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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Warhammer: Close Combat

Hi all,

Continuing in the Fantasy Battle articles, today's post is focused on the Close Combat phase (Movement, Shooting and Magic have been covered so far.) This has seen the biggest changes- in fact, I think that it has fundamentally changed!

First off, I'd like to cover some of the key points:

  • Everyone in base contact fights, with full attacks. 
  • Each model behind them also fights, but up to a maximum of 1 attack. 
  • If the unit is 10 or more models wide, it counts as a Horde, so an additional rank of models can support with 1 attack.
  • Models fight in Initiative order.
Now, I will say I am a big fan of Initiative striking- in fact, I'm a big fan using initiative outside of the combat phase as well, as I talked about here. What all of these rules combined mean is that the power is firmly placed in the hands of the Rank-and-File Infantry in Warhammer.


Most armies now have some form of cheap infantry (or an entire army of it- Skaven!) which means that almost everyone can field a Horde unit. Now, I'm not an advocate of all-Horde in Warhammer, I think that 1 unit (maybe 2 for a few of the races- Skaven, Beastmen) is more than enough in most armies. Also, all of those Infantry blocks that you've been fielding for years just got twice as good, even without Horde. 

Now the Initiative rule I have discovered is vitally important- for low-Initiative units, can they survive the first round of the enemy attack? For high-Initiative units, can they wipe out enough of the enemy in the first strike to offset the enemy counter? Harking back to movement, it makes all of those charges a bit more of a conundrum- if you can charge, what are your chances of winning? Is it better to re-form to accept the enemies charge?

I know everyone has been focused on Horde units for a long time now (since the release, pretty much), but for me they are of limited use. Against another Horde- ideal. Against an enemy monster- how much of a difference are those 5 attacks going to make? That's all the advantage you are getting- only models behind those in base contact can fight, after all- so a standard 5-man-wide unit will be as effective, and half the cost- meaning you can have 2 of them! That being said, I am a fan of the other new rule- Steadfast!

If you have more ranks than the opposing unit, and you lose combat, you don't modify Leadership for the Break Test (more on that in a second). The reason I'm a fan? Simple- reforming is now easier! That means that you can reform your 10 wide, 5 deep Horde into a monster column 5 wide and 10 deep! Bearing in mind that flanking units do not negate Steadfast, this makes for a tough prospect to beat, especially if you have a Battle Standard within 12". This means that with 1 canny reform, you can hold up a 12" section of the  enemy battle line, and gain an advantage- and everything in Fantasy is about positioning your units for combat advantage!

OK, so what about Combat Resolution? Well, Wounds Inflicted are now much more of a factor, due to the sheer number of attacks being thrown out by units. Ranks still count up to +3, Banners are still important etc. A few key things to note- units in an enemy flank now need to be at least 2 ranks of 5 models to negate the enemy rank bonus. this means that flanking Cavalry units are much harder to come by- however, I was never particularly fond of the 5 man Cavalry units running up an enemy flank and breaking the line, so this is a positive change in my book. You want to reliably bust an enemy's flank or rear- invest the points! Otherwise, rely on the Infantry!  (Note-this also means that Monsters are no longer the flanking units of doom that they used to be!)

A few final things to pick up on- High Ground as been clarified to charging downhill for the bonus; Charging nets you +1 to the combat res. (replacing the old Outnumbering rule, I'm assuming?); If you pursue into a fresh unit which is already fleeing they are wiped out (useful one to remember, that!) and if the unit you were in combat with is wiped out, then you are freed from combat- useful for the last-turn pile ups that can occur!

So, what does all this mean? Well, combat remains the most reliable way of wiping out enemy units. However, there is greater emphasis now on basic rank-and-file for the attack, to be supported by other elements such as Monsters, Chariots, Cavalry etc. I can see why this has upset a few players- for years in Warhammer, we have gotten used to Monsters and Cavalry doing all the hard work, with the Infantry supporting them. Now that it is the other way around, it really is a whole new game. Bearing in mind that the units you need now have a bigger battlefield footprint, you can start to see why a lot of the changes make sense- increasing the potential charge distances, making units in combat Steadfast, making Magic much more Risk/Reward (so that Casters can have a big impact on the battles now, they need to be able to kill more models- overall, I think that their lethality on a unit-killing scale has remained about the same), Percentages for army building mean that players are less restricted in buying their units (also meaning that thee are fewer obvious choices)- it really is all good.

Overall, I think that the Combat phase now imposes more decisions upon players throughout the other phases- which is what we want! Crucially, they feel a lot more intuitive now- I don't know how much that is because I've been playing Fantasy for many years, and how much it is from genuine improvements in the system. Either way, it is a good thing!

Well, that's it for the Combat post- Comments, as always, are welcome.

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