Friday 19 July 2013


"I do not come to you as a reality; I come to you as a myth."
- Sun Ra 
"We do not really mean that what we are about to say is true.
A story, a story; let it come, let it go"
- Traditional African folktale beginning.

The history of the Warhammer Pygmy is a short one. Forgive the pun, it won't be the last. Their history begins in 1984 and ends in 1988, and represent the only Warhammer race of explicitly African origin.

Warhammer is (was) a Fantasy Battle game, a tabletop wargame heavily influenced by the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock,  and Dungeons and Dragons - regurgitations of well worn northern european fantasy tropes. Warhammer also drew on alternative history, the geography and many of the peoples obvious caricatures of real-world historical people, and also began to eschew the purely Eurocentric setting of generic fantasy for the further-reaching land of Lustria.

Pygmy | Warhammer 2nd Edition | 1984

Introduced in 2nd Edition Warhammer Battle Bestiary, alphabetically sandwiched inbetween Tolkienesque Orcs and Von Danikenesque Slann, sit the little cannibal Pygmies.

 A quick statistical comparison against the human baseline shows us:

4 3 3 2 2 1 3 1 7 7 7 7 3
4 3 3 3 3 1 3 1 7 7 7 7 5

Strength and Toughness lower than the standard human. Pygmies are the cheapest troops available in the whole game. Having such a low profile, arming and armouring them becomes cheaper than larger and more powerful troops. They do have access to blow-pipes and poisons which might give them some chance at defeating their enemies, and of course, point-by-point they'll outnumber anyone.

2nd Edition is also packaged with an introductory scenario, The Maginficent Sven which also brings us a tale of Pygmies having a feast to celebrate the release of a Norse captive (they'd killed 120 of his fellow adventurers)  and roasting the said prisoners leg as center-piece to the feast, while plying him with beer. Of course this is meant as dark humour, but things like this are actually being reported as real events, although with real-world Pygmies of the Congo as the victims, and neighbouring tribes as the oppressors, so it's not really all that funny. Nonetheless,  the story shows the Warhammer Cannibal Pygmies having the upper hand both morally, with a warrior code of honour, and physically over their dirty thieving murder-hobo (white) Nordic aggressor.

Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom 2004

Still, the Cannibal Pygmy myth seems to have some entertainment value. Sure "other things exist" isn't really an excuse. Some tribes of Pygmies are reported to have practised cannibalism, and whether true or not it does inform contemporary notions of what 'pygmies' is meant to signify. It's worth noting that Pygmy itself is an ancient greek word for a mythical race of crane-fighting dwarfs - the term being applied by white imperialists to various tribes of the Congo.

Around a year after the rulebook was published, Citadel Miniatures released figures sculpted by Alan and Michael Perry. the C27 range consisting of 10 different designs.

Citadel Journal Spring 1985

The Spring 1985 Citadel Journal gives us some line artwork, from the pen of Dave Andrews or John Blanche I think, and neither of their finest hours. There is also a change in design direction of the figures themselves from the initial illustration as the original drawing definitely has hair (and furry ankles - amaShoba like the photo of traditional Zulu costume below) and the blowpipes no longer need a stand, and are of a fluted end design, rather than the thick, striped didgeridoo type affair seen in the Warhammer 2nd Edition Bestiary.

Zulu Warrior Angus McBride

The spear, shield designs, feather head-dresses are evidentially taken from Zulu material culture (see above). The 3rd Citadel Compendium gives us some grainy black and white photographs to peer at.

3rd Citadel Compendium 1985.

Pygmies White Dwarf #70 | October 1985 | Painted by Tim Olsen

The miniatures are undoubtedly rather grotesque caricatures. It's often argued that features have to be exaggerated on the tabletop to make things identifiable, and certainly looking at many of the other ranges they are not really any more cartoonish than say, the average Dwarf or Halfling. They are somewhat problematical in that in their exaggerations conform to long-standing derogatory stereotypes of people of African decent.

cannibal capers Disney 1930

Also see the British Pathe film from 1929 Borneo And The Pygmy Cannibals

The problem isn't so much the caricature itself, Games Workshop aren't inventing here, just perpetuating it, but when it is the only creature of Black Origin, the whole thing starts to look a little bit like institutionally racist stereotyping.  

The Citadel Miniatures are reasonably hard to track down on eBay, but usually fetch around £4-5 each. Meanwhile Kalistra make some similar looking ones, I don't know if they fit scale wise but their proportions are more naturalistic...

similar designs by Kallistra

Then, after 1985... nothing. No new models  or scenarios or rules, like the Feminist Lesbian Punk Amazons, and the Von Daniken Slann and the rest of the Lost Continent of Lustria the Pygmies just faded away into deep tropical mists. Warhammer Fantasy Role Play is released with no Lustrian content, instead extending Albion and the Old World with its Fimir and Zoats and Germanic Empire. Until...

Note: the White Dwarf is a black guy.

To celebrate it's 100th issue, White Dwarf published a scenario for the Warhammer Fantasy Role Play game a competition scenario entitled the Hanging Gardens of Bab-Elonn written by Basil Barrett (known for the Doomstones campaign) for the 1987 Games Day convention. It takes the traditional timed dungeon crawl and re-dresses it as a Pygmy reconnaissance mission into a floating pyramid, which unbeknownst to them is set to self-destruct, in T-minus 2 hours.

How much of the background is taken from Richard Halliwells unpublished notes for his Lustria campaign and how much is Basils creation is anyones guess - there are hints of new spells in a forthcoming Lustrian supplement, which never surfaced.  The background narrative of the scenario places the race of Pygmies as accidental inter-stellar settlers of the Lustrian continent, after their spaceship malfunctioned and crashed into the tropical jungle. In the wider mythos, the majority of the Warhammer Known World races (elves, dwarves, orcs, men) are considered to be the results of genetic experiments by the alien frog-demons called the Slann, with only Amazons, Lizardmen and perhaps Dragons, being the only truly native races on the planet. So like the Slann, the pygmies have extraterrestrial origins as an advanced, spacefaring culture, who have subsequently lost their knowledge and technology, and after being stranded have devolved into a primitive way of life.


It is tempting to focus a post-imperialist, post-industrial, post-space-age, anti-modern lens onto the Pygmies. The golden age of high technology has passed and all we have to look forward to is the subsistance charms of neo-primitivism, and such a criticism could be fruitful (shamanism, ancestor spirits all ripe for developing those themes),  but as we established above, the characters are clearly based on colonialist caricatures of African people, which combined with their extra-terrestrial origins opens them up to be read in an Afro-futurist context. 

