The Old World is no more, and I for one am happy about it. My introduction to the Old World was the Konrad series by David Ferring, which I remember fondly despite having only read it once in 1990. A typical Hero’s Journey about a warrior in the Empire, Konrad also introduced me to the most interesting part of the Old World: Chaos.

I think it is telling that for a lot of people the Old World was all about the Empire, possibly the least traditionally High Fantasy aspect of the world. The Empire had the standard knights-in-armour, but it also had steamtanks, volleyguns, gryphons and mad counts. At its best – such as in the Mordheim setting – it was evocative of Mervyn Peake – twisted characters and a dearth of heroism.

But overall the Old World was a Tolkien-inspired High Fantasy story – in the literary sense. Elves, Dwarves and even knockoff hobbits lived on a world that – like Middle Earth or Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age  – was based on the real world, albeit not in a supposed period of Earth’s history. Chaos – the Michael Moorcock element – was always on the outside, looking in: the barbarian hordes, the existential threat. Sure there were other stories, but Chaos was the big one, and if there was ever going to be a main villain, it would have to be a champion of the Dark Gods.

They finally did it, those maniacs, they blew it up

Moorcock criticised Tolkien (at some length, and for many things) for his sentimental fairytale endings, for ‘going against the grain of his subject matter’ in scenes like the interminable group hug finale of Lord of the Rings. Perhaps this is how Tolkien would have ended the Old World story: a recovering Sigmar sat in his bed, visited by wellwishers. Moorcock, I think, would have blown it all up. The final cull of the Old World’s most renowned heroes was a fitting send off, just in the style of Moorcock, not Tolkien.

The death of the Old World signifies a symbolic shift from the High Fantasy of Tolkien to something else. Warhammer has always been fairly dark, and often included Low Fantasy stories such as Gotrek and Felix, but the world was firmly rooted in Tolkien and the familiar tropes of High Fantasy. The shift away from High Fantasy in recent times is applauded in literature, with authors like George RR Martin, Steven Erickson and China Meiville offering different, darker takes on fantasy worlds. As Richard K. Morgan says: “Tolkien’s general outlook on things is such that in this day and age you can’t really take it seriously as grown-up fiction. It’s full of enormously dodgy racial and cultural stereotyping, highly unlikely military tactics and ridiculously simplistic perceptions of good and evil.”

Dodgy racial and cultural stereotyping is something the Old World inherited from Tolkien, albeit only due to the effectiveness with which Tolkien cemented his mythology in popular culture. Dwarves (or Dwarfs) were appropriated by Tolkien from various older stories, but even ignoring the fact that they apparently perpetuate the idea that people with dwarfism are non-human (compared to a real dwarf like Tyrion Lannister, who proves the exact opposite), they have an odd set of defining traits – beards and a love of beer and gold. Quite how this is the basis for one of the mainstay races of High Fantasy is beyond me but dwarfs in the Old World had only a few original twists, most notably the Troll Slayers. Could Age of Sigmar’s nu-Dwarfs see this aspect of Dwarven culture amplified (and hopefully, some of the other aspects dropped?) The artwork so far suggests a style of fantasy closer to Magic: The Gathering or World of Warcraft, though quite how you are supposed to fit the monster in the header image on your gaming table I don’t know, maybe it will be sold as a costume you wear.


Could this be a red mana troll slayer? +1 to hit rolls if you set your hair on fire.

40k already wiped out their Dwarfs, perhaps because calling short people ‘abhuman’, ‘stunties’ and ‘squats’ was a little indelicate without Tolkien backing you up. Just as reading Howard’s Conan saga or Lovecraft’s mythos can be occasionally difficult due to changing cultural sensibilities since the early 1900s, Tolkien’s mythology will eventually go the same way in time – enormously respected sure, well written at times, but also somewhat embarrassing. Unlike Tolkien, Warhammer has a chance to reinvent itself.

What good is an apocalypse without a post-apocalypse?

As everyone knows, the main advantage of having an apocalypse is that we would get to enjoy the post-apocalypse. Many a shopping trip can be blissfully whiled away imagining a supply run in a happier, post-apocalyptic future, and even walks in the countryside can be enlivened by imagining the joy of hunting rabbits across a nuclear wilderness while avoiding cannibals. But what is the point of an apocalypse if there is nothing left afterwards? This was the main question I had upon reading about Age of Sigmar. Why destroy everything? Surely there should be something left, a few hundred years in the future – to provide familiar elements and give a sense of narrative continuity: the ruins of Altdorf strangled by poisonous forest; an Elven child’s doll from Ulthuan washing up on daemon-scarred shores.

