I’ve been promising this post for a while and at last here we have it; the final round up of my Skaven army for WHFB. Really this post was meant to go up weeks ago, back at the end of December, but one thing or another always seemed to get in the way – terrible light for taking pictures, real life business, computer troubles and a serious dose of one of Nurgle’s finest creations all hell-bent on coming between your eyes and these rats. I’ve persevered however and at long last here we are.
I’ve been working on this army for at least a decade, if by working you count buying models in dribs and drabs until you end up with a pile deep enough that you need to stand on a chair to see over it, and only painting the very occasional model. By 2014 I’d gathered a small-ish mob of completed rats but I was increasingly unhappy both with the scale of the task ahead of me and the colour scheme I’d chosen. Time for a rethink.
Fast forward to 2016 and I’d settled on the idea of repainting my, at the time quite tiny, collection of painted models in a natty yellow, rather than the red I’d chosen originally. At last the rats were on their way. However it wasn’t until 2017 that things finally got started in a big way. Realising that the project might never attain much traction without a bit of a push I declared my intent to add something to the collection, even if it was only a single model, even month of the year. So successful was this approach in clearing the backlog that I did the same thing in 2018 and, with the pile much diminished and the end in sight, 2019 as well. This, I announced to anyone who would listen, would be the final year that I worked on the rats and I would complete everything in the unpainted heap once and for all. Compared to the previous two years 2019 was a bit more rocky, a family emergency meant that February’s attempt went by the wayside, but in the end I managed it, even if it has taken until half-way through January 2020 to get the final post uploaded.
By end the end of November I had only three models left to complete the army, which on the face of it doesn’t sound too arduous. On the other hand they were all big, centrepiece models so I didn’t have an entirely easy ride of it either. The first one under the brush was the fourth of my Stormfeinds, this time equipped with poisoned-wind launchers.
The sharp-eyed reader will have noticed that he’s actually an alternative version of this chap, which I’d painted back in September.
I bought a second one off ebay as part of an elaborate scheme to make a Slaaneshi obliterator which never really came together, and then he lingered in the bits box until a few months ago when I dug him out and built him as nature originally intended.
Here’s the two brothers side by side.
And here’s the whole squad.
Of course, being WHFB, they’re supposed to rank up – although old timers will recall that this was the bane of WHFB that often turned the game into an exercise in hair-tearing. You conga-lining AoS whippersnappers don’t know you’re born I tell you! Anyway, this was the best I could manage – and it just about works.
Another staple of the WHFB era was the battle-standard bearer, a hero level character with a big banner that was, by my foggy recollection of the rules, damn near vital to holding together the moral of the rank and file – especially if said rank and file was made up of cowardly clanrats. I’ve had this one built but unpainted for what seems like an age so it was great to finally get him finished and off the desk at last. Sadly the lighting, always a struggle at this time of year, has made the banner look a lot more blotchy and shiny than it does in real life – when conditions are a bit better I’ll try to remember to re-photograph him but for now I decided to just go with it, otherwise this post might never see the light of day at all.
I’ve been undecided whether or not I should explain the text on the banner, or just leave it as an in-joke that combines two fairly obscure references (especially for international readers) into one utterly incomprehensible joke. However, taking pity on you all, here’s a quick translation. The text, for anyone finding the Skaven-eque runes hard to read – especially in what I’ve already admitted are rather duff photos – reads “Rats! Gaze into the Eye of the Warp?! Just gonnae gnaw!” Readers of a certain vintage may remember Andy Chambers’ famous Skaven army as showcased in White Dwarf issue 137 (the one with the front cover that shows a Blood Angel fighting a bunch of Necromundan gangers – in which things appear to be turning out exactly as one-sided as you’d imagine!). Chambers’ army has had a huge and lasting influence of those of us who’ve collected Skaven, especially if we’ve been brave or foolish enough to paint them yellow, and I wanted to acknowledge that somewhere. The army included a big banner featuring the words “Gaze into the Eye of the Warp and despair” and my first thought was to just copy that and be done with it. However all this talk of the “Eye of the Warp” sounds like Chaos-worshipping shenanigans to me and although Skaven are creatures of Chaos they’re not followers of the Gods like other Chaos factions but servants of the Horned Rat, concerned only with their own schemes for advancement and with bringing ruin to all the surface dwellers. When I was a teenager there was a comedy sketch show on the TV called Chewing The Fat (Scottish readers of a certain age are now cheering, everyone else is scratching their heads – trust me, you’re the ones who missed out). The show featured a regular sketch of two lighthouse keepers and the catch-phrase “Gonnae no dae that!” or “Just gonnae no!” (type Chewing The Fat lighthouse keepers into YouTube and you’ll discover what I’m on about). For the last year or so that I was at school you could hear the words “Just gonnae naw!!” getting bellowed across the playground at about 300 decibels roughly every 12 seconds or so.
Ah, school days eh! Actually, as I write this and realise that we’re now in 2020 it occurs to me that I’ve passed (by several years actually but I never was good at maths) the event horizon, beyond which I’ve been away from school and surviving in the adult world for far longer than I was ever at the place. It’s a heart-warming thought and a reminder to any readers still labouring at the hive of scum and villainy that is the educational coal-face that this too shall pass and you’ll eventually be able to escape. Unless you’re a teacher of course, you poor bastards seem to have a life sentence – my advice is to get your hands on a rock hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth and start burrowing out!
Anyway, I seem to have digressed – back to the rats! Oh and, the “gnaw” of course, is because they’re rats (I’m really not sure this needed all that explaining but I’ve written it now!).
For the model of the chieftain with the battle standard I used the Island of Blood warlord, and I’m pleased by how different he’s ended up looking to the standard version (no pun intended!)
