Monday, February 18, 2013

Building a Better Heldrake - KrautScientist's Take

Hey everyone, KrautScientist here. Today I would like to add my own two cents to the discussion about building a flyer for your Chaos Space Marine army. OST already outlined two fantastic ways to go about this task, showcasing both his amazingly disturbing "Hellworm" as well as his very cleverly kitbashed Nurglite Heldrake conversion. But what about those of us sworn to another chaos god? And is it even possible to use the actual Heldrake kit to make something cool? I would like to show you my approach to answering those questions.

When the various new daemon engines were released, I quickly decided that I wanted to add a flyer to my army. Yet the regular Heldrake didn't really appeal to me all that much: While I love the idea of a chaos flyer slowly mutating and changing to a quasi-living being, with its erstwhile pilot having atrophied to a mere husk serving as the beast’s black heart, and while the latest FAQ pretty much transformed the Heldrake from a very viable option into an “auto-include”, I am simply not that sold on the whole "mechanical dragon" concept. So what was I to do?

I certainly needed to decide on a general approach to the matter. So I did a bit of research to find out whether anyone had managed to build a Heldrake that I actually liked. I also did pick up the Heldrake kit, because I felt that, if nothing else, it would at least serve as a good starting point. After immersing myself in the results of other people's creativity and talent for a while, I came up with a game plan:

Fortunately enough, there were several fantastic flyers to inspire my own project: OST's various models (see the links above) as well as Morf’s exquisite “Hellbat”, to name just a few. My favourite converted chaos flyer, though, came from Marshalfaust’s thread on Warseer.  I wanted my own Heldrake conversion to be very close to this version. So I set out on my quest to make the Heldrake look less like a dragon and more like a sinuous, strangely organic jet fighter. Here's what I did:

As you can see, only the longest set of front wings was used. I attached it directly to the main body, leading to a look slightly reminiscent of the different FW chaos flyers.  One smaller set of wings was added in the regular position. While I wanted to add yet another set of wings towards the back in order to give further definition to the model’s shape, that obviously had to wait until everything was painted (looking back now, that turned out to be a very smart decision…).

The neck was also left out, and the head replaced with an optional leftover head from the Forgefiend kit:

Due to a spontaneous moment of inspiration, I forced the remains of a WFB Necrosphinx skull head into the mouth cavity. By doing this, I wanted to give the model an actual “face” as a focal point. I also liked the notion that the skull’s mouth would be the place where the flames from the baleflamer emerged…

I also used some lasher tendrils from the Maulerfiend to “plug” some of the jet nozzles on the model’s back and make the body look even more disturbing:

With the missing arms and claws on my Heldrake, I also like to think that these tentacles are used as a CC weapon of sorts, slashing and whipping at other flyers and enemies on the ground.

All in all, I was reasonably pleased with the basic build of my Heldrake. The next step was to start painting this thing, and I will not lie to you: It was a nightmare!

All those small panels on the wings took ages to paint. And there were so many of them, even though I hadn’t used all the wings that came with the kit in the first place!

Nevertheless, I persevered and used the same base colours appearing throughout all of my World Eaters army: The red areas were painted using GW Mechrite Red, the Bronze trim was picked out in Vallejo Tinny Tin, and the silver areas were done with GW Boltgun Metal. I decided to paint the slightly fleshy, mutated bits of the model in a dark brown-red instead of a paler skin tone. That way, I would get a pretty organic transition to the reds on the model and would be able to avoid any expansive, pink areas.

I’ll be honest with you: Getting all the base colours done on the model was quite a chore, and not an experience I would want to repeat anytime soon. Oh, and I worked in multiple sub-assemblies, by the way, with the head and armour plates on the model’s back being painted separately to make sure every detail was easy enough to reach. It also quickly became clear that the changes I had done to the wings and rear of the model didn’t exactly make the job any easier…

With all the base colours in place, the next step was to apply the washes: Most of the model was generously washed with GW Agrax Earthshade to add some shadows to the red and bronze parts. The silver areas received the same treatment, only with GW Nuln Oil. After everything was well and dry, I drybrushed the Bronze with GW Dwarf Bronze, added a thin layer of GW Blood Red for the red parts and finally did some accents on the silver areas with GW Mithril Silver.

