Entering the Blackstone Fortress – Part Three

So, here we are, at last! 44 miniatures and two months worth of hobby1 later, Blackstone Fortress is completely ready for the tabletop. In part one of Entering the Blackstone Fortress, I knocked out the first four of the Explorers and all of the Adversaries needed to play the first scenario. In part two I polished off any of the Servants of the Abyss2 that remained. In part three, I will conclude this arc of my journey into the Blackstone Fortress with the final four Explorers from the core game. Let’s get started!

First up on the painting table was Taddeus the Purifier, and I was pretty excited to paint this one. Taddeus only narrowly missed the cut for my first four Explorers – and I’ve got a real thing for both painting cream robes and Priests of the Ecclesiarchy.

This model is just about perfect. There’s so much detail, both pronounced (shoulder piece, servo-skull) and fine (floral sashes, Lecticio Divinitatus) and a terrific sense of hulking, hefty movement to him. Of course, my favourite feature is just how perfectly gross he is – what with his fat, frog-like throat and invasive breathing tube. He’s just dripping with vile charms.

For a start, I took the miniature outside for a quick coat of primer – this one I did in White, whereas the other three were in Black. White undercoats are slightly tricky over coloured plastic – it can be quite transparent at times. You need to apply your primer over several thin coats to cover up the underlying red tone without obscuring any of the finer details.

For the basecoats, I began with a coat of Vallejo Game Elfic Flesh over the robes to give them that initial ivory tint, as well as ensuring consistent and even coverage over any nooks and crannies that the primer didn’t reach. The Servo Skull, mace, and collar rebreather were all painted Army Painter Plate Mail Metal, while the trim on the robes and shoulder piece were base coated Army Painter Glorious Gold. I finished up the core colours with a mixture of Vallejo Heavy Red with a little Warlord Pink mixed in for the sashes and tabard, while Dark Fleshtone went over the boots and belts. The last step was picking out the book cover, mace hilt, breathing tube, Inquisition symbol on the hat and base in Vallejo Model Black.

To shade, I rinsed the silver areas in Nuln Oil, the golds/reds in Reikland Fleshshade and everything else got a nice even coat of Seraphim Sepia. Boring bits over with, it was time to highlight!

I won’t bore you by repeating my process for highlighting Leathers, Golds and Blacks any longer. I should really make a reference page that lists my usual colour choices and basic techniques, but in the meantime my Iron Hills post covers those techniques adequately. That leaves the robe and the gemstones left to cover here.

On the robes, the first step was re-layering up the Elfic Flesh following the wash phase, leaving the deepest recesses. Exactly where the layering ends and which recesses should remain shaded can be a tricky judgement call, but if you get a bit overzealous, you can always pin-wash areas again. I find that adding a little Lahmian Medium to your wash helps if you want to reshade a recessed area that’s not supposed to get as dark as a full-on fold. After building everything back up to Elfic Flesh, I layer Off-White the larger exposed or protruding areas, such as the knees. The final step is a careful edge highlight around the finest edges with White.

I didn’t even bother layering or highlighting the floral details on his Taddeus’ sash – Reikland Fleshshade did a good job of shading the very fine recesses without losing too much in the way of brightness or saturation, and I really wasn’t convinced I would do a very good job layering over such intricate detail anyway.

The centre gem was a very careful application of progressively smaller Turquoise, Electric Blue and Elfic Flesh layers into the tiny little recesses, before finishing off with a little pin wash of Biel Tan Green, brightened up with a bit of Waywatcher Green. Dead simple!

That book, though. That damn book. If I had to put forth one piece of criticism on my own paint job, it’s that I made such a dogs dinner of trying to pick out the very intricate (and very delicate) Inquisition symbol on the book that I managed to entirely obscure the sculpted detail. My attempt at free-handing a simpler version wasn’t exactly spectacular either. Shame!

