The basic stuff:
The main rulebook is hardback and is just short of 400 pages long. It is split into three main sections. The rules are the first 63 pages, the background takes you up to page 222, with the last section of the book being devoted to army lists for all the armies that Mantic currently manufacture miniatures for.
First of all the main rules. This isn't so much a third edition as a tidy up of the rules, incorporating all the things that the rules committee have tried to clean up in their annual rules pack Clash of Kings, but couldn't as it would have made to big a change to the core of the rules. Changes include fixing of the height rules to clear up the cover and line of site rules.
You now get a bonus to damage when charging of hills and some cleaning up of the charge rules.
The main change that I can seems to be the inclusion of a disengage rule. In 2nd edition when you fought a unit but failed to rout it, you had to retreat an inch, and this caused some "discussion" as it could be interpreted in several ways, with some of the hard core tournament players using it to their advantage. Now you stay in base contact, but if you start the turn engaged to an enemy on one side you can elect to carry out a free disengage before you issue the orders to your unit.
Those are basically the main changes.
There changes to spells, such as Bane Chant no longer working on missile attacks, and certain spells now getting minuses to hit against units in cover.
Some magic items were also removed, some made only usable by individuals and some new ones added. Every magic item that effected shooting was removed from the game.
Individuals were changed slightly as well. All individuals are classed as yielding unless they have the 'mighty' rule. The yielding rule stops you from sticking your 50 point flag bearer in front of the enemy unit so that he has to charge him, leaving the unit exposed to be counter charged next turn by the horde of infantry cowering behind the hapless flag waver.
Breath Weapons were removed from the game entirely, and are now simply shooting attacks, subject to the same limitations
A couple of new troop types were introduced. Previously infantry either came on 20mm or 25mm bases, but now a new class has been introduced. Infantry are now all on 20mm bases, while the new heavy infantry are all on 25mm bases. Titans have been introduced to cover all the especially large monsters that Mantic have been making and are on a 75mm base now.
Chariots were changes lightly and you now need less models to make a unit and so the footprint has slightly changed.
Those are the rules. Generally keeping the game pretty similar is a good thing. Some of the changes didn't quite go far enough fro me, and other went too far, but I shall summarise these at the end.
The background section is greatly expanded, and has a lot of detail about the origins of the world and all the different factions that inhabit it. Its all pretty generic so theres not much to say here. Orce are warlike, Elves are arrogant and Dwarfs live under the ground in great holds etc etc. As a rule of thumb the more syllables in your name the more important you are though and the background never uses one word when you could slip in another couple of adjectives. Caverns aren't just dark or deep, but 'deepest, darkest', just to make sure the reader understands how dark and deep the caverns are.
The final section of the book contains the army lists. These are lists for all the armies that Mantic currently make models for, of which there are fourteen. I cant comment on most of these as I have very limited experience of most of the. I will comment on two though, the elves and the Ogres.
The elves because there are a few things that stood out to me, and the ogres as I have fought more ogres than anything else so was able to make some sort of minor comparison between the editions.
The main changes to he elves were the reduction in power of he shooting infantry and the inclusion of palace guard hordes, both of which are problematic. These are problematic as it creates a massive disconnect from the fluff and makes the internal balance of the army very poor. This is a problem fluff wise as the background of the elves makes a massive thing of elven skill with the spear and the bow. It states that the elven ability with the bow is almost supernatural, but then they reduced the shooting ability of elves to 5+, which is pretty much the same as everyone else. Not terribly supernatural then. The Palace Guard hordes are now so good, and similar in cost to the mighty horde of spearmen (remember, elves favour the spear above all else) that basically every elven list will squeeze as many of the rare, elite palace guards as they can, leaving he other elven troops aside. The elves must be a very rich race if they need so many palace guards, lol. I know that elven gunlines were a problem, but removing all the magic items and spell that benefit shooting and making the archers irregular probably would have been enough, now elven shooting is a rarity, apart from Silverbreeze cavalry who for some reason can shoot more accurately from the back of a moving horse than a static elven archer.
