Sunday, May 4, 2014

Company of the Damned - 2014 Wood Elves Army Book Review - Part One: Embracing Change - Army Special Rules, the Armoury and Changes.

Hell hath frozen over as the Wood Elves have received a new book!

Games Workshop has decided to silence the cries of indignant Wood Elf players that have echoed through the gaming halls for two editions by giving the reins to Mat Ward to write the newest incarnation of the Wood Elves army book. 

As Wood Elves are my favorite army and the primary content of this blog, it would make sense that the next dozen or so posts will be about the new book and my army list and hobby updates. 

We shall begin with the actual book itself, the cover art depicts a Wood Elf Highborn armed for battle with an antlered helm and a shield with stag and forest heraldry depicted upon it.  This artwork is very similar to what was seen on both the Dark Elves and High Elves book whereas the High Elf helm was adorned with wings while the Dark Elf's bears bladed horns.  The theme across all three books is repeated giving the readers a seamless transition between the three races. 

Mat Ward is the author of the three books and does an excellent job of tying all three races together and keeping them balanced.  The Wood Elf book is divided up into four sections:
  1. The Lords of Athel Loren - this section provides the detailed history of the Wood Elves and their home of Athel Loren. 
  2. The Deepwood Host - this section lists the characters, units and monsters available to the Wood Elf host.  Each selection provides a description and role of the unit along with it's stat block.  This section will also include a list of the spells and magic items available for the army.
  3. The Glory of the Elves - here is where Games Workshop provides a showcase of the models that the Heavy Metal team has painted for display.  This is the section where Wood Elf players get inspired by the paint jobs and pictures.
  4. The Wood Elves Army List - This section divides the units up into their specific selections and provides stat blocks, upgrades, and point costs for each unit.

In order to properly do this new book justice, I will be breaking up the book review into several posts.  Mat Ward did such an incredible job of rewriting the history and lore of the Wood Elves to provide a cohesive story line for not just the Wood Elves but also the High and Dark Elves as well.  I will be spending several posts discussing the Rules, the Lore, the Units, the Changes, Strategies, Synergies and Army Lists and Themes.

Part One: Embracing Change - Army Special Rules, the Armoury and Changes.
In this section we will be discussing the new Army wide special rules, the new base equipment and what major changes that were either modified or removed from the transition from the new book from the old one.

Army Special Rules:

1. Blessings of the Ancients - Any model with this special rule, and is within a forest, will receive a +1 to cast spells.

2.  Ambush from the Worldroots - A Wood Elf player may place a Citadel Wood on the battlefield.  This free terrain piece is placed in the Wood Elf player's deployment before units have been deployed.  This forest is not mysterious terrain - the Wood Elf player will declare what type it is when they place it.

3.  Forest Spirit -  A model with this rule has the Forest Strider special rule and its attacks (both close combat and ranged) are magical.  In addition, as long as the model is not a mount, it receives a 6+ ward save and has the Immune to Psychology special rule.

4.  Forest Stalker - A model with this special rule has the Forest Strider special rule and if at least half the unit's models are in a forest they receive the following benefits:
  • All models in the unit that have the Forest Stalker special rule fire in one more thank than normal.
  • All models that have the Forest Stalker special rule can make supporting attacks with one additional rank than normal.
  • All models in the unit that have the Forest Stalker special rule (but not their mounts fyi) may re-roll all To Wound rolls of 1 when making close combat attacks.

5.  Always Strike First - All elf models (not their mounts) has the Always Strike First special rule.

The Armoury of Torgovann:

  1. Asrai Longbow - Range: 30", Strength: 3, Special Rules: Armour Piercing, Volley Fire.
  2. Blackbriar Javelin - Range: 12", Strength: User, Special Rules: Armour Piercing, Poisoned Attacks.
  3. Asrai Spear - (Foot) - Strength: User, Special Rules: Armour Piercing, Fight in Extra Ranks
  4. Asrai Spear - (Mounted) - Strength: +1 (first turn of combat), Special Rules: Armour Piercing
5.    Enchanted Arrows - these are magical arrows (count as magical attacks) that may be purchased as unit upgrades for several units in the Wood Elf army.  All the enchanted arrows have a range of 30", a Strength of 3 and have the Volley Fire special rules.
    • Arcane Bodkins - Wounds caused by Arcane Bodkins have a -3 to armour saves.
    • Hagebane Tips - these arrows have the Armour Piercing and Poisoned Attacks special rules.
    • Moonfire Shot - these arrows have a +1 bonus to wound rolls against units from the Forces of Order and possess the Armour Piercing and Flaming Attacks special rules.
    • Starfire Shafts - - these arrows have a +1 bonus to wound rolls against units from the Forces of Destruction and possess the Armour Piercing and Flaming Attacks special rules.
    • Swiftshiver Shards - these arrows possess the Multiple Shots (2) and Armour Piercing special rules.
    • Trueflight Arrows - shooting attacks made by these arrows do not suffer To Hit penalties.


                The changes from the old book to the new book are legion and completely game changing for any Wood Elf general who has sought to be successful using the same book for the past 9 years.  Upon reading through this book and the other two elf books (High and Dark Elves), the vision that Mat Ward had for the elven races is very obvious and I am scared to admit it but... I agree and approve his vision.

