My initial impressions of Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition

So... 8th Edition....

To understand my excitement for this edition, you have to understand my frustrations with the game as a whole.

I first got into Warhammer 40,000 when I was 14. My brother heard of this crazy miniatures game where you build super soldier miniatures and fought them against other people who built their own army on a tabletop similar to a model train set. He took some interest in it but it quickly faded and I inherited his Ultramarines. I did want to build my own force and do something different. So I looked at various armies and found the Imperial Guard (now Astra Militarum) the most interesting. I loved the idea of just GI Joe against super soldiers, alien species far more powerful than them, and daemons from hell. It was very much an underdog story as you can get. I bought up several Guardsman, a few tanks, and gave it a whirl. 

And I got crushed. Several, SEVERAL times.

The way the rules worked back in 3rd edition, it made it so that movement was discouraged when firing Rapid Fire weapons (your main arsenal on your Guardsman). The Guardsman's basic gun was essentially a flashlight that was incredibly weak compared to everyone else's guns in the game. You had to get as much volume of fire as possible in order to make them effective. In order to get enough shots off, you had to either remain stationary or be within charging distance to shoot. Each of your squads were set up as 10 man units and you had quite a few units compared to everyone else. But your deployment zone was limited to 12" from the edge of a 8'x4' table. There was only one mission that was played back then: Meat Grinder. Basically he who killed his opponents army won. In 3rd Edition, you could move directly into combat with another unit after you finish a combat and your guys could not back away from combat if locked in. There was no Overwatch rule where you could shoot at your opponent before they charged in. Because of the limited deployment area and the ability for my opponent to just walk up on enemy units after dealing with the first set of Guardsman, it forced me to move my first row up and essentially throw half of my forces away in order to stand a chance. I had to rely more and more on my tanks for the heavy hitting. Why not put in a heavier weapon in your squads you may ask? Because if you move the unit, the heavy weapon also counted as moving, meaning you couldn't shoot it. I picked the army that at the time was the worst to play starting off.

So why did I keep coming back? 

It was really the social aspect that drew me to 40k. It was the one place on Saturdays when I was in high school where I felt like I could be my own dorky self. Video gaming was nowhere near the mainstream thing to do back in those days and I had very little social friends in high school I could talk to in person. I felt very much like an outcast and 40k for me was my escape. Even when I went into college, I still kept up with it and the game did get better over time to the point where the Imperial Guard were pretty awesome with some of the changes made. You could move and shoot Rapid Fire weapons at maximum distance with 6th edition, your opponent couldn't walk into another combat after you kill an enemy unit with 4th edition, deployment zones were far more spread out in 5th edition. But the game still felt flawed. I guess for me it was the fact that there were games where you could look at two different armies and after playing it for awhile could tell who was going to win simply by what models they had versus your opponent. Mission objectives weren't really a major part of the game until around 6th edition, so for majority of the games I've played were based around how many units you could kill.

In short, it was never truly balanced.

Games Workshop in the past relied on its own franchise stores and independent retailers for feedback when it comes to its games. They do browse websites like Bell of Lost Souls and Warseer forums to see what everyone thinks of the game and new releases. But they never had a open discussion regarding its games and had taken a very "hands off" approach when it comes to its community. Long time ago, Games Workshop had its own forum where it could get that feedback. However, the community on that forum over time got incredibly toxic and hostile towards the company. As a result, Games Workshop decided to shut down the forum instead of moderating it properly. This was the biggest reason why the company was hesitant to approach its online community for the longest time. When a new edition gets released, it is up to "rumour mongers" to decipher what is going to happen with each new edition and is never 100% verified until launch day. It relies on people with inside information from Games Workshop unofficially disclosing information to someone else so that they can relay it online. Its why Bell of Lost Souls got so much traction because that was the only real place you could get information reliably about the game instead of from the company themselves. The reason given for this secrecy was due to "copyright issues". Games Workshop has had its fair share of Cease and Desists sent out for people leaking information online ahead of time, but by then the damage was already done. 

