With Forge World releasing their Legion MKIV Command Squad upgrades, I thought I might take a look at how you can make something similar and much cheaper.
I like the idea of Command squads even if they aren't the most effective choice. The idea of representing the unit that is commanding your force appeals to me for the modeling and painting opportunities most of all. The chance to convert something slightly different so it stands out on the table is one I rarely pass up.
That being said, the Forge World conversion bits are suited for a very specific time period and MK armour. I've been a bit more free in my interpretation and tried for something that was close, but maybe not exact.
This might be more for the budget conscious hobbyist who wants to represent their Heresy era command squad without dropping a ton of cash for a couple models.
Let's look at the helmet crest
These are nothing new. I used to make my own until I found them already made by Secret Weapon minis. Buying them is the way to go hands down. It's not worth trying to sculpt this little piece when you can pick up a pack of them. It can be done, but it's one of those things you're better off buying and saving yourself the modeling headache.
All I did for my Champion model is simply glue one of the roman style helmet crests in place. Add a leather strap tabard which is super easy to do (you can make this part) and you've got a completely different model in a few seconds.
Converting your own nuncio-vox caster backpack
This piece is a bit more difficult, but not impossible to recreate. You don't have to be spot on, just close. This is because Space Marine backpacks are so iconic, all you have to do is alter it slightly and folks will recognize it as being a "different" model used for something else.
I started by finding a suitable head to go along with it. If you had the MKIV helmet and wanted to convert it with the addition of some optics and such, you could. I cheated a bit and went with something already done and available.
You could use any style really, all you need is a helmet with all the fancy optics and such on it. You just need something to represent the modification, it doesn't have to be exact.
And now onto the backpack itself. I used the top half of a regular Space Marine backpack and the bottom half of an Imperial Guard vox caster turned upside down. You could probably use just about anything that was box shaped and the right size. Add a few rivets, some plugs and a cable and you'd be all set.
I added the antenna from the Imperial Guard vox to the top of my backpack and sculpted a cable to run down the back as well for good measure. Besides, the cable helps hide the hack conversion work which is a nice feature.
All in all, I'm calling these a win for the time involved and the look I get in the end. They're not exact, but they are close enough that I'm comfortable with them and I know that a little bit of paint will help sell the illusion as well.
It took no time at all to do these (the helmet crest is no real work at all) and the backpack took ten minutes tops if I count all the time I spent looking through my bits box at stuff I'd forgotten I had. Spend a few more minutes on them and you could have a conversion that is even closer to the Forge World bits just put out.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
How to make super simple leather strap tabards
Converting a Space Marine backpack for a slightly different look