Friday, 15 November 2013

...and rise...

Citadel miniatures in 1983, must have been a fabulous place to be.

After the changes in personal at the top of Citadel/GW in the previous year left Bryan wholly in command, the year that followed would be one which shaped the miniature gaming hobby for the next two decades.

Bryan changed the way that miniatures were produced, marketed and consumed for a generation of gamers. These changes weren't instantaneous, and some like the production methods, had been  developments of what was already going on across the previous couple of years, and of course some developments were only temporary themselves and would be superseded  in a the fullness of time, but it clear to see Bryan's direction and imagination coming to the fore, in his first full year in charge.

The first noticeable move away from the sales model of the previous 4 years came in late '82, Citadel started to put out new miniatures in boxed sets. Now I don't think this was a original idea, I had seen some American companies selling in boxes (but I can for the life of me remember who? Dave?) in the early '80's, but these new Citadel boxes were the first to contain minis that were any good.

The Dwarf Kings Court

Previously minis had only been sold in singles, in plastic bags with folded cardboard headers, and if you wanted one mini, you paid for and got, one mini.
Boxing was the first attempt to drive gamers/collectors into buying more miniatures than they necessarily wanted. A box would contain 8 to 10 minis that you couldn't get in the main range, so if you wanted a specific mini the only option was to spend £3.95 on the box to get it...

Fortunately, for gamers, most of the these early boxes contained great minis, so people were only too willing to to put up with the marketing to get the best Citadel had to offer, and most of these box sets are still very fondly remembered.

The second change, visible form the outside, was the move away for a catalogs of miniatures you could buy to what came to be known as the 'C' codes.
In the early years Citadel had it range divided into Adventures, Monster and specials, with each mini having its own specific code, with-in these broad groups, which you could order separately.
The 'C' codes stopped this, minis were grouped into 40 codes which contained many different minis.

John Blanche art from the first Compendium
I don't quite know when this change took place, The Stuff of Legend gives a date as early '83, and when I got to TTG in that summer, Bob had me had me change over the figure-racks from the old codes over to the new system, the change was defiantly complete by the release of the fist Citadel Compendium in October...

In October '82, if you wanted FA-1 Fighter in Plate, you got it and noting else, in October '83 if you ordered from C01 Fighters, you got one of sixty plus variants.

Finally, the biggest thing at Citadel in 1983, was the release of Warhammer.
The first edition of the mass battle system was launched in the summer, and was an attempt to put a game behind the miniature range to guide players into buying more miniatures. The problem with D&D was a vehicle for a miniatures range was that the miniatures themselves were an unnecessary luxury. With role-playing most players wanted one or two miniatures, preferably ones that represented their Character as closely as possible, and no more... DM's would be expected to have a few more, half a dozen goblins and Orcs, an Ogre or troll, or a scenario specific monster or two, but not huge numbers.
Warhammer changed all that.
Mr Blanche again

I remember taking the first box home, and playing a scenario given in the back of one of the books.
The adventures had to cross one of three bridges, whilst a random assortment of 'baddies' tried to stop them... the heroes I think were given in the rules and the baddies were generated by an encounter table... Now, Mark and I had a fair number of minis each... I must have had 50 or 60, Mark a similar amount but within a few rounds we'd exhausted our supply, even reusing dead'uns and throwing in proxies where we didn't have an exact match for what the the random table generated, we ran out of minis...
Plus the rule system seamed retrogressive even then... saving throws! What was all that about? Mark was throwing buckets of random monsters at my five heroes, with whatever damage done 'saved' on a roll of 3-6!
Would you believe I played Warhammer on the first day it was released, and didn't play again for 5 years, I just didn't like it... but I assume lots of people did, or were looking for something new after the D&D boom waned, as it went on to be the biggest game in the UK Fantasy market in the 80's and 90's, but you needed LOTS of miniatures...

How Citadel provided all these new and different miniatures is in perhaps the most interesting thing about the growth of the company in the period, and I'll write about the radical production methods next time, but for now I hope that I've shown you how Citadel Miniatures started to dominate, firstly Games Workshop Britain's biggest game manufacturer and retailer, and secondly the UK market itself.