In our How to Paint Everything series, we take a look at different armies of the Warhammer universe, examine their history and heraldry, and look at several different methods for painting them. With the release of the new Codex Supplement for Iron Hands, we’re taking a look at the Tenth Legion. The flesh is weak!
The Iron Hands
Who are the Iron Hands?
The Iron Hands are one of the less-explored of the First Founding Chapters. They appeared in the original spread of Space Marine Chapters in the Rogue Trader rulebook, but with little other detail, and they missed out on the 2nd edition run of codexes which fleshed out the Ultramarines, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, and Space Wolves. That’s ok though, the flesh is weak and they don’t need it. It wasn’t until 3rd edition and the Index Astartes articles that they started to gain an identity of their own, as a cold and remorseless Chapter seeking the perfection of logic and machinery over the weakness of the human body – which includes the post-human body of an Astartes. They also gained an upgrade kit of the old “metal bits to attach to plastic Marines” variety, which really helped define their image. Check out those bionic hands, bionic legs, and enhanced helmet sensors – amazingly, you can still buy it.
Over the years, the Iron Hands gained a great deal more depth to their background. Even in the Great Crusade era, they were noted as a pitiless Legion, unmindful of their allies, intolerant of failure or weakness. They became known for direct, head-on combat, always seeking out the most intense area of a conflict and directing their efforts to destroying it utterly. In particular, they were known as armour-breakers, sent into battle to destroy enemy war machines wherever they massed. This led to them developing a much closer relationship with the Mechanicum and Titan Legions than other Legions – a theme which will hold all the way up to the 40k era.
Much of this mentality is owed to their Primarch, Ferrus Manus. Manus, “The Gorgon,” is something of a Hephaestus figure in the pantheon of the Primarchs, known for his skill as a smith and metalworker. During his coming of age on Medusa, Manus fought and killed some kind of robot, long hinted to be a Necron construct, and in doing so ended up with his arms and hands covered in the silvery metal of its necrodermis. As the head of his Legion, he fast gained a reputation for the exact qualities the Iron Hands would later came to embody – bloody-minded ruthlessness, a disdain for any and all obstacles, and a hatred of weakness.
That said, Ferrus is not as cold of a figure as his Legion, and their descendant Chapter, would later become. His friendship with his brother Fulgrim was noted for its warmth, and he was known just as much for his emotional rages as for his devotion to logic. This would all end in disaster, as the Iron Hands’ role as one of the loyalist Legions on the wrong end of the Istvaan Massacre, and their Primarch’s death at the hands of Fulgrim, became a cornerstone of Heresy lore and the pivotal moment of the Fulgrim novel exploring the fall from grace of the Phoenician. The Hands’ bitterness at the death of their Primarch, and their consideration that emotional weakness was partly to blame, only entrenched their attitudes.
Post-Heresy, the Iron Hands were broken up into a number of separate Chapters instead of the singular Legion, much like the other loyalists. A number of Chapters trace their origins to the Iron Hands, including the Brazen Claws, the Iron Fists, the Iron Lords, and the Red Talons. The Sons of Medusa are also Iron Hands descendants, although in an unusual fashion. In the Moirae Schism, a large number of Iron Hands Marines came to believe in the Moirae Tech-creed, officially a tech-heresy which split the Adeptus Mechanicus. The schism threatened to cause a civil war within the Imperium, and indeed within the Chapter itself. The Iron Hands’ solution was to split in half – the Moirae-believer brothers were split off into the Sons of Medusa, who became a chapter without a founding.
The Horus Heresy novel series filled out much of the 30k-era background of the Iron Hands, but it wasn’t until the Clan Raukaan codex supplement in 6th edition, and the Angels of Death book in 7th edition, that much of their 40k-era lore developed. Those publications expanded on the role of the Iron Council in running the Chapter, the structure of the Iron Hands in “Clan Companies” which are similar to, but distinct from, the Codex Astartes-dictated Battle Company, and named a host of new characters in the Chapter’s lore. However, the new Iron Father Feirros, released with the 8th edition Codex Supplement, represents their first official character model from Games Workshop.
The new release also sees the dawn of a new upgrade kit and Chapter-specific transfer sheet. With all those bionic hands, extra sensors, and angry bald guys with bionic skulls, you can see the throughline from the ancient Tactical Squad upgrade kit.
Where to Read More
The new Codex Supplement is all well and good, but what about if you want to know more about the Logical Boys? The Iron Hands have fewer dedicated stories than their brother Chapters, but there’s still a bunch of stuff out there about them, even if they have to share the spotlight with others.
- Fulgrim and Battle for the Abyss cover some of the pivotal events in the Iron Hands’ history, and Ferrus Manus’ on/off bromance with Fulgrim. They also feature in a number of other Heresy-era novels and short story collections, including Damnation of Pythos and Shattered Legions.