Need an introduction to afro-futurism? Watch the 1974 Sun-Ra movie "Space is the Place", it's OK, we'll still be here blathering about Warhammer when you get back, the Floating Pyramid won't really blow up (T-minus 1.5 hours). Bonus points for references to Ingmar Bergmans The Seventh Seal.

 Space is the Place - Sun Ra (1974)

Sun Ras  "I do not come to you as a reality; I come to you as a myth." is a great expression, and the reaction of the kids is brilliant.  Myths of racial identity, ideological formations and cultural norms. We can call these ideas stereotypes or memes or caricatures, but Sun Ra reaches into his Barthesian semiotic toolbox, and uses the word myth. Quite purposefully too - not only does the word myth popularly connote falsehood or lie, but also a thing of power, a story we tell about ourselves to explain our place in the universe. If you watch Sun Ra's film, you'll see he uses multiple negative, derogatory sterotypes of African Americans and purposefully contrasts them with his new, positive Afrofuturist myth.

Apparently within our (globalised, internet-based) culture there is a derogatory myth of the African American who is lazy and eats watermelon, which originated in early American discourses on slavery, and have come to represent an aggressive mythologising of ignorance and stupidity within American culture - and it is a peculiarly American myth, watermelon isn't a great signifier of anything except fruit in these parts. However, we are introduced to the Negro Pygmy hero of the scenario as he is relaxing,  sitting under a tree and eating a watermelon, illustrated by Paul Bonner. 

Banga Gong

It might be enlightening to contrast this image with that of a 19th C. engraving. (lots of others here which when seen en-masse give a good impression of the overall myth and its relation to its subject in visual culture)

19th C. engraving

In Bonners image, and Barretts supporting text, the pygmy Banga Gong sits in a village idyll, not a plantation,  Banga is a free man, not a slave, and has obtained the watermelon through his own work, not through the 'charity' of his masters (or by theft). He's having a rest, enjoying the sunshine and eating fruit, not rabid and drooling with glee. The melon isn't a giant-sized ridiculous slabering thing, and in fact, looking at the colouration and lack of seeds, it's more like a honeydew melon than a watermelon.   We may frown upon the use of the watermelon as a  symbol, because of its repeated use within a negative mythology, but in the context it being placed here it is not demonaic, it is not a symbol of oppression nor of denying Banga's socio-economic position.


Another stereotype we can clearly read in the diminutive image of Warhammer Pygmy is the Picaninny - a word applied to black children, and to infantilise black adults. The pygmies are short, slightly comical, have a great love of food and buffoon-esque. Of course, in fantasy, the image of a child-like, child proportioned, ravenous pot-bellied fool  is a common myth which is more often applied to a certain class of whitefolk - Hobbits are, after all, Pygmys in rural Edwardian English white-face - can we not see in Sam Gamgee a lighter shade of Tom?  Perhaps these mythemes stem not from racial tensions but rather rural vs. urban and class concerns... can you make cider from Watermelons Mr Baggins? Hmm. Pass da pipweweed Sam. I digress...

Citadel Halflings (2nd Citadel Journal)

Stupid. Fat. Hobbitses.
Is it 'cos I is a faaaaarrrmeeer?
A minor digression. Oo-ar. Oo-ar.

We are also introduced to the Pygmies twin gods, the god of Work (who nobody likes) and the god of Food (who everybody likes) their followers carry a motif - said to be a crecent moon or a mouth with the smile facing up, or down. An alternative reading of the sign may be of a large slice of watermelon.

Brobat and Beesbok
The Pygmy Gods of Warhammer

Floating Gardens of Bahb-Elonn employs these myths quite blatently, and then recontextualises the cannibalistic watermelon-eating picaninny as a descendant of a race of advanced alien astronauts, who have lost their great, spacefaring past and have subsequently descended into primitive cannibalism. Similarly in  Sun Ra's movie Space is the Place, negative stereotypes of black americans as pimps, workshy layabouts and gangsters, are contrasted against Ra himself as an enlightened 'angelic being' from Saturn, in touch with both his ancient Egyptian ancestry and futurist astroblackness. What Ra teaches us is that all these ideas are myths, they are all vaguely ridiculous and we do not have to accept them as truths. Indeed a major part of the proselyting strategy of Afrofuturism is to directly contrast the old, accepted social mythology with the new - with the "alter-destiny" as Ra puts it, so that the present no longer has to define the future.

However, the transcendent, redemptive messenger that Ra represents is absent from the game scenario itself, and this is problematical in terms of representation. The Afro-Futurist as central agent is missing, the whole scenario would be thematically stronger if it were actually portrayed in some form, rather than alluded to in the back-story. Yet if the players manage to win the scenario (which is no walk in the park) our heroes reclaim their historical birthright and become masters of the spacecraft-pyramid, they effectively become Ra. and in this game as signs-system - it is the active,  primary role that must be fulfilled by the player.


As such we can see the central theme being one of transcendence and reclamation, of moving from one (derogatory) mythical form - the picaninny watermelon stereotype, to a new (transcendent) form - the spaceship-pyramid flying Afrofuturist. And more significantly, this doesn't occur through an external agency of a Prophet or Pharaoh as Sun Ra would have it (with himself as phaero-prophet), but through the agency of the individual hero.

If we turn our attention to these heroes, we can see a pattern emerge in the naming strategy:

Brudda Bobb
Probably a reference to Bob Marley. the song One A We by Culture:
Man like brother Bob Marley a one a we.
But most of all to stand by our side,
As the King of Kings, Lord of Lords,
Emperor Haile Selassie I and I, ey-ey.

I and I keep fighting for our rights.
Rubba Dub
A reference to the Rub-a-dub style of reggae, a prcursor to the modern Dancehall style.

Magga Dog
Jamaican patois, translates as "meagre dog" or mangey dog.  Peter Tosh guitarist with The Wailers and successful solo artist wrote a song with this title.

Banga Gong
Possiby a refrence to Get it on (Bang a Gong) by T.Rex, otherwise a pun on the words Bang a Gong.

Billa Bong
an Australian (Wiradjuri) word for an isolated pond.

To-ka Bong,
Probably a pun on slang for smoking cannabis through a water pipe, should be noted that cannabis is a Rastafarian sacrament and central to Rastafari religious practice.

Shama Beesbok
Possibly from Africaans 'bees', 'bok' = cattle, goat. Shamans of Beesbok are responsible for food.

