The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley.

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

If anyone deserves the title of Legend when it comes to wargame design and development then it has to be Rick Priestley. His highly impressive and extensive CV dates back to the late 1970’s and pre-Warhammer Fantasy Battles days with his rules for Reaper, a game written with Richard Halliwell (first published by the Nottingham Toy Soldier Shop in 1978). During a three decade career with Games Workshop, in addition to Warhammer, Rick also worked on Warhammer 40,000, Necromunda, The Lord Of The Rings Strategy Battle Game, Warmaster, Warhammer Ancient Battles and Warmaster Ancients, among other game systems and publications. Since moving on from Games Workshop in the late 2000’s, Rick has worked on a slew of other games, including Black Powder, Hail Caesar, Bolt Action, Beyond the Gates of Antares and Warlords of Erehwon, all for Warlord Games. In addition, he also wrote the rules for Lucid Eye Publication’s The Red Book Of The Elf King… 

The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley… Part 1.

My journey began… Having fought my way through the dense and dark Great Forest, the spores of madcap mushrooms mingling with the dying embers of camp-fires to give the air a sweetly acrid aroma, I was acutely aware of the glinting beady red eyes of Forest Goblins following my every step. Hanging round my neck, I wore a magical amulet which I had acquired some time previously from a thief-come-traveller in a tavern in Reikland. This small, ornately decorated charm emitted a threatening ethereal voice heard only by Goblins, resulting in the diminutive green skins, highly superstitious creatures, feeling an unsettled sense of fear and a reluctance to approach me. Whilst this prevented an outright attack from the vicious forest dwellers, I knew that they were eagerly waiting for me to fall prey to one of their many carefully constructed spider venom pits. I also knew that eventually the Goblins’ hesitance to strike would fade, and if I was not clear of the forest at this time, then I would undoubtedly by overcome by sheer numbers. Breathing a sigh of relief, finally I came upon a clearing in the trees which led to a rugged mountain path.

Littered with the bones of unfortunate victims of Hill Trolls and Ogres, broken and stripped of flesh, numerous carcasses of man, elf and halfling alike lay casually disregarded along the trail. I groped for my dagger, anxious of being set upon. After what felt like an age of traversing this path, with sun setting, at last I came to a small but well-constructed shepherd’s cottage. Lifting the heavy brass door knocker I made my arrival known. Wizard Priestley answered the door, he’d been expecting me… 

The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley… Part 1.

From Warhammer Fantasy Battles to Warmaster, Warhammer 40,000 to Gates of Antares, over an illustrious career that goes back to the early-1980’s, Rick has worked on many wargames and rulebooks and has added much colour to various fantastical and futuristic worlds. Keen to find out what set him on his path, one of my first questions for Rick was around his early fantasy and science fiction influences.

Rick Priestley: I was born and grew up in Lincoln. I don’t know if there ever was a point at which fantasy or science-fiction entered my life as such. Growing up as a kid in the 1960’s there were things like Dr Who on the telly, Stingray and Fireball XL5, Lost in Space, Batman, The Avengers, and more besides I’m sure. There was the TV21 comic too – fantastic artwork in that – and Dan Dare in the Eagle and the Trigon Empire in Look and Learn. The Americans and Russians were at it in real space too – what was science-fiction one year turned into science-fact the next. ‘Adrift in the Stratosphere’ by Professor A. M. Low was probably the first SF book I read. My primary school had a copy. It must have made an impression because I remember it more than fifty years on. Later as a teenager I read a lot of classic SF as well as fantasy – but those were popular genres at the time.

I’m sure TV was by far the main influence and inspiration for the visual side of things rather than films: Star Trek rather than Forbidden Planet, Space 1999 rather than 2001 A Space Odyssey. (Inspiring) illustrators? Not on any conscious level. The imagery of the Gerry Anderson 21st Century must have inspired some sort of aesthetic I suppose, but I couldn’t name the individuals concerned aside from the man himself. Well, I could tell you the Captain Scarlet intro scenes were drawn by Ron Embleton, who also drew for contemporary comics such as TV21… but that’s about it. Rodney Matthews drew some of the most memorable book and album covers of the 1970’s. ‘Big O Posters’ produced many of these as the sort of posters we all had on our bedroom walls: beautiful whimsy. The Conan books carried covers by Frank Frazetta: fantastic artist whose portrayals of raw power convey such menace.

It would be books that mostly influenced – or inspired – what I would later go on to do in the world of wargames. And I read a lot as a teenager, often swapping books amongst my friends, lots of SF and fantasy from Asimov to Zelany. Zelany contributed to Lin Carter’s ‘Flashing Swords’ series of short stories.  Along the way you pick up the classics: Robert E Howard, H P Lovecraft, E E Doc Smith and Edgar Rice-Burroughs amongst them. Probably the most influential book I ever read was The Lord of The Rings. I suspect I am not alone in that! LOTR was a touchstone for the counter-culture. After that I’d cite Dune by Frank Herbert. At the time I recall that it was almost as influential as LOTR. I sense Dune has fallen away in terms of a modern readership; perhaps supplanted by film and TV versions in a way that hasn’t happened with LOTR. Michael Moorcock wrote copiously and was at the forefront of the alternative cultural world of the 1970’s; the Ladbrooke Grove scene and all that. He even appeared with Hawkwind at one point; An Alien Heat has a dedication to the band members of that time. I mention Moorcock because he is so closely associated with the ‘Chaos’ concept that we would pick up on as a theme at Games Workshop. That was something Bryan Ansell brought to the mix rather than me, but I would say Moorcock’s influence was in fact broader and more by way of inspiration than that simple correlation implies. A lot of the anachronistic elements that morphed Warhammer (fantasy) into Warhammer 40,000 (SF) pop up in Moorcock’s work too.

Whilst always an enthusiastic reader, I wouldn’t say art or literature featured much in my day-to-day life as a youngster. Ours was an ordinary working class family in most respects.  Art and literature all happened on BBC 2 and as such remained a mystery. I don’t honestly think my reading habits were any different from my peers. SF and fantasy certainly didn’t count as ‘literature’ as far as our teachers were concerned!  

I was a bit of an all-rounder at school and wouldn’t say I excelled at anything especially. I usually finished pretty near top of the year when it came to the English exams. On the other hand I usually finished pretty near the bottom when it came to French, so make of that what you will.  I went to the local Grammar. O levels then A levels. Standard sort of thing. In retrospect, I think our teachers were very good. Even the French teachers. I can’t blame them for my shortcomings I’m afraid.

Looking to find out what first drew Rick to the world of wargaming, Rick delved back into his childhood memories of Airfix models and toy soldiers. He then detailed the fortuitous purchase of Charles Grant’s ‘Battle! Practical Wargaming’ and it’s resulting impact, in addition to tipping his hat to Donald Featherstone and Military Modelling magazine.

Rick Priestley: All my wargaming contemporaries will tell you the same story: it all began with Airfix models and Britain’s toy soldiers as mere infants. Well, yes. We all had those toys. We all built plastic model kits. We all played with soldiers and made up games of war on the bedroom carpet. Was that wargaming? Not really. Was it the seedbed that nurtured many a wargamer to be? Yes, certainly.

I first encountered proper grown-up wargaming with formal rules and dice in the form of Charles Grant’s ‘Battle! Practical Wargaming’ (MAP 1970). I was looking to spend a book token I had won as a school prize. Most likely this was for English, so you can hold the education authority responsible for everything that followed! So there I was in Ruddocks in Lincoln, browsing the usual selection of books, and I came across this one. It looked interesting. I recognised some of the black and white photographs of Airfix models with which I was familiar. I bought it. I wasn’t to know at the time, but the book was actually a compilation of articles written for Meccano Magazine. That’s why the rules are approached as a series of articles, each explaining the aim of that section, discussing the reasoning behind the rules, and finally summarising how the rule would work. It was that approach that inspired me as much as anything. It felt like a key to unlocking something bigger. My path soon crossed with those of school-mates who had discovered wargaming for themselves, often via the books of Donald Featherstone. Featherstone’s wargaming books were carried by libraries, which was one reason they were so popular, and covered a wide variety of subjects including fighting battles at sea and in the air, campaigns and so on. Military Modelling magazine started publishing at the same time and soon became the ‘go to’ source for information about wargames figures and rules. I must have subscribed pretty early and have my collection still. Somewhat dog-eared.

To those outside of the modelling and wargaming hobby it can be difficult to comprehend, however those of us with taste (!) know that fielding an army of full of painted miniatures atop a well decorated tabletop brings a joy like no other. Rick described the development of his model collection.

Rick Priestley: The first Airfix figures I remember buying for myself were the US Cavalry set, two shillings from Woolworths sounds about right. I collected the Britains Swoppets Knights and Cowboys in so far as I could afford them, but they were relatively expensive. I would study the Britains catalogue for hours, fantasizing what to buy if I had the means. The Greeks and Trojans always eluded me.  My first Airfix kit might have been the Spitfire but I don’t really recall. I must have been born with the scent of polystyrene cement in my nostrils. As were we all.

The first metal model figures I bought were Les Higgins miniatures, which I acquired during a family holiday to London, I guess about 1970. These would be a mix of English Civil War and War of the Spanish Succession, but really just odds and ends that I liked the look of. I don’t think much wargaming took place with those, but I painted them and still have them somewhere. When I started wargaming with ‘Battle! Practical Wargaming’, I set out to mimic the forces from that book, using Airfix Russian infantry and Roco Minitanks vehicles including trucks and tanks. Minitanks were made in Austria and came ready assembled. They were slightly smaller than Airfix model kits at 1/87th.  They were also fairly hard to get hold of, so you tended to buy whatever the stockist had even if it wasn’t quite what you wanted. As a result my Russians were obliged to use somewhat anachronous Unimog trucks for daily transport and were supported by a Panzer IV with short 75mm gun.

