Thursday 11 February 2021

The Skaven of My Youth

I guess it was 1989, when my family drove up to Gaithersburg, Maryland to visit my mother’s parents. The journey must have been a long one, crammed in the back of a 5-seater with my sisters, in a car with no air-conditioning. But I knew it was going to be worth it. We planned to explore Washington, D.C., including a trip to the National Air & Space Museum. Even better, I had  discovered that there was a Games Workshop store in a mall nearby, and my parents had agreed to take me.

I had never been to a Games Workshop store before. These were the days when they first came to the USA, and there weren’t many of them about. But I bought White Dwarf sometimes, and I guess I found the address in there.

I must admit, I don’t actually remember going to the store – but I remember what I brought home (or at least back to my grandparent’s place!). I had the Skaven army book and a box of the original Skaven plastics. For the rest of the trip, I poured over that book. I read it cover-to-cover, planned my armies, and noted specific miniatures I wanted to buy. For a while, I dreamed rat-filled dreams.

As it turned out, I was too young to build a miniature army. I didn’t have the attention span, the finances, or the painting ability required. I gave up on the project before I had ever really started, but I never completely forgot this early, fantasy army love. I made another attempt, some fifteen-to-twenty years later, but again, never got past paint the first unit.

Well, times have changed. (Boy, have they changed). My finances have improved. My painting skill has vastly improved, and my attention span… we’ll, I'm still working on that one. Perhaps more importantly, I now have a mass battle fantasy game I actually play – my own Oathmark rules. So, I have decided it is time to once again try and create my chittering hordes!

In aid of this, I ordered a copy of that original Skaven army book off ebay. Meanwhile, a friend sent me a pile of assembled, but unpainted, Skaven plastics to get me started.

After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided I’ll base all of my skaven on standard GW 25mm round bases. These can be put into movement trays to use for Oathmark, will be based appropriately should I ever want to play Age of Sigmar, and will look good if I use them in skirmish games. Oddly, the only game they won’t officially work in is Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the game for which they were originally created – as technically they should be on 20mm squares. Still, should it ever come up, I think I can make it work.

Now, some might be asking – does this mean there will be ratmen rules for Oathmark? No, not officially. Ratmen don’t really belong in the Marches. That said, I’ve decided to take a two-pronged approach to the army. Whenever I paint a unit, I’m going to select a unit in Oathmark that they can map to (so clanrats can just be golbins), so that I can play the game straight. I’m also going to come up with my own rules, just for fun, should anyone want to play me with those.

Those following my blog might note that this makes the 3rd!!! army I’m working on at the moment (along with my Imagi-Nation and my Lost and the Damned). It’s a pretty big ask to work on three armies at the same time, but really, I’m not in any huge rush on any of them – it’s not like I’ve got any games scheduled! More importantly, I’m having fun building all these different armies, and since that is the only reason I’m doing any of it, I don’t think any other reason is necessary!

I’ll let you all know how I get on!


  1. Ratmen? What ratmen? I fear that rumour about a plague of rats has been greatly exaggerated. There are no such things as Skaven...

  2. Great story, and as far as my attention span goes I’ve gone from painting up a couple figures for Rangers of Shadowdeep to Adeptus Titanicus, and then ooh shiney, I painted up Director Krennic for Star Wars Rouge One, and now waiting for the plumber to finish so I can go back to my painting table to ah, er, focus on completing what I started. What was it I started again? Lol 😂

  3. Great idea. I bought the Spire of Dawn set a couple of years ago ( basically a re-packaging of the Island of Blood set) and I'm painting the Skaven Army and High Elves up for some fierce fights in the Oathmark world!

  4. If my Mordheim Witch-hunter band with their Marienburger mercenary coterie come across any of your rat-folk scum, you better watch out - until you get your whole army done, that is, at which point WE'LL be scampering in the other direction with our proverbial tails between our legs!

  5. I love Skaven. Their story was the first one I ever fell in love with in WHFB. I was actually working on a couple units in the last week or so, both painting and rebasing. Have fun!

  6. Lovely childhood story! I remember in the 90s, we made a family trip to Vienna (or maybe Salzburg?), and there I saw a GW store. I was mesmerzied, but had to realize quickly, that the price tags were not made for east-european wallets... 30 years later, the prices are still not really for me, but thanks god, there are a lot of other companies, so we (as family) have now 300+ miniatures for Frostgrave, Rangers of Shadow Deep, Oathmark and Necromunda.
    I hope that You will write here about your skaven rules!

  7. Let the Chittering commence! Let the King Under the Streets arise!

  8. You could probably even use them in Realm Quest.

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  10. Plastics? Hah! I was born in 1971, and the first long-distance solo drive I made after getting my license was to what I believe was the first GW store in the US, located in Laurel MD if memory serves me correctly.

    All these years later, I feel like I'm still chasing that late 80's/early 90's GW feeling.

    But for me, that Skaven army would have to be all metal. \m/

  11. It's a real shame you don't have Ratmen planned for Oathmark. I've always been a fan of the temperamental antiques of a Skaven army.