Layout, artwork, photos etc.
As all the 8th ed. books this one is in hard cover and in my opinion the best cover so far (I quite like the Orcs & Goblin one as well), nicely illustrated, nice colours and not so goofy looking as the VC book. When we come to the inside of the book I see some old artwork (but in colour) but very much of new illustrations as well, and not just for the new units but pretty much everything. And the quality on the illustrations are really high and it's a delight to look on all the artwork. One of highlights is the new map of the Empire which was also shown in the latest White Dwarf. All in all really nice stuff, so in this department I can't complain at all. I also like the painted examples in the book although I feel like there could have been so much more. Like showing soldiers in all the states colours, most of them are there but no Ostermarker for example. More examples of knightly orders would have been nice as well.
Much of the history and tales are the ordinary stuff we all have heard before, but there is some strange things in the fluff department of this new book. All of the Storm of Chaos stuff from 6th ed. with Archaon and Valten etc. is gone, the timeline in the book ends at 2522 where it reads that Archaon and his armies is gathering in the north. I've also seen this in the other books, no mention of SoC and it looks like GW has retconned it and probably are planning for a new massive Storm of Magic campaign in the future. As long as they are doing as awesome new models as they did back then I'm fine with this. Just a little bit strange that GW just erases this event without mention why. Other than this Tamurkhan is added into the timeline along with some other new things.
Now to the hardest part of them all, the rules. First I must say I haven't played the new rules yet so I don't actually know how it will play and most people are still play testing their lists to sort out what's good and what are not. So this part of the review is from my own perspective reading the rules and comparing it to the old rules and also from what I have heard from others and so on.
First of all I along with most people was terrified when we first heard the rumours of the new rules. And even if it weren't as bad as I first thought there are some things I don't understand and just feels strange. I will try not to make this review into a rant fest so I won't explain everthing in detail why I dislike something or feel something strange. So what things do I feel is strange in the new Army Book rules.
Point increase for all the infantry except Archers and Spearmen. No idea why they cost more now, and it doesn't look like a good choice in a business perspective either, especially strange when looking at choices that weren't used much before like Free Company. Another thing that is strange is nerfing stuff that weren't used to at all to begin with like the robo horse aka mechanical steed, together with the pretty hefty new price tag on the new "fine"cast robo horse I don't think customer will be running to buy these. Another example of this is the Templar Grandmaster, same rules more expensive and no one even took them last edition. There are more things that seems to be nerfed quite a lot like the pidgeon bombs, Helstorm Rockets, War Altar, Steam Tank and then there are things that got nerfed big time and beyond understanding as I see it. Mortar down to S 2 and cost 35 pts more, not worth it at all as it is now. A point increase for the Mortar who became a good choice first when 8th ed came with larger regiments and no guessing and partial hits etc I had tolerated and understood. But that and take it down to S 2 was to make it pretty much useless. Another big nerf happened to one of my favourite units, Flagellants. Up two points and make the The end is Nigh! rule really bad, this is probably the one thing I most disappointed with of all in the new book. They are utter crap as they are now, I'm afraid.
Okay there are some things that they did well when it came to the rules as well here's some of the things I like. The new units, especially the the Demigryphs. The magic chariots I think could have been more interesting rules wise but all in all quite nice stuff. The Griffon got an real boost and is now even an viable choice, which I really like as the new miniature looks fantastic. Knights got cheaper and we got an new option of stubborn knights in the form of Reiksguard Knights, nice. Warrior Priests/Arch Lectors is still really good and nice even without their automatic 1/2 dd. The Hold line special rule is nice, don't know if it was worth the increase in pts for both Captains, Generals and state troopers though. Helblasters are back! If paired with Engineers of course :). Witch Hunter is in the book, don't know if the rules are the best interpretation of an Empire Witchhunter but an new and interesting choice to an Empire army non the less.
Like in all the 8th ed. books I have read I like the layout and all the artwork. The books looks and feels really good. The fluff part is nice but I've read most of it before and it wouldn't had hurt if there had been even more background story on for example different Knightly Orders. So the rules.... some think it is nice, some think it sucks. I'm somewhere in between, I feel some part of it is rushed and ill thought through. And some part are quite nice. I don't think Empire will be a top tier army, nor at the bottom but as always pretty much somewhere in the middle. But one thing Mr. Cruddance shall work on for his next books is internal balance. Some things got so bad it's not even funny, and I just feel that they could have done a much better job with for example Flagellants and the Mortar. And from a business point of view it's even more strange. I don't think many who start with Empire now want to throw money on the otherwise lovely Flagellant kit, other than maybe for conversions.
But the rules aside I actually like the book and as I don't play that much this book still is quite nice, I only feel that they could have done much better.
Rating: 3,5 out of 5