Tuesday, April 24, 2012

They came from SPACE... ACE... ace... ace

Something special

Something special for you this edition, as Kingsminis takes you back to the very beginnings of Warhammer 40k, pops some lasers in a toaster oven and forgets about them.


Yes, back before the dawn of Rogue Trader, Bryan Ansel wrote Laserburn.  It introduced us to a few Games Workshop regulars... Power Gloves, Force Blades, Flamers, Dreadnought Armour, Bolt Pistols, Needlers, Conversion beams (sadly lost after Rogue Trader), The Empire and The Inquisition and Lord Knights, who each have a detchment of Imperial Marines.  Familliar huh?
Laserburn has more in common with Games Workshop's Inquisitor game than 40k itself.  The game is based on the concept of campaign stories, often using a games master to control the play.  The system is percentile, has hit locations and enough tables to keep Gary Gygax amused for a short while.
Citadel released a small range of figures to go with the game called The Spacefarers.  I have been collecting these for a while now, and since I had enough to play Laserburn with, I decided to track down a copy on ebay.

Complete with coffee stains.  I hope thats coffee.

Laserburn introduced The Red Redemption, who would later surface in Warhammer as The Red Redemption cult of Khorne and later as The Redemptionists in Necromunda.
What you may not know is that The Red Redemption where created by french fantasy master Druillet, appearing in his Lone Sloan comic in the 1970s.  A play on the word Redemption meaning both to pay up, and to be saved.  Hence an order of monks who stalk a future las vegas world who firebomb anyone who does not pay their tithe.  Brilliant stuff, considering how The Church made its living during the dark ages.  Interestingly enough, the costume Loan Slone wears as he kicks their ass looks to have been the inspiration for Han Solos getup.  Sci fi was a smaller world back then.

Pchoo, Pchoo!  Dark Disciples get ready to Redeem stuff.
The Laserburn Imperium was run by the High Lords of the Imperium and there was a miniature of the Emperor- a cheerful chap in a visor and robes.  The concept of the immortal emperor which appeared in Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader game seems to have been modelled after Emperor Huon from Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon novel The Jewel in the Skull,who has an all powerful, ancient being trapped in his throne chamber by the machine that kept him alive, little more than a twisted embryo fed by tubes. Hmmm.

The Laserburn book does have a rather non PC attitude, but remember this is the seventies and the world was a different place.  Boobs of the future tend to pop out a bit, and The Dark Worlds are populated maintly by 'African' and 'near eastern' races who follow The Red Redemption in the worship of Allah, 'Lord of The Firey Hells' instead of The Emperor under the prophet Zandrig.  Can you imagine anyone publishing that these days?
These days, everyone takes the Star Trek route of using aliens as metaphors to replace Earth cultures in PC times.  Its probably would not surprise you if I point out that the Imperium is clearly The Catholic Church, Chaos is their Protestant enemy (Burn the heretics and witches), Eldar/Tau step in for what was once called 'The Yellow Peril' (following in Mekons footsteps.... or, uh, hover tracks) and Orcs are clearly 'ignorant tribal savages' painted green (or football hooligans, I get confused).  Its funny that miniatures wargaming, which is usually about reinacting bloody race, country and religious wars evolved into fantasy gaming which is actually much more PC as it disguises its sources.  Ironically, its fantasy gaming that cops the unPC flack... remember the publicity 'Dungeons and Dragons' copped in the 1980s?
 Aaaaaaanyway, pushing unPCness of the universe aside, the Spacefarer figures are all pretty charmingly old school.  Scanners are strapped to arms, tape drive backpacks and flight suits mingled with slashed puffed sleeves (blake 7 anyone) and space scooters- you get a real taste of what science fiction was back then.  Yes... budget BBC.

I chose to paint my dark disciples white, as I imagine them played by the sort of extras and stuntmen the BBC would use for Blake7 and Doctor Who.  I painted their weird helmet to look like judges wigs, as it gave them a bit more of a Pink Flloyd touch.  The red redemptionist fanatic got a yellow chequer to give a John Blanchy touch, and I went with the classic Druillet look.

S44 Giant Android Law Enforcer.
Bzzt...Go ahead punk.  Clickm... Make my millenium.
 I decided to do all my spacefarers in NMM, as metallic flakes look too big on such small figures.  I decided to base them all on flat acrylic 25mm lasercut bases as they where cut by frikkin lasers, and had a coin like feel, without the metal wear and tear.

Hey, are you Johnny Alpha?  Citadel Spacefarers
S5 Bounty Hunter, S22 Merchant, S36 Marine firing Autolaser
 I painted my interplanetary merchant purple to give him a pre-rubber forehead science fiction alien feel.  His forehead was either damaged, or there is something on it that I cannot make out.  I painted a third eye symbol on it to cover it up.  The imperial marines got the kill team charlie scheme.

