Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Dark Technologies: Early RT Box Sets, Mercenaries, Dreadnought Armour, Deodorant Stick Space Vehicles and Restoring Space Marines!

An advert for the ruleset and, of course, the now famous first two releases; the plastic Space Marines
and the metal  Space Ork raiders by Kev Adams. I have most of these models now...

Hello and welcome back to Dark Technologies, the history of Rogue Trader through its releases, publications and rules. Today we need to discuss the Rogue Trader material from White Dwarf 95. As many of you will know, this particular issue was a Warhammer heavy... Not only was there a flexi disk of Warhammer inspired music but there was also loads of Warhammer Third Edition release material on offer. Subsequently, Rogue Trader was a little squashed up in this issue and rather limited.


Bob Naismith and the Perry twins produced a wonderful range of space mercenaries here. There are obvious prototypes to what would later become 40k standards. We have squats, ratlings, power armoured troops and Imperial Guardesque soldiers. All the sculpts in this set, as I am sure that you will agree, are extremely well executed and quite varied. These models must have been a real pleasure to paint back in the day (as I am sure they will be today, if you can get your hands on them...) and one theme that I am keen to explore myself when painting up Rogue Trader minis is the bizarre 'future camo' scheme evident on several of these models. I particularly like the colour scheme on Mad Morris with the jet black comet tail effect.

Additionally, if you look to the top right hand side of the models you will see a character by the name of World Burner. Some time ago, in the Art of Rogue Trader, I wondered at who this chap was... and here he is for all of the world to see... Still, it doesn't give us much to go on does it?

Over all, a fantastic early release with some really nice sculpts.

Dreadnought Armour

Upon first glance, they look a little disappointing, don't they? That is certainly how I felt when I first saw these models a back in the mid 2000s. Compared to the massive modern plastic versions the design boys at Citadel have certainly moved on a long way from these early concepts. However, in more recent years these models have really begun to grow on me and I find them rather endearing now. They positively reek of 1980s design ethic though don't they? What is interesting is the number of weapon options that these first releases were intended to have, and its clear that even at this early stage it was possible to create the armour you wanted.

The colour schemes for the red and blue dreadnoughts lack depth, especially when compared with their armaments, so I would not be taking any inspiration from there. The first model is must better and I really like the way the Citadel painter has managed to achieve that oily metal look, very apt for a giant, robotic killer really! And the faces? They are just begging to be painted, aren't they?

'Eavy Metal Rogue Trader Modelling

Those of you that frequented the 1980s will no doubt recall the classic television series, The A-Team. Many of you probably watched it on early Saturday evenings as I did. BA was always my favourite character, not because of his tendency to 'pity the fool' or throw bag guys throw windows but his skill at building incredible vehicles and weapons from the tools left lying around in garages and lock ups. Rick Priestley shares many of these skills, but instead of fighting crime he produces wargames terrain from the junk that is left lying around.

In this famous article, he goes on to explain (with the help of a few other GW illumni) how to produce vehicles from (yes, that's correct) a deodorant stick and other bits and bobs. Classic '80s madness!

Here is the article in full... Rogue-Trader-Eavy-Metal

Restoring Space Marines

 They stripped down well didn't they? A few days in the dettol solution was enough to strip off the layers of paint that had engulfed these marines for too many years. Peeling the stuff off left a mess that must resemble a bulimic pick 'n' mix sweet fanatic's vomit after a particularly heavy stuffing session... These boys must have been painted, then repainted and then painted again. The white enamel was rather tricky to remove as the dettol left a white powder residue over the marines. I had to use a sharpened match stick to shift this. I didn't quite get it all off but I feel I did enough to result in a good finish.

The broken down parts of my test marine. The piece had been stuck together with cheap poly-cement so there was
some considerable scarring to the edges. Strangely, the model was made up of pieces of two different coloured plastic.
 Using superglue, I messed around with the pieces until I produced a finished piece that I was happy with. A nice secure bond ensures that there will be no accidents during gaming. What do readers think of the pose? Once I was sure the marine was nice and dry I added a layer of sand to the base.

A front shot of the rebuilt marine. The green and blue could be a colour scheme on its own!

Review shot of the rebuilt marine. Here the scarring caused by poor application of poly-cement is obvious. I used putty and a good bit of filling to flatten this out.

Undercoated in black you would never know that this brother marine was once covered by 50 shades of grey!

Rear view shot. Now all I have to choose a chapter!

With the marine cleaned, built and undercoated I was ready to think about his adversary. I selected a random ork trooper from the Space Orks set with the intention of painting them both to a good standard at the same time. This way, I'd gradually build up two forces; marine and orks.

