|Never forget! Never forgive!|
Ever since starting a Deathwing army way back in 4th edition, I have wanted to build a command squad to accompany Belial into battle. When starting the army, this task always fell behind building normal squads to fill out the core of the army. Eventually, towards the end of fifth edition, I had the core army where I wanted it, 5 squads of terminators, a host of dreadnoughts and Land Raiders, and a trio of Landspeeder Typhoons. This got me to thinking about building the command squad again, but I still put it off, knowing that 6th edition would likely change optimal loadouts, and that a new codex was coming, one that might offer new options and maybe come with new models to aid in the conversion process.
Now that the 6th edition is almost a year old and the Dark Angels codex out for a few months, I decided there was no better to time to start building some terminators for the much delayed command squad.
Although the Dark Angel release came with a very nice Deathwing box, I knew I did not want to base the models too heavily on it. While the box has a lot of options, very little of the contents really brought any new elements to, or expanded on prior Dark Angel motifs. I did not simply want the command to be regular terminators with swords on them (admittedly, the sword emblems and any such detail on the models is fine and well-crafted). This left me to look more at the Dark Angel art for inspiration. The new codex did not really have new art for inspiration, but it maintained the fantastic art from the former book, which contained many images that have come to define the Dark Angels for me.
One particular illustration has long stuck in my mind, in the 4th edition codex they called it: the Last Rites of Brother Rhamiel. It is a very dour scene in which Azrael, the Supreme Grand Master the Dark Angels is holding the Sword of Secrets high above the body of another Space Marine surrounded by the hooded Watchers in the Dark. The image captures the brooding mystery and archaic rituals that surround the First Chapter. Azrael stands in a cavernous hall, atop etched runic symbols, flanked by two somber individuals, their faces completely hidden underneath fraying hoods. One has a hand outstretched and is framed by a radiant halo, the other a Librarian, holds a mighty tome and is strung with femurs and other bones. Finally, standing in the background are a host of terminators, each face covered in a hood. There is so much dark life within the image. And while Space Marines are familiar, these ones are so steeped in ritual and esoteric practices (something very alien to that of most Codex chapters), that they are fresh. It really taps into the wonderful unsettling mysteries that make Warhammer 40,000 interesting.
|Last Rites of Brother Rhamiel, one of the most iconic images from the last two Dark Angel codex books|
Looking over the picture, I realized I really liked the gloom that their hoods imparted. Although, the new Deathwing box came with multiple hooded heads, I disliked them immediately. All of the opposing effect of the hoods is lost because their faces are so exposed in them, jutting far out, suggesting their necks are craned and of an unnatural length. The matter is not helped by the faces not being particularly inspiring. Pondering this, it occurred to me that those faces could simply be carved out. This would eliminate the awkward head placement, and more importantly re-establish the shadowy terror the hoods were to instill in those around them. With some careful cutting, I was able to remove the faces from the hoods, and am quite pleased with the result.
|By simply removing the faces, these hooded heads are instantly more menacing.|
Another image that always drew me back to it since I first saw it in the 4th edition codex is the Company Master. His ornate armour, winged helm in the crook of his arm, impressive dagger at his waist, and slender two-handed battle sword are all awesome in their own right, but what really captured my imagination was his non-conventional iron halo. This wooden shrine atop his armour is testament to his grim work, staked and nailed with skulls and parchments. Although a grim display, it is not one of wanton cruelty and gore that you would expect to grace a Chaos Marine’s armour, but rather a pragmatic reminder of the Dark Angel’s eternal task to root out corruption, slay heretics, and scourge the universe clean of xenos. I knew I wanted to try to capture this element in some of the models in the command squad, so I set about trying to construct one out of bits, thankful for Brian Nelson’s redesigned Vampire Count Skeletons years back (they are finally a reasonable scale!).
|Another fantastic image, with many excellent modeling opportunities .|
|An attempt at creating a halo of skulls like the Grand Master painting, using pins to fashion stakes.|
The winged spector on the Company Master’s shoulder has always intrigued me as well. It inspired me to experiment with giving one of the members of the squad a winged companion. Looking through my bitz, I found an excellent little crow and and a vulture from the plastic giant kit.
