Early WIP pics
One thing that's for sure is that I prefer "nightmares" to "skeleton steeds" hands down. I've never seen a skeletal or zombie version of a horse that I didn't think looked goofy. Nightmares definitely bring that "dark majesty" that I love about vampires (my vision at least). Maybe that was OK with the old skeleton cavalry, but these slightly ethereal "dark riders" need sweet scary looking nightmares to ride into battle.
I guess the other things about the metal Black knights are their armor and lances. They suffer from what I consider "weak shoulders" with the general lack of armor in that area. Their lances (or spears) have always been less than impressive. Better for roasting marshmallows.
My search for the perfect nightmares had me waiting for some new Empire Knights. I either wanted metal barding or none at all. The Empire Pistolier horses looked OK, and might have worked. Then came news of new Chaos Knights and I was hopeful, but the perfect nightmares actually came with the Marauder horsemen kit. These horses were EXACTLY what I was looking for with their flowing mans and tails. Totally channeling AD&D's Lord Soth's Charge. (Some of my first Undead miniatures by the way.) Plus these horses LOOK evil, mean, and just plain angry!.
In addition to the Chaos Marauder horses, I used the bottom half of Bretonnian Knights, bits from both the Vampire Counts Grave Guard and Skeleton Warrior boxes, along with various bits from other kits as well. I got rid of any silly bat wings on the helmets, and tried to give them an eastern feel like the "Riders of Doom" from Conan the Barbarian with the greenstuff fur around the helmets like I did on some of the Armored Skeletons. With that soundtrack thundering in my head I had to give the musician kettle style drums as well.
As you can see in the early WIP pics above I originally used skeleton spears, but they looked too weedy so gave them proper lances from the Dark Elf Cold One Knights with lance tips from the Marauder Hoursemen. Getter closer to the awesome looking unit of my dreams...
Like my Grave Guard I'm using purple in this unit, but not any red. While purple gives both units a touch of "regal" I see the Grave Guard as more of a royal guard, while I wanted to keep the "Black" Knights as dark as possible. Even their armor is kept darker. Again, these are WIPs, but I like the look of the first painted minis so far.
As I've mentioned in a previous post, the unit will have a similar banner as the Grave Guard, but purple. Same balefire torch and gold chains. The lances will probably all get pennants too, but I have to see how this looks first.
Another project I was working on for my Vampire Counts army was evil Cossack henchmen to be used in place of Ghouls. I have one unit of Ghouls, but they've never been a favorite troop type of mine mainly due to appearance. I think the GW ghouls are fine for what they are, but I think having evil Cossacks is a pretty cool idea that also have uses in skirmish battle scenarios. Ever since the appendix von Carstein list in the back of old the VC army book, I've wanted to have some human minions like you see in the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula.
This project is definitely a by-product of the Black Knights one. The Marauder Horsemen heads really were the inspiration for these guys. Using Empire Flagellant bodies and arms along with various heads and weapons from a bunch of different kits. This is another way to help give my army a more Eastern European feel. I have at least one unit planned for now that might include some carts and wains inside it. I also plan to have a few Cossacks riding on the Corpse Carts and Black Coaches (Just like in the movie! ;-) ) Maybe even some wolf riders someday...
I have about 30 of these guys put together, and I'm still feeling out their color scheme. I don't know if I want to try to include some other colors like olive drab or just keep the unit to just few (3-4) colors throughout. I'm using a very unhealthy skin tone, and may even model up some with more ghoulish faces showing their evolution into depravity. To represent the poison attacks of the ghouls, I've used a bit of Tamiya Clear Green on their weapons. Sadly, this project is pretty much on hold until I see what the new Vampire Counts army book has to say.