Shambling Bones

A couple of months ago when the Soulblight Vampires range was released I toyed with the idea of using the new skeleton warriors to kitbash grave guard. For those unfamiliar with the various ranks of undead soldiers in Games Workshop’s ranges the skeleton warriors are the rank and file, the grave guard are the elite wights – yet although the old grave guard models have held up very well to the passage of time, scale creep means they are now a lot shorter and less imposing than the newly released skeletons. Here’s a quick reminder of how the old grave guard look alongside one of the new skeletons (taken from the Cursed City box).

Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (1)

Hardly the imposing undead champions they claim to be are they, not when the new boys tower over them in every respect. Keep in mind also that the hunched pose of the Grave Guard actually emphasises his size here, bringing his face closer to the lens of the camera and making him look bigger than he is. In the flesh the size difference is even more noticeable. Could I, I found myself wondering, mix parts from the two kits to make bigger grave guard?

Well the answer, it turns out, is yes. I wouldn’t call these an entirely unqualified success, I think on a second attempt I could make improvements, but overall I’m pretty pleased with these. For the first one I went for a straightforward sword and shield arrangement.

Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (2)Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (3)Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (4)Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (5)

Pleased, and perhaps overconfident, following this success, I went on to try making one with a great weapon. Games Workshop’s two-handed weapons are always a horrible nightmare to assemble even if you’re using the right parts in the right places, going off-piste tends to turn into an exercise in which the entire lexicon of swear words gets worked through at least twice. Still, I persisted, and here’s the result.

Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (6)Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (7)Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (8)Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (9)

The first thing that struck me here is that his proportions are very odd and his stance somewhat awkward. The same can be said of the first one, and indeed the stock Games Workshop skeletons – indeed the very awkwardness of the new models is one of their great strengths, placing them neatly in the uncanny valley and emphasising their inhuman nature. That said it’s always easier to appreciate these things when someone else does them, and criticise them as failings in your own work – and that’s exactly what I did with him at first. My solution in end was to steer into it and give him a tall, bat-winged helmet to really labour the point, and on the whole I think it works. Standing next to a skeleton warrior they certainly look a lot more businesslike and imposing than their predecessors did.

Grave Guard Warhammer ConvertOrDie Wudugast Soulblight AoS (10)

Now we’ll have to see how they look with paint on them. In the meantime any comments, suggestions or feedback is very welcome.

29 responses to “Shambling Bones

  • Steve's Paint Brush

    I really like how they turned out, the tall and imposing but also have an awkward shambling look to them. The combined effect feels more dynamic and also just more scary than both the new or old options! Really inspiring stuff

    • Wudugast

      Cheers man! Sometimes you’ve just got to get your head down and march straight into the uncanny valley don’t you. With these two though I’d just reached that moment – and as a convertor yourself you’ll probably know it well – when you start thinking “do these look a bit odd because I’ve succeed at making them look odd, or do they look odd because they’re actually a bit shit?” and you’ve been staring at them so long you can’t tell anymore. One of the great things about blogging I find, getting honest feedback goes a long way. 🙂

  • Mikko

    Oh wow, that’s certainly made them look a lot more imposing! Good job here.

  • John@justneedsvarnish

    Look pretty good to me so far! 🙂

  • Alex

    Looking good buddy – get that paint slapped on!!

  • theimperfectmodeller

    Well they look good to me mate. Will look forward to seeing them painted up in due course. 🙂

  • f

    sword guy looks cool, not o much the other one

  • Pete S/ SP

    Very nice- love the two handed chopper.



  • Kuribo

    My feedback is that I’ll get my skeletons in the post to you right away so you can convert them up for me 😉 In all seriousness, these look great and I like how you emphasized the fact that they’re shambling undead. That is how I remember the vampires core units, especially in Warhammer fantasy where the huge blocks tended to look best that way. I’ll be excited to see you paint these up. It makes me want to work on mine but that’s going to have to wait until I get some other things done first unfortunately!

    • Wudugast

      Get them in the post then – I’ll see what I can do! 😉 I think we have a similar mental image of the undead, I always picture lords of the night (each one monstrous to a greater or lesser extent) lording it over a shambling horde of horrible corpses. I reckon you’ve got more than enough on your plate at the moment, I’ll look forward to seeing your skeletons when you get around to them though. 🙂

  • patmcf

    Neat mate, looking forward to seeing how you paint these guys!

