Wednesday, 26 June 2013

It Doesn't Rain But It Pours - 8th Edition Army-Off

Like locusts, camera-toting tourists and (apparently) buses, subjects seem to do WFB media rounds in, erm… flocks?…. I’m losing the simile here...

Suffice to say, no sooner had the mighty Heelanhammer bowed to public pressure and answered what must be THE most discussed casual topic of conversation in the hobby that the at-least-equally-mighty-and-definitely-more-accented Bad Dice also weighed on what is effectively: What is the Best Army in Warhammer?

I loved the episodes. But…

Both (or all five, depending on how you look at it) got the answer wrong, though that is to be expected. Firstly, it’s a subjective thing (and Ben seemed determined only consider comped Dark Elves compared to uncomped everything else), and secondly, you have to establish the parameters of such a discussion when comparing different armies:
Are we talking about generic tournament armies? Or the best possible for each matchup? Under what comp? Scenarios in play?

Furthermore, they largely ignored available data. I am often told (by the same person, but he is insistent) that, despite the many positives or negatives of the RHQ rankings system, it accurately shows things such as general army power level. Whilst I philosophically disagree with this (namely because I think, as with a lot of other things in life, a sharp mind focused on the subject reveals more than the bumbling around of drunken warhammer players, but more on that later), it is a decent starting point.

Keeping a UK focus RHQ shows us the following:

  1. Ogre Kingdoms
  2. Warriors Of Chaos
  3. Empire
  4. Lizardmen
  5. Daemons Of Chaos
  6. Vampire Counts
  7. Dark Elves
  8. High Elves
  9. Dwarfs
  10. Bretonnians
  11. Chaos Dwarfs
  12. Orcs & Goblins
  13. Beastmen
  14. Tomb Kings
  15. Wood Elves

Skaven are missing off the list (technical glitch one expects) but one assumes they would be in the top 3 or so. Obviously worth noting that RHQ uses 12 months-worth of data – so armies such as WoC and DoC will include old books information.
Probably not an overly surprisingly list, and one could look at reasons why some armies are where they are etc – and maybe we will do it at some point.

What I want to look at, however, is something slightly different.

8th vs 8th

What are the army power levels – looking only at the new 8th edition army books?

It is often proclaimed that these are balanced tomes, and I myself am fond of saying that an event with nothing but the new books would not need any comp at all.
Is this true? Be great if so – a quick feat of mathematical genius shows us that over half of the books have been updated this edition.

What follows is, by necessity, a product of my keen intellect, charisma and charm… or something I am pulling out of my posterior, depending on how you look at it.

To do this I don’t think you could consider tournament-standard lists – there are too many variables around the various builds, and comp plays too much of a role. So, in out-of-the-book “real warhammer” as it was arguably designed to be used (and where one generally knows what army you are going to face), keeping scenarios rather in the background, how do the armies stack against each other?

My conclusion is, to say the least, FAR from conventional wisdom J

So, in classic reverse order of winningness:

8. Ogre Kingdoms

The poster boys of 2012. The top ranked army on RHQ. The “Easy-Button of WFB”. The biggest meta-changer in years… comes in at last place. Even worse, on my win/loss matrix, they don’t come out beating a single other new book!
It’s enough to make you question the logic of the whole thing.
However, thinking about it, it’s perhaps not surprising. In preparation for the upcoming 6 nations ETC practice team event (more details at a later date) we discussed taking Ogres – but concluded they were actually an army everyone wants to face these days. They have limited builds (and no, taking a different magic lore does not make a build “different”), small model count and utterly gigantic weaknesses. On a very basic level all but one of the other books has access to death magic, which can singlehandedly destroy an Ogre army (even if trying to reduce the risk), not to mention their leadership issues.

7. Daemons of Chaos

The crazy kids on the block are one thing above all else – exceptionally solid. I found these hard to place really – they are a combat army with limited smash capabilities (and the elements that smash are high priced, highly targetable, high priority targets), limited magic without investing in the aforementioned targets, and extremely limited magic defence. They are an army that is, however, much better than some online would have us believe. The problem is that the weapons some of the other books can bring to bear are simply too much. High strength, high power dice Banishments, Death Magic (devastating against arguably the best selections in the book), artillery, missile shooting and heavy armour all have the potential to massively crimp their style (is style something that can be crimped?). A certain banner in a pointy-eared booked is also a bit of a slap in the face. They will win a lot of these games due to hot dice – Daemons only need you to role 5s to win the game after all! Some matchups are hard to call – such as the WoC one… but in my results matrix I had them winning only one game…

6. High Elves

Next up, the Elven representatives amongst the new book. No one seems to know exactly how these boys will do. Some neat tricks, but they suffer from one thing that is really not ideal – being an elf. Access to 9 magic lores does give them answers to a lot of problems… I just don’t think it’s quite enough. For all the shooting they can put out (and it’s a hell of a lot), and for all the hiding they can do behind banners or flapping with big used-to-be-on-fire-yet-is-now-made-of-ice birds I am not sure they can put up with weight of combat/magic/heavy armour other armies can. Only two wins on the matrix is a perhaps a bit harsh – they could probably give WoC a very tight game all things considered.

