Any period where one might receive gifts from others if one bears the mark of a “known hobbyist” amongst friends and family can make for interesting occasions.
How many new armies have been started, while in the middle of trying to build your all conquering Tyranid army (that will definitely be the true anti-meta when complete and sweep all before it), you open Brokk Grungsson, Lord-Magnate of Barak-NaronTM on your birthday and were suddenly struck by the thought “Dang, I never realised how much I liked steampunk sky dwarves until this exact moment in my life”?But what happens when the opposite occurs? When you’re trying to put together an Emperor’s Children warband, and you receive a box of Lord Felthius and the Tainted CohortTM from someone on the other side of the world as part of an internet forum secret santa? This, dear reader, is the very predicament I found myself in.
I was conflicted. I like to think I’m an empathetic person, my friend had gone to a great deal of trouble and postage costs to send me this gift. The time spent browsing Games Workshop’s extensive online store to choose something they thought I would like, paying the eye watering prices Games Workshop charge their antipodean customers and the effort required to receive, wrap and then post back to the UK in time for Christmas all weighed heavily on me.
You see, Lord Felthius and the Tainted Cohort could not be further from the arrogant, well-manicured force of the Emperor’s Children that take up most of my hobby efforts. The cohort are a unit of ancient, rotting astartes, twisted by plague and mutation and barely constrained within their battle-worn terminator armour. They sat in stark contrast to the gleaming pale armour, gold trim and regal purple and pink accents of my Emperor’s Children (aka the real Sons of the Phoenix, not those phony baloney successor chapter upstarts from the Imperial Fists).
I was determined that after their sojourn through the postal system, these lads deserved better than to languish in the bits box. So, everybody, let’s talk about doin’ a heckin’ kitbash, cue the rampantly obnoxious air horn noises!
The Head Canon
First thing first. How the heck do I explain a bunch of gross terminators popping up in the ranks of my freshly polished narcissists? I wanted to blend the two sets of models together and make them work as best as possible, but I wanted to give myself a satisfactory reason for them to co-exist.
This is something that is going to differ from person to person. Some people just go with the rule of cool and will happily plonk down whatever they like on the tabletop without issue. On the other end of the spectrum are the sticklers who enjoy adhering to the existing lore as much as possible when putting armies together. And somewhere between the two fall the rest of us. It should go without saying, that all these positions are fine and valid! Mom, Dad, don’t fight!
After a bit of head scratching, I decided that maybe the Tainted Cohort could fit in my army as the so called “veterans of the long war”, living remnants of the Horus Heresy. Ancient marines, who started off millenia ago, every bit as presentable as the rest of the units in the army, now twisted, after their long exposure to the warp. That at least provided an explanation for the abundance of tentacles, teeth and of course, the flesh pipes. Never forget the flesh pipes.
So the teeth and tentacle boys had a (tenuous) reason to hang around with the many-peddy battalion. Next step, thinking about how to paint them up to blend in with my other terminators. This was probably the easiest bit of the whole project, although the Tainted Cohort are stinky followers of Nurgle, they’re still chaos terminators and much of the design detailing is common between both sets of models. The pale armour, gold trim, purple collars and the pink and purple accents of my existing terminators could be directly copied across without much hassle.
One difference I did decide to make when planning the paint scheme, was that to further push the idea that these units are older than the others, that I would add some scratches, staining, oil and grime streaks to the models. My regular troops are comparatively fresh-faced and still clinging to their vanity, having not yet ditched that in pursuit of other weirder pleasures on offer to those dwelling in the warp.
The most important part of the project was going to be removing or concealing the emblems of Nurgle. There would be no way to pass the unit off as a convincing Slaanesh worshipping warband, if the flies and tri-globe iconography of Nurgle were still visible.
The eternally cute Nurglings are all separate from the terminators, so they were easily put away until I need to stick a horde of small, cute daemons on something in the future. Maybe they can be put to use urging a hellbrute forwards or riding atop a knight and just generally partying and having a good time, as all small daemons are known to do in the forty first millennium.
