Monday, 27 August 2012

Finishing the Elysians 8

The Elysian project finally draws to a close! This week I did some finishing touches to the Thunderbolt, and that completes the army. This has been several months of work.

It's always great when you finish a large army to lay it out on the gaming table (or in my case dining room table!) to see it all completed...

This army is 2000 points, and includes six flyers. It should be a great army to play with, especially with 6th edition being very flyer-focused! I've played drop trooper armies under the old Guard codex, and they are always great fun.

The army will be winging its way (forgive the pun!) to my client in the very near future.

Whenver a big project is done, I also like to pick out my favourite models from the army. For the Elysians, these are my "men of the match"...

1. Platoon Commander
This is the platoon squad commander, picking his way through the ruins of another wartorn Imperial city... He wears his visor up, preferring to rely on his unaugmented senses as he picks the next target for his squad. The sense of promethium is heavy in his nostrils. He points downwind, yelling a series of battle-orders as around him the rest of the platoon falls into formation...

2. Veteran Guardsman with plasma gun
"Copy, Command!" Guardsman Varik yelled into the vox-horn. Rockets rained overhead, whining; solid-slug rounds spanked off the nearby wreckage of a bunker in which Varik's squad had just seconds ago taken refuge. "We've got casulaties in spades down here, and Sergeant Faris is gone!"

Before Varik could get a response from Command, Guardsman Troth - the only vox-trained soldier in the squad - shrieked and vanished in a hail of gunfire. The battlefield was degenerating into abolsute chaos. Another explosion sounded to his left, and Varik vaulted a burning wreck - which only barely resembled an Elysian sentinel - to take cover. He sensed more than saw the remainder of his unit follow him into position, dropping prone. More rocket fire poured the landscape to the east, and through the haze of smoke and debris Varik could just about make out winking lights in the sky above: drop trooper squads, being shot down as they made planetfall.

"Orders, Varik?" one of the other troopers called, grabbing Varik by the shoulder. "You're in charge now that Faris is gone."

Varik took a moment to ponder that. He was no officer, but he knew that the objective lie east through the drop-zone. He hadn't wanted to be in charge, but he was now and he had to deal with it.

"Assemble the plasma guns, and get ready to move double-time through that street," Varik shouted, pointing down a nearby shattered avenue. "By the Emperor, we're taking that objective!"

3. Veteran Guardsman with shotgun 
... and this dude is just a plain ol' vet, but carrying his shotgun and pointing just made him stand out. I have to say that the Elysian models have some great poses, and the positioning of the legs in particular allows for some great models. The prone special weapons have to be the best Guardsmen that FW make, in my opinion, and I was pleased that so many of them were incorporated into the army.

That completes the Elysian project for now! It has been great fun to plan, build and paint. I hope that my client is pleased with it, and perhaps in the future I can be of service in providing reinforcements for the Elysians!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Third party conversion bits sites

If you are anything like me, when you see a picture of a new GW model the first thought running through your mind is: how can I make it better? Whether it be a different helmet, a better weapon or a more detailed base, I just can't seem to make a model "out of the box"!

There are a large number of third party bits manufacturers online. Your Cadians no longer need be mundane, your Space Marines no longer need be vanilla! The range of available parts is staggering, and the industry has grown significantly over the last few years. 

This post is to provide a collection of websites I regularly visit or order from, for 40k compatible bits. I've provided a mini-review of each - which purely gives my own opinion and experience. If I have used bits on a past project, I've also included a picture to demonstrate use of the parts in question. The list does not include genuine 40k/WFB "bits sites", resin bases or whole miniatures - this post is purely about alternative conversion bits.

Note that many of these sites actually make parts for their own lines of figures, or conversion bits for generic 28mm scale figures - but this makes them compatible with 40k scale miniatures. 

