Friday 19 March 2021

Battlefleet Gothic - Tau Kor'vattra Fleet & Alien Auxiliaries

Defending the Empire

My Kor'vattra fleet with auxiliaries

Battlefleet gothic is a game system I dearly love and would say that although, broadly speaking it has more complex mechanics, I prefer it to other fleet based games such as Star Wars Armada.  The main reason for this is that it has a lot more variation, particularly with obstacles, the effects of gravity wells etc.  It's not a perfect game system and definitely has some balance issues (I'm looking at you Necrons...), but on the whole, it's amazing for creating narrative campaigns and special missions.  Planetary invasions / defences in particular are a blast!

Recently I decided to dust off my old Battlefleet gothic Tau Fleet which has been in storage for a number of years.  The models themselves were in good repair, but I decided to improve their original paint jobs (as my skills as a painter have improved since I originally did them) and paint their bases which gas clouds and stars rather than just having them plain black.

In total, my Tau fleets (the Forgeworld Kor'vattra ships, the Specialist Games Explorer fleet, all of my alien auxiliaries and defence platforms) total 97 miniatures.  That doesn't sound like much until you realise that a decent sized game of BFG normally involves about 10 ships per side!

The ships I'll be showing today are from the Kor'vattra protection fleet and are in my opinion some of the absolute best ship designs not only in this game, but in any game system.  They have a grace and flow to the designs which really set them apart from the ships of other races; instantly recognisable from their silhouettes.

While the Explorer fleets tend to focus mainly on ordnance domination with huge numbers of fighters, bombers, drone guided torpedoes and masses of turrets to reduce the impact of any enemy ordnance, the Kor'vattra fleet is a much more resilient in a stand up fight, with a nice range of weaponry allowing for a broader array of tactical options than just disgorging waves of ordnance.  The Kor'vattra fleet in particular focuses all of its weapons arrays to the fore, creating a deadly kill zone in front of your ships, allowing for deadly alpha strikes rather than strafing broadsides like their imperial equivalents.  Being able to loose batteries, lances and torpedoes on an enemy battleship from multiple squadrons can be devastating!

The Kor'vattra Fleet

I still have a handful of Kor'vattra ships to complete, but the majority of them have been freshened up and photographed for your viewing pleasure!

The majority of my Kor'Vattra ships - I still have another Custodian, two more Protectors and eight Wardens to finish off before I move on to the merchant fleet and defences

The Forgeworld ships were the first ones I bought when starting my fledgling battlefleet - I started off with just two Protectors, but quickly added more and more ships to the fleet.  I found them fun to use although I did have a tendency to create unwanted pile-ups with poor manoeuvring!

The fleet preparing to make a system jump

One of the most fun and unique abilities of the Tau is their drone guided torpedoes.  The bane of my friend's Nightlord fleet, unlike normal torpedoes which only move in a straight line once fired, Tau torpedoes can be steered into the path of enemy ships, chasing them around the table like a hilarious Benny Hill sketch! 

Custodian Battleships

The flexibility of their armaments, a large ordnance capacity including fighters, bombers and torpedoes  makes the Custodian Battleship a solid core for any Tau fleet.  As battleships go, they are not as resilient as Space Marine Battlebarges nor as manoeuvrable as Eldar equivalents, but their major advantage is that all of their batteries, lances and torpedo tubes are forward facing.  This means that it's easy to make sure that you are facing your opponent with all of your weapons for an alpha strike.  This is because you are always moving in the direction you wish to fire, unlike ships which require more complex manoeuvring to bring broadsides to bear.

My Custodian Flagship, The Ulysses with its three dedicated Warden escorts

One limitation of this fleet is that you can only take warden gunships up to the capacity of grav hooks in your fleet.  Each custodian has three hooks, so you rarely find yourself without a decent compliment of escorts.

Each of my Custodians is painted with a unique colour scheme as are their matching Wardens

Warden Gunships are a mainstay of the fleet as they are armed with moderate batteries and a single lance.  As they're fast and manoeuvrable, they can easily keep pace with and eliminate most enemy equivalents, protecting your larger ships from being flanked and harried.

The Agamemnon was actually the first Custodian I bought and painted.  It's a veteran of many battles

I quickly lost count of the number of times its accompanying Warden Gunships were destroyed! 

The Heracles Revenant and its Warden escorts were painted with the film Tron in mind

I was especially pleased with the dust clouds on these bases

The Ghost of Honour is painted in a 'stealth pattern'

The paint scheme grants the ability to look bad ass!

