Warhammer 40K may be the most popular tabletop wargame in the world, but it started with a whimper not a bang -- at least in terms of the miniatures. The first murmur came in August 1986, in the Citadel Miniatures Mail Order Sheet. Amid offerings of models for Doctor Who, AD&D, and Thrudd the Barbarian, there appeared an unassuming advert for eight "Imperial Marines". I will have more to say about these lovely but undersized miniatures in a coming post. For now, we can just note that there was no mention of a new game or a new sci-fi universe, Rogue Trader or 40K. Then quiet reigned for almost a year.
In March 1987, the Citadel Miniature's Mail Order Flyer advertised 14 new miniatures under the official label Warhammer 40,000 (Rogue Trader). It was not clear who these miniatures were, what you'd use them for, or what "Rogue Trader" even meant (although attentive readers might have remembered that as early as 1983, Rick Priestly had been teasing rules for an intersellar ship/trading game called "Rogue Trader"). In any case, things didn't get any clearer in August 1987, when White Dwarf #92 featured a mysterious full-page teaser consisting of an empty star-scape emblazoned at the top with the insignia of the new game. Finally, the Rogue Trader rulebook was published in September 1987. In the same month, White Dwarf #94 featured a long profile of the game. From that moment on, the stream of 40K miniatures has never ceased.
Let's return to the first 14 official Rogue Trader miniatures from March 1987 -- the range that would later become known as RT1.
Looking at them now, what surprises me is how half-baked they are. The names are redundant (i.e. "Imperial Heavy Trooper" versus "Imperial Heavy Infantry"). The intriguing nomenclature that would become a hallmark of 40K is entirely absent: we have an "Imperial Bodyguard" rather than an "Adeptus Custodes", or an "Imperial Psycher" rather than an "Astropath." The miniatures do highlight the great innovation of 40K, which is the shameless combination of sci-fi tropes with Tolkien-esque fantasy races. However, they highlight this new approach in a ham-handed way: the new Orc is a "Space Orc", the goblin is a "Space Goblin", and the dwarf is a "Space Dwarf". This is Space Hamsters with a vengeance.
The sculps themselves are a mixed bag. There is an awful lot of duplication for such a small range of miniatures. The "Light Trooper" and "Garrison Trooper" are siblings based closely on the same prototype; so also with the "Heavy Trooper" and "Heavy Infantry". The "Pirate" is ripped from "Cedric", a fantasy C01 Fighter sculpted by Bob Naismith in 1986.
Some of the figures are awkward to the point of ugliness. The design of the "Piscean Warrior" is so flat that it almost appears two-dimensional. Similarly, the Dark Elf Trooper looks like he is trying to squeeze between two parked cars before shooting you with his ridiculously flared weapon. (When I mounted both minis on bases, I had to spread their limbs and twist their torsos in order to add a sense of depth.)
Finally, almost all these miniatures are strangely divorced from the world of 40K that was about to unfold in the Rogue Trader rulebook: The "Piscean Warrior" is an orphan without past or future; the Squats of 40K look nothing like the "Space Dwarf"; the Eldar of 40K look nothing like the "Dark Elf Space Trooper"; and the Imperial Guard look nothing like the various troopers marching through the range. RT1 became outdated the moment the Rogue Trader rulebook appeared. Indeed, to the extent that these figures survived at all, it was only by being rebranded for other ranges. Several of them wound up in my beloved range of RT07 Mercenaries. Others snuck into the RT06 Adventurers. The rest perished in obscurity.
I love these miniatures so dearly precisely because they are awkward and unpolished. They are a fossil from a time when the world of Warhammer 40K was still forming -- a prehistoric era before names were invented, shapes settled, or identities solidified.
And so, without further ado, here are the first four miniatures of the RT1 range of Rogue Trader miniatures...
* * * * *
First we have "The Telepath". With his tonsure of neural implants and blank expression, he bears a striking resemblance to Lobot from The Empire Strikes Back. I don't love this miniature because it's so static. He would go to reappear in the RT06 Adventurers range as "Tech Priest Zon".
