Flat Scenery

I was struck with this idea a month or so back, and it’s been gnawing at my mind ever since.  I would’ve shared it sooner but I’ve been having camera issues.

Also, a shameless plug.  My book 14 was named the best sci-fi book of 2012 by Audible.com (although it was also in the top fifteen books for Goodreads Best of 2012 in the horror category).  So, for this week only, my publisher’s knocked the price of the Kindle/ Nook version down to $2.99.  That’s 80% off the paperback price.  Plus, you can get the Kindle and audiobook version together for under ten bucks and do the Whispersync thing.  That's pretty much the classic "deal you can't beat"...

Anyway... Enough shameless shilling.  Back to our regularly scheduled topic...

I’ve always been a big fan of scenery.  As much as I have fun with the game itself, I just think there’s something really appealing about a miniature city or landscape that’s been carefully set out.  I know I sometimes drive my friends nuts as I tweak scenery pieces before the game to make more complete buildings or visible roads and alleys.  Back in the day, I made a few buildings from foam core and cardstock, but no matter what I did they always seemed a little... well, flat.  No matter how many window sills or buttresses I added on, no matter how much textured paint I used, they never had the depth of detail of real buildings.  When Games Workshop came out with their own building sets, it just pushed the bar for built-with-card scenrey that much higher.

Where am I going with this?

If you’ve been following this page or any of the other Paperhammer sites out there, you’ve probably heard the term flats come up a lot over the past year or so.  It’s when people try to build figures from cardstock, and they do it with various degrees of complexity.  Some are just cut-out images, but a few folks try to do a nice job layering their models to give them some depth and thickness.

It occurred to me, though, that there’s a wonderful place where flat figures and scenery overlap.  Those same flats can be used to create bas-relief images on a 40K scale.  They make it ridiculously easy to create rich detail and texture on buildings.

For example...

This rectangle is 3 3/32” tall by 3 1/2” wide.  In terms of the Games Workshop building sets, it’s two panels long and one high.  That’s a nice decorative fresco on a building.  Double that and you can make a mural that could easily be the width of an entire wall.

Helpful Hint – When I cut these rectangles, I’m not including the last “beam” of the panel.  I’ll add one of the loose beams from the actual sets to give this a bit more detail and authenticity.

I used this 3 3/32” by 3 1/2” rectangle as a base.  I ran a 1/2” strip along the base, then doubled that to give it some depth.  I added a 1/4” strip along the bottom edge for some detail, and then did a matching one along the top.  Once these were in place I wrapped this whole thing in wax paper, double-checked all the placements, and then let it dry under a heavy book or three for about half an hour. I don't want this to bend or flex as the glue dries.

Then I cut three strips that were 1/2” by 3 1/2” each.  These went on the flipside of the panel to give it a little more thickness and stability.  They’ll also make for a degree of detail on the inside, since all of the GW stuff is double-sided.  Again, I wrapped them in wax paper and let them dry under a stack of books.  It’s very important that the base be as solid and flat as possible.

Now, if you go here there’s a nice, layered set of flats for pre-Heresy Terminators (I think it’s an Eli Patoroch template, put I’m not sure—it’s in Russian).  That’s a good subject for an Imperial mural.  I could say it’s a Space Marine of legend like Captain Orar or perhaps Konvak Lann (my new favorite 40K badass).  Add enough details and it could even be a Primarch, although personally I’d feel odd about representing a Primarch with such a small mural...

Alas, these templates are a little too detailed and are intended to stretch into three dimensions, so the arms are all side-view.  This means my mural-figure is going to be a bit splayed, but I’m okay with that in a symbolic image like this.  If you’d really prefer the edge-on elements, jump over here and you’ll find some "modern" Terminator flats that use a forward view of the arms.

Helpful Hint—I didn’t use all the detail pieces from this set.  I think if this cardstock mural goes more than three or four layers deep (not counting the base) it’s going to get a bit thick and unwieldy.  Plus there’s more chance the glue will warp things.  So I did a bit of pick-and-choose to get the elements I thought would work best in four layers.  There might be something you like that I didn't use, depending on how detailed you want your bas-relief.

While the base was drying I started cutting out the components.  I used a new blade so it would be as sharp as possible and tried to make the cuts as clean as I could.  Don’t worry about all the fine detail that’s drawn on.  This is a bas-relief, so all we’re really worried about is the outlines and the edges.

Helpful Hint—By doing just one pass on the tabard with my knife (not hard enough to cut through) I made indents for the leather straps.  Easy bit of detail.

And this is getting a bit long so I’ll finish it up in a couple of days.


Painted Stuff

I’ve been having some camera issues which have slowed down posting about my latest project.  But I have been working on stuff.  Honest.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this quick shot of that Necron Cryptek I built a few months back.  I’m still going with Dagon of the Shadowed Matrix for a name.  Figured it’d give a nice sense how he turned out.  I got some basic colors on him – I’ve mentioned many times before that painting is not my strong point—so he could go up against Marc’s Tau. 

