Saturday 4 July 2015

The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

After months of faffing around, Games Workshop have finally revealed Warhammer 9th edition or "Age of Sigmar" (very much the Windows 10 of the wargaming world).

"The End Times" was never going to attract me in a big way because I don't react quickly to wargaming trends. I always sit around for a few months, or even years, before embarking on a new project so a range of models and rule books that were always intended to be very short-lived and quickly superseded by the next big thing were never going to work for me. That said, I approve of the idea of turning the end of an edition into as big an event as the start of one, even if it is an excuse to flog as many old models as possible before starting again.

Now that the new version is out we can see how accurate the rumour mill was and it looks like even the most extreme rumours were true. Pretty much everything has been thrown out, right down to the Warhammer world itself. After eight editions of minor tweaks and updates, everything has been thrown out, right down to square bases. The new game is leaner, simpler and very much skirmish based with units of five to ten models and standard and a more substantial role for heroes. There are free rules for all the old models for the moment, but the new models have a completely different aesthetic, looking more like Warhammer 40,000 without the guns.

There's a lot of anger on the internet at the moment with the simplification. The new rules are only four pages long and very straight forward. Games Workshop seem to have taken inspiration from Warmachine in terms of scale, but their rules are much simpler. Rumour mill currently has it that a more substantial rule book will be coming soon, but unless it is completely different from these starter rules, it will still be a radical departure from everything that has gone before.

I actually give Games Workshop credit for being this bold. They seem to be embracing their rule as the first port of call for new wargamers aged 10 - 12, with a rules set that is straight forward, uncomplicated and can be played with a small group of models. They seem to have recognised that eight edition's great misstep was pushing ever big armies with bigger units that no normal person could afford to collect. It is, once again, possible to buy a single box and have a usable unit. And the enhanced importance of heroes goes some way towards justifying their disproportionate monetary cost.

Having said that, I don't think I will be bothering with the new edition.

Partly this is due to the tone and style. I have been a Warhammer player for roughly 25 years and I had got used to its generic fantasy world with a twist. Games Workshop took the standard Hollywood Medieval style of Dungeons and Dragons, moved the technology level to late medieval and added a touch of black humour. Over time it had become more cartoon-like and more exaggerated, but the core had remained. There was still a touch stone of the Warhammer world grounded in the real lives of real people. Although it was nowhere near as accomplished, I always felt it had a quality similar to the Discworld with real people in a fantastic situation who, nevertheless, behaved like real people. But the Warhammer world was also broad enough to embrace a wide range of fantasy types, so it could take in Arthurian mythology, high fantasy, sword and sorcery, a version of Chaos taken largely from Michael Morcock and gothic horror without any of it feeling entirely out of place. Plus, at its best it had a sense of humour about itself.

The new reality of galaxy spanning wars across multiple dimensions doesn't really work for me, and sounds suspiciously similar to Warhammer 40,000.

But the main reason I won't bother is because this is simply a new game and I have no interest in starting a new game. I have something like seven different Warhammer armies built between fourth and eighth edition, none of which may be particularly tactically optimal, but all of which are playable. I have no desire to rework them for a new set of rules, especially when I have so many unpainted models for other games and other projects demanding my attention.

So for me, it's a no to Warhammer Age of Sigmar.

And yet this is strangely liberating. Eight edition Warhammer is now a "dead" game in the same way as Epic, Mordheim, Necromunda or Blood Bowl. Which means it's free of Games Workshop, there will be no new rules or model releases and I can simply concentrate on the models I already own (with one or two last minute editions while they are still available). Given Games Workshop's focus on new players I doubt I will be missed.

So this is not a farewell to Warhammer exactly, but rather the point at which I part company with Games Workshop. It will carry on in to the future with its version of Warhammer, while I stay put with mine.

UPDATE Just a small detail, but I think that daftest thing Games Workshop has done here is attempted to rename some of the most generic fantasy races so we now have Aelfs, Duardins, Grots and Orruks instead of Elves, Dwarfs, Goblins and Orcs. Presumably this is to make them easier to trademark, but I don't think they're fooling anyone. 


  1. I am similar-but-different. I also think that the new direction is bold and wise, but where I differ is that it's enough to get me contemplating playing Warhammer again, after being pushed out sometime around fifth edition.

    I won't be getting the boxed set as I'm not interested in the miniatures, but I'll be watching the development of the new game with interest.

  2. I see the appeal for lapsed players in a version of the game that doesn't require as many models. I can certainly see the appeal of a mid-level fantasy game with about 50 models a side.

    However, based on the rules for AOS that I have seen so far, I am more likely to take an interest in Dragons Rampant that Osprey is going to pubish in December.