Author Andy Clark (who, as you might recall, also wrote the Gate of Stars campaign and Kingsblade) set himself a Warhammer 40,000 New Year, New Army challenge earlier this year, and has been making more great progress on a Word Bearers army. We’ve been following his progress over the year, and you can read the first article in the series here.
Andy: I never used to paint my models.
I used to be an absolute Tin Boy, case-loads of unpainted (though no less cherished) armies, my mind always on building things and getting them straight to the gaming table. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that, while I love how painted models look on the table, I’ve not always enjoyed the process of painting said models as much as I did the other aspects of the hobby. Must be why I choose anarchic bad guys rather than straight-laced, disciplined types to collect…
All that changed when I started working in the Studio. The great majority of people in Publications – and indeed in many departments throughout head office – have paint stations on their desks, right next to the latest army, warband, kill team or whatever else they’re working on.
There’s display cabinets everywhere you turn, and those not filled with the glorious work of the ‘Eavy Metal and Army Painter teams get turned over for staff use. There’s usually plenty of gaming taking place, too, and the unifying factor about all this great hobby is that the miniatures are lovingly painted.
Surrounded every working day by the impressive results of everyone’s hard work, it didn’t take me long to resolve that I would no longer lead greyscale hordes to battle. I, too, would join the exciting world of polychromatic gaming armies, and I wouldn’t look back. After all, if the loyalists in the office could do it, and without even a daemonic patron to bless their paint brush…well, what excuse did I have?
Since then, I’ve picked up a lot of techniques from the people around me, and I’ve found myself enjoying more and more the cathartic relaxation of painting through my lunch breaks. Watching an army come together and start to look great is quite an addictive experience, and once you’ve done it once, you can’t really bring yourself to do things any other way.
All this, as you may have guessed, goes some way to explaining why I haven’t yet actually rolled any dice in anger with my army…
Now, I could trot out some excuses: I ran a Blood Bowl League. There’s been an army-building-and-painting challenge going in the Studio, run by the formidable David Sanders, and it’s tempted me into adding more units to my starting force. I’m a filthy heretic and the rules don’t apply to me. The Emperor’s not my real dad. Et cetera et cetera.
Truth is, though, I’ve been waiting until my army feels ‘ready’ before I put it on a gaming table. I suspect a lot of people do the same. You just sort of know when it’s reached a point where you’re happy that it’ll be fun to use and look good while killing things.
The good news is, I’m very nearly there.
A Host To Be Proud Of
So, what HAVE I gotten done since the last article then? Well, for one thing, I’ve painted most of the models you saw last time, as well as adding some new stuff and painting most of that up too. Lord Darokh’Var is done, and I’m thoroughly proud of him. The gun-toting Heralds of Damnation and the blade-wielding Brotherhood of Sacrifice are both painted and ready for a bit of casual heresy, while the Terminator brethren of the Desecrators are very nearly ready to go.
There have also been some new additions (again, blame Dave Sanders for enabling my heresy). It just didn’t feel right to send Lord ‘Var into battle without a trusted – and twisted – advisor at his side, and so the Terminator-armoured Sorcerer Hakhroth joined the ranks. As an early convert to the warrior lodges and a pupil of the mighty Erebus himself, Hakhroth was only blessed with his dark powers during the Warp odyssey that the Blessed underwent. He is venerated by his brothers for this obvious mark of the Octed’s favour, and Darokh’Var attends his counsel well…
This model is based around the Chaos Space Marine Terminator Lord kit (in its Chaos Sorcerer incarnation) but has had some spare bits added from the Betrayal at Calth Cataphractii Terminators. I also wanted Hakhroth to look wizened and warped by the powers of Chaos, if nothing else to give him a suitably different aesthetic to Darokh’Var, so I used a Flagellant head in order to give him some cadaverous heretic chic.
The other big addition to the force was a conversion that I’ve been pondering for a while. This is my Helbrute, ‘The Enlightener’, and he’s a Frankenstein-esque fusion of the enormously versatile Helbrute kit (seriously, this one sort of snuck past me on release, but it’s absolutely lovely to work with and has about a gazillion options!) and the Contemptor Dreadnought from the Calth box.
Plus a fair bit of green stuff.
And some inventive chopping and cutting.