That all changed with 8th edition. 

This marks the first time in the company's history to ever leak information on its own accord AND test the new version with independent clubs around both the UK and US. They have been far more active on Facebook with live Q&A sessions from the lead developer and community manager, answering questions from people on their Facebook feed, taking requests for new teasers in upcoming rules information posts on their community page, and came out of the gate saying what this new edition was and was not. Oh by the way, did I mentioned the core rules were free?

And for that I applaud them!

So what were some of the changes made in this new edition?

Unit Characteristics

  • Every model in the game has its own movement value. Space Marines have a movement value of 6" while Terminators have a movement value of 5". Games Workshop has mentioned that different races will have different movement values, with Eldar moving faster than Guardsman but Hormagaunts moving faster than Eldar. This will make assault based units much easier to manage and give them a distinct feel on the tabletop. A positive change in my opinion.
  • Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill has their own To Hit number. Weapon Skill is no longer based on a chart like in previous editions. It is a set number that doesn't change based on opponent's Weapon Skill. This will lower the bar and make it easier for new players to understand how play the game, making it more accessible. The more people that play Warhammer 40k, the better it is for the communities as a whole. 
  • Strength, Toughness, Wounds, and Attacks are still there. However, the chart for Strength versus Toughness has changed dramatically as shown below. This is a VERY positive change in my opinion. It makes it so that small arms fire can actually hurt larger, high Toughness models instead of having no chance at all of doing anything to them. If you take an army that has nothing but Guardsman platoons, you could actually do something to the lumbering Imperial Knight with the lasguns. Assuming you can get enough shots off to have it be effective. Any chance is better than no chance. Also, one other thing of note, it does make it so that certain weapons won't wound as easily as in the previous edition versus certain models, such as Autocannons (Strength 7) versus Space Marines (Toughness 4). Previously, this would've been a 2+. Now it is a 3+. It is something that is going to take some getting used to for veterans.
  • Tanks will no longer have Armor Values and will instead function like everyone else with a Wounds value. Previously, you had to roll a D6 and add the Strength of the weapon and either match or beat the Armor Value in order to cause damage to the vehicle. In some cases, you could destroy the weapon on the vehicle, cause it not to move, or even blow up the vehicle in one lucky shot. Now, Tanks and Monsterous Creatures will get weaker upon taking damage to certain characteristics like with the Morkanaut shown below. For the longest time, Tanks have had two different extremes when it comes to power level. They are either overpowered or underpowered, very rarely has there ever been a middle ground struck between them. It will take some time to test this out with how the weapons work to see how it will affect them. I imagine that there is going to be some salt when a unit of Lascannons roll a 2, 1, 3, and a 1 when wounding that Imperial Knight.
  • Characteristics can go above 10. This includes Strength, Toughness, Wounds, and Attacks. As of the time of writing, it has not been confirmed whether double Strength versus Toughness causes Instant Death in this edition. I would imagine with the way several of the weapons work that this rule would be obsolete as you are dealing D6 or D3 wounds with certain weapons anyway.

