Thursday 6 June 2024

The Old World - How I feel 4 months in

Hello! It has been almost 4 months since my last post. Obviously this is disgraceful, but it's hardly my first offence in this regard, so let's just agree I'm a terrible blogger and move on...

Over the last few months I've played maybe 10 games of The Old World, sampling lists from the Empire, High Elves, Wood Elves, Dwarfs and Ogres. I've also watched a number of other games, and spent a fair bit of time talking about the game with friends. This hardly makes me an expert, but at least I've had a chance to get a feel for some things. I've also spent far too much time preparing more base adaptors. Pretty sick of those, and I need so many more...

We did try a 6000pt game to see how the rules scale. It felt like it ran pretty well.

I currently have mixed feelings about The Old World. There are things I like about it, and things that displease me. It's still a battle to work out how many of these feelings are simply based on resistance to change. I'm sure some of them are. I'm old and bitter. Anyway...

Things I like

It's Warhammer

For all its changes, it's definitely an edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. The core feel is there, the armies and most of the unit choices are there... There are some caveats there  around only half of the armies being "supported", but I can see the logic behind it, and it could yet change over time.

It's Alive

Playing a supported edition with FAQs and Errata. It's always good to know the company is paying attention to the game and trying to improve the gaming experience with better clarity. Even 8th edition wasn't getting that sort of focus in its later years. I'm not so sure about some rulings we've seen, like line of sight with the highest point of a hill (and the questions that raises), but it's nice not playing a "dead" game.

It's where the people are

There's plenty of interest in the game, events are starting to pop up (and sell out)... So long as there's a clear game that the majority of players are gravitating toward, it will be the default game to play. At that point, there needs to be a pretty good reason to avoid it and choose to play something where opponents are much harder to find. 

Terrain is better

Line of sight and terrain rules are better than they have been. They were awful in 8th edition, and rather unforgiving in editions before that (for most units, entering a forest would be the last thing they ever did in a game). The balance here is much improved, and terrain is back to feeling like it matters without it just being dead zones to avoid on the battlefield

Initiative is improved

Initiative is probably more important than it ever was before, but it's also more nuanced with it being affected by charging and various weapons. As a concept I like this, although some parts of the implementation (having to track charge distances) annoys me. I would have been fine with it just being a bonus for having charged.

Stand and Shoot matters

Stand and Shoot contributing to combat results adds a different and interesting dynamic. I haven't seen it be decisive in any game I've played yet, but it feels like it could be. It often felt very token before (most of the time you were not going to greatly deplete the enemy or panic them, so it was a bit pointless), so it feels like a change for the better.

Save Modifiers

Separating Strength and Armour Penetration is a good idea. Strength was always a double-value sort of thing, where your ability to wound would improve, and the enemy's ability to save would drop at the same time. Being able to improve one without the other is a good thing. Unfortunately it's also contributed to one of my bugbears below.

Balancing Fear

Fear feels like it exists at about the right level for the first time. It's limited in its impact, but it's more likely units will fail the test than it was in 8th edition (when the BSB reroll was a factor). Fear was much too powerful in earlier editions, and then not impactful enough in 8th. This is somewhere in between, which feels like a step in the right direction.

Skirmishing units of 20 can be a problem when they're reaching the limits of their charge distance

Things that worry me

Power balance - Infantry

A number of us have concerns about the relative power levels within the game. It feels like once again, infantry have been left behind. For most units, rank bonus has been capped lower than before (the Close Order bonus means little given so many things get it, including monsters). Most of the time chargers will attack first (which is bad when your movement is low), with the casualties coming from the front rank. And many of the larger models in the game like monstrous infantry and monsters have retained some level of stomp attack. This all translates to many things hitting harder than they did pre-8th edition, whilst the infantry are stuck back at those same levels, with one less rank bonus. 

They might be able to buy some attacks by going a bit wider to help absorb the damage from the enemy, but realistically they're going to get out-fought by nearly everything. Provided there are enough of them they might be able to avoid routing completely thanks to unit size, but that's not a pattern they are going to escape without help from another unit. Basically infantry are a holding unit. A punching bag. It feels bad after 8th edition, when the rules allowed them to feel dangerous.

Power balance - Dragons

Man, what are people going to do about dragons? As much as the rule changes were mean to infantry, they pretty much all landed in favour of large, ridden monsters. Defensive profiles were combined, ward saves and regeneration extend to the beast and thunderstomp remains a thing (thereby ensuring plenty of damage output). At the same time, war machines have lost a great deal of their ability to bring down large multi-wound monsters. The number of wounds they inflict has decreased, and their armour penetration is a far cry from the old "no saves allowed" standards of before. Doing this whilst improving the saves of the target means it's quite easy to see a cannonball bouncing off a dragon's armour. 

