Thursday, 22 February 2018

Crumbs! It's been a while...

I just realised that it's been almost two weeks since my last post. What with flu and my workload, I've simply lost track of time.

I have been listening to more of the Grognard Files Podcast and as usual, enjoying it immensely. I'd love to collaborate with Dirk company if the chance came up.

It really does hit that sweet spot in the memories of gamers of a certain vintage, and it's been responsible for me reacquiring several games as you know.

Now, I have always been a bit of a snob where Runequest is concerned, choosing to only buy/collect original box sets, but it struck me that it's a waste of time and money as they are increasingly fragile and using them just exacerbates the entropy.

I no longer need to prove my credentials by having that original item from my early days. I have moved on and will leave that kind of thing to those rather pitiful types who can't see the fun for the collection. So,  after shaking my fist at the screen as I listened to that damned podcast, I decided to just buy what I could from the re-prints.

My haul for last week was as follows:

2 sets of Runequest Classic rules from Blackwells £18.99 each,post free.

Borderlands and Beyond, Griffin Mountain and Cult Compendium from Chaosium, who very kindly found me all of those, lurking in the warehouse. £102.00

Trolls and Trollkin, Militia and Mercenaries, Creatures of Chaos, Balastors Barracks and The Sea Cave from eBay. £34.95

Then I turned my attention to the Judge Dredd boardgames and JD RPG, both long top GW titles and got the former for £22 and the latter in hardback along with the companion volume for £35.

I've also had a change of direction with my 28mm Renaissance project and have gravitated to the 30 Years War as it's a part of the period I'd not ventured into. I am going with 28mm again of course. My 15mm ECW from Lancashire Games should be with me in a few weeks.

I'm also considering another couple of projects which I'll go into in more detail at a future date lest I become distracted.

Going back to RQ for a moment, I was reading the Balastor's Barracks scenario in a fit of reverie and I have to say it's a bloody awful and bloody lethal scenario which leaves you wondering what was going through the minds of the authors when it was written. It's a bit too much like a traditional dungeon crawl, which I am not too adverse too, but RQ is capable of so much more. 

I've been hard at work this week on new releases for Heroics and Ros, in particular their forthcoming 6mm Cold War U.S infantry which, are rather nice indeed:

These models are as detailed as most 15mm, and Heroics are setting the standard for the WW2 & modern eras with release after reales of new ranges.

I was looking around the studio the other day and found my very first 'official' purchase at Games Workshop in 1982, in the shape of this rather tatty looking D20 which did some serious service back in the day:

I say 'official' because I'd already shopped there before it opened.


Well... (fade to 1982 in a shimmering tinkling kind of way)

I was allowed back into town with Alan and we had walked down The Moor, the major shopping area in Sheffield back then (although now, a shadow of it’s former self), which sloped down gently to the Moorfoot precinct with the imposing red brick pyramid which was the Manpower Services Commission building. I worked in that building during the early 2000s when the Home Office shared the space and it was great to look out over the city, but an absolute bugger to navigate around.

   On this, our first trip into town for a month since that fateful clash with Geoff (Or ‘That Bastard’ as he had become known), Alan wanted a record from Virgin Records, which lay in the shadow of that russet monolith. Sheffield had more than its fair share of interesting architecture back then. Of particular note was ‘The Hole In The Road’ essentially pedestrian underpass that allowed several lethally busy streets to be navigated by the simple expedient of going underneath them. Built in 1967 T’ Hole In T’ Road as it became known locally was a roundabout at the junction of four main roads. The middle of the roundabout had a hole in it like the summit of a volcano, which allowed light to pass into the large pedestrian underpass below. 

This underpass contained shops, a large fish tank and even public toilets. It was a great place to skateboard or in my case imagine I was deep in the dungeons of a fell necromancer. I’ll not waffle on about it any further but make a search on the web. It’s worth it.

   Virgin Records was not the shining ‘family friendly’ store it would become in later years. It was a dark and foreboding place as I recall, where if rumours were true, a clean living lad would meet a swift and sticky end at the hands of Mods, Punks and other ne’er-do-wells. I never went in and had my parents discovered that I had frequented a shop with such a ‘sexual’ name, I’d have been grounded for a year or so. So, whenever Alan went in there, I just hung around outside and tried to look moody and mysterious, but approachable and not in the least bit dangerous. This was not easy. Well the mean and moody bit at least…

Thus it was, with Alan in search of his record, this particular afternoon found us walking past the Hagenbach’s bakery – long gone, alas, alas - when what should I see? 

