Mordheim is a living proof that the better a game, the less Games Workshop will actively support it. It combines the good parts of playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle (interesting lore, cool models, variety) with none of the drawbacks (overpowered magic, blatant stupidity, the need for hundreds of models), all wrapped up in a narrative skirmish game that kicks more ass than you could possibly imagine.
In the Warhammer universe, there was once a city known as Mordheim. Things were generally all right there, until a goddamn comet crashed into it, leaving shards of Wyrdstone around and generally destroying the city. This is bad for general business, but good for foolhardy adventurers who really, really want to loot the living hell out of an abandoned city while killing other opportunistic looters. This is considered to be the default setting for Mordheim, although other books have built on this considerably, giving you options for playing in Lustria, the Border Kingdoms, Araby, and even far-off Cathay.
Continuity-wise, it's set several hundred years before the current Warhammer timeline, which no one will care about when you're playing.
Hoo boy. It'd be easier to say what Mordheim doesn't have, because there is a lot of extra material produced by GW, along with glorious fan-made material. But, to be complete, here's the list of 'official' warbands that are legal in your neighborhood GW store (unless you are in the UK where GW has banned all specialist games from their gaming rooms).
- Original Warbands:
- Mercenaries: Come in Marienburg, Middenheim, and Reiklander varieties. Easiest starting warbands, by far; you're just different flavors of human with a few altered rules. On paper they are the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none basic warband, but due to their easy access to shooting weapons and powerful melee fighters for the cost, they tend to be more of a master-of-all sort of warband. Still, the standard warband (Reiklanders with fucktons of ranged weapons) is perhaps one of the best ranged warbands in the game.
- Sisters of Sigmar: Dead hard in the hands of a good player, Sisters get the coveted Steel Whip, one of the best weapons out there. They also have the advantage of armored spellcasters (not that you'll use armor in anything but Gentlemen's Mordheim), good statlines, and a lack of the usual crap that burdens a lot of warbands. They're a lot harder to kitbash than other Warbands however, and the models are expensive as fuck on Ebay, so be forewarned.
- Skaven: Rats cosplaying as Naruto and friends, only with poisoned swords, claws and fucking magic flintlocks. Initially, these guys get a bad rap. Then, you have fun playing with them. Then, you play a guy who runs a horde of naked Skaven carrying slings, and you hate everything forever, because it turns the game from 'hilarious, quirky skirmish' to 'being a beardy motherfucker'. If you spot someone playing that, slap them hard in the nuts.
- Undead: Generic undead list; zombies, necromancer and wolves, nothin' too fancy here... Except for that one-army beast called Vampire. Even with the large amount of extra warbands, the Vampire is still one of the best starting Leaders in the game. Notable for the fact that most of their Henchmen cannot gain experience, so you really have a hard time when you lose an important Hero in the game. Ghouls are your friends when you need XP, but they can't wield weapons.
- Witch Hunters: BURN THE WITCH! You get to shut down other magic users, plus their option to start the game by RELEASING THE HOUNDS is a fun and viable strategy. Most of their models are hard as fuck, especially Fanatics, who are S/T 4. Even their Hounds are S 4. The Witch Hunters hate psychics as well.
- Cult of the Possessed: Chaos up in this shit! You start weak, then you get crazy strong, then hilarious mutation tables screw you over completely and you laugh because it's Mordheim, baby! Not recommended for beginners, but smart play with buying mutations can lead to some scary-good forces.
- Warbands added later:
- Carnival of Chaos: Glorious, glorious Nurgle-centric army. Generally do fairly well in the first few missions, but some of their rules (namely Nurgle's Rot) can and will completely screw over other players in a long-running game, by breaking their heroes into useless pieces of crap.
- Dwarf Treasure Hunters: Slow, heavily-armored, and expensive, Dwarfs can be a force to be reckoned with. Just remember; you're a tough motherfucker, so keep your expensive heroes safe, and you'll rock out. Always prepare for ridiculous shit to happen to your Troll Slayers.
- Orcs & Goblins: Greatest bringer of fun in Mordheim out there. Every turn, you need to roll Animosity for your warband; bad rolls can result in stupidity, in-fighting, or suicidally brave charges. A barrel of fun whether you're winning or losing, and they actually have a chance of winning thanks to pretty good stats.
- Beastmen Raiders: Whoo, Beastmen! Prepare to have no ranged weapons when you start the game, and some difficult models to control when you start out. They can get good mid-to-late game, but if you're not careful with your heroes, things will go very, very badly for you.
- Ostlanders: Inbred and dopey mercs who get access to a priest and a goddamn Ogre in their normal warband! On one hand, they get access to goddamn doublebarrelled gunpowder weapons, but on the other, they have this weird rule that forces them to spend half their money each turn on one item of some sort. Very, very FUN*.
