I know I did one of these the other week, but I really love this kind of post. One of my favourite aspects of this hobby is just to imagine the possibilities, think about cool conversion ideas, or even just armies that would be fun to collect and play. So, then, what have we looked at so far in this series?
- Genestealer Cults, Iron Warriors, Garden-Themed Maggotkin of Nurgle
- Mekky Orks, AoS Sky Pirates, Creations of Bile
- Stormcast Special: Khornecast, Plaguecast, Shroomcast/Gloomcast
- Chaos Special: Chaos Sisters of Battle, Crusading Word Bearers, Terminus Est Assault Force
Today, we’re going to look at the undead. Mostly, this will be in the context of Age of Sigmar, but we’re actually going to start with a 40K offering:
The Mortus Militarum
The forces of the Astra Militarum (formerly and more sensibly called the Imperial Guard) consist of huge and untold numbers of regular humans in service to the Emperor. They do the bulk of the Imperium’s fighting and, as such, a lot of them die. Why does that have to be the end, though?
This army would see an undead force of Astra Militarum, led by a rogue Psyker with Necromantic abilities. On the subject of a leader for the force, I’ve been unsure how to approach this. On the one hand, a Sanctioned Psyker would make sense, but I also really like the idea of using a Commissar. In life, the Commissars are tasked with pushing their men on, into grave danger under threat of certain death if they dare to disobey or attempt to desert. It makes sense for a Commissar to still represent that driving force, even among the undead. As such, I took a look at these two Commissars from Wargame Exclusive:
These a gorgeous, suitably imposing miniatures. The gas masks give them a good air of mystery and malice. I’d probably look to swap out the weapons. The swords are really cool, but I think that some sort of mace or scepter would better fit the theme. There aren’t a lot of available miniatures that really fit the theme, so it’s great to find these guys.
As an aside this is the army in this post that I was least excited about, and it’s got me bloody enthused. This is a dangerous series for my willpower, and, subsequently, my wallet.
In terms of troops, there are a few options. The most likely one is kitbashing and converting. The Cadian kits are suitable flexible that you can use bits and piece of them alongside some undead bits to make some really cool hybrid miniatures. Here are a couple of examples from Instagram. One went heavy on Cadian bits, whilst the other makes more use of the undead bits:
Bloody brilliant, eh?
Another option is to look beyond Games Workshop. Mantic Games do a range of sci-fi soldiers and some zombies. The two kits go together really well. Mantic actually sells bundles of the two kits together from time to time, but even if they’re not for sale at any given time, you can still buy them separately. Here are the results of this kitbash:
They don’t look quite like the Games Workshop minis, but I reckon they’d still be ok. The scale is fine and, although Mantic can be a bit hit or miss, the sculpts are actually pretty decent. What’s most appealing about this approach is that it’s easy. You can easily use these guys as a basis for whatever you need for your army, including guardsmen, veterans, weapons teams, and tank crew. Yeah, this is likely the way to go, with some more elaborate conversions and proxies for heroes and other unique models.
I doubt that I’m going to build this army, largely because as much as I like the idea of these undead Guardsmen, I just don’t want to play Guard. That said, I am quite likely to unpack the Mantic zombie troopers kits that I picked up a decade ago and build at least some of them. At least, I will when I finally get around to sorting myself out for Stargrave.
Cities of Sigmar: Unliving City
Okay, so, right, bear with me here. When I starting thinking about doing an undead-themed article, this was kind of a “okay, let’s just chuck this in to make up to three” sort of pick. The thing is, the more I looked into it, the more I really, really loved the idea. I think that cursed city inspired me here, and I’ve picked up the audiobook to really delve further into the theme. I just need to finish up a Scalzi one I’ve been listening to, first.
In terms of gameplay, I’d be fielding this force as a Soulblight army, though it wouldn’t be ridiculous to field it as a Cities of Sigmar force instead. We have options. We like options.
The Cursed City vibe can, of course, be best served by using the Cursed City miniatures. I mean, that’s pretty obvious, innit? Here are some highlights in that regard:
The character minis are pretty stunning, aren’t they? When it comes to the others ones, they all look great. There are only 10 Zombies, which is a pity when you need a minimum of 20 for a unit, but we can always try to rustle up some more. The skeletons look amazing, and would form a good core of the army. They are also pretty in line with the new Deathrattle Skeletons that were put out a wee while ago:
They look a lot more like city guard, rather than soldiers and I could see myself using these as-is. They don’t really need any conversion.
When I was beginning to do a bit of research I stumbled across a really great set of miniatures that I found pretty inspiring. These came from the website of The Mortal Realms podcast. These monsters were particularly cool:
The Neferata on the Phoenix is one that I would definitely use. The models go together really well and would be cost effective if I was also to build Mannfred from a standard Mortarchs box, leaving me with a spare Neferata. The Griffon-as-Zombie-Dragon is also really cool. It’s a similar-sized beastie that fits really tightly into the theming, especially when you see the use of the Freeguild Demi-Gryphs later.
