Saturday, March 15, 2014

Choosing a Knightly House

When I first got into this hobby, I chose Space Marines primarily because they were the first army that I ever played. Although Bryce originally got me interested in the game with the Black Templars and their fluff, I ended up doing Ultramarines simply because I had bought GW's starter paint set, which came with five Tactical Marines with Ultramarine logos. I ended up liking the paint scheme and, fortunately, also liked their fluff.

Now that I've bought a couple Imperial Knight kits (and intend to get at least one more when my hobby budget recovers), I have to determine what knightly house I want to model. I briefly considered doing a few Freeblades (i.e., Knights who have gone off on their own or who have outlived the rest of their house) but I found the idea of a house detachment to be more appealing.

Until I read through the Imperial Knight Codex and The Imperial Knight Companion (which is a beautiful book and well worth the cost to us fluff-minded hobbyists),  I was pretty certain that I wanted to do a Mechanicus-aligned house. Not only do I find the Adeptus Mechanicus in general to be interesting, but I like the red color scheme used by Mechanicus units. I figured that a few red models could be a nice change of pace after painting so many blue-armored Ultramarines.

While looking through the photos and illustrations in the Codex and the Companion, I found that I really liked the black and white accents used by the Knights of the Mars-based House Taranis; the first of the knightly houses.

A Knight of House Taranis from The Imperial Knight Companion

I intend for the Knights to accompany my Ultramarines into battle. Although I was leaning towards Taranis' color scheme, I continued to read through the Codex and the Companion to see if there were any knightly houses that might have close ties to Macragge or notable interactions with the Ultramarines. The more I read, the more I realized that Taranis' fluff wasn't all that interesting to me, regardless of what I thought of their paint scheme.

With the sole exception of House Taranis, all Nobles who pilot a Knight suit are neurologically altered by the Throne Mechanicum that links the pilot to the suit. According to the Codex, the Throne "implant[s] strong positive associations to notions of fealty, obligation and hierarchy, as well as a deep respect for the Noble's ancestors". This was a deliberate feature of the device and was meant to mentally condition Nobles on far-flung colony worlds, preventing them from going rogue and turning on their fellow settlers. With the highest ranking members of the colonies thus conditioned, all Knight worlds became highly conservative feudalistic societies whose Nobles are willing to die for their own people as well as for any allies that they deem worthy. This arrangement is reminiscent of Ultramar itself, which is a feudal realm ruled by various lords, all of whom are inevitably Astartes of the Ultramarines Chapter.

Taranis, on the other hand, has protected Mars since the Age of Technology. Having always been loyal to the Cult Mechanicus, Taranis' Nobles have never adopted a feudalistic system nor has there been a need to condition them through their Thrones Mechanicum. The only reason that there is a knightly house on Mars is because of the discovery that certain genetic lineages are more likely to be neurologically compatible with the Knight suits. Otherwise, the Knights of Mars are effectively a branch of the Legio Titanicus.

While the story of House Taranis is interesting, it's obvious that their true loyalties lie with the Adeptus Mechanicus. This would be fine if I were playing Iron Hands or the Imperial Guard, but I play Ultramarines; a Chapter whose captains bear titles like "Knight Champion of Macragge" and "Regent of Ultramar". I want to model a knightly house that will remember a favor and repay a debt millennia after the fact, not one that will ally with the Ultramarines because the Mechanicus' and the Astartes' interests are generally aligned.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily preclude me from modeling some other Mechanicus-aligned house. The Nobles of House Raven or House Krast may be aligned with the Adeptus Mechanicus and are obligated to support the Forge Worlds first and foremost, but their Nobles have been mentally conditioned just like those of the other knightly houses. Unfortunately, none of the paint schemes of the other Mechanicus-aligned houses really interest me. Many of them use chevron patterns that look pretty sharp, but I don't have any confidence that I'd be able to pull them off.

Like Space Marines, Knights laugh at the idea of camouflage

After a little bit of searching, I found a knightly house with the ideal fluff. House Terryn is based on Voltoris, which puts it relatively close to Ultramar. Although well known for straying far from Voltoris in search of battle, in recent years the Knights of House Terryn have found themselves protecting their region of space from the Tau and the Tyranid hive fleets. This would very likely put them into direct contact with the Ultramarines.

Terryn's Knights have been known to become lost to the House and to act more like Freeblades than a house detachment while single-mindedly pursuing a vendetta or fulfilling a vow. With this kind of background, it would be easy to model a detachment of Knights that had vowed to support the Ultramarines until death or until they are released from a debt of honor.

I only have one minor issue with House Terryn:

Blue armor with white markings? Again?

That's right; they're blue. I would be adding blue Knights to my already very blue army. Well, the recommended base color of House Terryn is Kantor Blue, which is different from the Mordian Blue, Ultramarines Blue, or Macragge Blue that I've been using for my Ultramarines, but they're blue nonetheless.

And the idea of allying Terryn with the Ultramarines isn't particularly novel:

So much blue...

