I’ve not done a Miniature Focus article in quite some time, but with the long history behind them, and their glorious recent release, I figured I’d give the Plague Marines the treatment. So sit back, and let Papa Nurgle tell you a tale…
A Bit of History
In the late 1980s and early 90s, Sci Fi and Horror movies started producing some truly disgusting monsters (they’d been making monsters for years of course, but at this time the game was definitely upped), and the above movie is a prime example. I might have been a bit young when I saw The Fly for the first time, so I’m not putting an image of what the mighty Goldblum became in that picture on this blog. Not going back to those nightmares thank you very much. If you’ve not seen it, it’s worth it (just bring a bucket). In fact, in Flight Of The Eisenstein, when the dead guy starts transforming into a plague monster, The Fly definitely came to my mind. But I digress.
The Fly was Cronenberg’s masterpiece and it’s hard to imagine that it didn’t drop a few ideas into the minds of miniature designers working for GW or Citadel at the time, and in years to come, slimy gross monsters would get even more screen time. Including this guy in Weird Science – remind you of anyone?
Not only that, I’d like to direct your attention to a book written by PG Chadwick. It’s a cracking read actually and I’m happy to say that I own a copy, and despite the subject matter and story line being quite different, it does have genetically enhanced super soldiers crafted by a “Grandfather” and a fair bit of poisonous gas. Between Chadwick and Cronenberg we find more than enough inspiration for the Plague Marines of Warhammer 40,000.
The first mutterings of Plague Marines came in the early 1990s. When Realm Of Chaos – The Lost And The Damned were released at the tail end of the 80s, we got more specific rules for the orginal Nurgle Renegades which were as wonderfully wonky and weird as all of the other Renegade models. But it didn’t take long for a flurry of Plague Marine releases to appear. In 1994, we got both metal and plastic kits for Plague Marines. A further release came in 1997 and all of these models involved spiked helmets and gas mask tubes – a nod to WW1 soldiers that has since been taken up by Forge World’s Krieg range – funny to think that those two armies share an ancestry.
In 2002 we got the unit that was with us until this latest release. Originally in metal, they became a popular finecast kit (I’m not saying the finecast part was popular, but the kit was) that lasted an impressive 15 years without looking out of place at all. These seven miniatures were replaced with the birth of 8th edition with the marines found in the Dark Imperium set.
And now we are here, with seven new marines that really show off the talent and ability of Games Workshop’s sculptors today. There are plenty of nods to those old miniatures across this unit, from the spiked helmets and gas mask tubes, to the general wear and decay, though a great deal has since been added too.
Let’s Get Fluffy
The Death Guard were stranded. Dead in the turbulent waters of the warp, and as Mortarion’s brothers fought their way to Terra for the final battle with the flase Emperor, the Terminus Est and so much of the rest of the XIVth Legion tumbled through the tides of horror that lie within the empyrean. This was because Calas Typhon, Mortarion’s most trusted captain, had killed the fleet’s navigators, saying that they had been loyal to the Emperor. He assured his gene father that they wouldn’t have any issue reaching Terra, but he was wrong.
Lost in the warp, the legion was eventually assailed by the Destroyer Plague; a virulent sickness that killed all the human crew and even began to infect the Space Marines themselves. In his desperation, Typhon turned to the Dark Gods of the warp for help and Grandfather Nurgle answered the call. Typhon was transformed into Typhus, the host of the Destroyer Plague. The entire legion were “saved” with the sicknesses affecting them now become a grim source of life and strength. And so the first Plague Marines were born. Since this time, they have spread Papa Nurgle’s poisons about the mortal galaxy and infected millions with his precious gifts.
Time To Talk Tactics
It’s still early days for this unit in 8th edition, but there are already a few tips that will help you make the most of these guys on the table top. Firstly, you have to acknowledge their main problem – they are slooooow. Really slow. And while they’re tougher than most marines, big guns will cut them down before they get the chance to engage the enemy. A big blob of Pox Walkers is a good distraction, while ensuring your faster units cause enough of an issue to ensure they take the brunt of the enemy fire is a really good idea.
But when you get close enough to do some shooting, these guys can really turn up the hurt. They can move and fire heavy weapons without suffering any negative modifiers, and any “plague weapon” means you’re going to dealing a lot of wounds. What’s more, you can tough it out with these guys if they get charged. So if they are the bulk of your army, get them up the table as quickly as you can, and make sure you have cheap and/or fast units to help keep them alive by distracting your enemies. Oh, and some of those characters can give you some really useful buffs too.
If Looks Could Kill…
I love the gribbly, gross and grimey look of Nurgle armies and I always have. I have a Death Guard army somewhere but I doubt they’d be legal anymore and they certainly don’t stack up in the looks department to the current monsters. It’s all about flies, smog, bare pipes and bulges. The bloating guts of the diseased, along with the rust and ooze of ancient, decaying machinery help to conjure up a really sickening feeling. If you want to learn some fun weathering techniques, it can be worth picking these guys up.
You do get the feeling that the miniature designers really enjoy Nurgle themed projects. They can really go to town on the blisters, boils and general ugliness of the army, and make it look great. These are big guys their size also helps to illustrate their tireless, lumbering advance. Who doesn’t love a good bit of Nurgle grossness, right?
Ah, The Memories…
As I mentioned, I have a Nurgle army. In fact, that army featured in some of my earliest blog posts on Heresy & Heroes. In fact, that’s a Death Guard Heldrake that you can see in banner for this blog. I built up about 3,500 points in 6th/7th Ed and it was kind of my showcase army. Which is a bit weird to think about now as I think I may have come on some way since that army was painted. Hell, you can’t even have a Death Guard Heldrake these days!
They are an insanely fun army to work on. In terms of conversions, you can really get into scuffing, scratching and greenstuffing more vileness onto your minis, and as for painting, it’s seriously fun. I wanted the whites and greens of the original legion but obviously in the throws of plagueness, so very damaged and uneven. Actually, they don’t look as bad as I think they do. Maybe I’ll get them out for a game again sometime soon.
It’s good to see a Chaos force get the treatment that the Death Guard have gotten recently, and I hope that others will follow soon. They have such a rich history of miniatures, fluff and rules that it makes sense that they become their own army, even if it’s taken eight editions to get here. Hopefully more will follow.
And the stars for me, even with Primarchs and Plague Crawlers in the mix are still the Plague Marines. These stalwarts of the game have deserved miniatures like this for too long. All those years ago when I first got some of the plastic Plague Marines that all looked the same, I wanted them to be so much more. And now they are. A unit with a rich history indeed. In fact, I’m now off to go and throw up in honour of Papa Nurgle. Onwards!