Meanwhile, on the Bench: Hieronymous Vyle

Our Dark Heresy group was coming to the conclusion of an important chapter and the beginning of the end for the campaign. We had spent the best part of seven sessions on the planet of Brimstone, a planet of our own devising in our little patch of space, the Onus Region.

The planet was a planned stop-off for the Acolytes to tie up some loose ends from a previous mission, specifically tracking down and stopping the Arch-Heretek Hieronymous Vyle, from enacting any more atrocities against the Imperium of Man. He is a master geneticist, genius cryptographer and bitter rival of the Adeptus Mechanicus as an organisation, believing they are too short-sighted and wrapped up in bureaucracy to achieve any meaningful progress.

The finished product!

His plan was simple: flee the purge of the Kreato Affair to the quiet, technologically backwards planet of Brimstone – the last place the Inquisition would think of looking for a radical techpriest. There he would work on his Symbiote – his Magnum Opus – to strike back at the Adeptus Mechanicus for what the crimes he believed to be the most heinous; conservatism and myopia.

The Symbiote was a poor man’s take on the Obliterator Virus, and worked by fusing to flesh and metal, taking over the host body and forcing it to undergo transformations and binding it through synaptic link to its master. I’ll be doing a piece on Vyle’s Symbiote another time as it deserves its own article rather than being strung along with their boss.

The incredibly tidy work bench

Vyle never had any artwork for him, nor did he have much of a description when the players met him almost three years of real time ago, before he escaped and set up on Brimstone, so I had a blank canvas to work with. I had also developed a spin-off cult for a Necromunda gang called the Scions of Vyle, so I had a starting point for aesthetic – drab green robes and polished bronze.

I needed a suitably eerie, icky model to use as a base, and the ‘Tech Master Baltazar’ from Hitech Miniatures fitted the bill perfectly. I loved the idea of this eerie, decrepit lump of flesh being propelled along by these weird spidery legs and covered in mechadendrites. Time to blow the dust off some of my guitar cabling.

The kit arrived and I was pleasantly surprised with its quality, requiring very little trimming to remove flash or mould lines at all. My only gripe was that the back and base of the walking unit were flat and featureless, so the further off the base I wanted to pin it, the more obvious it would be that someone just stopped modelling anything underneath it. I also had my concerns about pinning the incredibly fiddly legs to the walker and to the base without damaging both. I build my minis to be played with, so they need to be sturdy.

A convenient raised lump to pin Vyle to

A fish around in my bits box turned up some more Cities of Death terrain tiles, and one had a very convenient raised skull in the centre. When mounted at a particular angle, I could have a single massive pin that ran from the body through the base, and raised just enough from the ground to give the appearance that it isn’t touching.

Dry fit, testing different angles
A better look at how he is angled slightly forward

After feeling confident in my massive pin job, I didn’t feel so bad about not pinning the legs. They weren’t structurally integral, so I thought I would do my fingers some favours and avoid pinning them, just a copious amount of superglue in the recesses.

Already looking like a PC’s worst nightmare

Another pleasing aspect of the model that I hadn’t noticed in the thumbnail on the website is that it has an odd number of legs – three on one side and two on the other. It gave it this wonderful lopsided look that to me, epitomises Adeptus Mechanicus high fashion.

Base was trimmed with heavy clippers and a sharp knife. Blood was shed.

I wasn’t sure what equipment I wanted to give him at this stage, rule of cool was going to guide my hand. The only thing I knew I wanted to definitely have was a big tank of horrid goo strapped to his back that he could squirt at foes – perhaps a kind of super-concentrated liquid Symbiote? Either way, it would be miserable to anyone who was caught up in it, doling out toxic damage, corruption points, infection and maybe even mutation. A GM can dream right?

A quick kitbash of the tank and the hose

I have a bunch of tanks lying around of flamers from various vehicle kits, I’m not sure exactly what this one was from – a sentinel perhaps? The nozzle and mechadendrite was from a Forgeworld Mechanicum servitor I had bits-ordered some time ago to pump up the amount of Mechanicus bits in my collection. This arm I tried to just bend with copious gentle rubbing between forefinger and thumb to built up a bit of heat. This was my second attempt, the first ended pretty snappily.

A dry fit of the backpack on the model

I positioned it on the back of the model to see how much it changed the silhouette, and I could already see my multi-limbed metal bastard coming together. I wouldn’t attach this just yet, as it would form the ‘outer’ rim of details, and would just be a pain in the ass to work around at this point. It gets to sit on the side while I work on other gribbly bits.

Trying to replicate the lopsided aesthetic

The first round of ‘inner’ mechadendrites was an exercise in patience and bending. There were a conspicuous number of ‘holes’ in the model where it looked like limbs could be attached to, and were already the perfect width of a paperclip, so pinning things into them was a dream. With one on the left side and two on the right, it seemed natural to fill them all with mechadendrites.

What magnificent squeezers

Dark Eldar Talos bits stand in, once again, for brilliant biomechanical parts for edgy AdMechs, and a couple of their pinchers would work very nicely to manipulators. Vyle’s real, original hands are too busy operating dataslates and poring over files and reports, he has all his other extendo-limbs to operate heavy machinery and backhand rude PCs who interrupt his Machiavellian schemes.

