Warhammer: The Old World is an upcoming tabletop game from Games Workshop. Even though we know very little about it, it is one of the most anticipated games from GW at the moment, so we have gathered every little bit of info we could find about it in this article.
Read on to learn about what Warhammer: the Old World game is about, when it’s coming out and what armies you can expect to play in it.
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What is Warhammer: The Old World?
The title “The Old World” refers to the fictional universe where Games Workshop’s retired game system Warhammer Fantasy Battles took place.
Before the Age of Sigmar, Fantasy Battles was the fantasy twin of Warhammer 40,000 (the space version of Warhammer that we don’t cover much here on this site). It was a rank and file tabletop wargame where fantasy armies of orks, dwarfs, elves, undead and humans faced off against each other in regiments on square bases, and it was one of the most popular fantasy games for a full eight editions of its ruleset.
A great many of the miniatures people now use to play Age of Sigmar, such as most of the Cities of Sigmar models, many of the Death, Destruction and Chaos miniatures, and even monsters like the Treelords or Stormfiends, were originally part of the Fantasy Battles model line.
But – the Old World wasn’t just a setting for at game system. In a way that the Age of Sigmar is still years away from achieving (but it’s getting there pretty quickly), the Old World was a deep, insanely detailed fantasy setting with a darker tone than most other fantasy worlds in its time. It has influenced many other fantasy settings, such as the video game universes of Diablo and Warcraft.
It might seem strange that such a rich and successful franchise doesn’t exist anymore, and the theories about why exactly it was discontinued are countless.
No matter what the reasons were, Games Workshop ended the Fantasy Battles franchise through a series of books called the End Times, that ended in a total apocalypse for the setting.
Archaon (who you know from AOS!) destroyed the Old World, and from the Chaos that ensued, The Mortal Realms (the setting of Age of Sigmar) came into being. This means that The Old World, in a way, is the ancient past of the Age of Sigmar universe, and many of the heroes and villains of the Age of Sigmar have ties to The World that Was, as they call it in AOS.
Over the last four years, some fans of the Fantasy Battles system have cried “bring back the Old World”, and if you look through a comment thread on anything GW shares about the Age of Sigmar system, chances are you’ll find commenters asking them to scrap the entire AOS system and go back to Fantasy battles. But, that’s not what GW is doing with their new game Warhammer: The Old World.
Warhammer: The Old World isn’t going to replace any current game systems.
First of all, it’s being developed by the Warhammer Studio in cooperation with Forge World studio (it’s still a bit unclear how exactly this works), which does many of GW’s “side projects”, usually in resin rather than plastic.
Secondly, GW have referred to Warhammer: The Old World as a parallel to Horus Heresy, another Forge World game that chronicles the ancient history of the Warhammer 40,000 universe with rules that resembles that games earlier editions rather than its current edition.
This means that it’s safe to say, even with as little information as we have at the moment, that The Old World will be a game that feels and plays more like Warhammer Fantasy Battles than Age of Sigmar, but it doesn’t sound like they are bringing the old game back as much as creating a new game experience within that rich old universe.
Release Date and Announcement of Warhammer: The Old World
Warhammer: The Old World was announced on November 15, 2019 with an article called “Old World? New Warhammer!!” which mainly told us that the game was coming, what the Old World was in relation to Age of Sigmar, and that the release of the new game was more than two years off.
Since then, there have been a few more updates about the game, but no reveals of any models or rules, so this confirms that the game still has a long way to go. What those updates have given us, however, are a few hints about what armies will be playable in the game.
Our best bet on a release date for Warhammer: The Old World is therefore some time in 2021.
What armies are available in Warhammer: The Old World?
The production updates from the Warhammer: The Old World team have given us clues about what armies will be playable in the game.
So far, the following armies have been mentioned in the previews:
- The Empire (possible split in several factions)
- High Elves
- Wood Elves
The first update came out on February 6, 2020, and was called “Cartography in the Old World”. The article showed a detailed map of the game’s world, which seems very focused on the area of the Human Empire, and the heraldry of three human rulers, Sigismund, Ludwig XII, Wilhelm and Magritta, which are all characters from an era of the Old World called The Age of Three Emperors. The dukes and Kings previewed in this article about Bretionnia further narrows down the time period.
