The big announcement of the weekend was the release and subsequent selling out of (in minutes) the Sisters of Battle new box set. And with Slaves to Darkness out soon for AoS, the Black Templars Codex reveals for 40k, the continuation of the Psychic Awakening story (which seems to be passing most people by, but is likely to have combinatorial game-breaking rules in it much like how Imperial Fists Centurions can one-shot a Warlord Titan due to Vigilus), the continuation of the v3 Underworlds releases, and the Necromunda mega-box set, (takes a breath) we seem to be having a ton of new releases in the here and now for people to focus on.
It’s with some strangeness therefore that we get this announcement now – and in the run up to Christmas sales where the present presents are the thing to be talking about. Old Warhammer is back. Maybe in 2 years, maybe in 3 years. But for reals. Really reals. Don’t take my word for it:
See? There you go. So what is this going to be? Well we have no idea. And likely GW don’t have much of an idea either beyond initial concept. We do know from the excellent Darren Latham Voxcast and Jervis Johnson Stormcast that anything that hits the shelves now has been about 5 years in the making. I’m sure that for some of the smaller boxed games like Underworlds this is going to be shorter, as it is for updates to existing ranges (these are probably around 12-18 months). So this announcement means that they have probably worked out the scope and business case, who will be making it (GW or Forgeworld), and booked some calendar time into their factories and marketing. The thing I can’t understand is what is this for? The announcement was a huge let down which told us exactly nothing. The one interesting thing is that it is being dubbed as “Horus Heresy for AoS”, and that was already spoilt in the pre-announcement. So what this might be, and how that link works, is a matter for some very open debate.
If we look at it from a lore perspective it could mean one of two things. In the Horus Heresy, the big bad lodge leader Horus himself strolls over to Earth and lays siege to it with 9 legions (I’m sure people will correct me on that!), a host of daemons (those are demons for our American readers), and the might of 4 chaos powers and couldn’t break through the defences laid by the Imperial Fists with a little help from their friends the Vamps and the Mongols (that phrasing of that last sentence has nothing to do with me owning a full company of the Imperial Fists). What analogies can we have for WFB? Well it could mean that it is set in the End Times, when the Chaotic Powers smashed into the Empire and the God-Emperor Sigmar had to come back to save them. Except of course he didn’t save them, which is why it was called The End Times. Instead he surfed the molten remains of the crust of that world through the cosmos until he was caught by a Star Dragon that definitely is not also the beginning of the early early 40k lore. It could instead be set during The Empire In Flames time. This would actually be super interesting, as it is a little explored part of the WFB lore except through the most famous of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventures, The Enemy Within campaign. (Yes, that’s right it is. And yes, that’s right I did.) If so then expect to see a very Old World centric system, which could release the much slower release schedule we have seen for the Horus Heresy range.
If we look at it from a manufacturing perspective then it could mean that this will be a ForgeWorld range of miniatures. That would make sense given that the Horus Heresy is coming to a close, with the Black Library series now entering the Siege of Terra stage, and the miniatures range coming to completion. This could be their next big thing, and given how long it has taken the Horus Heresy range of miniatures to be complete, the lore tie in to something consisting mainly of Empire troops painted in different faction liveries has a strong parallel to the 30k Space Marine legions. In many ways this could even delve into far more depth into the different types of Empire troops and the specialist units of each provincial state. We could see the Elector Counts finally realised in miniature form, and at the same time have lots of extra great miniatures for use in WFRP games.
But here we hit a snag. Games Workshop is an expensive hobby. But Forgeworld is next level. That’s fine for a lot of things as they are supposed to be one-off centre pieces, or can be collected slowly. A unit of 5 Imperial Fist Phalanx Warriors makes an excellent rounding out of my army (once I have popped some jump packs on them) by using them as some unique and special looking Vanguard Veterans; experienced warriors of a hundred wars. So the price of £50 (just checked and it’s now £55) is a lot to pay, but as an extra little icing on top of the cake is a worthwhile investment to get the army just so. Now take that and build a unit of 30 Halberdiers. Yeah. The premium model that Forgeword runs just about works when a unit of 10 is quite a large thing, and the vehicles (which tend to retail between £70 and £200) are unique army focal points that you can take time and care over. Massed rank infantry just doesn’t seem to fit.
My favoured option for some time is that they introduce a scale change. As much as I loved (and still love) WFB I have to admit that it didn’t really work at that scale. Armies of 80 models are invariably going to be overwhelmed by single powerful heroes, which has led to us Oldhammer and Middlehammer lovers to often introduce many changes to out favourite ruleset. Where it works is at the epic scale. Warmaster is a very under-rated game, but even if it had a more traditional ruleset for Warhammer, being able to collect thousands of troops because the scale had dropped to 8mm is just far more fitting of the sort of grandeur that we all imagined in our heads. But this really isn’t the ForgeWorld operating model, and is unlikely to attract the passionate modellers who want to explore the detail that is lost at that scale. And whilst ForgeWorld products are good, they’re just not set up to handle that level of detail. An air bubble or slight mould slip would ruin an entire batch completely as a lot of infantry would just be completely missing. That scale would require Games Workshop, and the Horus Heresy analogy is lost.
And this is the problem. None of us can even start to hazard any concrete guesses as to what this will end up being (I thought it would be Empire-centric, 2 of my close friends thinks the map was just marketing and they’ll do even more than WFB ever had first time around). Which begs the question – why announce this now?
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