Warhammer – a beginner's guide to the legendary battle game (2023)

If you’re remotely interested in strategy gaming, you’ve probably heard of Warhammer. In its 32-year history the tabletop game of fantasy battles has provided a gateway into gaming for generations of players, and it remains one of the most recognisable franchises in the industry.

But creator Games Workshop recently brought the game’s three decades of bloodshed and battle to a close, destroying the Warhammer world in a cataclysmic in-game event known as the End Times.

Now the company has unveiled the game’s new incarnation. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is a complete overhaul of the game’s rules and fictional background. So what has changed, and why did Games Workshop bring the curtain down on their iconic world of fantasy warfare?

What is Warhammer?

Warhammer is a tabletop battle game which puts players in command of armies of valiant humans, noble elves, savage orcs or a variety of twisted and monstrous creatures. Players collect forces of miniature plastic models, all with different stats and abilities, and use them to play out clashes on a tabletop battlefield. Unlike a board game, where players’ moves are restricted to defined areas, Warhammer commanders freely manoeuvre their units set distances using rulers and resolve shooting and hand-to-hand combat by rolling dice.

In its lifetime the game has gone through several editions, tweaking rules and adding new units and creatures for players to deploy in their armies. Its science fiction spin-off, Warhammer 40,000, has proved phenomenally popular with its armies of Space Marines, war machines and vicious alien hordes.

If you go into a Games Workshop store, you’re very likely to see large Warhammer battlegrounds set up in the shop, usually beautifully modelled to resemble real landscapes.

So it’s toy soldiers? Is it just for kids?

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Plenty of children and young teens play Warhammer, but the game has always involved a heavy dose of strategy that appeals to adults as well. Building an effective army, utilising your force’s strengths and exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses are the keys to victory.

But the Warhammer hobby extends beyond the game itself. Players spend hours building and painting their miniatures, a process that requires patience, dedication and, sometimes, considerable artistic skill.

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What’s changed in the new edition?

Age of Sigmar rewrites the Warhammer setting from the ground up. Where previous editions of the game pitted rival empires against one another in a world reminiscent of the works of JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock and Robert E Howard, the new version seeks to establish a more distinct universe.

The most notable change is the addition of the Stormcast Eternals faction – an elite force of human warriors elevated to the service of the god Sigmar. These replace the multiple human armies of previous editions and bear a striking resemblance to Warhammer 40,000’s Space Marines - Games Workshop’s best-selling line of miniatures.

Other races, including the rat-like Skaven and the shambling hordes of the undead, have returned, but the names of some forces have been changed, presumably so that they can be registered as trademarks. The generic orcs, goblins and ogres have become orroks, grots and ogors respectively.

What about the game mechanics?

Mechanically, the game is dramatically different from its previous editions, which revolved around regiments manoeuvring across the battlefield in rank-and-file formations. Troops in Age of Sigmar fight as loose units, much more akin to Warhammer 40,000, and the game seems streamlined for faster play – long-time players may disagree as to whether this is a positive development.

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The new edition also hugely simplifies the army-building process. Where previously each unit came with a points value to ensure even contests between players, the game now does away with the arithmetic of constructing a force, instead giving outnumbered players in-game bonuses to level the playing field.

Units themselves have also been made much simpler, represented by just four numerical stats. Unlike past editions, which required players to buy supplemental army books to play with their chosen faction, each box of miniatures now ships with a Warscroll, a printed sheet containing all the information needed to field a unit in battle. It’s a similar approach to that of Fantasy Flight Games’ popular Star Wars space battle titles.

Why has the game changed so dramatically?

Just as video games spawn numerous sequels, it’s common for tabletop games of all sorts to evolve over time. As players fine-tune their armies and find the optimum strategies, designers introduce new elements to provide a fresh challenge and new storyline elements.

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But Warhammer’s publisher Games Workshop particularly needed to rejuvenate the game. After a long period of success, the firm’s sales and profits slumped in 2014, as players soured on the company’s price increases and perceived heavy-handedness in shutting down people it claimed had infringed on its intellectual property.

The company had also suffered from falling interest in its Lord of the Rings games series, which had initially generated healthy revenues, but hadn’t retained their popularity following the end of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.

Is the game going to expand over time?

Definitely. At the time of publishing, two armies have been revealed: the heroic Stormcast Eternals and the bloodthirsty warriors of the Chaos god Khorne. You can expect an ever-growing range of troops for both of these forces, as well as entirely new factions in the months and years to come.

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Can I still use my old miniatures?

