Welcome all, and specially for any newcomers! Have you ever been interested in the dark background of Warhammer, but you've felt you didn't know where to start? Don't worry, we've summarized the history of each of its races and armies, and we've posted them here for your enjoyment. If you have any questions, ask right away in the comments section!
This is a dark age, a bloody age, an age of daemons and of sorcery. It is an age of battle and death, and of the world's ending. Amidst all of the fire, flame and fury it is a time, too, of mighty heroes, of bold deeds and great courage.
At the heart of the Old World sprawls the Empire, the largest and most powerful of the human realms. Known for its engineers, sorcerers, traders and soldiers, it is a land of great mountains, mighty rivers, dark forests and vast cities. And from his throne in Altdorf reigns the Emperor Karl Franz, sacred descendant of the founder of these lands, Sigmar, and wielder of his magical warhammer Ghal Maraz.
But these are far from civilised times. Across the length and breadth of the Old World, from the knightly palaces of Bretonnia to ice-bound Kislev in the far north, come rumblings of war. In the towering Worlds Edge Mountains, the Orc tribes are gathering for another assault. Bandits and renegades harry the wild southern lands of the Border Princes. There are rumours of rat-things, the Skaven, emerging from the sewers and swamps across the land. And from the northern wildernesses there is the ever-present threat of Chaos, of Daemons and Beastmen corrupted by the foul powers of the Dark Gods. As the time of battle draws ever near, the Empire needs heroes like never before.
If you want to know more about the races fighting in these wars, keep reading...
The Empire is quickly becoming the largest and most powerful kingdom of men in the Old World. Still, it is such a vast land that law cannot reach all the hidden recesses of its dark forests and impenetrable mountain ranges. Orcs raid its borders, and the menace of Chaos is growing stronger in the far north. These and other enemies, internal as well as external, must be fought and defeated by the armies of the Emperor if his realm is to survive.
The Empire was founded over 2,500 years ago by Sigmar, a legendary warrior who has become the patron deity of this powerful land, now the largest and most technologically advanced nation of men in the Old World. Led by Emperor Karl Franz from his throne in the capital city of Altdorf, the men of the Empire defend their borders from many would-be invaders: the forces of Chaos from the north, the Orcs and Goblins from the east and west, and countless others who covet the Empire’s wealth and rich farmlands.
The knights of Bretonnia are feared and respected throughout the world. Men of valor and honor, they are exceptional warriors and guardians of their land that was founded upon the most heroic of ideals. In the name of the Lady of the Lake and for the glory of Duke and King, they sweep aside evil on the field of battle, for none can stand against their glorious charge.
Bretonnia is a feudal, traditional land of knights and peasants. The Bretonnian army relies on the devastating charge of the knights, who are supported by units of peasant Men-at-Arms. The knights of Bretonnia live by a series of vows – these vows uphold the virtues of honor and chivalry. To lose honor is just about the worst thing imaginable to a knight of Bretonnia, who would rather die with honor than live without it. The entire society of the Bretonnian nobility is based around upholding the honor of the self, the King, and the Lady of the Lake (the goddess of the Bretonnians). Individual heroism is very important to the Bretonnian knight, and tales of paladins fighting Dragons and of heroes facing off against countless foes are the kind of things the people of Bretonnia dream of.
Bretonnia is a feudal society. The peasants serve the knights in return for protection, while the knights are obligated to provide military assistance to their lords in return for certain rights (to own land, to levy taxes, and to receive aid and command military forces in times of war). At the top of this hierarchy is the King. Beneath the King are the Dukes. Beneath them is another layer of nobility – Earls and Barons. The King, Dukes, Earls, and Barons are also each the Lord of a number of knights, who are the lesser nobles. Each knight (including the higher nobles) has a force of Men-at-Arms, chosen from the most physically able of the peasantry. In return for serving a knight’s standing military force, peasants are given a small tract of land for their family. In theory, all commoners can be called upon by a knight to serve him in battle. However, since many who do not already serve as Men-at-Arms are either simple-minded or physically impaired in some fashion, these types of Peasants usually serve only as bowmen levies. In addition to this earthly hierarchy, the lands of Bretonnia are also ruled over by spiritual and mystical leaders – the Fay Enchantress, her Damsels, and the Grail Knights – who are all devoted to the Lady of the Lake.
