Category Archives: Warhammer 40,000

Blackshield Decisions

2018-04-22 14.13.56Here are my first two black shield marauders. They’re still in progress – I need to figure out some insignia. I’d rather not have any at all, to really give that treacherous black ops look. But I think they need something. I’m thinking maybe just some kill-markings, and lightning bolts on the shoulder pads of the Terran-born soldiers.

Anyway this is a surprisingly fun project for me: the first space marine force I’ve built since the early 1990s. That means the last time I painted a space marine, Kurt Cobain was alive. And the Heresy-era armour and weapons remind me of an even earlier time, when I played Rogue Trader – probably incorrectly – with a couple of friends who had even less idea of what was going on than I did.

But anyway, enough reminiscing. My problem now is, which unit to get next? I’m building these guys step by step as a small force to fight alongside my hive gang militia. I have two squads of blackshield marauders, one outfitted for assault with shotguns and power swords, the other for tank hunting with lascutters and an autocannon. But I don’t know what to build next. I have room for one more unit in my little list, and since my local community are big fans of Centurion mode that means infantry, speeders, or walkers only. So this is my shortlist:

Seeker squad These guys really fit the black ops feel of my army. They’re expert marks-marines (BS5) with a variety of specialist ammo and preferred enemy against one enemy unit, chosen at the start of the game. Headhunters with bolters are a good fit, especially since no-one else in my army has a bolter. In an astartes force that just… seems wrong.

Tactical support squad with meltaguns Not a very competitive choice, the internet says. Hard to use well, but I can deepstrike them. Basically they’re Eldar Fire Dragons in marine form, and if Eldar players can do it, so can I. But the best reason to take them: twelve year old me heartily approves of a whole squad of meltaguns. It’s something he always wanted to do and was never allowed.

Terminators Come on, everyone loves termies. They’re a classic unit, and if I’m going with marines I may as well field some terminators while I’m at it. Plus the Tartaros amour looks amazing.

Dreadnought You know what else everyone loves? Dreadies. A good centrepiece model might be the way to go, and he can pack some heavier weaponry too.

It’s just a really hard decision. Anyone out there got an opinion?

The True Sons of Terra

I sold some painted models a little while ago – an Inquisitor and retinue. It really made my day when the guy who bought them (who was in the UK) sent me a message on eBay saying he recognised them from Instagram, and liked my work!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I try to make my hobby and my art self-sustaining. I keep a separate business account (in the case of art) and a piggy bank (in the case of hobby), and only use money from sales to fund further purchases. In the case of the art stuff, professionalism comes first, so I don’t cut any corners with materials and quality. In the case of hobby though, I take it as a sort of personal challenge to be as cheap as possible, sourcing bits from my mate Chris at Bitz Galaxy or from Bitz Box in the UK.

So I used the money from the Inquisitor and his cronies to fund the start of my Blackshields. In case you don’t know, Blackshields are an astartes faction found in Forge World’s Horus Heresy Book VI: Retribution. They’re marines who are victims of the Heresy and have splintered off from their Legion for whatever reason, gathered under a charismatic commander, and become mercenaries, pirates, or guerillas. They’ve obscured their original heraldry and foresworn their former Legion. Some were loyal, some fought for the Warmaster, and some for themselves. The vast majority of them were annihilated during the Heresy, but a few bands eventually fell to Chaos if they weren’t sworn to the Ruinous Powers already, and still kick around as Chaos Space Marine war bands in the 41st millennium. Others may even have evolved into post-Heresy loyalist successor chapters. But yeah, most died like so many others.

I’ve decided my Blackshields are not Chaos worshippers, but reavers and pirates. Their predecessors (and their commander, Captain Chiron) were Terran-born Raven Guard, the last generation of youths from the Xeric tribes of Terra to be inducted before the chapter began recruiting from off-world. Apparently after the Raven Guard were re-united with their Primarch, he didn’t really approve of the the Xeric martial traditions of his Terran legionaries, so he slowly purged them from the Legion. Chiron was a neophyte when he and his majority Terran-born company were assigned to a Rogue Trader on the galactic fringe.

By the time the Heresy blew everything apart, Chiron was one of the last surviving children of Terra in his company, and a Captain of the Legion. He abandoned the Rogue Trader and united his remaining comrades, leading them slowly home towards Terra. His ultimate plan when he reached his destination was unknown, but his band, who called themselves The True Sons of Terra, grew with other renegade and orphan astartes.

The True Sons were not afraid to use prohibited and xenos weaponry they had captured on the galactic fringe, and their tactics were unorthodox, more akin to a band of raiders than a space marine legion. Their small fleet was further bolstered by the remnants of the hive-gang militia regiment the Uruq Immortals, orphaned during the Baylonian Insurrection, who were willing participants in Chiron’s various plots and sabotages. Although Chiron’s loyalties (probably) lay with the Emperor, and the True Sons often fought bravely for the loyalist cause, the fact that they wore no recognisable badge and fought in such a deceptive manner resulted in more than one tragic case of mistaken identity ending in fellow loyalist blood being shed.

