Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition was published by Cubicle 7 quite recently. They were kind enough to send us a pdf to review and we will be reviewing this game in two parts. This first part is written by Lauri who has been there since (almost) the beginning. And the second part is the newcomers view written by Ville who has not played any edition of WFRP (published later).
Disclaimer: We haven’t actually played this fourth edition yet so all of my opinions are based on my earlier knowledge and reading the book so they must be taken with a hint of salt.
As said in the intro I have played WFRP a very long time. I started in the 90’s with the Enemy Within campaign (as player) and have GM’ed every edition since. My most active era of Warhammer was in 2002-2010 when I ran several campaign, wrote for Liber Fanatica and created the Daily Empire as a base for all fan material. So my approach for this game couldn’t be farther from Ville’s view which should create an interesting contrast to our views.
Fourth edition is released in a very interesting time with Old World having been destroyed in the official story by Games Workshop. This destruction happened during the so called “dark ages” of GW and would be a different topic by itself. But by all accounts it was gone. Then came the Total War: Warhammer and the success of Vermintide. So apparently GW has seen that there still is potential for the Old World – which in my mind was never a question anyway.
First things first – the new 4th edition book looks beautiful. It is simply the most visually attractive version of the game with Jon Hodgson’s amazing touch visible on every page. The layout throughout the book is excellent and reflect the simpleness of current design values. Even the cover itself is a great nod the fan base this product is clearly designed to. It’s a rework from the classic cover of the games first edition.
With this dedication to older players however comes the biggest problem of the fourth edition (for me) – it tries to make the percentile system work.
In our stories and fond memories of the 1st and 2nd edition WFRP was always the game of failures. Single strike against an enemy could take several rolls, most of which were doomed to fail. We understood this and it was part of the rugged charm of the game. But I have to admit that I struggled to read the current rules.
I might have been spoiled by games that concentrate on the narrative rather than the gaming elements (like Apocalypse World) but to me reading the rules was a burdening task. The cover of the book gave me an idea that this games should be easy to learn and a loving tribute to the original games. Now I’m not saying this isn’t the case (in fact I think this is the case). However what I am saying is that maybe the original system wasn’t that good to begin with.
Zweihänder was a fan game lovingly crafted over the years quite recently. It was aimed to update the second edition and I have to say that it might be clearer when it comes to rules. WFRP 4th edition isn’t doing a bad job but some of the phrases it uses were totally alien to me (notice that I’m not native English speakers). I also aren’t sure that the host of Optional Rules will make any game better.
At this point I must also be clear: I liked the 3rd edition more than the first two. It had major problems but it was a game that could have become one of the best games there is. In fact I think that the Star Wars games by Fantasy Flight Games that are considered to be the updated versions of WFRP 3rd have been fairly successful and can show us a glimpse of what could have been.
To conclude: there is a lot going on in the fourth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Rules as written must be studied in detail by players of earlier editions for there are numerous changes that are not that apparent. However the sheer amount of rules in the main rulebook make sure that players can have years of gameplay out from this single volume. It has everything needed to run campaigns in the Old World and a whole range of additional material in the top of being quite compatible with the material for first and second edition.
If this would have been the third edition and published at the height of my WFRP interest this would clearly have been the best edition there is. I must assume this is precisely what older fans should want for WFRP. Sadly I must come to the conclusion that it simply might not be for me anymore.
In any case I have the heights admiration for Cubicle 7 for crafting this edition and can only wish that it will go down in history as an excellent game for heroes of the Old World.
Pictures used with permission by Cubicle 7.