+ inload: Instar paints review +

+ Instar paints review +

+ New paint ranges are few and far between, so when one pops up, I prick up my audioscourers. Instar Paints [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] are a start-up company who have the laudable aim of combining the best bits of existing paint ranges while removing the downsides. Their marketing blurb lists their selling points as a series of bullets:
  • Shades comparable (up to 99%) accurate to major brands
  • Squeezable bottles
  • Various sizes so you can order smaller sizes for colours you use less of and larger sizes for those that you use more of
  • Super small nozzle for accurate dispensing
  • Lower costs than competitors without comprimising [sic] quality
  • Pre-thinned - Upto 20% thinner than major brands
  • No harsh chemicals required to clean brushes and surfaces, just plain, warm water
+ I placed a small order to try 'em out, tempted by the mention of equivalents to some of my favourite colours from Games Workshop's defunct Foundation range. +


+ Theoretical +

+ First impressions of the site aren't great. The visuals, particularly the huge banner images, obscure quite a lot of the practical aspects of the site – finding the shop itself took a bit of digging – and there are quite a few typos (as you can see in the blurb above). On the other hand, this is a garage start-up rather than a huge multinational, and I'm sure a bit of refinement and polish will sort things out in short order. +

+ Making the shop front and centre, with thumbnails of the different paint colours, should be a priority, I think. Either way, don't let it put you off, as Instar have got some good, innovative and well-priced products. +

+ The order +

+ I placed a small order of four paints – IV02, Instar's equivalent to GW's Charadon Granite, a white, and two other colours. IV02 was the main reason behind the purchase; the remainder I intended to effectively use as testers – if they were good, I'd carry on using them; if disappointing, they'd find a use in terrain or as mixers. +

+ I also picked up white, as I'd intended to do a review. I find white a good exemplar of a range, as it's so widely used, and quickly shows drawbacks of a paint manufacturer, such as chalkiness, poor mixing etc.. I find that if a range has a good white, the others are often similarly high quality. +


+ Practical +

+ The parcel arrived very quickly indeed – the day after the order was placed, in fact, which I was impressed with, particularly for a small company. +

+ As you can see, the box size was perhaps a little excessive, given the lack of padding, but a proper box (rather than a padded envelope) and a sealed plastic bag to help prevent spillage from damage gets a thumbs-up from me. +

+ The important thing is that everything arrived undamaged. In any case, the box will also probably end up being useful for storing models, so I'm certainly not going to complain too bitterly about the excess space! +

+ The box also contained two attractively-designed and double-sided cards, which contain a 40k-style stat summary on one side, and a space for paint reference on the back. A fun little freebie, and one that I could see being useful, both for gaming and modelling. The stat side is obviously 40k-centric, but the paint mix side is universally useful. +

+ While not a dealmaker or breaker, getting a nice little surprise like this definitely added a little gilding to the purchase. I don't know if it's something Instar are planning to keep doing, but the cards might turn out to be something people might want more of – in which case, perhaps they could look into developing some cards for the more common gaming systems? +

+ Stop banging on about boxes and tell me about the paint +

+ Onto the meat of the review: the paint itself. The order was all correct; Instar's Dark Purple, Deep Brown, Arctic White and IV-02, all in matt finish. One of Instar's innovations is allowing you to select either a matt or gloss finish for the carrier. I don't personally have much use for this, but I can imagine that the gloss effect would be great for models like tyranids and other icky aliens. I won't comment further on this aspect, as I didn't get any paints with of the gloss carrier; opting for matt for all four. If anyone does give the gloss version a try, I'd be interested to hear your findings. +

+ The paints come in dropper bottles, like the Vallejo range. As a direct comparison there, Instar's bottles feel a bit less premium – not bad in quality, but softer, less sturdy, and with rattly safety tops that I found a bit annoying at first. The plastic is also quite milky and unclear which, in concert with the large labels, makes quick identification of a colour tricky. However, the finer nozzle and thinner consistency (see below) made it much easier to control getting the paint onto the palette, and that completely outweighs any reservations about wobbly blue tops. +

+ I'm very conscientious about replacing lids on my paint immediately, and nevertheless a couple of my Vallejo bottles have clogged from time to time – which has meant occasional 'spurts' and wasted paint. So far at least, Instar's haven't done the same (in fairness to Vallejo, their bottles only clogged towards the end of their lives), and that's another point in their favour. +

All the paints are available in various sizes, with the relative price dropping for larger amounts. I bought 10ml (small) and 20ml (medium). The translucent plastic used for the pots and the large labels make identifying colours quickly a bit of a chore on the 10ml-sized pots; though the 20ml one is fine.

+ Instar, rather sensibly, recognises that a lot of purchasers will have come from using GW's current Citadel Colour paints, and provide a conversion chart for their colours. (As a minor suggestion, I'd find it useful to have the equivalent GW listed on the individual paint page, rather than in a separate list, but that's splitting hairs a bit. Providing equivalents in other ranges would also be a valuable addition.) Instar's Dark Purple is equivalent to GW's Naggaroth Night; their Deep Brown is equivalent to GW's Dryad Bark. Arctic White is, unsurprisingly, equivalent to White Scar; and IV-02, as mentioned, is equivalent to Charadon Granite. +

+ Having more sensible names is definitely a point in Instar's favour. GW's whimsical/trademarkable names have got very self-referential and undescriptive even if you're familiar with their model range (XV-88, anyone? Incubi Darkness?), and it's frustrating to pick up the wrong colour because you've forgotten whether a Dryad or a Rhinox is darker brown. +

