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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Warhammer Fantasy- Movement

Hi all,

So, to kick off the Fantasy Reviews, lets get to the big bone of contention- the Movement phase, or more specifically Charging.

Just before I get there, there are a few quick things to mention. Movement has really been cleaned. There are very few abstracts left- Wheeling is clearly explained (finally!), and reforming is now just one element- no more partial reforms, snaking etc, just reform or not! This, for me, in no way changes the tactical aspects of the game- in fact, thanks to the number of times a unit can reform, it adds to it. For example, you can move after a reform if you have a musician and pass a Ld test- so the only difference, really, is that I now have to include musicians in my units.

On to the big one: Charging. Now, a quick bit of history for those who didn't play WHFB before. In previous editions, Charging worked as follows:

  • It must be the first action that a unit takes (outside of compulsory moves)
  • All charges are declared, together, at the start of the phase. 
  • A unit must have LoS to the target to declare a charge.
  • Chargers are allowed 1 wheel, and 1 "alignment"
  • The Charge distance of a unit is double its Movement speed
  • Once all charges have been declared, check range that the unit is in range- if not, then the charging unit must move towards its target at normal speed then halt. If it is in range, then move into base to base contact after Charge Reactions
  • The unit being charged can Hold, Stand and Shoot or Flee
  • All charges happen simaltaeneously.
  • Note- there is no pre-measuring, all charges must be judged by eye, then measuring happens once all charges are completed.

So- that's how things USED to work. As many of you are aware, things changed in 8thEd. Some people believe these changes to have completely removed tactical positioning from the game. The main changes are:

  1. One unit declares a charge against and enemy, and can pre-measure the distance. The unit being charged then gets to make a Charge Reaction (Hold, Flee, Stand and Shoot). Once this is resolved, another unit can declare a Charge. Charging units need True LoS to the target from any part of the unit. 
  2. A charge must be possible. 
  3. After Reactions are made, the Charger must roll for their "Charge Range"- this is generally 2d6 + M.
  4. Charging units do so in any order
  5. Charging units are allowed 1 wheel of up to 90 degrees, and 1 free align.
OK, so that's the 5 changes. Now of these, 4 of them are clarifications to the existing process, and I think make the rules a bit more instinctive- For example, units can be arranged behind each other and still charge, meaning that you can screen cavalry with skirmishers for example; charge must be possible is a bit of a pity- the rules lawyers forced that little insert, I suspect! So overall, I think that the movement rules have taken a massive step in the right direction- they are more immersive, because you can form up your army how you feel is right, lay traps, and still be upset by the Fates. It was a little clinical in previous editions, I felt: it was the most important part of the game, and thanks to the various rules, restrictions and "Guestimates" meant that you had to remove yourself from gameplay. As I have discussed before, wargaming is generally an immersive hobby- we paint models, build scenery and tables, and write fluff because we want to be immersed in the game itself, and so anything that gets closer to this is a good thing. Movement the other way is essentially moving towards Chess (yes, still a wargame I know, but more of a Board Game now, I feel)- letting the rules and the abstract govern the outcome. Both good games, but lets not get them confused as the same thing!

On to the big one, the one that people say has "ruined" Fantasy- random charge distances. first of all, lets change the word "Random" for "Variable". We all know that dice have random chance, but we don't like to think of randomness in general. It has connotations of gambling, of relying on luck. Lets go with some neutral language. 

Also, I'm looking at the variable charge distance as part of the whole, rather than an abstract. The effect is still largely the same between editions- in the past, charge ranges were calculated by eye. For Veterans, or people used to feet and inches, this is fine- for everyone else it is abstract- players not comfortable with the concept are constantly removed from the game, and the rules essentially punish them through no fault of their own. In 8th, Charge distances are still variable, and there is still a chance for failure- the difference now is that it is a level playing field. 

(A quick note on pre-measuring- it is simpler. That's it. This, for me, is the same principal as Heavy Lifting- watch a child lift a box, they follow, almost perfectly, lifting regulations. As we get older, we learn bad habits, and have to be re-taught how to lift safely. Now watch a child who has never played a wargame before- say 8 year old Billy. Ask him if he thinks one unit is in range of the other- the first thing he'll do is reach for the tape measure. )

Tactically, by itself, random charge distance would be a bad thing. However, since it wasn't the only change Games Workshop made, lets not take it out of context. Now, you basically have a choice of risking it all on an early charge, or waiting for the safer option and closing with your opponent. Unsupported charges are still a bad option for units, the flank is still the optimal position. All that has changed is the process- and it's not really a big change. In fact, it's a hell of a lot easier. The game is faster, more playable, more immersive and more fun as a result, and it hasn't lost anything in the tactics- it just means that the tactics have changed. Bear in mind that units with Swiftstrider now have a better chance of pulling off a long range charge, for example, means that you can set Cavalry traps. The threat area of units is variable, which means that there is more to consider when looking at your opponents forces- the Tactics are different, not gone.

(Oh, and a quick note to 40K players who are saying they will hate random movement in 40K- use more than 5 pieces of Scenery in your games, and play with infantry. 40K has random movement- in fact, it has for around 14 years now. Fantasy followed 40K, not the other way around.)

Ok, what else has changed in movement- well, not much. Rallying has been neatened up. Compulsory moves now don't get in the way of charges (Stupidity tests, for example). Enemy in 8" can be ignored with a Leadership test for marching, but marching is largely positional for the charge anyway- no more march blocking with tiny scout units, unless the enemy is particularly poorly motivated/trained. Lone models now move as all other units- the wheel, march etc- thank all that is Holy! And.... that's about it.

So, hopefully that isn't too much of a wall of text for you all :) In conclusion- don't listen to people complaining about random chance in GW games. Looking at the rules in context, the story is very different- I'm not saying WFB is better for the change, but it isn't any worse, and it is more intuitive.

Next up- Magic (the rules, not the Lores!- that's a whole other box of frogs)

Comments, as always, are welcome.

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