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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Guest Article: Warhammer Fantasy Magical Item Review - Part 1

Common Magic Items Review 1: Magic Weapons

Hey folks, I’m known as Scuzgob in the comments here, and I’ve been playing Warhammer Fantasy for about six years. 8th edition brought a lot of new things to the game, but one of these things doesn’t seem to be discussed as much as the other new additions to the game. I’m talking about the massive expansion to the common magic items list. As these items can be used in practically every army in the game (except Daemons of Chaos and Dwarfs) I thought it would be a good idea to review them, how they work, and how they fit into your army best. This is the first in a short series of articles, starting with the Magic Weapons section. So, without further delay...

Giant Blade, Ogre Blade, Sword of Might

I’ve grouped these three weapons together because they do the same thing: boost your character’s Strength by +3, +2 and +1 respectively. Getting easier to wound scores is always a good thing, but you have to consider how much points you should spend on such a bonus. Low strength characters (Elves, Goblins, Skaven) will find great use in these weapons, but I still can’t recommend the cost on the Giant Blade, especially in armies where war machines are plentiful. It’s much more efficient to get a Potion of Strength (surely you won’t need +3 Strength for an entire battle?) and save it for when you need to kill something with high Toughness or are getting into an important challenge, and also the Potion lets you take a different magic weapon.

The Ogre Blade is good for a Lord-level combat character as it gives all the benefits of a great weapon with none of the disadvantages, while also leaving a large amount of points free for other magic items. It’s maybe too expensive for most Heroes however.

The Sword of Might is unchanged from its previous version, its only real downsides being competition from other magic weapons and its rather meagre ability. Do you really need to spend 20 points on +1 Strength when you could have a great weapon for cheaper, or a Wizard give you the same bonus, or better, using the Lore of Beasts?

Ultimately, the worth of these three weapons lies in the statlines of your characters and how many war machines you can take. If their strength is pretty high anyway, the points could be better spent on other magic weapons and items. But, if your army cannot take war machines and you need some high Strength hitting power somewhere, or you have characters with average or low strength, they're a good investment.

Sword of Bloodshed, Sword of Strife, Sword of Battle

Like the Strength boosting trio, this group of magic weapons gives you more attacks. Essentially, they're giving you more chances to wound instead of a higher chance at wounding.

Like the Giant Blade, the Sword of Bloodshed is a little too expensive, and at that cost, is an extra 3 attacks really going to make much difference compared to spending those points on more soldiers?

As for the other two, I find their price to be a little too high for just extra attacks that could easily be granted by extra hand weapons or augment spells, especially considering you’re still hitting and wounding on your basic WS and S. However, a character with high strength and attacks (Warriors of Chaos, Ogre Kingdoms, Lizardmen) could easily chew through entire ranks on his own with one of these weapons, and extra attacks will always help in a challenge.

Obsidian Blade

Its fantasy power weapon time! But for drastically increased costs.

While straight up ignoring armour saves is good, it really depends on who you face. It’s fantastic against lots of heavily armoured troops (Warriors of Chaos, Dwarfs, Lizardmen) but against poor or non-existent armour (Tomb Kings, Orcs & Goblins, Ogres) its little more than a waste of 50 points.

Add in the fact that, unlike 40k, your Strength also affects armour saves, getting one of the Strength boosting weapons is better because not only do you lower their save (or negate it completely if your Strength is high enough) you get a better chance at wounding.

Which leads me onto the third nail in the coffin: ignoring armour is all you get here. You’re still hitting and wounding with your basic Weapon Skill and Strength.

While its effect can be powerful in certain situations, it’s just too expensive, and the points are better spent on things which are effective against all armies rather than some of them.

Fencer’s Blades

Ah, the Ogre’s Friends.

WS 10 is quite good if you expect to face a lot of basic soldiers, as you’ll likely be hitting on 3+ and being hit on 5+ in most fights. As they’re paired weapons, you also get +1 Attack at the cost of not being able to use a shield in close combat. However, that’s pretty much it for this magic weapon, they don’t enhance your wounding power at all, and their main use is being paired with the Glittering Scales so your character is practically untouchable in close combat. Personally, I prefer to spend points on hitting hard rather than being unhittable, but that’s just me.

A good item, if a little bit expensive for its effect.

Sword of Anti-Heroes

This weapon has the potential to be either better or worse than the Strength bonus and Attack bonus weapons trios, all depending on how many fights you get into. At the least, you’ll have +1 to your S and A, which is pretty good, great when you hit a unit that’s carrying the General and Battle Standard. Call a challenge and get chopping.

Unfortunately when there are no characters to fight the sword does absolutely nothing beyond being magical. It’s a weapon for assassinating enemy characters, obviously, and is best on a character that is tooled out to do that job and that job alone.

