Monday, April 2, 2012

The Empire's New Clothes

For me the new Empire Book is pretty important in the context of Warhammer Fantasy battles.

Under 8th Edition The Empire had become a very competitive army that had various tools to make it a strong all-rounder e.g. difficult to shift units, a strong magic defense, access to a breadth of spell decks, solid warmachines, cheap characters, flyers (through the Captasus) etc.

Where other races had the hard edges knocked off their list builds The Empire was generally restricted by a warmachine cap and by a limit to a single Steam Tank. Crucially it had the best warmachine, the Great Cannon, in the Special slot and a workaround that transferred Flagellants from Rare to Core.

So the past 18 months have been a golden time for The Empire. Whereas they had previously been an uncommon army, now they regularly populate the top tables. Here in Wellington, Jack has won Homecon I and Runefang V with them in the past six months.

However one thing that was evident was that more and more with The Empire there was a single build. Yes, some people might use Swordsmen while others used halberdiers, there might be variation in the choice of lores, but the army typically was:

Arch Lector on War Altar

BSB in 1+ Armour on Barded Horse with Stubborn Banner

Level 4

Pegasus Captain with Casket

Level 1 Scroll Caddy

Big block of State Troops

Bunker unit for Wizards

Large unit of Knights

2 Cannons

Steam Tank

Other units as per General's individual preference.

Every competitive list looked like this. Every one.

Why this new book is important is that we will see if Games Workshop can provide a variety of competitive builds rather than the single one we see now. For it to be a success it must challenge some of the current 1+ choices while giving a leg up to those currently not seen. And it must do this while not adjusting its overall power too much.

If you take the four books released in 8th Edition to date - Orcs and Goblins (small boost), Tomb Kings (static), Ogre Kingdoms (big boost) and Vampires (too soon but likely moderate decline) - the power levels have looked to balance towards the centre. The Empire was just above this centre - but one-dimensional. This is not an exact process and depends on the local meta and whether any comp levers are pulled.

I am heartened that there have been some howls over the weekends as more information is released. This suggests that a few sacred cows have been sacrificed which will see the army re-balanced but importantly remove 1+ options. This means post-release all options in the book will be considered as the "new" build is determined. Hopefully, this will take years and even then not full coalesce as GW have got things right.

The devil as they say, will be in the detail. I'm excited about this release.


  1. This is why I like soft comp, for all its obvious difficulties. I was using Empire all year in 2011, and my lists looked *nothing* like the one you have shown above.

    I am also looking forward to seeing the new book.

  2. Howling aside, I am secretly hoping that TVI tactics (look 'em up on the warhammer-empire forum) make a come back with the new book...with a Demigriffon/mage taxi twist. As much as the above list has served me well, the play style has gotten stale. Here's hoping

    Joel V

    1. No Halflings.
      Madness, I say...

  3. I'm definitely excited, and can't wait to finally brush aside the rumours and get my mits on the book itself this weekend.

    I kinda think though, with the 7th edition book and tournaments, that the 'single build' above was mostly dictated by the comp systems in place over here (limiting dispel dice, character caps etc). There were a ton of really great Empire builds which you just couldn't take to tournaments and do any good with comp. I hated taking wizards, for example, and so relied on Warrior Priests for magic defence. Sure I miss out on some great magic lores and synergies but though it was not optimal it was still competitive. With a magic dice cap however, you take away much of what makes that variation viable.

    Likewise banning special characters. Kurt Helborg can make for a great competitive Knight army for example, that is not OP (he has no ward save) but is something a bit different that can still provide opponents with a challenging game.

    I always found, when looking at tournament packs in 2011, that the restrictions put in front of me encouraged a very similar build to what Pete has list above, and discouraged the type of diversity that is lamented here.

    On topic, it is my hope that the 8th edition 'nerf' to many of the Empire's perceived 'OP' units is reflected in the tournament packs, and I can start taking themey-yet-not-complete-walkover lists to public events.

    Realistically though, I doubt it. I accept that tournaments are a different beast to what I play at home and that's where I will have to leave it :)

    1. Tim,

      I'm in the Tron this weekend. Is there somewhere that I can pick up the Empire book?


    2. Oh yeah for NatCon! There are two stores on Victoria Street; Mark One Games and Comics, and Vagabond.

      Chris from Mark 1 says he has limited stock of Empire stuff (one or two each of the new stuff plus some army books) and he opens from 9am. He mentioned that because of the tournament it would be quite busy.

      I am not sure about the stock situation with Vagabonds.

      Would you like me to pick you up a copy, and drop it off at the tourney?

    3. That would be fantastic Tim. I can sort out cash prior or pay you at time

    4. Np, we can sort it out on Saturday - hopefully buying two wont be a problem. Mk1 has 10% club discount FYI.