An ancient and proud race, the High Elves have refined their martial skills and magical prowess over the centuries. As the primitive tribes of man fought amongst themselves, the High Elves navigated the oceans and mapped the heavens. They have watched empires rise and fall, and ferociously repel all who seek to conquer their homeland.
Deadly, swift, and precise, the power of the High Elves lies in their ability to hit the enemy hard where and when they choose with the support of awesome sorcery and devastating missile fire. Proud, haughty, and graceful, the High Elf army is well organized and marches to war in perfect unity, armored in their strong scale coats, and wielding fine weapons of the highest quality.
Taught the ancient arts of warfare from a young age, the long-lived High Elves of the island nation of Ulthuan are masters of both sword and bow. A highly elite force, they are skillful and well led, though few in number. A successful High Elf commander must use each of his precious units to their full potential in order to win the day.
From his dark tower in the distant land of Naggaroth, the Witch King Malekith strikes terror into the heart of every race of the world. Cold and heartless, his armies of Dark Elves launch raids that enslave thousands, while every day, hundreds of his captives are sacrificed on the altars to the Dark God Khaine, Lord of Murder.
The Wood Elves of Athel Loren are mysterious and secretive beings, rarely seen beyond their forest borders. Those foolish enough to set foot within their woodland realm invite the fury of the Wood Elves and their Forest Spirit allies, whether in open combat or through sudden ambush.
Capricious and unpredictable, the Wood Elves have been likened to a force of nature, neither truly good nor evil. Athel Loren and the Wood Elves are far removed from simple comparison with the values held by other races. Like a placid lake, the Wood Elves can appear serene, beautiful, and enchanting, or as frightening and destructive as a storm. For every intruder that the Wood Elves guide out of Athel Loren, another is slain without question or remorse and left where he falls to be claimed by the forest. Bones and skulls can often be seen on the outskirts of Athel Loren, many with arrows protruding from ribs or embedded in eye-sockets, before they are obscured and covered by twisting roots and undergrowth or taken away by forest animals.
Ever watchful and vigilant, the Wood Elves guard Athel Loren ceaselessly. Even those who enter the forest with no ill intention are regarded with suspicion and resentment and will often come to a bad end. The Wood Elves have a distinct lack of interest in the goings on of the world outside of the forest and care little for those who are not their own. On occasion, they must take part in wars and battles beyond the borders of their forests in order to save their homes from future threat, but this situation is rare indeed. If the Wood Elves could live their lives without interference from the world beyond their fey lands, then they would do so gladly. However, Athel Loren is assailed constantly by those that seek to invade and corrupt it, and so they must wage an unending battle against these despoilers.
The Dwarfs are the most tenacious and determined warriors of the world. Their mountain holds are under constant pressure from Orcs, Goblins, and Skaven, so they must frequently march out to defend their homes and hoards. Even in defeat, they record and remember every affront and will miss no opportunity to settle their grudges with the edge of an axe.
The Dwarfs are one of the most ancient races of the world. From the beginning of time, their traditional homeland has been the Worlds Edge Mountains. It is a vast, forbidding mountain chain that marks the eastern boundary of the Old World. Here, in ages past, the Dwarfs built their massive underground strongholds among the high peaks and tumbling chasms. At its height, their realm spread from the far north to the distant south, while their mines stretched far beneath the earth itself. These days of glory are now long gone; many strongholds lie in ruins or are occupied by evil creatures. The great achievements of the past are now nothing more than memories — ancient sagas sung in the half-empty halls of the few surviving Dwarf strongholds.
Dwarfs are the greatest miners and tunnelers in the world, and they delve deep beneath their mountain homes for metals, precious stones, and other mineral wealth buried there. From this raw material, they make all kinds of precious objects, including weapons, armor, marvelous vessels, and jewels worked with incredible skill. Beneath each Dwarf stronghold there exists a labyrinth of caverns and tunnels created and enlarged over centuries as the Dwarfs dug ever deeper in search of new riches.
