Friday, May 24, 2024

Warhammer The Old World Battlereport(s): Trial by Footslogging

Warhammer The Old World has been released just shy of AoS' tenth birthday (it was released in 2015). That means that, as an early adopter of that system, I haven't played a variant of the old 'square based' original rules for at least nine years. In practice it is a lot longer, my last long string of games was woth the (then new) 3rd and 4th editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I tried getting back into fantasy during 8th, but it was a bad experience. Having said that: I'm stoked to get playing with squares again . Not in the least because armies take less space to store on squares. By now I've had the chance to get two games in. Here's a dual battle report (sort of), with running commentary about the differences between Warhammer AoS and TOW a lazy, rule-ignoring greybeard like me experiences. Let's start of with a semi-spectacular snap first.

Important rules to live by: don't get charged in the flank, don't get charged in the rear and don't challenge a High Elf on Gryphon to one-on-one combat with a 'mere' Dwarven Thane. Also bring a  quill, bottle of ink and a book of grudges with lots of empty pages to any battle.

More on the slaughter about to ensue above later. On to my by no means biased to the Dwarven viewpoint stories. I played my first 2000 point game of Warhammer The Old World in March of this year. I made a list using my books and the excellent New Recruit online app to correct my many (many, many, many) mistakes. Ruleswise that is; strategically I'm beyond help ;). I quickly (and tearfully) rebased the Dwarves I had standing around on 25x25mm bases (or appropriate substitutes). After an angry admonishment from my wife about destroying those lovely bases I threw the lads into a container to transport them to a battlefield at a friend's house.

The table for our first battle with The Old World was set up perfectly for AoS. It was a nightmare to navigate in The Old World.

Both of us had a good feeling about the rules. They sure looked fun skimming through the rulebook. We decided to keep the first game simple and go for a 'grudge-fest kill'm-all' scenario. That is a fancy way of saying: we went for try to get to the enemy and stomp them into the ground. The terrain was set up in advance. To keep a long battle report short: I immediately realized there are big differences between AoS and TOW. First off I had forgotten everything there was to know about movement in older Warhammer editions. Both of us quickly found ourselves riffling through the rulebooks to figure out wheels, turns, redressing the ranks and other interesting details you don't need in a 'measure where you want to go and go there'-system. At that point I realized only my first rank of Thunderers could fire.  I wanted to broaden their line, but they couldn't redress. The cause of this was a unit of Warriors on one side and a unit of Longbeards on the other. Both tried to move aside, but at 1.5" sideways move did not improve anyone's situation. My Ironbreakers got stuck behind a wall and my Slayers got stuck behind my Ironbreakers. At that point the problematic three inch move of the average Dwarf came back to me. The Dwarf Traffic Jam (great name for an Experimental Grunge/R&B crossover band) never cleared. Many internal grudges where recorded on that day...

Sure it all looks happy and mostly square based, but you're actually witnessing the horrors of a large Dwarven traffic jam.

I did get to fire with my Grudge Thrower (carefully masking as a Gob Lobber). It hit itself. I fired my cannon and discovered how far cannon balls fly before bouncing back to the table; missing every elf I could've hit in the process. It's still a question how many times the cannonballs must fly before my Dwarves learn how to aim. The answer is probably blowing on the wind somewhere. Speaking of wind: my Gyrocopters tried a hit and run attack with Brimstone Guns on a unit of Silver Helms. After a few nice hits, the Gyrocopters themselves accidentally flew of the table. Smart pilots, bad Dwarves. Into the book of grudges they go. Only my flame cannon managed to hit and kill a lot of Elf Horsies. On the elf side movement was less of a problem. They are a bit faster. Luckily that general discovered the joys of line of sight. The Elf Lord on Gryphon couldn't charge because there was a bunch of Silverhelms  in front of him, probably blinding their boss with the shine from their helmets. There was a bit of inconclusive combat between my Dwarf Warriors and the Silverhelms. We ended the game around the end of round two, having had a lot of laughs. We decided it was important time to read the rules a bit more carefuly for game number two.

Game number 2

The second game was played on an old modular table with integrated 'slip and slide' hills. The squares where rather useful to mark quadrant for the armies and (in the case of the bottom right square) woodland area terrain.

I read up on formations, movement rules, charge moves, pursuit rules and checked out scenario's in the core book too. We planned a second game at my home and decided to play the linked campaign. It consists of three scenario's played with the same lists. Casualties in each game reduce the strength of the armies. The final battle is a last stand of the player with the smallest army against the larger opponent. 

I couldn't resist adding a cow to the farm. It served no purpose (although I should consider making some random movement rules for it, perhaps leave it up to chance if it's a Beastman infiltrator).

