Death From Above: Making Mycetic Spores

In order to prepare for my most recent Apocalypse game, I scoured through the units and codexes that were available for Tyranids in 4th edition.  This lead me to some interesting choices, such as Brood Nests (available from Forgeworld).  These are essentially a squad upgrade that allows you to infiltrate most ‘Nid infantry units, and gives them a spot of cover.  Moreover, it also adds some cool Tyranid looking “terrain” to the board.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t justify spending that sort of money for models that can’t be used in normal games, and nor did I have the luxury of waiting for them to arrive.  So, I had to find a way to make my own suitable replacements.  This post is a breakdown of how I came to design my own brood-nests, which could also be used as suitably themed Tyranid terrain, and eventually morphed into Mycetic Spores in the new 5th Edition Tyranid Codex.  The end result is pictured to the right.  This post details the inspiration behind this model, and the steps I used to create it.

Since I immediately conceeded that I couldn’t purchase the Forge World equivalents, and I’m not into scratch-building models, the first thing I did was to set off to find a suitable base to start from.  I had seen some great conversions in the past that dealt with shells from sea creatures as additions to Tyranid models (for some such inspiration, check out the terrain over at Hive Fleet Moloch).  Anyway, I found myself doing random searches through eBay for shells, and stumbled upon the perfect base for my project:  Barnacles.

Looking at these pieces, I immediately envisioned them as recently hatched eggs, leaking all sorts of genetic material, with freshly birthed creatures falling out to gasp their first breaths of alien atmosphere.  Immediately, I was in love.  And lucky for me, they were relatively cheap (although, I should’ve looked around more, because they can be purchased on ebay for less than $1 each!!!  I’ve since gone back and bought more though).

By this time, the German Tyranid codex was floating around the internet, and a new option was available: Mycetic Spores, and this in-progress work quickly shifted focus from being “Brood Nests” to being the hip new ride for my Tyranid force.

So, armed with a suitable base for my model, I need to find a way to turn the base model, into a finished product I could be proud of.  In order to accomplish this, I really needed to come up with two solutions: I needed a suitable base to put them on, and I needed a way to have them oozing fluids.  Naturally, I turned to the internet for a solution.

The easy solution was to use a piece of corrugated cardboard that I had from a nearby box. This allowed for a strong piece of material that was still fairly light weight; however it posed it’s own problem as the edges of such cardboard are severely unappealing.  The pockets of air and frayed edges made for an ramshackle appearance.  Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to clean them up perfectly with a hobby knife, and the gaps would surely make the base look unfinished, even when painted.  Since I wanted the models to look great, I had to find a way to fill the gaps with some sort of semi-viscous solution, but just what I could use that would look appealing, hold solid, and be relatively inexpensive, I wasn’t sure.  So, back to Google I went…

Google lead me over to a post from Santa Cruz Warhammer who provided a rather elegant solution.  Whether he pioneered the solution, borrowed it from the GW book referenced in his post, or it’s something he learned from his great-grandad, I don’t know, but I do know it worked perfectly.  I wandered down to my local Walmart and picked up a small tub of spackle for a couple of bucks and had my solution in place.  Santa Cruz didn’t go much into the application of the spackle, but really that’s because it was a super simple process:  I just used a putty knife and gently coaxed the spackle into the edge of the board, removing any excess as I went.  A few hours later and I was in business.

So that lead me to the 2nd hurdle here.  How do I convincingly apply goo to the model to look as if they’d just expelled their alien inhabitants?  Again, I turned to Google, and again, I was lead to Santa Cruz Warhammer, this time for a post on modeling slime and gore.  I borrowed a hot glue gun from a friend and set to work on my barnacles.

Well, to be honest, there was a lot more consideration than that.  First I wondered if I was better off painting the models first, and then applying the hot glue, so that it could maintain it’s semi-translucent sheen, or if I was better off applying the hot-glue and painting it.  Since I paint my ‘Nidz via the “dipping” method, there was also another factor to consider:  if I was going to glue after I painted, would it be better to dip them before or after I glued?

Ultimately, I decided to glue before painting, because the thought of colored slime was more appealing than brown tinged guck.  This was mostly due to the fact that, due to dipping, my models already have a somewhat slimy appearance, and I wanted to make this stand out.   So, first I glued varies pieces of Tyranids into the holes so that they would look like they were crawling out of the slime, primed ’em up, and then I went to town with the hot glue gun.

I pretty well followed the guide from Santa Cruz, except I threw caution to the wind and started pouring the hot glue directly on the terrain.  Quickly I realized how much better the piece looked when a drop would harden on it’s way out of the hole: as it perfectly captured that oozing feeling I was after.

At this point it just became a matter of how I was going to paint them.  The scheme was easy: I would duplicate the blue/bone appearance of the rest of my Hive Fleet (Affectionately dubbed “Hive Fleet Proteus, thanks to a recent poll), and I’d use green for the slime (because what self-respecting slime goes by a color other than green?).  Application of the paint though, that was another story.

