Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Warhammer 40,000: Opinions On a Small Amount of Information for 8th Edition

If you've been under a rock, the new edition of Warhammer 40,000 hits this summer and it will bring a ton of changes - more than any edition change that most players remember. Games Workshop has moved to a more normal relationship with customers, offering new information, asking for questions, etc. They have released a ton of teasers for 8th Edition - and of course I have some opinions.

The Movement Phase

One thing many players have asked for is here - movement values for each different unit type. This helps stratify the armies - in the past, everyone just moved 6". Now faster units, like Tyranids, Eldar, etc, will actually move faster than others. We have seen the profile for Marines and they move 6". At first, I was a bit disappointed, as Space Marines are clanking super humans, not exactly nimble warriors, but perhaps 6" is on the low end. One would hope most Tyranids and eldar are going to move 8" in that case.

You can also 'run' in your movement phase, which makes it faster by just moving and running in one step. It would be great if they just made it a fixed value instead of a dice roll (to save time) but they didn't opt for that yet.

The other major change is that units can fall back out of combat during their move, forgoing the ability to do anything else that turn. This has seen mixed reviews online, and I see why. Yes, if you run away, you can't do anything, but you do get out of combat and the rest of your force can shoot at the assaulting unit, who has already weathered maybe two turns of shooting and a close combat. I'm not a huge fan - I really hope there are more downsides than just 'can't do stuff', as it will set up a lot of 'bubble wrap' and 'redirecting' situations. They have said that the assaulters get to shoot at them, or something, but lots of melee units aren't equipped for that.

Overall the movement phase is much better, with lots of welcome changes.

The Psychic Phase

I think most 40k players would agree that the psychic phase as currently written is a big. fat. mess. It involves a ton of dice rolling, almost no way to defend against anything, and lots of broken spells. Rolling random spells means you could end up with a model that you really didn't have a use for. 

It has been rumored that psykers will get to choose spells, which is great. The roll is actually easier - you just roll 2d6 to see if you beat the warp charge number. Each psyker also knows Smite, which does mortal wounds to the closest unit (no save possible). I don't know how I feel yet about mortal wounds - I've heard AoS can be about stacking as many mortal wounds causing units as possible, which would be unfortunate. I think most people would love it if the 'win at list building' aspect could come out of 40k.

Definitely a better psychic phase than 7th edition!

The Shooting Phase

Shooting in 40k 7th Edition was extremely powerful. The ability to add re-rolls and then make sure your guys wouldn't die with rerollable saves was the most important thing. 

I was really hoping that they'd make cover a negative modifier to the To Hit roll. So if I was in cover, and you shot me, it'd be +2 to your test to hit - so instead of hitting on a 3, you'd hit on a 5. This is how it used to work in Fantasy, and probably 40k before that, and Necromunda. It makes sense, its easy, its realistic.

Instead, they chose to give you a bonus to your armor save. While this is easily better than the 'zero sum' method of getting cover before, it still isn't as good as the above. Now, Marines benefit from being in cover, which is realistic and great. But they'll have a 2+ armor save in cover vs bolters and other stuff. That seems crazy.

Some weapons will have an armor modifier, something like -2 or -3 etc. So if a lascannon hits you, its -3 to your armor save, so a marine would be at 6+. If this cancels cover, it'll be really tough for horde armies. If we translate a termagant to 7th edition, they'd have a 6+ armor save. Add to that maybe +1 or +2 cover, and they're losing all of that to a lascannon. Perhaps you'd say "well yeah, a lascannon should annihilate termagants" but they're hiding in cover, not just standing in the open.

It would also remove a dice roll by just making negative modifiers to hit - you roll to hit, wound my termagants, and if there is a negative armor modifier, I don't get a save. However, you've already missed more shots due to the negative modifier. It'd save time.

They've said that anything can hurt anything - which means to me that maybe a roll of a 6 on a to-wound always wounds. This goes with vehicles having a wound profile, and also makes 40k into the overall dangerous world that we see in the books. It may seem dumb when a termagant finishes of a dreadnought, but it may simulate the dread being overrun and one termagant getting a lucky hit, etc.

