Wednesday 9 January 2013

Worldwide Campaigns - Part 1

Greetings all. Here is another subject close to my heart, and one that has spawned thousands of constructive and deconstructive posts over the years. Many of them by me I might add...

Below, I quote a list taken from Wikipedia's Games Workshop page. Some of you may not recognise the significance of the listed items. Others may suffer psychologically disturbing flashbacks, for which I apologise. Here it is:

1995 - The Battle of Ichar IV (Warhammer 40,000)
2000 - Third War for Armageddon (Warhammer 40,000)
2001 - Dark Shadows (Warhammer)
2003 - Eye of Terror (Warhammer 40,000)
2004 - Storm of Chaos (Warhammer)
2005 - The War of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game)
2006 - The Fall of Medusa V (Warhammer 40,000)
2007 - The Nemesis Crown (Warhammer)
2011 - Scourge of the Storm (Warhammer)

The list above represents a time line, and this time line records both the greatest events in tabletop wargaming history (speaking as a player of only Games Workshop games I should add. I would love to find out if any other companies have run similar events, so feel free to let me know), and what I consider to be the rise and fall of the worldwide campaign. This is obviously just my point of view, and if anyone has a differing point of view, good, because healthy debate is never a bad thing.

Now, though I am not a player of The Lord Of The Rings (at present, though the new Hobbit film releases starting this year may encourage me to change that), I can say I have been around for all of the other campaigns, and followed them online and, before the dominance of the internet, in White Dwarf magazine, going right the way back to Ichar IV. Yes, I was there son, I was there...

The reason I thought this topic might make a good blog post, is that, however involved I have been with the hobby since I started, I have always tried to keep up with things, and having had a White Dwarf subscription for several years has meant I haven't missed things that other people regret missing (like the WD released Sisters of Battle update from earlier in the year for example, which GW really should put up as a free download).

The result of this is that I have seen how the worldwide campaigns have changed over the years, and how people have reacted to them - to a degree at least. I won't be going into too much detail on the individual campaigns, because that would need pages and pages and would have you all snoring.

So, where did the (GW) Worldwide Campaigns begin? Officially at least, and as far as we are concerned, it started in '95 with the invasion of Ichar IV by the ravenous hive mind. As this was two years after the release of 2nd edition 40k, I'm sure that was the edition it was played under. So what about it? From what I remember, it was covered entirely in White Dwarf. No accompanying campaign Codex or snazzy online website for this campaign, no. This was run very simply. Well, simple for participants, not so simple for the GW crew running it. It required participants to fight battles, then post (yes post. That thing you do where you make marks on paper with a stick and feed it to the red Dalek with the 'email address' scratched on the front of the little paper casing) the results of battles to Jervis Johnson to compile.

I remember many pages of pictures from White Dwarf: photos gamers had sent in, extracts from their 'in character' letter reports, and a great one of Jervis Johnson kneeling amongst a sea of battle reports. His comment at the time was that they never expected the scale of response that they received.

From these auspicious beginings, the concept of the worldwide campaign has expanded, and in cases like the Battle for Ichar IV, have become part of the official back story of the game, though not all are considered to have been as successful as Ichar IV.

It seemed to me as though the simpler less ambitious campaigns had greater success than some of the middle of the timeline campaigns like the Storm of Chaos, though some have been of such little consequence that I didn't even realise they were happening till they were over!

The second campaign in the list, The Third War For Armageddon, (which was set around the Ork re-invasion of the entire Armageddon sub sector) was a great success in my opinion, taking the organisation to a new level by introducing a Campaign Codex book which detailed alternative and new army lists, as well as copious quantities of background material and modelling pics, and was a great step. It also made use of an online campaign website for the first time if I remember rightly. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong!

Armageddon was another campaign which made it's way into the official background of the 41st Millenium, and left us with a legacy of new models (an entire wave of Orks, which saw the race reinvigorated, as well as Salamander and Black Templar Space Marines, and the famed Armageddon Steel Legion, not to mention new versions of old rivals Commissar Yarrick and a behemoth of a Ghazghkull Thrakka model). The war itself, officially, is still raging even now, sucking ever more Ork and Impererial forces into this cauldron of destruction, which itself has an impact on available resources for light years in every direction.

The first of the Warhammer Fantasy worldwide campaigns was Dark Shadows, which took place in 2001 on the mystic isle of Albion, recently revealed through shrouding mists. It has crossed my mind that 'Sandy Island', recently found to be missing from it's New Caledonia position on many charts, and the rediscovery of Albion could be more than just coincidence!

This campaign saw the return of Belakor (the first Daemon Prince) in his guise as The Dark Master, and his efforts to control the ancient Ogham Stones which kept the power of Chaos in check (again, much of this is from memory, so feel free to correct me if you know better). The campaign also saw the introduction of Truthsayers and Dark Emissaries, powerful magic users working for the forces of Order and Disorder respectively, and who in the back story attempted to recruit armies from across the Warhammer World to fight their cause on the island.

To the best of my knowledge, this campaign was also considered to be a success and I would like to say more about it, but the fact that I can't locate my campaign booklet (which came FREE with White Dwarf I might add), makes me reluctant to speculate more than I have already. Suffice to say that the forces or Order were successful in preventing an uncontrollable dimensional cascade which would have destroyed the Warhammer World.

On to something really special: The Eye of Terror Campaign! This war saw Abaddon of the Black Legion, defacto heir of Warmaster Horus, surge forth from staging grounds in the Occularis Terribus to assail the Cadian Gate at the head of a host of Traitor Marines, Daemons, Rebel Guard forces and Chaotis Titan Legions the like of which had not waged war since the Heresy. This attack became known as the Thirteenth Black Crusade. The worlds that defend the Cadian Gate (the most stable space route for attacking Chaos forces) and the fortress world of Cadia itself were assailed in force, and the action during the included Orks on their own Green Croosade, Necrons, and of course the meddling Eldar all play their part, on land and in space.

