Author Topic: Vermin Swarm of Fallen Avras (T9A Byzantine Ratmen)  (Read 277 times)

Offline Karak Norn Clansman

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Vermin Swarm of Fallen Avras (T9A Byzantine Ratmen)
« on: February 15, 2019, 10:48:10 AM »

The Vermin Swarm of the Ninth Age is based on the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantines or Rūm, the surviving Roman state in the east which centered on the nigh-impregnable crossroads city of Constantinople and which survived century upon century of battering attacks from foes assailing it from every direction, in a mind-boggling display of grand strategy clawing the city-state empire back from the brink to great power again and again. While still a formidable foe for much of its history, the mediaeval Romans were no longer the unstoppable force that had once steamrolled the entire Mediterranean after conquering its only true lethal rival in ancient times: Carthage. The well-organized Byzantine military in its heyday won renown with its Theme system (local garrison troops of farmer-soldiers), mounted Thagmata elite regiments (mobile field army), use of mercenaries, Greek fire, siege engineering, strong navy, Varangian Guard and network of fortified cities to fend off often superior foes at more fronts than the empire could usually handle. Yet ultimately, treachery from within would undermine the army in battle again and again (for Byzantium was rife with vicious power struggles), and cowardice would rear its ugly head all too often: It was not easy to be a soft and rich urban realm confronted by a wide range of hardier and less sophisticated enemies who were out for your lands and riches, in a cutthroat world that was a pale shadow of the Roman Empire at its absolute height, centuries before.

Sounds like an interesting historical basis for the dastardly ratmen? Hungry for retaking Avras? Fancy a different aesthetic to your Skaven models? Then let's dive right into it!

By Eldan

The most distinctive feature of Byzantine soldierly gear were the common pteruges: Leather flaps hanging over the upper arms at the shoulders, and from the waist, forming a kilt. An obvious hark-back to ancient Greek and Roman styles, the pteruges grounded this mediaeval army with an aesthetic piece from out of antiquity. For the most part, one would keep it simple and go up to step 3 below, perhaps adding some waviness, wrinkles and fraying. To emphasize the Vermin's decaying ways, perhaps many flaps could be torn, gnawed or missing altogether? Note that all below tutorials show stuff that are intended to be sculpted directly on the model:


Next up is scale armour and lamellar. The latter is difficult to sculpt, so one may want to go for a simplified look with scales instead. Just do the scales with rounded edges instead of angular, and perhaps have them pointing upward instead of downward. You can also sculpt gambeson (no tutorial at the moment):


Likewise, some frayed chainmail can be attempted, including trying out some weird chainmail veil/face cover on some ratmen. A tip would be to leave tears and holes in the mail. Rats don't do things too tidy. If doing chainmail over the torso, then why not chuck in the Byzantine "bra", or rather leather harness to keep armour in place, on some models? Probably borrowed from Persians:


A minor detail for some rabble troops could be to add a few wickerwork shields:


And finally, some opulent pearls and large gemstones (painted sickly green?) add such an ostentatious finish to the leaders. Here's a simple tutorial, but more complicated things can obviously be tackled:


And here is a random idea for some Vermin Swarm symbol: The last human Emperor of Avras quartered by four Vermin Hulks:

Do you have more ideas to share here? Or modelling attempts to show? Then please do so! :)

Didn't have time to make a wicker shield, but here are some conversions for the heck of it. Attacking cloth and leather surfaces with a needle can help give a frayed look, and is quick work:

We all know that Skaven was an original invention by Games Workshop, one which gained a lasting popular life unlike their Zoats and Fimir. Before Warhammer, there were no elaborately developed fantasy ratmen to speak of. After Warhammer, they are a new archetype.

The Ninth Age, being the spiritual successor of Warhammer Fantasy with its historically based model, did manage to find a real life historical culture to base their Vermin Swarm upon, one which sports flamethrowers, treachery, cowardice, cunning and brutality alike: The mediaeval (Eastern) Roman Empire, known as Byzantium after its fall. In case anyone is interested in getting their hands on more knowledge about this nigh-forgotten Roman realm, to get more resonance out of their reading of future Vermin Swarm background, you will get some tips below. Mainly documentaries, lectures and podcasts, since rat players can be expected to have their hands and eyes busy with painting hordes of Vermin miniatures.

