Thursday, March 28, 2013

Terrors of the High Seas

What is naval wargaming in the Golden Age of Piracy without terrifying sea monsters? With the recent additions to my shipyard I knew I had to get myself a proper maritime threat to go along with them - both as a visual enhancement to the tabletop and as a new possibility for game mechanics.

Hunting for Monsters

"Frutti di Mare" by muhani
(source: Massive Voodoo blog)
I had been searching for cool sea monsters since I first started playing Legends of the High Seas and didn't really find anything to my liking before. My vision was perfectly captured in Robert (aka muhani)'s Frutti di Mare diorama project. Unfortunately those tentacles were only sculpted for that specific project and not meant to be reproducable. So there was my perfect inspiration but no means for realisation.

There are a few sea monster models available in the market that I know of (please post a comment if you can think of any other!): Kobblestone has a big fish-like Sea Monster. Black Cat Bases has a Kraken and so does Armorcast. And then there's this list of Fishmen and Sea Creatures at Frothers. But none of these models really satisfied me; especially the kraken I find rather underwhelming.

Kobblestone's Sea Monster and the two Kraken models from Black Cat Bases and Armorcast

Update May 11th, 2018: If you have a 3D printer, this Kraken from Printable Scenery may be of interest to you although I am not too impressed by the details, textures and proportions of that model.

The tentacles grabbing for a brigantine
(source: Fist Full of Seamen blog)
Consequently I was totally excited when I read this post at the Fist Full of Seamen blog: Tentacles! Lots of them! Exactly what I had been looking for all the time.

Release the Kraken!

Robert Watson of Immortal Realms offers a number of tentacles in various sizes and positions plus a huge Kraken head. The tentacles range from "small" (still twice the size of a normal pirate!) to truly gigantic.

With one exception the tentacles are cast in clear resin (with a light yellow tone). This gives them a very artsy touch making them look more like some original interior design objects rather than... uhm... toys. To be honest, it even made me feel kind of bad thinking about undercoating them.

So what about that one exception I mentioned? One of the tentacles is incredibly huge. This one is made of a flexible rubbery foam. Look at this:

The tentacles for comparison

The quality of the casts is good. There is some damage on the huge tentacle compromising the texture but I think that can pass as a scar - from previous ship battles.

Playing with Tentacles

What I enjoy about the use of tentacles instead of a single Kraken model is that this leaves the true horror to the players' imagination. How large really is the Kraken to which the tentacles belong to? Are they just the tip of the iceberg? Like any good horror film the effect is much more intense when it is only alluded to, rather than simply showing off everything.

But there is another nice side effect to this. Now you don't have one enemy model to fight against - you have many enemy models to defend against. All of which belong to the same entity. This allows for much more interesting scenario conditions than the old worn out concept of a single powerful enemy model. The ship crews need to fight back the approaching tentacles before they grab crew members or - much worse - damage the ship and pull it down into the dark depths of the seas. Navigation of the ship will not only be determined by the best position for a broadside against the opposing player's vessel but also by the tentacles drawing near.

By now I think I have given you enough reason to head over to Immortal Realms and get yourself some tentacles. Let your brave seafarers send this squid right back to Davy Jones!

So what if I want head?

If you still do want to have a "head" to complement the creature there are currently two good options, I think. I already mentioned that Immortal has a head on offer along with the tentacles.

The full kraken by Immortal Realms

As I write this there is a cool Kickstarter campaign running: Grifted Vision's Dungeon Crawler. At the $60 pledge level you get an unpainted kraken model.

Grifted Vision's kraken model as presented on Kickstarter
I actually like this model a lot more than Immortal Realm's head and I think it will go perfectly with the tentacles creating a gigantic kraken experience. So check out their campaign. To quote them: Keep calm and GET KRAKEN!

Further Reading

Setting Sail: Collecting Ships for Tabletop Games - An extensive reference of 25-28mm ships
Collecting Pirate Miniatures - A list of 25-30mm pirate figure manufacturers, plus a 'Legends of the High Seas' miniatures reference


  1. Another option is these rubber tentacle fingers

  2. I had seen those before and although they do look like they'd be good quality and very usable for wargaming I chose to ignore them becaues it's just one tentacle. And I wouldn't use eight identical models... just a bit too boring in my book. Still, they're a great option for those who don't mind a lack in variety.

  3. Very sweet looking models Cianty. I found an excellent shark figure from the Walmart pet section.

    scroll down to the bottom of the post & you will see him in the background.


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