Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Rise...

It's hard to look back now at Citadel Miniatures and not see them as the all conquering behemoth of the miniature gaming world they were to become, but in the early 80's that one particular outcome was not certain by any means, other companies could have come to the fore or the company might not have developed in the way that it did.
So what happened between the formation of the company in early '79 and my formative year of '83 to turn the casting arm of a small games company into a dominant market leader?

Citadel's early miniatures show their roots, all those early minis are designed almost exclusively for use alongside Dungeons & Dragons. 
Character types are copied slavishly from the AD&D books, creatures from the Monster Manual, very little is original, and where it was, as was the case of the few monsters that travelled from the range over into new D&D books, we all knew what we were being sold, and for what we were supposed to be using them... D&D.

'82 catalogue
Which is a bit odd really, because it wasn't until  much later that Citadel had a full AD&D license...  
Grenadier Models had that license in the in the late 70's and early 80's in the US, but made little impact in the UK in spite of the tie-in.
Even the range that Citadel were set up to produce over here, Ral Partha, could (should) have gone on to become the dominant player here, as it was in the US, but again, even with a long standing history of being associated with D&D, it slipped into the position of also-ran.

It's possible to go a look at what Citadel produced in the first couple of years and pick out virtually every monster and character from the D&D pantheon or it's  rough equivalent, but after making everything that the D&Der needed there was a natural break on what the company might possible make next.

Obviously they looked for other markets, historical miniatures were (are) a short step away, as are minis for other game systems, and Citadel go away and try to expand all these other revenue streams as the 80's dawn... Gangsters, sci-fi, larger scale models and movie tie-ins (Star Trek) are all explored, but with little success... 
The only thing that does start to sell more miniatures, and I mean sell more than the one of each or the few that you needed for the D&D campaigns, were the Fantasy Tribes.

One of 20 variants of FTD9 Dwarf in plate-mail with sword
Fantasy Tribes, I feel, have all the hallmarks of what made Citadel great in the 80's, and would show the pattern which Bryan would try to repeat whenever he started a new project.
Firstly they were wholly original, other manufacturers may have had a dwarf or two in their range, only Citadel had 60 different models in a Tribe, secondly they were collectible, where other ranges had fixed models to buy, Tribes were, it seamed, constantly changing so that just when you thought you had them all, new variants would turn up to keep you buying, thirdly, and this was true of all the models that Bryan commissioned, they were full of character, no bland Orc with Sword in this range, these Orcs are attacking, swinging, charging, and finally, they were great models, in a way that lots of early Citadel or American imported minis weren't.

But even these stand out collections weren't for very much more than extra variety on the D&D table and I doubt that the company could have gone on from strength to strength in the way it did with just these...

Which is where a little bit of luck comes in handy...

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston, Bryan's partners in Citadel and owners of the parent company, Game Workshop, had hit on the smart idea of copying the unique feature of also ran fantasy role play game Tunnels & Trolls, it's solo play option, and repackaging it for a younger market as Fighting Fantasy game books... They were hugely successful  creating a publishing phenomena and launching a whole line of best selling books which made their authors at least properly famous, if not quite house-hold names.

The first Fighting Fantasy book I bought
Which must have taken the pressure off Citadel/GW to perform financially, Bryan had made another halfhearted effort to start again with his Bryan Ansell Miniatures, but by late '82 with Steve and Ian moving into new spheres and Bryan looking for new directions, a deal is struck that gives Bryan control of Citadel AND Games Workshop and allows him to take both companies forward with his direction and control.

Now, the deal that I heard that was struck was that Bryan would take immediate control and pay Steve and Ian £1,000,000 in 12 months. Bryan told me at a much later date, that he didn't have the money when he took control, and had to make £1M in that first year to for-fill his part of the agreement, but fore-fill it he did, so we can assume that 1983 was a very good year for miniatures...

Next time, Lets make a million! All aboard for Boxed sets, the  first Compendium and Warhammer Fantasy Battles