Predictions for Warhammer: The Old World

To put my thoughts here into a context, if you’ve read my previous piece from the start of this year: Musings on current fantasy wargame systems you’ll know a bit of my history with fantasy wargaming. A quick update to today, I’ve painted a ton of miniatures during the year (my photos here), and of course I’ve been playing The Ninth Age Quickstarter, and I’ve made battle reports for all of my games so far. I’ve also bought Kings of War 3rd edition a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve read all of the rules for that, and also read the Ninth Age full rulebook now too.

The last time I played any Warhammer Fantasy Battle was over a decade ago during the end of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 6th edition and just when their 7th edition came out. So I completely missed the 8th edition as well as GW stupidly killing off their entire game and world with, from every report I’ve read, the utterly pathetic “End Times”. So it’s been a very strange time to get back into fantasy wargaming in a way with a LOT to catch up on, way more than I expected. I really enjoyed this recent article “On Returning to the Tabletop Miniature Hobby” from Bedroom Battlefields that was a somewhat familiar perspective to my own.

So then, this was a bit of a strange surprise to have had announced right in the same year I got back into the miniatures hobby after it had been so long!

Nice logo aside, there are scant few details about what Games Workshop actually plan to do here. I do feel the timing of this announcement has to be no coincidence at all though with regards to Kings of War 3rd edition, and I was amused to see Mantic fire back too

There’s been a lot of talk about what this means for the hobby in general and these other games systems that had filled the gap in the market for a rank & flank fantasy wargame left by GW, and I’m going to make my own predictions & thoughts here:

Like Kings of War, this will be a “unit element” based rules system

I’ve got a number of reasons I believe this. It will help make the system much more differentiated from GW’s Age of Sigmar game. I think characters & monsters will still be individual models too, and may even remain on the round & oval bases used for AoS. But the biggest reason I believe this is the case, is to do with models and their bases. GW have made a big thing in their promotion of this announcement of the game being set on “square bases” still. However, they’ve also made a point of the cross-over potential with some of their AoS models… so how can they square this circle? 😛 The way I see they will do it is to use movement “trays” for unit elements in the army, which (like Kings of War already does) will allow any-based models to be used, as long as they fit on the correct size of tray. I would even expect GW to be able to turn this into a money-spinner by selling a variety of scenic tray converters for your AoS models for every kind of base they have in AoS into appropriate sizes for WH:ToW unit elements:

Imagine this, but in plastic with pre-modelled scenic elements around it possible.

This isn’t that outlandish as it sounds at first, as noted, you can already do this in Kings of War if you want to easily, and games like Parabellum’s Conquest and CMON’s A Song of Fire & Ice already do this.

I see this as the perfect solution to this problem for GW. It avoids pissing off those players who did convert the bases of their minis from WFB 8th to AoS, whilst they can still be seen as being ‘friendly’ to the old square-based fantasy miniatures crowd like myself. It also means they can sell all of their existing AoS models that can fit into WH:ToW without needing to re-box or re-package anything. You’ll simply need to buy a lot more of them, and then buy these extra lovely scenic trays…

As I say, I suspect characters will still be individual models at times, but I also expect they would be available as upgrades to units, along with various other miniature-focused unit upgrades like standard bearers or musicians.

The rules will be mediocre at best

Sorry GeeDub fanboys, this was my very first reaction upon hearing this news – I have close to 0% faith in GW’s ability to write a good set of rules acceptable for even a casual-competitive setting. GW’s quality in writing lore and making models (& lately, marketing it seems) has sadly never been even close to matched by their rules writing. At best their games’ rules have only ever been acceptable for extremely casual ‘fluffy’ games or for kids. As I mentioned before here, even when I was a teenage kid myself, we still house-ruled and re-balanced the points values and stats of an enormous amount of stuff during WFB 4th edition.

Moving onto my experiences with WFB 6th and 7th edition, to a large extent it was also more of the same. Whilst they’d generally improved their rulebook writing, there were still huge rules issues I would come across regularly. I literally never managed to play a “rules as written” game of WFB 6th or 7th without needing to “roll a D6” to decide what happened in an un-written or badly written rules situation. Often I could foresee these circumstances could occur a turn or two in advance, and I would attempt to bring it up with my opponent so we could agree upon the rules before that situation occurred and the inevitable random dice roll happened… however I’d then get accused of “rules lawyering” simply because I was trying to prevent dice-off situations & instead make a tactical decision. Of course even if you did agree on a rule with one opponent, all bets were off as soon as you played someone else who might well see it differently. It was very frustrating to play. As a software tester by trade, I often liken these rules holes to bugs in code – and every GW game I’ve ever played would just crash if it was written into software and one of these bugs occurred!

