Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

Sevatar, In Resin Clad

No prizes for guessing who you can preorder now.



So. Games Workshop have made a mini of one of my characters. That’s a sentence I’ve basically hoped would be true since I was a little kid, and is a pretty significant tick on the bucket list. I thought this’d be a moment where I jumped up and down and shrieked in playgroundish delight, but the truth (just like the day I hit the New York Times bestsellers’ list) is a bizarre sense of awestruck serenity.

More surreal than anything else.

Well, surreal and awesome.

It’s both obvious and weird that it’s Sev. Obvious because he’s easily my most popular and asked-about character, and he has a rank in the Heresy that deserves some time on the tabletop. Weird because authors don’t always write what they love; sometimes they write what they have ideas for at any given time. I occasionally joke about not liking him the way Paul Sheldon doesn’t like Misery Chastain. That’s not true but the analogy always tickles me, and there’s at least a thread-thin sliver of truth there. I like that people like him. That matters more, sometimes, especially when you’re trying to tell people a story.

But I digress. There’s gushing to be done.

Dat mini, tho.

People will ask if he matches what’s in my head, and I’ll say no – because that’s the truth. He looks waaaaay better for a start, and secondly, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really have concrete and definite pictures in my head for every detail of a character’s appearance. When I see artwork or modelled incarnations of my characters, I do the same thing I do when I’m writing them: I look for the 3-4 key details and the overall vibe. Talos isn’t a clear, definite image in my mind: he’s a vague aura of characteristics and details, like the runic faceplate; the exposed cables of Mark V armour; the broken Aquila on his chestplate; and the distinctive weapons he stole – all with an aura of melancholic anger and optimistic self-delusion, which is the core of his personality to me.

Capture a handful of key details and the overall vibe, and I’m sold. That’s how it always is with the many models and pieces of artwork I get sent, depicting my characters. That’s how it is with my novel covers, too.

So… what about Sevatar?

It’s impossible to overstate just how rad and fucking brutal Sev looks in his tabletop incarnation. Alan Bligh and John French gave him awesome, characterful rules, and Forge World’s Steve Whitehead has floored me with this resin-born slice of wickedness.

What can I even say, really? He looks perfect. The model speaks for itself.

(Also, I maximum adore the bareheaded Ravenloft look he’s got going on here, and in his HH book artwork.)


January 29, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 7 Comments

A Tale of Five Heretics: Red Team, Update #1

The Traitors (consisting of Eddie, Alan and Ead) have hobbied and lobbied about 16,000,000 times harder than me and John on the Loyalist side, meaning that in the absence of any Blue Team information, here’s a feature-length cavalcade of good juju from the Red Team.

Me and John have got to get into gear, or the Space Wolves and Blood Angels are going to have a pretty poor showing. Part of my problem is that I’m not all that keen on my test Wolves, and I keep wanting to use all their names in a Heresy novel instead of as army background. But mostly, it’s just that Eddie’s upset me because my Marines look shit. I’ll have to man up.

Here’s this update’s Contents List:

  1. Eddie’s Fallen Angels – including background text: “Caliban’s Wrath”.
  2. Alan’s Alpha Legion.
  3. Ead’s Iron Warriors – including background text: “Rakharyz Tactical Squad” and “Zhukar the Unyielding”.

First up, everyone’s favourite disgustingly talented asshole: Eddie Eccles of the First Legion, with his vile Fallen Angels that I’m not jealous of at all, and that don’t make me cry.

—   —   —

“It’s been a pretty busy month of Dark Angels hobby.

After furious hours of painting, twenty Knight-Legionaries and a Contemptor Dreadnought are complete and ready to kick ass and chew gum (and in the 31st millennium, shipping tithes and warp-storm interference has lead to an acute shortage of Legion approved gum).

Eddie's full army so far.

Eddie’s full army so far.

Is he even serious?

Venerable Brother Accolon.

Why is he doing this to me?

Accolon’s bsword ‘Caladbolg’, the Everblade of Al Baradad.

Jesus Christ.

First Sergeant Caradoc and his Inner Circle Knight-Legionaries.

I sort of hate him, and I know you do, too.

A close-up of the heraldic detailing all over Eddie’s hatefully perfect Dark Angels. 

Another picture of me hating Eddie.

The Knight-Legionaries of Squad Cadorius.

Just die, Edward.

Squad Cadorius – Close-up.

A level of detail that makes me despise Eddie all the more.

“Some chump. He doesn’t get a name. He gets a bolter and stands at the front of the unit. It’s best not to get too attached to them by giving them names.” — Eddie.

Even the hazard stripes have battle damage. Fuck off, Eccles.

Behind the scenes, there was some quite brutally polite (all very English and passive-aggressive) swaggering going on with Eddie guilt-tripping Ead into doing hazard striping for his Iron Warriors. Eddie achieved this by – of course – showing off how to do it better than any of the rest of us.


Squad Caradoc and Venerable Brother Accolon.

Ugh. UGH.

Anotehr shot of Squad Caradoc.


“While writing this, I’m not yet sure if the rest of the Heretical Five (that’s a rare Enid Blyton novel BTW) will have finished their pledges. My suspicion is that some of them may not have had such a productive hobby month as myself. Unlike them of course, I do not have the disadvantage of adoring children or a social life. As always, loved ones have proven a huge obstacle to productivity (unless they can be trained to assemble plastic kits and basecoat.)

I have to remember though, with this challenge, the hobby is only half the battle (the other half is knowledge as all good G.I.Joe fans know). I also have to come up with some awesome-cool background for my army, that goes beyond my usual fallback story of “Here are some Space Marines – fuck em up!”.

While in the hobby or gaming sphere, I feel i can hold my my own with the best of them, my writing credentials don’t hold up to much scrutiny (GCSE grade B!). I am, after all, in the company of a New York Times bestselling author, one of BL’s up’n coming stars, the man behind the quite excellent Horus Heresy Betrayal and Ead, who can also write words good.

