Anatomy of Power Armour

The Latest Controversy – The Mk. III Iron Armour Rework


Our hobby seems to love a bit of controversy and following the NOVA Open previews, we’ve got one with the rework of the Mk. III Iron Armour!  In this musing I talk a bit about what this is all about.

Power Armour MarksBack in the depths of time, the Warhammer 40k background was sparse to the point of being almost non-existent.  Primarchs didn’t exist and Space Marines were basically slightly better humans in power armour.  It will seem alien in comparison to the way Games Workshop works now, but miniatures were designed based on sculptors ideas with only a few loose rules with no thoughts about background lore or game systems – the first edition of Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader was more of a roleplaying game than anything else, a very far cry from what we have now.  This resulted in a plethora of different power armour styles being designed.  As Rogue Trader transitioned into the later versions of Warhammer 40k, the folk at Games Workshop began to introduce background into the universe that we would all come to know and love.  One area that was handled was why there were as many styles of power armour as there were and as such the Power Armour Marks were born.  Back as early as 1990 John Blanche created a series of sketches where he defined a look for each armour mark.

The John Blanche Mk. III Iron Armour Sketch - taken from a Reddit PostTo surmise in one paragraph, Mk. III (aka ‘Iron’) Armour was an iteration of the Mk. II Armour with heavier armour panels on the front, this made it more suitable for close-quarter fighting such as encounters on space ships or underground.  The Mk. II armour has a fairly iconic leg design which consists of articulated hoops granting the wearer good mobility – hold that explanation at the back of your brain as we’ll come back to it.

That’s the very potted history of how we’ve arrived where we are.  As you can imagine over the years there have been dozens of different pieces of artwork created for the various armour marks and it’s only over the past ten to 15 years or so that we’ve begun to see designs start to be more accurate to the now established lore.  The Horus Heresy miniatures game launched back in 2012 by Forge World, in no small part due to the popularity of the 2003 Horus Heresy Collectable Card Game by Sabertooth Games.  As you can imagine that card game used artwork from a huge range of artists from John Blanche to Adrian Smith – in fact many pieces of art we use to this day come from that collectable card game.  If you ever get a chance to look at the art book “The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions” do so because it’s one of the best sources of inspiration you can put your hands on and is filled to the brim of artwork from the card game and beyond.

Mortarion Primarch of the Death Guard by Adrian Smith from the Horus Heresy Collectable card gameWhen the miniatures game came out Forge World knew they’d need to release the various armour marks as physical models, so using a combination of the original metal models and the dozens of pieces of artwork, came up with what they felt was a good representation of the armour.  To this end the resin Mk. II armour had overlapping banded leg armour – a theme that was followed through on the rear of the Mk. III legs.  This sort of mirrored the armour that was depicted on artwork – as an example on the leg armour of Mortarion by Adrian Smith.  As time went on and the popularity of the game grew, we got a plastic version of the Mk. III armour that was released in the Battle for Propspero box set.

So far so good!  Now onto the controversy bit.  At the NOVA Open we had the reveal of the reworked Mk. III armour.  This armour was upscaled so it matched the Mk. VI armour released last year and posed so that it was compatible with the boxes of special and heavy weapons, a great idea I hear you say.  There were people however who had issues with the changes, which I’ll outline now along with my own musings and thoughts.

Miniature Pose

The Mk. VI armourWhen you look at the poses of the Mk. III marines you’ll be forgiven for having a slight pang of de ja vu.  If you now look at the Mk. VI marines you’ll quickly realise why – they’re seemingly identical.  Basically the Mk. III is a re-skinned version of the Mk. VI.  Needless to say this has received cries of “it’s just lazy” and “all my army will look the same” and I probably lean into these being somewhat justified criticisms.

But the next question to ask is “does it make any real difference” and the answer is “probably not”.  There is something slightly galling that we’re paying the same price for something that seems like it’s taken half the amount of sculpting, however if you look at the resin Mk. III we got exactly the same, a Mk. II base that had armour panels added to it.  Having done some 3d sculpting myself (at an amateur level) re-sculpting can often be more time consuming than creating from scratch.

Horus Heresy Special Weapons BoxThe identical post means we have 100% compatibility with the significantly cheaper and easier to work with plastic command sprues and heavy and special weapons.  That for me is a compromise I don’t mind taking.  Let’s also be brutally honest too – we’ve been using miniatures with identical poses in our games for decades already, why were we expecting something different?  In all likelihood your Heresy army will stick to one or two armour marks so you were going to have pose duplication anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, it would be amazing to have truly multi-part marines where you can swap arms and legs around – but the new more fixed pose models go together a lot better and they’re not difficult to re-pose, plastic is also a lot easier to work with than resin on that front.

Overlapping Armour Style

Probably the biggest controversy though is that the new Mk. III marines no longer have the overlapping armour on the rear that the previous two iterations had – get that barrel of petrol ready to douse your models and set them ablaze, how dare they do this, it’s an affront to the design!

Morturg Death Guard Tactical Squad by Chris Trevas for the Horus Heresy Collectable Card GameTime to hold your horses because we’re in danger of showing ourselves up.  It was a complete assumption on our part that the miniatures would be a rework of the past two Forge World iterations.  It was Forge World who brought in the overlapping bands with rivets.  The 1990 John Blanche sketch doesn’t show them and if you peer at the Mortarion artwork it could easily be overlapping or not – there’s plenty of examples of this too.  The rivets only exist on the Forge World miniatures too and more than happy to have less of the things to paint!

The rear of the Fafnir Rann miniature released in 2022 showing banded and not overlapping armourTo further quell things, we’ve already seen this banded Mk. III before on the rear armour of Fafnir Rann that was released last year and that received zero outcry for it’s armour banding.

In short, the latest iteration of the Mk. III armour is more faithful to the original design than the previous one.

And there we have it, another musing on a random subject! As ever this is just my opinion, feel free to add your own into the comments below

2 thoughts on “The Latest Controversy – The Mk. III Iron Armour Rework

  1. It’s tough for anyone who’s been slow-building a Mk. III army who wants to lean into them all being the same. I reckon the scale could be the biggest difference rather than the armour style – at 3ft away you can’t see a massive amount of detail, just the general silhouette. Closer up and in photos it’ll be more obvious.

    I’ve a unit of meltaguns in my Death Guard force with the older Mk. III and plan was to have my heavy weapons wearing it too. The new plan is to do heavy weapons in the newer version because the resin weapons need modification to fit. I may well do a follow up post showing how they look in comparison 🙂

  2. The knee pads, helmets and back packs have changed too, making older mk3s incompatible if trying to have a unified force. Luckily I only have a scattering which will now be stripped and put into 40k squads

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