Childhood Nostalgia and Games Workshop
While historical games have been the main focus at our club, and these blogs, I must confess that historical wargames were not my first true tabletop wargaming love. Like many fellow wargamers growing up in the 90's, my hobby journey started by dabbling with roleplaying games and buying the odd Grenadier or Ral Partha miniature at the hobby store. That is, until the day that a young Jonas pooled his savings, went on a pilgrimage to the hallowed Tradition store in Gothenburg, and bought his very own first real tabletop wargame: The Warhammer Fantasy Battles 4th edition starter set.
Filled to the brim with monopose goblins and elves, these minis would go on to battle on floorboards and dining tables for many years. Gradually the cardboard cut-out monsters in the box were replaced by metal wyverns and catapults, poor bastards who kept falling apart due to my sadly completely lacking knowledge about how to even pin the heavy pieces together.
My Warhammer Fantasy minis were soon accompanied by Warhammer 40K and monthly allowances were eagerly converted into cruel Goblins, noble Eldar and slimy Tyranids. I also remember buying an uncanny number of White Dwarfs and army lists, as both me and my friends kept scrambling from army to army, unable to collect a single cohesive force. There was just too much cool stuff to get from all the various ranges! Even if we dipped into other tabletop games like Battletech or Warzone, Warhammer was the looming meltagun-armed titan that overshadowed all other options whenever I stepped into the gaming shop.
Oh How the Mighty Fell
Gradually, me and my friends shifted away from Warhammer as we grew older. Card games, especially Magic, were more accessible and could easily be carried around and played everywhere. At university I ended up with more roleplayers than wargamers in my group of friends, which kept my gaming diet lead-free.
But as years went by, I felt the itch to pick up painting miniatures again. As an adult I had an advantage in both funds and focus compared to my young teenager self which enabled me to actually paint units and not just collect a bunch of poorly half-painted blister packs from various armies. The numerous wargaming forums and websites made the hobby much more accessible than ever before.
The boom in historical miniatures around 2010 or so became my starting point: I'd collect a Warhammer Empire army, but with samurai miniatures! After many months of buying and painting I was ready for my first couple of games at the local club, a bold return to the worlds of Games Worshop.
And just then, Warhammer turned to shit.
If you are into the game you can probably guess about when this was. If you are not, the short story is that Games Workshop kind of lost the plot as a company for a while and made a string of increasingly bad design and business decisions, culminating in scrapping Warhammer Fantasy entirely without really knowing what to replace it with. But that was just one of many bad turns on GW's part that made me completely discard the idea of caring about their games anymore. I redirected my attention to historical games entirely, and didn't look back.
Until now, that is.
A Return to Gee-Dubs
My reason for giving Games Workshop attention again for the first time in almost six years is not their main games, Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40K. On the contrary, their most interesting output nowadays comes from their side games, or "boxed games" as they call them. The very kind of stuff that their Specialist Games were doing before they were axed in The Dark Age of Bad Workshop. Those days seems to be coming back, and this year I plan to build and paint models for at least two of them.
Necromunda - A Tour to the Underhive
I always loved reading about Necromunda in White Dwarf as a kid. Even though me and my friends never bought the game, the idea of scrappy skirmish fights between dystopian gangs in the sordid underbelly of the Warhammer 40K world really caught my imagination. These were not the stalwart Space Marines, but the struggles of the worst humanity had to offer. Like, really the worst:
Necromunda is a skirmish game with a huge emphasis on campaigns. The main selling point is that it lets you follow a set of low-life thugs struggle at the literal grimy bottom of 40K society, evolving as a gang in the Underhive with both wins and losses, crippled limbs and illicitly bought experimental weapons, and maybe the occasional encounter with riot police or horribly mutated beasts.
Games Workshop re-released Necromunda recently and the miniatures look great. With most gangs fielding 8-10 miniatures, you can really spend some effort on painting them without ending up with a huge project on your hands.
After some discussion at the club I ended up buying a box of Escher, the poison-crazy 80's fashionistas of the game, as well as a box of Delaque, the stealthy mysterious types. I'll post the gangs as soon as I have painted them, and hopefully we'll see some thematic terrain as well. Buying and painting two gangs seems like a great way to both enable variety as a player and allowing for other people to dip into a campaign without being pressured to collect a gang of their own.
In this case, the pure nostalgia of "the game that got away" combined with the nice miniatures and the small model count of a gang made it easy to convince me to jump in.
If Necromunda is a well-known concept, Underworlds might require a bit more of an introduction if you haven't given attention to Games Workshop lately. But there are a few reasons why it might be worth your time.
The game is a mix of a board game, a miniature game and a deck building card game. You play with warbands that are set in stone, consisting of a handful of very specific models. These fight on a board, and you use a deck of card to play things like victory points and special actions. So the customization is in the deck, not an army list, and each warband comes with both their own unique cards and generic cards that can be used by any warband.
The second slightly confusing thing is that the game has "cycles", like many collectible card games. So every now and then they change the name of the game, and older warbands are gradually rotated out of production. So the current set of warbands are sold under the banner of Beastgrave, while the first ones were called Shadespire and Nightvault. But it's the same game.
The main draw for me with Underworlds is the design of the warbands miniatures. Most of them ooze of personality and they have often a lot of variation within the warband too. With each warband being a self-contained project for less than 20 quid, it's something you can pick up and paint in a week if you set your mind to it. This is great for trying out new painting technique and paint schemes, or simply to experience painting a few goblins without signing up to painting their four hundred cousins afterwards. If the game turns out to be fun as well, that's just an added bonus.
Starting out I'm painting the first released Orcs warband, Ironskull's Boyz. I bought the Beastgrave starting set too, and after giving the Beastmen away to incite more players I ended up with the half-faun, half-elf warband in it. I'd be surprised if this doesn't lead to me getting some more warbands too, especially as some of the latest releases have looked interesting.
A New Beginning
Who knows where all this nostalgic resurgence at the club will end. There are dark wispers of dusty armies stirring in their boxes after decades of sleep. Chaotic energies glow darkly as tattered banners rise once more for battle.
With the impact that these worlds had on us in our formative years, I think we simply have to admit that our interest in them never die. They just go to sleep, dreaming of the next time that the stars will align and Games Workshop will crank out good stuff again.