Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why Chaos?

We recently picked up two more people for our little gaming group. It is now a pretty impressive array of players for being nothing but a group of life-long friends with just a couple exceptions. We also have a nice cross-section of armies, which brings me to the point.

One of the recent additions wants to play the Wood Elves, the army I am currently running. That is very exciting for me because I have been looking with envious eyes at some other armies but having a hard time leaving behind the army I am playing to just sit on the shelf.

The Wood Elf experiment was a qualified success. I did not lose with them...actually, I never even came close to losing. They are an easy army to play and pretty fun...except they win in ways that are tough for me. That was the other part of the play with an army that is not my normal style.

I typically like very small, well-armored armies with a nice mix of shooting, magic, and close combat with an emphasis on the close combat. My all time favorite army was a Bretonnian army running a general on a dragon, a powerful wizardess, a handful of bowmen, maybe a block of 20 I think? and 10 Grail Knights (back when that line-up was legal).

By contrast, the Wood elves have essentially no armor, they have no close-combat oriented troops and their magic is weak at best.

They stand at a distance and shoot people to ribbons. That is it. The Wardancers suck as a close-combat unit and have no ranged weapons. The Dryads are fun but any unit you stick out there more or less alone, even a fear-causing one such as the Dryads, is at a disadvantage and liable to get smacked around. Of course, they seldom NEED to get into close combat because the shooting is so good. The Glade Guard are a phenomenal unit and are core. But they are boring, too...they shoot, shoot, shoot...that was usually my turn. "No movement. Wizard tries spell X. (failed or dispelled) Glade Guard rolls 20 dice at unit X. Go." Rinse. Repeat.

Even worse, the Wood Elf magic is 2 things:pointless and pathetic. At this point I take Wizards pretty much to just roam around with Dispel scrolls and don't really use them for anything else. No point to it.

So in short, the Wood Elf is GREAT at moving, MARVELOUS at shooting, and horrible at close combat and magic.

Roll call:what are my favorite elements of the game? 100 points if you said dragons, close combat and magic or magic, dragons and close combat.

Elements I like but don't love? Shooting just because it can whittle down vicious enemies before they can get to you or wound elusive enemies who cannot be brought to grips in hand to hand.

Elements that I can take or leave?

Maneuvering. Just trying to get myself into position for close combat and magic. It is something to get out of the way so I can get to the fun parts of the game. I don't particularly like it or dislike it. Just want to get it over with so I can get to the meat of the game. Recognize the importance of it...just don't want to spend a lot of time on it.

Panic and psychology tests. Don't really want to win with them and don't want to lose to them. Would much rather win or lose by sticking the right troops in the right situation.

In other words, the Wood Elves are great at one thing I like and a couple things I either dislike or don't care about and are HORRIFIC at my two favorite phases.

So while they were admittedly fun to play, I had been casting covetous eyes at a couple of armies that are much more suited to my playing style from an enjoyment standpoint.

First I considered the Dwarf army; I already have the models, they will be unused shortly, good shooting (Thunderers) and some fun hand-to-hand guys like the Slayers, Hammerers and so forth. Yeah, I know...the Ironbreakers are the Dwarf All-Stars. They also are not what I wanted to play. Also, I really, really wanted to do a Grand Battery a la Napoleon with like 6 regular cannons, a Flame Cannon and Organ Gun, though the points requirements to do that would mean like a 6000 point game, so it was never gonna happen.

But they are so slow that they would never get into hand to hand, at least not in any advantageous position. And the capricious nature of the cannons is far too chancy for me. I don't like weapons that can blow up in your face, chance of Mis-casts notwithstanding. So no Dwarf army for me. I don't have the patience.

I was looking then at my beloved Bretonnians, but I more or less promised not to play them. They really are my ultimate army in many ways; small, tough force with just enough shooting to keep the opponent honest. Easy to maneuver, get into combat very, very fast, and do a great job once they get there. But I have done that, looking for something new.

I did look long and hard at the Empire. The Steam Tank looks like so much fun that I would play them just for that even with the potential to blow up. On top of that, I LOVE the detachment system. It provides so many tactical options and turns cannon fodder like the State Troops into actually usable units with some actual point to owning.

They can be a shooting army, a hand-to-hand army, a war machine army...they are flexible. They have my beloved Knights. I love knights. It is so hard for me to be in a game involving Knights but not play an army that uses Knights.

I grew up reading books like Ivanhoe and the Arthurian legends. The idea of a Knightly charge, banners fluttering, lances lowered, horse hooves driving...oh, it gives me goosebumps. And to play a game where that can be replicated without being able to use that unit myself? Horrible.

