Ever since Games Workshop cancelled their model line and fed them to the Tyranids, Squats (or Space Dwarfs, for those not yet acquainted) have lived on as a hobby obsession for the grognardiest of Warhammer 40,000 fans. Nothing is dwarfier in spirit than plodding on, dourly buying and converting miniatures for a discontinued faction, fueled solely by resentment that Games Workshop allows the continued existence of Space Elves. As long as Eldar exist, the Squats will continue to rise and meet them.
My first experience converting and painting Squats was for a commission project, and I fell in love with the aesthetic. I knew that eventually my Catachan would be in need of allies and, sure enough, they finally came years later.
Over time the army grew, and it now stands at just over 2,000pts with more on the way.
This article will feature:
- Adeptus Mechanicus Squat Enclave: Army fluff tying these Squats to my existing Catachan army.
- Warriors of the Fortress-Workshop: Unit descriptions and photos.
- New Recruits: In-progress conversions.
- How to Paint Squats: Directions on reproducing the Mechanicus Enclave scheme shown here.
Adeptus Mechanicus Squat Enclave
While the Catachan JP Regiment patrols the surface of the planet, tasked with collecting samples of the planet’s natural resources and dispatching threats to colonists, an altogether more unusual force toils beneath its surface. The following fluff is pieced together from official Squat background and my own desire to connect the two separate Imperial armies in my collection.
The Squats are an endangered race of abhumans, incorrectly believed by many to have been consumed entirely by the Tyranids. Although it is true that they now teeter on the brink of extinction, hardy Squat colonies do still exist scattered across the galaxy – mostly in remote mining outposts, or attached to Imperial expeditions as technical experts.
The short, stocky physiques of Squats are the result of countless generations adapted to mining on high-gravity, mineral-rich worlds. Renowned as engineers and inventors with few peers, the fact that Squat guilds are composed of pure scientists can often cause them to clash with the dogmatic and ritualistic Adeptus Mechanicus. Despite this, many Squats do put aside their theological differences to cooperate with the Magi and Techpriests of the Mechanicus.
The Squats stationed on Verdekil XVIII conduct their research in underground Fortress-Workshops, which they will defend vehemently if threatened. Squads of heavily-armoured Hearthguard and Exo-Armour Squats appear out of nowhere, targeting and dispatching aggressors like hornets whose nest has been disturbed. One the threat has been neutralized, the warriors immediately vanish back to their underground bases in a flash of teleport flare. Aside from these rare engagements, the Squats have little interaction with Imperial forces – what exactly they study and build within their subterranean Fortress-Workshops is a source of great speculation amongst their Catachan allies.
In addition to service as occasional comrades-in-arms, some Squats are willingly inducted into the JP Regiment and fight alongside the Catachan on Verdekil XVIII. The average Guardsman, however, will know them best for their beer – Squat brew is regarded as the best available, and kegs of it are highly valued by soldiers sick of their own bunkhouse homebrew. Though most enjoy the beer without reservation, some Catachan brewers complain that the sophisticated Squat facilities provide an unfair advantage when compared to the damp corners of platoon washrooms that they have to work with.
Like their peers in the Adeptus Mechanicus and Skitarii legions, the Squats on Verdekil XVIII utilize a variety of bizarre and potent weaponry. Mysterious power cells glow a lambent green, and brilliant bolts of hard light cut down armoured foes while washes of flickering energy flay organic material into scattered atoms. None of the Imperial Guard forces have determined what exactly powers these weapons, but many believe the power source has something to do with the constant mining operations deep beneath the planet’s surface.
Warriors of the Fortress-Workshop
The bulk of the Squat army uses rules for Grey Knights, with several models serving as allies or in other roles. The names in parentheses indicates the unit rules used by these “counts-as” conversions. We start with the Warlord responsible for leading the Squats through the Astradus Campaign. Much like he persuaded me to write this article, Rob literally appeared through my computer screen and threatened to crush my minis one by one if I did not write a substantial fluff background for this campaign character .
Skug Scruntersen (Grand Master)
During a routine patrol through the tunnels of his subterranean Fortress-Workshop, Skug Scruntersen and his squad were ambushed by by an infiltrating brood of Genestealers. Leaving the sentries for dead, the creatures scuttled on to deliver the Genestealer’s Kiss to occupants of an isolated command room before vanishing into the ventilation shafts. Skug was found hours later, life barely clinging to his shredded body, and only after significant rehabilitation was he able to speak of his encounter with the foul xenos. Erased security footage was recovered, and those unfortunate individuals who had fallen under the Genestealer’s sway were located and executed immediately. Though the immediate Genestealer Cult menace was purged, the seed of paranoia and ensuing witch hunts tore the Fortress-Workshop apart.
The horror of what had happened due to his failure as guardian weighed on Skug’s conscience, and he took the Slayer Oath to seek an honorable death in pursuit of the aliens responsible. Like all Cyber-Slayers, Skug’s sole reason for existence is to seek the release of death in battle while, somewhat paradoxically, continuing to be too stubborn to die. With a suit of life-support armour to regenerate his damaged body and supplement his strength, Skug “Bug Hunter” Scruntersen is followed by a growing rag-tag band of survivors from similarly purged Cultist outposts who have rallied behind his cause. Only on this crusade across the stars can he claim vengeance against the Tyranids and lay his guilty soul to rest, knocking aside all who stand in his way.
