Thursday, 12 February 2015

Everybody loves a Squat

None of the plethora of races that populate the 40K universe say 'Rogue Trader' more emphatically than the good old hairy Squat. No other race says over priced ebay hype louder than the squat as well but we can talk about that another day. Right now I simply want to revel in the glory that is the most sensible race in the universe (and ignore Jervis' throw away comment about them being eaten by nids).

Let's face it, we all know that the joy of Rogue Trader is that it's just Warhammer fanstasy in space and part of the hook dragged us all joyously into the (randomly numbered) far future was that we recognised all the races from our existing armies but they looked so much cooler with guns! And come on, doesn't a dwarf look far cooler chomping on a cigar and bracing himself against the recoil of an oversized bolter than stoically hefting a hammer?

So why are they contenders for the ultimate Rogue Trader race? Well first of all they were there from the start.

Front and centre! Mr first and only Space Dwarf, for a mere 60p (what can you get for 60p nowadays?) along with all his other first release mates. Even the dark elf guy had to wait till the next edition for friends but not Mr. Space Dwarf. No sooner could you say 'Cool! A Dwarf with a gun!' before he had a whole gaggle of diminutive mates to back him up in any intergalactic bar brawl.

In October 87 RT03 (yes, that's right number 3 behind marines and orks!) these 20 little hard-asses were unleashed. Followed shortly (ahem) by some command models (There are at least one more variant of each of these models).

Heavy weapon dudes            
A thudd gun

A mole mortar!

And dwarfs on bikes!!

All of these gorgeous stunties were lovingly crafted by the Perry twins and it is to my eternal shame that I own so few of them.
But just cos they had the basic army figures isn't enough for them to secure their place as Rogue Trader paragons.
Two squats appeared in the infamous Adventurers range (I've got both of these!)

And another couple were released as part of the small 'Medics range'

Not content with this level of astro-dwarfiness, Citadel had a whole other range of Squats sculpted by the Bob Olley for his Iron Claw imprint. (to be honest before putting this article together I didn't know about this ad or the squats in it, some of which I think are awesome little adventurer/character models, I knew of Bob's uniformed squats but these guys have really captured my attention).

In fact I'm not even sure how many Squats Bob did while he was working for GW (quick check - according to the Olley's Armies page it's 60! plus the hover car!)

So we have loads of gnarly little badasses ready to shoot any greenskins or pointy-eared fairies, all this with only an army list in The book of the astronomican.

We have a very well represented race, plenty of models, support weapons, unique tactics and style. What's not to like?

Secondly, more than any of the other races that were ported over to the 40th millennium, Squats just scream Rogue Trader. It's probably down to the fact that they never lasted very long beyond that edition (there was the ability to play them in 2nd). The imagery in the rulebook actually made them look like the hard fighting take-no-shit cool guys that everybody wanted to play, even more than the humans. Who better to take on the rowdy space drunks, the Orks. Squats looked like they could go toe-to-toe with the green skins and enjoy in a very grumpy kind of way. They wore a kind of uniform but only in a 'I'll wear it my way!' style that allowed a whole load of individualism. The squats lived in massive underground 'Strongholds' and they lent their fighting troops out as mercenaries to other 'Strongholds' or even other leagues. All mercenaries are cool!

Thirdly - Squats were pretty much just Rogue Trader. Although you could play them in 2nd edition there were no new models. All the squat models were released during the life time of Rogue Trader. All of the above ranges were around the first 12 months or so of RT's existance. Then in February 89, White Dwarf 111 published a fully detailed background article for the squats along with a full army list.

And along with it came a box set of plastic figures, something the pointy eared its didn't get for ages! Along with a big influx of new metal figures, Engineers, Warlord, Hearthguard, Ancestors, Exo armour, Ad-mech, new bikers, Heavy weapon trikes, eco-trikes and Chaos Squats! (although they were cursed by Citadels obsession with giving all their new models plastic arms!)

Plus adventurers and Pirates!

And by 1990 that's your lot. There were no new models for 2nd Edition (although squat models still kept appearing for Epic till 94) so the army you were playing with was an RT army. By 3rd edition squats had disappeared. So nothing says Rogue Trader more than Squats. It's just the way it is!

Obviously now we have to touch on the controversy of what actually happened to the squats. Fluff wise the standard response is that they were eaten by Tyranids. I always believed this was a grumpy response from Jervis Johnson to a question in a seminar. It's funny. But it also one of the main fault lines between Rogue Trader and it's decedents. It illustrates that the RT universe and what came after aren't really connected, they are alternate realities in which to game. If modern 40K existed in a universe where Tyrannids had wiped out several thousand homeworlds of a human (descended) race destroying millions of lives, wiping out one of the Empires most important allies, cutting off one of the key suppliers of technological know how and lost STC  as well as access to unique food growing technologies, you'd think someone would have mentioned it. You'd think someone would mourning their loss. You'd think someone would be sneaking back to the homeworlds to see if anything was left. In the 40K reality of today, squats never existed. There were no homeworlds. There were no heroic stunty allies. RT universe does not equal 40k 8th edition universe. They are two different realities. And that's the way I like it.

(Thanks to Orclord whose fantastic website Stuff of legends is where most of the images appear)

In reality (our reality) Squats died out cos nobody had any ideas. They could come up with mega-sized land train epic scale machines for them but just kept falling back on tired Dwarves-with-guns tropes as can be seen from the Unreleased figures that were designed as an attempt to revive them.

