Friday, August 19, 2011

From 40k to Fantasy Part Four: For The Love Of The Game

Over the past few articles, I laid out how a veteran 40k player should go about taking up Fantasy.  I explained it from a nuts and bolts perspective on strategy and list building, as well as a more philosophical standpoint about how to play the game in a way that will lead to maximum enjoyment by minimizing the potentially frustrating aspects people always cite as reasons for not enjoying Fantasy Battles.

So in this final installment, I thought I should list the many reasons why I enjoy the game, and why a 40k player should even both with it.  These will be what I consider the aspects that make the game great, and hopefully will get you interested in picking it up too.

Just a bit more character than your 40k army
1.  General aesthetics.   Simply put, the armies in the game are beautiful across the board.  Two fully painted armies, lined up across from each other ready for battle look simply stunning in a way that two 40k armies do not.  The mix of ranked infantry, knights, warmachines, and big monsters look fantastic.  Even if you prefer the sci-fi genre to the high fantasy genre, you have to admit the Fantasy Battles armies set up on the battlefield look amazing.  Two huge Fantasy armies are simply cooler looking to see on the battlefield than 11 Rhino hulls lined up across from 13 Chimera hulls.

2.  Army specific aesthetics.  While the game itself has a great aesthetic, the individual armies have aesthetics that are quit strong.  Compared to 40k where something like half the armies are one flavor of Space Marines or another, the variety in Fantasy Battles is simply stunning.  A huge zombie army of Vampire Counts is about as different looking as can be from an Ork chariot based army or a Dwarven gunline.  If you cannot find an army that doesn’t make you excited to assemble, paint, and play based on looks alone, you might not be cut out for wargaming.

3.  The armies have character.  40k does a pretty good job of making red space marines ‘feel’ different when playing on the table top than grey marines.  An admirable job really.  It’s like taking a paint-by-numbers and making a halfway decent piece of art out of it.  Fantasy is far superior in this regard.  A Tomb Kings army plays and feels completely different than does a Daemons of Chaos force.  Simply put, the armies all have incredibly varied play-styles and thus very different feels.  This level of variety is especially good for an opponent, because instead of playing 3 games against marine armies that feel more or less the same to play against, you get to play 3 very different opponents with totally different aesthetics and feels.

4.  Multiple paths to victory.  I touched on this before, but unlike 40k, there is more than one way to win.  You can play shooty, fighty, magicky, a combination of two of the three, or all three in balance.  And within those categories it breaks down further.  You can have a shooty force with lots of warmachines.  You can have a shooty force with lots of small arms fire.  You can have a fighty army based on MSU elites.  You can have a fighty army with chariots.  With hordes.  With big monsters.  The options are there to fit whatever play-style you enjoy.  And the best part, most army books support more than one playstyle, so even if you commit to an army, there is enough variety within the book to buy a few new units and play the force in a totally different way.

5.  Heroic heroes.  One of the hardest things to learn when you first take up 40k is to not spend tons of points on characters and wargear for characters.   New players ALWAYS make this mistake.  Why?  Because we WANT badass characters leading our armies and cutting down swathes of enemies.  It’s just cool.  GW has listened and in recent codices, characters have, in general, become more dangerous and cost effective to use.  But in Fantasy, characters are literally the lords of the battlefield.  Every character is an eternal warrior, as there is no such thing as Instant Death.  A tooled up fighty Lord on a monstrous  mount is a one man wrecking machine who can go toe to toe with entire units on his own.  A properly equipped wizard lord is capable of unleashing spells that can decimate armies.  In older editions, it was completely out of control, hence the old nickname, Hero-hammer.  Thankfully, after some much needed balance, the game is not Hero-Hammer any longer, but characters are still incredibly powerful compared to 40k characters.  The inner newbie in you who thought Marneus Calgar was the bee’s knees will be very happy indeed with Fantasy.  But as I said before, you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) go crazy with characters  if you don’t want to, because of the many paths to victory.  But the option to bring bad ass characters is there, and that should be very pleasing to a lot of players.  Especially if you do as I say, and play the game semi-competitively, rather than fully competitive.

In conclusion, there are a ton of reasons to give Fantasy a shot, these are just a few of them.  And in my opinion, some of the best reasons.  Give the system a chance.  Pick an army whose visual aesthetic appeals to you.  Find a play style within that army book you like.  Throw some dice!  Don't get caught up with who wins or loses, good luck or bad luck.  Enjoy the so-called "randomness" for what it is when you don't play the game to ultra-competitively: the material for epic stories with your buddies when recounting the great games later on.

I hope I've convinced  at least one of you to head to your LGS and browse the Fantasy section.  Maybe you'll go home with a shiny new battalion box set and some hobby inspiration.

Have a good weekend folks.


  1. Devil's advocate time...

    1. General aesthetics: If I wanted massed ranks of infantry, of an army that actually looked like an army, I'd play Warmaster. That's what I'd recommend doing with WFB models. Otherwise, there's nothing quite as pathetic as ten individually based models masquerading as a "regiment".

