Sunday, July 05, 2015

Warhammer is dead! Long live Warhammer?


With the events of the Endtimes and the release of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar the setting that served as the cornerstone for the entire GW industry - the Old World - is gone. 

I, and I assume many of you, have very mixed feelings about this. 

I really do understand the need to change warhammer from a gaming perspective - a few years ago, inspired by the release of the 7th edition skaven book, I bought a box of stormvermin with the plan to start a skaven army (I absolutely adore skaven and hold them as one of the best concepts GW has ever come up with).
But after painting those initial 20 and then realising just how many more armoured rats I was going to have to speedpaint before starting to at least come close to a playable force, all motivation left me. 
Warhammer had completely left its roots as a fantasy skirmish game and had became a beast of a game with blocks of infantry rivaling the size of an entire 40k army. While it had a following of dedicated players the cost of entry was just too high for new and casual players. But was it necessary to completely rehaul the setting?

Well, I confess I do understand the need to update the world - as the entertainment industry has evolved the Old World feels a bit generic. I've always liked Warhammer well enough, but I love Warhammer 40.000. Something which seems to be a sentiment shared by many. And that, of course, is in many ways the reason for this reboot. 

There's a lot of very similar dark fantasy worlds out there - and the things not always seen in other fantasy worlds - like the 16th century puffy shirts of the Empire - are perhaps not seen elsewhere for a reason. The average thirteen year old given the choice between an army of bad ass armoured Space warriors and an army of toothless men with pantaloons and floppy hats is most likely going to leave the store with a box of space marines. I may think the Empire and Bretonnia has their merits now that I'm older, but I remember how godawfully boring I found them as a kid... (I played nightgoblins) 
And while I fondly remember the Old World I grew up with - the Old World of Warhammer Fantay Roleplay and Realm of Chaos with its strange mix of renaissance Europe, Elric, the brothers Grim and lovecraftean horror, the warhammer of today was already quite removed from that. 
Speaking of the classic roleplaying game, Warhammer was always at its most interesting in the small scale - like Mordheim. It sort of falls apart when it tries to be too big, too epic, like it has been trying to do for the last ten years. 
It's only about one small world after all. 40k on the other hand, works both on a small scale like in Necromunda, but it can get as big and epic as you like as it has a whole galaxy to play in. 

So back to Age of Sigmar. Does this new fantasy world have the potential to be as captivating as 40k? Well, sadly the background I'm reading in this weekends WD leaves me quite numb. The text doesn't have any artistry or flair to it - competely dead prose that doesn't invoke any awe or sense of grandeur (or sense of humour): " there Sigmar met a dragon. They became friends. They travelled the realms together" and so on. That said the idea of a more mythical, allegorical world isn't necessarily a bad idea. 

For me the concept of the realms could work written right. But - and  here's an important but, that hinges on wheather there's any actual people populating these realms. Downtrodden slaves to chaos overlords doesn't really count. You need the farmer afraid to send his daughter out for milk because of the beastmen lurking in the woods. The seller of fake relics or the common soldier facing monstruos horrors. The Old World had this in spades. And while 40k is often ridiculously epic and mythic and big, it also has billions of common people just trying to make a living - be they criminals, pirates, workers or administratii. Living worlds needs "normal" people other than the heroes to populate it - otherwise its not a living breathing world - just a setting.

The models for the new game are beautifully crafted - epecially the sigmarite general on his steed. After   having had a look at them in the flesh most of my initial apprehensions have evaporated. Also the artwork is beautiful. I have missed good art in GW products for a while and this is apparently what's been eating those resources...

Will GW succeed in gamble?  
Was it necessary to get rid of the Old World to reboot the game, or are they chucking the baby out with the bathwater? 
Will the Sigmarites rival the adeptus Astartes in popularity? Will people like me go from buying the ocassional warhammer kit for conversion to 40k models to start actual fantasy armies?

Only time will tell. Until then we'll always have Nuln. 


34 comments:

  1. Warhammer Roleplaying Game: Hardest RPG evar! I miss it sometimes. I'm definitely going to miss the imagery of the Old World.

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    1. Yeah. There really was something special about it when they got it right.

