Warhammer – History of the Milestone Wargame

Warhammer – History of the Milestone Wargame

The series has a great community of international fans and has grown into a multi-billion franchise that includes table games, video games, fan merch, mobile applications, movies, fiction books, and many other things. Today we are going to talk about the origin, history, rules, and features of the game series. So, let’s go!

Early History of Warhammer

The game series was designed by the English board game company Games Workshop that was founded back in 1975. That was the golden age of board games and many companies were popping up and closing down in the 1970s and 1980s. However, Games Workshop not even managed to survive most of its competitors but grew up into an international billion-dollar corporation. For instance, in 2019, the gross income of Games Workshop revenue was almost 257 million pounds. All this extraordinary success was mostly brought by the company’s two core products – Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000.

Initially, Games Workshop was founded as a company that manufactured classic wooden table games like Go, backgammon, or mancala. The founders had a very limited launch budget, and they even couldn’t afford to open a store, so the first Games Workshop products were distributed by mail. However, in several years as the business was growing bigger the company acquired rights for distribution of Dungeons and Dragons, which was already a big international hit by that time. Little by little company’s executives started to consider the idea of creating an original fantasy game of their own.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle was released in 1983 and was heavily inspired by works of such prominent writers as J. R. R. Tolkien and Michael Moorcock. The game emulated a step-by-step battle between two or more players which is happening on the pre-prepared terrain. Each player has to command his army, relocates units, attack the opposing forces and use spells and special abilities of his army to get an advantage over the opponent. The game featured its own fantasy universe which was based on popular novels and short stories.

The players could choose between different races that were presented – dwarves, lizardmen, humans, elves, orcs and goblins, chaos and undead. Each race has its pros and cons, special powers and vulnerabilities in order to maintain a balance between different armies. The game gained favorable reviews from critics and players and in 1984 Games Workshop managed to lead Warhammer to the US market. In 1986 the company released one of their major hits – Warhammer 40,000. The mechanics and design were pretty similar to the original Warhammer game, however, this time the storyline took us to the year 40,000 in the future. This smart fusion of fantasy genre with space western brought great success to Games Workshop who already distributed their products in the US and many European countries.


Warhammer: Features, Rules, Gameplay

Warhammer is a complex game that features many rules for every army. Warhammer rulebooks may feature up to 300-350 pages and are reissued from time to time. Games Workshop constantly develops its universe – from time to time the company releases new units, terrains, and changes the rules of the game in order to keep the balance between different armies.

Armies and Terrain

According to official Warhammer rules, the army may feature only the original forces that belong to a certain race, or in some cases, you can add allies if this mix does not contradict the legend of the universe. Each gaming unit is a standalone plastic figure that may also have a little pedestal to provide sustainability on the playing field. Figures can be either purchased individually or in collection editions that feature squads of units. Most of the figures are sold in a disassembled state, so you have to build it and paint it before your unit can go to the battle. Many professional Warhammer clubs do not allow to participate in official tournaments if the figures are not painted or not fully assembled.

The design of Warhammer units contributed a lot to the game’s success. The models featured in the universe are known for their high quality, attention to detail, and brilliant design. The most dedicated players can spend weeks painting their soldiers or even attaching miniature grass to the postament of units. The other distinctive feature of the game is that developers always try to make it as realistic as possible, so the figures are designed with great attention to real-life proportions. For instance – the Space Marine soldier figure is about 4-6 cm height while the most powerful Space Marine unit, which is Titan mega robot can be up to 60-70 cm height.

The terrain is also a very important part of the gameplay. You can use hills, trees, buildings, and ruins as a cover for your army and even build an effective strategy using battlefield terrain as your primary advantage. Official terrain models can be purchased in Games Workshop stores just like any of the playable characters. Some of Warhammer clubs allow players to use their own pieces of terrain as well.


Warhammer is mostly a strategic game, so the players often consider their strategy when they choose units that will participate in the upcoming battle. However, it also incorporates elements from games of chances – many actions also involve dice throwing. Units can be moved across the battlefield, involved in distant and close battles, and use special abilities for attacking and protecting. Warhammer players use a tape-line to measure the length between armies to figure out if they can aim the enemy from a distance. Different units have a different range, speed, power, and armor.

In order to measure the damage made by artillery, players use a round scale. Artillery units are able to damage and kill multiple units that ended up in the affected area. Before the battle, the players agree on how many points do they have to assemble an army. The prices for different units are indicated in rulebooks. Also, you can use vehicles and tanks to transport your infantry and cavalry to the battlefield or to evacuate them in case of emergency.

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