Kitbashing a New Sarge

Driven by the brutal necessities of combat on the tableto- sorry, in the 41st Millennium, I’m feeling the need for a new tactical sergeant. This one will function as a sniper with a combi-plasma. Well, he will serve as a sniper after I have another sergeant to take over the leadership of the team.



Put a little budvase of your birthday flowers on your desk. So pretty! Orange, the best color.

Stage 1: Lay out the basic anatomy of your marine.

I agonize over each bit. This takes me a good while, but it’s very fun. I go over a zillion bits from many kits, plus those I’ve ordered from Hoard ‘O Bits. I use primarily space marine parts for the structural elements, but I’ll scavenge other kits as well. Militarum Tempestus Scions are a good source of cool arms I’ve used in my kill team, for instance.

I often pose the figure in stages, usually starting with legs & torso, then adding arms, then finally the head. This keeps your focus on the positioning of the limbs relative to one another and gives some definite action for the face’s gaze and expression to relate to.

It’s super disgusting stuff, but plastic glue lets you sort of mush the parts together until you like how they’re positioned, while super glue does not allow for such adjustments. Plastic glue also provides a stronger bond.

The shoulder pads on my team are uniform, with DA iconography on the left and the Crux Terminatus on the right, but everything else has to be carefully chosen for maximum awesomeness.

I’ve been basing much of my command roster upon assault marine legs, as they’re just so much more dynamic, the poses are more ergonomically plausible, and -most importantly- they don’t have that cowardly back-leaning squat of a typical Tactical Marine. On this sergeant we’re using Blood Angels legs, but I’m going to paint the blood droplet ornaments black and Bob’s your uncle.

There is very little actually conversion on this one. I’ve just done a little to make the frame of the figure look more natural.

I’ve shaved off plastic from both shoulders in order to modify the way the shoulder pads lie. This is an easy trick to give your marines a bit of torsion & lean. Usually I want my pads on different levels vertically, with different shoulder positions reflected in the pad orientation. This helps it look less like a straightjacket and more like the claptrap medieval plate armor upon which it’s based.

Though space marines are encased in beetle armor, I usually aim for as human & interesting a posture as I can achieve and ignore situations where e.g. a sacred text hanging from a belt would prevent an arm from reaching the damn frag grenades in the heat of battle.

I’ve added a little spacer to raise the head a touch. This little change made a big difference in how the face looks on the figure, and introduces the kind of tiny variations from one figure to the next that helps each member of the team look unique.

Stage 2: Disguise ridiculous anatomy. Tactical marines are pretty silly when you look at them. They look dinky, and when you reflect on their dinkiness you realize the have essentially no torso, their shoulders are as broad as their legs are long, and they have no waist. In the olden days before Primaris marines, people used to truescale their tacticals…

…but I just use cool nubbins to trick the eye. I focus around the waist, which helps obscure all three of the problems mentioned above.

I model all wargear (pistols, grenades, auspex, etc) and give each of these guys plenty of venerables, the books, parchments, bones, relics, tiny shrines, chains, electric crap, and whatever else I can find.

Nubbins also reward your effort by hiding seams between the two halfs of the torso, so they don’t need to be green stuffed.


As you’re thinking about the cool little reliquary you can use to hide a cut you made to the waist of a marine, you should also think about where to cut and why.

In addition to improving and disguising the anatomy of the figure, structural and decorative elements can be laid out using basic compositional principles. Large elements, bright elements, similarly colored elements, unusual nubbins to which you wish to draw the eye, and other features on your model can improve the aesthetic ‘feel’ of your models from its best angles.

Faces, weapons, and long straight lines focus viewer attention.

Paints, the lines on your hobby mat, and other environmental elements can help the tips I put on ToadChapel seem subtly more plausible.

Often it takes little more than a careful selection of parts and a bit of knife-fighting with the model to improve the composition of your figures.

A big honkin’ missile launcher will demand the focus of a model.

A pronounced vertical orientation gives the impression of slow, inexorable movement. I thought this worked well for a company champion calling out his nemesis across the battlefield.

A strong lean reinforced by a bit of planning creates an impression of sprinting.

These compositional elements obviously won’t work from every angle, but they can be used to set up viewing angles from which the model looks best. This is one major advantage of a converted model to one straight from the box: it will look like you want it to.

Painting can exaggerate or disguise these symmetries, depending upon how you want your finished model to ‘read’ visually.

And that is a discussion for another day.

Have a nice day!

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