Project Ultramar: Phase One

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]

Or, How an Accidental Army turned into a Larger Intentional One

Over the last few articles I have alluded to working on Project Ultramar. I have posted pics in the Facebook group and on the Instagram account. Yet until now, I haven’t fully described what it is, where it started and the intended end result. So let’s get into it.

Origin of Project Ultramar (The Problem)

Strangely enough, the start of my Horus Heresy era Ultramarines and eventually the Project that came to be called Project Ultramar came to be shortly after my Warhammer 40k Ultramarines army. As my buddies have so semi-hilariously roasted me for it, my Ultras began with the 40k Guilliman from the Triumvirate of the Primarch box set. You know, I needed a couple of guys to hang around with Guilliman so that he wouldn’t be surrounded by Dark Angel green in my display. I hit eBay. The rest is history, or so they say. 

The new space marine army that was Macragge Blue instead of Caliban Green was taking shape: I found myself with enough models to play a game, so I did. It was fun. I wanted to play more. I also didn’t want it to be a more bland version of the Dark Angel Army I had, which, when taking out the Ravenwing and Deathwing specific units, was a Hard-Hitting Anti-Armor list: all plasma and lascannons. 

First Half of a Mk6 Legion Tactical squad with a Vexillia…
…and the second half with an Augury Scanner (Mr. No Helmet) and Nuncio-vox

And so began the quest to buy different shit. That took the shape of an anti-horde space marine force, almost all Bolters and in 8th Edition, the Ultramarines did that well. They could step out of melee and shoot. When doctrines came about, they didn’t  even count as moving when they were in tacticall doctrine and all those massed Bolters got some help slicing through armor. 

It was then that I discovered two things: One, many Forgeworld Models from the Heresy line were not only usable but nasty in 40k. I am looking at you, Sicaran Punisher, with your ability to turn a full squad of boyz to a green gooey substance. Two, since most of the Heresy stuff would work in 40k, I could easily make a Heresy army as well, since unlike my Dark Angels, the Ultramarines wear the same color in both eras. Sure, I would struggle to use Invictus Suzerains and breachers in 40k, and I couldn’t use Primaris marines in heresy, but (nearly) all the big, expensive vehicles and many of the infantry units were totally viable. I couldn’t use the Fulmentarus Terminators, but my Locutarus Storm Squad would make a fine Vanguard Vet squad armed with power swords.

And so, my Heresy Ultramarines Army was born. Well, kinda…

Goal of Project Ultramar (The Theoretical)

Almost exactly two years before the first Siege of Terra novel was released, Cliff was finally able to peer-pressure me into reading Horus Rising (I finished the last entry in the main series while my pre-ordered copy of Solar War was on the Amazon truck for delivery). By the time I was through the first five books, I was already of a mind to build an army for the setting. Shortly after I had started collecting the Black Books and had the rules. While Cliff connected with the Prospero massacre, I found an attachment to the Betrayal at Calth. Ultramarines vs Word Bearers, Good vs Evil of sorts, and I could collect armies for Kera and I on both sides of the conflict. Cool. I painted a few squads from the Betrayal at Calth box and a few vehicles, like the Spartan and Punisher I have posted previously.

First half of the Cataphractii unit…
…and the second half

Cliff decided to do Blood Angels first for some reason and I went on to paint the Word Bearers so we could play Loyalist vs Traitor, since, at the time, he was the only other person I knew that wanted to play the Horus Heresy game. So for a couple years I painted the blood red marines of the XVII Legion, and a III Legion ally to boot. The Traitors are done (for now) and I found myself sitting on several thousand points of planned out Ultramarines. But how was I to ensure that the project was done quickly and efficiently with as little chance of failure as possible. 

The experience I had from painting a half-dozen or so 40k armies during 8th ed and the beginning of 9th would be put to good use. As I stated before, I am a planner: schemes were put in place, waiting for the stars to align. An adventure would be embarked upon to bring the ring all the way to Mord.. oh, er, I mean, support the 500 worlds of Ultramar with an army that I could play in multiple ways, depending on the narrative involved or which Rite of War I wanted to use at the time. 

