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Fearful Symmetry (updated 12/6/2016)  by Kenton Kilgore
In the From Idea To Reality series, we chronicled the process of creating an army from scratch.  In this series, we will showcase the finished results of our labors – the completed armies (as much as any 40K army can ever be considered “completed”).  By detailing how the army was collected, how the background and color schemes were developed, and how the army is used on the battlefield, we hope that this series will provide inspiration for those interested in collecting similar armies.

This army grew out of the story Traveller of Both Time and Space, which chronicles how Shamshir Talatra, commander of half the Fighting Tigers of Veda, lost his position (and nearly his life) after leading his detachment into disaster.  Aided by the Inquisitor Varman Kumar, Shamshir begins to develop leadership skills and assembles a rag-tag collection of renegades into a fighting force.

As I moved closer to finishing the story, I became inspired to build a new army based around Shamshir.  I eschewed the obvious choice (a Fighting Tigers successor chapter) and decided that Shamshir’s new army would use the rules from Codex: Chaos Space Marines.  And thus, with its name inspired by one my favorite poems (William Blake’s The Tyger), was born the Fearful Symmetry.*

*When Blake wrote his poem, “fearful” was a synonym for “fearsome.” The meaning has since changed, but don’t think just because they’re called “fearful” that my guys are cowards! 

Army List
The army has gone through many, many permutations over the years.  Currently, the army totals 1998 points.  Up until very recently, the army used Codex: CSM, but my pal Pat pointed me towards the awesomeness that is Codex: Khorne Daemonkin.  I use two detachments: the primary is a Blood Host; the second is a Combined Arms.  You can find the latest list here.  Note in the list that I often say “counts as” for various units because the Fearful Symmetry is not an actual Khorne Daemonkin army.  I’ll explain more in the “Background” section below.  

Modeling and Painting
When I was first building this army, I wanted to 1) save money and 2) avoid having the stereotypical Chaos army with scary-looking dudes in spiked armor.  So instead of buying Chaos Marine figures, I used minis from my overly-large collection of Fighting Tiger Space Marines.

Do these guys look familiar? They should.

To unify the appearance of the army, I chose only Tigers painted in Shamshir Talatra’s mustard-yellow and brown paint scheme. 

Lesser Rakshasas and a Fearful Symmetry squad

Back when Shamshir was a Fighting Tiger, he rode a bike and accompanied my bike squads, giving them a lot of hand-to-hand punch.  The Fearful Symmetry doesn’t have any bikes, however, so Shamshir and his motorcycle were frequently ineffective.  Attempting to rectify this appalling situation, I made a new Shamshir figure, using the Space Marine Terminator Captain.

The "old" Shamshir (with Panja) on a bike, and the "new" Shamshir in Termie armor

To make him distinctive, I repositioned his right arm and sword hand, added a red shroud to his right shoulder, and painted his eyes red (Shamshir has always been described as having this minor mutation).  I used a pair of clippers to bend the Captain’s sword into a scimitar and make notches in the blade: the Scepter of Shiva is a very old weapon, after all. Finally, I attached the tiger model for Panja (a saber-toothed tiger figure made by Reaper Miniatures) onto Shamshir’s base.

Shamshir is aided by Inquisitor Varman Kumar.  To represent him, I special-ordered a Rogue Trader-era figure and painted him in yellow and brown to make him fit in with the army (he doesn’t, however, wear stripes, as he’s not actually a Space Marine).  He’s assisted by a Lesser Rakshasa (the little tiger-headed guy) and holds the Pelt of the Man-Eater, a magical tiger skin that summons the Rakshasas.

Inquisitor Varman Kumar and Familiar

In addition to not wanting this army to look like a typical Chaos army, I wanted to continue the Hindu theme that the Fighting Tigers have.  Accordingly, when I purchased figures for daemons, I used tiger-headed models from Reaper Miniatures and Black Orc Games.  I painted all the models in white, then washed them in green ink, then drybrushed white over them again, to give them a “ghostly” look. 

