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Sunday, 27 May 2012

Warhammer : Rounding off

Hi all,

Well, I've covered the vast majority of Warhammer 8th Ed over the last few weeks, and this post will round off my thoughts on the rest of the mechanics. There will be posts after this of course, talking about tactics and formations in Fantasy Battle- this series of posts has really been an initial pre-cursor for me, a way of exploring Warhammer and putting my thoughts in one place. Hopefully it has generated some interest amongst you guys as well :)

So, let's talk about the Scenery rules in 8th. The first thing to mention is that none of it slows you down any more- there is no 1/2 movement rules, for example. This took me a while to get used to, moving regiments at full speed through woods! Instead, terrain is either dangerous or not. Dangerous terrain causes you to roll one dice for each model in the unit, on a 1 they die so it really is Dangerous. Horde formations avoid terrain like this wherever possible, and due to their size it is very limiting on movement- for me, this mechanic is a new way of getting to the same place. Terrain, essentially, should interact with units and force players to make choices.

The big change to Terrain has been the variable rules- Fantasy has a whole slew of "special"terrain, which you determine at the start of the game or roll when you interact with it. This provides tables a far greater range of scenic types than previous editions, which I love, but I must confess to usually saying what each piece is before the game rather than rolling for it- I just find it too distracting from the game to have the random scenery (again, it's really an immersion issue, and to be honest the only big example I've found in Warhammer so far.)

Hills are basically Line of Sight blockers. Thanks to True Line of Sight it is fairly easy to determine whether a unit can see and be seen. I've found that far fewer hills are on tables nowadays after the Realm of Battle board came out- the 4 hill sections that are part of the board are more than enough, I guess. The one variant I am a fan of is the Scree Slope- this means that if you if a unit marches or charges, they suffer Dangerous Terrain. It's great for affecting movement over one side of a hill and leaving the rest open, and makes charge across hills a more difficult choice.

What Games Workshop have termed Marshland is essentially Rough Ground. It is there to represent terrain which has no battlefield role other than to affect movement (similar to crop fields in Historical Battles), so the only impact it will have on a unit is to inflict Dangerous Terrain rolls- in this case, units fail on a 1 or a 2! I've found that I really like this terrain- it allows units to form a defensive position "in secret", by camping out on one side of the scenery and daring the opponent to come through.

Obstacles are a cover all for fences, walls and the rest- any linear terrain piece really. I like using these to break up the battlefield- walls on the side of roads and the like. In all honesty, I am wary of using the rules for them in game, since they have quite a large impact- they count as Dangerous to units crossing them, but provide Cover and a -1 to Hit penalty to units defending them. This means that they become important terrain pieces, rather than scatter terrain to break up the battlefield. that being said, I've yet to have anyone complain about putting them down then ignoring the rules for them- basically making the battlefield more visually interesting.

Next up is the least-used of the terrain: Rivers. I really must get around to making a river one day! I've only played one game using a river, and I discovered that they are great fun! Units cannot march through a river, so the movement of you battle line is hugely affected if you fail to take it into account- and it negated rank Bonus and Steadfast! Finally, terrain that massively benefits Cavalry and Monsters. Essentially, when fighting in a river you are relying on casualties to break the opponent, and they won't get any special rules to stop you doing it. Yes, I really must make a river soon....

Forests are probably the biggest bogeyman of 8th. They don't block Line of Sight any more (no more "see in 2" rule") and are supposed to be a random type for the first unit that enters them. As I said above, the random type rule I've tended to ignore, so I'll agree with my opponent if it's a Bloodforest at the start of the game- of course, if they have modelled one up, then that's what it is :). I still like using Forests though. They count as dangerous terrain to specific unit types at different speeds- infantry won't really mind too much as they pick their way though, Chariots won't want to go anywhere near.They also provide soft cover to any unit inside, or through them (True LoS coming into play again), and crucially they negate Steadfast. This means that units in a Forest are more likely to be broken in combat- unless, of course, they are Skirmishers, in which case they gain Steadfast instead!

A little more on Forests for a moment. These are indicative of Scenery in 8th Ed. They won't rally stop you moving units around, but they can punish you. This is a huge departure from previous editions, where units could hide behind scenery pieces- now, if you can be seen, you can be shot/charged. Instead, they interact with units by killing models- the choice essentially becomes "can I afford to lose 1/6th of this unit?" I am not really a fan of this- plenty of other things can kill the men under my command, Terrain doing it as well as a little steep. I don't think that the advent of Hordes and Infantry dominance has changed this. However, the subtle interactions with unit types I am a huge fan of- like Skirmishers gaining Steadfast in woodland, and others being denied it. This means that Skirmish units can actually break mainline Infantry in a protracted fight, or at least tie them up long enough that you have time to respond.

The final Scenery type is Buildings. These are much the same as 7th Ed, but with the new kits you are far more likely to see them on the battlefield. They make fantastic hold points, and can really anchor a line of battle- each building is basically a "mini-siege." All I really want is a way of destroying them!

So, scenery has a very different role to play now than previous editions. On the positive side, it is far more intuitive, doesn't slow down the movement phase, and has the advantage of being clear and concise on the rules side. On the other hand, rolling 50 dice for a Horde on Dangerous Terrain is a bit of a pain, and as mentioned above I'm not such a fan of the "deadly terrain" principle.

Moving swiftly away from Scenery, on to Characters. This is a big topic which can be summed up fairly quickly- they are unit buffs. Gone are the days of lone characters breaking whole Infantry regiments thanks to Steadfast, supporting attacks and combat resolution. Now, characters increase the fighting potential of units, as well as the all-important leadership boosts. Luckily, thanks to the percentage system for army selection, Characters are easier to get into an army- you may have seen that my current approach in my lists is to include a character for each fighting unit where possible. Yes, there are a lot of rules governing challenges, leaving and joining units and so on- much of this is the same. The important bit, really, is that you now want more characters in more of your units- the limits have been reduced, so why not!

The only other thing to note in Characters is the Battle Standard Bearer- this guy is now compulsory unless you are Undead! Many of the changes in 8th force you to make a Leadership test (enemy in 8", reforms, Fear, etc) and to counter this, the Battle Standard now affects ALL Leadership test in 12". This is a huge advantage, and should really be capitalised on- does he give away extra VP's? Yes. Does he make all your units in a 24" Diameter more reliable? Yes! That's a fair trade.

Well, that concludes my general ramble through the 8th Ed changes, what I think the impacts are, and hopefully I've shown that most of them are positive. The main reason for going so in-depth was that all of these changes and tweaks interact, and taking any one in situ defeats the point. There are more tactical options in this edition (thanks largely t the increases in Leadership tests) than previously, and battles are far more difficult to predict. Are all of the armies balanced? Of course not, this is a Games Workshop product :) Are all of the armies able to win against another? Yes- something that simply was not true at the end of 7th. Most impressive, for me at least,, is that the game is now more immersing, more flowing and more fast paced- all of these things are huge points in its favour, for me at least. So overall?

9 out of 10?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

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