Thursday, 13 April 2017

AD 1989: GW's finest hour?

By their very nature 'Golden Ages' are subjective creatures immersed as they are in nostalgia, whimsy and pure pigheadishness. And has been noted many, many times before (perhaps most eloquently by Matthew Sullivan) the beginning of any downward spiral will depend on your own personal set of values. The moment in time when YOU believe a rock group, football club or even, dare I say, a British miniatures company ascended to the very heavens and reached their peak. After that moment, you have the slow decline where innovation is replaced with refinement and finally, sigh, repetition.

But this post is not going to be concerning itself with when and where GW's Golden Age should be situated, instead I am going to pinpoint a single year (in this case 1989) as the company's finest hour and rather than just belligerently shouting it from the rooftops as some lesser commentators may do, I am actually going to prove it!

What follows are sixteen different pieces of evidence that I hope will sustain my argument. You, dear reader, are of course perfectly entitled to disagree with me and that is absolutely fine. Of course, if you DO disagree I really do hope you can enlighten me with a differing year in with GW reached their creative peak. The comments section is eagerly awaiting your opinion!

Okay, let's get cracking with...

16) Troll Games


Perhaps its something about the outlandish boardgame titles, the brightly illustrated components or the totally bizarre music tapes but I just can't help adore the old Troll games. They were obviously aimed at a much younger audience than GW's usual fare and for some years were a bit of a mystery. I mean, what inspired the prime miniatures company in the world to produce little card games in the first place? Thankfully, Rick Priestley cleared things up when RoC80s discussed these games in 2013

"IIRC the Troll Games were one of our periodic attempts to produce games for customers like WH Smiths, Woolworths, and such. I believe it was Andy Jones (GW licensing last I heard) who created and produced the games at our studio on Low Pavement. The artist was Bil Sedgewick as far as I remember. The tapes were put together by and feature Andy Jones and Tony Cotterill (now Forgeworld) and assorted GW musical talent I imagine!"

Why include them on this list? Well, GW was still a functioning games company who actually produced new games for enthusiasts like us to play in 1989! Also, the daft songs on the tapes are very much in keeping with the zany Warhammer vibe that is evident in much of the later 1980s and my two children love listening to them to this day, finding words like 'bum' and 'pants' evidently slices of comedy gold. If you are intrigued at all about these notorious tunes you can experience them here, here, here and here

Enjoy! 

15) Goblin Fanatics

Next up we have Blood Bowl, then already on its second edition and coupled with the well loved astrogranite pitch. Now goblin fanatics had already appeared in Warhammer, but the crazy game of fantasy football was the perfect arena to develop them further. I can remember laughing out loud the first time I saw the pogostick wielding gobbos printed in White Dwarf and appreciated the humourous touches in the printed articles. Though based on a very American sport, GW's take is packed with a very British attitude. 

Of course, Kev Adams had a big role to play developing some of this insanity. He'd knock up wild and wacky models faster than the writers could produce background and rules for them. 




Pete Knifton's cartoon style illustrations really helped bring the concept of these maniacal green loons to life, and his artwork remains (in my opinion) the best Blood Bowl has ever had. The storytelling in many of these pictures (see above) often sold both the concept and the model to me before I ever saw the miniature. 

The goblin fanatics remain a hilarious idea for a wargames figure. They perhaps epitomise the comic creativity of Citadel during the later part of the 1980s.

14) Bolt Thrower album and tour


Grinding death metal and a game of Warhammer sadly no longer have anything to do with each other. They fell out around 1991 or so I have heard. Today, the corporate blandness of GW seems a million miles away from the world of R'n'R but in the year 1989 the company's association with heavy thrashing noises was only just beginning. If you are interested in learning more about GW's curious past with music then look no further than these articles from this humble blog

Sadly I never attended any of the Grindcrusher Tour's shows but I have met a couple chaps who did and the very thought of Citadel Miniatures and games for sale at thrash metal gig is now incredible. But apparently, it did actually happen. In 1989. 

13) Genestealer Cult

I spoke earlier on about GW's incredible creativity around this time. The ideas seem to have been coming thick and fast and one that really stands out for me in 1989 is the genestealer cult stuff. Not only were the hybrid models outstanding sculpts, their background and paint jobs were also first rate. I can remember spending hours pouring over the detail wondering how it was even possible to paint a model that well (I still think this way in fact) and I always take a few minutes to appreciate the old models whenever I am at the Wargames Foundry. 

