Stark Crusaders: Tactical Squad

Although I’m keen to use my old Rogue Trader ex-Blood Angels for my Starks, I’ve also got some shiny new ones that Santa brought me. This fits in with the Stark Crusader fluff – a mix of old and new. So these are my Tactical Squad (currently assembled only, as it’s not the weather for undercoating. Also, I still need to add a few extra touches – extra purity seals, any ammo pouches etc and the bases need finishing off).

Stark Crusaders - Tactical Squad

I wanted to leave my options open regarding loadouts, so this is what I’ve done:

6 Bolter Marines, all glued up as standard. Nothing to show here, you can see them in the top picture (without bolters, to aid painting).

 

Stark Crusaders - Tactical Squad

2 Special Weapon Marines, mostly glued up, but with a swappable weapon so they can have any of the available special weapons, or a bolter. This means I can have one with bolter and one with special weapon if a 10-man squad, or both with special weapons if two 5-man squads (or if necessary, have them all with bolters).

Stark Crusaders - Tactical Squad

You can see on the pic on the left the pin sticking out of his wrist (I go into more detail on pinning below). You just have to be careful that there’s space to slide the gun over the pin, with the supporting hand not getting in the way.

 

Stark Crusaders - Tactical Squad

1 Sergeant, with a swappable gun, so he can have a bolter (left pic), special weapon (plasma gun in right pic), combi-weapon or pistol. His other hand is also swappable for a knife, chainsword or power sword.

Stark Crusaders - Tactical Squad

As far as the combi-weapons go, you get a single ‘half’ bolter and the special part of a flamer, plasma gun etc to sit on top. In theory, you can make any one of 4 combi-weapons, but only one. So I’ve made the top part (the special weapon) swappable, so serge can have whatever he wants!

 

Stark Crusaders - Tactical Squad

And the Last Guy has a swappable gun, so can have a bolter (below), special weapon, combi-weapon (combi-plasma on the right) or pistol, and also has a swappable head. So he can have a helmeted head and a bolter and be a regular marine, or he can have a bare head and any gun he wants as the sergeant of the second 5-man squad.

Stark Crusaders - Tactical Squad

I should have made his second hand swappable as well, so he could have had a chainsword or power sword when sarge, but I missed that opportunity and glued his hand on. That’s okay, I don’t imagine I’d be that interested in spending points on close combat weapons anyway.

 

To make the weapons swappable, I wanted to magnetise them. I have some 2mm x 1mm magnets but the wrists of the models are just about 2mm. The holes would need to be so big that the plastic becomes way too thin (I know, because I tried one and then had to re-fill the hole with green stuff). So instead I’ve drilled tiny holes (0.7mm) which is just the right size for a paperclip (test on some sprue first, your paperclip sizes might be different!). So each swappable wrist/weapon has a 0.7mm hole drilled in the centre, and a length of straightened paperclip, about 5mm long, glued into the wrist. Each weapon can then just be pulled off/pushed on. I guess over time this might start to wear loose, but it’s not like I’m going to be swapping weapons all the time. I have noticed the sarge (the one on the left in the main pic) has quite a wobbly gun, so might just need to fill and re-drill the hole in his gun. The only magnetised option is the sergeant’s head.

I left most of the guns on the sprue for undercoating, as there are more guns than men, and also the bolters get in the way of the chests when painting.

Stark Crusader - Missile Launcher

I’m not interested in giving my Tacs a heavy weapon. It either holds the unit up so he can shoot, or he only gets snap shots (which in the case of a missile launcher, means no frag, only krak). So I’ve used the missile launcher from the Tac box set to give one of my old RT metal marines a missile launcher. He’ll end up as part of my Devastator squad. I tried fitting it to one of my ‘proper’ Dev models, but it just wouldn’t fit and look good, so I’ve just used a ‘standard’ marine (the one on the left shows what he was like pre-missile launcher). So this guy will feature when I do my Devs.

And now, more fluff. This is the Triune, Captain Stratos’s unofficial war council.

