Saturday 9 March 2013

Richard Halliwell:A tribute to Games Workshop's Forgotten Genius

If any enthusiast of early British fantasy or science-fiction gaming does the tiniest bit of digging through the archives, they will quickly discover that the 'Golden Age' was spearheaded, pretty much, by the same designers. Wargaming is, and has always been, a small, niche hobby and before the widespread reach of the internet connected enthusiasts worldwide, things were pretty localised. You had to travel to the 'fantasy shoppe' to browse the ranges, or purchase a publication (such as White Dwarf or Dragon) and peruse the classifieds at the back of the magazine. 

Something else you did was keep an eye on authors and miniature manufacturers whose style or approach to gaming was on par with your own. Rick Priestley was a name synonymous with wargaming in the late '70s and very early '80s, especially if you lived 'up north'. Obviously, he is now arguably the most famous Games Designer in the UK, and certainly one of the most prolific (I consider him to be the Cliff Richard of wargaming, he's been around for so long that no-one is ever going to top is achievements) and can be approached at any major wargaming event or conversed with on a forum or two. However, there is one other name that straddles the '80s like a colossus. A name that has faded, unjustly, into the ether, despite his many contributions still frequenting gaming tables across the world.

That name is Richard Halliwell.

This post hopes to have look at his phenomenal career and inform the reader about the enormous debt that we gamers, collectors and enthusiasts owe his forgotten genius and to share with you a (hopefully) definitive list of his work. So if I have missed anything out, email or comment and I'll set the record straight. 

Right, time to travel right back to the early months of Thatcher's Britain. Recession, unrest, problems with Argentina (hey, sounds like today) and a couple of young blades craft a science fiction game set in the grim darkness of the far future...

Combat 3000 1979

This was a basic publication in an age of very basic publications. Rick Priestley has explained that publishing was so primitive and difficult to do back then, that only the very, very committed could ever actually produce something. Well, I for one am very glad that Halliwell and Priestley put the effort in to get these rules published otherwise the landscape of later British gaming could have been very different.

Combat 3000 was essentially a generic science fiction game for 25mm infantry. As the title suggested, the game was set in the year 3000 and was written with much of Asgard's 15mm/25mm science-fiction miniatures in mind. Primarily, this rule set is a skirmish game which allows players to form basic squads with a range of weapons and battle it out. There was also one supplement, released in 1981 called Combat 3001: A fist full (sic) of Credits, which added some advanced rules (such as alien creatures, the effect of gravity, visibility and different fire modes) and rules for vehicles. Interestingly, Bryan Ansell (with a wonderful misspelled name) contributes an image or two to the set. 

If you fancy taking one of these rulesets out for a go, I've found a handy scribd link to a decent copy. 

And here's a quick link to the supplement.

Reaper 1981

Over the years, Reaper has gained the reputation of being a forerunner of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. This is largely due to it sharing the same authors, namely Priestley and Halliwell. It was designed to be a fantasy skirmish game that utilized about 30 or so models, and left a good amount to the imagination of the players - which is no bad thing. Published by Tabletop Games in 1981, though not terribly received by the 'powers that be' at the time, Reaper was influential enough to get gamers gaming and provided a bedrock on which to build something better.

What made Reaper stand apart from similar contemporary systems, was the fact that it allowed players to create different stats for generic fantasy races. For example, let's take the much maligned orc. Though there were only a few miniature manufacturers at the time (Ral Partha and Minifigs being two), many models looked very different from each other and were often very different in size, so a player would expect that the larger models on the table would be more powerful than the smaller. This wasn't always the case in the rulesets. Reaper allowed the player to create individual statistics for any unit, so those orcs could be better represented regarding their size and equipment. 

All the usual wargame fodder was present in the Reaper rules; movement, moral, observations etc. But it was the magic system that made the game something different. Wizards had been, up to this point, fairly generic beings in game terms. Now, their spell sets could be built from the ground up with a wide range of factors to exploit; from area of effect, to range to strength. There were over 20 different factors to take account of when creating spells. However, the more factors you keyed in, the more difficult the spell became to cast, with the possibility of spells backfiring and destroying allied forces. A sort of magical 'blue on blue' if you like...

