Mini of the Month: the Bard of Alahan

by Angus McNicholl

Mini of the Month: the Bard of Alahan
May 7, 2020 Angus McNicholl

Twilight was falling as Aldrik arrived at the large coaching inn. The beast he rode was foamed and nervous, its mind skittish and slippery with fear. He grasped the bridle tightly as he deposited a coin in the offered hand of the stableboy, who eyed him warily.

He entered the taproom of the Gilded Lily. A long space, well furnished with wooden boards underfoot, not packed earth and sawdust as was so often the case. Travellers sat in groups, drinking or consuming an evening meal. Aldrik’s senses were only dimly aware of the odours that hung in the air, but the pulse of life sent a flicker of excitement through him.

A hot blaze burned in the grate at the far end of the room; where, in rapt attention, sat a group of children and a few elders. A man in a robe paused to take a swig from a foaming tankard before continuing his story. In a hushed voice he told a haunted tale, some story of the lost Duchy.

Despite the hubbub of conversation, his quiet voice carried clearly across the long room. With bony fingers he plucked a note on his lute to emphasise the sadness of the tale. Shadows danced and flickered as his audience gasped and drew closer.

“My lord?”

Aldrik turned to the barmaid who addressed him, his height casting his shadow across her. She shivered with sudden cold and drew a breath. 

“Ale — my throat is dry from long travels,” he rasped. She scurried to obey. He would not drink it — that was not why he was in this place.

“I see you carry your father’s sword.” Aldrik turned to see the storyteller standing next to him. He had not felt the movement of his approach, and turned, confused — and was shocked to see the man still perched in the corner telling his tale. He was both over there and right by Aldrik’s side.

“They will not see,” the storyteller said in his quiet way, indicating himself across the room by the fire. “My illusion is quite convincing… unlike your own glamour.”

“What do you want, wizard?”

“Only to help you, Aldrik; you have carried your burden too long. Your father has long passed and now your grand-nephew has taken the mantle of your noble house. But, without your father’s sword, there are those who question his legitimacy.”

“What should I care of the boy?”

“You do care, or your steps would not have brought you back. You have been gone a long time, my lord. I am here to help you. Help you to return what you once lost in life, found in death, and must return to its rightful place — to break the curse upon you.”

“I must return to Cadwallon?” Aldrik dipped his head as he considered the bard wizard’s words.

“This very night, my lord. Come, my retinue will form an escort.”

I first encountered Confrontation in 2004, a little-known French game produced by Rackham. Initially it was the beauty and quality of the sculpts that attracted my attention, but the game had many lovely details that set it apart from other fantasy games of the time (despite some rather ropey translations in the rulebooks).

Each blister pack came with a number of models, some card tokens, wound markers or spell markers, a stat card — and a miniature rulebook! Yes, a tiny little rulebook in the blister pack. In all, there were five mini-rulebooks.

Confrontation detailed the basic game mechanics and was packed with most troops. Incantation and Divination added rules for arcane and divine spell users respectively. Incarnation added special rules for heroes and quests and, finally, Fortification added rules for war machines. Eventually, Rackham collected and expanded these mini-rulebooks into Confrontation 3rd Edition and further expanded the world of Aarklash with Rag’Narok (massed battles) and Cadwallon (a roleplaying game).

Unfortunately Rackham lost its way in 2006, making an ill-fated switch from ‘artisan’ miniatures to pre-painted plastic, which saw its die-hard collectors abandon it. I believe that Sans-Detour are trying to revive the game and original miniatures line — I wish them every success.