- Averlanders: Shooty mercs. Next.
That's for the official, now some of the unofficial bands. Many of these came with upgraded settings, for which they tend to be be balanced for.
- Lustria Warbands: (Tend to be at least slightly OP compared to other warbands. Ye who plays a campaign with elf-lovers, abandon all hope.).
- Shadow Warriors: Elves from Nagarythe. Like the Skaven in that shooting is your best friend but whereas Skaven can shoot lots of shots on average or above average BS, Shadow Warriors can shoot you from halfway across the board and still have a good chance of hitting you (and killing if you didn't take armour or as its better known "playing properly").
- Amazons: Women from the jungles of Lustria, brought in underwear to Mordheim by slavers. Armor doesn't exist to them and their heroines have lasers. Yes, lasers.
- Dark Elves: Combine super high ballistic skills with great mobility, stealth and repeating crossbows... that's why everone hates Dark Elves and no one wants to play against them. Probably the most OP warband in the game, they start fairly weak but soon become godly snipers.
- Lizardmen: Fukken nasty at everything; they'll make your enemy think you've rolled on the Advancement table twice as much. They don't get armor, but they're armored automatically. Also, regular Henchmen with S 4/T 4. Can be mighty fun when pitted against other, unofficial warbands, but damn-near broken against anything else.
- Bretonnia Knights: Although they aren't really supposed to be in Mordheim they were added due to popular demand. So gather up your knights and purge the evil from Mordheim on horseback while archers and riflemen are confused why they can't fire at you.
- Pirates: You know what pirates are. Notable features of this warband are the Boatswains, henchmen whose experience in the ship's rigging makes them good at traveling above street level, and the ability to bring a small cannon ashore for a bit of fire support. You can also enslave heroes from other warbands and make them fight for you with a mop, which is fun.
- Pit Fighters: Someone was watching too much Gladiator in GW at the time (not really, they just ported Escaped Pit Slaves over from Necromunda), and they decided to make a warband with this guys. Crazy killing machines in close combat that will make you cry and think why did I agree on playing with unofficial bands.
And lastly, the créme de la créme of the fan-made bands. There are innumerable versions of different warbands made by fans, each more OP than the other, but a few keep to the standards presented by the original game.
- Border Town Burning Warbands: (set in Cathay, very weeaboo and chinese.).
- Battle Monks: No one has ever played this warband, but they look funny as hell. They like to fight unarmed, which kind of defeats the idea of Mordheim, but whatever. Monks can get stupid fast, sort of like Skaven, too. In fact, just play Skaven; it's essentially the same.
- Merchant Caravans: Merchants look fun on paper, but tend to do shitty in-game, unless you're lucky with your first few rolls. Brings about the box of infinite fun that is the Trade Coach; it barrels through the board like it was made by cardboard and plastic if touched by the smalles shortbow arrow.
- Restless Dead: Undead but not. Has skellies and grave guard, and the leader is a Lich, but it's basically the same.
- Marauders of Chaos: Proper fuckoff vikings, oh yeah! They'll slap the shit out of human warbands in melee, and the warband can even get Marks! Really makes Beastmen look shitty in comparison.
- Norse Explorers: Vikings, though not very chaos. Just play Marauders.
- Maneaters: A warband of Ogres; balanced by most of the Ogres not being proppa Ogres, but smaller, retard Oggies. You can make a viable warband with only three models, all with three Wounds each.
At first glance, it's basically Warhammer Fantasy in a skirmish format. Then, you realize that it's goddamn awesome.
Each player starts the campaign with 500 crowns (or teeth, or slave tokens, or whatever the hell it is your race uses to pay the poor bastards who run around for them). You use this to hire Heroes and Henchmen. Each warband can hire a maximum of five (or six, if you're a fucking rat) heroes to start out; these are the most important characters in your warband, as they give you the much-needed Wyrdstone and gold needed to keep looting the city. You fill out the roster with Henchmen, who are somewhat less talented and inspiring than the rest of your heroes.
After hiring your models, you then buy equipment for them, and you're ready to start.
When a model loses its last wound, you roll a d6; they have a chance to survive and keep fighting after being knocked down or stunned. If a model is taken out of action, you roll on the giant table of injuries (for Heroes) to see if they've died, gained a crippling wound, or somehow picked up some awesome abilities due to scars.
As models survive games, they gain experience, which can give additional skills, stat increases, and power to your warband. This is the appeal of Mordheim; it's a campaign game, designed to let you create a characterful warband of unique figures.
There are a huge number of optional rules for Mordheim. It is generally suggested that you play with them, as they enhance the whole game experience to a huge degree.