White Dwarf published loads of very memorable background and rules supplements for the cults and looking at them once again, they are excellent. So good in fact, modern GW had to do twenty-first century versions rather recently. Looking at the modern kits I can honestly say they are easily some of the finest models to come out of their stables in many, many years. Yet, they were designed and developed in 1989!

For further information, have a read of the wonderful Steve Casey's work on the hybrids, with many photographs taken of Bryan Ansell's collection.   

12) Wardancers


Though the models depicted here are from 1987 (I have discussed them before) this little section is concerned with the glorious background material and adventure ideas published in White Dwarf. A supplement for WFRP, with plenty of scope for porting to games of WFB3, remains a vivid and magical adventure, with more than a few splashes of extreme Warhammer violence thrown in. 

I won't spoil the nature of the adventure or the fluff in the two articles published in WD 111 and 112, I'll save that for another time, but their inclusion into the 1980s Warhammer mythos was incredible, at least to me and my WFRP friends. 


We all stopped playing our version of the Enemy Within and began a short campaign around the forests of Loren. Generating wardancer characters was a very memorable experience, having previously been heavily focused on playing human type characters. Our GM at the time was called Daniel and he was two of three years older than us, he was on the cusp of starting at Cambridge and his intellect and experience really brought the forest world to life. It was captivating!

Now you are probably wondering how I can argue that the wardancers articles are vital to the 1989 GW peak, aren't you? Well we need to look beyond my personal experiences and look at the bigger picture. Not only were the articles very well written and designed, they were totally unique to anything WFRP had done before (or would again, if you like). The artwork that supported the supplement was also outstanding and penned by British fantasy legend, Russ Nicholson. His pen and ink battle scenes have never been bettered. 



Not so long ago I wrote a blogpost about Women in Warhammer and missed a trick, failing to mention the wardancers in the article. Here we have male and female warriors living on an equal footing and dare I say bare female breasts appearing in White Dwarf! Inconceivable today! Not that Nicholson's work is in any way gratuitous, reminding me of the way ancient cultures depict the human body in a natural, matter of fact way. 

The art and background material of the wardancers show a depth of culture and sophistication that would seldom be seen again. The two articles remain an unique and original piece of work to this day. 

11) Marienburg

Reading White Dwarf back in '89 was the single source of GW background material save the published hardback supplements (which were expensive). So for many of us, our monthly fix was an essential part of our hobby lives. To millennials (who's lives have been augmented by the internet) this dirth of information and the lack of almost instant gratification is very hard to understand. Marienburg was essential reading in 1989, if you were a fantasy fan at the very least. Each month, if we were lucky, we got to explore a tiny part of the Old World in exquisite detail and the articles put out by Flame were often my first port of call when picking up the magazine. 


Though some of the artwork appearing alongside the articles was old, such as this classic image by Stephen Tappin, much of it was brand new and produced in such grimy detail by Tony Ackland, it brought the Old World setting to life like nothing else. And remember, the Old World of 1989 was a far more realistic (and therefore easier to identify with) than the paper thin cartoony substance that came later. 


The scratchy, grubby look of many of the illustrations marked a world that really did seem grim and perilous as it was so closely related to our own. The more fantastical the setting became, the less and less I found I was truly identifying with the themes and characters. Too many of them became too two dimensional (that is a lot of toos!) and less sophisticated. 


Marienburg was a monthly excursion to another place; a place dark and dangerous, which gave Warhammer some of it's truly dark and macabre moments. Nothing else ever came close to expanding the background of the game (at least in a single city location) with such care, depth and skill. 

Legendary, in a time of legends. 

10) Marauder Chaos Dwarfs 

At the time in question, I thought the Marauder minatures line a bit off. They were different in style than the Citadel models I loved so much, and had a chunkier, more heroic look to them. Subsequently, no of my hard earned cash was ever dished out to buy up any of the ranges. In hindsight, this was a mistake as there are some truly exceptional models in the pantheon, which have gone on to excite and enthrall modern day Oldhammerers across the world. 

The chaos dwarfs (and look no further than Blue in VT's incredible project if you want to learn more about them) are rightly famed. Each was a parody/ode to a previous chaos warrior released by Citadel Miniatures and were filled with a love of sculpting and Warhammer history by the Morrisons. 


The Renaissance Imperial Dwarfs are also worthy of a mention here. They remain a famous selection of models that are still sought after today, even in the years before Oldhammer kicked off. Glorious minis released in 1989. 

