Welcome everyone to this, my long-awaited return to 40k. It has certainly been a long time coming.
A long time ago, in a toy store far, far away, a 6 year old boy (at least I think I was 6 at the time, my memory gets quite fuzzy around that era, I might have been 5, but I'm pretty sure it was one of those two ages. Certainly no older than 6) happened upon a big shelf display of strange boxes. Upon them were pictures and artwork of all kinds of futuristic sci-fi vehicles and soldiers. The boy loved science fiction (and still does), so his attention was instantly captured. He examined some of the boxes, and was fascinated by the bizarre designs of their contents. He also noticed that they all shared a common name on the top - some particularly brutal and violent sounding name like Bloodconqueror or Battlegore or Warhammer 40,000 or something - and immediately wanted to know more about them. But he was informed by his parents that they were toys for older kids, and not meant for the likes of him, so he left the store without ever uncovering the truth behind them. That was the last the boy ever saw of those strange science fiction things, and the boxes with their weird science fiction armies faded from memory...
... until a few years later. This time the child, now 8, had dived into the world of computer games, and was browsing a shelf of them in a store just opposite where the toy store had been. One game in particular stuck out to him, and he picked up a copy for a closer look. It was called Fire Warrior, and it's cover artwork depicted a high-tech soldier sitting on a pile of skulls in an apocalyptic landscape. He was immediately enthralled with the artwork, particularly the cool looking helmet that the character was wearing with its glowing central eyepiece, and for a long time it was the number 1 thing on his mind. He thought about how awesome an entire army of soldiers like that one would be. A short while later, a schoolyard discussion ended up on this thing called Warhammer 40,000, which quickly started a discussion about who was picking what faction (not to collect though, but rather to play as at lunchtime - we were just kids in relatively limited income families, and this was in the days before everyone just sat around browsing the internet in their free time). Someone suggested Tau as a fit for the child, and after a puzzled response said "Fire Warriors" and the child immediately remembered the amazing artwork he had seen.
And ever since then the Tau have been my number 1 40k army.
I've always loved the Tau, especially in their first incarnation during the tail end of 3rd edition. They were my first army not just for 40k, but for any tabletop game, and to this day are still probably my favourite. Since I started I ended up amassing a sizeable force of them, painted to varying degrees of success as I worked on them to the best of my child level abilities, from around 2002ish to 2010ish. There work slowed to a crawl and then a halt as I shifted resources and energy away from army development in favour of an ambitious space program. For years afterwards my poor Tau army languished, with only a token effort towards modernisation in preparation for a couple of games with a guy living nearby that I discovered was also into 40k.
But that's all about to change. With the bulk of my space fleet now finished, I am embarking upon a truly massive rearmament program for the ground forces. When the dust settles, I aim for nothing less than a place among the ATT greats. Like the Tau themselves, I tend to think big.
But first, we're going to go back in time, back to when it all began, back across years and decades and social trends, back to the glorious bygone age of the early 2000s, and to this guy.
A metal XV15 Stealthsuit Shas'vre (plus his faithful gun drone) - and the first Warhammer 40,000 model I ever owned and painted, when I was 8 years old.
This wasn't the first tabletop model I owned and painted. I had been collecting Lord of The Rings models in the form of the old Lord of The Rings Battle Strategy Game magazine series by DeAgsostini, (what a fantastic stroke of brilliance that was), but those were only ever meant to be a stepping stone to 40k, something to practice on until I got to the models I was really after.
Thus, I consider this to be the official start of my journey into 40k and tabletop games. He came from my first ever trip to a GW store, which in those days was conveniently located just downstairs from my optometrist at the time. I had been doing some research beforehand (read: spending hours on the GW and Forgeworld webpages ogling all the gorgeous Tau models displayed on there and ravenously devouring every scrap of information about the Tau I could find on there), so I already had a good idea of what my first model was going to be, the one GW kit (not Forgeworld) that had so far captured my admiration and imagination more than any other - a Hammerhead Gunship. Extrapolating from Forgeworld (which I did not know at the time was a separate subsidiary of GW and not usually stocked in stores), back when Forgeworld still listed normal GW kits on its website, I initially assumed that the Hammerhead would be a relatively small model no larger than a Rhino, and with a cost of around $25. You can perhaps then imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was in fact a massive $72 beast of a kit, which put it squarely in birthday and Christmas gift territory. This disappointed me somewhat, especially when my plan B - a Broadside Battlesuit - also proved to be out of financial reach at $55, but that was quickly forgotten as I started my first introductory game of 40k, commanding 6 Firewarriors against 3 Chaos Space Marines. It was a quick victory as I ended up shooting one or two to death and then beating the remainder in close combat with zero casualties sustained (I still have lingering suspicions that the staff member opposing me might have fudged the results somewhat to get me more enthusiastic about it), and then ended up walking out of the store with the models posted above after being allowed to get "One little thing" from the shelf of blister packs. My primitive childhood reasoning for choosing them was simple - I loved the Firewarriors (remember the Fire Warrior artwork that first got me interested in the Tau), so naturally when I saw a Firewarrior with a Gatling gun I picked him. I was wild with excitement when I got home and actually read the label on the blister pack to find that I was in fact now the proud owner of a Tau Stealthsuit - a Firewarrior with a Gatling gun, a jetpack, a robot sidekick AND he can turn invisible? Hell Yes! Even now I'm still very fond of Stealth Teams.
