Fighting with little plastic men. The story of Warhammer:Fantasy Battles

New contributor and fellow Nerd Big K aka Kruno drops an article about the best table top fantasy war game of all time. Read more to find out more about this forgotten classic.

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It was the year 1998, the author of this text was in his late teens and admittedly a bigger geek then I am now if that is even humanly possible.

My friends and I had been playing D&D from the very beginnings and as a group we have been hardcore gamers, but D&D to us was a system that was just missing something, we could not quite put our finger on it, but as we understand it now we were missing gritty reality and logic.

While playing D&D at later levels, talking 12th and up, any character could basically walk into a village, kill every single person there and leave without so much as scratch on them! So things like that happened a few times in our playgroup before we disbanded until we could find a punishing enough system that would prevent stuff like that from even the most advanced level players.

We explored and read a lot and my friend and I found an article on (god damn I feel so old for remembering) Alta Vista(for those of you who don’t know what it is, its basically something like Google but way more primitive) about Warhammer: Fantasy Battles. It was a game of heroes and armies clashing on the field of battle, where 2+ players each commanded their own little or big army as we would later discover and beat each other senseless for bragging rights and a pint of beer, or if you played seriously on the tournament scene you could win some nice expensive Warhammer figurines and accessories like paint stations and professional style airbrushes.

In August 1998 the very first box of Warhammer: Fantasy Battles 5th edition arrived in Split, Croatia and my entire crew gathered to see what was in the beautifully painted box which sported a knight in full plate armor on a warhorse charging some sort of lizard like creature.

The suspense was crazy and we were all giggling like schoolgirls, and then we opened the box, it was full of unpainted and un-assembled models of knights, archers, lizardfolk, and sported 2 phenomenal looking heroes/champions for each army.

It also contained a phenomenal rule-book with loads of rules for almost any situation that could occur during the game itself and incredible Gothic looking artwork which we all fell in love with at first sight.

While some people felt underwhelmed and a bit disappointed, most of us including me saw huge potential in Warhammer. I saw endless possibilities for customization and making your own unique army and heroes, which could possibly be used in other gaming systems not just in Warhammer.

Now that we had the actual game it was but the the beginning of the love that would mark the next 20 or so years of my life.

We would all now have to chose an army to represent us best on the battlefield, it would define the way you build your army,  the way you play and what were the strengths and weaknesses of your particular army.

As a group we all picked what we felt most comfortable with.

The Vampire Counts with their incredible necromantic magic that could make entire units of skeletons appear on the battlefield.

The High Elves with their fast moving infantry and cavalry paired with their Mages that could wreak havoc on enemies.

The Empire ,a human faction with  heavily armored knights and heavy artillery like cannons and mortars to back them up and mostly used infantry as cannon fodder and something to be sacrificed to achieve victory at any cost.

The Dark Elves and their specialist units which were lightning quick while their heroes were ferocious in up close melee combat.

The Wood Elves as absolute kings of shooting with their longbows which had extra range and extra power, and the best scout units in the game.

 The Brettonians as a human faction which could be best described as feudal french knights mixed with crusaders and peasants as backup units which provided numbers while their fantastic cavalry did heavy hitting.

The Skaven a race of mutant ratfolk which use unstable magics and fight in huge numbers while supported with a form of close combat magics and semi/mechanical shooting which were hugely unreliable but when they did work  it proved absolutely devastating for the enemy.

The Warriors of Chaos a semi human demon faction wielding insanely powerful magic, which were the ultimate bad guys in the Warhammer world.

The Dwarfs a  reliable army of heavy armored infantry that could withstand almost any charge and strike back with good measure, backed up with some of the most devastating shooting units in the game and very decent protective magic.

And the last but certainly not least, my own favorite faction

The Orcs and Goblins   purely for practical reasons cause nobody else wanted them, I took them as my favorite and never regretted it for a millisecond.

