Friday, April 20, 2012

8th Ed Rule Changes Redux - Stepping Up/Supporting Attacks

I’m going to start with what I think is an easy one.

Under 7th Edition if you charged in you got to strike first and if you managed to kill the whole front rank you took no attacks back. This was great for units like DoC Fiends, Wood Elf Wardancers or especially Chaos Knights where they could inflict a surgical strike hoping to break the unit on the charge. As long as you scored more than 5 kills the unit was going to be taking a break test.

Fast forward to 8th and the introduction of Stepping Up and more encompassing Supporting Attacks. We now have a brave new world where killing the front rank doesn’t necessarily protect you from return attacks. As long as you have models that can move into the spaces of those killed, you get to hit back – and generally with a second rank.

This radically shifted the power to the infantry block. Suddenly those units of 5 Chaos Knights weren’t going to smash the holes in the lines that up until had been their modus operandi. The units had to get bigger to be able to sustain casualties to engage in the grind that eventually would win the combat. This was exasperated by the introduction of Steadfast that rewarded those extra ranks in the infantry block.

The uber-skirmisher units – wardancers, plague censer bearers, squig hoppers – all disappeared from the game, which was probably an unexpected consequence of the change. They did need their powers wound back but in a lot of cases were no longer viable – particularly given their high cost. The only skirmishers you see now are the shooty death merchants – gutter runners, flamers, shades, waywatchers – that can do their damage at distance. The only fighty skirmisher is the Dryad and I think that is a combination of theirrelatively cheap cost (12 points), high Initiative and two attacks.

Overall, I think that the introduction of Stepping Up and supporting attacks has been very positive for the game. With Steadfast it moved the balance to the infantry block and got the fulcrum with cavalry just about right. The area where it perhaps overshot was in relation to combat skirmishers.

Rule Change: B+


  1. These two rules and in particular step up are almost single handedly responsible for strengthening the Dwarven army book, and for the dramatic shift from gunline armies to combat focused GW infantry blocks (at least in my list). The fact that opponents now know that they are going to get hit back means they have had to completely change their game plan against Dwarfs, and it gives us an incredible increase in the range of tactical decisions we can make. Far too often 7th involved turns where armies would do little more than make minute adjustments to their facing and position to ensure they got the first charge, and Dwarfs would often lose a game in Turn 2 when an opposing army hit the front ranks of their units and proceeded to chop them to bits round after round with impunity. In 7th you relied on one block holding long enough for others to hit the enemies flank. Now one block can look after itself while the others can operate as independent units rather than mere flanking attachments.

    For High Elves is also means an extra rank of Spears getting attacks, and the Phoenix Guard are slightly more effective as a combat unit rather than a defensive bunker and White Lions have become the new king of High Elf armies.

    Steadfast is also a great rule, although those big blocks of 50 Slaves are still annoying.

    For me what I enjoy most is knowing that my guys can survive and that every combat involves LOTS of dice throwing.

  2. Bigger issue for Skirmishers, was losing 360 degree LOS, and hence charging, they fixed the formation issues they use to have with loose ranks when not in combat. Combat skirmishers are much harder to use now, not that is a bad thing.

  3. Step up is probably the one rule which bought me back into playing WHFB after a 3 edition holiday

  4. Best rule change from 8th Ed. by far! It changed the abstract concept of unit combat from a static to a dynamic affair. Where in previous editions front ranks could be mowed down like wheat, with the remaining 20+ soldiers standing around twiddling their thumbs...8th Ed. has brought hand-to-hand combat to life, now becoming an epic scrum of martial death!

    Rule Change grade: A

  5. Overall I reckon it's a reasonable change. My chaos warriors and dwarfs love it. I guess good combat troops do. My skeletons and zombies, they are not so keen, they have always been bad in combat, now they are worse off, because they still stink whereas more enemy get to hack them down. My wardancers downright detest it, they might as well climb a tree and stay there until the next book. So, some winners, some losers, pretty obvious statement to make. I think the 7th edition rule needed a change, for me step up would have been enough, supporting attacks just compound the problem for average/poor troops. As ever with GW, they take a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Grade C+.

  6. the change to initiative rather than the charge had a major effect too, unless you play a high initiative killy army then you must take lots of troops. it also made some more expensive units of no use, Pretty new boar boys, I am looking at you...

  7. my orcs loved it. suddenly a high elf or daemon match up wasnt an auto lose. so basically what i mean is i started to beat dave haha


  8. The loss of combat skirmishers from the game is a pity. A rule allowing them ASF on the charge (Surprise Assault or somesuch) might have been helpful but ultimately PCBs and Hoppers - two wonderfully characterful units for their respective armies - have become quite extinct. I gave Hoppers a very good go before they became (more) unit fillers for big blocks of Night Goblins.

  9. I think Step Up is a contender for the best rule change in the new edition. It wound me up that in 7th, the enemy striking first had enough time to kill models in the second rank, but those models lacked the time to strike back. As a Dwarf player, the strategy consisted of huddling behind a shield and hoping your 3+ AS would be enough to give me a strike or two back. Step Up rocks, partly because it's realistic, partly because it restores a large measure of game balance. Definitely an A from me, maybe even an A+.

    Supporting Attacks was a nice bonus, mainly for infantry, but particularly for quality infantry with only 1 attack/3 for monstrous; Dwarves, White Lions, Ogres and the like. I think this helps restore the balance towards infantry which was sorely lacking in 7th Edition. A B+ grade for this I think.

    The effects of these rules on combat skirmishers is an issue, but I don't lament the (much needed) nerfing of Censor Bearers; losing whole units to 6 of them on the charge kind of tears your undies a bit. I'm not familiar with Wardancers or Squig Hoppers, but I'm disappointed that GW didn't have the presence of mind or the quantity of playtesting to see the effect Steadfast, Step Up and Supporting Attacks would have. Having said that, Skirmishers have never been able to take on ranked infantry in a slugging match, so the issue is how to find a role for combat skirmishers that doesn't involve them destroying blocks from the front. I really wouldn't like to see ASF on them though......

    1. To be fair I still find myself using a unit of 5 Hoppers - they do come in handy on the odd occasion (average dice for movement pending). And they were pretty ridiculous under 7th.

    2. To quantify that further - organising a 'second round' flank charge against an enemy unit fighting a BIG block of Night Goblins with Nets. Good times when you get +2 combat res before casualties, have more ranks than the enemy, and improve the odds of the Hoppers not getting smashed if the Nets work. Lots of dice love needed but sublime when it happens.

      And if it's against Dwarves? Gurgle...

  10. Like I said before in a previous comment. I'm came into fantasy upon 8th. So my knowledge of 7th and past rule-sets is quite vague.

    But looking at the 7th rules for Charging and combat and the like (with my BFSP rulebook at hand ;D) looks rather grim (in my opinion). Comparing the current rules to the older ones, the current rules beat the older ones 10 fold

  11. The new rules are way better than 7th
    Every version of the rules that comes out makes some troops good and nerfs others, as players we need to find ways of playing with what we have eg I love my snotlings but am trying to find ways to use them