Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Look at the Empire in the Age of 8th Edition Warhammer, Part One

Posted by Ranillon on 18. July 2011 01:57

Despite this site being primarily devoted to 40K (although we are trying to move into more general Games Workshop game coverage, just like we are adding more non-40K events to Origins every year), I personally started off playing first the old Epic rules (back when they had the cool detachment cards) and then I got into Warhammer.  40K was actually the third major GW game I got involved in, although the process of starting off with Epic, then Warhammer, then finally 40K took only about five years (compare that to the fact that I've been playing GW games in general for twenty-one years now - yikes!).  While my first complete fantasy army was Vampire Counts, the army that I eventually fell in love with and which became my favorite was Empire.

Is this an Empire soldier or an 16th Century German landsknecht?  Is there a real difference?

I enjoyed the historical feel to Empire (it is based strongly around 16th century Imperial armies of the Holy Roman Empire -- in fact, you could substitute pictures of units from that era for Empire units and literally see absolutely no difference), the fact that it has access to such a wide range of weapons, and the general idea of a human army using training and ingenuity to take on the rest of the world.  But, the deciding factor was that one of the possible state armies of the Empire comes from the small (yet mighty) province of Hochland and my own last name turns out to be Hoch.  I figured that was a sign from God (or, at least, Sigmar) that I was destined to play an Empire Hochland army.

However, my time is limited and in recent years I had been busy doing most 40K so my otherwise beloved Hochland army mostly stayed packed away.  At least, that is, until recent times when we here at Origins 40K labs decided to start adding fantasy events to our Origins offerings.  Since I was one of the few people to actually have a fully painted fantasy force I (and my army) was the natural choice to help running said events.  I ended up running most of the Intro and Intermediate Warhammer Fantasy demos while in the process giving the Grand Army of Hochland a good chance to stretch its legs and take on dwarves and Vampire Counts, our other two available demo armies.  It was likewise my chance to get some much needed practical experience with the newest edition of Warhammer Fantasy.

Why the New Edition is a Good Thing for Empire

I have to say that after playing a number of games and delving back into the new rules I've come to the conclusion that the new edition has for the most part been a blessing for the forces of the Empire.

• Being able to automatically fight with an extra rank -- both in hand-to-hand and for your shooting units -- is definitely a bonus for a force like the Empire which has large numbers of so-so troops.  This singlehandedly makes gun/crossbow lines twice as effective (while removing the old de facto requirement of having a minimum of ten, yet only being able to use 5 due to space concerns) and thus a good deal more attractive.  This is especially so for a Hochland army that in the fluff is always being described as "renowned for their deadly accurate archers and handgunners."

• The new magic rules tend to mute the "magical juggernaut" forces of the past and as a result make the magically mediocre Empire less vulnerable to such dangers.  Nothing was more depressing that facing a hyper-magical army of Tzeentchian horrors or spell happy High Elves rolling ten or (at times much) more power dice when you only have a few dispel scrolls and dice in response.  With the new limits to the amount of dice you can have (12), the amount you can ever use to cast a spell (6), and -- most of all -- that irresistible force is also an invitation to have your wizard blow himself up (and maybe part of your army with him), magic is no longer so threatening.

• The new rules for charging -- your base move plus 2d6 (3d6 - pick the best two for cav) -- makes infantry (the mainstay of any Empire force) more effective as an offensive force than before as the gap between it and cavalry in terms of speed is no longer so vast.  This just doesn't make infantry better able to reach out and clobber someone, but likewise adds tactical flexibility that allows ground-pounders to more greatly influence the game.

• The ability to always be able to measure before doing anything -- even things like firing cannonballs -- generally makes war machines a bit more effective.  This is especially true for the mortar which is now not nearly as inaccurate as before (where you had to guess the distance and still roll for deviation).

• Then there are plenty of little things such as Fear not quite being so effective and having more ranks than the enemy allowing you to ignore negatives to Break Tests that likewise tend to play to the strengths of the Empire.

That doesn't mean that the Empire is suddenly the army to beat, but its limitations are now (in my opinion) more a matter of the problems in its now outdated army book than issues with the basic rules.

So, if things are looking up for the Imperial army in general, what about the individual units themselves?  Which have benefited and which may have become less valuable than before?  That'll be the subject of Part Two...