Have I missed any decent sites you are aware of? By all means drop me a comment below... - one of the premier conversion bits manufacturers. They have a variety of heads, torsos, legs, accessories, weapons etc. This company keeps getting better and better in terms of  sculpting and detail, and they dispatch items quickly with reasonable postage. Releases are regular. My only gripe would be the parts can be expensive, and if you use more than say one conversion bit per figure the cost of a squad can quickly multiply... 

  Savlar Penal Legion Squad, featuring heads
from Maxmini "Toxic Guard" (and some FW bits)
Space Marine of the Carcharodons Astra chapter, with Steam Knights head
Imperial Guard bodyguards, made with "armoured torsos" pack from Maxmini

Also available through Maxmini are Kromlech bits. They operate an Ebay store, and specialise in ork conversion parts. Again, excellent sculpts, great detail and fast delivery
Imperial Guard Beastman, with bionic arm fronm Kromlech bionics pack - another bits legend, Victoria Lamb created the original "Highland Guard" (aka "Drookian Fen Guard") models, and her parts are predominantly for Imperial Guard models. There are conversion sets for Penal Legion, Rough Riders, Praetorian or steampunk Guard and even more (the Cthood Slave bits are crying out to be used as abhumans in a Guard army!). Parts are cleanly cast, highly detailed and come with excellent customer service. As with Maxmini and Kromlech, these parts are towards the higher end of the cost scale but for the occasional squad they are certainly worth it. - another of the larger bits sites, Chapterhouse has been engaged in a legal battle with GW for some time. They have parts compatible with Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Tyranids, Eldar and more. If I ever started a proper Chaos Space Marine army, their pre-heresy heads would certainly be my first choice for parts. Sculpted shoulder pads are another speciality, with motifs being carried over to vehicle conversion parts (Land Raider doors, etc). I have used their bits on a vareity of projects, and have been pleased with every order

Sanguinary Priesy of the Flesh Tearers Chapter, made with skull shoulder pad
and skull helmet from Chapterhouse Studios

Space Marines of the Carcharodons Astra chapter,
made with tech shoulder pads from Chapterhouse - this company has a small range of 40k-compatible bits. The main parts of interest are individual conversion sets for female Imperial Guard. Cast in metal, the set includes a head and a replacement torso front (and an additional gasmask and backpack in some sets). The parts can be quite fiddly to use (you'll need to "shave" the front off of a Cadian torso, then marry the conversion part up to the remains), and the heads are quite thin-looking, but I have used them on past projects to good effect

Tins Bits female head on a Cadian trooper - whereas many of the above sites charge a premium for their conversion bits, Pig Iron prices are far more reasonable. They have a variety of heads and accessories which are manufactured for their own models (featuring separate legs, torsos and heads), but these work perfectly with Imperial Guard. Although prices are reasonable, this doesn't compromise the sculpting quality. The later releases are comparable with Maxmini for detail! For a whole army, or a significant number of figures, Pig Iron is my first choice. I almost exclusively used their heads on my Savlar Chem-Dogs infantry - prices are low enough that you can do this without breaking the bank. 

Savlar Chem-Dogs infantry, with Kolony Feral heads

Savlar Chem-Rider, made with peaked Kolony officer pack - a large range of metal miniatures, and a resin bases, these guys also sell a good number of complete miniatures and have a small selection of conversion parts. Mainly heads, these include females, animals and aliens. I've never ordered from them, but some of the more exotic head bits like look they could be used for abhumans or perhaps tau alien auxiliaries... - another high-end bits manufacturer, parts available include heads, shields, bodies and more. I've only ever bought heads from them, and they were great bits

Celestial Lions Space Marine Terminators, featuring lion helm heads - as well as being stockists of lots of other bits by other manufacturers, these guys also make a range of heads, weapons, and vehicle upgrades. Casting looks clean and well detailed, but I haven't ever ordered from them - manufacturers of cyberwolves, infantry upgrade parts, and with more in the works. Again, I've never ordered from them but for the right project these parts look very useful - these guys make some awesome individual miniatures (even the non-combatants like the squire look great), but also parts for headswaps and weapons. The servo arms would be a great addition to an Adeptus Mechanicus army, and the Brodie helmet heads could be used on a WWI themed Guard army - an great selection of heads, shoulder pads, weapons and vehicle upgrade parts. The company keeps fans informed with progress on new projects - they update a posting on DakkaDakka with new images every few days. I particularly like their "Soviet hooded heads", which are ideal for hooded Grey Knights!

