I’ve recently fallen in love with the game Mordheim, and I wanted to talk a bit about that here and what it is that I think makes the game so interesting.
What is Mordheim?
Mordheim is a fantasy skirmish miniatures game, published by Games Workshop in 1999. Official support for the game ended a few years later, but the game has been kept alive by fans for the last 20+ years.
The backstory of the game sees a comet striking the city of Mordheim, which exists in the medieval fantasy of Warhammer’s ‘Old World’ setting. The comet left the city in ruins, but it brought with it a resource called wyrdstone. Seeing the value of this new resource, various warbands and groups of mercenaries have gone into the city to try plunder as much as they can. Some of those that survived the devastation of the comet have been twisted by its strange magical energies, mutated into horrific monsters. Others within the city have been driven mad, or fallen to the worship of demons and other dark forces.
Players control a warband of around ten or so models, drawn from a number of distinct factions, as they battle for wyrdstone in the ruined city.
This video by Squidmar Miniatures gives a great introduction to Mordheim, and I highly recommend checking it out: Why Mordheim is considered the best game ever made.
Why is Mordheim interesting?
Firstly, I think it’s a really great setting. There’s a ton of potential there: almost anything could be happening in the various dark corners of the city. As a place to create and tell stories, it’s one of the best that I’ve come across.
The lore sits in the background of the game without ever becoming overbearing: there’s not hundreds of pages of lore to wade through before you get to the game. There’s just enough to intrigue and spark the imagination.
The feel of the game: this dark, almost post-apocalyptic setting, full of wretched, downtrodden and desperate people, is brought to the fore by the evocative artwork of John Blanche which is seen throughout the rulebook. The artwork of John Blanche is something that I will be talking about further another time.
Furthermore, because the setting is so strong, I think it creates a great opportunity to make some really characterful miniatures that fit into its world, and for me this is the key to why I’ve fallen so in love with Mordheim.
Mordheim as inspiration
Though there is a ruleset and Mordheim is very much a game, it’s the world and the opportunity to create a warband based in that world that I am most excited about.
In truth, there is a good chance I may well never actually get to play Mordheim. I don’t have anyone I can regularly play miniatures games with, but I think it’s still absolutely possible to engage with the game and its setting through the modelling and painting of the miniatures.
Because Mordheim is no longer supported by Games Workshop, the game has no official line of miniatures. Because of this, it’s necessary to source, convert and kitbash your own miniatures and it’s that prospect that I find so exciting.
Mordheim has become the spark of what will hopefully become a series of modelling projects for me.
Coming to Mordheim
I came to the game through quite a circuitous route, and even though I’ve been involved in the Warhammer hobby at various times throughout my life, I never got involved with Mordheim at the time of its release.
One of my favourite games from Games Workshop was Necromunda, a sci-fi skirmish game set in a futuristic hive city. I had the original 1995 game and was crazy about it. Mordheim feels very much like the fantasy version of Necromunda, and seeing as I tend to prefer fantasy over sci-fi, I’m not quite sure why I never got into it when it was released. I think perhaps my interest in the hobby was waning at the time.
That interest has resurfaced a few times since then, but it does have a habit of fading away after a while.
Recently, this happened with Necromunda once again when I got into the 2017 re-released version. Though it was a good game and I enjoyed my time with it, it never quite captured the same feeling as the older version for me, and it ultimately left me feeling quite hollow. A constant churn of new books left me feeling like it was impossible to keep up with everything the game had going on so ultimately I lost interest and moved on.
For a while I was interested in the game Frostgrave which is another game that sees various warbands looking for treasure in a ruined city. I think it’s fair to say that Frostgrave is very much a spiritual successor to Mordheim, and it’s one that is successful and well regarded. I collected some of the minis but never got around to playing, and so again I moved on.
Then, a few years ago I discovered 28 Magazine, a free publication which really opened my eyes to a new corner of the hobby.
28 contains some absolutely stunning (and often quite weird) miniatures. Some of these are inspired by the artwork of John Blanche in a style that has come to be known as ‘Blanchitsu’ – a style of miniatures that attempt to capture the feeling of Blanche’s work in three dimensions.
The second issue of 28 focused on Mordheim, and there’s a great article by the game’s designer, Tuomas Pirinen, where he discusses the creation of the game and its legacy.
That article, along with some of the stunning miniatures featured in the various issues of 28, really inspired me and made me want to get involved and give it a try.
As I have dived further and further into Mordheim, I’ve come to see that Mordheim is not just a game but an entire aesthetic of its own. It has an intoxicating mix of darkness, fantasy and horror which I find very appealing and one that I am excited to explore.
Getting involved in Mordheim in 2023
When Games Workshop ended support for Mordheim, they handed over the rules to the fans in PDF form. “We’re not going to do anything with this any more so here you go, have fun” they essentially said.
I’d known about this for a while, but it was only when I recently discovered the website broheim.net that I found myself becoming fully invested.
This site, particularly its download section, gathers together a ton of Mordheim resources, which makes getting into the game both easy and free.
The Mordheim rulebook exists in various formats on there, but the one that I recommend people check out is the one called the Raw Editable Rulebook as it contains the lore and artwork which is missing from some of the other versions, and it’s really the artwork and the background that give the game its feel.
From there, you can really dive in as deep as you like. There’s the official expansion, Empire in Flames, which sees the fighting in the city spill out into the surrounding countryside. There’s a heap of articles from The Town Cryer which was a magazine devoted to the game, as well as articles from Fanatic and White Dwarf magazines.
I’ve not dived in too deep myself yet, having mainly stuck to the core rulebook for now, but knowing all that stuff is there is pretty great.
Broheim.net is a fantastic and invaluable resource, and my hat goes off to the people behind it.
Where from here?
I’m hoping that this post will become the first in a series of Mordheim related posts. I’m working on my first warband now and will aim to post some updates as my journey progresses.
If you’re reading this and feel like Mordheim is something you’d be interested in, I’d encourage you to take a look.
If you’re inspired to start your own Mordheim journey and make a warband of your own, I’d love to see. Feel free to message on Instagram about it if you like.
May our paths through the City of the Damned cross again soon.
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