30K: Iteration two

Continuing with my (re)discovery of the Horus Heresy I spent the weekend adding a bit more flesh to the bones of my 30K collection plans. A few legions have now started to bubble to the top as I’ve been considering and discarding those that don’t appeal to me as much from either a gaming or a painting perspective. The XIII Legion “Ultramarines” obviously I’ve already alluded to in my previous post and having the seeds of a force already done in the form of a handful of mixed-mark tactical, plus appropriate Rhino’s and Land Raiders they can be considered the first legion I’ll do for gaming. For one the Ultramarines have the benefit of already being featured in the core Forgeworld rulebook(s), so all I really need to do is drop in a copy of Betrayal at Calth and that’s a good starting force sorted. Rather fortuitous then I managed to score a copy for a fantastic price at Incom Gaming courtesy of the guys from the Geno Five-Two podcast. Check out their show to find out more. It’s probably only fair to say I also pre-ordered Burning of Prospero while I was there  which brings me nicely onto the subject of this weekends hobby shenanigans; the Vlka Fenryka (Wolves of Fenris) or sixth Legion. In 40K the Space Wolves were the first army I ever painted to completion, for the ’99 UK GT. Even since the days of Adeptus Titanicus and Space Marine I’ve loved the background, colours, iconography and fighting style of grimdarks very own space ‘Vikings’. They are a force I’ve painted for Epic, Battlefleet Gothic, in 40K (twice!) and have been itching to give them a third go for quite literally years, just never having found a palette or aesthetic for them I really liked.

In the books of the Horus Heresy the Vlka Fenryka as they refer to themselves are one of the most enigmatic of Legions and the events that lead up to their brutal sanctioning of the Thousand Sons on Prospero is one of the most gripping and tragic tales in the entire saga. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t yet read either “A Thousand Sons” by Graham McNeill or “Prospero Burns” by Dan Abnett but will simply recommend both reads as the two novels span the same events from alternate perspectives. Highly recommended.

Although Burning of Prospero (the boxed game) is out at the end of the week and introduces MkIII plastics for the aformentioned protagonists or Legion of choice, what I will wait for is Forgeworld to release Book VII (Inferno) in their Horus Heresy campaign series as that will define all of the sixth Legion’s special rules and units proper before cranking out my own forces. In the meantime however I’ve thrown together a Mark VI Corvus to at least play around with the palette and experiment a bit with the colours. The GW Studio scheme for the 40K Wolves leans distinctly into the blue end of the palette as opposed to the grey, which is fine for the more comic book Wolfy-McWolf appearance they tend to have (which I happen to like by the way!). 30K however is a bit more ‘considered’, they haven’t lost their Primarch yet and the backstory far better suits the hack and slash of their harsh Fenrisian upbringing. Cold icy colours mixed with hot blood-sticky red are the go to choice for me. Although I love some of the artwork that portrays the Vlka Fenryka with a flat slate grey armour it leaves nowhere to go if you want to add weathering, especially if a really deep artic sea-green is pulled in like Forgeworld has done with Russ. Russ is special, his armour is special and for the rank and file I wanted to start with a lighter desaturated grey that retains some of the cold blue/green but with less intensity then the 40K palette has. It also has to be a scheme that can be quickly replicated across a decent number of troops as we are talking about a Legion after all so efficiency and simplicity are important requirements.

I purposefully held back on the number of add-ons restricting the figure to a simple Wolf Pelt and running wolf emboss on the chest piece. The metal shoulder pad is from a bygone era which fortuitously I had in the bitz box. I have a few of them, unfortunately all for Mark IV or VI which is a bit of a bugger considering I’ll do most of the Legion in Iron armour. Still, that’s what Forgeworld is for. Starting with black primer I airbrushed two thin layers of 50/50 Eshin Grey with Dark Reaper to establish a base.

Sticking with the airbrush I layered over the mix above with a little Russ Grey added to create volume. Finally a 50/50 mix of Russ Grey and Vallejo Game Air Stonewall Grey was airbrushed onto upper surfaces to provide a highlight.

Switching to the brush I added an edge highlight to the armour using the final mix above before blocking out basic details as  follows:

  • Gold Base – Vallejo Japanese Uniform
  • Gold topcoat – Vallejo Game Air Polished Gold
  • Legion icon – Khorne Red
  • Wolf Pelt – Vallejo Model Colour Deck Tan + Eshin Grey followed by wash of Devlan Mud
  •  Pistol and backpack parts – Boltgun metal

At this stage everything is still flat so to boost the volume and tones I applied a glaze to the deepest shadows in the armour and gave particular attention to the Power Fist, fingers and pistol casing. The glaze was a thin mix of Dark Reaper with the tiniest spot of black to create a green/grey discord colour. A final glaze of (50/50)/50 Guilliman Blue/Waywatcher Green cut with equal amount of medium gave the gun and Power Fist a further tonal shift. In retrospect this was not enough and I think the armour could have stood a few more layers to intensify. I’ll adjust this when I come to do the Legion proper. The final base step was to paint the remaining details like helmet eye lenses, edge highlight the pistol casing in Vallejo Cold Grey and re-highlight sections of the Wolf Pelt in Deck Tan to give the layers volume.

The steps above may seem a lot of effort but really they aren’t as most of the heavy lifting is done with the airbrush which suits doing 3-5 at a time. The rest is quick block painting of small details or glazes which again suits a production line approach.

30k-vil-test-11Something I should have mentioned at the start is the palette strip. I always keep a record of what colours I use simply because I’ve a terrible memory and have a habit of going off script anyway. Because I wanted to match a certain art style with the Fenryka I put together a test strip to see how the colours would interact next to each other like a type of mood board. I also completed the base at this time as well. The odd-looking tool is a pair of tweezers which is taped shut over a small scrap of blister foam. I use this for applying any chipping which brings me nicely onto the final step; weathering.

Acrylic washes are great for adding shadow and volume over small areas, but you lose nearly all measure of control over the final appearance. I wanted to simultaneously re-profile the armour, add some grime and pull some warmth back into the grey to kill the cold blue. For this I used just one colour; Windsor & Newton Burned Umber oil paint mixed with the tiniest brush tip of Lamp Black. This was thinned to the consistency of a wash with mineral spirit and applied to all of the armour joints. Important: mineral spirit will damage the work underneath so it’s critical before you apply any oil-based effects you first of all protect the miniature with a good coat of gloss varnish. In this instance I gave the mini a couple of light coats of Klear first. The great property of oil paint is it has a very long curing time and can be re-worked long after you think it has completely dried. This means oil streaks can be blended back, diffused or pulled into new location with a clean brush barely damp with mineral spirit. Once everything was where I wanted it I fixed the mini to it’s base and gave the entire figure a finishing coat of Army Painter anti-shine to seal all the effects in.

If this was the army proper I would also probably airbrush some dust and dirt around the lower leg, but this achieved what I wanted in it has given me a good idea what I want my VI Legion to look like overall. I’m happy with that, now back to Ultramar and break into that lovely Calth box!

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