The Empire (Warhammer Fantasy)
"An empire founded by war has to maintain itself by war."
- – Charles de Montesquieu
"Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man."
- – Henry Adams
"Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized."
- – Terry Pratchett
"By Holy Sigmar's hairy balls, get the FUCK OFF OF MY LAWN!"
- – Karl Franz, all the time, to everything and everyone
- 1 History
- 2 The Cult of Sigmar
- 3 Political Structure
- 4 Military
- 5 Technology
- 6 Provinces and city states
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 Legacy
- 9 See Also
- 10 Gallery
Once upon a time there was a badass called Sigmar Unberogen. Sigmar was actually a good man
in spite of BECAUSE of being a Germanic Conan the Barbarian. Sigmar's copious asskicking allowed him to befriend the Dwarfs, whose King Kurgan Ironbeard granted Sigmar a masterfully-crafted warhammer known as Ghal-Maraz. (As a side note: Yes, this is the hammer for which Warhammer is named.) He did so after Sigmar single-handily saved him from a band of Orcs that had kidnapped him. Because Sigmar is hardcore like that.
So after yet more adventures where Sigmar pretended to be Pagan-Charlemagne, included his girlfriend's brother turning into a Slaanesh Chaos Lord and ripping shit up alongside a Khorne-worshipping Norscan Chaos Lord called Cormac Bloodaxe.
Sigmar's unification of the clans is commonly thought to have been completed in -15 IC, where he brought the belligerent (and totally awesome) Teutogens under his banner by defeating their leader Artur in single combat. Sigmar then went on a campaign of purgation, freeing the ancestral lands of his people from Greenskins and Beastmen, which culminated at the Battle of Black Fire Pass where he and the Dwarfs crushed a massive Orc WAAAGH!!!. Sigmar then retired to Reikdorf, where he was crowned Emperor by Ar-Ulric, the High Priest of Ulric. This remains the holiest day of the Imperial calender and is celebrated in the summer, on the 18th of Sigmarzeit.
His rule was just, fair and prosperous until 50 years later Sigmar abdicated the throne, decided he was Grimnir the Fearless, and thought he could go to the Chaos Wastes past the World's Edge Mountains and survive. To do this, he teamed up with his old buddy Kurgan Ironbeard. Neither of whom were heard of again after they left.
And now, they are never to be heard from again.
Such is the fate of those who trifle with the Northern gods WALK THE WOLF-PATH OF ULRIC!
Sigmar leaving his young Empire left a wee bit of an issue among his chieftains, now known as the Counts: he'd never married or left an heir (at least none anyone knew of), nor had he left any instructions on what the fuck they should do in case he'd want to fuck off and leave the Empire all of a sudden. Apparently they thought he was just going to sit there and rule forever like a certain other failure, but since that didn't turn out to happen they had to do something about it. After a bit of hilarity involving several of the Counts claiming the throne or otherwise infighting, until in a rare moment of clarity they decided that maybe they should vote for it. So they did, and a guy named Fulk of Wissenland got the biggest chunk of votes and thus became the next Emperor. They also renamed themselves as Elector Counts, 'cuz they're the counts that elect.
Fulk moved the capital into Nuln, where it stayed for a good while because plenty of other Emperors came from there and saw no reason to change this happy little thing. The Empire was doing pretty great at this time, so everyone decided to spend all this energy and prosperity for expanding even more. They went to where Kislev is today, poked around the foothills of Dorf land, integrated a bunch of tribes and petty kingdoms Sigmar had overlooked in his time, and pushed themselves into Bretonnia and Border Princes.
But as much as they could deal with dwarves and orcs and their fellow men, there was one bunch that wouldn't take no shit from the Empire, and that was - in a rare moment of manliness - Elves. Three different Provinces wanted a piece of the pie that was Laurelorn Forest, but the wood elf hippies kicked them out of their lawn time and time again. This culminated into the crushing defeat of a Drakwalder Count known only as "The Unlucky", which should tell you everything you need to know. In fact, this defeat pretty much kickstarted the Empire's decline: Drakwald never really recovered from the defeat, and they were pretty instrumental in bringing the rest down with them.
As badly as Drakwald was doing after the defeat, they still had enough money to bribe their way into the Emperor's lofty seat a few times. And boy were they some corrupt fucks, caring far too much for their own pleasure than they cared for the Empire. One of particular note was the fat fuck named Ludwig the Fat, who elevated his Halfling chef into an Elector Count, giving the little hobbits their own vote for the Emperor - a fact that they will never shut up about. (He also got to troll the two provinces under which the Moot had initially belonged, because the daughters of their Counts had given him cold shoulder.)
This sort of incredibly decadent fuckery continued and escalated for over a hundred years, and it was finally brought to an end by a bunch of rat men out of fucking nowhere. They popped up plagues everywhere, conquered roughly half the Empire, and drove its people into infighting and Chaos. Quick and decisive action was required if anything was to be saved, and so the current ruler, Boris the Incompetent... well, the populace gave him that name, what the fuck did you expect he was like? Obviously he and his court locked themselves into his palace to party and wait for it to blow over. Instead they all got killed by the Skaven, who let him live just long enough to gloat over their impending victory to him.