Which would’ve gone great if I hadn’t jumped the gun with said Cryptek and split my forces too soon...

Ah, well.  At least Marc took some good photos for the Atomic Warlords page.

Cool scenery project hopefully up by the end of this week, and then (getting back to basics here) I start work on a new paperhammer tank.


Paperhammer Catalog

A quick bonus post for you...

There are some phenomenal Paperhammer templates coming out of Russia.  I’ve mentioned Eli Patoroch here before, but there’s really a couple folks over there who are all doing some plain amazing work.  It really has to be seen to be believed.

Which is why a couple of said folks got together with others in the online community and put together this little catalog.  It’s almost fifty pages of Paperhammer tanks, walkers, titans, and more.  There's even some life-sized bolters and lasguns.  If you still needed any proof of what you can do with this hobby, here it is, assembled (quite literally) by some of the cleverest people out there.

Keep in mind, the catalog is just images.  No templates, so this is more for inspiration than instruction.  However, you can find a big listing of Patoroch’s templates available here.  And there's always lots of stuff at the BWC archives on Yahoo.


One Very Last Dark Vengeance Update

Last one.  Honest.  And it’s kind of a cheat...

I’ve mentioned once or thrice before that the Dark Vengeance kit has really solid, static figures that aren’t going to offer many options for anyone except really serious converters.  For those of us who can’t risk wrecking a model on an idea, the kit just doesn’t have a lot of flex room. The best we can hope for area few minimal tweaks that, if done right, can change the feel of a model.  This idea’s a little more advanced than some of those, but still doesn’t take a lot of work.  I’m also going to be a bit of a hypocrite—I’m suggesting this one and I have no plans of trying it myself.


The Dark Vengeance set comes with five Deathwing Terminators.  They’re absolutely beautiful sculpts.  As many people have noted, though, with all their iconography it’s tough to use them as anything except Dark Angels or a closely-related chapter.  It struck me on a long drive, though, that there is a completely different way for Chaos players to use them.

In the past I’ve tried to scratch-build my own Obliterators, because I’ve never been fond of the financial price vs. points ratio.  And that’s before GW cut them down more and more from the firepower nightmares they’re supposed to be.  Mutilators felt like a cheap (or not-so-cheap) attempt to spin off them that had some really rushed models. 

First things first, for any of these, is the head.  Before assembling the Terminators, take a sharp knife and very carefully cut off the helmets.  On a few of the models (or if you already put them together) you may need to carve them out of the collar/ hood they’re in.  A pair of clippers will help with this.  So will a drill.  It’s a bit troublesome, drilling into beautiful Terminator helmets, I know.  Just try to preserve the collar  if the helmet itself is destroyed, it’s no big deal.  The idea is to create a socket big enough that you can drop in a new head.  Any of the bare chaos heads would be fine.  If you can get your hands on some of the old mutation sprue ones, that’s even better.

Next, scrape off any symbols or iconography.  Shoulderpads, dangling icons, any of that stuff.  Purity seals and Imperial eagles can go, too.  Don’t worry if these aren’t perfect afterwards.  There’s going to be a big cover-up phase.

Helpful Hint--You may want to skip converting the Deathwing sergeant/captain.  With his robes, wings, and all his iconography, he may just be too much work.

If you have them, it’s also tempting to use some of the oversized Demon Prince shoulderpads to bulk up these models even more.  I’ve got a few of the old metal ones, and I’m sure there’s some spares floating around from somebody’s Fantasy Demon Prince.  I’m a little torn on using them, but if you’ve got them... well, it’s an option.

Now, for Obliterators, you need weapons.  Fortunately, that’s something most 40K players have lots of hanging around.  If you don’t have them yourself, Imperial Guard players probably have a bunch of lascannons and flamers, and possibly a few plasma cannons if they’ve bought some of the new Sentinels.  Heck, the Terminators come with power fists and an assault cannon.

Helpful Hint – If you just want a quick, cheap way to make a few big barrels, use the round sections of sprue.  You can drill out the center and voila—instant gun barrel.  Two of them one on top of the other would work as a fine multi-melta with the right paint job.  My scratch-built obliterators up above have three or four of these barrels between them.  I kind of like them because a big generic gun barrel can shoot anything.

To give the Obliterators the best look, I’d cut off the Terminator hands at the wrist and replace them with one of the larger, more prominent weapons.  The lascannon, assault cannon, or multi-melta would work well.  Don’t worry if it’s a messy join—it’ll all get covered.  Then maybe attach a few smaller weapons around that one.  They don’t need to be pressed flat together, so don’t worry about a little space between barrels. 

Mutilator weapons aren’t much harder.  The Terminators come with a chainfist and a power sword already (although I’d probably make the powers word come right out of the wrist, like the Obliterator weapons).  More power swords aren’t hard to find, and if you check around in your Fantasy bits (or those of your friends) you’ll find even more blades you can use.  That’s especially true of axes to be used as power axes.  You can also take leftover chainswords from numerous sets to turn power fists into chainfists.

