Andy Clark’s Bearers of the Word – Article One

Author Andy Clark (who, as you might recall, wrote the Gate of Stars campaign) set himself a Warhammer 40,000 New Year, New Army challenge last month, and has been making some great progress on a Word Bearers army. We’ll catch up with him over the year to follow his progress. 

The beauty of the Games Workshop hobby is that everyone’s approach is different, tailored to things they most enjoy. Different people collect, build, paint and play in different ways, each according to taste.

For me, it’s telling stories (perhaps not the biggest surprise, considering what I do for a living). Sure, I enjoy a good tense pick-up game as much as the next guy, but for me, the real satisfaction comes from the context of all this dice rolling and carnage. Who are the armies that are fighting on the battlefield? Why are they fighting each other, and to what end? Where is the battle taking place, and does it have any bearing upon previous clashes that my army has fought?

These are the questions that I always want to answer before – or sometimes during – my games, and I find that knowing the answers to them vastly enhances my personal hobby experience. For me, the holy grail is to play with a converted, narrative-inspired army against an equally well thought out force, in a game that feels like it has weight, stakes and context beyond simple victory points.

My other great love, ever since I first badgered my poor mum into buying me White Dwarf magazine at about age ten (it was the one with Bill King’s superb story of the invasion of Terra in it, so maybe that’s where all this comes from) is bad guys.

I’ve dabbled with collecting Astra Militarum and the like, but honestly, I always find myself drawn to the rampaging savages, the Daemon-worshipping doomsday cults and the scheming overlords every time. I’ve got at least one good-sized greenskin horde for every system I play (yes, even my Blood Bowl team are Orcs), and several Chaos armies of various stripes including Tzeentch-worshipping Slaves to Darkness, and an equally Tzeentchy army of Renegade Chaos Space Marines, not to mention quite the Daemonic incursion between my Tzeentchian and Nurgle beasties.

However, there’s one Traitor Legion in Warhammer 40,000 that I’ve always liked more than any of the others, but never quite gotten around to collecting. With the twin spurs of the Traitor Legions book and ‘New Year, New Army’ I recently decided that I was finally going to take the plunge and collect my very own warband of Word Bearers. It was time for my opponents to hear the Word of Lorgar (and time to really annoy that loyalist Ultramarine lapdog, Nick Bayton…)

Since I’ve saved up the Word Bearers as my aspirational army for a long while, I decided to really go to town on this project. It’s going to be my core focus in Warhammer 40,000 this year, and I’m going to pour all my enthusiasm and creativity into it in the hopes of creating something really special. This is going to be a great opportunity to showcase how a narrative-driven army comes together, and to show a collecting journey that will hopefully inspire some people to do something similar!

My Grand Plan

I typically collect most of my armies in roughly the same way (think organised chaos, but light on the organisation), but for the sake of this series of articles, it made sense to formalise that process a bit.

  1. Collect to the Narrative: In the first instance, anything that I add to this army needs to fit the storyline that I’ve come up with for it (which you’ll find below). That’s not to say that I’m going to completely ignore points values or the usefulness of units on the tabletop, as I want to be able to play (and occasionally win) games with it. But it does mean that units have to ‘feel right’ for me to include them, and if they don’t, then they’re not going in.
  2. Convert them to Chaos: I will say from the off that my bitz box could be considered super heavy. I love building conversions, have been collecting for many years now, and so like all the best Death Skull Lootas, I never throw anything away unless I absolutely have to. Knowing that I have this wealth of sprues and spares to draw upon, I’ve resolved to only include units in this army that are in some way converted to fit my narrative. Where necessary, I’ll pick up the odd box of models to loot for specific bits (only if I think I can use the rest of the parts later in the project though), but if possible I’m going to use my bitz box to its fullest extent.
  3. Names are Important: Everything in this army gets a name. Not every individual model – that way lies madness – but every HQ choice, every vehicle, and every squad. I’ll write those names down, I’ll keep them consistent (we’ve all misplaced our army lists and ended up renaming everything every other game…right?) and I will watch as they build up their own histories, personalities, glories and rivalries. I’m not going to worry too much about ‘who died and who didn’t’…all my named characters will be considered to be wearing substantial plot armour unless otherwise stated before a game!
  4. Stick to the Theme: This is mostly about wargear choices and the like. I’m not going to make this one a hard and fast rule, but there are certain weapons that I figure Word Bearers would make a lot of use of (daemonically imbued weapons, flamers for burning shrines and holy scripture, that sort of thing) so you’re likely to see a lot of them cropping up in this army. I’ve found that’s a good way to theme the look and feel of an army towards particular narrative hooks on the tabletop. Sometimes it even winds up giving you a gaming advantage, but if not, well, I’ve never really been a ‘play to the meta’ kind of guy…

So those are my “rules”, and as I collect this army over the coming year, I’ll be trying to stick to them like the Word of Lorgar itself. I reckon the result will be a fun and interesting collection that plays the way I want it to and looks cool as well.

