Thursday, January 9, 2014

Army Updating – Embracing Change

Army Updating – Embracing Change

                It is always difficult to embrace change, especially when you have become very used to performing tasks a specific way.  When the 8th edition of Warhammer Fantasy came out back in July of 2010, many players were upset because they were forced to adapt their armies and play styles to a new format.  The game changed on a scale that required a hard reboot on how many people not only built their armies but also how they played the game.  The idea of Multiple Small Unit (MSU) armies went the way of the dodo and the era of large units and destructive magic began.  As I had just gotten back into Fantasy about a year and a half before 8th edition had come out, I only had one army to really update and that was my Wood Elves.  When I made the decision to update the army, I had to look at how the new game system operated, what rules directly impacted my army the most and most importantly what tools I would need in order to survive in the new “age” of Warhammer Fantasy.  The fortunate part of updating at the beginning of the new edition was that I was able to embrace the new edition with open arms because I knew a new army book was not coming out soon and I would be able to play with the army for a long time.  I also was aware that all of my old tactics would not be useful and as a result be providing a disadvantage to me rather than help me be successful.

                So for my Wood Elf army I capitalized on Mobility, Focused Firepower and Assassination as my primary objectives for building the army.  I was able to break down how I felt the game would flow and make tactics and decisions about the army that created positive results and I was able to use units that the “current meta” or “tournament” scene did not find useful.  There were many of our gaming clubs however that did not embrace the new edition and struggled with realigning their tactics to work with the new rule set.  Some of those players quit, took breaks from playing or struggled through the edition until they figured out what worked for them.  Therein lays the issue that many gamers face, a lot of people like making “a list” that they use over and over.  Gamers prefer what is familiar and as a result will seek to use that which is familiar in their gaming.  Many struggle for a while when a new book or edition comes out because they are forced to reprogram their mind as to how the unit works in the new book from the old book.

                With the release of 6th edition Warhammer 40,000 in June 2012, I was faced with a similar dilemma.  I had been playing 40k 5th edition so much with the same “lists” for my Eldar and Black Templars that most games were almost auto-pilot in some regards.  However in 6th edition, Games Workshop completely changed the way the game system worked.  In 5th edition the Assault phase was king, and armies that brought units that could unleash a hellstorm of attacks in close combat were devastating.  You could blast your transports forward at full tilt and if they survived the next turn because they weren’t Destroyed or Exploded, you could disembark your death squad and assault the hell out of your opponent.  Now in 6th edition, the game is far more shooting oriented.  Assault armies have been nullified and the day of the bolt-gun has dawned and the day of the chainsword has set.  An incredible amount of army configurations were nullified when 6th edition came out, especially with the advent of Allies and Fortifications.  So with all the changes to transports, shooting, assaults, the reimplementation of overwatch, flyers, pre-measuring and Look out Sirs, the additional confounding issue that I ran into was that two of my armies were getting updated within a few months of each other.

                 With all of these compounding changes and rules, I began to struggle with trying to build the “list” to use in this new edition.  I then ran into the additional issue with the release of the Escalation and Stronghold Assault rule sets.  It became painfully apparent that the days of having “one list to rule them all” were long over.  Keep in mind that until my children were born I was pretty keen on being a competitive player in both Fantasy and 40k.  As my children reached their delivery date, I began to slowly back away from that mentality as my free time to spend playing in tournaments was severely impacted.  There are now far too many variables and options to make a viable and competitive all comers list that you could participate with in a tournament.  The advent of D weapons in standardized game play and the Forge World becoming official.  Games Workshop suddenly began inundating the market with options and rules for everyone and marked all of these options as “Official”. 

                 So with all these new options and accessible rules, I still struggled trying to come up with a list that I felt was “right”. 

                 It has been pointed out to me that once I have decided upon a theme that is loosely or tightly based off what I feel is fluff that I will put arbitrary restrictions on myself on what I feel “fits” the way a specific chapter, craftworld or army should be played and what units it should contain. 

                 Despite my own self imposed restrictions which tend to be more of a hindrance than helpful, I am faced with updating two armies I have owned for a very long time; my Black Templars and my Ulthwe` Eldar.  I played both of these armies as assault armies in 5th edition, so when the new codices were released I realized that the days of ramming it up the center and assaulting with a hammer were over.  The reason is mainly because these days everyone and their mother bring more than enough firepower to deal with a unit or two breaching their perimeter.  Tactics and strategies I once used are now no longer viable.  What is a player to do in an edition where his army book and rule set have changed within six months of each other?  An additional conundrum is what is a player to do when new rules have been implemented that change the entire face of the battlefield?

                The answer is simple in this respect.  It took me a few weeks to figure out what I wanted to do mainly because I have always built a list first then built the army after.  Any small tactical changes which required units being swapped out was always done in the initial stages as to now waste money or time.  Now I have to throw all of that methodology out and adopt the new practice of building units that I am familiar with or like and making a list when the game is decided upon.  It is entirely possible that in a week I could be invited to play a 2,000 point game of 40k, a 1500 point game of 40k, a 2.5k game of 40k with Lord of War allowances and a 2000 point game with Stronghold Assault rules.    A single list isn’t going to be very effective in all those games but having units that I like and know how to use is. 
So enter the age of the collection lists and bid a fond farewell to the days of the static all comers list used in every game.  Enter the age of lists that will have more guns than blades and where the battlefield and battleforce are equally dynamic.  Enter the age of spending more time creating a unit with a story and then fleshing out that story every time you play.  Lastly, enter the age were its finally possible to build a narrative and create a fun and exciting game.

While this issue isn’t as prevalent in Warhammer Fantasy 8th edition, I still have a Wood Elf army that will need to be updated in 2014 which I am both excited and dreading!

Armies on the Update Docket:
1. Ulthwe` Eldar – I want to create a themed Ulthwe` Strike Force that I can sub out options and maintain the Guardian and Seer Council theme.

2.  Black Templars – I want to build a narrative crusade full of characters, knights and zealots who are still determined to bring the Emperor’s wrath by bolter and chainsword.

3.  Wood Elves – this army will be getting updated sometime this year.  I can only pray that they do a good job with the book and do not unintentionally make most of its builds impossible to play successfully.

So I’ll wrap up this long winded whine with the realization that I have become more casual than competitive and honestly, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  That is not to say that whatever lists I use are not going to be efficient and cock-punching but I can guarantee they will be fluffy themed and fun too!

Hopefully, this year will be filled with interesting and fun hobby updates as I build my armies.

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