Sorry for the extremely wide ‘featured photo’. You can see the whole picture here.
Excuse me, sir, do you have a spare moment to talk about our lord and saviour, Grandfather Nurgle?
Today, I’d like to talk about my third1, and by all accounts my most important Age of Sigmar army – my Maggotkin of Nurgle. I briefly touched on the origins of this army in an earlier blog post. They’re an army that I am – for the time being – finished painting new units for, and they are thus unlikely to receive any new blog post spotlighting a finished model in the short term. That being said, as my ‘main’ and favourite army for Age of Sigmar, I felt they deserved the dubious honour of being the first Age of Sigmar models that I shared and discussed on this blog.
My Maggotkin are special to me for a great number of reasons. I love the fluff. I love the models. They were the first army that I started receiving compliments and painting awards for. They were the first army that I started winning Age of Sigmar games with. But before any of that, they were an early birthday gift from my fiancé – a present thoughtfully purchased without any direct input on my part (beyond my inane babblings any time she indulged me to talk about my weirdo hobby). Some brushes, a box of Putrid Blightkings and a Start Collecting! Nurgle Daemons box set that would become the foundations of my most successful Warhammer project to date.
She was nervous as to whether she had gotten me the right thing or not, but her reasoning was sound. I’d mentioned the Plague God to her on a couple of occasions – I have a tendency to think ahead of myself to the next new and exciting project, swept up in the prospect of pioneering new releases and revisiting venerable sculpts alike. At this time, I was just rounding out my first 2000pts forces for my Stormcast Eternals and Khorne Bloodbound armies – the latter of which was a weird narrative soup list, bringing Khorne Daemons and, of all things, Skaven into the mix. I liked Skaven, and being able to being a small, elite detachment of Stormvermin led by a Warlord on Brood Horror made the hobbying all the more interesting. Looking back on it, it’s so clear how disinterest I was in playing or collecting a Khorne army, but I wanted to make the most of the Age of Sigmar boxed game. How the armies played wasn’t necessarily a consideration at the time – the Stormcast had a bunch of big, awesome models like a Stardrake and a Celestant Prime, whereas the Bloodbound had a number of big 20 strong units and some mid-sized monsters. And they looked cool, and it was fine, and I’d planned to finish the list2 and maybe move onto my next big army.
There weren’t any real concrete plans for my next Age of Sigmar project, but I’d definitely spent a lot of time looking at pictures of the ForgeWorld Great Unclean One, wishing I could’ve went that route instead – even the much bigger Exalted Bloodthirster seemed to do nothing for me. On the other hand, something about Nurgle just really seemed to resonate with me. Nurgle just embodied everything I’ve always personally loved about the art of John Blanche – at once gut-wrenchingly realistic – grim, dark, and completely hopeless, while the next it’s cartoonishly grotesque. Nurgle promised shambling hordes of dour-faced Plaguebearers, some atop giant wasps whose bloated abdomens reveal open sores resembling screaming mortal faces. Putrid Blightkings – an order of fallen Paladins, mortal men who have faced such utter hopelessness that they would turn to a plague god for comfort, life and purpose. And beside them? Mountains of mischievous Nurglings farting and shitting and dancing and singing their way across the battlefield. It’s disgusting, it’s hopelessly depressing, and it’s self-aware enough to have an almost slapstick sense of humour about the sheer bleakness of the whole thing. It just had a deeper and more lasting appeal than ‘blood for the blood god’.
It was probably this rabid fanboyism that my fiancé had picked up on that she thought to get me started on collecting Nurgle.
Best laid plans, however. Not a week later, Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition was announced, and so my Nurgle army for Age of Sigmar became a Nurgle Daemons detachment for my Heretic Astartes. As much as I loved the Daemons, I had just finished two melee-oriented armies for Age of Sigmar, and with all the excitement, I felt like I had to paint some guns and tanks. The Daemons were expanded somewhat – the 10 Plaguebearers became 30 and the Plague Drones grew from 3 to 6. Warhammer 40,000 became more and more popular with my friends and the opportunities to play Age of Sigmar just about drew to a close. The Blightkings slipped in priority and sat unpainted and disused at the bottom of my Citadel Crusade case, gathering dust and guilt in equal measures.
