Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Ethos of Oldhammer

Hi All,

A discussion over on the Oldhammer in the New World Facebook group got me thinking again about what exactly Oldhammer is and why is there even an argument about it. Obviously there are many flavors of appreciation for the games and figures of the past, but let's revisit some commentary from the past on the subject.

Now the source for most is Zhu's Oldhammer Contract and I think it succinctly gets at what Oldhammer should be about. Let me pull some quotes from this that highlight what I feel Oldhammer is.

Games should have a referee

"In Oldhammer Fantasy Battle there is a person who is in charge of the game. It's their job to check your armies are correct and everyone plays fairly. It's the Referee's job to remind everyone to take a Fear test when appropriate, and make the decisions on rulings where you've probably been used to 'dicing off'. The Referee never take sides, is totally impartial and his decision is final."

"The referee will probably set up the scenario, placing terrain and describing what the objectives of each army are, sometimes in secret. Sometimes it's just to wipe each other out, and sometimes its to capture and hold a specific location, or sometimes more complex - not all sides will have the same objectives," ... "neither knows what each others objective is, but the Referee throws them into this situation and the inevitable chaos that will ensue." ... "non-player forces are controlled by the Referee, often a threat to both sides, and their actions changing the goals of the scenario as the narrative progresses."

So to summarize, it is Oldhammer to have a referee who helps players muddle through the rules and adds friction to the game by introducing hidden objectives and random elements. This can also be achieved by agreeable players who can dice for such things without the assistance of a ref.

Don't be a slave to Army lists or manufacturer

"Go and burn your Army Books, you don't need them any more. We're going back to basics."

He goes on to say that you should use the points as described in the rules book to construct your forces however you like and not be constrained to Warhammer Old World Fluff. I think in the Oldhammer in the New World we have fallen around the convention of using the Warhammer Armies book as a basis, but no one has been overly fussed about it.

"You can use Old School Fantasy Battle to recreate epic battles from fantasy films and novels, from Moorcock to Tolkien, you're not tied to one particular gaming world, and if you want to just grab whatever minis you have and have a bash, that's good too." ... "you're not limited to the miniatures of one manufacturer."

So it's stated right there. YOU DON'T HAVE TO USE FIGURES FROM CITADEL FROM 1986 - 1992! Or whatever the arbitrary "not Oldhammer anymore" designation is. It's not expressly about the figures. Sorry collectors. That being said, just posting random figures of any old description is probably just going to start a flame war. I'm guilty of doing it on occasion, but I try to say how I'm going to use it in a totally Oldhammer way.

Is there a point to points?

Zhu talks about this in sections #3 and #4.

"You do not need a 2000 point army to play the game properly." ... "Stop worrying about game balance" ... "As the Spartans will tell you, warfare has never been about perfectly matched armies squaring off at each other, and fantasy warfare even less so."

In the New World we have also established a convention of 1500pts for your army, but people always bring some cool and crazy stuff, so more often than not we just play with what people bring. Last year Tom Rabbits used 7 Giants in a battle against Airbornegrove's Chaos. It was epic. I am currently working on a Tzeentch force led by a Lord of Change as my general. Because why not? Oldhammer is not about being totally inflexible, it's about doing cool shit with cool models. Period!

And lastly

"Tournaments - Just Say "No"." ... "Oldhammer is not a sport. It's a game."

That being said, if tournaments really float your boat, go for it. You will get push back in an Oldhammer group though.

So I hope that clears it up a little. Oldhammer is pretty subjective, but you can't throw out every single aspect of the aforementioned contract and still call it Oldhammer.

Feel free to disagree. Honestly I'd like to hear how you Oldhammer. Maybe we should have a feature in the Zine along the lines of "Ask an Oldhammerer" of "Dear Oldhammy".

Rant Over.


  1. Go get'em Sean you beautiful bastard!!!!

  2. thats not a tear...I just got some lead dust in my eye...sniff. Preach it SEAN!!!

    1. Thanks Blue. Maybe we just need to purge the rolls if people are going to blatantly muddy the waters. Or just educate as needed.

  3. Amen!
    Have another soapbox from me to shout it out from a little higher!

    1. Thank you Major. It appears I may have ruffled some feathers. If you're having fun your way who am I to judge. But if you ask me if your way is Oldhammer, I might say it's not.

  4. Although i know my style is not in sync with 'true' oldhammer i was drawn back into gaming by some of the above. I always think of oldhammering as building a story rather than blowing your mate off the table, if you do that the rest just kind of follows.

    1. Hi Sprinks, if I recall you were doing some cool fantasy gaming with 1/72 models. Before I fell back into collecting 28mm again I was going to do everything exclusively in 1/72 (20mm). In fact I may try my hand at Warmaster in that scale as the price for actual Warmaster figures is stupid.

    2. Yep, still plugging away in 1/72!.The scale has seen an explosion in fantasy sets over the last few years with even more on the way. In oldhammer terms its quite easy to come up with alot of the forces now. 28mm minis also make great large monsters which is a bonus!. Warmaster in 20mm wont cost anywhere near even a small warhammer force and could look pretty awesome!.

  5. Sing it sistah.

    Couldnt agree more.

    1. Thanks Dai. It probably doesn't change anyone else's outlook, but I'll loudly give my opinion anyway.

  6. Hey, glad you liked my blogpost and found it useful for describing what you're into!

    1. Thanks Zhu. I enjoy the thought and perspective you bring to the hobby and am a fan of your design work. I was glad to read the Oldhammer Contract again as I'd forgotten the particulars of it and I find the concept of using the rules to flesh out your own imagination/ interpretation to be what attracted me in the first place.



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