[WFB] If I Played…

It must be something about January. This time last year I was starting the Wood Elves, and this year the brain is gonging along with thoughts and feelings about… basically every Warhammer army under the sun. Not being made of money, nor time, nor the capacity to paint without my thumbs going weird like I’m in the middle of a bloody overdose, I am extremely unlikely to act on any of these impulses, so I share my ideas in the hope of inspiring someone else to do some new hobby this winter.

I don’t think I’d be very good at Bretonnians, but I do have a shaky kind of vision for an army. I’ve always had a soft spot for the scheming, man-eating sorceresses of Arthurian lore – your T. H. White’s Morgause or Camelot Morgana type – and such a high level wizard lady would probably be in charge of affairs. Leaning into Morgause as inspiration I’d probably load up on Paladin Heroes to represent her sons, one with the Virtue of Empathy because there’s always one good hearted friend to the peasantry (your Sir Gareth sort of figure). I see this army as being fairly indifferent to affairs of the Grail, with mostly worldly Knights of the Realm, second sons of petty nobility paying court to my sorceress.

I was very impressed by the Chaos soup armies I faced at Resurrection, and Chaos are always fascinating to play around with thanks to the sheer range of options there. I never really got my teeth into the Beastmen, and it’s the sheer flexibility of aggressive Tzeentch casters combined with game-changing mobility spells from Shadows and Beasts magic that get me here. Lots of dice and lots to do with them! It’s that or the Slaanesh army I posited late in 2019.

I don’t know why I don’t play Dwarfs. They’re infantry focused, they’re reliable, they have a conservative playstyle that generally aims for a draw in their favour as the best possible outcome, and they have no time for Orc mischief or Skaven shenanigans. They give me an excuse to affect my best faux-Lancastrian accent and chomp on an imaginary pipe while complaining about everything that’s happened since the last time I had fun (the late summer of 2006, if anyone’s counting). I have spent some time staring at Mantic (before remembering that I can’t stand them), Avatars of War (before realising they don’t do war engines) and MOM Miniatures (before… actually, I’m still staring at them). Bolt Throwers at either end of the line, Organ Gun in the middle, flanked by solid blocks of hammer and shield Clansmen and some good honest Thunderers (Dwarf handguns have always rather impressed me in the rules). Proper job.

I have, of late, been giving a lot of thought to the south-eastern corner of the Empire once again, largely because of TWW2 placing Drycha and Mannfred in direct conflict down that way and it all being set right across the mountains from the Forest of Gloom where the Resurrection is. If I had the capacity to buy and rush out an army just for this year’s campaign season, the current heart’s desire is a set of Perry historicals repurposed into the Order of the Black Bear (based in Averland, with rules and background in WD310, fractious but intrepid) and their supporting exchange garrison of State Troops from the House of Leitdorf.

I went so far as to work out what I could do with the various boxes (two small Knight units, a huge Greatsword unit, a spear block with Crossbowman or Handgunner detachments, a Halberdier block and a lot of Archers, and two Winged Lancer lines) and consider leaders (the Grand Master Genschler obviously, Father Iovanus the chapter house priest, and Otto von Grenzstadt, the senior sergeant of the state troops who carries the Order’s banner, both as a mark of respect to the County and to show the rabble who they’re really fighting for). I blame Phil A for this as he was the one asking if an army of Knights and Warrior Priests was viable. I also really like the Black Bears’ / Averlanders black and gold colourscheme (you can’t live over the road from the Molineux for three years and not develop an affection there, it’s hi-ho Wolverhampton and all that).

The odds of me buying and painting all that are slim to none with half a Wood Elf army and over 3000 points of Tomb Kings still in the queue, but it’s nice to dream – and that’s what these occasional pipe dream posts are about.

I can’t be the only one, right? Surely some of you have a favourite fantasy Fantasy army that you imagine yourself doing, one day, but never quite get around to…

6 thoughts on “[WFB] If I Played…

  1. Good article- and very much the reason I started vampires last year! The odd bargain comes up on eBay which is hard to resist but seems they are getting rarer to find unfortunately….

