Life Among The Ruins

Someone go to Holy Terra quick and toll the great Bell of Lost Souls once – Warhammer is dead. A world burns and, regardless of what you may have heard to the contrary, a man from Games Workshop is on his way to your house right now to smash up your models and force you to buy Space Marines.

Before he arrives let me share a few of my own thoughts on the passing of Warhammer. Be warned however, I am a long time 40k collector and painter – and nowadays a player of nothing. If you’ve just rage-quit in disgust rather than face the dawn of the Age of Sigmar then this may not be a good place to be. Spam your hatred of me in the comments box below, if it’s erudite – or even legible – I may just let it stay.

AoS Logo

The truth is Warhammer never quite grabbed me in the same way 40k did. The miniatures are pretty nice, and that should be enough in itself, and it looked like it would be fun to actually play – something that never really clicked for me with 40k. I started several Warhammer armies over the years; my Skaven I’ve already shown, my Vampire Counts deserve an outing at some point as well. I’ve often dreamed of an Empire army (lots of black-powder, crazy contraptions and handlebar moustaches) or perhaps Wood Elves (especially post End-Times when I could add in some of the more feral elements from the Dark Elves to create a truly savage Wild Hunt). The only reason I never did much with either Chaos or Orcs was because I was already throwing all my ideas in that department into 40k. I even have a few Bretonian knights kicking around somewhere.

Skaven 1

My first Skaven – a gift from a friend a long, long time ago…

As it turned out none of these ideas went anywhere. As I have come to discover the hook I need to get me involved in a setting is the background. This is why, sidetracking slightly, I hate the term ‘fluff’. Fluff implies that what we are dealing with is extraneous extra stuff, designed to go around the key elements (the miniatures? the rules?) but hardly vital to them. Which, may I add, rather comes across as one in the eye for the ancient art of storytelling. No-one has ever put down a well-thumbed copy of Lord of the Rings, or sat in a cinema watching the latest Hollywood extravaganza and thought “Well that was some rather good fluff”.

The point I’m attempting to make is that a solid background makes a game. The Emperor has sat decaying upon the Golden Throne of Terra for more than two and a half decades now. What has happened to your miniatures in that time? How about your rules? With each new armybook or codex armies have risen or fallen in the “meta” and units have gone from “deathstars” to disposable and back again. Yet the fluff remains inviolate, the pillar upon which all else is built. And, when all is said and done, the 40k ‘fluff’ continues to excite me in a way that of Warhammer never did.

This isn’t a fantasy vs sci-fi debate, in fact I’d argue that 40k is far more fantasy than sci-fi (yes, it’s set in the future, but it’s also packed to the gunnels with magic, wizards, knights, dragons and elves – and not a single actual scientist in sight).

Ad Mech

Not scientists…

The problem with the Warhammer fiction, for me, is that it appeared to be founded on a principle of ‘Never make a single, logic narrative step when twelve highly improbable ones would do’. As a result my credulity was constantly being stretched and I spent more time trying to follow the plot and remember which convoluted steps which led us here.
From what I’ve seen so far this reboot seems to be continuing the trend. If they wanted to move the timeline forward then surely this could have been done without destroying the world they had created in its entirety? Why not stop the End Times at one minute to midnight with the world reeling, every faction battered but Chaos suddenly on the defensive as the Gods withdrew their power from Archaon, preferring to toy with mortal lives for another age than see the world destroyed outright? And before you tell me that’s daft let me remind you, a precedent has already been set by a little known guy named Horus… Of course the world would still be in trouble, its cities in ruins, its armies shattered, its people driven to their knees. Chaos Lords, enraged by the nearness of the victory that had been snatched from them, would still be rampaging around the countryside seeking to make their mark in the power vacuum left by the death of Archaon. Orcs and Skaven fight over the ruins and everyone is out to seize limited resources off everyone else just to survive. Luckily for the forces of Order golden armoured heroes are descending from the heavens! The tide is about to turn!
Perhaps you think my ‘post End Times solution’ is rubbish fan-fiction, in which case fair enough, but surely it seems more believable than all this nonsense about some guy flying through space, hanging onto a speck of reality, then rebuilding some worlds by magic or what-have-you. Also my way would have allowed any characters players wanted to survive into the new era to do so. That elf prince you wrote all that background about? Well in my version he survived the End Times by being terribly heroic (your Skaven hero hid until it was all over). In the official version they both snuffed it and if you want them in the new world some unlikely miracle must have occurred. No, the only way they can exist ‘in game’ (and they do – there are rules for Special Characters in the pdfs on the Games Workshop website) is if one is playing ‘pre End Times’ – in which case why not just leave things at one minute to mid-night and skip out the whole ‘Sigmar flies through space’ thing altogether?

