Armies of the Jungle: Fearful Symmetry

In this series, we showcase armies used by your humble Jungle Guides. By detailing how the army was collected, how the background and color schemes were developed, and how the army is used on the battlefield, we hope that this series will provide inspiration for those interested in collecting similar armies.

In the chilly dark just before dawn, Shamshir Talatra—accompanied, as always, by Panja, the Vedic Great Tyger—surveyed his army.  Once again, the Scepter of Shiva, a holy relic in the form of a curved sword, had done its work well, summoning scores of the fearsome rakshasas, greater and lesser, to the material world.

Tiger-headed humanoids from Lankapura, a realm outside of time and space, the rakshasas had terrorized and preyed upon the humans of Veda ever since it was settled, before the Age of Strife.  But no longer.  Now, they served Shamshir.


They were, in fact, the vast majority of his forces.  After being purged from the Fighting Tigers, he had assembled an army of Space Marines—Loyal and Renegade—whom he had recruited to fight in defense of the Imperium, even if they had been forgotten, exiled, or outlawed by the same.  Recently but not unexpectedly, his more morally-ambiguous followers had coalesced around the strongest of their number, Zykl, and attempted—violently, of course—to unseat him.

So long as Shamshir held the Scepter—and its power to call and command the rakshasas—it was a plan doomed to fail.  But in the tumult, his ardent supporters had been killed, either by the betrayers or by the frenzied Warp entities, the latter of which had made little distinction in the slaughter.

All of his Space Marines were gone.  All of them.  To keep waging war on behalf of mankind, Shamshir had been forced to summon more and more rakshasas.  And while they served obediently, Shamshir was under no illusions of their loyalty.  Given the chance, they, too, would turn against him.

At least Shamshir had the Bronze Tygers, robotic constructs from the first days of the Fighting Tigers’ tenure on Veda, which he had liberated from ancient, forgotten vaults.  And he also held the loyalty of the Ghost Tygers, beneficent spirits drawn from the essence of Veda itself.  Noble, swift, and fierce, the Ghost Tygers were Panja’s kind who continued, even in death, to protect Veda and its people.

Shamshir had summoned them with the Pelt of the Great Man-Eater, another holy relic.  Just a fortnight ago, Shamshir had meditated upon it and learned how to call to him a Great Ghost Tyger, larger than a Land Raider, the mightiest of its kind.

He could only hope that this host of ghosts, monsters, and mechanicals would be enough for the battle to come.

Shamshir Talatra, former Fighting Tiger of Veda, and Panja


This army grew out of the story Traveller of Both Time and Space, which chronicles how Shamshir Talatra, commander of half the Fighting Tigers of Veda Space Marines lost his position (and nearly his life) after leading his detachment into disaster.  Aided by the Inquisitor Varman Kumar, Shamshir begins to develop leadership skills and assembles a rag-tag collection of renegades into a fighting force, using evil to fight evil.

As I moved closer to finishing the story, I became inspired to build a new army based around Shamshir.  I eschewed the obvious choice (a Fighting Tigers successor chapter) and decided that the new army would use the rules from Codex: Chaos Space Marines.  And thus, with its name inspired by one my favorite poems (William Blake’s “The Tyger), was born the Fearful Symmetry.*

*When Blake wrote his poem in 1794, “fearful” was a synonym for “fearsome.”  The meaning has since changed, but don’t think because they’re called “fearful” that my guys are cowards!

Several years went by, and I adjusted the army to the various CSM codices that came and went, but the Fearful Symmetry never had much success.  Meanwhile, my friend Patrick Eibel started his own Chaos Space Marine armies, one a Nurgle force, the other, Red Corsairs.

Not wanting to add yet another CSM army to our informal gaming group (which includes my brother-in-law Drew, and my neighbor’s sons), I rebooted the Fearful Symmetry using the latest Codex: Chaos Daemons.

A portion of the Fearful Symmetry

Modeling and Painting

When I was first building this army, I wanted to 1) save money and 2) avoid having the stereotypical Chaos army with scary-looking dudes in spiked armor.  So instead of buying Chaos Marine figures, I used minis from my overly-large collection of Fighting Tiger Space Marines.