This tells us that the Empire, a renaissance-fantasy faction of human mortals with both gunpowder and armored knights, are absolutely going to be playable in the game. But, since the game takes place in an age where this Empire is divided between several rulers vying for power, it could mean that we will be able to play several different factions of Empire humans, in the same way that you can play as different Space Marine chapters in the Horus Heresy.
But, the Age of Three Emperors wasn’t all humans arguing over thrones:
It was an age of invasions from both Undead, Chaos forces, Beastmen (Beasts of Chaos in AOS) and Orcs. It is likely that at least some of those will be playable as well, but to say that those armies are confirmed on the basis of that first article would be a bit of a stretch.
The second preview article, released on March 23, 2020 and was called “The Old World: Ice Guard of Kislev”, definitely confirmed another faction called Kislev. Kislev is another human faction to the North of the Empire, which takes its inspiration from Slavic, Russian and Mongolian historical armies, with winged Hussars and tons of fur-clad armor.
The concept art for the new Ice Guard unit for this faction at display in the article shows that at least not everything about Warhammer: The Old World will look exactly as it did in Fantasy Battles. The unit design looks like a North-east Asian warrior in many ways, but its weapons are adorned with magical ice and looks slightly more fantastical than what players of human factions were used to in Fantasy Battles.
(This fantastic feel, of course, sparked grumblings from the fantasy players of old that just want a re-release of Warhammer: Fantasy).
This is, of course, still concept art, and the practical considerations for model production as well as the many iterations that designs usually go through could mean that this is not what this unit will look like in the end. What it does show is that the design team wants to find new ways of imagining the Old World, rather than just nostalgically recreating what it used to look like.
A preview article expanded upon the concept art for the Kislev faction with a closer look at the armored bears they ride into battle. These used to exist in Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but the design team is coming up with some new designs for them:
The most recent preview article covers a map of chivalric Bretonnia, with heraldry from the different cities within that realm:
This confirms Bretonnia (whose units and aesthetics have been missed in the Warhammer community since they were one of the few armies to be left out of the migration to Age of Sigmar) as a playable faction in Warhammer: The Old World, but the map also shows iconography belonging to High Elves, Wood Elves and Orcs.
This also indicates
The Orcs can be seen assaulting the Northern Provinces of Bretonnia, with the City of Couronne being represented as being on fire on the map, while the High Elves have colonies and outposts along the coast, and the Wood Elves occupy the forest in the Eastern and Northwestern part of the realm.
What will the game rules for Warhammer: The Old World be like?
We still know very little about how Warhammer: The Old World will actually play.
We know it’s a tabletop game. That doesn’t tell us a whole lot. It could be a different model scale from Age of Sigmar, like the Middle Earth Battle Strategy Game, or use rules none of us has seen before.
The most important bit of info we have about its rules at the moment actually comes from its marketing on Facebook: The game will be played on square bases rather than the round bases that are now more or less required in Age of Sigmar games.
This might not seem like a big difference, but square bases work best with rank and file games where units are moved as one rectangular block (on a movement tray or something similar) rather than as individual models that have to be within 1 inch of each other as in Age of Sigmar.
Being on square bases could mean the game will be about more large-scale battles than Age of Sigmar, since such battles are easier to play if you move a unit block at a time rather than hundreds of individual units.
Apart from that, we don’t really know anything yet. We can speculate that the game will play a lot like Fantasy Battles, since old Fantasy players seem to be part of the target audience for the game, but the target audience could also be the many players who know the Old World mainly through the video games series Total War:Warhammer, and those players are used to some very large scale battles that might be better suited for a smaller model scale (imagine tiny tiny knights in huge regiments).
If you really want to go into high speculation mode, the art used across the yellow letters in the game’s logo (look closely at the top of this page) seem to include a siege tower, so perhaps the game will have dedicated siege battle rules?
Only time, and regular updates to this page as we get more information, will tell!