9) The Forces of the Imperium

With Rogue Trader becoming an unexpected, runaway success - GW developed the background and miniature line in greater and greater depth as 1989 progressed. The brutal, zany and bizarre sci-fi fantasy world of Warhammer 40,000 developed before the very eyes of the White Dwarf reader. To have been then was an absolute treat as this was the period where everything was expanded and developed for the FIRST TIME. Not recycled or expanded, but original created. It was a magnificent journey into a dark and distant universe, that gave just enough detail to inspire and encourage you, but left enough unknowns for you to develop things any way you wanted. 


This development was supported by some truly exceptional art, produced by heavy weights such as Paul Bonner, Tony Hough and Pete Knifton. Their often black and white images brought the universe to life before our very eyes and many of us became hooked on this fascinatingly brutal world. 


Then came the long line of plastic boxset releases which gave us the opportunity to field larger and larger armies for the first time, with some enthusiasts' collections becoming so large that they put serious strain on the ruleset, which had really been design for skirmish level play. Imperial Guard...


Space Dwarfs.... later, Squats.


And the almost anachronistic Rough Riders, with their dark shades of a European Imperial past. Each set was supported by considerable material published in White Dwarf and the depth and quality of these articles still stands up today, even if the ruleset is seen as a bit of a chugging beast. 


More so, the 40k universe in 1989 was very different than the streamlined and turgid one of today. Abhumans (remember them?) marched alongside a wealth of units and vehicles that would eventual ret-conned out of existence. 


The model lines were also far more subtle in their nods to dystopia, as these fascist looking commissars show. 


While a great deal of the artwork aped historical war photography, as here in one of Phil Knifton's pieces. The Imperial Guard, and their Space Marine allies, would go on to conquer the wargaming world and to this day remains the dominant field of miniature gaming on the planet. 

And most of it was all created, by and large, in 1989. 

8) Death Roller

Back to Blood Bowl, and that gruesome yet comedic style GW had in the 1980s. The Death Roller is perhaps the most iconic of Blood Bowl models. It's concept is a simple one: a steam roller, crewed by a dwarf, used to mowed down unexpected players. Again, Knifton's artwork brings the idea alive in cartoon form and Michael Perry's model remains the most characterful interpretation of the idea. 


I can remember the buzz this model produced when it was first released and I can recall trying to get hold of a model for sometime. Only my classmate, Matthew Pitman was lucky enough get his mits on one, and we were all very envious of him at the time. Again, as we have seen quite a few times now on this blogpost, this now iconic concept owes it's birth to the year 1989. 

7) Space Marine

Space Marine, and Adeptus Titanicus a few months previously, gave us our first true taste of that worldwide phenomenon of the Horus Heresy, only in epic scale. If you were anything like me and read about the game during its development, you probably thought that the box would contain 320 28mm marines, 32 Rhinos and 16 Landraiders - all for £20.00! 

Obviously, the game didn't deliver such an incredible bargain but what it did give us was a sense of scale never before seen in a GW game. The battles we fought across our bedroom floors would extend to the most distant edges of space, the conflicts (especially when four or five of you put your sets together) could involve literally thousands of troops and hundreds of vehicles and the painting, quick and easy. 


Coupled with the Titans, this became the 'must have' game at the end of the year. And linking closely with the background developed for 40k, the Space Marine universe was expanded considerably in White Dwarf. What I enjoyed the most about the first edition was the fact that it was set at a completely different time to Rogue Trader, and we got a sense that we were taking part in something both futurist and ancient at the same time.

A strange feeling really!


A some we have another 'first' for 1989. A proper wargame, set within GW's fictional universe, using epic scale infantry and vehicles. Over the next twenty-five or so years GW would continue to develop the idea but it has it's foundation in our chosen year. 

6) Warhammer Novels


We are getting closer to our goal now and we are almost in the top 5 reasons why 1989 was the pinnacle of GW's development. The previous eleven entries haven't really been in any real order. There is now deeper significance to their position in our countdown but that will soon change. Before we discuss the 5 main reasons why 1989 was such a mighty year we need to look at the first range of GW novels. 

These days the Black Library pumps out a steady stream of tiles and judging by some of the more recent efforts I have glanced over, the quality has been in decline for some years. Of course the modern books do have some real page turning classics, especially titles by Dan Abnett, but by and large the majority of the books have little real depth or characterisation. Which is a real shame, as the original Warhammer Books (released you guessed it, in 1989!) were very different beasts. 

For a start, they were an unusual size, which was fantastic for the reader but not so useful if you were running a bookshop. Apparently, these volumes were difficult to place on the then pretty standard sized shelves in branches of WH Smiths etc. 