All the tools a growing boy needs

I debated over what ‘ends’ to give his mechadendrites, as I had many blades, saws, injectors and guns to choose from. Although he would be an able combatant, I wanted his tools to be just that – tools first. Manipulators and medical instruments would be fished out from various places, including more Forgeworld Mechanicum and Dark Eldar bits.

Custom made to fit the model’s “arm sockets”

The mechadendrites themselves were from the Inquisitor-scale Delphan Gruss model, of which I had a few tubes handy. Normally I prefer working with resin over white metal, but these had the malleability I was looking for to get plenty of bends without singeing my fingers with a hair dryer. A tip to budding Mechanicus modellers: always give your tentacles two bends at different angles to give them a more realistic feel – a bend along a single axis doesn’t look great.

Clank clank thump scrape

I couldn’t find anything else to add to the model without making it look too busy, so I started mounting the ‘outer’ layer of mechadendrites. These consisted of the goo-squirter I made earlier, and the heavy mechanical arm that came with the model. I wasn’t a particular fan of the big round claw it came with, so I wanted to change that out for something a bit more subtle. One of the power blade utensils from the Delphan Gruss kit fitted the bill perfectly.

His power blade extends quite a way from the model

Having the arm stick out to the far left was a dangerous move, as it had the potential of unbalancing the silhouette of the model too much. With the addition of the backpack and goo-squirter on the other side, it balanced very nicely.

The ‘outer’ layer of ‘dendrites work well#

I was quite proud of this, given it took me only half an evening. Normally I navel-gaze on large projects like this due to having too many options, but with the Big Day rapidly closing on me, time was not a luxury I had. He needed to be finished, primed and based in less than 24 hours!

Could’ve done with more bend in the resin one

There was still something missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The backpack stuck out from the back of the model and didn’t sit particularly well. I figured it was so he could jettison it quickly if needs be, but just by itself didn’t look integrated into the rest of the model. A quick rummage through the Dark Eldar section of my bits box again pulled up one of the bio-injector spines from the Talos kit again, which fit far too well.

Ever looked at a model and thought “Now there’s a guy who needs more spine”?

It was ridiculous and over the top, but it had that back banner aesthetic that I’m very fond of in my 40k imagery. It also helped tie in the whole ‘weird science’ vibe I was going for, as I had planned on painting it a similar flesh tone to the rest of his body. Is it his spine? What are those weird injectors and vials for? Spo0oky.

Is it dumb? Yes. Is it perfect? Also yes.

I was dead happy with it at this point. It was suitably imposing (mounted on a 54mm base) so it was clearly a centrepiece, and had all the aesthetics to tie it in with the existing Vyle models while also standing out from them. I knew I wouldn’t get enough time to paint it up fully for the game, but I would have just enough time to base him and wash him, so at least he would be coloured for the Grand Finale.

You would need a lot of apples a day to keep this doctor away

Finally we have him standing next to one of his minions, a Scion of Vyle. His base is going to be populated heavily with these guys, along with some Symbiotes in various stages of maturity.

“Wow I really look forward to not dying in one game, how about you?”

Dead chuffed with how he turned out, and set a scary precedent for the concept of making models for all my bad guys. Scary because this particular bad guy was never intended to make it out alive, so I was hoping he put up a spectacular fight before going down!

Luckily he did, and the finale was epic and tense – a battle through an underground evil lair, culminating in a shoot out in a missile silo minutes from blast-off and a duel on a snow-spattered mountain top for control of the last ship off the mountain while the base undergoes a self destruct sequence in the background.

But that’s another story for another time.

Meanwhile, on the bench: Zini Dynasty Armsmen

Our games of Rogue Trader often involve group brawls with up to a dozen armed crewmen from our own vessel repelling whatever the eldritch horror of the day has snuck on board and is sucking down our crew like capri-suns. Our captain also has a penchant for giving them names, which never bodes well for redshirts. Rather than use dice as placeholders, I ordered some minis from the very excellent  anvilindustry using their awesome 3d build-a-regiment out of all their parts combos.

The parts arrived quickly, assembled like a dream and had little to no flash on them at all. I picked up some lady heads from Statuesque Miniatures too, as despite all the praise I can heap on Anvil, they don’t include lady heads as part of their regiment builder. C’mon guys, it’s the 41st millennium here – women are equally expendable as men are.

I didn’t have any real plan in mind for assembly other than I wanted to have a good range of weapon and equipment options so I had a good selection of models to choose from when I needed to improvise something. For example, the Anvil specialist squad I ordered came with a variety of odds and ends, including a banner, medkit and bugle (!). Try as I did, I couldn’t make the bugle work with the scheme. In space, nobody can hear you toot.

This guy stands in as the generic medic – if we have a player go down, he/she will pop up and try and patch them up. Because of the heroic running pose, I figured they would also stand in for any macguffin-carrying NPC who needs to hotfoot the death star plans through the ship.

