Friday 27 February 2015

Concepting and Developing the Ikwen

On the 4th of March 2015 the latest expansion to the growing and respected Loud Ninja Games miniatures line will be released.  Eli Arndt has earned himself a reputation as a great guy, a keen hobbyist and a deliverer upon promises made.  If you missed the first look posting on the Ikwen then go back one post and have a look.  Otherwise you can read on to learn about the concepts and ideas behind the Ikwen that have taken them from the mind to the page to the hand and to the mold.  So here is a link to the Loud Ninja Games page on and from here it will be in Eli's own words:

Over a generation ago, the planet Kwiell was set upon by aliens bent on exploiting the natural resources of the planet. The planet’s native population, the Ikwen, found themselves suddenly enslaved and their society rocked as they were enslaved, put to work and in many cases hunted and killed.  The Ikwen have spent decades in frustrated servitude to these invading overlords, hedging on their beliefs and their close-knit kinship ties to get them through. It was only when the invaders sought to remove their spiritual identities that they found the courage to rise up and go to war.

The conflict began as acts of sabotage, ambushes and in some cases organized resistance but as time went on it grew into a very real, very active militia war. Weapons were procured through theft or the trade of the very resources they had been robbed of. Groups of soldiers took to the wilderness, the highlands and steppes where they enlisted the locals there into their fight. Ancient desert fortresses and settlements were once more turned into homes for fighters and their families. Ancient warrior traditions and less-spoken of factions found a renewed place in the world.

The Ikwen are one side of an asymmetric war against a higher tech, invading enemy. They fight in a less organized, militia style, utilizing acquired weapons, not of their of own manufacture.  While we see them as very much freedom-fighting indigenous life forms, use them as alien invaders, allies, mercenaries or even lower tech indigenous forces for more organized warfare.

Designing the Ikwen, I have always had an image of their conflict in my mind, even if I have never quite assigned an enemy to them (this has become part of their appeal). In their back story they are an exploited indigenous people, rising up to fight for their home world. Part of exploring this back story has been trying to visualize what this world and their conflict might look like. To this end, I have been working with my concept artist, Todd Ulrich, to do some art that depicts their fight.

In the above picture we see several Ikwen moving through the rocky terrain of their home world. In the foreground three militia fighters move cautiously passed a long-downed flyer of alien origin. The foremost fighter packs with him a case containing extra ammunition. His companions can be see carrying Huli blades and assault rifles purchased from arms dealers, likely with valuable natural resources.  In the background, the other Ikwen are engaging an overhead enemy. The rocket launcher, hunkered down behind a half buried industrial rig is firing off his first rocket. After that, he can eject the spent canister from the disposable frame, dropping the second canister into place. ready to fire.  I hope that you enjoy this art from Todd Ulrich. As the Ikwen miniatures progress, I hope to have some more art done. 

The Ikwen range is designed to represent one side of a conflict against an undetermined foe, making them ideal opposition force for any range of miniatures as they are not designed to fight any specific force. This is not special, in itself, but what makes their weapon design tough as a militia force is that they have no pre-made world from which they would have sourced their irregular arsenal. When considering how to arm them, the decision was made to give the Ikwen weapons that were analogous to the weapons seen in terrestrial militia forces, but not human weapons. A balance between form and function had to be reached and with the help of artist Todd Ulrich, I think we did just that.

Todd took my notes and together we came up with what you see above. With the exception of the blades (Huli) the other weapons are very much cousins to weapons we know. Assault rifles, sub-machine guns, shotguns, and the rest of the cast are here. All familiar, but looking like they were made in a factory far away. This will allow them to fight any force of miniatures enemies and not have to worry about having weapons that are too human or too alien.

In a lot of ways the weapons were picked based on how they would look in the hands of miniatures. I can see Ikwen swinging around their Huli or lugging around the suitcase-like reloads of their rocket launchers while they scurry around, snapping off shots with their rugged assault weapons, all in a desperate play to fight whoever players pit them against.

The Ikwen do not wear conventional clothing because they really have no biological or societal imperative to do so. Having evolved in the environment in which they exist, unlike humans who evolved in warmer climates and then left that behind, the Ikwen are already protected from their environment by then nature of their bodies which include a small degree of natural body armour (e.g.thick, knobby skin). They have no external genitals either, so no reproductive parts to keep safe. They do wear religious clothing in the form of the breach cloth Zkoot. Another element that keeps them from covering up too much is that they breath through slits in their abdomen that are concealed under the scale there. As for body armor, it comes down to availability, the same sort of availability that limits the amount of body armor seen in current day Earthly militia/rebel/insurgent/freedom fighters. We see very few examples where such groups are equipped beyond the basics of war - a gun and some ammo.

Zkoot. My background in gaming starts as an RPG guy and this has stuck with me all along. I usually end up on the GM side of things and as such world building, character developing and background fluff are sort of second nature to me. This comes out in my miniatures projects as well whether it is my own gaming or designing stuff for release by LNG.

When developing the Ikwen, it was important form to manifest some sort of cultural elements in their designs. One of the easiest ways to do this in miniatures is through distinctive articles of clothing. In the Ikwen this came out as a sort of ceremonial cloth worn around the waist called a "Zkoot". 

Every Ikwen receives a Zkoot at birth. It is the first and last thing they will ever wear. The Zkoot is tied into their belief system and the Ikwen believe that they record the events of their life to be proclaimed when they enter the afterlife and join their ancestors. To die without a Zkoot is to be denied the afterlife. 

