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Kill Team Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Hive Fleet Balaur lore

Armed with their name (in Romanian, a multi-headed dragon associated with weather manipulation, and pronounced like the “ba” in “bad” plus the word “our” with an L in front of it: “ba-lowr”) and my decision to make Hive Fleet Balaur a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Leviathan, I noodled about why they were a splinter fleet and what caused their coloration. Dipping into the 8th Edition codex gave me the rest of what I needed to come up with Balaur’s origins.

Genestealers of Hive Fleet Balaur (April 24, 2022)

After the war in Octarius, Hive Fleet Balaur — though not yet called that — was one of several that split off from Hive Fleet Leviathan, using the biomass it had consumed to venture into new territories.

The splinter fleet’s first contact with the Imperium was in the Venenum System (Latin for “poison”), which was anchored by the teeming industrial world of Balaur. Balaur was a wretched hellhole, a hive of factories and chemical plants which transformed the toxic and venomous local flora and fauna into rare and useful acids and other industrial materials.

Most notable among the fauna of Balaur were the Balaur Worms, titanic beasts that looked like a cross between a bat and a crocodile (only much, much larger), their brightly spotted hides warning other creatures to steer clear — much as poison dart frogs once did on Terra.

When the splinter fleet arrived, it probed Balaur in various ways: spore clouds, scouts, tunneling creatures, and so forth. When the end came for Balaur, it came on all fronts at once. The Astra Militarum garrison never stood a chance, and the same was true of the Ultramarines dispatched to Balaur in a last-ditch effort to save the planet.

The splinter fleet consumed all.

And when it left, it teemed with Tyranid organisms bearing the toxic green protrusions and bright spots of Balaur’s dangerous fauna — and its own spin on Leviathan’s adaptation- and swarm-heavy tactics.

Two unsettling (hopefully) buggy dudes (April 24, 2022)

Like the many sinuous heads of its namesake, Hive Fleet Balaur tends to begin its assault on several distinct fronts, some subtle and some less so, rather than focusing on any single approach. Once its “heads” have done their work, the “body” follows swiftly, overwhelming the prey world with the numbers and adaptability of its parent fleet, Leviathan.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Tyranid Hive Fleet Balaur color guide

I’m far enough along with my first Fire Team for Hive Fleet Balaur to need to take stock of my paint library, so it’s time for a color guide!

Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers (April 24, 2022)

As always, this guide is drawn from a mix of GW material (White Dwarf #463 and a Warhammer TV video for the Leviathan scheme, Warhammer TV again for their classic Warriors video), YouTube tutorials (Doctor Faust and CatgutPainting for the mottling), and my own spin on things. Washes/shades are generally in italics, and my notation is base > shade > layer > layer for Citadel’s Parade Ready approach.

Bases

  • Terrain: Stirland Mud > Reikland Fleshshade > Astorath Red drybrush
  • Rocks: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Celestra Grey drybrush
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Horns: Zandri Dust > Seraphim Sepia > Ushabti Bone drybrush
  • Base rim: Doombull Brown
  • Tufts: Army Painter Wasteland Tufts

Models

My Tyranid Kill Team only has two units as of this writing, Genestealers and Tyranid Warriors, and Tyranids tend to be pretty similar faction-wide, so this is pretty much my guide for all Hive Fleet Balaur Tyranids. Balaur is a splinter fleet of Leviathan, so the studio scheme for Leviathan was my starting point.

Paint steps vary slightly from my usual approach because the full-body drybrush is messy, so it has to come before most of the other steps: Prime and base coat with Wraithbone spray, shade the skin, drybrush the skin, deepen the wash in the vents/joints, apply the texture paint to the base, and then do everything else.

