In Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy fictional universe, The Empire is one of the human political factions and armies, and is featured in many games and novels. In terms of location, language, culture, and society, it bears a strong resemblance to the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire could be considered analogous to Warhammer 40,000's Imperium of Man.
Like much of the Warhammer setting the Empire resembles a period of European history but with the addition of fantasy elements such as the presence of magic and non-human races. Both visually and in geography it is based upon the Holy Roman Empire during the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance/Early Modern period. There are wealthy city-states which bear similarity to Hanseatic league cities such as Hamburg, and place and character names are Germanic in tone; for example, the capital of the Empire is the city of Altdorf, which translates as "old village" and is the name of several real-world places.
The Empire is the largest and most powerful of all the nations of the Old World. The Empire is bordered by the nation of Kislev to the north and the Sea of Claws, the World's Edge Mountains to the east, and the Great Ocean, Black Mountains, Grey Mountains, the land of Bretonnia to the west, and the Border Princes to the south. To the east the Empire is threatened by the Orcs and Goblins. A large amount of the Empire is heavily forested and large numbers of Beastmen can be found in the deepest forests.
The Empire is a confederation of ten large provinces: Averland, Hochland, Middenland, Nordland, Ostland, Ostermark, Reikland, Stirland, Talabecland, Wissenland, each of which is ruled by an Elector Count. There were originally two more provinces Drakwald (lands now under the jurisdiction of the Elector Counts of Middenland) and Solland (lands now under the Elector Counts of Wissenland). Another, Westerland, was originally the areas around Marienburg.
The provinces and their counts are derived from the twelve chieftains that followed the god Sigmar. The naming of some provinces of The Empire are also derived from the river that flows through them, like the river Reik flows through The Reikland, the Talabec through Talabecland and Talabheim and such. Also, some of the major cities of the Empire became more important and as such are classed as city-states; namely
- Altdorf, in Reikland.
- Nuln, on the borders of Wissenland, Averland and Stirland.
- Talabheim, in Talabecland.
- Middenheim, in Middenland.
Sudenburg is an Imperial enclave in Araby
The Empire is nominally ruled by the Emperor who is chosen by majority voting of the various electors. The electors are the ten Elector Counts, the Grand Theogonist of the Sigmarite Church, the two "Arch Lectors" who are also clerics of the Sigmar church, the High Priest of Ulric and the Elder of the Moot (representing the halflings). Karl Franz, of the Holswig-Schliestein family, is the current Emperor. The Emperor is usually also one of the Elector Counts; Karl-Franz is the Elector Count of Reikland.
The religion of the Empire is polytheistic, with the god Sigmar being the most important. Sigmar was a mortal man, who was elevated to equal status with the other gods of the Old World Pantheon after his disappearance following the establishment of the Empire. The Grand Theogonist is the leader of the Church of Sigmar and is analogous to the Pope. Sigmar's worship is strongest in Altdorf but runs throughout the Empire. Some regions, however, have a stronger link to other gods, such as the Middenheimers who revere Ulric before all others and Talabecland who revere the god Taal. Other gods commonly worshipped in the Empire are Manann along coastal regions and rivers, and Morr by the grieving or those facing death.
The armies of the Empire are amongst the most diverse in the Old World. Older forms of troops like spearmen, swordsmen and halberdiers, crossbowmen, and archers especially the personal bodyguard of the Elector Counts the Greatswords who fight alongside more 'modern' troops like cannon, Handgunners and Pistoliers. The inventiveness of the Empire has produced war-machines such as a steam-powered tank, rocket batteries and volleyguns, and in the last edition such steam-punk elements as mechanical horses are also present.
The Empire is also noted for having excellent cavalry in the form of its Orders of Knights. The Empire also often fields state-trained Battle Wizards and religious fanatics known as Flagellants. The armies can be led by Imperial Generals, Grand Masters of the various Knightly Orders, Captains chosen by the Counts, Warrior Priests and Arch Lectors of Sigmar, or even the mighty imperial warlord Emperor Karl-Franz himself.