Helpful Hint – If you really want to add to the sense of bulk for Mutilators, use the chainsword-esque choppas from the Ork sets.  They’re plentiful, big, and brutal-looking, and their “blades” work either as chainaxes if you use them alone or chainfists if you add them to the existing power fist.

Now comes the tricky part.  Get some green stuff and use it on the model.  You want to cover some of the more mechanical joints (the shoulder, hips, waist).  You also want to use it to hide some of the rougher joins or icon removal you had to do.  Just use small bits of green stuff (half a pea at most) and take your time working it into joints and spreading it around.  It should also be used near the weapons.  It’ll help make the joins more solid and add to that look of twisted skin and muscle the Obliterators and Mutilators both use.

Helpful Hint – If you’ve ever wanted to try working with green stuff, but you’ve been a bit nervous, this is a perfect project to try it on.  Things like distorted muscle and flesh are very forgiving, because once they’re painted they tend to always look... well, distorted and mutilated.  You may remember when I made the Plague Tower and also the Plaguereaper, I used a similar, simple technique on the pus cannon for each of them.

You can also make simple tubes and cables just by rolling a small piece of green stuff into a snake and cutting off the pointed tips.  I did something similar making little tentacles for the base of my revamped Hive Tyrant.

And, having written all this out, I’m tempted to try it with one or two of my Black Reach terminators that never found a home...


Yet Another Dark Vengeance Update

Just wanted to share these real quick...

I’ve been holding off assembling the Hellbrute for two reasons.  One was that I wanted to actually read the codex first and see if there were any noteworthy changes or options I wanted to make as far as the model went.  Two is that I wanted to read the fluff behind it and see which of my Chaos armies it’d best fit into... which could also result in changes.

Overall, though, it struck me that the Hellbrute is just a renamed dreadnaught.  Which feels like a bit of a cheat, but hopefully it means Chaos is finally going to get a new dreadnaught model after just... oh, sixteen years or so.

Anyway, I decided to make two quick changes to the Dark Vengeance Hellbrute.  Like a lot of models in this set, it’s built into a very static pose and there’s not a lot of places to alter it.  One place you can, though, is the head at the center of the model.

I’d decided this particular Hellbrute was going to join my Thousand Sons army, so it seemed very out of character to have an exposed head.  I dug around and found one of the very old Chaos Warrior helmets from the Fantasy line (back when all those models were a bit more hunched and cartoonish).  Once the tall spike was cut off its top, it had a surprisingly solid resemblance to a Thousand Sons helmet.

The big trick, though?  I didn’t gouge out the Hellbrute’s face, I just flipped it around.  By turning that face plate front to back, it gave me a nice little cradle to set the helmet in. I also discovered if I rotated it 90 degrees the edges fit well against the inside shapes of the “sarcophagus.”

The other little tweak I made was the base.  I had a spare dreadnaught base—the one with all the rocky terrain and shell casings—and decided to see if the Hellbrute would fit on that.  Turns out he does once you snip off the support pegs.  The two low quadrants are pretty much level.

Helpful Hint – You’ll need to clip the inside corners of the scenery-slab under the Hellbrute’s left foot to make this work.  Not much, just maybe an eighth of an inch.  There’s also a shell casing or two that can be trimmed off the base to get a good fit.

Voila.  Cheap and easy conversion to make my Hellbrute stand out.

Here’s another one.  Some of you probably caught this already, but Chaos has a bonus HQ model hidden in the Dark Vengeance set.  Let’s take a look at that Chosen champion, Draznicht...

He’s dressed in pretty elaborate robes and capes.  He’s got a power mace.  His helmet is a stylized skull that’s grown some horns somewhere along the way.  The “vents” of his backpack look like a censer.

He’s a Dark Apostle.  You don’t even need to convert him.  He’d work absolutely fine as is.  However, if you wanted to make two simple tweaks...

I filed down the top of his backpack and gave him one of the chaos star icons from the basic Chaos Marine set.  Someone you know who plays Chaos has a pile of them, I guarantee it (assuming you don’t already).  I also gave him a little banner from one of the old Plague Monk sets (I think that’s what they’re called—it’s a fantasy Skaven thing).  This is a great little piece I grab whenever I find one, and I use it all the time as an additional frilly-prayer piece.  It looks great on Relictors, Grey Knights, and random Word Bearers.  And now on Dark Apostles, too.

And there you have it.  Dark Apostle Keven of the Alpha Legion, ready to lead his cultist army to...  Well, to their deaths, probably.  That’s what generally happens to cultists, after all.

And, yes, Keven is a subtle reference to The Cabin In The Woods


Big Slabs o' Meat Update

I just thought I’d toss up some shots of how the Grotesques ended up looking with a little paint on them.  Here they are with just two or three colors each.  Please keep in mind, I’ve said many, many times here that painting is not by strongest suit (in fact, I'd ask you to remind yourself of that quite often on these pages).  I’m also using up the last of my old paints, so feel free to grab the Citadel conversion chart if you want to follow along...