Protector Cruisers

Protectors are effectively smaller Custodians with better manoeuvrability (certainly with the V2 ruleset which allows them to make crazy 90 degree turns!).

They are a brilliant line ship and can easily go toe to toe with an equivalent imperial cruiser.  With a large number of turrets and 2 hanger bays for fighters, they're almost immune to enemy ordnance, making them harder to redirect than many other ships of their side.

My first set of Protector Cruisers, the Strike Freedom and the Infinite Justice.  I was watching a lot of Gundam at the time!

Rocking the signature paint scheme of my fleet, these stalwart defenders have seen off many enemy fleets as well as once being pulled into a black hole while fighting Necrons.  Don't ask... :(

The Sabre and the Rapier; another pair of solid ships which have seen a large number of engagements!

I liked the idea of opposite paint schemes on this pair of protectors

Protector cruisers work well together in pairs - individually I found that they tend to get picked apart by escorts because of their limited capacity for tanking damage, but in pairs, they are more than capable of punching through an escort formation or tag teaming and crippling a cruiser.

The Photronic and the Electross have different bridges to the other Protectors in the fleet. I like a little variation in my ship designs as they won't all have been constructed in the same shipyards

This pair of Protectors sport the same 'stealth' paint scheme as the Ghost of Honour - they are clearly part of the same battlegroup!

Emissary Light Cruisers

The Emissary light cruiser is a good support ship, but suffers horribly if outmanoeuvred by heavily armed gunboats like the Space Marine Nova.  Because of their low damage capacity and shields, they can be quickly crippled by a determined opponent.  I often found them to be best used for flank denials although they rarely survived any engagement unscathed!

Despite all of the drawbacks, I still adore the Emissary as the design is so iconic and for their size, they can still pack a nasty punch when used in pairs.

More veterans of my early fleet, the Firebrand and the Torchbearer were good in smaller engagements, but were a little weak against fast Space Marine Lance boats which frequently nailed them to the wall!

Despite their size, two Emissaries can still threaten an enemy flank or hide in a dust cloud and snipe with guided torpedoes!

My third Emissary, the Foil is painted again painted with the stealth scheme and sports a different bridge tower to the standard Emissaries

As it was painted after my last game of BFG, this diminutive little ship has never actually made its maiden voyage.  Hopefully it will one day fulfil its destiny (being destroyed in turn 2 by a Nightlord Nova Frigate attack)

Castellan Escorts

Castellans are the slightly larger cousins of the Warden Gunship, although they do not require grav hook capacity to be deployed.

Castellans trade the armour penetrating lance of the Warden for torpedo tubes and a slightly better array of gun batteries.  The Castellan is not meant for hunting enemy escorts, but for performing torpedo runs on capital ships.  Due to the generous torpedo capacity on Tau cruisers and Battleships, Castellans are by no means a must for a Kor'Vattra fleet, but they are fun to use when grouped in large enough squadrons to overwhelm a cruiser's turrets with a ridiculous salvo of Torpedoes!

The colour schemes and bases of my two Castellan squadrons make it easy to work out which group they are in

As with some of my other ships, these four Castellans got the stealth scheme to set them apart from their sister squadron

Courier Transport ships

I was unable to get my grubby mitts on some Forgeworld Courier Transports before they went out of print.  They were the ships I kept putting off buying as they were really only scenario / objective ships so were not really a priority.  Although I regret no buying them when I had the chance, I did eventually find a suitable replacement in the form of the rather ancient Spacefleet Thunderbolt cruiser which had a similar shape to the escort ships of the Tau Merchant fleet.  They were difficult and costly to track down, but I'm glad I invested in them as they fit in perfectly as Water Caste transports, making perfect objective ships for my games. 

Alien Auxiliaries

In addition to the core Tau fleet, I have also dusted down and tarted up my alien auxiliaries.  Although they are allies rather than part of the core fleet, the range of alien races available to the Tau add a little flavour (and unpredictability) to the fleet overall.

Kroot Warsphere

I scratch built my Kroot Warsphere as I'd decided that I wanted it to look more like a constantly spinning ball of gyroscopic hoops than a large solid block like the official metal miniature.  I still love the design even though I could probably have executed it better now that my scratch building skills have improved!

This is the largest battleship class of Kroot Warsphere (they're all effectively the same, just with more or less batteries and hull points).  I decided I was only ever going to make one Warsphere as although it's fun to use one, they're not viable as a staple warship in your fleet.