The Triune

In the years following his personal defeat on Ska’garath at the hands of a heavily armoured Ork nob, Lando Stratos vowed to never let his opponents get the upper hand on him again. This meant being fully prepared for any foe or environment, whether expecting to walk over a handful of natives or planning a system-wide campaign against a well armed and trained foe. Stratos recognised the need for advice from trusted colleagues, brothers with expertise in the different aspects of warfare. He couldn’t be selfish or arrogant enough to refuse the help of fellow Astartes.

Once again, the Stark Crusaders 3rd Company was deployed to an inhospitable planet in a system full of inhospitable planets. There was nothing to save or protect, but it offered a tactical opportunity to heavily damage a Tyranid hive fleet that had been making progress through nearby systems. Sergeant Stratos was holding ground with his 4th Tactical Squad on the north ridge of a canyon, with Sergeant Steele of the 5th Tactical mirroring him on the south ridge. Three pairs of Tactical units were deployed in total, all along the ridge of the canyon. Darke’s assault unit were to be the bait, supported by two other assault units, leading the massed aliens into the canyon from the west, where the tactical squads could cut them down with massed bolter fire. Several units of devastators were further east on both ridges, ready to add their fusillade of firepower to the slaughter. It was a simple plan, the assault units, lead by Darke, would lead the Tyranid horde into the canyon, use their jump packs to leap away from danger and clear the ridge of canyon, then the hail of shells would rain down upon the hapless aliens below.

Stratos, Steele and Grymm exchanged both words of encouragement and taunts in equal measure as they waited. They and Darke were close and they enjoyed fighting together. The banter helped ease the tension of waiting. It was a dark day, with heavy rain lashing down. Grymm’s habit of fighting without a helmet seemed unwise. Any normal human’s flesh would burn with the acidic rain, but it rolled harmlessly off his Astartes skin like fresh spring water. Large scarab beetles roamed underfoot, biting at armour and irritating everyone. The wait was long. Darke’s assault unit were several klicks away. All the marines were well trained and kept alert, but the wait always annoyed Stratos. But eventually, they came…

They’d drastically underestimated the aliens. They’d underestimated their numbers and their tactical ability. A few hundred small creatures chased the assault squads into the canyon, with several larger tyranids mixed in. Large in number, but relatively easy bait. But the second the assault squads activated their jump packs more creatures appeared from everywhere. Dozens sprang from the walls of the canyon, previously hiding chameleon-like in plain sight. Some burrowed up from the ground beneath them, striking at the marines before they could even leave the ground. Then there was the attack from the air – dozens and dozens of winged beasts swarmed towards them, darkening the skies with their numbers. Clearly, despite the Starks having reconned well and planned the trap, it was they who were being ambushed.

The attack was quick and brutal. Darke and his unit struggled to get clear of the canyon bed, losing men in the process. Other assault squads were less fortunate, losing all or most members in the first few seconds. Swarms of Tyranid creatures scurried and climbed the canyon sides with incredible pace, quickly coming over the top and overwhelming the marines who were unprepared for the sudden close assault. Even further down the canyon ridge the swarms of winged creatures attacked the supporting devastators.

What initially looked like a quick defeat of the Starks turned in their favour. Darke, the surviving marines from his unit, and a few other survivors from the canyon floor cleared the canyon ridge and immediately started to cut through the hordes of gaunts attacking the Tactical units. Although men were lost, they had the high ground and once the initial wave was defeated, it became easier to keep them back as the hordes of creatures came over the canyon top. The majority of the tyranids were attacking the north ridge, leaving the units positioned in the south largely untouched. It was a good plan, not splitting their numbers, but it allowed Steele’s unit to give covering fire across the other side of the canyon, as well as shooting down at anything left on the canyon floor.

