Before I delve into todays trip back in time, I’m going to mention a few news items:
The latest edition of Freelance Traveller (September / October) has been published by Jeff Zeitlin. You can download it from the Freelance Traveller website. It features several reviews plus the usual cracking content we have come to expect from Jeff.
Gypsy Knights Games have updated one of their adventures ‘Hell’s Paradise’ which is available on DriveThru RPG for $6.99. Originally released for the Mongoose first edition of Traveller, it has been fully updated for the Cepheus Engine rule set.
Whilst I work through my reviews pile, I wanted to take a little ‘look back in the day’. Following on from my Games Day flyer post a few months back, I’m going to take a look at the ‘Golden Demon’ awards flyers from 1987 and 1988. Back in the day, painting miniatures (or ‘figures’ as I called them, can’t get used to this ‘minis’ business) took up about 60% of my RPG time in the period 1983-1988. Coming from an Airfix aircraft modelling background, I was already used to a certain degree of modelling skills so this wasn’t too hard a transition when I got into the RPG scene circa 1982. It took off properly in 1983 (after much nagging my parents) and I picked up a catalogue from Games Workshop in Birmingham. I must have spent *hours* pouring over its contents working out how much I could afford on my first trip to Birmingham with my cousin Carl. This blue catalogue is really ‘RPG ground zero’ for me and I’ve scanned the cover and a couple of pages from the inside. Its looking a bit beat up now, I wanted to pick up another copy to keep but the day I went back to Games Workshop, it had been replaced by the Citadel Compendium! Populated by mainly line drawings, they didn’t quite hold the allure of the photos in the original blue catalogue. Oh well.
Over the following years, my painting skills got better and better and considered myself to be reasonably competant when compared some of the display cabinets in Games Workshop. ‘Conversion jobs’ became a speciality and I’d cannibalise parts from my old Airfix models, or buy new ones (usually containing rockets, machine guns, pointy things) to bolt onto my projects.
I’d already left school and completed a couple of City & Guilds Electrics and Electronic Engineering courses by the time I got wind of the Golden Demon awards coming up. Carl said he wasn’t interested but I said I was going to give it a crack and set to work entering the regional competition heat in Birmingham. I can’t recall much in what I entered; I think there was a two-man goblin chariot which I entered mounted on a varnished wooden base and there was ‘Rambo’. A Chaos Dwarf which when I handed it to the assistant asked me ‘is this one of ours’ (ie. is it a Citadel figure)? I replied it was – I’d done such a complete conversion job by removing its beard and crossbow and replaced it with stubbly chops and a grenade launcher, it was nigh on unrecognisable!
The big day came for finding out who had won and I jumped on the bus to travel to Birmingham. The shop was packed and a large number of people were gathered around the display stand where the winners were located. I hurredly looked up and down and about half way down the display were my figures, as part of the winners group! To say that I was pleased would be an understatement – I was amongst some really tough competition so to go forward with the winners group was an achievement for me.
I can’t remember much about how I organised myself for the next stage to be held in Nottingham, I have included a letter here which I must have received through the post along with a copy of the (1987) flyer, showing the details of the venue. I sorted out my transport (National Express coach from Birmingham to Nottingham) and set to work on a display that would hopefully achieve a win. I also set to work on additional individual figures to cover the various classes you could enter. I remember only having two weeks from the end of my City & Guilds exams to the big day, so I set to work building the big display, let that dry and then paint the base coats of the miniatures, let those dry, back to the big display and so on. An important skill I learnt whilst all this was going on was forward planning, knowing my materials and making sure that every minute I had available was used constructively.
Part of the problem with constructing a large diorama was transporting it. I liked to decorate my bases with lots of Milliput ‘grass’ which looks great but is incredibly fragile. An example of this is in the image at the bottom of the page where some of this damage has occured. So I had to pack everything securely in some large boxes, that I could keep flat in my sports bag and wouldn’t get knocked about.
On the day I got up early and caught the coach on time and set off for Nottingham. I must have got there some time in the morning as registration had to be done by 11am and I recall a scene of organised chaos. You had to bring in your entries to a long desk and tell the organisers what classess you were entering for. I’d painted my name on all the figures bases (just in case) and handed over my transport boxes (also with my name and address) over so they could be displayed at the right time. Because the judging was some time away, I had a wander around the figure painting displays and the few trade stands that were there, but I ended up kicking my heels after a while so I wandered out for a bit.
On returning I could see that the judging had started and the great John Blanche (painting and artist god) was working his way through picking out his winner choices. I’d entered an Ogre in full plate armour which I’d painstakingly painted using inks to achieve a deep burgundy red colour (bit like the Chaos Warrior in the picture below) and John picked it out! I could have jumped up and down with joy but my hopes were crushed as after a minute or two deliberation, John picked another figure and replaced mine back with all the other entries.
Unfortunately that was the closest I got to winning anything at the final heats. Towards the end of the afternoon I managed to retrieve a transport box – not mine, that had apparently been lost in the organised chaos so I ended up with someone elses. I had at least a chance of getting my figures back home undamaged.
That was the last figure painting competition I entered, by the time 1988 rolled around my RPG interests were waining and would go into a low-berth sleep for a couple years, so everything went into storage. I got a 1988 flyer from GW which I’ve scanned for download here. I’m still proud that I was a winner at the regional heat in Birmingham, to go from that first blue catalogue to the first national figure painting competition. I’ve sent over copies of the flyers of the PDFs to the ‘Stuff of Legends’ website which I hope they will accept. One of these days I’ll find more of my figures to photograph and post on this blog. In the meantime, here is a (rough) snap of the large diorama I built for the Nottingham heat – the ‘Advanced Death and Destruction Squad’.