Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why Demigryphon are AWESOME

Among the rumoured releases for the WFB 8th edition Empire army next month are Demigryph riders, which might just be the Empire's first non-character monstrous cavalry option.

While many are excited about the possibility of their inclusion in the next book, just as many (on 'the forums anyway') have expressed disappointment and disbelief at such a "super lame", "ridiculous idea" which "doesn't belong in the Empire" and has been much lampooned.

However, today I am going to explain why Demigryph's are awesome; that, when personal taste is put aside and disregarded as the only factor worth considering when GW designs a new unit, they would make a great addition to the Imperial forces.

What is a Demigryph?
A Demigryph is closely related to the Griffon (griffin, gryphon) in that its fore is that of an eagle, 'king of birds', and that its rear is that of a lion, 'king of beasts'. The association with royalty has meant both Griffon and Demigryph feature heavily in heraldric designs. Their origins go back into Greek, Egyptian and Persian mythologies as being a noble beast, or a sphinx-like trickster, or a protector from evil and witchcraft.

The point of difference between the Griffon and Demigryph can vary depending on the mythology. The Demigryph could be winged like the Griffon, but smaller in size. Alternatively, the Demigryph could be wingless. One reading I found interpreted the winged griffon as the female of the species, and the wingless Demigryph (also known as the alce, or keythong) as the male of the species.

As you can tell, the concept of a small or wingless Griffon is hardly a recent creation, and has been around as long as the Griffon itself.

Demigryphs in the Old World
Why would the Empire breed Demigryphs in the first place? We already know their symbolism as regal, great beasts, or as protectors from evil and witchcraft. The control (symbolic and physical) of such beasts would definitely play into the 'Warhammer-esque' over-the-top flamboyant character of the Empire, who tend to exaggerate everything (building sizes, feathers and sleeves, moustaches, guns). The "fuck you, I'm riding a Griffin with massive testicles" kind of attitude.

Bretonnia also hold captive Hippogriff, which are mythological crosses between Griffons and mares, so the idea of different varieties of griffon in the Old World is pretty well established.

But which interpretation of the Demigryph do we get in the Old World? The most obvious answer would be the wingless kind, like Theodore Bruckner's mount Reaper (who is definitely male - check out the model). It can be implied then that there is more than one of these things, even though Reaper died 10 years before the current era. We have to remember that Reaper is an exceptionally large specimen of his kind, so if we were to see more we could assume they would be cavalry or monstrous cavalry size.

There might also be a case for flying Demigryphs in the Old World. Page 173 of the WFB rulebook details some of the exploits of Emperor Karl Franz, who famously rides the Griffon Deathclaw. In one story, he rides to the rescue of the Tsarina and Castle Vorghaus, diving from the skies on Deathclaw accompanied by a bodyguard of Demigryph riding knights. The description of them being "avian beasts", coupled with the fact that they were guarding an Emperor who was flying around,  allows us to imply that they would have to be able to fly.

We also know that the Empire keeps an impressive Zoo in Altdorf, and has undertaken various kinds of breeding programs for the exotic and mythical creatures held there. Could the Empire then have access to both winged and wingless Demigryphs?

Demigryphs on the Battlefield
This would mean the Empire army could potentially gain a monstrous cavalry unit of ground knights, or a monstrous cavalry unit of flying knights. Or even both - think of the vargheist/crypt horror kit.

This could easily be justified, as both options fill gaps in the Empire's arsenal (mounted solo heroes aside). Background-wise, a good comparison is the Bretonnian Pegasus Knights, who are supposed to ride smaller versions of 'real' Pegasi.

If we do see them, they would no doubt be rare choices, given the reluctance of the Imperial Zoo to release the meticulously managed products of experimental breeding programs into battle.

I guess the last question I have with regards to those who don't like the idea of Demigryphs on the table is 'why not'? Empire is not a 'high fantasy' human army - the Bretonni cover that base. But there are already Pegasus, Griffon and Dragon options within the Empire army list, so Demigryphs would not set any kind of precedent. In fact they have been mentioned in the lore and even have a Warhammer Forge model.

The same kinds of things could be said for preferences towards the 'steam-punk' element. If you don't like it, then why not simply leave it out of your list?

The greatest thing about the Empire army list is it's amazing variety of units, reflecting is incredibly developed background with all its diversities. If you do not like one aspect, be it high fantasy or steam punk, you can simply leave it for someone who does.