To be fair to them, GW themselves used to make a point of how they are a model company and not a rules company, and to me, it really showed in the efforts they put out. There was also the style of game they were trying to push WFB towards – it seemed like they wanted it to be a smaller model count and almost skirmish style wargame based around a few powerful characters and monsters with normal troops just there mostly for cannon fodder (oh hello there Age of Sigmar??) rather than the “mass battle” style I was looking for. I’d already grown so dissatisfied with WFB 6th and 7th that I’d already begun to get into & play other games such as Armies of Arcana & Battleground Fantasy Warfare, long before my next miniature gaming hiatus occurred.

There’s also the conflict of selling ‘the latest and greatest’ models and rulebooks as opposed to maintaining a long-term balanced rules system that GW have never managed to figure out to my satisfaction. GW in fact, land hugely on the side of not caring whatsoever about balance in favour of “shaking up the metagame” or “keeping people interested in a changing gaming landscape” or some such excuse, behind what is blatantly obvious power-creep to sell their newest models & books the majority of the time. I won’t go into this too much here as I am sure most people reading this are very familiar with this. Terms such as “Codex creep” specifically exist about GW in the geek lexicon with very good reason. Safe to say, if you’ve ever read Agoners for any length of time, it will be obvious to you that I want the exact opposite to this when it comes to any game system, and especially a miniatures wargame.

This post on the Ninth Age forums by Piteglio from Veil of The Ages really made me laugh and really hit home a common perspective on this to me:

some twenty years ago i met an amazing girl from Nottingham. we spent ten years together. countless hours, a lot of passion (and also a bloody huge amount of money).
then she dumped me and started dating a rich 14 years old kid.

luckily, instead of conceding to nostalgia i started looking around, and found a lot of polish girls that look a lot nicer, and one truly international girl which is sooo much more fun.

And this post by Grouchy Badger made a similar point with much darker humour:

crawling back to GW like a pummeled house wife
“M-maybe he wont hit me this time!”

The one reason I can see that GW have a small chance to do something better than their historical efforts with Warhammer Fantasy, is that with WH:ToW they can start truly afresh from a blank slate. Whilst they theoretically could’ve done (or did) this with WFB editions at any point, they never really did so. Thanks to their money-making but extremely player and game-development unfriendly model of releasing army rule books separately to the main rules updates, and the need to keep everything in at least some semblance of working order, they only ever managed to make incremental changes over time to the main WFB system, whereas this blank slate means they have a chance to do something potentially quite different. The idea of them trying to mimic mechanics used in the Total War: Warhammer on the tabletop is also an interesting one. Whilst I’ve never played any of the Total War series, I’ve long wanted to do so as I’ve heard many good things about it – but the time investment and solo nature of the video games always put me off. But this announcement has gotten me more interested to try out those games too.

To ‘tldr’ summarise this long segment though, I’ve never been happy with any GW rules, and especially never any edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, so erring with the side of history on this one, I don’t expect this to change!

GW’s re-naming convention has made a mess of things

My friend Greg made a comment to me about what he was painting lately (Orruks, or Orcs as I still call them!) that really hammered it home to me…

WTF are Orruks, Grots, Ogors, Troggoths, Aelves, Bollox etc ?

Whilst I’ve figured it out (for the most part) over the last year, GW’s re-branding of old (and new) model ranges for Age of Sigmar causes a lot of confusion for old-time fans of Warhammer, and will be increasingly confusing in a world where Warhammer: The Old World also exists. Especially if they are hoping to convert Warhammer Total War players into also starting (or most likely re-starting) miniatures gaming, as Total War still uses the original names I believe.

As I missed this all happening at the time, people have explained to me in retrospect that the re-branding of everything by GW was an IP protection issue. That all makes perfect sense in a way, however if they want to capture the nostalgia and especially relate to Total War: Warhammer, GW is going to have to make quite a (highly amusing to me, I must admit) backtrack on this, and start calling things by their original names. Which also happen to be far more relatable (& marketable!) for anyone familiar with other fantasy settings. It highlights just how short-sighted their handling of switching over from WFB to AoS really was.

I wonder if we’ll see some kind of conversion charts, or both names for units used in the books for WH:ToW – that would be incredibly amusing for me. At least in GW’s favour here, they will once again be able to explain why a paint is called “Nuln Oil” or “Lothern Blue” when these places actually exist again! 😉

That’s all I’ve got for now. Of course please respond below or on forums, social media etc where I post this. I am sure I will have more thoughts to add to this in the future, which I’ll append to comments on this post here as time goes on.

