Bretonnia (Warhammer)

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Book Cover of the 6th Edition Bretonnian Army Book

In Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy fictional universe, Bretonnia is a country located west of the Empire, between the Grey Mountains and the Great Ocean in the lands that were once part of the domain of the Elves. It was modelled in many ways on High Medieval France, Britanny, England and on the Arthurian legends.

Background[edit]

The Land of Bretonnia is a feudal, traditional society where the peasants serve the knights in return for protection, while the knights are bound to militarily serve their lords in return for certain rights and titles. At the top of this feudal hierarchy is the King. Beneath the Kings are the Dukes. Beneath them is another layer of nobility, the Marquesses, the Earls, the Viscounts, and the Barons in descending order. The King, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts, and Barons are also each the lord of a number of Knights, who are the lesser nobles. Each Knight (including the higher nobles) has his own force of Men-at-Arms chosen from the most physically able peasants. In return for serving his knightly lord, each peasant is given a small tract of land for his family and can be expected to be called upon for service in times of war. The Knights' forces typically consist of the stronger Men-at-Arms and the more lowly Bowmen levies. The lands of Bretonnia are also ruled by spiritual and mystical leaders, the Fay Enchantress, her Damsels, and the Grail Knights, who are all faithful servants to the Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake gets her servants by stealing all children with magical ability by the age of three. The girls become wizards in service to the Lady, her damsels. The males are never seen again. For reasons of religious devotion parents allow this awful custom.

The Knights of Bretonnia are divided into four categories. Knights Errant are young sons of nobles who must prove themselves in battle. If successful, they become Knights of the Realm, are granted their own small plot of land to govern, and are obliged to defend Bretonnia should they be called. Questing Knights are brave individuals who renounce their titles and worldly possessions and journey to faraway lands in hopes of being deemed worthy by the Lady (of the Lake) to become Grail Knights. Grail Knights are the most powerful and revered individuals in all of Bretonnia, second only to the Lady. They are living saints who represent the fearsome power of Bretonnia and answer only to the Lady herself.

The Kingdom of Bretonnia is made up of 14 duchies: Couronne, L'Anguille, Artois, Lyonesse, Mousillon, Gisoreaux, Montfort, Bastonne, Bordeleaux, Aquitaine, Parravon, Brionne, Quenelles, and Carcassonne. Each of these, with the exception of Mousillon (see below), is ruled by its own Duke, who in turn has various nobles and knights who serve under him. The great castle of the King is in the fortified city of Couronne, traditionally the capital. The Forest of Loren is within the borders of Bretonnia, but is considered to be the forbidden realm of the Wood Elves.

Bretonnia is, in many ways, similar to the fairy-tale kingdom of Lyonesse or Logres under King Arthur, with noble knights who live by a series of vows (to uphold the virtues of honor and chivalry) and beautiful damsels who are rescued by courageous, dragon-fighting heroes. The degree to which Bretonnia reflects this image varies from between editions of Warhammer. In the most recent edition (7th), there is a darker side to Bretonnia: The divide between the luxurious lifestyle of the knights and the miserable poverty of the peasants is exaggerated well beyond the historical truths of the Middle Ages. In the 5th edition, however, things were exaggerated the other way, with the knights being far more noble and caring for their peasants more than in the real world. In 6th edition their behavior was more balanced, with the knights dedicated to protecting the lands of Bretonnia and its subjects, but still holding a dim view of commoners.

Revisions - Warhammer Fantasy Battles[edit]

There have been two distinct and contrasting portrayals of Bretonnia in the development of Warhammer. In the third edition rulebook, Bretonnia was akin to a dark and corrupt version of France under the absolutist monarchies of Louis XIV and later kings. Meanwhile the background as developed by Nigel Stillman took Bretonnia in a high fantasy, Arthurian direction.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle second and third editions[edit]

When originally introduced into the Warhammer Old World, the Bretonnians were rather different from their current portrayal. While troop types were divided into Elite Knights and peasant troops[1] (known as Rapscallions and Villens) there was no mention of the Lady of the Lake or any of the 'Arthurian' trappings that now characterise the country. The third edition book Warhammer Armies saw the introduction of the infamous foot knights, retainers, brigands, as well as peasant levies and cannon.[2]

