Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Okey Dokey, Sarge: A Quick Look at some Serious and Silly Sergeant Conversions

The guy in charge of any given squad of marines, the sergeant probably represents the most numerous example of an officer in any space marine army. As such it makes sense for him to be the mini that gets that little bit more attention than the other chaps lugging around bolters whether that takes the form of a more interesting paintjob, individual wargear or even a minor conversion.

The usual method that GW use to differentiate a sergeant is to model the character with a bare head, and while some people object to this on the grounds that it would be suicide to do this in the real world it does help to remember that this is a fictional subject!

This sergeant to the right is the bog standard plastic model that was prevalent for most of the 90's. Pretty boring in terms of stance and wargear, but this mini does present a good starting point for a number of possible conversions. In addition the mini is both numerous and cheap to get hold of making it also a great choice for experimentation for the less experienced modeller.

All that was done here was to simply change the standard right arm for one intended for a multi-part tactical marine and add a bolt pistol. Rather than the original, I always thought rather static pose, this adds a measure of depth to the mini. I had to note as well that I was very impressed with the amount of facial detail that a few applications of Ogryn Flesh showed up.

On the other hand, you can just opt to do something silly for the sake of seeing the effect and using parts from your bits box.

I had used components from the WHFB Bretonnian range to great effect to convert a squad of scouts and then to cobble together a collection of minis intended to represent chapter serfs equipped as support combatants and this sergeant was a result of the last of the spares being thrown together with a mini that had just been sitting around in the bits box gathering dust.

I really have no idea why this chap has a helmet like this or why he needed a bolt pistol with such elaborate sights. I also have no idea as to whether he'll ever see the light of day as part of an army. To be honest he reminds me of something out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail...perhaps he'd make a good minion for those Spanish Inquisition themed minis I saw an independent website selling the other day? Or maybe I was just unconsciously bashing the Black Templars?

I think this is how you officially go crazy with Green Stuff when you first start out learning how to use it! Had I done this today I would have started well before the mini was assembled and sculpted the robes over the entire torso of the marine. As it is the guy's back is totally devoid of any sculpting whatsoever, but I was banking on the fact that no one would be looking under his backpack.

I'm not showing this as an example of the wonders that can be achieved with Green Stuff (god knows it's a crappy first attempt with the stuff!), but more as an example of what this kind of mini can be great for.

You'd have to be pretty well off and blase about the idea of converting and making the inevitable mistakes that you will always make to begin with on something new and rather expensive from GW.

This is where making a savvy purchase on Ebay, getting stuff second hand from a local independent games store or even trading stuff with a friend who shares your addiction to the hobby really comes into its own. The skills that can be gained from this sort of experimentation are endlessly useful and you may end up with some great and unique minis as a result as well.

While the most common place that most people visit for alternate marine parts is the chaos marines range (of which I am as repeatedly guilty as anyone), another priceless source of bits is the plastic chaos warrior kits from WHFB. Chaos warriors tend to be modelled larger than life in a similar manner to marines and a Space Wolves or Black Templars collector ignores them to his or her own detriment.

This sergeant has the head and torso of a chaos warrior atop the legs of a standard tactical marine. I sculpted his belt and the purity seal on his powerfist from Green Stuff to disguise the join and filed off the horns on his head.

I've seen an example of Sternguard veterans converted using the back half of the chaos warrior torso with a great deal of Green Stuff used to disguise the joins. The minis looked great, but I have to state for the record that I saw them months after I had completed this guy, so there is the vague chance that someone over there in Nottingham saw and copied me...but then it's far more likely he just came up with the idea on his own. Damn it, one day I will have proof that someone, somewhere has been inspired by something that I've done!

I suppose that this last sergeant is really more of a kitbash than a conversion, one that came about from the remnants of a marine commander kit. His legs are from a chaos marine, leather skirt, head and augmetic arm from the commander kit and the rest from standard tactical marine parts.

For me this is what the commander kit is really all about: using the majority of the bits for a commander mini and then milking every last bit that's left over for effect on other models afterwards.

The chaos terminator lord was the same and I would urge anyone who has the ear of GW to do more stuff like that. In an age where the back catalogue is unavailable and the ability to order specific components has been taken away, kits like that are the most common way to obtain interesting and useful parts.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Psychic Warfare: Librarians Part 3 - Terminators and Conversions

As far as I'm aware, the first mention of the Librarian in terminator armour was in the first edition Space Hulk expansion Deathwing. But since then the image of the embattled psyker wading through the onslaught of mental carnage protected by tactical dreadnought armour has become something of a staple for the 40k universe.

