Obviously, one game is not going to unlock all the nuances, and depth of Warhammer 40K’s 8th edition, but it’s far more than no games. So, why not share some of those observations and thoughts?
I got to play my first game of Warhammer 40K 8th edition on Wednesday. I brought along my Chaos Marines with an 80PL (power level) list. My opponent played Harlequins. Optimistically I thought we would knock out two games, however, lots of referencing naturally slowed the game down. Still, our 80PL game took us about as long to play as a game of around 1,500pts under 7th would. I figured 80PL to be in the ballpark of 1,500pts in 7th, so pretty comparable all around. I didn’t see what the list points were under 8th. Thus, if it took us as long to play under 8th when we were looking things up non-stop, it stands to reason that time will go down significantly once we’re comfortable with 8th. A game this size taking an hour seems reasonable with experience.
Note: I’ve since played two more games, so three in total.
This leads me to what we were looking up. If you’ve seen the rules then you know they’re only 8 pages. There’s other stuff covering missions and such, but the core rules are only 8 pages. For the most part, we weren’t looking at rules all that much during our game. The big change in 40K 8th edition was moving things that were once core rules, and universal special rules, into the Indexes. So, while we weren’t looking at the rules a ton, the Indexes were thoroughly gone through.
The Indexes now contain all the special rules a unit has, and they are spelled out on every unit with a few exceptions. Just because two units may both have the same rule by name doesn’t mean it works the same for each unit. So far it does seem to be the same for each unit sharing a rule, but I’m betting there are exceptions.
What my opponent and I had to look up the most were profiles for units and weapons. Basically, the stuff that changed the most. With an introduction of a movement stat, and the change to weapon profiles in general, there’s a lot that has to be re-learned. Between some weapon type changes, changes in strength, AP, and the addition of damage, there’s a lot to memorize again. It’s not quite as bad as when I started learning the game 11 years ago, but it’s damn close.
Playing a Game of 40K 8th Edition
First up, this was the most fun I’ve had playing a game of 40K in a very long time. You can never relive that excitement of when you played your first game of 40K, but this was a close second. All of the changes, that hard reset of 40K 8th, has done a lot to change how the game plays and feels.
I’m going to cover things in broad strokes since I find dissecting everything tiring and unnecessary.
The movement phase is largely unchanged with one exception – terrain. Terrain no longer slows down movement. It will remain a necessity to block line of sight, create firing lanes, alter approaches, etc., but its impact is lessened (I feel), in 8th. I’m more than fine with that though.
Another subtle change is with transports and movement. You can disembark within 3″ of a transport (no more access points) before it moves, and then proceed to move, shoot, and charge. That effectively gives you a 9″ movement, and a charge threat range of 21″ from where you started the turn.
Transports now serve that purpose – to transport. Transports were mobile bunkers before. You’d stay in it, move, and fire out of it. You don’t fire out of transports, at least not universally, and coupled with the fact that an exploding transport can cause mortal wounds, staying inside one all game long is not advisable. I learned this the hard way when my Rhino with 5 wounds left went nuclear, and I rolled five 1’s and lost half the squad.
I like the changes to the psychic phase. I know there’s a lot of complaints on casting powers in matched play, but that aside – the mechanic works great. Dealing with powers is no longer a random element thankfully, and can (as it always should have been) be a part of your list building. The casting mechanic is simple, makes sense, and the psychic phase moved along quickly in my game.
I can’t wait for proper codices to be released, so we can get more choices of powers, but the psychic phase is no longer the chore I once found it to be, and I’m thankful.
Much like the movement phase, a largely unchanged phase of the game. The biggest change, I think, is to cover. You’re only getting cover now if entire units are in terrain features. Cover now grants +1 to your armor save as well. Terrain was never an overly complicated subject, but the simplification works well.
Of course, units can now split fire freely. I did do this a few times just to do it, not because I was doing it effectively. Where this is going to shine is on units with a high rate of fire and/or strong shooting. I did it with a 10-man CSM squad with 2 plasma guns against two single models. I wanted to try it out, effectiveness be damned.