I also wanted to add an additional spot colour to show the power burning through the daemon engines innards. For that, I chose a simple OSL effect in light blue that was added to the head, mouth, engine and the underbelly of the model:

Another thing I wanted to do was to give the model a suitably detailed base. I knew I wanted some kind of ruined building, but all I had was a leftover Necromunda bulkhead. So I cut that apart, constructing a small ruin and added a couple of bitz as well as some of my trademark cork. Here’s what the painted base looks like:

As you can see, while I painted the ruined structure to look like rusty metal, the base itself was painted to fit in with the rest of my World Eaters. I also added numerous small details like the half-buried, dead (or is that dying?) Space Marine, two soldier’s graves and the unfortunate gravedigger himself — obviously, when they finally got him, there was nobody left to do the honours…

An opening was cut into the cork to leave a space for the flight stand to be inserted.

With both the model and base painted, I did a couple of final adjustments: The final set of wings could finally be added, changing the model’s silhouette quite a bit. But see for yourself. I give you: The Hellrazor.

As you can see, the OSL added to the model’s “mouth” makes it look like the baleflamer is just heating up:

And as a huge videogame nerd, I cannot help but feel immensely pleased by the fact that the Hellrazor’s shape recalls nothing so much as an endboss from a mid-90s 16bit shoot ‘em up like R-Type or Thunder Force:

All in all, I am prepared to call this project a success: Granted, this beast was a chore to paint, but I think that I’ve managed to convert a flyer that looks decidedly different from the original Heldrake will still maintaining a visual balance between jetfighter and strangely organic daemon engine. And the model also looks pretty similar in silhouette to the Forgeworld flyers — hence the name “Hellrazor”, to show a certain kinship to the Hell Blade and Hell Talon, in case you’re still wondering (there’s also another, even more obvious pun hidden in there, but I’m confident you’ll figure it out on your own ).

So, is this a better Heldrake? At least the model is a far better fit for the rest of my army. And, like I pointed out above,I like how it looks more like a missing link between the FW chaos flyers and something decidedly more sinister and chaotic.

Oh, and since the model was originally built to be entered into the latest Painting/Converting Contest over at Throne of Skulls, I wrote a bit of fluff to go with the model:

The cavernous hall was illuminated by the flickering half light of the grand furnace. Lorimar’s eyes needed a moment to adjust. Then he could see Deracin standing in front of the huge daemon engine, gazing up at its form. Lorimar approached the Keeper of the Forge. “I salute you, hunter. You requested my presence?” Deracin turned to face him and inclined his head. “Yes, lord.” But he did not say anything more.

“Is this about the daemon engine, then?” Lorimar growled. Deracin nodded ponderously. “Aye. As you can see, the vessel itself has been completed.” He gestured towards the shape of the war machine. Lorimar could see the pointed wings and jagged armour plates, he could see where fleshmetal had grown to fuse with the machine’s structure. Suspended above them was the daemon engine’s head, a grinning brass skull. The rest remained half hidden by the shadows, although Lorimar got a sense of the strangely organic shape of the thing. “And the incantations?” he growled.
Deracin kept his gaze locked on the machine, only the mostly bionic side of his face visible to Lorimar. “The bindings are in place. We have also completed the rituals. Yet something is amiss. I can feel it.”

Lorimar turned to face Deracin: “And what of …the pilot?”

Deracin seemed to grow uneasy. “My lord, it would be best not to refer to him as that any longer. We cannot be sure of what remains after the rituals. And truth be told, there was not much left even before that…” His voice trailed off.

“No, Deracin. He was our brother, an honoured member of the company. I refuse to refer to him as anything but.” Lorimar could feel the Keeper of the Forge’s gaze on him: “Even so, my lord, the binding seems incomplete. There is naught we can do.”

