The Original Rogue Trader! A Talk With Bob Naismith.

Originally posted on https://johnwombat.wordpress.com/ in 2020.

Bob Naismith is a veteran wargames miniatures sculptor and designer whose career stretches back to 1976 and his time with Wargames Publications Scotland. Following his two year stint with the Scottish wargames company, Bob moved onto Naismith Design and Navwar, before embarking on close to a decade long association with Citadel Miniatures (Games Workshop). He then briefly worked for Grenadier Models, switching to a fully freelance role in 1990; a position he has worked in for the past thirty years. As a figure designer who is highly sought after, Bob’s clients over the years have included Games Workshop, Milton Bradley, Hasbro, Waddingtons, Bluebird Toys, Corgi, Grenadier Models, ICI, White Wolf, Ares, Fireforge, Gripping Beast, Old Glory, North Star Military FiguresVictrix, Shmidtspieler, PECO, Battlefront, Wargames Atlantic and many other model figure companies. His most recent project is Overrunners, a new independent venture which is currently being supported by a Patreon campaign (full details HERE).

The Original Rogue Trader! A Talk With Bob Naismith… Part 1.

With a model figure design portfolio that covers six decades, ranging from historical to fantasy to science fiction genres, I began by asking Bob when the wonderful world of models first entered his life.

Bob Naismith: When I was a lad, I used to go into Glasgow on a Saturday morning and visit Argyll Models in the town centre. The usual stuff was there, Tamiya, etc, and some painted Airfix soldiers. I was smitten. After that (I suppose I was about 13 or 14) I took up painting and loved it. Then I went to another shop in Glasgow, up a flight of rickety stairs in a back alley to a garret shop called Wargames Publications Scotland. They had things like early D & D and metal wargaming figures. I spoke to the guys there and started painting figures for money! After about two years of this, the guys at WPS began to look at designing their own ranges, so I made my first figure – a samurai!

In addition to citing JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Frank Frazetta and Chris Foss as fantasy and science fiction influences, Bob listed further creative and sculpting inspirations.

Bob Naismith: Julian Benassi, Ray Lamb, Tim Richards, Tom Meier for sculpting. Creative influences come from books and games, classic sci-fi like Asimov, EE ‘Doc’ Smith, Robert Heinlein, etc, for books. Games such as Starship Troopers by Avalon Hill and many SPI titles, like Starforce, Starsoldier, that sort of thing.

  • Released in 1976, Avalon Hill’s Starship Troopers is a board game inspired by Robert Heinlein’s 1959 novel of the same name. The two-player game, which sees Terrans (the earth-born ‘good guys’) pitted against the alien Arachnids (the ‘bad guys’), with the human-like but still alien ‘Skinnies’ (with varying allegiances) thrown in too, Starship Troopers was met with an enthusiastic response from board game/ wargame fans and critics alike.

Created in the mid-1980’s during Warhammer 40,000’s Rogue Trader period, Bob Naismith is noted as one of the key figures behind the look of Games Workshop’s now iconic Space Marine. I asked Bob to tell me more.

Bob Naismith: Well it was not long after I had joined Citadel Miniatures, Bryan (Ansell) and Rick (Priestley) were starting to get the Rogue Trader game going, and the designers were asked to help. I spoke to Rick about what the Space Marines might be like, then got sculpting! I think the first one was the limited edition advancing guy with the non-bolter weaponry (hadn’t been designed yet). After that the ball started to roll – metal marines then conversions, then the plastic marines came along. This was a collaboration sculpting wise between me, Jes (Goodwin), Aly (Morrison) and the Twins (Perry brothers, Alan and Michael). By this time, I had been shunted a little bit into a position of design manager so my time spent on sculpting was very limited – although at this time there were a lot of head swaps, etc, going through and I’m sure that I can say that a fair few of the head swaps were my work – but done on other sculptors’ minis.

In addition to his work on the Warhammer 40,000 Space Marines, Bob also sculpted a number of other models for Games Workshop during his time with the company, including further Warhammer 40,000 figures, such as Genestealers, Imperial Guardsmen, Pirates and other human characters. Further to this, Bob also produced the first Titan model for Games Workshops’ Adeptus Titanicus and a swathe of Epic plastics too.

