First let me start with how excited I was for the coming of 40k 8th edition. Although I enjoyed my games of 7th edition, the game and system started to show its age. A conversation about your game before hand was never more crucial to having fun.
That said, if you put in the time with your opponent before building a list you could have great narrative fun. I may be a 40k 7th edition apologist, or perhaps I was lucky enough to have a good bunch of fair-minded opponents to throw dice with.
The first sounds of the orchestral tuning came upon the idea of being able to use the fallow half of my collection. The excitement I saw in old friends coming back to the game brought the show to an epic crescendo that even Wager would appreciate. Then I played my first game.
Granted we got half the unit rules wrong and messed all manner of things up. However, a few things stuck in my craw. Repeated over watch coupled with being able to fall back meant I lost half my army to over watch from repeated charges. I gave it a pass. It’s our fault we didn’t know the rules. Keep playing. Officer, 8th edition didn’t hit me I fell down the stairs.
Over the next couple games I started to understand combat movement and how important it is. I also began to manipulate my build to offset my initial issues with the game rules and to take advantage of what my army does best. With each tweak to my list, or further understanding of rules, games took longer. As we came to understand the various phases better interactions took longer.
Then I played 4 more games. For a simplified edition that is streamlined and faster to play it is both complex and straight forward. Movement in the movement phase is relatively simple. Move to what you want to charge (basically ignore terrain). Be in the bubbles of auras you want to be in.
The assault phase with two pile-ins per unit and alternate unit activation though takes forever. No more do you just push the units together say “Yup they would all be close enough to swing”. Then roll dice together, take casualties, and be done. Now very careful control of how you move every model during both pile in moves is very important to manipulating surrounding units and keeping them and other units tied up or unable to fall back at all.
I’ve found that rather than being faster (typically would get all games of 1850 in 7th done in two to two and a half hours, maybe only five turns), I am finding games last much longer. 1500 Points are taking three to four hours to play without setup. That is pushing this game from something I can squeeze in every week or two between work, kids and wife time, and into taking away from one of those important life duties trying to get a game in.
Furthermore the game feels less interesting/tactical to me. Not to say tactical movement is out, but more that armies are so similar you can’t leverage strength and weakness like you could before. Armies want to be different from each other and in function are, but how you play them is fundamentally the same. Are you shooty or assault? Stay in your buff aura’s. Target priority guns at the things that hurt your list. Then hail marry left overs shots at what needs killing.
The lack of never being able to hurt something, as seen in previous editions, coupled with being able to always fall back has really left tactical choices off the table. No longer can you tie up a superior unit with a lesser unit that can’t even hurt it in the name of winning the game. Both strong units and weaker units lost something for this.
Strong units die to anything with enough attention. Weak units are now real threats to everyone/thing. The chess of applying the right tool to the right task and building in enough tools to handle what you are likely to face is gone. The desperate ingenuity of trying to fit square pegs into round holes when you’re all out of correct answers made the games interesting.
I think the real culprits to game time are the assault phase and unit rules. We’ve gained across the board at least 1 new thing to remember in movement rates (lost initiative, but you only used that once in assault). Also pretty much every unit has two to three unique rules that apply conditionally to it. Take the lowly Hormegaunt, it has a rule allowing it to pile in six inches instead of three inches, re-roll to hit rolls of one in assault, and if the unit size is twenty or more re-roll to wound rolls of one in assault. That on top of army wide rules.
Now two of these are so common they could have made a Keyword that is this ability (re-rolling 1’s in various settings). They haven’t. So, instead I’m left scrambling to look over the entire data-sheet every time I use a unit to make sure I have all its rules right. This issue is systemic. Most armies get most the real power from re-roll auras. As such, through most phases of the game you are rolling and refilling dice constantly. This also dramatically increases play time.
I’ve not given up on 40k 8th edition yet. I have way to much money invested in 40k to give up lightly on it. But I have been feeling less excited to play after every game. Hence the feeling of ennui I have about this edition so far.
I hope this breaks and our group sees a game time speed up soon, so I can get more game reps in. Should this break come from updated FAQ rulings, simple rules comprehension, or even superior game aids I am unsure.
At least army flavor seems to be coming back if the recently released Space Marine Codex and Chaos Space Marine Codex previews are anything to go by.
So, please share your results in the comments below. If your games are faster or slower than 40k 7th edition. Any tips you may have come across to speed up game play.