Thursday, 13 October 2016

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: 30th Anniversary

This month is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's 30th anniversary. Way back when, in October 1986 Games Workshop's own roleplaying game slipped loose it's rancid moorings to set sail across the world, and its been spreading it's peculiar chaotic illumination ever since. What strikes me is that no-one seems to have noticed (well, at least in the journals and blogs I frequent) that such crucial event is now upon us. 

It was, ney still is, one of the greatest roleplaying games of all time, with the Enemy Within often heralded as the greatest adventure ever spawned. Whether or not you agree with this is irrelevant. This is an important anniversary and one that Realm of Chaos 80s will be exploring in greater depth in the coming weeks. 

But where to start? 

How about a world of perilous adventure? 

Issue 82 of White Dwarf contained one of those 'pull out' centre pieces popular in the 1980s. Flicking back through the magazine, its certainly looks impressive when compared with the other pages on offer that month, what with it's jet black background and chunky iconography. You were certainly informed that the long awaited game had arrived. Not that regular readers would have been strangers to the game - talk of it had been brewing for some time and work must have been frantic in the studio from the mid eighties onwards. Think about it now. Within about a year, development of not only Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but Warhammer Fantasy Battle Third Edition and Rogue Trader: Warhammer 40,000 reached fever pitch. All three titles were released and later received a huge amount of supplements and support in GW publications.

It is also worth remembering that all three systems were (technically) compatible with each other - with WFB3 and WHFR sharing the same game world and many of it's idiosyncracies. In fact, it is due to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that the background to the Old World, basically the Empire, was so wonderfully fleshed out for later generations for writers, gamers and design studio members.

What is obvious looking back, is this is very much a dark fantasy world. GrimDark has not yet become a cliche and the more British feel of the background material is a refreshing change to D&D's 'derring-do' performed by long haired men in tights. Probably with white teeth. Sure, WFRP has it's fair share of longhaired men, but reading through this early material makes you feel like they are more likely to give your syphilis than an honest helping hand.

Production values also seem high. Esoteric symbols boarder the top and bottom of the pages, along with the striking margin detailing that would become common for WFRP publications in the years to come. The pages are well arranged and peppered with artwork from the High Lords of Fantasy- Ackland and Blanche. It looks high end. I always admire the work of 'paste-up' artists, especially considering it's practically dead as a job now. All of that text, those images - the lot were most likely put together manually ahead of printing - it is now wonder that these graphic artists were called the 'fuzzy felters' at GW towers. 

The dark fantasy theme continues as we read on. This short story exemplifies the dark and dangerous Warhammer world well, complete with chaos worshippers and witchunters, showing that these themes have been with the game from the very beginning. This opening salvo is also important because it contains a neat little overview of the Warhammer world's history and includes detail about the Gods of Law, who sadly went largely unrealised during the Ansell years, and so are lost to us. 

Ultimately, Gotter's hallucinations fail to unearth the true horror waiting in the dark future for our heroes. It wouldn't be the bitter civil wars of man, elf and dwarf that would go on to destroy the world, nor would it be the malign manipulations of the warp that brought about the end. No, it would be an accountant's penstroke. Both for WFRP itself, and later the Warhammer World. 

Reading through the story again, I find it hard to have sympathy for the fanatical Gotter. Being dragged from a prison cell to the bowels of some skaven tunnel complex is certainly a dreadful end, but somehow I imagine that Gotter broke free - probably by spending a fate point. Still, the idea that human society is rampant and corrupt with chaos worship is a familiar one to any who have spent time with the game. I have said it before, but I found this view of the Warhammer world much more satisfying than what came later. Chaos became too visible. Too, well, familiar - not only the inhabitants of the Old World, but to us players in general. The concept worked best when the general population just got on with their lives, totally unaware of the awful doom that was brewing far to the north.

Chaos should always been the 'spice' of Warhammer. Not the main ingredient.

