Warhammer: Fantasy Battles
Warhammer: The Game of Fantasy Battles (formerly Warhammer Fantasy Battle and often abbreviated to Warhammer, WFB, and WHFB) is a tabletop wargame created by Games Workshop, and is the origin of the Warhammer setting. The game is designed for regiments of miniatures of various fantasy races such as humans (The Empire, Bretonnia, Kislev), Elves (Dark Elves, High Elves, Wood Elves), Dwarfs, Undead, and Orcs and Goblins, as well as some more unusual types such as Lizardmen, Skaven and the daemonic forces of Chaos, with each race having its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
Warhammer, subtitled "the game of fantasy battles", started as a system to play battles with role playing game fantasy miniatures and subsequently evolved into perhaps the most widely known and most successful tabletop battle game in the world. Warhammer was first published in 1982 as a boxed set subtitled The Mass Combat Fantasy Role-Playing Game. Warhammer has been periodically updated and re-released since first appearing in 1982, with changes to the gaming system and army lists. The eighth edition, released on 10 July 2010, was the final version for 14 years. A series of releases during 2014 and 2015 focused on the cataclysmic destruction of the game's fictitious world. This lead to the release of its successor, Age of Sigmar.
In 2019, Games Workshop announced that Warhammer would return as Warhammer: The Old World, set roughly two centuries before the timeline of Eighth Edition. This new system would utilize similar gameplay as its classic predecessors and see models old and new released, alongside new books and other support. On January 20th, 2024, five years after its announcement and nine years since the game's death, Warhammer: The Old World released.
First Edition (1983)
The first edition, written by Bryan Ansell, Richard Halliwell and Rick Priestley was published in 1983 and consisted of a boxed set of 3 black and white books illustrated by Tony Ackland: Vol 1: Tabletop Battles, which contained the core rules, turn sequence, creature lists, potion recipes and featured an introductory battle 'The Ziggurat of Doom'. Vol 2: Magic which explained rules for wizards of 4 different levels and the higher order arch magi. Higher level wizards have access to more powerful spells. In this system, a wizard picks his spells at the start of the game, must have the correct equipment (usually Amulets), and as he casts each one it depletes a store of 'constitution' points, until at zero points he could cast no more. Vol 3: Characters introduces 'personal characteristics' statistics, rules for roleplaying (including character advancement through experience points and statistic gains, random encounters, equipment costs, and alignment) and has a sample campaign "The Redwake River Valley".
Very little world background is given at all and the race descriptions are kept to a minimum, and most of the background given is in describing the origins of magic items. Some notable differences to later editions are the inclusion of Night Elves (later Dark Elves), the appearance of Red Goblins - and that Citadel Miniatures order codes are given.
Expansion The first edition was extended with the Forces of Fantasy boxed set in 1984.
Second Edition (1984)
In 1984 the second edition was released, incorporating some of the Forces of Fantasy material, White Dwarf articles and Citadel Compendium material. This was again a boxed-set of three black and white books (with colour covers). Combat explains the core rules and turn sequence; while Battle Magic largely retains the same system as the 1st Edition, as well as adding specialities of Illusionists, Demonologists, Elementalists, and removing the requirements for Amulets. The centre pages are an introductory scenario "The Magnificent Sven" for which cardstock figures were also supplied in the box. The Battle Bestiary book features descriptions of the races, monsters and includes several example army lists and a points system for players to develop their own open-ended armies.
Also in the Battle Bestiary is the first appearance of the Warhammer 'Known World' along with a map, and a timeline which includes the Slann, Incursions of Chaos, inter-elf wars and The Empire. Minor rules modifications included rationalising all statistics to use numbers, and increasing all creatures' Strength by 1.
Campaign packs produced were Terror of the Lichemaster, Bloodbath at Orcs' Drift (1985 and referring to the real world battle of Rorke's Drift) and the Tragedy of McDeath (1986, referring to the play Macbeth). The pack Blood on the Streets was card buildings for terrain.
In 1987 the 2nd edition rules were expanded with the Ravening Hordes army lists which provided a more 'realistic' method of forming armies along stricter racial lines.
Third Edition (1987)
The Third Edition of the game was published as a single hardback book in 1987. It had the most in-depth and complex movement and maneuvers system of any edition. Other changes included a variety of new specialist troop types, rules for war machines and a more finely tuned system of representing heroes and wizards. It kept the same magic system and open-ended army design system as the first two editions. However, by this stage the use of army lists was very much encouraged. Army lists for this edition were published in a separate book called Warhammer Armies in 1988; until then, use of the 2nd Edition's Ravening Hordes list was encouraged. This is partly because it was the last edition published before Games Workshop took a different commercial approach, leading to competition from former GW employees in the briefly published competing Fantasy Warlord.
Fourth Edition (1992)
The fourth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles released in October 1992 and featured significant updates to much of the game, particularly unit characteristics, magic, and army composition. Warhammer’s magic system received a complete rework, releasing initially as Warhammer Battle Magic, which was part of the 1992 boxed set. This was augmented in 1994’s Warhammer Armies: Chaos (4th Edition) boxed set, and then expanded further with 1995’s Warhammer Arcane Magic, a full boxed expansion. Rather than selecting spells for their wizards as in previous editions, they instead were drawn at random from a deck of special cards, which in turn dictated how the magic phase played.
Army books were introduced for the first time in Fourth Edition, aiming to enforce the use of defined “army lists.” Armies were now confined to a limited number of unit choices from separate racial and faction groupings, and point limits were specified for certain proportions of an army like “character” and “troops.” Background lore, illustrations, photographs, and painting guides accompanied the books.