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  2. The last edition of Warhammer I bought was the 1st one, I kid you not. Warhammer Fantasy just never appealed to me in the same way that 40k did. Age of Sigmar has got me excited again. The setting has a lot of potential, but you're totally right about it needing ordinary people in it Jeff. Hopefully, as the game grows, new miniatures will flesh out the mortal realms and give us more choices than using the existing Empire and Bretonian minis.

    I really hope it succeeds. There's some amazing terrain coming which I can also see being used in games of 40k. Exciting times.

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    1. 1st edition was quite a while ago. For me the first I played was 4th, cardboard wyvern and all. In that respect times are better. That said, 8th edition had AMAZING miniatures even compared to this box.

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  3. Great analysis. I have a feeling tGW will sell lots of copies of AoS initially, but as people begin to play the game and get used to it, I think they'll find that the core game mechanics are really lacking.

    It remains to be seen, but it's important to note that GW has retained one of their chief strengths -- amazing miniatures and design.

    Unfortunately, they haven't dealt with one of their major weaknesses -- poor game design.

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    1. The rules feels very much like an afterthought at first glance. I like the idea of a faster, simplified game, but they leave a LOT of questions unanswered. Especially in the army-picking department as many have observed.

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    2. I think this may improve if (that's an "if") they start putting out scenarios, with special rules, special characters and more strategic elements. That's the way the old WHFB worked, and it seems like a good way for GW to keep folks spending now that the rules are free.

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  4. I definitely think the new setting has potential but it will take along time for the fluff to get established to the extent of the old wfb or 40k.

    I think the models look fantastic, especially the chaos warriors and the eternals have grown on me since more pictures have leaked. It's the reason I've actually preordered it (although at a nice 20% off)

    The only thing that leaves me cold is the rules which look like an afterthought, tho I hope there will be some development in future books.

    Have you checked out the novel sneak peek on the black library site, it certainly envokes some pretty good imagery.

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  5. As the chaos blokes are khornate I automatically loose all interest in them, but they are admittedly well sculpted models. In person the sigmarites are much cooler though.
    I'm not really the target audience for any of these factions. I'll wait for the rats...

    The rules will probably be expanded on sooner that later. They're digital so it shouldn't really be a problem...

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  6. Well, I have to tell the new Age Of Sigmar "game" get me back to Warhammer.... About years, I only plays the "Road to glory(?)" rules published in White Dwarf years ago. The new game looks pretty cool in the base rules... And the come back of an AllChaosSidesArmy like in the old times just makes me happy... And then, as I told on an other Blog : "This is not a good games, not a bad game either... The game will be what we'll do with it .Every game compagny got to evolve... I can renember all the things I've heard about the 54mm sized minis for Inquisitor.... and we see where we are today, we made it an other way.... So, just wait and see"

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    1. Well spoken.
      I really agree about chaos - it should be a chaotic melange of beastmen, mortals, deamons and other random beasties.

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  7. I dont like this lack of a coherently World, only Realms of Fire and Realms of Shadow and so on. But in the Introduction of the Warscrolls it says: "whether telling epic stories set during the Age of Sigmar, or recreating the wars of the world-that-was". This means the old world, so we can still walk through the woods of the Empire, through the land of the Trolls, the Chaos wastes.

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    1. I agree. At this point the realms seem very flimsy. I think the inspiration comes very much from norse mythology where you also have nine realms or worlds.
      Azyr representing Asgard, The realm of fire representing Muspelheim and so on. Problem is you need a good writer to sell that kind of world...

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  8. Ah, Nuln. It's going to weird not having it sacked every month or so.

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  9. Good write up. I think it has a lot of potential and I hope we see some writers really exploring the setting like Abnett did 40K with Eisenhorn.

    Also, agreed that we need real normal people, and was actually one of the things that turned me off about 8th edition background. The whole "the world will eat you and rain fire on you and stab you" - who got the food in then? Who bred? Who taught? Problem was that the canvas was too small. In 40K there's a deathworld? Cool well that is fed by the farming planet nearby. Millions dying to prevent one daemonic outbreak? Barely registers on the Adeptus Terra's cogitators. Age of Sigmar needs that level of epic scale so big things can happen and it is believable that the little things can continue.

