The breakthrough came in 1981 however with this fuzzy picture in White Dwarf 27 showing a game laid on by Joe Dever at Dragonmeet that year.
(a clearer picture from mabden.blogspot.co.uk)
I was absolutely entranced by the idea of actually recreating a full scale fantasy battle rather than just re-reading The Lord of the Rings and imagining it. I guess it was a tad ambitious considering my budget was £5 a week from a paper round, but 33 years later I have managed to source the castle that Mr. Dever used in his game, made by Elastolin. They often sell for hundreds of pounds but a lucky day on ebay picked me this lovely fortress ( a wee bit damaged, but repairable) for a few quid (although the postage was high).
Fiend Factory goblin for scale
The next inspiring picture came the following year in WD 35 featuring another of Joe Dever's battles (how I wish I had been able to see them in the flesh), and this time it was possible to identify figures. I spent many a happy hour poring over it with a magnifying glass working out what was what.
(if you are wondering, the disembodied legs in the picture above are from some gamers dressed up for a game of Gangbusters)
from left to right I can work out most of them.
Back row- Airfix dinosaurs with Sherwood castle howdahs. Citadel FT orcs. Minifigs elves in the little fort,
and I guess at Prince August orcs in front of the fort, but could be wrong. In front of the dinosaurs are 3 Ral Partha Trills (yes Trills).
Front row- Minifigs Pig face orcs? Asgard and Citadel trolls, and then a row of Citadel and Ral Partha cavemen and berserkers....... a properly mixed Fantasy army!
I managed to copy the amazing dinosaur models by chopping up my Airfix Nottingham castle, and for a while they featured in many games at Bath Wargames club and the surrounding area (Devizes, Lyncombe Barn etc) , before I sold them off with most of my fantasy collection in 1988 (arghhhhhhhhh, never get rid of anything) when I was going off fantasy stuff and getting into English Civil War armies. I did see them crop up as a show piece on a trade stand for a couple of years after that, but they are now lost (if anyone knows where they are please let me know).
Recently I picked up this magazine, a sort of supplement to Military Modelling from 1983
in which is an article on Fantasy wargaming.
The text itself is rather incoherent and dissolves into an analysis of different races in Tolkien's work, but there are 3 pictures of rather nice battles again featuring Joe Dever's collection.
(some Pal Partha ents are emerging from the woods, and I can make out Minifigs foot soldiers. The mass of white cavalry centre right are Minifigs Knights of the Silver Rose who also appear in Mr. Dever's Thistlewood scenario in WD45- see pic below. The hill or volcano to the extreme left seems to appear in a number of Joe Dever's games as well, see pic above with the dinosaur models)
Interestingly the caption to the photos (attributed to Games Workshop) describe them as showing a game of "Warhammer" (in inverted commas) underway, but there is no mention of the rules in the text. I should think that they were playtesting the rules, then about to be released in the first 'white box' edition.
(in the foreground from left to right we have Ral Partha goblins from the WWW range, then Minifigs kobolds, and a mixed unit of Minifigs skeletons, Citadel Zombies headed by a Ral Partha wraith. Far right I think we can see Minifigs VFW Forest Orcs. The main body of orcs are a right old mix of Heritage, Ral Partha, Minifigs etc).
the same battle from the other side of the table.
(Minifigs foot soldiers I think, and I can see a Citadel 2 headed troll in the far left group of trolls. Catapult is Minifigs or Hinchliffe)
In WD 45 is the wonderful scenario Thistlewood, the first official scenario for Warhammer, more of which can be found elsewhere on this blog. Although Joe Dever is using many of the figures featured above, the terrain is more professional, and the article figure recommendations are primarily Citadel, Ral Partha (produced by Citadel) and Essex, despite the fact the armies in the pictures clearly show plenty of Minifigs.
(left to right, not sure of the eastern types but the standard bearer is a Citadel illusionist. The orcs are Citadel FT, and the knights Minifigs as discussed above. The wyvern is Citadel Fiend Factory, and the troll chucking the rock a FT troll).
Also in WD45, is this little picture of the man himself involved in a game at Games Day 1983. I can't make out much of the game, but the omnipresent volcano terrain is there in the background. The opponent looks suitably dejected so I assume Joe is winning.
If anyone reading knows Joe Dever, I would dearly like to ransack his collection and take more pictures of it, as well as shake his hand for inspiring me with these battles.