Friday, May 6, 2022

Fly First Class - Sokar Pattern Stormbird

Sokar Pattern Stormbird for the Horus Heresy. Model from Forge World. Assembly, priming and base courtesy of Markam Painting Studio, UK.

When you think of Space Marines making their big, dramatic assaults from the orbit of a target world, you usually think of the troops blasting down through the atmosphere in drop pods. But when it absolutely, positively, has to get there, the Space Marine Legions send in the Stormbirds...and I am very excited to have one of these join my Horus Heresy collection. This is a Sokar Pattern Storm Bird from Forge World, painted in the noble colours of the XVI Legion Astartes, the Warmaster's own Sons of Horus. 

I should note that other entities deserve credit here. After all, people who know me know I would be hard-pressed to build a kit this complicated. The model is huge, and so is the base that holds it while "flying". It weighs in at 6kg or so. There was no way I was ever going to properly figure out how to assemble one of these things. So credit where it's due: this marvellous beast was assembled and primed for me by the excellent UK-based Markham Painting Studio.

A Long-Term Project 

The beast in flight...ready to deliver the Sons of Horus to the heart of the battle...or just go pick up a Starbucks, whatever...

Stormbirds are the assault craft of legend from the times of The Emperor's Great Crusade. I remember hearing about and seeing references to "Stormbirds" amid little snippets or lore well before Horus Heresy gaming in 28mm ever became a thing. In this sense, I feel the model is an iconic piece of 30k kit. Drop pods had always had their place, of course, but during the Great Crusade, the Space Marine Legions would sweep into the battlefield on these huge Stormbird gunships. They are magnificent war artifacts from the times of the "Dark Age of Technology". The "Thunderhawks" familiar to 40k players came along as a means to fill gaps in the Space Marine air support caused by the gradual attrition and loss of the Stormbirds through The Great Crusade - their means of manufacture already being lost at that time.  

Flight crew at their stations.

Another view of the flight crew and the cockpit.

All this to say, when Forge World released the Stormbird model in 2016, I was immediately intrigued, and really wanted one "one day"for my collection. About a year ago, I was fortunate that circumstances were such that I had a chance to acquire one. It was during the pandemic, and before any credible news of the Horus Heresy 2.0 had leaked - in fact, it appeared at the time that GW might be preparing to abandon/move on from the Horus Heresy (as they have done with many other games in their time) and I thought it was "now or never." So I reached out on Facebook to the Markham Painting Studio. Usually they do complete projects, fully painted with custom bases (you can see their mind-blowing work on their Facebook page), and I wasn't sure if they would be OK with a more basic "please just assemble, prime and prepare a very basic base" request, but they were happy to do so! 

Lascannons to provide fire support for the Sons of Horus.

Underwing ordnance, primed for "problem solving".

Of course, one has to wait one's turn. The folks at Markham Painting Studio had lots of work to keep them busy, and had to navigate their own ongoing challenges etc. during the pandemic too. But they provided good communication, were up-front and honest about how long things would take, and were generally excellent to deal with. 

Plus, they are clearly model-building ninjas. Markham Painting Studio built the Stormbird model replete with magnets so it can be taken apart for transport! The missiles, the turrets, the wings and struts are all magnetized and can come off! Markham also made the necessary modifications to the hull to tolerate a custom flight stand, and prepared a basic round flight base of sufficient size and strength to support the thing "in the air". All of these features make this beast of a model relatively portable, a notable - and quite welcome - achievement given its size and weight. After the assembly, the whole thing was primed black, and shipped over to me, arriving in early March of this year.

A Little Bit At A Time

First assembly here in Canada, just testing things out...note how I managed to put the forward wings on upside down...

The components were packed with care and precision...still, we are talking about Canadian parcel delivery here, so a way was duly found a way to cause some damage - one of the landing struts was broken, and the mounting fixture in the flight base was somehow snapped out of its two-part-epoxy home...@#@!#!@#  I got to work, making the repairs by fixing up the damaged strut, and with the help of my brother-in-law, drilling out the damaged base and re-installing the mounting section with a fresh application of epoxy. 

Broken landing strut on the top right, snapped during shipping...