The first scenario is really tailormade for Dwarves (*cough* *cough*). The premise: two armies are scouting the land for a mysterious monolith and accidentally run into each other. This is simulated by deployment. You alternately place a single unit and a character (if available) in one of the six quadrants you divide the board into; claiming that quadrant in the process. The rest of the army would arrive piecemeal on the board, appearing in a randomly rolled quadrant claimed by your army. That meant my Dwarves would have to do a lot of 3" walking or - as I now knew -  6" marching in formation or a  maybe a staggeringly speedy 9" march in a marching column. 

Note to self: Dwarf Slayers are not Wood Elf Wardancers. They may both have (or should have) mohawks, but the Dwarf Slayers don't have green capes or manners for that matter.

I thought I cleverly placed my Slayers near the center of the board and ready to ambush some Elves. I forgot that a) the entire quadrant marked T3 above was wooded area terrain and b) Dwarf Slayers are not Wood Elf Wardancers. Their enthusiasm for slaying proved no match for the movement reduction penalties of wooded terrain. The poor bastards had to give up and march around the trees to get anywhere.

My high king and his Longbeard companions arrived far away from all the action, grumbling that Dwarves shouldn't walk that far. What had gotten into the youths in the army?

Meanwhile I thought I had cleverly placed a unit of Warriors on the center of the board. As they tried to march and join up with my Thunderers and Ironbreakers, they where cruelly (and cravenly) assaulted by a High Elf on a Gryphon. That's another grudge in the book there for you, you pointy eared git! You where noticed!

The Black Prince of Karak-Wales was no match for the foul Gryphon and its craven rider.

Luckily I had a Thane embedded in the unit. He promptly challenged the High Elf. Unfortunately his 'strikes last' great weapon rule ensured he never got a chance to strike. By the time the Elf Lord was done with our poor hero, all that was left was a bloodstain on the table (and another grudge in the book). The Warrior unit ran away initiated a strategic withdrawal from combat. Somehow the Elf on the fast flying creature managed to outrun the tiny legged Dwarves. I got a distinct feeling that people Dwarves with 3" moves should just stay where they are. I also added another grudge into the big book.

A heroic Gyrocopter offered the fleeing Warriors a brief stay of execution. The Slayer conga line on the bottom missed all the action as they where facing to the picture's right.

As they where not in full panicked flight yet, my warriors did get a chance to defend themselves. This time the unit champion issued a challenge. He had no great weapon and a very impressive initiative of 2.  A High Elf Prince charging you in the back over a distance of 4 inches or more has initiave of 10. After carefully consulting Calculus, we discovered 10 is higher than 2. Long story short: another blood stain marked the ground (and another grudge was added to the big book). This time the rest of the unit decided to high-tail it to the table's edge. The flying chicken (on a Gryphon) was not impressed and followed in pursuit. At that point the Warriors would've all been dead if not for a brave little Gyrocopter that was conscientiously killing a unit of foul Elves with it's steam cannon. It heroically (and not at all accidentally) stopped the pursuing Elf from killing the defenseless Dwarves. 

As the Gyrocopter sped off toward the workshop for repairs, the Gryphon brazenly stomped the noble Dwarven Warriors into the ground.

Bashing through all the Gromril and Dwarven steel armor apparently managed to dull the Elf Lord's poorly crafted weapons. The Gyrocopter survived the fight. Having been damaged down to its last wound it had to go back for repairs. In a move that could be mistaken for fleeing, it gallantly sped off towards the closest table's edge. The Gryphon went after it in pursuit and bumped into the unit of Warriors it was originally pursuing. The Dwarves were grounded to a pulp as a result. A very strongly worded grudge was added to the book. 

As a rule cannon crew do not aspire to surprise chariot visits. 

Meanwhile my cannon crew was rolling the artillery piece past the forest hoping to find some sort of firing position. At that point they discovered a crazed Elf had taken his rickety cart through the forest. Quite the feat of nostalgia there. Misty eyed memories aside, the Elf was coming straight at my beautiful cannon. 

They still managed a hit, just not enough of a hit.

The crew turned and, having learned a lesson about overshooting in the previous battle, hit the cart full on with a cannonball. Unfortunately this didn't quite finish off the sneaky Elf. How this happened is the subject of an investigation by the Engineer's Guild. It is ongoing as we speak,

The crew bravely tried to destroy the lions by entering their slobbering jaws.

As the Chariot charged, the lions pulling it swallowed the hapless Dwarven crew whole. Luckily there's plenty of room in our book of grudges so we added: lions, rickety carts, and Elves manning them both individually and as a group. 

