Sunday, 6 May 2012

WHFB: 8th Edition Steam Tank

[Insert witty greeting here]

I've now played two (yes, a full, staggering two) games with the new Empire Army Book. Largely, I stand by my early impressions here: things are more expensive and only marginally better.

However, as part of that article, I also stated that the Steam Tank was different, but didn't specify further.

So today, I'll be looking at the Steam Tank in some detail.

The Tank Engine that could...

The Steam Tank is now five sixths of its previous cost. Considering that previous cost, this is a serious reduction.

The way Steam Points work has changed. This is not a surprise.

To begin with, the risk inherent in generating Steam Points is no longer as dependent on how many Steam Points you want. It's still connected to how healthy the Tank is, however, but most of the time, generating four Points a turn isn't a problem (and is almost as safe as generating fewer. What the number of Steam POints generated does, is affect the results if something goes wrong, so a bit of caution might be wise (and I no longer see much reason to risk genearting five Points - one Misfire and a 6, and your precious Tank is gone).

Perhaps more significantly, the way the Steam Points are used has changed. First, you can no longer feed all your Points into movement (you're limited to three Points for any one system). Second, there is now the option of feeding the weapon systems different amounts of Points. Each point increases the range of the cannon, or the strength of the steam gun.

It's Bring a Random Picture of a Steam Tank to Work day...
Last, the Steam Tank now moves a random distance (D6 per Steam Point spent). This is good (no more worrying about Charge Arcs, a maximum move of 18") and bad (those 18"? Minimum is 3" for three Steam Points). So far, I've had more use of this than it has hampered me, and let's face it, teh Steam Tank was the only (?) unit in the game that charged a fixed distance. It was always going to change.

Offensively, there are a few changes to consider.

The Steam Tank can no longer shoot while in combat. It can, however, use its steam gun as a Breath Weapon - any number of times during a battle. That's 2D6 S2-4 hits a game turn. Yesterday's game saw quite a few broiled elves...

The steam Tank can no longer Grind in the Close Combat phase. It can Grind, but does this in the movement phase, meaning it causes no Combat Resolution. With this ability gone, the Tank loses a large portion of its chances at winning combats other than on the charge.

Picture including the word 'Grind'. 'Nuff said.
Speaking of the Charge, the Steam Tank now does D6 Impact Hits (plus D3 per Steam Point spent to move) rather than the D3 from yesteryear. On the other hand, you can no longer revv the engines with a mighty five Steam Points (which generated a regal 6D3 Impact Hits in the last army Book). This is still a lot, though - three Steam Points generate an average of 9.5 Impact Hits at S6.

As noted above, the steam gun and cannon now have different power modes. This adds some range to the cannon (at the cos of an extra Steam Point) or lowers its cost (if 12" is all you need), or gives the steam gun some additional punch. The steam gun has, however, lost the ability to ignore armour, so its much less attractive to target Knights.

The Steam Tank still can't do squat in the enemy's turn, even if it's stuck in combat, since it doesn't generate Steam Points in the enemy turn. Except:

One final note on the Tank's offensive capabilities: the Engineer Commander can now fight! Mine's racked up a kill-tally of six enemies (which, at one attack a turn, isn't that shoddy).

Lastly, the cannon has been hit with the Bat O'Weird. It can now fire only absolutely straight ahead. Which, combined with the Steam Tank's Random Move, means you have to plan like hell if you want to shoot it at something specific, since you need to make it move in the exact direction you want to shoot, for it to be pointed right.

The Tank is still one sollid hunk of metal...
  There are two changes to the Steam Tank's defensive power: Toughness, and WS.

First, the glorious days of T10 Steam Tanks are gone. I shall mourn them. It's now a much more reasonable - but much less fun - T6. Against many things, there's no difference, but when it hits great weapon wielding enemies, it's sad face...

Second, the Steam Tank is now hit using WS in close combat (instead of being hit automatically). I guess the Engineers have been told to come home with their Tanks intact, and are now parrying like their lives depended on it. This is massive. Against good enemy fighters, it means one third less hits; against average to bad enemies, it means half.

All in all, against S4 (or less) close combat, the Steam Tank is actually more resilient, but against anything else, it's either the same, or a lot less resilient.

I'm not entirely sure this deserves its own heading, but here goes:

The Steam Tank has options now. Well, option, really. The Engineer Commander can take a Hochland Longrifle. And considering he keeps his Repeater Pistol, and can fire the Rifle on the move, this might well be worth considering.

And that's that. The Steam Tank is genuinely different, but that does not necessarily mean better or worse. I feel that the rules are better written and clearer, and so far its been doing well, so I'll give it a cautious thumbs up at this point. Time will tell if I stick by that.


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