Friday 1 March 2024

Warhammer the Old World, Project for 2024

 I started playing Warhammer with first edition, after buying the box set on an impulse in a games store in 1983, thinking it was something like D&D (which to be fair, it was back then). We used it for roleplaying, each with our own characters, but, looking back, we were just playing a one-to-one detailed skirmish wargame, going from fight to fight against various monsters. This developed though, with the arrival of ‘Forces of Fantasy’ into a desire to fight battles and get actually armies. This began as a grand scheme to play Middle Earth wargames… with various players selecting a faction each, I was to be Mordor, and bought Citadel Orcs and Goblins (still got them, great models). As kids, this was way too ambitious, I don’t think we ever played a game. But it had started something, and soon five of us were collecting fantasy armies from the Forces of Fantasy box set. ‘Men of the West’ were my choice, knights, men-at-arms, archers, (available from historical manufacturers), a proto-Empire army really. Others had small forces of Dwarves, Wood Elves, Lizardmen and the Giants (only 5 models required). We created our own fantasy world, and drew a big A2 map, hung it on the wall and the five factions with their own realms within it. Again, very ambitious, and it never got going beyond a few small skirmishes. I had a truce with the Dwarves, my brother, so we would not fight each other, a mistake really, as we could game any weekend… but refused to because of the campaign world! I remember losing to the Giants once… with 5 models I couldn’t kill.

By now, second edition (red box) had arrived and so, purchased from GW, with the first 'Ravening Hordes' book to work with, those of us with enough enthusiasm for it all, carried on collecting models, building our armies, painting them (pretty badly) and playing games on our bright green subutteo cloth covered table with a few model railway trees, lichen and home-made cardboard buildings. My Men of the West finally actually fought my brother’s Dwarves, often, with the occasional game against a friends Elves, in which you always got shot to hell. There were not many Warhammer players around back then. Balance was not a thing.

By third edition, we’d dropped out, I think 40K had come along and pretty much taken over all our tabletop gaming for years. We were busy with sci-fi and our fantasy armies languished in boxes. I sold my knights and peasants at a wargames' show bring-and-buy and reinvested the funds in my 40K Squats.

So, we missed third edition altogether (the one version I never played), but were dragged back in by fourth, and the cool looking games in White Dwarf magazine. In 1993, we decided to restart with Warhammer, the old Dwarves were dusted off, and I needed an army. I chose Skaven, they are cool, and began a big collecting and painting project over the next couple of years. I played with that Skaven army (with its one unit of 100 clan rats in the centre) for years. Usually against the Dwarves (by then I had 2 regular opponents, both with Dwarves). I got good at beating Dwarves.

Fast forward, to about 2000-01 and I wasn’t playing much Warhammer anymore, the Skaven had gone into hibernation, so I sold the army for a good fee, and spent the lot on WW2 models and terrain. Most of which I still use.

I restarted with my third Warhammer army for a campaign. Working at GW now, several co-workers wanted to start a campaign and three of them were painting Tomb Kings (it must have been the latest army book out). They need opponents, so we organised three others to paint a Bretonnian army, to fight them in a ‘desert crusade’ themed games, knights vs skeletons in the ruins if Egypt (we bought some ruined pillars, a sphinx, etc. to add to the theme). I bought and painted Knights of the Realm, Men-at-Arms, heroes on pegasus, etc, and we played 4-5 games, all crushing wins for Bretonnia. Interest fell away, the Tomb Kings were not much cop vs the big knightly charges (I wonder, seeing the new release, if it’s got much better for the skeletons facing fast, hard hitting, tooled-up-to-the-nines, heavy cavalry with their skinny boney bodies). Suffice to say, the brief ‘Khemri Crusade’ over as a victory and, well, my part of the Bretonnian’s got sold. [As an aside, that did inspire me to collect actual historical crusaders stuff instead, and later write the 'Soldiers of God' rules to play with them].

Fourth Warhammer army, and it must have been a new edition of the game (5th/6th maybe?), and new plastic daemons were all the rage. I bought some boxes, Bloodletters, and quickly made a 2000 point force for some tournament games, it was a quick army to paint (being largely red) and not many troops, led by a Bloodthirster. It won the tournament, 4 wins from 4 games, because basically the army did nothing but charge across the table and smack the enemy hard (no missile troops, no magic), as the Bloodthirster killed any/everything it wanted. Steam tanks, Wood Elf High Mages on great eagle, a very tough Vampire Lord (almost got the Bloodthirster, 1 Wound away as I remember)… all were crushed by the Bloodthirster (in those days you could tool it up with daemonic gifts, and mine was mean, and expensive). The undefeated red legion of Khorne daemons returned to its box and remained there. It was a bit boring to play honestly. One trick, but very good at it. But I didn’t sell them. I still have them, waiting for the summons…

