There Will Be Blood
In a word, Warhammer 8th edition will be bloody. Missile troops can fire in two ranks or more. Additional ranks can fight in close combat. Templates no longer have to check for partials. Magic can annihilate units. It all boils down to more models dying, in a shorter period of time.
My FLGS, which is closed on Tuesdays, received its preview copy of the 8th ed rulebook yesterday, and I arrived early so I could take a gander at it. . .a three-hour gander. Most of my night was spent exclaiming “Holy crap!” and “Dude, listen to this. . .” I had been very concerned with the rumors I had been hearing for the last few months, but I would have to say that yesterday allayed most of them. In fact, the majority of the rumors we had been hearing lately were very accurate, but in the overall context of the game, they made sense and became less alarming. I can’t really give a full account of the book. I didn’t take notes, nor did I study it long enough to put every minor detail down to memory. I will say this – it’s large enough to stop a bullet, and is full of enough goodness to be worth its $75 price tag. Yes, I just said a rulebook is worth $75. This rulebook destroys the 7th ed one in the same fashion that a battle tank would destroy a smart car in a head-on collision. The rules are better written, and loaded with helpful diagrams. There are six regular scenarios, and an entire section on specialty battles. There are nineteen new magic weapons, and about as many for every other category. But I digress from my main topic.
This edition will be much, much, oh-so-much bloodier than 7th. So much bloodier, you’d think it was written by the Blood God himself. Even better, the killing has to be done actively with weapons and not passively with Psychology. Daemons and Vamp Counts are getting a huge tone-down, as being charged by a Fear causer doesn’t force a Fear test, and losing to a Fear causer doesn’t cause an auto-break. Now, if you’re in base with a Fear causing enemy in Close Combat, you take a Fear test. If you fail, you’re WS1 for that phase. This affects your entire unit, even if only a single enemy model causes fear, like a character in a unit, or a dragon or other monster. So losing combat to skeletons no longer means you run and wet your drawers. Getting charged by something that causes Terror does carry the risk of fleeing if you fail your Ld test, but I think (I think, not I know) that the 6” range for Terror has been removed, so you actually have to get into combat now. And since they also cause Fear, there’s a chance that a lord on dragon could cow an entire enemy unit.
On top of that, if you lose combat but have more ranks than your enemy, you count as Steadfast, which is the same as being Stubborn, meaning big blocks of infantry can no longer get mauled by heavy cav and run in one round. Blood Knights and Chaos Knights will now be forced to hack their way through infantry, rather than having one good round of combat and chasing them down. Those blocks of infantry also have a much better chance at hurting their opponents. Models in the second rank, directly behind models in base-to-base with the enemy, get to make “supporting attacks”, meaning that each model gets to make one attack to the unit’s front. If you have spears, another rank gets to make supporting attacks (if you didn’t charge), and if you are ten models wide, you count as a Horde, meaning yet another rank gets to support. So you can fight in up to four ranks. And I do believe that these attacks are made with any Strength bonuses from weapons. And you remove wounds from the rear ranks, so as long as you have models left alive in your “fighting” ranks, you’ll get to swing back. So now Chaos Knights charging, say, Dwarf Hammerers will take some S6 shots to the face, even if they manage to kill the first two ranks (provided some are left alive).
Sadly, the +1 Armor Save bonus from sword n’ board is gone, replaced by a 6+ Ward Save. This is great for followers of Tzeentch, who improve that to a 5+. But to me, it makes choosing a Great Weapon or a Spear a no brainer in most situations, meaning that yes, more of my dudes will die from having a worse armor save, but more of your dudes will die from higher strength or more attacks. Which, to reinforce my point, equals more bloodiness. And, if those smarter than I do the math, I think improving your armor save by one or having a 6+ ward save have about the same mathematical chances of success.
Monsters of all types, from ogres to dragons, got a huge shot in the arm. First off, units of monsters get a rank bonus if they’re three-wide, meaning six ogre bulls can get a rank bonus. On top of that, monsters making supporting attacks get to make all of their attacks, and not just one. So that aforementioned unit of bulls gets +1 CR and 18 attacks. Further, monstrous units count as a Horde if they’re only six wide, so eighteen ogres or trolls (expensive, I know) would get +2 CR for ranks, and all of those beasties have the potential to fight, throwing down a whopping 54 attacks. The fun doesn’t stop there. Monsters, when fighting things smaller than themselves (like infantry and cavalry), get bonus Stomp attacks. Each monster gets one stomp attack, at their base Strength but with Always Strikes Last, representing how they can simply crush the puny insects defying them. Larger monsters, like dragons and hydras and such, get Great Stomp (or something like that), which is D6 bonus attacks at their base Strength and ASL. But wait, there’s more! If you have the gift of a breath weapon, you can use it in combat, in addition to your other attacks, causing an automatic 2d6 hits at the Strength of the weapon. Bazinga.
I’ve focused on the close combat death and pain that will result from 8th’s release. But there is much more death and pain elsewhere in the book. Templates no longer roll for partials, so stone throwers and their ilk will become like gods, tearing holes in the enemy lines. Missile troops fire in multiple ranks, meaning they don’t have to be strung out or placed on hills which could be far from the enemy. You can always wound on a 6, meaning no one is safe. Magic is a whole lot of redonkulous. You can dump half of your points on characters, and new magic weapons (such as the +3 Strength axe) could hail the return of Herohammer. But with how easily they can die from swarms of enemy infantry or artillery fire, Herohammer is risky. I suppose that’s what 8th ed is all about: balancing risk. Sure, a unit of fifty Night Goblins gets a crapton of extra attacks, and will most likely count as Steadfast (Stubborn), but if it’s hit by a spell which affects the whole unit, or damages the whole unit, they could be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Taking a wizard lord could lead to you annihilate your enemy from afar, but it could also result in said wizard exploding, getting wisps of beard and scorched, pointy hat over everything, not to mention taking most of his regiment with him.
In the end, I’m very excited to start games of 8th as soon as possible. I’m hoping to play my first tomorrow night, and if I do, I promise you a battle report as quickly as I can get it done. For now, let me leave it at I’m ridiculously stoked over the new edition, and hope that it will breathe new life into Fantasy, and make it the more popular of the two systems once again.