Episode 12 (Part 1) Games Workshop & Citadel (with Tim Olsen)


Download Episode

INTRO (15 secs)

This is an unusual episode as it is about a place more than a thing. This is about the remembered place that was Games Workshop, when we were kids, and the magical lead figures we found there.


The story about how school friends came together to form Games Workshop and how it grew and grew …


I am joined by Tim Olsen who was instrumental in the early days of GW. He was the manager of Dalling Road branch, then Manchester, before taking the first stores to America. He is a fascinating and lovely guy. You’ll enjoy his contribution.


The first part of @dailydwarf ‘s contribution to the episode where he talks about his experience of using figures in his games.

OPEN BOX (46:08)

Blythy joins me to talk about minis, memories and how we consume games. There’s a riot going on in the background, sorry about that, it is the sound of Bolton I’m afraid.


A call for the submission of your memories of Games Workshop and a thank you to Patreons.


6 thoughts on “Episode 12 (Part 1) Games Workshop & Citadel (with Tim Olsen)

  1. Another great episode, when I listen I always find myself wanting to join in the conversations, particularly between Dirk and Blythy. They talk about so many past and present experiences that resonate with my own… Dirk’s comment on not knowing what to do in a game store describes an experience I had myself just a few days ago. Standing staring at the shelves of RPG books, not knowing where to start. Too much choice and they’re all shrink wrapped anyway. I blame the internet which has royally screwed up this particular experience (while adding loads of other cool stuff so no complaints). I suffer from a modern habit of not trusting my gut instinct – I won’t buy a game until I’ve read reviews, seen some video reviews… plus I can get the game online with the physical book and the PDF for a few quid more etc etc. Browsing through games in store used to be a pure pleasure.

    It’s great someone has such fond memories of Games Workshop, but I look at it very differently. My RPG life started at 17 in the summer of 1983, defined by weekly visits to Games of Liverpool. That was the case for many years and it seems I have similar memories to yourselves with GW. When GW opened in Bold St, Liverpool (I’m guessing 1985) it was a big thing… Ian Livingstone tweeted about it not long ago with a photo (https://twitter.com/ian_livingstone/status/754741025814577152/photo/1). I recall the store had a big opening at 11am with many top games on sale for £1. With a few quid in hand I went down there with my mate Dave about 10.30 and was hugely disappointed to see the queue seen in Ian Livingstone’s photo. No chance of a bargain game for me that day!

    Initially GW had a diverse range of RPG’s and board games, with Warhammer stuff on the increase. Even then I found GoL far more interesting. Over time it seemed that GoL struggled while GW thrived, while cutting down the range of games it supported until it was only WH and other licensed stuff a few years later. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but GoL eventually shut down – whether that has anything to do with GW I don’t know. I was in the early years of my RPG hiatus when it happened, so the event sadly passed me by.

    Keep up the reminiscing chaps, look forward to the next one!

  2. Excellent podcast again as always, chaps. I’ve been waiting for some serious discussion about lead and lead alloys since you started.

    Even though I’d read about RPGs, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. When I got the D&D Basic Set I was shocked that it was just some books and dice. Where’s my cool castle? I asked, I was sure I was supposed to get something like that, and no little metal guys? What was going on?

    Picking up issues of White Dwarf and Warlock (I was a post Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks RPG adopter), I would see ads for miniatures companies, and started out with the very sensible sounding Prince August, where you bought the moulds and cast the figures yourself. Brilliant, I thought. Endless armies of orcs and dwarves at a fraction of the cost, and only a few accidental scaldings to contend with. I even got the kit to make plaster of paris 3d dungeons, and spectacularly failed to ever actually make anything with it. The figures I cast, however, weren’t quite up to the level of detail (or coolness) of the other miniatures I’d see around, so I relented and started buying “real” ones.

    My first sets were from Reider Design (a company that eventually became Alchemy Metalwear- pendants depicting Motörhead’s Snaggletooth, that kind of thing). They were nice and cheap, packs of 5 or 6 figures depicting Adventurers, Demi Humans, Orc War Band and so on. One of the sets was called “Goblin Terrorists”, which I suspect you wouldn’t get today.

