The Space Sharks Space Marines

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be many Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 army articles on the blog! This is will be a regular series about the armies collected, modelled and painted by our gaming group. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to create your own imaginative armies, with their own backgrounds and inventive conversions.

The first article in the series is about one of my own armies – The mighty Space Sharks Space Marines. Who, I hear you cry? Well, many years ago, back in 1988, when the 40K background was less fixed than today, White Dwarf ran a short article by Rick Priestly entitled ‘The Badab War’. This described a conflict between several chapters of Space Marines, some rebelling against the Imperium, some loyal. The part of this article fondly remembered by most gamers of a certain age was the colour spread – and bear in mind that most of White Dwarf was printed in black and white in those days. This  featured colour schemes for all the chapters involved in the Fourth Quadrant Rebellion (as the Badab War was also known) – in total around fifteen chapters, complete with alternative schemes for special units like the Red Scorpions’ ‘Pursuit Squad’. It would probably look crude to younger gamers today, but was filled with imagination and ideas, and inspired many a Space Marine army to be built from the original plastic boxed set, the RTB01 Space Marines. Fast forward to 2004 and Warhammer World in Nottingham was starting to run a series of campaign weekends each year. These were fun gaming weekends deliberately designed to be less competitive than the Grand Tournaments with a different atmosphere. In a stroke of genius, the first 40K campaign run that year was to be a re-run of the Badab Campaign, with special rules and scenarios written, complete with a lovely A3 reprint of all the colour schemes featured in the old White dwarf article. It was to be gamed at 1500 points, but the brilliant feature was that if you took an army painted in one of the old chapter colours, you were allowed to use – for free! – one of the unique units featured in the rules pack. Most of these units were based around the units featured in the colour spread. Thus, if you painted and brought 1500 points of Red Scorpions, you were allowed to add for free the Red Scorpion Pursuit Squad. Needless to say, the tickets for this weekend sold out almost instantly. What no-one (not, I suspect, even the organisers) expected was the take up of the special armies. Remember, none of the armies featured were any of the ‘big’ chapters – for example, no Space Wolves or Ultramarines were able to get the special rules. The most well known chapter featured was the Salamanders. As it turned out, dozens of entrants had bought and painted entirely new Space Marine armies, partly to be able to use the unique units, but mainly, I think, to get into the spirit of the campaign. It certainly added to the experience of the weekend, seeing Astral Claws Space Marines up against the Star Phantoms and Rainbow Warriors battling the Mantis Warriors. Around half the 100 or so gamers had made the effort to buy and paint a new army for a campaign weekend. I was one of them.

Now as anyone that knows me will tell you, I love Space Marines and don’t need much of an excuse to start a new Space Marine army. But the opportunity to paint and game with a cool old-school chapter from a great old bit of background – I couldn’t pass that up. With rules pack in hand I chose the Space Sharks – partly because they have a cool name, partly because they had a cool unique unit – a team of move and fire heavy bolters. They also add a really nice chapter badge (they actually have had two over the years – I chose what I consider the better of the two) which turned out to be a lot easier to paint than it looks. The final reason was that with the campaign four months away and a 1500+ point army to paint, the scheme needed to be quick (Well, that certainly ruled out the Minotaurs!). Two things were chief in my mind – the army needed have and old-school 40K feel, despite using the then-current range of models, and that I wanted it to be fairly realistic – well as realistic as a 40K army ever gets. I wanted to as get as close to the look of the article as I could. To do this I resolved to use only Mk VI Space Marine heads (hey kids, in the past there was no Mk VII armour!) on my models. After rummaging through my bits box, I had around twenty heads (I have a BIG bits box) – a lot, but still not enough. Fortunately, my gaming group rallied round and searched through their boxes and I soon had enough parts – thanks guys!

Once I’d assembled some marines, the next stage was to paint them. The paint scheme was designed to be close to the original and quick, consisting of the following:

  • The power armour was painted with a Codex Grey Base Coat over a black undercoat.
  • The armour was then lined with a 50/50 Codex Grey / Chaos Black shade in the recesses. This was pre-mixed to speed things up and also used as the Chaos black highlight below.
  • The armour was then given a single highlight of Fortress Grey.
  • Guns, armour seals and other ‘worky bits’ were painted black and highlighted with the above 50/50 grey/black mix and then a neat codex grey, with trim painted Boltgun Metal and washed with thinned down Black Ink.
  • Red trim was painted with Scab red and a Blood Red highlight – in particular a red vertical stripe down the centre of the helmet, in the same style as the article.
  • Bone / scroll work was painted in three layers – Graveyard Earth, Kommando Khaki and Bleached Bone.
  • The helmet eyes were painted with regal blue, with Ultramarine Blue highlight and Skull White reflection dot.
  • Finally the models were based with a drybrush of Graveyard Earth, Kommando Khaki and Bleached Bone with static grass applied. I’d sanded the models prior to undercoating to speed thing up again. A bit of planning ahead can greatly speed things up!

