This Year, Everything Ends… Apparently. (With GIFs…)

RobLoweEverythingEndsFirst 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.

BlackLibrary-EndTImes

It has been replaced by Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.

First of all…

BatemanDontKnowWhatExpected

I’m not sure it’s what has been unveiled today, though. Three more things:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

WraightC-AoS-GatesOfAzyrChaos 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.

WarhammerAgeOfSigmar

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…

BookHeaddesk

And…

SheldonOhPlease

And, after reading a bit more about the reboot, I was a bit…

CommunityAbedSkeptical

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…

RuffaloHulkExcited

Or…?

HermioneWhatEvsClap

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.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “This Year, Everything Ends… Apparently. (With GIFs…)

  1. I’ve been really entertained at the reaction of many players. I read over the new rules and I get why they are upset. The game as they know it is gutted.

    I think, much as you seem to, that GW will continue to produce technically solid content out of Black Library. I think that this direction for the universe will even give them more potential for their writing. Making the “impossible possible”, kind of approach. However, I also think that the bounds and constraints of their previous universe is what helped make things believable and sets up some good stories. The fight between the dwarves, skaven, and goblins over Karak Eight Peaks has produced some good one-offs. Although, I think what really helps is the on-going narrative and history there, building over time. I’m curious to see if that same build-up and on-going history will apply to the new universe.

    The new game is built, thus far it seems, to produce stories and narratives based on dice and models. Social contracts are necessary in this game more than any other. Going in to a game wanting to see how long your lone swordsman can withstand the horde of monsters is an obvious thing for this system. There are plenty of stories devoted to this kind of move, the most touted being the whole Gandalf and Balrog bit. I like to hope that this means GW will continue to strive for storytelling at it’s finest as opposed to mixing and matching lots of themes and characters until they happen to get something right.

    But I don’t know. I’m curious to see what comes out of it all. At this point, I think it is still too early to see what GW are planning for their IP. We’ve only been given a taste. Where it goes from here is still too difficult to see clearly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree.
      For me, the stuff BL’s been producing has been great, but the “bolter-porn” stories/novels were never that interesting to me — I want lots of story, lots of character focus, etc. I know that’s just one opinion in a sea of many. For me, Warhammer fiction always allowed for more of the urban-based, conspiracy-laden stories, but also the character-focused quests: for example, Gotrek & Felix series (and the Ursula spin-off), Kim Newman novels and stories (as Jack Yeovil). Even the first End Times novel, “The Return of Nagash”, was more character-focused than battle-focussed. I loved that.
      I’m hopeful that they’ll pull this off. I guess I just need to read a bit more about this new post-apocalyptic, multi-realm (and pseudo-space marine-populated) version of Warhammer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Initial question. How many years after the end times does this take place? Is the whole “World before time” business before Fantasy or have aons passed?

    I suppose I’m curiously optimistic, I really liked fantasy and didn’t feel the need for a change (though I wasn’t a big fan of the last edition), but I’d like to see what they want to do. The idea of a thematic apocalypse narrative playing out before me is fairly tantalising as something that rarely takes place.

    Like

    • I actually have no clue. This is all (apparently) after the Warhammer “apocalypse” – that takes place in the End Times, I guess. I’ve only read the first novel in the ET series, and a couple of short stories. I intend to do a full read-through soon, though.

      Like

  3. My biggest problem with the whole thing is how far GW has gone to differentiate Age of Sigmar from the old Warhammer Fantasy. You mentioned the Marvel/DC-“reboots” but what GW has done would be something like rebooting Batman as a werewolf-cop who also dresses up as a bat outside his work to be a vigilante. You got this image in your head what Warhammer Fantasy is and GW just suddenly tells you “Now it’s THIS instead.”. And the difference between those two images is SO extreme that it’s really jarring to call both things Warhammer in your mind. At the same time, though, this new WH Fantasy does have those callbacks to the old WH Fantasy for some reason which makes the whole thing even more confounding. Fluff-wise it really does feel like a reboot that went way too far.

    And the actual fluff of this new game sounds, as you said, bonkers. Then again, trying to explain the WH40k-setting to someone who has never heard of it before is an overwhelming experience as well. So I hope that what we’ve gotten so far is just the short version and that there’s more to this setting than that. Right now I feel like it tries to echo this Norse-mythology-idea of different realms/worlds but it’s all tinged with familiar ideas from the old WH Fantasy and stuff that kinda feels familiar (like those Sigmar’s Chosen army feeling like Fantasy Space Marines).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Since writing this, I’ve picked up and read White Dwarf #75-76, and also the free Age of Sigmar primer. I can’t say I’m any the wiser as to how this new reality can be visualized. One handy thing – this is set “millennia” after the End Times.

    The description of the new Stormcast and their relationship to Sigmar… Well, they’re Space Marines. The terminology is pretty much the same, the idea of them being remade and also the “God-King” terminology (as opposed to “God-Emperor”), there’s a character who is basically an Astartes Chaplain…

    It’s an interesting, possibly brave, possibly foolhardy decision, to wipe away decades of established and refined history. As it is now, and I know we’re still in early days, it feels muddled and underdeveloped. Far too many vagaries, “tantalizing” hints that are a little frustrating. And I’m none the wiser as to how they’ll compose much fiction around it. I’m looking forward to seeing if they manage to get it right. I’m hopeful, but also remain mildly confused.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s