This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the first Realm of Chaos book, Slaves to Darkness. A truly seminal publication, outlining in detail the concept of chaos in the worlds of WFB and 40k (or, back then, Rogue Trader) in general and describing the followers of Khorne and Slaanesh in particular. Many hobbyists have fond memories of this momentous tome, and rightly so: Slaves to Darkness and its companion piece, The Lost and the Damned, put down the groundwork for the concept of chaos in Games Workshop’s intellectual properties and certainly launched a thousand chaos warbands.
Now, let’s start with a confession: I have never owned the genuine article. Not yet, at least. Shameful, I know, but by the time I got into the hobby in earnest, the rules set on which Realm of Chaos was based was already well on its way out, and the books were never even released in Germany in the first place.
Still, I will endeavour to do my small part in the celebration of this particular anniversary, both because I acknowledge the importance of the book in question and I have been drawn to chaos for all of my hobby life — more about that in a minute.
In honour of this anniversary, many hobbyists are posting great content about old and new hobby endeavours: Orrlyg (of RealmofChaos80s) and a gang of likeminded “Oldhammer” aficionados are planning a re-enactment of those glorious 3rd edition WFB battles of yore, keeping it truly oldskool with retro models, paintjobs and scenery. PDH, Neil101, Tears of Envy, Fulgrim and John Blanche are also marshalling their retro chaos forces, yet they are employing all the new and beautiful plastic parts at their disposal (their project is chronicled over at this Dakka thread: Go check it out!). Both groups are united in their attempt at celebrating both the release of a fantastic sourcebook and the glory of chaos in general 😉
As for myself, I would like to take the middle road here, taking you on a trip down memory lane. And it WILL be a suitably retro trip, have no fear!
You see, I have always been a fan of chaos, as long as I’ve been in this hobby. From the chaos models that came with HeroQuest – some Warriors of Chaos, the Gargoyle (actually a stone effigy of a Bloodthirster of Khorne, though I didn’t know that at the time) and the Chaos Sorceror (arguably the coolest model in the box, and, invariably, the first to be lost…) – to the old WFB metal models, I was a fan.
So one day, during the mid-90s, I came across this box in a toy store in my hometown, of all places:
Don’t ask me why I held on to those cardboard sleeves – I’m just a pack rat like that…
Today, a whole regiment being released in one box does not seem like such a big deal, but back then, this was actually the first of the new plastic regiment boxes ever to be released by GW: Where older plastic kits would use the same sculpt over and over (except for a metal command group that had to be purchased seperately), this one allowed for limitless customisation. So without having any use for these (beyond a fuzzy prospect of being able to use them in [Advanced] HeroQuest) and without even knowing a single WFB rule, I purchased the kit in a heartbeat, hurried home and started working. To my young mind, the prospect of owning a complete regiment of badass guys in spiky armour was very much its own reward!
Without going into too much detail, the rest of that year was very busy with hobby activity: It saw me receiving a copy of the WFB boxed set (Bretonnia vs. Lizardmen, not what you’d call an ideal pairing…) and frantically working on my very first tabletop army ever. Here’s a look at the results of that work:
My very first chaos army,or actually: my first tabletop army, period. I still have a huge fondness for these guys, even though the sculpts are dated and most of the paintjobs are of a rather dubious quality at best. So in honour of Slaves to the Darkness‘ 25th anniversary, let me walk you through my first foray into the chaos wastes step by step. Some of it won’t be pretty, I fear, but I guess that this is only to be suspected when dealing with the dark gods…
Warriors of Chaos
Like I said, a regiment of regular warriors of chaos was the first thing to be finished. Here it is:
For some reason I never even got around to basing these guys. Oh well…
Apart from that, what can I say? I certainly went crazy with the different metal paints. And what is really interesting, for this regiment as well as for the rest of the army, is that both in assembling and painting the models, I tried to emulate the official photos on the box as closely as I could. Let me give you an example: Here’s the champion, musician and standard bearer from the back of the box:
And here’s the front rank of my own regiment:
Looking back now, I am amazed at how much I seem to have been afraid to break away from the colour schemes and assembly instructions set by GW back then. What’s more, I didn’t actually paint all the models in the unit in the same colour scheme, oh no: I happily experimented. Here’s the second rank of models from the same regiment:
Again, some of these are pretty close duplicates of models that appeared on the box. Compare the guy on the left with this:
Funny and sad at the same time, isn’t it? 😉
Another thing I really struggled with in those days was painting “chaotic” faces. The bareheaded musician originally had a very pink face, until I touched it up later on:
Still not great, but that was really quite a challenge for me in those days!