It paired quite nicely with this other specialist, who is carrying a kind of kit bag/satchel charge looking device in one hand, and converted to hold a 40k auspex in the other. I picked one of the Medieval Helmets with a bionic eye to give them an extra techy look and slung a rifle over one shoulder. A little bit of putty for the strap, and this little guy can stand in for any scenario that calls for a specialist, scanner, technical support officer, you name it!

The decision was made quite early on that the armsmen would use las weaponry rather than conventional solid projectile weapons. Firstly, las weaponry would be more robust in harsh void environments – they work just as well in a vacuum as they do in low or zero-G situations, and the ammunition can be recharged theoretically infinitely. Secondly, the Dynasty once made a lot of its money from arms deals with a once-powerful faction of the Adeptus Mechanicus, so the weapons they equipped their troops with generations ago are still functioning just as well (if not better than) modern equipment that would be within a reasonable budget. Why fix what isn’t broken, eh?


The parts went together with no trouble at all, and there was a huge variety of poses (including a left-handed rifle pose!) that really add to the individuality of the models, despite them wearing 90% the same outfit. It also came with a two-handed pistol pose, which I initially thought was too Operator for our gang of hardened space pirates, but after dry fitting it, realised it was too cool to leave out. A putty strap on the rifle helps cement the model as a ‘rifleman’ class, rather than one of the melee characters.

Speaking of melee characters, I also knew I needed a few models that bucked the trend of ‘fashionable space rapscallions’, and given the propensity for boarding actions and angry claw-armed gribblies, we needed a few ruffians in the collection.

I never saw boarding actions as pretty things, but rather grim battles of attrition in tight corridors in hazardous conditions, often with little or no air, gravity or light, so their weapons would need to facilitate that. I was sorely tempted by chain weapons or swords, but settled on some brutish clubs and maces in the end. They didn’t need upkeep or sharpening – a blunt mace is just as effective as a sharp one, and in tricky conditions you don’t want something that you need space to wield (like a sword).

I had enough parts left to build a single armsman, and I was at odds with what to build. My mind wandered back to the idea of the Space Bugler (toot toot) who had some kind of vox receiver built into the instrument and wired into the vox network of all the other armsmen, so they could literally toot in space, but there wasn’t anything in the lore (so far) to back that up yet, and I wanted to cover all my necessary bases before adding new things. Plus, it’s an excuse to buy more minis down the line if I still want to pursue it…

It was a toss up between a leader/sergeant type character and a standard bearer. I hate freehand painting designs onto things, and try and avoid projects that force me to do that to make the most of the minis, so standard bearer was lowest on my priority list. However, I didn’t like the idea of a sergeant for this group, as I wanted leaders to emerge organically rather than be forced upon the crew, or allow the players to nominate anyone they felt was worthy of a position of command rather than the model saying which was in charge.

So, alas, the standard bearer was born.

Painting

The first test model was completed after much pain and anguish. The Captain of our game picked out the colours and symbols and I did my best to incorporate them into a design.

I wanted a House that had been impoverished until recently, so their House Guard are still utilising old armoured space suits that they have tried to repaint and retrofit as a uniform of sorts. The teal armband with the upside down moon is the colour and symbol of the Dynasty, and the red/white kneepad with the teal chevron represents the renewed pact with an old ally, an arms-dealing Adeptus Mechanicus faction.

In their pockets on their backpack they carry handfuls of dirt from their recently reclaimed homeworld, which they scatter on the floor before a boarding action – never again will they allow the Dynasty to lose ground!

Meanwhile, on the Bench: TJ Razor

This week’s theme is Space Thugs, and you don’t get much thuggier or spacier than TJ Razor. A man whom you could strip naked, beat bloody, interrogate for days in a cold brig-cube, finally turning your back only to find a knife stuck in it.

He’s a member of the Pursers Grim, a loose organisation of void-faring racketeers and shakedown artists, often used as a source of intelligence by organisations on both sides of the law if the coin is right. It is said there isn’t a ship in the sector that doesn’t have a Purser on board.

TJ relies on quick wits and quicker hands to stay one step ahead of his quarry, and always has a trick up his sleeve if he finds his back against the wall. That trick, however, is normally another knife. He’s a man of simple pleasures.

As with many of my Inquisitor projects, TJ started off as a totally different concept – an elegant swordsman in the employ of a fancy Inquisitor. What differed is that the parts remained almost completely unchanged while he languished on a shelf for 9 months, only adding the stick grenade and shoulder pad to complete the image.

It wasn’t until we had sunk quite a few hours into a new Rogue Trader campaign that the Pursers Grim faction became a little more fleshed out, and I wanted to have a 54mm representative for our games of Inquisitor. I had a dig through the Box of Shame and found this guy, so he was swiftly rebased onto something a little more space station-y to fit in with the other themed gangers I was building.

I was always a fan of the pose – Sergeant Stone’s legs are very dynamic but can be tricky to build a model that doesn’t look awkward with such a dramatic lunge. The arm reaching across his body to draw a blade gave the model oodles of character, and despite trying dozens of different permutations of sidearm, accessories, extra weapons and such, it was the simplicity of two knives that really worked for me.

