Greetings from the pit…

So, yet another round of fresh INQ28 models this week — I just cannot help myself, and I know far better than to second guess any motivation I might have for painting stuff. Next week, we’ll finally be taking a closer look at the models from Deathwatch:Overkill, in case you were wondering, but such review posts take a lot of time and work to complete, and at least for the time being, I would rather use this energy to actually create something new and not to merely write about models 😉

So anyway, one thing that I have wanted to do ever since I saw Bruticus’ brilliant pit slave gang last year was to build a pit slave or two of my own. A recent conversion by Legatho taught me that the combination of an Age of Sigmar Bloodreaver and a Skitarii Vanguard head would be a terrific mix to start the project, so I grabbed a Bloodreaver body, carefully shaved off all the chaotic and Khornate runes (HERESY!) and tried my best. But the model just refused to come together for some reason, and so the parts landed on my desktop, glowering at me accusingly every now and then — at least that’s what it felt like.

The project wasn’t kickstarted back into life until I started messing around with some of the – brilliantly crude – bionic limbs from the Ork Nobz kit, but when I discovered a brutal looking bionic harpoon arm among those bitz, I knew I had found the missing piece for that pit slave gladiator. And just a short while later, I had a finished conversion. Take a look:

Pitslave WIP (5)
Pitslave WIP (2)
Pitslave WIP (4)
Pitslave WIP (3)
The crude bionic arm really sells the model, if you ask me. And the Skitarii Vanguard helmet adds a sinister, quasi-robotic look that seems really fitting for a heavily augmented killing machine. For the pit slave’s right hand, I chose a standard CSM chainsword that was made quite a bit more spiky and hideous by making a few small tweaks. I also added some of the Ork armour plate and some tech-y bitz that I had shaved off from some Skitarii backpacks. Those latter parts were used to disguise the areas where I had had to shave off chaotic detailing from the original Bloodreaver model.

When it came to painting the model, I went for a main colour that I don’t use all that often: a very strong industrial yellow for the various armour plates and bionics. My reasons for choosing the approach was that I wanted the armour and augmetics to slightly recall heavy duty construction machines. Plus I thought that the gladiators in the fighting pits would go for bold colours to serve as some kind of “stage outfit”, so to speak. I did add several layers of scratches and sponge weathering, though, to make the yellow parts look suitably grimy and damaged.

So here’s the finished pit slave model. I give you Grimspyke “the Impaler”, former champion in the fighting pits of St. Sabasto’s Reach:

Pitslave Gladiator Grimspyke (1)
Pitslave Gladiator Grimspyke (2)
Pitslave Gladiator Grimspyke (4)
Pitslave Gladiator Grimspyke (3)
All in all, I am really rather happy with the finished model: Grimspyke looks suitably gladiatorial, but there’s also an Imperial underhive angle about him that removes him from his roots as a Khornate model.  In fact, I was so happy with the model that I almost instantly started converting another gladiator. Go figure…

This time, the inspiration I chose was one of my favourite classic Inquisitor models: Arco-flagellant Gryx from Phil Kelly’s seminal warband for Inquisitor Lichtenstein:

warband built and painted by Phil Kelly

warband built and painted by Phil Kelly

Back when Phil wrote about this warband in White Dwarf, he said that Gryx had been inspired by Judge Dredd’s Mean Machine — and even though I actually experimented with several different versions of my own conversion, I wasn’t happy until I had decided to recreate the one-armed look. Here’s the conversion I came up with:

2nd Pitslave WIP (1)
2nd Pitslave WIP (2)
2nd Pitslave WIP (3)
As you can see, a Bloodreaver from the AoS starter box forms the base of the conversion once again. I chose a massive Ork power claw for the right arm and cut off most of the left arm so it ended up looking like an augmetic stump where a bionic arm may once have existed. I wanted this model to explore the slightly grotesque – and ultimately rather sad – angle about pit slaves: that they are crudely augmented to serve as tools or fighting machines, divorced from their humanity and turned into misshapen creatures. This is also the reason I chose a more human head (originally from the Space Marine Scout Bikers, I believe). All in all, the model looks lumbering and lopsided, with an overmuscled look to its right side — exactly the effect I had intended.

