Sunday, 17 July 2016

The First Citadel Open Day: The Photographs of Mark Stevenson

Photograph One: We start with a great shot of the 'it looks quite a bit like the Citadel logo' castle model that was seen at many a show during the 1980s. I am still not exactly sure about who built it and have heard conflicting reports about who was responsible, though this is not surprising as there were two similar castles like this kicking about. If you look at the blog post I did about Guy Carpenter's photographs you can see them both side by side in a single shot. The table itself also makes many appearances through the decade - with the distinctive twin skull scenery pieces being used in many a Games Day. Apparently, the hot air balloon was made from a toilet ballcock!!

Realm of Chaos 80s has a long tradition of bringing it's readers the best that social media vomits out into the unexpected world. Facebook, and other modern methods of mass communication, are surperb platforms to inhibit the spread of information - for good or ill. Thankfully, today's post is a very positive one and brings to you another dose of vintage era photographs set to send your nostalgia circuit into '80s hair metal overdrive.

In previous years, both Guy Carpenter and Andy Craig have offered up their blurry photographs to the altar of Oldhammer and now it is the turn of one Mark Stevenson. I spotted his pictures on Facebook a week or so after he first shared them and inquired if it would be possible to present them here for posterity. As you are ogling his images as you read, you know that Mr. Stevenson was more than happy to do so and many thanks must be given to him. As in similar posts of yesteryear, I shall attempt to provide a little colour commentary to each photograph and try to put things into context. I am by no means an expert in this period of GW's history though. Regular readers will know that my expertise lies in the period 1987 - 1991 so I am more than happy to be corrected by anyone more knowledgeable than myself.

Okay! Strap on your digital watch and clutch your copy of Zzap64 (or CRASH, if you were that way inclined) as we head back to September 1984 and the FIRST CITADEL OPEN DAY in Eastwood.

Photograph Two: A detail shot of the game from the same table as the castle in photograph one. Two lovely (scratch built?) boats with some fantastic attention to detail. I love the way the sail in attached to the mast. One of the famous multipart c28 giants (later used in McDeath) strides across the river.

Photograph Three: More detail from the gaming table. A beautifully made scratch built boat in the harbour. I could study this shot for hours due to all of the tiny details you can spot. The scenery works brilliantly and makes you feel you are part of a real place. I have always felt that is is essential in wargaming and strongly dislike the flat, plastic looking boards you see kicking about these days.

Photograph Four: Tony Ackland's infamous Dwarf Juggernaut, complete with a puff or two of cotton wool. These have become iconic models and getting hold of one in a decent and complete state has been the goal of a fair few obsessive collectors.

Photograph Five: These models are Tom Meier High Elves and can still be bought from Ironwind Metals. The shields look to be scratch built though.

Photograph Six: A distinctive model by John Blanche. Iconic.
Photograph Seven: Too much LSD? Like a combined acid trip from all members of Hawkwind in 1972 this image seems to whirl before your eyes. Don't worry, it is blurred and your eyes have not been blasted by Blanche!!

Photograph Eight: Another mystery to me, I am afraid, but I have a feeling that this is a pre-slotta hobgoblin. Note the heavy black shading. At this point using a mixture of black undercoat and heavy drybrushing produced this distinctive look. Many of the other photographs on this blog share this technique. As colour photography became more simple and frequent, collector's painting skills had to rise to met the challenge.

Photograph Nine: A pre-slotta goblin from Grom's goblin guard, I think, converted into a standard bearer. Note how influential Blanche's banners were in regards to colour. The yellow mustardy background with black and red in the foreground.

Photograph Ten: John Blanche's influence is apparent here with these orc warriors. Note that the standards look to be made of actual material. What a fantastic idea!!! Now there is something worth a try one day.

Photograph Eleven: An ogre mounted on a dinosaur. I have no idea who made either of these models.

Photograph Twelve: A highly disturbing robot. Produced by SFD and painted, I suspect, by John Blanche.

Photograph Thirteen: The Spined Dragon by Nick Bibby. The GREATEST model dragon of the '80s - and probably beyond! Actually, this model has a little amusing story connected with it. It's head is still part of Tim Prow's collection as he found the dragon's noggin in a draw when GW moved premises. Instead of throwing it away he kept it. What happened to the rest of the dragon is a mystery.

