Thursday, June 15, 2017

Primaris Space Marines: First Impressions

Hope is a mistake.

Over the years, we have become increasingly critical of the miniature design of Space Marines, and the discrepancies between them and much of the artwork. Many of the awkward elements of their anatomy, and diminutive size compared to other human models in the game, pushed us to begin converting some “true-scaleSpace Marines. To our surprise, shortly after creating some of these larger marines, it was revealed that Games Workshop was releasing a line of new larger Space Marines, called Primaris Space Marines. Many were quick to claim that GW had finally made their own true-scale Space Marines with the models, and we were eager to get our hands on some to make our own judgement, and to see if they corrected some of our issues with Space Marines. Mr_Pink (from the excellent Modern Synthesist blog) generously provided us one of the new marines, and wanted to tell you some of our thoughts on the quality of them, and their place next to their “normal” brethren.

At first glance, the Primaris Space Marines look a lot like normal Space Marines; they have the same general bulky armor, characteristic backpacks and domed shoulderpads. Upon a more careful look, it becomes clear that many subtle things were modified to improve virtually every aspect of the Space Marine aesthetic. The most evident difference between the Primaris and normal marines is their difference in height, with the Primaris marine standing a head or two taller than the marines we have had for years (they are very similar in size to the newer plastic Custodes, in fact). This would lead you to believe that, as a whole, the Primaris Marines are a lot larger than their predecessors. Surprisingly, this is not really the case, with most elements of the models being virtually the same size, including their helmets, backpacks, and shoulder pads. Even their breastplates and legs are only slightly bulkier and up-armored. Instead, the real difference, and what provides most of the size difference, is actually GW correcting a lot of the questionable anatomy of the previous Space Marines. Finally, after many years, Space Marines have suitable abdomens, instead of having their ribcages fused almost directly to their pelvises. More than any other change, I think this has had the most profound effect on creating a visually reasonable, yet compelling vision of a Space Marine. Additionally, height is added due to how the Primaris Marine’s legs are attached. Now they attach to the pelvis in a more logical and anatomical way, removing the massive “thigh-gap” seen on most Space Marines over the years.

The Primaris Marines are similar in size to the new Adeptus Custodes, while being taller than traditional marines (which are roughly the size of Imperial citizens, considering the size of the Genestealer Cult neophytes).
Both the Primaris Marines and the Custodes have more extensive rubberized sections around the joints and buttocks. 

In addition to these major anatomical improvements, the Primaris Space Marines have a lot of other nice details that suggest a lot of care and thought on GW’s part. Perhaps my favorite part about the new models is their thoughtful approach to the articulation points on their armor, particularly on the legs and around their buttocks. To make actual movement possible with the bulky armor, they dramatically increased the amount of rubberized material between the joints. Notably, the entire buttocks is covered in this flexible material, before a ceramite plate was added over-top. All of this makes it conceivable that the marine could move around rapidly without the armored sections of his limbs grinding against one another. Impressively, even though the Primaris Marines’ chest armor was made incredibly thick in the front, they made sure to leave their heads in-line with their shoulder/arms, rather than simply “centering” them out of convenience. Furthermore, many of the Primaris Marines have relevant and functional equipment on their belts, from pouches, to pistol holsters that finally are large enough to fit a bolt pistol. Amazingly, even those that are not wearing helmets have them hung at their hips.

Both the helmets and backpacks are similar in size between the Primaris and traditional Space Marines.

The new Primaris helmets are very similar to the older MKIV ones, but both work quite well on the models. 

While being very fond of the new Primaris Marines, there is one glaring issue that needs to be brought up: the new Boltgun variant, the Bolt rifle. As a whole, the Boltgun has always been an awkward weapon, huge and clunky, less of a rifle than it is a big block of metal. In the hands of the old Space Marine models, they still looked large and cumbersome. With the Primaris Marines being bigger than their predecessors, however, GW felt they needed to make their rifles bigger as well. Interestingly, the magazine and general firing mechanism of the new Bolt rifle is pretty much the same size as the old plastic Bolters, and to make the rifle bigger, they just extended the blocky front portion out even further than it had been before, resulting in a very unbalanced looking weapon. I can understand why they did not want to just extend an exposed barrel out further (like a traditional rifle), as it would change the iconic profile of the Boltgun, however it seems underdeveloped. Despite claiming the weapon to be a rifle, GW again failed to add a stock to the firearm, something that would make the weapon incredibly difficult to fire at range. On the plus side, they did add a picatinny rail along the top of the rifle, for optics and other accessories. Curiously, when a scope is added, it is not attached to said rail, and instead it is added further back, defeating the purpose of the rail. The front sight is also so massive that it would completely occlude using the scope in the first place. Interestingly, the magazine release was also shifted so that it is closer to the foregrip of the weapon, preventing it from being released with the trigger finger, and necessitating a second hand. One could argue that all of these things are minor, and not in league with GW’s design philosophies, but I think that is short-sighted. Small thoughtful changes, such as those to the Marines’ anatomy and armor design, are what makes the Primaris Space Marines so impressive and visually striking.

