Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Ultramar Auxilia Allies

Last year I said that I would be starting a Tyranid army once my Ultramarine army was done or at least farther along. Although I've not given up on the idea of building a Hive Fleet Behemoth or Behemoth splinter force, the addition of allies to 6th Edition has significantly changed my plans.

It wasn't until later that someone pointed out that
the Ultramarines use the colors of my alma mater
To be honest, I started an Ultramarine army because I wanted to do Space Marines and because I'm partial to the blue, white, and gold color scheme of the Ultramarines' second company. I realized that I made a good choice when I read up on the fluff surrounding that Chapter and the Ultramar System. I was particularly interested in the relationship between the Ultramarines and the Ultramar Auxilia. Although technically a Planetary Defense Force (well, I guess it would be more of a System Defense Force), the Auxilia is portrayed in GW and Black Library material as being a highly trained force that has regiments constantly ready for deployment outside of the Ultramar System. Externally deployed regiments have even fought alongside the Ultramarines (which only makes sense considering that the Ultramarines Chapter rules the Ultramar System and is technically the Auxilia's direct political authority).

I've long envied the Imperial Guard's Heavy Support options (I've since become irrationally fond of the Leman Russ design) and saw the Auxilia as an interesting way to bring IG weaponry to the table in support of the Ultramarines. The chance to add more variety to my army in the form of less costly support troops and a greater choice of vehicles was also appealing. However, under 5th Edition I was reluctant to start an Auxilia force since there was no official way to incorporate allied armies and I didn't necessarily want to build a standalone IG army.

Then 6th Edition came along and GW gave us an official way to add allies to our main armies. After working through a few potential arrangements (some with the Marines as the primary detachment, some with the Auxilia as the main force), I realized that I could pretty easily assemble some competitive lists featuring the Ultramarines and their Auxilia.

Since there aren't any official description of what Auxilia troops look like, I'm going to have to figure out how to build and paint such a force. Some sources indicate that Cadian gear is considered the standard for Imperial Guard regiments. Given the Ultramarines' obsession with standardization and the fact that the Ultramar Auxilia is supposed to be able to either fight alongside the Imperial Guard or to be incorporated into it as needed, I think it can be assumed that Auxilia troops would look similar to Cadian shock troops (this would be a budget-friendly decision given that Cadian figures are GW's standard IG models). Since blue seems to be the representative color for the Ultramar System, I would probably paint the Auxilia's helmets and flak armor Macragge Blue. For contrast, I'll probably paint the cloth portions of the uniform either gray or a light khaki. For diversity, I've considered painting each trooper's right shoulder pad with colors representing his homeworld. The left shoulder pad could have the number of his squad. I toyed with the idea of painting the inverted omega on the troopers, but decided that the symbol should be reserved for the Ultramarines themselves, although I may paint a small emblem on the Auxilia's veteran sergeants and officers as a mark of honor.

Does it come in gray? Perhaps with some blue highlights?

As for the vehicles, they would be the stock IG variants, although a few details may be different. For example, frequently replaced add-on items such as smoke launchers and searchlights might be shared between Ultramarine and Auxilia vehicles. The Auxilia's vehicles should sport at least some of Ultramar's trademark color, although it just wouldn't seem right to me for their tanks to be entirely blue. The privilege of painting their vehicles entirely in the color of Ultramar (as well as the utter disdain for the concept of camouflage) belongs to the Ultramarines. Thus, the Auxilia's vehicles will probably be painted in shades of gray with a few blue markings. Again, as with the troopers, the vehicles would forgo the use of the inverted omega. I might just go with a simple "ULTRA" on their hulls.

Unfortunately, I've gotten pretty excited about building an Auxilia army, but I still have a huge number of unbuilt Space Marine models. Curse my slow building pace.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Drop Pods WIP, Part III

I finally finished two drop pods after spending an embarrassing 4+ months working on them. One is built to land a Tactical Squad and the other to land a Dreadnought. Although I think they'll give me an advantage at the gaming table, I'm not happy that it took me so long to finish 70 points worth of models.

