Who watches the watchmen?

I recently promised you more projects, so here’s a look at a new army project of mine. I know what you’re thinking: Finish one first, already, before starting yet another one! I know, I know. However, this is a project with a much tighter scope than, say, my World Eaters. So it will serve as more of a thing I do in order to relax.

So what are we looking at here? Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been that interested in loyal Marines. Granted, I love looking at fantastic Space Marine models as much as the next guy, but apart fron a few flashes of inspiration, I never really considered building a loyal army for a number of reasons: From a conversion standpoint, there’s very little that a loyal army would provide that I cannot do with my World Eaters in one form or another. And I also really hate the line highlighting necessary to make loyal Marines look cool. Another reason why I am a Chaos player: All that nice brass trim on the armour to add instant definition to the paintjob without me having to jump through any hoops.

The same goes for most Pre-Heresy armies. While I understand the appeal of these, I’ve never felt tempted to do Pre-Heresy World Eaters — probably due to the fact that their colour scheme isn’t all that attractive to me (and would be really difficult to pull off to boot). So no Pre-Heresy for me until now.

The more attentive readers might notice that all of this sounds like there’s a colossal BUT hiding in the rafters. And they would be right, of course:

Because all of my resolutions about Marines and Pre-Heresy armies were sorely tested when I first took a look at German WD 112 (from April 2005): Not only did it feature rules for a Horus Heresy campaign, but it also marked the first time I ever saw Dave Taylor’s spectacular Legio Custodes army. I instantly fell in love with the Legio Custodes based on Dave’s army and the official artwork. There’s just something about those guys that really clicked with me. And even now, quite a few years later, Dave’s Custodes are still easily one of my favourite armies ever (the army was auctioned off for charity, btw, proving that Dave is not only an extremely talented artist but also simply a great guy).

So the seed was planted, and some time ago, I took a look at all the fantastic new Space Marine kits, and my love for the Legio Custodes was rekindled. And then, by lucky chance (or by some devious scheming of my subconscious), I found myself in the possession of three different Space Marine kits: The power armoured Grey Knights and Dark Angels Veterans (I had bought those for all the great bits and felt that I might use the DA’s as Word Bearers Chosen at some point) and the Sanguinary Guard (given to me as a gift by cousin Andy). And suddenly I realised that I had everything on my hands to create a couple of Custodes.

I wouldn’t even have to work nearly as hard as Dave Taylor, since all the cool new bits would allow me to build the models by merely sticking to kitbashing. So I did a bit of research and discovered some more great Custodes armies: Kaleb Daark’s Custodes thread on B&C, The Buddy Times and the very helpful kitbashing recipe for creating Custodians on Spiky Bitz. And so everything was in place.

Here’s what I wanted to do with the Custodes:

  • I wanted to incorporate the classic “Praetorian” Custodes with their conic helmets, golden armour and Guardian Spears.
  • in honour of Dave Taylor’s army, I wanted a squad of power armoured Custodians wearing different armour patterns. I would also definitely need a chaplain inspired by his Chaplain Animus.
  • I wanted to build the army from all plastic and all-GW parts: I realise that there are some awesome models floating around the net  – Scibor’s “SF Roman Legionaries” are Custodes in everything but name – but using readymade models for a project like this always feels like a bit of a cop out to me. So I wanted to try if I could kitbash this army by using only GW parts, preferably all of them plastic.
  • I didn’t want this to turn into srs bsns, so I would cut a few corners here and there. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted my Custodes to look awesome, but I wouldn’t get myself killed over it. There would be the odd heraldic element belonging to Grey Knights, Blood Angels or Dark Angels — I would only cut something off unless I had something better to replace it. And I would lose no sleep over the models’ armour not being 100% accurate. Let’s face it: Some of the HH artbooks feature as many as three different armour variants for the same Custodes unit type — in the same picture.
  • While I would try to have them be useable as a legal army, this would not be my chief concern while building the models.

With my gameplan decided, I started by building my first test models. I immediately went for the iconic “Praetorians”. All of these were kitbashed by mixing parts from Grey Knights, Dark Angels Veterans and the Sanguinary Guard (and the occasional Tac Marine bit). As per Spiky Bitz’ recipe, all the heads came from the WFB High Elf White Lions.

