The fantasy environment is filled with sterotypes, it’s a part of parcel of the genre that has established itself from its beginnings in the primordial soup of works like Robert E. Howards Conan through to Tolkien’s masterworks and more modern pieces like Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time”. What these pieces of literature have done is to expand upon age old mythology and craft tales of heroism against vile beasties of all descriptions, whether it’s a hellish demon or sorcerer, right through to Trolls and Myrdraal. Otherworldy monsters with amazing strength/magical abilities could often be singled out as appropriate bad guys for our protagonist to fight against due to the fact they are largely alien to the real world in which we live. Therefore if the (typically) normal person can overcome these seemingly impossible beasts then the dramatic effect of that victory is magnified as we can understand the limits placed upon a normal human frame.
It is unsurprising then that when this medium is translated into the realms of the tabletop wargame those monsters that captured our imaginations in literature come to life across dining table the world over. Fantasy games especially are festooned with dragons, treemen, trolls, minotaurs, giants and other creatures born of fevered imaginations. For our purposes today we will be looking at the Warhammer world, a land not without more than its fair share of fearsome unnatural creatures.
Way back when I first started in the hobby Warhammer had a Bestiary, a list of all the different monsters than existed in the world and any army had access to them. Empire with Giant Scorpions, you got it, Dark Elves with a Cockatrice, there you go, Undead with a Silverback Gorilla, not a chance. Now, as the game has matured through several versions since those heady days of my misspent youth things have been refined a little. While these same beasts still exist out there in the Warhammer world (except the Gorilla of course) those available for recruitment by the various armed factions have become limited. No longer do we have a laundry list of monsters that any army can pick from, things are a little more tailored now that we get available monsters in the core lists for each army. Personally, I have to admit that I prefer this way of constructing one’s army as some of the choices didn’t really make sense alongside the force they were chosen with. Yet, there is a new trend that is appearing throughout the books, or, at the least, there appears to be and I’m not sure I like it.
Being an adherent to the Warhammer world I look over each army release, I’m not a fanatical collector of all the army books *cough*Gribblin*cough* but I do tend to enjoy looking at the new models and whathaveyou. The Daemons release obviously caused an uproar for how amazingly overpowered it was claimed to be, then we had Warriors of Chaos which took half of the Beastmen list and crammed it alongside the less mutated mortal servants of the Dark Gods. While before this they still had access to monsters it wasn’t as normal to have a proper Warriors list backed up by Dragon Ogres, Shaggoths and Giants. The new Lizardmen book added more power to the Stegadons and the Dark Elf book gave the Hydra a major boost too. Then we come to the last book to be released and the next one on the horizon. People decry the power of Greater Daemons and the undercosted Hydra and then we receive the confirmation of the aptly named Hell Pit Abomination. Never before have Skaven had something that equates to the scale and power of this individual beast, it takes half the special rules from the book and lumps them into one model just shy of 300pts. This monster is rightly feared across the battlefield.
I have followed rumours around the Beastmen book and finally got to have a quick preview of it last week as I was visiting my local game store. From memory I can recall three beasts of giant size coming around the 275pts mark, similar to the Abomination. Now, while I appreciate out of all the armies out there Beasts probably have more right to a horde of large-base monstrosities it is not just their size that is the problem. While I won’t release any spoilers here suffice to say that each of these monsters has some fairly evil rules to match. Just like the Abomination and Hydra are not pushovers for their cost neither are the new Beasts. I wonder if this trend is going to continue in the next releases, current internet rumours suggest we’ll either be seeing the Ogres of Tomb Kings being refreshed, I think the Undead require more of an update than the Ogres but then I am not really all that into the Ogre army.
I’m not sure I agree with the big beasty in every army that seems to be the route GW are going down. While I can see that some armies fit the idea (Beasts for instance) I don’t think that you can “standardise” these things across the whole segment. What really winds me up is that out of these new monsters the only one with a model is the giant and hydra, all the new ones do not have a model available. While this gives players a change to show off their creativity one of my largest bugbears regarding GW is the fact they will often release options in army books that never get a model released. I remember the previous edition of the Dark Elf book where there was no model for a Dreadlord or Noble available throughout the whole time the book was current. I think this is inexcusable for a miniatures company to not have a model for something that everyone is going to have at least one of to use.
So, Internetz, do you think I’m seeing something that isn’t there, or is our fantasy game becoming Monsterhammer? I can guarantee we’ll see lots of them in tournaments over the coming year.