Sunday 7 July 2013

Oldhammer: How to do it!

I have been asked by a number of interested parties to write a 'Beginner's Guide' to Oldhammer. I don't mind doing so and presenting the article here on my blog. However, Oldhammer is not really something that you can just buy into as, of course, its roots lie in the collecting of Citadel Miniatures and Games Workshop products released from the late '70s to the early '90s- the Jackson/Livingstone and later Ansell eras and the models concerned are, mostly, long out of production and are now only available in auctions or bring and buy sales.

You cannot just 'order' a force picked from Warhammer Armies, though retro inspired manufacturers do often produce miniature ranges that make suitable proxies. The forces you see on leading blogs are the product of years and years of collecting and seldom do period armies appear on line for sale.

Now I may well be preaching to the converted here. I don't mean too. But as the Oldhammer Movement gathers momentum, gamers and collectors not immediately aware of the 'Golden Age' are casting their eyes over the ranges and games for the first time. The reasons for this will be many, but there are, in my opinion, two main attractions to the 'Oldhammer Movement'. One: the friendly, supportive community. No endless debates and flame wars aka Warseer and DakkaDakka. Two: the quality of the miniatures and games, which speak for themselves, especially when players unfamiliar with them get their hands on a copy. 

But if you were a total 'newb', how would you start? I am sure that there are many routes in and out of any hobby. I'll talk about mine here in detail and discuss how I went about building my collection of Old School Citadel. Here's hoping that others will join in the discussion and do the same, so that in future, when I am asked (or indeed any of you readers are asked) there's a blog page to forward prospective Oldhammerers to.

So in no particular order I shall begin.

1) Get your hands on the original publications

This is essential. And the best place to start. See if you can source an original copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle Third Edition online. PDFs are available at a pinch after a few minutes searching through the less than savoury part of the internet, but there is nothing quite like owning a copy and being able to physically read the book. Additionally, the WFB3 rulebook contains enough material for you to play everything in Third Edition. All the creatures, races, special rules are present within the book. There are even card counters to photocopy to try out the rules and get playing straight away, even if you don't own a actual miniature. The book is also packed with period art and plenty of miniatures to help you get the 'feel' of Third Edition. Once you have sated yourself on the book, you can always expand yourself with material from the two Realms of Chaos books, Warhammer Armies and Warhammer Siege, though these are not essential. White Dwarf magazines are also very useful to collect. This is how I started old schooling some years ago. I started with issue 90 and worked forwards from there, feeling in gaps as I went along. I spent several years just doing this and it became a wonderful experience in nostalgia and scholarship, slowly piecing things together in my mind and enjoying all the articles over again. WD collecting also leaves you with a considerable collection of material to use for reference when collecting models and other products.  

2) Bookmark online resources 

The Stuff of Legends and the Collecting Citadel Miniatures Wiki are two really important resources for any old school collector. These should be a real starting point for anyone who is interested in the scene. They contain a vast series of resources that will help you recognise, and identify, third edition (and earlier) models. They really do reward frequent returns as even gnarled old leadheads like myself discover something new when browsing through the old adverts and catalogues.

3) Start Small

Other wargames (Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000) in particular have created the 'army point mindset'. You hear things like; "I am after a starter army, about 2000 points, where can I find the armylist?" This is not necessary and you should choose your models based on what you actually like and want to paint. Browse the ranges, look for the models that really interest you and collect them. Think about warbands, or bands of adventurers or raiding parties of perhaps only a dozen figures. Get them painted and have a skirmish game. Then use these small forces as a basis for a larger army. Don't worry about points values just try and keep things fair among those who are willing to play along. Powergamers often find this problematic, as unfamiliar rulesets and lack of listing but them into a rather uncomfortable position. A level playing field being one!

4) Focus your collecting

You have two choices here. You can do what I have done for many years; buy what you like or you can choose a race or set of models and set about trying to collect them all. You will have to understand that this may well be a slow process, even if you are chasing down '80s plastic skeletons, orcs etc. Though on the bright side, this gives you time to paint the sold school models that you receive in the post. Rather than seeing your forces grow in increments, regiment by regiment, see your forces growing model by model. Additionally, as most of the old school models you will be buying will all be different, the grueling painting regime that you need to adhere to in this age of processed plastic need not apply.  