Second comes the "Ground Combat Trooper". Loyal readers will know that I've already featured this miniature as the RT07 mercenary Abaddon. He's got a beautiful design. With the tubes, baggy envirosuit, and face-window, he's always reminded me of the Sardaukar Troopers from David Lynch's Dune (1984). Although it's hard to pin down the sculptor for some of the miniatures in the range, thanks to the work of Axion at Magpie and Old Lead, we know that Bob Naismith carved this one.
Behold the "Piscean Warrior". There's some wonderful detail on this slimy alien, including a host of flesh-tubes and a inlaid scabbard that seems to come right out of R'lyeh. But, as noted above, this large figure is marred by a flat and linear design that perfectly encapsulates the worst of slotta-base-sculpting.
And finally, here's one of my favourite Rogue Trader miniatures: "Space Dwarf", better known to his friends in the RT7 Mercenaries range as "Irn Bonce the Squat". This is a figure sculpted with great style: a simple, harmonious and balanced design. Plus a grenade launcher.
Thanks for stopping by! It's nice to be sharing things with you again!
Here is the post for the next 4 minis in the RT1 range...
Oho ho! Welcome back!ReplyDelete
Great to see your works again!
Thanks Michal! I've been enjoying your Japanese miniatures. Your painting just gets better and better.Delete
Thanks Michal! I've been enjoying your Japanese miniatures. Your painting just gets better and better.ReplyDelete
Always good to see the classics! Great paint jobsReplyDelete
Thanks Rob - by the way, I've been enjoying your blog. Great work with the Dead Men of Dunharrow.Delete
So good to read you againReplyDelete
Thanks Jaeckel! It's good to be back. It's also good to have some time to look at what others are doing in the hobby. Your dwarves are looking amazing - the paintjobs just glow.Delete
I'm soo glad to have you back! Of course you made these minis look so personal, I do love your style. It's fantastic how you made them look!ReplyDelete
Thanks a lot, Suber. It's nice to be back -- and also to have time to see what you're up to.Delete
And I'm germinating a bunch more posts, so stay tuned!
Wonderful post, very enjoyable! And it happens by the way because only recently we, quite ignorant of sci-fi, discovered the existence of Rogue Trader before Warhammer 40K ...ReplyDelete
The reconstruction of the progressive creation in a new universe and of the miniatures associated with it in the forge of the 1980s is truly fascinating. Above all to go to the rediscovery of those miniatures which did not receive a future in the subsequent standardization, apart from the quality of the sculpture.
You did a great paint job with the first four of them - the mysterious Piscean warrior is our favorite. We look forward to seeing the others in the next posts!
Thanks Roder. I see that you live in Italy. I just got back from spending a month in Lucca. I am still not sure why I came back. It is the most beautiful and tranquil city I have ever visited.Delete
We are happy that you liked Lucca: we live not far from there, and we agree on the beauty and tranquility of the city. By the way, every November the "Lucca comics" takes place, a great event dedicated to comics, games, art related to fantastic, fantasy and sci-fi world: then for a week the city is invaded by thousands of fans, often dressed as their favorite heroes. It is no longer very quiet, but it is an experience to try ...Delete
Wow! I haven't ever seen the Telepath or the Piscean Warrior painted! One is quite proportional and a good sculpt, but incredibly static... the other actually looks pretty good in your pictures, but I imagine your lovely, scaly paint job really enhances its three-dimensionality over the bare sculpt. I do like his ambling pose though.ReplyDelete
You're right - the Piscean Warrior does have an interesting gait. By the way, as I mentioned in my comment above, I just spent some time in Lucca. I thought of you because I took some pictures of some fine sidewalk penises. Now Lucca was more of a Ghibelline city than it was a Guelph city, but still...Delete
Lol... It is apparently the universal mode of grafitti through time and space 😄Delete
Excellent work on some truly classic sculpts, such a shame that GW didn't keep the styles and creatures from these early designs, and went for the more generic looks later on.ReplyDelete
Boy, I couldn't agree more.Delete
Wait until you see all the RT601 Adventurers that I've painted!