MOTB: Gloomhaunts

Finished product first!

Originally introduced for Dark Heresy, the Gloomhaunt is a classic fantasy beastie effortlessly inserted into the abandoned corridors, dank caves and hissing service tunnels of the 41st millennium. I needed some winged beasties for our Dark Heresy campaign for the Beast House section and thought Gloomhaunts would fit perfectly.

As they’re ambush predators they’re not much of a threat if you catch one of them sneaking up on you, so I’d need a bunch of them assembled in case I needed a swarm for some of the higher power games, like Rogue Trader or Wrath and Glory. They’d even be interesting carrion creatures for our games of Necromunda, so having a few singles and some swarm bases would be helpful for ease of play.

Bats out of hell

The project kicked off with remembering I had almost a dozen classic warhammer fantasy plastic bats – the same bats that came in the ‘fantasy swarms’ box, with bats, rats, spiders and snotlings. They’re an easy start – an all-in one mini that I just need to horrify up a bit.

The official artwork for the Gloomhaunt shows them more like angry Golbats than regular winged rodents, so I wanted to do away with any of the obvious bat-like features on the body. I ground down the face, carving a hole in the body where the new mouth would be.

I trialled a few types of mouth – top left was the fiddliest experiment with tiny bits of thin wire and a very dainty face. I settled on gluing snipped up bits of paperclip haphazardly around the holes I carved, then greenstuffing a mouth-hole over the top. You could call them lips I suppose, but my partner referred to them as ‘gross flying foreskins’ so clearly the transformation from bat to horrible xenoform was complete.

Many of their pre-moulded plastic bases had snapped off over their 20+ year incarceration in the bits box, so they all got a bit of paperclip at varying lengths for a stand, attached to a mesh/plasticard base to fit the aesthetic of the Beast House.

I might need them as single opponents or massive swarms, depending on the game system and power levels, so I made two ‘swarms’ of multiple Gloomhaunts on a single base.

Other than the fiddly part of attaching tiny chunks of paperclip, the conversion was relatively straight forward and I was looking forward to getting them painted up!

Painting the swarm

I started with a brown undercoat, then the bodies were drybrushed and washed to give a light brown fur texture. The wings vanes were painted dark grey, drybrushed and washed again for a dark, bat-like wing leather.

The flesh around the face was painted in a flesh tone, the teeth picked out in a bone colour and the whole lot given a heavy crimson wash inside to emphasize the horrible fleshy maw that clamps around the head of the unwary.

A heavy application of gloss varnish in and around their toothy maws helped give them a freshly-squeezed-ganger-head look.

The bases were drybrushed silver (straight over the brown undercoat) and given a healthy brown wash. Then, my favourite part, a liberal application of both Blood for the Blood God and Typhus Corrosion to give it that grimy meat-processing facility aesthetic.

The teeth and claws were carefully highlighted with a light bone colour to finish them off. Cheap and cheerful, I was impressed with how well they came out. For the cost of some superglue and a few evenings, I suddenly had a swarm of flying critters I could use to harass a party of any size in basically any indoor evironment.

They might not be particularly dangerous one-on-one, but the first time someone gets one of these horrible flappy bois latch onto their head, you bet players will start checking ceilings a lot more in future…

Did you hear that? Must’ve been a rat…

MOTB: Beast House Witches

Finished product first!

The Beast House project is practically finished and I have enough minis to represent all manner of slavers and keepers to harass our Dark Heresy group. Previously I showed off the leadership of the Beast House, Jackal Mask, and all that’s left was to paint up a few of the ‘supporting roles’ of the campaign.

The plot called for witches – rogue psykers incarcerated in hellish iron-maiden-type devices for the purpose of tracking and interrogation. What would happen if one of those witches escaped? We’d need some minis, just in case…

Hunting for witches

The Red Cages is just the first half of this act, the second half takes place above ground during a riotous carnival of colour and excess. Some more villains needed to take the stage soon, the ones who hired the Beast House, but they wouldn’t show their masked faces for a few sessions yet.

I had picked up the Doctors Starter Gang from TTCombat’s Carnevale range, as I had plans for all the minis individually. The plague doctor lead would make up my main villain, the big thuggish guy was originally pencilled to be the basis for Jackal Mask.

