A while ago I become obsessed with the Yu’Vath – a long-dead Chaos-worshipping alien empire with a penchant for corruption, sorcery, and warp-based technology. They all got bumped off (supposedly…) a few thousand years ago, their empire long in decline as they had fallen to the worst of their perversions and excesses.
The only thing that remains of them are their undiscovered facilities, filled with strange technology and powerful guardians animated by warp-sorcery. The perfect Cthulhu/Necromantic crossover that can spook a 40k RPG group that thinks they’ve seen all the universe has to offer!
They originally appeared in the Rogue Trader RPGs, and I was so hooked by a particular enemy that I knew I had to assemble them. That enemy has yet to surface in any of my photos, but what I did end up with was a box of skeletons that was just begging to be turned into skeleton warriors.
Box o’ bones
I ordered a wholesale lot of cheap plastic skeletons, which came to less than a fiver including shipping (2017 was a wild time).
They came in this charming box of pepper sachets, which excitingly enough, still contained a single sachet.
Holy moly that was a lot of skeletons. It was at this point that the thought struck me to make more than one project out of these lads – even the most elaborate construction wouldn’t use up as many skeletons as there were here.
“Why not a bunch of giant skeletons?” asked my professional degree-worthy creative genius.
Building a bunch of giant skeletons
It wasn’t obvious from the pictures when I ordered them, but these skeletons are big lads. They’re easily 54mm scale rather than the traditional 28/32mm of regular 40k miniatures, which was a pleasant surprise. It meant they were the perfect scale for any skeletal Inquisitor shenanigans.
I was impressed at the variety of poses too, and despite them being obviously very goofy, I could have a variety of weapons and armour to keep any encounters interesting.
At the time I didn’t have enough round 40mm bases to mount them on, but I had loads of square bases from my time with Warhammer Fantasy in the early noughties. A big square base inset with a smaller one gave the perfect statue plinth look, and when attached at a jaunty angle, the skeletons looked like they were stepping off the plinth and coming to life, Jason and the Argonauts-style.
It has to be said that these are probably the worst miniatures I have ever worked with. Obviously I’m getting exactly what I paid for, but I’m still allowed to be mad.
They were covered in mould lines and connection points, and the plastic was some awful cheap stuff that was too hard to scrape clean but too soft to file down, so they all ended up with these horrid jaggedy marks around them where I couldn’t be bothered to clean them up any more. Not only that, but nothing seemed to stick to them, even when pinned down, I had to bathe their feet in superglue to keep them attached to the base.
The bases got a light smothering of the new (at the time) textured paints to break up the monotony of the classic WHFB square base texture.
I cleaned up what I could be bothered with, knowing that I’d get diminishing returns on something I paid a few pennies per model for, and gave them a blast with some grey primer.
I did mention they were tall, right?
Painting the skeletal horde
The painting scheme for these guys was minimum viable product – I had a game lined up with them in a few days, so they just needed to be game-ready. They weren’t going to win any beauty awards, so they just needed a wash, a drybrush and to pick out key areas.
The recipe was simple – wash them with Nuln Oil over their black primer, then a drybrush of grey, with a lighter drybrush of lighter grey.
I rejected the classic boney skeleton look as I wanted these to be made of stone rather than the skeletons of some huge 10-metre race of humans.
The metal sections were a mid gold colour and a liberal application of another technical paint I hadn’t really experimented with, Nihilakh Oxide, to get that lovely tarnished effect. The Oxide was applied liberally, then roughly wiped off the raised areas with my big sausage fingers.
Once they were done, I felt like they were missing something. Of course they looked cheap and cheerful, but they didn’t look spooky enough. I toyed with the idea of giving them classic glowing eyes, but that just didn’t feel right.
I wanted to give them an other-worldly glow and the chest cavity seemed like a great place to start. It my first time experimenting with Object Source Lighting (OSL), and at the time I feared that I had overdone it, but on reflection I don’t think I went far enough! The purple is very subtle, and I wanted a more powerful and obvious glow to it.
Whereas traditionally for undead constructs you would remove the head or destroy the brain, I wanted to slightly subvert that for these guys. Our Voidmaster has become an expert at headshots, and I wanted him to have to put a moment’s thought into the encounter when realising that it doesn’t immediately work.
I figured whatever sorcerous artefacts are powering these constructs, they are doing so from centre mass. I made an effort to explain how they were glowing from the chest cavity, and how blowing off their arms and legs didn’t seem to bother them at all. Even when their heads were removed they seemed to unerringly detect the players, as though the creatures that created them didn’t know or didn’t care about the function of the humanoid body, it only mattered that it looked like a terrifying visage of death to them.
The story began to build around that – these were not Yu’Vath, nor were they created by them. They implemented Yu’Vath technology, but they were build by some humanoid race in thrall to the Yu’Vath empire out of fear, necessity, or both. Why were they built? Who built them? These were all exciting questions outside the scope of our Rogue Trader game, they only needed to exist to build a bigger picture of a wider universe, and reiterate how small our characters were in it.
All in all I’m very happy with how they came out! For a project that was technically part of a different project’s budget, I’ve got some nice tropey villains that work at any scale and can be inserted into a game without much effort. Chuffed!