If you’ve collected armies for prior editions of Warhammer, there’s nothing stopping you and your friends from continuing to play with the models and rule sets you’re already familiar with. Games Workshop has also published conversion rules for their existing range of miniatures, allowing you to use your armies under the new system.

Several of the conversion guides take quite a tongue-in-cheek tone, however. The rules include bonuses for players who sport impressive moustaches or who pretend to ride on horseback during play, and this suggests that they aren’t taking the whole thing entirely seriously.

Don’t expect Games Workshop to provide continued support for older editions of the game, either. If you’re looking to expand your existing armies, you’ll have to look at picking up second-hand miniatures.

So how do I get started, and what does it cost?

The Age of Sigmar starter set comes with everything you need to fight small two-player battles between the Stormcast Eternals and the forces of Chaos. At £75 ($125 in the US, $200 in Australia), it’s not cheap – although to be fair, the cost of entry is considerably lower than the price of a gaming PC or current-gen games console.

You’ll also need to pick up some modelling equipment, paints and brushes since the game’s miniatures come unassembled and unpainted. If this all seems a bit intimidating, there are plenty of online tutorials covering army painting techniques. You don’t need to be Michaelangelo, but most opponents will expect you to give your troops at least a basic paint job.

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Speaking of opponents, you’ll also need people to play against. Games Workshop runs events in its stores, of which there are over 400 around the world. Alternatively, you may want to find a local games club to play at. Several organise informal games or more serious tournament play.

Are there any alternative battle games?

Yes. If the Warhammer universe doesn’t interest you, there are lots of other fantasy and science fiction wargames that you might find more appealing.

US studio Fantasy Flight Games has released two space battle games set in the Star Wars universe. The X-Wing Miniatures Game focuses on lightning-fast dogfights between squadrons of Rebel and Imperial pilots, while Star Wars: Armada offers a more drawn-out, strategic experience featuring some of the biggest and most powerful ships from the film franchise.

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Nottingham-based Mantic Games has produced a number of games by former Games Workshop designer Alessio Cavatore. Kings of War pits armies of humans, dwarves, elves and orcs against one another in a fantasy setting while the upcoming Warpath – with work-in-progress rules available to download now free of charge – lets players fight futuristic battles with high-tech troops and weaponry. If you’re a fan of previous editions of Warhammer and 40K, they might be the closest thing you’ll find nowadays.

Warmachine, from Privateer Press, features battles between forces of heavily armoured steampunk war-walkers, while the company’s other game, Hordes, puts players in command of armies of monstrous creatures.

And Beyond the Gates of Antares is a science fiction game designed by Rick Priestley, Warhammer’s co-creator and long-time creative director. It ditches many of Warhammer’s gothic trappings, taking its cues from “harder” military sci fi.

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FAQs

Is Warhammer like D&D? ›

Warhammer is a turn based tactical wargame, D&D is a role playing game. WH has an army of models and the whole event will be the battle. D&D is about the story of your band of adventurers, who may see a battle in that session, but probably not on the scale of a WH match.

What is the plot of Warhammer? ›

Warhammer 40,000 is set in the distant future, where a stagnant human civilization is beset by hostile aliens and supernatural creatures. The models in the game are a mixture of humans, aliens, and supernatural monsters, wielding futuristic weaponry and supernatural powers.

What is Warhammerplus? ›

Warhammer+ is a subscription service for Warhammer fans. It's a whole new way to explore the worlds of Warhammer, where you'll find original animations and shows, access to Warhammer apps, a digital vault packed with lore and magazines, subscriber offers, and exclusive miniatures.

What's the point of Warhammer? ›

Warhammer is a tabletop battle game which puts players in command of armies of valiant humans, noble elves, savage orcs or a variety of twisted and monstrous creatures. Players collect forces of miniature plastic models, all with different stats and abilities, and use them to play out clashes on a tabletop battlefield.

Why was Warhammer discontinued? ›

We assume you're aware that the beginning of Age of Sigmar was actually the end of a game that lasted for more than 30 years, Warhammer Fantasy Battles. We've discussed the reasons why Warhammer Fantasy had to die (basically, it wasn't bringing new people into the hobby and wasn't selling well).

Can you play Warhammer 40K solo? ›

Now you can play Warhammer 40K by yourself, using a simple set of rules to automate the deployment and behavior of your enemy's army. The Solo Heresy is still in BETA, so I'd appreciate your thoughts and comments. Hope you enjoy the game!