It wasn’t until I got hold of them that I realised just how much bigger they were than 28mm minis. With some clever snipping at certain joints, a couple of them could be trimmed down to size, and in the case of these insane-looking lads the scale wasn’t noticeable against their extreme poses. The others, however, were shelved until I could figure out a way to scale them down. Another project for another time.

These guys were very straightforward – they came in three pieces and just needed a bit of cleaning around the mold lines. Give them a Beast House base and they were ready to prime!

Finished, not perfect

They were painted in the same palette as the Beast House, but their strait jackets meant a mostly single colour for clothing. This wasn’t a bad thing, as they were going to get muckied up with blood and grime effects anyway.

The biggest difference to the Beast House palette was the electric doo-hickeys on their head and their lightning eyes. This was a slapped-on light blue/white effect that I had the intention of coming back to tidy up, but ended up looking better than the OSL effects I had spent hours trying to layer in the past, so I left it. Funny how things work out!

They really were simple to paint, and given they’d not have a great deal of screen time I didn’t feel like spending much time on them. Once all the washes had dried, they were drybrushed and attacked with various effect paints, namely Blood for the Blood God and Typhus Corrosion.

Family photo

And with them completed, the Beast House project was more or less complete! I had many other ideas for designs to pursue or loadouts to tinker with, but for my purposes it was finished.

Time for a family photo!

Very pleased with how they all come together, made largely of scrappy bits I’d had lying around my bits box for a trillion years. In fact, the only minis that were purchased specifically were the Witches – everything else was repurposed or scratch built!

Time to terrorise my Dark Heresy group with plenty of Fear checks and chain glaives. Now, perhaps they need some kind of giant dinosaur rider…

Meanwhile on the Bench: Jackal Mask

Finished product first!

The Beast House project needs a little leadership, and the Hare-masked lieutenant just wasn’t cutting it. Our Dark Heresy group deftly slipped past Hare Mask and her Ogryn Butcher and they’re making a beeline for the head honcho, Jackal Mask.

The module describes him as huge and terrifying, with some built-in shock whip tentacles taking up one of his arms. Sadly the module is non-descript about his fate, suggesting his body is found in a trunk, skin flensed and missing an arm, so the Acolytes are never intended to take on Jackal Mask at any point. I thought that was a bit disappointing, as knowing my players, they’re desperate to exact revenge.

The project brief was quite open ended: build a big lad that could reasonably be the head of the Beast House operations, to make for an interesting foe in Dark Heresy and as a potential gang boss in Necromunda.

Building the beast

I picked up a cheap Lord of Plagues from an opportune swap and figured the massive frame would be an ideal starting point for my powerful lad. I wasn’t enthusiastic about keeping the two-handed weapon so I had a bit of a delve through the bits box to see what I could find.

Goliath arms fit perfectly! A Chain Glaive/grenade launcher combo is suitably gruesome for a boss – deadly both at range and close up. It’ll give me (the GM) some tactical flexibility for challenging the players too, as I can alternate between gas and frag grenades to keep them from bunching up too much in the pitched battle I have planned.

I covered up most of the cankers and sores (including the open belly wound) with greenstuff, as although I wanted him to be gross, I didn’t want him to be dead-man-walking praise-grandfather-nurgle type gross. Armour on the arms helped bulk him out a bit, leaving the belly open so he can remain aerodynamic when he fights.

I added a few large scars across the body to cover up the rough GS work I’d done. I figure someone who had a long career in capturing and torturing dangerous creatures might have a few nicks and scratches to show for it.

Final touch was the mask itself, one of the last things I put together. After deliberating the best way forwards, I decided that scratch-building was going to give me the closest thing I wanted. But then what – sculpt it from green stuff? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Luckily I have a bounty of Beastman heads in my bits box and jackals have a much sharper, thinner snout than the goat/dog skulls the Beastmen are – meaning I can shave one down to get the look I want. Result!

I added two cyclinders cut from a spear shaft to look like rebreather filters and added some ears made from carved plasticard. I’d learned a lot from my work on Hare Mask, so this part was much easier than I’d anticipated.

All done, time to prime!

Painting the jackal

Jackal Mask followed the same basic painting techniques as the Beast House slavers with only a handful of differences.

There was much more skin on show here, so more time was spent on that (but not a whole lot more – finished, not perfect!) with extra attention around the scars, surrounding them with a light crimson glaze to make them look inflamed and not healed properly.