Still, I will strive to do what I can. My hope is, that through spending considerable time amongst talented authors, some of their skill will have leached into me via osmosis. Much like pig-farmers inevitably smell of manure, and most nuclear scientists are slightly radioactive and sterile. It is, I grant you, a bit of a long shot.

You can read my background below, or you could just skip straight ahead and read Aaron’s much better background (which is kind of like a free HH novelette if you think about it (a novelette is created when a novel and a novella love each other very much))

So what’s next for the First Legion?

I’ve always wanted a Land Raider.

In the many Marine armies I have collected over the years, none of them have had a Land Raider and it’s high time that was rectified.”

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“I’m a big fan of the new Dark Angel 40k fighter with the mini-chapel on its back, and I wanted something similar for the Raider. I kind of see the Dark Angel tanks being extensions of their Order monastery-castles back on Caliban, so that’s what I built: a rolling fortress-church with the firepower of half a company.

(I know you can’t actually put the guns that it has on a Land Raider, but so what? you’re not the boss of me, I can do what I like.)

With any luck Arrogance’s Redoubt will be painted ready for the next blog update.

If I get the time, I might even look at doing some Terminator’s by next month as well.

Aaron asked me to slow down a little, but I’m just going to carry on painting even more stuff to make him look bad.(sorry Aaron). 

Until next time – Eddie.”

—   —   —

Caliban’s Wrath:

High Castellan Yvain paced the corridors of his ship. There was nothing else to do. Along the grand avenues of Caliban’s Wrath, his slow footfalls were heavy echoes in the reverential silence.

 Three months.

 Three months since the 25th Knights Company of the Dark Angels had last seen battle. If you could call it a battle.

Even pacification was probably to strong a word. The extermination a lost colony of humanity, clinging to an inhospitable rock on the wrong side of nowhere. They had refused to be enlightened, so they had been destroyed. The human inhabitants of Al Baradad had fought bravely, and against most invader’s that might have been enough. But against the Emperor’s Angels, the outcome was never in doubt. They had died to a man. Would he have done differently? If the Lion had opted for war against this new Imperium rather than brotherhood. Would he not have fought and died for his home? for Caliban? he knew the answer, and it did not sit well with him.

 Three months since that battle.

Not a bolt fired in anger or a foe to match blade against. The 312 Legionaries aboard Caliban’s Wrath kept busy as best they could: the training cages rang with the clash of black steel and distant echoes of the firing range could be heard across half the ship. Nothing outwardly had changed, but a dark foreboding had settled across the ship during it’s painstaking crawl back towards civilisation. 92 days of blindly stumbling through a turbulent warp until being spat out, time and again into the silent vastness of the void. Freak warp storms had made what should have been a simple trip back to Imperial space into a gruelling ordeal for the ships navigators.

 But the journey back from Al Baradad had not been without incident.

 While passing through the althorn cluster, the Wrath of Caliban has stumbled upon the crippled Ravenguard battleship Shadowfall. The Dark Angels had naturally offered aid to the  stricken vessel. In response, the Ravenguard ship had fired up its warp drive and made an immediate jump. Why the crew of a Legion ship felt that such action was necessary was a  serious cause for concern. A concern that several of his officers had voiced. He had no answers for them. Castellan Yvain had a horrible suspicion that not all was well in the Galaxy, but with the apparent inability of his astropaths to contact anyone who wasn’t standing on the same room as themselves, it didn’t look like he would have answers any time soon.

 The vox buzzed into discordant activity.


 The distorted voice of First Knight-Seargent Caradoc crackled to life in his ear.

Yvain reached a hand to his helmet-mounted receiver.

 “Report, brother.”

 “I’m in the Librarium. It’s the Archivist. I think you need to get here right away.”


 The Archivist was the longest serving member of the First Legion’s Librarian Corps. He was as old as anything could be in this new age, and his body was wearied as much by time as by the ethereal powers that had drained his vitality in exchange for the power of the warp. He seldom wore his armour out of battle, and instead adopted the simple robed attire of a scribe. His hair was long, a silvered main that framed a face as ancient as the rock of Caliban.

 All of this, Yvain had seen before.

But the screaming. That was new.

The Archivist pulsed with power. Two Knight-Legionaries were doing their best to hold him, but waves of invisible force buffeted everything around him, it tore books from their shelves, and sent servo skulls clattering across the room.

His eyes were fire. Golden orbs of psychic power that bled pulsar light. His voice was a void cry of despair.

“He’s been like this for ten minutes”

Knight-Seargent Caradoc addressed the Castellan as he entered.

Yvain strode over to the struggling Librarian. Caradoc moved in beside him, a hand wandering to rest on the pommel of his sword.

“Brother, what is happening to you?”

The Archivist turned his head jerkily to regard the Castellan. Slowly, the thrashing stopped and the screaming died away. He held the Yvain’s gaze with eyes that faded slowly from a solar flare to oceanic green.

Then he spoke, and his words were a choir. None of the voices were his.

“Hear me, brother.

Our Imperium is undone.

The Lion will fall, the sword will shatter and we will be lost.

The carrion’s call will bring death to us on wings of bone.

Let all loyal sons of Caliban return to her, and we may yet save her soul, and with it, our own.”

The Archivist’s head slumped and silence reigned, broken only by the ragged breathing of the ancient Librarian.

Seconds passed.

Knight-Seargent Caradoc was the first to speak.

“What was that about?”

Yvain regarded the unconscious figure of the Archivist.

“I do not know brother, but I think we need to get back to Caliban. Right now.”

—   —   —

—   —   —

So, that’s Eddie’s immense contribution. He has a lot more on the go than that Land Raider, but that can wait until next time.

Next in line is Alan, with his Alpha Legion. He’s less of a talker than Eddie. Alan, like me, is knee-deep in the dead, fighting back the Deadline Beast. It makes him terse and, dare I say, more heroic. More authorly.