To unify the appearance of the army, I chose only Tigers painted in Shamshir Talatra’s mustard-yellow and brown paint scheme.  Having switched the army to a Chaos Daemon force, I don’t use Marine figures anymore.

Back when Shamshir was a Fighting Tiger, he rode a bike and accompanied my bike squads, giving them a lot of hand-to-hand punch.  The Fearful Symmetry doesn’t have any bikes, however, so Shamshir and his motorcycle were frequently ineffective.  Attempting to rectify this appalling situation, I made a new Shamshir figure, using the Space Marine Terminator Captain.

Shamshir Talatra

To make him distinctive, I re-positioned his right arm and sword hand, added a red shroud to his right shoulder, and painted his eyes red (Shamshir has always been described as having this minor mutation).

I used a pair of clippers to bend the Captain’s sword into a scimitar and make notches in the blade: the Scepter of Shiva is a very old weapon, after all.  Finally, I attached the tiger model for Panja (a saber-toothed tiger figure made by Reaper Miniatures) onto Shamshir’s base.

Varman Kumar

Shamshir is aided by Inquisitor Varman Kumar.  To represent him, I special-ordered a Rogue Trader-era figure and painted him in yellow and brown to make him fit in with the army (he doesn’t, however, wear stripes, as he’s not actually a Space Marine).

He’s assisted by a Lesser Rakshasa (the little tiger-headed guy) and holds the Pelt of the Man-Eater, a magical tiger skin that summons the Ghost Tygers—more about them in a minute.

Lesser Rakshasas, accompanied by Great Tygers

I wanted to continue the Hindu theme of the Fighting Tigers, so when I purchased figures for daemons, I used tiger-headed models from Reaper Miniatures and Black Orc Games (the latter of which has gone out of business).

Greater Rakshasas (Shamshir’s guards)

I painted all the models in white, then washed them in green ink, then drybrushed white over them again, to give them a “ghostly” look.  These figures count as Bloodletters and Bloodcrushers.

Greater Rakshasas (Varman’s guards)

The “Ghost Tygers” (below) are Games Workshop Sabretusk figures which were originally from the Ogre Kingdoms division of the Warhammer Fantasy game.  These minis (now called “Frost Sabres”) are still available as part of the Ogor Mawtribes collection under Warhammer Age of Sigmar.

Ghost Tygers and Lesser Rakshasas

These were the first “ghost” models I ever painted, and I went a bit overboard, with several coats of white, Codex Grey, and green ink.  To me, they look like they’re carved out of marble, but so be it.

Similarly, I have this huge fellow (below, with a Dark Eldar Kabalite next to it, for scale).

It’s a plastic toy tiger that I painted up as “Great Ghost Tyger,” and in the game, it counts as a Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage.  That’s a Dark Eldar Kabalite Warrior next to it, for scale.  The GGT is 9″ long from its nose to the tip of its tail, and stands 3 1/2″ high at the shoulder.  That’s a big cat!  I like it so much that I recently added another one to the Fearful Symmetry.

In previous lists, the “Bronze Tygers” were my army’s take on Chaos Defilers; then I switched them to count as Forgefiends.  Now they’re Soul Grinders.

Bronze Tyger

The figures were radio-controlled “tiger robots” (a mere $10 each at a toy store) and already came assembled.  The models were originally white; spray-painting them black required several coats to get the paint among the numerous ridges on each model.

I drybrushed each in Dwarf Bronze, and added some highlights in Brazen Brass.  Like the Great Ghost Tyger, I then mounted each on a base made from a compact disc flocked with static grass.

Background (Warning: Spoilers)

As recounted in the story Traveller of Both Time and Space, Shamshir Talatra, at the suggestion of Inquisitor Varman Kumar, led a detachment of Fighting Tigers against Red Corsairs Chaos Space Marines.  Shamshir’s mission did not go well: he was almost mortally wounded, and all but one of his Marines were killed.  For his recklessness and negligence, Shamshir was stripped of command and marooned.

Shamshir wandered the planet where he had been left, the site of the Red Corsair base he had attacked.  Eventually, he met the Great Tyger Panja and discovered a series of tunnels—built and formerly used by Dark Eldar—that allowed one to cross from world to world and even through time.

