Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tomb King Army Book Review (part 2 -- units) and a Tomb King Chariot

Hopefully, I’m going to get my first game with the new Tomb Kings book next weekend.  I’m looking forward to it.  I’ve been studying the units and reading lots of lots of internet posts trying to figure out what the way forward is for TK in 8th edition.  However, one thing that I am sure of is that I will be using a unit of chariots.  The idea of masses of chariots is what attracted me to TKs in the first place, and I ran 12 in some of my 7th edition lists.  For some reason, I like the aesthetic of the chariot.  I run them in my High Elf list quite a bit, but TK is almost unique in the ability to field units of chariots.  

However, because TK were always my secondary army,  I never  actually finished painting a chariot, so I really wanted to get a unit painted up before next my first game with the new book.  Here is the finished product:

I'm pretty happy with it.  However, it did take more time than expected; I'm not really looking forward to painting 5 (or 11!) more.  Here it is from a couple of other angles:

In looking at the new book, one thing that strikes me is the variety of unit choices and army builds we have available now.  We can do heavy chariot, heavy construct, elite infantry, horde infantry, gunline, monster mash, and probably others.  Indeed, I think the new Orc book also offers a lot of choice.  This seems to be a design choice for the new edition books, and I’m hoping that the designers will be able to keep this trend going with their upcoming releases.  That said, I don’t think I’ve worked out how to set up a TK army yet.   

 As I look through the book, here’s what strikes me as effective:

Tomb Kings: sharing their WS with their unit seems really good. WS 6 Tomb Guard?  Slap a halberd in their hands and hit them with Biorona’s timewarp, and you’ve basically turned them into immune to psych swordmasters with fear and killing blow.  In addition, I really think the Mask is a metagame changing item as well (TK may become the skaven’s worst nightmare), but we’ll have to see how eliminating the general’s ld bubble and the BSBs rerolls works in practice.  However, as I think about making a list, I don’t think TKs will have a place unless it is for the Mask.  Unless your going for some item combo, Tomb Princes are probably a more cost effective way to buff a unit’s WS. 

Tomb Princes:  again, sharing their WS with their unit is great.  I’m thinking of slapping a King with the Mask into the Tomb Guard and a prince in the armor of silvered steel in with some shield skeletons to form two solidish anvils.

High Priests/Priests:  A lot of people are lamenting our loss of healing; however, I actually think I’ll be healing more in the current edition than I did last edition. Under the old book, I had to spam incantations in order to get the charges, the extra catapult shots, and the extra combat attacks.  It seemed like I never had any casts left to actually heal anything (and I tended to play a king heavy army).  Getting a heal with every buff, means that I’ll actually get to raise something now.  I also like having access to light; however, I just wish we had some mechanism that would allow us to pick our spells. I think running a level 4 with Nehekhara Lore and a level 2 with light will be a powerful combo.  However, because getting the key spells out of light will be so difficult, I can see myself going with a single level 4.

Skeletons:  Shield skeletons have gotten dirt cheap.  They are still terrible and will crumble away quickly; however, a unit of fifty or sixty skeletons should be able to tarpit a problematic unit, especially if they are WS 5 with the prince.

Light Horseman:  I’ve seen many claims that they are too expensive.  However, I can see scout + vanguard causing the enemy problems.  With EtBS units not being able to charge until turn 3 now, this unit might be our best chance at getting at war machines early.  I'm kind of regretting the fact that I traded all my horsemen away now.

Chariots:  I’ve already revealed my bias in favor of chariots, and the move to d6 impact hits makes these so much better.  They also got cheaper.  They are also core now regardless of general.  I think chariots will probably find a place in most lists. Indeed, the fact that they heal easier than constructs might actually make them the hammer of choice.  Take 6 for the added impact power, lose a couple as you move up, heal the unit back, get into combat and lose a couple, heal the unit back.  They are also fast.  I'm really looking forward to using my chariots.

Necropolis Knights:  I love the model, snake surfers and all.  I love how much damage they can do.  I also think that being able to bring such a hard hitting unit up behind enemy lines can cause a lot of headaches for opposing general.  I’d like  a unit of 4, but I guess since I’d have to buy two boxes to get them, I’ll end up sticking with 3.

Casket of Souls:  In my opinion, this is a no brainer choice. It adds to our magic phase, is hard to kill, and has a nice bound spell.  Again, this seems to be the closest thing we have to an automatic choice.

Tomb Guard: I've already raved about these guys.  Getting a couple of buffs on this unit is the thing that dreams are made of.  I’ll be taking a unit of 30 with halberds with the mandatory healing banner.  On down the road, I’ll experiment with spending all the core points on chariots so that I can take two units of these guys instead of only one.

All of this sounds good; however, there are a few things in the book I’m not crazy about:

Not being able to march:  This is going to hurt. Badly.  I think gunline armies will destroy us.  Even if we gear up to shoot, we are not going to outshoot dwarves or empire.  We only move 4 and depend on magic to march.  If our enemies hold their dice to stop the march spell, it will take us until turn 4 to get into charge range of the enemy line with our skeleton blocks, and there’s no way that we can make them move forward, even with 2 catapults, a casket, and a bunch of archers.  My gut tells me that this rule right here ensures that TK will not be a top tournament army.

Sepulchral Stalkers:  I might need to play with these a bit before completely writing them off; however, they seem a bit overcosted.  They won’t do much in combat.  Their gaze attack does make them a good bet for earlier war machine removal; however, they have a chance of killing themselves with it.  That said, there are some units that they can punish, and I imagine that lizardmen and dwarf armies will dread the sight of these guys.  I might try a unit on down the road, but for now, I’ll be leaving them at home.

Ushabti:  They got a little cheaper, so that’s good.  However, the twin nerfs of making them harder to heal and giving them str. 4 and great weapons (so always strike last) instead of str. 6 (and striking on initiative) means that they probably didn’t get cheap enough. Overall, I’m left feeling that the Necropolis Knights do what they do a little more effectively and will probably claim the spot in my lists that Ushabti used to fill.

Scorpions:  Speaking of an older unit that finds itself with a new unit taking over its role, I think the scorpion loses out to the sepulchral stalkers in the war machine hunter sweepstakes.  I have three of these babies painted up, but I can't ever see taking more than one.  It's almost as if they planned to weaken one of the more popular 7th edition choices.  Nah, it couldn't be.

Sphinxes:  T8 is good.  They can do a lot of damage (especially the war sphinx). However, war machines and poison attacks are going to eat these guys up.  I think taking 2 might ensure that one gets into combat (and could be really nasty against some armies).  However, taking 2 war sphinxes is pretty expensive.  I’ll have to playtest a bit to see if I can find a place for them, but they probably won’t be in my first list.

Entombed beneath the Sand:  This is one of our most flavorful rules; however, taking away the ability to charge on the turn the units arrive hurts, especially for war machine hunting.  Even if you get the units out in turn 2, you're still not getting to charge until turn 3 (assuming you don't scatter too far away), and I'm sure said war machines will take some defensive shots in the interim.  Not having to place the marker at the beginning of the game helps offset the loss as does a more forgiving misfire chart, but I'm still disappointed in this.

Overall, I think the book is a great improvement but won’t be displacing any of the top builds.  I’d say the same thing about the Orc book by the way.  Frankly, the fact that both of the new army books have some variety, good internal balance (even the units I said I don’t like really aren’t that bad), and good external balance (solid mid tier stuff) is a good sign.  If they can keep this up, 8th edition might be remembered as the beginning of the golden age of army balance.

Hopefully, I’ll have a game in by the next time I post, and I’ll have a better idea how some of this works.

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