My name is James, and I returned to hobby about eighteen months ago after a very, very, very long break. In the early noughties, post-uni, I ran out of disposable income and had to start paying rent and adding to my pile of debt instead of my pile of shame. Today, older, wiser (not wiser, this article will be a testament to that), a bit of disposable income again, and with a slightly larger flat that can accommodate a small hobby area perhaps the time was right to revisit my old stomping grounds? Oh, and I should probably mention the part where I was brutally peer pressured indirectly, for more than a year, by a good friend posting obnoxiously enticing photos of the updated Death Guard range they had been painting on Twitter.
I was left with no option but submit and take one more hit of the devil’s polystyrene – just a small taste, for old times’ sake, of course.
With trembling fingers I logged on one evening in May 2019 to purchase from the dealer. I found much had changed, and for the better. Dynamic poses, crisp details and an expanded range. I browsed, hunched over my desk as the sun dipped below the horizon. It would be the recently revamped Chaos Space Marines that really caught my eye, and what was this? Expanded lore and backstory for my favourite Primarch, Fulgrim, and his dandy sons of Slaanesh? Oh yes…I knew what I had to do.
I was cautious though, I wanted to start small in case everything was actually terrible and bad once the honeymoon period was over. I placed a humble box of five cultists into the basket, along with the basic starter set of paints and a pot of Emperor’s Children and Fulgrim Pink each so I could make my intentions to worship at the altar of Slaanesh, and the most fabulous of all heretic astartes clear to all.
One delivery later, and after absorbing several painting tutorial videos and relearning to ride the paintbrush shaped bicycle the cultists were finished! It took me about a month of little painting sessions here and there after work and at weekends to get them complete, but I will be the first to admit I am an extremely slow painter. In any case, I now had five plucky lads ready to face the big wide world of the forty first millennium. Everything was good.
With that, I found myself back in the hobby! I grabbed a copy of the Chaos Space Marines codex and decided to check out some battle reports online. It didn’t take long to notice that people were running full sized, thirty model units of cultists largely due to the ability to double the amount of attacks they could make in melee with the brutal weapons wargear option, and because you could bring the entire unit back onto the table later with a stratagem.
This had a certain appeal, but amongst the dreams of rolling a bucket of dice at my opponent or laughing maniacally as I push thirty cultists back onto the table edge after they were mown down the previous turn, a niggling doubt crept into the back of my mind, I hadn’t seen anything other than the five-man box of cultists, or the Blackstone Fortress cultist boxes for sale…
I have always pictured cultists as a mix of conspiracy driven lunatics and those who are fully onboard with giving themselves over to their newfound god rather than just a mob of uniformly swole converts. I imagine rumours spreading amongst local populations, resulting in a mob of unorganised but enthusiastic worshippers – be they turncoats from the local garrison, or old Doris from sector 438 who believes everything she reads if it’s got an aquila stamped somewhere on it, even if it’s telling her to start drawing weird shapes on the floor and taking loads of drugs.
If nothing else, it’s the grim dark future of gruel for the average citizen’s meal, surely every cultist cannot be a raging beefcake!? For this reason, the thought of painting five more identical boxes of cultists, or four boxes of Blackstone Fortress cultists did not fill me with enthusiasm.
I was in a pickle. Discussing my predicament with a friend they asked me if I’d had a look at any third party manufacturers. As someone who left the hobby prior to e-commerce even arriving in general and before people really posting about hobby stuff online, this was something I’d never even considered would be a thing.
A short google later and I found a whole additional world of opportunity had opened up and swallowed me. I had no idea of the amount of stuff that is out there, so that’s what I’m going to harp on about for the rest of this article, the places I’ve discovered in my search for awesome cultists that I think are worth a visit if you want to wander off the beaten path slightly in the search of your own proxy mini or two!
Bad Squiddo has become one of my favourite hobby places to visit online. Their MO is the production of believable female minis. That is not to say they have anything against the chainmail bikinis that crop up elsewhere, but there’s a time and a place for everything. If you want some ladies for your tabletop who look like they are going to be able to handle battle without spilling out of their outfits however, you came to the right place (also they have their own line of really nice bits and pieces of D&D style scatter scenery).
I have purchased a bunch of minis from the Ghosts of Gaia range over the course of building up my cultist unit. It is a range of post-apocalyptic sci-fi minis, all come as single piece metal casts, just clean them up, stick them to a 25mm base and you’re ready for action! What I especially like about these minis is that the range is incredibly varied, from almost tribalistic shamans all the way to more heavily military inspired stuff. Each model has slightly different weapon sculpts and this really helped add to the informality and variation I wanted from my cultists.
Frostgrave, right? Have you seen it? Have you seen how much character North Star and Osprey Games are squeezing out of their multi-part kits? You haven’t? Well, you should go now and see for yourself. The Frostgrave minis are amazing, I love them all but I cannot field skeletons or wizards in my cultist unit (I could if I really wanted, maybe they got too close to a warp rift or something). Did you know that there is a sci-fi upgrade sprue you can buy from North Star with alternate head and weapon options to turn the humble Frostgrave Cultist into a sci-fi ready cultist armed with a variety of weapons including flamer, shotgun and heavy stubber if you require!? You do now. So what are you waiting for? Go and buy something!