First, though, I wanted to show off this one last guy (who's still waiting on a perfect head).  I mentioned that I was going to go with two squads of four most of the time.  This is my other Aberration, the one who’ll probably end up with my ancient haemonuclous, Pyn (last week’s guy with the scissorhand will be with Rakarth most of the time).  Like all the Grotesques, he got a pile of spare vials and cylinders, and like the other Aberration he got one of the spare Talos racks to help mark him out.

I wanted to give him a venom blade to go with his close combat weapon.  It’s a cheap way to give an Aberration a little more punch in close combat.  I tried a few different things (including the blades off old Dark Eldar rifles) before I settled on these.  They’re some of the spare fins from the new Raider sets.  In this guy’s hands, they look like curving knives, which is perfect.  The pommel of each knife is actually an old Space Marine dagger.  I cut off the hilt, then cut the blade so its back sat against the guard.

So, as to painting... I primed the Grotesques black and then based their skin with Fortress Grey.  The next step will be a drybrush with Pallid Flesh and a very light brush of Skull White.  The loincloths will go red to tie them in with the rest of my army (I went with the Obsidian Rose Kabal color scheme).  Yeah, it's not much so far, but I just wanted to give a sense of how these guys would look with some paint on them.  

It’s worth noting that their pants are essentially just painted on.  The uneven texture of the Rat Ogres gives the appearance of ragged material, and once there’s a dark gray drybrush on some of the “bandages” at the ankles and thighs that’ll really sell it.  A wash of Nuln Oil should give them a semi-glossy, leathery appearance.

Hopefully next time these guys are seen, they’ll be doing awful things to Marc’s Orks.

By the way... I’ve lucked into a very nice contract with the Crown Publishing Group, but it does mean I’m going to be very busy for the next couple of months.  I’d hoped to do a paperhammer Destroyer Tank Hunter this month and maybe start a Warhound before the end of the year.  Alas, the Warhound’s definitely not going to happen now, and I might not get to the tank until the end of the year... and someone just tempted me with a new Thunderbolt template.  But I’m going to try to keep offering all my cheapskate ideas and tips on a semi-regular basis.


Big Slabs of Meat

So let’s talk about cheap meat.  Scratch-built Grotesques.

I like the whole Karnival of Pain idea.  It might not be a guaranteed win, but it is guaranteed to freak out my opponents at least once or thrice a game.  And in the group I play with we tend to value those dramatic moments and a well-themed army a little more than just a sledgehammer win (which can also be fun, granted).  If sixth edition is anything to go by, Games Workshop seems to value them, too.

Right up front, these are going to be cheap, not free.  I figure if I can make a Grotesque for one-half or one-third the price of the GW model, that’s fantastic.  That means I can make a viable squad for the price of one or two Finecast figures.

As the base for all these guys I used the plastic Rat Ogres that come with the Fantasy Isle of Blood set.  You can usually find them online for about eight bucks apiece at The WarStore’s Battlewagon Bitz, eBay, or any number of other places.  Right off the bat, that’s one-third the price of an actual Grotesque model.  These figs are already top-heavy with a lot of stitched-together muscles and some tubes, so they’re a great model to start with for Grotesques.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s another way I saved some money on this.  I got two Pain Engines for my birthday last year.  Like the Dark Eldar Kabalites, there are tons of extra bits on these sprues.  I ended up with lots of leftovers, almost all of which are the perfect size for Grotesques.  If you don’t have these already, check your local bitz bins, other friends who play Dark Eldar, or some of the places I just mentioned up above.

I ended up getting eight of the Rat Ogres.  I plan on splitting them into two squads of four, one of which will usually be Rakarth’s chosen.  I’m going to go over each pair of them so each set builds on the last one and gets a little more modified. 

This first pair is pretty much just a straight head swap.  Instead of the Rat Ogre head, I used some of the spare helmets from the Talos set.  It’s a little bit smaller than the Ogre head, which makes the body look even larger and more swollen in comparison, and they create an immediate link to "real" Dark Eldar models.  On the model with both arms down, it glues on with no problem.  On the model with one arm up, I used a tiny bit of green stuff (about half a pea) to fill in the little hole and let me straighten the head out a bit.  The only other thing I did was snip off the tail (which got used on the Khymera I built a while back) 

You could leave it like that and this is a fine Grotesque, but I decided to add on a few small details to push it just a bit more toward the Dark Eldar.  I had a bunch of little vials and injectors left from the Talos set.  Each Grotesque got one or two of those.  The little armor plate at the waist is a Fantasy Lizardman shoulder pad.  I found a ton of them in my local Bitz Bin for about a buck.  I added one to the wrists, too.

On the next pair, like any good haemonculous, I swapped and cut a bit more.  These guys use the big swords from the Ogre Bulls sprue—again, found in the bitz bin.  It's just a straight hand swap.  The wrist difference gets hidden by the Talos bracer. 

I also snipped off that built-in blade on the left arm and replaced it with a spare rending claw from a Tyranid Warrior (again, the bitz bins).  There are a few little spurs/ fins on the side of the claw that can come off it.  Once it’s flesh-colored, it should blend right in.