So, you want to play some Mordheim? Here's some of the things you'll need;
- Friends. I know this is the internet, but we're gonna start with the easy things
- Minis to represent your warband. Do this AFTER you've thought up your list, and where you'd like it to go. Mordheim is all about character, so work out some interesting stuff. Most warbands can be made out of a single box of troops, and there's a lot of alternatives out there.
- Special mention must be made to Perry Miniatures Mercenary Box Set; it lacks some of the nicer bits, but you can build most human warbands out of it. It also comes with enough minis for several people, making starting a game even easier.
- If you're dead-set on GW, then you'll need to know what's useful for what. In no particular order
- Empire Free Company: Is it a Mercenary warband/vaguely similar to an Empire Warband? Congratulations, you've got all you need!
- Beastmen: A little conversion work, and you can build a decent warband from a box of Gor. You have to get creative if you want a Centigor, but nothing in life is free, eh?
- Skaven: Night Runners if you're aiming for the usual list, Clanrats if you're willing to do more conversion work and have fun.
- Dwarf Treasure Hunters: Warriors work if you've got the spare gun bits laying around, and you'll need to do some crazy conversion work for Troll Slayers. Mantic Games's dwarfs can work, but the poses are a bit static for some people, and you need to really buy in bulk before they're really worth it.
- Orcs and Goblins: Box of Orc Boyz and a box of goblins is more than enough. Use the extra bows that come with the Goblins if you need 'em for your boyz, otherwise you've pretty much got everything. As usual, you'll need to do some conversion work.
- Marauders of Chaos: Box of Marauders, convert, and you're good. For warhounds, you should try to scratchbuild something if you're aiming to be cheap.
- Terrain: This is the big one. Make it out of corkboard if you have time, Terraclips if you want it to be fast and good, random shit if you don't care. Remember; clutter the board, and build UP! Nothing makes Mordheim fun like building up, because otherwise, no one can suicide-charge off of rooftop or place their ranged henchmen high in the land to get picked off one by one.
This shit is pretty much all you need to get started. A normal campaign is best with at least four people, but if you can get folks at your FLGS interested, a larger narrative campaign can be fun.
If you read the above section, you can probably tell that Mordheim isn't the most balanced of games out there. It's not meant to be; if you're looking for a balanced, competitive skirmish game, you've come to exactly the wrong place. Random shit will happen (if you use that table), and you will laugh at it, because if Mordheim stands for anything, it stands for STUPID FUN.
Most games are played using a Gentleman's Pact, wherein the players agree on optional rules and what sort of strategies (Skaven slingwall, Shadow Walkers) are off-limits for the duration of the campaign. Narrativity is usually encouraged, as that's part of the experience.
Supplements of Renown
You can find them if you ask nicely. Most were hosted and supported by Specialist Games.
- Border Town Burning: One of the biggest post 2004 development in Mordheim. It contains detailed expansion rules for campaigns in the Cathayan borderlands, detailing the merchant travels along the "Silk Road" from Cathay to the Old World. New warbands are Marauders, Norse Explorers, Merchant Caravans, Battle Monks of Cathay, The Restless Dead, Black Dwarfs and Maneaters.
- Relics of the Crusades part 1 and part 2: Set in Araby during the Crusades. New warbands are Arabian Tribes (Ghutani, Muzil and Turjuk), Clan Skryre, Slavers and The Fallen. The author went on to create the Nights of the crusades rpg about 9000 years later.
- The Empire in Flames: Introduces campaigning in the wilderness around Mordheim.
Coreheim is an attempt to balance Mordheim; /tg/ alternately likes and loathes it, depending on the player. It fixes the notorious balance issues, but also completely misses the point of Mordheim: there are only six available warbands (most of which are flavors of mercenary), the randomness is removed, and it tries to treat itself as a 'serious' wargame, rather than something that creates glorious stories to tell around the gaming table.
It's a decent game, but it's not Mordheim.
The Coreheim team have since changed their focus and released Wyrdwars which is much closer to the original Mordheim rules in spirit and contains balanced rules for twenty two warbands.
Mordheim: City Of The Damned
From 2014 to 201(?) Mordheim received an early-access vidya called Mordheim: City Of The Damned. It is quite well received by the Mordheim community mainly by making like Blood Bowl and just being a faithful adaptation of a tabletop game you can't buy (new) minis for anymore, and managed to buck the Steam trend of early access games being cash grabs that will never be finished.
The game has been released on 19 Nov, 2015 and it is no longer in EA.
At release, the game had 4 "races" with their own campaigns. Mercenaries, Sisters of Sigmar, Skaven, and Chaos Cultists. The Witch Hunters and Undead (of the Von Carstein family, get away Restless Dead fans) were later released as DLC warbands, though you don't need to pay to get them as enemies in your campaign. Future warbands are now very unlikely as the devs have begun work on Necromunda, so no Orc Elf Dwarf Beastmen clusterfuck unfortunately.