What has Venice become?
The year is 1795. A great Rent has torn open reality and sunk most of Europe beneath the waves. Only one place stands untouched by the calamity: Venice.
By day the city bustles, the Queen of the Adriatic taking pride of place once again as the West’s capital of trade. However, by night Venice takes on a darker persona, both figuratively and literally masking itself. Gangs stalk the canals looking for blood, the clandestine secret societies making themselves known to fight for their own corner of the city.
But more sinister still, the Rent in the Sky has opened the path for otherworldly phenomena. Magic spills out from the world beyond the veil, bringing with it creature devoted to ancient deities. Deities who look on the burgeoning Venetian empire and smile at the madness unfolding.
Carnevale is a small scale skirmish game focused on freedom of movement combined with brutal combat and impressive magical abilities. Jump from rooftop to rooftop to hunt your opponent’s gang, or dive deep into the canals to drown your enemies.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
How did the project begin: what were its starting ideas and how long has it been in the creation?
Carnevale as a game was first created by David Esbri, who sold the IP a while ago now. We took the game back to its core and relaunched a new edition on Kickstarter in 2017. It did phenomenally well, beating even our own expectations! From there we were able to hit the ground running, casting the thousands of miniatures and making a brand new rulebook. The book itself is packed full of amazing story co-written by industry legend Gav Thorpe which sets the scene of the game and introduces all of the factions and Venice itself.
The rules were designed from the canal up, keeping core mechanics but shifting the focus from a rules-heavy almost RPG into a streamlined narrative action game which puts the focus on the players to tell the story. The game launched in November 2018, and for the last almost two years (with a big asterisk for 2020 for obvious reasons) we’ve been consistently releasing new content. Now almost all of the Kickstarter sculpts have gone to retail, and this year we’ve been releasing new boxes of miniatures with brand new, never-seen-before characters!
You won’t find that many games set in the 18th Century, and fewer still in Venice! It’s an excellent setting which provides so many story-telling opportunities and makes for a truly unique game! Venice is famous for its carnevale (that’s the name of the game!) and for the secrecy it provides. Hiding behind a mask is key to understanding the setting of Carnevale. In the day the city is a bustling metropolis, with people working together to help it thrive, but by night the residents put on their masks, showing their true faces, and take to the streets to relieve their anger, violence, and madness.
There are a few different factions in the game. Who are they?
We’ve got seven factions in total, each with their own rich backstory and reasons for wanting to take control of their slice of Venice.
The Guild are the everymen of Venice. If every man wanted to extort you and beat you up. They’re a secret society who have their fingers in every pie across the city. Originally shipwrights and dockworkers, they turned to thievery and spycraft. The shopkeepers, craftsfolk, and gondoliers under their watch get protection, but have to pay the tithe. And if they don’t, it’s not unusual for the City Guard to find people face down in the canal.
Rashaar are what has come through the Rent in the Sky. Eldritch horrors from beyond the stars, their numbers are steadily growing (as are their monsters). On the surface they present as the Church of Dagon, who are one of the most benevolent forces in Venice. But behind closed doors it’s all cult worshipping and fish people!
The Patricians are the ruling class of Venice, and complete psychopaths. Their rule is unchecked, and they’re able to use their power to basically do whatever they want. Under the gaze of the Rent in the Sky they have turned violent, taking their parties - or masqueratas - out onto the streets as drunken debauchery turns into bloody violence.
Over on the island of San Servolo the Doctors live. Obsessed with their research, the Doctors will help the sick of Venice, but behind closed doors they kidnap people to perform bizarre experiments. They have learned that magic comes from madness, and torture their patients to extract their magical energy. Nice coats though.
When the Rent erupted, a massive explosion tore through Rome. In the aftermath a new Pope was elected, and he leads the Vatican forces. Unknown to most, the Pope was actually the one responsible for the Rent opening, and he jealously guards the magic he unleashed, sending out a holy war on the people of Venice. The priests are a bitter reflection of their former position, performing public acts of violence as they enact their witch hunt.
