Those of you who have followed me over from The Shell Case will know that my journey into the hobby, like many gamers around my age, began with Hero Quest and Space Crusade.
However, unlike the majority of gamers my age, I didn’t progress into either Warhammer Fantasy (may she rest in peace) or Warhammer 40,000. Instead my brother and I moved in to Epic. If I’m honest the decision was made for me as it was the game my brother asked for (and subsequently got) for his birthday so it seemed obvious for me to play it too.
I’m glad I did because I think it gave me a flavour of just how…ahem…epic the conflicts in the 41st Millennium are and the sheer variety of destruction a commanding officer has at their disposal:
Bike detachments, assault division, tank division, gunships, titans…
It was impossible to be a child back then and not fall in love with Titans. It’s impossible to be a child now and not fall in love with Titans.
In 1994 the Games Workshop released Titan Legions. A big box of mental to compliment the existing box of mental that was the core Epic: Space Marine box set.
Titan Legions, as well as some new rules, introduced new models to the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The obvious two were the indomitable Imperator Titan and the awe inspiring Mega Gargant.
However, swallowed in the shadows of these walking cities were the Imperial Knights. They looked a little different back then but they unquestionably brought something special to the game and the canon.
I invested quite heavily in knights, picking up as many of the metal variants as I could. It never really came to anything as, by this point, we had started to move into 40k and Fantasy.
Titan Legions in many ways was the death of Epic as it made the game so big and unwieldy that 40k and Fantasy felt like quicker and easier games to play in comparison.
Whilst this wasn’t necessarily true, it did take a lot less time to set up because there wasn’t all that faffing about with (literally) hundreds of stands of infantry.
When Epic 40,000 appeared on the scene Knights were all but forgotten amidst a complete re-release of the core ranges that saw the very best and worst of the Games Workshop design studio.
However, I clearly wasn’t alone in my fondness for Knights as they are now a playable army in Warhammer 40,000.
Regardless of the various perspectives on big kit gamers and big kit gaming in general, I think introducing armies of this type are a good thing because it’s something different and presents a whole fresh set of tactical challenges both for the user and the opponent.
If anyone can think back to when Ogre Kingdoms first lumbered on to the fields of Warhammer Fantasy, you’ll get my meaning.
So, twenty years after I bought my first lot of Knights, I’ve acquired…seven for Warhammer 40,000.
My attitude towards the army was like any other. Build the models, paint the models, (hopefully) game with the models. As I looked at the model I’d built a couple of years ago I realised what a colossal ball ache painting a full constructed model would be.
So I did something I’ve refused to do in the past. Paint it partially built. I always refused to paint bolters separate to my Space Marines because it always felt an unnecessary faff.
As I started work on the first Knight I realised something that I wish I’d realised right from the start. Painting a Knight is a fucking huge amount of work. Actually, let me qualify that. It’s a fucking huge amount of work if you want them to look good. I have seen some shockers on the interwebs.
The other thing I realised is that painting a Knight army isn’t like painting any other army. Most armies are made up of infantry, tanks, bikes, jump troops, whatever. There will also be the odd model that acts as a centrepiece.
As armies evolve and grow that centrepiece will change. When my Ultramarines began life, the centrepiece was a MkIV Venerable Dreadnought from Forge World. Then it became the first Land Raider.
Now, 12 years on and two companies later, it currently stands at a Xiphon and a Sicaran. Eventually they will give way to a Fire Raptor. If I get really bored and/or affluent that may be superseded by a Thunderhawk or some other bonkers big Forge World purchase.
It’s one of the best things about our hobby. Lacing our armies with models that make our opponents stop and take note. Not because it’s a formidable model to deal with – although it is – but because it’s just fucking cool.
The thing about a Knight army is that they’re all centrepieces models. All of them need the same love and attention and commitment in time. I also felt like every Knight deserved a suitably extravagant base which resulted in me dropping £30 on various hobby materials.
I also invested in the House Terryn upgrade kits from Forge World for the same reason. If you’re going to blow hundreds of pounds on an army you might as well go balls deep.
I partially built and sprayed two Knights foolishly (oh so foolishly) thinking that I could effectively batch paint them. I was disillusioned within the first hour of painting.
The Knight model is a fantastic kit, it really is. The more I tinker and build, the quicker it’s working up the all time favourite model table.
It also takes a huge amount of work. This isn’t a bad thing but the realisation that nothing could be rushed killed any dream I had of getting the army done in the same time I painted my 5th Company.
To coin a phrase, I had to unlearn what I have learned. After a 6 week period of painting my 5th Company, I had worked out a really effective process that meant I could paint, base and varnish a squad every 3 days.
The Knight that I’ve actually finished threw all of that out of the window. For a start everything has to be thoroughly base coated because big models hide no sins.
As I mentioned, I opted for House Terryn as they’re the closest Knightly House to Ultramar and I felt it logical that House Terryn would have some form of mutual protection/support pact with the Ultramarines.
It did, of course, mean painting more bastard Macragge Blue but on the upside I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
The easiest way to achieve this was a combination of Leadbelcher and Macragge Blue sprays and a fair amount of laborious manual base coating. The gold was a ball ache on a blue undercoat. I’m not sure if there’s any real time saver but the finish is definitely better.
The really big lesson I learned, however, was even painting a Knight in the convention sense isn’t necessarily the way to go. By this I mean painting all the blue, then painting all the silver etc.
It’s a miserable experience. The sheer size of the model coupled with the aforementioned manual base coating over the spray meant progress felt very slow and I noticed I’d begun to put it off.
I’m really pleased with the end result (pictured above) especially as I’m copying the named Knights from the codex to the look and feel needed to be right.
When I started the second Knight I decided to change my approach. I split the painting into three batches: the armour, the weapons and the body.
It made the painting feel more manageable as well as more in keeping with the usual batch painting approach. The result is that you get to see progress on what would otherwise be a huge project.
When I began this army, quite a on whim, I was totally unprepared for the challenges I would encounter or how I would questions processes and techniques I’ve been using for years.
But the result has been that it has given me a new perspective on the hobby and made me feel confident about tackling something like a Titan further down the road.
It’s also taught me patience. Plus, thanks to a little bit of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way, it doesn’t particularly matter how long it takes so long as I enjoy the painting when I sit down to do it.
More importantly, however, I can see myself finishing the army and using it with pride.