Curse of the Necropolis

Project Complete: The Old World Core Set – Tomb Kings

Like many of these articles, this is a tale that starts during my college years. It was an age of unprecedented gaming in my life. I was primarily a 40k player as far as wargames went, but, there was a lingering want for a Warhammer Fantasy Battle army. 

I had acquired some orcs and goblins from the aborted attempt of Cliff’s brother to get into the game, but they were a truly random mishmash of models. Then the Vampire Counts were snatched away from me, and I am still sore about it. I settled on Dark Elves and made an army. 

I had a playable, if unpainted, collection of Dark Elves when the Tomb Kings were released. Who doesn’t have a thing for the ancient Egypt visuals, and still kinda wanting an undead army. I bought some Tomb Kings. Exactly one metal Tomb King and a squad of Skeletons, which I armed with spears and shields. 

And that was it. I never got any further. 

Many years later I got back to playing WFB but Ryan, having never played a game, had a fully painted Dark Elf army. I wasn’t going to play mine. I tried the orks I owned, but, in 8th ed Fantasy, the Elves were so overbearing. They were so fast, they killed everything before it got a chance to fight. It was oppressive. Didn’t make sense to buy another slow army by expanding my meager collection of Tomb Kings, so I started collecting High Elves. 

I got halfway through gathering  a new army from local stores and eBay when the End Times killed off the game. Over the years since I have given away or traded all but my Dark Elves. And, it turns out, a handful of Tomb Kings models.

Return to the Old World

After trying a few different games, which I didn’t care for, Ryan successfully conned me into playing 40k though a gift of my Orks from the Assault on Black Reach boxset. He has a large painted army now. Yet, he has repeatedly pronounced the fact that he never really wanted to play a futuristic game, as fantasy is his jam. 

Rumors led eventually to a formal announcement of Old World, a return to the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles and square bases upon movement trays. While we were cautiously optimistic for quite a while, we found out that the release was imminent. 

He has been just north of insufferable. But, however long ago it was mentioned and without thought I said, yeah. I would play that. Fuck me. 

Now that shit is literally inbound. I tricked him into playing 40k. Now, in spite of a dozen armies in progress and nearly 3000 unpainted minis, I have to buy into a new game (or back into an old game, depending on your perspective). Goodbye paycheck, fuck off free time, here come the Tomb Kings. 

I still own this book somewhere. Copyright GW

Beginning the Journey

The alarm was set. It shrieked and awoke me in the dead of night. The online shop I have been ordering from had just listed the Old World product for preorder. I put the Tomb Kings launch box, the Ravening Hordes book and the Tomb Kings Arcane Journal in my cart and paid for it. I woke up to prepare for work and discovered that I had paid for the wrong Journal. The correct Arcane Journal was ordered and a request was sent to the eBay seller to cancel the Bretonnian book that I ordered in error: they promptly took care of it.

You know what they didn’t do promptly? Ship my stuff out: of course, it wasn’t their fault. Games Workshop didn’t ship the Old world product on time due to weather or some shit. I don’t know, I was driving to work in a foot of snow, but, whatever. The boxes arrived a week and a half late, and after my mid-week days off, which is of course when I planned to build the army box. 

The Ugly stage, after all the bone was covered in contrast and not even drybrushed yet.

I will tell you that the idea of building the whole army in a day or two was entirely unrealistic. Then again, aren’t most all of my Hobby Goals?

My memory must be going as a middle-aged hobbyist, as I had forgotten how truly terrible mid-2000s models were. I will never complain about over-engineered excessively dense sprues of largely monopose models again. 

Well, this is gonna suck…

A Skeleton Crew

I started with skeleton Horses: these things are miserable. I swear they were designed not to be assembled, but looked at in fear and awe in their wretched horribleness. I wish I was being overly dramatic, but I do not feel that I am. The badly cast knobs that are supposed to help the ribcage stay connected (I assume that’s what they were for an not some inbuilt torture device) in fact made things much harder, and had to be trimmed away before the halves of the dead horse being glued together and then jammed into the dual slottie base. The slots on the base are not actually aligned to the legs, so you have to squeeze them in, likely separating the rib cage that you already spent time swearing at…

What was worse, the bases for the chariots had slots designed to be cut into them but had to be dug out by hand. Once all the horses were built and the plastic glue set, I clipped the plastic extensions that connected the upswept feet to the base. 

thousand sons blue covers like crap over white and needed 3-4 coats to cover well, I no longer look forward to painting those marines…

I built the riders separately, half with spears and the other half with bows. The crew of the chariots were also built separate from the chariot bodies themselves. 

The dread was increasing by the model. It was time to start the infantry. I realized pretty early on that this was going to be mildly unpleasant and needed some pre-thought. And alcohol. 

It took some experimenting, failure, a hobby knife wound and more swearing than average, but I eventually figured it out. I got 20 Spearman, spear-dead-men, spearboners…. I got 20 spears and 16 archers built at the same time. I was on the edge of the precipice when I discovered that I wouldn’t have enough Khemri heads to use those exclusively and needed the generic vampire count skeleton heads as well. 

