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Warhammer is a tabletop wargame published by Games Workshop, originally written by Rick Priestly, Richard Halliwell and Bryan Ansell. Warhammer has been periodically republished since first appearing in 1983, with changes to the gaming system and army lists.

Warhammer 40,000, a futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, was released in 1987.

Playing Warhammer

Warhammer is a tabletop wargame where two or more players compete against each other with "armies" of nominally 25 mm scale miniatures. The rules of the game have been published in a series of boxed sets and books, which describe how to move miniatures around the game surface and simulate combat in a "balanced and fair" manner - although use of a referee of "Gamesmaster" is also common in the earlier "oldhammer" editions (see below)

Games may be played on any appropriate surface, although the standard is a 6 ft by 4 ft tabletop decorated with model scenery in scale with the miniatures. Movement about the playing surface is generally measured in inches and combat between troops or units given a random element with the use several six-sided dice. An average game will have armies of 200 to 3,000 "points" (5 points being the equivalent of a single basic human troop), although smaller and larger values are quite possible. There are also different rules for movement, shooting, combat, psychology and magic and so on, the action usually being dictated by the roll of a number of 6-sided dice or a 'D6'.

The Warhammer Known World

Warhammer is notable for its "dark and gritty" background world, which is highly derivative of Tolkien, Moorcock and D&D. Through the 1st and 2nd editions, the was expected to be battling games in these settings, wheras later editions encourage play within the "warhammer universe", a strictly controlled epic narrative defined by the publisher rather than the gamer.

Editions of the game

Throughout the eight editions of the game, the core movement, combat and shooting systems have remained generally unchanged, with only minor revisions between editions. The most significant changes which ensure incompatibility between editions have been made to the magic, army composition systems, and specialist troop types.

First Edition (1983)

The first edition, written by Bryan Ansell, Richard Halliwell, and Rick Priestley illustrated by Tony Ackland with box cover by John Blanche. Published in 1983 it consists of a boxed set of 3 black and white books

  • Vol 1: Tabletop Battles, which contains the core rules, turn sequence, creature lists, potion recipes and features an introductory battle 'The Ziggurat of Doom'.
  • Vol 2: Magic which explains rules for wizards of 4 different levels and the higher order arch magi. Higher level wizards have access to more powerful spells. A wizard picks his spells at the start of the game, must have the correct equipment (usually Amulets), and as he casts each one it depletes a store of 'constitution' points, until at zero points he could cast no more.
  • Vol 3: Characters introduces 'personal characteristics' statistics, rules for roleplaying (including character advancement through experience points and statistic gains, random encounters, equipment costs, and alignment) and has a sample campaign "The Redwake River Valley".

Very little world background is given and the creature descriptions are kept to a minimum, and most of the background given is in describing the origins of magic items. Some notable differences to later editions are the inclusion of Night Elves (later Dark Elves), the appearance of Red Goblins - and that Citadel Miniatures and Ral PArtha order codes are given.

Despite many rules inconsistencies, inadequate roleplaying rules, typing errors and poor presentation, the battle system was thought to be excellent[1] and exceptionally simple and playable in comparison to other miniatures games of the time.[2] The psychology rules - for determining how classic fantasy racial types behave towards each other - and the fumbling of magic were well regarded and thought to enhance the fantasy feel of the game and provide entertainment.[3]

The First Citadel Compendium

Published in October 1983 the First Citadel Compendium. Provides advanced rules for Warhammer 1st edition, including return fire, mounted troops and expanding the statline to include personal characteristics. The bestiary is expanded to include Pegasus, unicorn and several new undead. Most significantly rules for science-fiction weapons were given, turning Warhammer from a straight Fantasy game into Sci-Fi territory, which would later form Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. Also are The Mark of Chaos, forming the basis of the mutations tables that would become The Realms of Chaos. Both Realms of Chaos and Rogue Trader are advertised as "coming soon". The scenario "The legend of Kremlo the Slann" introduced the alien frogmen Slann to the Warhammer World.