The majority of the work went into removing the large fly insignia on the belly plates. I started by using side cutters and a sharp knife to snip and scrape the majority of the plastic away. Fortunately the logo is embossed on top of the armour, and the plastic is relatively thick in this location. I used some files to remove the remaining material, and then finished by using 600 through to 1000 grit sandpaper. The flexibility of the sandpaper allowed me to follow the existing contours of the armour and get a nice smooth finish. I opted to leave the dents and pock marks in the armour plates and drilled in a couple extra, which I cut into around the edges to create some additional wear and tear, in keeping with marines who have spent millennia on the battlefield.
Since the belly plates are quite large and very distinctively rounded, I opted to use some additional details and patterning during painting, to help draw the eye so that anywhere where I hadn’t been able to quite match the curvature wouldn’t be noticed.
The minor iconography on the shoulders and knee pads was a lot easier to hide. Where the globe icons were sculpted onto the armour, these were easy enough to smooth out with some filing and a bit of green stuff. In a couple of places the iconography was heavily embossed into the armour, so I opted instead to try and drill these out and then chip the edges with a knife to look like shell impacts or general battle damage.
Although not specifically iconography, the large boils on the tentacled terminator are not very Slaanesh. I was able to get around that a bit by painting the largest as eyeballs. I wasn’t brave enough to try and add a bit of shading or variation to the iris colouration, but a good tip for dotting in the pupils on these was to use a Pigma Micron 03 black ink pen, the ink they use is waterproof and fadeproof, which is perfect in this application, and they also gave really strong coverage over the bright blue beneath. Keeping the tentacles a horrible fleshy pink colour kept things looking suitably Slaaneshy.
Standard Issue Ordnance
Plague weapons, they’re pretty gross and definitely not very in keeping with the kind of weaponry disciples of the Dark Prince would be seen dead carrying into battle. Luckily most of the weapons wielded by the Tainted Cohort were quite easy to remove and swap, nice, outstretched arms holding weapons that don’t intersect with anything else on the models.
The distinctive Death Guard drum magazine storm bolters were easily removed with some side cutters and replaced with leftover storm bolters from my regular Chaos Terminators. I think you can see from the pictures scattered throughout this article that it’s a simple change that although subtle, really does remove some of the very obviously Nurgle components from the models, obscuring their previous identity. Anyone can do these swaps, just a bit of patience to get a nice flat, clean cut with the side cutters is all you need, well, some plastic cement too, but come on, you came this far, I’m sure you have some somewhere.
I snipped the plaguesword off Mr. Tentacle Eyeball Monster Man and replaced it with a power axe, another spare from the Chaos Terminator box.
I could have removed the chain axe as well, but it had such a nice broad blade with a lot of room to paint some hazard stripes (MANDATORY) so I decided to keep it. I snipped off and filed smooth the toxic, dripping goo, which went a long way towards stripping it of its original identity as a plague weapon.
Where the globe/censer/thing is, I tried to paint it as though it contained some kind of glowing power core belching out thick, black smoke, rather than a container filled with something giving off noxious vapour. I think that gave the chain axe quite a crude appearance, as though it was an older type of weapon, again, fitting in with the theme I was trying to create of some ancient heretic astartes.
The Plague Spewer was probably the trickiest thing to adapt on the whole project, it’s a very identifiable weapon, and I think while I made a reasonable stab of modifying it, people who know, will still know. Removing the entire weapon and replacing it with something else felt like it would be too time intensive and well beyond my current kitbashing ability, so I opted to work with what I had.
I spent a while studying the pieces trying to work out what I could do. In the end I decided that since the weapon includes what is essentially a back mounted fuel tank, that I could try and turn it into a heavy flamer. As with the chainaxe, I started by scraping away any of the toxic goo that had been sculpted dripping from various parts of the weapon. I then chopped the barrel down to remove the distinctive muzzle and get the weapon down to a similar proportion as a normal heavy flamer. I had originally planned to try and stick some extra details onto the weapon, like a skull over the barrel, but once I cut the barrel down I was actually pretty happy with how it looked, so opted to just drill the stubby barrel out and call it a day. Huzzah for accidental efficiencies!
