Dungeons and dragons is in its fourth edition now and has been for several years. Through those years the basic classes that started the game Fighter, Magic User (now called Wizards) Cleric, Thief (rogue) have remained. Looking back how have these core ideas changed over nearly 40 years of product evolution? Lets take a look at the lowly fighter.
Fighters1st edition - The most basic class, best at swinging a sword and had the most hit points, was one of two classes that could use plate armor
2nd edition - Still very basic, had the best Thac0 and could wear plate most fighters stood around and hit stuff a lot.
3rd edition - Fighters were the go to class for getting tons of feats. Still got plate armor still got the best hit bonuses still got the most HP. 3rd did give them more options than "Hit the monster with my sword" but not by much.
4th edition - Fighters now have tons of options just like everyone else. They can choose to be offensive or defensive depending on how they choose their stats and skills and they get some really nice knockdowns and conditional abilities. One thing they lost from all the previous editions was the ability to wear plate. They get up to scale now and can easily upgrade to plate with a single feat.
Fighters have always been the core learners class in dungeons and dragons. Whenever you got a new players who didn't want a bunch of complicated rules when they started the fighter was a safe bet. True they were a bit under-powered at higher levels but at first with that high AC and higher hit points they were great to have around especially when the wizard shot his one magic missile and hid behind a tree :)
With the advent of fourth edition fighters don't seem to be getting the same respect they used to. True there are a lot of shiny choices to choose from (especially if you add in PH2 and PH3 and various other sources)
The four at wills for fighters are Cleave, Reaping Strike, Sure Strike, and Tide of Iron.
Cleave - Hits two adjacent foes, second damage is low. Attacks AC Rating ***/5
Reaping Strike - Standard attack roll but if you miss you still get some damage. Attacks AC. You have to use a two hander to get the miss damage so no good for sword and board types. Rating: **/5 (very situational)
Sure Strike - An attack that gives you +2 to hit. Attacks AC. To me this is the gem of the warriors at wills. It makes the warrior attack as though he were four levels higher than he actually is. Add in a flanking bonus and your going to be hitting alot with this one. Sure the damage is low but constant damage is better then adding that strength mod every third attack. Rating: ****/5
Tide of iron - Lets you push an enemy and slide into his spot, if your a player that likes to set up flanks and advantages for your friends this at will is your best friend. not only do you get to push them but you get to stay base to base to help with the flank. rating ****/5
Fighters are a solid choice for players that like to protect their friends from monsters and generally irritate the DM with trips and pushes.