+ Using the paints +

+ Having tried the paints out a bit, I'm impressed. Coverage is decent, hues are strong, and they mix readily both with each other and with the other acrylic ranges I use; including Vallejo Game Colour, Coat d' Arms, Citadel Colour and Winsor & Newton's Artists' Acrylics. Instar's paints also work with acrylic mediums such as Daler Rowney's Flow Enhancer, and inks including Daler Rowney's dropper bottles and Winsor & Newton's calligraphy inks. +

+ All of the Instar paints have a lovely fluid consistency; slightly thinner than Citadel Colour or Vallejo Game Colour – it's closer to semi-skimmed milk than the whole milk consistency of GW – and this is the main difference I found in terms of working from other ranges. If, like me, you use a dry palette, you'll find the reduced prep time useful for working quickly and for preparing consistent glazes, but if you're used to using a wet palette, you may need to adjust a little to avoid overthinning. +

+ The fluid consistency makes them great for mixing – particularly useful for the white – and for fine details like eyes, where unthinned GW or Vallejo colours may dry too readily, and the small amounts you need make thinning to a particular consistency more difficult. The downside of the consistency is that it slows you down when you want textural effects, and you'll waste more when using techniques like drybrushing. It does also reduce the coverage slightly, though that does mean you can't lazily rely on one thick coat(!) +

The grey used on the torso armour is one coat of IV-02, applied from the bottle with no dilution over a grey undercoat (Halford's primer). The shoulder pad is painted with Charadon Granite.
+ My only real gripe about the colours being pre-thinned is the use of this approach for the Vintage range, as these are supposedly equivalents for GW's Foundation paints. Part of the reason I liked the Foundation paints so much was their fantastic one-coat coverage and heavy clay base, which gave them a beautiful muted quality, and a slight 'grip', for want of a better word – it stayed where it was put. Basing's a good example of where this was useful – the Foundation range's consistency meant it stayed proud of details and gave a flat, consistent effect where the Vintage range flows slightly into recesses. The pre-thinned consistency means I can't use IV-02 in quite the same way as I could Charadon Granite. +

+ With that said, I think the consistency is good on balance; and certainly a useful option that makes Instar's range stand out from other paint ranges. It may take a bit of getting used to, but that's the case for nearly all new materials. I suspect its particular qualities will prove to give new opportunities that I haven't yet found. +

Arctic White was used here for the freehand on the torso armour, and mixed with GW colours for the lenses/cloth.

+ Colour matching +

+ As advertised, they match the GW equivalents in hue closely. As the image below shows, they're not quite identical, but near-as-damnit. It's certainly the closest hue match that I've found off the shelf for one of my favourite colours, so thumbs-up to Instar for that. Consistency aside, the Vintage range has given me back some of my favourite colours, and I can only hope that they continue to expand the range so I can get hold of a new supply of Mordian Blue and Dheneb Stone. +

IV-02 on the left; Citadel Colour Charadon Granite on the right.


+ Conclusion +

+ Overall, I'm quietly impressed. This is a range of paints that exceeded my expectations, and made painting very enjoyable. The owners are either hobbyists themselves or very good at listening, as the qualities of their paints makes them a pleasure to use for a journeyman painter like myself. +

+ There are a few niggles: the website is doing them no favours, and I'd suggest Instar look at the packaging of the paints themselves (reducing the label size to make identification at a glance easier would be a quick and cheap way to improve), but these are minor issues common for start-ups. +

+ As a standalone paint range, Instar paints are excellent in quality, are priced competitively, and have some interesting unique features. As an addition to your existing paints, they'll slot right in; their slightly different qualities being complementary to GW or Vallejo rather than requiring much adaptation. +

+ The company clearly has some great ideas – varied sizes and finishes, replacements for obsolete colours – and I'd like to see them rewarded for innovating in a crowded market. I wish them the very best for the future. +

+ inload: More Orks and Blood Angels +

+ Keeping motivation +

+ Have you ever reached a project plateau? A burst of work has finished a model (or a group, or a stage) and you realise that you've got to do the whole lot again to get them finished; or move on to the next lot and do it all again... It's odd how demotivating this can be – after all, you've just achieved something! +

+ I've had this happen to me a few times with various projects, and I find three approaches help to get me back on track:

1_ Push on with your routine. This is the simplest, and requires the most willpower. In my experience, forcing yourself to sit down for fifteen minutes will quickly reveal whether you're genuinely uninterested – in which case, stop for the day and come back refreshed – or it'll turn into a proper painting/building session. Having a routine, and keeping your work area ready for instant work (by keeping it relatively clean and tidy) will help you to make the most of small periods of time, too.

2_ A change is as good as a rest. Swap out to another project or discipline. If you're bored with painting, swap to building. If you've got another project, change to that for the evening. If you're a bit burnt-out with hyper-detailing, splash some basecoat on a group... Anything that gives you a bit of novelty will help.

3_ Get out; get away. If you feel really demotivated, try a little light exercise. I find a relaxing walk or jog will blow out the cobwebs and get me feeling happier; and there's nothing better for your hobby than coming to your workspace enthused and excited. 

+ Remember, your hobby's not your job; and if it becomes stressful rather than involving, it's not serving its purpose. That's not to say your painting and modelling shouldn't challenge you (that's what makes it interesting, after all), but remember that you're the boss, and there are no deadlines. +


+ Anyway, here's one of those plateaux I mentioned at the start – a mob at a 'nearly complete' stage. I felt a bit burnt out, having completed my favourite bit – the skintones – and unwilling to push on to the warpaint/tattoos that could easily spoil them. +

+ I decided to put them on the bench for a bit and built another ork (right of the picture), which got me fired up for more. I'm awaiting a delivery of bits to carry on with the orks, but since I had both time and motivation, I decided to switch tracks and build some marines. +

+ Mark VI Devastator marines, in fact; built from the plasma-wielding Hellblaster set. I haven't seen too many of the multipart Hellblaster kit used, but they provide some valuable alternative poses to the Intercessors that'll help to keep things varied. As with the rest of the army, these are based on the squad from WD139:

