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Warhammer 40K Hobby: 13 Ways to Retro Up Your Army

5 Minute Read
May 7 2024
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GW has dropped a lot of ancient lore over 30+ years. Here are a baker’s dozen cool hobby tricks to RETRO-ize your army to impress the newbs and the vets.

Astartes Field Police

Yes, in Rogue Trader, they had a Space Marine helmet and shoulder pad markings for Field Police (see above pics). Then, 25 years later, Forge World clarified what that was all about. So dress up a couple of your models with the diagonal yellow and black stripe on their helmets and the symbol on a pauldron, and know that you can tell the Chaplains to take the day off.

Marine Lieutenant-Commanders

SAY WHAT? Indeed, there are ranks just below the Captain (Lieutenant, who are back in a big way but were missing for twenty years) and Chapter Master (Lieutenant Commander) who can help the big guys out. Just apply the rank insignia to the helmet and forearm and have a model who can let the boss take a coffee break. You can see echoes of the Lieutenant Commander in the 30K Legion list with Praetors.

Rogue Trader-ize your Imperial Army

Don’t settle for any plain boring Inquisitor leading your Marines/Astra Militarum.  Say he’s a badass Rogue Trader, and add his fleet’s logo to all your Astartes and AM units. This is just the thing for a themed army using all those Rogue Trader,  Elucidian Starstrider, and Voidsmen minis.

Special Weapon Icons

I bet you didn’t know there is an official logo for many types of Marine Special Weapons to paint on their shoulder pads to mark them out as specialists. Yes, even Graviton guns—and yes, this is all from 1988! So throw a little detail on your special weapon dude’s pauldrons.

Apothecary In Training

What a cool way to dress up an otherwise ordinary squad. Just paint up a trooper’s one shoulder pad and arm in white, and you know who’s taking over when the official Apothecary gets stepped on by a Stompa. Someone’s got to step up in the next battle, and the cycle of Apothecary life continues.

Chaplain Acolyte

Give any lowly marine in your army a black helmet, single shoulder pad and arm, and TADA.  Guess who gets the Crozius when the current dude runs out of grimdark sermons.

Beastmen Attack Squads

This one goes out to the Astra Militarum folks. Bring back some retro AWESOME from Rogue Trader with an Imperial Beastmen squad in your army.  Back in the day, they could be armed with shotguns (counts as Veterans), Shields (mount 2-3 per base as Bullgryn), or Flamers (counts as Special Weapon Team).  Just grab a unit of Age of Sigmar Beastmen, or grab a bunch of Blackstone Fortress or Kill Team Chaos Beastmen and get to work. It’s a big galaxy out there!

Commissar Training Squad

Oh yeah, even the commissars have to start somewhere. Ten guys in black peaked hats, long coats with lasguns and a CCW—led by an attached regular Commissar. Your best bet once you have the models is probably a counts-as Scions. Deploy them in an all-black Taurox with red trim to really do it up. Half of being a successful Commissar is the style!

Cult Limos

Depending on your Magus’ automotive taste, you can count it as a Goliath (sedan) or Ridgerunner (coupe). Go for the most stretched, low, and badass-looking mob boss ride. Red Skull, ahem, I mean, the Patriarch approves!


Anvilus Pattern Powerpacks

It turns out these are also for loyalists. The “Anvilus” pattern marine powerpack has enhanced stabilizing thrust vents to help with void-based operations but weaker rad-shielding than normal packs. While associated with Chaos Marines, due to it falling out of favor with the Imperials after the Heresy, you could always dress up any squad of regular Marines with these old units just for coolness points, especially if the theme of your squad is these are for shipboard/naval specialists.

Badab War Schemes

Long forgotten, the insane camo schemes listed in 1988 White Dwarf for many famous chapters in the Badab War are out of this world. I suggest making one unit of your marines use them to mark them out as veterans of the Badab War.  A perfect talking point for table side! Note the Salamanders (lowest row, middle) and the Red Scorpions (middle row, left).  Painting up an occasional piece of CSM Red Corsairs power armor still in their original Tiger Claws scheme is super style points! Have fun.

Eldar Corsair Schemes

Eldar Corsairs are back after decades in the latest Aeldari index. But waaaay back in the late 1980s, they had a bunch of super cool warbands, color schemes, and logos. These predate the entire Craftworld army list by years and are, in effect, the “original” Eldar. Grab some of those new Corsair minis and give one of these a whirl! Alai Mercenary Corps—I dare you!

Medics & Apothecary Schemes

Last but not least, any of these schemes will add some Rogue Trader charm to your tabletop lifesavers. I LOVE the Ultramarines and Dark Angels schemes! Heck, you can even try to shoehorn some of these into some of your Leagues of Votann units, just for cool points.

What other units and markings from the days of yore did we miss?


Author: Larry Vela
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