The mask was simply painted black (to cover up the mistakes from all the drybrushing and stippling I’d done), edge highlighted and washed with Nuln Oil to give it a matte look. The eyes then had a little dab of gloss varnish to make them look more like visors.

The armour had an extra wash of Carroburg Crimson to give it a slightly reddish tinge rather than the usual brown. I think it makes it stand out much better!

MOTB: Ogryn Butcher

Raaaargh!

After putting together some slaver leadership, I wanted the Beast House project to have a bit of muscle. During our Dark Heresy campaign finale of the Red Cages, the module describes a butcher armed with a chain axe and chunks of animal. Some kind of bodyguard or armed thug to protect Hare Mask was exactly what the doctor ordered, and luckily I had exactly the mini!

I’d picked up this Ogre Kingdoms Butcher (I’ll be dead in the ground before I recognise ‘Ogors’) to use in our games of Inquisitor many, many years ago and it had languished half-finished in my box for nearly a decade. I hadn’t done anything particularly crazy to convert him to 54mm except give him a chainsword in his left hand. A quick snip resolved that.

I had a spare harpoon gun from my Orlock tech-gang and I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a perfect fit. Not only would this meaty lad have a ranged weapon to harass my players from afar, but totally fits the kind of requirements the Beast House would have of him. Sometimes you just have to harpoon unruly animals to calm them down, you know?

It was pinned to the underside of the arm and some darning thread from my sewing box was used to lash around the arm and harpoon. Some superglue kept it in place, and with a bone-coloured undercoat and a splash of Agrax it even looked intentional!

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that he was 90% painted when I pulled him out of the box. Doubly-so when I realised he’d been painted during the Brown Ink era – pre Devlan Mud and pre Agrax Earthshade! Naturally I gave him a few light glazes to tie the colours back together and get rid of the horrid shine that Brown Ink left behind.

Some light crimson glazes were added around the scars and piercings to make them look bloody and swollen.

And in-keeping with the rest of the Beast House colour scheme, he got liberal dousings of Typhus Corrosion and Blood for the Blood God to keep up the grimy, blood-slick look. Blood spatter cures all ails!

Very happy with this big lad. It helps that he was 90% finished when I “found” him, but getting a model this size “finished” in an evening really helps with motivation! Plus that’s one fewer mini in the Box of Shame…

Just a head honcho to go and I think we’re good for a family photo!

MOTB: Dinosaurs!

Finished product first!

The Beast House project for our Dark Heresy campaign is going well. I’ve got the House part sorted, now I just need the Beasts. Time to hit the thrift shop!

Yeah Boye!

Boyes is one of my favourite shops – it’s a big homeware/haberdashery place filled with all kinds of strange and wondrous things. It’s great for craft and cosplay and you can pick up tinnies of spray paint for a fiver. It also has a toy section, which often has gems that spark joy…

I want dinosaurs in all my games, but I don’t fancy shelling out £40+ for a GW carnosaur (even though they’re super pretty), so £1 per big dino seemed very reasonable. I could justify a big spend if it was the centrepiece of an army, but for a one-off battle or two, this was way better value for money.

I bought the three big lads at the back for £1 a pop, and a handful of smaller pack hunters for 50p each, the whole lot setting me back the price of a southern pint. Very reasonable!

they do move in herds

The club-tailed fellow was used first for Rogue Trader in a very elaborate conversion, hopefully I’ll get that one written up when I catch up on Orthesian Herald. For Dark Heresy I needed some more reasonably-sized dinos though, so those allosaurs were first.

The paint job leaves much to be desired, but I was repainting them anyway so I wasn’t overly fussed. I was pleasantly surprised at how much detail the sculpts had though, which would lend itself quite pleasingly to washes and drybrushes later on.

The plastic is quite rubbery, you get a good bit o’ flex in these lads, and the mold lines took quite a bit to remove. They were 50p each though, and I got far greater quality than I expected for so little money.

It was only after pinning them to their bases I realised just quite how large they were compared to regular humans…

I was going for a gladiatorial arena-style base, so sandy with splashes of gore. A liberal helping of textured paint went on the bases and a quick blast with some red primer and they were ready to paint!

Red ones go faster

They looked better than I could have imagined after their initial paint job was covered over.

This is just a once over with some red car primer from Boyes again. They actually looked like real models!