It was an army of monsters, giants, trolls, goblins and orcs which lived in a mostly nomadic tribes and while they had huge numbers they were primitive and their magic was unreliable. When it did hit  it was absolutely devastating and while orcs were huge lumbering brutes that relied on pure strength, goblins were sneaky and devious so with those 2 combined were for me a match made in heaven.

 

And so we all began collecting and painting our armies, gathering for gaming and painting sessions that would last for entire weekends, I personally remember a couple where my folks asked me „Have you guys eaten anything in the last 2 days?“ we would paint and play for hours, the game was to us so immersive and so gritty and real that we had people including me (actually, especially me) have nerd rages for rolling bad and having our heroes killed by sheer bad luck. To most of us it was the best representation of tabletop conflict we have ever seen, and we loved every second of it, because even if you lost, there was a sense of dramatic achievements when you told how your mage wiped out an entire enemy unit when his spell failed (yes it was actually quite possible for a spell to fail and do devastating damage to both friends and foes alike).

We loved the unforgiving nature of the game which made you think of it like chess but with six sided dice included, mistakes on the battlefield were severely punished and your units could quite easily be wiped out by much inferior opponents just because you left your flank or rear open and vulnerable to attack. It was unlike anything we ever played before, in D&D you could resurrect your fallen comrade, in Warhmmer if a Lord/Hero/Mage died it was a huge deal and most armies suffered greatly with a loss of such a huge point investment and lack of leadership.

Warhammer as a game itself has many extensive rules, most of which I will not mention in this text, cause I’m writing an article not a 450 page book, but I do need to mention the game has complex character stats and quite a few of them for each model/character and the better your stats the more points the model costs and each game is played with an agreed number of points, for tournaments it was considered that 2000 point games were most balanced but most playgroups played anything from 500 point skirmishes to 5000 grand battles.

The game itself developed and my group played all editions of the game, however instead of making progress, it is my firm opinion that the game was at its peak during 6th edition which was the most balanced and started deteriorating from there, instead of fixing the minor issues of the game Games Workshop made 7th edition which was somewhat an improved version of the 7th but it reduced and gimped a lot of armies because it reduced the number of race specific magical items doing away with the uniqueness of armies,instead of listening to their player base Games Workshop messed up big time, we thought OK, we can adapt its not 6th but its still playable.

After 7th edition was released followed by the semi disastrous and final installment of Warhammer: Fantasy Battles the 8th edition, while it added some great stuff, like advantage for fighting in large units the so called horde units, it absolutely killed cavalry and mobility and made all armies a copy paste of each other which huge infantry units charging frontally into each other. It seemed to us older players that the game was so stupidly simplified that even preschool children could play it, and we were pretty pissed off.  The number of race specific magical items was almost nonexistent, everything was  incredibly streamlined and we were all disappointed and incredibly angry to the point that some people actually quit playing all together after reading the rulebook.

It was a sad time, we were friends who shared an interest but this tore our group apart, nobody wanted to play with these stupidly simplified rule set, we felt like the huge effort and not to mention a really large money investment was taken from us because developers were morons who did not listen to their player base! Games Workshop wanted to make more money but they failed to realize that you can’t make such drastic changes without alienating and antagonizing longtime customers and supporters of you previous iterations.

It felt like they cheated us old players in favor of new kids and we were pissed off, I believe we had every right to be.

Warhammer: Fantasy Battles no longer exists as a game system, it is replaced by a stupidly simplified game called Age of Sigmar, which while undoubtedly fun to play has no where near the complexity of the game I loved to play which has reduced the number off stats and characters become 1 man armies that decide combat results, while in previous editions it was all about the positioning of your units making the right charge at the right time. Now it is all about who has a bigger sword on a bigger lord class character which is too simple, non complex and for this reason is NOT in the true spirit of Warhammer!!!

It makes me sad and happy at the same time that a group of enthusiasts made an unofficial Warhammer game called the 9th Age but, its not officially endorsed by Games Workshop unfortunately.

This was my experience with Warhammer: Fantasy Battles a game that has given me great joy and a lot of fun memories. It made me a lot of friends and it saddens me that it no longer exists as something I loved to play but as something completely different, that greed and corporate money grabbing destroyed what was once of the greatest tabletop war game of all time.

