12 August 2015

WFB 3rd Edition aka Ol' 3rd

I started Warhammer with 3rd edition. It wasn't the first wargame I played, nor the first fantasy wargame I played, but it was the one that really caught hold with my friends and I. Later on, when I went to college, I ran into others who were still playing it, even after 4th edition was out.

In a decade or two of hindsight, and with quite a few additional revisions of WFB, plus many other games behind me, is that it was one of my favorite editions of the game, with quite a bit of additional detail that could both enhance or bog down gameplay. But I could name far more things that I miss from 3rd edition that disappeared from subsequent editions than I could name the negatives.

So last night, in a fit of late night foot cramp induced insomnia I read through most of the important bits of the 3rd edition rulebook, and skimmed a couple of the army lists from Warhammer Armies. So here is an old-timers rambling impressions of a fresh look at an old favorite.

One of the first things I noticed was how much the first 20 pages or so drew me in AGAIN and made me want to play. Especially the battle shots of the game involving some crazy array of goblins, skeletons, giants, gargoyles, and other insanity...

I'm also inspired to step up my terrain making some more, too. I definitely want some trees like that, too!

On to the actual rules, a lot of it is as I remembered, but there were a lot of gaps! One of my big complaints about 8th edition is how carefree & forgiving maneuver, charging and position on the battlefield are. I've always appreciated the old Unformed rules, but I'm not certain I remembered how risky & unforgiving charging & post-combat follow-ups were! But that's a good thing. I think my memories had glossed over the details of fighting over individual unit standards, and how valuable unit leaders were.

I would have to read through the magic section, though. I remember unrestrained magic being a problem. I also remember magic items being a bit of an issue, too. I think we all would stack up our heroes with items, similar to what is done in more recent editions. But looking through the scenarios & campaign packs, that's not how they appear to have played at GW.

Honestly, I'm not sure how we managed to regularly play such big games. I know they took longer than the hour or two that people like to rush through with their modern wargames. Taking this fresh look at the rules, I can see where it might be more appropriate for smaller games.

One of the other things I enjoyed about looking through the book was the art. Wow... the art. The insanity. The many takes on Heinrick Kemmler. The Blanche. The Miller. Great stuff!

A nice trip down memory lane. I can definitely see the appeal of Ol' 3rd to the Oldhammer crowd. Maybe I should give it a shot at some point? (Provided I ever get back to playing ANY games...)


  1. Yeah, good times from my youth too.

    I remember how broken the rules were, my mate used to field his orc "army" with about twenty catapult's...the game's we played with him him tended to last only a couple of rounds before we were completely smashed to pieces. Most of the time we never made into hand to hand!

    All the GW publications from around that time still stand up to scrutiny to this day. Awesome period of time for gaming!


  2. I'm glad that you are looking at these rules with new eyes...I still think they are the most fun rules for Warhammer out there. I will agree that some of the rules lead to the game really bogging down. I typically try to limit heroes to 5th level other than major characters in order to keep combat a little more streamlined. I also like to make restricted spell lists for wizards...there are some really great tactical spells in this edition...but some that are WAY over powered. Also don't forget that they strongly suggest that you have a GM which greatly streamlines things and allows for hidden units and random monsters and all kinds of other fun bits that get lost in later editions.

    If I was still in Ohio I'd be on my way over to your house for a game right now! :)

  3. When we played the game regularly, we limited spells to 1st level, and a selection of about 1/2 of the 2nd level spells. Once or twice a year we played a giant (everything goes" good vs. evil mega-battle where we let out the summoned elementals and vorpal hurricanes of chaos. That was usually enough to remind us why that nonsense was banned for normal play. ;)

    Thinking about it a little more, 3rd ed. was also the rules under which we played the Chaos Warbands campaigns from the old hardbound Slaves to Darkness and Lost and the Damned books. That was a lot of fun, too -- though you had to be accepting of very mis-matched games and just enjoy. I've always thought that it would be fun to mix the chaos warbands from 3rd and the later Mordheim rules. I wouldn't be surprised if that already exists somewhere on the internets...

  4. @Blue in VT: I also hope to make it to future Oldhammer events. This year was just bad timing with a death and other family obligations. I've enjoyed reading the reports & seeing the photos -- still trying to catch up with everyone's blogs & Facebook reports.

  5. I wish I still had my old copy - just for the art and pictures (which I seem to recall included pictures of figures from - shock! Horror! - OTHER manufacturers!!).

    I sort of started with 3rd... I'd had AD&D Battlesystem and some WRG ancients game before that, but Warhammer was the first game I could get others to play.

    I sort of ended with 3rd as well. The first couple of guys I played with made sensible, balanced armies but as the interest in the game grew and the pool of players, power-gaming, min-maxing twits joined in and ruined it. And the guys I originally played with moved on.. Ah well...