Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Review: Kingdom Death Grand Mother


This is a first in a series of reviews I'm going to be doing for Kingdom Death miniatures. I had chosen not to actually review Kingdom Death miniatures simply because they are highly limited runs and normally they're sold out before I even get my miniature in my hands. So I thought reviewing them would be a highly cruel thing to do. However, after I said this during a Sunday Sermon about limited edition miniatures, I had a number of people tell me that they would actually welcome me reviewing my Kingdom Death miniatures. So I set about starting to review some of them, and then I got an email informing me that the Kingdom Death Kickstarter campaign would be going live on the November 23rd. So I decided to build up some excitement for that event by grouping a few reviews together. This is the first of my Kingdom Death reviews and it is one of my favourite of their miniatures, the Grand Mother.

Product Description

The Grand Mother miniature comes in 8 high quality resin pieces. The two largest components would be the two angel wing's. This would be followed by her main body and then left leg. After this the components become exceedingly fine, so you'll need to be careful when clipping them from spru's, cleaning them up and assembling the miniature. They include a very small left hand and forearm, a piece of a dress that is almost as thin as silk, and a weird tentacle thingy that goes between her legs... well it wouldn't be Kingdom Death without weird tentacles now would it? The miniature also comes with a special kingdom Death resin base, which is like a normal square base with flat sides and then a raised circle in the middle about the size and height of a coin. They look a bit like small presentation plinths I guess, but I'll not be using them for my display pieces. Not included in this picture is a postcard sized image of the Grand Mother concept artwork. All Kingdom Death miniatures come with this, if it is one of the limited edition runs it's come in a protective plastic sleeve with a number, if not it'll come loose without a number.

Update: The base I got with this miniature was the square resin one you see in this picture. However, if any of you have purchased any Kingdom Death miniatures recently you'll have noticed that they now come with flat plastic discs with an indentation in them where a second plastic disc can go, or a scenic base insert as is the case of the Illuminated Lady. I'm unsure whether these bases are now shipped with all miniatures in the range or just the latest stuff, but I thought it best to inform you all of it any way!

The new Kingdom Death bases.

Character 9.5 out of 10

Beauty it is often said, is in the eye of the beholder. I guess if that's the case then so too must be the horrid and the horrific. However, the thing with the Grand Mother miniature form Kingdom Death is that it could so easily, and rightly be placed in both camps... and that's why I think it is an interesting miniature. So often in our hobby we mark out things as being good or bad. Beautiful or ugly. We split our tropes into nice neat little piles. Sure something can be sexy and bad, but that normally means that it's just a female in a bikini with spikes on it and a whip. We rarely display the horrific or evil in potentially elegant, refined and beautiful ways. Make no mistake, much of the Grand Mother miniature is discernibly beautiful and elegant. Her poise of movement in her stance is purposeful and graceful, her left leg pointed forward powerfully, and straight like that of a well trained dancer. Her angelic wings aren't the normally tattered, or leathery bat like wings you'd expect to see on a 'baddy' miniature, they are noble and regal looking, as is her well defined and pretty face, or what we can see of it. Because the top half of her face is covered by what appears to be a lions head mask, again adding a further regal air. Her figure too is beautiful and sexy in the the classical sense, with curves in all the right places. Many of the the visual cue's in this miniature point towards her being a 'good guy'.

From behind the wingspan looks truly magnificent.