  • Body/skin: Wraithbone spray > shade with 1:4 Carroburg Crimson:Lahmian Medium all over > Screaming Skull drybrush > Carroburg Crimson wash in the vents/joints > Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush > Pallid Wych Flesh on high points
  • Carapace: Naggaroth Night > Druchii Violet > Xereus Purple edge highlights > Genestealer Purple edge/point highlights > Genestealer Purple mottling (larger dots), size of model permitting > Fulgrim Pink mottling (smaller dots)
    • Mottling: Apply dots of thinned paint with dotting tools, in varying sizes
  • Claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
  • Weapons larger than claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow glaze > Warpstone Glow edge and tip highlighting (as if the glaze weren’t there) > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
    • Glazing: 1:6 Warpstone Glow:Lahmian Medium, 7-8 layers, starting with almost the entire weapon and covering a bit less area every time, working from the base towards the tip; the end should be pretty close to pure Warpstone Glow, but not quite as bright
  • Fleshy bits and tongues: Bugman’s Glow > Reikland Fleshshade > Kislev Flesh
  • Teeth: Screaming Skull > Agrax Earthshade > Screaming Skull
  • Eyes: Averland Sunset > Casandora Yellow > Flash Gitz Yellow
A WIP Genestealer from my first Fire Team (April 9, 2022)

Notes

I’m still pretty new to using Lahmian Medium, and my first attempt for the main body/flesh wash — 1:3 Screamer Pink:Lahmian Medium, my best guess at the ratio used in White Dwarf #463 — went on more like a base coat than a wash. So I switched to using my shade brush, Carroburg Crimson, and a 1:4 ratio, and that went much more smoothly.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Testing Hive Fleet Balaur color schemes

After an evening of assembling Genestealers and thinking about paint schemes, I spent the rest of last night leafing through back issues of White Dwarf for Tyranid content.

My initial idea for Hive Fleet Balaur’s color scheme was the bi pride flag: pink, purple, blue. Along with the symbolism and the colors, I also like that it includes 2/3 of the classic Genestealer colors.

But the more pictures of gorgeously painted Tyranids I looked at, the more I found myself drawn to Hive Fleet Leviathan’s paint scheme: off-white body with unsettling pink undertones, like a snake’s belly; deep purple carapace; and dark red claws/weapons. No surprise from GW, but that is an outstanding color scheme with fantastic contrast and perfectly matched tones.

This gorgeous spin on Kronos on DakkaDakka gave me the idea to try green weapons/claws. A CatgutPainting video on patterned Tyranid paint schemes sold me on mottling, which I first saw on Javier Del Rio’s stunning Hive Tyrant in White Dwarf #463:

Miniature painted and photographed by Javier Del Rio, from White Dwarf #463

So I started pondering making Balaur a splinter fleet of Leviathan, and using Leviathan’s colors as my starting point. GW has done Leviathan at least two ways for their studio paint jobs, so I blended ideas from both of them for the body and decided to test Wraithbone base > 1:3 Screamer Pink:Lahmian Medium shade.

Still thinking about bright colors (something I haven’t yet done for 40k) and wanting to see how that would look next to a vibrant purple carapace (with pink dots/mottling still in my brain) and medium-to-bright green claws, I slapped some paint onto a piece of terrain. (I’ll be repainting this area whenever I circle back to terrain, and conveniently it’s already primed with Wraithbone spray.)

Here’s Wraithbone base coat, the Screamer/Lahmian wash, Xereus Purple, and Warpstone Glow.

Test colors

And here it is with a quick and dirty Screaming Skull drybrush over the body color, bringing the body closer to Leviathan:

Getting closer to “snake’s underbelly” whitish-pink

Now to test out mottling the carapace. I did some research and found that some folks do this with a toothpick or a dotting tool; this Doctor Faust tutorial is a good demonstration of one approach. My kiddo has a stash of dotting tools, so I borrowed a few different sizes.

Small and his buddy Real Small

Here’s a Genestealer Purple base mottled with Genestealer Purple and then Fulgrim Pink, with purple done using the larger of the tools above and pink done with the smaller one:

Mottling

Genestealer Purple isn’t much of a contrast (although for adding depth to mottling, that’s probably good), but Fulgrim Pink sure pops. It’s also clear I’m not good at this yet! But I do like the effect.

I threw Khorne Red into the mix and polled my wife and kiddo, and we all liked both options (red or green) but agreed they each give the model a different feel.

(optometrist voice) Green, or red? One, or two?

The more I look at the toxic green, the more I like it. The Leviathan lineage is clear from the identical body color and the mottled variation on the carapace color, the toxic green (coupled with the mottling) cements Balaur as its own thing, and the whole scheme should contrast nicely with my basing recipe: Stirland Mud texture paint, Reikland Fleshshade wash, Astorath Red drybrush (from the ever-amazing White Dwarf Basing Cookbook in the November 2016 issue).

