Monday, January 23, 2012

The Legion of the Infernal Skull: A (not so) Brief History

I want to start by welcoming all the new readers. A big thanks goes out to Ross and the guys at Tabletop Gaming News for running the news article about my blog. Even though I’m just getting started, readership has jumped up to 91 in only a week! I really appreciate the positive feedback. Comments and questions are always welcome, so please keep ‘em coming.

The Legion of the Infernal Skull

This was my first gaming army, started back in 1997 when Warhammer was in its 5th edition. The army was merely ‘The Undead’ but would later split into Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings. The photo shows literally every finished model I have, although some of them (like the Black Knights at the back and a few of the older character models) don’t see the tabletop anymore. They don’t really match the army’s aesthetic, and my painting has improved so much since then. If I were to bring the entire legion into battle, I would be fielding between 6500 and 8500 points, depending on whether or not I max out the magic items and character upgrades. (Yeeesh! Two-thousand points worth of magic!)

I plan to eventually write about every element in the army, and discuss how the model conversions were inspired and executed, the characters’ histories, etc. This time out I’ll give you an overview of the army and its theme, and talk about the wights.

It all began with one model:


This skeleton, from the 8-man plastic skeleton box (circa 1995), is the first gaming model I had ever painted. I’ve kept this figure in its original state as a little piece of history, but most of his buddies were either sold off or rebased and rearmed.

My initial basing scheme was a mix of ballast and Goblin Green paint, which was a very common style in the old GW photos. I eventually came to the conclusion that the bright green bases were overpowering the model, drawing your eyes to the base, rather than the miniature. I went back over the army and rebased everything with painted sand and static grass.

The Story

One of the things I enjoy most about building miniatures for this army is coming up with the story behind my characters and units. One of the first regiments I had built was a small block of skeletons. The old plastic box came with water slide transfers, one of which depicted a red-hooded wraith…

In those days wraiths could serve as unit champions, so I painted one with red trim to match the icon, and drew up a banner for the regiment. The unit was named The Crimson Reapers, and Korak the Grim was the wraith leading them into battle. The entire unit was equipped with scythes which at that time represented double-handed weapons.

In life Korak was a necromancer known for preying on villagers for his grizzly experiments. Eventually, the village elders discovered his lair and slew him, entombing Korak's body in a barrow mound protected powerful spells. The necromancer lord, Nieman Kimmel, discovered Korak’s tomb and released him to serve as his undead lieutenant. Korak returned to the village where he was defeated, and murdered everyone. As The Crimson Reapers, they are now eternally enslaved to Korak and do the wraith’s foul bidding.

The Crimson Reapers remains one of my favorite units to this day. I’ve always wanted to model a new version of Korak and I think that will be one of my upcoming projects, along with a new Nieman Kimmel figure. Here’s his old one:

Kimmel is one of my oldest Necromancer models. He’s converted from a Necromunda Arch Zealot, with all of the 40K bits cut off or covered. I really dug the book the model was holding, and would usually equip him with The Cursed Book, a magic item which I’m happy to see has remained in the army book through every iteration.

When the first Vampire Counts book was released at the tail end of the 5th edition, and I made the jump from the Undead army, I was still able to field a Necromancer as the army’s general, and that was usually Kimmel. 

Now here’s where a strange thing happens– Over the course of several games his terrible dice rolling led to miscast spells and (on multiple occasions) having his magic ability drained away. Gamers are a superstitious lot, and I’m no exception. I started playing Kimmel less, relying on my other necromancers and vampires to lead the fight, as if there was a power struggle within the army’s hierarchy. I was toying with the idea to make a new model for Nieman Kimmel and reinstate him as my go-to general, but then the 7th Edition army book came out and necromancers could no longer be fielded as the army’s general. I guess the vampires had come out on top! (How were my miniatures able to predict the future?!)