NB: As an important pedantic note, I know he doesn’t have a sheath for the knife in his left hand. I couldn’t find one of a convincing size that would fit anywhere on the model and not detract from the flow or silhouette. Fight me. 

To my undying shame, this was the state he remained for another 5 months. I blocked out the colours and had a vague idea in my head of what I was going for. The orange jacket was going to be some sort of repurposed criminal fatigues from his penal colony days, and the shirt underneath was going to be a leather jacket or padded vest to keep him from freezing over in the chilly underbelly of voidships. The stripey trousers are from a classic piece of 40k artwork (that currently escapes me) with a Rogue Trader wearing striped trousers. I don’t know what it was about this image that screamed 18th Century sea faring and naval combat, but I had to replicate it. I knew I wanted him pale as well, from a life lived away from the sun but also covered in gang tattoos, the ridiculous OTT type that you see in buzzfeed articles that you aren’t convinced aren’t photoshopped.

I ran out of motivation at this point realising the sheer amount of hours I would need to apply in one sitting to get the freehand tattoos looking the way I wanted. I also noticed that I had assembled the model incorrectly, and sculpted the arm joins to look like they went underneath the vest rather than connect to it. Pretty harmless when there’s no paint on the model, but after some block colours went on I realised that his shirt has a deep v-neck, and to combine it with the fabric on his arms gives him a weird leather long-sleeve deep neck shirt thing that I couldn’t be bothered to strip, resculpt and fix.

Signing myself up to run an Inquisitor day, “Mother of Mercy” in November seemed to be the trick to get my unmotivated ass out of the gutter and start finishing some models. I blew the dust off him, touched up his base coats and gave him a good couple of washes while I looked up some interesting prison tattoos.

I had a hard time getting the stripes on his trousers straight, but I was quite pleased with how they came out overall. The skin tattoos were an absolute nightmare, built up with painstaking layer upon layer of slightly darker shades of skin colour. I didn’t realise how tricky it would be to get a convincing head tattoo without covering the whole head, nor did it work when I tried to do scribbles and squiggles to “look like” tattoos from a distance. I had to knuckle down and freehand tiny tattoos on his tiny knuckles.

After the agony of freehand, the rest was a joy to touch up, and I’m very pleased with how he came out in the end. As I was painting, I was trying to come up with an interesting edge for the tabletop. Things like the Blade Master special rule and a high Weapon Skill were a given, but I wanted something that set him apart from the stereotypical knife-wielding maniacs.

I borrowed the “Always Has Another Knife” rule from the Community Special Abilities page which seemed fitting, but wanted something to underline the voidbelly stab-or-be-stabbed mentality. I thought about an ability that allowed him to make a free throwing knife attack if he chooses to be pinned while being shot at, injuring or at least distracting the shooter long enough to make a getaway or get stuck into combat. I like the idea, but it needs a bit of playtesting before I’m happy to write it up here.

All in all I’m very happy with how he came out, and I’m looking forward to doing a few more gangers and thugs from our little spit of space. Now all he needs is a battle report to star in…

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Crimson Wake Reavers

Batten down the hatches, sharpen your boarding axes and say your prayers to the Emperor, the Crimson Wake Reavers have you in their sights…

This project was immense fun. The premise was simple; I need bad guys, and lots of them. From our games of Inquisitor to Dark Heresy to Rogue Trader, even making NPC appearances in the odd game of Necromunda, the Crimson Wake have generously given their lives time and time in the name of being good Bad Guys, and I felt I owed it to the little champs to immortalise them in paint and plastic.

This project is perhaps the first sizeable modelling project I’ve completed that had no parts purchased specifically for the job. I wanted around a dozen members of the void-prowling Chaos pirate group, the Crimson Wake, and I was fortunate late last year to get a few big plastic bags of decade-old tatty models that needed rehoming. The models were in pretty bad nick – outrageous plastic glue accidents, interesting conversion attempts, paint that looks like it was applied with a trowel, the works. The upside was the sheer quantity – if you were to buy those today you would easily be set back around a grand.

I cleaned up all the metal models, flogged them on ebay for some hobby funds, and set about salvaging whatever plastic I could from the mix; Imperial Guardsmen, fantasy beastmen, loads of classic Empire bits, Chaos models that I forgot existed. What could be saved was snipped apart and distributed among my bits boxes, ready for the grand assemblage.

I had eyeballed some parts that would fit together very nicely, and decided I was going to just dive straight in, randomly matching bodies, legs and heads together to make my Chaos Reavers. I only had one goal in mind; to make them as varied as I could to represent many different kinds of baddies that might pop up in campaigns; from bedraggled voidsmen barely showing any signs of Chaos taint that could be hanging around in spaceport bars holding valuable information, all the way up to Chaos pirate captains and bloodthirsty ultra-warriors kitted out in ancient armoured void suits from millennia ago.

Let’s have a little look at some of these goons.

This was one of the first guys I put together and still one of my favourites. He captures that haggard, salty seadog look with a bit of weirdness from the right knee downwards. Given the time, energy and money, I’d make a dozen more like this guy to populate the spaceports and rotgut taverns of the 41st millennium, but he’ll have to do for now.

