Like many things, I am very late to the party here, but for those unaware, Mantic is launching some Halflings! This is a welcome addition to some of the more robust halfling miniatures offered up in recent years, kicked off by the Halfling Militia box from Wargames Atlantic. The models on-offer from Mantic, as well as a Beta version of the new army list can found online at their store. Additionally, you can play around with the list in EasyArmy's editor, though I believe you need to be a paying member, since this is a Beta offering. Check it all out! It's a good time to start a halfling army!
In 2nd Edition, the Halflings were a very robust sub-faction of the League of Rhordia, with the halflings broadly taking over the specialist and war machine duties, as well as filling the roles of cheap alternatives to every basic army choice (heroes to fight, inspire, or cast spells; infantry in all stripes, and lighter cavalry options both with lances and with bows). I really liked the concept, and I built up a dopy halfling-only list that I was pretty fond of. It used very cheap historical scale (1/72) miniatures with some greenstuff to get the hairy feet effect. Each miniature was dirt cheap, and it was a really fun list for me to run in smaller or learner games.
Unfortunately, that army did not fare well in the transition to 3rd Edition and the introduction of keywords to the game. All of the war machines of the League were "humanized", and most of the halfling units were outright done away with. I was left with one "combat" hero choice, and one choice each for underpowered melee infantry, knights, and archer units. All in all... not a lot to work with for a full army even in tiny games...
Fortunately, the new list is very deep! Choices abound, though I must assume some final tweaks are coming before the list actually launches.
Abilities and Keywords
As noted in the Beta download from Mantic, the halfling army has two special rules.
The first is Relentless, which you can buy for units, and gives an attacking unit some (3) one-time rerolls to damage rolls in melee. The upgrade is cheap, but seems odd and messy, design-wise. Upping it to 3 here is exploring some design space, but odd. Why not reroll all or something? I would imaging this is them playing around with design stuffs, and this might get tweaked prior to launch. (UPDATE: Not having played 3rd Edition, I was unfamiliar with things like the Ogres "Crocodog" option, which does a similar "3 rerolls for hits" thing. Relentless is still playing around with some design space, similar to the Elite and Vicious special rules, and is actually building on some stuff already in game.)
The second special rule is Spellward, which gives all spells to hit the unit (from both friendly and enemy units!) a -1 modifier to hit. I really like this rule, and some "magic resist" is some neat design space to explore in the game. It also opens up a neat little space for them, as they are dealing more with Auras as an army rather than spells. I like it. y
Oddly enough, the new halflings seem to have lost their previous rule gimmick, "Stealthy", which was on all of their infantry-type units. I think this is ok. Though the "Steady-Aim" and "Potshot" rules help shooting in 3rd, ranged combat is still not the focus of this game, so Stealthy may have been too powerful for the majority of an army to have.
"Ravenous" is an army keyword being put to use, and it interacts with their "Sauceror" hero, which is a bit of a mouthful to try and pronounce, but to me seems to be a play on words between "Sauce" and "Sorcerer"? Anyways, the Sauceror generates auras (with up to +3 effects) to benefit units with the keyword, and has a nice fluffy association here, though giving Ravenous units Relentless has some dark connotations? Part of me wishes this was dialed way up; cannibal halflings or something.
"Tinker" is another army keyword, and really expands on the specialist and war machine roles the League had them doing. The Engineer interacts with this keyword, providing some buffs to the mechanical units in the army, like the war machines and newly imagined Iron Beast.
I like that there is a split in the army, though am not super-sold on the Tinkering sub-faction as-is. I don't really want trolls in my halfling list, that's why I'm running halflings. And am so-so on them wielding multiple flying contraptions and jetpacks and having numerous gunpower units since it goes so contrary to the traditional, serene and simple version of the halfling. I would have liked to have seen their tinkering innovations dialed back a bit, or channeled elsewhere.
Units and Fluff
As mentioned above, the army has a great variety of units, which are largely split between the more "normal" (Ravenous) halflings and the more mechanically-inclined (Tinkering) units, which leads to an odd mix of traditional country-style halflings with robust steampunk elements creeping in. It's a weird mix for an army, but I feel like Mantic is trying to do something unique here, and so we get jetpacks and troll-riding dudes and mechanical beasts with Gatling guns alongside the folksy rabble.
The War Wagon could have been a neat, rustic-inspired concept to build on? They could be chariot-units; Halfling farmers taking armored wagons in groups for protection. Give the chariots high defense, and let them be kitted out to provide rallying or auras, or platforms for small-arms groups or for mounting war machines... let the tinkering be done on wagons instead of with jetpacks.
I think most of the Beta changes are going to be stats and points shifts. Right now everything has the normal speed values (5 for infantry), which doesn't jive with the previous iteration of Halflings in 2nd, nor the League's Halflings still in 3rd, all of whom have little legs and move at 4 Speed. Previously, their mounted units had Speed 7, but 3rd edition looks to have bumped that up to 8.
Additionally, the halflings are presented as very competent fighters, which I would think would be tweaked before print. For instance, special rules aside, their new Cavalry hits on 3+ like and has 5+ Defense, just like normal human-style knights. This goes against the 4+ Me / 4+ De on the League's version. We'll see what the stats and points end up being, but I would think with the League already published, the army would be spun down a bit to match those stats. We'll see.
I'm not much for the forest trolls and steampunk units, but I do like the rabble-aspect, and the basic Ravenous units in the army looks like they will translate nicely and reinvigorate my old one, so I've been pretty happy with Mantic's announcement here. We'll see how the army list looks at the official launch, but I think I will have a go-to teacher army again!