Thursday, August 9, 2012

Meta and the Release Schedule

It is four months since the last Warhammer Army Book was released (Empire in April) and I am starting to get withdrawal symptons. Yes, GW issued the Daemons of Chaos update but it given the suspected release schedule it means that we won't see a new book until October at least. That will represent a gap of six months which feels too long.

The release of a new book is not just important for that race - in terms of models and rules. A good book will also change the meta. In the past two years the best example of this is the Ogre book but the changes to the game were reinforced in both the Vampire Counts and Empire books. We have increasingly seen the rise of the "Deathstar" over the past 12 months with all three books supporting at least one build.

In response other armies have adopted a similar build - Dark Elves for instance - joining other armies that previously utilised this build Daemons and Warriors.

The meta has forced a response to this and one way it is seen is in choice of magic items. This time a year ago the Sword of Anti-Heroes, for instance, was very rare. Now it is a staple to combat the deathstar providing an extra attack and extra strength for each enemy character the wielder's unit is in base contact with. Your opponent shoe-horns in three characters then suddenly you have 3 extra attacks and +3 strength.

Similarly the rise of armour - seen particularly with Mournfang and Demigryphs - requires a response from opposing armies. And so the game shifts.

The internet (and digital media) accelerates the meta and the response process so that nothing is a secret or "new" for long. That is why you need new books - to throw the pieces up in the air - requiring new responses. And it is also why six months is too long between books. New army books are how the game as a whole evolves.

And evolution is good. Without it we might as well all play Dwarfs (where meta is just a word missing one or two letters)!


  1. Hey! I really like your website and find it funny that you 'put down' Dwarfs all the time. They are my favourite army, but I admit, I don't play them much these days - preferring my other armiesover the Stunties (although they are more fun to play in 8th than in 7th). Just a question - what would you do to make them more fun to play against (Dwarfs, that is).
    Thanks -
    Anonymous J

  2. Ban them!

    No easy answers to your question. However I would say that even if you did introduce a more fun edge to Dwarfs it would have to come at the expense of some risk.

    As a rule I find that Dwarfs players do not like risk, they like certainty. Therefore the introduction of a random fun element is unlikely to be embraced by stunty players. They have the opportunity to take fun things now e.g. trollslayers, strollaz rune etc but choose not to.

    1. I see - the defensive gunline with a few uber units in wait when the shot-up foe arrives is always a Dwarf option, but it would be nice if Dwarfs had options for other tactics/builds that were equally viable. I love the character and background (and grudges) but find other armies more rewarding to play with (and against). Thanks. Are you going to Games Day Australia?
      Anon J

    2. For a more fun Dwarf Army I would point you at Simon Switzer, I have had a few games against him in recent tournaments and they have actually been fun games despite the fact he was using Dwarfs! It may not have been the optimum tournament lists but it was fun to play against & he actually moved his troops!

      This may well be a reflection on the person using the army, not the army itself. Still it was nice to play against a Dwarf army that actually made me think about how best to engange it, instead of just how best to surround the little bunker in the far corner so I could get enough bodies (and/or templates) in there to clear them out before the artillery got me.

      Dave A

    3. You don't see Slayers very often, for the same reason you don't see many Vermin Lords or Night Runners; they're just not that efficient. Unbreakable is awesome, but M3 infantry won't see combat unless your opponent wants to, and it's far easier to shoot and magic Slayers to bits at a distance.

      In a nutshell though, Dwarves suffer from an over-reliance on the shooting phase; the army design is imbalanced. This comes about because we have no magic, exceptionally poor movement and mediocre combat ability. To win, we need to attrit and shape the enemy through shooting, the one phase where we have a clear superiority, but this takes time, requires space and can't be directed into combats. So, you end up with the dreaded static Dwarf gunline that has to have 2-3 turns of good shooting before the GW troops can come out to play.

      No magic means that key enemy threats can't be hexed or attrited and decisive combats supported by augments. The lack of cheap and fast chaff, hard hitting mobile units like knights or chariots or any other unit affecting movement means that Dwarves have to play it tight, as we lose the movement phase; the Anvil, MR of Challenge and Miners/Rangers help, but only so far. And while masses of GWs are cool, the limited number of attacks, ASL nature of GWs and lack of rerolls means that Dwarf infantry is often buried in combats by impact hits and high-strength, high initiative attacks before they can strike; this is exacerbated by our poor mobility, meaning the enemy generally stacks the combats in their favour with multiple units. The Strollaz rune can get us to combat sooner, but if the shooting hasn't had a chance to attrit key enemy units, like Abombs, Chaos Warriors or White Lions, then you're just walking into trouble.

      There are answers to these issues, but they won't come out of the current Army Book. The next Army Book needs to improve Dwarf movement by including some redirectors, high-movement combat units and maybe some special rules around Dwarf movement (march after reform for instance). Dwarves need the ability to cast some form of magic, possibly via runes, to allow the use of augments and hexes to tip key combats. Finally, some means of making Dwarf troops more capable in combat will give Dwarf generals an incentive to commit to combats; grudge/hatred rerolls, combined with improved armour (and augment spells/runes) would help.

      In return, Dwarf shooting and anti-magic should be weakened. I think that Dwarf movement, magic and combat can be improved without violating the existing fluff and army design. The issue is whether GW see this, or whether they'll reinforce failure, and keep Dwarves as a shooty army. That would suck for Dwarf players and opponents alike, but let's see what GW has up its sleeve.

    4. The question Tane was how to make them more fun to play against - not how to make them more efficient.

      Dwarf players are just sour gits that want to spoil everybody's fun. I've even had one say to me "I don't have a magic phase so why should you".

    5. Well the guy that said that has Tourettes; don't believe a word he says.

      I think that inefficiency is a way for all armies to become more fun to play against. I don't like seeing 12+ Gutter Runners or 120+ GW Marauders; Night Runners and Shaggoths would be great fun to see for a change.

      Since our conversations earlier this year Pete, I've been thinking a lot about how to make Dwarves more fun to play with and against. Like I said above, we rely on shooting too much because every other aspect of the army is relatively poor. Not only is this the weakest phase, it's boring to play against, but it dictates the build and the army's gamestyle. Give me magic, movement and better combat ability, and I'll give up my rerolling cannons and multiple spellbreakers. Then I'll meet you halfway on the table and make a real game of it.

      But the way the current book is written, as fun as it might be to use a no-war-machine list, you're asking for a smashing from that Abomb or those Mournfangs, unless your opponent also agrees to fluff it up.

  3. Add a Kdaaii, that makes them more fun!

    1. G'day Sam,

      Hopefully there'll be something along those lines (though not so contentious) in the next book.

  4. Units of Gyrocopetrs, kinda like peg knights? Bear cav would be cool and follow the lines of monstrous cav hammer. Maybe they could do something with the whole "book of grudges", I have no idea what though. Movement 4 could help. Bear chariots.....Oh yeah that would be cool. Just show horn them in the fluff like the demigriphs, although I was re reading the BRB fluff and it does mention Demigryph knights in there.