The True Sons of Terra are not to be confused with the Chaos warband The True Sons. Chiron and his army apparently vanished during the Age of Darkness, never reaching their destination. The latter are a band of Chaos Space Marines, formerly Sons of Horus, and still exist in the 41st millennium.

So that’s the background for these guys. This is a sketch I did of Captain Chiron, just for some preliminary inspiration. I’m imagining him as sort of Conan-esque, only a Space Marine:

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King Chiron, leader of the True Sons of Terra

This one weird trick will keep your army going all night!

This is something I’ve been thinking about ever since I started clambering back onto the old 40k warhorse maybe six months ago. I’ve been lurking on hoary old forums and certain disreputable mega-blogs, as they were the best places to get news and community discussion about 8th edition once that ball was rolling. Needless to say, the tone of these places is generally not as positive as on your smaller nicer blogs like this one.

To be honest I’ve noticed a bit of edition fatigue in the air. Or perhaps edition rage is a better term. People get angry, sometimes quite angry, when models they relied upon in previous editions to kick ass suddenly aren’t quite so effective. They rail at Games Workshop for changing things up and “making” them buy new things. I’ve been playing this bloody game on an off for like a quarter of a century now, so I thought maybe I should do my bit and help out with this. Even if it’s likely that the only people who will read this already agree with me. Maybe somewhere, someone who needs help will see this and save themselves hundreds of dollars and a lot of needless stress.

So here it is, the magical secret to making your army edition proof, forever, in two easy steps: Continue reading

Signal Transmogrified


Classic MKVI space marine. Looks like Jes Goodwin drew him? I love the balance and confidence in his pose.


Hello friends,

It’s been a little over four years since there’s been a Warp Signal post.

A lot has happened in that time for me, in terms of the hobby, my own personal creativity, the online gaming community, and how I relate to all of those.

I started another blog. I wrote on and off for the House of Paincakes blog network, and was deeply involved in that community before it proceeded to implode in a fairly dramatic fashion. I stopped playing Games Workshop’s mainstream games, and even went for a year or so without painting a miniature. I had a go at historical gaming (SAGA), cyberpunk skirmish gaming (Infinity), and I began (and still am) DMing a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition campaign. I left my budding academic career, stopped writing fiction utterly, and returned to my first love: drawing and painting. I’m still doing a lot of that now, and I don’t think I’m ever going to stop. It’s good for me.

So… a lot has changed hasn’t it? The last time I posted here was at (perhaps) the peak of the wargaming blogosphere. We were legion, and the conversation was abundant and almost primeval in its creativity and intensity. Now we are few.

Well, there are still a lot of blogs –  but the light of conversation has dimmed a bit. And now there are not just blogs. There are facebook pages, and instagram accounts: thriving communities that are tied to the rest of our online personae as we inexorably come under the umbrella of the All Powerful Social Intermediaries. Anonymity seems a bit quaint and old-fashioned these days. When I started Warp Signal, I took the comparatively rare step (at the time) of using a variation of my real name. I thought it would keep me grounded. It did not; and one look at facebook will show you that what you call yourself makes little difference to how you behave. So I was wrong about that.

The reason I’m posting here again, now, is because I’m at peace with all of this. I’m feeling inspired by the universe of Warhammer 40,000 again, and I’m making models again and painting them, and planning games. Even playing them a little bit.

In keeping with this new era, the new Warp Signal is primarily an instagram account. Hence the title of this post. It is @warpsignal.

I might post blogs every now and again when I feel like writing something, but mainly I’m doing this because I’m tired of writing. I spend most of my precious personal time making art, and painting models, which are of course the same thing only in different worlds. I’d like to show my models to the world and commune with like-minded people, but I don’t want to sprinkle models all over my instagram art account, as I have been. I want a dedicated account for my Warhammer-related art and miniatures hobby, because now it truly is a hobby. It’s no longer my escape or my main creative outlet. It’s something I do to refresh myself during other artistic projects.

I hope you’ll join me on this new venture. When I left Warp Signal years ago, I asked all of you to keep me on your rolls in case I ever came back. I guess now we’ll see if anyone did. And who amongst you is still out there.

Jimmy (James) S.


Work in Progress Titan Base


The photos you can see here are the work of my regular opponent Capn Stoogey.  Incidentally, why don’t we call them “play-mates” instead of “opponents” I wonder?  I guess it doesn’t sound very tough.