I asked Bob a little about the stories behind some of the limited edition models he sculpted for Games Workshop in the mid-1980’s; Gumshoes’ Bogart and Cagney, the Space Skeleton, and the Christmas Marines.

Bob Naismith: They were all limited editions, so were an excuse for us to indulge ourselves!  If I’m right, I think we were working on some Cthulhu stuff at the time so these guys seemed appropriate… the space skelly was a thing of my own – just the idea of transposing the undead of the fantasy world into the sci fi world of Rogue Trader/ Warhammer 40,000… I did enjoy those minis though.

The Christmas Marines were great fun! As I said before, we were let off our leash when it came to limited editions and for a happy time like Christmas the idea was to celebrate the season and have some fun!  Not sure about the political correctness of a Santa hat on a manufactured war machine such as the Space Marine!

Equally adept at both digital and old school design and sculpting methods, I asked Bob if he’d be open to telling me a little more about these techniques.

Bob Naismith: Sure! I use two main platforms – Zbrush and Geomagic Sculpt. They both have strengths and weaknesses and by working between them you can maximise on the benefits of each. Digital work requires more planning than real-world sculpting – so sketches are a good place to start. Another good thing about sculpting is that you end up with a repository of bits that you can import and amend to suit a given new situation – I think I only made one ear ever! It is great fun – there are so many hugely talented sculptors out there that it is a very exciting field to be working in.

I still use green stuff for the most part – metal armatures – my own. I still really enjoy sculpting – the immediacy and the surprise you can give even yourself while sculpting, “Ooh, if I just move that a little bit then… Wow! Look at that! Brill!”

Bob Naismith: I am so excited about getting these models to you – you might know that I ran a successful Kickstarter about a year and a half ago. I had a load of positive and supportive comments about my Overrunners minis and the various other designs that I have been working on.

I should tell you a bit more about myself. I have been making model figurines for decades now – more than I’d care to acknowledge. It is true that I started off making historical wargame figures and ships in 1/3000 scale for ships and 15/28mm for minis. I then joined a company called Citadel Miniatures. While there I got the chance with many others to be involved in the thing that started as Rogue Trader and ended up being Warhammer 40,000. I made the first Space Marines and Genestealers. Along with other sculptors I helped the plastic figure empire grow and myself made several of the iconic minis – Heroquest, Titans, Epic, etc.

As a student I became an avid reader of science fiction – Asimov, Bradbury and their pals. Like many a teenager I was enthralled by Start Trek, Lost in Space and the comics and other media that were the kindling for what has become a world spanning empire of gaming. I loved it then and if anything I love it even more now! Since then the world of sci fi has just exploded and the hobby has become enormous!

I have been a freelancer for the last thirty years I have been kept busy – a fact that I am very grateful for! It has meant though that my own creative impulses have had to kept under control while I answered the briefs of my splendid clients.
So there has always been a bit of me working away inside on my own figures.
This is where Patreon comes in. My Kickstarter was great fun but I have always enjoyed the creative design process and the world of manufacturing has always been less easy for me. With Patreon I can make these designs available to you to print off as many as you like for your own private use in any of the excellent games systems that are out there…

The Original Rogue Trader! A Talk With Bob Naismith… Part 2.

Working at Games Workshop for almost a decade, I was keen not to miss out any model ranges or game systems that Bob worked on for the Nottingham based miniatures company.

Bob Naismith. Oh gosh! I worked at GW from 1980/ 81 I think until 88? In that time I worked on lots of the main lines – monthly releases, limited editions, Regiments of Renown, Lord of the Rings, Cthulhu, AD & D, Paranoia, Middle Earth, Judge Dredd, games like Heroquest, Advanced Heroquest, Blood Royale, etc. Then there was WH40K – I think I may have been one of the first to suggest that term – plastics (not the first skellies – that was the Perry twins) Daleks, Dark Future, Titans, Epic, Warmaster, Space Hulk (I did the Genestealers and Space Marines) early Battlefleet stuff, Battlecars, and so on. Also did some work on LOTR large scale with Sabretooth and a couple of those 54mm sci-fi figs too (Inquisitor)!