Dwarfs are supremely skilled craftsmen and take great pride in everything they do. It is almost impossible for a Dwarf to hurry his work, and no Dwarf could ever bring himself to produce something slipshod or cheap. Whether it be forging weapons and armor, the construction of fortifications, or the mechanical inventions of the famed Engineers Guild, the ingenuity and technical ability of Dwarfs is unsurpassed anywhere in the Old World. No other race, not even the great craftsmen of the High Elves, can rival the care and skill of the Dwarfs.
Long before the rise of Elves, Dwarfs, or Men, the Lizardmen existed in the oppressive, steamy depths of the jungles of Lustria and the Southlands, far away from the Old World. Coldly alien and enigmatic, their civilization seeks to restore a view of order in the world that their creators, the Old Ones, envisaged before their mysterious disappearance. The Lizardmen are a dangerous and powerful civilization, and any who enter their lands do so at their own peril.
The mighty temple-cities of the Lizardmen rise above the humid jungles in these tropical lands. There, the bloated Slann Mage-Priests, who have mastered the art of magic, attempt to divine the intentions of the long-departed Old Ones. Though the Great Plan is only revealed in omens and portents, the Mage-Priests do their best to interpret the signs and guide the Lizardmen to do the Old Ones’ bidding.
The bulk of the Lizardmen army consists of Saurus, a warrior species slightly larger than Men, and Skinks, a smaller, more intelligent species of skirmishing warriors. These troops are bolstered by jungle swarms of lizards and snakes, the giant Kroxigor warriors, the flying Terradons, the mighty Stegadons, and Salamanders, the living artillery of the Lizardmen army. Together, these troops constitute a powerful force that is much feared by most Old Worlders, who know little of this strange and alien race.
As the Lizardmen are cold-blooded, they are sometimes slow to react to battlefield conditions. Terrifying monsters, huge outnumbering forces, and the deaths of their brothers-in-arms – things that would cause other troops to panic and flee – have little effect on the Lizardmen. It is only the will of the Mage-Priests and the Great Plan of the Old Ones that motivates the Lizardmen, and they tend to fight on, regardless of consequences.
In the cold wastes of the north, the followers of the gods of Chaos gather in their thousands. Hordes of barbaric marauders and armor-clad warriors pour forth from the bleak wastelands to wage war against the soft-bellied wastrels who inhabit the rich lands of the south. Daemonic legions advance with them, proof that the Northmen are truly the favored of the gods. There can be no bystanders in this eternal war, for the Dark Gods and their chosen servants will never rest until the world truly becomes a Realm of Chaos.
Warriors of Chaos
In the frozen Chaos Wastes, the hordes of the Dark Gods gather strength and conspire to dominate the world. Chaos is a fickle mistress, however. Some who follow the dark powers are blessed with great strength and unimaginable power. Others are cursed with debilitating mutations and eventually devolve into mindless, gibbering Chaos Spawn. Chaos is a constant threat to the civilized lands of Men, Elves, and Dwarfs, and constant vigilance is required to battle the frequent incursions of the forces of Chaos.
Some of the followers of Chaos dedicate their worship to one of the particular Dark Gods: Khorne, the Blood God and the Lord of Skulls; Tzeentch, the Changer of the Ways and the God of magic; Nurgle, Lord of Decay and Pestilence; and Slaanesh, the Dark Prince and God of decadence and pleasure. Other Chaos worshipers follow Chaos Undivided and don’t devote themselves to any one particular deity. Each Chaos power bestows a particular type of gift upon its chosen followers.
Deep within the dark and twisted forests dwell countless horrifying and deadly creatures – tainted beasts warped by Chaos. The Beastmen are a plague on the civilized races, prey on the weak, and strike without warning in a rampage of killing and destruction before disappearing into the protective darkness of the wilderness. All manner of mutated and blood-hungry creatures join these raids – towering, nightmarish beasts whose whole existence centers on the rush of blood that comes during the slaughter.
Beastmen are wild and brutish creatures that care little for other beings. They have bodies that are half-man and half-beast, usually with the horned head of a goat. In battle, they combine ferocity with a savage lack of discipline, fighting and battling amongst themselves in their eagerness to get at the enemy.
Beastmen willingly embrace their heritage of Chaos, for although they have a semblance of the intelligence of a man, they employ it with the base cunning of a wild animal. Beastmen are not natural creatures: they first came into existence when the polar gateway of the Old Ones collapsed, showering the world with mutating warpstone dust. It worked a dreadful change on many of the ancestors of Man and animals, causing severe mutations. Hence, Beastmen were created: men that became animals, and animals that became men, a mix that is wholly chaotic.
