Monday, 13 June 2011

Lores of Magic: The Lore of Fire

I remember when we were first looking through the 8th edition rulebook, and went pretty quickly through each of the Lores of Magic. At the time, I dismissed the Lore of Fire as the least impressive. It was an offensive Lore that somehow still lacked the ability to do serious damage (most other Lores had at least 1 spell that was more menacing). So, looking at the Lore more closely, do I still feel this way?

What does it do?
The Lore Attribute is Kindleflame, which states that all spells in the Lore are Flaming Attacks. This is appropriate, since we are dealing with the Lore of Fire, after all. In addition, a target you have already hit with a direct damage or magic missile from the Lore of Fire will add D3 to any further casting attempts with the same sorts of spell at the same target. So if you’ve hit the unit with a Fireball already, it will get easier to hit it again that turn. This is cute, but not really likely to have much impact on the game. In a given phase you will not normally get multiple spells through, even with a +D3 bonus on the second spell. Not the best Lore Attribute going around.

Appropriately, Fireball is the Signature Spell in the Lore of Fire. It’s your basic D6 Strength 4 hit magic missile, however the spell has not 1, but 2 boosted levels of casting. Each boost adds an extra D6 hits and 12” range, making the top level an impressive 3D6 hits with 48” range. This is not a magic missile to be sneezed at, although there are plenty of targets around that don’t care too much about Strength 4 hits. As a Signature Spell, having several casting levels makes it quite versatile. This is a solid start to the Lore.

Next we have Cascading Fire-Cloak. As dramatic and impressive as this spell sounds from its name, it is nothing really special. At the end of each magic phase, units in base contact with the wizard’s unit take 2D6 Strength 4 hits. This sort of spell comes in very handy if you happen to be stuck fighting something like Wraiths, or when you’re engaged by multiple enemies (although your opponent will probably dispel the spell then, as it remains in play). On the up side, this spell is cast on a paltry 5+. If the spell had a boosted level, it could be something to be feared. As it is, it’s something of a bargain that you can throw a spare die at once you’re done with your more damaging tricks.

Flaming Sword of Rhuin is a rather handy augment spell. It gives the target unit +1 to wound, as well as magical and Flaming Attacks. The bonus affects both close combat and shooting attacks, so the spell has real potential to turn a large missile unit such as archers into a far more dangerous proposition. +1 to wound is a funny bonus. In a lot of ways it is inferior to +1 Strength, which would bring with it an armour penetration bonus. However, there are some times when the bonus to wound rolls is better. Take archers shooting with Strength 3 at a Toughness 10 Steam Tank, for instance. A +1 to Strength will make no difference to the wound rolls – you will still require 6s. However, adding +1 to wound means that you only need a 5+ to make a mark. We will not mention the armour save of the Steam Tank, as that’s just depressing.

Having the ability to boost a unit with magical and Flaming Attacks can be important, especially if you have no other sources of Flaming Attacks. Regeneration is negated for the whole phase if you do a single wound with a Flaming Attack, and some targets such as Ethereal units and Forest Spirits will be less than pleased to see magical attacks coming their way. Having this spell up your sleeve could prove important against the right opponent. Once again, the spell has a low casting value of 8+, although you can boost it if you need more range to reach your desired target.

I have never really rated The Burning Head, which has existed for a very long time, through the editions of Warhammer. You draw a line 18” (36” if boosted) from the wizard, doing a Strength 4 hit to every model it touches. The true power of this spell has always been its ability to force Panic tests if you do a single wound to the target unit. However, this has only ever really been useful against low-leadership targets. In the current climate of the Battle Standard granting rerolls for all leadership tests within range, the Panic tests caused by the spell will probably only be useful away from the centre of the enemy army. The ability to increase the spell’s range makes this more feasible, and you may find yourself able to force tests on several units at once. You’re also more likely to get a shot down the line of a unit of light cavalry when you can target them from far further away.

Panic tests aside, the real problem with spells like this is that for all that you might kill a reasonable number of models, they will more than likely be spread across a number of units. You can’t concentrate the damage potential of the spell onto a particular target, which is generally what you need to get the job done.

Having said all this, 10+/13+ is not a terribly expensive spell, and under the right circumstances it could change a game.

When I saw the spell Piercing Bolts of Burning, I initially got excited. Here was one of my favourite spells back in 4th edition, which did 2D6 hits, wounding on a 4+ and ignoring armour saves. It was a vampire and monster killer. Unfortunately, this is not what the spell does anymore. The spell is now a magical version of the Goblinhewer, as seen in the Storm of Chaos rules. For each rank in the target unit, the spell does D3 Strength 4 hits. If your target has enough ranks (which is quite likely with the Steadfast rule being invoked), you could find yourself doing a ton of damage to it. The downside is that any unit with a lot of ranks will probably be cheap grunts. Your opponent won’t be too upset by their demise. In all, the damage potential from this spell is only moderate. It could be fun rolling a lot of D3s against the right target, but you probably won’t swing a game with it.