The used 'proper' authors as well, with many of the contributors (even if they did hide under pseudonyms) being young gun writers in the fantasy and science fiction scenes.  They were beautifully illustrated too, with colour plates and the black and white pen and ink style familiar from the Fighting Fantasy books. The stories were also far less restricted than Black Library's and in some cases far more adult. In later republications (again by the Black Library) some scenes of a sexual nature were removed or edited (have a look at Zaragoz, for example) and conflicts will modern static background also altered, with characters being totally re-written. 



If you are a fan of fiction and Oldhammer, then these books are a real must. If you are used to the Black Library's version of the worlds of Warhammer and 40k, you may well be in for a shock! 

5) Combat Cards

Okay, we are now into the top 5 reasons and the evidence starts to become serious. Consider the original combat cards and what follows and fairly rough countdown of success. For me in this argument, the next few releases are what make 1989 so significant, especially when you take all the other releases and articles into consideration. With this in mind, why the Combat Cards?

In my view these gaming cards, really GW's version of Top Trumps, took the best elements of the Warhammer HobbyTM out of our bedrooms and into our daily 'outside' lives. You couldn't really carry your Space Marine box to college or school, but these cards could easily slip into a pocket or bag and could be used practically everywhere. I for one can remember long and varied games on the old school bus in my last year at secondary school. These elements were the collecting (you could strive to own all of the different sets, just like a miniature range) but also the admiration (and indeed mesmerisation) of the painted models. many of us spent hours and hours staring forlornly at the superb paint jobs of Mike McVey or Kev Adams. And so significant were these feelings that committed and high creative modern gamers attempt to recreate the look and feel of the models, just look at FimmMcCool's stuff on his blog and you can see what I mean. 

But this being late '80s GW, there was more to these cards than immediately obvious. Remember those strange symbols at the bottom of each card? Crowns, swords and fanged mouths? Though few of us realised it at the time, they were in support of two different 'games' that could be played with the cards if you wanted something deeper than Top Trumps. These games were called 'Attack' and 'Charge' respectively, and clicking on the links will give you further information about them. 

Later on in the very early '90s, GW plc tried to produce a new version of the Combat Cards but they were, quite frankly, awful, probably due to the fact the creative design studio had been sliced to the bone to help pay for the management buy-out and that Bryan Ansell took all the painted miniatures with him. They failed to capture the magic of the original release (a familiar story, sadly) and could be found in bargain bins all over the country for quite some time. 

The cards remain an iconic product from the glory days from the  'classic' Citadel Miniature/Games Workshop company. 

4) Skeleton Army

How could you not love skeleton army? Everyone seemed to own at least one box of these lovely old skeletons and they had a very long shelf life indeed, until they were replaced with some hideous plastic skeletons with enormous hands and spearshafts with a thickness that would have made John Holmes feel inadequate! To this day, many believe them to be the best plastic skeletons ever produced. Of course, sticking them into my argument for 1989 is a bit shaky considering that the base skeletons came from the Skeleton Horde release in 1986! But it was the addition of the cavalry models and the chariot that took this release further, especially when you looked at the price and a great number of undead legions were born thanks to this box set. 

3) Terminator Squad

The all metal Terminator Squad was an incredible release. Many of the GW 'heavyweights' of the era contributed to the project in some way: Wayne England, Mike McVey and John Blanche just a few. For a while, this became a 'must-have' product and launched the Terminator into the stratosphere. 40k would never be the same again. 


The release saw plenty of coverage in White Dwarf and unlike the thinly disguised adverts of later periods of the magazine, there is still much to see nearly 30 years later. What is rather strange about the Terminator box set is that you could watch the concept develop across 1989, as Citadel tried and tried again to work on the concept. Someone somewhere, perhaps Bryan Ansell himself, saw something in the idea and White Dwarf chronicled the development of the Terminator marine almost by accident. 


Enthusiasts will recognise this first model as Jes Goodwin's original sculpt for the terminator armoured marine. This started life earlier on in mid '80s as a one piece sculpt but as the months ticked by it seems that other sculptors all had a go and with each subsequent effort the background was tweaked. 

Take a look. 



If the Space Marines were destined to become the biggest selling wargames miniature of all time, then this Terminator set definitely contributed to that success. The design, advertising and in-house painting all came together and create a long lasting legend. 

2) Heroquest 

If Helen of Troy was the 'face that launched a thousand ships' then Heroquest must be the 'game that made a thousand gamers'! The ultimate gateway drug to both collecting Citadel miniatures and playing games with them. This product was a commercial and critical success shifting over a MILLION copies and remains a fan-favourite to this day. It was so good even my sister played it! 


