Miniature-based wargaming has long been a male-dominated hobby, one that has partially been kept that way by the portrayal of women in many of the games (well-endowed and often scantily clad women in provocative poses, etc...). Anyone who has had any involvement with the hobby can doubtlessly come up with plenty of examples of this, but today I want to touch on one of the newer offenders, Kingdom Death. After over 2.5 years since being successfully funded on Kickstarter, the base game for Kingdom Death: Monster is finally in the hands of the over 5000 project backers. For those unaware, Kingdom Death: Monster is a survival horror boardgame which puts you in control of a band of human survivors awakening in a nightmarish realm of endless night, beset on all sides by cohorts of horrid creatures. The imaginative and unsettling creatures that populate the game take heavy inspiration from Kentaro Miura's fantasy-horror epic, Berserk (Bruticus over at Ex Profundis has an excellent compilation of artwork from the manga if you are interested). To complement this unique theme, all of the survivors and monsters have been skillfully realized in game terms as finely detailed miniatures. The theme and accompanying miniatures would have been enough to support a successful Kickstarter campaign (back in late 2012, Kickstarter was not as inundated with miniature games). However, one of the primary things used to promote the game were "pin-up' versions of many of the human survivors. All of these pin-ups are female, generally very sparsely clothed, and often in suggestive poses. Just a glance at some of the concept art for these pin-ups should give you a good idea of what I am referring to:
|Concept art of three of the Pin-ups that helped promote the Kingdom Death: Monster campaign.
|The concept art was faithfully captured in the miniature counterparts.
With the exaggerated and oversexualized porportions of these miniatures, it is obvious that they were not designed to be interesting characters with their own motivations within the context of the Kingdom Death world. They were created as a means to appeal to male gamers. And while sexism in miniature gaming has been around for a long time, these are some of the most degrading models I have come across.
It is not lost upon me that Kingdom Death was designed to be a mature and adult setting, but achieving that goal by objectifying women is not an acceptable way to do it. And interestingly, the pin-up models are not actually part of the game. They were designed as a means to help promote the game, and it worked well, with the project making over $2 million.
Fortunately, for the most part, the actual game does not depict women as they are with the pin-up models. At the onset of the game, the survivors you control are essentially naked and unarmed, but their design is more tasteful and not overly sexualized. Furthermore, both males and females are equally portrayed in the game.
|The designs for the original survivors in the game feature largely nude male and female characters, though their poses are more functional than sexual.
|The concept designs for the original survivors were followed closely when creating their associated miniatures.
As you advance throughout the game and slay different creatures, you can craft weapons and armor from the bones and hide of creatures. None of this armor is anywhere near as ridiculous as that seen (or, rather, not seen) on the pin-up models. It is to the point that the pin-up models look out of place with the rest of the models in the game (again, they were not even made to be used in the game).
The identity of Kingdom Death is now very much associated with these pin-up models, rather than the bizarre and disquieting monsters that truly set the game apart from others. And while a lot of these monsters are rife with sexual imagery, they are not objectifying women (or men for that matter). That such sexual imagery can be used to invoke horror does raise interesting questions about sexual repression in our culture (but that is another topic). In any case, the association of these pin-up models with Kingdom Death does not necessarily imply that the game is sexist, but they do not speak kindly towards the culture surrounding miniature-based wargaming.
|Phallical lion heads emerging from vaginal orifices? That’s the Forge God.
|Proof that not all of the Kingdom Death models are designed solely for sex-appeal.