Wednesday, 25 April 2012
I've been trying for the last few days to quantify why I like Warhammer Fantasy Battle 8th Ed (particularly since there are so many haters out there), and after writing a few hundred paragraphs, I've come to the conclusion that, under the radar, Games Workshop have pulled off a bit of a coup with their wargames.
I became a bit of a GW sceptic over the last few years. This was mainly through the belief that they had moved away from a love of games towards a love of spectacle- big bangs and lots of carnage. This opinion was formed through Apocalypse, Planetstrike, Storm of Magic etc- all those big, devastating rules and units that can remove whole swathes of the opponent seemed to me to be moving towards a tic-tac-toe wargame experience, rather than one of strategy and tactics.
There was also, of course, a period of "unbalancing"- Guard and Space Wolves in 40K, Daemons in Fantasy. It lasted a brief period, admittedly, but it was enough for quite a few of my regular opponents to turn to board and card games (BattleLore and Game of Thrones in particular) for our gaming fix- we were striving for a balanced game, where the best tactical acumen decided the outcome (bizarrely, in retrospect, we never went back to Chess, where quite a few of us started.)
Now, I think GW has come full circle, but it's not obvious. On the face of it, the fast movement and "open-tabletop" aspect of GW's games seem to be encouraging Alpha-Strike play styles. The change to charge distance in WHFB, and the Reserve rules in WH40K, force players to second guess their opponents play- and that's where the beauty comes in.
From a purist viewpoint, these elements are too random and unpredictable for strategy or tactics to play a part. However, as more Codices/ Army Books have been released, the power levels have come closer together, and I now believe that this "open tabletop" style actually encourages more rewarding games. Gone are the days when Deployment won or lost games. Now, players can launch surprise attacks, and must also protect against them. The trick GW have pulled has been to ensure that each army has the capability, in different ways, to allow for this.
So, to round off this post, I will say that we now seem to have a polarisation of gaming styles- GW have this "open table" element, Privateer have their "in your face" philosophy, DUST is the new kid on the block, Mantic have gone for "big and fast" and historical games are catering to the purists.
Comments, as always, are welcome.