Dark Rituals - Grimm dark evildom in ruinous times
Ever wondered what would happen if the European witch craziness of the 16/17th centuries had happened in an earlier period like the 12th century Anarchy of England and then you made it less jolly. Take a bow the Dark Rituals game miniatures. A range so Grimmdark that it makes 40k look like a picnic by the seaside. Even better the miniatures could be easily transferred into other game systems such as Frostgrave with ease and are usually available on Ebay as people sell on Kickstarters they no longer want.
This probably is not a game you want to play with the kids but here we go starting with the villains! The witches and general evildom are the enemy played by one player against 4 heroes who must battle through various scenarios in a campaign.
In the core set these are the 3 witches which is a nice nod to Macbeth but others are added through various expansions. I may have failed to photograph some pieces here but I think you'll get the mood.
This one is called Pekka which is Finnish for Peter - or alternatively Peter is English for Pekka - either way he appears to be a sort of undead bird creature. I'm guessing there is some connection with the Pecker sound of the name though other than a simple pun I'm not clever enough to get it.
The second witch is called Ikrek which is again a clever name which means twins in possibly Magyar or Turkish, This is clever as the mini is essentially conjoined twins with one side being the dishabille young lady seen below in a come hither type pose..
while the other twin is less alluring, more dressed and more knifey death!
The third of the witches is Hagatha, a name which in Hebrew means mean and a bit psycho, so probs not a good choice for a child if you believe in nominative determinism! There is definitely something unstable going on here...
Madra - a sort of boss witch with a circus feel. OK to be honest Im foxed on this one. In Irish Madra means dog but i'm not seeing a connection there. It also refers to an area of India but again I have nothing. a distinctly weird wormy creature on a floaty throne.
Munus. Is this a were rat? In Latin munus was a debt or gift owed to somebody and is the origin of munificence. I'm taking a punt that the wheels here represent some sort of gult debt owed by the creature which it carries as its sin. Sort of like the ancient greek chap who had to carry a big rock, Sisyphus. On the other hand it might not.
Various weird stuff.
Zombie wall - interesting mini which combines zombies into a single piece to great effect i think. Much more threatening than the odd zombie peasant wandering around.
Random odd zombie peasants wandering around...
Golus - a sort of demon mount with a space for a base on the top (not visible). Would appear to be another sort of construct creature made from worms and broken stones. The word Golus is Hebrew i believe meaning exile which has a tangential link with this being a wandering creature. Maybe?
Lujuria and The Red Witch. Lujuria is Spanish for Lust and this appears to be the theme of this weirdly formed demon. It is certainly a long dark way from the the GW Slaaneshi bondage gear daemons which appear a bit lightweight next to this bad boy/girl/entity.
Karakurt - the spider witch. Another witch to add in from an expansion which has the witch herself, named after the Polish spider - the Karakurt - and 6 other spidery things half human, half spider. These are not pleasant minis.
Haborym - a powerful demon which wikipedia tells me is also called Aym and rules over 26 demon legions. Oddly specific that it is 26 rather than 25ish. Also weird that he seems to combine the two abilities of burning fortresses with making men witty...a bit like those shops which sell two completely unrelated items such as one which used to exist in Hanley that sold wigs and health food or a favourite in Birmingham that sold old music records and large plastic barrels.
Leiurus - a demon based on the Leiurus scorpion often called the deathstalker which delivers a neurotoxin with the capacity to kill old people or children. In fact it was such a scorpion whose sting combined with enormous age to carry off my wife's grandmother some years ago. My wife is not from Staffordshire!
Lindorm - a massive bloated stomach with an enormous mouth. Actually its more of a sinkhole than a mouth and frankly this mini is just disturbing. The name is from the norse Lindworm which was basically a dragon without wings which ate stuff but compared to this thing was pretty attractive. Somebody ate too much cheese and had nightmares which they turned into this.
