Recently I picked up some ‘Necrohounds’ from Maxmini to piggyback of someone else’s postage fees, and it tied quite nicely into a project for our long-running Dark Heresy campaign. Our heroes were about to assault an Arbites Precinct run by a Marshall who had been corrupted by a daemon as the climactic chapter finale.
With our various games of Necromunda and Rogue Trader going on in the background as well, a set of generic cyber-mastiffs would be great to fill out gang rosters or goon squads. It was then a rude thought struck me – I didn’t have any servo-skull models! They are such a staple of 40k and a great way of increasing the threat of a group of enemies without just bumping up their numbers.
None of the servo-skulls on the market particularly took my fancy, so I challenged myself to build some from my bits box to go along with my new cyber-mastiffs.
How to get ahead in life
Naturally, the first step was acquiring skulls. Luckily for me, my partner had just bought one of the massive box o’ skulls from GW and there were plenty rattling around in my bits box.
I’ve got plenty of experience working with guitar wire, so a few different thicknesses drilled into the bottom of the skulls and carefully bent with some needle nose pliers gave them the mechadendrites trailing behind them. I personally prefer building a ‘flying’ stance into the pose of a model rather than have them suspended on a clear stand.
The trick to bending guitar cable is to do it a bit at a time – give it a slight bend, move the pliers a few mm, give it another slight bend. This helps give more organic curves and avoids any unsightly right angles or separations in the coil that runs round the centre cable of the guitar string.
I’d decided to do quite a few to give me some options – I was unlikely to build servo-skulls again in the future so I may as well get them all done now! I wanted 2 med skulls, 2 combat skulls and 2 gun skulls, but circumstances prevented me from making the melee skulls so I replaced them with more gun skulls. The med skulls could double up if needs be – I simply couldn’t find any suitable combat bits that small!
The gun skulls would be split into two types – las and solid projectile. These are largely arbitrary distinctions, but it gave me a challenge to work towards!
The optics for the skulls were taken from Skitarii backpacks and shaved down to fit. The backpacks also provided a host of other useful bits, including censers, cables and antennae that doubled up for manipulators for my med skulls.
The las weapons were made from cut-down Cadian lasguns – snip the end off and glue the las pack to the back of it to make a self-contained unit! It needed a bit of shaving down to fit, but from arm’s reach you wouldn’t know.
A pair of revolvers from Anvil Industry glued upside-down made up the “autopistol” skulls, and a selection of medical equipment from various sources made up the med-skulls. I also tried to vary the silhouette of each type too – las skulls had their weapons on the right side, autopistol skulls had their weapons on the left side, and med skulls had an extra tentacle and optics on their left side of the head.
Necks-level paint job
Painting the skullies was pleasingly simple – drybrush them silver, pick out details in a brown metallic and give them a liberal wash!
Other details were picked out to draw attention to them too – the las-skulls had their barrels painted in chevrons to help pick them out from other skulls, and every skull got a little red optic eye to give them that lovely gothic feel.
Each skull also had a roman numeral painted onto the back of their heads so I could track their stats. In the unlikely occasion someone shot it and didn’t kill it, I could ask players to tell me what number it was. It seemed like a more organic way of doing it than putting a number on the base.
Release the hounds
The Necrohounds were a pain in the ass to put together, however. They are cast in white metal and clearly painstakingly designed to fit together flawlessly so long as there aren’t any deviations in the casting. In my case, that meant a lot of weird-fitting joints and copious green stuff.
The other exciting part was not being 100% sure if the models were designed to go on flat bases or not. The website images show them on scenic bases, which I originally thought was an aesthetic choice, but now realise it was probably a necessity to get the little buggers to have all four feet on the ground.
I had to shuffle each mini around on half a dozen different pre-moulded bases to find which arrangement of lumps and bumps sat well with their feet at different altitudes without it looking forced, and for one of them I had to throw in the towel and glue an extra piece to the base to make it look like he was stepping forwards, rather than gazing idly into the sky.
The actual minis themselves are lovely and were an absolute joy to paint. I don’t like doing ‘normal’ paint jobs on things (ie things based off real-world colours) because it’s very easy to get wrong, but I appreciate the usefulness in having a visual shorthand. If you paint dogs like Rottweilers, you know they’re probably guard dogs.
The design isn’t typically 40k, their sci-fi aesthetic is more sleek and smooth than gothic and spiky, but I think it works well here as a generic cyber-doggo who could realistically be aligned to anyone. These guys wouldn’t look out of place next to the Emperor’s Finest or a Chaos cult.
All in all I’m very happy with how they all came out. It took me about two evenings to paint all these guys up, which considering their versatility I’m very happy with!
As for their first outing, you know how these things go. It all started off so promisingly, the Acolytes infiltrating through the basement with some loyal Arbites and some hired mooks in tow, trying to avoid detection from the automated defenses…
They made it a whole half a turn before the alarm was raised. Doors were kicked down, servo-skulls were exploded on sight and one of the robo-doggos chewed someone into Critical Damage before they even took their turn.
Then everything was on fire.
A good session I’d say!
(Eagle-eyed viewers may notice some suspicious Dredd-looking Arbites in some of these picture. Fear not, they’ll be in a MOTB soon 😉 )