So is she or isn't she? Firstly the fact that the Grand Mother is clearly heavily pregnant is something that would normally cause you to pause in this hobby, and look at her nervously and be wary. OK, before I get a thousand and one complaints from females, I'm not saying pregnant women aren't attractive radiant or glowing, they are. Nope, what I'm saying is that we don't normally get images of heavily pregnant angel like creatures in our wargames and boardgames. Plus they don't normally have weird mouthed tentacles protruding from between their legs, and maybe not too far from her nethra yayeh to boot! So in the context of our hobby it is strange and disturbing, even if I've seen far more disturbing things in the art world, and in general society at large. In the contexts of our miniature painting and gaming hobby it is a subversion of our normal rules. Monsters should be monstrous, and beautiful regal people should be good and virtuous. The Grand Mother therefore could be either, or neither, and indeed both at the same time. There is something subtly wrong about her as a miniature though. It's not so clear cut, and I guess until Adam Poots fleshes out his Kingdom Death universe we won't really know for sure. But even then, I think there will be an ambiguity about the piece, and what it is meant to be that will allow the viewer to project onto it for themselves. I like that. I happen to think the Grand Mother is a splendid miniature, and well worth owning. So Adam Poots and Thomas David should be happy with what they have created.

Detail 9.5 out of 10

Compared to some Kingdom Death miniatures the Grand Mother at first, and initial glances might not appear as detailed. The Butcher, who I'll be reviewing later on today, has a cloak that is literally crammed with detail and festooned with extra lanterns and other trinkets. The detail on the Grand Mother isn't so 'instantly' obvious. It's subtle and delicate, but nevertheless still highly effective. Lets be clear, the first thing any viewer is drawn to on this miniature are those splendid looking wings. While they don't dominate the piece in quite the same way as other angel like miniatures I've seen, they do frame the pose, and provide an actual backdrop to the composition. So they had to be perfect, and they are. I can't really explain how thin and delicate they are as pieces, but what you can see in the picture is how wonderfully defined each feather is, and how detailed each feather is. Now I know some of the Kingdom Death miniatures are digitally sculpted, but Thomas David did this by hand. Yeah, click on the picture to the left and look at that detail and realise this was hand sculpted to scale. The man is a genius! Then there is the exquisitely detailed filigree work lavished on the armours surface, culminating in that weird domed face thing covering her pregnancy bump... it looks... wrong... but is so finely sculpted. What of her porcelain facial features? They are exceedingly fine and delicate, perfect almost, and they're framed by some of the best sculpted hair I've seen in years. It's wavy, curly, full of layers and you can see individual strands twisting behind others only to reappear elsewhere. Stunning! Then there's the cloth, so thin it's almost as thin as actual silk in places. It billows correctly around her legs, yet collects and drapes perfectly elsewhere, like on her arms. I could go on and on about bangles around arms, or the ever-so-slightly ridged surface of that tentacle, but it's probably best you click on the pictures and see for yourselves.

Quality 9 out of 10

I've said it before on this Blog many, many times that the quality of certain companies product really is outstanding, and second to none. Kingdom Death produce some of the finest resin cast miniatures you'll find. Nope, scratch that, they produce some of the best cast miniatures regardless of material that you'll find. The Grand Mother is no different. There weren't really any major mould lines and no flashing to speak of. Those mould lines that there were, were minimal and easy to clean up with a sharp knife, and thankfully well hidden. There weren't many air bubbles or blemishes in the casting that I could see, and I've spent a lot of time trying to find them. I actually only found one after cleaning up the vents on her left wing, which I myself revealed. You can see it on the top of the wing in the picture to the left. That is it. Most of the components fitted together snugly as well leaving no visible gaps and therefore requiring no rectification work with green stuff. All in all I was highly impressed. The only slight issue I'd have is with the exceedingly fine nature of some of the components, in particular the separate flared skirt, which given how delicate it is could cause some problems, and the wings weren't the easiest of things to attach. The joint is quite thin and the contact point quite small, far too small to pin, but there was a bit of weight in those wings that made them awkward to attach. The join was neat in the end, but it was clearly designed with aesthetics in mind as opposed to ease of construction. That's not a problem but you should be aware of it as an issue.

Price 8.5 out of 10

This miniature was originally sold for $26's, which is roughly £16. How does that compare to other similar companies product? Well it's actually not too bad, obviously the Grand Mother miniature is a bit more than a simple human sized miniature, primarily because of those rather beautiful and large angel wings on her back. There's a bit more resin in this miniature, and for such a special miniature I'd be more than happy enough to pay that price again for her.