Most of the Empire easily fell to Skaven, but there was one badass named Graf Mandred von Zelt, that decided he wouldn't be putting up with this shit. So he rode down from Middenheim and spent the next nine years rallying the human defenders and kicking the disgusting furries out of their land. Subsequently he was elected the new Emperor, nicknamed "Ratslayer", and dissolved the province of Drakwald to punish them for their fucktarded rule.
Mandred went on to slowly rebuild the Empire for the next twenty-five years, before the Skaven killed him in his sleep for revenge of their defeat. Afterwards the Empire would pretty much forget they even existed (partly due to Skaven machinations, partly due to bureaucratic incompetence), and instead followed on with another four hundred years of decline, only this time in the name of war instead of decadence. Hilarity ensued when two dudes and a girl simultaneously declared themselves the Emperor, and fun was to be had for all - unless they died, and many did. The Empire pretty much collapsed.
Armies of Darkness
Eventually the Empire got its shit together, just in time for a new threat to arise. After Drakwald, Sylvania was the nastiest province of the Empire, a place where dark magic flowed strongly and its rulers were still corrupt. As the current count lay dying, a man came up, married his daughter and became the new Count of Sylvania. As you may have guessed from the name, he wasn't a man (as in "not human", he was a marvelous, ballsy badass). Count Vlad spread the curse of vampirism among the nobles and was an iron fisted yet surprisingly benevolent Count to his people. Then, when everyone started noticing the unnatural aspects of his reign he used some of bone daddy's cliff-notes to summon an undead army and rofltstomped several provinces until he reached Altdorf. Before he could win, his magic ring stolen (which had brought him back each time he died no matter how it happened), he was staked by a heroic Empire pope, his wife killed herself Juliet-style and his armies were scattered.
Since the Empire had suffered too many losses to pursue them, Vlad's progeny successfully retreated to Sylvania and fought among themselves. This led to Konrad von Carstein (vampire Caligula) rising to power. Though he sucked at necromancy, he had many necromancer subjects. Once he allied with the Blood Dragon vampires he launched another war on the Empire. They even attacked the Dwarfs who came to help, with a Blood Dragon killing the Dwarf High King. An Emperor died during this time and there was a new candidate, who everyone supported until his skin peeled open and one of his eyes fell out; Konrad, in a rare moment of cunning, had tried to trick them into electing a zombie under his control as Emperor. Eventually Konrad's insanity wore his army down or turned them against him and while in an insane fit he was captured and killed with a runefang to the heart.
After this Vlad's first vampiric son, Mannfred von Carstein had returned from travelling around the world. Mannfred was the most cunning, he'd betrayed Vlad so he would die and spent his journey learning magical knowledge. After assuming rulership of Sylvania he spent ten years gathering his power in secret before launching an invasion when the Empire was at its weakest. He did well until he got to Altdorf; Manny wasn't the only one who'd been learning and the Empire pope at the time used magic to unbind his army. After a cat-and-mouse game across the Empire, the humans (with elf and dorf help) cornered Mannfred at Hel Fenn. After the humans and dwarfs defeated his army (the elves were needed elsewhere), an Elector Count chased him down, split his head open with a runefang and his body fell into the swamp where they couldn't find it, ending the Vampire Counts bid for power (for now...).
Great War Against Chaos
MEANWHILE, IN THE CHAOS WASTES...
As the Empire was doing pretty much worse than it ever had or (probably) ever would, someone else was doing awesomely, and that someone was the lords of the north, who were feeling pretty fuckin' strong right now and thought that time was ripe to unleash the rapetrain to the south. They started by marching to Kislev, which sent distress messages to the Elector Counts, but that didn't go down too well: no one could trust anyone enough to choose someone in overall command, high priests of Sigmar and Ulric squabbled over who got to lead, and a lot of the nobility just flat-out refused to send help because they were afraid someone might blindside them when no one was looking. Several decided to fuck it all and converted to Chaos. Shit was looking real grim.
But there was this one nobleman and a priest of Sigmar named Magnus (not that one) who didn't give in, and so he began to wander about and bitchslap the others into line, taking the charge of this whole shitfest when it didn't look like anyone else was going to. In a particularly controversial move, he even gathered up a bunch of magical misfits, witches and hedge wizards and other such that had been persecuted throughout Empire's history, and with a little help formed them into a more or less coherent magical army that almost never spontaneously exploded. Then, as word came that the city of Praag had fallen, he marched his ragtag army north to face Chaos.
When he got there Kislev was under siege, so he added his force to the defenders and bitch-slapped the Chaos forces away from there. He followed them and fought them everywhere (mostly woods, though) until they broke and ran right back to their wastes like pussies. Then he marched home and was immediately crowned Emperor because everybody loved him. He ruled for sixty-five years, the best years in the Empire since Sigmar himself, and was forever known as Magnus the Pious - even despite the clearly heretical move of founding the great Orders of Magic instead of putting the whole lot to torch (and a rumour that he once tried to put his hand up a vampire woman's dress).
It's been a couple hundred years since Magnus's time, and the Empire is doing okay. Nothing of particular interest has happened in this time: there was a bit of shenanigans going on about some guy, but it got retconned away. The current Emperor is a dude named Karl Franz, and somewhat unusually to a guy that was elected rather than taking the throne by liberating the Empire of some great enemy, he's pretty badass.