Fulminating Flame Cage is a fairly useful hex spell. It does D6 Strength 4 hits to the unit, however it then remains in play for one full turn. If the unit moves at all, every model takes a Strength 4 hit, and the spell ends. On the right target, this is brutal. This spell really has 2 approaches. The first is to use it to pin an enemy unit in place, knowing that it can’t afford to move for fear of the potentially horrendous damage it will take. This will even prevent the unit from turning or reforming, so may open up a flank charge on it, or something similarly unpleasant. The other approach is to cast the spell on a unit which you know really has to move. This may be because the unit must charge or pursue, or where failure by your opponent to move the unit will have dire ramifications. This effectively makes the spell one of pure damage – it won’t stop the target moving, but it is pretty well guaranteed to maim them instead.

And finally we have Flame Storm. The spell places a small blast marker, which scatters D6” and then does a Strength 4 hit to everything touched by it. You can boost the spell to use a large blast marker, however it will then scatter 2D6”. I have a bit of a problem with your most powerful spell being a chance to completely miss its target, although at least the spell has a moderate casting level of 13+/16+. If you go for the larger version of the spell (and the only real reason you wouldn’t is probably to keep the spell relatively accurate) and manage to roll a hit, the damage you do could be fun. The knowledge that even if you get the spell off you might not hit anything, I find a bit of a downer.

Who can get it?
High Elves
Dark Elves
Warriors of Chaos
Lizardmen (Slann only)
Daemons of Chaos (using Master of Sorcery)
Vampire Counts (using Forbidden Lore)

Who will use it best?
This Lore will best suit a player who is looking for the ability to cull the opponent’s low-mid resilience units. Compared to most other Lores, the Lore of Fire is pretty light on for augment and hex spells, with its focus on immediate damage at range.

All in all, the one thing the Lore of Fire lacks is Strength. There are plenty of ways to inflict Strength 4 hits on a target, however there are no ways to boost this Strength any higher. For a Lore based around damaging spells, I find this something of a gap. Against some enemies the lack of Strength won’t be a big issue, however there will be times when Strength 4 simply doesn’t cut it.

On the flip side, the Lore of Fire is the cheapest of the Lores to cast with. This makes it ideal for a low-level wizard, who will not be adding +4 to cast each spell. It also means you are more likely to be able to have a stab at several spells instead of one or two large ones, which may be what you’re after.

Warriors of Chaos may take a liking to this Lore as it effectively takes the place of the missile troops available to other armies. Spells like Fireball are ideal for wiping out pesky fast cavalry, whilst Flame Storm and Piercing Bolts of Burning have some potential for dropping the numbers off annoyingly deep, Steadfast units with the potentially to bog the elite Chaos Warriors and Knights in combat for an extended period. Warriors will not often find themselves outfought in combat, so they can potentially afford to invest their magic in tasks such as this.

High Elf players who field a Dragon Mage are locked into using the Lore of Fire, however they use Flaming Sword of Rhuin as their Signature Spell. The boosts offered by the spell may work well with Spearmen or Archers, and Sea Guard would benefit in both shooting and hand-to-hand – most enemy units will not be game to charge into the teeth of a sizeable, boosted unit of these. Dragon Mages also generate additional power dice, so throwing out multiple spells from the Lore of Fire, with their low casting values, should be easy.

Most other armies could similarly find a use for Flaming Sword of Rhuin, however they must roll the spell up and may find themselves stuck with a couple of damaging spells instead. It is unlikely that a player would choose a lord-level Fire wizard – the higher level spells of other Lores are simply too powerful to ignore. Some players may choose a small wizard using the Lore of Fire, simply so they have access to some form of Flaming Attacks, should the need arise.

Some of the spells are handy, and if you need to cull weaker enemy troops, this may be the Lore for you. But most players will look elsewhere for their front line of magical offence.


  1. Out of curiousity, would burning head across 2-3 units grant the lore attribute to spells against any of those 2-3 units? How about vice versa, can this spell benefit from the attribute if it clips a unit already hit by a fireball?

    1. I think the answer would be yes to both questions, based on the wording. That then raises another (somewhat unlikely) question: if Burning Head will hit 2 units that have both been hit already that phase, do you get double the bonus? I suspect the answer is no...