Shama Brobat,
Possibly a reference to chemical hygene company Brobat - Shamans of Brobat are charged with making poison for blow-darts.

The names are not racist slurs, and only one or two silly onomatapias (such as other names from Warhammer, such as Slann names, Gottalottabotl - gotta lotta bottle - a milk advertising slogan in the 80s, or the ogre Ezza Ugezod - He's a huge sod)  Instead the majority seem to be affectionate monikers stemming from Black British culture, Jamaica and Australia being Commonwealth countries - names like Magga Dog and Brudda Bob seem to signify someone with a more than casual acquaintance with Reggae, although we shouldn't discount a cheap compilation LP being picked up simply for research purposes. Nontheless takes an informed position, and makes the same kind of irevverent jokes that litter the ground of Warharmmers other imaginary peoples.

The name Bahb-Elonn (the villain) is a classic Warhammer pun. Obviously the pun is on the name of city of Babylon, and the Floating Gardens on its famous Hanging Gardens, one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World. However, Babylon has a deeper resonance within Rasterfari culture, illustrated nicely by the song By the Rivers of Babylon,  popularised in the mid 1970s by German disco group Boney M (themselves no strangers to Afrofuturism, their first album being entitled Nightflight to Venus )  based on  Psalm 137 about the plight of the Isrealites taken as slaves into Babylon. Feel free to press play and carry on reading, there's nothing of particularly Afrofuturist note in the imagery here.

In Rasterfari the word Babylon is synonymous with the forces of oppression and is used to denote the State, Police or other anti-rasta authority that stands against the Rule of Jah (God). As we've already seen in the Good character names, Reggae & Rastafarianism is established as part of the  myth. It is precisely in this role of the 'downpressor man' that the Old Worlder magician Bahb-Elonn is cast. The only white man in the scenario, set up as  a colonialist slave-taker, an evil, powerful magic user, who is worshipped as a false-god by his slaves on his stolen, floating island, and trapped by his own wickedness and lust for power.

There is another mythological slant to this, Bahb-Elonn is a magic user, and his theft of the ancient pyramid-craft is more than a simple reference to european colonialist aggression. One only needs to look at the headline act in 19th C. Occultism - Aliester Crowley to see the appropriated Egyptian symbolism and imagery within the Western Esoteric Tradition, and Crowley can be seen to be culturally (or perhaps even psychically) inhabiting the pyramids themselves, robbing them from their African heritage and re contextualising them within a predominately white, Eurocentric mytheme. Bhab-Elon then can be read as representing the Masonic / Golden Dawns appropriating, claiming for themselves the history and mythologies of African culture for their own selfish magickal gain.

Aleister Crowley in Egyptian garb

In this light, rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West recent appropriation of Crowley-esque occultic and masonic imagery is less about a lost pop-stars flirting with a hipster / gothy / witchhouse pseudo-satanism, or conspiracy-driven Illuminati mind control, but rather a radical cultural tactic to wrestle the imaginative image of Magickal Egypt from the Masons, New-Agers and Occultists and into the hands of Afro-Americans - 'we have returned to reclaim the pyramids' as Parliament sang back in 1975. Besides, Rihanna looks fantastic as a bladerunneresque Koka Kalim ganger, in Run the Town give the girl a bolt pistol.

Big contracts, big contractors
built pyramids, period
We Masters
Jay Z - Free Mason

But unless the multi-platinum darlings of Hip-Hop are funding the Egyptian uprising or attempting to stem the systematic wiping out of the Mbuti in the Congo, just like Mr. Crowleys psychic attack on Hitler in WWII, it lacks any real-world clout, and is ultimately empty narcissistic entertainment glorifying capital and celebrity with themselves as the new overlords - the new Celebritarian Antichrist Ssuperstars to borrow Maryin Mansons extended critique of celebrity obsessed pop-culture.

Enough of that! Back to the Warhammer...

Bahb-Elonns arrogant use of evil magic, his Faustian lust for power and abuse of power eventually traps him into eternal conflict with a daemon, which subsequently causes the immanent destruction of the floating pyramid. The ur-narrative of rebellion and uprising would be more elegantly satisfied by the pygmies confronting Bahb-Elonn head on. Yet perhaps this denial of vengance is a subtle restatement that colonialist masters are still untouchable by their 'lessers' and a final re-assertment of the conservative, white, european balance of power.

An Afrofuturist reading of the Floating Gardens shows it to be actively engaging in transforming myths, subverting negative sterotypes of Africans rather than simply reproducing them and creating an role-playing-game worthy of Ra's 'alter-destiny' whilst also respecting the history of slavery and portraying it as a universally bad thing, without overburdening it with guilt messages.  One could level the charge of simply perpetuating certain negative stereotypes against the Floating Gardens, and not portraying the positive ones, but nontheless the negative myth is usurped - not only are the watermelon eating pickaninnies free men, but heroes whose history and future is far greater than they know and it is by their own hands that they will reclaim both...


P.S. Pushed "publish" instead of "save". This wasn't quite cooled, and probably needed breaking into smaller posts. Oh well, it's done now!


  1. Fascinating. A Philip Sandifer/Tardis Eruditorum style analysis of an element that has been troubling me for some time with regard to the pygmies and how the oldhammer movement could approach them. Unfortunately the fact remains that they are still dangerous racial hot potatoes. Possibly what remains unresolved is the freedom that Citadel felt it had in using such broad strokes in their creation of a pseudo-culture for the pygmies - where south America, central Africa and ancient Egypt all collapse together as a single ill-delineated representation of otherness.

    Am I wrong in thinking that one of the chaos warriors was called "Dread Inde Babylon"? - which again argues for a more than passing familiarity with Rastafarian culture.

    1. Hey. Thanks Anon. I had planned to mention the homogenisation of the different ethnic-groups (South African, Australian, South American, North African) as a kind of universal-blackness as being problematical (by which I mean interesting!). One side of the coin is the "they all look the same to me" of racism, and the other is the pan-Africanist perspective that all black people are of the same original culture and part of an African diaspora.

      The Afrocentric stance doesn't come problem free, the claiming of ancient Egypt as a purely Black-African 'achievement' (if anyone can call a slave culture an achievement) isn't widely accepted by historians and primarily an ideological gloss over a more complex multi-ethnic reality. Sun Ra as semiotician and deep thinker seems to be aware of this, and that his ultimate message is that people should treat symbols as symbols, and let people get on with being people. By identifying himself as extra-terrestrial he no longer is concerned with petty matters of human races, his otherness takes him beyond.

