If you've been keeping up with the rumor mill like I have, you'll know that this is an uncertain time for Warhammer Fantasy. I've been involved in many-a-discussion on forums and in chats with my own friends and fellow gamers. 2015 was supposed to be the year of hover boards, flying cars and 80's punk fashion, not mass hysteria and predictions of doom for my favorite hobby game. (I haven't even gotten to wear my jeans inside-out yet!)
I've had some time to process all of the rumors and see some widely differing opinions on the matter, so here's what I think about all this...
The Rumor: The Old World gets shattered into bubbles of reality that float through the warp and occasionally bump into each other. Some have suggested that this will create a more plausible reason for different armies to fight. (So, when the Sylvanian bubble meets the Athel Loren bubble, Vampite Counts and Wood Elves will clash, I guess.)
The Logic: I could see something like this happening. Not that there would be little spheres of land, with the Skaven on one, and the Empire on another, but rather "chunks" of an exploded planet adrift in a sea of energy. They wouldn't necessarily drift into each other like rafts in a swimming pool, but rather the dimensional veil would momentary collapse, allowing travel to an area of the old world that wasn't there previously. The End Times are host to some cataclysmic events, and I really think that the "landscape" of the Warhammer World will be changed.
The Contradiction: The idea that this would allow a more plausible reason for armies to fight is just silly. Even before the End Times, the world was in a constant state of war. The Warhammer world is always on the brink of the End Times (it says so in almost every iteration of the core rulebook). I don't think anyone had a problem justifying how and why their army marched a few miles to invade another territory.
My Prediction: There's talk of the 8th edition army books still being valid, and all the End Times rules and lists still being playable. The "bubbles" of reality will probably be rifts in space-time, allowing the past (Warhammer 8th army book lists), the End Times, and "Newhammer" to exist simultaneously. In the future of 9th edition, the world may well be shattered with fragments of it held together by the Winds of Magic, each trapped in its own time period. This could be a way of allowing everyone to have their own unique universe– one group plays with straight 8th edition rules, another plays with End Times, and others play whatever the new (possibly skirmish) form or Warhammer will be. Since the rules and models will be cross compatible, Someone from group A can tweak his list to play a game with someone from group C. If they need a logical reason as to why a pre-End Times army is fighting a Post Apocalyptic Warhammer force, it's simple: The barrier between worlds had dropped, or the realities have merged allowing armies from different time periods to interact. (This is sort of in line with some of the discussion on Faiet 212.)
Part of what makes Warhammer a fun hobby is creating the back story for your own army and characters. People want the overall story to advance but, what difference does that really make? What does it matter if Karl Franz is killed or replaced as the Emperor? How does that affect the games we play? From a modeling standpoint, the overall story is kind of irrelevant to me, as long as I can still play with my toys.
The Rumor: There will be a new faction of heavily armored human warriors who fight with the power of gods. People have speculated that these will be Space Marines in the Old World.
The Logic: Introducing a new army is a great way to generate interest in a game and attract new players. It has been 10 years since there was a new army for Warhammer. And it makes sense that, if the Warhamer World is ending, the Slann or the Old Ones could summon or send forth "anti-Chaos" warriors.
The Contradiction: Why would GW introduce another army in a system with (rumored) abysmally low sales when they can't even maintain all of the armies they already have? Why add a whole, new faction when every other faction is being condensed? Also, the other rumors say that there will be 6 army factions in 9th edition. "Good Holy Warriors" isn't listed as one of them.
My Prediction: Ehhhhh... Sure. maybe they'll come up with a "good" version Chaos Warriors. If we do see these, they'll probably be allied units, able to be used by any of the Forces of Order. That will encourage more people to buy and use them, rather than creating a brand new army that may or may not take off.
The Rumor: 9th edition will have 6 factions– Chaos, Elves, Empire, Undead, Orcs and Goblins, and Skaven.
The Logic: These factions fall mostly along the lines of the consolidated lists we've seen in the End Times books. Combining the armies gives each player more opportunity to diversify his model collection while keeping the bulk of his force intact.
The Contradiction: I refer again to the rumors that say the 8th Edition army books will still be valid. I've heard rumors that Dwarfs, Bretonnians, and Ogre Kingdoms will be rolled into the Empire army. But if all the army books are still able to be used, then these armies will still be able to stand on their own.
My Prediction: As with the reality bubbles, I think everything will remain valid. The 9th edition "Newhammer" will likely have condensed armies, but the entire spectrum of armies will still be in play. If there's a skirmish version of Warhammer, that will likely make use of the combined lists exclusively.
The Rumor: Each of these 6 factions will have a limited selection of core units and other units added through periodic updates, with those models being available only for a limited time. And they may be dropping the majority of the Fantasy range.
The Logic: If mold costs are recouped in the initial run of a product (as I suspect they are) there won't be any "back stock" sitting around not earning money. The idea that these models will come with their own rules, so they can be immediately added to an existing army without having to organize it around the release of a new army book makes sense. I can also see this working from a storefront point of view– Stores already have abysmally low levels of Warhammer Fantasy inventory. Keeping a few core units and then having a new release section that cycles through on a regular basis means that in order to carry the whole Warhammer range they don't need to dedicate shelf space for hundreds of products covering the different armies. Since they'll be in production for several months, it's not going to be a one-and-done print run and a mad dash to buy them before they sell out, either.
The Contradiction: Having plastic kits go out of production after a few months is robbing yourself of further profit on that kit. Once the mold cost is recouped, the sale of the kit is generating more profit than the initial run. This is also contrary to what the hobby of miniatures wargaming is: spending months and years collecting and painting models. Allowing each army to be "done" (no new products) for a few years lets the hobbyist play around with his army lists and catch up on painting. Also, how can the 8th Edition army books still be valid if most of the models that make up their army roster aren't availible?
My Prediction: This could go either way. I've been saying that GW wouldn't likely drop plastic kits that are only a year old, but if the plan to drop kits after only 6 months or so is true, then I guess dropping a kit that's a few years old isn't out of the realm of possibility. If they do still want players to be able to use the 8th edition army books, it's going to become increasingly difficult if most of the models are unavailable. I just don't see how a "fire and forget" it strategy will work for a hobby game since it's all about the investment of time and work. I've been loathe to shovel my models into the trash, but if there really is no army support in 9th, I don't know...
The Rumor: Models will be on round bases in 9th edition.
The Logic: If "proper" 9th edition really is a skirmish-style game, then maybe they could make use of round bases. There's talk of using War of the Ring styled movement trays, which would allow the skirmish version of the game interact with the army version of the game.
The Contradiction: Is GW really going to repackage every kit so it has round bases? If they're scrapping most of the range, I guess it's a moot point. But how about the newer plastic models that have modeled square bases right on the sprue? They would need to be completely retooled. And all of the new End Times kits come with square bases.
My Prediction: Models like the casket of souls, war machines, and the steam tank have been "baseless" for a while. If they were to go on a round base it wouldn't be any different than it is now. Night Goblin Fanatics are already on round bases. Maybe single models like monsters would be round-based, but things that need to rank up (like cavalry and infantry) would remain on square bases. If someone were to collect a round based skirmish force and wanted to play a ranked up game they could use a movement tray. I used to think the whole idea of round bases being shoehorned into an "infantry block" game was pretty unlikely.
But then this picture surfaced:
Those certainly appear to be round bases on the Screaming Bell and Plague Furnace. Oh well...