Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Warhammer Armies

If you play Orcs and Goblins in Warhammer you will need the Codex Army Book which I just checked out on the GW site (don't worry I was behind seven proxies) and it costs £25.

For an army list.

Yeah, there is background info about the faction but nobody gives a shit about that.

Yeah, it has lots of pretty pictures but that's because GW live in a Nottinghamshire dream world wherein Sir Tim Berners-Lee never had a bright idea over Christmas 1990 and in that dream world people actually pay money to look at hardbacks of figure pr0n rather than just look it at for free on tinterwebs at CMON, Frothers, Warseer and the like.

So effectively, in order to play Orcs and Goblins you need to splash out £25 on the only functional part of the book which is the army list. I'm sorry but that's the only way of looking at it. The rest of it is hardcovered bloatware full of glossy pics (Internet) and fluff (bollocks) to give them an excuse to charge £25 for the whole shebang.

And of course, modern Warhammer being what it is, you'll probably have to go out and buy your regular opponent's Codecii Army Books as well in order to know what you are up against and plan accordingly (modern Warhammer being a game of combo'ing and list building after all). Keep adding the price of new army books to the cost of your army.

Now, there's a generation of gamers who have grown up under this one-faction-one-book regime and think it's normal. If this sound likes you pay attention to yer Grandpa Coop because he's going to share a tale of the olden days with you.

This is Warhammer Armies. Published in 1988 and I believe the RRP was £9.99 compared to £14.99 for the 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle hardback. Direct price comparisons with the past are always tricky but a scan through online RPI calculators suggests that it's £17.78 in modern money. (My gut feeling is that it's closer to £20 but either way it's comes off slightly better in a head-to-head price comparison to the Orcs and Goblins book).

Now, this is what Warhammer Armies contained.

A collection of rules for all the new races introduced since WFB3 was published (including two, the Ki-Rin and Temple Dog which I swear were never released in miniature form). A collection of rules for the new Warengines published in White Dwarf.

And then full army lists for the following;

Dark Elves
Wood Elves
High Elves (Sea Elves vanished after WFB2)
The Empire
Bretonnia (this was a brand new split for the general "Old Worlder" human factions. Bretonnia is more historical French than the modern version, Empire less of a gunpowder and puffed-and-slashed army)
Chaos (undivided)
Orcs and Goblins
Slann (proper Slann, not Lizardmen)
Undead (in modern terms the Vampire Counts and "Iron Maiden Powerslave" Tomb Kings combined with chariots, Mummys and Vampires in the same army)

In other words all of the WFB3 races in one book. But that's not all. It then went on to add Ally lists from which you could pick to bulk out your forces (to avoid this being used to make all armies contain pretty much the same forces, the Ally lists you could pick from were mandated by your main list and furthermore unless they Hated your enemy, they were all at -1 to their Ld)

Chaos (different to above list, includes Chaos Goblins and pre-hat Chaos Dwarves)
Dark Elf
High Elf
Wood Elf
Fimir (ask your Dad)
Old Worlder
Orcs and Goblins
Pygmy (Tintin in the Congo style - just don't ask. Citadel are more likely to produce new Fishmen or Squats then they are to return Pygmies to WFB)
Zoat (ask your Dad)

And also Mercenary lists which can be better than regular troops (they never have to Pursue for example) but might turn sides unless you spend extra points on bribing them to stay honest).

Hobgoblins (Asian Orcs)
Old Worlder

There's a bunch of photographs of the GW Studio figure collection, doublepage spreads on sample forces from the collections of Kev "Goblinmaster" Adams (Orcs and Goblins), SODOFFBRYANANSELL (Chaos) and Dave "Superstar" Andrews (Bretonnia, although looking suspiciously like a historical Wars of the Roses army with a wizard tacked on), and colour plates of troops and shield/banner designs.

160 pages. Modern £17-£18. Every list you needed, current throughout the entire lifetime of 3rd edition. A later full Norse list was published in White Dwarf.

£25 for for one army list is fucking greed and you, I and they all know it.


  1. WHFB 3rd ed was glorious. I remember 2nd ed & the Ravening Hordes book (which had a similar mix of armies, but not quite as many IIRC, although Norse was a full list then) which were a bit "unbalanced" to modern competitive sensibilities.
    GW had to go and mess with the 3rd ed armies book though, adding new units in White Dwarf to go with new models. How my brother hated those small (movable) orc catapults from white dwarf.

  2. Well said! I didn't start playing Warhammer properly until the fourth edition, but even then third seemed much more interesting.

  3. Warhammer Armies.

    Best. Wargames. Supplement. Ever.

    I still prefer 3rd ed Warhammer over every other fantasy wargame out there.

    Dwarf wizards? Halfling Wizards? Elementalists, Illusionists, Necromancers, Demonologists. Who needs the eight colleges of magic anyway.

    ASSAULT OF STONE and WINDBLAST! Two damn good reasons to have a druid in your army.

    And my lasy word on Warhammer Armies: Rapscallions!

    Who wouldn't want to play with an army that has at roop type defined by that word in it.