In another nod to the old Rogue Trader artwork (The first edition of Warhammer 40,000 was called Rogue Trader – but then you knew that already didn’t you), I painted some daft slogans on the Marines’ power armour – see the photos below for details.

With the colour scheme nailed down, the army was soon together – some of the highlights are featured below.

Chaplain with Jump Pack Leading Assault Squad

Although the campaign weekend was aimed at being fun rather than no-holds-barred competitive, I still wanted some decent units in the army. Back in fourth edition 40K, the Space Marine Chaplain with the Jump Pack was one of the best HQ units going – especially when leading a fully equipped Assault Squad. To make this unit a bit more special, I modelled them on scenic bases using the 40K ruins sprue. This was to give the impression of their bounding along using their jump packs and also to raise them up, giving them the prominence they deserved. I also used the Chaos Raptor jump packs as I felt their more streamlined look fitted the pointed Mk VI helmets. These had the rivets, arrows and stars filed off to give them a less Chaotic look. The flamer operators were given Cadian Imperial Guard flamers with the fuel tanks mounted on the Marines’ sides. This was to give them a more heavy duty, military look. The Sergeant was given the Power Fist from the plastic Space Marine Commander sprue and the servo skull was added for variety. It also provided a bit of a counter weight, as he was quiet unstable. Originally, the models were mounted on standard 25mm round bases, but these were later uprated to 40mm round bases due to the stability issues cause by metal jump packs on tall plastic models.

Tactical and Devastator Space Marines

The Tactical Marines were originally constructed as several smaller squads, as was common in the previous edition of 40K. They’ve since been modified and had the relevant markings added to make them the 10-man squads required today. Many feature slogans and graffiti on them. The Veteran Sergeants come from a previous Space Marine Veteran boxed set. The Veterans were a later addition to the army for a later tournament. They’re the only unit not to feature exclusively the Mk VI helmet, as they’re metal models. Sadly, the squad is no longer fully legal due to the introduction of Vanguard and Sternguard veteran squads. In the original army, they had the specialist skill infiltrate. This was represented on the model by the camouflage pattern on their tabards. This was painted in a NATO standard woodland colour scheme that the NATO troops based in Germany used during the Cold War, and I think looks great on model soldiers. It was painted with a Catachan green base coat with curved blobs of Chaos Black, Graveyard Earth and Desert Yellow painted in layers up. I’ve since used it to good effect on a couple of Imperial Guard infantry models, but it would take a while for a whole army

The Devastators likewise are made from the remnants of the old smaller tactical squads and a Veteran as the Sergeant.

Predator Destructors

In Warhammer 40,000, some of the best (and most fun!) units have been those with large amounts mobile firepower.  In the Space Marine army of the time, the best of these were Dreadnoughts, Land Speeders and Predators – so I took some of all of them. The Predators, especially when kitted with the Autocannon of the Destructor version look great and really look like they mean business. However, I had one main problem with the kit – the sponson mounted weapons. Now in real life, most countries stopped using sponsons in their tank designs in the 1920s. They’re mounted too low down to be as useful as a turret weapon and they don’t have the 360° field of fire either. They also add weaknesses to the side armour and add complication in operating through the track units on the sides. For these reasons, I moved all the guns to the turret. One Heavy Bolter became a co-axial weapon next to the Autocannon and the other was moved to a pintle mount on the turret hatch (Unfortunately I’m forced to count them both as sponson weapons regardless – apparently mounting all your guns on a turret with a 360° turret traverse is ‘cheating’. You hear that 1920s tank designers? You’re CHEATING). I also added some extra armour to the sides, made from layers of 0.060” and 0.040”  thick plasticard, cut to match the silhouette of the Rhino hull, along with the Imperial Guard dozer blade for extra mobility. The whole tank was then covered in stowage, some from 40K kits, but most from Tamiya’s excellent Modern US Army Equipment set. This gave me loads of jerry cans, bed rolls, junk and also the modern Friend or Foe panels designed to lessen friendly fire incidents. These I stuck on each side of the extra armour of the Predator. To one of the tanks I also attached a crewman to the turret hatch. As a finishing touch, I added some mud to the tank. I’ve seen PVA glue mixed with basing sand applied in a similar manner before, but it’s just not the right scale – it looks like rocks have been glued on. I used a mix of PVA, flour and a small amount of fine sand (okay, some small rocks were stuck to it!). This gave a much more ‘real’ appearance I felt, but the only problem was that the flour/water/glue mix shrunk after drying, leaving some vacancies. I still haven’t really sorted this problem out, unfortunately. The Predators were painted in the same way as the infantry, complete with names, and some aircraft-style shark faces on the nose of the tanks. ‘Hate’ and ‘Obey’ refer to a couple of quotes from the old rulebook – ‘The Emperor asks only that you HATE’ and ‘The Emperor asks only that you OBEY’, which led to a certain amount of theological discussion. If the Emperor asks only that you hate, you can’t be doing any obeying, as you’re doing something other than hating… and vice versa…