Ancient and medieval wargaming caught my imagination early on. Aside from the Airfix Romans and Britons there was the Robin Hood set, which provided plenty of models that could be ‘converted’ into a variety of things with the addition of drawing pin shields and spears or swords made from wire. I remember sending off for metal Romans and Gauls to accompany my Airfix figures. These were Garrison Miniatures ’20mm’ figures, but which were in fact intended to match Airfix HO/OO models and closer to 23-24mm in size. Ancients, and Romans in particular, have always been my ‘go to’ subjects for wargames and I have a great many in a variety of sizes, old and new, some of which I even made myself back in the days when I could still knock out the odd model and consider it not too shoddy.

The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley… Part 2.

My journey continued… I had previously met with the infamous Wizard Priestley at his remote dwelling some hours south of the Great Forest. This time arrangements had been made to meet at The Rusty Duck, a tavern in Grunburg which is noted for its rough and ready clientele and extra potent ales. I found the Wizard sat at a table, lighting his long pipe while holding a playful twinkle in his eye. Across the table from the Wizard was a very large and very ugly Ogre, snoring loudly, his heavy head resting in his jug of Bugman’s. It turned out that the Ogre, a mercenary known as Guzler who had recently returned from a tour of Karaz-a-Karak where he’d lost his right eye, had challenged Priestley to a drinking challenging. Upon noticing my arrival, Priestley nodded to a spare stool at his table…

Whilst he is well-known for his long and illustrious time with Games Workshop, Rick’s wargames’ career actually began in the late-1970’s with the game Reaper, something he designed with his good friend Richard Halliwell. Initially released via the Nottingham Toy Soldier Shop in 1978, the game was re-released by Tabletop Games in 1981.

Rick Priestley: Reaper was the culmination of a fantasy role-play come wargames campaign that Richard Halliwell ran and for which we developed our own rules. The setting wasn’t strictly fantasy but a mix of fantasy and science-fiction. I suppose the back-story was vaguely post-apocalyptic with a mix of medieval as well as modern and futuristic technology. Part of the action took place in a post-nuclear war Earth and part on a semi-terraformed Mars where our adventurers found themselves teleported. Hal and I were school friends (Richard Halliwell was always known as ‘Hal’). We’d been wargaming together for many years already. Often we’d write our own rules especially for SF and fantasy. We were pretty old hands when it came to putting rules together. We must have been 17 or 18 when we played that campaign. Naturally, we were convinced we could do a far better job of writing wargame rules than any of the stuff out there already! That’s youth for you.

This campaign – and other games played about the same time – gave us the incentive to finish our ‘fantasy’ rules. We both had this dream of being published wargames authors, but we didn’t know how to go about ‘selling’ our rules to a publisher. At that time, we were using some of the new fantasy models from Asgard Miniatures, which we rather liked, and I think it was Hal who suggested giving the folks at Asgard a ring to ask them if they were interested in publishing our rules. Bryan Ansell (one of the three owners of Asgard) answered the phone and after a brief chat with Hal he invited us over to demonstrate our game. Asgard Miniatures was then based in Arnold, part of Nottingham, and not all that far from us in Lincoln. I only vaguely recall playing out a game on Bryan’s living room carpet, but – anyway – that’s how we first met. After that Bryan arranged to have our game published by The Nottingham Model Soldier Shop (NMSS). NMSS sold Asgard models and a huge variety of wargames books and miniatures at the time.

I don’t remember when the title Reaper was settled on. It’s inspired by the Blue Oyster Cult song Don’t Fear the Reaper, a juke box favourite at the time. I produced camera-ready copy using my mother’s typewriter and Letraset. The typewriter had a legal carriage that was big enough to take A3 sheets of paper. This was reduced to A4 for publication. I left spaces for artwork and Bryan was kind enough to sort out illustration; I think these were mostly pictures drawn for Asgard adverts and catalogue sheets. Bryan drew a caricature of Hal, which appears on the inside cover complete with massive flairs, hair down to his waist, wielding a huge sword and a shield emblazoned with a cup of tea. Spitting image it is. Another ex-school friend of ours drew the cover.

Overall, Reaper was our first venture into the world of publishing and a triumph of enthusiasm! It was important for Hal and I because it introduced us to the Asgard team and especially to Bryan Ansell, who would later go on to co-found Citadel Miniatures and eventually own Games Workshop. Later on, Reaper was picked up by Tabletop Games. I amended the original version to produce a second edition, which is the one you occasionally see on ebay. That version is smaller – A5 rather than A4 – with a cover by Tony Ackland, who drew many of the pieces that appeared in both editions, and it was saddle-stitched rather than slide-bound.

Rick proceeded to work on some figures that were produced by Asgard (a company co-founded by Bryan Ansell) and was soon operating on a free-lance basis for Nottingham based company Tabletop Games, the company that had re-released Reaper.

Rick Priestley: By the time I left college in 1981 I had already made a few miniatures, which had been produced by Asgard, and I soon started working as a free-lance designer for Tabletop Games who were based in Nottingham and owned by a lovely chap called Bob Connor. I also did a little work for Citadel based in Newark, which was a venture started by Bryan Ansell together with Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. Steve and Ian had founded Games Workshop in 1975 on the back of importing role-playing games and especially D&D. By this time Hal and two of my Lincoln wargaming buddies were already working at the Citadel factory in some capacity or other. I think Bryan recognised me as someone who could help out with the publishing, primarily with mail order flyers, promotional material, adverts and stuff like that, but perhaps with half a mind on publishing a set of fantasy wargames rules to promote sales of miniatures.

I started doing casual work at Citadel to help out, mostly to deal with the mail order because there was no-one else to do it at that time; I think Bryan was doing it himself which just goes to show how small things were in those days. I was still trying to get by as a sculptor, but it was a tough gig: basically you had to make a figure from scratch every day to earn something like a wage, three figures if you are talking 15mm, which was what I was doing for Bob. Turning up and dealing with the mail order was a doddle compared to that; much better paid too! So, in the end, the casual work morphed into a full-time job in 1982 and I became the Citadel Mail Order department. Tony Ackland joined at the same time and together we produced all the early mail order flyers and adverts, box copy, catalogues, journals, compendiums and the first edition of Warhammer.

Along with Brian Ansell and Richard Halliwell, the first edition of Warhammer was created. I was interested to ask Rick how this came about.

Rick Priestley: As I remember, the idea of producing a set of fantasy wargames rules to help promote sales of miniatures was something that was in the air at least from the time I joined up in 1982. It was something that Bryan Ansell would have talked about openly, and it was certainly Bryan that kicked the whole thing off. We had considered producing a ‘free rules flyer’ that would be given away with mail order, but a little thought soon scuppered that idea: something more substantial was needed. That – incidentally – is the origin of the story that ‘Warhammer started off as a free mail order flyer’. It didn’t. We would produce stats and rules for new models as mail order flyers once Warhammer was published, but the rules themselves were never printed as the ‘freebie’ that was originally proposed.

Hal had moved on to doing casual work by the time I joined. That always suited him better than formal employment. I think he was then making moulds to order for both Citadel and Tabletop. Hal was given a freelance commission to write what would become Warhammer. The brief came from Bryan but I don’t recall whether there was ever a written version, probably a conversation, laying out the parameters for the game. One dictate was that it had to use ordinary dice and not the multi-sided or percentile dice that were popular for D&D and other role-playing games. These fancy dice were considered far too hard for youngsters to obtain. Ordinary dice they could get by raiding the family Monopoly set. The game had to have stats and rules for all the models that Citadel made. It also had to have some role-playing material because you couldn’t sell a wargame unless it had ‘role-playing’ on the box in those days.

Because the game had to use ordinary dice and work for role-playing style individual combat, Hal created the ‘three stage’ roll to hit, roll to kill, saving throw system. This would be the mainstay of Warhammer for decades to come. It was an adaptation of the mechanic in Reaper, which employed a two stage roll to hit and roll for effect. However, Reaper used percentage dice (D10’s in the second edition) and there wasn’t sufficient ‘head room’ on the probabilities with ordinary dice. Hence, a third roll was needed to moderate the ‘kill’ dice, and this was the ‘saving throw’. There was nothing terribly original about this. Similar systems had been in use since the 1960’s. Tony Bath’s ancient rules included a similar mechanic with saving rolls (published in Donald Featherstone’s War Games 1962).

I remember playing with Hal and a group of his friends. The game took shape fairly quickly and Hal handed over a typescript to what was then the ‘studio’. This ‘studio’ was myself and Tony Ackland, now shifted into a separate office just down the road from the Citadel factory. I worked the text over and developed parts of it. New models were being produced all the time and needed to be added for one thing. Tony produced artwork, but he also contributed a lot of the humour. We had lots of fun putting the Warhammer stuff together and would vie with each other to come up with silly names for characters and places. We produced the camera-ready copy between us but I suspect Tony did most of it. It was all done very quickly. We had lots of other work to do, keeping the mail order flyers going, producing the artwork for box sets, adverts for White Dwarf, and so on.

Rick explained how the rules of the game developed over time.

Rick Priestley: We did add a lot and changed some of the rules within a relatively short time of the first edition coming out. There was an update sheet enclosed in later versions of the box and lots of new material in the Journals. I think most of that came from playing amongst ourselves. Many of our staff were enthusiasts and were quick to point out things that could be better explained or improved. I suppose customers must have written in with questions, which would have prompted some thought and development, but there wasn’t the same sense of player interaction that you get now. It was a role-playing game to some extent and players were expected to sort stuff out for themselves in a way that doesn’t happen now. Also, Citadel kept bringing out new models, so we had to keep adding to the rules to take that into account, often inventing spurious background stories to accompany them… the beginning of the Warhammer World.