With the stomp attacks at their disposal, these large monsters are unlikely to whiff their damage badly, meaning they will likely win combats against ranked units, even in a challenge. And then you can't even trap them, as the moment the monster wins combat it will have the chance to break contact and reform. The internet has been reduced to hatching plans around combining weapons like the Ogre Blade and Spectral Doppelganger, which feels like pretty desperate measures. We're probably going to see a lot of armies including a Dragon Slaying Sword as a weapon of last resort.

As it currently stands, your best chance of beating a dragon seems to be to challenge it with a champion or character with very good saves, and hope to tank so much of the damage that your unit wins combat. It's very rolling-dependent - you don't have to fail that many saves before you'll find that you've lost the combat. And even if you do win, there's no guarantee the dragon will actually run away.

Fleeing from charging Dwarfs who can't possibly catch you remains a time-honoured tradition.

Book-keeping and Book checking

Book-keeping seems to have increased. Well, we certainly spend a lot of times looking things up, or having to keep track of things. A contributing factor to this is the aforementioned separation of Strength and AP. It used to be easy to know most save modifiers, just by knowing something's Strength. But now you also need to know the AP, which could be significantly better or worse than the Strength would suggest. Then on top of that, you need to know whether there is an Armour Bane value (and what it is), then remember to keep track of how many 6s you rolled. It's also easy to forget to track whether a unit charged over 3" for various criteria such as Impact Hits or Furious Charge, then distinguishing between those and rules that are also charge-based, but don't care if you travelled far enough (like Choppas or Lances). There's a lack of consistency that you also see in the spell durations, and whether they cancel other similar spells or not. There's no apparent rhyme or reason to it, and it means learning a hell of a lot by rote (which we have not yet managed), or spending a lot of time consulting books.

This is a bit of a rant, but who named the special rules? How are Ponderous, Lumbering and Cumbersome all different rules, when they're basically synonyms? How come Always Strikes Last doesn't actually mean that, and why does Move and Shoot only relate to marching? Maybe this is just a personal gripe, but every time I have to consult a book because I can't remember exactly what one of these rules does, it bothers me. I could have handled slightly longer rule names if it saved me looking them up constantly.

Magic Changes

I miss the magic phase. There are a couple of aspects to this. I miss the dedicated phase and the game within a game as players manage their resources and try to force past or conceal the things that really matter. It's also been boiled down more to luck in terms of a 2D6 roll, since there's a limit to what you can do to focus your efforts on casting or stopping a particular spell. I've had games where I couldn't for the life of me cast anything, nor could I stop anything, just because my opponent was averaging about double what I was on the dice.

I also find I struggle to remember my wizards when their abilities are scattered across the turn, depending on what spells they rolled up. I don't yet have spell cards, which might help me remember at a glance. But it's just one of those things that I'm struggling to adapt to.

Giving Ground

I am not convinced by implementation of the Give Ground combat result. I would like it a lot better if it automatically dragged the victor with it. I feel like it's far too easy for units to break contact when they choose, which is contributing to my concerns about things like dragons.

Selection Rules

Why didn't they keep some form of the old restrictions of duplicating special and rare choices? The very first event that GW ran for the Old World, they put in a rule saying you couldn't have more than 3 of anything. Probably a response to the tactical geniuses who were waving around lists online with 15 individual Gyrocopters. I mean, at least they noticed. But maybe a proper limit should have been included in the normal army selection rules? No more than 2 duplicate special or 1 rare per 1000 points, or something like that. It feels like they missed a trick there, and now it will be up to event organisers to try to pick up the pieces.

Base changes

The base changes just make everything a bit harder. Another step before my models are ready to use. More space required for transport, more space required for storage. Some people like the visual difference of units being a bit more spaced out, but I'm not that excited by the difference. It's all just a hassle I could do without.

Summing it all up

In truth I feel like I haven't really made my mind up about the Old World yet. There have been things that bug me in every edition I've played, and I'm not sure that the problems here are any worse. I'm a bit concerned about what tournaments might look like in regard to dragons and units of combat infantry, but that's not a problem I'm dealing with right now, so I can come back and complain later. In the meantime, I still haven't tried Orcs and Goblins yet. They look fun. And I probably have enough adaptors to make it work now. On to glory!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Greg, well I feel the same on many of your comments. It's Warhammer for sure. Who ever wrote the rules, and army lists did an amazing job. While they may be some question marks here and there, overall some great rule mechanics. Warband, swift stride, drilled to name a few. As for magic, I'm not missing the single phase at all. You can take magic, it or leave it as well, so long as you know what you're doing IMO. My Big Game Hunters Ogre list has so far done OK without one. Touch Wood. Which brings me onto Dragons. Yup they are sure nasty wee beasties. Yet the rules for them seem fine, I love how the wounds and toughness stack onto the rider. Before it was all to easy to shoot off the rider. The issue is how does one balance large creatures??. My solution has been to take 3 Harpoon armed Ogres Hunters with beast killer. Either that or infantry star that has a tooled up Lord to take on the dragon and res it out of wining combat. Orcs & Goblins, I have to say are good, have a watch of the dwellers below with Chris Cousins and their latest podcast talking about our favourite army .