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Citadel’s Astra Militarum Valkyrie: Blinky Lights And Bloodstains

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While I’d heard of Warhammer 40K several years ago, I’d never paid much attention to the miniatures. I thought they were just game pieces – I had a mental image of old lead figures, sitting unpainted on an old-school makeshift D&D type map. When a friend begin building some of the figures, I saw they were far more advanced than I’d imagined, and that they looked sort of cool. But most of what I saw were figures, and I didn’t build figures. (Mainly because I had never tried to paint figures, and was frankly a bit intimidated by it.)

As I began branching out beyond aircraft though, I started to bump into more of the 40K universe. In doing so, I found that there were far more than figures… there were tanks, and things that fly. And they looked pretty cool.

Eventually, I ran across one that seemed to look the coolest of all to me. I saw it online, and thought “I must build one of those.” The trouble was, I forgot the name of it about 3 minutes after closing the browser tab. (Because old.). Eventually, a helpful friend who was very familiar with 40K came to the rescue.

Turns out it was called the Valkyrie.

Off I went to the large South American river, searching for “Warhammer 40K Valkyrie”. And there it was! Success! Wait…

It was almost $70. I did a double take… I’d seen photos of the sprues. There weren’t that many parts. Aircraft kits with twice the number of parts often cost half as much. Cognitive dissonance set in… what was I to do? (I’m cheap, you see… 😉 )

A few days later, I was wandering around my local Hobby Lobby, and I saw a Revell kit from the Halo game, called a Pelican. It was green. It had the same kind of dropship look. It was cheaper, too. I thought that might scratch the itch to build a green scifi looking dropship thingy.

So I built it, and enjoyed it immensely. 

But rather than fill the need, it only whetted my appetite.

Further Down The Rabbit Hole

I decided to give some Citadel kits a try, and so I started building cheaper models. And with each one I built, I found I liked them more. And the added bonus was that people were buying them, and seemed to like my work.

Still, the best part was simply how much I enjoyed them. 

Finally, I felt confident enough to make the investment, and order the Valkyrie. And I was not disappointed!

If you’ve seen a Citadel Warhammer 40K kit, you’ll be very familiar with what’s in the box. If not, be prepared. It’s different from any other type of kit. Yes, it’s plastic, and on sprues. But the details are big, bold, and very exaggerated. In many ways the design almost seems like many of the pre-painted plastic toys of my childhood. 

The Valkyrie has an absolutely gorgeous interior, stuffed full of lights and buttons and tubes and other manner of things that go “bleep” and “ping”. It all just screams to be painted.

The model features an interesting breakdown. The core of it is the cargo compartment, which is built up from wall, floor, ceiling, and bulkhead assembles. Al the other components – flight crew compartment, twin boom tail, wings, and engines are mounted to that.

For the initial assembly, I started by gluing together as many of the sub-assemblies as possible, making sure that doing so would not interfere with painting. In short order, wings, tail booms, and engines were together, and set aside. I wanted to focus first on painting the main interior bits, leaving the figures and forward cockpit for later.

All of the bits were given a coat of Badger Stynylrez Gray Primer. While the typical “40K lore” colors would have been to follow that up with a coat of Citadel’s Leadbelcher, or another suitable darker silver, I wanted to try and give the interior a chance to be seen.

The first Citadel kit I’d built that had an interior was the Chimera, an armored personnel carrier. I’d stuck to the typical Leadbelcher color, but saw that once closed up, it was too dark inside to see much. On the next build that featured an interior, a Razorback, I went with a lighter tan color, and some really over-the-top primary colors for all the buttons and gadgets. I really liked the effect. With the ramp dropped, it was much easier to see the detail, thanks to the contrast.

So for the Valkyrie, I wanted to do the same. However, I thought the tan color of the Razorback’s innards would not be quite right. Taking a cue from modern military aircraft, I chose a lighter gray color, that being Tamiya’s XF-19 Sky Gray. I gave the interior bits a good coat of that color, and then begin to pick out the other colors I wanted to use.

I decided to stick with the primary colors for the lights and buttons, but for the other parts – wiring and canisters and tubes and boxes – to use “normal” military style colors.

The process was started by painting just about every raised detail with Vallejo’s Black Gray. Because the detail is raised so high, and so prominent, I wanted to make sure I had a solid, distinct foundation to create shadows. This had a twofold effect. First, I could easily get a nice crisp line with the later applied colors over the top, because I did not have to paint right down to the edge of the raised detail. Second, when I did apply later shades around the details, they would blend perfectly with the Black Gray color.

