Zombie Pirates of the Vampire Coast

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The Zombie Pirates of the Vampire Coast, most commonly abbreviated to simply the Zombie Pirates, are, depending on who you ask, either one of the most awesome concepts as an undead pirates faction, or the most redundant, seeing as how Warhammer Fantasy already has two prominent undead factions already. Hailing from the eastern coast of Lustria, the Zombie Pirates are a Vampire Counts splinter faction that consist of a nation of vampire pirate captains who command crews of zombified pirates and sailors in their quest for plunder and gore.

In universe, the zombie pirates started with one absolute madlad named Luthor Harkon, who received the Blood Kiss during the days when the vampires first began to take over Nehekhara. He largely vanished from history after that, only to resurface in the year 876 Imperial Calendar, when Harkon's sarcophagus was part of the booty seized by a band of Norscan pirates from an Imperial merchant ship. In a relatively subtle homage to Dracula, they woke the ancient vampire, who proceeded to devour the crew and reanimate them as his zombie slaves, by which time he had inadvertently been shipwrecked on the eastern coast of Lustria. This had always been a dangerously treacherous strip of land anyway, but as Harkon's new home, it soon became known as the Vampire Coast, with the vampire turning pirate and building a veritable empire from the zombified remains of the drowned dead. Eventually, Harkon began spawning his own subordinate vampires to help him run the place, and the Zombie Pirates faction was truly born.

As a faction, it took several editions for the Zombie Pirates to be born. Harkon himself debuted in 4th edition, as a throw-away mention in "Warhammer Armies: Undead". His arrival on the Vampire Coast and subsequent transformation of it into his personal demesne was mentioned in passing in lore in the 5th edition Lizardmen army book, and repeated in 6th edition. This was when the Zombie Pirates finally appeared as their own faction, receiving an army writeup in the pages of White Dwarf (issue #306, UK numbering, to be precise), which then tied into a new campaign book for that edition: Conquest of the New World.

After this, the Zombie Pirates returned to being a lore-only faction, until Total War: Warhammer II revived them as a faction with their own DLC. As such, this will be divided into two sections, the tabletop version, and the Total War: Warhammer version.


Most of the units of the Zombie Pirates appeared in the aforementioned White Dwarf issue, but their Total Warhammer II appearance added a few new ones. As well as the specific army list, which appeared in (UK) WD#306's Warhammer Chronicles article, Conquest of the New World offered "generic" Zombie Pirate mobs as a Dogs of War unit.

In the original tabletop, Harkon is the only vampire and must be taken as the obligatory special leader; your hero choices are Vampire Fleet Captains, which are Wight Kings sporting pistols and also known jokingly called "Shipwights" by Harkon/the fanbase, and Syreens, a seafaring variant of the Banshee.

For troops, it's all about the Zombies. Deckhand Mobs are the vast majority of the Zombie Pirate crew, and are slightly more formidable than standard zombies. Gunnery Mobs, whilst having terrible aim, are able to unleash erratic barrages of firepower. Bloated Corpses are raised from the most decayed and gas-filled seabound corpses, leaving them as walking filth bombs. Animated Hulks are zombified ogres, created from denizens of the Ogre Kingdoms who took to piracy and fell to the sea's grasp. Deck Gunners are a heavy-weapons version of the Gunnery Mob; two-"man" teams of zombies working together to deploy swivel guns on the battlefield.

The ranks of the zombies pirates are supplemented by a variety of zombified animals. Swarms of zombified Razortooth Rats add even more weight-of-bodies to the force, whilst Scurvy Dogs, the remnants of ship's pets, fill a role similar to the Dire Wolves of the Vampire Counts. Deck Droppers are Fell Bats that have been trained to carry zombie pirates into battle, whilst Rotting Leviathans are any of a variety of undead sea monsters.

The final element of a zombie pirate army, and what makes them the most unique of the undead factions of Warhammer, are its cannons. Mostly, this takes the form of the Carronades, salvaged small-bore, short-barreled ship's cannons, but in really important battles, a crew may be given permission to use Queen Bess; a heavily modified and oft-repaired Hellhammer Cannon.


  • Vampire Fleet Captains: Despite their name, Vampire Fleet Captains are not Vampire, Fleet Captains, they are Vampire Fleet, Captains. In other words, they're Captains of the Vampire Fleet (because a fucking comma would've killed GW apparently). These guys are Captains chosen by Harkon to be raised as wights rather than zombies. Later it was retconned that he sometimes makes people into vampires to serve as his captains, but they were still not a part of his army list.
  • Syreen: Banshees whose screams make you sad instead of dead. Their name is yet another curious choice of Harkon's.


  • Deckhands Mob: The lowest of his forces, using rusty melee weapons.
  • Gunnery Mob: Zombies with dakka.
  • Bloated Corpses: Zombies that explode when punctured, spewing out deadly gasses bacteria living inside.
  • Scurvy Dogs: He probably only raised these for the pun. They're zombie dogs.


  • Razortooth Rats: Zombie rats. Yep, Harkon is pretty scary.
  • Deck Droppers: Fell Bats. Carrying a zombie to drop on the enemy. Fucking hell, Harkon is broken in the head. In Total War: Warhammer II, there's variants that can shoot and drop bombs on the enemy.
  • Carronade: A small, portable cannon (and therefore the most accurate thing in Harkon's aresenal), manned by zombies. Inferior to those of the Empire, except for it's points cost where it's little more than half the price.
  • Animated Hulks: Zombie Ogres. Less scary than they should be given zombification seems to work more like normal compared to Harkon's usual intelligent zombies. Although its still a fucking zombie Ogre commanded by Luthor fucking Harkon. In Total War: Warhammer II these are Bloated Corpses 'adjusted' by necromancers instead, but they fill the same role. The TW:W2 version has them armed with either anchors as melee weapons, or with cannons strapped to their arm.
  • Deck Gunners: Swivel cannon gunners. It's still zombies taking aim, so you're probably safe. Until you get a zombie dropped on you by a giant bat, anyway.


