Fixing WHFB – Magic

Well, this is it – the big one.

Magic changes in 8th ed. Fantasy have been disliked by many. The system itself isn’t a terrible one per se, but it does have a few subtle flaws that cause it to be vastly overpowered.

It was also considered overpowered in 7th edition too. So what changed? First of all spell casters used to add to the power pool. Depending on the levels of casters involved, each would add a certain number of dice to the power pool and defense pool when it’s your opponent’s turn.

8th edition turned this on its head and made it dependent on a random roll – casters don’t directed add. This is unfortunately heading in the direction of lazy game design that Warhammer games have been rapidly embracing. Winning or losing on random rolls is not good game design. Sure rolling dice is part of it, but there should be a level of expected outcome. It’s why games have stats to begin with. Otherwise we would just play ‘who rolls highest wins’.

On top of the random roll we have channeling. A caster could channel extra power or dispel dice on a 6 (not counting special abilities or items). It’s so unreliable, I’m not even sure why they bothered with it. But, there it is.

One of the other big changes are the ‘BIG’ spells. These generally have a large template that moves about causing some test. Failure is death. It took a step away from damage spells, and moved towards stat tests. This is somewhat of a bad idea. Things like strength tests are usually ok. The main races are within a tight band of numbers. Typically 3 or 4. The problems really arise when the tests are Initiative based. There is a vast range among troops anywhere from 1 to 5. It targets entire armies brutally while being near ineffective against others. The much feared Pit of Shades is a walk in the park to an Elf, but a Saurus or Dwarf is so slow on initiative that they are still trying to decide what pants to wear that day when they are killed.

The next change that really affected the magic phase, was not a change to the phase at all, but was a change to a special rule. Magic resistance went from a flat bonus to the dispel dice to a ward save. While this doesn’t seem too bad at first glance, it was also changed on some of the ‘big’ spells that you got no saves AT ALL. Not even wards. So you could have an amazingly magic resistant unit that gets eaten by a spell because the wording on that spell effectively ignores Magic Resistance.

The last big change was to miscasts and irresistible force (IF). It used to be that if you miscast on double 1’s that it overrode the rest of the dice. So in 7th a miscast and an IF result would still be a miscast. Now an IF result IS ALSO a miscast. This mind-boggling change has, when combined with the other changes above, made spell casters into a one shot army destroying glass cannon. And the sad part is that the spells cast could wipe out half an opposing army, and the caster could still survive it to try it again next magic phase.

So what do we do for all of this?

First off, let’s take the power pool and make it halfway between 7th and 8th. 7th was too predictable and 8th was too random. So let’s make it so that the player whose turn it is rolls 2d6. The highest dice is that player’s power pool and the lower of the dice is the other guy’s dispel pool. Now we add 1 dice to the pool every caster level 1 or 2 and 2 dice to the pool for every caster level 3 or 4. The player whose turn it is adds this to his power pool, the other player adds it to their dispel pool. This will account for the ‘winds of magic’ as well as caster ability.

It will allow armies that need casters to function (undead) to still be in the game, even if they can’t roll a magic phase well throughout it. Nothing is worse as a Tomb Kings player than to roll no higher than 5 all game in the magic phase. Any items or abilities that add to channeling will add an extra die to power or dispel based if you make a channeling roll as per 8th edition. Without an item there is no channeling (that’s already done with the casters adding to the pool.) Due to the extra dice, we’ll remove casters adding their level to casting and dispelling rolls. It always favored the level 4 casters too much.

Next up – the big spells. First of all let’s make any blast spell that uses the large blast template makes the spell immobile. Doesn’t matter if it’s says it should randomly move once placed, let’s strip that out. Large blast spells raking across an entire battle line combined with the effectiveness of them is just too good.  So now you have a choice. Small template that moves, or big blast that will likely only effect 1 unit. Bit more balanced.

Initiative effecting spells, while still amazing, will be toned down with the template changes. But we can go one better and make Magic Resistance actually count for something. 7th came at it from the angle of free dispel dice, 8th from a ward save. These are both great ideas – so let’s combine them. Let’s add (7 – Magic Resistance) free dispel dice to the pool. That’s 1 die for 6+, 2 for 5+, etc… Now let’s let them keep the ward save against magic attacks as per 8th, except no spells can remove this. That means that the nasty spells that say “NO SAVE OF ANY KIND” still allows ward saves based on magic resistance. We could even name it a Spell Ward to differentiate. Finally Magic Resistance will mean something.

On to IF and miscasts. We’ll keep this one simple. We’ll go back to 7th ed, cause that had it right. Double 6’s are an IF result. Double 1’s are a miscast. Miscasts cancel IF results. Simple. Let’s also go one more and add a new one. Irresistible Dispel. If you get double 6’s to dispel, you have dispelled the target spell no matter their roll. This will allow forces with little magic a chance as long as they roll 2 dice.

Finally, let’s make one last change. Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings were totally reliant on raising the dead. They just sucked too bad without it. In 7th they could multi-cast the unit increasing spells, but it was considered too good, so they stripped it away. Unfortunately now they have suffered with a single spell attempt, which smart opponents save dispel dice for. So let’s give that back to them, but let’s do it so everyone gets a new toy as well. Signature spells can be cast multiple times in a turn. This allows the undead to bolster as they did before, but it also allows a fire mage to lay the smack down as long as he has power.

Will these be balanced across the board? Likely not – Fantasy has such a wide range of amazing to zero casting ability in the army books that it’s hard to say. These are the ones that would need the most testing – but I think the phase will be at least more fun and the big bad auto win effects will be mitigated.


What do you guys think?



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