Lesser (above) and Greater (below) Rakshasas, named after demons of Hindu myth

The "Ghost Tygers" (below) are Games Workshop Sabretusk figures (from the Ogre Kingdoms division of the Warhammer Fantasy game).  These were the first "ghost" models I ever painted, and I went a bit overboard, with several coats of white, Codex Grey, and green ink.  To me, they look like they're carved out of marble, but so be it.  I used to count them as Flesh Hounds (under the 4e version of the Chaos Codex), then Lesser Daemons (under the 5e version), Warp Talons (6e), and Chaos Terminators (7e).  Now that I have Codex: KD, they're back to being Flesh Hounds.    

 Ghost Tygers

Similarly, the latest addition to the army is this huge fellow (below).  It's a plastic toy tiger that I painted up as "Great Ghost Tyger," and in the game, it counts as a Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage.  That's a Dark Eldar Kabalite Warrior next to it, for scale.  The MGT is 9" long from its nose to the tip of its tail, and stands 3 1/2" high at the shoulder.  That's a big cat!  

In previous lists, my "Bronze Tygers" were my army’s take on Chaos Defilers; then I switched them to "count as" Forgefiends.  Now they're Soul Grinders.  The figures were radio-controlled “tiger robots” (a mere $10 each) and already came assembled.  The models were originally white; spray-painting them black required several coats to get the paint among the numerous ridges on each model.  I drybrushed each in Dwarf Bronze, and added some highlights in Brazen Brass.  Like the Great Ghost Tyger, I then mounted each on a base made from a compact disc flocked with static grass. 

Bronze Tygers, which I now treat as Soul Grinders. Shamshir acquires them in Episode 15 of Traveller

Background (Warning: Spoilers)
As recounted in the story Traveller of Both Time and Space, Shamshir Talatra, at the suggestion of Inquisitor Varman Kumar, led a detachment of Fighting Tigers against Red Corsairs Chaos Space Marines.  Shamshir’s mission did not go well: he was almost mortally wounded, and all but one of his Marines were killed.  For his recklessness and negligence, Shamshir was stripped of command and marooned.

Shamshir wandered the planet where he had been left, the site of the Red Corsair base he had attacked.  Eventually, he discovered a series of tunnels—built and formerly used by Dark Eldar—that allowed one to cross from world to world and even through time.  Using them to travel to Veda’s past, Shamshir Talatra reached an ancient shrine where he found the Scepter of Shiva—a powerful sword that could summon daemonic rakshasas and compel them to serve him—and the Pelt of the Great Man-eater—a magical tiger skin with the ability to summon tiger-spirit allies. 

 Greater Rakshasas, daemonic allies of Shamshir Talatra

With these items and the ability to move at will through time and space, Shamshir returned to the planet where he had been marooned and set out to redeem himself.  He assembled a new army, pressing into service the surviving Corsairs, and pulling Fighting Tigers out of past battles before they could be killed.  He re-met Kumar, and learned that Veda was threatened by Hive Fleet Ravana.  Travelling through time and space to the battle where Ravana first invaded Veda’s system, Shamshir and his Marines—aided by thousands of rakshasas—assisted the Fighting Tigers, inflicting enough casualties on the Tyranids to prevent them from continuing on towards Veda.  Shamshir and most of his army survived the battle, but, ironically, have been declared renegades and outlaws by the Tigers, who have sworn to destroy them. 

Despite his "daemonic" allies, Shamshir does not serve Chaos.  Though outlaws, the Fearful Symmetry fights against the enemies of mankind, striking against aliens and the followers of Chaos, while defending themselves against vengeful Imperial forces sent to destroy them.  For years, the Fearful Symmetry used turncoat Marines, but attrition has left only Shamshir, so now he relies solely on the rakshasas to continue his service to mankind.   