The librarian sculpted as part of the third edition of Space Hulk is in my opinion probably the best example that has ever been produced. The level of detail, pose and iconography work so well that it's a shame this guy was limited to the boardgame.

As with all the current edition Space Hulk terminators, this mini is something special and once you've managed to remove all the daft Blood Angels iconography (respect to an original chapter, but they've never been my cup of tea) you are left with a stunning addition to your army.

I kept the same themes running through this paintjob as I had with the previous librarians: a combination of antique gold on the inner features of the psyhic hood and stained bone on the outside in the hope it would resemble the halos in religious icons, bold red for the raised details on the force weapons and a basic mordian blue for the actual armour to provide a strong background that at the same time would not interfere with the finer details.

As always I want to include as many classic minis as possible in my collection and this is of course the librarian from the first metal boxed set. For me he sums up everything that you really need with a terminator librarian and still manages to do it on a 25mm base.

While the new larger bases are probably more realistic when it comes to representing the area that a terminator would occupy on the battlefield, it is worth remembering that there is little difference in size between the new and old terminators.

The new larger bases seem to me to demand that the sculpt of the mini be such that it is posed in a dynamic way that fills the area and thus justifies the larger base as a result. Some of the newer terminators fail in this and rather remind me of a guy sleeping on his own in a king-sized bed, throwing his limbs out as though he can occupy more space than he is able.

If nothing else, this guy allowed me to have a base on which to refer back for the rest of the terminator librarians that I painted due to the fact that he's wearing his helmet and is armed with standard weapons and has little in the way of ornamentation beyond the norm. Sometimes it's well worth tracking a mini like this down and using it as a testbed for your ideas and then a visual reference for future projects.

I went a bid medaeval on this one and the feedback has been nothing if not mixed. This was kind of a kitbash that came about due to me having bought the White Dwarf that had an Ork Boy and terminator sprue attached as a teaser for Assault on Black Ridge and the fact that I'm psychologically incapable of ending up with a mini that won't fit into a unit somehow.

When I got the five man terminator squard from AOBR, I was then left with the terminator from WD just sitting there. So my solution was to add the latter to the former and convert one of the terminators from the squad into a librarian using various bits from the spares box.

With a chestplate and axe from the Chaos Terminator Lord box, a head from a Chaos Warrior and a reliquery atop his shoulders from the WHFB Bretonnian range, this is one random collection of parts.

For my own part I'm relatively pleased with the way this turned out based on what I set out to achieve and the amount of experience that I have in this kind of conversion project. Perhaps the inclusion of the religious imagery and the helmet mean that this would have made more sense as a chaplain, but that wasn't where I was going at the time.

Anyone else remember when the Grey Knights were a bunch of mysterious marines in terminator armour who showed up out of the blue to battle daemons? Remember when they were enigmatic, deadly and never farted around with silly stuff like Dreadknights?

Remember when they all looked like this?

I traded this with a friend for a more modern mini in Mark VII armour when the guy was putting together a squad of them and I think that I got the better end of the deal in the end.

Adding a standard power sword and bolter arm to the mini and emphasizing the elaborate nature of the detail on the armour makes this guy stand out from the crowd.

Perhaps the ornate style of armour is some kind of relic of the chapter that has a mysterious and shadowed past? Whatever the fluff that could be dreamed up, this mini is an example of something that it's worth tracking down as a collector and also something that can be put to good use as a modern take on a librarian as well.

Show me a mini intended as a character for a chapter that has a codex and in reality what you show me is a challenge. More often than not the end result is a repaint or conversion as is the case with this librarian.

Ezekiel from the Dark Angels range makes a good approximation of what a librarian attached to the Bladesworn would look like with his robes and force sword.

Always seemed strange to me that GW pushed the robed marines for the DA range when their fluff is based on knightly orders. The influnence of monastic knightly trappings felt secondary somehow, but I suppose with the introduction of the Black Templars as the hardcore chapter for blades and tabbards the robes seemed to be the element that might be able to differentiate them perhaps?

Personally I have never been too keen on associating such generic elements as monastic robes so closely with one chapter due to the fact that they are something that could so easily be relevant to almost any chapter. When considered in comparison to the individual elements of say the Blood Angels or Space Wolves, perhaps you see what I mean?

Sometimes when you want something different to work on as a space marine collector, there's no better place to go than the chaos marines range. The sorcerors from said range were just too good of an opportunity to miss for me.

