The transition from Warhammer 3rd edition to Warhammer 4th edition

I made a comment on this thread

I don’t think 3rd edition was better than 6th, that’s for sure. However, as this was the start of CDs, and for those that love 3rd ed figure line. I’m just really surprised nobody else has tried it. Fantasy Gaming Systems: The Big Poll - #17 by cornixt about being really surprised that after a few days I am the only person to have voted for 1st-3rd ed Warhammer.

As 3rd ed is such an important point in CD history, and many loving 3rd ed style miniatures; it surprises me more haven’t tried the lists that the figures were intended for.

On commenting about this; my response has garnered some replies. However, not wishing to derail the the thread further, I thought I’d start a new one. Which, in reality is a blog where I’m going to try and put down my experience, my feelings (very difficult) and respond to what others wrote. And lastly for others to put their thoughts.

So, I was around for 3rd ed. I was young, and it’s hard to put my feelings into words…but I’m going to try.

For me 3rd edition was a bit of a golden age, that over a period of a few years changed for the negative.

One of the big issues towards the end of 3rd ed was pricing. Rightly or wrongly, I started buying citadel miniatures very very young in 1984…85ish from my local toy shop. I was paying 60p per for Dwarfs and Hobgoblins and 60p for 2 Gnomes. Fast forward 6 years, at the end of 1990, I was still paying 60p per figure. Blitsters were 2.99 for 5 figures.

Then all of a sudden (around the time of Tom Kirby taking control) things started to change. In 1991 figures went from 2.99 for 5, to 3.99 for 4. This was a massive and crazy hike in price. OK, GW were silly in keeping their prices down without increases for so long. However, such a price hike really was a blow to people in the hobby.

I feel, this is important to the move from 3rd to 4th as GW lost a lot of business from a rather loyal fan-base. They needed (or wanted) a new fanbase, and they went young. The feel of GW, the feel of warhammer, and figure design started to be aimed at a much younger audience. An audience that was new, and not super ****ed with the price hikes. Figure prices went up a lot again to 1.25, and quickly 1.35 per figure. Well over double what they were for so long (for me anyway). The argument was that figures were now using a metal that was much safer (especially for younger children, the new target audience). For me, that was me out. I’d buy something occasionally after this, but they’d priced themselves out of the market for a lot of the people of 3rd edition.

I think a lot of players of 3rd edition were willing to continue, but little to no spending. Which, may have affected GW changing the style, or due to aiming younger, the figures became a little more cartoonish. I guess, a ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario.

"chitzkoi wrote:

I think 3rd is a pretty rudimentary game of stat vs stat, all told. There are definitely subcultures of people who play in the UK at least - like Bring Out Your Lead. I’m not totally convinced they’re having more fun just by virtue of playing 3rd, though."

I’m not sure they’re having more fun either. I didn’t actually play that much of the game to know as to why you can’t recreate those feelings in 6th ed, with the 3rd ed figures.

I’m not sure I’d call it rudimentary though. It was overly complex. 4 height levels for flyers…and extra figure stats being examples.

"Kuanor wrote

What is the myth about 3ed being “true” Warhammer and later editions untrue?"

Maybe, it’s similar to a lot of things. Old timers looking back on something with rose tinted glasses or how it was better in their day.

Warhammer was aimed at a different audience then. For 4th edition, they simplified things rules a lot. Went a lot more cartoony. And they removed an older ‘use your own imagination’ - the last vestige of GW being an RPG company.

This last point, might be key. Everything, being mapped out for you, and a playerbase that had grown with GWs RPG style of doing things, where a lot is your own imagination. To army books with a style mapped out for you.

“Is it an aesthetics thing? Like, idk, the world being more wild and gritty and the miniatures looking alike? But then, 6th aesthetics is darker again.”

The move from 5th to 6th (bar CDs being phased out) was positive to me. There was a move back to a more mature audience. The rules were better (possibly the best) and the figures were less cartoony. There wasn’t the ‘Use your imagination’ element of 3rd though, which sounds small, but isn’t.

I would say that 2nd and early 3rd had the least regimental figures though. It was common to have every figure in your unit different to the others. Personally, I’m definitely not sold on this being better.

Cornixt wrote

“4th edition added a big layer of gloss that took off some of the rawness”

Hmmmm. There was definitely an added layer of gloss. The whole business was given…something…it was more of a business than a hobby. ‘took off some of the rawness’…hmmmmm GW felt pretty professional by 1990. Their own stores, the whole WD was on their own products. I know some of really earlier players disliked this and had moved on. I do remember from the magazines, Warhammer, Blood Bowl and 40k of the time the number 1 rule

“The most important rule is your imagination. If you can imagine it, it can happen.” …or something along the lines of that. That went for 4th edition, for fully mapped out army books, and it never came back. As fantasy lovers, there’s nothing quite like using your own imagination.

the huge number of options were simplified down to a few. The individual character of models was reduced, the variety of armies was reduced.

This was most definitely a thing. Things you could use, were removed (Dwarf Clansman for example). All the leadership stats were combined into one. And as mentioned above, there was less room for personal ‘flair’ and your own imagination.

Plus, it’s always cooler to be into something before it became successful.

