Warhammer is 25 (and a few days)

By Kieron Gillen on May 9th, 2008 at 2:12 pm.

With Warhammer moving ever more into the world of videogames, this just about inches into our remit. Or, at least, an excuse for an amusingly geeky comments thread. On Wednesday, Games Workshop’s Warhammer celebrated its 25 years of painting little guys at the weekend. The Miniature Wargames Union made a two-part documentary about the development of the game, which will make certain gamers sigh nostalgically about the Nippon and Norse Army lists in Ravening Hordes.

Second part beneath the cut.

I actually had a Norse army, which I improvised with plastic historical figures on a very similar to 25mm scale which were sold for a couple of quid for about one-hundred in a local toy shop. The teenage Games Workshop-dom was all about trying to work out how on earth you could get a playable army without having to resort to petty thievery for me.

Our particular social-set’s moment of semi-genius was noting that the first plastic miniatures came in a set of 60 for ten quid or so. Unfortunately, they were 10 of each of the races included – 10 orcs, 10 goblins, 10 dwarves, 10 elves, 10 skaven and 10… Dark Elves, I believe. So five of us all threw in 10 quid each – except the Orc player, who threw in twenty – and ordered six packs, giving us a 60-strong core of an army. Except the orc player, who had 120 pretty-much identical little dudes for him to slowly drive himself mad painting while waiting for Nirvana to start releasing records. In fact, now I think about it, he was still painting them when Nirvana actually did start releasing records four years later.

Er… anyone else got any fond memories of Games Workshop they’d like to share?

[Found via the Gnomes' lair]

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50 Comments »

  1. Phil says:

    My fondest memory of Games Workshop growing up wasn’t playing games but integrating myself semi-cool stoner circles by my extensive and largely pretended knowledge of the lore.

  2. kadayi says:

    If my memory serves me well the tag line for the game was ‘Let’s Smash Skulls!!!’. I still have the original rules tucked away somewhere. They certainly weren’t D&D in complexity (they were almost the Anti-D&D tbh), but it was a pretty functional and easy to understand combat system and despite the typos, etc was pretty good fun.

    I have very fond memories of meeting up with my cousin after school and heading home to play through campaigns my father had written for us. He was unemployed at the time and my mother had recently left us and in many ways writing those campaigns kept him from slipping into depression and staying sane until he got his life back on track a couple of years later. Maybe not the most thrilling story to share, but it was a great time in a lot of ways for all of us.

  3. frumious says:

    My new fondest memory of Games Workshop is listening to that narrator being unable to pronounce such tricky words as “subsequently” and “perilous”.

  4. Alex says:

    Bla bla… boring listing of games… some more history of that company would have been nice to hear about. Being a veteran player I came to the conclusion some years ago that sometime in the mid 90s GW became a major ripoff. Insanely expensive gaming material, including miniatures and source books, ever changing rules to make you rebuy all that rules you already own… highly aggressive franchises harassing poor store owners beeing sucked into the GW hype… GW became something like the center of evil for me. The pinnacle must have been axing that 40k fan movie because of “copyright issues”. Although I still love the setting, 40k in particiular. And the computer games… and… ach… bah.

  5. Okami says:

    Pah! Who needs Norse und Nippon Armies?

    Pygmies!

    Now that was an army list!

    I spent my whole teenage years with Games Workshop. Started at age 13 with Epic Space Marine and Blood Bowl, moved on the Warhammer 3rd edition a few months later, then to 4th edition when that came out. At age 17 I’d allready played two editions of Epic 40K, two editions of Warhammer Fantasy (among other things I had a tiny Undead Army, a small Khorne Warband assembled using the rules in Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, every miniature converted by hand and the beginning of what was to be a huge Skaven horde) and had just started playing Wh40K 2nd edition with a small Eldar Warhost.

    I even bought the Warhammer 40K cosims Doom of the Eldar and Horus Heresy. I was such a nerd. I moved on to Blood Bowl 3rd edition, Warhammer 5th and 6th edition, though I sold my Eldar army to have more money for Skaven.

