Monday, April 20, 2009

Honor Guard Tutorial

The 5th edition codex opened up the formally Ultramarine only Honor Guard unit to all space marines. It is an interesting unit somewhere between close combat veterans and terminators. They cost the same as a vanguard veteran with a power weapon but come with artificer armor and a bolter in addition to the power weapon and bolt pistol. They are slightly cheaper than normal terminators but are not as survivable without the Inv saves, but they can ride in a Rhino.

If you are like me and want to be able to field every unit in the codex so you have options for your list, you will need to build an Honor Guard unit. While the current metal kit is really nice and not horrible in cost, the minis are covered in Ultramarine U’s. Another problem is that they are so ornate if you want a cohesive look to your unit you will need to buy more of them from bit traders to get a good size unit but do you want 8 guys with the same 2 poses. This leaves plastic parts as the best bet to make your own unit. Luckily space marine players are just loaded with great plastic parts. There are so many plastic parts that you might not be able to visualize them all to decide how to start the project.

The first question before starting the unit is what the look you are going for is. Does your army have a very cohesive and regimented look? Are your veterans distinguished strongly from normal marines with banners, shoulder badges, etc? You will want to continue these themes with your honor guard. My personal army neither of these things are true. Veterans are mainly distinguished by a change in edge color on the shoulder pads. My look is essentially very random with a few old metal bodied marines, mixed in with beakies, helmets, no helmets, even some scattered repainted chaos components salvaged from slain enemies. This allowed me a great deal of freedom in modeling my honor guard which I really enjoyed. Every model is unique and interesting and could probably be built on as a theme if you wanted a whole honor guard of a similar look.

What are the options for overall look? I can think of a few basic choices. Dark Angels veterans are a nice starting point. They have the robes to set them apart from the rest of the army. They are also a complete kit which comes with some power weapons and the cost would not be horrible.

Another option is the crusaders of the Black Templars. The upgrade kit has great bits and the unit could be very cohesive but might look to out of place in a normal army. Watch out since this kit has no legs, torso backs, and only 2 backpacks.

Using metal veterans as a base is also possible since they often have nice tabards if you are willing to work at removing hands and arms. These tabards also mesh nicely with those available from the black templars box. You can also use normal marine torsos and legs then try to set them apart with additional components like helmets, shoulder guards, purity seals, etc.

Another issue is the power weapons. Almost every member of the unit needs a power weapon. Given that at most you get 2 power weapons in any kit you will need either to stock up or go to the bit traders. Again you have to make a choice about the look. Do you want everyone to have the same power weapon (sword, axe, mace)? Do you want to go beyond that with not just swords but very similar hilts and guards? Next consider how the arms will be holding the swords will be posed. The power weapons are almost always either pointing the weapon out or carrying it in a bent arm. If you want 6 identical power weapons you will need to look at hand swapping them onto other arms to open up more options.

The last issue is accessories. This is where you can again work to create cohesion from varied members if desire. Subtle things here might work best. Every member has purity seals on the weapon. All the backpacks are exactly the same. Helmets, shoulder pads, scrolls, etc. You can also go another way and pick accessories to pick out small thing on each model. For example some backpack parts can match certain shoulder pads. Tons of options are available to bring you unit to the forefront of your army.

Now I will show the different Honor guard members generate from these different sources as examples of what is possible. My armies theme for its Honor Guard is that the members do not just get a new set a fancy armor when they move into the guard. They were what they have with minor improvements from their many years with the chapter. The look is very random but that is how my army is. Now I am not claiming that these items are the end all be all of model for space marines on their way toward slayer swords once painted. These are all simple things which can be made without green stuff or substantial scratch building. The most challenging thing is usually removing chapter specific items from the plastic bits with a hobby knife.

Metal Veteran Bannerman
Metal Veteran Relic Blade
Metal Master of the Chapter Honor Guard
Dark Angel Robes
Black Templar Tabard
Black Templar Mk IV
SM Commander/Command Squad Grenade Launcher
Composite Plastics (Commander, Space Wolves, Dark Angels)
Mk VI Plastic Beakie
Plastic Chapter Champion


  1. I cheated/was mega lazy for power weapons, in fact you can see it in my latest blog if you look at my sergeants.
    I got greenstuff and coated the chainsword, turning it into "power choppa" which nicely suited my fluff of history where my chapter was fighting the Orcs and used the power weapons as a form of honour/respect for the brutal power.

    Very nice post, very useful. I particularly like the whole pointed beaks and studded shoulder pads to represent veterans.

  2. Nice informative post! I'm planning to my own honor guard and it's helpful to see what bits other folks used successfully!

    I might go with metal bodies from Vanguard/Sternguard/Veteran sets and do arm swapouts. But you've laid out a lot of other interesting places to find bits!

  3. Probably the Dark Angels set is the best way to go, especially if using jeweler's files. Hmm...*begins cursing the moths in his wallet*

  4. I highly endorse the Dark Angels box, I've bought three so far and it keeps getting better. Your Shroud of the Dead look great, I wish I'd seen them before I got to gluing...

  5. Great post. I personally like the Dark Angel's upgrades ... they make Chosen Chaos Marines look extra creepy and communicate well the "infiltrate" ability.

  6. The dark angels box is a good way to go. The only problem there is removing the logos from the chest plates. This seemed harder that I would have like and did not turn out as smoothly. Those 2 chest plates got used for Sternguard such that the bolters across the chest will cover any imprefections in the removal.