IMG_0274 IMG_0273

Anyway, he’s been working on a scenic base for his Reaver Titan.  This one has a grav-tank being crushed, and the Biel-Tan paint-job is in homage to the guy who first got him into 40k many years ago.  He also has a Warhound which will have a Wave Serpent being stepped on, and that Wave Serpent will be painted by Yours Truly in Iybraesil style.

I’ll put up more shots of this one when it’s finished.  And we’ll get a camera instead of using a phone…


The Ratling Project: Final Concept Art

Svirfneblin snipers standing around dramatically in some smoke

My brother Chris has sent me some final concept art for our alternative Svirfneblin-inspired Ratling project (or “the nebos” as he’s taken to calling them in his very . . . Aussie fashion).  He’s just finishing up another miniatures project, and then he’s ready to start sculpting the greens.  I think they will look pretty amazing.

Svirfneblin snipers on a break

Svirfneblin sniper rifles

There are more images on Chris’s blog here.  I particularly like the NCO.

Could There Ever be Another 40k? Part II – Rick Priestley and Gates of Antares

Last week the D6 Generation podcast had a very interesting interview with Rick Priestley.  They had a problem with their soundboard just before the show so the audio quality is not perfect, but it’s still easily listenable.  They must have been gutted for that to happen when they were talking to the grandfather of fantasy wargaming; their show is normally very professional sounding!

Anyway, I’ve never met Rick or heard him interviewed before, and I really enjoyed it.  He talked quite a bit about how he came to write Warhammer and WH40k, and he had a few slightly and sadly critical remarks about how Games Workshop had managed his creation, both background-wise and in terms of rules.

I’m bringing this up because it relates to my previous post Could There Ever be Another 40k?, which sparked one of my favourite discussions on this blog so far.  It was pretty clear within about fifteen minutes of the interview that Rick Priestley, while he presents himself with typical English understatement, was born to design games and has most of a working lifetime of experience doing so.  In other words, he’s a natural talent who also really knows what he’s doing.

So what, in Rick’s mind, did he actually do that made Warhammer 40,00 so successful?  Two things: firstly, he deliberately tried to make a universe with infinite potential, and secondly, he married occult elements to science fiction.  Now the second one is I think relative to time and place.  If you were going to make a game now that really blew people’s minds, you would do something else like, say . . . well, if I knew that I wouldn’t be sitting here like a sucker writing this blog.  I’d be designing the next 40k.

But the first one is important.  In the interview Rick mentions that he was disappointed by the way the 40k universe was perpetuated.  Unlike a lot of people on the internet, he wasn’t talking about it never moving forward in narrative.  Personally I think that’s totally unimportant, and in fact I think the background for a successful game needs to move slowly, if at all.  What you need is breadth, not motion.  No, he was sad that they had shrunk it.  The universe he designed was intended to be large enough to let players do whatever the hell they wanted.  Over time though, it has become restricted to the one galaxy, and the one (oh sorry, two) eras, and the factions available in the books are all that there are.  Maybe not theoretically, but practically.  The way Rick intended it the Orks, the Eldar, and all the rest were just some species among many possible ones, there to sort of kick-start the universe.

But what happened was that the GW higher-ups interwove the background too much between the existing factions for change to really be possible, and closed off the wilder elements that wouldn’t fit comfortably.  So now, as Rick put it, there is no sense of time and space in the 40k universe.  Every faction is everywhere at once, fighting each other, and it doesn’t really seem as though anyone else is around.  It might as well be the Warhammer Old World, with the Orks, Necrons, Imperium and the rest as races on the one planet, unable to leave.

The focus has contracted, so instead of a universe that can grow, it only gets smaller with each new book.  We start to get endless sub-divisions of the existing factions, and re-iterations and fleshings-out of minor factions mentioned in past books.  There is a strict historical timeline to be adhered to that is reproduced in nearly every codex.  Everything must be canonical.

This is how 40k is now.  But this is not what made it dynamic and attractive in the beginning.  It has ossified.  And the thing is, very few other games (OK, none) have even been attempted with the openness and scope of the original 40k background.  Every single sci-fi wargame I know of follows the tried and tested formula of several more or less imaginatively sketched factions locked in a violent stalemate, and leave it at that.  The reason I suggested that Infinity was different in my previous post is because it is all about beginnings.  Nothing has really happened yet, and if they’re smart, nothing really will but it will always feel like it could.

Now this open-ness that marked the original 40k is something I personally like, and it’s a hallmark of Rick’s design.  I’ve been thinking of picking up Fanticide for example because it will allow me to buy a bunch of samurai models and maybe throw in some samurai rabbits and invent my own working, legal faction.  Because you can do that with Fanticide.

What all of this is leading to is that Rick is working on another game, and it’s one that he has put a great deal of thought into in terms of background and modernized game play.  It’s called Beyond the Gates of Antares.  I won’t tell you any more as the D6G team manage to get a detailed run-down from Rick in the interview.  So check it out.  It was on Kickstarter but was cancelled a few days ago, the team stating that they were going to produce it via other means.

