In which Jamie relates the tale of how his Flesh-eater Courts warband came to be, and his process for converting ghouls and ghasts.
Back to the World That Was
The story of my Flesh-eater Courts warband can be traced back a long way. Cast your mind back to the days before Warhammer Age of Sigmar launched. The End Times were in full swing, and after two decades of intermittent hobbying I'd finally decided that the time was right for me to build a full, playable army.
I was inspired by the stories, characters and settings in The End Times: Nagash, and being a big fan of both the undead and the glorious heraldry of Bretonnia I decided to combine the two. Mine would be an army of undead Bretonnians - mouldering skeletons bearing shields emblazoned with a myriad of colors and heraldic symbols, alongside grubby, zombified men-at-arms. I managed to painstakingly build and paint one unit of skeletons before the World That Was exploded and the basis of my army theme was cast into the celestial void.
I was disheartened, but also excited for whatever would come next. When Age of Sigmar launched I threw myself into it wholeheartedly, still determined that I'd finally paint up a complete army for Warhammer (3 years later and I almost have a 2000 point army finished, but that's another story!). I dabbled with collecting Khorne Bloodbound for a while, but when the Flesh-eater Courts battletome emerged I was inspired.
The Dark Allure of the Flesh-eater Courts
Here was a concept that fused all the morbid horror of the undead with the heraldic finery of lost Bretonnia - and in a spectacularly original and gory fashion. I lapped up every piece of lore in the book. On the strength of the writing alone it remains my favourite battletome to this day, and the high watermark for stylishly reimagining a Warhammer Fantasy faction for Age of Sigmar.
My only issue was the models - to be blunt, I didn't like them. There's nothing wrong with them, but they're too plain and homogeneous for my tastes. They also didn't reflect the change in their background lore, with no evidence of their delusions of chivalry and courtliness visible on the models. To me, this was fantastic news. Why? Because now I had a tasty hobby challenge, and a blank canvas on which to envision the Flesh-eater Courts in whatever way I liked. This army is a converter's dream.
My original inspiration for converting the Flesh-eater Courts to appear as they see themselves came from a brief discussion between Dan and Wayne on the Heelanhammer podcast (sadly now retired). Specifically, they talked about depicting the Flesh-eaters somewhere between how they see themselves (noble knights and stoic soldiery) and how they actually look (blood soaked troglodytes). The best of both worlds! I already had a Bretonnian battalion box sitting around largely untouched from back when I was planning an army of undead Brets, plus various even older Bretonnian plastic bits I'd acquired from elsewhere, so I set to work converting a unit of ghouls and a Crypt Ghast Courtier to lead them.
Converting the Crypt Ghouls
I used men-at-arms bodies as the basis for the ghouls, cutting off and discarding the lower legs. I then snipped off the lower legs from the ghouls kit and glued them in place. The the men-at-arms stand upright whereas the ghoul's legs are posed in a crouching gait, which made it difficult to cut the legs straight or at a point that wouldn't look odd. Not all of my attempts were as successful as I would have liked - you can see that some of my ghouls are comically short, and some appear to be leaning at an awkward angle. As a group though it's less noticeable.
The arms also presented a minor issue, as the men-at-arms' sleeves cover the top half of the arm and are moulded to the torsos. Their neck cowls also overlap the shoulders, so removing the sleeves completely and replacing them with a complete ghoul arm would have entailed a lot of reconstruction work that I wanted to avoid. I decided to snip the ghoul's forearms off just before the shoulder joint and glue them into the sleeves. This limited the poses that I could achieve, but I was still pleased with the results.
Finally we come to the heads. Unfortunately men-at-arms torsos don't come with a neck, and neither do the ghouls’ heads. I improvised the necks by chopping off and filing down the shoulder joints from the ghoul kit. In hindsight it would have been easier to just use green stuff, but once I'd done one this way I felt that the others had to be the same.
The Crypt Ghast Courtier
When it came to the Crypt Ghast Courtier, he needed a little something extra to stand out from the rabble. Every self respecting Death player knows that a big hat is the ultimate symbol of authority, so that's what I went with. The lower half of the hat is a men-at-arms helmet, and the upper half is taken from a Bretonnian knight of the realm helmet. The Crypt Ghast Courtier holds a half eaten corpse with its innards and discarded scraps spilling onto a charnel heap on the floor. Using green stuff, I added a string of ligament or intestine dangling from the courtier's mouth to create some extra visual interest. Finally, I glued all the models onto resin bases that are meant to suggest the floor of a ruined banqueting hall or throne room, a remnant of the long dead civilisation that the flesh-eaters have displaced.
Painting the Models
At last the conversion work was complete, and it was time to start painting. I wanted a very limited and muted colour palette to create a stark sense of grimness and horror that would contrast with the darkly comic look of the models. I chose a pale, unhealthy tone for the skin, cream and dark brown for the cloth, verdigris copper for the metals, and a liberal splash of Blood For The Blood God for contrast. I finished the models with Forge World weathering powder to give them a dirty, grimy look.
I was very happy with the results, but the conversion work had taken a lot of time and effort - too much effort to replicate across a whole army in a single human lifetime, but that hadn't quite dawned on me yet. I was still planning a whole raft of army-wide conversions, but something was about to happen that would make me reassess my plans. I wasn't destined to build a whole Flesh-eater Courts army, but the most interesting and ambitious conversions were still to come.
Click here to continue to Part 2, in which The Ravenous Pilgrims get their harrowing backstory, and are joined by two very unsavoury characters - the Witchsmeller Accusant and the Knight of Deceasium.
Why not start your own Flesh-eater Courts warband by ordering your models from Element Games with a substantial discount on the recommended retail price. Ordering from Element Games via this link helps keep the light of Azyr shining on the Realm of Plastic.
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