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Warhammer 40K : The Grimdark’s Very First Minis

4 Minute Read
Oct 4 2022

Today Warhammer 40K fans, we are going way, way back to the mid-1980s to look at the Games Worshop 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 Lord of the Rings from 1984 (decades before the plastic New Line Cinema range)

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 early proto-grimdark. GW knew they needed to invent their own IP and cast a very wide net.


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. Even now in 2022 the Leagues of Votann carry on the Space Dwarf line (after a decades long gap).

Again, many of these miniature designs 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)



Every once in a blue moon, GW will tie some of these into either the lore or outright miniatures ranges. The Menfish were a race from Warhammer 1st edition that could been in the reflections of the Idoneth Deepkin decades later.

The Wulfen live on as modern Space Wolf Wulfen. Just last year, the Pisceans made a subtle return as a “secret race” on Necromunda – and possibly the power behind the throne of House Delaque. They even got these creepy minis:

~Who knows, maybe one day Idoneth Deepkin will make their way into the grimdark, or the Custodes will remember where they keep their skin-tight pants?

Early miniature images via Stuff of Legends

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