Now, the big bases on those monsters had me thinking about the sort of bases I’d want for this army. Cobblestones. Paving stones. That sort of thing. Let’s really embrace the Cursed City vibe. The Green Stuff World rollers would be good for this, and I actually picked up the ones I would need some time ago to try them out and perhaps use them with my copy of Cursed City.
I also included some other pictures there. Initially I thought it might be cool to add in some working street lamps using model railway lamps, or possibly the GSW lighting kit. Ultimately, I don’t think I would use them, but street lamps would still be a good addition to these bases to hammer home that city theme. These are cosmopolitan vampires, friend.
The last two units from The Mortal Realms website that I really liked were the Blood Knights and Fell Bats:
The use of the Aetherwings from the Stormcast Eternals range as Fell Bats was a cool idea, and it really helps to tie the army into the existing Order factions. It’s not so much a conversion as just a paint job. The idea of mounting some Blood Knights on DemiGryphs was also a really attractive one. The DemiGryphs are great miniatures and it makes total sense to combine these two fantastic kits. I think it would be relatively easy, as well. That helps. I’d need two Demigryph boxes to do a unit of 5 Blood Knights, which will leave me with 1 Demigryph that I can definitely use later…
For more troops, I was thinking of including some Grave Guard and Black Knights. Both of these would use the existing kits, kitbashed with bits from the Greatswords and possibly the Freeguild Guards:
These have the potential to look very cool. The Greatswords have the parts necessary to make some suitable thematic heavy infantry, and I really feel that they would fit together pretty well. To do a couple units of 10 Grave Guard and a unit of 5 Black Knights, I’ll likely need 2-3 boxes of Greatswords. In terms of buying the necessary Grave Guard and Black Knights, well, there’s always the Soulblight Start Collecting box:
Now, you’ll notice that in addition to the previously mentioned troops, there’s also a Wight King in here. He’d be a great candidate to ride that leftover DemiGryph, don’t you think?
The last thing that I was thinking about was including another larger model in the army. I was thinking that the Celestial Hurricanum miniature would, with a little bit of work, make a really good Corpse Cart, or possibly a Black Coach, allied in from the Nighthaunt.
Either would be cool, but I think the Black Coach would be more fun. I could swap out the Freeguild horses as well, replacing them with the leftover horses from the Blood Knights, just to have a more undead theme to it. I’m not sure what else I’d do yet, except that the wizard on top would be replaced with a suitably grim Necromancer. This isn’t really a fully formed idea yet.
All in all, this is looking like a pretty promising idea. And an attractive one. And a tempting one.
The Vampire Coast
The Vampire coast is an idea long-established among fans of Warhammer and those who have played the Total War: Warhammer video games. Vampiric pirates! Or, perhaps, piratical vampires? Either way, it’s a winning combination.
It’s not even the vampires that appeal to me most, but rather the beasties and general undead that sail with them. Skeleton and Zombie crew, sirens and sea monsters, there’s so much potential here. As an example of this army done right, take a look at Cara Newby’s Vampire Coast army in this video:
Fantastic, innit? I also agree with Cara’s decision to field them as Idoneth Deepkin. This is for a couple of reasons. First of all, the units available to the Deepkin feel more appropriate for the army. Having ranged units and rules for the ebb and flow of the tide is perfect.
In terms of the army, the monsters are what I am most excited about. Cara did these really well. My favourite kitbasher, Pete the Wargamer has also thrown his hat in the ring, making videos for a couple of important conversions that will really set the army apart. The first of these is the Necrofex Colossus, a great unit from the Total War games:
Cara made a Necrofex Colossus for her army as well but fielded it as a Leviadon. This works, but I like the idea of fielding it, as Pete suggests, as a Mega-Gargant. Bundo! The biggest plus I can see in Cara using it as a Leviadon is that it leaves room for other allies, to bring in other thematic units. Also, not everyone wants to use (or pay the points for) a Mega-Gargant. I do. Clearly.
Still in the realm of big beasties, there’s the giant enemy crap of the game, the Rotting Leviathan. Again, Pete the Wargamer has us covered for the conversion, basing it largely on the fantastic Arachnarok Spider kit. That’s a great mini, and the kit is used to wonderful effect in this conversion:
This is the one I’d likely field as a Leviadon. I’d just need someone on top with a harpoon gun or something. Yeah, this would work fine.
The next thing is the leadership of the army. I’d like to have a wee mix of characters. We’ve already got Bundo, obviously, and I’d look to add a few Vampires, for which I will use the rules for Isharann Soulrenders, Soulscryers, or Tidecasters. In addition, I’d also look to build an Eidolon of Mathlann. Of the two Eidolons, I’d likely go with the Aspect of the Sea as it’s the caster variant.
