“It is easy to volunteer to die. Instead, you will endure extreme pain and hardship with unflinching resolve.”
-Avitus Varro, Academy Headmaster, Invectors Chapter
When I took up this project, I had originally intended to assemble a Battle Company. But I didn’t just want 100 or so Space Marine models. All that takes is money. Nope. I was going to convert them. All of them.
But really, the process of converting Space Marines isn’t just about creating a bigger Space Marine. It’s about giving the model a life and dynamism. You can go all out with True Scale Marines like I do, or you can simply make small changes here and there and end up with your own unique Marines that nobody else will have on the table.
I give as much thought to each Tactical Space Marine with a bolter as I do to the character models. When crafting and conceptualizing a pose, I want the model to tell a story. So the person observing that model can see it, and imagine his Warhammer 40K Universe counterpart doing something. This doesn’t have to be something exotic. One of the more popular poses I created simply had a Marine carrying his weapon at the Alert.
This was achieved entirely with the model’s existing parts. The wrist joint was cut free and simply flipped to turn the hand at a downward angle instead of an upward angle. The left hand was cut free and rotated to accomodate the new angle as well.
But not everything has to be so complicated. The nice part of the new Space Marine Tactical Squad kit from Games Workshop is that the arms aren’t all ridiculous bolter-cradle poses. So many of the elaborate arm conversions I had to do are easy right out of the box. But this remains valuable for those of you with older kits. And well, you can play around with the arms you may not be happy with anyway.
It’s important when converting and assembling models that you’re always thinking about what the pose conveys. Could somebody even accomplish this pose? Try it out yourself. If you can’t duplicate it comfortably, chances are nobody else can either. I’m always considering range of motion when posing these models.
Either way, just little things like the way a model’s head is tilted, or the way their weapon is held can tell all kinds of stories. Little bits and bobs can tell you a lot about the character of a model. Trophy parts like skulls can be a great addition.
Look to your bits box. Or your friends’ bits boxes. The chitin plates here came from a friends’ Tyranids sprue cast offs. The knee skull was shaved off the forehead of a Space Marine helmet. I also used an extended left arm from the Tactical Squad kit (with its hand clipped off) to give him a slightly different, more squared-off pose than the normal Heavy Bolter kit can attain with its supplied bent arm. I also cocked his head slightly. The more thought you give to the little things, the better your final product will end up.
Movement is another thing that’s important, but often difficult to convey. A lot of the poses for the legs in the Space Marine model kits from Games Workshop are sadly pretty static. This can lead to some oddball poses. Dramatic Over the Shoulder Double-Take Guy is a good example. I’ll pick on an official GW model, but this pose is common. What is he doing? What’s he looking at? This pose gets used a lot. I am guessing people think it looks dramatic. And certainly Rule of Cool will always apply. It’s your model, so as long as you think it looks cool, that’s all that matters. But I’m concerned with what story it tells. This guy just looks like he’s staring off into space. There’s drama in this pose. But it’s melodrama. This is a movie poster pose, not the way a real warrior on some distant future battlefield would stand. I want gritty for mine. I want you to be able to see what he’s doing, and imagine the whole sequence.
Back to movement. So how do you evoke movement in a character? Or menace?
This model actually won a conversion contest. It’s a simple model, conceptually, too. A Space Marine reaching for a rather wicked looking knife (taken from the Chaos Marine kit, the other knife is from the original 3rd Edition Dark Eldar Warrior sprue). The story I wanted this model to tell was of a Space Marine who could shoot his enemy, but has decided to use his combat blade instead. I imagined him advancing on a cowering renegade Guardsman. Enough that I wrote a short fluff bit for this model. Did I succeed? What story did it tell you?
One of the biggest stumbling blocks I have is simply finding inspiration for more poses. So don’t get discouraged if you find yourself in the same spot. Again, unless you’re in a hurry to get that model to the tabletop, just let it sit for a bit. Watch some war movies. Even better, look at images from real world battlefields. If there’s one good thing left over from a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s thousands of images from journalists and military combat photographers.
You can check out my post on Converting Space Marine Weapons for the instructions for how I constructed his little bolt pistol sidearm. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this model in my article about converting Space Marines.
Some more examples:
Questions? Comments? Leave one below!
Tutorial: True Scale Space Marines