      As you used the "other" word, I would contend it is not strictly otherness being represented, as roleplayers we are supposed to inhabit the role of the pygmies - they aren't npcs - so I'd argue are intended to be "us" not "them". To cut a long story short, I think reading the texts of games and interactive media where the player takes up an avatar (be it a single character, a warband, an army or a nation) requires a different approach to a simple sender->receiver model, and the Other is located in absence of player options rather than in the details of what is represented within the system. So in D&D the Orc represents the Other, as it is not a playable race, whereas Men, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings and Half-Orcs represent 'us'. In Warhammer, and wargaming in general, all factions are permisable.

      Not all that familiar with Chaos warrior names "Dread Inde Babylon" sounds fair enough!

  2. Amazing post, thanks. Your blog is the best. I'm probably the last wfrp's italian fan :D
    I make adventures and translate some old stuff in my language. You gave me the inspiration, if I find the Hanging Gardens of Bab-Elonn, i try to translate it in italian for my blog.

    1. Thank you! It's in White Dwarf 100, which turns up on eBay regularly - good luck!

  3. Certainly the inclusion of Pygmies is less controversial than the absence of any other credible Human varieties. I think GW staff in the 1980's were more interested in what they saw going on around them in Nottingham and on the news than exploring racial stereotypes from across the globe. I remember just how many Rastafarians were to be found in the 80's compared to now, using them as an influence was no different than their use of punks. No doubt in my mind the pygmy minis are poorly conceived though, I will certainly never own any.

    The overall diversity of the Warhammer world has always been from an Anglo-centric point of view, understandably, though from a purely marketing point of view I am surprised they never developed better analogues for black, middle-eastern and oriental people et cetera. It has been supposed that the GW hobby is popular in places like Germany and France partly because it transcends the politics of other wargames, though they have always under-performed in the USA and Japan which in theory should be big markets for them. Numbers of black and female gamers are growing at a truly impressive rate, particularly in the USA.

    1. And yet they have never been properly catered for.

    2. "Certainly the inclusion of Pygmies is less controversial than the absence of any other credible Human varieties."

      I agree, 100%.

      Going back to 1st Edition (FoF) we have Men of the North (Norse) Men of the East (Arabs) Men of the Orient (Chinese) and Men of the West (European). There are no Men of the South.

      I think the cause is simple, in that these were put in the rule-book just to cover the miniatures ranges Citadel made which focused on the Medieval period of wargaming, and the colonisation of Africa happened much later, with different technologies. But in context of creating an Earth-like parody world, the absence is a great huge stinking chasm.

      There certainly was a lot of naturally reflecting the current (80s British) culture happening. But there is a specifically "pseudo-historical" strand running through Lustria, the alien-astronauts (Slann), the feminist-ideology (Amazons) and the afro-centricsm (Pygmies) - all areas rejected by mainstream (white, male, conservative blah blah blah) historians and ripe for developing fantasy. In many ways this makes fantasy gaming as 'uncomfortable' as historical war-gaming, and rather than blanket denying the political aspects of the texts (after all, everything is political) embraces and challenges it.

  4. As far as black and/or female American gamers goes, that just opens up the troublesome question of why the Amazons are hawt, tech-savvy, white chicks, while the Pygmies are deformed, primitive, black guys. Neither archetype gives a great deal of wiggle room.

    As far as Dread Indy Babylon goes, he appears in on of the adverts here -

    1. Trying to think of Lustria as marketing to American gamers of any gender or ethnicity is barking up the wrong tree.

      Amazons are not "hawt", they are sensibly dressed, and while the fetishiszation and sexualisation within Punk isn't to be denied, it's not the whole of the Amazon culture. I cannot think of a single instance of a depiction of an Amazon that is sexualised to even the slightest amount of the average 80s fantasy art piece, so no.

      I agree the Pygmies are quite deformed, and taken out of context do little but confirm prejudices, but placed within the context they were given, something else should happen.

      Dredd in da Babylon has an interesting sumerian style beard. Cheers for the link.

  5. I hear what you're saying on this subject, very much so. When I pay close attention to the more metaphysical side of Warhammer, or read the ruminations of others who have put the effort in, I usually accept that it all makes a strange kind of sense.

    One remaining niggle I can't get past though, I still have a hard time accepting the reasoning that leads to certain analogues being ignored or mishandled. It's not good enough to simply blame it on a vicious circle (No X gamers = no X minis = no X gamers). After all, while it's only right and accurate to point to the existing miniature range influencing early Warhammer content the question remains why have the mistakes have been repeated, multiplied and ignored for such a long time now? Were Catachan Jungle fighters not a great excuse to include African-American heads on the sprue? Is not southern Estalia a great place to locate an advanced black, Warhammer civilisation? Will anyone ever sculpt a characterful female miniature that isn't either a caricatured hag-witch or a semi-naked femme fatale? Why, with Dan Abnett's books so full of credible female Imperial Guard soldiers, do we have virtually no models of them? Why were female Necromunda gangers lumped into an separate 'Amazonian' gang instead of being filtered into all the gangs?

    I am fascinated by the origins of Warhammer in the 70's and it's growth throughout the 80's but at some stage you have to wonder why even today the demographic is so narrow.

    I would take a leaf or two out of George Martin's books and write up a few interesting female characters and explore ethnicity in a mature way, not because I'm a GOT fanboy, rather because I want to see the hobby grow and benefit from a wider customer base. Let's face it, we are experiencing a retro revival partly because modern Warhammer has gotten more than a little stale.

    1. Some interesting points of view there! I do think there should be more racial and gender diversity, regardless of marketing concerns, because that's what my D&D world is like, I need guys in platemail with afros. Warhammmer currently does have an Egypt analogue, it's just undead, and perhaps this is a commentary on slavery and zombification (in African and Haitian folklore often related to forced labor - Hammers Plague of Zombies does a nice westernised version of the idea), I have no idea. I've never read a Tomb Kings Army book. Similarly I had no idea there were no black people in pseudo-vietnam-in-space, and that is just weird.

      I suppose we're fortunate enough to have older gamers here, where we can discuss representations of ethnicity without the hysteria that comes along with it - something I think that might be difficult with mainstream gamers, which is a shame.

  6. Very excellent article, with many great references.

    You have really picked up on many of the cultural references regarding and the mindset of the time regarding in-jokes and sterotypes, especailly regarding the Pygmy range.