5. Warriors of Chaos

Much talked about as one of THE top armies at the moment… based on my calculations, and in this case extensive experience, rather middling. It boils down to one thing really – for the most part they need to get into combat to win (the odd Hellcannon leadership bomb notwithstanding). The armies above them can either hit them with so much magic, chaff them up for so cheap or weather the combat punch they bring. There is little more to say than that really… rather a one-dimensional opinion on a one dimensional book. I have them consistently beating 3 of the 8 armies – unsurprisingly the 3 armies below them.

4. Orcs & Goblins

Tied in at number 3, the new hotness, the green (static) tied, the oldest of the new books, Orcs & Goblins. One thing is for sure, they really don’t play as they should. They are really Dwarfs with more phases these days. And it works. The sheer amount of shooting and hand grenade units causes a mess of a lot of the new books. That they can back this up with incredibly effective (if static) combat units means they don’t lose if their opponents get to them. Silly mechanics like allowing fanatics and manglers to go through your own units just adds to the threat – not even safe in combat (unlike other gunlines). The Big Waagh has two of the best spells in the game in Hand and Foot, and the Little Waagh is a real nuisance. Sure, they can fail animosity, and warmachines can fail to hit, but the first if manageable and the second something you can’t account for. Coming in at 5 wins the only reason they don’t get 3rd spot is that I believe they lose to the army they are tied to:

3. Vampire Counts

The first of the “power” 7th ed books to be redone, they have suffered on the conventional tournament scene due simply to comp – and a couple of weaknesses they have. However, in uncomped, and a decent idea of the army they are facing, they have tools to deal with a lot of problems. With the single best combat character in the game leading them, and a selection of ethereals, screams, tough Crypt Horrors, flying threats, incredibly cheap chaff and cheap/free tarpits they can deal with a lot. They can weather the barrage of magic and artillery most armies can throw at them to a large extent. They do struggle to deal with large amounts of armour, and obviously have some crippling weaknesses that become ever more apparent when compared to the top two armies.

2. Tomb Kings

The most belittled of all the army books, and with good reason in a comped tournament scene. In uncomped, and with not having to design an all-comers list, these slow Nagash-hating mummy-lacking wannabe Egyptians are a very serious threat. Magical dominance to an extent no other new army comes remotely close to matching. Panic causing artillery. Army-wide access to killing blow. Monsters by the handful if needed. Cheap (Core) chaff. Numbers to provide roadblocks if needed/wanted (alongside a very synergistic base lore of magic). Not to over stress the magic point, but an Arkhan list backed up with a full on Light Council (and accompanying Hierotitan and Caskets), backed up by army wide shooting and artillery, is a truly devastating beast. Armies such as vampires can take the punishment to make it across the field – only to face light magic-backed units with killing blow floating around if the vampire lord gets a bit too cocky. Sure they are epically slow – a major disadvantage in scenario play, and they have obvious weaknesses, but galloping in with an epic 6 wins I put them just below the one army that I think consistently beats them in a no-holes barred encounter…

1. The Empire

The dull centre of the WFB universe, our Germanic friends have enough utility in their depressingly dull army book to give you the tools to consistently take on the rest of the new books. Incredibly cheap (including core) 1+ armour save units? Check. Wide array of cheap magic lores? Check. Double Banishment potential? Check. 1+ armour save random moving unbreakable unit with 10 wounds? Check. Cheap infantry hordes if you want to go in that direction? Check. Incredibly costed monstrous cav? Check. Artillery? Check. More artillery? Check. The point may be belaboured, but it’s true. An army with no weaknesses. Other than the one army I have consistently beating them, the green wrench that is the O&G, other armies in this list simply do not have a consistent way of dealing with them. It’s a pity the book is not more fun, but then perhaps they have stayed as close to the fluff – they appear modelled on nothing short of brutal Germanic efficiency.

