Totally worth it: Warzone

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In the last installment of Totally Worth It, I talked about a pretty well recognised classic: The Inquisitor Rulebook. But this series would be extraordinarily boring if it only dealt with well-known stuff, so for today I have chosen something a bit more obscure: A game that went under without ever making that much of a splash, but also a release totally worth checking out: The Warzone 2nd edition starter box.

Image appears courtesy of Prince August

Image appears courtesy of Prince August

In case you don’t know the game, don’t fret: It was released by the Swedish Company Target Games some time during the 90s in an attempt to challenge GW’s dominance over the wargaming market. In those days, however, it was usually not as widely available as GW’s systems: I remember discovering a catalogue of Target Games releases at my local FLGS in the late 90s and quite liking some of the designs, but ordering stuff in those dark days (before the internet made sure everything was always just one click away) was an arcane and hazardous business at the best of times, so I never persevered. Then, a couple of years ago, a couple of conversions started cropping up on the forums, with people using their old Warzone starter box minis to bulk out the ranks of their Imperial Guard or Lost and the Damned traitor armies. And I immediately recalled that I had rather liked those designs all those years ago. So when I had the chance to pick up a whole Warzone starter box on ebay for a song, I went for it and was pleasantly surprised.

But enough about me, let’s cut to the chase: Warzone is set in the Mutant Chronicles universe, where a number of Megacorporations originating on good old Earth are continually duking it out all over the galaxy: Hostile takeovers here are indeed a rather bloody affair, with the necessary paperwork usually only signed after the fact. The corporations also heavily draw on a number of national stereotypes, which is pretty evident by their names alone: Imperial (totally not the UK), Capitol (totally not the USA), Bauhaus (totally not Imperial Germany, with the rest of 19th century continental Europe thrown into the mix for flavour), Mishima (totally not Edo-period Japan), and Cybertronic (totally not, well, Microsoft, I guess…). Oh, and there’s also a church state (totally not Christianity) and the four Dark Apostles (totally not GW’s chaos gods) and their followers. In short, the whole background is just as much of a glorious trainwreck as the 40k lore of old, and I really think the Chaos-God-expies are a bit superfluous, but the whole Megacorporation angle and the way the associated tropes are used still seem rather interesting and original today.

The background is (rather briefly) detailed in the accompanying three books: one for the background itself, one for the rules and one for the army lists (the latter has all the army lists for all the factions, by the way). While the books are partly suffering from a pretty angular 90s layout, they are chock-full of great artwork (from artists like Paul Bonner, comic book prodigy Simon Bisley and others) and lots and lots of nicely photographed models.

Speaking of the models, there’s a decidedly WWI-ish feel to the whole thing from an aesthetic standpoint: The Imperial soldiers even come with Brodie helmets, and no Bauhaus soldier could ever be complete without his trusty “Pickelhaube”.

With the starter box, you get 40 soldiers of the Bauhaus and Imperial corporations, respectively. The plastic models were designed by Bob Naismith, one of the “fathers” of the original Space Marines, and it shows: In short, I would go so far as to say that the starter box minis may very well be the best models released for Warzone. Let’s take a look:

Warzone Minis (1)
Warzone Minis (3)
Warzone Minis (2)
This is a regular Imperial infantryman. I painted him in suitably muddy colours and added an IG decal for good measure.

Warzone Minis (6)
Warzone Minis (4)
And here’s an Imperial heavy weapon’s expert after I gave him the same treatment.

And finally, an Imperial officer:

Warzone Minis (9)
Warzone Minis (8)
Warzone Minis (7)
In this case, I added red as a spot colour on the officer’s cap and left shoulderpad.

And here’s all three of them together:

Warzone Minis (13)

And here’s an officer from the other faction, Bauhaus:

Warzone Minis (10)
Warzone Minis (11)
Warzone Minis (12)
Of course I chose a very different recipe for painting him, but I think it works rather well. And you may call me crazy, but I rather think that the flowing lines of the shoulder armour are very reminiscent of the Volkswagen Beetle. I wonder if this was a deliberate choice…

I have to tell you I really like these guys. They are pretty great starter minis, and they sport a decidedly distinct look. Granted, with only three poses per faction, there may be a pronounced lack of variety, but keep in mind that it’s the 90s we are talking about here. Let’s take a look at GW’s 2nd edition starter box minis from the same time:

2nd edition Blood Angel, painted approximately 15 years ago by my good buddy Phil

2nd edition Blood Angel, painted approximately 15 years ago by my good buddy Phil

2nd edition Ork Boy, painted approximately 15 years ago by my good buddy Phil

2nd edition Ork Boy, painted approximately 15 years ago by my good buddy Phil

While the Ork Boy is still rather charming in a corny retro-way, both models are certainly nothing to write home about. I think we can all agree that Warzone’s starter minis are spitting on the second edition 40k minis from a very tall height.

My one gripe with these guys is that not only are they rather fiddly to put together, but the plastic these were made also comes straight from hell, which makes removing moldlines and gluing them together more of an adventure than it should be. Still, the designs are really great, in my opinion, and still hold up rather nicely today.

Unfortunately, the rest of the catalogue didn’t necessarily fare as well: Target Games employed lots of different designers, resulting in a very uneven level of quality: Some of the metal Warzone minis are simply gorgeous (having been designed by people like Werner Klocke), while others are looking terribly clunky, failing to capture the pretty great artwork they are based on. It also seems like some of the models were designed at the heroic 28mm scale, while others are far more realistically proportioned. And some of this stuff is simply very goofy looking (Mishima’s dragon landspeeder or the majority of the Dark Apostle’s forces come to mind…). But still, the books and models that come with the starter box are rather nice, and definitely great value for a starter box from that time.