S21 Interplanetart Scout + Bolt gun
S8 adventurer with machine pistol and power glove
The interplanetary scout is one of the few Citadel models blessed with a moustache, which died out during the 1980s.  Elves also had moustaches before Jes Goodwin pushed them to be more like American Indians with mohawks, war dancers and beardless faces.  With the MO in place, I wanted to call him 'Dirty' Sanchez Addams... so I ended up downplaying the detail by painting the mo light grey and blending it into a 5oclock shadow.  All equipment I left beige, and worked as much orange is as I could stomach. 

A band of adventurors sneak up on a marine.

Collecting Space Farers

Before you rush off an drop some hard earned on a set of these, you have to be aware of a few things.  Firstly, these I categorise as skilled collectors miniatures.  The figures are extremely rough and require a lot of fine filling and sanding to make them paintable by modern standards, and this is made worse by their age- and often are quite deteriorated.  Noses are almost always flat, weapon shafts are thin and break off easily, and much of the detail needs to be fixed up a bit as the miniatures seem to have been made in quite a hurry.  Often flash is pretty much all the detail you get and you have to carve out whole areas of face and rebuild with putty.  The bikes, in particular, require a great deal of remodelling, unless you plan to just paint them dark metal colors.

The second reason I class these as collectors figures, is that they are tiny by modern comparison, being true 25mm scale figures.  Sadly the only thing that scales up against space farers are space farers and Citadel Startrek figures... check out the following pic.

Marines across the decades.
Modern Citadel, pre 40k C100 marine and earlier Spacefarer marine

There are 53 spacefarer codes with 2 additional figures from the Star Trek range that appear in the Space Farer range in a trade catalogue, so it will keep you hunting for a while, especially the vehicles, which have seven or eight peices, some of which are fragile and easily lost.  You will have to bid hard to get those.  Codes 47 and 48 contain loose guns and jetpacks, which are pretty much impossible to find.

Fixing a needler

Farers guns often need replacing, especially needle rifles.  No point trying to patch them-  snip off the whole shaft and replace.  To do this, drill a deep hole into the gun.  To make the barrel use a stiff, but flexible wire, such as paperclip wire that you have sanded a little to make rough.  Pinch the end with pliers to give something for the milliput to cling to, and place a small ball of milliput that has had fifteen minutes to dry on it.  Once set, sand the new tip down to your liking.  Snip the new shaft to length and fix with superglue to the model.  You can also find brass tubing that will fit snugly over your wire to make a nozzle if your prefer.  This is also easy to sand into shape, and you automatically get a hole for the blast to come out.  If you use a pin or needle, you stand a chance of hurting yourself if you drop the figure.  Clipped pins snap easily and ping off with great force- certainly enough to catch one in the eye.  Better to have a slightly bendy barrel than that.

Well thats it from me... I hope you enjoyed this trip back into the future.


  1. Excellent stuff Dave! I'd add that Rick considers Laserburn only a small part of the Rogue Trader heritage, as more of it came from the lesser known ancestor Combat 3000 (which he wrote prior to joining Games Workshop). If you read that set of rules side by side with Laserburn you get a more complete picture of the origins of Warhammer 40,000.

  2. This is like wargames archaeology.. very interesting read and really appreciate larger more detailed miniatures today.. yet, I am oddly drawn to try and paint one of these to a modern standard.. :D

  3. i was introduced into citadel mini's through RT, but it wasn't until a few years later (about a decade after the internet came into being) that i heard about the predecessor to RT - Laserburn.

    Would you be able to post some pics of the artwork etc from it dave? As i'm sure its highly likely that i will never actually own a copy of my own or have the privilege to see one in the flesh.

  4. Not that unlikely! http://www.15mm.co.uk/Laserburn_Publications.htm

  5. Great, great stuff here Dave. I will echo Andy's comment above and say that, if Laserburn interests you, you really need to check out Priestley's Combat 3000 rules. They're a little harder to track down, but well worth it from a gaming historical standpoint. It is easy to see why these guys all progressed from game-loving, over-stimulated 16 year-olds into game-loving, overly-imaginative 20-somethings back in the mid eighties. I am a total sucker for the truly formative years of GW, so thanks very much for this look back! Well done.

  6. No worries - another interesting point about Laserburn. If you can get hold of the Confrontation (ie proto-Necromunda) rules serialised in White Dwarf in the late '80s you'll see the Laserburn system alive and well!

  7. Thanks all- my phone apps are doing strange things re: entering text in the comments, just found one that works and lets me reply!
    Thanks for combat 3000 tip- have added a search on ebay if it ever comes up!

  8. 15mm.co.uk actually sold it until fairly recently, so it might be worth dropping them a line to see if they still have it.