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.

Age of Sigmar: ‘Gifts from the Heavens’ Battle Report

Tom and I met up for another battle between his Stormcast and my Daemons of Tzeentch – a rivalry that began hundreds of years ago at the dawn of the Age of Sigmar by which I mean October. We chose to play ‘Gifts from the Heavens’ a matched play scenario where vital objectives ‘land’ on the battlefield at the beginning of each player’s second turn.

A relic-hunting Stormcast cohort has marched deep into the Realm of Death in search of something precious to the god-king: pure Sigmarite, fragments of the Old World that the seers say will fall from the heavens one this day, at this time, in this lonely ruin in the wastes of Shyish.

Unbeknownst to the Lord-Celestant, an old foe – a Gaunt Summoner of Tzeentch known as the Twilight Composer – has come seeking the same bounty for its own ends. As the Stormcast approach, a sandworn Realmgate flares to life and daemons pour forth from the iron plains of Chamon.

The Stormcast adopt a tight formation in the centre of the ruin, with two units of Liberators in front with Judicators supporting from the rear. The Lord-Celestant rides at the head of a phalanx of heroes, including a Lord-Relictor, Knight-Vexillor, and Knight-Heraldor. The Gaunt Summoner's hordes spill through the gateway to Chamon and pivot to face the forces of Order. On one flank a Herald of Tzeentch leads a flock of Screamers, while on the other an Ogroid Thaumaturge stands at the head of a horde of Horrors. The Gaunt Summoner itself holds back with another host of Horrors, while Flamers of Tzeentch occupy the centre.

The Stormcast adopt a tight formation in the centre of the ruin, with two units of Liberators in front and Judicators supporting from the rear. The Lord-Celestant rides at the head of a phalanx of heroes, including a Lord-Relictor, Knight-Vexillor, and Knight-Heraldor. The Gaunt Summoner’s hordes spill through the gateway to Chamon and pivot to face the forces of Order. On one flank a Herald of Tzeentch leads a flock of Screamers, while on the other an Ogroid Thaumaturge stands at the head of a horde of Horrors. The Gaunt Summoner itself holds back with another host of Horrors, while Flamers of Tzeentch occupy the centre.

The Twilight Composer holds its ground at the start of the first round and allows the Stormcast to advance.

The Twilight Composer holds its ground at the start of the first round and allows the Stormcast to advance.

The Liberators and Lord-Relictor run forwards to meet the horde, Judicators following slowly behind. The other Stormcast heroes hold position for the time being. The Judicator's arrows are able to slay a single Flamer in the opening moments of the battle.

The Liberators and Lord-Relictor run forwards to meet the horde, Judicators following slowly behind. The other Stormcast heroes hold position for the time being. The Judicator’s arrows are able to slay a single Flamer in the opening moments of the battle.

The Daemon response is devastating. Rising above the sands on a swirling column of arcane energy, the Composure unleashes tides of warpflame on the Liberators. A barrage of magic from the Herald, Thaumaturge and Horrors slays even more, while the Flamers succeed in killing all but two of the Judicators.

The daemon response is devastating. Rising above the sands on a swirling column of arcane energy, the Composer unleashes tides of warpflame on the Liberators. A barrage of magic from the Herald, Thaumaturge and Horrors slays even more, while the Flamers succeed in killing all but two of the Judicators.

The Composer takes the initiative in round two. The first shard of Sigmarite makes landfall right in the middle of the daemon horde (just as planned). Another cascade of flame surges forth, killing the remaining Liberators, all but one of the Judicators, and the Lord-Relictor. The Stormcast are now badly outnumbered.

The Composer takes the initiative in round two. The first shard of Sigmarite makes landfall right in the middle of the Tzeentchian horde (just as planned). Another cascade of flame surges forth, killing the remaining Liberators, all but one of the Judicators, and the Lord-Relictor. The Stormcast are now badly outnumbered.

The Herald and Screamers move back to protect the Sigmarite, screened on one side by the Horrors and Thaumaturge.

The Herald and Screamers move back to protect the Sigmarite, screened on one side by the Horrors and Thaumaturge.

