Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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

Posted by Ranillon on 23. July 2011 02:40

So, now that we have taken a look at the Empire army with the newest set of Warhammer rules, let's examine the individual units themselves.  To this end I have sat down and worked out a lot of probabilities and general comparisons which you can download as a PDF here.  I'll summarize my findings here: Empire_Unit_Comparisons.pdf (109.13 kb)

Generally Speaking, All of the Basic Empire Troop Types are Effective:  There is no basic weapon armed unit that is obviously inferior to their compatriots in most every situation.  However, weapon vs. weapon swords are undoubtedly inferior, even painfully so.  Thankfully, as Empire Swordsmen get a free upgrade of Weapon Skill and Initiative (both to 4) this neatly negates this disadvantage and places them on a roughly equal footing with the rest.

Believe it or Not, Overall Spearmen Tend to be the Most Effective:  Yes, I am sure that some of you will balk at the very idea, but the math proves my point -- assuming that the spearmen are charged rather charging (not usually too hard to achieve) overall they tend to do slightly better than any other weapon type.  However, this is not uniform in the sense that spearmen are always superior in every situation.  Against higher toughness opponents Halberdiers are a bit better (but only a bit) while swordsmen are only ever better than spearmen on the charge.  As long as the spearmen are defending swordsmen are never better at killing the bad guys, not even against their ideal opponents -- those with a WS of 3.  The extra rank of attacks is simply worth more than hitting a little more often.

Notably, spearmen also have an advantage over other basic types when it comes to armor as they can use shields all the time.  Halberdiers can't do so in close-combat and the 6+ ward save for sword and shield is, at best, a minor advantage that means nothing except against far more rare high-end opponents.  Against regular rank and file spearmen have as good of armor as swordsmen.  It is unfortunate that swordsmen didn't retain their +1 to armor for hand weapon and shield in hand-to-hand of previous editions.  Now that would give them an important advantage.  By comparison, the 6+ ward save is almost trivial.  It won't  come into use all that often, when it does you'll likely be facing powerful opposition able to trash Empire state troopers as a matter of routine anyway, and -- ultimately -- relying on a 1-in-6 roll for anything is folly.  If nothing else you certainly can't make doing so any reasonable part of a plan for victory.

Ranged Attacks Are Far More Useful Now:  On a point-for-point basis ranged troops -- really crossbows and handgunners for the Empire as the availability of bows is limited -- aren't quite as efficient as hand-to-hand troops due to the former's basic cost of 8 points a model.  However, ranged troops possess the obvious advantage of being able to kill at range.  They can start doing damage to the enemy on turn one while your usual Close-combat unit could wait 3 or 4 turns to do so.  That fact muddies the waters when it comes to comparing ranged and hand-to-hand troopers in terms of the point efficiency as in the end it boils down to one question -- how many turns of attack can you get from the former in comparison to the latter.  If your ranged units get just one extra turn of shooting over your CC-units turns of hacking, the ranged troopers become more point efficient.

Now, that isn't all the matters since hand-to-hand troopers have one big advantage over their ranged counterparts, namely being able to cause break tests in their opponents.  A unit of, say, halberdiers that runs down a mob of fleeing orks ends up slaughtering a large amount of the enemy in one go.  By comparison, ranged troops can only whittle down your opponent one model at a time -- and causing possible panic checks is nowhere as potentially deadly as forcing break tests in CC.

That said, the new rules allowing you to always fire in two ranks instead of one single-handedly make Empire crossbows and handgunners (not to mention shooters in general) substantially more effective.  Firing in two ranks likewise allows you to routinely keep your units in at least two ranks which helps when they get into close-combat -- before you either had to give up firepower or a turn of shooting to "gang up"  in the face of an imminent enemy charge.  Any Empire force would now be incomplete without at least a few units of ranged fire to soften up the opposition before sending in your hand-to-hand troopers for the coup de grace.  Likewise, you need to take individual units (not just detachments) of handgunners in order to then include special weapons such as the Hochland Long Rifle.

Going on, crossbows tend to be a bit more effective than handgunners due to the former's greater range.  In fact, the 24" basic range for handguns is especially aggravating as many scenarios result in the two sides starting just outside 24" thereby easily costing the Empire side a turn of firing if they go first or if the enemy refuses to move.  This limit makes me hope for the return of that extra few inches of range with the first shot that previously came with handgunner.  Naturally, bows are better choices if you plan on moving your missile troops, but their limited 24" range and meager strength 3 means they aren't going to kill very much.

Greatswords are Pretty Good for the Cost:  In terms of sheer killing power greatswords are not as point efficient as, say, halberdiers.  However, for their admittedly substantial cost they get a lot of advantages -- 4+ saves, strength 5 attacks, and Stubborn.  That gives them a good chance to stay around long enough to whack things while being able to stick around even in the face of being outnumbered.  I wouldn't take more than one unit given their cost and their status as Special, but they are more of a worthwhile choice than previously.

Mortars are Suddenly Underpriced:  In the past when you had to guess their range and still watch them deviate mortars were usually more trouble than they were worth, even at the discounted price compared to other Empire war machines.  However, now that you can just place the template automatically and then roll for deviation that makes them far more accurate.  They may only be strength 3 for the most part, but the large 5" template and -1 to all saves makes it an effective mass killer of regular troops.  By comparison, cannons are only somewhat more accurate, but retain their role as the killer of big things like giants.  Of all the Empire war machines the Hellstorm Missile Battery fared the worst as it still retains a combination of the inaccurate natures of both mortars and cannons.

Those are some general assessments as to what works now or better than before.  Next time we'll look at some more specific applications of these new ideas and then my wish list of what I want to see in any new Empire book (which the rumor mill has arriving as early as next year).

More to Come....

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