40k: Building a Space Hulk, Part 2

In Part 1, I covered the initial plans for this project. In brief, I'm "crashing" Iron Sleet's Primogenitor Invitational, where a bunch of incredibly talented people get together and work on vaguely cohesively themed projects.
Games Workshop

Twin Rogue Traders, born moments apart, the undisputed children of Eusebius Drakemorton Cadrel and dynastic concubine sanctioned by the Sisters Famulous. A prodigy, reported to Administratum and filed, no doubt, among the other signs and wonders of the Imperium's waning days.

The Lex Imperialis, whose volumes and commentaries are said to stretch from one end of the galaxy to the other, provided the remedy for this dynastic crisis. An obscure clause in the Cadrel Warrant of Trade referenced one law, that law referenced another, and so after months of research (with the proverbial Sword of Dorn hanging over the infants), the adepts of the dynasty produced a satisfactory solution. Duabus anima in pari materia. Two souls, two bodies, two minds, yet one legal entity.

On their father's death, there would be only one Rogue Trader Cadrel. The Rogue Trader Cadrel, who only existed as the manifestation of the joint will of the twin children. Eusebius hired the finest tutors and psychosurgeons to raise them in the Cadrel ways. Jealousy and infighting were burned away; the two children were made closely codependent, unable to imagine life without the other or dream of seizing sole dynastic power. An unconventional approach, but what Rogue Trader dynasty follows convention?

When Eusebius died, Barabbas and Barnabus assumed control of a dynasty on the wane. Revenues from the Cold Trader - Xenos artifacts looted from distant worlds and sold to discerning collectors under the thinnest possible veil of legality - kept creditors and political rivals at bay, but the dynasty's coffers were slowly running dry.
The brothers met, as they often did, in the Cold Lightning's tertiary strategium. Neutral ground. No spies, no vox-recorders, no servants. Just two halves of the same Rogue Trader, discussing things without the mask of formal ceremony and secret signals. Many grand plots had lived and died in the ancient rust-streaked walls of the strategium.

"The Cygnus Gamma shipyards built four Hellbender-class cruisers," Barabbas said, in a storyteller's sing-song tone. "Only four. The Hellbender, first of her line, was destroyed in the Gothic Wars. The Lance of Dawn rests in the third reserve fleet of Holy Terra. The Gamella Magna was lost with all hands at the Battle of Corona VI. And the Cinderspine..."

"The Cinderspine, flagship of the Kossgrave dynasty, sailed beyond the Ghoul Stars and never returned," Barnabus said, cutting off his brother's story. "Is that why you brought me here, brother? Nostalgia for the old nursery tales?"

Barabbas smiled. "I found it. The Cinderspine." He tapped the a few keys and the holoprojector whirred to life. The images were faint and distorted. "Three weeks ago, one of our agents bribed an Imperial Navy auger-interpreter for maximal resolution pict-captures of Interdicted Object Theta-Grey-Epsilon. The space hulk they call Primogenitor."

"And the Cinderspine is part of the hulk?"

"Indisputably. Look, just here, you can see the dorsal spars. No other class then or since carried those triplex-arrays. In this pict you can even see a corner of the dynastic crest. The gun batteries would be here, putting the bridge and private sanctum here." But Barnabus wasn't listening. He was finishing the story, in the same sing-song tone, in his head.

The Cinderspine, flagship of the Kossgrave dynasty, sailed beyond the Ghoul Stars and never returned. Lord-Captain Sophia Kossgrave claimed to have charted a route through the Helical Rifts. The worlds beyond: unexplored, treasure-bearing, rich. The Lord-Captain sailed with her entire fleet. All contact was lost.

Three hundred years later, one ship, the frigate Scorpion, returned to the Imperium. Half her crew were dead, the other half were mad. Her navigator burned all charts and auto-immolated once they reached port. The ship's holds contained wealth beyond measure. Ingots of priceless ores stacked like nutri-bricks. Techno-relics from forgotten ages. The ship's logs indicated this wealth was chaff and dross to the fleet. They had been sent back to unload and return with more cargo vessels.