The second shard of Sigmarite comes to rest right next to the surviving Stormcast, a sign from the god-king that all is not lost. The Vexillor, Heraldor, Judicator-Prime and Lord-Celestant take up a defensive position.

The second shard of Sigmarite comes to rest right next to the surviving Stormcast: a sign from the god-king that all is not lost. The Vexillor, Heraldor, Judicator-Prime and Lord-Celestant take up a defensive position.

Then, with a crack of thunder, a unit of Paladin Retributors descend from Azyr on bolts of lightning. Tzeentchian magic keeps them from making landfall close to the first shard, but they now pose an immediate threat to the Herald.

Then! A unit of Paladin Retributors descend from Azyr on bolts of lightning, crashing to earth in a deafening blast of thunder. Tzeentchian magic keeps them from making landfall close to the first shard, but they now pose an immediate threat to the Herald.

Undeterred, the Retributors succeed in making a last-ditch charge towards the daemon-controlled Sigmarite. They crash into the Herald, who is quickly disintegrated by their devastating Starsoul Maces.

Undeterred, the Retributors succeed in making a last-ditch charge towards the daemon-controlled Sigmarite. They crash into the Herald, who is quickly disintegrated by their devastating Starsoul Maces.

Taking the initiative again in round three, the armies of Tzeentch round on the Retributors. If they can't be eliminated quickly, the Composure risks losing control of the Sigmarite shard. A rain of magic and daemon-flesh falls upon the Stormcast vanguard, and many fall. The Ogroid Thaumaturge charges into their midst, killing two before being slain in turn.

Taking the initiative again in round three, the armies of Tzeentch round on the Retributors. If they can’t be eliminated quickly, the Composer risks losing control of the Sigmarite shard. A rain of magic and daemon-flesh falls upon the Stormcast vanguard, and many fall. The Ogroid Thaumaturge charges into their midst, killing two before being slain in turn.

The Retributors easily hold their own after the death of the Thaumaturge as the Screamers and Horrors struggle to penetrate their thick armour. As another horde of Horrors charges the Stormcast heroes, the Knight-Vexillor summons a whirlwind to lift the Lord-Celestant aloft...

The Retributors easily hold their own after the death of the Thaumaturge as the Screamers and Horrors struggle to penetrate their thick armour. As the other horde of Horrors charges the Stormcast heroes, the Knight-Vexillor summons a whirlwind to lift the Lord-Celestant aloft…

...before bringing him crashing to earth at the foot of the Summoner's vortex. He charges the Horrors, pinning them in with the Retributors. The Stormcast then take the iniative in round four, utterly annihilating the daemons and taking control of the Sigmarite.

…before bringing him crashing to earth at the foot of the Summoner’s vortex. He charges the Horrors, pinning them in with the Retributors. The Stormcast then take the initiative in round four, utterly annihilating the daemons and taking control of the Sigmarite.

On the other flank, the lone Judicator-Prime slays multiple Horrors as they converge on the Stormcast defenders.

On the other flank, the lone Judicator-Prime slays multiple Horrors as they converge on the Stormcast defenders.

The Twilight Composer summons more Horrors and Screamers in an attempt to reclaim the Sigmarite, which is now responding to the presence of Sigmar's chosen. Despite the devastating damage done by the forces of Chaos in the opening moments of the battle, they now risk losing control of the prize. Both units of daemons falter in their charges, however, buying the Stormcast a vital moment of respite.

The Twilight Composer summons more Horrors and Screamers in an attempt to reclaim the Sigmarite, which is now responding to the presence of Sigmar’s chosen. Despite the devastating damage done by the forces of Chaos in the opening moments of the battle, they now risk losing control of the prize. Both units of daemons falter in their charges, however, buying the Stormcast a vital moment of respite.

The Horrors finally clash with the Judicator-Prime and Knight-Heraldor, but only land a few blows before being heavily cut down in return.

The Horrors finally clash with the Judicator-Prime and Knight-Heraldor, but only land a few blows before being heavily cut down in return.

It's an illusion, however. Reality blinks and six Horrors materialise from the ether, forming a line stretching to the second shard - momentarily stopping the Stormcast from controlling it.

