Rangers lead the way! Pt. 1

Since I finished painting my latest squad of Elysian veterans I managed to play two games of 40k over the past week. Not only did this make me hungry for more grimdark carnage, but I also got inspired to finally expand the army to 1750 points. I’ve had a couple of goodie bags from Forgeworld lying around for a while now, and this this week it was time to bring out the trusty old exacto knife and cutting pliers to bring the resin to life. In this article I will talk you through some of my thoughts on getting “more” out of your model kits, focusing on posing and a bit of converting to make your miniatures look more natural and realistic. Also, I’ll share my thoughts on a certain Gung-ho Colonel who rarely sees battle nowadays.

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Narrative builds character.
Way back when I had just started my Elysian 101st. project, I built a pair of Ground Scanner operators, which are upgrade options for the company command squad in the Elysian army lists from the Imperial Armour campaign books. The ground scanners were a ton of fun to build as I got the opportunity to create support specialists for the army, rather than just building rangers in combat situations. I rarely field the scanners nowadays though, as they are both over-priced in terms of what they bring compared to the benefits of just playing the “vanilla” guard list with the way Orders function. So I decided to cut up my scanner operators and build regular guardsmen out of the spare bits in order to field more veteran squads.

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One of my Ground Scanner operators. Relaxing in the shade, watching battlefield TV.

The bits I used for the operator above comes from the Elysian sniper squad which includes several prone legs and torsos. These were perfect for a veteran taking cover behind a wall or similar piece of terrain, and as I always strive to give every model it’s own little narrative, I figured I’d make a suppressed soldier in his most fearful moment. I also built a grenadier specialist with a combat vest full of ‘nades. To further emphazise the grenadier’s assault of a dug-in position, I posed his front leg on a pair of rocks, giving the model a slight lean backwards which exaggerates the moment before the throw. I then used a Catachan head bit with a bandana and mohawk, to mimic the American 101st. Airborne Pathfinders from WWII – famous for shaving their heads and their use of warpaint to emulate mythic Native American warrior tribes before going into battle.

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One gone to ground, the other assaulting with grenades.
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These models were given some extra love, with backpacks and other gear to make them stand out even more.
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Airborne rangers from the Pathfinder company, before D-Day.
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Note the Mohawk hair cuts and the grenades on the webbing.

I then went on with building a new sergeant out of some spare bits that I had not used yet. Since the Elysian infantry kit comes with 10 models, adding a separate heavy weapon team leaves you with 2 extra bodies (per squad!) to play around with. This is perfect for building alternative special weapon troopers and such, and as you’ve seen before, I’m maxed out on plasmaguns, meltaguns and flamers in almost all of my veteran squads – without spedning extra money for the models. With this sergeant I wanted to continue the theme on soldiers exhausted from battle, maybe during a short combat pause or while just waiting for new orders after a tough advance. Since there is only one set of pistol hands in the Elysian line I hade to cut away the lasgun from a couple of aiming rifle arms. I did this so that I could pose the sergeant resting his pistol equipped arm on one of his knees. Cutting resin like this can be a bit tricky but once you get a hang of it you can really create some interesting new and unique poses. I find that the easiest way is to put on a brand new, razor sharp blade on my exacto knife, and then gently cutting away resin one bit at a time. If you try to cut off the entire lasgun, including stock, magazine and front compartment at once you risk putting to much preassure on the arm itself, thus causing it to break or snap. So, don’t be afraid to work with your resin in this way, as long as you take it easy and with a bit of caution. To further give this squad leader some character I gave him a spare commander head which has the visor up, showing a perfect facial expression, that I had not used yet.

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A sergeant and two of his men, resting behind cover.

A new old field commander and his ferocious fighting men.
In order to improve the performance of my veteran squads at 1750pts. I needed a second command squad to be able to create a larger Orders-bubble on the board. I’ve also been playing around with different squad builds and characters to evaluate what my army is missing. After a couple of games of playtesting and since I cannot kill this fluff-darling, I decided to convert and build my own version of Colonel ‘Ironhand’ Straken. Now, before we talk value for points and the tactical pros- and cons of this Gung-Ho leader, I’ll take you through the process of building the miniature itself.

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Spray and pray, the plasmagun way!

