1. Standard size is 2500 in our area for all the Indy GT's (7 totals) and local tourneys. 2000 is too small for some of the lords and armies to be effectively played and 3000 is avoided to avoid the extra rare choices leading to things like 3 hydras or 3 hellpits. Local empires campaigns go 2500 to 2750. The game feels really balanced right now for most armies at 2500 points.
2. Yes for large troop blocks as a core but not always cheap. I look for points efficiency in terms of points on models killed by one unit against a typical unit or set of typical units in the first and each subsequent round as compared with points of models that die in the unit against each typical opposing unit in order to assess a unit's optimal size and the choices. I also look at the speed with which one unit kills another unit if offensive (Daemons of chaos bloodletters or warriors of chaos with halberds and mark of khorne) or avoids being killed if defensive (skaven slaves). For example, a Warriors of chaos block is often better than a marauder infantry block even though it might be one-third of the size in models for the same points cost. The ability of a large block of infantry with more ranks than the enemy units it is facing to remain "steadfast" (a type of stubborn) for multiple rounds and to have models killed in the front rank to be immediately replaced by models from the rear ranks stepping forward to fill the gaps and strike back means that infantry can last longer, kill more consistently, and hold up something tough but with fewer or no ranks. Also, the second rank has a supporting attack ability (1 attack for regular infantry and cav and 3 attacks in support for monstrous infantry, monstrous beasts and monstrous cav) almost always and a wider (horde unit) gets supporting attacks from the third rank as well. A high elf spearmen block of 50 troops can get 50 attacks due to the supporting attack, extra rank for spears, extra rank for being 10 models wide, and extra rank special rule for that unit.
However, an army with only large infantry blocks will have difficulty with impassible terrain and buildings and with wheeling and can get chewed up by more mobile units and magic and shooting with divide and conquer techniques. Some war machines (stone thrower type shooting especially) can rip up quickly larger blocks of troops if not contered. Also, there are some anti-horde spells that can really deplete a large block of cheap infantry in a few turns. There are some nasty monsters that can get into a flank or rear and continue to win combat and quickly grind down the infantry unit until they are all dead or break and attempt to flee (dark elf hydras and skaven hellpits). One counter to a horde army is wave tactics, where smaller units hit the flanks and rear and front and may die but eventually do enough damage (kill more points and models than are killed in those units or the horde unit is held in place by a very tough to kill, smaller unit while the supporting units wear down and kill other until they can focus on the larger unit and break the horde block.
We are still seeing important roles for skirmishers, especially scouts with shooting line chameleons, gutter runners, and shades (stubborn in woods and no dangerous terrain, ability to reform for free, and march and shoot); fast cav (vanguard rule and free reforms and rally and shoot to bait and flee, counter skirmishing units, and earn flank bonuses and take out depleted units late in the battle) and and some heavy cav (cold one knights with banner of Hag Grief for ASF and re-rolls; chaos knight blocks are popular).
With a few exceptional army builds, we are not seeing cheap characters as much as fewer characters with a lot of protection (to reduce risk of loss of VPs) and specific purposes (stubborn generals with max armour saves and ward saves or regen; mages with max magic items for protection of caster, units and/or boosts for specific magic offense and defense limited to one or two in most armies; BSB's that are maxed out or somehow screened to max their re-roll of LD test abilities but avoid losing them).
3. Magic is no longer over-the-top for the most part as long as the special characters (like Teclis) and certain items (power scroll and book of hoeth) are not allowed. Magic is more unpredictable and random with the winds of magic rolls and miscast consequences. Only Dwellers and, to a lesser extent, final transmutation are overpowered spells such that some (ETC draft 5.0) comp systems allow for look out sir rolls for characters and champs (treating all such unit and model killing spells with no ward saves as though they are template weapons) but we don't ban them and especially don't ban the template and scatter anti-horde spells. Certain armies have good offense magic due to lores, special rules and mages, and ability to generate additional power dice (Slann's extra die per casting attempt discipline, Dark Elf Sorceress with power of darkness spell and sac dagger, VC lord with master, High Elf unit banner that gives extra power dice can all overwhelm opponent's defensive magic). Lore of Life is overpowered due to a devastating anti unit spell in dwellers and augments that can make units really tough, reduce the consequences of miscasts, give regen, and regenerate wounds. Shadow is also very popular among the eight common lores. Certain armies have very strong magic defense (dwarves runelords and smiths generate extra dispel dice, have multiple runes to stop spells not cast with irresistible force, and the use of rune of balance to steal an enemy power dice and add a dispel dice; empire with extra power dice from arch lector and warrior priests and some other items can also shut down magic to some extent; Slann's becalming can really limit magic; dark elves have ring of hotek to fly or march within 12" of enemy casters to increase miscasts; warriors have infernal puppet to punish miscasts; high elves can more easily dispel, increase casting costs, and steal a power die and increase by one the dispel die).
4. Cav still has a role and Brett cav actually can be surprisingly effective. Fast cav have a special vanguard move for advance positioning for bait and flee and redirection tactics as well as some shooting/harassment. I find fast cav to be less effective in 8th than 7th edition due to the steadfast in ranks infantry being able to hold up fast cav charges and step up to fight back after being hit. The loss of striking first when charging is gone and has really cav. March blocking is also far less reliable due to overcoming march blocking by passing a LD test. That being said, I play often with one unit of fast cav almost always for bait and flee and redirection tactics, hitting flanks for CR once I've pinning and reduced a unit enough to break it or crumble it with CR, running down skirmishers and depleted units and single models, and countering other fast cav units. Heavy cav need to be in larger blocks in 8th and/or run as supporting units with monsters and infantry that help break the enemy or deplete the enemies blocks while surviving longer due to the presence of high AS, ward saves (war shrines, cauldrons), and characters that can challenge or target the enemies key characters and kill them. I often use heavy cav with a magic banner (Banner of Hag Grief for ASF on cold one knights and for a mounted dreadlord) as a delivery device for a tough to kill, stubborn, and killy lord, where I expect the heavy cav to kill a lot but may eventually die but leave the enemy unit depleted enough for something else with the surviving lord (often in a challenge) to finish off the enemy unit. I've sacrificed a heavy cav block with a great subborn lord often just to kill off a couple of characters in a large "deathstar" unit and hold that unit up while I fight the rest of the army and defeat it in detail. The lord and cav often kill their points worth in VPs in characters and sufficiently deplete and dealy the deathstar that it never earns its points. I also often use a cav unit to escort (look out sir and absorb shooting) mounted characters (mounted to max out the AS on the characters and provide more mobility) (barded steeds and cold ones, especially) and escort the characters to where they can be more effective (BSB, mounted sorceresses) given their roles.
Some monsters are now far less worthwhile due to true line of sight and no guessing of range for cannons and stone thrower-type war machines. The just get shot up or killed by magic too easily. But others are more powerful due to thunderstomp (D6 hits on infantry at the end of the combat) and special attacks such as impact hits and breath weapon attacks in combat. Monstrous infantry and cav are especially better due to ranks requiring only 3 models wide and horde ranks being only 6 wide and the abilty of models behind the first rank to provide supporting attacks (up to 3 attacks per model from rank 2; and up to 3 attacks per model from rank 3 if the unit is six models wide). Also, the ability of back rank models to step up to replace models killed in the midst of combat and fight back in that combat phase ensures that lower initiative monstrous infantry will often get full strikes back at the enemy and full stomp attacks at the end of the combat (single attack by each model in base-to-base contact on infantry at the monstrous infantry model's strength at the end of the combat).
Last edited by olderplayer; 04-12-11 at 11:12 PM.