Of 30K in 40K… plus, Wulfen and Blood Claws!

I never intended to play Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000.

It makes perfect sense then that my first two armies for the game would be a 2000pts force of Chaos Space Marines, and now a 2000pts force of Space Wolves. I.. can explain.

I was just finishing up my first Age of Sigmar armies in April 2017 when 8th Edition 40K was announced. I didn’t know exactly when it would drop (June), but I knew I wanted an army ready for the release day. Things just sort of fell into place from there.

A couple of days prior, my lovely fiancé gave me my birthday present – turns out she’d actually been listening when I talked on about my hobby, how I’d wished I’d just started an army from scratch instead of going in from the Age of Sigmar boxed game, how I liked Nurgle as a Chaos God a lot more than Khorne. I’m sure also rumbled about how cool the Putrid Blightkings kit was.. and low and behold, for my birthday I received a Start Collecting! Nurgle Daemons box set and a box of Blightkings. I’d excitedly assembled the lot before 40K was even announced 3 days later.

I was horribly out of touch with 40K and it’s armies at this juncture; having come from Age of Sigmar, one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to field guns, tanks, walkers, aircraft.. All these things that make 40K wildly different from AoS (from a hobby standpoint, at least). With that said, I also knew I wanted to get working on these new Nurgle models ASAP. And as if the following wasn’t enough, I even found a half-built box of Chaos Space Marines in my case of goodies from my teenage years that I’d liberated from my old bedroom. All the boxes were ticked, with some hobby synergy to boot. How could I not?

So, that was my Heretic Astartes – they were my first foot into 40K, and I was happy with them. Now that I’d done my obligatory first Space Marines army, I had no intention of starting a loyalist force.. until I found out about The Horus Heresy. Best laid plans, folks.

I had a look at the Betrayal at Calth box and thought it was a cool specialist game, but it wasn’t until the Burning of Prospero was released that I really took notice. I’ve always loved The Thousand Sons as a legion, but Space Wolves were my very first introduction to Warhammer 40,000 and the miniature wargaming hobby on the whole over a decade ago, and the nostalgia absolutely showered over me. Part of the appeal of The Horus Heresy for me is how much it leans on old Rogue Trader fluff and aesthetic, and how it depth it takes old designs from my childhood. As a child of 3rd Edition 40K, I still remember owning the old style (now ‘Deimos’ pattern) Rhino. I remember seeing images of those ‘Proteus’ pattern Land Raiders in White Dwarf back-issues, and the ‘Red Period’ still cast a wide shadow over the shelves of my local Games Workshop. It’s that very nostalgia factor that led me to want to build a Space Wolves force for the setting; to return to my first love in Warhammer 40,000 and do them justice. To make that 11 year old me proud.

And so I built my 30K Space Wolves Legion (at the time of this blog, somewhere around 3000-3500 points). Leman Russ and those big crazy Wolves, Spartan Assault Tanks that outrun and outgun Land Raiders, big massed squads of Grey Slayers with power weapons in your troops section! This was all the things I loved about the Space Wolves back when I was a kid, scaled up to meet my adult expectations. Building lists felt somewhere between the 40K 3rd that introduced me to the hobby and the 6th Edition of Fantasy that cemented my love of the game. 30K is awesome, and building a legion is truly addictive. Even after I had finished my 2500pts list, I had tried going back to add to my Chaos Space Marines, but they just don’t give me the warm fuzzies the same way my VI Legion did anymore

Of course, the drawback here is that 30K is niche. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming to paint (all those big discounted 20 man squads take a lot longer than a 5-man MSU in 40K). I can count on one-hand how many people I know that own the models, and fewer still have any interest in playing while it remains in 7th Edition. Sure, there’s a couple of local events on the horizon to look forward to, but it’s not an ideal situation for your favourite (and certainly largest) army. The only thing for it is to add some new models and try and figure out how to play the army as an 8th Edition 40K force.