Along came, I think 7th edition, and the 'Isle of Blood' box set. We all bought it and I’d always, since the first army book, coveted a High Elf army. I read that first book almost cover to cover standing in a Waterstones… anyway, I had new plastic High Elves, loads of them. I collected them all up, buying the spare plastics cheap from those with no use for them, the new Skaven seemed to be more in demand back then. With about 4 'Isle of Blood' sets I set about making my High Elves from them. A leader on a griffon, lots of Sea Guard, Ellyrian Reavers and Sword Masters. I added a few extras as well, and had an army. They fought 5-6 games, did OK, lost a few, won a few (crushed an Orc and Goblin force in about 3 turns I remember), lost to a cheesy Skaven army that turned up to play mostly unpainted (I hate this… a legion of the black spray can, it doesn’t seem right after the hours I’d put in on my models, I'm in favour of unpainted models having a flat -1 to Hit as an official rule). Anyway, it was fun… and along came 8th (and last edition). I played a few games with the High Elves, but interested waned again and into their box they went. There they remained until 2020. No Warhammer to play anymore anyway… and no real interest either. But it's a shame to have painted armies you can’t use. It irks, not to get playing time from the time and work put it.

Then lock-down came. Which was, for wargamers, just extended hobby time. Days stuck in the house, I’ll get cracking on new armies then. I started my sixth Warhammer army… something to fight my High Elves…  I chose Dark Elves, bought a second-hand army and other models for sale on Ebay, to revamp and add to, and cracked on at the painting desk. The Dark Elves did not get finished. By ’21 I had, half an army… not really game-able. Stalled out. I was playing and painting Napoleonics.

This is all a long pre-amble to where I’m at today. A new project for 2024, and the arrival of the Old World rules, a new edition of Warhammer. I was tempted by a ‘new edition, new army’ (Chaos Dwarves look cool), but resisted and decided instead to finish those Dark Elves I already had. That’s currently almost complete. I’ve added some new stuff too… a few new hero types, from 3D printers, because in the time away from Warhammer, this has become ‘a thing’. I was amazed at the choice and quality of these alternative model ranges. Anyway… the main thrust of all this as my project for ’24. French Napoleonic army now ‘complete’ (if any army is ever actually complete), short break and what is next?

I have always, since first edition, wanted to play an extend narrative campaign with Warhammer. Repeat battles with the same characters and units, gaining experience, losing men, taking objectives, with sieges, ambushes, scenarios, etc., and a story to create and tell. The standard ‘mode’ for Warhammer is the one-off 2,000 point tournament-style line-up and fight game. I plan to avoid this, by having a theme and story to drive the campaign, small skirmishes up to large set-piece battles, siege assaults, allies arriving, heroes fighting and dying, etc. Basically, a proper wargaming campaign. So, I’m just going to do it, and now, after all these years, I actually have the armies to provide both sides for it too.

High Elves, with a few new reinforcements units and heroes (they’ll all get names), will fight Dark Elves (once they’re completed, which is about 1-2 weeks off) and they will get some allies, my re-summoned Khorne Daemons, via a daemonic pact with their Master Sorceress. All 3 of my Warhammer armies will fight again.

So, as well as rebasing every model to fit with the new rules (wholly-molly that is a lot of 25mm square bases required and a big dull job), I will write a background for my Elf vs Elf war (not hard, given the Warhammer background pits them as old foes against each other anyway), make-up a setting for it (again not hard, somewhere on the fringes of Ulthuan will work fine) get some themed terrain and create a campaign system so characters and units can gain experience throughout, and losses can be taken, reinforcements arrive, etc. I’ll write it all to work with my army collections, and if, say, for some reason, I find I need a new character or unit, I’ll just get them and introduce them to the on-going story.

I have already made a start, ‘War for Tor Helethion’ will see a merciless Dark Elf invasion of an Ulthuan island, my setting, and each game’s result will build the story of the campaign. Finally, after 40 years, I’ll get to play Warhammer as I always really wanted to. One-off games have been fun, even the tournaments (which I now mostly dislike), were OK, I generally did alright. The one brief campaign only lasted 5-6 games and was one-sided. But one-off games are very limiting to the scope of the game. Hopefully, now, each battle will actually mean something more, and be a step towards a Dark Elf conquest of Tor Helethion, or the High Elves heroically repelling them. Much hobby work to do before the battles can begin, with the last units to paint and about 350 miniatures to rebases!!, oh lord!, and some characterful terrain to sort too. But, by the spring/summer (when the seas are calmer), the Dark Elf invasion fleet can arrive off Tor Helethion, and my Warhammer gaming can resume (and any of the new rules I don’t like will just get changed… it’s a set of rules with problems, always has been, fun, but it needs some nuance or it’s too often just a predictable slug-fest, I have some ideas already, I think I can make it far better). First, just play some games though...



  1. Good luck. Sounds like a good project.

  2. Sounds great - looking forward to seeing the results of all this work! Personally I wouldn't rebase the models (they look better on 20mm squares anyway) but just add spacers if you feel the need to do anything at all.