The importance of West End Games to Star Wars cannot be overstated. Their edition of the Roleplaying Game (1987 – 1998) expanded the Star Wars universe in ways fans had only dreamed of. Other publishers, the prequel production, and The Clone Wars production used the names of West End Games for characters, species, technology, and weaponry. While the influence of West End Games continues today in Star Wars Rebels, they didn’t just publish RPGs and Sourcebooks. They also produced metal-lead-free 25-millimeter miniatures.
It actually was Grenadier that sculpted and cast the miniatures for West End Games. After Grenadier went out of business, Simtac continued to sculpt the figures. Miniatures can be used for several purposes. They can be collected, used in RPG sessions, or used in tabletop games. You may be familiar with some West End Games miniatures since the original Star Wars Monopoly used the same miniatures as pawns, but these few were only the tip of the iceberg.
The first West End Games miniatures were sold in sturdy, but beautifully decorated rectangular boxes. These boxes, which have become rare, feature poster art from the movies, a photo, or (concept) art. There are 14 boxed sets, including a set from each film, fan favorite sets (Cantina, Jabba’s Palace, Bounty Hunters), troop builders (Stormtroopers, Imperial Troopers, Rebel Troopers), and some more exotic ones (Rancor Pit, Rebel Characters, Zero-G Stormtroopers). Onwards, West End Games released sets of (usually three) figures on small blisters. These sets consisted of repacked miniatures from the boxed sets, but eventually new figures emerged, such as two sets from Heir to the Empire, another Cantina set (Ponda Baba, Dr. Evazan and Myo) and three sets from the DarkStryder RPG campaign. Ultimately there were also larger blisters with creatures (tauntaun and bantha) and vehicles (a T-47, two sets of speeder bikes, an X-34 landspeeder, an AT-PT walker and an Imperial storm skimmer from Dark Empire). The rancor, which was packed with Malakili in a box, was never re released on a blister because it was too big.
Like they did with all their products, West End Games had original and fan-appealing ideas for their miniatures. Instead of releasing generic and anonymous characters for their RPG, West End Games decided to use the movies as the cornerstone for the series. Because of that decision a lot of different characters (heroes, villains, and aliens) have been immortalized as miniatures. Among them you can find a handful of rarities which you don’t often see as figures, such as a Revwien alien (from the Ron Cobb design), two different Noghri, Sergeant Nik Sant, Lak Sivrak, Hem Dazon, and a Wookiee based on a concept sketch from McQuarrie.
Though West End Games knew that some figures (Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader) would be very difficult to use in realistic RPG campaigns, they still got released. Therefore, the miniatures also make excellent collectibles. With a bit of imagination, you can just use the Tessek miniature as a Quarren smuggler or even a hero miniature can be used to impersonate a character of the players. Interesting to note is that the boxed set of the Cantina labeled the Gotal as Kerru and the bartender as Cedo Partu. These names somehow didn’t stuck and were soon replaced by Feltipern Trevagg and Wuher (though Cedo Partu was later retconned as a Mos Eisley pioneer). Not every miniature came straight from the movies and some were indeed developed to fit right into your own RPG adventures. The Rebel Characters box contains ten different Rebel Alliance allies and the three DarkStryder packs carry figures who play an important part in the DarkStryder campaign, a series of adventures that takes place in the Kathol Sector.
The miniatures contain a lot of details, but of course can be painted. The best customizers will even be able to create new poses for some figures, but a new or surprising paint job can already do wonders. Miniatures of aliens, droids, and troopers make excellent fodder to be customized with nearly endless possibilities. Rebel Commandos can be painted as urban guerrilla fighters, Barada becomes Kithaba, Nien Nunb gets a paint job as Ten Numb and the original Han Solo can easily be turned into Han from The Empire Strikes Back.
Every RPG session benefits from using miniatures since they can visually explain a delicate ambush by pirates or the exact position of stormtrooper guards near that high security building. To improve the value of their miniatures, West End Games also released three books for a special tabletop game. The Star Wars Miniatures Battles Core Rulebook appeared in 1991 and contains a lot of stats that can be used with the Roleplaying Game or used separately in the tabletop game. It even has rules and info about creating your own environment for your miniatures such as hills, buildings, and trees. Companions followed in 1994 (Star Wars Miniatures Battles Companion) and in 1996 (Imperial Entanglements). The companions contain information about different scenarios, new groups of characters and expanded rules or statistics. All of these books feature a lot of photos of the miniatures, which are painted professionally. Some of the books and miniatures were repacked in a Vehicles Starter Box set.
The West End Games miniatures can be collected or used in Roleplaying adventures and in the tabletop wargame. Their impact may not have been as decisive as the sourcebooks, but the miniatures will always remain a part of the legacy left behind by West End Games.
For further information, see this complete list of released miniatures.
Tim Veekhoven from Belgium is co-founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub. He has contributed to Rogues Gallery in Star Wars Insider and has written character back stories for “What’s the Story?”.