All in all, these guys certainly aren’t fantastic by any stretch of the imagination. But they were my first regiment ever, and I feel very nostalgic about them. I have repeatedly considered cannibalising this regiment for bitz (especially the standard), but I always held back due to my fondness for them. And I am still rather happy with that small hand painted banner I added to the standard bearer (on a related note, I stopped counting how many times I had to reattach his metal arm because it had broken off — as a matter of fact, it even broke off once during this recent photo session…):
Retro Warriors of Chaos
Now these are probably the oldest plastic models in my first WoC army: A box of old plastic WoC given to me as a present by my buddy Phil. Though these come from a time where getting a plastic regiment meant getting the same model over and over again, with only a metal command group added to break up the monotony, I still love them for the simple fact that they look like bigger, meaner versions of the chaos warriors that came with HeroQuest. In any case, it made a lot of sense to draft them into my growing chaos army. So that’s what I did:
Since I didn’t have any command models for this squad, I had to get creative for the first time: The unit’s champion was created by painting him golden and adding a spike to his helmet — a rather lame conversion, admittedly, but these guys don’t exactly lend themselves to easy conversion. The one thing I am still quite proud of after all these years is the converted standard bearer: I drilled a hole into the model’s left hand, using toothpicks, a length of string and and some skulls to construct the banner pole. The banner itself was a freehand done by me in Citadel Paints on paper. Check it out:
Not true art, to be sure. And maybe it looks a tad too much like an undead banner, with the skull blotting out the Khorne rune, but I still rather like the design — and it was completely my own.
Once again, the models were painted to emulate the paintjobs on the official box, although I don’t have a photo to prove it 😉
Shortly after releasing the plastic WoC regiment, GW also offered a box of chaos knights based on the same basic sculpt: These use the same bodies, helmets and arms, but come with additional metal legs, weapon arms and bitz to make a unit of five knights. The knights themselves ended up looking like this:
The horses are standard GW fare from those days. However, the kit came with dedicated metal heads to make the horses look more chaotic. As you can see, I was getting a little more ambitious with my basing, adding moss and small rocks in addition to the horrible green flock of those days.
And here’s the whole regiment:
The paintjob is, once again, an attempt at faithfully recreating the “official” version. The banner, however, is just lazy, even for my standard back then…
The unit featured another bareheaded musician, so I got to take another shot at painting a face warped an discoloured by chaos:
A bit heavy on the eyeliner, perhaps…
Back when I painted these, it felt like I was actually managing to make them look 100% like the box art. In hindsight, I was deceiving myself a bit there, but these guys taught me the challenges of painting and assembling cavalry (twice as much stuff to paint before the model’s done, plus they are even more difficult to line up in a regiment).
Warriors of Chaos with Halberds
And yet another kit based on the same sculpt. Like the Chaos Knights, this box came as a plastic/metal hybrid kit, with a set of metal halberd arms included to allow for a different equipment loadout. Later revisions would roll the regular hand weapons and halberds into one kit, with everything made of plastic, but that time was still a ways off (funnily enough, today’s WoC have actually returned to the optional weapons done in a separate medium – Finecast, in this instance — talk about retro…). Anyway, of course I had to buy this one as well! 😉
Anyway, this regiment is the fourth and final unit in the army, The red and bronze paintjob seems like a taste of the World Eaters that were to come later in my hobby life. Alas, it’s once again nothing more than a retread of the ‘Eavy Metal paintjob:
Again, I even duplicated the model’s poses and combinations of bitz. It’s hard to believe how scared I must have been to break away from the pretty pictures on the front of the box back then…
All of that notwithstanding, this regiment is probably the one that has best managed to hold up. Red and bronze never goes out of fashion for a servant of the dark gods, after all. And by this time, I was actually beginning to find my feet regarding assembly, painting and basing.
Since most of the models were based on the same basic sculpt, the regiments in the army still seem pretty homogenous, even though each one’s a different colour. Back then, though, that was actually an intended effect as often as not. You see, Chaos armies back then were based on the concept of champions and their respective retinues. If you wanted to build an army, you created a warlord and were then allowed to spend the same amount of points on his followers. Then you moved on to the next warlord, and so on. So each Chaos army was centered around two or three champions leading their very own retinue into battle, with one of them the supreme general of the force.
