My Warhammer 40k Adeptus Custodes army

I started my third 40k army, Adeptus Custodes of the Dread Host, on July 1, 2021. I adore the Guard and Vertus Praetors models, and the idea of an elite, low model-count army with lots of Terminators appeals to me — as does the possibility of spinning up a 2,000-point army relatively quickly.

Updated July 2023: Trying to batch-paint this entire army at once was a mistake, and at the moment Custodes don’t grab me as much as my other options (and haven’t for some time). For the time being they’re staying their case while I work on other 40k/Kill Team stuff. This page will stay up while they’re in unfinished model limbo.

This is a long page, so here are links to jump right to different sections: my initial army list, color guides, guiding principles, and unassembled kits.

If you enjoy this page, you might also like my other 40k pages: my Blood Angels army; my Deathskulls Ork army, Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas; and my 40k terrain.

L to R, the Allarus Custodians Kanumba, Adomako, and Cathalan (July 3, 2021)

Space fascism vs. actual fascism

I love the Blood Angels because they’re so over the top: space vampires doomed to be consumed by their own bloodlust, fighting to do what they think is right despite — like all Space Marines — clearly being the bad guys. The Adeptus Custodes are even more extra than the Blood Angels, albeit without being space vampires.

But I love them because they’re a hoot, not because I agree with their values or their religious zealotry, nor with the equally evil feudal theocracy that is the Imperium of Man. Fictional villains are fun — one reason why I love horror movies so much! — and so is the gonzo, grimdark 40k universe.

I don’t take anything about the Warhammer universe seriously. But in real life? Fuck Nazis, fuck fascists, fuck bigots, fuck racists, fuck sexists, fuck misogynists, and fuck hatemongers of all stripes. 40k should be an inclusive hobby, diverse and welcoming for all — except for bigots and other hateful fuckwits. And as Games Workshop says, if you disagree you will not be missed.

In Ork terms, this would be like 15 points

Draft army list

I’ve been through a few drafts at this point, but went back to basics: Custodian Guards and Vertus Praetors are two of my favorite units in all of 40k, so lets have lots of those. After building six Allarus Custodians, I also found that this kit is a bit too monopose for me. I didn’t want nine of them, as originally planned, so I dropped a squad of them and added more Guards. Even without optimizing for minimum number of figures, this entire 2,000-point list is just 21 infantry models and 6 bikes!

  • HQ:
    • Captain-General Trajann Valoris (Warlord)
    • Shield-Captain on Dawn Eagle Jetbike, Masashi (Salvo Launcher)
  • Troops:
    • Custodian Guard Squad, Inkaef, Halfden, Konstantyn, Baptiste, and Adomako (5x Sentinel Blade and Storm Shield)
    • Custodian Guard Squad, Kueng, Yorick, Etienne, Gorvestes, and Pelgarus (5x Sentinel Blade and Storm Shield)
    • Custodian Guard Squad, Telvaer, Anselm, and Sadiki (3x Guardian Spear)
  • Elites:
    • Allarus Custodians, Kanumba, Faraj, and Cathalan (3x Guardian Spear)
    • Allarus Custodians, Chongkun, Antinko, and Grastus (3x Castellan Axe)
    • Vexilus Praetor, Ashauk (Vexilla Imperius, Storm Shield, Misericordia)
  • Fast Attack:
    • Vertus Praetors, Wolfgang, Enoch, Zaid, Tybelt, and Dhruv (5x Salvo Launchers)
L to R: Inkaef, Halfden, and Konstantyn, my first fully assembled squad (July 2, 2021)

Lore and guiding principles

Also still a WIP, but:

  • Rule of Cool is in full effect: I’m making an army of stuff I want to paint. (I have thought a bit more about mechanics this time, though, because Custodes have so few unit types and figures to work with.)
  • Since Custodes are drawn from across the Terran noble houses, it stands to reason that a wide range of cultural origins would be represented in their names. I’ve mixed current and ancient names from several cultures, plus some made-up ones; ultimately I just went with a mix that felt right. (This Reddit post was helpful in confirming the variety of Terran names present in 40k lore.)
  • As always, no exact duplicates. This is a bit of a challenge with Custodes, as they have relatively few units and many near-monopose kits.
  • Everyone wears a helmet. I’m still not ready to paint eyes, plus it makes sense (just as it does for Marines, and does not for Orks).
  • Basing terrain is flatter and more sparsely embellished than my Angels or Orks. Use Duncan’s approach to bring the texture paint right up to the feet, but without bodging it onto them like I usually do; these guys aren’t wading through the muck, they’re striding atop it.
  • Every model has a name, not just the characters, squad leaders, and vehicles (which is my usual approach).

Color guides

I have a hunch that one guide will cover the majority of my Custodians, so to get the ball rolling I’ve knocked one together: Adeptus Custodes Dread Host (and bases) color guide and painting steps.

I also learned a few things while spraying these guys with Retributor Armour, and I took notes.

Inkaef, Custodian Guard of the Dread Host (my first Custodian, July 1, 2021)

Unassembled custard lads

I keep track of my unassembled kits so the Pile of Future Joy under my desk stays organized (and so I don’t accidentally buy anything twice).

  • Custodian Guard Squad: 1x Custodian Guard remains
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