Photograph Fourteen: A pre-slotta goblin fanatic

Photograph Fifteen: I have no idea about this one.

Photograph Sixteen: Now here is an interesting model. There has been some debate about whether or not this piece is a conversion or not. I can ID this a Ral Partha Troll and I have seen one in Goblin Lee's collection. It is a cracking model even after all these years and looks rather sinister if you ask me.

Photograph Seventeen: Converted beastmen based on the old Vile Broo model, and some Ral Partha demons which are notable for having multiple heads.. The model on the right just screams crazy '80s Warhammer and is reminiscent of many of Bryan Ansell's more peculiar models.

Photograph Eighteen: Aly Morrison's Oriental Heroes.

Photograph Nineteen: More pre-slotta orcs and goblins.

Photograph Twenty: The original 'White Dwarf' based on the image that was used on the front cover of White Dwarf during much of the 1980s. This example was released as part of the White Dwarf Personalities box set.

Photograph Twenty-One: A Citadel dwarf ranger. He was produced for the opening of the Nottingham store when GW did special give away models. This model later appeared inside the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rulebook when it was released in 1986.

Photograph Twenty-Two: '80s madness. Paragliding dwarves. These later appeared in White Dwarf.

Photograph Twenty-Three: A close up of one of the swooping dwarves.

Photograph Twenty-Four: An finally, a range of pre-slotta fighters, including the chap carrying the lady over his shoulder. I don't think I have seen that model before.

So we end our little trip through the ages and must now leave the First Citadel Games Day behind us. Thanks again must go to Mark for letting me share these fantastic images. As I said, if you can provide any further information about these figures or any of the models shown, please do get in touch.



  1. Those are beautiful. Thanks for posting them.

  2. Very cool. Thanks for posting! Man, do I wish that I could have played at that table.

    1. Agreed... I wonder what it's eventual fate was?

  3. Great stuff!

    Photograph eight is the standard bearer from the Golgfag's ogre regiment of renown.

    Number nine is a night-goblin standard bearer. He wasn't part of Grom's goblin guard, but DID fit in with the "goblin raiders" boxed set (the same horned helmet and shield). There's another chap - horned helmet, club and fist-pump - that also matches the boxed set without being part of it. As it happens, I'm about to use that standard bearer in a game of Hordes of the Things with my son in about 20 minutes ...

    Number eleven is the giant elephant rider released from Ral Partha (and still available from Iron Wind now). There's an exquisite painted version here:

    I forget where the dinosaur is from, but I recall that it featured in an early White Dwarf in the Tabletop Heroes column - converted to play a saxophone!

    Number 15 is Yam the Half-Ogre, an early knight of chaos. I'm not sure, but I think he was part of an early boxed set that was quickly replaced with a better one. The appropriate link on goes to the Knights of Law page at the moment.

    You make an excellent point about the effect that photography has had on painting. I think that - sometimes - this has actually been to the detriment of how miniatures look on the tabletop. I was interested to see on the Eldritch Epistles blog how heavy and dark the shading was on some of those superb Kev Adams painted miniatures. While those are exquisite in their own right, I think that they possibly look better on the tabletop than many contemporary miniatures painted to be ready for their close-up rather than for the battlefield.

    1. <<<
      You make an excellent point about the effect that photography has had on painting. I think that - sometimes - this has actually been to the detriment of how miniatures look on the tabletop. I was interested to see on the Eldritch Epistles blog how heavy and dark the shading was on some of those superb Kev Adams painted miniatures. While those are exquisite in their own right, I think that they possibly look better on the tabletop than many contemporary miniatures painted to be ready for their close-up rather than for the battlefield.

      i have had the same thought.
      also there are better paints, cheaper airbrushes, bigger models that are often easier to paint with an airbrush...
      colored basecoat spraycans. chinese resin. plus thirty years of practice (for me, i guess closer to 35) - all this makes the realism more available for more people. not to mention professional figure painting services - unheard of in 1983, or 1996. common in 2016.