The thing is, Age of Sigmar isn’t a reboot, the Old World wasn’t written out of the history books and retconned. All that stuff still exists, just in the past – it’s actually quite similar to the Horus Heresy storyline in 40k: Chaos did pretty well (fair play Chaos) and the golden age is over. It’s not a reboot, but it is pretty close to a clean break.

It’s an excuse to move away from Tolkien and High Fantasy and into something new, something imaginative and something that will be exciting to discover, rather than something familiar. It’s a chance to move away from parodying Arthurian Legend and stories like Robin Hood, and pseudo-real world places and characters. It needed to be a clean break otherwise those freaking Dwarfs would just emerge from their tunnels blinking in the light, grab a tankard of ale, maybe have a bit of a sing and ruin a perfectly good post-apocalypse for everyone. It’s a neat trick, a chance for Games Workshop to have their cake and eat it (which is the only real reason for having a cake). They can pick what they want to continue with or evolve and totally destroy that which didn’t work. And having read the excerpt of the new Black Library novel ‘The Gates of Azyr’ there are hints at some subtle Old World continuity too, I would expect to see more in the future. Plus, the new setting creates a sandbox – it allows players to create their own storylines more easily when magic portals can explain away a lot of logistical complications.

The Black Library novel also describes the joys of a post-apocalypse fantasy world. Humans – scared, normal humans, not golden lightning giants – running from cannibalistic Khorne savages is a good start and I was immediately reminded of the comic series Crossed, a series which made ‘zombies’ fresh (in a manner of speaking) and scary again, no mean feat in a post-Walking Dead world. This is a new take on Khorne that isn’t just a generic evil barbarian horde from the north that will inevitably get defeated, there is potential for something interesting, something darker – and if Khorne can be interesting then all bets are off.

Why do it now?

There are doubtless other reasons for blowing up the Old World beyond just wanting to shake things up a bit, creating more easily copyrighted inhabitants among them. A Dwarf Army Book created at no small expense by Games Workshop undoubtedly boosts sales in other companies too as people hunt out proxies and knockoffs. Conversely, allowing companies like Mantic to produce the predominant Fantasy wargame rules won’t hurt Games Workshop much so long as they are still selling their own superior models. And in terms of proxies, it was surely much easier to find a cheap source of knights-in-armour for an Empire army than it will be to find something that has the same qualities of the Age of Sigmar starter set models.

One thing that I think is relevant is that 28mm is not a good scale for massed infantry battles (anymore than it is a good scale for tactical tank battles in 40k). The room to maneuver is too small and the amount of models required to buy and paint is off putting. The ideal format for this sort of thing is a computer game, and that is exactly what is happening with Total War: Warhammer. The Old World hasn’t died, it has just gone digital, and there is less chance of the computer game cannibalising Fantasy miniature sales if the model range has moved on to a different setting.

The rules of Age of Sigmar (which I won’t go into) also seem to suggest a desire to change to a Magic: The Gathering way of pulling in money with new releases – by asking players to place units one by one there is a reason to buy new units and their countermeasures. Rather than sitting behind the best lineup your Army Book can muster, you can depend on having regular new releases (complete with new warscrolls) constantly available, and an incentive to keep your army updated if you want to be able to respond to the new threats your opponent will place. Cynical or not, this makes a lot of sense.


If Warhammer Fantasy Battle wasn’t selling then Age of Sigmar is a lifeline to Warhammer Fantasy gamers. It’s this or nothing: continuing the status quo wasn’t an option. I have a lot of sympathy for people who feel like they have been let down by the death of the Old World, particularly as this must seem worse the more you had invested in it. But I for one (with my meager collection of Fantasy models, coincidentally already on round bases) am grateful that there is a chance to rebuild the corpse of Warhammer Fantasy, even if it is hard to recognise it in its new cyborg body. And I am particularly excited by the idea of a new Fantasy setting created from imagination, not from tropes. I could be wrong and Dwarfs could be back, same as ever, but I hope not. It’s a gamble sure, but it’s a brave one and a positive one, and it’s full of potential.

35 Comments on “Age of Sigmar and the death of High Fantasy

  1. “if Khorne can be interesting then all bets are off.”

    Ha!! Well that’d be the day…

    Great write up. My feelings are a bit more mixed – I’m not so fond of the explicit destruction of the Old World. I’d rather just leave it and move on with something completely new. Very much in the spirit of Elric though…

    • Wow great read Jake! Have to disagree though despite your very strong arguments and brilliantly written text!
      I think there will be 2 camps, those that were into warhammer and had been sucked into the characters and stories, will not embrace the change,
      too much too soon.
      Then those who play 40k who didn’t really like the fantasy version of the game will be more positive and optimistic about the Age of sigmar.
      I would agree with Jeff and wish they had left it as it was and added the new game as another option.