Land Speeder Tornado

Land Speeder Tornadoes were almost compulsory Space Marine armies in 4th edition 40K. Fortunately the skimmer and Assault Cannon rules have been toned down now slightly, but they’re still worthwhile. To make these guys look a bit more heroic, I replaced the regular sitting gunner with a Heavy Bolter Devestator, to have him standing whilst firing. Gung ho!


The Dreadnoughts went in as, a) they’re cool and, b) they’re a quick way of getting painted points into an army. Two of them became tank hunting Venerable Dreadnoughts, the last a regular Dreadnought with a Power Fist. They usually get deployed as a unit – DREADNOUGHT SQUAD! – to be shouted in the same voice as ‘ROBOT HOUSE!’ They were given the same mud effect as the Predator and modelled to look as though they were wading through it, with a foot submerged in it (This was at least partly because some of my Dreadnought kits were missing their feet…). Again, they had plasticard extra armour added. The venerable Dreadnought ability to re-roll the damage results is hugely frustrating for your opponent. Often it means he’ll essentially do nothing to the Dreadnought. On other times, after he’s wrecked it in close combat, the re-roll will come up with an explosion! Immediately killing all those Orks/Tyranids/Eldar that just took it out. Hit that self destruct button!

Heavy Bolter Squad

The Heavy Bolter squad was the unique special unit that Space Shark players received for free during the campaign. They were basically a five man space marine combat squad equipped with two Heavy Bolters and the addition of the Slow and Purposeful rule, allowing them to move and fire in the same turn, albeit with their movement confined to as though they were moving through difficult terrain. Seemed like a decent unit to me! But there had to be something special about the Heavy Bolter gunners if they could move and fire. So, in keeping with the military theme of the tanks, I modelled them as a pair of robots with their controllers, where the robots counted as the two Marine Heavy Bolter gunners. The models were made from Epic Leman Russ hulls for the track units, with plasticard side armour, with sprue for larger exhausts. The guns were Steel Legion Heavy Bolters with Land Raider lascannon mounts, trimmed, for the mounts. A gun sight was added to the top and ammo boxes were added to the guns to complete them. The controllers were given plasticard laptops with clear plastic (from blister pack fronts) screens. Finally, some Cadian Vox Caster units were trimmed and added to the Space Marine back packs to show the radio control devices they use. They were all painted in the same way as the rest of the army, with the guns name ‘Huey’ and ‘Dewey’ (ten points if you can name the film reference).

In terms of gaming, the army was very successful – right up until the release of fifth edition! The units worked very well together – there was a lot of synergy between the various move-and-fire vehicles. It won three out of the five games during the Badab campaign and came fourth out of 50 at Vanguard Vanquish 2008. It’s also a very fun army to use, as the units are constantly moving around. I dislike static armies as you simply don’t get to do as much – it doesn’t feel very heroic if your troops are hiding in ruins with high tech heavy weapons.  And Space Marines are nothing if not heroic. Having them bounce towards the enemy on jump packs, whilst tanks crush all in their path, as giant robots lumber into the enemy is hugely rewarding, and one of the reasons I like Space Marines so much.

And the future for this army? Well, whilst it’s had some overhauling to make it legal in 5th edition, it needs a little work to make it competitive again. It would be a shame if the Space Sharks didn’t have any further outings, but writing this article has inspired me to get them fixed up, sort out the units and get them going again. Bulking the Assault squad up to 10 men would be a good start and giving the Tactical Squads Rhinos built in a similar style to the Predators would be ideal as well. Watch this space!


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21 Responses to “The Space Sharks Space Marines”

  1. Iain Miller says:

    I’ve just come across this army and I love it. Some of the ideas are really unique – the co-ax heavy bolters and remote control guns in particular. Not only that but excellently converted and painted as well, the commander leaning out of the turret hatch is just so natural looking. Hope you bring it up to 5th ed spec (if you haven’t already). I have myself a Red Scorpions army and would love an excuse to actually use a Pursuit squad.

