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This is an article stolen from Dysartes.com;*****Images of History and the History of Image - ModernDayMoriarty
I have recently been giving a lot of thought into my failing interest in this hobby. Whilst I have several conclusions on this score I thought I'd start by trying to explain why I have strayed so far from a game that I loved for so long - Warhammer Fantasy. In my opinion, it has to do with the game's lack of excitement etc that I have already mentioned elsewhere, but perhaps more importantly, it is the collapse in quality of the history and backstories of the armies in Fantasy that has galled me. Fantasy's armies have lost their shine because all the gripping old histories have been carved away. Warhammer has tried to adopt 40K's 'Pop Fantasy' image and it has been a terribly ill-judged move.
It is a fairly commonly held belief that Fantasy, whilst it is the more 'grown up' and 'tactical' of the two main games, has a vastly inferior history and setting to 40K. To long term players, this should come as a shock at best and a severe concern at worst. In you look back to when the histories and stories really became important (around 4th Ed is when they really kicked in), Warhammer was home to some truly outstanding sagas and classic characters. Conflicts in those books are the stuff of legend and really helped to sell the game to people. Quote any of the 4th Ed books really and I could quote you some spectacular tales. The Skaven history for example was quite groundbreaking because it took a race (Ratmen) that in most systems were simply 'Alignment: Evil, meet in groups of 4-5' and made them into an intricate and extremely charismatic race. The 'Four Quartets' of Dwarves, Empire, Orcs+Goblins and Skaven made for an excellent tale of war and passion spread over the respective books. Orcs were great back then with some truly despicable warlords and memorable conflicts. Their atrocities against the Dwarves, explained so well in the Dwarf and Orc books was really the foundation for the rock solid support that Dwarves have as an army today. It was incredible stuff as they really brought out the unrelenting hatred that these races had for each other. Orcs were certainly NOT comedy back then (or rather it wasn't nearly as pronounced).
The Undead and High Elf books were also of a very, very high standard indeed. These two histories, the sagas of the various Phoenix Kings, the invasion of Ulthuan by King Grom, Nagash's reign of terror and the toppling of the Lichemaster Henrich Kemmler... these are what made me love the game. Rarely since those days have I ever seen such stirring stories and well crafted backgrounds. And it breaks my heart to see what GW are doing to these armies these days. And the problem lies with history I think because you can trace correlations between good histories and army popularity. Empire for instance, used to be quite popular but their status as the first army to come out along with the fact that, themselves, they were fairly uninteresting reletive to the peoples attacking them, has seen that support dwindle over the years. Their popularity back then stemmed from the fact that they were the only truly human race with a book for ages and they squared off against all the big names (but these conflicts were detailed in books other than the Empire book which didn't help).
Chaos and Dark Elves are two more races that have really struggled to live up to the expectations that GW and the public place on them. People want to like them because there is the germ of something truly great there. But neither really has the meat to back it up in terms of story (which in the case of Chaos has led to continuous bouts of 'boom and bust' as people flock to its newest incarnations only to be left cold and uninterested). Chaos never really had that wonderful a history actually. They were simply too vaguely described back then and the lists never seemed to match up with what stories there were. The demonic hordes and small numbers of chaos warriors never really translated into the books. The only really great stories with Chaos were their invasion of Ulthuan and invasion of the Empire. The problem was, great as these were, it gave Chaos a very 2D image. They were 'the evil guys' who existed only to threaten the world and invade every now and again. One chaos champion was much the same as another and there was always the feeling that 'if it wasn't Khornate it didn't count' as Khorne seemed the obvious God for such a warlike, conquering people.