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Kill Team Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Hive Fleet Balaur’s first model

The best way to get stuck in is to get stuck in, so after noodling about Hive Fleet Balaur, I got stuck in and built my first nid.

I think this is an older kit, but it’s a really good older kit
At first I wasn’t sold on the 25mm base, but once I got rolling I started liking how nimble it makes the Genestealers feel
All done! No names (which feels super weird!), so since I want to always be able to identify my first Tyranid I added a unique skull to his base.
I went for a wide, sprawling pose; the posability with four arms is a ton of fun

And a little while later, I’ve got a whole Fire Team built: 5 Genestealers, including some equipment choices (Feeder Tendrils on second from left, Flesh Hooks on fourth from left). I built the first two without even realizing that the Rending Claws on normal Genestealers never appear on all four arms — but in 2021 Kill Team, they can! A happy accident, as Bob Ross would say.

5/8 of my Kill Team

I already love these guys. This is going to be fun!

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Kill Team Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Fighting the mini-painting doldrums: Hive Fleet Balaur

I haven’t finished a miniature since May 20, 2021, when I wrapped up Stikkit and Skraggit for my Deathskulls army. Almost a year![1]

I’ve done “miniature stuff” since then, including assembling, priming, base-coating, and basing a 2,000-point Adeptus Custodes army, and made it about 80% of the way through my first squad. But pootling about isn’t the same as finishing models.

A big part of that comes down to losing a major motivator: In the two years since I started painting 40k minis, I still haven’t actually played the game. I could be playing it, pandemic notwithstanding, but I’d be simultaneously trying to learn the game, play the game, and make friends, all while wearing a mask for 2-3 hours. Maybe that’s what I should be doing, but my gut says I want my first 40k game in 20+ years to be played unmasked, which means waiting until I feel comfortable doing that.

So I’m trying something else.

I know the 8th Edition codex will be obsolete in literally a week, but having bought a couple codices in both editions I’ve found that I often like some of the 8e stuff that didn’t make it into the 9e version. (Also pictured is the Citadel bottle-holder, which will pay for itself in, like, two paint spills.)

I’ve got a few days off, and I’m going to ease back into things by working on a Tyranid Kill Team: 5 Genestealers and 3 Warriors (the latter of which hasn’t arrived yet).

Me being me, I picked Tyranids half on a whim and half because I’ve loved Genestealers for 30+ years; I have a tentative paint and basing scheme in mind; and I’ve spent a few hours finding a Hive Fleet name that feels right — one that sounds like it came straight from, say, an Eisenhorn novel: Hive Fleet Balaur.

The typical canon Hive Fleet is named after a mythological beast, a practice I love, and a balaur — pronounced like the “ba” in “bad” plus the word “our” with an L in front of it, “ba-lowr” — is a multi-headed dragon from Romanian folklore. They’re also associated with weather, and both metaphors, the multi-headed serpent and a force as inevitable as weather, feel particularly apt for Tyranids.

And, to the best of my searching abilities, it’s almost unique. I can find just one reference to someone else working on a Hive Fleet Balaur, from an abandoned forum thread in 2011. Given the relative paucity of names of mythological creatures which feel right to me for a Hive Fleet and which haven’t already been used in canon or widely used online, this is probably as close as I’m going to get to a unique name.[2]

The mists of time

Funnily enough, the first game of 40k I ever played, back in the early 1990s, pitted my Squats against my then-girlfriend’s (now ex-wife’s) Tyranids. For a myriad of reasons, my poor Squats didn’t stand a chance.

So while I wait for Squats to return — and they are, as the just-announced Leagues of Votann! — it seems fitting to come full circle and give Tyranids a whirl.[3]

Like every other GW faction I’ve explored, Tyranids are more interesting than they seemed at first glance. The longer I look at these ravenous space-bugs, as pure as the Xenomorph from Alien, the more I like them. They’ll also be a pleasant counterpoint to what I’ve painted so far — humanoids in armor, humanoids in fancier armor, and green humanoids with lots of teef. Maybe I’ll bring drybrushing back into the foreground, or take another run at glazing (for their claws and bony swords and whatnot), or trying feathering or stippling my carapaces.

