Friday, June 13, 2014

The Ghost Legion: Starting an Alpha Legion Force for Zone Mortalis

"Where truth walks, everywhere she should be shepherded always by a bodyguard of lies."
Since Forge World began releasing models for the Horus Heresy, the urge to build an entire pre-heresy army has been strong, but I have been able to restrain myself.  Afterall, do I really need another army?  And even if I did, do I really need more Space Marines?  Finally, the exorbitant price of Forge World’s models, coupled with the fact that they are all resin has firmly kept this desire at bay.  Recently, however, two elements have conspired to make me reconsider this notion.  The first was when I discovered that Forge World updated their rules for playing space hulk boarding actions that were first published in their Imperial Armour Volume 9: the Badab War Part One.  The updated rules, called Zone Mortalis, are designed to play small (sub 1000pts) games of 40k in confined spaces like hive cities, space hulks, and ancient labyrinths, and even including rules for fighting in the cold void of space.  The second element was the release of the third book in the Isstvan Trilogy: Extermination, and with it rules for one of the most interesting Legions, the enigmatic Alpha Legion.  This more intimate way of playing Warhammer 40k seemed ideal to reenact the knife-edge espionage missions a cell of Alpha Legion Astartes would engage in. And just like that I decided that I needed to start assembling an Alpha Legion army!

The Alpha Legion has always fascinated me.  The last of the First Founding Legions, they were the most secretive, surrounding themselves in falsehoods and contradictions.  Rather than conducting war in the open, they excelled in subterfuge and espionage, waging shadow wars and sowing distrust and confusion.  Dan Abnett’s excellent Horus Heresy book Legion emphasized many of their traits and tendencies, greatly developing their penchant to recruit soldiers from the Imperial Army to serve as sleeper agents.  Migsula, over at Legion of Plastic, has been constructing a fantastic Alpha Legion army over the years that emphasizes this, including a large force of Guardsmen whose ultimate allegiance is to the Alpha Legion.  Furthermore, and probably the most fascinating element of the XXth Legion is that their turn to Chaos may have been the galaxies biggest ruse, and that they ultimately will be the Imperium’s saviors.  Afterall, they were one of the few renegade Astartes not to flee into the Eye of Terror after Horus’s defeat (same with the Night Lords until the death of their Primarch) and they did not favor any particular Chaos god.

A combination of studded shoulder pads and 'beakie" helmets convincingly convey an early iteration of MK VI Corvus armor.
In an effort to decide what I wanted to build for the army first, I went and surveyed all of the space marine models that I have stocked up in my collection (mostly all acquired excitedly when they were released, but never assembled). One of the first sets of models that I came across was one of Forge World’s Legion Mark IV Destroyer squads.  Ever since they were first revealed on Forge World’s site, I was a fan of the models.  They wear a modified form of Mark IV armor that is reinforced with additional ceramite plating (perfect for waging chemical warfare!).  This reinforced armor gives the marines a bulky, indomitable presence, perfect for the warriors of the Adeptus Astartes!  Another interesting aspect of the squad is that the marines are each equipped with two bolt pistols.  On top of that, they wear thigh holsters large enough to actually hold their sizable duelling pistols.  The Alpha Legion were one of the few space marine Legions who did not look negatively on the use of Destroyer squads and their use of radiation and chemical warfare (along with the Death Guard). All of these points convinced me that my first Alpha Legion unit would be a squad of Destroyers!

One of the most interesting weapon options open to the Destroyers is a missile launcher loaded with rad missiles.  The model for it is very distinctive and a drastic departure from the traditional shoulder mounted ones.
The Alpha Legion were  one of the first legions to make widespread use of Mark VI Corvus power armor (alongside the Raven Guard).  To capture this element, I opted to equip all of the marines in the squad with the armors' characteristic studded left shoulder guard and ‘beakie’ style helmet.  For their helmets I made use of the short, stouter ‘beakie’ helmets that came in the Dark Angels Ravenwing biker squad, since they mimic the classic Crimson Fist illustration on the cover of Rogue Trader.  Instead of the more widespread "gill-slits" of similar helmets, they have three distinctive horizontal gashes at the front.  As with the rest of the armor, I carved off any skulls or other iconography, wanting to give the models a uniform faceless feel.  The Alpha Legion were often known to go to war with unadorned armor, completely lacking any markings to designate them and to instill confusion in their enemies  (sometimes they would even take to the field in completely unpainted armor).  I feel these small touches emphasize the Legion’s obsession with strength through secrecy and unity.