    GW did represent races in a 'broad brush' mannner and stereotype using in-jokes all over the place.
    The 3rd edition Norse army list in White Dwarf refers to them as blue eyed and brainless, in the 2nd edition, the Men of Cathay had Vimto Monks (reference to a fizzy drink in the UK). The Slann were a mix of Aztecs/Maya/Inca, and Von Daniken-equse space aliens.

    I'm sure given time we could list all of the sterotypes throughout the older editions, but I think it was just the mindset of the time. Many of the designers probably did'nt give it a lot of thought, and were more interested in humour and in-joke fun, as many of the miniature ranges names show right up to the Rogue Trader ranges show.

    Concerning the racial stereotyping for the Pygmies, I always thought the models were strangely out of synch with other Citadel miniatures. Making them Zulu looking I think was just a blending of the ideas of 'generic hostile natives' idea from 'Boys Own' British Empire stories and the film Zulu.
    The idea was probably more a fun, if crude, homage to the idea of 'heroic daring do'ers vs the hordes of natives'.
    Although the protagonists were Slann (or Sven if you're on the Slann's side like me! :) ) the Magnifcent Sven Scenerio always felt just as much about Rorke's Drift as it was Akira Kurosawa.

    In order to avoid the Zulu/Black sterotype feel to them, I have painted up my Pygmies to be a South American in skin tone and colours as much as possible. Incedently, I think that the sculpts put people off buying them, as well as the fact that they were only usable as an Ally contingent in a Slann Army, which few people collected. I only got mine as I picked a load of them up cheap from someone at the time.
    I think the idea of making the Pygmies descended from spacefarers may have been to lessen the accusation of racism when they were using racial sterotypes for fun, or just that Lustria is full of space aliens, monsters, and Amazon punks! By giving the Pygmies a more noble past, they might have thought it helped to justify the poking fun at them in the present.

    I always got the feeling that GW was knowingly Euro-centric as part of thier humour. A very British style of humour based on a mix of a sterotypes of the world, with a self deprecating look at Europeans and the Eurocentric world view too.

    In essence, everyone got the fun based sterotype treatment, but with the Pygmies the models were maybe taken too far and the joke could be misinterpreted as more than perhaps intended. To find out, you'll have to ask the Perry Twins themselves.

    Anyway, thank you for a great article.

    1. Cheers Goblin Lee!

      Boys Own Adventure stories is a probably a good source for that native imagery, perhaps Eagle comics Fraser of Africa, it's not a genre I'm intimate with, but makes more sense than the random Disney cartoons I picked to just get the picanniny/pygmy theme underlined. Good call.

      Always thought The Magnificent Sven was a take on Heart of Darkness. I don't agree that the pygmies fill the niche of the natives in 'heroic daring do'ers vs the hordes of natives' in fact the Warhammer analog to just such a scenario (Orcs Drift) places Orcs in that niche. Chalk Dever and Page could have just used Pygmies if that were the case. Obviously equating Orcs and Black people has a long and dubious history in the criticism of Tolkien, but that's not really relevant to the Warhammer Pygmy except to say the 'savage' stereotype niche is already filled.

      Of course, irony and humour run throughout, but I'm not going to go as far as dismissing Colin Dixons Thatcher head on an Orc banner, or the Empress Magaritha just as a jolly jape, History and Archeology degrees abound in the GW studio of yore.

      Totally disagree with the alien aspect being shoehorned in as an apology or smokescreen whilst playing up racist stereotypes and would definitely need the designers to openly admit that to give the idea any credence. It would be a deeply weird slight of hand trick, and Basils punning with Rasterfarian symbolism is too subtle for it to be that crude. Besides, if we want to divine their intention, we should ask the designers.

      Not sure about knowingly euro-centric, perhaps now, but 1E and 2E, the Empire was largely ignored, instead Lustria and Albion was where it was at. There are massive amounts of Crusade based narrative running through the Regiments of Reknown, but they're all sickos, be they from east or west. Worth looking at in more detail tho'.

    2. Thank you for the detailed reply.
      I’m really more interested in the general debate going on, rather than having a particular viewpoint myself to put across.
      The 'Boys Own' idea was more to explain the move in Pygmy design from South American to Zulu. I wasn’t suggesting that the Pygmies were the only 'native horde' race in Warhammer, just that they were ‘savage natives’ in the context of Lustria . Orcs Drift is a good example of how the Orcs are used as native hordes, as is Forenronds Last Stand in the 3rd Edtion rulebook, which personally reminded me of Custer’s Last Stand.
      As for the Magnificent Sven Scenario, the Heart of Darkness view is good take on it. I think with that scenario you can interpret it as having aspects from many different movie/film/historical sources, from the Seven Samurai to the Incas attacking Conquisadors in Peru in an attempt to defend their Empire (as a Slann player I was rooting for the Slann to liberate their Empire!). I don’t think there’s a definite right or wrong way to look at it, or any other scenario as the designers, as you mentioned, had a large breadth of knowledge and influences.
      Concerning making Pygmies having a space background, I only thought it might be a consideration to lessen any concerns, although it might easily just be an expansion of the Lustria background. Never considered it a smokescreen. As the designers were based in Nottingham and London, I am sure they had a lot of direct experience of Black Afro-Caribbean culture. I highly doubt they are racist, and agree that if you want to find out about what they were thinking, then we could ask them.
      My suggestion of a knowing Euro-centrism (including from Albion and Norse) is only because Warhammer seemed to be primarily based in the Old World with its global interactions loosely based in an era similar to the 16th century. Also, many fantasy backgrounds at the time were pseudo-European/Tolkien -esque.
      Anyway, thank you again for good article.

    3. Hey! Thanks for the long and detailed reply.

      I don't see Lustria as Eurocentric or 16th Century. To me it's a refelction (pardoy?) of the Norse settlement of Vinland, in the 10thC - which is consistent with the technology (achronistic steampowered riverboats aside). As I mentioned in my response to Erny below, there is very little focus on Europe or colonialist European attitudes to Imperialism in early Warhammer. If anything Lustria seems to be a deliberate inversion and escape from that kind of fantasy, into something more postmodern...

      In some ways the Pygmies and the Amazons are not so much about their historical analogues than as representatamen for 1980s politics of identity and representation and ideas about pseudohistory - in fact each faction represents an idea of history (Feminism, Afrocentricity, Alien Astronauts, ) that stand directly against a Eurocentric worldview.

      Again, rather than simply "lessening concerns" I prefer to read the extraterrestrial origin as a radical usurption of the negative sterotypes used - which is fully compatible with an afrofuturist narrative. It's because such treatment of identity is almost exactly patterned in "Space is the Place" that I think we can read the background in a fundamentally unapologetic and liberating way ;-)

      Thanks for the comments, it's all good stuff.