I am still a little uncertain of how best to equip the squad. With the advent of the new edition and codex, I was hoping that another option would open up other than simply all having Thunder hammers and Storm Shields (THSS). While good, it results in a very uninteresting melee centered unit. Also the current thunder hammers, while nicely sculpted, are overly big for my taste, and would need converting (unfortunately, very few smaller hammers exist...). Because of this, I decided to forgo making the optimal unit, and instead want to focus on making dynamic exciting characters.
Interestingly, the Command does not have a sergeant (they are all veterans I suppose), and therefore is not limited to a power sword (no model in the squad can even take one for that matter) like their elite choice brethren. In an optimization standpoint, this is good in that every member of the squad can get the coveted THSS. For reasons unknown, Games Workshop FAQed the normal terminator squads such that their sergeants cannot get THSS (since the rules state you need to replace your powerfist, which the sergeant does not have...). There is an option for upgrading a model to a Champion, which replaces their wargear with a Halberd of Caliban (AP2 +2S power weapon). While I was not very impressed with the weapon design in the Command box, it is too bulbous and extravagant, the arms holding it are nice, and it looked to be a nice haft for a hammer (large enough to accept one of the large thunder hammer heads and make it look reasonable). In short order, I pinned the hammer head from the Grey Knight terminator daemon hammer atop the haft and replaced the bottom portion of the halberd with something more subtle.
A while back I purchased Forge World’s Lugft Huron, Chapter Master of the Astral Claws, but the one I received was poorly cast and I put it away for some future conversion. When trying to determine the proper body and legs for the terminator holding the hammer I just made, I was surprised how well Huron fit. After this discovery, the rest of the model fell together rather quickly; I found a hooded head that fit nicely and added the halo of skulls and the model was basically complete.
|Work in progress of the champion, using Lugft Huron as the base.|
Although I had used the majority of the Huron model for the previous terminator, I still had his lightning claw. The claw always really impressed me with its esoteric design, in that he has a normal mailed hand nested inside the large body of the powerfist. Then on the knuckles of the fist are are a series of lightning claw blades. The one I received from Forge World had a few of these blades broken off and missing. By trimming the rest of them off, it was easy to fashion a very unique looking powerfist. Better still, the shouldpad attached to the fist has the visage of a savage lion. The lion theme invoked from the Dark Angel’s Primarch Lion El’Jonson is a symbol not often depicted on Dark Angel models, but is a unique element of their history that I wanted to portray. When looking for a suitable body to take Huron’s powerfist, I came across Tyberos the Red Wake. I had purchased him a while back in the thoughts he would make a good Deathwing, but had not built any with him. The powerfist fit nicely with the model, and the wide stance of his legs provided an excellent firing platform for the left-handed storm bolter from the command box I talked about before. Removing the awkward scope that it came with, I added a small rail made from a strip of plasticard. This allowed me to add on one of Anvil Industries excellent reflex sights, a much smaller and more practical optics system for such a close range weapon.
|Work in progress of the first deathwing command squad member.|
|Removing the ridiculous scope from the storm bolter, I added a reflex sight from Anvil Industries.|
A small, but important detail that I knew I needed to be added to the terminators were the iconic broken daggers at the Deathwings’ waists. The spartan looking blades that all the old 2nd edition Deathwing terminators had always stood out and tied the unit together. I was thrilled that the new Deathwing Command box finally included nice plastic daggers for this purpose. The small blades fit nicely on the two terminators and I feel they unify the two warriors together in their hunt for the Unforgiven.
|The daggers the Deathwing command squad comes with are excellent, small and unobtrusive.|
|The Deathwing Champion, complete with a little raven from the Warhammer giant kit.|
|The second command squad member; to make both should pads consistent, I sculpted leather pteruges on the storm bolter arm.|
It was a long time coming, but those are the first two members of my Deathwing command squad. What do you think? Any suggestions on how to improve the models or thoughts on the other members of the squad? I am considering making one holding a banner, allowing me to use the Sacred Standards, but am hesitant due to how difficult such models are to store. I also need to create one with a heavy weapon; I am leaning towards the cyclone missile launcher due to its versatility and that the terminator retains his storm bolter. Time will tell!