Fantasy Fisticuffs #36: General’s Handbook 2020

It is always a thrill to see the point, mission, and other changes that a new General’s Handbook brings.  With the supplementary FAQs now released, and many games under our belts, let’s discuss the shape of the competitive season ahead.

There are very much winners, and losers, some surprising omissions, and some things which touch every player.

Generally Speaking:  First, just a brief mention of things that affect all players.  A few new missions are on the table, with a few tweaks as well.  Broadly speaking, GW is increasingly inching towards discouraging the double-turn with new missions such as The Blades Edge.  This is terrific and helps turn the premise of a double-turn into another opportunity to make meaningful decisions.  It isn’t perfect yet, but again, these are steps in the right direction.  In the coming weeks I will be doing deep dives into these missions, and how to best tackle them.

Bigger changes include the fact that multiple “after-saves” are no longer permitted.  Gone are the days of having a save, plus multiple chances to ignore wounds.  This affects many armies, but the forces of Death are particularly struck further pushing armies such as Legions of Nagash into the shadows.

Finally, a change most players will feel… the removal of the realm artifacts as you know them.  Stalwarts such as the Ethereal Amulet will haunt players no more, as the new Realm rules provide a meager, and generally poor option, of a single artifact.  This will prove a significant change forcing many players to dig into their battletomes seeking new options.

Winners and Losers:  Broadly, I will say that the players are winners as several issues have been addressed, but it is naive to expect that nothing was missed.

Quite a few units can be seen to have had very sensible, and reasonable points increases.  Let’s be honest, units like Ard’ Boys were just a bit too efficient for their cost, and thus they received an acceptable bump.  The majority of these changes will barely go noticed across half of the battletomes.

Other problem armies see much more dramatic changes.  Between FAQ and Handbook, Tzeentch received its thousand cuts.  Pink Horrors are pricier, as are Flamers, and Gaunt Summoners now only summon half as many Horrors.  Each change is modest, but together this did a LOT to rein in the problem army.  In our testing it has proven quite strong, still, but the gulf is now such that you won’t be run out of your club for pulling out this army.

Petrifex Bonereapers saw an interesting nerf which correctly shifted their unbelievably strong save improvement to being a re-roll 1’s to save in melee.  This takes an army that some players struggled with, and severely reduces their potency.  Further it actively gives them new bad match-ups against ranged heavy armies.  More experienced players had pushed Bonereapers off of top tables, but this move is likely to be felt most powerfully at smaller events where Bonereapers may now really struggle.

Arguably the book’s biggest winner was the Seraphon, if only because they survived the book and FAQ alike with only the mildest of changes.  The very problematic Salamanders received nearly a 50% cost increase, which was needed, but they are still both excellent, and part of a remarkably cost efficient army, meaning its impact will likely come from a few less Skinks in lists.  The problem is that Skinks are still receptive of an obscene number of buffs, making them killy, evasive, and decently survivable.  Their lack of a price increase, or that of their support heroes, means that Seraphon players are still very likely to win, and win often.  With Tzeentch further reduced, their time is likely now.

The Neutral:  A handful of other items make their way, at least formally, into the competitive gaming side of the book, but seem almost destined to be forgotten by tournament players.

The aforementioned Realm Rules now return as an endorsed part of every match-play game, however these amount to one spell, one command ability, and one minor rule, per Realm.  We tested these, and rarely did it feel like it had a meaningful impact on the game, barring slightly slowing us down.

Auxiliary Objectives similarly feel like a non-starter that should have been excellent.  Resembling the ITC 8th Edition of 40k, or its new 9th Edition, these secondaries could have dramatically changed how players approach the game.  Alas, as written, they exist only as a tie-breaker to prevent true draw games.

Overall:  The General’s Handbook is brimming with fun and interesting content, but as these articles are primarily concerned with competitive play, it instead has me focusing on the changes to those sorts of games.  

Strictly speaking to the meta, I feel this was a great round of rebalances, but one that stopped short of changing the power-rankings at the highest levels of play.  I suspect Seraphon and the resurging Hedonites of Slaanesh will be on the rise, and the impact of Lumineth will be most dramatically felt by mid-tier armies.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About Mark Gottlieb

Writer, Game Designer, and owner of Fortunate Sun Studios, I have always tried to lead a life in some way built around paying back to gaming, and the gaming community. This hobby, and everyone in it, saved my life on more than a few occasions, and now I get to put my heart into helping it thrive for everyone!

2 Responses to “Fantasy Fisticuffs #36: General’s Handbook 2020”

  1. Avatar
    Matt August 8, 2020 1:01 pm #

    Did they change table sizes? Seems weird for 40K and AOS to have different sized tables.

  2. Avatar
    Yindaka August 8, 2020 3:03 pm #

    Could you elaborate on how Slaanesh is on the rise? Didn’t they get points increases and sy’lleske host from White Dwarf is also gone now?

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