He also has the fine excuse of screwing his arm up recently, and being busy at work on the next book in the Horus Heresy range, following on from Betrayal.


Terminator Harrow: Dagon Sigma.

Dagon Sigma

Another shot of Terminator Harrow: Dagon Sigma.

Nuran Lorne

Nuran Lorne, Master of Signal.


Alan’s been busy, as you can see. Alan takes bad photos, as – again – you can see. Alan paints very well, as you can’t see, due to Point #2.

Destructor Harrow: Calix Kappa

—   —   —

And to round things off with yet more shamefully significant progress, the mighty Ead (he of Forge World’s Minotaurs fame). He’s been Iron Warrioring like a boss, using these bad boys in some official playtesting, as well as getting a bunch of shit-hot thematic background text done, too.

Ead and Eddie are plainly kicking all our arses to heck and back.

Dreadnought Malbeus.

Dreadnought Zhukar the Unyielding, showing off his Kheres assault cannon’s heat bloom.

I'm in love with his mud effects. I feel no shame in admitting it.

The first Rapier of Digamma-Omicron-Zero-Mu Battery. “I’m chuffed with that guy’s grumpy face.” — Ead.

This tank seems killy.

Child of Thunder, Deimos-pattern Predator Executioner.


Child of Thunder, Deimos-pattern Predator Executioner.


Child of Thunder, Deimos-pattern Predator Executioner. “With hazard striping, just for Eddie.” — Ead.

Rakharyz Tactical Squad. These guys have their background plotted out – see below.

Rakharyz Tactical Squad: The I Tactical squad of the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company, Rakharyz Tactical Squad has long been a keystone of Warsmith-General Mitras’s battlefield success, and the squad has stormed ramparts and breaches both human and xenos alike in their Crusade to reunite the scattered fiefs of humanity.

Traditionally, the sergeant of Rakharyz eschews the more esoteric weapons of the Iron Warriors in favour of the trusted bolter, and the high-capacity box and drum magazines used by the squad are something of a signature. Their method of war is to obliterate the foe beneath a merciless storm of accurate bolter fire and a punishing advance, and while every shot is made to count, it is not uncommon for the members of the squad to expend thousands of rounds in any given engagement. The squad habitually refuses a Rhino, operating constantly at or close to their full strength of twenty battle-brothers through greatly-expedited implantation and hypno-indoctrination procedures, and the apothecarion’s grafting of augmetic limbs to charred stumps and replacing ravaged nerves with micro-fibre cabling. They embody the IV Legion’s doctrine of unyielding advance and concentrated firepower, breaching strongpoints and redoubts with their dogged stubbornness and brutal volley fire. The unforgiving nature of their chosen role means that few engagements end without injury to the brothers of Rakharyz. 

Their bloodiest undertaking was the destruction of the Nozhetarushi, the Technomancers; a human civilisation that unrepentantly made war against the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company and their Crusade fleet. Scattered across a handful of worlds, the Nozhetarushi utilised hideous and blasphemous technologies; machines guided by abhorrent intelligences that did not require symbiosis with man to operate. A long and brutal campaign ensued, and finally only a single world remained in the hands of the misguided Nozhetarushi. The Imperial Army cohorts of the 986th were scattered before the punishing firepower of the terrible sentiences that served as warriors, and with the line beginning to crumble, Rakharyz marched forward, bolters braced tight to shoulders. The massed fire of the Nozhetarushi flailed at them, casting Iron Warriors from their feet, yet Rakharyz took not a backward step; their fallen rose and took up their bolters in bloodied hands. As soon as they entered bolter range, a great volley rang out, many of the battle-brothers firing with a single hand due variously to the loss of their limbs, or the need to bear their wounded fellows. For over a kilometre of shattered ground, the squad advanced, firing a volley with each stride, their shells blasting apart the mechanical warriors that stood against them, until they stood even unto the heart of the last redoubt, the ruin of their foes smote upon the rubble about them in shards and rags both artificial and biological. Sergeant Zhestok himself, one arm torn from his body and his war-plate haning in shreds about him, planted the Aquila through the chest of the last lord of the Nozhetarushi, and declared the Technomancers destroyed. Eighteen members of the squad were rated unfit for combat following their assault into the breach, and it would be seven compliances before Rakharyz stood at full strength once more.


Spirodon Tactical Support Squad.


Venerable Brother Zhukhar the Unyielding, entombed within Ferrus Pertinax.

Zhukar the Unyielding: Brother Zhukhar stood alongside Centurion-Marshall Uborevich in the Emperor’s name, purging heinous agri-cults in the Nordafrik Conclaves and debased data-warlock tribes in the ravaged cities of the Francks, earning a reputation for unerring marksmanship, cold strategy and merciless humours.

When the Wars of Unification became the Great Crusade, the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company voyaged far from Terra and their Legion brothers alike, reclaiming world after world from the clutches of Old Night. They fought xenos predators and tainted petty-fiefdoms alike, and always did Zhukhar form the tip of the Iron Warrior’s spear, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tauromanch; matching his commander’s hammer blows with brutal firepower. Upon the benighted world of 15-986-22, the Iron Warriors stood against a nameless xeno-kind, strange creatures that took the forms of others to disguise their own, armed with beam weapons of an unknown design. The fighting was cruel and constant, and casualties were high, forcing the Iron Warriors to construct long chains of redoubts and fortifications to house their supplies and for their Apothecaries to minister to the wounded.

The largest of these was ringed with many-layered defences; bunkers and trenches in an impenetrable pattern, and it was here that Zhukhar’s command came under an attack in unprecedented strength. The xenos-breed seemingly ignored the defence lines, attacking directly into the central keep and seeking out wounded Space Marines with blasphemous vigour. Zhukhar ordered his brothers to withdraw, personally forming the rearguard and pacing steadily backwards. His rotor cannon burned red-hot with his ceaseless fire, and the alien beam-weapons inflicted terrible wounds upon him.