As for the Dark Elves... they represented one of the worst continuations of a history seen in any GW game. Jervis had some good ideas and the Dark Elves are still a fairly charismatic race on occasion. They simply were not like the DE described in the Elven histories however. No longer did they worship Slaanesh; they had acquired a new god from somewhere (the change was never really mentioned) and a God that was largely believed to be an incarnation of Khorne! Dark Elves... decadent and hedonistic people who placed sadism and physical gains over martial excellence and honour, who had a King who according to the Elven book had a Mark of Slaanesh on his shield, who was a sorceror himself and who now advocated a God who despised magic.... ? The DE also never really seemed as credible as they were in the High Elf book. Being a Dark Elf female now apparenly meant that you had an urge to wear leather boots and not much else. It also meant that you lived in places that had blood running down the walls, skin stretched over the floors and gave your children severed heads to play with... It was diluted and silly horror of the worst, exploitative kind and was a terrible sucessor to the wonderous Elven/Dark Elven race wars depicted in the High Elf book. This has only gotten worse.
However, regardless of quality/non quality of individual books, one thing was certain. Warhammer was a fragmented game in terms of army support. Most of the races had very strong armies of fans who would only collect that particular race (or a small selection of races). No race ever really emerged as overall favourite. Contrast this with 40K and you see the difference immediatly. 40K is the game of Imperium Vs Chaos. The other races have their hardcore of course but the game has always really come down to these two. And the core story of 40K, from The Horus Heresy through the Badab and Armageddon (1st) conflicts, the splitting of the Legions etc, all this stands as easily, easily the equal of anything in Warhammer. In many ways it has really helped the game as it gives a focus that allows for the taking of sides in more polar way than Fantasy ever can. Campaigns are much more sucessful in 40K because if you designate Imperium and Chaos you will have roughly comparable forces whereas with Warhammer you really have to include everyone as you cannot rely on 2 or even 3 races to generate enough players and interest.
So 40K does hold its own against Fantasy's history. With the 2nd invasion of Armageddon, the assault on Iyanden and Ultramar by the Tyranids, the Black Crusades etc, 40K can boast many superbly written and engrossing storylines. However they all involve the Imperium and this is part of the curse of the game. So heavily invested is the average player with the Imperium, that they simply do not care about a story if the Imperium are not involved. They are the Heroes/antiheroes of the game, beset on all sides by aliens and traitors. The unfortunate point here is that means playing the other races means you are playing 'the alien menace' rather than a particularly charismatic race on its own terms. They all exist in relation to the Imperium, the literature usually focuses on an Imperial view of a certain race even in that race's own book! Other race's opinions are seldom included. Some races (Tyranids and Necrons particularly) are usually viewed exclusively in this format having little or no personality of their own.
So how then does 40K get away with not only having such a respected history, but also for having a history that is considered by a great many people across the Internet to be 'easily and clearly superior' to that of Fantasy? My conclusion is that the nuking of backstory and history from both systems (as has happened in the previous editions as books became less informative and more stylised and 'artistic', was far more damaging to Warhammer than it was to 40K.
40K is a game that has survived very well, in fact it has increased in popularity, since its stories were largely consigned to history. Many of the new generation of players have little concrete knowledge of the 1st (and even second) wars for Armageddon and have only a potted history knowledge of the Horus Heresy etc. Yet 40K is massively popular and the Space Marines (a race with no real personality at all of any kind) are amongst the most popular of all races over all the games GW have ever done. I put this down to 40K being more visually expressive than Warhammer. Its models carry more charisma with them in general to my mind. The IG for example are the epitome of the modern army; they don't really need any history when they have a hook like that. It is the opportunity to own a more historical looking army in a game of aliens and rayguns. Marines are solidly built and menacing looking people; they look rock and people like hardness in their men. They look like ruthless fascist troops so it doesn't matter if they have no real personality. If you want that, take Space Wolves or Dark Angels. Both model ranges effortlessly convey the personality of their armies.