Incidentally, Rick had a few interesting things to say about companies on Kickstarter.  Beyond the Gates of Antares was aiming for £300,00 which seems like a lot, but they were trying to use Kickstarter to fund the game from scratch and start a company as well.  Apparently each green of a miniature from a sculptor or piece of concept art takes months and costs around a thousand bucks, so when these companies like Fantasy Flight or CMON jump on Kickstarter and reveal greens and art week by week as people pledge, it’s because they already have all that stuff ready.  They are not really using the Kickstarter to fund the game, they are using the Kickstarter to pre-sell a bunch of copies of the game.  Which is not entirely in the spirit of the thing I think.  For a good read on this issue from a blogger who predicted that Gates of Antares would fail and why, read this.

Anyway, I am very curious as to how this will turn out.  Rick Priestley is a bit of a hero of mine, as I’m sure he is for many of us, and I wonder if his crazy no-holds-barred visionary design style could ever be the source of another industry behemoth.  If there ever could be another 40k, maybe he’s the man to do it.  Certainly he has the boldness and the experience, and he’s done it before, right?

We’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of this I suppose.  Do you think Rick could do it again, or do you think it was mostly luck and good management that made 40k what it is?  Or something else?

Confessions of a Hipster Gamer

imagesThis used to be a post where I lamented the growing popularity of Infinity and complained about it possibly becoming the game of choice for people I’d rather not play with.  I have since deleted the article.  It was written in the weeks just before I wound up the blog, I was in a very bitter place when I wrote it, and I like to think – I hope – that it wasn’t like me at all.  I have always tried to have a positive voice in my blogging about gaming because games are supposed to be positive things.

So you’ve been spared the pessimistic rant.  Instead I’d like to say a couple of things:

First of all, Infinity is a great game and I wish the people at Corvus Belli all the success in the world.  I would be more than happy if the game really took off.  Genuinely.  I apologize for the uncharitable and unnecessary opinion I expressed earlier.  If for some reason you haven’t heard of Infinity and you like the sound of a quality anime-themed skirmish miniatures game then look no further.

Secondly, who am I to judge anyone?  I barely have time to play anyway, am unlikely to ever play anyone unpleasant, and even if I do so what?  We all have to deal with jerks in life at various times and places, and sometimes we even are those jerks.  Why should I expect gaming be any different?

So that’s it.  I’ve also deleted the comments, so sorry to all the people who took the time to respond to my er . . . poisonous whinge.

I kept the picture of the hipster hobbits because I think it’s funny.

Have a good one,

– James

Games Workshop Claims Rights to the Term ‘Space Marine’

…world slaps forehead.


Some of you might have heard this already, but here’s a link to an article sticking up for a science fiction writer who has had her book removed from Amazon in response to a request from Games Workshop.  Because it has the words ‘Space Marine’ in the title.

That’s right, good old GW have decided to expand their muscle tactics beyond the small world of hobby games and miniatures and have started telling sci-fi writers that they can’t use those two famous words.  I’ll be interested to see how this pans out – bullying garage miniature sculptors is one thing, telling authors (many of whom presumably have publishers much bigger than GW) that they can’t say ‘space marine’ is a whole other kettle of fish.

As one of my mates said: “why don’t those asshats just fucking trademark ‘war’ and ‘future’ while they’re at it?”

Another internet commentator pointed out that in the US, the Unites States Marine Corps owns the rights to the term ‘marine’, and that they do in fact have actual, real-life marines trained for space.  So good luck prosecuting that one GW, you monumental basket case of blundering, flailing evilness.

You know, really nothing they do surprises me any more.  I don’t know why I bother even paying attention.   It’s fascinating, I guess…?

The Ratling Project

Svirfneblin snipers

A little while ago I mentioned that I was dissatisfied with GW’s hobbit-inspired ratlings, and the only way I could see getting my hands on ratlings I liked was either to do a massive modelling project or commission a sculptor.

Well, last week you might remember I mentioned my brother Chris’s blog, which mainly chronicles his D&D adventures.  Chris is a trained printmedia artist with a long-term interest in sculpting miniatures, and I had a chat with him about making some tough, leathery little bastards inspired by the aesthetic of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Svirfneblin (deep gnomes).

He agreed to give it a go and the above sketch is his first rough whack at the job.  I’m pretty excited, and will of course keep track of how this goes on my blog.  He has a cartoonish style that I think suits this idea well, given the exaggerated features I’m after. I particularly like the mandarin collars, the sneaky ninja boots and the felt helmets, which Chris tells me are based on World War One Romanian felt helmets.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to some greens he has made and some of his future projects in miniature design.

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