Wednesday 8 July 2015

Matthias Eliasson presents 8th edition Bretonnia

Bretonnia. My white whale. My beloved signature army. My brave sons and daughters of the Lady. In a moment when Warhammer Fantasy has gone completely to pot and I have to work to remind myself why I want to be in this hobby, of course I was going to turn to Bretonnia.

Bretonnians were my first Fantasy army: brave knights, grubby peasants, wise sorceresses, flying knights on pegasi, trebuchets hurling bits of church at the enemy and every knight (in the hands of a better painter than I) a work of art in its own right. Now, twelve years later, is my chance to do right by this army and make the noble host I always dreamed of fielding: each knight with his own heraldry and individual colours on the horses, peasants' heraldry painted to match the character model they owe fealty to. Honestly, the way things are going, this is probably going to be my last chance at this.

Just about the only thing I don't like about Bretonnia is the rather outdated Army Book. Its the oldest one left, dating back to the 6th edition. It isn't that its unplayable, just that times have changed. Several items and abilities simply don't work in the 8th edition, the command upgrade prices are ludicrous and largely negate the benefit of the knightly units getting free champions. And, of course, there's the fact it was a typically bare bones 6th ed. book: four character classes, four core choices, four special choices and two rare choices. This was exactly how a lot of the smaller armies worked in those days: creating a stable basis on which later editions would build.

In Bretonnia's case, later editions never came and now they never will.

But never underestimate the dedication of fans. Matthias Eliasson, whose Warhammer Armies Project I've praised before, put together an expanded 8th edition version of the Bretonnia Army Book, our subject for today. Its huge, its free and it looks pretty well-balanced at first glance. I've already taken temperatures with my gaming group and we're looking forward to field testing it.

So what's different?

The Basics
The lance formation stays as is but it gets the Devastating Charge special rule. The knights are slightly more expensive overall to represent this but the price hike is pretty low given how the years have changed them from being dirt cheap cavalry to merely averagely priced cavalry.

Knightly champions are still free and most musician and standard bearer upgrades are the standard ten points.

Every knightly unit has an option for one unit of that type to carry a magic standard.

Damsels and Prophetesses now have access to the Lore of Light as well as the specially-written Lore of the Lady in addition to the previously available Lores of Life, Beasts and Heavens (and, yes, Damsels get Heavens now, as well).

Men-At-Arms are now “proper soldiers” with WS 3. They still have low leadership to show they aren't the equal of Imperial State Troops. Their former”useless arrow fodder” duties are taken up by a new Peasant Levy unit we'll discuss later. Best of all, the pole-arms that were previously just a halberd under an assumed identity can now be used as a halberd or a spear, decided at the beginning of each close combat phase.

Pegasus Knights now have barding! This is a massive and longstanding complaint of mine answered. They still have only two wounds (most monstrous cavalry has three) but they're also five points cheaper.

The Virtues have been rewritten and re-priced where neceessary, as have the Vows. Questing Knights now re-roll only Fear and Terror tests but also ignore Always Strikes Last when using their great weapons. Grail Knights and characters with the Grail Vow gain +1 Leadership.

And then there's all the new stuff:

New Characters
Of the three new character classes, it's the Priestess of Shallya that interests me most. She's essentially a healer version of the Empire Warrior Priest with a series of Bound Spell blessing she can confer on units. I rather like that the two blessings that effect the Priestess's unit don't effect her,its a nice representation of self-sacrifice.

The Templar Crusader is an experienced knight who gives buffs to any unit he joins: a mounted unit re-rolls 1s on their charge distance whilst a foot unit gains the Hatred special rule.

Yeoman Serjeant is something I'm not entirely convinced by. Why? Because he's actually good at things. He has WS, BS and Strength 4. He's on par with knights in a lot of ways. A useful cheap character to be sure but perhaps rather more useful than a Bretonnian peasant, even a relatively “upper class”one, should be. I don't know, I'll probably give him a ho someday but there are so many more tasty options to play around with.

New Units
Peasant Levy. Skill stats of 2, armed with “Farm Tools” that give them +1 Strength but also require two hands and always strike last. They test for Leadership on 3D6 and pick the highest result of 2 dice because they are just that crap. Sounds like a fun unit and, yes, I really mean that, you won't find me shying away from fun random crap, oh no.

Truffle Hounds. Oh, how I look forward to using Truffle Hounds. Right now Matt is fielding Orcs & Goblins and, oh, how we love those crazy Fanatics as they hew through our armies like a hot knife through infantry. These are by now means as devastating but they work in a reasonably similar way: concealed in peasant units they charge the first enemy unit to come within 8”. If they make the charge they inflict D3+1 Str 3 hits and are then removed from play, if not they then make another charge against the closest enemy unit in the next turn until it hits something. Nowhere near as devastating as Fanatics but a hell of lot more reliable an no risk to yourself.

Foot Knights are exactly what it says on the tin: elite armoured infantry fulfilling that Greatswords / Tomb Guard / Grave Guard role of anchoring the battle line. They've the Knights' Vow but an impressive array of weapons options, being able to choose between hand weapon and shield, morning stars, great weapons and halberds.

Herrimaults are absolutely, one hundred percently Robin Hood and his Merry Men (or, if you're of my generation, Maid Marian and her Merry Men). Rules wise: Skirmishing, Scouting bowmen with a champion who has knight stats. I really want to make some of these guys and put my Virtue of Empathy Grail Knight character with them.

Hippogryph Knights are as awesome and monstrous as they sound. Hugely expensive at 75 points but you get what you pay for: Fear-causing, flyers, Stomp attacks, Str 5 and 3 Wounds, plus the Knight has Str 4 basic. They do, however, inherit the old issue Pegasus Knights used to have that they don't have barding even though it's sculpted on the model!

Spirits of the Fey are fun: mini-Green Knights represented as Ethereal, Fear-causing swarms, plus if they're at least partially within a forest or water feature they regain D3 wounds lost earlier in the battle at the end of each close combat phase.

The Sacrosantum of the Lady is a Bretonnian version of the Chaos War Shrine, essentially. Its a chariot with a Damsel and relics on it that every turn confers an automatic (not a bound spell, not random) benefit to the army around it. At 125 points, you certainly can't complain on value for money.

Now just to work out how to model some of this stuff. 

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