Golden Heroes: History of a Forgotten Citadel Range

In 1984 Games Workshop published an RPG called Golden Heroes. It was not made by GW, instead it was created by Simon Burley and Peter Haines, who had published the homemade rules a few years before. The RPG was a 'British' version of the American super hero RPG genre and GW, always on the lookout for a lucrative licensed product, wanted a piece of the Super Hero pie. 

About the game

Alan Merrett was in charge of the design studio at the time:

"Superhero rpgs were enjoying a little bit of popularity in the early 80s. TSR published the Marvel game, we had Superworld from Chaosium (if I remember correctly) and there were a number of others. Games Workshop bought Golden Heroes and published it prior to the business coming under Bryan Ansell’s management" (edit: meaning - the company was still geographically split between London and other locations).

"I was, and still am, a huge Marvel fan but most of my non-GW friends regarded comics as trivial and childish (the fools). Anyway, I assume the interest in superhero gaming was noticed by the original GW management, and they went and  ‘found’ Golden Heroes and decided to publish it. They clearly thought there was success to be had!"

White Dwarf 69

The operational separation of the young company led to problems in developing the game into a success. There was not a lot of connection between the teams in London and the various locations, including Birmingham, where Simon Burley worked and who wanted GW to promote his game. Although the Birmingham team wrote a slew of Golden Heroes scenarios in White Dwarf, there was a definite lack of communication between the teams. Of course having a set of successful miniatures would have helped a lot, but things went awry pretty quickly. Here's how Burley remembers it:

"As far as I am aware the figures were an afterthought. Our favourites were the range Citadel had produced for “Champions” Superhero Role-playing game. There were 6 designs, but with multiple options for each mini, like cloak or no cloak, mask or not. That suited my game well. We sent our thoughts to GW but received no response." 

The 'Champions' minis Burley referred to were created by Michael Perry a few year before and were scaled at 25mm. Here's a shot of my collection of them and I even painted one:

Simon Burley instead was confronted with a set of 20 (later another 10) of Aly Morrison-designed sculpts that were very individual and not easily modified for the flexibility of the RPG. 

Box art for Heroes

Box art for Villains

Burley: "We were surprised when the actual GW  figures appeared. I’d never met with the sculptor (Aly Morrison ) and we certainly didn’t discuss the models with a design team. There was a bit of a rift those pre-internet days with GW being based in London and us in Birmingham. I didn’t see any direct link between the figures and the game. Maybe they were based on characters created and played by GW personnel. They certainly don’t represent any of the many example characters in the rules. By the time the figures came out, the game was already on its way out ".

The miniatures did not sell well and soon after GW had lost interest. Simon Burley still publishes his game to this day, but under the name Squadron UK. In online reviews the Golden Heroes rule set to this day is very highly regarded, over 40 years after its creation. 

About those miniatures:

In talking to Alan Merrett I learned a lot about the creation of this forgotten range. Here are some good insights:

"I’m pretty sure that I made the master moulds, and probably the production moulds for this range. I certainly remember casting them! In those very early years the Citadel designers all worked from home scattered across the U.K. They would visit Citadel hq now and again but most communication was via old fashioned post."

"I think the miniatures are very typical of Aly’s designs of that era. They are dynamic and full of character. I rate Aly as one of the very best Citadel designers and these models show why. I think the poses are Aly trying to emphasise their power and heroism. They are clearly inspired by the superhero comics of the seventies. There are certainly some quirky models in the mix. But all of the models exude charm and personality."

"The only thing I really remember about the production of the models was being a little worried about how successfully we would be able to mould them. Models with weapons in their hands tend to rest more naturally on the split between the two halves of the mould during the vulcanisation process (curing of the mould). This means that the resulting cavity has fewer undercuts, the mould therefore being more robust and less prone to tears, and overall, easier to cast. I was concerned that the weaponless arms would end up being buried in one or other mould half. I may have engaged in some subtle, and very careful, bending of a master or two’s arms to reduce the chance of this happening. I was always a little nervous doing this sort of editing of master miniatures - I didn’t want to break the master figure and the designers could be quite precious about their designs being mucked about with. Even with these risks sometimes it was worth my effort because it avoided the need to have to write copious notes for the designer and to have to post the master back to them and then wait a week or two for them to be returned!"

""The Golden Heroes range is a little time capsule of very early Citadel. Classic Aly Morrison designs. Lovely clean detail, with lots of personality and charmingly quirky. They were also very innovative in their day. The range has a cohesiveness that comes from being the work of a single designer - the miniatures all sit well with each other. They were definitely the best superhero models available at the time of their release, and maybe even for some years after that".

"Killing off ranges, or discontinuing lines, is actually quite easy to do when you have fiscal responsibility. I never had any problem losing a model or range of miniatures if it wasn’t selling.  Same with games and books. All resources are limited in one way or another. Be that I mean finding balance between design time, advertising spending, production capacity, shelf space in the store, enthusiasm of the staff, warehousing capacity, ideas, figure painters, photography, and so on. As a manager you have to spend those resources as wisely as you can - which invariably means making decisions that you believe will lead to greater sales and higher profits. You don’t always get it right but that is your intent, or should be. In this wonderful hobby of ours this is often overlooked or misunderstood."

Some final thoughts

I could not find much online about the minis and certainly didn't find painted galleries of them anywhere, so I figured I would rectify that with this story and the gallery with the ongoing project on this blog. The link to the (still incomplete) gallery is here, I have collected all 20 original minis plus two of the 10 extras, and painting is ongoing:

Citadel Golden Heroes

I checked in with Aly Morrison about the designs, but since he still works for GW, he said he had to politely decline to comment with details. He did confirm he sculpted all the minis, which actually was never published on our usual sites, like Lost Minis Wiki. I hope this little article will spark some interest in this range and maybe some pro painters will do some work on them - love to see that! 

Here are some interesting links:

Simon Burley and his Squadron UK

Lost Minis Wiki Super Heroes (these are the Perry sculpts designed for the Champions RPG.

Thanks to Stuff of Legends, Lost Minis Wiki and Dylan Martyn for catalog images and White Dwarf content. All painted minis were done by me. 

SC Mike


  1. Really great article. Not a range of figures that I knew much about but really interesting to read about this forgotten corner of Citadel history. Plus some great painted figures.

    1. Thanks Rob for the kind words. yeah, it's an interesting range and some minis like the half metal soldier or the blue guy with the stick are still so modern looking. Glad you enjoyed! SC MIKE


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