While the retail areas of Warhammer World are amazing, and being able to buy Forge World items off the shelf is a treat (and pay UK prices which are now lower than US prices), the real highlight of the whole experience for me was the Exhibition Centre. As I mentioned in the previous installment, the exhibitions start out with a brief history of Citadel Miniatures and Games Workshop. It then opens up into more detailed displays of many of the various product lines, all expertly painted, but there are many larger displays and dioramas which tell stories from various parts of Warhammer and Warhammer 40K cannon. Mixed among these are several smaller vignettes, some of which date back decades to the early days of Games Workshop. Given I started playing Warhammer 40K during its Rogue Trader debut, this was a very welcome trip down memory lane!
|The Orks attack!|
There are amazing displays/dioramas covering a wide array of subjects from classic Warhammer Fantasy all the way through the Age of Sigmar, the Horus Heresey, as well as vintage and modern Warhammer 40K. These aren't generally set up to resemble a game in progress, rather they are set up to represent a scene of an actual battle or other key event. It truly raises the level of what one would expect from, say and Army on Parade or display board for a painting competition. One element common to all of the larger displays is they convey a sense of narrative - they're not just showing off great miniatures, they're telling a story. As I've mentioned before, the narrative aspects of Warhammer 40K, and any game system (historic or fictional) have always held a particular interest for me. Regardless of whether it is a group of Space Marines or a group of U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theater of World War II, my armies always have a context. They're not just random elements pieced together in an attempt to win games.
|The Undead Horde|
The photo above shows one of the Warhammer boards with an undead horde bursting forth from a portal. Personally, I'd be getting out of there post haste, but I love how the miniatures are so thematically tied together with color scheme. The fact that they're not individually based, but rather are part of the display itself also helps convey the sense that this is an event, not a game. This technique carries through for most of the displays, dioramas, and vignettes throughout the Exhibition Centre.
|Orks move through some beautifully executed terrain|
Some of the displays struck me because of the wonderful miniatures, others struck me with the amazing amount of work that was done to create a scene through use of terrain. The photo above includes some very nice Orks, but what really struck me was the terrain. The windswept terrain and exposed tree roots with sparse and yellowed vegetation truly conveys a sense of how bleak the lands are, which suits the Orks quite well.
|The Emperor Confronts Horus - Rogue Trader Style|
Then there are other vignettes that simply give me a wonderful sense of nostalgia. The scene rendered in miniatures above harkens back to some very old Warhammer 40K art from the Rogue Trader era (below). While the miniatures and some of their details are fairly crude by modern standards, it effectively manages to capture the essence of the original artwork, and was an absolute treat to see live.
|Original artwork of the Emperor and Horus from 40K's Rogue Trader era|
There are also more modern dioramas covering 40K's Horus Heresy period. The display covering the Fall of Prospero (yeah, Magnus did something wrong...) with modern Custodes, Space Wolves, and Thousand Sons miniatures is truly a sight to behold. The world is so well-executed, it becomes part of the story itself. While I haven't played Horus Heresy (or Warhammer 30K as it is colloquially known), I've considered it as there are some spectacular forces available.
|The Fall of Prospero|
Another fun reference to the earliest days of Warhammer 40K is the scene below. Old timers will certainly recognize it almost immediately...
|Is he using an Ork's head as an improvised melee weapon?|
Yes friends, it is a recreation in miniature of the cover art from the original Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader rulebook from 1987 right down to the Ork's head being used as a melee weapon.
|Rogue Trader - where it all started|
However, the overall display goes way beyond a few Crimson Fists marines in a heroic back-to-back last stand. It includes the full array of Orks closing in from all sides in an impressive display of sheer green firepower. While this wasn't one of the larger exhibits, it was one that really gave me a warm sense of nostalgia.
|The display goes way beyond the cover, though!|
The displays also include several vintage figures - some even in the original packaging showing the original sprues - including one fan favorite that almost always tops the "why don't you bring back..." lists - the Squats! Space Dwarves, AKA Squats, were a part of the early days of Warhammer 40K representing sort of a mash up of ideas. They had the organization and feel of Imperial Guard, but also had a lot of bikes like Ork speek freaks. If you read the lore, they were also fairly technically adept, even more so than the Techpriests (which were many years away from their own list). Unfortunately, Games Workshop decided that their one-liner mishmash background didn't cut it, so they never received their own 2nd edition Codex and were gone by the time of Third Edition. Hope springs eternal, though.
|Yes Virginia, they even have Squats!|
There are also some great smaller scenes just using off-the-shelf terrain kits combined in new and exciting ways - with unlimited budgets. The photo below shows an amazing diorama consisting mostly of Sector Mechanicus sets which ended up looking absolutely amazing.
|Amazing what you can do with an unlimited budget...|
Various armies and factions have their own sections in the exhibition as well. Each of the major Imperial Guard regiments has a display army painted up, including my favorite the Death Korps of Krieg. I've always liked the World War I fusion look of these guys, and really need to get mine painted up one of these days. More stuff to do - I really must win that lottery so I can free up more hours for painting.
|Death Korps of Krieg on Display|
Speaking of Astra Militarum, how about the amazing Cadian parade diorama below? Just the sheer number of infantry and vehicles really makes you appreciate how many hours have gone into painting all of the miniatures. Even at my best, it takes me hours to get one squad done to my satisfaction, and this amazing scene has, well, a lot more than that!
|Cadia Stands - and holds parades|
One of the most impressive displays is a Chaos assault on an Imperial position that is built into the stairwell between levels. Unfortunately it is a bit hard to see from the photos, but this particular diorama is something in excess of 10 feet tall and goes all the way up to the next level of the exhibition hall. There are some amazing lighting effects and of course, Titans, making an appearance as well.
|Huge diorama in the stairwell|
One of the most striking dioramas is the beautiful Eldar versus Tyranid battle scene below. Early on in Warhammer 40K the Eldar, now known as the Aeldari, were extremely popular. They were fairly potent on the tabletop and the models and figures lent themselves to high-quality paint jobs. Accomplished painters seemed split between Eldar and Chaos for their showpieces. While they don't seem to have the same level of interest as they used to have, a well-executed Aeldari army is still an amazing sight to behold and can be a truly deadly opponent.
|Beautifully painted Eldar versus Tyranids|
So I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Warhammer World in England. I'd love to go back one of these years, but I figure that will likely be a hard sell for the rest of the family as there are so many other destinations in the UK, Ireland, Europe, and elsewhere on our list that remain unvisited. Maybe one of these years if I'm traveling on business and can tack on a couple of extra days on me.