These days, a Warhammer game comes out on a fairly regular basis. Back in the 90s this wasn’t the case and pickings were few and far between. There were some gems in this period though, particularly Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen. There were some pretty awful games as well and I’ll try and warn you away from them!
Below is a list in a kind-of chronological order, although I’ve banded series together. Also included is where you can now get hold of a copy of one of these (where possible).
Note – HeroQuest isn’t in the list as technically it isn’t in either of the Warhammer settings.
1992 – Space Crusade
Games Workshop’s first real foray in to video games came with Space Crusade in 1992. I’ve never played it myself but it appears to have been generally well received. I can imagine the possibility of playing as a space marine on a computer must have been mind-blowing for some people back then. I will check it out one day and handily you can get it from Good Old Games here. Compatibility with you OS might be a problem but there is usually a fix somewhere on the internet.
1993 – Space Hulk
Sadly another one I haven’t yet experienced (in fairness I was six when it came out) but from what I’ve seen of it, it is a spiritual successor to Space Crusade, albeit with a lot more features. From what I’ve read about it, it is a difficult game (not unusual for those times) and requires a lot of strategic and tactical planning. Don’t expect an FPS, more of a squad-based tactical game. You can find a copy Abandonia here.
1995 – Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels
Finally a game I have tried! I remember playing this when we got our first desktop computer with Windows 95. The game was one of the first designed to be played on Windows 95, though rather oddly it was always played straight from the disc rather than installed on your system.
It is more of a classic FPS but with some more complicated elements, including some strategic planning and the ability to play as different Terminators throughout each level. Again the game is hard and one mistake can mean the end of you at the hands of a genestealers claws. This just makes it all the more satisfying when you actually succeed!
It isn’t a classic but it is fun in its own way and it is worth trying, particularly if you are a big Space Hulk fan or if you have an obsession with the Blood Angels. You can get the game here from myabandonware, but make sure you read the compatibility instructions to get it working.
1995 – Blood Bowl
I haven’t played this one but don’t go expecting anything like the recent versions of Blood Bowl. It is a turn-based adaptation of the board game, though apparently let down by poor graphics and confused controls.. If you really want to try it, get it from abandonia here.
1995 – Shadow of the Horned Rat (SotHR)
And now we move on to a classic and one of the first computer games I fell in love with. SotHR follows the adventures of the Grudgebringer mercenary company through the Old World, starting in the Border Princes and then travelling through many famous locations.
The battles are in real-time, with slightly clunky but useable controls; after a while you just get used to them. The battles are hard and you’ll often find yourself outnumbered by skaven or greenskins. You have to save a lot and find a tactic that works for that battle, whilst also trying to minimise casualties. Speaking of minmising casualties, they will impact on future battles and if a unit is wiped out, it isn’t coming back!
Away from the battles, you manage your rag-tag company from your caravan and you can hire troops, replace casualties and choose your next mission. The campaign is fairly linear but there are a few branches to choose, although some are literally a dead-end.
Overall it is a fun game and you end up caring about your little soldiers. As much as anything, I just really like the map!
You can still get a working copy of the game from Good Old Games here. There was previously a game breaking bug but I believe this has now been fixed.
1998 – Dark Omen
Imagine Shadow of the Horned Rat but much better – that’s Dark Omen! We return to the adventures of the Grudebringer Mercenary Company in this epic sequel. Everything about it is a little bit better than SothR, from improved battles to significantly better graphics.
The premise for Dark Omen focuses more on fighting the Undead and yet again you travel the Old World taking missions and going to various famous locations, including Drakenhof Castle, Kislev and Brettonia.
Getting hold of the game has proved difficult for many years but you can get a copy at myabandonware here and you will need instructions on how to get it to run from http://www.dark-omen.org/. There is also a project underway to recreate the game in the Unreal Engine – further details here.
1997 – Final Liberation
We’ve had Space Hulk already but Final Liberation is the first good look at the W40k universe. The premise is that an Imperial World has been conquered by Orks and you are there to try and reclaim. It also opens with a funky cutscene which is about as live-action as you can get for w40k.
The battles are hex turn-based combat and involve a lot of tactical decision making. Don’t just try and rush the enemy or you will get annihilated. You have to think about the types of units you are using and who to use them against. This can mean the game is hard at times but if you play it right, you should go onwards to victory.
Away from the battles the campaign is also pretty good. The sheer variety of units you can choose is amazing but don’t get too excited and just buy a load of tanks. The campaign map is pretty cool and you get to choose which region to go in to next, whilst also fighting off any ork counter-attacks. It reminds me a bit of the campaign maps in the Close Combat Series.
I would recommend the game and it is on par with the recent Armageddon game by Slitherine. You can get Final Liberation from Good Old Games here.
1998 – Chaos Gate
Next up is Chaos Gate, a move back to space marines but this time not a space hulk, instead on a planet. In Chaos Gate you take charge of the Ultramarines vs Chaos Space Marines in a series of linked missions to recover an important artifact.
The gameplay is turn-based and you control each individual space marine or vehicle. In common with most of the games on this list, it is quite tactically difficult and a wrong move can be disastrous. A very appealing feature for me was the customisation you can give to each space marine, giving each one a unique loadout.
You can get Chaos gate from Good Old Games here.
1999 – Rites of War
Finally we have Rites of War and unfortunately one I haven’t played. Like Final Liberation it is hex turn-based combat. The strange thing about Rites of War is that you play as the Eldar throughout the campaign against the Imperium and Tyranids.
You get it from Good Old Games here.