I chose the same recipe for painting this guy that I had already used on my first pit slaves — these guys might actually end up in a warband together at some point…

So here’s the second pit slave: “Crusher” Vex, also known as “Old Man Claw”:

Pitslave Crusher Vex (2)
Pitslave Crusher Vex (4)
Pitslave Crusher Vex (3)
Something that doesn’t show well in most of the pictures is that I have added some greying fuzz to Crusher’s head:

Pitslave Crusher Vex (5)
I wanted to show that he’s a rather old guy, and definitely well past his prime as a pitfighter.

And here are the two gladiators together:

Pitslaves (1)
“The championship match between Grimspyke and Crusher Vex? One for the ages, that was! I’ll never forget when Grimspyke took Crusher’s arm clean off during the fifth bout!”

“Shug” Holn, Sector 2 Habber


For now, these are mostly a fun little diversion. But I do like the idea of spinning these off into their won little warband at some point. I don’t even see these as members of a simple pit slave gang, either, but rather as a crew of former pit slaves, mutants, workers and other malcontents. In fact, they would work great asa warband hailing from the world of St. Sabasto’s Reach that DexterKong and I invented for the Velsen Sector. Here’s the outline for the planet that I wrote a while ago:

St. Sabasto’s Reach

An extremely rich hive world grown fat and depraved through slave trade and the exploitation of its mutant lower class.

The world originally earned its name when the Imperial Saint Sabasto rested here after his great victory on the fields of Belzifer, before engaging in the last stage of his holy crusade for the defense of Velsen against the forces of the Arch-enemy. While Sabasto’s crusade army was still magnificent at this point, it had also suffered heavy losses (a fact, it is argued by some contemporary Velsian historians, that contributed to Sabasto’s eventual defeat within the Veil of Impurity).

When the Saint contemplated the price in blood paid for the reclamation of Velsen, he decreed that the entire world of St. Sabasto’s Reach would be given to the orphans of the slain and that the Imperium would see to it that the children of martyrs would never need to go hungry. This spurred the planetary populace into religious fervor, and countless orphanages and scholae were opened in the saint’s name, earning the world bynames like “The Planet of Orphans” or “The Orphans’ Cradle”.

However, with a slow decline in piety and a general economic recession, many of the world’s orphanages have had to close over the centuries, while others have turned to a far darker trade, giving the world’s epithet a new, sinister meaning. It is true that Imperial organisations like the Schola Progenium, the Ecclesiarchy and even the Inquisition still maintain a presence on St. Sabasto’s Reach and recruit from the ranks of the homeless orphans, choosing the most talented or devout to serve in their respective organisations. And in the deeper levels of the world’s hives, missions and orphanages still offer a real, if meagre, chance for survival to this day. Yet that is only one face of St. Sabasto’s Reach. For at the same time, the world has also become the biggest fleshmarket in the entire Velsen Sector, providing human resources in a very literal sense, from mutant workers to household servants. Moreover, it is rumoured that there exists a slave for every kind of service in the almshouses and slave pits of St. Sabasto’s Reach, and the masters of the world have long prided themselves on being able to cater to every taste and desire, no matter how “eccentric” it may be.