I took four (would have been five but I snapped the legs on one while I was cutting the base to stick them to a 25mm round base and I couldn’t be bothered to assemble another one) minis from their excellent value box of ye olde style cultists, added some guns from the upgrade sprue and a couple of heads I had in my bits box to create these fine folks. I think the robes and little pointy hoods bring a much-needed touch of zealotry to the unit.
I am lucky to be part of a hobby discord where my burgeoning obsession with what can be made into a cultist is becoming a running joke, otherwise it is likely that the seller of two of my favourite models in the unit would never have been brought to my attention.
Crooked Dice are a UK based company who publish rulesets and sell minis for their 7TV skirmish system, which lets players recreate the action from their favourite cult TV shows. In amongst the huge range of minis they stock I found a mini that is half traitor guardsman and half robe wearing acolyte, and an amazing mini in some very fetching hazmat gear, absolutely perfect for adding something weird to the mob. Provided as single piece, pewter minis, I think both have tons of character. They are modelled with real-world scale weapons, so I had to trim off their revolvers and replace them with a couple of Necromunda pistols to get them to fit in with everyone else.
Don’t tell the other cultists, but I think angry hazmat cultist is my favourite model in the entire unit.
By this point I’d gone so far down the rabbit hole that getting my fix of human cultists just didn’t hit the way it used to. I needed something more…exotic. My mind turned towards the abhumans of the forty first millenium. Surely just as susceptible to the influence of the ruinous powers and those who preach on their behalf?
Ratlings already exist as a range, but I couldn’t see an easy way to convert them. They’re very Astra Militarum, with tricky to remove detailing such as their aquila belt buckles and chunky sniper rifles. I was into the idea of adding a couple of ratlings to the mob, but I wasn’t into the amount of conversion work that was going to be required.
Luckily Games Workshop have a different game, with its own iconic race of shorties, although they are slightly slimmer than their 40k counterparts.
I took the angriest looking hobbits I could find from the Middle Earth range – the Hobbit Militia – and did a couple of weapon swaps, added a tiny bit of scale model barbed wire here and there, some bits from the bits box, and before I knew it I had some very snappily dressed half-pint heretics.
Luckily for me as they’re part of a Slaanesh warband, the attire and comparatively slight builds should blend right in. If you’re dead set on some Khornate ratlings, bury them in a pile of citadel skulls, drown them in Blood for the Blood God and hope for the best, I guess.
The ratlings are my most recently additions to the squad, and with that we find ourselves back in the present. My current flock of anarchists are ready to roll out and start spreading the word – probably using poetry and nice art – and when that fails combat drugs and guns and anything with an edge on it.
Something Doesn’t Add Up
Confession time. Astute readers will have noticed that there are only twenty two cultists featured in this article. What of the dreams of the bucket of dice and the laughing and the despairing of my opponent? Well, plans for completing the unit are already in progress.
I hope to round out the big three-zero with some models who represent the poor buggers in charge of trying to direct the mob in battle, models to represent some of the larger abhuman races throughout the galaxy (still on 25mm bases, no tournament woes for me), and perhaps even old Doris from Sector 438. They are currently strewn across my little hobby corner in various states of completion, so you’ll just have to wait for the conclusion of this story in the future! Sorry (not sorry) about that.
Oh, one last thing before I go, the fact that I have taken so long to sort these cultists out that Warhammer 40K is now in 9th Edition and blast weapons are a thing, cultists cost more points per model, and there are possible changes to certain stratagems in the pipeline has not gone unnoticed, but the dream remains intact! Thirty members of my cultist rabble will be completed and will make it to the front lines at some point, then promptly be removed from the tabletop by turn two through withering rapid-fire bolters, missile launchers or battle cannons and it will be glorious nonetheless.
With the finish line in sight for this particular project, I’ve been thinking back over my time spent since returning to the hobby. I really lucked out deciding to pick up the brushes shortly before we all had to spend the last year at home, but that hasn’t stopped me from meeting some amazing people online and having a blast hanging out in discord channels and twitch streams, painting along with everyone else and detaching my brain from *insert preferred terrible current affairs issue here* and focussing on trying not to botch the gold trim for the hundredth time has probably been way more beneficial for my mental health than I give it credit for. Returning to hobby, I rate it 8/8, mates.
Completing this unit of cultists that I started off with feels like I’ll finally be closing the chapter that marks my return to good old hobbying. I will have ceased to be a dormant little hobby pupa and will emerge a mighty hobby moth, with a 250m wingspan, the power of supersonic flight, and radioactive antenna beams!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my silly cultist scheme as much as I have enjoyed cobbling them together, and I hope you’ll follow the links to some of the amazing websites that have been mentioned. Who knows, there’s probably a cultist or two out there for you.