If you are looking for a Tabletop Wargame that is grim, violent and is definitely not for children then look no further than Darklands. This game, by Mierce Miniatures, This game, by Mierce Miniatures, explores how the Dark Ages of Britain and north west Europe may have been, if all their myths and legends were real, seamlessly merging the historical with the mythological.

To find out more about Darklands, I (PH) spoke to Mierce Miniatures (MM) about their game and also their recent successes on Kickstarter.

PH: Hello and thank you for talking with us at Talk Wargaming. So first of all, can you tell us more about your recent Kickstarter project Darklands First Edition II?

MM: Our Kickstarter project was designed to add more units, beasts, commanders - and whatever else we can come up with! - to expand our 30mm scale fantasy game, Darklands.

Darklands is a tabletop skirmish miniatures wargame set in the year 650AD of our own world, in and around the northwest of Europe (where Angles, Picts, Irish and Britons do battle against the evil Fomorians, Vikings, Drunes and Byzantines), and you command the armies of man and beast that your ancestors once did for glory, power or simple survival.

You can fight breathtaking battles on your tabletop with some of the finest resin miniatures ever created, for our range is designed by the best artists and sculptors in the world and manufactured in the highest quality resin in-house by ourselves.

The project also contributed towards the creation of the hardback Darklands: First Edition rules (expanding upon the already available Darklands QuickStarter rules), which will include the rules themselves as well as a background to the world of Darklands and musters to build your hosts.

This means you can play a skirmish wargame with all of our amazing miniatures, including those incredible monsters, in a wargame designed specifically for them - and in a setting that you already know a lot about, because the "dark lands" are in fact the north and west of Europe from ancient times. 

PH: When people see the historical fantasy elements of Darklands they will probably think of games such as Warhammer Fantasy. What sets your game apart from others?

In truth, it different because it is dark fantasy (as its name suggests), it is designed for adults and it completely avoids the over-used - and frankly boring - fantasy tropes of elves, dwarfs and orcs.

Darklands is grim, realistic and based on the history of our world in 650AD, where kingdoms and empires clash for control of north-west Europe. As such, Darklands is far more accessible than most fantasy settings simply because most of the "factions" (that we call kindreds) are instantly recognisable; everyone knows what a Viking is, what a Roman is, what a Celt is, where Britain is, where Atlantis lies, and so on.

What we have done to make Darklands fantastical is to visit the myths and legends that are as much a part of our history as that history itself, as Tolkien did. We take beasts that exist (or once existed) and re-invent them for our fantasy purposes, as mounts, or large beasts, or mutated monstrosities that strike terror into the heart of man.

Darklands, boiled down, is simply the clash of man and beast as it may well have been fifteen hundred years ago; what if berserkers were actually bear-men, man and bear joined together? What if dragons really flew and giants really stomped around? What if all of the myths and legends we take for granted were drawn from creatures that actually existed? More importantly, how would “normal” humans interact with them, and how would the people that existed in the Dark Ages behave, if such things were true, and how would they interact with other people? 
That's what makes it different from other fantasy wargames: it is fantasy grounded in our world, and far more believable for that. 

PH: So now that we have a better understanding of the background of Darklands, lets move on to the miniatures themselves. What is involved in the the design and manufacture of the Darklands minis?

It is quite a long process and can take many months!
First, the idea for the miniature germinates in our brains, based on what we need for the Darklands wargame as well as because we want to do something that's very cool or unusual, and once we're happy with that idea we brief an artist to draw a concept for the sculptor to follow.

The sculptor then creates the miniature, either traditionally or digitally, and - after collaborating with us to ensure it is being sculpted how we want it - completes the master miniature and sends it to us. Then, we simply manufacture the miniature.

I'm afraid I can't tell you any more than that as we must keep the way that we manufacture our miniatures a secret. We produce miniatures to a very high quality and have learned, over time, different ways to manufacture them to minimise miscasts and ensure each cast is as perfect as possible! We are quite protective of this process, understandably.

PH: This brings us to the factions within Darklands, what can you tell us about them and what are their influences both in their aesthetics and also how they work on the battlefield?

Well first of all, I'm going to be pedantic - I really hate the word "faction"! It's too modern a word for our setting. The various races and alliances and kingdoms within Darklands are called kindreds, not factions, and each kindred has a number of different realms that differentiate them further.