“Let me handle this, then!” Lorimar turned to face the huge brazen skull, seemingly suspended in nothingness. Then he addressed it:

“Old friend, forgive me for disturbing your slumber. But the company has need of you. There is still prey to run down. Your hunt is not yet over.”

They could both feel it. A strange feeling of otherness. And then a sound, low and guttural at first, but still unmistakeable: the sound of a huge animal drawing breath.

Whatever the daemon engine suspended in darkness above them may have housed. It lived.


With the pounding of heavy artillery vibrating through his body, Lord Commissar Sondheim of the 45th Palthian Grenadiers urged his troops forward: „Advance, men of Palthia!”, he boomed. “Advance and deliver the Emperor’s Wrath to the enemy, lest it fall upon you instead!”

Sondheim used his field glasses to look towards the front lines, where the chaos forces were advancing towards the Imperial position. He could make out the red armoured shapes of their enemies, and he couldn’t suppress a sinking feeling. The traitor legionaries of the World Eaters were deadly in combat, and to let them reach their lines would mean disaster. However, the Guard’s superior firepower had so far proven successful in stalling the enemies’ advance, pinning the abhorrent traitor Astartes and preventing them from rushing the Imperial positions.

Sondheim turned to his aide-de-camp, Junior Commissar Kelso: “Armin, send word to the Lord General that we have matters under control here. As long as our ammunitions supply lasts, we should be able to hold them back indefinitely. The Emperor’s justice will be meted out to these vile abominations.” Telzo nodded and opened his mouth to reply, when both men suddenly heard something above the din of battle: A rolling thunder that was steadily growing louder and louder.

“Air support. They have air support!”, Kelso said, his eyes frantically searching the horizon. “Don’t worry, lad!” Sondheim answered. “Just one of those light jetfighters. Our anti-aircraft guns will swat it down like a bothersome fly.” He took a look through his field glasses, and sure enough, there was the shape of a chaos flyer approaching, its shape like a jagged blade. There was something slightly warped about its silhouette, though. Sondheim grinned to himself: It was no use trying to keep track of all the different kinds of corruption that chaos wrought upon both its followers and their wargear.

But Throne, that thing was fast! Sondheim could hardly keep it in focus. And the closer it came, the more he felt a certain apprehension. He could see the thing now, shaped like a two-pronged dagger, yet strangely sinuous and organic at the same time, weaving between the bursts of AA-fire that were supposed to take it out. The noise was also getting louder: a strange animal roar, and above it, something else, like the sound of a thousand voices screaming in unison. “What in the name of Terra…?”, he murmured. “My lord,” Kelso’s voice sounded worried, “shouldn’t we abandon this position? It’s coming straight at us!” Sondheim heard his words, but he found himself strangely transfixed, staring at the approaching horror, listening to the rumble of its engines. He could make out details now: The wickedly sharp wings, something that looked like a head, wrought in the shape of a stylised skull, its mouth seemingly weeping blue flame. “Retreat!” he heard Kelso scream above the horrible noise, “Abandon this position!” And it was at this exact moment that Lord Commissar Sondheim knew fear.

And then his world turned into fire.

Right, so much for my personal approach to building a better Heldrake. If you have any questions or comments, just drop me a line! You are also very welcome to check out my blog at, if you want to learn more about my army in general or the Hellrazor in particular. In any case, thanks for looking!

This has been KrautScientist. Thanks for tuning in!


  1. I think it looks awesome man. It makes me want to do another one too - but I think the next design is a converted Storm Talon = Chaos infestation.

  2. Great take on that kit -which I initially hated, but now have a huge desire to convert given all the awesomeness I've seen done with it.

  3. This is a great take in a bad kit. I think it looks awesome and everything about the basing, fluff, paintjob and conversion is just perfect. You are a mad scientist, Kraut and I like it!

  4. Thanks a lot for the kind words, guys! I really appreciate it!

  5. I was not sold on the Helldrake but this is a definite improvement on it.
    The fact that the design is reminiscent of the Forgeworld flyers makes me like it a lot more than the original.
    Inspiring work indeed.
    Thanks for sharing!