This is it – the home stretch. In this last segment of army reviews, you’ll find out the latest and greatest with Wood Elves, Empire, Skaven, O&G and VC. Playstyles for some of these armies have changed completely and you’ll see a lot of unexpected builds in the next couple of weeks. In this article, you’ll find out exactly what your opponents are going to be trying out in the battles to come. For last week’s article, check it out here.
The Asrai have changed almost completely in the way their army plays in order to stay competitive. Without a doubt, WE will be the hardest army to play in 8th Ed. simply because of the many changes going against them. Since you are no longer slowed down when charging through difficult terrain and march blocking is no longer a huge part of the game (roll a Ld. test and go!), Wood Elves won’t get as many shots as they used to. This also means the enemy will have more units that can get into combat and that’s just bad news for a relatively shooty army. The larger amounts of units that people will be taking in bigger games also make this a lot more problematic for the slightly overpriced WE army. Although all these things look pretty bad, Wood Elves still have some options. They just need to go outside their comfort zone and play with MSU Glade Guard, blocks of Eternal Guard to hold the line and groups of Treekin to break the enemy in combat. Treekin got one of the biggest buffs coming into this edition. Sure, they can’t auto-break units anymore, but they still have multiple wounds and a 5+ ward on top of that. The sheer number of attacks that they can put out makes for a lot of dead models once they hit the ranks of enemy units. I think one of the most important things that WE players have to take advantage of is their lores of magic and their magical items. Since they can take life, beasts and their own personal lore, WE players can pull off some pretty unique combos that other races will be careful to avoid. No one wants to fight against T7 Eternal Guard because they’ll hold all day long; especially if they have a Noble or Higborn in there to make them Stubborn. Call of the Hunt is now pretty special because its one of the few remaining movement spells in the game and your opponent cannot make a charge reaction against it. Tree Singing now does D6 S5 hits to an enemy unit that’s even remotely touching woods so you can use that to harass any fast moving enemies trying to get to you. Item combos such as Glimmering Scale Armor + Fimbulwinter Shard will make your heroes nearly impossible to hit and Moonstone of Hidden Ways can still pull some really nasty combos. WE is a tricky army in every sense of the word: Tricky to play, tricky to face and tricky to master. Although I feel that WE got the short end of the stick in 8th, the most cunning and experienced WE players will still be able to pull off some convincing wins.
The soldiers of Sigmar are charging into 8th Ed. as one of its most powerful contenders. With the removal of RIP spells being auto-dispelled when you cast, Warrior-Priests got insanely good. Between them and the War Alter, the sheer number of dispel dice that you can add to an army is just insane. Empire has always been one of those armies that have loads and loads of options. In 8th Ed, nothing screams out more options than the armies of The Empire. Not only do you have full access to all 8 lores of magic when you design your army (this is huge!), but you have tons of supporting spells from your Warrior-Priests as well. You can take all the magic you want so you don’t get bored, and pack your army with enough RIPs to make most armies cry. As for your army itself, you have can shoot with Handgunners, Vanguard-moving fast pistoleers, fully armored knights, fight with swords, halberds or spears, and Stubborn Great Swords. Factor in the fact your artillery selection is unrivaled by anyone other than Dwarfs and you got yourself a real army.
In fact, let’s talk about artillery really quickly: Empire has access to 60″ Great Cannons, mortars, rockets and the behemoth Steam Tank. With the new errata, it is no longer immune to spells and thus enemy lore of metal will have its way with it. Anyways, back to Empire having lots of options. With the army percentages back in full swing, you can have lots and lots of supporting characters that can add a lot of color and power to your army. You can still take Helborg led cavalry units in a valorous charge down your opponents’ throat, but it won’t be the same ridiculous deathstar that it was in 7th Ed. The strength of The Empire now lies in its steadfast troops being led by its valorous leaders, supported by the largest array of big guns the world has ever seen. Old favorites like the Arch Lector on War Alter will still see a lot of play simply because they add a ton to the army. Golden Griffon is as awesome as ever since Lore of Light is pretty strong now and items such as Silver Horn and Orb of Thunder will see a lot more play. A fully assembled and painted Empire army will be magnificent to behold on the table. I think they capture the essence of 8th Ed the most in the way their army is presented on the battlefield: Big blocks of infantry, powerful wizards, supporting Knights, powerful artillery and valiant heroes. Good times ahead for you guys.
