Thursday, July 1, 2021

REVIEW: General's Handbook 2021

A new year means a new General's Handbook, but this year we see some fairly large shakeups to the formula we may have been used to. With the new edition of the game, the General's Handbook has taken on a completely new style closer to what 40k has had for the last year, and I'm a big fan!

There are so many new things here to talk about that it's hard to know where to start, but the most obvious of them is the way the book is bound. Gone is the perfect bound soft cover book we've had in the past, and in it's place we have a hard cover spiral bound book. This allows you to lay the book flat when using it during a game, which is when this book will be opened the most. It also has an elastic band attached to the back of it that you can loop around to the front to keep it closed. I even enjoyed this format when I was just skimming through it as I was able to easily open it to a page and hold it open with one hand. 

The inside of the book is also divided up into five sections, with a stiffer page with a tab sticking off the side telling you what section it is. This lets you easily and quickly flip to the section you're looking for. These five sections are Pitched Battles 2021, Battleplans, Endless Spells, Core Rules, and Rules Index. As you can see, this is dramatically different from past versions of this book. The Open and Narrative Play sections are completely gone, and instead this book is only for Matched Play. This may seem like a negative at first if you're a fan of those styles of play, but presumably we will be getting books dedicated to just Narrative Play and Path to Glory like 40k has for its Crusade system. Plus, Open and Narrative are still in the core book. 

Before we even get into any of the sections in the book though we get four pages of backstory. Didn't I just say this was Matched Play only? What is something narrative doing in here? Well, this is my favorite bit! A small selection of narrative type rules have been worked into the 2021 "season" of Matched Play. It looks like each year will have a theme, and this year's is the ongoing war in Thondia in Ghur. To reflect this we're given a bit more backstory on that specific region.

In the Pitched Battles 2021 section we also get a selection of rules that reflect the Ghurish setting. This includes the Predator and Prey rule, which gives you 1 additional victory point for killing an enemy Monster once per battle round. Wizards also have access to the Metamorphosis rule which lets you turn a hero into a Monster until your next hero phase. Not only does this let you use the Monstrous Rampage rules, but it will also help you score some of the Battle Tactics and such. The command ability Feral Roar lets you pick a monster and treat it as if it has 0 wounds as far as its damage chart goes. The rule with the biggest impact though is Seismic Shift. At the start of the third battle round, whoever is going second that round gets to pick one of the objectives and remove it. This could have a huge impact on the game and also makes someone think twice about taking the first turn that round. Some of the battleplans have objectives that you're not allowed to remove and it will say so in the battleplan. Lastly we get two new Core Battalions that anyone can take. One is the Alpha-Beast Pack, which is 2-3 Monsters and lets them each move D6 inches before the first turn. The other is the Hunters of the Heartlands which is 1-3 regular units and they cannot be affected by a Monstrous Rampage.

This section also has all of the Grand Strategies and Battle Tactics for you to pick each game. About half of the Battle Tactics include a Monster somehow or give you a bonus if it is done with a Monster. You also have all your rules on how to pick and army with unit restrictions and such. It also includes a scoring sheet you can photocopy and a small section on painting your models.

When we get to the Battleplans there are 12 to pick from. The previous section has a chart you can roll on to determine which one to play. I'm not going to go over each battleplan one by one or anything, but I do want to mention how they are laid out. It's pretty similar to how it's been in the past, with each battleplan getting two pages. The first page has all of the special rules, victory conditions, and a small map, while the opposite page has that same map but blown up to take up the whole page. This is super handy while playing a game. There are no measurements on the maps though, since the recommended table size is just the minimum size. I definitely recommend playing on that smaller size though since it's how the game has been developed. Instead the maps are divided up into quarters and then quarters again, so it's pretty easy to get the measurements yourself.

The Endless Spells section has the warscrolls for all of the generic spells available in the game right now. They've all gotten a complete overhaul, and in general have been simplified to make gameplay faster. Some do pretty much the same thing, while others are similar, yet also fairly different. The Horrorghast for example no longer debuffs enemy bravery, but instead makes it so a unit near it cannot give or receive command abilities in the battleshock phase, and also makes more models flee. This is pretty crucial with Inspiring Presence. This section also includes a list of every older publication at the time of this book coming out that are still legal for Matched Play. Again, this is a great addition.

The Core Rules section is just what it sounds like, all of the core rules from AoS3. This means you don't need your giant core book at the table when playing Matched Play games. The General's Handbook has everything you need outside of your battletome. This is a huge plus for me. It's worth mentioning that the size of the book is slightly smaller too, so it's easier to carry around and takes up less space at the table. The tradeoff being that the text is slightly smaller. 

The last section is the Rules Index, which is also what it sounds like, an index for every rule you could need to look up. Handy. 

Additionally, on the back cover they have listed out all of the generic command abilities, broken down in rows by the phase of the game, and in columns by if it's your turn or your opponent's. I really appreciate this as I was definitely afraid I would forget these. You also have the generic spells and prayers. The only thing I wish it had as well would be the Heroic Actions and Monstrous Rampage rules.

But what about the points?! Don't worry, you get these with your GHB too, they're just in their own soft cover booklet instead. Since the points get changed more often than the generic GHB rules, it makes sense to separate them out. Plus, you don't need them at the table. All of the points have gotten a massive rework, as well as battlefield roles. Some stuff that was "battleline if" before is now just battleline. In addition you also get cardboard tokens for objectives and double sided tokens for the different battle tactics, so you can remember which one you have each turn.

I really like what they've done with the GHB for 2021. I LOVE that it incorporates the narrative of the ongoing AoS story right into Matched Play. I know the rest of the realm rules are gone for the moment, but I prefer this to be honest. It makes it simpler and more streamlined, and also ties into what the current narrative is. Ghur is where everything is focused, so that's where we're fighting. I'm super curious to see where future seasons are located. I'm also assuming we'll get some Narrative books taking place in other realms with unique rules. The layout and accessibility of the GHB 2021 is perfect, and the spiral binding is great. Honestly, this is the best GHB yet for AoS. It feels vital and new and makes me really excited to play in some events. I've already played one game using it and I had a ton of fun with it. 

Until next time,

Tyler M.

No comments:

Post a Comment