The Codex even features a Knight of House
Terryn striding among an army of Ultramarines

But come to think of it, I like the color blue and I've never claimed to be very imaginative. The fluff for an Ultramarines/Terryn alliance works out perfectly and has great storytelling potential, so I guess I can live with a thoroughly blue army that looks suspiciously like GW's promotional material.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Land Raider Crusader WIP, Part IV

I've accelerated my efforts on the Crusader in recent days so I can move on to the two Imperial Knights I bought from Jake last week. During this time I learned a very important lesson; if you're going to use a new paint scheme, don't use a model as large and expensive as a Land Raider Crusader for your first attempt.

Until GW changed its paint line, I primed my vehicles with Army Painter Ultramarine Blue, base coated with Ultramarines Blue, applied two to three washes of Badab Black, and then finished with a dry brushing of Ultramarines Blue. My Vindicator, Razorback, and Predator were all painted this way.

The Vindicator was my first vehicle

The Predator and Razorback used the older paint line

I started my drop pods after the change to the paint line. I had thought that I could simply recreate my old vehicle paint scheme using Altdorf Guard Blue (which is a layer paint) in place of Ultramarines Blue. Altdorf Guard went over the Army Painter primer well and Nuln Oil was nearly indistinguishable from Badab Black. However, when I started dry brushing with Altdorf Guard, the color was entirely off from my previous vehicles. Altdorf Guard lacks the purplish tint found in Ultramarines Blue, giving the surfaces I had painted a washed-out look. Fortunately, there were enough dregs left in my old bottle of Ultramarines Blue to finish the drop pods.

The drop pods were base coated with Altdorf Guard Blue
but the final dry brushing was with Ultramarines Blue

I first used Macragge Blue on my Ironclad Dreadnought. I paint Dreadnoughts more like my infantry and had therefore base coated it with Mordian Blue (I bought two bottles just before they went out of stock) and washed it with Nuln Oil. On previous troops, I finished with a dry brushing of Ultramarines Blue. Having depleted my Ultramarines Blue on the drop pods, and knowing that I wasn't happy with Altdorf Guard as a the final dry brushed layer, I decided to use Macragge instead. The final product looked good, but a comparison with other models showed that Macragge Blue had left a slight purple tint that wasn't present on my other models. Once all the weathering was done, though, the Ironclad fit right in with my other models and I haven't noticed the difference since I finished the model. I used the same paint scheme on my Close Combat Terminator Squad, which doesn't stand out significantly from my other infantry.

The Ironclad Dreadnought was base coated with Mordian Blue
and had a final dry brushing with Macragge Blue

Which brings me to the Land Raider Crusader. Having accepted that GW was now pushing purple-tinted Ultramarines (making them genuinely ultramarine blue in color), I had decided to bite the bullet and paint each subsequent vehicle with a Macragge Blue base coat (I think I still have enough Mordian Blue to finish out the rest of my infantry). The rest of the model would be washed with Nuln Oil and dry brushed with Macragge.

It's not quite the color Ultramarines were when
I started the hobby almost three years ago

What I didn't realize is that my previous experience with Macragge Blue involved dry brushed layers only. The underlying base coat of Mordian Blue still dominated the overall color of the Ironclad and the Terminators.

As I began painting Macragge Blue over my usual primer coat of Army Painter Ultramarine Blue, I noticed a couple things. First, Macragge flows well, goes onto the surface smoothly, and has a rich, attractive color. Second, no model painted with a Macragge Blue base coat could possibly match my previous vehicles or infantry since the strong purple tint would stand out like a sore thumb. (I apologize for the lack of photos here. My camera tends to wash out the purple enough that you can barely distinguish between the different shades of blue.)

It looked something like this

Had I started the hobby less than a year later than I did, I would have been happily base coating my Ultramarines with Macragge Blue from day one. Unfortunately, I have far too many points worth of models painted in the Ultramarines' 5th Edition colors to change the scheme so drastically now. I obviously didn't know myself when I said that I was "willing to paint future models in the new Ultramarines color scheme".

I think I've come up with a solution, though. Thanks to the drop pods, I already know that I can paint a model with Altdorf Guard and come out with a satisfying final color as long as I don't use it for the final dry brushing. I also know that I can use Macragge Blue for the final dry brushed layer without its purple tint dominating the overall color of the model. By combining the two, I think I can come up with a satisfactory scheme.

I've already started painting Altdorf Guard over the Macragge Blue. Although GW's recommendation for painting Ultramarines already involves layering Altdorf Guard over a base coat of Macragge Blue, I've been using enough of the layer paint to almost entirely obscure the base coat. Had I known that I would end up with this scheme, I would have simply skipped the Macragge Blue base coat and painted Altdorf Guard over the Ultramarine Blue primer like I did with the drop pods.

I've also done some experimentation with a spare Rhino hatch. When I painted the drop pods, I used two to three layers of Nuln Oil over Altdorf Guard Blue. I've since found that I can get much more attractive results with a layer of Drakenhof Nightshade followed by a layer of Nuln Oil. This combination compares favorably to a base coat of Mordian Blue followed by two layers of Nuln Oil.

Overall, I think I've come up with a satisfying paint scheme to use on the Crusader and subsequent vehicles. It's not dependent on paints that are out of production and it should allow me to maintain some consistency between my vehicles. I just wish that I had tried out the new method on something smaller and cheaper like the Razorback I primed along with several other models back in 2012 and still haven't gotten around to finishing.
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