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Monday, 14 May 2012

Warhammer Fantasy- Magic

Hi all,

Continuing with the WHFB "reviews", here's the post on Magic- Note, I will not be discussing the Lores in detail in this post, as I think they are worthy of their own separate post (basically, I don't want this to get too long!)

Now, going back a little while, I loved the old card system. The little "game-within-a-game" that happened at the end of the turn was fantastic, and the fact that magic required a separate box lent it weight in my mind- I'd invested extra cash in getting this, so was going to damn well use it to it's maximum potential! The move to the dice system in 6th took some getting used to, especially since it came with a dramatic reduction in power of Spellcasters.

We are now into the third edition of Warhammer with a dice-based magic system, and this is the closest they've come to capturing the old feel of the magic phase (for me, at least.) Let me explain:

In the card system, there were 2d6 cards available between players, split evenly. These were weighted towards Power cards (I think the ratio in the last set was 24 Power Cards: 16 Dispel Cards: 8 Special Cards) and each wizard could store up to 1 card between turns (so if you got a hand full of dispel cards in your casting turn, you could still put them to use as long as some casters were alive top hold them for you.)

Under the current system, The 2d6 are less evenly split, putting the advantage in the hands of the casting player- as the old card system did. The more casters you have, the greater the chance of generating extra dice- not quite the same as the old card-carriers, but a nod in the right direction (I can take 4 Warrior Priests in an Empire Army, for example, and reliably dispel.)

I also like the fact that each spell is limited to once per army, so you can't repeatedly spam out the same spell over and over- it hurts Vampire Counts a little (no multiple Curse of Years, Raise Dead or Vigour) but I'm still fairly happy with it, since everyone has the same restriction (and 2 of the special characters are Loremasters :) ). This is the same in both systems- no spell could be carried more than once per army. Essentially, it meant that the less magical races (like Orcs and Ogres, for example) had an ultimate cap on their casters- after a point, they won't have spells. So for wizard heavy armies, it encourages lower-level wizards to maximise their channelling. It only really applies in larger games, but it is still a fairly neat restriction.

The fact that spells can't be repeated across an army also means that the "Doom" spells (Purple Sun is the stand-out candidate) only need to be dispelled once per phase- to get them off requires a bit of luck, and that's how it should be!

OK, so what are the advantages to higher level wizards? Well, they get more spells (always a win) and they have a better chance of casting and dispelling. Since level is added to the casting roll, a level 4 is more likely to cast than a level 2. Equally, a level 4 is more likely to dispel a level 2. So past level 1 or 2, you are paying points for reliability and stat-line. In this edition, it is more than possible to put 2 or 3 level 4 wizards in an army- but this is one instance where, more often than not, less is more. After the first high-level mage you are paying for redundancy, and essentially that can be a level 2 mage, so why pay the extra? Magical dominance is no longer about having more wizards than your opponent (as it was in 6th and 7th ed!)

The other big change that I am a huge fan of is that if a wizard fails to cast or dispel, they can't act for the rest of the magic phase. That's it, they've blown it, let the others have a go! The only response to this is to use more dice so that you increase the chances of success- but you have a finite pool of dice, so how far should you push it? Again, it benefits you to have a few casters of different levels- you can use the low-levels for the standard jobs, but if you need to win that roll, then get out the level 4!

Now, the biggest flaw with the old card system was in 2 cards- Irresistible Force and Drain Magic. Irresistible Force meant that you didn't have to spend any other cards to cast, and it couldn't be dispelled- much as now. However, no other spells could be cast in that phase once it had been played. Drain Magic was the same from the Dispel point of view- all spells in play ended, any spell being cast was dispelled, and the phase ended. These were tremendously powerful cards, and could win games on the luck of a draw.

The system in 8th, where a double 6 is both Irresistible and a Miscast, I think is spot on. Magic has it's rewards, but they always come at a price- the fact that a Mage rolling 6 dice to cast has a fair chance of getting their uber-spell off, and exploding, is a great little addition, and makes canny players think twice about the number of dice that they roll for casting. Combine that with the failure penalties, level choices and spell restrictions, and you've got a neatly balanced, well thought through system.

The final note here really is that they even neatened up the spells into 5 types- Augment, Direct Damage, Magic Missile, Hex and Vortex. Each has it's own rules for targeting, range, LoS etc, and it means that each spell can be easily clarified- No more wondering if a specific spell can be cast on that unit in combat- just look at it's type, and you'll know.

In short, I am a massive fan of this magic system- it has very few flaws, and provides some interesting choices for players when building and playing an army.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

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