The General’s back with the square-based version of his patented (yes I will patent it so the next time a blog does this they owe me a nickel.) Game-wide army reviews. Besides, I needed an excuse to quote Huey Lewis (Next time, Morris Day maybe). Once upon a time I did this for 40K so it’s about time I did it for fantasy. Like before, I will be looking at capability of the army…complexity for the new gamer…model line, availability and cost…any helpful hints and whatever else I deem relevant before giving a final grade. I’m going in alphabetical order so we start with…
Beastmen- Who kind of suck right now. This was the last 7th ed book and the only army to come out in 2010 (so when 40k players bitch that fantasy got 3 books last year and they got 2, remind them that it was 12 months between Beastmen and Orcs and if they still bitch, use that hardcover book to beat them). What’s there to say about Beastmen really? They have a magic lore that’s basically tailored to work with them. They’ve managed to largely avoid the finecrap bug and are still mostly plastic. All in all things aren’t too bad for them. Well…except they suck. They have mediocre statlines and very little armor. Orcs can make this work, but on Beastmen it just doesn’t. They have ambush, but they can’t charge the turn they come on, so it’s very limited. They do have a walking stone thrower which is cool and some pretty interesting big beasties. Their second wave (23 months after their release…well done GW) filled a few gaps and gave some of their cooler models.
Bretonians- are another odd army. They have some great tools and are one of the few armies with access to Heroic Killing Blow but they have their limits. They’re supposedly THE cavalry army, but their cav aren’t that great. Lance formations let them get more ranks from less models and some extra hits on the charge, but they also have some pretty bad units. Considering they only have a handful in the entire book, that can be a problem. It’s not all bad as they all come with a ward save if you “pray to the Lady” meaning give your opponent the first turn. Considering this can bring your opponent closer for you to charge and you want those ward saves, It’s stupid not to do it…but more stupid that they just don’t get the save anyway. Grail knights can hit hard and Pegasus knights are brutal, but honestly the biggest weakness this army has is this is an old book. They’re among the oldest armies in either game and it’s really starting to show. A good general can bring them to middle tier and with luck pull a win against some really tough lists, but these guys are generally ranked pretty low. They’re a great looking army and can be played, but limited choices and dated rules makes them tough for the beginner and they aren’t built well for 8th edition.
Dark Elves- are toward the other side of the spectrum. Here is one of the strongest armies in 8th edition because they have just what you want out of a strong army. Good options. You have capable magic, including the ability to gain extra power dice which is 10 kinds of awesome. They’re elves so they’re delicate, but fast and with some dirty tricks and hatred its an army that can put the hurt on. They do suffer slightly from being an elite army, but not as much as their Higher kin. Oh yeah…and they have the Hydra. This is a spammable beast of epic proportions that is undercosted for what it brings to the table…some say to an extreme. Its fearsome, has an armor save AND regen and you can bring a bunch of them pretty cheap. This army is easily up near the top of the power scale. They have some good models, though there are some dated sculpts for better or for worse*. Sadly there’s some finecrap, and a few specials and rares are metal but all In all you’re looking at another largely plastic army.
Demons- continue the trend of power with a very capable, flexible and sturdy army. You have options galore between the 4 gods of chaos and despite the fluff saying otherwise, you can mostly mix and match. Characters from one god won’t join units from another, but beyond that you can have bloodletters backed up by flamers. This is another army that sits at the top of the heap. Their shooting is brutal, their CC units are nasty, they are an army that can bring multiple mages with loremaster and have items that basically let them run multiple dispel scrolls so you could own the magic phase and everything’s got a ward save so who cares about flaming/high strength/armor piercing? You have 3 of the 4 gods largely in plastic though again there’s some old overpriced metal rares and specials and again finecrap is coming to make them worse and more overpriced, but there’s so much room for conversions and alternate models. Gone are the days when someone that has never played Fantasy before can be handed a Demon army and place at a tournament, but they’re still up there.
