Saturday, April 19, 2014

Citadel Skeleton Army Box (picture heavy)

In 1988 Citadel released their first actual army box. It had a lot of box sets before then but this is the first comprehensive army on par with those released even today. It provided a range of models and units at the same time with the option to jig one (or two if you were so inclined) as a commander of sorts. This was the Skeleton Army Box.
...and here it is in all it's glory.
I recently obtained this one in trade and when it arrived the box was still mostly wrapped in the original plastic, which is saying something for a box that was about 25 years old. The price tag was still on it! The original purchaser shelled out $22.95 which was a pretty solid expense for 1988, I was 14 when this came out and that would have been pretty costly for me if I had been lucky enough to have access or awareness of Games Workshop product lines. The internet has made it so there are very few secrets or unwalked streets of the hobby world. When I was 14 my entire gaming understanding was the board games at Hills, D&D, a store called Castle Comics which had Ral Partha miniatures, and that was pretty much it. I knew there were game stores North of me but they were mysterious things in a mist filled land fraught with dangers.

This posting covers all the contents of this box, every side of it's artwork and advertisement and all the figures inside. That's why it is picture heavy, but if you are like me and these classic kits tickle your hobby bone you should enjoy it. If not, well, scroll down to the bottom? I don't know, I got nothing for you.

Let's first look at the other sides of the box...
This panel showed the contents in all it's glory: 30 skeleton warriors, 8 skeleton cavalry, and a skeleton chariot.
Close up of the chariot which I personally feel is one of the best models ever made. 
Here we see all the cavalry including one guy with some armor making him the captain, oh an a guy who just HAD to bring a scythe to a spear battle. There is always that one guy isn't there?
The other large panel showed off some of the banners which are indicated to be in the box and listing the contents in detail. 
Okay so there is the box art. It's worth noting that the cover art by "Fangorn" which makes it even cooler and I have to make the statement that I still love the artwork from the 70's and 80's. There are many fine artists today but none of them catch the same "feels" as these did. Just my humble opinion.

This box was not lax on advertising though, observe...
Right on, dragon box sets!
More regiments! I must have them all!
Paint, why of course how could I forget!
Oh that box of skeleton war machines MUST...BE...MINE!
Boom! Tanks, aliens, and space marines sign me up!
That is a lot of product advertisement squeezed into five panels. It's worth noting that the bottom picture is the bottom of the box and the only advertisement that the purchaser will see before it's opened. Citadel and Games Workshop was putting some heavy money on getting further buys after the customer opened the box.

I love old advertisements, they are just so much fun to look at. This is why I love having old boxes even if I can't have the figures in it. This is a special find for me as I get both ;)

Okay, enough simpering, lets open the box...
...and immediately start drooling. Will you look at all that plastic crack goodness! My early years war gaming had me wishing for and undead army (before it was split in twain) mostly because the skeleton kits were so good. I have a significant Vampire Counts army now and some of the skeletons may be from these old sets but I don't believe so, i'm pretty sure they are from the plastic production right before these.

Shall we dump it out?
Okay well that fell out neatly! I guess that is just how well Citadel packed their kits in the good old days huh? ;)

Breaking down the inventory we got 10 sprues of infantry, 10 sprues of skeleton horses, a chariot body on a sprue, 10 sprues of shields, and enough bases for 40 infantry and 10 cavalry.

Wait a minute, this isn't what the box contents said at all! Where are my skeleton riders? Why do I have extra infantry bases?! What is up with the holes in the shields?!? Lets take a close look at the sprues...
Okay looks like 4 skeleton warriors per sprue. A small variety of weapons; spear, axe, couple swords, scythe in case we want to gather wheat, and a nice spear. What are those little hub cap looking things?
Okay, full horse and a quiver of arrows, a bow, a very long spear (giggle), and some bits of armor. But no skeleton rider even if we have his armor and his arms.
Chariot, that's it, no riders or banners or horses.
Nice variety of shields, almost. The kit comes with six of the upper left, two of the lower right, and only one of each of the others. I don't know if I like that or not. I mean having ninja star shields for all my skeletons would be awesome at 39 it might be a little over the top. I am unsure on that.
So anyone reading this obviously understands I'm being a little facetious. It is evident that a couple of the horses are for the chariot and even more evident that you had to put some of the infantry on the chariot and on the horses. It isn't to the same quality that Citadel produces now but in 1988 this was some quality work, and I would argue still maybe superior to some manufacturers (including Citadel itself to a certain extent). There are sufficient options to create some real variety. We are looking at at least seven infantry options (sword, falchion, axe, spear, scythe, pike, and bow) and just as many for the cavalry (pikes become lances) and the charioteers can really tool themselves out which is very nice for them. 

The shields give you the ability to pick out a few with some interesting shapes (ninja star ftw) and the infantry sprues have nice little bosses you can glue in first so that you don't have a hole in the middle of your shield which is a nice touch I think. I will admit more coffin shaped shields would have made sense. I can't be sure this was standard drop or if this box just happened to randomly have six sprues of the most boring shields.

All this aside, I think a real gem of this box is the variability. You have the chance to build up to 40 infantry if that is really what you want. Of you could even build some double rider cavalry, 10 instead of 8. These are small variations I know but it is nice in a box set like this for the 80's. 

The armor bits are also quite nice. With 10 sets of them you can turn the cavalry into heavy cavalry, tool up your chariot, or even create a unit of 10 heavy skeleton warriors. If you really wanted to go for maximum troop option you could do this...
  • chariot (obviously a warlord)
  • 8 cavalry with fine scythes (could one call these Hexwraiths even?)
  • 10 skeleton pikes (gotta use the cavalry spears)
  • 10 skeleton bow men
  • 10 heavy skeleton warriors (armor them up)
This is a great box set full of options. I can't even begin to understand why this isn't being reproduced in some manner by some miniatures manufacturer. I mean I know they can't out and out copy the mold but they can surely produce one of equal capabilities.

Last but not least the box tells us there are banners on the inside flaps and with some careful unfolding you find them printed on the lid.
Oooo gotta love the scythe bearing ghost skeleton at the bottom.
I think these are just a wonderful addition. I find it wildly frustrating that this isn't still practiced by Games Workshop to this day. Their boxes are fantastic and to print some extra banners and icons in plain black and white would be almost no problem. You know they have tons of extra artwork lying around, and even if they don't I'd wager it would be a small task for some of their excellent artist to squeeze out a few pieces for this kind of thing.

Well there you have it a full detail of the 1988 Skeleton Army Box release from Citadel. This has been a treasure box for me for a long time and to get one has realized a long term personal goal. I really enjoy sharing this with all of you and thank you for spending some time with me :)


  1. Damn, I was born too late and missed these sorts of goodies! Love the post though!

  2. It was such a good box set, shame it took me until 39 before I could get it :)

  3. What a great post! I am not normally an undead/skeleton fan, but really getting a good look at this amazing box set and your contagious enthusiam and excitement over it has me frothing for a plastic skeleton army! I look forward to see how you put this force together.

    1. Hey Private! Honestly I will probably not assemble it. I have a substantial amount of skeleton miniatures as it is and while I don't have any skeleton chariots I do have a couple corpse carts which are almost as good.