Arcane Ramblings

Published some time between The First Citadel Compendium, and the Forces of Fantasy three mail-order flyers under the banner Arcane Ramblings contain additional rules for Warhammer 1st Edition.[4]

Box Set Inserts

Citadel produced rules and background for Warhammer 1st Edition which were inserted into various boxed sets of miniatures. [5]

  • SS1 - Warriors of Chaos
  • SS3 (v2) - Knights of Chaos
  • SS5 - Warrior Knights of Law
  • SS6 - White Dwarf Personalities
  • CP1 - Bryan Ansell's Chaos Marauders
  • CP2 - Bryan Ansell's Heroic Adventurers
  • CP3 - Tom Meier's Troglodytes
  • CP4 - Tom Meier's Lizard Warriors
  • CP5 - Orc War Machine
  • Dungeon Adventurers Starter Set
  • Dungeon Monsters Starter Set
  • DL1 - Ally Morrison's Samurai Oriental Heroes
  • DL2 - Ally Morrison's Hobgoblin Warriors

Notably Runequest Box 7 (v2): Demons came with an insert for [Runequest] repring the article 'Dealing With Demons' from White Dwarf 44

Forces of Fantasy

In 1984 the first edition was extended with Forces of Fantasy boxed set . Army lists with variant troop types for several races and new spells. Many of the internal illustrations as well as the cover are provided by John Blanche. Several of the army-lists had been published in White Dwarf as adverts for Citadel Miniatures prior to publication.

The Second Citadel Compendium

Published in 1984, The Second Citadel Compendium expands Warhammer 1st Edition with the Riggs Shrine scenario, introducing Amazons to the warhammer world. The letters pages also includes rules queries and clarifications.

White Dwarf Articles

There are two scenarios for Warhammer 1st Edition, Thistlewood and Minas Tirith (based on the Lord of the Rings) by Joe Dever as well as rules for Giants and Thieves published in magazine, see the Warhammer/White Dwarf Index.

Second edition (1984)

2nd Edition

In 1984 the second edition was released, incorporating some of the Forces of Fantasy material, White Dwarf articles and Citadel Compendium material. This was again a boxed-set of three black and white books (with colour covers). Combat explains the core rules and turn sequence; while Battle Magic largely retains the same system as the 1st Edition, as well as adding specialities of Illusionists, Demonologists, Elementalists, and removing the requirements for Amulets. The centre pages are an introductory scenario "The Magnificent Sven" for which cardstock figures were also supplied in the box. The Battle Bestiary book features descriptions of the races, monsters and includes several example army lists and a points system for players to develop their own open-ended armies.

Also in the Battle Bestiary is the first appearance of the Warhammer 'Known World' along with a map, and a timeline which includes the Slann, Incursions of Chaos, inter-elf wars and The Empire. Minor rules modifications included rationalising all statistics to use numbers, and increasing all creatures' Strength by 1.

Bloodbath at Orcs' Drift

1985, By Joe Dever, Gary Chalk and Ian Paige, the title is a pun on Rorke's Drift.

Blood on the Streets

1985, Card buildings for terrain by Dave Andrews and a small background booklet called "The Riding" by A-V Szczepankiewicz

The Tragedy of McDeath

1986, by Richard Halliwell, with card building by Dave Andrews, the title is a pun on Macbeth.

Terror of the Lichemaster

1986, by Rick Priestly, with card buidlings by Dave Andrews and Card counters by Tony Ackland

Ravening Hordes

1987, by Richard Halliwell, army lists and minor rule expansion.

White Dwarf Articles

Many of the adverts for Citadel Miniatures also contained small background, statline and rules Warhammer/White_Dwarf_Index#Second_Edition

Citadel Journal / Compendium

Each issue contains substantial material designed for Warhammer Second Edition.

Miniatures Box Sets

While 1st edition had Warhammer rules on flyers inserted into box sets of miniatures, 2nd edition rules appear printed on the back of the boxes, including:

Regiments of Renown

  • RRD1 Bugman's Dwarf Rangers
  • RRD2 Nightmare Legion
  • RRD3 Harboth's Orc Archers
  • RRD4 Skarloc's Wood Elf Archers
  • RRD5 Rugluds Armoured Orcs
  • RRD6 Prince Ulther's Imperial Dwarves

Machineries of Destruction

  • MD1 Goblin King's Battle Chariot
  • MD2 Skull Crusher, Goblin Trebuchet
  • MD3 Leadbelcher, Goblin Organ Gun
  • MD4 Elven Attack Chariot
  • MD5 Man Mangler, Orc Stone Thrower
  • MD6 Goblin Battle Chariots

Boxed Dragons

  • DRAG1 Zombie Dragon (also White Dwarf 75)
  • DRAG2 Blue Dragon & Sorceress
  • DRAG3 Green Dragon & Dwarf
  • DRAG4 Great Fire Dragon & Knight
  • DRAG5 Great Imperial Dragon
  • DRAG6 Orc War Wyvern
  • DRAG7 Dragon Masters

