Colonial Marine Conversions: Introduction


In this series of posts, I’m going to show you how to convert a bunch of plastic figures into ersatz Colonial Marines like those in “Aliens”. We’re not going to literally make identical likenesses to the characters in Aliens, but we are going to borrow several visual themes from the movie that will make these plastic figures look and feel like Colonial Marines. These conversions started out as one-off prototypes from the Stupid Bitz Tricks series, but were refined and/or revised so that they would be as easy as possible to make with the fewest necessary purchases.


To start with, you should have the following tools to convert the figures. They’ll make your life a lot easier.

  • A: Hobby knife with sharp blades. X-Acto #11 is good. This is your primary tool.
  • B: Sprue nippers. These help get parts off the sprues without damaging them.
  • C: Big paintbrush with thick bristles. Good for brushing plastic crumbs off parts when shaving or cleaning flash.
  • D: Clay shaper. This is a soft-tipped tool, good for knocking off hard-to-reach plastic crumbs or smoothing gap-filling putty.
  • E: Dental pick. This tool is really useful for getting flash out from between fingers and scraping crumbs out of recesses.
  • F: Plastic cement. The bottle in the photo has a metal needle applicator that gives you very good control over where the cement goes.
  • G: Squadron green putty. This stuff is used to fill gaps between parts. Useful if you mess up a cut and have parts that don’t fit flush.
These tools are all cheap, readily available, and will make life a lot easier for you.

Required Sets

You want two boxed sets: the Cadian Shock Troops box, and the Cadian Heavy Weapons Squad box.

These two boxes have enough goodies to make the following items:

  • 2 squad leaders
  • 2 smart gunners
  • 16 riflemen
  • 3 automated sentry guns
  • 2 autoloading mortars
  • 2 plasma gun teams
Extra Bits

You will also need 3 40mm diameter bases for the sentry guns, plus 8 25mm diameter bases for the plasma gun teams and autoloading mortars. You can buy them in bags from Games Workshop or as loose bits from The Warstore.

Optional Bits

If you have 2 Space Marine flamers handy, you can upgrade 2 riflemen to flamer operators.

If you have a couple of Space Marine auspexes handy, you can use them as motion trackers issued to the 2 squad leaders.

Space Marine belt pouches, holsters, and magazine pouches are also useful to have, but are strictly optional.

These Space Marine bitz can be purchased from the Battlewagon Bits department of The Warstore. If you buy the Cadian boxes mentioned above from The Warstore as well, you get a nice 20% discount off the boxed sets.

Another thing you may find useful is a length of thin plastic rod and some sheet styrene. While you can get away with not having these extra items, they are very helpful in further reinforcing the Aliens visual theme. The sheet styrene and rods are sometimes sold under the Gale Force 9 brand in hanging baggies at the local gaming store, but are often way cheaper to buy from hobby stores that sell plastic scale models and whatnot. Look for the Evergreen or Plastruct brands.

The Plan

Over the next several installments of the Colonial Marine Conversions series, I’ll show you how to convert the Cadian plastics, one item at a time. Once all of the conversions have been completed, I will also be posting a painting guide for them with some easy-to-paint color schemes that evoke the look and feel of the Colonial Marine uniforms.

I strongly recommend reading all of the articles first, before doing any of the conversions. This way, mistakes are easier to avoid, as you won’t accidentally destroy a part that you might need in a later conversion. For example, if you cut one leg off all 3 heavy weapon bipods while performing the smart gunner conversion, you won’t be able to build the autoloading mortars, as the mortar conversions assume that you used both legs of one bipod to make the barrels for both smart guns, and that you have 2 intact bipod leg sets left over. So, check all the articles first.

The first conversion article is here, and covers the sentry guns.

2 thoughts on “Colonial Marine Conversions: Introduction

  1. Blackthorn

    I like this series Mel. I’m looking forward to what you come up with. I’m going to have to divert some Christmas money towards this project. 😉

  2. Mel Ebbles

    Glad you like it! One reason I’m a fan of GW plastics is because one or two boxes are plenty for games like 5150 or Guncrawl. When you’re not looking at having to buy $500 worth of stuff just to field a small game-legal army, they’re much more of a relative bargain, and their plastics come in enough flavors that it’s very hard to run out of gaming ideas.

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