Saturday, April 7, 2012

WHFB Review: Empire

The coolest guy in town!

In the last couple of days, I've seen the majority of the internet shit a brick over the upcoming Empire book.  By this, I mean that they were dreading the latest creation by Robin Cruddace.  Given the fact that Cruddace doesn't have the best track record, and the fact that the majority of the core units for the army has been increased, I can see why people have been crying virtual tears.  However, not all is doom and gloom.  There is a lot of flavorful changes in here and I think this army book will be fine for 8th Ed. standards.  By that, I mean a fun and balanced book.  Let's begin.

Starting with the special characters, lords and heroes, I'd say I'm pretty pleased.  Most named characters have been buffed in terms of special rules and their point costs have been decreased.  For example, Karl Franz is now slightly cheaper and his Leader of Men special rule carries all the way out to 24" if he's on Deathclaw or a Dragon.  Deathclaw now comes with Bloodroar (basically a built-in Screaming Banner) and Karl Franz comes with Hold the Line!.  Hold the Line! is a new special rule that makes it so any Break tests taken in the unit that General (or Captain) is in rolls 3D6 and uses the two lowest.  Yes, Empire is now the new Lizardmen, but not green and with more guns.  Since this awesome rule now exists, the Generals and Captains saw a minor points increase.  Kurt Helborg is now cheaper and still the same, plus there's a new count called Marius Leitdorf who's literally crazy.  He's a little too random for me to be good, even though he has a decent gear (including a Runefang) and Hold the Line!.

Both the Archlector and Warrior Priests are cheaper now and the bound spells they carry also affect detachments within 3".  For Battle Prayers, there is now Hammer of Sigmar (re-roll to wound), Shield of Faith (5+ ward vs. close combat wounds), and Soulfire (WP and unit gains Flaming, enemy models in BtB takes S4 hit, S5 if Undead).  If you take the War Altar, the Hatred that the Archlector gives his unit now spreads to all Empire units within 6" of it.  On top of that, all Battle Prayers also affects all units within 6" as well, not just detachments.  This is the main difference between the Archlector and the Warrior Priests now.  They can still channel PD and DD, but they can no longer spam the battlefield with free dispel dice (which is a good ting).  The War Altar also has a built-in Bound Lv.4 Banishment and can take an upgrade that gives it Terror.  With T5, 5W and 4+ Ward, Stubborn, I think the War Altar will see a good amount of play.  Volkmar the Grim is now cheaper and you can choose to take him on foot or on the Altar.  He has 5+ regen and casts Battle Prayers with a +1 bonus.  Luthor Huss got crazy buffed because now he has all the Battle Prayers plus Unbending Righteousness which gives him and his unit Stubborn.  He is now cheaper, and has Chosen of Sigmar which allows him to roll a dice once a game to gain +D3 to his WS, S, T and A.

The Grand Master got a points hike for no reason, but the other heroes made out pretty decent.  The Wizard Lord got slightly cheaper and they can now take unique mounts such as the Celestial Hurricanum and Luminark of Hysh.  Since these are new, let's go into them right now.  The Luminark of Hysh is a Large Target chariot, 5+ armor, T5 with 5 wounds, pulled by horses.  He gives 6+ ward to everything within 6" of it and adds +1DD to your dispel pool.  For powers, he has a innate bound spell Lv.4 called Solheim's Bolt of Illumination which is a 36" magic missile.  It causes a S8 hit, D3 wounds, Flaming and goes through ranks like a bolt thrower with no armor saves allowed.  If you're hitting Undead, you get to re-roll wounds.  Next in line is the Celestial Hurricanum.  Same defensive stats as the Luminark but adds +1PD to your power instead.  The biggest plus here is that all friendly units within 6" gets +1 bonus To Hit in close combat.  It's innate Lv.4 spell places a small template within 24" and scatters on D6.  It rolls on a chart and on a good day, it drops a S8 Meteor on your head for D6 wounds.  It can also spawn a Iceshard Tempest that makes all units touched by the template suffer -1 to hit in shooting and close combat, or a Raging Tornado that spins the unit around randomly.  Pretty fun stuff here.  The biggest kicker is that you can only mount your Wizard Lord on these is if you're Heavens (Hurricanum) or Light (Luminark).  If you're Lore of Beasts, you can even ride a Griffon!  Sorry other dudes, no real bonuses for you, but you can still take these wacky contraptions for Rares.  Both of these new models are really cheap too, costing about the same as the new cannon.  Balthasar Gelt is also cheaper in the new book.

