Monday, August 8, 2011

WHFB: The Difference Between What We Want It To Be And What It Is

GW, for whatever reason, has been pumping out a ton of Fantasy stuff recently, and I have to say how impressed I am with the sculpts.  The new Zombie Dragon thing and the DE Black Dragon are so much better than the old models from the 90’s (80’s?) that they have me salivating.

Fall in love with the Dark Elves all over again

Unfortunately, dragons suck.  Stelek suggests monsters suck because they die turn 1 to cannon fire and they are easily killed by any auto-die template magic spells.  This is all true.  Making matters even worse, they cost a ton of points for what is essentially an easy to kill fighty character.  Compare the cost of a Black Dragon to a War Hydra, and you can see why Dark Elf players aren’t exactly rushing to play dragons.

Plus you have the ages old Fantasy problem: fighty characters aren’t points efficient.  They probably will only be in combat 3 or 4 turns out of the game, and realistically, how much can they kill in 3 turns?  Then compare that to how much a wizard of comparable points can kill over 6 turns.  You can see why competitive players put their character points into magic users rather than fighty characters.  Oh great, you can put a wizard on a dragon.  But you don’t want a squishy wizard in combat.  Wizard in combat = waste of a wizard.  Dragon not in combat = waste of dragon.  So that’s out.

I have more bad news for you.  The 8th Edition rules nerfed fear/terror and implemented Steadfast.  These changes really hurt monsters.  In 7th Edition, monsters would charge a block of infantry, kill the first row, auto-break them due to terror and run them down and then kill something again next turn.  Now, monsters will charge infantry, kill the front row, take a wound or two back, and be stuck in for the next couple of turns.  Great, your 700 point imba-monster spent the whole game killing a 400 point infantry unit!  Woohoo.  Or worse, you imba-monster has a bad turn of combat and doesn’t do enough wounds and loses combat resolution and runs off the table.  Bad news there.

I feel in a lot of ways Games Workshop is trying to pull Fantasy in two different directions at the same time.  On one hand they built 8th Edition rules to favor magic and large blocks of infantry, which by itself is totally fine.  But all the 8th Edition books released as well as subsequently released kits seem to be pushing big, centerpiece monsters, which is fine too.  The problem for them from a marketing perspective is they sell the game with the monsters, because let’s face it: you’re going to attract new players with the cool large monster kits, not blocks of non-descript infantry.  Unfortunately, the rules don’t support a game based around large centerpiece models.  I imagine a great many new players are disappointed when their awesome looking monster dies turn 1, or perhaps worse, survives all game but achieves nothing.

I’m not going to say 8th Edition is bad.  It really IS an improvement over 7th Edition in almost every way.  The issue boils down to marketing and fun.  The game is sold with big, centerpiece kits that make even die-hard 40k players drool.  But the rules don’t encourage you to play units like that.  I think GW realizes this, I mean, they have to realize this since it’s blatantly obvious.  But 9th Edition is far too far away.  They could issue an FAQ tomorrow to change cannon balls to 1 wound each rather than D6.  They could change it so that Terror causers prevent someone from being steadfast.  They could make it so that the rider’s ward save applies to his monstrous mount.  Any or all of these things would make monsters more playable.  But the big problem of magic characters being simply more points efficient than fighty characters won’t change even with those changes.

If this doesn't make you at least slightly interested in Fantasy, you probably aren't a wargamer
Until then, I will look at the Black Dragon kit and drool at how cool it is.  But it will be a relationship from afar, as the $50 in my wallet will be staying put and the kit will stay on the shelf.


  1. Totally agree. I have a Lizardman army which I have sadly never played, and while it's basically designed to make Stegadons "playable" against Cannon lists by stacking Light defences and Ward Saves, it's an all out effort to give it an even "reasonable" shot at not getting shot off the board.

    I would really like to play more Fantasy, actually.

  2. Yeah, it's been months since I've played and I'm really starting to get that itch. After NOVA I'm definitely going to break the Dark Elves out for a few games.

  3. Heh, I haven't played since the Semi-finals at 'Ard Boyz. There's a big con in my area the weekend after the Nova (in which there's also a 5-game 40k GT, which I'll be struggling through) that will have a 3-game Fantasy RTT. I'm very much looking forward to getting back into Fantasy, after 40k 'tournament season' is over :-p

    Also, I'm looking into Malifaux as a cheap alternative game.

  4. I'm going to have to disagree with you on that Dark Elf Dragon - I hate the model with a passion :(
    However the other kits are fantastic, especially the new Vampire Counts Dragon/Terrorgheis and the Cockatrice, which are simply wonderful :)

  5. What would you deem as a good solution to the disparity between close combat heroes/monsters and magic users? Making magic more expensive/close combat heroes cheaper or what?

  6. Monsters in general don't suck, just character ridden monsters tend to be overpriced. The only one that I can think of off the top of my head is Wyvern; but that's mostly due to 18" leadership bubble and S6 for good thunderstomps.

    The unridden (or howda ridden) monsters are fine; stegs are great, hydras are awesome, warsphynx is very good, terrorgheist is pretty amazing as well.

    With the rumors that are coming out for some of the ogre monsters, I think they'll be pretty key as well.

    Monsters are good because they let you put a lot of points of killing power into a relatively small frontage. This allows you to concentrate force (and points) into a small area in order to team up with more units to in turn force superior matchups in your favor.

    Magic sucks for everyone, and with large multi-wound models, it sucks when you take fail that important I test. That's a bonus that ridden monsters have a least; they get to use the riders values.