The Bolt rifle is a peculiar weapon, especially when comparing it to a modern day assault rifle. With the removal of the stock, it would be virtually impossible to fire it accurately. Furthermore there is a large amount of unused bulk on the weapon. Whether or not the Bolt rifle fires conventional cartridges or small rockets does not change any of these qualms.

The unmodified Primaris Bolt rifle is huge (in the center), so large that it would look awkward even on our "true-scale" Space Marine, which is the size of a Forge World Primarch. It is also much larger than the Umbra pattern Bolter on the MkIII Iron armor Marine (on the right).

When building my first Primaris Space Marine, the only thing that I felt that I needed to convert was his Bolt rifle. I ended up cutting off the majority of the front of the rifle and much of the top part off, as well. I saved the rail portion and reattached it along the top, and even used a portion of the included scope to create the barrel for the rifle, attaching it in such a way to simulate a slanted muzzle break. I used small pieces of plastic card to build a rear sight as well. The final thing I needed to add was a stock. How the model was sculpted holding the firearm prevented me from being able to add a traditional one, so I decided to create a folding stock instead. I am pretty happy with the result, however the weapon is still quite large, similar in size to “normal” plastic Bolters.  


A comparison of some of the other plastic Bolters, starting with a Deathwatch one on top, followed by a Tigrus pattern one, followed by the most common Godwyn patterns, followed by a modified Primaris Bolt rifle.
  
Other than modifying his Bolter, no other conversion work was necessary for getting this Primaris Space Marine ready for painting!

I used small pieces of plastic card to create the rear sight for his Bolter.

A folding stock was created using part of a Skitarii rifle and a piece of a bionic limb from a Destroyer (and I still need to drill our the barrel...).

Having built my first Primaris Space Marine, I am suitably impressed. The changes made to their anatomy have made them, in my opinion, the definitive Space Marine models. Considering that they are not significantly larger than the older plastic Space Marines, when accounting for the addition of an abdomen and better leg attachment, I think they would be an excellent starting point to build an force of normal, non-Primaris Space Marines, provided the Bolters are modified. For those not wishing to shelve their old Space Marine models, however, these new Primaris Marines will look good alongside them too, such is their quality. But as a blog that primarily concerns itself with creating small groups of models focused on injecting as much realism as possible into Warhammer 40k, we have little reason to go back to those old plastic Space Marines (but value their contribution to the evolution of Space Marines), and welcome Games Workshop’s newest creation!

Adam Wier

21 comments:

  1. Excellent article Adam. You guys are often right on point with your stuff. I am currently awaiting the release of Dark Imperium (and therefore my first Primaris marines), and this article has pretty much answered every question I have. It sounds like with the addition of a few plasticard spacers in the greaves and abdomen, old style marines could be brought up to nearly the same height and build. I can't wait to try it out... Though maybe not on all 100 or so of my old marines...

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    1. I am glad you found the post informative! I think you will be really excited with the Primaris marines when you get your hands on them. :)

      As for the standard plastic marines, I think you could improve their scaling and proportions quite a lot with a little plasticard. I think the most important modification would be to give them a more substantial abdomen. Once that is done you could judge whether to add some spacers to the legs. I am currently working on doing just that with the Chaplain model in the Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth boxed game. Whenever the conversion is finished I will show it on the blog!

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  2. Excellent article and summary of the new marines. Cant wait to see your future attempts on the Boltgun. Really looking forward to getting my hands on some Primaris Marines tomorrow....not looking forward to the dramatic increase in models waiting to be built on my desk haha.

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    1. I am looking forward to converting a few more patterns of Bolters. I think for the next one I will try and make an even smaller. For the one hear, despite cutting it down substantially it is still pretty large...

      There are a lot of models in the new 40k boxed game... It will be a true test of endurance!

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  3. Great post, and thanks for making the comparison. Seems like the size is more like what most people imagine a marine to be like, at least in comparison with the Neophyte.

    It also appears that with a new backpack and a little bit of judicious shaving, you could get the armor to look like a standard Mk VII suit, which is nice for those of us who want to ignore the whole "Primaris" thing entirely.

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    1. Yeah, I think the new Primaris marines are about the right size for a marine when you compare them to the standard human models GW now releases (IG Scions, Chaos Cultists, Genestealer Neophytes, etc.).

