Warhammer Fantasy, officially known as Warhammer Fantasy Battles or just Warhammer, and in its upcoming recreation as Warhammer: The Old World, is a high fantasy tabletop war game and fictional high fantasy universe created by Games Workshop and first published in 1983.
Games Workshop later published Warhammer 40,000 in 1987 using many of the same concepts and defining characteristics of Warhammer Fantasy, though in a far-future space fantasy universe rather than a dark medieval high fantasy setting. The original setting of the Warhammer tabletop game is similar to the Warhammer 40,000 universe in many ways.
Like Warhammer 40,000, Warhammer Fantasy Battles (abbreviated "WFB") is a fully-immersive hobby rather than just a single tabletop game, and contains elements of strategic war gaming, painting, model-building and reading and creating fictional stories set in the mythical Warhammer World.
On November 15, 2019, Games Workshop announced that it was reintroducing Warhammer Fantasy Battles, which had been defunct as an intellectual property of the company since 2015, as its own line of tabletop games, role playing games, video games and novels, to be known as Warhammer: The Old World.
In earlier editions of both Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000, there were many indications that the Warhammer World, the planet that is the primary setting for Warhammer Fantasy, was located in the same universe as Warhammer 40,000.
In later editions of both games, Games Workshop moved to create more of a separation between the two fictional universes, although they have also never completely denied the earlier connections between the two settings.
In the original conceptions of both properties it was likely that the Warhammer World did exist in the same universe as Warhammer 40,000 as the Warhammer World is known to have been terraformed and reshaped by beings known as the Old Ones, essentially the same alien entities as the Old Ones of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
The Warhammer World's continents are arranged very similarly to those of Earth and may be an indicator that the Old Ones also played some role in shaping the Earth and affecting the development of Humanity in general several million years ago, after their supposed disappearance from the galaxy.
Other worlds in the Warhammer 40,000 universe have been discovered by the Imperium of Man that also have been terraformed into a shape reminiscent of Earth's distinctive continents.
In this conception it is possible that the Humans of the Warhammer World were settlers who first arrived on the planet many millennia ago during the Dark Age of Technology and then reverted to a primitive state as so many Human populations did across the galaxy during the Age of Strife, while the Elf and Dwarf populations were beings shaped by the Old Ones from Aeldari and Squat stock, respectively.
The forces of Chaos are even more active on the Warhammer World than they are on many other planets of the galaxy because of the collapsed Warp Gates the Old Ones built on the planet, devices that are very similar in function to the Aeldari's Webway technology, which was itself derived from the Old Ones' knowledge of the Immaterium.
These damaged Warp portals have allowed the Warp to manifest fully at the north and south poles of the Warhammer World, essentially creating two small Warp rifts at both ends of the planet similar to the Eye of Terror which spew Chaos energies directly into the physical universe, creating what the inhabitants of the Warhammer World call the "Winds of Magic."
Because Chaos can manifest its forces directly on this world, its Elf, Dwarf and Human defenders of Order were slowly but inexorably losing their battle with the Ruinous Powers, ultimately culminating in the Warhammer World's End Times.
Following the destruction of the Warhammer World in the End Times and the birth of the Mortal Realms of the follow-on property of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, it is now clear that in current lore, the universes of Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar exist in entirely separate realities.
Many of the armies and factions in Warhammer 40,000 can be originally traced back to the same concepts in Warhammer Fantasy.
The most obvious examples are the Ork and forces of Chaos armies that are almost unchanged in their primary characteristics from their fantasy counterparts, and Warhammer hobbyists often switch models and parts between the two game systems.
The Astra Militarum are very similar to the Empire of Man's forces due to the new figures using Imperial Guard parts, while the Aeldari and Drukhari are similar to the Warhammer World's High and Dark Elves, respectively. The Necron share many similarities with the Undead Tomb Kings of Nehekara.
Warhammer Fantasy Battles is the main game using the Warhammer Fantasy mythology today, but Games Workshop has made several other games for the Warhammer World, including:
- Warmaster - Warmaster used smaller models than the primary Warhammer Fantasy line, focusing on huge, epic battles rather than the smaller unit operations of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
- Mordheim - A small-scale tactical game that focuses on small bands of warriors fighting in a great, ruined city of the Empire of Man while seeking treasure.
- Blood Bowl - Blood Bowl was a humorous game very similar to American Football or Rugby, but with plenty of bloodshed and magic and usually played by teams of Orcs and other Greenskins.