Jotun - another Norse link here as the Jotuns were crastures who were defined by not being gods, humans elves or dwarfs. They were sometimes giants and sometimes not. This bad boy is in the 'sometimes a giant' camp though. He does appear slightly worse for wear though and a tad bony as befits the general game vibe.
The Zealot - so keen he's lost his head completely. I think he hasnt realised he is in this thing over his head. Definitely heading for a fall....insert own joke here....
Pillars - these are sort of Golems or constructs created by the witches out of stuff they found lying around in the graveyard and act as sort of summoning posts within the game. They remind me of the classic Grave Golem in Malifaux
Another Demon - Chalcosoma, strangely another insect based name, this time a sort of Rhino beetle and it does have a sort of oversized creepy crawly feel to it, albeit one with a human head and a big club.
These bad boys are called Mortus and seem less than well. They have a bit of a gross plaguey bloat vibe going on and while they are carrying it off pretty well I dont think it will catch on...unless you get near them.
Classic scary scarecrow. Why scarecrows are scary is a mystery but they just are. I suspect that as humans we have some innate fear of things which are anthropomorphically human deep within us. Famously they do not scare birds at all and maybe they were used as a way of marking land ownership to scare outsiders away?
Scary humanoid trees - another classic. Forests are obviously scary places even today and in the medieval past they were places filled with danger from wild animals, bandits and the supernatural. There can be hardly a culture in the world (with access to forests) which does not have stories of trees possessed by evil spirits, which can move and devour the unwary - or even the wary.
A plague of frogs, birthed from the mouth of a frog. The second of the biblical plagues and a bit of a warm up act for the bad ones. Frogs on a large scale are gross and also gross if you catch one in your lawn mower as i regularly do (next door has a pond...) however they are not as bad as the death of first borns.
Skriga the Sea witch. With a fish head and covered in ropes and netting Skriga is definitely from the depths of the sea. Her name does not seem to be Norse despite sounding so. The only reference the Interweb has revealed to me is from the book 'Observations on the Antiquities, Historical and Monumental of the county of Cornwall' dated 1754 (and still a page turning best seller I imagine) which defines the word Skriga as the verb 'to screech' in Cornish. This may be relevant as in the game she can call forth other mini demons.
Draugr are the awoken spirits of Norse mythology rising from their tomb to walk the land of the living and do general bad stuff. While corporeal and possessed of great strength they can also somehow enter dreams for mischief purposes.
This one is the 'tree of despair' and seems to be some sort of amalgam of tree and corpses. As you do....
Voskor - the vaguely Egyptian demon who appears to be some sort of construct like the old GW Bone Giant from Tomb Kings. In the game he is another of the powerful demons with some link to the equally enigmatically named Madra.
Girtiya the witch and The Chained. This appears to be a set of enchained witches or spirits a bit like Cherubael in the Eisenhorn trilogy by Dan Abnett ( best fiction books ever btw). The lead witch looks like a straightjacketed "mentalists, nutjobs, lady o'minds, softheads and durbrains*" from a very bad psychiatric institution
* courtesy of Bleak Expectations
The condemned. long term inhabitants of the Pillory who have clearly seen better days. The pillory for the hands and head seen here is often confused with the stocks for the feet which is a lesser punishment. Usually being pilloried was simply a public humiliation with no physical harm other than discomfort but rotten fruit and eggs could be thrown. Occasionally death could result from rocks or bricks being thrown if the watchers had a specific grudge or felt justice was not being served.
The Hanged Man - another common trope but in this case a hanged woman, probably a witch as in England witches were hanged never burned, unlike less civilised countries such as Scotland and Germany where they were burned. In England only heretics were burned so definitely more civilised....i think.
Lycanthropes - a tail as old as time... humans transforming into animals are another common theme across all cultures throughout history as far back as Sumerian times and probably earlier. The word 'were' itself comes to us from Anglo Saxon in which it meant simply man and was used in phrases such as were geld - the money compensation paid for physical injury - and is just attached to wolf, boar or whatever animal you may choose to turn into.
Scottish witches....see earlier