Shadow War: Harlequins

These are the 80s cyberpunk Harlequins that I mentioned wanting to do a few episodes of Miniatures Monthly ago. I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, and not a lot of time to sit and paint for more than half an hour at a time – in those circumstances this was kind of a perfect project, as figuring out what I wanted to do with each individual model took longer than the actual painting.

I wanted to paint Harlequins without a unifying colour scheme, but with enough elements in common to tie them together: the split masks, the silver elements and wraithbone weapons. Two of the Harlequins are armed with monomolecular blades, which I wanted to represent by painting the blades black, highlighting with contrasting streaks of bright colour (red/blue in one case, green/purple in the other) and then applying a watered-down layer of ‘Ard Coat to give it a glassy texture. The leader is armed with a power sword, which was my first stab at doing freehand lightning stuff. I also did a bunch of freehand checks, diamonds, and so on – Harlequin stuff.

The bases are from the new Sector Mechanicus scenery bases set. I carefully cut each Harlequin off the Eldar ruins that they’re normally attached to and superglued them to lamps and the top half of a ventilation pipe that I shortened with a saw. In the case of the specialists I could also use their trailing ribbons as a point of contact for fixing them to the bases, but for the leader I had to pin her with a bit of brass rod.

I am very aware of the amount of work it will entail if I now win a game of Shadow War and earn enough promethium to add a fourth Harlequin, so I have decided to lose instead.

Seventeen Years Ago Today

Seventeen years ago today I went into the Games Workshop on Winchester Street, Salisbury and bought some Codex Grey paint for £1.50.

This was during the mid point of my teenage Warhammer kick, which lasted from 1998 until 2001 or early 2002. When I got back into the hobby last year my parents were keen to unload two boxes of stuff that had been taking up space in my teenage bedroom for the last fifteen years. This weekend, I finally went through both of them – turning up, among many other things, that receipt.

I’ve ended up with a pretty vast bits box comprising all of the projects I started and never finished as a kid, which is no bad thing – I’ll never want for plastic barrels, spare lasguns, Space Marine shoulder pads, or 90s-era decal sheets again. In and among the piles of grey plastic, however, were loads of old painted models. I picked out a few of them, along with some of the other things I found, and took pictures.

Loads of old copies of Inferno! and White Dwarf and a stack of 5th edition rulebooks. Add some old copies of PC Gamer and PC Zone to this picture and you’ve got everything I read between 1998 and 2001.

There were a few unopened boxes in the pile – mostly stuff that’ll go in my bits box. This stood out, however: a unit of Empire Knights signed by the designers – Michael and Alan Perry. I have no idea when, where or how I got this.

My introduction to Warhammer was the 5th edition box for Fantasy Battle, which featured Bretonnians and Lizardmen. That means that these are probably some of the first miniatures I ever painted. Trying to cheat with thin paints over white from day one.

My first Space Marine. Christ.

At some point I decided that I liked Blood Angels and hated thinning paints. Not pictured: my competing obsession with Dark Angels.

I laughed out loud when I found this early attempt at dynamic posing. Do you love the Emperor enough to put a grenade all the way up your ass? This Blood Angel does.

Mordheim came out during my first year of Warhammer and was hugely influential. Pictured are all the models I could find for two of my warbands: dwarves and Reiklanders.

Mordheim got me into Empire, and at some point I started doing highlights. I did not start thinning my paints.

One day I discovered drybrushing and a whole world of laziness opened up to me.

I’ve got quite a lot of Catachan jungle warriors and other Imperial Guard from the early noughties. Washes! Highlighting! Extremely thick paint!

I can’t remember when I started painting orks (and orcs) but I don’t have very many. I think this colour scheme holds up, mind.

I entered this guy into Golden Demon Young Bloods in 1999 or 2000. I remember working really, really hard on it – the holes in the base are from decorative arrows. I didn’t win anything, but I was really proud of him at the time. Everything else I found is going into storage, but this guy’s going to get to stay on my painting table.

17 years later: WIP on the first part of my Shadow War killteam.

