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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Terrain Warhammer 40k

40k Sector Mechanicus terrain color guide

I started my 40k terrain collection with pieces from the Manufactorum line, and then added a bunch from the Sector Mechanicus line — enough stuff that, if I built all of it, I could kit out a 2,000-point 40k board. My plan has always been to find a paint scheme that unifies these two themes, and after looking at lots of possibilities I settled on this one.

My goal here isn’t to replicate the studio paint schemes for Mechanicus terrain (although they’re great!), it’s to make my bombed-out table full of a mix of Manufactorum and Mechanicus pieces looks cohesive. I’ve gotten ideas from Warhammer TV videos and Google searches, referenced Citadel’s mini-guides for specific colors (e.g. Deathworld Forest), and used my Manufactorum color guide as my baseline.

In the dark future there are no bare bottoms

Tying Sector Mechanicus to Battlezone: Manufactorum

My approach is to follow these steps in this order. That entails a rattle can primer/base coat, tackling the biggest sections, completely finishing everything but the tiny details (pipes, plaques, handles, screens, wires, and the like), then doing those details (with no wash/highlight steps for them!), and lastly weathering the whole piece.

  1. Spray everything Leadbelcher. Tackle each piece in two stages: broadly, top and bottom. Flip them over and wait 15 minutes before spraying the second stage.
  2. Big stuff:
    • Stanchions and gantries: base coat the tops of the gantries Deathworld Forest (over the existing Leadbelcher primer/base coat); touch up any overspill with Leadbelcher; wash the stanchions and both sides of the gantries, starting with the undersides and waiting an hour before doing the rest; and then completely finish these sections (all the way up to top-level drybrushing). That way I can be messy with my washing and drybrushing before painting the other elements.
      1. Tops and edges of gantries: Deathworld Forest > Agrax Earthshade > Elysian Green drybrush > light Screaming Skull drybrush
      2. Undersides of gantries: Agrax Earthshade
      3. Stanchions: Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker drybrush > Necron Compound drybrush
    • Red metal (large plates, tanks, doors, some pipes): Khorne Red > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush > very light Squig Orange drybrush
    • Railings and large pipe joints (compatible with Manufactorum pipes): Wraithbone > Seraphim Sepia > Agrax Earthshade pin wash along seams/wherever they’d be really dirty > Tyrant Skull drybrush > Praxeti White drybrush, focusing on the high points and edges
    • Bare metal (ladders, chains, hooks, etc.): Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker drybrush > Necron Compound drybrush
    • Bronze: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion on the relief elements
    • Big 3-D Cog Mechanicum:
      • White: Corax White > Apothecary White contrast paint > Praxeti White drybrush
      • Black: Corvus Black > Basilicum Grey contrast paint > Eshin Grey drybrush > light Dawnstone drybrush
      • Eye: Corax White > Khorne Red > Evil Sunz Scarlet
    • Hazard stripes: Averland Sunset/Chaos Black (use 3mm Tamiya hobby tape to mask them off) > very thin Agrax Earthshade wash to dial them back a bit
  3. Little details (wires, conduits, screens, etc.): Base coat in a single color (Averland Sunset, Macragge Blue, etc.) and vary these choices across the terrain pieces (especially duplicates!); it sounds like heresy, but these truly don’t need any follow-up coats/layers/etc.
  4. Weathering:
    • Rust: Thinned-down Skrag Brown > thinned-down Fire Dragon Bright
    • Verdigris: Nihilakh Oxide on bronze elements
    • Bullet holes: Shade them with the rest of whatever surface they’re on, then at this stage just fill them with Leadbelcher
    • Chipping and damage: Sponge on Rhinox Hide, focusing on the blasted edges and torn-away elements, but also randomly putting it everywhere that feels right

If you like this color scheme/approach, there’s nothing about it that’s unique to my setup; it should look dandy without the Manufactorum pieces to complement it.

Note that during assembly I’ve added battle damage and decay to my Mechanicus pieces: holes in gantries, missing ladder rungs, bullet holes, smashed railings, etc. My rules of thumb are: no section of gantry intended to mate with another at the table should be too badly damaged, as that would look weird if the other side didn’t match; and don’t overdo it. These aren’t ruins, like most of the Manufactorum pieces, but they have seen some shit.

