One of the most powerful and iconic pieces of artwork from Cursed City is this image of the city watch on patrol. As soon as I saw it knew this game was for me.
We’re used to seeing battle scenes in which the undead rampage against hapless mortals, or two armies are pitted against one another in desperate and pitiless combat. This however is something more subtle, and more sinister. This is life under vampiric rule. The undead have conquered the city and there’s not a lot poor mortals can do about it. Skeletons walk the street brazenly in broad daylight – and there’s something particularly spooky about that I always think. No tricks of the light to confuse the eye, no uncertainty about just what might be lurking in the shadows, no all-to-human fear of the dark to add a spice of dread to something which – once the sun is up – will prove to be quite mundane. Nor is there any hope that if one were to survive the night – barricading oneself inside one of those crumbling buildings, dousing the lights and waiting out the darkness with one’s heart hammering in one’s chest – that daybreak will make the bad things go away. The sun is well up, but the dead still walk.
What about the child? Somehow the threat to them feels more inevitable than immediate. Yes, they might well be cut down any moment – and clearly civilians have been killed here, we can see at least two corpses in the background. My interpretation however is that the skeletons will pass on by, that the child will live – at least for now – scavenging through the rubble for sustenance, their playthings skulls and bones – if they play at all. In the faces of the adults all around them they will see only constant fear. It will be a life, to use a topical phrase, in constant lockdown; a life with little room for love or joy – and someday the dead will come for them.
Probably as a result of the impact this image had on me I’ve been particularly drawn to the skeletons from Cursed City and so even though I’m not yet ready to focus all my attention on the game I couldn’t resist painting a few of them. Here we have the first recruits to the Ulfenwatch; law enforcement Cursed City style.
The 2021 graduating class of the Ulfenkarn Law Academy pose for a group photo.
…and with daylight fading Watch Captain Halgrim gathers his troops for another patrol.
Seeing all the skeletons makes everything feel a bit grim and hopeless doesn’t it? What we need around here is a hero…
December 3rd, 2021 at 7:53 am
Great observations well expressed and great painting as well!
December 3rd, 2021 at 8:40 pm
Thanks! I think the artist who painted the picture deserves a lot of the credit, for me this really is an image which conveys more than a thousand words.
December 3rd, 2021 at 8:25 am
Very nice! 🙂 The armour and red work well together!
December 3rd, 2021 at 8:41 pm
Thank you! I thought they worked well together, I’m looking forward to tackling the rest of the squad now.
December 3rd, 2021 at 1:52 pm
Solid analysis of just what makes that art is so compelling. Always a fan of depictions of what day-to-day life looks like in these crazy grimdark settings.
I find I’m a bit desensitised to skeletons, but that one with the faceplate hits the uncanny spot perfectly: something about knowing what’s under there, but still juuust about being able to have some part of your monkeybrain turn a blind eye to it. Bit like the Silence in the Library spacesuits. Shudder.
December 5th, 2021 at 11:35 am
I know just what you mean about skeletons, I think we’re just so used to them appearing as the low-level bad guy in almost every fantasy setting that it’s hard to see them as being particularly scary. We’ve all got one inside us after all, and in most cases they just appear to give the hero a warm up before he gets stuck in about the real baddies. Certainly in Cursed City they’re pretty much just mooks, and yet there is something about these ones that pushes them into the uncanny valley. I know what you mean about the space suits too – very grim!
December 3rd, 2021 at 5:33 pm
Lovely job mate, I’ll be sharing mine soon too – they really are fab minis 👍
December 5th, 2021 at 1:43 pm
Cheers! Looking forward to seeing them! 🙂
December 3rd, 2021 at 5:57 pm
These really do look very nice. Can see you having more fun with these. Love the colour scheme and the group shot too. 🙂
December 5th, 2021 at 6:33 pm
Cheers! Red is a classic GW vampire/undead colour scheme from when I was a lad (because it’s the colour of blood I guess?) so in some ways it’s a bit of a cliché but it just works so well I couldn’t resist. I reckon it suits these lads nicely. 🙂
December 3rd, 2021 at 8:46 pm
Ahhh Cursed City, so promising and yet…
Loved reading your thoughts on the artwork. Have you read the book? Your thoughts and the setting within the novel go hand in hand.
Nice painting too. How did you find the models? They’re so delicate!!
December 5th, 2021 at 11:47 am
I know, Cursed City had so much potential. 😦
They are pretty fiddly, especially as my hands are like the front end of a tractor. I didn’t find them too bad though, being push-fit helped in this case. I don’t have a full set of the standard release skeletons but I have assembled a couple of them and they were a real nightmare, very delicate indeed.
I’ve not read the book, is it decent? I think I remember you reviewing it, I should check back, we generally seem to agree on books. In the past Black Library tie-in novels were often pretty terrible (Assault on Black Reach springs to mind…). The Blackstone Fortress book was pretty decent though, nothing that’s going to blow you away or change your life but solid entertainment all the same.