+ I've started with the second combat squad; another little trick I have to motivate myself – having a completed 'second half' helps to nudge me towards building the first half for neatness' sake! +

+ Probably of most interest is the heavy bolter-armed marine. The weapon itself came from Stuntwedge's bits box (ta!), which is another benefit of hobbying mates! +

+ Motivation for The Alien Wars +

+ Of course, there's a fourth option – joining in a group project. That way, you'll be inspired and pushed on by your friends. That's the way we used to do things with the PCRC's annual campaigns, and while they've taken a back seat in recent years as life makes it harder to meet up, they remain a very useful tool in keeping me motivated. +

+ The Alien Wars is proving a great motivation to me; I'm able to share my modelling, painting and writing, and the world gets fleshed out through the fantastic efforts of hobbyists like DeathCat147 [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+], Lex Bigal of Servitor Crusade [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+], and Robin of Paint Water Diaries [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+]. You can see some more through the Alien Wars tab at the top of the blog here; and I'm hoping to share some guest inloads on the Alien Wars with you soon. +

+ Of course, there are lots of other groups you can get involved with – Azazel's Bitz Box [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] is running a monthly motivational that luminaries like Krautscientist of Eternal Hunt [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] are involved with, as just one example. Part of the joy of getting involved with a group project on the noosphere is that you get exposed to lots of new people and ideas, and make contacts across the globe. Long-time blogs like Ann's Immaterium [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] and the gang at Starship Vorenus [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] are new to me, but full of inspiration. +

+ inload: Armaments of the Astartes M34–35 +

+ Armaments of the Astartes during the Nova Terra Interregnum +

+ Mark IIIc Godwyn-pattern Boltgun +

+ By this point in Imperial history, the Godwyn-pattern boltgun has been the Codex standard weapon used by the Astartes. Developed during the Great Crusade, from an STC discovered in what is now the Veiled Region, and prototyped on Saturn following the fall of Mars, large numbers of the first iteration of the Godwyn pattern boltgun (later retroactively dubbed the 'Mark I') were first used by the remnants of the Salamanders Legion prior to the Great Scouring. +

+ Following the Guilliman Reforms and adoption of the Codex Astartes by the newly-formed Chapters of the Second Founding, the weapon was refined during the events of the Scouring. The Mark II refinements saw an extended magazine housing (the Mark I had the housing recessed within the casing) to ease reloading, and a incorporated an ejection port, allowing for both traditional uncased and specialist cased ammunition to be used, and to ease the clearance of fouling following misfires. +

+ The Mark I and II patterns served alongside one another for a number of centuries, and the weapon was further refined in mid-M33, under the sanction of Mars by Archmagos Dewey-Kain. The Dewey-Kain variant Mark III was a substantially different weapon which benefitted from a number of STC fragments recovered in the years since the Godywn pattern's first creation, and was jointly sanctified by the Ecclesiarchy and Munitorum. +

Mark IIIc Godwyn-pattern Boltgun
+ The most obvious visual difference between the new weapon and its older counterparts was the extended barrel and casing, which sported a rail intended to allow the fixture of further modular enhancements and alterations. In practise, the longer barrel proved awkward, and the intended benefit of increasing the range of the rounds proved less than fruitful, owing to the nature of the ammunition. +

+ By late M33 and early M34, relations between the Munitorum and the Adeptus Mechanicus had deteriorated, resulting in the Astartes Chapters having reduced supplies and shipments. The Chapter forges, already capable of manufacturing and maintaining the small amount of weaponry required by an individual Chapter, took up the slack; with artificers and licensed technomancers refining and adapting the boltgun. By the time of the Nova Terra Interregnum, there were literally hundreds of variants that had found individual solutions to the Dewey-Kain original, most of which were consolidated under the Mark IIIb label. +

+ The second century of M34 saw the Imperium in a rare state of broad unity and plenty, and the Mark IIIc was issued, the intention to provide a full replacement across all the Chapters. It was a vain hope; supply lines had degraded since the high point of the Great Crusade, and while the weapon became widespread, it was far from universal. +

+ The Blood Angels, as a favoured First Founding Chapter, were issued the Mark IIIc as a matter of priority. They used the weapon throughout the Nova Terra Interregnum, though a number of the older patterns remained in use as revered relics. + 
+ Visually similar to the Mark IIIa, the support rail was retained on the Mark IIIc, but quietly sidelined – a recognition that the Astartes' autosenses largely rendered it surplus to requirementsA permanent iron sight was instead added to the casing, and numerous internal improvements were added. These included a code lock that meant the weapon could only be used in conjunction with authorised armour transmissions; a second ejection port being fitted, with the weapon automatically transferring to eject away from the firing hand; and an autosanctifying mechanism housed in the stock alongside the cleaning kit, allowing Astartes on extended duties to perform the religious maintenance rituals that had become commonplace following the official deification of the Emperor. +

+ The weapon was superseded when the Nova Terra Interregnum broke out, as patchy supply lines became entirely closed. The weapon was thus used fairly extensively by Astartes during the period, but many Chapters continued using the older, shorter, patterns or self-forged variants. The Mark IIIc remains a high point of sophistication for the boltgun, but this refinement and complexity meant it was ultimately a failure, superceded by the now-familiar Mark snub-nosed IV and V in short order. +


+ Mark Ih Mars-pattern Flame-throwing Gun +

 + Sturdy, reliable and ancient, the standard-issue flame-throwing gun (increasingly known simply by its common name of 'flamer') remained little altered for millennia, though gradual refinement was introduced occasionally – generally to adapt it for various different atmospheric conditions. +