Here’s what I decided to work towards (with primarily playing Eldar, Necrons, Imperial Guard, etc armies in mind):

++ Battalion Detachment +3CP (Imperium – Space Wolves) [118 PL, 1971pts] ++

+ HQ [17 PL, 246pts] +

Wolf Guard Battle Leader [6 PL, 68pts]: Bolt pistol, Jump Packs [1 PL, 3pts], Power axe [5pts]
Wolf Lord [6 PL, 103pts]: Warlord, Tenacious Survivor, Frost sword [7pts], Jump Packs [1 PL, 19pts], Krakenbone Sword, Master-crafted boltgun [3pts]
Wolf Priest [5 PL, 75pts]: Bolt pistol

+ Troops [39 PL, 591pts] +

Blood Claws [10 PL, 144pts]
. 8x Blood Claw [104pts]
. Blood Claw Pack Leader [18pts]: Power axe [5pts]
. Wolf Guard Pack Leader [2 PL, 22pts]: Power sword [4pts], Storm shield [5pts]

Grey Hunters [13 PL, 192pts]: Wolf Standard [10pts]
. Grey Hunter Pack Leader [17pts]: Power sword [4pts]
. 5x Grey Hunter w/Bolt Pistol [65pts]
. Grey Hunter w/Plasma Pistol [20pts]: Plasma pistol [7pts]
. Grey Hunter with Special Weapon [26pts]: Bolt Pistol, Plasma gun [13pts]
. Grey Hunter with Special Weapon [26pts]: Bolt Pistol, Plasma gun [13pts]
. Wolf Guard Pack Leader [2 PL, 28pts]: Chainsword, Combi-plasma [15pts]

Grey Hunters [8 PL, 128pts]: Wolf Standard [10pts]
. Grey Hunter Pack Leader [18pts]: Power axe [5pts]
. 2x Grey Hunter w/Bolt Pistol [26pts]
. Grey Hunter w/Plasma Pistol [20pts]: Plasma pistol [7pts]
. Grey Hunter with Special Weapon [26pts]: Bolt Pistol, Plasma gun [13pts]
. Wolf Guard Pack Leader [2 PL, 28pts]: Chainsword, Combi-plasma [15pts]

Grey Hunters [8 PL, 127pts]: Wolf Standard [10pts]
. Grey Hunter Pack Leader [17pts]: Power sword [4pts]
. 2x Grey Hunter w/Bolt Pistol [26pts]
. Grey Hunter w/Plasma Pistol [20pts]: Plasma pistol [7pts]
. Grey Hunter with Special Weapon [26pts]: Bolt Pistol, Plasma gun [13pts]
. Wolf Guard Pack Leader [2 PL, 28pts]: Chainsword, Combi-plasma [15pts]

+ Elites [26 PL, 374pts] +

Wulfen [26 PL, 374pts]
. 2x Frost claws [30pts]
. 5x Thunder hammer & Stormshield [105pts]: 5x Storm Shield [25pts], 5x Thunder Hammer [80pts]
. 7x Wulfen [196pts]
. Wulfen Pack Leader [43pts]: Frost claws [15pts]

+ Heavy Support [7 PL, 170pts] +

Long Fangs [7 PL, 170pts]
. 4x Long Fang [39pts]: Missile launcher [25pts]
. Long Fang Pack Leader [14pts]: Boltgun and Bolt Pistol, Chainsword

+ Flyer +

Fire Raptor Assault Gunship [19 PL, 358pts]
. Two quad heavy bolters [72pts]: 2x Quad heavy bolter [72pts]
. Two twin hellstrike launchers [96pts]: 2x Twin hellstrike launcher [96pts]

+ Dedicated Transport [10 PL, 232pts] +

Razorback [5 PL, 116pts]: Storm bolter [2pts], Twin assault cannon [44pts]
Razorback [5 PL, 116pts]: Storm bolter [2pts], Twin assault cannon [44pts]

If you know 30K, then it will be obvious to you that for a Legion collection, this list is something of a departure. Building this list required a whole mess of new models – often little bits and pieces with specific wargear configurations that I didn’t have before, though there’s a couple of unique units in there too. My Rhinos needed converting (stupid past me glued down the Rhino hatches, which required a bit of force to pry off so I could interchange them with Razorback hatches), and my Bolter-touting Marines were re-designated as Grey Hunters – now arranged into minimum sized units with the maximum amount of plasma dakka. I picked up a combi-plasma armed Seeker-squad to re-use it’s members as Wolf Guard Squad Leaders with combi-plasma guns, and built a plasma-gun armed Support Squad to redistribute it’s members to my various Grey Hunter squads as special weapon guys. Handily, all my Heroes worked with the Praetor/Centurion designations working well for a Wolf Lord and a Wolf Guard Battle Leader – both very handy support-units for their re-rolls, and they’ve been given magnetic jump pack options for both the deep strike option, as well as better manoeuvrability to keep up with and support the Fire Raptor as it lays some some serious weight of fire dakka – re-rolls on the 1s to hit and wound can seriously add up when you’ve got 40 shots to go through!

Shuffling models around and a pair of FW Razorback turrets aside, I’ve added added a couple new squads to this incarnation of my VI Legion for 40K – namely a unit of Blood Claws and a unit of Wulfen.

