Friday, 15 May 2015

Every Dungeon had a Dragon....

Back in 1980, every dungeon had a dragon in it!  There were a few dragon miniatures on the market at that time, including some nice 'imports' from Heritage and Archive in the USA, but most of these were beyond the limited financial means of my circle of 15 year-old gaming friends.  So when we stumbled across the new FF33 - Great Fire Dragon, a snip at £4.95, many of us bought one.

FF33 v2 - Great Fire Dragon

To this day, it's one of my favourite dragon models.  Big enough to put the willies up a band of 25mm adventurers, nicely posed with a menacing but powerful grace, and sculpted with just about the right amount of detail for even a basic paint-job to look pretty good.

Strangely, this version of FF33 is the second to be released.  The earlier FF33 Emperor Dragon, an ugly and clumsy-looking sculpt, was soon replaced in the Fiend Factory range.  Despite its obvious inferiority as a piece of art, the Emperor Dragon is much sought-after for its rarity.  I have one in my painting queue, and I'll be tackling it later.

Despite most of the FF range consisting of quirky refugees from the pages of the earliest issues of White Dwarf, there were a few 'generic' fantasy monsters in there too.  A couple of the models, FF17 - Minotaur and FF53 - Ogre, saw constant use in our D&D games.  They also both survived the great cull of 1982, so they're a common feature of many 'old school' miniatures collections.

FF17 - Minotaur & FF53 - Ogre

As I mentioned earlier, I have started work on some of my FF Goblins, so we'll have a look at them next time.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Dungeon Inmates & Artifacts.

Now, we come to the third of the 3 ‘F-Series’ ranges – the Fantasy Specials.  It’s a quirky and eclectic collection of dungeon scenery & tavern furniture, non-player characters and dungeon vermin.  Again, sculpting quality varies hugely across the range.

When my group of friends first started to play D&D in 1979, floorplans were never used.  A dungeon chamber would be depicted on the tabletop by a hastily scrawled map on a sheet of paper, with miniatures used to represent player characters and monsters, sometimes even the correct monsters!   

The majority of the models in the Fantasy Special seemed to be fairly superfluous, and unlikely to get much use.  And why would anyone buy a Magic Mouth Doorway, which would see very little game-time, when you could get 3 Goblins and 3 Orcs for the same price?

Fig. 6  FS1 – Dungeon Doorway, FS2 – Magic Mouth Doorway, FS3 – Demon Floor Trap & FS4 – Living Wall.
 Well, for me it wasn’t just about the gaming.  Something about the range triggered my imagination, as did the bizarre ‘Valley of the Four Winds’ range made by Minifigs, and I bought quite a few figures from the FS range.  I also owned most of the infamous nude torture victims.  I’ll take a closer look at those later.

The first 4 models in the range were an interesting mix of the useful and the weird, with a very handy dungeon door, the afore-mention Magic Mouth piece, a model which was probably supposed to represent a Trapper from D&D, and a Living Wall oozing and dripping with slime.  These were all pretty chunky models for their time, and quite pricey for those with limited pocket money!

In the next few entries, I’m going to switch between the 3 ranges to cover some of my favourite models, before getting back to covering more models in a roughly numerical order.  My painting table is currently covered with Goblins, with a patient queue of Red Orcs waiting in the wings.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The First Fantasy Adventurers

The first miniatures that I owned came from Citadel’s Fantasy Adventurers range.  For Christmas in 1979, my parents bought me a copy of the Basic D&D boxed set (Holmes edition), and my grandmother chipped in with a selection (selected by me, from the Games Workshop mail order catalogue) of figures from Citadel and Ral Partha.

In those early, youthful days of D&D, everyone seemed to take a turn at DMing, and we all had multiple characters which had somehow managed to acquire high levels and plenty of magic items. This was odd considering how often our characters died horrible deaths, more often than not at the hands of fellow party members!

So, we all needed plenty of player character figures, and a good selection of monsters too.  Most of my favourite character models came from the FA range, with a few Ral Partha ES range figures added (a personal favourite was ES01, Tom Meier’s ‘Evil Wizard’, which I used to represent several different Magic User characters).

Fig. 3   FA1 – Fighter in Plate Mail with Sword, FA2 – Wizard with Staff, FA3 – Cleric with Cross and Mace & FA4 - Sneak Thief with Dagger.

Fig. 4  FA5 – Druid with Sickle, FA6 – Bard with Sword and Lute, FA7 – Monk with Staff & FA8 – Ranger with Sword & Bow.