The Matrix of Doom

So, there we have it – and I can guarantee no one will agree with me – that the beauty of this subject, we are all wrong, and we are all right J


  1. I like what you've done but disagree in part. That said I'm mostly looking at this from having played my TK a lot in 8th under both comped and uncomped. That said I must caveat my answer by saying the one build I've not run is the light council. Probably recognised as the best build but at the same time so soulcrushingly dull.

    I'd say WoC and Empire both give TK a seriously hard time, a full WOC army running at TK may lose something to the banishment but T2 the WoC should be hitting them all over the board and at that point TK lack the ability to put out the volume of high Str attacks to win the combat. And once they hit your chaff they're getting protection from the magic and shooting when stuck in combat.

    OK can also do this to an extent but have the lovely vulnerability built in of Arkhan just purple sunning the gutstar through a combat unit and killing most of it, so agree they're less of a bad matchup uncomped.

    O&G are generally good for TK, just need to kill the doomdivers and the standard 2 big snake units pummel most stuff in an O&G list.

    VC is the big 'it depends' matchup. Vamp is scared to death but with the list you're talking about there's no nehek magic so the KB is restricted to a few units, so gives the VC player something to aim for. If the list is tailored for VC then it's a bit trickier.

    I said TK beat daemons once the new (daemons) book came out and from my couple of games that's still my opinion. This is a really fun game to play though and not totally 1 sided but advantage TK.

    HE - I think it's a lot better than the old book but by no means a gimmie.

    My take would be TK vs:
    Emp, WoC - Lose
    HE, OK, VC - can go either way
    DoC, O&G - Win

    But none of these I look at as a easy 20-0. I've faced both Empire and WoC and had incredibly tight games and I've struggled against an O&G list when their artillery did the stuff T1 and I was on the back foot from there.

    To me that does say a lot about the 8th ed books being very close though.

    Also I'd say you're O&G list looks a bit rosy, DOC and HE could easily flip to the lose column for them I reckon.

    I do totally agree that Empire are by far the standout book of the edition though, but due to flexibility rather than being leagues ahead (as was the case with Daemons & DE under 7th).

    Now add in the rulebook scenarios and reconsider your list, who is the most flexible to cope with random deployment, hold a building in the middle of the board, units starting off the board and fortitude.

    Tk - Hate random deployment, they're so synergy reliant and lack the movement to react well.

    Hate holding a building steadfast means nothing and the troops are garbage in combat plus it takes them longer to get there with no marching

    units not turning up, generally not too awful, unless it's the casket which is a disaster, but so slow it makes an issue for getting in the right place after.

    Fortitude - Basically sucks away points from the list as wouldn't ever both with standards on most units otherwise and unlikely to ever take a bsb.

    1. Cheers Dave.

      Re Light Council – good on you! It is indeed a soul-crushing experience.

      Agree to a large extent – think that a lot of the matchups are sort of knife edges… so had to make a call :)
      The massive caveat to the whole thing (other than general insanity) is that we are talking about
      a) None tournament games where you pick your army knowing what you are going to face
      b) No comp, so winning by 100pts is a win.

      My on-the-spot calculations resulted in a one-sided looking result, but in all honesty I am not sure any of the games are close to very easy one way or the other. I honestly do think you probably don’t need any comp if only using the new books.

      Scenarios do indeed change everything. Its an intriguing subject in its own right really. Both VC and TK (often to a greater extent) suffer incredibly from both random deployment and the watchtower


  2. I agree with most of your chart and thoughts, buy TKs are seriously put of the picture.
    First, no serious tournament use no-comp. That said, even in ETC you can make a tough magic-heavy list, but just too many armies out there can get into CC too quick. Overall, you're betting you can do enough damage quick enough. Not a wise tournament choice.
    I would put WoC on 2-3 place. They have a good advantage on the top army, Empire, but are less solid overall.
    Also, Demons and Vampire should really switch place. The latter depends too much on comp and matchups.
    Nice blog btw!

    1. Hi Frank,

      I don't disagree with you one little bit.

      The purpose of this particular exercise was to very much remove it from the tournament fold (for a change!) and look at it from a very basic level. You have the TK book, your mate you play has the VC book (or whatever) - "as the designers intended" (according to people who claim they know what was intended)as they say.

      In practical reality of tournament play this is entirely out of the window. Comp has massive impact on several of the armies - VC for example are often entirely shaped by what they are allowed. And obviously you can design your list for each opponent.

      Decided to keep it away from tournaments because the two podcasts had covered general tournament rankings. Am thinking, once LM book out to do one comparing tournament lists you see, if the tournament was just new books - issue of course is comp.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, and thanks for the comment - much appreciated!

  3. And just to prove me wrong, a friend won a 50 players tournament last weekend with tomb kings, with etc rules, winning 4 games out of 5.