'But wait MDM', I hear you cry. Doesn't that mean that 40K is simply a hell of a lot less subtle than Fantasy? Doesn't that mean it simply hits its gamers over the head with super stylised images? Well yes, but it works for 40K because it trades in symbols like Angels and Demons, Order and Bestiality so much. Take Eldar and Elves for example. Elves, whilst they look like you would expect are really still just cavalry, archers, spearmen etc with long hair and pointy ears. They don't exactly leap from the table with character. Eldar on the other hand have the Aspect Warriors who are extremely stylised to the point where they look exactly how they play. The Banshees are elegant and athletic, the scorpions are poised ready to strike, the reapers look literally like death... Simple images and simple connections to make but it works big time as the ringing cash tills will attest. This bold use of images and artistic expression on the table helps to sell 40K to players without having to hook them with interesting stories. It worked so well that many players stopped missing the histories after a while. But look at the Dark Eldar - no real history and a terrifyingly poor model range. They have been, in all honesty, a bit of a disaster for GW and there was even rumours of their removal from the game. Their next incarnation needs to fix those models (as people complain all the time about their models but only intermittently about their lack of history). Examine the Tau next - questionable stories at best but quite unique and interesting models. They haven't taken off but they haven't sunk like the DE have.
This isn't really the case in Warhammer Fantasy however. When the new Dark Elf models came out, there was an awful lot of hoo ha about them. Stylised and looking like they stepped out of a book of fairytales, many felt they didn't suit the game at all and detested them straight off. The fact that so many people clamour for Chaos Dwarves, Kislev, Tileans etc show the greater interest that Fantasy players have in the history of their game. They like the ideas and want to play as them; many remember old stories and sagas including these armies which left such an impression that they still want them even now. And yet Fantasy has seen its history shrink and shrink. The old stories are gone, not included in the new books except in some extremely condensed forms. New histories have been terribly uninspiring such as the battle for Albion. Formless, it tried to rope in every army under one story but the story was bad and interest waned. Archaon and (Valten is it?), are boring characters who just don't get the blood fired up at all. Having titles such as 'the hero of light' or whatever it is... how insipid is that? Orcs have become comedy characters with no real threat asigned to them. The Skaven are an appalling shadow of their former selves - they're so 'wacky and funky and totally kerrazyy man'. Sad. Just check out the number of times Phil Kelly assures you they are 'fun and how fun it is to kill your own troops' in his tactica in the Skaven book. A ludicrous 20+ times over 2 pages I believe...
When I look at the Fantasy books these days, all I feel is sheer depression. Stylised so much they have squeezed all the true personality out at the expense of 1 or 2 facets that they drum up beyond all proportion, they don't make me feel anything but hatred for all the races now really. Disapointment really, that they are being treated like this when it could have been so much better. Seriously, if you can, get a copy of the old Undead (4th ed) book and compare it with the Vampire Counts book. There really is no comparison. The Vampires and their silly bloodlines simply have no 'feel' to them. They are just stereotypes of behaviour stretched to be a bloodline. The only good one is the Von Carsteins because they are the originals before any of this bloodline nonsense existed. Their history is more interesting than anything in that new book.
Who you want to be, who you represent is fast becoming 'who is the hardest', rather than a proper decision of who you like the most. The armies have been so watered down and have stories of such dubious quality now that people can think in those terms. GW need to get back on track and hire some decent writers (or just rehire their old writers). They need to put the history back in focus and stop releasing such personality-free armies as the Ogres. 'We're gonna eat ya, rarrr!' Are you? Great. I have a problem with the lack of Fantasy in Warhammer Fantasy these days as I say and on the table, I would like my armies to be more exciting but first, I must get to the table with an army I really care about. That never used to be a problem but it seems an insurmountable one now.
Well, that rambled on a bit didn't it? Give yourself a free biscuit if you read it all in one go! Thanks for indulging me.
What do you think? Agree with this? Think that the older Fantasy gets the more wishy-washy the history gets?
