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.