Spellthieving Sword, Tormentor Sword, Warrior’s Bane

An odd bunch of weapons these are, as they all rely on you wounding (but not killing) enemy characters and monsters to take effect. Since when do you base your plan on only going halfway?

The Spellthieving Sword is, well, I’m not entirely sure of its point, as its effect only comes into play when you wound an enemy Wizard. If you’re good enough to get into combat with and then wound a Wizard, you’re good enough to kill him outright instead of messing around knocking his spells off. When I stab a Wizard in close combat I want him to die, not be inconvenienced.

The same applies to the Tormentor Sword, but it’s even more contrived. Stupidity doesn’t do anything in combat, so for this to work, you need to wound a guy, then he breaks and runs away, then you don’t catch him, and instead of then escorting him off the battlefield he rallies and is then subject to Stupidity. Or you wound a guy, then he runs you down and he’s left to (maybe) Stupid his way across the table. This weapon only affects those who can resist Stupidity (characters have high Leadership) or can just plain resist you stabbing them (monsters have high Toughness). If you’re strapped for points and want to boost your character’s attacking power, go for a great weapon instead.

Finally, the Warrior’s Bane. This weapon reduces Attacks as you reduce Wounds. I prefer to just make the guy lose more wounds by giving my combat character a better weapon, but at least this one is very cheap, and probably the best of these three, as it has a more noticeable effect in an ongoing challenge with an enemy character. Still a crap weapon though, a great weapon or additional hand weapon will usually be better.

Sword of Swift Slaying

One of the better new weapons, the Sword of Swift Slaying can be given to any combat character for instant bonuses. Going before everyone (or at least simultaneously with those pesky High Elves) is never a bad thing, and if your Initiative is high enough (which it should be for a combat character) you also nab re-rolling misses into the bargain. The only downside is that you’re still only wounding on your basic Strength, but there’s at least the Potion of Strength to deal with that. A great sword for all characters and situations.

Berserker Sword

The same cost as the Sword of Battle, the Berserker Sword is basically the same effect, with the additional bonuses and downsides of Frenzy. Being Immune to Psychology is good, but being forced to charge is bad, but at least you can’t lose the Frenzy. It’s probably better to just take the Sword of Battle if you really need that extra attack.

Gold Sigil Sword

The cheaper cousin to the Sword of Swift Slaying, getting Initiative 10 is a pretty good bonus for its cost. Even better if your character already has Always Strikes First somehow (here’s looking at you, High Elves) as you’ll be getting re-rolls to hit against almost everything you can face. A good, cheap weapon.

Sword of Striking

The old standby, the Sword of Striking gets you +1 to hit. That’s it. Good in smaller games, good for Hero combat characters, but quickly gets ineffectual once things ramp up into bigger games, where it just doesn’t affect much.

It’s also grumpy it didn’t get a similar trio like Sword of Battle and Sword of Might.

Biting Blade

Another old classic, the Biting Blade is good on Hero combat characters that go character hunting. Granting Armour Piercing, it goes well with high Strength, the Potion of Strength, or on characters that can’t purchase a Strength boosting weapon. A very cheap, good way of getting magical attacks with a helpful bonus too, a bonus that is useful against all armies.

Relic Sword

The Relic Sword can be a cheap alternative to one of the Strength bonus weapons, but let’s look at it in further detail. It means you always wound on a 5+ unless you would be wounding on a better score. So, instead of your character wounding on a 6, you’ll wound on a 5+. Just think about how many situations where a combat character will ever be causing wounds on just a 6 anyway? If tooled up efficiently, he’ll have high enough Strength to match or beat the Toughness of most monsters. The only beasties this weapon helps against are the Tomb Kings T8 monsters, Casket of Souls and Steam Tanks. Remember that because you always wound on a 6 anyway regardless of Strength and Toughness, it’s far better to just torrent those things down with lots of attacks. Unless you’ve got an Elf character that needs a bit of bite, avoid this weapon.

Shrieking Blade

One of the few magic weapons I can recommend giving to a Wizard. Your opponent may commit some fast cavalry or flying sort of unit to taking our your Wizard if he’s not going to shoot or magic him away, and this type of unit usually suffers from the dual disadvantages of low Leadership and being far away from their Battle Standard and General. Having the chance to make them WS1 with Fear can be a nasty surprise and rather funny, which is all good for you.


Magic Weapons are usually the first port of call when outfitting a character. The good ones will always have an effect on the battle, and will help out in challenges. If your General isn’t a Wizard and you except him to be dishing out the hurt, you’re going to need a Magic Weapon. Battle Standard Bearers that aren’t taking a Magic Banner benefit from one of the cheaper weapons as they are always a target for the enemy. Even Wizards can find good use for a cheap Magic Weapon if he has a good statline (Warriors of Chaos and Ogre Kingdoms wizard being the key examples here). However, I would avoid the weapons that range above 40 points, as you’ll need to spend some points on magical protection. That’s in part two, Magic Armour.

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