  • Timo Krahl

    Combining those sets is basically the only option to make the awful outdated grave guard look like they measure up to the regular skeletons. The other option would be to combine them with the Chaos Warriors from the “Start Collecting” set to make them really bulky and imposing – but those models are on 32mm bases and Grave Guard are 28mm – so we would run into problems just by size (not even mentioning that you would have to buy 2 Start Collecting boxes to get 20 grave guard in the end.) – what those models need after a kitbash is more armor (especially on their legs) to make them “heavier”. Sounds simple – but i could not find any simple armor-bits that could be attached to the skinny bones… so those would need to be crafted from scratch. Btw: The Head of a “Knight of Shrouds” (Nighthaunt) would make for such a cool modern looking graveguard helmet… you just need to buy 20 of them 😀

    • Wudugast

      I’m just picturing the model you’ve described there – combining the weight and bulk of the Chaos Warriors with Grave Guard bits and topped off by the head from a Knight of Shrouds – and it’s one of the coolest kitbashes I’ve ever imagined. Way, waaay too rich for my taste mind you but if someone with deeper pockets than mine ever built a squad of them I’d love to see it! 😀

  • Timo Krahl

    I now also attempted the conversion (2 Handed) and it works well. I scraped off the chest to attach the undamaged Grave Guard Chestplate and then cut that part off from the Deathrattle armor to keep the lower Cloth-stuff. Makes it a lot more bulky and detailed – wish i could post a picture here…

    • Wudugast

      Ah, that’s good thinking. I’m still tempted to make some more so I’ll have a mess around with that myself once I can get my hands on all the bits I need. As for posting pictures I’d love to see what you did there, you should start a blog (seriously, I was sceptical of blogging myself once, now I can’t recommend it enough!).

      • Timo Krahl

        Getting the bits is a start collecting Soulblight and one kit of Deathrattle – so I´m making 20 of them – also using head bits from the Black Knights set (which will get bashed as well using the cut-off front plates from the Deathrattle Skeletons and their heads as they are not really Graveguards) – guess i´ll at least post pictures of the kitbashed Graveguard on some FB Forums once they are painted – i´ll link it here. I love Kitbashing – but i´m slow – so i guess it just would not be enough content for a blog. Maybe that changes once i´m done – i try to document it a bit with pictures to make that possible post-completion 🙂

  • wyrd_psyker

    I’ve been thinking about a similar conversion, but had a slightly different idea. Perhaps you can tell me if it’s viable. DRS= Deathrattle skeletons, GG=Grave Guard.

    For Grave Guard I’m thinking GG head, DRS torso, GG legs, and then whatever weapons I fancy. I want the grave guard to be as armored looking as possible.
    For the skeletons I would then be able to use the GG torso (no shoulder pads), DRS legs, and heads probably from the Skull box. Again, whatever weapons. I figure that would provide a comparatively less armored looking skeleton.

    In your experience handling the parts, would they fit together easily enough and would I be able to at least even out their heights? Thank you for your insight!

    • Wudugast

      In principle I’d say it’s a good idea and I think it would probably work but I can see it being challenging. The DRS torsos have a lot of extra cloth, chainmail etc which will hang down over the GG legs and you’ll likely have a bit of a struggle to avoid them pushing against each other. You might also end up with so much cloth around the legs that the grave guard looks like its wearing a many layered kilt or dress. Some of the cloth from the DRS could be cut away but most of it would have to stay and would get in your way a lot as well, potentially making it quite hard to line things up.

      I’d also note that there’s a difference in posture between the two kits, the GG are leaning forward whereas the DRS are (roughly) upright. You could work with this and build your versions in the same way but you’d still end up with GG leaning forward (and thus slightly shorter) and upright DRS (and thus slightly taller) which would reduce the visual impact of the different heights that you’re looking to create.

      Thirdly you’ll be fine for gluing the grave guard version together but the skeleton version will be pretty spindly and will have a narrow join at the middle making them prone to breaking (again, not insurmountable but take care).

      Finally the DRS bits are just a little bit bigger all round than the GG so your finished models will be a little long in the torso and short in the leg (or vice versa) compared to what you’d expect (similar to the look of the new Kruelboyz – it works for the Orcs because it makes them look apelike and brutish but I think it might not be quite right with skeletons).

      I hope I don’t sound like I’m poo-pooing your idea, I think it’s good and the only way to test it would be to build it (and if I had the bits to hand right now I’d do just that!). I do think it would be challenging though and I wanted to warn you about that before you spend any money. If you do it please let me know how you get on though – if it works it would be a great way to mass produce better versions of both grave guard and deathrattle skeletons. 🙂

      • wyrd_psyker

        Thank you for your thorough insight!
        Some of the challenges you mentioned are ones that crossed my mind as well, so I’m glad I wasn’t too far off the mark. And no worries I don’t feel that you’re being discouraging, but it does seem like more work than I’d be willing to do for battleline.
        I may just go with the classic conversion of Dark Elf Executioners. Use the helmeted DRS heads on them. Any chance you know how tall the Dark Elves are compared to the DRS? Thank you again!

      • Wudugast

        Sorry, that’s one I couldn’t answer categorically – I don’t have any dark elves handy to check (if only I’d started that Dark Elf army that I planned back in the days of WHFB…).

  • Guardians of the Grave | Convert or Die

    […] I decided to kitbash two new Grave Guard from the new skeletons, something you can read all about here. Now it was time to get them painted so here we have them; one with a great […]

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