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Warhammer Fantasy from the Eyes of a 40K Player

Like pretty much everyone else who wargames, when the new Fantasy Rulebook hit my local store I stroked my imaginary beard (What you didn’t?) and fulfilled my curiosity. I spent a whole morning reading the Rulebook, referred to me from hence forth as the Rules Tome, and I walked away with an appreciation for how different Fantasy is from my beloved 40K. I’d like to go over a few of those differences and hopefully convince some staunch 40K players to at least, like peace, give Fantasy a chance.

Obviously Fantasy is almost completely different mechanically from 40K and even the most ignorant 40K player knows this. What I was more struck by was how different the game felt and had to be approached. Even just reading the rules doesn’t do it justice, as a found out when playing a few small games with my budding Goblin army. I’m by no means a Fantasy expert but the point of this article is how the game looks to fresh eyes, someone who spent absolutely no time with 7th Edition and only had a basic grasp on how that edition of the game worked.

Welcome to Chaos

Warhammer Fantasy is one of the most random games I have ever laid eyes on. Beyond the fact that dice are used to resolve all outcomes, the game takes it to another level. Charges are randomly rolled, not a concrete number. Warmachines can and will blow up or fail to even get a shot off without enemy interference. Magic devastates armies, either your opponents or your own. Even the terrain is often unknown until you enter it and it often tries to kill you, or at least ruin your plans.

The rules themselves are a hostile environment, giving neither player a sure position or plan. This is wildly different from 40K where you know exactly what terrain does and even if your units fail, they rarely backlash and actually harm themselves or friendly units. In 40K certain laws are always present and that’s comforting, they can be relied upon even when everything’s going wrong. Fantasy gives no such crutch and momentum can change wildly from turn to turn.

The end result? Pure chaos and pure fun. I’ll admit it takes a certain personality to laugh when your carefully laid plans are just shredded but Fantasy almost requires it. Check your ego at the door because often everything is going to fall apart and when it does, it’s beautiful. The rules provide a larger range for success and failure than 40K and the game becomes about who can adjust faster than who can execute better, which results in an increasingly frenetic pace.

I really can’t do it justice, it has to be played or watched. I had a large gallery of people watching when I was playing and even people I knew had no interest in wargames were into it, cheering and laughing and the games went back and forth. I found myself not being sucked into the game tactically like 40k, but sucked into the fun and desire to see what happened next.

I’m Not Gonna Make It Sarge……..

Another massive chasm between the two systems are how casualties are dealt with. In 40K, most of the game is about limiting your opponent’s offense. Cover saves, blocking LoS, giving them bad targets or matchups and just generally taking a hammer to anything their army can do so your models can live another turn.

Fantasy has no such mindset. Your models will die and they will die in droves. This is just accepted as a fact before a game even begins, unless there is a massive disparity between players, lists or luck both armies will finish more or less in ruin. The shocking part is how little you can do to protect your toy soldiers compared to 40K. There are no cover saves, only penalties to shooting which are ignored by most magic and warmachines. Reliable armor saves are uncommon and can be reduced, causing even shock infantry to die easily.

True LoS in particular is ineffective at presenting casualties. Because Fantasy movement is much more rigid and in most cases slower compared to 40K, hiding behind friendly units can cripple your own army. Most terrain are forests, rivers, marshes and other things that don’t inhibit LoS at all, where blocking terrain is almost needed to play 40K. It gives the feeling of fantasy warfare, where you’re almost naked at range and both sides are rushing forward for the “protection” of melee or to stop the missile fire personally.

Also, everything just seems to do more. More missile troops firing, more models fighting in close combat, more spells going off for bigger effects. The rules have a more horde appeal than trying to squeeze the most potential out of elite units. Very small units simply won’t have anything left after a few turns of mass fire or magic, and then can be easily put down by a tide of cheap troops, ignoring their superior skills through attrition and numbers.

Balance Must Be Found

Personally, my favorite thing was how balanced armies need to be. No single phase of the game can be relied on to win, as opposed to 40K where some armies exist for one phase only. Nothing is reliable enough to win a game by itself, so all armies are a sum greater than their parts. Shooting and Magic support Close Combat so your units have better odds of breaking enemy units. Close Combat protects your vulnerable warmachines and shooting troops from being run down.

Even though all phases are important, Close Combat is still king. This is a fundamental change over 40k, where Shooting dominates the game for almost every army. This is because of how the mechanics work; Close Combat is the fastest and most reliable way of destroying entire units. The availability of higher Leadership character and Battle Standard potency have made units fleeing off the board from a shooting casualties much less likely, so it’s necessary to get your hands dirty.

Would You Describe You Experience as Satisfying?

Overall, the 8th Edition of Warhammer Fantasy appears to be a phenomenal game. I would never argue if it’s better than Warhammer 40K and no one else should either, they offer different things to different people and that’s how it needs to be. The differences are larger than just mechanics; it extends to every other facet of the game. Where Fantasy was once the game of pure tactics and min-maxing, it’s now about working with controlled chaos and finding the right mixture of units for an army.