5) Start blogging 

Publish your journey. That is how Oldhammer came to be. People, be they collectors, gamers or just interested parties, started writing about their interests, connected with each other and built the Movement through interesting, well written blogs that drew a wide audience. Join in. 

6) Ignore 'Buy it Now' prices

These are a bit of an 'in joke' in the Oldhammer Community. There are plenty of people out there who believe that they can sell a single plastic skaven from 1988 for £25 but I have yet to see a single one sell. Don't pay excessive amounts for models, be patient and wait for your chance if you are after something specific. The other side of the coin also spins here, don't base your sales on these ridiculous prices. Sadly, there are plenty of people who seem shocked to learn that their Heroquest Fimir are not worth quite as much as they were lead to believe. 

Thantsants' Orc's Drift stands as the pinnacle of what can be achieved through old school collection. Just look at that!
7) Create real scenarios

There is always a place for a pitched battle but don't rely on them. Think of a narrative and build on it to ensure that your games are actually being fought for a reason. That evil wizard you have on your shelf? How about he is trying to locate a group of minotaurs to enchant to help him raid a guarded crypt in a forest clearing? And then are those five fighters you have painted up, haven't they been paid to kill said minotaurs by the Burgomiester of a local village? I am sure that the wizard wouldn't be too happy about that? Then there is that giant spider that lurks in the centre of the clearing, anyone you steps too close will awaken the beast! 

8) Become a GM

The simple scenario I have discussed above who make a fantastic project for anyone interested in Oldhammer. Getting hold of some old school minotaurs, a wizard, five fighters and a giant spider will probably set you back between £20 - £30. Build a small table, gather some simple scenery, set up the game and invite some gaming friends around. Explain to your players that you are going to brief them individually. The wizard is presented with his character and his motivations, as is the player with the fighters. You control the minotaurs, perhaps through a random roll, or directly, but of course, you don't tell them about the spider! I expect that your players will enjoy this little hunt into the forest far more than just another Cleanse and Burn episode. Try it out!

Attend, or even better, organise an old school event. Big or small, it makes no matter as long as you are enjoying yourself!
9) Network on social media 

Join the Bloodforum or the Oldhammer Community on Facebook. Trade your unwanted models, ask advice, encourage others, promote the movement. Nuff Said.

There we go. 

Anyone have anything else to add?



  1. Great article, my advice when starting though is join a forum, Oldhammer or LAF are the best imo and buy/trade for a sizeable force say 20 or so figures straight away that way you can get cracking right away rather then waiting for them to come in ones and twos from ebay/small trades. The reason why is that way you have plenty to do while you track down the other bits and you don't lose momentum and end up giving up.

  2. Use vintage citadel paints to paint said miniatures if you can! Although I suspect only the die-hard painters follow this path; the paint names and paint set box art really are quite inspiring.

  3. Game with a GM, can't emphasise that one enough!

  4. I will pay you to take my Heroquest Fimir.

  5. Nice one!

    viva la revolution!

  6. Viva Zapata! opps wrong blog.

    Great post. A good frame work to get the new blood on the right path.


  7. Thanks for the mention Orlygg!

    Can I add - don't get het up about army lists - even the ones in the 3rd ed. Armies book!

    Oh and +1 on the GM or, if you don't have one, playing in a sporting manner so that both players get maximum enjoyment out of the scenario you've chosen.

  8. ...and there was me thinking it was about a return to fun fantasy gaming, free of imposed constraints and using your imagination and whatever figures you had kicking about ;-). First or second edition and pre-slotta (or cheap) for me.

  9. Good article, captures the idea very well.
    The rich background, everything you need in the rulebook, scenarios/narratives idea, and the free-er less souless feel to the game which sometimes you get with modern editions. And the great miniatures of course! .

