WFB: Army Book Review – Empire

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The coolest guy in town.

In the last couple of days, I’ve seen the majority of the internet have a panic attack over the upcoming Warhammer Fantasy Empire book. Lets talk about what we got.

By this, I mean that they were dreading the latest creation by Robin Cruddace.  Given the fact that Cruddace doesn’t have the best track record, and the fact that the majority of the core units for the army has been increased, I can see why people have been crying virtual tears.  However, not all is doom and gloom.  There are a lot of flavorful changes in here and I think this army book will be fine for 8th Ed. standards.  By that, I mean a fun and balanced book.  Let’s begin.

Specials, Lords and Heroes
Starting with the special characters, lords and heroes, I’d say I’m pretty pleased.  Most named characters have been buffed in terms of special rules and their point costs have been decreased.  For example, Karl Franz is now slightly cheaper and his Leader of Men special rule carries all the way out to 24″ if he’s on Deathclaw or a Dragon. Deathclaw now comes with Bloodroar (basically a built-in Screaming Banner) and Karl Franz comes with Hold the Line!  Hold the Line! is a new special rule that makes it so any Break tests taken in the unit that a General (or Captain) is in rolls 3D6 and uses the two lowest.  Yes, Empire is now the new Lizardmen, but not green and with more guns.  Since this awesome rule now exists, the Generals and Captains saw a minor points increase.  Kurt Helborg is now cheaper and still the same, plus there’s a new Count called Marius Leitdorf who’s literally crazy. He’s a little too random for me to be good, even though he has a decent gear (including a Runefang) and Hold the Line!.

Both the Archlector and Warrior Priests are cheaper now and the bound spells they carry also affect detachments within 3″.  For Battle Prayers, there is now Hammer of Sigmar (re-roll to wound), Shield of Faith (5+ ward vs. close combat wounds), and Soulfire (WP and unit gains Flaming, enemy models in BtB takes S4 hit, S5 if Undead).  If you take the War Altar, the Hatred that the Archlector gives his unit now spreads to all Empire units within 6″ of it.  On top of that, all Battle Prayers also affects all units within 6″ as well, not just detachments.  This is the main difference between the Archlector and the Warrior Priests now.  They can still channel PD and DD, but they can no longer spam the battlefield with free dispel dice (which is a good ting).  The War Altar also has a built-in Bound Lv.4 Banishment and can take an upgrade that gives it Terror.  With T5, 5W and 4+ Ward, Stubborn, I think the War Altar will see a good amount of play.  Volkmar the Grim is now cheaper and you can choose to take him on foot or on the Altar.  He has 5+ regen and casts Battle Prayers with a +1 bonus.  Luthor Huss got crazy buffed because now he has all the Battle Prayers plus Unbending Righteousness which gives him and his unit Stubborn.  He is now cheaper, and has Chosen of Sigmar which allows him to roll a dice once a game to gain +D3 to his WS, S, T and A.

The Grand Master got a points hike for no reason, but the other heroes made out pretty decent.  The Wizard Lord got slightly cheaper and they can now take unique mounts such as the Celestial Hurricanum and Luminark of Hysh.  Since these are new, let’s go into them right now.  The Luminark of Hysh is a Large Target chariot, 5+ armor, T5 with 5 wounds, pulled by horses.  He gives 6+ ward to everything within 6″ of it and adds +1DD to your dispel pool.  For powers, he has a innate bound spell Lv.4 called Solheim’s Bolt of Illumination which is a 36″ magic missile.  It causes a S8 hit, D3 wounds, Flaming and goes through ranks like a bolt thrower with no armor saves allowed.  If you’re hitting Undead, you get to re-roll wounds.  Next in line is the Celestial Hurricanum.  Same defensive stats as the Luminark but adds +1PD to your power instead.  The biggest plus here is that all friendly units within 6″ gets +1 bonus To Hit in close combat.  It’s innate Lv.4 spell places a small template within 24″ and scatters on D6.  It rolls on a chart and on a good day, it drops a S8 Meteor on your head for D6 wounds.  It can also spawn a Iceshard Tempest that makes all units touched by the template suffer -1 to hit in shooting and close combat, or a Raging Tornado that spins the unit around randomly.  Pretty fun stuff here.  The biggest kicker is that you can only mount your Wizard Lord on these is if you’re Heavens (Hurricanum) or Light (Luminark).  If you’re Lore of Beasts, you can even ride a Griffon!  Sorry other dudes, no real bonuses for you, but you can still take these wacky contraptions for Rares.  Both of these new models are really cheap too, costing about the same as the new cannon.  Balthasar Gelt is also cheaper in the new book.