The final attempt to sell the weapon as a flamer came with the paint job, I tried to paint the globes as if they were fuel tanks containing promethium. It took ages, was super fiddly and I don’t think when viewed from the table top it really stands out at all, but I think the effect looks alright up close in the photos, so win some lose some, I suppose.
The Big Reveal
With the iconography removed, weapons swapped, and a coat of paint applied to match my existing terminators, the Tainted Cohort are ready for their new life as well, just regular terminators, albeit elderly ones.
I’m quite happy with how they turned out in the end. I don’t think they blend in perfectly with the rest of the unit, but then, they are wearing a different style of armour and are covered in horns and tentacles. I could potentially try mixing in some more cataphractii terminators into the unit to bridge the gap between my existing terminators and the Tainted Cohort, but that will have to be a project for another day.
If you’ve read my Cultist article, I’m afraid the terribly slow pace continued here as well. I painted each of the 3 members of the Tainted Cohort up one at a time, and it took about two weeks on and off per model because I am one of the slowest painters of all time and I apparently can’t help it, so please don’t bully me.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Felthius?
Okay so let’s address the elephant sized terminator in the room. Where the heck is Felthius if the rest of his foetid goon squad made it to the tabletop?
Well, unfortunately, Felthius is currently sat on a shelf in hobby corner, waiting for me to do something…anything…I just…don’t know where he would fit in and I’m not confident in my ability to convert him for use as a chaos lord or a sorcerer or something just yet.
He’s a very distinctive model, you really do recognise that swollen, bowling ball head from a mile away. So I feel like I would at least need to swap out his head for something else.
Then there’s the plague scythe. Even though I have removed a lot of the dripping toxic goop running all over it, it really needs to be swapped for something less Nurgle and more Slaanesh, which will mean the whole arm needs to be replaced as there are a load of cables that connect the two. His cloak is also moulded to hang around the end of the scythe handle, so after the scythe is gone, there’s the deformation on the cloak it left behind. There are all issues that can be tackled, they just aren’t something I feel comfortable taking on at my current level of bits bashing.
The rest of the cloak I was able to fix as I was prepping the model, I sanded down and smoothed out all the boils and pock marks on the inside of the cloak, and even though the fur is littered with maggots, I reckon if you painted them pink they’d just look like a load of horrible little tentacles writhing about instead.
The final piece of iconography that requires more time than I want to commit to resolving is carefully filing down the fly insignia that are affixed to the end of each strap on his loin cloth. Without access to a Dremel or similar tools, it’ll take a lot of careful filing and sanding to remove them by hand without scuffing the rest of the straps, or his legs.
So for now he’s just sitting on the shelf, taunting at me and making me feel bad, until the day I put on my big boy hobby pants and give him what for.
Well, here we are. At the end. Finally. Congratulations if you made it this far. I wanted to try and finish this article with some kind of wise insight or profound revelation on the nature of just trying to make the best out of what you got, but I couldn’t think of anything because most of my thought processes are taken up daydreaming about the day Games Workshop finally produce a Fulgrim model for Warhammer 40,000. What I can say though is that you’d be surprised how far a set of side cutters, a knife, some spare parts, a tiny amount of green stuff, some glue and a lick of paint will get you, so if you have something sitting in a box somewhere waiting for the right occasion (don’t lie to me this is a hobby website, read by hobby people, I know all about your shame pile) maybe the right occasion is now?
Even better, if you’re currently working on your own kitbashes, we’d love to see them, why not send a picture to @TinyPlasticPals on Twitter? We will say encouraging and positive things about your hobby progress!
But why is there a bunny rabbit I hear you ask? Silence, child, I do what I like. I am a silly heart, and as well as basing my army as though it was walking through a meadowy field on a summer’s day (befitting the Emperor’s Children), I wanted to include some fauna here and there and make little to no effort to hide it, or make it look like it convincingly fits in with the rest of the base.
For you see, the true Sons of the Phoenix appreciate the beauty inherent in nature, as well as the beauty inherent at the end of the chainsword, where adamantine teeth bite aggressively into slabs of ceramite, as the roar of the promethium fuelled motor escalates into a cacophony of anguish, before we bathe in the crimson shower of our devotion to the Lord of Excess…