The First Gifted, Vlad Dracula leads his army of Strigoi. Awakened by the Rent in the Sky, Dracula uses the blood kiss to transform hapless individuals into his Strigoi. Treating them as little more than cattle, these vampires are the (un)living embodied of “you are what you eat”, gaining the memories, mannerisms, and physical characteristics of their prey.
When the Rent opened, magic poured forth into the world. Some living under the Rent are affected more than others. A rare few develop magical powers of their own. The so-called Gifted have become something of a mercenary force in Venice. These powerful individuals can hire out their skills to the other gangs, or join together to become a small and deadly force unto themselves.
The figure sculpting is very impressive. Is it all digital and is it just one sculptor or are there a team?
We use all digital sculpts nowadays. Some of our older miniatures for other ranges (like the resin accessories sets) were hand-sculpted, but we reached a point where 90% of everything was done digitally anyway, and decided to write off hand-sculpting. It means we can have miniatures adjusted and tweaked as much as needed. It means we get the best sculpts and casts. If a miniature needs its ankles thickened or a sash moved for ease of casting, it’s no problem!
We have a lot of independent sculptors we work with on a regular basis across all our different games, and of course David Lewis who works full time sculpting our fast-paced sci-fi games Dropzone Commander and Dropfleet Commander. Working with freelancers takes a lot of time developing your relationship, and as time goes on, each party understands more of what the other wants and needs to get the best work. We’ve been working with a sculptor named Miguel Alonso Miró for several years now. He sculpted the Barnabotti, and is responsible for the vast majority of the newer Carnevale miniatures since the Kickstarter finished. And by a happy coincidence, he’s a Venetian too!
Why pick resin as opposed to injection styrene plastic or metal for the models?
Resin is a great material and you can get very detailed casts, resulting in excellent quality miniatures (which hopefully your readers agree with!). Being able to produce all our miniatures in-house right here in Cornwall, we’re able to have a really hands-on approach to the production process. We still have quite a small team (although it seems to be growing by the day), which means that you can follow the production a miniature from start to finish just by walking through the warehouse.
Another benefit of resin production is that we can make loads of new miniatures. We sometimes use plastic sprues for models (last year we released the most modular plastic space ship sprue ever with over 10 billion combinations), but producing things in resin means that games like Carnevale can flourish, since every miniature can be a character in their own right.
Obviously, MDF buildings can be added to the game from your range. What’s the advantage of using the MDF ones over the card models supplied with the boxed game?
Carnevale is a truly 3D game. You can climb buildings, run along walls, leap between rooftops, and jump off of balconies to attack your opponents from above. You can even dive into the canal to drown your opponents! With that in mind, most people want to have Venice realised in all its glory. Although the cardboard scenery is a great way to start, there are a few things you just can’t do in a simple design. That’s where the MDF comes in.
We’ve made townhouses that sit right on the canalside, tall towers based on real-world locations, bridges, ruined and crumbling casas, and loads more! The latest in the Streets of Venice range is a lot of modular buildings. Each one can clip together with any other in the range to help create that tightly packed, mismatched look that Venice is famous for. You can even attach chimneys, balconies, window gardens, raised walls and more to give your city some great looking final touches.
And all of these scenery quirks are represented in the rules too! The game is all about movement, and you even get extra distance if you jump onto small obstacles like railings, boxes, or chimneys!
What are you planning for the immediate future release?
We’ve got two big projects we’re working on right now. The first is a cut down version of the rulebook, which contains all the core rules but a much more limited background story. The massive rulebook is great and full of amazing writing and art, but this one is designed specifically for gaming. It’s small enough to fit in your carry case and super easy to reference. We’re also working on a little set to accompany it, but I can’t talk much more about that yet...