I had always been keen on the idea that the chapter had picked up some of the more primitive elements of the culture native to Basilisk, the wold where it was based after its founding. In the case of the librarians this involved the uncovering, capture and supposed destruction of any sorcerous cults.

For the sake of the record and the prying eyes of the inquisition, these were rooted out and put down. But many of their more interesting practices and tomes of lore were kept by the librarians and their contents digested.

This gave birth to an inner order within the ranks of the librarians devoted to the study and preservation of the newly aquired knowledge.

I think of these librarians as the arcane recluses of the chapter, the ones rarely seen on the battlefield and the ones called upon to deal with the really nasty stuff that comes crawling out of the Warp on occasion.

There's always the hint that the things they are dabbling in are beyond the realms that the faithful should be prepared to tolerate, but in reality there are times when only their insight can bring victory.

Keeping secrets always carries the danger that someone will come along and demand to be let in on them. But the chapter adopts a stance that sees their secrets as their own.

The Space Wolves might have brought down the sorcerors of the Thousand Sons at the behest of the Emperor, but the SOTA would never hesitate in telling the wolves to bend over and shove it up their hairy arses.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Grizzled Veterans: Part 2 - Please Shoot Me in the Face

The first thing to say about this post is that, of course, it is not an appeal for anyone who reads it to actually shoot me in the face or any part of my anatomy, assuming that anyone actually reads it...It is of course a brief and light-hearted look at the marines from the RT era who for reasons best known to themselves decided to enter the fray on a futuristic battlefield where weapons that could blow you into atoms are wielded by men of questionable sanity and aim without the aid of a helmet.

I should stress that I don't fall into that strange category of forum-users who seem to think that the fact a mini has been sculpted without a helmet means that the actual in-game entity they represent counts as having no protection on his/her/its head as a result. The pose is just intended to convey the energy and heroism of the character, not define his physical parameters on such a mundane level. Even if the mini has no helmet on his person, I think you'd have to be mental to assume otherwise.

Let's start with a both a sergeant and somewhat of a cheat on my part in that I hated the head of this old chap so much that I lopped it off and replaced it with that of a plastic scout. The interesting thing about this marine is the weapon mounted on his right arm in combination with the power fist, which makes me wonder if he was an early, vague idea of what would become Pedro Cantor. There is actually a weapon like this being wielded by one of the marines on the front of the original 40K hardback.

I had to have this mini up near the top of the post as he's possibly the ugliest marine in history, just have a look at the uneven features and the hunched posture that always remind me of the Hunchback of Notre Damme. I assume that his weapon is a power axe, I realise that it looks like a glaive or halberd of some kind, but that was what passed for an axe back then.

Too much wash on the face here makes this guy look as though he's been out in the sun too long. One issue that I find is the fact that people often assume a marine with no helmet has to be a sergeant or other officer, but that way I seem to have too many chiefs and not enough Indians. I like to think that if the squad splits in two, this is the guy who serves as the "other" sergeant...or something like that.

I think this is described as a captain or similar commanding officer in the old catalogues, but he'll probably end up as no more than a sergeant in my chapter, it's just that tough to get to the top! He managed to keep his power sword for the simple reason that it's a pain to attach a new one at that particular angle.

Some marines were originally intended to hang off the side of the old rhino and ride it into battle, but whether they were supposed to be part of the crew or part of the squad inside is something I never figured out. Luckily for me GW put tabs on the bottom of the minis as well intending them to be removed before being mounted on the rhino, so they fit a base quite well. Personally I hate the idea of having marines hanging off the side of a rhino (it just looks like a disaster waiting to happen) and think he makes a fairly good veteran who looks as though he's just jumped back in surprise before reacting to the threat before him.

For me this is one of the best minis from the RT era, simply because of the fact that while it's not OTT the details are well done and the proportions of the body seem to work better than most others from the same time. The flamer pistol is lacking in detail, but I may remove that in the future.

Wonder how he ended up with that augmetic implant in place of his eye? Probably nothing to do with a habit of waving his chain sword in his face. This mini also shows the fact that the sculptors at the time were capable of fine detail when they needed to include it. Just look at the interior of the left shoulder pad that would be out of the way were the arm in almost any other position.

This mini had another awful power sword that just had to go and the addition of the bolt pistol makes this a very simple and understated marine. Perhaps the only really outstanding feature here is the eyebrows, how big and thick do you need to sculpt them? Is that why most marines simply don't have them?