Further east along the same ridge, three units of devastators were under attack from the skies. Winged gargoyles were swooping down and attacking the marines, who weren’t armed for a close assault, their long range weapons not suited for striking the flying aliens as they advanced. They were armed for a salvo attack on the canyon floor from distance and struggled to kill the flying creatures quickly enough. Stratos’s unit, along with the other tactical units, advanced east to help out their brothers, Darke and the remains of the assault marines holding back to stem the flow of creatures over the canyon ridge. Stratos lead the charge, running towards Grymm who was fending off attacks on some of his wounded comrades. Most of Grymm’s men were down, but none were dead. Grymm was fighting against five or six winged beasts, keeping them off his wounded unit. As they approached Stratos saw a gargoyle take flight away from the fight, and with it it took Grymm’s entire right arm.

Steele’s men were largely untouched by the ambush, the attack focusing on the north ridge, allowing Steele to offer covering fire. He could read the balance of the battle and could see Stratos heading east to help Grymm and his brothers, leaving Darke to fend off the tide of small, fierce creatures topping the ridge. Thus his unit focused their attention on those creatures climbing the canyon wall, not yet at the top. Taking out enough of these reduced the number cresting the ridge and facing Darke.

Grymm kept fighting as his genhanced body tried to cauterise the massive wound that used to be his shoulder. Stratos raised his bolt pistol, fired twice in quick succession, and the gargoyle dropped from the sky into the depths of the canyon below. They couldn’t get to Grymm fast enough and a large creature crested the ridge right next to him. It spat acid into Grymm’s face as it’s huge claws struck at his legs. By the time Stratos’s unit got close enough to cause any real damage to the creature, there wasn’t much left of Grymm. The skin on the lower part of his face was literally melting off, blood pouring from this mouth. His arm was gone and his legs shattered, one held in place only by his armour. Now Stratos was close enough, bolter rounds pounded the larger creature, then Darke shot overhead, using his jump pack to get to the forefront of the fighting. The creature was quickly killed by a few deft swipes of Darke’s chainsword, and now the numbers were more in the Starks’ favour. The creatures were slowly forced back until they retreated, knowing they could no longer win the battle.

As always, Thalius performed miracles. Grymm had two new legs and a new arm, but the acid hadn’t just damaged his face, it had got into his lungs too. He now permanently wore a face mask to allow him to breathe. This wasn’t the first time the four of them, Stratos, Steele, Darke and Grymm, had been to battle together and saved each other, nor would it be the last, but it was a defining moment in their personal histories. Each of them had saved the other, each lending a different strength to the group. This bond grew over the years and over many campaigns and each had a life-debt to each of the others many times over. Due to their successes, they all earned various chapter honours, including induction to the 1st company with terminator honours.

As Stratos’s skills as both a warrior and strategist saw him rise to Captain of the 3rd, his close brothers became leaders in the 1st company – Darke as a Vanguard Sergeant and Steele leading an elite Terminator squad. Grymm, regardless of the pressures from his Captain and friend, and even from the Chapter Master, refused to leave his 3rd company devastator unit. He accepted the terminator honours with great pride, but refused to leave the 9th Devastator unit he was so devoted to, even when offered the chance to lead other veterans. Grymm can often be seen holding high ground to gain the best arcs of fire, directing the fire of his unit, distinctive with his bare metal legs and gases hissing from his face mask.

Captain Stratos calls on his old comrades frequently to bolster the 3rd Company, thus they often still fight alongside each other. In preparation for a campaign Stratos will call upon his Triune for tactical and strategic advice, recognising each of their specialised expertise and experience. On the battlefield, members of the Triune can be identified by golden purity seals with red parchment, personal gifts to them from Stratos when he was first appointed as captain.

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Modelling: Imperial Statues

Imperial Statue

These are a couple of statues, made from Star Wars action figures and some polystyrene packaging.

Obi Wan and Mace Windu

I bought these figures off eBay for 99p each. They weren’t quite as poseable as I’d thought, which is why Windu looks like he’s directing traffic, and it’s best not to discuss what Obi Wan is doing! He also had a weird action where you press in the side of his belt and he moves his right arm back and forth. It was pretty disturbing!

Imperial Statues

I also got some polystyrene packaging and the caps off some old spray cans.

