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!

*    *    *    *    *

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.

*    *    *    *    *

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!



Thursday, August 18, 2022

Adeptus Mechanicus Servitors by Bob Olley



I'm high on Bob Olley. My latest foray into his world are two of the 4011 Adeptus Mechanicus Servitors he sculpted in 1989.

Painting Olley miniatures is often challenging, but these two were a joy. The facial expressions -- by turns crude, servile and sedated -- emerged from the brush without any specific intention on my part. The wonderful details (like the wires, implants and bionics) were crisply carved and easy for me to delineate. The two miniatures seemed to paint themselves.

It's a reminder that part of the miniature sculptor's art is to help the painter. After all, it is the painter who will have the most intimate, the most delicate experience with the sculptor's efforts. Indeed, few other visual artists can console themselves with the notion that there is someone out there who will spend hours and hours contemplating the most minute details of their work. (I just spent some time in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence where I was confronted with some of the greatest sculpture in human history. But with the crowds seething around me, I couldn't spend more than a few moments looking at each individual piece).

I wonder whether miniature sculptors often get feedback from their customers on the experience of painting their models. I hope so! 

*    *    *    *    *

Here is the first of Mr. Olley's magnificent miniatures. This is "Servitor" 4011-06.



And below is "Servitor" 4011-07. I love the drool tube going into his mouth. Olley is a genius.



The only other miniature I know who was as easy to paint was the "Mad Punk" (below) from the RT601 Adventurers. Are there any sculptors whom you think are particularly good at making life easy on a miniature painter? I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Thanks!




Thursday, August 11, 2022

The War Monster

 

War Monster for Saga Age of Magic painted miniature

I've always wanted to model a War Monster and last January I finally did it.

The incitement for this project was reading Saga: Age of Magic (2019) by Alex Buchel and Fred Machu. Saga has been one of my favourite rule-sets since the first edition sprung on our hobby in 2011. Age of Magic adapts the second edition for fantasy skirmish games. One of the strengths of the book is that the authors give their imagination free reign when it comes to units: besides great dragons and giants, there are rules for fielding the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse or Hern's Wild Hunt. But most intriguing for me were the rules for one gigantic beast who swarms with drivers, archers, and crew. I was hooked by the requisite dimensions for the model: a base between 8 and 12 inches long. Since Saga games usually occur on a 3x4 foot board, this single miniature would occupy a huge part of the available real-estate. A real monster!

Rules from Saga: The Age of Magic (2019)


Of course, it wasn't Saga that first gave me the idea for the great beast. One of my favourite books when I was a small child was Steven Kellogg's The Wicked Kings of Bloon (1970). This priceless gem of a book features two obnoxious brothers who go to war with each other by arming and armoring great dinosaur-like monsters. The brothers' struggle for domination is brought to an abrupt end when their dinosaurs decide that they'd rather cuddle than fight:

Illustration by Steven Kellogg from The Wicked Kings of Bloon (1970)


And then, of course, there's White Dwarf #100 (April 1988). This special anniversary edition featured the work of the German modeler Michael Immig, whose incredible dioramas captured the attention of John Blanche when they met in Hamburg. Michael's "Fighting Dinosaur" is more than a model - more than even a work of art. It is a shamanistic fetish constructed out of chestnut shells, mouse bones, old buttons and fir cones (not to mention an Airfix Brontosaurus and innumerable Citadel miniatures).

White Dwarf #100
I could never emulate the complexity and beauty of the "Fighting Dinosaur". But I did take from it the idea that a great beast's howdah should be a ship-like construction, complete with look-out tower and different decks.

Ultimately, I decided to do something simple. I wanted a model that could be used for different settings: an orcish beast for Saga, a piece of moving scenery in Warhammer 40K, an exotic adversary for Star Wars skirmish games.

To ensure a variety of different miniatures could stand (or even fight) on the howdah, I tried to make it broad and easily accessible, without many railings, walls and other accessories that might get in the way. I didn't want a diorama so much as a functional model.

The beast itself in a plastic dinosaur from Amazon. I added a few choice details with greenstuff and brass chain, and then primed him black. The painting was dead simple: I brought out the colour with successive layers of drybrushing over his rough scales. 




The howdah is an amalgamation of balsa wood and popsicle sticks welded together with industrial quantities of superglue and greenstuff. I think I could sit on it and it wouldn't snap.

Overall, I'm pleased with the results, especially when it's loaded down with Krapfang's Orcs.

Painted miniature War Monster for Saga Age of Magic






Now I just need to see how it plays in a game of Saga...




Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Scribblings

For those of you who might be interested in my other writings, I recently had a couple articles published in Watkins Mind, Spirit, Body Magazine


My print article on Zen koans is available in the Summer 2022 issue (pictured above). Who would have guessed I'd ever share a table of contents with Lady Gaga?

And there is another article (with no paywall) on the Watkins website about my dad's death last summer.

It's a real honour to be published in Watkins. The magazine grew out of Watkins Books, which is the oldest esoteric bookstore in London (and one of the oldest in the world) - being founded in 1897 by a friend of the theosophist Madam Blavatsky.




If you're curious about my writings about meditation and Buddhism, my author's website is www.bluecliffrecord.ca


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The First Eldar Miniatures in WH40K Rogue Trader: Part 3


I hope you enjoyed last week's guest post by Geriatricus Maximus. I didn't. What a grouch. 