First Steps on the Path to Glory

So what story am I going to tell? How does this project begin, and what am I going to do first? Well, as I said above, for me it all starts with a story, and after a bit of a ponder, this is what I’ve come up with:

It was towards the end of the Horus Heresy, during the final march toward Terra, that Captain Darokh’Var and his warriors were snatched away by the tides of the Warp. Though faithful sons of Lorgar, they were denied their chance to join the attack upon the throne world. Instead, while only days passed onboard their ship, Firebrand, over a thousand years hurtled past in reality. Darokh’Var and his followers emerged into a galaxy much-changed, finding that the Imperium endured and the followers of Chaos had been driven back to the Eye of Terror.

Darokh’Var was fanatically loyal to his Primarch, and a zealous worshipper of the Octed. Thus he quickly set about punishing the worlds of the Imperium for their victory. However, the Warp wasn’t done with the Word Bearers, who found that with each jump they made, they were catapulted forwards in time again.

The last of these vast chronological leaps brought them to the 41st Millennium, during the first days of the period known as the Gathering Storm. For Darokh’Var and his warriors, only a handful of decades had passed, and the memories of the Heresy were fresh in their minds. They had embraced the teachings of the Dark Gods wholeheartedly, yet physically, they were not as gloriously altered as the twisted warriors they saw fighting for Chaos in this dark new age.

Determined to do Lorgar’s work, and to earn the favour of the Gods of Chaos, Darokh’Var renamed his warband ‘The Blessed’ and set about seeking to give truth to the epithet. They would fight to undermine the Imperial faith in whatever ways they could, to topple its idols, sacrifice its faithful and burn their shrines to the ground. Darokh’Var himself vowed before his sacrificial altar that he would personally deliver one hundred heroes unto the Dark Gods, taking the life of each upon the tainted relic’s gore-stained surface and thus showing them his true devotion. In return, he believed with the absolute conviction of a fanatic, that they would reward him with immortal daemonhood…

So that’s my starting story. It’s intentionally open ended, with just a few names dropped in and no strong focus just yet on worlds or opponents. That’s quite deliberate, as I want it to be able to go in whatever directions my games take it, but it gives me a few pointers on how to get started.

It also allows me to do something I’ve wanted to do for ages: buy the Betrayal at Calth boxed set and convert all the models inside into modern day Chaos Space Marines!

I love the aesthetic of Heresy era armour, and I have thought for a while that a combination of these models and the current Chaos Space Marines range would make for an especially ornate and archaic looking Chaos Space Marine army. With the Word Bearers connection in Betrayal at Calth, and plenty of Chaos Space Marine spares already sat in my bitz box, it seemed like the best way to start my army.

Lord Darokh’Var himself leads the army, a conversion of the Cataphractii-armoured captain in the Betrayal at Calth set. He is accompanied by a band of Chaos Terminators (also clad in Cataphractii armour meshed with the traditional Chaos Space Marine Terminator kit and some Flagellant components, and which I will simply use as standard Chaos Terminators). These are the ‘Desecrators’, led by Aspiring Champion Kharkhor Voss, and I’ve made sure they have a suitably fiery array of armaments for torching anything the Imperials hold dear. They’re not fussy.

The remainder of my starting force comprises two squads of ten Word Bearers apiece, one equipped for ranged combat with boltguns and a plasma gun, the other for close assault and including a power fist and a flamer. The former will be the ‘Heralds of Damnation’, led by Larghor’Shul, and the latter will be the ‘Brotherhood of Sacrifice’, led by Arkhos Larr. In both cases, I’ve made every effort to convert these models up with a mix of Chaos and Imperial shoulder pads, helms and weaponry, as well as giving each squad an Icon Bearer, primarily because Word Bearers just wouldn’t look right without them!

A nice detail that I’m especially pleased with on the Chaos Space Marines is that every model has a long dagger mag-locked to their armour’s power packs. These are not meant to be weapons they wield in combat. Instead they are sacred, sacrificial daggers, to be drawn and used only in ritual sacrifice after battle’s end. I really like this idea as it fits with the narrative I’ve chosen, and before I put any paint on my models, I’m tempted to attach sheathed daggers to my Terminator-armoured figures too, making it a theme that will run through the whole army.

What’s Next?

With my narrative figured out and my starting force built (one HQ, two Troops and an Elites, not a bad way to start) the next steps are clear; get some paint on these models, then get gaming with them! I have a whole bunch of regular opponents in the studio who I can’t wait to start gaming against with this army, from the feted Space Wolves of Simon Grant to Nick Horth’s burgeoning Tau Empire force, so the sooner I can start rolling some dice the better.

That’s it for now, my plan and my first steps into spreading the Word of Lorgar. I’m really looking forward to playing some games, seeing where my story goes, and deciding what to add next to my collection. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading along as the months go by and watching the army grow too.

Until next time, Death to the False Emperor, and may your dice always roll 6’s (unless you’re an Ultramarine, of course…)

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