Wednesday, 31 July 2019

RETRO REVIEW: Warhammer Armies: Dogs of War (1998)


With so little information on what to look forward to, I thought I'd look back at my personal-all time favourite Games Workshop publication (sorry Skavenslayer), a flawed masterpiece, and possible long lost ancestor of Cities of Sigmar...

If you're relatively new to the hobby you may never have heard of Dogs of War. Released halfway though the 5th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, in autumn 1998, Warhammer Armies: Dogs of War was the brainchild of the esteemed Nigel Stillman, and is an unusual footnote in the game and setting's history. Warhammer 5th edition shared its army books with 4th, and by early 5th edition all the army books for the game's staples were "done" (with High Elves and Chaos having been done twice), allowing the design team to focus on crafting absorbing supplements like narrative campaign packs, and a new edition of Warhammer: Siege.

With the introduction of their army book, Dogs of War became a blanket term for the Warhammer World's mercenaries, the book containing rules for 15 unique mercenary Regiments of Renown, able to either be hired as allies for other armies, or fielded as a standalone force of rogues commanded by a charismatic mercenary general, with the army's pay chest acting as a characterful substitute for a conventional battle standard bearer.

The guy riding the cart was named Sheikh Yadosh. More to follow...

The original Warhammer Armies books (battletomes to a beardling) were designed to supply a player everything they needed to know about their chosen army in a low-internet age, and were packed to capacity with histories, maps, colour text, bestiaries and timelines with a density that's never quite been matched since - Dogs of War being no exception. Each Regiment of Renown's rules were accompanied by a gorgeous two page spread telling you everything you needed to know about them, and the book also contained a 25 page gazetteer and chronicle of city states of Tilea, the anarchic and ungovernable country heavily inspired by Renaissance Italy that the majority of the Regiments of Renown hailed from, as well as rules for six special characters drawn from Tilea's storied history.

This book blew my preadolescent mind. I'd never known armies like this could exist on the tabletop, and had previously been a dedicated Dwarf player who dabbled in Empire and Orcs and Goblins, but now wanted more than anything to field a cosmopolitan army of cutthroats united under a charismatic commander in a quest for glory and gold.


Hit a coin at 300 paces... at BS 4 these guys would struggle
to hit a treeman at 30...

Nigel Stillman, like Rick Priestly was a trained archaeologist, and the book's background gave him tremendous license to flex the muscles of  his historical knowledge, expanding the land of Tilea (a part of the Old World previously only really known for supplying the Empire with mercenary crossbowmen), into a fully fleshed out set of feuding city states usually ruled by Merchant Princes (though one was once ruled by a pig), largely based on 14th century Italy, with its own extensive history and culture, rivalling that of any other Warhammer nation or faction, all woven together in his trademark effortlessly whimsical, charming style. The Tileans' existing fondness for crossbows was expanded upon, but their trademark weapon became the pike, a much longer spear allowing regiments to fight in ranks of four instead of the usual two. Tilean trade routes and the exploits of mercenaries outside of the Old World were also detailed, with (albeit brief) passages shedding light on Araby, Cathay and the eastern Hobgoblin Khans.

As relevant today as it was in 1998

Conventional Warhammer armies fought either to destroy and enslave things, or to not be destroyed or enslaved, but the Dogs of War's motivations were a thirst for exploration, adventure and cold hard cash. Many outlandish elements and characters from Warhammer's wild early days like Juggo Joriksonn, and 'the Magnificent' Sven Hasselfriesian also made cameos, surfacing for the first time in years. Warhammer has always been built on a rich foundation of black, gag-based humour, and it probably reached its peak here, with names like Juan Cornetto and Gossipa Lotta, the story of Borgio the Besieger defeating an orc waaagh by splitting the horde and its component orcs into three parts, and maybe the single greatest piece of storytelling ever produced by Games Workshop, attributed to Alessio Cavatore and reproduced below:


The massive accompanying range of metal miniatures was even more impressive than the book itself, with each of the 15 Regiments of Renown having been sculpted to a level unsurpassed by the standards of the time. Most of these were the work of Alan and Michael Perry, displaying their equally vast historical expertise, and inimitable skill at sculpting humans when creating the Tileans and Al Muktar's Desert Dogs. The remaining three non Tilean regiments were sculpted by Trish Morrison, Colin Dixon and Dave Andrews, with Chris Fitzpatrick lending his hand to a couple of characters in some of his earliest released sculpts for GW.