Zhukhar cared not and despite his torn flesh managed to overload the great antomantic arc-reactor that powered the keep, outnumbered hundreds of times over. The resulting blast engulfed the majority of the xenos force, and Uborevich the Tauromanch was able to isolate and destroy the remainder with ease. Zhukhar’s remains, blind and horribly rent, were recovered in the midst of the shattered keep and by some fluke chance life still burned in him.
The Contemptor-pattern dreadnought Ferrus Pertinax had recently been delivered to the CMLXXXVIth by the Mechanicum Forge-Barque that accompanied the fleet, and Zhukhar – already being called The Unyielding for his stubborn and uncaring defence – was entombed within it. The weapon he so often fielding in life was replaced with an early-pattern Kheres assault cannon, and restored, Zhukhar yet stands alongside his Centurion-Master in war undending.


He seems unhappy.

Centurion-Marshall Uborevich, named ‘Tauromanch’ for his brutal pogroms against the agri-cults of Europa and the Nordafrik Conclaves during the Unification Wars. Siege-Breaker of the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company.


April 3, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 16 Comments

A Tale of Five Heretics

A Tale of Five Heretics: Dramatis Personae

I – IV – VI – IX – XX

 After infinite delays, let’s talk some hobby. Specifically, let’s talk Heresy armies.

As my 40K campaign grows ever-larger, I find it’s sprawling into this behemoth that almost defies discussion. Battle reports are tough to write out, because we’ve not played any traditional battles. Instead, the fights are a matter of ad hoc narrative deciding the game. Like 5 Chaos players all using a Lord and one squad as an ambushing strike to ambush the same 1-Commander / 1-retinue counterparts on the Imperial side, representing an assassination attempt as the Blue Team’s commanders gathered on neutral ground. Another of the battles involved the Eldar, Imperials and Chaos forces beating the snot out of each other downtable, while the Adeptus Mechanicus happily shelled all three forces from the objective zone.

Smug bastards.

So it’s happening – that’s a good thing – but it’s difficult to sum up. I love the new edition. You might think I have to say that, but that’s an assumption which doesn’t take into account how often I’m in trouble with my publisher Black Library (and the powerful, nay, monolithic entity that is Games Workshop behind it). I wasn’t huge on 5th Edition; a lot of its rules reminded me why I’ve always been more of a Warhammer Fantasy player. But I digress. I love 6th Edition.

The next 40K weekend will take us to 1,500pts. Since the last meetup was an icebreaker to get everyone acquainted and learn the rules, that weekend (which will take place in my new games room: The Aaronorium), will be the real deal. I’ll be able to discuss it with a little more coherency closer to the time.

So I’ll backburner all that for a while, and talk some Heresy. I’ve set this up before, with hobby talk and avoiding author bias. No more excuses. Time to get into it.

Here’s my ragged attempt to build a Heresy army with some friends. Katie said no. Her 40K Marines are enough work. Thus, I went hunting beyond the borders of the family unit. If anyone has any mega-inspiring advice, pictures of their own armies, or any general chatter, feel free to chime in with whatever you feel like. Consider this an open book.

We’ll start at the beginning. That seems wise.

So who’s doing this with me, and what armies are we all playing?

The First Legion

Eddie Eccles – Tournament Player, Painter, Marketing Guy, Poet, Lover.

This is Eddie. In the future, when Eddie’s writing, I’ll use this delicious green text, right here.

A cursory Google check (or perhaps your own unpleasant memories) will reveal the uncomfortable truth that Eddie is ferociously, ball-achingly good at Warhammer Fantasy. He’s been at a bunch of tournaments where he took home every award (except sportsmanship. Ha!) and my fave story about him illustrates this point nicely. Before I really knew who Eddie was, I knew this about him: At a tournament, there was one award – a measly lone certificate out of about a dozen in total – that his team hadn’t claimed. The tournament organisers wanted to share it in a joint-first-prize situation with another team. Eddie’s team resisted this act of honest and merciful charity, pointing out that they deserved it because they’d won more games and earned more points. The organiser tried one last time, one last vain hope to appeal to the sense of kindness that Eddie had clearly left in his car.

ORGANISER: “How about we share this prize? Look, you’ve won all the others. Some of these guys just came here to play games with their collections.” 

EDDIE: “I collect trophies.”

Given my utter disinterest in the whole concept of tournaments, you’d think I’d despise Eddie for this attitude. I don’t despise him. I fear him. That’s a crucial difference.

Eddie works in Black Library, as some of marketing overlord. I’m not even sure what he does anymore, to be honest. That place is like the Webway when it comes to who’s doing what, why, and where. All I can reliably say about my publisher is that I have a dinosaur picture I need to send to Rachel, Princess of eBooks.

Eddie is fated – nay, destined isn’t too strong a word – to make the rest of us look like absolute hacks in this project. His conversions are irritatingly masterful; his painting is frustratingly superb (“Ooooh, I’m Eddie, I can fucking wet blend, lah-di-dah”), and he also paints shockingly quick compared to, say, me. But then, so does everyone in full possession of at least one limb. As we’ve discussed, I’m really slow.

Eddie’s Legion: The Dark Angels.

Admit it. You hate him a bit, too.

A picture of me hating Eddie.

A picture of me hating Eddie.

Admit it, you hate him a bit, too.

Eddie's WIP Contemptor - I look at this, and I realise that I wouldn't even go to Eddie's funeral if he died.

His WIP Contemptor – I look at this, and I realise that I wouldn’t even go to Eddie’s funeral if he died.

Hate, hate, hate.

Hate, hate, hate.

His first month’s pledge is absolutely ludicrous compared to the rest of us (I’ve begged him to slow down). Here’s what he had to say about choosing an army, and the first month’s pledge:

“Picking a Space Marine army is tough.

