StarSword 700

StarSword 700 cover rough artwork


Eldar Avatar, painted in times of yore. Actually it seems like yesterday. The mushrooms are milliput. One of the few guys I painted up to any standard.

I discovered tabletop wargaming via Games Workshop imports in the early 90's. At first I couldn't believe the ludicrous prices! The wonderful Jes Goodwin sculpts and Paul Bonner's art soon won me over. I mainly collected 6mm Space Marine Chaos and 28mm 40K Eldar until about '97 when the miniatures got too expensive for me. GW's price hikes continued to this day and I have no clue who can afford the stuff.

The Warhammer 40K setting is a mishmash of powerful archetypes (orcs, elves, demons, romans) and this makes it very accessible as a creative playground for players, sculptors and painters. It's fun to give your own army and characters that personal touch and plan your next army expansion (and purchase).

However, age changes one's perspective on the resource which is time. I feel increasingly uneasy about pouring time into someone else's product, especially when I could be creative in more independent ways. More importantly, as an artist, it's my chief task, for the sake of my growth, to find faults in things. By now, I want to change so much about the 40K setting and miniatures that I might as well get my own boulder rolling. This StarSword project is growing out of that urge.

However, GW has sort of monopolized a lot of great archetypes. How do you do Space Marines, Chaos powers, Orks, Tyranids, military iconography and whathaveyou while not looking like you're infringing on GW's IP? None of the above are something GW invented ("Space Marines" have been around since the 30's). Many plot elements are taken from Asimov's Foundation books, Tolkien, Harry Harrison's Deathworld, works by Gene Roddenberry, movies like Alien, the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, etc.

I like those ingredients and have as much right to use them as anyone else, but my creative freedom to explore them is now hampered by GW's gravity wells. I will need to create my own as I'm not at all interested in creating proxy models or designs which fail to make an unique impression. One way to do that is to reverse things, sort of offset my gravity wells to avoid overlap.

40K Starsword
Corpse Emperor leads xenophobic mankind. Nice old lady leads Earthlings and genetically anthropomorphized animals.
Malt cross shaped Space Marines (big hands and feet). Star shaped Astroknights (small hands and feet).

It's perhaps less necessary to change the Orcs, Elves and Dwarfs, as people are used to those archetypes being mirrored all over the fantasy-scifi multiverse, and perhaps it would be more confusing if I turned the Elves into stupid Orcs and made the Orcs really elegant, clever and unorky, or just gave them a sort of random alien personality and appearance that no one cares for. I'd like for these races to be very traditional and thus easy to take in.

The 40K setting has deviated from its more silly roots with a lot of exotic aliens. My take on it is that, as long as the story is serious, the visual design of the actors does not have to be. I'm pretty fine with a race of ferrets and moose-men, allied with skeleton warriors locked in an epic, interplanetary struggle for survival with... Cthulhoids, if it's written in an immersive manner which makes internal sense.

Designwise, I'll stick to the same scale ("28mm heroic" I believe it's called... it's not actually 28 mm). I also want to explore the 6mm scale most notably used by Space Marine / Epic.

Factions and fluff

Fluff is quite important. In some cases, bad fluff (and rules) or excessive retconning can make me project negative feelings onto the physical miniatures. Good fluff can make a mediocre miniature look more attractive. I'll probably opt for releasing the fluff for free as a printable PDF as a form of advertisement. I think the days of physical magazines are over. I know some miniature companies offer both freely downloadable rules/fluff and a nicely printed version for about 25-40 bucks.

To begin with, I'd like to throw out many different races and see which ones stick. I like the idea of planting seeds early because even if they don't grow into trees they are still useful for making the setting feel alive. Some people like working with the less fleshed out races (or "chapters") too, such as Warhammer's "Fimir". That's another strike against GW. They retcon/remove a lot of old or unused stuff. Perhaps even moreso now after the ChapterHouse debacle.

Anyways, first I'm going to need some kind of timeline of events just as reference when writing.

Summary / introductory flavor text

Seven centuries of hardships have passed since the ashes of dead gods spawned evils incarnate to terrorize and corrupt both the living and the dead. Mankind was forcefully wrenched from the brink of annihilation by the Elven Queen Mother. Under her mighty rule an amalgam of creatures are fighting a war across the stars, not just against the Corrupting Evils, but also against the indefatigable Orcs, the rapacious Dwarves, the unfeeling machine minds, and the numerous unknowns.

Corrupting powers

Design note: I like the four Chaos powers in 40K, but it would be silly to copy those for my demon factions. Then I remembered reading the descriptions of the 72 Daemons in Ars Goetia. Most of those aren't very interesting as far as monster designs go, and I remembered wanting to write my own set. Here's the opportunity!

