Saturday, 21 July 2012

Dark Technologies: A History of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader: Part One: Launch

The first page published in WD concerning Rogue Trader. Nice graphics don't you think? Its all there from the very beginning; the aquilla, the chapter badges (though they are far more intricate here) and the star speckled background of a wild and varied universe. 

Welcome to the first post chronicling the development of Rogue Trader. Today, we will explore in detail the launch article published in WD 93. The first thing that strikes a reader when flicking through these pages is the artwork. Unlike previous publications (WFRP and WFB) the artwork in Rogue Trader couldn't just be a splurge of the nicer pieces of fantasy art that GW had produced over the previous decade, it had to be something new and, for the first time, coherent. Another thing that strikes a cord when reading through this little manifest is that GW intended for their three games (WFRP, WFB and RT) to share a certain philosophy  and a mythos, something they are keen to stress is not the case today.

"For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the Master of Mankind by the will of the gods and the master of a million worlds by the will of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is Carrion Lord of the Imperium to whom a thousand souls are sacrificed each day, and for whom blood is drunk and flesh is eaten. Human blood and human flesh- the stuff which the Imperium is made.

To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live the cruellest and most bloody regime imaginable. This is the tale of these times. It is a universe that you can live today if you dare- for this is a dark and terrible era where you will find little comfort of hope. If you want to take part in the adventure then prepare yourself now. Forget the power of technology, science and common humanity. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for there is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter and the laughter of thirsting gods.

But the universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed...."

A so it began... The famous description of what Warhammer 40,000 really is. A dystopian wargame with medieval fantasy elements. This passage has be re-worked since, several times, but the crux of the piece 'There is no peace, no forgiveness; only war' is plain for all to see.

I find this page rather interesting. What we have are the prototype chapter badges of many of the marine forces we know today.They are certainly more intricate than they would later become and several of them have disappeared from the canon (Rainbow Warriors anyone?). 

The first thing that strikes me when looking back over these documents with fresh eyes is the artwork. Its certainly very different to the black and white fantasy line work that GW had been commissioning for the previous ten years. Its black, scratchy and contains many meldings of flesh and machine. Its sinister too! No heroic Space Marines yet, just dangerously psychotic cyber warriors that seem more closely linked to a chapter of the Hell's Angels rather than the Angels of Death. Its clear that at the time of conception, the artists had a pretty free reign to draw what they wanted. Sure, they had the plastic kits and a few metal models but the 'look' of power armour had let to be defined so its far more wild and varied.

It is also pleasing to see the 40k 'thoughts for the day' evident at this early stage. These little snippits of wisdom were always of great interest to me and I have always felt they helped protray the blackness of the 40k universe without the need to be especially GrimDarktm.

'Our thoughts light the Darkness so that others may cross space.'

'Praise the Emperor whose sacrifice in live is ours in death.'

The article itself begins with a strident declaration that this is not a science fiction game. 'We call it a fantasy game set in the far future... a sort of science fantasy.' And that there was a strident attempt to link the game with the very well established Warhammer Fantasy Battle by calling it Rogue Trader's 'sister game'. Something that is clearly the case as 'Warhammer 40,000 uses many of the familiar mechanisms of WFB and even some of the same creatures, which are now revealed in their entire cosmic guise.' Another early confession was the fact that this was intended to be a skirmish game in which just 'a dozen' miniatures will do for a session, though, of course, there is a remark that you'd 'want to collect the lot'. Its clear to see that Bryan Ansell and co didn't quite realise the hit that they had on their hands and that over the next three years they'd expand the game considerably. 

We also have the first piece of 40k fiction. A short tale about one Brother Tork of the Space Wolves Chapter. It does well to communicate the small scale nature of the game and its themes of interstellar horror and corruption. Of interest here is mention of the homeworld of the Space Wolves being Lucan. I wonder why it was changed?

