So I finally received my copy of the new Asrai army book, along with Araloth, a Treeman and some battered magic cards (got a new set coming in the post), and – instead of my usual Tactica Tuesday – I thought I’d discuss my first impressions! This won’t cover everything (of course!), just what stood out to me at first reading.
Overall, I’m very pleased with it. They’ve retained the ‘character’ of the Wood Elves, with little to no armour, effective shooting and movement balanced by a fragile nature and high points costs. The armywide special rules have mostly changed for the better – while we no longer ignore the movement penalties for shooting (this can be mitigated through one of the magic arrows), Asrai bows and spears are a nice addition and the new Forst Stalker rule is probably more useful than it used to be. We still get the free wood as well, which delights me to no end :)
Our staple Glade Guard are as effective as ever, though the Asrai bows have changed a little to be better against armour rather than toughness, albeit at all ranges. They’ve also got a selection of magic arrows the whole unit can take, which makes for a wonderful range of options. The Eternal Guard are a solid close-quarters counterpart, and thankfully the need to take a Highborn to count them as a core unit has been lifted. They look to be a reliable unit that complements the Glade Guard well, so I’m looking forward to running them.
However, I am disappointed that Games Workshop shoehorned Light and Dark magic in rather than creating a unique lore. It feels like lazy writing, and to me doesn’t suit the nature of the Wood Elves at all. Even though we get unique lore attributes, they just don’t feel that ‘different’ – the High Magic lore attribute is basically Life’s attribute with a slight twist, and Dark Magic relies on you rolling up enough damage spells (and wanting to hammer the same unit over and over) to take advantage of it. I guess I was just really looking forward to seeing what they’d do with a redone Lore of Athel Loren, so it’s quite a disappointment to me that we didn’t get one. At least we’re still allowed Life and Beasts (along with the other 6 lores), so I know what lores I’ll be taking!
On that note, it’s good to see Spellweavers allowed access to the rulebook lores. Similarly, I’m very impressed by the new Branchwraith. Being a good close combat model as well as a level 1 with access to my (favourite!) Lore of Life, plus costing a mere 75pts, I can see them being excellent unit leaders. The Lore attribute will help on the front lines, as most of Life’s spells are short-ranged or defensive-focused, so I reckon she’ll be a very effective hero with most close-quarters infantry.
Dryads are a bit of a disappointment for me, sadly, mostly since they’ve lost Skirmish. I can live with them being strength three, but as a ranked unit with no option for a standard or musician, they seem to pale a bit next to the Eternal Guard. A pity as the Dryad models have long been one of my favourites, both aesthetically and to paint. However, the Eternal Guard look to my eyes to be a suitable unit to fill the gap left by the Dryads as a strong versatile core close-quarters unit. The Asrai spears should make them fairly effective against armoured troops as well as hordes, and who knows – maybe I’m overlooking a new potential for Dryads here. I won’t discount them until I’ve tried them in their new ranked form :)
Waywatchers finally got the buff they deserved! Now equally suited to tackling hordes and heavily-armoured troops, I can see them being a staple in nearly all Asrai armies, and they’ve been moved up the queue ahead of my Treekin in the ‘next to paint’ list. Talking of Treekin, they’re another unit that I feel is still very viable. Unfortunately they have lost a point of strength, but their points cost has dropped substantially to the level where a unit of 6 no longer takes up a quarter of your army. Combined with the new Branchwraith for extra combat power and the Lore of Life attribute, I can see a block of Treekin being a very effective combat unit to balance out the archers.
Finally, there’s a nice selection of new units in the Sisters of the Thorn, Wildwood Rangers and the Deepwood Scouts. I’ll hold off commenting on them for now, but will be getting some (at some point!) to see how they work.
Overall, magic aside, I’m very happy with the new book. From first impressions it looks like it’s kept the nature of Wood Elves, which is what I was most concerned about. As soon as I get my five boxes of Eternal Guard, my Asrai will be hitting the table with renewed vigour! Hopefully once I’ve had a few games and trialled everything on the tabletop I can start to do new Tactica Tuesdays on my favourite army.