Long ago, a pantheon of Gods and Demi gods occupied the otherworldly realm now known as the Infinity Plane, a vast, flat world. As eons went by many of these entities would grow bored of their existence. Some self annihilated, others went to sleep, but the majority transcended into untouchable singularities of perfect existence. Those who remained were the ones which took petty and sometimes morbid interest in the affairs of the mortals in normal space.

Some fortunate, or unfortunate mortals were brought to the Infinity Plane, where they saw great cities, fantastic landscapes and alien creatures, each God trying to outdo the other. Some Gods brought up mortals just to poke and prod them, to use as play things.

Eventually, conflict arose as what to do with the mortals and the material universe. Most of those who argued that nothing much should be done had already left. There were those who argued that the mortals should all be transcended, and perhaps even promoted to Demi Gods, but this was not a popular view. The result would be chaos, as the too numerous mortals held a wide variety of extreme viewpoints, and this would only further the discord which already existed. And what would be the point of the mortal realm if it couldn't be used as a play thing for the Gods?

Many of the Gods wanted to transform the mortal realm into a platform for their worship, within moderation, they promised. This is how it was for a while. Their games grew larger, more serious, and more territorial. Eventually, one of the Gods obliterated another in a fit of jealousy. The brawl escalated into a full-on war with many sides, each trying to usurp the powers of the others. As the massively powerful entities tore at each other at the raging epicenter of battle, the last of the sane ones watched at a distance how their realm was reduced to rubble and chaos. Then they moved on elsewhere, barely avoiding the shock wave from the inevitable result of Gods battling.

For a long time, fragments of dead Gods drifted like stardust after a supernova across the lifeless, desolate plane. Eventually, like attracted like, greed to greed, lust to lust, death to death. Entities reformed, still dead and void of personality, but full of malicious power.

How the mortal realm managed to connect to this realm of dead gods is not known, but it happened many centuries ago, in an era when Gods have been relegated to mythology by most species. The Infinity Plane was a desolate place, a dark landscape with terrain varying from large plains, to floating twisted rock formations, sparsely populated the writhing, gastrulating entities. The plane could be exited by neither by flight or excavation, as it's resolution steadily decreased along that axis, breaking its laws of physics and any exploring entity apart, The increasingly chaotic gravitational forces which helped form the plane also made it impossible to push out. Eventually though, exits along another dimensional axis was found, but not by the mindless entities. Some blame the Elves and their experiments, but for a human to do so is blasphemy, and the Elves claim that the Infinity Plane may have simply started to leak.

It was too late anyways. The entities had spilled into our universe, their primal essence filling the first thing which attracted them, combining their forms into a horrendous embodiment of immutable obsession.

The combined perversions of the last Gods had been reborn in flesh, and now freely move between the different realities. Their primary drive seem to be to attract, twist and assimilate creatures of this new frontier into something which resonates with their embodiment. The Infinity Plane, home of the Great Corruptors, has also been repopulated and transformed, though not into something which bears resemblance to its former self. The inventive... multifarous monotony now characterizes the domains of each Corruptor.

From a human perspective the forces of corruption are evil in an otherworldly, morally ignorant way. But, given their varied nature, a few of them are not so easy to dismiss as purely evil. Some of them have formed uneasy alliances with mortals from time to time, in a war against some temporary enemy.

The Astro Knight stood in the rubble of what once had been a grand solitary mansion. Higmus had come in secret and had Duckmen scouts keeping watch on the surrounding hills. He just wanted to get the job done and bug out without any trouble from the local population.

The flat fields of lichen which dominated the flora on this forsaken planet provided poor cover for his scouts. He swept his eyes along the rolling horizon and felt pleased yet uneasy when his advanced visual systems gave no indication that the scouts were even there.

Perhaps it was one of those days when small bad feelings kept piling up. He had no business in the mansion, but morbid curiosity had lured him in. He reached out and touched a patch of peculiar lichen growing on a wall. It fell off like a drapery, revealing a fearsome 7 foot figure in bulky mechanized armour adorned with skulls and bones. It startled him twice, first the sudden appearance of his mirror image, and then the pristine state of the mirror. The reminder of what he was ushered him on.

Bricks and charred trinkets crumbled beneath the feet of his power armour as he purposefully strode through the ruined mansion and towards the rustic, improvised cemetery on the shallow mound beyond.