    • At least it wasn’t retconned away and replaced by younger more dynamic characters which is a relief, as a comic book fan. Fantasy Battle has always seemed set over a broad period of time, I mean there is 500 years between Mordheim being destroyed by a comet and the End Times, and if you ever wanted a battle between say, Wood Elves and Chaos Dwarves you were probably going to have to set it during the Kindling Wars of times immemorial, or whatever. Age of Sigmar is just another (significant) mark on the time line.

      I know that this is a bit of a cop out, and I’ll admit the decision still puzzles me (as I posted on your excellent post here: but I suspect that in time we will see more references to the Old World in Age of Sigmar – a time of mythology, when Dwarfs didn’t set their hair on fire and travelling anywhere took ages.

  2. An excellent read and some very good points! There’s just one thing I’d like to add:

    Both the Empire and Chaos have always been the main draws for me in WFB, but it always felt like 40k chaos did everything WFB chaos did, which made it less unique to the setting (except maybe for the evil Viking shtick). The Empire didn’t interest me one bit when I was a lad, but over the years I’ve grown to like the dilapidated grandeur of it: The quasi-renaissance soldiers without shoes, roasting a scraggy rabbit before going to war against mind-numbing terrors from the northern wastes. There was something very tragic and human about that, which I liked. The Empire also seemed like a perfect low fantasy background for all kinds of interesting stories (Mordheim would be one obvious example, Jack Yeovil’s “Beasts in Velvet” the other). While chaos seems to have stayed mostly the same in the new setting (although something seems to be awry with dear old Slaanesh…), the Empire seems to have been done away with, which is a shame, because it was possibly one of the least high fantasy parts of the setting.

    And while I agree with your assessment that this is a chance to explore a new, more interesting setting, there’s also a real danger of falling into yet another vat of tired (videogame-y) tropes — out of the frying pan and into the fire, as it were. We’ll see how it goes…

    • I agree that Fantasy Chaos never did enough, it was always the big evil threat that got beaten at the end of every episode. But with the End Times the Fantasy Chaos gods have had their Horus Heresy moment, and if the world moves significantly away from the status quo, we may well see something new from them. The post apocalyptic, evil won setting is already a breath of fresh air to me, it’s exciting to see how the Fantasy world looks after a reign of Chaos.

      Videogames usually suffer from bad writing and storytelling, Games Workshop can do that stuff well. But you are right, there is no use wiping the slate clean only to repopulate it with cliches, but I feel that at least trying is a really positive step.

      I also think that the Empire – home of good stories indeed, I had forgotten about Beasts in Velvet – is not necessarily gone. I mean the place is gone, the fluffy sleeves too I suspect, and the knock off Da Vinci, but a home for gothic, pathetic, tragic humans? I’d expect to see something there.

    • Kraut’s write up of Age of Sigmar –

      I have to admit one thing I really like about the Stormcast Eternal models is the size of them, I reckon I can paint them super quickly, and it’s all metal to texture too, good fun. I think the studio paint jobs are underwhelming, ‘Eavy Metal goes for an achievable style rather than an aspirational style (still better than I can do) but I think I’d be more sold if I saw one painted with no holds barred.

    • The Empire was interesting, yes. I really liked it.

      But who of us could say they ever actually started an empire ( or bretonnian) army – or even planned to start one? I sure as hell didn’t.

      It was an interesting setting for a roleplaying game but the minis vere mundane to the point that the actual fantasy elements often felt misplaced. Not very good protagonists if you’re flogging a fantasy wargame…

  3. One of the best articles I’ve read von the subject of AoS and another one much better than my own ;)

    Coming from the primary fantasy then primary 40k hobbyist I’m glad things are finally changing. Fantasy has been all to dull and basically we need to realize is that what we liked as youngsters 20-30 years ago is not the same as what kids like today. I like classic Disney cartoons, my kids only watch the new digital stuff. Things change – or rather people change. Meaning things needs to change to.


  4. I used to like Tolkien, I think his stuff is as popular as ever with kids and adults. I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with High Fantasy and I imagine Tolkien is a good gateway drug to get people into some harder stuff. But if there is a chance that Games Workshop will try something different, as a jaded fantasy reader I find that pretty exciting. I’m reading Gates of the Azyr now, no hobbits so far so that’s a plus.

  5. I’m all for a change of scenery. I like that they took the rather bold step of progressing the story in a huge and significant way. I am even on board with Space Marines joining the fantasy world (GW isn’t even trying to hide the fact that that’s exactly what the Stormcast Eternals are). Everything you’re saying about Tolkein tropes is 100% on the nose. Whatever the motivations, be it copyright issues or just a desire for change, I can be completely on board with story changes. The “past” is still there, and players are feel to explore that era however they like. That said, there are two places where I think you miss the mark.