I don’t want to end on a sour note, so it’s a good thing I’ve got a few words to share about that big angry spot on his forehead. On a character like this, I’d normally apply a small, thin drop of Bloodletter Red glaze on his nose, brushed carefully toward the tip. Tad has something of a flat face however, so I felt he looked better with a lighter highlight. I made up for the lack of a ruddy nose by putting the same glaze over a little pimple on his forehead instead. I’m really very happy with how much it draws the eye – just like real life! Sorry, Tad.

With Taddeus the Purifier ready to purge the heretic, Pious Vorne could not be far behind.

This miniature is a wonderful example of why I love Game Workshop’s all-encompassing (fluff, miniatures and rules) approach to the hobby – sometimes the whole really is so much greater than the sum of it’s parts. At a glance, this miniature is.. Yeah, it’s okay. There’s nothing bad about it. As with any of Games Workshop’s plastic miniatures, the quality is technically very impressive and the overall design of an angry, hairless woman with a chainsaw flamethrower is reasonably cool on it’s own. Still, nothing about this miniature really jumped out at me the way the way most of the other Explorer minis did. Heck, I even thought she was a Chaos Cultist until I read the Background booklet. What an enlightening read that was however – it completely changed my perspective on this character and the miniature itself.

Pious Vorne is an ex-hive ganger turned Missionary, whom Taddeus the Purifier has turned to the light of the Emperor. There’s not really much more out there for this character other than a healthy love of immolation (yet), but honestly, that’s all I needed. Suddenly, so much about the miniature makes sense. There’s a sense of duality to Vorne’s design – the brazier-influenced metalwork of the flamethrower vs the menacing studded leather armour. The brass halo across her head vs the creepy Bane style rebreather. The Ecclesiarchy needs no assistance getting grimdark on it’s own terms, but the added element of a sketchy past just really adds to the vibe of this mini. What was once a fanatical chainsaw-flamethrower wielding servant of the Emperor, suddenly feels that much richer, that much more sinister and yet.. that much more human.

So, what’s there to talk about for this paint job? Well, the robes I painted by mixing a little Dark Fleshtone into Heavy Red, washing with Reikland Fleshshade and layering/highlighting back up with the original two colours, then adding a little Elfic Flesh into the mix. Easy as that – the robes were extremely easy to paint, with a lot of harsh edges and not too many shallow folds to worry about.

The tubing on the flamethrower was done using my new technique for painting somewhat-desaturated red without reading as pink. I start with a base coat of Heavy Red, and highlight in three layers with successively more Elfic Flesh mixed in. After this step, I pin wash the recesses with Carroburg Crimson, then glaze the whole thing with Bloodletter Red to restore a little saturation to back to the Heavy Red that the Elfic Flesh takes out.

Elephant in the room – yes, I painted the fire the wrong way around. It’s not even the first time I’ve done it this way, either. What do I have to say for myself? Well, it’s just… easier. It’s just a lot easier shade down with darker colours than it is to drybrush darker colours over a brighter core. Sometimes corners get cut. I think it looks fine though, this way.

41 down, 3 to go. My second last Explorer was Kroot Tracker, Dahyak Grekh. I love the idea of using Kroot for a Ranger archetype, so it’s a testament to the strength of cast in Blackstone Fortress that Grekh was my 7th choice Explorer.

Despite being a thing for 20ish years, I still think of Kroot as a ‘new’ addition to the lore of Warhammer 40,000. Tau had originally released in 2001, a few months after I first picked up 40K, and I’ve never quite shaken that feeling that they were a new army. Maybe it’s because I’ve never played a Tau army myself, but reading Dahyak’s fluff I was struck by the realisation that I in fact know very little about the Kroot. It feels silly to admit, but it had never even occurred to me that they were evolved from an Avian ancestry. I can’t explain why, but somehow this really changed my perception of Kroot as a race; now I find myself wrestling with the absurd notion of collecting a Kroot army for 40K proper, or even building one using the rules for Cults and Militia in 30K. God help me.

