Originally posted on https://johnwombat.wordpress.com/ in 2020.
Games Industry Consultant Chaz Elliott has enjoyed a long and varied career in the wargames, RPG and hobby games industry. A graduate of the Lincoln College of Art and Design, he began his career as a Senior Graphic Designer at Games Workshop, where he worked from 1985 – 1987. Chaz then moved on to become a sculptor/ partner at Nenthorn Studios (whose prestigious clientele included Madame Tussauds, the Jorvik Viking Museum and Rock Circus). Roles in other companies followed, including Fantasy Forge Miniatures, Wizards of the West Coast, Score Entertainment, RC2 – South – Press Pass and Upper Deck Entertainment BV, in addition to a range of freelance positions. Further to this, Chaz, Tim Prow and Drew Williams launched Diehard Miniatures in 2014, a company whose aim is to “give you high quality sculpts for both sci-fi and fantasy ranges with more than a nod to the past.”
The Original Bad ‘Un! A Talk With Chaz Elliott… Part 1.
Born in Bristol, England, Chaz was “the child of a career Royal Airforce conscript turned squadron leader,” A series of overseas relocations began when he was just eight months old, with a “baking hot deployment” in Libya’s El Adem and Tobruk. Further homes followed in Northern Ireland, Norway and Holland. Then, with Chaz’s college years approaching, the Elliott family found themselves back in England, this time in Lincoln. And so began Chaz’s “descent into metal madness,” a problem known only too well to many a model enthusiast! I asked Chaz to recall some of his earliest fantasy and science fiction memories and who some of his early influences were.
Chaz Elliott: I think my first exposure was my father reading his first edition paperback of ‘The Hobbit’ to me at bedtime, it opened up a whole new world outside of ‘Bill & Ben’ and ‘Andy Pandy’. The exposure to Marvel comics, when stationed around the world and with access to the US PX (Army and Air Force Exchange Service), opened up another pantheon of fun. As with most children of the time, I ate my way through Alan Garner’s classics, Susan Cooper’s Light vs the Dark books, Marion Zimmer Bradley, all the Dragon books – living in London in 1977 meant that weekends would include a visit to Dark and Golden Eyed – then later, Forbidden Planet. All the US paperbacks in the second-hand section were read and traded in; Robert E. Howard to Michael Moorcock – and an endless list of fiction. I read a book a day most days – a speed reader and light sleeper.
A Christmas present from his parents in 1973, Chaz’s first ever set of models was a box of 1:32 scale Airfix Desert Rats. It wasn’t long after receiving this festive gift that Chaz stepped from military models to fantasy as he purchased some Ral Partha Orcs, his “lead obsession” beginning in earnest.
Chaz Elliott: First models – Xmas 1973 – Airfix – Desert Rats. But my first exposure to metal minis was from a store in Oxford, we were at a Cub Scout camp nearby. Ral Partha Collector Series Orcs, have them to this day. From there it all went downhill or uphill when you consider my lead horde. The lead obsession grew apace with the gaming obsession – Games Workshop and the appearance of Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons meant that every Saturday we’d also head up Daling Road and check out what the latest was. Wizards Tower from Avalon Hill took over for a while, and then every spare penny went into games. So, more of a RPG gamer that was later “turned” by Rick (Priestley) and John (Stallard) by “allowing me” to play the Polish during their Napoleonic games.
For a time, Chaz moved into a house shared by Games Workshop employees Rick Priestley, John Stallard and Anthony Epstein. This was a group of young men, all of whom were practical jokers, at times an anarchic sense of humour, which bring BBC TV’s ‘The Young Ones’ to mind. Chaz offered an insight into the madcap shenanigans of the household.
Chaz Elliott: When they left, as it was a rental, they left the freezer compartment full, took the contents out in the back garden and they just “melted.” Then there was the kipper stuffed into the gap between the kitchen cabinets and the roof… right bunch of practical jokers – hilarious – still it was revenge for me puking over all three of them in a row – another story…
Written by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren, with illustrations by Don Lowry, Chainmail is a set of rules for medieval miniatures first released in 1971. Containing rules for mass combat, sieges and even weather conditions, while focussing on the medieval era, Chainmail also includes a fantasy section which covers the likes of Hobbits, Dwarfs, Goblins and Trolls. Following the success of Chainmail, Gary Gygax co-founded TSR (Tactical Studies Rules), and then created Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. Released in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons was ‘upgraded’ in 1977 in the form of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
From 1985 – 1987 Chaz worked for Games Workshop. His primary function at the company was as a graphic designer, focussing his energies on the overall layout, look and feel of the graphics, as well as logo design and diagram and map design. He also sculpted a few miniatures for the Nottingham based company too. Initially, he produced some treasure chests and tiles, then worked on a number of graveyard pieces, before moving on to the Chaos Battering Ram and Chaos Snake Men.
