There's no other Battlefleet Gothic conversion project that's going to get quite the "Wow" factor out of your buddies as an Eldar Craftworld. Making a craftworld is a very ambitious project. There's no real guide to follow, and yet the end result must have a certain set of characteristics that make it undeniably "Eldar". Still, there's tons of room for creativity.
The rules for a "smallish" craftworld were featured in Planet Killer. The latest issues of Battlefleet Gothic Magazine list that article in the "House Rules" section. Therefore, the craftworld is not an "official" part of the Eldar fleet, and should only be used in special scenarios. The picture which headed that article depicted a craftworld conversion that used the old Seaquest DSV submarine model. I always found the conversion quite ingenious (except for some of the bits glued onto it): it's a smooth, organic model which lends itself well to Eldar-ness. The guys at the local GW store think differently (they like my craftworld better, woohoo!).
So what are craftworlds? For those of you who don't know your fluff that well, here's a history lesson. Before the Fall (the collapse of Eldar civilization caused by the birth of the Chaos god, Slaanesh), the craftworlds were trading vessels which traveled the space between Eldar worlds. While large, they were nowhere near as massive as they are today. When the fall occurred, the craftworlds were the last major bastions of Eldar civilization. As the centuries followed, the Eldar expanded their craftworlds. Bonesingers created new sections using wraithbone and their telekinetic abilities. Some craftworlds thrived, some were driven to extinction.
In the current 40K universe, the five biggest craftworlds are Iyanden, Biel-Tan, Saim-Hann, Alaitoc and Ulthwé. Each has its own unique cultural aspects and special abilities. For my craftworld, I chose Ulthwé. Admiral Acoron and myself had already chosen this craftworld for our Eldar Fleet's color scheme, so I wanted the craftworld to match up.
For the main body, I combined the engineering hulls from two Star Trek models: the Excelsior and Voyager. Some chopping and sawing was involved, so I had to build up the area where I attached the models so that there would appear to be less of a seam between the two hulls.
I decided fairly early on that I wanted to have wings on my craftworld. This isn't mentioned in the fluff, but I thought it would help give the model a more Eldar-ish look. That besides, they look terrific. The wings are one of the few aspects on the model which I built almost entirely from scratch. Because I worked in a plastics fabricating shop this summer, I was able to scrounge up some ABS and some prism acrylic (the stuff that hides the fluorescent lights in offices). I cut these to shape on a band saw and cleaned them up with a file.
Because the dorsal spine of the vessel looked quite bare, I knew I needed a creative line of structures to spruce it up. I was inspired by a picture from the old Space Fleet game. Though the vessel illustrated is Imperial, it seemed rather craftworldlike to me. The structures on its spine look like the skyscrapers in a futuristic city, so I decided to use this as my model. Some fluff in Codex Necrons which describes 'the spires of Alaitoc' helped my mental image coalesce as well.
There are two city clusters of structures, followed by a massive spire (meant to represent the dorsal missile bays mentioned in the craftworld article in Planet Killer). The spires are made of various bits from numerous plastic kits, mostly antenna structures. The missile tower is basically a piece of playmobil with a bottlecap on top. Last but not least, there is a transparent dome with a biosphere scene inside. I got the plastic dome from one of those machines that dispense penny toys in the entrances to supermarkets (you have no IDEA how embarrassing it is to be a 23 year old male buying penny toys... at least I got a sticky-hand out of it).
Facing port and starboard on the vessel are some very large dome turrets, quite similar to the smaller counterparts seen on Eldar BFG ships. People are always amused when I tell them that the turrets are actually the bottoms of coffee spoons from McDonalds. I simply cut the handle off each and attached some plastic tubing to the spot where I felt the barrel would be appropriate.
Deciding that the model still needed more detail, I used my green stuff (epoxy putty) to make several little nubs like the ones which appear on Eldar ships. This is a common theme among all things Eldar (I think they're supposed to be spirit stones), and I decided that to deny the craftworld this aspect would be leaving something out. The nubs were all painted red.
The last major detail added was the "warp gate" the craftworld drags behind it. Like the original Seaquest model conversion, I made this out of cotton stuffing. I sprayed it lightly with some Blood Angels Red and added some blue streaks. It wasn't hard to use a little copper wire to attach the cotton to where the Voyager deflector dish had once been.
All in all, the model took me about a year to build (mostly because I've been quite poor the past year and couldn't afford extra bits). I hope this satisfies the folks who have written in asking me how I built the craftworld. Remember though, if you want to build your own craftworld, there are no hard and fast rules. Just make sure the final result is organic and sufficiently Eldar-like, and you can't go wrong!
Rear View - An image of my craftworld model from the rear.
Top Down - An image of my craftworld model from above, with attack craft launching.
Board Game - The craftworld background image representing Iyanden from the Doom of the Eldar board game.
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