+ Part of the reason for its longevity was its simplicity; but also because numerous identical STCs for the weapon were found early on in the Great Crusade, completely intact and in a number of forms. As a result, very few variants developed traction amongst Imperial armed forces; and the manufacture of these simple weapons saw huge numbers of licenses sanctioned by the various Forge Worlds of the Imperium. +

+ Sturdy and compact, the Mars-pattern flame-throwing gun saw a number of aesthetic variations – generally in the cowling – but the underlying structure remained largely consistent through the centuries. +

+ Owing to their widespread manufacturing base, the Nova Terra Interregnum saw little disruption in the distribution of these weapons, and both adherents to Terra and secessionists used these flame units extensively. +

+ Mark II Proteus-pattern Missile Launcher +

Mark II Proteus pattern; shoulder-mounted variant.
+ An increasingly rare sight in Chapters founded after the Great Scouring, the Proteus-pattern Missile Launcher had largely been replaced by the simpler 'Soundstrike' Chapter Approved model by the time of the Nova Terra Interregnum. It remained in use, however, by many of the First and Second Founding Chapters, and came to symbolise ancient victories. Many were thus used specifically as tools of propaganda and intimidation, their distinctive shape proving readily-recognised by enemies and allies alike. +

+ A reliable and efficient weapon, the Proteus saw a number of unusual variants, from the common shoulder-mounted variety to a urban/tunnel-fighting variant intended to be fired from the hip or on the move. Common to virtually all was the distinctive protective cowl on the front and the three-missile magazine; though the placement of the latter varied according to variant. +

+ The Proteus pattern itself replaced the awkward Retobi pattern, originally developed on Terra itself. +

+ inload: Orks, Space Marines and some old friends +

+ Orks on the painting desk +

Various greenskins start to get their paint on.
+ A rather broken painting session saw me block in the clothing and armour of three orks and a couple of grots. With this in place, I'm moving on to the more enjoyable task of painting skin. +

+ As usual, I like to get some variety in skintones in a force; but I want to balance that against speed – I've got a game scheduled against the Crimson Fists of Bob_Hunk in (yikes) three weeks' time – so the solution is to use paint remaining on the palette to slap on the runts. The picture above shows what a difference application can make: the grinning ork on the right and the grot on the left are painted using the same mixes; the only difference is that I use smooth, blended application for the grots, and textural scumbling and feathering for the orks to create the impression of rougher, leathery skin. +

+ This pict-capture's a good illustration of the freewheeling approach to painting I'm using here – they're all at different stages, including one with (oddly) just his teeth done. +

+ Gathered forces of the Imperium +

+ The Alien Wars project +

+ What started out as a quick way to paint up the Dark Imperium boxed set has taken on a bit of a life of its own. The Rogue Trader/Nova Terra Interregnum setting is proving a gumbo of juicy ideas, and has quickly expanded to encompass lots of 'orphan' models – those that I bought on a whim or was given, and have had no big project to use them on. +
Blood Angels, Imperial Guardsmen and Squat Throngsmen
 The Alien Wars project is proving not to be just an aesthetic thing, but a great excuse to dig through my pile of lead, tin, resin and plastic. The 'skirmishy' nature of the forces – very small groups; sometimes just two or three – makes painting more of a pleasure. It seems to fit me very well. +

+ The picture above shows what would make a rather lovely Rogue Trader force in itself – a varied mix of models that need only a sentence or two to tie 'em together. Does the picture above suggest a story to you? +

The Blood Angels are ticking over.
+ As you might have noticed over the past few inloads, I've been on a building and background spree recently – the two seem to go together; as there's plenty of time to think while you're in the flow of chopping, gluing and sculpting. The Blood Angels deserved a bit more time in the sun (after all, this started as 'their' project), so I've cracked on with a couple more.

+ Tallowlands +

...and, rather apropos of nothing, here are three dwarfs. They're the Forge World pack, kindly picked up by Lucifer 216 on a recent trip to Warhammer World. They'll make a lovely addition to the Throng of Nog. The sculpts are lovely, though I could resist reducing the slayer's (leftmost here) hunchback. As with the orks above, I trimmed the neck so I could set the head up a little higher. This meant resculpting a little hair, and also giving him some structure around the middle – somewhere normally covered by the beard. He's got a stocky little abdomen now.

+ inload: Alien Wars – Anatomy of the enemy I: Orks +

+ Anatomy of the enemy I: Orks +

It is said – perhaps apocryphally – that when mankind first stepped into the stars, the first species with whom the pioneers made contact were the orks. After a short pause, the two species immediately settled into an eternity of conflict. 
Extract from All Human History – Inquisitrix Barbari Kills, Ordo Xenos

Greenskins have plagued the galaxy since time immemorial. Their origins are uncertain; with competing theories placing them as the degenerate descendants of the long-extinct krork; as a naturally developed form of galactic hygiene; as a genetically uplifted and manipulated slave species that outlived its creators; and – perhaps predictably in these times – as the scourge of God-Emperor, sent to test mankind's worthiness.

The truth is that nobody knows for sure; least of all the orks. Their culture is as ramshackle and resilient as their biology, but not predisposed to recording events. Most tribal groups maintain an oral history of sorts, but this seems primarily geared towards encouraging social grouping, rather than the transference of acquired knowledge. Most Imperial scholars agree that orks inherently have 'built-in' knowledge; a sort of precociously complex and deeply-based instinct. It is a part of their biology that underscores their culture, their actions, and even their mindset.

With every ork – and their precursor organisms and slave caste – seemingly containing the underlying structure of the entire culture, it becomes clear how the orkoid's robust civilisation has spanned the stars for time immemorial.

Typical orks – belligerent, aggressive and seemingly enjoying the events of war. These specimens belong to a sub-group of the Charadon empire; a force which translates as the 'Drop Legion of Luggub'.