Advertised as “An Elliott Abomination”, the Chaos Battering Ram is Chaz’s version of Grond, the mighty battering ram fielded by Sauron’s troops during the Battle of Pelennor Fields in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (a model sculpted decades before the movie release), fused with Games Workshops’ developing Chaos Gods. This multi-piece lead model was a labour of love, taking Chaz more the one hundred and thirty hours to complete.
Meanwhile, evil and barbarous, the Chaos Snake Men were Chaz’s take on a splintered off section of Slaan, a result of a breeding mutation. Though the idea of Chaos Snake Men was not expanded beyond the five models he designed for Games Workshop, Chaz had visions of Chaos Snake Men atop Elemental Worms and Snake Men sub-factions.
Since sculpting his first models for Games Workshop back in the mid-1980’s, Chaz is wonderful figure designer who has produced hundreds of fantasy and science fictions models over the years, from Elves to Dwarfs, Goblins to the Undead. In addition to this, he’s worked on a multitude of other design projects, even a range of cufflinks for Harrods. I was interested to know the tools and materials Chaz uses to sculpt his models.
Chaz Elliott: Material range has increased as the industry approach to reproduction changed, but the same basic principles are still prevalent. Polymer clay, Beesputty, traditional sculpting putties, icing sugar (finely ground – awesome stuff – and it IS OK to lick your tools afterwards). All sorts of materials have crossed my desk, just keep adding bits or taking bits away until the piece looks ‘right’. Materials are generally dictated by the manufacturers production processes.
In addition to his models with Games Workshop/ Citadel Miniatures, Chaz has sculpted miniatures for a long list of other model manufactures, including Heartbreaker Miniatures, Alternative Armies, Reaper Miniatures, Wizard of the West Coast, Rackham, Fantasy Forge, Mithril Miniatures, Tabletop Games, Clarecraft (Discworld), Alchemy, Target Games, Privateer Press and Diehard Miniatures.
Chaz Elliott: The Teddy Bear cufflinks for Harrods, now that was my fave. That, or the Death ring for Mr Pratchett. Oh, and can’t forget the Doc Martins wearing penguin in a tie – happy days. Harrods exclusively stocked a range of Teddy Bear silver cufflinks, 10 in total; the golfer, the groom, the best man, the racing driver (complete with WWII flying helmet and goggles)… It was a project run in conjunction with a well connected jeweller who moved in such circles. Ended up with a commission to produce a miniature version of some of the medieval animals that appeared on the woodwork about the store. Pratchett was a dream project, working with the Clarecraft team and Bernard the Artificer, a great privilege. I even created the business plan on an old Amiga, while living on the Spey Valley whiskey trail in Scotland.
Following his time with Games Workshop, along with two other partners, Chaz set up Nenthorn Studios. The company quickly picked up a number of high profile customers, such as Madame Tussauds, the Jorvik Viking Museum, Rock Circus and Scotia Creations. Nenthorn’s range of Scottish tourism miniatures included 40mm Scottish military regiments, Scottish Dwarfs, and the world’s smallest teddy bear visible to the naked eye!
The Original Bad ‘Un! A Talk With Chaz Elliott… Part 2.
Chaz expanded on his experiences with D & D…
Chaz Elliott: D & D was the first game to bring me into minis, that and Valley of the Four Winds. Chainmail was an interesting way of restaging the Battle of the Five Armies from The Hobbit, which was a childhood dream. I think I’d also just been given the Tolkien Bestiary and was lost in John Blanche’s battle artwork. It was the opportunity to expand the singular play value of a character within a RPG to a general laying down of grander plans. A fundamental influence at that time was the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson, some of the battle descriptions of Ur-viles’ masters spewing ichor at the head of a wedge against the Lore Lords produced visions of mass combat.
There was a point where D & D lost its attraction and miniatures and the world of miniatures overtook the majority of my interests. We’d moved again to Lincoln as my father took a post at the RAF Swinderby boot camp – and I lost my regular play group – and art college opened a whole new world of fun and entertainment – and just a short train ride away was the emerging Asgard office/ workshop in Notts.
- Stephen R Donaldson is an American writer who specialises in science fiction and fantasy genres. He is noted for his ten-book high-fantasy epic series of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant novels, his 1977 book Lord Foul’s Bane being the first in this wonderfully immersive collection.