The shotgun is from Victoria Miniatures, picked up for a massive Necromunda bits part order and I still had a bunch lying around.

This guy was another relatively normal-looking Reaver – I still wanted a few models that could just about pass as non-Chaos worshipping loonies. As I was assembling them, I realised that I was going to need some unifying features to make the motley lot look more like a motley crew than a motley mob, so I devised a rebreather system. Nothing says Space Man like a backpack with tubes on it, right?

Most of the backpacks were made from classic plastic Space Marine backpacks with some of the nozzles chopped off, and the rebreather mouthpieces were made from cut-down space marine heads, leaving just the front part of the mask. The head is from the Trench Irregular set from Anvil Industries. I rolled out some sausages of green stuff for the tubes, let them set for about 20 minutes, then rolled them across some corrugated plastic to produce the ribbing effect. Leave them for another 10/20 minutes and they were springy enough to keep their ribs, but pliable enough to be bent, cut and glued into shape.

Time to get weird! I started experimenting with plastic Chaos Space Marine parts. I liked the armoured aesthetic, but I didn’t want my Reavers to just look like space marines, I wanted them to have a flavour of their own, so this was my first foray into using just enough CSM parts to add that asymmetric weirdness without being overt.

It was also at this point I realised that the topless Chaos Marauder torsos would work just fine if I shaved the nipples off and painted it to look like armour. Parts for the parts god!

They were going to need some support weapons too, and I played with the idea of a rocket or grenade launcher for a while. The model looked very cool, but I couldn’t justify the use of long ranged anti-tank weaponry on close-quarters fighters. A nice Imperial Guard heavy flamer would fit the bill, and with an excess of weird pipes going into his rebreather and his ammo tank raises questions about what exactly is being fired from that flamer after all…

Moving on to some heavy hitters, this guy was assembled almost entirely out of classic fantasy Chaos warrior parts, with a heavy pistol from Anvil and a Nurgley-looking shoulder pad to complete the look. I really liked the idea that this ancient warrior of a thousand battles still has the best damn boots on the ship.

I was very much hoping at this point that a nice paint job would offset the goofiness of the whole crew, but that’s what Chaos is there for right?

This guy was actually one of my earlier experiments with a rebreather. I nailed the concept of the mouthpiece, but ran into a problem trying to attach the backpack – the shoulder pads I had selected for MAXIMUM 40K were overmaximum and nothing could fit on his back. I had a rummage round for something suitable, I think they are flamer tanks from some infantry kit? By this point I was really enjoying the mismatched void suit aesthetic – classic Chaos Warrior legs and left arm, Chaos Marauder torso and head, Khorne Berzerker right arm and a heavy caliber pistol from Anvil.

The felt I lacked diversity in the work force, and needed some more Definitely Chaos guys, rather than Suspiciously Chaos. I wanted someone who, when they arrived on the board, left no doubt as to their alignment. I had the flaming head from the Empire Flagellants that was kicking around my bits box begging for a body. Legs and torso were easy to assemble, but I wanted something weird and wacky for his armament. A Plaguebearer left arm was suitable gribbly, and there was quite tight competition for the right, eventually settling on the weird tentacle double arm from the plastic Chaos Spawn kit.

It was at this point that I decided I was going to have a Lot Of Fun(tm) painting fire, as I’d never done it before. Oh, my sweet summer child.

I had some Khorne Berzerker legs to hand from the Bag o’ Doom and wanted someone with a bit more momentum than the others I had assembled. Axe nice and high, bolt pistol from Anvil out front in a run ‘n’ gun pose, I really like this one for its simplicity. It was tricky to see the model come together with so many half-painted plastic bits, but I assured myself it would come together after they were sprayed. A horny head from the classic plastic Chaos Space Marines finished the ‘head first charge’ look I was going for.

One more ‘normal’ guy to round things off, as I had many armoured and voidsuited thugs who would not be out of place by the Captain’s side, but I needed another scummy-looking mutant who could skulk around in the underways and maintenance tunnels getting intel. I have a lot of possessed heads picked up over the years, so I was desperate to use a few of them up in this project, especially the weirder ones that would have no chance of being in anything outside of a Chaos group. A plastic Ork body, legs and arms from an ‘easy assemble’ kit suited the hunched mutie look I was going for. I shaved down some of the iconography, added a few pointy shoulder pads and a big double-barrelled shotgun and he was done!

And finally, the magnificent Captain of the group. I had originally never intended to make a leader, so my group would never associate the models with characters too much and make it easier to chop and change them about. Unfortunately, as soon as I put the Chaos Warrior legs with the Chaos Space Marine chainmail torso, I was already sold. The massive Berzerker head I’ve had in my bits box fit too well, and I was already reneging on my pledge to myself for the sake of a cool model. It didn’t matter, it came out far better than I’d hoped – a big bulky silhouette that should make players shudder when it thumps down onto the table top.