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay first edition[edit]

The first edition of the roleplaying game, released in 1986, based Bretonnia on its portrayal in the wargame's 3rd edition rulebook. Despite once being a model for fashion and modernity throughout the Old World, Bretonnia had degenerated into a kingdom thoroughly riven with corruption. The general air of Bretonnia also had elements of Versailles under Louis XIV, and possibly France immediately before the French Revolution, with the nobility described as foppish and ineffective, wearing powdered wigs and travelling in sedan chairs.[3] This version was soon contradicted by the Warhammer Fantasy Battles army books, but remained popular with WFRP fans who mostly continued to use the older setting.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle Fourth and fifth editions[edit]

While this dark concept of Bretonnia lived on in the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Games Workshop began to move away from it when the fourth edition of Warhammer was introduced. The noble elements behind the grime remained, but Bretonnia was now resplendent in shining armour. Fourth edition Bretonnia saw crossbowmen, cannons, retainers, and mounted men-at-arms and bowmen as well as knights - both mounted and on foot.

With the introduction of the fifth edition army, the knights were good and generous, and the cannon and crossbow had vanished along with much of the darker Bretonnian history. A different and much nobler king was introduced and the Bretonnian army became very distinct from that of the Empire, taking on its Arthurian flavour with special rules to protect its knights from unchivalric weapons such as guns, as well as explaining how they could continue to survive next door to a powerful realm such as the Empire. The army introduced the Foot and Mounted Squires and the Men-at-Arms were armed with either spears or halberds. Two new specialized formations were introduced, the Arrowhead formation for the archers and the Lance formation for all levels of knights.

The concept of Bretonnia since the fifth edition owes a lot to mediaeval chivalric romances. Most obviously in the fifth edition, three distinct knightly troop types were introduced: Knights Errant, Questing Knights and Grail Knights. Knights embark on quests for the Grail and the goddess of the country is the Lady of the Lake. Gilles le Breton, who unified the tribes of Bretonnia into a single nation, fought twelve battles against the Orcs - mirroring King Arthur's 12 battles against the Anglo-Saxons. Another of the legendary figures of Bretonnia is the Green Knight, based in many ways on the character encountered by Sir Gawain. However, Arthurian legends are not the only influence. The geography of Bretonnia is analogous to that of France, as its political division into duchies.[4]

WFRP Second Edition[edit]

The second edition, released in 2005, brought WFRP's Bretonnia closer to the chivalric WFB version, with brief setting notes mentioning Bretonnia's virtuous knights, disdain for modern weapons, and the cult of the Lady of the Lake. The most recent source of background material regarding the kingdom is Knights of the Grail: A Guide to Bretonnia in which each prior edition of Bretonnia has been used as a guide, more thoroughly than the manner typical of a Warhammer army book.

As well as the arrogant nobility and impoverished peasantry, the anomalous place of the rising merchant class in Bretonnia is examined, including the presence of unofficial merchant 'clubs', such as the Brethren of the Lighthouse (who have a monopoly of trade within L'Anguille, the country's largest port and home to its only colony of Sea Elves, and who have watched Marienburg gain its independence from the Empire with great interest) and the Rooster and Kettle (who deal in firearms in most of the Kingdom and, given the nobility's disdain for black powder, have few competitors - outside of the Brethren - in its use). The complex nature of relations between noble, merchant and peasant, external relations with the Empire, The Wasteland and other realms, as well as the issue of religion among the nobility and the peasantry can also be found. A more detailed view of the local idioms, cultural differences and points of interest in each of the Duchies are present.

However, the WFRP2 setting remains inconsistent in a number of details to the WFB background. There are differences in the history of Bretonnia - for instance the battle after which the Duke of Brionne took on the emblem of the axe has changed and the current Duke of Quenelles in WFRP has been dead for 27 years in WFB (despite 'current' time being the same in both). There are also differences in the religion of Bretonnia, such as the age at which children are taken by the Fey Enchantress - in infancy in WFRP and before puberty in WFB.

A separate adventure supplement has been released for the afflicted Duchy of Mousillon, Barony of the Damned, in which the rise of Mallobaude, the Black Knight and would-be claimant to the ducal throne, is detailed, along with further information on several points of interest within the land.