So, it won’t surprise you to learn that I also built and painted some warlords for my army:
Lord Algeroth the Black
Yes, I realise the name for this guy was actually nicked from Warzone’s very own Khorne-expy. Apart from that, though, this model was my first army general ever, so I really gave it my all. And since GW kits weren’t as easy to obtain back then as they are now, I had to plan this one out in theory. Then, one summer day, I braved the sweltering heat, travelled an hour to the next bigger city by train to reach the only available FLGS in my vincinity and was lucky enough to find the two kits I needed: a Juggernaut of Khorne (complete with a World Eaters rider I gave away, in my idiocy…) and a champion of chaos on a chaos steed. The rider received a new mount, I painted the resulting model, and that was the birth of Algeroth the Black, Exalted Champion of Khorne:
Granted, building this model was as easy as taking a rider from one kit and plunking him down on a different steed. But back then, I didn’t realise that I could ever possible achieve anything more ingenious than this…
Once again, the paintjob may seem a little slapdash in hindsight, but back then, this was pretty much the pinnacle of my abilities. To be honest, I still like the blending on the horns. I remember writing into the character’s background that he had managed to defeat a Bloodletter champion, wearing the daemon’s skull for a helmet as proof of his power.
Anyway, you possibly won’t believe how proud I was of this model…
He is also a huge chunk of metal and actually quite heavy: I bet you could cause serious injury to someone by throwing this model in their face…
Baal, the Red Duke
Based on the concept of army composition outlined above, Algeroth really needed a right hand man. And I still had that chaos steed lying around. And I had always really liked the Red Duke, an Vampire Counts model from an old campaign setting. So when I had the chance of snatching it up one day at the FLGS, I did and used it to build my chaos army’s second in command:
Once again, building the model was basically achieved by combining the rider with a different steed (I still have the original skeleton horse in my bitzbox to this day!). I also added a plastic shield from the WoC sprue, and that was it. I even kept fairly closely to the “official” paintjob for the character (AGAIN!), but in all fairness, I believe the Duke makes for a fairly convincing chaos lord: Granted, he does not fit the “huge, burly northmen” look established in later years, but back then, the official fluff had many disinfranchised nobles, criminals and glory hounds from the Empire and Bretonnia escape to the northern wastes, so it was rather plausible that this character had originated in one of the more civilised regions of the Warhammer world.
Anyway, I still like the sculpt of the Duke a lot, especially that wickedly shaped sword of his!
I actually remember painting that horse before going to school, at six in the morning. Yes, I was that hooked on getting this army finished!
Again, the bare face was giving me a bit of trouble:
Back then, I was really happy with how this had turned out. Today, though: not so much 😉
As an adamant worshipper of Khorne, I have never had much use for magic users and psykers in most of my armies. Still, one of my buddies gave me a set of two old metal chaos sorcerers as a birthday gift, back in the day, and I liked one of them so much that painted it the same day I received it:
Neither the paintjob nor the sculpt have aged all that gracefully, to be honest. And what’s more, due to my army being singularly devoted to Khorne, this poor fellow never even got a name. Neither did he see any action on the battlefield. Oh well…
The two models also came with a pair of classic familiars (quite a bit of bang for the buck, actually). Here’s one of them:
This little guy always reminded me of the Gargoyle race in the Ultima series of computer games, so he was painted accordingly.
Here he is, together with his master:
And finally, the last WFB chaos general I ever built and painted — or rather, started to build and paint. Some of you may recognise his last name 😉 The first name was put together from the dark language table at the back of the sixth edition WoC army book. It’s supposed to mean “Daemon of Wrath”, which, in all fairness, is probably a pretty good name for a champion of the blood god!
Anyway, the model was heavily based on a chaos champion named Haargroth who appeared as a custom champion of Khorne in the sixth edition WoC army book. He uses the body of an old Bloodletter champion, Orc arms and an axe spliced together from two WoC plastic halberds. The head came from an old Slaanesh sorcerer, of all things. I also added some Space Marine shoulder pads and some spikes. The red was actually achieved by using the old GW Red Ink, which was pretty great for achieving a glistening, bloody look. I was pretty saddened when my last pot dried up…
This model, along with an accompanying regiment, should have marked the next expansion for my Chaos army for the sixth edition of WFB. Alas, it was not to be: The army was last used for a friendly game during the mid 2000s (My buddy Frankie pounded me into the ground with his Dark Elves, and I deserved losing for being far too hesitant and cowardly in the way I used my army), and after that, the whole hobby just fell by the wayside for a couple of years. As a matter of fact, even before then, I had begun to feel more interested in 40k, but even that was suspended until I got back into the hobby in late 2010.
So yeah, that is my first army ever.
Over the years, I’ve felt the urge to nick some rare metal piece from this army now and again, destroying one of the old models in the process. In the end, though, I have always resisted the urge: It may not be pretty. It may be thoroughly unoriginal. But it is also the first tabletop army I have ever managed to complete (insofar as a tabletop army can ever be truly complete…), and I could never cannibalise it for bitz.
Right, I hope you found this at least somewhat interesting. And hopefully my vintage paintjobs didn’t offend you too much. There’s actually more where this came from, but that will have to wait until the next post. Until then, feel free to let me know what you think or share any chaos-related stories of your own. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!
Here’s to chaos! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!