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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition Unboxing: Gnomish Gnerd-Out!

I started playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay back in junior high, and I’ve always loved the game. When Green Ronin got the license a few years back, they put out a dead sexy edition — updated, prettier, but still very much WFRP.

Now the license has changed hands again, this time heading over to Fantasy Flight Games — and they’ve produced the single most sumptuous, extravagant, viscerally awesome roleplaying product I’ve ever seen: the WFRP 3rd Edition core boxed set.

This isn’t a review, I haven’t played it, and I know very little about it. This article is a pure geek-out: an unboxing featuring oodles of large, hi-res photos of every aspect of this awesome piece of gaming history.

And may I just say, the boxed set is back.

If you cut your teeth on gaming back when everything came in a boxed set, then, like me, you probably miss the hell out of them. I couldn’t NOT buy this game, even if just to show my support for that shift back to one of gaming’s best formats.

Enough blathering! Let’s drool over some WFRP, shall we?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Drooling!

A quick note: Every picture is clickable, and will open a full-size image (straight from my camera, cropped appropriately).

Holy shit, this is a big box. It comes shrinkwrapped, with a wraparound cardstock slipcover over the actual box.

The slipcover has a front flap (attached with velcro) that opens to preview the sexiness inside.

Same height and width as an old school boxed set, but VERY different depth. This puppy is deeper than any board game I own. (Did I mention how BIG this box is?)

More preview material on the back. The slipcover is a clever idea, since you can’t browse this set at retail and it’s too expensive to be an impulse buy (MSRP: $100).

With the slipcover off, here’s the actual box lid. Gorgeous — and surprisingly understated. It looks like an artifact from the Warhammer world, which is awesome.

The edge of the actual box. If this is the edge, imagine what’s inside? This entire set oozes style, and the attention to detail in terms of components is insane.

For comparison purposes, here’s the box with a traditional boxed sit on top of it (the old Forgotten Realms gray box), and the hardcover U.K. first edition of WFRP stacked on top of that.

This is the first thing you see when you slide off the lid (and release that delicious boardgame/RPG smell!).

With the books removed, you can now see some of what’s inside the box — the rest is hidden under the cardboard tray.

This core set is designed to support one GM and three players — a number that may or may not match your group. From what I’ve heard, you’ll run out of some things pretty quick, and if there are only X of something in the box and you need X+1, it’s time to buy a supplement. But as a GM, I love the fait accompli that this set presents: “Here’s everything your entire group needs to get started — no, really, EVERYTHING.”

Everything that comes in the core set. The rest of the shots break out all of the individual components (except the standee bases — they’re just standee bases).

Two of the game’s four books. I love single-volume RPGs, but part of me also loves split-up sets like this. So many good memories!

Books three and four.

What do the books look like inside? This is an FFG product, so no surprise there: they’re gorgeous.

Two sets of thick cardboard standees for characters, monsters, etc. These are used to represent abstract combat positioning. Instead of a battle mat and minis, you just need to know roughly where people are during a fight.

…and a sheet of cardboard counters. My favorite bits are the ones that look like puzzle pieces. These are interlocked to form stance meters for each character; the further you commit to a stance (conservative or aggressive), the better the dice you can roll.

And for the GM? You can build progress tracks for abstract concepts, like chase scenes, outrunning an oncoming storm, or pretty much anything that involves reaching a goal or competing against someone. It’s a bit like skill challenges in 4e, with different actions moving you up/down the track, and events triggered by hitting certain GM-determined points.

This is another example of how WFRP takes something that GMs can already do, codifies it, and attaches a slick visual and tactile element to it. (Think about how much tension a little progress track could generate at the table.)

This is where you’ll start to get a feel for how different WFRP is from a traditional book-based RPG: The careers. These are designed to fit next to your character sheet, and they include spots for career-related goodies — little cards you “attach” to the sheet.

A close-up of the front of my favorite career, the troll slayer, and the back of another.

Another neat innovation: party cards. Your players choose a theme for their party, and their choice has mechanical effects throughout the game. For example, you can attach an ability to the party that benefits everyone in the group, and parties accumulate tension as intra-party conflict increases. I love this concept both as a GM and as a player.

Another divergence: In a hobby already known for weird dice, WFRP makes them weirder. Every die has a few different symbols, plus blank faces.

In the game, most rolls are treated as one big pool: You pull together the kinds of dice you need (red for being in the aggressive stance, for example), and then the GM adds modifier dice; you roll them all together, and one success means you succeeded.

A pad of character sheets. These are designed to be very visual, just like everything else in the game, with spots for counters, ability cards, etc. Your play space will include lots of little bits that give you a quick visual indicator for many aspects of your character.

