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Warhammer: Playing for Keeps

I never understood winning. It always seems so overrated. It has reached the point where even games I enjoy and am good at, I don’t play to win. That’s not the point. It’s about having fun.

I used to love Warhammer. Ever since I was a small boy I remember always building and painting some Warhammer army or other. My very first army was Vampire Counts, then Bretonnia, the Empire, and the Nurgle’s Warriors of Chaos. I became fairly good at playing, before putting down the glue for seven years and deciding to try to fit in with the cool kids. Needless to say, I failed.

When I got a job after university I met a couple of fellow gamers. Back then I was fairly new to the board game scene, and those two gamers would be set to become two of my closest friends for years to come; however, back then I was new to the job and new to them. They were both Warhammer players – one did Vampire Counts, funnily enough, and the other Wood Elves. It turns out that the saying is true. There is always an Elf player.

One lunchtime I got chatting to them both and mentioned the fact that I missed painting models. It was a great hobby from a creative perspective, and so I was thinking about starting an army again. They were enthused. I was enthused. There was much enthusage (or enthusiasm, if you want to use the technical term). Quickly, I started looking through different armies online to pick one I liked.

Then I came across Night Goblins.

Night Goblins.

I mean, look at them. What isn’t to like?

Night Goblin Regiment

Night Goblin Regiment

Look how tiny and cute they are, and snow. There always had to be snow.

So yes, I started a Night Goblin army, collecting over 120 Night Goblins, 12 Fanatics, several Shamen, some Squigs, and a unit of Orcs for good measure. They were savage for extra “rawg-ness”. There were River Trolls, and a ridable Squig, and it was amazing.


Dave and Gavin. A leader and troll.

I lost every single battle. They didn’t win once. Not once. But I didn’t care. There was something incredibly therapeutic about playing a random army. No-one knew how they were going to act, not even me, and that was insanely fun to play. Every now and then a fanatic would be released and take out half an enemy regiment. Every now and then it would take out half of mine. Trolls were amazing, squigs were randomly run, and every game turned into a laugh.

It was fantastical to imagine – a great necromantic warlord, confused by a squig who decided to chase its own tail.

Age of Sigmar

When Age of Sigmar came out, our group was excited. There were four of us – a Night Goblin player, a Wood Elf player, an Orc player, and a Vampire Counts player. We loved the idea of simplified rules, and each began investing in new pieces for our armies. I decided to go down the Ogre route as then, I thought, I may actually stand a chance.

Terry the Ogre

Terry the Ogre

And then the Sigmarines happened. As you can probably tell, I was not a fan.

I don’t even know what they are called, or what they are meant to be. The Vampire Counts player in our group decided to invest in Sigmarines, so we played a game. They were good. They were too good. There was nothing wrong with them. They were demigods, walking the Battlefield in Warhammer 40k style armour, taking apart anything in their path. They were indestructible.

I have heard that as one of the main criticisms for Age of Sigmar, the fact the rules were too simplistic. They were, and they didn’t help balance the game. It became impossible to play. Fixes have come out now; however, now it is too late. The damage was done.

What had happened was Games Workshop had forgotten the joy in the game. They had forgotten the fun there is to have in losing. They had forgotten it is the journey that matters, not the destination. They were playing for keeps.

Night Goblin Warlord

My lone warlord, Rand.

That was it. We put down Age of Sigmar and we never picked it up again. The good news is fewer Warhammer days meant we could try more board games, the bad news is I kind of miss it. I miss the building and painting, the creating obscure characters with people names and fighting dragons far bigger than my goblins. There was something cathartic about it, something nice about the little guy always standing tall. When they got knocked down they just stood back up again.

It appears Night Goblins are still yet to be redone in the Sigmarine style; however, the new Orcs have not been so lucky. They look big and beefy, almost interchangeable with 40k; however, the love has gone. Once you create a demigod race everything is doomed to go the same way, looking like demigod destroyers. Such is the way of GW I suppose. They always bring some army killing piece out before bringing out the thing to beat it in each army. I still remember the Tomb Kings alter being one of those back in the day; however, I digress.

Maybe one day I’ll go back to it; however, it is important for Games Workshop to realise that it is not always the winning that is fun. In a good game it should be just as fun coming last.


  1. I totally agree that fun should be an important part of the game.

    I am that Wood Elf player mentioned in the article. I went with Wood Elves as i have a connection with them. No idea if they were good or bad, i just wanted to paint and play with woodland races/creatures. This is where i go my enjoyment. OK, i won a couple of games – but i think that was pure luck.

    I think a demigod Night Goblin would be amusing to see. The total chaos/randomness of their actions would be hilarious.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think what may have smacked you over the head was the original system they used in AoS – aka “open play” – aka just plonk your models down on the table and go for it!

    With such a system designed for Sigmarines and Hulking Brutes of Khorne and no way to even attempt to balance the game, it’s no wonder that less elite armies get smashed. It may well be worth your guys picking up the General’s Handbook – which adds points to the game, so you can attempt to have a more balanced battle. I mean, an individual goblin is always going to get kicked around (*except maybe by skaven?) but a whole lotta goblins should be able to put some hurt down! I haven’t played a lot, but I’ve read that it’s a hero-centric game, so maybe the big crazy stuff would do better?


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