I think there’s definitely something to ‘Yeah, well I was there dude’…I’m feeling like I’m coming across like that in this post…it’s all ‘me me me’. ‘…before it became successful’ though…I don’t think so. GW stores have come and gone, and with online I guess more have gone. However, back in 1990 there must have been more than 2/3rds of the stores there were 10 years later. I certainly don’t feel it was before the game took off, personally.

Cornixt wrote

‘the randomness of the models was replaced by a more formal style’

This is a really interesting point. And, I can only comment on my personal feelings, not what somebody older (at that time) thought.

The transition from the 1980s Citadel random lines, to the very formulaic figures of 4th edition, including the basic warriors being plastic boxsets was in my mind ‘Marauder Miniatures’.

Marauder starting producing much more regimental looking lines in the late 80s. For me, during this period (and with this change) produced the best looking armies of all time. My favourite armies were the late 80s Marauder renaissance style Dwarfs and the Chaos army. They blew me away, and it was the Marauder Chaos Dwarf unit in the Chaos army that got me hooked on CDs…over 30 years ago.

Towards the end of 3rd edition, the bias towards 40K was massive. Citadel weren’t actually making anything for Warhammer; only Marauder were. However, the lines they were producing were definitely more in-tune with what was to come in 4th edition…and many of the figures were used for 4th edition. Their new line of Dwarfs for example; that had definite formulaic elites.

So for me personally, this definitely wasn’t an issue. I was more in the ‘new’ target age range, than the ‘old’ target age range though…

I then distinctly remember the start of 4th edition. The first figures I saw were the forest and night goblins and…the look blew me away. I absolutely loved the style they were given, over the very generic goblin look of 3rd edition.

But then…you had the Dwarf line with the leader being carried on a shield and the anvil of doom. Ridiculous, and definitely aimed at a much younger audience.

Lastly, I guess how did I feel about 4th edition CDs? The Marauder line of CDs will always be my favourites, and the best figures ever produced in my opinion. However, I didn’t hate the new look. I always had a soft spot for hobgoblins…and I loved that they were combined into one army. The hats were stupidly over the top, aimed at younger players…and I missed the chaos armour. There wasn’t much chaos in 4th ed Chaos Dwarfs in my opinion.

However, they definitely have/had charm, and as an army look fantastic. And CDs along with a few of the other armies, show the good side of 4th edition. You often see posts or videos on youtube that harp back at the heyday of 4th edition…maybe how I and others look back at 3rd edition.

Old gits remembering the good old days, and probably newer hipsters. It just depends on how old you are to when the good old days were.


This was a great read Harvest, thank you very much for sharing! It’s inherently valuable for our community to hear these stories just so we can understand how things waxed and waned. The PDF era means we have better access to the old rules and content than ever before, but the oral history of how to “read” it and how it was actually being used is irreplaceable.


Thank you for writing down your experiences! I never thought of 1-3rd being grittier but I suppose the models (if not their names) are more serious than the art and style of the herohammer era. So glad I can argue 6th was actually a return to form! :laughing:

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I think the magic system from 4th was maybe the best of all (i started at the beginning of 4th about11-12yrs old ). Also you could have any monsters you wanted as mounts. I had a goblin riding cockatrice after that 10k battle report in white dwarf. Goblins could have great weapons too! After they cut all that out and tightened everything up giving much less diversity.
However i think 3rd edition has so many cool things about it (i never got to play it) i reckon it was the most magical time gw had. So much character in the rules and the models (RoR). My 1st ever visit to a gw store still had plenty of these models in (orc dog carts- been fixated on them ever since).
The 3rd ed rule book is awesome and i recently discovered it advises black lines to break up the colours (which i do). Im about 33 years behind the times!
The triangle formation for infantry sounds cool.

3rd ed is the edition i wish i had played the most, but it did have some faults, cannons too strong and lengthy movement phases.

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Hmmmm I’m not sure I’d call 2nd/3rd ed grittier. It was light, but more adult humour? It wasn’t grimdark of 6th edition. However, I think 6th ed and Toumas looked pre-4th and U-turned a little.

One of the differences I think was with the artists. I feel with 4th onward they had a very distinct brief about what to draw, and how it should look.

Pre 4th edition (and this goes for all the games) artists I think had a free-hand. And it’s these pictures that I think fed the RPG feel of GW players’ imagination.

Pictures like Space Marines in the original 40K book directing traffic. Or A Chaos Warrior and a goblin on a beach drinking cocktails in 2nd edition Blood Bowl. Totally random pictures, that made you think about the story behind the pictures.

Another thing I remember and not being happy about is army sizes decreased. Firstly, you didn’t get as many figures for your army size with 4th onward, and the average size battle was 3000 points in 3rd, which decreased to 2000 in 4th.

I think there were a variety of reasons why they did this, and in hindsight yeah it’s probably better. A 3k 3rd ed battle was the best part of a day!


That is still very much Blood Bowl… :slight_smile:

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Inspired by this thread I decided to watch some random 3rd ed battle report,

Some interesting and some unfun ideas I see there, some of which we can even recognize in the new TOW previews.
Like, undead being (potentially) stupid, and stupid being a run-in-a-random-direction table, being on the unfun side. And undead running away is stupid too. ^^"
But we can see the push-back mechanic there in action. Or at least the original version of it.