Skaven: Plastic Clanrats through the ages

To celebrate the release of the recently released Warhammer Armies: Skaven I’m writing a series of articles exploring a number of areas hopefully of interest.  I’m keen for feedback and will certainly take any on board with future articles – so let me have your suggestions, corrections and anything else ratty I should include.

The release of the new skaven book has seen a series of new figures released by GW.  Most of these figures are plastic, aside from 3 very nice metal character figures which may get covered on this site in future.  A key release from my point of view is the new clanrat box, being a key core unit for the army and also models in dire need of an update (more of that shortly).  Before I get onto the new plastics, I thought it would be interesting to take a tour through the plastic clanrats that have been made available over the years to give some points of comparison for the newest figures.

Generation 1

clanrat 1

A long time ago GW sold a plastic box set called Warhammer Fantasy Regiments.  This set included 60 (yes 60) minatures for £10.  The catch was that it included 10 of each of the following,  skaven, orcs, goblins, wood elves, dark elves and dwaves.  Few people (especially in 1987) collected enough armies to make use of all of these figures!  This is where friends and gaming groups come in of course.  I was lucky enough to get hold of the clanrats and wood elves from a set.

These first skaven plastics were very small, but nicely formed little figures.  With the option of 2 heads and an alternative cleaver (if you removed the sword blade) there was a little variety in your 10 rats.  There’s not a lot of the skaven posture we start to see in later figures in this generation, but being so small they feel quite ratty anyway and rank up really nicely with more difficult figures from over the years as they take up so little room on their bases!

These chaps still serve in my main clan Mors unit and make the clanrats from the second generation rank up a great deal more helpfully…

Generation 2

clanrat 2GW went through a phase of releasing games in partnership with MB games, with Heroquest being the most famous of these.  GW followed most of these games up with ‘advanced’ versions of the games.  Advanced Heroquest contained only skaven as baddies, compared to the wide selection evil minions in the base game.  Despite this 20 clanrats were very welcome as far as I was concerned as I had decided to collect skaven as an army.

These figures were designed for a skirmish roleplay game, not for ranked regiments so sadly they rank up really, really badly.  The swords hugely overlap into the next rank.  What is interesting about these figures is that these are hunched over and have very noticable tails.  The rat in these skaven is clearly visible and sets a bit of a template for the better skaven models produced over the years.  Altough single part figures, these skaven had slightly different heads, weapons and shields in the selection provided in the box.

Generation 3

clanrat 3

When warhammer went into boxed editions, back in 4th and 5th editions, GW visited each army list and produced a small, simple plastic box set.  For some races, such as skeletons there were already multi-part figures.  For others like dwarves, dark elves and skaven a simple single part figure was created that core units could be built around.  Some armies got a little luckier, orcs, goblins and high elves for example got both warriors and archers.

For skaven the clanrats were basically a tidied up version of the generation 2 clanrat.  The figures ranked up quite well, were more detailed and were easily available.  On the downside every figure was identicle, aside from some shield design variation.  Still pretty hunched over, with nice wormy tails these clanrats were till recently my favourite plastic clanrats and I still have some unpainted to include in future regiments.

Generation 4

clanrat 4

Ugh.

Well I should say more than that really.  After the basic plastic box sets, GW visited most armies again looking to create really nice, multipart regiment boxes, including full command.  Most armies did pretty well out of this development and it still forms the core strategy of how GW produces plastic warhammer figures.  Skaven were included quite early in this cycle and got a plastic boxset that allowed you to make 20 unique clanrats, including a standard, musician and champion.  The command pieces were included as metal parts rather than as part of the plastic sprue like most current sets.  Hugely encouraged, I bought 3 boxes.

To this day I’ve only painted 4 of them.  I think they are pretty awful all things considered.  Despite being multipart they all come out looking pretty much the same, minor differences in clothing don’t really set them apart from each other.  The points where the parts connect leave little room for positioning so almost every rat ends up in the same pose.  However worse thing is they simply don’t look very good.  Mostly upright and with decidedly unrat like heads, they look more like monkeys.  They do have quite interesting tails, however most of them actually get in the way when ranking up a unit!

The only good thing I can say about these boxsets is that you got some small rats on the spure and if you collected enough you could make a swarm base!

The night runner boxset is based on slightly different parts, taken from the Mordheim skaven so those a bit more poseable, but the unrat like posture and heads are still a problem.

Generation 5

clanrat 5

These are the new figures.  This new boxset seems to follow a different format to how warhammer plastic regiments have been designed for several editions of warhammer.  These might not be the first boxset like this, but its the first I’ve got.  You can see the sprues here if you want.  Here’s my observations.

Generally the clanrats are much more ratty this time around, certainly they are hunched, have lovely tails, loads of detailing and they have some really interesting facial expressions.  These figures are largely single part, only the arms are seperate.  That said all 20 clanrats provided are unique models and there’s quite a lot of variation in that 20, the tallest being almost twice the height of the smallest!  Half of the figures are armoured, half not so you have the option of using half the clanrat figs as slaves if you like.  Personally I’m planning on using the 2 with only loincloths as slaves and the rest as clanrats.   The box allows for all 20 to be armed with handweapons or spears and shields so that’s all the options in the army list.  The sprues also include a champion helmet upgrade, a bell and a flag so you can create a full command if you want, but there are enough parts to make 20 normal clanrats if you don’t need another command.

I really like these new figures and what’s more they paint really nicely.  I’ve found some base colours with a brown wash over it brings out the detail quickly and effectively, making them dirtier and rattier than ever before.  My initial reservations about the apparant reduction of what you get (its £20 for 20 figs and the box is half the volume of the older version) has been offset by simply how much they squeezed onto the sprue and how nice the figures are.  Its a shame there’s not much in the way of extras (no skulls, small rats etc.) but you’ll have a nice looking regiment made in no time time and I hope painted quickly and effectively too.

The ascent of rat?

ascent of rat

Well the clanrat I painted from the new set is one of the taller ones so this is a little unfair.  You can see in the group shot that there’s a lot of variation in height, pose and general rattiness.  Sadly the photo still doesn’t do the new figure complete justice, it looks much better to the naked eye than you can see here. Hopefully however you can still tell just how nice the new clanrat is, espcially compared to the previous generation even from this bad shot!

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