Stupid Bitz Tricks #8: Squad Leader


I needed a squad leader, and just using the standard sergeant would have been a total cop-out after all the conversion work done on the grunts. Besides, I don’t want a chainsword-waving sergeant…at least not unless my squad is going into battle against an army of homicidal trees. My bitz box yielded a splendiferous abundance of parts that would make the squad leader look like an actual leader, not a superheroic lumberjack with pretensions of being the next Patton.

This is the result:


The photos below show the bitz used and their configuration. (Click on each photo to view it at full size.)


I kept the sergeant head because the Shouty Command Face expression and the headset make him look like a seasoned NCO firmly in charge of things. I also kept the laspistol arm, but used one of the open-handed left arms instead of the chainsword arm. I glued a Space Marine auspex into the open hand, which makes a pretty cool “motion tracker” device. Orienting his head in the general direction of the auspex makes him look like he’s barking out orders in response to the tactical picture on its screen.

One thing that annoys me about the Cadian sprues is the lack of holsters for the sergeant’s laspistol, so I swiped a bolt pistol holster from my Space Marine bitz, shaved off the bolt pistol’s grip, then glued that to the squad leader’s belt. I also took a bolter magazine pouch and cut it in half to make a single pouch, and glued that to the left side of his belt in order to visually balance out the large holster. For the finishing touch, I took one of the Cadian grenade pairs, cut it in half so there would be 2 separate grenades, and glued one grenade to each side of his belt. The canteen/ammo pouch/knife bit was glued to the back of the squad leader’s belt.


I like this guy. He looks competent, characterful, confident in his authority, and I suspect that entire forests of plastic trees are breathing a collective sigh of relief at the absence of close combat weapons manufactured by Black & Decker.

While performing this conversion, the motion tracker game mechanics popped into my head. When using this guy in Guncrawl, I’m going to have his motion detector actually grant the ability to use Unknown Contact markers. During the Enemy Phase, UC markers are placed according to the standard enemy placement rules (in the nearest tile out of direct line of sight), and the players then have a tactical picture of where potential hostiles are.

If the squad leader dies or is dragged off by aliens, the ability to use UC markers is lost, and all UC markers on the map are removed. From that point on, a die is rolled for each surviving squad member at the beginning of the Enemy Phase, and the results are checked on the table below:

Ambush Table A
Roll Effect
1 Dragged off! The squad member is dragged through a floor grate or hoisted into a ceiling crawlway by an ambushing xenomorph. Roll on Table B.
2-3 Sneak attack! Place one xenomorph in the closest empty space, on any adjacent corridor or junction tile. The xenomorph acts normally during the Enemy Phase.
4-5 Place one xenomorph using the standard enemy placement rules. The xenomorph acts normally during the Enemy Phase.
6 Nothing happens to this squad member.
Ambush Table B
Roll Effect
1-2 The squad member disappears screaming into the darkness. Remove the model from play.
3-4 Struggle! Roll again on this table immediately.
5-6 Xenomorph loses its grip and disappears into the darkness. The squad member is shaken, but unharmed.

If a squad member rolls a 3-4 on Table B, any friendly models in adjacent spaces will automatically attempt to help free the trapped squad member. Each helper grants a +1 bonus to rolls on Table B, up to a maximum bonus of +3.

Note: These mechanics have not been tested yet, and came to me out of the blue in mid-conversion. Rolling on these tables does not use any actions, and they are meant to be short and dramatic moments that add cinematic flavor to the game.

12 thoughts on “Stupid Bitz Tricks #8: Squad Leader

  1. Blackthorn

    Another cool bitz trick conversion Mel. I’d love to see more comments on how you plan on integrating this in GunCrawl.

  2. Mel Ebbles

    Thanks! I’m going to be redoing all the conversions in a refined form, since my wife bought me a new Cadian boxed set and a heavy weapon squad box. I’m gonna start a new series of articles, in a more detailed and organized form, which will show people how to turn these two boxed sets into ersatz Colonial Marines. I plan to do the same for Genestealers, converting them into something a bit more xenomorph-like.

    At the end of those conversion articles, I’m gonna be working up the Guncrawl stats in step by step fashion for each figure type, as profiling examples.

