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Thread: Themed

  1. #1
    Keeper of Records and Ale King Ulrik Flamebeard's Avatar
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    Themed

    The past few days I have been thinking on themed armies, for a ***Censored*** army which may happen in the future. And I was wondering what themed Fantasy armies have you come across and what you would call a theme. When you look at it, with certain armies is is difficult to theme properly and I think a bit harder to do so than 40k in many ways.

    What would you called a themed army? I'll take this example from another website where I came across a similar question:

    A player I faced at a recent tournament had the classic Dwarf gunline, plus the anvil, plus 7 dispel dice, plus a gyrocopter, plus runes of spellbreaking and one of spelleating, and a slayer hero for good measure.

    His straight-faced explanation was that usually he does not take a gunline, but since this was a GT he wanted to have a "themed" army. His theme, he told me, was "shooting".
    Now, would you say that army was themed or was the player just looking for points to add to their score in the tournament? What if someone took a dwarf army, for example, and used all their special slots for miners, some small warrior units to fill the core requirements and said it's a miner army? Would that be a themed army perhaps?

    What do you consider a theme? When someone limits their selections to fit in with their army's theme they have in mind for it? (Ie an Empire army, Arch Lector, Warrior Priests, Flagellants and some free company) Or would you say if an army took only a certain type and was painted the same colour it was themed? (as in only a one God Chaos army, only Khorne models or unmarked units)

    So:

    * What do you call a themed army?
    * Is it in army selections or look?

    Also, do find it easy to theme a fantasy army? When you look at it, if you took a historical approach to certain armies it might not work - Tomb Kings come to mind, they are Egyptian and it might be difficult to make them anything else, or Bretonnians - Crusader army.. any other possibility here?


    KU


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  3. #2
    No worries. Vespasian's Avatar
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    An interesting question. Some things that might be considered themed armies that have cropped up in conversation at my gaming club over the last few months are:

    1. Wood Elves, fast-moving, all flyers/cavalry
    2. Wood Elves, seasonal (i.e. Autumn, Winter)
    3. Slaanesh Chaos, all Mortal units
    4. Dark Elf 'Cult of Slaanesh' using the Hordes of Chaos book and Dark Elf/Chaos models
    5. Empire Cult of Sigmar (Arch Lector, Warrior Priests, Flagellants etc)
    6. Empire Reiksguard army (Kurt Helborg, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, LOTS of Knights)
    7. Empire Nuln Gunnery School army
    8. Beastmen ambushing army
    9. Orcs & Goblins, Waaagh! Grimgor
    10. An army based on something from a novel/movie/TV series (this was floated at one point as a "wouldn't this be cool" sort of idea)

    Important disclaimer: I'm going to be playing Devil's Advocate here, just throwing arguments around as food for thought. I'm also going to generalise and make huge assumptions. You have been warned! :yes:

    It would appear, from looking at this list, that the main underlying 'principle', if such a thing exists, of 'themed' armies could be either unit choices or paint scheme or 'models used as...'. 7 out of 10 of these listed here are based on unit choices. One is based on a paint scheme but could be extended with appropriately modified unit choices. Another is a matter of converting models. The final one could be any combination of the three. It seems that themes predominantly rely on unit selections, if this list is a representative sample (which is unlikely, statistically speaking), but can be something else.

    Let's assume that the above sample of themed armies is representative. The majority are dependent on unit selections. Hence, an army built around a particular type of unit can be said to be themed (in general). In the case where it is not built around unit selections, and instead goes down to paint scheme, it could probably be made more 'themed' by limiting the unit choices (for example, in the case of Wood Elves, say the theme is 'winter', Dryads and Treemen might not be around if you stick to the background). This principle probably also applies to the case of converting models to represent something else.

    Consider the example of the Dwarf gunline. If we accept (for now) that a themed army is themed because of the unit choices (war machines, shooting units) then the dwarf gunline is an artillery-themed army (even though it's an incredibly sackless theme).

    The above reasoning rather depends upon the definition of a 'theme'. Unfortunately, such a definition is entirely subjective, much like politics and war (random examples of subjectivity) and extremely dependent on personal opinions, much like politics and war. Fortunately, Warhammer is a game of war, so we're alright. Ok, so I'll stop trying to be funny and get back to the point.

