Two decades of hobby

Posted: Nov 4, 2015 in Random Musings
Tags: , , , ,

The year was 1995. X-Files was on the telly, Braveheart topped the box office and kids traded Pogs in the playground. It was the year the charts resounded to the beat of ‘The Macarena’, the UK was gripped by Girl Power and Robbie Williams split from Take That. But more importantly for me, in November of that year, I walked into a newsagents and picked up my first copy of White Dwarf. Yes, dear reader, that means that this month marks my twentieth year in the hobby!

White Dwarf 190. My gateway into the hobby.

White Dwarf 190. My gateway into the hobby.

A Personal Journey

Twenty years is a big chunk of my lifetime (nearly two thirds) and, although a lot has changed in my life over those two decades, the hobby has always been an important part of it. From the age of 11, I avidly played Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 along with D&D and other assorted roleplaying games. This was an exciting time for Games Workshop, the fourth edition of Warhammer and second edition of 40k had just been released, codifying and developing the two universes and introducing the format of the ‘boxed game’ which is now the norm for new editions. This period marked a massive period of growth for the company which expanded into many overseas markets. It was also the time when everything was bright red. The grim darkness of the far future was surprisingly colourful back then.

Excitingly, when I started sixth form a few years later, GW acquired the license to produce models for New Line Cinema’s Lord of the Rings franchise. I had a part-time job at the local Co-op at the time and used the money to fund my avid collecting of these models. I still believe that these are some of the best models GW have produced to date and the game was one of the most elegant rule sets ever written.

I read Lord of the Rings in high school. I also painted tiny metal models of the characters.

Throughout my time at uni I, like many people, dropped out of the hobby for a while but would still buy the occasional copy of White Dwarf to see what was going on and picked up the odd set of models from time to time. I really got back into the hobby during my PhD. It was during this period that I really began to develop my skills as a painter (and, incidentally, when I started this blog) thanks in no small part to the Imperial Armour Masterclass books and the excellent ‘Eavy Metal guides that appeared in White Dwarf at this time.

Since then I have become a qualified teacher and helped to run a games club in the school where I worked, I have realised a long-held ambition to have a model featured in White Dwarf and I even spent a short time working for GW as a studio painter.

What’s Changed?

So, what has changed in my twenty years in the hobby? Here are my five biggest changes in no particular order:

  1. The Rise of Plastic – What is undoubtedly the biggest change for me is the rise in plastic. Back in 1995 most models were lead and plastic was mainly used for weapons, shields and steeds. The majority of the plastic models from the time were cheap mono-pose models which could be used to bulk out regiments. Nowadays, most of GW’s kits are high-quality, multi-part plastic which is not only easier to work with but also allows a far greater degree of versatility.
  2. Things are Less ‘Epic’ – Back in 1995 Epic was the third core game and really was the driving force behind the development of the 40k universe. Leman Russ tanks, Waveserpents and Imperial Knights are just three models to be introduced by Epic that have since become staples of the 40k battlefield. Sadly, as the ability to produce these models in 28mm scale was developed, the game was scaled back and eventually dropped in 2013.
  3. The End of the World – Yep, this is a biggie. Earlier this year, Games Workshop took the bold step of blowing up the Warhammer World and ushering in the Age of Sigmar. You can read my thoughts on the subject here and here.
  4. The Horus Heresy – Back in 1995 the Horus Heresy was a myth and the only Primarch models were the Epic-scale Daemon Primarchs (see, I told you Epic always got there first). We were told that 10,000 years ago there was a civil war but the details were deliberately sketchy and vague and it was presented as a mythical age shrouded in mystery. Now the Black Library are chronicling the events of the Heresy in meticulous detail and Forge World have released a fantastic range of models including some of the Primarchs themselves.
  5. The Decline of the Specialist Games – What would come to be known as the ‘Specialist Games’ range was really kicked-off in 1995 with Necromunda, which detailed the political rivalries and inter-gang warfare of one individual hive city in the 40k universe. This was followed by other fan-favourites such as Gorkamorka (1997), Battlefleet Gothic (1999) and Inquisitor (2001) which all explored different facets of the 40k universe. GW also launched the millennial Mordheim (1999) which ‘celebrated’ the year 2000 with its darkly comic play on Y2K fears. It is safe to say that without these games the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universes would not be quite so rich and detailed as they are today.


