In the last week I managed to get in two games of Warhammer Fantasy with the only other player in our group, the man Gribblin. As far as fantasy is concerned we have a healthy and long-standing rivalry and have changed the armies we use as time has gone on (me far more than him unsurprisingly).
I know that one of our players specifically doesn’t play fantasy due to a perceived imbalance in the power that certain magic items bring to the battlefield. This view of the game was not helped when against Gribblin’s Vampires my 50pts Hellheart netted me 600pts of dead Vampires. The following game was not played in such a social setting so he didn’t get to see it do bugger all.
Anyone that plays Fantasy is aware of the game changing nature of some of the magic items, these are normally ones found in some of the older army books. I am talking about items that can change the game and cost very little for the consistent effects that they have. The second game I was playing was against Gribblin’s Lizardmen, a game I tend to find a lot harder than going against the Vampires. I’ll start off by saying that it was a close fought Battleline scenario and he scored 400pts more than me to net a win, however, when you looked at the table at the end of turn 6 there wasn’t a lot left on either side, but congratulations to him all the same.
I took a pretty normal Ogre list, keeping in the Stonehorn and using my new unit of Mournfang Cavalry for the first time (they were awesome). Across from me is one of the most frustrating models in all of Warhammer; the Mega-Pimp-Hand-Uber Slann. This particular anti-gravity amphibian had more bling than a 1980’s Mr T. Cannon balls screamed right through him, while he completely shutdown my magic phase, firing off an entire lore’s worth of spells every turn and (but for a poor dice roll) throwing his miscasts around to everyone else. Yes he is expensive but that model completely removed me from being able to play in one phase of the game, that’s pretty powerful.
I think that I am actually coming around more to our non-Fantasy playing friend’s way of thinking. When I look at something like Kings of War from Mantic, each army has models with special rules dependent on the army, characters also get special rules but these are also available across the various armies. There is no real customisation of things with special item options.
I like the new 8th edition approach, that the rulebook contains the most of the magic items that are available to armies and there are but a few (normally pricey) options in each army book. However, in some of the older books the fact that magic items contribute such a huge amount can alter the balance of the game. There is the capability to completely neuter and army in a particular way, now, some may consider that just prudent planning and good generalship, but should you be able to win a game almost purely on the back of the fact you spent 100pts on a certain combination of stuff that your opponent can do nothing about?
I appreciate that Warhammer is a hugely complex game, but shouldn’t a battle be decided by the models on the table and the ken of the generals rather than an arbitrary decision made before the models even hit the table?
Please do not think that I am making a whine post because I lost a game of Warhammer, I had a very enjoyable time playing that game, momentum swung back and forth through the game and if I’d have remembered some more of the rules for my army I might have done a little better, still it was a well-earned victory and the first ever loss for my Ogres. The point of the post is to gather opinion on just how much of an impact people are happy with magic items providing to a game. I am not bothered about a 4+ ward save or 2+ armour save, those can be failed. But when you can kit something out to be nigh invulnerable and/or shut down a core part of the game when it already comes with decent protection, is that good irrelevant of cost?
I think much of what makes some of the Fantasy armies, “top-tier” is the access to their magic items list. If everyone purely had access to those in the main rulebook do we think we’d have a far more balanced game, or would it sacrifice variety for the sake of an opinion about what makes the game fairer?