+ Orks during the Nova Terra Interregnum +

Across such a timescale – the Nova Terra Interregnum now entering its fourth century – and span of the whole Imperium, it is impossible to do more than touch upon the broadest generalities of the ork encroachment on previously safe Imperial space.

Whatever their origin, orks have infested the whole known galaxy. Rogue Traders, explorators and pioneers almost always inevitably meet with greenskin pirates or isolated ork settlements when travelling known routes – it seems orks are drawn to shipping, whether Imperial or otherwise. The species as a whole is nomadic, always seeking to expand and move on; though individual warlords are known to settle a particular system or region and fortify it as an empire. Such empires include Jagga, Charion and Charadon in the galactic east; the Calverna dominion which straddles Segementum Solar and Tempestus; and Gathrog and Dredruk in the north of Imperial territory. The two latter empires are most familiar to Imperial scholars, being unusually willing to trade with, and for a few isolated and celebrated periods, to have allowed cultural exchanges by Imperial observers. For this reason, the guttural dialect here is most familiar to the Imperium.

Nor is Nova Terra immune. The secessionists must contend with the Cromart empire in their northern marches, while the orks of Mastag Prime sit on the borders between the Western Imperium and Prime Imperium. These long-established empires are the exception, rather than the rule. While belligerent and aggressive, these empires are largely predictable [+appendnote auth. Unfortunus Veck – This complacency was to be rewarded with the near destruction of the Chapter Astartes Crimson Fists and the devastation of Rynn's World in later years, so perhaps the learned Inquisitrix's advice must be taken cum grano salis, as a product of her time.+] and mostly concerned with internal affairs. 

With the Imperium split, many sub-chieftains and hitherto unknown ork forces seem to have taken the opportunity to begin raiding. Where once they would have been swiftly countered, the Imperial Navy and Guard were largely concerned with internal patrols, leaving border regions and wilderness space unpatrolled. Fortunately, most Imperial Commanders proved capable of directing their own forces to counter most small-scale raids, though many dozens of border worlds were undoubtedly lost to the greenskins as a direct consequence of the Imperial division. 

+ Orks, Space Marines and The Alien Wars+ 

Nevertheless, disrupted and aggressive greenskin tribes are a sizeable threat, and no world could afford to be isolated. The Interregnum might have proven disastrous – even an existential threat to united humanity – had a purely defensive, inward-looking strategy been pursued by the Twin Imperium against species exemplified by the orks. It is fortunate, then, that the bulk of the Adeptus Astartes proved willing to begin prosecuting attacks and intercessary assaults on alien species in wilderness space.  

Novamarines struggle against power-armoured orks during the defence of Cypra Mundi against the orks of the Dregrak Dominions
As a whole, the Astartes stood aloof from the underlying events of the Secession – most Chapter Masters were either philosophically unwilling to be drawn into Imperial politicking, or recognised that the increasingly religious fervour of the Imperium made direct interference potentially deadly; inviting suppression of the arguably heretical Chapter Cults. 

With the exception of a few Chapters – notably the Imperial Fists and Chapter Castellan, who openly arrayed themselves with Terra; and the Consecrators, high profile successors of the mercurial Dark Angels, who declared open warfare on Nova Terra for reasons unknown – few notable Chapters openly declared in favour of Terra or Constantium (as Nova Terra was then known); instead prevaricating, citing constitutional technicalities that prevented them from interfering with Imperial policies, or simply withdrawing. To the common man, it would have made little difference, but to the Imperial nobility, the Space Marines' reduced communication must have seemed like the withdrawal of a protective aegis. 

Iron Hands Clan Trago fights the orks of da Shooty Boyz
Fortunately for humanity, the Space Marines were not sitting idle. They were, in many ways, more active than they had been in years; taking up the slack of patrolling the wilderness regions, and launching isolated, preventative assaults on xenos strongholds to degrade their ability to launch assaults on humanity. 

These wars were fought galaxy-wide, and were often unnoted beyond the individual Chapters' own records. The patchy histories of these largely unsung wars were later gathered into the period known as the Alien Wars, the name drawn from an early campaign launched by the Blood Angels Chapter Master of the early period, Formosus. Despite the name, the xenocidal campaigns of the Alien Wars lacked a unity of focus; most Astartes Chapters understandably wary of associating even with their closest cousin-Chapters, for fear of being honour-drawn into later censure, should their allies later decide to declare for Constantium or Terra.

An overview, then, tells of a thousand separate wars fought in isolation; of the Astartes fighting a leaderless crusade against the foes of humanity, largely free of favour or political affiliation. The Alien Wars tell of glorious victories and horrible defeats, but as the saying goes, for every battle honour, a hundred heroes die alone, unsung and unremembered

While these wars were fought against hundreds of species – the Q'orl, Shint, Eldar, Krell, Janii, and Muspella to name but a few – the wars against the orks were undoubtedly the most numerous. The struggle between ork and space marine on long-forgotten worlds, far beyond the borders of human space proper, has thus become entrenched as the enduring and iconic image of the Alien Wars.

+ The orkoid mind +

The 'deep instinct' of their inherited knowledge is perhaps the most alien part of these creatures' mindsets to humans; and what sets them apart in success and longevity than so many other species, who are similar or superior in physical stature and cultural nuance. Despite their outward actions mirroring the most base level of feral primitive or hive scum criminal; it is dangerous to think of them as inherently inferior. Their mental actions and processes are direct and uncomplicated, in their uniquely alien manner, but this is not to suggest uncomplex. 