Zkoot are worn tied around the waist in a way that allows a wide panel to hang between the legs. This panel displays patterns and symbols that identify the family ties, community and even nationality of the Ikwen wearing it. The Zkoot is worn at all times except when being washed or repaired and even then certain rituals must be upheld in the way it is maintained including restrictions on materials, folding and storage. Holy men among the Ikwen do not wear the Zkoot around their waist. Instead they wear their sacred cloth draped over their head and shoulders, shrouding their faces. In this way, interaction with the holy men is not with them but directly with the lineage displayed on the Zkoot and thus the ancestral line of the Ikwen.

Because of the connection with the afterlife, the absence or loss of a Zkoot is a serious crisis for Ikwen. Those born outside of traditional family bonds or who are orphaned often have no Zkoot and live marginalized lives. Those without Zkoot or "Hadzakoot" are often looked on as untrustworthy, false, even corrupted as they are seen to have no accountability. It is no surprise that Hadzakoot are often involved in criminal dealings and other undesirable lines of work. It is possible for a Hadzakoot to acquire a Zkoot in some cases such as adoption, special religious rituals and high-level political decree. It is considered an incredibly solemn and selfless act to bequeath one's own Zkoot to another Ikwen and thus surrender ones chances at an afterlife.

Ki-Ki-Zkoot. There are few instances where the Zkoot plays directly into the actions of Ikwen as in the case of the Ki-Ki-Zkoot, a sect of fanatic warriors. Ki-Ki-Zkoot have always existed among the Ikwen but have always risen in numbers during times of great conflict when there is a need for those who are willing to do the things that would shame their lineage.  Ki-Ki-Zkoot surrender their sacred cloths in a ceremony in which they pass them on to an unfortunate soul, bringing them into their families to replace them. While this frees the fanatic of his obligations to his ancestors, it also indentures the recipient of the Zkoot to the great responsibility of not only fulfilling his obligation to his new family but also honoring the warrior who's place he has taken. The recipients known as Yotzkoot often go on to be civic leaders, frequently rising as priests, teachers, or other mentors to their communities. 

Once they have shed their Zkoot, these fanatics are unfettered by societies rules and expectations. They are now ready to fight an unrestricted battle and it is expected that they will do anything and everything to win short of suicide. While sacrifice and extremes are the stock and trade of these fanatics, to waste their lives and the opportunity needlessly is still looked on as taboo. Ki-Ki-Zkoot are often scarred and marked, showing their savagery in open displays. They often carry multiple weapons, including melee weapons.

Mugoda. Every society has it's rebels and those who buck convention. Among the Ikwen, these are the Mugoda or "Shadowy Ones". These Ikwen live by a different set of rules within  proper Ikwen society. They are a sort of under-society that exists to function where a society needs them to - breaking rules, while adhering to their own. In many ways the Mugoda are the organized crime syndicates of this alien culture. 

Like the Ki-Ki-Zkoot they exist to do things that polite Ikwen society does not look fondly upon. Unlike the warrior fanatics, these Ikwen have not surrendered their Zkoot but instead wear theirs proudly and garishly, attaching charms and trinkets, trophies and other embellishment to what is normally a very modest attire. They also pierce their skin with obvious signs of wealth and wear jewelry. To the Mougoda, it's best to live life well because the afterlife is not going to be pleasant. Mugoda afterlife is an eternity of low service and drudgery. It is also worth noting that dealing with Mugoda is allowed by common Ikwen belief as the layer of detachment absolves one of any real guilt. 

The Mugoda figure prominently in the Ikwen's fight as their underworld enterprise allows them access to materials and resources not available to those among regular society. This has allowed them to stockpile weapons and armor, fighting with gear that is often far more sophisticated than the rest of the Ikwen militias. In this way, these criminal syndicates provide a much needed backbone to regular militia, though often at a cost.

The Miniatures. At the end of this process we have the miniatures sculpted by Roderick Campbell. We hope you like them as much as we go.

Thanks for Reading.



  1. Great background - a complex and contradictory alien society! And one the player can sympathize with due to their fight against alien (possibly human!) exploiters.

    1. Thanks for your comment Allison. Eli put a lot of thought into this species and its lore. Yes. I see a possible cross over in The Ion Age with Retained Knights liberating the Ikwen from the clutches of the Shia Khan.


    2. "a complex and contradictory alien society"

      I love this. Thanks for recognizing this.

      The last thing I wanted to make was another alien species that was either bug-eyed beasts, high tech invaders or even poor savages. The Ikwen are, at least I hope, going to read as PEOPLE, albeit alien ones.

  2. I really like the Ikwen, both the backstory and the miniatures. Can we hope to see a few close combat poses with blades and pistols? Support weapons would also be nice.

    I may borrow these for my Metamorphosis Alpha RPG campaign. The look and the culture would be great.

    1. I am sure that Loud Ninja Games will expand the Ikwen as time passes. With Rifles, LMG and RPG they have enough to begin a rebellion. Sure, if you do that please email and show us we always like to see miniatures in use in all settings.


  3. Dave,

    I have a few ideas down that road. The Ikwen have a rich background and a style and theme that lends itself well to all manner of interesting troops.


    1. Indeed they do and certainly I will be keen to see where they go from here. Alien home steaders defending their lot from the many possibilities come to mind.


  4. Could that oppressing race be the Garn (from Khursan Minatures)? I love fluff and this really IS good compelling background...and I agree they are not the bug eyed monster or the pitiful savage. I run a D20 sci fi RPG with the whole of 15mm sci fi as the backdrop... these I believe will be next on the purchase list. GOOD JOB GUYS!.