I wanted a striking look, so a lighter tummy and dark stripes along the back. Who knows what kind of strange world they herald from where this is their natural camouflage, but sure as hell looks cool!

I started with a light red drybrush over the skin, then a crimson wash over the top. A much lighter reddy orange drybrush on the extremities picked out the details. The stripes were a dark grey, washed black and drybrushed with a lighter grey along the spine.

The claws and teeth were picked out with a bone colour and a light sepia wash, and a sandy hue applied to the base. The best part was a liberal application of Blood for the Blood God technical paint, which is swiftly becoming my most relied-upon paint for the Beast House project!

Pack colours

These guys were really good fun to paint – it’s been a while since I’ve just painted an animal, and the texture of the minis really took to the washes and drybrush so all four were done over the course of two short evenings.

Let’s see some pictures!

MOTB: Hare Mask

Finished product first

Last time I’d finished up some slavers for my Beast House project in our ongoing Dark Heresy campaign, and as our players were nearing the end of their time in the Red Cages, it was time to up the ante.

The players had been stripped naked and thrown in a pit, and after a few sessions of Saw-style hammer house of horror, they had scraped together enough ragged armour and rusty blades to take on the final boss of the Red Cages – Hare Mask.

The module alludes to members of the Beast House wearing different animal masks as a grotesque parody of the riotous carnival going on overhead, so I wanted to take it further by having a different animal mask representing a different boss of the three levels.

The lowest level was guarded by Rat Mask (represented by one of the whippy slavers), who had two pet rats and a tent made of rat skins (surprise, surprise!). As they worked their way up the facility, it was time to face the final lieutenant – Hare Mask.

I didn’t have much in the way of a brief for Hare Mask, other than they needed to be a fairly commanding presence with even halfway-decent armour (ie not just bloodied chunks of animal stapled to you). They were going to have an imposing set of weapons, with at least one of them being a signature weapon stolen from the players to make it even more obvious that this person needs taking down.

Time for a rifle through the bits box!

building the bunny

My preference was for Hare to be another female slaver, and I just happened to have one spare Escher body left from the Necromunda core box set. The big battle boots, animal trinkets and slightly raggedy appearance would make a great start to a Beast House lieutenant.

At the end of our last campaign (before stripping the team naked and leaving them in a pit) I asked them what their favourite/least favourite equipment was. There was little context beyond me trying to get a flavour of what the team have and what they might like more of.

Being an Utter Bastard(tm) this was in fact just a way of me working out what tools to drip feed them. In their first mission, the only equipment they could scavenge was whatever they had told me was their least used/least favourite equipment. It made for some incredibly resourceful moments of creating disguises and distracting guards with bags of spices.

The other less-bastardy intention was to work out what equipment I could use as a reward – something to help them feel less like I’d deleted their character sheets and more emphasis on progression to reclaim what is rightfully yours. The baddies have your stuff – go shiv them in the neck and take it back!

Our preacher’s combat shotgun was the perfect choice – iconic and deadly, and a reminder of just how powerful some weapons can be in the wrong hands. It’ll also give the slavers an opportunity to put out some hurt of their own – the crappy disposable pistols they’ve been threatening the players with so far have been fun, but their threat is limited. Time to burn some fate points.

I needed something slaver-y for a melee weapon that wasn’t another whip, so I went for a shock maul from the Genestealer Cult Neophyte set. It also comes attached to the user’s wrist with a length of chain, which was a nice touch. Stops those pesky slaves trying to disarm you.

With some extra animal gubbins and some fur sculpted around the shoulders to give her a more impressive silhouette, all that was needed was a mask itself. I went to a lot of effort to find anything I could use as a mask that would involve zero effort to employ. In my hubris, I just had to come to terms with the fact I’d need to scratch build it.

The mask was a strip of plasticard cut to shape with a sharp hobby knife and VERY carefully bent around the handle of a paint brush to give it a more natural curve. The details were painstakingly carved out with the end of a knife. It didn’t matter if it looked rough – it would add to the effect!

It did need to look like a hare though, and rather than use an actual animal for reference, I figured I’d borrow from the best…

Would you kindly source your references in future?

And it was time to undercoat!

That girl with five colours in her hare

I tried to stick to the colour scheme I had trialled (surprisingly successfully) with the previous slavers. Light drybrushes, washes and copious use of Typhus Corrosion and Blood for the Blood God to finish off.