I'v only known the 6th ed. fluff of fantasy. But I do agree that it is inferioe to the current 40k fluff. One thing which has helped enourmously is chapter approved and index astartes/xenos/battle of of X. These great articles have always included lots of fluff and have allowed new players to easily immerse themselves in the sea of fluff and story which exists. It seems that fantasy lacks an equivalent of this. Sure, "olde weirde's incabulum" and the new skaven and chaos fluff books are great, but most new players aren't interested. If dwarves, empire, vampires and elves all got their "liber chaotica" equivalent books, I'd buy them hands down. I really miss more dwarf fluff, I must have read the dwarf army book fluff about 40 times, and read every scrap of fluff in WDs and on the GW sites about the war of the beard and similar things.
I would like to see more fluff yes, and is the greybeard above is right about how rich fantasy was before (if he isn't just grumbling, something longbeards tend to do) then I really need to get my hands on some old books.
Recent dissapointments such as the SoC, the battle for Albion, the last Gotrek and Felix books, and the whole Be'lakor/dark master scandal has added to this feeling of lacking good fluff.
I kill two dwarves in the morning, I kill two dwarves at night. I kill two dwarves in the afternoon, and then I feel allright. I kill two dwarves in time of peace, and two in time of war. I kill two dwarves before I kill two dwarves, and then I kill two more.
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Yeah I'd have to agree with most of the things you talked about. I believe there should be more history, it is all just "whoo ha". When the book tells stories or back grounds these days they are not very convincing at all. GW is all in for profits these days. :closedeyes:
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Well, 40k is in it's 4th edition right now, while Fantasy is in it's 6th. You seem to be saying how Fantasy's 4th edition was it's best for fluff. Well 40k is in the 4th edition right now. When I read the new 40k book, there is such a vast array of fluff in it, it is a joy to read, a good bunch of pages dedicated to detailing the dark history of 40k. However the Fantasy book doesn't seem to have anything at all, I manage to only read rules, hardly any fluff in it.
Well I have been playing since the twilight days of fourth edition. And by twilight I mean I started to get into the game just as 5th edition rolled out. Let me tell you something about those old army books. they were vast repositories of history and culture. Massive timelines that stretched through 4-5,000 years of history. Chaos was so big it came in a big box. It was all very good...except the models. It was still very wishy-washy high fantasy. I'm sure King Ulrik remembers "The Red Age" of Chaos warriors. Things were much more bright and flowery back then. I approve heartily of the concerted effort to make the game much darker and more gothic. I exaggerate when I describe the old because it was still very dark and gothic but trust me, its a lot better now. They did have a much wider range of unique pewter guys but the new models look much more in style to what the universe is about. With the exception to the conclusion of the Storm of Chaos, I think that most of WF is still pretty good.
The books have suffered in the fluff department but I am sure it has more to do with the marketing department than lack of trying. New people don't realize this but the army books of fourth edition so vast and comprehensive that for all armies except Chaos kept the same books through 5th edition. I agree that Albion and many aspects of SoC were pretty lame but GW has been pretty good about keeping quality up.
Here are the things that I disagree with in this essay (or sorts). Chaos was never two dimensional and it still isn't. Sure they plot to take over the world but there is so much more going on. They all have highly developed characters who do not act as card board "devil" bogeymen that he portrays them to be. Same with Dark Elves. They actually explain a lot of his questions in the more recent book. I notice he has nothing to say about the worst idea ever that is Chaos Dwarfs. It can only hope that their permanent hiatus remains that - permanent. And whats his problem with bloodlines? All the vampires before that look like doofy Bela Lugosi. Its great that they adapted all these cool Anne Rice ideas. He strikes me as just ranting here.
He falsely compares Fantasy and 40K and their dynamics. Of course its going to be Imperium versus Chaos - half the armies in the game are imperial armies and Chaos was/ still is the Golden Boy of both games. Everyone loves Chaos, some just more than others (Gav, I am looking in your direction). Chaos is what makes the game.
Although I miss the massive volumes that were once army books. I think GW has taken the game in a good direction. I do not see his so-called "pop-fantasy" image he is talking about. Unless he means he rather have the game as high fantasy sword and f*cking sorcery, then I am glad of the shift because of my gothic romance.
