Warhammer Fantasy Battle is a tabletop wargame set in the fictional fantasy setting of the Warhammer World. The game is based around two or more players who use large number of painted plastic and pewter figurines to fight a battle using rules set out in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle Rulebook.
The game was first written in 1983 by Bryan Ansell, Richard Halliwell and Rick Priestley and has had new editions of the rules released every four to six years since then. The latest edition (8th Edition) was released on the 10th of July 2010.
The game uses large numbers of figures in 25-28mm scale to fight out battles on a 'board'. The board is typically rectangular with dimensions of 4' wide and 4' to 8' long. While the figures are nominally in 28mm scale, they are actually a bit larger than other 28mm figures on the market and as a consequence are often referred to as 'Heroic' 28mm scale.
Dice, a tape measure and a set of templates are needed to play the game. Each figure or group of figures is assigned a set of values and rules to represent it's strength, skill with weapons, leadership ability, weaponry, etc. These details are found in 'Army Books' that are released for each new edition of the game. A single army book will contain all the rules, statistics and background information needed to use one race in a game, as well as often providing painting and tactical advice.
The game is set in an unnamed world often referred to as the 'Warhammer World.' It is populated by a collection of the more traditional fantasy races (Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Undead, etc.) as well as some more unusual ones such as the reptilian Lizardmen, the rodent Skaven, the monstrous Ogre Kingdoms and several nations of Men. The main antagonists are the servants of the 4 Gods of Chaos (Khorne, Nurgle, Slannesh and Tzeentch.) These gods are embodiments of the 4 destructive forces of nature and the human psyche (respectively Rage/Murder/Martial pride/Honor, Despair/Decay/Destruction/Rebirth, Hedonism/Indulgence/Excess/Perfection and Change/Evolution/Intrigue/Sorcery.)
The Black Library
Warhammer has had many books taking place in Warhammer World. All of these books are categorized in the black library. Novelists writing for The Black Library include Dan Abnett, Mike Lee, and Graham McNeil. Books in the black library include the Malus Darkblade series and the Time of Legends series.
The setting was initially heavily influenced by the works of Tolkien and Michael Moorcock but has since mangaed to entrench itself in the public consciousness with many features (i.e. orcs having green skin and relatively advanced dwarvish technology) becoming adopted by other games and franchises, such as the Warcraft games, and many authors and roleplayers now unknowingly use ideas that first appeared in the Warhammer World.