Vanguard Diary 2 – Painting Monsters

This is the second part of my Kings of War Vanguard diary (find the first part here), where I chronicle my journey into the game. Myself and five other members from my local wargaming club are recording our progress as we get involved. Follow our story here.

This time I look at the experience of painting my Nightstalkers warband and discuss some of the choices that I made.

Planning and Colour Choices

From the outset I knew that I didn’t want to deviate too far from the colour schemes used by publisher Mantic Games on the box art; the dark and moody colours were one of the things that attracted me to the Nightstalkers in the first place.

I wanted a colour scheme that evoked the feeling of night-time and darkness: lots of blues and purples with deep shadows. As they’re supposed to be magical creatures, seeping into existence from the shadowy gap between worlds, I thought throwing in some ethereal looking turquoise might help evoke that otherworldly, magical feeling.

There’s quite a few different types of creatures within the warband, and I thought that the best way to give them a sense of cohesion was to stick to a fairly limited colour palette that would be used across the entire warband. This is the rough colour palette that I had in my head while painting. Everything would stick to these colours, apart from a few rare exceptions.

Painting the Nightstalkers

My approach to painting tends to favour a style that uses a lot of inks, washes and drybrushing. The way that I paint was born out of a desire to see results quickly, and for having little patience for painstaking base coating. Because of this slightly rough style, I tend to produce my best results when I’m working with something organic (pristine armour and immaculate robes are not my thing), and so I felt the Nightstalkers would be a good fit for me.

As discussed above, I knew that I wanted to stick to a limited palette, but I thought it’d be good to start out with a model that featured all of those colours, so that it could act as a kind of lynchpin for the rest of the warband: any model that followed would have one of the colours featured on the first, and so would feel like it was cut from the same cloth, as it were.

With this in mind, the first model that I painted was the Mind-Screech: the tentacled, floating, Lovecraftian, cephalopodic creature.

I started out with a pinky-red ink on the brain part of the creature, before moving on to a blue-purple ink for the rest of the body. I drybrushed progressively lighter shades of turquoise towards the tips of the tentacles. The intention here was to evoke the kind of bioluminescence you see in deep sea creatures. An alien-looking eye in a bright green added a focal point. The brain and the eye were then given a layer of gloss varnish to give them a glistening, wet look.

The model was given a fairly generic base of parched earth with a few tufts of light grass. This is something that I’d carry across the entire warband. I knew that some of the miniatures were going to be quite dark, so I thought the light grass would provide a nice contrast, while remaining neutral.

The hulking Butchers came next and were given a fairly simple turquoise colour scheme. I started with an all over black wash which ran in to all of the recesses. I then followed with a turquoise ink, which further darkened the recesses while giving the model a turquoise hue. I then followed with a light turquoise drybrush to further accentuate the muscles and the rest of the details.

The models each have arms which merge into tentacles, so I drybrushed these with a purple to give a nice contrast with the rest of the body. The tongues were painted blue; something which would be carried over to any creature with a visible tongue, to further hammer home the idea that these creatures are from the same stock.

Finally, their weapons were given an aged and rusted look, which felt appropriate.

The fearsome Reapers came next. These are probably the miniatures that are closest to the Mantic colour scheme.

Their skin was given a pink ink wash, before a further black wash was added to help tone down the vibrancy of the pink. The limbs were painted with a few coats of black wash to darken them down. The body and head were then given a light drybrush of a cream to help highlight them, before picking out the tongue and teeth details.

Next came the Shadowhounds. I really love these models. They remind me of one of my favourite Dungeons & Dragons monsters, the Displacer Beast crossed with a Hound of Tindalos from HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

The fact that they are crouched so low to the ground has to be born in mind when painting them, as attempting to base them after everything was painted could well end up getting paint on to their underside.

I got around this by laying down the first of the colours on the base (a dark brown on top of which I would later paint a textured paint) before beginning the hounds themselves.

They received a simple but effective paint job, with an overall wash of a dark blue-purple ink, followed by some purple drybrushing and then selective drybrushing of light turquoise on the heads. I find that making a model’s face a few shades brighter than the surrounding area is a good way of drawing attention.

