Warhammer 8th Edition – Exploration of Magic Items

Not only have we (very) recently witnessed the shattering of Azeroth and the changing of a world but a mere handful of months ago probably the biggest Fantasy tabletop game in the world underwent its latest major revision. There were a lot of changes made to the rules and, as with any set of changes, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth at the same time as some people were a little less dramatic about the state of their beloved game.

There were a lot of changes made, not least of all the increase in the number of pages in rulebook! Army building was changed with the new percentage system, meaning that in many cases the options for including Lords and Heroes increased. While the Internet was decrying this change when it was rumoured I don’t think it has turned out all too bad. With the increased number of magic items in the rulebook the ways in which you can kit out your heroes has also increased and I welcome this. Many of the magic items fill gaps that are present in some Armies books and while some of the magic items in those books became redundant with the new rules there are also some that became a lot better for their points!

Therefore I thought that for today’s post we’d leave behind the current spate of World of Warcraft posts and dive back into tabletop. As my own table is currently saturated with Warhammer figures, as a break from the painting and construction of my Fallen Realms (although I’ll need to build more ready for our next game), then perhaps we should take a walk through the different options there are for kitting out the bad asses that lead our armies to conquer our foes.

As with any unit that is added into an army roster, each character should have a role in mind. This should be something greater than just providing the Leadership bubble for being a General. While improving the leadership of the basic troops shouldn’t be underestimated in helping the rank and file to stick around in a tight spot, it should not be the sole purpose of a character that often has far more utility than a normal GI.

In any army list there are generally two options for Lords or Heroes, these are the Mage and the Warrior. While there are variations of these within lists these archetypes hold true for the vast majority of Armies books. If a character has a magic level it should be relatively obvious that the character is a Mage, these chaps are not generally much use in a fight, there are exceptions to this such as Vampires (of the non-sparkly kind), Ogre Butchers and Wizards of Chaos springing immediately to mind. There are also characters that blur the lines somewhat such as Tomb Kings and Princes, primarily combat characters that have a smattering of magic and of course items such as the Wizarding Hat that, while taking up your entire magic items allowance for a Lord, can give a surprise to an opponent.

As Wizards tend to have a defined role based upon their magic abilities and what spell lore you pick I’m going to focus my time on the more combat oriented characters. While Magic can and will win you games under 8th edition, if you are anything like me, nothing is as satisfying as a tooled up combat lord going all bat-poop crazy and smashing in faces. Many are the tales of titanic clashes between Lords as Gribblin and I have squared off to see who manages to get that killing blow (sometimes literally).

In the spirit of assigning roles to characters there are probably 3 main roles that spring to mind; number one, character or mage hunting, number two, cutting down troops and number three, monster or war machine hunting. Certain races characters can obviously cater more or less to any of these specialities and the diversity in Armies books changes where you might look for those roles to be filled. The Magic Items available in each list can also have an impact however, for the purpose of this investigation we are going to look purely at the BRB as these generic items are available to everyone other than those dirty, dirty Daemons and the diminutive Dwarfs.

Within any of these roles there are degrees of course, do you go all out offense, balanced defence or unkillable? Each of these options have merit and some may be better suited towards specific roles than others. How good the characters are at these roles will also be dictated somewhat by the race of those characters. A Human Elector Count is not as beefy in combat as a Vampire or Chaos Lord for example, but is also dramatically cheaper.

Let’s have a look at some items then. An offensive combat lord may likely take some items from his own list to improve his efficiency but the BRB itself has some pretty tasty items. The sharp end of combat is going to be in the weapons category, an all out offensive Lord is probably going to forgo the choice of armour or a ward save because he’s probably going to live in a unit where his armour is the warm bodies around him.

The Giant Blade can be a nasty surprise when going up against a poncy Elf with a fancy hairdo, however, 60pts for only one more strength than a Great Weapon might not be worth it. Sure you wouldn’t be striking last and your attacks are magical but you pay through the nose for it. Perhaps you’d be better off with a Potion of Strength for far fewer points to win that important combat.

Sword of Bloodshed isn’t too bad, if your Lord has a high WS anyway the extra attack are more likely to hit, more hits equals more chances to wound which improves your chances of crumping whatever it is you are fighting against. The Obsidian Blade doesn’t seem worth it but the Ogre Blade gets around the major problems of the Great Weapon (Always Strike’s Last) and is much cheaper than the Giant Blade. A High Elf with this would be a combat monster, with high WS, ASF and +2 Strength, could surprise someone who isn’t expecting it for an easy to swallow points investment. The Sword of Strife is the junior to the Sword of Bloodshed, slightly smaller effect for a cheaper points cost so can go on a Hero rather than a Lord or leave more room on a Lord for other goodies.

Fencer’s Blades provide an extra attack for being paired and certainly make the enemy easier to hit, however, I would think this item more balanced between offense and defence as while you hit more easily you are also more difficult to hit, the extra attack is the only real bonus here and therefore on a strictly offensive character killing build you’re probably going to go for something with a little more oopmh! Sword of Anti-Heroes would seem to fit out offensive character killer to a tee, yet, while this may be the primary role for our Lord we also need to consider how much use he is going to get out of his equipment. If there are no characters in a combat we are involved in you can still pick out unit champions but then you’re wasting the bonuses of this sword going for overkill or even being stuck taking out rank and file. The Spellthieving Sword should be left at home, considering a combat Lord will likely kill a Mage in one or two swings (and they generally can’t cast magic against you whilst in combat) robbing them of spells seems like a waste of points for your combat monster.

Sword of Swiftslaying provides one of the most useful special rules and a character with decent Initiative benefits even further from those handy re-rolls. If you have a character with a decent base strength (or one that is buffed from spells) this really comes into its own, especially in challenges which is where I’d imagine you’d be making the most use of your uber-character killer. Really the only other weapon worth a mention considering what we are tasking the Lord with doing and thinking of possibilities for weapons from a races own lists is the Gold Sigil Sword. Low Initiative races benefit greatly from this, not least for the surprise factor of striking before a generally faster opponent (usually an Elf).

To prevent this becoming an absolute behemoth of a post I’ll split it up, we can look at the other magic items options in another post, so, stay tuned for a further examination of the BRB items.