Wednesday, May 17, 2017

GALLERY: Astral Claws Space Marine Army

The Badab War has always fascinated me, and when Forge World released their books I started collecting an Astral Claws army. It was always a slow burn project and several years later I still haven't gotten a very larger force. With the new 40k fast approaching I decided I wanted a new army and got rid of my Astral Claws, but not before taking a last set of pictures of my boys in silver.

I really liked my Astral Claws army, but with the timeline of 40k finally advancing I wanted to have an army that I felt was a part of that. The Badab War is a really cool historical event, but it's just that historical, and the Astral Claws even more so. After they lost that war they fled into the Maelstrom and became the Red Corsairs, so these guys in silver and blue don't make any sense to be participating in events after the Gathering Storm. Having said that, if the basic Chaos Marines get an awesome update like the Primaris Marines I will heavily consider doing a Red Corsairs force.

This army started shortly after the first Badab War book came out from Forge World. The Assault Marines and Scouts actually predate this army. I really liked the book Brothers of the Snake when I read it in college and wanted to do an army of Iron Snakes. Like many projects, I eventually lost steam on it, plus I was much slower at projects back in college since I had other, college-esque things, to attend to. Before I gave up on them though I finished these five Assault Marines and the Scouts.

When I started on my Badab War army I didn't know which Marine force I was going to pick at first. It was between the Astral Claws or the Firehawks, and in the end the Claws won out. Looking at my Iron Snakes I decided to repurpose them and painted their shoulder pads blue, changed their markings, and that was about it. The rest of them were already done.

The Scouts had a similar story. All I really had to repaint on these guys were their pants and sleeves. On the original models they were a dark red. After a bit of experimentation I went with a drab blue/grey color, thinking it was neutral enough, while keeping a bit of the blue of the Astral Claws' scheme.

I kept their shoulder pads silver since in the Forge World books it looked like the blue pads were for veterans or more experienced Marines. That's why the sergeant has a blue shoulder pad instead of silver. I also converted him to have a power sword so the Scouts had a bit more hitting power in combat. 

Tactical Squad Numas was the first real addition to the army. I wanted to exemplify the idea of each Marine being a hero in their own right, so I tried my hardest to convert all of them, even if it was just a little bit. There are a few marines made from Legion of the Damned models, while other are just bit swaps. My favorite has to be the guy with the bionic leg and modified helmet. The bionic came from the metal Ultramarine Tyranid Hunters model. That was a lot of careful cutting and re-sculpting. The helmet is meant to evoke the look of the MK III helmet, but a little more sleek. This was also before Forge World had any Heresy era marines out. I took a beaky helmet and cut the beak off then sculpted the front to look more like a knight's helmet. I think it has a real sinister feel to it, which is perfect for the borderline psychopath Space Marine Chapter.

There's also the guy carrying the Multi-Melta, who's converted from a bunch of parts. The gun is from the Legion of the Damned set, as well as most of the arms. I mix and matched legs so I could have him stepping up on something, then I slightly re-sculpted his helmet to look more like a MK V helmet. I also started using the shoulder pad shields from the Terminator set as additional armor on their forearms. It gave them a real unique look and was quick to do. 

Going along with the idea of making them all unique, I gave each one a name and a brief one to two paragraph background which I posted up on The Bolter and Chainsword. You can read through the whole log for this project here if you want. Here is an example of one of them though, this one is for Balthu, the guy with the bionic leg:

Balathu was recruited from Badab Primis itself. In his youth he had joined a local hive gang to survive and became a ruthless murderer. When the Astral Claws went throughout the hives to recruit, one of their number was attacked by Balathu, who saw it as a chance to prove his worth and either join the astartes or elevate his position within the gang. He was defeated, but not without nearly slitting the marine's throat. Normally this type of attitude would not be tolerated within the astartes, but with Huron's drive to expand his chapter to the strength of a full legion Balathu was given a shot, he clearly had the martial talent. Once within the ranks of the Astral Claws his brutal attitude made him a perfect fit for the Retaliator squads that were being formed. He served amongst their number for a decade before a lucky greenskin managed to take his left leg. The bionic replacement slowed him down to much to keep up with his brother retaliators and he was re designated as a Tactical marine. While he was a more then competent warrior he did not get along well with others and mostly kept to himself. He connected most with Sin-Nasir and Rihat and to everyone's surprise Arshaka. His friendship with Arshaka was merely a means to an end however. He knew that Numas was wary of him and did not fully believe in Huron's plans so he used Arshaka to keep tabs on the Sargent. Before a boarding action against the Red Scorpions Arshaka confided in him how Numas planned on switching over to the "loyalist" side if things became to dire, unfortunately Arshaka, Numas' only true ally, never made it off the enemy ship. Underneath the Palace of Thorns is was Balathu who slit Numas' throat and led the remnants of 2nd squad back to safety. The one item that Balathu always kept with him since his youth as a ganger was his combat knife, which was refitted with a mono-molecular edge after becoming an Astartes.

