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:
- Ogre Kingdoms
- Warriors Of Chaos
- Daemons Of Chaos
- Vampire Counts
- Dark Elves
- High Elves
- Chaos Dwarfs
- Orcs & Goblins
- Tomb Kings
- 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