Tabletop game maker Games Workshop has announced that the world of its long-running Warhammer Fantasy Battles game is coming to an end, to be replaced by a new setting. With its departure, we have to say goodbye to some over-the-top heroes and villains that made Warhammer so great—and here’s nine of the best.
Josef Bugman isn’t known for epic feats like many other Warhammer icons, except for the fact that he is amazing at making beer. Proprietor of the legendary Bugman’s Brewery, folk across the world of Warhammer drank his ales when they weren’t violently stabbing each other to death. After a goblin raid destroyed his beloved brewery, Josef and his surviving brewers took up arms and became an elite regiment of rangers, lone wolves that roamed the world getting drunk and suddenly appearing to help out Dwarven armies whenever they faced Goblins.
Identifiable by their shields, bearing an overflowing flagon of beer, Josef and his rangers basically spent the rest of their days being super drunk and smashing goblin heads in.
Vlad Von Carstein was a sneaky fellow. He wormed his way almost seemingly by chance into rule over the Kingdom of Sylvania after showing up on the doorstep of the dying Count von Drak, offering his hand in marriage to the Count’s daughter, and promptly tearing the heart out of the chest of his nearest rival to the throne at their wedding. Surprisingly, everyone was pretty cool with this.
Vlad was actually a vampire, and spent the next few centuries ruling Sylvania under various guises to hide his immortality, becoming a surprisingly popular ruler among the peasants of the Kingdom—that is, until he one day gave up the pretense and revealed himself and his wife as vampires, raised up all the dead citizens of Sylvania as an undead army, and became the first Vampire Count. Vlad marched across the human empire, laying waste to most of it. Thanks to a magic ring, Vlad was also unkillable; he survived cannon shots to the face, decapitation and various other horrendous deaths on the battlefield, only to get up moments later and promptly murder whoever had just tried to kill him.
For an evil vampire guy, Vlad was pretty hardcore—except that his rise to power was basically predicated on everyone around him being kind of stupid and not figuring that something was up with the guy who went around ripping hearts out of chests at his own wedding.
As terrible and awesome as Vlad was, the man who finally stopped his advance was unexpectedly even more awesome. Wilheim III wasn’t a mighty warrior or powerful mage. He was... well, basically the Warhammer Pope.
When Vlad’s massive vampire armies laid siege to the capital city of the empire, Altdorf, Wilheim grew desperate. He recruited a thief to steal Vlad’s ring, and after succeeding, Wilheim challenged Von Carstein to single combat atop the city walls. Vlad eagerly accepted, believing he couldn’t die... and Wilheim proceeded to grab Vlad and toss both himself and the Count off the side of the City walls. The pair landed on a spike, staking Vlad and Wilheim, the weight of the dead Pope’s body keeping Vlad on the spike as he died his final death.
Years later Vlad would be revived once more, making Wilheim’s sacrifice in vain, but it was still an extremely ballsy move.
Volkmar was also a Grand Theogonist. He frequently went out onto the battlefield on an elaborate mobile altar (that’s it above), shrieking religious incantations to inspire the Empire’s soldiers against the hordes that beset them.
When an overwhelming army of Chaos Daemons invaded the Empire, Volkmar decided the only way he could bring about the end of the invasion was to sacrifice himself—he leapt off his battle altar and charged straight at the Chaos general Archaon, who promptly sliced Volkmar’s head off. If that wasn’t bad enough, one of Archaon’s Daemon generals decided to resurrect Volkmar and chain him to his standard, torturing the priest physically and mentally for years.
Volkmar bided his time, enduring the horrendous torture until the climactic battle of the invasion, at which point he decided to finally break free of his bonds and helped turn the tide against the Daemons. His fellow priests made no objections to Volkmar returning to his position as Grand Theonogist, because really, would you say no to a guy who went through all of that nightmarish torture? No wonder we was known as “the Grim.”
A legendary hero of the Elven races, Aenarion lead his people into battle against Chaos Daemons thousands of years before humans even existed. As the Daemonic threat grew more and more powerful Aenarion grew desperate to hold them back, choosing to take the Sword of Khaine, the Elven god of War, and use it to fight his foes. Khaine was not the most pleasant of deities, and his sword perpetually dripped with blood. As you might have guessed, using it was a bad thing—Aenarion cursed his family line for the rest of time just by picking up the mythical weapon.