Shunned and abhorred by every other race, the Beastmen are bitter creatures, driven by animal rages and a highly destructive instinct. They do not seek conquest or glory, they fight only to bring ruin to others, to sow destruction and discord and bring other races to their knees. In particular, they despise the humans who they can never be, filled with self-loathing that turns to aggressive hatred. They are a constant threat, hiding out in the wilds of the world, favouring heavy woodland areas where they can remain hidden from the eyes of civilised races. But even in the lands of the south, in chivalrous Bretonnia and the bright lands of Tilea, and far to the east across the Mountains of Mourn, the ancient forests and desolate foothills harbour hidden Beastmen lairs. In the Old World they are particularly populous in the Drakwald Forest and the Forest of Shadows, but are found as far afield as Cathay, the Southlands, and the massive forests west of Naggaroth.
The Skaven are a race of evil rat-men who inhabit the underground of the world. They gnaw at the roots of civilization – the Skaven are eternally scheming and preparing for the day when their uncountable hordes will overrun the surface world. The only thing that keeps them in check is the constant internal strife between Skaven clans. One day, however, the Grey Seers, who speak for the Great Horned Rat himself, will unify the Skaven and lead them to inevitable victory.
The tunnels of their vast Under-Empire reach from the steaming jungles of the Southlands to the snow-covered steppes of Kislev, from the western borders of Estalia and Bretonnia to the lost realms of the Far East. Their capital is the mysterious city of Skavenblight, hidden in the center of the foul marshes lying on the western borders of Tilea. There, the mighty Lords of Decay, ruthless rulers of all Skaven, sit on the Council of Thirteen, scheming and preparing for the time when their armies will emerge from the subterranean realm to raze the entire surface of the world.
Skaven society is structured into a number of clans that constantly vie with each other for dominance, and their political system is dominated by endless treachery. In addition to the Warlord clans, there are four major clans that contribute specialized troops to the Skaven horde: Clans Pestilens, Eshin, Moulder, and Skryre.
In every forest and under every mountain lurk the warlike tribes of Greenskins – countless Orcs and Goblins who love nothing more than a good fight. Orcs and Goblins raid, burn, and destroy everything they come across, and when there's no enemy to be found, they turn on each other.
Orcs and Goblins are related, green-skinned, war-like species that band together in crude camps and villages in the rugged wilderness regions all over the Old World and beyond. When the mood strikes the Greenskins or when population pressure drives them to it, the Orcs and Goblins band together into a massive armed force called a Waaagh! and march forth to do battle with anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path.
Far to the east of the Old World lie the savage Ogre Kingdoms. Among the frozen and desolate mountains of this realm live the Ogres – ugly, violent monsters who kill and eat anything they can catch. A single Ogre has enough brute strength to destroy a farmstead or village, whereas the ramshackle armies that march west from the Ogre homelands are powerful enough to destroy empires.
Ogres have been described by scholars as mentally, “thick as two short planks.” They have also been described as having enough intelligence to nail the planks together and beat the observer to a bloody pulp. There is some truth to this observation. Although the race is unable to create anything of lasting worth, they do have a knack for cobbling together crude weaponry out of whatever is at hand. They even have ramshackle machineries of war that they take, trade, or earn from other races. That said, the Mountains of Mourn are so inhospitable that nothing that makes its way into the Ogre Kingdoms is wasted – if an object is not immediately edible, it will invariably find another role within a few hours of its discovery.
Ogres have an insatiable appetite for destruction as well as for food, and – even in times of relative peace – they will hunt and kill the vicious cave-beasts that dwell in the mountains. They also war constantly among themselves. Ogres are well known for their tendency to travel, and can be found across the four corners of the world fighting in small mercenary groups that leave comparatively little evidence of their passing. In comparison, a full migration of Ogres can be devastating, stripping all life from the lands as they devour entire populations in a matter of days. It may take decades before the desolation left in their wake begins to recover. Fortunately, full-scale Ogre migrations are rare.
he armies of the Tomb Kings hail from the desert lands far south of the Empire of the Old World. Reanimated by the undying Liche Priests, the skeletal warriors of the Tomb Kings march forth to reclaim the lands they once defended in life and to exact vengeance from those who have wronged them in the past.
