Monday, 16 September 2013

Acceptable in the '80s: Skeleton Army

If I was asked to name a product released in the late '80s that really summed up my youthful experience of fantasy wargaming there are several names that would be on my lips. Heroquest would be up there, definitely, as would be the Combat Cards. Both leave me with vivid memories of gaming with the other boys on my road, or discussions on the school bus, even games, with multiple decks of Combat Cards! However, there is one release that stands head and shoulders above all of these, probably because everyone had a copy but me, and I looked on in envy. My jealous feelings were soften slightly by the fact that I had Skeleton Horde, which was a forerunner to Skeleton Army.

In case you didn't know, the Skeleton Horde consisted of just the infantry, armed with swords, scythes and spears. Skeleton Army added bowmen, skeleton cavalry and a skeleton chariot to the mix. It REALLY was an army in a box and it was incredibly good value.

Which is probably why everyone had one. 

I had to wait until later on in the mid '90s to get a copy. I bought the box with money I had earned doing odd jobs here and there, and had a wonderful time putting the models together. Sadly, I did not store them well and save for a few mounted skeletons, all of the models are long gone. I'd love to own another copy, but at £50 a pop for a box of these models on eBay, its going to be a while until I find a set at the right price. 

White Dwarf 114 contained a lovely little article that allowed you to field the skeleton chariots, though of course any suitable models could also be used. In an age of 40k's rising dominance, the big box games and all the rest, this was a little bit of Fantasy Battle that got my mates and I talking. I even remember using the narrative fluff in a story in Literacy and getting full marks for something that was nearly totally plagerised. Thankfully, Mrs Baker didn't read White Dwaf!

So what are you memories of the Skeleton Army boxset? Did you own a copy of the blue and red box? Did you mangle your skeletons with too much polystyrene cement? If so, please share.



  1. I had the Skeleton Horde as well, and I still have all the figures ranked up on a shelf with the rest of my old undead army. Which is made up of undead models from several different GW eras.

    I also acquired two of the chariots you get in the army box, but I don't have any of the archers. I actually won the chariots and some undead characters when my local GW raffled off their small undead army for some reason. Only one of the few prizes I've ever won!

    I think the reason my old skellies are still in mint condition is because they've spent the last 15 years on a shelf. Doing absolutely nothing. :/ I still love the little guys though, I always preferred the smaller skeletons to the later 'chunkier' versions they did (although they're still good in their own way). Plus of course, the skeleton horde came with the much sought after citadel shields!

  2. Ah - one of the first box sets I ever got. Many happy hours spent gluing the little skellies together and getting high on Polystyrene cement. I never painted them apart from the weapons and they seemed to look alright back then!

    In fact I'm in the process of repairing the ones that survived the wilderness years in preparation for our Blog-Con game - including some bearing the banners cut out from the art box!

    Happily a nice chap on the LAF also sent me a new pair of wheels for my chariot so that lives to fight again, albeit with only one wheel scythe.

    I also inherited a bunch of Skeleton Army models from my Mother-in-Law's neighbour's son - there's a few odd poses to sort out and some very dark base coat to soften out but they should bolster the ranks nicely.

    Slightly off-topic - I seem to have got my hands on quite a few of the plastic kits back in the day - Imperial Guard (nearly all intact), Space Orks (nearly all intact), Space Wombles (only the one squad box set), Rhino (now in my Genestealer cult), Predator (RIP), Land Raider (heavily damaged and sold for a very nice price on ebay), and the Ork Battle Wagon (same fate as the Land Raider).

  3. I got that set in about 1990-91 from my local tobacconist. At the time it was the only store in the East Devon area that carried GW (the nearest official store was Torquay). They stocked other random goodness, like ICE MERP supplements too (I remember the cover vividly). I wish I could go back and have a browse! Naturally it's long gone and is now a Polish food shop. Not quite the same...

  4. Funny enough I got this set 2nd hand in '94 from a store in Tiverton in east Devon. And in the last month I got this set from a FaceBook seller for dirt cheap

  5. Erny had a box of these and I was dead jealous, then I bought one myself just before they stopped making it, I also bought a couple of boxes the Horde. They're dispersed between Erny's and my collections and added to from ebay purchases now. It's possibly the best value product GW ever made, closely followed by the Fantasy Regiment boxed set.

  6. Mine are in a bit coffee can in my closet at the moment. Kind of a jumble but generally in good condition.
    I always hated the 'evil eyes' on GW undead though... so I drilled them out rounder. Much scarier i thought.

  7. I only got these chappies in the 90s, in separate boxes of infantry, cavalry and, of course, chariots. But they were the same models and still my favourite of all GW's undead figures. At a time when everything was single-pose plastics or costly (to my limited budget!) metal these multi-pose "do what you will" skeletons were a thing of great joy!

  8. One of m school friends had a smashing Undead army which was regularly allied with my chaos against massed ranks of Elves. To my eternal shame, I've recalled that at one point, a few of us took it upon ourselves to twist off the heads from a bunch of his placcy skellies - easy, satisfying, but also rather poor form on reflection.

  9. Wow, Axiom. Dewd. Those poor skellies.

    The first plastic kit I ever got was the skeleton horde. The box sits in my cabinet with a few sprues still in there. Not the originals mind you, I had great fun putting them together. The army box was a thing of pure joy. Mine resides alongside the horde box, filled with chariots, skellies and cavalry. For some reason, about four or five years ago when I was hunting Citadel undead, every lot seemed to come with plastic skeletons, seemingly just thrown in with the deal. I amassed a silly amount. Fine with me, as I was not a fan of the later chunky skellies.

  10. Skeleton Army. I have one Boxed set. The first one was bought many many years ago. At that time I started wargaming with the fourth edition and had put the 3rd on my book shelves. Skeleton Army offered a huge amound of poseable Skellis for a small amound of money. And with a little tweak here and there you had a chariot, eight riders, a regiment of foot sloggers and of course the bowmen. I bought mine at the Spiel show in Essen Germany for around 30 Deutsche Mark. They are still part of my Vampire Lords Army.And as I got back to 3rd ed. I can still use the bowmen in the Vampire armies (jepp also my chariot).

  11. I had one army set too, bought from a local bookstore which had a neat selection of TSR and GW stuff. I remember how thrilled I was on my bus ride home. Great memories ! I had the "Horde" box already, but the neat thing about the Army box was the extra bits like the armour pieces and, of course, the bow and the pike, so you could make many different troop types. I gave it all to one of my nephew when I went to university... Thankfully, he did not play too hard with the set and I was able to salvage a few dozen models when he grew up !

  12. Actually the horde box brings back more memories to me, from that time. Juste because they were my firt plastic models from GW!!

  13. ahh I think every gamer during that period had some of these babies, I know I got hold of some of the smaller boxes they put out, I think they must have had these on sale for almost a decade, I wish I still had mine, I always found that the arms would break off just below the shoulder, very annoying....