Saturday 31 May 2014

PREHAMMER 1981-83 (pictures that fired me up to start fantasy wargaming)

Like many mid 40 year old  fantasy wargamers, I started on this road to penury and madness by being introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. My first experience of the game was in 1979 (I think) playing the dungeon in the Blue Basis Book and of course I was hooked after that, desperate to source figures. The only shop I knew of at the time that sold figures was in Gosport, but luckily my Dad worked for the Admiralty and made regular trips there, so I gave him a shopping list of figures (3 skeletons 2 zombies, 1 Balrog etc) which he dutifully purchased for me (great old stick that he was).

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

 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.

Battle 1
(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.

Battle 2
(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.

Thursday 22 May 2014


It's been ages since I posted any figures, but I haven't been idle. Amazingly I stuck long enough at a project to actually complete it (well, almost complete it). I was thinking about doing some new fantasy stuff, but in bite size chunks, so fell back on that great rule set, Hordes of the Things. Half the fun of these rules is planning your army, and trying to incorporate all the figures you want to use into 24 points. Inevitably I ended up painting  more than I needed, as well as some figures to use with the army when playing another ruleset.

Here we have then, the Pewter Moon Dwarves, implacable enemies of the Crimson King, they dwell in lighthouses and granite castles along the Northern coasts of Gonchovia. The dwarves hold the great alchemist and conjuror Professor Grunkasse in high esteem, possibly because his head is moon shaped (or does he wear a warmask to aid his spells?)

(picked this guy up in a dumpbin at a show. He was missing a hand so I added a plastic zombie hand an an old Rafm staff). 

Pride of the army are the Walrus knights, 6 HOTT knight elements in total.

(I've had these guys in mind for years now, so it's nice to finally realise the idea. Cheap EM-4 plastic dwarves off ebay riding Britains walrus also from ebay. The walrus medallions are GW shields with moon device on them and the flagpole moons are plastic beads.....from ebay. Each figure cost about £1.20 in total).

The footslogging infantry are 6 blade elements, with 2 extra to make a unit of 20 for other games

(again plastic EM-4 figures with Milliput cloaks)

A Hero Jasper Brummbar mounted on his faithful steed, and 2 Beast elements, the singing bears of Norrin

(Brummbar is a Reaper figure, and the singing bears are plastic ebay finds)

2 Behemoth elements in the form of  hairy Struppigs with howdahs. As well as the Pewter Moon, the howdahs bear the Sunchild device of their allies.

(plastic Star Wars beasts from a dump bin with EM-4 Dwarf crossbows in the scratch built howdahs)

To defend the army from frequent aerial attacks from the Owls of Lord Aluco (an ally of the Crimson King) the dwarves often field a unit of pikes (not for use with HOTT)

The whole army in array

There are more forces to follow for this campaign. Owl worshippers, Ice Gypsies and of course the Court of the Crimson King.

I really enjoyed banging these out, and spent little time on overshading, relying on loads of washes from GW and Army Painter (the latter are really good).If I missed a bit, or went over a boundary with the paint I just carried on regardless. In recent years I've been a bit pedantic with my brush, resulting in minimal amounts of painting being done and boredom with a project before completion. 

Apropos the last comment, I realised why my Thistlewood project ground to a halt. It was the bases which were dull and drab. So I'm going to redo them using Tetrion filler as above but washed green. This is how I (and all my gaming mates) used to do our bases in the early 1980's, so they are suitable old school in appearance.

I've recently linked up with a gaming buddy (Von Trinkenessen) from those days  (and we are planning a few games of Prehammer (we used to use WRG Renaissance rules for our fantasy games), so I am really looking forward to seeing his armies again after 30 years, and trouncing them.