Background over Battle prowess – why fluff is so important to me

It’s been mentioned before, both here on PWD and on my various threads on Warseer, that army background comes first and foremost for me in pretty much every wargame or RP event that I do. Its true – I am physically incapable of writing an army list before coming up with the fluff or background idea for the army or a theme to base the army around. It’s an important aspect of the hobby for me, one I think a lot of people out there over look, to their own detriment.

What do I mean? Well, just take a look on Warseer, Bell of Lost Souls, any wargaming forum. Take a look in the army-list or tactics section and tell me what you see. What I see is this:

–     Gamer 1 – “Oh hi guyz, this is was I was planning to have in my list – it represents a Dark Elf raiding force”

–     Gamer 2 – “lolz, you need a hydra”

–     Gamer 3 – “drop the corsair lord and take a lvl 4 shadow mage. And a cauldron.”

–     Gamer 1 – “but…how does that fit the theme…”


Possibly a little over-simplified but the essence is there. When 8th Ed Fantasy came out, I saw a whole bunch of threads about Dark Elf armies at the time I was working on the High House of Chains. In each thread, pretty much 90% of people were told to take the following, regardless of what they wanted their army to reflect:

A level 4 mage, with Shadow

A Hag on a Cauldron of Blood

20 random spearmen with no command as sacrifices for the mage

Black Guard

As many hydras as you can fit in.

Nothing else, no cool stuff like Cold One Knights or, god forbid, a Dreadlord (seriously, if these people had their way Naggaroth would be a matriarchal society). And why? Because the stuff listed above was the accepted ‘good in-game units’.

This elitism and cookie-cutter attitude really fucking annoys me – all it serves to do is drain the individualism from every army out there and is part of the whole Win-At-All-Costs attitude of tournaments. Which explains why I don’t go to tournaments anymore. As an example, my Dark Elf army contains everything these internet-experts claim is shit:

A Dreadlord

A regular BSB

Big units of Spearmen with *gasp* shields and command

Only a lvl 3 mage

Cold One Knights and Chariots.

Under internet wisdom, I should get my ass handed to me in every game surely? Well, no. I have taken my fair share of heavy losses yes, but I’ve also won pretty convincingly and pulled some last minute wins out of the bag as well. With my heavily themed, fluffy army. For example, probably the best unit in my army is the 30 spears accompanied by my BSB – these guys consistently punch above their weight. Fluff is so important to me that I will intentionally restrict the units I can take to stay within the fluff – my Druchii don’t have a level 4, cauldron or Khainite units because they are meant to represent a Noble House and its Household Guard, not some random tourney army with no story.

And that’s what’s important – the story behind an army. Looking around the Warbasterds, we seem to be particularly blessed in terms of fluffy themed armies with loads of character, from all-Nurgle Daemon armies to the germanic Knights Templar Astartes of the Argent Crucifers, to the undead hordes of Heinrich Kemmler, to the Cult of Sigmar Empire militia. Our games are full of heroes bellowing insults and challenges, earning their glory and honour instead of bland “oh my Captain kills your Exarch with his three hits” and each of our armies have created their own little legends and new characters.

Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to go into the level of detail and background that I do with my armies – admittedly, I’m a fucking geek for that kind of thing – but if I’m playing someone who can tell me the name of their commander and a bit of a story about their army and what its aiming to achieve – happy days, that’ll be a good game. You don’t need to hamstring yourself in terms of unit selection like I do either, but putting a little thought into a list from a story point of view is never a bad thing – one of our gang is rocking a hobby-boner over the new Tau and has dragged his out of retirement. Is he getting a Riptide? No. Even though it is cool as fuck and kicks ass in-game, he’s not getting one because his army is all about Fire Warriors and Stealth Suits. I love him for that, even if I think the Riptide is ball-achingly good looking enough to have in any army. Ever. I want one for my Dark Elves.

So, that’s my two-pennies worth on the importance of background and fluff to my armies. But I’ll leave you with a final example. What sounds cooler?

This is my Dark Elf Dreadlord leading my 3000 point Dark Elf army


This is Hiraeth Arkitaine, Lord Of Sorrows, Vaulkhar of High House Chains, leading the Household Guard of the House of Chains.

Fluff, people. It’s important stuff.





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