Post-Badab War: Since the end of the war a marine fitting Balathu's description, known as "the Flayer" has been seen leading groups of warriors in the ranks of the Red Corsairs. His bionic leg has since been replaced with a mutation granting him all the stealth and speed he could need after receiving the blessing of the dark gods and he adorns his armor with the flayed skin of his enemies. His rank is unknown, some say he is a Sargent while other claim he has formed his own warband within the ranks of the Corsairs. What is known is that even other members of the renegade chapter keep their distance from him; his friends have a tendency of turning up with their throat slit and their face missing, only for it to reappear stretched across Balthu's armor. 

I had a ton of fun writing these, and it's probably what led to me doing stuff like the Unofficial Tomb Kings Battletome. This army is also when I first started messing around with making cool photo set ups with my models. If I do end up making a Red Corsairs army down the line, I'll probably circle back to some of these characters who survived the Badab War.

The Sternguard squad got even more attention then the Tactical Squad. I painted each of these guys seperately and was really proud of how each of them turned out. I'm still really proud of them and think the paint jobs still stand on their own a few years later. I especially like the guy with the knife. 

I spent a lot of time perfecting skin on them as well as blending the blues. All of the Astral Claw symbols on my army were painted by hand, and I became pretty quick at it near the end. Sadly, I never got around to painting their sergeant. 

The drop pod seen with the Tactical Squad was used with these guys the few times I played the army. 

It took a long time to paint since I line highlighted each armor plate and also line shaded all of them. Each door on it also has the Astral Claws' symbol painted on it.

The only HQ unit I got around to painting was a conversion I did for Armanneus Valthex. I made this guy before Forge World came out with a mini for him. I don't know what drew me to Valthex, but I really wanted to convert up my own. He was described as having a conversion beamer as well as a host of mechandrites with vicious weapons on them.

I wanted the conversion beamer to look bulky and heavy so I decided that it should be attached to his servo-harness by a lifter arm. The beamer and its harness are made out of so many small and random parts I can't even remember all of them. There's a Terminator Assault Cannon in there, as well as a bunch of bits from the standard Techmarine servo-harness. I'm really happy with it and I think it definitely fits the bill of a massive conversion beamer. The mechandrites are made from guitar string with other random bits on the ends for weapons, like parts from a Necron warscythe.

Besides just his weapons, I wanted to make him look more important than the standard Techmarine. To do this I sculpted robes onto him as well as a hood, and all of his bionic eyes. With the eyes I wanted him to look inhuman. The robes turned out really well, and I emphasized them a bit more with some freehand cog work along the edges. Personally, I like how my version of Valthex came out over even the official Forge World one that came out a year or two later.

Like I said, I really like this army, so I am still keeping a few models. I hadn't painted enough of the second Tactical Squad or the Terminator squad to make it worth selling them, so those three painted models you can see in the army shot at the start of the article are staying with me as mementos of my Astral Claws. The rest of the army is off to a better home across the pond with someone who will hopefully actually use them more then me. I think I can count the number of games I played with them on one hand sadly, which is another reason I got rid of them.

It's onto bigger and better things though with those new Primaris Space Marine models. Now I just need to decide which Chapter to do. I loved/love my Astral Claws, but they spent most of their lives packed away in foam and haven't had a new model added to them for a few years now. If you're really interested in them I suggest checking out the thread I linked on Bolter and Chainsword. There's 26 pages of hobby progress on there and you can see how the force evolved over time, like their basing scheme changing, as well as some of the art I made for them. You can also see my Astral Claws art here. I really like the fleet picture.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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