Kill Team

But for now, at least, they’re just two things: a fun, simple way to try and jumpstart my miniature-painting engine again, and my first foray into Kill Team. I’d originally planned to use my boards, terrain, and a subset of my 40k armies for Kill Team, but the new edition of KT makes me want to branch out and explore small forces I haven’t painted for 40k.[4]

Eight rad minis (with 32 arms between them!) is a quantity I could paint in 2-4 weeks if I set my mind to it. I’m tucking into my Genestealers tonight, so that makes April 8 my official start date for Hive Fleet Balaur. Time to get snipping!

[1] I knew this would happen eventually, which is why I write down all my half-baked ideas, half-assed plans, and color guides.

[2] Which, of course, doesn’t matter at all — except that it makes me happy to feel like I’m carving out my little corner of the 40k universe.

[3] I suspect I will be all in for the Leagues of Votann. I’ve wanted to paint a Squat army for years, and if they’d been an active faction when I started up again I likely would have gone with them. I’ve told my wallet to start practicing weeping uncontrollably now so that it will be ready for preorder day.

[4] Like 8th Edition, which I bought into when I started painting, I picked up the previous edition of Kill Team as well. Both games changed editions before I got a chance to play them — in the case of 40k, that change also prompted some midstream rejiggering of at least one army. But as pandemic-related complaints go? That one is beyond minor.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
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Miniatures Miscellaneous geekery RPG community Tabletop RPGs Warhammer 40k

“There are no goodies in the Warhammer 40,000 universe,” so fuck off, fascists

Warhammer Community has posted a fantastic statement about the satirical, non-aspirational nature of the Imperium of Man in the 40k universe, and about 40k in general. Here’s a salient snippet:

The Imperium of Man stands as a cautionary tale of what could happen should the very worst of Humanity’s lust for power and extreme, unyielding xenophobia set in. Like so many aspects of Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man is satirical.

Games Workshop. November 19, 2021

All of my dedicated 40k pages here include a similar note, because alt-right, fascist, and Nazi fucks sometimes gravitate towards 40k, and I don’t want my enjoyment of this hobby to be associated with them in any way — or for them to think the 40k hobby is a welcoming space for them.

The core of GW’s statement closes with this:

If you come to a Games Workshop event or store and behave to the contrary, including wearing the symbols of real-world hate groups, you will be asked to leave. We won’t let you participate. We don’t want your money. We don’t want you in the Warhammer community.

Games Workshop. November 19, 2021

That goes for Yore, as well. If you’re part of a hate group, think antifa are the baddies, think “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” are acceptable “responses” to Black Lives Matter, or are just a racist, transphobic, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted piece of shit: Yore is not for you, you are explicitly not welcome here, and you can fuck right off.

Everyone else, Yore is for you. Thank you for reading it, and happy gaming, reading, and painting.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
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Adeptus Custodes Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Spraying my Custodes with Retributor Armour: notes to self

After enjoying the time savings from spraying my first batch of 40k terrain with Citadel’s Wraithbone rattle can — a primer and base coat in one — I decided to go the same route with my custard lads. They’re 90% gold; this is a potentially huge time savings.

So I built my entire army before painting any of them — something I haven’t done since I got back into painting in 2020. It’s only 26 models, so this seemed like the most logical approach.

2,000 points of Dread Host Custodes

As luck would have it, today’s weather was perfect for some spray painting.

3-2-1 RESPIRATE
Deep in the spray chamber, it’s kinda dark

Here’s what I found:

  • Retributor Armour, which is a metallic, doesn’t go on as easily as Wraithbone (which is not).
  • Compared to terrain, which, broadly, is flat and regular, miniatures are much fussier to spray paint. They’re covered in little nooks and crannies.
  • The Allarus Terminators are fussier than the Custodian Guards, because their pauldrons are overhangs and their little turtle heads make a “dead zone” for paint unless you hit that area from just the right angle.
  • Starting with them laying down is much easier than starting with them standing up. Many of the hard-to-reach bits are dealt with much more smoothly, and when you stand them up there’s just a bit of obvious touching-up to do.
  • My usual approach — spraying into an open box sitting on its side — doesn’t work nearly as well as just setting the figures on the top of the box and attacking them from all angles. (Outdoors, with no one nearby, and my goggles and respirator on, this isn’t a safety hazard.) With care, it’s not too hard to keep the paint on the box.
  • I thought one can would cover 21 infantry models and 6 bikes. It actually covered 14 infantry models (1 Trajann, 1 Vexilus Praetor, 6 Allarus, 6 Custodians) and the bases for the 6 bikes.
  • That took me about 75 minutes, including time spent waiting for stuff to dry, so spraying the other 6 infantry and all 6 bikes shouldn’t take any longer than that.
  • I can’t believe I used to do this without goggles and a respirator mask!

