Recognise these? These inconsequential little sprues of plastic? All these tiny grey limbs that we used and discarded with such carelessness in our youth?
These aren't just weapon cradling appendages, oh no. These superglue dependent extremities represent a watershed moment in the history of citadel miniatures. A point where the designers attempted to give their customers more control over the final look of their miniature space warriors. An attempt to give a single figure an multitude of possible poses and weapon options.
They also represent other things. This particular facet of existence is wholly based on the 25+ years since they first appeared.
To the collector of Rogue Trader era miniatures they are a bulbous full stop on the golden period of galaxy spanning adventurers, pirates, rogues and ne'erdowells (as well as all the other races and character classes crowded into the milky way).
These innocuous examples of injection moulding are either so difficult to get a hold of that breaking them off of the sprue feels like you are wantonly flushing fivers down the kitchen sink or the reason that you can't use the rare confrontation figures you bought on eBay or why you only buy the Perry or Olley squats or why it's so hard to build a Genestealer cult or why those Copplestone Guard remain stuck in project limbo.
I'll be honest. I have no secret inside track into the thought processes behind the decision to do a series of figures ranges with polymer extremities. But design them they did. The designer in me suggests that it was an attempt to give the customer a choice. To give them the ability to turn a single sculpt into a variety of poses with a myriad of armaments. A way to allow the customer to fulfil the demands of the army list or the random chart without having to produce a ridiculously large range of figures. Think about it. Where had citadel come from? Producing figures for dungeons and dragons. Adventurers, clerics, magic users, barbarians etc etc.
In those days they produced packs of figures that reflected the evolution of a character. They gave you a trio of figures that transcended the 4th dimension. Like a view the Tralfamadorians may have witnessed of an explorers career. If you had the capability to load all these options with a single figure so that the customer could choose at which stage the character could be modelled then you would probably do it. You would do it. It makes sense. Especially if you can give them a variety of weapons. If you can design a model where it is possible to arm the figure with either a rifle or a pistol or a sword and pistol or even a heavy weapon then it makes perfect sense to do so.
Of course once you have given the consumer the choice of polystyrene arms then why wouldn't go further. Heads? Bodies? Go for it!
However, the very act of attempting to inject choice into the range of figures robbed the miniatures of another attribute that perhaps the designers had overlooked. Character.
The very act of designing a figure that could have a multiple of uses means that you are blending all of its life long possibilities into a single pose. And that pose has to be reasonably bland in order to
inhabit all its possible uses in the hands of its user.
Prior to the placcy arm, a miniature was a fly stuck in amber. A representation of a moment in time. An imagined moment in an imagined time to be fair but a representation of an individual at a key moment within a transcendent episode of story of tremendous import nonetheless.
This lack of instantcy, immediacy, singularity means that the addition of a plastic arm has a very different effect on the character of the miniature. It becomes lifeless. Characterless. Unfinished. Until it's arms are added. And even then, the arms that you are provided with have the bizarre effect of being overly familiar. Of being dull. There are only a few options and most of them are used up by the time you complete half a dozen figures. That may have been acceptable while trying to avoid listening to Partners in Kryme (Turtle Power - No.1 in the UK for 4 weeks!) but fast forward 25+ years and it's not acceptable anymore.
Lets look at a couple of examples to illustrate my point.
The top pic is of one of the Bounty Hunters released for the ill fated Confrontation project. The second is one of the Squat adventurers, one of the later squat releases.
Both of these figures were designed to be sold with a choice of plastic arms and weapons. Both are fantastic concepts that fulfil minutiae within the Rogue trader universe and were worthy inheritors to the immortal adventurers and mercenaries ranges.
But as much as I admire their conception and their execution there is a nagging doubt deep within my being that has never been settled. A gurgling angst that has never been voiced. A wish that will never be granted.
That these figures.....
would be better.....
if they had been sculpted as a one piece model.
And not just these models.
Which of these has more character.
It's weird isn't it.
The more choice we are given the less characterful the figures become.
It feels sometimes as if we missed out on some fantastic Eldar, some stupendous squats, some cracking Imperial guard, some brilliant gangers, some grotesque hybrids and some spectacular Orks and were in fact offered some half finished models instead. It just shows you, just cos you can do something it doesn't follow that you should. Citadel learned that lesson. They went back to producing solid one piece castings. Without plastic arms.