Skaven Night Runners

How long does it take to make a ninja? In the sho3box dojo, over twenty years…

I bought Mordheim on the week of release in 1999, assembled some of the figures, played some quick test games, and then played 3rd ed 40k for years. I sold the Mordheim contents in 2000 to fund a night out, but kept the ninja ratmen, because ninja ratmen are just an appealing concept.

The Eye of Terror campaign (seventeen years ago at the time of writing…). Skaven tail requirements: surprisingly high

In 2003 I ripped all of the tails from the Night Runners and used them as tentacles when assembling mutants for the Eye of Terror, “Lost and the Damned” list. Those tentacled mutants remain unfinished…

In about 2011 I sold all of the fantasy stuff that I had accumulated over the years, including these tail-less Night Runners. In 2012 I bought the tail-less Night Runners back from the guy that I sold them to, because I wanted to turn them into sci-fi ninja ratmen, but I never did.

Carnival of Chaos on Tour

Many years after that, in 2018, I played a game of Mordheim with my Circus of Corruption. It was much more fun than I expected the game to be. Skaven ninja moved up the ranking in my vast to-do list.

Black market skaven tails

But I still didn’t do anything with the neglected Night Runner models. They remained as I had left them in 1999, except that they didn’t have tails. I obtained a small bag of tails from a source, and then nothing continued to happen in the Night Runner department.

And then 2020 happened, so I bought a PS4, on the unlikely premise of it being good for my mental health to socialise via during lockdown. It turned out that in fact it was good for that. The online Mordheim campaigns that we played over the last couple of months were fun, and all of a sudden ninja ratmen were all I could think about. So I made a plan.

Ratman ninja. Fun concept, not good to know personally.

Firstly, I finished my Warhammer Underworlds: Spiteclaw’s Swarm set that had been half painted since release in February 2018.

Spiteclaws Swarm, L to R: Hungering Skaven, Lurking Skaven, Skritch Spiteclaw, Krrk the Almost-Trusted, Festering Skaven.

The next step in the development of the Paw Clan was to get enough of them ready to be used as gnoll proxies in the first few Rangers of Shadow Deep scenarios, while also keeping an eye on the requirements for a Mordheim warband. Completing enough figures for the Mordheim band will be part of a future step, connected with some parallel additions to make the force ready for other games.

Night Runner martial arts styles are many and varied, including “Crouching Lampost” shown on the left.

Skaven miniatures suffer a little from arriving on the scene almost perfectly formed. Every miniature released since the 1980s has had to compare with the original Jes Goodwin sculpts. That’s a tall order.

“Dirtbag” from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line.

These Night Runners and the other late 90s skaven plastics are not really well liked. They are quite cartoony, with seriously big feet and hands and a Disney Pluto or Goofy aspect to their faces. I can see why various design elements would bother people.

Clan Eshin Slingshot

Those issues don’t really bother me much. I have my modular plastic ratman ninja kits and I still get a kick out of them like I did when I saw them first. They may not be perfect, but they are fun.

The censer bearer on the left was added because I needed a distinct figure in the force for use in a Rangers of Shadow Deep scenario. That was a fun old classic to paint after so many years.

Ratman casualties from the “Fatal Fantasy” Kickstarter

I added this casualty marker – from the Fatal Fantasy Casualty Miniatures range to this painting batch, as it seemed like a good time to get it finished. I feel like the painting on the ratmen is too similar in tone to the base to stand out enough, which is a shame. I might go back to them and try to make them more distinct. Maybe.

9 to 1, just the kind of odds that the Paw Clan Night Runner Sewer Squad can get behind…

More skaven to come.

20 Responses

  1. What a glorious trail of thoughts.

    I love what you have done with these old plastics. I always found them rather helpless. But I see now that I wrong.

    How come you rarely show images from games? I love that stuff.

    Oh and the mordheim computer game – is it like the war game?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed my rambling Dr!

      The old Night Runners are a little goofy, but they have a playful toy-like element that I enjoy. There is a undeniable little bit of plain old nostalgia too.

      I have some images from games coming up in a post soon 🙂
      Generally I try not to disrupt my games with photography too much. Too much emphasis on that can spoil the game itself I find.

