Monday 19 February 2024

Der Verlorene Haufen: The Mutated and the Dead

Captain Lukas Heinriksen quailed as Todeswunsch pulled the letter he had but two hours ago written, sealed and pressed in to the hand of a loyal runner. The paper was torn and judging by the bloody stains, the runner had met a sorry end too. Todeswunsch tossed the ripped missive on to the table before him and stared coldly at Heinriksen,

"I see you are not enamoured of the new additions to our little expedition Captain. Not only that but it would seem you seek to share your views with our masters back in Ostermark. Would you care to explain yourself..."

So a bit of a blast from the past in a way this week after my waffling last week! Those of you who follow the Old World Army Challenge may have seen this lot from my offerings all the way back in 2022. Really just for completeness' sake, I've also been posting those entries up here as well, however, life intervened and since then my laptop that has all the original photos on has been in low battery limbo after the charging port got broken. Hopefully the pictures appear in a decent size here, otherwise I'll have to actually do something about my old laptop!

This was a really enjoyable project, albeit a bit of a "difficult second album", following the Cult of the New Colossus. I guess I'd best do a quick recap of what it involved to get both you and me up to speed - it's been a while! So the basic idea was to produce almost a companion piece to go with the Cult of the New Colossus. The Empire was the only choice as it featured heavily in the narrative of that army - plus I had a big tub of Empire miniatures (although not much of the 90's stuff) that I'd slowly been collecting for some time. 

What I'd really enjoyed about doing the Cult was weaving in bits of literature, music, and medieval and  modern art, that were either old favourites or really fit the theme, as part of the narrative of the army. Paintings like Bruegel's Triumph of Death have long caught my imagination and definitely fed in to the look I was going for - in fact I'd love to do an Undead army in this vein so hopefully Skull and Crown Miniatures are still producing their lovely skeletons when I finally scrape together the time and funds!

I describe Der Velorene Haufen as a difficult second album because it needed a lot of character to stand up with the Cult. Looking at my Empire collection, it was becoming clear that it was essentially a vaguely historical looking army that wasn't fitting the more outlandish narrative that I was developing. As it turned out, most of the Empire stuff I already owned ended up staying in its tub and I found myself sourcing a lot of new miniatures to fit the unit concepts I'd decided on. This in itself was as fun as writing the narrative and painting the army!

The basic premise is that Der Verlorene Haufen (Forlorn Hope) is the remnants of the Imperial Expeditionary Force that was sent to hunt down the Chaos Cult in Sylvania. Led by the enigmatic Kurt Todeswunsch (who takes a lot of inspiration from Mr Kurtz in Heart of Darkness or perhaps more so, Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now), his command is made up of lost souls, penal troops and questionable allies - an Evil Empire army if you would, or at least an extremely morally ambiguous one at any rate.

Before I proceed, just a quick note on the narrative elements that I've included in all these posts on Der Verlorene Haufen, and the Cult for that matter - not all the words are mine! They contain excerpts from much better writers than I that I've co-opted and twisted to fit in to the story and further emphasise the themes I was going for. The confrontation between Todeswunch and Heinriksen in this post blends parts of the script from Apocalypse Now - the scenes in which Captain Willard is briefed on his mission and also when he has his audience with Colonel Kurtz towards the end of the film. Other pilfering includes sections from Ralegh's History of the World and part of Yeats' poem,  The Second Coming. As Oscar Wilde said - Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.

Kurt Todeswunsch eyed his Captain coldly as the man stammered out his objections. He paused momentarily as Heinriksen's tirade faltered and then petered out, confounded by Todeswunch's impassive silence.

"So you feel my ideas, my methods have become unsound... Unsound. Well, you see Heinriksen... In this war, things get confused out here, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. Out here with these natives it can be a temptation to be god. Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between  good and  evil. The  good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what those in more comfortable positions call the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have. And you think I have reached mine. And very obviously, you think me insane. That my command should be terminated..."

Heinriksen lowered his head, unable to meet the gaze of his superior officer,

"Sir with the greatest of respect... how can your judgement be sound? There are heretics and those touched with the taint of Chaos amidst our ranks. The men think you in league with Necromancers and that the Dead fight alongside them... You are out here operating without any decent restraint. Totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct..."