   It was dear reader, the answer to my prayers and the beginning of a life of penury in the shape of a specialist gaming establishment by the name of Games Workshop the first of several dedicated game stores in Sheffield. It was back then, with its amazingly broad range, and enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff and distinct ambience, a place of almost holy reverence for my generation. It was in essence, my place of worship and weekly offerings were to the gods of games in ever-increasing amounts, a pattern that has continued ever since.

   These days, game stores seem more obsessed with ‘image’ rather than content, more about form over function if you will. In the ‘golden age’ it was more about the product, the hobby, the fun. It was all about playing games!   

   In 1982, the concept of providing the gaming public with a single ‘temple of games’ was still quite a novel one. Certainly to the uninitiated, it was unbelievable and what was more, the doors were open.

   We walked in, heads twisting, eyes swivelling, like nervous chameleons who, having fallen from their comfortably familiar treetop perch, find themselves on the back of a monitor lizard which is in the process of considering what it will be having for dinner. From all sides our senses were assaulted by literally thousands of striking box covers depicting all kinds of fantasy and science fiction theme imaginable from half naked princesses to gigantic star ships. Although we did not know back then, Sheffield based synth-pop band The Human League took their name from one of the factions in a game titled ‘Starforce: Alpha Centauri’. Just a brief aside, that shows the popularity of this type of game in even the most unexpected places.

   In the centre of sales area were wire ‘bins’ containing various special offers coinciding with the opening of the branch. My eye was taken by 4 small boxes, luridly illustrated ‘a la mode’, each containing 10 plastic figures, half a dozen acrylic paints, a terrible brush, 2 six sided dice and a set of rules. 

Each of these games presented a mini role-playing experience with all that the lucky purchaser needed. What’s more they were priced at £1.00! I picked up one called ‘The Cleric’s Quest’ and Alan, ‘The Woman Warrior’ - although the name of the other titles escapes me at the time of writing.

   Around ten years ago, I saw a set of these games on Ebay go for a three figure sum. Oh how I howled that day I can tell you, both with a sense of loss and recollection of happy times past. But once again I am wandering off at a tangent and you’ve not given me a sound nudge in the ribs.   We had been in there for about ten minutes before being approached by a member of staff. We had been so taken by the sights and odours - yes, smells, of which I will say more later - that we had not noticed a distinct lack of other customers and indeed, staff. The man approached us and said that the shop was not open. We precociously pointed out that it most certainly was, the proof being that we were in said store, having walked through the doors, thank you very much. 

How we were not slaughtered on the spot still amazes me to this day.

   ‘It opens this weekend and it’s going to be great. Do you want that?’ This said with a gesture to the box I was holding and then to Alan’s fistful of goodies.

   ‘Yes please. I’m sorry I thought you were open what with the door being open.’ I replied, my natural state of being returning, despite my indignant outburst.

   Well, we each handed over one pound of the currency of the realm, were politely but firmly shown the door, and I was thereby ejected from that store for the first but alas, not the last time in my life.

   Alan forgot all about his record. We had something new and exciting and what was more we had an inside track to the grand opening event for this temple of temptation, this cavern of game related goodness. After all hadn’t the bloke in the shop all but given us a personal invite to attend?

So, I can state in all honesty, that I was the first paying customer of GW Sheffield.

When the Grand Opening came around, that little brown nugget along with two sheets of hex paper and a comic badge made up the contents of my very first GW carrier bag, which you may have seen on this blog in the past.

As I type this I am looking at a pile of games and books next to the iMac I'm working on and I have to admit that the bold yellow box of the JD boardgame is getting the better of me and I can't wait until our next games night as I think I'll be rolling it out. After all what other chance will you get to rest Judge Death for littering?


PS: If you haven't already signed up of it, go and check out 'The Dice Men', the definitive history of GW's first (and greatest) ten years.


  1. Great anecdote - I’ve still got the dice from the D&D Basic and Expert sets, except for the two D20s. I took them out of the dice box a few years ago, when playing Warhammer and I’ll be buggered if I can find them.

    Lovely looking Cold War infantry - if I could easily get GHQ vehicles I’d be very tempted.

    I’ve got the second Grognard Files episode about Judge Dredd to listen to this weekend whilst I paint. I’ve even started to listen to them a second time - something I very rarely do.

  2. What happens in the second part is... heheheh

    GHQ can be ordered from Wargames Emporium in Sheffield.


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