Next, let's talk about the Witch Hunter.  He's new, can accuse someone of Heresy and gain re-roll hits (both shooting and melee) and Killing Blow against the target.  Another plus is that shooting attacks made by him has the Sniper rule and he comes stock with MR2 to give to the unit he's in.  Due to his really low price and the ability to take a Brace of Pistols with BS4, I can see a couple of these guys making enemy Wizards/BSBs very nervous.  Against wizards and Undead, he also re-rolls To Wound.  The new Special Character Monster Hunter has a 30" bow with BS5 re-roll hits Volley Fire that wounds monsters on 4+ and has D3 wounds.  His cost is decent and you can even upgrade other Huntsmen with ITP and convey his Monster Hunter rule for re-roll hits.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about changes to the units.  As most of you know, the prices have been increased for most of the core units.  However, there are some good stuff in here too.  Regimental  (Parent) and Detachment units share the same battlefield psychology.  For example, if a Handgunner Detachment is within 3" of a unit of Great Swords (who are Ld.8 and Stubborn) and is forced to take a Break test, they will take the test on Stubborn Ld.8.  Supporting Charge is gone, but Support Fire and Counter Charge is still there.  Support Fire now suffers the standard Stand and Shoot reactions though (so -1 to hit). Knightly Orders is still in as core and you can upgrade one unit to Innner Circle Knights for +1S like usual.  A new unit of Knights appear under Specials named Reiksguard Knights and they're basically Inner Circle Knights with Ld.8 Stubborn.  Kurt Helsborg can join them to make them Immune to Psychology and then you've got yourself a 1+ armor save party.  The other new unit is the Demigryph Knights and they're pretty good I must say.  They're Inner Circle Knights with full plate armor, barding, shield, lances on a WS4, 3 S5 armor piercing attacks, fear-causing Demigryph with 3 wounds a piece and 1+ armor saves at M8.  The entire unit can also choose to replace their lances with halberds for free.  I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty satisfied with them, even though they cost near 60ppm.

Flagellants are still in the game and they're still good unlike what other people say.  Slightly more expensive, Frenzy, Unbreakable, WS3 (over 2), and d6 martyr rule.  On 1, you get re-roll hits, 2-3 gives you re-roll hits and wounds, 4+ gives you +1T and the previous bonuses.  Someone mathed out what these guys can do despite their costs increase and they pretty much annihilate things with some decent rolling.  They are definitely still worth the points.  Pistoliers and Outriders are still in at the same cost but no more Hochland Long Rifles for them.  Only the Master Engineer gets them with the same cost as well.  Mortars and Cannons got a points hike and that's perfectly fine with me.  The Mortar is S2(6) Armor Piercing with D3 wounds on a large round template unlike what other cryers have been saying.  Helstrom is now 3(3) Armor Piercing D3 small templates with a minor points increase.  You know what?  I'm perfectly fine with this.  Artillery was way over the top last book and so was the DD spam from the naked WPs around the battlefield.  This was a step in the right direction to bring 8th Ed. books in line.

Last, but not least, I want to talk about the Steam Tank and magic items.  The Steam Tank is now T6 (down from the ridiculous T10), 10W, 1+ armor save Large Target.  Of course it still has Terror, Unbreakable, random movement and runs off of Steam Points.  Speaking of which, Steam Points work like this:  Start of turn, generate 0-5 Steam Points.  If the artillery die result (you roll) is greater than your ST's current number of wounds, or if you roll a misfire, roll a D3 and then for each Steam Point the tank has, add 1 to the result and follow the mishap table.  Steam Points can be used to power the Steam Engine, the Steam Gun or Steam Cannon.  If you use 3 points to move, you can go up to 3D6 (or 2D6 for 2 points).  If you strike a target at full power, it hits get for D6 +3D3 (3 steam points) Impact hits at S6.  You can still grind units down in combat as well.  Otherwise, you can fire the Steam Gun (which is a S2 breath weapon) and pump points into it until it's a S4 breath weapon. Unlike other breath weapons, you can do this once a turn.  Lastly, there's the Steam Cannon:  S10, 12/24/36" depending on the Steam Points and D6 wounds upon impact.  TLDR:  The Steam Tank is now T6 and is cheaper to field.

