The Importance of Enormous Fantasy Battle

Played a game of the big ol’ Warhams tonight. Got me thinking. And I’m thinking that things ain’t right.

I’ve been very focused on considering the game Kings of War over the past few days. If you haven’t heard of it, you should have dammit, but I don’t blame you. It seems like virtually no one has. It’s made by a number of ex GW employees who now run Mantic Games, and on the surface it looks to be an attempt to remake Warhammer. Except… when you consider it, Kings of War and original Warhammer are trying for complete opposites. Original Warhammer presents a game where every miniature’s status and location can be extremely important, a kind of RPG conducted on a very large scale. Kings of War actively attempts to streamline when at all possible (it has a very slim ruleset) in order to present a very well functioning battlefield simulator. In essence, Kings of War is a remake of the game that Warhammer eventually morphed into, but this actually leaves a nice contrast between KoW and Oldhammer. They use different quantities of miniatures, and are really trying to do different things. They’re also both absolutely of their time. Oldhammer is quintessentially 80s, whilst KoW could never have come into existence without the relative failure of modern Warhammer. It’s a very modern game.

Which, I guess, none of which is particularly complimentary for the state of Warhammer today. For the first time ever today, I found myself accidentally expecting Kings of War rules to take effect during a Warhammer game today. Usually it’s the other way round, and quite honestly it felt good. It was also an interesting experience to play against someone who’s only ever player 8th Edition Warhammer, myself being someone who learnt to play under 6th Edition. It brought the developments of the game into sharp focus. 6th edition – dominance of cavalry, 7th edition – domination on monsters, 8th edition – dominance of huge troop blocks. GW just can’t seem to ever balance it right, always changing which units are overpowered (which I’m sure is no coincidence for their pocket books). Now, I’m aware it’s a little difficult to hold up KoW as a scion of balance (dat warmachines…) but if the rumblings on Mantic website are anything to go by, those boys are seriously dedicated to aiming for making the most balanced game out there. Hell, GW doesn’t even pretend to want to make a balanced game these days.

That’s what brought Kings of War second edition about (kickstarting now!)
Rewriting EVERY unit profile and points cost simultaneously? Why, I don’t think something like that has been attempted for nearly 20 years (3rd ed 40K, or Ravening Hordes for the real nerds). It’s a rare, rare opportunity (assuming Mantic don’t drop the ball, please guys, don’t burn me here).

At the end of the day, I had a great game tonight. Amazing fun. But I always say, when you’ve found a positive example of something but it still has serious problems, that’s when you know it isn’t working. There were plenty of moments when I thought to myself “this kind of bullshit is exactly why I don’t play Warhammer Fantasy so much…” i.e. a Slann vaporizes half my army with a single spell, the presence a single trivial model completely shifts the movement dynamic, a dozen awkward extremely specific special rules combine to leave units forcibly held out of position. It’s neither a hero game nor a massed battle game, poor bastard.

So, god-emperor willing, is the age of Kings of War here? Can it please be here? Years from now, when I rock up to gaming club for some enormous fantasy battle, will my talk of Kings of War be met with something other than blank stares? Will people learn to accept that in tiny rulebooks comes great power? It sure would be nice.

The King is dead. Long live the King.

UPDATE – REAL TALK, straight from the fuckin’ source:


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