For the final installment of my tour through the RTO4 range of original Space Elves, I thought I'd start by taking a look at some of the other fabulous painters who have tackled the range before. Honestly, I found it intimidating to try to paint these miniatures precisely because there are so many talented people who have turned their hand to them and produced stellar results:

Illustration of Yriel from
The Book of the Astronomicon (1987)

  • The first stop on our tour must be Dave Perry's Eldar. Steve Casey at Eldritch Epistles did a huge service to the hobby by presenting Dave's work in a series of stunning posts. Dave was a member of Games Workshop's Design Studio and 'Eavy Metal team. His Eldar (to quote Steve Casey) are "an absolute riot of yellow". I could stare at them all day. They are the Van Gogh sunflowers of the Warhammer world.
  • As a lovely contrast, take a look at the "Starry Night" Eldar painted by Frank J. and posted to DakkaDakka.
  • Another treasure captured by Steve at Eldritch Epistles is a handful of Eldar from Bryan Ansell's personal collection. They demonstrate the incredible variety of colour schemes that the Eldar attracted even from their earliest days.
  • I'm quite partial to Subedai's Eldar at The Lost and the Damned. He used a cool palette that catches the eye, and his work on the helmet markings is exquisite.
  • I also enjoyed the Eldar painted by Dutch Law at Berman Blog. Orange and teal is a striking combination of colours. And the strange effect is enhanced by the alien pallour he gives to those without helmets.
When it came to painting my own Space Elves, I decided to go classic: blue bodies and yellow helms with black stripes. I suppose it might be too classic. But I was seduced by the miniatures glimpsed in the pages of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987), as well as by the profile of Yriel and Yriel's Eldritch Raiders from The Book of the Astronomicon (1988). If I was going to paint the original Eldar, I wanted them to look like the original Eldar.

*   *   *   *   *

First up is "Eoan Fireheart". He differs from all the other miniatures in the range (save for the heavy gunners) insofar that his armour is bulkier, curvier and more bulbous. I like the way he has removed his helmet but the lower breather mask has stayed attached to this face.

Eoan Fireheart RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature


Next comes "Capt. Aetolia Lightfoot". This is one of my favourite sculpts in the range: it looks great from every angle. As I've mentioned before, I love the way that it's hard to tell where the armour ends and the weaponry begins.

Captain Aetolia Lightfoot RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature


Third is "Ceido Sharpeye". Although this is a simple pose, I find it compelling: the couched shuriken catapult conveys caution and watchfulness.

Ceido Sharpeye RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature


And finally, the last in the RTO4 range is "Kern Proudbrow". The languid but aggressive pose is 100% Eldar awesomeness. Thanks Jes Goodwin for giving us such amazing miniatures!

Kern Proudbrow RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature


If you know of any other great paintjobs for these miniatures, please share in the comments. Cheers!


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The First Eldar Miniatures: Part 2 - Geriatricus speaks!

Back in my day, we didn't have "Aeldari" or "Asuryani" or even "Eldar". Hear that? Not even Eldar. We had SPACE ELVES. And that was good enough for us. Just plain old Space Elves. We didn't need fancypants names stolen from the glossary in the Silmarillion. That's because we had guts. We got by with nothing but Elves. In space. With shuriken catapults.

Original Jes Goodwin Eldar Space Elves 1987 painted

There were no good elves and bad elves. There were just elves. Sometimes they helped you and sometimes they raided your homeworld and incinerated your family. But we didn't bellyache about it or go around calling them "Drukhari" or nuthin'. What a bunch of lightweights you guys are. When a bee stings you on your knuckle, is it a Dark Bee? Was it seduced by Slannesh? Yeah - that's what I thought. Go make a Tic Tac video about it.

Aspect Warriors? Just keep talking, Einstein. Ask a proper Space Elf about their aspect, and before you can say "Jiminy Cricket", you'll find a pointy chainmail slipper lodged three feet up your intestinal tract.

And for Chrissakes, don't call them "Guardians". Our Space Elves didn't guard shit. They were mercenaries. Or pirates. Or bounty hunters. If you want a guardian, read the newspaper and stop bothering me.

So now you understand. In the good old days, we didn't have rap music. We had precisely one record, and it wasn't even a record. It was a 7" flexi disc of Sabbat playing Blood for the Blood God. We'd play it over and over again while talking about how AWESOME the SPACE ELVES were and how they'd certainly kick the ass of every other army in the 40K universe if only their stats were better.

+++DISENGAGE PROTOCOL_GERIATRICUS_MAXIMUS+++

+++END TRANSMISSION+++


This is the second installment of my tour through the original RTO4 range of twelve Eldar, er, Space Elves. Our first miniature is "Alesia Wildfire". Like many of these Space Elves, he or she is pleasantly gender non-specific (and armed to the teeth).

Alesia Wildfire RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Next is "Cmmr. Inghen Keentongue". It's not clear what "Cmmr." is abbreviating. Commander? Commodore? Centimeter Mister?

Cmmr. Inghen Keentongue RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Third we have "Caetra Darkflight", who demonstrates the correct way to shoot from the hip. Knowledgeable readers informed me in the comments on last week's post that Caetra is carrying a laspistol (at least according to the Citadel Miniatures Blue Catalogue). I don't know about you, but that seems pretty big for a laspistol.

Caetra Darkflight RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Our last miniature today is "Irbic Trueshot". This is a lovely sculpt that showcases the organic lines of the original Eldar. I mean Space Elves.

Irbic Trueshot RTO4 RT401 Citadel 1987 painted miniature

Thanks for dropping by - next week, we'll finish off the RTO4 range!