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