On his way out a portrait encased in trans-metal caught his eye. The lady of the house. Next to it lay a portrait of a still young man in an officer's outfit. He guessed it had been her man, probably KIA during the Roper wars. He stared at the sad looking woman and she back at him, centuries passed providing no barrier of communication. Even though he had been bred for unquestioning loyalty, he too knew the truth of things. He had seen too much to believe the propaganda of hope. Only hell awaits man, in this world and probably the next. Oblivion for the lucky... but not for this one.

He forced himself to break eye contact and continued on through the soft lichen field towards the mound at the back. To the eye it looked like maybe 100 graves, but he knew bodies would be stacked, graves would be unmarked. Perhaps the crypt was the woman's.

He came to a halt in the dead center of the graveyard and reached into the compartment of his mind containing the dark gift from his mistress. 430 souls drifted in an unseen mist beneath his feet. None too faded. Their bodies in mostly good condition. No children, but they were unusual in an era where the future seemed bleak and people grew to be older than in man's distant past.

The numbers were within his limits, and he gathered up the necessary strength to condense the broken souls and bones back into cohesion. The earth begun to howl and chatter. With no excavators available for this mission he patiently waited for his minions to claw themselves out of the soft earth.

This backwater planet had been untouched by Zelfor's wasteful scourge. The long dead were harder and harder to come by these days. Their weakened will made them easy to control, perfect for bone cyborg conversion. Reapers, was the rumor. If so, their service would be a long one.

Soon, 429 Skeletons before him stood chattering and jittering, as the newly risen often do. Their behaviour was still mysterious in many ways. He had scattered the soul of the woman into nothingness, letting her know oblivion. Old fool! He knew he would be reprimanded for it and regretted having stumbled upon that portrait. Perhaps he would say nothing of it.

Zelfor icon

Zelfor the Necromancer / Lord of Bone / Lord of the Dead

When Zelfor's powers to control the long dead became apparent, it did not take long before the easy to convince dead rose out of the graveyards throughout the Monarchy. The massive, rampant, but under-equipped army of undead was the first close contact with a corruptive power that many commoners had, especially those on backwater planets. It did not take long before cremation was mandatory throughout the Monarchy. Zelfor responded by simply using his minions to strip the live or newly dead of their flesh. It appeared "long dead" was not a strict requirement, as the process could be accelerated. Combined with the other threats to the Monarchy, it looked as if his skeleton hordes could tip the scales. But, just as the dead were easy to control, it turned out that Zelfor himself was easy to control. After a daring raid, the entity was captured and forcibly tamed by a Retinue member with great mental abilities. The new "alliance" with the dead has made people uneasy to say the least, but there has also been cases of people volunteering their bodies for service after death, and it might even become mandatory in the near future.

Even now, a large chunk of the Monarchy's forces consists of the skeletal dead. All processed skeletons are impregnated and coated with an 8mm layer of Plasteel, increasing their durability greatly. The plasteel is mostly bone colored, but some factions use red, blue, black or even silver pigments. Veteran skeletons are marked with colored stripes on the femur and head. When resources are available, skeletons can be augmented by an outer layer of motorized armor and turned into a Bone Cyborg of some sort. The rarely encountered child skeletons are always turned into Lindebarn, a form of cybernetic scout unit.

The dead are dull witted, but occasionally some of their former intelligence may surface. To represent this they use a distorted die (such as 1,1,2,2,4,6)

Undead Skeleton cyborgs


Porgos the Lord of Greed

The species most willing to be corrupted was perhaps the Dwarfs. Whispered promises of earthly treasures and a vast domain of planets to conquer and stripmine was all that was needed. Corrupted Dwarves are all that's left of the species, but they remain relatively unchanged, and are currently wasting no time conquering the universe with their war machines and concoctions.

There are frequent scandals throughout the Monarchy involving businessmen with secret loyalties to the Lord of Greed. Porgos is actually slightly misunderstood, while he enjoys riches, it's really the prospect of everyone else being poor which appeals to him, and Businessmen are excellent tools for displacement of resources. In some cases, Porgos will choose to destroy riches if they can't be brought to him easily. He doesn't like the thought of someone else having what he does not. Porgos is also the Lord of Jealousy.

Comorgh icon

Comorgh the Enslaver

The Queen's infusion program has been frozen even since her latest creation, the Pigmen, were corrupted by Comorgh, casting some doubt upon the integrity of her other minions and future ones. Comorgh and Porgos synergize well together, with Porgos using the Dwarves to secure mines and solve engineering problems, and Comorgh providing the mercyless Pigmen which capture and control the slaves working the mines. The Pigmen are trained to use weapons which traumatizes, shocks or otherwise incapacitates the victim. Maces and whips are popular.