A man with many strings to his bow, Chaz is a highly skilled miniatures designer and sculptor, a graphic designer, and games market analyst and consultant. Originally produced by Fantasy Forge in the early- 1990’s, and now by Scotia Grendel, Kryomek is a science fiction 25mm scale wargame-come-skirmish, and is one of the many game systems Chaz has worked on.
Chaz Elliott: Kryomek was a huge amount of fun, the work unit was located in the guardhouse and storage room of an old abandoned brewery – I think we crammed 5 desks into the office affectionally known as the railway carriage, and we had a blast working on the world setting – but mostly I enjoyed laying the rulebook out, and sculpting the first few releases – including the Marines – and the Nasty Kryomek buggers – and drawing up the area effect templates. It was a blast working with the FF crew, and at that time the proto Nightfall Games. It was fun game, John Grant and John Robertson wrote the rules, I even made the first terrain board and demoed the game at shows, a long, long time ago…
I was interested to know if Chaz still found time to play any games. In addition to a very busy life, Chaz explained that working in the games industry can lead to a jading of the fun one can take from what previously offered much enjoyment.
Chaz Elliott: I’ve played most every kind of game, and especially now in this board games revival, so I’m familiar with the majority of game mechanics, platforms, interfaces, etc. But when game analysis and playing becomes a job, then some of the glitter fades and it becomes more of a play through to gauge mechanics, or competitor innovation – less fun.
The only game I still play occasionally for fun is Go – Tony Ackland taught me how to play and we used to play in the Games Workshop Design Studio league with Mike Brunton, Graeme Davis and Paul Cockburn – kept on playing, learning and teaching – superb game.
Chaz’s career veered away from a direct association with miniature wargames to card games; Magic the Gathering, Buffy, Dragonball Z CCG, Yuyuhakhusho CCG and Portal 3 Kingdoms all being games Chaz has worked on.
Chaz Elliott: It’s different mechanics but the same principle, assisting the willing suspension of disbelief, allowing the players to escape into the respective worlds and forget reality for the briefest of moments. For me, it’s breathing life into the fictional worlds I escape into. I read vicariously as a child and even now, tend to have 6 or 7 books on the go at one time.
Having pushed putty for many different wargames and model companies, I wondered what type of creatures Chaz especially enjoys sculpting…
Chaz Elliott: I love Elves of all kinds, I did a few for Reaper and a few for Diehard, next though is Lizardmen – love them scaly buggers! I think I like to sculpt Lizardmen especially because of a fascination with reptilian textures – hard to achieve and I love a challenge, evil reptoids with the technical challenge thrown in. I really enjoyed the Thai versions I made for Reaper – it was great to work on decoration that was far more organic than in Western culture.
Chaz’s tip for sculpting Lizardmen scales…
Chaz Elliott: It’s like eating an elephant, one bit (scale) at a time. It’s hard and I still haven’t ever really gotten to a level that I’m content with.
‘Oldhammer’ is a term commonly used to describe the ‘older’ period of fantasy and science fiction wargaming and miniatures, typically the late-1970’s and the decade of the 1980’s, and depending on your ‘purist’ values, into the 1990’s. Often attributed to Games Workshop’s Warhammer games and respective editions and model ranges, if a figure is lead/ metal based, comes from a hand-sculpted master model and is brimming with character, charm and often humour, then it is considered to be Oldhammer. With a never-ending enthusiasm for old school fantasy and science fiction miniatures, Chaz is Oldhammer through and through.
Chaz Elliott: Tim Prow (Diehard Miniatures) has done a great job – Oldhammer forever. There are a few other designers who have decided to extend those halcyon days too, they fill in the gaps and update the sculpting and production quality. Pure unadulterated nostalgia and its crew – I love Drew Williams’ latest Troll Wives and Brats. There’s that comedic aspect that I feel is lacking from GW content these days – takes itself very seriously – whereas we loved the old drunken giant rules!
The Original Bad ‘Un! A Talk With Chaz Elliott… Part 3.
During his two year stint as Senior Graphic Designer with Games Workshop in the mid-1980’s, Chaz worked on a plethora of projects. He described that as well as his graphic art work and design, he also contributed to some of the now iconic Warhammer 40,000 ‘tag lines’.
Chaz Elliott: I did most of the maps and diagrams for all the GW products during my tenure. I enjoyed the maps and diagrams, still have the originals somewhere. I airbrushed logos, dungeon floor plans and caverns, the diagram in Rogue Trader that showed the Eldar as a diagram – didn’t do any of the tech drawings, that was Mr H. Plus, I came up with a fair few of the now iconic quotes, “chapter approved”, and “they shall know no fear”, bits and bobs of background as well. A lot of the “stamps” that appeared on the diagrams ended up as canon. It was a fun time.
