Vanguard Project Part 1
Starting A New Project
Everyone seems to be talking fantasy right now and that’s fine but it doesn’t quiet sit right with me. I’m more of a shooter than a stabber so I always had a bit more draw to 40k and honestly while the rules in WHFB 8th edition sound awesome to run I’m still partial to my space knights kicking space elf and space orc butt.
Now my hobby includes a lot of scratch building and general conversions. Usually I keep these pretty simple so you won’t be to surprised to see simple conversions done like head swaps and added detail. My main goal was to show you guys what I go through to really plan my army squads. I’d also like to simply do something cool that I haven’t seen done before. That’s really what the hobby is all about.
Now this first post might seem a tad boring because it’s all conceptual stuff. This is going to outline my basic philosophy of, planning and what I want to do with these guys. Then I’ll jump into the build next time. So let’s follow through with the whole project starting with the mental hurdles I go through for planning.
“They descended ahead of the rest of them. Soaked in the blood of enemies they had earned their crimson hued armor. Each one was a ruby that called forth my deepest terrors. Violently crackling swords of the most august natures lead their charge. Flesh and blood and sinew and bone cleaved in twain at their passing. I would have cried for the piteous creatures that stood in their path, but they were the enemies of the Emperor, and those scarlet armored dervishes were the Emperor’s Vanguard.”
— The Remembrancer Sorian Cul Rayoth, on the Battle of the Aceadian Bridge —
I’ve always found veterans an integral part of an army. In the olden days I filled one or two squads with soldiers with various sundry status advantages like Terminator Honors. Veteran Sergeants never quite did it for me I had to have full squads to storm the trenches. Armies are built on veterans and career military. They feed of their experience and strategies to use their resources to the fullest effects. I’ve been very pleased with my veteran squads in the past and the fifth edition rules feel even better than those old Terminator Honors squads from last decade.
My dissatisfaction of course comes from the models. Don’t get me wrong, the metal citadel range of space marine veterans is pretty cool looking for individual models. But as I might have mentioned in the past I really don’t like how all the veterans look different. My brother is a career military man. I’ve known the army for most of my life. Sure veterans pickup some uniqueness but not that much. To me the veterans are about the precision of the unit. It isn’t one man that has fought a war, it is an entire squad. Their armor is gritty and used with bullet marks and scratches. They are experienced and ready with a dynamic stride ready to spring into action. Their weapons are their pride, their best friend, and their very lives. Citadel’s vision of a veteran involves lots of fiddly iconography, awards, and trophies earned for battles fought. I’ve rarely met a veteran who wore their metals to the show. They were business on the battlefield and anyone who wasn’t was a dead man, shiny badges or not.
I see veterans as being both sleeker and more uniform than the Citadel models and more stylistically unique than the regular troops. My veterans need a dynamic pose to start, this adds the unique flair for a figure. Each chapter would make their own veteran uniforms but really I don’t think they’d carry a chapter’s ceremonial badges into battle as awkward and ungainly as they appear.
So the first thing I had to decide was what to do about my squad’s weapon load out. Now if you read the codex Blood Angels Vanguard Veterans are pricy point cost wise. They are really spectacular on the first charge and after that they sort of go downhill towards the regular assault marine level. Heroic intervention basically encourages you to deep strike them as close as possible to the enemy, descent of angels makes that reasonably safe now but not flawless. To make them reasonably survivable you have to pump a lot of points into them which makes them a bull’s eyed unit.
So really to me the choice is between making them the veteran unit I imagine, one that eats up points but really makes them look awesome, or making them a reasonable load out that puts them basically one cut above assault marines for a few points more. My personal choice will always be the cool factor. That coolness factor is really why we play so why not, truth be told it’s why we play right? Plus if you can’t afford to field the whole squad you can always grab a couple assault marines to swap in to bring the cost down.
A lot of people talk about Vanguard Veterans like they are completely useless. As I said they spend a lot of energy on the first charge but they can still be very useful. You really just need to keep them alive a bit longer. They have to make it from the site of massacre A to the site of future massacre B. Jump Packs actually help a lot, but so does a bit of weaponry. People seem to think that pistols aren’t that helpful but they can be. The suppressive fire technique is hard to pull off with veterans because of short range. But you can clear 12 inches a turn which puts your enemies into firing range if you are in their firing range.