In addition to the Stealthsuit, I also went home with a Citadel Paint set, which went on to serve me well for over a decade - in fact I still use some of the paints from it to this very day. The Stealtsuit went through several changes in colour scheme over the years. You can see the colour scheme he was originally painted with on the gun drone, and it was a crude attempt to recreate the Fire Warrior cover artwork that was so compelling - my child logic was that I wanted an army of troops just like the one on the Fire Warrior cover, and that one was wearing yellow armour, and I had a pot of Sunburst Yellow from the paint set, so naturally I should paint my new models yellow, with some red optics. I then spent the next two nights lavishing Sunburst yellow on the two models until I was satisfied with the coverage. The end result can be best described as a pair of mostly yellow blobs, but I was still very happy with the results. This continued to be how the Stealtsuit looked until one day after school I suddenly thought to myself "You know what would look really cool? A gold Tau army! Think about it, an entire army of high-tech Tau in solid gold! Gold is cool and high-tech, and lots of cool ancient cultures had gold everywhere, and they looked cool, so I should make my Tau GOLD!"
It never occurred to me at the time that this would have resulted in my army all looking like C-3PO, so I rushed home and immediately painted all the Tau models I had at the time (3 of them) in a full coat of Shining Gold over a Mithril Silver base. I eventually converted most of them back to what would become the colour scheme I settled on, but this guy remained gold for a bit longer before I finally decided to get serious and painted him in the crude attempt to recreate the GW studio stealthsuits that you see today.
The Drone was lost down the back of the desk I did my hobby work on back then, and so was spared the many colour scheme revisions I made. I no longer remember whether the orangeish-tanish splotches were an attempt to paint over the yellow areas with Vomit Brown, or if I just put so much Sunburst Yellow on it that it ended up looking that way. There was originally a second pulse carbine on it, but that has since been lost to time along with the flying stand that I foolishly decided to glue it onto. Working without any kind of assembly instructions, I was confused about which way to stick the antenna on - I had faint memories of seeing it pointing backwards on the back of a Firewarrior box, but then seeing the artwork on page 60 of the Tau codex (which included a gun drone with the jetpack exhaust facing forwards and the antenna away from it) threw me off, causing me to end up gluing the antenna on the wrong way. You will be glad to know that I did not make the same mistake again.
At some point in the past the other antenna on the Stealthsuit's jetpack broke off. I think I might still have it somewhere, but never attempted to glue it back on again.
Now, let's come back to the present and see what 13-14 years of experience and progress (like learning to actually layer colours) can do.
This is the first of my revamped Tau army, a Firewarrior test model. The colour scheme I am going with is the same one I attempted to recreate when I first started a Tau army - the classic T'au desert camouflage scheme. This project is to be a homage to and celebration of the old Tau army I first fell in love with as much as it is a renovation and modernisation.
Thus, the process I used was almost exactly the same one described in Codex: Tau, substituting in newer colours for those no longer available. I had originally planned to follow the process as described to the letter, but eventually found out (as I had already discovered when building my Wood Elves) that even the older GW painting instructions are a lot like the cooking recipes my grandmother used to share - an accurate general set of instructions, but they don't tell you everything you need to know, missing out one or two key details that are on the 'Evy Metal examples. To compensate I added an extra stage of highlights - Ungor Flesh for the armour and Steel Legion Drab for the undersuit, and applied the same process used for the Battlesuit mechanical areas on the darker areas of the gun and backpack. The other final details were relatively straightforward, and this is one of the very few models I've ever painted that I'm genuinely happy with - I still have trouble believing that the highlights and jewelling on the helmet were done by my own hands.
All in all, I'd say I've come a long way since the days when yellow blobs roamed the earth. Now to see what I can do with a full army...