    The last major game I bought from Games Workshop was the Mordheim starter box, but most of my friends had lost interest in GW by the time, having moved on to more interesting things like drugs and girls, so I never really played it.

    I even played in tournaments for some time, but I was extremely turned off by the fact that most gamers outside my old gaming group, who were basically my friends from my old school were in fact extreme dorks that really fit all the stereotypes.

    We also played Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the whole Enemy Within campaign over the course of a few years and I still stand ready to beat everybody to death who denies the fact, that TEW is the finest pen&paper campaign ever made.

    I still read GW novels every now and then, I’m still deeply in love with the 40K background and I play allmost every GW computer game that gets realeased, but I haven’t touched my minis in years. Sometimes I fantasize about buying a small dark elf army (just 2000 points worth) paint them and then find somebody to play against. But then I walk past a Games Workshop or other tabletop gaming store, see all those teenagers and the creepy old guys with beards and bellys and Hevy Metal t-shirts and move on, mourning my youth that will never come back.

    I sometimes secretely dream of making out with Sanguinius, but you don’t need to know that…

  6. kadayi says:

    I hear what you are saying Alex. Once the money started to roll in for GW with Warhammer and Citadel they pretty much dropped the entire distribution side for D&D, and White Dwarf just became an 80 page advert for the latest must have miniatures. Which was a shame as the magazine had some pretty good articles and features back in it’s day. The nadir was probably when they gave away some atrocious death metal single (around about issue 100 or so). I pretty much gave up on it then, and moved onto Traveller and other stuff.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    I admit, I’d be love for someone to do a warts-and-all history of Games Workshop book.

    KG

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    And Empire in Flames was a bit of a iffy conclusion to Enemy Within, after the glory that was Power Behind The Throne.

    KG

  9. Rob K-L says:

    I agree with Alex. I was dragged up in Newark and used to frequent the same wargames club as the Citadel Miniatures folk from when they were based there. At that time it was all geeky enthusisam and good fun.
    In the late 80s they all went to Nottingham and had what I thought was their golden period with WH3 and WFRP and all sorts of goodies.
    In the early 90s something changed, they got sold I think. Suddenly it was a corporate machine churning out low quality shit (crappy plastic miniatures and dumbed down rules) for premium prices.
    I am trying to think of something they have done since then that appeals to me and failing (Dark Heresy excepted).
    Perhaps just grew out of their demographic or something. Did I miss out?

    The Enemy Within campaign ended poorly unfortunately. IT IS NOTHING COMPARED TO MASKS OF NYALATHOTEP.

  10. Matthew says:

    @ KG: I started reading the recent Sigmar novels just to see if they’ll sneak in any references to Empire in Flames.

  11. Okami says:

    Empire in Flame’s allowed you to find Sigmar’s Warhammer and take part in a friggin’ civil war. There were Wolves coming to the battle field! And and and.. Karl Franz died and his nephew became a chaos spawn at the Eletor’s council and killed Boris Todbringer.

    That was sooo awesome.

    But yeahh, Power Behind The Throne was the better adventure, I’ll admit that.

    But Empire in Flames was just awesome

  12. Kast says:

    Funnily enough, having dabbled in Gorkamorka and Tau years previously, I am currently considering reinvolving myself in the 40K game, collecting a new Tau army.

    I enjoy flicking through the rule book, reading the occassional novel, arguing the benefits of the Tau way of life, even experimenting with the arcane practice of painting.

    So, no fond memories as such. Just idle time wasting ;)

  13. SuperNashwan says:

    The nadir was probably when they gave away some atrocious death metal single

    LIES! Bolt Thrower are awesome.

  14. Kieron Gillen says:

    Okami: I’ll give you the opening of Empire In Flames – the Karl Franz stuff is splendid – and perhaps the end, but the long slow trudge through the mountains was like going back to 1970s D&D after the political machinations of Power Behind the Throne.

