I was talking to a friend about RPGs and he asked if I knew about some drama from an upcoming Games Workshop Age of Sigmar RPG. I did not, so I did a bit of digging. Here’s the scoop on Age of Sigmar as far as I understand it.
I could have details wrong, as I haven’t watched this all develop and it’s not exactly my scene. Also, there are a LOT of things named similar things. I’ll be using nickname to keep things straight, not actual product titles.
tldr; the drama is the standard Games Workshop edition wars fare.
In 1983 A British company called Games Workshop creates a game called Warhammer Fantasy Battle. While mostly a system for mass combat, there are some rules for leveling a character. According to reviews, it was a poor excuse for a roleplaying game. But the wargame aspect was highly regarded, even if they wanted you to use proprietary figures instead of generic troops. Everybody recommended it and it became very popular.
From what I can tell, the Warhammer setting itself was originally very vague, but each edition added to the lore and refined things. And there certainly are editions.
8th- 2010 (Final)
In 2015, Games Workshop blew up the world. The Old World, which was apparently the name of the Warhammer Fantasy universe. They immediately replaced the Old World with a new World, with a much more SEO friendly name of The Age of Sigmar.” There’s a lot of speculation as to why they did this, exactly, but like a DC universe reset event, it has a lot of benefits. A clean break gives them plenty of places they can reset and build from scratch.
First, they got to redo their lore and their universe. The Old World was a map with weird lore stuck on to it. It also used standard Tolkien-esque Elf and Dwarf stereotypes as their main identity. Supposedly, Age of Sigmar allows them to break away from those stereotypes and build new identities. Also, instead of one map, the universe is eight worlds that are interconnected, which piques my interest.
Second, there may have a notable decline in new players. Games Workshop has a high cost of entry, but unlike MtG there’s not a lot of pick-up-and-play options. Established players have sunk time and money into their armies. In a tactics game, random chance is slowly eroded as you develop your strategies and synergies. Joining an expensive new hobby and never winning sounds like any First Person Shooter I’ve ever played. It’s not a great way to get repeat business. Age of Sigmar allows GW to set up a game system that fixes the problem, by having essentially booster packs that change the meta instead of needing big releases with rule revisions.
Speaking of revisions, Age of Sigmar got their 2nd edition in 2018, tweaking the rules to simplify and speed up. This brings us to the present.
On a separate side of things, back in 1986, Games Workshop released the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. But it turns out wargames that sell miniatures are a lot more profitable than RPGs (most things are…), and WFR-1e fizzles and dies from lack of love. It had some attempts at revival, but nope, dead.
(This may be a gross oversimplification that cuts out important details, like potentially revolutionizing Italy’s RPG scene, but idk)
In 2005, GW tries again. WFR-2e was written by Green Ronin. This brings the Roleplay universe up to speed with the Wargame universe. A thing I saw called the publication of sourcebooks for this edition to be “aggressive” and for a three year period, they do have a decent list.
And by three years, I mean that in 2008, Fantasy Flight Games purchased the rights and WFR-3e was released in 2009. It was run using a bunch of cards or something? And custom dice, not surprising from FFG. In 2014, FFG announced WFR-3e as being “Complete.”
in 2018, Cubicle7 released WFR-4e, which pulled a very popular move among gaming companies and declared that the new edition would be based on the older editions, not the most recent one.
In 2020, Cubicle7 released/is release/what is this world?? a new game, which is called Age of Sigmar: Soulbound. AoSS is probably WFR-5e, or maybe WFR-4.5e. I don’t know how much the rules will have changed from the previous version, as my head’s swimming right now with all of these variations. What I can say is that it’s set in the Age of Sigmar setting, using all the new lore
So, in summary, the reason Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is being replaced quickly is because:
1. That just how Games Workshop rolls
2. WFR-4e was in a universe that had been replaced 3 years before it’s release
If you have more details or a correction to what I’ve got here, please leave a comment with the info.