All this detail resulted in a ruleset that demanded that you, the player, invested a great deal of time in the creation of forces and battles. No off the shelf gaming here. 

Imperial Commander 1981

Imperial Commander was, and still is, a set of wargames rules designed for science fiction combat. Like Reaper, it was published by Tabletop Games and was based around their 15mm science fiction miniatures range, still known to this day as the Laserburn models. The system was produced to create a fast paced game, using about 50 or so figures a side, and still has a small, but highly dedicated group of players, still playing to this day. 

Halliwell wrote the ruleset with Bryan Ansell in the very early '80s and follows a now familiar theme. Battles take place between an oppressive, galaxy spanning Imperium and the religious, fanatic Red Redemption - heard these words before, dear readers? Players take turns to move, fight and command armies over a game that takes about 2 to 3 hours to play. A sequel was also prepared, called Imperial Commander 2, but never saw the light of day. 

Unlike Reaper and Combat 3000, a version of Imperial Commander (called BEAMSTRIKE) is still available to buy online, alongside the Laserburn range of models, from A very nice they look too!

Then Came Warhammer 1981 - 1986 

Over the next five years, Warhammer was developed from a free give away from Citadel Miniatures Mail Order into the premium fantasy wargame. Halliwell's name appears on all of these incarnations. And, truth be told, there is not much to tell here that has not been discussed in detail elsewhere in the Oldhammer Community. 

The first edition (WFB1) was released in 1981 and was essentially an RPG wargame. Despite many rules inconsistencies, typing errors and poor presentation, the actual battle systems was rated to be excellent. In fact, the psychology rules and rules for bodging magical attacks were praised for creating a suitable fantasy feel. Interestingly, in this first incarnation of the world's most popular fantasy wargame, Dark Elves were known as Night Elves and there were such things a Red Goblins. Very little background information was given, either for the gaming word or the races themselves. That, like Reaper, was left to the imaginations of the players. 

The second edition (WFB2) jazzed things up and had much higher production values. Much of the material that worked from WFB1 was kept, though heavily revised. Magic, for example, was split into the different disciplines (illusionist, battle etc) and much more information was given about the background of the Warhammer world. Scenario packs were produced that expanded on this. Around the same time as WFB2, Halliwell contributed to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which was eventually released in 1986. 

1987 saw the release of Ravening Hordes, a selection of Army Lists for WFB2 developed by Halliwell and Priestley. This really galvanized the sale of Citadel Miniatures, as now players had an army list with which to plan there purchases. 

Block Mania 1987

Richard Halliwell had a busy, and very creative, year in 1987. He also worked on Block Mania, a tactical combat game set in the universe of British 2000AD classic, Judge Dredd. In this board game, players took on the role of rival neighbouring 'blocks', essentially a living space. The residents of these blocks would hope to destroy as much of their rival block as they could, using anything and everything that came to hand, from spray paint to heavy lasers. There were many expansions to the game, and supplements published in White Dwarf. These include Mega Mania and Citi-Block, which doubled as a supplement for the Judge Dredd roleplaying game published by Games Workshop in the mid to late 1980s. 

Warhammer Third Edition 1987

The big one. The greatest edition of the game ever released. You wouldn't be reading this blog if this wasn't so! And yes, Halliwell worked on this piece of genius too.

Dark Future 1987 

Dark Future was Halliwell's contribution to the Big Box Era of Games Workshop releases. It was essentially a car combat game with a highly developed background, so developed that Jack 'Kim Newman' Yeovil and others produced a number of high quality novels and short stories about it.

The game involved the then dark future of the 1990s, where much of the USA has become an arid hell hole of rival gangs, and the Sanctioned Ops (privatised police forces) who hunted them down. As you'd expect, there are options a plenty and a range of model vehicles and miniatures was produced for the game. Strangely, there was very little connection with the other GW games with DF, though Chaos Cultists did appear. I recently bought a copy of this game to get into, but it is currently on hiatus and we all focus on Realm of Chaos and the Oldhammer Weekender, but I shall one day return to this excellent game. Halliwell produced a number of additional articles for White Dwarf as well as a single rules supplement called White Line Fever in 1989. 

