Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mycetic Spores

Canopy Carapace

One of the biggest chips out of my shoulder when it comes to Tyranid design is the way that the concept for Mycetic Spores/Tyranid Drop Pods has been mailed-in ever since it first came about with the Tyranid Seeding Swarm list back in White Dwarf and Chapter Approved 2004. Bitchy or not, I have never seen a model for a mycetic spore that I could love, and that's mostly because they all wind up looking like the same, bloated, rugby-ball-/coconut-inspired Tyranid fleshbags. Space Marines get these sexy, tapered drop pods that open up like flowers of death upon impact. Tyranids get exploding fleshbags.

Not. Cool.

It was with this niggling annoyance in mind that I set out to come up with an aerodynamic, lithe, distinctly Tyranid-looking design for a mycetic spore.

I was inspired by Pedro Navarro's Centinide Drones and the way that they made planetfall in an armoured shell before deploying:

Centinide by Navarro
Centinide by Navarro

And from that start, I came up with some concepts of my own for what the spores would look like and how they would deploy. I liked the idea of the tapered/tear shape rocketing down through the atmosphere, looking like a comet, with the force of its impact popping the spore open and disgorging the nids within.

Early concepts
Rough scale

Most of all, I was taken with the idea of what a field of landed spore mines would look like on the planets surface, coming up with an image of them that was a bit reminiscent of the blasted battlefield in the dreams/visions from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

Field of Landed Spores

With these ideas all firmly hashed out, I got RIDICULOUSLY lucky when it came to finding a material to act as a template for the spores.

Spore source material
Spore Canopy

2L Plastic pop bottle. Plain and simple. Same kind you'd drink coke out of. The nice, curved section on the front of the spore's canopy is one of the five rounded "feet" that are cast into the bottom of the bottle. The bottom of the pod is cut from the flat, slightly-rounded side of the bottle and bent up on the sides to give it a bit more curve.

Here's an idea of scale from when I started reinforcing the inside of the spore with Apoxie Sculpt.


Once they'd been reinforced on the inside, I sculpted the carapace plates on. I began by sculpting all the plates at once, which was challenging in terms of getting in all of the detail before the putty cured. However, this approach made it easier to form the putty into the ridges and valleys I wanted running the length of the spore before sculpting out each individual plate. I felt like the shape of the carapace plates could be at once dynamic yet still play a part in steering the falling pod in minute ways.

Canopy Carapace
Canopy Carapace3
Canopy Carapace4

Here are three of the canopies/carapaces together:

Spore Canopies

And here is the internal ribbing on them. I kind of mailed it in due to A) not having an especially great idea for what to sculpt on the inside and B) the insides not being as readily visible when the spore would be posed in the field.

Canopy insides

The internal details for the bottom of the spores was similarly simple.

Spore Internal

And here's a top and bottom, all together, as they should be deployed on the battle field.


I later came back to the spores, briefly, and did a revision on the internals of the canopy to make it make a little more sense. I'd always through of the canopy as being the part of the spore that would hold all of the vital organs and real structure of the pod, while the bottom of each pod was little more than an armoured wall for containing the creatures within. Here's a comparison of what the insides looked like ont he first three I made compared to the new, more detailed internals I later came up with.

Old Internals
Shiny New Internals!

EDIT: And here's a fully painted one:
20 Landed mycetic spore

The size of the initial pods I created were a little...small, all things considered. They were the kind of things one slightly-larger-than-warrior-sized model could ride down in, or maybe a couple of Warriors could squeeze into one. When I came up with these initial ones, oddly enough I let the size of that rounded "foot" from the 2L bottle dictate the overall scale. It was all fairly arbitrary to be sure.

However, I soon realized that if I wanted these things to be deepstriking in carnifexes or whole squads, I'd need a bigger pod. So, instead of getting five of them out of one 2L Bottle, I decided I'd try for only one:

Scale Open

I figured that would probably be big enough. I had to use the same system of using expanding foam to reinforce the flimsy plastic that I made use of on the large Tyranid barricades/fortifications. I sprayed it into the cut out top and bottom of the 2L bottle, waited a few days for it to fully dry, then cut out the excess with a hot wire cutter and an exacto knife.


It came out MILES better than I'd expected: the kind of ludicrously large that it would need to be to transport larger bioconstructs/squads. I was even more thrilled with how well the canopy carapace went on:

Big w Carapace

That carapace alone may just be one of the sexiest things I've ever sculpted.

Unlike on the barricades, the foam alone was not going to do for the insides of these pods, so I covered the majority of the foam inside the spore with Apoxie Sculpt. The inside of the canopy was a rough number with some inserted paper clips so I could later sculpt on some hanging tentacles:

Big Internals Top

But the internals of the bottom of the pod, which would be far more visible on the final model, got a little more love:

Big Internals Bottom
Big Internals Bottom

EDIT: Painterific!
19 Landed Mycetic Spores
11 Landed Spores
Landed Mycetic Spores
Deploying from the Mycetic Spore

Looking back on all of this right now, I'm still in love with the design, and I still believe it has far more potential than anything else I've seen thus far. It's completely making me wish I had access to all of the materials I'd need to take another run at some spores, but unfortunately now is not the time for it. I'm interested to hear what other folks think of the design and if they've seen anything out there for representing a mycetic spore that isn't just another fleshy sack with labia.


  1. Very nice! I wish that I could sculpt like that. Have you gotten any complaints about the size of the pods? I've had people complain about the size of pods if they were bigger than a 60mm base. Just curious.

  2. This is simply amazing. They look like fucking beaks. I love it.

  3. Absolutely bananas. I'm so impressed I need to stand up just so I can sit back down. I'm serious, those are top notch. Damn.