The plan was to make up a stepped plinth, with the cap as final small column, then the figure on top. They could be some local Imperial governor, or hero, or whatever. I thought I’d take an arm off one, and the other I’d break off at the legs and have the statue fallen. However, once I got it all together, I decided to keep them both standing. I’ve taken three of the arms off simply to get away from the odd posing. The remaining arm was re-posed and green stuff added to fill the gaps.

Imperial Statues

All the joints were super-glued to stop them moving about, and I put a couple of small screws in the bottom of the feet, to hold the figures to the caps. But I left them separate for painting. For the plinths, I glued chunks of the polystyrene together and cut out steps. This didn’t go quite as planned, as the polystyrene isn’t like what I’ve used before (maybe it’s not actually polystyrene!). I’m used to stuff that looks like lots of little poly balls all glued together. This was more of a honeycomb structure. It cut really easily, but the faces didn’t have much surface area (due to the honeycomb) so they didn’t glue well, or fit particularly well for that matter. They have a combination of PVA glue, super-glue and cocktail sticks holding them together.

The caps were just pushed and twisted until they cut in about a centimeter into the plinths.

And that was basically it for the construction. I cut some chunks out of the stepped plinths to give battle damage, and was going to leave some of the chunks as debris, but the crappy material didn’t lend itself well to that.

Imperial Statues - Primer

The undercoat is just black from a spray can (Hycote automotive paint – I’ve found this is okay for minis and is pretty cheap). However, the polystyrene (or whatever it is!) didn’t take it that well. Because of the honeycomb structure, the sides are almost entirely just the holes of the honeycomb – the spray paint didn’t get into all the holes far enough to matter. So the end result is a weird back finish but with lots of sunken parts that are still white. Basically the opposite of what you’d want!

I’d intended to do the statues grey and the stepped plinths a more sandy colour, to break from a dull, all grey finish. But how would this work with the weird material I’m using? Well, you never know what planet these are on and what odd local materials are available, so we might be able to explain this away. Forge the narrative!!

Imperial Statue

So the next step is to paint the plinths. The caps were pretty easy – two quick coats of grey (cheap Royal & Langnickel from Rymans) and they were done. The plan for the plinths was to have two coats of grey, then a coat of cream drybrushed over, to make it more like sandstone. This started to come apart with the honeycomb problem, but was exacerbated by the undercoat flaking off as I was starting to drybrush the grey on! Not sure if it was because it was cold and a little damp outside when spraying (but it didn’t seem to affect anything else – the figures or a few minis I did at the same time), or if the material just didn’t take the paint. It seemed fine until I started painting on top of it, then it was flaking off almost as quickly as I was painting it on.

But I’m persistent! I stuck with the plan, finished the two grey coats and a cream coat. So it’s kind of a white base, with black on the raised parts, drybrushed with grey and highlighted in cream. Nice and alien looking!!

Imperial Statue

The figures were a little more straight forward, just a straight drybrush of grey, like with the spray can caps. I did two coats, then in places a very (very, mind you!) light drybrush/highlight of white, just to pick out some sharp edges.

Imperial Statue

Then to finish it all off, I’ve added some washes. A bit of Nuln Oil (black wash) to give some shadows, a bit of sepia, because you know how I love my sepia wash, and a little green wash for fungus/algae or whatever growing on the stone.

Imperial Statue

Imperial Statue

Overall, these aren’t as good as I’d wanted. The figures weren’t quite right in the first place. A little too ‘actiony’ for statues. That’s what you get for buying them for 99p off eBay. Then with the problems with the plinths, it all started to go wrong – they’re oddly honeycombed, and the primer didn’t take to well. All in all, not a good recipe. But they’re okay. Still usable!

Stark Crusaders: Second Attempt

Just a quick one here. I’ve had a second go at a colour scheme for my Starks.

This one started with a pure bolter metal base coat (rather than ‘dark steel’), and then a Nuln Oil wash, a bolter metal overbrush and a mithril silver highlight, as with the first. I can’t see the difference between using dark steel and not, so I’m not going to spend time mixing the paint! Bolter metal base coat it is.