Here’s the first test model I built for the squad, equipped with the Legio’s trademark “Guardian Spear” (actually a GK halberd combined with a Sanguinary Guard Bolt pistol):


The shield is from some old WFB Empire spearmen. I realise that there is no precedent for shields like that in the Custodes background, but I liked the look of them and decided to use the lion motif as a recurring visual element. That’s why you’ll see lion heads repeated here and there on the models. Maybe I’ll even try to weave it into the army’s background: They could be called “The Lionsguard”, guarding the Lion’s Gate Spaceport (we all know how that went) or due to some honour awarded to them by the Emperor.

Anyway, here’s the squad’s standard bearer:


The design on the banner was done by using a simple decal taken from among the Space Marine vehicle decals. I am aware that there may actually  be some fluff reason why these guys technically shouldn’t be sporting the Aquila in the first place. See my comments on accuracy above on that subject.


Next up, another Custodian armed with a Guardian Spear, although this time I used a GK Storm Bolter for the conversion. Unfortunately, it ended up looking a little clunky, although I like the rest of the model:


I also built a Custodian carrying a special weapon (that was converted from a GK special weapon and the gunbarrel from a Deathwing assault cannon). I couldn’t even tell you what this is supposed to be. I just converted it to look cool…



And finally, the squad’s Centurio, Jastilus Petrarca:



I wanted the model to be the most impressive in the squad, so I used some of the most detailed parts, including the champion’s head from the White Lions. I also gave him a power sword from the AOBR Space Marine Captain and a spiffy wrist mounted Bolt pistol from the Sanguinary Guard.

Like I said, there are some departures from “official” Custodes artwork: For one, these guys are never seen using regular Marine backpacks in official sources, but I still decided to give them back packs to bulk them out a little. I went for Chaos backpacks for an older, more ornate look. I also didn’t add an extra faceplate to the High Elf heads, since they work well enough as is, in my opinion. Like I said, There’s also a bit of a hodgepodge of heraldic elements, with symbols of Blood Angels, Dark Angels and Grey Knights appearing alongside each other. However, the paintjob helps to somewhat alleviate that problem, tying everything together.

I went for a fairly straight paintjob in the trademark Custodes colours of crimson and gold. The one point where I departed from that formula were the different gems found on the models’ armour and equipment: I painted them in my beloved Vallejo Halcon Turquoise in order to add a bit of much-needed variety to the models. What’s more, jewels painted in red often end up looking like cherries, so using a different colour helped me to avoid that pitfall as well.

Here’s a picture of the whole squad assembled:


Squad Heraklion

One of the Praetorian squads in the Legio Custodes’ elite Lionsguard, squad Heraklion consists of warriors as fiercely loyal as they are accomplished. Clad in the traditional Praetorian plate and wielding an array of mastercrafted weapons, the members of the squad know no goal more important than guarding the life of their Emperor. Leading the squad is Centurio Jastilus Petrarca, a relatively young but  exceedingly talented officer. In spite of his young age, the inside of his ceremonial plate already shows an astonishing number of engraved names and titles, earned through great feats and deeds of honour.

So there you have it: This squad marked the beginning of my Legio Custodes project. With recent rumours of Horus Heresy books to be released by Forgeworld soon, I am not sure whether my timing in creating these guys was rather awesome or actually completely horrible. Any Custodes released by FW will thoroughly upstage my own meagre efforts though, that much seems certain…

Nevertheless, these guys were a blast to convert and paint and stand as an example of the fantastic versatility of GW’s new plastic kits. And while my Custodes project may be limited in scope, there’s quite a bit yet to come: I already outlined some possible ideas above, but there’s more that I would like to try: Jetbikes, Cataphracts, Sisters of Silence…just wait and see where this voyage will take us!

Until then, I would like to know what you think, so drop me a comment! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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3 Responses to “Who watches the watchmen?”

  1. […] already told you that my Praetorians were built using parst from the GK, Sanguinary Guard and DA Veterans kits. That means I had a lot […]

  2. […] love  the White Lions of Chrace (which I stole extensively from in order to build my kitbashed Custodes). So I guess what I am trying to say is that the High Elves’ charm is not lost on me. Whether […]

  3. […] having Custodes available in plastic also carries a bit of a bittersweet taste for me: After all, I happily kitbashed together a small Custodes army a couple of years ago, and I think I had a pretty good recipe as […]

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