The second project is Carnevale’s first campaign book, entitled Blood on the Water. With it we’ll be releasing new miniatures. We have loads of new characters to release, with each faction expanding in ways that I don’t think anyone expects! There’s more magic, more monsters (seriously, there are so many weird new monsters), and events unfold that will have ramifications felt throughout Venice for many years to come.
What are your long term plans with Carnevale?
More Carnevale! In all honesty the game has been going from strength to strength, with more players coming in each day. We’re keen to get back to regular gaming when it’s safe so we can help to expand the community until Carnevale becomes as popular as we know it can be! We have an amazing group of fans at the moment who fully embrace the narrative aspect of the game, so we’re keen to show that off to a new audience.
Blood on the Water is just the start of our plans too. We have story seeds planted in the rulebook which will bloom in years to come as we follow the weird tale of a city perched right underneath a tear in the fabric of reality.
Sabina's tale, plus a scenario.
THE STORY SO FAR...
Sabina felt her heart beating through her chest. Her legs were agonising from the acid pumping through as she sped round another corner. Her feet were hitting the flagstones with a rhythmic thud, catching in time with her heavy breathing.
She sprinted under an arch and down an alley, slamming against the wall at the end before taking off down yet another deserted street. The light was dim, the odd torchlight an orange blur as she whipped past doorways. In any other part of the city she would have been instantly lost, but she knew San Barnaba like the back of her hand, and could faintly see the tell-tale signs of her location, a dim and eerie glow from the Rent illuminating the darkest corners at this late hour.
She knew she couldn’t slow down or stop, her life depended on it. A long ball gown didn’t seem like the most practical attire for a mad dash, but Sabina had plenty of practice running in a dress. And not just running she thought as she hopped over a barrel and ran down to the canalside. It was almost too late that she realised that someone had moved the beam that lay across the water. Her shortcut had been sabotaged! Thinking quickly, her feet didn’t even miss a step as she vaulted onto one of the boxes littering the street. She barely touched the top before pouncing onto the tight wall to her right, taking several steps and then launching herself over the canal. She landed with a thud, then sped off again, braving a single glance over her shoulder at the darkening canal behind. In the leap across she could have sworn she saw a shadow under the water.
Sabina rounded the corner and saw it: the gate. It was tall, in wrought iron. As she got closer she could make out the twisting frame, like ivy around an ancient tree. The glow from behind was warm and inviting, and she could hear the sound of revelry within. She slowed her approach as the smell of food overtook her other senses. The intoxicating aroma of meats and wine flooded through her. It had been a week since her last good meal.
There was only one City Guard at the gate. Always a bad sign. Either this party wasn’t going to be popular, or – more likely – Sabina was even later than she realised. Her heels clicked as she trotted up. She fished for the invitation. It was coded of course, but she always kept it hidden alongside her pistol. If anyone else found out about the masquerata and it was traced back to her... well it didn’t bear thinking about. Showing the guard he nodded and opened the gate.
The path was short to the doorway, but she was ready. On the other side was her true challenge; the race to the gate just a warm up. Lady Veronica was truly the person to impress, and Sabina knew that tonight was her night. She was ready to impress, not just at the party, but at the after-party too. Lady Veronica’s masqueratas were the stuff of legend, and if Sabina proved her willing tonight, she would surely become part of the Lady’s court. She would have to fight hard though, there were undoubtedly a handful of other guests looking to gain favour too.
She went to take a step forward as the guard cleared his throat, tapping the side of his head. She’d almost forgotten! She pulled the intricately patterned white and gold mask down over her face and opened her eyes. Sabina felt the blood rising in her as she walked, the thought of the debauchery and violence she was about to experience. Her heart beat faster than it had throughout the run, and she could feel the thrill of the bloodshed already. It was terrifying, but also exciting. She smiled, took a breath, and opened the door.
PROVING GROUNDS: SCENARIO
- The Patricians player is the Attacker, 100 Ducats + 50 Ducats for each additional Defender after the first.
- 1-4 Defenders, 75 Ducats.
- 3’x3’ board.
