Sunday 3 March 2013

Acceptable in the 80s: Warhammer Siege

An iconic front cover if there ever was one. Ian Miller's twisted siege is packed with gruesome and unsettling imagery.  Every time you come back to this painting and actually appreciate it, you'll find something new. 
Hello and welcome to the latest installment of Acceptable in the '80s, my history of Warhammer Third Edition told through its releases, miniatures and articles. Today, we look at the first published hardback supplement for WFB, Warhammer Siege. 

In the last article, we discussed the Mighty Fortress briefly, and I shared with you a number of pictures of it. If you recall, this was a gigantic polystyrene castle in different sections that came with a number of accessories; doors, flag poles etc. It's still a remarkable set, and well worth the £20 - £30 that you should expect to pay. It also has much more character than the later plastic beast that currently retails at £60 plus. 

As you'd expect, the launch article begins with an amusing tale or two. I don't know about you, but I never get tired of reading '80s tales of orcs, chaos warriors and grumpy dwarfs. It goes on to outline some of the rather complicated rules that can be found within this volume. Yeah, its essentially an ad, but it contains photographs that I would not have seen before when the magazine was published and it does look rather impressive. 

Here's a sight that should warm the cockles of any Oldhammerer. A huge table, thousands of painted, old school Citadel miniatures, a detailed, converted Mighty Fortress and a spanking '80s jumper on Priestley that would make Alan Partridge proud. 
So what does the book actually contain? Well its split into two real parts; the Fantasy Siege and Sieges in the 41st Millennium. Yes, that's right, one book that provides additional rules for TWO GW games; Rogue Trader and WFB3. The Fantasy Siege is the most detailed, and contains much material that with little effort could be converted for use in Rogue Trader, and it should be pointed out here that there was a clear, if not entirely successful, attempt to make RT, WFB and WFRP fairly compatible to each other during the time these rules were written. 
      In the early pages, you get a simple discussion about how to use your Mighty Fortress, or homemade castle, to create a stronghold, and a guide to the layout of castles in general to start. This is quite helpful, as it explains each part of the castle in game terms and helps fire your imagination for possible battles and sieges. This is followed with a rather complex article on Castle Maps, and the role of the GM in plotting the positions of hidden resources and forces. Awareness, concealment and and exposure are all buzzwords here. In my view, this is a rich vein for Oldhammer Fantasy players to tap. The opportunity to create and run a narrative based siege, perhaps taking place over several days, is a real possibility and would certainly be an experience. 
      Then we are into the rules proper. Beginning with movement, unit cohesion and travelling in unusual directions (up or down) are discussed and explained, all in exacting detail. There are even rules to dictate how troops move out of the castle! This is followed with a combat section, which provides additional rules to those already published in WFB3, including details on splitting units and adding fresh troops to a melee. How to retreat during a siege game is also covered. 
          Next, we have a fairly complex section detailing missile weapons. These cover everything from who is hit, to shooting at large monsters and those hiding behind the ramparts. In support of this, there are rules for the player to deal with structural damage as well as breaking down doors and gates. Fairly extensive don't you think? If that wasn't enough to encourage you to pack up your baggage and break off the siege, the next section details actual castle assaults by different means; namely ladders, grappling hooks, log rams and so forth. Don't panic if you prefer to be the defender! There are plenty of rules covering how to counter such attacks; mostly detailing dropped boulders or poured hot missiles. 
        A new set of rules are given for use with large creatures and sieges. Fancy having a dragon attacking the wall, climbing the main tower and ripping off the roof to the keep? Yes, its all possible (and then some) in this rather inspiring section. Giants can even carry siege weapons for their smaller comrades! 

