An genuinely amazing (!!!) full-colour comprehensive update for the Cathay Fantasy Battle Army.
Click the army book cover for the PDF download link or to view the book online. If you have any comments or would like to feedback your appreciation to Mathias for the fantastic job he's done then please visit the Battle Reporter forum below :-
Cathay Army book comments and discussion thread
This army is completely unofficial and is not endorsed by Games Workshop!
The original Cathay book was first released in spring 2010 and took our forum and the Warhammer community by storm. Mathias has revisited his excellent work and greatly improved upon it! It's been given a complete overhaul and is now a more balanced, 8th edition army and it looks truly stunning - and I'm not exaggerating.
Not only that but Mathias has also taken the opportunity to add a few very interesting new units, characters, magic lore and items.
Here's what Mathias has to say on his Warhammer Armies project blog
- "And not even halfway through April yet! I expected to be hunched over the background section for weeks, but fortunately, it worked out rather well a lot faster than that. This new and much improved version of Cathay includes the following: Additional background for Cathay's history. Every single official mention of Cathay is in there (as far as I know), and all dates are concurrent with the rest of the Warhammer World.
- New units: Field Engineers, Wu Xia and Brass Titans.
- New Special Characters: Tian Shi, Huan Bei, Chu-Ye Xian, Cheng Long and Dalan-Tai.
- New magic items.
- Completely revised Ying and Yan lore.
- Lots of balance changes to bring the army better into 8th ed.
- New full colour layout, filled with tons of new art.
- Bugs fixes, as usual.
- Again, great thanks to Stefan Wolf who helped me with parts of the fluff, especially that of the special characters! And as usual, let me know of any bugs or other oddities. I shall now feast on toast to celebrate this joyous moment before passing out. Cheerio!"
Sigmar's Cathay Army Book ReviewThe book is 98 pages long (about 32meg).
The first thing which strikes you about this book is the superb cover which speaks "collect this army". Then when you flick through the pages you notice the highly themed pages with the brilliant headers, footers, choice of font and really, really superb artwork. It's got a very professional feel to it throughout, check this page out to see what I mean (click to open in a new window)
There is an absolute treasure chest of fluff covering all aspects of the Empire of the Celestial Dragon and (I'll say it again) the art is truly wonderful and the best found in any of Mathias's army books. I'll leave you folks to enjoy reading all the background and to soak up history and culture while I move on to the army list itself and focus on some of my favourite units and rules.
Cathay Army Special Rules
The "Glory for the Dragon Emperor" rule enables those units bearing the ability to fight using supporting attacks in three ranks, not just two (even when they charge). Significantly, the core Imperial Infantry have this ability and, while their leadership of 6 is rather weak, I foresee a lot of steadfast horde size unit blocks being used to keep the enemy in place while Dragon Lancers (a reasonably cheap [16pts] core cavalry unit) positions for flank charges.
The "Auxiliaries" rule will help to calm the forces of Cathay and prevent widespread panic from spreading if used wisely. Units with this ability (for example, the Frenzy prone Hill Tribesmen or the blowpipe carrying Monkey Warriors - yes they really are monkeys) do not cause panic to other friendly units without it.
The Art of War
Mathias has implemented an imaginative and quite ingenious concept into the Cathayan army. It's the use of on-field strategists (a cheap hero level character) who can instruct nearby units throughout the course of a battle. They shout the orders and providing the unit hears them they will benefit from the stratagem that the strategist has employed. There are 11 stratagems, each of which has a different effect and points cost. The strategist is limited to 75pts worth of stratagems and they can only be used to help the more disciplined units with the Glory for the Dragon Emperor rule. All that said, the stratagems still have the potential to come in very useful and could get you out of a hole that would, with any other army, be unavoidable (being charged in the flank for instance).
The stratagems are really well thought out and it's a great example of what can be achieved by some creative thinking in keeping with the army's theme.
Here are a few examples; The Sleeping Crocodile (25pts) - the unit can reform if charged in the flank so that they meet the charge forward facing; The Rain of Death (20pts) - the unit can fire even if they have marched that turn; The Running Rabbit (20pts) - until the start of the next turn the unit ignores panic from nearby breaking units or units fleeing through them; The Blinding Light (15pts) - [Imperial Infantry with shields only] enemies charging the unit are blinded by the shields and lose all charging bonuses.
The real drawback of stratagems is that you use up a hero slot for a character that has no martial prowess and no armour and will be a real target for enemy assassins and marksmen. Also, with some stratagems you could go through a whole battle without ever needing to deploy the strategy because there is no need or the opportunity does not present itself.
I really like the concept though and anything that upsets the enemy's plans, when they think they've got you in a corner you cannot get out of, is a good use of points allowance as far as I'm concerned.
The implementation of the Magic Lore system is tidily in keeping with the Cathay philosophy. It works on the basis of balance, in that when you cast a Ying spell it must be followed the next time you cast by a Yang spell and vice versa. To facilitate this when you roll on the Magic Lore for spells you get both the Ying and Yan version of each spell. Ying spells are typically hex and direct damage while Yan spells are more often augment spells.
It's a clever system and while it might seem like you're getting a lot more spells for your buck, you are being limited to some extent which could provide a few conundrums and tricky decision making when it comes to timing your magical attacks and defence.
Well done Mathias.
Treasures of the Seven Heavens
Cathay has a somewhat limited array of magical items, there are but 10 of them (plus of course those from the core rule book). I don't see this as a particular disadvantage though because the magical items available for selection are generally of the more powerful (and expensive) variety. There's enough there to buff up your custom character, wizard or a BSB. I'll leave you to check them out in your own time.
Lords, Heroes and Special Characters
There are 8 Lord and Hero special characters, plus the usual standard Lords and Heroes and they vary greatly so there should be a few characters to fit all tastes. My personal favourites thus far have to be Cheng Long (think of a cross between Mike Tyson and Bruce Lee but harder) and The Great Trickster himself, the Monkey King (like the title character from the late 1970's TV series named "Monkey").
Both characters are oozing with potential for fun Warhammer shenanigans if, like me, you enjoy play acting, impersonating your characters and generally making a fool of yourself during your battles.
Cheng Long (Hero)
Cheng Long's profile stats look pretty good but when you factor in his unique version of the Martial Arts Fighting Styles special rules (a bit like the Wood Elf Wardancers variant) they look great.
Cheng has a solid 4, str4 attacks with a weapon skill of 7 and can alternate each turn between adding D3 attacks, +2 to his strength, Always Strikes First and +1 to hit, Heroic Killing Blow or a 4+ ward save (by using the Praying Mantis style). What a cool character.
The Monkey King (Hero)
This fellow is a completely different kettle of fish to Cheng, first of all he has the ability to fly, he can also taunt the enemy resulting in them losing control and charging him (unless they are Immune to Psychology). He has 3, Ws5, str4 (+2 str thanks to his magical telescopic rod) attacks and as a one off, can use a magically enchanted item to get his out of a sticky situation.
The enchanted item is his hair :-) he simply pulls a hair from his head to create a doppelganger of himself which doubles his number of attacks and grants a very handy 4+ ward save until the beginning of his next turn.
He certainly embodies the spirit of Monkey from the TV series, a well thought out and inspiring character.
Another character I really like is Dalan-Tai (Hero) who is a nod in the direction of the real world Mongols and their influence on Chinese (sorry Cathay) history.
He and any unit of Steppe Archers (Fast Cavalry) he leads benefit from his masterful husbandry and horseman-ship (they can re-roll failed dangerous terrain tests). This should allow said unit to more confidently charge through woods and the like in the knowledge that they stand a decent chance of getting to the enemy before the woods get to them!
Dalan-Tai and his unit also have the ability to make a Stand and Shoot reaction before fleeing from a charge, an attribute that I suspect could become very annoying for the enemy :-) Oh, and before you think this isn't much of a bonus, he has a Bs of 6, his shots hit with a Str of 5 and they ignore armour saves.In my opinion, he's worth taking into battle with a small unit of Steppe Archers just to get your enemy's back up ;-)
The Emperor's Army
You will find a wide variety of different units to choose from which should provide for an array of different battlefield tactics. There are 6 different core units, 10 special units and 5 rare units. The prevalence of specialized gun powder weapons (such as rockets, cannons and hand mortars) and existence of battlefield support engineers lends the Cathay army an Empire feel. Indeed the unbreakable Terracotta Warriors could be likened with Flagellants although they are harder hitters and more resilient (Str4, T4) but unstable so when they start to lose they will quickly crumble.
The basic profile of the Imperial Infantry with their relative low leadership and weapon skill is not as good as that of most other human units such as Empire Halberdiers or Spearmen. However, when you include the benefit of fighting in 3 ranks and the potential benefits of a nearby strategist the unit as a whole becomes better (potentially !)
The remaining core units; Dragon Lances (with a small charge bonus), Steppe Archers (especially when combined with Dalan-Tai - as mentioned above); the frenzied Hill Tribesmen ambushers and Monkey Warriors (poisoned blow darts) all have their uses for support attacks, flanking, war machine hunters and monster killers and they make for a nicely balanced army core.
Of course you'll need to consider your flanks whether you attack or defend but then you do have relatively cheap Dragon Lancers (Core) and a Dragon! (Rare)
Your selection of Rare Units really depends on whether you want to sit back and take a defensive posture or you're more inclined to take the fight to the enemy. The two more defensively aligned units are the Fire Arrow and Dragon Cannon.
The Fire Arrow is really a rocket launcher which fires multiple armour piercing projectiles but suffers from the Slow to Fire rule so cannot be used for a stand and shoot reaction. The Fire Arrow is also subject to the Black Powder War Machine Misfire chart which, for me, makes it a risky choice. I generally prefer more reliable troops on the ground than risk/reward units, having said that at 110 pts with the possibility of firing 30 rockets (3 x artillery dice) I can see it being a popular choice.
The three remaining units are all combat oriented and more to my liking, they all cause terror, pack a punch and the Phoenix and of course the Dragon can both fly.
The Phoenix isn't a single-handed battle winner though, it will need support and shouldn't be used in isolation against any large unit with two handed or magical weapons / attacks.
The Dragon is pretty much a regular Dragon, ie. no fun to fight against! (Ws6, S6, T6, W5, I3, A5, Ld9)
Summary (army strengths and weaknesses)
I haven't played any battles with this army nor have I spent hours delving into the army list and selecting a competitive force so you'll need to take my initial impressions of the army strengths and weaknesses as just that. First thing that you should note is that being a human based army it's inherent weakness will be toughness, as is the case with most but the heavily armoured. There are however, plenty of cheap core troops to choose from and if used in large units it shouldn't be too much of a concern.
The army has enough in the way of specialized units to counter any enemy strategy. It could be a tricky job selecting a balanced army if you're not sure who you're facing in battle but then that's the case for several other armies in the Warhammer World (and part of the fun). The special rules, points values and unit choices in each category all seem reasonable and there really is a wonderful selection to choose from. I think the army's greatest strength is it's flexibility to meet any situation (given the right army selection choices). It's a little short of flyers but then you do have access to an ambush unit to help tackle those pesky rear echelon types and you could always take the Phoenix or Dragon.
I'd really like to take this army into battle, I think it holds a lots of surprises in store for the Cathay-uneducated. Also, I think you'll find that small army tweaks (use of stategists and Yong Yan magic for instance) could lead to very different battles even against the same opposition, something which you don't always get with some Warhammer armies in my experience (I'm thinking Vampires, Warriors of Chaos and Dwarfs).
Ok, this is the tough bit. It's not going to be easy finding Chinese (sorry I mean Cathay) minis but if you're determined and prepared to compromise and improvise it can be done. I managed to build up a whole "Fishmen Army" (which I prefer to call The Nauticans) but it did take a lot of internet trawling to get there.
Your best starting point to discover the company names who produce such miniatures on eBay. I tried the following search which came up with some Chinese "Ancients" Cavalry, Spearmen and Warriors so minis of the correct scale do exist (you might also be able to supplement the force with Japanese equivalents). The War Machines and Monsters should prove easier to find alternatives for.
Chinese 28mm Miniatures on eBay (try narrowing the search to Toys & Hobbies)
Mathias has done an incredible job on this book and it's his finest work to date in my opinion.
All images are from the army book (and credited within)