I am about to open up yet another post stating my own personal opinion about something. Regular readers are no doubt aware that we do this from time to time, I mean, what else is the Internet for if not expressing one’s self? This is also the reason why the 6 Inch Move citadel is a floating one, kind of like Dalaran from Warcraft. In order to avoid the vitriol of close-minded nerds who seem unable to grasp the concept that other people might think differently than they do, we magically airlifted the bunker in which the writing team were hiding themselves. Since doing this we’ve, thankfully, stayed out of range of the majority of nerd rage.
As is inevitable with a new set of rules there is the potential to divide a community into camps who like the changes and those who do not. This isn’t quite as polarised as it may seem though as many people will like certain changes that others do not and dislike some changes that another party may find works well for them. Now, no rule set is ever going to be perfect, humans are imperfect creatures and GW has a long history of ambiguity and unclear writing. This then lends itself to division between players, in general this division does not result in a clash of sabers but there are camps out there in Internetland that will defend their particular standpoint with the full force of a cabinet minister being caught on a night out with some ladies of ill-repute. Normally this is reserved for the various power levels of individual armies, yet this preamble is getting towards what I would like to discuss today; the new terrain rules.
This is probably (next to the introduction of True Line of Sight) the cause of the majority of discussions regarding the new rules. I bought the issue of White Dwarf that heralded the arrival of 8th Edition and it provided some insights there. For every scenario in the rulebook there is a guide telling you how to set up terrain for a game, this panel normally refers you to page 142 which says for you to place D6+4 pieces of terrain on the table. Normally this is done by rolling on a table and looking up what that roll represents, some terrain pieces are then rolled for to see which particular type you get. For instance, you could roll for a building, you then roll again on another chart to see what kind of building that is. Sometimes you will get just a normal building, however, in the majority you are going to get a piece of terrain which can have an impact on units nearby. These rules range from a modifier to certain dice rolls (i.e. a minor buff) to the potential to cause significant damage across a unit.
GW have explained that the Warhammer world isn’t just a fantasy medieval version of our world, it is something wholly different where the very land is as much a threat as the inhabitants. This in turn raises the argument about what do you want from a game? Do you want a test of generalship one person to another?, or do you want a narrative whereby you are just playing a game and the battlefield is as much an enemy as the army you are facing off against? Historically Warhammer has been a game where one person faces another to see who marshals their forces better to complete an objective (normally kill everyone, take names and maybe try to hold table quarters in turn 6). With the addition of scenarios there is now a range of battles you can fight without having to make stuff up yourself and I commend GW for this. However, when the terrain has the potential to kill off your dudes, I believe the game loses focus. Sure, there is as much a chance for your opponent to fall foul of the things that you do and it does ask you to make decisions that you would otherwise not have to make during the game, however, you are not there to fight against the board, you are supposed to be having fun with a friend. I’ve only played a few games of 8th so far and am looking forward to more, however, in one game terrain did virtually nothing, in the second game it had a much more profound effect. We rolled a Haunted Mansion and dropped it in the middle of the table. If units are nearby it does a random number of Strength 1 hits to every unit in range. Now, strength 1 might not seem like much, but rolls of a 6 always wound in the new edition, you can imagine where this is going. Even with armour and ward saves I was losing troops every turn I was near it, we used a proper mansion to represent it as well so the building was quite large. To be honest I almost lost more models to the Mansion than I did to the enemy!
Considering you are also going to have a minimum of 5 pieces of terrain on the battlefield chances are that only one of those is not going to be something out of the ordinary, thereby you are either going to be flicking through the rulebook to find out what they are, have to remember, or write down what each terrain element actually represents. I don’t think that this helps the flow of the game. While it can provide for some comical moments (Daemons getting nailed by S1 ghosts…) I’m not sure that it fits within a wargame where the general MO is to crush your opponent into dust. I’m still going to play a few more games with these terrain rules before our group makes a decision on whether to use them or not. However, another thing it brings up is the tournament scene.
Now, I am not a tournament player, never have been and more than likely never will be, yet I don’t think the new terrain rules fit in with the tournament crowd. They want a straight fight over a battlefield and to see who comes out on top using competitively built armies. There are enough spells and magic items out there to counter or survive without stumbling into a stream and suddenly finding your expensive unit of elite troops has just got splattered due to some bad dice rolling. I know that these inclusions in the rules doesn’t mean that you have to use them, but it does give an insight into the minds of the games developers. If these rules are included and from that you assume that you are being encouraged to use them, does that mean that Warhammer is not being developed with tournament players in mind? They are certainly a very vocal bunch, especially on the matter of whether their army got borked by the changes in the new rules. If GW are trying to create a game that represents the world as much as the inhabitants of it then are they trying to take us down the route of narrative games and moving away from the “gamer vs gamer who plays better” principles that have existed since I have been into the hobby (almost 20 years). Are future tournaments going to be more around having fun with others that you haven’t faced before rather than trying to come out on top as the only incentive?
I just think we won’t see many tournaments using these terrain rules. It’ll certainly slow down the games as you have to stop for certain features to do their thing. How do you feel about the new terrain rules?