    4. Should say that of course, Alien Astronaut mythology is a product of eurocentric arrogance, but it stands against the mainstream colonialist dialogue... hmm.

  7. Yes, that last post I made was very ambiguous and didn't really express what I was trying to suggest at all well.

    Certainly to think of amazons or pygmies as a marketing ploy aimed at attracting black or female players (be they American or otherwise) is, as you say, barking up the wrong tree. I still hold onto a certain naivety that believes that pre-White Dwarf issue 78 and the move to Nottingham, most of the designs were based more on a sense of fun rather than cynicism. Were amazons fun? Certainly. Were pygmies fun? Certainly.

    However there remains something barbed about the pygmies, particularly when they are placed in the Lustrian context.

    To first clarify what I intended to mean when I described the amazons as 'hawt' - you have yourself traced them back to Diana Rigg, and by implication Emma Peel. Whether it is an aprocryphal story or not that her character in The Avengers was named after a desire to supply male watchers with "'mmmm' appeal", it is still illustrative of how a female character can be presented as empowered, independent, physically active and attractive, without directly being sexualised in the manner of those many pieces of eighties fantasy art to which you allude.

    The amazons are presented as kinds of paragons: they possess independence, and may be pretty, but they are still capable of kicking arse. Perhaps 'fit' might be a better piece of lingo to attach to them.

    This is in contrast to the pygmies, who as I say are undeniably fun sculpts, but unfortunately also seem to make figures of fun of their subject matter in a way that is avoided with the amazons.

    To leap back into late seventies/early eighties culture: looked at in isolation the amazons may very well be analogues of The Slits, but when placed within Lustria and the ecosystem of the pygmies, then the whole thing becomes a bit Black and White Minstrel Show, where the white women are things to be admired, and the black men are something to be laughed at.

    My earlier unclear post was more stimulated by questions of sexual politics, rather than marketing. I guess what leapt out at me with regard to the pygmies was the lack of any female figures within their ranks. Now, I'm sure that this is not unusual for the time, and certainly I wouldn't start ranting on the basis of a lack of female figures in the pseudo-Viking or pseudo-Crusader ranges, but given that the amazons function as such a bold (if convoluted) reflection of eighties punk feminism, this lack stands out as noticeable to me. Within Lustria it seems like there are essentially three different kinds of humans/sentient mammalians indistinguishable from humans on the surface: the all female amazons, the all male pygmies and the all male eunuch slaves. What I find troubling is that the amazons are essentially european females in fancy dress, but the pygmies and eunuchs are distorted caricatures of non-european cultures, and that once the frisson of the amazons 'mmmm appeal' enters the equation, then the question of sexuality and the other kinds of Lustrian humans is raised.

    So, in essence, I find it troubling that the amazons are essentially white women to be admired (either as punk pioneers or liberation or just 'fit' females), while the non-white men are either literally emasculated or stunted and mis-shapen. What I find difficult to shake is the line from Blazing Saddles: "Where are the white women at?"

    ....of course, all of this is rather undercut by your pointing out that halflings are essentially just Little Englander pygmies, which is something, along with your comments on otherness that I will have to go away and consider.

    1. I see your point a little better now Mac - thanks for taking the time, it's illuminating.

      I do broadly agree, although Amazons do have their death-cults and drug abuse issues - they aren't exactly paragons of virtue and the Pygmies are bestowed a sense of honour - they aren't simple grotesqueries or grinning, eye-rolling gollywogs, although looking at the models one wouldn't know that - there is a discrepancy between the visual and literary texts.

      In The Magnificent Sven tale of the pygmies, it is the Norseman who is the butt of the joke, and we're laughing with the pygmies, not at them. And the Norse settlers are an integral part of the Lustrian mix.

      I hope you do come back, or start your own blogthing - interesting stuff!

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. fantasygamebook wrote:

      Great article! The Pygmies also featured in the Warhammer Armies book (Stillman, et al., 1988) where they formed an Ally contingent (pp. 142-3) for a Slann army list (no Amazons though!). Russ Nicholson did the pix and they look like they were based on the miniatures you've highlighted. You can find a PDF here...

      Sorry I had to remove the link to the PDF as the document is still in copyright. Hope you don't mind my heavy handed editorial!

      Yes, they do appear in Warhammer Armies, but I couldn't find much to say about the appearance there, but they should be included for completeness.

  9. We also heard from an erudite oldhammerist who shall rename anonymous (for political reasons), who pointed out that "Bruddah" is a common Southern accent on "Brother", and indeed the ever-reliable Urban Dictionary does confirm it's use in several different contexts. Thanks!

  10. Those miniatures and the illustrations in warhammer armies are exactly why pygmies do not appear in my games. Tintin in the Congo is all I see when I look at them and I'm afraid some knowledgeable but silly names don't' rescue them.

    I think that warhammer is and always will be Euro-centric. If we take Tolkien to be an extension of European mythology that is. Everything non European has been dumped into various little ghettos, Ind, Cathay and in the case of the most developed Lustria a melting pot of stereotypes. Not so much a conscious decision as what happens when you build a game around a bunch of DnD miniatures then slowly explore other cool settings.

    I'm not certain Warhammer needs to be anything more. Making a viable interesting black/Indian/oriental culture for it would be problematic. Sure we could take a militant people like the Zulu or a great empire like Mali and simply put it in the Warhammer world just like the Holy Roman Empire was. But the world they will be in will still be a European one. They would be out of place fighting Orcs and goblins, or elves or dwarves or Amazons because there is no truth in this to their own history and myths.

    In a world where elves have been everywhere and skaven and Orcs are everywhere what spot is left to explore non-European cultures without European influence and,"forbearance".

    1. Hey some interesting views there Erny.

      "knowledgeable but silly names don't' rescue them" is more than a little reductionist, which is more about Afrofuturism and it's use of negative stereotypes, and the take-up of Rasterfarian themes.

      The presence of Orcs and Goblins doesn't make something European - the overarching mythology of D&D is of the American frontier and rigorous individualist capitalism, the fact it borrows from Oriental (Ki-Rin etc. not least to say D&DG pantheons) puts it at a more globalised worldview. Similarly, there are analogues to Goblins in African folklore tikoloshe which coincidently were in this months Fortean Times. Do dwarves actually fight anyone in Norse Myth? There is ample space for alternative historical conceptions than Eurocentricism.