The full 10-man Cataphractii Terminator Squad and a character in Cataphractii armor

Following my own process for planning large painting projects, I had all of my spreadsheets filled in: A list of the squads I owned, plus the squads that I planned to get and the gear to arm them with; As a squad is painted, their entry is colored in on the spreadsheet, making the progress clear and and the goal obvious. Let’s see what that looks like.

Result of Project Ultramar (The Practical)

As originally planned, Project Ultramar was a four-phase project. The first Phase would be to complete a 1k Zone Mortalis list to play against Kera and attempt a simple Battle Report for YouTube. Phase Two would involve filling out a 2k Zone Mortalis list from the end of Phase One. Phase Three was supposed to be tanks and fast-moving options to make a fully painted viable 3 to 4k army using the Crusade Force Organization Chart. 

To distract myself from neary unlimited amounts of blue armor with gold accents, I set up two ally detachments, Iron Hands and Emperor’s Children. Both are started already, and neither will be complete after, but the models I own for both will also be painted as Side Projects. There is also a pile of Marvel: Crisis Protocol and Star Wars: Legion models as complete palette cleanser projects. 

Plasmagun Tactical Support Squad in Mk4 armor
Legion Tactical Squad in Mk4 armor and legion heads and shoulder upgrades

I had a couple potential treats lined up, but they would change as the project evolved. Speaking of which, I found myself almost immediately needing to be flexible. 

The results have been great: as of writing this article, Phase one and two are complete. Phase one went pretty much to plan, and we will look at that next. Phase two, well, needed some flexibility in plan, execution and intention. That’s for next time.

Project Ultramar: Phase One Complete

Phase One of Project Ultramar started in early October of 2022 when I spent an afternoon airbrushing a pile of infantry. I started painting half of a 20-man Mk6 tac squad from the Age of Darkness box; I would only be able to use 15 max in the squad but I wasn’t going to leave 5 of them behind for who-knows-when. 

Quickly I saw Phase One resolve into two distinct types of unit projects. The first, like the Mk6 tac squad were new in box units, built, or built and primed. These would be the easy units to paint. I could work on them as normal, and I had devised a simple, quick and efficient manner to paint them up to tabletop standard with a wonderful color saturation and looked better than the 8k of 40k Ultramarines that were already painted. 

What took longer was the second type of unit up for work during the first part of the project. These were units that I hastily painted up with base colors only to get on the table for a gathering with Robert back in 2019. I wanted as many options as possible for our first game in something like a decade and a half, and we planned a narrative game where we could bring new or dead units in from reserve to play literally all day. 

Those barely-painted models went more or less directly into battlefoam and sat there: they visited the game table briefly for the Ultramarines video I created, and one or two games. The unlucky fuckers would not feel the caress of a sable-haired brush again until I started Project Ultramar.

Complications were to arise, as the basic means I had used to start the unpainted models was impossible. Literally twice as much time and energy was involved with updating the color and finishing the previously started models than the untouched ones. 

Intimately familiar with my own personal foibles, I resigned myself to get as much infantry done in the early half of Project Ultramar as possible; I love painting tanks and tire easily from limitless infantry. This is why settling on a Zone Mortalis force for the first half of the planned project was ideal. It also meant I had to get all the barely started units done. 

December had landed and Phase one was approaching completion. As a bonus to myself and at the friendly yet stern demand of Robert to attend to the Theme of December, I went forward with painting the Guilliman model that I had expected to paint to end Phase Two. 

I am quite happy with how this model came out

Did I rush Guilliman? Maybe a little. Am I satisfied with the results? For sure. My first attempt at airbrush marble was a moderate success, although when I think back to it I should have practiced a bit before tackling the Primarch’s diorama base. But, it’s too late now. 

Turns out the Avenging Son himself was a perfect end point for the first act in a long and winding main quest. Time for a diversion, a little wandering perhaps. We will move onto the first side quest in Project Ultramar…

Or will we?


Obsessive and neurotic collector of little plastic men, novels about the same little plastic men and paints to make the little plastic men pretty. Married to Kera, who puts up with him and pretends that she doesn’t hear him speaking to the little plastic men in between making pew pew noises in the hobby room. Requires adult supervision. A menace to himself but rarely to others. More beard than man

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