What was lost...
  1. Eternal Guard Fighting Style - the Eternal Guard Fighting Style is no more, they are no longer provided the +1 attack and 5+ armor save.
  2. Asrai Archery - The Wood Elf army no longer ignores the -1 to hit penalty for moving and shooting.
  3. Hit-and-Run - Warhawk Riders no longer possess the ability to escape combat and rally automatically after losing without the enemy pursuing  or causing panic in nearby friendly units.
  4. The Fury of Kurnous - Wild Riders no longer receive +1 attack in rounds of combat in which they did not charge.
  5. The Wild Hunt - Wild Riders no longer cause Fear the turn they charge into combat if they have a musician. 
  6. Wardancer Weapons - Wardancers no longer receive +1 attack from their weapons nor do they receive the +1 Strength in the first turn of combat after charging. 
  7. Spites of Athel Loren - the Spites upgrades are no longer available to Wood Elf and Forest Spirit characters.  The loss of Athel Loren Spites was a pretty big thematic and flavor option for the Wood Elves.  These were used pretty widely through many army lists - especially the Cluster of Radiants (+1 dispel die) and the Annoyance of Netlings (6's to hit in a challenge).
  8. Wood Elf Kindreds - the option for Wood Elf characters to become Kindreds was removed.  This is very unfortunate as it provided a unique and very customizable option for many players to make truly unique characters such as: Waywatchers, Wild Rider, Alters and Glamourweave to name a few. 
  9. The Lore of Athel Loren - the unique Wood Elf lore of Athel Loren is no longer an option for Wood Elf wizards.  Mr. Ward made the decision to provide other options to the Wood Elf wizards which will be discussed later.
  10. Lethal Shot - Waywatcher models no longer possess this special rule which used to provide the Killing Blow special rule at short range.
  11. Magic Items that were removed:
    • Blades of Loec  - Wardancer Kindred used to be able to take these to reroll failed To Wound rolls in close combat.
    • The Dawnspear - this item used to confer a -1 to hit in close combat to models wounded by it.
    • The Spear of Twilight - this used to be my favorite Wild Rider Kindred item as it conferred Killing Blow to it's wielder.
    • Callach's Claw
    • The Hunter's Talon
    • The Sword of a Thousand Winters
    • Rageth's Wildfire Blades - I was disappointed these were removed as they were an affordable 10 pt upgrade to provide not only Flaming attacks but it provided +1 attack to it's wielder.
    • Asyendi's Bane
    • The Oaken Armor
    • Railarians's Mantle
    • Armour of the Fay
    • Briarsheath - another disappointing removal, this was a favored item to my Waywatcher or Scout characters to make them even more difficult to hit with shooting attacks.
    • Rhymer's Harp - this is one of the major magic item losses that affects my army composition as I used to place this on my Spellweaver to give her unit a 5+ ward save and give it a bit more durability. 
    • Amaranthine Brooch - this used to be one of the few remaining 3+ ward save items in the game (granted it was against non-magical attacks).
    • Amber Pendant
    • Stone of Crystal Mere - I was sad to see this item go as well but any 3+ ward save items have been successfully phased out for the most part by now.
    • Glamourweave
    • Stone of Rebirth - no more 2+ ward saves when owner has 1 wound left.
    • The Fimbulwinter Shard
    • Merciw's Locus
    • Wraithstone
    • Hagbane, Starfire, Arcane Bodkins, and Dragontooth Arrows - there were all removed from the magic items gallery
    • The Horn of the Asrai
    • Elynett's Brooch
    • Gwytheric's Horn
    • Wand of the Wych Elm - one of the best items in game was sadly removed.  This item used to allow Wood Elf caster's the ability to reroll failed Dispel rolls when attempting to counter enemy spells. 
    • Divination Orb - yet another reasonably powerful item that yielded an additional dispel die when your opponent used more than 3 dice to cast a spell.
    • The Deepwood Sphere
    • Ranu's Heartstone
    • All five magical standards were removed - Royal Standard of Ariel, Gaemrath, Faoghir, Saemrath and Aech.

The above list catalogs what did not make it into the new book from the old.  There were several functional changes lost that directly impacted how the Wood Elf army played.  One of the most substantial changes was the loss of Asrai Archery as that was a pretty big army defining feature.  The advantage of Asrai Archery provided the Wood Elf general with the ability to have a mobile and fast moving ranged contingent that could capitalize on maneuverability without losing any ranged effectiveness.
                The loss of the Spites of Athel Loren was one of two thematic changes that were removed whereas the Wood Elf general could provide options to his characters not normally found in other armies (Annoyance of Netlings being a primary one). 
                The removal of the Kindreds was another customization loss as it provided several characters with special rules that were not normally available to other Highborn/Nobles.  The Wild Rider Kindred gained the old Forest Spirit rule and could take a Stag as a mount.  The Glamourweave kindred could  take a Unicorn, Waywatcher and Scout Kindred gained the Scout special rule.  Many functional and thematic options that really allowed each Wood Elf general to customize how his army functioned. 

To be continued... 

(Part One: Embracing Change - Army Special Rules, the Armoury and Changes. will be continued in the next post)