Tuesday, 21 March 2017

9th Age

This Monday saw another attempt at 9th Age, the fan based set of rules based on the now defunct Warhammer fantasy battle 8th Edition.  We played 4500points, with Andy bringing his Empire and myself choosing to field my Dark Dread Elves.

My army consisted of:

21 Witch Elves
21 Corsairs
10 Executioners
20 Crossbows
2 Bolt Throwers
5 Dark Riders
5 Shades
10 Cold One Knights
10 Dancers of Yema

Andy brought:

30 Halberdiers
20 Spearmen
20 Spearmen
10 Knights
4 Griffon Riders
15 Imperial Guard
12 Crossbows
12 Crossbows
10 Archers
1 Wizards Wagon.
1 units of 5 fast cavalry.
Empire Right Flank

Empire Left Flank

The main difference this time was that I opted to give magic another try, so went all in and brought a wizard lord with some nice upgrades, and Andy opted not to bring any artillery.
The game started in the usual way, with Andy opting to deploy his army as quickly as possible to ensure he got the first turn. I was happy for this as there was no artillery to worry about.
Early game saw the Empire advance, while throwing their fast cavalry down the throat of the Dark Elves, hoping to stop their bolt throwers. This worked quite well, with fast cavalry destroying one bolt thrower, which handily caused the nearby unit of Crossbows containing the wizard lord to panic and start to head towards the nearest table edge. 

Run Away!
Thankfully the next turn they rallied, but that was them out of action for a turn.  The dark elves decided to just get stuck in and the Witch Elves and Corsairs both charged into a unit of spearmen each. The Witch Elves managed to inflict a lot of casualties on their opponent and in a total fluke the unit decided to break and flee, with the Witch Elves in hot pursuit. The Corsairs were not so lucky, and fluffed their attacks, with the Spearmen holding as a result.  On the left flank the suicidal executioners had set up in front of the empire knights, in the vain hope that they kill a character or two before they were trampled underfoot. On the right flank the Cold One Knights advanced, trying to set up the charge into the Empire Griffon Riders.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Dark Dread Elves get a kicking
Alas the executioners were trampled underfoot, narrowly missing getting the kill on the Empire Priest hiding in the unit. The Knights then overran into the flank of the beleaguered Corsairs and in the ensuing combat the Corsairs were demolished and then promptly broke. Luckily they managed to outrun their pursuers, who were brought up short by another unit being in their way.  The Witch Elves charged into one unit of Empire Crossbows, wiping them out and overrunning into the flank of the second one.  The Cold One knight finally got the charge into the Griffon Knights, falling one wound short of wiping them out, but instead having to satisfy themselves with watching the remaining one flee from the table.
In the final turns of the game the Empire continued to mop up the Dark Elves, with the Empire Knights finally finishing the job on the Corsairs, including their general.  We pretty much called it there as there was no way my remaining troops would be able to survive against the remaining empire army.
So another disaster for the Dread Elves, but some interesting things learned.

Magic is still highly overrated, with the wizard costing nearly 500 points and achieving nothing.  The 9th age seems to be all about removing the random aspect of the game, apart from with magic which remains hopelessly random and now they also severely lowered the power level of a lot of the spells as well.  Wizards are definitely not worth it and mine shall be remaining in their box until some changes are made for the better.

Shooting also appears to be a bit pointless. The Dread Elf crossbows cost a lot of points and achieved nothing, again. I think the points would have been better spent on a combat unit instead.

If you have a character that can cast bound spells, then you should take as many as possible as they are far better value than wizards. they are more reliable, more likely to succeed in casting more spells and their abilities would appear to be just as effective. Andy had 2 in his army and they almost single handed turned the game in his favour.

Other broad issues with 9th Age include:

The Line of site rules. In this game you can see through Forests, and even other regiments of troops. It is theoretically possible for a cannon to snipe a lone character 6 feet away, through about 6 regiments of troops, which seems ridiculous and counter intuitive to me.

The Parry Rule.  Worried about your super cheap goblins getting beaten up in combat? Don't worry, just buy them a shield and then your opponents high weapon skill elites are reduced to the same weapon skill when attacking you! I understand the need to make Sword and shield more attractive (actually I don't, but that I think is more a symptom of tournament mentality where everything has to be viable) but this is a very clumsy way of doing it.

War machine rules are terrible.  They can see in any direction, which currently only skirmishers can do and the rules for the area effect weapons are awful. In previous editions of Warhammer you would place a template, which would then have a chance to drift of target and could potentially partially hit your target unit, or hit a different enemy unit or even hit one of you own units, that was part of the risk. Now they either hit, doing a potentially massive amount of hits (The empire mortar can potentially hit 36 models in one hit!) or they miss completely. Once again they can see through everything except hill and buildings and there is no modifier to hit for cover, even cover that would obscure you like a wood. Cannons are the same, with a cannon able to hit anything that is not behind a hill or building, and no amount of cover will protect you, but the cannon is magically inclined to only go the exact distance to match the depth of the target unit, be it one rank or five. Apparently cannons do an extra point of damage to fliers now as well, because erm....no idea, and only cannons get a bonus to shoot at big monsters now. Nothing else does, for some reason.

Bows and Long Bows now have volley fire (Short Bows don't appear to exist any more, probably because they weren't viable under tournament conditions). This means that an entire unit can fire, again at any target in range and ignoring modifiers to hit from cover. Fifty goblins can stand in a forest and fire  fifty shots up out of the forest, hitting anything within range with no minuses to hit them.  This has made all the other shooting weapons (crossbows, repeating crossbows, handguns) pretty much redundant.

These changes stink of alterations for tournament balance, rather than any real thought.  9th Age is the only rules I know of that allow you to see through intervening regiments of troops, and allow you to shoot cannons through friendly troops. This smacks of "we need to make war machine more effective" rather than any other sensible reasoning for it, and it is this sort of thinking that is making me struggle with the game.

The Dread Elves book is also pretty sub par, with  a lot of choices that Dark Elves are supposed to excel at actually being pretty bad.  Repeating Crossbows being a prime example of this.

So far I have played three games, and while Andy is an excellent opponent to play against the rules themselves are proving problematic for me. I am trying very hard to like the game, but it is a struggle. I do realise that the game is a work in progress and is due a big update later on this year, so we will need to wait and see what happens then.  It may be the case that the army that I have previously fielded when playing Warhammer is no longer viable which is ironic. My Dark Elf and Orc & Goblin armies have remained largely unchanged through 3 editions of Warhammer, and it is now that we are playing a fan made set of rules that I am finding that some of my units are now redundant, a complaint levelled at Games Workshop many times.  I will play a few more games before I call it quits but at the moment I find myself looking at the simplicity of Kings of War or Dragon Rampant, rather than the complexity of 9th Age which is perhaps a reflection of a change in my gaming tastes as much as anything else.


  1. Kevin, if you don't have them I have a copy of the 2nd Edition KOW rules if you want to borrow them some time to give them a try. Still got the same single player focussed turn sequence we've discussed before but that is easily tweaked.

    John Ewing

    1. Hi John. I have a copy as well, but haven't really done anything with it as there doesn't seem to be much interest at the club. Ian and I are talking about giving it a bash though. The turn sequence is a bit of an issue but I will see if I can live with it in favour of simplicity and ease of play, which Kings of War has in spades and I am looking fro in my games these days.