Lost Somewhere in Time – Looking back to Warhammer Fantasy 5th Edition

I pick up a copy of the 5th edition rulebook for Warhammer Fantasy, as well as the Battle book, and reflect on the evolution and history of the game’s design.

Inspired to gather up my older Warhammer Fantasy High Elves into an army I scour ebay and manage to pick up the pair of Rulebook and Battle Book (read: fluffbook) for a single bastardly quid. As usual, living in some backwater shed, this meant that shipping was many times the value of the treasure itself. Anyroad, going through the pages now for a week or two I want to share some observations and reflections on this. Those not interested in the yappering of a player originally starting an edition later: just look at the pictures, some of you might get filled with a sting of nostalgia. (Watch out if you don’t like that sort of thing.)

Warhammer Fantasy 5th Edition Rulebook Battle book

↑ Here’s the two of them. First of all you are hit by a very different style to what was later seen. I recall this already changing, if not fully, in the 6th Edition rule book, which was the first one I read. The last two editions you are moving to what is more a realistic fantasy than the comic feel you get from these two. Corresponding with the showcased armies you also see a lot of strong colours. Both illustrations explain well what the game is about, its mighty heroes, grand clashes on a fantastic pompous scale. The cartoony style underlines a comical undertone. In many ways I feel this comical undertone was lost over the years, probably as the cartoony style of the illustrations faded.


↑ Just wanted to say – “Oh, look! Elves!”. The more I’ve played and read fluff books, for instance the Malekith series, the more I like to see this type of army on the battle field. Too bad the Elites are so cool too…


↑ This piece I stopped to look at. Stylistically it is a bit different, possibly due to the limited available sketches of Skaven available. I think this might be one of the first one that smudges out some of the cartooniness and replaces it with a hint of realism. Its a pretty cool one; looking unsettling as the monstrousity of the Skaven comes forth. The later art work might actually go a bit too far to the cute side of Skaven, at least in comparison.


↑ In the Battle Book all armies get a few pages of fluff and artwork and, of course, a fully painted army. These are always a hit to look at – all the gribbly little details, and the scenery that is built to fit the respective armies. What hits me here though, is the correlation between the cartoony artwork and the miniatures. The saurus warrior champion looks very much like the image. This I feel fits even better in with the 4th Edition – as you actually fielded the cartoony armies. In the 5th edition, with the occasional design getting a few dashes of realism that could not be met in the moulding or design phase, the models are on the brink of diverging from the illustrations.

This realisation made me look on a few models quite differently. It’s also quite remarkable that old Marauder era miniatures, like Eltharion on Stormwing, actually held up all those years – almost from the beginning to the end.


↑ A dark elf. Better move on… (They are still looking pretty badass in such bold colours and full of detailing.)


↑ The rulebook is full of small detail sketches that often, if not always, adds a little humor to the pages. I recall one or two of these from the 6th edition rules as well, but not in the same scale as here. ChaosBeakie’s eyes got all twinkly and his cheeks got rosy as he though about these. I can see why.


↑ Not getting to play the 6th edition, really, I never got to try this rule – lapping around. This is certainly a must try. Although, according to the description this might be happening every feeding time with my buns (sic: bunnies).


↑ Just like when Mr. General Easter’s waiting to get a charge off but is left sitting in his armchair arms crossed.


↑ This is a small hit as well. Me and the Tall Guy got nostalgic and though about games we recall. One in particular has stayed with the both of us when my Skaven allied up with his Beastmen. In typical Skaven style their was plenty of Misfires!, but luckily the ratmen suffered no ill effects from them. The allied Beastmen did, though. Maybe it was a ruse…?


↑ A creature feature that Fish-Pup ‘Eadz has a few nightmares from is flying high. Too much have been heard about it to not want to try it out myself.

Overall it’s interesting to note that the rules changed minimally over the years – I dare include more or less all of the 90’s as the 4th edition rules are commonly consider to be very similar to the 5th edition ones. With this in mind I see the Age of Sigmar rules coming, in the sense of a large change, as more or less needed. Perhaps inevitable, or maybe refreshing even.

The big change I see is that the rules are getting written more clearly with editions. Here they feel a bit talky, but still get the job done. In sections discussing tournaments and house rules they (Priestley et co.) agree its not perfectly balanced, and come with a few suggestions that you could do to achieve this, or just add another flavour to your games.

Overall, I feel the rules are doing what they’re intended to. That’s to create a fun, slightly crazy environment to play in. (And I’m not sure in which sense of the word I mean “play” here either.)

 Now, let’s gather up the forces, and trick someone into a game…


2 responses to “Lost Somewhere in Time – Looking back to Warhammer Fantasy 5th Edition

  1. Great post, a real trip down memory lane. The stark contrast in styles is particularly noticeable between 3rd edition and 4th too. The artwork in the 3rd ed. books is really good and in the main, a lot darker.

    • Its fun to see how the game has evolved, and that it has changed very little in fact over the years. The biggest change might just be there 3rd-4th, right? The feel changes quite a lot going from something clearly RPGesque to what we came to know later.

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