For the last few editions, GW has kept adding flyers into the game – but in 8th they’ve hit a rough patch.
I can still remember when Flyers were first added to the game. It was a LOOOOOONG time ago. In fact flyer rules were one of the earliest things a young Forge World added to the game. Way back in 2000, the initial Imperial Armour softcover books added a bunch of flyers into the game.
These early flyers had multiple versions of rules that tried different approaches to adding fast movers to the game… not quite effectively.
Since then, almost every faction has flyers, and the game is full of them. For a while there was a set of dedicated anti-aircraft platforms introduced to deal with them. some of these flyers you see everyday like the Crimson Hunter while others you probably forgot exist (Tau bombers).
Let’s Talk About 8th
But in 8th something seems amiss with flyers. Here’s my beefs.
They are still too slow. In 8th everything got faster, making the fast movers seem just silly. They are either flying in their diamond patterns, or back and forth between two points for the uber maneuverable ones. It’s an abstraction to be sure, but one that feels very shoehorned into the game. Note that the hovering vehicles like the Valk still make perfect sense – this is mostly about the “fast movers”.
If you look at other games of 40K scale, (or even smaller scale), flyers are often abstracted into “air support” and come in on a single turn, do strafing runs, and leave the table. In some systems, it’s an unreliable asset, while in others the defenders get a chance to defend themselves before the aircraft attack. Whateve the solution – fighters and especially bombers just feel “off” flying in tight circles at 50 ft off the ground around our 4×6 tables.
Anti-aircraft fire is broken. Did you know the Eldar used to have an anti-aircraft tank – the Firestorm! There are still some classics like the Hydra out there – but I can’t remember the last time I saw one. Know why? Because the way you kill flyers in 8th isn’t with accurate long range AAA fire, it’s by driving up to them with Hellhounds and burning them out of the sky. It’s patently silly. Yes it’s just an unforeseen artifact of 8th’s ruleset, but it’s another thing that takes you “out of the game” due to its absurdity.
Movement Shenanigans. What was old is new again. Back in the really , really old Forge World flyer days, you could do all kinds of line of sight and movement blocking tricks with flyers. Guess what – it’s back! There are lists out there spamming flyers to physically block an enemy army from approaching (gotta stay back 1″). This is hopefully a priority to get nerfed in the next BIGFAQ any day now.
Tricky To Balance
Fast flyers will always be in an odd place in a 28mm miniatures game. If you make them too realistic, then really ground forces should have little ability to really destroy them. That said, unless they are bombers, they should have little effect on small groups of infantry on a battlefield. They can be abstracted to provide a more “here they come, duck” experience, but that makes the sexy flyer models little more than markers for fields of fire. If you go too far in that direction – they become watered down and won’t get taken. If you go the other direction, then you get what we had at the start of 8th, with the swarms of StormRavens running amok gunning down everything in range Apocalypse Now style.
It’s a tough balance, and flyers have been on both sides of it in the different editions. To me it feels like they need a rewrite when the next edition inevitably comes around – both for balance, and to make them, and anti-aircraft units a unique viable part of the game, that complements but does not overshadow the ground pounders.
~What what you do to redesign Flyers?