Horus Heresy: Ahzek Ahriman

One of the major appeals of the Burning of Prospero set was, for me, the story of the fall of Prospero and the characters involved. The Thousand Sons are my favourite Space Marine legion, and not just because apparently I like everything that Tzeentch likes. Their fall is genuinely tragic, and their defense of their homeworld as ‘traitors’ is a genuinely heroic moment: most of the characters involved don’t even know why they’re being attacked. There’s a nice bit of flavour text alongside the first Burning of Prospero scenario that describes a Thousand Son’s reluctance to open fire on his ‘brothers’, even as Space Wolves slaughter the human population of Tizca.

Ahriman embodies that drama, and I love the way this miniature tells his story. He’s one of the heroes of the defense of Tizca, but he’s also doomed and will, in turn, doom his legion. His headdress, the subtle spikes on his shoulderpads, and the glowing runes on his armour suggest the Chaos sorcerer he’s about to become. There’s even an icon of Tzeentch hidden on his right shinpad, concealed behind his tabard. I picked it out in white and blue to suggest that it’s glowing at this crucial moment. I didn’t get a photo of it because I’m dumb.

The Ahriman kit has him standing on a fallen Space Wolf as standard, however, and I wanted to reframe him somewhat. I think the sense of his impending doom is more dramatic if his presentation, in this moment, is unquestionably heroic. I wanted to show him stepping down from a shattered marble step onto the battlefield, suggesting that he’s standing defiantly in front of his enemies – not on top of them.

That slab is made of a piece of chalky basing material (it is probably chalk) that I carved to fit the curve of the base and basecoated with Ulthuan Grey. The marble effect is made up of layers of variously-watered-down shades, including Seraphim Sepia, Agrax Earthshade, Guilliman Blue and Drakenhof Nightshades. Then I picked out the ‘veins’ of the marble with a mix of Dryad Bark and Incubi Darkness before edge highlighting with Screaming Skull.

The various turqoise gemstones on Ahriman’s gear are basecoated with the new Thousand Sons Blue and highlighted with Ahriman Blue, naturally.

Horus Heresy: Thousand Sons Tartaros-Pattern Terminators

After taking months over my first Veteran Tactical Squad, getting these done in two weeks (including a couple of trips away) was a nice change of pace. Something that this process confirmed to me is that working in sub-assemblies makes batch painting a lot more palatable to me. I’ll likely go into more detail on that subject in this month’s podcast.

In this case, I painted and assembled each model in the following steps: legs and torsos, arms, weapons, helmets, helmet cowling, shoulderpads, and finally bases – using different coloured primers a base in each instance. The way Tartaros Terminator armour is put together makes this a necessity – I can’t imagine how irritating it’d be to paint underneath that helmet cowling or under the raised shoulderpads – but this is also a good way of working more broadly. I felt more confident building my models in dynamic poses when I knew that they didn’t also need to be ‘paintable’ in that position. This is particularly true for the sergeant, whose angled pose would have made the right half of his helmet a nightmare to finish to any kind of standard had I pre-built the entire model.

With these done, I’ve got enough painted to do our first Burning of Prospero session. I’m not sure what my next project will be: if I stick with my Horus Heresy collection and paint Ahriman, that will open up a second Prospero scenario. But I’ve also neglected my pile of Arcanites for a long time, and our Age of Sigmar games would benefit from reinforcements. I also just got back from Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, where I encountered Bandai’s gorgeous scale replica kits. I, er, made space in my suitcase accordingly.

Horus Heresy: Thousand Sons Veteran Tactical Squad

“I know”, I thought, one million years ago. “I’ll paint my Thousand Sons with transparent red paint over a gold basecoat. It’ll look good, and I’ll save time! We’ll be playing Burning of Prospero by Christmas.”

It’s now almost April, and, well, I was half right. I’m really pleased with how these guys have turned out: going for a metallic finish suits the 30K era and puts some breathing room between my Thousand Sons and the other predominantly red Space Marine chapters. I’ve learned loads, too, from applying decals to creating variety within multi-pose kits to painting rust, scorch marks and other effects that don’t really feature in Age of Sigmar. The whole process simply took much, much longer than I’d thought.

