Tuesday, May 6, 2014

State of the Game

Earlier in the year there was a lot of chat that mid year would see the advent of WHFB 9th Edition. I've said that I don't think that will happen as I believe GW will take the opportunity to update the three outstanding non-8th books - Brets, Skaven and Beastmen - before a new edition. To me that means 2015.

As GW would say "This is Great News".

Upon release,  8th Edition really polarised the community. This was especially so in parts of the USA and Australia. In Oz a large part of the tournament playing community up and quit, the majority decamping to Warmachine/Hordes. The criticisms levelled was the game was too random, magic was just six dice Yahtzee etc. In the case of Australia I always felt this was a convenient excuse given the cadre of players were probably just wanting a change having focused on ETC hammer for the preceding two years and achieving 4th in 2010.

However some of the observations were valid. From 7th to 8th WHFB changed from a game where micromanagement of distances and angles was king to one where  risk assessment and management was the key skill. For some it was a change too much as invalidated all the "skills" they had honed.

We are now completing our fourth year of 8th so I thought I'd give some of my thoughts on where I think we stand.

The Game Has Never Been This Balanced

It is a commonly heard phrase but it is in fact true. Remember back to 7th edition and three books dominated the scene. Daemons, Dark Elves and Vampires were significantly better than the other books. More importantly the gap or spread in quality was much wider.

This resulted in ever more complex comp systems to try and balance the game. Largely they failed as they became a "Crimes Against Me" list from the TO. If you looked at the UK GTs at the time the top 20 in uncomped Warhammer were largely DoC and Dark Elves, and generally the same DoC list.

Fast forward to today and I'd contend that you can play with little or no comp. Far more armies are competitive and only very few restrictions need to be considered.

Scenarios Balance The Game

I'm sure that this will raise eyebrows with some "Brets can't win Watchtower" players but I believe it's true. Btw Brets can win Watchtower - they just need to spend some points on MAA and then play accordingly. The fact is that they don't want MAAs and would prefer more knights.

So why do I think scenarios balance the game. Well if well thought out they should influence comp and what choices you pick in your list. If you know you have to secure terrain then you must make your army accordingly. Similarly if you need Fortitude then that takes points away from purely efficient choices.

Generally the complaints come from people who don't want to think on their feet and want to replay the same game over and over again - Battleline, same deployment, same army etc.

I love playing Dawn Attack. Why? Because so many people convince themselves they can't win before the game.

Scenarios are Fun

Playing different games, having different tactical challenges are fun. You need to adapt. If not your army, then your tactics. While we have been a 20-0 region during 8th, locally we play that if you lose scenarios like Blood & Glory or Watchtower, you can't score more than 9 points. Recently I'm thinking introducing more of this WDL mentality may make the game even more fun.

Risk Management is more fun than Resource Management

While the ability to estimate distance or angles is a skill, I prefer risk assessment, mitigation and management. 8th Edition gives this in spades. People bemoan their luck all the time - some far more than others. However recently I watched a vid where Polish player Furion said bad luck is probably the reason for no more than 1 in 50 losses. The rest is due to mistakes or poor play.

Generally players are lazy and creatures of habit. How often do you see players choose their formation to suit their option. Or use the same tactic regardless of enemy

I believe that where luck hurts you you generally have to put yourself in a position where it can. I can think of probably 2 games out of well over 500 8th ed games that I have lost due to luck. The rest are due to errors on my part - not seeing something, poor target priority, taking undue and unneeded risk.

And this is what I love about the game. You can usually, if honest with yourself, pinpoint a mistake where you lost the game.

The Mechanics Make More Sense

Remember Flesh Hounds charging in, killing your front rank and getting no hits back. Looking back it seems bizarre but that was the rules. Steadfast didn't exist so ranked infantry was a joke. There were lots of things that didn't make sense.

I'm sure that there are things in 8th that can be improved but generally the mechanics seem more logical. I think they are refinements....make cannons roll to hit for instance....but I hope 9th is just refinements.

The Games Are More Fun

Generally far more happens. You have big magic and if you are stupid enough to put all your eggs in one well wrapped and ribboned basket then you can get hurt. But you can mitigate things in most...not all...situations. Then you need to think tactically to protect yourself.

But I love the idea of spells, charges etc going off or not going off due to a random element. The fun is in planning your Plan B if not all goes according to script. A lot of people don't like this random element and having to account for it and I can see why other games might appeal more.

I love the fact I can lose my Seer, BSB and Bell to Final Trans but I can try to manage that risk (BSB in another unit for instance), holding dice, holding scroll, my own offence etc.

That's the appeal.

I love 8th and I hope that GW continues with the same philosophy when they finally do 9th.


  1. Well put. The game under 8th is definetely a lot more enjoyable and balanced. Same people keep winning at events buts because they are better players. 7th, 8th or 9th Dwarfs will still grumble though. And I've never understood why people rage quit...

    1. Exactly...it's not as if the dwarf play style has had to change much (at all?) between new armybooks and editions :P

      Joel v

    2. Hey mine has definitely become more complex. In 7th it was advance up the middle, now I occasionally choose to go left or even right just to mix things up.

  2. 8th is a vast improvement over 7th. I think I'd move to a different game rather than go back to those days.

    I like the randomness, to me it mimics actual battlefield conditions. Just because you told those knights to charge that unit 400m/13 inches away doesn't mean that the message made it, that the unit commander acted on it, that the unit was able to organise for the charge or that the ground enabled it to be made.

    I'd actually prefer 9th to become more grounded in 'real' combat. We don't know how Daemons and Dragons and magic works, but we do know about units with edged weapons and how they interact on the battlefield. A solid base of 'realism' allows the fantastic elements to really stand out, and enhances the game. Crap like conga-lines, deep bus formations (5 wide, 10 deep) and see-through woods spoil the game for me.

    But overall, 8th is a good game, and one I'm happy to put time and money into.

    1. The one thing i miss from 7th is the reliable magic phase, i liked how it worked where you got 2 power dice in general pool that everyone could use, and then each wizard generated his own magic level in power dice that only he could use. That and i miss the old forest rules for obvious reasons.

      Other than that i like 8th and am in no hurry to see a 9th edition

    2. I would like to see forests and other terrain features matter more to constrain movement and reduce lines of sight. Other than being mysterious forests now do little. In historical battles they blocked LOS and reduced the movement of large bodies of fighters. New terrain rules would also impact the meta by changing the army formula for taking 3 hordes and then some chaff.

  3. Been playing since 3rd edition and 8th is my favorite (or favourite if you'd rather). Enjoy your site very much - keep up the good stuff. As for 9th, I hope you're right, but I've got a feeling...