Last weekend we had our first local event of the year and the first in New Zealand to utilise the newly released COK 2017 rules. In addition we also used the newly updated FAQ.
I thought it might be useful to give a review of the rules changes in the context of the event.
By far the biggest change in the COK pack IMO is how scenarios are scored. Other rules have impact but changes to Victory Conditions fundamentally change how you build your army and play the game.
For this event, it was decided to introduce only one of the scenarios that wasn't in the v2 rule book. "Control" has been floating around since last year - I believe its genesis was at the 2016 Lonewolf GT in Texas - and was featured at the UK Clash of Kings. The other three used were Invade, Dominate and Loot.
The reasoning behind this suite was they were generally known but apart from Loot all used the new Unit Strength mechanic - previously it was points. When the army lists were distributed to participants the Unit Strength of the army was listed.
This new mechanic has two major effects. Firstly, you can always see the state of the game at a glance. This makes it much faster as you don't have to calculate points constantly to know how you stand. For timed games this is a big win. It also is totally unambiguous to both participants. The second is that it influences army design. You need to have sufficient Unit Strength to compete in these scenarios - or if you limit your US then you have a plan to address the hurdle. I suspect that over time the average US of a 2000 point army will coalesce around the 18 mark. This change will impact the number of Monsters and Individuals you will see in lists - especially tank Individuals. As an example I can take a Brutox in my Herd or a Horde of Lycans for the same points. If previously I was ambivalent, now the Lycans give me 3x the Unit Strength. Things like that won't be ignored.
As I said, the introduction of US into core scenarios fundamentally changes the way we play the game. It is the ultimate meta changer.
There are three new special rules. One, Fly, where Flyers lose the ability if Disordered in combat has been around since mid-2016 but is now captured in book form. It has always been a good change.
The second, 4++ Cover, where you can get cover from Lightning Bolts, Fireballs and Breath Weapons is a significant change without being earthshattering. There is now far more tactical consideration both in their use and in defence against them then there was previously. Any move that rewards the competence of players is good. Previously they were literal "no-brainers", now a player has to consider cover or suffer a 33% swing in effectiveness.
I think the third change, Bane Chant Piercing Success, is the best of them all. Sitting a Mage with BC behind a shooting Horde was a given. If he had. BC2 then head 75% change of success and 87% with BC3. The chance of getting Piercing now (when you require 2x 4+) has dropped to 25% and 50% respectively. For anyone who plays based on probabilities and seeks near certainty then this is a big change. It is also one that needed to be done given the introduction of the Lute.
In a field of ten this is going to be a hard one to get a fix. The best I can offer is anecdotes. One of our Undead players said that he wasn't happy on spending 10% of his army on an Individual with De 5+. Therefore there was an army switch while our other Undead player was more heavily liche-driven.
We had an Orc player finish 3rd and his Morax and Fightwagons benefitted from the addition of Fury. My view prior to the event was that he would likely finish 4th-5th so hard to know how much the changes helped. I suspect that the rules changes in their entirety have helped the Orcs, given their army make-up. They will be more survivable and are more US based.
We saw six of the ten new artefacts on show. Any unit that had Blood of the Old King was the new poster-child for "Fire Magnet".
I suspect the most useful were the Healing Brew and the Lute. The ability to increase CS reliably gives the lowly ASB a highly useful function that complements his prime role. And I struggle to find a better use of 5 points than the ability to recover D3 wounds. Both will find their way into the majority of tournament lists.
The removal of three items will engender mixed feelings depending on whether you used them. I always felt Ensorcelled Armour was a crutch item but thought restricting it to Individuals might be a better solution. The Brew of +1 to Hit depends on your meta. The restriction to non-ally units helped but we had seen it start to fall out of use once we removed hills in the deployment zone. However the combination of this removal and the BC changes may see shooting Hordes disappear from the game for awhile. This wouldn't necessarily be a good thing.
We had no new spells.
My first tournament exposure to these changes suggest that the game is faster, less ambiguous and more tactical. In this the Rules Committee have scored an unqualified win. We can quibble about some things but I think that overall they've knocked it out of the park. Just as importantly, they have shifted the meta significantly which for a game that does not have a three month army release cycle (with all the associated power creep that that brings) is critical for the game and experience to remain fresh.