      This links to the photos of “Games in progress” on this blog, if you want to check back through a few
      https://sho3box.com/category/games-in-progress/

      The Mordheim video game is turn based. It isn’t exactly like the old wargame mechanically speaking, but it has the right look and feel. The game isn’t brilliant – it has some design issues and a couple of bugs that cause problems in multiplayer – but it is quite good fun for anyone who has enthusiasm for the setting.

      How the ruined city itself is displayed is nice, ripe for plundering for tabletop terrain projects.

      Like

  2. Awesome – I love how these ideas never die, though they may lie dormant for a wee while 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is funny how that happens Alex, but I suppose that after a lifetime of this stuff, some these and ideas are eventually going to resurface no matter what.

      The main thing for me is that I enjoy the process, rather than let it get me down. And unless I happen to be facing some real life version, how could goofy rat ninja ever bring me down really?

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an almost overwhelming feast of visual content! I wonder if the long gestation period has allowed all sorts of refinement to happen, so that you have ended up with the very best interpretation of those original Mordheim skaven – possibly because you’ve been able to look at them with a modern lens and take cues from the Underworlds skaven as much as the vintage Jes sculpts?

    Either way, it’s a fun, varied yet integrated group, irrespective of the era of the models. It sort of surprises me that the recent dynamic models sit happily alongside the modular plastics and the statuesque 1986 censer bearer. But perhaps it shouldn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would love to think that the long gestation made the finished product better, but the time between the start and finish of the project has changed how I approach these things quite a lot really. I’m definitely more interested in turnover now than individual quality for example.

      I don’t know if I really push concepts and themes as much as I once did, for the same, quantity over quality based reasons. For what its worth, I think that I enjoyed working on these more than I would have back then. I try to work smarter, not harder these days.

      As for era compatibility , I generally pay as little attention to that sort of thing as I can. With a few exceptions I’m happy to mix miniatures from any source together. As far as I am concerned, unified colour and basing schemes – some of the “faces and bases” principle – and most the differences in eras fade away on the tableto (particularly in the case of non-humans). Even better, the variety helps me to keep interested in painting a project and provide a more interesting visual texture when seen in game induced vignettes during play.

      Which all sounds very arty-farty, but basically I think that it’s possible to get away with an awful lot more than most people assume when mixing miniature eras and manufacturers.

      Thanks for the feedback Axiom!

      Like

  4. > 21 years

    > tails off

    > tails on

    > Black market skaven tails

    > “Funky Wenis Rodeo”

    This post was a wild ride, that’s for sure. In the end, though, your beastly clan look fantastic, and your photos here really complement their grimy, vicious character!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that you like the miniatures Al, that’s the main thing after all 🙂

      I can take credit for the wandering blog post, but not for the Funky Wenis Rodeo, much as I would like to. Do yourself a favour and have a read of the old posts some day, it will certainly generate a few giggles.

      Like

  5. These posts are so good, they capture so much of the essence of the hobby. The skaven ninja project definitely has appeal, and combining them with your TMNT (or the censored TMHT) is a winner too. The 1999 references were a fun reminder of time, mortality and inevitable decay as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Reminding people of mortality and inevitable decay” should have been my middle names (and it’s definitely going in my Tinder profile…).

      I suppose that the essence of this (and I assume many other) hobby is often a case of very many projects, of which only a few make it over the finish line. Why some projects make it and some do not is complex, and the goalposts inevitably shift.

      While my core motivations for finishing these figures is fundamentally the same as it was in 1999 – to enjoy the creative process and to play fun games with friends via the little guys – how I go about those things, how I measure success/failure with them and all sorts of other elements are entirely different. I suppose the appeal of a post like this to me, is to use evil ninja ratmen as a constant to assess some elements of the last twenty plus years against.

      Which is inevitably at least a little amusing, assuming that I spare people too much of the boring detail…

      Thanks for the feedback Mikko!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Woah, what a journey! I have to say I have tons of minis in the middle of this very process, it’s so comforting to know that there’s still hope for me! 😀
    Really cool work on these, you got quite a lot-lot of rat-rat things!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that you like them Suber 🙂

      I do try to rationalise my hobby work patterns from time to time, and a little bit of that is definitely worth doing. But too much emphasis on efficiency can suck the joy out of things too.

