Hey there Chaos heretics and traitors! Old Man Chaos is back with a bit of review/thoughts/musings on GW's latest offering, Escalation. Now, I have been working on my Lord of Skulls diligently (a big model with a surprising amount of details). It's looking good, but I have a lot to go. I was given the Lord of Skulls by my wife and brother for my birthday- before there were real whispers of Escalation. I wanted the model when it first came out with Apocalypse in July, but I didn't have the scratch for it. Little did I know that when I got it that there would be a possibility that I could use it in regular games! I had just wanted it to be a centerpiece for my Khorne Bezerker army (and for the occasional Apoc game). Now, with Escalation, my plans on the Lord of Skulls may change.
I want to give my 2 cents about the Escalation book, but it is a complicated matter. From my viewpoint, the book is intriguing with interesting possibilities. Others may not be so sure. So, let me dissect it on an issue per issue basis:
The Escalation Book as a GW Product: My subject here is, is it worth buying? That's a complicated answer. If you don't have and don't plan to have the super heavies they have in this book (about a dozen or so), then don't bother with it, there's nothing here for you. If you do have super-heavies and but you don't want to use them outside of Apoc, then, again, don't bother with the book- especially if you already have the Apoc book, as it is pretty much a repeat of the rules found therein. However, if you have always dreamed of using your super heavy on a more frequent basis (but not liking those big Apoc battles), then this is the book for you. It gives you the rules, allowing you to incorporate your super heavy "Lord of War" into all regular battles. The book in general has a nice presentation, with a short story, the super heavy rules, data sheets, and lots of nice artwork. The best part, in my opinion, is the extra missions that the book provides- 9 in total. Some are straightforward, others are actually really cool and offer incredible challenges- in fact the writers admit that some are very difficult for one side or another- thus heroic victories and hopeless defeats are made.
Will Escalation "Unbalance" The Game: This is, I think, a simpler question, despite the howls of rage on the Internet. Some believe that the superheavies are so powerful, that they will destroy an entire army in one turn and can't be stopped at all. First off, I don't think many players will bring their Lords of War to many random pick up games. Why? For one thing, people may not want to put up with opponents whining about it, but, for a more important reason, the simple fact is MOST super heavies are just so damn expensive (points wise). Indeed, in a 2000 point game, most of the super heavies make up a huge part of your army points, leaving you with little to use otherwise. Further, they give bonuses to the player WITHOUT the super heavy, including an extra victory point for every 3 HP taken from the Lord of War- which can make all the difference in a game. Finally, most super heavies are not invulnerable. Since both glances and pens take HPs (with pens taking off an additional D3), concentrated fire can take out- it may take a turn or two, but it can be done. And then, since the Lord of War tends to cost lots of points, then the Lord of War player will be left with little else, and probably lose. I personally think Escalation will make games a bit more unpredictable if people embrace it, but I don't think it will ruin the game at all. I think, if the players accept it, it will just be one more variable in planning and playing (on top of supplements, special character sheets (like Bel'akor, allies, etc), and I think this additional variety will be a good thing.
Which Super-Heavies: Sadly, the book is very limited in terms of which super heavies are allowed in regular 40K games. Now, I wouldn't want to see anything that was TOO overpowered. However, I am disappointed that my Plague Marines can't take their Plaguereaper (its in Apoc, but not in Escalation), which is a shame. I can understand that I can't take my Plague Titan, but still... There are certainly things left out that could have been in. However, I suspect that, based on GWs digital release schedule, there may be more super heavy datasheets released, with the moniker "Escalation-approved" or something like that. Especially if Escalation is accepted by players readily. How will GW know? If they sell more Baneblades, Lord of Skulls, etc. But where's the plastic Thunderhawk?
Who Benefits The Most From Escalation: most of the super heavies are quite costly for their points. The Lord of Skulls is 100 times the sacred number of Khorne (if you catch my drift). That's a lot of scratch for an 1800 or 2000 point game. Must of the super heavies are in that upper range. However, the various Baneblade variants are in a decent price range. Imperial Guard players can take a Baneblade and still have points left over for their cheap troops and some Leman Russ'. In my opinion, Guard players are going to be even more dangerous! Space Marines get the least, as who can afford a Thunderhawk to begin with... unless a cheaper plastic one is coming...
So, what's the verdict? I won't actually give this a rating, as I think your mileage will vary depending on your views on super heavies. If you don't have one and don't plan on one, there's little point in getting this. However, if you want to blow the dust off that Baneblade or Harridan this is the book for you. If you have been drooling over the Necron Tesseract, this may push you over the edge. However, the question that everyone has is will Escalation have a negative impact on the game? I do not believe so, as I feel that GW has really done a good job of keeping it pretty even. Lords of War are incredibly powerful, but glances and pens are certainly doable, and if the Lord of War is vanquished, it will be an easy job to roll up the rest of that force.
Ultimately, time will tell, but I just think that Escalation represents just one more contingency to plan for. Personally, thinking of the fluff, it's pretty exciting, as this just makes the battlefield more nihilistic, which is what this universe is all about. I believe that if I were playing a series with a particular player/friend, this would be a fun story to tell on the battlefield- one battle is 1000 points, the next is 1800, then the last would be 2000 with a Lord of War thrown in for the exciting climax. Sounds fun to me. I am hoping that I can get the chance to play a match in a couple of weeks.
For the record, I am getting the other book, Stronghold Assault, for Christmas, so I can give my impressions then.
Until next time...