Friday, 26 September 2014

A New Arrival and a Few Ramblings

It has been a while since my last blog entry, and for good reason. On 12 September 2014 my wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy so our world has had a bit of a shake up! Needless to say my hobby time has been greatly shortened for one of the best reasons possible, but it hasn't stopped me thinking about it and formulating ideas and projects!

I've also got a few blog posts waiting to be written up when I finally get round to it, including a boxing match in the Star Wars universe, an ECW game using the excellent paper models from Billy Bones' Workshop and a quest for my ideal miniature skeletons! And this is just scratching the surface! I also blame my lack of productivity on the Blogger app, which allows me to draft posts which I then polish up on the laptop. Unfortunately it is far too easy to draft up and entry and then get distracted and never get round to finishing it!

But in the meantime, my main hobby 'thought time' has actually been taken up by Warhammer 4th editon. A couple of small eBay purchases have moved my collection of publications towards completion and helped along my newly growing Chaos army, while a notepad by my bedside has seen several speculative army lists written up during the sleepless nights that come with a baby only a few days old!

But a lot of the time I have been thinking about what draws me towards 4th Edition Warhammer compared to the more widely accepted 'old-school' option of 3rd edition, which I also own. So I thought I'd put these thoughts in order for anyone who might be interested, and here are the results!

1) The rules are simple but effective.

The move from 3rd to 4th editon Warhammer was notable for many reasons, but one of the most significant ones was the stripping back of the rules to a book about a quarter the size if the previous version. Now, I've greatly enjoyed the games of 3rd edition that I have played, but find myself wanting something more simple for my fantasy games and which gives games I can complete solo in a reasonable amount of time. In general I am in favour of more complex rules over simpler ones, but when it comes to Warhammer I want to focus on the spectacle of clashing armies rather than a large rulebook. It's worth remembering that the rules themselves are reasonably sound, to the extent that the 5th edition (which is not hugely different from 4th) formed the basis of the highly popular Warhammer Ancient Battles. (This is something key to my comments in point 4 later on...). It really is a case of horses for courses though. If I wanted a good set of fantasy rules to use in my own setting, I would probably lean toward 3rd edition due to its sheer scope and encouragement to 'do your own thing'. 

2) I really like the army books.

Perhaps this is a contentious issue, but I do really enjoy the early army books. 4th saw a shift from one single book, to individual ones for each of the races. There are, of course, definite advantages to only needing one book, but in the transition to 4th I feel an opportunity was taken to flesh out the Warhammer setting and increase the unique feel of each army and add some of my favourite war machines! For example, Skaven saw the introduction of the Doomwheel and Screaming Bell, two classic war machines. For me there is nothing quite like taking one of the army books from my shelves and flicking through, soaking up the feeling of the earlier Warhammer setting and thinking about new armies to field. Of course, I may not be so enthusiastic if the books were expensive, but it has not taken me very long to build an almost complete collection, often spending no more than £2 for a book! In fact, some special rules and units aside, the black and white army lists and Battle Bestiary given with the 4th editon box set are all you need to play a game. You don't even need the army books (and if you are a Bretonnia fan you'd be waiting until 5th editon for one anyway!)

3) It is 'my' version of Warhammer

I actually boought the 4th edition of Warhammer second hand about 15 years ago or so, but it languished without being played. Then I got a copy of 3rd edition after becoming quite taken by the emerging Oldhammer movement (kudos at this point to Gaj at Warhammer for Adults, as it was his blog which inspired me). After playing a few games of 3rd and reading more about the figures of the time, I realised that it didn't really mesh with what I recalled of Warhammer from White Dwarf in my youth. This was for the quite simple reason that  4th edition had just come out when I started to buy the occasional issue of White Dwarf and it was the battle reports, figures and articles from this era which captured my imagination. Although the first issue ever bought was 186 (due to the instructions on how to build an Ork Gobsmasha!), I remember more clearly the period between seeing Elves and Goblins in the adverts for the boxed game and then Bretonnians and Lizardmen. So for this quite simple reason, 4th edition is the version I am drawn to more than any other. 

4) You don't have to play it as 'Herohammer'

In point 1 of this post, I made reference to the connection between 5th edition and Warhammer Ancient Battles. One of the most frequent accusations you can find levelled at 4th & 5th editions is that they represent the 'Herohammer' period of the game, where battles were decided by who had the strongest hero laden with the the most game breaking magical weapons. But as WAB demonstrates with it's lack of heroes and magic but the same core rules, this doesn't have to be the case and in fact it is mostly down to the players. If you don't want to play Herohammer, then limited the amount of magic or heroic characters and play the game you want. In fact, reading through some of the supplements published, they specifically encourage an approach counter to what the two editions have become known for. Sure, game breaking hero and magic options exist, but you can take control of the game you play and limit or allow this as suits you. 

5) It's the spirit of the game that counts.

Not really a point specific to 4th edition, but one of the most important to me. If you take a look at Warhammer for Adults and other blogs such as Realm of Chaos 80s, you will find that there is not a single mention of how to design a great army or max out the strengths of your force. It is all about having fun and playing games in the spirit of shared enjoyment. And this can be done with whatever set of rules you enjoy. 

So I raise a glass to 'my' version of Warhammer and happily sit surrounded by my source books, delving into the rich background and planning the narrative behind my next game. In fact, only today I read an old White Dwarf article from the 4th edition period extolling the virtues of the narrative campaign. Who'd have thought it?!

So anyway, that's a summary of my random sleep-deprived thoughts on 4th editon for now. The only question now is how long until my son works out how to roll dice?!


  1. Congratulations! That is fantastic news. Love to the three of you.

  2. I was introduced to this hobby through 3rd ed & was completely enamoured with the whole setting, played it every chance I got. Then 4th was purchased a few years later by a friend and we decided to give it a go. But after playing a couple of games I quickly reverted back to 3rd, for the very game breaking reason you pointed out. But that was when I was a teenager, when you took advantage of any & every rule you could to try & guarantee victory.

    Now that I'm older I'm quite content to cherry pick what works & doesn't work for me. I think when your a kid you need a rigid rule system...for most of us at that age our imagination is not yet mature enough to tweak & change a game to our liking, let alone convince our friends to play your new game!

    Some great thought points you raised there Chris, thanks a bunch.

    Finally, congrats on the new man of the house. But remember, they invented digital die rollers a few years back now, so as soon as he can aim his finger you'll be good to game :)


    1. That's a good point you make there! Very unlikely that teens would say "You know what, let's restrict the power of heroes and we'll have a much better game."!

      Ah, yes. Digital die rollers! I'll have to put him to work when he figures out his hands and arms are for more than just flailing around and whacking himself in the face with!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks very much, Simon! Will the young Mr P follow in my gaming footsteps? Only time will tell!