Special mention has to go to the gorgeous rural Italian style scratch-built scenery created for the book, presumably by Dave Andrews, with vineyards, villas and fountains making a massive contribution to the colour section. The artwork and graphic design on display also marked a new high for Warhammer publications, perfectly setting the tone for Tilea, the Regiments of Renown, and creating some crazy depictions of unique mercenary heroes and units who never made it into miniature form, but could still serve as hobby inspiration today.

Come on, try and tell me these guys would
look out of place in a Cities of Sigmar army
The book's (non special) character options consisted of a two page spread of relatively generic human general, hero and wizard options, with the sole exception being the Paymaster and his unique entourage of Bodyguards, a Money Lender, and a great big treasure chest. More detailed rules for creating your own unique mercenary general, with a choice of races and special traits were teased in the book and would later appear in an issue of White Dwarf.


Regiments of Renown formed the rest of the book's army list, with no option for generic Tilean or mercenary regiments. A reinvented concept, Regiments of Renown were originally a thing in the first and second editions of Warhammer, boutique units sold complete in a box, with rules and a vibrant backstory printed on the back. Few of the original Regiments of Renown were mercenaries, and none Tilean, with only Golgfag's Mercenary Ogres reappearing in Warhammer Armies: Dogs of War a decade later (though Skarloc became a Wood Elf special character, and Ruglud's Armoured Orcs and Mengil Manhide's Manflayers appeared much later as mercenary units in 6th edition WFB. No idea what happened to Joseph Bugman...). If you're interested in the original Regiments of Renown, they're all catalogued on http://solegends.com/citrr/

Like Pokemon evolution for Grognards. The Dogs of War
Golgfag is the third one. Image taken from solegends.com

The 15 Regiments of Renown featured in the book comprised of:
  • The Alcatani Fellowship - Tilean pikemen
  • Leopold's Leopard Comany - Tilean pikemen
  • Ricco's Republican Guard - More Tilean pikemen
  • The Marksmen of Miragliano - Tilean crossbowmen
  • Braganza's Besieger's - Heavily armoured Tilean crossbowmen with big shields
  • Pirazzo's Lost Legion - Tileans who could be built as pikemen or crossbowmen - are you seeing a theme here?
  • Voland's Venators - Tilean knights
  • Vespero's Vendetta - Skirmishing Tilean duellists
  • Bronzino's Galloper Guns - Tilean light cannons pulled by horses
  • The Birdmen of Catrazza - Tilean crossbowmen mounted on Da Vinci style flying machines
  • Golgfag's Mercenary Ogres
  • Long Drong's Slayer Pirates - Exactly what they sound like, based out of Sartosa, the Tilean pirate capital
  • Asarnil the Dragon Lord - An exiled High Elf prince on the back of a dragon, now residing in Tilea
  • Beorg Bearstruck and the Bearmen of Urslo - Norse/Chaos marauders lead by a werebear
  • Al Muktar's Desert Dogs - Araby light cavalry, lead by a frankly weird T.E. Lawrence pastiche
All of these regiments were lead by a named captain (usually a hero level character), and a few (Golgfag's, Desert Dogs and Bearmen) even got named supporting casts. Their histories and in game rules ranged from the conventional (pike and crossbow units) to the brilliantly absurd (slayer pirates). Part of the promotion for the army's release involved life sized FOR HIRE! and WANTED! posters of the various mercenary captains decorating Games Workshop stores.