All in all I’m very pleased with how she came out. She will make a fine mini-boss, and her statline suggests she’ll be light on her feet and much harder to hit than the usual lumbering slavers (hence her patron animal). Hopefully it’ll give the players a run for their money (and Fate Points).

Now, I think she needs a bit of muscle…

MOTB: The Beast House

Finished product first!

Last time we looked at the Beast House WIP photos for the Beast House project and now they’re finished!

The brief for these guys was very simple: paint them in one evening. I had sprayed them on a Thursday night and needed them ready for an 11am Saturday start. The race was on.

Pigs of the red cages

Building these guys was actually inspired by the head choice – Kolony Feral heads from Pig Iron productions. I had no intention of making specific minis until I dredged through my bits box and found a bunch from a previous project.

In the Dark Heresy adventure, the slavers running the creature-smuggling ring are described as bloodied brutes, covered in gore-soaked leathers and wearing iron pig masks. The mask I used for this guy was perfect, and the ideas flowed from there!

Polearm to meet you

Everything was undercoated in Army Painter Tan Leather spray from my FLGS, Asgard Wargames (support your local!). From there, it would all be completed with washes and drybrushing.

It was the first time I’d attempted to do so many in so little time. Luckily, the nature of the grime-encrusted subject meant nothing needed to be neat, and it would work better if it didn’t!

I have a Bone to pick with you

What came from necessity was a series of really useful techniques I’ve since applied to many projects since, such as not being ashamed to drybrush huge chunks of models (there’s no prize for wet-blending everything) and getting a fantastic metal effect for drybrushing metallic colours overa matt brown base.

The liberal application of Typhus Corrosion and Blood for the Blood God as a final step was particularly enjoyable!

Cool whip

I’ve been very impressed with how effective the ‘splash blood effect on everything’ technique has been across different sections of the models. I wanted the bases to look like the slavers were standing in a vat of something, perhaps on a gantry above a sluice of ground-up gladiators.

I used some mesh and plasticard for the effect, drybrushed it silver and applied a healthy coat of Blood for the Blood God, wiping away excess with my finger.

Barreled over

This double-barreled chap was originally a test model for a genestealer cult from a Feudal World that I never particularly liked. Fortunately the headswap was perfect for the Beast House project, but unfortunately he was already based on something that didn’t fit the theme. The old Bretonnian kits are made of a much softer plastic to modern sprues, and I was worried about the damage it would do to his wee feet if I tried to rebase him.

Luckily some additional scraps of mesh strewn about and a healthy dollop of blood and grim was all that was needed to make him fit right in.

Skin deep

I also stumbled upon a flesh recipe I really like – Pallid Wych Flesh with a Sepia wash over the top, with a very light-touch highlight of Pallid Wych Flesh on the super-raised areas (like knuckles). Definitely one to be using again when I need to batch-paint some more goons!

Through the fire and the flames

Painting fire is harrrrrrd QnQ

This is maybe my fourth(?) attempt at open flame in my ~20 years of hobbying and it’s definitely getting better. Annoyingly, this was my quickest and (I thought) sloppiest attempt using exclusively drybrushing techniques, and is easily the best I’ve produced so far. I think it needs to darken to orange a lot more at the top to take into account the actual heat source of the top of the stick, but otherwise I’m very happy with it.

I’m very happy with how these guys came out – for a cheap and cheerful one-night paint job they’ve ended out more effective (imo) than some of the paint schemes I’ve agonised over for days on end.

They’ll definitely be getting extras added to them over the coming weeks – beasts aplenty and some leadership is in order I think. Plus with the new Necromunda Book of Judgement out, I might have to start thinking how I can work these into a gang…

MOTB: The Beast House WIP

Finished(-ish) product first!

Our long-running Dark Heresy campaign has deposited our mid-high tier characters naked and unarmed in a pit of despair, deep in the bowels of a steel labyrinth. The ‘facility’ is inhabited by pig-masked psychopathic brutes – operatives of the shady xenos-smuggling ring ‘The Beast House‘.