    How do we define a 'theme'? The following definitions from dictionary.com seem suitable: "a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc." and "a unifying idea that is a recurrent element". So, it would appear that a theme requires nothing more than a 'common denominator', which could be anything. Everyone knows that Dwarfs make big guns to make up for inadequacies elsewhere, so a Dwarf artillery army seems plausible. Compare it, however, with an Empire artillery army from the Nuln Gunnery School army.

    Question: Which of the two has a theme, if any?
    Answer 1: Nuln, 'cos it's the gunnery school, innit? Gunnery School has guns. QED.
    Answer 2: Dwarfs, 'cos they're dwarfs, int they? Dwarfs has guns. QED.
    Answer 3: Both of the above.

    The entirely objective, unbiased, appropriately selected answer based on collected evidence is Answer 3 (or perhaps Answer 4; 'none of the above').

    End of objective discussion.

    Now I'm going to be entirely subjective, and provide my own opinions. I reckon the answer to the above question is Answer 1. To take, for example, a Mortal Chaos army (e.g. Slaanesh). The theme, whilst it's easier to say "mortal Slaanesh", should instead probably be something like "remote farming community fell into the depraved worship of Slaanesh, went on a rampage, etc etc." You get the idea. Whilst it's easy to ostensibly 'theme' an army around unit choices, in reality that's not a theme at all, merely a particular choice of units. Whilst I agree with what I stated above - such an army is 'themed', according to dictionary definition - I don't feel that it is 'themed' in the context of Warhammer. It would seem that the good folks at dictionary.com didn't take wargamers into account when they prepared their definitions. It is plausible that a Nuln Gunnery School army, consisting entirely of artillery and handgunners, would exist for the defense of Nuln and/or the Gunnery School itself. What seems entirely implausible to me is a Dwarf army that has no miners, no Hammerers, no Slayers etc.

    I suppose what I'm saying can be summed up thus:

    "A themed army must have a common, underlying and dominant idea, which can be whatever you want it to be. However, in the context of Warhammer, such a thing must be attached to a reason that fits with appropriate background. Otherwise, it is simply an army devoid of particular unit types."

    How's that, KU?

    GS
    It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. - Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

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    Member skilett's Avatar
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    Wow, that was quite a read GeordieSteve005! Very thorough, and I must say I pretty much agree with the whole thing. To be more specific, I think you hit the nail on the head in your 'subjective summary', with the premise of a dominant idea and a reason behind it, making the Nuln gunnery train a theme, while the dwarfs aren't.

    To me one of the true themed armies out there is the wood elves themed after the army of Thebes, and it has both an idea and a reason, which I've only really thought about now after this thread. So it doesn't really matter if the idea comes from Warhammer or the outside world, both the gunnery train and the Thebain Phalanx are valid themes, although the Nuln army has a place in warhammer lore, while the phalanx is 'just' a nice idea. Not to belittle the Thebain Phalanx in any way mind you, I think it's wonderful.

    Hope that made sense. And again, good stuff GeordieSteve005.

    Edit: As I read your summary again, I found that the Thebain Phalanx doesn't quite fit your idea of a reason founded in relevant warhammer background, as it is taken from 'the great outside', but I feel that it works as a theme none-the-less, maybe because it's so consistent and true to the theme.
    Last edited by skilett; June 14th, 2007 at 11:46.

  5. #4
    No worries. Vespasian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skilett View Post
    Edit: As I read your summary again, I found that the Thebain Phalanx doesn't quite fit your idea of a reason founded in relevant warhammer background, as it is taken from 'the great outside', but I feel that it works as a theme none-the-less, maybe because it's so consistent and true to the theme.
    Yeah, this works too, because there's a reason attached to a particular unit selection, in this case you're mimicking the Thebian Phalanx. I have a plan myself, for an Empire army themed on something from outside Warhammer, with appropriate unit selections based on the situation in that particular case (details are top secret I'm afraid). The point is it doesn't matter what the background or reason is, as long as there is one.

    GS
    It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. - Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  6. #5
    Keeper of Records and Ale King Ulrik Flamebeard's Avatar
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    haha, so wait, we've just edited a dictionary definition to include wargamers? I like it! =D

    I have to admit, I had to read that once or twice to fully understand but I think I do. I agree that most armies are themed due to their choices in unit selection. This is a two fold deal really. On one hand we have the "good" themed armies, where their unit selection suits with their underlying and dominant theme (Ie, crusader army for Empire, all mounted, no war machines). On the other we have those that just are a plain lazy way of having a theme army, the dwarf artillery line for example - theme is "shooting". Just doesn't work with me. However.. if they did the same thing but used only war machine, missile units and had only Master engineers with the list and played it somewhere along those lines, calling it an Engineer's Guild list, then I'd agree that it was themed.