With my airbrush on the fritz, I originally tried painting them by hand–though I quickly found I lacked the patience necessary to do this.   Instead, I wound up making a trip back out to the local Walmart to find a suitable substitute for an airbrush.  Lacking any real creativity, I found myself in the hardware aisle, surrounded by cans of spray paint.  They had two cans in stock that were relatively close to bleached bone (the color I decided to base-coat as they would have more bone than blue on the final product).  Of those colors, one was a semi-gloss, and one a gloss.  Of course, the color that was a better match was the gloss.  I’ve heard horror stories of people who’ve based with a Krylon gloss before and was worried that it may be problematic for me as well, but eventually I buckled down and purchased it figuring that the dipping method I use makes for shiny models anyway–how different could this be?  Ultimately, this was a wise decision.

So, back at the house, I sprayed them all with my Bleached Bone substitute and painted the natural occuring, triangular striations blue to keep them in theme with the rest of my force.  Likewise, the erupting limbs and other creature parts were painted per my normal scheme (blue skin, bone carapace, pink tongues, red eyes, and white teeth).  In less than an evening, all of the models were painted, and all I had left to do was dip them.

Something important to bring up when it comes to dipping is that the final product does look amazing.  I’d say that I’m a decent painter, as I tend to get compliments on my stuff, but no army wows my opponents more than my simply painted Tyranids.  People who’ve seen my other armies, and shrugged them off, have glorified me as “an amazing painter” after seeing my bugs.  This even true of those that have seen my Falcon (which I’m exceptionally proud of, but nobody seems to be impressed by it anymore).  Excuse the shameless self-plug.

So where was I?  Oh yes, it’s amazing just how fantastic these models look after a coat of varnish.  Models that could’ve easily been painted by a five year old, do really take on a life of their own.  One of these days, I should do a post on dipping.

But that’s for another day.  So, anywho, I dipped my spores and they came out glossy as always. Large pools of stain covered my garage that day, as I took the liberty to dip not only these barnacles, but a slough of capillary towers, a Hierophant, and a bunch of other bugs at the same time (whoa, I just realized that I never did a finished post on my Hierophant!  Ok, stay tuned for that next week).

After a day of drying, and some liberal coats of stain, the final products were finished two nights before the big Apocalypse game.  Granted, I haven’t finished the base for them because, like all of my Tyranids, I’m waiting to finish the entire army so I can base them all at once.  I still haven’t officially decided how I’ll do them up.  I’m aching to try some lava bases, but unfortunately the color scheme doesn’t lend itself well to a lava world.  I suspect I’ll eventually base them with a snowy/forest theme (like my Ultramarines) but I’m putting off that decision until I finish painting the army.  Some pictures I took with my crude lightbox can be seen below:

[nggallery id=7]

Whatever the case, I’m really pleased with the end result, as I feel it’s a very animated piece that’s quite suitable as a Mycetic spore (especially when used for smaller creatures), though some tweaks would probably have to be made to make it look appropriate for a Monstrous Creature.  Whatever the case, I’m really happy with the “finished” product, and it’s quite a bit different than the standard Egg-shaped spores that most people seem to be using.

Hopefully, it gives other people some good ideas to use in their next project.  Until then, Happy Modelling!

Broodnest image from Forgeworld.  Cardboard image from wikipedia.

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14 comments on “Death From Above: Making Mycetic Spores

  1. I have to say, I love them, and while I won't blatently steal them as they are a bit too….. multi-opening for my tastes, they came out very nice.I do have to say that I've found Hot Glue to be incredibly difficult to get paint to stick to, but you've done very nicely. Also I love using a Dip for more organic models (orks and Nids lend themselves to this extremely well) and I've gotten a lot of compliments on my ork army that was dipped. I do find that selective gloss varnish on Nids lends itself very well to cohesion. I typically gloss varnish (Spray) my models 2x then Matte Varnish (Spray) them 2x. Then use a paintable gloss varnish on the “shiney” bits (Carapace and Chitin) Very nice look you've got going here.

  2. I get where you're coming from on the “multi-opening” perspective, since Imost often use spores for my monstrous creatures and not my more diminutiveunits. My friend is taking the idea and trying to put a larger twist on it,to use these as accessories on a bigger central pod. I'm sure such aconversion would be a lot of work, but would look great in the end.As for getting paint to stick to hot glue, I think I just got lucky there.Since I opted to apply the glue before priming, it had no issues sticking.But that's a good tip for anyone who's considering playing with the order ofoperations.Thanks for the compliment, and for your input.

  3. Hey Rob, you said you'd found a site that sold giant barnacles pretty cheap and my dad's inmterested, could you give me the link? Thanks.

  4. Great article Rob!Love what you've come up with. And they look wicked.Can't wait to see your Hierophant.And yes, you should definitely do an in-depth article on dipping.

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