The Narrative Forge (Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight)
The Forgemaster of the Fortress-Workshops on Verdekil XVIII strides into battle atop the massive Narrative Forge, a machine of brilliant artifice. The Forgemaster reads from his books of grudges and hammers out glowing ammunition as the machine strides implacably forward, custom-creating a bespoke bolt of doom for each foe. Between this death-dealing and the runic empowerment he bestows upon the allies surrounding him, the Forgemaster truly does craft the story unfolding on the battlefield as surely as he would a hammer or sword.
Foregemasters come and go over the centuries, but the nigh-invulnerable machinery of the Narrative Forge marches on. As long as xenos, heretics and daemons threaten their Fortress-Workshop, the Squats can rely on the Narrative Forge to drive them back.
It is an almost universal trait that Squats stolidly denounce the warp, and take a very dim view indeed of those who meddle with its fickle and dangerous magicks. Instead, Squat Runemasters bind this ancient power into the runes with which they adorn their armour, weapons and vehicles.
In combat, by triggering these runes, the most well-versed of Squat warriors may harness a small portion of the warp’s power without being psykers themselves. The same dangers exist in utilizing these powers – it is not unheard of for Runemasters to burn out their minds, or be possessed by Daemons from beyond the veil – but by spending years focused on crafting these engineered runes instead of dabbling with their souls, they minimize their exposure to these horrific powers.
Many Squats still staunchly denounce the idea that the power of these runes stems from the warp. Instead, they insist that runes of power are an altogether more sanctic form of power which flows from the Omnissiah and each piece of equipment’s unique machine spirit. Lest they suffer the indignity of a beating from a tiny abhuman, most Catachan stationed alongside Squat warriors have quickly learned not to argue the point.
Servo-Storm Bolter (Fury of Deimos Relic Marker)
Some Squat leaders are followed by floating servo-weapons which exceed even the substantial firepower of a standard-issue Storm Bolter.
Squat warriors are not superhumans like Space Marines – their strength comes from technology and cold metal, not the wonders of bio-enhancement. Unlike the tasks undertaken by Apothecaries of the Space Marines, there is no need to harvest gene-seed from the fallen. Instead, Squat forces feature medics because every life of this endangered race is valuable. After near-annihilation at the claws of the Tyranids, the Squats have stubbornly clung to survival against all odds. In a harsh and uncaring universe, nobody will come to their aid – if they want to endure, the Squats must take care of their own.
Squat Medics carry an array of lifesaving equipment, the most prominent of which is the massive servo-arm perched upon their backs. This equipment serves a variety of uses, from flipping tanks off of crushed comrades to holding heavy Exo-Armour aloft during procedures.
Hearthguard (Strike Squads)
The Squats’ few warriors are adorned with the best wargear available. Power armor, deep-strike teleportation packs, runic shielding, advanced weaponry – a small unit of these warriors can turn the tide against the most dire circumstances.
Though they are stoically unwilling to go out on a limb for their Catachan allies, the Squats of Verdekil XVIII express a deep gratitude when the soldiers come to the aid of their Fortress-Workshops and can always be counted on to return the favor. Once it is done, however, the debt is repaid and the slate wiped clean once again. This methodical book-keeping means that some Catachan calls for help receive nothing but silence in return, a fact which has done little to build trust between the two forces.
Exo-Armour is the heaviest armour available to defenders of the fortress-workshops, and is the equal of Astartes Tactical Dreadnought armour in every respect. Though not the most graceful form of protection – some have likened the motion of charging Exo-Armour Squats to a ‘waddle’ – it is impenetrable to all but the most dedicated firepower.
One advantage that Exo-Armour has over the Astartes equivalent is the presence of runes embossed onto the armour’s surface. Far beyond being merely decorative, these runes can be triggered by the wearer to summon extraordinary powers beyond the ken of ordinary men. Tales abound of Exo-Armoured Squats banishing daemons with the runic sigils of the Omnissiah, or engaging in feats of strength beyond even the capacity of their fearsome armour… though how many of these tales can be attributed to Catachan embellishment is up for debate.
What is certain is that Squats in Exo-Armour form a fearsome line of defense against any foe. By serving as guardians of the fortified entrances to their subterranean Fortress-Workshops, they render them near-impregnable.
Thunderers (Purgation Squad)
Squat Thunderers carry the heaviest weapons available to the Fortress-Workshops and take grim pleasure in obliterating the foe from afar. While all Squats love a good grudge, Thunderers often target the most threatening warmachines with the saying that they “prefer to kill them before they give us anything to hold a grudge for.”
If Squat warriors could be said to have a weakness, it would be their relatively slow speed. The most aggressive combatants make up for this by being grouped into squads called Tunellers. In addition to standard deep-striking capabilities, Tunnelers are equipped with sophisticated wargear that can bend the laws of space and “tunnel” through reality. This allows them to appear and disappear at will, crossing distances in the blink of an eye or vanishing instants before an enemy’s assault only to pour firepower into their exposed rear.