    KG

  15. MPK says:

    I remember spending weeks painting an Epic army, ten thousand points worth all told, across three seperate chapters of Space Marines with an Imperial Guard detatchment as reserves. I basically had units for every eventuality – the mobile Ravenwing battalion of the Dark Angels, a Space Wolves close combat section and Ultramarines for shooty, along with ImGuard artillery and super heavy battle tanks. I was all excited when I eventually walked into the old Queen Street GW in Glasgow and got a table and an opponent.

    And then got told I couldn’t play cos I hadn’t painted the troop stand bases green.

  16. Dan (WR) says:

    I have to admit to not being that big a fan of Games Workshop. I can remember when WD was a much broader magazine (and it had Thrudd the Barbarian!) and I seem to recall it having scenarios and things for D&D, so I was a bit miffed when it changed to advert-porn. Although it did start carrying some quite good 40K short stories for a while.

    When I was a kid there was a local hobby shop where lines of lead minatures were lovingly protected by a glass case and they only cost 50p a minature. As soon as a GW store opened in Plymouth it seemed like all the minatures were off-the-rack £2.50 monstrosities and everything needed an expansion pack or a remake.

    That said, I did build an Eldar army replete with badly painted Banshees and troopers holding their las-rifles in an oddly phallic way. It only saw action once, against a friend’s Ork army, and that ended abruptly because he threw a strop when I blew up his Battlewagon. I played the RPG a little as well, but my Dwarf Trollslayer ended a little abruptly after I threw three 00s in a row and nearly chopped my own leg off. I have that kind of luck.

    Come to think of it, I did play a lot of Heroquest, Space Crusade and Space Hulk as well, so I shouldn’t complaing about GW too much.

    I heard that there’s a Talisman adaptation in development, which fills me with glee. Favourite boardgame ever.

    Edit – Acutally that Talisman game looks like a big pile of doo-doo ;_;

  17. Dude says:

    @kadayi: what you said about the White Dwarf was true until one or two month ago (when the new vampire count came out), then the WD kinda change, more articles, more text, less adverstissing, hell I even bought it again.
    I still play, mainly 40k but I am slowly moving to fantasy because GW simplify the rules for 40k to much to my liking, they just killed the chaos customisable characters of doom which is a shame because it remove a lot of their flavor.
    Anyway, sure GW stuff is expensive but to be honest you don’t need to buy in shop, the net and ebay are you friend there, you can find everything you need at least 20% cheaper than in shops….

    @Kast: tau, bouh hisss, those manga toy have nothing to do in the grim future where there is only war. Seriously I don’t think they fit well in this univers. Orks, oh yes Orks ‘re da best, killing stupid hummies and blu skinz…

  18. Alex says:

    Rob K-L: Totally agreed… although Enemy Within is a classic… played it and mastered repeatedly it with great fun. ;) And… Nyarlathotep… Best. Campaign. Ever.

  19. PupTruncheon says:

    I remember a Games Day(?) back in the 80s when the Skeleton Horde had just come out, promising 36 poseable plastic undead for a mere fiver.

    GW had complained that the cost of getting the moulds made could have bought them a small island, but watching their stand surrounded by a pack of crazed customers climbing over each other to snag a box was probably some sort of turning point…

  20. gaijin says:

    see how
    the void gate
    that held back
    the chaooos foooooe
    shudderrrrs
    and shattterrrs
    an entropy… OVERLOAD!

    That flexidisc wasn’t Bolt Thrower, it was Sabbat. And it was pretty shitein’ to be frank. Why I still remember some of the words alarms me. Metal clearly rots young impressionable minds.

  21. Okami says:

    @Kieron: It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. The character I played through the whole campaign was a brute from Albion (yeah, I’d been reading Slaine before rolling that char..), barely able to speak Reikspiel who got our group into all kinds of trouble during all those po-lit-ick-uhl stuff. So trudging through mountains and wilderness was a very welcome change of pace after all those evenings embarrassing everybody in my party in front of everyone we met.