Proper art. And a proper man mangler too! Here's the famous 'Bryan Ansell's cigar' picture. 
A small section presents a ready to play example siege, entitled the Siege of Caraz-Lumbar and provides information about how to calculate who as actually won. The rest of the fantasy rule setdeals with the Strategic Map, which is used to 'role-play' other aspects of the siege, namely engines of war, baggage, constructing earthworks, mining (and counter-mining), using fire, starving out the opponent, magical weapons and so on. There really is so much material here that I feel exhausted just describing it! 
          Next up, we have the ruleset that provides additional support to Rogue Trader. Though the smaller of the two, you really do get some crazy RT ideas here. Sieges are split into three types; primitive, mixed and conventional (namely, sci-fitastic). For me, its the mixed sieges that provide the most interest. As I have written before, it is possible to design games where a lone space marine crash lands on a medieval world, pursued by a couple of traitor Rogue Traders. The space marine enlists the local human population to help him set up a homing beacon, while his enemies make a pact with the local orc tribes. Before you know it, you're fighting a fantasy siege with power armoured marines taking pot-shots and zany equiped Rogue Traders!
      Read on, and you'll uncover details of minefields, gravitron guns, mole mortars and much, much more. There are even rules for running a game where your castle is made out of some futuristic material that self heals! Brilliant! This section is rounded off with three different example castles to get your creative wargaming minds a-gurgling. 

Doesn't that top battlement shot just conjure a thousand narratives into your mind?
The art and the photography are what you'd expect to see in GW publications of this period, though there is a greater emphasis on personal collections of miniatures rather than studio models. Dave Andrews, stalwart of wargaming that he is, makes many an appearance here, and we get to see that many of his 80s historical models are used for much of the photography. Even Bryan Ansell's cigars make an cameo!

White Dwarf published a couple of articles that didn't make it into the final rulebook over the next few issues. I present one of those articles below. It concerns a few dirty tricks that a defender may use to help trounce the enemy. You'll find it below.

Sorry this one is a bit wonky!

Russ Nicholson and Paul Bonner's illustrations really help create an atmosphere.
Well, that was Warhammer Siege! It's quite a package and contains a great many excellent, and original ideas. Its certainly the most complex set of rules I have ever read detailing siege warfare, but it is essentially a toolkit rather than something to be adhered to religiously. 

Do you own a copy? Have you played a Siege game using these rules recently? Do you have any memories of playing with the ruleset 'back in the day'?

If so, please share below!



  1. I am fortunate enough to own a mint hardback copy of this book! I have no idea where I got it from, but it must have come from a convention somewhere.

    I've read it from cover to cover several time and it's awesome inspiration! Especially for RT games that are my current obsession.

  2. I picked up my copy when it was released and I have used it to fight many seiges over the years.


  3. I'd kind of dismissed buying Warhammer Siege as I prefer pitched battles/battlefield based scenarios. However, I love fluff and imagery and your mentioning of a space marine rallying the local medieval population just got me ridiculously excited! I'm off to eBay then. Thanks for making me part with my hard earned cash Orlygg!

  4. Some of my favorite games in my youth were days long sieges that we played on my friends ping pong table in his parents basement. W could leave things set up for weeks if we needed to. We were never much for the strategic game but we had some vicious assaults...including some that were so deadly (for both sides) that we ended up with group of 4-5 figures on each side chasing each other around the walls of the castle until someone finally gave in. Great fun and I hope to play a game or two like this with my Oldhammer recruits in the near future.

  5. I lost a lot of sleep over Warhammer Siege! I'd already turned in a few illos for the fantasy section and one larger piece for the RT when I got another call from the studio: Somehow they had gotten behind schedule and had a job lot of additional illos for the RT section, 22 in all of varying sizes (including that self-healing castle)but the deadline would be a little tight. No problem, says I, how long do I have....oh, they said, could we have them by the end of the week? Of course, I replied, why ever not?
    My normal style called for silly-detailed rivet-man penwork which was obviously out of the question here, so I had to adopt a very different approach working with a small brush for solid black ink, and soft pencil shading for the rest. Very little penwork and no wasted detail. I still missed at least 2 nights sleep on the trot in the end but I got it done. I think most of them turned out OK - in some ways I think it did me good, actually improved my composition a bit. But I was glad the next job had a more normal deadline!

  6. We had loads of fun playing 40k sieges, converting dreads with siege weapons, wreaking balls, scaling ladder on their backs, I do have a few photos somewhere.

  7. I thinks it's so cool that Orlygg's blog now gets awesome feedback from the guy's who actually made the supplements/games systems we love and discuss happen! I now NEED a copy of siege to see this self healing castle. Cheers Tony. Are you attending the Oldhammer weekend?