Two great tastes that taste great... together

Six named, or special characters (as they were called back in the day) were included:
  • Borgio the Besieger - An infamously hard to kill Merchant Prince and mercenary general wielding a mace made out of a cannonball that once got lodged in his chest
  • Leonardo da Miragliano - The genius engineer, scientist and alchemist best known for later moving to the Empire and building the Steam Tanks. Answers on a postcard who he's based on
  • Lucrezzia Belladonna - Lucrezia Borgia if she'd also cast spells.
  • Mydas the Mean (and Sheikh Yadosh!) - Paymaster, apparently very generous
  • Lorenzo Lupo - Merchant Prince who reaaaaally liked movies about gladiators
  • Marco Colombo - The Merchant Prince who discovered Lustria
All these guys had enough bespoke quirks and special rules to warrant their special status - a lot of the special characters appearing in earlier army books had were just generic lords and heroes with set lists of magic items... available to generic lords and heroes of their race anyway.

It's interesting to note that Leonardo da Miragliano and Marco Columbo were both long dead "historical" characters (historical in this case meaning who were no longer around in the "present day" Warhammer timeline, and not the direct knockoffs of real world historical figures they incidentally were), and while this wasn't uncommon in Warhammer Armies books at the time, with characters like Magnus the Pious and Gorbad Ironclaw having rules, it did feel like a bit of an oversight in the case of Dogs of War, with Leonardo and Marco having lived hundreds of years before any of the Regiments of Renown, making fighting alongside them a seem like a weird oversight. Borgio was also a historical character, but had been murdered in the bath with a toasting fork only a year after the coronation of Karl Franz, and so could feasibly have lead an army of most of the Regiments of Renown. Leonardo and Marco were the only two special characters not to receive models (though Marco was much later two limited edition miniatures, one in 2003 and another in 2013), so maybe the studio were aware of this.

Waste of a good cannonball

More Regiments of Renown were promised in the book, and in the months after the the initial wave of Dogs of War releases we saw five more regiments released with rules appearing in White Dwarf:
  • Lumpin Croop's Fighting Cocks - Halfling Scouts
  • Tichi-Huichi's Raiders - Skinks on Cold Ones, fighting across the Old World to retrieve Slann relics
  • Olgah Khan's Hobgoblin Wolfboyz - Also released with Ghazak Khan, a Hobgoblin merenary general
  • Johan and Wilhelm - Imperial Witch Hunter and Warrior Priest duo
  • The Giants of Albion - Giants. With attendant druid!
To say these new Regiments of Renown were on the wackier side was an understatement - maybe they'd been held back from the book because of it. Still, they were all nice concepts, and good excuses to sculpt models for and explore the less developed parts of the Warhammer World (apart from the skinks, who just felt like leftovers from the Lizardman release a couple of years before).

I'll leave it up to you to Google these guys' names...

With Dogs of War slotting so perfectly into the setting, while standing out as much as they did without being like anything else in it, you're probably wondering why they remain a curious footnote in Warhammer history, and didn't set the gamers' brains on fire, becoming a staple of the game's identity for years to come. If you get down to brass tacks, the main answer is the book's unique format.

Warhammer Armies: Dogs of War wasn't a single, coherent book. It was one half Warhammer Armies: Tilea, and one half Regiments of Renown: A Warhammer Supplement, the background coming from the former, and the army list the latter. The book's background section spoke at length about the culture of the different principalities and republics of Tilea, and its mercenary armies, how they fought and thought differently to the other human nations of the Old World, but gave no option to create a Tilean or mercenary army of your own devising, and only a prescribed list of 15 fixed units to use, leaving little room for self expression.

Allies and special characters were both huge taboos in most gaming groups and on the events scene at the time of Dog of War's release, owing largely to special characters of that era coming with an "ask your opponent's permission, these guys are powerful" disclaimer, and a White Dwarf J-Files editorial by Jervis Johnson a couple of years prior that discussed different types of play (an early precursor to open, narrative and matched play?) including a suggested list of tournament restrictions, quickly adopted for pickup games that disallowed special characters or allies on the grounds that they were potentially too imbalanced for fair play (a stigma that's only disappeared in very recent years). This didn't mean a lot for most armies, as Teclis could easily be used to represent a regular Mage, or Karl Franz an Empire General, and allies could only make up a maximum 25% of your force anyway, but the nascent Dogs of War, released as a brand new range of what essentially amounted to special character allies (mercenaries), didn't look like a sensible investment to most players.