I won’t say 40K has claimed the throne of “More Tactical Game” but it’s the more reliable game. Dice are the only wild factor; very little chance exists in the rules or individual armies. The popular saying of “No plan survives contact with the enemy” never applied to wargaming because the dice got to your first but in Fantasy even the rules can throw in a cheap shot once in awhile.

A better saying would be “My plan never had a chance” but I’d be shocked if you found yourself caring. If you have the chance to demo Fantasy, you have my whole hearted recommendation to do so. You might find a welcome respite from the same old thing.

Posted by on June 29 2010. Filed under Blog, Warhammer FB, Warhammer40K. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

16 Comments for “Warhammer Fantasy from the Eyes of a 40K Player”

  1. Very insightful. I've always been curious about Fantasy but have found it hard to get real information on the game in not only an impartial manner but in a way a 40K player would easily understand. You've done both, well done.

  2. Thanks for your post. I think Fantasy is worth looking at; I used to love playing it until I discovered 40K. Some good insight for sure. However I have some disagreements:

    Unless they've completely changed things, I believe that you're wrong on some counts. Particularly when you say that “everything does more”. A 40K ork nob would be about equal to a special character in Fantasy. Only the front rank fights (thus a unit of 25 orcs will be making approximately 7 attacks in cc), only the front rank shoots. Casualties are far fewer, but leadership comes into play. Weapons are all weaker. A heavy bolter would be considered one of the best weapons in fantasy, if it were present. Troops have far fewer attacks and far fewer can fight. 40K has much better mobility and shooting so there is much more cc death and shooting death. Compare a standard fantasy magic missile to an ork loota or two and you'll get about the same effect.
    Granted, they may have completely revamped all the rules so maybe I shouldn't talk. I think you're right about more randomness, especially when it comes to warmachines, magic, and leadership.

  3. The bearded one

    Yep, it's totally changed. Far more carnage.
    You fire in 2 ranks standard, you fight in 2 ranks standard ( 3 with spears, 4 if your unit is 10 wide, the socalled 'horde' rule ) , no more guessing so stone throwers can put the templates where they want, a revamping of all the magic lores in the book so now they're insane. While the standard model might have less attacks than in 40K armour saves aren't consistent as they can be reduced by str 4 and higher.

    Basically, you will need a lot of rank & file, because it is complete fodder. Everything from weak to elite, you need more guys.

    A very good article Prince of Excess, keep it going!

  4. Symphonic_Monster

    Fantastic! Well written and done in a positive manner. Thank you for taking the time to write such a well thought out article.

  5. In 8th edition, the first rank fights, the second rank adds a supporting attack, a third rank if you have spears and a fourth if the unit is a Horde, aka 10 wide. As core units are widely going to be 40-strong at least in 8th, they will get the attacks from the front, plus 20-30 more attacks. Also, missile infantry can shoot in 2 ranks now, basic, and arrows can shoot in 2 and a half (to represent volley fire)

    Also, the heavy bolter would be useless in fantasy if it kept the same rules. 3 shots, str5 ap4 i believe? That'll kill three models at most. Outriders, for example, which are empire cavalry with repeater handguns, have 3 shots each at str4 and armour piercing. Most 40k weapons pale in comparison to fantasy weapons ruleswise – the str-negating-saves system is a lot more devastating than AP, as it has an effect on even the most armoured of units.

    In 40k, a character can usually do pretty well, usually in CC. A standard CC HQ choice can kill its fair share in combat with a power weapon, and usually win the combat. In fantasy, a melee character can usually kill enough troops or win a challenge by enough to swing the combat in their favour, which can let them overrun a unit and kill it entirely (20, 40+ models). And they can ride mounts, including dragons. A magic character is now even more devastating, with the basic fireball spell able to do up to 3d6 hits, and higher end spells able to cripple unit(s). Or turn the wizard into a dragon.

    Basically, fantasy is bloody.

  6. Good article, thanks for the review!

  7. What a fantastic article! I agree on almost all counts, this for me feels like the dawn of a new age for Fantasy!

    I am now eagerly awaiting 6th edition of 40k, even if they change half as much as they did to fantasy, it'll make the games more dynamic. It's a shame that its still two to three years away.


  8. The Prince of Excess

    Really glad this article was liked, thanks so much for the positive responses! I hope Fantasy starts to experience some of the popularity 40K takes for granted.

  9. Great article, man! Fantasy has been lagging for the last few years, and I do hope that this will bring it back up. Being primarily a Fantasy player who also plays 40k, I couldn't really bring the same perspective you have, which I thik is great.

    You do make some good points, too. With the changes to Warhammer, 40k is now the much more reliable game, as you know exactly what terrain will do. And your enemy doesn't have a single model that can create an unholy crapstorm able to wipe out your entire army in one moment.

