Battlemasters was many people’s first introduction to Warhammer and miniature gaming in general. Distributed by MB games (in the UK) but backed by Games Workshop, it pitted Knights of the Empire against hordes of Chaos warriors, orcs, and goblins, on a huge 5’x5′ hex-covered battlemat.
Recently, we were fortunate enough to replay this classic when a visitor to the Agents of Sigmar studio brought along their fully painted set. We played out the entire campaign on a fabulous Father’s Day afternoon. I was left wondering why this game no longer exists. It’s still an excellent introduction to the hobby.
Why Play Battlemasters?
The game has very simple mechanics. Which units you can move are determined by card draw and attacks are made via bespoke dice, with a single opposed roll of attack vs. defense. There are no saving throws and mercifully few dice modifiers.
There is, however, a stone keep to hide in, an ogre to smash your opponents to pieces with, and a cannon with which to blow them apart. There are also several different terrain tiles to add to the hex mat to allow some variety and tactical nuance.
I have to say, I found the simplicity of the game refreshing. It didn’t hurt my brain. It was a great fun and relaxed afternoon, with little head-scratching. I feel like Games Workshop could learn a lot from revisiting this ruleset. Game playing should not be endlessly checking and rechecking what each unit can do.
Battlemasters is not perfect, however.
Played as is, I think things are a little one-sided, across the campaign. Certain rules choices make some units far too powerful. There’s also the sheer size of the game. Yes, it looks amazing, but you need a very big table to play it on. We had to play all our games on the floor. Not only do you have to deal with the real prospect of crushing beautifully painted models under a clumsy foot, at our age, it’s also hard work on both the back and knees!
This also had us thinking, how much fun would it be to create a smaller, more portable version of Battlemasters? A reduced size neoprene hex mat, with some smaller scale minis, would make the game more accessible.
The rules could be updated, taking into account some of the great innovations from the intervening 30 years of gaming. There are all sorts of things we could do with card-based mechanics for example, whether it be a deck-building activation mechanic like Undaunted or a play from a hand of cards mechanic like Wildlands.
And so, a new project was born. Let’s update Battlemasters! We gave over the second half of this week’s podcast to this idea.
The Summer of Skirmish
The weekend before we went live, however, GW hosted their Summer Skirmish online preview. As we’re all about skirmish games at the Agents of Sigmar, we were all over this. We discussed the exciting new witch hunter warband for Warhammer Underworlds, the new edition of Warcry: Heart of Ghur, and the excitement of Kill Team being played in the close quarters of a Space Hulk.
As ever, the chat was far-ranging, as we touched on our gaming and hobby philosophies. In this episode, we also announced the inaugural Agents of Sigmar meet-up in central England on 24th September 2022. This is being held as a little thank you to our supporters and fans, now that we can finally meet up with some of them, after two years without events.
So, please do check out the podcast, and our games of Battlemasters. Let us know if you used to play it. Would you love to see it return? If you wanted to improve it what would you do?
In the meantime, there’s been quite a stir about whether the might of Games Workshop is stifling content creators on YouTube and whether the company is too big a tree that blocks the light for other games. This may well be the subject of our next podcast, but until then, happy gaming!