Hobby Heresy – Muster an Astartes Boarding Patrol with Summer

Goonhammer’s Boarding Patrol Challenge has begun. Since I haven’t done 40K stuff in a long time, I volunteered to be the tour guide for people starting their Boarding Patrol and joining our challenge.

Hello ladies, gents, theys, and gays. I’m Summer. You probably know me from the rare occasions they let me out of my Bad Idea Closet to write about Spaceships and Gregbot. Even so, my original love was 40K. My interest ignited while playing Dawn of War at age ten (let’s not discuss the parenting that led to this). Shortly after, I was enamored with the miniatures on GW’s 2005-era site. Do you remember? Back when Battle for Macragge was the shit, and Creation of a Space Marine was a staple. I only started building and playing a decade later in 2015. If you want an indicator of where I stand next to these grognards, my first starter set was Dark Imperium.

The modelmaking aspect of 40K always drew me in before gameplay. I grew up on a steady diet of scale military models and this hobby is just an extension of that. I’ve never built a kit entirely in line with the instructions, and my head is always swimming with ideas and lore that start brilliantly and end in my unpainted pile.

So I’m right there with you.

And that’s why we’re doing this Boarding Patrol Painting Challenge together. I’ve omitted the word Winter from the challenge’s name because I reside in the Southern Hemisphere and I’m writing this in a record heatwave. Winter is a pretty laughable concept to me at this point. I’m Summer, and we’re doing it my way. Just like your Boarding Patrol.

Mustering Your Boarding Patrol

I take a Your Guys approach to modelmaking. That is, making the force yours by flavoring them with lore, names, and conversion pizazz to make them stand out. Making every model special to me is important, because they spend the majority of their time on my display shelf. Appealing to game mechanics is secondary to aesthetics – modelmaking is an artistic exercise to me. Nerfs, buffs and the annihilation of squats as a species will come and go, but the contents of you display are forever.

Unfortunately, I am confined by petty constructs like money and capacity to deal with shit, so I always start with list-building to tighten my horizons. This is doubly valuable if you’re assembling a specific force. Like a Boarding Patrol. If you’ve been living away from the bullhorn, Boarding Actions are the small-format 40K ruleset from Arks of Omen focusing on infantry and close-quarters combat. Players fight it out using small strike teams that range into claustrophobic space hulks to achieve priority objectives.

You know what that is?

A perfect environment for building Your Guys.

Since it’s a game format with rules and restrictions, I always start with list building. Having Battlescribe open is a great way to flesh out your upcoming list in accordance with what you have, what you want, and what you’re going for. Some people on Discord saw me painstakingly balance out points and unit wargear in my list for a week before the Arks of Omen changes shredded everything. And I had to do it all over again. Everyone has a different approach, but I tailor my thematic lists with an eye toward how I think my force would operate. What is the cultural environment and doctrine that shapes these troops? What is the context of their mission? What kind of equipment would they bring? Would it work on the tabletop at all?

For this challenge, I settled on this list (it’s actually 500 points once Arks of Omen is official).

The details might change, but this is the shape of my painting pledge. Can you believe that Arks of Omen made the list like 100 points cheaper?

I ground my two brain cells together hard to get here. A fighting force for my chapter that would reasonably insert into a space hulk. I’m going to spare you from my mountains of lore. The short version is that my homebrew chapter that I’ve worked on for eight years are the Iron Panthers. They’re Iron Hands in geneseed and Raven Guard in disposition. That sums it up. It’s honestly boring compared to some of the zany ideas out there. Ork and Chaos players are some of the finest repositories of themed armies because their factions are so flexible in the lore. They also don’t spend a lot of time winning, so Ork and Chaos players have to do something with that time and talent. I jest, but space marines done slightly differently are both the most milquetoast version of your guys, and the most time honored one.

For this force, I wanted an HQ inclusion – a boarding assault warrants an experienced leader. I opted for Infiltrators as Troops. They’ll handle sabotage and scouting work. A squad of Veteran Intercessors modelled with boardhing shields is there to give cover and start parties. The Sternguard exist to anchor the force with potent ranged firepower, and the Eradicators are for melting bulkheads and heavy opposition. I got good use out of the Heavy Support exemption for Space Marines which allows us to take a single Heavy Suport choice if they’re Hellblasters or Eradicators. A well-rounded, ranged oriented fighting force is what my precious Iron Panthers are all about.