So what about the game itself? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you with any measure of reliability: I am not a rules guy, especially not when the game in question has been dead for close to 15 years. At a glance, it looks like the rules were reasonably similar to 2nd edition 40k, although with a more skirmish-like approach. There is a number of differences and smart ideas, but ultimately the game seems fairly similar to its direct competitor.

Unfortunately, very shortly after the release of Warzone’s 2nd edition, the 3rd edition of Wathammer 40k hit tabletops everywhere: With a radically streamlined ruleset and the spectacular multipart plastic Space Marines in the starter box, GW left the competition in the dust. Target Games also tried to challenge GW yet again with its own fantasy wargame called “Chronopia”, with quite similar results (as an interesting aside, though, some of those Chronopia models rather look like early design studies for Warmachine, in my opinion…): GW simply seemed invincible in the late 90s.

So what to make of it all?

In any case, the Warzone starter box is an artifact from an interesting era of tabletop wargaming: Target Games dared to challenge GW, and though they may have failed in this, you have to admire their ambition! What’s more, the minis from the box still holf up rather nicely, and are a great way of getting your hands on some cheap alternative IG models: I could see these being used as an alternative for the Death Korps of Krieg, and DRommel did some very nice Savlar Chem Dogs based on Imperial soldiers. Then there’s the option of using them as chaos cultists, Planetary Defense forces, alternative Arbites, Inquisition troops or simply as NPCs in games of Inquisitor 28 or Necromunda. And if all else fails, you can always use them to pull off stunts like this one:

Converted Traitor commissar using a Warzone Imperial officer's head

Converted Traitor commissar using a Warzone Imperial officer’s head

The game, huge bags of the plastic starter models and the remainder of the old metal models can still be had for a song over at Prince August, who picked up the rights to Target Games’ wargames. So I encourage you to take a look. Especially at this price, Warzone may very well be totally worth it, if only for conversion fodder or to satisfy your curiosity RE: “wargaming history…”

Do you have any experiences with the Warzone minis, or maybe even with playing the game? Let me know in the comments section!

In any case, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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10 Responses to “Totally worth it: Warzone”

  1. Ahh, the memories…

    We played Warzone for quite a while actually. Indeed, the starter box had most of the best sculpts. True, not all of them, but some factions looked great on paper, then you saw the models, and never again considered them (something VOR, the Maelstrom often had issues with).

    The dark legion (or whatever it was called) always reeked of a 40k Chaos rip off, and would have been better off to not have been created in my opinion, but whatever. As a whole, the game was fun. One thing of note that I rather liked, was that an assault rifle from one faction would have different stats from the same weapon from another, due to higher/lower standards of quality manufacture (and those Germa–erm, Bauhaus always had the best…). As opposed to every boltgun in 40k having an identical capability.

    I still have a handful of capitol minis which are used as Inquisitorial henchman who are ‘disguised’ as the ‘Imperial Forestry Service’:

    http://www.dlwdg.blogspot.com/2011/02/imperial-forestry-service.html

    I also have several old, first generation IG storm troopers sporting quite a few of those Imperial backpacks.

    • Thanks for elaborating, Masta Cheef! I love those Capitol minis with their Smokey Bear hats! Also, the idea of the “Imperial Forestry Service” is sheer genius! 😉

      Totally agree on the Dark Legion: While the concept sounds cool enough, the actual execution is far too close to GW’s chaos gods, and the inclusion of an evil demon force seems rather superfluous when the whole Megacorporation background is interesting enough on its own! Then again, we have the original Mutant Chronicles background to blame for that 😉

  2. Awesome blast from the past! I’d picked up a few of the blisters and boxes of the Warzone stuff way back in the day (along with another golden oldie, Kryomek), though I never played the game itself. In fact I’m almost positive I still have a couple old Capitol and Bauhaus troopers lurking in a box in the Closet of Doom. I’ll have to see if I can dig them out.

    Great article, KS – definitely took me back to the old days!

    • Thanks, mate! Blast from the past, indeed: I still have that original (black and white) Target Games catalogue back from the 90s that first introduced me to the world of Warzone. Good times! 😉

  3. […] I realise the name for this guy was actually nicked from Warzone’s very own Khorne-expy. Apart from that, though, this model was my first army general ever, so I […]

  4. […] are used to, but they have that retro, faux-WWI/II aesthetic I enjoyed so much about the old Warzone models, and that alone was reason enough to pick them up. The sprues abound with extra bitz and […]

  5. […] The resulting model basically looks like a more detailed, more baroque GW version of one of my beloved Warzone 2nd edition starter minis: […]

  6. I picked up a few bags of the warzone models too. I loved them when they first came out. I love them now. The detail on them is fantastic for how cheap they are. The tough plastic is a bear to work with, but it doesn’t stop them from being converted.

    I am thinking of getting scions to add as a command section for my IG army that is made up of primarily warzone trenchers. I love them and would love to see a 28mm update. The new stuff is 32mm and expensive. But the poses are fantastic.

    Nice to see that the scions work out out. I think that they would fit in with my lads, especially with the brodie hats that you did here. Looks great!

    • Cheers, aegisguard! I feel exactly the same way about these models — although using them in an IG army combined with GW models will mean having to work around the fact that they are scaled ever so slightly differently — it’s not a huge issue, and one that should be manageable with some careful mixing and matching of parts.

      As for the scions, they are a beautiful kit and I cannot recommend them enough. They even share some visual cues with some of the Imperial models (mainly the gas masks and backpacks), although you might want to get rid of some of the baroque decoration to better make them fit the look o the Warzone models.

      • Howdy sir!
        I am really thinking about getting some of the metal Warzone hero figures to lead them. Picked up the scions, very pretty kit. I am going to use them for company command. The extra bits work perfectly on the Imperial trenchers.

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