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In mid-2015 Warhammer, a miniatures wargame that had been going for 25 years, ended. The company that owns Warhammer, Games Workshop, took the game, threw it out, and replaced it with a different title with a vastly different setting.
The question of whether this was the correct decision is one I can only answer with “too soon to tell,” but there were certainly reasons why Warhammer should have stayed.
The setting is popular
The game may not have sold well, but this was not due to an inability to connect with an audience through the setting. The Warhammer World was recognisable, and may not have been ‘mainstream’ popular, it was certainly well known to gamers.
It is no mistake that the fastest selling game in the very popular Total War series is their only non-historical title: Warhammer: Total War. The Warhammer World speaks to an audience. Its strong resonance to existing fantasy and history means newcomers can easily understand the setting too.
It’s identifiable and resonant
The Warhammer World contains many fantasy elements; orcs, zombies, giants, and so forth, that audiences already understand. You don’t need to explain to people that a giant is a lumbering, powerful monster; they already know. The same is true of not just other miniatures but entire armies in the Warhammer game. Tomb Kings present a skeletal horde, Bretonnia is all about the cavalry, the High Elves combine spear and bow with some solid counterpunching, and of course have dragons.
A new player will not lack for an army to identify with. While the game suffered from having no clear path to entry, this is something fixed through clear product offerings, not through jettisoning products an audience can identify with.
It provides a base to build from
The Warhammer games had 25 years behind it. The setting was static but this is not such a bad thing for a wargame. In a static setting you are setting the players up to experience the future of the setting through the battles they have with friends at home or at shops and clubs.
Would the Vampire Counts take over the Empire? Maybe, if you fight a campaign over a year with some friends and things turn out that way. What you don’t need is Games Workshop telling you the did. With a static setting groups of gamers everywhere get to guide the setting, instead of having the setting guiding them.
Let the game provide the set up, then let players take care of the rest. Games Workshop aren’t the only company out there who seemingly don’t understand the power of this approach.
What is done cannot be undone
Warhammer as it once was is gone. It won’t be coming back. Older players can hope for more of their models to be brought into Age of Sigmar in a meaningful way.
What was your experience? Were you so distanced from Warhammer that you don’t care, or is the new game simply more appealing to you? Or are you still in shock?
For a different view, read the companion article: Why Warhammer had to go.