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    1. I think bargain hunting is increasingly a mug’s game, now that there are more and more of us either having a midlife crisis and deciding to use our old figures again, or realising there’s a seller’s market for this stuff and getting greedy about selling off our dead lead. The thing is, we are no longer beholden to James Workshop nor any of his shareholders in this day and age. Until The Old World comes out*, there’s no “GW only models on the GW only circuit” in play, no need to be Official about any of this, and an army can and should be realised with whatever’s on the maker’s market now. Pay makers’ wages, not hoarders’ mortgages!

      * I have One Fear about the current retro Warhammer bubble: that a new “official” square based rank and flank Warhammer game will burst said bubble entirely as everyone goes running back to a “living” game with a “canon” metaplot and a “real” release schedule. You know what people are like. I’m not saying I won’t give it a go but I am really enjoying the current climate, in which more and more gamers emerge blinking into the sun and realise that they are their own masters and always have been.

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  2. Oh boy do I have favourite fantasy Fantasy armies that I imagine myself doing, one day, but will never get around to. About the only two Warhammer armies that never really lived rent free in my head are Warriors of Chaos and Ogres (both of which just never quite left enough of an impression on me). The only thing that’s stopping me is lack of available models, being that I am one of those pedants that try as I might just can’t settle for anything less than the 2000s Citadel Catalogue sculpts that first captured my heart and never let go.

    On the other hand, being as much a writer as a modeler/painter means that all of these dream Warhammer armies will live on in the lore and stories I write even if they never reach an actual tabletop.

    The top five of these (not counting expansions on the two rather modest secondary armies I have on paper) are Beasts of Chaos, Vampire Counts, Dark Elves, High Elves and Dogs of War: The Greatest Hits.

    Beasts of Chaos are probably one of my top two favourite Bad Guy Warhammer armies, and since Day 1 I’ve always wanted a Beastmen army at some stage. A real pure Beasts of Chaos army, no Basic 80s metal style barbarians, no Daemons, no medieval Chaos Space Marines, just hordes of murderous Nightmare-Satyrs backed up by an array of gribbly monsters. I’ve always been more drawn to the creepy side of Chaos more than the heavy metal van-artwork side, and Beasts of Chaos speaks to that aspect most in Fantasy. They also tie in to the endless fun I had massacring my way through Beastmen-with-the-serial-numbers-filed-off in Diablo 3. And, not entirely unrelated, they are the most fitting opposing force and natural nemesis for my Wood Elves (and Bretonnians).

    The other top two favourite Bad Guy Warhammer army of mine is Vampire Counts (and Lahmians specifically if I have to be tied down to a canon Bloodline), and for a while they were one of the front-runners for my first Warhammer army before circumstances conspired to set me irrevocably down on the path of the Wood Elves.

    I remember reading a Warhammer battle report in White Dwarf showcasing the brand-new 7th Edition Empire army book, and while the guns and rocket-launchers and steampunk tanks of this Empire lot certainly appealed to me, I could not help but find myself being drawn back over to the other page showcasing this army of Vampires and horror monsters that had been put together to oppose them. An army comprised of ghosts, ghouls, zombies and bats and stuff? That actually seemed pretty cool to me even in the depths of my ‘Sci-fi or GTHO’ phase. Discovering Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Van Helsing shortly after only helped their case.

    Since then I’ve never really been able to shake off the allure of having an army comprised of literally every single unit in the Vampire Counts army list EXCEPT basic Skeletons, all tied together and led by a coterie of morbidly beautiful black-hearted queens of the night loaded down with every Presence-esque Bloodline power on the list (this own blog’s words of discouragement about them be damned).

    Dark Elves are an army that has lurked on the periphery of my interest for a while, but which has rocketed up my Dream Warhammer Armies list ever since I finally got to grips with (an online copy of) the Dark Elf army book, and I’ve had a Khainite Witch-Elf and Monster heavy Dark Elf army living rent free in my head ever since. The idea of a horde of cocaine-fueled Murder Vixens backed up by fire-breathing Hydras, Harpies and a bolt thrower or two (oh and a few obligatory Warrior units too I suppose) is just too cool to pass up. For related reasons it jostles for head-space with a Cult of Slaanesh army list comprised entirely of Devoted of Slaanesh, Mounted Daemonettes and a few characters of similar style. It has grown to become my favourite non-Beastmen Chaos army concept.