Returning to the present (and reality), Dahyak himself was a really fun and surprisingly speedy miniature to paint – the vast majority of textures and colours on this miniature I had already employed elsewhere. His cloak (and quills) were painted in the same fashion as Pious Vorne’s skirt, while his studded shin guards were identical to Vorne’s armour. Other than a couple of minor details, the only real areas of distinction were his skin and rifle. For the rifle, I basecoated the wooden areas in Elfic Flesh and shaded with Seraphim Sepia, before bringing back up the edges in Elfic Flesh and picking out corners with White. His reptilian skin I did using Vallejo Heavy Grey (a surprisingly greenish colour), highlighted with Camoflague Green and Elfic Flesh, then washed with Athonian Camoshade. Dead simple, dead quick.

This leaves me with my final ‘Explorer’ – Ratling Twins, Rein and Raus. I feel bad about the implicit slight to everybody’s favourite sanctioned abhumans, but hey, somebody‘s gotta come last. Sorry, fellas.

So, what to say about Rein & Raus? As far as miniature design goes, they are impressively deadpan. Features such as the big hairy feet and portable mini-fridge really help sell the light-hearted Halflings in Space shtick, while their armour design (rather reminiscent of Tempestus Scions, I thought), and otherwise canon tactical equipment grounds them clearly as an Astra Militarum Scout Sniper element. In short, they walk the fine line between comic relief and the established, sombre tone of Blackstone Fortress with surprising grace.

Having just painted Dahyak Grekh, I still had a bottle of Vallejo Heavy Grey to hand, so I decided to begin by basecoating Rein’s fatigues and armour in this colour, shaded with Athonian Camoshade. For Raus, I wanted something similar in a different hue, so went with a Vallejo Game Dark Green base with Biel Tan Green shade. These were then edge highlighted with Camoflague Green and Goblin Green respectively, with a little Elfic Flesh mixed in for highlighting the extremities.

Much as with the fatigues, I wanted their hair to look similar – with a slight difference in hue. I based Rein’s hair in Ghost Grey shaded with Lahmian Medium thinned Nuln Oil and Raus’ with Elfic Flesh shaded with Seraphim Sepia. This was layered with the respective base colour and followed up with a little highlight of White to finish.

Other than that, these guys were pretty by the book. The mini-fridge was Elfic Flesh, washed with a Lahmian Medium thinned Seraphim Sepia, then edge highlighted with Elfic Flesh and White. The ivory cuffs were painted similarly (without diluting the sepia wash). The flesh, brown leathers, blacks, and metallics were all painted using my usual techniques. The last little feature was painting Rein’s auspex screen – Goblin Green, glazed slightly towards the corner with Biel Tan wash, with a little upside down V and a couple dots in Goblin Green/Elfic Flesh to finish. Job done – not only for Rein & Raus, but the Blackstone Fortress core set in it’s entirety.

And so ends the final leg of my first delve into the Blackstone Fortress! After 3 and a half months (real time), I finally have a fully painted Blackstone Fortress set – and I’m absolutely delighted with how it all turned out. I’m already thinking about when I’ll slip in future expansions, from the Dreaded Ambull to Escalation – but until then, I’ll leave you now with a full gallery of the entirety of my Blackstone Fortress core set, and two big group photos.

And as always, thanks for reading – and happy wargaming!

1 Work on the Blackstone Fortress core game begun back in late October, although my hobbying was sporadic in November and practically non-existent in December due to circumstances. Things picked back up again a little into January, and I only just managed to polish off the last Explorer before the end of the month. Despite the project spanning some 4 months, it works out closer to about 2 months worth of business as usual.

2 Finishing the Servants of the Abyss opened up a few doors – not only could I play through the entirety of a Blackstone Fortress campaign with those first four Explorers, but they make make a pretty awesome Kill Team to boot.

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