Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WHFB), 8th edition is now officially released. The designers introduced a paradigm shift in the metagame with the new book. They were required to go so far as to issue errata/rule mods for ALL of the army books on their website to coincide with the new rules.
WHFB reviews have been done to death so, I’ll focus on the changes (and why I like them).
8th edition sets up a random selection of six standard scenarios (and optional special scenarios). Although the ubiquitous “pitched battle” remains, the others are different enough that many of the tired army lists from 6th and 7th edition are no longer workable. In addition to providing new scenarios, the rules call for random terrain generation (and usually more of it) as well as special or magical terrain features. This means you will need to be flexible in your planning and deployment to a much greater degree.
My favorite scenario so far is Blood & Glory. This sets a default point for armies based on the size of the scenario. If you can reduce the enemy force to that point or below, you win. Armies have points for each unit standard, the army battle standard and the army general. This promotes army builds which focus on troops that can carry standards.
Notably, victory points are no longer awarded for “partial” destruction of enemy units. You now have to destroy or drive off the table an enemy unit to gain VP.
WHFB abandons the “slot” approach to list making. Now, armies must be built with a minimum percentage of core troops and maximum percentages of special and rare troops as well as heros/lords. Within the special and rare categories, there are also maximum spams allowed. These rules promote far more use of core troops which are the meat and potatoes of most army books. Also, since there are no minimum core “slots”, you can combine core troops into larger,if fewer blocks.
Army Battle standards used to allow a reroll to see if a nearby unit would break from combat after losing. Now the BSB allows rerolls of “any” psyche test. They should be far more common in most army lists.
Of interest, they also included a rather large list of generic magic items that virtually all armies can use.
Gone! Gone! Gone! The days of guessing distance (a dubious skill for an army general) are given over to the premeasure. You now can decide whether to shoot/cast magic/charge AFTER you knowing the distance bewteen units. Despite much handwringing over losing the “tactical” benefit of guessing, I think this will make games generally speedier.
Also rearing its contentious and ugly head is TLoS. No longer can units “hide” behind other models or skimpy woods. If you can “see” an enemy unit from the head level of your model you can target that unit. To be sure, trying to shoot over the heads of other units or through terrain will confer penalties. (This may finally give skirmish units the real effect of screening main blocks).
I predict some people will start modelling larger hills and other such features to provide line of sight “shadows”.
This has been slightly simplified I think to avoid certain abused maneuvers. Forward movement with wheel turns will be quickest with reforming, backwards and sideways movement much slower. (No more ridiculous conga line slingshots or sidewinder reforms.)
The biggest change is to make charging less deterministic. Instead of doubling movement for a charge, you now roll 2d6 and add the basic move. Most infantry now present a charge threat of up to 16″ with average 11″ compared to the old max of 8″ Cavalry and chariots will range usually 14″ on average and up to 19″ or more compared to the usual old max of about 14″. Fliers actually got a little worse but should still be the fastest on average.This means that enemy units, especially missile and warmachine units will be reached much more quickly.
Another huge change is the combat reform. If you “win” a combat, in most cases, you can reform to change facing. This allows you to turn to face new threats or to set up next turn charges with much greater alacrity.
March blocking, thats being prevented from using doubled movement due to an enemy in close proximity, has been mitigated by allowing a leadership test to overcome the inhibition. No longer can you reliably send a fast throw away unit into the enemy rear to slow down numbers of large enemy units.
Difficult terran no longer slows down movement. Infantry can move through much of with impunity while cav and chariots risk taking some damage.
All of this means armies will move more quickly and be less impeded in reaching the foe.
Another huge change. Power dice, used to fuel spells, are now created on a random 2d6 roll (with the enemy gaining the higher d6 in dispel dice). Gone are the reliable 12 to 20+ power dice pools. Spellcasters now get die modifiers based on their level. The magic lores all became MUCH more powerful but, the miscast table also became more punishing. True line of sight coupled with many spells not requiring LoS at all grant more flexibility.
Not only do missiles and warmachines get to premeasure and have true
line of sight, but, those same missile units can now always fire in at least 2 ranks (narrowing necessary frontage) and template weapons hit every model they touch without rolling for partials. Bow armed units can not only fire in 2 ranks but can volley fire half of their models in ranks after the 2nd. So, in general, volume and accuracy of fire will likely improve.
Four major changes. First, all troops fight in initiative order regardless of who charged. Second, units now fight in two ranks to their front. Third, models “step up” to replace fallen models meaning that if you attack an infantry block they will almost always still have their full complement of return attacks. Fourth, if after a combat round, the lose has more ranks, they are steadfast, effectively benefitting from the stubborn rules.
What this means is that large infantry units will be far more durable at taking charges. Cavalry, monsters, chariots and other such models will steal deal out damage but, will be less likely to break infantry without support.
When you combine the new combat rules, with the greater emphasis on unit standards and minimum 25% core troops, you will find more armies fielding larger numbers of core infantry making the game more about mass combat. Also, two rank fighting means larger numbers of casualties.
This is even more true as fear causing units no longer cause enemies they outnumber to autobreak after a loss in combat. You now test for fear every turn and are reduced to weapon skill 1 for the round if you fail. Couple with the Battlestandard, blocks of infantry aging are more durable.
I think the metagame of WHFB 8th edition the promotion of massed blocks of core and elite infantry and even missile units with reliance on monsters, cavalry, chariots and such as support units. Characters will provide key point of contact unit support and/or magical enhancement/threat reduction. This edition appears to move away from the herohammer or monsterhammer paradigm. GW will sell a LOT more infantry models and the games will be more like what I imagined when I took up the hobby.