My Leagues of Votann army box arrived today, so as is traditional I built my first unit: Yrsá the Unexpected, Theyn of Yrsá’s Boars, a squad of Trans-Hyperian Alliance Hearthkyn Warriors.
Like most Hearthkyn Warriors, Yrsá is a citizen-soldier — a miner, in her case. Yrsá is stubborn, tackles problems head-on, and is ferociously devoted to the Ancestors. Yrsá wields a Bolt Revolver and a Concussion Gauntlet. I sculpted (and I’m using that term extremely loosely) two crystals out of bits of sprue to go with my “alien moon” basing concept; those are visible in the foreground.
Her chosen name, “the Unexpected,” was in this case bestowed by her comrades in arms (rather than chosen by her) as a mark of respect. She has a knack for succeeding where others have failed, and for turning up where she’s least expected — which serves her equally well in mining and war. (It’s also a nod to how surprised I was when GW announced they were bringing back space dwarves.)
The codex calls out the largely ad-hoc nature of Kin fighting forces, so having Yrsá’s squad of Hearthkyn be nicknamed “Yrsá’s Boars” feels right to me. I’ve got nine more Hearthkyn to build for Yrsá’s Boars, but I’ll probably read some more of the codex before going much further.
As a dedicated, lifelong fan of dwarves of all stripes, I’m a happy camper — this is such a cool faction!
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.
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.
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.
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.
After sleeping on my choices, I tweaked a couple things here and there, picked two to start with, and got them glued together.
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.
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.
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.
With my Genestealers’ initial base/wash/drybrush done, I based them and then tested some base rim options.
Doombull Brown is the clear winner in my book, so that’s what I’ll be using for my Tyranids.
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.
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.
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’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.
Post-drybrush, they’re not as off-white as the studio models, but they’ve definitely changed:
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.
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:
I’m going to call that “close enough for splinter fleet purposes” and move on. Time for some Naggaroth Night!
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?
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.
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.
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.
And here it is with a quick and dirty Screaming Skull drybrush over the body color, bringing the body closer to Leviathan:
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
I already love these guys. This is going to be fun!
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.
As luck would have it, today’s weather was perfect for some spray painting.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been maintaining my hobby streak for miniature-painting (today is day 495), but over the past few months my pace has slowed considerably. I’m okay with that, and I stand by my philosophy on this: Any forward progress beats the zero progress I made for many, many years. Even if all I do is paint one Deff Dread’s horns, or one Marine’s Bolter, I’ve done something to keep the train moving.
If the train stops, it may not start up again for a long time (if ever).
But it hit me this morning that just as working on terrain was a great palate-cleanser between finishing my Blood Angels army and starting my Deathskulls Ork army, a third army might be just the ticket here. If I’d done that when I first got into painting, with my Angels, I probably would have lost all my momentum and burned out.
But now, with one 2,000-point army ready to go and a second with 37 figures done (32 standard-sized and 5 large ones)? That feels quite different.
It’s custard time
Way back in the before times (March 2020), when I was deciding what army to paint, I almost picked Adeptus Custodes because of the sheer awesomeness of the Vertus Praetors and Custodian Guard models. Blood Angels were the right call, though, and Orks were the right call after that — but now it’s time for the golden legion!
As a palate-cleanser, they fit the bill perfectly:
It’s an elite army, so it can be tiny. My current draft list is 20 infantry models and 6 bikes! That’s about half the size of my Marine army and a third the size of my Ork army.
Assuming I make them gold (which I will be), they’re like 90% gold — which means I can spray them with Citadel’s Retributor Armour, and treat them more like terrain. Primer and base coat in one, with just a handful of details to pick out after that. Boom.
Custodes should play quite differently than either of my other two armies.
They should also look different from my Angels, even though they might wind up gold/red. I’m basing them on Stirland Mud, and the studio recipe for their gold is slightly different.
I can also paint them as being clean and perfect, a marked shift from my Orks — which have a whole bunch of steps after I’d normally be done with a Blood Angel (checks, weathering, etc.).
Hell, I can probably even fit them in my existing overflow storage without needing to buy more cases. (And even then, they need one case at most!)
I also considered Grey Knights, who can rival the Custodes in the low model count category — and take Terminators, my favorite 40k unit, as troops (yes, I knocked together a 100% Terminator list just to see what it might be like). Ditto Harlequins, who have fascinated me since high school, but I was surprised to find that they’re not nearly as elite and actually need a fair number of bodies on the field. And I’d previously thought about Necrons and Death Guard, too. But none of them ticked as many boxes, nor felt as right, as Custodes.
At my fevered 2020 summer/fall pace, I could paint this entire 2,000-point army in 6-8 weeks. Now, something more like 4 months is probably reasonable. If I keep slow-rolling it, maybe 5-6 months?
I still don’t know if it’s “cuss-toe-dees” (my brain’s default pronunciation), “cuss-toe-dess,” or “cuss-toads,” but I do know that this is about half of my entire army:
I’m drawn to the Shadowkeepers based on their lore, and they do also look cool — but I want gold Custodes. As with Marines and Orks, it seems silly to go the custom route and lose access to rules for the canon shield companies (the five in the Codex), and not at all sporting to choose a custom color scheme and pick the best rules that week.
Setting Shadowkeepers to one side, I find myself drawn to the Dread Host — the Custodes who will smash your whole planet just to show the other planets what’s what. And I dig their color scheme, which uses black pauldrons, white leather bits, and blue gems. Even if I go with red plumes, they’re not going to be confused with Blood Angels.
As is traditional, I’ve kicked things off by building my first Custodian to mark the official start of my army: Inkaef, Custodian Guard of the Dread Host shield company. (For BA it was Sergeant Karios; for Orks, Moonkrumpa . . . who I tweaked and rebuilt like four times.)
I was tempted to lean into the whole pronunciation thing — and gently deflate the over-the-top bombast of the Custodes — and name the members of my custard shield company using Latin words for food: Shield-Captain Prandium (breakfast), Warden Bubulae (beef), Vexilus Praetor Capsicum Anuum (potato), Custodian Acetaria (salad). But that’s not me; I like the pretentiousness of the Custodes, who make the Astartes look like bastions of modesty, and I generally take my names seriously.
With so many Renaissance Italian, Latin, and Greek names in my Blood Angels army, I want to avoid the obvious choice — Roman names — for my Custodes. Since they’re drawn from the ranks of all the myriad noble houses of Terra, why should they all have similar names? My plan is to name every model (unlike my other armies, where I only name the characters, squad leaders, and vehicles), but beyond that I’m not sure how or if I’ll theme their names. (Inkaef was a 4th dynasty Egyptian prince.)