  1. Awesome post and exactly the right attitude. The game is what YOU want it to be. Simple!

  2. To be honest, I just don't like the Forgeworld Demigryphon model. If the models look good, that is different.

    You've hit on some great stuff. However, most of the demi- hate I see has more to do with background. Empire is easy to relate to. They are 16th Century Germans in a fantasy world (YMMV). The more they get away from that, the more Empire Veterans who become disappointed. I've only seen one instance of the fluff talking about Demigryphons (8th ed. brb), but I've seen numerous pieces of Empire fluff reference Pikemen. Yet the Empire does not have pikes. (spears do not count, they even make the distinction in the Army Book). Why not Pikemen? Might make a cool Anti-monster infantry. However, I do like the possibility of using DemiGryphs as something I can kill monsters with WITHOUT a cannon. Its just "new". Give it time. Hopefully they will look cool, but even then, I'm just going to make them Kislev Bear Riders.

    One thing I rabidly hate is steampunk in Warhammer. It makes no sense. Its retarded, and it encourages the use of Gunlines. If Firepower is so common and effective in the Empire fluff, why still have swords and halberdiers? And as an Empire player who encourages a balanced, fun army, I hate gunlines. War altar is a bit too much too....

  3. Different strokes I guess hey :) I really like that Forge World thing.

    Yeah what you've said there very much reflects what I've read around and about, and while I can get behind that to a degree, what differentiates the Empire from the 16th century Germans is that it is 'fantastical', as opposed to historical wargaming.

    I guess I do think the D-G's do fit the Empire background in this way, readily accepting that this is not an historical army, and that the breeding of strange animals in the City-States has been well explored in the reading I've done (including the WFRP publications). It's a concept I can buy into.

    Pikes are a much loved concept, ye olde 'pike and shot' tactics would fit well. How that means Empire shouldn't have monstrous cavalry is a connection I struggle to buy into though. Perhaps with the official removal of Dogs of War rules there is a space for pikes in Empire - we shall see.

    The solution I am purporting here is also widely represented - if it's not one's cuppa' tea, leave it out and play the world how you like it. Of if it's not in the rules (like pikes), add them in!

    New things... always polarising! While exciting for myself and others, I guess it's true that for many being dragged kicking and screaming in a new direction can be unsettling.

    Thank you very much for your comments, brothers in anticipation!


  4. 2nd poster here, I suppose I do come off saying that DGs should be nixed in favor of pikes, but I was trying to point out that it just seemed like DGs came out of left field. The more I think about them, the more I like them... in small amounts. I would like them to make regular knights cheaper by a few points.

    As a Customer, I would like to see a return to more "realistic" (I know, its fantasy, but I don't want to play Final Fantasy) armor and weapons for the empire. Huge Pauldrons and weapons the size of Car struts Give me a World of Warcraft vibe. ( not that Warcraft is bad, I just don't want it in Warhammer. Like Steampunk) To me, more "historical" equipment for the empire causes 2 things: It makes the more "fantasy" armies (like Chaos, Orcs, etc) look that much cooler and more fantastic, and makes the Empire look more in line with their "Common Men" theme, and stand out that much more to the other armies. My 2 cents.

    That said, I love the blog, and thanks for the response.

  5. I just got the book and also the models. Demigryphs are smaller than standard griffins and wingless but are large enough to becounted as monstous cavalry. On top of this, they cause fear, can replace lances with halberds and are counted as a special unit choice. The only problem with them is cost, at 58 points per model, their not cheap.

    1. Yes my models arrived recently too. The conjecture above was mostly right - they were in fact flightless, but resemble the Hieracosphynx more than the Alce or Keythong.

      Instead of being an Imperial Zoo thing, they are one of the many creatures found within the impenetrable forests of the Empire.

      I still think they absolutely fit in with the essence of the Empire.

      In the table, I would recommend running them with lances rather than halberds - the 1+ armour save is what you want to have. Run them in units of 3-4, as you lose the mounts attacks in the second rank and it's the mount that does the damage.

      For 58 points they are just more than the cost of two IC knights, but are way more than twice as effective. In fact they are about as great a value for points as you will find in the army. So they are not so steep when you consider their effectiveness.

      The latest White Dwarf magazine has some cool info, additions to the Uniforms and Heraldry book.