For this force, I set myself two rules:

    1. No finished models.
    2. By the gods, Summer. At least paint 2 units from your pile before building something new.

These rules were tailored to my hobby situation, which is that I have an unpainted model problem. I had a squad of unfinished breacher Primaris with boarding shields that would be perfect for this project. There was also a character conversion with some pretty flashy gear. Eradicators are a great anti-armour unit and I still haven’t finished my Indomitus Eradicators. In 2023. Yeah.

Okay. I’ve met my self-imposed rules. Time to do what I want: shopping.

Themed forces are a great way to engage with your model range. Converting is a joy, and with a selection as diverse and cross-compatible as Primaris, it’s downright simple. I crawl through my accumulated bitz box for ideas – a compartmentalised mash of Imperial Guard, scenery and Space Marine pieces. Some of them are mangled by clippers, and others still have their casting gates. The words that ring in my mind are assault, shipbreaking and steely. I wrangle with ideas: breaching shotguns; communications; shipbreaking charges; medics; corridor clearing. I fish out parts that will fit and bag them up while making a mental shopping list. What I’m saying is, work with what you have for inspiration. Develop your theme, and keep your concept in mind. Constraints foster creativity. But what I’m also saying is, I can’t just make more Phobos-armoured legs and torsos appear out of nowhere.

My desk is the refuge of a madwoman.

My girlfriend gives me the grin of someone who’s seen this pattern many times. I tell her that I positively must pick up a Phobos Strike Team Box, Deathwatch Veterans, Hellblasters, and the Black Templars Upgrades. I might die if I don’t order them right now. She tells me she loves me, and that she’ll always support my endeavors. The Phobos Strike Team is there for the Infiltrators. I don’t have one lying around – not even other kits to bash into one. The Deathwatch Veterans have been my favorite source of Astartes special weapons and gimmicks for years. Hellblasters? I’m picking those up because I always need Primaris bodies and I feel in love with the Heavy Plasma Incinerator backpack attachment. It’s gorgeous. It’s such a lovely bit that comes in abundance – a round technological doodad could be part of so many projects. The Black Templars Upgrades? I got suckered into adding more stuff to the cart to hit free shipping. Oops.

The joy of your girls is never conforming to a single kit or colour scheme. Yes, you can anchor yourself to a model range for aesthetic consistency (like using Orlocks for a penal guard army). But you should always be looking at a kit as a collection of pieces and potential, rather than something to build one squad, or one vehicle. Those Black Templars Upgrades aren’t what they say on the box to me. They’re a pile of matched shotgun arms, holstered melee weapons (a rarity among Astartes!) and cool knightly bits. Hellblasters aren’t a heavy support option, they’re up-armoured Intercessors and a lifetime supply of combi-plasma parts. How would your girls mix and match dreadnought parts with Armiger knights, or integrate literally anything into an Ork army?

Putting it together

Blazing hot takes aside, here’s what I have so far for my Iron Panthers Boarding Patrol.

Primaris Lieutenant

This is one of the models I built, but never reached the painting table. He uses an Eliminator with minimal adjustments as a base. I worked over the weapon extensively to make it super tacticool. Some Delaque ganger parts and some cutting. An inquisitorial helmet marks his service to the Deathwatch. I think he’s a perfect Captain, Lieutenant or other veteran character and it’s time to do him justice.

Brother Vangel’s Inquisitorial deployment ended on a feral world where the natives play a bloodsport called ‘air soft’. Now he won’t stop talking about ‘speedsoft’ and made the Chief Techmarine weep after showing him his ‘sick mod’.”

In this list, he’ll be representing a Primaris Lieutenant, but the model could slot into just about any thematic stealth-oriented list. I love him.

Astartes Breaching Squad (counts-as Veteran/Heavy Intercessors)

I was started in the era of the Siege Assault Vanguard Forge World detachment. This was the coolest shit to me when I got my first army box (it had a Stormtalon and Sternguard in it – does anyone remember that one?). But back in 2014, the means to easily do conversions for ultra-thematic lists were fewer. We now live in a time of widespread third party bits procurement and 3D printing, so you truly can have anything. I still re-read that Siege Assault Vanguard list sometimes; just to remember a time when Games Workshop strongly encouraged conversions. It states that, “Space marine siege mantlets must be modelled appropriately with a large shield of some kind,” and that warms my heart.

“Astartes! Commence shipbreaking! Breach and clear!”

Years later, I finally built a squad in honor of the Tactical Squad with siege mantlets. They’re Intercessors with 3D-printed shields and auto bolt rifles, but the spirit is there. I dislike the rounded, stubby proportions of Gravis armour, and I felt that shields would be a viable alternative in close-confines. Something about mitigating the poorer mobility of Gravis armour by training troops to coordinate boarding shields. The squad is appropriately bulky and decked out for the job they need to do, which is breaching. I look forward to seeing them fill my Troops slot. They’re based on a larger 40mm base because they’re intended to be a proxy for Heavy Intercessors, but I could only fit them in as Veteran Intercessors in this list.

Primaris Sternguard Veterans (counts-as Sternguard Veterans. shocker.)

My first 40K models included a Sternguard Squad. I love Astartes veterans, and I love ranged combat. I was always a little saddened that personalised, elite ranged troops never made it over the Rubicon Primaris. Instead, we mostly have mono-wargear squads that are much easier to handle in gameplay, but somewhat less interesting to unbox. I vastly prefer the new range’s detailing and proportions, but my heart still yearns for customization in both rules and models.

Enter the Bladeguard Veterans (and Lieutenant) from Indomitus. Those tabarded models sat unpainted for years. Until I realised they’re a perfect starting point for Primaris-sized Sternguard. Elite marines with tabards and some extra flash. And I have a lot of special weapon bits lying around. I started giving them the Abaddon treatment while waiting for my other kits to come in, and I’m feeling confident.

Brother Weber (right) looks on in horror with the full knowledge of what’s going to happen next.

Although I see the fanbase’s love for more warrior monk/knight Astartes, I vastly prefer tacticool. Shadowspear was my shit. Even so, this is a build meant to pay homage to an old favourite kit, which always has a place. I also felt that in a whole force of high-speed operator-ass types, a sprinkle of classic Astarte style is still warranted. I think these will scratch the itch of a better-proportioned, highly personalised Veteran squad.

The rest…

Beyond that, I’ve got the Phobos Strike Team kit coming in for its Infiltrators and a lot of building to do. I’ve also got some Indomitus Eradicators to retool into something more… explosive. I’m bouncing lots of ideas about melta charges, grenade launchers, grenades, and ammo packs around in my head. But that’s what this is. Lots of ideas slowly coming together, and a love for the universe and my personal lore.

Yeah, actually I am kinda pissed that early-release Upgrade frames only have the bare basic pauldrons and a couple boltguns. And Black Templars get a full-on infantry conversion kit with bonus vehicle accessories. I’m so pissed that I bought one.

Your girls. Your guys. Your interdimensional horrors.

I encourage everyone to try building a unit while treating your entire bits box as fair game. And engage it with all of your skills. You’d be amazed at what you can learn about converting and painting by just pushing your creative limits once. Dream together a Kill Team that you’re proud of. Build that elite squad you think would be an awesome reference for your homemade lore. Make a centerpiece character using all of your know-how. Because even it’s not perfect, you know you stepped out of the confines of the instruction manual and made something truly unique.

(left) completed in my first two weeks of the hobby. (right) completed in my seventh year of the hobby. I love them both.

Many of my conversion projects are weird, or duds. Or they get the ‘armless Abaddon treatment at the hand of a knife and some pliers. But that iterative process of error, reflection, and learning is the cornerstone of learning art. So I hope you’ll join me in posting your creations on Instagram’s #ghpatrol. Or tagging us on Twitter at #ghpatrol. I hope you have a great time building your girls.

I can’t wait to see them.

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