Thursday, 13 October 2011

A to Z of UK RPG in the 80s - C is for Citadel

As some of you are aware I am based in the UK and I've blogged before about how the roleplaying scene differs in Blighty to that across the pond (and probably that over in the Eurozone to boot).  Here's an attempt to pick out some of the highlights of what it was like to be a roleplayer back in the dark days of Thatcher's Britain of the 1980s (cue the V for Vendetta trailer)...

C is for Citadel Miniatures

I'm not going to recant the life story of this company, just tell you what it felt like from my perspective.  In my early days as a gamer my dad took me along to wargames conventions in an around the north of England from the age of 5.  Shows such as Northern Militaire, Sheffield Triples or Leeds Fiasco.  Roleplaying and Fantasy wargaming in general was often seen as the young punk of the wargaming scene, but it was very much part of the scene and not a seperate hobby.  All the miniatures manufacturers were present so I got to see everything that was readily available.  It wasn't particularly impressive to be honest.

The miniatures hadn't really evolved from the primitive "tin soldier" sculpts of earlier decades.  For many wargamers in the 70s, my Dad included, it was all about Napoleonics.  Large formations of miniatures which looked impressive due to their numbers and so they were sculpted to "stand off scale" quality.  Yes you could see a nose and maybe an ear, but there was never any expression (or maybe that was cos they really were that stiff upper lipped back then).  I ws never going to get excited about a featureless figure with no facial detail, this is my character I want to represent, he has to have a face!!

Early Boxed Set Packaging
Then along came Citadel Miniatures, they were sculpted with charisma, a lone barbarian facing off against the goblin horde had a facial expression, you could tell he was pretty angry.  The poses were far more dynamic and they had musculature, it was almost like the before and after shots in a Mr Universe advert.  Of couse this was the only encouragement I needed to beg some extra pocket money and start my collection with the Dungeon Adventurers Starter Pack.

The early miniatures looked pretty primitive, by todays standards, and when in the Citadel launched it's slotta base ranges in the early 80s it was quite frankly a revolution.  Gone were the mishappen lumps of solid lead at the bottom of each figure, which were never flat and which you had to file down (generating lots of lead dust) to make the mini stand up straight.  Instead between its legs the mini had a strip of lead bearing the range number and the Citadel stamp of approval.  An unintended consequence of this being that you can now easily identify any vintage miniature you pick up on ebay and prices of vintage miniatures particularly citadel have sky rocketed.

Early slotta base minis from my own collection
(LtoR: C10 Guard, ADD11 Female Magic User [Low Level], C10 Brave)
My friends and I would drool over the Citadel Compendium and choosing a new miniature became a bit of a ritual as you scanned the contents of each page or jiggled the miniatures around in their "blister pack" to see if the one you wanted was in there.

There were some really useful ranges back then, Games Workshop released the first Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules in 1983 and White Dwarf was still mainly a roleplaying magazine.  Highlights included:

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (ADD): The Player Character Packs featured 3 versions of the same AD&D class minis per blister pack.  Designed to represent your character as it evolved through the levels you got a Low, Medium and High level version of each character, all sculpted by Aly Morrison.  There were also Monster Packs with a varying number of minis all of the same race usually.  There's a great photo archive of the AD&D range over at Stuff of Legends.

Talisman: All the player characters from the original Talisman Boardgame were represented and were designed to replace the original card standees which came inside the gamebox, and came with distinctive hex bases.  As further Talisman supplements were released the range expanded to include the characters from Expansion, Adventure, Dungeon and Timescape.  These are some of the more sought after minis.

Two figures from the Talisman TL10 Blister Pack - Gypsy and Martial Artist

Gothic Horror: For players of Call of Cthulhu, Citadel released this range even though at the time they did not hold the license for CoC minis, they did distribute CoC in the UK for Chaosium and later created the Halls of Horror floorplans to expanding their Dungeon Floors range of cardstock floorplans.

Citadel quite literally broke the mould and pretty soon other mini companies started to smell the coffee.  Wargamers demanded better quality sculpts and new manufacturers were started up, some by the Citadel sculptors themselves, those that didn't re-design their lines just faded into obscurity.

Collecting Citadel Miniatures

Collecting these tiny replicas of the 80s is getting quite expensive as Citadel miniatures (particularly the pre-slotta base era) command high prices.  There are still bargains to be had and I particularly enjoy searching for job lot miniatures on eBay.  As soon as you search for Vintage Citadel Miniatures on eBay you will find a host of traders competing with hobbyists clearing out their stashes.  There are still bargains to be had but be prepared for some eye-watering prices.

Next: D is for... Dungeon Floors

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