Personally, preferring the Oldhammer style, with it’s character, charm and fun, I asked Chaz his opinion on the development of fantasy and sci-fi models over the years, also his feeling on Oldhammer versus ‘modern day’ variants?
Chaz Elliott: Great question. I think that the line between sci-fi and fantasy continues to blur, there has been the Anime invasion into western youth culture, that has affected many existing brands’ evolution. I feel that each decades iteration of products tends to reflect the times and how experimental the incumbent management feels like being in order to maintain an influx of new youth customers. So, the AoS style in comparison to Oldhammer is targeted at a different market, more current, more mechanics. Anime and the overuse of spatial 360degree minis as 3-D graphics allow for silhouettes, poses, forms, etc that were simply not possible to manufacture using the traditional Oldhammer reproduction process. There are aspects of the evolution that I like, and there are some that surprise me, and some I loathe, but overall the progress towards creating a sense of disbelief from a frozen moment in time has increased – and escapism is the hit that gaming provides, so onwards and upwards. Character, fun, and a sense of irreverence are part of what makes, for me, AoS and some of the new content a nope, pass.
I asked Chaz for his opinion on Warhammer these days, whether or not he felt Games Workshop dropped the ball with regards to killing off the Old World and creating Age of Sigmar. There are future plans for a return to ‘original’ Warhammer by Games Workshop in the future. However, many Warhammer fans have now switched to systems like Kings of War, Oathmark or Warlords of Erehwon, among other games. Additionally, old rulesets and house rule developments are popular too. I wondered if Chaz saw a successful Games Workshop Warhammer return.
Chaz Elliott: I think the reset button that was AoS has been a success (financially) for the company and reflects a more global brand content, but there is room for both. GW’s approach to capturing the market and squeezing hard for 2-5 years resulted in a high attrition rate, burnt out customers, with vitriol and negativity to spare. I think that over time GW realised that supporting aspects of that aged player/ collector mean that they retained the customer for a longer and more financially lucrative time period.
I think that there is now enough decadal iterations of Warhammer players to support some nostalgic products with a refresh, certainly enough now to ensure profitability and margin retention ratios similar to their “current” game iteration. It is interesting times, and the secondary market is on the cusp of providing enough return to provide another collection avenue for older gamers – We are getting old and what was “new” for us – is now old for others – one of the rules of the world.
- Fun fact: Highway To Hell by AC/DC is one of Chaz’s favourite records.
A company that I will be focussing on in a separate blog feature, I asked Chaz how he became involved with Diehard Miniatures. I wondered too how the model manufacturer came up with its name.
Chaz Elliott: Tim had the Emperor send me a telepathic message – and pictures of scantily clad Elves. It worked. I don’t think the Diehard name was a movie tie-in, more a statement – we had also tried Dead Hard – but the US market didn’t get it –‘Dead’ard’ being too British for them.
- “Diehard will be launching its 6th Kickstarter Thursday June 25th! ‘Wizards and their Magics’ is a little different from previous campaigns, Diehard not only needs your help to fund the production of our wizards, familiars and elemental beasts but also our first set of rules designed for magical combat in the arena of Id! Bring your illustrious magician, your warped chaotic sorcerer, and your skilled spirit binder to the ultimate duel, the costs will be brutal but the rewards immense! Are you ready for the challenge?” Tim Prow, Diehard Miniatures.
Having begun his career in the 1980’s and still going strong, I asked Chaz to list some of his career highlights and questioned also what is next for Chaz Elliott.
Chaz Elliott: Career highlights, mmm… Securing the Star Wars miniature license for Wizards based on a sculpt I made of Darth Maul in 3 days, Lucas himself approved. I was then able to visit Skywalker Ranch for a licensing meeting and got to see some amazing props and a unique work environment. There was driving the Dragon Ball Z card game original Hummer onto the stand at San Diego Comic Con. But most probably the Magic: The Gathering miniatures game, that never was.
Plus, holding an open bar, the night before the UK M:tG championships to ensure the quietest and least stressful event of the year – best marketing spend. Seeing the ring I made on Mr Pratchett’s finger, and the luggage sculpt for Clarecraft. What’s next? whatever the tide brings me.
This is the third and final part of my blog feature on Chaz Elliott. I’ve greatly enjoyed communicating with Chaz and would like to thank him for his time and contributions. In addition to his decades long career which has resulted in a slew of fabulous miniatures, games, diagrams and more, Chaz is a wonderfully enthusiastic, kind and highly creative individual. Thank you, Chaz!
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Official Diehard Miniatures website HERE.
Official Diehard Miniatures Facebook page HERE.
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