A look back at Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition

After yesterdays tournament look back, it generated a lot of chatter about Warhammer 8th edition so I thought I’d look back at the game and look at the good and bad points of this edition. The group of people that played the game were generally great fun and whilst many had a serious side to playing, at the end of the day they wanted to have fun and that was what mattered.

The game itself however was certainly far from balanced and was never intended as a tournament style game. The game in its basic form revolved around movement of units and pre planning to ensure your units could be at certain places doing certain actions to ensure the goal was met. Usually this meant your main unit being able to charge first against your opponents main unit and so have the upper hand.

The difference to most modern wargames was the rank and file setup of your army. Most units were packed together in a square/rectangle formation getting bonuses depending how wide and deep they were. Some units, such as orcs, were designed to have up to 40 models in a formation charging forward never running away and getting extra dice in close combat. Others such as high elves, were better in smaller units as they always fought first and could whittle down any opponents close up.

You also had ranged attacks from archers or huge war machines such as the Empires cannons or the skaven’s warp lighting cannon. Some of these were exceptionally powerful, and often a bit too powerful, which was my first frustration. Monsters in 8th edition looked amazing and I loved having a huge beast on the battlefield. Cannons and other similar machines made them pointless however as a cannon or two could destroy a monster very quickly. Whilst it made sense, it didn’t make it fun and so it stopped the use of monsters. Exceptions to this were the Dark Elf Hydra as it had invulnerable saves against such machines, or dragons that could fly and get into combat quickly.

Dwarf cannon

Movement was the biggest difference between this game and others such as Warhammer 40k. Because the units were in block formations they had to wheel and move so couldn’t just turn on the spot (well they could with some dice roles, but lets not go into the finer details). This made the game particularly tactical as you had to consider this when planning charges, moving round terrain or lining up to shoot. It did however allow some very gamey moves such as being able to put a small cheap unit at an angle in front of a big unit forcing them to either charge that unit, sending them off out of the way or sit there for a turn and do nothing. It didn’t make sense but it was so powerful most people used this. It was so frustrating and could ruin games very easily and suck a little bit of fun out of it. I still used this tactic however ill admit, but I wish it hadn’t of existed.

Magic.. oh magic. Magic was a vital part of playing Warhammer Fantasy 8th edition. You as the caster would roll two dice and the number would be your dice pool for casting. Your opponent would roll one dice and that would be their dispel amount of dice. Each spell had a value ranging from a small so one dice roll could achieve it (say a 5) to vast that requires multiple dice to roll for it. Obviously the higher the role required generally the more deadly the spell. Some spells made your units better and tougher, others could destroy a unit outright.

Ok so I’m going to moan here about some of the spells as they made for some annoying games. If you rolled a double 6 when casting a spell the opponent could block it in any way. Some spells were so over to top that successfully casting could mean the death of a whole unit. An example was purple sun, which created a template that passed over a unit a random length. Each model in that unit took an initiative test and if failed they were destroyed. Some units had to roll either a 1 or a 2 meaning that death for the majority of the unit was inevitable and it didn’t matter how many wounds they had each. Dead! This made the game sometimes all abut whether the wizard could get a spell off or not by rolling 6 dice. Again, I used this trick so shouldn’t moan, but some spells were just too powerful.

Orc shaman

I had to laugh many times however as a roll of a double 6 or double 1 did mean that your wizard could blow themselves up and out of the game. This was such a funny part that whilst annoying when you did loose your wizard, it was so cinematic it was worth it. The games were wizards blew up are the ones I remember the most. I blew many wizards up!

Something Games Workshop still struggle with to this day is power creep, and 8th edition certainly had its fair share of this. When a new army comes out they obviously want it to sell well and so the rules tend to be particularly good for them. A good example of this would be Ogre Kingdoms which came out late in the life span of 8th edition. They had a unit, the mournfang’s, that were deadly and could wipe out most units in a charge and were tough enough to withstand most fire power (maybe not cannons or purple suns). This happened often and whilst it changed the meta and made people change their lists, sometimes it was frustrating. I don’t however feel this will ever change, as the Iron Hands for 40k have shown us, but at least Games Workshop are a lot quicker to try and fix issues such as this now (maybe too quick, but that’s another complaint not for today).

Overall however I enjoyed 8th edition Warhammer fantasy. Games Workshop eventually destroyed the whole system which created Age of Sigmar. The biggest issue with this was that they now expected models to have round bases instead of square and the game played much more like 40k than what we all loved. The game has gone on to be a great game in its own right but it dispersed the community who went on and found their own games. I eventually landed back on 40k, which I started my gaming on, and others have stuck with AOS but it does feel like the old days will never come back.

I sound old don’t I? Until next time…

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