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    1. Precisely - all really great imaginary worlds have this. You need lowly farmers around - if only so their sons and daughters can grow up to be Luke Skywalkers or Frodo Bagginses.

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  10. Well written. As someone with hardly any investment in Fantasy I feel quite enthusiastic about it all, I was never going to have a full-sized Fantasy army, I never game much and anyway, 28mm doesn't seem like the right scale for full blown tactical battle games, all anyone can do is walk forward a few inches.

    I think the rules will be expanded soon, the miniatures will be decent and probably (judging by the aesthetic of the new Khorne guys) won't totally obsolete the existing Fantasy range. The Old World still exists, just as history. I mean, it's not a reboot or a reset, it's just a new time period to play in, much like 40k doesn't make Horus Heresy miniatures obsolete. I do think they could have connected WoS to the Old World a bit better though, Sigmar clutching to a meteor hurtling through space is ludicrous, some desperate plan by the gods that scattered a few survivors through the various planes would have at least allowed for a little narrative continuity. Chaos gods dragging chunks of the world into the Realm of Chaos... wouldn't it be cooler for the Sigmarites to be trying to liberate a post-apocalyptic Altdorf?

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    1. That was really what I had expected - a gothic post apocalyptic "new" Old World with god powered sigmarite priests and witch hunters as the main human faction fighting to repel the chaos incursion. The end times had sort of cleared the board getting rid of the least popular armies like bretonnians and could easily have been a set up for this ( but they blew up the planet instead).
      What we got was obviously much more radica
      I would have bought tons of plastic sigmarite priests and witchhunters thats for sure...
      But who knows - maybe something like that will turn up further down the road.

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    2. I agree that "Warhammer was always at its most interesting in the small scale - like Mordheim." The Pathetic Aesthetic was what made WHFB (and WHRP) great. I'll be sad to see fantasy turned into Space Marines vs. Chaos Space Marines, if that's what happens.

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  11. In it's current state, the game itself is near unplayable to a normal, balanced standard. It makes a great game to play for fun don't get me wrong (the Beer and Pretzels model if I remember correctly), as long as there is trust between the two players on being fair in their force selections. It's just seems like in it's current state, the creators decided to put together a simple game for the sake of being more simple, but did it too soon to launch and released it uncompleted, then let the players figure out the rest. Personally, I had little interest in starting fantasy, and this game did peak my interest at first, but after reading everything and noticing the sheer number of flaws in the mechanics and outright gaping holes of missing stuff needed to make it a whole game (especially in the force creation area), I'm probably going to hold off on doing anything fantasy from GW for a while other than collecting bitz and converting minis from them. That being said, this is just the beginning of this new iteration of WHFB, and was only released 2 days ago, so time will tell. I'm sure this won't be the end all be all of the rules themselves, that it and the fluff will be much more fleshed out as time goes on, but until that happens the best force of action is to either wait until then or find another game really. But if all else fails, at least we have new sources of bits and inspiration to buy and convert, so that's always good right?

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    1. There probably a reason for the rules being digital... But yes - they do feel a bit rushed.

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  12. This is a great article Jeff. I agree that this has lots of potential, if done right realm-hopping could be awesome. It also makes fighting your battles seem more realistic; in the old world, it was a bit weird when high elves are fighting ogres from the other side of the world. With realms, forces are everywhere, so battles between forces seem more legit.

    I think there will be lots of ordinary people, when some of the realms are liberated (the fluff is supposed to move on with every release, apparently) and new cities are built, we will get armies of normal humans instead of genetically engineered super soldiers.Wait...

    Death is going to be the faction for me, as soon as the rules and some of the older units (skeletons) are updated. This game really has me excited to branch out, and I am optimistic going forward.

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    1. Skeletons? Surely you mean deathrattlers?

      The gates really help with credebility as to how the different end up meeting upon each other. There was always something strange when, say, brets and lizardmen clashed...

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  13. Great read, thanks Jeff :)

    For me HQ and WHQ started my hobby career proper back in 92-93. I played exclusively fantasy the next 13 years with only minor tinkering in 40k and epic. Then I got fed up. So in came 40k and some other minor tinkering on other games. After many years I made a O&G army and last year a oop CD army. Not for the game itself but to scratch "that" itch. The game was still as boring as when I left off.