    First, large battles don’t necessarily belonging in the digital world. There is a market for it, as the sudden surge in interest for Kings of War shows. I get wanting to have a scaled down skirmish game for the reasons you list. However, there is no reason a skirmish and mass battle game could not have existed side by side. Having Mordheim and WFB back in the day helped rather than hindered both systems (and the death of Mordheim highlights GW’s shortsightedness). It allows a venue for the same models to be used in different ways. So why force the choice on players? You’re not even charging for rules. A skirmish game would have helped bring new people in with a motivation of eventually playing the mass battle game, while preserving the mass battle game for veterans would keep those players around to play in the skirmish game. The forced choice was unnecessary, and as such a huge blunder.

    Second, The game itself is just a hot mess. It screams “we just don’t care.” In an age where we’re having a renaissance of skirmish systems, GW has created a new game that pales in comparison. This is because they just didn’t bother creating an actual balance to the system. The idea that you don’t need a points system is just insane. If you’re just looking for some casual fun, and don’t care about tournaments or winning (in other words, people like me), it’s not any fun to just crush someone. With Age of Sigmar, it’s very very easy to do that without even meaning to. If they don’t care about their own game, why should I?

    • I have to admit I haven’t played the game yet, and I didn’t play Fantasy Battle since erm… 3rd edition maybe? So rules are not my strong suit! I agree about the skirmish and mass battle system existing side by side, I think maybe GW tried to do this judging by some battle reps I am seeing, it looks like it scales OK (but again, I don’t know about the rules so I am not saying it is successful).

      Really what I was saying there is that I don’t like 28mm for mass battle games, it seems to me that to really have a mass battle with 28mm models you would need a board three or four times the size, so there is room to maneuver. I think it is worse in 40k where the guns strangely can’t shoot very far and tanks exist mainly to drive forward a couple of inches, but Fantasy always looked to me like it was largely about deployment with not much room for maneuvers. And then if you did want a big battle it is expensive and time consuming to get a large army. It’s possible that in a digital setting some of these concerns would be alleviated, but I admit this doesn’t help people that want the sort of battles that Fantasy provided. For mass battle games I personally would look to things like Epic (which I love), Warmaster or I guess – a computer game.

      I’m afraid I was just trying to look on the bright side, but as someone with no real experience in the gaming side of things, this is probably not super helpful. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I can’t agree, with this point or the core arguments of the blogpost. In concept, the mashup/juxtaposition of historical elements with high fantasy leavened by Grimm Fairy Tales grotesquery and a dash of Pythonesque humour was exactly what made Fantasy appealing and, indeed, *not* generic; that was a quality of its component parts not the final results. 40K works in exactly the same way, using a pastiche of the familiar to anchor the fantastical. The execution of those concepts in model form were not always fantastic, but that is GW’s failure, not the setting’s, and to be fair many of the models were showing their age rather than being failures of design; nobody is going to argue that the plastic Catachans are great in a modern context, but the Empire’s Knights and Militia were of that era.

    As to the article; where is the evidence GW are planning to do anything interesting with AoS? Everything we’ve seen so far suggests that rather than abandoning high fantasy, they intend to crank that aspect of the franchise up to 11 while dropping all of the gritty historical/low fantasy elements that made Warhammer interesting. For me the crowning irony of AoS is that if the motivation was as many suspect to make the world “more unique”, they will have done so only technically, ie it will have names that other IPs don’t have and which are thus trademarkable, it will have few historical visual cues and so make it easier for GW to argue ownership of a model’s design in court etc. From a more general perspective, AoS is more generic than Warhammer ever was, because while Warhammer used generic elements as ingredients, AoS is just another variation on the same “magical otherworlds” setting that’s been floating around gaming culture, physical and virtual, ever since D&D did Planescapes in ’94; in aesthetic it could be Warcraft, Diablo, Lineage 2, Dark Souls, or any number of other similar fantasy CRPGs released in the last two decades. Further, AoS still draws on history since, as with all such “magical otherworlds” settings, it draws heavily on mythology(people elsewhere have already pointed out the numerous parallels with Norse myth). By contrast, how many other pseudo-alt-history-come-fantasy worlds can you think of? As to the limitations of Chaos v Empire from a story perspective and making Khorne interesting, again, I would argue GW’s failure to fully leverage the existing setting is not the fault of the setting; only rarely did we step outside the Chaos = Norse, good guys = Empire dynamic, but what of the East? You could easily write the kind of story you mention with Hung/Kurgan tribes preying on isolated Cathayan communities, and given the difference in geography you’d never run into the “Chaos either lose every time or they get through the chokepoint and everything dies” issue.