As shown in my last WIP post, I built a number of subassemblies before painting them. The subassemblies for each drop pod consisted of the following:
  • The bottom half of the base
  • Five hatches
  • The top half of the base (with the inertial guidance dome installed directly on the deck for the Dreadnought pod)
  • One central column (Tactical Squad drop pod only)
  • Five harnesses (Tactical Squad drop pod only)
  • Five vertical supports
  • A storm bolter turret
  • An engine pod

Drop pod harness subassembly
Although I usually paint most of a model before fully assembling it, I left the drop pods in even more pieces due to their complexity. With my Rhino-based models, I fully assembled them before applying washes and highlights. For the drop pods, I did the final assembly after everything was complete except for the final weathering. The models are so unwieldy that I can't imagine trying to do any significant painting on a fully assembled drop pod.

I had read other modelers' warnings that trying to put the harness subassembly together after gluing the central column to the deck could make one's life difficult. Therefore, the harnesses, which had previously been base coated with Boltgun Metal, were glued to the central column one by one before attaching anything to the pod deck. During this process, I frequently dry fit the subassembly to the deck to make sure everything was aligned properly. Once the subassembly was built, I washed it with Nuln Oil and then dry brushed it with Chainmail. This cleaned up any streaks or puddles of wash and highlighted the edges and details. Heavier brushing was used to add scuff marks. I used the same technique for nearly all metallic regions.

Assembled Tactical Squad drop pod base. Note the cutouts
for the vertical supports at the five corners of the base.
I finished the assembly of the simpler Dreadnought drop pod first to get a little practice. This took no more than 20 to 30 minutes and was nearly trouble free. First I placed all five hatches into their grooves in the bottom half of the base and glued on the top half of the base. Next, I glued two adjacent vertical supports to the engine pod and then glued that subassembly into the cutouts in the corners of the deck. (I was afraid that using a single support would cause the subassembly to sag and make it difficult to install supports on the opposite side.) After giving the glue a few minutes to dry, I added the three remaining supports. I had ensured that the supports would fit into their slots on the engine pod before applying any glue since the fit can be extremely tight. Four of the five doors are well aligned and open and close smoothly. Unfortunately, the fifth door tends to rub against an actuator molded into a vertical support. Although annoying, this doesn't mean much during game play since a drop pod's doors stay open once it's on the table.

Drop pod interior. Note the interface between
the vertical supports and the harness assembly.
Putting together the Tactical Squad drop pod was a much more difficult task. The harness assembly has to be installed before you can glue on the vertical supports, but structures on the harnesses and a triangular shape at the base of the supports prevent you from inserting the supports vertically into their cutouts. Instead, you have to bring the support in horizontally. This isn't easy to do if you glued more than one vertical support to the engine pod. (Lesson #1: glue only one support on the engine pod and then glue that support to the deck.)

As I was gluing the two vertical supports into place, I realized that the hoses that extend from each harness to the nearest support seemed to stick out a little too far (the pre-painted surface made the interference worse) and I couldn't fully insert the supports into their cutouts. I had to pull everything apart and scrape away paint and plastic just to get everything to fit. (Lesson #2: don't get so excited that you don't adequately dry fit everything first.) In the end, the supports didn't fit as well as they did on the first drop pod, but I was able to hide that fact with a little bit of extra glue in the seams and some paint. Three of the doors open and close smoothly. The fourth isn't quite as smooth as the others and the fifth hits an actuator just like the one on the Dreadnought drop pod. This could be a flaw in the model or it could be the consequence of a misalignment of the vertical supports or the engine pod subassembly.

Once I had everything put together on the two pods, I scraped excess glue from the surface and added paint and wash as necessary to repair those regions. I finished up the models by dry brushing Boltgun Metal to corners and edges to make the pods look well used.

This picture is almost worth those four months

The build is frustrating, but the pods look pretty sharp

Within the next couple months I hope to be landing
an Ironclad Dreadnought in the drop pod on the left

In the next year or so I intend to add another pod for a Sternguard Squad

It's a relief to have finally completed these two models, although I realize that much of the delay in finishing them was the fact that I often avoided even working on them. It's disheartening to paint and detail a component just to realize that there are usually four more just like it (nine if you're building two at a time). (Lesson #3: don't build more than one drop pod at a time.) When I was building a Razorback and a Predator earlier this year, I would often find that I had been working for two to three hours straight without realizing it. With the drop pods, I often thought that I had been working for hours when it had only been about 45 minutes. The models look great now that they're done, but it was an ordeal to finish them. I'm definitely not looking forward to building the Sternguard's transport, but at least I'll only be making one of them.

Tomorrow I expect to start prepping a second Tactical Squad, a squad of close combat Terminators, and an Ironclad Dreadnought for priming.
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