That’s right. The Tomb King skeleton warriors are literally the Vampire Counts skeleton sprues, with a bonus sprue of bows, quivers, heads and command upgrades. Realizing my near-miatake in time, I managed to save enough ornamented heads for the next batch. For now. I was fuckin done.

The gold took so long to apply, wash, and drybrush around all the other colors, but the results were satisfactory

When it came time to start painting I realized that I had no idea how I was going to go about it, save for the fact that I wanted fast and efficient. So, I wasted a day worth of hobby time watching YouTube. 

The idea of utilizing Contrast Paints, or mostly anyway, was quite tantalizing. I found a not-pure skeleton horde color I liked and just went to town. In one night I got 16 skeleton Horses, 16 riders, 16 archers and 20 spewed wielding warriors bone color. The next night I found two reaper colors that worked perfect: one for drybrush highlights and one for touch-ups. I know, I know, adding a drybrush step is adding time, but, it looks great and is minimum effort. Plus, while I want them done fast, I don’t want to despise them after. 

I have owned this metal guy since college, circa 2005 or so. ick.

What is it about painting bases that makes the model pop out? I literally had one color on the model, but as soon as Steel Legion Drab was applied to the square base, the Skeleton looked great. 

I worked on a unit at a time, first fast cavalry with bows, then the other fast cavalry. Then I painted the archers. I ended up splitting the block of spears in half for batch painting. 

Oh. I totally forgot about the chariots. Those fuckers were miserable. The horses were set into the oblong base. The chariot itself was separate on all three models and so were the two crewmen for each. 

Before I got going I made two demo bases for Kera to pick from, one with modern desert basing material and one with sand from a 20 year old ziploc bag that has moved with me a suspicious number of times to still be inviolable. She chose the Elmer’s glue and sand base. I was quite happy with that; it was only one step separated from Goblin Green bases. 

So I glued sand to the chariot bases, then glued the twisted piece of shit chariots to the boney horse necks and then waited untold eons for them to dry and set solid. Once thoroughly set, I got glue under the wheels without messing up the sand around them and eventually managed to connect the chariot to the bases. Turns out the key ingredient to getting the crew into the chariots well without looking like they are twisted into some strange sex act was the proper application of the mantra “fucking motherfucker” over and over. It worked, so there is that.

But Wait, There’s More

The explosion of dopamine in my skull while airbrush sealing these monstrous minis was cut short by the realization that I was barely half done. Ryan offered to help build during my ranting and raving session during hobby time one night (I was finishing the 2nd half of the Spearman). 

He gave me a hand for an evening after work and got 75% of the way through the 2 units of infantry left. With a few hours the next night with heavy metal blaring through my headphones I was able to get the remaining 36 skeletons built. 

I will probably run one unit in formation…
And a unit or two in skirmish

The necrolith bonedragon was a blessedly modern and well engineered set and it went together easier than anything else in the fucking box. I painted him up the same way as the regular cheap skeletons, just with far more care. The dragon was glued to the dramatic rock and base, but the howdah was separate, and so was the tomb king. 

Sidetracked easily, as usual, I also built three Necropolis Knights and a Necrosphinx, plus trimmed flash off of a few old metal model re-releases. But, after playing a game with the launch box stuff, I realized that the skeleton horde build was not for me and needed to get to work on the big boys to complete my undead egyptian monster mash. Focus Tyson, focus. Over the next week or so I got the rest of the boxset painted. 

Let’s stop here for a moment and take a look at the formulae I used, soup to nuts:

I primed the models with Corax White Spray from Citadel. I cannot locate the video but I got a good bone recipe that consisted of 4 parts Skeleton Horde Contrast, 1 part Bascilicanum Grey Contrast, 1 part Lahmian Medium and 1 part water, and literally covered two-thirds of the boney mother fuckers in one night it was so quick: i could have done more but they were unbuilt. Once that was dry and set, I dry brushed with Leather White from Reaper. Any touch-ups along the way were handled with Desert Sand, also from Reaper, as it did a fine job of touching up the thinned down Contrast paints: especially since I was going to have nearly a hundred of them to deal with.

The riders were painted separately so I was rather thrilled when their bows did not interfere with their mounts.

With the bone part of the army worked out, I set myself upon the task of capturing that wonderfully contrasting warm red and cool blue color and applied it liberally across the army. 

The red of the weapons was Baal red, which went on super quick and covers well. Anywhere a brown contrast showed through, where I made a mistake, or where contrast wasn’t going to be an option (such as over gold) I used Evil Sunz Scarlet. This was highlighted with Scarlett from Vallejo. 

The vibrant blue of the shields and gems was created through Thousand Sons Blue, Washed along edges and recesses with Gryph-charger Grey Contrast and highlighted with Temple Guard Blue, all of which were Citadel colors from Games Workshop. While I was at it, any tomb wrappings I did with the Gryph-charger color as well.

I don’t really wanna think about how much time was invested in these guys to act as a road block and remove from the table hastily

This more or less left metalics. Brassy Brass from Vallejo, aside from being fun to say, is a nice color and applies well, and makes a nice bronze color when Agrax Earthshade from Citadel. I used all citadel paints for the gold, starting with Retributor Armor, washing with Agrax as well, and liberally (ha) highlighting with Liberator Gold to get that cooler gold tone. Over the gold, many gems and designs needed to be painted in. 

