Monday, September 22, 2014

The Ghost Legion: Building Alpha Legion Headhunters

I am Alpharius. 
It has been a little while since my first post about starting an Alpha Legion strike force for Zone Mortalis. I have been making steady progress on the force and can now finally show the results of my efforts! As I hinted at in my previous post, I have been hard at work on converting a Headhunter squad. The idea of a small cell of Space Marines that excel in infiltrating and sowing dissent and confusion in the enemy ranks is fascinating to me.  Particularly because, although always described as remarkably skilled and determined warriors, Space Marines are rarely likened to assassins (with the exception of the Alpha Legion’s Headhunters). Building a squad of these espionage agents presented an interesting challenge in trying to implement those unlikely themes into a unit of Space Marines.

Possibly the most important element of the Headhunter, in my opinion, was getting his boltgun right. In the past, I have been rather critical with bolters, disliking their lack of stocks and ridiculous optics (being something of a firearms enthusiast, these things really stand out to me). So when making such a specialized infiltrator as an Alpha Legion Headhunter, I knew I had to modify a few things to make them more suitable and, dare I say, realistic. Forge World has made a host of different bolter variants, and I ultimately decided on their Umbra pattern version. They are thinner than most of the other variants, making them closer to the subcompact weapons that I was envisioning. Unlike most of the boltgun designs, the Umbra pattern looks like the designers actually looked at an assault rifle, and designed something that could potentially function. It features what looks like an “open bolt” design for loading a round from the magazine into the chamber, and then for ejecting the spent casing after firing a round. It is the only bolter that I know of that has such a design and it reminded me of the Ingram MAC-10 machine pistol.

I never thought I would find a good use for the Grey Knight Interceptor Squad backpacks, but they turned out to be the perfect base for silencers!

With the base of the weapon established, I set about making the other modifications to the weapon. Most importantly, I needed to fashion some form of stock on their bolters. Over the years, very few boltguns in Warhammer 40,000 have been equipped with stocks. The best examples were from all the way back in the 2nd edition of Warhammer 40k on the plastic boltguns, each of which had small wire-framed stocks. Despite coming equipped with stocks, none of the arms were sculpted to properly accommodate the stock (and would result in really awkward looking poses). As a throwback to these older designs I decided to use the stock directly from the old plastic bolters to create a folding stock on the Umbra pattern bolters.

I was amazed how easily the old 2nd edition bolter stocks fit on the Umbra bolters, they even easily fit into the crook of there arms.

In addition to the folding stock, I also wanted to add a silencer and some optics. For the silencer, I found that the rods on the backpack-mounted personal teleporters of the Grey Knight Interceptor Squads worked perfectly (they even have two different lengths!). I opted to use the longer of the rods on the Grey Knight backpacks to more closely mimic the look and feel of silenced submachine guns particularly the MAC-10 and its bulky two-stage design. Finally for the optics, I used the Reflex sights offered by Anvil Industry. Holographic sights help facilitating target acquisition, and would aid the marines in close-quarter combat which they excel at.

Aside from the modified bolters, each of the Headhunters are equipped with power daggers. Instead of the common Space marine knives, I decided to use the daggers from the Militarum Tempestus Scions. They fit in nicely with the assassin theme, a simple double edged blade with an enclosed finger guard (kind of reminds be of a karambit...). To compliment their daggers, I also equipped each of the marines with a boltpistol holstered at their waist (Phobos Pattern).

I opted for using Tempestus Scion daggers instead of the venerable Space Marine knives to represent their power daggers, their dual edge fitting the assassin theme of the Headhunters.

I opted to armour the Headhunters in Mark III Iron Armour. Of all of the power armour variants, Iron Armour has always been my favorite because of its simple design and incorporation of broad armour plates. The armour instills the image that each marine is an iron behemoth, immune to the perils of the void and small-arms fire. Truly fitting of a space marine! The Iron Armour produced by Forge World is also my favorite in terms of sculpt quality. If any of you have worked with the variant space marine armours from Forge World, you will know that some of the dimensions are a little off (awkwardly thin arms and legs are a common occurrence). Even for the Iron Armour marines, which are the best proportioned, their arms are much too narrow and thin for my liking. To get around this I replaced them with the arms from the new plastic space marine tactical squad. I then trimmed the vambraces off the Iron Armour and glued them in place on the plastic arms.