The Rat Ogre with its arm up also has a good-sized chunk of warpstone imbedded in his/ her/ its shoulder.  I debated what to do with that for a while and, in the end, decided to clip it off.  Once I scraped down the edges with my knife it actually looked a lot like a mess of big scars... which is just fine, as far as I'm concerned.

The third set gets even more changes.  I traded out the built-in blade for a liquefier gun from the Talos set.  This looks scary-great, I know (it freaks me out, too) but this was actually a very easy and simple conversion.  The Talos has a twin linked liquefier, so I only need half of it.  I used the one with the shorter hose.  I filed the butt/ back of the gun flat and it sat right up against the Grotesque’s wrist.  By sheer luck, the hose curves right down to his abdomen, as if the liquefier is sucking material out of his gut.  Which it’s supposed to be so... bonus.  

The scissorhand on the Aberration is actually a collection of Catachan swords and knives.  I cut off the hilts and glued them into a fan that looked a bit hand-ish.  Using a smaller blade for the thumb and reversing direction on it helps convey that look, too.  A Kroot shoulderpad as a central hub finished it off.  It gives the whole thing a very Edward Scissorhands sort of look, which is just... well, perfect.  He got the vial-covered Talos bracer to help hide the wrist join.  His gas-mask like helmet is the Talos helmet with the hoses on either side.  I just cut the hoses off and trimmed it down to the connectors.  It makes him stand out a bit more.  It makes me think of calling him Bane, too.

I also gave him one of the extended spines from the Talos.  It helps mark the Aberration as the character in the squad, and maybe the focus of just a little too much haemonculous attention.  I had to trim the middle post of the piece just a bit, and then I drilled holes for each of them.  For the most part, though, the curve on the spine-piece matches the curve of the Rat Ogre's back fairly well.  

Even if you had to buy all these online as bits, I think the average price for these guys is only about ten bucks.  Even less if you get the bits from your own collection or barter with friends.  So, they’re about 40% the price of the GW ones. 

Which is pretty cheap.


Landing/ Teleport Pad

I’ve mentioned before that my girlfriend has a large tract of land down at our local community garden.  When we go shopping at the 99 Cent Store, she indulges my quests for cheap scenery and I help with some of the garden stuff she looks at.  Every now and then they overlap.  Like when I found a bunch of three-inch plastic army men (five to a pack) and decided we needed some to protect the garden.  Well, once I’d made a few small conversions, anyway...

And then there was this time, when I found something right there in the garden section while she was looking at herbs.  This is a plastic saucer to go under flowerpots so they don’t drip when you water them.  They come in a couple of sizes.  This one’s the 10”, but there was also a two-pack of 8” ones and a three pack of 6” saucers.  My brain started working with these immediately and I ended up grabbing the largest one.  I also grabbed a tube of “Fix-All Adhesive” glue because it works on plastic and rubber.  So this project is going to cost all of two dollars.

I flipped the saucer over, peeled the label off the bottom, and cleaned it.  I didn’t want any little pills of paper left here, so I actually put this in the sink and used some soap and water on it. 

Once it was dry, I put a few threads of regular super glue in the indents from that large “10” at the center.  Arguably, you could keep it as extra detail, but I wanted a large, flat center on my landing pad.  Once that dried I used a few last drops to fill in low spaces and gaps.

Helpful Hint – It’s tempting to use the super-cheap glue I just bought, but it’s too thick.  It’s never going to settle down and smooth out, and I’d just end up with little wrinkles and peaks in the center.

I cut a bunch of card strips at 1 1/8” x 8 3/4” (your own measurements may vary depending on your saucer) and folded them into consummate V’s.  I set these down inside the saucer and glued them with the adhesive  This was the most time consuming part of this project.  The glue needs three hours to set and a day to cure completely.  So, I glued them and set it aside. It’s a long time, but it makes the whole thing rock solid.  I can actually lean on it and it will hold up my weight.

Another Helpful Hint – While the V’s were drying, I put a piece of paper across the top of them and set a book on top of it.  If one or two of these curl up, the landing pad will never sit flat, so it’s important to keep them all in position.

At this point, this piece is effectively done.  I primed it black and gave it a very light drybrush with some Boltgun Metal paint (Leadbelcher for those of you who’ve already moved on to the newer paint colors).

There’s a bunch of ridges and valleys on this thing that make for fantastic detail.  It’d be very easy to paint concentric circles, or a few of the small “buttons” as lights.   I used a yellow base and did white over that to make it look like a bright light.  It's big enough that I could clean up any messiness with a black magic marker. You could also extend the lined all the way to the center to make it look more like a cross-hairs target for landing, or use all eight of the radiating lines in bright red to give it a Chaos feel.  You could even do the little ridges/ tubes on the outer ring in a glowing/ electrical color scheme and say they’re force shield projectors, allowing you to use it as a raised/unfurled Skyshield.

