A few days ago the Kickstarter for a board game called Kingdom Death: Monster ended after raising over two million dollars, and one ten thousandth of that was from my bank account. It's caused a bit of a stir among the gaming community. The reason is fairly simple.
His name is Dick Lion.
Dick Lion is an awesome miniature. He is creepy and gross and alien looking. I love that he has is standing among a huge pile of dead lanterns. I like that he has redundant arms holding more lanterns growing out of his back. I love that he has an animal body and human hands. I love that his face is a motionless mask held in place by baby arms growing from its own head and even though I have no fucking clue what is going on with that neck I think that is awesome too.
He does, I am forced to admit, seem to have a ring of hands pulling an elephantine double ended dildo into his rectum.
Personally? I probably wouldn't have added that. But to be honest, it doesn't really bother me. See, I like threateningly gross horror. I like Clive Barker and Harlan Elliot. I like Yoshihiro Nishimura and David Cronenberg and HR Geiger. I think that shit is awesome, and if you're surprised to hear this than you clearly haven't been reading this blog. I mean, I'm not like super thrilled about dickbutt up there, and I personally might green stuff that into a not-dick, but hey, that's just me.
Now, in addition to our dear friend Dick Lion up there, the Kickstarter was also full of these young ladies; the Pin Up Collection:
Now, I should point out that the pin up models aren't actually part of the game. They don't come with rules or represent in game characters, they are simply for collectors. In fact, they were offered exclusively for increasing pledges - none of the basic pledge levels included pin ups. It is, I admit, pretty blatant that they are pandering to an audience of young males who, single, have a large enough disposable income and enough free time to collect and paint plastic anime balloon tits. It's a little sleazy, sure, but hey, have you seen a Carl's Jr. commercial recently? it isn't any worse that buying Maxim or having a Kat Von D poster on your door - it's a little juvenile perhaps, but it isn't hurting anyone.
Now, there's some who might claim the games depiction of females is misogynistic, and while I'm not going to get into an ethical discussion on cheesecake, I will point out that for the ingame content, at least, Kingdom Death: Monster does certainly believe in males and females having equal clothing and unrealistically perfect bodies.
And when they finally do get clothing, both genders tend to wear the same things.
There is one thing I'll say about the visual aesthetic; I wouldn't be pleased to see it on the tables at my local game store. Unlike the majority of the OSR audience this blog is usually written for, I actually feel strong that we should work harder to grow the hobby by attracting new players and increasing public opinion about table top gaming. RPGs already have a reputation as a weird, unwholesome activity, and I think having a game about Dick Lions might not be the best thing to convince people we aren't Satanist, using pin up models to increase sales isn't going to convince a great many parents that this is a safe, positive hobby. I'd be okay with the game being sold in stores, and I don't care if anyone plays it at home, but hey, lets not make maybe associate gaming with Dick Lions in places where kids and grandmas looking for a birthday present go, okay?
As for the game itself, I have to admit I think Adam Poots should have stuck to his guns and made it an iPhone game. Everything from the randomly determined monster actions, the turn-based grid combat, little details like the 3x3 equipment grid with a bonus for making rows and columns just screams iPhone game to me. The problem is that things that work fine in a video game - rogue-like difficulty due to randomness, the need to restart the game multiple times, all enemies acting randomly, slotting up to 9 pieces of equipment - work significantly worse in the real world. But hey, it wouldn't be the first not the last time I purchase something and discover that it isn't what I hoped, and hell, I can always just use D&D 4e's combat rules and rewrite it myself.
In the end, for me it came down to this: I liked the monsters, I liked the idea of a monster-hunter settlement building game, and I have a disposable income that allows me to make poor decisions and spend too much on board games once in a while. I don't personally feel like it's any more misogynist than video games or comic books, and I either don't mind, or can resculpt any weird sexual imagery in the models. I certainly wouldn't pull it out on a rain day to entertain children, but if adults want to buy little plastic monsters with four feet dildos shoved up their butts, I couldn't care less as long as they keep it to themselves.