Earlier this year I decided to finally put together a Warhammer Fantasy Battle army, get it painted and otherwise fixed up with the aim of playing against some friends who may also have hoarded boxes of these tiny figures around their house years ago. I never played very much of Games Workshop‘s Fantasy Battle “back in the day” even though I had so many of the figures, mostly because I had never taken the time to get them arranged and painted properly, but also because I had never actually learned the rules.
When I first started getting interested in the game in the early 90s, these rules were at version 3 (they’re up to version 7 now), and the inch thick rulebook from that time was so poorly laid out that I’m surprised anyone ever had the patience to learn how to play the game at all. Version 7 has really streamlined the rules and made it very simple to learn how to play.
The rulebook is expensive. If you’re just starting out, try to pick up the Battle for Skull Pass which is a boxed starter set of figures, but more importantly includes a small copy of the rules (without the backstory fluff) so that you end up getting a mess of minis *and* the rules for the price of the hardcover rules book
Most of my figures were purchased at various times and used for the different role playing games I was playing at the time anyway, but I always had the idea to get an army together someday and field it in a Warhammer game. Some of them are plastic, some are metal. I was a big fan of Games Workshop and Citadel miniatures so over the years I accumulated a lot of Dwarves, Skeletons, and Orcs and goblins. I felt the best choice for me was Dwarves since Tim had already settled on Orcs and goblins and in the Warhammer world Dwarves are written to have a hatred for them. Dwarves are more expensive (point wise) so I’d have to paint less of them! I only had enough Dwarves for a 1000 point army (serious league games are usually 2250 points), but even then I had serious painting to do as many of the figures were only half painted or in many cases totally unassembled. Tim had no problem getting together such a meager band of Orcs and gobbos from his vast array of figures (even though there are many more Orcs and goblins in a 1000 point army than Dwarves since greenskins individually cost a lot less). Also, his stuff required only a minor amount of re-gluing of broken off arms and flags and whatnot.
Another important thing to note is that the rulebook only provides the basic mechanics of the game. To build an army of one of the races you also need the “Army book” for that race. I won’t tell you how, but you can usually find PDFs of these books on the internet if you know where to look. That is far less satisfying that having the army book for your particular race in your hands when you’re playing, and you’re bound to spend far more on the figures and invest a crapload of time in painting them anyway. The army book has those rules which are specific to your race (Dwarves, Elves, Empire, Skeletons, etc.) that would otherwise clutter up the rules with information you’d never use. Special rules for the army in question are usually only dealt with in the relevant army book.
After weeks of after work painting, my little army was finally ready to hit the table and Tim and I started going over to a local gaming store for games. Besides the fact that Warhammer requires a goodly amount of table space (4′ x 8′ is the standard size), and terrain features are usually employed (hills, walls, buildings, etc.) both of which we did not have in abundance, we also wanted to just go out and socialize a bit as opposed to sitting in our respective basements for a game. We may be geeks, but we’re not pathetic geeks.
It took a while to get up to speed on the rules, but the guys at the game store (Brothers Grim) were really helpful. Soon we were setting up and playing out entire games without having to constantly recruit their help on every point of detail in the rules. Actually we rarely finished an entire game – Warhammer games are supposed to go 6 turns, but by the time we got set up and got playing we usually didn’t have time for a full 6 turns. We’d usually do 4 full turns. Warhammer, for those that are totally unfamiliar consists of placing your army units (groups of figures in ranks of 5 models), moving them (guessing and using a ruler as a reference), shooting at the other side (by rolling dice) if units are carrying ranged weapons like bows, handguns, or using war machines, resolving hand to hand combat (by rolling dice) when models are moved close enough to do so, then determining who wins each combat and checking if the loser breaks and runs (always fun). At the end of the game you get points for entire units destroyed, units mostly destroyed, and portions of the table controlled. The game is a lot more complicated than this, but you get the idea.
Another indispensable tool is a program called Army Builder. Constructing your army on paper (or in Excel) is certainly possible, but Army Builder makes it so easy. You can create a “List” as its called in gaming circles, select all the various options (whether a given unit has a banner, a musician, carries an extra hand weapon, etc.) and it will calculate the point values for you, then you can print it out for the game. Since I use a Mac, the fact that this program only runs in Windows was disappointing. However, I installed Virtualbox, created a virtual windows machine and installed the program on that and I was good to go.
We would always try to make up some kind of quirky reason for the battle (a little bit of roleplaying in the vast wasteland of dice-rolling that is Warhammer) and I tried to make it a point to bring a camera to each game (though I sometimes forgot). The next day I’d upload the images to my gallery and annotate them with notes I took during the game as a “Battle Report”. I have no idea if anyone else does this, but I’d always enjoyed reading these sorts of things in the White Dwarf magazine that Games Workshop used to publish (I’m not sure if they still do so or not). I think Tim sort of got tired of me losing to him all the time, but my brother was all the while working on his Empire army (human knights both infantry and mounted cavalry). He managed to get a 1000 point army put together on the cheap from pieces he bought on ebay, some of them literally bits and pieces of arms heads and weapons that he painstakingly glued together. Lately he’s been coming out to play a couple games on the small 4′ x 4′ makeshift gaming table in my office which has been more good times. I’ve tried to keep the battle reports updated.
If anybody else is interested in getting together and playing – let me know!
My Battle Reports online