My blog concerning this journey can be found here.

Space Hulk First Edition 1989, Deathwing and Genestealer 1990

If Halliwell's pedigree as a genius of game design was not already proven by the list of games already described, than this final entry alone would have assured it. Space Hulk is iconic among wargamers. A brutally difficult game for the Marine player and a game that is infinite in its replayability. The first edition is the best, though the recent third edition has better miniatures and quality board, and had a wide range of additional missions and expansions. Most notably Deathwing and Genestealer. Eventually, my Rogue Trader blog will be used to discuss these games in greater detail and explore the shared background these great games share with Rogue Trader.

You may now be wondering 'what happened to Richard Halliwell then?' After all, Jervis Johnson, Bryan Ansell and many of the other legendary designers are still, in varying degrees, still on the scene. So what not Richard Halliwell? Sadly, his story does not have a happy ending at the moment. When researching his contribution to British gaming I did a few searches here and there to find out what he had done since the early 90s.

I found this on the Boardgame Geek website:


Richard "Hal" Halliwell here. Down on my luck at the minute. I did a lot of overland travels motorbiked from Nottingham to Zimbabwe, Ohio to Costa Rica etc. On my last trip I got robbed, framed and banged up by Thai police. Got back to find my house had been squatted and repossessed, my bank accounts emptied and my friends weren't going to help me. Nearly died on the street. OK now, curtesy (sic) of this housing association. I am working on a WW2 toy soldier game and looking for gamestesters (sic). Fancy helping out?'

This was confirmed by Rick Priestley earlier on this year:

'Richard has suffered from long-term ill-health for a good few years now and is unable to work - but he's OK and last time I saw him he was continuing developing a WW2 wargame based on a hypothetical German invasion of Britain in 1940.'

Not an ideal end, is it? Certainly not for one of, if not the, greatest miniature games designer that the UK, or indeed any other country, has ever produced. Richard Halliwell was regarded as 'untouchable' when it came to board game design by those who knew him at the peak of his powers and the wealth of games that he has left us are the bedrock of Oldhammer itself. No doubt, if you cast a look around the games being played this summer at the Foundry, nearly all of them will have felt his influence in some way or another.

What an achievement!

And, iff you ever get to read this Richard, myself and the Oldhammer Community would like to thank you for your incredible contribution to British gaming and hope you all the best in the future. I for one would love to play that WW2 game you've been working on all these years!

So, what are your opinions of Richard Halliwell's work? Any favourite games? Did you ever get to meet that man? Have I missed any games he produced from this list?

As always, contact me below.



  1. After all my bleating about Old School gaming a mate produced a pristine copy of Imperial Commander out from somewhere. We are going to get a couple of games in soon, I will let you know how it goes.

  2. Sad to hear life aint treating him to well, Block mania is a great game and i spent many an hour in the 80s playing dark future,

  3. I had the 1st ed Space Hulk and all supplements, bought in the 90s as GW were ending production. Stupidly I sold them before university to clear some space. Really regret that action now!

    1. Golden rule of wargaming! Hoard everything! Sell nothing!

  4. That is pretty rough. Where are the mates?

    Maybe we could help. Will the Foundry event have an entrance fee? That could be upped and the the money used for something useful, although it would be only a few doing the paying. Together we're incredibly creative and some in the community are arguably the true heirs to people like Halliwell. We could do something to raise cash, a kind of retirement fund - it wouldn't be too hard to put out a monthly zine say, maybe as a pdf at Wargame Vault, and send the proceeds off. Cut out the middle man. I'd be up for a regular contribution for the right cause.

    1. So ten comments later, assuming the commenters - and stunning lack of commenters given the high level of traffic indicated by the widget in the sidebar - are roughly typical of the wider community, pretty much no one gives enough of a toss to do anything to help.

      Thanks for everything Rich, for the gifts that keep on giving, the gifts that thanks to your creativity and hard work can now earn us a wedge on eBay and help us while away long hours of our lives in fantasy worlds. Here's nothing new in return.