Czukol (-vzizchjes-bqzchen Sztl) the Joker

Zarbarbe the Dominator (aka The Great Dominatrix).

Zarbarbe (once Pyrrbaivy) is a former Retinue member who, after the great monarchy's success with assimilating Zelfor, was tasked with turning another promising primal essence found loosely bound to a harmless creature. Nearly all of the primal essences which had coalesced formed entities of a negative nature, but trace amounts of what can be described as abstract love (or desire, or lust... hard to say as the entity was not of human origin) had also somehow survived. Zarbarbe had volunteered to lead the force tasked with assimilating this seemingly benign entity. No one knows if Zarbarbe had her own perverse agenda or if the assimilation process changed her, but ultimately she betrayed the monarchy. It was also not known at the time that the entity was really a hybrid of two essences, love and control, explaining how it had been able to sustain form. According to some conspiracy theories, the corruptors Zeol and Zil had created and sustained the entity as an experiment.

Zohl icon

Zohl the Devourer of Minds

Commands the Multiform (shapeshifter) Anomalicarid and legions of mindless (mind-tapped humans).

Anomalocaris Squid monsters

Zeol and Obulon Knights

Zeol the Curious / Pursuer of Knowledge / Great Experimenter

Tree, branches, thorns, caught skulls. Wood and Silver?

Zil the Mindful, Great planner


Obulon the Foul Cheater / Lord of Flies and Lies

Overweight flies? Fatty knights with little fairy wings?

Hordred the Swift and Fickle / the Traitor

Has on a few occasions fought on the side of the Monarchy, only to abandon them in precarious situations. Style: Baroque and fancy, similar to the Elves. Squinting faces.

Mullum the Filthy / Defiler




The Elves and Mankind

The Elven Queen Mother and her retinue is all which remains of the once powerful Elven civilization. They were the first to discover the existence of the infinity plane, and probably the first victim to the corrupting entities dwelling there. The Elves had proved especially vulnerable to being corrupted, despite their great mental prowess, or perhaps because of it with their great minds shining like beacons in the night. There had been no warning, no chance to prepare, and their civilization was gone in moments, quickly accelerating the great awakening of the Corruptors.

To say that the corrupted Elves are still Elves would not only be inaccurate, it would be blasphemy. In the presence of the Queen Mother's ears, which are jokingly believed to be everywhere ("Mother's Long Ears"), these corrupted Elves are simply referred to as the Dark Ones, uttered with a lowered voice and worried glances.

Physically some similarities remain between the two, such as the pointy ears and slender facial features. However, the corrupted ones have grown from short and fit to tall and muscular. Their skin tone has gone from a light brown (mulatto) to variations of near-white sickly pastels. What really matters are the the mental and philosophical changes. Many of the corrupted Elves became underlings of Zeol or Zil. Their perverse experiments and schemes ignore all moral bounds.

The queen of the Elves and her retinue had survived through sheer luck as they were away on a first contact mission (second contact counting the initial probe). The Queen had been intrigued by the physical similarity between the Elves and this race of "Humans" and had insisted on leading the contact team herself.

However, the humans had proved to be another young and mediocre species of few accomplishments. They controlled less than ten star systems, barely holding their own in a foolishly instigated war against an equally mediocre species of plants known as the Ropers. This is not to say that the Queen thought humans were worthless, it's just that the Elves had long hoped to find an equal amongst the stars, such as the Gels which had disappeared many millennia ago and left only enigmatic cave systems behind.

Elves lineup

The exceptionality of the humans became clear as thousands of distant Elven worlds silenced. There was something about the humans which had protected the Queen and her retinue. It was discovered that certain humans had the passive ability cast a cloak over the Elven mind, hiding it even it from the corruptor's sight (though at this time the process of corruption was scarcely understood). The minds of the humans were still corruptible but had to be actively sought out and persuaded.

Uncertain what the next course of action should be, the Queen collected information and waited. Probes sent back to Elven space reported no recognizable life, only worlds in ruin. It looked as if some great insanity had erupted and then suddenly pulled everyone away. The Queen's asylum status lasted for years, until the first attack came. The neighboring Ropers were attacked by a ship which seemed to have come out of the depths of hell itself. The Ropers were forced into human space, forcing further hostilities. Then the humans were attacked, and it became clear that the ships used by the enemy had Elven origins, but now they were crewed by demonic abominations. The hulls were decorated by corpses of alien creatures and hellish symbols, and the weapon systems had been redesigned the either be cruelly effective or just impractically cruel.

