Episode 12 (Part 2) Games Workshop & Citadel (with Tim Olsen)


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INTRO – We’re still taken aback at the scale of response to the first part of this episode, but we’re conscious enough to issue a warning about Hob Nob balls.

POTTED HISTORY (3.49) – Kindly provided by @hobgoblinorange  who provides an overview of the major players and developments in the miniature figure art in the early 80s. He recommends the site The Stuff of Legends which features lots of images of Citadel miniatures from back in the day.

GMSCREEN (11.29) We return to the wonderful Las O Gowrie in Manchester to continue the interview with Tim Olsen, the former manager of Dalling Road branch of Games Workshop. TV and ZZ Top emerge as he faces the annecdotamator.

If you want to see Tim’s TV AM appearance you’ll find it here from 16:00 (John Noakes!)

THE WHITE DWARF (25.45) @dailydwarf returns with the second part of his Small but Perfectly Formed essay, examining miniatures in White Dwarf before it became all about miniatures.

ATTIC ATTACK (37.14) We climb into the attic of the all-new Dirk Towers to look at some of the interesting minis from our collection.

POSTBAG (01.06.34) There’s been a great response from listeners to the last episode, share some of the game shop memories from all over the UK. Including Alegis Downport who did a great piece on Tunnels and Trolls on his blog. There’s also the last word from Tim Olsen.

Thanks to everyone who joined the Patreon campaign this month. You’ll get a name check next time when I’ll share the details of the next ‘zine.



Author: Dirk

Host of The GROGNARD RPG Files podcast. Talking bobbins about Runequest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, T&T, AD&D and others from back in the day and today.

13 thoughts on “Episode 12 (Part 2) Games Workshop & Citadel (with Tim Olsen)”

  1. I was interested in what you were saying about getting your son into roleplaying as I’m currently dealing with that myself. I’ve dabbled in the past, first of all running My son, Dafydd* and his sister, Delyth** through the Forest of Doom as a 2-player scenario – We even managed to split the party!!!!
    Dafydd enjoyed it and played through a couple of the other Fighting Fantasy books by himself.
    They both enjoyed playing Lego Heroica too – a sort of simplified Heroquest (if that’s possible) boardgame that Lego made a few years back. Seeing that they could cope with that I decided to run them through Heroquest. To keep it fun for them, I allowed them to make up their own characters using Lego minifigs. Dafydd loved it. Delyth seemed to enjoy it but as she gets older, I get the distinct impression that it’s not really her bag. They were both around 6-8 years old at that point.
    I’ve since run Heroquest for Dafydd and a couple of his friends and according to one of the boys’ parents he still talks about it to this day. I also ran a 1-on-1 D&D Redbox game for Dafydd whilst we were kicking our heels in the Caravan on holiday last summer which he seemed to enjoy but I think it’ll be more fun with a group of his friends.
    So, with this in mind I’ve been thinking of inviting a few of his friends around one Sunday afternoon for a session of D&D. I’ll be interested to see how they cope. They are all around 10 years old and in year 5 in school (What we used to call third year of the juniors). Markedly younger than I was when I started playing at 14. That’s kind of reassuring because if it’s a disaster, there’s still plenty of time to try again when they’re a bit older.


    *Dahvith – the ‘th’ is soft as in ‘this’ and ‘that’

  2. Another great podcast… like always, lots of similar experiences. Although I enjoyed using figures I only had a handful of my own, perhaps it was due to a lack of cash, or that other people at the game club always seemed to have them – and I was rubbish at painting the ones I had. We never seemed to have a problem with using the same small set of figures for a wide variety of character types, particularly with fantasy games. Where figures were most effective was playing Cthulhu… I remember the first time a Byakhee was placed on the table, I’m sure I had nightmares for days.

    On getting your kids into RPG’s, I wish you all the best of luck (good on you Wayne for getting them started early). My kids are older now, but I’ve found that their hobbies are more influenced by their friends than by us parents; despite lots of encouragement they tend to go their own way. However, I was delighted, nay, filled with an overwhelming joy, when just a couple of days ago my 15 year old daughter said she would like to try D&D. She is an anime/manga geek with a love for video games, and enjoys playing Neverwinter, a game I introduced her too many years ago before I got back into RPGs. I’d like to think that was some clever planning, but I think it’s just a bit of luck. Fingers crossed I’ll actually get her to the table to try it out at least.

    Finally, Dirk, I thought you had my accent down perfectly there… even after meeting me only once! I can sense your inner scouser struggling to get out, you should have kept it up.

    Can’t wait for the next one.