The irresistible mix of high end GW design and MB's distribution and marketing clout it even fielded an television advert on release, the first and only time I saw a Citadel model on prime time British television, and almost made the uttering the statement 'I'm using my broadsword' in a silly northern accent a national pastime (apart from in the north.) 


Now I could wax lyrical about this game and it's significance but I am not going to for it has already been academically argued by a gentleman known only as 'The Bard'. Watch the video below and see why!



As a side note, let us not forget the 'cousin' of Heroquest, namely Advanced Heroquest was also released in 1989.

1) Space Hulk

Space Hulk remains the greatest GW game ever created and could probably be classified as the greatest miniature board game created by anyone ever! It remains a highly influential game to this day as whizzing through this excellent article by Rob Bradley will show.  It was a game that once played left you with a very strange sensation, especially if you were the marine player. It was tough and tense on the nerves and so easy to face total annihilation once the genestealer closed in. 

In no way shape or form did it hold your hand or dumb down to its audeince. It was also blessed with a large number of high quality supplements and later releases that both developed the game itself, but also added to the background of the 41st millennium. Looking back now at Space Hulk leaves a bittersweet feeling when you think about the fate of it's designer, Richard Halliwell, who I have often described as GW's lost genius. You can read more about his life and contribution of Games Workshop here

So hereby ends my argument. Sixteen key releases that should prove to the world that 1989 was the very peak of GW's achievements. The carefully nutured Design Studio with its skilled and imaginative designers, sculptors and artists were producing their finest work and pumping out incredible products day in and day out. Of course, many of the projcts described here would have begun their lifecycles before 1989 but that special year saw them released to the avid gamer and reach public consciousness. Before I depart and you begin the inevitable counter arguments against me, just remember this. The releases described here are just the tip of the iceburg for that year. There were many, many other notable products rushing to the Games Workshop store near you, too! 

I am so so pleased to have riden this particular wave (as surfers are prone to exclaim, or so I have heard) and been highly involved in the GW hobby during this time. I am certain that without the year 1989 and the products GW unleashed on us neither this blog nor Oldhammer would exist at all. 

Thank you and goodnight.

Orlygg


51 comments:

  1. An excellent article and it had me cantering happily down memory lane! I really should get those Marauder renaissance dwarves I bought at the time out of the loft for an airing...

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    1. At least you were wise enough to actually buy them! Those old dwarfs are some of the finest ever wargaming figures from any range. Get some paint on them!! (:

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    2. I dunno, I still don't really get the aesthetic. I really only bought them as I had pretty much all of the dwarf models of the time in my army so felt I should!

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    3. I loved them for being so different from the standard 'Warhammer' dwarf. Oh, and the Landsknecht vibe also helped them look and feel unique.

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  2. Wow- you make a compelling argument! That's a great read, thank you very much for this.

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    1. I am glad you think so! But if you look at the evidence, find other year where GW have published so many important and successful games, supplements and ideas. Though there are other years in whcih amazing things happened and great games and miniatures were produced, 1989 had so, so many of them released in quite quick succession. It was a giddy experience at the time.

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  3. I agree! 1989 was the greatest year by far; for me it's Space Hulk and Space Marine that do it. I believe it's also the year I became aware of the hobby for the first time!

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    1. An apt year for getting involved. Very good timing indeed! (:

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  4. I agree!

    I always considered perhaps a couple of years earlier as 'better', but after reading your article I am convinced otherwise. Recalling that time 1989 was one great thing after another. I was 15 in 1989 and it was all very inspiring. 1989 was also the year that my local Games Workshop, Brighton, opened up. :)

    It reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother about the 1960's. She said there was just so much good music and great things happening (she was in central London) that you almost took it for granted. I feel the same now looking back at the 1986-92 period. Space Hulk is a fantastic game, and I still look at the old Epic/Space Marine photographs/artwork in the White Dwarfs to get that vast feel of the Slaves to Darkness era Horus Heresy.

    Your article is fantastic. Well researched, and great links, with all the great things covered, and relevant photographs, it presents a very convincing argument. It was a great time for games development and the maturing of GW's games, and of Citadel's miniatures ranges, from their earlier work in the 1980's. In fact, it was still possible to buy some of the older ranges, via mail order or when they cleared out the old stock, in 1989.

    The only point of disagreement I have is that I never liked the Imperial Guard army list. I felt that the inclusion of Las-Cannons made everything too expensive in points. That does'nt detract away from the great miniatures and the interesting mix in the army list itself.

