Monday, 8 April 2013

Back in the Saddle, or Why Warhammer is Like the Grand National

For those who might not know, the Grand National took place this weekend at the Aintree race course, near Liverpool, in the UK. It's a steeplechase involving forty riders jumping thirty fences over a 4 miles plus course. Everybody in the UK, whether they love it or abhor the cruelty, will know about it. In fact, it's supposedly watched by about half a billion viewers on TVs in 140 countries around the world.

My experience of Warhammer eighth edition has been a little like this race, a marathon event, with plenty of runners and riders and a good few fallers along the way. It's been around for about 3 years (eighth edition, not the Grand National) and after a very slow start in releasing army books, we have been inundated in the past few months with one after another.

I own six or seven armies (depending on how big you think a force needs to be before it is classed as an army). The first of these to be released in the new eighth edition format were the Orcs and Goblins. I quite liked the changes made to animosity, was a little wary of the giant spider, found the magic to be pitched about right, and was reasonably pleased by the new models made available. I played a few games with the new book and was happy enough, but waited for the release of one of my other armies - I always consider my orcs and goblins to be a reserve army, to be used whenever I need a change from my main armies. If this was a horse in the Grand National, it would probably complete the course, but back with the also-rans.

The next release was Vampire Counts. This is one of my Big Three armies. It was the first army I collected back in the mid 1990's and I have had several variations along the way. I had waited for the book with some anticipation, but when it arrived I felt a little deflated. The background was virtually unchanged, whole swathes of the fluff were copied and pasted from previous versions. I was not keen on the move to monsters and monstrous infantry, my vision has always been of legions of skeletons and zombies. Worst of all, the flavour of previous versions of the book seemed to have drained away, like blood from a virgin's neck. I half heartedly built up a few regiments of the excellent mantic figures, but it never seemed to excite me like the books of old had. I think this horse would be pulled up by the jockey, tired and unable to complete the course.

After a considerable wait, along came two more riders. The Warriors of Chaos is another of my Big Three armies. It's the largest in terms of my collection and the one I have probably spent most time on under eighth edition. The pre-releases seemed a little lack lustre, but then when I finally saw the figures for the official release.....bang, down went my horse at the first fence. I was so disappointed with the monsters and characters, not to mention the prices, that I didn't even buy the book. I have access to my mate's copy, but I just have not felt inclined to take much more than a flick through. I was just about ready to give up altogether on the game. When I found out that Daemons of Chaos was next on the list, I felt, well, nothing really. Despite owning a decently sized fully painted force, I was neither excited not nervous. I could not care less.

Of course, I saw the pre-release pictures and was not encouraged, but I couldn't resist reading the forums to see how the book had been received. There was much gnashing and wailing from existing Daemon players. The army had become too random, it was unreliable, underpowered and destined for tournament failure. Even choosing gifts was done on the roll of a dice. Suddenly, I became interested, this sounded more like the Chaos armies of old, with randomly assigned gifts and a more chaotic force to manage. Something about this appealed to me, and I ordered the book. It's early days yet, I have only gone out for a ride on this particular horse a couple of times, but already it seems exciting. There is an element of danger as if every game is like a horse approaching a fence. You can never be quite sure if it will sail over with no mishap, or if it will crash through and just about keep going, or stumble to the ground unseating the rider.

I am still waiting for two of my horses to come out of the stable. The final of my Big Three armies, the Dwarfs, have been waiting for a new book since 2006 and were released under sixth edition. The Wood Elves, a new army for me, have been waiting even longer. I see rumours and counter claims on various forums about both these books, and given the form of my current books, I can see many reasons for not wanting a new book. But the Daemons have rekindled my interest in the game, so I can admit to being a little intrigued about future releases. Mild interest, that's got to be better than complete apathy.

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