I wanted to ensure that the models had the majority of their wargear represented on them, particularly giving them sidearms.

Aside from replacing the arms on the marines with plastic ones, I also went and removed the majority of the exposed bolts spread across the armour. This was done to give them a more streamlined and sinister appearance. It also served to minimize the points on the armour that could get caught or snagged on obstacles during combat. The heads of the marines were taken from the MKIII Breacher Siege squad from Forge World. Like the rest of their armour, I removed all of the exposed bolts.  Although similar to the normal Iron Armor helmets, the breacher ones lack the gill-slits emphasizing the faceless nature of the Alpha Legion.

I decided to use traditional Space Marine backpacks over the Forge World resin ones because they sit slightly lower on the model, making them slightly more suited for stealth operations.

I am really pleased how the first two Headhunters turned out; they look like they are actually firing their bolters!

All that is left to do on the two Headhunters is determine what shoulderpads to equip them with. Part of me tells me that they should just have traditional plastic space marines ones. It might also look neat to equip them with rimless shoulderpads, further emphasizing the sleek and refined look of the rest of their armour. What do people think on the matter? Rimmed or rimless?

Which shoulderpads look better? Rimmed or rimless?

Now that two of the marines from the Headhunter squad are all but complete, I need to finish at least 3 more to round out the squad. The unit entry offers very few choices over the basic headhunters with bolters. Although they can all get combi-weapons, the unit cannot get any special weapons. They can, however, get a heavy bolter with suspensor array and banestrike ammunition. This is tempting simply because the heavy bolter is so iconic when thinking of Space marines. I am not sure that it really fits the headhunter theme, however.  Perhaps if I model it to look more like a light machine gun, such as a SAW, it would be more suitable for the Alpha Legion.  As always, your opinions are welcome!

- Adam Wier


  1. I'm still amazed at the efforts you go to to ensure the perfect mini and that it meets what you want. Your patience through the process is incredible. The end results speak for themselves.

    It took me ages to figure out that it was the lack of bolts and the smooth finish off the about that was throwing my one minds view of the armour off. Such a subtle change makes a great deal of difference.

    I'd be tempted to go with a Mark 3 pad on the leading arm to cement that impervious iron armour look with maybe a rimmed pad in the other arm. A rimless one with a Mark 3 would look off balanced. Otherwise I think rimmed makes more sense. The rimless lacks looks a tad off when taken with the vambraces and broader armour look.

    1. Thanks you for the compliments! The entire conversion process is a really rewarding one for me. I love seeing models come together.

      I hear what you are saying about trying to use one of the MkIII shoulderpads on on the marines. I will trim a few and see what they look like on the models. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Very nice work. I think rimless for the shoulder pads, in keeping with their "smooth" look.

    Couple of points, shouldn't the port on the original barrel of the bolter be filled in? And I always thought of marine bolters as being more like a really heavy sub-machine gun, rather than an assault rifle, which explains the terrible range, firing poses, and lack of stock...

    How are you going to paint them? Urban camo? Dull grey unmarked armor? Heavily painted with enemy iconography?

    1. I too have been kind of leaning towards using the rimless shoulder pads. I need to do more work on the ones I started with greenstuff to smooth out some of the details.

      You are right about filling in the port on the barrels of the original bolters. I will go back and fill them in with greenstuff.

      I see what you mean about the bolters as heavy sub-machine guns. That would explain some things. Even still, most sub-machine guns have a stock of some sort. Also when GW released the new plastic tactical marines with arms attempting to 'shoulder' their bolters it really spoke to me that the lack of stocks was an oversight.

      In terms of a paint scheme, I am not really sure what would be best. It might be cool to have unpainted armour. A faceless assassin!

  3. Thank you for the kind words! I am glad you like the marines as much as I do.

  4. The new Talon of Horus book mentions a number of times Rubric Marines shouldering their Bolters and the clunk it makes against their pads. To do that they must be pulling their elbow right back or have excessively chunky pads. The old second ed stocks make more sense.

    1. Ha ha, good to hear some Space Marines still use stocks!

  5. That is absolutely amazing! Awesome build, man - can't wait to see him painted up!

    1. Thank you for the comment Mordian7th! I really do have to get around to painting them...