    Thank you for writing the article and for the links. I did'nt know the was what happened to Richard Halliwell. :(

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    1. You're right on the lascannon points, the designers had backed themselves into a corner with the massive points hike they had just given the lascannon..... IIRC, it was 445 points for a ten man devastator squad wearing flak armour!

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    2. Having never played much guard the las-cannon controversy kind of passed me by. All the rulesets we played with were heavily modified by myself or my contemporary gaming friends - and it's a style of play I have always stuck with, despite going out of fashion for a long, lomg time.

      I am glad that you enjoyed the blog post as I spent quite a while mulling over the argument and selecting the evidence. I always envisage THREE distinct periods for Games Workshop and each period has its own interesting stories to tell. The 1st Phase would be the Jackson and Livingstone years which saw GW as a retailer and publisher of overseas titles. The 2nd was when GW was bought by Bryan and run as part of his Citadel miniatures business. The 3rd being the management buy-out and a move towards being a plc. The 3rd phase being the longest (obviously) and the most miserable. Though all phases were interested in many money, only the Citadel years really invested in true creativity and quality product design, hence the few short years of intense brilliance culminating in the releases of 1989.

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  5. Orlygg,
    Brilliant, simply brilliant! Love the article. Points 13, 10, 9, and 4 brought back fond memories! Great times! I will have to dig out my WD's from that era and give them a re-read.

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    1. I have my 12 issues right here with me. All are excellent reads and are packed with so much inspirational material and excellent art and ideas. I am glad you enjoyed my blog post! (:

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  6. Great stuff! I have fond memories of 1989, but for me 1984-5 (can't really split those years) was the zenith. If you'd asked me in 1989 or 1990, I'd probably have agreed with you. But in retrospect, I think the ranges produced in 84-5 are largely unsurpassed: Perry armoured orcs and the first slottabased orcs (still Perry at that stage) - and the first two ranges of Slann; Aly Morrison's superb hobgoblins and half-orcs (unequalled to this day, I think); Trish Morrison's beastmen (the best ever) and lizardmen; and the original Regiments of Renown. For me, the Perry originals of Grom, Harboth and Bugman were the best versions: understated and less cartoony than what followed.

    On top of that, the second edition of Warhammer and its scenarios surpassed most of what followed (much as I loved third edition at the time ...).

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    1. I too am a great fan of that period and many of the ranges you describe too. I also feel that White Dwarf was at its best then too, with a real community feel and a large number of contributions from significant movers and shakers of the 1980s. But, it juest didn't have the broad range of different and exciting 'other' releases to support them. For me, the Big Box Era was essential to GW success and 1989 saw the release of so many classic BBG, several of which transcended the GW/Wargaming bubble and went (almost) mainstream. I speak of course of Heroquest and Space Hulk. If you think about it, there were other years that saw fantastic games reaching market, but 1989 has the TWO (count 'em) most essential games ever released close months apart!

      And I agree, second edition Warhammer supplements were the best the game ever got! (:

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  8. I agree. 1989 was the year to end all years. Here's another reason you didn't include: 1989 was the year the Colleges of Magic were introduced to Fantasy Battle.

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    1. I considered including this one the list but decided against it! It shows that great minds think alike, eh? I opted this one out due to my yet unfinished painting project for the colleges - I was trying to avoid reader exhaustion! (:

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  9. I'm biased, of course, but I completely agree. It was a time for which I have an immense nostalgia, and I'm still proud to have been a small part of it.

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    1. My blog includes some memories of those times: https://graemedavis.wordpress.com/
      tags: Warhammer, WFRP, Games Workshop

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    2. I think that you do yourself a dis-service when you say you were only a 'small part of it'! Being co-author and developer of WFRP means you'd have been a legend if you did nothing else, let alone the reams and reams of other gems you put out over the years!!

      But humility is always a sign of greatness. (:

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  10. Playing Advanced Heroquest and (for some reason) whistling the Indiana Jones tune as I sprung yet another Skaven ambush...good times that got me addicted to Skaven for life :)

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    1. You are right, there was definitely 'something' disturbing about playing AHQ. The darkly lit corridors. The creeping tension. The evilly gurning GM. Great times!

