Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Those of you with a long memory may remember GW releasing a sci-fi supplement for WFB 2nd edition back in about 1987(*). For a variety of reasons this never really took off, I suspect this may have been because in the 1980s science-fiction was regarded as the red-headed stepchild of UK gaming, and GW never really had the time, resources nor inclination to push it much. Perhaps it was thought that it might cannibalise sales from their main breadwinner, the Warhammer line.
1987 was, as you'll remember, just before WFB3 got released and the huge push they did on the armies of the Southern Chaos Incursions, Men of the East, Cathay/Nippon, Amazons, Zoat Empire and Slann. Then, as the nineties approached, they scrapped Realm of Chaos (which according to rumour was finally close to release and had even spilt over into two huge hardbacked books) and replaced it with the newer Michael Moorcock-licensed version, and then they had their Chaos-everything phase - The Jez Goodwin sculpted Chaos Slann range being probably the high point of this particular period. I even still have my promotional ginger mullet wig from the launch day of those figures at Games Workshop Birmingham back when it was sited above New Street Station.
There was also that nasty incident on the M25 during the Dark Future LARP in the early 90s that was being televised for Channel 4 and I guess the resulting legal squabbles consumed a lot of time and cash to resolve.
By their own admittance, GW got "fat and lazy" when their "Troll" series of childrens' games flew off the shelves of Toys R Us and brought them enough cash to be able to invest in 3D printing technology but the requirement of a 286 processor to operate these left it outside of the pocket of many gamers and this started a worrying run of hemorrhaging cash, only alleviated when Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone returned from sabbaticals in Spain and bought their old company back. Of course Steve and Ian were fantasy guys through and through and with the Warhammer World starting to look a bit tired and old hat in those days that was when GW started to shift all their fantasy games over to Allansia/Titan and then there was little hope of a sci-fi supplement ever appearing for WFB3.
The rest is, as they say, history.
Still, I always liked this little supplement for WFB2. Making a few 28mm figures for it perhaps wasn't the best idea, the size of those things is always too big for "firearm" combat especially when tanks get involved and had they carried on with it, it's obvious that eventually games would have degenerated into slogging matches of hundreds of figures and stupidly large vehicles with no room to manoeuvre and requiring enough dice rolling to induce wanker's cramp in a generation of schoolboys(**). I did once hear a rumour from an ex-GW redshirt that they expected so much dice rolling to be required that there were prototypes of done of horrid little dice only 12mm in length, rather than the industry standard of 16mm, simply because they felt that there were too many dice to be rolled in one go and people couldn't hold them all in their hands. Ridiculous.
A long time ago, probably even twenty years ago, I saw a skirmish game at the Stourbridge club using the large, chunky 15mm sci-fi range from Irregular Miniatures and some home brew rules. What immediately struck me was that the troop density, spacing and weapon ranges in this particular bash were all fairly close to contemporary 40K but that the smaller size of the figures (and corresponding "lighter" look to the table) suited these far, far better than 28mm. I immediately realised that, should a suitable figure range be available, 15mm was a better scale for Rogue Trader - it was cheaper, quicker to paint and actually (when viewed as a game, not as individual figures) looked better, particularly when vehicles were involved. 40K figures looked oversize for their rules.
At the time the opinion in the club was 40K was best when played with small forces - perhaps 20 marines a side with a hero and light vehicle/robot a player - on tables with lots of cover. Most of our games ended up being played in a jungle or "forest moon".
What I didn't know back then was that previously 15mm had been something of a standard for sci-fi gaming - it was the scale of both Laserburn and Striker.
Then nothing happened for a long time.
But now, now...
The first five of my tiny Battle Brethren (yeah, iPhone, poor lighting, red paint, gloss varnish. I don't make it easy on myself)
And the other five brothers in the squad. All Work In Progress as I'm waiting on some dead grass static flock to arrive from eBay (I'm thinking dark grey "Welsh Slate Mine" basing with pale dead grass for contrast).
Figures are all from Critical Mass Games and are the Arc Fleet Augments. The Arc Fleet is a sort of not-Halo thing and the augments appear to be some form of boosted superhuman elite. The marines are from codes AFAU1-4. The crouching heavy weapons chap is also Critical Mass from one of the "Blockhead Mercenaries" codes MERC6 or MERC7 (I bought both).
I bought these back at the St Helens show in June 2013 and wasn't inspired to do much more than paint one or two of them but then last Sunday I found some funky useful Matchbox/Hot Wheels diecasts in Wilkinsons (for the princely sum of £1.25 each) and caught the enthusiasm all over again.
Firstly there was the Matchbox "Amphi Flyer".
Still Work In Progress with just the base coats on as you can see. The Boy Coop's thought patterns were as follows
"Oooohhhhhh, that would make a great troop transport for 10/15mm sci-fi."
"Oh, hang on, something's nagging at the back of my mind."
"Fuck me, I'd forgotten about them!"
(and this is how the 15mm Rouge Trader project gets dragged out of hibernation).
Originally I wanted this to be a some form of armoured transport but then it turned out to look a bit too small. However next idea that sprang to mind was a memory of the Pan-Euro Galahad GEV from OGRE...
So I went running off to RT to check the Hover vehicles. The example Hover vehicle is the good old Landspeeder which didn't really seem to fit (it's open topped for a start) but then I remembered another Old School light hovertank. This mofo...
So I'm after more of these things now.
Second die-cast discovery was these two - Hot Wheels "Sky Knife", a really funky helicopter/autogyro design with an enclosed rear rotor.
I didn't need to go back to RT to know what these were intended to become -
A slightly obscure piece of 40K history but one that fits in with my view of RT as best with light vehicles. (Unless the scenario is about taking down a big bastard, OGRE-style).
I also picked up a Hot Wheels "Max Steel Turbo Racer" but there is no point me showing it here as, displaying once again the Internet's genius at same-day synchronity, when I Googled it, I found a link to the same car, done in the same intended colour scheme over at Dropship Horizon. So go and look at that there instead.
Next plans - more Not-Grav Attacks and waiting for my delivery of these tiny beauties to arrive.
(*) I am indebted to Zhu Baijee for this observation posted on the Oldhammer forum.
(**) Assuming that Debbie Harry, Lita Ford and Transvision Vamp's Wendy James didn't do this first.