Pistols can also shoot in combat. This is worrisome to me only because shooting is already mega-powerful, and while it makes sense that pistols can shoot in close combat, it'll definitely help out marines and the stuff that didn't really need any help.

Heavy weapons can move and shoot at a -1 to hit. This is another negative for me, I think, because shooting was already pretty powerful. Hopefully they'll offset it somehow by making heavy weapons shoot fewer shots or give assault armies some sort of durability.

Overall, a better situation than 7th edition, but could have been more!

The Charge Phase

The charge phase hasn't seem to have changed much. You charge 2d6" and your opponent can shoot at you with overwatch. The main changes are that you actually only have to come within 1" and your opponent can overwatch you multiple times if you don't make contact. 

Lots of folks were disappointed that overwatch still exists. While most often its just wasted time fishing for sixes on dice, some armies can hammer you with re-rolls and better BS shots. And again, you've already weathered shooting for two turns. 

The 2d6" random charge also made people pretty upset - why add a movement value to the game but not utilize it in charges. Hopefully you can move in the move phase, then charge in the charge phase. So hormagaunts moving 8" (speculation) can then have a 15" average threat range. I agree, the random charge range is dumb - there is a 600% variation between a minimum roll on 2d6 and a maximum roll.

I would say this phase is the only one that has seen an overall negative reception.

The Fight Phase

Charging units again go first, which is cool. If you secure your charge you should be able to fight first. Then you can move 3" and possibly drag more units into that combat, which would be smart, but I don't see that happening much after someone's first game. I was hoping that they'd say that everyone in the unit gets to fight - which may seem unrealistic - but cuts down on a ton of time wasted measuring and arguments over 2" etc etc. It also removes the stupid situations where a huge character doesn't get to fight because he somehow ended up 2" out. 

After everyone who charged has fought, then the current player chooses a unit to fight first, than the other player chooses a unit. This is definitely a good step - a baby step towards real alternating activations. Most new games we play nowadays have alternating activations and it really is the best way to play, so its good we're seeing it in one phase, even if it probably is the least important phase for that.

Close combat rolls are also fixed now - so the Swarmlord hits anyone on a 2+. I don't really see this as a huge issue, to be honest. In regular 40k most of the time you were either gonna hit on a 3 or a 4, and most of your army was going to be like that. It is not a huge change. Sure, you'll run into times when your marines hit a primarch on a 3+, but I imagine they'll give that dude some resistance to damage to make up for it.

The baby steps toward alternating activation is definitely something to be optimistic about.

Other Stuff

Weapons now have an armor modifier - bolters are 0, something like a lascannon is -3. The all or nothing AP system was horrendously outdated, so this is a really welcome change. Shooting a powerful heavy bolter and having a space marine have the same save as a lasgun was always pretty stupid.

Certain army builds will now get 'command points'. This is a cool idea that has been used in other games so I'm happy to see it here. I don't know how much it'll impact the game, but its better than nothing.

There are now three ways to play, something like no points, rounded off points, and full on points. It'll likely come down to everyone only playing one way, so I don't see this as particularly important.

They're saying they've playtested this for a long time and included convention runners etc. I hope their definition of playtesting is what I'm thinking of, heh. We know what their playtesting has been like in the past. They're going to release rules for each faction on the day of launch, and most players are really hoping the lower tier factions like Space Orks, Tyranids, etc are given a boost.

Overall they seem to want to make the game go faster, which is great. 7th Edition games really bog down. They haven't taken every opportunity to remove less important dice rolling, but perhaps by 10th edition they can.

Overall Changes

Most of this stuff is really encouraging. They seem to have really heard some feedback from the community. Its unfortunate that they've held on to some stuff like overwatch and random charge ranges, but that's GW. I hope that with the increased power of shooting in this edition (as we've seen so far) assault armies get some sort of protections or speed bonuses. I also hope they learned from AoS and make this a much better launch - it is important for them!

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