Thursday, April 12, 2012

Product review - The Empire army book

Hello friendos! This comes a bit late, but the holidays have moved this review and there's not much I can do about it. But I eventually had laid my hands on the new Empire book and, well, read on...

As I've mentioned in my podcast, this is a very important release. The Old World finally has its new edition good guys and at the same time its most iconic human nation. The game now has one of its most appealing armies. Let's look at just what was changed and how.

The book itself is, again, not much different from four previous ones: hardcover, full color, semi-gloss. What I was particularly delighted about was the complete (or nearly so) lack of "art" by John Blanche. I know many of you love what this man is doing, well, I just don't. Not seeing a bit of it really made me smile.

In terms of fable not much is really new. Yes, we do have a new special character (a pretty typical lonely avenger type), but other than that the Empire's fluff hasn't advanced a bit. That is one of the things I was disappointed about (we'll get to the others in a moment). I really expected at least some bits to be developed, anything really. Karl Franz's new exploits maybe? Perhaps some development in the never-ending war with Chaos?

Well, none of this happened, but other things did - the rules of course. Most notably, the poor footslogging infantry got a great boost to the detachment rules. To make a long story short, the detachments now share the entirety of psychology rules their parent unit (now called the Regimental Unit) is bound by at any given moment. This is a great benefit to the basest of troops, it makes them somewhat more useful, reinforces 8th edition's "make-huge-armies" approach and does wonders to solidify the 'feel' of the Empire army.

Ah yes. The Feel. The Theme. Something I've always loved about the Empire and I'm sure I'm not the only one. What does the Empire actually have to counter all the threats it faces? Ordinary human soldiers are no match for the ferocity of Chaos. They will never outnumber the orcs. They will never outlive the elves or outmatch their weapons. So the men of the Empire resort to drill, synergy of the units, muster and pretty much everything that can give them an edge. This feel is prevalent throughout the book and is one of its greatest assets.

But getting back to the new stuff. The wizard contraptions are wacky, potentially very helpful and generally useful; I'm sure they will be found in most army lists. Yet while the rules are decent, the models are not to my liking - there is something like too much details, you know. And the omnipresent labels! "Sigmar" and "Karl Franz" are seen everywhere on these models. If I get my hands on one of these, I swear I will add "was here" to some of them... And the same goes for the War Altar.

The demigryph knights are by necessity powerful. Special choice, but definitely worth it. They, at least on paper, look very deadly. And also have halberds, which seems weird.

The Witch Hunter is possibly my favorite model in the new range. It's characterful, it's dynamic, it's great. And the rules are as well - this fellow can actually mark one enemy character as "heretic" and get several nifty bonuses (Sniper!) against him. Good stuff.

The Reiksguard are now a distinctively different choice in the list. They're special and they're Stubborn, differing from the 'ordinary' knightly orders, who are neither.

And with the Empire knights comes my greatest disappointment. Yes, the most obsolete and possibly worst looking miniatures GW makes remain unchanged. Luckily, the pistoliers and the demigryph riders  provide good alternatives and it's the only reason for leaving the knights set I can think of.

Oh, and the mortar is now S 2(6). As my buddy put it, "yeah, it lays the big template, but who gives a fuck now?" ...

However, these mishaps don't overpower the positive shine that the book exudes. The Empire is again a major player in the Old World. It's still desperate, it's still wacky, but now it also has that much needed kick here and there. It will be a pleasure to game with it and against it.

A very decent release, Games Workshop. You have my congratulations.


Sigmar said...

Nice review Mannfred.

I've always liked the feel of the Empire army in recent times - I wasn't a fan when they originally introduced gunpowder all those years ago but I'm used to it now :)

I'm pleased that they've concentrated on what makes the Empire different (ie. detachments and organisation) and not just put their efforts into sneaky power creep.

It sounds like your mate doesn't host a Skaven Army :)

Thanks for sharing,

Squeek Vermintide said...

A good review - thanks for writing it up and sharing! Even though I am a Skaven and High Elf collector, like you I am really disappointed that the Empire knights haven't changed. They looked poor in the past, and with the recent WFB releases all being much more dynamic in pose, now they look even worse!


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