The campaign called for some low-level scrubs armed with a variety of enslaving equipment. It’s a cliché trope to have your characters wake up missing all their weapons and armour, but I firmly believed that if done well, it could add a fresh new perspective on the game. After consulting with some peers, the trope can work if:

  • In medias res – don’t dwell on how they were captured, and definitely don’t play out an unwinnable capture scenario. You’re in a pit, naked, with only rocks and bones, and something wicked is howling down a tunnel towards you. Fight or die. Figure it out later.
  • It’s only temporary – assure them their equipment is safe and recoverable. In this case, I seeded some choice equipment from their character sheets among sub-bosses responsible for their capture, and they discovered the rest is in a lockup held by the end-game boss. They’ll get it all back eventually, but for now – improvise.
  • Started at the bottom – acquisition of new kit comes quite quickly if you’re cunning. By the end of our second session, every character had some patchwork armour, a useful melee weapon, at least one ranged weapon and a few bits of gear or tools.

So the Beast House operatives needed to be low-level thugs who relied on their charming demeanor and powerful musk to get their way, relying little on complex or deadly weapons and more on tools designed to hurt, entrap, ensnare and enslave.

To the bits box!

Cleaver? I hardly knew ‘er

The squad was assembled overwhelmingly from three main sources – old plastic Bretonnian Man-At-Arms bodies, Frostgrave Crewmen bits and Kolony Feral heads from Pig Iron productions. The bases were made by supergluing some mesh to a 28mm base and some plasticard strips over the top.

Snipping the Man-at-arms bodies off at the waist gave me more possibilities for leg and body swaps. I wanted them to look part butcher, part slaver – a huge hooked cleaver and a cloak made from flayed skin would complete this particularly dashing look.

Kill the beast

No group of beast herders would be complete without whips and torches, and I’m always looking for an excuse to use the lit torch from the Empire flagellants kit. A barbed whip from the dark eldar wyches sprue helped round off this guy.

Changing with the times

This guy was actually assembled almost a year before, originally with a Genestealer Cult head. Looking for something to do with all those Bretonnian bodies I hadn’t used, I toyed with the idea of a Genestealer Cult on a feudal world, but it never really got off the ground.

When I was sketching ideas together for the Beast House, a simple headswap was all I needed to give me the inspiration for the rest I had thought about swapping the hands out for something less claw-like, but figured that even the Beast House wouldn’t be that fussed about mutation so long as you were strong, cruel and got the job done.

Packing iron

At some point, the Beast House needed to escalate their efforts to contain the problem the players will inevitably become – that’s when they break out the automatic weapons. I didn’t my players getting their hands on an autogun too early, but they’re too great a staple for any low-life thug kill-squad that I couldn’t resist including them. This guy is also a little better amoured than his co-woerkers, and the bag of bones and body bits on his back keeps him themed with the others.

Crack that whip

Changing up the body parts, this little lady used an Empire flagellant as a base and a pair of dark eldar arms. I wanted a second whipper and that part was easy to source, but the only right arm that fit with the theme was another Dark Eldar one. Cue hacking apart a splinter rifle arm to fit a stub revolver to it. I had a mad plan to keep the stock and have a weird stubby revolver rifle thing and I think it worked quite well.

Add another flayed skin cloak, some severed heads and a pony tail and the freaky look is complete!

Flail forwards

Can’t have slavers without a flail guy! I got a load of random Anvil bits a while back when they were selling bits bags, one of those bits was a set of running legs. Empire flagellant arms and a Neophyte Hybrid autopistol rounds this lad off nicely, with a miscellaneous shoulder pad to hide a particularly ugly join.

Polearm to meet you

The Man-at-arms sprue has lots of exciting-looking polearms with various hooky bits for pulling knights off their horses, or in this case enslaving alien beasts, but I wasn’t enthusiastic about the pose they come in. A quick root round found a set of Empire cannon-loader arms – replace the wadding with the end of a billhook and we’re away! One of the simpler conversions but I think it really adds to the overall feel that these guys regularly tackle stuff bigger and stronger than them as a day job.

Overall I’m very pleased with how the squad came out, and I’ll inevitably be adding to them as the campaign unfolds. They definitely need some kind of leadership or tame beasts, and with the release of the new Necromunda Book of Judgement, there are a WHOLE load of options for using these guys as criminal allies too. It’s never been a better day to be a slaver!

MOTB: Cathedral Assault

Our Dark Heresy campaign has made it to the planet of Syracuse -a dank and miserable affair perfect for acolytes tramping around in the mud and rot. For the campaign I wanted some epic set pieces, and even put together a game board to help build the mood.