These wings are arguably the star of the show.

Overall 9 out of 10

The Grand Mother sort of encapsulates many of the things that the Kingdom Death miniature range is about. In some respects the Grand Mother looks noble and regal, her neat and flowing garments don't scream 'bad guy' at you. Her wings do look angelic and her pose is calm and serene, would that all she were you might be tempted to stop there and say she is a Seraphin... but then she is also clearly heavily pregnant with a weird tentacle coming from between her legs, and all of a sudden she doesn't seem quite 'right'. It's that instant hit of the usual noble regal traits that you often get with Kingdom Death miniatures, followed by the nagging doubt that something is wrong. Sure there are some more openly horrific pieces, yeah I'm talking about the Wet Nurse. But, those sorts of obvious monstrosities aren't I think where Kingdom Death actually excel. It's the subtly wrong things that I think work best, so the Grandmother is a great place to start my series of reviews, and as such I think it fully deserves its Approved by Cats status. Peace out!


  1. Been a while since we've seen an Approved by Cats award. Well deserved in this case.

    Kingdom Death put out the best female miniatures out there, with Frazetta-like beautiful curves and natural and not over the top poses. Their attention to subtle detail is astounding. I have no idea why I haven't bought one of their pieces yet?

    (O wait, i do - all the ones i liked best were Limited Edition and so were sold out before I had a chance to buy.)

    1. Yep it's been some time since I gave out an Approved by Cat award. I don't just want to throw them around and give them to any old thing. For me I've given them to things I've really enjoyed, or that I think are outstanding quality. Or special in some other way.

      I think the Grand Mother miniature is a worthy candidate though. It's just so very, very awesome... and as I said in the review, original. As to buying KD stuff, well, I'd save up at least $150's for a pledge on Friday's kickstarter. I've seen the campaign and that's where you'll want to be placing your pledge. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink! ;)

    2. Sheesh - I think if I stick that much on another Kickstarter project my wife will geld me.

      I'm glad you don't just throw out the awards willy-nilly. They wouldn't be so exclusive otherwise. Plus, it's far more cat-ish this way.

  2. The Grand mother (rerun) was the first Kingdom Death miniature I ever bought. Since then many have followed. The detail mindboggling and the atmosphere is amazing because of that wrongness you talk about.

    1. Yep the detail is absolutely brilliant, and he's worked with some of the most talented sculptors in the business. No one can really criticise them on detail and quality scores.

  3. I will be the first dissenting voice here, and I will be hard on this issue for purposes of impact and counterweight, because I know a lot of people just love KD minis.

    I can agree to the appreciation of detail and even the quirky theme but that is about it.

    IMHO, none of the of the KD female miniatures has a natural, and with that I mean "anatomically correct and pleasing to the eye" sculpt. Most of them seem to suffer from beginning elephantiasis in their upper legs, somehow oddly balanced with DD-sized silicone breast implants and spindly arms.

    I know that there are women out there who have super-sized thighs, and sometimes those girls might get big breast implants. They will still look different.

    Frazetta's women were voluptuous with a healthy amount of body fat, well distributed on the body. It was also still a stylized form but one that looked much more natural and common than the prominent skinny type shown then and today in the mainstream media.

    The KD sculpts on the contrary are clearly Manga-quotations of the hentai school.

    Don't get me wrong, I do understand where the attraction comes from. I am also no puritan. I like sex, and I like sexy miniatures. But sexy, for me, has always something to do with funny. And these miniatures are not very funnny.

    KD miniatures do not shock me. They do not upset me a lot. There are much more important issues out there, and not liking them leaves me more money to spend on miniatures that are better sculpted, more natural, more dynamic, sexier, less boring, less puerile, less sexist.