There’s a lot of choice, and they’re all awesome in their own way, (even the yellow ones). It’s not a decision to rush. Colour schemes must be considered, tactics, play style, background.

Its not like the olden days when all you had to do was pick your favourite primary colour. These days, the legions and chapters have their own identities and heroes, histories and tragedies.

When all said and done though, it still comes down to the same basic male calculus that you use to pick you favourite super hero: who would win in a fight. (its batman by the way)

The Dark Angels were the first Warhammer 40,000 army I ever collected back in the Age of Strife(second edition). To me, the sons of Caliban embody 40k like no other Legion, proper Space Marines: knights in space. Anyone who chooses to go to battle wielding a sword when perfectly functioning guns are available, must be the ultimate badass (see also, Optimus Prime and Jedi).

Also, they have those stylish robes – the Dark Angels are a legion that isn’t willing to compromise fashion for battlefield utility.

At the time of the Horus Heresy, the Dark Angels went to battle in stylish black.

Armies composed of entirely black miniatures can sometimes look less than awe inspiring on the tabletop, so I have covered my warriors in a Blessed Load-out of Imperial Neo-classical Gadgets (BLING). The Dark Angel plastic kits are amazingly generous when it comes to spare components, and I supplemented these with ForgeWorld MKIII marines, mainly for the techno-knightly look of the Iron Armour helmets.

My main inspiration for the paint scheme is going to be this awesome looking piece of Horus Heresy art by Neil Roberts. I’m going to try for some chequered shoulder pads on the units (we’ll see how that turns out).

as well as the power armoured Marines, I built a dreadnought.

I love dreadnoughts. To me, nothing sums up the gothic tragedy of 40k like a half dead hero of legend in a walking tank. This ancient champion has refused to let his near-death stop him going to battle with a sword, and now strides to war swinging a 4m long blade of calibanite steel. A weapon whose awesomeness is matched only by it’s impracticality.

The next addition to the army will likely be some vehicles (because the First Legion isn’t going to walk to battle!) and maybe some kind of character to lead the force.

Watch this space!

(the space in question being Segmentum Obscurus)”

The IX Legion

John French – A cog in the grinding mechano-bowels of the great GW war machine. Not a particularly warlike photo, but he’s one of my closest friends, and this picture of him and his son Henry always breaks my heart a little. I don’t have any half as good of me and Alexander.

This is John French. The man who inevitably ends up chairmanning and overseeing every games weekend we have, because… well, just because. You may know him as an author for Black Library (and if you don’t, you really should), and every time I go over to Nottingham for Heresy meetings or BL events, I have dinner and drinks with John to chew over the complicated chaos of fatherhood, writing, gaming, and being married. It should be noted that he always blows the candle out on our restaurant table, in case it looks romantic and/or gay.

Or maybe he’s scared of fire? I don’t know. It could be.

John has a hand in the Forge World side of things, too – he writes material for the Horus Heresy rulebooks. When he writes here, I’ll use this rather attractive dark red font. Like so.

John’s Legion: The Blood Angels.

WIP - Blood Angel Destroyers of the Sixth Chalice.

WIP – Blood Angel Destroyers of the Sixth Chalice. John’s promised us all that he’ll get around to drilling the gun barrels.

He has to play the Blood Angels, since I bought him a bunch of Blood Angel bitz for his birthday, effectively guilting him into a corner.

Having seen the first WIP pics of John’s Blood Angel Destroyers, I look forward to the uproar of “WHY ARE THEY WEARING SANGUINARY GUARD DEATH MASKS?” and so on. Also, John was the first to mention the sacred words: “I’m going to use bits of Mk7 and 8 armour without giving a shit in the slightest. I’m also going to convert a Storm Talon and Nephilim.”

The purist in me shudders just a little at that. On one hand, I know that an Armour Mark is something built with a thousand variations on a thousand forge worlds. The Marks we see are a template, and individual forges, foundries, manufactories and artisans will design their own versions and equivalents. I know the Space Marine Legions had hundreds of vehicles we’ve still not seen, and never will, and that in 40K that scale is magnified a hundredfold. Yeah. I get it, I really do. I love that. Scale, people. Scale.

But if I see something that’s clearly an Errant-pattern  collar without some fantastic unit description and cool lore behind it, then I’ll pop his eyes out with an ice cream scoop, and ask Phil Kelly if he wants to join, over John’s twitching corpse.

The VI Legion

This is me. You know who I am. This unintentionally shit photo is one of my favourites, as I was trying to get the daemons and Khorne icon scenery in the cabinets, but someone said “That’s Aaron Dembski-Bowden” just before I took it, and it made me smirk/jerk, screwing up the pic.

If you’re reading this here, you probably know who I am, already. If you don’t, no worries, you’re not missing much. I drink, I write, I scowl. This is life.

My Legion: The Space Wolves.

I chose the Space Wolves for several reasons. Firstly, most importantly, tribal/clan fantasy races are my absolute Number One joy. I love the primal archetypes and shamanic mysticism of it all, as well as the deviations and variants between the noble/ignorant savage tropes. Think of the Cimmerians and Vanir in Robert E. Howard’s works. Orcs, trolls and tauren in WarCraft. The Aztecs. The Vikings. The Mongols. Slaine, the Celtic Fantasy series. The Thirteen Tribes of Werewolf: the Apocalypse. The list goes on and on, and I’m trying to be at least relatively brief. I don’t assume these cultures are better, deeper or more profound than any other, just that I find them fascinating to read and write about.

Secondly, I love the Space Wolves, because I love pretty much every Legion. The Space Wolves will have a longer wait than most Legions when it comes to bitz from Forge World, given that the next rulebook looks like Isstvan V, but they have some awesome bitz already available from GW in the basic Space Wolf pack. So we’ll see how that goes.