Skaven got really good this edition, benefiting in almost all areas without much loss in others. For one, the removal of unit restrictions in favor for army percentages means the entire army can be packed full of dirt cheap heroes. If you wanted, you can have a Skaven Chieftain in every unit you take and they’ll add a decent punch with a Great Weapon. You can also load up on really cheap Lv.1 Warlocks and just contribute to the channeling portion of your magic/dispel and throw out a occasional Warp Lightning. Speaking of magic, Skaven magic is absolutely insane in 8th. With no increase to the casting values, a Grey Seer can add his casting value of +4 to every single one of these spells. Scorch can be cast reliably on 2 dice and can be absolutely devastating now that templates confers no partials. Plague can be cast on 3 dice and can virtually destroy low toughness units and spread to their entire army afterwards. Even things like Pestilent Breath can be spammed out with 1-die and thanks to no partials, can wreak absolute havoc on the big units of infantry that we’ll be seeing in 8th Ed. As if magic wasn’t potent enough, there are things in this army that are too vile to describe, both on the battlefield and in the fluff. Rat Ogres can put out a absolutely disgusting amount of attacks now on the charge: A unit of 3×2 is small and maneuverable enough that can get into combat, deal out a unreasonable amount of S5 attacks and preform stomp attacks after. Huge units of Skaven infantry cluttering the field prevents anyone from leaving combat because of Strength in Numbers, Steadfast and a BSB. The Hell Pit Abomination is just disgusting to see because it can single-handily maul entire units and there’s almost nothing they can do about it. Since you can no longer take charge reactions against random charges, you’re just going to have to take it to the face and like it. Your best bet against that thing is TLoS and cannons, or anything that’s flaming and does D6 wounds. Other special units like the Plague Furnace, Screaming Bell and Doomwheel will also see a lot of play and do hideous amounts of damage to the enemy forces.
So aside from killer magic and powerful uber units like the HPA, what else does the rats have up their sleeves? Could it be tons of templates and allow no armor saves? You bet. There’s going to be plenty of Plagueclaw Catapults and Poison Wind units to be had and they are going to be a pain to deal with. Throw in a Warp Lightning Cannon that allow no armor saves and does D6 wounds in a small template and things are going to get really nasty really fast. Expect to see loads and loads of dirt-cheap, nearly unbreakable units with low-point heroes, powerful magic and crazy scary things that will break through the units that are stuck in combat.
Orcs & Goblins
Here’s an army that fits the horde style of the new edition very well. You have really strong magic (because the lore is cheap to cast), a relatively tame miscast table compared to the current one, and really killy warbosses. Although Orcs are relatively cheap to field and are T4, Night Goblins came out pretty big this edition because they’re cheaper than Orcs and take upgrades like Netters and Fanatics. Just like Skaven, they can spam out some ridiculously cheap heroes to buff up Goblin killing power and the big units of NG and Orcs are bound to stay in combat for a very long time. Orc BSBs are exceptionally durable with the right upgrades and Lv.4 Shamans will be seeing much play. In fact, they’re cheap enough that you can take a NG Shaman and a Orc Shaman and just spam spells all over the place. There’s nothing better than reliably getting off WAAAGH! because of its casting cost now. Take these shamans in a good sized bunker and you’re in business. O&G can also muster up some impressive magic defense as well with things like Staff of Sneaky Stealin’ and Mork’s Spirit-Totem. As for magic items, you can take some pretty impressive item combinations by mixing some common magic item with items from your book. Effigy of Mork + Glimmering Scale Armor + Martog’s Best Basha can make your Black Orc Warboss quite the beast in combat. Idol of Mork can significantly boost the magic potential of your Orc Shaman and Horn of Urgok can be absolutely game changing when your opponent runs out of scrolls (which is after 1 time).