It was time to return for another brawl, this time to defend an Imperial Cathedral (or what was left of it) from rampaging Undertow during a full-blown civil war.

The setup used parts from previous encounters, as well as some lovely houses from 4Ground to make it appear a little better lived-in than previous encounters. The cathedral came from the Kill Team boxed set I picked up when it was still circulating, and now goes by Sector Imperialis. It’s a nice kit that I went a bit overboard with, and I’m sure will get a write-up at some point.

I wish I’d taken more photos, but c’est la vie. The players were entering on the opposite end of the board to the Cathedral, with angry Undertow in the middle laying siege to the beleaguered Adeptus Arbites defenders (who did have a write-up for them done here.). If the players got to them in time, they would make valuable allies in the war to come.

The rain was bucketing down. Weather was a big part of this campaign, and nasty environmental effects include reduced vision and penalties to shooting. Not ideal for a predominantly ranged band of Acolytes!

The Undertow were out in force, showing that fancy equipment isn’t necessary to be a threat in such environments. Armed with reliable weaponry that won’t jam when dropped in the mud, firebombs filled with water-retardant chemicals and good ol’ fashioned shivs, they were more than a match for the players on the day.

They even set up a heavy weapon in the house across the street, ready to spit out a harrowing amount of lead if the Acolytes didn’t neutralise it.

The gang were joined by a temporary character, an ex-Zini armsman mercenary guardsman handy with a mono-club and with a penchant for explosives. The player would come to be a regular part of our gang in future campaigns, but for now we enjoyed having the extra muscle.

The house with the heavy weapon was unceremoniously lit up by the new guardsman, who had acquired a single-shot missile launcher earlier on and had been holding onto it for a special occasion.

On the players’ right flank, the Arbitrator had made a dynamic entry on a stolen dirt bike, ramping off a pile of debris and landing in the fountain for cover. It kept the Undertow at bay, but not for long. A criminal with a massive two-handed meathook charged up a set of stairs and bit deep into the Adept’s leg, dropping her into -5 Critical damage. It was at this point that we all realised how little armour the Adept was wearing – she still had on her starter set of armour that her career is given at character generation – a flak vest and some loose-fitting robes. In almost 6 years of playing with these characters, it had never come up that she might be under-dressed for the occasion of saving the world!

The mercenary handily finished off the offending criminal before he could finish the job of hacking off the Adept’s leg and swept round clubbing anyone she could find.

Many, many firebombs are thrown back and forth over cover. Some Undertow accidentally blow themselves up, but one particularly mean firebomb scatters over the heads of the tough frontline characters and directly onto the squishy techpriest who was patching up the near-dead adept at the back of the battle. Both immediately catch fire, the Adept passing out from excessive crispiness and the Techpriest doing everything in her power to avoid the same fate.

Meanwhile our damage-dealing characters had broken out into no-man’s land, identifying themselves to the Arbites to avoid getting shot and moving in to support. Everything, of course, is now either on fire or has been set on fire.

With the bulk of the criminals put down by a combination of Arbitrator and Scum, the injured support characters at the back of the pack gingerly move forwards through the fire and smoke.

They get ambushed by one last Undertow who had hid behind a ledge, who gets speared to the floor by an enthusiastic Cleric and choked to unconsciousness for interrogation later. You know what they say – it’s better to dive for the Emperor than live for yourself…

The team rendezvous with the besieged Arbitrators at the Cathedral and plot their final moves against the campaign’s villain(s). A very enjoyable battle to run and great scenery to play it on!

MOTB: Adeptus Arbites

Finished product first!

For all my sins and Dark Heresy games set around investigations, I didn’t own any Adeptus Arbites models. They had cropped up in our sessions before, but only as set dressing or background NPCs. Now, with the finale of our Syracuse campaign looming, I needed some black-clad crime-punchers to either help (or hinder) the player’s assault on an Adeptus Arbites precinct house. They would need to be equipped at the appropriate level to my players, but could reasonably be used in future games in higher or lower power settings.

A uniform approach

I’d seen lots of different conversions of Arbites/Necromunda enforcers, many of them these days involve either Human Blood Bowl team or Imperial Guard Scion bodies with Skitarii heads. They give you a particular look that I’m not too keen on, and despite my own *ahem* use of those heads, I’m loathe to gravitate towards them as I think they’re a bit overdone.

