Monday, 10 March 2014

Eulogy to 2011 (or some such time)

It has been said, on many an occasion, on more than one medium (TWF counts as a medium, right?), and by at least three people (including myself), that we are in a Golden Age of Warhammer.

Not being one that likes to contradict myself (ok, who am I kidding?), I obviously have to agree with the general statement.

Almost all (and arguably all the ones that matter) armies have been given a new 8th edition hardback army book in a never-before-seen flurry of release activity. There are FAQs that deal with most of the main issues in the game (sure, they feel like they are from a bygone era, but still, they are there). Paints… well, paints are paints, but there seem to be a lot of those around too.

Game balance continues to improve. An ever increasing number of UK events are, or as close as we are likely to see, ‘no comp’ – or at least, they are when the armies hit the table, the majority of comps focusing on army builds rather than game mechanics. Events of such scale as to be the envy of the international Fantasy world sell out in literally seconds. Clubs appear to be growing all over the place in the former gaming vacuum that is the first city of this fair isle.

I should be dancing through the rain in boundless joy at the state of things (a sentiment robbed of some thrust by unusually nice weather in London today).

At yet, I find myself wistful, longing for what is no more.

Do I think that the early days of 8th were without problems? Not at all. The combination of 8th ed mechanics and latter day 7th ed book power creep was a terrifying thing to behold. Was every book even close to equal? Not even close.
Is this simply a case of me sulking that my two chosen books did not receive exciting revamps, but rather dull (though arguably effective) face paint? Perhaps, this could well be it, but I do not think so.

No – I look at the armies upon the scene now and feel a twinge of despair.

Taken as collective and you would not be surprised to see them all in a bizarre convention that simultaneously attracted Panzer Division reenactors, “Build a Deathstar” Kickstarter pledgees and Orlando Bloom fetishists. Sure, the second one would be rather cool, but I worry about the first and last.

The big draw of 8th edition is that it enables armies to feel more like armies. This is in every single way a good thing. Unfortunately we now appear to be moving away from this.

MSU (for a fortnightly definition of the term, check out The Bad Dice Podcast) armies were unique (or at least, different) and interesting because they were, quite simply, relatively rare. Working out how to deal with them whilst also gearing up to take on several combat units was a fantastic list-building challenge.

Now I look upon the armies at clubs, tournaments and online and the overall theme is apparent:

  • Dark Elf armies are all Curry-esque in their fast cav goodness.
  • High Elf armies are all Swedish-esque (or whoever it is taking credit for that list this week) blocks of stubborn immune to magic gunlines.
  • Empire Elector Counts are frantically lending each other the keys to their Steam Tanks in some Teutonic swingers party somewhere (Jack has that effect on people it seems – I read somewhere GW have sold out of Steam Tanks). Those that lose out on Tank fun console themselves in silky sheets whilst cuddling 1+ armour.
  • Daemon armies delighted everyone with the wane of Nurgle, only to be replaced by an and endless tide of Terry-esque (or Ben or Russ-esque) MSU gunline goodness.
  • Every Warriors of Chaos player seems to have read the book, and taken the obvious stuff, and yes, that is MSU.
  • Every Orc and Goblin army is a Ben-esque gunline that prides itself on being much more effective at doing this than Dwarfs.

Gosh darn it, even VC are getting into the MSU action these days.

Now, I am talking in generalities. I appreciate that not everyone who uses such an army is doing so because someone relatively well known in the world of internet forums/podcasts has done so before. I also fully appreciate that some of these people use them because they enjoy it.


I miss infantry. And not “50 White Lions with Banner of World Dragon and 50 Archers” infantry. I miss infantry armies.
I miss Orc units Waaaghing into combat. I miss WS10 Ghouls. I miss Frenzied Corsairs. I miss (though I shudder to say it) Bloodletters. I miss Black Guard. I miss Skrox units. I miss Grave Guard. I miss magical VC charges. I miss Wood Elves being able to shoot stuff off because it had less armour and moved slower. Hell, I even miss 12 dice Mindrazor.

Most of all though, I miss that short sliver of time when most people did not know what was going on and all sorts of things made the table.

When did all the armies become so homogenous? Can anything be done about it?

A certain Craig person who was briefly famous when there was a rankings system in existence broke the mould of the Skaven book, and then Skaven left the scene, leaving the “RatStar” as the “norm”. That was probably the last great escape attempt we have seen. Maybe Sweeting’s “BigBossStar” would count, but even then, the rest of the list is a gunline. 

Comp may well be the answer. Scenarios too, if they managed to make something truly different, but very few of these alter the basic army builds we see everywhere. Even the potential cure of blonde and handsome Viking comp quickly settles into the norm after one go around. It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, the SCGT comp has on the scene, especially if this year it is borrowed by more events. It does ask the question of how much you want to play the comp roulette. All my lists are in the 0-1 Comp Point mark. I know people only looking at 8+. This implies there will be some notable variation to be seen.
We shall see, and we can only hope.

Do I blame anyone for this? Not really.
We like to compete.
If you create a list and people copy it, that’s  flattering. You have little recourse to complain (unless someone figures out a way to patent any of it…). If you see a cool idea you want to do not doing it because it has been done is stupid on the face of it.
And feel good that, whatever goes on, we are better off than 40k.

In the meantime, I am going to keep it real and go Old Skool.
And take Dwellers.

An aside
Several longer articles are in the works (including a recap of the incredibly fun Bjorn Teams event) – life and work conspiring to prevent their completion. So I thought I would fill time with thoughts as they strike me. Whilst they strike me, before I can censor myself…

Until next time


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