    Oh yeah, I have not even started talking about tentacle-penises coming out of or (on the verge of) entering vaginas, or the blatant sexism in some of the sculpts! (not too much on this mini, though)

    I will leave that for later, when the usual shit storm has passed over my comment. ;-)

    1. Kaka as for the super-sized thighs not being natural you might want to take a closer look at the body survey data coming out of Europe and North America. Most women have big hips. The usual waif like fantasy images with big boobs aren't actually very realistic compared to what the average women actually looks like. I'll agree with you over the large breast though, on most female miniatures breast are sculpted to be ridiculously huge. Frazetta though was little different in his images insofar that they too were just as idealised. You don't like KD miniatures that's absolutely fine. You won't get anyone I'm sure whipping up a storm on this Blog. I won't allow it. You've expressed your opinions politely and fully and that's fine by me. I can understand where you are coming from, because on some of the KD miniatures I sorta agree with you.

    2. Thanks, Jody! And I hope that you will not have extra work deleting/editing posts just because of my comment!


      PS: Most women with big hips also come with bigger buttocks, belly and the rest. I don't see that here! ;-) In terms of realism and "heavier women" I infinitely prefer Hasslefree Miniatures Libbys.

    3. Well actually I think she has got a big ass. certainly not the small tight buttocks you normally get with female models. I can accept that you don't like the piece, but on anatomical grounds I think not. Especially as you invoke Franzetta as being a paragon of anatomical correctness. PMSL. :P

      There is though sexism in some of the sculpts, just like there is in softcore porn and other forms of pinup. I totally agree there, but I guess for me I'm OK with it because at least the Kingdom Death range is being honest about it.

    4. Jody, Don't put words in my mouth, please. I said: "It was also still a stylized form but one that looked much more natural and common than the prominent skinny type shown then and today in the mainstream media." Never said that Frazetta's women were totally anatomically correct, they were just more "real" (i.e. meaty) and that's why they were so popular.

      And btw that was only meant as a rebuttal of Dai's statement that KD minis were similar to Frazetta's women. They are not.


    5. Sorry I must have mis-read your first comment. Probably because it wasn't actually in reply to Dai. I have no wish to put words in anybodies mouth, but for future reference if you are responding to somebody it's normally best to reply directly to them. It can get pretty difficult for me to keep track otherwise.

    6. No harm done, and you are right, I should have made that clearer!

    7. "And btw that was only meant as a rebuttal of Dai's statement that KD minis were similar to Frazetta's women. They are not."

      Umm... They are to a certain extent. Ferazetta painted women with large hips and boobs and typically small waists. Whilst his women were/are no-where in the realm of manga where proportions like this model's breasts are more in line with your average adult film actress, the general gist of the sculpt is all too reminiscint of the curvascious Frazetta-esque women, that are all too often missing in fantasy miniatures in my mind.

    8. @Kaka, I just got hold of KD's Illuminated Women miniature and I have to say it is genuinely one of the best 'nude' miniatures out there. She isn't a stick inspect and she has rolls of fat in the places you'd expect her to have it. Not quite Rubenesque, but certainly leaning more that way. I'd put it up there with Kev White's work at Hasslefree Miniatures. Yeah I think it's that good.

      @Dai, I can see both points of view on the comparison with Frazetta's work. You are right that in some cases the Kingdom Death range portrays the female form in similar ways, they certainly emphasise the same 'assets' as it were. There is though a difficulty in comparing 3D miniatures to 2D paintings. For starters we can't tell how Frazetta would have continued his muses features in full 3D. Would he have created big wide arses to go with his wide hips and tiny waists? Well some of his works would suggest no, others yes. 3D miniature sculpts also have to over emphasise things to get the impact sometimes. There's a weird scale issue when you shrink the human form down. I think you drawing comparisons though was fair within those limitations.

  4. That's a great piece! I'll be looking to get one someday. I'll have to see what the offers are on the Kickstarter. I spent a LOT of money today. Damn Black Friday sales.