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.