Then shit happened.
As in the Age of Sigmar, the realm of Azyr may be considered its distant descendant. With the Cities of Sigmar Battletome, we now have an up-to-date but still very clusterfucky mishmash of germans, Aelves and Duardin all to represent the various settlements and strongholds where the average folk who haven't sworn themselves to Chaos or Nagash reside. Alongside this, these cities can also include Fantasy Marines to complement your Imperial Guard-like men without having to include any allies. Though you could ally with other Order forces, these are limited by city, and the proposed "Build from any realm" mechanic was woefully limited to locking your choices between two realms (Fire and Life). Not to matter, the build options are still quite staggering, and you also cast all Endless Spells as if you were in the native realm.
The Cult of Sigmar
Sigmar soon became Jesus following his disappearance from the world. Sigmar's people began to believe he achieved Apotheosis and created a cult worshiping him(which by the powers of War Priests, is pretty much true), with Johann Helstrumm as his first worshipper/the first Pope of the Church-of-Bash-your-Evil-Face in with a Hammer. Ghal-Maraz, and soon all hammers became the central religious symbol of the cult, along with the twin-tailed comet which was said to have appeared at the sky on the night of Sigmar's birth. In The End Times, it was revealed that Sigmar did in fact ascend; but only because Tzeench in its eternal wisdom saw Sigmar as a threat to their grasp on the world, and bound him to the magical Wind of Heavens in ethereal form. This made him godlike, but also bound him up due to the Vortex in the middle of Ulthuan, leaving him with only the ability to bestow miracles and assorted boons to his flock. Of course no one but Tzeench knew this, so the Cult just went on believing their boy was away and had been elevated by his own hand.
While primarily a religion for warriors and soldiers, the Cult of Sigmar has been succesful partly because of the many facets of its worship. The state trooper prays to Sigmar for victory, strength of arms and courage, the scholar prays for insight into the dark corners of the world to ensure to safety of the nation and its people and the farmer prays to avoid being skull-fucked by perverse, shitcovered goatmen. Sigmar is quite a cosmopolitan god in that way, and th Cult of Sigmar knows this and plays to this strength; allowing the older gods to be worshipped for their specific boons and domains, while Sigmar remains the everyman's faith; the Man-Become-God that once walked the Empire. Only the Witch Hunters may disagree with this; to the more zealous members, Taal worshippers may as well be closet Nurglites.
Unsurprisingly, the cults of Ulric and Sigmar come into various religious disagreements. With the former seeing the latter as prissy little cunts who would rather spend their time meditating instead of charging into battle (tell that to the Sigmarite warrior priests) and growing their beards like real men. And the Sigmarites think they're bellicose and uneducated simpletons, which is ironic considering Sigmar himself was a devout Ulrican.
Obviously, the Ulricans are the correct ones here.*FWIP* HERESY! But neither side lets this get in the way in defending the people of the Empire, and the only asses in the whole cult are Witch Hunters.
They have ten provinces with pseudo-German names that you can't pronounce unless you're gargling saltwater: Averland, Hochland, Middenland, Nordland, Ostland, Ostermark, Reikland, Stirland, Talabecland, Wissenland. All of which are ruled by Elector Counts who are the (supposed) descendants of the the tribal warlords Sigmar forged his Empire with. However, given how Elector lines often perish in battle, die out due to incompetence, intermarrying with other noble families and various other medievally things, the current Elector Counts on average have nothing to do with the olden clans of the Empire's ancestors.
The Electors also elect the current Emperor. A practice the writers of GW have liberally cribbed from the Holy Roman Empire, as they have for every aspect of the Empire. Also, the Grand-Theogonist (Pope), the two Arch-Lectors (the Theogonist' left and right hand men), Ar-Ulric (Viking Pope) also get a vote on who to elect. The final vote is cast by the Elder of the Moot, whose people were granted a vote because of their additions to Empire cuisine. Also some bribery. With said cuisine. The Emperor is elected from one of the ten Counts, so you can imagine that the election process is always a massive clusterfuck of political infighting. The current Emperor is Karl Franz, Elector Count of Reikland and has a good record for getting shit done.
It should be noted that while it's never explored in depth that there are regular Counts consider beneath the Elector Counts. It's most likely a case of a three level government body typical of a democracy with a federal level (the Emperor), a state level (the Elector Count) and a local level (the regular Count). Some provinces also have Barons, but whether these are some other class beneath regular Counts or simply Counts by another name is unknown.
"Three things make the Empire great; faith, steel and gunpowder." -Magnus the Pious
The empire is based on early modern Germany and their military is no exception for the most part, but a few of their units draw from other areas as well.
Infantry and Cavalry
In the 17th century the crème de la crème of military tactics was the tercio, otherwise known as the Spanish square, Spanish third or - as we know it today - the pike-and-shot formation. Composed of pikemen, swordsmen and early handguns, the tercio would see the pikemen at the forefront, defending against infantry and especially cavalry while the gunners fired their relatively short ranged and slow-loading guns, while the swordsmen, called rodeleros, would help break the deadlock that occurred when two blocks of pike men clashed face to face. As the guns got better, the swordsmen were phased out. The gunners could also be moved from the front toward the flank to allow more tactically defensive maneuvers.