It was months later that I attended my first Age of Sigmar tournament, and I decided to bring my Khorne Bloodbound/Skaven army – deciding that it was the most interesting of my two and that it fit the theme of the event3. For my part, the event was a great success; I had a lot of fun, it was a great learning experience (having only played 2-3 AoS games prior), I re-acquainted with an old friend from my Games Workshop play-in-the-store days. For my Bloodbound however, it was an unmitigated disaster.
Three games, three major losses. I’d known my list wasn’t exactly going to be competitive – the Stormcast were a considerably better army, but as my first game in the ‘public’, I wanted to bring the army that most ‘excited’ me from a miniatures perspective. Hell, I’d go as far as to say I was pleasantly surprised by how well the games themselves went. No, the problem was my list wasn’t very fun to play – it was a list built around a narrative concept, and while the models themselves fit together in a theme, the rules were a mish-mash of conflicting synergies or barebones legacy warscrolls. True, it was a fun army to build – but one I had very little emotional connection to, and even less interest in fielding on the tabletop again.
What those games did do for me however, was reignite my interest in Age of Sigmar. The very night I came home from the tournament, I dug out those Putrid Blightkings from my case – my only unpainted Age of Sigmar models – and started working on them immediately. When I wasn’t painting my Blightkings, I was on Warscroll Builder, trying to piece together a reasonable looking Nurgle list. Thanks to Blightwar, they’d fall under a single allegiance, and grant me at least use of that fun wheel dohickey (holy allegiance abilities, Batman!) as well as getting to use my Blightkings as a battleline unit. Still, perhaps, not a top-tier army – but with a little more experience of how Age of Sigmar played, I was able to make a list that would at very least be fun and engaging to lose with.
This was before the Maggotkin of Nurgle battletome came along, and my army once again focussed more on having a nice variety of units rather than formations; it was not going to win me any more games than my Khorne army. But it was a mono-faction army with at least some allegiance abilities and internal synergy, and that meant that at very least it was going to be a hell of a lot more fun to play. I was excited. At this point, I already had 6 Plague Drones, 30 Plaguebearers, 6 Nurglings, a Daemon Prince and Great Unclean One from using the army in Warhammer 40,000 – I picked up a Harbinger of Decay, Festus the Leechlord and 10 More Blightkings and built what would be my first incarnation of this army, and took it to Winter War.
Winter War went about as well as you might expect. I had three games, and all three of them I was scrambling to figure out just what my stuff actually did. My opponents were all pretty savvy, using armies they knew and knew how to use well – a Khorne Bloodbound list kicked things off to a mercifully soft start, then things ramped up to a Changehost and a Les MartinTM style Stormcast list. Without going too heavy on the details, I had three Major Losses, with each yielding exponentially less kill points. In the last game, my opponent suffered a sole casualty – one Liberator, that died as a consequence of his own Lord-Heraldor’s AoE ability. Yikes.
None the crushing losses mattered though, because I had an absolute blast with my new army. Before the Maggotkin of Nurgle Battletome dropped in January, much of my army was somewhat pillow-fisted to play, but at least it was more engaging to play than my weird piecemeal Bloodbound/Skaven list. And perhaps it was the unusual (at the time) choice of faction, or the improvements I’d made in my painting – this would be my 4th army project by this point – but I’d started receiving a lot of compliments on how my army looked.
One of the best and most rewarding parts of playing Warhammer for me is the sheer pagentry of two unique, painted armies playing on a nice scenic table. Winter War was an amazing tournament for this; I got to face off against three unique armies which all looked absolutely awesome on the tabletop and this alone would have justified the hours of effort in constructing and painting this Nurgle army for me.. but it got better. While I’d managed to avoid the dubious honour of the spoon (by virtue of having no unpainted models alone), my army had won it’s first “Best Painted” award for the event.
Admittedly, the number of players who physically put their armies on display at this particular event were fairly slim, but it was a pretty proud moment for me regardless. After a lifetime of fairly middling performance in a fairly vast number of different hobbies, it felt good to come first at something recreational for the first time in my adult life.
