Monday, November 4, 2013

Warhammer Fantasy, Some Thoughts

After a gap of about 20 years, I played a game of Warhammer fantasy battle last week.

There has been talk of playing 500 point games, as they fit perfectly within the time available to us on a Tuesday evening, and of course do not need many figures, although most of the palyers have many more points than that available to them as we are players of a certain age who grew up with GW products. I do of course have a similar amount of figures, just not at my immediate disposal, and a recent trip to the old country didn't leave me with enough free time in my parents attic to fill a suitcase with WFB armies. This is one of the reasons I picked Bretonnians. It meant I could collect an army from what I found in the bits box at the store (started off with the big bag o' archers I found a while ago), combined with some Perry War of the Roses infantry and some nice Reaper minis.

At the risk of becoming a battle report without pictures (I didn't plan to write a report, so I didn't take any pics), I write for your enjoyment of my thoughts on the battle, and why it seemed to go so badly for me. It also may become a comparison betweeen the current edition of WFB (what is it,6th, 8th?), and my hazy recollections of 3rd Ed.

The basis of the game has of course not changed, and this is of course intentional on the part of GW. They have kept essentially the same stat line, and basic rules of Hit, Wound and Save. There are of course changes to the minutiae, and maybe even some of the larger parts of the game that I have forgotten from 3rd ed, or did not come up in our game. The magic system is one place that seems to have changed the most, and seems more streamlined from 3rd ed. I do indeed recall one of the reasons I dropped WFB with the advent of 4th ed was the changes to the magic system (and I lost interest in the minis that were released with that edition), but that does not mean the system was perfect before. I do recall there being the exceedingly broken Vortex of Chaos, and even worse Vorpal Hurricane of Chaos, which, if unleashed would rip an army in two. Of course this was magnified by the exceedingly cheap points cost of Goblin mages, increasing their chances to have it by spamming mages, still, I digress.
In the game last week, I lost badly. The main problem I seem to have had was my army selection. It seems Bretonnians suffer particularly badly at the 500pts level due to their required picks of a paladin and a banner (which we dropped), and having to have knights as the base unit. This plus a mage of level 2 only left me with enough points to field a basic unit of archers and pikemen. At the 500 point level you really need bodies on the table, and I didn't have those. My opponent took High elves, and his only character was a mage attached to a unit of spearmen, this meant his base troops were more than enough to deal with my peasant horde, and my Paladin is but one man to stem the tide.
The last issue I had was underestimating the charge distance of the High Elf Infantry.  I thought I was safe and well placed to charge him next turn, but no, random charge distances of 2D6 plus Move was more than enough to plug the gap. I think this was more of an issue of me thinking in Warmachine distances rather than 3rd ed, as I have no recollection of how charges were handled there.

How can I fix this? Well, I don't have to take the peasant force that I did. For 500 points, we don't need to take 2 units of Core forces, just 25% of the total, so my unit of Knights alone cover this. What would I then take? Well, with the compulsory Paladin, and tactically compulsory mage, I really don't have too many options. I could fill the field with archers, stand behind the stakes and shoot the hell out of the opponent. Kind of boring, but it may be the only way.

So, in the end, I was stuck with a list that was uncompetitive in two ways, one because of the choices I made, and two because the Bretonnian list seems to be limited in the choices it can make much more at this level than it may be at higher points games. There was also the theory that since the army book for Bretonnians was older than the rest, it was not as balanced as the newer books, or at least not in balance with the newer force books. This is one of the main issues I have with GW, and their games, and what has put me off from playing their games in the last 20 years (that along with their prices and business practices, but you may note, GW have not profited directly from my purchases).

Still, I would like to try again, and may do so this week. Afterall, who really gives up on their first love?


  1. There are some pdfs floating around the Internet discussion small forces, someting called Warbands if I remember correctly, it is also full of campaign rules too, my club ran a warbands campaign around 2 years ago (older edition of WFB sure) and wit worked really well. I ran Brettonians and I think you might be able to drop the Paladin???? Not sure, just look around 500point games are actually rather fun and you can get 2 in in a night with a cpouple of friends. cheers chris

    1. Thanks for the heads up, I'll use my google-fu to find those. Eiter way I'll be petitioning my group to drop the Paladin requirement, as he really leeches my points.

    2. Do these look familiar?

  2. Play third edition, with a GM. It's actually fun then!

    1. I'm pretty sure I remember having fun with 3rd ed without a GM, but the guys I play with started at 4th ed, so I don't have their nostalgia working on my side, I guess that means we're playing the recent edition.

      I have no qualms about the edition we have chosen, as for me it's the opponents that make the game rather than the rules. If people are out to have fun, fun will be had!

    2. I quite agree, it goes some way to helping you have fun if you take a few precautions though. You've summed up all the main problems with Warhammer (any edition) very succinctly in your blog post already and it needs a bit of tweaking or 'self-GMing' to resolve.