Another mainstay of the world’s culture, the countless circuses and fighting arenas, are also fueled by a constant influx of “material” from the slave pits. At one point, the world’s renowned Circus Imperialis served as a front for a cult of chaos worshippers and was purged by the hand of Inquisitor Antrecht. But even after this upheaval, the remaining slavelords and ringmasters of St. Sabasto’s Reach quickly regained their step, slightly realigning themselves in the resulting power struggle and carving out a new pecking order among themselves. Because the Inquisition’s issue was never with the slave trade itself, but with the presence of heretics, and so the House of Blossoms, the Angelflesh Lodge and countless other establishments like them continue to ply their dark trade to this day…


I think a group of former slaves would be an interesting concept, plus it would allow for all kinds of different character types, including pitslaves, mutants, workers and some more exotic members. I don’t consider this a high priority project at the moment, but it’s still a fun diversion. In fact, this mutant overlord that I built recently, using the Bloodstoker from the AoS starter box would also make for a great member of that particular warband:

Mutant Overlord WIP (4)
Mutant Overlord WIP (2)
Mutant Overlord WIP (3)
As it happens, the Ork Nobz kit provided the final missing piece for this model as well: a crude trophy pole that looks great on the mutant’s back:

Mutant Overlord WIP (4)
I am normally *very* reluctant about adding back banners or trophy poles to models, because they end up looking very silly more often than not, messing up the model’s silhouette. But I thought this guy needed that precise pole ever since I started building him, and I like it a lot. It also has the added benefit of adding another layer to the model, so to speak, as the base model is surprisingly two-dimensional.

Anyway, I think this could become a rather interesting project somewhere down the line! Keep your eyes peeled! 😉

For now, I am happy enough with my first two pit slaves, though:

Pitslaves (2)
Let me know what you think! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!


41 Responses to “Greetings from the pit…”

  1. Clawful rocks!!!

  2. Those pit-slaves look cracking! Great work 🙂

  3. They are the business mate – lovely job!

  4. Love the pit slave theme. It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I first saw the Exprofundis blog as well. Yours are brilliant man. The yellow is striking and reminds me of the big yellow earth movers. The Ork arms work well with the Reaver bodies. Nice work.

  5. Construction machines! God damn that’s a good idea. You’re killing it on these ones buddy. Can’t wait to see how it evolves!

  6. Very nice. Mostly Ork arms look a bit on the big size on human bodies, even for pit slaves but the extra bulk of the bloodreavers really helps pull them together. The yellow is really striking as well (but then I’m easily impressed by anyone that can pull off yellow!) Makes me wonder about doing something similar (without the sacrilege of shaving off the Khorne icons!) to make World Eater battle-slaves.

    • Thanks, mate! I guess the approach might work really well for the kind of rabble that ekes out a meagre living in the lower levels of any World Eaters vessel — in fact, it’s stated in Kharn: Eater of Worlds that the serfs and servants do have their own fighting pits, so yeah. Might be a cool idea for a squad of allied traitor milita or two.

      The yellow is really just a trick, btw: It looks absolutely horrible right up to the point where the washes and sponge weathering go on 😉

  7. All are great, but Grimspyke really stands out. His helmet really sets it off for me – in this context, it’s very much a gladiator’s head.

  8. Mark DCCCXIII "Voyager" (Time/Dimensional Travelling Armour) Says:

    An interesting project, to be sure… I much prefer the first model over the second and third. But maybe that’s because I like the “Fallen Hero” archetype much better than some of the more grimdark aspects of Warhammer 40k. Food for thought, I guess…

    • Thanks! While the first model is really cool and probably the most badass out of the three, my aim is to give them a shared sense of narrative when combined — for instance, Grimspyke was the one to take off Crusher’s left arm, but here they are now, part of the same warband of escaped slaves. So they are really all needed to get the entire story 😉

      • Mark DCCCXIII "Voyager" (Time/Dimensional Travelling Armour) Says:

        I supposed that’s fair.

        However, don’t Gladiatorial matches usually end with one of the two parties dead? ;D Just saying…

        That said, the warband is very cool. I’d been meaning to do a chapter (or some project or other that I don’t really remember now) in that industrial yellow scheme, but never got around to it.