The Eidolon would be the most fun, as it’s got that bigger base that we can really have some fun with. I’d love to go with a sea-siren sort of theme. With that in mind, I really like this Dark Maiden miniature from Reaper:
Styles after a ship’s figurehead, it’s a good match for the theme of the army. Now, although the miniature is quite large, it’s still a bit short when compared to the Games Workshop miniature. I think that using the watery cape from the Games Workshop Eidolon miniature might be the way to go:
Failing that, some ship wreckage or a sea creature could also be used to build up some additional height whilst maintaining that all-important theming.
Reaper actually makes two similar miniatures that confusingly share the Dark Maiden name. The second of these is much smaller and would be perfect as a smaller, infantry-sized leader like a Tidecaster or Soulscryer:
That mini is gorgeous, and one that I’ve had my eye on for a few years. I’d definitely use this model and, to be honest, I’m not sure how I’ve resisted buying it for so long. Thematically, it’s ideal. Visually, I just adore it.
For other characters there are a ton of 3D-printed options. A ton. So many that I really don’t have any intention of going through them all. Sticking with retail miniatures, there are some more great miniatures available, again, from Reaper;
These are all both fabulous, and pretty affordable. They stand out as being both unique, and ticking some pretty major genre boxes.
Sticking with Reaper for infantry, there are a few good options available:
These look great and would definitely be a good option for the budding captain to use to fill out his crew. The problem with them is that I just don’t think they look Warhammer enough. I think I’d be happier kitbashing some crew.
Gamewise, the crew would play as either Namarti Thralls or Namarti Reavers. The Thralls are a melee unit and are the sole standard, unconditional battleline unit in the Idoneth Deepkin book. The Reavers are a ranged unit and a conditional battleline when the general is an Isharann hero. This may change in the near future, as there’s a new book incoming for the Deepkin.
If I want to keep things looking more Warhammer, I should probably start by taking a look at the sort of models available to me. The unit I’m most interested in creating are the Namarti Reavers, though it would be nice to have some Thralls as well. The Reavers will need ranged weapons, and these should be blackpowder ones. Pistols and handguns are both acceptable, and a range of different ones will add to the ramshackle look of the crew. The kits from which I expect to get these weapons are from the Freeguild (formerly Empire) range. Namely, I’m looking at the Pistoliers and handgunners. I’m also looking at the latest incarnation of the Zombies:
The new zombies are a lot less modular and flexible than the old (admittedly outdated) kit. This is a pity, though they are definitely still usable. It’ll just require a bit of surgery to get them cut up. The pistoliers will be a great source of pistols, both in standard form, and the repeater ones that come with the Outriders, another unit that can be built from the same box. A box each of handgunners and pistoliers should provide enough for at least two units of Reavers, possibly 3. I’d like skeletal parts as well, but the new GW skeletons, although gorgeous, are very much soldiers. They have a strong identity and just aren’t flexible enough for use here.
With the undead miniatures that Games Workshop puts out being so specific, we should probably turn to some alternatives from other manufacturers:
The kits pictured above are:
- Fireforge Undead Warriors
- Fireforge Undead Peasants
- Oathmark Skeletons
- Warlord Games Skeletons
- Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago Crewmen
The various undead force pictured above are more generic than those produced by Games Workshop, and have kits that have separate arms, heads, and the like. These kits are flexible and will give a pretty solid base for any conversions. The Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago Crewman are human, but will give a good range of pirate-related bits that can also be used. These would make a great base for our undead crewmen. I can see lots of mixing and matching happening here.
Once we’ve worked out how our Reavers and Thralls are made, it’s time to get some Eel riders, one of the real highlights of the Idoneth Deepkin book. Simply, I intend to use the old Deck Droppers idea from the old White Dwarf Vampire Coast list. The new GW Fellbats will be perfect for this. Here are some examples of the concept from Instagram:
This is a straightforward conversion that looks pretty damn good for what it is. I’d have liked to make it a ranged unit, but that won’t really work in the Deepkin context.
Finally, I have some miniature that I’d like to use largely for the same of using them. I don’t know entirely what I’d use them as, but I love the minis. The first of these is, again, from Reaper, and is their Shipwreck Revenant:
Gorgeous, completely thematic, and bloody cheap as well. On the topic of the Shipwreck Revenant, there’s another quite similar model available from Archvillain Games. The Shipwreck Golem is available as an STL, with a number of vendors willing to print one up and post it out to you from the usual places. It’s really similar to the Reaper mini, but different enough to maintain variety if you were to use both. Take a look:
Lovely, eh? I don’t know what I’d use these as. Appolexes? That would work, actually. I just worry a tad about base sizes. The 90mm x 52mm oval might not be the best fit here.
I think that this may well end up being an army that I find myself building at some point. I love the theme, the challenge, and the idea of throwing them around a table. Lots of potential, here. I just need to get my head around how to base them.