 Grey Knight Grand Master, with Soviet head - I've never tried this bits seller, but they have some interesting and really well-sculpted heads. Many of their ideas are quite unique, and I'm going to try them out on inquisitors or maybe henchmen... - mainly (some pretty amazing) resin bases, this company also has a small selection of metal upgrade bits such as heads. I was recently shopping for some bases on this site, and decided to add some heads as they added nothing to postage. I was certainly not disappointed! The facial expressions are intense, sculpting is great, and more than anything the heads are unique (with a very unusual Wesley Snipes/Blade lookalike!). - Hasslefree are a lovely company, with excellent customer service and quick dispatch. Their range of figures is very broad, and if you are ever stuck with the painting bug take a look round their website for ideas. Miniatures are sculpted by the legendary Kev White. They also have a range of heads, accessories, weapons and upgrades. The heads could be used with 28mm models. I've tried this and found them a bit small for most projects but your mileage may vary. Certainly they would be too small for Space Marine sized models. However, their other accessories are more than useable - in particular, they sell a grav-chute-alike backpack that I once used on a whole army of drop troopers
Imperial Guard Arcturan Aerotrooper,
equipped with a grav-chute backpack - another UK based manufacturer with an excellent reputation, this company has a great selection of models and also a smaller selection of conversion bits. I haven't ever ordered from them, but their heads look very useful for the right project - this site is seller of Shadow Forge Miniatures bits, a company most famous for their selection of female sci-fi and fantasy models. Shadow Forge/Laughing Monk also manufactures a couple of female conversion bits, which are very compatible with Imperial Guard figures. The end result is intended to be a female Guardsmen: replacements for the torso and head are included, with a variety in each conversion set (either standard Guard or winter-Guard). In reality, these sets require a bit more work than simple head or torso swaps, but if you are willing to put in the work they are worth it.  

Imperial Guard Harakoni Warhawks trooper,
made with torso and head from Laughing Monk female conversion pack - Zinge Industries mainly makes weapons and accessories, I haven't ordered from these UK-based guys but the parts look crisply cast and well-detailed - a relative newcomer to the bits industry, Anvil has quickly developed a reputation for quality parts and great service. I've only ordered a handful of bits via Ebay, but they were really exceptional in terms of detail and sculpt quality. Their parts are predominantly for their Spartan-inspired miniatures range, but these are equally compatible with GW Space Marines. Bionic parts, head replacements, torsos, legs and more, are available. - another UK manufacturer, Westwind is most famous for their 40k-compatible heads. Under the heading "separate head system" you'll find a vast range of WWI, WWII and WW-weird heads, many of which are crying out to be used on Imperial Guard projects. Some complain that the heads are too accurately scaled to be used on 40k figures, but I have used some of their helmeted heads on 40k projects and they came out fine. If gasmasks, retro helmets and goggles are your thing, then Westwind Miniatures is the way to go - prices are again reasonable enough to fit out a number of models with these parts

Guardsman with British helmet with gasmask

Guardsman with German gasmask head - this site sells a full range of heads, torsos, backpacks, legs and weapons. They have an especially nice variety of headswaps, including some Praetorians and Chaos Guard-type heads. I haven't ordered from them yet, but online feedback has been very positive. - although this site is quite new, the operator/owner Colonel Gravis is certainly not: many of you may recognise his name from his ever-developing Praetorian Guard project. Current stock includes rough rider bits, torsos and weapons - I hope to place an order in the near future. - UK manufacturer and seller of various sci-fi and fantasy resin miniatures. Many of their vehicle upgrade parts look as though they could be useable with 40k vehicles in particular, although I haven't tried any out - another UK based manufacturer, parts seem to be mainly for buildings and vehicles. Casting looks good and the parts look quite detailed, but I have never ordered from them.