Of course there was the painting to consider! Curt's Painting Challenge was still underway at the time, and part of me thought it might be a heck of a final entry to do some kind of crash project, and maybe finish this bird in time for the Challenge conclusion? I didn't take that path, obviously - the closing weeks of the Challenge are such a cacaphony of entries that it would likely not have made much of a splash. And besides, while I generally paint fast, the model was just too big to get done even over a couple of weeks.

Small bits first...started with the landing struts...

WIP on the pilots...

Work on the cockpit in the early stages...

Some bases coats on the main body completed.

So the painting began, a bit at a time instead. I started with the relatively small components - the struts, the void shield generators, the crew. I moved on to the smaller wings, then the missiles and the turrets. As to the large and heavy main body section, I started with the segments for the landing struts, and then painted the cockpit detail. In all of the areas of the model, I just used my basic painting approach, nothing fancy at all. This was not the time to crack out and try and airbrush or anything like that...I wanted the Stormbird to fit in terms of look with the other models and figures in my Sons of Horus collection.

Control surfaces for the wings...needed to be painted, then glued on.

WIP on the massive base to hold the "flying" model.

The underside of one of the main wings, showing the various magnets that were placed to keep the beast together.

WIP on the underwing ordnance - "Dreadstrike Missiles" - fun for everyone!

This all took many weeks. The hardest part of the painting the main body section - even without the wings attached, it is large and quite heavy, not easy to hold while you paint. One other bit of work that calls for some specific venting involved finishing the cockpit canopy - that was a bloody challenge. Forge World provides you with clear plastic to cut out and affix to the various canopy sections, and Markham had duly passed this along to me. But Forge World's always gonna Forge World...the segment of plastic you receive is risibly small, and the template they provide includes a couple of sections that don't match the actual design of the canopy! took a lot of trial and error, and I have to thank Dallas for his suggestion that I use plastic from blister packs for the job. It just so happened I had some of that kind of plastic around in the wake of another recent project, and so I was able to do a not-totally-half-assed job finished the canopy, fixing the "window" segments into place with white glue.

Buzzing a friendly armoured column...

The waterslide transfers came from a variety of sources. The Sons of Horus sheet from Forge World obviously provided a number of them. The name of the craft - "Fury" - came from a sheet of transfers for the Elysian Drop troops. Others were from Mechanicum sheets, and some of the script-writing and numbers came from a third-party decal source - "The Mighty Brush" (they have great decals, check them out!).

Anyway, it got done, and I'm excited to have this beast on the collection shelf. 

Sokar Pattern Stormbird in the Horus Heresy Game

A Sons of Horus delegation organizes their thoughts after disembarking...

While this is primarily a collector's piece for me, it can, of course, be used in a game. There are rules for the Sokar Pattern Stormbird and as you might expect, it's a pretty terrifying asset in the Horus Heresy game. Armed with a battery of missiles, three twin-heavy bolters and for twin lascannons, the Stormbird can transport 50 Marines (or a mix of Marines, Dreadnoughts and even a Rhino) to the table in style and comfort - while shooting up anything on the ground that might cause trouble. As an added bonus, the craft has a pair of void shields, which can be expanded to protect the Marines on the ground as they disembark and begin their assault. To add to the fun, it can also coordinate orbital strikes from above as the Marines fan out and move to their objective. Given all of that, you can see how this isn't exactly a model you show up with for a regular 2,000 point game.

The good guys move out! Horus for hope!

That said, I hope to use it once or twice - certainly a scenario where the Stormbird has just landed, and the Marines on board must deploy and seize objectives in the face of enemy resistance would be a lot of fun, and might be something I try and organize around the time that "Horus Heresy" 2.0 finally drops.

Anyways, that's all for now - thanks for reading!


MFraser said...

That is truly magnificent! Excellent work! The favour you bestow on your Sons of Horus put all your other legions to shame!

Dallas said...

Wow dude - absolutely impressive work here. A big project to take on and a fantastic result! Looking forward to seeing it on the table - as long as the Sons of Horus are allied with my Iron Warriors :-)

Muskie said...

Good work on this. In my own latest three year plan, I plan to paint a big centrepiece model in year three, but I haven't decided what it will be yet. I do know I need more guns that shoot over 24 inches.