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.