The Dwarfs are the Empire's closest ally and have been from its very founding. This alliance provided not only military support but also technological and commercial trading. A large contingent of Dwarfs have settled in the Empire and owe their allegiance to the Emperor rather than their ancestral homelands.
Bretonnia is an oft rival of the Empire in both trade and war, but in the most dire situations Bretonnia has supported the Empire with a few troops, notably in the recent Storm of Chaos. The wintry kingdom of Kislev to the north and east has been on good terms with the Empire ever since the Great War against Chaos and the then-Tzar declared Magnus the "Eternal Friend of the People", and their forces have fought together against common enemies many times since. Ties with the High Elves are strong and growing.
The Wood Elves have also been one of the Empire's allies in times of turmoil, fighting against the beastmen inside the Forest of Shadows, and killing Morghur, master of skulls when he was reborn in that place.
The Empire maintains a cool relationship with its former province of Marienburg, the city of merchants. Trade and travel are maintained with the countries of Tilea and Estalia. Great caravans transverse the mountains and continents to bring sought-after goods and treasures from Ind and Grand Cathay in the east. Although Imperials know little of the East, it appears that they are unwitting allies against Chaos.
In the desert lands of Araby, the Imperial colony of Sudenburg has been established along its coast. Arabian trade is also heavy, and extravagant tales are told of the fabulous and wondrous realm of the Sultans.
Battle of Black Fire Pass
The First Battle of Black Fire Pass was the culmination of Sigmar's campaigns to cleanse the lands of the Empire of Orcs and Goblins, this battle saw the power of the Greenskin races broken in the lands of Men, and drove them into the Bad Lands, their current domain. Taking place in the year IC -1, a year before Sigmar's coronation as the first Emperor, this battle is looked upon as Sigmar's greatest victory and the site is now a site of pilgrimage for members of the Sigmarite faith.
Black Fire Pass lies in the south of Averland, where the Black Mountains part and the Old Dwarf Road moves out into the Border Princes' Realm and toward Karaz-a-Karak, the greatest of the Dwarf holds and the seat of their High Kings. Along with Axe Bite Pass in the west, which leads into Bretonnia, High Pass to the far north-east and Peak Pass to the east, Black Fire Pass is one of the few routes through the mountains.
Magnus the Pious
Perhaps the greatest Emperor after Sigmar, Magnus the Pious saved the Old World in the "Great War against Chaos".
Magnus Von Bildhofen was a noble of the Empire born over 2,300 years after the ascension of Sigmar. The Empire had long been marred by civil war, and was bereft of a single leader. In the Imperial year 2302, the largest Chaos incursion since ancient times erupted, threatening to conquer the Old World. Led by the warlord, Asavar Kul, the Chaos horde swept over Kislev, taking Praag and sacking Erengrad in swift succession. After defeating a large Chaos uprising in his home city of Nuln, Magnus travelled across the Empire, delivering great speeches condemning the invaders and restating the Empire's duty to oppose the evil surging over the north.
Magnus assembled the largest army in Imperial history, splitting it between infantry and cavalry. Flagellants marched next to the mercenaries and state troops of all the Elector Counts, hedge wizards trained by the Elven High Mage Teclis advanced alongside ordinary citizens who hated Chaos. This force marched north to Kislev to meet the Chaos legions which were opposed only by the remnants of the Kislevite armies and a small Dwarven force. Their arrival was aided by the High King Alriksson of the Dwarfs. At the Battle of Four Gates, Magnus and his allies vanquished Kul and his horde.
After the Great War, Magnus "the Pious", as he became known, was elected Emperor and re-established Imperial government, moving the Imperial capital from Altdorf to Nuln. One of his first acts after the War was to co-found the Colleges of Magic. Throughout Imperial history, the practice of sorcery was punishable by death. Under Magnus' approval and Teclis' guidance, a new weapon was added to mankind's arsenal - the Imperial Battle Wizard. Magnus also granted the Artillery and Gunner's School the Imperial Charter for their contribution to the war.
History of the provinces
As of 2522 in the Imperial Calendar, the latest date given in game materials.
