Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Behold The Star Marines

I realized I promised a small expose on my Star Marine Heavy Armor last week and have yet to deliver.

Firstly let me say that Star Marines have sort of taken over my imagination.  For the first year or more of my designing I was heavily focused on making "Space Marine Compatible Parts".  Items that could be considered aftermarket parts for GW's space marine line, or related lines.  Now, well, I like GW's line well enough but recent expanses in what I do and how I do it have meant that where before I'd design a shoulder pad or sword for a soldier now I'm designing whole figures and complete families of weapons.  Its a large difference that erodes the marriage between Warhammer 40k and my 3d modeling.

The point is that while my 3d bits are usable for 40k I'm no longer exclusively focusing on using them there as exemplified by the appearance of new weapons that don't have a standard analog in the 40k rules.  Ultimately when starting the Star Marine Heavy Armor design I had to, or rather got to, consider a wider array of science fiction details when creating them.  I love 40k but its a restrictive environment to design for.  While the background of 40k has been rich and vibrant for years the design studio's literary and artistic choices are tightly controlled.  As Games Workshop grows there is less and less room for outside artists to create anything "lasting" in the 40k universe.

Obviously I don't expect Games Workshop to change their fluff to fit my projects in.  But with the unpredictable shifts of fluff and what is official army design it makes it impossible to really create something and say it will last for any length of time.  That's their prerogative, its their universe, I have no say in the matter.  However I'd argue that most miniatures gamers would like to at least pretend all their assembly and hard work would last and maybe all their scratch building was at least theirs not the manufacturers vision.  Custom painting on chapter color schemes and pinning and glueing new poses on your officers can only take an army so far.

When I started looking, I mean really looking, at what I loved about Space Marines in the Warhammer 40k setting I had to admit it was some very specific things that games workshop really didn't do very well portraying.  Firstly, in a setting ostensibly devoid of advanced technology the Space Marines are top of the line.  Secondly personality wise the marines are essentially space knights, ok maybe monastic knights but knights in space.  And third they are elite warriors, a tragic brotherhood of arms destined to die fighting a pointless war.

In context Space Marines in 40k aren't particularly advanced.  While their armor is advanced it really doesn't look it and most weapons they use have been co-opted into the imperial guard either as man portable heavy weapons or simply special weapons to outfit squads of standard soldiers.  Their vehicles and aesthetic choices are less technologically advanced than they are, metal slab construction from the industrial revolution.  I suppose it fits the setting but doesn't really speak to what I love about them in the fluff.

Space Marine chapters, while regimented functioning as a fighting force are less knightly in action than they are barbarous in play.  There is a strong game play emphasis away from armies facing down their enemy with some kind of chivalrous code and more towards massed fire or super weapons to deal with any comers.  Arguably each official chapter has its own roots and play style.  If you want space knights pick up black templars, at least until they get a new codex and then they'll be less chivalrous knights and more blood thirsty nutters with swords chained to their hands.  The old deathwing always sounded in the fluff as awesome elite knights facing enemies in single combat but now they are heavy weapon wielding crazies that stay at mid range shooting people from the dark.  Sad.

Of course my biggest problem is the elite nature of the Space Marines.  They are supposed to be big, they are outnumbered but fight on.  They breath so they fight on.  They fight so they can keep fighting.  To call a fluff space marine a soldier is a misnomer.  They are samurai, they are immortals, they are shinobi, they are black ops, they are devil dogs, ultimately they are the marines.  the best of the best, they fight against odds and against time to save their crumbling empire.  But marines are all to routine now. They were once elite but with the advent of more unique codex options in other books their prices have dwindled compared to the mass of weaponry other armies produce.  The result is that while many armies claim to be a horde army the marines feel like one.  They have no unique mechanics or super amazing troop options just the same bland sameness in each area of the org chart.  This coupled with the push to require more and more troops results in largely samely built units in armies that are built the same as the next guy.  People complain about spam, space marines have become spam in a can. A largely identical codex sprinkled with minor amounts of franks red hot sauce in the hopes that people will mistake the burn for flavor.

Why is this important? well when I think of all these truths I wanted to reach into other parts of science fiction to fill all those missing rolls.  My biggest inspiration is of course, Star Ship Troopers. Hienlein's novels are powerful fiction and while repeatedly adapted, even into a table top game, they are rarely portrayed as I always envisioned them.  Perhaps its the fact that no official vision of them exists that makes me so enamored with the design.  I've also chosen heavy influences from anime series's like Armored Trooper Votoms and Gundam 079 and 080.  Their down to earth tactical portrayal of future combat with mech suits and power armor are great inspiration for anyone wondering what space combat might one day become.

So lets talk Star Marines...