It's also worth noting that that in 1998, the hobby was in the very earliest murmurs of the plastic revolution, with the first multipart plastic regiment kits having been released, and despite the comparative crudeness of their sculpts (if you don't believe me Google the Chaos Warriors), made up for it in the excitement for their customisation, tridimensionality and price point. Dogs of War didn't even have access to the monopose plastics that preceded the multipart kits, used by players to build up their regiments on a budget.

Never trip and fall on a unit of these

Dogs of War (are to me at least), Warhammer's great tragedy, if they'd been designed as two separate projects, with an army list of generic Tileans and mercenaries (with their own plastic kits!) establishing a distinct identity for itself as the game's third human faction, and the more outlandish Regiments of Renown saved for a Champions of Chaos style supplement, then I'm sure they would have captured more hobbyists' imaginations (and wallets), but hey, hindsight!

The beginning of Warhammer 6th edition finally featured a Dogs of War army list released in White Dwarf with "regular" versions of pikemen, crossbowmen, venators, duellists and the like, plus mercenary dwarfs and Norscans, and several more eccentric units disowned by 6th edition's Warhammer Armies: The Empire in halflings, Hot Pots, and equipment options for cavalry units allowing Kislev Wingles Lancer and Horse Archers to be fielded; fighting alongside the named Regiments of Renown (later reprinted with a few points revisions in Warhammer Annual 2002, and Warhammer Chronicles 2004). The option to field Dogs of War was listed as a rare unit entry in every 6th edition army book bar Bretonnians (who apparently turned their noses up at hiring mercenaries), and the original Warhammer Armies: Ogre Kingdoms gave the option to field various ogre units as mercenaries in other armies. 6th edition even saw three new Regiment of Renown released, with modern versions of Ruglud's Armoured Orcs and Mengil Manhide's Manflayers, and a new undead unit made up of the skeletons of various non-human races called the Cursed Company.

Missing the boat?
However the Dogs of War miniatures line was considered significantly dated by the end of 6th edition, with every other army bar Chaos Dwarfs receiving almost entirely new, massively overhauled miniatures ranges focused around multipart plastics, and with GW having no plans to revisit Tilea, Dogs of War and mercenaries were quietly dropped as a concept when 7th hit in 2006.

Because they'd never been popular before being neglected like Bretonnians or even Sisters of Battle had once been, and had never really been considered a proper army, and more a collection of allied contingents, nobody ever really clamoured for Dogs of War to return, and they quietly faded into obscurity before Tilea was destroyed off-screen by skaven in the opening pages of the End Times in 2014, leading to a brief mass materialisation of internet outrage picketers, claiming they'd all been massive Dogs of War fans for nearly two decades and their faces had been spat in. Who knows, maybe they'd been like me and politely held out for the Tileans triumphant return, only to finally snapped after having their delusions publicly crushed?

Do you think Sigmar would ever get really
desperate and raise these guys as Stormcast?

Despite the glaring faults that caused its failure to launch, Warhammer Armies: Dogs of War is a forgotten gem, rich with brilliant stories, artwork, and humour, depicting the Warhammer World in a fresh way that still feels entirely true to the unique spirit of the setting, woven together with flare and charm. While the inhabitants of Tilea are probably considerably more self interested than those of the Mortal Realms, Dogs of War gives a fantastic insight into the disparate armies and inhabitants of cosmopolitan City States, that any Cities of Sigmar fan lucky enough to find a copy sold at a reasonable price should endeavour to grab right away.