I asked Rick for his thoughts on Warhammer, from the earliest versions through to the progression of the game over the years/ decades. I also asked if he had any idea how successful the game would become.

Rick Priestley: I’d have to write a book to cover all that! I think what I can say is that Warhammer took off right from the start. I think the fact that it was cheerful, entertaining, and didn’t take itself too seriously was tremendously appealing. There was a sense of fun about the game that was a genuine reflection of our approach to creating and developing it. That’s something that others would pick up on in the years to come. I worked on the first five editions of the game, not all entirely on my own by any means, but those are the ones that I consider as my work. After that I handed on the design responsibilities to others. I had other things to do at Games Workshop. I’m much less familiar with the direction the game has taken these last twenty years. Yes it has been that long. But really I know very little of the game from 2000 onwards.

The second edition was published very quickly on top of the first and was an updated version of it. By then we realised that we didn’t need the ‘role playing’ element to make the game work commercially. We did need to expand the conventional wargame aspect of it with things like army lists and points values. The third edition hardback was the most lavish of all the versions I worked on and a reflection of the resources available to us in the late 80’s. It’s the book people remember most fondly, but I have always found the rules way too complicated. I think that, at the time, there was an expressed appetite for more complicated rules, more detail and more intricacy. Sometimes what people think they want isn’t what they want at all is it! The fourth (92) and fifth (96) versions were a return to something more like the second edition. The game play was restructured and became far less convoluted. The rules came in a box with plastic models.

The fourth and fifth are my favourite versions by far. I know that players sometimes refer to these 90’s editions as ‘Hero Hammer’ because of all the special characters and rules. Whilst these special characters were always imagined to be characterful and fun, they started to be treated as an integral part of the game, often dominating play to the exclusion of everything else. Our sales guys encouraged that I believe, and therein lies the problem. Never-the-less it’s the core game that I think is by far the best version of Warhammer. We used it for Warhammer Ancient Battles too. Special characters you can use or not as you wish, but the core mechanics are what they are. You don’t get any option with those.

Warhammer is known for its wide range of different races, from Orcs and Goblins through to Skaven and Elves, and far most besides! I was keen to ask Rick a little about his favourite Warhammer factions.

Rick Priestley: I’ve always enjoyed playing Orcs and Goblins and I have a collection that spans practically my entire career at Games Workshop. I even have some of the Ral Partha models that we sold under license at the time I joined. Those are lovely designs by Tom Meier, probably the finest sculptor ever to push putty; however, quite delicate and understated compared to the models that Citadel would go on to produce. I also have some of the Red Goblins and Night Goblins that were amongst the first models the Perry brothers made. Those were succeeded by the Fantasy Tribes series, again by the Perrys, which are amongst my favourite Orcs of all time. Later on Kev Adams added to the ranges and Aly and Trish Morrison at Marauder would make some fantastic goblins. The Marauder wolf riders are superb models and just the right size; not the huge monstrosities you see now! I do have a few of the massive Orcs that were churned out later on, but I can’t say that I’ve ever warmed to them: it was always the humorous touches that made the early models fun and I don’t see much of that in the later ranges.

Aside from my greenies I do have a fair sized High Elf army – quite different – and a smattering of a Chaos force based upon a Greater Daemon of Nurgle. Aside from that I don’t have much in the way of armies or even models from my Games Workshop days. I don’t have any Warhammer 40K forces at all. When I was designing games the writing always preceded the modelling, so we used proxies for playtesting. By the time the models came out you were working on something else, so there was no reason to collect them. I think that’s why I stuck with the Orcs and Gobbos. I was able to use the same force through every edition just by adding the odd unit here and there.

I think all the Warhammer armies of my time have something interesting and unique to offer. Certain armies will appeal to some players, other armies to others, that’s the whole idea really. It’s why you make armies play in different ways and echo different themes. Some people will be attracted to imagery and models, others to the game rules and tactical possibilities. I think I’ve played with most armies – at least in proxy format – if somewhat inexpertly!

The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley… Part 3

My journey continued… With bellies full of sautéed mutton and far too much Bugman’s, we left The Rusty Duck shortly after midnight. Swaying merrily, we must have seemed easy targets for the cut-throats of Grunburg which stalked the shadows. Suddenly a masked man carrying a finely detailed dagger, clearly the spoils of a previous mugging, thrust himself toward us. He grinned menacingly, then demanded, “Hand over your purses, you literary scum!” I nervously felt for my dagger, preparing myself for a backstreet duel. I need not have worried though, in a flash Wizard Priestley had inflicted the ‘spell of leg breaking’ upon our assailant… As Priestley told me afterwards, the ‘spell of leg breaking’ “is as chastising as it is incapacitating and also has the advantage of being almost equally amusing for all concerned – I mean petty-larceny has its usefulness – we wouldn’t want to be too judgemental would we?”

By 2000, almost two decades after the release of the very first version of Warhammer, Rick’s role within Games Workshop had changed. Now part of the company’s executive team, his work was less hands-on as the creative division of the company expanded. Being one of the original games designers, I wondered if Rick had any particular standout proud moments from the time he worked with the Warhammer system. I was also interested to know if Rick still played any versions of the game.

Rick Priestley: By 2000 my role within the company had changed. Others had taken on the mantle of lead designer and writer for the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 game systems. The studio was managed by others too. My core role was now as part of the exec team rather than the hands-on work of making new products. However, I remained involved in the broader sense; always available to advise, suggest and discuss ideas with the games writers, whoever they might be at that time. The demands that a bigger and more complicated business placed upon Warhammer/ Warhammer 40K had started to restrict – and in many cases dictate – how those games evolved. That made them far less malleable as creative vehicles either for game design or back story development. I felt that others were more suited to the task of taking the games design and back stories forward – building upon what had already been laid down.

The revision of the whole range that came with the 1992 relaunch was the most successful – and in many ways the most satisfying – thing I remember. At that time I was managing the studio and responsible for the whole product range as well as the licensing team and print buying. We had over sixty staff and a tooling budget that would soon top two million pounds a year. With a growing business to support we had to expand the number of game designers, writers, artists and especially figure sculptors. Writing games and supplements was something I had to fit in around all that. My proposal was that we rebuild Warhammer (and later 40K) around a core boxed rule set with plastic models, and support the game with army books and ranges designed to go with those. A co-ordinated approach. That was the major change with the ’92 edition of the game. It worked very well. We basically took a business that was turning over low teens of millions of pounds a year and multiplied that two or three times over very quickly. That’s the model that GW followed from that time on and I think they still follow it after a fashion.

Building up the range of plastic models was a key part of that plan. The long-term ambition was to switch from a business that made metal models to one that made primarily plastic models. At the time that was important because there was some doubt about the future legality of selling metal models (we were still casting in lead-based white metal). The greater cost of casting in tin was a potential problem too. Also – as everybody knows – there are few economies of scale when it comes to metal casting. Plastic gives you all of those opportunities: a bigger market because you avoid issues with selling to children (14 years is the legal definition for purposes of toy sales so when we say ‘children’ that covered a large part of the customer base) and all the economies of scale that go with it. Citadel had already dabbled with plastic kits and had some experience, but we ramped it right up in terms of investment. Within a few years we bought out our chief tool-maker and the injection moulding company that did most of our work, bringing all of those skills and capacity in-house.

I don’t play Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 in any version now – although my friend Nick did persuade me to take on his Undead recently for a one-off game using the ’92/ ’96 ruleset. Neither of us could remember how to play, but we muddled through as you do. Much tea was drunk. Which is the main thing. Other than that one occasion, I haven’t played since well before I left Games Workshop, probably not since the ’96 edition in fact. I played Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) quite a bit in the mid-’90’s and, later on, Warmaster and Warmaster Ancients, and I’d go on to develop Black Powder whilst I was still at GW so I was playing that a lot towards the end of my time there.

I asked Rick about the different wargames and rules he has designed over the years, hoping he could explain a little about the process of writing a set of rules. Fully appreciating each game is different, I wondered how long projects tend to take.

Rick Priestley: Not only could I write a book on that… but I have. Together with John Lambshead I wrote a book called Tabletop Wargames a Designer’s and Writer’s Handbook, in which I describe a lot of the process and things you have to think about when designing a wargame. Every game is different as you suggest. Some games can be inspired by an idea for a mechanic – Warmaster for example – other games draw their themes from models or from a background concept. So, there’s no one answer, you find an approach which fits what you want to do at the time.

I always work out the basics on my own and only involve others once I have a good idea of how the game will play. You need to watch and take note of how other players interact with the rules: where they stumble over an interpretation, where they make assumptions, whether a sequence of dice rolls is dramatic or compelling, and whether games are exciting. You can’t work those things out all on your own. Games come into existence by playing and by reference to players. Some people get very passionate about ‘balance’ in game play, but my experience is that games succeed and become popular because they are engaging and dramatic. Of course, a sense of fairness and ‘standing a chance’ is an element of that. There is nothing engaging about a game that ends on turn 1 with a lucky dice roll or because one player has come up with a ‘killer’ build. However, I believe that if you make ‘balance’ an overriding aim you risk ending up with a very dull game. I’ve tried out no end of ideas in my time and cast them aside for that very reason, so I’m not levelling my comment at the work of other designers, it’s a general observation.

  • Tabletop Wargaming: A Designers’ & Writers’ Handbook. Published in 2016 via Pen & Sword Military. “Veteran gamer and rules writer John Lambshead has teamed up with the legendary Rick Priestley, creator of Games Workshop’s phenomenally successful Warhammer system, to create this essential guide for any would-be wargame designer or tinkerer. Rick and John give excellent advice on deciding what you want from a wargame and balancing ‘realism’ (be it in a historical or a fantasy/sci-fi context) with playability.” Available via Amazon HERE.