Given the vast number of model companies and ranges he has worked on aside from Games Workshop, I asked Bob to tell me more about any standout points.

Bob Naismith: I especially enjoyed working with Milton Bradley and Bluebird – Havok was a game designed by Stephen Baker and we worked on that together for a few years – it took me back to playtesting Rogue Trader on John Stallard’s carpet with Rick Priestley! I really have enjoyed working with everybody – and some of the work that I thought was best was never released! 

I remember high points with each company – making bits for Cindy with Hasbro! Helping Bluebird remake their cricket game – Loads of stuff with Corgi when they were in Leicester – Grenadier working with Doug, Nick and Mark – making Amazons! – Iron Crown spaceships for Silent Death, White Wolf and their Trinity RPG figs – Ares and all their fab games – I loved arming their tripods and the play pieces for the Hunt For The Ring game – Fireforge are just gentlemen and I enjoyed everything I did with them – especially the plastics! Gripping Beast are a real pleasure to work with and I still enjoy that privilege. Russ at Old Glory has been a great customer over the years – it was Russ who directed me towards digital sculpting in the 90’s! I’ve made all sorts with Russ – Wild West, Horror, Samurai, Superheroes and so on!

North Star and Nick has been a privilege – made most of the early plastic sets. Same goes for Warlord – I made most of the original plastic minis for Paul and John – WW2 and so on as well as the ECW infantry and cavalry. Mantic Games was a load of fun – Elves and Dwarves – what’s not to like? I really enjoyed working with Ronnie and the gang back then!

Victrix, again, was great – making nice Napoleonic’s was a treasure and I think one of my nicest models never got released – it was a mounted dragoon I think… Oh yes, Mongoose Games and Starship Troopers! What a blast!  Just loved those troopers and their hardware and thoroughly enjoyed the aliens – all of them!

Battlefront was interesting too – working with guys down under on their WW2 range and meeting the chaps at the Nottingham office – good times. I have done work for Wargames Atlantic and have always found them easy to work with and their stuff looks great! 

  • My review of Wargames Atlantic’s Raumjager designed by Bob Naismith HERE.
  • My review of North Star Military Figures’ Oathmark Dwarfs designed by Bob Naismith HERE.

I asked Bob if he had a preference over the scale of models he works on, also if he preferred sculpting fantasy, science fiction or historical figures.

Bob Naismith: Hmm – I always think that I have a very short attention span so that suits the life of a freelancer – I never know what’s coming in!  I do find now that I’m making more and more digital stuff so the scale issue while still relevant isn’t as important – my home ground is 28mm though! As far a genre – I have enjoyed making ancients, medieval, Napoleonic’s and modern stuff and enjoy it as much as fantasy and sci fi. Having said all that if you leave me in a darkened room with a sketch book, I’d probably start drawing sci fi!

With his prolific output of models, I asked Bob if he had ever considered devising a game system of his own. I was very interested to learn about a game he wrote some time ago called Cobalt.

Bob Naismith: Yes!  Together with my son we wrote a set of rules called Cobalt – it was a dice less system and met with some resistance because of this, I think. In my view though they were a great set of rules! The Overrunners universe needs something like a ruleset and having its worlds and peoples explained…

  • Originally produced by West Wind Productions, Cobalt-1 was a ruleset written by Bob and Rory Naismith which was released in 2001. Sculpted by Bob, the game also had a dedicated range of miniatures too. The game and miniatures later passed hands from West Wind Productions to Black Hat Miniatures, and are now with Bridge Miniatures.

The Original Rogue Trader! A Talk With Bob Naismith… Part 3.

Released in 2001, rather than using a rules system based around dice, Cobalt-1 used a method called The Solution; opposing players noted down numbers (from a Solution ‘range’, model specific) on a piece of paper, success was then achieved when numbers matched. Going against the grain of standard wargaming, the dice-less system of Cobalt-1 pushed some gamers too far out of their comfort zones.

