I don't spend much time online now, not like I did a few years ago. Social media, for me at least, has descended into a morass of uneducated, moronic swathes endlessly spouting their 'opinions' as the only obvious truth. And having grown tired of clickbait, sensationalism and pathetically fake news spamming up my feeds, I must confess to having returned to print media and the 'enrichment' educational course.
As part of this, I brought my impressive stack of old school White Dwarfs out of storage and stashed them in the old cabinet in the parlour room. This has given me easy access to plenty of old school reading materials to go alongside my other interests.
Flicking through an issue the other day, my eyes fell upon an advert for the original Space Marine game and 'whoosh' a series of memories came flooding back to me. It was 1989, I was sitting in the lounge of my childhood home in Dorset, and I was reading 'Culture Shock' in White Dwarf 114. Underneath the very '80s looking photograph of Paul Green was a snippet of news mentioning the brand new boxed game. This lead me to the competition page further along in the magazine and the exciting realisation that this new game would contain (and I quote); '320 marines, 16 land raiders and 32 rhinos.'
My interest was most definitely piqued by the number of models (which I assumed to be 28mm in scale) and when I later found out the game would retail at £19.99 I was amazed! For a while, I imagined myself the owner of this gigantic force of models and the envy of the other boys in school. My dreams of 28mm scale dominance would not last of course, when this advert fell into my hands a few months later.
Epic gaming had arrived in my life.
I am primarily a '80s fantasy fan. Why? Heaven knows, but my interests back then were largely goblins, elves and chaos and that remains true to this day. Rogue Trader fired my imagination in the things I drew, but I never seriously contemplated collecting any of the models. Space Marine changed that and it became my first sci-fi game. But the tiny models proved to be my undoing.
My painting skills back then were very limited indeed. I sprayed undercoated a mass of models, painted them a base colour and then washed over with a black wash. While the wash was still wet the effect was magnificent and all of the detail was brought out in striking depth (at least to me) but as the wash dried the effect faded into dusty, drab smudges. Occasionally it worked very well (I was then unfamiliar with the concept of a quality wash) but on the whole, I wrecked more models than I ever finished.
My dad's brake fluid pot nearly always came to me aid and my abused figures were stripped of their paint and the process continued afresh. I doubt that I ever really finished anything back then, I was trapped in a cycle of endless renewal. The trouble with the models from Space Marine was they were plastic and the brake fluid left them strangely soft and stained. Even though the change in the models was minimal, the loss of detail was an annoyance to me and if truth be told, I wrecked a goodly number of the land raiders before I had even started!
Looking back, Space Marine really fired my imagination and studying the photographic material printed in White Dwarf just deepened my fascination. The hundreds of tiny figures, the long chains of vehicles and of course, the monsterous, towering titans that strode above them became iconic visions to me long before I discovered Tripods or War of the Worlds. When I finally got my hands on the game at Christmas 1989, I devoured the rulebook over and over, absorbing the dystopian world of the Horus Heresy and marvelling at the brilliant illustrations throughout.
Over the next few months, brake fluid aside, I gradually built up a painted collection of models. I choose the armies of the Blood Angels and the Emperor's Children and unlike my efforts with fantasy, I managed to complete each and everyone of the miniatures, even going as far as attaching all of the associated flags to the tiny poles on the infantry stands. As I type these worlds, I have realised that these two forces were my only finished army until my Khorne Realm of Chaos force from several years back. I was trapped in that cycle of the brake fluid for many, many years.
I have many happy memories of playing Space Marine. Far more memories than playing Warhammer actually, and through the early 1990s Space Marine saw a great deal of action. After the early years of fighting the Horus Heresy, I learned the hard way that using the floor was not the best option for fighting battles. Casualties were high amongst the infantry stands, with several of them being trodden on and the green plastic figures being snapped from their legs. Eventually, I cannabalised a wooden table my father had constructed for his model railways into a proper gaming table - the trouble was, the only green paint I had was a rather pastel shade my mum had used to paint the walls in the downstairs toilet - but it did the job. I even mixed sand into the table to give in a rough texture.
As second edition appeared on the scene, I had moved to a different village and had access to new friends who enjoyed Games Workshop games. Robin Tilbury and Adrian Taylor were their names, and for a period of about a year we collected a great many of the new plastic kits that were produced. We had orks, tyranids and even some chaos units - backed up of course with two reaver titans. The battles we fought were, of course, epic and exciting.
So frequent were we gaming, that my Space Marine set gradually fell apart. The figures and vehicles had been painted and repainted so many times that they resembled blobs of blu-tak. After one final game where were used everything, we boxed the lot up (including the collection of Rob and Adrian) and stored it in my spare room. We moved on the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
That epic collection of war damaged models lived in my mother's house until I left university, and during a clear out I sold off the surviving pieces of the game, including those models that once belonged to my gaming friends. I seem to remember that the card and plastic buildings got the highest price, but they were the only things I didn't mangle with my painting skills!
Seeing these old adverts took me right back, as the best nostalgic items always do and I must confess to visiting eBay this morning. Trying to work through the many listings of later epic scale models, I was looking for the original mk6 plastic space marine infantry models I can remember crushing underfoot. They came in dark blue and green plastic if memory serves me right. Anyway, after searching for a while I found a few lots of 'pre-loved' models that look to have once graced the inside of the Space marine game. They didn't cost much and I am strangely excited about restoring them in the near future.
I think working on them is going to be epic!