Ork with shooter. He obviously doesn't like Cadbury's...

He's not going to win rear of the year, is he...

Off to the paint pots then...


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Dark Technologies: A Skirmish on Rynn's World

Advert for Rogue Trader taken from White Dwarf 94. Note: before Chapter Approved reared its sci-fi styled head, the powers that were toyed with 'Imperium Approved'.

Welcome back to Dark Technologies, the history of Rogue Trader told through the products, articles and miniatures released by GW in the late 80s. Things are certainly moving on... We remain with WD94 and will be discussing the second scenario published for Rogue Trader (the first being the rather lamely titled, the Battle at the Farm, in the Rogue Trader rulebook) called 'A Skirmish on Rynn's World', authored by the mega-talented Rick 'I am largely responsible for modern wargaming' Priestley. 

This is a title that should be familiar with modern 40k audiences. Rynn's World has an iconic place in 40k history, with novels and fluff aplenty published about it. Subsequently, we needn't discuss the background to the scenario too much. A brief overview will be sufficient, I think!

The battle that this scenario describes is that of Jadeberry Hill. Not very GiRm DaRk is it? Jadeberry Hill sounds a bit like a place out of a girly children's programme and not a violent, futuristic table-top wargame. Still, it fits in with the Battle at the Farm for being suitably '80s naff. The article continues to explain that Rynn's World is part of the 'Rynnstar' system located near to the Orkish Empire of Charadon. This area of space is ruled by one Arch Arsonist by the name of Snagrod. This vicious and sadistic leader has plotted to invade the planet, despite the presence of the Crimson Fist Chapter of the Space Marines, and launched his invasion ten days previously. Incredibly, a one in a billion chance saw the shields protecting the Space Marine's base malfunction just as an enormous rocket crashed into it; wiping out most of the Chapter. Only the group at the Farm and one seconded to the Defence Force of New Rynn City guard are left alive... Suitably stirring stuff...

The rest of the article contains the GM's notes. Remember, at this time Rogue Trader was intended to be a skirmish game with a heavy roleplay element. The thought that people would go on to play massive pitched battles had not yet fully developed. The idea was that you would only need a few models to play Rogue Trader, after all, at this time Warhammer was king of the castle and Citadel were shifting over a million metal models for that particular game a month.

I won't elaborate on the GM's notes, I'll leave you to read them yourselves (just in case you're planning on running this scenario with some friends and don't want to be 'in the know' so to speak) but I can say that they cover a few interesting tactical problems for both the Orks and the Space Marine player. Just reading them gets me all excited for the tactical side of games like this instead of just 'Cleanse and Burn' tediousness. One thing that is interesting are the notes on the set up of the playing area. The name of the famous 'Pakomac' River is misspelt as 'Pakamac' on several occasions in the text and it makes you wonder with hindsight if this was the river's original name. If so, I can see why it was changed; 'Pakamac' sounds like a raincoat you'd screw up in a sack and take to a music festival, doesn't it? Again, not very GrIm DaRk is it?

There are a few notes that give suggestions about how to incorporate this game as sequel to 'The Battle at the Farm' from the Rogue Trader rulebook, as well as giving a few suggestions about how to create further games. They really is quite a lot of scope here for some excellent campaigning with a little effort.

Next up, we are given an interesting summary of the all the weapons and equipment used in the game, including some more typos (was this article produced in a rush?) and an intriguing mistake where the word '***piccy' appears where it should say 'Chainsword'. This is really quite useful to photocopy if you fancied a quick game as it has all the details needed to play any game of what I like to call 'Early Rogue Trader'.

Two further pages remain in the article and these go on to describe the forces used in the engagement. Looking at the detail, I have most of the models required to play this scenario, though some missile launchers are still required for the Space Marines and some Heavy Bolters for the Orks, nothing eBay couldn't remedy though.

Overall, a nice little article and I have included a link to a pdf copy of the scenario at the bottom of this post if you are interested in a little further reading.

Moving on, and there is a nice little colour page detailing some Rogue Trader releases for that month. Here we see for the first time some of the Space Elves (not yet Eldar) and the Space Dwarfs (not yet Squats). Both sets, I am sure that you agree, are instant classics. The Eldar at this point have that lovely '80s punky feel and sculpted by the genius of Jes Goodwin are absolute musts for any serious collector. The paint schemes too are suitably wild and alien and I just love the names that they are given... Kern Proudbrow anyone?

