So what to do if you're like me and own multiple Warhammer Fantasy Armies, but have fallen so out of love with Games Workshop's handling of the game's product and rules, that you can barely bring yourself to put your models on the table? The first knee jerk response is sell your stuff and move on to other game systems or genres..and I am doing so, (see my DoC For Sale)with my ventures into Warmachine and huge push with Historicals. However with the fantasy bug still quite alive and 5000 points of Empire on the shelf, all hope is not lost as I've spent some time reading other rules set and am quite pleased with what I find.
Most notable and not by any stretch below the radar is Mantic's Kings of War. Mantic cropped up a couple years back as an alternative miniature company making cheaper fantasy figures. They've been at Adepticon the last two years giving away gobs of promo sprues of their undead line and have rapidly expanded from elves, to undead, to dwarfs, to Abyssal dwarfs, to now Orcs, with rumors humans, goblins and something else not far away. With host of products they've quickly gone from an alternative miniature company to an alternative game company. Now I'd be lying if I said there was a great fervor about the figures, initial word on the elves were they were too slight scale wise to mix in with GW product and werent particularly attractive, the undead fair much better, and I like the promo figures I have..and every collected a bunch of freebie sprues from the guys that werent wanted for my various fiddlings. There are no shortage of manufacturers making Dwarfs and Orcs..so I didn't see or get the need there, the Chaos Dwarf knock offs were a great idea and look great too. Whats apparent to me now with Mantic, that was not early on is that they intended to compete directly with Games Workshop. Not as an alternative miniature supplier for GW but as a direct alternative altogether, hence the need for all the lines of figures.
Poaching pissed off former GW gamers doesn't immediately seem like the best business model, but I have to admit Mantics figures are a whole more attractive when, they cost half of what GW does, and their rules and army lists are free. What I wanted to talk about today isnt some GW vs Mantic debate, as there isnt really one. In real world dollar for dollar market share Mantic isnt even the stain on GW's radar screen compared to the growing blip Privateer Press is. I want to talk about rules, because I've spent some time reading Kings of War free rules and I have to say I like them, alot.
Its not lost on me, that they are written by Alessio Cavatore, who used to work for GW and wrote WFB 7th edition which for me, is my "game"..(remember many of us don't think its 7th ed rules that are "broke" it was the stupid army books by Matt Ward and Gav Thorpe that drove the car off the road).What we have with the Kings of War rules is a WFB 7th ed lite, without many of unnecessary abstractions written into the game to give specialty figures something to do, and without many of the those fiddly movement rules that drove us bonkers. The game is very basic, with smart use of unit stats, and maybe a dozen special rules. Combat revolves losses stacking up against a units "nerve" and making a break test against that nerve..a much better mechanic which similar in some ways to "Hail Caesar", it certainly isnt fighting every combat to the last man as WFB 8th edition is.
"Magic" the fun sucking black hole of 8th edition is relegated to minimal role taking place in the shooting phase as generic ranged attacks, breath weapons, or extra movement. For me -this is what I want from a magic phase, the flavor of magic, that adds to the theme and setting of the game, and does not shove it down your throat and out your rear end right along with your grand ideas of battlefield strategy and tactics.The simple place magic occupies in Kings of War..is A-OK by me. Artillery is handled as basic mass shooting attacks basic on type, there are no artillery dice or wonky distance mechanics.
Characters are treated as individual units and operate as such and as far as I read cannot join units..they're independent operators leading your army..not deathstar creating unit additions, that overpower the game.
The one thing I take pause with is just like WFB it is a ful-on bucket of dice game...horde units are throwing 20 dice as an attack value, and I like the fact other games I am playing a moving away from that. Still that is the top end of the dice throwing....so its really a half a bucket in comparision, because I had games in WFB 8th where my free company fully engaged was throwing 42 combat dice...now that's the proverbial bucket.
Overall I find the game system very interesting and am looking forward to putting the Empire on the field and giving it go...Human army lists are not released yet..I could easily make my own based whats published but I would just assume wait it out. Mantic supports use of other manufactures figures either with or without there own and their rules, being free are taking alot of user feedback into consideration. I find these types of policies very gamer friendly and worthy of your support.
So check out Mantics free KoW rules and give them a spin, I can already see a deeper tactical game due to sole fact there is ton less "random crap" (as I like to say) going on in the game (dice aside, there no "wheel of fortune" to spin either!). You never know, you may just like the game and realize what you are actually missing.
We over here at Xcom wargamers (short for "excommunicated"- as we were from our local GW shop in 2009, with my own nod to the greatest PC strategy game of all time.) all have Warhammer Fantasy armies so the KoW rules have come up before, with our current fondness of Hail Caesar there's talk of a hybrid rule set, (HC rules and profiles with KoW special "fantasy" rules) but before we go there I'd like to give the KoW core rules a try for sure I think they pretty damn good on their own.
There you go, the former figureheads of Games Workshop, who are no longer with company are now writing rules that I really like, for other companies. It should go without saying, (but I'll say it anyway) that we wargamers are all still in GW's shadow, its just how much of that shadow is blocking the sun in your little world that you have to reconcile..that is until Brian Nelson and Dave Andrews start working for either Mantic or Warlord..then will be looking at a full eclipse.