    To those doubting the killing ability of fantasy weapons, let me put it in perspective. In 40k, there are a LOT more templates readily available. However, in fantasy, templates no longer do partial hits (think 4th ed 40k), and you're hitting units that are ranked up, in base-to-base contact with each other. And a lot of powerful spells use templates. I lost 20 out of 27 T4 models with a 4+ armor save before I ever hit combat in my last game. Range can be devastating in fantasy, as it can in 40k. I think this reinforces the point about rushing into melee to get out of your opponent's sights. Unless, of course, you're playing a gunline.

  10. William Denton

    Whilst I agree that the new rules may certainly make fantasy much more wild , chaotic and admittedly fun I remain unconvinced about how much they will improve the game from the older editions. They do appear to be out to balance the playing field between the armies of 7th edition, which I can only applaud, but it will only be a matter of time before a select few armies will once again be able to manipulate the rules in their favour the most.
    The factor I am most sceptical about is the randomness that you mention in your article. Whilst I appreciate that the changes in the magic system and charging in particular will bring in an element of the unknown it is frankly not one that I welcome. As a long time player of both systems I have always appreciated the tactical nuances of fantasy and enjoyed the satisfaction of a plan coming together. Similarly when my plans fall apart I much prefer it when this is due to the tactical skills of my opponent than randomness and blind chance. Clearly in a game that revolves around the rolls of inumerable d6 chance is always going to be a factor but I think these rules may have gone too far and taken too much power from the hands of the players and placed it into thehands of the dice gods.
    I play Warhammer to have fun but I also play to win, to me that is part of the fun and I like to retain more control than it seems the new edition is willing to give me.

    I'm sure the new rules will continue to allow for vast amounts of fun in the chaos, and my problems with it may be negated through, as you suggest, leaving my ego at the door. For now though I think I shall observe from a distance and stick to the more reliable 40k before re-entering the fantasy arena…

  11. The Prince of Excess

    William, I was completely in your boat and still am in the 40k realm. I applaud you for admitting you really hate when dice make things fall apart, I didn't have the guts to admit that until recently. It seems to be one of the qualities of a “that guy” to blame dice, but dice are a huge part of the game and it's extremely valid, within reason of course.

    Like I said, I think fantasy is extremely tactical, but in an adaptive way not a cold and calculating way. I played a game last night where the Winds of Magic Rolls were never higher than a 5 for me and my opponent never rolled under a 10. I had to adapt, one of my crutches was removed. It was exciting and I walked away satisfied that I pulled the win out. It would be like my IG army saying, half the army can't shoot this turn, the good half.

    In 40k, that would have probably been an auto-loss. Fantasy still gives room for you to snatch victory with the other phases. For example, in the same game I set up my opponents Chaos Warriors so he could eat a NG Archer unit, but taking a Fanatic and a Stand and Shoot. Than I let him charge my Spearmen but after two more Fanatics, there was nothing left and I broke him. His only recourse would have been sacrifice a turn to charge the Spearmen, which would have been a whole turn of shooting and still two Fanatics.

    It's really still a game of knowing what you're doing but now it's adapting as well. I see it as more of a challenge frankly and I like that.

    I agree on your other points, no game can ever be balanced when you have the differences Warhammer has, i.e armies. Armies will rise to the top but my Night Goblins will always be there, trying to keep some egos in check. ;]

  12. I played 40k during 2nd Ed. As for fantasy, I started just after the 7th edition came along. As I was hearing about 8th I was back and forth, thinking it would be awful, maybe ok, it's gonna suck, might be alright…..something about this article got me thinking in a much more positive light about 8th edition. The extra random elements…..= a need to adapt and evolve? Alright, putting in that way the 8th ed. sounds pretty cool. Hopefully I can try it out soon.

  13. The Prince of Excess

    As I've been escalating points with my circle of friends, the games only gotten more adaptive. Magic caps out with the random rolls so it can't be depended on, sometimes you simple don't get the dice. My friend runs a Beastmen army with heavy magic and one game he got all low dice, so it was curtains for him.

    At first glance, Magic and shooting look VERY powerful but close combat is almost always locked in by turn 2. The change to charging was genius, no ones cares if they charge or take a charge now as long as the units are evenly matched or it serves a tactical purpose. There's no jockeying for position while you get picked off, it's a Braveheart, balls out rush to melee.

    The dust hasn't even started to settle but running light magic, and some war machine hate with BIG blocks is working wonders for me. Cheaper armies really have the advantage if backed by a little shooting and magic, a unit of 15 Chaos Warriors will make it into combat with 10 or less and get whittled down for no loss.

    Luckily I'm working on Skaven. ;]

  14. Very nice thoughts running through my head…
    I only recently got into fantasy but the few games I did have were all too similar, hopefully this new edition(ive not had a chance to read it yet) will make it more enjoyable. Personally I enjoy winning but equally enjoy watching my so called 'rock hard' unit get smashed by a load of scummy underdogs, its just funny!
    And seeing as my friend and regular opponent is going to be running goblins, I feel some fun times ahead….:)

  15. Only 1 thing. Whoever said the shooting phase is dominant in 40k? everyone knows 40k is won or lost in the assault phase. It’s just the warhammer way.

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