Visual History of Plague Marines

This post is inexplicably popular as probably few people have stuck with basically one army since the first Chaos Codex during the 2nd Edition of Warhammer 40,000 until now May 2024. The release of the 10th Edition Chaos Codex is now eminent. During the Rogue Trader times I was somehow forced to play Space Orks. But when I joined the Internet in the 90s, I gradually became known more and more as a Chaos Space Marine player, specifically Nurgle Chaos Space Marines and built up a large collection of painted Plague Marine models.

I really should put them all on a table and take an army picture but I keep thinking I'll finally finish off the squads, which if you've played as long as I have, involves rebasing over one hundred models. I bought the adaptors and I have rebased several squads of Plague Marines, alas I have at least five more squads to go, plus all the non-Nurgle Chaos Space Marines. So below are some rebased vintage Nurgle Renegades and Plague Marines along with my recollections and some tiny vintage photos of some of the various models Games Workshop has released through the years. The old images are tiny because I've paid for webhoasting for over twenty years too. Now we have websites like Flickr and Instagram, with Flickr of course being superior to Instagram.

Purple Plague Marines
Syphilis Squad

Nurgle Chaos Renegades

Nurgle Chaos Renegade Nurgle Chaos Renegade Nurgle Chaos Renegade

Back in the Day there weren't any plastic Plague Marines, nor were Nurgle's finest even called Plague Marines. All the models were made of lead and were referred to as Chaos Renegades or Nurgle Chaos Renegades. You weren't forced to use knifes and bolters, there were even Nurgle heavy weapon models. I really like these models. They were a bit smaller and with a lot less spikes and exaggerated proportions than today's models. There were just so many different models, I don't have them all, nor have I even seen them all. GW wasn't the corporate juggernaught it is today, so getting ahold of models required drastic measures, loyalists were easier to find so most of my original army was converted loyalists.

Jes Goodwin's Death Guard

Death Guard Marine

At some point, prior to the release of second edition if I had to guess, Jes Goodwin sculpted one model for each of the four major Chaos Chapters. (Possibly doing an extra model or two later for some powers.) These models established the new look for Chaos Space Marines and visually set apart the four powers. Previously the Renegades were so warped and demented it could be difficult to quickly determined which power a model followed.

Forgotten Plague Marines

Forgotten Plague Marines

I've dubbed the fifth model, part of the forgotten Plague Marine series of models. I believe there were at least two different models that were released after the Death Guard look had been established but before the Chaos Codex for the second edition was released. This dark time is best forgotten, Chaos players had next to no models in print nor any special rules with which to use them, I don't mind the Nurgle models that were released from this period.

Plastic Plague Marines

Original Plastic Plague Marine

With the release of the first Chaos Codex, came the first plastic chaos marines and they were Plague Marines. It was around this time, that Plague Marines became restricted to using primarily: knifes, bolters, and grenades. This along with the staticly posed plastic models lead to some visually uninspiring Nurgle forces. I was lucky in that I only used a few of these models to add bulk to my forces, not as the basis of my whole army.

Modern Metal Plague Marines

Modern Plague Marine Champion Modern Nurgle Icon Bearer Conversion Modern Plague Marine Modern Flamer Conversion

The modern Plague Marines came in a variety of poses, including three champions, two special weapons troopers, and an Icon Bearer. I own all of these models, some of them I have two or three painted examples in my collection. After the plastic Plague Marines went out of print, which was sometime around when the third chaos codex was released, these were the only Plague Marine models you could buy. I went to two Grand Tournaments with the Diseased Sons when you had to scrounge to find Plague Marines. I converted even more loyalists. I became particularly fond of the armless models, because at the time Nurgle's finest could use bolt pistols and other close combat weapons. This allows for a more visually varied force. However I'd previously converted numerous models to be armed with a Plague Knife. In the third Chaos Codex, the Plague Knife has been phased out.

Poseable but not Plastic Plague Marines

New Metal Plague Marine Plague Marine with Spike Fist Plague Marine with Tenticle Arm

The then latest codex, supposedly showed preproduction plastic Plague Marine models. It turns out that the new models are not plastic and not poseable, instead they are armless and metal. All the other major powers now had multipart, poseable plastic models except Nurgle. Unaligned Chaos Space Marines, have had several different sets of poseable plastics, not to mention all the loyalists that can be quickly converted. This is all supposed to sort itself out during "The Summer of Chaos". Examples of these models as painted by me can be seen to the right.

Plague Marine Havocs

Plague Marine Havoc with Plasma Gun

I bought a box of these when they came out. I don't really need more plague marines, but I thought I'd find a use for them eventually. The first one I assembled was the champion, I planned to use him as cheap HQ choice in 4th edition. This model isn't in the Gallery of Plague Marines.