Fifth Edition (1996)
Fifth Edition was brought out by Games Workshop in October 1996, four years after its predecessor. It would in turn be superseded a further four years later by Sixth Edition. Broadly similar to Fourth Edition, Fifth Edition continued to innovate and expand on the model previously established. Notably, Bretonnia had been left out of Fourth and was introduced now in a much more solidified form, and the Slann faction were heavily reworked to create the Lizardmen.
Many of the rule changes introduced resulted in greatly empowered characters. Heroes, monsters, and wizards became so powerful in comparison to blocks of cannon-fodder troops that this edition subsequently became pejoratively known as “Herohammer.”
Sixth Edition (2000)
Significant changes were made between the previous edition and this to rebalance the different components of an army list, putting emphasis back on troop movement and combat. Heroes, monsters, and wizards remained important but were no longer capable of winning games on their own. Infantry units received rank bonuses starting at 4 models wide, allowing for 16-model units to get the full bonus, instead of the 5-wide/20 model requirement of Fifth, and in some situations they could “wrap”(or “lap”) around enemy units. Models with a shield and hand weapon received +1 to their armour save for the first time. Dedicated slots in force organization charts for specific tiers of units also made their debut here.
Magic was altered to use a brand new dice-based system, rather than the decks of cards seen in previous editions.The eight colours of magic winds were further defined, and staples like miscasts in the modern sense were implemented. Unlike its previous two editions, in Sixth the rulebook was released outside of its starter set, hard-cover in its first printing and soft-cover after that.
Considered one of, if not the, most balanced editions of the game, Sixth did still suffer from somewhat powerful cavalry and the rigid nature of its army lists. Nevertheless, this edition is often said to be the “Golden Age” of Warhammer Fantasy.
Seventh Edition (2006)
A divisive edition, Seventh changed many rules in seemingly-small ways that ended up having outsized impacts. Army books released at the tail end of Sixth had unbalanced the gameplay with gradual power creep, so some of these changes were somewhat positively received, like the bonus to armour save from shield/hand weapon only applying if a unit is attacked from the front, and the removal of the complicated lapping system. The overhaul was less intense than the move from Fifth to Sixth and books released in that edition were still used for several factions who did not receive another update.
Seventh’s alterations introduced a great deal of randomness that hadn’t been as pronounced before, both positive and negative. A meta quickly developed that favoured the formation of “deathstars”, large blocks of models that consumed the majority of a list’s points in upgrades and characters, for which this edition came to be known.
Eighth Edition (2010)
According to the official Games Workshop webpage, the 8th edition of Warhammer was made available for pre-order on 14 June 2010 and was released 10 July 2010.
The new starter set named Island of Blood contains facing armies of High Elves and Skaven. A condensed mini-rulebook, as well as 10 standard dice, one scatter and one artillery die, two 18 inch rulers, and three blast templates are included in the box.
The first army to be introduced to 8th edition was Orcs and Goblins. They are one of the most popular Warhammer Fantasy armies, but their release in 8th edition was not totally expected, as at the time there were three (Dwarfs, Wood Elves, and Bretonnia) Warhammer army books which had not been updated since 6th edition. The Dwarf and Wood Elf army books have since been replaced with newer versions.
8th edition's Expansion (2011) The 8th edition was extended with the Storm of Magic 'supplement' in 2011 (an expansion that features rules for using more destructive magic and monsters). Another one was released, called Blood in the Badlands shortly afterwards (it included some special scenarios and introduced rules for siege warfare). In 2013 Triumph and Treachery (an expansion that allows multi-player games of between 3 and 5 players) and Sigmar's Blood (a 5 scenario short campaign between Empire and Vampire Counts following the crusade led by Volkmar to destroy Mannfred von Carstein) were released. Another series of five books in 2014-15, entitled The End Times, saw the appearance of every major character of the setting. The last book Archaon described the end of the Warhammer world.
The Old World (2024)
Warhammer: The Old World is the current edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, released on January 20th 2024. Free Grand Army lists for seven legacy factions from Warhammer Fantasy Battles were provided by Games Workshop on the 22nd January 2024. New miniatures were produced, and Warhammer Studios went back to old moulds and machine tools, returning them to production so they may once again do valiant battle on the most oblong of bases. Some larger returning models were remastered to update their details and ensure they they fitted together as painlessly as possible.
Major Playable Factions
- Lizardmen (characters, images)
- Ogre Kingdoms (characters, images)
- Orcs & Goblins (characters, images)
- Skaven (characters, images)
|Warhammer Fantasy Battles
|1st Edition • 2nd Edition • 3rd Edition • 4th Edition • 5th Edition • 6th Edition • 7th Edition • 8th Edition • The Old World
|Albion • Amazons • Beastmen • Bretonnia • Chaos Dwarfs • Daemons of Chaos • Dark Elves • Dogs of War • Dwarfs • Estalia • Fimir • High Elves • Law • Lizardmen • Ogre Kingdoms • Orcs & Goblins • Pygmies • Skaven • The Empire • Tilea • Tomb Kings • Vampire Counts • Warriors of Chaos • Wood Elves
|Warhammer World | Chaos Wastes • Far East • Lustria • Naggaroth • Old World • Southlands • Ulthuan • Realm of Chaos
|Technology & Arcane
|Weapons • War Machines • Equipment • Magic
|Religion • Special Characters • Nations
|Novels • Comics & Graphic novels • Magazines • Computer games • Music