Third edition (1987)

The Third Edition of the game was published as a single hardback book in 1987. It had the most in-depth and complex movement and manoeuvre system of any edition. Other changes included a variety of new specialist troop types, rules for war machines and a more finely tuned system of representing heroes and wizards. It kept the same magic system. The use of army lists was very much encouraged. Army lists for this edition were published in a separate book called Warhammer Armies in 1988; until then, use of the 2nd Edition's Ravening Hordes list was encouraged. This is partly because it was the last edition published before Games Workshop took a different commercial approach, leading to competition from former GW freelancers Gary Chalk and Ian Bailey to publish Fantasy Warlord.

Aspects such as the 'fast-paced' rules system and developed fantasy background were highly praised, with negative criticisms reserved for the 'wordiness' of the text and that the images, rather than illustrating the text, were largely decorative. The main differences to the 2nd edition noted were the rules on routing, charging and less clarity in the presentation, subsequently making the rules more complex to learn and use.[6]

The third edition is expanded by

Warhammer Armies

Army lists for 3rd edition.

Realm of Chaos : Slaves To Darkness

Guide to warbands of chaos, followers of the chaos gods Khorne and Slannesh. . Also includes rules for WH40k:Rogue Trader and Warhammr Fantasy Roleplay

Realm of Chaos The Lost And The Damned

Guide to warbands of chaos, followers of the chaos gods Nurgle and Tzeentch, as well as Beastmen . Also includes rules for WH40k:Rogue Trader and Warhammr Fantasy Roleplay

Warhammer Siege

Rules for sieges and castles. Also included rules for WH40k:Rogue Trader

Mighty Empires

A campaign building game / supplement.

4th edition (1992)

The fourth and fifth editions of the game, released in October 1992 and 1996, respectively, were similar to each other but quite different from the third. Fifth edition in particular became known pejoratively as "Herohammer" because of the imbalance between the very powerful heroes, monsters and wizards in the game and blocks of troops which existed effectively as cannon fodder. Both editions of the game were sold as box sets containing not only the rulebooks and a variety of other play aids but also sufficient plastic miniatures to be able to play the game "out of the box". The fourth edition box set featured High Elves versus Goblins. The rules underwent a re-write compared to 3rd Edition, losing much of the original character and streamlining the game to be much simpler. A completely re-worked magic system was produced which was available as a boxed expansion; Battle Magic. Rather than selecting spells they were drawn at random and the magic phase was based on the play of these cards, making magic a bit like a game within a game. The magic system was further expanded by the Arcane Magic box set and the magic element of the Chaos box set.

There was also a large number of Magic Items which were released throughout the life of 4th Edition, in boxed sets, army books and White Dwarfs.

The fourth edition was the first edition to enforce the use of army lists in the form of separate Warhammer Army books for the separate racial groupings. The books also included background on the particular army, illustrations and photographs showing models and have remained with the game though updated with the rules.

5th edition (1996)

The fifth edition won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Miniatures Rules of 1996.[7]

The magic system was reworked and re-released in December 1996 as a single box covering the magic for all the armies. The magic was "toned down" (WD204) with spell casting limited to the players' own turn. The multiple card packs of the Colours of Magic system was replaced by 20 Battle Magic spell cards but the Colour Magic spells were in the rule book for players to use if they wanted.

Several boxed campaign packs were produced, Tears of Isha for example, gave a campaign for High Elves and included a card "building" to assemble. Likewise, the Orc and Goblin themed campaign Idol of Gork included card idols of the Orc deities Gork and Mork. The others were Circle of Blood, Grudge of Drong, Perilous Quest.

The 5th edition, released in 1996, re-introduced the Bretonnian forces, which had been left out of the 4th edition, and re-worked the Slann heavily to create the Lizardmen armies. The beginning of the split of the Undead army also occurred. While the 4th Edition Undead book could still be used through the life of 5th Edition, the Vampire Count army was introduced during 5th and later the Tomb Kings during 6th.

  • Dogs of War: The official army book was released during 5th Edition; Regiments of Renown and Mercenary Army lists for 6th edition were released on the website. Some of this line remains available from direct order and is the only discontinued army for which models are still as of 2013 available directly from Games Workshop.