I try to condense highlight and touch up to one step, only touching up mistakes that cannot be covered in the highlight step. This saves time and energy, by only repainting a section once. While this has the effect of keeping my models in the ugly stage longer, it hastens the project, and I find myself doing this more and more with army projects. I assure you, it’s worth the time you save and no one will notice when it’s on the game board. 

Extra Helping of Aggravation

There were a few frustration points on this project. Initially, I didn’t even want to invest in another game. Then, when I decided I owed it to Ryan to play, the expensive box I ordered got delayed. The models were less than fun to build. 

The thing that really got me though, even worse than all that above, was that I couldn’t buy models. I literally could not give money to Games Workshop to buy the models they had released. 

So much time invested…
For so few points.

The reason I wanted to build the army back in my college days had a lot to do with the Ushabti, and that was no different this time. But, can I buy them? Nope. Did they release them? Yup. Sold out immediately and online only? Also yup. Two months later, have they come back into stock yet. Fuckin Nope!

I am playing a launch army, one of the two armies released to coincide with the release of the new game. And I literally could not give them money for the shit I wanted.

Sure I got the made to order stuff I wanted, didn’t even take that long considering. And through sheer luck, Ryan was able to grab the Tomb King and generic cards for the game while I was at work. I know many people missed out there, and I am grateful for the help my friends lent me that day. 

They were a lot of work but I am very happy with how they turned out, especially considered that they make 0-1 charges before dying…

Then wave two of preorders went live. I frantically tried to Pay for my order while at work on a busy Saturday and I shit you not. They sold out of the fuckin scorpions I have been waiting on while it was in my goddammed cart. Once again, I want to throw money at them so I can play the army I want. But I can’t. 

What the actual fuck? There should be so much that I can’t figure out what to spend my money on, not gnashing my teeth because I can’t buy shit. This is not how you launch a new game. And, luckily for me, I wanted to play a launch army. I can’t imagine wanting to play another supported force and having no idea when we will see models for that army. And don’t get me started on the legacy armies that will likely get no love at all.

Undead ancient Egyptian flying crocosauras rex


In the end, I am glad I got the Tomb Kings box. I wish it had come at some other time, like in a mythical age that I was less overloaded with unfinished projects. But, that is probably an impossibility. I wasn’t ready to deal with a new game, since I had just started work on the Legions Imperialis box set that I had planned on skipping and the Dark Angels Deathwing Assault launch box had arrived only days later: that should have been my priority. 

I brought my equally undead cat along for the ride.

Before I was really ready, with the rules barely read and full of questions and the half-remembered way of doing things back in 8th edition Warhammer Fantasy, I played a learning game with Ryan. The models were all built but not fully painted. It was a fairly miserable experience, full of misinterpreted rules, blocked moves, and useless skeletons. Skeletons that I didn’t particularly want to use that way, but, as I said, Games Workshop had cock-blocked me from buying the minis I wanted to play with, so I had to play with what I’ve got. The next game will go much better, but, all the frustration came flooding in while failing utterly at the game. I had fun, but, far less than I wanted to.

I let myself get frustrated instead of enjoying the ride. Not sure why. Life’s stress backed up into my hobby like a clogged drain and got shit on my stress-relief. Gross.

I hate playing with an unpainted army… and my Tomb King scenery isn’t printed yet, so I used FEC graveyard terrain

The models are built. The units are painted. They look good on their movement trays and I get to start thinking about ancient Egyptian style terrain and whether I am going to locate STL files to print or Styrofoam to go budget build like it’s 2005 again. 

I lost perspective, I let shit get in the way and added stress to the pile instead of shedding some. I would love to say I learned something here. Enjoy the journey and whatnot, but, I probably didn’t. Best I can hope for is that I will not resent my sandy skeletons and will try to remember to calm the fuck down instead of getting upset with the thing that is supposed to help me through the tough days. 

The whole army box together, minus one Heirophant, ’cause I wanted the Tomb King on the Dragon. I have one, don’t worry…

What’s Next?

Now that the starter set is out of the way, I have a few more toys to build and paint. The made to order Tomb King (I already had one metal King from way-back-when), Priests and Standard Bearers arrived faster than expected: I need one of the priests to be the required Heirophant for the army to keep the dead things animated. I have two Necrosphinx kits and Necropolis Knights box that I am unsure how I want to build and a unit of Tomb Guard to assemble. Plus I managed to order a Screaming Skull Catapult and a Necrotek during the last preorder.

And hopefully Games Workshop will let me finally buy a fuck-ton of Ushabti and a few Scorpions. Hopefully…

Check back here to see how my other projects are coming along.


Obsessive and neurotic collector of little plastic men, novels about the same little plastic men and paints to make the little plastic men pretty. Married to Kera, who puts up with him and pretends that she doesn’t hear him speaking to the little plastic men in between making pew pew noises in the hobby room. Requires adult supervision. A menace to himself but rarely to others. More beard than man

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