Being a denizen of a shadowy, echoing, multi-planar manse populated with chittering spiderling hordes and a vast, unctuous and generally grumpy anthropogenic spider-woman, one could not be blamed for entertaining the thought that your humble scribe lives a life beset with terror.
One would be, for the most part, quite wrong. Generally, this scribe has become insensate to the shivering horrors of this crumbling demesne. Little can befright his jaded soul. Little except three seemingly disparate but very much related things.
Exhibit A: The Shop Security Shutter. Grime-encrusted jointed metal, rattling and banging in the wind, intended to keep miscreants from getting in. It might appear harmless, but what if it isn’t the wind. What if something is trying to get out…
Apparently innocuous, quietly going about it’s business, securing things….but what horrors does it conceal? You don’t know!
Exhibit B: The London Underground. (Although fear is subjective, this one might be considered perfectly rational to anyone who has actually been on the underground. Fear of it is no doubt pretty common and normal, as these things go.) Tiled tunnels of howling terror.
MIND THE DOORS.
And finally, the one thing that unites and explains these apparently insane and utterly disparate things: The Werewolf. Night-haunting shape-changer of legend, with roots as far back as Ovid or further. Great big hairy toothy scary bastards, the terror of which was first kindled when juvenile explorations lead to witnessing 3 scenes, completely unrelated and out of context, of the classic 1981 horror movie AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
Scroll away! Scroll away! Gah, can’t unsee!
Readers might recall the iconic and frankly genre-establishing ‘transformation sequence’, which is still arguably unsurpassed in Lycanthropic celluloid. Or they may recall with rising dread the sequence where a hapless commuter is pursued through the London Underground by a mostly unseen beast, and subsequently rent asunder. (See Exhibit B above.) Or perhaps their mind dwells endlessly on the frantic terror of a single bobby of the Metropolitan police as he tries to restrain the savage beast behind the security shutters of a Soho Porn cinema. (Exhibit A.) See? Not so irrational now, is it?
Naturally, roleplaying in White Wolf’s ‘Werewolf’ RPG was an act of existential terror. Yet part in an attempt to overcome the phobia, and part in an adrenaline-inducing act of masochistic self-flagellation, the Werewolf in miniature fascinates us still….
Some short while ago, at Hammerhead in Newark, your hapless arch-meister was fortuitous enough to come across an intact copy of Confrontation: Age of Ragnarok, the two-player starter set for the generally much-maligned 5th edition of Rackham’s signature game system.
Rackham came into being in the late nineties, the brainchild of Jean Bey and Jerome Rigal, and rapidly became known mostly for its truly beautiful, characterful miniature sculpts. Each miniature came in its clamshell with a tiny pamplet containing the game rules & a game stat card illustrated with a stunningly well-painted example of the miniature. Later iterations introduced hardback tomes of rules, lavishly illustrated by industry stalwart Paul Bonner.
If those wolves aren’t deeply influenced by our American friend, then I don’t what is. The figures went downhill but the art is superb.
However, with version 4 calamity struck as the company apparently moved from caring about quality of product to a purely mercenary intent to generate money for the owners. The gem-like metal sculpts were superseded by hard plastic pre-paints of seemingly dubious quality in a move that flabbergasted fans. Subsequently & inevitably, Rackham died a death in 2010.
So given its obsolescence, the inherent fear of werewolves, and the apparent poor quality of the miniatures, why would this scribe want to own such a thing? Well, in the first instance, the box set contains half a dozen black dice scribed with the red Rackham dragon, and a rather nice tape measure, also with the Rackham logo. and they are incredibly pretty.
The box comes with six, so we sought out a few more. Rackham’s AT-43 game also came with these
It also contains a vac-formed, pre-painted ruinous hill or ‘Seal of the Dragon’ as the contents page has it. These alone might have been enough to satisfying the acquisitive hoarding nature of this writer, but there was another revelation. On closer inspection, it appeared that the plastic pre-paints weren’t actually universally all that poor. In the nature of pre-paints the world over, some of the colours went out of the lines like a toddlers crayon drawing, but many details were there, albeit over-painted. These, it seems, could be salvaged, with little more effort than construction a modern plastic figure or a classic metal one, and perhaps less…. so the purchase was made.
