Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tutorial: Breathing Life Into Your Army

Making models and fighting battles is all well and good, but for many hobbyists (such as myself), this just isn't enough. We not only want our models to roll lots of sixes, but we want to to show battle scars, have a life, something that makes our little models larger than life.

Unfortunately, whether we hit a block or just get stuck for ideas, our little bog standard models is all we have, and it happens to all of us. A little life can be breathed in through many means, through backstory, modelling techniques, even pictures, such as to the left. It all depends on what you, as the collector, wish to achieve from it all in the end. Prehaps you are creating a custom Space Marine chapter, or maybe you are sticking firmly to the canonical (yet, seemingly limiting) Black Legion. How do you take that first step that allows your imagination to pour out? Well readers, I have a few techniques that may just give you that first step, and I will give examples so you know how this may apply to your army of choice.

Scratch up on your Warhammer history!
This is a technique everyone can (and should) use. Reading up on the canonical can really help spark your imagination, especially when reading up on specific squads or characters, although this is likely to come out in the models for canonical armies, it can really help give you ideas on your DIY stuff, especially when you read up on other armies and their strange perks. Think about the cybernetic obsession possessed by the Iron Hands, or the fascination with tainted weaponry that the Relictors have. Remember, the Lexicanum is your friend, and the universe is your oyster!

Example 1 - Canonical Armies
Tactical Squad Manorian of the Ultramarines 2nd Company are known as the "Shield Bearers", boasting many experienced and honoured warriors. They lead the vanguard of both Company and Chapter-level assaults. With this in mind, I pictured the squad advancing into battle ahead of the others, so I modelled the squad to look as though they are advancing, as opposed to standing still and shooting. This really gave the squad some character and will set them apart from the rest of the army.

Tactical Squad Octavian, on the other hand, are well known for their uncanny precision with their boltguns, conjuring a much different image of the squad to Manorian. With a little research, I found that the Ultramarines employ Stalker Pattern Bolters more than other chapters. Using this, I will likely have the squad standing or kneeling whilst aiming using converted stalker pattern bolters, instantly setting them apart from the other squads.

Example 2 - DIY Armies
The Celestial Knights are a chapter I've chopped and changed to suit what I like for years. I've always liked the connection Space Marines have with the Emperor, more so I've really liked the eccentric geneseed mutations and zealot like nature of some chapters. Taking these ideas, I personified a chapter that suits my tastes:

The Celestial Knights are an enigma unto the universe. Some believe them to be latent psykers who passively sense the warp, yet some accuse the chapter of heresy, though neither of these theories have been proven true. Regardless, the chapter's biggest trait is that they believe they hear the words and commands of the Emperor himself, often dropping all other priorities to follow the will of their Emperor to unite the galaxy and purge any Xenos that would go against their cause, going as far as to abandon their home world to set up crusader fleets similar to that of the Black Templars, so they may be summoned at any moments notice to whatever commands they have been given. They have been the target of many Inquisitions because of this doctrine, believing their commands to not be of the Emperor, but of Demons, but these have so far proved fruitless. Untrusted and seen as reckless by much of the Imperium, but deadly and ferocious by their enemies, the Celestial Knights come down upon their enemies with a ferocity unmatched throughout most of the galaxy.

Research real life cultures  
This technique is perfect for Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Chaos Space Marines and, to a lesser extent, the Necrons. Many of these armies are based on various themes inspired by real life events and cultures (Ultramarines are loosely based on the Romans/Greeks, the Praetorian Guard are based on old British militaries, Necrons are based on the Egyptians etc.). If you know what your army is based on, let rip with the cultural references in your models, DIY or no! If you're doing a DIY army however, use this as a perfect chance to conveniently "borrow" events from real history and then chop and change it so it suits the universe you're playing in (this also helps if you use the above method as well). I, myself, plan on using third party bits to make Roman looking marines for my Roman based Ultramarines!

Example - The Jungle Serpents
I loved the idea of a sneaky, jungle fighting chapter back in 4th Edition 40k that I was just stumped on. So I looked to Wikipedia and read up on the Zulus. I had plans to shape storm shields to look like futuristic Zulu shields, and they would favour the power spear as a weapon. I even went as far as to name the Chapter Master Shaka, after the Zulu King Shaka.


Diving into writing the history, my eyes immediately set upon the Anglo-Zulu war, and decided to chop and change it to make more sense (as the analogue to the British Army would be Praetorian Guard... that makes no sense really). The Jungle Serpent home world in fact hid a Necron Tomb World beneath it's surface and Necron forces had come to the planet, giving the ultimatum "submit to our forces, or die." Of course, it would be very anti-climatic to have them lose, so I wrote it that they won, but barely. This forced them to repool their marines and reassign different tribes to different companies, thus uniting the chapter indefinitely through blood and tragedy.


I also used the name of the chapter to inspire the armour pattern. Green armour with brown arms, both earthly colours, but this green vertical style of the armour is reminiscent of a serpent.