Fig. 5  FA9 – Barbarian with Two-handed Sword, FA10 – Paladin with Sword, FA11 – Illusionist & FA12 – Ninja Assassin with Sword.

The first 12 miniatures in the Fantasy Adventurers range depicted male human versions of all of the character archetypes of D&D/AD&D.  Demi-human and female characters would be added to the range later, as well as some evil characters and villains. Strangely, of these 12 models, 3 had already been replaced by remodelled versions by the time I first bought them in 1979.  Early versions of the Thief, Monk and Ranger will appear here at a later date.

Monday, 20 April 2015

More Fiend Factory Beasties

In 1981, TSR published the Fiend Folio, a collection of monsters for the AD&D game.  Many of the monsters in this book had first seen publication in the Fiend Factory column in White Dwarf, and the editor of the book was Don Turnbull, who had also edited the Fiend Factory column. 

All four of the monsters shown below; Phantom Stalker, Giant Bloodworm, Death Worm and Volt, appeared in the Fiend Folio, with the Death Worm being renamed as Necrophidius.

Fig. 2   FF2 – Phantom Stalker, FF6 – Giant Bloodworm, FF7 – Death Worm & FF8 – Volt.
 Again, these miniatures are not great sculpts, but they bear a close resemblance to the artwork in White Dwarf and the Fiend Folio.  My casting of the Death Worm needed some emergency surgery to keep it in one piece – it is rare these days to find an unbroken example of this model.

In 1982, a large number of Fiend Factory models were replaced, some with updated and improved versions of the earlier sculpts, but many were completely new subjects.  Most of the monsters which were specific to the Fiend Factory column and/or the Fiend Folio tome went out of production at this time, to be replaced by more generic fantasy monsters and characters.  This blog will be concentrating, for now, on the earlier versions of the range, but we’ll take a look at the remodelled versions at a later date.

The next article will showcase some of the early miniatures of the Fantasy Adventurers range.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Fiend Factory

If you open a copy of White Dwarf number 11, dated Feb/March 1979, and turn to page 4, you’ll find a little piece of gaming history.  A full page advertisement announces the formation of a new company – Citadel Miniatures.  As well as plans for manufacturing and distributing Ral Partha miniatures in the UK, Citadel’s own new ranges were announced.  One of these was to be the Fiend Factory range, based on the regular White Dwarf feature of the same name, a collection of new D&D monsters designed by staff members or submitted by readers.

Many of the early models of the Fiend Factory range were sculpted by artist and animator Humphrey Leadbitter.  Some collectors consider his work to be fairly basic, but his sculpting had a sort of na├»ve charm which I think suited his subject matter well.

Fig. 1   FF1 - The Fiend, FF2 - Slime Beast with Sword, FF3 - Hook Horror & FF4 – Crabman.
These miniatures were painted many years ago, but have been tidied up a bit and re-based.  They are not great sculpts, and are quite a challenge to paint, but this is the case with many miniatures of this vintage.  I’ll be trying to maintain a consistent style with my new paint-jobs too.

Monday, 13 April 2015

In the beginning...

I first encountered Citadel Miniatures in 1979.

I was a 14 year old with an interest in model-making.  We had a lunch-time model club at school, where we avidly spilt Humbrol enamels on the desks, breathed the dizzying fumes from Airfix plastic cement and carelessly severed fingertips with X-Acto knives.

Then one day everything changed.  A new kid had recently arrived at our school, and he brought in a small selection of metal gaming miniatures to paint.  There were monsters from folklore and fiction, adventurers in armour and wizards in robes and pointy hats.  I had never seen anything like them.  A group soon gathered around these figures, our half-finished Spitfires and Chieftain tanks were abandoned.

We soon found out that these figures were used as playing pieces in a strange new game (well, new for Cornwall) called Dungeons & Dragons.  It wasn't long before D&D took over from model-making as my chief hobby, and I still play regularly today.  But it was always the miniatures which were my first passion!

My earliest purchases of gaming miniatures were mostly from Citadel's Fantasy Adventurers, Fiend Factory and Fantasy Specials ranges, with a few Ral Partha and Minifigs models thrown in to fill the gaps.  Around 20 years ago, I made a concerted effort to collect the complete 'F-series' range, with all it's variants and remakes.  I got pretty close to finding them all, but didn't get far with the painting.

Now, after many years of gathering dust, the collection is back on my painting desk.  Some miniatures don't need much more than a rapid re-basing and a spray of Dullcote, but most need to be painted from scratch.  A lot of the models are poor sculpts by today's standards, and some of the castings are not great quality either, but I'll be presenting them here 'warts and all'.