In the grim dark­ness of the late ’80s, a table­top game spawned a vast uni­verse. Thirty years on, Will Sal­mon heads to the Im­perium of Man...

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Re­turn with us to the birth of the game that made any kitchen table­top a riot of in­ter­ga­lac­tic car­nage. Mum, we’re so sorry.

am­ing in the late ’80s and early ’90s was not what it is to­day. this was a time be­fore the wide­spread ubiq­uity of the in­ter­net, where con­soles from sega and nin­tendo were pop­u­lar, but still rooted in the lim­i­ta­tions of 8- and 16-bit ar­chi­tec­ture. the first Playsta­tion was just around the cor­ner and would change ev­ery­thing, but be­fore then an­other sort of play held a tena­cious grip on school­yards and model clubs around the coun­try. Kids and adults alike were busy col­lect­ing and paint­ing armies of metal men: sav­age, green-skinned Orks; aloof, enig­matic el­dar; deadly alien gen­esteal­ers; and the in­sid­i­ous forces of Chaos. most no­table of all, in vast le­gions of brightly coloured ar­mour, were the many and var­ied chap­ters of the adep­tus as­tartes – the space marines.

Warham­mer 40,000 is a phe­nom­e­non. the table­top-based minia­tures wargame turns 30 this year, but rather than fad­ing with time, it’s ar­guably ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a re­nais­sance. the days of ev­ery other kid paint­ing a Blood an­gels dev­as­ta­tor squad or strain­ing their eye­sight try­ing to paint the checks on an el­dar har­le­quin’s trousers may have gone, but the game’s uni­verse is bet­ter known than ever be­fore, en­com­pass­ing nov­els, comics and, yes, videogames.

Be­fore Warham­mer 40,000 there was Warham­mer – “the mass com­bat fan­tasy role­play­ing game,” writ­ten by Bryan ansell, richard hal­li­well and rick Pri­est­ley, pub­lished in 1983. al­though far from orig­i­nal in its set­ting – this was a fan­tasy world lashed to­gether from bits of tolkien, Co­nan, david ed­dings and terry Brooks – it still had depth and rich­ness. and it had minia­tures; lots and lots of glo­ri­ously sculpted minia­tures, then cast in a child-un­friendly, please-don’t-put-them-in-


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