- Attacker: 1 Victory Point for every enemy character killed by a Henchman.
- Defender: 1 Victory Point for every friendly character left on the board at the end of the game.
- Attacker: 3 scoring 1 Victory Point each. Only scorable by Henchmen.
- Defender: 3 scoring 2 Victory Points each.
- If an Attacking Henchman kills an enemy character, they gain +1 ATTACK. Multiple Henchmen can do this, but each Henchman can only gain this bonus once.
- Every time a Defender scores an Agenda, they gain 1 piece of Equipment.
- Attacker: up to 12” away from any the centre, shown in red.
- Defenders: up to 6” away from any corner, shown in blue.
- 6 rounds.
The history and the colour
VENICE: THE ETERNAL CITY
In the early years of the 18th Century, Venice was on the decline. Its fleet in disrepair and vital trade routes favouring the Ottoman Empire over La Serenissima, the city became destitute.
With jobs scarce, many soon turned to other avenues of income. Gambling, smuggling, thievery, and prostitution were rife in the working classes. It was at this time that the Guild turned from a collection of dockworkers and shipwrights into petty thieves. From there the group turned secretive, eventually becoming the spymasters of the city. From humble craftsfolk to a criminal underworld, the city truly was suffering. Even those on top felt the sting. The ruling class of Venice was bloated, with hundreds of noble families making up its ranks. The family name was what mattered, a legacy spanning hundreds of years of the Republic. Those with noble birth had a right to sit on the council that decided the fate of the city, no matter their personal wealth
By the time the Rent in the Sky opened, very few of the nobility had any true fortune remaining. In the years that followed many more nobles were appointed. The city became a bustling capital of trade, and lucky merchants bought their way through the ranks. Those unfortunate nobles with nothing still maintained their position on the council though, and so kept their true power.
Ousted from their family homes, these nobles flocked in number to Dorsoduro, living in the area around the Chisea San Barnaba. The rent was low, and you’d find many nobles sharing houses, often even taking shifts to sleep in the same bed. These poor souls lost everything, and very few of these Barnabotti were left with only their carnevale outfits.
The noble families will sell their council votes to the highest bidder, thus giving the New Money a chance to write laws to their liking. With this they survive day to day, using their name and political history to their favour.
With limited practical skills, the Barnabotti know that the best way to survive is to gain favour with those of means. The most successful of this impoverished upper class will work their way into the inner circles of those nobles that still have money. They attend parties, often providing some form of entertainment to the hosts, dressed in their finest clothes. Ludicrously elaborate costumes, the Barnabotti will often swap their clothes to not wear the same thing twice. However, they maintain their own personalised masks, made at great cost, and often the most expensive thing they still own.
The best way to cement an alliance in Venice is with blood, and when the lavish parties become to hedonistic, the nobles will spill out onto the streets. In the dead of night the Patricians draw blades, wear their masks, and show their true faces: those of violence. Untouchable by the bribed City Guard who often accompany them; the nobles are free to treat Venice as their playground, enacting their most base desire for sadism. The smartest Barnabotti will lead the charge of the masquerata, showing their patrons how brutal they can be, toying with their prey before cutting them down. In this way they are sure to be invited back, not just to revel in the thrill again, but to claw back their rightful place on top of the working classes of the City of Canals.
WHAT ROLE DO THE BARNABOTTI PLAY?
In Carnevale there are three types of characters: Leaders, Heroes, and Henchmen. The gang building system is deceptively simple. You must have one Leader, and you can’t have more Heroes than Henchmen. That makes Henchmen your bread and butter. Usually they’re basic characters like Citizens, Madmen, and Slaves. But for the Patricians faction, you can take Barnabotti. While they’re poor, they often have excellent combat training, and are so desperate to please their noble patrons that they’ll charge headfirst into battle! Armed with either a pistol or sword, they’re also very flexible and the equivalent of many other factions’ Hero choices!
WHAT MAKES THEM SPECIAL?