The near official response (again form Jervis on a now defunct forum) was that 

  • The designers felt that they "had failed to do the Dwarf 'archetype' justice in its 40K incarnation", and that the Squats were more of a joke race.
  • There existed a design disparity with the Warhammer 40,000 and the Epic-scale renditions of the race, which prevented there being a cohesive vision of the race.
  • Despite the efforts of the design team, they were unable to think up ways to revitalize the concept


Nobody wanted the job. So they were just ignored and died of abject neglect. Written out of history while other abhumans (ratlings, ogryns) shambled on into the future. Ho hum.

Nevermind, we still love 'em.


  1. I still pull out WD 111 every now and then and flick through looking for Squats. Still miss them!

  2. I'm not quite sure how to say it, but Squats just aren't my cup of tea. Nor dwarves for that matter. I wasn't keen on them at the time, don't particularly like them now either. But then, Elves have always been more my thing, and I guess they're diametrically opposed to the short hairy chaps (by virtue of being tall, pretty and with beautiful flowing locks!).

    I'm not sure whether it's a good thing that I prefer tall androgeny to short hairy beared dwarfs...probably down to some sort of childhood experience ;)

    1. Oddly I can't stand Eldar, far too hoyty-toyty for me. Maybe it's cos i'm stocky and hairy?

    2. Thats why I like Ogres.... It's a seperated at birth thing!

    3. Looks like I've started some kind of confessional. In fairness, I might be quite tall, but I don't have the flowing locks or razor-sharp cheekbones to pull off the look ;)

      (I should also add, I very much enjoyed the retrospective).

    4. Where does that put me and my love of the green?

  3. Funny how the 40K contemporary community in general almost immediately snorts in derisiveness at the merest mention of Squats (Space Dwarves), but squeels with flower-powered glee at the merest sniff of some bloody dull-looking new Eldar (Space Elves) release or image.

    Squats were my first sci-fi hobby love and I still can't seem to get rid of my fav sculpts that I've kept from the 80's.

    Very well written article that made me remember a WH40K that was actually "fun".

  4. I always like Squats. However, I could never seem to grasp them as an independent race. To me they fitted well as a sub race; like ratlings and ogryns.

    The was an old Inquisitor book which had a Squat engineer/mechanic as part of the retinue. That's where they fitted for me. In fact I keep telling my self that if/when I make a 54mm Inquisitor retinue, I'll convert a Squat mechanic out of one of the round-faced 40k orgyns.

    Nice retrospective. It stirred long forgotten memories of wanted models.

  5. Thanks for the article? I've always thought the mad max biker style had an '80s punk feel that sums up RT (and the best of that era be it 40k or WFB). Much of what I miss is captured by the gritty, silly, post apocalypse look that gels with Necromunda, etc but not with the cleaner plastic lines of the modern mini's. I think GW have changed direction too far to re-do squats (awful white dwarf in space suit model being a point in case in my book). A shame but perhaps an opportunity for some other manufacturers (such as ramshackle's recent kickstarter?).

  6. Great post. Those RT03 squats are some of my favourite 40K models, but I never got around to buying any at the time (although I did get a couple of Space Dwarfs) and I'm not sure I can face eBay to collect them now!

    They do though represent the rift between the grim, dark, Ian-Miller-illustrated background part of the Rogue Trader book and the more paletable (but far less interesting) "sci-fi WFB" / generic sci-fi skirmish side that in my mind is exemplified in Pete Knifton's work and which came to dominate the army lists and later updates.

    Your post's prompted me to dig out and finish off a post I'd been pondering on Squats, and how in Ian Miller medieval sci-fi terms they're all a bunch of heretics - Doesn't quite gel though with any of the lovely models you've gathered together here.

  7. Squats are indeed very cool.

    The 40k universe in whatever version they have reached now, and the Fantasy one, are far too far removed from games of yore to worry that Squats aren't in the new version. Different game, different universe, close the door, turn around and go back to playing what we love.

    RT it up WP and enjoy your Squats!

  8. Nice article. Although I have never been up for good dwarves in their fantasy incarnation or their sci-fi version I think it's just an alignment thing. I have a few chaos squats and I enjoy them muchly just as I am one of those rare breed who like 3rd ed dark eldar (well mostly).

  9. I have always loved the squats. It took me a while to get them, as I didn't discover them until I already had a box of beakies and an obsession with killing eldar and any and all (ultra)marines whose armor was too bright for my taste. (And I have eldar now, of course. That took a while.)

    Lovely article. Just traded away all my spare lead squats, actually, but not before painting up a small army of 'em. Wish I had more, but I was quite willing to send the doubles off to good homes. Spread the love, boys and girls. Squats deserve paint and playtime.

  10. Thanks for the flashback, I remember most of those coming out... I always wanted the Squat tech priest in exo armour and the Imperial Bodyguard models.

    The first couple of squat releases were fantastic, but I think it started to go a bit wrong when they started adding horns onto the helmets. At that point they became your typical dwarves in space, rather than a stable mutation from high gravity worlds.

    The other missing element to Jervis' "the nids ate them all" is that the Squats were supposed to be spread out across the whole span of the Imperium as well as having their own home worlds. It is highly unlikely that every squad dropped dead the moment their homeworlds were consumed, even considering those that would have gone home to try and stop the destruction.

    1. You are also making me miss the other "squatted" army from the RT era... my beloved Genestealer cult. This made it briefly into the 3rd edition Tyranid codex as a sub list and then... vanished for no good reason.

  11. it's interesting that GW have often fallen back on the excuse that they couldn't do them justice, just take a look at Mantic's version of dwarfs in space, they managed to pull it off, it seems GW was just to damned lazy....

    I brought from one of GW's legendary sales in the early 90's about a dozen blister packs of the Squat Pirates, with their fidlley plastic arms and guns..... I can't recall what happened to them...... which is a shame.


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