The red has been done the same way, but extends further over the back of the backpack.

The shoulders now have a silver trim (the same as the majority of the armour) and are mostly black. Still need to figure out what to do with the shoulders. I need a chapter icon for the left shoulder – probably some kind of Crusade type cross made from green stuff, and either a unit identifier, or a company identifier on the right.

Everything else is pretty much the same.

Here’s number one and two side by side (the first one on the left).

Stark Crusaders

Stark Crusaders

I’ve done the base on both now. After a quick test run on a spare base my colours are (on top of the black primer), a solid coat of Barbarian Brown (although it’s okay if spots of black are still there in the gaps), then a drybrush of Celestra Grey to make it look dusty, then a drybrush of Bilious Brown and finally a fairly light drybrush of Bleached Bone. The rim is painted in Barbarian Brown.

Interestingly I think the base on the second one looks much better. This used sand rather than flock/scatter. Sand’s also a little easier to paint.

And now for some more fluff…

Apothecary Orsi Thalius

Apothecary

 Cages rattled all around as they walked between floor to ceiling banks of them on each side of the long room. The beasts they contained clawed at their reinforced prisons as they cried, screeched and growled in anger. Stratos didn’t recognise the majority of the creatures, ranging in size from a few inches in length, to bigger than an Astartes, some with scales, others with leathery skin, some with four or six legs, others with wings, others still were serpent-like. He didn’t approve of the apothecary’s ‘collection’. Keeping all these alien lifeforms seemed to be borderline heresy to him, but Thalius was adamant that it was essential for his experiments in augmetics. Orsi Thalius was the greatest apothecary Stratos had ever known. His ability to re-build an Astartes, augmenting their genetically enhanced bodies with bionics after massive battlefield injuries, was astounding. But the experiments conducted in the sub-level to the medicae deck was the price of his genius. Thalius used the various xenos creatures as test subjects, constantly trying new augmentics, drugs and techniques to hone his skills without risk to his brother Starks.

 Thalius paused at the end of the room, a locked door in front of them, and turned to Stratos. “Orsi, what have you brought me down here for?”, barked the Captain, “You know my feelings on your pets”.
 The apothecary’s eyes were wide – excited, manic even, certainly oblivious to his Captain’s frustration – as he explained that behind the door is what he wanted the Captain to see. He unlocked the heavy door and pushed it open to reveal a small room with a single large cage in the middle. Within the cage lay a large, bright red, thick-skinned beast. It appeared to be sleeping. Or dead. It was about a metre across and almost perfectly spherical. Stratos could just about make out what appeared to be two thick hind legs, two thin, stunted front claws, and a face. Most of the features were tiny – two small closed eyes, two tiny holes like nostrils, two tiny flaps on the sides, maybe ears – but the mouth was huge. It was almost the entire width of the beast.

 Thalius rattled the cage and instantly the beast was awake, up on its feet and clearly agitated. It jumped straight at the apothecary, banging against the bars, mouth now wide open. It’s gaping maw was about half the size of the entire creature and filled with rows and rows of dozens of huge, razor sharp teeth. It clawed and bit furiously at the cage, trying to escape, stinking yellow saliva flying everywhere. It became clear just what those yellow stains on Thalius’s tabard were.

 ”What is this beast Thalius? What is it, why do you have it, and why are you showing it to me?”
 Stratos’s frustration was increasing to the point of anger. Thalius continued to be oblivious to Stratos’s mood and explained to Stratos that, despite it’s red hide, it’s DNA was essentially Ork in nature. The beast was known as a squig, and the greenskins used them for a variety of tasks. This one, one of the largest, was a fighter. As far as Thalius could tell, there was no training given, it just naturally wanted to attack and kill anything that wasn’t Ork in nature. Thalius had found this one after the Starks’ latest encounter with the greenskins. It was injured and almost lifeless, so he captured it and brought it back with him to examine.