The whole tercio was further supported by heavily armoured cavalry, called cuirassier. Due to the superiority of pikes, the lance was dropped from the usage of heavy cavalry and instead long barreled pistols were taken up as the primary weapon and caracole (which means "snail," ironically) tactic was invented. The cavalry would fire their guns, then wheel around to reload, and then circle back and fire again. They also often carried pistols to fire quickly or in an emergency. Generally, cavalry had a hard time facing against a tercio, as the hand guns got better and the wheeling caracole got less and less effective. Often, the commanders would have the cavalry charge formations until they were point blank range, as the pistols often had mace heads and blades mounted on to make improvised melee weapons.
Incidentally this time period is when we get the term "bullet proof" as cavalry armour would be shot with a pistol before it was sold: if the armour stopped the bullet then it was "proofed" and was then sold as being able to offer proper protection. If the bullet went though the armour, well, good luck selling it.
If that sounds a bit like the Empire, it should. That was the Spanish square. In Switzerland, halberds were used in place of the swordsmen (the Swiss Guard in fact STILL use halberds ceremonially), while in Germany soldiers also used halberds and legends say the Doppelsöldner (mercenaries who volunteered to fight on the front line for more money) could do the same with two-handed greatswords called Zweihänders by using the weight of the sword to smash though the wall of pikes.
Considering the Empire's principle enemies are massively ripped, Chaos worshiping Viking warriors in awesome plate armour with physical strength and skill beyond that of any other race, greenskinned football hooligans with inhuman resilience and never-ending numbers, man rats with horrific technology and Goat-headed, Chaos-mutated killing machines the use of halberds with their greater ability to cut though meaty target over pikes makes a lot of sense.
Likewise, the Empire's detachment system is surprisingly accurate being very representative of the discipline these formations held with units of men armed with distinctly different weapons acting in support of each other.
The Empires pistoleers are indicative of the cuirassier while the knights, without the competition of heavy pikemen because none of the Empire's enemies have the discipline to hold a pike wall, take up the traditional knightly role of shock troops. In addition, the attitude and bravery of pistoleer units in the fluff seems to be drawn from the Light Cavalry units of later eras, such as Napoleonic Hussars, who were basically pirates on horseback (the name is even related to the word Corsair).
Outriders come from a different military unit, however, that of the dragoon. A dragoon was a infantry man who rode from Point A to Point B but once at Point B got off his horse and fought on foot. When they say, "Wait for the Cavalry" they mean "Wait for the Dragoons" because they were used as troubleshooters and fast reaction soldiers to plug gaps in the line. But the bigger part of their influence is the US Cavalry deployed by the North in the Civil War, Northern cavalry were armed with early breech-loading carbines, one Confederate solider said that they (the unit of cavalry armed with the weapon) could "load on Sunday and fire all week", a clear parallel to the Outriders' repeater handguns. For completeness sake, Southern cavalry were armed with revolvers. Also of note, the fact that the Empire's outriders are heavily entwined with the engineers of Nuln is likely a reference to the fact that many dragoon units were cross-trained as sappers and combat engineers, due to the fact that they ranged ahead of the main army and thus often had to repair or build bridges and outposts.
Cannons, however, are what ultimately killed the tercio. As field artillery got better and better, the tercio, a tightly packed group of men, became easier and easier targets. The blocky tercio evolved into the flat lines of Napoleonic warfare so that one would need a flanking cannonball to get a whole rank of soldiers. The Empire's cannons are muzzle loaders and muzzle loaders (given that the ball speed is relatively low) are measured by the weight of their shot. Modern guns, because speed is more important and because muzzle size no longer correlates to shell weight, generally use muzzle size. The British were slow to swap over, which is why the "17 pounder" and "88mm" fought against each other in World War II. Given the size of a "great cannon", it can be estimated that Empire field guns shoot between a 68-100 pound ball, which is huge, but they have to shoot monsters with them so there we are.
Empire cannons are pre-Gustavus Adolphus, a Swedish king who revolutionized warfare by making his army the most artillery happy in the world by using a lighter cannon. He stopped using everything bigger than 3 pounds (24 pounds if you include his few siege guns) so his army could move faster as the really heavy guns would not slow them down, fire more often because the guns were lighter, and - more importantly - he used a lot more of them. How much more? Almost 6 times as many as his enemies. In one battle, despite being heavily outnumbered, he fired six times for every one of his enemy and won massively. That said, the Empire could be justified in using a heavier ball because Gustavius, badass that he was, did not have to fight Bloodthirsters. As for their mortars: not much to say, the Empire often neglects their historical use (siege breakers), but otherwise they're fairly accurate (artillery puns!).