Here we see the Star Marine Heavy Armor in its entirety.  This unposed version is built in a modular manner. each body part is its own color as seen here.  This allows me to pose the armor in virtually any pose then solidify it to make a final model.  As a master model it also allows me to construct parts for the design quickly and easily.  You'll notice that the design appears much more technologically advanced than many 28mm soldier models.  I've made a concerted effort to make the soldier's power armor look both practical in terms of its defensive value, and in terms of its strength enhancement capabilities.  In the 40k setting marines are strong before they put on the armor.  Here the standard soldier wears a hydrolic suit to achieve the same thing.  I wanted the super human nature of the warrior to come not from some biological enhancement but from what they do with what they are given.  Its after all, the use of tools that has made humanity survivors throughout history, we adapt or die.

The armored torso of the Star Marine Heavy Armor is designed to be asexual. I'm a huge fan of representing femininity on the battlefield as both a character and a weapon but here the protective value of the armor is its primary function, not its aesthetics.  The front of the torso is heavily armored, its abdomen guarded with articulated segmented plates.  It's chest sweeps up the front of the body becoming a full head and shoulder armor.  The hard carapace protects body and mounts various sensory devices on its outer hull.  A variant torso depicts the chest armor open, its upper canopy pulled back to reveal the operator's face. the The only exposed cabling on the torso is along the shoulder joint wrapping around behind to connect the power lead from the power pack.  The cabling here used not for internal power systems but to run induction power through the arms of the suit to weaponry when necessary.  When mounted with a shoulder pad the exposed cabling is protected from attack except from directly underneath the arm.  I am proud to point out how much the armor's torso looks like a Sontaron soldier.

The arm itself is a beefy structure.  It isn't just armor but power cables and hydrolic systems as well.  The arms were roughly inspired by artwork from the graphic novel "Starship Troopers: dominant species"  there the armor of the mobile infantry is depicted as bulky powered armored space suits.  The arm structure is traditionally human, covered in large molded plates and jointed to allow for maximum movement.  The hands of these models are modular.  there is a 1.5mm peg that allows you to swap weapon hands, here I've used closed fists but my final sprues include fists, pistol grips, and open hands for weapon carrying.  The back of the hand has a thick plate which includes an induction port, a place to plug in weapons so they can charge or run off the power pack of the Star Marine's armor.

Here we see the shoulder pad.  Its big and bulky covering the entire shoulder and most of the way down the arm.  Games Workshop claims the general size and shape of their official shoulder pads as their IP but the general size and even its ribbed rim are natural extensions of military systems.  The large size the armored infantry will traditional walk strait forward, these large bulky shoulder pads protect the warrior from glancing rounds fired from all sides.  It also protects from impacts from weapons directed at the weakest spot of the chest carapace, the shoulder joint.  The softer side of the torso is also blocked by the long body of the shoulder armor.  The ribbing helps prevent the layered polymers of the armor separating after impacts that might be jaring enough to break the lamination bonds.  It also helps deflect glancing melee weapons away from armor seams.  Lastly and most importantly for my design, it serves as a potential mounting point for the shoulder weaponry used by hienlein's Mobile Infantry.

The back of the armor is more delicate in design than the front.  With it's bulky plates the front of the armor is extremely durable but the back mounts the machinery necessary to operate the suit.  On top we see the external data leads used to connect the armor's internal systems to vehicle equipment.  Directly on the shoulder blades and upper back are the power distribution systems that allow the suit to power weapon attachments and enhance the wearer's strength.  Below that along the small of the back and down the gluts is the hydraulic actuators that carry the majority of the armor's weight.  Sensors along this hydraulic spine allow the armor's on-board computers to detect the wearer's movements and respond accordingly with varying degrees of dexterity and force.  These systems while durable enough for military deployment are more lightly armored than the front of the suit's carapace.

The armor has internal power cells that store power for basic operation of the on-board computers and even to some degree the hydrolic systems. However for extended operation an external power source is needed.  The heavy armor's power pack is used for just such purposes.  Its basic body houses a basic oxygen generator for space operation, essential survival supplies like radiation stims and field rations, as well as a water purifier.  Most importantly the armored power pack houses twin micro fusion power generators. These tiny micro reactors are activated in combat allowing the suit to amp strength and power external weaponry as needed.  Their power output can charge the internal power cells and even generate enough power to operate small electric vehicles.  Due to the nature of the reactors massive amounts of heat are generated, this is vented through specialized exhaust ports mounted to vent heat up and away behind the soldier's head.  These ports help minimize the heat signature of the armor until absolutely necessary.

