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  or Critical Hits’ first impressions review  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.