 Stratos didn’t like having so many xenos contained within the Starks’ frigate. If there were any problems, the beasts could escape and run rampant across the ship. It was an unnecessary risk.
 ”Why is the beast on my ship?” shouted the Captain, over the noise of the squig trying to gnaw through the cage.
 ”It’s incredible Captain, the metabolism is unbelievable.” beamed the apothecary, “when I captured this, just three weeks ago, it was almost dead. I was going to perform an autopsy on it, but after just a few days it had made a massive recovery. Within ten days, it appeared to be back to full fitness.”
 Stratos didn’t see the relevance. “So you’ve now got a full strength Ork beast. What are we going to do with it now?”.
 Thalius’s mood dipped for the first time, no one understood his experiments or the importance of them. He knew they talked about him. His brothers said he was crazy, always messing about with alien creatures. But he’d also saved most of their lives at some point and he knew they respected him greatly for that. It’s why he could continue without too many questions. “If we can isolate what allows the creature to regenerate so quickly, I can use that to help new augmetics be accepted more quickly in Astartes”.
 ”Using Ork DNA in Astartes?” suddenly Stratos was calm. “Not under my command!”. Stratos quickly pulled his bolt pistol, aimed between the bars, and fired three shots in quick succession directly between the eyes of the beast.

Modelling: Plasma Generators

Plasma Generators

These are my plasma generators. They were really easy to make, so I’ll go through a quick step by step guide.

1. Have a work colleague who’s celebrating a 40th birthday by bringing in lots of eclairs and doughnuts. Specifically, 4 packs of eclairs from Asda.

2. Eat 4 eclairs (sharing is not recommended). OM-NOM-NOM!!

3. Now separate the top and bottom of the packaging and remove any labels. I’ve used the bottom, but the top has potential too. Just cover over any tell-tale markings (e.g. the recycling symbol is embossed, so needed a little green stuff to cover it).

Eclair?

4. Cut a piece of hardboard (I use 3mm) to give a base, with enough space around the edges to place models. Super glue the eclair packaging to the hardboard. Add sand to the base with PVA glue. You’ve just made your plasma generators!

Plasma Generators

5. Undercoat in black. Sand really eats up the paint, so this took a few coats. Also, the sand didn’t really cover the sharp edges of the eclair packaging very well and this didn’t become obvious until after undercoating. I added more sand and brush painted it black afterwards.

Plasma Generators

6. Now it’s just a case of painting them up to your preference. I’ve used the ribs round the sides as the ‘plasma cores’ (or whatever a plasma generator has!), so they’re a ‘glowing’ blue. I did a dark blue (GW Regal Blue) base coat including between the ribs (already started in the pic above), then a coat of Marine Blue (I used Coat D’Arms, but it’s basically Ultramarine Blue) over the ribs, but not the recesses in between. I then tried a Drankenhof Nightshade wash, with the intention of another Marine Blue coat, but the wash made no difference at all! I actually only applied it to one of the four generators and you can’t even tell the difference! Then there’s a drybrush highlight of light blue (GW Ice Blue). I made this especially heavier on the ‘shoulder’ of the ribs (okay, I’m just naming body parts now!).

The body (more anatomy) of the genny I wanted to leave black, with the embossed trim on top gold, and the panels within those silver. This left quite a lot of black, so my options were to go for a completely different colour (maybe paint the whole thing silver); highlight it, especially on the shoulders, with greys; or try to get the feeling of the plasma power – so I went with the latter and tried having the lightest blue glowing/emanating from within by drybrushing it over the corners of the generators. How’s it look?

Plasma Generators

Plasma Generators

If you’re wondering about the weird green bit on top of one of the generators, it’s where I applied green stuff to cover some of the embossed symbols on the packaging and after painting it all looked pretty uneven. I decided to use that as a generator core that’s starting to fail/rupture, so I stuck some green wash over it to make it look like something bad is starting to happen!

Oh, and to finish it off, I used my standard terrain basing.

If you’re lucky, when you get close to the plasma generators, you’ll still be able to smell the sugary goodness of jam!