Speaking of recipes, the rest of the launch article goes on to explain the game in greater detail. Again, the art quality is ramped up and the the now iconic front cover painting (which I tracked down to Canada, some years ago) for WFRP makes more than one appearance. When I got back into GW stuff in the year 2004, I really missed the vibrant art from the 1980s. Sure John Blanche still knocked out a few good 'uns but the house style that developed for big publications was somewhat lacking. 

It looks like whoever wrote the description of the 'Background' section has been imbibing heavily on a bottle of Lovecraft - what with all the brooding, loathsome long words and abomination. Sadly, the 'projected supplements' that promised to cover the rest of the known world never materialised and Richard Halliwell's 'Lustria' campaign remained unpublished.

The careers section is what made WFRP different. Rather than just being a cleric or the ubiquitous magic user, the character you developed could go on a professional career, and if you were anything like me, you'd spend hours and hours reading through the different entries. I must have created hundreds of characters over those early years, all of whom I have long since forgotten. Actually, that is not quite true and one surly chap springs back into my mind - 'Lightfingered Rob', the house burglar and emerged from the cloudy recesses of my mind. I created him when I was GMing the Enemy Within for a school friend.

Perhaps I should reproduce him in miniature form one day?

There is a  quote on this page that I love: 'developing Warhammer into the most complete and enjoyable fantasy game available.' There always seems to me to be an undertone of this attitude ringing through our period. Though commercial requirements would no doubt have dominated motives at GW, there was at least an earnest opinion on producing high quality, versatile games that stood out from the fore. WFRP does this in droves.

Having had a great number of conversations with gamers the world over about WFB3 (and by extension WFRP) the general opinion can be generalised into a single world. Potential. These two games gave the player almost total freedom to design, adapt and play a huge variety of games and scenarios. You are limited by your imagination alone. Obviously, to the causal gamer this reeks of trouble. There is little balance, and some of the option available are game-breakingly powerful. Restraint is a key part of old school style gaming, as many of us have learnt, though sadly there will always be those 'powergamer' types whose sole purpose when rolling dice is to win.

And no lamentations of the women for those players either, just an ever decreasing circle of associates, until squalid and alone, they exist solely alongside the other greasy oiks of their creed. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay often strikes a problem chord with these types, for the game quite clearly states its Warhammer but with little or no meta (or cheesey lists) the game can seem empty and confusing. After all, WFRP is a social game. It is about not only character interaction in an invented universe, but about people pretending to be other people for mutual enjoyment. The shared experience is key here, as it is in early versions of Warhammer, only with WFRP the spectacle is in the mind alone.

Looking back on a near twenty plus year love affair with Warhammer's roleplaying game, I can certainly recall plenty of spectacular moments. Unlike with my miniature endeavours, these affairs are on a much smaller scale and have been far more intimate. I can recall leading my adventurers through the grimy corridors of Castle Wittgenstein as GM, feeling creeped out by the story I was weaving. My old wooden stereo speakers choose this as the moment they would collapse from my bedroom wall in an almighty thud. My players and I nearly jumped out of our skins in fright, so enraptured by the game were we. 

Just one of many, many fine moments of gaming. 

Looking back over this article with fresh eyes brings that word back into my mind. Potential. Just reading through the blurb on offer her inspires me all over again and encourages me to once more delve into my dusty old tomes to enjoy the adventure again. But some of that potential is, alas, forever unfulfilled. Glancing across the 'coming soon' text above the coupon reveals another one of those 'lost projects' we have become accustomed too here at Realm of Chaos 80s. 

And I quote.

"Blood for the Blood God - a battlepack for use with Realm of Chaos. The army is camped in the chaos wastes preparing to raid the empire, but dissension is growing and blood must be spilled before the differences can be resolved. Scheme and battle your way to supremacy of the chaos army in this unique adventure which combines Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rules with Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules."

How intriguing, eh?

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Macrocosm Multi-Part Dwarf Crowdfund

Chris Nicholls, of Macrocosm, asked me to share with you his latest kickstarter. It is a quaint little project which hopes to produce not-so-quaint multi-part dwarfs. There are distinct whiffs of the Perry Brothers and the late, great Wayne England about these models, as you will have seen in the image above. 

