Indie wargame designer and small business owner Curtis Fell is giving away a set of themed Brexit minis, for free, to any EU customers, as part of an “art project” to help him deal with “feelings of frustration and betrayal” by the UK government. In a January 6 blog post announcing the ‘Dark Brexit’ minis, Fell says that higher costs for EU customers have driven about one quarter of the regular customers away from his company, Ramshackle Games.
“It costs EU customers up to [$18 USD] £15 extra to order from Ramshackle”, says Fell, who runs the company alone. Fell tells Wargamer that he “had a good amount of loyal fans in Denmark”, but a flat fee on any non-EU mail entering the country has driven them off.
Fell both sculpts and manufactures miniatures, so was able to put the ‘Dark Brexit: The Broken Chain’ warband into production himself. Anyone ordering from the EU can claim a copy of the warband for free, and they are on sale for other customers via the Ramshackle Games webstore.
The models are satirical reflections of themes and characters from the ongoing political upheaval around Britain’s membership of the EU. The model being strangled “is a self-portrait… [it] represents small businesses being strangled by import tax and other fees now liable from abandoning our political allies”. The Lovecraftian fish-person alludes to corruption and the UK fishermen who lost fishing rights because of Brexit”, while the walking hairdo that looks like an Ork Squig is a reference to a former British Prime Minister.
Other warband members reference British idioms. The ‘Dark Lord of Brexit’ model can be built holding a joint of pork, or ‘gammon’, a British term for men who are red-faced with indignation, while ‘Dark Britannia’ can be posed shooting herself in the foot – an idiom that, understandably, means ‘doing something incredibly stupid’.
The minis can also be built without satirical components and used in Ramshackle Minis’ game Mini Gangs. The retro sculpting style is in keeping with some of the Warhammer 40k factions from the late ‘80s Rogue Trader era, and we could see these slotting into an Oldhammer Chaos renegades army quite nicely, or simply as a project if you enjoy painting miniatures.
From 2001-2003 Fell worked at Aardman Animations, the UK based creators of classic stop-motion Wallace and Gromit, as an assistant animator on Chicken Run, before working at videogame developer Free Radical Design as an animator on the Time Spliters series. He set up Ramshackle Games in 2006 after “losing an eye in a sword fight” during a viking reenactment battle and deciding he wanted to do something new.
Miniatures and satire don’t cross paths often, but there is precedent. Venerable wargamers may remember the Warhammer Fantasy Battles supplement ‘The Tragedy of McDeath’, which referenced then contemporary labour disputes, naming the Dwarf Leader ‘Aarka Zargull’ after the leader of the National Union of Coal Miners Arthur Scargill. Then there’s the Chapman Brothers’ dioramas of hell, which use scale military models to render nightmarish scenes that would make a hardened Chaos Space Marine wince.
It’s not just indies that attribute greater costs or lost business to Brexit. Games Workshop threw shade at Brexit in its annual report for 2021-22, and listed it among the three biggest external challenges facing the firm in its January 10 half-year report, alongside Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing impacts of Covid-19.