First DC Comics brought us Future’s End, and also Convergence. Marvel comics brought everything sort-of-not-really to an end (so they can have another new beginning-that-isn’t-a-reboot-we-promise). More relevant to this post, Black Library/Games Workshop also brought us the End Times. It would appear that 2014/15 is the year to bring everything to an end so we can start anew. DC and Marvel’s reboots aren’t particularly game-changing — yes, there are some major changes, but functionally everything’s staying pretty much the same, save for Marvel’s series naming strategy, which is moving in a direction that looks like parody: “All-New” is becoming “All-Different All-New”… Which is something I joked about last year. So, +1 divination/prediction for me.
This brings us to Games Workshop’s End Times and what, revealed today, it has been replaced wit.
One of GW’s primary properties, Warhammer: Fantasy Battle, is now over. Five novels in the End Times series, two novels about the Big Bad of that event (Archaon), plus a couple of tie-in novels to bring long-standing series to a close. It’s all done.
It has been replaced by Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.
First of all…
I’m not sure it’s what has been unveiled today, though. Three more things:
- This is not a post intended to just crap on GW’s decision. I am not privy to anything that’s gone on in their offices. So, consider this a long-time fan of the setting musing on what was announced/unveiled today.
- I think they might have released this new game too early — there are two armies, scant background information, and seemingly no details of what is to come. True, they’ve released the rules free for various mobile devices, and also some free, simple rules sets for existing armies. What I’ve read from those who were sent the game early for review (and that was a surprise, that they’ve actually done that) is that it’s a fast and quick to learn, but nowhere near as in-depth or immersive as previous iterations of the game.
- Probably more important, I’m not a long-time player of Warhammer — in fact, I’ve only played two games, decades ago. I always preferred the narrative and aesthetic side to GW’s products, and it is for that reason that I’ve been reading the short fiction and novels for decades.
Which, really, is what makes me nervous about this major change. Despite the frankly gorgeous new models, it seems very much like they’ve stripped Warhammer of what has kept it alive for decades, and what has consistently drawn new players and fans: the rich, atmospheric, highly-established world and “history”. It’s offered a metric-shit-ton of material to inspire countless novels, short stories, etc. And I’ve happily, even eagerly consumed most of what they’ve published.
Chaos has always been a mostly hidden enemy, often a very real threat from the shadows. Now there are various different worlds/realms, and it looks wholly battle-focused. I can’t really see how they’re going to maintain an interesting and imaginative line of novels/short stories around this development. Chris Wraight has written a novella to mark the release of the game, Gates of Azyr:
The war is over, and the Mortal Realms have all but fallen to Chaos… Khorgos Khul rampages across the fiery Realm of Aqshy, hunting down mortal kind to slaughter or subjugate to Khorne. His Goretide have crushed all resistance… until the storm. From the heavens hurtle paladins clad in gold. Sent by Sigmar, the Stormcast Eternals have come to liberate all the realms from the yoke of Chaos.
This novella, available in multiple formats, will be released later this month (I pre-ordered the novella, which is due out on July 11th). I’m going to read it, even though I haven’t finished the End Times novels, because I’m kind of intrigued.
The general synopsis for this new game sounds bonkers, though — like they gave Warhammer over to Grant Morrison (whose work, long-time readers will know, I don’t rate particularly highly…):
The World Before Time is gone. Shattered. Consigned to an oblivion no-one thought possible. The metallic core of that ill-fated world was hurled through the cosmos, the God-King Sigmar clinging desperately to its sigmarite surface. Aeons passed, until the core caught the attention of the great drake Dracothion; it was he who rescued Sigmar, and taught him the secrets of the Mortal Realms — connected by Realmgates and peacefully populated for many years.
But even in this utopia, Chaos would find a way to corrupt and distort everything. The Age Of Chaos gradually turned life in the realms into hell. Embracing wisdom instead of strength, Sigmar retreated to the Celestial Realm and began assembling the greatest mortal warriors, steeping them in the magic of the stars and instilling them with absolute divinity.
The Stormcast Eternals, as Sigmar named them, are ready. Sigmar’s storm is lined up to unleash its fury on the forces of chaos. The realms will tremble and the skies will scorch as the legions of the Dark Gods feel the blistering rage of the Stormhosts!
The Age Of Sigmar has arrived.
Hm: “clinging desperately to its sigmarite surface…”? I’ll admit, this whole synopsis had me feeling a bit…
And, after reading a bit more about the reboot, I was a bit…
Then, after I lowered my raised eyebrow, I became more open to wait and see. I guess.
There have been a fair number of other articles/reviews of the new game and scant background provided, from far more knowledgable writers than me. (They also feature fewer GIFs, but I’m in a strange mood, today. So hey-ho.) Twitter, also, has been all, uh, atwitter with commentary. (Sorry. Ish.) A fair bit of it has been quite interesting, but there’s also a lot more of the “Gah! We hate GW now! Burn them!” ilk, that floats around the internet on any given issue. And so forth.
This post probably suggests that I’m far more invested in this than I actually am. But, after a couple of decades of following GW’s Warhammer and WH40k fiction lines, especially the Horus Heresy series, the now-ended Gotrek & Felix series, and Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts (plus other, shorter storylines), I discovered I had a few thoughts to get down.
Obviously, I need to check out the game’s actual background section, and I have no doubt we’ll get more over the next few months. But, to be honest, I’d be lying if I said I was cautiously optimistic. The models, as I’ve said, look amazing, and I have no doubt that there will be truckloads more brilliantly designed miniatures on the horizon. But, as predominantly a fan of the fiction, I’m not sure this change will suit my tastes.
What do other fans think? Will GW pull off a win? Are you…
Will Black Library’s line manage to adapt to this new change while maintaining the quality of storytelling? Their stable of authors is packed with talent, sure, and I’m sure what they produce will be well-written. I’m just not sure the setting is as conducive to great storytelling.