In the World That Was, I was running a Dark Heresy game that was entering its final stages of escalation. Our mid-high level characters had woken up naked and bloody in a pit of despair, deep in the filthy clutches of the Beast House. After escaping, they find themselves in the middle of an end-of-the-world carnival riddled with mutants, heretics and witches.
Where those three venn diagram circles overlap, you get the Bedlam Feast. A Chaos faction out for mayhem who have been responsible for several atrocities in our characters’ lives and are now moving to put their final plan into action. For this, I needed some cultists.
A brief interlude
I needed at least a dozen cultists, as I expected them to be mown down in droves by the climax of the campaign, along with some specialists and hero-type units. They needed to be carnival/circus-themed, as its imagery I’ve been obsessed with since Mordheim’s Carnival of Chaos range.
I wasn’t about to drop triple digits of cash on some ancient metal models, and I’d always wanted to own a set of the (now long oop) Dark Vengeance cultists. Anvil Industry do some excellent hooded cultist and masquerade heads turn out to be a perfect fit for human-sized 40k miniatures, who’da thunk?! I’d also identified some potential hero figures from TTcombat’s Carnevale range, but we’ll come back to those later.
I wanted a cobbled street base, and the heck I was making those myself. Mine came from Ragnarok Hobbies (previously Gladius Game Art).
Preparing the feast
Along with some Bretonnian and Empire odds and ends from my bits box, I cobbled together a test miniature with a GSC grenade launcher and was very happy with the fit.
After examining the minis I’d be converting, nearly all of them had a kind of mantle that the hood would join up to. This would make the red/yellow circus tent colour scheme I had in my head work very well, but some lads had the nerve to be topless.
Some like it ruff
I didn’t fancy sculpting mantles on everyone, so in-keeping with the venetian clown aesthetic, some had large ruff collars sculpted on them to hide the joins.
I used this rather excellent tutorial on sculpting ruffs, and I had it down pretty well after one or two passes.
The cultists are equipped with a variety of hand weapons as standard, but I didn’t want that for my lot. From both a book-keeping and a deadliness perspective I wanted more axes – a simple melee weapon that can still threaten a well armoured high-end PC, whereas clubs tend to bounce off.
Hot or not?
I wanted to include some classic entertainer archetypes, and the firebreather was one I was desperate to include. Not only does being on fire really, really suck in Dark Heresy, but the mini could very reasonably double up as a flamer or witch in Necromunda. Reusability of minis is always at the forefront of my mind!
This lad was made from an Empire Flagellant with a Skaven cleaver right arm. I always avoid sculpting where possible because I’m incredibly lazy, and to commit to making a jet of flame seemed like absolute madness.
Luckily I had the perfect piece in the bits box – a scenic flame piece that I honestly cannot identify any more. I thought it was from a Chaos Lord of some kind, and I can vividly picture it being part of the classic mounted Archaon kit but my Google-fu has failed me. Anyone know what it is?
I did a bit of hacking down to make it look more directional, but I was extremely happy I had exactly the right piece for the feel I was going for. I’ve gone 32 years on this planet without ever having to sculpt flames, and I’m not about to start now.
Another archetype I wanted was a loon juggling some grenades and some kind of spooky plague doctor. Luckily the Bretonnian men-at-arms had a jester-type sculpt perfect for me, and some absolutely painstaking pinning and gluing with some Goliath stick grenades gave me a rather excellent juggler.
The plague doctor was another Men-at-arms (Emperor bless that kit) body, with an Anvil masquerade head, a sickle from a Mantic kit, and a big spooky head potion from the classic Empire Wizard plastic kit. Simple but effective!
Painting the town red
Finished, not perfect. I needed a lot of these guys done quickly, so they’d be painted in my signature ‘speed paint’ style – Base, Wash, Highlight with Base Colour.
My Agrax Earthshade was reaching the end of the pot so some of them came out with a little oily sheen in the recesses. Not the intended outcome, and were it a more important mini I’d likely be a little upset at the effect, but as it’s for a bunch of grubby bullet-fodder I don’t think it takes anything away.
The skin tones were done with Idoneth Deepkin (or a pale grey/green) with a sepia wash, extreme edges highlighted with Deepkin again. Any sores/piercings had a little spot of Carroburg Crimson wash dotted on them to make them look inflamed.
Guns were Leadbelcher with a wash of Agrax. The dark grey/black robes were Eshin Grey, a splash of Nuln Oil, and an edge highlight with Mechanicum Grey.
I was happy to paint as many cultists as I could assemble. They’re lovely miniatures to have for just about any purpose, and they’re a great nemesis in Dark Heresy. Don’t underestimate the power of a handful of mooks with autoguns firing on Full Auto!
I think the circus theme really comes into its own on sculpts like the juggler. I’ve also had great fun in a recent Necromunda campaign running him as a Helot Cultist armed with frag grenades and two clubs. Every game, without fail, he would flub his frag grenade, immediately fail his ammo check for more frag grenades, charge into combat with his clubs and get kerb-stomped by a retaliation attack. 10/10 game of the year.
I wasn’t quite sure what I’d use the plague dorctor mini for, but the parts just came together serendipitously as I was sifting through my bits box for inspiration. She’s already had an outing in Necromunda as a Helot Cultist with Shard Grenades from the black market.
She never directly took anyone out, but the look you get from a Goliath player when you ask them to make a Willpower check on their cluster of heavy hitters is worth its weight in guilder creds.
I’ll concoct something suitably nasty for our Dark Heresy group too, likely with oodles of corruption points.
Finally my firebreather. This was my second-ish time of painting fire, so you could say I was getting pretty hot at it by now. I still had to pore over tutorials and reference images, paralysed in fear of getting it wrong. I shouldn’t have worried.
Drybrushing was the biggest help here. Previously I’d attempted to wet blend, which usually results in obsessively picking over details with diminishing returns. This was quick and easy, and with enough natural variation in texture that it looks good from a few feet away.
Were this a different project and I had more time/resources/inclination I might have attempted some OSL from the fire to add some drama to the mini, but as a wise woman once said, ain’t nobody got time for that.
The gang’s all here
And just like that, the first wave of basic fodder cultists was done! I have a collection of others on their way to bulk them out, including some heavies, specialists, and a few hero units, but I have to finish painting them first…