Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Unforgiven: True-scale Dark Angels

Thought begets Heresy. Heresy begets Retribution.

When 8th edition of Warhammer 40k was released last year, I purchased one of the starter sets, and experimented with turning the included Primaris Space Marines into True-scale Space Marines. I found that by simply replacing their powerpacks and bolters, they made pretty convincing normal Space Marines. Being a longstanding Dark Angels player, when the new Dark Angel codex was released last year, I thought it might be fun to try to convert some tactical marines in this way. The hope being that I could build a bunch of them quickly to use in games of basic 40k (I manage to play a game or two each year). With this in mind, I got a box of the Dark Angels-themed Intercessors and set to work.

Normal space marine helmets fit the Primaris bodies quite well.

I used Tigrus pattern bolters for the marines because of their more compact design. I also added a rear sight created from one taken from a Skitarii rifle.

As I mentioned earlier, since I hoped to build quite a few of these Dark Angels, I wanted all of the conversion work to be simple and relatively quick. Therefore, the brunt of the work was simply replacing the backpacks and heads with traditional plastic tactical space marines parts, which all fit nicely. It should be noted that the primaris helmets are more streamlined, allowing more rotational freedom (the normal space marine helmets are slightly bulkier and brush up against the sides of the collar). The main task was to find suitable bolters, and while I could have spent considerable time converting some (adding stocks, modifying the arms to fit them, etc.), I wanted to see if I could find something that was passable without lots of extra effort. I also wanted to convert a smaller plasma cannon, akin to an old piece of artwork, reasoning that the artificers of the mechanicum would try to make portable heavy weapons more manageable.


Normal space marine backpacks are slightly smaller than the Primaris ones, and look better as a result.

An old illustration that depicts a relatively small plasma cannon, something that I wanted to try to recreate.

I ended up selecting the Tigrus pattern bolter to use for my marines. It is the smallest easily available bolter, and also has the most logical design (the ejection port is inline with the barrel and the magazine release is in the proper place, two elements that are often not done correctly on GW’s bolters). Even if I had an easy source of stocks for the bolters, the Intercessor arms are modeled in such a way that stocks would not fit anyway. The arms are probably one of the worst parts of the Intercessor set. While they are sculpted well, they only fit in one specific way, and most are awkwardly pointing in the air (and all are modeled with their fingers on their triggers despite not being in firing positions). Furthermore, many of them hold their right arms unnaturally far from their bodies. I think this was done to try to offset the incredibly long and front-heavy design of their bolt rifles, but when they are replaced with more reasonably sized weapons, the error is more noticable. The only conversion I did on the bolters was to trim the front sight to be thinner and to add a rear sight. I got the rear sights from spare Skitarii Vanguard rifles, trimming a notch into them so they correspond to the thinner front sight. To attach the bolters, I simply snipped off the bolt rifles at the wrist and glued on the new ones. I used the cupped hands that came with the Tigrus pattern bolters, since they are beveled and look more natural than the general tactical squad. I used green stuff to fill in/sculpt new webbing between the wrist joints.


The Intercessor kit includes a host of pouches and holstered pistols, which have a little protrusion modeled in the back that helps them attach to their belts, rather than just magically floating at their sides.

To create a smaller plasma cannon, I decided to use one of the hellblaster plasma weapons. I decided to use one of the ones that came with the Dark Imperium boxed set, since they have stocks attached to them. Curiously, the multipart hellblaster kit removes these stocks, replacing them with bulky cables that defeat the purpose of making a portable heavy weapon. Without the stocks, the weapons look even more front-heavy and awkward. To modify the weapon, I cut off the carry handle that obscured the front sight, leaving a portion of it to create a rear sight. I also shortened the weapon a little by snipping out a portion of the plasma coils. The resulting weapon is still massive, but something that I feel a space marine could easily wield, so I am pleased.


The plasma cannon was converted from a hellblaster plasma weapon. I used one of the one from the Dark Imperium boxed set because they have stocks.


The plasma cannon conversion was quite simple, requiring me to cut off the carry handle and shorten the weapon by removing some of the plasma coils.


I have always loved this piece of artwork and wanted to incorporate some of its visual elements into my marines.

The last thing I wanted to experiment with was adding some skulls to the models, akin to some of the classic Dark Angels artwork and the Deathwing Terminators we created in the past. I used size 17 dressmakers pins (0.6mm) to create the main stakes through the skulls, using a pinvise to set them. To make the smaller nails, I used a thin piece of plastic rod (0.4-0.5mm). Like the larger stakes, I drilled a pilot hole in the skulls before gluing them down.


A good pinvise was indispensable for adding the stakes to the marine’s backpack. I use one made by Tamiya (model D).

Although the True-scale marines are not finished, I am happy with their progress. I will likely try to add a few more skulls and other related details before moving to the painting process. Overall, the models were quite easy to build, and something I would recommend anyone to try if they want to create some better scaled space marines. I hope you like them, and let me know what you think!


- Eric Wier

27 comments:

  1. Excellent write up, very good middle ground for true scaling I will definitely take this approach with all the primaris marines waiting to be built! Can’t wait to see them painted! Do you have further plans for the raptors you built?

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    1. Thanks! I do think they are great for simple true-scale conversions. At the moment I don't really have any more plans for the Raptors. I just always liked them and wanted to try to paint a few. You never know though!

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  2. Brilliant idea to use the hellplasma weapon as a plasma cannon. But does the amazing deathwing terminators now look small next to these guys? How about the Death Guard you made a few years ago?

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    1. I am pretty sure the DW will look to small, yeah. But it is just an opportunity to make better ones!

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  3. Any chance you've got a more traditional bolt pistol for the sergeant? I may just being a stick in the mud, but I have a deep love for that "brick that shoots" look of the old pistol, and the new one is a bit too... sleek.

