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Designing the halflings for Kings of War

5th Aug 2021

Rob Burman

Continuing our deep dive into the new halfling army for Kings of War, Dave from the studio is here to talk about the design process for the halfling miniatures. And answer the absolute most important question of all… WHY ARE THEY WEARING SHOES?

So, let’s talk archetypes. In simple terms everyone knows that dwarfs are short and bearded, everyone knows elves are tall and swift, everyone knows that goblins are the best [Ed – I totally didn’t add that]. There’s a weird shared knowledge and perception that we just seem to pick up via osmosis (and popular fantasy literature trilogies). But when you explore the wide array of fantasy settings out there, this knowledge isn’t always true. Dwarfs can be tall(ish) and clean shaven, elves can be short, goblins… okay goblins are still the best, but the point stands [Ed – honestly, I’m not changing this]. So when we came around to planning the new halflings and asking the all-important question of “What is a halfling?” it was important to remember that while it’s a good idea to follow the archetypes, one is never bound to them.

Halfling Sauceror

For the bulk of the army, we didn’t want to follow the food tropes. We’d done it for League of Infamy as those battles were quite literally in a camp with kitchens, but that was the extent of it. Halflings needed to be taken seriously – they were breaking out of the League of Rhordia and should be every bit as capable and vicious as any human faction. The units in the Rhordia list were intentionally left sparse so that we had free reign to define the halflings as we wanted to. With that, it was still difficult to establish the character of halflings in Pannithor. Funnily enough, it came back to food.

On one of my many scrawled notes in planning, there is a statement that informed the design of the Halflings.

“Halflings are hungry. They’re like humans but they need to eat more than we do.”

So, extrapolate from here. Because they need to eat more, they need to have more efficient agriculture. Nothing can go to waste; everything must have a use. Which would also make them exploitative of the world around them and deeply pragmatic. It would also make them fiercely defend their own territory, as they rely heavily on their own agriculture and can’t risk its loss.

Halfling Harvester

With this in mind, we were able to put together the basic building blocks of the list. Most of the halfling infantry remained, as they now have their own dedicated military. This also meant that we could start planning what needed to go on the sprue. Simple but well-made spears and hand weapons to make the basic infantry. Every soldier is wearing some kind of armour and while they’re not uniform, it’s not ramshackle like the goblins or Ratkin. I think I recall putting in the brief that they were ‘chunky’. Well fed, but not grossly overweight as these are soldiers, not chefs. They must be at least approaching physically fit as a result of the battles they engage in – plus, as above, halflings are hungry – these soldiers are the ones who are ranging out from the shires and living on rations, rather than the comforts of home. They might even be missing their second breakfasts!

There was similar thinking on boots. Checking back, there’s never been a solid stance one way or the other and the lore didn’t really mention the footwear situation at all (Chapter 1: Old Gods, Chapter 2: War with Winter, Chapter 3: who wears shoes in Pannithor). Past models have featured bare feet and shoes, although halflings would presumably still have their famed ‘thick soles’ that let them walk around outdoors with little issue. Pannithor is a world with many various environments and threats to feet. There’s ice and snow, hot sands, even a magma-wreathed hole in the ground going to the Abyss. Bare feet are just not going to cut it for a warfaring race, and halflings are pragmatic with a well-supplied military, as mentioned above.

Halfling Infantry with Spears

It’s not all casting out the old, of course. The frame includes many mutton chops, a head with a top hat and, if I do say so myself, a general aesthetic of farm hands. Units like the Harvester and the Sauceror echo the arable heritage of the Shires. There’s also a mix of male and female models on the sprue – 40% of the halflings are women, if you want to get specific. They’re armed and armoured like their comrades with both infantry and cavalry options.

Speaking of cavalry, due to the halflings’ size, we could get away with something new – a combined sprue of infantry and cavalry. These are our first hard plastic cavalry and they are adorable. The halflings ride junior wingless aralez, or battle-dogs as I like to call them. It’s an important distinction to make that aralez are dogs rather than wolves – I had to keep re-iterating this during the design process. These were a bit more interesting than ponies and were a good link back to their own culture’s background in Pannithor. They’re still well armed and armoured for war, for as much as it sounds cute, these are still warriors. We packed five of these onto the sprue and they share the same arm and head fittings as the infantry for loads of options for customisation. Hopefully we can do some dedicated cavalry kits for other factions in the future.

Halfling Iron Beast leftside

The southern city of Ej served as a sort of Deus Ex Machina for the army (Deus Ej Machina?). The city of Ej is a technologically advanced settlement separate from the shires – not all halflings live in idyllic New Zealand, sorry I mean the shires. They are all still part of the same culture, though and halflings from both locations intermingle freely – with many of Ej’s inventions making it into halfling armies. It meant that we could include bizarre but cool units in the list that don’t necessarily need to be based in realism. Cue the jetpacks, hot air balloons and giant pig robot! They also make the firearms and war machines, but they’re not as exciting as a giant robot pig. The short stature and relative inexperience of the halflings creates a bit of a shortfall in terms of their combat abilities, so these inventions go some way to closing that gap. Although the halflings are being treated seriously, that isn’t mutually exclusive to having fun parts of the range, too.

The resulting models ended up being a fun mix of the more classic elements that halflings are well known for and some fun and unique elements based on our own lore and ideas. Of course, there’s so much more stuff that I haven’t had time to go into, like the upgrades for the Stalwarts and Poachers, how great the new Forest Trolls are, that we had to make halfling flight suits for the Aeronauts. There’s a lot of great models coming for this army even beyond what’s already been shown. Stay tuned!

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