    The same and, I suppose, my core objection can be applied to the “28mm is too big for massed-battle” problem; you mention Mordheim, so if scale is the problem there is your solution – GW could, as with the background, utilised the existing IP in a different way. A release of a new Mordheim boxed edition with streamlined tabletop gameplay and the model quality of AoS would, I contend, sell at least as well as the AoS box(perhaps even better, given it wouldn’t have alienated fans of the Warhammer setting), and could have set the stage for them to follow a similar pattern(big box, few weeks of plastic set releases, gap for 40K/other stuff, repeat) while exploring the setting with a level of detail they couldn’t while working in the broad-strokes style necessary to support big massed-battle armies. Even setting aside the missed opportunity, again I would contend there no real evidence GW intend to learn from their mistakes and *keep* AoS as a small skirmish game, given the corporate attitudes that led to them canning the smaller scale specialist games in the first place have, if anything, intensified in the years since; they have made it slightly easier for you to walk into a store, buy one or two boxes, and plonk them down on the table right away, but they still want you to buy 100+ Stormcast models not a couple of boxes of 5 so it won’t be long until large battles with loads of models become the standard they steer people towards once again.

    To be clear, I’m not attacking anyone’s tastes; if you like MMO-style ultra-magical high-fantasy that’s great, I simply disagree that AoS is any more unique for having taken that path, and that AoS is solving any issues with Warhammer that couldn’t have been solved within the context of the original setting(except of course “we can’t sue people over this name” and “this setting doesn’t have Space Marines in it”).

    • Hi Yodhrin. To be frank, I’ve seen quite a few AoS posts from you in various places and I don’t really believe that arguing with you will change your mind, however since you have spent time on your post I will attempt a reply.

      The article is perhaps an optimists take on the Age of Sigmar setting. High Fantasy is a nebulous term, and perhaps not particularly useful, but I believe it is best defined as including various Tolkien tropes and staples – for example, the commonly recognised take on Elves and Dwarves – and generally includes a sense of a sentimentality, perhaps due to a vague sense of alternative history or reference to real world places or events. Personally I can’t stand this stuff, but this is from the perspective of a jaded Fantasy reader rather than much of a game player, I haven’t played many that you mention.

      Your example of Hung and Cathayan tribes is exactly the sort of thing I am glad has been destroyed because I can already see that in my head – the way that the Cathayan armies probably use fireworks or have ninjas. It is not original. Which are the Hung based on? Mongols? A numerous but short race mostly on horses I suppose. I wonder if there is some sort of great wall.

      Age of Sigmar has the potential to be something new, that is what I am getting at. The fact that the Old World was destroyed is literally the end of High Fantasy because High Fantasy never includes this unsentimental destruction of its core (this is why Game of Thrones is not High Fantasy, despite having Dragons and magic – it is far too brutal). No more mysterious Elves forever on the verge of extinction – bam, all gone. It’s a brave move and one I really love (and not just because I dislike those Elves).

      As for what comes next… I’m optimistic, but at this stage it is too early to say. I am hoping that we will have some new and original takes on fantasy. I’m hoping the Elves will be twisted mutants and the Dwarves will be a race of metal golems. The fact they are renamed already is a plus to me even if I will inevitably forget to say Aelfs or whatever. I don’t think the fluff that exists about Stormcast Eternals so far is particularly exciting, but the sandbox nature of it has inspired me much more than the restrictive nature of the Old World – I am happy to see that my Wood Elves (uhh, Wandering Aelfs?) will basically fit right in, instead of me having to come up with some canon-bending fluff about some island near Albion or something.

      I think that the asthetic of the Stormcast Eternals is quite Warcraft-y, but I doubt the rest of AoS will be the same. Personally I blame the studio figure painters, everything is so neat and bland. Most of the time I dislike all new sculpts until I see someone else paint them. I also don’t think AoS has much in common with Norse myth beyond the obvious lightning god and realms thing. It’s mythic sure, it’s quintessential epic fantasy, but again you can have epic fantasy without it being High Fantasy – I’d argue the Malazan series for example.

      I do think that saying ‘I’m not attacking anyone’s tastes; if you like MMO-style ultra-magical high-fantasy that’s great‘ is an attack on someone’s tastes: I am very discerning with my fantasy! I don’t think genre names are particularly useful, but I would describe AoS as mythic, epic fantasy. I hold out hope that it will also be dark and weird fantasy and that all traces of Tolkien or pseudo-real people/places will be fully purged. I would also fully expect that a lot of the things about the Old World that people liked will make a comeback, low fantasy gothic stories about forgotten cities seem like an inevitability, don’t be mistaken into thinking that the Stormcast Eternal offensive is the be-all and end-all, the universe is just beginning. I am a bit worried that the Black Library authors aren’t up to the task, but it’s not as if the signal-to-noise ratio in 40k fiction is very good, it would only take one AoS Eisenhorn or whatever.

