For those long time Warhammer Fantasy fans the End Times which ushered in the Age of the Sigmarine in its place, really was that. The End. Some may have hoped it would come back. It was a mistake they thought, a bad dream. But the years rolled on and the Age of the Sigmarine became more and more unrecognisable with every release. And so all hope gradually faded…
Many others, more pugnacious in their grief, forked their own fan based versions of the game, 9th age and the Warhammer Armies Project. Or else they moved on to rival rule sets like Kings of War to use with the old lore.
Kings of War is an excellent rule set in its own right. It has its own lines of models, many of which work well as alternative and often cheaper Warhammer Fantasy models. See here for what is available at Element Games.
Of course many other veterans simply continued playing with the books and models they had. They may even have been a little relieved the game was finally complete. There would be nothing more to buy.
All that was until Games Workshop released a teaser that square bases could come back. They followed that up with more explicit teasers that the Oldworld of Warhammer would come back in a way similar to how the backstory of Warhammer 40k, called the Horus Heresy, had its own releases, with models and rules to flesh it out.
The other tidbit is that what they are planning is quite big; it will take two or more years before we will see anything of what works in the shadows.
So these are the three hints so far:
Based on this, a pedestrian assumption of what they are going to do is simply release Warhammer Fantasy Battles 9th edition. There will be just a new revision of old books, much as the previous editions were in fact. A re-release of old discontinued models with square bases once again available for sale though probably separately rather than included. Maybe even a few new kits.
And that may be, but here are three things they could be planning that will surprise us. Let us look at the hints closer.
Games Workshop offers the caution that it will be two or three years before anything is released. Starting here, it seems unlikely that whatever they are brewing is a simple re-release of old models with slightly revised rules.
If they were to do that I expect we could see a main rule book, which was scarcely more than a reprint of the last, in a few months tops. They could trot out a reprint of Isle of Blood or Skull Pass models in comparable time too.
Two to three years suggests we can expect something fresh and different with some substantial new content.
It is also worth noting here that the Warhammer Oldworld did get some fresh content in the Total War take on the Warhammer world. Including gun-toting vampire pirates. If we get any new models then they may be among them.
Total War have another sequel in the works and it is fair speculation that GW may coordinate something with that release. TW: Warhammer 1 gave us the European part of the Oldworld and TW: Warhammer 2 opened up Lustria. It may be that TW: Warhammer 3 will open up the Darklands to the east of the Oldworld’s Europe.
We are still missing the Ogre Kingdoms in Total War and their home in the Mountains of Mourn sits between the Oldworld Empire and the Darklands. This suggests adding the Ogres could coincide with a venture into the Darklands.
The Darklands is nearly a blank slate for Games Workshop too, as even over the last thirty years of lore generation it was hardly touched on. There is a lot they could do with that.
This leads us to the first and least surprising speculation:
Warhammer will be rebooted with some entirely new factions and lore for hitherto nearly unexplored parts of the map, from the Darklands to the far Cathay. This will probably be co-ordinated in with the release of TW: Warhammer 3 opening up the same places.
New factions they may float: Hobgoblins, Cathay, Ind, Nippon and the return of the Chaos Dwarfs.
In the teasers the Horus Heresy was linked with what we could expect. The Horus Heresy differs from the Oldworld though in an important way. In terms of game and lore development the 40k universe came first and then the Horus Heresy was developed as a backstory. Only later becoming its own sub-genre with its own rules and models.
The Oldworld then is really more like 40k in the respect that it was not developed as a backstory. It only became a backstory with the new development in the Age of Sigmar. There is then not so much fleshing out that can be done to justify new content. The game century immediately prior to the End Times has already had 30 real years of lore development.
The Oldworld has its own backstory, actually backstories for there are many. The 40k genre is set in the 41st millenium with the Horus Heresy being set 10 thousand years before. So to the Warhammer Fantasy World has generally been set in the 26th Century after the arrival of the Twin Tailed Comet that heralded the coming of Sigmar…
The closest backstory in the Oldworld resembling the Horus Heresy would be the Coming of Sigmar. This was around the year zero with the arrival of Sigmar Heldenhammer, the great hero and future god of the human Empire. Much of 40k was a sci-fi version of Warhammer Fantasy. In no small way Sigmar was the Fantasy precursor to 40k’s Emperor.
