Thursday, 7 November 2013

Laserburn.

I said I was happy to have spoken to  Bryan Ansell at my first Wargames show, but that wasn't the first time I'd seen the him, oh, no, he'd been into TTG in the summer...
Tony Yates illo
So I suppose I need to write about why Bryan and TTG were linked in those days, and what happened to end this relationship.

TTG and Bryan had history going way back into the 70's, Kate had said the Bryan had first started casting miniatures in her kitchen on Acton Road in Arnold, but I am unsure whether she meant casting for Asgard, or Citadel, or why even he wasn't using his own kitchen (?!?), but hey that was the story...

Bryan had been instrumental is starting Asgard in the mid-70's, with I think at least two other people, Paul Sulley being one, and had sculpted quite a number of their early miniatures, but as always, with his eye on the main chance, he'd jumped ship in in the late 70's (78?) and started to work with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone at Games Workshop to start Citadel miniatures.

Bryan's Robin Hood sample piece for GW
GW had a license to to produce Ral Partha in the UK, and had been importing for the past few years. Bryan, I was told by Richard, had submitted 5 self-sculpted minis to Steve and Ian and they were keen to become involved, so Citadel was founded, and started to produce minis from a lock-up garage off High Street in Arnold.

And it was a success.
By the early 80's Citadel were operating out of Newark, Notts, and making a large range of fantasy, sci-fi and historical miniatures and growing rapidly alongside Games Workshop.

In 1980 Bryan had tried to get a sci-fi game/rule-set printed through Games Workshop, and although GW (Steve and Ian) were sold on the idea, and went on to commission Sparefarers, a rule-set based around Citadel sci-fi range, they didn't use Bryan's rules. (details here on BoardGameGeek)
Spacefarers rule book cover by Tony Ackland


Quite how put-out by this Bryan was I don't really know, but regardless, within months Bryan was back with Bob, to set up Tabletop Miniatures to print Laserburn and produce a range of  miniatures to support it...

Laserburn was 15mm based, which I think was a bit of a revolutionary step back then... All GW/Citadels miniatures were in 25mm (inc Sparefarers), and maybe Bryan switched scales as a way of mollifying his partners at GW that he wasn't competing with them... or maybe he and Bob thought 15mm was a better scale for larger sci-fi battles, or possibly the move to 15mm was a trend, economic conditions generally weren't good in the early 80's, so maybe they figured a change to a smaller scale would get people buying, and 15mms were a growing part of the fantasy/sci-fi market, Asgard also produced their own 15mm ranges.

Laserburn was published in late 1980, and was quickly followed by a large miniatures range, covering all the types of troops necessary for the game. Looking back it was quite derivative, the basic game, as Bryan says on the BGG page given above, owed a lot to Western Gunfight games and the background given, to many other current 70's sci-fi staples, the Law Offices were borrowed from 2000AD's Judge Dredd, the Imperialist were classic Heinlein Starship Troopers, and the Red Redemptionists owed more that a little to the Fremen in Dune.

Law Officer (not Judge Dredd)

Tabletop Miniatures started casting this range out of the Daybrook shop, with a machine bought from Citadel, although I think the early miniatures were both moulded and cast in Newark, with Bryan doing the sculpting duties on all the minis, including TTM's range of historical as well...

By '83 when I got to TTG, the range was going cold, Bryan had stopped sculpting and writing for Laserburn, and although he did bring 5 new miniatures when he came to the shop in July or August, these were there first to have seen the light of day for a year or so, and would be the last he did with Bob. I was told after the event that Bryan had come to sign-off with TTM, handing ownership fully to Bob (& Kate) in exchange for a royalty on all his work.

At this point, from my view of it in the back kitchen, it looked like an amicable split, TTM had served its purpose, Bryan was moving on to bigger things and TTM had inherited a lots of Citadel 'staff' to work on side projects, including Rick Priestly, Tony Yates and Tony Ackland on sculpting duties...

But this wasn't really the end of Bob and Bryan's relationship, that comes tomorrow, 30 years ago...

(Interested in reading my copy of Spacefarers, check it out here, on my Scribd page)