Ogres got a light touch and most of their stuff appeared to be unchanged apart from some new units and heroes. One thing I did notice is that Seige breakers got a lot better. Seige Breakers were ogres carrying massive pavise shields and huge clubs. They had excellent defence to the front, and hit like a ton of bricks. The pay-off to this was that they were slower than normal ogres and they're base armour was slightly lower when attacked in the flank or rear, which made sense. Now their speed and armour have been raised to match that of the the other ogres, meaning that you don't really have any reason to take normal ogre braves unless you were really wanting to save a few points.
Unchartered Empire is Mantic's expansion, containing a number of additional army list consisting mainly of the ones created to cash in when GW blew up the Old World and the WHFB players found themselves homeless. There are thirteen lists in this book, most of which are 'theme' lists. Theme lists are based on one of the lists in the main book, and have access to some units from one or more of the lists from the main book and have some unique units of their own.
I cannot comment on the most of these so will limit myself to having a look at my main Kings of War list, the Twilight Kin.
The Twilight Kin had a list and range of miniatures in 1st edition, but these were removed when 2nd dropped as Mantic wasn't happy with the direction of the background. They did, however introduce a 'get you by' list which everyone used. The list basically allowed me to use my WHFB Dark Elf army, and had equivalent troops for most entries.
The new theme list has pretty much gutted the old 2nd edition list, making it virtually unrecognisable. It has removed chariots, dragons, elven cavalry, basic wizards, hydra's, buccaneers and shadows. In return we are able to make use of both Abyssal and Nightstalker units, which are apparently summoned to the battle by the elven wizards. I shall perhaps right a more detailed description of the list in a future blog post. I have a game coming up on Monday to try out the new edition so will have a better idea.
So how is 3rd edition? The core rules are pretty much the same and therefore pretty good, although there are still a couple of issues with the rules:
I think the disengage rule is a missed opportunity. It is now entirely possible for a unit to disengage from the unit it is fighting, turn 90 degrees and attack another unit that has exposed a flank, thinking that the nearby enemy unit is occupied. This is known as a corkscrew and is a rules fudge. I think the fact that you can run across the front of an enemy unit to engage an exposed 3mm of an enemy flank is a real problem with these rules, and while I wont do it personally I know a lot of people that will happily do it. This leads me into my second point, the game really needs zones of control, which would go a long way to stop a lot of the weird rules contortions. Whether a unit is in the flank of another unit should also be measured form something else apart from the leader point, as it can also lead to some very odd rules interpretations, where you end up perched on a flank of a unit that you were facing the front of, purely because you were offset slightly.
I think the nerf to shooting went to far. I get that this is a melee based game but basically making shooting hordes pointless was a bad move. People will just move on to other way of maximising their shooting potential, mainly by spamming wizards.
Not really an rules issue but Mantic really need to drop the obsession with individual models. Kings of War is at its heart an element game, and within 5 minutes of the new rules there were multiple threads on line concerning minimum model count. Currently a regiment of infantry consist of 20 men, arranged five wide and four deep. This means the units will have a footprint 100mm wide and 80mm deep, which is what really matters for game purposes. Instead of constantly talking about models and adding up individual models, all they needed to do was state that a regiment of infantry has a footprint of 100 by 80mm and should consist of between 10 and 20 models. Job done. I don't know why fantasy games have this obsession with individual models, even when the rules make them effectively meaningless.
I still like the core of the game, and think it is excellent, but it has definitely had a shift in how it has been made. It is done with rules in mind rather than background, and there is a definite disconnect between how some of the armies are described and how they actually operate on the table. This is a shame and is what happens when the games direction is run by people that seem primarily concerned with tournament style gaming. There is background here, but it seems secondary to setting up a game that can be played competitively and each army needs to play in a certain way. I'm not really bothered if two armies play in a very similar way if I like the fluff, and it is justified in the background, but when there is a disconnect then I will start to lose interest. Vanguard, the skirmish game in the same setting has some great narrative scenarios, and this could benefit from the same sort of love.
So to sum up the rules themselves are still excellent, but the new background and army lists have left me feeling a bit ambivalent about the game. That nay change when I have got a few games under my belt, time will tell.