Warhammer Fantasy Battles from Games Workshop is a game all about the regimental combat of armies in the medieval style that has been around since early 1983. It is similar to Warhammer 40k, using similar stat lines as well as concepts for army list creation and even sharing several mechanics. Where 40k is grim, dark gothic sci-fi combat with genetically altered super soldiers and massive engines of destruction, fantasy is your typical High Fantasy setting of knights, wizards and mythical creatures akin to something along the lines of a Tolkien novel. Both games share a central concept of battling against the forces of Chaos, the primordial evil attempting to shred or dominate the mortal world, but fantasy keeps it to the scale of nations instead of planets. Over the years, the narrative has remained largely unchanged, even with the addition of new forces, they still fit in with the feel of the world. Recently however, Game Workshop has been releasing a narrative campaign called The End Times.
The End Times is a world shattering event that is set to forever change the story of the Warhammer Fantasy world. Now, admittedly I’ve been out of the Warhammer Fantasy scene for a while, but the concept of The End Times has drawn me back in and rekindled my interest in the the game based on the direction it seems to be going. Normally, fluff isn’t something most mini wargamers are concerned about when it comes to the state of the game, but in this case the events that are unfolding are leading to some very interesting rumors and speculation as to what will happen in 9th edition. There are far too many changes to the Warhammer Fantasy Mythos from The End Times to cover, so instead today I’d like to cover the ones that lead to the most interesting rumors and speculation. I’ll do my best to cover as much ground as I can, but The End Times is a rather expansive campaign that touches every army, character and spans several books that are even now continuing to be released. Additionally, bear in mind that until official word comes down from Games Workshop this is all just speculation from numerous forums and message boards.
Factions? Let’s Have Less of Those
One of the most interesting rumors, at least to me, is that there is going to be a reduction in the number of playable factions to six. Fantasy currently boasts 15 separate factions. That is quite a bit to keep up on. You can argue that in 40K they have nearly as many factions, but they’ve made an effort to consolidate the factions, in so much that while there are 19 force books, ultimately there are only 7 encompassing factions. Throughout the events of The End Times, we’re seeing one major theme; destruction and survival.
Lets go through some of the more notable events in a Fantasy fluff deep dive, starting with the Elves – or as they are now called, the Host of the Eternity King. There is a lot of retconning, but at the end of it all it turns out the Dark Elves weren’t worshipping the Chaos God Slaneesh like everyone thought they were, but rather Atharti the Elven goddess of pleasure. Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves turns out to be the one true King of the elves, and returns to the ancestral lands to claim his right of rule. The Wood Elves pledge loyalty to the one true king, and after a terrible battle between those loyal to the old Phoenix King and the new elven host that results in the High Elven lands sinking into the ocean, the survivors all travel to the lands of the Wood Elves where Malekith is crowned the Eternity King. This is barely a tenth of the events that have been transpiring for the elves, as there is simply far too much to cover in one sitting, but it consolidates what was once three separate (and very different!) forces into one united front.
The theme continues with the Bretonians, Dwarves and the Empire, as they have received similar levels of explosion and consolidation. The Green Knight turns out to be the founder of Bretonia, and takes over rule as a god-king purging any taint from the realms. The lady of the lake turns out to be an elven goddess, Lileath, who explains that the end times is a cycle of death and rebirth that has been perpetuated for time untold, and is ushering members of the various races into the next world as the new gods. The empire has been largely ravaged fighting the chaos forces such as the Glottkin, and the Dwarves have lost a number of their leaders to war or Nagash. Everything that is happening in the stories of these three forces points heavily towards them coming together for mutual survival.
The undead, both vampires and tomb kings, have been unified under the banner of the Undead Host, similar to the Elves, as they join under the influence of Nagash or face utter destruction. The Daemons of Chaos as well as Warriors of Chaos are on an all out rampage across the globe resulting in a number important character deaths. The Skaven also have not been idle and have been rampaging across the globe as well, and have done enough damage to the Lizardmen in Lustria that they have considered activating the ancient relics left behind by the Old Gods to leave this world. This has lead many to believe the the following will be how things shake out in the aftermath of the end times.
- Chaos Core
- Elves Core
- Empire Core
- Undead Core
- Orcs and Goblins
Ultimately, all of these changes lead to a potentially interesting consolidation of the factions into core books, where a variety of troop options can be chosen to take some very colorful armies. This sounds like it might not be too exciting, but the idea of having an army that consists of various flavors of Elves appeals to me as someone who cares more about fielding an army that looks cool on the table and is a lot of fun to paint. This also means that there can be a myriad of interesting army compositions as far as mechanics go, and there is something entrancing about the idea of a unit of Dwarf Slayers running up to assist some Knights of the Realm. It makes sense considering the direction Games Workshop has been going with their core books and supplements for 40K, this presents the perfect opportunity to have core rules for the armies and then release sub faction supplements for further diversification. The only part I don’t really fully believe is the idea of the Lizardmen going away – unless of course it’s a wildly unpopular army in terms of sales. But with the recent series of of new model releases for the Lizardmen, I’m reticent to accept that they are going to go completely away. I think it will be more likely that they morph into something else, maybe a different iteration of their forces based off of the ancient technology they are awakening. Though, many years ago they did eliminate Squats (Space Dwarves) as a faction in 40k, so they are not above completely eliminating. Which leads us to the next Rumor…
A New Faction?