The Fearful Symmetry tries to fend off Inquisitorial forces sent to annihilate them during the Summer in the City campaign

Using the Army
Learning to use the Fearful Symmetry has been challenging.  I first built the army using the very lenient 4th Edition Chaos Codex, and, as seen in its first outing, it was the typical all-Infiltrating “daemonbomb” army, with the Greater Rakshasas counting as Bloodletters, the Lesser Rakshasas counting as Daemonettes (with rending claws), and the Ghost Tygers as Flesh Hounds.  My “Chaos Marines” consisted solely of Chosen, Raptors, and three squads of Havocs, and the army had some success.

Greater Rakshasas now count as being Possessed Marines or Berzerkers; 
Lesser Rakshasas are Bloodletters

With the 2007 release of the Chaos Codex in 5th Edition, I was forced to adjust my concept.  For openers, I actually had to field regular Chaos Space Marines as Troops (imagine!) and rely less on Daemons, as they had been considerably toned-down.  The 2012 version of Codex: Chaos Space Marines removed Daemons, and I was not willing to shell out the money for Codex: Chaos Daemons to use as those figures as Allies.  Instead, I would use only Codex: CSM, so I made some into into Warp Talons and Possessed.  Not long after, I found Warp Talons and Possessed to be too expensive and ineffective, so I kept one unit of the latter and counted the other "Daemon" figures as Chaos Terminators.  I also switched the Bronze Tygers from counting as Defilers to ersatz Forgefiends, just for the sake of trying something new.  

Pat was kind enough to paint up and give me these Chaos Cultists, who will make great cannon fodder

As of this writing (December 2016), I am using Codex: Khorne Daemonkin.  I count the Lesser Rakshasas as Bloodletters, despite my misgivings (T3 and 5+ Invulnerable Save--uhh...whee?).  They did not fare well in their initial outing, so I overhauled my list, and they performed much better in their second game.  As mentioned, I use two detachments: the nigh-obligatory Blood Host, and a Combined Arms Detachment.  The former consists of:

  • Slaughtercult w/ Chaos Lord (in Terminator armor), Bloodletters, Berzerkers, Chaos Cultists, Possessed (mandatory);
  • Lord of Slaughter (Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage); and,
  • 2 War Engine Formations (Soul Grinders). 

The Chaos Lord (which Shamshir "counts as"), Berzerkers, Possessed, and the Bloodthirster are the heavy hitters.  Soul Grinders provide firepower or more hand-to-hand punch; Bloodletters mop up; and Cultists are mobile 5+ cover, take objectives, or just get killed to generate Blood Tithe points.

The Combined Arms Detachment is:

  • Skulltaker ("counts as" Varman Kumar);
  • Chaos Cultists; and,
  • Flesh Hounds.

Ordinarily, I don't like using special characters, but to me, the Herald is a bit too fragile (T4, W2, 5+ Invulnerable Save) for an HQ unit that is compelled by the Skulls for the Skull Throne special rule to challenge enemy characters.  In addition to supplying more Assault Phase potency, the Flesh Hounds give much-needed speed.   

No surprise here: this army tries to get up-close-and-personal as soon as possible.   However, I deliberately didn't take transports because I wanted to differentiate this force from my Fighting Tigers.  This army has always struggled with tank-killing, so in the past, I armed the Forgefiends with hades autocannons, gave the Havocs lascannons (surprisingly affordable), and equipped Termies with combi-meltas.  Under the new design, I'm counting on the Soul Grinders; and/or the Bloodthirster, Bloodletters, Hounds, and Possessed to get into close combat with vehicles and take them out.  My proxied Orks have done all right under a similar strategy.

Because it's a themed army, it will never win a tournament, but I hope I've made it more competitive.  Keep visiting the Jungle to find out how the Fearful Symmetry fares. Once left for dead on a barren planet, Shamshir Talatra has just begun to fight.

Varman Kumar often follows the Greater Rakshasas into battle

Originally posted May 2007. Updated January 2010, December 2012, April 2013, May 2014, February 2016, October 2016, December 2016


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