- Like many of the other Primarchs, Ferrus Manus has a dedicated novel called, er, Ferrus Manus.
- The Hands also have a couple of more modern novels about them. The appropriately-titled Iron Hands is now available from Black Library in eBook form, and The Eye of Medusa is book 1 of a purported new Iron Hands-based novel series by David Guymer. There’s also Wrath of Iron, a Space Marines Battles novel.
- Additionally, if you can get your hands on them, the Clan Raukaan and Angels of Death supplements from prior editions have a wealth of Hands-related fluff in them.
Playing Iron Hands
If you want a full-fat rundown of everything in the new Codex Supplement and how it interacts with the base book and the 8th edition metagame, check out our review here. Or just read this Hammer of Math. Yeah. Safe to say that right now, Iron Hands are extremely good. Expect to see them back on tables everywhere, although how many of those armies will actually be painted as Iron Hands is an open question.
If you’re looking for less of the “10,000 words about every stratagem in detail” approach, and more of a “how can I make a cool, fluffy army on the table,” then carry on reading here. Over the years, Iron Hands have developed a character of their own. Heavy use of Dreadnoughts and Techmarines has been encouraged in their lore, and 8th edition offers a wealth of options for just that. Maybe you want to field some regular, tiny box Dreadnoughts, or their Venerable brothers? You could also look at the towering Redemptor or dip into Forge World’s range of Dreadnoughts. An Iron Hands Leviathan would look awesome, and play nicely with the combination of the Duty Eternal stratagem and their Ironstone relic, but like that article I linked before indicates, it might not win you many friends.
Space Marines are great in Kill Team, and Iron Hands gain one of the parts of their Chapter tactic – the 6+ Feel No Pain save. This isn’t the most powerful tactic in Kill Team, but it’s still something – it can already be hard to put wounds on Marines, and cancelling 1/6th of them with the FNP is a little extra bonus to keep your guys around longer.
Iron Hands are pretty much just Space Marines in Apocalypse. Use this as your excuse for the Dread mob of your dreams, though.
Painting Iron Hands
Iron Hands are one of the many, many Chapters which are best described as “pretty much all black,” along with their co-releasees the Raven Guard, the Deathwatch, the Ravenwing, and a legion of others. That said, there are some interesting possibilities which present themselves. The Games Workshop studio army features them with blue-white guns, and many painters choose to add metallic details such as, fittingly, iron hands. Each Clan Company has its own symbol too, which features on the right shoulder plate, with the Chapter symbol on the left. Additionally, there’s a number of different ways you an approach “black,” and we have a variety of different approaches demonstrated below.
Approaching painting black armor for this I knew I wanted to go for something a little bit different than the standard grey-blue edge highlights, while also not stepping on Condit’s toes painting up the Heresy style oil slick scheme. I grabbed some of my collection of warmer brown-green greys, and set about playing with using them for my highlights. Sticking with the same theme of warmer colors, I used Scale 75 Thrash Metal as the base of all my silvers, knowing it has a ton of brown in its tones, and a tiny bit of red for my spot colors.
- Black Primer – https://i.imgur.com/MUzg365.jpg
- Corvus Black, airbrushed on to leave a little bit of pure black in the recesses – https://i.imgur.com/SUUerQa.jpg
- Edge Skavenblight Dinge – https://i.imgur.com/Rnq7IPR.jpg
- Edge Stormvermin Fur – https://i.imgur.com/DyxqorE.jpg
- Edge Administratum Grey – https://i.imgur.com/udOZYlz.jpg
- Basecoat anything that will get washed with Nuln Oil: pouches in Rhinox Hide, armor joints in VMC Black Grey followed by Contrast Black Templar, metals in Scale75 Thrash Metal. – https://i.imgur.com/qw7xOAJ.jpg
- Gloss Varnish
- Wash the entire model with Nuln Oil Gloss, taking care to avoid pooling.
- Matte Varnish, then paint the details.
Pouches: Rhinox Hide > Gloss Nuln > Baneblade Brown
Purity Seal: Mephiston Red > Agrax > Scale75 Aldebaran Red
Parchment: Zandri Dust > Skeleton Horde > Flayed One Flesh
Silvers: Scale75 Thrash Metal > Gloss Nuln > Scale 75 Heavy Metal
Lenses: Mephiston Red > Troll Slayer Orange > Fire Dragon Bright
Gun Casing: Grey Seer > Apothecary White > Scale 75 White
- After painting and highlight all the details, put another coat of gloss varnish over shoulders and knees.
- Apply decals using Microset and Microsol
- Matte varnish back over the decals
- Chip the decals slightly with Corvus Black to blend them into the surrounding area
- Base appropriately – I’m using a red/orange martian ground to give me some contrast with the greys of the armor.
- Apply weathering pigments to the lower leg. These should match the tones of your basing, in my case I used reds and oranges.