During the The Enemy Within the elector of Averland was the 77 year old Grand Countess Ludmilla von Alptraum. Since fourth edition the elector became Marius Leitdorf. Marius was famous in the Empire for two reasons; first, for being one of the best swordsmen in the Empire, and second, for being completely mad. This prompted some unsubtle 'guidance' from Karl Franz, via Ludwig Schwarzhelm, to curb the worst of Leitdorf's excesses. Leitdorf was eventually slain by an Orc Warlord at the Third Battle of Black Fire Pass in 2520, though it was his holding action (accompanied by his Greatsword bodyguards) that gave time for the Reiksguard to rally and rout the invaders. According to the newest edition of Warhammer Armies: Empire, the position of Averland Elector Count is in dispute, since the last Elector Count never returned from the Storm of Chaos.
"Baroness Hildegarde Tussen-Hochen" was elector of Hochland prior to 4th edition, when the elector of Hochland was retconned to "Count Aldebrand Ludenhof"
The Moot, or Mootland was established on Stirland territory around the year 1,000. At the end of the Vampire Wars, Stirland annexed the then-independent Imperial province of Sylvania to the east of Stirland. Since then it has officially been a vassal of Stirland. The priests of Morr maintain a watchful presence along the eastern borders of Stirland proper. The current Elector Count is Graf Alberich Haupt-Anderssen the "Hawk of Wurtbad".
"Grand Duke Leopold von Bildhofen," elector of Middenland, was retconned out of the background in the fourth edition Empire army book, which also made the separate city state of Middenheim the capital of Middenland. Both are ruled by Graf Boris Todbringer.
The province is ruled by Count Theoderic Gausser. Previous background had "Baron Werner Nikse" as the ruler of the Nordland. The Nikse noble family was closely tied to the Todbrigner family of Middenheim through intermarriage. Nordland's border encompass the Laurelorn Forest, home to one of the few communities of Wood Elves The Old World.
Chancellor Maximillian Dachs was killed during the war of 2514 in a terrible slaughter, along with some 4,000 of the men he was leading. His body was found two days after the battle in a watery ditch, punctured by pikes, his limbs hacked apart by halberds and swords. Wolfram Hertwig took command and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, leading the remaining Ostermark troops to vanquish their Talebecland rivals at the Battle of Wolfenburg. With Maximilian dead and with no surviving heirs, Wolfram Hertwig assumed control of Ostermark and consequently gained electoral powers.
Grand Prince Hals von Tasseninck died in battle against the Nordlanders, slain by a barrage of crossbow fire as he charged headlong, at the head of a squadron of heavy cavalry into the opposing Nordlander regiments. His only son and named heir Prince Hergard had prior disappeared on a expedition to the Grey Mountains and thought dead, his father claiming it a Talabecland plot. However his son later returned and claimed his father's title. Currently Valmir von Raukov is Elector Count of Ostland.
The richest and most powerful province in the Empire, whose Elector, Karl Franz, is also Emperor. Reikland extends from the frontier with the Wasteland along the course of the river Reik and the Grey Mountains, across from the Kingdom of Bretonnia. It contains Altdorf, the Imperial capital and largest city in the Empire, home of the Colleges of Magic. Helmgart and Ubersreik are heavily fortified towns at the eastern edge of the Grey Mountains, guarding the Axe Bite Pass and Grey Lady Pass respectively from human and Greenskin intruders. Reiklanders are the most forward-looking and confident people of the Empire, proud of their Unberogen heritage and convinced the brightest days are yet to come - and that as the people of Sigmar, they should naturally take the lead in Imperial endeavours. Unsurprisingly, such an attitude wins Reiklanders few favours in the war-torn north...
As with the Elector of Middenland, Grand Duke Gustav von Krieglitz was found guilty of instigating the 2514 war. The 2515 Volkshalle Edict stripped von Krieglitz of his status as Elector and Count Helmut Feuerbach, a Talabeclander noble who stayed out of the war, was elevated to succeed him. Though no direct evidence was found to prove her complicity, there were strong suspicions that Grand Duchess Elise Krieglitz-Untermensch provided loans to her cousin, von Krieglitz. Rather than submit to harsh imperial questioning and possible execution for treason, Grand Duchess Elise abdicated her Electoral status, but was able to secure the continuance of the city's Freistadt status under her rule.