All of which should not give you the impression that I’m anti-Age of Sigmar, I’m actually pretty excited about it. As I’ve often said I don’t really game at all nowadays, but I still maintain an interest in game design and some of the decisions made in the creation of AoS strike me as well worth investigating. It remains pretty doubtful that I’ll play it but I’ll still be reading the rules with interest.

This brings us to another key point – the fact that I can just pick up the rules and read them. I’m not being asked to invest large sums in buying rule books, I can just grab everything I need for free, legitimately and without fear of prosecution. Welcome, Games Workshop, to the world of modern business! It’s a strange and exciting place but I’m sure once you catch your breath you’ll fit right in!

The fact of the matter is, the rules have been available for free for quite some time. Piracy, once the sole domain of dashing looking men with eye-patches and poor dental hygiene, has come ashore and made its way online. If you know where to look – and who doesn’t – then all the rule books you require can be yours for free (albeit not legally). The aim of this piece isn’t to justify piracy, you can make up your own mind about that, but to deny its happening is the height of foolishness, especially for a company in Games Workshop’s position. The solution? Cut the rug from under the pirates’ feet, give the rules away for free and use them to sell a product that people are excited to buy – the miniatures.

As someone who’s main interest in the hobby is painting and converting models this is the real meat of the release for me; the warriors of Khorne doing battle with Sigmar’s holy warriors, the Stormcast Eternals. Obviously as a devoted servant of the dark gods I’m pretty excited about the former as I can already see all sorts of possibilities for adding them to the ranks of my own black crusade. As for the latter they too should translate to the dark future, one way or another.

Before I go on let me stress the point – these models looks pretty amazing as fantasy models, my 40k slant is purely because that’s probably where I’ll be using them.

Anyway, as absolutely everyone has been saying, the Stormcast Eternals would look fierce as Custodes. Of course to truly match the Custodes they’d need those tall helms that must make them bump their heads if they ever find themselves fighting indoors. Still, there are plenty of options available to make that possible whilst the death masks of the sigmarites can be recycled onto Blood Angels, psykers, mutants, navigators, mechanicum thralls, Slaaneshi warriors or anyone else you can think of who looks debonair in a mask.


A few bolters, backpacks and chainswords away from being the best Space Marines you’ve ever seen.

Even if you don’t want to turn these guys into Custodes they could still make for some damn fine Space Marines (to be honest I think the popularity of the Custodes idea springs in part from them being painted gold). Indeed if these models are as large as they’re said to be, and as plentiful as starter set models generally become, then we could be looking at a golden opportunity for true-scaling space marines. The Lord-Relictor is a few minor conversions away from being a jaw dropping Chaplain and how about taking the skeleton he’s holding and mounting it on the front of a dreadnaught?

Blood For The Blood God

New Chosen of Khorne for my Beasts of Ruin? I rather think so!

Anyway, I’m writing this with hasty over-excitement in a cafe, so before they throw me out I’m going to wrap this up. As usual if you have any thoughts feel free to put them in the box below. Cheers!


19 responses to “Life Among The Ruins

  • Alex

    Ditto, ditto, ditto and ditto – couldn’t have put that any better mate, thank you for articulating that so well. Like you, I never got hooked by WFB – nice models but put off by the high price point of entry. AoS looks ‘trestin as a game… maybe… but is total conversion-candy, and that makes me happy.

    • Wudugast

      Cheers – that kind of praise will only make me big headed you know! I’ve been without internet since I uploaded that blog (lightning storm which, to my surprise, failed to produce golden armoured heroes in its wake) so I’ve been a bit behind the times on the latest events. Looks like AoS is still generating a lot of chatter, which I guess is exactly what GW were looking for.

      • Alex

        lol – welcome back mate – so disapointed that the lightning didn’t bring all the shiny models your way 😉

        Yeah… rAge of Sigmar rumbles on and on. Much deleting of posts, banning of users from forums, tightening up of FB Group guidelines, gnashing of teeth and shaking of fists. Even the WHWorld Marine statue has been replaced by a giant shiny AoS statue… Change bad… change baaad!!!

  • Thomas

    The short and fairly easy rule set, the free warscrolls and the absence of points got me interested of picking up a few boxes of fantasy stuff and start playing AoS. I think it would be super fun to get into the game together with the kids. 40K is just to difficult for young kids. This game looks easy to pick up and play (and collect too).

    The starter looks neat but I’m not sold on the content. Sure the chaos stuff looks great. Just add backpack/jumo pack and sculpt some power armour over them silly boots and you got nice berserker/chosen/raptors. The lord looks like a boss. But what to do with the marauders? The look to much like Conan the Barbarian and friends to work as cultist.

    • Arkhangelsk

      I think they’re fine as cultists, they’re slightly larger than your average culitst, but part of that is the base their on. Put them on 25mms and they will just look like really beefed up cultists, perfect for Khorne Daemonkin.