Alternate take: The Empire lives in a post- Gustav the Great world, as its great cannons are considered their siege equipment which as contemporary in our world for the period were essential for campaign and as such are able to be limbered up and moved while still powerful enough to breach most fortifications, as most smaller siege guns were at this time. In times prior and for significantly well developed fortifications it required much larger siege cannons which had to be assembled on sight. Ever wondered why a cannon maker in older total wars is called a bell foundry? Because churchbell makers went from church to church casting the massive, often half ton bells on site, and as such were the only people with mobile metalcasting techniques of the quality needed for cannon, and kings put them to work. The light, mobile and tactically adept field guns can be seen as the helblaster volley gun, which fires shot larger than handgunner rounds but not cannon sized, tactically offering a canister shot like effect but with likely easier to write tabletop rules instead of "draw a 25 degree angle out from the cannon muzzle. Everything in that range is dead." The reason you cant 1:1 with the real world in this situation is because as stated above, the nature of monsters and how that would change the battlefield. Just the change from "very fragile, frightened humans" to "Massive unflinching beasts who can take a cannon shot without dying automatically" would alter things radically, one would assume. Back on topic now.
On the subject of guns, the Helstorm Rocket Battery is based on the Congreve rocket. They were invented by William Congreve (much like the Empire, real weapons tended to get named after their inventors). They were based on rockets stolen when the British conquered Mysore. Just like the Imperial rockets, Congreve rockets used a big stick to stabilize themselves in flight. The rockets were used from 1806 until 1850 when they were replaced with Hale rockets that spun themselves in flight so they did not need the stick. They could also be inspired by some rare renaissance organ guns with multiple decks, just having their gun barrels swapped out with rocket mounts. Or maybe even the Korean Hwacha, which was a multiple rocket launcher on wheels from the 15th.
Helblasters are based on some volley guns that were made in small quantities during the late 16th and early 17th century. Just like the real one pictured, it works by having multiple barrels divided by decks which can be turned around a shared rotation axle. From the video game TWW it can be seen to be up-gunned from its real life counterpart to be a sort of contemporary of the dwarven organ gun, as it fires small yet still cannon sized shells (Anything greater than 20mm/.79" is a cannon by classification, fyi)
And 'Heavily Armored Steam-Powered Cavalry'
The Empire's Steam Tanks however are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most unrealistic part of their army, even then they are somewhat plausible. The problem with steam as a method of propelling a vehicle is that it's relatively inefficient as a propellant despite what steampunk enthusiasts tell you. The issue is that to turn coal into power, first you need to burn the fuel in order to heat the metal holding the water over the fire (the pan as it were), then heat the water to 100+ degrees Celsius to boil it, then have the steam travel a set of pipes to the pistons, then you need to work the pistons, and then you need to turn the wheels or propeller, all the while you're losing energy due to thermodynamics at each step, plus as compared to petrol, coal and wood have less energy per pound. Trains and ships can get away with using coal and wood power because, like a quadratic wizard, they pass a point where they became so big they become able to lug enough water and fuel (either coal, wood or oil though the Empire most likely uses wood given how heavily forested the Empire is) to power themselves for long distances, and as you go farther along you become lighter since you're burning fuel as you go. Steam power may be relatively inefficient, it's also relatively simple since they're mostly plumbing to put together, to scale up to a level that gas engines can't do nearly as well. So getting something as small as a tank to carry enough fuel and water for any length of a fight, along with all the powder, weapons, ammo and armor is a very tall order. Warmachine, as a point to compare, tells us that a warjack can operate for only 30 minutes to an hour. The Empire's Steam Tank is doubly handicapped by the fact that not only it does not use black powder, but shoots its cannon with compressed steam, which would further chop down the likely running time of the engine. That said, the Steam Tank is not completely unrealistic. As mentioned, the Empire is very heavily forested with plenty of rivers and small bodies of water. While they may only be able to run their tanks for less then an hour, refueling would be a simple procedure of chopping some trees down and pouring a few buckets of water in the internal tanks. Of course, the Empire also has magic so they could just point a bright wizard in front of the boiler and tell him to go nuts, so in truth it's not the steam engine that is the biggest problem with the steam tank.
The biggest issue with the Empire's Steam Tanks, aside from the steam powered gun, is the horrible design. Forget about the jokes about the Leman Russ Battle Tank being a poor design for looking like a World War I tank, the Steam Tank's four wheels would make the thing sink into any ground that was not paved, and the rickety wooden axles would likely snap at any speed over rough ground, and it's likely they use a steam cannon since a proper gun would shatter them if fired. Aside from the Steam Tank's sheer complexity, its shitty design is likely the only thing keeping the Empire from forming its own Panzer divisions.
Other Odds and Ends
So, that's most of the Empire's army, who have we not covered yet that does not use magic? Flagellants? Oh, this will be fun. Jolly smashing, old bean old sandwich old pringle old teapot old sport old cracker old boy old fishcake old mushroom etc etc what what! (Britishness intensifies)
Flagellants are, like the unit, people who beat themselves almost dead in penitence for their sins and the sins of the world. The Empire's unit originates from the Dark Ages during the height of the Bubonic Plague, just when it would seemed that
God's Sigmar's judgment really was coming down upon the world. Flagellants were more than just nuts desperate for some sense in the world, they were people mad at the church. They were declared heretical (yay) because they said they had a way to cleanse themselves of sin (that being self-torture) which was something the Church said only they could do. A few miracles were also attributed to the Flagellants like those of a child being bought back from the dead and a talking cow.
The real-world Flagellants were not really able to fight all that well, since they were, you know, peasants (and poorly armed, beaten peasants at that), and for the most part the Empire's flagellants are just as inept at combat with their staying factor only being attributed to them being so frothing mad that they didn't care who else died alongside them. They're not really a military unit though, they're sort of military hangers-on whom the Empire 'tolerates' rather than burn, like the real-world Inquisition did.