For good or for bad, it seems we’re living right now “Fantasy Wargaming: Interesting Times”.

13 thoughts on “Predictions for Warhammer: The Old World

  1. First of: I loved Mantics answer to that whole stuff 😀

    I’m conflicted on unit bases. They said on Facebook it won’t be regimental bases, but maybe they meant it won’t be just that… I’d hope that the sizes will be the same as units in Kings of War need, but I cetainly think that will not be the case. And after seeing the bases for Apocalypse I think I wouldn’t want to buy them.

    I still don’t know about the whole name protecting issue with stuff. They could have named Wood Elves Asrai and so on on their books, instead of printing the English name in the German books. They had translations for almost all unit names, so just using the English ones everywhere was neither a money saving thing. It just defied all logic. And I’ve yet to see an Orruk ™. Are those names even protected? I guess they just wanted to stand out.

    My take on the whole issue is that I don’t really see a lot to discuss. The market of Fantasy Football Miniatures was thriving, guess what, big friend GW came in and tried to take over by supporting a system they had not supported in years. Oh skirmishers are flourishing? Why not bring Necromunda back and give the people an Mordheim light (very very light!)? They’ll surely come back to us. They didn’t. But the effort was noticed. Now Ninth Age and Kings of War are still going strong, where GW without a doubt thought they’d be gone in a few years. Why not jump on the band wagon? But the way they introduced it was… flawed for me. Tease the people with a big anouncement and then tell them there’s something coming… in a few years… maybe… we won’t tell you anything about – so please don’t buy with our competitors and save your money in blind trust. Yeah. Nice one.

    I had discussions in two of my local groups. The one almost exclusively plays Age of Sigmar. This group was always very near to GW and only played Warhammer. With AoS we lost a lot of players (including me but we play board games as well…), and won a few of the 40k crowd over to take a stroll to fantasy town. There are few left that were the original fantasy players, one of which plays with square bases (I get mocked for it, but he doesn’t… oh well, he plays once in a blue moon) and one who started new armies left and right when good ol fantasy was still on the block so didn’t have to rebase anything. That guy is one of the most fervent defenders of AoS, but after that announcement even he was baffled. He got pretty angry at a Stormcast only player, that said he feels swindled, because the guy wouldn’t even know what that whole issue really meant. I guess the shock of changing systems is still strong within some.

    The other group only has a few AoS players, almost only new players, the rest just plays whatever they like, including old 8th edition. They only laughed about the thing. And that’s how I’ll handle it. I wont expect a thing. When it comes I’ll try it, I’ll probably play it since I collect game systems like I collect miniatures, but I don’t think it will be something big that will change my hobby forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you collectinggreen™ for such a thoughtful comment and some interesting perspectives there. I’ll be interested to look back at this in a few years time and see how it ends up 🙂

      I agree completely with your conclusion – as a non-company specific gamer myself anyway, this will be “just another possible ruleset to play” to me. Right now I want to play multiple wargames anyway, so this is just another potential one to add to the list. It’s possible once I play them all I will discover one system that really shines to me and I’ll become more dedicated to that one, but that day seems a long way off right now!

      It’s really just a sad state of affairs of how GW has handled their business though in the fantasy gaming market, given they’ve created this mess within their own fans now really.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another theory I’ve seen a lot is that GW will change the scale of this new Warhammer The Old World game and be a totally new miniatures range. Whilst I can see why that seems like a possibility (Warmaster?) – I’m not convinced right now, as they have made such a point of teasing the old-style square bases, that is a heavy implication that you’d be able to use old miniatures ON those bases too. But I could be totally wrong about this, especially as I’m not too familiar with GW’s marketing methods these days.

