Sunday, 5 January 2014

Alternative to Warhammer Fantasy Battle

One thing I want to do this year is use my Warhammer Fantasy armies more often. They are the bulk and the best of my miniatures collection, it seems a shame that they sit in the cabinet, used just once or twice a year. So I have resolved to try some alternatives to Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

I did once sit down and work out what I dislike about the venerable old ruleset. It was the overly destructive nature of the game. Eight edition is far more potent than previous rulesets, in that casualties mount up in each phase at an alarming rate. Combat is brutal, shooting can be pretty damaging, magic is downright apocalyptic at times. All these extra casualties is a turn off for me in two ways. As a painter rather than a gamer, I find it really frustrating that I spend hours, weeks, even months on painting a unit, only for it to be obliterated in one turn. As a cynic, I see the need for more boots on the ground as a device to squeeze more money out of the customer.

I really like my armies from days of old, regiment sizes of 10 missile troops, 15 elites and 20 standard troopers seems fine to me. Huge bricks of 40 or 50 troops does not look any better, takes far longer to paint and costs a hell of a lot more to accumulate. I yearn to play but don't like the current ruleset as much as I enjoyed previous versions. So what to do? Go back to a previous version? That's the obvious solution, but it can be quite confusing switching back and forth, and anyway I do actually like a lot of the current version over previous versions. A better solution (for me) would be to use 8th edition but scale back the damage potential of each phase. This is something I have spent a little time on, making amendments to create a version 7.7, but I have never really tried it out. 

I have been looking into alternative systems over the past few months and have finally decided to try two different rulesets. The first of these is Armies of Arcana, written by a disgruntled Warhammer player as an alternative to the big red book. I believe the first edition was written about ten years ago. The current book is the fifth edition, so it has been used and tested by hundreds of gamers and comes highly recommended on many a forum. I have bought the book and had a read through. It is very, very similar to Warhammer Fantasy - single models are grouped into regiments, there is movement, shooting, combat, magic and morale effects that are almost identical. The rules are a little dense at times, taking a couple of readthroughs before it clicks, but this could be said of any new set. There are many army lists included in the book, some of which could be used as is for my existing armies. There is also a complete army design system, so I will be able to add in any missing armies/units, with consistent points calculation. In many ways, it reads like a more sensible, logical version of Warhammer. Once I have adpated the army lists I will be trying it out and writing a fuller review.

The second ruleset I have bought is Mayhem, purchased as a pdf for a very reasonable price. It's a compact set of rules, only 20 or so pages in length, with no army lists, though again with a DIY points system. It's more akin to Warmaster than Warhammer, being an element based game with command decisions determining unit movement, combat, etc. My first thought was to invent army lists for my exisiting Warhammer armies and just use them, each movement tray full of troops being one element. However, I then decided I could learn quicker and easier if I tried to use elements as the ruleset intended, at the same time digging out another set of soldiers that I have not used in over a year. My Battle of Five Armies figures will be dusted down and back in action. Once I have mastered the basics, I can continue with 10mm LotR gaming, maybe expanding my collection, or I can progress to the Warhammer universe, making any adjustments that may be necessary for bases/elements. 

Mayhem seems to me the easiest of the rulesets to get to grips with, so that's the one I will be tackling first. I need to design army lists for the two forces and come up with a scenario, which should not be too difficult. In a future post I will go into this in more detail. Out with the old, in with the new, very apt at this time of year.


Gareth the Grot said...

Interestingly I posted about my dislike of WHFB a couple of days back. Having played a fair few games of 'Mayhem' (using 15mm) I can highly recommend them and games can be bought to a conclusion about half the time of Fantasy Battle. The tactical dilemmas posed by allotting Command points makes for some nail-biting situations, which again are entirely lacking from WHFB. Some Warhammer-isnpired army lists for 'Mayhem' have surfaced on LAF:

Mattthew Monster said...

I'm interested in reading your opinions on both of these rulesets. I've been tinkering with the 8th edition rules for a while now. While it is nice to develop house rules of your own it can be an uphill battle to convince anyone to play with my experience, at least. A poster on the warseer forum has been working on modified WHFB rules and they look fun to me:

The 35th Jason said...

Oh my, have you looked at God Of Battles by Jake Thornton, and sold through Foundry? My entire group left WHFB for GoB as soon as they tried it. Units are 6-16 models, but mostly 12-16. Soooo much fun.

Old Fogey said...

Yes I did look at GoB, as well as a few others like Kings of War, Realm, Mighty Armies, even WHFB 3rd. GoB was rejected because it was too prescriptive, I like some control over army design, being told to take x models per unit removes this. It did not include any DIY system, making conversion of my exisiting armies into the new system much more onerous. Finally, I am not a fan of the Foundry aesthetic, so all these things added up to a NO. I am happy with my decision, made a start on the Mayhem forces and will be reporting back soon.

Rafal Maj said...

You might be interested in Fantasy Warriors by Nick Lund. It's Warhammer Alternative from 1990. Free to download.

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