6th edition (2000)

The sixth edition, released in 2000, was also published as a box with soft-cover rulebook and miniatures (Orcs and Empire). The Rulebook was also available for separate sale, hard-cover in the first printing and soft-cover after that.[8] After the fifth edition, this edition put the emphasis back on troop movement and combat: heroes and wizards were still important but became incapable of winning games in their own right. There was also an new magic system based on dice rolling.

During 6th edition, official rules available from the Games Workshop website.

  • Chaos Dwarfs: The White Dwarf Presents army book was released during 4th Edition as a collection of White Dwarf articles, but is still considered an official rule book. An official Chaos Dwarf army list was included in Ravening Hordes at the start of 6th edition. The army list was included in the reference section of 7th edition, but has been removed from the 8th edition rulebook. This model line was discontinued at the end of 5th edition and is no longer supported by the main rules. Forge World is releasing new Chaos Dwarf models under their new Warhammer Forge line. Rules for Chaos Dwarfs are expected in their first Warhammer supplement.
  • Kislev: The army book was given away free with White Dwarf magazine during 6th edition.

7th edition (2006)

The seventh edition rules were released on 9 September 2006. It was available in two forms: as a single hardback rulebook for established gamers and as a complete boxed set game complete with plastic miniatures (Dwarfs and Goblins), The Battle for Skull Pass supplement book and a soft-cover rulebook that has less artwork and background material than the hardback version. The smaller rulebook from the boxed set was approximately half the size of the large book both in size of the cover and page count. The "Basic Rules" and "Advanced Rules" sections of both books were identical in text, layout, illustrations, credits, page numbering and ISBN. The two books had different front pieces and the larger rulebook has two extensive addition sections "The Warhammer World" (68 pages) and "The Warhammer Hobby" (56 pages) plus slightly expanded appendices.[9]

8th edition (2010)

The full rulebook was an A4-ish hardback.

The Island of Blood set contains facing armies of High Elves and Skaven. A condensed mini-rulebook, as well as 10 standard dice, one scatter and one artillery die, two 18 inch rulers, and three blast templates are included in the box. The main deviation from the core Warhammer rules was the introduction of pre-measuring and random charge distances.

In the 8th edition of the game, the following armies have individual army books, many of which have not had new editions for the latest ruleset, but instead rely on


The 8th edition was extended with

  • Storm of Magic 'supplement' in 2011
  • "Blood in the Badlands" 2012

Derivative games

Games based on the core Warhammer mechanics and rules include:

  • Warhammer Ancient Battles (often referred to as "WAB" and sometimes Warhammer Historical). Intended to simulate armies of the real world of the Ancient and Medieval periods.
  • A science fiction based skirmish wargame using similar rules was developed as Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader by Games Workshop and released in 1987. Originally using a minor variation of the 2nd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules, the two games have subsequently taken different development paths.
  • The first edition of Blood Bowl uses the same basic turn system and character statistics as Warhammer to simulate a fantasy American football game. Rules for ranged combat applied to ball throwing. Since the second edition of Blood Bowl the game has taken its own development path.
  • Games Workshop released a skirmish scale wargame set in the world of Warhammer called Mordheim. It is set in the destroyed city of Mordheim. It uses the same basic rules as Warhammer, but modified to support activation of individual models in a small gang. It also has a campaign system which you use to improve your warband as they gain experience.
  • The Warhammer Fantasy Battles rules led to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in 1986, again using the same statistics, although presented as percentiles rather than 1–10 to give more detail and differentiation between characters than is required in a wargame. In 2005 Black Industries released a second edition and Fantasy Flight Games now owns the rights to the game and continues to support it. In 2009 Fantasy Flight Games released the third edition of the game.

Games based on the Warhammer setting, but not sharing the rules, include:

Video Games

  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle has been adapted as computer games, but the rules system isn't emulated.

See Also

Warhammer (White_Dwarf Index) Index to White Dwarf Magazine articles on Warhammer.


  1. Kerr, Katharine "Warhammer FRP falls flat"Dragon #85 p.68 TSR, Inc.
  2. Ken Rolston "Advanced hack-and-slash" Dragon #85 p68 TSR, Inc. 1984
  3. Joe DeverOpen Box: WarhammerWhite Dwarf 43 p12 Games Workshop 1983
  4. See Eldritch Epistles Blog
  5. See Eldritch Epistles Blog
  6. Ken Rolston Role-playing Reviews - 'Warhammer' Dragon #142 p.34 TSR, Inc. 1989
  7. Origins Award Winners (1996) http://www.originsgamefair.com/awards/1996/list-of-winners
  8. Template:Cite book
  9. Template:Cite book

External links