Farewell, Russ Nicholson
We salute a legend of British fantasy plus we speak to Tabletop Minions' Adam Loper and you can win a copy of James Wallis' excellent new book on the recent history of tabletop games, Everybody Wins..
It is with a heavy heart that we start this week’s Gazetteer with the sad news that British fantasy artist Russ Nicholson has passed away.
One of a select group of artists who helped define the look and tone of British fantasy gaming, Nicholson’s evocative black and white art for White Dwarf, Fighting Fantasy, The Fiend Folio and early Warhammer, sat somewhere between the Gothic woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer and the expressive line-work of Arthur Rackham.
Where American fantasy art of the time was becoming glossier, more painterly and heroic, Nicholson’s pen and ink illustrations revelled in their squalor. Never one to shy away from the more gruesome realities of fantasy his art was filled with a sense of violent energy, of events almost certainly already in horrible motion.
Whether it was a wide-eyed madman bursting from his cell, a warty goblin guard or sinister sorcerer, Nicholson’s creations always possessed a morbid vitality. Rather than static scenes his illustrations felt like gorgeously detailed panels that had been pulled from a longer, sequential work, he was a master storyteller.
For children growing up in the monochrome Britain of the 1980s his illustrations were electrifying, passed in awed silence around the playground and leaping from the page to embed themselves forever in impressionable minds.
At the same time his work managed to draw the ire of the never knowingly less than bovine Daily Telegraph who branded his Fighting Fantasy art as amongst “the most disgusting images ever presented to a child”. As you would hope this was a quote that Nicholson quite rightly cherished throughout his life.
Whilst Nicholson fell out with Bryan Ansell, Games Workshop’s then boss at the start of the 90s, ending his time with the company, he had by then left an indelible mark on both Warhammer Fantasy, it’s sci-fi sibling and indeed British fantasy/gaming culture as a whole.
In later years he would continue to work on Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play when it found a new home at Hogshead Publishing, notably provided the illustrations for Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson’s Fabled Land game books and continued to freelance for numerous book and games publishers, including working on Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics.
A true original, he will be sorely missed but we know his work will live on and continue to inspire generations of gamers, game designers and artists for years to come.
Thank you Russ for filling our childhood with such wonderful horrors.
Everybody Wins - James Wallis
Readers of our latest issue will know that we were quite taken by Everybody Wins, the new book from games industry veteran James Wallis that uses the prestigious Spiel des Jahres Awards as a prism to look back at the past four decades or so of tabletop games.
Wallis is an engaging, knowledgable writer with an undisguised love for his subject and beyond simply cataloguing each of the award’s, to-date, 43 winners provides invaluable context as to how they sat within the contemporary gaming landscape whether they exemplified existing trends, stood in splendid isolation or, as in the case of titles like Donald X Vaccarino’s deck building Dominion, kickstarted an entirely new wave of games.
Hugely recommended whether you’re just interested in the modern history and evolution of tabletop games, looking to put together the ultimate gaming shelf or indeed if you’re a game designer yourself looking for inspiration, and my god I’d love more RPG designers to dive into this book for some of that.
Everybody Wins is out now in hardback, eBook and as an audiobook from Aconyte Books (with a US paperback out in the autumn) but because we think more people need to read this book we’ve also secured three copies to give away.
Simply hit the button below and tell us who won 2022’s SdJ award, was it (a) Cascadia, (b) Uno or (c) Gorkamorka. Get your answers in by 6pm (GMT) this Sunday (21st) and we’ll randomly pick 3 lucky winners.
P.S. Whilst you’re at it check out the interview with James over on the Vintage RPG podcast, it’s a great listen. Then maybe check out our interview with Vintage RPG’s Stu Horvath, it’s a great read.
Adam Loper - Tabletop Minions/Snarling Badger Studios
This week Wyrd Scene catches up with Adam Loper, host/founder of Tabletop Minions. One of our favourite YouTube channels covering wargames, Tabletop Minions provides that rarest of all things, a knowledgeable, level headed and un-histrionic view of the scene, all delivered in Adam’s inimitable, laidback style.
Alongside Vince Venturella, Adam is also one-half of the new game studio Snarling Badger, whose daemonic wargame Reign in Hell we featured in our second issue and whose narrative sci-fi skirmisher Space Station Zero we reviewed in our most recent issue, hailing it as “fast paced, easy to pick up” and praising its “tight narrative focus”. They really are good fun, and a great way to make more use of your existing miniatures, check them out…
This June (3-4) Adam is also hosting the forth, or perhaps fifth, Tabletop Minions Expo, a 2 day event at the Gruenhagen Conference Center at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where you’ll get the chance to try out all kinds of different wargames, experiment with new rules and discover the many joys of narrative wargaming.