Speaking of packs, that’s what comes next. One of my favourite themes in fantasy and sci-fi is the feeling of a pack of characters. A coterie, a brotherhood, a warband. They don’t have to get on well, but they have to be close. it has to be them against the world.

You see it done to perfection in Robin Hobb’s writing, where FitzChivalry and Nighteyes are their own pack: it’s them back to back, against the whole world. Bernard Cornwell does it, too – Derfel Cadarn’s warband of wandering spearmen, with their shields marked by the Star of Powys in reflection of Derfel’s bride. They even have the little traditions that make these things actually matter: the warriors of the warband that went with Merlin on the hunt for one of the Treasures of Britain have five-pointed stars painted on their shields, but those who remained behind to guard their farms only have four-pointed stars. That’s what I love: the notion of a pack having its own rituals and rights of passage, unknown to most outsiders. It was a vibe I wanted to show with First Claw, and I hope to show with Abaddon and Khayon’s inner circle, in The Talon of Horus.

I really want that feeling with my Space Wolves. Every squad will be its own pack, with its own legends, heroes, traditions, markings, and rituals. I hope I can have it reflect in the models, as well as the background I’ll do for them.

Admittedly, I hesitated with the Space Wolves because – as I’ve said before – I try to avoid playing anything I write about. That’s pretty cowardly, so it’s time to knuckle up and ignore anyone who’s ignorant enough to genuinely think that implies bias one way or the other. People will always, always generate their own reasons for why other people do things, and no matter how wrong they are, reasonable discussion rarely changes anything.

I was tempted by several other Legions.

  • The Salamanders, because I think they look seriously lovely on the tabletop. A dead attractive green, and I love writing about fire.
  • The Blood Angels, because red is one of the few colours I can paint to an acceptable standard. And, as I’ve confessed before, they’re my favourite Legion. First among equals, at least. 
  • The Dark Angels, because… so many bitz. So very many awesome bitz. Also, because of Lynn Dunlop – a reader we met at the Black Library Weeeknder – who made Alexander this freaking incredible Dark Angel Chapter jumpsuit:  
...but you get the idea. How badass is this?

Not the best photo I’ve ever taken of him, but you get the idea. How badass is this?

On the other shoulder, it says AD-B II.

Which is, objectively, just too awesome.

For my first month’s work, I’ll stick to a modest single squad. Given that it’s Heresy-style and squads are 10-20 guys, it might actually be a quarter of a squad. But, y’know, leave me alone.

The XX Legion

Lord Alan of Bligh. Forge World’s lead writer, the guy behind the Horus Heresy rulebooks, and quite possibly the most English man I’ve ever met. The best thing about this photo is that it looks like Alan’s sent it out to people with nothing but two kisses in the bottom corner.

This is Alan.

For Alan, choosing a Legion was something of a nightmare, because avoiding spoilers is an absolute bitch. He was originally going to do [LEGION NAME HIDDEN TO PRESERVE MY PRECIOUS CAREER], but wouldn’t even be able to show his models, because of… well, because of spoilers. In the end, he settled on a Legion that I think he’s got quite a bit to say about. I’m not sure how much will make it out of super-secret emails, but bear with me – our jobs make opening up about the hobby pretty difficult.

Alan’s Legion: The Alpha Legion.

Alan's first WIP shot, a Veteran Squad of the Saraph Splinter.

Alan’s first WIP shot, a Veteran Squad of the Saraph Splinter.

As a point of interest, Alan ends up sharing dual campaign management roles at 40K weekends, assigned the onerous task of saying “You need 3s to hit” and “Roll anything but a 1” about eight-hundred-and-seventy-four times a day. He shoulders this burden with a patient smile and a mug of tea close at hand (even when Katie makes him and John build three (yes, three) Rhinos and Razorbacks the night before we’re all supposed to play).

I suspect his models will come out looking second-best after Eddie’s, because Alan has a John Blanche-style of painting going on with his 40K Adeptus Mechanicus, and it looks absolutely killer.

The IV Legion

Ead Brown – Forge World bureaucrat; Chapter Master of the Minotaurs; Happiest and Grinningest Man in Britain. Look at him doing countryside things. LOOK AT HIM.

And here’s Ead, rounding out the batch. I’ve seen Ead’s Minotaurs a billion times (and if you’ve got the Badab War books, so have you), even going up to see a bunch of them in the Citadel Miniatures Gallery at HQ. Ead’s always a sane and stable presence in my professional life, which I appreciate immensely, but he also drinks the most random shit at the Games Day after-party – and gets me to drink it, too – which I appreciate a great deal more.

He’s also informally a member of my test reader circle, and rolls his eyes every time I try to be cool and call a heavy bolter a “bolter cannon”. It’s slang, you Forge World  son of a bitch.

Anyway, Ead’s basically lovely. Getting him into this was a bit of a trial, as Ead does Minotaurs, Minotaurs, and nothing but Minotaurs. I expected him to say no, so I added him to the secret Facebook group without his permission and started acting like he’d already agreed to join in.

Guilt. A potent weapon. Works every time.

Ead’s Legion: The Iron Warriors.

So here’s Ead, in his glorious blue-grey font, saying why he chose the Iron Warriors:

“Why did I chose Iron Warriors? To be honest it’s a delicious combination of a good, quick colour scheme (hazard stripes aside) and a cool bit of background. Peturabo is my favourite Primarch, especially the way that John (French) describes him in Crimson Fist. There’s something about the fact that such a clinical, emotionless statistician needing to actually watch his enemies being crushed that really grabbed me. Plus I’ve been trying to avoid doing a Heresy force for a while – madness, I know, I know, but I also have a large Minotaurs army and I thoroughly enjoy painting them most of the time – and this is a good excuse.
So, month one. I’m going to finish the Contemptor Dreadnought that I started months ago, and also build a Tactical squad. These guys might even get some paint added too!”