I suspect that minimizing written notes and emphasizing visual, physical bits — cards for your powers, cards for wounds, chits for fatigue, etc. — will make this a very accessible game for new players.

There are two sizes of cards in WFRP; these are all of the larger ones, the action cards. What action cards you have available determines what special things you can do, much like powers in D&D 4e — the only real visual/component analog to this edition of WFRP that I know of (and WFRP takes the concept MUCH further).

The action cards are all two-sided, with different effects based on your stance: red for aggressive, green for conservative.

Close-up of the front and back of the power cards.

All of the small cards included in the game. They’re about half the size of the others, a size that will be familiar to board game players, especially folks who’ve played FFG games.

These cover all sorts of things, from special abilities granted by your career to spellcasting mishaps. And again, what’s in front of you is what’s impacting your character.

An overview of the various types of small card — there’s a lot of variety.

It wouldn’t be Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay without critical hits, and there’s a whole deck of them. Delish!

Not only that, but wounds are visual as well: How much damage you’ve taken = how many face-down wound cards are in front of you. Face-up cards count as critical wounds, and the text on them then applies.

So as a player, where are you going to put all of the stuff you need for your character? In one of the three included tuckboxes, of course!

Want to Know More?

I can’t help you there — this only just arrived in the mail, and I haven’t read much of it yet!

But luckily it’s been out for a little while now, and there are plenty of solid reviews floating around. Try Shannon Appelcline’s RPGnet review [28] or Critical Hits’ first impressions review [29] as starting points.

I hope you enjoyed this unabashed geek-out as much as I did. If you have questions about the game, I’d be happy to try and answer them.

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition Unboxing: Gnomish Gnerd-Out!"

#1 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On May 7, 2010 @ 7:15 am

Well Martin, I’ve always wanted to try WFRP, but this just kills it for me. Not your article, the product.

In my experience, Fantasy Flight always produces fantastic beautiful, fun games, and it looks like it’s right on the money here.

BUT Fantasy Flight also produces games that rub me the absolute wrong way. Distributing and cleaning up the three dozen types of counters each in their own plastic baggie, sorting through endless cards to find the three that ought to just be written on a character sheet, and on and on.

I’ve read that the more “bright colorful feely bits” there are in a board game, the better it sells, and the more re-plays it gets, but frankly, the effect is lost on me. They don’t tickle me in my “Neat Let’s play!” gland, they kick me square in the “God is this going to be a pain to setup, play without spilling, and clean up” lobe.

So play this a few times, then come back and tell me about the setup and cleanup, because those are the goblins that will keep me from ever buying this.

#2 Comment By BryanB On May 7, 2010 @ 9:19 am

It sure looks like a lot of stuff comes in that box. And like you, I loved the old boxed sets.

This might sound silly, but what turns me off about this game is the special dice needed to play it. Are there enough of them for a full group? Do you have to buy extra dice? Do they even sell the dice on their own? What if you lose them? Why didn’t they go with standard polys instead? Do I really want to learn what a whole bunch of symbols on the different dice mean?

#3 Comment By eryops On May 7, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

Your enthusiasm is reminiscent of the build-up before The Phantom Menace. Updated special effects and spectacularly choreographed fight scenes don’t necessarily add up to a good movie.

I’d like to read your thoughts after playing it after a few sessions.

#4 Comment By Nojo On May 7, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

I’ve played four or five sessions of WFRP 3rd, and found it a lot of fun. Once you’ve built your character, you have a little card box of your own to keep your cards so the next game you don’t have to find them.

I find it somewhat ironic that a game based on Gamesworkshop IP does NOT use minis for tactical combat. You get a few ranges, and you can move closer or further away, but that’s it. No going around, hiding, taking cover, using terrain by moving your minis in combat.

That’s not a complaint, just an observation. I found the abstract combat enjoyable and fast.

I liked the funny dice. There are enough dice and cards to support one GM and three players. FFG is happy to sell you more for bigger groups. The basic set costs $100.00, so your own finances will dictate if that’s a problem or not.

I played a priestess of Morr, and found that a lot of my generic priestess powers let me be very charming and charismatic, which felt wrong from a role play standpoint. Morr being the god of death, my GM and I came up with the rational that I was using the charm mechanics, but really influencing people out of fear and respect. The specific Morr powers were a lot of fun, and at least at the lower levels, more of a party enhancer than a nuker. Against undead I kicked butt.

My GM was very organized, and did most of the fiddling with the 5 zillion pieces, so it didn’t bother *me.* 🙂

#5 Comment By eryops On May 7, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

@ Nojo

It is odd that there is no official miniature support. I assume FFG had to sign something that stipulated they wouldn’t produce anything that competed (however indirectly) with its own Warhammer line, but why GW isn’t pushing anything for miniatures is beyond me.