All in all I’m very happy with how they came out. I’ve had several games with them since, and they’ve never failed to threaten and entertain. There will be some painted pictures going up over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on us!

Meanwhile, on the bench: Sulphia “Sulph” Caliver, Naval Armsman

Sulphia Caliver, known simply as ‘Sulph’ to her comrades, is a veteran naval armsman sworn to serve the Yule Dynasty, an ancient and powerful Rogue Trader Household that has close ties with the Inquisition. She has served the Warrant Holder for many years, earning her trust and a place on her personal retinue when House Yule is called to serve the Emperor at the behest of the Inquisition.

She is a brute of a woman, decked out in heavy flak armour and carrying weapons that reflect who she is – vicious, reliable and heavy duty. In the confines of cramped voidship corridors and boarding gangways, you don’t need complex fighting styles or fancy weapons to win the day – simply cold steel and a strong fighting arm.

Some early WIP shots before she got her extra details added

The model started out life more as a guardsman, a simple kitbash with Sergeant Stone’s legs and Slick Devlan’s body. Back then she was a he, and he was equipped with a standard lasgun and the infamous shouty head of Sergeant Black. He was only bluetacked together, but there was something about the pose of a flak-armoured warrior barreling forwards that really appealed to me. There was a ‘leader’ assembled as well, reaching for a sword and wearing a very fancy bicorn hat, but that will be a MOTB for another time. I liked the momentum of the model, but I never had any motivation to do anything extra to him, and he sat in my Box of Shame for months.

Roll forward to the (relatively) present day, and this lot on ebay comes to my attention. It seems in my brief 54mm hiatus, 3D printing kicked off and suddenly my niche modelling hobby was being bolstered by fresh kits and awesome new weapons. You can get the full Dreadquill run-down of the kit here.

Fawning over the new weapons I was formulating all manner of impossible projects, when I surreptitiously pulled out a few old projects from the Box of Shame and dry-fitted some of the guns. The one that was eventually used is, to my understanding, intended to be a grenade launcher, but one of my friends asked if it was some kind of giant shotgun, and that turned the whole narrative on its head.

Shotcannons are described as much larger variants of a regular shotgun that fire a huge shell (nearly twice the normal size) and can lay waste to large hordes of attackers. They are considered ‘support’ weapons in boarding parties, and I couldn’t think of anything cooler or more appropriate for an Inquisitor character, someone who specialises in brutal boarding actions and carries a gun that can explode a man into a burst of shredded clothing and flesh. What more could a girl want?

With the new angle of ‘naval armsman’ rather than generic guardsman or bodyguard, the project motored ahead. First thing to change was the head, the shouty guardsman head wouldn’t cut it. I had an old open-faced head from the Lucretia Bravus model, one that I’ve never actually used in a model. I didn’t really like the silhouette, it was too sleek and elegant, a far cry from the chunky combat of the 41st millennium. It looked perfect on her though, and I imagined some kind of huge welding-mask-type shutter being propped open that she could slam down when it was Go Time.

The armour was a joy to sculpt. I’ve always been a fan of the Elysian Drop Troopers, and the padded fatigues on their arms and legs was an aesthetic I wanted to replicate. I tried to keep the size of the pads as close to the flak armour on the body to bring the parts of the model together to look a more coherent whole, like it was an actual uniform that had been repaired a number of times rather than a disparate series of armour plates slapped together.

All the accessories were umm’d and ahh’d over for quite some time. She needed at least one melee weapon, and I felt an axe or mace would be suitably savage. No fancy sword fighting nonsense here. I settled on a chaos marauder axe head and shaft, with the handle being replaced from a 40k power sword to give it a bit more of a futuristic feel, rather than wrapped leather.

There was a toss-up between backup weapons too, I felt compelled to try and give her a reload for her shotcannon but a) I couldn’t find a suitable part to represent a whole new drum mag and b) didn’t feel it was in her aesthetic to reload such a bulky weapon. I see her firing off as many rounds as she can before closing with the enemy, hurling the thing like an angry fire extinguisher and getting stuck in with axe and boot. A nice big revolver strapped to her thigh would fit the bill of backup weapon.

The last key element I wanted for her was a fully sealed combat suit. Her attire doesn’t scream ‘space suit’, but I wanted there to be some way of her surviving emergency decompression, low oxygen or chemical warfare. Her gear is primitive but robust, so she would need suitable breathing apparatus reflective of that. The original plan was to have a mouthpiece attached to her chest or breast, like Forest Whittaker’s character in Rogue One, so she could quickly mask up in the event of an emergency.

At this point though, her arms and gun were well attached to her body, and I could find no way of making a suitable mask to hang from that part of her without it looking cluttered and ugly. I had a root around in my bits box and salvaged an Imperial Guard flamer tank, some guitar wire and a heavily shaved-down 40k space marine helmet to form a rebreather. I figured she would unhook it from her belt and clip it into place underneath her boarding mask to form a fully sealed helmet. It won’t help you with any space walks, but it might just help you survive long enough in a pinch.