      Eurocentrisim is often overstated as the default view without any real definition of what it actually means. Lustria is the central location of 1st and 2nd edition - which doesn't embody any of the Eurocentric narratives about barbarianism vs. culture (if anything it's a critique of such a notion, with the colonialists being more barbaric than the people whose land they are stealing) and not is it geographically centered in Europe. We also have the Ziggurat of Doom in 1st, with its goblins and dwarves fighting on a pyramid, in a jungle, which is hardly European. The prominence of the Old World is a much later focus, and not at all inevitable.

      Still I'd be interested to see a detailed reading of early Warhammer through the lense of Eurocentrism, it might throw some light on some of the darker corners, although I'm afraid it would have to ignore large quantities of material that doesn't fit its framework.

  11. Okay, I'm too late to the discussion to add anything worthwhile - and I'm on holiday too - but I thought you might be interested that there Foundry have an extant Pygmy miniature line as part of their God of Battles range. See the last two items on this page:

    1. On holiday? Hopefully relaxing in the shade eating watermelon! Its never to late to add anything :-)

      Thanks for the God of Battles Pygmies link, I hadn't seen those before, I quite like em, and there's a couple that look like they'd be quite easy to convert to holding high age technology weapons...

    2. Foundry have Pygmies in their Darkest Africa range too:

  12. Just discovered your excellent post from a google search for warhammer pygmies, so sorry to join in a year too late. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who remembers/was troubled by this bit of Warhammer history.

    Personally I think you're being a bit generous with the rules creators. We're talking about a bunch of young, white, working class men from Nottingham in the 80's, who happily plundered history, popular culture and anglo-centric stereotypes in developing their material for GW. I imagine them meeting around a table with a big sheet of paper and saying "okay, Baz has had an idea - he wants to do zulus or pygmies or something. Everyone write down everything you can think of to do with black people." Such a list would no doubt include everything from pygmy cannibals, references to rastafarian culture, afro-futurism, watermelon, mothership connection and all the rest of it. Afterall, it's what was in the public consciousness of the time.

    The fact that it's all there (the positive and the negative) doesn't mean it all had some serious thinking behind it. It could all be there because they chucked everything in a pot with gay abandon, as they were wont to do when developing Warhammer races (and as they still do).
    I don't find the fact that you get to play the role of the pygmy, or that they have some sort of ancient star-god history, particularly positive. Afterall, this was a novelty, oddball "funny" scenario for use at a Games Day, so getting to play the role of a pygmy was supposed to be inherently funny (afterall, who would ever want to be them?). And giving them a supremely powerful history/destiny was for comic effect (oh the irony, afterall, how could they ever be great and powerful?). So rather than exploring Afrofuturism, or empowering the picaninny as the master of his own destiny, it's just another form of mockery.

    So from my point of view, the rules developers made a crude joke in bad taste, which in today's terms would simply be labelled as racist. But the miniature designers were, in today's terms, totally racist! There's really no excuse for the grotesquely exaggerated features and bones through the noses. Ten years previously, this was how black people were getting portrayed on tv; by the 80s (and certainly by 84) this sort of portrayal had left our tv screens. This imagery would have been considered racist at the time - GW should have known better.

    A few years ago, I was in GW store and a young guy walked in who knew nothing about the hobby but had walked in to the shop wanting to find out more. The sales assistant did a good job of rolling out the sales patter, but crumbled when the guy said "I'm not being funny, but where are all the black people?" Immediately I thought of the pygmy characters as being THE ONLY black miniatures ever produced by GW. Mischievously I could also have pointed out that Warhammer is essentially a race war between civilised, white western europeans and marauding savages from foreign lands. The sales assistant, by the way, only compounded the awkwardness of the situation by suggesting he should buy Catachans and paint them in black-face! I found this just as awkward, not just because the features on the models are obviously caucasian, but because the big, black, muscle man with the shaved head and big gun is a well-worn racist trope in itself (see B.A.Baracus, Panthro, Bishop etc).

    Just as GW should have known better in 84, so should they now. The next next guy who who walks into a store and asks that question (and would be perfectly justified in doing so), will at best get the same answer, but may get a simpler one: "there are no black people in warhammer - GW just doesn't seem to like them very much."

    1. Thanks for the long and thoughtful comment.

      We have to remain mute on the issue of Intentionality without Basil or Richards input, only they could say whether it was a crude joke or sophisticated socio-political comment. Even so, we're free to approach the text how we choose (death of the author and all that). Certainly, reading the Floating Gardens of Bahb-Elonn in a more mindful than dismissive way seems to me to be the more fruitful and interesting.

      But indeed, you can look at the imagery and say "that's a stereotype", but not all stereotypes are derogatory, especially if their negative basis is undermined (see above). Also, note that there was no coherent backstory for the Pygmies, the material in 1984 and 1987 probably weren't created in collusion, and doubtfully by committee brainstorming. That said, whilst Bahb-Elonn was a stand alone tournament module, the article is full of references to a forthcoming Lustria supplement, and may well have been intended to support further development.

      I don't see any mockery inherent in having the Pygmies as a race fallen from greatness - it's a massive part of the British post-colonialist experience (and perhaps wider European one). Someone from the industrial Midlands, having seen industry collapse, isn't going to be pointing and laughing at the idea of someone coming from a once-glorious world hopping people. We used to build ships, we used to make steel, we used to mine coal, we used to make cars, we used to pilot spacecraft, we used to build pyramids. All gone and going. The late 80s were the age of the Crustys the Grebos and the Goths, neotribalism never had it so good, and why not - industrialised civilisation was at an end, from the ice age, to the dole age as Morrissey once sang. The Pygmies are as applicable an archetype, as empathic a character as any Hobbit.

      Post-utopian narratives can be seen in Tolkien (Elves returning to the Undying lands, their Age upon Middle-earth fading, the near end of the Númenórean race), Moorcock (from Elrics point of view, the waning and end of the Melniboné). It's heavily embedded into GWs Imperium of 40k - whose Human Empire once spanned the Universe in the great Age of Technology, and now can barely hold on against entropy, 40ks Eldar - utopia is now long thrown into the madness of The Fall.

      Placing Pygmies into a post-utopian myth isn't about othering the Black man, it's not about negative stereotyping, or ridicule, it is exactly what the foundational myths of Afrocentricism does. It is, perhaps, about equating European and African mythologies and creating common ground. The true irony, from my POV is that the Empires which are fetishised by these myths were built on slavery.