  4. I agree with everything you said and your overall point. Here in America sadly though those who hold your viewpoint (I consider myself in that camp) get violently shouted down. The Bell of Lost Souls crowd and the super competitive (buy your pre-painted army) set seem to dominate over here. I myself have had enough. My small home game group is tired of dealing with store trolls (see in rural Western states like Utah ... the population density is crap for niche hobbies like wargaming ... finding other players is rough!) and endless unreasonable price increases. The escalation of costs for GW wargaming means fewer new players in my part of the world and thus fewer fun people to game with. This above all ticks me off! GW has also entirely abandoned support of their product in the Western US. No more gamesdays, etc. So having been abandoned by GW, having been abused by them, we are off to greener pastures! Spartan Games, Mantic, Privateer Press and now we are finding a love of 15 MM gaming (Old West, Sci-Fi, etc.). I love the GW universe, I love WHFB RPG (1st and 2nd ed) and will continue to snag the occasional black library book (usually from a used book store or via Amazon at a decent discount) ... but my days of spending 500 bucks a month are over. I can get so much more with other tabletop games than GW is currently offering.

  5. I love this book because of how un PC and silly it all is. Between the insanely racist Pygmies, the RACE PROPAGATED THROUGH INTERSPECIES RAPE Fmir, and Bryan Ansell sporting a look I would call English Redneck with both tee shirt AND mullet of doom its just worth it to mock and laugh at.

    But yeah, modern army book pricing is absurd even if I love the fluff. Even sadder is how Rackham had FULL COLOR army books for 12-20 bucks US containing the entire army list, a decent amount of fluff, good organization, and being a handy sub 50 page count so it doesn't take up space. I swear GW puts the rules and fluff all over the place just so you can't easily copy/scan the needed pages to put in a handy binder or these days a tablet/netbook.

    They did make 15 dollar easy to use 'dexes for a while then they went back to 2nd ed 40K/4th ed Fantasy.

    And now? 50 dollar hardbacks. Final nail in me selling off a good 3500 points worth of Orcs and Night Goblins. Even broke even if not made a small profit from them.

  6. Warhammer used to be fun. It could be worth remembering, sometimes.

    Sadly, there are too many morons out there that make it financially sound to act like they do. Idiocy pays, just like crime.

  7. Great post, Coop. Warhammer Armies is indeed a fine book. Putting it together with the 3rd edition WFB rules and the 1st edition Siege, and you had a complete system for gaming...and an even more extensive system when matched alongside WFRP 1st edition alongside.

    The package of products which GW brought out in the late 1980s were really market-leading at the time. As you'll remember, they were streets ahead of the historical gaming hobby at that time as regards the "look" of the book and the funs and spirit of the lists. They put very many of the historical wargames rules and lists of that era (e.g. WRG 6th edition Ancients and the accompanying army lists - sober, black and white, no photos, unillustrated) to shame. Of course, you never got Bryan Ansell's mullet and vest combo in a set of histocial rules, so maybe they weren't all bad...

    What stood out for me with Warhammer Armies was that not only did you have all the lists you mentioned, but that there were some fun illustrations of the troop types in each of the lists, and that each list came with a lot of modifiers/ options/ add-ons. You had a lot of variety in each list, but set out in a way which made sense and was fun. Compared with the really dry offerings (at that time) for historical gaming, 3rd Edition WFB drew a lot of keen historical gamers into the GW fold - at least at my club.

    At the current pricing point of GW rules and games, and as Lord of Excess has mentioned in your comments above, that's far less likely to happen now.

  8. I've been wishing they'd go back to doing things that way for ages. It just seems so much tidier, so much more sensible; keep some innovations like the Colleges of Magic (I'm still sneakily fond of them, a'right?) but allow for some inter-factional bleed to encourage variety in collections and, above all, design all the bleeding armies together.

    I mean, it'll never happen - book-by-book means more expensive units to shift and more chance of accidentally-on-purpose buggering up the design and warranting a new edition - but we can dream, right?

  9. Every couple of months I dust off my old 3rd edition books and flick through, wondering if I'll ever find someone else in my area who'd enjoy a few games of it now. Remembering the golden oldie days of my wargaming youth, playing with massive armies of ALL the figures I owned on the carpet, with my best friend. Nothing that I touch on now seems to compare. Maybe its just rose-tinted glasses, but flicking through the 3rd edition books and enjoying the real character everything had back then, just seems to highlight the inadequacies of the current generation of Warhammer product.

  10. This was a totally awesome book and one I recently rebought via eBay along with a bunch of other GW nostalgia.

    Theoretically, there was also a Fimir army list in a later WD also, though it was pretty crappy compared to the cool Norse one.

    I'm planning a project involving this, a bunch of other stuff, and Mighty Empires (c. 1990). We'll see if I ever get the time however...

  11. Going to let you all into a (shameful) little secret - when it comes to the movement and dicerolling, the engine of WFB if you like, I much prefer the newer versions to the ones I grew up, WFB2 and WFB3.

    Everything else about them though... well that's different.

    For the spirit of the game, it's WFB3 all the way.

    We last dragged out WFB3 for a game about 10 years ago, since then it's been Hordes of the Things all the way although I do like the look of Kings of War - in fact I like the look of everything Mantic are doing at the moment, especially their cheekiness. (Future post idea perhaps...)

  12. I recently bought a second copy of Armies for our group... we've been slowly learning WHFB 3rd (no previous experience with Warhammer except Rogue Trader). Snagged it for $5 off Ebay... it's a fun read.
    I for one am perfectly happy not to play in the game stores with the fanboys.

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