Adjacent to the event there’s also a series of miniature painting classes featuring some of the best names in the business like Sam Lenz, so if you’re in the area and into or thinking of getting into wargames then check it out. In the meantime let’s catch up with what’s going on in Adam’s world…
What are you... playing?
I haven't really gotten the chance to play much recently - between the new game we're producing through Snarling Badger Studios releasing in early June and the Tabletop Minions Expo and of course running Tabletop Minions, too - the last game I played was Warcry with my friend Sam Lenz.
I'm very much looking forward to Combat Patrol in Warhammer 40k 10th edition - it's nostalgic for me as that's how I got serious about wargaming back in 5th edition. Several of my local friends (including Sam) are getting ready to play.
Most recently I've been reading (via listening - I love audiobooks while I paint) The Gideon the Ninth series from Tamsyn Muir. I'm about to start the third book. It's been a trip - a weird twist of fantasy, magic, and sci-fi. Plus, lots of necromancers, which is always a plus for me.
… listening to?
I generally listen to Last Podcast on the Left for true crime, aliens, and laughs; The Dollop for history, laughs, and social commentary; and lately loving the Hive Scum podcast for my hobby fix. I learned about those guys at AdeptiCon this year (in the Grimdark Hallway) and they seem like really nice guys and the conversations have been great.
I don't watch a ton of TV, but I'm currently going through the fourth season of Barry on HBO. I think they should have stopped at the end of the third season, but maybe the end of the fourth season will redeem everything. Here's hoping.
… and working on?
I'm currently working on a Deathwatch Combat Patrol box on Twitch and a bunch of current side projects I can't talk about yet. It keeps me busy.
After the Deathwatch I'll probably work on either the Blood Angels or Astra Militarum Combat Patrol box next, and this summer is the Summer of Terrain for me, so that'll be tons of fun, too.
A collection of other things, both interesting and inspiring, gaming related and not, culled from around the web...
Late to the party but i’ve just discovered the annual Slug Wizards miniatures painting competition and, most importantly, Squid Gnome - the annual zine they create to go with it. Fans of mid to late 1980s White Dwarf, so people of culture basically, should definitely check out last year’s zine, it is to use the vernacular of the time, rad.
Staying with the wild world of miniatures, a man recently went to check the lockup that he’s been storing his dad’s old stuff in for over a decade and found an absolute treasure trove of unopened vintage Citadel Miniatures. Just an astonishing find that should pay off the mortgage.
The last few weeks we’ve been sharing the super cool little pixel art generators that Official Electric has been creating, first one that created pixelated ruins, then characters and this week a new pixel sword generator popped up.
Fans of mysteries should note that we spotted that every now and then, along with a random sword this generator creates a QR code leading to another mysterious website too…
If that wasn’t enough pixelated excitement for one issue we also discovered this very cool Random Summoning Circle generator too this week. We’re already thinking of ways of using this in our next CY_Borg game.
I can’t say we ever expected that mainstay of casual culture, Lacoste, to release a range of clothes tied in to our interests, but this is the world we live in now apparently.
The perfect fit for when you’ve arranged to try and take the away end at 3pm on a Saturday and then the Temple of Elemental Evil right after. Now we just need C.P. Company to release a range of Ork Mekboy themed goggle jackets…
We mentioned game writer Alfred Valley a couple of weeks ago in our look at the upcoming Citizen Sleeper TTRPG, anyway if you want to see why we’re so excited for his involvement why not check out the bundle they’ve put together of all their zines, including the brilliant 1000 Empty Light.
One of our favourite books of the past few years to have emerged from the OSR side of things has been Luka Rejec’s psychedelic Ultra Violet Grasslands, so we’re delighted to see it’s getting re-released with even more art, more weirdness and a more complete system to run it in.
If you’re a game designer then you should seriously be considering entering one of your titles from the past 12 months into THE AWARDS, as nominations close at the end of May, you have been warned…
We’ve run the numbers and we’re pretty sure there’s still a fair few of you yet to check out Issue 4 of Wyrd Science so why not order a copy direct from us today or subscribe and get up to 20% off the cover price…
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