Just before firing I said: "It's a million to one chance, but it might just work," thus ensuring it would hit. It's almost cheating.

My flame cannon went for broke. It shot at maximum range, just behind a group of lost miners, expertly hitting the approaching Silverhelms (by rolling a very high number on the artillery dice)...

Scratch 'getting charged in the flank' from the list of 'fun activities to try'. 

...This failed to dissuade the Silverhelms from charging my Miners in their flank. Killing most and earning a mention in the book of grudges. 

Just you wait Elves, as soon as we're done marching up this hill, you'll be in for a fight!

The best chance of snatching some sort of victory from the jaws of defeat, was a lone Eagle's Claw Bolt Thrower up on a hill. My Ironbreakers formed a marching column to get to it. Unfortunately as they where singing their hi-ho combat song, a unit of Sword Masters showed up to defend the Bolt Thrower. 

Hey charging us is not fair, you cowards. Just wait until we're done running and you'll be in for a fight!

Savy by now, my Ironbreakers redressed the ranks from a marching column into combat order.The Sword Master's obliged my Dwarves, charged and then managed to win the combat. Purely by Elven trickery of course. My Ironbreakers bravely moved back to form a proper shield wall. A unit of Thunderers did get off a volley at some approaching Spearmen, but failed to really do any damage. At that point it was getting late. A Dragon Slayer charged the High Elf Lord on Gryphon to wrap up the battle. Unfortunately a gryphon is smaller than a dragon, which confused the Slayer. Despite equipping him with a sneaky brilliantly chosen Rune of Swiftness, the Slayer only got in a few wounds before  he too was smashed into a bloody puddle. 

This picture appears way too late in the story. I was planning to use it to make a bunch of maps with interesting looking arrows on it and other stuff. It turned out to be way too much work, so I skipped that step.

In the end my Dwarves lost rather badly. Scoring 195 victory points against 803.5 points for the High Elves. That includes having one of my unit banners stolen. I'll be adding thievery to the book of grudges! I did manage to apply enough steam and shot to a unit of Spearman to wipe it out, but most of the rest of my efforts centered around trying to get somewhere and getting charged in the flank as a thank you for the effort. In the next battle half my unit of Warriors will be gone, my Cannon will be at 50% wounds and both my Miners and Ironbreakers will have a -1 to their Leadership. I'm already looking forward to the fight though, it was an immensely entertaining evening. My lessons so far from playing The Old World are:

  • AoS Movement has made me lazy. In TOW it plays a larger role, which translates to plenty of opportunity to laugh your ass of at the horrifying position you put your units in (my Dwarf slayers formed a conga line marching column to get at the Elf units. This put their noses in the wrong direction to see a hulking Gryphon eat their boss. The idiots where uselessly standing behind a hedge as this happened. It was just too funny not to crack up.)
  • Dwarves should not be asked to move around. It's what Gyrocopters and enemies are there for.
  • Turns out I missed the old blocks pushing each other around. The new rules have kept it interesting but also reasonably easy to manage.
  • Don't fight duels with murderous creatures that have more initiative than you, actually do, it is hilarious and there's always the hope of seeing lots of ones on the dice. Also the murderous creatures will just challenge you anyway.
  • Integrating magic with the rounds it affects is a very cool mechanic even though it's quite irrelevant for Dwarves. 
  • Charging before moving is something I haven't quite gotten used to. It makes movement even more important. 
  • If a Lion Chariot wants to charge you, kill it with a single shot. Don't ask me how, just do it. Otherwise you'll end up writing a full page grudge.
  • Setting up the table for The Old World feels quite different from Age of Sigmar, especially for a terrain and scenery freak like me. TOW requires more open spaces to manoeuvre the blocks around.
  • I need something to mark area terrain on the gaming table. I'm currently thinking about how to make some difficult terrain markers that look cool, but won't hinder movement trays too much.
  • Movement trays are never the size you want your unit to be.
  • Unit trays are natural sleighs and slide down the annoying preformed hills on the Realm of Battle board. All you can do when this happens is say 'wheeee!'. Waving your arms about as you do that is optional.
  • The Old World is less forgiving to generals who screw up their original army formation. 
  • Always play scenario or at the very least use objectives. A straight game of Kill'm All does not do the game justice. This actually applies to any tabletop game if you ask me. 
  • It doesn't really matter what game system you play, as long as you have a blast playing it.

As a final observation. The Old World feels more rules-heavy, but in my opinion AoS is the rule'iest game of the two (I know, rule'iest is not a word, I just failed to think up an alternative). A game in either system involves a lot of flipping through books or (if you're feeling modern) scrolling through apps. AoS was set up to keep it simple and light. I think that made it particularly vulnerable to getting overwhelmed by special rules and 'balancing' counter-rules sprawling all over the core system. Playing AoS requires you find rules spread out over the Core Rulebook, Battle Tomes, an endless stream of General's Handbooks, FAQ's, Designer's Notes, etc. It has killed the easy acces to fun games original AoS offered. 