      • Yes, well: Maybe the fact that they are both still alive hints at an overarching narrative? Just saying… 😉

      • Mark DCCCXIII "Voyager" (Time/Dimensional Travelling Armour) Says:

        Would this be Inquisitors pulling strings, perhaps? ;D

      • Nah, probably nothing so mysterious and involved — just a little Spartacus-style tale of solidarity between gladiators, I think.

      • Mark DCCCXIII "Voyager" (Time/Dimensional Travelling Armour) Says:

        I would love to work on more stories with you, if you’d be so inclined. I rather enjoyed helping with your Knight.

      • Mark DCCCXIII "Voyager" (Time/Dimensional Travelling Armour) Says:

        Fair enough

  9. Dave Taylor Says:

    These guys look fantastic! I think you’ve really nailed the yellow and it is working well with your overall scheme.

  10. So, so awesome! Loving the gladiators, awesome use of bits – always inspirational stuff!

  11. Great work mate ! Those bloodreavers can be used for everything but bloodreavers (I’m actually using them for my Mordheim Beastmen warband) . Keep up the good work !

    • Haha, yeah, I can easily see them working for Mordheim! Anyway, thanks for giving me the original idea, mate! The combination with the vanguard helmet just works so well…

  12. Those pit slaves are something special. The best i’ve ever seen, to be honest, and much, much better that the released sculpts. Wonderful inspiring stuff.

    • Aw, mate, that’s awfully nice of you to say! I think the original sculpts probably haven’t aged all that well, but they did plant the idea for this type of character, and I think they were pretty alright for the time they were released, to be honest.

  13. Really inspiring! I think I’m done thinking about my next project now. Definitely inquisitorish!

  14. Long-time reader, first time poster!
    Really struggling with painting buzz-cut hair onto a head with no “hair” on it. Yours looks fantastic, just wondered if you could give me some pointers?

    • Hey mate,

      no problem, as it was exactly the same for me. In the end, it turned out to be far easier to do than I had anticipated:

      Once you have your skin colour finished, you create the colour for the stubble you want. This has to be quite a bit lighter than the hair would be if it were longer. So for black-ish stubble, you go dark grey, for instance. Now the important thing that made it work for me was to mix in some of the skin colour (Cadian Fleshtone, in this case) into the mix for the hair to make the finished effect look natural. Then you carefully paint (or stipple) it onto the head. The more of the skin colour you mix in, the more subtle the effect will be. And make sure to only cover the areas where hair would grow naturally 😉

      Hope this helps!

  15. Geralt Wiwczareck Says:

    These look excellent mate!

    I have always liked this aspect of warhammer 40k, and it’s always cool to see someone else’s take on it 🙂
    Also, it’s always impressive and inspiring to see how well you use bits of different packs to create a truly unique thing! 🙂

  16. These are brilliant! I built some last year. They are here if you’d like to see them.
    This post is making me want to build another team.

  17. Adam Åberg Says:

    Just giving som mad cred ehre, you are awesome and a huge source of inspiration for a fellow follower of the blood god (albeit for WFB/AoS).
    I went back through the adventure that is your blogg yesterday and found your thoughts on the korgorath. I largely share your view, and since I don’t find anything about wether you actually made anything of the brute I thought i’d send you a link to my solution.
    I spliced in the head of a Bloodthister (the horns went to my manticore) to b rid of the mess that was there.
    Hope it gives you some inspiration so I can return the favour 🙂!/page3

    • Thanks for the kind words — and for the link! Yours is the first version with a Bloodthirster head that really looks good — all the other versions I had seen so far ended up looking odd, but you’ve done such a good job blending in that head! Very cool!

      My own finished Khorgorath conversion can be found here, btw:

      I used an ogre helmet to achieve a suitably gladiatorial look.

  18. […] the world of St- Sabasto’s Reach (and if not, you can always go back and read up on it all here😉 ). Anyway, here are the two gladiators I had when we last heard of this particular […]

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