For today’s blog, Dave from the studio is here to talk about the creation of the Ratkin army and their development from a slightly mad idea, to a fully blown army.
In the winding mists of time when Corona was a stellar phenomenon, I got the email that we were going to be making Ratkin. They represented something rare in the studio because, while we make new models all the time, they’re generally releases for existing factions so it’s building on or expanding something – possibly in an unexpected way, but still with a foundation to start from. The Ratkin would be a new faction made almost from the ground up and the first that I’d have to worry about (the Northern Alliance and Nightstalkers were done when I wasn’t in the studio). Appropriately, the Ratkin evolved in an organic, slightly haphazard approach.
At this point, we’d tested the water with the Vanguard Ratkin wretches and things seemed to have gone well for those, so that was a starting point. I’d been given the sign-off on doing a sprue, which would have to be done first, as they have twice as much lead time as a resin model would – the Ratkin sprue went into tooling in October 2019, to give you an idea of how long the process takes.
It starts with the plastics, which become the core of the faction. There were some things already set. Ten models, thirteen heads, because I’ve found that one for each and 3 spare is a nice number. Cross-compatibility with Veer-Myn from Deadzone would open up conversions so much that it was a no brainer. I started pouring over the background and the rules and then reading through both again to get an idea of what we needed. It was thankfully quite simple – spears and swords for the warriors and the ‘pet’ which we add to sprues (like the goblins’ mawpups) would be a plague pot marker. Make the models lightly armoured so you could go up to Shock Troops or down to Wretches if you wanted to. Tails against legs for easy ranking up.
The lore was what really set this off, though. The Ratkin have a short, but eventful history. They were literally born into servitude and until a relatively short time ago, that’s all they knew. It’s important to recognise what they did next – despite being slaves themselves, Ratkin didn’t take the moral high road. They have slaves in their armies. They took what they learned from the Abyssal Dwarfs and paid it forwards in the worst possible way. Developing them alongside the goblins was an important influence, as we were making two horde armies and needed to be set apart – so it was decided that goblins were ‘funny’ and Ratkin were vicious. That has stuck to this day.
The background influenced the look of the models. Weapons were barbed or spiked, looking like they would cause horrific damage to anyone impaled. The unit leader has a whip – which is a trend that carried on up to the characters, too – the Ratkin understand that whoever has the whip is in charge. That’s how it always has been for them. There are pieces of broken Abyssal Dwarf metal making up some of their amour and shields – relics or trophies from their escape. They all wear gloves, as they commonly handle caustic chemicals and deadly poisons – some of which are kept in bottles on their person.
I have to praise Luigi, our sculptor, who put a lot of ideas and details into the sprue as he sculpted it. He likes to know the background for models he sculpts so he can flex his creative muscles and add things beyond the scope of the brief. The Hackpaws are another good example of this. He added larger spikes to the back of the armour because it changed the silhouette a bit – like the mawbeasts’ mane. I liked it, so all of the riders got the same treatment. Just a nice little detail in the range that expands the range a bit.
With the sprue off for tooling, we had some time to plan the rest of the range. We wanted to get as much out for these as possible, so that people could field whole armies of Ratkin however they wanted to. The next part was the technological side of the faction, which we had concepted with Juan Diego Dianderas. There were explanations about the rough level of technology that the Ratkin had – including Duncan’s (Graphic/Layout Designer) bonkers idea for a Death Engine. Juan took that and through his art came up with something reminiscent of WW1 technology, which suited the faction perfectly. Although it was quite different from both the unwashed hordes and the more hi-tech Veer-Myn we were planning to use for the range, it was similar enough to both to act as a bridging element between them. Suddenly we were looking at an anachronistic but oddly cohesive range.
I do need to stop and talk about the Death Engine for a second here and credit Duncan once again for its lunacy. We wanted a tank-like thing, but nothing too solid because of production concerns. How is it powered? Coal? Oil? Magic? Any of these would work. Duncan suggested putting a night terror inside as the engine, keeping the tank open so you could see it inside. Over a few conversations, we worked out that using the legs would be too problematic and also look like a cartoon. So they were amputated. This creature is permanently bolted into the vehicle, with god knows what being pumped into its body and the stumps of its limbs joined to metal armatures that drive the tank. It’s bizarre and wholly cruel, but horribly inventive. It’s very Ratkin.
The rest of the range followed suit, based on the developing background (which you can read in Halpi’s Rift and really, really should). From the self-blinded Swarm Crier to the mutated Warlocks and the truly grotesque Mutant Rat Fiend. They’re almost alien in how they have chosen to act as a society. Rob did some great work on expanding the lore further and working out the hows and whys of the nest and its structure. In fact, you can read a little here. With the strong link to the Abyss, the Demonspawn was born, a mix of archfiend and Ratkin that is intended to be your centrepiece model. Your god has come for you and it isn’t pretty…
Putting together the starter set, then working out the armies for release, using the Veer-Myn was a huge help that let us really add value to the boxes. They’re mostly plastic and already tooled which made them easier to produce fill the boxes – the only limit being the box itself. Just look at that mega army!
On reflection, I think that this is one of the best ranges we’ve ever done (until the next one, of course). It was built based on the lore and evolved into something even better over time, with each new piece expanding the range in a new and different way. It was also a really collaborative effort with plenty of different people getting involved along the way and adding their input into the overall look of the Ratkin.
It’s also worth noting there are a lot of conversion possibilities too, especially in the infantry. Just for reference, the following kits are cross compatible in terms of heads and arms:
- Ratkin Warriors
- Veer-Myn Nightcrawlers
- Veer-Myn Creepers
- Ratkin Shock Troops
- Ratkin Clawshots
- Ratkin Hackpaws
- Ratkin Scurriers
I think that has to be the most options we’ve ever added to any one range. You can do all sorts of bonkers swaps, including bits I haven’t even mentioned. I think one of my next projects is going to be to get the Shock Troops upgrade and add it to Veer-Myn to make some heavily armoured veterans. I could use the spare arms to mix and match knives and make some cool warriors, creepers or wretches, or even get some normal warriors and make some rag-tag Veer-Myn for Deadzone. It’s an exciting time to play rats.