My two cents:
Overall was fairly pleased with the direction of the new book, and it's defiantly in keeping with the other 8th ed books - with a similar power level to all the other 8th ed releases.
To a new Empire player the books fine, there's not much that stands out as instant 'auto-includes' and there are a lot of multiple builds that will work well for the Empire.
The older players however will find a lot that they don't like:
1) Increased points cost across the board makes for tougher list writting
2) Loss of several pages worth of magic items
3) Toning down of Warmachines either by rules or points increase
4) Generals & Captains can NO LONGER take a pistol AND a specialist hand weapon!
But that aside, from an objective standpoint, I don't think there was anything that bad with the book.
Interesting as at 1st glance it's almost as Warrior Priests are the new auto-includes for the book:
-they can buff a unit AND it's detachments at the same time
- hatred applies to unit AND it's detachment
- points drop
- Can't auto-generate dispel die but can channel power & dispel die to compensate
Indeed at 1st reading you can be forgiven for thinking we can operate with a priest heavy list and do well - but after several games I find that the Warrior Priest is a double edged sword - while his benefits to the army are huge, I soon find myself wanting to put one in each of my units! But while hatred is a good thing (leads to the Dark Side for one!), you soon realize that power dice management is VERY difficult! There are just so many great things that cry out for my attention that it's a tough call sometimes! I think that 1 Warrior Priest or Arch Lector combined with a Wizard is the way forward - even better an Arch Lector on the War Alter as he can then affect multiple units at once using the same amount of dice as say 2-3 Warrior Priests.
War Alter, while not a character as such, deserves a mention...it's excellent BUT PLEASE remember that the 4+ ward save does not apply to the Arch Lector! EKKK
Captains also are another thorn in my side as their strategic use is huge - but you soon run out of points if each of your combat units contain both a Captain AND a Warrior Priest!
The new Witch Hunter is a cool concept but I have yet to use him in the game - so not sure if he is actually viable or a gimmick - my heart tells me he's here today and gone tomorrow, but no doubt I'll include one in my list just because I love the new model!
Grand Master is still the only combat lord we really have but I'm not sold on him yet as:
- It's expensive to kit him out
- He can't ride a Demigryph!
- He is immune to Psych and makes his unit the same - but I LIKE the option of fleeing from time to time, even with a powerful unit of Knights, if it provides me with a tactical edge.
Engineers, these are VERY important thanks to the buffs they provide but consider this...they represent a 65pt INCREASE to a Warmachine as most likely that's all you'd want him to do!
Special Characters are pretty decent - they are well costed for what they do and I don't think any of them really break the game in anyway, in fact very excited to finally purchase and use the Marius figure as I loved it when I 1st saw it but it was just a random collectible figure - so didn't get it! Now it's a useable model with decent rules so I'm down!
No complaints in this section what so ever - sure troopers went up but they were not well priced in the old book anway! Considering a pathetic Goblin Warrior with light armour and a spear , paying a few pts for the same build (but better WS, ini, Ld) is a good deal in my eyes! So it only makes sense that the Halberd is a point more and the Swordsmen a point higher.
The pricing of missile troops was always off before as why would you take an archer when for the same price you got longer range or better hitting power with crossbows or handguns - now there is a reason to use all three and they are still well priced so no issues here for me.
Knights also went down in points from before - in fact this is were there are direct savings if someone wanted to play an all mounted army. My only eyebrow raise was for the reduction in the Knights initiative value to 3. Inner circle is also excellent now as it remains a core unit!
This is were the book takes off in my eyes!
- Huntsmen...now special so three units per army AND CHEAPER!
- Reiksgaurd...just pure sex on a stick and Godly! Makes Empire one of the ONLY 8th ed armies that can pull off fully mounted armies AND EVEN CHANCE A WIN!
- Crazymen - yes I miss talking one as a core unit if I have a Warrior Priest, but they are special choices so they won't eat up my rare section any longer. I do like their rules but I feel I must either convert to lore of Life OR take my unit size up from 20.
- Demigrpyhs - these are ok...not so sure they are auto-includes in my list as while they have a decent damage output and lovely armor they are by no means line breakers! And I seriously doubt that they could hold the line either so the jury is out on them - but as for models I do love them!
- Mortar...mixed feelings, it was just TOO DARN GOOD before, now it's kind of a so-so...some armies/times it's been wonderful but at other times sadly under whelming.
The Steam Tank is wonderful - yes it's down in toughness but the mechanics are solid. Had one vs the Ogres today and even with 5 wounds it kept chugging away like the Little Train who knew he could!
It's very much a support platform now though - it's not a line breaker as it once was, and it still sits there...soaking up damage from units that otherwise would be destroyed by my enemy!
- Volley Gun...is to the Empire as the Heff was to young men all over the world...simply amazing!! Massive damage output, expect to see two per list for the cheesers
- Rocket battery....wow! Love it! Sure it's lower strength but the SHEER AMOUNT of templates it throws out! WOW!!!!
- Wizard wagons - for their price point and extras...solid, both of them! An Orc Boar Chariot weighs in at 85 pts - for just a few more you got deadly Wizard mobiles topped with gadgets!
So far so good, played the Wood Elves and Ogre Kingdoms this week, a few games last week, with some solid results. The book favors a lot of play styles - I took a more of a fluff list but still did well against some good armies/players and I'm very green still with the Empire, no were near the same level as I'm at with the Goblins.