Drilling holes and taking big bites out of my gantries (April 27, 2022)

My hope is that the mix of ruined and intact pieces, which is common to both terrain themes — out of the box in the case of Manufactorum, and added by me in the case of Mechanicus — will make the whole battlefield cohesive, immersive, and fun to look at.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Terrain Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Tyranid Warriors and terrain

I’m currently working on three things in parallel, all at different stages: my second Hive Fleet Balaur unit for Kill Team, three Tyranid Warriors; a batch of Manufactorum terrain; and a couple of larger Sector Mechanicus terrain pieces.

Tom Servo of Finland watching over three freshly-glued Warriors

These guys were every bit as fun to build as my Genestealers. And despite having no names, no personalities, no quirky equipment — none of the stuff I’m used to using as my roleplaying hooks for how to assemble and paint an interesting figure — these models are packed with opportunities to convey intent (nom nom nom), motion, and character.

I’m honestly surprised how much I enjoy building and painting Tyranids.

My Tyranid Warrior Fire Team: Venom Cannon, leader, and weapon beast

Since I’m combining pieces from two lines, Manufactorum and Mechanicus, for my table, I started out with the Mechanicus stuff by just faffing about and seeing how it looks alongside my Manufactorum pieces.

I love how modular the Mechanicus terrain is

Alongside creating interesting terrain, my goal is to balance the modularity of the Mechanicus kits with a desire for durable, functional pieces I don’t need to fuss with.

These kits can be painted in pieces and assembled at the table, then broken down and reassembled a different way the next time. But some of the elements, like the railings, are going to mar whatever you attach them too — and in any case, that level of modularity seems like overkill to me.

So instead I built four anchor pieces, all of them fully assembled and glued — and all of them capable of being combined in lots of different ways. I left space for a Ferratonic Furnace under the octagon at the back, but glued my second furnace to the platform up front. The long gantries can each accommodate one or two of the larger Mechanicus tanks being slid under them, and almost all of the “mating” ends of the gantries and platforms can be mixed and matched.

This took a couple of hours, but I’m happy with how my pieces turned out.

My four anchor pieces (just press-fit at this stage, not glued)

After sleeping on my choices, I tweaked a couple things here and there, picked two to start with, and got them glued together.

The Ferratonic Furnace and platform will be glued together after I’ve sprayed them both (to make it easier to reach all the little crannies behind the ladder, cables, etc.)

Then I shifted gears and did the first wash on four Manufactorum pieces I’d previously primed, with an eye to finishing a full Kill Team board worth of terrain as soon as possible.

I’ve yet to figure out the secret of not being messy with terrain washes

It’s a weird angle, but this is my current overflowing work area: freshly washed Manufactorum pieces at the bottom, a mix of finished and WIP Tyranids and terrain in the center, and my first two huge Mechanicus pieces waiting for a dry day so I can spray them.

My desk hasn’t looked like this in months, and I love it!

Shifting from working on 2,000-point 40k armies to Kill Team squads has been just the ticket for getting me jazzed about painting again. It’s also helped me find something to focus on with terrain, since I’ve got a much shorter-term goal than filling a Strike Force board: one Kill Team board, which is maybe 4 large pieces, 2 medium ones, and a handful of little bits.

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Finished miniatures Kill Team Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Five Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers wrapped up

Last night I finished my first minis since May 20, 2021: one Hive Fleet Balaur Fire Team for Kill Team, a unit of Genestealers. These guys were a ton of fun to paint, and given that I started them on April 8, went on a short vacation, and worked on my Warriors during the 16 days it took me to finish them, I feel pretty much back on track with painting.

Hive Fleet Blue Steel

Their underbellies creep me out a bit
Golden angles
Front
Back

I figured I’d shoot one with some terrain, too.

Hive Fleet Balaur scuttling through the ruins

And why not take advantage of the rare opportunity to do a before/after? I painted the blue/pink Genestealers (from Space Hulk) in 2012. It’s not quite “10 years later,” though, because I didn’t paint anything from 2012 to 2020, when I got back into painting and starting both taking it seriously and actually enjoying it. So it’s really more of a “two years of progress” before/after, since this is how I was painting in 2020.

Current way vs. old way, front view
Rear view

Nid thoughts

This was my second time glazing, and the first time I haven’t painted over my efforts and gone with a different technique. (I tried glazing a Custodes sword several times, but just couldn’t get it right.) My glazing isn’t great, but these first four Scything Blades taught me quite a bit; I’m hoping to improve my technique as I work on my Warriors.