The current Elector is Helmut Feuerbach, who went missing shortly after the most recent Chaos invasion. Though he has not been formally declared as dead, the nobility of Talabecland are already fighting amongst themselves to be his successor.
Wissenland is contrasted between the dour and hardy people of the countryside and the expressive city-dwellers of the great city of Nuln, former Imperial capital and persistent centre of learning in the arts and sciences. The wealth and power of Nuln paid for much of the reconstruction of the war-torn Empire. Grand Countess Emmanuelle von Liebewitz of Nuln exercised her own form of justice and took over the rule of Wissenland from her errant vassal, Count Bruno Pfeifraucher in 2514. Today she remains Elector Countess of Wissenland, yet has also retained her rule over Nuln.
As of 2522 IC, these provinces are no longer politically individual parts of the Empire.
One of the founding provinces in the time of Sigmar Heldenhammer, located in the centre of the eponymous Drakwald forest, this province was stripped of its assets, its territory divided between Middenland and Nordland.
Once a province on the southern frontier of the Empire, Solland was lost in the face of a massive Orc invasion, led by Gorbad Ironclaw, its Runefang seized by the invaders after the Battle of Sollands Crown and only retrieved at length. Solland's territory has been subsumed by Wissenland, where there is a profound sense of tragedy at the fall of their once-neighbours. Kurt Helborg however now carries the Solland Runefang.
In former editions of Warhammer, Sudenland was a province in its own right, with the background noted here. However, after Bryan Ansell left Games Workshop, Sudenland became Solland, and was destroyed by Gorbad Ironclaw and subsumed into Wissenland. This was part of a short-lived but deliberate strategy to remove aspects of the background thought to be overly influenced by Bryan Ansell and Kim Newman. Former background appears to state that Sudenland had only been separated from Wissenland and ruled by the von Mecklenberg family since the time of Magnus the Pious in recognition for their outstanding services in the Great War against Chaos in 2303. Johann von Mecklenberg abdicated the rule of the province in 2505 to his cousin, Grand Baroness Etelka Toppenheimer. For undisclosed reasons, the Grand Baroness surrendered her Electoral status in 2515 and the province was reunited with Wissenland. Rumours have it that Toppenheimer's heir and adopted son of a distant relative, Baron Olaf Sektliebe, was somehow involved with this strange turn of events.
When the great port city of Marienburg lay within the Empire's borders, it was part of the province of Westerland, at the mouth of the river Reik. Upon declaring independence, the region is now referred to as the Wasteland, yet those within the Empire who would seek 'reunification' retain the use of the previous term.
Sylvania was long considered a cursed and backward area, and gained an ill reputation for being both a refuge for sorcerers and necromancers, and where the dead did not rest long in their graves. It first came to infamy after the necromancer Vanhel ruled it with an Undead horde and drove off a massive Skaven incursion that had been ravaging the Empire. After Vanhel's death the province came under the rule of the mad Von Drak family until the heiress of that family, Isabella, was married to a foreigner- a move by the ruling Count to deny his brother the throne. The man was Vlad Von Carstein, an ancient and powerful vampire. For many years, Vlad ruled using a variety of different names as to not draw suspicion, and under his leadership, Sylvania was transformed into an efficient province of the Empire. Vlad built a huge army partly made of undead. With this horde he attacked the Empire, launching the Vampire Wars. After nearly destroying the Empire, Vlad was slain by Grand Theogonist Wilhelm.
Vlad's heirs continued the war for over a century before Mannfred Von Carstein, last and greatest of Von Carstein's bloodline, was slain by Count Martin of Stirland at the Battle of Hel Fenn. For his bravery in the battle, Martin laid claim to Sylvania and the province was absorbed into Stirland. Since no one else actually wanted the cursed land, no one gainsaid him. Mannfred Von Carstein has since returned and rebuilt his strength, leading a huge army to Middenheim at the peak of the Storm of Chaos. Other vampiric factions, including vampire nobles in Sylvania, have often taken steps to hinder the Von Carstein's attempts to restart the Vampire Wars for the simple reason that hiding amongst their prey is much harder if the humans are actively hunting vampires.
In Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the forces of the Empire are the most diverse of the human armies. They field a number of different troop types as well as artillery and war machines.
- The Cavalry of The Empire is among the best in the old world, at the forefront are the knightly orders, well equipped, well armoured Heavy cavalry equipped primarily with lances. Not quite as good as the Bretonnian knights, it is far superior to other races nevertheless, with possible exception of High Elves. The Empire also maintains light cavalry in the form of the Pistolier corps, primarily equipped with pistol firearms, although some units of specialised outriders who act as scouts are equipped with much more potent firearms. References are made in some novels to the existence of other cavalry such as demi-lancers although no rules have been provided for these troops. In game terms the knights fielded by the empire player have a 1+ armour save, making up for the minus 1" movement restriction due to barding.
- The Empire has a wide variety of infantry and maintains the only standing professional army in the Old World. Every Elector Count has a regiment of elite Great Sword troops as their personal guards. The Imperial Army can call upon units of state troops. The state troop units include Spearmen, Halberdiers, Swordsmen, Handgunners and crossbowmen in their armies. They can also include a variety of Militia units such as free companies, archers and hunters. Notably the armies of the Empire sometimes make use of Mercenary crossbowmen in particular Tileans. Empire infantry regiments are ceaselessly drilled and can fight as detachments, giving them various abilities and strategic options unavailable to any other infantry in the Warhammer world.
- The Empire has an artillery school at Nuln which supplies the gunners and engineers to operate their artillery. The majority of the artillery are Cannon and Mortars. The Empire also uses experimental artillery in the form of the Helblaster Volley Gun, a carriage mounting several barrels similar to a repeating Handgun but on a larger scale, as well as the Helstorm Rocket Battery. Both of these are available in plastic kits. When used in games the Helblaster Volley Gun and the Helstorm Rocket Battery are extremely unreliable, but are potently devastating and capable of wiping out ranks of the enemy with good dice rolls (or blowing up in your face with bad rolls).
After the great war against chaos Teclis founded the 8 Colleges of magic in Aldorf:
- The Light order known as the Lore of Light studying the wind of Hysh.
- The Golden order known as the Lore of Metal studying the wind of Chamon.
- The Jade order known as the Lore of Life studying the wind of Ghyran.
- The Celestial order known as the Lore of Heavens studying the wind of Azyr.
- The Grey order known as the Lore of Shadow studying the wind of Ulgu.
- The Amethyst order known as the Lore of Death studying the wind of Shyish.
- The Bright order known as the Lore of Fire studying the wind of Aqshy.
- The Amber order known as the Lore of Beasts, studying the wind of Ghur.
- Sigmar Heldenhammer, the now deified founder of the Empire.
- Hedrich, Emperor presented with Runefangs created by Alaric the mad.
- Sigismund II, Emperor at the time of Marienburg's absorption.
- Ludwig the Fat, Emperor responsible for granting autonomy to the Halflings of the Moot.
- Boris Goldgather, famously incompetent Emperor during the Skaven induced plague of 1111.
- Mandred Ratslayer, responsible for the defence of the Empire during the Skaven wars, later elected Emperor.
- Ottilia, Countess of Talabecland and self-proclaimed Empress during the Age of Three Emperors.
- Siegfried, Count of Middenland and self-proclaimed Emperor during the Age of Three Emperors.
- Ludwig, Count of Reikland and self-proclaimed Emperor during the Age of Three Emperors.
- Martin, Count of Stirland responsible for the absorption of Sylvania after his defeat of Mannfred von Carstein.
- Magnus the Pious, revered as the saviour of the Empire and greatest Emperor after Sigmar.
- Leopold, Emperor after Magnus.
- Dieter IV, Emperor deposed after the Marienburg scandal.
- Wilhelm III, Emperor after the Marienburg scandal.
- Marius Leitdorf, deceased former Elector Count of Averland.
