Thursday, July 15, 2010
While WOTR is a great game, it is still a Games Workshop game. I have a great deal of time for Epic and Battlefleet Gothic (the basic fleets, anyway) but overall this is a design stable prone to some laughable balancing errors.
Nowhere is this more evident than the Ringwraiths in WOTR.
125 pts gets you a mastery three (that's a potential three spells a turn) spell caster, with two spell-lists, Epic Strike (the 'get out of duel free' card), courage 5 and the make the unit they are in terrifying, while they are alive. Good deal eh? An equivalent spell caster - say Radagast or Gandalf- weighs in at the 160-200 pt range and lacks the ability to almost always survive one duel. But wait, there's more! In their infinite wisdom, the rules designers saw fit to throw in free extra rules for each of the Wraiths. Online, someone pointed out that in the skirmish version of the game, Ringwraiths have a basic version for 125pts and then an upgraded version to 'Named' Ringwraith, for an additional cost. My working, albeit totally 'based' on conjecture, theory is that they costed the WOTR Ringwraiths as the basic version. Then someone in marketing saw the draft rules and asked why the hell they were showcasing basic models, rather than the new 'Named' versions, which they have special models for and are part of their own invented setting. Whatever the reality of the matter, they are a little too much at the moment.
However, you can't have Angmar without the Witch-King! And, in general, Ringwraiths are actually pretty cool. Fortunately, the Witch-King inexplicably pays 75pts more for two more points of might and +1 fight. This generally means that no one takes him, generally they prefer any or all out of what I call the 'big three', the grouping with the most impressive bonus rules. In my case, he is perfect, he costs pretty much what any other comparable caster does and his bonus rule is pretty minor. I honestly don't often see myself leaving him behind my troops in the 1000pt games we generally play around here.
I also plan to take a second Ringwraith as the Witch-King's lieutenant. I can't decide between the 'Tainted' or the 'Dwimmerlaik' - both 'Named' and invented by GW (though the Dwimmerlaik uses the Rohirish name for a Wraith). Either of them have abilities very much fitting what I'd expect from a Ringwraith, one lowers the courage of the troops facing him and the other chills the spirit of enemy heroes and saps their ability to perform heroic deeds and alter their luck.
The lowering of courage might be a bit much, given the link between courage and the other Ringwraith abilities. At this stage I think this is fair, troops actually still get to keep the courage value in their own stat line (it is just hero courage that is negated) so those that pay for a higher courage actually get the benefit of it, for once.
Whichever I do take, there is no way his sorcerous power should be equivalent to the Witch-King. So I will run the lieutenant Ringwraith as mastery 2. Most of the time, this will not impact the game much, since casters often don't pass the two rolls needed to get the third spell off. However, It makes the characters more like what I think they should be, so is worth doing.