Past battles and changed miniatures  
Ever played an army but never really thought on their background until now? Use it! It's perfect for armies who are transferring to new codexes and transitioning into new army layouts that Games Workshop just love throwing in. I found this particularly true of Necrons who are now led by Overlords rather than the now nerfed Lords. Be creative! Maybe those battles held significance, or maybe there was a reason you Necron Dynasty was being led by a Lord rather than an Overlord?


The same can be true of miniatures that have been updated to be radically different (Necron Wraiths spring to mind). Why are yours so different? What makes them special? All of these can really add character to your army. Explore the possibilities!


Characters and the "Counts As" rule  
Characters, whether major or minor, can really add depth to your army, characterising an entire background in one model, or being a significant part of it all. Even better, take of the now widely acknowledged "Counts As" rule. Use a special character's rules to make them stand out, or use a unique piece of wargear to act as a different type of wargear. Characters are your big chance to really single out your army, so go nuts!

Pulling it all together - The Imhotep Dynasty  
My Necron army is a perfect example of how you can use all the above methods and tie them in to a really unique army of your own. I have played a fair few battles with my Necrons and have been reading the new codex to keep myself up to date with the new canon. I have played battles before Overlords even existed, and my Wraiths are the old school Immortal chassis Wraiths. So, where do I take it from there?

Well first of all, I needed to decide on a dynasty now. I wanted to go in a different direction with my Necrons to my Ultramarines, afterall, they're completely different armies! So I decided to forgo chosing a canon dynasty and give myself the freedom of making my own dynasty. After considering my background (which I will get to shortly), I decided on naming my dynasty after the Egyptian polymath, Imhotep, which has come to mean "The one who comes in peace". This will reflect the fact that my dynasty isn't as aggressive as many other dynasties, rather using diplomacy, seeing it as a less risky way of achieving their objectives.

Next, I looked at my army thus far... 6 Scarab bases, 1 Lord, 24 Warriors, a Monolith, 4 Flayed Ones, 3 Destroyers and 2 (old) Wraiths. A pathetically pointed army now and no Overlord! Plus, let's not forget all those Orks they fought and often lost. So let's turn this in my favour...


The Imhotep Dynasty
The Imhotep Dynasty awoke far more sporradically than most, making their armies few and far between. The first Tomb World to awaken was due to an emergency breach. Ork looters had broken into the tomb in search for "shineys" and many of the slumbering warriors were destroyed in the downtime. Kharimekh, now a Necron Lord, was the only noble to awaken from his slumber and was forced to defend the tomb with what limited warriors he had. Many were destroyed in the assault and what was left of the dynasty was defeated and they were forced to retreat.




Low in numbers and reeling from the battle, Kharimekh realised that his best hope to keep his dynasty alive was to seek out another Tomb World containing more of his kin to bolster his army. As an emergency precaution to bolster numbers, he had Canoptek Spyders (resources held back in battles to save their repair units) rig half destroyed Immortal chassis to what was left of the Tomb's Canoptek Wraiths, leaving them little more than autonomic, hollow shells with whatever free will they contained stripped and their repair units damaged in the assault.

After several years lurking in the dark corners of space, Kharimekh finally found a Tomb World that contained members of his dynasty, including an old noble of repute back when they were known as the Necrontyr... Nemekh.



Nemekh the Summoner
Back when the Necrons were of flesh and blood, Nemekh was a brilliant general of the Imhotep Dynasty and took great pride in the power they wielded. Upon waking from his slumber with the help of Kharimekh (a Lord who immediately pledged loyalty and became his advisor due to his advanced awakening and better experience of the galaxy of now), Nemekh looked upon his dynasty. It is not certain whether it is due to some eccentricities caused by the sleeping process or whether his pride was just destroyed, but he despaired at the size of his dynasty now compared to during the War in Heaven, but Nemekh has been attributed with incredibly paranoia. They were of metal now and infinite, but by no means indestructible, and many of his dynasty had fallen or not yet awoken, and Nemekh has taken every precaution to keep his minions alive as possible, saving the most effective defenses for himself... after all, he had proclaimed himself the new Phaeron, who else would lead his dynasty if he were destroyed?


This doesn't mean that Nemekh is a coward, far from it. His use of Tomb Spyders and Ressurection Orbs have become infamous amongst his enemies, giving him the title of "Summoner". He is a grand general and attacks without mercy, but will avoid unnecessary war wherever possible to eliminate any risks they may bring with them. He has also been known to form temporary alliances with other races where he feels he and his dynasty would gain from such a pact.


Nemekh, gamingwise, is an Overlord with the Phaeron upgrade. He carries a Gauntlet of Fire (as he prefers to torment inferior creatures with the sensation of their flesh burning off their bones), Phase Shifter, Ressurection Orb and is accompanied by his own personal mini scarab, Nephoryt. Nephoryt is a specially designed scarabs, programmed to repair Nemekh if he ever becomes damaged, but is also designed to latch onto organic nervous systems, a backup plan to prevent his foes from being able to harm him. Nephoryt counts as a Phylactery and a Mindshackle Scarab.

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