I settled on building a Blood Angels army for 40k earlier this month, and now I’ve brought it up from 500-600 points to 800-900 (depending on how I build the models). I’ve got Commander Dante on the way, which should put me right on the money for a 1,000-point Vanguard Detachment, or over a thousand if I build it as a Battalion Detachment and add another squad of troops.
Along with the Blood Angels Codex (paid link), which has been a blast to read, I snagged a box each of Death Company (paid link) and Sanguinary Guard (paid link) and some painting supplies. I’m still following the Rule of Cool: buying what I want to paint without worrying about whether it’s an optimal mechanical choice (while also doing it in the framework of building an army, to keep myself pointed at a goal).
Although the Dreadnought and Rhino are larger than anything I’ve painted in 30-plus years, this is still fewer miniatures than what’s in Space Hulk: 23 Genestealers, 12 Terminators, 3 misc. pieces vs. 1 leader/hero, 10 troops, 15 elites, 1 tank, 1 Dreadnought. That feels like a manageable 1,000-point army to paint.
And even with the new paints folded into my collection I’ve got room to spare in my WarpedMindGames paint racks (which I reviewed back in February, and still love)!
I’m planning a couple of changes to my painting regimen once I finish my Space Hulk Terminators and switch to 40k minis. I’ve done a bit of experimentation with edge highlighting some elements and drybrushing others, which I think I’ll step up for my army. I’ve also got some Citadel texture paint, the correct reds for my Angels, and a palette so I can stop dipping my brushes directly into my pots (a big no-no that I’m terrible about!).
With the end in sight for painting my Space Hulk set, I’ve been thinking about whether to change any of my painting techniques for my Blood Angels army. Like any rabbit hole this question can prove bottomless and intimidating.
What I’m doing now (plus sealant first and varnish last):
Shade (wash) the entire miniature
I like how this is turning out on my Terminators, but my third step — an all-over ink wash — really darkens up the miniature. Drybrushing helps it pop again, but their power armor still reads as dark red rather than sort of medium red.
In the WHTV video, Duncan Rhodes demonstrates two techniques (again, preceded by primer). One:
Shade (wash) only the recesses/cracks/etc. with a fine brush
Edge highlight in a lighter color
Drybrush with a lighter color, but fairly broadly — edges plus larger areas
Shade (wash) the entire miniature
Seeing a drybrush precede a wash blew my mind. It looks great on his finished miniatures (around 14:55 in the video), but I think I still prefer my primary wash (Agrax Earthshade) followed by a drybrush to his wash (Carroburg Crimson) preceded by a drybrush. (Duncan is a much better painter than me; this is just an aesthetic preference on my part.)
I’d been assuming that layering accompanied drybrushing, not preceded it. And maybe that’s an approach some folks take, I don’t know. But it looks like maybe it’s a full-on alternative, not an accompaniment.
On the one hand it’s gratifying to see that my simple approach is more or less a typical one. But on the other hand I really like the idea of edge highlighting and want to give it a shot — but not midstream on my Terminator squad, I don’t think. Maybe I’ll do a test paint job on an old BattleMech, a model I don’t need to match anything else I’m working on at the moment.
The Adeptus Custodes came in a close second, with Orks a somewhat more distant third. I’m always drawn to the elite army in games like these, and the Custodes being able to field a 2,000 point army with a couple dozen models — half the number needed for Space Marines, many less than Astra Militarum or Orks — appealed to me, as did their absolutely badass minis, gold color scheme, and lore. On the Ork front I’ve always liked them, and being able to color-theme your Waaagh! and just sort of cobble together a band of space football hooligans sounded like fun.
But a couple of simple questions (which took me some time to arrive at!) made it no contest:
What 40k minis have I loved since I was a kid?
Old-school Eldar walkers
Apart from those, which minis look the coolest to me now?
Old-school “refrigerator box” Dreadnoughts
Sisters of Battle Mortifiers and Penitent Engines
Adeptus Custodes Vertus Praetors and Custodian Guard
Why build an army that doesn’t include my favorite units?
So: Space Marines, which check the most boxes on that list (and which can, if desired, ally with Sisters or Custodes and pilfer their coolest units!). Of those factions, the Blood Angels’ lore spoke to me the most: doomed space vampires who eventually succumb to the Black Rage, known for their bloodthirstiness in battle. They’re over the top in such fun ways — and they have the most Dreadnoughts, plus access to BA-specific as well as generic Terminators.
On top of that, when I imagine a Space Marine the first image that pops into my head is always a red one; red is fun to paint, too, and their accent colors — black and gold, mainly — make for a great combo. And the Blood Angels have rad elite units with quite different color schemes for variety: the Sanguinary Guard, golden veterans with angel wings, each wearing a death mask in the image of the previous wearer; and Death Company, black with white and red accents, who are all in the grip of the Black Rage.
When I unpacked all these glorious boxes to check out the plastic within, I was also thrilled and relieved to find a comprehensive Blood Angels transfer sheet in the Dreadnought box. I’d heard these weren’t included in sets anymore, and figured I’d have to raid Ebay so my squads could have accurate markings.
Of my starting units, I think only the vanilla Space Marines need these; the rest have their own transfers or are too blinged out to have room for them (cough cough Terminators).
Squint and imagine my next 12 months of painting
Before ordering my sets I downloaded BattleScribe and used it to play around with various Blood Angels options. The four sets I picked can be configured different ways, but generally shake out to around 500-600 points of models.
As a starting point, half of a 1,000-point army sounded perfect. It’s a manageable amount of painting — 15 human-size figures, 1 Dreadnought, 1 tank — and when I add my next planned purchases I come out right around a thousand points. The Dreadnought and the tank intimidate me as a painter, but that’s healthy too — that’s how I grow.
I’m going solely by Rule of Cool, buying models I love so I can paint them. On that basis my next additions will likely be Commander Dante, a Death Company squad, and a Sanguinary Guard squad. At that point I’ll need one more 5-person squad of troops to have a Battalion, or I could split them up into Vanguard + Patrol instead and have a complete army (again: probably not optimal for play in any way!).
Theme-wise, right now I’m going with “faceless,” which might turn into a name for one of the squads or something — but all it means is everyone wears a helmet. I don’t especially enjoy painting faces, although that will probably change; I love painting helmets; and it’s a fun filter to apply to what’s frankly a staggering range of options.
I’m over the moon with excitement — I can’t wait to paint these minis!