'Warhammer 40,000 takes the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay background into the Galaxy itself.' Mythos is a word used frequently in the launch article, as if GW were attempting to build a world comparable to Lovercraft, Howard or Tolkien. The three writers are obviously big influences (though not as great as Moorcock) on the development of the background. These days, GW work hard to tell us that their games do not share the same worlds even though certain deities and characters appear in both WFB and 40k. The aim of the background was explained at the time as 'to create an almost medieval attitude amongst the human societies. Fear, superstition, self-sacrifice and common acceptance of death are all strongly featured. Technology is present, but it is not central to the way people think. Most common folk see technology as witchcraft- so do the technicians!' This is still a core element to the background. 

The first ever Space Marine model is used here to give gamers a glimpse of the future. The prototype for the plastic Land Rhino!

The now familiar background is discussed in detail. Love that Blood Angel camo paint job!

Those of you who remember my Viz post a few weeks ago (here's the link) may well be familiar with the modern GW view that WFB and 40k are two deadly serious worlds and never should the twain meet! Rogue Trader encouraged the opposite! 'In Warhammer 40,000 technology takes a definite backseat, but that doesn't mean that there isn't any to be found. In fact, there's a whole range of advanced weapons, armour types and equipment. The range of technology available reflects the diversity of humanity, ranging from the primitive crossbows and slings used on feral worlds to the barely understood digital and force weapons carried by rich and powerful individuals.' I really like this about RT. If you are familiar with Warhammer Siege, you'll probably know the picture of a skirmish fought within the walls of the Mighty Fortress. Its a rogue navigator who's enlisted some primitives to aid him. These types of game (a mix of WFB and RT) really, really fascinate me and will certainly be high on my agenda once I have enough RT to get gaming with. 

Lovin' the Cowboy Style Inquisitor here!

Ahhh, the first two box sets. Someday I'll get hold of these. The plastic space marines box set is one of the Holy Grails of collecting, though they do turn up with greater frequency that the Citadel Giant! The marines were a really ground breaking kit at the time and you really could go wild with the models and produce totally wacky miniatures. An iconic release really. The Ork Space Raiders were metal (why no plastic ork set?) and had a lovely whiff of the 'Black Widows' Biker Gang from the Clint Eastwood classic 'Every Which Way But Loose', mixed with 80s street punk. I have quite a few of these already thanks to the Troll Trader on eBay.

Here are the additional metals released alongside. It will be these babies that I will be concentrating on collecting when it comes to RT. I am already a frequent offender of late night eBay trawling for Warhammer stuff and I am sure the wife will be happier if I limit things for now. At this time, Citadel were still naming many of their metal releases and there are plenty of amusing names here; Brother Quiff? Brother Longun, Top-Knot Tone, Spiky Eddi and the brilliant Hippy Hogsbreath.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dark Ages of Technology: The History of Rogue Trader

Since painting my first Rogue Trader miniature I have become increasingly interested in the game itself. Its been 24 years since I last played and I have no real memories of of the game. All I recall is the damp darkness of my friend's bungalow attic, the smell of mouldy carpets and ranks of appallingly splattered space marines and orks. 

It certainly has an interesting history of development. GW always stated that they would release a game called Rogue Trader that would be a space age adventure roleplay system similar to Traveller. It took on many guises over the years but had mutated beyond the original remit. Bryan Ansell had control of the company by '86, saw where the money was and commissioned big book versions of Warhammer Fantasy and Science Fiction to help sell the miniatures churning out of Citadel Foundry. Rogue Trader was around, so it was affixed to the Warhammer brand and the most successful wargame in history was born. 

Enigmatic advert for Rogue Trader, published on the inner front cover of White Dwarf 91. The first major advert for the game published. 

Along the way the game evolved from a wacky science fiction skirmish game into a detailed, large scaled battlegame that involved vehicles, fortifications and a great deal of Space Marines. My intention is the explore this journey through articles in WD; providing commentary and review of each and every release in order. I plan to include the original articles, adverts, rulesets etc as images on this blog and as pdfs elsewhere.

Why? It interests me.

I have a feeling it may well interest others.

See you soon.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Rogue Trader Ork Champion Finished!

My first Rogue Trader miniature is complete! And here he is in all his glory. I spent a little longer working on this model than I would have done for a Warhammer one and I thoroughly enjoyed  it! I tinker a bit here and there as I work on my chariot, though this afternoon I found a longer bit of time to finish things off. 

