A reader contacted me recently, asking about some models he'd seen in an old White Dwarf supplement featuring zombie pirates. The issue in question was #306, and it had an army list for the Zombie Pirates of the Vampire Coast. When I was working for GW's US promotions studio, we were tasked with inventing some ideas for the zombie pirate units and modeling up conversions to be photographed for the magazine. I've held onto the models all these years.
Thanks to Remi Oliveras for getting me to dust these guys off and take some proper detail shots. Enjoy!
The zombie pirate army is led by the vampire Luthor Harkon, but his captains are similar to wight kings. This ancient mariner was modeled up with an albatross around his neck, and leads his crew from their watery grave.
The base model is the Red Gobbo. I clipped away most of the model so only the coat and left hand remain. The captain's right hand and pistol are from the Regiment of Reknown, Long Drong Slayer's Pirates and the cutlass is from a plastic Talisman miniature. I think the legs are from a Kislev Kossar. I used a plastic Tomb Kings skull with a sculpted eye patch and the Mordheim Highwayman's hat. The treasure chest is an ammo case from the Dogs of War regiment Bronzino's Galloper Guns. His albatross (a falcon from the Wood Elf Skaw the Falconer) adds a characterful detail and helps hide the 40K bits and leg join underneath.
These were inspired by the Skaven two-man weapon teams. The zombie crewmen are armed with small swivel guns, which they would normally fire from the deck of the ship, but occasionally take ashore in a landing party.
Most of the parts are from the plastic zombie kit, mixed with the old Empire Free Company regiment. The hats are from the old Halfling infantry models (specifically Halfling with Spear #2) and the Mordheim Highwayman. A lot of the spare pistols are from Long Drong Slayer's. It took some digging on the Stuff of Legends site to find it, but I think the orcy-looking zombie on the far left was made from the model "Kand-Meet" from Citadel's 1986 zombie range. It's just his head and torso, with a Highwayman's hat on his head. The two small swivel guns are Implacable Steam Tank pivot guns and the larger is one is a cannon from Bronzino's Galloper Guns.
The idea behind this unit is that Fell Bats would ferry a zombie boarding party over to an enemy ship. I built the models with pistols in the hope that they might have a ranged attack or make a single shooting attack while charging, but that didn't make it into the final draft of the rules.
The figures themselves are Fell Bat models with Genestealer claws for their feet. (If I were making these today, I'd sculpt better looking bat claws.) The zombies in their clutches use most of the same parts mentioned above, and they're pinned into the pilings. The pilings are wooden dowels wrapped with twisted wire for the ropes. Considering they have giant metal bats on top, they are surprisingly well balanced!
This is a shot of the prototype Deck Dropper I made. It was quickly put together, and doesn't have the same amount of flair as the others, but you can see the components that were used.
He was in a bag of parts, which includes things like pistols and hats, and a couple of metal banshees that I was planning to paint up like drowning victims to make some Syreens. But alas, I never expanded the army beyond these seven models. They've got a place on my shelf and remain a treasured piece of history.