I believe FFG already had the system set up and bought the IP so that they could market their game better and to a broader audience. If so, maybe they didn’t need miniatures, so it never came up with their discussions with GW.

#6 Comment By Scott Martin On May 7, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

Jennifer was impressed by their advice early in the GM’s book (an emphasized bit on page 4), titled: “Your Most Important Job!” The last two paragraphs read as follows: “It can take a while to grow comfortable with the role, but it is a richly rewarding experience. So how do you know when you’re performing your GM duties well?

It’s simple– if you and your players are having fun, you’re doing a good job.”

It explicitly mentions fudging rolls, tells the GM it’s in their power, and explains some drawbacks to using that power. That’s a nice focused start to the book– and seemed appropriate to her given the recent discussions of fudging here on the Stew.

#7 Comment By JohnnFour On May 7, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

The game looks awesome. A quick perusal of the books leads me to think it will be fun to play.

I’m full time right now with my current PFRPG game, busy world building and campaign planning, else I’d give this a whack.

#8 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 8, 2010 @ 7:56 am

[34] – I can see that. I love bits, and I’m a compulsive component bagger — I just break bit-heavy board games down into three sizes of baggie, and that solves the problem for me.

I’ve read quite a bit more of it now, and based on that it seems like the play area won’t be much more crowded than our table is when we play 4e, which features minis, action points, little stones for temp HP, power cards, the battlemap, etc.

[35] – I’ve read that what’s in the core set isn’t enough for a full group; they do sell them alone for about $12. I don’t know how many dice one would actually need.

The way the game works, it would be incredibly annoying if you used regular dice. Because each color of die is added to the pool for a different reason (misfortune, stance, etc.), and because each uses a mix of symbols, blanks, and special symbols, you’d have to say “On these red d8s, 1-4 = success, 5-7 = failure, 8 = special” — insanely annoying.

But could they have designed the game so it didn’t need special dice at all? Of course. But in for a penny in for a pound, right? The luxury of a boxed set like this is that it’s a controlled environment, and FFG could put in whatever they liked and know groups would have it.

[36] – Boom! Roasted. 😉 I don’t think it’s quite the same, though. To stick with the Phantom Menace analogy, while my enthusiasm was this high after seeing only the preview (the outside of the box), with PM it disappeared as soon as I saw a reasonable portion of the movie (what’s in the box). I’m still stoked about WFRP after doing this article and reading quite a bit of it.

[37] – Good to hear!

[38] – Yep, I’m digging the GMing advice (and the game mechanics) as well. It’s very definitely a modern RPG, where the overall feel is more holistic — GM and players working together, etc.

#9 Comment By Don Mappin On May 8, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

Pff! Martin isn’t a true nerd, he only bought it after seeing mine, taunting from from the table during our D&D game! Hell, I bought mine sight-unseen.

I find it hilarious that Martin and I have spent over $230 MSRP on a game neither of us have played yet, based on its packaging and presentation.

Okay, maybe less hilarious and more sad…

#10 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 8, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

[39] – Hey, all I saw was the BOX. That’s all I needed to see.

And yes, it taunted me for an entire night of gaming. How can I be so large? Am I really full? Think of all the campaign notes you could fit in me! 😉

#11 Comment By Roxysteve On May 10, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

I love opening up a boxed “counter-intensive” game and exploring it. It was a big part of my early wargaming days. And I love boxed RPG sets, especially first editions of games and/or supplements.

That said, I’ve never played WHFRP nor been tempted to try.

This set looks to me like it is a lure to get players to buy their own copies rather than having one copy per campaign.

FFG games that I *do* have experience suffer from two main problems: Table real-estate crunch and poor rulebook editing. I’ve played both Arkham Horror and Conan recently, and neither game went smoothly because the rulebooks were so poorly written.

This probably won’t be an issue with WHFRP since the wooly rulebook style is drawn directly from RPG rulebook writing style rules. It’s been said (said here, recently) that RPGs have different requirements for the way the rules are conceived than [competitive] board games (this is true), and it shows in both AH and Conan, both of which would benefit from an Avalon Hill/SPI style “case” rulebook structure.

But FFG do make robust games that *look* beautiful.

#12 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 11, 2010 @ 11:44 am

[40] – I think their “one core set per group” concept is genuine — what they want players to buy are their own copies of the Adventurer’s Kit, which includes new bits plus a larger box to keep them in, and perhaps their own sets of dice.

The rulebooks are well-written, but present information in a somewhat strange order. They also have more typos than I’d expect from such a large company.

#13 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On May 19, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

Are there multiple copies of some of those cards, or is that unnecessary? Can we both be dwarf troll slayers? If we are can we both have cleave?