Whilst reading this article please take into consideration that I have never really been a Warhammer Fantasy Battle player before. I’ve only ever played twice before, once in a GW store as a shop demo, and the other was a huge 6 person-a-side mega-battle years ago. To be honest I didn’t really know what was going on, but had fun none the less. Also these were using the previous rules set and not the current ones that were released the weekend just gone.
So take this as the observations of a complete newbie to the system. Obviously some of the principles are similar to Warhammer 40k so at least I’m not jumping directly into the deep end here. The games played were at 1000 points which is a fairly small force, but as we are starting out that’s not a problem and in fact helps us learn about units and rules in a more in depth manner.
I managed to squeeze in two games with my Ogres on Sunday evening, the first one versus Dwarfs, the second versus Empire. We played the pitched battle scenario which is just a fight to the death with no further objectives. Each game lasted 6 turns and we quickly fell into the rhythm of the game and the speed of each turn increased. A turn consists of movement, magic, ranged combat and close combat phases for both players.
I had been chatting with my tattooist the previous day during my tortuous 5+ hour session (thankfully he’s really into Warhammer as well so we spend most of the day chatting about that). He had mentioned that I will be impressed with how fast the game is. And I have to agree. Firstily the majority of your army is on movement trays. These are important because units in Warhammer are BIG. For example I had a unit of 40 Gnoblars and they have to be ranked up and moved as a unit. If I had to move each model individually I think I’d cry. But as most of the units in the army are on these movement trays, and in 1000 points you only have a handful of units, the movement phase is really short.
Next up we have the Magic phase. If you have any casters in you r army you generate power dice with which to cast your spells. This is done by rolling dice and the result is how many power dice you have. Don’t expect to be unopposed in this endeavour though because your opponent gets dispel dice equal to the highest number you rolled. Each spell has a casting value that you must beat with your power dice in order to cast it. You must also be aware that your opponent will be trying to dispel it with his dispel dice so the amount of dice you commit to any spell from your power pool is totally up to you. I can understand this sounding very difficult, but once you get playing this is a really intuitive system, and magic is really fun to play around with.
It also produces some funny incidents. For example I was using an Ogre Butcher in my army. These are the spell casters for the Ogre Kingdoms (more powerful Butchers are called Slaughtermasters). The background says that they gain their power by devouring pieces of the enemy or other such things in order to invoke the power the Great Maw, this usually also results in the butcher taking some damage from eating such unpleasant, potentially dangerous substances. Things can go so very horribly wrong though. Rules wise if you roll a double 6 whilst attempting to cast a spell, the spell is cast and cannot be dispelled but the spellcaster must suffer a result from the miscast table. Ogre spellcasters, due to their strange rites, have their own miscast table. So I was unlucky to roll a double 6 whilst I was playing against the Empire army. Then I rolled on the miscast and this resulted in my Butchter frothing blood from the mouth, squealing in pain and finally exploding, showering gore all over the battle field! A blow for my army but so hilarious that I didn’t mind too much.
(picture taken from a recent VoxCaster Blog)
Next phase is Ranged Attacks. These are really straight forward and not too dissimilar from W40K. Units that have ranged weapons may make an attack. The dice roll required to hit is determined by their ballistic skill stat and other modifiers such as whether their target is a long or short range. Wounds are resolved using the strength of the weapon and the toughness of the target. Simples.
Close combat is also not very difficult to resolve as long as you remember any special rules that your weapons grant etc. We have discovered that combat is rather brutal. You have a bad round of close combat and that huge unit of 40 swordsmen could be minced to oblivion. One of the main threats comes from losing a round of combat and your unit breaking. You run off, your opponent gets to chase you down, and if they catch you, you can say bye-bye to that unit no matter what was in it (there may be units that this doesn’t affect but none that I have come across so far).
I was quite happy with how my army worked out in the end. Both games I had were pretty close with me winning the first but only just with victory points and the second was a tie (we had to cut the game short because the friendly local game shop where we were playing was closing for the night. One more turn and I would’ve been toast). At this stage I don’t really know how build a competitive army list but it didn’t work out too bad. Highlights include:
The 40 strong unit of gnoblars (think along the lines of goblins that have been enslaved as a race by the ogres) getting charged by a big unit of dwarves, only to have the dwarves break before the they reach close combat due to taking casualties from the gnoblars lobbing random battlefield debris at them, using the stand and shoot rule.
Killing a DragonSlayer in combat before combat even properly started thanks to the ogres special Bull Charge attack.
The aforementioned “Exploding Butcher” incident.
Things I should definitely remember next time:
Never, ever, ever forget that ogres cause fear in close combat. Remembering this would’ve made some parts of my game SO MUCH easier.
Try to remember that the magic phase exists. If you accidently skip to the shooting phase there is no taking back.
Positioning is possibly the most vital aspect of the game. Yes, you may wipe out that big juicy unit in front of you, but if there are more enemy units behind that ready to counter charge you, you could be in the poop bigtime.
In summary, I have a good feeling about this system. I’m hoping it will consistently prove to be this fun. Playing with the magic system helped make it a really different experience to W40K. I think I’ve got the basics covered now, so we can start adding in the additional rules like dynamic terrain including forests that move around the battlefield and poison you and other such delights. More reports from the frontline will be inbound soon, my friends!
Gutt-Master Bevis Drooling-Jaw, Prophet of the Great Maw