Then it was just adding gubbins – a few pouches here and there, a grenade on the belt and sculpting in some straps to attach it all together and she was done! The name is from an idea that on her ship of birth, the ship’s macrocannons were independently operated by different family units, each competing to who can have the faster loading solutions and fiercely protective of their family’s cannon. Each family unit would have names derived from ancient Terran warfare; Caliver, Bulletson, Sabot and Saker.

All that’s left is to come up with a colour scheme and mock up some stats for her. A full study will inevitably come along in the future, but my mind went wandering about how best to represent her signature weapon on the Inquisitor battlefield; the naval shotcannon.

Many among the Inquisitor community have adopted MarcoSkoll’s quite excellent Revised Inquisitor Armoury, as although the original rules are robust enough to play with ‘out of the box’, almost two decades of playtesting have brought up a few issues of variety and balance of weapons. Marco took it upon himself to rewrite the entire armoury with the benefit of hindsight, community feedback and oodles of weapon knowledge, so ranged weapons all have a distinctive flavour and punch to them.

Having a browse through, I noticed there was an absence of ‘stupid big shotgun designed to turn men into paté’, so I had a go at improvising rules for on one using the options that were available to me.

Naval Shotcannon

Using the stats of a full auto combat shotgun, with the large calibre and drum mag upgrades:

Type Range Firing mode Accuracy Damage Shots Reload Encumbrance Special Rarity
Basic E Sg/Sm(2/4) D6+2* 14 3 50 DM, Jam Prone UnCm

The special rules below have been factored into the statline above.

Scatter Shot (Common)

“A very standard loading, a standard shot shell fires a small cloud of lead projectiles at the target. They have poor armour defeating capabilities and the projectiles rapidly disperse, but the effect of multiple projectiles impacting in the same instant can be especially effective against un-armoured or lightly armoured targets”.

Range E; D6+1 damage

*Multiple hits (1 hit per Degree of Success up to a maximum of 3 hits, all to the same location)

Large Calibre

+1 Damage. Gains Considerable Recoil rule . +5 EncPump Action, Lever Action, Auxiliary and Dual Magazine shotgun magazine sizes reduced by 1. (-1 to both Magazines on the Dual Mag)Semi-Auto, Auto and Bullpup Auto Magazine sizes reduced by 2.

Drum Magazine (DM)

A very easy modification to fit, as it’s a simple magazine swap. Weapons which can take this modification are marked with “DM” under the Notes column.

The weapon’s magazine capacity is doubled, Enc is increased by +5, the Reload stat by +1 and the weapon gains the Jam Prone special rule.

Meanwhile, on the bench: Serafin House Guard

This is the first of a new weekly segment, Meanwhile on the Bench (or MOTB as it will inevitably be shortened to), a section looking at the many conversions and unfinished projects lying around (read: being worked on) the Dreadquill studio. Rather than shy away from public attention and treat my growing to-do list with shame and disappointment, it’s instead time to revel in the bits and pieces that go on underneath the layers of paint and swearing that make up the Dreadquill minis.

This week we introduce the first plucky bunch of Serafin House Guard, “the Glailwroth Few”, for use in our games of Rogue Trader. They are highly trained and educated field troops adapted to the brutal confines of boarding actions and void conflicts of the Serafin Dynasty fleet. They are few and far between, an elite cadre of warriors sworn to protect the Dynasty and its interests.

I am currently involved in running two separate Rogue Trader campaigns, the Serafin Dynasty and the Zini Dynasty – the former being a more political/creed/religious game, the latter being a more exploration/piracy game. In the latter, we discovered our love for playing with minis rather than tokens (bottle caps, euros, scatter dice…) and as the Captain would drag as many merry men with her as she could to every encounter, it necessitated some armsmen models.

They were great fun to build (and a pain in the ass to paint), but it left us feeling that our Serafin game was also sorely missing out on some noble cannon fodder to escort our brave Lord-Captain with her on dangerous away missions. We already had some stats for them, we had built them using the Only War regiment builder, so it was just a case of finding some models that fit the bill.

The brief was, in quintessential Captain Serafin style, brief. They were noble-born, well-equipped and well trained. They belonged to quite an old Dynasty that prides itself on artisan weaponry, and ply the space-lanes in a strange old vessel that’s even older than the Dynasty itself. Pomp and circumstance was the order of the day, and the hunt for miniatures began.

My first port of call was the same supplier I got my other armsmen off, Anvil Industry. They have an incredible range of 28mm sci fi/modern parts that you can chop and change to create unique regiments of fighters, and even a neat 3d model builder so you can preview what the parts you ordered look like. Although there were some neat combinations, none of it screamed ‘fancy-ass toffs who could kick your ass’. The hunt continued.

Many other suppliers were discounted – I needed something ideally in resin or plastic to give me the conversion opportunities I would need, and none of them had that high-tech archaic look I was going for, and somehow I ended up coming full circle round to Forge World and their incredible Solar Auxilia range. I fell in love with the Lasrifle Section, I really dig the Space Colonists vibe they have going for them, which perfectly encapsulated the feeling I wanted for the House Guard. Unfortunately, common sense won out in the end, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t justify the price tag. Another project for another time, maybe.