  3. Joseph

    I really like the work that you have done on these models.
    If it wasn’t for the fact that I feel that the current Cadians look as if they had chamber pots on their heads I would seriously consider buying some myself…

  4. Mel Ebbles

    Chamber pots!!!! That’s hysterical. Talk about multi-use gear… 😛

    When I get more plasticard and styrene tubing, I’m converting their helmets too. I don’t really like the “greebled American football helmet sans faceguard” look myself, so I’m adding a styrene rod camera to the side of the helmet, shaving off the eagle above the brim, and gluing a curved strip of styrene to the brim in order to change the shape of the helmet a bit. I’ll have to experiment. 🙂

  5. Blackthorn

    That would be cool Mel. I’d love to see what you come up with. I picked up my Cadians off of eBay already assembled, based and primed, but I’d be willing to do a little modding to them before painting. I’m having a hard time deciding on a paint scheme for them though. I’m resisting the olive drab theme that I used for my New Israelis.

  6. Mel Ebbles

    I’m still working out color schemes myself. I’m thinking of going with a muted semi-urban camouflage scheme for the fatigues (gray, light gray, brown, and dark gray), and I haven’t decided if I want the armor to be green, black, or gray. If I want to maintain the Aliensy feel, though, then it’d probably be the semi-urban camo with green armor and gear.

    I’m also thinking about taking the helmet modification further and making them closed full-face helmets, because that would effectively make the figures unisex, and the women in my family won’t have to go “Gee, she looks a little…butch.” when I hand them a figure with the standard Growly Masculine War Face that the Cadians seem to get issued along with the rest of their gear. 😀

  7. Joseph

    In the words of Monty Python
    … “other than the Marines, they are all dead Butch…”
    And now for somthing completely different !

    I would really like to see what you guys come up with on the helmet front I had thought about sanding some of my plasticard ribbons really thin and using them to add an 80’s era type GI Joe visor (the sort that you could have up or down on the old helmets… is my age showing a little??)and other bits to change the look\feel of the helmet a bit.
    I will probably use some of those Westwind British Paratrooper heads that I have lying around in my bits box, those coupled with the carbine type rifle that Mel has made out of the standard laser rifle they could make a neat paratrooper force.
    For an idea for female faces I would try the Hasslefree miniatures head sprues they have two types of female heads available, you would need to sculpt the hair with green stuff but thats no big deal. Alternately you could file the Cadian face flat, saw off the face of a female mini and glue it in place in the helmet opening again no big deal…

  8. nvdoyle

    Mel – for some ideas on modding the Cadian helmet, check here and here. There are, of course, all sorts of other good ideas buried in that place. 🙂

    For female Cadians…good question. I’ve seen some interesting sculpting mods done here and there, and even a one-off private group resin casting of heads, legs and torsos. But aside from the odd Inquisitor and Sororitas, female IGF are few and far between.

  9. Blackthorn


    Nice pics. It does give me a few more ideas. I’m now feeling the lack of love in not having more bits handy.

    I was on the same thought path: urban gray. That would seem to be a better option for troopers assigned to both ground duty and space duty. My Cadians will be used as Royal Marines for my own fictional ‘verse.

  10. Mel Ebbles

    Joseph: Heh, the visor is very close to what I want to do, except in my case it would be permanently mounted at a 30 degree angle, so the helmet looks less like a chamber pot and more like an Aliens-style helmet. The Hasslefree sprues are a good option–the Cadians come with some empty helmets, so all I’d have to do is file down a female head and stick the helmet to it.

    nvdoyle: I really like the helmets on the special weapons troopers…that flip-down monocle thing is awesome. I think I’ll try for something like that.

    As for female troopers, I’ve always thought those private sculpts and conversion attempts totally miss the mark because they invariably try to overcompensate. Everybody looks the same in baggy fatigues with 90 pounds of gear and armor, so there’s no point in trying to make the body look more feminine.

    Boobies are delightfully soft and squeezable, and because of those heavenly physical properties, they’re the first thing that’s gonna disappear under a heavy flak vest. Baggy tunics over baggy trousers also have a tendency to make even the most well-formed buttocks disappear, and they also hide nice legs.

    So, that leaves the face, which is pretty much the only way you can tell that a fully loaded soldier is female. Right now, it’s a toss-up between a female headswap or the full face helmets. I think the full face helmets are gonna win out, though, because they’ll give the figures a nice ODST look in the color scheme I’m considering.

    Blackthorn: Urban grays are also pretty easy to paint.

    Also, don’t let your lack of bits discourage you–when I start the “formal” conversion articles, you’ll be surprised what you can get out of a $56 purchase from the Warstore. I’ve already redone two of the conversions to eliminate as many external bitz dependencies as possible and drive the cost down further, and I’ve modified a third to use only parts found in the two boxed sets I’m using. The remaining external bitz needed are a Space Marine auspex and 2 Space Marine flamers, and those are the *only* external dependencies at the moment. They are also available as loose bitz from the Warstore. 😀

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