While typically robust rather than innovative, ork technology is often surprisingly complex. Ork field technology, in particular, is of a level far in advance of modern Imperial ability to replicate. Some xeno-archeologists suggest it is in advance of such species as the Uive and Eldar. GIven their obvious technical prowess, why assume the orkoid mind is any less capable of extremes?
It is almost impossible to imagine how an ork's brain develops in cognitive terms, and it is arguable that an ork has no 'mind' as a human would perceive it. Perhaps the closest one an Imperial citizen might come to understanding it is through the relatively familiar concepts of hypno-indoctrination and injected learning: methods through which a human mind may become familiar with a language, skillset or set of knowledge. 

However, this is a very crude metaphor. The human mind is a blank canvas for such additions, whereas an ork seems to have nothing beyond such blocks. To extend the painting metaphor, while a human mind builds sedimentary layers of paint to inform his personality, the ork's mind is a series of interacting layers of paint, constantly swirling and bubbling; ever in motion. Even this does little justice to the nature of the greenskin, for far from being mental blanks or unthinking drones (like the drifting, locust-like biomechanical hive-mind creatures newly-discovered near Ultramar), each greenskin evinces personality, individuality, and a uniquely complex series of drives that propels him forward. 

Ork of the Bloodsuns Cluster, a minor ork Empire on the borders of Capricon Worlds.

Orkoid biology informs their mental space; and just as their bodies are resistant to physical damage, their psyches are concomitantly resistant to warp-interference – though overload will kill or derange them just as surely as a human; just as a sufficiently powerful firearm will kill individuals of either species.

+ The orkoid body +

Despite their seemingly rooted, unchanging nature, orks are superbly adaptable, in a manner similar to humans – though perhaps to a lesser degree. While humanity has shown capricious biological adaptation to new challenges, leading to numerous subspecies and stable abhuman strains, orkoid biology remains constant across the centuries. There seems to be an inherent biological conservatism to the orks, though this does not apply to individuals, who happily modify, alter and 'improve' their station through the creative use of bionics, augmetics and boosters.

Much has been written about their fungal nature, though is is easy to overstate this, and picture them as some form of mycoidal creature. In truth, orks have a physical structure broadly similar to Terran animals like hominids and humans; with robust osseous bones overlaid with muscle-like sarcotic fibres and tissues. These core tissues have an overlaid fungal banding which serves to increase physical resistance, bind and stem damage, and provide additional storage and provision for energy. 

Rear shot of an ork group – ork morale is excellent as long as they believe they are winning a conflict. While fierce, most orks retain survival instincts of some form. If you can convince them that the tables are turned, most orks will flee. 
This fungal banding has no direct relation to any human structure, though Magos Aro-venn made a strong case in early M34 for this mycoidal fungus serving a similar purpose as the embedded mitochondria in most Terran animal life – an endosymbiotic relationship that helps to provide energy to the cells. That Aro-venn then went on to claim that this was evidence for ancient genetic manipulation – and eventual raving about sleeping gods and apocalyptic deathless beings – was part of the reason he was later excommunicated and driven into exile; meaning that this interesting path of xenobiology has remained unpursued in the centuries since.

+ Fighting orks one-on-one +

Orks are tough; that much is indisputable. What will render a human a casualty will likely leave an ork unaffected, or at least only inconvenienced. Their physical robustness extends beyond physical trauma to a certain resistance to disease and exhaustion – their animal-like biology likely assisted or augmented by the symbiotic fungus-like structures. However, this should not be overstated. While the typical ork is bulky and fierce-looking, their physical strength is still comparable to that of an extremely fit human adult, rather than clearly superhuman. A typical ork is likely inherently stronger than a typical Imperial guardsman, but not to the extent that every physical contest is without doubt. What an orks gains in raw strength and bulk, he loses in agility; a trained guardsman can undoubtedly win one-on-one in close quarters – if he is sufficiently motivated, equipped and trained, that is.

It ought to be noted, by any Imperial military force, that this is no cause for complacency. The effect of even incremental superiority in raw strength is amplified by resilience – where a man might fall when bayonetted, an ork may be able to ignore the wound sufficiently long to maul his opponent – and by the ork's inherent seeming love of conflict. 

The rude, individually-crafted technology of the orks underlies their problems with supply chains; necessitating constant raiding and attacks. Of course, for the ork species as a whole, this keeps them mobile and driven.

+ Ork skin and blood +

Quite aside from their brutal, heavy visages and hunched, loping postures, the most obvious identifying feature of an ork is the colour of their skin; which has given rise to numerous derogatory terms amongst Imperial forces and beyond – the Semmel xeno-forms of the Gothic subsector are known to refer to the orks by a term which translates (albeit awkwardly) as 'the monsters who are the colour of our ancestral plains-vegetation but that sow death and ruin instead of bringing forth plenty damn them for their horrid colour.'

Typical green skin tone owing to the combination of blue and yellow pigments.
The green of an orks' skins is a result of their biology; a combination of yellow xanthin-like pigments and blue-black structures a little like the xantophores of ancestral terrestrial fish. In different proportions, this gives rise to orks coloured in a range from grubby green-browns to dark, petrol-like blue-greens. All are murky and earthy. However, the range of colours is further complicated by structural coloration – that is, the scattering and uneven refraction of light owing to the shape and structure of the skin cells. In a similar manner to long-extinct terrestrial mandrills or butterflies, these structures reflect and refract light, extending the potential range of apparent colours to include much more vivid, brighter greens under certain conditions.

More vibrant greens are possible under bright light; though some orks seemingly lack the physical structures that alter coloration, and remain earthy-brown-green in tone under all lights.
Injured orks bleed red; a fact which often comes as a surprise to novice guardsmen or agents, who expect their blood to match their skin. Orkoid blood system analogue still maintains iron as the oxygen carrier, though this is complemented with haemocyanin structures, meaning that an ork can survive and even fight (albeit at a compromised level) in low oxygen environments. In such circumstance, ork blood will take on a purple-bluish tinge. 