Alternately, with a slightly different color scheme and detail-pattern, this would make a fine teleport pad.  You could probably go down to the 8” saucer and still fit a full squad of Terminators there.  Paint it black and green, focusing on the buttons more, and it could make a very passable Necron array of... well, probably some kind of death.  Necrons are big on that.

All for just two bucks.


Dark Vengeance Update

Hey, just wanted to mention how this conversion attempt went off and show how I did it.

So, as I mentioned before, I think a lot of the figures in the Dark Vengeance set are really gorgeous.  However, their excessive detail and solid, closed-off poses make it very difficult for anyone except very experienced modelers to do a lot with them.

One exception to this is Veteran Sergeant Raphael  He’s got both arms out away from his torso.  He’s also one of the rare models in this set who has his head as a distinct piece.  Raphael comes with his right arm and head attached by a thin tube.  So I decided to see if I could turn him into a passable Fallen Angel sergeant/ aspiring champion.

I dry-assembled his torso without the head-arm piece and discovered Raphael has a standard head socket.  So all I needed to do was cut the head off right where it joins the tube and I’d be able to put on any head I wanted in any direction I wanted. 

I went with one of the retro-looking Chaos heads (I think it’s a modified Mk 5  helmet, but I’m sure opinions vary).  This worked in a couple different ways.  It’s “historically” correct for what a Fallen Angel would probably be wearing.  It’s a visual link to the studded greaves and powerfists of the terminators.  It also gives the implication of direct a tie to Chaos, or at least to the Heresy.
Helpful Hint— Most of you probably know this, but for the newer hobbyists, turning the head can completely change the dynamic of a model.  I turned this guy’s head away from the sword and toward the pistol.  Now he’s not gesturing, he looks more like he’s poised to leap into action.

The hand swap was another easy one.  One cut and I traded the modern plasma pistol for one of the retro Berserker ones.  The grip looks a bit odd on this pistol, but I’ve always loved all the tubing along the length of it.  While I had the berserker bits handy, I also added a holster on the figure’s hip.

As a last touch, I took my hobby knife to his chapter logo.  I made two thin gouges—trying to avoid the wings—and wedged them together.  One cut came from slightly above, one from slightly below.  I want the cut to be distinct, but if it looks a bit rough, that’s okay, too.  Now all my Fallen Angels wear a broken sword on their shoulder pad.

And there you have it—Aspiring Champion Beleth of the Fallen.


A Few Thoughts on Dark Vengeance...

I don’t usually do any straight reviews or comments on Games Workshop projects, but the starter set is such an insane bargain I thought it was worth a quick mention.  After all, being cheap is what this whole blog’s about...

On the Dark Angels side you’re getting two Headquarters units (figure they’re probably averaging $20 each), a tactical squad ($35), a Terminator squad ($50), and a bike squad ($35).  So with just this one side of the equation, this box set saves you about sixty bucks.  If you went for the deluxe set with the chaplain, that’s another $20 fig for just ten dollars more--$70 dollars off individual prices.

Coming at it from the Chaos angle, there’s a headquarters, we’ll call the Chosen another tactical squad (just for easy reference), the cultists (if they’re priced like Guardsmen, there’s $30) and the Hellbrute.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the Hellbrute would be a dreadnaught- or flier-sized kit with all the options, so there’s about $46.  Around one hundred thirty dollars altogether. 

So no matter which way you look at it, there’s a fair argument that you’re getting one army at 2/3 price and another one for free.  Plus the free rulebook.  And dice.  And templates.  Really, this is close to $350 dollars worth of stuff you’re getting for just under a hundred bucks.

That’s a pretty amazing deal.


Many folks have commented that Dark Vengeance is an oddly unbalanced set.  A bunch of cultists vs. Space Marines and Terminators?  I’d point out that it’s also unbalanced towards Headquarters units.  If you bought the deluxe version, you’ve already got more Dark Angels HQ units than you can use in a regular game (barring some interesting Force Organization amendments in the upcoming Dark Angels codex).  Buying two sets isn’t going to help this problem.  You’ll just end up with a lot of models to sell on eBay.

Not to mention the fact that these are firmly Dark Angels models (or arguably a close successor chapter).  With all the iconography, there isn’t a lot of flexibility unless you want to do a ton of remodeling... probably enough that it won’t be worth the savings in the long run.  Dark Vengeance doesn’t just lock you into an army, it locks you into a very, very specific subset of that army.  It is to the overall gaming experience what the snap-together models are too customization.

UPDATE: The head and hand swap
were pretty easy on this model.
I'll put details in another post.
Speaking of which, these models are pretty solid.  There’s not going to be a lot of customization without a lot of serious work.  At best, you might get a few hand/weapon swaps.  I think it may be possible to do a head swap on Veteran Sergeant Raphael (we’ll find out for sure later this week).  If you have some accepting friends, you could paint all the Terminators silver, make their various “wings” gold, and call them Grey Knights, but you’d still need to figure out some close combat options...