 

I hope you enjoyed my debut article for Nerd Dimension and look forward to reading you feedback in the comments. Remember to rate, comment and subscribe to our Facebook page and Podcast to stay in the loop as we upload new content.

Nerd Dimension Podcast : The Couch Coop Convo

New podcast up, twist up, flip the cap and lay back as the nerds take you for another joy ride through fun fantasy and f##kery

 

In this episode our three terrible hosts discuss couch coop titles, some of the best games, a few undiscovered gems and give you their usual spiel. Apollo is still the overbearing intellectual, Gus is always trying to bring the balance as Mike continues to throw out crazy comments like they are going out of style. So sit back, relax and enjoy  🙂

 

Marvel : Legendary Board Game Review – A coop deck builder for the newbs but does it deliver ?

Upper Decks smash is reviewed. Capes, Crime Fighters and Cards, lots and lots of cards !!!

This review was years in the making and I wanted to play through the game enough times before passing judgement on something I was excited about for so long. I was hyped about it when I first heard of the concept of a coop Marvel game, something to play with friends that was not miniatures on a board and had more possibilities. Granted I was not a deck-builder fan at the time but it sounded like something I could enjoy.  More importantly I wanted my group to have played a few hands to see how players of different levels of experience felt about it. A game with hundreds of cards and new mechanics may be fun for an avid gamer but a newbie might be overwhelmed by all the things they have to remember.

The game is pretty popular from the amount of expansions (11 at present) that  continue to be print and with Comic Culture and Nerd Culture being at an all time peak I felt something like a COOP deck builder required us to be able to give an accurate, fun and informative review. I saw a lot of Youtubers discussing it, lots of reviews but it was one of those games that was not so popular in Croatia so at the time of its release it did not get such a push I guess in the Eastern European markets. I digress. Nevertheless I was syked to play it after reading and hearing mixed reviews I still went in hoping for the best.  Upper Deck are not usually associated with board games as many of my peers recall them from sports trading cards and memorabilia so it had me curious to see how they would fair in this new realm. To clarify I would like to state that I was not big on deck builders or card games at the time so this was a recent purchase after I had played a few more card games .

Having new players and a bigger place meant I could get back to boardgaming and this is a game I felt I never quiet played enough of. The first time I played it was in Split with my close friends and guild brothers Boris aka Moses and Ivan aka the Apache in a small apartment an wound up playing it on the floor! So my first impression was that I needed space to run it. I recently played it at the new place with my girlfriend and fellow Nerd Dimensioners Apollo and Gustonius. I purchased the game at Dragons Lair in Kungsholmen Stockholm. The price did catch me a little off guard considering that it is not the newest title however the artwork on the box and the shape of it made for easy storage and display piece . Seeing the amount of expansions already available indicated to me that this game obviously is still selling well when so much added content is still being released.

The base game contains 500 cards in total, a gameboard and manual. Upper deck threw in a ton of free dividers so you can label all the heroes, villains, schemes etc as to make it easier the next time you play. WARNING ! This game will take time to prepare and explain and I suggest you play it with 3 before playing five. After you organize the infinity deck of cards you can build the decks which go on the board. The board is good quality and straightforward with authentic artwork. Upper Deck saw to it that the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and reaming flavor added to the game. The manual is short and simple, big enough text and pretty easy to understand after you flipped through it.

LEGENDARY MIC FNL

Included is how to- run your very first game and other ways to run the villains so that you can easily setup the henchmen and masterminds. The mechanics involved players drawing from different decks to either build their own deck or to play their hands on the table. You combat bad guys by playing different shield cards which serve as a currency or attack points and your goal is to prevent bad guys from escaping and destroying the master minds. The game is not the easiest and you will be knocked around but it does balance out as you start taking villains off the board. The developers and designers created a beautiful game and made sure that each game will be different. The mechanics do take a couple of hands but you will know what you are doing after 3 games and will be able to explain to any new players you wish to include in the crime fighting fun.