Black Orcs also make an appearance back on the table because they have weapons for every situation. Chopping up small pathetic units? Get an extra attack. Need something bigger? Take out your great weapon. With the many buffs that can be put on your army from your supporting casters, you can do loads of damage to the enemy army once you get into combat; which shouldn’t be a problem now because of your easier to cast WAAAGH! and march blocking taking a hit. Orc Boar Chariots got more attractive because the S7 auto-kill is gone, Trolls can rank up and do a lot of damage and you have some dirt cheap fast cav spiders for harassment. Lastly, I’d like to mention that you’ll probably see a ton of cheap war machines in every O&G list from here on after. No army in the game can take such cheap warmachines and get away with the damage they can inflict if they hit. Sure, they can misfire and die, but the amount of damage you can inflict on T3 low armor save units is incredible.
A lot of people say that Vampire Counts took a serious hit this edition because their magic is not as powerful. This is both true and false. True in a sense that you can no longer reliably cast on one dice for the fear of losing concentration, and false in the sense that VC magic is weak. Master of the Black Arts still allows you to take a good amount of PD (although only that Vamp can use ’em), Forbidden Lore gives you access to the all the spells of the Vampire lore or from the BRB, and Vanhel’s Danse Macabre is still amazing. Sure, the extra movement is amazing, but the ASF and re-rolls it grants you is just fantastic. Now that you can take cheap Necromancers that can learn VDM, you can spam that out more than ever since the PD pool is collective. Grave Guard also got insanely amazing because you can take them in a big unit with Great Weapons, put a Banner of Barrows on them, give a Vampire Helm of Commandment and wreck absolutely everything in the game. You hit most things on 2s, wound most things on 2s and will win combat more than you deserve to. Sure, steadfast units will stay in combat, but a solid round of combat with these guys and you’ll be asking yourself if anything is going to be around to tell the tale next round.
The fact that VC have Forbidden Lore is fantastic; more so in this edition than last because there’s so many magical buffs that can make subpar fighty units (like Skeletons) great. Take the Beast lore for example, and all of a sudden your Vampires and Lords are insane in combat! You can also buff your Ghouls to S4 T5 and all of a sudden the word “weak” goes out the door. Casting hexes on your opponent’s units with lore of shadows to give your Skeletons a better chance to kill is also amazing. Well, what about VC heroes? The fact is: You still have some of the most flexible and customizable hero choices in the game and you still have access to the Drakenhof Banner that gives all your units regen. A Vampire Lord with Red Fury, Infinite Hatred, and the +3 attack sword will completely wreck any rank and file unit in the game. Cairn Wraiths will still eat units up in combat and are game changing because not many average-joe units in the game have magical attacks. I mean, think about it: 8th Ed. promotes big blocks of infantry and most of them won’t be hitting back if you have ethereal units. You can prevent a lot of game changing maneuvers with Cairn Wraiths and do a ton of damage in return. Black Coaches just became one of the best chariot units in the game and the Corpse Cart gets to make stomp attacks in close combat. The Vargulf also got pretty beefy because it has Thunderstomp! Yes, VC players have to rely more on “crappy” core now because they can’t min-max their cavalry deathstars and magic spam their way to victory, but this doesn’t mean they’re a bad army. In fact, far from it.
Well, there you have it folks. There’s 15 armies in Warhammer Fantasy and each of them are going to have a hell of a good time in 8th Edition. Some armies changed completely, others not so much. At the end of the day, 8th Ed. is looking to be the most balanced edition of WHFB that I’ve seen in a very long time. Sure there’s going to be some tier differences and power builds, but the majority of the armies are smack dead in the middle methinks. For more info on that, check out my newly formed opinions on my blog.