I’ve also never used dotting tools before. Still room for improvement there as well, but there’s just not that much surface to work with on Genestealers and I didn’t want to overwhelm their shading. The Warriors’ carapaces are a larger canvas, so I’m looking to step up my game on them.

As a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Leviathan, I like how my twist on Leviathan’s color scheme turned out. There are at least two official Leviathan color guides out there (one in White Dwarf and one on Warhammer TV), but the main differences between Leviathan and Balaur are the toxic green claws and spotted carapaces.

My goal for these Genestealers was to evoke brightly-colored bugs and poison dart frogs, and to combine that with a “snake’s underbelly” body color for an unsettling — maybe even unpleasant — look that befits the terrifying nature of Tyranids.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Tyranid Warriors and Genestealers

With my Genestealers’ initial base/wash/drybrush done, I based them and then tested some base rim options.

Doombull, Rhinox, Khorne, Squig
Wild Rider, Wazdakka, Doombull

Doombull Brown is the clear winner in my book, so that’s what I’ll be using for my Tyranids.

Genestealers based and with their full initial base coat in all colors; next comes touch-ups

I also took a box of Tyranid Warriors on vacation with me, and spent some quiet time trimming and filing them. I just wrapped up assembly on the first one (Venom Cannon, Boneswords, and Toxin Sacs), so now he’s in my impromptu drying station.

These minis are every bit as cool as I hoped they would be

Both Hive Fleet Balaur units for my first Kill Team are coming along nicely, and I’m in the groove. If I find myself in a painting mood, I could have my Genestealers completely wrapped up this weekend.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Genestealers

After letting the glue on the Genestealers I built last night cure overnight, finalizing my color scheme this morning, and writing a color guide for Hive Fleet Balaur, I sprayed these five bad boys:

Even though it was only about 40 degrees out, the rattle can still worked great

While they were drying (Citadel’s rattle cans really are paint-ready in 15 minutes; I love them), I nipped out to Mox for the four paints I was missing. Then I got my ducks in a row for a painting session.

I’d say pardon my dusty desk, but I hate dusting so my figures are almost always dusty

I’ve seen Genestealers painted basically all one color (like the current studio paint jobs for Leviathan) or about 50/50 (like the old Space Hulk models, with their blue bodies and pink hands), and I decided to split the difference. I’m giving them carapaces on their backs, basically from the tail joint up, and treating the rest of the body — including the carapace-like tail and chest/belly — as skin/body tone (whitish-pink).

Among other things, that will let me practice my mottling on these guys before doing it on my Warriors, who are larger and have more carapace areas to paint. I also don’t love the studio Leviathan scheme for Genestealers, which I find too monotone; expanding what counts as carapace lets me avoid that.

First wash applied; I love this unwholesome pink!

Post-drybrush, they’re not as off-white as the studio models, but they’ve definitely changed:

The main body now only needs its final Pallid Wych Flesh highlight

I decided to go back and re-reestablish the Carroburg Crimson in their vents and joints, but that didn’t magically make my drybrushing as adept as a GW studio painter’s work. Maybe the final highlights will balance things out a bit? We’ll see.

Base elements now finished, texture paint applied and drying

I took a closer look at some Leviathan nids in the 8e codex and White Dwarf #463, and I’m pretty sure some of them have a Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush over their Screaming Skull drybrush — so I gave that a shot. It makes a difference! In natural light, this guy reads much whiter:

After the second drybrush was applied

I’m going to call that “close enough for splinter fleet purposes” and move on. Time for some Naggaroth Night!

Quickly checking the compatibility of my two other primary base colors

Once I had the carapace roughed in, I threw a quick coat of Incubi Darkness — my other primary base color — on the claws so I could get a feel for how things will look down the road. Both colors will get darker before they get highlighted up, and I’m hoping the final layers will bring them tonally in line with the flesh while still keeping them dark enough for satisfying contrast.

Heck, how about a quick and dirty test to see what Warpstone Glow and Sybarite Green might look like?

I’m not sure glazing is worth the effort on small claws like these — simple layers look pretty solid

Oh yeah! It fits Balaur’s origins, the colors work together — I’m digging this. I can’t wait to see it with the mottling on the carapace!

This is the most painting I’ve done in about seven months, a full day of thinking about, writing about, and painting Tyranids. It feels good.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.