For example, the Angelcynn - (Angle-kin) - are effectively the English (not the Saxons, that is an important distinction), and at that time in the middle of the 7th century the English were divided into various kingdoms. These kingdoms - Mercia, Northumberland, East Anglia - may have been the same in terms of their race, but they certainly weren't in their outlook, for the Mercians were pagan, the Northumbrians were Christian and the East Anglians were becoming Christian.

Thus, to retain that flavour within a kindred, we've ensured players will get access to the various sub-kindreds or realms within it.

Now that's out of the way, I can have a chat about the kindreds themselves. Now, you must understand here that we had a broad range of kindreds to choose from initially; our history is incredibly rich and we could have concentrated on many of them, but in the end we decided to stick to kindreds that would stand out from each other. That is why there are no Saxons yet; we'll get to them at some point of course, which is an added bonus of having such rich history - Darklands will never be short of ideas for expansion!

We decided early on to concentrate on ten kindreds, although two of those - the Atalantes and the Érainn - are not yet fleshed out. Thus, we currently produce miniatures and rules for eight other kindreds, and these are the Albainn, the Angelcynn, the Brythoniaid, the Byzantii, the Fomoraic, the Khthones, the Norse and the Ysians.

The Albainn represent the people that the Romans called the Pictii, the Painted, who inhabit the far north of modern-day Scotland. The Picts were a fairly savage people but their civilisation was a well-developed one, and many believe that the original Britons and the Picts were one and the same. Certainly, until the Anglo-Saxons arrived, the Picts and the Britons lived next to each other.
In Darklands, the Albainn are savage-looking humans, usually painted, allied with the Giants and Ogres of the far northern mountains. The Giants and Ogres revere the Oghu stones that dot the landscape, stones that contain deep earth power and can resist powerful magic.

The Angelcynn are the Angles from southern Denmark that settled the north and east of Britain and eventually gave their name to that land - Angle-land, or England as it is now known. The Angles were the dominant force in the centre and north of Britain, and we speak their language today. 
The Angelcynn were related to but different from the Saxons, a German tribe, who settled the south of modern-day England.
The Angelcynn are shape-changers who, depending on their realm, shift into wolves (Mierce), bears (Beornica), boars (Eofora) or deer (Dēra). We have concentrated mostly upon Mierce and thus the Werwulfas, and these are swift and skilful, if somewhat ill-armoured.

The Brythoniaid are the original Britons, pushed back by the invading Anglo-Saxons to the north and west of the land, and now called the Welsh. In our time, 650 AD, the Brythoniaid still control some northern and southern lands that are now part of England and Scotland.
In our setting, the Brythoniaid balance the deeply Christian humans of the hills and valleys with the dragons of the mountains and of Gwaelod, the lost land to the west. The dragons take the form of mighty four-legged beasts but also man-dragons (Dyndraig) and ogre-dragons (Cawrdraig), who all bring their strength to aid against the invaders that lie all around them.

The Byzantii are the remnants of the Roman Empire in the east, the Byzantines, who have allied themselves with the enemies of the one god - the Infernii - to reconquer the lost lands of the western empire. In the 7th Century the Byzantines did actually re-conquer Italy and Rome, and controlled much of the old western Empire, although we have ensured the Byzantii are a little further expanded to the north and west, well into modern-day France.
The well-disciplined and highly structured armies of the Byzantii can of course bring Legionaries and Auxiliaries to battle in their bid to reconquer the west, but - thanks to their alliance with Infernus - can also utilise the demons of Dis, which are incredibly powerful creatures. The influence of these demons has also been felt in the legions themselves, for many soldiers are now demilegionaries (half-man, half-demon) and thus bigger, stronger and harder to kill than their human kin.

The Fomoraic represent the evil Fomorians, the devils from the sea bent on conquering the lands above the water at any cost and whose leader, Baalor, has based himself on Toraigh, the Tory Island of the north-west Irish coast. The Fomorians are well-known from Irish legend, of course, and are implacable enemies of the Érainn, the Irish.
In their bid to conquer the lands, the Fomoraic have had to subjugate or subvert much of those that live on the land, including the many beasts and creatures of the icy lands to the north. Thus, the Fomoraic - as well as sea-creatures able to climb onto land - can bring a mix of goat-men, bull-men, rhino-men and mammoth-men to battle along with the subverted humans themselves, and whilst they are quite diverse they also have one single purpose: to destroy those above the water.