This is further complicated by the mulitple redundancies of biological systems, which conflate the endocrine, renal and digestive systems – that is, an ork's blood helps to fight infection, break down pathogens, and even digest food (in a minor manner). As a result, their blood will be affected by recent nutrition, ranging from a bright orange-red to a thick, murky maroon-black.

+ Lifecycles and lifespans +

With a typical lifetime running in the low decades – few orks live beyond twenty – one might suppose that the greenskins are inherently shortlived. However, the average is dragged down by the fact that orks take little time to mature and grow, and vast numbers are killed in internecine fighting. The more successful the ork, the longer he will typically live.

This is not to suggest, as certain sensationalist xenobiologists have hysterically claimed over the years, that orks are functionally immortal. Even those outliers that can be dated with anything approaching certainty rarely find orks of an age beyond fifty standard; with most specimens of that age showing signs of muscular stabilisation – if not atrophy – and general malaise. Given the highly competitive and physical nature of the ork social structure, failing to keep up will almost inevitably see them 'weeded out'.

Ork veterans 'Goranhuwl's skarboyz' of the 'Black Kuttaz' minor orkoid force.
Exceptions, as with humanity, are manifold. Reports exist of ork leaders living for many decades – even centuries – and while this is likely exaggeration or misreporting of an inherited title (such as the 'Grand Warlord of Morscar's Star', a title known to have been borne by over a dozen successive warlords), it is not beyond the scope of the greenskins to have manufactured similar life-extending technology as Imperial juvenat treatments; or some more esoteric solution, such as portable stasis-chambers or chrono-reversing fields.

The whole of ork culture aggrandises physical conflict as the solution to all of life's problems, and this feeds into the fact that, far from being permanently incapacitated by injury, orks thrive on it. Given sufficient time and nutrition, orks can heal from virtually any trauma short of decaphalisation; and if reports are to be believed, even this is not inherently fatal: ork spines will heal over time to correct paralysis, so a beheaded ork can survive through surgery.

Orks continue to build muscle and bone over time, with the effect accelerated through minor trauma. Ork squabbles and pitfights thus benefit any ork involved; with minor injuries serving to accelerate growth, and the sense of victory releasing growth hormones. Ork veterans – colloquially known as 'scar-boys' by the Guard – are thus slab-muscled and broad-backed, their already rubbery skin losing its elasticity and toughening like hide. 

Ork skin becomes thicker and coarser with age. Truly old orks are typically green-brown or even black, rather than the more vivid earth-greens seen in new-born orks.

+ Orks, subspecies and slaves +

While they are perfectly capable of creating their own armaments – and indeed, owning a unique firearm or piece of equipment hand-crafted and refined by their engineer specialists is a mark of honour and pride for an ork – such production is limited and slow. Most orks will instead be armed with armaments looted from enemy forces, or created by slaves in conquered industrial areas.

Orks prefer armaments that are designed to fit their anatomy – their long, sturdy fingers and rangy limbs struggle with human-sized weaponry – and most ork-controlled manufactories will be generating copies of a weapon or piece equipment first created by a 'mekboy' to make best use of local materials. Thus ork forces typically enjoy the benefits of short supply lines; with ammunition and materiel common across the force; while the numerous exceptional one-offs are readily replaced once depleted. This is part of the reason that orks – particularly officers – will commonly carry a back-up weapon or sidearm; giving rise to the common image of ork bands carrying piles of mismatched weaponry.

Orks are famed and feared galaxy-wide as slavers. In isolation, ork-held planets will have this need served by gretchin, a subservient caste of orkoid well-suited to repeated manufacture. Gretchin are, in fact, a precursor species – they will develop and arise in an environment before the orks themselves – but will be exploited and enslaved in short order once the environment allows their larger relatives to emerge from their fungal spawning pits. Gretchin themselves have a form of low cunning – their base intelligence is survival driven, and sometimes exceeds that of typical orks, though it falls behind that of their specialists.

Gretchin, being relatively tough, nimble-fingered and subservient, are favoured slaves, but orks will employ any species that they can force into labouring for them. Indeed, Imperial records know of numerous planet-bound species (that is, that have not developed interplanetary travel) that serve only as slaves to the orks; their original culture and achievements brought low.

A final note ought to be made here of ork mercenaries. The events of the Alien Wars saw a great deal of ork warbands selling their services to isolated human worlds; fighting alongside and under Imperial commanders against other species' attacks. Orks bear humanity no inherent ill-will, and are willing, with sufficient payment in weaponry and motivation, to fight alongside almost anyone. Such practises are to be avoided; as the orks' demands for payment and weaponry steadily increase until the inevitable occurs – the common enemy are defeated and the orks turn on their employers.

+ The orks in summary +

As mentioned above, The Alien Wars were a time of splintered actions across a whole galaxy. This history has merely touched upon the general actions of the orks at the time; and may give the impression that the orks lacked ambition or the ability to effect change on a galactic scale. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The very existence of the Segmentum Obscurus was in doubt for a number of centuries owing to raging wars with various orks subfactions, and was part of the reason that Terra was unable to divert punitive forces to deal with the secessionists of Constantium (Nova Terra). Similarly, the abhumans of the galactic core saw ork forces beyond anything they had seen for many centuries, and the allied Leagues record this time as the Embittering, when huge swathes of territory were lost forever.

The romantic impression that the Astartes held back the orks should not be overstated, either. At least two dozen Chapters were mauled irrevocably, either being lost entirely, or being unable to launch new strikeforces for decades afterwards.

This is only to mention the orks' assaults on the Imperium. While many minor species were content to reclaim ancestral territories lost during the Great Crusade, or to launch punitive raids against the latent, withdrawing forces of humanity, the greenskins attacked everybody. My own limited contact with the Eldar indicates that these ancient star-sailors fought terrible wars of destruction with the orks, and the atomic-scarred worlds of the Castal Rim show the indelible results of the battles between the festering K'Nib and the greenskins.