Luckily, Puppets War had me covered. I can always recommend those guys for heads of any type, they’ve got a great selection and I often find myself buying heads for projects I’ll never get round to, just so I can own some heads! Plastic space marine scout bodies formed the rest of the mini – I’ve always liked those models (even if the heads are a bit goofy) and it was super cheap to pick up a group of 6 pre-made scouts off ebay.

The finished WIP

The only thing that was missing was a big silly shoulder pad with an Aquila on it. I’d purchased some brass aquilas a while back, but I didn’t feel I could easily get those to fit on a round surface, so I hit the bits sites. Luckily, one particular shoulder pad from a Blood Angels kit was the perfect size and eagleness. You only got one per sprue, so luckily I found a bits site that would sell me 7 at once, and I just prayed they would fit…

It wouldn’t be a squad without Screaming Leader

They fitted perfectly over the regular scout shoulder pads, and even though they’re comically over-sized, I think they absolutely work with the Arbites OTT aesthetic. Some green stuff was used to give some key areas some Arbites-typical padded armour, like gloves, boots and kneepads, and that set the look off nicely.

Deciding what weapons to give them was tricky, as I wanted them to have as much utility as possible for the future, but bearing in mind that whatever they’re equipped with, the players will want to ruthlessly loot in the likely event of an NPC death, accidental or otherwise.

The greatest hero of them all.

I settled on a ‘combat guy leader’, a handful of combat shotguns, a bizarre combi-weapon from an Anvil industry pack that looks like a melta gun but could easily be a stun-gun or web launcher, and a weird looking heavy weapon made from a cut-down Action Man toy pistol. It could easily be a heavy webber, heavy stubber or some kind of laser weapon – whatever I would need at the time!

The bases were ‘Old Factory bases’ from Micro Art Studios, giving the perfect impression of some tired battle-weary enforcers slogging through a broken city in the middle of a riot. With that done, it was on to the base coat!

Squad, fall in!
Trooping the colours

After putting them all together, the levels of Dredd were almost overwhelming. I know the Arbites are based off 2000AD’s bastard-cop, but these guys were close to carbon-copy with those Puppets War heads. Although the flirted with the idea of painting them in typical Judge colours, I bowed out at the last minute for a more typical Arbites colour scheme. It would be quicker to paint, and it would be very clearly Arbites with some Judge Dredd influences, rather than actual Dredd on the tabletop. I like references in my work, but I like them subtle.

*Shotgun racking noises*

I continued to channel my 2018 mantra of ‘finished not perfect’, and went with a striking colour scheme that wouldn’t involve too much work. Black armour, white highlights and a red spot colour.

The fatigues of the armour were painted in dark grey, the armour left black from the undercoat and the whole model was washed with Nuln Oil (praise be unto it) to pull the hues together and remove some of the shininess from the base coat. Armour edges were picked out in a lighter grey and left at that.

Your move, creep

White parts were painted in very light grey, washed back and highlighted back up to white. Red and bronze got the same treatment – basecoat, nuln oil wash and fine edge highlight. Simple!

I played with three skin tones as well to try and break up the monotony. The 41st millennium is a brutal, oppressive, theocratic dystopia, but that doesn’t stop it being diverse.

Weapon casings, the visor and stripes on the armour were all picked out in red to make the weapons stand out on the tabletop. I toyed with traditional necromunda chevrons for the chainsword but I decided against them in the end.

The bases were painted in similar colours to the rest of my Syracuse terrain – brown with hues of green and highlighted with a fine drybrush of Pale Flesh. I wanted the necrotic feeling of a rotting city coming through wherever possible.

Light brown was drybrushed around the base of the models, legs and dangly bits mostly, to give them the impression of having been out on the march for a long time.

I saved chevrons for the special weapons, namely the weird combi-weapon and Action Man heavy web blaster thing. Hopefully it would help make them stand out as something of note, especially against the drab scenery they’d be playing on.

Black Widow pose

All in all I’m very pleased with how they came out. The conversions were simple to do and surprisingly effective. The colour scheme was similarly simple and very striking on the tabletop, especially when deployed together.

I have a few extra scouts in the box that might make themselves into more named characters in the future now I’ve seen the effectiveness of the conversion, but I’m happy with them for now. I’m looking forward to terrorising some Dark Heresy acolytes!