    When it comes to sourcing miniatures, I would add two things:

    Firstly, Wargames Foundry are still producing some of the old Citadel human ranges, the C26 Men at Arms, Feudals,Norse/Normans, as well as the old Oriental Heroes.

    Secondly, I think it's fine to use other companies miniatures that were contempary at the time without losing the era feel . The main (but not only) alternative would be Grenadier, which are still avalible from Mirliton (Miniature Heroes imports them), or EM-4. As you mentioned, there are several other modern miniature companies which produce miniatures in the old school style.

    Incidentally, on that last theme, has anyone else ever noticed that in the battle photo on Page 18 of the rulebook, there are two of Nick Lunds Grenadier (not Chronicle) Orcs hiding by the left of the yellow and black 'Kwae Kwar' banner? :)

    Good to point out the great use e-bay can be, but to be wary of the insanity of some 'Buy it now' sellers.

    I love the bit about 'this age of processed plastic', something that seems very true too.

  10. Great article and just the job to point people at when they hear me on about oldhammer.

  11. Good article!
    What I like about 'oldhammer' in general is it harks back to a period where all the figures had a lot of character; orcs for example had poses and expressions that ranged from creepy and sinister to comical.
    In comparison today everything is quite sterile and serious!

    does anyone have 2nd Edition Ravening Hordes? I am after the Nippon army list from it, so if anyone has a PDF (or even can take a couple of photos with a camera phone) I would be very grateful! Can't find it anywhere, and don't want to pay £££ for it from ebay/amazon

    1. Jordan, have a look on scribd as they have ravening hordes available for view/download.

    2. Hi Kitsune, do you have a link to it? I can't find it anywhere on the site (though I don't think their search function is too good!)

    3. If it's on scribd, search for it via google. Such as; 'Warhammer Ravening Hordes'
      Scribd's own search function is useless, it never turns up anything close to what I searched for! Going via google works much better.

    4. Cheers for that tip! Still couldn't find ravening hordes, but managed to find a few other things I was after :)
      Managed to locate the book on eBay in the end, so will probably end up uploading a few sections to scribd in any case!

  12. Good article, I wish I could sell my old plastic regiment skaven for $25 a piece.

  13. Very nice article. Remembered me when i started my hobby in '84 and playing Warhammer 2nd/3rd with a handful of Miniatures. Greatest time everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  14. I am a new comer to this community and I'm really fascinated. A very good article, congratulations and that has helped me a lot. I envy not in England, over 18 years ago that I do not play Warhammer but I want to get it back, a salute to the entire community. Thank you.

  15. Nice article. Us older ones have been there for real. Sadly the lack of real progress, and the compulsive pseudo-industrialization of the roleplaying hobby plus commercialization of the roleplayers way of life, can really mean buying the old classics once more is the better (and more fun) decision. "Let him who has a girlfriend..." Goodbye!

  16. Great article, and good advice! I only have a handful of Oldhammer minis remaining in my collection these days, a rescue from an old friend and my father. The advice about building a scenario from what you have on hand is spot on, as I have been planning a scenario to capitalize on this small collection!

  17. Two and a bit years on and this is still sound advice and has led me to my first forays into Oldhammer - I thought I'd post up now, a couple of months after first reading, to say thank you! The postie's been arriving every week or so with a new bunch of old miniatures for me to paint and as a child of the 90's who spent a lot time searching flea markets with my old man for old copies of White Dwarf and old miniatures (long since sadly sold, unfortunately!) I'm once again loving the character of the old sculpts and finally enjoying painting again!

    After three years spent dabbling back in miniatures after a long hiatus, it took a foray into roleplaying to make me realise that the narrative side of gaming is where my heart lies, but as much as I enjoyed roleplaying, I yearned for epic tales told on the tabletop in miniature form and finally a bit of Google-fu brought me here and eventually to convincing some of roleplaying group (and the ever suffering wife!) to give this a go. So thank you, this blog, along with a couple of others has sparked something in me that I thought had maybe been lost to childhood and hopefully a blog of my own will follow shortly!

  18. This is a good collection of information, thank you! I've linked your work in our article about Oldhammering: What is Oldhammer?