You may have an army with 120 models….but just a handful are going rise above the rest. They are going to get used in more games, constantly be on your radar during a game, and are likely to get the attention of both your opponent and any random spectator. These, of course, are your HQ and character choices. Converting them, even slightly, has so many benefits to making your game play more enjoyable. While the atheistic enhancements are a nice plus, conversions can really also provide utilitarian benefits when it comes to these tabletop VIPs.
- Efficiency: Having your key units stand out with little conversions will help you quickly identify them on the table and remind you of them, their location, and their relevance to the current battle round.
- Differentiation: Having three of the same unit choice, but one with the “relic,” * can get confusing for both you and your opponent unless there are obvious, identifying differences added to the stock model.
- Transportation: Some…ok…many… character models, seem to have unnecessarily large shapes or bits that simply jut out and make fitting into a foam tray or transport case a nightmare.
- Protection: Games Workshop knows we love our fancy HQ models with details and dynamic poses,** but many of these details come at the cost of the structural integrity of the whole model. Narrow limbs/beams supporting top heavy models is just a recipe for a beloved model to break mid-game.
- Points: Some events give out hobby points, which can be the deciding factor in who becomes the overall event winer. Conversions on unique character units will overshadow the industrial-line-built hoard of troop choice models that you may have quickly assembled and painted.
Here are a few ways add useful conversions to your HQs and other characters, so that they can be the most practical models possible.
With 60 Primaries Marines or 120 Cadian Infantry Guardsmen on the table, those Squad Sargents are going to get lost on the table. It is even worse for hoard armies, like Orks, where a squad may have 29 Boyz and a single Nob(their squad Sargent equivalent). Placement of these unit leaders is always important, but especially in the 8th edition charge phase, where they need to be within range of the enemy to dish out the damage with their additional attacks characteristic and special weapons. There are many ways to get these unit leaders to stand out amongst their squad, but the easiest conversion is to give them a bit of height. Place the model on a rock so they stand head and shoulders above the rest. Or literally replace the stock model with a significantly larger version so that you can quickly identify them. Another advantage of using a taller or larger model is so that you can more easily pick them up and move them first to ensure they get the preferential treatment that they deserve. In my Snake Bite Ork army that runs Boyz squads of 30, I replaced the Nob with a standard Age of Sigmar Savage Orruk Big Boss. This model not only fits thematically, but is also significantly larger than the rest of his squad.
Sometimes you might run a bunch of HQ options, but they all have slightly different loads outs. Other times the HQ option looks basically identical to the non-HQ options in the game. In either of these cases, adding little bits and pieces can pay huge dividends and prevent confusion. Astra Militartum Tank Commanders look the same a their generic, heavy support counterparts, the standard issue Leman Russ Battle Tank. Adding something like a special character popping out of the hatch, in addition to an enlarged comms array or a flag, can really make it obvious just which tank is the one providing orders and rocking a BS of 3+.
And, if you are going to run multiple, identical Tank Commanders or unit options kitted out similarly, then there is always the option to paint them slightly differently with squad marking and accents. Or, give them distinct names. This way you can write down on your army list, which unit has got the relic or is acting as your official warlord. These tanks each have a name on the back of the turret to keep things clear. Writing on the back of the turret also makes sure that the name is usually facing towards me so I can quickly reference each tank by name.
Playing an optimized list can often mean playing with multiples of the same HQ choice. And usually these will be significantly smaller than Tank Commanders. Astra Militartum Company commanders on their 28mm base are pretty tiny in comparison and you still need to know which guy, has what special rule or weapon. This is where you want to put some real conversion time in by adding on that proper weapon to represent the relic or giving them distinct stances and appearances so that you easily can differentiate. That is what I did here with my “Royal Guard” Company Commanders.
My beloved Snake Bite Orks list runs multiple Weirdboyz and each has their own psychic powers. Instead of kit bashing yet another model for this army, I swapped in an Age of Sigmar model that fit the part fine, rather than use a second identical model from the 40K line. If GW made multiple kits or options for the 40K Weirdboy, then then I would just use two different kits, but like many GW HQ choices, there is only a single model readily available off the shelf.
Another quick tip is to add a little terrain, plant, familiar, beast, or pet to the Character’s base. Not only does this enable folks out there who are less inclined to do heavy conversion work, get something to differentiate their models, but it also can add a lot of personality to your army. My Yarrick counts-as model has an old metal Mordheim dog to dutifully join him in battle and make sure he stands out from the standard commissars.
Removing fidgety bits is highly recommended whenever possible. Yea, you might lose a some atheistic value, but you also lose the constant headache of having to re-glue these pieces. Many times GW will add cool little details that hang just off a models base or “hover” over a model’s head by just the tiniest piece of plastic. The new Sisters of Battle sculpts are a great example. But even older models have things that are not necessary and very prone to breaking off. Removing these delicate pieces, when possible, will make transportation easier and prevent you from accidentally breaking the model each time you move them on the tabletop. Of course you will always want to give your opponent the benefit of the doubt if they question why you have removed something that may have significantly decreased your ability to stay out of line of sight. You never want to be viewed as someone who models for competitive advantage. But in my years of playing 40k, I have never really had there be a problem with this both in competitive and non competitive play.
Epic heroes (and villains) are often guilty have having scenic bases that have so much going on that they are an entire hobby project on their own. Anyone playing in an ITC tournament should use the correct base size on their model, but this does not mean you cannot cover up or remove little parts of the base to speed up the process of getting the model table top ready for your next event.
On my personal take of Robute Guilliman, I wanted to make it as friendly to transport and as break-proof as possible, since this lynchpin character was going to be getting in a lot of game time. I also needed him completed quickly so that he was ready for the Las Vegas Open. So I snipped off the decorative fire filed braziers that were super spindly and prone to snapping. I also opted to not glue down the dead Chaos Space Marine to the base, as this would have just been another time consuming thing to paint on an already complicated model. I covered the area with a lot of GW Texture Paint*** and applied grass tufts to fill the void.
PLEASE REMEMBER to not try to game the system: these conversions are not ever intended to give you an advantage tactically or leverage the rules unfairly. Don’t be a jerk and cut off Mortarion’s wings so that he can hide easier. Be cool and convert responsibly.
Hopefully this helps you a bit in getting your stuff on the table top and making it as efficient as possible to use.
*Like the popular Ork list comprised of three Shock Attack Guns. One of them being the relic Super Shock Attack Gun.
**That new Howling Banshee sculpt, “with the hair”, that GW just released is exceptionally guilty of this.
***Holy fish sticks this stuff is amazing! Yeah you can do your own thing with sand and rocks…but not everyone lives in a dessert. And if basing quickly is something you value, than this stuff can’t be beat to get the job done.
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