      Yeah, there are a bunch of small modifications that could be done to make them look very similar to some of the standard power armor variants. Even without any modifications they still very much read as a traditional Space Marine.

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  4. Excellent article. Bolters need stocks! I like the mods you have made but I am not sure the baroque style of the AdMech rifles matches the tech-y style of the new bolters. I think a stock like the old 2nd ed era skeleton stocks would look best. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with for the next one.... looking forward to getting my hands on some of the Primaris Marines myself... ;)

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    1. Thanks for the comment! I spent a while considering what stock the bolter should be equipped with. Eventually I decided a more traditional, full-bodied, synthetic stock would make the most sense for such a large weapon. In the future when I make other small bolter variants I will likely use a skeleton stock on at least one of them. :)

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    2. No, they don't. Bolters use a 2-stage propellant; a combination of a traditional cased primer/charge and a gyrojet-style rocket in the round itself. This allows for a much smaller charge and better recoil control.

      Also remember that marine, bolter and armour are designed and operate as one; the armour is specifically designed to compensate for the recoil... and marines are at least twice as strong as your average Muscle Mary body builder.

      Also remember that the bolter is an assault weapon and that, during the Great Crisade, marines operated in huge combined-arms forces, where they would be covered by artillery and other support weapons, until they were within 100m, plus, marines are well-protected enough that they don't need to avoid hant-to-hand combat; there was no need for 300m+ accuracy that an ordinary human needs.

      The only Marines that need stocks, are scouts, because they don't wear power armour...

      I understand the changes made, but I disapprove. Having a front-heavy weapon is also better for recoil control as a significant aspect of recoil is the shift in the centre of mass caused by the bolt moving.

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    3. The main function of a stock is not to control the recoil. It is to allow you to aim and provide a consistent firing position. Firing a rifle or assault weapon accurately, without a stock, at any range is difficult. The recoil has nothing to do with it. Also, since the bolter uses a two stage firing mechanism, probably some sort of gas-operated reloading system, it likely wouldn't have much recoil at all. A super-human like a space marine or a scout would not need power armor to do it. I have seen some argue that the bolter and power armor are linked, allowing the marine to fire the bolter without using a stock. I think this is also pretty laughable, and just making excuses for a bad design. No one would manufacture a firearm like this and require power armor to shoot it. It would be made to be functional by itself. Also, if this were the case, then the scopes would not be on the bolters like they are either. Without a stock, the scope would be useless.

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    4. All true, except that since Mk2, a marine helmet contains a targeting overlay, capable of identifying, and tracking dozens of potential threats simultaneously, so that marines can point-and-shoot, from the hip. This is firmly established in the canonical literature.

      It's not that they REQUIRE power armour, it's that they were designed synergistically, the same way a turret, targeting systems and main gun are designed to work together on a tank. Yes, one CAN look through the open breach to aim the gun, but one wouldn't, unless things were broken. Same for marines and bolters.

      Another consideration is that Marines need to be able to switch between bolter and close-combat weapon quickly and that they use a mag-lock to do this. Having a shorter, no-stock weapon, would be more practical, in that sense.

      I'm not saying that the model work is bad, it's just based on an incorrect understanding of what a bolter is and how it works; thinking and evaluating a bolter in terms of conventional firearms is just the wrong way to go.

      There is no comparison to a space marine - they are SUPPOSED to make your average SAS trooper look like red arse, fresh out of boot... and their weapons are no different.

      The AK-style directed muzzle break is interesting, but it breaks the design language of the bolter, making the rifle look just like a rifle - or worse, an autogun - rather than a bolter with an extended barrel; while there are a number of different variants/patterns of bolter, they all have the same general characteristics, so once you've seen a pistol, carbine (boltgun) and heavy version, you can easily tell whether something is a bolt-weapon or not...

      What matters is that this is a design for a fictional universe and in the context of that fiction, the design of the bolter in entirely internally consistent; one can sculpt whatever one likes, but one can't call something that looks like an autogun a bolter and expect to be taken seriously, in the same way you can't say that the sky is brown...

      Again, interesting (and well sculpted) changes, just think they were unnecessary.

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    5. I’m considering making you three Wiers honorary women for all the mansplaining you attract.

      It will be nice when your book on firearms is released (for those new to the site, the Wier brothers are legit experts in both firearms and biochemistry; if you are considering arguing with them on either of these topics, you are probably wrong and should go read a book or whatever). When this kind of thing happens, as it often does, you can save time and make money by just responding with an Amazon link to it.

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    6. I am arguing that with the current bolter design you couldn’t effectively shoot it. The only way a Space Marine could shoot it is if he had Power Armor that does the targeting for him. And ultimately, I think that is stupid. I believe they would design the weapon to work synergistically with the Power Armor, but also be usable without it (which again, it is currently really isn’t). It could be argued that a Space Marine could become good at shooting from the hip with a lot of practice. But, that style does not lend itself to consistency, and consistency is very important when it comes to shooting well. Should we decide that the mightiest warriors mankind have to often spend their hours training in ineffective shooting techniques?