The Khthones are the once-slaves of Atalantia, a race of reptiles bound by cold blood to destroy their creators and enslavers, the Atalantes, and to find lands of their own in Europe. You will know Atalantia as Atlantis, situated off the coast of Ireland and Britain in the lands of darkness.
The Khthones take many forms thanks to the various reptiles the Atalantes created them from, although the main realm are the Gorgones, the snake-men, thanks to their leader Ophios, who is a Gorgon. As well as those, the Khthones can call upon the Krokodes (crocodile-men), Hydres (Hydra-men), Lískes (basilisk-men) and Sávres (lizard-men) - so a Khthones host is very diverse and flexible.

The Norse are our own northmen, vikings if you will, come to conquer the soft lands of the west in their longships from Scandinavia. Whilst the earliest recorded Viking raids occurred some hundred and fifty years after the date of our setting, parts of northern England were actually under the control of Norse kings and so we believe the Norse were raiders and settlers even before they became known as a direct threat to the islands of the west.
Thus, the Norse are primarily human raiders who land on the coasts of the lands of darkness to plunder, pillage and destroy, but on their raids they also bring the Trolls and the Jötunn and the Hrafnar (ravens) from their own lands, the better to destroy the enemies set against them.

Finally, The Ysians are the Cornish (Kernow) and Breton (Ys) peoples who have turned their backs on their fellow Britons to follow their own path - that of Kernunnos, the Horned God. They believe that the Brythoniaid, their kin, betrayed them by not coming to their aid against the Anglo-Saxons and many migrated to Brittany and the depraved city-state of Ys, ruled by Euryalia, a representation of Kernunnos, and who has corrupted in turn the Cornish.
Depraved and disgusting, the Ysians are a mix of very powerful human warriors, sometimes mutated; foul, melded creatures, vivicocts that are not one beast nor another; vat-grown monstrosities without thought or fear; and ignoble mutants who lust constantly for blood and meat. In short, the Ysians are a nightmare race!

I hope that goes some way to explaining who the various kindreds within Darklands are as well as their motivation and, of course, what they can bring to the tabletop. With the Atalantes (ancient greek warriors that use arcane technology and constructs of bronze) and the Érainn (Christian Irish warrior-bands that use beasts of the bog, peat and marsh to hold back the Fomoraic) coming soon, and many more kindreds further on down the line thanks to our rich history, you'll never be short of choice in terms of how your armies will look and how they will play in games of Darklands.

PH: Your Kickstarter Campaign recently completed with you reaching £130,735pledged of £20,000 goal which is phenomenal. What is next for Daklands First Edition II?

Reaching that amount is fantastic, it's meant we've been able to fund thirteen new units as well as new beasts and commanders. That's a few more than we hoped for, so we're really pleased about how it ended!
What's next for Darklands? Well, in the next couple of months the QuickStarter rules should finally be printed; we've had some issues with the printing but that should all be resolved fairly soon. These rules are already available to download, of course, but there's nothing like holding a rulebook in your hand to refer to it easily.

Starting in June, we'll be shipping the first orders for the new miniatures funded by our previous Kickstarter project (Darklands: First Edition) to backers, as well as the full rules, which is very exciting, and as 2014 continues we'll be sending more and more until that project is complete - at which point we'll begin fulfilling Darklands: First Edition II. During this time we'll also be releasing the miniatures from Darklands: First Edition to the general public so that gamers and stores can get their hands on them.

Once the full Darklands rules are out, which should be in November of this year, we can begin to concentrate on getting people to play the game in a more structured manner, so in 2015 we should be travelling around to shows and conventions and even hobby stores that will have us in order to showcase what our game and miniatures have to offer. We may even hold a tournament or two!

While all that is going on, our simple plan is to hold a Kickstarter project at least twice a year, every six months, which ensures we can continue to grow Darklands both as a wargame and as a miniatures line; this hobby is extremely competitive and we do have to compete for customers and artists, and if we don't keep them busy on our miniatures they will find other work and probably be unavailable for us in the future.
So, expect to see another of our Kickstarter projects to begin in September 2014 - and we hope to see you backing because we have some very exciting new miniatures to fund!

If you would like to get your hands on these superbly sculpted miniatures you can visit Mierce Miniatures Website HERE

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