  3. To be honest, Neil, she sounds like a prime candidate and the right age too 😀

    I know what you mean about their interests being influenced by their friends. I try always not to force my interests on them. In spite of that, though about the only thing I like that Dafydd doesn’t is Star Trek. I failed there. Apparently there’s just too much talking. 😀

  4. I remember owning a Balrog figure. It was fantastic. In fact, it was so good that I was frightened to paint it it in case it turned out crap. But one day I mustered up the courage, and sat down with brush and Humbrol. It was crap.

    Still feel bad for the Balrog.

  5. I was enjoying this Cast driving home from work tonight. While waiting at a red light, I noticed a sticker in the rear window of the car in front; Squig on Board.

    On another matter, I had the dubious pleasure of working for GW for many years, though later than Tim. For a while I was the manager of the Hammersmith store, once it had relocated around the corner. In the back room had been collected some relics of the original store including signs saying “we buy painted miniatures”. Try that in your modern GW, see what they offer you!

  6. It’s been a real joy to discover your podcast. I was a keen wargamer and RPGer back in the day. I lapsed in my late 20s and then in recent years came back into action as a wargamer but I think it’s probably 20 years since I last role played. I spotted your podcast due to the recent Games Workshop episode which sounded interesting – and now I am hooked!

    The classic RPGs that you are uncovering shaped my teenage years, inspired my imagination, defined my friends, developed my creativity and, in some cases allowed me to demonstrate my abject stupidity. One moment is still burnt on my memory 35 years later,

    DM: “You come to a junction. On the opposite wall the bricks seem to blur and move, slowly shaping themselves into the outline of a pair of lips – glowing slightly”

    Me: “Oh Magic Mouth what is your purpose?”

    Magic Mouth: “To answer one question”

    ….Magic Mouth disappears…

    I don’t need to write down the reaction of the other party members…..

    Anyway – I really enjoyed your overview of Games Workshop and Citadel Miniatures. There is though perhaps one use of miniatures that you have overlooked….

    Our gaming club was played on Saturdays in a school hall. For lunch the options were few at the local parade of shops. Main course was inevitably bag of chips from the dodgy chippy known to us affectionately as The Greasy Lich. Pudding was usually a packet of biscuits from the mini-supermarket next door. One week one of the lads decided that he was going to invest in a more sumptuous dessert option and bought himself a battenburg cake. On returning to the hall we realised we had a problem – how to slice up the cake – no one had any sort of knife. We all stared at each other and then slowly at the centre of the table where – sitting alone – was the Citadel slime beast. A very strange model that resembled an overweight marshmallow garden gnome that had stood too close to a radiator and had slightly melted. It was a fairly useless figure and one of our generic “represents anything” models. It did have one distinctive feature though – a very large and robust curved sword. The slime beast was duly put to use hacking its way into the battenburg cake to feed our craving for marzipan. I try not to think about the lead content of Citadel figures in those days though and whether they could really be recommended as cutlery substitutes but thought I would record it for completeness sake.

  7. Dirk, don’t you dare melt down your damsels in bondage! That’s part of the history of the hobby! My own grief at having lost my set of ‘sultan with belly dancing harem girl’ figures is only mitigated by the fact that I did a totally crap job of painting them.

  8. I still have my very first carrier bag from GW Sheffield with the Iain McCaig artwork. It comes out every now and again to be gazed upon.

    Those were the days!

    I was arguably the first paying customer when GW came to Sheffield. My mate 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 (think Greggs but better) – long gone, alas, alas – when what should I see?

    It was, 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 have opined upon repeatedly elsewhere )- 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. In point of fact, had that been the case, it would have been seen as a mercy killing in years to come as I made the life of the staff in that emporium, one of living hell, with my exuberant enthusiasm. No, seriously… It would!

    ‘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? Were we not truly gods now, wielding arcane knowledge?

    ‘Alan, we need to get back here on Saturday and save all our dinner money, no matter what… Right?’ My eyes must have been glowing like coals at that moment.

    ‘Yeah.’ Was all my fellow traveller in this newfound world could reply He was already tearing open his own purchase.

    I, for my part – and completely out of character – was going to wait until I got home, savouring the exquisite torment that it produced in my teenage brain. I was so focussed on ‘being there’ on Saturday that I made sure I was not only home early that night, but, I forwent any more trips that week. A miracle!

    On reflection, I think that this was the defining moment at which I stood upon my personal crossroad. It was the point at which I believe to this day, I very consciously gave up on the mundane and truly took my first tentative but deliberate steps into the realms beyond reality, never to return for more than a brief period of rest and recuperation.

    Once or twice I was to lose the path, but as sure as eggs are chickens I found my way back, wandering ever deeper into the metaphorical forest that was gaming.

  9. And finally all these decades later I find the relevance of the last two words of:
    Ekil erif, ekam erif, erif erif, Di Maggio.

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