There's also the Free Companies. These fill in the role of "irregular" infantry, whom were, for a lack of better words, soldiers that weren't soldiers. Free Companies are basically militias, a collection of mercenaries, peasants pressed into service, and local citizens that follow the army and fight like everyone else. These have a multitude of real life comparisons, from the Minutemen of the American Revolution, the Spanish Guerillas of the Peninsular War, the Resistances of WWII, peasant mobs of the Medieval period, the barbari of the Roman Army, and many more. Historically, irregulars were local men who quickly armed themselves with whatever could be used as a weapon, typically either in defense of their homes or, in the Medieval period, were quickly being levied to act as fodder while the militias and knights did most of the actual slugging it out. In later periods, militias would become the irregulars, with men often coming to the aide of the army armed with outdated muskets and antique swords.
Unlike flagellants, irregulars have an actual noted fighting record, but as the definition is so loose this record is mixed. Some, such as the Francs-tireurs and the Minutemen have records for their fantastic use of less conventional tactics and ability to disrupt the enemy. Others, like the Confederate Bushwhackers and Union Jayhawkers of the American Civil War were little more than armed gangs who spent most of their time fighting other militias and terrorizing civilians. Some, like the colonial militias of the Indian Wars (and even earlier, in the Carribbean) had a record for throwing down their weapons and retreating the moment combat actually started. The Cossacks and Pindaris both have well-known records as fantastic horsemen in their respective armies, but don't really have an comparison available in Warhammer (at least, not in the Empire).
So in conclusion the Empire has surprisingly thick roots for all the units you can field on the table top excepting those that use magic since we don't have magic ourselves (apart from the only thing holding Tomb Kings models together). It's also clear that the fact the Empire manages to survive the onslaught of hundreds of threats despite their allies being douchebags, shows that their military is nothing to sneeze at. Thus showing that the common Warrior-Priest is not only likely miles tougher than the all-too-feared Inquisitor Lord, he is also perhaps leading a group of men almost as well organized and as disciplined, while having balls not seen on anyone who is not from the Imperial Guard. The Empire also shows that you don't have to be a superhuman to be tough as hell, they prove that at the end of the day, Humanity can overcome a threat by working together and standing firm even when by all rights you should run. Oh, and liberal application of black powder.
Except not really, because imaginary games with dice and little plastic fellers doesn't prove squat. if a Fictional character can inspire true pathos, then a tabletop game can show you the meaning of courage when one of your units passes a leadership test in the face of the odds and that lets you win the game.
Of all the Human Civilizations that get their own army books in WFB the Empire is by far the most technologically advanced. They have muskets and cannons a plenty, the odd rifles, the a few steam powered tank and some down right steampunk things like mechanical horses. If they could only figure out the McCormick Reaper, Bessemer Converter, Spinning Jenny,Flying Shuttle, Gatling guns and rifle muskets they would be taking over the world in a few decades. Most of their technological marvels comes out of the city of Nuln.
The only civilizations which have them beat technologically are the Dwarves and Chaos Dwarves, the former being hindered only by old tradition and superstition, and the later hindered by directly eschewing those two ideals and being few in number. Odd ones out are the Skaven who despite commonly employing genetic manipulation, bionic implants, chemical weapons, and laser-guided missiles, have such a high tendency to blow up themselves and their society that they're no real threat to the world...ya, if you're in front of them you're screwed but generally they can never get the Empire because they'd just kill each other first. These few may have the Empire beat, but the Humans advance steadily and avoids the trap of Medieval Stasis that so many other fantasy kingdoms/settings fall into.
Well for the most part at least. A few of their books such as Iron Company's paints a very adversarial relation between them and their own technology, or to be more accurate, the common men and priests and their technology, and their own engineers mystifying the whole thing likely does not help. A simple smooth bore cannon is seen the same way we view cyberpunk Artificial Intelligence's - unnatural and useful perhaps, but something to be ill trusted and carefully watched over. Considering the Empire is at a 16 or 17th century tech level (roughly), and it was not until the late 1800 that we figured out how to make a cannon that was fairly likely to not blow up after repeated firings, they may have a point. Remember: the black powder mishap table is historically accurate.
Make no mistake, The Empire is moving forward, but if we compare their technology to our own development there are some major discrepancies. They seem more ignorant and less learned than a culture with the printing press should be. They have the technology, but the constant threat of outside attacks has made them much more suspicious of ANYTHING that goes outside their day to day understanding, and that this more than anything else kills their rate of progression.
Example: lightning hits house, we would ask "Does it strike some houses more often than others?" an Empire citizen would say "A witch have smitten thee" and half the time, they would be right. A lot of scientific methods and formulas have to be thrown out when supernatural powers such as magic (and the existence of gods is a known fact rather than a heavily debated matter) do indeed exist and can twist lots of fundamental forces, and scientific advancement as a whole can easily be torpedoed when one of the Chaos Gods decides to turn the laws of physics inside out on a whim.
When the rules behind the universe cannot be examined without going mad or worse, technological development slows to a crawl out of simple self preservation since you don't know what force behind the universe your may find with your study. Just like the Adeptus Mechanicus, but with less machine worship and no STCs to fall back on.