I wanted something big and monstrous, with a suitably dynamic, aggressive pose, to give my starting force a centrepiece, and this is what I created. In terms of back story, The Enlightener was once the respected hero Narath’Kol, who fought by the side of Lorgar himself and who possessed a remarkable talent for strategic analysis. However, with every jump through the Warp, more corrupting energies seeped into Narath’Kol’s sarcophagus and tainted him.
It wasn’t long before he was gripped by ferocious fits of rage, made worse as the Dreadnought in which he was interred mutated around him and began to digest him like a fleshy morsel. Kol survived, achieving a sort of belligerent symbiosis with the parasitic engine, but the experience stripped his sanity. The Enlightener was born, a being capable of only the most rudimentary thought and driven by psychotic aggression and agony. Now, this ironclad battering ram is kept chained up until war calls. It is then unleashed to storm forwards, blaring the scripture of Lorgar while obliterating everything foolish enough to stand in its path.
With these additions, I’ve got an army that consists of two HQ choices, two Troops, and two Elites. I’ve got to say that – although I’ve a ton of plans for what comes next – that feels like enough to put down on the table and enjoy some satisfying games.
As such, I’ve been spoiling for a fight, and I’ve got a few opponents in the studio who are ready to get stuck in and answer my challenge. Nick Horth’s Tau Empire forces, Si Grant’s noble Space Wolves, Phil Kelly’s…er…yeah alright, so Phil has an army of just about everything, honestly. Point is, all of these guys seem well ready for some tabletop violence, so now that I feel my army is ready for it, I’m going to be taking them all on in the weeks to come. Oh, and of course, at some point, I need to stab some sacrificial daggers into some Ultramarines…
I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on with that one.
As far as the overall story of the Blessed goes, I’ve been fleshing the idea of them out in my mind a little more. For me, that’s another aspect of narrative collecting – even when you’re not rolling dice, every unit you add to your army, every painting or converting choice you make, has the potential to inspire fresh background notions that will enrich your overall experience.
I’ve decided that every champion and character in the army is going to have their own Tome of Lorgar. You’ll notice that every character model has a book chained, mag-locked or lashed to it in one fashion or another. I’m taking pains to paint each one differently as well, as I figure that for each of these characters, their personal copy of the Word of Lorgar is a big deal. Whether bound in black leather, bronze sheets, or living mutant flesh, these forbidden tomes are their masters’ most prized possessions.
This, in turn, has got me thinking about a mission involving breaking into a heavily guarded Inquisitorial complex to ‘liberate’ another such grimoire. That could well be the first game I play…
Looking at the composition of the army as it stands, I’m also thinking that Darokh’Var is no fool. The Blessed have been out of touch as time has hurtled past them, and the galaxy has changed a great deal. Thus, he’s currently leading only an elite force of his most trusted warriors, travelling aboard the tainted Thunderhawk Pyre of Saints and striking at key locations that will help him to gauge his enemies and learn their weaknesses.
Of course, he’s looking for ways to please the Dark Gods at the same time, but while Hakhroth is the full-on fanatic of the warband, Darokh’Var is a shrewd tactician who recognises that he’s re-joining a war so large it defies imagination. He wants to make his blows count, so he’s learning where best to strike.
Again, all of the above has got my mind spinning with ideas for narrative games, so the next couple of months are likely to be filled with further building and painting efforts, coupled with as much gaming as I can squeeze in…
The shrine burned.
Darokh’Var felt it dying around him. The hungry roar of flames was everywhere, the crackle and crack of ancient wood and gnarled bone was broken by the occasional explosive whoosh as another stained-glass window blew out. Tomes and scrolls blazed, their sacred vellum reduced to kindling for the Word Bearers’ fires.
The Imperial soldiery had put up a zealous fight, he had to give them that. But they had been mere mortals, dregs who sang reedy hymns to their corpse god even as his warriors butchered them. Theirs was a deluded faith, and it sickened him.
Heavy footfalls disturbed Darokh’Var’s reverie as Hakhroth joined him. A green glow seeped up from the depths of the Sorcerer’s Terminator plate, mingling with the glint of madness in his eyes.
‘Another glorious desecration,’ said Hakhroth, raising his arms in benediction. ‘Another harvest of souls for the Octed.’
