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.
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.
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..."