The legs of the Star Marine Heavy Armor are as intricate as the torso's sophisticated power systems.  Often over looked by other companies I wanted you to feel a practical aspect to the legs, not just, armored space pants.  Here we can examine the all terrain boots with their bulky armored exterior and chunky metal traction units.  The ankle and front of knees and legs are protected with reinforced plating to prevent debilitating extremity shots.  Along the back of the lower legs you can just make out the hydraulic support structure that helps distribute weight for the armor and keep balance.  Much of the armor's hydraulics of the suit are dedicated to supporting its own weight, without these systems a marine would be crushed by the weight of their own armor.  The hydraulic support distributes the weight down the outside of the legs into the reinforced boots.  No where are the hydraulics more exposed to weapons fire than here where the armor's designs necessitates them on the sides rather than back of the armor.  For this reason the important equipment is protected by over lapping plates running up the leg where it joins the hip belt and back hydraulic distribution network.

Star Marines are suitably impressive warriors and so they need suitably impressive weapons.  Enter the Gravity Hammer.  Star Marines are suitably impressive masters of technology.  Their heavy weapons are often made man portable by a gravity sling and deployment vehicles often employ antigravity technology to fly.  Though generally benignly used to lower gravitational forces similar technology can be used to amplify gravity.  The gravity hammer is one such application of the technology.  This is the first in a line that may eventually encompass my entire "techno" weapon line.  The gravity hammer is designed to be sleek and elegant and at the same time as practical as possible.  It bars a sweeping arc shape to its head like it was designed to be swung through the air.  At the same time its heft is detailed to add grip to security in the owner's hand.  Rounded out by a power unit at its pummel.

The Gravity hammer is an electronic device made by the military.  It uses a standard military power distribution block.  At the end of the power block is a photon charge pack. This specialized power cell is used to power weaponry, and indeed is a shared feature of all my "Advanced" line energy weapons.  On the left face you can see the photon charge port used to charge the weapon for use.  The port can be used to charge the photon charge pack or when connected to a suit's induction port can directly power the weapon from the micro fusion generator of the suit.  In a pinch you can always swap the charge packs as well.  On the face we can see the system read out control. Seen here, upside down the controls have an LCD panel and several control function buttons the operator can use to change settings on the weapon.  Not seen, on the reverse side, is the standard circuit breaker used on all "advanced" line weapons insuring safe operation and preventing over load of the photon charge pack.

The head of the gravity hammer scene in profile. Like the gravity device on my jetbike design, the gravity hammer's head has a hollow center.  The smaller gravity sling I also envision with a hollow center. It's here that gravity device creates an artificial gravity point. A collection entangled dark matter that is used to amplify the weapon's weight.  Biometric computers in the hammer link with on-board armor computers to detect body movement in order to determine when the user is attacking.  During an attack the weapon's computer systems initiate a gravity surge amplifying the mass of the hammer head between 200 and 300 times.  At the point of impact the blow can hit with as much force as 13 tonnes per square centimeter.  After striking the computer cycles back the gravity surge to normal levels allowing the operator to maintain control.

The use of shields in futuristic melee combat is a rarity but the Star Marines employ them to great effect on heavy armor.  Star Marines in Heavy Armor are often the focal point of enemy ranged fire and as such the Mater Shields are vital to the longevity of the troops.  Matter shields involve a complex magnetosphere that generates an ionized plasma field around the shields face. The result is a barrier that absorbs energy and causes matter to ablate on contact.  This same technology is deployed in large scale on Star Marine vehicles.

The Matter Shield is a compact device.  Internally a shielded electro-magnet rotates within a bath of exotic matter exciting molecules along the face of the sheild to firce ionize then plasmize as the excitation accelerates.  At the core is a low grade magnetic resinator collects the plasma flat along the surface.  Blade like heat sinks dissipate thermal energy along the edge of the shield making it both a defensive weapon and, in a pinch, an offensive one.  Matter Shield models are mounted with a Star Marine Hand already locked into the photon charge port of the shield to give it power.

And that about wraps up this look at the initial Star Marine Heavy Armor release.  I've begun working on additional support options for these suits including techno-fist options, shoulder mounted weapons, and some added melee / ranged options.  Additional in the works will be Star Marine Light Armor, with both male and female variants.  If I ever get the chance I'll also post some background for my Star Marine designs.


  1. Very cool design there! I'd love to see some sort of kick ass cannon for this armor set. Nice work!

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you like them. The Advanced series of weapons that I've done fit quite well with the body style. At least they do in sketchup. I've just ordered these guys so I can see them in print and blog them as I paint and assemble them. that will let me iron out any design flaws. After that I'll put together sets with other equipment options including the ranged and melee varients i've been thinking about.

  2. Can i buy some shoulder pads. You have some awesome designs.
    please email me so we can work something out. naysgaming@gmail.com