I just knew he’d bring up the Minotaurs somewhere in that.

So there we go. That’s the introductions done.

—   —   —   —   —   —

January Summary

—   —   —   —   —   —

The Rules:

  • Every month, a minimum of 5 models, or one Codex unit entry from Horus Heresy Legion Army List.
  • Every unit and character has to come with at least 300 words of history, personalisation, and background.
  • No spoilers from future Heresy releases, despite our spoilertastic jobs.
  • No crying more than once a week over Eddie’s progress photos.

January Pledges:

  • Eddie: 10-20 Dark Angels, 1 Contemptor-pattern Dreadnought.
  • John: Blood Angel Destroyer Squad.
  • Aaron: Space Wolf Tactical Squad.
  • Alan: Alpha Legion Veteran Squad.
  • Ead: Iron Warriors Contemptor-pattern Dreadnought.

Deadline Date / Next Post:

  • Monday the 11th of February. 
  • Potential Theme for Next Month’s Task: “Dreadnought Month”. Other suggestions are totally welcome.

January 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 45 Comments

Painting Black – Um. Help.

I come to you, asking a favour. Guide me, if you will. Take pity on my poor (currently unshaven) head.

It’s about 6:50am and I really need to crash to catch a few hours’ sleep. Betrayer is going well – going great, in fact, which is lucky since I’ve only got a month to finish it. ‘The Underworld War’ for The Mark of Calth anthology is winding up to completion, too. It’s about the Gal Vorbak left on Calth after Kor Phaeron flees, and they’re slowly coming to terms with the fact that Lorgar isn’t coming to save them. They’re trapped there. They’re going to die there. Night after night, the Word Bearers lose more men to Ultramarine guns.

At this stage, I’m working about 12-14 hours a day, most of which involves going back over sentences I wrote earlier and deleting them before anyone realises I have no right to call myself an author. I don’t mention those hours to incite you to start secreting some kind of oil, ill-deserved sympathy juice from your empathy glands. No, no. I tell you purely so I’ve got an up-front excuse for blogging even less than usual.

I bought two copies of Dark Vengeance. I’m using over picking up a third, but I should probably calm the fuck down on that score, seeing as the Dark Angels in it will see absolutely no use. Some of the Cultists are earmarked for use as models for my Necromunda gang, the Dart Frogs. As you may recall, I play Necromunda. My gang rolled five (yes, five) ‘Slag’ territories, meaning my gang claims a slice of the Underhive the other gangs sniggeringly call Slaghaven. The whole turf is about as valuable and useful as a punch in the dick.


I’m crazy-tired. Excuse my rambling.

I come to you in need. With the new Citadel paints and the step by step guides in White Dwarf, I can actually risk painting rather than just basecoating and dipping. And, for once, I actually quite enjoy it, though I paint about as ‘quickly’ as I write, which is deeply unimpressive. But I’m having a load of trouble with black.

Black power armour, to be precise. I’ve got various reds down really well, but the black is kicking my teeth in.

What I’m after is that “so black that it’s blue” kinda blackness, as shown in these pics:

But, even more specifically, I’m looking for a guide (or advice) using the new Citadel paints, to keep things simple and achievable for my monkeyish paws.

If anyone can give me any advice, or a link, or something more useful than “You’re shit” and “Use different paints”, then you’ll live forever in the Hall of Valour, and when I inevitably ascend to Godhood over the world’s insomniacs, I guarantee* I’ll reward you by totally buying you a rollercoaster.

The kind of step-by-step guides I mean are the White Dwarf ones, like so, that tell you to Basecoat, Layer, Glaze, and so on:

* Not a legally binding guarantee

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

At the Heresy Meeting…

Photos from the scene.

The thrills!

The spills!


Look how unimpressed Graham is. This one’s a keeper.


August 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 32 Comments

Where have I heard that before…?

I just got sent this.

Hmm. What could this book possibly be about?

August 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 33 Comments

“What’s ‘Prince of Crows’ About?”

I keep getting asked this one.

Along with “When will we see some Night Lords stuff in the Heresy?” and “Will we get to see any pre-Heresy Curze?”

Most of all: “When will we get to see more of Sevatar?”

The answer to all of these things is “Go away and leave me alo–” Uh, I mean, “Shadows of Treachery is out in October.”


My contribution to this (which was supposed to be in The Primarchs) is Prince of Crows, which is a novella about (gasp!) Konrad Curze, Sevatar, and the Night Lords Legion after another run-in with the Dark Angels. It’s set just after ‘Savage Weapons’ and The Lion, and opens up with the VIII Legion devastated after the Dark Angels kicked their asses left and right across the Thramas Sector. The Legion lost the final battle, Curze is crippled after the Lion cut his throat, and the remaining Night Lord commanders are meeting up to decide just their options are. It also has a significant chunk of what I’d have sliced into a Night Lords novel, which is about Curze’s past and growth on Nostramo, and how he went from beggar child on the streets to their happy, happy king.

Oh, and it explains just why Sev is called the Prince of Crows. It’s really not why you think.

I kinda-wanna also add that this is a novella, not a short story. It’s about 3-6 times as long as a short story (depending on the story) and closer to 30-50% of a novel (depending on the novel). In short, it’s quite long, and took me fucking ages to do. It needed to tell a lot of backstory about Curze, show the Legion in its current state after getting mauled by the Dark Angels, and set up a future Night Lords novel which I’d obviously quite like to do in the relatively near future. But I write slowly, so hold your freaking horses on that score. I’m still doing Betrayer, then (probably?) the first Abaddon/Black Legion novel, still tentatively titled The Talon of Horus.

If any of this sounds remotely interesting, then… behold.

Black Library’s been publishing daily extracts in its newsletter all week, which I’m guessing will include today and tomorrow, too. I’m heading off to London today, and Chicago tomorrow (ooooh, such a jetsetting lad…) so I can’t link or post anything else past the first three extracts, which I was told about last night by some well-meaning soul on Facebook. But for convenience, I thought I’d spin these up here. For the rest, you’ll need to subscribe. Off you go.

