Lazguns, big hair, giant robots - the late 80’s and early 90’s were a golden age, birthing a new genre of over-the-top, dark sci-fi. For many sci-fi wargamers, the images that got us into the hobby were decidedly of the period, featuring ironclad super soldiers battling through grimey, industrial wastelands, their arcane weapons belching forth hellfire, smoke and fury. Outlaws presided over backwater shanties, where law and order were dispensed from the barrel of a gun but few could afford the ammunition.
But whilst the future was dark indeed, there was so much colour and acerbic, black humour - garishly mohawked punks traversed neon drenched backstreets on cybernetically augmented limbs; Alien shock troops discharged needleguns into braying hoards of mutants, dismembering their radiation wracked bodies with crystalline shards. Above it all, void craft fired luminescent beams of energy that lit the darkest reaches of space; nebulae exploded, planets were extinguished, their inhabitants snuffed out in riotous bursts of lurid green plasma. Before things were grimdark, they were grimbright - and brutality had never looked so stylish.
The changing face of science fiction
The fifties had been pre-occupied with terrestrial enemies. Super powers eyed one another nervously across the Iron Curtain, with any galactic menace they imagined framed in the same terms. The red menace and the red planet became synonymous. With the sixties and seventies, it all changed. With the dawning of the Aquarian Age, the message spreading through the galaxy was not of war, but peaceable cooperation. Captain Kirk set out across the universe to heal rifts and mend wounds, though a few hearts may have been broken in the process!
It couldn’t last. By the 1980’s, all thoughts of peace and love had evaporated. Industrialisation and globalisation, endless proxy wars and the increasing visibility of organised crime had given us new preoccupations and new enemies to fret over. The fall of the USSR was accompanied by the rise in corporations. For the first time it seemed that armies would not be commanded from palaces and capitols, but boardrooms: it was corporate interests that would engender the dark future awaiting us. Games like Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader and Future Combat: Killzone all dealt with the themes that so concerned us at the time - the rise of mega corporations, organised crime and the expanding power of technology.
It was into this environment that Spacelords was released in 1990. Featuring a slew of beautiful, character filled models, it took many of the tropes of the genre and supercharged them. The game throws us forward to the year 4300AD where mankind, its unity shattered by a long war against the vicious reptilian S’krill, fights amongst itself for supremacy of a devastated universe. Battle-plast sheathed bunkerbreakers, indomitable warriors of the cybertech, stomp into battle against House Yoyodyne with its legions of Shigeru footsoldiers and fearsome skycharger samurai. Armoured Sarday’kin veterans battle the roguish fighters of the Mercenary Guild. The plucky partisans led by the mysterious O’Schilly fight for freedom, but behind it all the sinister Phagon, masters of gene editing and manipulation, plot the demise of all humankind, with a vast host of snarling goatmen and soulless battle-clones at their command. Truly the epitome of retro sci-fi wargaming, this fine miniature line has something to offer any nostalgic war gamer, with models suitable for any number of rulesets. After a long hiatus, they are finally available to buy from eM4 Miniatures, with all the kitschy, anarchic charm you’d expect from old school sci-fi minis!
Written by Freddy Silburn-Slater