Review: Warhammer Fantasy RPG Starter Set
When we describe something as ‘functional’ it’s usually meant as a criticism, but when applied to the Warhammer Fantasy Starter Set it’s meant as a solid endorsement. From simple pre-gens to a bare-bones ruleset, the neat little box’s contents are carefully designed to provide everything you need to get a game going and not a scrap more.
The best example of this can probably be seen in the fact that the set doesn’t actually come with a rulebook – not even of the slimline softback variety. Instead, all the rules you need to use the heroes, monsters and scenarios are printed on a trio of reference sheets.
The entire core mechanics of the game, complete with examples, manages to fit on just one page. Everything you need to know about combat takes up two. It’s an impressive feat of design that does a great job of cutting down the time spent learning and looking up rules.
Got a question about how checks work? No need to search through a hardback tome, just take a quick glance at the cheat sheet.
Naturally, however, this does mean that a lot of non-essential rules have been jettisoned along the way. There’s no way to roll up new characters, nor any way to level up existing ones. If you’re using the starter set, you and your friends are going to be using the pre-generated characters contained within.
It’s lucky, then, that those characters are well-built and fun to play. Their beautifully presented character sheets help to fill out extra information specific to that specific hero – the only mention of magic is in a sidebar on the wizard’s sheet, for example – and provide plenty of background information and motivation on top of the mechanical stats.
The range of adventurers on offer is just as solid and sturdy as you’d hope, covering most of the Warhammer Fantasy world’s archetypes along the way. Even if you’ve never played any of the wargames or run into the darkly comic fiction set there, the characters themselves do a pretty great job of painting a quick sketch of the setting. The grudge-obsessed dwarven slayer is a highlight – not to mention incredibly easy to roleplay – as is the human witch hunter and irrepressibly cheerful halfling thief.
Again, experienced RPG players may chafe at being told what their character wants and how they feel about certain topics, but it’s worth remembering that this is a starter set. It’s a slimline way for people to get a foothold in the hobby, and the motley crew of rogues and heroes do a wonderful job of providing that foothold.
The same goes for the 40-page adventure that gives GMs a chance to get a handle on the game. It opens with a few strongly railroaded scenes (possibly too strongly, if we’re being honest) but then spreads out to become much more of a sandbox where the party are free to roam around and explore the town around them.
As it happens, the town itself is the subject of the chunkiest book in the entire box, with the Guide to Ubersreik coming at a whopping 64 pages. That may sound incredibly lengthy compared to the rest of the books, but a lot of that pagecount is dedicated to adventure hooks for the players to stumble into.
If you’ve never played Warhammer Fantasy RPG before and want to get in at the ground level, the starter set is a great way to get your toes wet. If you have dabbled in the old world, or are an RPG veteran who wants to dive in at the deep end, simply heading straight to the corebook might represent a better investment.
A snapshot of the Warhammer world eager to help newcomers get started with the system, complete with beautiful presentation and snappy design.