The main reasons for this inflexibility are: 

1). It only has batteries, so its firepower can be easily reduced by obstacles, range or the enemy ship's facing

2). It is so slow and ponderous that it always counts as stationary so can take devastating amounts of damage from other battleships

3). It's renowned for being one of the most annoying ships in the game to manoeuvre as you can only change your facing if you move on all ahead full orders and roll 10+ on 2D6.  As such, almost every game I played with the Warsphere ended with it shuffling off the opposite end of the board having not made a single successful turn all game...

Kroot Warsphere; The Carrion Lord 


The Nicassar are a minor auxiliary race who don't fulfil a particular niche in the Tau force outside of being able to make a 180 degree turn.  Were they better armed, Nicassar Dhow escorts might have played an important part in flanking strategies, but as they only have a modest battery armament, I often just used them to slow down enemy ships by causing shield flares or intercepting ordnance in place of more important ships.

In a similar fashion to Warden gunships, the Nicassar Dhows require a 'transport' to hop between systems.  Instead of being attached to a battleship though, the Nicassar travel the galaxy strapped together on a rig, only detaching the individual ships when they need to move independently, such as when they are needed to stop a large torpedo salvo with their fragile hull or inconvenience a battleship as above.  The rig itself is an immobile platform which is effectively a small bunch of floating victory points for your opponent.  It can't shoot and your opponent will probably ignore it in favour of literally any other target, so in game terms, it may as well be a floating space turd for all the difference it makes!

As the metal Nicassar Dhow model had been out of print for some time when I started playing BFG, I had to come up with an alternative for them.  I ended up converting some Forgeworld Eldar transport ships to make the escorts, and some parts from my bits box to produce their pointless junk trailer.  I mean rig.  Ahem. 

My 3 Dhow escorts and their interstellar caravan


The Demiurg crew enormous mining vessels which fight alongside the Tau Empire when called upon.  My Demiurg contingent consists of three ship classes; the gigantic Stronghold Battleship, the Bastion Cruiser and the Trident Escort.

When I originally built my Demiurg ships, I decided that I didn't like the way which they were meant to function, so swapped the central section around so that the ships actually move in the opposite direction to the traditional design.  This makes my Demiurg fly the same way as a Star Destroyer which I found a lot more pleasing that the original versions.

The Stronghold battleship is an absolute beast being armed with batteries, ordnance and a short ranged but horrifically powerful forward facing mining laser which can cripple an unshielded battleship in a single salvo.  The main downside of these ships is the fact that they are about as fast and manoeuvrable as a tortoise encased in a block of concrete.  They're great for facing down other slow battleships, but are generally given a wide berth by the enemy...

The Bastion cruiser is a decent ship with similar attributes to its Stronghold papa.  They work well as a mid range brawler, but due to their mercenary status, most scenarios see them crippled and jumping out of the battle when you really need them the most!

The Trident escort models were part of a pack of metal Rogue Trader ships which Games Workshop produced - I thought they looked perfect with my other Demiurg ships so created rules for them using an article from the Citadel Journal (I think?) which ended up with them being roughly the equivalent of an Imperial Firestorm Frigate.

Every Fleet needs a Commander...

Finally, my fleet wouldn't be complete without an Admiral to bark commands from his flagship!  I generally just use these miniatures to indicate the ship carrying my admiral.  Made using the now out of print Tau Air Caste miniatures from Forgeworld, I just love the look of these guys - the cape I added to Shin always makes me smile!

Fleet Admiral Shin (on the right) is the overall commander of my Kor'vattra fleet 

The commander on the left heads up the Merchant fleet in his Explorer Carrier, the Archimedes

Well, that's just over half of my Tau Fleet painted up - keep an eye out for a future post featuring the rest of my Battlefleet Gothic Tau!

Monday 8 March 2021

Imperator Titan Build Mega Update 4!

Before Christmas I packed away the Imperator Titan as it was taking up a significant portion of our living room which we required for festive decorations.  My wife remained unconvinced that a four foot robot model with tinsel over it was equal to a Christmas tree, so Ira Metallum had to be shuffled off to the garage!

This enforced hiatus also gave me time to work on other projects such as the Trogg King which was a nice change of pace and gave me the opportunity to stretch my freeform sculpting muscles again.

Initially I wanted my 40th birthday in February to be the end point for my Imperator build, but due to [real life], I had to pause work for a few months which really put a dent in my schedule.  At the start of February I started pondering the big questions like; 'does the Imperator need stabilising toes?' and 'how will I segment the armour plating?'.  This led me to start sketching and reworking the foot and shin designs.