Another change is to the AP system of weapons. My Marines were getting saves more often than they were in 7th. No complaints!
Oh, the character targeting is great. Being unable to target a character unless it’s the closest visible unit is pretty substantial. When I was building my list and picked a Sorcerer for one HQ, I immediately began pondering what retinue he would be with for the game. It took me a minute to realize he didn’t need one. I then decided to also take a Warpsmith to do field repairs since he no longer needed a babysitter either.
The element I really like about the targeting is that I can let characters do what they need to do. So, before I might put my Warpsmith with Obliterators for protection. Well, I’d be in situations where I really needed to repair something, but I also needed to shoot and charge an enemy unit. If I broke off the Warpsmith to repair, and let the Obliterators move forward, I’d risk losing the Warpsmith the next turn. Now that’s not an issue, or at least not nearly as large of one, and I love that. It’s one of those small changes with a large impact.
Pretty much as it was in 7th with the exception of overwatch. This came up once in my game as well. My opponent wanted to charge my Obliterators with three single model units. The first two failed their charge, so I got to overwatch three times with my Obliterators.
This phase has had a lot of changes. The combat itself is similar, but everything around the combat is different.
As everyone knows, charging in 40K 8th edition is crucial. In addition, getting multiple charges in a single turn is pretty important as well. Every unit that charged swings first. If you charged in with 3 units then you’re fighting first with those 3 units. After the charging units swing, you then begin alternating players, however it starts with the player whose turn it is. So, if you charged in with 3 units, and you have another unit already in combat, then you’re attacking with 4 units before being attacked back.
Now, this is where a really important stratagem comes in, counter-offensive. This costs 2CP (command points), and lets you interrupt the fight sequence. After your opponent has attacked with one of his charging units, you can use counter-offensive to choose a unit of yours to fight. Counter-offensive let me save units twice that would have otherwise been destroyed.
There’s a lot of nuances with combat now, more than I care to dive into here, but suffice to say there’s a lot of strategy involved with combats now. This is an area I feel is greatly improved under 40K 8th edition. Before I felt that combat was basically throwing a unit forward, and usually just getting bogged down in a fight for a few turns. It never really felt as important as it should be. However, with all the changes to the game in general, close combat is once again a threatening phase, and not just one to annoy an opponent with.
I’m a fan of the changes to the morale phase. Two small paragraphs are what remain of a phase that took pages. More importantly, morale has a big impact. The biggest thing that morale now does is remove entire units. Yep, take enough casualties and you’ll find yourself unable to pass the check and losing the few models that remain. This means that large squads will again be useful, and high leadership has a real value once more.
While the rules have been simplified, there’s no less depth to the game than before. It honestly has not lost that strategic and tactical element that people love about the game. The strategic elements have changed, but not gone away. I can’t stress that enough.
The game is just fun. I don’t have to stress over list building like before. Making a list for 7th got to the point where I just hated it. I knew that no matter what I put together, I would get my head caved in by an opponent who could build a better list. That opponent didn’t always have to be a better player either – though many were and compounded the beating, but just had to have a better list, and I loathed that. List building is still a vitally important part of 8th edition, but it’s also not the end-all-be-all either. The player now plays a properly critical role in the success of a list.
I also find the game just feels more coherent. I was watching a video the other day with Robin and Jervis, the writers behind Warhammer 40K 8th edition, and something Jervis said rung very true. He had said that the game has mostly been an evolution, and having come in under 4th edition I can see that. Jervis went on to say that the game kept evolving, getting more complicated, as they had to bolt on new rules to cover things they never envisioned before, like flyers, super heavies, etc. I feel that 7th optimized that bolted-on feel, and it just never flowed quite the way it should have, and that became very apparent after one game of 40K 8th.
Well, this ran longer than I intended, but hopefully it was a worthwhile read, and I’d love to hear from others who have managed some games under Warhammer 40K 8th as well.