The Iron Fang Pikemen, whether they are in their vanilla or Black Dragon version, are one of the bread and butter units for a Khador player. They hit fairly hard, have reasonably decent stats, and between the UA, solos, and soon-to-be-released Sofiya Skirova, there are a lot of buffs available to them. Not to mention that there is a whole theme based around them, and a number of casters which excel at delivering them to their destination.
There is one problem, however, and that is the spears. If you have an older metal kit, you’ve got some very fragile spears that will bend and break if you dare take them to the FLGS for a game. If you have the newer plastic kit, they will just look droopy. Either way, you end up with either broken or just plain bad looking models. Then you start a game and run into even more problems.
The big problem when it comes to play with these IFP is that they are a melee unit with the shield wall unit, so they usually want to either be base to base with each other to get the benefit from shield wall, or getting up close to the enemy to stab them. Unfortunately, when we combine the long spears which overhang the base, a desire to be base to base with each other or up close to the enemy, and the occasionally ridiculous level of precision that the average Warmachine player is used to, we run into a bit of a problem. It’s actually quite difficult to place them down on the table where they need to go because those spears get in the way, and that can cause unnecessary frustration, and, if you’re playing on a clock, burn your clock time.
Fortunately, there is a way to solve both of these problems, and it works for both the metal and the plastic IFP.
Repose and brass rod
The best way to fix the issue with droopy or bendy spears is to replace the spears with brass or steel rods. These will be a lot straighter than the plastic spears, and a lot stiffer and more durable than the metal spears. However, if we’re doing that anyways, we can also repose them, such that they are holding their spears vertically, pointed upwards towards the sky, rather than downrange. The pose will still look pretty natural, and they will still look like pikemen with long reach, but the spears will no longer get in your way on the tabletop.
How to do this
In order to do this, you are going to need a few tools. A jeweler’s saw, a knife, a file, some pinning supplies, and a bit of green stuff or your putty of choice is going to be necessary in order to do this properly, in addition to the lengths of approximately 2mm brass or steel rod you’re going to need for the spears.
Before doing anything, cut the rod to the appropriate length. You can make these spears any length you wish, but if you want to stick to the original length, cut them a little longer than the original spear shaft, as they will be extending into the end pieces.
Then, you’re going to need to cut up the spears a little bit. Cut them away on either side of the hand and then cut off the end pieces, as shown by the red lines in the picture. You can throw out the spear, but keep the arm and the end pieces. Since we’re going to be drilling at these cut lines, it’s best to file down the remaining pieces, just so you have a nice flat spot to start drilling into, which will make positioning your holes easier.
From there, we can start drilling out the holes for where the brass rod goes. For the end pieces, this may be a little tricky because they are so small and you have to be fairly precise on both centering your hole and drilling at the right angle, otherwise you will either end up not having enough room for a big enough hole to insert the brass rod, or have the bit come out the side on the bottom pieces.
As a result, what I like to do is start by making a tiny divet with the tip of an exacto knife, right in the center of the piece. Then, I can start drilling with a small drill bit to get the hole started, and widen it to a smidgen more than 2mm by switching to an appropriately sized drill bit. Perhaps I just have some dull drill bits that need replacing, but I find this much easier than trying to go at it with a 2mm bit right from the start.
Next, we’re going to need to make a space in the hand for the spear. For this, we’re going to need to drill out the remnants of the original spear using the same technique as we did for the end pieces. You can leave either a hole or a U-shaped channel to insert the spear into. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but so long as you don’t completely mangle the hand and leave a nice surface to glue the spears on later, it’s good enough.
Anyways, with those done, we can put the spears aside and get to work on the meat of these conversions — reposing the arms.
Reposing the arms
In order to get these spears pointed vertically, we’re going to have to repose the right arm of the figures. There are four techniques we can use to do this:
- Hot water bending (plastic only)
- Cut and bend (metal only)
- File and pin
- Pin and rotate
Hot water bending is the simplest, however it will only work on your plastic models. Simply dip the model in some hot water so the plastic becomes pliable, repose the arm to the position you want, and then dunk it in cold water to fix it. This is quick and easy, and doesn’t require any pinning or green stuffing, so if you can get away with it, do it.
The metal equivalent is the cut and bend technique, which is useful for changing the position of elbows and hands. What you will want to do is take your jeweler’s saw and make two cuts into the metal at the point you want to bend it. You will want to make a V-shaped cut on the inside of the bend, and a straight cut on the outside. The V-shaped cut is so that you can remove enough material to actually bend the piece. Once you’ve cut away enough that the remainder of the material will bend fairly easily, simply bend it to its desired shape. Fill the gaps with green stuff or your modelling putty of choice, and as long as you left enough material, you should have a strong joint without having to do any pinning. This can be done on elbow and wrist joints to change the angle.
Filing and pinning is another technique which is necessary on some of the metal models; mainly the ones holding the spears above their heads. This is simply a matter of making a pin joint at the elbow, but filing down one or both sides to change the angle of the joint from the original sculpt to the desired angle. In the picture shown, we can see how by removing material from the elbow, we can change the angle of the attachment to the arm. Then simply pin the forearm to the body as usual, at this new angle.
Finally, one can pin the model at its intended joint, but rotate the piece around the pin to get a new angle. This is useful on a lot of the shoulder joints, particularly on some of the plastic models, where simply rotating the arm around the shoulder will get a fairly realistic pose of a model holding the spear vertically.
All of these techniques, with the exception of the hot water bending, will likely require some use of green stuff. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to replicate the chain mail armour that these pikemen are wearing by inserting a blob of green stuff and poking it a bunch of times with a hobby knife to get a decent approximation of the intended texture, and most of these joints are in places that are not super noticeable such as armpits and the inside of elbows.
From here, it’s a simple matter of arming your pikemen. Take some super glue and glue the shaft of the spear to the hand and then glue the end pieces onto the spear. If you have a big enough hole for the spear that you have a little play, you may need to wiggle the spear around a little to get it just right. From there, simply slap on some shields, prime, and paint, and you’ll be enjoying your pikemen in no time!
Iron Fang Pikemen are a great unit and a pretty good sculpt, however they are let down by the spears getting in the way on the tabletop and bending and breaking. I suspect PP recognized this, as when they released Sofya Skirova, they had her posing with the spear held vertically. Also, I’m not sure whether they used a different alloy or simply made it thicker, but her spear doesn’t really bend like those of the old-school metal pikemen.
Anyways, this is a conversion that will likely appeal to both the hobby gamers and the hardcore tournament crowd, as nobody wants to fiddle around with their pikemen while the deathclock ticks down. If you want to get your pikemen on the table without those spears getting in the way, definitely consider making this modification and it will make playing your Legion of Steel list a whole lot easier.