This sketch convinced me that I could incorporate stabilising toes between the main ones without compromising the overall look.  I also decided that each shin would have a Vulcan Mega Bolter just above the bunker door

In addition to the stabilising toes, I also decided on the addition of a single large rear facing toe.  I have not yet decided on whether I'll add stabilising toes to the rear... 

Initially, I drew up a toe which was closer to the reaver in design, with flat tapering panels, but I decided that this was a little pedestrian and didn't really fit with the rest of the design

I liked the overall shape of the first design, but reworked it a few times trying to fit the general aesthetic I was going for.  This was the final look that I settled on

From these sketches I built the basic shapes from foamex, starting with the sole of the toe, then packed the void with tinfoil and sculpted the details with greenstuff and milliput.  Once this had cured, I sanded and filled, repeating the process until I had a nice finish.

To give you an idea of scale, this 'small' toe is half the size of a Warlord Titan head!  (That's my custom warlord head which I re-sculpted - I'll go into that further down in this post...)

Once I was happy with the shape and finish, I applied rivets to the trim and panel work

From the rear you can see the main ball connector and the holes for the pistons to be attached

I was pleased with the trim design wrapping over the knuckle of the toes as it adds a nice feature to break up the flat panels

From this master, I made a silicone mould and ran off several resin copies of the toe.  Overall, I think it turned out really nicely!

Inner shins

In order to get the legs locked into the feet and shins, I would need to complete the detailing and paint any hard to reach areas in advance of the final assembly and fixing the titan to its base.  As such, I needed to get the inner shins detailed in a similar way to the thighs.  I had sketched out the inner shins previously, but opted for a slightly different design for the inner sections.

This was my original blueprint for the shins, but I decided to make some changes for the inward facing sides

After working out the final design on graph paper and making a template, I cut out the top layer from 2mm foamex sheet and gathered together all of the components I intended to use for the final assembly.  I did end up changing some of the components during the build, but most made it onto the final surface

The basic mockup

Assembly in progress!

The completed inner shin.  I was so happy with the caged service ladder - I've always wanted to make one, but never had a reason until now!
From above, you can see how the service ladder fits nicely behind the armour plating to protect anyone brave enough to venture outside the titan!

Both inner shins detailed - the outer shins will be similar, but I will not be adding a service ladder to the outside of the legs as it would lave personnel to exposed to enemy fire! 

While I was working on the shins, I also added detail to the 'inner' inner shins running the length of the main piston.  It's an area which will remain mostly unseen so didn't require lavish detail, but I'd know it was barren and that would bother me!

Thigh armour

The original Imperator Titan didn't actually have any thigh armour plating, but I thought this was a little cavalier of the Mechanicum given the amount of fire the legs would be likely to take!

While designing my Imperator, I made sure to reference the existing Forgeworld titan range as it's important that Ira Metallum fits in with the rest of my growing legio.  With that in mind, I intended to give curves to the majority of the armour plating, even if only subtle compared to some of the sweeping curves of a warlord.

As the thigh plates needed to fit the contours of the endoskeleton very closely, I mapped out the panel on card and used that to make sure that the fit was right.  This involved chopping pieces off and cutting extra sections until I was happy with the overall shape as it sat over the thigh

Once I'd cut out the panel shapes, I assembled them to form the basic boxy plate which I made minor adjustments to while checking the fit

This is the underside of the panel which includes a rail which locks onto the thigh receiver.  You also notice that I reinforced the styrene curve at the front with putty as I would need to shape the armour a little later on when I hit the sanding phase

I detailed the knee in advance of fitting the armour plate so I knew how much clearance would be required.  Note the rail receivers on the upper thigh and the fact that they intentionally avoid the area which would move for the shock absorbers within the thigh

The armour did fit with only minor tweaks here and there.  Although I have only pictured one, I actually did the box construction for both thigh plates at the same time for consistency.  I'm currently working on the second thigh plate now that I have learned some valuable lessons with this one!

The thigh armour has a cut-out to accommodate the electrical cables which will run between the pelvis and inner thighs

I created all of the curved areas using a putty mix and then carefully sanded, filled and re-sanded the surface until it was smooth.

At this point, I started to draw the details and trim layout straight onto the armour so I could get a good idea of what I'd need

With a project this large and complex, any time which can be saved with casting is worth the additional effort and cost.  I produced a sheet of trim and panel details which I could use in multiple areas.  This gave the added benefit of making sure that they remained consistent regardless of where they appear on the model

I created a silicone mould of the sheet so I can run off sets as I need them

The first casting!