You that you can never have enough Barnabotti: we’ve even converted other miniatures into them to get more on the table! It doesn’t hurt either that pistols have recently received a bit of a buff in game. All of the character stats are available for free online, and we rebalance them periodically to keep everything competitive.
WHY CHOOSE THIS CHARACTER AS THIS MONTH’S MINIATURE?
We actually had a big discussion in the office as to what character to include. Do we pick a Capodecina: one of the most iconic miniatures in the range? How about Rashaar monster to bring that Lovecraftian angle? Both good options, but there’s one character that sums up the entirety of Carnevale in one miniature: the humble Barnabotti.
With a flowing and elaborate dress, a delicate mask, and of course a handy pistol, the Barnabotti are Carnevale at its core. On the surface a bright and shining example, and underneath all that a shadow of a person, mired in bloodshed. The Barnabotti show off the unique style and setting of the game like no other!
For painters a model like this is a real treat. Flowing cloth looks great when painted simply, and is a great surface for washes or contrast paints. But it’s also a wide open area for some elaborate freehand. The Barnabotti are the height of carnival fashion, so they really show one of the things that makes Carnevale unique: so much colour! You can paint your forces in any colour, and the elaborate costumes make that even easier. We couldn’t decide on a colour scheme so we have some alternative suggestions on offer!
For the studio scheme, our painter Finlay Robertson has chosen a green and yellow palette. Usually he’s a bit more restricted to keep everything in a faction quite similar, but on a one-off miniature like this he’s exercised his right to go wild!
PAINTING THE BARNABOTTI
By Finlay Robertson of TTCombat
Some fine threads for a lady
Let us look at how to paint your Barnobotti with this step by step guide.
This was painted entirely with Vallejo paints: Model Color (MC), Game Color (GC) and Model Air (MA) with Model Wash (MW).
First of all the model was primed Black. For painting the green skirts, I started with a basecoat of MC Deep Green. This was then washed with MW Dark Green. Highlighting was done with a 3:1 ratio of MC Deep Green and GC Foul Green with a final highlight of pure GC Foul Green.
Next, I picked out parts of the model in MC Violet highlighting with 50/50 MC Violet and MC Magenta.
For her bodice and yellow parts of the skirts I used GC Heavy Gold Brown as a basecoat then washed with MW Oiled Earth. Then I went over these areas again with a highlight of GC Heavy Gold Brown. Then I did a final highlight of GC Moon Yellow.
For her white trim I painted the parts on the skirts Black and the parts on the bodice MC Burnt Umber. Then painted MC Medium Grey highlighted with MC Deck Tan and then a final highlight of 3:1 MC Deck Tan to White.
For the black shoes I painted them Black then highlighted with MC Deck Tan added to the Black. The brown of the pistol and leather was achieved by painting them MC Chocolate Brown highlighted with a 50:50 MC Chocolate Brown and GC Beasty Brown and a final highlight of GC Leather Brown.
For the metallic areas I brushed on a 50:50 MA Black Metallic with MA Steel. This was then carefully edge highlighted with pure MA Steel. The Bronze of the gun was a basecoat of GC Tinny Tin highlighted with GC Bright Bronze. Finally, for the feather on her hat I base coated them Black then picked out the feather details in MC Deck Tan. I then used a Vallejo Glaze Medium to make a glaze with MC Violet and MC Magenta over the Black and MC Deck Tan with a final highlight of MC Pink.
Skin was base coated in 50:50 MC Beige Red and MC Basic Skin Tone. Then washed with GC Red thinned to a glaze. This was then highlighted up from base coat to MC Basic Skin Tone.
Her base was primed Black then dry brushed with MC Burnt Umber in patches and dry brushed again with MC Dark Grey then finally with MC Light Grey. Once this was done, I used Vallejo Pigments Iron Oxide and Chrome Oxide stippled on parts. The base rim was then painted Black.
This article originally appeared in issue 451 of Miniature Wargames. You can pick up your issue of the magazine here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.