Now for me the survivability of this unit is the Storm Shield in the equipment list. I picture a wall of storm shield and power swords like a roman phalanx. That’s a damn good image but I think I can do better. While I love uniformity I know the military loads out troops for specific purposes in a squad right now we have a lot of hand to hand but no fire support. I know fluff wise the Vanguard guys choose their own weapons but I think someone would still choose a gun over a sword. There aren’t a lot of great choices in the Vanguard armory but the Hand Flamer or Infernus Pistol are excellent options for those unforeseen opponents. They require just as much close combat to be effective but they have their own utility of war. The Infernus Pistol can hot knife through vehicles and the Hand Flamer is decent at witling down mobs. Now both are off hand weapons so it’s a choice of pistol or shield, a choice I don’t understand.
The command squad champion comes with a pistol and shield but I have to choose for my veterans. All the standard tactical marines get bolter and bolt pistol so they don’t loose their +1 Attack for charging. I find it funny how modern marines can carry 110lbs of weapons and gear into combat including rifles, pistols, knives, and grenade launchers but the future super soldiers can’t holster a damned gun if they have a shield strapped to their arm. But then rules are rules and while fluff would imply they can it is also important to remember the rules even the battle field and make sure Eldar monofilaments can’t slice through any non-energized armor as monofilaments actually would do. This is the dilemma though, a single unprotected veteran with a hand flamer will get decapitated pretty quick but he really only needs to live long enough to soften an enemy on the turn before the charge. Given the opportunity I’d do all storm shields and pistols but that eliminates the value of the power weapons and without those there are some enemies you simply can’t touch. To my mind the best choice is to model a figure with a Flamer and another with an Infernus pistol in their off hand, then make the storm shield removable. This gives me the option to lose the expensive defense option if it doesn’t work or I’m facing something to weak to scratch marines.
Now let’s talk sergeants for this rabble. Among Veterans the sergeant is a needle in a haystack. They get a free power weapon, or rather one paid for by the base squad cost. Upgrading that is an extremely good idea since you can get a free Lightning Claw or Glaive. Personally I wish my sergeants to stand out more so I want him to go all out and pick up a Thunder Hammer to go with the Storm Shield I was already buying him. This means at the center of my line will be a massive hammer wielding guy to lead the charge.
Ok so someone out there has realized back a couple paragraphs I mentioned Power Weapons and not Lightning Claws. I’ve had several people sing the praises of lightning claws constantly to me. Since they are no more cost here than power weapons and the storm shield already looses the +1 Attack, one could say there is no sense in not using lightning claws. The reroll wounds bit is good stuff and they do look pretty cool. But I’m not convinced they are super awesome on this design. Lightning Claws are bulky and hard to pose. Either the model holds them up menacingly or they just sort of flop at his side. Not to mention I always wondered how you’d scratch your nose with lightning claws on. So instead I want power swords, but ones that look unique enough to stand out and maybe counts as lightning claws if I’m desperate. I was thinking a flaming sword would be good, it buys into the whole angel motif and I’m amazed it hasn’t been done officially yet. So my “Power Weapons” will be flaming angel swords of doom. Nice ring to it huh.
Last thing is I’m also looking at combat squads so I want two 5 man squads in total to make them more formidable. So I’ll be looking to do 2 of the two special weapons I’ve chosen and a second guy with the sergeant’s load out. This will enable me to field a full 10 man squad, or 2 combat squads of 5 men, or 2 identical 5 man squads.
Blood Angels Vanguard Veterans project
Backpack – swappable Jump Packs and Power Packs
Chest – standard assault marine chests
Legs – Assault Marine Running Legs
Head – a signal uniform head, mark 6 or 7 would work best
Shoulders – Nameplate Shoulder Pad on the left and Command Shoulder Pad with Laurel & Skull on right
Details – head laurels, purity seals, custom tabard, custom armor rivets
Weapons – 8 flaming power swords, 2 custom thunder hammers. 6 bolt pistols, 2 hand flamers, 2 Infernus pistols, 10 custom swappable storm shields
8” metal rod for pinning
10” Sq 0.060 plasticard for shields
3oz green stuff or other putty for scratch work
20 spacer beads various shapes for scratch building
So that sums up my thinking and what I need to get his project done. Now over the next few weeks I’m going to post bits of the build itself telling you the details about how I did everything. First up will be the least interesting part of the build itself, the main bodies. No spectacular conversions here but you’ll see how I make my backpacks swappable and we’ll get started on detail work on the legs and torso. I’m sure you’ll agree a good place to start. I look forward to guiding you through the process next time.