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Warhammer 40K RETRO: The Grimdark’s First Minis

3 Minute Read
Sep 23 2020

Today Warhammer 40K fans, we are going ALL the way back to the mid 1980s to look at the GW minis that started it all.

Before there was Rogue Trader, there was Citadel Miniatures and from the late 1970s they made minis from just about anybody.  Here’s just a couple of examples from those very very early days.

Imperial Romans from 1982.

Licensed Dungeons & Dragons minis from 1985.

Licensed Judge Dredd minis from White Dwarf 82 (1986).

Early Inklings of the Grimdark

It was only a matter of time until Citadel moved into making their own worlds and miniatures. While Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader would arrive in 1987, some miniatures and designs were available beforehand, previewed in White Dwarfs from the mists of time.

The 1st Space Marines


These guys arrived in 1986.

The earliest space marines established the beaky helmet, studded pauldrons, and torso that would become Astartes canon for decades. Their legs would change drastically in time, but you can see these fellows and their wire-encrusted weapons all over the Rogue Trader artwork like this:

Hulking monsters of dark technology.

The Earliest Non-Marines

But it wasn’t all Astartes. Marines weren’t the only denizens of the eary proto-grimdark.


The first set of Rogue Trader minis offered in 1987.

Look at the wild diversity in there. You get models that would go on to found entire ranges such as the Space Orc, Imperial Troopers, Space Dwarf, Dark Elf Space Trooper, and the Imperial Bodyguard. Then you got some oddballs like the Piscean Warrior never to be seen again.  Note the early Astropath and Adeptus Custodes even at this early time.

Again, these guys showed up in the Rogue Trader artwork all over the place:

Nice pants, Custodian!  The Custodes have gotten a bit more bling, and a little less Chippendale dancer over the decades.

Lost to Time

Finally I will leave you with this – the early playtest models used in the development of Rogue Trader.  Is that what i think it is?

Menfish!!! (and a wolfman)



~Who knows, maybe one day Idoneth Deepkin will make their way into the grimdark?

Early miniature images via Stuff of Legends

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