In my own, they’re going to be added to my one squad of Fallen Angels that I made many years back (all metal models in robes).  With these models I’ve essentially got a small army of these black-armored heretics to use as an allied force for Chaos games.  And I know my friend Marcus—a long, long-time Dark Angels player--will appreciate getting to fight against an assembled host of the Fallen.
So, if you like Chaos and/ or Dark Angels, this set’s a fantastic bargain.  Just be aware there isn’t much else you can use it for.


Thunderbolt Fighter, Part VI

Well, I have to be honest.  I’m done working on the Thunderbolts.  I’m very sorry for those of you who’ve been following along.  Please let me explain why...

When we last left off, I’d built the engine components and was getting ready to install them in the secondary fuselage.  But then I had a realization.  There’s nowhere for this component to attach to the main fuselage.  There’s just the card-thin edges of the engine housings and that’s it. 

I needed to add a tab inside the housing before installing the engine.  So I cut a piece of card 1 1/2” square and scored it about halfway through.  Then I  bevelled the sides a bit, and glued it to the bottom of the engine housing.  This gave me a tab to connect the fuselages (fuselagi?).  I did this for each engine on all three planes.

And this is where my frustration peaked.

I have to be honest, I got frustrated a lot with this template.  Anyone who’s been following this geeky blog for a while knows that I don’t mind tweaking a model.  In some instances, I’ve openly changed things and/ or adapted to cover gaps in the design.

This Thunderbolt just had a few too many design gaps, though, and it just got more and more annoying as I had to figure out how to make things work that weren’t explained in the template.  How to make the rear engines sit in the fuselage.  How to fill in all the gaps around the canopy.  How to attach the canopy.  How to attach the wings to the secondary fuselage.  How to attach the secondary fuselage to the main one.  Also, because the main fuselage is just one large, elaborate piece, it’s very difficult to make it all line up straight.  All three Thunderbolts ended up crooked in slightly different directions.

I’ve often praised Jeff Vaughn for the simplicity of his designs, but I think this is one case where it’s just too simple.  There needs to be more to this.  Some cross-pieces and sections that lock together to form much more solid shapes rather than leaving gaps that allow for far too much shifting and bending in the assembled model.

Part of me wants to finish this with lascannons like the ones I built for the Baneblade and autocannons based off that design.  But I already know I’m not going to like the end result.  That frustration’s just been building and building and it’s making me dread working on this.  I don’t want to leave anyone hanging, but--at the same time—the whole idea of this is that it’s supposed to be fun.  At this point I've spent six weeks working on a three page template.  That's not fun.

I’m just going to have to build something else to take out Matt’s Warlord Titan (which, rumor has it, is getting some upgrades).

A few last words to conclude...

If you’ve got the patience for it, and you’ve got a lot of  experience with Paperhammer and scratch-building,  I still think it’s possible to make a decent Thunderbolt from this template.  If you’re aware of all these issues from the start.  For everyone else, though, I think it’s just going to end up as a pile of crumpled cardboard in the corner.

Give me a couple of days and I’m going to show you a really cool, fast-and-cheap landing pad (or teleport pad, depending on your preference).  And then some super-cheap buildings.  And then some relatively cheap Grotesques.


Helpful Hint

Hey, real quick.  It’s that time of year again.  When stores put away all their summer goods and start laying out their seasonal aisles for...


Which means if you go hit your local discount store right now, you’ll find tons of stuff to add onto larger projects or use for scenery.  Last year I found a great plastic skull for a dollar that became a wonderful set piece my lovely lady and I use all the time.  There are skull shot glasses that can make great columns or further scenery pieces. A few creepy cameo necklaces were hung on almost two feet of 40K scale chain.

I even saw a few necklaces that had tiny skulls and bones instead of beads—easily a hundred of them.  For three or four bucks, you could cover a one-foot square tile with bones and skulls.  That’s a Khornate demon world or maybe the Bone Middens of Commoragh.

I’ve got some super-cheap scenery coming up in the next month or so, but I thought I’d give everyone the heads up now.  Go check it out.


Thunderbolt Fighter, Part V

Okay, engines, canopy, tail, and wings.

As a last step before I launched into the big assembly, I added a crosspiece to the canopy in the back, right under the knot of my added  bow tie.  It’s about 7/8" across—the same width as the front of the canopy—and hopefully it’ll make the whole piece a bit more solid.  There are two small tabs on it as well.  None of it has to be really precise or esthetically pleasing as this is all interior/ structural stuff.  As long as it does the job, it’s good.

This Is Important – Okay y’know that tab at the front of the canopy?  The one I decorated with small card discs?  Because of the pieces I had to add to fill the gaps in the cockpit, this tab is too wide to fit now.  Rather than spreading out, its sides need to run straight down.  Depending on how you placed things, it could even angle in a bit.

I coated my little interior bracket with glue, and the inside edges of the fuselage as well.  The rear engine slid in, and I worked it into place by reaching through the cockpit and keeping one finger inside the engine itself.  It took a bit of wiggling but I got it in place.  Then I held the whole thing solid for a minute, letting the glue dry as much as possible.