Since that day, no ship has crossed the Helical Rifts and returned. Of the Lord-Captain Kossgrave, the Cinderspine, and her fabled hoard, nothing is known.

"When can we sail?" he said.

The Space Hulk: Primogenitor


The first two 1'x1' panels are essentially complete. The cargo needs polishing and some plastic bits, but the main landing bay is done.

Working with plaster is fun but slightly more time-consuming than expected. Sorting bits and making sure they're bone dry is slow. If I wanted a perfectly even Paranoia or Star Wars space ship, I'd also need to spend time checking measurements to ensure exact alignment. For space hulks, +/- 1/16" of an inch isn't going to harm anyone.

Three main 1'x1' panels remain: a fuel depot, a second landing bay, and a temple-shrine.

I've been experimenting with weathering methods. I should have realized salt weathering (in any form) won't work on plaster. Even sealed with two coats of primer, plaster absorbs water like crazy. It sucks in the salt and crumbles in interesting (but unpredictable) ways.

The design ethos is "dead but not rotting". I want to create a distinctly Imperial ship that feels abandoned but not yet utterly corrupt. A lot of space hulk boards feel like a maze of generic mechanical greebling. I'd like to inject some form of symmetry and purpose into the design, as if this was a real place and not just a set.
I've recently been inspired by Neil101's terrain (blog) but the level of sand, ash, and general decay is too high for this project. I don't want this ship to look scavenged or repurposed. Smashed, distorted, maybe with a boarding torpedo wedged in it somewhere, but not a ruin turned into a hab turned into a factory turned into a ruin.

I also want to keep that very 40k mashup of high technology and low gothic. Elegant curves plated in false stone to give a sense of borrowed antiquity. Vents repurposed to hold cables. Looming iconography. Practical details. A sense of overwhelming scale. This hangar is just a minor shuttle bay on the side of a single cruiser.

Scale and Pattern

The walls of the 1x1' panels typically have five doors. Three on the lower level and two on the upper, 5" off the base. They're not all identical, but the idea is that the panels can be pushed against each other or connected by other bits of terrain. The 5/8" MDF base (without the 1/4" plaster floor) is the same height as my other terrain boards, meaning the hulk's panels can be mixed with other modular terrain sets. 5" is also the floor height of Games Workshop's Sector Imperialis and Sector Mechanicus lines. Sections can be attached directly or connected by small 3" tall corridor segments.

I like the large open sections. Space hulk corridors are deliberately claustrophobic, but you can't have claustrophobia without contrast. Hangars, holds, and temples provide spaces for massive firefights and even light vehicles.


The current plan is to basecoat black, add weathering in umber, sienna, and ochre, and overspray in a white-yellow. Then, a whole bunch of washes, texture daubs, and error correction. We'll see how it goes.

I'm not much of a painter, so working with colours that are "natural" seems sensible. Ochre is clay; umber and sienna are great for painting rust because they are rust. Oil paints are great for painting oil because they are oil.

The ideal end result should be something like Kari Hernesniemi's Monastery project... but significantly worse.


  1. I've never done any plaster work before, so it's exciting to see the progress pictures and get context for the experience of making things with it. If you happen to have a picture of what the salt weathering looked like before you discarded it, that'd be interesting to see.

    Also, "Ghoul Stars" is an enjoyably evocative term.

  2. Looks like it's going to be amazing- might have persuaded me to pick up some moulds myself! Which ones did you use?

    1. Most of the Hirst Arts sci-fi line, plus their Gothic molds 42, 43, 44, and 56. https://www.hirstarts.com/molds/molds.html And a bunch of custom made ones.

  3. Great work so far. I have always been tempted by Hirst Arts but haven't had the time or patience so far. Looking forward to seeing what you do with them and maybe getting inspired to do my own stuff.