Friday, January 21, 2011

Making Tracks: Leman Russ Executioner

So, this is it: the sixth and final armoured vehicle planned for my Valhallan 40K army.  I wish the swan song was a bit more dramatic, but I think I used up all my customization mojo on Cold Comfort earlier in the month.

Despite the game's setting of the 41st millennium, the vehicles I have built so far look pretty similar to tanks of the Second World War, with some present day accessories and sci-fi trimmings (like the hull-mounted lascannon on Snow Tiger), but the Executioner breaks that mold cleanly.  The main gun is the infamous Executioner plasma cannon, and the stowage boxes in the rear of the turret have been replaced with additional plasma coils in order to maintain a high rate of fire.  Space Marine power armour is no match for the fury of superheated plasma, and even Tactical Dreadnought (Terminator) armour can only withstand one shot in three.

Since the other two tanks had a crewman in the open hatch of the turret, I knew I wanted this one to be buttoned up.  I've read enough issues of G.I. Combat to know that if you don't keep that hatch secured, Sgt. Rock is going to climb up onto your track, riddle the commander with .45 slugs from his Thompson, and then drop a couple of 'hot pineapples' down into the tank for good measure.  Besides, the closed hatch makes the tank look a little sleeker.

I kept the tank itself relatively plain, with no sandbags, bedrolls, shovels and the like, because I wanted the centre of attention to be the big plasma cannon.  My reach outstretched my grasp a little, however; although I am fairly happy with the coils themselves, I had wanted to give them kind of a 'glow' effect.  Painting light sources is a pretty tricky business and I am strictly a journeyman painter, but the principle seemed easy enough.  I think it would have worked better against a darker background, but I was unwilling to repaint the entire gun barrel to facilitate this.  Even though the glow didn't turn out even close to what I pictured in my mind, it still gets the idea across, and so I left my efforts in place.  It also suits the name I decided to give the tank: Lux Cathedra (Light of the Throne).

If I was a bit gutsier, I would have tried to paint some sort of glowy starburst down inside the barrel, like the heart of the Doomsday Machine from Star Trek.

Now *that* is intimidating.
There may even be a tactical advantage in Lux Cathedra's stock appearance (which I will now lose by pointing it out): each piece in the Warhammer 40,000 game is worth a certain amount of points, which serve as the currency which keeps the games evenly matched.  A base-model Leman Russ starts at a modest 150 points, and then you pay extras for accessories like weapons sponsons, extra armour and so on.  If you've ever purchased a car from a dealership, you are already familiar with this principle.  Lux Cathedra, with its lascannon in the hull and plasma cannons in the side sponsons, weighs in at about 260 points.  (It would have been 275 but I decided I didn't need the undercoating.  What the heck do I care about the resale value of a tank which stands a significant chance of becoming a burned-out hulk by the third turn for heaven's sake?)  This is not a complaint, as it will earn those points back the very first time it runs across a squad of Terminators in the open, but the bottom-liners in the Departmento Munitorum will be keeping a wary eye on the Executioners they commission, as will the enemy, so it bodes well to draw less attention to one, rather than more.

Still, the glowy green energy weapon in the turret makes it hard to be anonymous.

I did try to add a little distinctiveness by adding some patches of snow to the rear cargo box and sponsons.  I bought some snow flock for the horde of foot soldiers I will be painting next, and thought this made as good a time as any to experiment with it.  Again, it would have been more distinct against a darker background, and I definitely need more practice with it, but since I will be painting about a hundred man-sized models (if all goes well!), there will be plenty of opportunity to improve.

Six tracks in six months is hardly anything to brag about in the big scheme of things, but I met my deadline of having all the vehicles out of the way by February, and they all look pretty consistent.  Hopefully I can keep up the same pace on the infantry, and maintain the dream of playing with the army at least once before G&G VI in May!

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