No Chaos Dwarfs Army Book at launch, not surprising. No Dark Elves, Skaven or Chaos Demons, that's unbelievable.
Games-Workshop has recently announced the initial factions that will be included in the release of Warhammer: The Old World. These factions include The Empire of Man, Dwarfen Mountain Holds, Kingdom of Bretonnia, Wood Elf Realms, High Elf Realms, Orc & Goblin Tribes, Warriors of Chaos, Beastmen Brayherds, and Tomb Kings of Khemri. While these factions cover most of the armies I enjoy using, there are some very noticeable exclusions, which this Warhammer Community article details as being included as free pdf army lists, but not a part of the main army book releases. While we should be grateful that Games-Workshop’s design team has put together these lists for those whose favorite armies are not a part of the main narrative, this news has upset many old-school players.
The armies that will be provided free PDFs include Dark Elves, Skaven, Vampire Counts, Daemons of Chaos, Ogre Kingdoms, Lizardmen, and Chaos Dwarfs. What is most shocking about this news is the early advertisements for the game highlighting Grand Cathay and Kislev, which do not appear to be included in these lists. Perhaps one or both of these armies will be included under the Empire of Man list?
It is quite possible that Kislev will be included in the Empire of Man book, as Kislev units have been included in an Empire army book before (exampled above, Warhammer 4th-5th editon). Either way, this news is rather intriguing as the design team is apparently seeking to stick with a more focused narrative instead of just pooping out a Warhammer Fantasy Battles game with no narrative elements that stands out from the classic lore.
The Big Concern – Will the PDF Armies Be Trash?
So, for the armies that will be included as free pdfs, will they be able to compete with the armies that will have their own books published at launch? Having been a Warhammer Fantasy enthusiast for many, many years, likely, the design team will not put the time into making sure the free PDF armies are as competitive or "balanced" as the armies in print. This should come as no big shock to other Warhammer Fantasy enthusiasts that have been at this for a while.
I doubt Games-Workshop will want to invest a lot of time into balancing and sprucing up army lists that won’t make them money initially. It’s a safe bet that the printed army lists will have better units, probably more magic options, special characters, and so forth. However, it is such a strange move that the free PDF armies include armies that Games-Workshop has recently released model kits for, such as Lizardmen and Vampire Counts. That is a truly puzzling move. It may mean that the game design team is approaching this game purely intending to make a good game, rather than the bottom line. But I can’t bring myself to believe this. Perhaps it’s just a misstep? Either way, I would be surprised if the free PDF armies could even hang with the armies in print in a competitive setting.
So What’s a Vampire Counts, Skaven, Etc. Player To Do?
Don't pour fuel on your models yet!
Having played in a “sweaty” Warhammer environment for most of my 25+ years of miniature wargaming, I must say that I have become convinced that vanilla Warhammer, regardless of edition, was never built for competition. Far from it. The matchups between certain armies have always created massive imbalances. Just about every opponent I have ever faced has been sweaty to some degree. After all, it’s difficult to not be obsessed with victory when playing Warhammer Fantasy Battles. You spend hundreds of hours gluing and painting these miniatures, and you assemble them on the tabletop in ranks and files to wage war, only to see them dwindle as they fall to the enemy’s attacks. It has an effect on me, anyway. You invest 3 to 4 hours into the game only to witness your defeat. If you’re like me, you want revenge (I’m a Dwarf player). Next time you shelve your themed fluff army in exchange for your best gear, and your internet meta list. You take multiples of only your best troops, and you choose the same lore each game, the best lore.
You could be a Timmy that takes Lore of Light against your Tomb Kings opponent every match because you don’t mind hosing your opponent. But it would be more fun to negotiate a game with your opponent that presents more of a challenge for both.
I think the only solution to playing Warhammer Fantasy Battles, or 40k for that matter, is to realize that the games are not designed for competitive play (though the design team tries) and to utilize house rules to bring things into balance a little more. This of course requires everyone to be open to the idea of using a comp system (a competitive ruleset that assigns a competition score to army list configurations based on the power of the choices) or to simply agree to not take things that would render the game an absolute wash for one side or the other.
I find many examples of folks online who talk about playing non-competitively with their friends, but in all of the years I've been into this I have never met anyone who doesn't go for the cheese when they can. One swift beating and the idea of playing more friendly goes out the window.
Having been a person that played Warhammer Fantasy Battles daily in high school, weekly in my adult life, and now very rarely, I can see that I don’t need to play Warhammer, though I love the game. I would rather play a semi-competitive, friendly battle, or not play at all. I would rather simply play another game than to go through the same battle over and over against the same top tier tricks. So I think Warhammer fans as a community need to take the mantle of balance, as many already have with their own homebrew versions of the game. We cannot wait for Games-Workshop to make these armies competitively balanced, let's prepare mindsets to do this on our own. There will be plenty of meta information available as we delve into The Old World with tourneys and competitive play.
I don’t have anything against overly competitive opponents, I just don’t have the desire to play against the same top-tier meta tactics each game. So for those of you who will have to do with a PDF, and those of you who will have the printed book full of the new, shiny options, it’s time to take Warhammer into your own hands and realize that it’s a game where you and your opponent are creating an experience, much like Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s ultimately up to you to make sure it’s a good one.
- Jay C. Shepherd
- Content Creator
- Jay is a graphic designer, board game enthusiast, and professional wrestling fan who loves all things 80's, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and of course, video games. He is one of the rare few that believes that one can be a Trekkie and Star Wars fan at the same time.