Bit of a break from my most recent reviews and ‘Fantasy Traveller’ articles, in being a bit of a trip down memory lane. I got thinking the other day about how I got started in gaming and my favourite miniatures. Though I didn’t actually buy a copy of the Traveller rules until 1985-86, I got into the 15mm Traveller miniatures scene right from when I started collecting gaming stuff seriously, from the summer of 1983.
Early in 1983, I picked up a copy of the Citadel Miniatures catalogue from Games Workshop in Birmingham during a shopping trip with my parents. I poured for hours over that catalogue, picking out what miniatures (I called them ‘figures’, rather than the more common term ‘mini’s’) I would save my pocket money for. In the catalogue, the Traveller boxed sets caught my eye; the box artwork was quite different to anything that I’d seen outside the TTA handbooks and yet promised adventures in far-off worlds I could only imagine. The black box was stylish and classy and matched the style of the Traveller rule books. I found out afterwards that the cover artwork was created by Jim Burns, one of the contributors to the TTA books.
The box pictured on the left currently houses my Classic Traveller adventure LBB’s.
The contents contained twenty 15mm figures featuring characters such as ‘Marine in Battle Dress with Accelerator Rifle’ and ‘Crewman in Vacc Suit with Snub Pistol’ – something so different to other popular sci-fi of the time – I had to have them! So, after many more hours pouring over the catalogue, I settled on two sets to purchase on my first main trip to Games Workshop, with my cousin Carl who I had found out was also into gaming.
Games Workshop Birmingham in 1983 was quite unlike any other store before or since; a heady smell of books, lead figures and coffee that had been cooking for several hours. The shop was divided into two parts, the left as you went in contained the RPGs on shelves (D&D, T&T, Traveller) with the boardgames located on the right hand side of the store. The far back had glass shelves either side of the counter where you walked up to view the figures in plastic trays (identified by their product code) and you had to ask for the tray. This involved asking one of the now-legendary shop staff known as ‘Ted’ (wide in stature, heavy metal t-shirt, long hair, a bit sweaty) who would watch over you as you picked out your choices and popped them into a plastic bag before you paid. Blister packs didn’t come out until later in the year, so this along with the boxed sets was how you got your miniatures.
On that first haul from GW I picked up what in my opinion was the best Traveller miniatures boxed set – Set 3: Ships Crew, along with Set 5: Aliens. I’m going to look at some of the individual figures here from the Ships Crew with a bit of a backstory on how they fared being painted.
If I was to pick my top ten, they would be (in order number ten to one)
Number 2 – Bridge Officer in Duty Dress with Snub Pistol. Originally painted in dark blue, which on reflection reminds me more of working overalls, but the figure has a ‘ready for action’ pose.
Number 18 – Crewman in Vacc Suit with Tool Set. I liked the Vacc suit designs and I think this was was painted in white with black and red details.
Number 20 – Crewman in Vacc Suit with Snub Pistol. This chap looks like he’s running and was painted with a black base and white highlights. This was also my first encounter with a snub pistol – I had no idea what it was, other than I guessed a short-range weapon used on starships. The snub pistols were painted white.
Numbers 13, 14 and 16 – Marines in Battle Dress with Accelerator Rifle, RAM Grenade Launcher and Snub Pistol. The marines were one of the reasons I bought the set as they looked like mean troops that could kick-ass!
Later paintings included dark blue as a main colour, but they never looked as good as white and I returned them to this colour several times.
Number 17 – Ships Boat Pilot, at ease. Bit of an obvious one – this pilot looked so much like a rebel x-wing pilot from Star Wars, the flight suit was painted in orange with black boots with a white chest panel.
Number 4 – Merchant Master with Snub Pistol. When I first started painting, I was using Humbrol oil-based paints that needed white spirit to clean and as such, I had a number of glass paints in my first set. This chap ended up having his jump suit painted chocolate brown and black boots. Not one of my greatest colour choices but I managed to paint a moustache on him! I would probably use him for my current solo game ships crew which has a character called ‘Robert the Persian’.
Number 19 – Crewwoman in Vacc Suit with Snub Pistol. A fantastic action pose firing at a target with a snub pistol; painted in white with red stripes down the legs, black chest pack and a silver visor.
Number 15 – Marine in Battle Dress at Ease. Probably one of my all-time favourite Traveller figures; I always thought he was a Marine Commander, so he was painted in white with black lines between the joints and across the chest.
Originally, I just painted the bases black and filed any flash metal down so that the figure would stand without wobbling. These were the days before the plastic slotta-bases, so after a couple of repaints I made some ‘standard’ sized cardboard bases with the figure attached to the base with Milliput (a type of modelling putty – fantastic stuff). These cardboard bases never looked satisfactory so after I while I changed the bases for one pence pieces, again attached by Milliput.
During the mid-eighties I managed to pick up extra Ships Crew when Games Workshop started to sell off Traveller miniatures in blister packs. After many repaints, they were put into storage at my parents and when I bought my own house, eventually moved them up into store in my own garage, along with 90% of my gaming stuff. One of these days I’ll get them out again, but I’ll never forget that first paint job on my favourite Traveller RPG miniatures.