    Those were mail order. We had no Games Workshop in Gloucester, just a model shop (called – I think “The Model Shop” that sold a lot of Citadel stuff alongside Humbrol paints and a random selection of MERP supplements, so that became my haunt for the next few years.

    Collecting and painting miniatures became a sort of Parallel hobby – A way to interact with RPGs without actually playing them – it was always a bit tricky getting people together to play and I always feel like I never got to play as much as I wanted.

    I’ve never understood why Citadel Miniatures never produced any figures based on the Fighting Fantasy Books – as they were renowned for their evocative illustrations. Eventually they did make a line of plastic figures with FF branding, but they had nothing to do with any of the books, and were just a bunch of generic skeletons and goblins. Had they done a box set including Zagor, Zanbar Bone and that anguished looking manticore from the first Sorcery! Book cover, I would’ve snapped it right up.

    Citadel produced a line of official AD&D minis, but they didn’t look much like the contemporary Larry Elmore/Jeff Easley style that TSR was using. They were in the same John Blanche style that matched the rest of their lines, big heads and hands and somehow both more vicious and humorous. The adventurers were produced in blister packs of three, as low, mid and high level versions of the same character, which is a neat idea, but in practice you ended up having a lot of miniatures that looked pretty similar. On the plus side they always seemed to be carrying lots of backpacks, bags and pouches the way every RPG character invariably did. They also did AD&D specific monsters like the owlbear and rust monster, but by this point I’d left behind the worlds of Gygax.

    Citadel also had the licence to produce LOTR and Eternal Champion figures, and I bought these more because I was a fan of those books rather than with the intention to use them in my MERP and Stormbringer games. At no point did any of my players encounter Treebeard or Jerry Cornelius, but they were cool just to own. Yes, before you ask, there was a Tom Bombadil, but I never got my hands on him.

    When I los interest in RPGs I told my mum to get rid of all my old miniatures- they were after all, just cluttering the place up. But she could never bring herself to do it, after all the hours I’d spent sat at the dining table, drybrushing Ringwraiths and inhaling turpentine fumes. Good job too, as after a couple of decades of downtime I found myself playing again.

    I now had the choice to not use miniatures – to travel light, so to speak, but at the end of the day, I have all this junk, I might as well use it. I’m running a regular weekly game for work colleagues and many of them have never played RPGs before, but even the ones who have aren’t used to seeing miniatures, so I guess that makes it a sufficiently old school thing to do. They’re always impressed when I bring these things out, so I regularly change the monster in the adventure to match the mini. There is no Dracolich in “Curse of Strahd”, but I have a Dracolich mini. Why the hell would i *not* use it?

  3. There was never a Games Workshop in Cardiff in the 80s when I was growing up there, but prompted by @dimbyd on Twitter, I thought I’d share a few memories of the FLGS that was there: FC Parker.

    FC Parker was part of the “golden triangle” of shops of my youth, along with Spillers Records (the oldest record shop in the world, fact fans – http://www.spillersrecords.co.uk/) and Lears bookshop – all within a minute’s walk of each other. Situated on the corner of Royal Arcade, I remember FC Parker as a rather narrow, cramped shop, chock full of the most wonderful games and figures. The proprietor was a friendly and knowledgable chap, who I picture in my mind with a large handlebar moustache. I bought all my White Dwarfs from FC Parker, as well as all the classic RPGs of my youth. I don’t remember whether they sold more “conventional” games or not – the only other things I do recall them stocking were the Paul Daniels magic tricks in the curved boxes. Remember them? (Not a lot.)

    In the late 80s, FC Parker moved from the Royal Arcade to High Street Arcade, and was still going strong when I moved away to go to university. In White Dwarf #100, it was announced that it was becoming Encounter Games, a “Games Workshop independent specialist stockist”. Hmm, alarm bells were starting to ring. They became blaring klaxons when an official Games Workshop store opened across the street. I don’t think Encounter Games lasted much longer after that. A real shame. But the memories live on for us South Wales grognards.