The Space Dwarf release is more substantial. Twenty models to the Eldar's (or should we call them Space Elves?) six. I love their design (I too never found GW's 'excuse' for dropping them in any way satisfactory) in a wonderfully '80s biker way (which many of the GW staff were at the time I am lead to believe...). The colour scheme is also fantastic; the green and red and blue working perfectly to create a gritty, almost Vietnam vet looking force of troops that even though are set in a sci fi universe are entirely believable. The names too are amusing, all puns or half-puns on famous guns. I am sure that you will agree that this set is an absolute must for any fan of Citadel miniatures.

Bet Erny has got the lot in that fabled lock up of his too...

Anyway, here is the link to Skirmish on Rynn's World.




Thursday, 16 August 2012

Getting The Most Out Of Your Marines: Restoration Project and 'Eavy Metal 80s Special

There has been much recent talk about whether or not you can still get a good deal on eBay. Well, how about this little Buy it Now I picked up this week. I got 25 Rogue Trader era plastic marines for £20, so that is less than a pound per model! Trouble is, these miniatures are some of the most brutalised I have ever seen when it comes to poor painting. Detail swamped by the undercoat, gloss (presumably enamels) paint here and there, and a wide range of suitably retro camo colour schemes. In times past, I'd have run a mile from these but with the wonderous qualities of dettol, I feel that these early GW plastics could be restored to a very high standard of retro style painting.

Let's have a closer look at the lot, shall we....

Jumbling around with the models I was able to big several 5 man squads. This, the first squad, has four marines with bolters and a marine with a flamer. Wonderful retro design!

The second squad is exactly the same. Four marines with bolters and a marine with a flamer. Lovely!

The third squad was a little more based about, with a base missing and a detached weapon. Nothing major to repair here though. All the marines in this squad are armed with bolters.

The final squad has only one marine armed with a bolter, the rest are armed with a smaller pistol, which I assume are an early form of a bolt pistol. Anyone put me right on this?

I have one powerfist commander too. All this example needs is a base. You can see just how bad the undercoat of white is here. Really thickly applied. It has the aged whiff of humbrol white.

The job lot also had a small pile of broken marines. They are all missing their right arms sadly, though I have some spare weapons and chainblades. There are also the remains of a second marine commander here. 

My plan here is to try and strip these models down to the original plastic before trying to separate the individual components. Once I have these broken down, I'll soak them in dettol once more and them try and rebuild them with more dramatic, old school poses. Then, of course, I could paint them!

As you are aware, I have been using issue 94 of White Dwarf for inspiration for posts. The last few posts have had scans from this essential retro issue. One of the reasons the issue is so vital is that it contains a really nice 'Eavy Metal article entitled 'Making the most out of your Marines'. This article contains old school insights from such luminaries as Rick Priestley, John Blanche, Aly Morrison, the enigmatic Sid (where is he now?) and Nick Bibby. Quite a pedigree then. It really is worth a read, if not just for the the crazy '80s conversions using other plastic kits of the time, including a bizarre dalek space marine mix!

This may surprise recent converts to retro gaming, but 'Eavy Metal used to actually have words in it. Lots of them too. And those words treated the reader as an adult to boot! Don't worry though, there are still loads of pictures of space marines, happily in different styles and not just a bland house look. There is even a whiff of, dare I say it, comedy about the proceedings. I love the image above of Bibby in the '80s shades.

Just follow this link to see what I am on about. I have included the entire article below.



Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Dark Technologies Part Two: Marginalia: Rick Priestley Describes His Creation

White Dwarf 94 - the first issue after the launch of Rogue Trader and from which the extracts in this article are taken

Really old people or retro consumers will be aware of White Dwarf's 'Open Box'. This was a section of the magazine used in the 1980s to review gaming supplements and general what-nots. on its hallowed pages you could read reviews of anything and everything from AD&D adventures to Ghostbusters the RPG written by such visionaries as Jim Bambra, Marc Gascoigne, Stephen Hand and Paul Cockburn. As the focus shifted away from Games Workshop (a trading company that sold fantasy games) to Citadel Miniatures (a miniature manufacturer selling lead and rule sets for lead) the decision was made to jettison the non company products and focus on GW's own stable of releases. 

Hence no need for Open Box any further. A new series what introduced, entitled Marginalia, which set out to give a soapbox to designs to talk about the decisions they had made during the design process of a particular product. The first to step up to the mark was none other than Rick Priestley, author of Rogue Trader. His account is fascinating and is full of interesting points. I have reproduced it here in full. 

According to Rick, Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader was something of a first for the erstwhile games designer, for it was the first project he worked on on his own. He'd previously contributed to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Judge Dredd. Strangely, Rogue Trader had been written before any of the previously mentioned games were designed but it was always put to one side as other more pressing projects pushing their unsightly heads to the fore.

