Army Selection and Paint Scheme - Word Bearers

When we decided to do Horus Heresy, I agonized over army choice for a good 24 hour period. Our motto is that aesthetics overrules just about anything else in our current approach to the game and 30k has a ton of really cool looking color schemes and unique legion units to pick from. Eventually, I narrowed it down to five choices (do an image search for these if you're not familiar, as I don't want to clutter this post with too many photos):

  • Emperor's Children. The purple and white scheme with clean lines is really nice. But I'm not too into the whole "duelists pursuing perfection" motif.
  • Death Guard. I'm extremely into the Nurgle stuff which the companies have put out over the course of this decade and the dirty creams and whites of the pre-Heresy Death Guard look spectacular with grime and rust put over them. It's a whole lot of white to paint, however, and that's more of a pain in the ass than I care to do.
  • Imperial Fists. I love yellow armies, but they're even more of a pain in the ass than white. If I ever go back to the Loyalist Marine well in 40k, it'll probably be Fists, but since Peter and I were thinking big armies, the yellow needs to wait.
  • Dark Angels. Now we're talking. Dark Angels were my first Marine army. I immediately fell in love with the idea they were the Emperor's personal fighting force and those blacks (quickly turned to dark greens) and reds. I'd moved away from them over the years, however; I sold my Dark Angels army around 2004 to free up shelf space and because their lore was becoming an angsty, mopey, navelgazing mess. They'll always have a spot in my heart and maybe I'll return, but not now.
  • Word Bearers. This is what I settled on. I already had a Word Bearers 40k army, albeit a small one. This dovetailed perfectly with my existing force, as you can easily use 30k troops in 40k Chaos armies, what with Chaos Marines living in the mess of the 4th dimension which is the Eye of Terror. Plus, Peter was hinting heavily that he might be up for Dark Angels. So I rolled with it.
The Word Bearers have a lot of interesting stuff going for them. Their Primarch, Lorgar, is the Horus Heresy's Satan figure--the Chaos tint of the rebellion initially comes from him. They're essentially religious fanatics, the first to fall to Chaos, but everything they do is a twisted version of the Emperor's militantly atheistic crusade across the stars. My favorite is the Ashen Circle, a unit of book burning, museum destroying lunatics who the Emperor once turned loose on basically any group of religionists or aliens but are now charged with destroying everything except the proper teachings of Chaos, as determined by the Word Bearers head honcho Lorgar.

In 30k, the Word Bearers are caught between two worlds: the world of mundane but bloody rebellion and a full fall to Chaos. So you get things like the Gal Vorbak, the first Marines to embrace possession and mutation by the Chaos gods. Aesthetically, you can see the transition: lots of arcane writings and weird symbols written on very normal looking Imperial tanks, a lot of books, etc. This also lets me plausibly bring in my daemons, of which I have a fair number, while also letting me indulge my love of the current Nurgle stuff.

Their aesthetics have evolved in really cool ways, too. I bought the bulk of my Word Bearers army while working at a Games Workshop store in Concord, NC, around 2000. My boss at the time turned me onto them, because I don't recall anything about them prior to 3rd edition 40k. They were basically a new army as far as rules and concrete information went. And they were just basically "guys who are really into Chaos". Which didn't go too far, but my boss had such a rad color scheme I fell hard: Scab Red plus Magenta Ink.

I wasn't too into painting Marines in high detail. I didn't like heavy use of line shading and too much highlighting on Marines always seemed to kill the effect of all those smooth panels. But the Magenta Ink made the whole thing look really nice. Those old inks altered the colors of the flat bits, added a touch of gloss, while still darkening the recesses. These old miniatures of mine from the time show it through the dust:

Those bits are almost certainly getting cannibalized for 30k.
My idea for a combination power weapon/chaos icon looks like shit in retrospect.

There was a big problem, though. My color scheme was dead. While Scab Red was easy enough to replace, Magenta Ink was discontinued years ago and never replaced. What's more, nobody out there among Games Workshop's competitors was making a Magenta Ink replacement, either. I can only figure that people didn't use it in much quantity. I could possibly get it from a traditional art outlet, but there you run into the problem of too many magenta inks, meaning I'd be stuck not knowing which to get and unwilling to drop tons of money and time to find out.

So I switched to a now traditional color scheme of a deep red without the magenta tinge. For that, I turned to Games Workshop's Duncan, who really is a treasure.

I made a few small adjustments. First, I didn't go for Nuln Oil (black ink) for my edge highlighting. It's too dark for my tastes, so I went with Carroburg Crimson for my shading. I used Nuln Oil gloss on the metal bits, because the gloss shades are magic. I also limited my edge highlighting some; I still don't care for overly highlighted Marines, and I almost never highlight my metals, as I like a grimy, oily look to my 40k metals.

I kept the red scheme to my Mk IV Marines. This is kind of the opposite of the accepted Word Bearers' line. In the lore, it's mostly the veterans who go in on the shift from grey (pre-Heresy) to red (they painted their armor red as they fell). I prefer the idea that the older Mk III armor is still grey and that it's the older Marines who are hesitant to go along. Revolutions, from left or right, are not the domain of the old. It's young people who lead them. So the idea of it being the younger Marines, as represented by newer armor, leading the headlong charge into depravity appealed to me.

That said, I make no promises that I keep all Mk III armored Marines in grey. Right now, it's just that one veteran squad. I still want the bulk of my army to be in red. As it stands, all Mk IIIs will be in grey, however, and I don't think that's changing.

My Mk IVs (and other reds) came out like this:

My MkIII Marines are deliberately grimier. I'm using weathering powders, but I'm trying to limit the guys who look like hell to the older armor.

Peter and I used to try to match our bases as best as possible, but we've moved in very different directions for our basing preferences. He's very into the traditional painted sand, flock, and static grass, while I've gone hard on GW's textured paints. I've gone full wasteland with these guys and it looks amazing up close. I doubt I'll move away from the textured paint ever again, though my Genestealer Cult is already a third done and still on the old flock system.

From here, any painting and pictures will be of new stuff rolling off the assembly line. So far I'm really pleased with how everything looks.


Colors Used

Mark IV Marines, Terminators, and Dreadnought

Base: Mephiston Red
Shade: Carroburg Crimson
First highlight: Evil Sunz Scarlet
Second Highlight: Troll Slayer Orange

Mark III Marines

Base: Mechanicus Standard Grey
First highlight: Dawnstone
Second Highlight: Administratum Grey