Blackmail, extortion, smuggling and unadulterated violence are all part of everyday life for the unfortunates living in District XIII in Syracuse Magna. When corruption in planetary authorities runs all the way to the top, the only way to get what you need is at the barrel of a shotgun.
Next stop for our merry band of Acolytes is Syracuse, ‘the Grey Halo’, a tidally locked planet where only a thin band of habitability exists around its circumference, sandwiched between two extremes of temperature. A hive city exists in this habitable zone, a complete ring of urban sprawl that stretches from pole to pole. Unfortunately for our Acolytes, they’re not going to the nice part of town.
We’re off to Syracuse Magna, a semi-independent section at the bottom pole that for centuries has been in inexorable decline and decay. Corruption and dilapidation are the order of the day, the petty nobles bickering and squabbling over scraps while the rest of the citizenry band together to make the most of what little they have. One such band of economically-minded citizens are the Undertow, the city’s largest organised gang, and one of three factions taking part in the Syracuse Magna campaign.
Since catching the modelling bug for our campaigns (I honestly don’t know how it has taken me so long), Syracuse was always high on my list for having models for each of its factions. One of the exciting things (for me) is that these guys will provide an interesting change of pace for the players, as for the last two years we have fought servitors, assassins, heretek automata, xenos creatures, giant local fauna and genetic abominations.
The Undertow don’t have any fancy special powers, and their gear will barely be worth the rusty metal they’re forged from, but a combination of guerrilla tactics, ambushing, flanking, hidden snipers, punji pits, makeshift booby traps and lots and lots of firebombs will make for an interesting tactical challenge for our players.
I needed about a dozen, and the Kolony Feral models from Pig Iron miniatures fit the bill perfectly. They were ragged and grotty but not overwhelmingly chaotic or mutated, so you could still believe they were human underneath their protective rags.
I wanted them to look likely they were hanging out down at abandoned docks and near filth-strewn canals, so it was time to break out the balsa wood!
I enjoy a good urban sprawl base, but urban environments come in many shapes and sizes! The first challenge I noticed was that all the white metal minis had pre-cast bases, which presented a big issue if I wanted to mount them on balsa wood dockyards. I debated changing tack for something a little less woody, but decided in the end to commit to removing over a dozen pairs of boots from their pre-cast bases and filing them down to fit. Who needs fingertips anyway?
The second issue that I hadn’t foreseen was more of an aesthetic choice. As much as I love these minis for exactly what I wanted them to be, I was a little disappointed at the weapon sculpts. I had a very strong aesthetic in my head, and the (again, pre-cast) guns were very lacklustre, and nowhere remotely to the scrappy gutter-forged shotguns and rusty revolvers I had in mind.
With my fingertips barely recovered from de-basing all of them, I set about with pliers and files to forcibly remove the default weapons for all these poor minis, trying to leave as much of the original hands behind as possible.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fit any weapons in there but I was very much committed at this point, I had to make it work somehow! Luckily a couple of the ‘Specialists’ models didn’t need any work doing to them, I quite liked the bandaged sniper rifle and the makeshift flamer (although the missile launcher thing and heavy machine gun absolutely had to go), and the ‘Feral Blades minis’ were pretty much good to go out of the box.
The launcher and heavy machine gun were snipped apart and the bits box was raided for something suitably shoddy. I wanted them to be simultaneously deadly but unappealing to players. Poor quality heavy weapons that when used correctly and/or in appropriate numbers can really wreak havoc, but are so unwieldy, unreliable or dangerous to operate that they would never bother looting them from the Undertow corpses.
The flintlock pistol of Quovandius from the 54mm Inquisitor range had this weird archaic strapped-together look that suited me just fine, so the launcher was hacked down to its supports, sanded down and the gun glued on.
The heavy machine gun was a lot of fun to build. I had nothing in my bits box that looked even remotely like what I envisioned in my head – something akin to the Crank Cannon from DH1ed’s Inquisitor’s Handbook. Something loud, rattly, shooty and, with any luck, killy. After hacking apart the poor gunner’s body to free him from his weird heavy weapon, the cannon was assembled from a heavily cut down Ork Shoota and the barrel of an Empire repeater handgun.
The rest were coming together rather nicely. The combination of raggedy bodies and scrappy wood bases were giving the rain-slicked, grimdark feel I was hoping to achieve already.
Once the models had been hacked apart, attaching the shotguns was surprisingly simple. I was immediately reminded why I prefer working in resin than white metal, as the shotguns were so pliable to my commands and made the minute adjustments required to make them fit into the empty hands oh-so much simpler.