    • Wudugast

      I agree with you on the conversion opportunities (apart from the boots – I kind of like them, although I agree they’re utterly incompatible with void-combat). Looking at the marauders to cultists question I think it should be possible with head and weapon swaps. They don’t need to be Khornate either, get rid of the Blood God’s symbols and they’d be cracking as servants of Slaanesh (in defiance of these crazy rumours that the youngest god is dead!).

      It certainly seems like a game that they intend people to take home and play with their friends/family rather than with strangers in stores. You’ll be a long way from the only person gaming with your kids, and that can only be a good thing for the future of the hobby.

      • Thomas

        I stopped by my local GW store today and had a look at the new models. They’re even more impressive in real life than in the photos. But they are huge. They had both Age of Sigmar and Dark Vengeance set up. The marauders are at least a head taller than the cultists and way bulkier. They feel like Space Marines without armour.

        The Warriors are more or less the same size as the chosen. Maybe a millimeter taller.

      • Wudugast

        That’s interesting. In that case I think I’ll still use the Warriors as Chosen but might add some battered space marine armour to the Marauders and use them as Berserkers. I wonder why they choose to make them so big though?
        Incidentally I’m amused to note that everyone still seems to be referring to the new models by old Warhammer-equivalent names. Probably because the new names are all fairly silly things like ‘Blood-blood-gore-skull-warriors’.

      • Thomas

        I was surprised by the size of the Mar … err … Blood-Death-Blood-Dudes. Scaling up all new models would be an effective way to stimulate sales once they get around to redoing the old races.

  • Arkhangelsk

    Definitely will be getting the box set for conversions. The big beastie on the khorne side is going to be a Khornate Deamon prince, with some nice armor on him here and there to give the 40k look.

    Thinking back on playing it… its going to be a great game to play with a friend where you both agree on some reasonable restrictions and just out to have some fun. I think it might be to hard to just have games with randoms. It will be good for gaming groups where people know each other well.

    But its a fresh break on the game and I think its having the desired effect. I’m actually thinking about getting some fantasy stuff to mess about with.

    Think I will definitely give it a go again while drinking some beers and see how it goes, might feel like talking to an invisible horse after Im a few in.

    The other thing Im looking forward to is what people do with all the models, be they custodes or something else. I like seeing what people come up with and across the net and even in my local. People who werent into getting the models were discussing conversion ideas, and thats great to see.

    • Wudugast

      Agree on all points really, I certainly can’t imagine myself playing AoS with a stranger (not that I’m ashamed to talk to my models in the privacy of my own home but until now people have tended to think you’re a bit funny if you do it in public!) 😉

      Probably my favourite part of any new model release is seeing what conversions other people come up with (looking forward to seeing that daemon prince by the way) I’m even thinking of holding off on buying the box and trying to clear my painting desk before the wave of new inspiration starts in earnest.

  • Ann Wycoff

    I’m not a WHF player either (though I do love the Lizardmen and keep toying with buying some) but I do have to say that some of the new models I’m seeing on the GW site I like quite a bit.

    • Wudugast

      The funny thing is (and bear in mind I’ve not rolled dice in anger for quite a while) I’ve actually found myself looking through the most recent Warhammer rulebook several times since AoS launched. I think Warhammer’s problem may have been that it was essentially quite specialist, it required a lot of effort to play, and yet must also have equally expensive to run. I wonder to what extent it will now go ‘underground’ in the same way Inq28 has done? I’m still not entirely convinced it’ll never come back as a rebranded AoS ‘spin-off’ (to the fury of the old timers!)

      I do rather like the Lizardmen myself, particularly the rank and file. Oddly, although I love dinosaurs and can probably credit a childhood fascination with them as the beginnings of my career as an ecologist, I can’t stand them in a fantasy/sci-fi setting (you heard me Eldar Exodites!)

  • mrbobbygreathead

    I HATE AoS, but it means that for old Warhammer, you won’t have to keep getting the latest rulebook, and I like it where it stopped.

    • Wudugast

      The more I think about it the more I think this is spot on; Warhammer now has the chance to become a feral entity, a fan-owned game in a similar sense to Inq28. Obviously that appeals hugely to me but I do wonder why Games Workshop have chosen to end things so utterly? Surely a better solution would have been to stop the End Times at the last possible second (as described above) and keep Warhammer on as an online-only specialist game. It would keep us old crusties involved and could then be marketed to the more enthusiastic/well established AoS players as a follow on game in much the same way as Apocalypse is with 40k. “Has your AoS collection grown into hundreds of models? Try Warhammer today!” New AoS units could always have Warhammer rules released online as pdfs (as Forgeworld often do to allow Horus Heresy units to be fielded in 40k for instance). As it is roughly the same thing will be done anyway by enthusiastic fans so the news for us is good either way 🙂

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