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.


  1. Great stuff. I remember articles in White Dwarf back in the day -- before they had a model for everything -- in which they'd scratch-build all sorts of models. The Chaos warband and Genestealer cult in #135 have always been favourites.

  2. Thanks, Kelvin. Y'know, I was just talking with someone about all those old scratch-build articles the other day. Remember when Black Gobbo would show big kit mash-ups ("Here's how to make a Destroyer Tank Hunter out of a Leman Russ and a Basilisk...") ?

    I'm hoping to finish these guys up and then show them off with a bit of paint on them, and then I just had one another Dark Eldar related idea I might try...