â€œCry â€˜Havocâ€™ and let slip the dogs of war!â€? - Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I
As a player who first got into warhammer in the dim and distant 3rd edition days i agree wholeheartedly with the article, i had a stint of about 6 years out of the hobby, only dimly aware of the 5th edition and i have to say that although the minis are so much better now the 'fluff' around it (i hate that term) is so much poorer and less involved. WHFB started as an extension to the old fantasy roleplay game, so the background and storylines were so strong. Up till the 3rd edition the list of races available was stupendous, if you can get a copy of the old rules take a look at the army lists- every race had heros and mages at levels 5,10,15 (harking back to its roleplaying origins) i mean fimir anyone? gnomes? norse dwarves, sea elves, troglodytes, ****atrices...the list was enormous. Sensibly they streamlined it in 4th edition (the first edition of the game to come in a box with ready made armies) into the core races, but they kept the rich histories, creation myths and background that had come out of the immense roleplay literature.
The game is better now, the rules are clearer and more concise, the models are better..but...a great deal has been lost of the original flavour of the game. If you ever see any of the old books for sale, the old 3rd edition rulebook, or the baffling warhammer siege rules, or any of the original warhammer roleplay rulebooks or campaigns get them, they are fantastic reads and you will learn so much about the original game ethos and history and then you will understand why this guy is so upset!
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I agree one hundred percent with this article. I hardly find it to be ranting in the least. I can attest to the proposed 'waning' interest of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I especially agree with this quote:
'I have a problem with the lack of Fantasy in Warhammer Fantasy these days '
I started playing around the end of 5th Edition and was drawn towards it because of the feeling of the game. More or less I was interested witht he recreation of ancient historic battles and civilizations of legend battling it out for whatever they're reasons they had. However over the years it seems that what happens on the table doesn't even come close to what happens on paper. Rarely does anything on the table-top reflect exactly the feel of a particular army. Mostly I feel tired and hungry after a long game of rolling dice, and thats all it is to me now is rolling dice. All my friends have lost interest in Fantasy Battles. They've opted more towards 40K and get this, they play Space Marines which as far as I'm concerned are completely flavorless in all aspects. Now when someone gives up something which should be very intriguing for space marines then you know something is wrong.
WFB doesn't seem to capture that old time feel of large scale battles held across an open field and such anymore. I find mostly thatchaos armies are described in hordes but all I see in 2000 points are 25 model armies. Skaven are a joke and so are Orks and Goblins. Understandably this is meant to increse fun in the game but after years of RPing I fail to see the humor in being an army that everyone just laughs at. Fantasy should be more in depth and capture our imaginations. However the recent fluff has definitely squandered into the stereotypical short stories that are comparable to some english papers I've written in grade 8 (Dare I mention SoC). It's quite possible that GW is running low on material but I fail to see that as an excuse. They should jsut try to revamp the old stuff. Why fix something that isn't broken.
I've tried my best to keep the ranting to a minimum so i'm gonna stop now before things get out of hand and I say things I don't want to say. All-in-all I do feel that WFB is malnurished as of late. I've recently clung to the ever-exciting Warhammer 40K as well and am currently considering the liquidation of my fantasy armies. From now on if I want historical setting I'll stick to D&D and the likes.
Either way you do the math, it all adds up to you goin' down
Well if you are looking for vast armies, a concept that requires you to paint each troop individually is not the place. It just can't happen unless you have collected hundreds of models over the years and even then, its only hundreds. The imagination can create scopes much larger than a practical battle. Its always been like that so I don't understand your complaint. And for the record, medieval battles were almost never more than a few thousand and even thats pushing it.
Do you want a compelling dark universe where for the most part they have worked very hard on keeping it "realistic" and logical or do you want "high fantasy sword and sorcery" flowery bullsh*t? Thats what D&D turns into sometime. Why do people demand every fantastical creature ever conceptualized to have their own special little niche in the Warhammer world? There is a picture on the box for the Forgotten Realms Neverwinter Nights computer game that sums it up: An orc in samurai armor! Is this what you people want Warhammer to turn into?