With the ’92 version of Warhammer, I did the basic design work over the Christmas break and the studio started on the project when we went back in January. I started writing and, apart from the White Dwarf extracts and fiction, I did all the text for that. The WD extracts came directly off the WD films (we were on a very tight budget and had to reuse as much as we could) whilst staff writer Bill King wrote the fiction. At the same time we commissioned Geoff Taylor to produce a cover and our staff artists started work on illustration. The tightest part of the process was making the machine tools, a two-stage affair that involved an out-of-house pattern maker and another out-of-house tool maker. Our design deadline for the plastics was the beginning of April, by which time we had to have all the three-ups with the pattern maker. So, twelve weeks start to finish for the plastic models, of which there were four designs. The work was divided between two sculptors, Kev Adams did the Goblins and Jez Goodwin designed the Elves.

The game rules were divided into three books (as was the case for the earlier 1st and 2nd editions). I favoured this approach because I felt that it made the rules easier to use, but the compelling reason was that I could finish one book at a time. That meant one book went to the reprographics house and was being worked on whilst I was writing the next one. Overall, that enabled us to produce films and get the project to the printers in time for the projected release in September. I don’t recall exactly, but I think the deadline for the final text was June, so what playtesting and development was required all had to take place well within that time frame. There was also the box to put together and an SRA1 sheet of card for which we also had to design a cutter guide. Getting all this done and then all the elements delivered to the factory in time for them to pack it was quite a logistical feat. If you look you’ll see that the plastic High Elf models are not exactly the same as the ones shown on the box. That’s because the deadline for the box was earlier than the date we were due to get test shots of the plastics. The figure designers had to make a whole set of metal models that looked like the plastics so we could take the photographs for the box back.

I think that was the quickest we ever put a big project like that together. Nine months from concept to release. These days the ‘marketing department’ alone would want a longer lead-time than that. Fortunately, we didn’t have one. The first versions of Warhammer didn’t take as long as that, but they didn’t include plastic figures, which have by far the longest lead time of any component. Nowadays, a lot of those processes have changed and the repro houses, pattern makers, tool-shops and plastic injection moulding companies I worked with are long gone. Supplements and book-based projects were quicker because there was less to do, but I always allowed three months to write something from scratch. On the other hand I was also running the studio and working as part of the exec, so it’s not as if I could devote all my time to writing.

Being a fan of Warhammer Ancient Battles, I asked Rick to tell me a little about how the project came along, the development and subsequent launch of the game. Also, why he thought the game failed to gain the same fan reaction as Warhammer Fantasy.

Rick Priestley: Warhammer Ancient Battles was very successful in its own terms. You really can’t compare the fantasy wargames market with the historical market. Until we produced WAB (as it is usually known) the ancient wargaming scene was pretty much all 15mm models and an old guard of players. It was quite usual to see tournament games played with armies going back to the 1970’s. So, there was very little being done for 25/28mm models and very few youngsters coming into the hobby. WAB changed all that. It brought back players who had long since abandoned ancients, it encouraged new players to take up historical games, and it encouraged manufacturers to start making 28mm ancient models. It helped that the Perrys were closely involved because they quickly produced some very fine ranges for Wargames Foundry – a separate company for which they were permitted to continue working on historical subjects. Wargames Foundry was and is owned by Games Workshop’s former owner Bryan Ansell, so the arrangement was also historic (as it were) and it was something the Perrys had written into their contracts.

WAB came about following the ’92 version of Warhammer. Jervis Johnson and I had been playing a new set of ancient rules by Arty Conliffe called Tactica. Tactica was a nicely produced book with colour pages and attractive presentation. It was quite slick compared to the standard historical wargames fare of the day. We played a few games using my old Roman and Seleucid armies, themselves going back to the ’70’s, so ‘ancient’ armies in every sense. We quite enjoyed playing Tactica but soon found it rather limiting. We both had the same thought: we could make a better ancient wargame using the new Warhammer.

Jervis kicked it off in a bout of enthusiasm and produced most of the text by editing what I’d already written for Warhammer. He also wrote up a whole series of army lists, which was a great way to open up the game to everybody. I pulled it together and finished the editing and production. I am what those ‘personality analysts’ call a ‘completer finisher’ which is to say if I start something I tend to stick at it until it’s done. Games writers are often great at starting but enthusiasm soon wanes, they get a bit lost in the detail, or they just can’t decide between options. I’m pretty good at getting stuff out the door. Not always perfect. But out the door.

Anyway, all the WAB work was done by the people involved in their free time. The writing and illustration was all done by staff who also played and helped develop the game. The editing and layout was done by a GW editor and friend of ours, who did the job as a private commission. So GW did almost nothing prior to print. Repro and print was organised via the studio because that’s where the print buyers were based at the time. GW paid for the print run, which was perceived as their contribution to what was officially a ‘joint venture’. The entire first run of 3000 books was delivered to my house in a huge lorry because we weren’t allowed to use GW’s warehousing facilities. Myself, Jervis and the Perrys unloaded the lorry and stacked all the books in my garage. Initially, the books were sold directly via a PO Box number and mail order only, the PO Box being my office at work. I processed the orders over lunch and then myself and Jervis would pack the orders and put them in the post at GW. For which we were recharged.

GW would go on to absorb WAB and other historical projects into its corporate structure, and hire a manager to look after it. But when it started it was a personal project initiated by me and Jervis. In fact, we originally intended to self-publish, but given that the rules were basically Warhammer and that we were employees of GW that wasn’t really an option for us. To get round that, Jervis, the Perrys and I formed a joint-venture company with GW as the majority shareholder. GW insisted on a full set of accounts for the business, for which we were also recharged. The cost of the accountant easily off-set any profit the business might have otherwise made. Eventually, the whole historical wargames side was shut down, but it was never perceived as anything but a cuckoo in the nest.

Considering all that, I think we did some very good stuff, attracted some extremely knowledgeable and talented contributors, and did a huge amount to promote ancients and historical wargaming in general. I also made some friends I would not otherwise have made, many of whom remain in touch to this day.

Following my questions on Warhammer Ancient Battles, I asked Rick to talk a little about Warmaster and Warmaster Ancients.

Rick Priestley: Warmaster was a slightly odd project for me. During its development the situation within the business shifted from a position where the creative staff within the studio were coming up with the plan for product to one where the sales staff were beginning to dictate what product should be made and when it was released. It was a political shift within the business, which had always been led by its creative ambitions up to that point. In many ways it was a factor of growth and the issues that growth would bring. In very broad terms, I would say that Games Workshop would go on to be led by its sales divisions and then for a time by its manufacturing division and broader supply chain management.

These different factions within the business became key to success at different stages of growth. That inevitably meant other aspects of the business were obliged to conform to one faction’s capacities and evolving competencies. By the mid ’90’s the sales companies were fuelling our rapid growth, and the policy from the top was to give them their head. That meant the ‘sales’ view on new and proposed products was suddenly thrust to the fore. This shift in the focus of decision making would throw up inevitable problems. In the early ’90’s I would set the initial print quantities for products after talking requirements through with the rest of the exec. Once the sales companies gained control of their own print quantities they over-ordered like crazy because the last thing a salesman wants is to be out of stock of anything. On at least two occasions, this resulted in overstocks that would have bankrupted most similar-sized companies and which we weathered only with the greatest difficulty.

Against that background we had attempted to relaunch our ‘Epic’ scale range with a Titan combat game called Titan Legions. We had done quite well with the previous iteration of the ‘Epic system’ Space Marine (’91), so the plan fitted in with the general idea of relaunching our core systems every few years with new models, as we had for Warhammer and Warhammer 40K. The game was designed by Andy Chambers and new plastic Titans were created as centre-pieces. Sales were poor compared to previous years’ main releases. The sales companies were very quick to blame the product. Of course, sales numbers were targeted against previous years, so you were always comparing sales against Warhammer 40K re-launches, which would always outsell anything. It didn’t matter what you chose as your main annual release: sales numbers would always look poor compared to Warhammer 40K. There was also an issue with the French, Spanish, Italian and German markets being relatively ‘immature’, which meant the customer base for anything other than Warhammer wasn’t there in the same way it was for the English language product. Of course, we didn’t have to take account of such things in the ’80’s or until GW started to expand its sales arm beyond the English language market.

After the poorly received Titan Legions release the sales companies became very antagonistic towards any ‘Epic’ based game. Insisting that all future products had to be 28mm. This diktat posed something of a problem. The studio had already started work towards the fantasy ‘Epic’ system that would become Warmaster. This was scheduled to come out in 1997 in the main release slot in the autumn. The sales companies insisted that we drop the Warmaster proposal and do a 28mm game instead. By that time it was very late in the day to come up with a new game. Way too late by the terms of our normal operational deadlines. So we looked to cobble together a game that used whatever other work we had in progress at the time.

As it happened the studio had already started work on a series of Ork releases that included a bike and buggy. That gave us a starting point to work from. The result was Gorkamorka, an Orkish re-skin of the Necromunda game system. Using an existing game system and work-in-progress as the basis allowed us to hit the autumn launch slot. We could never have done it had we started from scratch. Gorkamorka was one of those games that the sales companies massively over-ordered and which would cause us great pain as a result. It was a good effort from the studio working against the tightest of deadlines, and had it been ordered in reasonable quantities and promoted in an appropriate manner I’m sure it would have been considered a success. It just wasn’t Warhammer 40K. But then what was?