This was a monolithic endeavour on the part of GW, and was probably the first truly 'worldwide' campaign. The campaign website surpassed the one created for the Third Armageddon War, and the campaign Codex was a much weightier tome, with yet more new army lists and tons of background material and maps. The articles in White Dwarf were extensive and continued to appraise us of the progress of the compaign for the duration. The only real criticism came after when suggestions were made that the final published result of the campaign might not have relfected the action that took place in the way that participants expected it to. The Cadian Gate remains under severe pressure from the forces of Chaos.

This may been seen as a portent of things that were to come...

Given the sheer volume of text required to discuss this topic, it seems sensible to call a pause to the history lesson here. Join me next time for part 2, and the biggest, most controversial campaign of them all - the Storm of Chaos!

Monday 7 January 2013

Really Ancient Evil

Greetings all! As I may have mentioned on more than one occasion, I have begun attending a local gaming club, in a real effort to get some regular gaming in, and as part of my plan to get to the stage where my gaming brain is firing on all cylinders, I am steadily working through each of my armies in turn. This is partly to keep things interesting for me and give me as broad an experiece as possible, and partly to keep the other guys at the club on their toes!

Thus far, my Ogres, Bretonnians and Dark Angels have all seen combat, with varying degrees of success (a defeat, a draw and a victory, in that order, so hopefully things are on the up and up). Next, I plan on taking my Vampire Counts army to the field, which I haven't yet used with their current book, and while leafing through the gruesome tome, considering all the new units and models I don't yet own, how old my Vampire Counts army really is.

I started collecting the army (Warhammer Armies: Undead as was back then) after reading a great battle report in White Dwarf issue 174, in which they played out the scenario from the Undead Army Book entitled 'Revenge of the Doomlord', which saw the new Undead army led by Dieter Helsnicht (The Doomlord of Middenheim) pitched against an army of the Empire. The Undead, commanded by Gav Thorpe, were victorious (though it was the books inagural battle), and the intention of this report was fulfilled. I decided to start playing Warhammer Fantasy (up until then I was only playing Space Marine and 40K) and to collect the Undead.

When I look at the latest Army book, the Vampire Counts, (ever since the 'Undead' were split into two factions: The Vampire Counts of the Old World and the Tomb Kings of the Lands of the Dead) and the units detailed within, and compare it to the first Undead Army Book, it is clear just how much they have changed since The Revenge of The Doomlord.

My first Undead army included such things as regiments of Skeleton Warriors alongside Skeleton Archers, but also Mummies, Screaming Skull Catapults, Chariots and Carrion. For a while, I even included the Settra special Character alongside Weapon Skill 7 Necromancers and Vampires in my battles against the nacent forces of High Elves, Wood Elves and Dwarfs fielded by my opponents of the day. Over time, as the Undead were factionalised, and the look and the feel of the army became more focussed, one thing has remained steadfast. This is my love of the back story of the Von Carstein line, particularly the story of Vlad and Isabella, and my army has served Vlad's purpose faithfully for my whole time playing Warhammer. If anyone else really likes their story and hasn't read them, I strongly recommend the Von Carstin Trilogy by Steven Savile.

My Army has steadily grown over the years (clocking in at around six thousand points or so now), but those same ancient Skeleton Warriors bought right back in the early 90's still march alongside chunkier later Skeletons and more recent purchases such as Vargheists and soon, a Mortis Engine. My Grave Guard recruited from metal Skeleton Warriors in heavy armour who once made up the original 'Company of the Damned' regiment of renown. I am even still using the original Vlad and Isabella models, and simply refuse to use Manfred at all, the upstart usurper!

It has never been my way to shelve my older models, rather I use all my models, of whatever age, alongside each other in battle, though from time to time this means stripping the paint off models and bringing them up to date. I will never buy the latest version of a model just because it's the new shiny thing, when I have a perfectly serviceable model I like with an established history. In fact, I have found that including older models alongside newer ones draws curious gamers to ask questions like 'ooo, what's that?', and 'hey, that's cool' which isn't a bad thing in my book.

A gamers army is a very personal thing, and my armys story is at least as important as it's potency on the field. There are inevitably field repairs required on some models (such as the MK1 Land Raider I am replacing the Lascannons on at the moment - funny how things come back into fasion isn't it?), but repairing damaged Skeleton Warriors is how I learned how to convert models with reasonable confidence, which brings with it innumerable benefits and opportunities to make my armies even more personalised.

Gazing hazily back at the beginnings of my Undead army at the start of 4th Edition Fantasy, and comparing it to the force that will march forth soon in 8th Edition and with the latest book with all it's fantastic newer models, has just highlighted to me how happy I am to be able to field an army with such history, that draws people's curiosity and admiration for it's sheer variety and pedegree, and if any army should be suited to including such ancient miniatures, it surely must be the 'Undead'.

If I were to offer advice to like minder gamers, it would be this: if you like the new shiny model that has been released, then get it, but there's no reason to simply replace your veteran models with the latest versions just because they are new. A new version of a model coming out is fine, but it's not like a new rules set for a game. You don't have to replace what you have to keep playing, other gamers won't poke fun at your army because it contains older models (or they damn well shouldn't! In fact I have found the opposite to be true). Your army is your own, and as long as it's legal and playable, the only person whose opinion really matters is your own. Take those mixed generation armies, go forth, and make war.

As always, thank you for reading.