Blood & Skulls Industries - a UK-based bits seller via Ebay, I was directed to this seller by a forum member and so I don't know whether they operate a website or any other method of purchasing items. However, their parts look as though they would fit well with Guard or Space Marine tanks, and could be an interesting alternative to the same old GW turrets - a Polish manufacturer, with a nice variety of vehicle upgrade bits (good Razorback turrets etc). These guys have recently released some nice Guardsman heads as well, and promise more releases in he future. - I've only just stumbled across these guys via the DakkaDakka news forum, but their product looks both unique and very promising. Meow Meow Minis makes conversion parts for female Marines, compatible with both GW plastic kits and also Anvil Industry resin sets. The sculpting looks good and postage rates have recently been reviewed as well. - primarilty historical and fantasy minis, this site also offers some alternative heads - "Italian army heads in sunhelmets". Not a large range of bits, but these pith-type heads could be useful for Praetporian or steampunk-type Guardsmen. - another site I recently stumbled across, Spellcrow specialises in Ork conversion parts (both for fantasy and sci-fi type models). I'm no Ork player, but the parts do look highly detailed and well sculpted. Further ranges include Templar parts (which could be used for Marine conversions) and also skulls and other accessories.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Finishing the Elysians 7

For the Elysian HQ command squad, my client wanted two bodyguards and a Master of the Fleet.

For the bodyguards, I suggested going with the Maxmini armoured torsos. The plan was to make the bodyguards appear as separate to the wider Elysian army - maybe attached Cadian specialists or from some other more centralised authority of the Imperial Guard. So we decided on using a paint scheme similar to Cadian Shock Troops. Heads from the Guard vehicle sprue, and arms from the Cadian command set, were combined to create the finished models.

As can be seen in the second picture, these torso parts are especially detailed with packs, pouches, etc and I highly recommend them. Maxmini make some premier conversion parts; they have also recently released armoured legs to go with the torsos. If anyone out there wants to commission me to make some storm troopers or carapace-armoured veterans using those bits, it's a project I'd definitely be interested in!

For the Master of the Fleet, my client agreed that he should stand out. The GW Master is a great model, but doesn't necessarily fit with a FW Elysian army. Again, although I wanted the model to stand out as an advisor, I wanted something more in keeping with the FW Elysian theme... We settled on a now OOP Thunderbolt pilot model from FW...

This is an excellent sculpt, which I thoroughly enjoyed painting. It has such an awesome level of detail - it's really the sort of model you could spend months painting.

So, here are the final few models collected with the command squad. The bodyguards have a single order from sector command: "Keep that commander alive. He does not have permission to die until the Emperor says so!"

Until next time!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Finishing the Elysians 6

Six flyers is a massive task, but seeing them assembled and painted together makes the work worth it...

You'll have to excuse the amateur photography - one flyer is almost too big for my photo booth, so all six stood no chance! It was time to clear off the dinner table to make space.

Yesterday's post showed the Valkyries, Vendettas and the Vulture, which leaves the final flyer. The jewel in the Imperial Navy's crown, the Thunderbolt is one mighty craft. I've always loved the dynamics of this model, and I was happy to see my client's army list included one. This model has been a lot of work (and dealing with blocks of resin as big as this is not an easy task), but again it's really worth it.

The scheme is deliberately chosen to be different to the other flyers, in an effort to make this out as an Imperial Navy asset. I used minimal weathering elements, concentrating on engines and burn marks. MIG rust effect was used very cautiously on piping and exposed cablework. Decals were courtesy of the GW Baneblade kit - the standard vehicle decal sheet didn't have any symbology large enough to suit this model.

The pilot was painted in different colours to the other crewmen in the army, but with similar fatigue tones to the rest of the army.

