When rooting through my room the other day I came across a substantial amount of White Dwarf magazines, ranging from my first ever copy, (306 from 2005), to some earlier copies picked up from a charity shop, dating back to before I was even born. Leafing through a few of the copies got me thinking about just how long I've been painting models and how far I've come in that time. It's inspired me to start writing down my experiences with the hobby and how I've tackled problems that I've been faced with during this time. I thought I'd start off writing about my recent history with the Space Wolves and how my on and off relationship with this army has panned out over the last 4 years or so.
I'll begin by talking about one of the biggest issues I find with Space Wolves; the difference between their representation on the tabletop and how they are depicted in the lore. This problem has driven my approach to building and painting this army immensely, changing the way I look at the relationship between lore and tabletop as a whole. Books such as Prospero Burns portray the Space Wolves without so much emphasis on the wolf part of their name and more on them being Vikings in Space. Even the Fenrisians themselves scoff at the name Space Wolves, declaring themselves to be known as the Vlka Fenryka and, when in battle, The Rout.
Back in 2014 I decided to start a new 40k army and with the release of the Stormclaw boxset I decided that the Space Wolves would be my next collection. I'd also played a series of games at my local GW the previous year against a beautifully painted SW army and fell in love with the aesthetic of the Thunderwolf Cavalry and how my opponent had painted his force in pre-Heresy colours. After building the minis and painting a few up, the biggest problem was the almost laughable emphasis on the wolf aspect of the army. I bought a box of standard marines to try and mix up my basic troops so as to not have an overly 'wolfy' army. Despite this, I never did finish my 40k army due my habit of spending my student loan on as many new minis as I could find. The unused parts of this force, however, did come in handy when eventually building my 30k legion.
My earliest attempt at Space Wolves. I'm quite proud of these minis, but for the most part I never really got the hang of the dark grey pre-Heresy armour colouring
It was also during this time I'd really gotten into the Horus Heresy series of books and once the Betrayal at Calth box set came around in November of 2016, just before my 21st birthday, I was dead set on collecting a force of the Warmaster's own. However, much like my previous collection of Space Wolves, I never got near finishing the force, mostly in part due to the fact I couldn't find a colour scheme that consistently worked to my liking. Sadly, another army was shelved and with a dissertation needing to be written my interest in, and time for, painting began to dwindle. It was not until, luckily, I was reading Graham McNeil's Vengeful Spirit on the train home one day that I was re-inspired to pick up my wolves again and get painting. There's a brief scene in VS where Garviel Loken converses with the Primarch Leman Russ, who declares he will hunt down the Warmaster and kill him himself. Something about the way Russ was presented really caught my attention and made me determined to collect the Space Wolves again, albeit this time a force from 10 thousand years earlier.
A few of the Sons of Horus I managed to get done before the wolves drew me back
I picked up copies of Prospero Burns and A Thousand Sons and started to plan how I wanted my my Wolves to look. I didn't want to fall into the same trap as last time and put myself off the force with too much 'wolf' iconography, so I decided that only marines of note, i.e. sergeants would be adorned with these icons. I tried to replicate a light-blue armour colour from an image I'd seen in Visions of Heresy, but I found that this scheme ended up looking more like GW's 40k Space Wolve's than a pre-Heresy force and scrapped the idea. Luckily for me Duncan from Warhammer TV on Youtube uploaded a really helpful guide on how to paint pre-Heresy Space Wolves and I jumped at the chance to get a MKIV sergeant painted up in this style. As well as this, leaked images began filtering through onto Twitter and Reddit, revealing the next 30k boxed set would focus on the Burning of Prospero, and my Christmas spending was decided there and then.
My test scheme for the Wolves - too light blue! Will eventually have to go back and repaint him to match the guy below
My first proper pre-Heresy SW; the limit of wolfiness allowed in the force with a grey I'm finally happy with
Once I got my hands on Burning of Prospero I was finally confident that I was on the right track to completing a full Heresy force. I haven't played a game of 40k for almost 3 years, so I'd be loosely basing my modelling decisions on the rules presented in Codex: Space Wolves, but for the most part I'm building and painting this force for my own personal satisfaction. Long story short, the rule of cool will be the main focus on how I construct my legion.
First up was painting a few test figures to get a good feel on how to paint up MKIII marines, which I'll admit are good fun to paint, until you reach the back side of the model, whose rivets and plating can be a right pain to paint properly, especially when you've glued a sheathed chainsword on their belts. I did, however, decide to paint the arms and bolter separately so that I had more ease of access to the chest plate which is always an issue I find when painting any kind of Space Marine. I'm exceedingly happy with the final results and have started transferring the technique to a squad of Tartaros Terminators. I entered these minis as a pledge for #Squaduary; a Twitter event throughout February made to help hobbyists get stuck in and churn out a squad of minis by the end of the month. I've talked about Squaduary on this blog before so check out the previous posts if you're interested in my progress.
Converting Space Wolves
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this hobby is the ability to 'convert' a miniature; to take a standard model and reshape it, either by using pieces from other kits or resculpting a model altogether, to create something unique to your own collection. Space Wolves offer a multitude of opportunities for conversion, and sets such as Betrayal at Calth and Burning of Prospero which come with default marines offer you the chance to really go to town on them. These minis were designed to be customised and altered to take on their own personalities, and in my experience the GW Space Wolves kits come with sprues filled to the brim with spare pieces that are perfect for this job. My excess Stormclaw sprues were invaluable with regards to bare heads, weaponry and iconography that, when used in moderation, can diversify your force whilst at the same time tying it all together.
Earlier this year I made a blog post regarding converting Space Wolves in order to have them reflect their depictions in Visions of Heresy and other Horus Heresy pieces of art. These wolves, often in MKIII armour, carry round wooden shields, axes, and adorn red top knots upon their helms. Although understated, these additions to the otherwise standard Astartes armour really make the wolves stand out, and by simply adding a few extra bits and pieces (namely WHFB Chaos Maruader axes and shields) my wolves began to take on a personality of their own without delving too deeply into OTT wolfiness. In my experience with building Space Wolves, it is extremely helpful to browse "bitz" sites to see what other kits can offer a Space Wolves aesthetically that do not strictly come from the Space Wolves range itself. For example, the Age of Sigmar Fyreslayers have excellent opportunities for conversion with their axes and shields, whilst most Fantasy Chaos kits are filled with useful bits and pieces.
Chaos Marauder axes, shields and fur pelts help my MKIII's stand out as the grizzled veterans of Fenris they are, whilst also adhering to the aesthetic of other Astartes Legions
Overall, I find the Space Wolves to be one of the most interesting forces one can collect in both the 30k and 40k universes. In the lore they are presented as The Emperor's Executioners, and their part in the Burning of Prospero and the Heresy overall are what drew me back to them in the past year or so. Although often the minis aren't the best, there are infinite possibilities for conversion, which in turn makes the force you collect uniquely your own which is what I think the hobby is all about. I'll most likely in the future post another entry about my time in this hobby, as I have an extensive back catalogue of miniatures that deserve a moment in the spotlight.
My first MKIII wolves