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The Tiger Roars 

Making Your Army Distinct
A good 40K army is distinct: there isn’t any other army like it in the world. It doesn’t have to be a themed army, it doesn’t have to be one you made up, it doesn’t have to have lots of conversions and a paint job that would win a Golden Demon award. All it has to have to be distinct is one thing, one tiny element that makes it uniquely yours. 

For example, my buddy Pat has a Space Wolf army. What’s distinctive about his army is that it’s led by a character (Keric Quicbrand) he created and converted, and that he paints his figures Shadow Grey instead of Space Wolf Grey. Simple, easy, yet distinctive. 

There have to be about a million and six ways you can make your army distinct, but I’ll limit myself to these 10 suggestions: 

1. Give your army a name and a history
They aren’t just Necrons, they’re the dreaded Ravagers of Fortunus Prime, who appeared out of nowhere, massacred an entire Imperial colony, then vanished as quick as they came. Or they’re the Ultramarines IV Company, nicknamed “the Backbreakers,” who single-handedly turned the tide against the Seventh Black Crusade at the infamous Battle of Whed. They’re the Eldar Warhost of the Ten Million Ancestor-Spirits and they are forbidden by tradition to take prisoners or to allow themselves to be captured. 

2. Give your army a unique playing style 
One guy I know moved his Black Templars across the field in parade formation: two abreast, each Marine right behind the other, all facing the same way. No cowardly running and ducking for them, and to hell with enemy ordnance: there’s GOOD FORM to be upheld! 

Maybe your commander deliberately misses the first time he shoots: he gives the enemy a “warning shot” and a chance to surrender. Maybe your troops always attack figures wearing black first. Maybe your army guns for the enemy leader. The possibilities are endless. 

3. Make some unique characters
They don’t have to be “special characters” with special rules (which very few people will let you use), they just have to be unique. Even if you take a Marneus Calgar figure, put different arms on him, and give him a different name, you’ve made a unique character.

Raja Khandar MaduDr. Jheste
Interesting characters like Khandar Madu (left) and Dr. Jheste (right) make all the difference

4. Limit your choice of units
This is one of the easiest ways to create a themed army. My friend John plays Dark Angels; if I recall correctly, he doesn’t use Devastator Squads. Maybe your Eldar craftworld has no Aspect Warriors, or only uses one kind. Maybe your Imperial Guard army doesn’t have access to Leman Russ-type tanks and only uses Chimeras, Hellhounds, Basilisks, and Griffons. Maybe your Ork Warboss hates those “psyko Bikeboyz” and won’t include them in his Waaaaagh!

5. Collect special models for certain units
In my buddy Pat’s Space Wolf army, the Wolf Scouts are all the old-style Wolf Scout Sergeants, with the punk-rock hair sticking straight up. Maybe your Space Marine Veterans, being older and more experienced, are all “Rogue Trader” figures with beaked helmets and studs on the left shoulder plates. In your Ork army, maybe each Nob in mega-armor is the 2nd Edition Nazdreg figure. 

Finding out-of-production miniatures might be difficult but would be worth the effort. Another idea would be to use figures from other gaming companies for characters, squad leaders, and elite units. You wouldn’t be able to use them in a GW tournament or enter them in the Golden Demon competition, but if you don’t do those things very often you have little to lose. 

In a similar vein, you could make a 40K army using all non-40K figures. I've often thought that Warhammer Lizardmen figures would look really cool packing guns and played using Codex: Orks.

Gray TigersFighting Tiger Scouts
Gray Tiger Marines (left) and Fighting Tiger "tactical" Scouts (right), using non-GW figures

6. Give your figures a new paint scheme
Who says all Space Wolves have to wear Space Wolf Grey? What if one Wolf Lord wants his men wearing Chaos Black? Or Skull White? Who (except maybe Logan Grimnar) is going to tell him no? Maybe your Guardsmen don’t wear camouflage because (like the Imperial forces in Star Wars) they want the enemy to see them coming and be afraid. Maybe your Craftworld believes that unity is the only thing that will save the Eldar race, and to represent that the Aspect Warriors wear the same uniforms as the Guardians. 

7. Alter an existing color scheme
The Blood Angels wear red from head to toe—except YOUR company of Blood Angels, whose boots are painted a sandy yellow to recall the torturous 3,000 miles of scorching desert they had to cross, on foot, during the disastrous Retreat From Helm’s Canyon. Your Striking Scorpions are painted green—except for their gauntlets, which are painted Blood Red to commemorate their recent victory over the World Eaters in vicious hand-to-hand fighting. 

8. Use different skin tones
As the cover of Codex: Catachans shows us, the humans of the 41st Millennium are not all Caucasians: the Fighting Tigers’ closest allies, the Ebon Leopards, are African-type warriors. Humans are just the beginning: I’ve always thought Dark Eldar would look cool painted like the Drow from Dungeons & Dragons (Chaos Black for skin, Skull White with Mithril Silver highlights for hair). Paint Orks Dark Angel Green (or even something besides green—why not Blood Red?). Try Necrons in Burnished Gold or Dwarf Bronze or Tyranids in patterns like you’d find on real animals (Tyranids in tiger stripes?). 

Now those are DARK Eldar
Above: Dark Eldar painted like the Drow from Dungeons & Dragons

9. Give your figures distinctive bases
Your Guardsmen come from a barren homeworld where nothing grows, so glue sand on their bases and paint over them in Codex Grey. The Daemon World your Chaos Marines fled to 10,000 years ago resembles the fiery Hell of Christian belief, so model each base with flames and lava. Your Orks dwell in a rocky desert of coppery gravel and blue sand. There are millions of worlds in the galaxy: they don’t all have to have grass, sand, or ice the same color as Earth’s.

10. Convert your vehicles
Your Sentinels have three legs. Or four. Or they’re two-man walkers with an extended cab and eight legs, like a huge metal spider. Your Wave Serpents are old Tempest tank models from Armorcast. Your Wartrukks are modeled with 10 Orks on each: four in the back, five hanging on the outside, one lucky Ork riding a skateboard that’s being towed along the back by a length of rope!

Fighting Tiger RhinoOzone Scorpion bikes
A Rhino built "backwards" (left) and conversions using Eldar jetbikes (right). They're odd, but distinctive.

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© copyright Kenton Kilgore, May 2000.


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle