Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Fantasy and 40k: Psykers and Magic

Magic is a big part of Fantasy, so big that it gets its own phase and the majority of Fantasy players lists will include a mage. For 40k pyskers, and psykic powers, are a small part of their game. Psykic powers are part of the shooting phase and Pyskers aren’t seen as key to many 40k lists. This post will examine the difference between how Fantasy and 40k treat magic, and will look at why pyskers have such a small roll compared to key position held by mages in fantasy.  


In 40k a player generates warp charge tokens equal to the total combined warp mastery level in his army, also the warp mastery level is also how many spells a psyker can know in one game. He can then spend these tokens to use psykic powers, activate force weapons in close combat or similar things. Each psykic power has a cost to use it e.g. Power A costs one charge token to use and power B costs 2. Once a player decides upon a power to use he subtracts its costs from his warp token pool and takes a Leadership test, if the test is passed then the power is cast and the effects are resolved, if he fails the test then the power fails to take effect.  If the player rolls a double one or six then the model who tried to cast the power suffers 1 wound with no saves allowed, (referred to as “perils of the warp”). If the power targets a squad then they can try to prevent the power from having any effect by rolling a 6 on a d6 (referred to as Deny the Witch). The 40k rule book has 6 standard power lists with the newer codices having race specific lists.

  •  The system is similar to the old fantasy one, where having higher level pyskers is worth more than knowing a few more spells.
  •  The system is yards better than it used to be with psykic powers being a more in depth game mechanic. To add to this the rulebook powers are more than just place holders with many of the power lists having serous bite to them.

  •  With the lack of any real basic dispel mechanic, older armies will find it hard to defend themselves against pyskers.
  • Without the danger presented by a miscast table, and perils of the warp doing little to punish failed attempts, there is no real reason for players not to spam their best power and blast their opponents with little concern for the potential risks.

In Fantasy each mage knows a number of spells equal to their wizard level.  Each player gets a power dice pool at the start of their magic phase, the power dice are equal to the roll of 2d6, and their opponent gets a amount of dispell dice equal to the highest d6 from their opponents 2d6 roll, the maximum amount of power/dispel dice a player can have in his/her pool s 12. Each spell has a casting level which players must equal to or beat with the roll from however many of their power dice they decide to use on any one given spell, some spells give the option for a boosted version of the spell which will have a greater effect .Also the wizard who is casting the spell can add his wizard level to the dice result, the maximum amount of dice that can be used to either cast or dispel a spell is six. The opposing player can then decide to attempt to try and dispel a successfully cast spell by equaling or beating his opponents power dice roll, he adds his/hers highest wizard level to the dispel attempt.  A roll of a double six for casting results in the spell being automatically cast and immune to dispel attempts however the casting mage must roll on the miscast table. A double six on a dispel attempt automatically dispels the spell regardless of casting result.  

  •  Each army gets has an equal chance of getting a high power dice pool.
  • Regardless of how many wizards are in a army,  each army will have a decent sized dispel pool
  • There is now virtually no point to taking a level 4 wizard over a level 3, as the level  4 only offers 1 more spell and +1 more to the casting result.

In 40k the shooting phase is often a game changing phase, with weapons powerful enough to remove whole units in a single shot. This is could be part of the reason why pyskers aren’t a must have in 40k armies.  While psykic powers are powerful many of the 40k weapons do what pyskers do only better (and without a chance of hurting themselves). One example of this is a space wolf rune priest with living lightning (a range unlimited, strength 7 AP 5, Assault D6 psykic power) compared to a squad of grey hunters with bolters. While the psykic power does have a longer range and higher strength the squad of grey hunters can pump out more shots and only has to roll to hit and wound, whereas the rune priest has to roll to cast, then to hit and to wound. Considering that a rune priest cost 100 points(and comes from a HQ slot, where other more useful options compete for those force org slots) and 10 grey hunters costs 150 points (and take up a troops slot where there is only one ,worse, option) it’s easy to see why many 40k players forgo pyskers in favor of other HQ options, confident that other units in their army can do the job of pyskers.

Compare this to Fantasy where the main job of the shooting phase is to weaken units for combat or panic units (and thus delay them while they rally) and it’s easy to see why mages are often included in a fantasy force. Often Fantasy magic will be far more destructive than fantasy shooting (this is helped by strength modifying the armour save in Fantasy and high armour saves being relativity rare). A boosted fireball spell can do more damage than any unit of archers in the game due to its 2d6 hits, not needing to roll to hit and high strength. Fantasy magic is not outshone by other parts of the army, and as such it has such a respected place in most Fantasy list. Whereas 40k pyskers are often outshone (on both the destructive and buff front) by other parts of a 40k force.

Hopefully you enjoyed this post, next time I will take a look at both systems shooting phases and how they affect the rest of the game.

Until next time.

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