Darokh’Var grunted, casting his eyes around the shrine’s inner sanctum. Choking smoke billowed through the air, but he breathed it as easily as the pure air of Monarchia-that-was. Still, the fires would reach them soon. They needed to be done before then.
‘You do not agree?’ asked Hakhroth.
‘Oh, the Gods have had their due, praise unto them,’ said Darokh’Var. ‘But there was scant glory to be had in such a massacre. Godsfang has yet to taste a single worthy soul.’
‘Then why do we tarry?’ asked Hakhroth. ‘Why attack Palathos at all?’
‘For this,’ said Darokh’Var, his eyes settling upon the obsidian sarcophagus at the heart of the sanctum. He raised Godsfang high, the Daemon-blade pulsing with green light, then brought it down with killing force. The carved stone parted, and the sarcophagus split in two from end to end as though struck by dark lightning.
Within, something glinted in the firelight. Darokh’Var reached in, scornfully rooting through the mummified remains of an Imperial saint to wrap his fingers around his prize. He lifted it from the sundered sarcophagus, a tarnished aquila upon the reverse of which strange sigils had been etched.
‘Here,’ he said, and a wolfish smile spread across his features. ‘Our next sign, sent by Lorgar himself. The location of the Tome of Veiled Revelation. Soon it will be ours.’
Hakhroth made the symbol of the eight-pointed star.
‘A rich prize,’ he said. ‘It will be guarded well. The corpse-worshippers will not give up a relic of its pedigree without a fight.’
‘I hope so,’ said Darokh’Var. ‘We have lurked in the shadows long enough. Now, back to the Pyre of Saints. We will bomb this settlement into ruin then be on our way. It is time to make some worthy sacrifices…’
For those who are wondering, I found my paint scheme for this force with surprising ease. I’m never going to be an award-winning painter, and I’m entirely fine with that; instead, I tend to aim for a strong, unified look to the collection on the tabletop while lavishing enough little details and freehand touches to make sure I’m happy with the finished product. All that tends to inform my colour choices and the way that I apply the Citadel Paint System to my personal hobby.
After pouring through a few editions of the Chaos Space Marine codex and experimenting a little bit on a test model, I settled on the following steps.
1.) The armour gets a basecoat of Khorne Red. Areas of metal get a Leadbelcher base coat, while flesh typically starts out either Doombull or Deathclaw brown depending on the final tone I’m aiming for. I apply Karak Stone to parchment and anything that’s going to be bone, while anything wooden starts out Mournfang Brown.
2.) I then give the entire model a wash of Carroburg Crimson, and allow that to dry completely before moving on to the next step.
3.) Now it’s time for layering and highlighting. The main things here are that the armour gets a thick edge highlight of Khorne Red again, while the metal goes up to Ironbreaker. Parchment, bone and the like gets a couple of stages of layer and highlight as I work up through a blend of Karak Stone and Screaming Skull, and I use a similar method to work up through flesh highlights towards either Cadian Fleshtone or Deathclaw. Any black areas get tidied up with Abaddon Black before receiving an edge highlight of Eshin Grey with a little Abaddon Black mixed in, and any unusual areas of detail get whatever colours I feel like adding to them (while trying to stay within a reasonably limited palette – this helps to keep a unified look to the army). I chose to give my warband one black shoulderguard (partly so it was easier to freehand their warband’s version of the Word Bearer Legion sigil) and black helms, purely to give the army a look that was uniquely ‘mine’.
4.) I used Stormhost Silver or Gehenna’s Gold in a few places as bases for the Citadel Gem Paints, which I cannot get enough of using. I figure these will be used throughout the collection for gems, Chaos blades and other snazzy bits of esoterica.
5.) By comparison, I’ve tried to make my banners, scrolls, tabards and the like look weathered and stained by battlefield grime. I really like what I’d call the ‘crazy cultist’ aesthetic to the Word Bearers and, while that will be more obvious once I get some Cultists in this army, I wanted at least flourishes of it in the core power armoured troops. This includes freehanding what I think of as ‘daemonscript’ onto a number of them. It’s just nonsense sigils, but I hope it gives the impression of blasphemous language from the beyond the veil of the empyrean.
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