Go on, now.

Go, go.

(By the way, if you’re at Games Day US on Saturday, me and Jim Swallow will see you there.)

So, without further wordjunk from Yours Truly:

July 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 17 Comments

Cyrene & Argel Tal Artwork

Someone sent me this a couple of hours ago, prompting me to head on a very short Google search, for Noldofinve on Deviant Art.

I’m in love with this. It’s Cyrene and Argel Tal. It’s like… actually them. And it’s perfect.

It’s also now my desktop background while I write Betrayer, which is pretty apt considering where I’m at in the story, and what Erebus and Argel Tal are discussing. Ho, ho, ho…

It’s really, really, really strange to see your writing having an effect on people. In the handful of years since I started – I’m still pretty new to all this, remember – I guess I was prepared for some of the awesome comments online,  and the reviews, and the chatter at signings and conventions. That doesn’t devalue any of them, it’s just that all that stuff was easier to imagine because it’s considered a perk of the trade. (Incidentally, I’m often cripplingly uncomfortable and anxious at signings, and do my best to disguise it, so I don’t consider it a perk. I consider it terrifying.)

Same with minis of my characters – I’ve seen so many killer conversions of Talos and co. but you almost expect it, given the passion of readers and hobbyists, when there’s a nebulous realm of overlap between the two.

But actual artwork of my characters? Someone cared enough about my head-mess to capture them outside of converted plastic? Sort of mindblowing. And this perfectly captures the soul of those two characters, at least as I imagined it. On a similar note, I’ve seen tattoos people got based on my work, like, in a language I freaking invented. That’s terrifying, too.

But in a good way.

June 21, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 30 Comments

“So who’s Kargos?”

Most people got the reference to who Kargos is, in the Betrayer prologue yesterday.

Obviously, like most 40K reference characters, he’s basically… no one. Most characters are guys or girls from images and/or quotes from 5-25 years ago, and just to have a little slice of continuity, their names get used as cute nods to old material. But there’s never any real detail. (I think that’s also a key detail between the varying levels of “tie-in fiction” that get tossed about. Using an old name for continuity is a different beast from using characters with several seasons of TV behind them.)

But anyway, Kargos started out as one of my favourite pieces of artwork from way back in 2nd Edition, and a great quote that shows a little of Chaos’ depth and appeal. The artwork is a little dated now – especially in regards to physique – but it still rocks. It’s also pretty charming that he lives on a planet made entirely of fire and skulls. His 3G reception is probably shit, and no, I don’t think that’s an unfair assumption.

“Though the gates that stand between the mortal world and the immortal Realm of Chaos are now closed to me, still I would rather die having glimpsed eternity than never to have stirred the cold furrow of mortal life.
I embrace death without regret as I embraced life without fear.”
— Kargos Bloodspitter, Champion of Khorne

A lot of people are asking who Skane is, too. And who the Legio Audax are. And why is an ursus claw on a Titan? And what’s a Destroyer? And and and…

Well, you’ll have to wait for all that. Jeez.

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 22 Comments

Betrayer Prologue

The Dead and the Dying

SKANE WAS THE ONE to find the body. Skane, armoured in Destroyers’ black, his armour stained by the sin of the weapons he wielded. He stood knee-deep in the dead, next to the wrecked hull of a Land Raider battle tank.

“Kargos,” he voxed. His voice was tinny, laden with static. One of the of the enemy had caught him in the throat during the battle, and it had jarred his augmetic vocal chords. They needed tuning once he returned to the Conqueror.

“Kargos,” he said again, across the quiet vox channel.

“What?” His brother’s reply was also flawed by static, but from more traditional vox-corruption rather than a bionic oesophagus.

“Track my locator rune,” said Skane. “Get over here.”

“Look around you, sergeant. You think you’re the only one that needs my help at the moment?”

Skane didn’t bother looking around. He knew where he was and what he’d see – he was at the heart of it all, and the dead numbered in the thousands. Most wore armour the green of shallow oceans, cracked and shattered by the treachery of their former kindred. These were Horus’s former Sons, betrayed by their brethren and slain for their disloyalty. Among their number, armour of bloodstained white stood out like pearls among seaweed. Too many World Eaters had fallen here, though victory was undeniable. The city was dead in every direction, reduced to ash and rubble.

A shadow fell across Skane, blocking out the weak sun as a Legio Audax Warhound passed with its rattle-clank stride shaking the tortured ground. He lifted a hand to the passing war machine, receiving no acknowledgement beyond dull sunlight glinting on the Titan’s ursus claw spears. It stalked onward, splayed feet grinding ceramite and bone and twisted iron into the earth, its wolfish cockpit lowered as it hunted for life signs and scanner-scents among the dead and the dying.

Skane turned back to the ruined tank, kneeling by its front end where the minesweeper plow was decorated in scratches and a wealth of gore. A body impaled on the ‘dozer blade’s spikes twitched in uneasy repose, its fingers still scraping in futility across the metal. Skane wasn’t sure how the pinned warrior still lived, and doubted the trembling, bleeding figure would survive being pulled from the plow. Nevertheless, he spoke again.

“Kargos,” he said for the third time. It took the Apothecary several seconds to answer.

“I told you I’m busy. Fix your own damn throat, or shut up and wait until we’re back aboard the ship.”

Skane disengaged the seals at the dying warrior’s neck, lifting the helm free with a hiss of released air pressure. The revealed face was pale, bloodstained from the lips down, the eyes open and blind, while the mouth worked in silent, wordless rage, an emotion lost between fury and pain.

“I’ve found Kharn,” Skane voxed.

This time, there was no delay in Kargos’s reply. “I’m on my way.”

June 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 28 Comments