The shotguns had a mix of straps and bayonets, so it took a bit of jiggling to work out which combinations of weapons fit best into which hands. Many of the minis were carrying machine pistol-type things, so their hands were very close together. I *think* I just about got away with it on examples like the one above, but in some cases I had to admit defeat and change up the formula.
I wanted a mix of weapons rather than just shotguns. Dark Heresy has a very versatile combat system, and not only did I want a range of weapon options to throw at the players, but incrementally bigger and badder weapons to upscale the difficulty as the campaign goes on.
The humble firebomb – cheap, lightweight, zero skill requirements to use and utterly devastating with the correct application. One firebomb can scatter a formation of battle hardened Acolytes, force them into cover or break their aim. Half a dozen firebombs tossed at Acolytes in quick succession can VERY quickly see people passing out, limbs cooking to a crisp and Fate Points being burned. It ignores armour, prevents you from doing anything while you’re on fire and regardless of any other effects, makes you slowly pass out from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, so you’re more likely to pass out first and then burn to death.Totally, utterly hilarious.
When it’s time to up the ante again, that’s when this launcher fellow will come into play. Very much like his firebomb-hurling brethren, he’s got a lovely big bag o’ bombs that he can lob up and over things from a very safe distance away, hopefully causing consternation among our Acolytes who might be getting a little cocky towards the end of the campaign.
With a trim of their bases and some choice head decisions, the gang was ready! I wasn’t a fan of their overly-hunched poses, so many of their heads were pinned back a little big, so their necks needed some filling with green stuff.
With them finished and basecoated, it was time to apply a lick o’ paint. I had challenged myself to use the JGIDD method of painting (Just Get It Done, Dickhead) for these guys, as although I love pouring dozens of hours into my models, I had 13 mooks to paint and finish before either of the other two factions turned up, another two dozen models potentially! I needed something lean, mean and green.
I already had the colour scheme in my head, they wore heavy green overcoats and muted tanned undergarments, so the hardest part (deciding on colours!) was over. I wanted them to look unified, as I’m a sucker for gang colours on fleek, but also subtly different from one another. Kinda like they all shop at the same dumpster, but add their own fashionable flair to their mook attire.
All the base colours were painted on – a dark green for the overcloaks, a tan leather for sleeves and face protectors, a pink flesh tone for any exposed hands, dark grey for the trousers/leg garments, a dark brown for the boots and a lighter grey for straps, bags and miscellaneous pouches. The guns were painted a dark rusted metal then stippled with a lighter metallic colour. The entire mini was then given a heavy brown wash and left to dry.
The overcoat was then drybrushed a mossy green with a final dainty drybrush around the hems and edges with a pale green. Every other colour was then simply highlighted again with the same colour used for the base.
Everything was done as quickly as possible to have them in a ‘ready’ state that I could come back to if I felt like it in the distant future. After the last debacle with getting models ready for game day, there’s nothing worse than spending the time to prep them, only to have it half finished for their big moment.
The bases were drybrushed a series of lighter browns and the shoes tidied up afterwards where I had got a bit overzealous with my brush. The bases were looking a little plain, so I got some of Games Workshop’s rather excellent blood effect paint and splashed it liberally about hither and thither with a combination of paintbrush and cocktail stick. Anyone with bayonets or blades got a little dab as well to help make the weapons pop a bit more.
The final part was to do something with the bases to make them look more like they were standing on the side of a dock rather than just on some scaffolding. Water is going to be a big theme for this campaign, so I needed my baddies to be suitably moist.
I picked up some Woodlands Scenics Water Effects to have an experiment. I am loathe to use resin, and I had tinkered a bit with PVA effects in the past, but I had read good things about this particular product. I wanted a semi-submerged look, and this one would apparently fit the bill.
Gosh, I was not prepared for how thick it would be. It was like spooning hair gel onto the bases, not the smooth flow that you get from PVA glue. Applying this substance to my models was a nightmare, as it went everywhere I didn’t want it to go, and it didn’t settle anywhere like water should, but rather stuck to all the raised areas I couldn’t get a pokey stick into.
After much swearing and sticky fingers (phrasing?) and leaving the first thin coat to dry, I was pleasantly surprised with how it came out. Surely fine to spoon another one on, right?
I don’t know if it was an inappropriate use of the product (I found a more pourable version after I had already bought and committed to this one…) or I wasn’t applying the layers thinly enough, but I’m a little annoyed that it didn’t dry as clear as I had expected. It’s not the end of the world, just a learning experience for next time.
All in all I’m very pleased with how they turned out! It’s very rare I get an entire project done in two sittings, and the painting (which normally takes me the longest) was done and dusted in about two evenings. Lessons learned, fun had, and models ready to kick some Acolyte ass!