Warhammer Fantasy is both a tabletop RPG as well as a book series.
I plunged headfirst into the game when I was in Highschool which was fifteen years ago, however the game itself emerged for the first time in nineteen eighty-three.
As a young woman trying to find myself in Highschool, this tabletop RPG really opened a lot of doors. I made a close knit group of friends because of it. I was able to expand on my knowledge of the lore by reading the books, and it provided me with a great escape during my teenage angst years. Warhammer Fantasy truly has a special place in my heart and even to this day I collect the books and figures.
At first I just collected the figurines, which is how you create an army. It's a two person battle style tabletop game. The first army I amassed was for the Lizardmen. From there I ended up collecting Tomb Kings as well as Skaven.
Now, that may all sound like gibberish to you, dear reader. But, you're in luck! I'm going to explain as much as I can about this amazing game as well as the expansive universe that you can read about over the span of their book series.
Let's get the nitty gritty out of the way. The hobby itself can be expensive. You need about five hundred to one thousand points to play the game itself. What are points? They're the costs per unit, or per model that you need to build an army. So let's say one soldier is two points and you can create up to a fifteen unit infantry. That equates to thirty points for that particular group. Divided within that, is special units, heroes, generals, and either war machines or war beasts. So the goal is to get an army to an equal point value as your opponent.
The game itself is a lot of math, measuring, and dice rolling. But don't be deterred yet!
Once you find a particular army and style you'd like to play, you assemble the models yourself. This includes gluing them together, dusting their bases to match the terrain, and painting them! If you're a crafty person by nature(which I am) this in itself is a fun activity. You can also make your own custom game boards, really the sky is the limit with customization!
Now, if all that sounds fun to you, it gets even better. The story and characters behind this game are rich in flavor and depth.
There are over twelve different races/factions you can play as. Each have their own history, characters, and playstyle.
However, you do not need to play the tabletop game to enjoy the lore. The lore is spanned through many novels that flesh out the different armies and also add a connecting thread. All the armies and peoples are connected in some way, whether within their history, or due to their current timelines.
I always found that to be fascinating and it really ropes you into the universe. You can choose exactly where you want to dip your toes; the fantasy book series are usually trilogies following a certain character, hero, or general. Within these trilogies the world is fleshed out and the thread that may connect it to others is defined.
Within these books I found rich history, beautiful landscapes, gritty war scenes, interesting dialogue and empathetic characters. It didn't matter if the character was human, vampire, undead, or even a giant rat man, I could find something to relate to.
The fantasy stories touch on very real subjects that really lend a secondary history to some modern 'what if' scenarios. I really enjoy the interconnectedness of the characters and the plots, it really lends a strong narrative that makes me personally buy each new book that is released.
Let's go back to the first army I purchased: Lizardmen. The name should be pretty self explanatory but let's break it down. The old ones, which were the Gods of the universe, crashed down into Earth. Think of it like, how the big bang may have happened. It was started by what was referred to as the 'Old Gods'. These old ones landed on Earth and essentially created civilization.
Before elves, dwarves, humans, etc there were only old ones. From the old ones they created the Lizardmen. They spawn from specialized magic pools that the old ones created. They are hive minded and are essentially the living army of the old ones. It is said in lore that the world started with Lizardmen and it will end with them.
The race itself has a mix of Maya and Incan iconography as well as Maya and Incan namesakes. Their pyramids resemble the same style as those historical civilizations, as well as their dress and weaponry.
With the spawning of other races the Lizardmen were pushed back into the lush, hot jungles at the base of what is essentially Africa. No one but Lizardmen can enter and survive the jungle, the heat is said to boil blood! From there they just watch the world continue onward; unless someone or something gets close to their territory they rarely engage.
Now, with that brief history you can understand that you can't actually read books about the Lizardmen themselves. Why? Well, they're hive minded eight foot tall Lizardmen who essentially descended down from ancient dinosaurs. The only ones with any real sentience and drive are the old ones who are not known to be alive or dead. The old ones resemble giant toads floating on levitating rocks.
So then, how do you learn about them organically? You see them through the eyes of other races. Which is actually a really fun way to tell a story. So instead of seeing it directly from their eyes because you essentially can't, instead you can follow civilizations that are close to them.
For example: Tomb Kings. Tomb Kings are set in what is essentially ancient Egypt. You can read about when the society was fully human, thriving and alive. As well as it's downfall, to how the Egyptians became the Tomb Kings, which is an army of undead; skeletons, mummies, beasts, and war machines. They lived above those dense jungles, and in the different books you can read about them, you can see how they come in contact with the Lizardmen and why.
But from that Tomb King branch is another, the Skaven. Skaven are an army of rat men. They have a very unique society which echoes a little bit to what we know of rats and how they interact together and alone. The Skaven are actually the reason why the ancient Egyptian society fell, and why they all died. But they also are directly involved with the Lizardmen because they have a brief battle with them within the ruins of their ancient civilizations.
As I mentioned before, this is why I really enjoy the universe. You can fall down one rabbit hole and meet another. It makes everything feel that much more important and connected. I just found so much joy in reading about one hero who could essentially touch every other army within the lore. It felt a lot like seeing a friend at a party you didn't expect when you spot them within other books you wouldn't have expected them to be.
The amazing thing about the book series is that there is so many different authors. You get a wide range of writing styles, of characterizations, that every book feels fresh even if you've read about the same characters before.
Now, I could continue on and on for hours trying to explain every tidbit of lore, of history, of each character I personally love. But, I urge you to dive into this universe yourself! I would love you to connect with a character and experience the joy I did by picking up this game.