      Ultimately this is all just a matter of opinion and I know I am unlikely to change yours, but I personally think patience, and maybe optimism, is the best way to go. The stories so far have been underwhelming, but there is so much more yet to come and some of the ideas have lots of potential. I am excited to see what happens next, and sure I may end up disappointed, but that still seems a better state of existence than being preemptively miserable about it all. I find it exciting to be in at the beginning of something, I was around for early 40k and Fantasy but it all got away from me somewhat. It has me inspired, and that is all I really want from Games Workshop.

      Ps – regarding scale: if Mordheim is skirmish (20 models) and Warhammer Fantasy is massed battle (100s of models) I think AoS looks more like warband scale – maybe 100 models. That’s a hunch based on how it looks putting models on a table. Huge armies and blocks of troops don’t easily fit or maneuver on a board, and are offputting to paint. It’s pure speculation to say that a new Mordheim would sell as well as AoS, personally I really doubt it. I also think that GW’s computer game policy is interesting, as much as I would love new Specialist Games models, it is a good way to keep them alive.

  7. I’ll keep this brief. I agree with you on every point – a well thought out, mature and positive review of recent developments. A great post in a thoroughly excellent blog – very inspiring.Thanks for sharing.

  8. Gates of Azyr is a big hurdle for me. Knights in shining armor versus mindless killers. It tries to put some background to the latter but it doesn’t work for me. I had a few scenarios for AoS in mind before it came out and this was among the worst. As if to make it clear that this was what AoS was about they kept on with that same limited theme for weeks on end.
    What loomed large in my mind while reading GoA was “Why are these people here, how does this world exist?”. With the Old World I could see that, even if it stretched credulity. Here was no attempt to even hint at why there were still people around for Khornites to feed on. They don’t produce anything, just feed off what is there. The rest is hunted down, I see no way in which they can sustain themselves, the realms are not, so to speak, possible worlds. In the Old World there were farmers. Their life sucked but at least they produced food. Even a hellish world needs a method of sustenance, unless it is in the Warp or some such place. At least there is the implied explanation of the Chaos gods making thing happen. Of all the 4 gods Khorne is the only one I can’t see providing a way not to die from hunger (Nurgle would be on the other end of the spectrum).
    Maybe I’m overlooking something but the first novel of a universe should at least hint at how it works, or a hint that there will be hints. I’m re-reading Gates of Azyr but so far I don’t feel a connection, feel like the realms are possible worlds.

    • I think of the Realmgate Wars as a prologue or trailer, and the novels fit that role quite well. I also really wanted more depth and more background, but I think the idea is that we will be drip-fed that stuff over the coming years. Gates of Azyr was particularly bad – I did a review of it too – but the Realmgate Wars rulebooks I have picked up have fleshed things out somewhat.

      As regards sustenance – my way of looking at this is that the realms are in a terminal state, Chaos has won and now it is just a case of mopping up the remaining mortals. The survivors are post-apocalyptic types, you have those that run and scavenge and those that hide, surviving on half-starved livestock and fighting rats for bags of grain, or hunting in the wilder areas while avoiding Chaos warbands. In the Malazan books there is a concept called the Tenescowri, they are a sort of peasant army from a land that has been burned and ravaged. Their only option is to fight in order to pillage (and to eat the people they kill). This is the sort of bleak existence I imagine for the inhabitants of the Nine Realms, it’s not a stable existence, these are the dying days. Well, except for those in the Azyr (and possibly some hidden settlements or fortresses), who probably live happy Tolkienesque existences.

      As for Chaos, I assume they are largely cannibalistic or fueled by plunder. And I don’t think this is sustainable either, I imagine a lot of Chaos warbands are starving to death or are replaced by daemons as they are no longer required. And in a few years, the Chaos gods would have grown bored with nothing new to kill, if it wasn’t for Sigmar giving them new sport.

  9. My feelings have probably already been expressed, but here I go…

    I think the destruction of the Old World was a rather devastating blow for me personally as I always loved the more interesting armies that had the crazy origin stories – Lizardmen, Undead and Chaos. The destruction of the Old World also meant the destruction of a lot of the fluff that went along with them and the continuity and refining of those stories. Even the Elves of the Warhammer world had more interesting stories than many of their contemporaries, it was just the armies like Dwarves, The Empire, and Bretonnia that gave really rather shonky versions of existing mythology.

    The other part (probably the bigger part) is the destruction of the rules. I do agree that the rules are getting a little too bogged down in minutiae (in 40k also), that said though, the balance of actual battles is now near non-existent with the lack of points, as well as the change from massed battles to small skirmishes really taking away the thing that drew me into WHFB compared to 40k. I understand the idea of a MTG style of continued expansion, but that only makes sense if it’s at least somewhat affordable (which AoS definitely is not…), and the same goes for the design – proper IP is well and good, but at the same time I really don’t want to see Space Marines making appearances in the Fantasy game, something which also appears to be happening more and more with the Stormcast models.