    *verydeepsigh* good times.. good times…

  22. Kieron Gillen says:

    I played one of the pre-generated characters, a Hobbit who I had grown into one of the most gloriously useless characters ever. If a skill was any use in combat, he’d have no truck with it. He ended up a Halfling Demagogue, trying to fight anti-halfling prejudice and similar.

    KG

  23. Shon says:

    I remember endlessly battling my friends in Realms of Chaos. Oh my god, was that a game designed to be abused. We made some pretty freakish champions of chaos and swore on our mother’s grave that we really did roll a 000 three times in a row when determining chaos rewards.

    I was a little surprised that there was no mention of the fiction books. I stopped playing Warhammer but still buy the Gaunt’s Ghosts books.

  24. Cian says:

    I feel I got off lightly with Games Workshop, I flirted with the fluff for ages, played the roleplaying games (still do, when the gang gets back together) and borrowed other peoples models to play Mordheim. But tempted as I was, I always had the presence of mind never to spend all my meagre teenage funds on a few units and some paint.

  25. Okami says:

    @Kieron: Yea, the possibility for absolutely useless characters in WFRP was endless. Though I doubt I’ve ever heard of something as useless as your Halfling Demagogue. I take it you declared the Independant People’s Republic of Mootland after Empire in Flames?

    @Shon: So I wasn’t the only one who had the “luck” to have a chaos champion with the “Weapon Master” mutation and a Beastman with a multi-melta for an arm?

    Boy did the other guys hate me…

  26. Kieron Gillen says:

    Okami: Chancellor of Nuln. He’d calmed down a bit. I suspect he ended up having sex with Emmanuelle von Liebwitz.

    (He had his moments: His Fellowship was in the seventies, before you even started adding his skills. Intelligence a similar place and Dexterity too – though he had no thieving skills whatsoever for the latter, I believe. Still, a decent medic amongst other things. Only got his WS up to 40 in the final battles or something.)

    KG

  27. Raptornas says:

    The biggest problem with games workshop is that its played by elitist arses. A couple of my friends went down one day to see if we could have fun with a quick game against some players to see if we could learn how to play with decent tactics rather than smashing into each other head on.

    The superiority complex of the ginger goatee’d (worst look ever) guardians of the table was quite staggering and we all decided it wasn’t worth the bother and went home to play playstation. It could well be bad luck but the experience was enough that I never really bothered again.

  28. Matthew Craig says:

    A “friend” spent £40 on rulebooks and backstory material in order to work up some pitches for the comic.

    Then they cancelled the comic.

    HA HA HA.

    //\Oo/\\

  29. Fumarole says:

    Oh man, I had no idea Blizzard was 26 years old.

  30. Arsewisely says:

    aah, whiled away a few years of senior school playing 40k, dabbling with Necromunda and GorkaMorka. It did get cripplingly expensive though. I remember having the most intense arguments over pronunciation. I could NOT convince our small circle that it was “jean-stealers”, not “geh-neh stealers”; and “Rae-ven Wing”, rather than Rah-ven wing. I mean, what the fuck is a rah-ven?! Their shoulder pads even had a wing and sword emblem for goodness sake. Bloody idiots.

  31. Jochen Scheisse says:

    I never had enough money to spare for rich kids’ Playmobil. But I played and GM’d a little of the RPG, whose system is just ridiculously oldschool with a luck based character creation system. For some reasons, every character I rolled was hideously overweight. My last character was an insanely fat elfish diplomat.

    Also, most of the computer games were at least alright, and DOW was one of the few RTS games I tried to play competetively on the internets.

  32. po says:

    I remember a games day that ended up being so boring for a large number of the attendees, that we all ended up going up into the seats surrounding the hall’s floor, and started making paper aeroplanes to throw around, from the endless quantities of A4 handouts they were providing.