    2. Actually think this is a good idea more so with R. Halliwells previous situation.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Interesting timing for this post as I found myself wondering about him the other day. I was flipping through some old white dwarfs (180s I think) and there was a battle report with "Richard Helliwell." Since I have no idea what the man looks like, does anyone know if that was a typo or just another guy with an incredibly similar name?

    1. Hi, you may be looking at my dad there. Richard Helliwell used to work at Games Workshop in Nottingham years ago. He now makes his own models and sells them at

    2. Late to the party but that's exactly the reason I hit Google. WD 176, Dwarfs vs Chaos. I hadn't actually noticed that the surnames were different and was mightily confused considering the chap in the picture looks to be in his 20s which would have had him writing Reaper with crayons as this was '94.

      Must try harder; my reading comprehension clearly needs work.

  7. That's such a shame! You really couldn't make that up. Like Andrew I was wondering about Richard the other day; he's a legend and I wondered were he'd gone. Now we know, even though it's not quite what I expected to hear given his talent.

    Warlord Paul: any chance of bringing that copy of Imperial Commander along?! I would love to see it. Buy you a pint. The 'cottage industry' style of those old rules sets are charming in my opinion (I have a nice copy of 1st ed WFB complete with original flyers and mail order picking slip signed by the guy who packed the order!).

  8. There were a group of such talented creators at the same time in the same place! Any of them was a legend on his own, but all of them altogether made the hobby possible for us as we know it nowadays.

  9. Wow, that's a sad note to an illustrious career. I hope things work out for him, we owe him an incalculable debt of gratitude for his contributions to the hobby.

  10. You missed out Lustria, Slann and Amazons were his babies, McDeath was his too, and there's a lot of him in WFRP (he's listed first in the credits, and Priestly has said in interview (maelstrom?) most of the carrers were from him). Regards the "Richard Helliwell" - yes that was him, his name almost always has typos (i.e. Halliwe!l on Riggs Shrine, and Henniwell on WD51, I think an in-joke of some kind). I get the impression from his output and from interviews with priestly that Halliwell was the real creative force

    If I had my way GW would be paying royalties. Perhaps he was offered stock options when they went for the IPO, I don't know, but as far as I'm concerned GW would be better off paying him royalties than trying to get lawyers to threaten e-book authors for using the words "space marine". wankers.

  11. Thrice damn you sir, thats more stuff I have to mooch around the loft for, my laserburn miniatures (just to look at), my block war with expansions and my Space First Ed stuff. Oh better check my 1st ed warhammer isn't mouldy yet.
    Cracking Post

  12. Although games like Combat 3000 and Imperial Commander were just before my time (born 1981) I still know of Richard Halliwell from books such as Warhammer fantasy roleplay (which I still enjoy reading now!) and Warhammer 3rd ed. I also remember his name from old White Dwarfs I have. It's unfortunate that the majority of GW gamers these days neither know of or care about the contribution that Halliwell, Priestley, Ansell (even Andy Chambers, Jake Thornton, Nigel Stillman, etc!) and the rest have made to modern wargaming. The same is probably true of most of GW's executives and shareholders!! :(

    Still, we know and we remember!

    I hope Richard gets back on his feet again and back to publishing great games, he's deserving of some good fortune.

    Thanks again Orlygg, for another awesome article and a great tribute to Halliwell.

  13. Glad to see that Richard Halliwell is getting the respect he deserves for fans. Here's hoping he overcomes his challenges in the future and returns to the world of gaming where he rightly belongs.

  14. I have met Richard; actually worked with him trying to turn one of his ideas into a PC title back in the 90s. He played through a game of Space Hulk on his living room floor for me in Nottingham as I didn't know it!

    I vaguely remember he went to Domark in Putney, then off motorcycling in the States; sad to hear he fell on harder times (he was rough and ready, so this all rings true) but I'm sure he will make a retro comeback.

    I just saw the Space Hulk game on Steam. I wonder if he will see any benefit from that.

  15. Great post about this great man!

    As part of the oldhammer spirit, reconnect all those great designers now, would be a good idea. And why not use kiskstarter to order them something....