You really should see the greaser quiff that this guy has from the other side, it's quite impressive. As far as I know there's no real reason for him to have a skull on his shoulder, but back in the RT era there was really no reason not to simply add stuff that just looked mean and tough. I think it looks good, for what it's worth.

The thing on this marine's nose looked like a sticking plaster to me, so that's the way I painted it. Perhaps it's one of those little devices that's supposed to keep your nostrils open and stop you snoring in the night? Apart from the odd nasal detail, this is a nice and compact mini who looks as though he could punch well above his height.

Lastly we have one of those marines from the RT era that I just love for the fact that you would never see anything like them again. A head full of implants and bulging augmetic eyes make this guy look like a specialist in whatever he's twiddling with who's not a man to be messed with.

Grizzled Vetrans: Part 1.1 - Beakies I Overlooked Last Time

A few months ago my desktop melted down and had to be rebuilt, but the good news was that the images on the drive were salvaged and I've been sorting them for quite some time. As a result I realised that some images I thought had been lost never got uploaded to my photobucket account and I could squeeze another mini post from the stuff that fell through the cracks.

Brother Tippy-Toe here is one of the earliest marines out there with the backpack of his power armour sculpted as a part of the actual mini and those frankly bizarre knee pads that stick out a mile. I've said in the past that his stance reminds me of Elmer Fudd stalking his prey and I suppose that the true nature of the bizarre scifi blunderbuss he's holding is any one's guess as well.

By this point the weapon has started to mutate into something that might be a bolter, or a futuristic Pez dispenser...I have no idea. More crazy knee pads and note the layered armour on the feet of the mini, not sure what the advantage of that was supposed to be. Perhaps even harder to identify than the main weapons from this period are the sidearms that many of the marines carry. To me the thing on this marine's left hip looks like an autogun, but it really could be anything.

This mini never seems to show up in the catalogues that GW put out when the older stuff was still available to order (curse them and their new fangled changes). His proportions are smaller than most of the other RT era marines, his head being tiny for one thing and he has an odd pose that doesn't seem to echo any of the other common positions the marines from the time were sculpted in.

I've assumed that this marine is armed only with a bolt pistol and painted it as such. Perhaps he's just that hard he can dispense with the idea of a proper bolter or even a hand weapon; all he needs is his odd-looking pistol. The amount of variation in the depiction of weapons in this period stretches even the understanding of a collector like myself. Surely a company with so many talented artists could have come up with a standard design and held it under the noses of the sculptors in conjunction with a big stick?

You'd have to be pretty unobservant not to start to see the common poses that the marines from this era are posed in. This is what I like to call the "knackered" pose, which looks as though the marine in question is about to go for a nice sit down after a hard day hammering the snot out of the Emperor's foes. I'll hazard a guess that the thing in his right hand is a flamer pistol...any offers?

I think that if this marine had been aiming anything larger than a pistol in this manner he might have managed to look somewhat intimidating, rather than a bit silly. I wondered if he'd lost his telescopic sights, but then I thought about the fact that in all the novels the marines have targeting a HUD built into their helmets, so is there really any reason for non-scouts to carry them?

The next post will, I promise be the one that I mentioned at the end of the last, but now with more marines as I have more rescued images to clutter up the web.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Grizzled Veterans: Part 1 - The Beauty of the Beak

I make no secret of the fact that I love the old school minis that GW produced back in the days before the coming of the GrimDark, when shorties rode their bikes and Jokearo forged their bizarre devices for their bizarre purposes. For all the heroic stature and shiny new sculpts that are the mainstay in the here and now, something still makes these often illogical and sometimes even seemingly deformed marines special. It's almost as though they were the guys who got mangled in the gears of progress and gave up their own vigour and beauty along the way in order for the new generation to stand so tall and proud.

Apart from the inconsistencies and retrospectively baffling choices of war gear, perhaps the most iconic feature of marines from the RT era is the pointed front grille of the helmets that was the norm. Now well and truly ret-conned as a feature of Mark VI, or "Corvus" power armour, back then it was simply the shape that most marine helmets happened to be. No one called it anything like "Corvus" armour though; some oddly chose to term the wearers "Badger Marines", but more common was the name "Beaky" based on the obvious resemblence to an avian's gob parts.

You have to think that there's a real affection for the things as well, even in the rarified confines of the GW headquaters when you consider the fact that along with the studded shoulderpad, it's one of the few features of the original style or marine power armour to survive into the modern era as part of the most basic plasctic kit in the range. So for this first look at the marines that make up the veterans of my chapter, I thought I'd start out with the best of the beakies.