None of that has anything to do with the quality of Citadel’s rattle cans: Retributor Armour spray dries beautifully. Even if I have to brush-prime the odd crevice and touch it up with a spot of paint, I’ve still saved a ton of time here.

Look at their wee nameplates!

I opted to spray the Vertus Praetor bases because 1) why not? and 2) that way the rims and rocks won’t look different from the rest of the bases (which they might if I primed them white). Ultimately this probably wouldn’t matter much — but hey, shiny bases!

I’m honestly tempted to leave them like this

Now I need to wait for another can of paint to arrive in the mail before I can goldenize the rest of them — but in the meantime, I’ve got 20 bases to work on!

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Adeptus Custodes Miniatures Warhammer 40k

I accidentally broke my first hobby streak

I woke up this morning, walked past my work area for miniatures, and realized I’d forgotten to put in time on minis yesterday. My hobby streak is broken!

I made it to 539 days — from February 20, 2020, to August 12, 2021.

Yesterday morning I had a plan for what I was going to work on, but after work I wrapped up my Yore page tracking my completed Marvel and DC runs, walked the dog, had a lovely dinner, watched Friday the 13th Part VI with my family, read some Batman . . . and just plain forgot to work on minis.

I don’t feel terrible about it. Pobody’s nerfect, and all that — and I didn’t break it because I’d lost my motivation and didn’t want to work on minis, which I suspect would feel different.

Now I’m all set up and ready to work today (after coffee, of course).

After these three Vertus Praetors, I only have four Custodian Guards left and my entire 2,000-point Adeptus Custodes army will be fully assembled
All the custard lads I’ve built to date

Today is day 1 of my second hobby streak. Onwards!

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Adeptus Custodes Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Second squad of Custodes

I started building this squad of Allarus Custodians — the first three of 10 Terminators in my draft army list — last night, and finished it up this afternoon: Kanumba, Cathalan, and Adomako.

L to R: Kanumba, Adomako, and Cathalan, Allarus Custodians with Guardian Spears

As with my first squad, I stole the Shield-Captain’s build for one of them — Adomako — because I love the stance and how tall the model is with its upright spear. I’ve also got a pretty good sense now, after two Custodes kits, for how I can twiddle some of the monopose elements and do a bit of mixing and matching in order to keep them all distinct from one another.

I looked to Africa for two of their names: Ghana for Adomako, and Tanzania for Kanumba. The third, Cathalan, is an Old Irish name — a variation on Cathaláin.

While these kits have the awesome “turtle shell” vibe that defines Terminators (for me, at least), and huge presence, I think I still prefer the Custodian Guard models by a narrow margin. They’re still pretty boss kits, though — and I’m not sad I’ll be building more of them.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Adeptus Custodes Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

The custard must flow: one squad assembled

I finished my first Adeptus Custodes squad tonight, adding Halfden and Konstantyn to my first custard lad, Inkaef, to form a full unit of Custodian Guards with Sentinel Blades and Storm Shields.

L to R: Inkaef, Halfden, Konstantyn

In 9th Edition, this unit is 234 points. Three troops in my Deathskulls Ork army would be . . . 24 points.

Playing around with points, I think I’m probably only going to get three sword-and-board Guards — so I picked my three favorite poses, stealing the Shield-Captain’s build for Halfden (center) and swapping out the pre-molded Misericordia hand for a Storm Shield.

The Guards have my favorite helmets in this army, so when it’s time to replace Trajann’s bare head with a helmeted one, I think I’ll be tracking down one of these — or maybe I’ll have a spare, if I stick with 9 Guards (since two boxes is 10).

So far my naming scheme for Custodes is “whatever sounds fun, and has a basis in Earth history.” Halfden is a riff on an old Norse name, Halfdan; Konstantyn is a one-letter shift from a 12th century Russian monarch, Konstantin. They’re an unusual force, largely flat on an organizational level, and they don’t have squad leaders or a monocultural origin. I like that their names reflect that.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.