    It kind of ended with a telling off from a guy dressed as Commissar Yarrik, who became an instant target for all the planes, until he went and hid at the other end of the hall where he was out of range of most planes, by which time they’d hidden all the handouts, and we’d run out of paper.

    —————-

    I gave it all up when I realised computer gaming was actually cheaper.

  33. theleif says:

    Ha!
    My Saim-Hann Epic (2nd edition rules) army would kick your puny behinds anytime. As would my Van Saar Necromunda gang.
    I pity the fool!

    At least if you allow me to go back in time 10 years to when i played my last game…

  34. Kadayi says:

    what you said about the White Dwarf was true until one or two month ago (when the new vampire count came out), then the WD kinda change, more articles, more text, less adverstissing, hell I even bought it again.

    Well 20 years is a hell of a long time to wait until they become a decent mag again, I probably saved myself a small fortune in skipping it ;). I still have lot of the early WDs in storage somewhere gathering dust. There were some excellent articles in those early editions, storytelling, dungeon logic, etc, etc and if my memory serves me correctly The AD&D Fiend Folio by TSR was actually drawn from lots of WD reader submitted monsters (like the Githyanki). It was all good stuff, driven by boundless enthusiasm more than anything else.

    When the whole venture went brazenly commercial (and lead figures went through the roof). I kind of lost interest and moved onto other things (sex, drugs and rock and roll, and computer games). However I did like how in the later editions of WH they promoted this kind of Germanic/Bavarian high Gothic look in contrast to the everything and the kitchen sink smörgåsbord that was D&D. Can’t remember the name of the Artist they used a lot (lot’s of very detailed and heavy ink work), but quality atmospheric illustrations nevertheless.

  35. Arsewisely says:

    What’s the best D&D related game? Is it Baldur’s Gate? I am intruiged by this aspect of RPG-ing.

  36. Jochen Scheisse says:

    I have heard many people praise the first Neverwinter Nights, not for the story but for the modability and possibilities of somehow hosting multiplayer servers with that.

    The best D&D game, even if mildly atypical, is Planescape Tornment, which is pretty much the pinnacle of Fantasy RPG.

    Me, I prefer THIS ONE

  37. dhex says:

    mask of the betrayer is a pretty good ride, but you need to have nwn2 installed already.

    planescape is obviously excellent.

  38. Homunculus says:

    Trip down memory lane graveyard.

  39. Cargo Cult says:

    My lasting memory of Games Workshop stuff is watching classmates take the entire lunch hour to take the barest handful of moves in Blood Bowl or some other overly-complicated monstrosity.

    Also, the plastic miniatures were great – in that I wasn’t banned from going near them. (Lead poisoning FTW.) Painting them with Humbrol enamels intended for Airfix planes? Not so great.

    (Edit: my school bus went through Eastwood, and I’d often see lavishly-decorated Games Workshop vans in the vicinity…)

  40. Kadayi says:

    @Arsewisely

    Planescape torment is pretty standout, principally because as Jochen rightly points out it’s not atypical in many ways. If you’ve time on your hands it’s worth hunting down a copy. Also aside from some shitty path finding (esp in Dungeons…) Baldurs gate is well worth a look, and the sequel is highly regarded and you can carry your character across from the 1st to the second (ensure you have the Gold pantaloons in your inventory if you do though ;) ) . Icewind dale isn’t quite to the same standard as BG or PST, but it’s still a fun timesink ;)

    Atari? do a big bumper box with BG1 & 2 and IWD 1 & 2 in for about £10

    .

  41. mathew says:

    Blood Bowl (the 3rd Edition, I think?) is my fondest memory. A little long to play (pushing 2 hours) but probably the tightest design they had at the time. So great that I wish they still published it, as I’d buy it again (really.) — in fact, I will, when the PC version comes out (can’t wait!)

    Other than that, I wish I’d bought Warhammer Quest when it came out. It was pretty great, and is worth a ton of money now!

