiny flashes of skin visible, but it'll all add up to a nice effect when they're finished (I hope). +

+ To avoid an uncanny-valley effect of models in particular units all having the same beard colour, I plucked random piles of models from across the army, and used slightly variations on a few 'core mixes'. That allowed me to do a sort of half-way house between batch painting and individualy focus. +

+ Further work necessary, but this is proving a marathon, not a sprint. I'm aiming to have 1,000pts finished for a PCRC 'parade' at the end of May, which is still looking fairly likely. +

 + To close, another shot of our 80s action hero. +

+ inload: painting dwarfs +

+ The dawi begin to assemble +

+ I can't decide whether this week has been productive or not. I was certainly hoping to have more done on my dwarfs – the background of which is being fleshed out on our sister blog The Tallowlands [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] – but I got fed up with batch painting and decided to paint some characters. +

+ The good news is thus that I've actually got a few models done, rather than lots half-finished – and owing to the way Age of Sigmar seems to involve lots of individual characters, I think they should be fieldable as-is. +

Strong features reward traditional techniques.
+ Anyway, I'll chat more about the background and rules over on The Tallowlands; here I just want to talk about the painting. I often find dwarfs really fun to paint, as they have relatively large heads with bold features – great to play around with skin mixes, and to enjoy working wet-in-wet. Assuming they're not helmed, details like eyes are relatively easy to paint in. +

 + All of the figures I've painted recently have used the same colours as the basis for their skin: Vallejo Off-white, Citadel Averland Sunset and a touch of Vallejo Flat Red – the latter is a very intense paint, so you really need tiny amounts, particularly when using a quite subdued yellow like Averland Sunset. +

I didn't want to use many washes, as they can flatten the highlighting, and I thought the features of these figures were defined enough to reward good old-fashioned painting. I therefore worked up from a underlayer. For these, I just grabbed any brown I could find – so there's a mix of Skrag Brown and Doombull Brown. +

Variations on a theme – different combinations of the same mixes were used for the skin on each dwarf.

+ The three colours listed above combine create to create quite ruddy-looking tones, which can easily be varied by introducing more yellow or white, or by using a different underlayer. Very little of the underlayer remains apparent after painting, but it ensures there's a flat, even surface to cover with translucent layers, and a deep value in any visible recesses. In turn, this increases the contrast so you end up with a punchy result without having to go back with washes and so forth to strengthen the values in the shadows. +

+ Working wet-in-wet simply means that I'm working fast enough to wet blend on the surface of the figure. If you're struggling with the speed it's drying, a wet palette will help to keep your palette mixture workable, while retarding medium will slow the paint drying both on the figure and the palette. +

+ I tend to instead use flow enhancer medium to keep the paint workable. It only slows the drying in the same way water does, but it helps to prevent any brushmarks by aiding the consistency. This means that the paint dries relatively quickly – good for repeated layers – but has a crucial few extra seconds of working time so you can work back into it without creating physical texture: something that will quickly ruin the finish. +