Horrible curse aside, the sword helped Aenarion hold back the Daemon armies long enough for a conclave of mages to open a vortex that banished the Daemons, slaying four Greater Daemons (powerful Daemons that were basically the physical incarnations of the Chaos Gods on earth) in a single swing of the blade, just after he’d been mortally wounded. On top of that, Aenarion held out long enough to drag himself back to the shrine he found the sword, enshrining it once more before actually expiring.
Too bad the curse meant that every decade after his children stood a chance of going insane and attempting to reclaim the sword for themselves, potentially dooming the Elves. But hey, he saved the day!
People lose their souls in the Warhammer universe like we lose spare change down the back of a couch, but Dark Elf Malus was one of the few who lived to lose his soul and then trek across vast wastelands to find it again. Once a treasure hunter, Malus got his soul stolen for the first time by a Daemon who offered him the chance to get his soul back by collecting some artifacts. Malus agreed, and successfully found the artifacts, but the Daemon double-crossed him, set itself free, and stole Malus’ soul again.
Most people would give up and die at this point, but not Malus. He ventured into the Chaos-powered wastelands of the world, slicing his way through daemons and cultists to find the demon who stole his soul. He did so, but at a great cost: slaying the Daemon bound it to his soul permanently. Being a bit evil, Malus didn’t particularly seem bothered; he returned to his homeland and became its champion, now seemingly even more unstoppable thanks to the daemon’s power.
Most Warhammer villains are content with going a little crazy, raising a few armies to their cause, and calling it a day. Archaon went whole hog in his craziness, becoming the most evil and powerful general of Chaos not once, but twice. Originally a human devotee of Sigmar, Archaon turned to Chaos after reading a blasphemous scroll that made him so mad that someone would blaspheme his god, he, err... decided to turn against Sigmar himself? Look, he wasn’t the smartest guy. He was the angriest.
Adopting the name of Archaon, he travelled to the Chaos Wastelands and offered his services to the Chaos Gods. Archaon then spent the next century on an evil scavenger hunt, gathering six all-powerful Chaos artifacts to prove his newfound dedication, slaying all manner of lesser Daemons on the way single-handedly. Doing so granted him the right to lead the forces of Chaos during an invasion of the world in an attempt to bring about the End Times. Archaon failed, but eventually returned and succeeded in bringing about the end of the world in the most recent plotline “End Times”, kicking off the new reboot Games Workshop have planned. Good job, Archaon!
The infamous White Dwarf is one of the most legendary figures in Warhammer. Believed to be the spirit of the long-dead Dwarven King Snorri Whitebeard, Snorri was a close friend of Malekith, one of Aenarion’s sons, and as he lay on his deathbed he asked his friend to keep an oath that would mean the Dwarves and Elves would forever remain allies. Malekith agreed, only to completely ignore that oath the moment Snorri died, manipulating the two races into both the bloodiest and most hilariously-titled conflict in Warhammer history: The War of the Beard.
Malekith’s betrayal was so great, so powerful, it somehow managed to wrench Snorri’s soul out of the afterflife and give it physical form as Grombrindal. Understandably peeved and straddling the line between life and death, Grombrindal went on a campaign of vengeance against Dwarfkind’s foes, always magically appearing to Dwarven armies in their hour of need and wrecking their enemies single-handedly. He’s pretty much a bearded, axe-wielding guardian angel for Dwarves everwhere.
If Archaon was Warhammer’s greatest villain, then Sigmar was its greatest hero. Like many on his list, he got there by being remarkably persistent, even through death.
Originally a human, thousands of years in past Sigmar rose to be leader of his tribe of humans, a legendary hero fighting their beastmen enemies. Sigmar went on to unite every human tribe in the world, founding the Empire and ruling as its almighty Emperor, ushering in a new age of peace and prosperity for humankind. Most heroes would stop there, but after 50 years of rule Sigmar abdicated and vanished off the face of the earth. No one ever saw Sigmar alive again, but he was so adored his devotees founded the Cult of Sigmar in his name, the dominating religion in the Warhammer world. That would be enough for some, but it turns out Sigmar vanished to go and die and actually become a god through sheer strength of will, so he could watch over humanity for the rest of time.
Sigmar didn’t stop there! Although the Chaos Gods tried to thwart him countless times to hold back his power, when the Warhammer universe was destroyed in the End Times, Sigmar (who had briefly returned in mortal form to battle Archaon during the cataclysmic event inbetween his god-duties) actually managed to save a fragment of reality in the chaos, thrusting it into a pocket universe and creating the new reality Warhammer players will muck about in with the upcoming Age of Sigmar. I’m pretty sure Sigmar’s run out of heroic feats he can top now.