Saturday, April 4, 2015

Warhammer Fantasy Battle 25th Edition: WFB vs 40K

I was flipping through my 8th edition WFB hardcover (you know, the one that weighs as many pounds as it costs), just for inspiration, and I thought again about how I’d like to play that game but…  I just don’t care that much for it.  WFB and 40K are two very different animals, and have traditionally been so for specific reasons (like those who play them like them that way), although it sounds like the 9th edition Fantasy game will be closer and closer to 40K, which I actually would prefer.

I’ve heard it said that WFB players like those aspects of the game that make it different from 40K and that’s one reason why they like it.  Some of those reasons are as I will annotate below, which happen to be the very reasons I don’t care for it. 

When I said “25th Edition” in the title, that’s me just saying that this is the way I’d like to see the game evolve.  See, I’d like to play in the fantasy realm, wielding swords and magic and big bad monsters—I like fantasy stuff almost as much as sci-fi stuff.  I’m a nerd of many colors.  But there are things about the fantasy game mechanics I don’t like.  If I were to be invited to tweak the game for it’s 25th edition (just to pick an outrageous number), here’s a few changes I’d make:

1.  The Math.  There’s just way too much math in Fantasy for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I like math okay, but I don’t want to have to crunch so many numbers when I’m trying to enjoy a game that’s supposed to be action packed.  I like the streamlined 40K system in regard to this.  WFB has chart upon chart of all the factors you need to consider.  Now there is merit to armor penetration modifiers (which 40K used to have too, back in the day), and some of the other numbers being factored in, but…  it’s just too much.  Trying to figure out who won a round of combat takes a calculator, and that’s just not fun. 

2. Hordes vs Heroes.  In 40K, the squads are generally no bigger than 10 figures, sometimes really big units get to be 20 or more models, but that’s uncommon.  And in 40K, it seems like any one model can end up being the hero of the battle.  That last surviving Space Marine Scout may just defy the odds and come out on top more than the Dice Gods should allow, and end up winning the game practically on his own.  In Fantasy, 90% of your models are nameless nobodies who are there just to die.  You don’t have a unit of guys, you have a block of fodder.  Ranks upon ranks of them. In fact, the rules are set-up so that massive units of nobodies is the best way to go.  And the differences between “basic” units and “elite” units is only like 1 or 2 stat points and having a great sword instead of a regular sword.  They’re the same damn thing, so what’s the point?  There’s all just the same worthless fodder, but this one’s blue and that one’s green.  It seems to me that 40K has more variety of units and that each has a better developed role with its own special moves.  It seems to me that one block of troops is pretty much the same as the next big block of troops.

I have two issues with this: (1) As I said, having 40 nobodies who all run away because of one scary monster or bad roll is just…  Well, sucky.  I’d rather have 10 potential heroes than 40 fodder troops any day.  (2) the real world cost of building such an army is just terrible.  We don’t need to revisit GW pricing here, but how the hell are we supposed to afford such a force?  It’d take decades to build up that kind of army.

Now I now this is one of those things people love about Fantasy.  This harkens to the Tolkien-esque armies in The Hobbit and TLotR, blocks of amassed orcs and elves crashing into each other, forces so huge that the dust of their marching blots out the sun.  I know that’s the effect it was build for originally, to go back to the source material (let’s face it, WFB was originally a direct rip-off of LotR).  And that’s great if you like that.  But in the 25th edition, I’d like to prune it back a bit. 

So I’ll stop the comparison/gripe there.  Two main factors to adjust for my 25th edition: Math/Extraneous Rules and Blocks of Fodder.  Some ways I’d do that:

1.  The easiest way (which rumors indicate may be kind of happening now anyway) is to play Fantasy more like a Warbands game.  There are special rule sets out there, like Mordheim, that go that way.  I think if I wanted to play Fantasy that way right now (and could find a friend or two to go along with me), I’d just play games of like 500 points and do away with the minimum requirements on unit size and army basics.  So you don’t need to have 80+ Core troops as the cornerstone of your force.  You might choose to have a unit or two of core troops, but they might only be 5 or 10 models in size.

2.  Emphasize characters and heroes.  This would also play into a way to reduce the mindless masses rules and the likelihood of a route.  I’m imagining a small subset of rules for promoting one rank and file model in your unit to be a minor hero or leader.  He or she has access to more gear and better ability to rally your units.  (I know we kind of have that now, but I think they’re just higher value fodder at this point.)

3.  Doing away with block formations and making everyone more mobile, like skirmishing formations.  Maybe we still use trays or whatever, but the models are staggered on them and not necessarily formed up in rigid ranks and files.  This would also do away with all the rules about ranks and whatnot, making combat easier and not necessarily encouraging us to spend more money on masses of models. 

4.  Reign in point values.  I notice that in the newer army books, character model point values are ridiculous.  One core elf with a bow is only 8 points, but the noble who’s stats are barely better costs 10 to 20 times as much, and that’s without gear and with no special rules to make him cool.  What the hell for?!  And what fun is that?  But rather than having to rewrite all the army books, maybe we just set a separate points budget for buying heroes and lords for our mini-forces.  For example, maybe you have 500 points to spend on them, and 500 to spend on everything else too.  Two separate budgets set to scale for getting the cool characters you want without making them the sole models in your warband. 

Okay, I guess that;s enough rambling on this topic for today.  I guess I got it out of my system. 

The bottom line is, I’d like to play a great Fantasy battle game, but not on the huge army scale and not when it requires a calculator.  (And not when it has even more than 40,000 rules!) I’d like to make a small force with these guys on foot, those scouts, a few models on horseback, a monster and a wizard, all them with some individual character and potential, and none of them forced to march shoulder to shoulder.  Is that too much to ask?

(Please excuse any errors in this one -- as it's after midnight, I'm not revising, I'm just posting this sucker.)

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