    2. I have always found the term 'professional painting' a bizarre concept. Apart from it being somewhat of a joke to eBay listers and buyers, in real-life a professional would be a doctor, lawyer or solicitor. Not a bloke who sits in a chair daubing models with paint. You might as well attribute professional status to a painter and decorator with that logic, though interior designers would probably argue otherwise. John Blanche, and others like him working in the '80s with fairly primitive resources, have shown that imagination and interpretation will outstrip technique and technology everytime. As to the older photographs, the slightly blurred quality and the way that the light responds to the colour tones gives the models a sense of time, practically multiplying the vintage look that nostalgia enthusiasts like us appreciate.

    3. << not to mention professional figure painting services - unheard of in 1983, or 1996. common in 2016.>>

      Ah, but there were some - perhaps not in 1983, but certainly by the time that Tabletop Heroes was up and running in White Dwarf (they did a feature on painting services). Also, some wargames shops ran painting services (I used to work for one!).

      I agree with everything else you and Orlygg say, though. And yes, the "professionalism" was moot!

      I don't think John Blanche and Aly Morrision have ever been surpassed as miniature painters. There are many who are more precise or "technically better", but for imagination, verb and impact, they're peerless.

    4. Professional, means we are paid for it, do it full time, with standards of service and in my case, with 22 trophies, TV appearances, magazine covers and box art to back it up with a background in traditional art. Oh and 40 years experience...

  4. What incredible shots! Thanks so much for bringing these to light.
    I agree completely with what you said about the importance of 3-dimensional battle-boards that make it seem like the viewer is part of a real place. For example, I love that wandering footbridge next to the ship. I'm going to start working on some battle-boards soon, so this is a really essential reminder for me.

    1. Yes, if the gaming board looks like a living, breathing place (complete with lots of little details) the immersion factor is ramped up. Flat, soulless plastic resembles the toy shelves of children under ten, rather than the fields of Elysium, Salamanca or Marienburg. Games played with beautiful models, sensitively painted minis and played with upon artistically positioned scenery allows the participant to merge with the reality you hope to create. Funny how modern plastic toot pushers spend some much more time flicking through their latest codex rather than admiring the magnificent spectacle of their wargames table.

  5. Hi...I saw these models and terrain in action at Games Day 83 or 84, and I am pretty sure they were made by the Players Guild. There was also a great orc anti-aircraft gun for taking out the dwarf hangliders which featured in Tabletop Heroes a bit later. The orc ship is a converted Airfix Golden Hind model with loads of extras added, and featured in a number of displays about that time. The 3 headed Ral Partha Troll depicts the Three Stooges. It was available as a cast model rather than being a conversion, but I have only seen it on ebay US recently at a very high price. The dinosaur I think was a Ral Partha figure as well, I saw one converted into a Saxophone Playing T-rex once. For banner material, use an old tea-towel for a really coarse orcish feel. Hope that's useful being an old git sometimes.

  6. I went to this one, and a few others. Was this the year that visitors got the 'Black Dwarf' figure, or was that a later year?

    1. I have no idea - though up until now, I hadn't seen the Black Dwarf model before.

    2. I didn't get a free must have been the next one. The highlight for me was hearing Iain McCaig talk about painting the Jethro Tull album cover for Broadsword and the Beast. Other than that, I spent the whole day gawping at the game.

    3. Later. He was a slotta. This was doing the rounds very early on... Incidentally I own the majority of the undead used by Joe Dever in his display games, which were equally epic in the same period.

  7. Thanks a lot for those !!

    Not everybody has (or wants) Facebook :)

  8. I also remember seeing an orc in a small dinghy - looked like an old plastic dinghy from the airfix US marines..
    This was the first time I had seen Warhammer - I remember standing for hours just watching the games. Still have to play my first Warhammer game, and hope to address that shortly. Recently visited a GW store - surprised at the inabilty to buy single figures these days. Also amazed by the sheer quality of the models/paints etc that are available.
    Still want to a) fill in the blanks in my Asgard collection b) have a WFB game with old rules c) own a John Blanche model.
    Not too much to ask after a 30 year break?!

    1. I remember the dinghy with the paddling orc! Welcome back to the've missed all the c**p and are back just in time to Oldhammer it. What Asgard figures are you missing? I have a few duplicates.