What do the bloggers think?

 I used the same method as I always do when painting orks to complete the skin. Plenty of washes ensured that the metal looked a little more like metal. One of my focus areas for painting is improving the way I produce steel, iron and bronze and I really enjoyed trying to improve the representation of these materials. 
 As has become customary, a rear view shot. Another personal improvement was the way I paint fur. I used a red/brown mix as a base, washed over with a dark brown ink before highlighting with bronze flesh and white. It was quick and easy a produced good results. 
 Top down shot to show off base. Nice and simple. Painted yellow. Chestnut wash over the top. Once dry I mixed yellow inks, orange inks and dark brown inks. Again, when the inks were dry, I drybrushed with flesh and white. A Bestial brown coat tidied up the base. 
 Now that I have finished an ork, I suppose it is time to try my hand at a Space Marine. Last year, when I grew sick of the state of GW generally, I kind of imagined myself never painting a marine again. They just got so, so dull to paint. With RT metals though, every marine is an individual so things should be much more interesting. 
Rear view shot of the next model, note that I have an original metal backpack on there rather than the later plastic one!

Now then, which chapter shall I choose?


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Dioramadrama: Vignettes from Golden Demon 1990

Welcome once more to my spin off blog all about Rogue Trader! I've been pretty busy over the last few days getting everything ready for baby number two to arrive on Friday but I have still managed to scan the final Citadel Fantasy Miniatures book for your enjoyment. The Warhammer related stuff has, of course, been posted on

Today I want to share with you my favourite dioramas from that publication. I am sure that you will agree that they are full of inspiration and probably get your fingers twitching for some quality paint brush action (or a little squalid late night eBay affair). If your interested in checking out the book in detail, just follow the link below.

First up, this homage to David Gallagher's cover painting for the Space Marine Paint Set. What a brilliant piece of work. All the details from the original picture are present (including the bullets) and that flag is a great example of freehand painting. The base is also very interesting; the way D. Woods has used marbles to support the plinth and then paint them as little planets in very original. 

Two mini dioramas here. The first, with the Ultramarines is a brilliant piece of composition. The flags are well executed and the neutral tones of the base help highlight the electric blue of the marines themselves. I love the little detail of the wounded marine pointing out some danger- perhaps the perp to took the shot at him in the first place? The second piece showcases the early terminators produced around the time of publication. Grey Knights by the look of them, lead by a well paint inquisitor in terminator armour. Good job!
My favourite Rogue Trader diorama in the book. Look at the colour on that background. Wonderful style of painting on those models isn't it? Again, more inquisitors explore some chaos polluted hulk in the depths of darkest space. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Rogue Trader Orks: Work in Progress

Finally, after much searching, I have located some original Rogue Trader miniatures from amongst my lead mountain. I've been busy with goblins and wolf riders recently and wanted to get those units complete before I moved on to pastures new. 

Obviously, my main focus is Warhammer but I am keen to build up two small skirmish forces for Rogue Trader as quickly as possible. As I have said, these will be two small units of models; probably 12 orks and 12 space marines- preferably all metal models. 

I have three ork models to work on and I intend to spend a little more time on these than I do with the Warhammer Models, so work will be much slower here. Even so, I have got cracking with a Ork Champion (when they were still called these things in 40k) and two standard orks. 

 An Ork Champion according to the tab. I'm not sure what he is armed with; a power weapon of some kind I think. Lovely sculpt though and full of character.

These two orks were released with the Space Ork set in 1987, so are thoroughbred early Rogue Trader classics before the clans etc were worked out and published. Whiffs of WW2 predominate with these models.

The state of play as of today. I have started the Champion and must say I am really enjoying taking my time and painting him up. The colour scheme (flesh wise) is my standard for an ork though with the rag tag clothing and armour I am going to go a bit 'mid 80s mad' and have a plethora of different colours. 

I tend to work on these models as I wait for washes and layers to dry on my Warhammer projects so things will be slow. How do you think I am doing so far?