    Likewise, High Elves languished in the ‘yeah they’re pretty cool I guess’ pile until I discovered Visions of Atlantis, and suddenly an Epica and VoA powered High Elf army started looking really, really good. Throw in some nice Averlorn-esque White and Green colour schemes and a really fun thematic method of building the force (Character by Character, with each character coming with their own contingent of Spearmen, Archers and a provincial special or two) and it sounds like a pretty fun ride. Also Dragons that actually breathe fire sound nice, because I am a traditionalist at heart.

    But perhaps most of all my biggest Dream Warhammer army is Dogs of War – The Greatest Hits. Every single Regiment of Renown ever put to model form, united into one single glorious Stillmanic extravaganza, tied together with a few characters and a token cannon or non-human Special unit thrown in to make up the numbers. From 2013-2015 I toyed with the idea of hammering out a fun narrative beginner’s campaign centred on a down-on-their-luck protagonist adventuring across the Old World cobbling together a Mercenary army one Regiment of Renown at a time to win back their fortune and show a new player the ropes of Warhammer in the process. And the mother of all mercenary armies was an important pillar of my narrative that killed the ET series before it could lay eggs. I have no illusions that it will ever become a reality at this point, but a man can dream…

    Honourable mentions go to Tomb Kings and a Daemonic Legion comprised entirely of precisely 4 units of 12 Daemonettes, 2 units of 6 mounted Daemonettes, 6 Pleasureseekers and exactly no more or less than 3 Daemonette characters, to create the ultimate mathematically perfect Slaanesh army…

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    1. I played Chaos Warriors because one could build a 2000 point army for about £50 when I started out. I continued to play Hordes of Chaos because returning the daemonic troops to the army felt right (didn’t hurt that it performed better on the table, too). I dropped Warriors of Chaos like a hot potato because my lovingly modelled Four Horsemen army shaped up to be a bit crap in the highly tuned seventh edition landscape and it was all a bit much for someone already burdened with spiralling depression.

      Oddly enough I never really felt like a storyteller with them. I suspect the constant getting-my-bonch-kicked-in under fifth edition rules made it hard to get off the ground, although I keep sniffing around some sort of Slaaneshi revival (it was a close run thing – could very easily have happened instead of the Wood Elves) so I suspect the impulse is there. Incidentally: two units of twelve Warriors, one unit of six Knights, two units of twelve Daemonettes, and two each of Chariots, Spawn and Champions. Six by six.

      There are a lot of armies which I think appeal to me on that level and fall down in the execution, and it tends to be on a point of “painting the same dude over and over again.” Vampire Counts: a glorious variety of troop types under one overarching concept. Wood Elves and Hordes of Chaos: really two ranges operating side by side. I suppose Ogres have Gnoblars… but they don’t feel like major or even essential participants in the whole affair.

      … this is bringing me back to the Cult of Slaanesh, which I oddly find a little too crowded as a set of options. There is a point at which too many options lead to a lack of coherence; with Dark Elves and Chaos Warriors and Daemons all jammed in cheek by jowl I can never find my footing with that list. You’d think I’d be all over it, since I’ve played all the component armies discretely, but it’s all far too busy for my liking (and it doesn’t help that the Chaos Warriors are locked away in Special and the Knights punitively imprisoned as a double Rare choice – I’ve never understood why the thumbscrews went on so tight there). I have the same issue with Chaos “soup” armies – Beastmen and Warriors and Daemons oh my just breaks down into a morass of tactical options that I respect and fear from the outside but can’t get into as a player. Three, it would seem, really is a crowd.

      Regarding Lahmians I shall say only that I was writing a Tactica article, not a theming guide, and you must expect the lens to distort that which is read through it. In other circumstances and from other perspectives I might advocate differently. Now, let me ask if you’ve ever investigated the seventh edition Counts? Reason being, the Bloodlines recede into loose thematic groupings of powers; you can see where the Blood Dragon or the Necrarch vibe resides but the rules don’t lock you into any one grouping. In theory it offers the kind of creative freedom to do your own vampirism and spit on the implications, although I forget if there are any really iconic “seduction” powers available.

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      1. But yes, Vampires.

