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.