I paid special attention to make each warrior virtually a mimic of his peers, keeping them clean of any personal iconography, to emphasize the faceless nature of the Alpha Legion.
Although the Destroyers can get jump packs, I opted to leave them off (even though the thought of them flying about with missile launchers harboring gamma radiation-infused warheads has its charm…), feeling normal backpacks fit with the clandestine espionage favored by the Alpha Legion.  Therefore, as a final nod towards the 30k universe, I used old 2nd edition backpacks for each of the squad members.  I could have used the FW resin ones that came with the kit (they were actually designed to look like the old plastic ones, ha ha), but liked the nostalgia the 2nd edition backpacks gave the models. As an additional benefit, they are also slightly smaller and being plastic are much easier to work with!

The old 2nd edition plastic backpacks work surprisingly well with newer models, while still maintaining a 30k vibe.
For the Sergeant of the squad I decided I wanted to convert him to make it look like he was signalling his battle brothers forward.  The conversion was a really simple one, just requiring a simple hand swap with one of the plastic hands from the power armored Grey Knights.  Although adding the hand was simple, adding a bolt pistol to his empty holster was much more challenging. I ended up cutting up one of the bolt pistol from the hand swap conversion and slotting it into the model’s thigh holster. I then added a pistol grip from a plastic boltgun and made sure to add the muzzle of the pistol sticking out the bottom of his holster.

Amazingly, the thigh holsters that the Destroyers' wear actually fit their pistols, evidenced by the one I fit into his holster having cut it from his upraised hand.
In the spirit of Zone Mortalis and claustrophobic deep space combat, I decided to base the models on Dragon Forge’s Tech-Deck bases (quickly becoming my favorite bases). Unfortunately, at the time I only had one suitable Tech-Deck base, so only one of the models in the pictures is based properly. The bases will also make the models fit in nicely with my other Inquisitorial models that I have been making in case I want to use them in games of Warhammer 40,000 or INQ28 (although I am tempted to make some true-scale marines for the latter).

Up next in the force will likely be a second Contemptor dreadnought or one of their Headhunter squads….

- Adam Wier


  1. Nice one Adam. Legion definitely sold me on the Alpha Legion as an alternative Chaos/but maybe not army if I ever wanted to go down that dark path.

    Are you panning to mix in some non-Marines like Migs has?

    Also, what take on the armour colour are you planning on - the internet has a real mix from light through dark blue and blue-greens.

    The holstered gun does look better than the stock plastic counterparts - FW hit the nail on the head when they designed those size wise. Looking at your though, I couldn't help thinking the muzzle was sitting slightly too low - unless it had been holstered on a slight angle - just a minor thing but it stood out enough in my minds eye to make me think it worth commenting on.

    Jeff's basis are hands down the best on the market. Secret Weapon do some nice stuff too, but Jeff's quality is always 100% whereas SW sometimes need a very little bit of work.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      Currently I am not sure exactly what I am going to do with the army. I would like to eventually add some non-marine models to the force, but I am not sure what those would be.

      In terms of armor color, I am currently leaning more towards a darker more subdued armor color. I should really bring myself to get back to painting...

      Thanks for your thoughts about the holstered pistol. I tried my best to mimic what the holstered pistol looked like on the rocket launcher marine when converting my own for the sergeant. Looking back at it, it might be slightly too long and angled a little weird. I may look into modifying it a little.

  2. This is a really cool take on the Alpha Legion you have here, I'll be watching your progress with interest. I also picked up some destroyer bodies for a command squad, they have a really great spec-ops feel to them. Nice stuff man, keep it up!

    1. Thanks for the comment and I am glad you like them! The Destroyer bodies are great; I love the reinforced look of the armor.

      Work on the Alpha Legion is progressing slowly (I have too many projects, ha ha). Hopefully I will have something to show pretty soon. I am working on a contemptor dreadnought and thinking of starting work on a headhunter squad.