With all the appropriate parts “pre-shaded”, I began applying other colors. Panels remained the black color. A few parts were painted in an olive green color. Tubing was painted in a lighter, interior green color, and duct work in sand. A few piston looking bits and pipes that seemed as if they should be metallic were given a gun metal color. All paints used in the process were from Vallejo’s various ranges. My choices were rather haphazard, too… I simply decided “that bit needs to be an olive color”, and whatever was the closest in reach was chosen. 

To keep everything 40K-ish, all paints were applied in two thin coats, to avoid clogging up the detail. 😉

With the basic colors in place, I was quite happy with the appearance to that point. While a bit comic book in look, it did exactly what I wanted – provided very clear contrasts, with shadows in the recesses to help define where parts were.

And Now To The Weathering

The next step was to add some chipping. For this I chose a dark brown color, and applied it using the sponge method. On the walls and bulkhead, I only did minimal chipping. On the floor, and the cargo ramp, I went very heavy. And I applied some of my own personal experience too.

I’ve walked up and down the ramps of military cargo planes many a time. Generally, two lines would form aft of the aircraft, one line sitting on the left, the other the right. If vehicles are rolled on, their tire tracks follow the same pattern. So I decided to focus some very heavy chipping to simulate that effect, if only to give a nod to my own time in service. I applied it to the point that I thought was just about enough, and then added a bit more. 🙂

Next I wanted to apply some shades, or washes for the “traditional” modeler. My typical method would be to apply a gloss coat of Future, then follow up with some enamel washes. Once those were dry, I’d wipe off the excess, leaving a (hopefully) nice, shadowy look. However…

That would need to sit and dry for at least 24 hours before I could start going over the top of it. While enamel washes are great for the purpose because of their long drying time, once you have finished the work, the wait is a bit much for someone as impatient as I am.

I begin to consider using Citadel’s Nuln Oil. While it does a fantastic job of adding shade to recesses, if you’re not careful in the application, tide marks can be left behind. But a glimmer of a thought flickered in my tiny mind…

The tide marks are caused by surface tension. When applying a matt shade to a matt surface, the rough texture of the underlying paint “grips” some of the shade, and when the liquid dries off, it leaves a slight tint. Giving the painted surface a good gloss coat would help reduce surface tension, but if the shade is of the matt variety, the tidemarks can still appear. But…

If the model’s surface is given a nice gloss coat, and you happen to have a nice glossy shade handy, you can reduce the surface tension – and the tide marks – quite a bit.

Enter Citadel’s Gloss Nuln Oil.

On the floor parts, I went in with a heavy coat, just slopping it on. I wanted a very dirty, grimy look. On the sidewall and bulkhead details, I did a more precise application with a liner brush. Though my theory was that the dual gloss approach would avoid too many tide marks, I did not want to push it. It took a few minutes to apply, but when I set it aside to dry, it looked the part.

Within an hour it was all dry. Just as I’d hoped, the gloss shade over the gloss coat worked very nicely. While there are a few tide marks here and there where my shaky hand globbed a bit much on, for the most part it achieved the effect I wanted. All the shadows of an enamel wash, 1/24th the drying time.

I followed the wash up with some general “splatters” of Citadel’s Agrax Earthshade, which is another shade that is more of a dirty brown color. I flicked this on all the parts, even the ceiling. 🙂

Finally, taking a cue from a detail I added to my Razorback, I used a third Citadel shade, Reikland Fleshade. This is a reddish color. I wanted to show a very prominent blood stain, as if a a wounded soldier were dragged up the ramp. It is Warhammer 40K, right?

With all of that done, the pieces were given a coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Matt Varnish.

I won’t assemble all the parts yet, but dry fitting shows a near perfect fit. I left the two crewman, and their door mounted guns, off to the side to paint later. Folks who have built this report that it’s best to add them in prior to closing up the assembly. However, doing so will make masking off the open doors for painting a bit of a pain. I have an idea about how to tackle this, though, so some test fitting is in order to see if it will work.

I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying this build. The copious amount of raised detail was really fun to paint, and the weathering process proved equally enjoyable. I’m looking forward to getting the full fuselage assembled, as I plan to really go all out on the painting and weathering there.

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but for good reason – if you’ve not built a warhammer 40K kit, pick one that looks cool to you and build it. You don’t have to play the game (I don’t) to enjoy the fun of just building something that is easy to assemble and paint, and just let your imagination go wild.

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