Is 2014 The Year Of Warhammer Fantasy Battles?

January 22, 2014 in Fantasy, Fantasy Wargaming, Featured, Games Workshop, Warhammer Fantasy by brennon

A few rumours have been flying about lately about changes coming this year to Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Bell of Lost Souls, through a user on Dakka called Necronspurs2012 highlighted a few of the massive changes that might be coming to the Old World over the next few months. I guess the first place to start would be with the armies themselves.

Valten

Massing The Armies

Armies such as the Dwarfs, Wood Elves and Bretonnians have been waiting for an army book update since 6th Edition and their entries and rules are woefully in need of a bit of a clean-up to bring them up to scratch with the current forces at play in the Warhammer World. As a Dwarf player we’ve managed to come out of this long slumber quite well and our army still seems to be a match for most on the tabletop. Wood Elves and Bretonnian players on the other hand have been getting a fairly raw deal with their forces (especially in the case of Wood Elves) just not being as exciting as their cousins.

Dwarfs

So let’s look at the prospective update schedule of Dwarfs (currently pegged for February if the rumours are to be believed) followed by Wood Elves, Bretonnians and then finally the 7th Edition lingerers, the Beastmen. Skaven are nowhere to be seen but from what I’ve seen they have been doing well of late with their current book.

In terms of a time and date for these releases, your guess is as good as ours. However, with Dwarfs coming next month (the name of Belegar on the front of the White Dwarf #1 preview was a big hint) and Games Workshop switching up to a weekly supplement with White Dwarf, we could see all these books coming at us before the summer each with tantalising glimpse as to the next edition of Warhammer Fantasy.

The Dwarfs are in need of a good update to bulk out their units, which are lacking in the ‘big’ department and the runic laws need to be sorted out to clean away some of the dusty old ones that no longer hold water. Saying that, from what some folk have mentioned we could be seeing runic customisation returning with the new book, which would be fun. As it stands on the model front the first two weeks of February are set to be a big one, with the majority of finecast and metal pieces getting swapped to plastic. This has been a trend with all of the Warhammer releases of late, so expect to be paying around £30 for ten Slayers. I imagine they are going to be gorgeous though.

This is going to be followed by characters, a new plastic Lord, a rather mighty siege engine and a war altar of sorts if the hints are to be believed. Let’s hope this all comes with some great new rules which keep the flavour of Dwarfs and don’t ruin their roots. The Engineer’s Guild will be up in arms otherwise.

Wood Elves

Wood Elves, as one of my friends continues to tell me, are just ‘s**it’. It’s a shame really as they have some amazing looking units and frankly look the best when you put all three of them together, even considering the updated High Elves and Dark Elves. They do however need a kick in the arse rules wise. They are falling behind in terms of tabletop strength when it comes to their High and Dark brothers and the list of models you want to take drops drastically, which again is a shame because of the lovely models. All those archers are good and all, but most armies can just weather the storm nowadays.

Bretonnia

Bretonnians are the last of the ‘big three’. The staple ‘swords and sorcery’ style army was given a bit more of a grim dark feel with the release of 8th Edition and I think they benefited from it. The cruel barons and knights remained, but they were given a much more desperate feel which I think was sorely needed. Some folk have said that they are going to be absorbed into the next big book as allies for the Empire, but I think that would be a disservice. Their roots in the Medieval period, rather than the more Germanic Empire were fantastic and the amount of pageantry (something I learned from Blue Table Painting’s Shawn Gately) they bring to the table is awesome. Give them some updated plastic knights, a massive trebuchet or two and some kind of Grail Relic to bring into battle and you’re sorted.

Beastmen

Beastmen on the other hand are a bit of an unknown quantity. They are different from both Warriors of Chaos and Daemons of Chaos in so many ways but yet they feel almost lost at sea when it comes to where they fit in. They are fantastic IF you can get them into combat but that requires a lot of bodies and a very, very big dose of poor luck on your opponents side. From past experience a few lists have been decided upon and that’s it, deviating from that just becomes a lost cause. It would be nice to have that chariot army you mentioned, but it costs a fair bit. If they are going to get themselves a new book they are going to need a massive dose of extra flavour to make them something unique. I would love to see something like ‘warchants’ where they can roar out a new battle cry each turn to turn things in their favour. Build on their raiding mentality too with more focus on that ‘they are everywhere’ feeling.

But what of Skaven? The first book for the new edition perhaps?

A New Edition?

But I think I should take a bit of a step back here. ‘Next edition of Warhammer Fantasy?’ I hear you cry, and yes I did bring that up a little way back. The 9th Edition of the game could be coming to your tabletop this year. According to the rumours we picked up on at the start of this piece the new starter set and rulebook are pegged for summer featuring the old enemies of Empire and Orcs & Goblins.

Warhammer 6th Edition

Back in 6th Edition we saw the Empire take on the Orcs and I think returning to that could be a winning formula for Games Workshop. When it comes to fantasy, whatever the property, the major players have always seemed to be the struggling forces of Orcs and Humans. Warcraft, Lord of the Rings and many others leap at this since it puts the valiant humans against the ravening hordes (that’s a call back ain’t it!) of the greenskins. It also ties in nicely to the background of the Old World. Humans and Orcs have always been at each others throats and it certainly feels like a more interesting match-up than High Elves and Skaven.

