Tuesday, 20 July 2010

An Age of Empires I

I know that there are many out there for whom 'GW' and 'Warhammer' represent the evil empire, anathema to all they believe gaming should be, but for me, it's still the game that first got me into wargaming (waaaay back in its second edition, when it came boxed as three books), and the cause of the majority of lead and plastic that gets in my wife's way when she's trying to find her text books in the cupboard (not to mention what the unpainted horde of lead is probably doing to the rafters in the attic!).

And I must admit that the release of it's 8th edition has got me all excited about the subject again (it may be a marketing ploy but so what? find me something in life that isn't!), and reflecting on armies past present and future and, in particular, my strange, ongoing relationship with the Empire.

The Empire wasn't even my first attempt to collect an army (it didn't even exist when I first got into the game), that was an undead army, made up mostly of miniatures from the now defunct Grenadier range. Unfortunately I soon discovered I couldn't paint skeletons and they never got finished (they're still up there, bending the ceiling as I speak, must get them down and try again someday). However, when the first army lists came out, in the original Ravening Hordes book, it was the newly created background of the Empire that caught my eye. I couldn't say with 100% certainty why I felt drawn to that particular army, but I strongly suspect it was an existing interest in history, and the excuse to have knights in armour (I blame lazy Sundays watching films like Ivanhoe and the Knights of the Round Table). Even back then, units were appearing that we still see today, Imperial Guard (although they included archers back then), big blocks of Halberdiers and the Knights Panther.

Anyway, I'm rambling... and will continue to do so... My first Empire army, for second edition, was always a bit of a mish mash of stuff (including home cast stuff using moulds from Prince August) and I never quite managed to have all of the right units or numbers. The first, proper, 'legal' army I managed was actually under the excellent (if detailed) third edition and it's 'Warhammer Armies' book of army lists (back when an army could be described in a dozen sides of A4, and all the armies could be found in one book). That was a great list, and was largely responsible for defining certain elements of the Empire army that have always stuck with me. In particular it had a really Germanic flavour, with all of the units being given characterful names, like Helblitzen (halberds), Hohensknechtes (knights) and the tongue bending hakbutschutzen (handgunners) and temple ritterbruden (templar knights). This was an army of aloof religious knights, robber barons, professional infantry and grubby town militias, and you could even bring the baggage train to the party!

I still couldn't win games with it though...

I still have most of that army, although some elements have been cannibalised for other uses, or even incorporated into my current armies. It even turned up during a recent sort through of the attic, and was brought out for a nostalgic look and photo opp. I must say my paining has improved though...

From Left to Right, and back to front:
Kriegsritter, Temple Ritterbruden, Hohensknechtes
Reiks Kanone Batterien, Helblitzen, Reiksgard, Helblitzen, Nuln Landsknechtes (mercenaries)
Lots of Armbrustschutzen!

I also had a unit of 'Ersatzsolder' (militia, basically), and mercenary Border Horsemen, some of which still feature in my armies now.