Greetings Terrans, I have quite a treat in store for you today – I’ve ticked off another OldHammer grail quest – collect and paint an entire range of minis. This is actually the 4th time I have managed to do this, having collected and painted all the Praetorians, all the RT601 Pirates, and all the RTB02 Space Ork Raiders. This time, it is the gloriously bonkers IC301 Iron Claw Space Pirates by a certain Mr. Bob Olley.
Now, I must admit, of all early RT sculptors, Bob’s work had the least appeal for me, so I overlooked the Iron Claw Pirates for the longest time… They were gribbly and weird, had odd proportions, and they possessed a grotesqueness that didn’t quite gel with what Naismith, the Perry twins, Aly Morrison & Jes Goodwin were doing at that time. The only sculptor that came close for weirdness was Nick Bibby as far as I could tell, and he seemed to stick to his Zoats!
However… I was on an acquisitive streak about four years ago, (basically prepping for the Covid lock-down as it turns out!), and I started to get my hands on a few of the IC pirates almost by accident. I filed them, (i.e. put them in a box), and didn’t really think about them until JB did such a fantastic job of painting the aliens in the IC301 group as rad-mutants… that really piqued my interest, and a while later, (with some effort), I had the set assembled. Aaaaand then they sat in my ‘to-do’ pile for another year and a half.
It only took a global pandemic but finally I got around to them… I got them based and primed a couple of weeks ago, but prior to basing, I noticed that far from being a single group, the slotta tabs had different descriptions on them. This first lot are all labelled ‘Troops’:
The flyer has them named as ‘Nightwing’, ‘Banzai Jones’, ‘Venk’ and ‘Dambo Kweltz’.
These two are labelled ‘Heroes’
The flyer has them down as ‘Captain Dunbar’ and ‘Nixan’.
Then we have these two labelled ‘Timelord’ (a possible Dr. Who reference?) and Cybergirl’ respectively:
The flyer refers to this pair as ‘Star Raven’ and ‘Loritta’.
The remainder are labelled ‘Mercenaries’. I’ve split these into two groups – the ‘possibly human’:
(‘Little Rico’, ‘Psycho’, ‘Pop Stewart’ and ‘Attitude Gorman’)
And the ‘probably not human’:
(‘Zandar’, ‘Vaal the Asharian’, ‘Ooglorg the Cruel’, ‘Verrington Khosht’ and ‘Col Vlad’)
So I think we have a few interesting things going on here… The Troops & Heroes are stylistically similar enough to probably be intended to be together, (though they possibly represent different troop types, almost like proof-of-concept sculpts?). The Mercenaries certainly make for a good stand-alone group, while Loritta fits in nicely with either set. The real odd-one-out is Star Raven/Timelord… I don’t think Bob ever intended for him to be in this range, and I suspect that GW just rolled a bunch of Iron Claw stuff into one product code. I’ll tell you one thing for sure – having painted this guy, I can honestly say that he is right up there as one of the best minis of that period… He would be equally at home in a fantasy game as he would a sci fi game, and while he doesn’t have any of the grotesque gribble, Bob’s excellent use of texture is still evident throughout. He really is a superb sculpt, and I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a few more!
Notice that there are no close combat weapons in this group – these guys are all about the shootin’. Talking of guns, the range and look of the firearms is just lovely, especially on the ‘aliens’. I never noticed that Zandar’s gun is sculpted to look like a dragon’s head, or that lovely detail on the stock of Col Vlad’s gun for example. These sculpts are full of little details that can’t be captured from a single photo angle, and are just a joy to find and paint.
Speaking of painting, I originally painted the ‘Troops’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Loritta’ together, thinking that I would probably split the group and differentiate between these guys and the ‘Mercenaries’. I deliberately kept to a tight palette of green, shades of leather, neutral white, and red as the spot colour. However, when I came to paint the ‘human’ Mercenaries, I realised that the same scheme would work just as well, and so I continued with it. By the time I got to the ‘not-human’ mercenaries, it seemed silly to split the group, so again I followed the scheme, and I deliberately painted the flesh in human shades… Inspired by JB all those years ago, I wanted my guys to be mutant human rather than alien. Finally, Star Raven got his paint job. I used the same palette so as to tie him in with the group, but in different ratios to set him apart. Here’s the whole lot as a group:
Don’t they look cool as a cohesive group? As I was painting them, I couldn’t help but come up with some fluff:
The Olleyan system was first settled during the earliest expansion of the Imperium, and is an extensive system with multiple habitable worlds and moons. It was subsequently cut off for millennia during the age of strife, and as a result, the slow process of non-warp related mutation ran unchecked. Consequently, the system has a high proportion of stable Abhuman worlds, (the high gravity Squat homeworld ‘Olley Prime’ is a good example, as is the Ogryn population of the Deathmoon ‘Olley’s Folly’). Even the baseline humans of the planet ‘Olley’s Landing’ have a high incidence of non-warp related mutation, most notably, the high rate of expression of the so-called ‘fugly gene’ – a gene that results in extensive cranial and facial distortion. The most severely affected are barely recognisable as human, and even the most unmutated of Olleyans is still a sight to make an Ork shudder. Indeed, it is often said that, not only did the Olleyans all jump out of the tallest ugly tree, (hitting every branch on their way down), most of ‘em climbed right back up for another jump.
Despite this, the Olleyan system is a fertile recruiting ground for the Imperium, providing skilled frontline infantry and superb Ogryn shock troopers. All are well equipped by their in-system Squat brethren, are incredibly self sufficient, and they punch well above their weight in any conflict. They tend to work most effectively when kept to their own units – this is just as well, as it is not unheard of for Imperial troops from other systems to mistake Olleyan forces for enemy aliens or mutants. This has led to several regrettable ‘blue on blue’ incidents, (which tended to end badly for the mistaken Imperial unit in question). That said, it is not unheard of for small numbers of Olleyans to find themselves in mixed units across the galaxy, or operating as pirates or mercenaries in other mixed crews.
Suffice to say that I am a convert with respect to Bob’s early work, and I have the urge to expand this little collection out to a full Olleyan Platoon, so more troops (including conversions), the Iron Claw squats, and of course, the wonderful Olley Ogryns. Don’t hold your breath though, I have a load more things to get through before I start buying up more lead!!
Peace out dudes, catch you all soon.