I put the following question to Twitter:

This is what you had to say:

2 3 4 6 7 8 9

Have Your say

So, do you have a personal story to tell about your time in the hobby? What are your thoughts on the biggest changes to the hobby in the last twenty years? Leave your comment below.

  1. Alex says:

    Nice write-up dude, there’s a lot changed when you look back… I miss the ‘specialist’ games, the old WD (before they were pure shiny-porn), and I really miss the silly stuff like deoderent based grav-tanks, or scout walker based titans… I even miss the lead! I must be getting old… (luckily, there’s a hammer for that ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Andrew King says:

      I’m not quite old enough to remember deodorant bottle tanks but I do remember the DIY attitude the pervaded the hobby, whether it was building that unit in the codex that didn’t have a model for it (unthinkable nowadays) or making scenery out of insulation foam and MDF. I still try and keep that spirit alive in my own hobby endeavours.

  2. I really think the increase in release schedule pace has been the biggest change for me. As a gamer/lore enthusiast I would spend years collecting and reading all the rules and stories from every faction, now I can barely keep up with the latest HH novel. As a hobbyist I spend quite a few months planning and assembling an army ready for painting only to find a new shiny distraction or even new rulebook/codex which completely changes how or what i want to build and paint. I’ve sold off most of my non core armies as I can no longer keep up! Also, DIY and scratch building seems dead when everyone is just waiting for the next sub faction to have an official model released…

    • Andrew King says:

      The DIY/scratch-building element is a controversial one. I too am sad to see this aspect of the hobby in decline. Gone are the days when Shining Spears were options in successive codices without even an illustration showing what they looked like!

      Many hobbyists now expect GW to produce models for all of the available troop choices and weapon options and this isn’t an entirely unreasonable viewpoint. I can see why younger or inexperienced modellers might be unhappy about GW releasing rules without models for them as converting and scratch-building models may seem out of their reach. There are also the notorious problems with third-party companies…

      However, having said that there is still a strong community of builders and converters out there. Just look at the Inq28 movement.

  3. John Sutton says:

    Great post Andrew, it made me reflect on my ‘hobby journey’ and the massive influence it has had on my life. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  4. technasma says:

    Ha! Amazing! WD 190 was the first one that my brother and I ever got too – feeling officially old now!
    Great write up – isn’t it fantastic how things have moved on? I only wish that they would take today’s miniature making technology and revisit the specialist games with it. Those were the games that really kept me in the hobby as a gamer.

  5. Edmund Normal says:

    What a lovely read. Of them all, I suppose, my chief absent friend is the old style white dwarf complete with painting guides, fluff, battle reports, and so on. A large space in my heart will always be reserved for LotR, however, as the miniatures were the reason the 12 year old me caught the bug in the first place.

    • Andrew King says:

      I too miss the old-style White Dwarf. I still have hundreds of issues which have their own bookcase (every issue from 180 to the end of the monthly run and a good many from before then purchased on ebay).

      I didn’t really discuss LotR in my changes but it was huge for GW. It was a massive money-spinner allowing GW to grow and develop and it also brought in lots of new hobbyists like yourself. It also marks the point when GW started to become more of an acceptable, mainstream hobby rather than a geeky niche. I remember they even used to sell the game in W H Smiths.

  6. Wudugast says:

    Good review, makes me realise how many things have changed. Old style White Dwarf, specialist games, Warhammer itself, I miss them all! Even LotR (loved the books and films but never got into the game, still a shame to see it coming to an end though).
    The biggest change I would say is the way the DIY element has moved from being something supported, even driven, by the company themselves, to being something that exists much more organically through the fans. To be honest though thatโ€™s just how I like it so in spite of all the nostalgia I feel for the things that are gone I think the hobby overall is healthier than ever.

    • Andrew King says:

      I agree, the hobby is in great shape. I love the DIY element and will continue to make my hills out of polystyrene and my buildings out of foamcore. However, not everyone has the time or inclination to do this so it is great that GW now sell everything you need, including terrain and tools, under one roof. It makes the hobby much more accessible at the point of entry. there’s nothing to stop us old duffers doing things old school.

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