Another rumor that has been popping up is that there is going to be a new faction of good warriors fighting with the power of the gods. The first thought is that this links back to Karl Franz, the empire named character and the Emperor of the Empire of Man. In the story of the end times, he is bested and left to die upon the Altar of Sigmar, only to be infused with the power of the human god and be resurrected as an ascended hero. Fans believe that this is going to represent the prototype of a new race of human super warriors to fight against the forces of Chaos. This also ties in with the idea of the knights that drank from the cup of the Lady of the Lake and were elevated into special guardians. Truth be told though, this is actually a rumor that has been around for about 20 years now. Back in early 90’s, it was long suspected that the world of Warhammer Fantasy was actually just a world cut off from the rest of the 40K universe, locked away behind the warp storms that plague certain areas of the universe. This was substantiated by stories of the coming of Sigmar, the deity of the human empire, where it stated that he was borne to the land on a twin tailed comet. This iconography was something that was paralleled in the stories of the Space Marine Primarchs arriving on their respective homeworlds. This persisted until the later 90’s when Games Workshop officially stated that the worlds were not linked.
I don’t think that it’s likely we’ll see a new faction of a super powered humans like the Adeptus Astartes in Fantasy any time soon, just like I do not really believe that the Lizardmen will be going completely away. If there is going to be a new faction, I think it may wind up being an evolution of the Lizardmen. In the End Times story, they are activating ancient powers left behind by what they consider their gods, the Old Ones. This could be anything from magical artifacts to ancient alien technologies. I find this to be a more likely option to an entirely new faction, I can see them adding new or different models to the line that also make use of the already established line of models for the Lustrian forces.
New Life to an Old Game.
This is by far the thing that has me the most excited. Fantasy has been around for multiple decades, and over that time, not a whole lot has changed. While new models have occasionally been introduced, things haven’t been updated all that much. It also is a game that tend to be rather static. Folks who have already poured time and money into building an army tend to not really buy too many new models, and the cost of starting a new army is fairly prohibitive due to the number of models necessary to field a legal force. Enter the End Times, the perfect opportunity to take what has been a fairly static game and shake things up and make changes in the game in order to keep the game alive. Rumor has it that the new fantasy will become more of a skirmish style game instead of a full out rank and file game it is today. This has a strong possibility of being the case, if you look exclusively at the concept of the End Times. With the undead ravaging the world, and the living reduced to pockets of survivors or completely restructured forces, this is a distinct possibility. It places more emphasis on the characters and big guys, and less focus on the need for having tons of units of the same exact models over and over again. This also makes sense if they are combining forces to core books, where they can share core units like generic archers and pikemen, and then special characters for the specialty forces are what define that particular force.
Reducing the number of models necessary to play a complete game seems like a smart move from a business standpoint. Consider that their biggest competition in the fantasy genre are games like Warmachine and Hordes. These are smaller scale games that require far fewer models, and focus more on the special characters. While there are special troops with rules, it’s not uncommon to see an “army” with only a couple of units and a handful of named characters. Something like this could be good for Fantasy, not only changing the way the game is played but reducing the barrier for new players to start playing. Then from this point, they can start to release more supplements, more models and keep the game going.
One of the rumored concepts is that 9th edition, taking place after the End Times tears the world apart, will see small pockets of reality adrift in the great sea or what we know in 40k as the Warp. When these pockets collide, that’s when the battles between factions start. This also has the potential to allow for limited edition model releases and limited rules runs which can potentially help keep the game at a point of balance, something GW is routinely criticized for. With something like this they can experiment with ideas and if they don’t work, they can let them disappear into the warp from whence they came. It would give them the opportunity to turn it into a living game world where they can exert constant control and influence, something that I think can only help them in the long run.
Now, there are a ton more rumors than that, and ones that have been popping up for over a year at this point, these are just some of the more major points. I for one am very excited by the potential for the game. I stopped playing Fantasy a number of years ago, but The End Times, and the rumors for the changes to the game in terms of the forces and the potential for smaller games has me incredibly intrigued and ready to dust off my knights and Elves. I wouldn’t mind a shake up to the story, and a reimagining of the workings of the world as a whole, and I like the idea of the army books potentially focusing more on fluff and less on stats. I also think that all of these potential changes have the potential to bring the game back from the brink of retirement. I’ve been wanting to get back into the game, but I felt as though it would be too hard to get re-acquainted. Now though, I feel like that barrier is crumbling, and that 9th edition will be the perfect opportunity for me to jump back in. Everything I’m hearing sounds like a company making changes not only from a monetary standpoint, but from a playability and accessibility standpoint, and that is something I really like to be able to say. So, what do you think of the rumors so far? Do you think any of the rumored changes are more likely than others? What changes would you like to see in the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, if any at all?