Mathias has created an impressive range of 20 very unique and inspiring unofficial Warhammer Fantasy Battle army books, expansions and supplements.With the speed at which Mathias manages to turn around new and updated armies I'm amazed he found the time to respond to my interview request. Mathias is so productive that I once thought he didn't bother with sleep, eating (or going to the toilet!) However, given how quickly he is delivering remarkable army books of increasing quality I no longer believe those things. Now I think he slows time (with the help of Teclis maybe ?) or possibly uses the Chaos Warp Gates ! Muahaha !
You can find links to all of Mathias' wonderful creations on his Warhammer Armies Project blog plus all his development plans, news and updates.
The Battle Reporter forum also hosts the army book pdf links (incl discussion threads) plus some other non-Mathias creations.
I thought it was high time we got the the bottom of the genius of Mathias, the preeminent Fantasy Battle Army book developer. So, say hello to Mathias....
Sigmar: Where did your interest in Warhammer Fantasy Battle stem from ?
- I guess it started around 2001. I was just 11 at the time, and began to become deeply enthralled by fantasy with the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia and Artemis Fowl series. I actually even began writing my own book (which did become rather similar to Harry Potter after a while...), though I only got around 30 pages in before finding something more interesting to do I guess. Then my cousin introduced me to the LotR miniatures in 2004, which pretty soon had me hooked. After I spent the better part of a year building a replica of the siege of Minas Tirith, I eventually moved onto Warhammer in 2005.
Sigmar: Which army did you first collect and can you recall any of your first battles and what happened ?
Sigmar: What inspired you to begin creating your own rules and army books ?
I actually started making army lists all the way back in 2005-2006. I wrote 30 pages or so of army lists to use my LotR models in Warhammer. I do remember playing without any turn or overrun limits in this case, which resulted in the Witch King killing off an entire army by himself, and Boromir making a final stand that lasted 6 turns. Surprisingly enough, the rules were actually pretty balanced.
As for what inspired me to make all the books I have; a rather large lack of quality material for these factions really. There have been some fan-made army lists for most of the books I've made, but the majority was either outdated, very unbalanced, or completely off in terms of cultural background. So I figured I could probably (or at least hopefully) do better. Though I initially only intended to make an army book for Araby (the first version of which wasn't all that great either) for personal use, I eventually moved on to Kislev since I wanted a smaller force updated to 7th ed. I got generally great positive response to these lists, and since I had a lot of fun making them, I decided to keep on doing it.
After Cathay, which I really only considered collecting, I pretty much started making these books so that other people would have more choice of armies to choose from, along with reading the background for them. Being both a huge fan of the Warhammer World and military history in general, making army books just became a really fun hobby, since it both involved tracking down all the lost sources of official material and some of the better fan-made material, as well learning a lot of history I was unfamiliar with. As an added bonus, I have also become rather proficient with using Word, Photoshop and graphic design in general. I didn't really know any of that very well before starting out, but eventually learned how by trial and error, as well as a reading a lot of guides online.
Sigmar: Do you have a favourite book, expansion or supplement or one you're most proud of, if so then why ?
The Dogs of War list also lies closely to my heart, since that was first "serious" army development project I worked on, though I was only one of several developers at the time. But with time, most of the crew left off to pursue other things, meaning I pretty much "rose through the ranks" and got more creative control myself, including making the layout and graphics. That said, every rule in the Dogs of War book is a collaborative effort that everyone involved have been in agreement with in the end. Thanks to that and some rigorous playtesting and feedback, the book is probably a lot more balanced than if I would have been if I had done the whole thing myself.
Sigmar: Which was the most challenging book to write and why ?
- Cathay comes to mind, mainly because of the lack of official sources and differing views on what Cathay should look like. I based the book on what little mentions it had gotten in GW's writing, and then Chinese history to fill out the rest. The problem with most of the fan-made Cathay lists are, in my opinion, that so few seem to either realize or care about the difference between Chinese and Japanese culture, and thus most Cathayan lists are a mish-mash of Chinese mythology and Japanese Samurai, or have too much focus on spiritual mysticism compared to the rest of the Warhammer World. As such, I had to do quite a bit of rewriting and editing in the background department as well as writing from scratch in order to get a Cathay that felt predominantly Chinese, and still part of the Warhammer World. I'm still far from satisfied with it, and the upcoming update for Cathay should hopefully be a big improvement in this regard.
