The Rogue Trader (RT) era of Warhammer 40k was an experimental time when it came to the models. The Warhammer universe as we know it today hadn’t fully solidified, and the miniatures of the time reflected the experimental nature of the setting.
Today’s new hobbyists might never encounter such miniatures in person, much less a whole army’s worth of them. That is what makes coming across such a comprehensive collection so noteworthy.
Michael Kettlewood, age 44, of Scotland has been collecting and painting miniatures almost his whole life, and is showing off his vintage Rogue Trader miniatures.
I asked Michael how he got his start in wargaming
Michael: So I’ve been collecting miniatures on and off for over 35 years now. Like many folks my age I started early in the 80’s with airfix 1:32 WW2 toy soldiers and would setup dioramas, no camera back then! Around ‘85 my older brother started collecting some of the old stuff like Ral Partha, Grenadier and Citadel and I would pester him or my parents to buy me some too. Thankfully we never sold much off and I’ve still got much of that early stuff. As I got a bit older I started to play Warhammer Fantasy Battle so the first army I put together was a small undead force made up of the classic 1988 Skeleton Army Box set, some kindly gifted metal Citadel undead, and a Tom Meier Zombie Dragon! We then started to play RPG’s so many of my miniatures were characters rather than armies. I’ve got a really broad collection of NPC stuff because of this such as citadel villagers, weird monsters and even a pack of dogs from the McDeath collection. I ended up progressing into 40k RT where my main passion was Space Orks ranging from the start to the beginning of 2nd edition, those miniatures just have so much character and are really nice to paint. When I came back to the hobby after a twenty year deep freeze I started hunting down all the stuff I wanted when I was younger but just didn’t have the funds to buy. I’ve bought a lot of the early RT 40K stuff about seven years ago when it was a bit cheaper and have a pretty big stock of stuff to paint. I feel like I have everything I really need right now but if I saw a bargain I would not pass it up. I was also very lucky that my older brother gave the majority of his collection which I’m keeping as it is, as I feel it would be disrespectful to strip such wonderful paintwork.
About the backdrop and terrain setting the scene of the battles
Michael: The backdrop is a simple model railways back scene from ebay that I picked up for around £10, I think it’s the Rocky Mountains. I mounted it on some hinged pieces of MDF so it wraps around. it’s all temporary and can be packed away,or used on any table. Coming back to the hobby I have really got into terrain as I thought it was amazing growing up but just didn’t have the knowledge or money to create it. I can imagine a table without plenty terrain and am amazed at how empty some tabletops are nowadays. I could talk all day about terrain techniques, mostly I’ve learned everything from online tutorials and have a good stock of foam, filler and sand. Plus I look at anything I’m throwing out and think ‘does this look like terrain?’
The mist is created using a Faller smoke generator intended for model railways, it’s pretty much a large scale vape that runs off a 9v power supply. It’s pretty bulky so I built a small ruin to house it, which includes a mesh grate to diffuse the smoke a little. At first I found the smoke rose upwards too quickly so I used some lichen bushes to slow it down and then found it drifted like fog. I’ve always loved the picture of the eldar dreadnoughts breaching the fortress wall so recreating it complete with smoke was a big hobby goal.
The techniques to paint the old school figures
Michael: I’m still really pretty old school with how I work, think Eavy Metal circa 1990. It’s a case of base colours, ink wash, highlight and details. The only changes I have made are using home made flow improver and weathering effects. My basing has moved on a little from some flock and goblin green and I now tend to sculpt a surface using milliput, paint, add sand and flock and then some grass tufts and skulls of course! Paint wise I really use anything that works, there’s still the odd old pot of citadel colour, liqutex concentrate, some of which I’ve had for over twenty years! It’s amazing how much that stuff waters down and the intensity of the colour. Coming back to the hobby after a twenty year gap I’ve restocked with Vallejo paints and inks which I’ve always found pretty good value. For my terrain I tend to use emulsion house paint for priming and large coverage and then cheap student colour acrylics and inks. It would end up costing a fortune using miniature paints on large scale terrain. I like to follow online content on new techniques and miniatures but generally I stick to what I already do. As a gamer I want my miniatures to pop on the tabletop, so they need to have impact from a player’s view. I do appreciate the creativity and skill that goes into the newer work but am quite happy sticking to metal miniatures and older technique.
I kind of black line my minis. I will do several black/brown ink washes between mid and highlights until it feels right. No complex recipe, just two parts brown one black. If its a more vibrant colour i may use an acrylic glazing medium and paint to bring the colour back up.
I asked about the lore behind the paintjobs
Michael: The lore is a nod to the RT humour and satire that made the early game so much fun. My Imperial Army regiment is called the 45th Tamriel Tigers (shout out to all the Skyrim fans and Sri Lankan separatists) It mainly came about from me wanting a bright colour for the shoulder pads to pop against the army grey, I’m a big fan of tiger stripe camo too so it all made sense.
Michael: The Camo marine was actually given to me by my older brother, so I asked him about what had inspired him to paint it that way over twenty five years ago. From what he remembered it was inspired by arctic camo and that famous Rogue Trader illustration of marine chapter colours from the Badbab wars.
Michael: These were made only a couple of years in from RT being released so the idea of Eldar Marine scouts doesn’t seem so far out as it would be now. At the time there were no space marine scout models released so necessity drove innovation and the rest is history! The heads were spare from the warhammer fantasy armies box set and I think they were originally Dark Elves, there’s some customised details made using milliput such as headgear and the heavy weapon is from an epic scale titan. Because these guys are irregular’s it gave a bit of scope to have unusual equipment and customised armour. There’s no way they would be allowed into a Marine force now!
Michael: The hoverboards (or powerboards) as they were originally called in the RT rules are scratch built. I saw some of my friend’s old models on boards made from plasticard and really fancied having an ork powerboard gang. The plasticard boards felt a bit flimsy and flat so I decided to sculpt a master using a green stuff and milliput mix. From there I then used blue stuff to create a mould then press moulded a dozen boards. With each of these I added details using putty and a modeling drill to make each feel a little different. Plus I added some details to the minis such as mohawks, bandanas and cigars to give them a surfer feel.
I thank Michael not just for all his dedication to create his collection, but to take time to interview here and share a load of photos (with graphic design already done no less). It is a great thing to see somebody keeping the Rogue Trader spirit nestled inside of Warhammer 40k going.
If you want to follow updates on his current projects, he also posts to his Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/i_eat_lead_in_secret/