This article is intended to serve as a beginning point for anyone interested in war gaming and to showcase what I think two of the best war strategy games ever; the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k produced by Games Workshop Limited.
What are Warhammer and Warhammer 40k? Put simply, in my opinion, are the best war strategy games designed for two players, which involve the assembly, painting, and perhaps conversion of metal or plastic miniatures, to the point where those miniatures can be used as a functioning army. These armies, drawn from the myriad races featured in both games, fight each other using a combination of the statistics used to determine the performance of the models within, and dice rolls, with players matching wits and luck to determine the winner, although fun is of paramount importance.
The games will usually consist of between a thousand and two thousand points of models, with lists drawn up using the army books and codices available for the armies featured in both systems. Each player will take turns to move, shoot with, and assault with his forces, seizing objectives and wiping out opposing units to claim victory points. Most games last for five or six of these turns, though sometimes a seventh is possible, and a typical army will experience many changes as its owner seeks victory over his opponents.
What I am hoping to do here is to illuminate you, not only to the background prevalent in both worlds, whilst at the same time showing you how to defend yourself against any nay Sayers who see fit to dismiss your lovingly crafted models as toys or dolls. Now in a sense these models are toys, since they serve much the same purpose as toys. The difference is that unlike normal toys, which come pre-assembled and painted, with Warhammer toys you are responsible for assembly and painting, though this frees you up to instill your own mark upon the model.
As to deciding which of the two systems you wish to play, or which army, I will briefly describe the background and try to give a quick overview of the armies available. Warhammer Fantasy Battles is the older of the two systems and is essentially a combination of classic Tolkien-esque fantasy with the world of the Renaissance. At the heart of Warhammer is the Old World dominated by the struggle between the Empire, based on the Holy Roman Empire, and the dark forces of Chaos. Essentially it is the story of ordinary humans trying to stave off an impending apocalypse, represented and furthered by Chaos, whilst at the same time existing with a fantasy framework containing, Elves, both good and bad, the Undead, Orcs & Goblins, along with original creatures, such as the rat-like Skaven.
Warhammer 40,000 (or 40k as it is also known) on the other hand retains the gothic fantasy element of its forebear, but here it is blended in with Science Fiction to provide a unique world in which the demonic can battle the alien, and the arcane and futuristic can become the same thing. Many of the races in 40k have their origins in those found in Fantasy battles, with Orks, Eldar and Dark Eldar all corresponding to races in Warhammer. Others however such as the Tau or the Necrons are standard Science fiction archetypes, while the relentless and utterly alien Tyranids are a original concept.
The Warhammer and Warhammer 40k is simply one of the best war strategy game ever made. Its world is a fascinating one where history and myth collide with fantasy, a world where wonders and terrors are to be found in equal measure, where heroes are threatened by enemies both within and without, where magic and technology are combined in equal measure.