There are non-hobby related reasons for that, like an extremely busy start to the year, the stress of leaving my old job, and the rush to make the most of freelance life – something that should, from now on, give me more time for painting. But there was also an element of burnout, the strain of having an unfinished project hogging my painting table. I’ve done a Balewind Vortex, some objective markers, a Slaughterpriest and a Chaos Sorcerer Lord in the time since I first assembled these models.

Despite the stack of Tzeentch Arcanites waiting for my attention, I’m going to stick some more Thousand Sons on the table next – the funny thing about finishing a grueling project is that suddenly all the enthusiasm comes rushing back. I’ll paint my Terminators next, so that Tom and I can play a couple of the Burning of Prospero scenarios. Before Christmas, ideally.

Age of Sigmar: Chaos Sorcerer Lord

I keep finding things to do that aren’t Thousand Sons, which is weird because I’m quite enjoying the process of (extremely slowly) painting my Thousand Sons. I’ve liked the Chaos Sorcerer Lord for a while and ended up picking up the model at the same time as the Disciples of Tzeentch book. The new rules allow me to include him in a dedicated Tzeentch force while taking advantage of all of the allegiance abilities, and his buff spell will be extremely useful as I start to add melee units like Tzaangor to my army.

Given that I’m never going to use him without the ‘Tzeentch’ keyword, I wanted to do something with the model to tie him into the rest of my force. I ended up building him a new shoulder-joint with green stuff so that I could re-pose his right arm. The fireball is taken from one of the optional Herald on Burning Chariot pieces, with the Herald’s hand clipped and filed away and smoothed with more green stuff. The bundle of scrolls is also from the Burning Chariot kit – it’s really useful for that sort of thing. I like how it has turned out: I think of him as drawing power down from his patron – a gigantic Lord of Change that I’m going to start work on in the coming months.

I’ve also changed the way I paint bases. When I started with the Silver Tower models I consciously opted for very understated textured bases, but as time has gone on I’ve wanted to brighten them up and add a little flare. I’m using more blue and I’m now painting the trim with Incubi Darkness (a very dark blue-green – darker than it appears here). Eventually I’ll go back over the bases I’ve already done to make them consistent, but the effect is subtle enough that this guy doesn’t look out of place as he is.

He is standing on a rock because he is important.

Age of Sigmar: Tzeentch Objective Markers

A quick one-off: objective markers for my Tzeentch army. They’re based on a Dark Eldar Razorwing Flock, mounted on individual flying stems with little rocky monuments made out of slate. Instead of painting a number on each, I just changed the number of skulls. That’s how counting works in Warhammer.

I realised that I needed objective markers at the tournament in November, when one of my opponents had made really cool beastmen-themed totems to place around the battlefield. I liked the idea of auspicious birds as an indicator of Tzeentch’s interest.

And yes, I’m still finding ways to avoid working on that massive batch of Thousand Sons.

Age of Sigmar: Slaughterpriest

I’ve been turning over an idea for a Realm of Metal-themed Khorne army for a while. The short version: what if the labour force of a forge-city decided to stop digging ore out of mountainsides and start digging skulls out of their masters? Fire-blackened hands, scars, sweat, dark iron and bronze, blades glowing with the white-hot fury of the dispossessed. Full Khorneunism. All men are created to de-skull. Etc, etc. And what would that look like hundreds of years later,  when the animus of that initial revolution has faded and all that’s left is blood for the Blood God, skulls for the Skull Throne, and so on, and so on?

Hence this guy. I’m not committing to painting that army just yet, but I wanted to put the idea into practice and see what it looked like. The full paintjob took a day and some of the blending is, I think, the best I’ve done. Shading bronze is tricky but I’m pleased with the muted, battered look: I think I ended up in a more Frazetta-ish place than the traditional bright red Khorne scheme allows.

It’s an extremely metal model for an extremely metal realm – a nasty bit of Khornate thrash as a break from the endless noodly prog of Tzeentch. Bonus fact: every single Khorne noun is an acceptable band name. Bloodreaver. Skull Cannon. Hell, if you give this guy his full name – Slaughterpriest with Hackblade and Wrath-Hammer – you get three band names.