    They have so many great game designs, actually — it’s a shame they concentrate on a small core set of products to bleed a particular sort of GW fan with more and more models and rules revisions.

  42. wyrmsine says:

    When I played, GW had a 24 hotline. If you called them at 3AM and blurted a random string of words into the phone, they would give you a series of dice rolls to help you make sense of those words. They would do this without hesitation or, seemingly, any thought whatsoever. They were wired to understand you’d been looking for an answer in the rulebooks for an hour, and that you’d never find it there. You had to go straight to the source, the living tomes of the Emperor’s knowledge. Only then would you find out what happens when a Rhino hits an Avatar, and the battle could continue.

  43. Saul says:

    mathew: http://www.bloodbowlonline.com/

    Blood Bowl is also my all-time favourite GW game, although W40K has the most style. Space Hulk is another great game, although not what you’d call balanced. I spent more money than I cannow comprehend on GW products during my high school years.

  44. theapologist says:

    11 kids in a street competing in a Blood Bowl tournament over the course of a summer, with us sharing around a black and white striped Newcastle Utd top to indicate who was playing referee.

    Still makes me laugh…

  45. The Fanciest Of Pants says:

    Pricehikes and countless space marine codex re-re-re-re-releases(not that I’ve ever collected those cheeseball wonderboys) aside, the biggest GW-related pang is the axing of the spinoff games. As awesome as some moments of 40k and WFB can be, they pale when compared to necromunda, mordheim(which I’m right now building little houses for), space hulk and all the rest.

    There’s rumours of a kill-team spinoff expansion sometime this year or the next, that would be a nice throwback.

    Oh and for those who still buy these little men, be sure to mail order EVERYTHING from the good ol’ USA. Compared to what they sell for here in Oz and in Rockpapershotgunland, you can usually cut the cost by nearly half. I shit you not.

    Why this happens I have no idea, but check the online stores for yourself:

    us.games-workshop.com

    uk.games-workshop.com

  46. Okami says:

    Blood Bowl was the first GW game played by a majority of my friends back when we were 13. We went absolutely berserk. We spent every free minute at school comparing our painting skills, argued endlessly about the rules in “Star Player” and “Companion”, wrote little cards for all our team members with all their stats on them, set up a big league and made blood bowl boards out of cloth, so we could play in the baths after school or when wer were on excursion.

    The funny thing was, that us four nerds who started the whole thing managed to infect our whole class with our enthusiasm for some time. For a few months it was cool to play in our Blood Bowl league..

  47. Anonymous says:

    I admit, I’d be love for someone to do a warts-and-all history of Games Workshop book.

    You should write it yourself, you’ve got all the qualifications.

  48. gnome says:

    Awwww…. :)

    (doesn’t make much sense, I know, but that about sums it up)

  49. Mr Fish says:

    I got sucked into the whole games workshop thing in about 94/95. Endless days and nights were spent mustering WAAARRRGH! (sorry for the enthusiasum nut god I loved orks!!!) painting and converting untill my fingers were permanantly glued together. I had the largest and only fully painted army of out group, however the rest of my mates were beardy, rule loving bores who had no concept of the “spirit of the game” or the richness of the back ground. This lead to Terminator armys, Imperial gaurd with Bainblades and annoying Eldar armys with masses of aspect warriors, an avatar and that bloody farsear(YOU ALL KNOW THE ONE!!!). I got a bit old when my well balance ork army was getting torn limb from limb by rediculously all powerfull forces tooled up to the max with wargear cards and near on impossible to kill generals.

    Lost interest when 3rd edition 40k was released as I was old enough to sus out that it was just an exersize in making armys bigger to sell more models.

    Still play a bit of blood bowl, man’o'war and space hulk, and recently have started to play 40k 2nd edition again with a few mates, only small skermishes but its really good fun with a few beers and the defening sound of some old skool rock (no blot thrower though, thouse guys both sucked and blew)

  50. Xerxes says:

    Sabbat not Bolt Thrower!