Some Thoughts on 8th Edition

I heard from a friend of mine from sunny CA today. He's an old veteran of Warhammer Fantasy. In fact, his Orcs are one of the first armies I painted on commission. Here's what he had to say about 8th Ed.

8th Ed: Having gotten over my initial gag response upon hearing that many of the rumors were true, and played a few games with them, here are some of my thoughts:

Warhammer used to be a game in which savvy players won (and lost) in the movement phase. It was a game of maneuver and timing. Not so much anymore. The main factors which contribute to the change are 3 fold:

1) Random charge distances. Everything charges it's base movement characteristic +2D6 (or 3D6 pick the highest 2 for some things). This obviously introduces a great deal of uncertainty. I'm not certain why this change was made. IMO, there was nothing wrong with the old system (if it ain't broke...) and this merely serves to make getting into combat more a function of luck rather than experience and skill. I dislike this change.

2) Strict Initiative Order: Once you manage to get into combat with aforementioned random movement, order of attack is determined soley by the Initiative characteristic. Charging only grants a +1 to combat resolution. The art of setting up elaborate feinted flights and counter charges is, for the most part, irrelevant.

3) The Step-up rule: No matter how many casualties you inflict on the enemy, if there are still models left in the unit to attack, they do. For the most part, killing things no longer effects the number of models which get to fight in close combat until you slay enough to diminish back ranks such that you are removing models from a fighting rank.

Combined, these 3 factors makes combat much more predictable based on statlines than it was before. Ie, games will be determined by army composition/matchups much more than they used to be in 7th Ed. Where before, you could deny many frightening units the opportunity to bring their combat umph to bear by settling up elegant traps in the movement phase/charge phase, 8th makes this exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.

There are a number of other changes that contribute as well. Most everything now fights in 2 ranks (it's front rank as normal, plus a max of 1 attack per model in the second rank). This has the effect of increasing the number of dice rolled in the close combat phase considerably. A basic rule of statistics: as you increase the pool, the more likely the result will fall close to the average. Mathhammer has become more accurate.

The ability to redirect the enemy is for the most part gone. One of the most useful tools in 7th in a general's kit was the ability to turn the enemy's flank with say a unit of fast cavalry or Great Eagle or such. Now, when a unit is destroyed in close combat, the winner may elect to reform instead of overrunning.

All missile units can shoot in 2 ranks. Bows of all sorts have the Volley rule, which has to effect of increasing the number of ranks which can shoot beyond 2 ranks depending on the depth of the unit. Additionally, there are no more guessed ranges for artillery. You simply put the template wherever you like it and roll the scatter dice as appropriate. Combined, I feel these two changes will serves to 40K-ize Fantasy for some armies. Where before, practical limitations of frontage and line of sight limited the number of missile units one played, and some skill was required to accurately employ a Stone Thrower or Cannon, now you can easily double the number of guns and the devastation wrought by artillery is largely determined by chance alone. I suspect lists with 50+ Thunderers and 100 + Glade Guard will not be unheard of in the near future...

Which brings me to the last of my main grievances: True Line of Sight. It's official, and it's just absurd. The game effect is that nothing, not even forests, block line of sight anymore, with the possible exception of buildings. It also makes conversion work affect game mechanics... which is just silly. For example, you put your lovely Dragon on a scenic rocky base, increasing his height by a couple inches, granting yonder Wizard clear line of sight to him despite his cringing in fear behind a (slightly shorter) tower, which might have afforded him protection from incoming magic missiles had you not taken artistic license with his base...

Magic now works very differently, and I'm actually a fan of the changes here. Power dice are determined by a roll of 2D6, with the enemy dispel pool being the higher of the two dice rolled. Wizards add their level to the casting value of any spell they cast, and any Wizard can roll up to 6 dice to cast any spell, regardless of level. Irresistible force and miscasting are now one and the same: when 2 or more sixes are rolled in a casting attempt, the spell goes off irresistibly AND you roll on the Loss of Control table, which is significantly more terrifying than the 7th Ed miscast table. The basic Lores of Magic in the main rule book are all playable, which is nice. Some of the effect are very powerful indeed, but have casting values in the high teens to mid twenties, risking devastating Loss of Control result in their attempt. Each lore also has a static special ability specific to it's own flavor. For example, the lore of Life allows you to heal 1 wound on a model within 12" when you successfully cast any of it's spells. The Lore of Death generates addition power dice when you slay models with one of it's spells. Lore of fire spells get easier to cast if you continue to blast the same unit (stoking the fires) and so forth. This adds a nice bit of character to this phase of the game that I enjoy.

Terrain rules are also an improvement IMO. It doesn't usually slow unit's down, but if you march through it, the unit takes difficult terrain tests (rolling a D6 for each model, taking casualties for each 1 rolled). There are also many varieties of each terrain feature, the exact phenotype determined when a unit enters it for the first time in the game, all with different effect. There are nice enchanted woodlands with beneficial effects, and spite filled and twisted forests that will try to eat you (Fangorn!). Again, an interesting bit of flavor that I enjoy.

There are lots of other changes, but those are the big ones that spring to mind after my first couple games.





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