      Towards this end, scouts do not have helmets at all, and without the targeting crutch of power armor, they have to rely on aiming themselves, which would not work well with the current design. Furthermore, as I alluded to previously, the inclusion of a mounted scope runs counter to the idea that Power Armor removes the need to truly aim (due to all the targeting arrays). But again the scope, like the bolter itself, would be virtually unusable without a stock.

      Personally, I think relating the bolter to conventional firearms makes more sense than relying on background material that has changed over the years. It is clear that the original designers of the bolter knew very little about firearms, and just threw together something that looked “cool,” and fit the profile of what would be seen as a “gun.” Over the years, GW and the Black Library has tried to write their way out of this. They have also gone back and forth about many aspects of the bolter, like whether it fires caseless rounds.

      I am not sure I agree that the muzzle-breaks makes the weapon not look like a bolter, and find it hard to believe anyone would confuse the one converted in this post as anything but a bolter (as it is essentially the same as the original model, just cut down a little). I could see people balk at the size and say it is too small for a Space marine. I agree it makes it look a little more like an AK-47/74, but I don’t think its inclusion makes it look more like an autorifle, particularly considering that no 40k autoguns have ever had slanted muzzle-breaks to my knowledge (or it is certainly not widespread). Perhaps a muzzle-break is not necessary because a bolter likely would not have much recoil, but that is another argument.

      At the end of the day everyone is entitled to their own opinions and to build whatever they like. We tend to try to convert models to be more realistic based on a modern-day lens. This is often counter to what GW does, with their oversized weapons and the like, but it is what we enjoy doing.

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  5. Nice article. I look forward to getting my hands on the astartes, they will of course join the Night Lords.

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    1. I think they will look great as Night Lords!

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  6. Really great article. Well put out and thought. Agree with everything except the rifle length, since it's actually much in line with the newest Spec Ops fashion and top tier rifle manufacturers like Noveske or Daniel Defense, in which the flash hider is almost in line with the end of the picattiny handguard, sometimes even overlapped on top of it.

    The old length made it a bit ludicrous that a weapon with such a short barrel could allegedly shoot long range.

    I really like your conversion though, but it has more of an SMG feel than an assault rifle.

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    1. I do not think that there is anything wrong with making the barrel longer, so long as they put a stock on the weapon. You could not hope to fire a rifle accurately without a stock. Lengthening the barrel and claiming it to be a rifle, without adding a stock, is one of my problems with GW’s design. The other is how much extra space and bulk the gun has, despite having a similarly sized firing mechanism and magazine to the old Boltgun. I have added a new image to the post trying to illustrate this point, using a Noveske AR.

      Also, I was not suggesting that having a long rail system was wrong. Tons of AR-15 rifles do that. However, on those, the rail extends all the way back to the rear sight, such that if you add a scope or a red dot sight, you are using the rail. What is peculiar about the bolt rifle is that the scope is not attached with the rail. Not that it extends so far forward.

      Thanks for the comment!

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  7. Personally, I'm fine with or without the stock. Considering they're adeptus astartes and wearing power armour on top of that, they shouldn't be having issues with recoil nor having difficulties shooting at range. Also considering how often space marines engage in medium and close range combat, you're better off not having a stock. To further explain my point about strength- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vT9IamQhSeI . However I do agree calling it a rifle is improper since it outright lacks a stock.

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    1. A stock does help to transmit recoil back into the body of the shooter, making it easier to control the recoil. Space Marines are strong and probably would not have trouble with recoil. However, a stock also helps with aiming, allowing you to bring the rifle up to the same position consistently. When it comes to shooting, being consistent is often a big part of being accurate. It would be hard to aim a rifle without a stock, regardless of recoil. Most AR-15s have almost no felt recoil, as most of the energy is used to chamber the next round. The reason that I want a stock on an AR-15 is not to control the recoil, it is to help me aim. Now, I realize that it could be argued that a Space Marine would not need such a thing to aim accurately, but I think that is largely just making excuses for an oversight in the design of the bolters. Some of the poses even have the marines bringing up the Boltrifles like they are attempting to shoulder them, something that you would not be doing without a stock.

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  8. Hnnm I'm being sold on Primaris. I like them a bit more, still enjoy 28mm Astartes.

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    1. The old plastic space marines still hold a special place in my heart. Though they are getting harder and harder for me to take seriously with the newer better proportioned Primaris marines being released. The newer Death Guard models suffer quite a bit from the awkward marine proportions of old... :(

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