Weapons

  • Each weapon has a Damage value now, indicating how many wounds it causes to the model hit by the weapon. Previously, a Lascannon would only cause one wound but could instantly kill models that had a Toughness of 4 or less if wounded. Now, it causes D6 wounds to that model, not the unit. For example, a Lascannon that hits a unit of Space Marines will kill one Space Marine, not D6. However, that Space Marine hit will take D6 wounds. This seems to be the solution to the whole "My Dreadnought has 8 wounds" problem. I imagine this would make for some pretty interesting games as that Dreadnought has a slim chance to shrug off that Lascannon shot versus before where it had to rely on cover and smoke screens in order to protect itself.
  • Saves will be modified by the weapons that shoot at it. It is no longer a "Yes/No" for whether or not you get a save like in previous editions. For instance, a Lascannon has a -3 AP value, meaning that you subtract 3 from the armor save of the target, making Space Marines save against a Lascannon on a 6+ in the open. Cover does modify this number based on what kind of cover it is and whether a model can benefit from it. I REALLY love the new cover rule as it is not a straight save previously that was unmodified. It gives you a bonus instead of another shield to hide behind that did not change at all depending on the weapon fired on your unit. It makes it so that it still gives you a benefit but weakens depending on what weapon is being fired on your unit, making options like armor piercing weapons and cover ignoring mortars a viable option in your arsenal. 
  • Heavy weapons that move will only suffer a -1 penalty To Hit when shooting. Before, if you moved a Heavy Weapon, you only hit on a 6+. It seems as if Warhammer 40k is going to focus very heavily on mobility. Another positive change I am seeing in the long run as it makes shorter range heavy weapons like Multimeltas much more viable options. 
  • Templates are no longer going to be used in this edition. In previous editions, Flamers and blast markers were used to determine which models were hit by a blast for a jet of flame laid directly over the models. Now, flamers will cause automatic hits at a certain range and blast weapons will cause a certain number of attacks representing an explosion. It makes Battle Cannons far more effective against Monsterous Creatures as it will cause D3 hits that cause D3 wounds each assuming it fails its save. It makes the game far easier to play as you don't have to debate on whether a model is in a template or which floor you are shooting with blast weapons that can scatter and not hit anything. 
  • Twin linked weapons no longer issue re-rolls To Hit like in previous editions. Now, it doubles the number of shots given. This is a pretty interesting design change that can make Twin Linked weapons far more deadlier than previously such as Land Raiders, Ork Fightaz, and Stormravens.
  • Combi-Weapons no longer are one-shot weapons. In previous editions, combi-weapons allowed you to fire a special weapon instead of your regular weapon, but it was a one-shot weapon as it only had enough ammo for one shot. Now, you can fire either or unlimited number of times during the course of the game. In addition, you could fire BOTH at the same time at a penalty of -1 to hit. This makes combi-weapons FAR more viable now, especially weapons that are anti-infantry like combi-flamers that automatically hit anyway with the added bonus of firing a Bolter at -1 to hit. 
  • Melta weapons make it easier to cause a higher number of wounds versus something like a Lascannon if at shorter range. If you hit a target with a Melta weapon at half range, you roll an additional D6 and take the highest result of the two. It makes sense as Melta weapons can cause more damage up close, making it viable not only against Vehicles but also Monstrous Creatures as well.
  • Pistols can now be used in close combat, firing one shot at the statistics of whatever the pistol is. It makes it so that you can shoot that Plasma Pistol in the face of whatever creature you are fighting in close combat. Previously, it only gave you an extra attack if you are wielding a one handed close combat weapon. Now, it gives you a free shot with its statistic. This will make things like Grav Pistols and Plasma Pistols far more viable option for close combat characters and units as it fires a pretty solid shot compared to their close combat attacks. 
  • As of the time of writing, it is unknown how the following weapons and abilities work exactly or will even exist in 8th Edition:

Rapid Fire

Assault

Salvo

Barrage

Destroyer Weapons

Blind

And They Shall Know No Fear

Acute Senses

Adamantium Will

Armourbane

Concussive

Counter-Attack

Crusader

Eternal Warrior

Fear

Fearless

Feel No Pain

Fleet

Fleshbane

Force

Furious Charge

Graviton

Hammer of Wrath

Hatred

Haywire

Instant Death

It Will Not Die

Jink

Lance

Master-Crafted

Mighty Bulwark

Missile Lock

Monster Hunter

Move Through Cover

Night Vision

Outflank

Pinning

Poisoned

Precision Shots

Preferred Enemy

Rage

Rampage

Relentless

Rending

Repel the Enemy

Sentry Defense System

Shred

Shrouded

Skilled Rider

Skyfire

Slow and Purposeful

Smash

Sniper

Soul Blaze

Specialist Weapon

Stealth

Strafing Run

Strikedown

Stubborn

Supersonic

Swarm

Tank Hunter

Torrent

Unwieldy

Vector Dancer

Vector Strike

Two-Handed

Vortex

Zealot

*Whew* That's a lot of rules!

