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!).
I noticed on Warhammer TV that Duncan nearly always thins his paint a bit, which I’ve never tried. I have a palette now, so I thought I’d give it a whirl with another Terminator: Brother Gideon, who has a truly epic Storm Shield.
A month ago, I wouldn’t even have attempted the finer lines on this shield. The palette helps, as does the right brush and ample light (about which I have a short review coming up next week; this light has made a big difference) — and the nice cold bottle of Asahi just off-camera.
I didn’t do this amazing sculpt justice, but this Storm Shield is the most detailed thing I’ve ever painted. I’ll touch it up tomorrow, in better light, along with the rest of Gideon and see how it turns out.
My Terminator box is slowly starting to fill up. Gideon is 6/12, so if I can finish him and one more Termie tomorrow I’ll be over 50% done.
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!
Painting Terminators — which have been my favorite aspect of the Warhammer 40k universe since I was 12 — for Space Hulk piqued my interest in painting more 40k minis. I read the free rules first to test the waters, and I like what I see in 8th Edition. But like I said in that linked post, it’s the painting side of the hobby that’s drawing me back — paint for sure, play maybe.
There are a couple of local stores (Mox Boarding House, GW Lynnwood) that look like they could be avenues of play for me down the road, but the joy of falling in love with an army and building and painting minis for it is what’s grabbing me right now.
I’ve also started watching battle reports for the factions that interest me. So far MOARHAMMER is my favorite channel, conveying a sense of what it was like to be there in a fun way with crisp editing, a friendly vibe, and — unlike several others I’ve tried! — excellent camera work that doesn’t give me motion sickness. This Adeptus Custodes v. Black Legion BR was my intro to them, and it’s a fun watch.
I’m enjoying reacquainting myself with this universe and game — and holy shit is there a lot of lore available in wiki format (which of course didn’t exist in the early ’90s). I visited this Blood Angels page and figured it’d be a couple screens of text at most. Oh, how wrong I was.
Which is cool, because it’s making deep dives into faction lore pretty easy to do without investing in like 18 books. Good times!
(The title of this post is based on a 40k joke: It’s not called Warhammer 40,000 because it’s set in the 41st millennium, but because that’s how much it costs to play. I don’t know the joke’s origin, but I love it.)
After buying the 3rd Edition of Space Hulk back in 2009, it took me about three years to finish painting my Genestealers — about 2/3 of the minis in the box.
That was in 2012.
Today, in the year of our glorious Emperor 2020, I finished Brother Scipio, Blood Angels Terminator, and “throne boy,” a nameless fallen Space Marine found aboard a space hulk in one of the missions.
The eye of the Emperor is upon you
Since I’ve put these two in the lightbox at every stage of production (base coat and wash in one post, dry brush in another, sealant in this one), let’s do a quick 4×4 gallery showing them side-by-side.
As always in my (limited) experience, the starkest difference is between base coat and wash. I wish I’d started doing washes years ago, instead of being too gun-shy to try them.
But it’s drybrushing that brings a mini to life for me. The difference between wash-only and wash plus drybrush isn’t huge at first glance (and some of that is likely down to my inexperience as a painter!), but it’s the step that makes the mini feel most real.
The overhead LEDs in my lightbox make the matt varnish (sealant) pop more than it does in person. A small price to pay for minis I can play with worry-free.
Onwards! I have 11 Terminators left in my Space Hulk set. It will not take me 11 more years to finish painting them. If I keep up this pace — roughly 2 minis a week, without feeling like I’m grinding them out or stepping on my other hobbies — I could have the rest done in about five weeks. Although the temptation to put in a marathon painting session is strong . . .
Musings on joy
More importantly, painting these miniatures brought me joy. Painting them, not just having them fully painted. There was joy in finishing them too, absolutely (and I’m so glad I stopped painting them assembly line-style), but my head was in the game as far as enjoying the painting as the hobby as much as the rest of the hobby around it.
That plus reading a piece in White Dwarf #451 about Phil Kelly, who has been collecting and painting the same Waaagh! of Orks for many years, across multiple editions of 40K, with models he’s inherited, kitbashes, new and old sculpts — just keeping going, loving the hobby for itself, riding out the vagaries of different editions because the Waaaghh! is the fun part — has got me thinking about trying out 40K again.
But not necessarily in my usual mode (buy game, learn rules, paint minis, find opponents). Rather in the mode of: pick a faction that speaks to me, buy a box, enjoy the painting, and maybe try playing down at the local shop sometime in 2021 — or not, and just keep building an army for the fun of it.