It is fortunate that the Elves were not corrupted under the rule of King Jaganrath three ruler generations ago when they were the most aggressive and well armed. Jaganrath's rule was terminated early when he in a fit of vengeance took personal command of a planet-ram and destroyed the home world of the Tzekaar, with whom he had provoked a meaningless war. The next ruler, a mild mannered puzzle-box maker called Chantivyadi, had all of the advanced weapons technology locked into a vault hidden at some distant world. The Elves have lived in carefully negotiated peace since then, relying heavily on diplomacy and other forms of persuasion.

The vault's location is partially known only to the Queen and two other Elves, but with the latter two now being corrupted there's little hope of finding it. There's some fear that once the Queen dies, her mind will be momentarily exposed to the Corruptors who then snatch the last clue to the vault location from her mind.

Billions died as the star systems fell. Mankind lacked both leadership and technology and faced a threat it scarcely understood. It fell apart, desperate as it faced extinction or worse. The Queen however had not been sitting idle. Her retinue members were all experts in multiple fields such as diplomacy, tactics, propulsion, weapons, robotics, genetics, etc.. They had secretly been working on a rapid augmentation plan, upgrading existing human ships, weapons, and even the humans and many of the indigenous life forms of Earth. The latter done using specific translated Elven genes, without overriding the one desirable human quality, immunity to corruption. It had not been possible to give the Elven mind immunity, and if the Elves were to survive and rise once again they needed the Earthlings. Though she wouldn't admit it, the Queen had also grown slightly fond of the humans during her stay. The Queen initially provided counsel and technology which proved so effective that she was eventually appointed Grand Commander of military operations.

Each retinue member were to be given their own project, and personal guard of genetically modified Earthlings, but this process would take decades, time they didn't have. It was only the Queen's tactical brilliance which held the enemy ships back, at costly sacrifices of the human's inferior, though now slightly augmented ships.

The Queen was fortunate again, because the Corruptors unwittingly unleashed the Orcs when they took in the Dwarves years ago. The Orcs, at the surface a simple race of slaves working the Dwarven mines, had began to spread through space at an exponential rate with the help of another race, the technically adept gnomes. It did not take long until the brute force which is the Orcs clashed into the ranks of the corruptors. While history books may state that it was the Queen's brilliance which bought the Elves respite, it was actually the Orcs, or at least a combination thereof. She was appointed Queen of what mankind was becoming, a family of humanoid races, each specialized to serve the Monarchy in different ways.

In this early chaotic period of the newborn Monarchy, new Corruptors would sometimes emerge and cause an upset, but the Monarchy persisted in this state of constant war and peril as decades and centuries passed.

It is now 700 years later and the Queen is dying from old age (Note: What's the stake here? What happens when she dies? I just wanted her to be a kind-stern old lady). To the Elves, natural death is an irreversible and carefully engineered genetical trait, unique to their rules. After a long period of little progress in the distant Elven past, it was discovered that it lies in the disposition of Elves to make the most and best of their time when they know it is finite, so a natural life span of an approximate 990 years was deemed enough for rulers. The Queen is now affectionally, respectfully or fearfully addressed as Queen Mother, as many of the Earthlings owe her their existence, one way or another. She's the closest thing of a religious figure for many. Few would dare to not follow her orders, and even fewer are able to disobey the structures she has put in place.

Each retinue member now commands a significant force of Earthlings (Note: Should list these). The Elves have grown from a dozen to nearly a thousand (all from the mixed genes of the retinues), but this number has to carefully match the amount of "cloaks" existing in the Earthling population (cloaking is a naturally emergent mental ability which can not be biologically cloned). Any uncloaked Elf would immediately be spotted by the Corruptors and driven insane, or worse. Many of the elves are also immature. Reaching mental maturity takes them almost a century and staying alive that long in this new hostile universe is not as easy as it used to be for an Elf. The Earthlings are also effectively immortal, but their average lifespan is still only 50 years as military service is mandatory.

Inspiration: Just like with the Orcs, the Elves will stay pretty close to the standard fantasy Elves, with the exception that some are short, perhaps. I've always imagined Elves short and fit for some reason. The ears are probably the most important physical identifier anyways.

So, there we have it. Female version of "Emperor", all-female(?) "Primarch" figures and different "Chapters". Different enough I think. There needs to be a sleeper too, some great potential teasing the reader. Maybe one of the bad guys, such as a Cthulhu equivalent?

Astro knights

Bluntly put, the Elves needed a super warrior to do their dirty work, so after augmenting humans and select earthly animals (which are not too dissimilar from the Elven point of view), they also developed the mighty "Astro Knight" type motorized armour. The Astro Knights are sent to deal with the toughest situations. Each member of the Queen's retinue has their own, often specialized army. The Elves hope to one day use the Earthlings to achieve a pure genetical immunity against corruption and annihilate the corruptors for good (and perhaps dump the Earthlings, who knows?).