With him done I’ve ended up with a solid line up of Skaven heroes (if such a word can be used in conjunction with the ratmen). Going from left to right we have an Assassin, Warlord, Battle-Standard Bearer, two Cheiftains and two Warlock Engineers.
The third new model for December, and the final addition to the Skaven collection, is the big guy himself; a legend in his own mind – Grey Seer Thanquol and – more impressively as miniatures go – his bodyguard, the regularly rebuilt rat ogre, Boneripper. I’ve been a fan of this model since it appeared during the End Times and once it became clear that I should be able to get the army finished in 2019 I decided to pick it up as a bit of treat. As expected he turned out to be a real joy to paint and looks like a right beast towering over the scurrying unfortunates as they race haplessly to do his diabolical bidding.
As noted, this really is a huge model, towering even over the enormous Stormfeinds and serving as a real centre-piece to the collection. The rat ogres look positively titchy!
They even manage to look hefty next to my beloved Hellpit Abomination.
This means I now have almost all of the special characters available to the Skaven at the time of 8th edition Warhammer so I seized the opportunity to dig them all out and take a group shot.
From left to right we have Queek Headtaker, Deathmaster Snitch, Ikit Claw, Thanquol and Boneripper, Lord Skrolk and Skweel Gnawtooth, leaving me with only two absentees. The miniature for Throt the Unclean, the three-armed Skaven that serves to remind us that genestealer cultists get everywhere, was one of the worst in the range and I still haven’t managed a conversion I’m happy with. Tretch Craventail on the other hand was one of the best but he also passed me by, a lack of disposable funds when he was available meant I never picked him up, and now he goes for a small fortune when he appears on ebay. Hopefully someday GW will hear my plaintive pleas and include him in one of their Made To Order weeks.
Whilst I was writing this I also realised that I’ve never shown off the Skaven vehicle fleet in its entirety so here we have it, all the rickety contraptions a rat could ever wish for.
Anyway, what we all really want to see is the final group shot of the entire army, so let’s get to it. Much as happened when I finished off my one hundred ork boys back in December the area I use for photographing miniatures is just a little bit too small for the whole collection so everything is a bit more crammed together than I’d like. At some point, although it won’t be for a while, I’ll set things up in a larger space and do another post showcasing the whole army (by which time who knows, maybe GW will have gifted us with more rats and the ranks will have swelled yet further).
In total, by 8th edition points, the army comes to 5494 points, which gives me plenty of options should I ever get around to playing with it even in larger games (who knows what the future holds eh?) and, more importantly for me, looks wonderfully imposing on the tabletop.
I’ll not try to build the tension too much but before we see the “finished” army I would like to take a look back at what I started with at the start of 2017.
And here we are now, three productive years further on.
Of course I hope this isn’t going to be the end for the army. My intention is to return to it and add more rats, just as soon as GW get around to releasing more models and refreshing the range. I know I’ve complained about this before (on innumerable occasions) but even our newest models were released almost a decade ago, and most of the range is much older and uglier. Of course it would be a fine thing to see them re-imagined as part of the Age of Sigmar but it would be even better to just see new kits for existing concepts. After all the Skaven were one of the most unique races in the old WHFB setting, far more distinctive of GW’s IP than elves, dwarves or orcs. Just as the Night Goblins range was refreshed with new kits to form the Gloomspite Gits – without giving them very much in the way of models which would be out of place in a WHFB army – so too could fresh life be pumped into the Skaven. Perhaps the Old World project, scheduled for release in three or four years, might see the rats of yore given their place at last. For instance it would be great to see, in no particular order, new versions of;
- Plague Monks – those old models are one of the ugliest things GW has ever produced and need to be done away with desperately.
- Rat Ogres – again, these were looking awful when Island of Blood was released in 2009. The two rat ogres that came in the kit were very nice, and can still be found without too much trouble, but imagine what we could do with a whole new kit for them, akin to the Gloomspite Gits’ trolls. And no, Stormfeinds are awesome but they’re not the same.
- Weapon Teams – again we had them in Island of Blood but let’s release something proper for them. Rats with gattling cannons, what more could anyone ask for?
- Warlock Engineer – one of these was released just last year, as a limited edition, boxset-only pain-in-the-arse-to-get-hold-of. Just stop dicking around and release the blasted thing normally eh GW?
- Skaven Slaves – I know we kinda have these but why kinda have something when we could really have it eh?
- Rat Swarms – really I ought to have a few of these already to burst forth from the Hellpit Abomination thanks to the Too Horrible To Die rule. The currently available models are alright but not sufficiently inspiring that I found myself wanting to part with my hard earned cash. At some point I might pick up some of Anvil Industry’s rat swarms for this purpose instead, and I do already have plenty of spare rats harvested from various Skaven sprues (Thanquol and Boneripper for instance come with a veritable army of them). These latter however I’ve been hanging on to, they’ll be getting used to decorate the bases of my House Cawdor gangers.
…and then we have assassins, night runners, gutter runners, giant rats, jezzails, poisoned wind globadiers, plague censor bearers – even some of which would be enough to satisfy rat fans like myself. Ah well, we shall continue to wait patiently behind the Sisters of Battle and perhaps someday GW will remember about us. After all, at least we have plenty of great looking models to keep us going in the meantime – even if I have now painted them all. Plus, if our new Skaven are anywhere near as nice as the new Sisters have turned out to be it’ll be well worth the wait!
However I don’t want to end on a moan and I have every confidence that GW will get around to these someday – and in the meantime I’ll be patient and carry on enjoying all the other models I already have to paint (and there’s certainly a heap of them to work on too!). After all I’ve no intention of going anywhere and by the looks of things neither do GW so even if it takes another decade I’ll be waiting when the rats emerge at last. An army is often said to never be finished, but for now – these rats are done!