After playing enough games I did start feeling that I was playing the mechanics more than I was fighting bad guys but in all fairness it is a deck-builder game not a classic boardgame. Luckily I had purchased the Deadpool Expansion which was not expensive and added more cards and made for some interesting combinations. This being a review of the base game I will say that despite have 500 cards the game did feel like it was more mechanics and it did not give me enough options to make it more of a game that I could play say twice a month. 7 Wonders does this well where you get enough flavor and options out the box and it gets people back to the table because it is engaging despite being a competitive game. When I purchased the Dark City expansion I saw that it allowed for more options and added mechanics which did make the game harder but in return the scales did tip back in the players favor with better cards and characters. The base game should have included a few more things and with the price tag I would have preferred a mat instead of a board for conveniences sake.

All in all Marvel did deliver a fun deck-builder that you can teach kids and adults could still enjoy as it has moments where it does feel a little pokerish yet maintains a very enjoyable team aspect. Working together, letting the next player get a certain hero so they can deliver a harder hit. It does have a competitive option where you count up the amount of damage done and cards in your deck to determine who earned the most points which also can spice it up. This is a game which needs sleeves and expansions so be prepared to dish out some coin for it if you want to truly be able to enjoy the game. The cards will get worn out and the expansions keep you and your players more interested. As a stand alone it can prove fun for a regular group but is not something we recommend for smaller groups as we feel it plays best at 4-5 players.

The Nerd Dimension will give this game a

 

6.7 out of 10

 

*Ruling: Despite the great artwork the game is a considerable investment for a game that will not have the same feeling after 20 games. The mechanics can be mastered but for new players it can take a couple of games.The Legendary system has been applied to everything from Buffy to Aliens so it is not that the system is bad but I felt there would be more flavor in the base game. However the rating jumps higher when you add the expansions so subscribe to see which ones we liked and which ones we felt did not add much.

 

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Summoner Wars Master Set (Boardgame Review)

Plaid Hat Games deliver a stellar addition to their collection and a must play for any deck-builder or card game player who enjoys fantasy and battling.

I am glad to finally review my favorite card game / deck building game on the market. Plaid Hats really delivered when they designed the game. Summoner Wars boast numerous nominations for Game of the Year from Dice Tower to the International Gamers Awards which in itself should speak on the quality of this game. The game is set up with a battlefield and each player uses a faction deck of his choosing. The board is used for movement and dice are used to determine attacks and spell damage. The player takes the role of the Summoner, each faction has one Summoner who is like a wizard who calls up his units using his magic pile and places them on the map adjacent to a wall card.

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The rules are simple and straight forward with a beautifully drawn and brief, easy to read manual providing players with all the necessary information needed in simple english. Our first game ran an hour and some change but after a few games you should be playing 45 minutes without rushing. The mechanics are interesting so you never getting the feeling of being bored and the game play is very dynamic. Another plus about Summoner Wars is that though there is decking building in the form of mercenary decks and faction packs you are ready to play out the box and the investment is far less than its competitors. For a hundred bucks you have a hefty collection and for a little more u can own the ENTIRE collection of factions with secondary summoners.

Another thing that truly blew me away was how diverse yet balanced each faction was which made the game that much more fun to play. You have factions that have cheap units, some even costing 0 but then you also have powerful ranged units from another faction or a summoner that can control your enemy’s units !!! This makes the gameplay that much more competitive and leads you  to having a favorite faction early on as you can play 6 factions out of the Master Set. The set also includes a quality map and rules how to play 4 player with another matching map. I truly recommend this purchase because of such a low entry point expense and as a game it is a fun deck builder that is easy to teach and has a high replayability factor.

The site provides decent support and there is also a free app you can download for you mobile devices so you can try the rules out before buying. With the existing popularity and so much added content and product finding it at an online store will not be difficult and it is fairly priced.

You can expect an a more detailed break down of factions and how to play them in the near future so stay tuned, subscribe to the NERD DIMENSION FB Page and let us know what you think in the comments sections.

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