As soon as I was sure the engine wasn’t going to slide or pop out of position, I grabbed the canopy.  I folded the front tab up under the canopy and then glued the underside (the one I didn’t decorate).  I also glued

In a perfect world the canopy should’ve fit down between those two gap-filling pieces.  Alas, this is not a perfect world, or a perfect template.  So the canopy sits a little high, which means it has to sit a bit more forward (so the tab stays flush against the front of the cockpit).

I slid a pencil through the top of the canopy to press the tab against the front of the cockpit.  I also kept checking the postion from different angles to make sure the canopy stayed lined up.  If it’s in the right position, there should be a thin gap between the edges of the canopy and that section of the tail behind it (yes, this gap’s supposed to be there).

So all that’s done.  Finally.

Next I cut out all the fins and braces.  Like the wings, the big question was how to get these solid on the fuselage.  Because of the braces, I couldn’t do tabs this time. What I decided on was lengths of trim to widen the fins and tail a bit.

I cut a 1/4” strip and ran it along both sides of the tail along the base, cut to shape on the front edge.  Then I did the same thing on the fins, top and bottom.  To make sure these stayed straight, I wrapped them in wax paper and let them dry under a few copies of 14 (how’s that for a shameless plug?).

Helpful Hint – If you just give it a minute to dry, the base of the tail is wide enough at three layers thick that it will stand very well on the brace.

Another Helpful Hint – It’s tough to get a perfectly straight tail because all of these fuselages are a bit warped one way or another.  Rather than measure it, I eyeballed the tail from a few different angles.  It’s more important that it looks right than it is right, if that makes sense.

I did the same on the fins.  Keep in mind these run off the back edge, so be careful with the glue.  Again, I eyeballed the level.  Another few minutes and these were done.

As a final bit of detail there, I added a few purity seals.  With the high risk being a fighter pilot involves, it’s not too hard to believe the Ecclesiasty would bless those brave souls.  And it’s really easy to believe the Mechanicus would bless their flying machines a hundred times over.  I just put a couple on the two basic squaddies, but our fighter ace got a quartet of them.  Placed carefully, they hide some flaws and also help sell movement.

This made the main fuselage pretty much complete (except for the lascannons in the nose).  Now it was time to move onto the secondary fuselage.  As before, I decided to do a bit of quick detail first.

Looking at the Forge World model, there are two circles on either side of the secondary fuselage which look suspiciously like gas tanks.  I made two 1/4” circles with my hole punch and added those on. 

There’s also a scoop on top of this section, right in front of the canopy.  I didn’t want to build the whole scoop, but I still wanted the idea of it.  I cut a piece of card 1” by 3/8” and centered in that panel of the fuselage.

Now for the engines.  The next big element here are the side engines.  On each one, one section’s going to fit inside the secondary fuselage and extend just a bit out the front.  The other section goes inside the first one and extends back past the cockpit.  I need to scratchbuild them, but it’s not like I haven’t done it a few times (LINK) here before.  The real challenge is making them match the exact size of the holes in the secondary fuselage.

For each engine, I cut a piece of card 3 3/8” x 2”.  This got scored at 3/8” wide x 2” long sections.  The last piece, as usual, is the tab, and I trimmed the edges on it a bit.  We’ll call this piece the front.

This piece turned out to be a hair too big, though.  Just enough that it wouldn’t fit without significant reshaping of the hole or bending of the cylinder.  After careful re-measurement, it turns out this piece actually needs to have sides that are 11/32” wide for the cylinder to fit.  And I can be honest--I was not looking forward to making eight measurements and cuts on that scale for six different engine components.

However, I realized if I just glued the 3/8” cylinder one panel smaller—making a seven-sided cylinder with a tab two panels long—it would fit fairly well.  I wrestled with this decision for a bit. I knew I was giving up some smoothness in that circle to keep from doing the extra, eye-stressing work.  In the end, I decided to make the seven-panel cylinder work, but either should fit if you choose to go with the finer detail.

Next was the inner section.  For each one, I cut a piece of card 2 1/4” x 4”.  This got scored into 1/4” wide x 4” long strips.  The last piece, as usual, is the tab, and I trimmed the edges on it a bit.  Because of their length, these were a bit more work to glue together.  I pushed my clothespins in as far as they'd go, then worked them out to make sure the seal was still tight at the ends.

Now that the front pieces were dry, I worked on them a little more.  I cut a few strips of card 1/4” wide and about 2 13/16” long.  I wrapped them tight around my hobby knife (you could also use a large marker or round pencil or something like that) so they got a good curve to them.  Then I wrapped one around the cylinder and trimmed it (if needed) to make a flush join between the ends.  The seam should be on the underside of the engine, if the cylinder looks better from one angle than another.
I cut one strip to fit just inside the cylinder, too.  That’ll give the sense of a thick, heavy case around the engine and help add to the illusion that it’s rounded.  If you decide to do this, make sure the seam where the strip comes together is towards the top of the cylinder.  This strip was 1/4” x 2 3/8”, trimming if needed.

And that’s a lot for now.  Next week, the secondary fuselage gets added and I build some weapons.