Monday, December 8, 2014

Faster games, smarter games

With all the bloat that has become the world of Warhammer, I've really been looking for some faster play fantasy rules. I have these amazing models and I really enjoy the hobby aspect of the game. But it is like with each additional release they seem to be less focused on a balanced game and more focused on ... well, I don't really know. I am not saying the game isn't playable. I understand there are people that like it a lot. For me though, and part of this is my brother's voice ringing out- I want a game focused on tactics and units. The cheesy magic items, dramatically powerful special abilities of certain units or characters, just takes away from the game. Like every single time. Plus- who wants to go through all the trouble of building an army, packing it up, and getting trounced round after round.

The new stuff is pretty neat where they are destroying all the classic characters. Rumors for the next edition include factions instead of allies. 40k is a whole different story, and while I hate the psychic rules- it is still largely playable. From Kill Teams to Tournaments it feels a little more balanced, but I wanted to focus on a faster play system for my fantasy miniatures. My first attempt was using Kings of War. A free-to-play ruleset and army lists are amazing. I really liked that I could pull counts as models off for my daemons and high elves. Lined up armies, and played a game in no time. Maybe two hours for a nice sized game. That included me looking things up and running both sides of the table. I ran 1250pts. And while some of my units lost a bit of flavor in the conversion, I learned quite a bit. Like don't let your Abyssal Riders get charged by Stormwind Cavalry.

There were somethings that didn't feel right though with Kings of War. I don't like the fact that combat is a charge and rout or charge and take a step back. The all or nothing morale system is okay, but I think it could be better. I lost a huge amount of offense when my Abyssal riders got wiped off the board turn two and my Daemon Prince (erm, Abyssal Fiend) was wavering the entire game after getting caught out in the open. Some of it was tactics. I definitely see that. Other problems were things like for some armies it is a lot easier to convert. My elves play exactly the same. I had no idea how to field Pink Horrors, Flamers, Screamers, etc. I can come pretty close with Kings of War, but it isn't Warhammery enough.

Oh before I move on, I do want to mention the magic system. I absolutely love being able to pay points for a wizard and getting something out of them. Magic is important to me in a fantasy game. It should have some effect on the battle. In Kings of War, a cannon and a wizard play very similarly. Wizard makes a shooting attack. Holy crap, that is awesome! It reminds me of the old chaos daemon list for 40k where you could buy spells or psychic attacks as weapons. It isn't as strange as the Winds of Magic, blow yourself up, over powered or under-powered magic/psychic phase. Ah, anyway- the rules did have some aspects I really enjoyed.

But, I recently ran across the One Page Ruleset page (link). This system tosses out all of the individual characteristics and goes for a single Quality rating for a statistic. The movement, shooting, close combat, and morale system is really streamlined. There are a few universal special rules and some army specific stuff, but there are still designed around fast play and maintaining the flavor of unit combat. I am going to try it out this week. I have a few 1500pt army lists ready to go. It is a four turn system and the basic rules just focus on totaling the points of the units destroyed. The army lists are designed with actual Warhammer Fantasy miniatures - so a screamer is still a screamer and Reiksguard are Reiksguard. I don't think it would be hard to design Stone Trolls in Kings of War that are resistant to magical attacks, but hey- now I don't have to.

I am not sure the magic rules in the One Page Ruleset are going to perfect, but man they look good. A level of wizard let's you cast a single spell instead of shooting on a 4+. If you take more than one level you can roll an extra dice to use a power, but you are still limited to a single spell. If you choose instead to dispel, you need to beat the casting roll of the spell and you cannot cast on your next turn. So wizard A casts a spell and rolls a 6. That is like ultimate power. But if Wizard B tried to cast a spell and hits a 4 as his target number, wizard B would need to decide if wants to dispel it or not. If he attempts to dispel it, he is giving up his ability to cast on his subsequent turn. If he ever rolls more than one dice to cast or dispel, you always chose the highest dice roll. If you end up rolling double 6's, then you have suffered a miscast and take d6 automatic hits.

The spells feel really powerful. But also cost a given number of points. Base spells that anyone can choose cost points depending on what level wizard you are. But army specific spells merely cost a single value. There doesn't appear to be a limit to the number of spells you can take, so if you want more versatility it just costs more points. You can have a level one wizard with 4 spells or a level three wizard with no spells (remember the dispel scroll caddie from Warhammer fantasy). Since I have daemons, I'll mention Pink Horror units have Wizard (1). You can give them a variety of spells like normal wizards, but they have 50/50 chance of actually firing one off. I ended up grabbing fireballs for my units in the test game because I want them to act as missile troops. Fireball is 24" range and hits for 2d6, so you are looking at seven hits.

Since units only have one characteristic in the game that is used for attacking and resisting damage. Armor gives you additional dice to roll when you are resisting damage, as does cover, so we end up with a dice driven game system. I was a little shocked when I compared the point costs of elven archers to silverhelms because they are almost as expensive. This is a definite difference to Warhammer Fantasy where the usefulness of bows has truly made me question which unit I would rather field despite the vast point difference. We will just have to see how the battle plays out. I am a little curious to see how effective my archers are in this system.

Another interesting thing about both Kings of War and The One Page Ruleset is the focus on regiments and units. For Kings, each solid troop choice allows you to field a war machine and either a character or monster. For One Page, you are only allowed a single character in a 750pt or 1500pt list and either two chariots, monsters, or ordnance models. They don't have any information on scaling it up, but if I like the initial set I was considering adding an additional character and two cmo's per 750pts. That would let me field all four bolt throwers and both eagles at 3,000pts. I'll probably experiment with adding an additional turn per 750pts as well to reach a six turn game. Overall I am excited about it, but we'll have to see how it goes.

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