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The Sauroters

Sauroters Capter Symbol
The Vergina Sun

Having gotten back into the hobby in 2014, after a break of twenty years, I have decided to try and produce something a bit ambitious. My goal is to create an original Space Marine Chapter including fluff.

I want to model and paint a demi-company plus some HQ choices. I am going for an infantry list but I would also like to include some vehicles. My initial goal is 1000 points. I have chosen a demi-company formation because it seems like a solid choice chrunch-wise. It also gives me a clear goal, plenty of models to paint and a solid base if I want to increase the size of my army.

There is more than one way to enjoy this hobby: reading the fluff, playing the game and the painting and modelling. Of these I am probably least interested in playing the game although, that may change once I have painted an army. That said, I still want to create a balanced (yet fluffy) list. I am particularly keen on creating something that is as WYSIWYG as possible.

My initial idea was to create something based on the Greek Hoplites. This is by no means an original idea but I do like the aesthetic so reason enough. I chose the Vergina Sun as the Chapter symbol. It’s associated with Ancient Greek culture, but as I subsequently discovered, has had some unfortunate connotations in modern day Europe. I hope the choice is not in poor taste.

I am going to try and post weekly. I hope that this schedule will motivate me as well as be a record of my progress. I anticipate this project taking a year. I’m pretty sure 12 year old me would think I was awesome now, which is nice because I’m fairly unimpressive in general.

Troops Completed

Originally I had intended to post every week. The idea was to use the blog to keep motivated for the project. As I got into the habit of painting that motivation became intrinsic. Hence no posts for the past four months. There was a lot of painting though.

I have completed all of the troops for my battle-demi company. Just in time for 8th Edition to do away with formations. Nevermind, I’m not bothered about that. I now have all the troops I’ll ever need for a Sauroters Space Marine army:

  • Three tactical squads with magnetized special weapons options
  • One tactical squad with magnetized special weapons and a missile launcher
  • One five man Command Squad with three grav guns a Veteran sergeant with power fist and a Chapter Champion
  • One five man Devastator Squad with magnetized heavy weapons
  • One five man Assault Squad with jump packs

I haven’t based them yet as I am waiting until I complete the 3 HQ choices, so I can do them all at once. All 58 of them. I have purchased some vehicles but I will do them as a separate project. The painting varies slightly from squad to squad but I’d say they’re all a decent tabletop quality and WYSIWYG. En mass they are pretty impressive.

Assault Squad Torsos

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I have completed the base coating and some shading on the torsos of the Assault squad. I thought the torsos were a good place to start because they wont be particularly visible under the jump packs. I am fairly pleased with the way they turned out.

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I began by basecoating in xxxx then applying highlights with 2:1 xxxx to xxxx. Then 1:1 xxxx to xxxx. Then 1:2 xxxx to xxxx. Finally I applied an edge highlight of 1:2 xxxxto xxxx mixed with xxxx.

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The harnesses were painted in Vallejo Model Air Black Metal and drybrushed with  Vallejo Model Air Gun Metal.

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The kneepads were painted in Game Color Iraqui Sand over Game Color Khaki. The white is meant to signify the company, in this case the 4th. The numeral signifies the squad, in this case VII is the first of two Assault Squads in the 4th Company. I used Vallejo Decal Medium and Decal Fix. The decals went on fine but the surfaces were pretty flat.

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Once the basecolors were established I sealed the models with a couple of coats of gloss varnish before I applied the washes. This worked really well. The washed flowed into the recesses and there was little to no staining. The green armour was pin-washed with GW Athenian Camoshade. The harnesses were washed with GW Nuln Oil and the Wings on the chests with GW Agrax Earhtshade. I decided to color the wings gold to signify that they are assault troops.

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I did some light chipping effects with Vallejo Air Cammo Black Brown.

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I am happy with the way they turned out but there are a couple of areas I want to improve. First, the highlights, especially the edge highlights were a bit sloppy. It won’t be so visible on these guys but it’s something I want to do better on the jump packs and definately on the tactical squads.

Second, the varnish. I used a cheap rattle can of varnish from Daiso. It was what I had to hand. It went on really thick which didn’t help the details much. I need to get a better quality varnish, probably something from Tamiya as it’s easy to get here.

Also, the armour lacks contrast. The Cammoshade isn’t dark enough and applying several coats seems like it’d be tedious. So I’ve ordered the Weathering Set for Green Vehicles from AK interactive. It includes the Dark Brown Wash for Green Vehicles which is an enamel wash. I will be able to apply it over a gloss varnish and then remove it with a cotton bud. You can see it in action over Space Marine armour here, on the Dr Faust’s Painting Clinic YouTube channel.