While this is by no means the oldest marine from the RT era, I wanted to start with him because as well as being one of the best sculpts of the time (some might say that there's little competition for that end of the spectrum as opposed to the other) he seems to me to have been based very closely on the marines that graced the cover of the first edition of the 40K rulebook. Take a look at the proportions of the helmet and the eye sockets in particular and see if you agree with me.

It's possible that the same idea was intended for this guy as was the first example; the lines of the helmet seem almost like a first attempt. But this mini suffers from the all too common issues that charaterised the marine range back in the day. Stunted, lacking in detail below the waist and looking as though he's struggling to hold his bolter, this chap must have been though the mill to end up looking like this. He even needed a mound of greenstuff under his left foot to stand properly on the base.

The strange lack of coherance in the range shows up here when we seem to have a marine hefting a heavy bolter as easily as the last one was carrying a standard bolter. Is this marine super strong or is the previous marine some kind of weakling? It amuses me to think that heavy weapons began in the marine range being side slung like this, then changed when the RTB01 plastics were released only to go back again in the modern era. Make your mind up, please.

Compensating for something? Some of the best minis from this period are the ones that bear Terminator Honours on the shoulderpads, a feature which apparently gave the sculptors the motivation to add more detail and quality to the marine overall. Get that stuck in someone and you'll have a hell of a time getting it out again.

Proof positive that before the arrival of Hive Fleet Retcon there was no concept of heresy attached to the use of xenos tech or weaponry. If it worked and it killed the enemy that was all there was to it. Like the rare minis that GW produced of female mercenaries in powered armour at the time (often mistaken for female space marines), this is one of those little quirky artefacts of the past that it's simply fun to own as it sticks two fingers up at the idea of Imperial conformity.

Much as I love the marines from this period, there is one thing that's truly my own personal Kryptonite: the power swords. This was the owner of what was in my opinion the worst of the lot, so in the end the entire arm went, replaced by one from the RTB01. Almost as an afterthought I also got rid of the bolter and have never been anything but happy with the results.

Apart from the god awful power swords (come to think of it, the chain swords were pretty shit as well), the shoulder mounted heavy weapons that came along later were hard for me to love. I warmed to them some and still have a few waiting to be painted, but there's nothing better for my money than the much later heavy bolter. Perhaps the chunkiest and most satisfying of all heavy weapons.

I like the occasional marine that's doing something more diagnostic than screaming, posing with a bolter or screaming whilst posing with a bolter. The idea that someone might pause to use an auspex rather than charge onto a minefield seems logical. But I accept the other side of the argument: a marine paying attention to his gadget on the battlefield might be as foolish as someone in the modern world walking under a bus while reading his texts.

I can never remember if this marine was part of the first blister pack that I ever got my hands on or included in a set of minis intended for the Timescape expansion for Talisman. I always wondered if he was advancing into a very strong wind.

This was without doubt part of the first blister pack I owned and in the case of this one I always thought he looked somewhat sly. Maybe he's just learned something interesting on his little scanning device like all Blood Angels wear women's knickers under their power armour? Again I added a newer bolter because the original was rubbish.

This is another of those old school marines that I was very keen to own, for some reason the idea of two power fists was well good back in my misguided youth. But then you start to think that the guy might have clowned himself if he's more than a few metres from someone with a gun. I suppose he probably has a pistol of somekind as backup, but how would you do anything but crush it trying to fire it with a power fist?

Back in the RT era anything goes was the motto when it came to equipment lists. You'd never see a marine with an autogun these days, mainly because they're crap, but the point still has to be made. In fact, does anyone use an autogun in 40K anymore?

Want to know why I didn't remove this crappy power sword, don't you? Because the devious bugger who sculpted it made sure that it was actually attached to the leg for its entire length. Happy now? Anyway, Brother Pedantious here has something interesting and enlightening to tell you based on his scans of the pile of dead orcs in the corner: he thinks there might be orks involved in this battle.

I may have mentioned earlier that I don't have much love for the RT era shoulder mounted heavy weapons, but then the multi melter is the exception to the rule. I love it for the simple reason that it just looks as though whatever's on the recieving end is going to get seriously f*cked I mean messed up.

Join me next time for the marines from the RT era who were just too tough to wear a helmet in an article that I call: "Please Shoot Me in the Face!"