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The Archives

#2 - Baba Yaga

Nested inside the next file of the Cabals Archives we find Baba Yaga, the second hero of the Bearclaw Brotherhood. Unlike the other heroes of the game, Baba is grounded purely in myth and legend. She is perhaps the most interesting character of such classical Russian fairy tales as "Vasilisa the Beautiful" and the paradoxical "The Death of Koschei the Deathless". Although she is best known from Russian folklore, she is also an archetypal image in the wider slavic cultural tradition. Thus, her image keeps popping up in contemporary fantasy fiction and popular culture. For instance, check her out in Mike Mignola's brilliant Hellboy comics - a major source of inspiration for Cabals.

The famous slavic hag, then, having attained archetypal status and finally making her appearance in an online card game. The first thing to note about Baba is her evil nature, her pure hagness. As you may have already noticed, the Cabals universe is populated by some nasty characters: assassins, witch hunters, ancient cyborg-warriors and the like. The secret societies here are not dreaming of a better world or building Utopias. Rather, they are scheming to take all power by every means available. As an evil hag, Baba fits here quite well. And, as the basic moral law goes, evil is more interesting than good. Skeletor is cooler than He-Man, Boromir has more psychological depth than (the rather disgusting) Aragorn and in the epics of Milton and Dante Hell and Satan are more fascinating than Heaven and God.

A sketch of Baba Yaga.

Well, its not that simple. The archetypal imagery is about contradictions. No pure moral qualities to be found there. Baba Yaga, too, is a catchy character as a personification of a contradiction. In the folktales she eats and enslaves children, hangs human skulls to hang from her fence as lamps and kills people for asking the wrong questions. But she also helps heroes in trouble and follows rules. She even cleans the paths made by her flying mortar with her broom.

Wait! Isn't that a bit... queer? A hag who is flying in a mortar and using the pestle as a rudder? The western straight witches simply use their brooms for flying like those little wimps in Harry Potter. Well, Baba also lives in a house that is supported by chicken legs. This is where she is starting to get seriously intriguing...

The original coloring of Baba Yaga.

In game terms it was clear from the beginning that Baba should have an ability that helps or disturbs movement on the board. First she was meant to be this strong unit that could teleport herself across the board. But that would have done violence to her character. Usually there is only one Baba in the folktales whereas the units of the game are more like general types. There is also something semi-godlike in her character. She isn't quite the mortal you just chop down with your pumped-up Initiate of Wodan and drop in the discard pile. So, we decided to make her a hero, which does some justice to her unique personality. Her ability of pushing units around is intended to capture her dual nature as a helper / antagonist who is specialized in transportation.

So much for Baba Yaga. In the next file we introduce Bramin Engineer to you.

Sami Simola
Designer

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