Monday, July 4, 2022

The Mass Combat Fantasy Role-Playing Game

Though I was (eventually) an avid reader of White Dwarf, my direct experience with most of Games Workshop's other products was quite limited. I largely missed out on games like Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play until many years after the fact and even then my experience of it was cursory. That said, I do remember quite vividly the original marketing campaign for the very first edition of Warhammer, featuring the advertisement below.

Though I never bought the game – primarily because I never saw it in any of the hobby shops I frequented – I was nevertheless greatly intrigued by it. Warhammer's subtitle of "the mass combat fantasy role-playing game" intrigued me greatly. Around the time this was released (1983), I had begun to see a need for a stronger integration between personal and mass combat in roleplaying games. Consequently, Warhammer caught my attention. Had I been able to find a copy locally sooner, I likely would bought a copy. By the time I could, I had already read the lukewarm reviews of it in Dragon and so decided to pass on it. I now rather regret that, since that original edition is probably the only one whose complexity is within the range my feeble brain can handle. Ah, well!


  1. I did purchase this as soon as it showed up on shelves back in the day. I'm not sure why. I was never into the wargaming aspect of D&D and no one in my various groups ever used minis (impossible to find in the 70s even if we could have afforded them-we couldn't- and by the 80s, saw no need). If one of us bought a wargame, it was a wargame. Squad Leader. Commando. Jutland, etc.

    I guess it was the "UK gaming style/attitude/aesthetic" that got me to crack my wallet open for the original WH game. I loved U1, the few issues of WD I could find, as well as the Fighting Fantasy books that were showing up on shelves at my Crown Books.

    This ended up being one of two or three dozen "shelf queens" in my collection as a Teen.

  2. My cousin, who had been a wargamer before he discovered D&D and introduced it to us, bought a copy.
    By 1984 he was running a campaign in a manner similar to what was later introduced with Mighty Empires.
    While my brother became an avid warhammer gamer, I never did.
    But I remember that this edition included some very basic rpg rules too, or at least some character generation rules.

    1. Yes, it's just about possible to run a basic dungeon crawling rpg with these rules, as I recall.

  3. A close friend of mine who had more money than me got it for the RPG rules. We never played it but I still recall you could equip your character with 20marlboros! Imagine that now!

  4. I bought it when it was first published. It was 3 firsts for me: my first miniatures game, my first fantasy game, and my first roleplyaing game. I mostly played Avalon Hill historical wargames before that. I stuck around till 3rd edition (late 80s, early 90s), but abandoned it when 4th edition came out (92 IIRC), which transformed it into a pure wargame and not so much a blend between roleplaying and wargaming.

  5. I played in a one shot of this when our GM wasn't available. It has a cool semi-role playing scenario in the back.