Dwarves- were an army that kicked up their heels (and they’re tiny so it was a low kick) when 8th came out and brought variable charging. This rule on average extended their threat range and with a good roll, could do so by a decent margin. They’re tough and can bring a good fight as well as some decent shooting. They have good warmachines, too. One thing…Dwarves can’t use magic. At all. They do have some tricks to put up magic defense, and runes give you a “build your own magic item” mechanic but if you’re looking for a casting army, this isn’t it. These guys when played well can do well, but I’d put them solidly in the middle tier…toward the higher end but definitely middle tier. As for their models, well you’ve seen one bearded short guy in a chainmail dress you’ve seen ‘em all. Your core is plastic but just about everything else is metal so expect it to go finecrap and come up 30% in cost for that garbage.
Empire- are another army with options. One thing to understand about this world is humans aren’t fantastic. This is balanced by them being cheaper so horde is a definite possibility and a good option. Empire have the detachment mechanic which helps you get rid of static combat bonuses in theory, but more often provides a speed bump or a small squad your opponent will charge first, devour and overrun into you so I’d avoid it until it gets an overhaul. Once again you have some decent shooting, and cheap enough to bring in volume. Having the choice between bows, crossbows or handguns gives you some nice options and when you add in some tricks from the school of Engineers, you can do some interesting things (I love my long rifles) Your characters aren’t spectacular, but support the army well and your mages are among the few that can pick the lore of their choice. Your warmachines are great and cheap enough to bring several and the steam tank is a decent alternate to not having a monster like the newer books. Granted your steam tank loses effectiveness as its damaged where monsters aren’t, but the steam tank also is tough to hurt and brings some firepower to the party. Empire is another army that’s starting to show its age. They can do well when played properly but are slowly sliding down the middle tier towards those few sad armies that are just awful. This army is largely plastic, including characters so metal and dreaded finecrap will not be a problem.
High Elves- are a swiss army…army. They have an answer to most situations in one unit or another and bring some great special rules, too. ASF used to be awesome as you could wipe the front rank, win combat since no one’s alive to hit you back and run them down since you’re fast. That trick is gone, but ASF gives you rerolls usually which is nice and your spears can fight in one extra rank which can mean LOTS of attacks. You have dedicated spearmen, dedicated archers or Sea Guard, which cost more but bring both so now you have a unit that can stand and shoot…then attack in 5 ranks before you can swing a weapon so yeah there’s that. Your magic is awesome since, as the race that learned it from the Slann and taught the Empire, you can choose any of the 8 lores plus your own. You really don’t have monsters outside mounting a character on a Griffin or Dragon, but your army fights well, so it’s not a huge loss. Remember this is an elite army so everything is pricier and while it brings some great rules you’re still a fragile elf. High Elves are a high rated army…not the top, but not exactly middle tier either. They can be outnumbered so being aware of flanks is important and this is not a forgiving army but they’re fun and can do some great things. You’re looking at another almost all plastic army so with the exception of GW’s recent decision that 10 special models are worth almost $50, they’re affordable and they’re also one of the armies in the starter box so ebay is your friend.
Lizardmen- are an interesting army. First, I will say it, this is another top tier army, but there’s a catch. There are lots of choices in the army but if you want to play to win, you have to bring a 400+ point Slann and a block of Temple guard and then fill the rest of your points as you choose. Skinks are pretty nasty, Stegadons are awesome beasts and can do some damage. Warriors are mostly good, with decent toughness and strength but they’re slow so be aware of that. Yes you can skip the Slann, but it’s such a good unit, you want to bring him every time. These are the creatures that invented magic so they’re very good at it. You have some good shooty units too that can play a little dirty, but if they get caught will likely die horribly. The army is largely plastic.
So that's it for now. Stay tuned for part 2 where we finish my totally arbitrary analysis of all things square-based.
*Call me a perv all you want, Dark Elves are a relic from the time when GW admitted boobs exist. This is a game for grown-ups and if the fluff says you’re a scantily clad whirling tornado of death your model should reflect that…maybe even exposing ::gasp:: a nipple. We all have them and we’ve all seen at least one woman’s bare ones so deal with it. They belong on some models. See: Demonettes