Table Ready Feature: Mortarion, Primarch of the Death Guard

[This post was originally posted to Otherverse Games & Hobbies as part of a series called Plastic to Painted, or P2P. You may see logos or references to this site and series]


From the slow, inexorable advances they use as a chief tactic to the use of chemical and biological weapons to completely destroy an opponent, the Death Guard are one of my favorite Legion Astartes.  And nothing encapsulates the concept of death on foot as their Primarch: Mortarion.  Wielding Silence, a power scythe larger than himself, and equipped with the Lantern, a large bore pistol that fires miniature supernovas, Mortarion moves across the battlefield eliminating all that stand in his way as ably as Death itself.

Remembrancer image of Mortarion during the Great Crusade.  Image courtesy of Games Workshop.

I figured with the theme of Primarchs for December it’d only be fitting to lead my first article for the month with the first Primarch I painted: Mortarion, Primarch of the XIV Legion Astartes.  As previously stated the (in)famous Death Guard are my second favorite legion.  When this model was released way back in the Before Times (time no longer has meaning in the Covid era), I was immediately hooked.  The imposing figure, the giant scythe, the hooded specter under all that armor, all of it came together for me.  Couple that with his lore and tactics/fighting style, that becomes icing on a delicious toxin-filled cake.  When I started my Heresy Death Guard army, I knew I had to have that model.

Painted Mortarion photo 1 of 3.


Like his brothers, Mortarion was hurled across the galaxy and came to fall on a world settled at one point by humans.  The planet he landed on was a death world called Barbarus, a nightmarish place surrounded by toxic fog wreathed mountains and plague-ridden swamps.  Humanity was divided between settlers in the valley and warp-driven necromancers in the mountains that hunted the settlers below for sport and experimentation.  After one such hunt an infant Mortarion was taken captive and eventually raised by the master of the necromancers, a creature named Necare.  Known as the High Overlord, Necare and his fellow psykers taught Mortarion in all topics of knowledge, from artifice to tactics to arcane knowledge of the Warp.  When the subject of the humans was eventually brought up, Mortarion was denied the answers he sought, and he eventually broke out of captivity and escaped to the valleys below.  Upon seeing humans for the first time he immediately understood who they were and his kinship with them.  However the humans mistrusted him at first.  The necromancers eventually sent out a raiding party to bring Mortarion back but he was able to defeat them single-handedly, and inspired the human populace to accept him. 

With Mortarion’s aid, the humans began arming and training themselves against the necromancers, and were eventually able to destroy each fortress in turn with the exception of Necare’s, it being located at the highest peak and unreachable through the toxic fog.  Eventually the Emperor of Mankind arrived and struck a deal with Mortarion: if he destroyed the leader, Mortarion could stay on Barbarus and the Emperor would leave immediately.  If he couldn’t, Mortarion would swear fealty to the Emperor and commit to the Great Crusade.  Against the advice of his council, Mortarion agreed to the terms and scaled the final peak to face his former master.  The path was so deadly that Mortarion collapsed outside of the fortress gates, screaming at Necare to show himself.  When he finally did, Mortarion was on death’s doorstep.  Before he passed out the Emperor stepped between the two and slew Necare with his flaming sword.  Mortarion eventually recovered and swore loyalty to the Emperor but the damage was done.  This act would be the seed from which Mortarion would cultivate and nurture his resentment towards the Emperor and the Imperium of Man.

Mortarion after pledging his loyalty to Nurgle and his ascension to daemonhood.  Image courtesy of Games Workshop.

The Great Crusade and The Horus Heresy

Mortarion quickly took control of the XIVth Legion Astartes: the Dusk Raiders, and renamed them the Death Guard.  They would go on to win many glories for themselves and bring many worlds back into the Imperium of Man.  However, they were not a legion that stayed behind to rebuild conquered worlds.  After utterly destroying an opponent, they often left planets as blasted hellscapes covered in toxins and poisons that would take generations to dissipate if ever.  As the Crusade progressed Mortarion’s bitterness grew until he made the reluctant decision to side with Horus in the galactic spanning civil war that became known as the Heresy.  On their final approach to participate in the Siege of Terra the Death Guard fleet were becalmed in the warp and plague began to run rampant through the armada.  In the end, Mortarion begrudgingly pledged his allegiance to the plague god, Nurgle, in order to proceed.  The traitors arrived in the Sol system and were eventually defeated on Terra.  Unfortunately many traitors survived, fled into the warp to regain their strength, and would continue striking at the Imperium for next 10,000 years.

Painted Mortarion photo 2 of 3.

Assembly and Painting

Assembly went super quick on this cat with the exception of the censers attached to his armor.  These were a bit fiddly and actually snapped off a couple of times while painting.  For the paints, all of the colors selected were from Games Workshop.  I opted for the slight off-white look and weathering pattern to match the rest of my Death Guard force.  In fact I think Mortarion really sets the example for worn armor and weathering.  I tried to apply this as much as possible to the model, and started experimenting with different amounts of verdigris and oxidation on the brass components as well.  Unfortunately, both Mortarion and his sons have been sitting idle on the shelf for several years now, but with new Heresy rules I’m hoping to change that in the near future.

Painted Mortarion photo 3 of 3.

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A New England transplant that originated from parts westward, Ryan is a bit of a nerd that knows a little bit about a lot of things, all while claiming to know nothing about anything.  Seemingly part Khajit a logistician by trade, he’s the kind of guy that can get you virtually anything if there’s coin to be had a problem to solve.  Ryan began to learn the scrounging arts while serving time in parts east as a Loggie and has been perfecting them steadily over several decades.  He has a problem with continually purchasing models, paints, and terrain that he doesn’t really need but his wife doesn’t seem to mind.

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