Meantime, I had the design work for the ‘fantasy epic’ game Warmaster, originally planned to take that ’97 slot. It was imagined to use 8mm models (like Epic 40K) arranged in ranked strips. The game would be a ‘big box set’ of the standard size, complete with plastic armies, siege equipment and fortifications. I’d already come up with the concept model for the plastic fortifications, and we’d designed some armies in metal to trial out the system. The game itself was partly inspired by the turn-over mechanic in Blood Bowl, and was based on the idea that you’d dice for movement whilst combat resolution would be relatively breezy. The core of the game was in the command element, the manoeuvre of armies rather than individual combat, as suggested by the scale. Although by this time I had moved away from a design role, the fact that I’d already designed the game meant that I was keen to see it published. It was eventually published in 2000, but very much in the teeth of opposition from the sales companies. All the plastic was dropped and the game was released as a book in a secondary release slot at Easter. The models were no longer ‘Epic’ scale but larger at 10mm to distance them from the taint of the 40K Epic range.

Something of a last gasp from that phase of creativity in the late ’80’s to early ’90’s, Warmaster is still occasionally cited as the best game I’ve ever written. It was certainly the only game I played regularly at that time, and which I continued to play to some extent even when I left GW, although I must admit it’s now been a few years since I did so. Black Powder (published by Warlord Games) was derived from Warmaster and, like WAB, was another project initiated by Jervis Johnson that I developed and completed. I did a version for ancients, published as a stablemate to WAB, which was well-received by ancient players and helped to establish the ’10mm’ size of figure in historical gaming.

A man of taste, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was one of Rick’s early influences, with this in mind I asked him what was it like to work on the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game.

Rick Priestley: The Lord of the Rings licence was something I championed together with our head of licensing at that time, Andy Jones. Andy and I had worked together for years. He put together the Man O War range amongst others, and he is a fearless projects manager and a really good guy to boot. When the films were announced there was no sign that anyone amongst the senior executive was interested. Andy and I thought this was a lost opportunity. So, we got a proposal together, which eventually led us to pitch for the licence with New Line Cinema in New York.

When it came to the game we had to work within the parameters of the first film – The Fellowship of the Ring. We were limited to the specific content of that film. As no-one had seen the film – and it hadn’t actually been completed at that point – that made things a bit tricky. We got access to some on-set photographs and an early version of the script. Entertainingly, in our script Gandalf had given up smoking and was chewing toffee instead. I don’t know if that was serious or just something they put into the scripts for licensees to keep us on our toes.

All the work for the game, including the model making, had to be done in secret and couldn’t take part in the main studio. I undertook the design work on the game, partly because I wanted to do so, but also because the studio was already committed to other projects and didn’t have the capacity. We did all the play testing round at Alan Perry’s house. All the people working on the project had to sign non-disclosures. A little studio was created in a corner of the factory, with key-pad security and obscured windows so no-one could see in. So, it was all separate from the main studio, with design staff seconded to work within the LOTR team. After the first film things got a little less strict, as New Line learned to trust us, but the security for that first project was incredible. Getting information out of New Line (and ultimately Weta in NZ) was hard work. But we got there in the end.

The game itself had to be built around the first film only, so I came up with a skirmish system that allowed for heroic combat and individual action. It was a pretty neat system, though I say it myself, and would later be used as the engine for a number of Warhammer Historical projects by other people. At the time I had help from Stephan Hess, a friend of mine who had also helped out with playtesting Warmaster. Stephan came up with a couple of little programs to calculate combat and the effect of varying stats and adding special rules. Other than that, the aim was to make the game as intuitive as possible, as I figured many players would be entirely new to wargaming, inspired by the films rather than any previous experience with tabletop games.

Oddly enough, the thing I remember most clearly is the problem I had writing up the rules for Aragorn. Because I knew the books so well I sometimes got misled where the film was different. Many of the people we were dealing with at New Line didn’t really understand where the film was different from the book. So, I gave Aragorn ‘Anduril’ the reforged sword of his ancestor Isildur that he takes with him at the start of the journey of the fellowship in the book. The section kept getting rejected, but no one would say exactly why. This was especially frustrating because it could take weeks for New Line to reply to queries. I think at some point someone at New Line indicated that it was because of the reference to Anduril, but still didn’t say what the problem was. I couldn’t work out if it was because the rule I’d written contradicted something in the film. Which of course neither I nor anyone else had seen. It never occurred to me that it might be because in the film series Aragorn is given Anduril in the second film: The Two Towers. It never occurred to me because it flies right in the face of the symbolism inherent in the story. But there you go. I took Anduril out and transferred the associated rule to Aragorn himself. Job done.

The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley… Part 4 

My journey continued… Following the recent (mis)adventures of overindulgence in the Rusty Duck and subsequent attempted mugging, I was relieved that Wizard Priestley had arranged for this meeting to take place at a quaint and quiet little eatery at the Moot, the Pickle and Musket. Full of Halfling charm, the establishment prided itself on providing courses of such quantity that only a Halfing could manage! With our table crammed with plates of cream buns and pots of artichoke tea, Priestley spoke of the future, as he saw it. He talked of “underhive communities”, “Ghar empires” and “dark futures”, tales that I found too fantastical to believe credible ‘ideas’. With a twinkle in his eye and grinning widely, the wizard produced a mysterious looking ball from his satchel. Within this ball, Priestley reported, existed the worlds of these futures…

Released in 1988, Dark Future, ‘The Game Of Highway Warriors’, is a much underrated science-fiction role-playing game by Games Workshop. Written by Rick’s old friend Richard Halliwell, along with Sean Masterson, I was interested to know if Rick had been involved in the game system development at all (he is listed as one of the games’ play testers).

Rick Priestley: At that time we had quite a large team of writers/games designers and we all pitched in when it came to playing out and helping to develop games. It was quite usual to spend lunch playing one of the games that someone was working on – Space Hulk, one of the board games, or a hobby game such as Dark Future. Often, of course, whoever was putting the game together would organise a proper play through – a play test if you like – but I don’t think we spent a lot of time playtesting at work. On the whole, we were paid to write and produce games, and it was pretty much expected that any ‘playing’ of the games was something we’d do in our own time. I think the idea that people would be paid to play games was something that didn’t really occur to any of us at the time. Obviously, that did change eventually because we often needed quick and well-observed feedback, we were putting out so much new stuff. By-and-large, playtesting relied upon our enthusiasm. We were quite enthusiastic though.

I don’t recall working on Dark Future at all but I suppose I must have been roped in to some of those playtesting sessions. That would have been usual. No doubt I would have contributed to any discussion because we all did. One of the most useful of the team was Jervis, who would reliably come up with solutions to issues that were well observed and oblique. The sort of thing that when you hear it you naturally think, ‘Yes… that’s obvious, why didn’t I think of that?’ Of course, such things tend to be obvious in retrospect, as good ideas often are. You learn a lot in those sort of discussions with other designers. The most important lesson is to put egos aside and take the good ideas on merit rather than let individual enthusiasms dictate what you do.

Written by Rick Priestley, Jervis Johnson, Andy Chambers and Chris Colston, Necromunda was first released by Games Workshop in the mid-1990’s. The game’s predecessor is Confrontation, a game system only ever made available via published rules in White Dwarf magazine. I asked Rick to provide some background information on both games and what they were like to work on.

Rick Priestley: Confrontation was a project of Bryan Ansell’s that never really gelled into anything tangible. I wasn’t involved in it creatively but I wrote-up Bryan’s old Laserburn rules for publication in WD as the ‘Confrontation’ engine. It was just a rules editing job really. I remember going over Laserburn and trying to rationalise some of the stickier elements. Laserburn has turns divided into fractions of time that allowed for detailed actions. It was quite complicated and I thought it was hard to keep track of. The fractions included both ‘thirds’ and ‘quarters’ of a turn, for example. I never played Laserburn (never played the Confrontation version either). The rules were just mechanics that needed sorting out as far as I remember. I did a lot of that kind of thing with rules put together by various folk. Usually when something needed turning round fast. I rewrote the Talisman game rules at one point for example.

Confrontation didn’t really have a games designer at the heart of it and I think that was the problem. It was the sort of project I would have instinctively avoided to be honest! I know it was abandoned at some point leaving quite a lot of artwork, including some crazy psychotic looking clown costumed gang concepts and other weirdness drawn by John Blanche. Tony Ackland produced a lot of very atmospheric artwork that explored the environment. Fantastic stuff really. But all quite mad. I suspect Bryan would have been trying to give the project some impetus through the artwork, but these things need a writer and games designer behind them if they are to work in my experience. I think the idea was that Confrontation would be set within the 40K universe to piggy-back on the success of 40K; however, it had nothing to do with 40K as far as I could tell. It was a capsular universe: very much its own thing. The 40K narrative was set up to allow for individual world backgrounds, and we’d exploit this potential later, but at the time I did feel it was like trying to shoehorn something into the 40K setting.

I don’t recall when Confrontation was abandoned, but it wasn’t on the studio agenda by the time that Bryan was actively selling the company. Once GW sold there was no champion for the game and we had bigger issues to deal with in terms of the future of the company and product development. We were left with some names – Necromunda and Lord Helmawr – and a little background information in respect of 40K that included a reference to an Imperial Guard unit. We had this general concept of a hiveworld with city spires sticking out of a polluted wasteland. And we had some artwork relating to those things. I rather liked the names Necromunda and Helmawr – I’ve no idea who came up with those – I guess they were coined by Bryan. Good names anyway. The central image of the city spires sticking out of the wastes had become ingrained and was powerful. I liked that too. Those were the elements I took from Confrontation when I wrote Necromunda.