To date, my Maggotkin have won me four different prizes at various events – three Best Painted Armies, one Best Painted General, and also a Most Sports Votes with the tiebreaker being a Best Army vote. I’ve made a few tweaks as I went along – I replaced my old metal Great Unclean One with the Exalted one from ForgeWorld that I so coveted when I started the army. Such a beautiful sculpt deserved a little extra effort on my part, and I made my first foray into experimenting with two-part resin to make his big crazy slimey dock base (pictured below).
The Great Unclean One himself was actually surprisingly easy to paint, and aside from putting a little extra effort into some of the edge highlights and detail on the toenails, etc he wasn’t a lot harder than my Poxbringer, Herald of Nurgle. Before painting, I sprayed him with black primer and did a two-tone zenithal – an almost full coverage of cream/tan, following by a lighter dusting of white. I then followed this up with an all-over coverage of Vallejo Yellow Ink, followed again by Athonian Camoshade, and once more with Seraphim Sepia. When the shades dried, I was honestly amazed with how practically ‘complete’ he looked already. The exposed flesh was similarly easy – a Tentacle Pink base, a flesh wash, and a fleshtone drybrush gave it plenty of rancid texture. Perhaps the most time consuming part was the pustules – like all of my Nurgle Daemons and Mortals (and even my Skaven – more on them in a later post) – they were messily painted with Heavy Red, followed by increasingly smaller blobs of Hot Orange Fire and Plague Brown, with a small and final whitehead of Bonewhite to top it off.
My Exalted Great Unclean One was around for just one tournament before the Maggotkin of Nurgle Battletome was released, which completely transformed my army. Suddenly, my slow, pillow-fisted Nurgle became a zippy mortal wound dealing death machine. And suddenly I found myself needing to paint a whole load of sizeable 0 point Gnarlmaw Models…
My other major addition to the army following the Maggotkin battletome release was a Lord of Afflictions – a replacement to my Daemon Prince as the dedicated Drone Buffer Hero, and my only brand new kit. After painting four Gnarlmaws, this was a delightful change of pace. As a single model, I could take my time a little more with the Drone itself, and the carapace highlights looked an awful lot sharper as a consequence. Similarly, I was quite happy with the balance I struck on the Drone’s flesh – some subtle inflammation blending towards the sores, but some high contrast edge highlighting on the segmentation of the body. I do think I went a bit heavy on the shade on the hero’s plate mail, and his browner armour made his edge highlights a little more stark as a consequence, but I was overall happy with how he turned out.
As a final touch to the army, I decided to make some custom objective markers. I’d like to introduce you to the ‘Seven Eyes of Nurgle’.
The concept of the objective markers is fairly simple: seven Nurgling spies sent into enemy territory to gather intelligence. In objective games of Age of Sigmar, they represent my Maggotkin attempting to retrieve them for their vital intel and the enemy trying to kill or capture them before they spill the beans. The two stacked Nurglings boosting the six markers up to seven Nurglings total was just too perfect to resist. I wanted each marker to be numbered, but I also wanted each Nurgling to have their own personality, and I think I largely achieved that. I’m particularly fond of the particularly stoic looking Trailblazer, and the Brothers Grime marking their combined height on the wooden pole.
And that’s just about it for my Maggotkin of Nurgle army. There might be bits and pieces I’ll add to the list at a later date if I feel like mixing up the way it plays, but I’m really happy with the army as-is for the most part. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for bearing with the long-winded origin story.
As always, thanks for reading! This time, I’ll leave you with one particular Maggotkin miniature I have yet to figure out a use for – the hero of Blightwar himself, Horticulous Slimux…
1 My Age of Sigmar armies in order of completion: Stormcast Eternals, Bloodbound/Skaven Soup, Maggotkin of Nurgle, Skaven – although the pure Skaven came after I sold off all of my Bloodbound elements from that army and added a shedload of Clanrats and weapon teams. More on that in a future post.
2 I needed two armies as I was only really expecting to play with whoever would let me bring my monstrous box of scenery and models around like it was a board game.
3 The event in question was a tournament named ‘The Howling’, with a wolf/lycanthrope theme. This was, of course, the perfect event for my then wolf/lycanthrope Khorne army, ‘The Wolf and the Rat’, whether it was a competitive list or not.