Some sculpting process pics (failing/experimenting/learning as I go): Photo environment 1 2 3 4 5 Duping 6 7 Refining design 8 Almost done Sprue and accessory ideas

The Queen's retinue has been carefully expanded from the dozen surviving members to almost 700 immortal Elven leaders. Many are commanding their own Astroknight forces though some specialize in other tasks. A few retinue members have fallen in battle, or to corruption. Out of the initial 12 members, 10 remain in service of the Monarchy, and they command the largest forces.


humans and elves

I'm experimenting with a chunky lightly armed Rhino troop transport here. Generally when I design transports, I like to keep the focus on "smooth box", since that suggests a transport function. IMO, It's dangerous to throw superfluous features and shapes around, since that changes the meaning of the 'sentence' so to speak ("It looks like I have space inside, can move around, and maybe shoot a little" to "I have super-cool spiky track-legs, streamlined insectoid bulges and a huge mysterious device making up 30% of my mass").


The Orcs were used as slaves by the Dwarfs for many centuries, never being allowed to grow old and slightly wiser (young Orcs being just the right amount of stupid to perform menial tasks without question or much objection with proper indoctrination). When the Dwarfs were corrupted and left their homeworld and colonies during a siege campaign by the Astro Knights, some Dwarfs and Gnomes were neglected. Free at last to realize their potential, the Orcs and Tinker Gnomes (an isolated offshoot of the Dwarven species) spread across space like wildfire - a consequence not foreseen by anyone.

The Orcs are capable of lateral gene transfer through direct or indirect skin contact and reproduce by means of dozens of eggs which hatch internally once the host body is dead. While Orcs can grow very old, most die in battle. Death represents something joyous as battlefields are also a place of rebirth. The hatched Orclings feast competitively on the host body, and then any surrounding bodies and even each other (most do not make it). Orcs are unashamed omnivores later in life, but leave the dead on battlefields for their young.

The skeletons of mature Orcs are massive and sturdy, with the ribcage having a scale mail sort of construction. However intact skeletons are rarely found, as they provide a rich source of minerals for the growing Orclings. Skulls are sometimes preserved by veteran Orcs for decorative purposes.

While the gnomes are capable engineers, the Orcs have their own ideas and often introduce serious design flaws. For example, they added extra height to the walking towers, making them extremely likely to topple over. They added legs on the fast flamer tanks, making them too slow to get into range.




Inspiration: My Orcs are based on Paul Bonner's Orks and post-GW artwork, which don't have any miniature presence as GW insists on doing the square faced toothy Orks. Planet Earth (old Roddenberry movie/pilot) had a race called the Kreeg which spoke Orky and drove around in rusty improvised battlewagons. They had a semblance of organization, something which I liked.

Not Tau

I'm thinking that the Tau (a somewhat sympathetic faction compared to the others in 40k) could be replaced by intelligent humanoid bugs (MoO's Klackon or Starguard's Dreenoi). These civilized and thoughtful bugs would stand in interesting contrast against the more ferocious mutant-beast-like Tyranid-Zerg nomnom Alien. It might be interesting to pass on the humanoid armoured warrior look though, and give them force fields which would allow a more gangly, alien bug aesthetic.


Star/Astro Ducks

A homage to Swedish DnD/Mutant, which had ducks.

Ducks in space

The vicious aliens who spread quickly

How about plants? I'm thinking Bellsprout (Zergling), Victreebel, Scyther (Genestealer), Cactuar, Sudowoodo, Bulbasaur.

plants and bugs


Some seeds, waiting to... blossom. Some of the thumbnails started out as EPIC scale redesigns. I need to find a demonette design. Maybe cybernetic.


And some Gretchin sized creatures, based on the Goblins/"Svartalver" from Prince Augusts Fantasy Armies line. They're kind of beaky and interesting, as opposed to the needle-nose-needle-chin goblins we typically see.


Some Demon Engines.

exotic tanks

I quite like the Demon Engines in EPIC, so I decided to paraphrase them. Seen here are the Juggernaut of Khorne, Brass Scorpion, Doom Blaster, Cauldron of Blood, Tower of Skulls, and a Doom Wheel / Lord of Battles hybrid. And a Plague Tower, top. Top left: Blood Reaper, and Cannon of Khorne. I should migrate the Slaanesh mechs on my Slaanesh page to this project , because those are paraphrases anyways.

Scale feel test.