So first up is Todeswunch's infamous Death's Head Regiment, led by his newfound and somewhat dubious Sylvanian ally, Count Karnstein. Karnstein threw his lot in with Todeswunsch, seemingly out of sheer ennui. One does not live to his venerable age without acquiring a certain world weariness and lording it over his Sylvanian peasants just wasn't bringing him the job satisfaction it used to. The idea of Todeswunsch's doomed crusade and his (for a mere mortal) unusually unflinching attitude towards death entertains the Count and besides, there is the small matter of a Chaos incursion on the old familial lands. However, there are those among Todeswunsch's ranks who whisper that the Count is not Human, that he is well versed in the ways of the Necromancer and that the ranks of the regiment he commands come from beyond the grave...

The miniatures are a mix of several different manufacturers as usual! Karnstein is from Antediluvian Miniatures and his faithful Igor (pronounce Eye-gor!) was from Studio Miniatures but now resides at Hayland Wargames Terrain. The standard bearer is an Assault Group Landsknecht Zombie with a rather gruesome standard borrowed from some Foundry ghouls. The bugler and poor chap having a spot of trouble with the crow are a mix of Perry plastics and Mantic zombie sprues.

The zombified French soldiers and Castle Guards from Studio Miniatures (now Hayland Terrain) are great fun. I added some pikes to give them a slightly more orderly appearance than your average mob of zombies.

I threw in a few more kitbashes from various Perry Miniatures sprues with some Mantic zombie bits to make up the numbers and they actually almost became some of my favourites of the bunch!

Of course I had to include the rest of these lovely Landsknecht Zombies from the Assault Group - some of them also got given pikes.

And a bunch of Crooked Dice Husks rounded the unit off nicely!

A humourless smile stretched Todeswunch's features in to a rictus-like grin,

"I shall allow your insubordination to slide this once Captain and let you in to a little secret to boot. A great man once said to me -  "I have considered all the works that are under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and vexation of the spirit, but who believes it till Death tells it us? It is therefore Death alone that can suddenly make a man know himself. Oh eloquent, just and mighty Death! Whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hath cast out of the world and despised; thou hast drawn together all the far-fetched greatness, all the pride, cruelty and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words; Hic jacet!" Do you recognise those two words Captain? You should for they adorn a great many grave stones - Here Lies - and this is the reason I have it as my motto. 

No I worship not Death and nor do I fear it. I do, however, respect it for this reason and take heed of the lessons it offers. Keep your Gods and your servile bowing and scraping, for Death laughs even at Morr who is but a pale imitation. We will never win here in Sylvania, with all the forces of Death and Undeath ranged against us. At least those mad fools we harry and chase about the place realise that. At least there is a grain of truth in the teachings of that Cult of theirs… You look surprised to hear me in agreement with the heretics when it is you who hold more in common with them than I. Your adoration of what you believe to be a superior and omnipotent God, which is but a poor masquerade for Death, comes from the same fear and impotence that afflicts those poor wretches. Like you, they have fallen under the sway of some Demon who wears the face of Death. You both welcome and seek consolation in the oblivion that that naked and absolute power promises you. It is an escape from the realisation that within your flesh is not one point of firm stability, in your bones there is no steadfastness: such is your dread of mutability and change, success and failure, death and life."

The Captain listened on - whether to a madman or a wise one, he knew not.

The second unit featured in this post is the Mutants! I figured if the Imperial Guard can have Penal Troops in Rogue Trader then why shouldn't my evil Empire army. They will be hounded in to battle by Witchfinder dog handlers who I got painted after the original OWAC challenge was over, and will feature in a future post.

The banner features detail taken from Breughel's Fall of the Rebel Angels - I figured his depiction of Lucifer's rebels as weird and wonderful creatures, as opposed to the more traditional angels like the ones who are harrying them out of Heaven, fit quite nicely with the idea of horrible mutations from the taint of Chaos.

Looks pretty Chaotic to me!

The text is taken from Revelations 14:11 and reads:

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.

A salutary lesson to any who might be tempted to follow these wretched creatures in their beliefs or life style choics I'm sure...

