Note: This article is not meant to be a competitive comparison between the two systems. If you’re a 40k player that is curious or just starting fantasy, this article is meant to highlight some of the distinctions to look out for.
This week’s comparison might not seem very fair. WHFB boasts an entire phase for magic, but 40k has no such mechanic to speak of. So what is there to compare? Basically, I want to compare some of the effects spells can have and how they’re deployed/countered in comparison to your options in 40k. The closest thing 40k has to compare with is psychic powers, and they differ drastically for a few reasons:
- Power vs. Dispel dice. In WHFB, the Winds of Chaos determine how many dice you have available to roll in a magic phase. You can use these to improve your chances of spells going off. After rolling a number of dice, your opponent can choose to use some of his dispel dice for that turn in response to your spell. Seeing as how the active player typically has more dice, the defending player has to be a bit more careful with choosing which spells to defend. In 40k, powers are either auras (i.e. they affect all units within X”) or psyker powers that require a leadership test. With the exception of a few items that can nullify psyker tests, there’s no offense/defense mechanic. This push and pull makes the WHFB magic phase a very engaging process in comparison.
- Variety of effects. 40k psyker powers and auras can do a lot of things: cause re-rolls, offer saves, and the obvious direct-damage effects. In Fantasy, your spells do all that and then some. Spells can modify attributes (Strength/Toughness/Leadership and so on). Some spells can do damage in the traditional form (2d6 S3 hits, for example) but others can make units take characteristic tests (roll under an attribute or take a wound). Some spells remain in play, forcing your opponent to use his own power dice on his next turn to remove them from the battlefield. Of course, with a greater sense of enrichment come more rules to learn and more details to keep track of. Luckily, WHFB offers a variety of cards and counters to track spell effects.
- Lores within armies. As a long-time 40k player, I know what my units have available to them. The Librarian only has so many powers, and there are bound to be some synergies with other units in the Codex. In WHFB, there are numerous Lores of Magic in the main rulebook. Many armies’ casters can choose one of a variety of those Lores, or even a Lore exclusive to their own army. The end result is that there are many synergies to be found between Lores. Mixing different Lores across a couple of casters will allow you to cast spells that combine to greater effect (i.e. lower the enemy’s toughness and then make them take a toughness test). Depending on your army, the availability of multiple Lores adds replayability: your caster can pick from dozens of different spells if you want to try a different feel! Of course, as before, more options means more responsibility. There’s going to be a long learning curve as you learn every spell and every Lore, both as they’re used within and against your army.
The magic phase holds a lot of exciting possibilities, and is one of the main appeals for WHFB. Magic can be very random and very powerful, but relying on it could make your army quite unpredictable. Nonetheless, it can be used to supplement other phases and even if you don’t plan on partaking, you can be sure your opponent will!