I prefer to use scales like 1:xx. Millimeter scales can be confusing, because sometimes the measurement includes bases, or you just measure up to the eyes, not the top of the head. Ideally, the scale description should contain information about proportion too, so you can tell if the figures from different systems work together.

It seems like the 40K scale has fluctuated over the years and with different sculptors. Maybe the older figures were a bit more squat. I'm assuming that human figures are close to 180cm tall, maybe taller for male warriors, shorter for females. My Escher might be around 1:58. I have a Cadian Soldier that appears to be 28mm tall, so that's more like 1:64. The heads are generally 5mm or a bit more (in some cases closer to 6mm). I found a Dark Elf crossbow guy who seems to be around 1:57. I don't know how big these guys are in the fluff. Space Marines are certainly not to scale with other figures (7+ feet in the fluff). If my Space Marine scouts are just taller-than-average guys, they might be around 1:58.

So, maybe the 40K scale can be described as 1:59, 5.8 heads, chunky (trunky/malt cross), where the parenthesis describes the nature of the chunkyness. My Red Blok AT-43 guys are 33-34mm for males, and 30-31mm for females. The heads that I measured are just a tiny bit smaller than 40K's. I would describe the scale as 1:56, 7 heads, with a slight chunky trunkyness to the proportions.

A realistic 1:72 scale would just be 1:72. 7-8 heads, and a non-chunkyness would be assumed values.


Proportion types.


Another thing that pushed me away from 40K was the rules for unit design becoming stricter. Nowadays I don't have time to paint up armies. I always liked painting more than playing, so I want each figure to be a little fun project. I don't want to paint 10 Space Marines with bolters then roll some dice to see how many that die each turn.

I'd like to support a kind of "everything goes" army building structure, but with point penalties for odd weapons and gear outfitting and army compositions.

Army composition

In 40K, one often has to compose the army from a set ratio of certain ingredients, such as, HQ, Rare and common units, and vehicles. IIRC, there are some rules which allow for unusual compositions, but as a player I want a little more freedom to break the rules and build that... Banshee only Eldar army or whatever.

It could simply be practical to get a HQ, because it gives global benefits to the army, as well as local range based benefits on the table. Also, Rare units could have increased costs depending on their cost to total army cost ratio, or points could be subtracted from the total available for the army.

Rare units >25% >50% >75%
-20pts per 1000pts-40pts-60pts

Odd outfitting

I like the idea of being able to put any weapon on any unit, but with certain penalties (Reaction, Movement, Aiming) if the weapon isn't native to the race, the soldier haven't trained using it and/or is too weak to handle it well.

These penalties would modify cost as well. It would discourage players from doing certain things, but if they want to, they can have fun and still be legal. The can of course be factions, like certain types of Orks, who are naturally talented at using looted alien weapons and thus are not penalized as hard.

Movement penalties might become so severe that the trooper starts to stumble under the burden, or simply falls to the ground immobilized. Of course, a small creature could handle a heavy weapon if it is mounted on a tripod or something to that effect, but the weapon might still be a bit slow to aim with. It might take two creatures to pack up the weapon and move it around.

...If the tripod also has wheels, and the pivot point is motorized, the creature could ride around on it. Then it would be a vehicle. Needless to say, stuff like this would add to the cost of the weapon. Anyways, all sorts of fun could be had with simple physics based rules like these. Perhaps it would be possible to come up with a working system, then turn the best exploits into official units. This would sort of make the system consistently internal to the game universe, as if the inhabitants really tried to make the best units they could and aren't using arbitrary restrictions because of some 4th wall breaking game balancing god is pointing fingers.


I've been wanting to use an reaction stat for turn order control. It's sort of realistic of models with a high reaction stat moves last since they have a better view of the battlefield state then, putting them in a good position for shooting first in the shooting phase. A unit which is slow to react has to move first, not knowing where other units will end up, will and shoot last, risking having been eliminated before getting a shot off. The units will have to be sorted into reaction tiers before the game, perhaps using cards, or color codes on the base.

This method creates a problem with close combat though, since high reaction units can just move out of close combat with low reaction units which moved first. Maybe close combat is a form of shooting, giving the melee unit a short distance of extra movement. This would make it possible, but unlikely for a low reaction close combat unit to catch a high reaction one. Running units can't shoot, but gets extra movement in both the movement and "shoot self forward into combat" phases.

Also, unwieldy weapons (too heavy for the model or mount) could give a reaction penalty, making pistols more viable in dungeons, and heavy weapons more viable for sitting safely in the back. A unit that's on overwatch could get a reaction bonus (but can't move), so this could negate the penalty for heavy weapons.