December 5th, 2021 at 2:09 pm
The Cursed City book is firmly in the middle ground in terms of readability & quality. It’s not a dreadful book and does a good job of setting the scene for the board game – lots of running around/away from baddies. But it’s nothing stellar, I d recommend the Matthias Thulman: Witch Hunter as an alternative which is by the same author and a lot more detailed and enjoyable.
December 6th, 2021 at 1:24 pm
Cheers for the tip, I’ll add that one to the to-read list. 🙂
December 3rd, 2021 at 9:55 pm
…a hero that we need, or a hero that we deserve?
Great work on these skellingtons. Once again, you’re making me want to paint some of my own! I actually have the WHU Warband started & sitting in the tray on my desk…
December 7th, 2021 at 7:02 pm
Cheers! Funnily enough I keep being tempted to get those WHU skeletons, they’re such nice models. So far I’ve resisted, but only just. Seeing yours probably won’t help much on that account! 😉
December 18th, 2021 at 11:33 pm
Now that you’ve reminded me, they might be the Fantasy models I need to paint. I’ve been restless and wanting to paint something besides tanks as a palette cleanser the past few days…
December 3rd, 2021 at 11:47 pm
Great post mate and lovely work. I look forward to seeing the hero.
December 8th, 2021 at 12:28 pm
Cheers bud, took me so long to reply to your comment that you’ve already seen the hero! 😅
December 3rd, 2021 at 11:55 pm
That was a nice piece of art that got me excited for Cursed City too. I agree that the idea of a city run by vampires got me excited as well. Its a shame how Cursed City’s release and lack of availability turned out and now it is starting to look like the game will never come back out in its original form. With that said, the skeletons look great as others have said and I look forward to seeing more minis from Cursed City as there are a lot great ones in the game!
December 10th, 2021 at 11:38 am
How did I manage to miss so many comments lately?! My apologies, I’ve clearly been out to lunch on the old blogging! Yeah, it’s such a disappointment that Cursed City turned out the way it did, it had so much potential and to see that squandered (and never get a clear idea of why) is a real shame. At least I managed to snag a copy though, lots of people can’t even say that, and the models are wonderful to paint – expect to see plenty more of them as I work my way through the box. 🙂
December 11th, 2021 at 12:08 am
No worries, mate! I had a similar thing happen to me funnily enough. I completely agree on the quality of the models in Cursed City and I’m one of the people who missed out! I’m curious what kind of expansions Cursed City would have received had it continued on too…
December 12th, 2021 at 10:10 am
I know, I used to pour over the map which GW had on their website and which I’m pretty sure showed (as hints) the planned expansions for the game. I can’t find a copy of it now unfortunately so I might be mistaken but I recall something about a charnel pit full of ghouls and zombies and a former Sylvaneth embassy that had been twisted into a haunted wood. I also wonder, and this is pure speculation, if Cursed City wasn’t intended for release earlier than it was and that the Radukar the Beast miniature was intended for an expansion launched alongside the Soulblight Gravelords army. I guess we’ll never know now.
December 13th, 2021 at 2:46 am
I nearly forgot about that. It was a really cool way of teasing more stuff and all of those ideas you mention are very tantalizing too. I’ve heard the gameplay in Cursed City is not as good as Blackstone Fortress and some of the previous games and I wonder if expansions might have addressed that some too. Unfortunately, I agree that Cursed City is probably not coming back. If GW could do whatever they planned with it, I think they would have done so by now…
December 20th, 2021 at 4:29 pm
Well stone me, we were wrong. It’s coming back! 😯
December 21st, 2021 at 2:02 am
I thought the exact same thing, mate. I can’t believe it either! I thought for half a second about getting a copy but I don’t think I can handle even more stuff in my backlog right now… Its very tempting though and I’m very curious what the expansions will be like too!
December 4th, 2021 at 12:31 pm
These are great I look forward to see which hero you pick to do first!
December 5th, 2021 at 11:02 am
Thanks! Well, the hero is done now so I’ll aim to post them up later today or tomorrow. In the meantime I’m open to any guesses on who I decided to start with. 🙂
December 5th, 2021 at 11:28 am
It should of been the ogre as that’s the best hero in the box!
December 5th, 2021 at 12:19 pm
I agree! It isn’t the ogre, but it probably should have been and he’s definitely the coolest! Plan is he’ll be the next hero I do though.
December 5th, 2021 at 6:22 pm
I’m glad you also like him, my second favourite is the sword and pistol champ with the great mustache.
December 5th, 2021 at 12:21 am
Very nice- the red sets of the metalics well.
December 10th, 2021 at 11:38 am
Thank you! It’s a nice scheme for undead I think. 🙂
December 12th, 2021 at 1:26 pm
They look great. Nice to see cursed city getting some love
December 15th, 2021 at 10:46 am
Cheers! I got very enthusiastic about Cursed City when it was first released and then all the drama around it kind of sapped my excitement for a while. Now I’m getting back to it though and being reminded of why I was so keen to begin with. 🙂