Tactical Squads Assembled

After a mammoth four day session I have assembled and primed all three tactical squads. I enjoyed doing it but I am also glad it’s over. After all this cutting, sanding and gluing I am really keen to get back to painting. As I mentioned in an earlier post I am modeling the sergeants and specialists with a single weapon option. Chainsword and plasma pistol and  plasma gun respectively. They are intended to be WYSIWYG.

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That said, the MKIII marines were modeled with chainswords. This is because the Burning of Prospero sprus come with 10, so I thought I’d use them. The marines are all equipped with a combat blade (or sword), grenades and ammo pouches.This makes them quite bulky but I would expect them to be heavily equipped. This also fits my counter insurgency theme.

After looking at them for a while I decided I didn’t like the chainswords on the MKIII marines. They were too big and awkwardly mounted. What really finished it for me though, was the handles. They are modeled with a kind of tab which is how they attach to the belts. Mounted behind the shoulder these tabs had nothing to attach to and would have looked weird when painted.

I wanted to keep the theme of combat blades consistent so I went back to my first squad of tactical marines and removed the 3D printed kopis. A couple broke during the process but that can’t be helped. They actually fit quite well on the the MKIII armor, so no filing was required.

The MKIV and MKVII marines have more conventional combat blades. There is an issue with fit though. I wanted the blades to be mounted behing the shoulder. They don’t fit. Particularly in the case of the MKIV blades. So, I had to file down the back of the torso with a square file to make space. I also had to position the handles to take advantage of the gap in the backpacks between the main unit and the exhaust.

The poses are fairly static due to all the extra bits like pouches limiting articulation. But I like how they look as a group. The MKIII marines look particularly brutal. The most difficult part of assembly was fitting the two parts of the MKIII backpack. It’s difficult not the leave a gap or inadvertently cut into the model while cleaning.

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As you can see the models are preshaded with Tamiya Dark Grey and then a zentithal layer of Tamiya Light Grey undercoat. I really do think preshading makes a big difference if you can keep your paint layers really thin. The next step will be basecoating. That will be an even bigger job than assembling and priming.

Change of Plan

Having finished assembling, magnetizing and priming the Assault Squad I have decided to change the plan. Specifically magnetization. The process is really time consuming but it’s the results that are the problem. With the Assault Squad Sargent I avoided the need for multiple arms by magnetizing at the wrist. However, after letting it sit on my workbench for a while I’ve decided I don’t like it.

I think I’d prefer to have models modeled in one way. In the case of Sargents, chainsword and plasma pistol. In the case of special weapons guys, plasma guns. I’m simply going to make it a theme. The Assault Squad will have two flamers. I’ll glue that option into place.This will cut down on the amount of painting I’ll need to do and let me concentrate on results instead.

I have also stripped and reprimed the Chaplin and Apothecary models I had previously painted. I think I can achieve a better result if I try again. I also want to try sealing models with gloss varnish after establishing the base colors and before adding washes. If I’m going to do this I want to keep the process consistent across all the models.

Assault Squad Assembled

As per the plan, I have assembled the first unit of marines. I wanted to start with the Assault Squad because there are only five models. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, the kit is showing it’s age and I was keen to try out the Vallejo Model Putty.

To keep the squad WYSIWYG I have magnetized some of the models. Two Marines can be equipped with either flamers or chainswords. I used the MKIV flamers because they are more compact. They look like assault weapons. I also like the idea of being able to put down two flame templates and get automatic hits during an assault.

The sergeant also has the option of a power fist. This is just for the sake of the conversion. I don’t really like the idea of putting a lot of points into a model that only has power armour and one wound. I’d rather save the points across squads and take something else. However, if I am anticipating something like a Landraider or monstrous creature the option is there.

The jump packs are not magnetized because I don’t see much point in Assault Squads without them. I spent a lot of time filling and sanding gaps because I wanted the finish to be really smooth and aerodynamic. I left the vent on the top of the intake because it makes sense as part of the engine. I also like the idea of adding soot effects to it later.

You’ll  notice that they are attached to 25mm bases. This is because this is an older kit. I am using these bases for painting. I am planning to base them on clear acrylic when they are finished. The feet don’t offer much of a surface for gluing so I may actually magnetize them to their bases. Otherwise they are going to constantly break.

Here they are after priming:

As you can see the finish…

Vallejo Plastic Putty

I bought a box of assault marines from an ebay seller. The kit is fine, but really showing its age in terms of finish. Compared to the new Space Marine Tactical Squad set the details are a lot less defined. Particularly the legs, where the knee pads meet the thigh armour. This is not a complaint so much as an observation. I still like the kit.