    Now however I'm really stoked. New miniatures, lower entry point, simple rules but promising regarding complexity with time as warscrolls and formations develop. I'm waiting for new models for Destruction. I have plans and as I've said - I'm seriously excited by this :)

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    1. As I'm waiting for new skaven... Looking forward to see how they fit them into the new background. But they're like cockroaches - always was - so it's hardly a surprise they survived...

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  14. I've ordered the set as well, time will tell if i will bother with the rules... the minis will most likely be eventually chopped up in all kinds of ways with laser guns and servo skulls attached, either that or take up space on a shelf. I am mostly invested in 40k so i can't say I'm emotionally bothered very much by the destruction of the fictional background. If the same thing happened to 40k i'm not sure how i would feel. Jeff you have a good point... any good background setting still needs characters that the reader can relate to on a basic human level... sure they can be broken, odd or romantic in all sorts of ways but human.

    I am opinionated about rules... will spare the comments from that... but to me the greatest thing that's come out with this, is that they have finally loosened the reins on their IP for Total War: Warhammer... it may be enough for me to actually play a computer game once in awhile!

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    1. I'm also conflicted. Was it really necessary to blow the Old World up?
      Couldn't they have just let it be and moved on? A friend spoke of it as if a pet had died... People really have deep feelings about these kind of things and it doesn't seem like GW truly respects that. A new IP could have been created without effectively destroying the classic setting.

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  15. I started collecting Jes Goodwin Skaven sculpts with the same intention to start a rat army, only to fall short in drive upon realising that I'd need literally 100's more of the vermin to make a proper sized army. :)

    My first entry into GW were Squats during RT, then Skeletons for 3rd Ed WFB. Whilst the models have in most cases improved drastically in quality since then, the Original "Olde World" was lost to me a long time ago. This new direction is a reboot that a stale game required in order that it not be lost to time entirely, but I really do find the aesthetics of the images previewed to be found sorely wanting.

    Still, nothing out there to stop me from picking up an old copy of 3rd Ed WFB and playing what I knew and loved, right?

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    1. Nope. Or fourth or 2nd or any other edition.

      Honestly I think in a way Storm of Magic killed (or at least mortally wounded) WHFB for me. It turned the Old World into a steriod fueled caricature of itself.

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  16. I left Warhammer Fantasy a decade ago. I recently started collecting and painting 1980's era armies and yesterday I put my Oldschool Chaos and Undead armies on the table without regard for balance of any kind. In 3rd edition, it would have been 1800 points vs 1200 points, advantage Chaos. In AoS, my Undead were outnumbered by a 1/3 so took advantage of the Sudden Death rule. Result of the game as an Undead victory and more fun than I've had with ANY GW game in a very long time. I'll post a full report on my blog when I get the chance.

    I've now played AoS three times. Yes, you need to play with friends rather than opponents - having a GM, as the original Rogue Trader rules assumed, may help as well. Veterans will have no problem applying standard conventions when a rule seems to be lacking. Any problems we ran into were resolved in minutes with the application of common sense, but there is generally little arguing over toy soldiers in our group anyway.

    I would encourage people to play several games if they have ANY interest in fantasy at all. I've been playing Warhammer since 1st edition, and the possibilities of AoS has me planning a new fantasy army for the first time in years...

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    1. That sounds great! Perhaps its time for that skaven army...

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  17. Like you and many other people I really don't understand why the Old World had to die in order to give life to Age of Sigmar. I admit that I haven't really looked into the new fluff very much but it seems like a setting that could have easily coexisted alongside the Old world. Either way it hasn't stopped my friends and I from working on our Mordheim table or planning our first session of WHFRP so I guess it isn't the end of the world. It still kind of sucks though to be honest.

    As for the model range so far I see a lot of great looking bits and a lot of potential for conversions. I'm not 100% sure about the scale because I haven't seen them in person yet but the Khorne Bloodbound look like they could make great true scale Chaos Space Marines and the Relictor is just screaming to become a power armored Inquisitor. In saying that though I'm really not too interested in most of these models as a whole but I am still hopeful that we'll see a lot of really great miniatures come out of this.

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    1. The eternals are huge. The normal guys are the size of blightkings and the relictors are even bigger - primarch size. Quite impressive models in person.

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