Movement

  • Your movement is now based on the unit itself, not by what type of unit it is. In previous editions, each model by default moved the same 6" on the table, with exceptions depending on what kind of unit you were. Jump packs and bikes moved 12", vehicles could move in some cases 18", and fliers were required to move at least 18" but could go up to 36". Now, the movement stat is tied to the model you take. Its an interesting change as it makes it new player friendly by being able to tell what the movement is by looking at the unit's statistics instead of the rulebook. Most game systems like Warmachine and Malifaux already have this in place, even Warhammer Fantasy (pre Age of Sigmar) did this for awhile.
  • Movement remains mostly the same with the minor change being that you run during the movement phase, but if you run you cannot shoot. Same as it was in previous editions. Prior to this, you rolled to run during the shooting phase, not the movement phase. It makes the game more efficient as you don't have to roll for it in a separate phase. Sounds alright. Not ground breaking. Might be confusing at first for some veterans. Tokens for running probably wouldn't be a bad idea to remind you which units ran.
  • You can move out of close combat, but doing so you cannot charge or shoot. Remember that problem I talked about at the very beginning of when I played this game? Well, that has been addressed. It took 15 years, but late is better than never. Previously, only certain units were allowed to back away from close combat in a rule called Hit and Run. Even then, it required a test in order to successfully execute it. Now, EVERYONE can Hit and Run with no test required! This is going to make games far more interesting as you can no longer rely entirely on locking up with the enemy in order to stay alive against a shooting force. 
  • You cannot end your movement within an 1" of an enemy until you declare a charge. I don't remember there ever being a specific rule stating that you couldn't be within 1" in previous editions. 

Shooting

  • Everyone can split their fire. It is not limited to one target by a select few units. For example, you can have a unit of Space Marines fire at a unit of Fire Warriors with bolters, have the flamer fire at Stealth Suits in cover, and the missile launcher fire at the Hammerhead. Previously, the unit could only shoot at one target and one target only unless it had a rule called Split Fire. This makes Heavy Weapons and Special Weapons far more effective in your basic units instead of having to rely on dedicated squads to get the job done. A very positive change that was sorely needed!
  • You cannot shoot at units within an 1", so you cannot fire into close combat unless you have pistols as previously mentioned.
  • Vehicles suffer the same penalties mentioned above unless otherwise stated in the unit profile. So if the vehicle moves, its at a -1 to hit in shooting. I'm on the fence about this change as it makes more sense that vehicles could be a bit more stable when firing. Its something I'll have to play in order to see how it works on the tabletop.

Charge/Close Combat

  • Charging is its own phase. Simply pick a unit that is within 12", roll 2D6, that is how far you can move towards the enemy unit. You can sweep into multiple units during this charge. It works pretty much the same as in previous editions.
  • Overwatch works the same as before. If a unit charges you, you can fire shots into them and hit on a 6+. I'm also on a "wait and see" on this one as certain armies like the Tau Empire have some insane bonuses when it comes to Overwatch. As an example of those bonuses, the Tau Empire can mark units with Markerlights that can increase the Overwatch chance to hit with each Markerlight spent on that unit, in some cases upwards of 2+ to hit. Tau Empire units within 6" of the unit charged can Overwatch as well in the previous edition. It depends on how they deal with that in this new edition. On its own, its not a bad rule but if buffed up to an insane degree it can be game breaking at times.
  • Initiative is no longer a statistic. Previously, Initiative was used to determine who went first with modifiers based on weapons, charges, and special rules of units engaged. Now, whomever's turn it is determines who swings first. Chargers go first unless interrupted by an ability such as Slaanesh Daemons and Tyranid Whip Lashes. I'm more on a "wait and see" mode with this one as I am not entirely sure how this will work out on the tabletop and as we have more information about close combat weapons.
  • Close combat weapons have changed a bit as well. Power Weapons all have different bonuses and downsides. For example,  Power Swords have a -3 AP but no strength bonus whereas the Power Maul has a +2 in Strength but -1 AP. Power Fists have double strength, -3 AP, and causes D3 damage but suffers a -1 to hit in close combat. It does not suffer a negative penalty in striking order. Chainswords do have a bonus. Now Chainswords give you an additional attack but no AP and only 1 Damage. Grey Knight's weapons cause D3 damage instead of 1. Imperial Knight's Reaper Chainsword causes 6 damage flat!
  • Vehicles can charge into close combat now like every unit in the game. However, their attacks are difficult to hit on average (6+ in most cases) and has a higher than Space Marine Strength. This represents them trying to ram into enemy units. 

