A Glimpse into Grimdark History

Recently, I had a 'significant' birthday, and so I was lucky enough to receive more hobby-themed presents than I ever might have hoped for; one of which arrived completely out of the blue... or should I say, 'out of the grim darkness of the far future'?

The gift which arrived from an old pal in London was a gorgeous copy of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, in paperback, from 1992. Written by friend of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy, Rick Priestley, this is of course an absolutely seminal piece of work and a shining beacon of innovative brilliance.

And I'd never read it.

Never even so much as flicked through a copy of it.

Goodness me, what a treasure trove it is! Like so many wargamers my age (*ahem! early-40s?*), my gateway drug into the hobby was Games Workshop in the early nineties, and although I started with Space Marine: Epic, the second edition of GW's 6mm 'Epic' game, I fell in a big way for 40K's second edition when it dropped in 1993...hence just missing out on Rogue Trader.

I'd be lying if I claimed I'd gone through it all yet: there is sooooooooo very much content in its 288-or-so pages that I feel I've barely scratched the surface, but it is a work of such intelligence, vision and depth that every page is a delight. There is the obvious nostalgia for the 'fluff' and mechanics which underpinned all of my early exposure to the hobby, but it's more than that: it's things that in 2020 are really easy to overlook.

Suqats do not exist nor did they ever.

This reminds me of a past life...

Things like the diagram which shows readers how a d4 works to supplement notes on nomenclature... the requirement for a 'Gamesmaster' (something I absolutely love to use), as well as "scrap paper and pencils"... the artwork and prose which unashamedly pokes fun at the creative team or - in one case - the entire city of Birmingham... the truly expansive notes on painting and modelling from scratch... the invitation for readers' own creative suggestions... the percentile charts of randomised plot generation - yes, plot! In a tabletop wargame! ...And of course the genre-defining artwork and lore. It's staggering.

Future scenery

Yes, it's enormous fun to be reminded of Squats, Cthellean Cudbears and Jokaero digital weapons, but it's even better to read entries like this:

"THE ORGUS FLYER: This model is a conversion from plastic spares."

- not something we're likely to find in current GW output, methinks.

Sadly, like many others, having veered toward historical gaming I forsook 40K, but it still has a very substantial presence in my heart, and I suspect that little Nottingham company might just survive without me. As Mr Priestley phrased it,

"But the universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed..."

"I collect spores, molds and fungus"

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