Fantasy only goes so far. Then you have to install laws of physics and other things that GW has worked so tirelessly on. You have to make it believable or else the whole system is prone to Dungeons and Dragons scenarios that defy suspension of disbelief. JRR Tolkien knew this and so do the people who shape Warhammer. Is all the background that past editions used to have all jammed into the current army books? No, but its still ther and the Black Library is churning out great background books that would have been unimaginable 7 or 8 years ago.
Firebeard, you say there is a lack of fantasy in warhammer these days. Since 5th edition!?!?! Its practical the same except GW has made the universe much darker and more interesting.
â€œCry â€˜Havocâ€™ and let slip the dogs of war!â€? - Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I
For immense battles you've got Warmaster. There you certainly get the feel of 'hordes' and vast armies of rank upon rank of troops. And great lines of cavalry swooping over the field. Whole lines of battle being broken or encircled. etc.
Hmmmm, I'm not here to argue but I'm picking up on a lot of content in your post. Perhaps you misunderstood or I didn't explain properly, let me try again to get my point across to you.
First off I'd like to point out the fact that everyone I know who collects WFB has now lost interest for some bizarro reason and switched to W40K. I ask them whya nd they feel that WFB has gotten bland and unapealing to them. This is the most substantial bit of evidence there is; supported my the number of people I've confronted that have confirmed this.
Obviously you've never read the bible or never payed attention to it but there have been plenty of battles on which hundreds of thousands and some of which where millions have died in a single fight. Shall I draw you're attention to the cover of the Empire Army book. I would now ask you tell me how many lances you can see in the Reiksguard Cavalry that absolutely envelope the entire area. My estimates range from 30 to 50 thousand heavy cavalry alone. I understand completely that it would be incredibly insane to paint so amny models but the style of play does not seem to simulate such climatic conflicts. What with the emphasis on characters and the likes its hard to imagine that your rank and file troops are doing anything except dying when in truth they should be the ones winning the battle for you.
When 6th edition started off the WD magazine was all off in how much better it would be and how more emphasis would be placed on rank and file soldiers rather than uber characters that counted as one man armies. However they seem to have strayed once again into the realm of BLATANT LIES! Let me draw your attention to the Vampire COunts Army Book where the special character Zacharias The Everliving costs over 1000 points. I think thats overdoing a bit wouldn't you agree?
"An orc in samurai armor! Is this what you people want Warhammer to turn into?"
Not something I want to see but I would expect such a thing from GW if it continues the way it's going. There's already an Ogre Ninja why the hell not. I would definitely get back into WFB is the atmosphere of the game were to change. I really like the background but as of late things have been going on a downward spiral. Perhaps thins need to get more dark and sinister. Orcs and Goblins should get their goofy heads cloncked and put their game faces on. I'll quote the opening article for Skaven here:
"The Skaven are an appalling shadow of their former selves - they're so 'wacky and funky and totally kerrazyy man'. Sad. Just check out the number of times Phil Kelly assures you they are 'fun and how fun it is to kill your own troops' in his tactica in the Skaven book. A ludicrous 20+ times over 2 pages I believe..."
I'm beginning to expect the grand opening of a new Saturday Morning Cartoon starring Giggles the Goofy Goblin. Giggles has trouble with bullies, this is Orrick the Onry Orc and he likes to beat up on people smaller than him ( got copyright on this idea GW so don't even think about it).
My conclusion is that I still might not have pinpointed my reasons for losing interest in the game but it is definitely losing status in my books. Recently I've been doing a lot of thinking on how I can amplify my WFB experince but something out there has just ruined it for me. I think its because the fluff is now lacking and the fluff that does exist doesn't match the gameplay.
Either way you do the math, it all adds up to you goin' down