This post continues my history of WFRP1, which started here.

Laserburn was a set of science fiction wargames rules published in 1980 by Tabletop Games (TTG). It was written by Bryan Ansell and illustrated by Tony Ackland and Tony Yates.

Origins 11

Is that a genestealer on the cover?

It is most interesting as an ancestor of Warhammer 40,000 and contains many elements that would reappear in that game: power armour, dreadnought armour, the Imperium, the Inquisition and Merchant Barons, who closely resemble Rogue Traders. However, several features are also relevant to the Warhammer Fantasy games.

Warhammer is it’s [sic] own thing, but was certainly influenced by Laserburn and Rick and Hal’s Imperium. [Laserburn]’s where Space Marines originated though.

– Bryan Ansell, BoardGameGeek

In terms of mechanics, Laserburn provides the origin of Warhammer‘s Initiative system and the first appearance of Weapon Skill. Skills also make an appearance, though it is interesting to note that, unlike in WFB1 and WFRP1, they can be taken multiple times and characters can thus have different skill levels. Some of the skills will sound somewhat familiar to WFRP1 players (eg Lightning Reactions and Ambidexterity), but most will not.

An experience system allows characteristics and skills to be advanced. For every 100 Experience Points Initiative is increased by 1, Combat and Weapon Skill are increased pro rata and there is a 50% chance of a skill increase. It is a system that shares many features with WFRP1: characteristic advances, choices of skills and the 100-point threshold. But there are also several differences: Experience Points are accumulated like D&D, not spent like WFRP, and there are no careers or advance schemes.

Laserburn‘s mechanics were themselves influenced by western skirmish wargames.

Laserburn was influenced by the Mike Blake’s Old West gunfight rules [and] by Once Upon a Time in the West (which, by strange chance, I illustrated)….

– Bryan Ansell, BoardGameGeek

The games Ansell mentions are The Old West Skirmish Wargames 1816-1900 (1975, revised 1978), by Ian Colwill and Mike Blake, or possibly its ancestor Western Gunfight Wargame Rules (1970, revised 1971), by Steve Curtis, Ian Colwill and Mike Blake; and Once Upon a Time in the West (1978) by Ian Beck and John Spencer.

The parallels with Warhammer, however, are not restricted to game rules. The Laserburn background features religious extremists called the Red Redemption, who would reappear later in WFB (see part XXVIII):

The force of the Red Redemption, both regular military units and the fanatical civilian hordes [who] follow the cry for a holy war, are led, both militarily and spiritually, by the Brothers and Masters of the inner circle. These rabid fanatics have their flesh flayed from them and replaced with a metal carapace. They’re pretty tough hombres, but their unique condition tends to warp their view of life, morality and the universe in general considerably.

The Redemptionists devote themselves to Allah, Lord of the fiery hells, and to his mouthpiece on the Dark Worlds, the Prophet Zandrig.

Laserburn, p37

There is, however, an even earlier ancestor to the Red Redemption.

Lone Sloane from Druillet provided the origin of the Red Redemption.

– Tony Ackland, Facebook comment

Laserburn was influenced by … Heavy Metal Magazine, Tony Yates and Philippe Druillet.

– Bryan Ansell, BoardGameGeek

The graphic novel Délirius (1973) by French artist Philippe Druillet describes a similar Red Redemption, comprising fanatical priests in robes and metal masks.

Délirius (1973), by Philippe Druillet


The following chart summarises the chronology of this post relative to others in this section of ‘The WFRP Story’.

Time Chart 3

The next post in the series looks at the birth of Warhammer itself.

Laserburn rules and miniatures can be bought from Alternative Armies.

Title art by Chris Achilleos. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.


  1. You’ve also got the Redemptionist cult from 40K/Necromunda, who are generally portrayed as wearing red robes, although that may be more to do with being around in the 90’s Red Period.


    1. An old post but I just stumbled across it. It’s interesting to see the acknowledged influence of Druillet and Heavy Metal magazine. There is a short, scifi story in one of the early Heavy Metals (might be by Druillet, but I’m not sure) featuring some spaceship about to leap into hyperspace. The navigator managing this is plugged into the machinery of the ship somehow.

      Something goes wrong, and the navigator suddenly finds himself floating naked in some chaotic realm being eviscerated by demonic entities. When everything goes back to normal the rest of the crew seem totally unaware and are just talking about some technical error.

      This is so reminiscent of 40k’s conception of Navigators and warp travel that, to me, the story easily works as some kind of prequel to 40k, set in the early days of interstellar travel before anyone understood the true horrors of Chaos luring in the Warp.

      Liked by 2 people

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