Next, let’s talk about the Witch Hunter.  He’s new, can accuse someone of Heresy and gain re-roll hits (both shooting and melee) and Killing Blow against the target.  Another plus is that shooting attacks made by him has the Sniper rule and he comes stock with MR2 to give to the unit he’s in.  Due to his really low price and the ability to take a Brace of Pistols with BS4, I can see a couple of these guys making enemy Wizards/BSBs very nervous. Against wizards and Undead, he also re-rolls To Wound.  The new Special Character Monster Hunter has a 30″ bow with BS5 re-roll hits Volley Fire that wounds monsters on 4+ and has D3 wounds.  His cost is decent and you can even upgrade other Huntsmen with ITP and convey his Monster Hunter rule for re-roll hits.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about changes to the units.  As most of you know, the prices have been increased for most of the core units.  However, there are some good stuff in here too.  Regimental  (Parent) and Detachment units share the same battlefield psychology.  For example, if a Handgunner Detachment is within 3″ of a unit of Great Swords (who are Ld.8 and Stubborn) and is forced to take a Break test, they will take the test on Stubborn Ld.8.  Supporting Charge is gone, but Support Fire and Counter Charge is still there.  Support Fire now suffers the standard Stand and Shoot reactions though (so -1 to hit). Knightly Orders is still in as core and you can upgrade one unit to Innner Circle Knights for +1S like usual.  A new unit of Knights appear under Specials named Reiksguard Knights and they’re basically Inner Circle Knights with Ld.8 Stubborn.  Kurt Helsborg can join them to make them Immune to Psychology and then you’ve got yourself a 1+ armor save party.  The other new unit is the Demigryph Knights and they’re pretty good I must say.  They’re Inner Circle Knights with full plate armor, barding, shield, lances on a WS4, 3 S5 armor piercing attacks, fear-causing Demigryph with 3 wounds a piece and 1+ armor saves at M8.  The entire unit can also choose to replace their lances with halberds for free.  I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty satisfied with them, even though they cost near 60ppm.

Flagellants are still in the game and they’re still good unlike what other people say.  Slightly more expensive, Frenzy, Unbreakable, WS3 (over 2), and d6 s3 hits martyr rule.  On 1, you get re-roll hits, 2-3 gives you re-roll hits and wounds, 4+ gives you +1T and the previous bonuses.  Someone mathed out what these guys can do despite their costs increase and they pretty much annihilate things with some decent rolling.  They are definitely still worth the points.  Pistoliers and Outriders are still in at the same cost but no more Hochland Long Rifles for them.  Only the Master Engineer gets them with the same cost as well.  Mortars and Cannons got a points hike and that’s perfectly fine with me.  The Mortar is S2(6) Armor Piercing with D3 wounds on a large round template unlike what other cryers have been saying.  Helstrom is now 3(3) Armor Piercing D3 small templates with a minor points increase.  You know what?  I’m perfectly fine with this.  Artillery was way over the top last book and so was the DD spam from the naked WPs around the battlefield.  This was a step in the right direction to bring 8th Ed. books in line.

STank and Magic
Last, but not least, I want to talk about the Steam Tank and magic items.  The Steam Tank is now T6 (down from the ridiculous T10), 10W, 1+ armor save Large Target.  Of course it still has Terror, Unbreakable, random movement and runs off of Steam Points.  Speaking of which, Steam Points work like this:  Start of turn, generate 0-5 Steam Points.  If the artillery die result (roll a die) is greater than your ST’s current number of wounds, or if you roll a misfire, roll a D3 and then for each Steam Point the tank has, add 1 to the result and follow the mishap table.  Steam Points can be used to power the Steam Engine, the Steam Gun or Steam Cannon.  If you use 3 points to move, you can go up to 3D6 (or 2D6 for 2 points).  If you strike a target at full power, it hits get for D6 +3D3 (3 steam points) Impact hits at S6.  You can still grind units down in combat as well.  Otherwise, you can fire the Steam Gun (which is a S2 breath weapon) and pump points into it until it’s a S4 breath weapon. Unlike other breath weapons, you can do this once a turn.  Lastly, there’s the Steam Cannon:  S10, 12/24/36″ depending on the Steam Points and D6 wounds upon impact.  TLDR:  The Steam Tank is now T6 and is cheaper to field.

In terms of magic items, I’m pretty satisfied with the selection they chose.  Runefang and Mace of Helsturm are both down a few points while keeping the same functionality.  Mace is now D3 wounds instead of D6, but it’s cheap enough you can field it on a Captain.  Armor of Meteoric Iron has been changed to be more expensive, but it has a built-in 6+ ward now.  Helm of the Skavenslayer is a good buy because it gives you +1AS and Fear.  Against Skaven, you gain Terror but they all Hate you in return.  White Cloak of Ulric is a Talisman that makes all enemies in BtB -1 To Hit and gives you a 5+ ward/2+ vs. fire.  Van Hortsmann’s Speculum is still in the game, but it no longer swaps Weapon Skill.  Rings of Volans takes a spell (roll like a Lv.1 Wizard) from one of the 8 lores of magic in the beginning of the game and the spell is cast on that bound level.  Griffon Banner is still in and Steel Standard is now slightly different.  Steel Standard moves any negative Movement penalties for Barding and the unit re-rolls 1s to charge, flee and pursue.

Overall, I like the book.  Keep in mind that I like to compare the book to other 8th Ed. books in terms of power and functionality.  There was a few disappointments, but I very much enjoy the new stuff that Empire get to play with.  The Griffon saw a buff and a points decrease and so did many of the other elements of the army.  Some prices went up, but overall they were compensated with buffs elsewhere.  From what I see, the book looks diverse, balanced and full of flare.  You can choose to go for a balanced list with state troops, elite Knights or an all cavalry army.  You can choose to field the new stuff or you can choose to play the same way you’ve been playing for years, it doesn’t matter.  I don’t see any no-brainers in the army yet and I think that’s the best thing any educated player could ask for.  If you want more, come check out my blog and catch the latest podcast about Empire I put up.

Overall, I give this book a solid 8/10.  Empire is now something more than DD spamming gunlines or dual STank.

Your comments are welcome generals of the Old World.

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