Warhammer 5th Edition.


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Believe it or not, but I’m old. Other things which are old: Democracy, Sting (which ever one you prefer) and crude oil. Three things without which we wouldn’t be where we are now, for better or for worse. Another one which fits this list is 5th edition Warhammer.

I started wargaming with 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000 and shortly thereafter 5th edition Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Blood Angels, obviously, and Beastmen. I always liked beastmen.

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I thought about it the past days, and honestly I couldn’t tell if I ever played a single proper game of 5th edition then. Of course I never had a full army then, so I’d guess not? But by 2005-ish I got into WHFB proper when a friend got his friends to play. So I went back to my old 5th edition favourites, the Dark Elves. I wasn’t entirely happy with the early 2000s range (not a huge fan of the Cold One Knights’s armour, certainly not a fan of the Witch Elves then, with their weird lack of hair metal hair), but it was the one that was available. So I got me a DE army.

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Played in 6th edition, got battered all the time. But I think that is a very common theme with people looking back at their Warhammer careers. “Yeah, I had this army back then. I really enjoyed it, but I was beaten all the time.”. Other than losing in Warhammer 40,000 though, it doesn’t make you feel silly for playing like 40k can do at times, but i makes you feel silly for the mistakes you made. In that regard, the rules felt much smarter.

So I played a bunch of games during 6th, and I think one skirmish game in 7th edition. I really liked the changes made to the game in 7th, but the group dissolved.

So my collection lay dormant for several years, but once I got the bases redone and added a bunch more Witch Elves, Virago (5th edtion guy, did lots of figures from that time during the covid years) demanded a 5th edition battle. I never owned 5th edition Warhammer myself, but got a reasonably-priced starter set (everything but the figures) and later on the (mandatory) Magic supplement box.

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The Books

I had forgotten how beautiful those 5th edition rule and source books are. I remembered the little cartoons in the bottom of many pages (great), but I’d forgotten that these books were full colour, wonderfully printed on lovely thick paper. This to me is peak GW. It’s lovely design, it’s colourful, it’s attractive. Primary colours. You can’t beat it.

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Also: The amount of stuff that’s in the source book is pretty impressive. 12 scenarios, campaign rules, all pretty tasty stuff.

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The Armies

Then I took out the army book, gave it a good read, and on the day of the battle itself I wrote a list. At this point in time I find writing army lists to be a chore, but I’ll put up with it if need be. So I ended up with an army.


Dark Elveswarhammer oldhammer

1 Dark Elf General (very pricey, mandatory, didn’t have a Magic box then, so choice of magic items was very limited and choice of models even more so) – heavy armour, enchanted shield, hand weapon, repeating crossbow

1 Dark Elf Sorceress (level 2)

14 Witch Elves (a must-have!) – War Banner.

10 City Guards with Shields (because if I get the option to field this funky unit I will!)

6 Dark Riders – Lances, Repeating Crossbows (because I made pennants for them and Dark Riders are always good, right? Expensive though, right?)

6 Scouts (because they seem really good)

Repeater Bolt Thrower


High Elves

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Virago had painted the 1000pts example list from the back of the High Elves army book (5th editon) which entails:

1 HE General – Heavy armour, elven steed with barding, shield, hand weapon

1 HE Wizard (level 1)

10 Archers

13 Spearmen (Banner, Champion)

6 Silver Helms (Banner, Champion)

1 Repeater Bolt Thrower

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The Game

We agreed to play a Pitched Battle, because we only had a vague idea of the rules and this was about learning them. We deployed. After the deployment I did all the crafty Dark Elves things, like setting up the Scouts to the HE flank and do the extra march move Dark Riders are allowed before the game starts. My Sorceress draws the excellent Death Spasm and Power of Chaos spells. That should be useful. The HE Wizard gets the annoying Glamour of Teclis spell.

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Not pictured: My own bolt thrower, way back to my right flank. Which is why the Silver Helms sit at the opposite flank.

In a lucky first round of shooting, the Dark Riders kill the High Elves Repeater Bolt Thrower crew dead. The scouts take out some of the High Elves’ archers.

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Dark Elves advance!

Silver Helms charge right in, …

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… my Dark Riders and Witch Elves recoil to avoid the charge. As my close combat units regroup, the ranged troops cause quite some damage to the elven archers and spearmen. Sadly the Death Spasm spell never quite goes through yet.

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Just as the Silver Helms make ready for another charge, the Dark Riders just can’t keep their HATRED of High Elves in check and the light cavalry charges towards the heavily armoured foes! They juuuust so touch, so that just one model from each units is in combat. The charge catches the High Elves by surprise and the Dark Rider actually kills a Silver Helm.

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The rest of the unit hold though and since the only model touching an enemy model is killed, the close combat is dissolved.

Way in the back my overly cocky Scouts get charged by the few remaining High Elves archers. After a drawn-out close combat the High elves actually get the upper hand, and two slightly dishevelled High Elves archers emerge from the woods victorious.

Meanwhile the Silver Helms mount their charge, the Witch Elves unit (containing the general) take the charge, and get battered, as to be expected.

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My DE General challenges the HE general to a duel, but he sends in the unit champion instead. Drat. The Witch Elves stand little chance against the heavily armoured foes.

On the game’s last turn the Witch Elves unit it fully slain, only the DE General remains. Two Silver Helms fell as well, but  even despite a late (too late!) charge into the Silver Helms’ rear courtsey of the Dark Riders the DE General is slain and the game ends.

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…probably in a High Elf Victory; we didn’t count.


There are tons of things to learn about the rules, mostly detail stuff. Afterwards we learned that we did a bunch of things wrong, but that was the point of the whole thing. We agreed that we have to play again soon. I  certainly hope I can muster the stamina to actually keep learning those rules. And it’s just the Warhammer of our youth, so the nostalgia factor plays a role of course. But as a game, it’s really not bad. I just have to get more character figures, and work out a way for how to deal with armour.

Good times. 🙂


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