In terms of magic items, I'm pretty satisfied with the selection they chose.  Runefang and Mace of Helsturm are both down a few points while keeping the same functionality.  Mace is now D3 wounds instead of D6, but it's cheap enough you can field it on a Captain.  Armor of Meteoric Iron has been changed to be more expensive, but it has a built-in 6+ ward now.  Helm of the Skavenslayer is a good buy because it gives you +1AS and Fear.  Against Skaven, you gain Terror but they all Hate you in return.  White Cloak of Ulric is a Talisman that makes all enemies in BtB -1 To Hit and gives you a 5+ ward/2+ vs. fire.  Van Hortsmann's Speculum is still in the game, but it no longer swaps Weapon Skill.  Rings of Volans takes a spell (roll like a Lv.1 Wizard) from one of the 8 lores of magic in the beginning of the game and the spell is cast on that bound level.  Griffon Banner is still in and Steel Standard is now slightly different.  Steel Standard moves any negative Movement penalties for Barding and the unit re-rolls 1s to charge, flee and pursue.

Overall, I like the book.  Keep in mind that I like to compare the book to other 8th Ed. books in terms of power and functionality.  There was a few disappointments, but I very much enjoy the new stuff that Empire get to play with.  The Griffon saw a buff and a points decrease and so did many of the other elements of the army.  Some prices went up, but overall they were compensated with buffs elsewhere.  From what I see, the book looks diverse, balanced and full of flare.  You can choose to go for a balanced list with state troops, elite Knights or an all cavalry army.  You can choose to field the new stuff or you can choose to play the same way you've been playing for years, it doesn't matter.  I don't see any no-brainers in the army yet and I think that's the best thing any educated player could ask for.  Overall, I give this book a solid 8/10.  Empire is now something more than DD spamming gunlines.


Krieg XXIX said...

As a long time Emprie player I did have heartburn over the infantry going up a point (especially swordsmen).  However, the new possiblities are pretty darn good now that I have had a chance to look at the book.  I am liking that cannons are not as necessary now with the Volley Gun + Engineer combo (which is a better all rounder at first glance) and Demi-Gryphons.  The Detachment rules are a huge improvement on so many levels which is why I think the infantry went up.  We will see how it works out for real.  Looks like they have managed to bring the faith, guns and steel  themes into balance which is a good thing.   

Ole Gunnar Vatland said...

I agree with you, all the whine about the 1 point increase is seriously anoying. The fact that 8ed makes infantery more cost like compared to 7ed books is just how 8ed works. you get steadfast and step up, isnt that worth 1 point? I think it is.I see a min core knight, 3x cannons stank and max out demi knights as a pretty solid list,backed up by waltar and a lvl4, bsb that could generaly put out a load of hurt and take a good dish of pain aswell with a 1+ save all over the line

CopiousPoosh said...

"The Mortar is S2(6) Armor Piercing with D3 wounds"

Is that a typo? Did you mean S3 .... It's hard to imagine them lowering the strength of a mortar to 2, as that's the sort of bs that stops people playing Warhammer.

HERO said...

No.. that's not a typo hehe.  If that's the kind of stuff that gets people to quit, then I'd say it's long overdue.

cerebros said...

"Speaking of which, Steam Points work like this:  Start of turn, generate
0-5 Steam Points.  If the result is greater than your ST's current
number of wounds"

You're missing the part where you roll the artillery dice and compare the result to the number of remaining wounds.

HERO said...

Oops, I'll go amend.

Ian Anthony said...

I largely agree. Also, this is IsambardBrunel from the W-E forums. Hey!

HERO said...

This is all that could be said about that forum: 

KriegXXIX said...

That forum used to be a lot better.  There are several posters who we all could do without there.  Those are the ones that probably played a lot of Walter+WP+Flaggies+Stank that give the rest of us Empire players a bad name.  That being said I think things will calm down there once everything has had time to digest. 

John said...

Wasn't the Steam Tank T6 in the 7th Edition Empire book as well?

HERO said...

It was made T10 via the Empire FAQ.

scatter_squig said...

Hi Hero,

I agree with some of what you said, but also don't think you've given it a very balanced review (sorry!).  But I was just curious do you play empire at the moment?

HERO said...

Can you expand on that a little?  What's not balanced about it?

scatter_squig said...

It also went up in points by 33% which makes the whole thing worse....  One or the other I could probably agree with but not both!

scatter_squig said...

Sure I do agree with you on the principle of people whining, but the problem is the empire struggled before even with other infantry being made more expensive relative to them.  They were no ways over pointed before (even in light of 8th) and a 16% points increase across the board combined with a drop in stats for some units really hurts their competitiveness.  I mean should a swordsman or halberdier really cost the same as an Orc boy?

Also the list you have just proposed does exactly what I think most empire generals will do and avoids the overcosted infantry and warmachines in favour of cavalry!  

scatter_squig said...