This shot shows a a close-up of the tail section - I used an old decal from Fighting Piranha; the aircraft has the callsign "Tinkerbell". I'd like to have used one of the larger decals as on the Valkyries, but there wasn't sufficient clear space on the tail to use those.

My client also wanted a more realistic approach to this model, with the underside being a white/grey like many modern fighting aircraft.

So, that completes a showcase of the flyers for this army. The final few models are still to come - some bodyguards for the HQ command squad, and a variant Master of the Fleet...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Finishing the Elysians 5

Today's post is my favourite aspect of the Elysian army I'm just finishing: the flyers!

Since the Valkyrie kit first came out, I've loved it. This is a solid plastic model, well constructed and easy to put together. In-game it has great stats, made better by 6th edition in my view. The Vendetta is even stronger, although more expensive to build (thanks to the FW-only upgrade bits!).

My client chose two Valkyries to act as transports for the Elysians, and two Vendettas for support. The colour scheme was left to me, and to reflect the grey armour of the infantry I went with a drab grey colour. I bought some pin-up/nose art decals from Ebay, and used some military decals from Vini Vinci. The models have minimal weathering at client's request, done with a sponge and MIG weathering pigments. Here are the highlights of the finished Vendettas...

... but there are more flyers yet. When you just, absolutely, positively must destroy that monstrous creature? Call the rain with some support from the Vulture Gunship, equipped with punisher cannons!

This was an awesome model to build and paint, and after consultation with my client we went for a weathered black scheme: the pilot is a flight ace, given a bit more latitude than the Imperial Navy normally allow - but hey, he gets results...

(The eagle-eyed might notice there is no nose-mounted weapon: I'm still attaching that. The FW kit didn't come with an attaching pin, and FW seem to be doing all they can to avoid my calls and e-mails, so I'm resorting to using greenstuff...)

Every flyer is going to be based on a Dragonforge base and using a flight stand. These are highly recommended, and so much better than the GW equivalent. They do add to the overall price of the model, but when a flyer is going to be a centre piece (or centre pieces) of your army, I think they are easily worth it.

Tomorrow, the wing takes flight and the last flyer: a mighty Thunderbolt.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Finishing the Elysians 4

Now we have the last few infantry models in the Elysian army.

Firstly, the platoon command squad ("bronze command") armed with a melta gun. Elysians don't get to take multiple special weapons in command squads like regular guard. This picture doesn't show it too well, but every member of this squad has the regimental badge (that little skull on the breastplate) painted in bronze, signifying membership of a platoon command unit.

Secondly, the HQ command squad ("gold command") armed with a melta gun, featuring a medic. You guessed it - the regimental insignia is gold on these guys. I tried something different here as well - using a white accent on the helmets. When I started planning this squad, looking at everything assembled in front of me, it struck me that the HQ unit needed something extra to mark it out. The medic also features white shoulder pads, and a replacement respirator head from the scanner kit.

Some detail shots of the senior officer, equipped with a grav-chute and power fist. He has a head taken from the Cadian infantry squad upgrade set, also from FW.

Next up will be advisors - including a variant Master of the Fleet, and bodyguards for the commander...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Finishing the Elysians 3

Today's post is to show the finished scanner squad and the sentinels.

The scanner squad is a really nice kit, and an interesting upgrade for an Elysian-only army. I mounted it on an Anvil Industries 60mm base, and I chose a more scenic option so that the base wouldn't look too sparse. I guess it would be possible to use a 40mm base, but that would probably be quite crowded. This Elysian set also comes with two unique respirator heads, which I couldn't find anywhere else in the range. I used one on this trooper, and another on the HQ command squad medic.

Here are the two finished sentinels. These are nice little kits, but sadly use the older GW sentinel as a base. This means the legs are not poseable like the newer kit. The pilot part in particular is very nice though. I chose to paint them in the same scheme as the infantry, tying them in to the rest of the army. Decals came from various military sets (not GW), which adds to the organised feel of the army.

I finished the pieces off with minor sponge weathering, and some MIG pigments to the feet. Bases were from Anvil Industries again.