Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Warhammer Fantasy Battles is Dead, Long Live Warhammer Fantasy Battles!!!

You've read all the stuff about Age of Sigmar I am sure. I'm not going to rehash it or give you my opinion on it. Instead I'm going to post about love of something wonderful, and that is rank and file blocks of fantasy infantry marching to war. Obviously this has been removed from Games Workshop fantasy gaming completely. I think this is bad even though I understand the financial reasoning behind it I would have rather that the support for the game was reduced rather than the game be thrown away in exchange for another skirmish game.

Fantasy war gaming, in general, is based off from historical reality. Even the earliest records of war indicates the use of ranks and files on the battle field. Some will point out that there is also record of skirmishing units of troops, which is true, or they will point out that the ranks and files did not truly hold once battle was engaged I would heartily agree with. I would in return point out to them that they don't understand what war gaming conventions are or why we play the way we do and then move on.

Warhammer Fantasy Battles was truly the last rank and file fantasy war game. All other have been lost. I know people will wag their finer at me and point that finger over to Mantic's Kings of War but this is not so. Kings of War is a fine game, not one I play, but a fine game. It lends itself beautifully to easy game play, fields of fantastic troops, and epic conflict. It is not a rank and file game though. The many miniatures placed onto the movement tray or in some cases directly modeled onto the movement tray are not individually removed. The entire unit is treated as a single entity and remains or leaves as a single entity. You could just as well place 15 models to represent a unit of 20 or even a single card board tent with a picture on it. This would facilitate the game just fine and in no way affect play so long as the movement base/tray was the appropriate size.

This is fine, it is a good game, I do not mean this as a criticism I simple mean this as an observation and clarification.

The essence of rank and file war gaming is the pace it sets and the ebb of the armies on the table. Added to this essence is the complexity that the fantastic would bring to the game. It is a sad loss that our gaming community clamors for the simpler and quicker rather than engaging in an enjoyable duel of generals over the course of an evening. Historical war gaming fathered this structure and through the years it has proven to be a good structure. Warhammer was the by word for fantasy war gaming because it intelligently based itself off from the historical predecessors and engaged the players on a greater level than many games do today.

We have lost our espirt de corps you might say. As a community we look towards games that complete quicker and give us gimmicks we can utilize to find victory rather than out think and out flank our opponent. We want to play our two or three model/card combo and immediately have the advantage.

Rank and file war gaming does not have this aspect truly. It relies on good maneuver, good planning, and a good measure of fortune. Even the best laid plans can be lain low by a bout of 1's on the dice and even the most outnumbered regiment can hold their own with a good run of 6's. Before anyone deducts the value of the dice I would point out historical battles such as Thermopylae and Agincourt  as examples where their may not have been dice but there was certainly a good measure of fortune. We can't recreate humanity and reality on the table, the dice do this for  us.

I don't plan to give up this style of war gaming. In fact just the opposite I plan to more actively engage it. Try to build a community for it within my community of gamers. I plan to fight the mental decay of simpler war gaming every way I can. Join me in this! Raise your regiments of models (carefully so they don't fall) and bring them to war with you.

On the model painting front I've been very busy but not been able to take pictures, sorry for that. I've gotten several commissions done from imperial assassins to men-at-arms including some 6mm DZC and several of my own units that I had primed for way too long. If I get the chance I'll take some crappy pictures. No promises though :(


  1. I'm a little confused as to you definition of "rank and file" wargames.

    For example, you say, "Rank and file war gaming does not have this aspect truly. It relies on good maneuver, good planning, and a good measure of fortune. Even the best laid plans can be lain low by a bout of 1's on the dice and even the most outnumbered regiment can hold their own with a good run of 6's."

    Kings of War has all that. Since a unit can only charge towards other units in its front arc, being able to outflank is especially important. A bunch of 1s means that you have an unit to your front that is unwavered and can counter charge. Since units in KoW don't loose models, a unit that manages to rally even after taking a lot of damage can still do something on the battlefield, as opposed to a unit of 30 that is reduced down to 5 or less models.

    If anything, the only real difference you mention between KoW and WHFB is model removal. And if that's what a game needs to be "Rank and File," then are Games like Black Powder, Impetus, and other multi-base games inferior to, say, Warhammer Historical rulesets that had individual model removal, like their Napoleonic rules?

    1. HI Brian!

      No I don't not feel any other game is inferior to WHFB or any rank and file war game. They are all excellent (okay warmahordes sucks, you got me there) and fun to play.

      I do define 'rank and file' as the removal of either individual models or stands of model as casualties are sustain affecting the foot print and tactical ability of the unit.

      To reference KoW a regiment of Dwarf Ironclads (20 models) will always occupy the same space until the unit is eliminated. A regiment of 20 Dwarf warriors in WHFB has the ability to reform into several organisations and rank options such as a line of 20 warriors wide or perhaps 2 ranks of 10 soldiers, etc. Also the regiment will shrink as it sustains casualties which could allow more movement options for the enemy and prevents the dwarfs protecting an ally as well.

      I know this is just a preference, trust me, I am in no way saying it's not. The blog is my opinion by definition and my opinion that rank and file war games are preferable to me. Not better.

      Does this help?

    2. It does! Thanks for the reply and the clarification.

      Have you checked out any of the online efforts to create a new "Nethammer" game? Any thoughts on doing to WHFB what other online organizations have done to GW's other abandoned games?

    3. I have not, not yet anyway. I have been long lured by the "oldhammer" community and have even gotten a copy of third edition and a copy of the armies book.

      I think very clearly the players should take charge now. There are still a lot of models available and I plan on getting the few I can afford when I can to put back for later. The community is all there is now and we must band together!

      I'll make a banner...probably a bad one.

  2. Thank you for the post. I have just been printing out some KOW army lists and you have defined what I am missing from them. The ability to select the formation for your regiment. I tended to run 24 model regiments in 3 ranks 8 wide for some armies and for goblins and such I would rank up deeper. This subtle variation made the game a little more interesting to me.

    1. I really think the ability to deploy your models how best suits your plans is integral to a war gaming experience for many players. I know skirmish games do this by their nature, never the less, it isn't the same effect as rank and file gaming. Usually you can use those troops to deny access to other parts of your army for a temporary period.

  3. Be a man and learn how to play warma hordes. Best mechanics, great company and models...what else do you want?

    1. Aaaand that is why I don't play it. Thank you for an object example ;)