8 comments:

  1. Hi sir, I’ve just discovered your blog by coincidence. As a fan of Dogs of War from similar preadolescent times I can just say this is an extraordinary post, crafted from hard knowledge and a true love for Dogs of War!

    I share what you explain in detail. I love the references, the sense of humor and the little stories from the pages of that amazing book. I consider that era as a pinnacle of Warhammer Fantasy design, probably because there were no other “main” army books to be rereleased at the end of 5th edition. Also, Nigel Stillman, one of the most talented designers, was free to explore and expand the lore. The impressive artwork featuring weird regiments fed my necessity to plan never done conversions of the Paymasters Guard, Exiled Elves and so. Let’s not forget the miniatures sculpts were nearly all extraordinary, and most of the Perry's pikemen, crossbowmen and galloper guns are amongst my favorite Warhammer miniatures.

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  2. I endorse your opinion about the book as fundamentally composed of tilean lore plus just a Regiments of Renown army list. On this matter I would also emphasize the generic army list that appeared alongside the release of 6th edition. This is the one I have played the most in 8th edition (even in tournaments!), without any RoR or further Ogre Kingdoms additions. Worth to note that a lot of units from that list were the ones ruled out from the Empire 6th edition army book: ogres, dwarfs, Halflings, hot pot. We can assume too that Light and Heavy Cavalry are vanilla forms of the Kislev Horse Archers and Winged Lancers.

    Unfortunately, subsequent DoW stuff were just RoR and Special Characters being adapted to the new ruleset, plus a few more RoR. It was pretty disapointting to see DoW passively discontinued by GW. The fact that we’ll never see at least a plastic generic pikemen remake is somehow frustrating.

    Last, I want to ask you a favour. I think this is the article I wanted to write for long, but never did. Would you allow me to translate your article to Spanish and publish it in my blog? Of course, I will make clear is yours and link the post to your site. The blog of my association is "Escribas del Viejo Mundo" (check it through search engine due to I prefer not to add links in comments). Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Drakenhof,

      Thank you so much for the kind words, and for introducing me to your frankly awesome WFB blog. You miniatures are incredible, and I can't wait to get on with reading the (Google Translated articles). I especially love your Empire special character conversions, foremost Luthor Huss possessed by Drachenfels, a conversion I've wanted to see done (and been too lazy to take a crack at myself) for years.

      I would be honoured for you to translate this article to Spanish for your blog. I skipped the Hot Pot and vanilla Kislev options because the article was intended to review the original Dogs of War army book, and wanted to keep what came afterwards light, but agree with you and will update the post to mention them.

      I'm currently (very slowly) working on the start of a very long series reviewing and annotatingthe End Times books page by page, explaining the (real world and in-universe) histories of all the characters and locations as they appear. If you're interested, I'd love to hear your feedback (and maybe use a few photos of your models) when they're a bit more complete.

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    2. Thank you! I'll do my best with the translation! I'll let you know when it's published (probably end of the week or the next one). And I'm glad you liked the blog. If you scroll down you'll see last year we played a 40.000 points per side game recreating the Battle of the Gates of Kislev, there are some DoW units I deployed beside the Empire ones. Next month we will play the III Battle of the Black Fire Pass, with less points per side but even more miniatures.

      Regarding the End Times conversions, they are from my colleague Rogers as he is the specialist in this background. In the association we'll be interested to read your series and comment it! Of course, let us know about your progress :) I don't find your email in the blog, you can check ours in the blog and we can keep in touch through there.

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    3. I've already checked out your mega battles, they look amazing and I'm incredibly jealous!

      I'll send over the End Times articles when they're starting to look a bit more complete. Can't wait to see my stuff translated.

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    4. First part published! Well I'm not a seasoned translator but I hope it gets the same spirit than yours! BTW, I omitted some AoS references - there are not that much, but I think neither me or readers who still play just fantasy would grasp them! Second part coming soon :)

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    5. I can't seem to find it on Escribas del Viejo Mundo - is it up yet?

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  3. Now it is! Sorry I forgot to mention I programmed it ^^

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