Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Further thoughts on 8th Edition

When I went into the first game (report still pending...getting ready for the move has made it tough to get the pictures downloaded), I did something I seldom do. Not that I couldn' 7th edition, it was easy to do.

I made a battle plan before ever seeing the field.

The plan revolved around my infantry blocks. I would put them more or less in the center with the plan of advancing full speed and protecting/attacking the flanks with my Knights. I would use my single Cannon to take out any nasty blocks of shooting he might have.

So the plan was a general advance designed to ensure not getting flank-charged and thus allowing my core troops to have a chance to inflict some carnage on the opposition with 20 - 30 S5 and another 25ish S4 attacks. I should be almost wide enough to cover the entire width of the field, so this tactic would more or less force the enemy to deal with my entire army at one time.

On a one-to-one basis, I like the chances of my guys against most opponents; pretty good WS, S, T, I and save in comparison.

Meanwhile, the Knights would either defend the flanks or, if my battle-line extended further than his, attack his flanks while my Wizards went around brutalizing everyone with big, deadly spells.

But then, on the very first turn, something strange happened.

First, a mis-remembering of the rules. For some reason I thought the charge was double movement + 2d6. Not that it would have mattered...I needed to roll all of a 5 to get the charge.

See, I turned my Marauder Horsemen from Fast Cavalry into Light/Medium Cavalry with a 4+ save and a couple attacks apiece.

So when the battle was set up, I saw a way to use them as medium cavalry was actually punch a hole in the opponents line which I could then break through and exploit.

I was perfectly set up to over-run his men-at arms 5 man unit and follow through into his Trebuchet/war machine park (I was facing 2 trebuchets, a couple skaven cannons of some sort or other, all told about 5 or 6 war machines clustered on or around a hill.)

This would allow the big block of Knights I had supported my center with to fill the gap, my line to surge forward and put pressure on his entire right flank. Meanwhile, my big block of Marauders, Shaggoth and a small unit of Knights would try to hold off the Skaven line on my left long enough to let my superior force deal with the Bretonnians.

In other words, I was trying the classic "defeat him in detail" maneuver; blocking forces, maneuver, blunt force trauma at the point of contact, and choosing which fights would occur and when they would happen. I was in tactical maneuver heaven.

Until my Marauder horsemen, needing a "6" to complete the charge...rolling 3 dice and dropping the lowest...managed to roll a 4. This meant I could either A) hold back my battle line to keep from supplying him with several flank charges with Knights of the Realm/Grail Knight Blocks or B) advance everyone else beyond the whopping 2" move the Marauder Horsemen made and destroy my own battle line.

Meanwhile, in the shooting phase, I dropped the S5 template on the head of his 5 Jezzails on the left flank. It would minimize his shooting and give my Knights/Marauder Horde the ability to hold off his Doomwheel/Plague Wheel/Abomination machines while my strong flank did the work.

And the S10 center of the hole killed one. But then...needing 2s...I rolled 4 ones, doing not one single wound to the rest of his shooters.

So there you have it; in turn one, my entire battle plan was in ruins based on 2 pathetic rolls.

The super low roll for the horsemen slowed my right flank advance to a crawl and my complete whiff with shooting meant the plan formed WHEN I BUILT MY ARMY failed 2 minuted into the game.

Why do I bring all this up?

I keep reading people talking about how 8th edition is not a tactical game. It is just build your strong list and push forward, roll dice, and see what happens.

I call shenanigans. Lazy thinking.

8th is extremely tactical, far more so than 7th ever was.

Whereas in 7th you pretty much knew you would break your opponent on the charge without them ever getting to even attack back, in 8th you not only have to consider what happens if you win or have to consider how to deal with the attacks that come back at you.

That means things like flank charges are, if anything, MORE important than in 7th. Minimizing the attacks from support is huge. Minimizing stuff like the 6+ parry ward save pays huge dividends.

It means debating when and where to allow holes to develop in your battle line matter. And develop they will...with shooting and magic far deadlier than they were, you will see even your most elite units disappear from time to time.

It means things like blocking forces actually have a real, meaningful use, unlike in 7th where my Marauder Horde was begging to get flank charged by a weak skaven unit that would wipe out the 5 models on the flank (no attacks back), over-run into my Knights and fight a second time...basically rolling up my flank in one turn and rendering the blocking forces pointless.

Sure, it still matters how good your troops are...actually, it matters MORE now.