The Empire is a strong, strong candidate. Not only that, they have reasonably decent magic abilities. I can definitely see myself as an Empire guy. The main drawbacks are threefold:

1) Their weak strength means units like the Ogres would be no fun to play against because I know that no matter how many times I hit them I can't wound them.

2) They are expensive to build.

3) Between their war machines tendency to blow themselves up and the distaste people have mentioned about facing the Steam Tank, someone would be frustrated every game, thus removing the element of fun that is the main reason to play.

Other candidates included the Lizardmen and High Elves. I was wavering between those two before landing on the Wood Elf army when my brother snapped up the Lizardmen and my good friend went High Elves. Well, no need to duplicate efforts, so I will pass on both of them.

So it was pretty much going to be the Empire. But I was hesitating because at least one person in our group wanted to face neither the Steam Tanks nor their best Knights. If it were just one issue, I would do it but since there were two...well, I don't want to make it no fun for others just so I can have fun. We are not power gamers here...we actively try to make sure EVERYONE is competitive and has fun, even if that means building weaker armies.

So I was idly paging through some of the codexes and suddenly one caught my eye. I have always played armies with a penchant for being "good guys" like the Bretonnians, Lizardmen, Wood Elf, Dwarf armies...all of which I have played. This one was distinctly not. It was Chaos.

At first it was the daemon units that caught my eye. Their attacks count as magical. Having just watched the ethereal Vampire units wipe out three times their value in Ogres, that could be important. (Ironically, the Wood Elf Dryads would be the right troop choice to face this unit...) But then I looked again.

If I took a Mortal general I could give them all the Mark of Tzeentch. I could field an almost exclusively Knightly army. In fact, an army with an Exalted Champion mounted on a dragon (my favorite single unit of any type to play), a couple units of Knights, and a couple Aspiring Champions. All of them are hard, hard units with good saves and excellent close combat abilities.

By giving them all the Mark of Tzeentch, I would have one 4th level and 2 2nd level Wizards, +3 Power dice, and guys who could get into close combat across the board.

At the same time, there are some HUGE weaknesses: I will have something like 38 guys on the field in a 2250 point battle. I have NO shooting. I did not include any guys for a screen against shooting so the Wood Elf army, the Skink shooting army of doom, and the 75 shot per turn Dark Elf armies would all have a good shot at taking out several of my guys. The Ogres are beasts in close combat. (And my brother showed me a Dark Elf unit that could give them a run for the money). The Vampires have great magic. In other words, I would have a good chance of being about 50-50 winning, which is my target. Being me, I would like to land slightly on the high side...maybe 55-45, no better than 60-40.

The army has almost everything I want; small numbers, good armor, great hand to hand, the chance for effective magic, and a dragon.

Even better, it seems to be a version of the army nobody else plays. Most people I see play Khorne or Nurgle with a little bit of Slaanesh. Nobody seems to like Tzeentch. Plus, I am using no daemons or anything like that...pure Mortal army with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. No plans (currently) to use the Flamers or Screamers or Horrors. Just Knights. And a heavy dose of Magic.

So I am playing a style of army I love and not one being played by people in the Warhammer sphere as near as I can tell.

I am sold. I am going chaos.

Now the mission is to make sure they are as exploitable as I think they are, that they will still be fun to play against. So a few test runs are in order. More on that shortly.


John said...

Damn another Chaos devotee - good choice, the new army book gives you a huge range of options and the Chaos Warriors are point for point still the best in the game.

Choosing a new army can be fun

Darth Weasel said...

Ironically, it was Hordes of Chaos I wanted to play. Went in to pick up the battalion box and a hard copy of the book for myself...and learned they are now the Warriors of Chaos. Flipped through the book. Hated it. So much so that I left without purchasing either the book or battalion.

Went back the next day to buy the book anyway just to see if I could come to love it as much. Still disappointed I can't make my Mark Of Tzeentch all Chaos Knight and Magic-wielding heroes army of Doom....but I will give them a shot anyway. We will see how it goes.

kennyB said...

After much review of the current system and armies, I would like to mention I don't think I'm adverse to playing against Brettonian/Empire Knights, the Steam Tank, or pretty much any other vicious Heavily Armored Fanatic Death Dealers of Doom as I feel I am better equipped to find a way to defeat anything that is thrown at me. That includes Chaos. I hope they are everything you desire and hope for! And they look so cool! Gonna have to steal your shields..... ;)