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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Tutorial: Building a Better Guardsman

Imperial Guard, Cadian, Maxmini, Combat Armour, Victoria Miniatures, Arcadian, Conversion

I have wanted to collect an Astra Militarum / Imperial Guard army for a long time, but the thought of painting fifty or more GW Cadian or Catachan models has always deterred me. About 18 months ago, I started experimenting with different combinations of GW Cadians and third-party bitz, and I have finally produced an alternative Guardsman conversion that I will gladly paint in large numbers. Here is a step-by-step picture tutorial of how I built a better Guardsman.


I recommend you have access to the following tools (at a minimum) to build this conversion:
  • cutting mat
  • desk lamp
  • hobby knife
  • side cutters
  • set of hobby files
  • needlenose pliers
  • super glue
  • pin vice and drill bits (optionally a Dremel or similar rotary tool)
  • pinning wire
  • green stuff


To build this conversion you will need the following parts:
* The Cadian Arms that hold the rifle across the shoulders are not compatible with the Combat Armour Torsos. You need to use the Cadian Arms that hold the rifle across the chest or at the waist.

The heads are sold in packs of ten, and the torsos and legs are both sold in packs of five. You might be able to get the Cadian Arms for free by raiding the bitz boxes of your friends and fellow gamers, or you can try an online bitz seller or eBay store—they are common parts and should not be too expensive.


Arcadian Heads, Arcadian Legs

This is what your Victoria Miniatures Arcadian Heads and Legs should look like. This is high-quality, well-cast resin and only needs minor mould-line scraping. I recommend you wash these parts in warm soapy water with an old toothbrush to remove any surface residue that could inhibit glue adherance (or paint adherance later)—this advice applies for all plastic and resin parts.

If you are using a slotted base you should keep the tab attached to the feet when clipping the legs from the sprue; if you are using a non-slotted base then carefully clip the feet away from the tab.

Combat Armour Torso

This is what your Maxmini Combat Armour Torsos should look like. This is also great resin and barely needs any mould-line scraping at all. However, these bitz are not suitable for use with GW Cadian arms without minor modification; the chest webbing pouch on the model's right side needs to be cut back to allow the right arm to be fitted correctly.

First, make a straight cut across the webbing pouch, about level with the top ridge of the chest armour plate (red line). Then use your side cutters to clip away the bottom half of the webbing pouch, leaving the top half intact. The result should look something like this:

Combat Armour Torso

I do not scrape away all the residual material beneath the webbing pouch (red circle); instead, I paint this strip to look like the webbing straps. This reinforces the perception that the webbing pouches are assymetric by design.

Here is an example of a compatible GW Cadian arm; this one is a lasgun held across the chest. The removal of the lower half of the right-side chest webbing will allow the arm to be positioned naturally, close to the body; however, the lasgun stock will get in the way unless you also remove the upper half of the right-side chest webbing. Alternatively, you can remove the rifle stock and make it a carbine instead.

First, make straight cuts where the lasgun body joins the rifle stock, and where the rifle stock joins the shoulder armour (red lines). Then, use your knife and side cutters to hack the stock away from the sleeve. Don't be too rough, and try to texture the cut area to match the folds in the sleeve. If you get this right it should look something like this:

Don't worry too much if you can't match the texture, just try to keep the top side of the sleeve tidy, and the inside of the sleeve will be mostly hidden when the model is assembled.

Once all your parts are prepared, you're ready to start assembly.


This should be a pretty straightforward process:
  • glue the torso to the legs
  • glue the right arm to the torso
  • glue the left arm to the torso and the weapon
  • glue the head to the torso
  • pin the model to its base
Imperial Guard, Cadian, Maxmini, Combat Armour, Victoria Miniatures, Arcadian, Conversion

You may find that you need to use some green stuff to make good joins between parts. To do this, make a small ball of green stuff, put it between the parts you want to join (as if it was glue) and press the pieces together. Carefully scrape away any excess green stuff that escapes out the sides of the join. Then pull the pieces apart, add super glue to one part, and reattach. The tackiness of the green stuff will hold the pieces together while the glue sets, and is flexible enough to allow you to make minor adjustments to positioning. The green stuff also prevents visible gaps between parts—remember that we are combining bitz from multiple manufacturers, so seamless joins are not guaranteed!

Imperial Guard, Cadian, Maxmini, Combat Armour, Victoria Miniatures, Arcadian, Conversion

At this stage I stop and consider what head best suits the model, and its positioning; the head really defines the personality of the model, so it's worth a bit of thought. For example, the arms and legs of this model suggest a cautious advance, so a head with a yelling face is not really the best choice—I'll save that head for a model that's charging towards the enemy.

Imperial Guard, Cadian, Maxmini, Combat Armour, Victoria Miniatures, Arcadian, Conversion

Having selected a head with a cautious-looking face, I decided to position the head to face the direction of advance (pointing in the same direction as the leading knee). Alternatively, I could have positioned the head to make the model look like it was glancing back over his shoulder at his squad-mates. If the legs had a static pose, then positioning the head looking upwards—combined with the waist-slung rifle—would have suggested the model was scanning the skies for aircraft.

Imperial Guard, Cadian, Maxmini, Combat Armour, Victoria Miniatures, Arcadian, Conversion

So many modelling possibilities, but this humble Guardsman is simply advancing to the next battlefield objective—not every model has to be heroically posed!

Here are a few more examples of adding personality to a model through thoughtful component selection and positioning:

Imperial Guard, Cadian, Maxmini, Combat Armour, Victoria Miniatures, Arcadian, Conversion

The Guardsman on the left is advancing with his meltagun held low; he has a pair of goggles to shield his eyes from the heat generated by his weapon, but he pushes them up onto his helmet whilst he is not shooting. The Guardsman in the centre is shooting; he is standing in a firing position with his meltagun raised, and his goggles are in place protecting his eyes. The Guardsman on the right is about to toss a frag grenade (far more useful against an Ork horde than a single melta shot!); his meltagun is cradled against his hip, and he is lunging into the throw and grimacing with the physical effort. He seems to have misplaced his goggles, but maybe he is not the sort to use them anyway, if he is more inclined to toss grenades than use his primary weapon!

After painting, these Guardsman should look something like their squad-mate:

Imperial Guard, Cadian, Maxmini, Combat Armour, Victoria Miniatures, Arcadian, Conversion

I really like this conversion as an alternative to the standard GW Cadian model. The Victoria Miniatures and Maxmini parts are also much nicer to work with than GW plastic parts—a lot less mould-line scraping required, plenty of detail, and more realistic proportions than the bobble-headed GW Cadian.

Please contact me if you attempt this conversion and have any trouble following this tutorial.


  1. Awesome tutorial! I love the finished model, can't wait to see them en masse!!

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I'll post lots of pics when I get that first squad finished!

  3. Shay O'Shea19 March 2015 at 07:25

    Great looking mini. Would you mind if I share some of your work on my blog if I accredit and post links?

  4. Thanks, I'm glad you like it! Please feel free to share my work, and I hope to have more Astra Militarum to show off in the near future.

  5. Shay O'Shea20 March 2015 at 07:02

    Thank you :)