The game itself
First up, a minor admission - we love Warhammer. We've wargamed, roleplayed, painted up entire armies (check out the Games Workshop thread on our forum), and filled entire bookshelves with rulebooks, army lists and expansions. So, for us, the way a ‘proper' RPG or wargame works is second nature. But it's not that obvious to some.
Case in point: upon showing a curious co-worker some of the figures we'd painted (and yes, there are some in this very article!), they tutted and said "I just don't know how you can put that much detail into them and then play soldiers." Curious, I asked what they meant. As it turned out, despite their knowledge of computer gaming, they had long thought that wargaming was all about spending hundreds of hours painting up a beautiful army - and then throwing rocks at it. In short, they thought it was no different to what kids do in sandpits.
Suffice to say that's not how it works it all.
A game of Warhammer is more like creating a living, evolving diorama. There'll be terrain, from buildings and forests to rolling hills and immaculately re-created rivers - all painted up and modelled in as much detail as the armies themselves. At the game's beginning players set up, according to each scenarios rules, then the game progresses with a series of turns.
In each turn you move, shoot any ranged units, deal with melees, and then handle the aftermath of any fights - all managed with the roll of one or more (usually a LOT more) six sided dice. Or D6, in gamers' lingo.
But pushing toy soldiers around your kitchen table is just one part of the Warhammer hobby.
A lot of Warhammer hobby is kind of... internal. You sit at home, reading and learning the rules. You hunch over your figures, painting away in solitude for hours. And most games involve only one other person - to a lot of people, it might seem a very solitary, limited hobby.
But the reality is very different. The Warhammer hobby is actually very socially oriented, and involves a lot more than just the game.
Truly social gaming
Right from the now-distant days when Games Workshop opened its first store in the seventies, and was involved with the burgeoning gaming convention scene, the company's understood that to truly succeed it had to harness the social side of the hobby.
The biggest events that Games Workshops runs draw thousands of gamers, and they are held all over the world - even here in Australia. Games Days, as they are called, feature competitive tournaments, talks from writers and artists, sneak peeks of upcoming products, and displays of miniatures and terrain designed and painted by the best that GW has to offer. They're all day events, not unlike our own Atomic LIVE or Power to the PC tour, that celebrate every aspect of the hobby, and an important part of that is sharing it with others - whether you're there to play the game, dress up as your favourite character (yep, there are Warhammer cosplayers every bit as serious as their anime counterparts!) or just want enjoy the whole experience.
Aside from the official events, there are many fan-based leagues and ladders as hardly fought over as any Counter-Strike match - and unlike a lot of computer-based competitive gaming, having actual fun and being gentlemanly about a game is a core concept.
Online there are also many community-based sites and forums where like-minded modellers and gamers get together to compare armies, discuss the finer points of the rules, or even write their own fiction. A personal favourite of ours is www.warseer.com, a longstanding community that boasts members from all over the world, whose larger threads are now starting to run to over 400 pages - and you thought the Atomic forums were active!