Thursday, 26 June 2014

Lead Adventurers

As I've nothing to show painting wise at the moment, I thought I'd chat about one of the defining ranges of figures for Rogue Trader. The Adventurers.

According the advert (and Steve over at Eldritch Epistles - who has a great article about the figures from this range in Bryan Ansell's collection) these were released in 1988 and featured in white dwarf 99 (march 88).

My first White Dwarf was 101 which must have been in may so I kind of missed the boat but these certainly would have been available however that GW store in Edinburgh (we lived about 10 miles outside) wouldn't have opened until 1989 and by then I'd have been buying Orks. This all means that I never bought any of these figures for 50p a pop back in the day and I would have barely even noticed their existence.
Nowadays it's a different matter though. Alongside similar non-uniform ranges (Mercenaries, Pirates, Iron Claw Pirates), these figures are perfect for the kind of story driven, characterful games that I and many other bloggers and oldhammerers (by this i'm referring to members of the forum/FB group - not trying to define anybody here! ;)) are playing. I've painted a load of the pirates for my games at BOYL and a fair few of the mercenaries. I've also nearly got a set of the Iron claw pirates (only need Captian Dunbar!).

But there is something special about the Adventurers range. Something that makes people beg, borrow and trade in order to get there hands on them. It's not that they are particularly gorgeous sculpts ( The range was designed by various sculpting luminaries, Trish and Aly Morrison, Bob Naismith (who did the pirates range) and Marc Copplestone), some of them are down right questionable! But it's that character that makes them such a sought after commodity. each of the figures could have a campaign story-arc built around them. Just look at the top row of figures!

A female space marine - A GI Jane for the 41st millenium perhaps, proving that she is as capable as any male astartes by kicking butt up and down the galaxy. Or perhaps part of a long forgotten secret chapter that only recruit from the harshest female prison worlds

A psyker - Another female figure (there are six in the range) is she using her powers to blast her enemies? Is she swooning like 1920's actress is she a runaway escaping from the authorities? Is she a potent weapon used to destroy an inquisitors enemies?

Official -Is he a corrupt planetary official who has built up a web of intrigue that needs to be torn apart before thousands die? Is he a jobsworth ready to seize a bunch of pirates ill gotten gains? Is a he prison governor transporting penal legion recruits to a distant warzone?

Pirate Captain - A scurvy dog ready to board your transport and rob you of the all important proof you are charged with transporting. A rebellious leader fighting against injustice on a feral world?

Imperial Scout - A tooled up loner finding a safe path for a forthcoming invasion? The last survivor of a doomed mission fighting his way home?

And that's just the first 5! This entire range is like 3D scenario generator. They give players the tools for the kind RPG flavoured, caharcter driven games that Rogue Trader was made for. By harking back to the old the Fantasy Adventurer ranges ( here ) they allowed (and still allow) players to fill their games with individuals and the plots that they weave around them. Rather than an army of uniformed soldiers with the leaders being the characters, each of the figures from this range bring their own story and fill a gap in the universe.

Another intriguing facet of this range is the fact that there are quite a few matched pairs.
Two squat engineers. Two pilots. Two astropaths. Two Pirates. Two punks. Two female marines. Two feral fighters. Two cyborgs.
Is this deliberate? Were several designers given the same brief and all the best ones chosen? Was there even a brief? Who knows. But what has struck me is that if you combine the Adventurers range with the Talisman Timescape range,
Then we end up with more pairs. Another scientist, another cyborg, another archaeologist, another space pirate (almost identical and often confused), another astropath and another astonaut/ships officer. This range came out in April 1988 only a month after the adventurers range so we can safely assume that they were both being designed together. It be great to know how the process worked. Were figures designed for one range and cherry picked for another? Was there a list of character types put together by someone (Bryan?) that the sculptors worked from? In a further interesting twist, the aforementioned Eldritch Epistles blog contains some very interesting unreleased figures that never quite made it to any of these ranges. Wouldn't it be great to have some of these released?

As 40K grew into the monster it has become the need to have individuals that weren't battle winning heroes diminished so the need to make these kind of figures died off. It's easier to produce identikit plastic kits, let face it. There were occasionally characterful releases that harked back to the golden age. Necromunda had some great figures and the Last Chancers have some individuals that can be used in the same way.

Nowadays kitbashing plastics or converting is the best way to gain the individuality that we crave for our games and the work that people have been doing in the name of INQ28 (basically inquisitor using 28mm models) shows what is possible.

But still.

I wish I'd spent my pocket money a bit more wisely all those years ago.


  1. Brilliant post !
    I enjoyed and agreed every line of it. I've been chaisng Adventurers, hive gangers, pirates and mercenaries for the very reasons you describe and I suspect everyone does it for similar reasons.
    I had not realised that part about the pairs, My jaw jus tdropepd when I read and realised I had not noticed before...
    Last chancers are also one of th every last models with some recent IG officials which have this sort of vibe..

    Oh and You can't imagine how bad I feel about not buying those in th edays instead of picknig a little bit of everything... the sensei is basically the only one I have from that time and at the time I didn't fancy it much...
    The fact you can build stories around each of them is so true. every gang and warband I've collected for RT is build around one or more of those because just by looking at them, you already have the storyline writing itself...

    1. I do love this range soooo much! I have 18 of them that I have gathered almost accidentally, two of which I got in the last week for 99p each so there are still bargains to be had!

  2. I got a Ventolin, a Space Pirate and a Punk in a trade that landed on my desk this morning in fact. Very pleasing. I still only have a small fraction of those ranges, but I have started painting them more regularly. I hope to have all of the Adventurers that I own painted before the end of the year, but I will have to see how than plan pans out.

    I bought a few from Mail Order in the 90s with the plan if using them as VIPs and other scenario types in Necromunda. I toyed with buying more at the time, but always ended up buying some other stuff instead. Ho hum.

    I have ten of the Iron Claw guys, but would really like to get the full compliment before I start painting them. Some day. I wont pay idiotic Ebay prices for them though.

    The Last Chancers is a good example of a more modern set (still available too IIRC, but not for long I suspect) that has some of the charm that the Adventurers/Pirates/Mercs/Timescape guys had.

    The closest to a spiritual successor to these sets released recently (well a decade ago. Sheesh, Im pushing on...) is the various Inquisitorial retinue boxes that came out in 2003 or so. Loads of great old future dark age weirdos ripe for story building. Not as much RPG like variation as the older ranges of course, but they do scratch a similar itch for me.

  3. Another range I was blissfully unaware of. Somehow I still resist the urge to trawl ebay.

  4. I used to drool over the pages of my white dwarves looking at these minis. I think even my young teenaged self was more interested in the characterful minis like these rather than the armies “Everyone” else was collecting. Unfortunately, none of my mates had the same opinions, so I did what young easily lead minds do and followed suit and collected an “army” too. I do have some Talisman minis though as that game really was fun and the card characters weren’t half as “Cool” as the metal counterparts. Shame my pocket money was only a pound a week and my burgeoning interest in my hobby had to contend with comics, sweets and footie stickers. :)

  5. Yeah, I too never thought much of the adventurers back in the day. I've got a few of them now, though I'd still like to get hold of a scientist & an astropath one day.

    Great article there Whiskey :)

  6. Cheers chaps, I reckon it's one range that has never been repeated or revisited, just a strange little scifi aberration that hinted at a direction the 40K never followed.


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