  • Rotting Leviathan: It's a sea monster of some kind, like a giant crab called a Promethean or a sea dragon. A dead one that's been turned into a zombie anyway. In Total War: Warhammer II, these are all big Prometheans, and have multiple riflemen on the crow's nest atop the monster.
  • Queen Bess: Stolen at some point from the Empire, nobody knows when or from where. Its type was counted among the number of the biggest cannon in the world before Harkon modified it during one of the events of what is apparently an engineer personality taking over which included reducing its size. Normally mounted on his flagship, he's not above bringing it into any battle he feels she's needed in. The TW:W2 version is a mortar instead of a cannon that causes units caught in the blast radius to take a movement penalty, making them vulnerable to follow-up attacks.

Total War: Warhammer II[edit]

Aside from changing the name of the faction to the Vampire Coast, the following units were added by Creative Assembly to help round out the faction: Fleet Admirals and Fleet Commanders (representing Vampire Lords and Vampire Counts spawned by Harkon), Gunnery Wights (wight kings wielding pistols), Depth Guard (navy-themed Blood Knights), and Mortars. No official rules exist for them, but since we’re assuming you’re reading this article because you were inspired by the DLC, they’re included for completeness.

The list was also given Mournguls in regular and Haunter variants, , and the Necrofex Colossus (a hideous golem that uses scrap iron and timber to create a gigantic endoskeleton, which is then fleshed out with stitched together zombies). In the regular Tabletop game, anyone can bring along these two units, but in Total War: Warhammer II they are exclusive to the Vampire Coast.

The only special character associated with the Zombie Pirates by tabletop canon is, of course, Luthor Harkon, but the Total Warhammer II version adds Aranessa Saltspite, Count Noctilus (both of which are originally from Dreadfleet), and Cylostra Direfin (a brand new character) to the mix.


The Vampire Pirates of Lustria are technically a bloodline in their own right, and have even developed a unique magical style all their own. The Lore of the Deep is a dark blend of necromancy and water elementalism, and only appears in the Total Warhammer II iteration of the faction.

Extra Units[edit]

  • Vampire Fleet Admiral:
  • Vampire Fleet Captain:
  • Gunnery Wight: Not actually a Wight, apparently. Carries a very large rifle, which it can use surprisingly effectively given it's a zombie, but its really marketable skill is that it can refill the ammunition of nearby units. Since Vampire Coast missile units get a damage buff when their ammo levels are over a certain threshold which is when the army makes or breaks a battle, this is a pretty big deal.
  • Depth Guard: Heavy infantry vampires armed with axes or polearms. Their armor resembles that of the Blood Knights, but the closed helmets and general colors make them look like antique diving suits. Functionally similar to the Vampire Counts' Grave Guard; however, they have sacrificed their ability to hold for the ability to deal more damage and as Vampires they have independence by themselves before they start to disintegrate. They also don't have shields, making them vulnerable to missile fire. In general though, the Coast's playstyle is being about doing a shitload of damage very quickly; the entire army doesn't have much staying power. These guys are to the other infantry forces the same as Blood Knights are to Black Knights and Hexwraiths.
  • Mourngul: Take the wendigo of Algonquian legend, cut it in half, and give it the Warhammer treatment. What you’ve got left is a terrifying beast that is disembowled from the waist down, and a mouth full of needle-like teeth. This beast works well as a DISTRACTION CARNIFEX, since they are fast, scary, and can heal themselves while engaged in melee - most likely by devouring its victims. The model is still sold by Forgeworld. Listed for the Vampire Coast since dying of exposure, hunger, and cannibalism at sea is just as likely as it is in mountain wildernesses.
  • Rotting Promethean: CA decided to create a smaller version of the Leviathan to allow the army to field more tanky units to shore up the otherwise relatively weak zombies. Comes either naked or with a two-man crew of gunners on their backs. They also have charge defense vs. large, so you can use them to protect your artillery and missile troops against those pesky lancers.
  • Death Shriek Terrorgheist: You know this thing from the Vampire Counts army list. Big undead bat-thing that scares people and also eats people. There's nothing particularly unique about it. One is also a mount for Harkon, and at this point its shocking he didn't decide to ride a Deck Dropper like a surfboard and throw Scurvy Dogs like bombs.
  • Necrofex Colossus: Do you like pirate ships, but hate that you can’t take them with you on land? Now you can! The Colossus is almost like the vampiric equivalent of a Daemon Engine; to power the construct, it has a core of undead corpses in the center of its hull, allowing it to walk and use its weapons. Speaking of weapons, this thing uses four cannons strapped together for devastating long-range attacks. Oh, and when something finally knocks it down to half health, some of those corpses fall out and start biting at whoever was stupid enough to get within melee range. Sadly it never got a model. The fanbase was obsessed with trying to figure out how it reloads itself, then CA showed it in a video, animation and all, which demonstrates once again they are boss. If you want one for the tabletop, Reaper Miniatures sells a decent proxy here.
  • Mortars: They send rounds up, and then the rounds come back down again. Hopefully on top of an enemy unit, and not one of your own, but crewing these things with zombies means shouldering some amount of risk. Supposed to be good in conjunction with Queen Bess, since in Total War she slows down anything she hits. In practice this is best as a campaign tactic, since the cost of loading up Mortars AND the Queen in battle leaves you with not a lot else in case your opponent can react fast enough.