In a war-torn fantasy world, mighty armies clash to decide the fate of imperilled realms. Brave warriors march forwards accompanied by mighty heroes, terrifying monsters and devastating machineries of war. Clouds of arrows darken the sky, swords clash against shields, and bloody banners rise at last in proclamation of victory!
Warhammer is a turn-based strategy game, now in its sixth edition. Two players (or more in much larger battles) control model armies which are used to fight each other in one of a multitude of scenarios to try and outwit, outfight and, ultimately, destroy their opponent's forces. The battles can include any number of models from small 20 model skirmishes to large 200 model battles. Models made of white metal, ranging from 1-inch high to over 6 inches, can be bought1 from Games Workshop stores that can be found in numerous countries throughout the world. The world of Warhammer is somewhat like that of Tolkien, in so far as there are elves, dwarves, humans, orcs and goblins and an evil power trying to take over the world (in this case known as Chaos).
In the world of warhammer there are currently 14 races that players can command, from the Bretonnians (King Arthur style knights) to the Skaven (vicious ratmen). Currently the different armies are:
Bretonnians - King Arthur style knights, blessed by the Lady of the Lake.
Empire - Humans with hand guns and cannons.
High Elves - A major force for good in the Warhammer world with strong magical abilities.
Wood Elves - An offshoot of the High Elves, these Elves have turned their backs on living amid wealth and are more naturalistic living in a forest.
Dark Elves - Another offshoot of the High Elves these Elves work with Chaos and are an evil version of the High Elves.
Chaos - Containing demons, humans and beastmen, this is the major evil in the world of Warhammer. The troops are tougher than average, eg a Chaos human warrior is usually tougher than an Empire model.
Orcs and Goblins - The standard, low intelligence creatures that appear in most fantasy worlds.
Dwarves - Again most people know what Dwarves are; they look like short humans. They have the same sort of technology as Empire, but have no wizards due to a mistrust of magic. Instead Dwarves have Runes which imbue their weapons and armour with special abilities.
Chaos Dwarves - An evil version of the Dwarves which might be taken out of Warhammer entirely (they were scrapped near the end of 5th edition but appear to be coming back). Unlike normal Dwarves they commonly use magic.
Skaven - Vicious ratmen that live under the ground.
Lizardmen - A reclusive race of Lizards that can walk on two feet like humans. They are ruled by the Slann - massive, fat frogs with strong magical powers.
Vampire Counts - The forces of the undead commanded by vampires.
The Tomb Kings - Undead that are in a more Egyptian style and are ruled by mummies2.
The Regiments of Renown - The Regiments are bands of mercenaries and swords for hire containing troops from most of the above races.
Before a game can even start, both players need to have their armies. Both players will agree before the battle on a set number of 'Points' that their army can cost3. Each troop in the game has a 'Points' cost, eg a Wood Elf archer costs 13 points to field. The two players then make their army lists detailing which troops they're using and how many they have. Troops are divided into units depending on their type (you cannot have mixed units, a unit would consist of all bowmen, or all pikemen etc. with a few exceptions). Having constructed their armies and bought the models, the battle can start.
Warhammer is a turn-based game. In a players' turn they can move their troops, shoot at their opponents and even cast magical spells. All troops in the game have their own stats as detailed in the races 'army book'4. These stats, along with the roll of a dice in some cases, determine what the models can do in a turn. The different stats that troops have are:
Movement - How far the troop can move in their movement phase.
Weapon Skill - How proficient the troop is in hand to hand combat.
Ballistic Skill - How proficient the troop is with a shooting weapon (if they have one).
Strength - How strong a model is when fighting in hand to hand combat5.
Toughness - How tough a model is.
Wounds - How many times a model can be wounded before it dies.
Initiative - How quick witted a model is.
Attacks - The number of attacks a model can make in hand to hand combat6.
Leadership - How much discipline and courage the model has. The lower this is, the less courage a model has. Troops such as goblins have low leaderships representing the fact that they are cowardly while elves have high leaderships representing their discipline.
These stats are all given a value from 0 to 10, the higher the stat the better.
They determine different things about the models' capabilities. Some stats, such as movement, are straightforward; if a model has a movement value of 5 inches then it can move up to five inches during its movement phase. However, in some cases dice are also used as well as troops stats, to determine what can happen. For instance all combat and shooting in Warhammer requires dice to be rolled to see if a troop hits and wounds the enemy he is attacking. In these cases a troops stats determine what roll is required for the action. For instance an archer with a Ballistic skill of 4 needs a 4+ on a dice to hit an enemy. In some cases different troops stats are directly compared, when seeing if a hit has wounded another model the strength of the attacking model is compared with the toughness of the defending model and then a dice roll determines the outcome; a high strength against a low toughness, eg strength 10 against toughness 1, means that any dice roll (from a 2+ up) is needed to wound the defending model. This unpredictability in combat means that sometimes, as in real battles, models can fight their way out of situations that would usually have crushed them, adding some of the unpredictability of real battles to the game.
Another example of this unpredictability comes in with the psychology rules. These rules cover such things as the panic a unit faces when it sees a friendly unit cut to shreds or when facing a terrifying dragon. These rules are affected by the leadership stat mentioned previously. To determine how a unit is affected two dice are rolled (in most circumstances) and if the score is higher than a models leadership then the unit fails the test, usually resulting in it running away or being petrified on the spot depending on the circumstance. Psychology can easily win a battle as a key unit can be made to flee meaning they never get into combat.
There are many places you can play Warhammer, the most obvious of which is in your own house. In many areas you can find gaming clubs have been set up where you can go along, meet new players and fight battles. Local hobby stores (from which you can buy the models, paints, scenery etc.) usually also allow players to come along and play battles in store, some even double as the location for gaming clubs to meet. However, the largest Warhammer events are grand tournaments. In most countries that Warhammer is played in there are several tournaments each year, both regional and national, and at these you can meet even more people, see new models before they are released and talk to the people who make the games. These tournaments are always fun and well worth going to.
To play Warhammer it is essential that you have a copy of the rule book, a copy of your army's army book, plenty of dice (in some battles more than 30 dice can be rolled at once), tape measures or rulers and (in some ways most importantly) models. It is also advisable to have some terrain to make your gaming table more realistic. Most people buy terrain, though some people construct their own pieces to suit their armies.
If you are interested in playing then, the best thing to do is to go to your local hobby store and look for models, or go to the Games Workshop or search on the internet for Warhammer.
Warhammer has generated many spin-offs and other such products. If fantasy battles don't interest you, there is also Warhammer 40,000. Warhammer 40,000 (or Warhammer 40k as it is also known) is another tabletop strategy game, made by the same company that makes Warhammer. The difference between them is that Warhammer 40k is futuristic with different armies and advanced weapons such as melta guns and vibro cannons as well as a multitude of vehicles. There are also other games such as Bloodbowl7 and many computer games from strategy games to first person shooters.