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  11. Nailed it! I was 14 in 1989, and whilst I would quibble over your ranking of some of the items, I cannot deny the quality of them. I remember staring at that picture of Marienburg for what seemed like hours, lost in a dream-like reverie. I hankered after the Terminator boxed set and eventually managed to acquire a set second hand from a school friend, being too poor to buy them new at the time. The art of Paul Bonner illuminating the WH40k universe, a setting which turned me from a purely fantasy mind set. The pairing with thrash metal resonated with me because only the heaviest, most extreme music would do - Slayer made excellent accompaniment to, well anything, hobby related (except perhaps reading a novel).
    Thank you for the article - reminiscing about that year has rekindled my passion for the hobby (maybe even GW now that I've seen their new plastic skeletons!).
    Like I said - nailed it!

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    1. Go forth and Oldhammer, or doing any kind of hammer that gives you a sense of satisfaction and contentment. I am glad that my ramblings rekindled your love of our fantastic hobby. Long may it endow you with pleasantries.

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  12. Oh man, that was.. yeah, complete nostalgia and rather uncanny choices we share. Superb article and you pick up great points.

    Thank you!

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    1. I am glad that you agree. Of course, if you collect, paint and game with these very releases, as I do (;, it ceases to be nostalgia and becomes your contemporary hobby time.

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    2. This is true, so then I am still in the present. ;)

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  13. The year heroquest grabbed me by the..... Great read but kind of sad that its all fallen so far, when your best work was quarter of a century ago somethings very wrong!

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    1. At least they reached those lofty heights, eh! With this evidence it is now possible to 'show' the uninitiated younger gamers just why the older stuff was so superb and why old grognards like me don't stop banging on about it!

      Note there was no mention of a 'tournament' in the post, and armylists were barely mentioned. Why? BECAUSE THEY NEVER BLOODY MATTERED!!!!!!

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  14. That was spot on, White Dwarf 112 was my first issue, I'd just been introduced to the hobby via a game of talisman and I was hooked. I'd forgotten just how much good stuff was all released that year.

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    1. Ah, Talisman! I didn't discover it for years until the Black Industries version. My wife played it to death in the early days of our marriage. I wonder where it went?

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    2. At the time I probably only played it once or twice with new friends made on the new school bus after a house move. From there it was BloodBowl (and a few months later Space Hulk), a dark future campaign over half-term and Saturday afternoons playing Warhammer Fantasy and 40k with whatever miniatures were to hand.

      GW may already have been passed its creative peak by 1989 but it was definitely a great year to discover it, the blue and orange catalogues were already out and the local(ish) model shop had a box of Bugmans rangers on the top shelf.
      I've clicked into full nostalgia mode, must resist ebay...

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    3. Walking into a GW at this time was an incredible experience. There were just so many things to get into, and the catalogues you recall became biblical stuff of legends. Just flicking through them was incredible and I used to forlornly tick the miniatures I would like to het but didn't have the funs to acquire. Hey, wait a minute - I STILL do that! (:

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  15. Although I'd bought a few models already, I only started getting WD from issue 113 with the Space Hulk Terminator on the cover. Before that I'd avidly peered over my friends shoulder, he started buying WD a couple of issues before me! The Adeptus Titanicus stuff always caught my attention, especially with the fantastic dioramas they created. Though my 13-14 year old self couldn't afford them all in 1989, I did eventually get Trolls in the Pantry, a small Genestealer cult army, 7 or 8 of the Marauder Chaos Dwarfs (though not until probably '91-92 when the local games shop had a load of second hand ones for 25p each), a box of Imperial Guard to support my beaky marines (swapped one sprue of guards with my friend for a sprue of his Space Dwarfs), Space Marine (won a £5 off voucher in the WD competition!), had a copy of Wolf Riders book and a set of Space War combat cards, never got the Skeleton Army box though I did have the original Skeleton Horde, often played my friend's Heroquest (and eventually got my own copy of thet & AHQ for £5 each in the Chester GW mega-sale while at Uni) and finally Space Hulk was the first big box game that I had! Being a helpless hoarder, I still have them all, though some items eg Trolls in the Pantry, Combat Cards are sadly exiled to Mum & Dad's loft until I manage to retrieve them. Space Hulk still gets regular outings at our Scout group games days and Heroquest is also frequently used, though with my Hirst Arts dungeon rather than the original board.

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    1. Glad to hear some of these immortal games are still seeing service under your auspices. A great game remains a great game no matter how much time goes by. I used to hear 'tournement types'stating that without frequent updates of 40k the game just got stale and boring. I asked if they felt football, boxing or chess suffered in a similar way considering their rulesets weren't updated every four years and recieved a perflexed look in return. It sounds like you have quite a legacy of stuff stores away in places Paul, perhaps you should dig it all out again!

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  16. 1990 was also a good year - Mighty Empires being a highlight for me. But you're right, '89 has to be the biggest year for fantastic stuff being released!

