In the grim darkness of the distant future there is only war, apparently. But you know what? That’s fine because:
1. The Imperium has vast armies at its disposal to fight the limitless hordes of aliens, mutants and heretics
2. The aforementioned aliens, mutants and heretics also have near limitless armies
3. The Space Marines are fucking awesome and do an awful lot of arse kicking on behalf of the Imperium
4. There are no shortage of worlds to rustle up a few million more soldiers to feed into the meat grinder.
However, in Warhammer there is just as much emphasis on the scale of the battles, the destruction and the loss of life yet. somehow, the Warhammer world doesn’t appear to run out of people. The rule book, army books, artworks and novels all point towards battles involving hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides. Throw in the fact that the games are, themselves, a part of the living history of the game and you start to wonder how there is anyone left alive.
Think about it. Considering the frequency with which large engagements occur, the carnage wrought every time Archaon gets a bit bored, or an Ork horde goes a plundering. I have to wonder where all these people are coming from, both in the Old World and in the Northern Wastes because there would have to be millions upon millions of people. And perhaps there are but it’s quite at odds with the fluff depicting the sparsity that the Empire is populated. Yes cities are densely populated but at the rate that wars start and are fought I struggle to believe that populations could recover fast enough. The Empire, certainly, would be pressing boy soldiers into service.
And this is what confuses me about Warhammer. Or, perhaps what is confused about Warhammer. The GW has never been able to put their finger on, in the same way as they have 40k, the scale and level of peril the Warhammer world should have. It can’t be ramped up too high because there would simply be no one left. But take the Storm of Chaos campaign from a few years ago. When Middenheim was besieged it was done so by uncountable foes. The campaign caused tremendous damage to the land and the people that would take years to recover from. It wouldn’t take much for someone to take advantage of that.
Perhaps the point is that it’s all supposed to be told as legends from the perspective of those chronicling events so the numbers of enemies appear limitless either for effect or because the person telling the tale simply couldn’t count that high.
Either way, although the background to Warhammer is good – otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted for as long as it has – it just seems a little fragmented to the point that I’ve never had a clear idea of what’s going on. And I’ve beenplaying it for 20 years. Ish. For example; something bad happens resulting in a war that the ‘good’ side is ill prepared and out numbered for. They fight valiantly knowing that their demise was moments away until something magical happens and the day is saved. This doesn’t sit well with me because if there were that many bad guys there would be no one left. Especially as Chaos Warriors, in the fluff, are hench and there’s loads of them.
But here’s a thing – in the fluff Chaos always bugger off to fight another day when the good guys inevitably get those reinforcements they desperately need, which is at odds with how Chaos are otherwise decribed, especially Chaos warriors. It’s far more likely that they’ll just keep on fighting, even if the battle is lost and all the beastmen have legged it. No, they would fight to the death and bring down as many of their enemy as they could. And the result would be devastation to the point that, based on the frequency battles break out (taking into account fluff, fiction and us lot playing games), there would be no coming back from it.
Of course the funny thing is that the GW are trying to make games of Warhammer more epic, to reflect the background but all it does is further shred its credibility simply because continuous war on such a scale, coupled with the tremendously destructive elements in the Warhmmer world means prolonged war would not be sustainable and result would be a few survivors fighting over the remains of a dead world. The reality is that the population isn’t going to be in the millions of millions, so how can the Chaos Wastes be so full of damned souls and still have sufficient people in the Empire and Bretonnia to keep the armies mustered and have plenty of able bodied souls should the need arise. It just doesn’t tally up.
Don’t get me wrong, the fluff is good, as are the models etc, I just would love to see the grandeur of the battles scaled back because it’s so over laboured that it starts to become difficult to suspend ones disbelief, which is a shame considering it’s supposed to be a fantasy game.