However, the jump packs really do have big gaps. I didn’t take any pictures while I was assembling mine. It’s a bit of a bother to set everything up. But, here is a good example:

jump-pack
Image from ChestofColors.com

This picture comes from an excellent OSL tutorial from ChestofColors.com, which can be read here. You can see the gaps quite clearly. You can also see how inaccessible those parts of the model are. When I painted my Chaplain, I tried to sand the seams smooth. It didn’t work very well and I was unsatisfied with the results.

I have some green stuff but I’ve never used it before and it seems like an unsuitable application for it. I did some research on filling gaps and decided on Vallejo Plastic Putty. It’s water soluble so it won’t wreck your brushes and can apparently be colored with paint. It comes in a dropper bottle or tube. I bought the latter.

I found it really easy to use. I simply applied it into gaps with a paintbrush and used a damp cotton bud to remove the excess. I then sanded the surface with sanding sticks, then some really fine grit sandpaper and finally burnished it with my nail. I find a soft bristled toothbrush helps polish the surface too. Here are the results:

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It’s impossible to tell how smooth the surface is until it’s been primed. Grey primer really seems to show any imperfections up. That said, I’m very pleased with the results. I was able to fill even the tiny gaps inside the thrusters. The putty sanded well and didn’t seem to shrink much as it dried. I’m not sure if that would be the case with bigger gaps though. I guess green stuff might be a better alternative in that case.

The only niggle was on the underside of the Jump Pack, in the middle, under the vent. I was able to apply the putty just fine, to what was a pretty sizeable gap. But I found it very difficult to sand or scrape away the excess. If I had some of the cotton bubs that end in a hard point that might have worked better.

I won’t be magnetizing the jump packs. I don’t see much point in Assault Marines unless they have them. Eventually, I may decide to upgrade to a Space Marine Bike Squad. I really like the models and they seem like they’d be a solid choice in a game.

The Plan

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So, having completed forty models and various parts I am no closer to my goal of a full battle demi company.This is due to the fact that thirty of the the forty are Ultramarines and the 10 Sauroters are not quite up to the standard I want. That said, I have learned how to assemble, model, convert and paint to a standard I am satisfied with so I’m now ready to tackle the project. So I’ve made a plan.

The first step was to buy the models I need. From ebay sellers I purchased four tactical squads. Two Betrayal at Calth sprues, one Burning of Prospero sprues and a MKVII sprue. I also bought an Assualt Squad sprue. That gives me enough models for 3 10-man tactical squads, 2 5-man Devastator Squads, 1 Assault Squad and a 5-man Command Squad. The Command Squad was put together by kitbashing leftovers from the sprues plus 5 sets of legs from my original Ultramarines Devastators.

The next step is to clip all of the parts off the sprues and group them into individual sets. As I have mentioned before, I want to be as WYSIWYG as possible. So, I will also need to supplement the sprues with parts from my bits box. The goal is to have a small baggy for each model containing each of the bits required to build it. For models like sergeants, this will include all of the weapons options. The leftover bits will go into my bits box.

Next I’ll need to clean up all the parts. I have heard several people mention how good the GW seam scraper is. I can use a knife just fine but it is a little dangerous and there is always the possibility of cutting into the miniature so I might get one. I am also going to get some Vallejo plastic putty for gap filling, particularly on the jump packs.

After that comes the modelling. I like to use sub-assemblies so I won’t be fully assembling my miniatures. I’ll be leaving the backpacks, helmets and arms carrying weapons of the bodies. These will be mounted on skewers for undercoating. I’ll also need to do the magnetization at this stage. Arms for the sergeants and hands for the special weapons guys. I’ll also be drilling all the barrels on all the weapons.

Everything will be primed with a Tamiya undercoat. I am planning to preshade the miniatures by first priming from below in black and then from above in grey. If I can keep subsequent layers thin, I should be able to achieve a decent look. Preshading is subtle but really does add something to the finished product if subcequent layers are thin.

Painting will be done in batches. I have noticed that I tend to get frustrated and sloppy if I paint for too long. What should be a hobby becomes a chore. My satisfaction really depends on a good result so I will be painting in small batches of 5 for miniatures and 10 for sub-assemblies. I am going to limit myself to one batch per session and concentrate on getting the best result possible.

The final step will be basing the models. As I mentioned in a previous post I’ll be using a base stamp and green stuff for basing. With the assault marines I’m planning to use transparent acrylic bases with black painted rims. I haven’t decided what color to paint the rims of the plastic bases but it will probably be black or grey. Everything will then be varnished with two coats of Tamiya Flat Clear.