Necromunda fitted into the new scheme I’d come up with for the product line. That must have been the back end of 1991. We had moved into a new studio building on Castle Boulevard in Nottingham. The move was part of readying the company for sale. The new shiny offices were much more impressive than the old shabby warren on Middle Pavement the studio had occupied since the mid 80’s. Anyway, I remember touring round these be-suited venture capitalists and the whole thing looked surprisingly clean and well-organised. Must have worked because soon after that the company changed hands in the shape of a management buy-out led by Tom Kirby. From that point we had to re-make the business in order to build turnover and rationalise production. We had a huge debt to pay off and we couldn’t just carry on as we were.

I came up with a plan for the product lines, and in particular Warhammer and 40K, that would re-define the ranges in terms of boxed starter sets with plastic models, dedicated army books and associated plastic and metal models to go with them. I know it sounds obvious… but that wasn’t necessarily how it had worked in the past. Looking to the future, I had this ambition to produce a series of games set within the 40K background that would explore either a particular world or a particular theme. A spaceship combat game would be one example of the latter. We – which is to say the creative team – had ideas for a number of 28mm miniatures based skirmish style games that would be interesting to do without creating a huge demand for new figures. The plan was that we’d have the core 40K game as our constant and then these other games, which we anticipated would come and go from the catalogue, much as games always had in the past. I also wanted to build the 40K story with a series of campaign supplements for which folks would use their existing 40K forces perhaps with the addition of personality figures and the odd special. These last would be easiest to do because they were mostly writing and artwork. Figure design was the pinch-point at the time – hard to imagine these days when there are so many talented sculptors – but back then it was a very rare skill indeed. Building up the figure design department was a real priority but would be a hard slog and never quite achieved until long after my tenure. The point is than we had to design games around smaller numbers of models or – more strictly – fewer designs.

After the relaunch of Warhammer and 40K we needed to produce a box game to go into the main release slot for 1995 and I thought the Necromunda setting would make a good basis for a ‘Wild West’ style game… in space…as it were. So, I pushed the setting down into the underhive, leaving the spires as functioning cities whose populations could play whatever role in the Imperium such worlds had always played. The underhive became a dystopic ‘Wild West’ and the game itself would be inspired by tales of the American frontier in the mid-nineteenth century. The underhive setting with its chemical wastes and mutants would become the land inhabited by a native population who lived ‘at one with nature’ and had a strong spiritual relationship with the environment. Into that environment we planted frontier settlements and a landscape of interconnected domes, ancient and overbuilt, but often treasure houses of abandoned waste accumulated over the millennia.

The game itself would use the 40K mechanics – which I imagined would remain constant across all these games – something that would enable people to switch from one game to another fairly easily. The gangs were envisaged as all human because it was a human world – but each has characteristics I’d normally associate with a fantasy race. So the Goliaths are big, brutal and I some respects ‘Orkish’, for example. Six is a good number for variation of game play and I came up with the six ‘Houses’ which give you your basic culture types for the gangs. It was actually Tom – our boss – who was insistent about having a three-dimensional element to the games and he had this notion it would be played on a 3-D plastic construct with levels and ladders joining walkways together. This wasn’t really very practical for a number of reason, not least being the sheer cost, but in the end I took the idea and we produced a plastic frame into which card walkways and walls could be slotted. I remember making the concept piece for that myself out of mounting card, just to get the engineering as I wanted it.

The whole design team and quite a few of the staff started playing the game at lunchtime and we organised a campaign in the studio which anyone who wanted to join could do so. I think that’s where Andy and Jervis would have finessed the gang development and character progression design. Jervis had created something like that for BloodBowl, and that was the model I used to build the initial system, but when it came to getting the balance right and turning it into something workable I suspect Andy and Jervis would have taken a lead. Chris was actually our production manager – in charge of the guys putting together the products – so it just goes to show that these things are very much a collaborative effort. Of course, we didn’t have the actual models at that point, and we had to convert gangs from ordinary 40K models. I built my gang using the Catachan Imperial Guard models and everyone did something similar.

Necromunda was very successful. At the time there was so much demand for ‘new product’ that the studio was expected to churn out supplements for it, which we did, but I always felt this was over-egging the concept. There was a lot of, ‘When are we going to have Space Marines in Necromunda’ type of pressure that I thought was entirely missing the point. I always felt it would have been better to have gone on to explore Space Marine chapters with their own Necromunda style supplements rather than cramming Space Marines into Necromunda. And so on for other races and worlds. An Eldar Craftworld turned feral and fought over by rival Eldar gangs amidst ruins dominated by alien parasites was one we wanted to do. It was not to be though, and soon the opportunity fell away once the driving force behind product development shifted as I’ve already described elsewhere.

Launched in 2012 (with a second edition rulebook released in 2016), Warlord Games’ Bolt Action is a 28mm wargame set in World War II. A spin-off game was developed in the form of Konflict ’47; “allows you to field your Bolt Action forces in a 1947 weird WWII setting.” I asked Rick to tell me more!

Rick Priestley: My friend John Stallard was Sales Director at GW at the same time I was Product Director. He left a couple of years before I did and started Warlord Games. One of the things John did early on was to buy the Bolt Action range of models designed by Paul Hicks. At the time 28mm size wasn’t popular for WW2, but there were a few manufacturers of which the BA range was probably the biggest. John’s plan was to build up WW2 wargaming in 28mm with an ‘in house’ game system in a similar way to how we had produced 40K at GW, with plastics and army books and so on. By this time Alessio Cavatore, who’d worked on Warhammer, 40K and the Lord of the Rings, had also left GW. So, John lined Alessio up to design the WW2 game for Bolt Action. I think I left GW soon afterwards, and John asked me to help out, so we came up with a brief between us. John had a fairly good idea of what he wanted in terms of the size of game and style of play. My contribution was really articulating the brief and making sure we all knew what we were doing from the get go.

Once Alessio had the commission he asked me to help out with the background text, and that really is all I contributed to the core rulebook. I did help out with minor aspects of the design and the play testing, but the game is really Alessio’s work and the credit for coming up with the ‘action dice’ system and pin mechanic must go to him alone. Any bits and pieces I contributed to the game were purely in the spirit of collaborative design. I did pitch in with the earlier army books before Warlord grew to a size where they could afford to employ a few more hands to take care of these things.

  • “From Blitzkrieg to North Africa, from the Russian Front to the D-Day Landings, Bolt Action puts YOU in command of the most brutal and famous battles of the Second World War. A collection of thousands of items dedicated to WWII action!” Warlord Games.

Holding with Warlord Games, other wargames that I was interested to ask Rick about were Beyond The Gates Of Antares and Warlords Of Erehwon.

Rick Priestley: The Bolt Action action dice system was very appealing and I played quite a bit using a 28mm Russian army that I built up using the new Warlord models. I always thought Bolt Action played best at the size of game for which it was briefed: say four or five squads of troops, the odd supporting weapon, and maybe one or two vehicles. The trouble was, having decided that was exactly what they wanted, the Warlord team immediately set about trying to make the game bigger with more and heavier tanks, bigger artillery pieces, and hordes of troops that sometimes verged on the super-human. In part, that’s because players wanted to use more troops and those heavy tanks. However, I thought the game played much better at a lower level of action where the appearance of a light tank or armoured car sends shivers down the spines of all in its path. I have to say, the game copes quite well with these heavier elements, but I’d still maintain that Bolt Action is a real gem if you just stick with the lighter arms and leave the heavy kit in the box.

At the same time I was playing Bolt Action I was trying to put together a new SF game with a friend of mine who owned a computer games company: Rik Alexander. Rik thought we’d be able to raise a substantial amount of money via a Kickstarter by combining a new SF game range with an online world, such that the online element would drive the background. At that time the model for Kickstarters hadn’t really settled, and we thought it would be possible to fund our on-line/tabletop model based on an outline plan – as various video games Kickstarters had already funded that way. What became obvious during our campaign was that tabletop wargame Kickstarters are effectively a way of garnering direct sales orders for games you already have waiting to go. That meant having models already designed – which we did not have – indeed that’s why we needed the investment!

That failed Kickstarter left me with an outline of a game and world background, and Warlord agreed to use that as the basis for their own in-house SF game system. My original design had used a core mechanic of my own. It was based on the idea of step states like traffic lights – so units could be green, amber or red status depending on how exhausted or degraded they were. At each state band units attacked, defended and responded to enemy action in different ways. The units were imagined to have drone models with coloured LED’s that would display the unit status. It was an interesting system, and it worked nicely at a certain size of game, but it didn’t scale up very well. I kept working at it, but the more elements I added the harder it became to balance, which is exactly what you don’t want in a core mechanic. In the end, after one especially frustrating game round at John’s house, we all looked at each other and someone said, ‘You know… this would work really well with the Bolt Action system.’

That’s basically how I developed the game that turned into Beyond the Gates of Antares: combining the background and dice mechanics from my original rules with the BA action dice and pins. The pins did parallel my traffic light system to some extent, so the mechanics did lend themselves to it. The action dice pull used in BA was so solid that we knew we were on safe ground. There are differences of course, most notably I used a D10 mechanic for dice rolls and stat tests, and that gave me a bit more room to introduce a variety of stats to represent aliens creatures and various types of machine.

With the background, I was determined not to re-tread Warhammer 40K, as you can imagine. So, I went back to an older kind of science-fiction rooted more strongly in reality, something that many people were quick to dub ‘hard SF’ at the time, although I think that is going a bit far. Antares isn’t quite ‘hard’ SF in that the universe is built around a giant wormhole nexus that interconnects worlds in time and space. That’s not exactly something extrapolated from known physics principles. On the other hand, the Antarean Nexus, as I call it, is an essentially rational universe populated by races evolved from humans and a few very alien species that are genuinely ‘alien’ and not just ‘humans’ in funny costumes in the style of Orks and Eldar (or Klingons and Romulans for that matter).