It may be then that when GW revisits the Oldworld they will not go back to the same period as previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy. Instead they may go way back further to the first Age of Sigmar.
Thus the Horus Heresy hint may have more depth to it than first appears.
We have yet to have a model of Sigmar himself back when he was a human. Perhaps we will finally get that, just as we finally have models for the Primarchs of 40k.
A whole new slew of hero characters for many races may be in the works too. Most of the heros that we know from the century prior to the End Times were not alive in the First Age of Sigmar.
The re-imagined human factions may look considerably more primitive too. The Empire just prior to the End Times was on the verge of a industrial breakthrough. It already had Steam Tanks and repeating blackpowder weapons. In the First Age of Sigmar however the human tribes were more Dark Age than Renaissance.
Another implication may be that there will be a reduced emphasis on the non-human races. The Horus Heresy is more or less a direct fight between Humans and Chaos with the other xenos scarcely featuring in the drama at all.
The First Age of Sigmar could take a similar narrow focus. It could just concentrate on the drama of Sigmar’s fight to unite the human tribes, drive back the forces of chaos and the greenskins.
The other fantasy races not involved in this action may get glossed over.
My final thought is that the Horus Heresy reference may indicate something else quite profound.
The Horus Heresy period did not just get its own 28mm scale models and rule system. It also received its own epic scale wargame Adeptus Titanicus. In place of 28mm scale miniatures, it uses 8mm scale miniatures. This allows even the great battle engines called Titans to stride the tabletop battlefield in a reasonable way.
Warhammer Fantasy also had an epic scale wargame called Warmaster. It was relatively short lived in the support it received from Games Workshop. Although it was generally regarded as a good rule set. It was played on a much smaller scale than Warhammer Fantasy, 10mm verses 28mm.
At 28mm the size of the models restricts armies to only number a few hundred before the tabletop becomes absurdly crowded. That is not even to mention the cost. Yet a hundred soldiers is hardly more than a street gang let alone an army.
Games Workshop really likes to push the bounds of what is reasonable or affordable. So we had from them Apocalypse for 40k and Storms of Magic for Warhammer Fantasy. Games of such a size that they really defied all reason for the scale of models to be used for them.
Although games of that size are more than feasible. If they are on a smaller scale such as Warmaster’s 10mm or Epic 40k’s 6mm.
For these experiments in playing epic games with skirmish models they have picked up some criticism from tormented fans with their broken wallets. Even regular Warhammer Fantasy was a bit of strain to play at the model scale it was with the model count suggested.
The barrier to entry from large counts of large models, all of which should be painted and based ideally, is often touted as one of the reasons why GW gave up on Warhammer Fantasy. And why they reboot it with an ostensibly smaller skirmish game, Age of Sigmar.
That does not really take into account blowing up the lore though. They could have released a simpler skirmish ruleset without doing that.
It may be then that Games Workshop will reboot the Warhammer Oldworld as an epic scale game like Warmaster. This will offer some interesting advantages to GW:
Firstly, Oldworld fans will be encouraged to buy new models if they want to get involved. A simple re-release of Warhammer Fantasy with the same models on the same scale would not give old veterans anything new to buy that they did not already have.
Secondly, Age of Sigmar players may have something new to buy in addition to the stuff they are already buying for Age of Sigmar.
Thirdly, it may offer a lower barrier to entry for those wanting to get into a substantial Warhammer game but not spend titanic sums or carry around titanic model cases.
Fourthly, in the broader wargaming world fantasy on a epic scale is not currently well served, while 28mm is crowded with offerings. GW is the biggest fish in a small pond but even they must have some care for competition. In business the less competition the better.
I am also toiling away in obscurity on a epic scale rule set with just this potential gap in the market in mind. Sad to think GW will probably beat me to it with the resources they have. But then maybe I can do it better and the discerning players will play with my rules and GW’s miniatures. GW’s rules are often a bit of a mess.
We will have to wait and see for what comes but it is probably not safe to assume that Warhammer Oldworld will just be a reprint of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
GW could take us to as yet unexplored parts of the Warhammmer World like the Darklands. They could also take us to a different time period. I guess the first Age of Sigmar being the most likely.
They might make a whole new game on a completely different scale. They might even do all of the above.
If any of that does not please you. If you really just want to play Warhammer Fantasy as it was. Then check in here for a quick guide I wrote on sourcing alternative miniatures for Warhammer Fantasy.