Monday, March 27, 2023

The Skaven Pirate Fleet

Twenty-three years later, the Skaven fleet resurfaces! Time to dust off the decks, load up the crews, and take a look at the ships I made for the 2003 General's Compendium:


The General's Compendium was a supplement for 6th Edition Warhammer Fantasy. It had a ton of content for campaign battles, sieges, and ship battles on the high seas. My Skaven pirate ship was featured in the book, but I made two other barges that were never photographed.


If you want to see more about the large pirate ship, check out my post from 2013– Skaven Pirate Ship. This post is going to focus on the rowing barges and other features of the fleet. I wasn't kidding when I said I needed to dust off the decks– For the last 10 years, the pirate ship has been collecting dust on top of my bookshelf while the barges have been safely packed away. Yikes, look at that!



With a soft brush, a vacuum, and a little elbow grease, however, I was able to get everything shipshape.



Well, almost everything. The rubber bands I used for the belts on the paddle wheel were already dried and deteriorating when I wrote about this 10 years ago. Now, they have completely crumbled apart. I'll have to pick off the remaining bits and replace them with some styrene strips that will stand the test of time.



The barges are designed to be troop carriers, with plenty of deck space for a regiment of Clanrats or Plague Monks. Using the Compendium rules, the pirate ship is a steam-powered ship, and the barges are rowed vessels. 



The main body of the barge was built from a 1-inch layer if insulation foam, with a more foam stacked up at the stern and the bow. That basic frame was covered with cardboard and basswood, and details were added from all manner of model kits and accessories.



The oars were made from thin wooden dowels, with a wooden paddle fit over the end.



The oars peg into holes on the side of the boat. Having them removable is handy for storage, and allows them to come off if some of the rowing crew are killed. 



For the crew, I used the models pushing the classic metal Warp Lightning Cannon. Their handles match up with the oar positions to appear as though they are holding the oars extending through the hull. I used Warmaster bases cut in half, and trimmed to look like planks of wood so they will match up nicely with the deck of the ship.



I had 32 rowers in total, but over the years, their number has dwindled. I used two to make my scratch-built Doomflayers (You can check these out in the post: Scratch-Built Skaven Doomflayers), and two others are missing and I have no idea where they ended up.



I also built a "taskmaster" for each boat, to motivate the crew. These originally had matching wood plank bases, but have since been re-based and drafted into my main army as Packmasters.


"Row-row, you mangy sea-rats!"


The mantlets on either side of the barge fold down to protect the crew and allow easier model placement during boarding actions.



The bow was tipped with a metal Skaven battering ram from the classic range of siege equipment. Perfect for ramming other vessels.



I covered the sides of the ship with all manner of Skaven iconography, including Jezzail pavises, and trophy shields.



The steps up to the command deck were made from basswood. I added some cargo but left plenty of open space for models.



I picked up the ship's wheel at the hobby shop– It's a metal component intended for "regular" model ships. I don't think the pile of scrolls with the rat is a GW component. (Maybe Reaper or Ral Partha? It's been a while.) It was perfect for representing a pile of charts and maps.


Each of the barges has a mast up front, topped with a wooden Skaven emblem.



I think this book came in the same pack where I got the scroll pile. I think it was a "wizard's library set" or something... Now I'm curious to see if I can track down their origin.


Edit: Thank you to joe5mc in the comments for confirming that the scrolls and book are from the "Magic Treasures III" set from Reaper's Dark Heven Legends!



To track damage to the vessels, I made some overboard Clanrats in with life preservers. They were sculpted with putty over a 25mm round base, and the ropes were made from thin twisted floral wire. I painted stylized numbers around the preserver, and the upper torso of a Clanrat is pinned in the center so he can spin around and point at the number of damage points the ship has suffered.



Here's a look at the entire fleet, its decks loaded with Skaven eager for plunder!



When I was digging out the Skaven barges, I also uncovered my Vampire Counts boats. These were made from small wooden rowboats I found at the craft store. I popped out the benches, and added the rear deck and other details. The steering wheel is from the classic Undead skeleton chariot wheels, and the dragon skull at the prow is from the old metal zombie dragon. (No, not Zacharias' zombie dragon, the older one!)



Regrettably, their masts and sails have been lost to the ages, but you can see what they used to look like in these images from the General's Compendium:



This has been a nice trip down memory lane. Maybe I'll play out a ship battle while I have everything unpacked and set up...

'Til next time!


  1. The scrolls and books are from Reaper. The Magic Treasures III set. I just used them as treasure tokens in a game this past weekend.

  2. Wow that's really cool! Miss the days of GW encouraging making stuff like this.

    1. There's still a lot of great content out there, but this era was the pinnacle of epic-scale battles. I miss being able to stage a *proper* castle siege. :(

  3. Simply awesome. I remember the General's Compendium and this is the kind of thing that I envision when I think about classic Warhammer.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I just hope The Old World is able to scale up to the sprawling battles we were able to have in Fantasy. But I think AoS would work well with the boat rules because of its skirmish format.

  4. Impressive... Congrats!!! My own galley in 28mm for Estalians is comming!!! ;)

  5. Lovely, and man, that Compendium is a great book. Exactly the sort of spirit that I appreciate about wargaming, and with such great eye candy too.

    1. Thank you! Looking through the Compendium is indeed a nice trip down memory lane.

  6. That is so awesome! Golden days of Warhammer. :) I especially like the fact that you can actually fit whole units into the ships. And the slave rowers are just perfect! :D

    1. Thank you! It was a lot of fun thinking up crazy, creative stuff back then. (Still is!)

  7. I must say, the General's Compendium is one of my, if not the most, favourite WFB books. So glad to see the other skaven ships!

    1. Thanks! That book was really great and I'm happy I was able to contribute to it. :)

  8. I remember this from White Dwarf, I use the compendium rules for mordheim


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