TOW by contrast seems has taken over forty years of feedback and streamlined the 3rd edition ruleset.  It kept a lot of the complicated, but fun things I remember (moving in blocks, calculating combat results, running away and pursuit) while losing others (complicated movement arcs for chariots, guess ranges, push back and follow up). There's a lot of rules, but they're all in one place. The Core Rules, two main army books (Forces of Fantasy and Ravening Hordes) and 'missing armies' pdf's form a fully working game. It is complex, but not at the expense of fun. So far the GW launched upgrades in the form of Arcane Journals (I'm buying them all) add new units and army list specific rules. That's okay, hopefully they'll add some scenario packs and a 'Warhammer Armies' expansion (for the missing armies) later, and leave the annoying 'edition changes' to the 'main game lines'. To be honest, I'm so sick and tired of buying the same core rulebook and army books over and over that I've skipped 40K 9th edition and 10th editon. I'll probably be skipping AoS 4.0 as well, although those lovely new plastic Skaven are an almost impossible to resist temptation.


  1. Glad to hear you had fun! Fun should after all be the main point of getting together to play.

    And yes, the new Skaven look great...

    1. Cheers, if all goes well we'll fight the second of the three battles somewhere this week. Already looking forward to it.

  2. A fascinating read. I played most editions of WFB and had wondered about The Old World. Your comments about it drawing from third edition is interesting, it gives me some idea of what they were aiming for.
    I feel very sorry for your dwarves, it sounds like it was the scenario that defeated them in the second game.

    1. Never underestimate bad generalship. After setting up badly I aggravated my mistake by trying to speed march them into formation, splitting my divided army further and opening up my units to flank attacks. That said, I had a lot of fun, especially steaming the unit of Elves to a well done crisp.

      Most of my Warhammer Fantasy Battles experience is with 3rd and 4th editions (and a bit of 8th). The Old World feels more like 3rd because of the options on the army lists and slightly more detailed rules then 4th and 8th had. Then again, I honestly don't think rules matter all that for a 'casual' gamer like me, good company, a nice looking table and a fresh drink take precedence :)

  3. Scolded by Mrs Hobbiest for ruining those lovely older bases, that made me laugh, the thought of rebasing my army.. no thank you.. adators, spacer trays, I'm every edition compatible by accident.

    Games looked fun, that rust will soon come off and then there'll be no mercy for those in the Book of Grudges. haha. I prefare WHF setting and the rules system, the troop regiments and blocks to AoS and its organised chaos, never liked the high fantasy setting and the rules have been so bogged down in layers of additional mechanics its like gibberish. I enjoy playing AoS in its original easy-peasy edition.

    Looking forward to the new jezzails, don't need anything else in the starter set, I'll wait for seperate boxes.. not keen on the new design style, many of the Skaven look unwell, great for building Clan Skurvy, Skrapp, or Fester.

    1. Heh, I hear you on the rebasing front. I just softly hum a mispronounced version of Debaser by the Pixies to keep the mood up (by employing bad puns).

      I fully agree with AoS getting bogged down to gibberish, it's such a pity that a few nice changes gett added to the avalanche of nonsense. Just enough to want to play with the later version. Ah we'll see, I'll have lots of fun with Skaven soon, although I'm getting good enough at 3D-printing to actually consider never buying ready made miniatures again.

    2. Really? thats cool, there are some stunning models out there for hobbiests into printing, some fantastic ratmen styled models too.. I'd be buried under a wave of verminous goodness after seeing some of the things available.. from warlord palaquins and rat ogre mounts to Skryre Globadiers and Moulder Wolfrats.

    3. I think hoarding digital files is even easier (and worse) than hoarding plastic and putty miniatures. They are easier to get hold of and you can dump so many files on a single hard drive (without even noticing).

    4. Oh this conversation just took a dark turn, I didn't realise the virtual hoard can be its own rabbit hole. Looks like a limited buget and poor relationship with technology has saved me from a whole new addiction, data files are the new plastic crack.

    5. It's not quite that dark, as long as you approach it like Schrödinger approached his famous cat. As long as you don't try to index your files, you both have too many and not quite enough. Come to think of it, I hoard my lead/plastic/resin pile in more or less the same way :D

  4. I can't argue with that defence, in fact isn't that train of thought part of greenskin collector genetic makeup.. I have a lot of boyz to go krumpin, but theres always room for more.