So GHB 2022 has arrived and with it the entire landscape of Age of Sigmar competitive play has shifted quite considerably. There’s a lot of discussion within the community regarding Bounty Hunters, Galletian Veterans and the competitive viability of factions after Battlescroll: Gallet, but I wanted to hone in one aspect that I think may have been overlooked because it’s impact is not as immediately clear – Battle Tactics.
We’ve already written about the new Battle Tactics in GHB 2022 as part of our review, but I’ll briefly summarise their impact before we continue: On the whole they are both harder to achieve and require you to be more proactive than their predecessors, which is healthy for the game because it creates a more interactive and engaging experience. If I ever bothered to keep count (I didn’t) I would have lost it tracking how many games started with the following sequence:
- Player A, turn 1: Ferocious Advance/Aggressive Expansion
- Player B, turn 1: Aggressive Expansion/Monstrous Takeover
- Player A&B, turn 2: Whichever one they didn’t pick turn 1, if feeling spicy… Conquer
It was dull and many MANY games would end in 5/5 battle tactics being accomplished and thus games were decided primarily by bonus points or objective control. Because the new set of options are harder, it means that there’s both room for more counterplay, and helps ensure that games will be scrappier affairs where failing to achieve 1 BT is not the death knell for your armies success.
Third edition battletomes all come with their own set of faction themed Battle Tactics that were sidegrades or strictly worse versions of options that were in GHB 2021… but when compared against GHB2022 options they suddenly become a lot more appealing because many of them don’t require meaningful interaction and reward passive play… or they let you double dip on easily achievable objectives that your army was going to accomplish anyway. Let’s use an example
Wait For It, Ladz…: You can pick this battle tactic only if your army has at least 24 Waaagh! points. You complete this tactic if your army has at least 30 Waaagh! points at the end of this turn.
I’ve deliberately chosen a battle tactic for one of my core armies (Big Waaagh) in order to illustrate my point free of bias: This is far too easy to achieve in a 5 round battle and is effectively a banked one I know I will score that my opponent has ZERO counterplay in denying outside of killing my General, my Warchanters and my Wurgogg Prophet turn 1 to try to mitigate my generation and even then it’s not guaranteed. Having access to one of these bankable battle tactics is troubling, but what about if your army is lucky enough to have two, or three?
Cruel Delight: You complete this tactic if 2 or more friendly KHINERAI units move using their Fire and Flight ability or Fight and Flight ability this turn.
I don’t want to gang up on Daughters of Khaine – they’re a cool army and I wish their fans well, but can’t we as a community collectively agree that this is a bit much? Cruel Delight asks only that you include two skirmisher units in your army and it’s essentially a guaranteed score by tucking them in reserves, them dropping them in, shooting a chaff unit and immediately using their Fire and Flight ability – there’s no counterplay if reserves are allowed and it sucks.
Clash of Arms: You complete this tactic if 3 or more friendly units make a charge move this turn. If 2 or more of those units are WITCH AELVES or SISTERS OF SLAUGHTER, score 1 additional victory point.
Tide of Blades: You complete this tactic if there are 2 or more units from your starting army wholly within your opponent’s territory at the end of this turn. If 2 or more of those units are WITCH AELVES, score 1 additional victory point.
Clash of Arms and Tide of Blades are strong but they’re strong for a different reason: while requiring you to engage with your opponent, they play into the armies game plan ANYWAY and they reward bonus points – something the new GHB has dialed back considerably. Having access to extra VP in a landscape that is stripping back on bonuses AND making the likelihood of failing BT much more possible… well it’s troubling.
Suddenly we have entered a landscape where a faction’s Battle Tactics factor DIRECTLY into their tournament ceiling and thus their competitive rankings – armies that don’t even have a Battletome yet are put in an even more disadvantaged position. Their rules are significantly outdated AND they’re forced to rely on half baked Tome Celestial battle tactics that have all the creative energy of a designer who had 5 minutes spare in their lunch break.
The reasons for their legality are unclear – if I were to make an educated guess I would wager that it’s because these Battle Tactics were partially written with GHB 2021 in mind, where achieving all 5 and bonus points rained from the sky like candy… the problem is we’re not living in that world anymore, and it’s created an awkward tension where I worry certain armies will become significantly more challenging to play with as they have to deal with a far more challenging and restrictive set of secondary objectives than their average opponent.
In an ideal world, these battle tactics would be well designed to give OPTIONS but not create automatic scoring opportunities. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and it’s my belief that tournament organisers would be doing their players a disservice in allowing these Battletome Battle Tactics in their tournaments until actions are taken to create a more equitable landscape for all players.
I am not a fan of comping events, as I think it fractures the community and significantly distorts the communities perception of armies if their potency can vary wildly depending on what tournament they attended, which should be a strong indicator for how seriously I take this perceived imbalance.
But Ellarr, by reducing options you’re also reducing complexity and making the game actively less interesting! I can see the logic and on some level I agree with it, but the problem the game is faced with is one that haunts game design in general – adding complexity where brevity is needed. The battle tactic system works because it’s a limited resource that narrows as the game goes on and creates interesting scenarios and opportunities for counterplay. By adding 3-5 battle tactics on top of the core 8, suddenly it’s a lot simpler and as such less interesting to navigate the difficult terrain that is a typical Age of Sigmar game.
Do you disagree? Or have you suggestions on a compromise or alternative path that is fairer to all? I would love to hear it because I think now is a great time for dialogue on what comes next, because I think ignoring the issue until it becomes more glaring will only lead to a worse experience for tournament goers everywhere. There are in fact different ways we can take the core concept of battle tactics that enrich the experience but don’t just sand off it’s harsh edges or leave things an unbalanced mess. As an example off the top of my head – what if you have to select a roster of 7 battle tactics for a tournament and are limited to just 1 faction battle tactic, to be determined at list submission? Or what if easier battle tactics require that you permanently close off another battle tactic choice on subsequent turns, so an easier to achieve battle tactic reduces your options for later in the game even more.
Increasing the number of battle tactics is bad, but it’s compounded when those expanded options themselves aren’t very well balanced. That said, GW has been on the ball enough with identifying what’s wrong and making steps to fix it that if it is as bad a problem as I imagine, that it’ll get addressed sooner rather than later.
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