Wulfen are a difficult unit for a number of reasons. These were my first unit for the 40K incarnation of this army exclusively, as they have absolutely no place in 30K. That alone was a difficult bridge to cross over, as it meant finally committing to the idea that this wasn’t just a 30K army any more. On the other hand, the models are cartoonish – particularly the Wulfen faces and those stupid pig noses. They absolutely did not fit in with my dour, pragmatic interpretation of the VI Legion. They needed something to help them fit in aesthetically and thematically.

In the end, I had a look through my bitz box and found I had 4 Wolf Skull helmets from KFStudio leftover from the pack of 5 that I bought for converting my Wolf Priest, and used these to head swap all for all but the Pack Leader – who was then given one of the more restrained and better looking heads from the pack (in my opinion). This was then expanded into a full unit of 10 (and another 5 pack of the heads ordered to match). When assembling, I knew that I wanted a full set of 5 Thunder Hammer and Storm Shields (as between 2 kits, this is how many unique poses you can make for this equipment choice) and beyond that, I tried to pick whatever weapon looked the least silly.

After painting them up in my usual Space Wolves power armour scheme (Mechanicus Standard Grey spray, all-over washed with Agrax-Earthshade to create a muddy and imperfect finish, followed by an edge highlight of VGC Heavy Bluegrey; the trim is VGC Brassy Brass, Agrax wash and messy Warpaints Plate Mail Metal highlights), I’m overall quite pleased with how they turned out.

From a thematic/fluff perspective, I went for the Wolf Skull helmets in the end on my Wulfen to make them somewhat comparable to Deathsworn, the VI Legion unique unit in Inferno that preceded Wulfen. Deathsworn were individuals whose were showing symptoms of their gene seed defect, not crazed and feral and exhibiting mutations.. but developing an unhealthy obsession with death. These models are supposed to represent former Deathsworn – 10,000 years and the loss of the Emperor later, I guess you can sort of forgive them finally falling prey to the Curse of the Wulfen.

As expected, they took longer than I’d have liked – each model is absolutely laden with a excessive amount of detail (clutter), some of which can be dealt with fairly easily (embossed brass just needing a wash and a drybrush), while others like the wolf tooth talismans and the thin string necklaces they hang from could be a bit fiddley. It’s been a while since I’d painted this much exposed flesh though (something I haven’t done since my Putrid Blightkings for Age of Sigmar), and I forgot how satisfying that portion can be, especially with a wider range of flesh paints to choose from.

Blood Claws come with their own unique set of challenges and opportunities. On the face of it, there’s a terrific amount of space for hobby synergy with the 30K army – Grey Slayers come equipped with bolt pistols and close combat weapons as standard (rather than the 3pts premium for a bolter) and thus make for a more sensible (if typically more expensive to physically buy, thanks to a lack of plastic assault arms for MkIII/IV Tactical Marines) loadout for a combat-geared unit that might spend most of it’s time either locked in combat, or either running or riding in a transport. It’s practically a no-brainer to have a reasonable reserve of standard bolt pistol and close combat weapon Blood Claws to use. On the other hand, while their wargear alone could reasonably distinguish a unit of Blood Claws from a unit of Grey Hunters, it would be nice thematically to be able to represent some distinction between the unit of headstrong recruits and the older, wiser and more seasoned Grey Hunters.

Well, fortunately for me, ForgeWorld have just recently released their Grey Slayer Upgrade Kits, which have been the basis for my Blood Claws. I ended up purchasing one set of the Shields, and two packs of the Bolt Pistols. Although I think the shields are better looking (and for all the criticisms levelled at these upgrade packs, those shields really do look great), I already have four combat shields converted from Storm Shields from Wolf Guard and Wulfen kits, with enough bits left to do a further three, for a total of twelve and a decent amount of variation in styles (3/5/5) – and moreover, I have plenty of other bits and pieces to make up their close combat weapons. What I do lack, is bolt pistols and, in general, bolt pistol/close combat weapon arms for my Mk III Space Marines.

I’m not going to completely defend these upgrade kits. There are a lot of things I don’t like about them. The bolter issue is a big one – these bolt pistols are huge and look pretty bloody different from the ones in the Assault Squad kits, and even the ones in the plastic Mk III Space Marines kit. The reversed ironsights being refurbished as a red dot laser is also just a bit of a lazy design – I can see what they were going for, but they really should’ve done more, especially considering these are the only things differentiating them from the awesome shield upgrades which are being sold at the same price.. which is probably my single biggest beef with these kits. They’ve got two ‘unique’ upgrade kits, which share completely identical components – except one has bolt pistol arms, and the other has the shields. This is incredibly frustrating as a consumer, as it means I am guaranteed to have duplicate heads even if I just buy both kits. Why couldn’t they sell the heads/shoulder pads/banners as a separate kit, and have the weapons kits (bolt pistol/axe and shield/axe) as separate packs? In the end, they only serve to inflate the cost and give me a whole bunch of duplicates.