Long before the Old World was civilized, an ancient civilization known as Nehekhara came to power. The land was divided into city-states, each ruled by its own King and defended by its own army. Over the centuries, the power-hungry Kings, frustrated by their short mortal lifespans, sought ways to prolong their lives. Although true immortality eluded them, the rulers of Nehekhara came to believe that if they preserved their bodies after death, powerful magic could one day revive them and they could return to power. Elaborate tombs and pyramids were constructed to protect the remains of these dead monarchs and to house the many treasures and warriors that were buried with the Kings to serve them when they were reborn.
The plans of the Nehekharan monarchs would one day be twisted by an ambitious Priest-King of Nehekhara known as Nagash. Nagash raised an army of long-dead warriors to expand his lands and increase his power. It was the first time the dead were ever made to walk. Although Nagash’s mighty army was eventually defeated by a coalition of other Nehekharan kings, the mighty priest escaped to plot his revenge. Nagash released a powerful magic spell that turned the civilization of Nehekhara into a dead land. To this day, the land once known as Nehekhara is a barren, sun-blasted desert where only the dead stir.
There was one unforeseen result of Nagash’s great spell. The magics he had unleashed animated the Kings in their tombs and pyramids. The vast armies that had been buried with these rulers came to life once again, ready to defend their King in undeath. However, the Tomb Kings and their armies were not reborn as flesh and blood as they had expected. Instead, they were returned to life as skeletal, mummified parodies of men.
The Tomb Kings and Princes, assisted by the magically adept Liche Priests, lead a variety of troops into battle. Skeletal infantry, cavalry, and charioteers constitute the bulk of the Tomb King forces. More specialized forces include Tomb Swarms of undead scarab beetles, the enormous living statues known as Ushabti, great undead birds called Carrion, giant Tomb Scorpions, catapults that can hurl skulls at the enemy, and the terrifying and destructive Bone Giants. The Tomb Kings are a relentless, magically potent army that is resplendent on the field of battle.
From their castles and towers, the Vampires, immortal rulers of the evil Undead, raise legions of Zombies and Skeleton Warriors. Summoning dark creatures and ethereal beings from beyond the grave, the Vampire Counts march against each and every race of the Old World.
When the forces of the Vampires march to war, the world trembles. The Undead are among the most dangerous creatures in the known world. Bound by the will of one of the Lords of Undeath, the walking dead are a fell and mighty foe. They cannot be reasoned with, bribed, or coerced. They know neither fear nor mercy. They need no sleep or warmth, neither drink nor wholesome sustenance. As they march onward, their ranks swell with the corpses of the fallen. The legions of the living dead are terrible to behold. Hordes of corpses walk resolutely forward with dry flesh creaking, decaying innards exposed, and corroded wargear scraping and clanking. Only a fearless commander and the most stout-hearted troops can stand against the army of a Vampire Count and hope to win the day.
There are five major types of Vampires known in the Old World:
- The Lahmians are the oldest of the Vampire bloodlines and were the first to discover the secret of immortality. These almost exclusively female Vampires are faster than any living creature, and their beauty has seduced many an unwary soldier into lowering his guard to his doom.
- The von Carstein bloodline is the most powerful and most important in the history of the Old World. Concentrated in the eastern lands of the Empire known as Sylvania, the armies of the von Carstein Vampires have repeatedly attacked the lands of Men and have, on a few occasions, come close to conquering the Empire.
- The Blood Dragon Vampires descend from one of the greatest warriors in the ancient Nehekharan kingdom of Lahmia. This martial tradition continues to this day, and these Vampire Knights are terrors to face on the field of battle as their martial prowess is second to none.
- The Necrarch bloodline has only a passing resemblance to its once human form. These mad Vampires are masters of Necromancy and seek to end all life the world over.
- Finally, the Strigoi are the least human of all the bloodlines. Known as “Ghoul Kings,” these Vampires were long ago rejected by others of their kind and forced to live a scavenger’s existence. Soon, their more bestial traits prevailed and eradicated any semblance of human appearance. Like all Vampires, they are feared and shunned by the world over.