Psychic Powers

  • Psychic powers work completely different. Before, psykers had a power level that allowed them to generate dice to determine how often they can generate their powers. If your opponent didn't have psykers and you did, you were almost unstoppable as psychic powers were nearly impossible to counter. Powers like Invisibility caused units shooting at the invisible unit to only hit on a 6+ in shooting and counted as Weapon Skill 1, which meant you were hitting them in close combat on a 5+. It is unclear if that power will still exist in this edition. Now, Psykers cast their spells by rolling 2D6 and comparing that to a power value depending on the power. The opponent can attempt to dispel it if a Psyker is within 24" of them and hasn't attempted to dispel it by rolling 2D6 and matching or beating the roll made by the opposing Psyker. To the best of my knowledge it is just a straight roll with no modifiers. The number of powers you can attempt and dispel is based on the model itself and their rules. Another positive change but with a word of caution. Part of the reason things got so out of hand with the previous edition was that effects stacked on top of each other, allowing players to have beefed up super units or "Death Stars" on the table. I hope that the powers have been balanced better in this edition. But only time will tell...

Keywords/Characters

  • Units will have Keywords associated with each unit and abilities will be only able to affect models with that specific Keyword. For example, if an ability states that it affects models with the Ultramarines Keyword, it will not affect units that do not have that Keyword like Grey Knights. This effectively in theory will kill "Death Stars" mentioned previously.
  • Characters can no longer join units. However, they cannot be targeted by shooting unless they are the closest or have over 10 wounds. In theory, this is suppose to have the character be in the middle of the battlefield leading and directing troops. In practice, I imagine that people will find ways around this by using Drop Pods to get their unit as close as possible to the character and shoot him down.
  • Characters gain a rule called Heroic Intervention. It allows them to join in a combat within a certain amount of distance, even though they were not charged themselves. This makes sense as you wouldn't see a blood thirsty Chaos Lord sit idly while his unit within arms reach is fighting in combat. What that exact distance is exactly isn't known, but if I had to speculate it would be 6".
  • Character abilities will have a radius and will only affect certain models with a specific Keyword, preventing characters joining each other and creating character units that make little sense. A positive change overall that prevents game breaking units being formed.

Battle Forged/Stratagems

  • Armies Battle-forged now will remain Battle-forged. Pretty straight forward and reasonable.
  • Formations are gone! Good riddance. The formations given allowed benefits for free just by taking certain units. Thematic yes, but it caused some game breaking problems with very little restriction aside from the limited units you could take. Replacing Formations are Detachments that require you to have the same Faction keyword when building your Detachment. Each of these Detachments have certain benefits with the most common being Command Points. 
  • Battle-forged armies gain Command Points, which are used for different abilities to be spent on. Some characters naturally generate Command Points for your army just by taking them. The three default abilities are the ability to re-roll one dice for one command point, go first in close combat after being charged for two command points, and automatically pass a Morale test for two command points.