How long does a human live in 40k? ›

Chemical Rejuvenation

At that point the subject becomes more vulnerable to infections and organ failure. After 400 standard years of life few human beings within the Imperium can survive without mechanical assistance.

What is Warhammer 50k? ›

The Shape of the Nightmare to Come is an epic fanfiction series that imagines the world of Warhammer in the 50th millennium, and as you might imagine, things have become even worse for humanity and the rest of the galaxy.

Is Warhammer 40k hard to learn? ›

Assuming you mean either Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40K, the two major supported versions, then the answer is that they are very easy to learn but hard to master. To be able to play a game you need to understand the 8 sides of A5 that constitute the basic rules. That's about the same as any other board game.

Does Warhammer plus give you White Dwarf? ›

In short, with a Warhammer+ subscription you'll get: A wealth of Warhammer animation. Weekly in-house Warhammer hobby shows. A digital vault of classic Warhammer publications and White Dwarf issues.

Should I get Warhammerplus? ›

Overall, I think Warhammer+ is a great service for Warhammer fans who are looking to get more of what they love. The monthly cost might be hard to swallow if you're not into the game, but it's worth checking out for your favorite hobbyists and enthusiasts!

Is there a Warhammer TV app? ›

Warhammer TV: The App

It will be available at launch on iOS and Android, as well as the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku services, so you can watch the latest episodes of Loremasters, Citadel Colour Masterclass, and more from the comfort of your sofa.

How long do Warhammer games last? ›

When focusing on the main objectives, Total War: Warhammer is about 34½ Hours in length. If you're a gamer that strives to see all aspects of the game, you are likely to spend around 166 Hours to obtain 100% completion.

What does PL stand for 40k? ›

It stands for Power Level.

Is Warhammer popular in America? ›

Warhammer 40k is literally not popular. At all. It's well known among nerds because it's one of only scant few surviving and successful table top miniature wargames. But us proud few who wave the nerd flag are but a tiny sliver of the population.

Is Sigmar the emperor? ›

After Sigmar had completed the unification, he was coronated as Emperor by the Ar-Ulric himself, having been a deeply devout Ulrican in mortal life.

Does Warhammer 40k have an ending? ›

The era ended with the victory of Abaddon the Despoiler and the forces of Chaos in the 13th Black Crusade in 999. M41, with the fall of the Fortress World of Cadia and the subsequent eruption of the Great Rift across the galaxy. It was succeeded by the Era Indomitus.

Can you play Warhammer 40K with age of Sigmar? ›

You can use Age of Sigmar models in Warhammer 40,000 if you choose to play one of the Chaos factions, since they share the same Chaos deities in both games. However, you cannot use Warhammer 40,000 models within Age of Sigmar, as bolt guns and power armour haven't quite reached the Mortal Realms yet.

Can you play Warhammer 40K Online? ›

There's an incredibly dedicated fanbase that has formed around playing Warhammer 40,000 on Tabletop Simulator. A community Discord channel has been made to find people to play against and access essential mods. The Discord channel can be joined by anybody and has plenty of resources for new players.

Can the Eldar reproduce? ›

They do reproduce, but aside from abstinence to avoid excess emotion, the birth rate seems to be in decline on an inherent level. The Dark Eldar don't have any such inhibitions, but they rely on a form of cloning for the bulk of their population maintenance.

Who is the oldest space marine? ›

Dante is the oldest living Space Marine in the Imperium (excluding Dreadnoughts) and is held in awe by leaders of other Chapters, who can remember him being a famous commander when they were in the Scout Company.

How old do Eldar live? ›

Biology. Superficially, the Eldar appear very similar to humans, though they are generally taller and slimmer, with sharp features and pointed ears. They are long-lived by human standards, and most will live more than a thousand years unless they die from accident or disease.

What is Warhammer 30K? ›

Warhammer 30K is like a historical wargame, but for fictional history. In Warhammer 40,000, Space Marines are organised into small chapters of around 1,000 men, but there's loads of them, so if you don't want to collect an official one, you can just make up your own.

Do necrons have emotions? ›

Necron Immortals can speak, but its emotionless, but they can at least feel some emotion, considering one of them had a pretty good argument in Fall of Damnos, not really something that an emotionless machine would do. They can probably feel something, but its probably very limited.

What is the current year in 40K? ›

Most "recent" events in the Warhammer 40K universe occur in M41, or the 41st millennium.