Sorry I didn't mean to offend!  I really appreciate people taking the time to write these things. I just (personally) think you glossed over the negatives and focussed mainly on the good stuff.  I do agree with you on the good stuff but I do think there are some serious negatives.

I do think the points increases hurt the empire a lot which you kind of avoided dealing with.  They were definitely not over powered before and a 16% increase is hard to justify.  The empire must have some of the most expensive "average" (i.e. 3s across the board) line troops in the game. As I said in another post here an Empire swordsman costing the same as an Orc boy doesn't seem right to me.  Flaggies and GS point increases also do hamper their effectiveness.  Not to say they can't be effective but it does mean you really have to think hard about if they are worth it, especially given the other special choices.

Also the artillery has been hit very hard which I don't think you dealt with. I think shooty empire armies will cease to be able to seriously compete (they struggled before and will find it harder now).  Also the stank changes have not all been good.  The rules are very fiddly and not at all transparent (especially to those who don't play empire).  Also armies that relied on bogging it down before will find that very hard to do now (as random movement means it can skirt around things).  I also think that most of the serious power and value in the list has been focussed into cavarly which will limit the variety of builds.  The best value in both the core and specials are, arguably, cavalry choices.So yes there are good bits, but also I think this book has removed the competitiveness of many units, limited the viable builds and in trying to fix some units taken things too far and thus narrowed the useful options.I was also curious if you play Empire at the moment?  I only ask because as a current Empire player who has played them for 3 editions now I really do feel this is the least competitive book I have used.

However this is just my opinion at the end of the day.  I guess only time will tell how this book lines up.

HERO said...

Personally, I agree with the points increase on the artillery.  Artillery was over the line in the last book and I'm glad they changed some stuff to it.  However, I will agree that the points increase AND the decrease in S for the Mortar was a little harsh.  As for the units, I'm pretty comfortable as of right now to see some points increased.  Army synergy has been expanded and it looks like Empire will be a combo-reliant faction rather than having single units dominate their enemies (see old Flaggies).  With that in mind, I'm eager to see what Empire players do with their faction in the next couple of months.  I'm not saying I agree 100% with the points hikes for most core, but if the faction does manage to pull off their Hatred, +1 To Hit on top of other magical bonuses from spells and Battle Prayers, the points increase might be well-justified.

We both agree on one thing for sure:  Time will tell.  And no, I don't play Empire, but I'm severely tempted just so I have another nice balanced army to play with :)

A Wanderer said...

Hey! I'm a (relatively) new Empire player, and thought your post was very informative and helpful!

Not sure I'd agree on everything, though, and you did leave a few things out.

Core troops going up in points - okay, I'm fine with that. You did forget to mention that swordsmen lost a point of initiative, in addition to going up in points cost. I'm not sure that one-two combo was strictly necessary. Compare them to an equivalently equipped unit of Chaos Marauders, for example, and they're paying an extra point... to lose a point of initiative? But hey, detachments are nicer overall now, so I guess that makes up for it a little.

I do wish they'd done something more with the knights, like split the different named orders up with different special rules, but having Stubborn Reiksguard is too nice to complain about.

I agree that the mortar was dirt cheap before, but I'm not sure it needed to become Strength 2. Really makes it seem overpriced for its abilities, but maybe that's me.

Speaking of war machines, you left out how the volley gun is less likely to blow itself up now! It also puts out less shots on average, but that's a fair trade.

T10 was ridiculous for the Steam Tank, it's true, but having a T6, lower than any war machine in the game, rubs me as weird too. Isn't it supposed to be made of metal?

I'm not sold on the named Archer character, but maybe I'm just inordinately lucky with cannons that I can deal with monsters that way.

Were Warrior Priests able to channel power and dispel dice in the last book? I'd been playing them locally as only giving their automatic dispel dice.

Also, every generic lord and hero who can wear any sort of armor now comes with a free set of light armor! And with Warrior Priests being cheaper than before, this more than makes up for losing the automatic dispel dice!

Lastly, the Speculum now no longer has an "off" switch - if you're wearing it, you're swapping stats. So if you bring it to a tournament, be very aware of that.

Well, anyway, thanks again for the post. I hope nothing I said here comes off as *too* uninformed - like I said, I'm relatively new to the game.

Arch Mage said...

What are their weaknesses, they look nice and balanced or specialised if you choose to be, but I want to know what do you do to kill them? I am a high elves player, so specific stuff would help but I'm more interested in general terms because a balanced army can really be nasty to go against

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