Everything here is nice and laid out. Much easier to grasp than the convoluted mess that was 7th, but maybe that's just because of my experience with the system. Movement is a lot more streamlined, particular issues with wheeling and moving sideways or backwards (simple half speed as opposed to degree turns and all that nonsense). All changes in unit sizes are rolled up into reforms that cost you your movement and shooting. However, a musician lets you take a Ld test to speed reform. If you pass, you can make a normal non-march move and shoot as if you had moved. Go musicians! Streamlined is the word of the day, similar to 5th edition 40k.
The charging section is particularly great compared to what was previously the most nightmarish section to navigate, especially during a game. Simple and straightforward rules backed by full color diagrams help loads.
Magic is probably the biggest change. Your pool is determined by 2D6, while your opponent gets the higher of the two as his dispel pool. Each caster in your army provides you with an additional power die on a roll of 6, likewise for your opponent's casters and dispel dice. The pool may never exceed 12. Casting is as normal, but you add your wizard level to the casting value (hence the higher casting values in more recent books). Rolling 3 or less on your casting attempt is an auto-failure. Any wizard that fails to cast may not cast again that turn. IF and Miscasts have been rolled up together, any 2 6's auto-casts without dispel possible, and you roll on an extremely punishing miscast table. At best you're taking a S6 hit on every caster and losing D6 power dice, at worst you're potentially losing an entire unit and the caster. Dispelling is the same, though double 6s auto-dispels. Oddly enough, bound spells require power dice to operate, you just have to beat the power level. All magic is sorted into various types so everything is nice and simple with clearly defined rules. One minor change that may be awesome is that wizards can now use RiP spells and still cast new stuff afterwards. Yummy.
Shooting is essentially the same. The largest changes are to weapons themselves (all Cannons cause D6 wounds, for example), partials go the way of 5th edition 40k, S1 can wound T10 on a lucky 6, and ranged units can fire in 2 ranks (more if you have bows).
Assault is another huge change. All combat is at normal I value like 40k, charging only counts for +1 CR. Charging is M + 2D6" as rumored, but it's not a huge deal since charging isn't as important and you can pre-measure everything. Models can fight in 2 ranks, but the ones in the back only offer 1 attack at their basic stats (like 4th edition 40k's supporting attacks if anybody remembers). Spears give you another rank, as does the Horde rule (going at least 10 wide). Another big change is that in order to break ranks, you have to hit the enemy's flank/rear with a unit with at least 2 ranks of 5 models. Ouch, so much for cavalry. Also, if a unit loses combat but has more ranks, they are effectively stubborn. What I like about this new combat system is the added number of dice. You won't be seeing 5 dice rolled per side while 40 models sit around doing nothing, so luck plays a much smaller factor. We're talking 40k level carnage involved and it rules. Horde is easily offset by taking a smaller frontage and focusing on ranks to wade through the crappy troops.
Haven't had a check to look at magic items, missions or the basic lores, but I'll get a chance later.
It's a very different game. Much less focused on minutiae and taking advantage of opponents, which I'm all for. We also get to actually use all of our models rather than have them act as wound counters and rank bonuses. Magic is more of a crapshoot than ever, but I want to give it more time before I make a final verdict. I'm liking what I've read so far.
So, I'm going to wrap up with some random thoughts on armies I play or know most about.
Look at all those infantry blocks people are using now! Poisoned Wind Mortar, WFT and Plague Catapult say hi! With percentages you can fit 2 Doomwheels and 2 WLC/Catapults into 2000 points, awesome! There's no limit on characters, so bring on your 25% of 15 point Engineers! Horde rule and more ranks = stubborn means that for 127 points I can field 5 slaves with spears and a musician. Awesome! Bell and Furnace units are even better now.
Who's nerfed? Sure as hell isn't them. 2k games can see a BT decked out just fine, or a Lord of Change with +2 to cast and all the nasty Tzeentch spells. The real winners here are Fiends, Bloodcrushers, Bloodletters and Horrors. Ogre-sized units need only go 3 wide for ranks and each model in the back rank can get 3 attacks added in. With M10 and 18 S4 armor piercing attacks, Fiends get awesome. I accidentally your flank. Bloodcrushers get the same treatment, only they can pick up a Stomp attack (1 attack per model in BtB, always strikes last) in addition to the normal stuff. 3D6" charge (pick the 2 highest) as well as an extra D6" from the banner is nasty. Bloodletters double the number of high S killing blows coming your way, making them crazee good. Also, magic resistance is now a ward save against damaging magic, so if that combines with a Daemon's natural ward, Bloodletters get a 4++ against magic, Hounds get a 2++! Horrors kick ass now. Take a giant unit and you have a level 4 caster with the Icon of Sorcery throwing out tons of magic without worrying about miscasts (since Horrors don't suffer normally, they just lose some models). Fuck yeah, Core superwizards!
Warriors of Chaos
Shields give a 6+ ward in combat now, hello Mark of Tzeentch! 2D6" charging almost doubles the threat range of your foot units on average. WoC don't have to rely on 4 Sorcs to stop magic, all they need now is the Black Tongue and Infernal Puppet. Throgg is nuts considering the changes to Ogre-sized infantry, Trolls I have in mind. Could WoC be not shitty?
Slann still kick ass. Focus on Rumination and Mystery alone is crazy, but the Becalming Cogitation will neuter your opponent's magic. Tack on the Cupped Hands just so he can remember what a miscast feels like. Saurus go back to beng Predatory Fighters unfortunately, so you may want to stick with hand weapons and save some points. Engine is still win. Salamanders are fucking fantastic.
Natural 3 or less auto-fails and failing to cast means no
2D6" movement can potentially quintuple your charge range! Cannons do D6 wounds! Dwarfs get a straight +2 to all dispel attempts! Stubborn basic infantry if you focus on ranks over frontage! Thunderers firing to full effect while 5x2! Slayers worth a damn! Not being forced to waste all your character slots on anti-magic! Telling all non-IF magic to fuck right off! Anvil and Master Rune of Valaya combined with boosted charge range! Exclamation point! Fuck yeah, Dwarfs!
Oh look, the enemy has more ranks than my Minotaurs who just wond combat, guess they're stubborn and not breaking. Look at how many attacks I get. Minotaurs are fucking evil. As always, core chariots, dirt cheap infantry, and the win that is now Minotaurs makes Beastment really quite good.
That's all for now. Hopefully I'll be able to compile this all into a full on Fantasy review when the book drops. Your input, as always, is appreciated.
*Get it, they're vampires!