Points/Power Level

  • There are three ways to build an army now: Open Play, Power Level, and Points.
  • Open Play is just as it sounds. You bring models, your opponent brings models, and you play. This is good if you want to just play a quick little skirmish game and want to teach someone the game real quick. As a regular method of play, I don't see it being done much as it doesn't really give any sort of balance whatsoever. Having someone get crushed before they even start playing is not anyone's idea of "fun".
  • Power levels, however, I can see being done a bit more as a quick and dirty way to get in a game far better than Open Play. The way Power Levels work is that it is a quick assessment of how powerful a unit is compared to another. It shrinks the points down to a manageable level but is not designed for competitive play. It gives you just enough of an idea as to how powerful a certain model or unit is compared to your opponent. Its good to get in a quick game that is fair and has some level of structure. Wargear does not add to that power level, but additional models do add to it. If I had to suspect how that works for characters that have a ton of wargear options, it probably gives them a few limited options for characters to take when using Power Level with some minor adjustments done. Certain missions and scenarios designed with Power Levels will require different power levels depending on what the mission is. For example, if you are playing an Ambush mission, it requires one player have a higher Power Level than the other because of how the scenario is set up.
  • Points are the competitive answer that has been used for years. Each model/unit has a point value with wargear options that also cost points. You and your opponent agree to a certain amount of points and you build your army using those points. To use an example in previous editions, lets say you and your opponent agree to play a game that is only 1000 points. You select a Space Marine Captain that is worth 100 points, his power sword is 15 points, and his plasma pistol is another 15 points. Right there you have spent 130 points. You keep building a list until you fill up as much of the 1000 points as possible. 
  • You can no longer summon free units throughout the course of the game. In previous editions, you could summon free units of Daemons if you had the right psychic powers. This got pretty ridiculous as it became blindingly apparent as 7th edition progressed, with Daemon armies outnumbering everyone by the end of the game. Now, if you want to summon those units, you have to set aside a certain amount of points in order to summon them. However, you don't have to declare what the points are spent on. As an example, let's say you are playing a 1500 point game and decide to set aside 200 points for summoning. When you summon a Greater Daemon, you can choose which Greater Daemon it is that is 200 points or less. Once you use that 200 points, that's it. You can't summon another unit for that game. This is a good change as it doesn't cause people who had the models to just suddenly win a game because they suddenly outnumbered their opponent 3 to 1.
  • You can only put half of your army in reserves in a matched play game that uses points, even if they are required to be in reserved like Drop Pods. In previous editions, your whole army could be placed in reserve. The problem with that is you automatically lose if there is no unit in play at any time, making it so that if you play with an all Deathwing army that teleports in, you lose unless there are a unit of scouts already in play or a Thunderfire cannon. Now, you have to have units in play at the start of the game in a matched play game. In open and narrative play, you can put everyone in reserves if you wish.
  • However, there is no more scattering in this edition! Anything that cannot be placed outside of 9" of an enemy unit is destroyed. In previous editions, you placed a model down on the board and rolled random distance to see where they go or land where intended. This sometimes caused units to either not go where intended, even getting killed before they come onto the board. It was frustrating to see half your force go up on smoke because of an unlucky scatter and several dice rolls of bad luck. This is a more positive change as you don't have to deal with RNG killing your units off. Also, you can charge when you come in from reserves, even if you teleport in with Terminators! This does make it so that units can't utilize Meltas and Flamers teleporting in as their range is not within 9". 

Overall, I feel that much of these changes are a step in the right direction for Warhammer 40,000. The rules are straight forward, printed on the unit itself instead of having to dig through the core rules to figure out how something works. Its going to make the game more accessible to new players and veterans are already feeling very positively about these rules. There are some things that I am concerned about like Overwatch and the power creep from certain units that can go under the radar. But more importantly, its the company's attitude towards game design that has gotten me on board for 40k again. If Games Workshop does keep up with it and make adjustments based on the feedback of the community as often as Privateer Press does with Warmachine, its going to feel like a solid game that will last a very long time.

But that new box set though....