Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tyrannic War Veterans WIP, Part I: Initial Planning

I'm currently designing a squad of Ultramarine Tyrannic War Veterans (I'll just call them TWVs for short). The TWVs were introduced in 4th Edition as an Ultramarines-only squad with special abilities to help them bring down their preferred enemy; e.g., Tyranid monstrous creatures. Specifically, they could use krak grenades in close combat with non-vehicle units and their heavy bolters could fire hellfire rounds (2+ poisoned weapons). With the 5th Edition Space Marine codex, the existence of the Tyrannic War Veterans was still acknowledged, as was their connection to Chaplain Cassius. However, their special rules were removed. Although not explicitly acknowledged in the codex, it's understood by most Ultramarines players that the concept of the TWVs has been rolled into that of the Sternguard Veterans, which were introduced in 5th Edition for all Codex-compliant Space Marine chapters. This assumption is confirmed by the fact that GW's website still shows the TWV models, but the rules and stats given for them are for Sternguard.

Sternguard can't use krak grenades in close combat (given how hard it was to land a grenade on a non-preferred enemy, this ability was pointless against any army other than Tyranids), nor can they use hellfire rounds in heavy bolters. However, Sternguard members were given veteran stats as well as the ability to fire a variety of ammunition types, including hellfire rounds, from standard bolters. (Oddly enough, while Sternguard don't have a hellfire option for their heavy bolters, Scouts' heavy bolters do have a hellfire shell.) Additionally, Sternguard have the option of taking a variety of ranged weapons, including inexpensive heavy weapons and combi-weapons. Overall, the transformation of the TWVs into a themed Sternguard was a significant improvement.

The pewter TWV models are still for sale and you can purchase a Finecast Sternguard Squad. Although the models are beautiful, I'm not interested in dealing with Finecast (this is a subject that needs no elaboration) and I want to minimize how many pewter models I have to work with. Besides, much of the fun of the 40K hobby is in customizing the models, which is much easier to do with plastic bits. Just as importantly, I don't want to be limited to the wargear provided with the Finecast and pewter figures; e.g., four bolters, a single combi-melta, and a power fist on the Sternguard and bolters on the TWVs. Fortunately, GW has strewn a wealth of plastic bits throughout their model line, giving a modelling nut with a few extra bucks lying around access to an embarrassment of riches.

Tyrannic War Veterans
[Models by Games Workshop]

Although I'll be building my squad as Tyrannic War Veterans, GW's Sternguard models are my primary inspiration. The TWV models look too uniform to me and are decorated with several logos that my models will probably lack. As much as I'd love to use the Tyrannic War Veteran logo (a Tyranid skull superimposed over a short sword), it would take me much too long to try to paint it free-hand on each member of a ten man squad (I don't trust the survivability of five man non-Terminator squads). The sword with the superimposed Ultramarines logo on the chest would probably be easier to accomplish, but that would require more conversion of torso bits to create smooth chest pieces than I'm willing to do.

From a fluff perspective, it would be fairly easy to justify omitting the TWV logos. Although the existence and influence of the Tyrannic War Veterans is a deviation from orthodoxy that has been allowed by Chapter Master Calgar, you could imagine that the use of a seemingly Chapter-sanctioned logo depicting a Xenos or a preference for wearing the Chapter symbol on their chests rather than the Imperial Aquila could be seen by some within the Imperial government as implying that their loyalty to the Chapter takes precedence over the Imperium. Calgar, being a consummate diplomat, could have mandated that future Tyrannic War Veteran squads wear the more orthodox symbols used by other Ultramarine veterans, while still allowing each Marine to personalize his armor and weaponry. The example for this approach would be Chaplain Cassius, who wears standard Chaplain's armor while carrying a book bound in Tyranid hide and a Crozius depicting a Tyranid skull. Although the unit would generally resemble other Sternguard squads, each veteran could carry trophies from his battles with the Tyranids. As can be seen on the TWV models, some of these trophies could take the form of deliberately unrepaired gouges in a Marine's armor caused by Tyranid talons and claws (there are several gouges on the right arm of Cassius' armor).

Sternguard Veterans
[Models by Games Workshop]

Since I've decided my veterans will effectively be 5th Edition Sternguard with a few accents and customizations showing them to be Tyrannic War Veterans, let's look at how Sternguard veterans are distinguished from other Marine units. Like the TWVs, Sternguard veterans have white helmets and white shoulder pad rims, which is standard for members of the Ultramarines 1st Company. However, chapter logos are limited to the extremities while skulls and/or the Imperial Aquila decorate the chest plate. Sternguard veterans are also given the honor of wearing portions of ancient armor (e.g., Mk VI helmets and shoulder pads) as well as the newer Mk VIII armor (this link discusses the various types of power armor). While older models of armor may occasionally be seen among Tactical Marines, the Mk VII style is the dominant type. GW's TWV models also seem to wear slightly modified suits of Mk VII armor.

Unlike the TWV models, which are very similar to each other, Sternguard members wear a variety of symbols that show their veteran status and their battlefield honors (e.g., the Crux Terminatus, the Iron Skull, laurels). Given the fluff surrounding Space Marine veterans and their tendency to personalize their armor over years of service, I would expect very little uniformity in their appearance. This is definitely a strike against GW's otherwise excellent Tyrannic War Veteran figures, both fluff-wise as well as from a modelling perspective. It's the diversity shown in GW's Sternguard models that makes the idea of building a Sternguard-style squad of Tyrannic War Veterans exciting.

Coming soon: How I plan to equip my Sternguard Squad and the bits I'm collecting for them.

[Update 4/3/13: I failed at the "coming soon part". However, this series finally continues with a description of converting plastic Sternguard bolters.]

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