There's something about making that perfect unit for your army that leads us all to go out and try to come up with something unique and interesting to model and convert. That ignition in our souls so to speak that sparks the flame of creativity to so something different, something no one has seen before (or at least no one in our immediate gaming community).
So where does that creatively driven gamer go to quench that need? Well if your Google-Fu is strong enough, there's quite a few places really. So I had that bug hit me, and of course I'm first a modeler/painter so obviously if I'm building something unique for myself I'm going all out! My Flame Guardians project is somewhat built around those type of unique units. Probably the key unit in that army (you'd think it would be the Kantor HQ right...) is my Uber-Vanguard unit. The fully decked out PW, PF, and TH heavy Fast Attack unit needed something more than the metal GW models, or a bunch of plastic Assault Marines all armed with power weapon goodness. I wanted these guys to stand out, yes that usually means that the pretty unit will be the first unit that my opponent will focus on, but that can be a good thing.
***insert hypnotic voice here*** Focus on the pretty, pretty, shiny NMM goodness and conversions while my two units of Sternguard Vets and Kantor take and hold your objectives and destroy your tanks... ***end hypnotic voice***
What to do, what to do....
Heresy Era Bits Conversions!!! YESSSSSSS!!!!!
There are a few options out there, and I'm going to focus on two sites and their bits specifically. For my Uber-Vanguard unit I decided I wanted to portray a unity that represented a very specialized group of Space Marine Heros. Sure the 1st Company gets the Terminator Armor, but what about those who are considered the creme-de-la-creme of the Assault Marines...So were born the Flame Guardians Honored Ones!
I've always like Assault squads, and of course one can run Shrike and get some cool Infiltrate goodness with an assault unit. Nothing like having Shrike and a 10-man assault squad just "pop" up behind enemy lines. Ahhh, Good Times! But I digress.
So I wanted my Honored Ones to have a pre-Heresy or Heresy look and feel to their armor. I didn't want to do a lot of sculpting (cause I suck at it) and I knew that there were some great conversion bits out there. When you combine those with regular Assault Marines bits or BA Death Company Legs you can achieve some pretty slick looking Vanguard Vetrans.
The options I considered were from Chapterhouse Studios and MaxMini. Both have their strong points, and weak points. Personally I do wish I would have gone a bit of a different route than the one I did, and I may consider doing up a few additional models with a few different bits to add some additional options to the unit.
First up the bits options from MaxMini:
I love the look of the Heresy Era Turbine Jet packs. They just plain look better than the GW plastic JP's and though the metal ones that come with the Vanguard Models or the Chappy look good with the chains and such, I just haven't liked the casts I've gotten in the past. Now the ones from MaxMini are nice but there's just something about them that kept throwing me off. Probably the flaps around the air input part of the turbine. You be the judge...
The detail on the packs is great though, but like I said there's just something about the packs that kept trowing me off. Cost wise they are pretty reasonable considering you'll be ordering them from the UK. For 5 Jump Packs you'll be out 5.65 Euros or $7.25 plus shipping of 3.00 Euros or $3.85. So $11.10 for 5 Heresy Era Jump Packs. Actually not all that bad. Of course I am running a squad of 10 Vanguard Vets, so I would have to tack on an additional $7.25 for the additional 5 packs. So $18.35 for 10. Again, not all that bad for what you get. Now I did not order these.
I'm a big fan of the Black Templar MK2 Helmet, but again for my Honored Ones I wanted something unique and different for the look and feel of the unit. MaxMini also offers what they call their Steam Knight heads. These are simply AWESOME in their Heresy Ere goodness. Dang shame I didn't go with these, and I truly wish I would have. I love the detail in these helmets, and they are really perfect for the look/feel of the unit. Again, I didn't go with these, and wish I would have. Cost for the Steam Knights is again the same as the Jump Packs. Comes to $7.25 for the 5 heads. My personal favs are 1 and 4. Really don't like number 3 in the picture.
Now onto the ones I did go with. Not that I regret what I went with, I just wish I'd have seen the Maxmini Steam Knights FIRST. Then of course I would have had to pay shipping from two locations though.
Next up is Chapterhouse Studios' Horus Heresy Era bits.
I personally like the Turbine Jump Packs from Chapterhouse better than the MaxMini ones. They just had the look I wanted and didn't have that silly flap on the input part of the turbine. These do have the vent flap, but at a more logical location at the bottom of the turbine, though I did choose to leave these off of my final models. I also prefer the fact that in comparison to the Maxmini JPs the turbines point inward and not out. From the perspective of jet flight, the outward pointing turbines from Maxmini just don't look right. Again, that's personal preference.
Now these bits ARE more expensive than the Maxmini Jump Packs. At $10.00 for five and $5.00 for shipping they come out to costing a bit more ($25.00 for 10 with shipping) than the Maxmini Jump Packs. Again, you get what you pay for and I'm MORE than satisfied with the Chapterhouse Studios' bits.
So what about Heresy Era heads you say? Well Chapterhouse has two options for the heads, and to be honest, while I like them, I still wish I'd have gone with the Maxmini Steam Knights. The options are Spikey or Masked. Both are very detailed, but only come in a set of 4 vs. the 5 Steam Knights from Maxmini. Again, not a big deal, though at the same time kind of falls into the "doesn't make sense" due to the fact that at the very minimum one needs 5 heads to make a Combat Squad and I needed 10 heads to make my Vanguard. Not a huge issue since I used a Sergeant Chronus head for my Champion meaning I only needed 9, so a quick conversion to a Beaky Head got me to my 8.
I really didn't like the Spikey headed bits. They would make a great Chaos conversion, especially for those building an army that had just fallen to chaos, or was perhaps in the process of falling and you had those marines who were beginning to adorn their armor with additional "trinkets" but for the look of my Honored ones they didn't do it for me. I did think of getting them though and just filing off the spikes because I like the overall look/feel of the bits.
Cost for the heads is $3.75 for a set of 4 heads. Shipping is still $5.00 so with 2 sets (what I ordered) that came to $12.50 for 8 heads. Comparatively speaking this is cheaper than going with the Maxmini heads as even if one was to order 3 sets, the shipping would still be only $5.00 (still high for padded envelops) leaving the total for 12 heads at $16.25 vs. $18.35 for 10 heads from Maxmini.
I don't have one of the Vanguard finished that has the Heresy Head, but here is the Uber-Vanguard Champion (SGT) done up in all his nicey, niceness. As i said before I decided not to use the vent flaps on the jump packs. Not that they necessarily looked bad, I just didn't like them. They come as a metal add-on and work great as mixing bits in your paint pots though. ;-)
There are other sites out there for these type of bits. Lots of business are getting into the resin conversion bits business and as I said, if your Google-Fu is strong enough you're sure to find what you're looking for. I do recommend Chapterhouse Studios and Maxmini though. Awesome products and again, yes you're going to pay for them, you're going to pay more than if you just go with what GW has, but you get what you pay for and if you want character, uniqueness, and something different then you've got to go out there and do it.
So have some fun with your army. It's not always about building that perfect list, that unbeatable army. It's about having FUN, it's about flexing the proverbial brush muscles and building/converting/painting the army that you're going to enjoy.
Let me know what you've done to make your army unique to your taste!