Like his previous projects, this is a small scale endeavour with very clear goals. But rather than read my blatherings about Macrocosm, I shall hand you over to MR. BIG himself, Chris Nicholls. 

CH: "Macrocosm Miniatures is a small company based in Tewkesbury in the UK. We set up last year with the goal of bringing a retro style of miniatures to your tabletop. We have already run 3 successful Kickstarters in the past and we are hoping to make it a 4th with this project.We are looking to get £2000 of funding to pay for the moulding and production of several new multipart miniature ranges of 28mm Dwarves.

By joining our project as a backer you will be receiving your miniatures at a 20%+ discount (some are 33% like the Halfling horde!) on getting them at retail. You will also be reciving them well before their release dates to retail (several months in some cases). "
The project has already funded. So taking the plunge has few risks. If you fancy picking up some of these handsome little chaps just follow the link below.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Amtix magazine and Games Day '86

Growing up, I was allowed one magazine a month on top of my regular pocket money. In my early years I opted for the Beano, and later The Punisher, before moving on to proper mags like Zzap64. My trusty Commodore and it's slightly ropey tape deck saw me through the 1980s in style and by the end of the decade, 8-Bit computer games were my main hobby.

That was until I bought my first copy of White Dwarf.

Despite my love for '80s GW, I still have a very soft spot for the 8-Bit era, and the journalism produced in support of it. The glorious painted front covers the Newsfield Publication magazines used (Zzap64 and CRASH being sister titles), the zany, irreverent humour within and the whiff of anarchy that seemed to hang heavy around the authors of these mags. Much the same qualities that would later attract me to White Dwarf.

One magazine I do not recall reading (or even seeing) was Amtix. A rather short lived title devoted to the third best home computer of the '80s - the Amstrad! Luckily for me, Matthew Bloomer (a fan of this blog) clearly was and had been hunting online for classic issues relating to old school software. Flicking idly through December '86's issue of Amtix something distinctly Oldhammery caught his eye.

A short show report about Games Day '86. Let's have a look!

Oh, the days of grainy black and white photography! How we are spoilt in these digital days.  On this first page the legendary Nottingham Player's Guild scenery catches your eye almost immediately, as does the astonishing Mega-City below it. Any glimpse of these ancient scenery pieces is inspiring and I just wish they had been in colour.

Of greater interest perhaps, is the short interview (and it is very short) with Gary Chalk

There are a few more GW related references on the second page. I will leave you to hunt them down yourselves. But of particular interest to me are some of the closing words in the article. When speaking on the gaming phenomenon (and fantasy role-playing really was a phenomenon back then, lest we forget) the author felt that the hobby was beginning to feel stagnant. That something fresh was required to breath new life into the scene.

Little did he know that a game called Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader was just around the corner. A game that would breathe new life into tabletop gaming and go on to conquer the world, long after the last Amstrad slid off the production line.

To close with one of Matthew Bloom's thoughts then. If we can find a tiny slice of Games Workshop history in an old Amstrad computing magazine - what else is out there?

Get looking!


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Bolt Thrower or Bust! Games Workshop's 'Lost Game' Lives Again!

Just over two years ago I blogged about a rather obscure find called Bolt Thrower or Bust! If you want to check out what I had to say back then just follow the link here. For those of you who never saw my original post, or cannot be bothered to click the link, I will provide further details.

A lovely chap called John attends Oldhammer events from time to time. He is a wonderful gentleman who really enjoys the hobby and is very generous with his collection. He once gave me a near mint 1980s ambull as I have mentioned that I lacked the figure, just like that! He didn't expect anything in return, save to see a fellow enthusiast's joy upon receiving a long yearned for model. At that time, he also passed me a rather battered looking photocopy of a bizarre looking game called 'Bolt Thrower or Bust!'

Though the resolution of the photocopy wasn't great, I could see enough to know that I was looking at a previously unknown mini-game from Games Workshop's 'Golden Age' - namely, when Bryan Ansell owned the company and ran things. I scoured the internet and various dark and dingy forums (I even frequented Warseer!!) in search of more information.