Bob Naismith: Bob Naismith: I made the minis first. I wanted to create a ruleset that wasn’t mechanical in the same way as other games – I thought of the game Paper Stone Scissors and developed the system from there. We (my son and I) wanted the game to be interactive and make both players feel they had a role to play rather than just being target practice for the opponent half the time! I still think it was a good system and in fact was limitless in its scope – the equivalent of rolling a 66 million sided die if you wanted to!

Bob is a highly respected miniatures sculptor and designer and as a freelancer his services are much sought after. I was interested to ask Bob about two of his recent projects, Wargame Atlantic’s Raumjager models (product review HERE) and the Oathmark Wingless Dragon for North Star Military Figures. I was keen to find out about the inspiration Bob used for the respective model sets.

Bob Naismith: The design of the Raumjager models was from the brief of the guys at Wargames Atlantic, they gave me a text brief and a rough sketch and off I went! The years of making guns and armour is just in me now I think! I really enjoyed making them.

The Oathmark Wingless Dragon for North Star Military Figures, haha, that was a load of fun! This was done digitally, of course. Originally we (Nick Eyre and I) were looking for a Wyrm type critter but when we had it digital form it looked a wee bit weedy – it’s one of the great things about working with digital design, you can go back into the file and adjust it!

Bob Naismith’s latest project is a new range of 28mm futuristic figures, Overrunners. An enthusiastic fan of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, along with works from other authors such as EE ‘Doc’ Smith, this exciting venture is centred around Bob’s love of science fiction. Making his work available as STL files, Bob’s Overrunners models are ideal for using in games such as Warhammer 40,000, Necromunda, Beyond The Gates Of Antares and Warpath. The range of models should also appeal to non gamers too, serving as new additions for model and science fiction collectors.

Bob Naismith: Patreon are offering STL files of 28mm sci-fi figures, vehicles and accessories for gaming or collecting. Normally, most figs are around 31.5mm tall.

When you sign up you will get access to the welcome pack of my Overrunners Infantry files. Each month that you are a subscriber you will also get access to that months files folder which will have more sci-fi goodies. This folder will be deleted at the end of the month.

Scout level
Scout level is the basic entry level of support – you can be involved by simply supporting my design progress. Each month I shall issue a report on what designs I have been working on.

Fighter level
At Fighter level you will have all of the Scout level benefits PLUS each month I will be making a new set of files available for download that month with some new files of designs that will expand upon or complement existing files. The report will include design notes.

Command level
At Command level you will have all of the benefits of Fighter level. I will also be making exclusive figs available only for this level and above – available for one month like the others. Also I will open up a channel for feedback so you can advise and assist me in the design process.

Prolific in his creative output, I asked Bob his future plans for Overrunners and what fans can expect to see next.

Bob Naismith: I have heavy infantry, plus the Reptos are being developed and will have their own vehicles and heavy infantry. I also have a set of canine ruffian types and then there are the Skumthugs – criminal gangers. There are aliens – the Drohknai, who are bio weapons, and the Skinnies. There are also sets of ‘fleet’ crewmen and women and a set of tech guys in laborsuits. Then there are some space zombies and the guys on a set of different jetbikes – I’m just having so much fun!

Utilising his sublime skills in digital design, Bob’s Overrunners range of models are superbly detailed and dynamically posed. From humans to aliens to vehicles, each Overrunners figure holds extra fine points of detail and character; faces are full of expressions and emotion, armour and battles suits are unique in their design and coldblooded aliens hold nightmarishly menacing and brutal forms.

A true legendary figure within the hobby, this is the third and final blog piece in my feature on Bob Naismith. In addition to all of the wonderful miniatures and products he has provided throughout his illustrious career, I would like to thank Bob for his time, efforts and contributions towards this blog. Thank you, Bob!

Bob Naismith official Patreon page HERE.

Watch a video of Bob’s Patreon project HERE.

Bob Naismith official website HERE.

Copyright © 2022 John Wombat & Ruth Moreira