    I generally think there is a fine line between a good theme and a lazy theme. I do believe many gamers do it in tournaments, they just say it's themed to get those few extra points for a crappy theme.

    Oh and on this list:

    1. Wood Elves, fast-moving, all flyers/cavalry
    2. Wood Elves, seasonal (i.e. Autumn, Winter)
    3. Slaanesh Chaos, all Mortal units
    4. Dark Elf 'Cult of Slaanesh' using the Hordes of Chaos book and Dark Elf/Chaos models
    5. Empire Cult of Sigmar (Arch Lector, Warrior Priests, Flagellants etc)
    6. Empire Reiksguard army (Kurt Helborg, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, LOTS of Knights)
    7. Empire Nuln Gunnery School army

    8. Beastmen ambushing army
    9. Orcs & Goblins, Waaagh! Grimgor
    10. An army based on something from a novel/movie/TV series (this was floated at one point as a "wouldn't this be cool" sort of idea)
    I'd say those in bold, for me, would be a proper themed army. In this sense, I think the theme must extend past colour choice and most definitely go into unit selections and even so into background. As to the last, I have seen one or two wonderful themed armies; the previous one mentioned by skilett is one but there is also various Monty Python ones around. I just wish to see more well thought out themes for armies in the game. To give it a splash of variation.

    KU

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    Member skilett's Avatar
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    I don't agree that a seasonal wood elf army is a proper themed army, isn't that just a certain paintscheme? It looks nice and all, if done well, but isn't much of a theme to me. As you yourself (King Ulrik) said later, a theme should go beyond colour choice.

    I do however agree that I would also love to see more themed armies, but as I'm still on my first army I've got nothing of the sorts yet, just a collection of troops I like.
    Hopefully I'll think of something good before I start assembling my dark elves...

    As for the lazy themes: to stay with GeordieSteve005's definitions, I think they are mostly just armies with an idea, but lacking in a reason for them to be constructed the way they are. Of course a lot of people also slap the term "theme" on anything, for example to get extra points in tournies as King Ulrik said, or just 'cause it makes it look/sound/feel better. And if it works for them, fine. But the true themed armies, that make you go 'wow' because of the effort in the planning, conversion and/or painting are far between.

  8. #7
    Keeper of Records and Ale King Ulrik Flamebeard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skilett View Post
    I don't agree that a seasonal wood elf army is a proper themed army, isn't that just a certain paintscheme? It looks nice and all, if done well, but isn't much of a theme to me. As you yourself (King Ulrik) said later, a theme should go beyond colour choice.
    I think it works if they limit their unit selection. Like GeordieSteve005 has said, if they used no wood spirits (Dryads, Treemen, Treekin etc) for a winter theme (they'd be a sleep/dead) then it might work. Or if they chose their selections due to certain background details, ie one glade uses more eternal guard, then use them as their bulk (or only core) etc. I think it could be themed, but yes, colouring them in a specific season "set" I'd agree it wasn't themed.

    KU

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    Yep, I basically agree completely with that assessment. Another one came up in GW yesterday - a Vampire Counts army made by mixing the Zombie and Empire sprues. Is that a theme or just a means of making the VC army look more like it should, and less like a really bad 80's cartoon army?

    GS
    It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. - Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

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    Quote Originally Posted by King Ulrik Flamebeard View Post
    there is also various Monty Python ones around.
    That sounds interesting - what was it, a MP and the Holy Grail Bretonnian army or something?

    GS
    It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. - Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

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    Keeper of Records and Ale King Ulrik Flamebeard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeordieSteve005 View Post
    Yep, I basically agree completely with that assessment. Another one came up in GW yesterday - a Vampire Counts army made by mixing the Zombie and Empire sprues. Is that a theme or just a means of making the VC army look more like it should, and less like a really bad 80's cartoon army?

    GS
    Hm, good question. That is the problem with certain armies, I find that it is hard to theme or tell the theme part from something else. I'd have to see it, just sort of sat on the fence here.

    As to the Monty Python one, it was the Holy Grail: >Here< It's quite well done I feel and want to see more! =D

    KU

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