Provinces and city states
- Middenland - Home to the Cult of Ulric the provincial colors are blue with a red flag. Middenland and its Capital Middenheim are basically the most Viking and war loving you will get without worshiping Chaos making them like the
DanesPrussians of the setting, considering their more militaristic society and arch rivalry with Reikland, who could be considered the equivalent of Austria. Wears Blue uniforms, with white bits.
- Averland - Fat, weak, and rich as hell off cattle and trade. Had a batshit insane (but super-badass) elector-count named Marius Leitdorf. Chief threat is from Orcs. Pretty scenery and based a lot on Bavaria. Black and yellow uniforms.
- Hochland - Nothing but Beastmen, illiterate peasants, and few bands of incredibly badass rangers wielding magic bows and the famous Hochland Long Rifle, the most effective firearm ever created by humans. Unfortunately, it's expensive and they only know how to make them in Hochland, which has precisely jack shit industry. Probably based on the Black Forest region of southern Germany. Red and green uniforms.
- Nordland - Northermost province of the Empire and the most likely to get assraped thanks to living across the sea from those nice, spikey, Viking lads. Makes Cadia look like a bitch. Ulric is worshiped widely here. Their colors are blue and yellow, so they're probably
SwedesPommeranians of the setting. Swedes were vikings and were never part of the Holy Roman Empire. Wears blue and tan uniforms.
- Ostermark - On the border with Kislev, and so is a close second to Nordland for getting fucked by Chaos, but more than makes up for this by also getting fucked by the Vampire Counts across the river, Orcs and Goblins invading from every direction, and from there being more beastmen in the forests than there are fucking trees. Despite having a shitload of potential (fertile lands, tremendous natural resources), its development has been stalled by weak and idiosyncratic leadership, Chaos obviously, Orc invasions (including Grimgor Ironhide), periodic conflict with Kislev, vampire invasions from Sylvania. No cities or even really large towns (on account of the invasions), making its populace mostly backward and rural. Bash brothers with Kislev when they aren't trying to conquer each other. Also home to the dreaded city of Mordheim. Ultimately, kind of a sad old wreck. Basically Brandenburg without the clout. Geographically would also include parts of Silesia, but Silesia was too prosperous and urban to really be analogous. Wears super cool Purple and yellow uniforms.
- Ostland - Northern province, neighbouring Kislev and Middenland. Their uniforms are black and white. Fiercely proud and has sway despite their impoverished nature; a lot like Ostermark, just less pathetic and more grim defiance of the bad hand they are dealt. Likely based on Saxony, with some Silesia thrown in, with the same caveats as for Ostermark.
- Reikland-The heartland of the empire where the current Emperor lives. Their uniforms are generally white with some red on them. Chief threats are Beastmen, Orcs, the occasional Bretonnian, and, theoretically at least, Drachenfels. Obviously a prime target for Chaos and vampires, but usually they don't get close enough to disturb anyone's morning beer or witch-burning. Clearly and obviously based on Holy Roman Austria and the Rhineland.
- Stirland - The poorest state of the union, it's considered a rural backwater, but is still more stable and less prone to invasions than Nordland, Ostland, and Ostermark. Their chief concern in the latter respect is obviously the fact that they're right next door to Sylvania: home of the fucking Vampire Counts. So the undead is a common thing in their backyards. Also have to deal with the occasional WAAAAAGH for flavor. It's colors are yellow and green. Likely based on eastern HRE lands like Slovakia and Hungary. Like Stirland, they were large HR states but not the richest.
- Talabecland - Yellow and red uniforms. Highly elite armies with lots of greatswords and shit like that. However, due to being a forest, not many cannons or shit like that. Chief threats are Beastmen, Orcs, and undead. Represents a pretty broad band of central HRE territories east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, i.e. Hesse, Thuringia, Hanover, Bohemia, Moravia, etc. Wears yellow and red uniforms, leading to a slight distaste of their armies, as everyone instantly just thinks of Mcdonalds.
- Wissenland- Technically Nuln is Wissenland turf being the provinces largest city, so they're ruled by Countess Emanuelle who may or may not be a Slaaneshi whore. Though apparently she hates everthing outside Nuln even though its NOT the capital of the province. The province of Wissenland lack the military funding of other provinces and city-states (cause Emanuelle gives no fucks(no wait she gives all the fucks just not to Wissenland)) and its standing army makes heavy use of ambush and hit-and-run tactics. They field mounted archers and woodsmen above artillery and massed infantry. Slightly paradoxically, the province of Wissenland is also famous for their pikemen probably cause Bretonnia's just over dem mountains. They wear Grey and White uniforms. Seems to be an odd mix of influences,such as Switzerland (mountainous and temperamentally obstinate from the rest of the Empire) Bavaria (culturally rich) and Nuln resembles the powerful Free Imperial City of Nuremburg.
- The Moot (technically not a elector state even though they get a vote on the next Emperor) - Home of the Halflings and essentially a nasty, drunken, weirdly sexual and shitty-practical-joke-prone version of the Shire. Chief threats are overeating, rudeness, public masturbation, and the Undead.
