1 Plague Marines box + 1 Forge World upgrade kit + 1 Mk-3 legs set + 1 easy-build Marines kit = 20 Plague Marines. That’s how I managed to stretch out the spare parts in the Plague Marines kit without needing any duplicate poses.
I started out with just the Plague Marines multi-part kit, which I used to make a basic dakka squad of 7 Marines. 3 plasma guns, 4 bolt guns, including an Icon of Despair. This is my third unit with this exact same configuration, because I think it’s the optimal way to run Plague Marines, with a few minor caveats: The Icon isn’t very useful in a shooty squad, but you’d still take it in a Power Level game because it’s essentially free. The other caveat is the secondary equipment on the Plague Champion. In a Points Level game you might just take the plasma gun and plague knife, because ideally you won’t be getting into close combat, but in a Power Level game you may as well give the Champion a powerfist for free. So I magnetized the Champion’s other hand so that I can swap between a knife and a fist as required.
While I was building the 7-man kit I hadn’t yet hashed out the rest of my plan for the spare parts in the box, but I did have some idea that I wanted to use them, so I started conserving the most limited resource in the kit: the pauldrons. I gave some of the Marines a single alternate shoulder pad from the Forge World upgrade kit, which I already had because I used it to make my Rhino gunner. That left me with extra shoulders at the end, which let me then build more Marines with a variety of different pauldrons rather than all FW. I like the FW pauldrons, but they’re just not quite up to the level of the newer Death Guard models, and they’re also slightly smaller, so I wanted to make sure they were spread out thinly. Luckily mismatched armour suits Death Guard really well, because the next Marines I was about to build were going to need to be even less uniform.
The only thing in the Marine box scarcer than shoulder pads are legs. It only comes with exactly 7 pairs of legs. So for the rest of my Marines I was going to need to get creative with legs I picked up from a Mark-III power armour kit, plus the ones in the easy-build First Strike kit. There are several spare torsoes in the kit, but many of them are difficult to model with because they’re designed to fit together in very limited configurations. So I had to use lots of Green-Stuff, chunks of sprue, and also several torsos from the Forge World upgrade kits (also left over from my Rhino gunner conversion). The older kits still fit the Death Guard aesthetic perfectly, but the only problem is that they’re lacking in size. To add height I based the Mk-3 legs on top of pieces of sprue, which I’ll hide later when I’m painting and adding detail to the bases, to bring their heads to roughly the same height as the modern Death Guard models. On some models I also added tattered capes (from the 7-man kit) to fill in visual blank spaces between too-thin legs, and I also added visual bulk to some of the legs by adding copper-wire pieces for turning into tentacles and horns growing out of their limbs.
With 3 full triple-plasma 7-man dakka squads built, I then wanted to branch out and make a close combat squad to give me more strategic flexibility. I still think triple-plasma is optimal on paper, but I can’t deny that there are situations where you need to get up close and personal. Fighting gunline enemies like Astra Militarum or Tau, for example, can be easier when you can wreck them in melee. I also want a more aggressive unit to be able to cruise around in my Rhino and take advantage of the potent grenade synergies in the Codex.
There are a number of ways to equip a melee squad which I think could all be viable, so I decided to focus mostly on Power Level rather than Points and build a 7-man squad with as much melee oomph as possible. I needed a Champion with a plasma pistol and powerfist, so I took the single-model Champion kit (the one that comes with the sassy-helmet Nurgling) and strapped the plasma pistol from the Marine kit to his backpack. Most of the rest of the squad list wrote itself. I obviously want a pair of Marines with plague flails, and a pair with maces of contagion and bubotic axes. They form the hard-hitting core of the unit. Because the 7-man box only comes with one of each weapon, I salvaged the extra flail, mace, and axe from the Putrid Blightkings kit from Age of Sigmar (which I used previously to kitbash my first Icon of Despair Plague Marine).
The next obvious choice was a Marine with an Icon of Despair and two plague knives. I now have 4 Icons of Despair, but this is probably the only one that will reliably get close enough to enemy lines to be relevant, so it’s pretty important. I had to cobble this model together from a few different sources, including legs from an easy-build Marine, a leftover chest and head from the main kit, an Icon from my bitz box (I don’t remember where it was from originally), and a generic Chaos Space Marine backpack. Unfortunately the Marines box is also short on plague knives, so I made a duplicate knife by moulding one from Blue-Stuff then casting it from a 50-50 mixture of Green-Stuff and fine Milliput.
For the 7th and final member of the unit I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a guy armed with a bubotic axe and a plague knife, or two plague knives. The axe + knife option hits harder, so I’d always choose that in a Power Level game. But in a Points Level game I’d take the double knives to save points. Whichever option I choose, this will be the first casualty I remove once the squad start taking damage, so it’s unlikely to make much difference. Since I couldn’t choose which I wanted, I made both. In some Points games I might even run them both in an 8-man squad because there the Power increments (from 5 to 7 then straight to 10) don’t matter. I had a lot of fun with both models. I really like the snout thing that came together by accident on the axe guy while I was removing the breathing tube from the original head model. And I like the knife guy’s unusually dynamic (for a Death Guard) pose, like he’s lunging forward to stab both plague knives into someone.
Having finished my melee squad, I still had a bunch of weapons and stuff lying around, and plenty of Mk-3 legs, so I decided to keep going. Without any squad structure in mind, I just started building models to hold the miscellaneous variety of remaining (some might argue, tier 2) weaponry. I wanted a few more blightlaunchers because they have great utility even if they’re not quite as potent as plasma, and the rest of the weapons I just wanted because they look awesome.
At this point I had run out of arms. Not guns, but actual arms. The 7-man kit has a good number of arms, and I also had a bunch from the Mk-3 power armour bits, but the poses are limiting. For example, arms that are extended at the elbow can only be used for guns held out in front of the model, which is sometimes too ostentatious for the mood of the Death Guard in my opinion. To solve my arm shortage, I used copper wire to build tentacles instead. On a couple of models I stuck a few pieces of the wire into holes I drilled into the sockets, which I can later paint with liquid Green-Stuff or leave un-puttied as slender tentacles.
So there you have it. Not counting the melee Plague Champion (because it’s a standalone blister kit) I got 20 Plague Marines out of the 7-man kit! With the minis I already had, I’m now up to 35 Plague Marines, enough for 5 fully fluffy units of 7 armed with a motly assortment of weapons, or a few squads kitted out for competitive play. I’m loving the idea of an army focused on foot-slogging Marines. I think some of my final models work better than others, but I’m really happy to have such a range of options now, all without any repeated poses. It’s taken me a lot longer than I expected, so I’m looking forward to finally putting away the modeling knife and getting back to painting my Plague Marines.
P.S. Merry Nurglemas!