Warlord struggled to make enough models for the Antares game from the off. This was a pity because I think the game itself was and is pretty good. The design and resultant game-play benefited from previous experience with Bolt Action. The problem was that players just couldn’t put the armies together in anything like the way envisaged by the army lists, which put a lot of players off early on. The initial plan to release all the core forces within months of the games’ initial release quickly fell by the wayside. Had I realised at the time just how much of a problem getting the models together was going to be, I think I would have advocated a different kind of game based on smaller actions. Hindsight is a fine thing! We were also a bit unlucky because by the time we had Antares ready there was already something of a swing in the tabletop market towards smaller games with relatively few models. Antares is a traditional multi-element broad-scope game that can be played at almost any size, but the trend was towards very compact games with limited scope and a small model range, something that could be played quickly on a tiny table.

Warlords of Erehwon was really a vanity project and something I’d been toying with for a while. It’s a conversion of Antares for fantasy warband style games. I put together a game I thought was fun and didn’t worry about the commercial angle. I thought I’d either put it online or maybe print up a few and ask if anyone would distribute for me. It doesn’t have a model range associated with it at all – the idea was to simply create a set of generic fantasy rules for which players could use any models they already had. I asked Warlord if they wanted to publish it. Initially the guys said they were too busy, but in the end, as a special favour to me, and after much wheedling on my part, John and his team decided they would squeeze my project in after all.

Erehwon is what you might call an ‘itch scratched’ in so far as the very first thing I published was a fantasy game – then along came Warhammer which pretty much kyboshed the chances of doing anything similar for nearly thirty years – and that left me with a yearning to go back and play narrative driven fantasy skirmish wargames. That was what Reaper was and it’s actually what Warhammer was to start with, and I missed those kind of semi-roleplay, story driven games with a proper scenario and an umpire to run it all. I’m glad I got that one out of my system. I’m still playing and enjoying Erehwon and I add new army lists and rules to the website every so often as the feeling takes me.

Right now I’m thinking that Erehwon is probably the last big project I’ll undertake. I’m sure there will be more things to do, not least the third volume of the Red Book of the Elf King, but in terms of big new games I think it’s time to leave the field to younger designers with more energy and new ways of looking at things. I shall stick with smaller projects and supplementary material I think. Though I did always want to do a spaceship game 

  • Penned by Rick Priestley, download the V1 version of the Pig-faced Orc Warband army list HERE.

The Red Book Of The Elf King is a game which I believe deserves a far wider and greater appreciation. The man responsible for the ruleset is Rick Priestley. I asked Rick what he feels sets this game apart from other fantasy wargames/ skirmish systems.

Rick Priestley: Red Book is very much the vision of Steve Saleh of Lucid Eye. I was touting round my Erehwon project because Warlord had initially decided against taking it on, and Steve was one of the people who approached me about using it as the basis for a game he wanted to do. We ran through a game or two, and once Steve had explained what he had in mind I thought it would relatively easy to adapt my core mechanics to drive a smaller, skirmish style game. As it turned out, Warlord decided to take on Erehwon after all. None-the-less I was intrigued by the marvellous background story that Steve had woven around his Elf lands. The vision of Elves was very much developed from folklore and Poul Anderson’s book The Broken Sword. This was quite a different approach to the ‘standard’ Warhammer and LOTR type of ‘Elf’ that is common to so many fantasy games these days. Steve had an entire saga of the Elf Kingdoms planned out.

The story was that the Elf King had passed from the world and with his magic gone life and warmth begin to drain away, leaving the surviving Elf Thanes to battle for the crown over a land increasingly in the grip of the fimblewinter. The game itself would revolve around these thanes – large and impressive character models – together with their retinues – or Circles. Every Circle would comprise of the magical number of 7 units – 6 of three model Elf warriors and the Thane him or herself. Steve didn’t want to make models with different weapon combinations or bows – although the Elves are all capable of hurling magical energy as well as engaging in close quarter fighting. This approach allowed us to concentrate on the magic and special abilities, which play a big part in the game and which differentiate each Circle.

I couldn’t use the action dice system – which is Warlord’s of course – so I resorted to a basic chit draw followed by allocating a unit and choosing an action. One idea that I’d touted when we developed Bolt Action was to have a variable number of action dice allowing for multiple actions within a turn. This wasn’t something that appealed very much at the time, although I would use something like it in Antares and Erehwon for big, powerful vehicles and monsters. For the Red Book I thought it would be fun to randomise the number of actions available to each player each turn, and to allow units to take two or potentially even three actions in a turn so long as actions are spread evenly. This immediately changed the whole dynamic of the game, and allowed me to introduce lots of interactive mechanisms that affected the chit draw, adding extra chits to the bag, swapping chits with the opposing player, and so on.

The actual mechanics do use the D10 system roughly as Erehwon. It’s a role-under mechanic in the same way, which I prefer for D10 based games. It does mean 1’s are ‘good’ and 10’s are ‘bad’ which throws people who are used to other systems where you are looking for a high role. It also means you can just roll against a stat and the higher the stat the better the model is. It’s a very clean system with minimum calculation. The magic spells can be arranged with cards – a separate pack is available – but they are also printed in the book. I like using the cards because you can randomise them, which gives a much more interesting game. Both options are allowed: choosing or randomising.

The third and final book is being planned out as I write mid-2020 and takes the action into the strange daemon realms. Once again, the daemons are not exactly what folks might be used to from the likes of Games Workshop, and Steve is promising something surreal by way of new models, although no doubt much will evolve as we develop the book.

The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley… Part 5.

My journey draws to an end… My final meeting with the sage Wizard Priestley was at a small tavern called the Orge’s Belch, affectionately named after Gumboil the Ogre’s appreciative and aromatic after-feast gesture, which it is said could be felt as far away as the Misty Mountains. Serving the finest cuisine in Ostermark, using tight-lipped secret Halfling recipes, with good cheer and foamy ales made with only the finest hops, the Ogre’s Belch provided the perfect setting for my last round of talks with the Grand Master…

Released in 2019, Warlord Games’ Warlords of Erehwon is a 28mm scale fantasy wargame designed by Rick Priestley. A game which fills the gap between mass battles and small skirmishes, Warlords of Erehwon is designed with opposing forces of thirty to sixty models in mind, ‘warband size’, however the game can be played with smaller or larger armies. I asked Rick if there were any supplements for the game in the pipeline, also what some of his favourite parts of the game were.

Rick Priestley: With Warlords of Erehwon I always intended the book to stand alone: a set of base rules that could be re-worked to suit any subject or theme. The ‘army lists’ are more by way of example than definitive. I’m putting new army lists online, as well as other useful bits and bobs such as the points value system. Folks who want to can mess about with the game as they wish. I don’t think Warlord are expecting to publish supplements – they have a lot to do with more mainstream games like Bolt Action – so I’m just going to add new lists, rules and whatever occurs to me on the website: thisgaminglife.uk.

I do like the D10 ‘roll under’ mechanic because it gives a universal roll throughout the game. It’s also very easily extended to cover new elements. I took the core mechanism from my Antares game where it’s used to represent futuristic weaponry, so you can see that it’s pretty flexible. The magic is nice too – it’s easy to overdo magic – and I did have to amend one of the spells to tame it a little. But it works in tune with the game quite well and doesn’t overpower things. The potential to miscast and mess up badly is always entertaining too.

Looking to find out which factions Rick preferred in his games of Warlords of ErehwonAntares and Bolt Action, Rick declared his allegiance to Gnoll, Elven and Goblin forces, along with a hankering for Boromites and Russians.

Rick Priestley: I tend to favour my Gnolls for Erehwon, though it’s not a huge force and quite limited compared to my Elves and Goblins, which are the two that I otherwise field regularly. I also use my Celts as Barbarians – though I’ve just finished a Celt list for them too. For Antares I have a bit of everything but my biggest force and the one I enjoy using the most are my Boromites; they have a lot of character and are uniquely Antarean. I only have one army for Bolt Action and that’s my Russians, so I have to go for that as my ‘favourite’ I suppose. I actually have quite a large WW2 British army in 15mm, which I played back in the day using a set of home-brewed rules that ended up being converted into 3rd edition Warhammer 40K – though I think they worked better for WW2 

Rick has been producing wargame and RPG rulesets since the late-1970’s. I asked him his thoughts on the current state of the model and wargaming hobby and if he felt wargaming still has the same enthusiastic following of days gone by.

Rick Priestley: I just pursue my own hobby in my own way these days, and my opponents are all gaming buddies of many years standing, all of which means that none of us really takes much interest in the latest fads or trends. Obviously, the wargaming scene has changed since I was a lad, and also since I was actively involved with Games Workshop, and even again over the last ten years with the arrival of plastic models for historical wargames – hard to believe it was only ten years ago when the first historical plastics came out.

I’m sure younger players are just as enthusiastic about the current crop of games – and dare I say that Warhammer seems even more popular than ever in its modern incarnation. Gaming as a hobby appears to be thriving and is no longer the ‘shameful secret’ that it was in my youth. Nowadays everyone is a gamer and no one beats you up at school on account of it… I imagine. Well if they did it would make the Sunday papers wouldn’t it.

I think the biggest difference is that in my youth wargaming and military history went together, and wargamers tended to be fairly knowledgeable about the history behind the games to begin with. When it came to WW2 it was just taken as read that you knew about the tanks, guns, aeroplanes and so forth, because we were all steeped in such things. With other eras it was usual to approach them through reading about the history, learning about the actual battles and the people behind the famous names. I’m not sure there’s the same broad interest these days, and it seems that many newcomers approach games as games, rather than as recreations of something from history.

  • Released in 2016, written by Rick Priestley and John Lambshead, ‘Tabletop Wargames: A Designers’ and Writers’ Handbook’ can be purchased via Amazon HERE.

I was interested to find out what was currently occupying Rick’s paint station at the moment and what model projects he had under way.