On the surface, getting 35 attacks from Goblin Spearmen sounds good. At the end of the day, though, they are hitting on 4s or 5s, so 12 - 18 hit, and of those, half or less will wound so 3 - 6 wounds if they get that many attacks, and of those a few are likely to be saved.

It still takes a troop with decent chance to hit and wound to take advantage of the new rules...but it now means those troops are worth taking.

It is now worth the time and effort to find a place to get my Chaos Warriors into action. Even if I have to withstand a charge from Grail Knights...I still get to fight them instead of just take off models.

Which means I should invest some time and thought into how to get them into action because Chaos Warriors are going to do damage.

This is not to say 8th is not also including a heavy dose of luck. You will have fluffed rolls and epic successes. But that luck factor requires MORE tactical acumen, not less.

Now, in our game, it altered my plan...but I was able to adjust my tactics. I set up my flanking Knights so after he charged my Chaos Warriors (who, with 6 ranks, the Banner of Chaos nearby, had a re-rollable 8 on stubborn to still be there the next turn) with his Grail Knights, I would charge the Grail Knights the following turn with 5 Knights of my own.

Grail Knights mired in combat < Grail Knights roaming around charging in to break opponents mired in combat.

With a little better luck, it would not have been necessary to alter my tactics. I would have had my big block of Chaos Knights set up to flank-charge his Grail Knights after they charged my Chaos Warriors head on, and my steadfast Warriors + Knights would happily grind him to dust as his Knights of the Realm would have had to take massive Dangerous Terrain tests in roaming through the forest...only to be met by more Chaos Knights.

I would have wiped out almost all his Jezzails on the left and thus not had to worry about his shooting...only on how best to hold up that half of the army while I concentrated on the other side of the field. (Though admittedly the wound whiff had nothing to do with it being 8th as opposed to 7th...but is illustrative of how luck-based results can have huge impacts.)

In 7th edition, it would have been predetermined how the game would go. I could have forced him to charge/overrun where I wanted and when I wanted, I could have more often than not kept him from attacking those who I did not want him to attack...

In 7th edition, more often than not the old truism that "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy" was completely false.

It was a failing of 7th that battle plans in fact could be nearly ironclad...the vagaries of chance were not enough to offset the weaknesses of the rules and thus meant it had more strategic impact than tactical...

You COULD design armies around specific battle plans and know they had a high chance of going off just as you drew them up.

This, contrary to popular opinion, MINIMIZES the tactics involved.

Corrections to the rules like allowing supporting attacks, everyone to fight, and so forth means those events so common in war...inferior troops outperforming expectations, elite troops not performing, inexplicable charges and failed charges that break battle lines...these things now are well represented in the game.

And it is in those situations where your perfect battle plan breaks down due to something unforeseen that show whether you can truly perform in a tactical manner.

Yes, there will be times the vagaries of chance will result in a brilliant, well-executed plan going awry...then again, there is a reason Napoleon famously said he would rather have a lucky general than a good one.

Not that Warhammer in any way, shape or form reflects true warfare...but when discussing tactics, you are reflecting the same things often found in war, and as such, yes, there should be those unforeseen events that disrupt plans.

These events are more reflective of true tactical challenge than simply knowing if you do a + b the result will be c.

Now, somewhere out there is someone saying, "Ha! GW fanboy who thinks everything they do is right".

Not so much. I think failed charges should go their entire distance, find many elements of TLOS outstandingly ridiculous and game-breaking, think there are some other notable flaws in the game design...I could go on, but why?

But the accusations that the game "has no tactics" are wildly off base and wrong. It has more opportunity and need for tactics than ever before.


kennyB said...

Thankfully when it comes to rules problems and TLoS we have a pretty awesome group of guys, willing and intelligent enough to know that to kill the spirit of the game is to kill the point of playing, and as friends it is more important that we imagine trees and designate rules than use them as bogus reasons to shoot unobstructed through a splotch of felt meant to represent a forest 144x the size of a model (a 12"x12" forest vs a 1" square <25mm> model). Or 3 trees. Our choice, not GW's. =D
(Phillip and I decided in one game one felt splotch was a forest that could not be seen through, could be seen or see out of up to 6", and always gave soft cover, and the other was the three trees he placed, which were what they were. Simple. Easy. Worked great!)

Darth Weasel said...

I agree completely...if we did not, I would not find the game worth playing. Very good group of guys.