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    1. Oh, I am not denying that there are plenty of other golden years, both before 1989 and well after. But no other year can compare with GW in it's peak!

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  17. Oh what a glorious post! When I grew up (in Germany), it was incredibly hard (and expensive) to get those games. Yet, I remember endless hours in one of the few shops that actually had a (limited!) amount of GW staring at the beautiful books and strange worlds.

    For me it was definitely Hero Quest (and later Stellar Crusade marketed cleverly as Star Quest) and Epic. Space Hulk was always to expensive and I only learned about its magnificence later when a buddy at university shared his game.

    I think it was the mixture of quirky (not grimdark) fluff and many boardgames that made he early GW that epic.

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    1. I think you have hit a nail on the head there, when you describe the era as 'quirky'. Modern GW takes itself far too seriously but I suspect this ia largely because its new audience are that way inclined. GW in the '80s was staffed by gamers (who loved games) and happened to work for Games Workshop. These days I would say the most designers are fans of Games Workshop and because of this want to work for Games Workshop. There is of course nothing wrong with this model, but the corporate nature of the beast means that the 'quirky' individualistic qualities of the 1980s are now impossible.

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  18. Absolutely amazing article! And I have to agree whole heartedly!

    '89 is the year I tell my gaming buddies that cemented my path in the life of a gamer. I was 8 years old at the time and aware of games like Dungeons & Dragons in my periphery before then and like my friends told we were too young to join in with older siblings and Uncles who played.

    It was Heroquest. That game was my first hit, this was the fantasy game just for us, our own D&D-alike with figures and everything! I started my faltering steps into both miniatures games and roleplaying games. I got to play with a friends copy for the first time before I begged and begged for my own. I painted my miniatures horrifically (Humbrol Enamels) and played that game to death with my friends and cousins.

    It wasn't until around '91 that I started to get a regular allowance and fully got into the hobby.

    But I'd probably have to say it was definitely the first year in my own Golden Age, '89 until about '93... Maybe '95.

    You wouldn't believe how happy this article has just suddenly made me, basking in the glow of memory and nostalgia...

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    1. I am glad you appreciated this blog post. It was fun to write and with hindsight should have included loads more evidence from the 1989. That in itself shows just how MUCH great material emerged from the Studio in that year. I too first painted my models in enamels and what a disaster they were too. Oh, the trials of youth! (:

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    2. Oh my God! That's exactly true! When I started painting Revell paints (enamels) were the only stuff you could get in the little miner town I call my home. So I ruined not only the glorious Fantasy Warriors box, but also Scarloc' Elf Archers, the Goblin wolf chariots and some other beauties in trying to learn it the wrong way.

      Thank goodness there was also Claymore Saga and Hero Quest which I could ruin before I found out about acrylics! :))

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    3. I started with enamels because someone bought be an AirFix Napoleonics set with a range of paints. I used to wander down to the garage to pour out the white spirit into a little cup to clean brushes in my room. Imagine kids wandering their homes (unsupervised) with flammable liquids today!?

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  19. At that time was 14 year old; and some years later (mid 90's) I picked up the june '89 catalogue (fotocopied), and since then I became Oldhammer before Oldhammer. ;-)
    I don't play GW products from longtime, but still today I reread those pages of amazing miniatures ranges. Everything there is a masterpiece, from the Goodwin to the Perry twins, the Morrisons, K. Adams (still in action), Naismith...

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    1. Yes, the ranges of miniatures are indeed superb (if the classic style of minis is your thing I guess) and I have said before, the finest single collection of wargaming figures ever produced due to the sheer originality and variety.

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  20. daaamn.. such a great blog-post. Grats Orlygg, great work.
    No mention of the great WFRP ?

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  21. Fantastic post, Orlygg! (You're clearly following through on your resolution to move beyond "unpainted works in progress" posts).

    Anyway, thanks for the shout out! I would slightly revise your 16 arguments to justify 1989 as the best year in GW history:

    16.) Bolt Thrower
    15.) Bolt Thrower
    14.) Bolt Thrower
    13.) Bolt Thrower
    12.) Bolt Thrower
    11.) Bolt Thrower
    10.) Bolt Thrower
    9.) Bolt Thrower
    8.) Bolt Thrower
    7.) Bolt Thrower
    6.) Bolt Thrower
    5.) Bolt Thrower
    4.) Skeleton Army
    3.) Bolt Thrower
    2.) Bolt Thrower
    1.) Bolt Thrower

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    1. Ha! I think you forgot one!

      BOLT THROWER!

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