Sample PDFs of these supplements could be found at the Black Industries web site, but with its demise and FFG's taking over of the WFRP licence, these are unavailable at the moment.

Sixth edition[edit]

This image of goodness and light once again acquired a tarnish with the advent of the sixth edition of Warhammer. The chivalric knights and the special rules survived, but the background darkened, and the source of Bretonnian faith was questioned. Current writing hints that the Bretonnian state religion is a manipulation instigated by the Elven colony of Athel Loren.[5] This concept would seem to suggest that Bretonnian military might is little more than an expendable buffer to protect Elven interests. This, however, fails to address how Bretonnian damsels can learn magic unknown to the Wood Elves; also in actual gameplay terms there is nothing to stop Bretonnians fighting Wood Elves.

The Sixth edition also brings the state of the low-born peasantry more into focus. It tells of the ninety percent tax which they must pay to their Lord, and the "absolute, destitute poverty" in which they live. It also highlights their role in the military. The men at arms are volunteers who are selected on Midsummer day. While they receive a generous wage for their service, much of this is taken back by their Lord to pay for various military expenses, including funeral arrangements. It also dispels common peasant myths that skilled peasant warriors can eventually become Knights, instead stating that the nobles do not want to have commoners mixed among them. This, along with grim tales of short peasant lives, seems to seal the impression that Bretonnia is a feudal land in which the poorer majority are oppressed.[6]

Under this latest edition the Bretonnians have re-acquired a new siege weapon - the Trebuchet, as well as a new troop type - the Grail Pilgrims. Grail Pilgrims fight with a Reliquae in a unit of 6-24 Pilgrims, not dissimilar to the 3rd edition War Altar. Pegasus Knights also appear in this edition, although again these have been seen before (in the GW game Man O'War) rather than being entirely new. Other changes are that Squires no longer fight with the army, instead their place as skirmishing troops is taken by a single unit of regular Bowmen who have been upgraded to skirmish and their place as light cavalry has been taken by Mounted Yeomen. The "Lance" formation has been modified, losing its distinctive triangular shape in favour of a rectangle that fits in better with the rest of the game system,[7] and Bowmen can be upgraded to use flaming arrows if so desired. Symbolic of relinquishing their worldly possessions and setting out on a personal Grail quest, 6th Edition Questing Knights now set aside their lances in favour of great swords.[8]

Expanded background on Mousillon

The Dukedom of Mousillon is the cursed dukedom of Bretonnia. The first Duke, Landuin, is reputed to be the finest knight of the Companions of Gilles le Breton and presumably the finest Knight ever. However after his untimely death the land fell into darkness and the name is now associated with evil, a refuge for vile men, dishonoured knights and creatures of evil. The first major incident to tarnish the name of Mousillon involved the Duke Merovech in the Imperial year 1813, during a victory banquet held to celebrate the defeat of an invasion of Bretonnia by the Skaven. But the knights and nobles who attended were disgusted to see his halls decorated with impaled criminals and the meals served by shambling servants who more resembled the undead than living men. In a drunken fury Merovech accused the other nobles of insulting his hospitality, causing the King to challenge him. In the inevitable duel that followed he ripped the King's throat out and drank his blood from a goblet. (There is no evidence to suggest he was a Vampire, however). The rest of Bretonnia denounced him and invaded Mousillon, many of his own knights denouncing him and swearing allegiance to Lyonesse. After a bloody final battle, Merovech was slain.[9]

Five hundred years later Mousillon was involved in the Affair of the False Grail in which the Lord and Lady of Mousillon perished during a siege of their castle, and a new duke has never been appointed. However in recent years rumours of a self-appointed Duke have begun to circulate, a black-armoured knight who is assembling the evil men and creatures that dwell there. It has been rumored that the current King, Louen Leoncoeur (whose name carries a vague resemblance with Richard Lionheart), is planning to lead a fresh invasion of Mousillon. It is no secret that many Bretonnians would love to see Mousillon burned to the ground and destroyed once and for all.[10]

Seventh edition[edit]

