Jason and Ian are both like little devils on my shoulder. They’re not doing it right. Isn’t one of them supposed to be the angel? They’re telling me about this super expensive game that I had already heard of, but had zero interest in playing. Especially once I found out that you have to glue together the stupid miniatures yourself. Ugh. Who has the time? It’s not my job to put together a game the designer couldn’t be bothered to put together himself. Besides, I did my term of service gluing stuff together when I was 14 and getting gluey fingerprints all over Revell models of B-17s. But they’re each telling me things about the game that make me think there’s more to this thing than I knew. Ian has it and he’s clearly enamoured of it. Or at least invested in it. Jason doesn’t have it, but he wishes he did. He seems to admire it from afar.
They keep talking. Their words are cackles and pricking pitchforks and the lash of tiny barbed tails at the back of my neck. But I’m strong. They can’t do their work on me. It won’t work. It won’t work.
One of the most injudicious things I’ve done since buying fancy Rock Band drums that I can’t even play was ordering Kingdom Death: Monster as soon as I was done talking with Ian and Jason. I won’t tell you how much it cost. I’m trying to forget. Look it up yourself if you want to know. I’ll give you a hint. The price rhymes with More Hundred Dollars. After placing the order, it took a few days before it shipped. I toyed with the idea of cancelling the order. But toying with an idea is the opposite of actually doing the idea, so it shipped. Several days later a 20-pound box showed up at my door, crammed full of stacks of sprues, all festooned with elaborate plastic bits and bobs and shreds and fragments, like jagged grey berries on dead grey twigs. What have I done? This is not for me.
But I’ve come this far. And the rest of the components in the bottom of the box look pretty fancy. The manual is a coffee table book with lavishly illustrated glossy pages. I love manuals so I particularly love this manual. After flipping through it, my resolve crumbles like a 2016 Democratic Presidential campaign. I am convinced I have done the right thing. I am convinced this is the game for me. I am convinced piecing together these elaborate plastic doo-dads is a minor barrier to entry that I won’t mind and might even come to enjoy. I am convinced that I didn’t make a terrible mistake when I spent even more money on glue, and sprue clippers (that’s a thing), and an Exacto knife (Well, hello! I remember you from when I was fourteen!), and a lit headset with a magnifying lens like a diamond fence wears, and even something called a self-repairing mat that I seriously doubt is self repairing. Ian had told me I will need these things. He also told me not to stress too much about getting the pieces into place. “They want to fit together,” he said, explaining that this was a serious miniatures game. I figured that’s just how people who mess around with dumb miniatures talk. They have to anthropomorphize the little plastic bits to justify lavishing them with glue, paint, attention, time.
But it turns out he’s right. The pieces do want to fit together. Out of all the advice he gave me, that was the most helpful. I learned to just hold them lightly and let them find their place, lining up the seams and trusting that this is how they’re supposed to go. Still, it takes me a long time to make the first character. There are four characters and a big ass lion monster that have to be assembled for the prologue session. The characters are comprised of wispy limbs, shreds of erratic plastic representing cloth or tiny stone daggers for their hands. They are delicate and ridiculously tiny. Ian warned me that my fingers would “swallow” some of the smaller pieces and he’s right. How are fingers supposed to maneuver such miniscule bits into specific positions at specific angles. I drop one of the tiny stone daggers into the carpet. It’s the size of a fingernail clipping, but I need it or the figure will hold aloft a stump where he should be clutching a dagger. It takes me about ten minutes of intense searching with a flashlight to finally find it. What the hell am I doing?
It’s a little easier to do the second one, but it still takes a long time. They’re not that pretty if you look closely. You can see the seams. You can see shiny patches where I used too much glue. Best to look at them from a distance. Without my glasses on. There. Now it looks pretty cool. Now it looks a bit like the picture online. By gently dissolving the detail with a bit of distance, I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished, with how much I haven’t messed up.
I take a break from the wispy characters to make the lion. He’s easier, but the bigger pieces are clunkier. The seams are more readily apparent. His face fits poorly into his mane so if you look at him from the side, the gaps make him look like a lion wearing a lion mask. The seam down his back and around both haunches makes it look like he’s a lion transformer who might split apart to turn into a truck or a jet plane. Best to look at him from a bit more distance than the characters.
The last two characters are each easier. Phew. It’s been a few hours. Although I felt pretty tense at certain times while I was doing it — that goddamn tiny stone dagger lurking in the fibers of the carpet! — I’m overall kind of relaxed, gratified, basking in the satisfaction of doing something I didn’t know I could do, but that I did. Maybe not well, but sufficiently and to completion. I spent the time listening to music and not thinking about much at all except finding the place where the pieces wanted to fit together. And I was happy to do something that didn’t involve looking at a screen. That’s part of why I like boardgames. And what is this business with bits of plastic other than the extended set up for an elaborate boardgame?
Now I’m ready to play the prologue scenario.
Next: here, kitty kitty kitty