There was nothing.

Intrigued, I set about trying to source the original 1980s publication in which it appeared, a late December 1989 issue of Sounds - one of those highbrow, poncey music newspapers that took themselves too serious, but are now sadly defunct thanks to internet hackery. Amongst articles on The Grid, Henry Rollins and Simple Minds lurked a rather out of place 'game' that must have left many of the self-obsessed readership totally baffled.

It was essentially a rip-off Talisman City with some gags thrown in and looked like it had been jumbled together on a Friday afternoon after a liquid lunch - which is probably was! But it was fun, zany and irreverent - just like Games Workshop used to be. I knew then and there that I would like to play the game. Trouble was, it was black and white and printed on newspaper that was more akin to that scratchy Izal toilet 'paper' we children of the '70s and '80s had to endure on those youthful trips to the lavatory.

So I suggested to the community that someone, somewhere might have the technical ability to take my measly discovery and shoddy scans, and with a flick of a techno-wizard's wrist, transform them into something Oldhammer and Talisman fans could play again. Hopefully, over a few cans of ale and a kebab.

Enter Jon New. A stay-at-home dad from the Somerset Levels. A big time Talisman fan, he contacted me over the summer to share with me some of the work he had been doing with Bolt Thrower or Bust! To say I was stunned was an understatement, as I had long given up the hope of anyone wanting (or having the ability and resources) to jazz up the materials printed in Sounds.

Our discussions were hampered by my house move and the general faff of getting settled into a new home. I wasn't the most proactive of enthusiasts, but I finally managed to send him some decent photographs from my issue of Sounds yesterday. Jon messaged me this afternoon to say that he had finished the project.

Let's take a look!

First up we have the delightfully named player characters, crafted into some Talismanesque gaming pieces by Jon. Loota, Shoota, Elmit and Fiddla are our heroes and are suitably amusing in a way Games Workshop will sadly never be again. To misquote Bilbo Baggins when I speak of Fiddla 'what has he got in his pockets?'

Probably dice.

Paul Bonner's art is as masterful as ever. No-one else captured the brutally comical world of the goblinoids (calling them greenskins is dumbing down, no mistake) as well as he. His pictures are still fascinating and rewarding to explore nearly thirty years later. The generic tosh GW produces now when illustrating orks or goblins is utter rubbish in comparison, and struggles to justify it's distinction as art, if you ask me.

Instead of just regurgitating the brief rules as a set of text, Jon decided to create playing cards detailing the finer parts of the game, with the white spaces are a mere placeholder for later images. Again, keeping the style of the cards very much in the Talisman vein, these resources are certainly more tactile and useful that a grotty block of writing.

Even if it is printed in that much missed font Citadel used so often in the 1980s.

Jon continued to stick to his guns here, and produced additional cards for the Gig, Ruck, and Street rules. His adapted playing cards follow for your viewing pleasure.

Then there is that iconic Talisman toad. Jon whipped up cards in the same style as the other Bolt Thrower or Bust pieces. No-one likes being the toad, do they? Perhaps being a toad drawn by Paul Bonner may feel different?

Oh, Jon even went as far as producing a few tikkits for the Bolt Thrower gig. Though you may struggle to find a venue south of Altdorf which will accept them!

We really do owe Jon a debt of gratitude with this little project. I intend to print out these resources on Friday and get them laminated. My wife loves a good game of Talisman, though she has told me in no uncertain terms 'not to play Bolt Thrower's World Eater' in her presence again! Hopefully, I can get a game in over the weekend and really appreciate Jon's endeavours.

I have shamelessly nicked all of his excellent visuals and you will find much better resolution images from his article on Talisman Island. Just follow the link to reap the reward of Jon's hard labour!

Right, where did I put that Slaves to Darkness album?


Tuesday, 13 September 2016


It's over!

