There are very few places in 8th Edition for a poor General to hide.
In the past, a very good list could stop the most infantile of Generals from being exposed. Not so good at the game? Play the Eldar Scatter spam in 7E or while it lasted the Ynnari in 8E. Castellan+ Ig was similar for a bit, but only for a bit. While your highs wont be much higher than other peoples (as we discussed in a previous blog) your lows won't be NEARLY as low playing as those kinds of things. You'll look more competent at the game in general, even if you wont win more tournaments.
In 8th Edition, the rule set is slimmed down substantially and the things that made certain units flat broken (Formations) are gone. It's just you, your unit and a world filled with almost no cover saves and a whole lot of re-rolls.
The balance of power has swung sharply to favor the better generals in this environment. MANY more lists are viable than were ever before. I love that. The unit you use is mattering so much less than how you use it and when. Let's set the table with two examples.
Consider the innocuous Razorwing Flock. The Razorwing Flock is about as useless as a second head. It says 8 attacks, but they hit on 5's and are at a minuscule STR that guarantees they will need 6's to wound almost anything they try to hit. In other words, you can count on them to do exactly nothing. So what's the point really?
Another example: the Kroot Carnivore. Once this represented the only melee unit you had and with three attacks on the charge it was at least competent, if not stellar, at its job. As editions went by it became less and less excellent at its job until finally, it is now just getting one attack (admittedly at STR 4 now), and nothing else to distinguish it in any way. It's 6+ save is essentially trumped most of the time and T3 is pedestrian. It is really just a fragile boltgun. Yet it has proven to have extreme value in 8th edition, moreso than it enjoyed in all of 7th Edition even when they could take sniper rounds (which was also taken from them in 8th).
These two examples are good ones to focus on because they illustrate the point I'm making pretty well. I would not play without Kroot despite all their disabilities. I've had Kroot Hounds in my list all of 8th Edition as well because they play roles well.
In the case of the Razorwing, it actually does two things for a general. The First is that it allows you to saturate the enemy line with the promise of being unable to attack for quite a while. You can make the unit quite large and they literally just move towards the enemy to "blind" them. So in a very real way, the unit can be thought of more as a blinding screen than an actual unit. Its multiple wounds make it exceptionally hard to stop it from happening. A huge swath of the enemy can be charged, have no damage inflicted whatsoever on them (sadly) and then have all of them forced to fall back, robbing the enemy, for a very economical cost, of an entire shooting phase. Moreover, it is like a drinking game. Once you start losing a drinking game, it goes downhill fast as the compounding effects of losing means you have progressively less defense against its effects, for in the subsequent round, those same birds are just going to do it again, and this time only face your overwatch. The frustration of this happening is considerable. More annoying is when they consolidate in and lock up yet more units. A very large unit of these is inexpensive and incredibly dangerous to an enemy's chances. Morale will whittle the birds down but the BeastMaster bolsters that a fair amount and ensures that the death of a thousand papercuts will continue apace.
Yet on its own, the unit is so terrible that no one who looks at it and a comparable 120 points is going to think "wow, that's a great kill ratio".
The Kroot are similarly deceptive in what they provide. In the new age of 8th Edition Warhammer 40,000, the concept of what I coined as a Halo is important. Many weapons are most deadly at shorter ranges and many forces now feature a scatter-free parachute assault type of mechanic where they come in flawlessly 9" from their target. It's kind of a big deal now in 8th Edition.
The Kroot Carnivore Squad does one thing that's great: It gets a 7" scout move before the first turn starts, which allows you to form a halo outward. So if the unit you're defending is at point A, an enemy cannot come within 9". If the Kroot move to point B, which is 18" from Point A, you have formed a pre-game 18" no mans land between the Kroot Carnivores and their charges, and 9" more from the Kroot to where the enemy must now drop. Collective'ly a 27" no fly Zone thanks to their Vanguard move. That's pretty impressive because a LOT of weapons don't even shoot more than 24". With a Kroot Shaper around to help, a larger Kroot unit can stand sentinel and protect a very large portion of the board from drop spam like the Militarum Tempestus, Night Lords or Blood Angels.
Fire Warriors and Pathfinders are far more effective killers and survivors than the Kroot . But the ability to stall the enemy offensive in this way is pretty impressive. Kroot Hounds which are now a separate unit make for a useful way to plug the inevitable holes in the halo, so you can hold that halo for a couple of turns at least before ultimately having to give the enemy their chance at you.
Good Generals are having a really good time in 8th Edition. They can rely on roles so much more than before. Their enemies will need to become more creative in their approach than just spamming "the best thing in the codex" seven times. List variety has definitely improved in 8E, as people discover the little guys, what they can do for a force and how to interlock them in a jigsaw puzzle of success. Ask Plaguebearers. Ask Orks which are finally Krumpin' again.
There will always be the players who only ever play the most powerful thing there is, but it's quite comforting to know that it won't save them. Skill matters more.
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