    1. One other thing I forgot to mention: games shops always seem to have a very characteristic smell (which I don’t think is wholly down to the clientele). Since the sense of smell is closely linked to memory, even now whenever I step inside a games shop, the smell triggers that association with memory, and I get a little frisson of excitement, just like I did back in the day stepping through the door of FC Parker.

  4. I was in the queue outside 1 Dalling Road on the day of opening. Of course, coming in from South Bucks I had got there far, far too late for any of the opening day special offers, specifically the one bargain copy of EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE that I had set my heart on. But at least it was set in my memory and I could pop in there whenever I had an excuse to be up in London.

    I do recall the collapse of GW into the abyss of Making Much More Money and I felt betrayed and disgusterpated too. I must have been over thirty by then so I think it was a gamer thing rather than a teenager thing. Living near the metropolis I had other sources, like the RPG section in Virgin’s store under the shadow of Centre Point. (Eventually they decided that RPGs weren’t making them enough money either.)

    I gave up on miniatures I think when my 1980s series of RQ games went into abeyance and one of my regular groups had always played in the ‘lounging around the living room’ style not sitting at a table anyway. I still have my RQ box sets though I haven’t taken them out of the shelves for an age. Nowadays when I want to get back to basics I’ll use Cardboard Heroes or the like.

    I like Blythey feel that I need physical copies of the core books. I’ve been running NBA/THE DRACULA DOSSIER recently and though I’ve used the iPad to hold the scenarios I’ve preferred the physical copy to look up rules. (“I know it’s here somewhere….” and you judge by the physical location of the pages burned into your fingertips.)

  5. Thank you, you’ve solved a mystery for me, after i saw this podcast was coming up i was trying to piece together the missing parts of the original Nottingham Broadmarsh Games Workshop layout.
    I couldn’t for the life of me remember what was on the right as you went in.
    It must have been the rubiks cubes and jigsaws etc! A place never ventured into so not remembered.
    As you came in, to the left were the rpg rules, scenarios and other boxed sets on shelving, toward the middle was a central magazine and comic rack (with exotic marvel and dc comics); then, (still on the left) was the till area and the figures in the little see through drawers that they’d get out for you. Later this side would house the blister packs.
    Where the figure cabinets were is a bit hazy, at the back? On the right at the back? I’m sure there were some computers in there at one point at the back left?
    There was also a till on the forbidden right about halfway down.
    You’re right it did seem like an exclusive club when you entered, here were your people who knew what this ‘new’ underground hobby was. Hours were spent in that shop.
    I remember once being asked by the operator of the forbidden right till if i knew how the Surprise rules worked in Traveller, i didn’t have a clue and god knows how we’d got onto that subject, but being asked my opinion at 13 by an old gamer, a student no less, (whatever they were) felt amazing ‘i was in’.
    About the same time i remember our group going to the original Asgard miniatures shop up in St Marys, an old dark shop, the shelves were planks nailed to the wall, with their great figures glued to them. I can remember a back room filled with long haired people, possibly gaming, but shortly after they moved to near the train station to a big shop by the canal.

    As for figures ruining the immersion, i don’t feel it has to be an either/or, just because you put down figures doesn’t mean you become a stat computer suddenly, keep the descriptive stuff going as the figures go down and as the combat runs.
    In recent years we’ve used 10mm fantasy figures so we always had enough, a real pleasure to be able to get out 20 orcs if you need 20 orcs, and a few years ago when we played Cthulhu we used the excellent RAFM miniatures (which do now have almost everything in their range), bit of black ink wash and you’re good to go, shows the detail but avoids the painting chores.
    Another pleasure there was unlike the cash strapped kid of thirty odd years ago, nowadays figures are affordable.
    Well, having only found them the other week i’ve caught up with the podcasts now and will have to wait for new ones like everybody else.
    They really are excellent, tailor made stuff, and i’ll be getting myself off to Patreon asap.
    Keep on ramblin’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s