I tackled the Phantoms next, who were very enjoyable to paint. There is something about their pose, as if they are bearing down on someone, delighted to be terrifying them, that I love. There’s also something quite unsettling about their form: their lower leg is far below where their hips would be, implying some sort of weird, elongated torso beneath their ragged robes. The protrusions from their backs are disturbing too, and bring to mind the half-glimpsed forms of the Dementors from Harry Potter.

I started by painting the skin with the same colours as the Reapers, and then gave the bottom half of the miniature a purple ink wash and the top a more blue-purple ink wash. Once dry, I blended these two sections together with some purple drybrushing to create more of a gradual transition. I accentuated the blue of the upper robes section with a subtle blue drybrush, with the extremities of the protrusions picked out with light turquoise.

The creature is sculpted to look like it’s emerging from a wave of inky, tenebrous magic, with distorted and anguished faces screaming from the recesses. I picked these out with the ethereal turquoise colour, allowing some of the drybrushing to hit the area around them to give a sense of a subtle glow.

I initially had the fingers highlighted with a light cream to draw your attention to them, but upon seeing this I decided instead to make them black: so they looked as if they were burnt or frostbitten, as I thought this would be more frightening.

The Phantoms were perhaps the most involved models to paint, and I think they’ve turned out to be my favourites, due in part to the excellent design of the miniatures.

The Scarecrows came next and would be something of a deviation. They kept the same pinkish skin seen on other models, but also included clothes and weapons. These were painted in appropriately drab greys and browns, and the weapons were given a brown wash to make them appear rusted and old.

When I saw the pumpkin head on the sprue, I knew I had to include that in my force (being such a horror based warband, having a nod to Halloween felt like a must). I broke with the limited colour palette to paint the pumpkin an appropriate orange.

The Scarecrows can alternatively be built as Spectres, so I thought I’d include a few for a bit of variation. These were given a very simple turquoise ink wash with a subtle cream drybrush, to hammer home the idea that they are ethereal spirits rather than physical beings. The Horrors (which are my least favourite of the miniatures in the warband, and so are not shown here) were given the same colour scheme.

Finally, it was on to the leaders of the warband: the Shade and the Banshee

I really like the sculpt of the Shade (left), as it seems to clamber menacingly around a rock. It’s body is covered in a number of toothy mouths, some of which are distorted and open. I like to think that issuing forth from the mouths are the distorted, nightmarish sounds of past victims (like the bear / nightmare-fuel scene from the movie Annihilation (2018). Watch the scene I’m referring to here, but be warned: not for the faint of heart.)

The Shade was given a simple blue-purple ink wash and then the various flames on the model given a light turquoise drybrush, getting progressively lighter towards the tip. The teeth were picked out with a bone colour and the eyes were given the same green as the eye of the Mind-Screech.

The Banshee is another model that I think is excellent, and is one of my favourites from the range. Her shape seems to be a mix of elegant ball gown and Vampire Squid. The position of her arms and the slight up-turning of her ‘skirt’ at the front give the sculpt a sense of weightlessness, like she’s floating forward. The extremely disturbing face: a wide, toothy maw is nightmarish and somewhat gynaecological: I think Sigmund Freud would have a field day interpreting this miniature.

She was given the same blue-purple ink wash as most of the models in the warband, with a purple drybrush around her skirt. I didn’t want to draw any attention away from the top of the model so the teeth / claws around the skirt were painted black and given a small grey highlight.

The flames on her back were treated in the same way as the flames on the Shade, and the maw was given the same pink ink wash as the flesh from the Reapers. I wanted it to have the appearance of sore flesh, and so this colour was perfect. Towards the centre of the mouth was given a subtle black wash just to help make it appear slightly deeper.

And with that, the Nightstalker warband was complete.

As I said in my first post for this project, I really love these models. They evoke a kind of horror that I’ve not seen in other miniatures before. They are really fun to paint, giving a good variety of creatures in dynamic poses, but also being fairly forgiving to someone who likes to paint quickly.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at my time painting the Nightstalkers. If you wanted to grab some of your own, check out the Kings of War Vanguard page.

Next up, I shall be selecting a force to take to the battlefield.

Thanks for reading

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