Please share your own, whatever finds you can recommend!

Intro 1: The Rise & Fall of the Byzantine Empire (5 minutes)

Intro 2: Engineering an Empire - Byzantium

If one truly wants to start from the beginning, then Mike Duncans podcast, the History of Rome, can be recommended. It ends with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, which is to say roughly around the start of what is usually coined Byzantine history. (Youtube videos which compile the many episodes.)

John Romer did great documentaries, and his production on the Byzantine Empire is warmly recommended.

As to reading, the blog Byzantine Military is a nice one. Jumps between various topics.

Lecture series on the Byzantines.

Video series on Byzantine Emperors & Varangian Guard

Concept art of guard unit for the Vermin Swarm of Avras in Vetia. Heavily inspired by the artwork of Simulayton, who mix in extra elements of ancient styles (inspired by the Macedonian renaissance) to aesthetically underline that Byzantium is nothing but Rome.

Guesswork: These Ratmen overthrew the strongest Human empire to ever emerge in temperate Vetia during ancient times, and then proceeded to lord over a shrinking realm where they tried to maintain the captive high culture and material achievements (such as architecture and engineering) of ancient Avras through a bitter cycle of ruination, repair, setbacks and decay. Through ages of struggle this mighty people lost their dominion bit by bit as they had to battle against foes beyond counting on more fronts simultaneously than could be managed. As such their history beat to a pulse of slow, drawn-out yet inexorable decline, where dips into dark ages may be followed be resurgent might and reconquest, and even brief golden ages of blossoming population, wealth and culture, only to see corruption, decadence, disease, treachery and fell fortune topple their restored ascendancy and cast the Vermin Swarm anew into a maelstrom of struggles against overwhelming odds. Diplomatic sowing of divisions abroad, choice assassinations of enemy leaders, and baffling grand strategy (centered upon their capital of Avras) all allowed the Ratmen to carry their beset empire through ages of chaos and destruction. For it was cunning, more so than raw strength, which saw them win through to survive for yet more ages of war and disasters.

Yet nothing lasts forever. Avras of the Vermin Swarm is fallen, for the fabled crossroad city is once again in Human hands for the first time in many millennia. Yet the Ratmen will never accept this loss, for theirs is the power and glory...

The overarching story of Avras in the Ninth Age is a parody of a parody. For it taps into the commonplace way in which the long history of the Roman realm, ever since the Enlightenment and Gibbons in particular, is unthinkingly wrought into a parody of the past, with half of Roman history (the mediaeval half) being artificially separated from its own antiquity by the label of Byzantine - a name which still has a good ring to it. These Byzantines then have their scandalous parts and failings highlighted, while skipping over the fact that this declining realm managed to hold on for an astounding number of centuries in the face of way too many enemies beating down upon it from too many fronts at once. The reality of the mediaeval Roman Empire is a fascinating and bitter story of a realm and culture that had long since passed its peak, yet still refused to lie down and die where greater powers of its era went under the bus. The parody version casts the Byzantine Empire as little more than a tiresome parade of monks, eunuchs, craven defeats, stupendous titles, and incessant palace murders and civil wars: And so what can be more fitting than to take hold of the parody, and run it to the hilt in fantasy fiction through Byzantine Ratmen?

After all, both Warhammer Fantasy's Skaven (the most original of Games Workshop's major WHFB armies, and one not based upon any historical culture) and the historical Romans/Byzantines do have mediaeval flamethrowers and treachery in common.

Enter, the Vermin Swarm of the Ninth Age.

Please share feedback and ideas of your own!
« Last Edit: February 15, 2019, 11:15:22 AM by Karak Norn Clansman »

Offline Karak Norn Clansman

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Re: Vermin Swarm of Fallen Avras (T9A Byzantine Ratmen)
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2019, 04:42:39 PM »

In honour of a nascent tabletop scourge that brooks no challengers - namely, the infamous cowboy of Eisenhans - with a Byzantine twist: Behold the heavily armoured Catarat monstrous cavalry!