Rick Priestley: I’ve just finished painting a flying monkey warband for Erehwon and I am pleased to say I have nothing on my desk as of now. Usually there is always something half-finished or cleaned up and waiting to go, so it is nice to have a clean and tidy worktop ready to start something fresh. What that might be I have no idea. Like most folk I do have a heap of stuff that would benefit from a lick of paint. I also have some scenery that is waiting to be painted, but until I can get to the shops and buy some more craft paint that will have to wait.

Rick Priestley: With Warlords of Erehwon I always intended the book to stand alone: a set of base rules that could be re-worked to suit any subject or theme. The ‘army lists’ are more by way of example than definitive. I’m putting new army lists online, as well as other useful bits and bobs such as the points value system. Folks who want to can mess about with the game as they wish. I don’t think Warlord are expecting to publish supplements – they have a lot to do with more mainstream games like Bolt Action – so I’m just going to add new lists, rules and whatever occurs to me on the website: thisgaminglife.uk.

I do like the D10 ‘roll under’ mechanic because it gives a universal roll throughout the game. It’s also very easily extended to cover new elements. I took the core mechanism from my Antares game where it’s used to represent futuristic weaponry, so you can see that it’s pretty flexible. The magic is nice too – it’s easy to overdo magic – and I did have to amend one of the spells to tame it a little. But it works in tune with the game quite well and doesn’t overpower things. The potential to miscast and mess up badly is always entertaining too.

Looking to find out which factions Rick preferred in his games of Warlords of ErehwonAntares and Bolt Action, Rick declared his allegiance to Gnoll, Elven and Goblin forces, along with a hankering for Boromites and Russians.

Rick Priestley: I tend to favour my Gnolls for Erehwon, though it’s not a huge force and quite limited compared to my Elves and Goblins, which are the two that I otherwise field regularly. I also use my Celts as Barbarians – though I’ve just finished a Celt list for them too. For Antares I have a bit of everything but my biggest force and the one I enjoy using the most are my Boromites; they have a lot of character and are uniquely Antarean. I only have one army for Bolt Action and that’s my Russians, so I have to go for that as my ‘favourite’ I suppose. I actually have quite a large WW2 British army in 15mm, which I played back in the day using a set of home-brewed rules that ended up being converted into 3rd edition Warhammer 40K – though I think they worked better for WW2 

Rick has been producing wargame and RPG rulesets since the late-1970’s. I asked him his thoughts on the current state of the model and wargaming hobby and if he felt wargaming still has the same enthusiastic following of days gone by.

Rick Priestley: I just pursue my own hobby in my own way these days, and my opponents are all gaming buddies of many years standing, all of which means that none of us really takes much interest in the latest fads or trends. Obviously, the wargaming scene has changed since I was a lad, and also since I was actively involved with Games Workshop, and even again over the last ten years with the arrival of plastic models for historical wargames – hard to believe it was only ten years ago when the first historical plastics came out.

I’m sure younger players are just as enthusiastic about the current crop of games – and dare I say that Warhammer seems even more popular than ever in its modern incarnation. Gaming as a hobby appears to be thriving and is no longer the ‘shameful secret’ that it was in my youth. Nowadays everyone is a gamer and no one beats you up at school on account of it… I imagine. Well if they did it would make the Sunday papers wouldn’t it.

I think the biggest difference is that in my youth wargaming and military history went together, and wargamers tended to be fairly knowledgeable about the history behind the games to begin with. When it came to WW2 it was just taken as read that you knew about the tanks, guns, aeroplanes and so forth, because we were all steeped in such things. With other eras it was usual to approach them through reading about the history, learning about the actual battles and the people behind the famous names. I’m not sure there’s the same broad interest these days, and it seems that many newcomers approach games as games, rather than as recreations of something from history.

  • Released in 2016, written by Rick Priestley and John Lambshead, ‘Tabletop Wargames: A Designers’ and Writers’ Handbook’ can be purchased via Amazon HERE.

I was interested to find out what was currently occupying Rick’s paint station at the moment and what model projects he had under way.

Rick Priestley: I’ve just finished painting a flying monkey warband for Erehwon and I am pleased to say I have nothing on my desk as of now. Usually there is always something half-finished or cleaned up and waiting to go, so it is nice to have a clean and tidy worktop ready to start something fresh. What that might be I have no idea. Like most folk I do have a heap of stuff that would benefit from a lick of paint. I also have some scenery that is waiting to be painted, but until I can get to the shops and buy some more craft paint that will have to wait.

I vary my painting style quite a bit depending on what I’m painting. I can go tight or loose depending on what I’m aiming for and how long I want to spend. I can paint reasonably well when I put the effort in, but I’m certainly no perfectionist and rather enjoy the ‘craft’ of mixing the paint and seeing where the process takes me. I’ll use whatever techniques seem best for the subject. There’s no right or wrong way to paint a toy soldier! The important thing is to enjoy it.

Personally, I prefer old school DIY scenery making to shop bought. While I think there is a place for bought/ company produced scenery pieces, I think they tend to lack a lot of the fun and soul of DIY projects. I asked Rick for his thoughts on this.

Rick Priestley: I’ve made quite a few scenic boards for my table. I think I’m a little ‘too neat’ with a lot of my terrain, but once you’ve put together a whole system it’s a lot of work to go back and do something different. I do have some pieces I’ve made and quite a lot that I’ve acquired from others, including buildings and fortification that Nigel Stillman made for me. I picked up a 3-D printed wizard’s tower recently, which is rather a nice model and has a lot of the character you’d expect from a hand-built piece. I think you can do a lot with building kits and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between something made from scratch and something built up from a kit.

With his life so steeped in the world of models and wargames, I was keen to know how many models existed in Rick’s collection, if many had been lost along the way, and if he had any favourites.

Rick Priestley: I’m not sure but perhaps not as many as some gamers I know. I would guess something like two thousand 25 or 28mm models if we were to include some old, tatty or forlorn armies that are unlikely to see a battlefield again. I also have quite a lot of 10mm armies as well as some 15mm and even some odds and sods of 5/6mm. My Wargames Foundry Assyrians are probably the best painted and presented army I have and certainly one of my favourites. The core of it was painted by Darren Harding of Gripping Beast, and I’ve expanded it over the years either myself or by commissioning work from other painters. I normally paint everything myself, but Darren is such a talented artist that I’ve tried to copy his style as best I could. I also have a nicely turned out Roman (Early Imperial) army that’s a mix of Wargames Foundry and Warlord models. That’s my ‘go to’ army for gaming and one I enjoy using win or lose. Aside from that I have a soft spot for the 1970’s Miniature Figurines ancient armies that I put together as a teenager and which I’ve added to and renovated several times over the years.

Aside from the wonderful world of models and wargames, I asked Rick what other interests he has and how best he relaxes.

Rick Priestley: I’ve always thought of painting the models as relaxing. I’m not sure I do anything to relax as such. Perhaps I’m just naturally relaxed! I must admit that over the years my other interests have tended to fall away a bit. I think as you get older you find you just don’t have the energy to devote to the variety of things that you once did.

At one time I used to be into old cars and especially old sports cars. Mostly these were wrecks but later on I had a few nice cars. In the days when company cars ‘made sense’ I wangled a second-hand Lotus – it wasn’t all that old really. It was a lovely car when not on the back of a low-loader having suffered one of many entertaining and occasionally spectacular mishaps. The last ‘classic’ I had was a Scimitar Coupe (SE4c should anyone be interested – rarest model – 117 made if I recall correctly). I knew it was time to give up on old cars when I took the Scimitar in for an MOT and discovered my annual mileage was exactly the distance between my house and the MOT station. 1960’s suspension and seats are definitely for the young at heart and flexible of spine. With age one comes to appreciate refinements such as powered-steering and functional heating systems. Modern cars don’t really interest me much; but they do work, they don’t fall apart, and you don’t feel as if you’ve been beaten up in a back alley after driving any distance.

Another hobby I’ve pretty much let go is keeping and breeding tropical fish, although we have a couple of small tanks going at the moment. At one time I had over twenty tanks, including a set-up for raising Siamese Fighters. My wife and I would go all over the country showing fish and attending auctions. It’s still something I enjoy and I must admit I can spend a happy half an hour wandering round the tanks in Maidenhead Aquatics, idly fantasising about a new ‘Amazon set-up’ or merely admiring the technical wizardry of the modern filters and lights. My first tank had an angle iron frame and was illuminated by a couple of 60W incandescent light bulbs. How I managed not to electrocute myself I don’t know.

I read a lot and tend to mix up fiction and non-fiction depending on mood. I’ve just finished reading Lindsey Davis’s ‘Falco’ series about a Roman Informer (for which read private investigator) during the reign of Vespasian. Twenty books in all but real page turners and good fun. Very much recommended. Otherwise, I tend to pick-up books that interest me: popular science, social commentary, biography, modern history as well as less so, sometimes military history but often not. The last book I read was about un-deciphered ancient scripts, which is more interesting than it sounds; honest. The book I’m reading at the moment is an academic commentary on A Vision by WB Yeats. The ‘to read’ pile has a couple of old fantasy novels, a new book on Sassanid armies, a collection of essays on Irish history, and a music biography of Brian James by the talented John Wombat.

This is the fifth and final part in my feature on Rick Priestley. I would like to thank Rick for his time and generous contributions given over the course of the blog, also for the many, many wonderful games created over decades of tireless service to all things wargames and RPG. Thank you, Rick!

Follow Rick Priestley on Facebook HERE.

This Gaming Life: A resource for the Warlords of Erehwon fantasy wargame by Rick Priestley HERE.

Visit Warlord Games HERE.

Copyright © 2022 John Wombat & Ruth Moreira