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  3. You already know my opinion about AoS and what I think GW has made with it. I think that GW has suffered of a big problem of these days. Try to earn as most as you can immediately, not thinking at all about the long term,. That is really a bad strategy, because on long term, if you remain steady, you earn more. When AoS came out, probably they haven’t thought at all at the portion of players that won’t accept these new stuff. But the possibility to grab some more kids on GW’s wagon was so tempting, that they do. Now they have realised that was not such a wonderful idea and they come out with Warhammer the Old World. Ok. Sincerly, I don’t feel excited at all. They have killed the game I loved, replacing it with AoS. Now to regain my love they have to create a freaking good game. But exactly like you, I really think that this scenario it will be non existing. GW has lost the love for the game years and years ago. These game is not a way to cover up a past mistake and ask forgive, it’s a turning point made by economical reasons. So they will make something that would be a lot of smoke and no meat. I totally agree with you. The rules will be probably horrific. The things you said about trays are really credibles. Your video of Lisa Simpson really resume what GW is going to do. However, I don’t know if the entire operation would be a success. There are quite people that think like you and me. Mantics is really solid now and it won’t collpase only beacuse GW has done an announcement. And even when the game will see the light, they will be really ready to compete. Tons of small houses have happeard, like mushrooms after a big rain, with really cool models at more affordable prices. The competition is strong and GW has pissed some persons. People that invested times and energies in 9th Age won’t come back as nothing never happened, after they had to fatigue to keep WH alive. Probably GW will come out with something really shining, but confused and flavourless, that will attract many kids and GW fanatics immediately, but it will reveal a flop on long term. I think that GW would be less greed years ago and keeping with Bloodbowl, Necromunda, Mordheim and WHFB. Now they will dominate the business. But they abandoned their sons (some of them were simply haed of their times) for greed and now they have tons of regrets, because if the have endured a little, now they will have a bigger monopoly than now. But, as I have just said, they haven’t shown any love for their sons and something like karma has punished them. When you are as big as them, you’re your only enemy. And I think that they have been able to fit the role perfectly. And they would do again.
    Keep these game alive won’t be so costly and difficult. Keep the miniatures on mail order and when time changes, simply start to produce them again on large scale. Necromunda and Blood Bowl had survived these way for lots of years. And they have abandoned them, after a long keeping, just a short time before these two type of games will make a boom.
    My two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for another great comment 🙂

      One thing to note is that financially for GW, AoS has been very successful from what I’ve heard at least. By getting a new audience of younger players into a simpler game with very “OTT” model designs etc it does fit their core audience I guess that also play 40k – and also by making the games play similarly etc. But the issue for GW is losing the “IP” of The Old World Warhammer really, and with Warhammer Total War still being so successful they want some way to ‘capture’ that market too. But as I talk about in the post, they’ve now caused this weird split in their =own= market entirely of their own short-sighted doing.

      From what I can tell Blood Bowl is still somewhat supported by GW. So that might be the kind of way we could see them handle WH:ToW.

      But so so much is totally unknown right now. With their vague announcements I do think there is credence in the idea that GW don’t even really know what they are going to do still, and a lot of these things are just to build marketing “hype” & also to gauge feedback on things to help them determine what they are going to do.

      Time will tell of course how successul they are. But I think the scenario you describe is the most likely:
      ” Probably GW will come out with something really shining, but confused and flavourless, that will attract many kids and GW fanatics immediately, but it will reveal a flop on long term”
      precisely because this is essentially the GW model. They only really care about the short-term hype and gains from a bunch of sales, and a bit about ‘protecting their IP’. But in the end all the rules systems GW makes are only really good as an introductory product for kids, and anyone wanting more depth in their gaming can and imo should move elsewhere. But I suspect the majority of folks are “hobbyists” first and gamers second really, and so they can be pretty happy with GW in some ways, I guess? But it’s not satisfying for me, as I am always a bit ‘greedy’ when it comes to gaming – I want =everything= about the games I play to be good, and I am willing to sacrifice ‘community’ (or try to build my own one) and am happy to play a niche game instead if I think it is the highest quality game, but most people are not like me and will gravitate towards the biggest/best-marketed game in any genre rather than seek out quality. In the end though, at least in a healthy marketplace, there should be room for both types of game system. (I actually have a blog post in mind about all of this btw. Will write it all up one day when I have the time as it applies to so many things in my gaming life!).

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      1. It was my pleasure. Thanks to you for the interestings articles. 🙂

        Ok, I’ve realized from your answer and reading back my message, that I didn’t explain myself the best way I can, about a couple of things.Ok, AoS has gone good for them. What I was wondering, but I totally forget to explain it, is exactly how much it goes good. I mean, after they’ve quitted WHFB and they have spend big moneys for the entire new range of miniatures, the net incoming is really so big?? The incomes of AoS are really so superior than WHFS, at the net of the new expenses substained initially to launch it?? If now they launch the idea of a new game, there are two possibilities, for me. The first one, is that AoS sold good, but not as good as they expected. The second one is an excess of greed. That won’t surprrise me that much. Because as you have rightly said, the risk to split their buyers in two games exist and calculating that to launch a new game, as we have just said, you have to invest big moneys, the result will be worthy?? Or you will make big money, but you put away that moneys from AoS, finishing with really great incomes from WHTOW, but simply moving a great quantity of them from a game to another, after a big initial investment?? And for AoS and WHFB as been this way too?? Obviously we couldn’t know, but the fact that they try to launch something new after not so many years of their latest newborn, has put me some questions, mumbling in the mind. At the end, probably is a mix of both the theories.
        Hope that I’ve been able to explain myself clearly.
        However, from your answer it’s clear that you already think something very similar to my thoughts.