There’s a lot to love about these kits though. Combat shields aside (did I mention I love the shields?), the head designs that are in the kit are great sculpts – full of character, but down to earth and with more of a Scandinavian leaning than the 40K heads have. The leather masks were somewhat unexpected on my part, but I’m finding I really like how they look after I had them painted up – and suitably generic enough that you can keep your marines from looking like obvious duplicates with some diverse hair colour painting. The shoulder pads were a piece I was somewhat worried about, given my current paint scheme of a red/black triangular divide on my shoulder pads for my legion, but I’m happy to say the effect is nice and subtle and gives a little extra texture and detail without looking jarring next to my standard Mk III Marines with smooth shoulder pads.

And so, determined to make lemonade out of lemons, I set about making my 30K-themed Blood Claws unit.

These are my first models I’ve built using the new upgrade kits, and I have to say, I’m liking them a lot. For a little variety, I used some of my spare bolt pistol/chainswords from the plastic MkIII Marines kit to break up the wolfy axes, but I decided to go all out and give every Blood Claw a leather mask – it makes sense to me for my Blood Claws to all go without their helmets (headstrong young pups and all), and it really gives the unit a very unique look, which I really liked. Similarly, after much deliberation I decided to give them all the ridged shoulder pads too – at this stage in my army, it’s too late to reserve them for elite units, and I may as well use them to help differentiate my troops at a glance since I’m keeping the same shoulder pad markings across the board. You may notice that there’s only 8 – the reason for this is that I’ll be recycling my models from other Grey Slayer units for the Sergeants, with one power weapon-equipped Blood Claw Sergeant and a Storm Shield equipped Wolf Guard to give them a little preliminary defence against high AP things like Dark Reapers that might otherwise delete the squad the turn the infiltrate on the board. It also keeps the squad small enough to stick in a Rhino, if I so choose, although I’ll most likely be infiltrating these guys along with the Wulfen and a Wolf Priest to capitalise on the +1 attack aura of the Wulfen. Depending on how things go with this lot, I might decide to bump the unit up to their max size of 15 and build another three choppy Blood Claws and a pair of meltaguns.. we’ll see. In the meantime, I plan on mixing these guys with my combat shield guys in a squad or two of Grey Slayers for 30K, so those beautiful looking shield minis will be next up on my infantry to-do after I finish my Varagyr.

I did manage to make use of one more item from the Grey Slayer upgrade packs – the wolf pelt Vexillas! These were pretty cool looking additions to the pack, and turned out to be something I absolutely wanted. Vexilla’s are a pretty essential upgrade for a big blob of Tacticals or Grey Slayers for 30K, and Wolf Guard get a similarly essential (but for different reasons) upgrade in the form of the Wolf Standard – a 10pts upgrade that allows them to re-roll any 1’s when charging or running. This is super handy as it makes your run much more likely to not end up a total dud, but also because re-rolling a 1 on a charge roll of a 1 and a 6 can make for some pretty serious extra charge distance. I also wanted to make use of the plasma pistol upgrade for Grey Hunters, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and build three of those guys.

Once again, I’m extremely happy with the quality of the bare heads in the Grey Slayer upgrade kits. They’re grim and dour and absolutely dripping with character without looking quite so Mad Max as some of the 40K heads are – I only wish there were more of them. You can get away with a few duplicates by changing up the skintone and/or hair colour, especially so thanks to the fact that Astartes that share a geneseed tend to look similar, but that will only go so far – which is a bit of a shame for the VI Legion. The leather masks do help offset this a little, but you definitely do need to be a little more creative and sparing in your use of these than you would the special helmets that other Legions have gotten. C’est la vie.

So, that pretty much concludes my aim to turn my 30K VI Legion into a playable 40K army. All things considered, it wasn’t a crazy job, and there were certainly elements that I could’ve gotten away without, but I’m pretty happy with how rounded the force is and I think it’s reasonably well suited to casually competitive play without having to make too many sacrifices to aesthetic; I’m very happy to say there’s not a bloody Thunderwolf to be seen.

I never wanted to play Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000, but really.. It feels good to come full circle. I like to think that twelve year old me would be proud.

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