    Speaking of, nothing like having to fight over a blank table with maybe a few clumps of trees. Very scenic. The problem is that regiment bases of the size of WFB simply don't work well for miniature wargaming.

    2. Army specific aesthetics. Sorry, you lost me again. At least Warhammer 40k's tropes are customized to the setting, while WFB's standard fantasy tropes can be found in any fantasy setting. It's so generic that no other fantasy game can be generic without being called a WFB knock-off.

    3. If you don't feel that individual armies in Warhammer 40k have character, then you're doing it wrong. In the end WFB is just playing with blocks. At least Warhammer 40k armies have background worth reading. There's no equivalent to the Horus Heresy in WFB, and since GW abandoned gritty fantasy for generic fantasy WFB has had no character to speak of. It's just another Warcraft knock-off (joking, sort of...).

    4. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree here, but I think it's sad that your Warhammer 40k experience is so limited. If WFB is easier to wrap your head around, then all power to you.

    5. Yeah, who needs armies?

    Basically if the randomness of WFB is the deal-breaker, then maybe checkers is more your speed. If you think it's a better game than the 5th edition of Warhammer 40k, then you're selling Warhammer 40k shot. If it's your only socially-acceptable alternative to LARPing or wearing a cape in public, then it's definitely the way to go.

  2. I'm not going to delete your comment, because I'd like people to see it. But try not to take personal shots at me again or I will. You're welcome to criticize what I write, but when you start implying that I am too stupid to "wrap my head around 40k" you can really go fuck yourself.

  3. Not sure how you go from "WFB is easier to wrap your head around" to "you're too stupid to 'wrap your head around 40k'".

    I mean, pointing out that you find it easier to wrap your head around WFB strategies doesn't imply that you're stupid. Smart people can make mistakes too.

    Take your 40k metric, for example. You're obviously smart if you can find the expected values for certain outcomes (killing marines, rhinos, land raiders), and you're obviously not fully understanding the rules if you only count penetrating hits for the expected number of Land Raiders destroyed. Doesn't mean you're too stupid to wrap your head round 40k. Just means you're smart enough but made a mistake.

    Why else would I bother pointing it out if I didn't expect you to be smart enough to understand the criticism?

  4. You're wrong. I'm too dumb for you. Kindly never comment here again.

  5. That's alright, you're still welcome to post on my blog.

  6. I've enjoyed this series of articles. I especially like the reason that most units can be played and are not automatically bad units. I do think however that regiments can be improved using block models or even increased use of 1x5 bases to simplify ranks. Thats kinda up to our modelling but it would be nice to become part of future rules.

    Another reason is I'm sick of seeing marines fighting 90% of battles.

  7. Ok, here is an attempt for some constructive critisism on your points (instead of name calling etc):

    1 + 2: I simply cannot agree with this. I think it's 100% subjective what people like looking at the board. Many people like modern warfare so the sight of tanks and guns would be much more appealing than a medieval style setting. My main problem with the aesthetics of Fantasy though is that most on the models on larger block units are nothing more than tokens. Nothing can really see them probably behing all this ranks and files. That's why I am not so bothered when painting Fantasy miniatures. I might do a decent job on the first rank but for the rest I'll speed paint since no one will even notice them.

    3. I guess I agree with this one (at least on the aesthetic department) but in the end, warmachines are gonna shoot, large blocks are gonna fight and wizards will do magic, regardless of the race you are playing. They will all have a different flavour of course but in the end they are all using the same concepts.

    So yeah this are my main points of disagreement.Still an excellent article though.

  8. @Antipope

    1. 40k aesthetic really relies on the table top terrain quality moreso than Fantasy. Two fantasy armies on a green grass board with a few good pieces of terrain look fantastic. 10 Chimera lined up across from 8 Rhinos really need cool scifi terrain to make the tank motif look awesome. And believe me, I vastly prefer sci-fi to high fantasy as a genre. If 40k was less about light mech and had more foot armies I think this would be less of a factor, but as it is now I still give Fantasy the edge.

    2. I don't know how you can disagree. Tomb Kings vs Dwarves vs Daemons. The armies are just so much more varied in style. Sure, 40k has some xenos forces that are far from the imperial style, but when half the armies conform to a single style whereas each Fantasy army has a totally different visual aesthetic it's very cool.

    3. Yes, they are all using the same overall concepts in terms of infantry, cavalry, magic etc. But you had to admit that playing a Lizardman army is waaaay different than playing an Empire army which is waaaay different than playing a Daemons army. Sure, Tyranids are different than Space Wolves, but when half the armies are essentially identical you have to admit there is more variety in Fantasy.

  9. Dunno man, "it does things different than 40k" is not a good reason to play Fantasy. I mean, if I'm bored of 40k I can play any non-GW system, but what Fantasy actually offers without the comparison?

    And I happen to like tanks, so there :P Wouldn't mind if they lowered the dice for hitting them at 3+ and 5 on CC though.

  10. There is definitely more variety in WFB. Nothing bores me faster than space marines vs. space marines.