Battletome Gnomad Feastmasters: Interview with the Designer

Darren! How the devil are you, man? Tell us about yourself!

Well, I’m a 41 year old, 5ft 11.5” (I say 6ft at parties, sounds better) chap from Portsmouth (South of England) and I’m still trying to grow a half respectable beard.

I’ve been playing GW games in various forms since I was 13 and came across a pamphlet at school that had some Squigs and Night Goblin Prodders on the front and thought they look awesome.

Most of my gaming life I’ve been a right gamey bastard, and I’m still a W.I.P. on that front. Age of Sigmar is my jam nowadays and I enjoy using all sorts of lists, ranging from “I Hate My Opponents’ Fun” Seraphon to “WTF Does That Do” Slaves to Darkness.

You liked Night Goblins hey? Smart kid! Now tell me a bit about your background with Halflings – did you play them in Fantasy?  Are you a big Lord of the Rings fan?

Samwise Gamgee is my all-time hero. Possessed with rhubarb/average intellect, skills and ambition, but fuck me, has he got some heart! I’ve cried in the cinema 3 times in my adult life and that little fucker is responsible for 2 of those times (the third being the most recent King Kong, he just wanted to see the sun rise one final time…). I aspire to be like Samwise: keep going.

Gaming/GW wise, I have played Blood Bowl with Halflings many moons ago and have always enjoyed the art and lore with those from the Moot. I thought it a genuine shame that they weren’t brought across into the Mortal Realms in any sizable way (pun intended).

Oh dear. So what was your overall philosophy for how the army should play and feel?

Early doors when I was chatting to folk over WhatsApp about how I wanted them to function, I’d send this:

Strong allegiance abilities and a defensive faction piece coupled with poor warscrolls. We have to explain how they can compete against Ghoul Kings on Zombie Dragons after all.

I have tried to make sure you can’t just spam one or two efficient warscrolls and that a varied force is optimal.

Well that sounds bang on theme. And what power level did you try to pitch the book at?  Give me a tier!

Initially I had no goal, no idea we’d get this far, let alone imagine TO’s may well let them be usable at their events. After a good couple of people mentioned they might, I started to feel quite a bit of pressure to do a decent job in balancing them.

I’m aiming for a 2-3 Tome (an average player with average luck should win 2 outta 5 games at an event). Imagine that you went to an event you’d paid for, and someone’s home-made Battletome beat you… You’d feel pretty annoyed if the Tome was also cooked to fuck huh!?

Yeah I think that’s a good approach. Now as competitive players, we often look at army books with a view to proactively breaking them.  Does it feel weird being on the other side of the fence?

Very much so! Taking on feedback that something you thought was great just isn’t, is hard haha. I’m sure more than a few things have slipped through that are too good because of my ego.

I’m hoping people will break the Tome after it’s initially released as a Beta version, and then we can tweak as necessary for a final usable version with a decent FAQ.

Well then I’ll try my best to come up with something entirely bent – but just as a favour to you, of course. How did you go about making sure the wording on the rules was tight?

My hero Nico. Early doors I asked if he could give my ideas a once over. He then came back with all my messy wordings tightened up to read just like GW. I’m not sure he realised how much I was going to be doing, as his replies took longer and longer to come back to me after a couple of months, poor bugger!

But he’s done the project a great service and we couldn’t have done it without his sharp mind. I would whole-heartly recommend that GW employ Nico. He’d be an incredible asset to help tighten up their own wording 100%.

High praise! So how do you see people using this book – is it designed mainly for casual gaming, or have you tried to make it appropriate for Matched Play or even tournament play too?

Who knows! No idea if anyone will pick it up, let alone take it to an event! But we’ve hopefully gotten it to a place where it can be enjoyed both casually and competitively. Certainly we’ve given that a good go.

What would success look like for this Battletome – what would make you feel like it’s met or exceeded your hopes?

I started out on this project to gain some insight into how it all works. I have a lot of strong opinions on the game design and love the competitive scene.

The older I’ve gotten, the more obsessed I’ve become with having an opinion from a position of strength, and as easy as it is to say “this unit is stupid” or “this is lazy game design” etc etc, very few if any players have ever even tried to come up with their own shiz.

So I thought, can I write a battletome?

Short answer is no, it’s sooooo much more than writing some stats down on a warscroll creator.  But I have learnt, my ideas can grow in others and cool shit can happen.

So I’ve already had the success I was after: I now have a lot more insight into what goes into writing rules and creating lore.

I guess, though, it would be amazing if someone saw the Tome and built their own army of Gnomads they loved to use! That would be dope.

Good on you for getting out there and making something happen mate. So what’s your favourite warscroll in the book?

The Trail Thief. Based on the old Halfling Thief, they are no longer the lowest of the low, but rather celebrated heroes that go on daring missions behind enemy lines!

And how about your favourite gaming mechanic?

“It’s been a long day…” I love how they get tired as the battle goes on (the reverse of the Daughters of Khaine mechanic) and then they finally snap! Beware those that keep a good Gnomad from their dinner!

They get hangry! We’ve all been there. But the main downside I see with this book is that it’s not a Destruction Battletome. If you could create a new Destro faction, what would that be?

One sub-faction can employ Ogors to be fair…

But I like the Fimir models, I could do something cool with those that wasn’t just Ogor-esque Kruleboyz maybe.

I’d buy it. So to wrap it up, are there any shout outs you want to give?

Thanks to (THE) Owen Jackson who has sorted out the lovely graphic design and made it feel like a real Battletome. Like Nico, I’m not sure he knew what he was signing up for, but has been grinding like a champ!

Marc Wilson has turned my basic concept for their lore into a full narrative worthy of GW itself imho. Nothing was too much to ask that man, absolute legend.

Nico for so diligently going through every iteration to make sure it would all track nicely now, but also in the future. Cheers brother, sorry you had to make sense of my waffle so often.

All the folk that let me send them what I was working on for feedback, and especially those that actually replied (it’s so niche that I appreciate why someone wouldn’t haha).

Everyone who gave their time to help balance the tome with games, chaps like Theo Kik-Jansen who also created a whole Gnomad damage calculator for and against them. Heroic efforts buddy, many mwahs.

The artists Sam Manley and Daniel Kovacs, who nailed their briefs and really brought the Gnomads to life.

Tyromancer Dan on Twitter, who went above and beyond by teaching himself to 3D sculpt; thanks to him we have ways to make models for the entire range! Legend.

Thanks to those that helped out creating conversions and painting models for the tome. Adam Cunis, Benjamin Savva, Tyromancer again!

Daniel Summerbell for his excellent short stories, he and Marc have done a couple for the tome and they really brought a smile to my face.

And you Pete! These Gnomehammer community articles have been a joy to read!

I imagine there are plenty I’ve forgotten: I am not blessed with the best memory but I will likely be kicking myself soon, so please know that I’m grateful.

I learnt that good rules are fuck all without meticulous wording, beautiful art, compelling lore and gorgeous models. Thank you all Love Dazza x

Thanks for that Darren! We are on the home stretch now, and we can confirm that the full Battletome will be ready to download in Beta format next week. Get keen!

Credit – and thanks – for the cover image to

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