      I paint these little guys for fun. It’s not a job. As a result, I’m ok with a haphazard, organic approach to production 🙂

      Like

  7. That is a hell of a tale, or possible tail. I really love Skaven ever since the first White Dwarf I picked up in 1992 (issue 130 if I remember well) and although I enjoy the character of those earliest sculpts I think that I prefer the later one with slightly less comical hands and noses.

    Your painting of these Night Runners is terrific and it’s really charming to see that they’re finally in use after 20 years in boxes. What makes them Night Runners rather than Gutter Runners?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The skaven have always been an appealing concept to me, ever since I first saw them. The range of miniatures and themes to pick from is large too, with ninjas, technomages, monsters, rotting religious zealots etc that there is loads of room to find what appeals and run with that.

      It is a kick to get them finished and on the table after such a wait. I’m enjoying the project a lot.

      Night Runners are apprentice Gutter Runners.

      I’m not certain when Night Runners became part of the lore, but I think that it was when Mordheim came out. The Mordheim “Night Runners” box – where these miniatures came from – was the first time that I recall seeing the term, but I’m no WHFB buff. At the time I suspected that Night Runners came about because the Clan Eshin troop types needed to be broken down a little more in order to create different troop types in the Mordheim list. The “Night Runners” are essentially the equivalent of “Youngbloods” in the other warbands or “Juves” in Necromunda gangs.

      It practical terms, there has never been a plastic Gutter Runner set, so that creates an obvious distinction too, although I suspect that there will be more plastic Citadel rat ninja over the next few years.

      Thanks for the feedback Argentbadger!

      Like

  8. I always enjoy well painted sculpts like these Mordheim rats that probably weren’t at the top of their range and see them integrated into today’s forces. I still don’t really understand what that “massive hands” phase at GW was all about.

    The Mordheim video game was a major motivation for me to start collection appropriate terrain (cobblestone mat and 4Ground buildings) which I eventually ended up using in Frostgrave a few times. The thought of painting up some Mordheim gangs with assorted figures from my bits boxes is still haunting my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I try to focus on the available and the possible, rather than lament imperfections. The Night Runners miniatures are fun, easily enough fun for me to enjoy assembling and painting, despite some of their faults. I like them.

      I picked up a cobblestone mat and some MDF buildings a few years ago after playing a fun Mordheim game in 2018, but they languished until recently. The video game has inspired me to work on the project again, although the direction that I have taken with terrain is different now. I will push the terrain direction a little away from the classic Mordheim tudor (?) architectural vibe, to tie it in with the various other pieces of fantasy terrain that I have and have plans for. I want it all available to work for Warcry, Frostgrave, Rangers of Shadow Deep etc too.

      As for prepping Mordheim warbands, there is no reason why those warbands cannot do double or triple duty in Frostgrave, Warcry etc too, with a little bit of planning. As small projects that scratch the landsknecht itch, or the undead itch or whatever, why not? Loads of fun to be had.

      Thanks for the feedback Subedai!

      Like

      • Putting together forces from what’s available, assuming one has a miniature hoard built up over the last decades, is indeed a pleasurable and rewarding experience. I appreciate every miniature as being part of my hobby history, and the wider history of the wargaming hobby itself.

        I haven’t played Rangers of Shadow Deep yet (or the wilderness expansion of Mordheim for that matter) but find such settings very appealing. At the moment I am quite happy being in army completion mode, which at the same time does also provide a good stock to pick from when assembling smaller forces for skirmishy games. That is, if I don’t decide to start entirely new projects for those because of reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I often jump from project to project. I get more done if I work on things that stimulate at that time. Forcing myself to work on something because I need to finish that figure/unit/army etc works sometimes, but I have to be careful that it doesn’t kill my hobby enthusiasm altogether, so if jumping from project to project helps, then I do it.

          The same applies to you completing armies Subedai. If that is what is working for you, then why change it?

          I hope that you try RoSD, it is a fun way to play a few games with mates. Someone described it to me as “If an RPG is football, Rangers is the highlights reel after the news”. Having a painted army (or armies in your case) to theme the bad guys around is definitely useful, but it also gives the excuse to paint a handful of that X or Y type of miniature that you might never get around to a full force of, which is also fun.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. […] Skaven Night Runners […]

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