It’s an illusion, however. Reality blinks and six Horrors materialise from the ether, forming a line stretching to the second shard – momentarily stopping the Stormcast from controlling it.

The Heraldor, Vexillor and Judicator-Prime slay even more horrors, but reality blinks again: despite their furious defense, the horde is actually growing.

The Heraldor, Vexillor and Judicator-Prime slay even more horrors, but reality blinks again: despite their furious defense, the horde is actually growing.

The fresh Horrors finally reach the Lord-Celestant and the surviving Retributors, but they're unable to dislodge them from the Sigmarite shard. The god-king's power begins to surge across the battlefield as Tzeentch's grip weakens.

The fresh Horrors finally reach the Lord-Celestant and the surviving Retributors, but they’re unable to dislodge them from the Sigmarite shard. The god-king’s power begins to surge across the battlefield as Tzeentch’s grip weakens.

Bolstered for a third and final time, the surging Horrors on the right flank slay the Judicator-Prime as Screamers rush in - but the Vexillor and Heraldor are able to hold their ground around the shard.

Bolstered for a third and final time, the surging Horrors on the right flank slay the Judicator-Prime as Screamers rush in – but the Vexillor and Heraldor are able to hold their ground around the shard.

Despite the seemingly inexhaustible tide of Pink Horrors besieging them, control of the Sigmarite shards remains in Stormcast hands. Unable to sustain the daemonic onslaught in the face of the ascendant might of Sigmar, the Twilight Composer vanishes, its prize abandoned. At great cost, the Stormcast have won the day.

Despite the seemingly inexhaustible tide of Pink Horrors besieging them, control of the Sigmarite shards remains in Stormcast hands. Unable to sustain the daemonic onslaught in the face of the ascendant might of Sigmar, the Twilight Composer vanishes, its prize abandoned. At great cost, the Stormcast have won the day.

This was another really enjoyable battle with a great mid-game twist. I knew that Tom was holding the Retributors in reserve – he had taken the battalion that allowed him to do so – but their arrival was the moment this game turned. I had tried to screen them from ‘my’ Sigmarite shard with the Screamers, but couldn’t cover every angle. When they succeeded in that vital 9″ charge, I had a huge problem on my hands.

It happened at the right time. I did so much damage to the Judicators and Liberators in the first two turns that I thought that the game might simply be over, but this just serves to highlight how vital scenarios and objectives are to Age of Sigmar. What I should have done, in hindsight, is run the Gaunt Summoner over to the shard as soon as it appeared and summon a new Balewind Vortex there – I had the summoning budget to do so, but ended up trapped by the threat posed by the Lord-Celestant and Retributors on the ground. As soon as they got to the shard, I simply couldn’t shift them. Failing my own charges when I summoned that double wave of defenders was a death sentence – Tom ended up winning by a heavy margin, despite his losses.

Yet dice also provided a bunch of other great story moments: like the ever-regenerating horde of Horrors on the right flank, which only happened because I rolled a 1 on three successive battleshock tests and then immediately rolled 5s and 6s when determining how many Horrors to add to the unit.

We came up with our own narrative reason to explain why the battle ended after the scenario-mandated five-round limit, but it felt right. This was a story of Stormcast marching into hell and holding on just long enough for help to arrive at the last possible moment. This kind of cinematic play is why I enjoy the game, and every time we play we’re getting a better sense of who our armies are and what they’re fighting for.

Age of Sigmar: Balewind Vortex

A few steps in to my first proper batch of Heresy-era Thousand Sons I realised that I was feeling a little burned out on batch painting. Advisedly/unadvisedly I decided to start a couple of other projects at once and see what felt right, and this Balewind Vortex is the first thing I finished.

I like how it turned out. This is functionally a mount for my Gaunt Summoner: a swirling column of Space Magic (TM) that’ll hopefully make him a little more competitive. The colour transition on the Vortex itself is intended to transition neatly into the Summoner’s robes – a continuation of the ‘weird genie’ theme that I started thinking about when I originally painted him. I saw Aladdin at a very formative age, I guess?