    I guess I can see the idea behind it all, but it’s left a bad taste in my mouth with how it’s all come about. I feel they could have done something like this much better than it’s been done, and without utterly destroying the style of game that was WHFB.

    Making the most of being able to pick up the remains of my Undead army while the models are still on square bases lol.

  10. A very good and positive review, thanks for sharing! I agree completely, and was also excited about the new setting because the WHFB background was always quite generic and stale, it was models (especially of the high elves) that drew me to the universe. New WH is D&D given new form and meaning, and that’s great, and after some new books like Flesh courts or Ironjawz you can safely assume it’s going right. Let’s hope new elves will be even better than the old ones!

  11. I understand your point of view, very argumented and clearly exposed, but you know for sure that there are people, like me, who played the role playing game only, ignoring the wargame. Such people perceived the setting as a low fantasy world, violent and decadent, enriched with grotesque and horror elements, where the real enemy was in the end not the horde coming from afar but the demons living inside every person. Chaos hordes invading human lands are just a facade: Chaos already won because order is nothing but one of the infinite aspects of Chaos. Such people didn’t bring GW too much money in this years, i think… I could have understood an evolution of the warhammer fantasy setting in a more steampunk direction, but never and ever can tolerate this slaughter they’ve made. If i need those atmposhperes (and ugly artwork) i already have DnD and WoW. Lets hope for the upcoming 4th edition from Cubicle7…

    • This is an old post and worth revisiting in the future. But to be blunt, I think the only thing that stops you enjoying AoS is a lack of imagination and a resentment about this perceived slight against how you want to do your hobby. Yes, AoS could use some fleshing out in the areas that interest you, I agree completely. But it is not intrinsically incompatible with that sort of thing, it’s just that it hasn’t been written yet. Personally I think AoS has a wealth of dark stories and ideas waiting to be tapped into. The subtleties and machinations Chaos are still there: you get out what you put in.

      Oh and some of the art is amazing. But yes, some sucks.

  12. I found this post just today and totally love it, because it is spotlight on the Age of Sigmar at a point of time “long” gone, and it explains quite a few things I do like now about, almost two years after it’s appearance about the Age of Sigmar. It was indeed a reinvention and it is still reinventing Fantasy for Games Workshop. I hasn’t been an easy transition, but it’s one worth. Hell, just the Existence of Angharad Brightshield, the first female Sigmarine justifies all the doubts and irritations.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and for keeping them online unchanged)!

  13. A wonderful article. I don’t think I disagree with a single point you made. The more I learn about the lore the more I think your predictions have come true. I was hesitant for quite a while to become invested in Age of Sigmar, but tge sheer creativity and originality just kept leaping off the page at me. A massive realmgate in the maw of a giant carnivorous worm? An otherworldly hub city between realms with a constantly flowing lava fountain clashing with an ever growing garden? I’m simply in love with this setting. It gives me a feeling not dissimilar to the snug little cozy dreams I miss dearly as soon as I’m awake.

  14. “I have a lot of sympathy for people who feel like they have been let down by the death of the Old World, particularly as this must seem worse the more you had invested in it. ”
    LOL, nope.
    sorry, but who started this article with:
    “The Old World is no more, and I for one am happy about it.”
    double think amirite?

    • Double think? You mean like these are two conflicting statements? Because they aren’t: I am personally glad the Old World is gone, but I have sympathy for people who had a lot invested in it (I didn’t).

      • well, you do not seem to be aplying too much sympathy to me, as literally being overjoyed about a old verse’s (or in this case planet) destruction and being glorified in a new cooke reboot is not something that i would call “respectful” but hey, i might be looking and over thinking too much into it, so my apologies. but the Old World is dead but i for one, am disgusted over it.

        • You have my sympathy, I know it is upsetting when something you are really in to gets rebooted (or discontinued, or rebooted). When this was written, I didn’t think it was very useful to write a memorial for Warhammer Fantasy – it would have been disingenuous of me anyway because I was not so disappointed to see it go. Other people can write those posts. Instead I wanted to write about reasons why it might be a good thing, because in my opinion there were a lot of positives. Please don’t think this post was an attack on people that enjoyed Warhammer Fantasy.

  15. I read this when yo wrote it and thought to myself “ok I’ll give it a shot” now it’s 2018 and the lore is TERRIBLE. I read the books more than I game and I’m left shaking my head. If they want to bring back some of the gamers and hard core Warhammer fans that left retcon some of the lore. It seems like it was too rushed and watered down. It’s been three years and it’s still off the road. Just my two cents..

