My Inner Circle Journey

So it’s been a great many months since I’ve posted.  As expected, real life takes over every now and then – being a dad to a two-year-old, a husband, teacher, and general adult, it’s hard to get dedicated hobby time. Usually I’ll only work when my wife is working her night shift at the hospital, or I have an hour or so while my daughter naps.  Rarely do I get a considerable length of time to truly work!

That being said, Games Workshop announced a North American competition in February, dubbed the Inner Circle.  Very similar to Armies on Parade, you need to submit a 2×2′ display of an army consisting of up to 18 units – to be objectively judged based on painting skill alone (some small additional bonuses for conversions, or an amazing display still exist, however).  The trick was the entries would be turned in on May 13th; not a long time to work! What’s more, that was the day of senior graduation for my students – a mandatory event for all faculty.  I would need to submit a DAY EARLY!

I had luckily planned to expand my Imperial Fist forces regardless, so this Inner Circle competition lines up perfectly with my intentions to work, and gave me a bit of motivation to actually produce quality work.  The coinciding announcement and subsequent release of rules snippets for Warhammer 40,000: 8th Edition have only fueled the hobby-fire that burns inside of me.  Last October’s Armies on Parade was my first, and I had pulled off a respectable third place finish. I made up my mind, then – I would enter this competition and aim for a top three position!

Here’s what the score sheet looked like, simple enough!

I planned out my force, and totaled 17 out of a possible 18 units, which would give me a sizeable chunk of points.  I assumed I would hit the top painting standard on all units (which I did, I believe), and have considerable conversion work to tip the scales in my favor.  On top of this I would (obviously) make a board that would be as much a statement piece as it was a display board.  I was going for gold, baby!

My list of entered units consisted of:

  • Darnath Lysander
  • Chaplain
  • Terminator Librarian
  • Cataphractii Terminators (5)
  • Sternguard Veterans (6)
  • Vanguard Veterans (6)
  • Tactical Squad (5)
  • Rhino
  • Tactical Squad (5)
  • Rhino
  • Assault Squad (5)
  • Assault Squad (5)
  • Scout Squad (5)
  • Centurion Devastator Squad (3)
  • Spartan Assault Tank
  • Contemptor Dreadnought
  • Knight-Titan

Within each of these squads, I had kitbashed nearly every marine to some degree, not even counting the heavily converted Lysander model (which I will feature later).  I had hoped this would earn me more points than it did; the ruling was 50% of the model must be changed in some way, and I don’t believe they qualified for this, sadly.  I felt slightly handicapped based on my army choice, being limited to classic space marine appearances, I couldn’t get too crazy.  I faced off against many others, including two chaos warbands, a genestealer cultist group, and others who are more prone to extensive conversion.

My idea for a board was inspired by (our joint campaign theme with Kyle) the Shrine World of Torvel. Perhaps the lower levels of a hive, where the Imperial Fists would be purging through the depths cleansing the tunnels of cultist activity – Insoired by my recent acquisition of Shadow War: Armageddon (again, a feature I must cover later!).  There would obviously be some lighting elements in the form of my ubiquitous LEDs.

Here’s an abbreviated look at the build. All told it took maybe 6 hours of solid work spread out over three weeks (at the mercy of a toddler’s sleep schedule!).  They posted in reverse order for some reason, so until I reorder them, scroll to the last one first!

The board was finished in the last week of the competition, I’d been focusing mostly on my troops throughout the past two months.  A beautiful board was still just a pass / fail score based on the above scorecard, so I didn’t want to sink excess time on it.  I was very pleased with the quick rate I could smash it together, hit it with a few careful blasts of paint, and call it a day!

So, the troops.  As detailed in a previous post, I had a fairly unique method of painting my Fists. I feel this method let me get great results in a lot less time than would otherwise be required.  With this shading and glazing method, I could then come back and overlay precise details, crisp edge-highlights, and the like on top to really tie it all together as an above average tabletop force.

I won’t bore you with the details of painting each unit, so here is a random selection of pictures from the past month!

In the end I was very pleased with my seventeen units, and felt I was a strong contender for second, possibly even first!  I knew a local guy, Chris, would be my strongest competition. He won 1st at AoP last October, and always had some crazy ideas to put into a board (I think he did the Sylvaneth board from my AoP report last year).

Without dragging the story out – I wound up getting 3rd overall out of 11 or 12 entries. I was very happy to get top three, there was a lot of stiff competition! At least I’m consistent with my first AoP entry, ha. I felt a little disappointed I didn’t score higher, of course.  I’m quite confident my board was more interesting (and better built) than the 1st and 2nd winners, and my paintjobs likely scored their maximum (I believe, anyway. I would be very shocked if they didn’t).  I had extensive conversion work and adhered to a strong theme. I was just scratching my head at the end wondering why it shook out the way that it did, when the other entries that placed above me had nearly half the units I did (thus earning much fewer points).

I’ll attach the 1st and 2nd place entries below. Slaanesh disco party got 1st, Genestealer cult got second.  I get the “wow factor” awarding Slaanesh as 1st, even if I think it’s a bit gimmicky (more AoP oriented in my opinion), but to get placed behind the Genestealers was my biggest gripe.

Now, let me be perfectly clear that the Genestealer stuff was rock solid, it was a great entry! I just personally feel I should have won out over that particular display by virtue of having 17/18 units (granting me more points) whereas the Genestealers appeared to have far fewer. This is, of course, assuming my stuff was painted worse, which I would still say it wasn’t – just playing devils advocate to rationalize it. 😜

Am I biased toward my own work? You tell me! Keep in mind this is a painting competition.

There you have it! A solid 3rd place in my first entries into AoP and Inner Circle. Motivation to improve next year!  Let me know what y’all think, I was pretty excited throughout the whole process and look forward to more next year!



  1. Ah man, sorry to hear about not getting higher Andrew, it is surprising looking at their pictures as well. Did the manager give you a copy of the score card? Might be helpful to understand for the next one. I like the LEDs for the board, looks really cool


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