There are countless reasons why you may want to get thematic army on the tabletop for you next GT. Maybe you want to be a special snowflake and have something that everyone oohh’s and aahh’s over. Maybe you just finished a great book from the Black Library and are desperate to replicate a force featured in the book. Or maybe you are eager to earn points on the hobby track and are looking for ways to include conversions in your army. Regardless of why you want a thematic army, there are several tips to keep in mind when starting this sort of army.
Stick with the theme for the entire army. Nothing will destroy the immersive effect of a truly thematic army like having a unit or two that are simply bolt standard or aesthetically don’t meet the flavorful character of the rest of the army. Unloved units that do not look like the rest of your thematic army, will have eyes drawn to them as they stick out like sore thumbs … and this is exactly what you do not want people focusing on when you have such awesome stuff on the table. So keep in mind that even the lowliest of guardsmen should do a proper job of fitting in with the rest of the army.
Head swaps are easy to do and totally affect the whole appearance of a model because people naturally first look at faces. So a mini may be entirely standard, but a head variant on it, can make the entire mini seem like a custom sculpt. Full on kit bashes of course take things even further and can lead to some astonishingly creative builds. Finding two kits that work well can inspire the entire theme for building an army. The torsos and legs of the AoS Freeguild Greatswords set can allow for a very thematic medieval vibe which a full detachment of various infantry troopers can be built around. Or as I have done with my army, the Savage Orruks box became the foundation for the majority of the models that make my 40K Feral Orks.
Search the FLG Second Hand Shop and the web for hard to find old/classic models that could be units in your army. Games Workshop has been around for a surprisingly long time and there are plenty of gems that are no longer in production but have so much potential for use in an army going for a certain aesthetic or theme. So many out of production minis make great character choices or can help fill out multi-model units with thematic anchors.
Tacking on little details can make a big difference in how the whole army is viewed. Simply adding a backpack, or icon, or doodad to each model in your army can quickly make it fit a theme. Especially if these little items are highlighted with brighter paint colors or techniques to stand out and get attention. GW already sells upgrade packs for various Space Marine chapters that have accessories and details to theme-up your power armor troopers. But you can find plenty of details from all sorts of kits that can be combined with the base model that you are building upon. Have an aquatic themed Eldar army? Then conceder taking bits from the new Idoneth Deepkin range from Age of Sigmar. Want to make your Astra Militartum army come across as a Imperial militia or PDF detachment? then Genestealer Cult kits have auto guns and random grenades/pouches that should do the trick. There are so many awesome sets between AoS, 40K, and the specialist games, that chances are several options you can buy that would work perfectly for your theme.
With a thematic army you can, and likely should, take the opportunity to totally go all-out on converting and themeing-up key centerpiece models. Whether they are character models on 40mm bases or massive Lords of War that dominate the table landscape, these are the units that will really carry the army’s concept and get the most attention. Take time with these and really get creative.
Paint is a simple, safe way to keep your whole army cohesive even if some models are crazy conversions while others are built straight out of the box. Using the same color palette can blend even the most generic of models into the rest of a fighting force that may be filled with over the top customization. This is especially the case with models like Space Marines that have such defined colors schemes- you can branch away from those GW created schemes and paint your minis in a totally unique way that fits the theme you envisioned even if there are zero kit bashes or bits added on. Find a color palette that you like and are comfortable with. It needs to include some bold accent colors. Then use this set of colors on every single model in the army.
Make sure you have a theme you love; A theme you are passionate about. And then you must also accept that you will likely never be uber competitive with this army. It will take you far too long to kit bash and lovingly paint models to meet the pace of the ever changing meta with a totally converted army. Plus, some themes simply do not lend themselves to ever being that good. As much as you may love Leman Russ Battle Tanks, making an entire army that is purely armored units with zero infantry is probably not going to do that good in an ITC event. If you love the concept of your thematic force enough, then getting your your butt kicked during competitive matches should not deter you from playing with your army.
Thinking about the above points should hopefully help you finally get a fully built and painted thematic army on the table top…even if it means your next GT record is going to look more like 1-4, than 4-1.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!