After nearly a year of problems, my old set up of paint station and computer is finally restored. The Sky Man has been and installed Sky Q (whatever that is) and now a series of fancy looking remote controls decorate the Palour and Sitting Room of my house.

My wife had even gone to the trouble of moving my computer (that was serving as a makeshift TV for my children) back into 'my part' of the house. Having come home early today, I just had to switch on and get typing. Bliss!

Some gorgeous evening light was streaming in through the windows, as it has done for four centuries, and while the computer loaded itself back up I took a few snaps of my reorganised painted collection. Having juggled things around a bit I have managed to create space on the final shelf. During my recent unpacking , I came across a few 'Beforehammer' gems I worked on before the birth of this blog and the Old School Warhammer scene kicked off, and I have decided to add them to my final shelf.

Let me show you what survived from the dark days of the years 2004-2010.

My converted Typhus model. That scythe looks ridiculously oversized, doesn't it!? And, the 25th anniversary Harry the Hammer model, proving once and for all that I could once paint gold (I cannot now!)

Pretty sure these old wraiths would be considered Oldhammer by some, but I am still a diehard purist that these models will never grace my gaming table. Still, I was very pleased with the spectral finish I achieved way back in 2009 when I painted them. Nice bases too.

A brace of older models - including the champion from the Nightmare Legion. An Empire veteran and a Sartosa vampire. Again proving that my painting seems to be getting worse!!!

Or could it be that I just don't have the time to lavish on painting models anymore? Back in the day these were finished, I would spend an entire week (probably 20+ hours) painting a single figure in a bizarre attempt to paint like the 'Eavy Metal team. With a wife and two kids, such an attitude would result in about a handful of figures a year!

I like the idea of Snickit's challenge in getting miniatures painted. A looser, more fluid style may not look as sharp as these models, but it produces reasonable figures that look good on the wargames table. After all, I paint my models to actually use them in games, the display part of the hobby is just a by-product of my collecting.

Still, it's nice to be reminded of how I used to paint!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Greenskin Wars!

If you are a fan of Crooked Claw miniatures and are sadly mourning their recent loss from the fantasy wargaming scene, I can bring a swift smile to your face. Diego Serrate has snapped up the rights to the models and is using all the previous sculpts as a basis to a supplement for Dragon Rampant - only with Goblins.

Here's what he had to say to me:

DS: It's a project called Greenskin Wars. I've taken on the (now dead) Crooked Claw Miniatures range  and have reorganised all those incredible models into different goblin factions.  I have also sketched a lot of new models and a whole new faction together with Kev Adams - the Goblinmaster himself!

I must say that Kevin is doing an amazing job here and we have developed a good friendship. He knows exactly what I want from him with just a few instructions or a simple sketch. With the help of another "Kevin" (who's also a big fan of the other Kevin lol ) we are creating a supplement or "army book" to use with the with the Dragon Rampant game system. That will let you create very specific goblin armies for the four main factions we have by now - Hill Goblins , Doom goblins , Feral goblins and Black Goblins.

As with Diego's other Kickstarters - this project funded itself within the first few hours of launch, so there is no risk here of the project stalling. If you are after getting your hands on any of these goblins (and there are a number of other interesting pieces too!) just follow the link below.

I will leave you with a nice gallery of images from the project to whet your goblinoid appetite!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The City of Lead: A Tale of Four Oldhammer Gamers

Hello all! I have managed to paint up a figure, despite my looming return to work. Sometimes I think the long, sprawling days of summer don't help the painting mojo and work can slow to a painful crawl - but this figure seemed to just paint itself over the last few days.

He is the first model in Steve, Paul, Chico and my new ongoing project - The City of Lead: A year long mission to create a warband for Mordheim. Now, I am a complete stranger to the game and have yet to explore the published materials but I have picked a side.


And this Russian looking chap from the recent Foundry 'Time Warp Wizards' will do nicely for my warband.

There are a couple of other possible models in my collection already, but beyond buying up the original Kislev Warhammer models I am stumped as to where to find medieval looking Russian miniatures.

Can any of you readers suggest any ranges?