Failing squad cohesion (proximity to friendlies, squad mates, superior) could also result in reaction penalties due to insecurity. The higher reaction times (quick decision making) of a superior could give the subordinates a bonus. Some ferocious enemies might cause troops to freeze, giving them poor reactions. Reactions would probably have to be globally evaluated at the beginning of a turn, meaning, a squad can break cohesion or be broken by casualties, but the changes don't take effect until the next turn. A soldier might realize that he has wandered off and gets unsure about things.

Thoughts on the future of tabletop wargaming

Tabletop wargaming products are a bit like MMOs. If they don't reach a critical mass of participants, they sort of fizzle out. I've been eyeballing single player solutions. Perhaps it would be possible to make some form of single player rules where various AI tables (with a random element for surprise) are used to control the enemy army. In an analog system, a player could easily cheat himself though, and it's doubtful that the system would provide a realistic challenge.

So, I started thinking about how a roof mounted screen projector + computer simulation driven tabletop game might look and play. It would allow for a number of neat features:

Drawbacks include:

So, how about an Augmented Reality solution? The models and terrain pieces would need a bar code on the base. Something like an iPad held over the board could scan the playfield state and show a tactical map, and a realtime camera view with a HUD overlay with model stats and so forth. Possibly it could also judge the legality of things using its virtual representation, and even do AI opponent stuff (showing the player where to move enemy troops using the HUD image). Furthermore, since there's no need for the player to match the physical state of the game with the virtual since with AR scanning this is done automatically.

The roof projector / laser system might work if, sometime in the future it's possible to place a small ID device into the base of each model, allowing the scanner to read ID, position and angle, matching it against it against the virtual army database. Moving a model on the board would update the projector view. The player could select a model with a unit selector device (or hand gesture UI) and get a detailed stats, list of movement and shooting ranges, all drawn on the board. One problem is that tabletop figures need a lot of light to look good, so maybe a laser drawn hud would work better.

Thoughts on 6mm rules, detailed vs abstract

I very much prefer detailed skirmish rules over abstract and game'y rules. I feel that abstract rules belittle the creative and narrative aspects of the game and turns it into groups of pieces pruned by dice. Miniature wargaming is very expensive when you put costs (buying the lead) and time (painting) together, so the large armies which often go with more abstract rules are more likely to have been painted in a hurry, making the game look nothing like in advertisements, or perhaps too few players have the large armies required to play.

In wargaming the game pieces are figurative and have rich stories and abilities which go with them, and you can build on this by making little conversions and coming up with your own characters and stories. I feel that if the game rules then ignores this in order to make the game "streamlined", it belittles the canon story material as well as your own efforts. If I liked abstract, competitive and balanced games I'd play Go or Chess. In war gaming, showing up with a cheesy (play to win) speed painted army is to ruin the things which makes wargaming attractive and you're probably not gonna be fun to play against either.

Also, the 6mm scale is already sort of grand in scale compared to 28mm heroic. If I want even more units on the table, I can at least do that at the cost of the game being very slow to play. With simpler rules made for large armies, a smaller game becomes a few meaningless dice rolls. Few or no people will have enough minis for the massive games so you're sort of boxed in at the "normal" sized games. Also, if you need to collect a larger army to play a satisfying game then that's perhaps the only playable army that you have and you get less variation out of the game and hobby.


While I liked the card system of buying troops in Space Marine 2nd Ed., the system has some faults. First, since the miniatures came in sprues or in blisters, it made getting a full card of units difficult as the count that you got sometimes didn't match the card. It also makes sprue design more difficult. Second, it felt a bit inflexible and not realistic. Would the Orks always use a Dreadnought mob of 4? Oh, and third, it made using up all of the 1500pts or whatever a bit difficult (meta puzzle).

These problems could perhaps be solved by allowing the card to be modified, at a cost. For example, in the case of EPIC the default Ork Dreadnought mob could be 4 for 150pts, but you can add one for +50pts or remove one for -25pts (compare to the normal cost of 37.5pts). A [+]/[-] marker could be used to indicate a modification. Alternatively, the card could have a little list of allowed modifications and a marker or sliding clip is placed in this list.

Business model

Tabletop war games are even worse off than MMOs in how they need a critical mass of players to survive. When establishing a new product, it must also break into the market. It's perhaps not as hard as it could have been, with GW's pricing and attitude.

I'm thinking, it might be possible to maximize the early impact and output by selling or licensing master molds to casters, and having a more open IP (allowing third parties to produce spare bits). Figures cast locally will be shipped for less, and competition will keep prices down. The idea is is that the increased number of units sold (due to visibility, availability) will compensate for smaller margins.

- by Arne Niklas Jansson, 2011