Cataphract pun. Note draco rat standard and X-shaped amulets with the symbol of the Last Human Ruler of Avras Quartered by Four Vermin Hulks hanging from the rat and human skulls beneath the ostentatious saddle. Note also rivetted metal plates strapped to the undersides of the mount's paws, to protect against caltrops. The lamellar armour of the Monstrous Rat is bedecked with a rope harness sporting tiny bells, ringing out to the enemy general or head wizard, for whom the bells toll...
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 04:53:33 PM by Karak Norn Clansman »

Offline Warlord

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Re: Vermin Swarm of Fallen Avras (T9A Byzantine Ratmen)
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2019, 01:24:53 PM »
Looks pretty good.
Not my vision for Vermin, but very good all the same!
Quote from: Gneisenau
I hate people who don't paint their armies, hate them with all my guts. Beats me how they value other things over painting, like eating or brushing teeth.

Offline Karak Norn Clansman

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Re: Vermin Swarm of Fallen Avras (T9A Byzantine Ratmen)
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2019, 07:50:17 AM »
Thank you kindly!

Preamble: The ancient Roman army is well renowned for its professionalism and organization, which included milites medici, that is field surgeons and medical staff. These medical services ensured that Legionnaires sported an average longer lifespan than most people in the classical empire, with most Legionnaires surviving their long service to settle down in veteran colonies.

Although horribly battered by plagues, invasions, depopulation, loss of provinces and constant war on multiple fronts, the mediaeval Roman (Byzantine) civilization still carried this torch of professionalism, its flame diminished but unquenched. The Romans alone trained their armies professionally in an age when all of its foes depended on a core of warrior nobles and levies (or a steady stream of religious fanatics come to attack infidels; see Cilicia), and as such the Byzantines were capable of a far wider repertoire of practiced military maneuvers than any of its enemies were. The ancient Roman practice of constructing marching camps was likewise kept up, albeit not to the old high standards and not as frequently; as was the imperial riding courier system with its stables and remounts; as well as the new institution of warning beacons atop mountain tops capable of warning Constantinople of enemy raiders at the border in record time.

One such streak of ancient Roman professionalism which survived the decline and ravages of the Dark Ages was its field surgery and military medicine. Indeed the Byzantines further developed this classical heritage by pioneering hospitals, and we know that their armies included deputatoi, that is paramedics whose duty it was to take wounded soldiers back to the field surgeons rapidly. I once stumbled across an intriguing mention that at least some deputatoi sported horses with a ladder hanging down one flank, for the injured to grab hold of as he was rushed back to camp from the battlefield.

Which takes us to this proposal for the Ratmen of fallen Avras, of no interest for army lists but for background stories:

The Vermin Tyrants would seem to be callous about spending their teeming manpower given its high rate of renewal, yet in fact a common medical institution exist among the Vermin Swarm of Vetia which tend to dampen the very worst die-off from attrition and battle. Highly trained specialists such as Rakachit Machinists and professional soldiers such as Vermin Guards are given the highest priority by the Medical Deputies who retrieve wounded warriors from the field, with lesser Vermin often left to die or to be eaten by their hungry kin when casualties are overwhelming. Part of the camp followers but much more prestigious than porters, Medical Deputies can be seen tugging along abominable rats almost the size of cattle. These beasts sport a harness with a short ladder to which wounded can cling (or be bound)), as the Deputy runs alongside his pack animal at high speed. In this fashion Medical Deputies transport wounded from the battlefield to the camp surgeons, thus saving many Vermin lives by their swift actions.

Yet sinister rumours claim that many wounded rat warriors who are written off as dying en route back to camp, or while being administered medical treatment, are in fact smuggled out to shady meatsnatchers. Some claim that corrupt Medical Deputies sell off their wounded on the side, while others claim that both doctors and runners are in on the clandestine action. Whatever the exact nature of this trade in injured bodies, the main suspects as to buyers are those flesh-wreaking freaks who will balk at nothing to acquire living matter for their next insane experiment. It is much safer for the Medical Deputies to sell off wounded Slaves, Rats at Arms and similar low-priority personnel, than to snitch more high-ranking Vermin. Yet even so, greed and daring sometimes combine to see a respectable Rat finding himself shackled on the madman's table, or in his breeding pens...