- Altdorf: A wretched hive of ritual and bureaucracy. The further you get from Karl Franz, the shittier it gets. This includes the inside of his house. Imagine Ankh-Morpork, but instead of being funny, it's just terrifying and German. Politics based on Vienna, but geographically it's Frankfurt. Gets turned into Stalingrad during the End-Times. Red and Blue uniforms, but with incredible extravagance.
- Middenheim: Home of the Viking Pope, a fuckton of wolf shit and tunnels packed to the gills with horrors. Nearly destroyed by Archaon. Geographically, Berlin or Dresden. Quartered Blue and white uniforms.
- Nuln gets shit done. With more factories, guns, universities, Dwarfs, engineers, and Dwarf engineers than anywhere else in the human Old World, it's practically a 20th century city. Just avoid the bat-fuck crazy countess. Also home of the greatest Emperor since Sigmar, Magnus the Pious (though Karl Franz is probably actually greater post-Storm of Chaos). Vienna by geography, economically a mashup of Nuremburg (trade) and Breslau (industry). Almost entirely black uniforms (as if they spilled Nuln Oil on the cloth), with some teeny tiny bits just being of whatever colour the wearer feels like.
- Talabheim: Dirt/tree worshippers. Also the most defensible location on the planet, although that didn't stop Epidemius and the Maggoth Riders from taking it. It is also the single most militarized city in the empire (Middenheim don't got shit on this), to the point that their entire economy, philosophy, religion and way of life is devoted almost solely to the army, which is why their troops are the most commonly seen Empire army on the tabletop. It sits in a massive and heavily fortified crater into which there is precisely one entrance.
Geographically Prague-ish (no, not that one) for lack of a better option. If we're doing the whole gay "connect Imperial locations to irl HRE ones I remember from EU4" shtick, Talabheim is rather clearly Banská Štiavnica, being a town built inside a caldera. These are the dudes in Red and White that you see on the boxes of Empire models.
- Solland - Solland was destroyed as an independent Imperial province BY DA GREAT WAAARGH Gorbad Ironclaw, ONE OUV DA GREETEST AND GREENEST WARBOSS . Its territory was ultimately absorbed by Wissenland. The fate of Solland and its people is a sore point for a lot of Wissenlanders, so much that their banner has the white lion waving the flag of Solland, as a show of respect.
- Westerland - The province that was the seat of the great commercial city of Marienburg that seceded from the Empire. The province is now known as the Wasteland, though the Marienburgers prefer the free League of the West. Obviously based on the Low Countries. Was briefly known as 'Vesterland' when Norse Chaos Marauders conquered and ruled it for a brief time. Between Norscan, Brettonnian, and Imperial raids and the huge amount of marshland, very little of its territory is suitable for agriculture. Its people make their living by trade, mining, and fishing. Based on the Low Countries (Netherlands, Luxembourge and Belgium).
- Sylvania - Sylvania was formerly the County of Sylvania, an independent Imperial province, but is now officially a part of the *Grand County of Stirland. It can be sure that no other province of the Empire would want the place. Unofficially, Mannfred ceded Sylvania from the empire and it's now Nagash's playgroup. Obviously based on Transylvania.
- Drakwald - A founding province of the Empire located near the center of the Drakwald Forest, now divided up between Middenland and Nordland. Was known for its two incompetent Emperors: one being Ludwig the Fat who given the elder of Moot an electoral position after a halfing chief gave him the finest meal to his fat arses (though he was also punishing the Elector Counts, so fair enough on this specific act). The other being Boris Goldgather, who was known for being greedy and got his arse shiv'd by a sneaky eshin rat during the Skaven's plague invasion. The province was finally disbanded by Mandrad Skavenslayer after these two atrocities. Sigmar bless you.
At times, other parts of the Old World were under Imperial control, but were later lost and not recovered as other nations established themselves. Examples are the West Mark in what would later become Parravon, Lichtenberg in what would later become the Border Princes, and parts of what would later become Kislev. Few of these acquisitions lasted long.
Awesome Holy Roman Empire guys who manage to be both fairly grimdark, while also being generally human, intelligent and likable, unlike certain other Holy Roman Empire guys with necrophiliac fetishes. They do their best with what they have, and considering what they must deal with on a monthly basis, is it really that much of a surprise that they are the go-to protagonists of the Warhammer Fantasy?
By the end of the End Times, the Empire was good and well dead, buried in the ground, eaten, polluted and ruined, both in-universe and out, but while the Empire itself does not survive the transition to Age of Sigmar, the look and feel of it survives somewhat. The Freeguild, mortal armies that serve Sigmar and defend the Free Cities uses the Empire models, all with feathers, floppy hats and griffons. It is noted that while the world of Age of Sigmar is extremely varied, remains of the World-That-Was still stay around, apparently being the explanation for why the new humans of the setting still uses the Holy German Empire-look. Apparently some git found a floppy-hat and deemed it the epitome of fashion... And frankly, who are we to argue?
- Some folk german metal for when deploying your Empire's army.
- Good theme when making your Empire's warmachines fire and what not when they missfire too.
- The Imperium of Man, for their far less fortunate yet more technologically advanced 40K counterparts.
- Empire, the primary community forum for the Empire army.
- Empire Knightly Order Creation Tables