Saga Revenants was a limited edition set that Gripping Beast produced in 2015 for its skirmish game, Saga. It introduces zombies as a playable faction, letting them battle alongside Anglo-Danish huscarls and Viking Bondi. It's charming to inject a small dose of the supernatural into a historically-based wargame. Indeed, Saga Revenants slots right into the world of Saga since Scandinavian and Celtic mythology all feature some form of the reanimated dead. (As a child, one of my favourite myths was the story of Hel, Norse goddess of the underworld, arriving with her army of corpses at the battle of Ragnarok in "Naglfar", a giant ship fashioned from dead men's toenails).
For Oldhammer aficionados, Saga Revenants has an extra grip because the 50 or so zombie miniatures that come with the set were all sculpted by Bob Naismith, the lead sculptor at Citadel in the mid-1980's and the man responsible for many of Warhammer's most iconic designs (see Axiom's excellent interview with Bob for some wonderful insights into the man and his influence).
Bob Naismith's sculpting talents are on full display with these miniatures. As Barks said in his recent post about Revenants, they are a "blend of horrific and comical". Although some of the details (especially tattered clothes) are a chunky, the sculpts more than make up for it with an overall sense of personality and movement. Many of the zombies are palsied and limping, with crimped hands and twisted limbs. Their faces vary between friendly smiles and grimaces of insufferable pain. In other words, these are emotive zombies, not the sullen, expressionless corpses that you usually get nowadays (I'm looking at you, Walking Dead).
I speed-painted 48 zombies in a few weeks. My recent experience with speed-painting have been spotty at best (cough, cough, Mansions of Madness, cough), but I think I'm slowly improving. My technique for painting these miniatures owes a lot to Sorastro's tutorial on painting zombies. I blocked in a few simple colours (medium green fleshtone, khaki clothes, terracotta accents, etc.) and then enhanced these with a sloppy layer of highlighting. The whole package was then covered in Army Painter Strong Tone - and when that was dry, I added blood, rust, facial details, and more blood.
Above are the "Grave Pits" that come in the Revenants set. These are wonderfully sculpted eruptions of zombies clawing out of the ground -- the Revenant player can use these Grave Pits to attack his opponent from below. It's not pretty.
A warband of Revenants is led by a Necromancer. But I didn't paint the Necromancer included in the set -- that would be an insult to my own Lichemaster. Yes, Heinrich Kemler shall take his rightful place at the head of my legion of undead. But he will need a Saga appropriate identity. I dug around my library and found a wonderful typed monograph called "Legends of Icelandic Magicians" (1975) by Jacqueline Simpson. It contains some fascinating legends about an evil wizard named Gottskalk the Cruel who "gathered together all the black spells, which had never been used since heathen times, and wrote them all down in a magic book called Red Skin." Sounds about right.
So please meet Gottskalk the Necromancer...
Stay tuned for some battle-reports to see how Gottskalk and his Revenants fare in the age of the Vikings...