Warhammer Fantasy Battles (5th Edition)

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Cover of the Fifth Edition rulebook

Warhammer Fantasy Battles (5th Edition), the fifth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, was brought out by Games Workshop in October 1996, four years after its predecessor.[1a] It would in turn be superseded a further four years later by Sixth Edition.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.” Key changes to the rules include:

  • The introduction of a “Start of Turn” phase.[1e]
  • March movement for units more than 8” from enemies.[1e]
  • Charges no longer could wheel as freely.[1e]
  • Flank charged unit lost rank bonuses.[1e]
  • Lapping round.[1e]
  • When and how ranks were counted.[1e]
  • Overrunning fleeing enemies needed more distance.[1e]
  • Panic tests for significant losses.[1e]
  • Frenzy became automatic.[1e]
  • Leaders must always be placed in the centre of the front rank.[1e]
  • Characters can swap to join combat.[1e]
  • Must be base contact with the enemy to issue challenges, and new Overkill rule.[1e]
  • Aerial Combat extensively reworked.[1f]
  • War Machines can fight in Batteries.[1f]
  • Capturing Standards.[1f]
  • Musicians are not removed as casualties.[1f]
  • Skirmishers extensively reworked, and can enter buildings.[1f]
  • Bound Monsters redefined.[1f]

Despite some criticism, Fifth Edition went on to win 1997’s Origins Award for "Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Miniatures Rules of 1996".[3]

Starter Set

Starter Box Contents[1b]

A boxed starter set, again entitled Warhammer: The Game of Fantasy Battles, accompanied the launch. Another complete set, it included rulebooks,[1d] modeling, painting, and scenario guides,[1a][1d] cardstock buildings, play aids,[1b] and, to showcase their refreshes, two plastic forces, one for Bretonnia and another for the Lizardmen.[1b][1c]


In addition to its army books, Fifth saw several expansions and rules updates premiere over the course of the edition. The 1996 Warhammer Magic boxed set built on the groundwork of its predecessor supplements while toning down some of the excesses,[2] with spell casting limited to the players' own turn, and multiple card packs of the Colours of Magic system replaced by 20 Battle Magic spell cards, though the Colour Magic spells were still in the rule book for players to use if they wish. Warhammer Siege (5th Edition), another expansion, served as a sequel to the Third Edition release of the same name and brought new ways to fight siege battles.

Boxed campaign packs were produced, each pairing two armies together to fight multiple battles across the course of a campaign. The Grudge of Drong (Dwarfs vs. High Elves), Idol of Gork (Orcs & Goblins vs. the Empire), Circle of Blood (Bretonnians vs. Vampire Counts), and Perilous Quest (Wood Elves vs. Bretonnians) all released this way, with the unique Tears of Isha (High Elves vs. Dark Elves) premiering in White Dwarf instead.

Related Pages


  • 1: White Dwarf 202 (UK)
    • 1a: There comes Warhammer, pg. 8
    • 1b: There comes Warhammer, pg. 9
    • 1c: There comes Warhammer, pg. 10
    • 1d: There comes Warhammer, pg. 11
    • 1e: There comes Warhammer, pg. 14
    • 1f: There comes Warhammer, pg. 15
  • 2: White Dwarf 204 (UK), Warhammer Magic, pgs. 12-16
  • 3: Origins Award Winners (1996), Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. (saved archive page, dated 21 December 2007, last accessed 18 February 2024)

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