The set is meant to have a selection of Knights, Foot Troops and Handgunners for the Empire facing off against Night Goblins, Orcs and a Troll for the Orcs and Goblins. Sounds like a standard and fairly good step for them as all are key elements that make up each army. Sword Masters and a fellow on a Griffon for the High Elves was a nice idea, but not exactly useable. Hopefully there will be a pair of character models in there too to use as generals as I think this could add another dimension to things.

Empire Halberdiers

One of the major draws to Warhammer Fantasy for me has always been that it evokes a really narrative feeling. You genuinely can get down there amongst the troops and see your general and his other heroes leading the charge (or receiving it in my case as Dwarfs) against the enemy. It’s also quite the spectacle, seeing two fully painted armies there on the tabletop fighting it out. The addition of characters to the mix for a starter set like this, maybe even if they were exclusive, would give people something to focus their collecting around. I’ve always felt each of the battalion boxes should have had this option in the past. A character to lead your force, something everyone will need.

All this is wonderful of course but it does raise the question of whether or not Warhammer Fantasy does need a new edition. Some people would argue that it’s just become a random dice fest with little to no strategy left. I can see where they are coming from, with the removal of guess ranges, random charges and of course the infamous magic system. But, I would argue that all of these things have actually added to the game. Generals and cannon crews would ‘know’ how to range in on a target and there is still the chance to miss or explode violently. Charges become a tactical thinking game where you sum up the chances of success based on the distance (that you know) and wonder if the dice will land in your favour. It might occasionally be a kick in the teeth but that adds another edge of dynamism and ‘whats going to happen next’ to the chaos of battle. It also leads to moments of unexpected heroism as my Dwarfs charge 15” across the battlefield!!!

Grimgor Ironhide

Finishing things off on that front, the magic system I think has benefited from the randomness. I love that magic has become this dangerous yet powerful force that can be extremely potent and draining at the same time. It means use Dwarfs can chortle as we say ‘well we did tell you it would end badly’.

So what could they be changing? If the army book updates are to go as planned then I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing anything being shoved into larger books. Rumour was that Tomb Kings would be absorbed into a book simply about the ‘Undead’ and Warriors of Chaos, Beastmen and Daemons sucked into the warp induced ‘Realm of Chaos’. I could see the later of those being more plausible, but then I reckon Games Workshop would like to keep their armies as they stand.

Empire Bright Wizard

Rules wise I don’t think that much could really change from the previous edition. To be frank, I like them as they stand and I think the problems lie at an army level, not a rulebook one. Maybe Storm of Magic and more campaign based affairs might be absorbed into the new rulebook alongside a possible forwarding of the narrative. They have hinted at this with Sigmar’s Blood and while it would be a bold move I hope they do broach the subject of the Storm of Chaos finally descending.

Saying that, something has to change. Maybe we’ll see something different done with the way rank and file work, building on the addition of things like Hordes from this edition. I could see alliances becoming more of a definitive thing with a chart much like the one in the latest Warhammer 40,000 rulebook being present. The magic system, which has had a lot of people on both sides shouting, is the other likely candidate for a change.

The Changing Face Of Games Workshop

This all comes alongside rumours that Games Workshop are doing a bit of a consolidation move after the bloody combat of previous years. The website is getting an overhaul and Black Library and Forge World could be sucked under that particular umbrella instead of having individual sites. How this will all work out, we don’t know (it might not even happen), but it does show that Games Workshop are taking a hard look at themselves and could well be making changes for the better. The additional information of ‘more hobby tips and painting advice’ might even herald a return to a few years back when they were all over the Games Workshop site.

Chaos Champion

This all seems to be happening within a very short period of time, but if anyone has the backing to do this, it’s that lot in Nottingham. As a stalwart Warhammer Fantasy fan, I can’t wait to see what they come up with and even if the company occasionally makes me splutter into my Bugmans and curse the Chaos Gods I do enjoy the world they have created.

With all this said, there is still a truck load of salt to be taken with any of these rumours. But, I want to know what you think. What do you see being on the cards for Warhammer Fantasy Battles, be it this year, or the next?

Art by the wonderfully astounding (and possibly best Games Workshop artist) Adrian Smith.

Drop some comments below with your ramblings while I go back to painting Vargheists and making screeching noises.

Which Of These Warhammer Fantasy Races Would You 'Squat'?

  • Wood Elves (18%, 44 Votes)
  • Beastmen (31%, 78 Votes)
  • Tomb Kings (26%, 66 Votes)
  • Bretonnians (25%, 62 Votes)

Total Voters: 250 (Log In to Vote Now!)

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"Bretonnians are the last of the ‘big three’. The staple ‘swords and sorcery’ style army was given a bit more of a grim dark feel with the release of 8th Edition and I think they benefited from it."

"Rumour was that Tomb Kings would be absorbed into a book simply about the ‘Undead’ and Warriors of Chaos, Beastmen and Daemons sucked into the warp induced ‘Realm of Chaos’"