Well, I certainly didn’t want to spend time on a fancy new Necromancer model that could only ever be a level 1 wizard. Instead, I incorporated it into the army’s story. And as the weakened necromancer bided his time, I focused on some shiny new Blood Dragon vampire conversions:

So, now that the 8th edition army book is out and necromancers can once again be fielded as Lord choices and lead the army, I guess I’ll see what Kimmel has planned for me…

The Flaming Skull

I’ve always been a fan of Ghost Rider. The flaming skull is such a striking image I had to incorporate it into my army banners. The first unit to carry the fiery standard was my old unit of skeleton cavalry, which I dubbed the Hellfire Knights.

These were merely skeleton cavalry in the days of the Undead, but when the army formally became the Vampire Counts, the models were bumped up to the status of Black Knights– Mounted wight cavalry.

When I built my first unit of Grave Guard, I wanted to distinguish the wight infantry from mere skeletons and really solidify the appearance of the army. I made the decision to model all the wights with flaming skulls (Wight Kings, Grave Guard, and Black Knights), and I called the army The Legion of the Infernal Skull.

These Inferno Guard were converted from 5 plastic regiment boxes: Skeletons, Empire State Troops, Empire Knights, Dark Elf Warriors, with some Kroot equipment and armor thrown in. Their hellfire is sculpted with modeling putty.

Over the years I’ve added a lot of models to the army, including new Black Knights. These “Mark 2” Hellfire Knights were converted with old Bretonnian caparison steeds, barding clipped away from an Empire horse, and Manfred Von Carstien’s horse head. The riders are made using old metal Chaos Knight legs, metal Armored Skeleton torsos, and the tall shields from the classic Elven Shield sprue. The fiery lances are from a classic Blood Dragon vampire. You’ve got to love the good old days of the GW bits service!

The army's battle standard is carried by a powerful Wight King. This particular banner serves as a centerpiece to the army, and is much more ornate.

I try to incorporate the flaming skull motif into as many elements as possible–

The Balefire on the Corpse Cart:

The wheels and braziers on the Black Coach: (This is all Ghost Rider, here!)

I’ll close out with my newest addition to the army, a unit of 40 Grave Guard, wielding great weapons. They were designed with the Warhammer 8th edition “Horde” rule in mind, the Execution Guard.

The unit is made from the older metal Grave Guard and skeleton parts, with putty flames of course. The axe heads are from Warmachine’s Boomhowler and Co. and the champion’s axe blade came from Madrak Ironhide. I know there’s a special place in hell for people that use cross-company parts, but I really like the scalloped “bat-wing” edge of these axes. I finished these guys up this weekend and they’re ready for battle!

‘Til next time!


  1. Wildly impressive army... and WOW the investment you have in it! I'm jealous ;)

  2. Gotta love the fire wheels of the Black Coach...


  3. Nice use of the skull on the corpse cart from the ones that we made way back when for a Warhammer Promo.

    I've always enjoyed this army and it has been a long time favorite of mine.

    1. Hey Jason! How have you been? I've still got a handful of those skulls, so shoot me an email if you want some. Ah, the good old days. :)

  4. What's wrong with cross-company parts? I bet you got them pretty cheap. :)

  5. I've been a big fan of this army ever since I saw it in the General's Compendium some years back. You don't see too many armies so well fleshed out (heh) and I'm delighted to see more of it here, as I'm a bit of an undead fan myself.

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  7. I am so glad I found this place!
    It's pure pleasure to read about veteran armies - I was starting WFB with 5th edition Undead as well :)


    - Demi -

  8. Hey! Amazing work in this army, congratulations. I have a little question, from which model have you made Dimitri Von Koss??

  9. Thanks a lot! Dimitri is made from the winged vampire, with the head of an older Blood Dragon vampire. The wings on the helmet are the wings from the little bat familiar the winged guy comes with. The breastplate is from the skeleton kit (with the pitted damage filled in). The arm is a plastic hand from somewhere (corpse cart, maybe) and puttied armor.


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