Well like many a good GW gamer I managed to purchase my copy of the new Warhammer rulebook recently. I’ve spent some time and given it a good read and just wanted to share my first thoughts about the new edition. I know that me and ZombiePirate have already discussed having a game soon to test it out, so this is coming from the perspective of a reader of the book, not a player of the new edition. I’ve been playing Fantasy for . . . a long time and I currently own 3 different armies – Wood Elves, Vampire Counts and Lizardmen, and I have enjoyed using them all. So coming from this background, here are my thoughts.
The basics of the game haven’t really changed all that much. I have heard some people describe 8th edition as “Warhammer of the Ring” as it was supposed to very, very similar to the War of the Ring game. After having read both rulebooks I can see some of the similarities, but 8th edition is most certainly Warhammer and not War of the Ring. The similarities that I’ve found so far are;
- Charging is now random – 2D6+M, random but still based on the movement of the model.
- Second ranks (and third ranks if you’re a horde) now give 1 supporting attack for each model behind a model that’s attacking. But bear in mind that spear armed troops and High Elf spearmen have always been able to do this, it was just not called supporting attacks.
- Buildings can be garrisoned.
The rest of the rules seem to be classic Warhammer Fantasy. There have been a number of changes though, some subtle, others less so. In an effort to make some sense of these I will go through them in the phases of the game.
This is an area of subtle changes. You still move as normal, though wheeling and reforming have become easier and better clarified and you can also move your unit backwards or sideways without changing its formation, though you can only do so at half speed. This is a simple change, but one that I think can open up a whole load of new options as far a strategy goes as you will no longer need to use up two turns of movement to reform in one direction, then move and reform again in another turn. Compulsory moves come after charges, oh and difficult terrain has gone . . . well kind of.
Probably the part that has changed the most. You no longer have set number of power dice, which makes the all magical killing army (often used by Tzeentch players) less reliable – you can only ever have a maximum of 12 power dice. I’m not sure how this is going to work with Vampire Counts who kind of need the magic to keep their army together, but I’m sure that in the next few weeks I’ll let you know. You are also restricted on the number of spells that your army can have as only the signature spells in the spell lore can be taken by more than once in our army. So unless you can use multiple magic lores this could restrict the number and level of wizards that you use. To compensate for this I have noticed that the standard 8 spell lores seem to be much more potent than in the last edition and they all have an attribute that can really enhance things. After some thought I think this is going to be a better magic system; the fewer power dice mean that there will be fewer spell casting attempts, but when a spell does go off, it’s going to be nasty.
Other magic stuff: Irresistible force also causes a miscast – though it is the only way to get a miscast. Miscasts are really, really bad for the health of your wizard and anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby. Oh and the dispel scroll can only be taken once, so bye-bye spell caddies. Overall I’m liking the new magic system, but like I said with a bit of trepidation regarding the Vampires.
Hasn’t changed at all, oh except that you now fire in two ranks – woohoo for Wood Elves!! I no longer need to stretch units out half way across the battlefield to get a decent number of shots. Oh and all bow weapons can be volley fired if you don’t move – basically you get to fire with half the models from the third and further back ranks so you can deploy in a block rather than a line.
This is the other area that has seen some changes, but again I think subtle. Combat is now fought in initiative order regardless of who charged (just like 40K). Charging now gives you a +1 bonus to the combat resolution. This is probably the most dramatic change for combat as charging a unit which high initiative could really undo your combat. The whole thing is based upon the combat resolution, which hasn’t changed since the previous edition. The only other really change is the edition of supporting attacks – each model behind one in combat gets to make 1 attack, unless your unit happens to be 10 models wide; in which case it counts as a horde and gets supporting attacks from the rank behind them too. This means a lot more dice rolling, so I would expect that combats will be resolved quicker.
The Other Stuff
There is now a huge section on special rules, which covers all the old classics like fear, terror, stubborn and regeneration, but also a bunch of new rules such as sniper, stomp and strider. The special rules section is large, but I think it covers just about every special rule, even some army specific ones like ethereal. The comprehensiveness of it is great to see, lets just hope that as GW releases the army books that they keep with these special rules and don’t bring out too many ‘exceptions’ or rules that ‘sound like X but aren’t really’.
Im glad to see that the units have been clarified. With greater numbers of Ogre size units (ogres, trolls, treekin, ushabti etc) becoming options it’s good to see that they now have a unit type of there own – monstrous infantry – with its own rules. There are also warbeast, monstrous cavalry and monstrous beasts to add to the unit types. And with the edition of the stomp and thunderstomp rules these monstrous creatures might actually be able to take on a unit of infantry.
There are a few other subtle changes to other things (such as characters and command groups) but nothing that doesn’t help the game play. For example a general that is also a large target has his command radius increased from 12″ to 18″.
But the next ‘big thing’ that has changed is terrain. There is no longer difficult terrain. You essentially have open and impassable terrain – with certain other features (like woods and obstacles) being dangerous terrain to certain troops types. Also some of the terrain is described as mysterious. There is a chance that the river is just a river or that it is actually boiling ooze, or that the trees are so full of rage and hate that they’ll attack you on sight. To be honest I’m not sure about this. I think it might make terrain a little too unpredictable, and that you can’t rely on being able to just move through the trees to get a flanking position (yes this is the Wood Elf player in me talking). I’m also not sure about the absence of difficult terrain and it not slowing people down anymore.
Finally comes my thoughts on the army selection. Like many others I heard the rumours that the percentages were coming back, and to be honest I didn’t like the sound of it. I have many memories of games a few editions ago when the percentages were in use. The typical army would consist of the biggest, most bad ass general with all the best magic items, the most powerful level 4 wizard your army could have and two or three units of the hardest, most indestructible troops available. In short not what a ‘real’ army would consist of. People would cheese it out as much as they could, and the only way that you could ever have a hope of winning was to cheese your army out too. I know that Warhammer is a fantasy is a game based in a fictional world, but a ‘real army’ would consist more of regular troops, with only a handful of elites. This is why I liked the Core/Special/Rare unit slots. After having read the rules I have come to realise that it wasn’t what I feared. The Core/Special/Rare units are still there, but it they now have percentages attached to them >25% Core, <50% Special and <25% Rare, plus you can’t have more than 3 of the same units for special or 2 of the same for rare. Also you can’t spend more than 25% of your points on Lords and no more than 25% on Heroes. At first this sounded a bit odd, but after doing some thinking this means that you still won’t be able to fit more than two or three lords in a 3000 pts army (well unless you play goblins anyway). I hope that this will reduce some of the over-competitive, cheese element and give armies a more realistic feel.
Overall I like this new edition of Fantasy (though I don’t like the cost of the rule book, nor do I think it needed so much info on all of the races but oh well). It has stayed true to previous editions and is still different from 40k and War of the Ring, despite incorporating some of good ideas from both of these systems. I’m interested to see magic in action and ready to see how the new percentages will affect my army lists. So until I play a game these are my ramblings.