The miniature contents of the starter set
Despite the implications, the pre-paints are IN NO WAY this good at all. Rackham refused to use images of the actual contents anywhere in the publication, as far as we have seen.
The vac-form scenery is internally braced and thus relatively solid, though we would not advice its use as a footstool or a seat. It comes pre-painted in a forest green and grey scheme. This one was washed over a few times with black, to achieve some depth, and dry-brushed with Celestra Grey and Ulthuan grey. Agrax Earthshade was lined into some of the gaps, and patches were applied of Biel-Tan Green, Agrax Earthshade, Seraphim Sepia, and sparingly Casandora Yellow and Nuln Oil. A second dry-brush was applied in places, of Moot green, followed by a fine dry-brush of Gauss Blaster Green. Once more, the whole was dry-brushed with Celestra Grey and Ulthuan Grey, uniting the various washes together. Patches of a wide variety of tufts and flock were applied, and leaf flock glued into some of the cracks and crannies.
The stone textrue is remarkably good, and rewards drybrushing.
Viewed from above, the branding is obvious, yet effective in a fantasy milieu.
With the universally useful part out of the way, we moved on to the miniatures themselves.
Serethis, unit leader. Close examination of the miniature reveals that the card & the model are different, most likely assembled incorrectly at the factory. The significant difference is his mask, so it’s not a major issue, simply a marker of how much Rackham stopped giving a shit.
The detail is sharp, and the factory paint, although inaccurate, is not thick enough to obscure details
Due to the way they are constructed, these models can actually have their poses adjusted somewhat. One imagines that even more might be done if they were dissasembled and rebuilt
The full band of Wolfen.
Bitten (HA!) by the Wolfen bug, thoughts were turned towards how these miniatures might be used. With the purchase of a copy of Saga – Age of Magic recently made, a brief venture into the Lead Mines began to turn up some interesting finds…
Killyox, a Rackham figure of the old school, who weights as much as a small family car. We are minded to name him Lycaon, after the first werewolf, of Greco-Roman myth.
Normally, metal weapon blades appear quite blunt, due to the thickness of metal required to maintain the shape. This punch-dagger device is so massive, it actually comes to an edge.
‘Killyox’ will probably serve as a ‘Warlord’ in Saga, or reduced model count Elite Foot Leader (Or maybe Riders) in Dragon Rampant.
A Reaper Miniatures Wolf Demon, and a comparable model to the pre-paints in terms of prep. If anything, Bones is slightly softer to work with.
Some sort of swollen parasite perhaps?
We imagine that the Wolf Demon began life as a regular Wolf, and this is some kind of ‘Warp Spasm’, akin to Slaine. Alternatively, he might be some sort of summoned avatar of an unseelie Wolf God.
Hasslefree Miniatures ‘Azura Half-blood’. The sculptor, Kev White, might be both the grumpiest man on the internet and nigh unsurpassed in capturing anatomy.
Ostensibly a half-elf, the pointed ears and grey flesh imply something just a little lycanthropic. She may yet receive some warpaint to match the rest of the band.
Sorcerers and magic users appear in Saga – Age of Magic, though we don;t know if shape-changers do as yet. Don;t be surprised if she gains a large wolf form version before long. Perhaps now she is Cyllene, wife of Lycaon… ?
The full band so far, atop their ruinous mound.
Given that we own the game, and it is designed to ‘play out of the box’, we may at some juncture give it a go, just to see what the fuss was all about, but let it be known that as a source of reasonably priced Giant Wolfy blokes, the Rackham pre-paints are probably worth your time. For the warband, the future perhaps holds some basic infantry, and some time spent actually reading the book and working out what we can field.
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