What is the best Warhammer 40k army for beginners? ›

Best Warhammer 40k Armies for Beginners
  1. 1 Necrons. The Necrons are a great choice for new players who want a powerful armies that dosen't rely to much on complex schemes. ...
  2. 2 Space marines. This is one that most people probably start out with. ...
  3. 3 Eldar. ...
  4. 4 Chaos Marines. ...
  5. 5 Orks. ...
  6. 6 Tyranids. ...
  7. 7 Tau. ...
  8. 8 Imperial Guard.

Why is Warhammer so complicated? ›

Warhammer 40,000 is a complicated game. Even before you get on the table there are thousands of units, infinite combinations of terrain, and tons of pre-game rules to address. Once on the table, there are pretty much infinite choices to make, with units have amazing freedom of movement.

What age is Warhammer suitable for? ›

4. Is there an age limit for Warhammer World? Games Workshop's miniatures and games are intended for age 12 +, but visitors of any age are welcome!

How does warhammer compare to DnD? ›

The Warhammer Roleplaying Game is somewhat similar but darker, and if this is your first RPG, then D&D is a better option. If you are looking for a tactical skirmish or war game, then Warhammer is the way to go. If you want a compact and fast-paced game in a fantasy setting, then Age of Sigmar is the way to go.

Is D&D better than warhammer? ›

There is no best, there isn't even better. Warhammer and D&D have very little in common, other then both being RPGs, and even that… Most people think of Warhammer as a tabletop war game, and not a RPG so there's absolutely no way to compare them. D&D is way more popular than the Warhammer RPG, of any version.

Can I use warhammer minis for DnD? ›

Absolutely. Some of my first Warhammer Fantasy miniatures were bought for D&D campaigns.

How does warhammer work in DnD? ›

A warhammer is a military one-handed melee weapon in the hammer weapon group. A warhammer is a versatile weapon, so medium characters may wield it two-handed to deal 1 extra damage. Small characters must wield it two-handed, and they deal no extra damage for doing so.

Are Warhammer and DND connected? ›

Some tabletop gamers might be thinking that Warhammer, Pathfinder, and D&D are all similar, but they are completely different games.

What's the difference between Warhammer and Warhammer 40k? ›

WH40K is just so different from other sci-fi universes, while WHF is similar to all the other fantasy universes. You have goblins, orks, humans, dwarves, all of which can be seen elsewhere. Apart from the chaos daemons. They're different.

Is Pathfinder better than DND? ›

Finding Players

As you've probably gathered, the simplest way to sum up the differences between the two games is that Dungeons & Dragons has simpler, more streamlined rules while Pathfinder is slightly more complex but allows for greater flexibility.

Why you should play Frostgrave? ›

If you love narrative-driven, competitive campaigns with emergent storytelling, incredibly accessible rules and materials - and, most importantly, the ability to pick up pebbles and turn them into magical frag grenades - Frostgrave might just be the game you've been waiting for.

Is there a Warhammer 40k RPG? ›

Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay is a role-playing game system with multiple source books set within the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The first game using the system, Dark Heresy, was created by Black Industries, which closed soon after the initial release.

When was Warhammer created? ›

The first edition rulebook for Warhammer was released in 1983, and the line was supported for thirty years by model releases, supplementary rulebooks, and new editions of the core rules.
...
Warhammer (game)
ManufacturersGames Workshop
Players2+
Setup timeVaries, depending on the size of the game, but usually around 10 to 20 minutes
8 more rows

What is 32mm scale? ›

What is 32mm Scale? 32mm Scale means that from foot to eye level on a standard human standing upright, its 32mm. That means an ogre at 32mm Scale will be much more than 32mm to eye level, and a gnome will be much shorter than 32mm to eye level.

What scale are Warhammer models? ›

Warhammer range (from Games Workshop company): The scale of Warhammer (and Age of Sigmar) miniatures is 1:56 (28mm / 32mm) scale, with Heroic scale proportions.

What is 30mm scale? ›

Scales
Figure heightScale footScale ratio
30 mm5 mm≈1:61.0
32 mm≈5.33 mm≈1:57.2
35 mm≈5.83 mm≈1:52.3
40 mm≈7 mm≈1:43
12 more rows

How much damage does a warhammer do? ›

A Warhammer has the versatile (d10) property, meaning that it does 1d8 damage when wielded in one hand and 1d10 when wielded in two hands.

How much does a warhammer cost DND? ›

Special Weapons
WeaponCostWeight
Simple Melee Weapons
Trident5 gp4 lb.
War pick5 gp2 lb.
Warhammer15 gp2 lb.
37 more rows

How much damage does a war hammer do in DND? ›

Warhammer
NameCostDamage
Warhammer15 gp1d8 bludgeoning

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