      I hear the roar of a big machine
      Two worlds and in between
      Hot metal and methedrine
      I hear Empire down

      I hear Empire down

      Erekosë from the Eternal Champion is Black, Citadel made a model of him, so that's another one.

  13. ADDENDUM 2015. This post still garners a fair amount of views, which is nice, but things move on.

    I'd like to add links to Goblin Lee's South American styled Pygmy miniatures here and and here and to thank him for the discussion regarding pre-colombian African / American contact, and particularly leading me to the theories of Ivan Van Sertima as given in this talk in 1986, in London which draws the ancient Olmecs into afrocentric discourse. Lee also portrays his Pygmies using facepaint of the Matsés tribe - known for using Poison Dart Frogs for magico-shamansistic reasons, a genius moves that makes their allied to the Slann even more interesting.

    Also make mention of Bearded Quails experiences of discussing the Warhammer Pygmies online here and here, met with flaming and ultimately erasure.

    But more importantly I feel I should return focus on the real Pygmies, the tribes of the Aka, Baka, Mbuti and Twa in central Africa - people who are systematically being wiped off the face of the earth, their lands and livelihoods destroyed, their people hunted for sport and their way of life demonised. The Baka are accused of 'poaching' and funding terrorism (through the sale of Ivory) and stopped from hunting by military campains to 'defund' terrorism and 'conserve' game for the elites to use as sport. Read more about the plight of the Pygmies at After all it's not the sterotypes that are the problem, it's what you do with them.

  14. Someone just linked to this post on reddit minipainting. It's interesting and well-sourced! Also the pic of Aleister Crowley gave me a laugh ;)

    1. Thanks for the comment, I'm glad you found it entertaining and interesting.

      I did follow the conversation at /r/minipainting but I'm not sure that certain commentators actually read the article rather than just knee-jerk reacting to the subject matter being raised at all.

  15. I found this article through hunting down old citadel miniatures on eBay. I was surprised at the pygmies listed there, and wanted to learn more about'em. Excellent blog, very informative!

    1. Hey, thanks for the comment, and glad you found the post informative! Looks like Citadel Pygmies run for about £5 - £8 each on eBay at the moment.

  16. A fascinating article and set of comments. I'd not read any details on the secenario previously, and have to admit that I am put off the whole idea of Pygmies as an allied force of the Slann due to concerns about these very issues - and still am.

    This, and your previous article about the Amazons are really good though, and I admire the academic approach you take, and it is the type f analysis of GW and other Fantasy/SF games design that I crave. I'd also agree with the need to stay neutral on the question of intent without input from the original team - and on such a sensitive topic I doubt we would ever get that - but that is the most important missing piece here.

    Your analysis touches on some really important pints about class vs racial tension in the 80s, and any debate of this nature needs to be firmly located in the context of the time - e.g. Punk, Reggae, Thatcherism etc.

    My guess is that with GW employing the number of people it did, at the time it did, and with a range of backgrounds - there were a wide range of political opinions that found there way into the mix of miniatures, game design, background writing etc. and that these tensions were possibly conscious undercurrents. Speculation of course.

    Not Oldhammer of course, but one might also extend the discussion to the treatment of the Salamanders chapter in the modern take on 40K and the Horus Heresy. Something which feels quite problematic to me, althoug may be a welcome if tokenistic gesture by modern GW?

    1. I don't know anything about the Salamanders. I have recently been looking though the mutations tables in WH40K:RT and Realms of Chaos. There is a mutation/ chaos attribute in there called 'Black Skin'. It is obviously supposed to be jet-black rather than dark brown to light brown, but with the absence of the depiction of any naturally occurring dark skinned people, it frames the whole dark skinned thing as something abhorrent and a bit silly.

      I think the overall socially-informed bias of the output genuinely shifted in the late 80s / early 90s to a much more conservative, less liberal standpoint to the point where anything that might be considered 'problematic' or 'progressive' or 'critical' simply disappears from the output, from the lesbian feminist Amazons to the Nietzschian critique of power and ambition in RoC, to the anti-authoritarian 2000ADisms of 40k:RT, giving way to the uncritical parade of fascist imagery in later editions.

      But for me intentionality is the least interesting question. I'm not really bothered either way. For me the text is about what you do with it, what the 'affordances' are there in the text, and I think the framework of Afrofuturism is as applicable today as it was in the past.

      Speaking of tokenistic gestures, there is the Excelsior Warpriest in Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower. Which seems to have just reguritated the Mystical Negro trope, by class-ing him as the Cleric, and visually backgrounding him in the artwork.

  17. I've been stuck on this post for ages as I really wanted to reply re: the uncritical parade of facist imagery in 40K - something that always has bothered me right from the earliest days. I try to subvert this with the back story I wrote for my take on the Fire Angels space marine chapter, who I describe as book burning, history deleting, protest surpressing, tools of the Inquisition - or 'bad guys'.

    Thanks in particular for the link to the Mary Sue article. I'd not seen that. There is a very telling comment in there about the lack of comedy in the 'parody' of facism presented by modern 40K that puts a whole new light on what was lost in the transition from older to newer versions of the game.

    Bleak, but a very appropriate end to 2016. Now, on to 2017 and more of your excellent blog posts!

    1. Well, it probably deserves it's own post. I have one underway but it's a great sprawling mess, maybe get around to clearing it up one day.

  18. Great article, really interesting reading, thank You. :)

  19. Thanks for an interesting, well considered article, it was much appreciated.
    For the record, as a young teenager living in the East Midlands of the UK during the 80's I remember seeing the Pygmies in their balista packs and thinking of them as being racist caricatures even then. But I think your points about reader/player's use of the media being different from the original intent is also well made and really helps move the debate on from a simple dichotomy of offensive or inoffensive.
    A point worth raising is that the carnivalesque nature of English humour in early Warhammer is informed by the absurdist Pythons as well as Spike Milligan (Goons and Q TV series) and the more mainstream Goodies. All of these were comfortable in using explicitly racist imagery drawn from the British Colonial past while still being critical of the existing status quo. Just a thought.
    Again, thank you for a helpful and thought provoking article.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I have to agree, there is a strange idea that racism and racial caricatures were more socially acceptable at the time. it wasn't, for example the Greater London Council banned Gollywogs in 1983 for being offensive - and of course there were conservative reactions to that, but it's an example of how socially progressive the 80s really were. You wouldn't have been alone in regarding the pygmie models as straight up racist caricature.

      There is definitely a streak of absurd humour that runs through early Warhammer, although it's easy to try to pass things off as a joke, I think each thing need to be considered in context.