A chill wind buffeted the tent and the candle flames guttered, sending crazed shadows wheeling about the two men who sat opposite each other across the table. Todeswunsch, preoccupied with the shadows within him, paid them no mind and went on,

"I've seen horrors...horrors that you've seen also. But you have no right to call me a traitor. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that...But you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means.  Horror. Horror has a face...And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. We have to be as strong as them, as the monsters, Heinriksen, or judgement will defeat us. Besides, out here the boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

You will address the men Heinriksen and set their minds at ease. The mutants have their handlers, Karnstein alone commands his regiment and we are but few against the threats ranged against us. Any man who still objects to the nature of our reinforcements is welcome to fend for himself..."

Again I've used a fair mix of miniatures - this lot are from the wonderfulk Dunkeldorf range. So glad they decided to make some mutants!

As the flavour of this army is very much in line with Heironymous Bosch and Brueghel's weirder paintings, I had to include some of Eureka Miniature's fantastic Chaos Army - directly inspired by these two great painters. The only shame was I felt I had to stick with the more Human-looking ones! The Goat Man is from Northumbrian Tin Soldier's lovely Night Folk range. 

The (twisted) backbone of the unit, however, comes from the wonderful Midlam Miniatures and their Cult of the Chosen! Peasants with tentacles erupting all over the place - just what I needed to bulk out the unit!

Heinriksen stumbled from the General's tent, having been dismissed. His head reeling, he found himself going over a verse of an old poem he half remembered, 

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity."

Did Todeswunsch represent the best or worst of humanity - Heinriksen was dismayed to find he no longer knew...

25 Zombies - Die Schale 512 Points

L10 Vampire Hero, light armour, spears, musician and standard

20 Penal Mutants (Peasant Levy) - Die S√ľnderinnen                 120 Points

L10 Hero (Light armour, hand weapons), hand weapons, musician, standard

Erzatzsolder but with D6-4 dominant attributes

These two units really scratched the itch to include a Hammer Horror vibe to the army and there's still more to come from Der Verlorene Haufen - plus a few new bits that didn't make it in to my original OWAC entry as they were painted a later date. I may have some Snotlings to share before long too...

Previous posts in case you're new to this project and wondering what I'm on about!


Knights of Morr and Knights of the Cleansing Flame

Der Schwarze Haufen and the Knights of the Moss

Die Seuchenopfen (Plague Victims)


  1. Fantastic background and figures! Thanks for posting!

  2. Really nice looking miniatures and lovely little staged vignettes. I know nothing of the old world so can’t really comment on what the armies are.
    But as luck would have it; the Wooden Wars project I am doing are also from Skull and Crown Miniatures so I know for a fact that the shop is still in business. ūüėÄ

    1. Thanks Stew - to be honest neither do I (if you're referring to the new Old World GW has just released XD I'm sure this army is quite illegal according to the old 3rd edition rules too but we've never paid much attention to such things as a group!

      Good news about Skull and Crown - thought I remembered that you'd mentioned them in connection to your Wooden Wars!

  3. Charging ports and monitor hinges are typically what dies on laptops. If you have a repair shop nearby you might be able to get them to fix it. Just have them hardwire the charger to the laptop and epoxy it. I had a laptop repaired by a friend this way. Ugly. Heck yes. Functional. Also yes.

    1. Yeah it's not the first to go like that! It's more a case of never getting round to it because I've pinched my son's laptop (he got a new one). In fact we invested in an external hard drive so we could back stuff up (my hobby photographs mainly!) the next time it happened. Ugly's fine as long as it works!

  4. Wow. Anything I could say is just such an understatement! I love the whole concept, how you wrapped it all and the way you translated it into minis. Amazing!

    1. Thanks Suber - with this project and the Chaos Cult, I think that was best part of doing both of them!

  5. I'm loving everything about this project! The oldschool vibe and narrative is out of this world as always!

    1. Cheers bud! Out of this world and in to the next was what I was going for! ;)

  6. Some proper effort and work here. Also the blog post is super detailed. I applaud your community effort!

    1. Thank you kindly sir - you're not wrong about the time it went in to it all - Glad you liked it!