What little we know of the chrono-shifting Hrud indicates that a number of established settlements were driven into migration by orks invaders, and the Thyrrus of Segementum Ultima were utterly exterminated in a series of brutal campaigns.

What conclusions can we draw from this within the Inquisition? Simple: that while we hate the orks, the orks themselves fight war without prejudice or favour. Humanity is simply another foe for the orks – and long may it remain so; for the orks unwittingly fight our wars when in conflict with other xenos; and every ork killed by the aliens remains one less to threaten our divided borders.

In closing, I trust my candour here may prove of service to you, brother or sister Inquisitor; whatever your political inclinations. The Imperium may be divided, but humanity itself must remain united under the Emperor; or we will perish.

I remain, at your service; Inquisitrix Barbari Kills.

+ inload: The Alien Wars setting +

+ Background to the Nova Terra Interregnum +

In retrospect, the broad history of the Nova Terra Interregnum is one of Imperial ambition, division and decline. The preceding centuries had seen the Ecclesiarchy enjoy a rise in influence, culminating in the recognition of the Emperor as a God; followed by the gradual reassertion of the Administratum. Such tension inevitably led to conflict. Few historians would have realised how massive the convulsions would be, or how radically they would redraw the Imperium's path.

The conflict between these two pillars of Imperial power was, of course, complex and multi-layered. Some histories paint the Nova Terra Interregnum as a conflict between the neo-rationalism of Nova Terra against an increasingly theocratic Imperium, while others identify the Ur-Council as the acceptably bureaucratic face of a fundamentally religious movement. The truth probably lies between these poles: the scale of events is simply too vast and complex to summarise neatly. 

While later records boldly state that an Imperial Segmentum – Pacificus, to the galactic West – broke off from the Imperium, this is only true in the broadest sense. The immutable borders of Pacificus, established during the Great Crusade itself, may obey human reason; but the galaxy is a messy place. Five thousand years of gradual astral movement have shifted the locations of stars and systems, and new worlds are being re-discovered and lost all the time. 

+ Nova Terra +

Certainly the world of Nova Terra became a beacon for visionaries, dissidents, malcontents and dreamers. It was a beautiful and highly influential planet; at the hub of a reliable web of warp-transport and well defended from attack. Nova Terra was well-placed to influence Imperial politics. Five thousand years of wise diplomacy, investment and demonstrations of loyalty ensured that it radiated a sense of Imperial power and certainty that had gradually been lost from Ancient Terra itself amidst fifty centuries of petty power struggles, megalomaniac government and panicky, reactionary rule.

The period immediately prior to the Interregnum saw the High Lords of Terra lost in petty internal squabbles that saw the Imperium as a whole stagnate. After a number of assassinations, counter-insurgencies and open warfare on Terra, the Adeptus Custodes declared that the High Lords would have to be represented in absentia in order to ensure the safety of the Emperor's person; and governance of the Imperium became even more bureaucratic, disjointed and delayed than usual.

In exasperation, many systems turned to Segmental government; regarding the High Lords as too distant. Nova Terra was an obvious choice of regional government. It was well-regarded and admired by both the Administratum and Ecclesiarchy, and enjoyed considerable support across the sector owing to it acting as a bastion for stability during the War of the False Primarch in M33.

Nova Terra declared its Ur-Council  as the highest point of authority in the Imperium at some point in M34 – supposedly reluctantly, though it had rapidly and unashamedly gathered support and declarations of loyalty since its formation some two centuries prior. 

The Ur-Council of Nova Terra 
The Ur-council was a group of the great and good (or at least powerful and ruthless) of the Segmentum, with many similarities to the High Lords. Present on the Ur-Council were seats for representatives for the Inquisition; Adeptus Ministorum; Administratum; Adeptus Mechanicus and Imperial Navy. Indeed, a number of the figures were ex-High Lords themselves, including the Master of Assassins – who had resigned his seat on Terra in disgust.

Events began to spiral quickly after conflicting order from Terra caused elements of Battlefleet Pacificus to variously deploy and disarm; an embarrassing state of affairs that saw a number of oppportunistic worlds rebel in the face of Imperial inaction and equivocation. Hydraphur, the seat of the Segmentum Navy, declared that henceforth it would only obey orders from Terra once they had been ratified by Nova Terra. 

Conflict with Terra was all but inevitable once the Imperial Commanders of Colcha and Guryan, famed seats of resistance and bywords for loyalty owing to their actions during the Plague of Unbelief, immediately followed suit, drafting a proposal that stated that – while Ancient Terra should be respected as the birthplace of humanity and seat of the God-Emperor – Nova Terra was the obvious choice for temporal power to be focussed; as the Ur-council could provide more stable and clear-sighted leadership than the corrupt and discredited High Lords.


+ Shifting loyalties +

One after another, countless worlds and systems came to declare for Nova Terra. Within a century, fifteen thousand systems had openly rejected the High Lords' rules; and by the time the numbers reached one hundred thousand systems – roughly a third of the Segmentum, with the remainder remaining pointedly neutral, Nova Terra made an official edict that Segmentum Pacificus would dissolve its connection with the rest of the Imperium. This was, of course, couched in diplomatic language, but the intent was clear.

The High Lords' response was weak and vacillating; with the bickering chamber unable to come to a united response. A number of small fleets fought isolated actions, but the skirmishes were limited and lacked coherence – not to mention the forces' understandable reluctance to engage supposedly friendly Imperial forces. 
None of this is to suggest that Nova Terra's governance was in any way less labyrinthine or complex than Ancient Terra's. The edict had only come to fruition through blackmail, hidden influence and a number of assassinations. As the saying goes; power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.