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    1. I was really tempted to use one of the Tigrus bolt pistols, but settled for this one because it is a little smaller. I might try to use the Tigrus ones on the others I build though.

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  4. Great work and looking forward to seeing more of these, and seeing these painted. I always liked the look of Dark Angels but I never crossed into doing an army because my gaming buddy already has an army of them--we can't have 2! Sad to hear there won't be more Raptors for the time being but these will make up for it. The changes you have made vastly improve them. When I do more Ultramarines I'm going to use normal bolters--they just look so much better and more natural. Agree about the arms, but I think what you have done is a good compromise and it would be lots of work to improve them further.

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    1. I am glad you like them! They were certainly easy to make, and I don't think the arms are so bad to warrant you try to fix them all (at least not if you want to build an army). I am not ruling out more Raptors in the future. I really like their paint scheme; certainly more than the DA one, he he.

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  5. Great work, man. You wouldn’t even notice that they’re Primaris at a first glance, which is the sign of a good conversion!

    The plasma cannon looks great, much more practical. Did you consider giving him a plasma-cannon backpack? It might ensure nobody confuses it with a regular plasma gun.

    If there’s one thing I’d do on these guys, it would be to give them a bit more religious iconography. Once you dispense with the robes, it’s one of the things that marks a Dark Angel from a generic marine. You’ve nailed that (no pun intended) with the skulls on the sergeant, but the others could benefit too. The little reliquaries and other bits on the Grey Knight and Flagellant sprues would work a treat.

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    1. Good to hear they read as normal space marines! I considered doing something with the plasma cannon's backpack, and might still go back and modify it. It will probably depend a little on what I do for the normal plasma rifle. Good call on adding some more religious iconography on the marines. I plan to go back and add a few deals, including some skulls on some of the other marines!

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  6. Looks good. I don't like the mkIV vespid style helmets either but they're noticeably nicer sculpts like you said. I really don't like the kneepad trims. Could you just snip them off and have it look ok or would that be too good to be true? It's also a shame that these all have the collars/ gorget. The Reavers don't, of course, but they don't have the wings on the chest plate plus you'd have to sculpt the armor on the abdomen.

    RE Heavy plasma: This guy made a conversion using the stupidly oversized pistols those 'Interceptors' are armed with. https://imgur.com/a/5weh9 I think it looks really good. The character using it here is some sort of squat type creature so I suppose it would need to be lengthened somehow for it to look right on a marine.

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    1. I think Eikos is really right about the kneepad trims. Taking them off would go a long way to make them look like regular Space Marines and not Primaris.

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    2. Yeah, after I assembled a few of these guys it dawned on me that I should have removed the kneepad rims. They would be substantially easier to remove before gluing them together, but I think they could just be snipped off and look fine. I am undecided if I will remove them from this squad, but I will certainly do it for any newer ones.

      Also, I do like Morback's plasma cannon. I might have to try to get one and experiment with it, to really get a sense of its scale. They certainly look ridiculous as pistols, but i could see them working as heavy rifles.

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  7. Excellent. Having just returned to 40K, after many, many years absence, and just painted my first Primaris marine. I can say they are more enjoyable to paint that the standard marine. The only thing I'm not to keen on is the 'small' helmet. I was considering using the MkVII helmet on a few and having seen these it clearly looks better.

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    1. Glad to hear you came back to the hobby and have gotten straight into painting again! I do think the normal marine helmets look really good on the Primaris marines, which was a relief.

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  8. Nice squad...Is there any plan to use Kromlech "Primaris Dark Angels Kit"?

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    1. I was not aware they made something for them. I will have to look into them.

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    2. https://bitsofwar.com/home/754-prime-legionaries-bodies-robed.html

      For veterans or sargents...the problem is that in GW tournament they couldn´t play

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    3. Thanks! I admit I am not too concerned about playing in GW tournaments, but I see how it could be an issue for some. Shame that they do not allow such things, but I understand it to a point.

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  9. Very nice!
    The release of the Primaris has put me off of my Chaos Marines because they look too small and disproportional compared to Primaris. I briefly toyed with doing something similar, then thought I'd wait until GW got around to upscaling Slaanesh/Noise Marines, but having seen these I'm now giving it some serious thought.
    You've captured perfectly how I feel true-scale Marines should look, great work and great article.
    Cheers.

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    1. I can certainly understand your feeling about the Chaos marines. They just look so frail next to the Primaris, where they should be frightening. Trying your hand at converting some Noise Marine might be worth trying, as I think it will likely be a while before GW makes new ones, and if the Death Guard and Thousand Sons are any indication, their proportions will still be off...

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  10. Quite good, and agree that the Tigrus pattern bolter looks 100% better.

    Suggestions: Clip at least a few of the knee pads off, to improve the classic "Marine" look
    -Do something about the circle armor at the outside of the ankle, same reason as above, and particularly on the guy with the plasma cannon, as his are less well shaped.
    -Shave a few of the chest plate collars again, to bring the armor more in line with the classic marine look.

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    1. I am much happier with the Tigrus bolters :D Thanks for the other suggestions too. I had already assembled most of them when it occurred to me that I should have trimmed the knee fins off...

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  11. Quite good, but I'm left with the feeling that the plasma marine should have an ammo backpack like the artwork.

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    1. I will have to look into potentially adding a backpack, but I am pretty happy with the current look as it is too.

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  12. Nice conversions, I still dislike Primaris visually. The graves having raised knee protection and the forget and side thigh plates copying Terminator conversions. These look suitably great.

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    1. Thanks! I finally got around to clipping off the knee rims. It was a little challenging due to them being glued together, but not too terrible.

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