        Not only have I investigated the 7th edition Vampire Count book, it’s actually something of the default baseline for me, since I started Warhammer in 8th Edition and worked backwards. I never really looked through the 8th Edition book in any real detail, but had otherwise been fairly closely following the Vampire Count game faction from the 7th edition era onward, which means that my brain recognises the pick’n’mix setup of Vampire powers as the norm and the Bloodline-locked model as the weird arbitrary change.

        These days I can largely appreciate both versions. On the one hand, I enjoy the 7th edition book letting me freely combine killing Vampire Powers with not-Presence ones, because why can’t I have a beautiful but lethal queen of the damned who turns into an unstoppable berserk killing machine if her wiles fail? That sounds like a really cool and fun character concept and sounds like a cool evocative vampire story (certainly no Only Lovers Left Alive, but a solid recipe for some good honest pulp horror fun at least).

        I also appreciate that the 7th edition book has Vampire powers as options taken in addition to magic items. While I can understand the desire for opportunity cost when weighing up Vampire powers (and Bretonnian Virtues) in the 6th edition books, in the end it invariably results in me just never using these cool Interesting things nearly as much as I want to because I want to play with cool Interesting magic items. I chafe at the magic item restrictions on a lot of the Wood Elf Kindreds for the same reason. So the 7th edition book letting me have my cake and eat it too makes me a happy nocturnal parrot.

        Unfortunately, the trade-off is that upon close inspection of the 7th edition powers list, there is no real Seduction equivalent there. The ONLY Lahmian style not-Presence power in the entire lineup is a reworked Beguille… and after experiencing the rapturous wonders of the potential to have the opposing General and other Heroes actually SWITCH SIDES for a round of combat I just can’t go back to only getting re-rolls to damage.

        Which is where the 6th edition rules win me over. Yes, they are locked down to one set for the entire army, but the powers themselves, especially the Lahmian ones (and their descriptions) are by and large cinematic and Interesting enough that I’m prepared to forgive them for that, and I can appreciate that they’re trying to really evoke the classic (modern) Vampire archetype tropes.

        These days I’m generally more annoyed by the ‘Lahmians = Skeleton Armies’ thing (there are two mentions of them using Zombies right there in the army book’s own write-up about them!) and ‘Lahmians can’t use normal weapons’ thing – because why can’t my Lahmian be as skilled in fencing as she is in manipulation, for maximum Girlboss points? I understand the need for something to keep the Blood Dragons relevant, and I’m not asking for anything silly like Full Plate and Great Weapons or lances, but no extra hand-weapons? Really? I can’t have a cool beautiful night mistress running around dual-wielding swords? Out of all the dozens if not hundreds of warriors my Lahmian Vampire Lady has presumably had as paramours over the centuries, not a single one of them was able to show her how to swing two swords around at the same time? Even when she invariably asked them too, because the bold adventurous warrior princess archetype happened to be something that really worked for at least a few of them?

        I understand the writers were going for a send-off to the archetypal ‘wily manipulative villainess who shies away from direct confrontation’ trope, but there are some compelling counter-points to be had, is what I’m saying here.

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      2. (Posted the second bit before the first part. Suppose it’s what I get for posting in the small hours of the morning)

        One of the major factors in Bretonnians taking priority over Dwarfs as Warhammer Army #2 was the discovery that it’s possible to take the 2000 odd points of them I currently have to 3000 points with just 12 more models. Less in the unlikely event I luck out and happen upon some Grail Knight bitz.

        It’s odd that I’ve never really been that bothered by painting lots of the same dude(tte)s. Maybe it’s my long history of playing RTS games by amassing as many of one multi-purpose unit I could and throwing them at the enemy until it went away. Maybe it’s related to my two primary Warhammer/40k armies both being inspired by a single character and being an exercise in “I want a whole army just like that guy/girl”. Whatever the case may be, my tabletop armies often tend to be surprisingly homogeneous when it comes to unit selection, typically latching onto one or two concepts and running with it. The variety and My Dude(tte)s factor gets added in through other vectors.

        Which is why I suppose I’ve never been that daunted by Warhammer Chaos or the Cult of Pleasure, since I just zero in on the single aspect I like most (Beastmen gribblies and Murder Vixens respectively) and double down on it, leaving out all the rest. Where this falls apart of course is with the Empire. Zeroing in on ‘dogged everyman professional soldier with relatively high-tech equipment’ doesn’t really help to narrow things down when that still describes a good 75% of the entire army list.

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