Using them to travel to Veda’s past, Shamshir Talatra reached an ancient shrine where he found the Scepter of Shiva—a powerful sword that could summon daemonic rakshasas and compel them to serve him—and the Pelt of the Great Man-eater—a magical tiger skin with the ability to summon tiger-spirit allies.

With these items and the ability to move at will through time and space, Shamshir returned to the planet where he had been marooned and set out to redeem himself.  He assembled a new army, pressing into service the surviving Corsairs, and pulling Fighting Tiger casualties out of past battles before they could be killed.

He re-met Kumar, and learned that Veda was threatened by Hive Fleet Ravana.  Travelling through time and space to the battle where Ravana first invaded Veda’s system, Shamshir and his Marines—aided by thousands of rakshasas—assisted the Fighting Tigers, inflicting enough casualties on the Tyranids to prevent them from continuing on towards Veda.  Shamshir and most of his army survived the battle, but, ironically, were declared renegades and outlaws by the Tigers, who have sworn to destroy them.

Despite his “daemonic” allies, Shamshir does not serve Chaos.  The Fearful Symmetry fights against the enemies of mankind, striking against aliens and the followers of Chaos, while defending themselves against vengeful Imperial forces sent to destroy them.

For years, the Fearful Symmetry used turncoat Marines, but attrition has left only Shamshir.  Rather than attempting to travel again across time to find new recruits, he now relies solely on the rakshasas to continue his service to mankind.

Waging War

Learning to use the Fearful Symmetry has been challenging.  Over the years, as various codices for Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Daemons were released, I experimented with several configurations, some with more (or all) of the former, some with more (or all) of the latter.

The latest list, for 8th Edition, uses the current Codex: Chaos Daemons, and is a Battalion coming in at 1999 points, or a Power Rating of 126:

  • Shamshir Talatra (counts as Daemon Prince);
  • Two Great Ghost Tygers (count as Bloodthirsters of Insensate Rage)
  • Two packs of 10 Lesser Rakshasas each (count as Bloodletters)
  • One pack of 19 Lesser Rakshasas (count as Bloodletters)
  • Seven Greater Rakshasas (count as Bloodcrushers)
  • Varman Kumar and pack of 7 Greater Rakshasas (count as Bloodcrushers)
  • Two packs of 5 Ghost Tygers each (count as Flesh Hounds)
  • Two Bronze Tygers (count as Soul Grinders)

Shamshir, the Greater Rakshasas (including Kumar, who counts as one for game purposes), and the Great Ghost Tygers are the heavy hitters.  The Bronze Tygers provide firepower or more hand-to-hand punch, and are great for guarding the Fearful Symmetry’s back line.  Flesh Hounds harry the enemy’s flanks, and Lesser Rakshasas take objectives and/or mop up.

With no psykers, and only two units who shoot, the army is blisteringly simple to use, with no subtleties: merely rush forward and charge ASAP.  I have one unit of Bloodcrushers escort Shamshir, protecting him from enemy fire, and I move units through terrain to gain cover saves.  Once my Daemons get into close combat with the enemy, it’s almost always lights out for the other guys.

Great Ghost Tyger (counts as a Boodthirster)

The army is by no means invincible.  Because of the high costs of many of the units—Bloodthirsters are 230 points each, and Bloodcrushers are 40 a pop—it’s a relatively small, elite force that can’t take too many casualties; a horde could wear it down.

And while the army is swift and smashes just about anything it gets its mitts on, heavy weapons, particularly those that dish out high Damage in multiple shots, are their bane.  In American football terms, this army goes all-in on offense, but has no defense.

Keep visiting the Jungle to find out how the Fearful Symmetry fares. Once left for dead on a barren planet, Shamshir Talatra continues to fight.

When he isn’t playing or blogging about 40K, Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults, and adults who are still young.  This Wasted Land, his latest novel, isn’t your typical teenage love story.  It’s more like: Boy meets Girl –> Evil Witch takes Boy –> Girl goes to get Boy back.

He is also the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog.  His first novel was Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons.  With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Visit, and follow Kenton on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.  You can also catch him on Instagram.