I was about to bin the whole idea when I was in my local Games Workshop eyeing up the Tempestus Scions. They were neat, but not quite what I was going for, and th-OH MY GOD THEY COME WITH MOUSTACHE HEADS. Instant purchase. Turns out in my haste to overlook ‘normal’ Games Workshop models, I didn’t realise that the Scions also come with these dope-ass berets and hard-nut heads. To the bench!

The first guy assembled was the least converted. I wanted to get a feel for the kit before I started mucking about with it. I also had quite a strict equipment list to adhere to, most of which was only sparsely represented on the sprue, so I knew a lot of converting guns was going to have to happen. For this chap, I did a simple gun swap on his left hand. The straight arm was attached to a plasma pistol, not something I wanted on his loadout, and the regular laspistol arm was bent at an angle that didn’t work well with the pose.

Everything else was just adding gubbins from my bits box. I had a bunch of Adeptus Mechanicus backpacks from another project and they fitted perfectly. They further the House Guard from the original Scions models and add that extra element of techy-weirdness that I wanted to get across. The addition of the incense burners and other religious iconography helped further the idea that I wanted these guys to be devoted to their duty and to the God Emperor, so I went overboard on reliquaries, prayer tokens and purity seals. More is more, right?

Quite content with how he turned out, I moved on to a slightly more ambitious task: how does one make a Best Quality lasgun?

Shouty telephone man was born! I needed a vox operator as the regiment specialises in electro-vox warfare, and I couldn’t bring myself to convert one just for the sake of being different from the box version. After completion, it struck me how presidential he looked, but I couldn’t figure out why. With his right side completed, I just had to figure out how to make him hold what would become an awesome-looking Serafin las rifle.

One of my inspirations was the Vostroyan Firstborn, and after having a rifle through my bits box discovered a bunch of Empire Handgunner rifles. With a bit of careful chopping of the iconic lasgun parts (the muzzle, the charge pack), some careful gluing and filling with green stuff, the look was complete. Long, ornate, form-over-function kinda feeling. It even has a wheel lock on it, which excites me because I can’t for the life of me think why you would have that on there other than to add unnecessary parts to clean.

With the “look” of the lasgun down pat, I felt comfortable knowing I could recreate it on further models. Next guy I wanted to do was a generic “guy  shooting at something” pose. Holding a rifle in one hand is easy to convert, manipulating the arms and rifle butt to fit snugly into a shouldered firing position might be a bit trickier.

Yep, this was much trickier. In a strange flip-turn of events, the camera here actually hides the damage to the hands, wrists and right arm far better than you can see in person. The muzzle and charge pack swap were straight forward, but the left hand needed to be hollowed out completely to fit further up the rifle to make room for the charge pack in the same place as the first one I made. D’oy.

The right arm also needed a complete remodelling. The default hellgun stock looked radically different from the artisan wooden stock of the Empire handgun, and I’d lose a massive amount of the charm if I had to chop off the rifle grip and hand guard in favour of the easier hellgun option. Essentially both the rifle and the arm had massive amounts of painstaking scalpel work to shave each section down so they joined together as seamlessly as possible. Luckily after spraying, you didn’t notice the join at all, which I was quite chuffed with.

Oh yes, and it was at this point that I realised how fucking fragile the radio masts are on the Scion bodies, note the paperclip replacement.

Next I needed some ‘utility’ guys to round off my selection. I wasn’t sure what models I would need until we played some games, so I wanted to have as large a spread of options to choose from (and I didn’t want to convert up any more of those rifles unless I absolutely needed to).

This guy was straightforward – two arms straight off the sprue. He’s the medic, but would also double up as “House Guard NPC carrying the plot maguffin”. I love the weird Gears of War-esque pistol-chainblade thing he has. Although chainblades aren’t rare in 40k, I’ve never seen one on a pistol before, and I couldn’t quite place what kind of weapon it was. It has the middle and rear of a hellpistol, but not the barrel or muzzle. Who knows, it looked cool. Easy conversion, onto the last guy!

In my dismay I realised that electro-vox warfare also covered the use of scanners and auspexes, so I would need to convert someone holding one. The left arm was a straightforward lift from the sprues, and I evaded converting another rifle by using one of the holstered guns from the box set as well, just changing the stock to make it look a bit more appropriate. The Auspex was hard though, I couldn’t find any ‘open’ right hands, they were all taken up with holding weapons in some way or another. I made a note to look online to order some more to fill my ranks, but that wouldn’t help me in the short term!

Luckily from a previous Anvil order I had picked up a load of bionic limbs, and one of them was an open bionic left hand for holding rifles. A little thumb realignment surgery and (I think) cunningly hiding it behind the auspex was all I needed to convince the casual looker that he was holding an auspex with his thumb on the correct side. Result!

All in all I was very happy with how they came out. I had been given a vague colour scheme to work with – white, gold and ice blue, and I could visualise those working with the esoteric mix of high-tech and religious iconography that these guys are draped in, but that would be another job for another time.

If you wanted to use the Glailwroth Few in your own games, or you just fancied having a look, you can check out the stats, equipment and backstory for them here.