It was originally intended to be one of the 'freebie' games that would be given away with purchases by mail order customers, one of the other 'freebies' being what would eventually become Fantasy Battle. The popularity of this particular game (work being done on its third edition concurrently with the time Rogue Trader was being re-designed) established the format for future games. Rogue Trader was 'rethought' from the ground up using many of the mechanisms worked out from Warhammer Fantay Battle. At the time, Rick thought this relationship was essential 'not only for the sake of the system, but also for the background mythos and general "feel" of the game.'

Rick describes the development cycle of the game as 'fitful'. He states that many ideas that were developed for Rogue Trader found their way into Warhammer 2nd edition. 'By now the "dark and dangerous" background for Warhammer had started to evolve, partly based on ideas by Bryan Ansell, and partly on the background of the Citadel miniatures ranges.' This point is interesting, as even at this early stage, GW were making design decisions based on the models that they were designing and selling. These judgments were a little more restrained than they are now, thankfully! By now, Rogue Trader existed as a rather tatty print-out (imagine the reams of that old concertina computer paper, the stuff with the removable holes) and rather than re-type up the manuscript, Rick chose to begin again afresh now that the unfinished WFRP had been handed over to Jim Bambra, Graeme Davis and Phil Gallagher.

Since a previous re-write, the basis of Rogue Trader had been based firmly on WHFB. There were a couple of problems as Rick explained, 'But the first crunch came with the change in emphasis away from hand-to-hand combat towards fighting with ranged weapons.' Problems persisted in creating a believable ground scale for weapon ranges. Priestley opted to work with abstract ranges and went on to state that 'even though ranges are very short in realistic terms, the differences between different weapons ensured that their vital qualities are less distinct.'

Another issue Rick had to deal with was the damaged caused by powerful weapons. He needed to rethink that standard strength and damage system used in Warhammer. 'With the new game (Rogue Trader) I wanted to allow more powerful weapons, but also had to maintain game balance.Simply increasing a weapon's strength would destroy this balance. To make weapons more effective, therefore, I introduced an additional modifier to the target's saving throw. In Warhammer this modifier is linked to strength but in Rogue Trader the link was broken. There are weapons that can cut through armour like a hot knife through butter, but then do relatively little damage - the laser for example. At the same time, I introduced a variable damage roll, allowing some weapons to do more damage than a wound with a single hit. This was necessary in the case of large weapons, where targets with large wound scored were likely to be engaged. All these modifications do make the shooting procedure more complicated than in Warhammer. I felt this was appropriate for a game involving fewer models and a greater variety of weapons.'

Again, Rick discusses that close link between rule development and model design, 'there was only so much modelling time available, so there was no point in having space marines armed with loads of tiny weapons if the figure designers only had time to create a single marine model. The models were influenced by the rules and vice versa. Just why is it that when you're just about to finish a section, some... person... walks in in which his latest cybernetic killer clone-armadilliod lobotomised space-nun and her amazing drone weeble dog, and wants the rules of using it... Sob.' However, there is no mention here of the Sales and Marketing boys who have just completed the number crunching and discovered that the forementioned space-nuns are are selling like hot cakes and need extra umphh adding to their stat line as well as an aggressive marketing campaign in White Dwarf liberally peppered with the adjectives 'cool' and 'awesome'. What we have here is a design relationship between the model makers and the rule writers that seems entirely positive and creative. If that really was the case cannot be known from this article, but it certainly seems far more healthy than the current regime's attitude.

Still, there were even more teething problems for Rick to resolve before the game could be published. 'By the time the game was ready for editing in December 1986, Games Workshop had decided to produce Rogue Trooper.' This game was based on the popular 2000AD strip of the same name and Citadel had produced and small range of miniatures to support it. 'The ensuing confusion was incredible, with people talking about Trader when they meant Trooper and Trooper when they meant Trader. Gurgling quietly often became the only option.' After discussion in the studio a new title was coined by 'some bright spark' that Rick confesses he would 'hate for the rest of his life' came up with Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader, though Rick preferred 'Warty Thou'...

'The publication of Rogue Trader,' Rick summed up, 'opens up a whole new area of supplements, scenarios, modelling, articles and more of everything. The first supplement is already in preparation, and I am looking forwards to throwing myself into further game development. The Rogue Trader universe was designed for gaming right from the start, and has plenty of room for future ideas - with over a million planets in the Imperium, there's room for players and other writers to develop virtually anything they want!

Go forth and develop!'

Little did they know what a juggernaut of gaming Rick had unleashed onto the world and develop it they did... Changing a small scale skirmish game into the most successful table top game in history.