I keep painting and converting Nurgle Renegade models. Forgeworld released upgrade kits for Plague Marines and Nurgle Terminators, so of course I weakened and bought them. I had planned on converting some Nurgle Raptors and bike troopers eventually, but in the latest Death Guard rules you can't have them. However maybe in the 10th Edition of Warhammer 40,000 and the upcoming Chaos Spacemarine Codex I'll finally complete this ambition. I did repaint a bunch of my old OOP models over the years, I put up photos of them.

I've since painted a half dozen more purple models that used bits from the Havoc box set. Here are some pictures. I've almost used up all the bitz that came in that boxset, which means despite the cost of the Plague Marine Havoc box it was worth buying. I have lots of unpainted GW models, but unlike most I have no unpainted armies, I just have large never finished armies, the Diseased Sons being the most famous.

Forgeworld Conversion Bitz

Plague Champion made with Forgeworld bitz

Reflecting the love Nurgle has for his followers and the love sculpters and painters have for Nurgle, Forgeworld released Death Guard upgrade bitz, both for power armor and terminator armor. Even though I didn't need more models, I bought these. I have too much stuff. I finally painted one as a champion for the 2009 Astronomi-con Vancouver. It looks quite good but I never got his face the skintone I wanted. I'm slowly painting a model here or there for Nurgle as much for attractiveness on the table as effectiveness. I've been working on some non-Nurgle chaos stuff, but I decided to update this page and direct people my miniature painting blog, where I pick my top plague marines of all time.

New Plaugue Marines and Death Guard models

The Death Guard actually appeared in one of the starter sets, but not the most recent one. So Games Workshop has released a lot of new Nurgle Chaos Space Marines, they even have their own tanks, demon engines, and a heavy weapon. It is some sort of giant flamer and from my reading of the rules there seem to be several slight variants of it depending on if it is wielded by a demon prince, a Chaos Lord, a lesser character, or a plague marine. There is even a relic version, I will run my Diseased Sons as this sept in 9th Edition, so I expect I'll paint a number of them.

Even more surprisingly the Death Guard got limited edition models, including one that is only available in Japan! I don't have that model but I have the rest of the set. I am slowly painting them and updating my old squads to be legal and at least thematic if not effective in 9th Edition Warhammer 40,000.

In 2023 I updated old squads this time for 10th Edition Warhammer 40,000. The limited edition models got re-released but the set I pre-ordered never made it to the Sentry Box. Now it is 2024 and I still need to take more and better photos of my miniature collection. I did put a new one below of two models including one of Heroes of the Death Guard chapter, Morslug I believe, painted up to be Diseased Sons. I also completed a painting vow and earned badges on the Internet and I even painted the campaign badges onto all the models that took part in the Seige of Vanithros's Bastion.

Also in 2024 I did a major overhaul of this website. I updated WordPress, Google Analytics and even redid my blog's taxonomy. This was a lot of work, time I could have spent painting or playing Warhammer 40,000. One thing I learned besides this is the last time I redo my blog's taxonomy is this webpage is now the most popular Nurgle webpage I have. Someone even wrote me about it while I was on vacation in Scotland. Apparently other people are trying to collect all the old plague marines now and want me to sell them some of mine, particularly as I still have new OOP models and bits. I did trade some old bits once, but generally I just keep the stuff I collected and slowly, very slowly paint it.

For 10th Edition the Chaos Space Marine Codex is coming out before the Death Guard Codex. This is the opposite of 9th Edition so once again the Diseased Sons of Nurgle will be renegade Chaos Space Marines. I have ordered the book, just like I proposed in 9th Edition, the best fit is the Iron Warriors style detachment which is called the Fellhammer Seige-Host. This is by far the best fit for the Diseased Sons who will finally become Irony Warriors of Nurgle, resolute infantry that is hard to shift but not obsessed with bolters and plague knives. I did consider the Pactbound Zealots but their rules seem more complicated and I will continue 10th Edition devoted to Nurgle at least primarily.

I doubt I'll finish my modular trench table any time soon. It is spread over two provinces. However, the fact I have trench warfare themed bases, plenty of hard to kill infantry with heavy and melta weapons makes this a good fit. I'll have to paint more vehicles finally, along with Nurgle Raptors and Nurgle Bikers finally. You can follow along on my miniature painting blog as I've been at this for more than twenty years, as this webpage shows. I can still use my collection of Nurgle daemons and I can even field Undivided Chaos Space Marines if I so choose. Most of my collection is actually not Death Guard model and is in fact older and slightly smaller models, but when I rebase them, I sometimes stack a bigger base underneath them making them taller. Scale creep is real.

Below you can see I finally painted some of the plastic Death Guard models even one of the heroes of the Chapter. I included a model which uses the Forgeworld conversion bits. Note it is still on the smaller 25mm base. Rebasing models takes a lot of time, especially if you want it to look good.

Three Converted Champions
Plague Marines with Plague Flamers
Words and Images © Andrew "Muskie" McKay.
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