I first played 40k as a teenager way back in the end of the 1980s to early 1990s, with around a 10 year hiatus (due to a combined of the demands of significant others, university and work) and then jumped back in around the release of 5th edition.
At that time, I was most excited by the range and quality of what constituted modern GW plastics, like kit-bashing odd characters with view to using them with the Dark Heresy for roleplaying rather than wargaming. Things escalated quickly and a few old gamer friends that I used to play with all started collecting armies again and playing weekly basis. By the time 6th edition was released it coincided with the birth of my daughter and my regular gaming buddies had either moved from my locality and/or had similar family responsibilities. I kept on hobbying but I actually stopped playing with any regularity beyond the off annual gaming event. The rules set for 6th really felt its age and since I only played infrequently and those choses I did get to play were relatively competitive events which weren’t really my bag, the net result was that I really fell out of love with 40k.
Ironically then, the release of Forgeworld’s Horus Heresy series rekindled my interest again as it had a community with a philosophy much closer to what I wanted to play – namely focusing on narrative gaming, I’ve got back into playing infrequently at Heresy 7th Edition narrative events and now semi-regularly of late at the HATE Club. However, as much as I have enjoyed this I still have to admin that I still find 7th Edition 40k a clunky affair and hence I have doubled with other sci-fi game systems looking for something slightly quicker, easier to pick-up and less cumbersome.
All this leads us to the recent release of 8th Edition. I have to admit, I was somewhat skeptical that Gamesworkshop would ‘pull a Sigmar’ on 40k given that it is widely reported to by their most successful line. As the previews started to come out I had some mixed feelings, but on the whole it sounded like a positive direction for me: a simpler and cleaner core ruleset.
I played a 80 power level/1500pt learning game with my Nurgle Deathguard warband, The Blight Bringers – a ‘mixed bag’ army (nothing especially optimised) against Craftworld Eldar for the very first time this week so I felt compelled to scribble down some initial observations:
- Despite printing out all of the key datasheets and a cheatsheets, I did end up doing lots of page flipping to check rules. It is especially annoying that some weapon options are not printed on the datasheets which means you then resort to flipping to the wargear table. I’m sure with more time this will eventually become second nature as I get more familiar with how 8th edition works, but I do have around 20 years of mis-remembered rules baggage in my head to unlearn so it did end-up taking around 2.5 hours to play the game. I’m sure it will be quicker when I am up to speed but it will take a while! We had originally planned to do a 2k game, but ended up scaling down as only a smaller 4’x4′ board was available by the time we got to the club. I think this was a net positive as there would have been far too much going on with the extra points for a first game. I believe there will be a 40k reference app at some point like there is for Age of Sigmar and I will definitely be investing in a copy of that on release.
- I appreciate that the current ‘Index’ format releases were stopgap measures, but it definitely felt that the character was a bit lacking in the Chaos Codex: the new Deathguard specific faction units are a bit more colourful, but the generic Chaos Datasheets are a bit more bland – adding the Chaos Marks doesn’t really change them in the way that it did under 6th/7th Edition and to cap it off there was a lot of flavour added with the Chaos Legions supplement at the end of 7th which was effectively valid for a very short period of time. I’m sure the new Codex books will add back that variety, but there is the additional cost of trying to keep on top of these releases and GW have just stated that there will be around 10 releases by the end of the year, suggesting that the lifespan for the Indexes I have just invested in digital copies of will probably only be a few months at most – ouch!
- Despite a number of streamlining abstractions the game sill felt like 40k. Even though it was my first game and the 2nd for my opponent we didn’t come across any wonky rules situations or did we have to double-check some obscure rule clash in the way that you frequently have to with previous editions. I can see that this is a much more viable edition to introduce new gamers or try and encourage older grognards like myself back into playing regularly.
- I really do prefer the standardisation on wounds over the distinction between infantry & vehicles/hull points in previous editions. The degrading of vehicles as they take on more damage is actually a really elegant mechanic.
- As much as I liked the flavour of the 6th/7th Edition psychic phase the reality was that it had become bloated and overly prone to abuse. The new system is much simpler and doesn’t bog down.
- I really do like the ability to choose rather than having to randomly roll for Warlord Traits & Psychic powers – simple, but sensible choices which reduces the pre-game set-up. Equally, it seems to be that the Daemon Summoning brokenness has bee sensibly resolved requiring power levels/points to be reversed in matched play: a perfectly pragmatic solution.
- I think power levels are a big boon to someone like myself who mainly wants to quickly pick an army and play a fun narrative game & play without min/maxing the points.
- Having played a single game, I can see that many units which didn’t seem viable in 7th Ed are now worth a look at again and so I look forward to digging out my old Imperial Guard and Tyranid forces for a spin to see how they work in the new edition.
- While I appreciate the speed & streamlined style play, a bit of me still misses the visceral effect of playing with templates and deepstrike scatter – I always liked the entertainment value in accidental friendly fire and the risk/reward choice in deep striking. Time will tell if that goes away.
- I can appreciated why Heresy is sticking with 7th Edition for the moment, but this does mean that it will be hard for me to get up to speed with the new edition and I now will have to effectively splitting my wargaming time between two different editions – not good for my poor grey cells! Oddly most of the Horus Heresy units effectively have rules spread over the various Forgeworld Index books so Marines, Imperial Knights and tanks as well covered in 8th Edition – so perhaps it isn’t as big task as I initially imagined. One of the HATE Club members is actually working on a fan made version of 8th Edition for Horus Heresy – look here.
At the end of the day, I was definitely enthused to play some more games so the good does substantially outlay all other considerations at the moment. I ended up getting a copy of the Dark Imperium set as it was a solid addition to my current legacy Deathguard force as well as giving me a hardback copy of the rules. This is a great set for veteran players like myself, but less so for people new to the hobby so it is interesting to see that GW also appear to be launching a number of smaller scale cutdown sets which are more suitable for first time players as well as being a nice additional sell to Dark Imperium buyers.