  2. Iain Miller says:

    PS – Silent Running

  3. Matt says:

    Ten Points to Iain Miller! Watch this space – I have a plan for fifth edition Space Sharks…

  4. Dai says:

    I’m so happy I found this article! Space Sharks were by far my most favourite Space Marine chapter as a young’n and you’ve done them proud, regardless of the lack of love that GW have given them over the decades.
    Your paint scheme is solid and conversions exciting and very much working with the flavour of the chapter as a whole. My only critique would be the usage of the newer style chapter symbol, but that’s just me being a purist :)

    Now that Forge World are releasing their Badab War IA books, I’m excited to find out how they handle the Space Sharks and what modeling options they might put out for the chapter? Will you expand on your own force with any offerings they might release (though, it won’t be for a while, seeing as rumours hint at any mention of Space Sharks – if at all – will be in their planned 2nd book.)?

    Thanks for giving me some reminiscing opp’s, I’ll certainly be keeping up with this to see if you add on anything else.

  5. sonsoftaurus says:

    Very spiffy! I approve heartily of the beakie emphasis and old-school vibe! Great work on the whole force.

  6. Red says:

    Wow man, a trend setter! This is the logo and colour scheme FW have just come out with now, you’re ahead of the curve by years! These models look amazing!

    Come join the Badab group.

  7. will says:

    your army is amazing how did you learn to paint like that

  8. Jack says:


    These are, by FAR, the Best Space Sharks I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The Beakie helms, the red stripes, the assault squad, even the goofy angry slogans…magic. My second-favorite 40k army I’ve seen, EVER.

    My only gripe- your heavy bolter squad is my best and least favorite unit. I LOVE the idea and it’s executed brilliantly, the models are fantastic…but, I dislike the operators. In The Grim Darkness Of The 41st Millennium, There Is Only The Macbook Air. Now With Clear Screens. My gripe, don’t have to listen to me, but I still thing they should’ve been pointing marines, with auspexes, and cyber eyes, and, and…not laptops.
    But hey, don’t have to listen to me, I wasn’t even a gleam in my daddy’s eye when Rogue Trader came out.

  9. Matt says:

    Yeah, I take your point on the laptops as not being that ’40K’ – I just rather like the anachronistic side of the background, mixing the primitive and the hi-tech and I hadn’t seen lap tops on marine before. They were very much inspired by the US Army’s TALON system – – which was another reason for using the laptops. I’ve since been told the US Army controls its robots via X-Box controllers, so at least I didn’t model them that way!

  10. Louis says:

    Love this article. the Space Sharks were one of the three chapters i was interested in playing when i first srarted playing (the other two being Black Templars and Space Wolves) I think its time to build a Space Shark army.

  11. mikef350 says:

    Wow only just come across this site and this army and I must say I am impressed

  12. John says:

    Awesome colours scheme and themed army well done…. i’m interested in how you made the bases for the assault squad. What is the “40K ruins sprue” you used?

  13. Matt says:

    Hi John, it’s the old Gothic Ruins sprue from the 3rd edition boxed set, sadly no longer available, but GW’s city fight terrain would serve just as well!

  14. Mark Ulrick says:

    Hey there, just happened upon this page while searching for that all important spark of inspiration on a new space marine project. I must say this read has given me a great many cool ideas. I learned alot about the origins of Forgeworld’s newfangled ‘Carcharadons’ too. Awesome! And if you’ve got a page anywhere with updates to this army I’d love to see them.


  15. Jon says:

    How did you do the red line on their helmets so neatly?

  16. Matt says:

    Hi Jon! It’s all in a quality brush (made from sable) that comes to a fine point and never, ever fish tails (where the brush end splits into two – this is one of those things I HATE). Keep it clean and in good condition and smooth lines become much easier! It takes some practice, but a quick confident stroke makes it smoother as well – doing it slowly often produces a bit of wobble, I find.

  17. Ken says:

    Found your predator conversion in google images and it is exactly what I was looking for. Getting rid of the horrible archaic sponsons and adding some cool Panzer inspired schürzen. Well done and thanks for the inspiration.

  18. Matt says:

    Thanks Ken! That was what I was going for – a more modern look. The plasticard armour was really easy to make as well.

  19. Dan says:

    Love these!

    Few questions from a new painter and warhammer players

    1. Where did you get the extra bits on your predator tank

    2. How and what did you use to paint the White names/markings on your units

    3. How and what did you use to pain the red lines on the helmets and shin pads?

  20. Matt says:

    Hi Dan, glad you like them! They were painted a few years ago now, but I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

    1. The extra armour on the Predators are made from plasticard, whilst the stowage mostly comes from Tamiya’s modern US equipment set:

    2. The slogans were painted with skull white (Ceramite White these days) with a fine brush. Draw them on lightly with a pencil first as a guide to get everything in the right place before committing paint to miniature.

    3. Blood Red (Mephiston Red) for the stripes, again with a fine brush. Thin the paint and put it on on two layers. Brush quality is key when painting these kind of details – make sure it comes to a fine point and doesn’t fishtail (where it splits into two at the point)!

    Hope that helps!

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