Sigmar: What difficulties do you have incorporating the fluff into the official Warhammer world ?
- Again, Cathay has to be mentioned. One of the most fun parts if actually to build upon the foundation laid by GW and make something complete out of it. With Cathay, there are very few sources to go on, and quite a few of them seem to contradict each other. The tricky part here is to keep most, if not all of them, and still get a coherent background and timeline that fits with the rest of the Warhammer World. This is one of the main things I am working on with many of my books at the moment.
Sigmar: How do you source the artwork, do you ever get any complaints ?!
The same goes for parts of the text. There have been some complaints regarding the originality of some of the text, where I have mostly made it clear on my blog regarding my sources, but could have made it clearer in the books themselves as to what I have and haven't written myself. That's not saying I didn't credit the people involved where possible, but rather that I should have done a better job at it, and not exclusively used the term "written by" (like the GW books) where I might have mostly been doing compiling and editing in the background department rather than writing completely new material. This is something I have tried to improve upon (along with always asking for permission first), so as to avoid having anyone getting upset in the future.
Sigmar: Name some of the your army specific rules you're most fond of and why you like them ?
- Several in fact! I have about 8000 pts of Dogs of War and 3000 pts of Araby, with another 1000 of Kislev and some Cathayan models. Dogs of War and Araby are probably the most fun to play among the seven armies I own.
Sigmar: What kind of feedback do you get on your blog and in the Battle Reporter forum ?
Sigmar: What are the weaknesses of the official army books, are there any glaring issues in your opinion ?
Sigmar: If GW ever apporached you to have a crack at updating an army which army would you choose and what kind of changes would you make ?
Sigmar: What would you change in the core rules if you were asked to help develop a 9th edition rulebook ?
- While I do like several of the changes in 8th ed, I actually preferred the 7th ed core rules more. The biggest issue to me is Steadfast and magic. In the case of Steadfast, I would definitely change it so that Disruption cancels it out, thus making flanking a lot more important and useful like it was in 7th ed. Charging would have more of a benefit that just +1 CR, and I would probably change the way supporting attacks works as well to avoid having great weapons everywhere, and finally make spears worth taking. [Sigmar: Are you reading GW ?] With magic, toning down the über spells would be a priority. While a certain level of randomness is fun, potentially losing a large chunk of your army to one lucky spell is not.
Sigmar: Do you ever get nervous that the GW lawyers will descend on you ?!
If GW would send me a cease and desist I suppose I would have to oblige by that and remove whatever they might find in breach of copyright. Fortunately most of the books contain very little or none of GW's official material, and thus they cannot force to see them removed as long as I change the logo. Hopefully it won't come to that and they will leave both mine and other peoples' fan-made books alone and allow gamers to keep using them.
Sigmar: What plans do you have for future army books, expansions and supplements ?
Sigmar: Is there anybody in particular you'd like to take this opportunity to thank for helping with your projects ?
- Tons of people! It would have been utterly impossible to do everything myself in this short a time span, and it wouldn't have been this good either. Even though I mostly work on the books by myself in making the rules, the graphics, the layout and the editing, I write far from all the background text myself. As such, I would like to thank all the authors whose work have helped me put everything together and inspire me, all the artists whose beautiful art adore the book pages, and all the players who have provided me with playtest feedback, ideas, material and motivation to keep working on the books. Special mention has to go to Stefan Wolf (Tamrir on the forum) who has helped me with both rules, units, and background. Thanks a lot guys!
Sigmar: Now you have developed so many army books What on earth will you do if GW bring out a 9th edition rulebook ?!!!
- Keep on updating them of course! I intend to keep working on them for as long as I have the time to do so, and when I don't, I hope someone else will take up where I leave off and use these books as a basis for their own Araby/Cathay/Nippon army book. Always keep the spirit of the hobby alive!
Sigmar: On behalf of this blog's readers, thanks to Mathias for sharing his thoughts and insights with us.
Mathias can be contacted through his blog (see top of article) or via message in the Battle Reporter forum (user name M4cR1II3n)
On a personal note, I'd like to say thanks to Mathias for his courtesy, patience and integrity and for moderating the Battle Reporter forum discussion threads for his armies.