- Aldebrand Ludenhof, Elector Count of Hochland.
- Graf Boris Todbringer, Elector Count of Middenland.
- Theoderic Gausser, Elector count of Nordland.
- Vlamir von Raukov, Elector Count of Ostland.
- Wolfram Hertwig, Elector Count of Ostermark.
- Karl Franz, the reigning Emperor, Elector Count of Reikland.
- Graf Alberich Haupt-Anderssen, Elector count of Stirland.
- Helmut Feuerbach missing Elector count of Talabecland.
- Emmanuelle von Liebewitz, Elector Countess of Wissenland.
- Hisme Stoutheart, Elder of the Moot.
- Volkmar the Grim,Grand Theogonist of Sigmar, recently reinstated.
- Kaslain and Aglim, Arch Lectors of Sigmar.
- Emil Valgeir, Ar Ulric.
- Johann Esmer, Grand Theogonist of Sigmar during the storm of Chaos, now fled to Marienburg.
- Luthor Huss, Prophet of Sigmar.
- Valten, the Exalted of Sigmar. Assassinated by Skaven after the battle of Middenhelm.
- Johann Helstrum, first Grand Theogonist.
- Wilhelm III, Grand Theogonist responsible for destroying Vlad von Carstein.
Other notable figures
- Eldred, last Count of Solland.
- Konrad Aldrech, last Count of Drakwald.
- Kurt Helborg, Captain of the Reiksguard Knights, Reiksmarshall of the Imperial armed forces.
- Ludwig Schwarzhelm, the Emperor's Champion.
- Balthasar Gelt, incumbent Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic.
- Thyrus Gormann, former Supreme Patriarch, prior to Gelt's succession.
- Morgan Bernhardt, The commander of the mercenary army The Grudgebringers.
- Mathias Thulman, an infamous witch hunter in the days of Karl Franz
- Stefan von Kessel, Elector Count of the Ostermark during the reign of Magnus the Pious.
In April 2012, a new Warhammer Army book was published for Empire. Most of the Army structure is the same there are several new units and characters. In Warhammer, these are divided into Characters, Core Units, Special Units and Rare Units. Each figure is worth a certain number of 'points' and it is by balancing these points that two battling armies are kept fair. Also if you purchase the Empire Army Book or the Warhammer Rulebook you can get a complete points value for the troops.
Special Characters in the 8th Edition:
- Karl Franz (Lord)
- Volkmar the Grim (Lord)
- Kurt Helborg (Lord)
- Marius Leitdorf (Lord)
- Balthazar Gelt (Lord)
- Ludwig Schwarzhelm (Hero)
- Luthor Huss (Hero)
- Markus Wulfhart (Hero)
Rest of Army:
- General of the Empire:
- Grand Master:
- Arch Lector:
- Grand Master:
- Captain of the Empire:
- Witch Hunter:
- Warrior Priest:
- Master Engineer:
- Battle Wizard:
- Free Company Militia:
- Knightly Orders:
- Great Swords:
- Demigryph Knights:
- Reiksguard Knights:
- Great Cannon:
- Helblaster Volley Gun
- Helstorm Rocket Battery
- Steam Tank
- Celestial Hurricanum
- Luminark of Hysh
- Warhammer Armies: the Empire (1993/2006), Games Workshop and Bryan Ansell, no ISBN
- Warhammer-Empire Active community site.
- Sigmar's Heirs The official source book for the Empire for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, from Black Industries.
- Paths of the Damned: Spires of Altdorf the official source book for the Imperial city of Altdorf for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, from Black Industries.
- Paths of the Damned: Forges of Nuln the official source book for the Imperial city of Nuln for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, from Black Industries.
- Paths of the Damned: Ashes of Middenheim the official source book for the Imperial city of Middenheim for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, from Black Industries.
- Terror in Talabheim the official source book for the Imperial city of Talabheim for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, from Black Industries.
- BI Forum Maps page A selection of maps depicting the regions of the Empire, as well as other countries in the Old World.
- Games Workshop Official The Empire Homepage
- Warhammer Fantasy Dedicated Web Page