Thursday, September 15, 2022

Rogue Trader Adventurers from 1988

The RT601 range of Rogue Trader adventurers came out in the Spring of 1988, just months after the 1st edition of Warhammer 40,000 hit the shelves. In my eyes, the range was a crowing achievement: 32 miniatures showing the wild diversity and imagination of Games Workshop's new sci-fi universe. Each figure pops with character and story-telling potential.

From White Dwarf #99
Originally, Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader was a hybrid between a roleplaying game and skirmish wargame. For instance, it required a Game Master to guide the players through scenarios and campaigns. The rulebook is crowded with charts that randomize the equipment carried by soldiers and heroes, a feature that only makes sense in a roleplaying game (like the random encounter charts in AD&D). And finally, there was the justly famous "Plot Generator" at the back of the rulebook, which threw players into contact with new worlds, alien civilizations, planetary governors, imperial assassins, and dastardly pirates.

But to run these scenarios, you need miniatures to play the dramatis personae: the politicians, rebels, engineers, navigators and rogue psykers. And that's where the RT601 range of adventurers came in! 

And yet for all the splendor of this range, it was an evolutionary dead end. As we all know, WH40K grew into a tournament games of army lists, not a plot-driven adventure game. And so the RT601 range was the first and last great spurt of character-miniatures.

I'm pleased to report that I finished collecting and painting all 32 miniatures in the RT601 range. Let's take a look at the first six miniatures!

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First is the RT601 "Eldar Trader". In Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987), Rick Priestly writes that the Eldar are "clever traders" who eschew conventional space travel. Rather, they use small warp-gate networks centered in their craftworlds to move their goods between planets. The haughty expression of this model is priceless. I can almost hear him saying, "You don't want carpet. You want area rug!"

Eldar Trader RT601 Adventurers Citadel Rogue Trader 40K

Let's continue looking at some of the non-humans. Second comes the RT601 "Squat Miner". Once again, we are treated to a great facial expression and an insouciant pose. How sweet it is to get some Warhammer miniatures who are not sporting weapons! All this fellow has is a drill, bad teeth, and a cheap cigar. For you collectors out there, this seems to be one of the rarer sculpts in the range.

Squat Miner RT601 Adventurers Citadel Rogue Trader 40K

Third is the RT601 "Squat Engineer". There are lovely details on his hazard suit. I'm particularly fond of his eager expression. He looks like "stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes, he something something something upon a peak at Darien."

Squat Engineer RT601 Adventurers Citadel Rogue Trader 40K

Next is the RT601 "Halfling Cook". In Rogue Trader, Priestly gives a description of Halflings that would make Tolkien moan in his grave: "They are idle, hedonistic, gregarious, over-friendly, and sexually promiscuous... Their lives are spent eating until sick, drinking copious amounts of intoxicating liquid, and procreating uncontrollably. These small, loud, hungry and lecherous creatures call themselves Halflings, but other humans know them as Runtlings, Stunties and Ratlings... They have earned themselves a role amongst the stars working as cabin crew and runarounds...".

I tried my best to make this fellow look loud, hungry and lecherous.

Halfling Cook RT601 Adventurers Citadel Rogue Trader 40K

Fifth we have the RT601 "Navigator". Navigators aren't quite aliens: they are mutants with a tendency to be "tall and spindly, and their flesh may have a peculiar transparent quality... Hands and feet can be ridiculously large and are frequently webbed." This is indeed a tall, gangly miniature with over-sized appendages. I went the extra step and gave my Navigator a third eye.

Navigator RT601 Adventurers Citadel Rogue Trader 40K

Last we have the RT601 "Ventolin Pirate". Ventolin, of course, is an asthma medication administered through an inhaler. I like Curis' suggestion at Ninja Bread that the Ventolin Pirate is a conhead alien who requires Ventolin gas to survive. In any case, he's a great miniature, with fine details and a striking design.

Ventolin Pirate RT601 Adventurers Citadel Rogue Trader 40K

Thanks for coming by! And remember: stay loud, hungry and lecherous!

Halfling Cook RT601 Adventurers Citadel Warhammer 40K

Monday, September 5, 2022

Eldar Command Group for 40K Rogue Trader

If there is anything that's cooler than the original RT401 Space Elves released in 1987, it was the RT402 Eldar Command Group released in 1988. With these figures, we see sculptor Jes Goodwin starting with the basic theme of the Eldar warrior, and embellishing it with free-jazz experimentation. The peaked helmets morph into masks or burst into tentacle-like tubing, the weapons grow teeth or elongate, and the armor mimics the shapes of Space Marines. It is a tour-de-force.

It's amusing to look back on these miniatures and to remember that, back in the 1980's, the whole "Space Elf" business was seen as a bit of a boondoggle. As Jes Goodwin recounted in a fascinating interview with Gav Thorpe in 2017:

"...I had been allocated to the space elf range because I was ‘new boy’ and nobody thought they would sell as well as space soldiers or space dwarves. As the resident elf nut I jumped at the chance to prove we could do something cool with them."

Well, I think we can safely say that the story ends well for the sculptor and his work. Over 30 years later, the Eldar continue to be one of the most aesthetically and mythologically interesting aspects of the 40K universe, (notwithstanding what some crusty grognards might say). And Jes Goodwin is the Lead Miniature Designer at Games Workshop, one of the few personnel remaining from the glory days of the 1980's.

I curbed my customary inclination to collect every miniature in this range because -- well, how many standard bearers and musicians does one squad of Space Elves really need? I painted them in the classic scheme of blue and yellow. Their insignia marks them as members of the Scarlett Command, a small band of Eldar Corsairs.

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First up is the leader of my force "Cdr. Avele Swifteye". He (or she?) is wearing a helmet overlaid with scowling visage, an apparent homage to the mask (or men-yoroi) that samurai wore in order to protect their face and scare their enemies. Avele's mask and crest seems to mark him (or her?) out as an aristocratic warrior.

Next we have the champion, "Kaevii Firehand". I find this miniature interesting because it seems to betray influences from Space Marine armour, specifically in the exaggerated shoulder pauldrons and the flaring greaves with deep wells for the feet. The haircut is deep 1980's.

Third is the musician, "Kaele Lightprow". Nothing marks a Rogue Trader era unit out like having a musician. He is playing keyboards which are integrated into his thigh-armour and which activate the organ pipes on his backpack. Shine on, you crazy diamond!

Last and certainly not least is the standard bearer, "Menhe Worldsong". This is probably my favourite miniature in the Space Elf range, and one of my top picks of all time. He looks to me like the meanest Eldar who ever donned a big pointy helmet. 

WAIT! That should be the end, but I painted two bonus command figures: a spotter and a special weapon trooper. 

The spotter is from the RT404 Eldar Field Artillery range released in April 1988.

And finally, my special weapon trooper is "Velasinn Doomdrifter" from the RT402 Command Group. 

Well, that's it for my Eldar project. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Take care!