  16. Orlygg; thanks for another excellent and informative article. If Rick Priestly is the father of modern gaming then Halliwell is the cool uncle who comes over and gives you sweets and beer when the rest of the family aren't looking.

    I love Rogue Trader but Space Hulk is something else altogether; and it was games of the latter that sparked my interest in the 41st millennium and got me playing the former as well. I am lucky to have a first edition copy of Space Hulk; Genestealer and Death Wing as well as many of the original minis. This has inspired me to dig them out and give them a play.

    I am really gutted to hear Rich has fallen on hard times given that the rest of his peers are still going strong. I would personally like to thank the man for giving us all such great games that enriched my childhood and continue to provide so much pleasure!

    If you ever read this post Mr Halliwell then please accept my gratitude!

  17. Are there any updates to be had, on either of these illustrious progenitors?

  18. I did have a copy of reaper first edition and there was a list of miniatures already worked out but this was removed for the second edition.

  19. Dear Richard. Space Hulk was the 1st game which catapulted me from kids games to sensational games. I knew Rogue Trader Universe and still was not interested in it. Space Hulk was the spark which made 40k interesting. And not only 40k. Space Hulk was the only reason i got into boardgaming and tabletop hobby. And it is going to stay my best game FOREVER. Wholehearted thank you for the best designer on the fvckin planet.

  20. What a grim situation. Is there any news about the WWII rules set? In a universe that invented Kickstarter (currently being exploited by many large companies who are riding on the coat tails of people like Halliwell) talent like his needs to be mined.

  21. Hi, I knew these guys from my school days and remember Richard Halliwell, Rick Priestley and John Dowman arguing over rules and writing rule books when they were 14/15 year olds. The games started out based on WW2 and evolved into fantasy games later. I never became a player but I was fascinated by their passion and attention to detail. I am delighted they Halliwell and Priestley made a career from their hobby and I understand John Dowman is still playing more than 40 years later.

    1. Unfortunately John Passed away in February from a heart attack related to COVID.

  22. Yes a great game designer Richard really impacted the fantasy what would become Warhammer and the future Warhammer 40k worlds. I purchased the second edition rules in 1987 Ravening hordes, dark future and spacehulk, playing in the 8/12 Regiment club in Australia. I still have my original space hulk kicking around and get it out for a game quite often.

    Sad to hear that he has spiralled down so much, I hope he looks up and remembers, lifts himself up and gets on with life.


  23. Rest in peace, sir ! Thanks for all.

  24. Thanks for all the amazing table top fun you shared with the world, may your games be played for ever more, RIP Richard.

  25. So sad to hear of Hal's passing. I mis-spent a lot of my youth on his games, and still treasure my copies of Block Mania and Dark Future. Will have to play them again in his memory.

  26. wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated
    richard touil

  27. I read this article. I think You put a lot of effort to create this article. I appreciate your work.
    richard touil

  28. There are lots of gamers who would like to acquire good enough wow classic tbc gold without performing any activity in the game. It is attainable to get tbc gold without undertaking any activity with the aid of the MMOGAH web page. In the event you take a look at this unique site, you can obtain progressively more information regarding tbc gold tracker addon.

  29. I remember the only mention of Richard Halliwell's passing on GW was via a live Twitch stream with two presenters in 2021 when they were announcing some big releases for a big show with venue and people. Their Warhammer Community website page mentioned nothing. It's like Rick Priestley doesn't even get mentioned ever either. Would be nice to honour the old creators and artists. But now they have a policy whereby they dont show painters faces on camera only hands and faces. Why ? because there is a trend for them to leave GW and go and do their own thing for more money etc e.g. Duncan Rhodes, Peachy and Louise Sugden.

  30. There's a link on Board Game Geek that shows the last known photo of him and a memorium from someone who knew him decades ago. Sadly he was living in an 'assisted living housing foundation' and apparently didn't have a strong friends and family network to support him. Just goes to show you can be involved in the initial design of what is now the world's most popular table top game but still end up broke. Still this should be a place to celebrate his life acomplishments, he built foundations and paved the way for others to do great things also.