Sunday, June 26, 2011

How much difference do the 8th Edition Rules make for playstyle after playing 7th?

In some of the last posts I mentioned a few tactics that have altered for 8th edition from 7th. How much difference does that make when actually playing a game?

Lets take a brutally obvious and easy one. In 7th edition it was possible for a weaker unit to take out a much stronger unit simply by getting the charge and having a small amount of fortuitous dice rolling.

This was due to two rules; 1), Chargers strike first and 2) removing casualties that were struck rather than from the rear rank.

As a result it was always better to charge than to be charged. Glass cannon units were extremely deadly as they could wipe out the front rank of the enemy before it ever had a chance to attack, thus winning the combat by virtue of charging.

These days with the “remove casualties from the rear rank” and “strike in I order” rules in place the charge has less importance; Great Weapons no longer go ahead of “faster” weapons, even if your front rank gets wiped out the unit gets to fight and thus recover from a bad start, and troop speed actually matters.

Additionally, Steadfast has a huge impact.

This makes a huge difference. In 7th edition a block of 100 Skaven slaves was just 200 victory points donated to the opponent. At some point they would get charged, lose their front rank, and be testing on snake-eyes to not run. And that was against weak units like Empire State Troops or High Elf spearmen.

In 8th they are still going to lose that combat but will almost assuredly have more ranks than the opponent and thus have an excellent chance of staying around for multiple rounds, thus creating a morass that occupies a tremendous amount of space and alters the battlefield. They do not care about the casualties they are taking as they are likely Steadfast on close to LD 10.

Even if they never do a casualty to their tormentors, they have a respectable role and an important one. So these rules have a huge impact on how the game is and should be played.

These rules alone make infantry viable. All throughout 7th edition I never found value in taking even Chaos Warriors as more often than not it was just giving free points to the opponent…and Chaos Warriors are expensive.

Too many times I got charged by things like Grail Knight units, character-reinforced Cold One Knights, dragon-riders, Ogres…all of whom moved faster and thus had a near-guaranteed charge, did so many casualties that IF I got to attack back it was with my unit champion, and thus my expensive Chaos Warriors fled the field or were run down without ever raising a weapon in anger.

In fact, I cannot think of a single time in the whole of 7th Edition I was able to get the Chaos Warriors into an advantageous combat...I do remember them fleeing multiple times after having their front rank wiped out on the charge...the only time they even saw second rounds was against things with too few attacks (a Gorger) and when they were stubborn.

And that was with arguably the best infantry unit in the game. In 7th edition they were worse than useless; taking them was doing a favor for your opponent. In 8th they are close to a no-brainer; I say close because many people still argue huge blocks of cheap Marauders are better.

In 8th edition even a humble unit such as S3, 1 attack Night Goblin has at least a slim chance of doing some damage, and even if they cause no casualties, they are worth putting on the field which means stronger, harder-fighting troops such as Dwarf Warriors, Saurus Warriors, Chaos Warriors, etc. are not simply worth putting on the field but are often among the strongest choices in the entire list.

Some people have gone overboard the other direction; many people proclaim infantry is the king of the battlefield with cavalry and monsters not being worth taking. I disagree...but I "get" their reasons.

Another huge change was the way marching can occur. In 7th, just planting a single model within 8” of the opponent slowed their movement to a crawl. “Tactics” of flying cheap, pointless units behind the enemy line so they had to walk 4-7” per turn into the face of massive lines of missile fire was considered brilliant. If you could do it with a cheap, pointless model like a 15 point naked Skaven Engineer, so much the better.

Now by the simple expedient of passing a LD test troops can still march. To be sure, this is normally a virtual guarantee as most important units either have relatively reliable LD of 9 or 10 and/or a re-roll from a near-by BSB.

Yet the role of march blocking is still important as not every unit will be within range of the BSB, nor will the flanks always pass their tests. This means the march blockers are returned to their rightful role of support rather than game-dominating.

They still have a place. Sometimes even the chance of slowing that flank unit down is worth the allocation of forces to that side of the field. But now there is a defense against it. It means instead of say…automatically including 4 units of Chaos Warhounds to go march-block the enemy, now you have to decide if the vastly reduced role they play in screening and potential march-blocking is worth the points.

We could add swift reforms and combat reforms to the equation. It used to be that if someone hit the flank the unit would never turn to face them. Now there is the chance they will be able to do so which makes a great deal more sense aesthetically, logically, and from a game-play standpoint.

The negative to the reform if they lost the combat is an excellent deterrent to strategies that ignore flank charges, providing a defense against failed charges becoming THE deciding factor in a game. Those charges are still important as with the bonus for a flank charge, the fewer return attacks you are facing while still usually getting your own max attacks, you can often break a tougher unit with a well-timed flank attack.

At the same time, the clever opponent who hits the flank will also have a second unit hitting the target, thus pinning them in place and preventing the reform. This gives them the advantages of supporting attacks and the +1 combat resolution for hitting the flank that is denied the target. Thus the interplay between the charge zone arc and potential to combat reform becomes important as both generals attempt to maximize their own attacks while minimizing the number of attacks the face.

Even after combat the ability for most units to reform adds yet another level of control for the astute general. It prevents the ridiculous “I throw this 30 point unit in front of your powerful unit who then must stand facing away from my deathstar unit who will now wipe them out because they could not face me” maneuvers and makes for a better game.

It makes “speed bump” units still valuable but not vastly more powerful than their point values. Whereas in 7th, an astute player might drop a unit of harpies in front of a frenzied unit knowing they had to charge or get destroyed, then would over-run and either be out of the battle for several turns as it would take one full turn just to turn around, another to regain the over-run distance, and by then the battle would have moved away. Thus a 60 point unit could remove 300 or more points from the battle with no risk. The gain had no relation to the cost.

Now a move in the wrong direction still rightfully slows a unit down, but with the swift reform option, they can still get back in the action before the end.

Hopefully I will have time to write the second part of this post before heading on vacation...because there are plenty more changes that not only affect how the game is played...they affect how troops are chosen.

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