Little has changed for Bretonnian forces from sixth to seventh edition, but differences in the Magic phase have made certain magic items previously used by Damsels and Prophetesses essentially useless. One good example of this is the Sacrament of the Lady, which causes the wizard to generate two times the amount of power dice, but cannot cast spells.[11] Previously the dice were allowed to be used by any wizard, regardless of the source. With the new rules, a wizard can only use his own dice (so he/she may not use dice generated by others), and any unused dice are discarded at the end of the phase. Without the ability to cast spells, Damsels with this item are effectively taking up points while doing nothing. The increasing of the number of models needed to gain rank bonuses has little effect on this army with regards to knightly formations, as the three-wide lance formation introduced in sixth edition is still in use. The reduction in strength for mounted two-handed weapons has left Questing Knights weakened and left the Bretonnian army without a hard hitting unit in prolonged combats.

Eighth Edition[edit]

The eighth edition returned many things to the way they were in sixth. Questing Knights now get the same strength bonus for their great weapons as men fielded on foot.[12] The devoted of the Goddess may once again share dice when casting and dispelling, however the official word is to ignore the Sacrament of the Lady item. Firing in 2 ranks as well as volley fire gives additional deployment options for peasant bowmen, as well as offensive possibilities for damsels in the second rank of a lance. The core rules offer a variety of additional magic items, which in addition to the Blessed Heirlooms, allow the Lady's champions to do their duty well. Overall, the defenders of the realm can continue to hold their own until receiving updated rules.

14/04/2011: The current Bretonnia army book was printed in 6th edition. The "changes" referenced in the 7th and 8th edition paragraphs reference how the changing to the core rulebook has affected how the 6th edition book adapts to play with the new rules, not that there has been a new Bretonnia book for each edition. Neither article is incorrect.

Current Army Structure[edit]

Special Characters

  • King Louen Leoncoeur
  • The Fay Enchantress
  • The Green Knight

Lords

  • Bretonnian Lord
  • Prophetess of the Lady

Heroes

  • Paladin
  • Damsel of the Lady

Core Units

  • Knights of the Realm
  • Knight Errants
  • Men at Arms (peasant infantry)
  • Peasant Bowmen

Special Units

  • Questing Knights
  • Mounted Yeomen
  • Pegasus Knights
  • Grail Reliquae with Battle Pilgrims

Rare Units

  • Grail Knights
  • Field Trebuchet

Campaign Box Sets[edit]

  • Circle of Blood - campaign with scenarios detailing 5th edition battles between Bretonnians and Undead and some cardboard terrain.
  • Perilous Quest - campaign with scenarios detailing 5th edition battles between Bretonnians and Wood Elves and some cardboard terrain.

Limited Edition Bretonnian Miniatures[edit]

  • Le Chevalier Ermite de Malmont - French Games Day 1997
  • Bretonnian General, mounted - Winter 1999 Warhammer Box & Skulz
  • Bretonnian Army Standard Bearer, mounted - Included in 2004 6th Edition Army Box

References[edit]

  1. ^ Warhammer Fantasy Battle: Second Edition
  2. ^ Warhammer Armies
  3. ^ Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (softcover reprint, 1995, ISBN 1-899749-01-2)
  4. ^ Warhammer: Bretonnia
  5. ^ Knights of the Grail: A Guide to Bretonnia (Bretonnia sourcebook - March 2006, ISBN 1-84416-305-9)
  6. ^ Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia
  7. ^ Games Workshop. Warhammer Bretonnia Army Supplement: Sixth Edition. 2003, ISBN 1-84154-450-7, p. 40.
  8. ^ Games Workshop. Warhammer Bretonnia Army Supplement: Sixth Edition. 2003, ISBN 1-84154-450-7, p. 43.
  9. ^ Games Workshop. Warhammer Bretonnia Army Supplement: Sixth Edition. 2003, ISBN 1-84154-450-7, p. 36-37.
  10. ^ Barony of the Damned: An Adventure in Mousillon (adventure pack and Mousillon sourcebook - April 2006, ISBN 1-84416-306-7)
  11. ^ Games Workshop. Warhammer Bretonnia Army Supplement: Sixth Edition. 2003, ISBN 1-84154-450-7, p. 63.
  12. ^ Games Workshop. Warhammer The Game of Fantasy Battles: Eighth Edition. 2010, ISBN 978-1-84154-964-4, p. 90.

External links[edit]