I used a slightly forward leaning body for Straken and put him on top of a slab of concrete to make him stand out a bit when seen from above the table top. I then used a Cadian commander head bit with a rebreather, taken from the Forgeworld Cadians in hazardous environment equipment-kit. I think this adds a great amount of character and really ties the commander model together with the powerfist. My take on Straken is based more on “what if” the Colonel would be assigned to the 101st. Light drop company in order to increase it’s chances in a suicidal operation. Therefore I wanted to move away from the more gimmicky look of the official model, that is half man-half machine running around the battlefield in nothing but army pants and a bandana! My Straken is still half servo-prosthethic enhanced, but he wears the Elysian uniform and equipment while in the field. I used a plasma pistol from the Krieg line as it is more true to the Elysian scale than the regular plastic pistols, and lastly cut of the stock of a spare shotgun that came with the Elysian veteran section with shotguns to give him his trademark item. I would like to make a sling for the shotgun using greenstuff in the future, but haven’t really worked that much with putty to dare trying it yet…

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Straken never leaves home without his shotgun for some reason.

On to the new command squad with some more converting. There’s really no way of building troopers that are aiming their special weapons in the Elysian kit besides the prone meltagunners which I’m not a fan of. So I decided to put some extra effort into these specialists as they will either make up Straken’s command squad, or put into a veteran squad of their own ahead. First off, I once again had to cut off the lasgun from a pair of aiming arms. The rifle itself came off fairly easy since I knew how to cut away the resin around the arm by this time. The most tedious part was trimming down the underside of the gun from the front hand, which is molded together with the rifle itself. Carefullness and patience is the key word here folks. I had to cut off small chunks at a time to clear out the small front hand that is holding on to the underside of the lasgun. Once I had the hand clear with all of it’s fingers intact, I glued it to the underside of the plasmagun and fitted it with the rest of the arm bits. I also had to cut off a small piece of resin from the plasma coils/clable input underneath the gun itself in order to make the most out of the pose. I’m very happy with the result and it really adds a lot of character to the overall look of the veteran.

For the other two gunners I first made a really easy gun-swap with the lasgun from the arm that carries the lasrifle by its rails/handles. Glueing the bipod of the plasmagun “unfolded” or hanging down adds the feeling of this guardsman being on the move during combat. This detail reinforces a narrative of a soldier who’s taking up a new firing position a few meters ahead instead of just jogging around, carrying his gun like any other sports bag. Another detail I want you to pay attention to is the slightly turned head. I see a lot of people glueing their miniature’s heads either straight ahead or in the same direction that the body is moving. While there’s no wrong in doing so, next time you’re building miniatures try playing around with the heads using blu-tac before you glue it in place. By just turning a head slightly to one side or the other, or leaning it a bit forward, you can create some natural poses that not only look cool, but brings the model to life in a whole new way. I’ve seen some pretty sinister looking Necrons with their heads being tilted slightly ahead, to improve the feel of their menacing gaze. If you look closer on my Elysians, some of them have their heads turned towards comrades and paying attention to the environtment around them, rather than just looking or shooting at what’s in front. This is one of the things that also makes them feel alive and not like any other Monopoly marker. For the last gunner I used the right special weapon arm bit, but with a simple cut and some greenstuff-work around the armpit and underneath the shoulder pad, I could make him look like he was resting his gun on the ground while still holding onto it in a more relaxed way. This model is also pointing ahead to further emphasize that he’s coordinating his comrade’s fire or just pointing out a good firing position for the rest of the section. And so the command squad tells it’s own story that everybody around the table will hopefully notice and point out!

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Three new corporals with plasmaguns. The dynamic poses really shows what you can achieve if you just put some extra effort into working with this kit.

Adding some longe range fire support.
Last but not least I managed to build a Tauros Venator for my 1750pts army. The kit was a pleasure to build and very straight forward but at the same time rewarding, with lots of cool bits and gear compared to the assault version of the Tauros. Even though it is a bit overpriced, only bringing a twinlinked lascannon and front AV11 stock (almost at the same price of two armored sentinels with a lascannon each) I think it has some tactical usage as it can scout ahead before the game starts to threaten the sides of vehicles that didn’t deploy with caution. The tauros also adds a lot of battlefield narrative to the force as it reminds me of the lighter but heavily armed vehicles seen both historically, with the LRDG in the North African WWII-theatre, and during today’s conflicts with special forces operating in the African countries and Afghanistan.

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Even though I don’t plan on using the two Hunter Killer missiles, they make the Tauros look to cool not to add.
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Long range anti-tank weapons, high points cost, cool miniature? I’ll take two please!

Stay tuned for the upcomming Part two of this article, where I’ll discuss the pros and cons of fielding Colonel Straken, and perhaps share some new tactical light on his role in an infantry based army.

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