Tunnellers are adept at knowing when to use their mobility to harass the foe with beam weaponry and hails of bolter fire, and when to close in and finish the job with energized hammer and axe. Whichever method of death they decide to dole out, their speed means that the enemy has no way to escape it.
As is to be expected in a race of perpetual inventors, some Squats cannot resist observing and testing their weapons in the heat of real battle. Tinkerers bring this information back to their Fortress-Workshops to continue their constant improvements. When the battle gets too heated or the enemy seems to be gaining the upper hand, Tinkerers rely on mind-linked servo-weapons to keep threats at bay.
Iron Ancestor (Venerable Dreadnought)
Squat Iron Ancestors are hulking machines that superficially resemble the Dreadnoughts of the Adeptus Astartes. Unlike Dreadnoughts, however, the Iron Ancestors are proper vehicles which healthy warriors can enter and leave at will. Their name comes from their near-indestructible nature – the machines are designed to resist enormous crushing forces, intense radiation, vaporizing heat, and all the greatest extremes that a Squat workshop could potentially offer. It is not uncommon for an Iron Ancestor suit to last for hundreds of years, thus earning the affectionate “ancestor” title.
Though they are most commonly used for handling heavy payloads and mounting welding and construction equipment, their durable armored frames make them equally suited to the battlefield. The typical loadout for an Iron Ancestor is an immensely powerful lifter arm or demolition hammer, a melta-cutter, and an adjustable welding torch. Although intended for salvage and construction operations, these tools are equally suited to dismantling the war machines and monsters of enemy forces. Each machine is a relic that the Squats do not commit to battle lightly, but even a single Iron Ancestor can turn the tide of war in favor of a threatened Fortress-Workshop. With Verdekil XVIII growing ever more tumultuous, Iron Ancestors are becoming an increasingly common sight as they stomp forward to engage the foe and defend workshop and Imperium alike.
The following units were too thematic not to convert, but need to be included alongside the main Grey Knight army as Auxiliary Support Detachments. Unfortunately, in current 9th Edition rules, this means they break the core GK army rules and are only included when the thought of winning a game is particularly abhorrent.
Hades Breaking Drill Veterans
Like the Death Korps of Krieg regiment of the Astra Militarum, Squat Fortress-Workshops make liberal use of the Hades Breaching Drill Standard Template Construct in warzones. Comfortable in tight quarters and underground, shotgun-armed Squat troopers follow after the machines and escort specialist weapons into the midst of the foe to hunt their leaders and warmachines.
Cyber-Slayers are Squats who believe they have failed in important duties and, as penance, have sworn oaths to seek honorable deaths in their quests to right them. They are riddled with bionics and augmetics, and the most long-lived Slayers become folk heroes in Squat culture.
The spirit embodied by the Cyber-Slayers, of being honor-bound to the point of seeking death while simultaneously being too stubborn to let anything kill them, is perhaps the epitome of Squat values.
Grudgebearer (Vindicare Assassin)
Squats are masterful inventors and legendary grudge holders. These two traits come together in the race’s Grudgebearers. Thoroughly briefed on which enemies the largest scores need to be settled with, and equipped with arcane ‘Grudgebringer’ rifles, these solitary individuals stake out a spot and systematically take down their targets.
By changing the settings on their energy-based rifles they can blow the head off a particularly offensive enemy Warlord, or penetrate the armour of a heretical tank held responsible for crushing a Squat Ancestor in ages past.
Stoic and humorless, the Grudgebearers cross each ancient resentment off their list as its score is settled.
Squat models are scattered throughout my Catachan army, standing in for various Guard units. A few are shown below, with more on my Instagram account omitted for space here.
While most Squats are drawn to work on whatever mysterious mining, experimenting, and inventing goes on underground, some lack the aptitude or inclination for such work. Many join the ranks of the Catachan stationed on their planet’s surface as sanctioned abhuman recruits.
Not all Squats who leave the Fortress-Workshop join the Guard. Some fall in with unsavory crowds and wind up dealing weapons and ammunition to the gangs that inevitably form around any dense Imperial settlement.
The ranks of this army are constantly growing, and the release of the Kharadron Overlords for Age of Sigmar has been an absolute godsend for Squat players everywhere. The classic Dwarf vibes combined with firearms and bizarre technology makes conversions a breeze. To be honest, GW could release a “Codex: Squats” for 40K using the existing Kharadron model range and it would be perfect.
The following photos are a glimpse at my current desktop and the works in progress residing there. Hopefully they’ll be hitting the battlefield sooner rather than later! Note that all the gold-plastic models are the members of Thundrik’s Profiteers, and have all been converted so that they can still serve as the Warband in games of Warhammer Underworlds.
Upon completion, the finished models will all be shared on my Instagram account.
How to Paint Squats
While there are infinite ways to convert and paint your own Squat models, the instructions below will let you build your own force to expand the strength of the Mechanicus Enclave on the planet Verdekil XVIII.