        Yes Blood Bowl is still supported, as Necromunda. This part is were I’ve been really bad in expressing my self. I talk like they have abandoned them, because it was like they have let both the games rotting in a corner. I would explain. When I was a kid, Blood Bowl was supported. In a strange way. In the darkest corner of the shop, there was at 50 cm from the ground, a little shelf with 2 or 3 boxes of BB miniatures. And there was no way to find in the shop the main game with the field and the rules. Or to order it. Yeah, very smart. It really push me to start playng the game. Buy a team and cannot play. Necromunda was even worse. There was nothing about it. Me and other guys decide to play it, but we obtained all the miniatures only from the mail order and we have some serious troubles finding a manual. At the end, I don’t remebr how, we put the hands on an english copy on the net or something like that and print the rulebook by ourselves, because it was impossible in Italy to obtain a real copy of the rules. Not a great way to support something. Now sounds banal, but in 1999 was not so easy. I know that few people played it, but surely in this way you won’t help the game to spread in a bigger audience. Even now both Blood Bowl and Necromunda have their own websites, but they are separated from the GW main site. If you go to the GW website, you have to clik on the general boardgame button and than you arrived in a page where there are many secondary stuff. And you’ll find an icon for the two games. The Necromunda one is even very low in the page and little. Not again, a cool way to push the game. Put them on the main page with AoS an W40k, so tons of more people will see them. Put a section with their names on the main page. Boh.
        I always had the impression that they treath them like unwanted sons. My impression.

        In your words:
        “But so so much is totally unknown right now. With their vague announcements I do think there is credence in the idea that GW don’t even really know what they are going to do still, and a lot of these things are just to build marketing “hype” & also to gauge feedback on things to help them determine what they are going to do.”
        You have just said simply the brutal truth.
        “They only really care about the short-term hype and gains from a bunch of sales, and a bit about ‘protecting their IP’.”
        Once again, you only speak the truth.
        Your way to think is like a reason by myself, but once again you speak right about how things goes and how the majority of people act and think.
        Yeah, there is place for both the situations. Sincerly I don’t believe to my eyes how much the hobby has spread since I was a kid and I would never imaged something so big.
        Now that I’m in, I will surely read it. 😉

        Little OT.
        However I’ve just watched some stuff around about WHToW. It looks like they really want to make a Kislev army. Curios about them, because they never developed them before. But for what I’ve seen, the stuff would be really AoS fashioned one. Enormous bears with knights on them, It’s the first thing I’ve seen. I’m noticing that I don’t like at all GW new flavour. For years wanted to make a little army of Battle Sisters. Have some at home,. Realised yesterday that after something like 30 years, they have changed the models. Very good the new ones, but I don’t really feel them. Their models in general are becoming exaggerated for my taste. In every game. They have tamed the flame about the small army of sisters. 😦
        Hope that they let in commerce the survied models of old WH for a little longer, because I need to buy a couple of things in the next months and really their new stuff is not appealing at all, to me. I know I’ve just said it, but I wouldn’t think that will goes this way even with WH40K. They are totally changing their style, to separate themselves to all the other houses. Obviously is something they have to do, or they will be replaced. But this new course is really not my cup of thea.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Little update about my message of some days ago.. Talking about unwanted sons/ game with a bad fate.. Do you remember Gorka Morka?? It was a skirmish game based only on Orks, in the 40k setting. In Italy was quite promoted, with some articles on White Dwarf but it never really develop a fanbase.. I never really meet someone who play it, even only one time for randomness… Another really unlucky GW son, but another skirmish game haed of the times..

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  4. Furthermore your meme with the graphic is quite interesting, because if Gw will gain tons of players from WHOW losing them from AoS, it won’t be so cool for them..Produce tons of new miniatures, for having the same income and finding themselves with tons of old miniatures and a lowering of selling in one of their top products…. For me, you are totally making only good predictions..

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  5. I just discovered that GW even have a history with making movement trays for their round/oval bases to form up into ranked up units with their now long out of print “Lord of the Rings: Strategy Battle Game” supplement called “War of the Ring”.

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