The first run all cleaned up - I was very pleased with how they turned out!

I added the trim and insignia to the thigh plate...

Which required some minor filling and sanding along with rivets before taking its place on the thigh!

Knee Pads

As I have mentioned before, compound curves are the most difficult thing to produce - especially in pairs!  It took me a long time to work out a process which would work without costing the earth or taking an age to produce.  It's a little odd, but here's how I went about creating the curved knee pads.

Firstly, I think it's important to describe my dilemma - foamex is strong, light and great for any straight edges which do not need to bend.  If you try to bend or heat foamex, it creases, snaps or melts, so this was not the best material for the job.  I have created curved areas such as the pelvis using the 'loaf of bread' technique which is a number of sheets cut to size to create the shape with many layers, but it's not ideal for smaller areas like the knee pads.

Styrene can be bent far more easily unlike foamex, but it also has limitations.  In general, styrene can bend in one direction.  If you try to bend it in more than one direction, it will simply snap and / or buckle.  You can heat styrene and bend it, but I find the material far too unpredictable with heat - it has a tendency to deform with heat, so you can't get a consistent shape without a vacuum forming tool, which is a very expensive way of solving the problem!

Eventually I came up with another option.  Enter Worbla - it's a special thermo plastic which can be heated and formed into any shape then becomes more rigid once it's cooled again. It's mainly used for cosplay as it can be used to produce lightweight armour plating with minimal effort and can be cut with shears or large scissors so is very easy to use.  It also has another curious property which is that when heated, two pieces of Worbla can be stuck together, creating a solid bond.  This can be done again and again without any degradation in strength!  I find this endlessly fascinating, but I do recognise that I am probably alone in this! :)

I created a template with graph paper then test fit this to ensure I had the correct size next to the legs.  I then marked and cut out two identical knee pads in Worbla.

The knee pads were checked against the model for size

I used a heat gun and a ball cock as a jig to shape the armour plates, being careful not to stretch or deform them while creating the curves

Here are the curved knee pads next to the template

The Worbla on its own is not thick or rigid enough, but it acts as a shaped anchor for me to encase in putty.  Once cured, the putty shell is extremely rigid and durable

I constructed a frame at the rear of the plates to connect to the outer knee curves being sure to avoid the central knee ratchet 

After the putty was fully cured, I coated the whole surface with car body filler which would thicken the pads and allow for a nice smooth surface once sanded.

Once sanded, the knee pads just needed trim and detailing!

The right knee pad looks great with the completed thigh plate

The left knee pad design is a deliberate nod to the warlord titan although much larger! 

Although I've not mentioned it specifically until now, I also finished building and attaching the toes to the right foot.  This was not a small task, but as I have covered a foot build previously, I didn't feel it was necessary to go over it again!  Once I've completed the second thigh plate and outer shins on the exoskeleton, it will be full speed ahead on the shin armour plates!


I did some more design work on the Imperator head as I wasn't 100% sold on my previous designs and I had learned a fair bit about what would work while creating my custom Warlord head!

The new Imperator head design

The new interior design which will house the princeps, a moderati and 2 steersmen

Ira Metallum's princeps

Warlord Titan Head

Although I am still saving up my pennies for a Forgeworld Warlord Titan, I bought the Mars Beta Warlord head a while ago when I visited Warhammer World as I wanted to convert it to more closely resemble the MK II Epic Warlord Titan from yesteryear.

My favourite of the old epic warlord head sculpts - the MK II head screams Legio Metalica!

A sketch of how I envisaged my Warlord head

The Mars Beta head after completing the sub assemblies - I needed to put it together to work out exactly what would need to be nipped and tucked

The Mars Beta Warlord head after the initial 'alterations' were made.  Also a snapshot of the moment I looked at it objectively and questioned what I'd just done.

This is a picture of what £65 looks like on the other side of a wood chipper

I won't describe all of the steps which got me to the final sculpt as it's fairly self explanatory.  Below are the pictures I took throughout the process. (The final pictures show the head with a basic paint scheme, but I still need to add details and decals!)

A parting Trogg

I felt that my Troggherd was missing some magical assistance, but I didn't want to sully the purity (or stupidity?) of my Troggoths with a goblin.  I decided to procure a Sourbreath Troll to convert into a Fungoid Cave Shaman.  I was quite pleased how he turned out as he fit beautifully onto a 32mm base making him a great proxy for the goblin alternative!