    • You mean terrible like badly written, or terrible like you just dislike the ideas? I don’t read a lot of the lore or the fiction, I read the Horus Heresy series but generally Warhammer fiction is not my sort of thing. There are some authors I love though, like Aaron Demski-Bowden, who I would love to see write some AoS.

      I read the Realmgate Wars books, I would say I enjoyed the ideas a lot more than the writing – it’s not terrible, but it is also not especially interesting. But that’s just Warhammer though: I don’t really enjoy reading about Vandus Hammerhand any more than I do about a Space Marine hero.

      But I really like the ideas in AoS, they are far more interesting and far less derivative than the Old World was. I don’t really want my hand to be held by GW background writers, I just want the freedom to do cool things in a fantasy setting, much like you could do cool things in the 40k sandbox. So for me, AoS is perfect.

      I don’t really think GW are too worried about bringing back Old World fans that hate AoS, it seems to be succeeding regardless. But it does look like the new Malign Portents stuff is an attempt to tone down a lot of the OTT stuff from Realmgate Wars, so perhaps that will be more palatable.

  16. It’s funny how it setting is more High fantasy than Warhammer, it’s simply planescape with Warhammer Characters, pretty silly that after eons so many of them survived, this so called new fluff it’s an excuse to make everyone fight everyone. This new setting is more generic than Warhammer as everything is possible in it and the moving forward story means only it’s a soap opera. Pretty funny how GW and many aos fans keep stealing ideas from the true Warhammer.

    • Planescape is not more High Fantasy than the Old World, nor is AoS – at least not by any useful way of defining the term. It’s pretty funny how you accuse GW of stealing ideas from… GW.

  17. Interesting article, gives food for thought. But comments rock even more, although mostly in a bad sense. I, for one, am also glad Old World is gone – it was stale, dull and generic, nothing like the new setting where GW this time does try hard to be creative, progress the story and try out any ideas it has. It should have been far too earlier, but GW needed decades to see how their old hardcore fans, like maggots, eat them inside out. I suppose it is those same fans who have not played the game (ETC standard was just ugly home rules), not bought new miniatures and always complained about everything. Shift to AoS has started with the 8th edition and was interesting, but only when the planet was completely destroyed did GW finally began to go free and creative.

  18. I do not really agree with your definition of High Fantasy at all. You seem to consider High Fantasy to be fantasy with romantic elements (ie. Tolkienesque fantasy with pretty straightforward or traditional ideas about Good and Evil) and Low Fantasy to be fantasy where things are somehow “darker” like Game of Thrones. As far as I am aware, most people define High Fantasy around the level of magical elements incorporated, the level of similarity to a historical period and relative lack of magic being seen as a sign of Low Fantasy (ie. a low level of fantastical elements). You seem to really dislike Tolkien, which is fine, but Warhammer Fantasy was never really that close to Tolkien in a lot of ways. It is a pastiche, a parody, a false history. It has none of the romance of Tolkien and is a much more nihilistic world. It was never, in fact, quite coherent. But Age of Sigmar I would say is much more romantic, and much higher fantasy generally. I would also say that little of what you hoped for has happened. There is little creativity, rather a large amount of pretty generic plane hopping fantasy and a lot of really terrible names.

    • Defining High Fantasy/Low Fantasy etc is difficult and probably not very useful. A story can start off as one thing and move to be another (for instance, people initially enjoyed Game of Thrones for it’s low fantasy appeal, but it has become progressively more high fantasy as it goes on). The Old World contained elements of high and low fantasy, as well as any other type of fantasy you care to mention: it was a huge sandbox containing a multitude of stories by a variety of authors. So it depends on your definition of high fantasy as well, and that is another thing people often don’t agree on – but Lord of the Rings is often considered the quintessential work of high fantasy – containing themes of good vs. evil, a quasi-real world setting, a dark lord, a hero’s journey, magic, etc. And the Old World was largely a riff on Tolkien – perhaps as you say it was more nihilistic and more of a parody, but on a broader scale the parallels can’t be overlooked – you could drop a hobbit into The Empire and they would be right at home.

      As for your second point – I agree that you could say that AoS is ‘higher’ fantasy, if such a thing existed. It takes the various elements that distinguish high from low and scales them up even further, or makes them less realistic if you prefer. Eg. magic is much bigger, the dark lord is a god or gods… Again, definitions are hard to agree on, but to me this is more like an epic or cosmic fantasy – distinguished from Tolkien largely by scale, scope and a further removal from the constraints of the real world.

      I haven’t kept up with Age of Sigmar particularly, although I think the new darker direction taken with Soul Wars and the Warhammer Horror book series seem promising. I am also not a fan of the names, but it’s a sandbox – you can come up with your own names. And I am not sure that Skarr Bloodwrath is any better or worse than Bilbo Baggins.

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