Warhammer 40K 8th Edition Review – My First Game

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?

Game Length

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 way more games. You’re welcomed to read my first 8th battle report. Also, we’re updating our Chaos Marines unit reviews for 8th edition as well.

Learning Anew

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.

40K Weapons
Learning all of these all over again.

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.

Movement Phase

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.

Psychic Phase

Primaris Psyker
I’ve always loved this artwork.

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.

Shooting Phase

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.

Charge Phase

Harlequin Solitare
Photo Credit: James Ryman

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.

Fight Phase

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.

Morale Phase

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.


Warhammer 40K 8th Rulebook
The bible of our saviors.

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.

  • Glad to gear from some folks I know about the new edition. Although I personally don’t fancy power levels I can see the appeal of them.

    • A lot of people at my FLGS find the new point system annoying in that the model isn’t pointed with their equipment. When you do points you have to add the base cost, plus the gear they have on them. It is rather dumb, and makes no sense to me at all why they did that. There’s no logical reason to not included wargear cost on the model when you pay for it.

      Power levels are great if you just want to knock out a game. Two people bring armies, decide on a power level, and you can write a list in a few minutes. The downside is that you can game power level pretty easy since wargear is effectively free. You pay the power level for the unit and that’s it.

      • The Points are supposedly all in the back because that way they can do updates to re-balance Point Costs by just doing a couple of pages rather than re-printing a whole Dex. They claim updates like that are going to be more or less yearly, as things prove to be over- or under-priced.

        • You know, I knew that, but wasn’t thinking in terms of wargear on units. It makes sense, otherwise if points adjusted on a single wargear item, then they’d have to adjust the unit entry, not just the single sheet.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            it makes less sense than before because now if two units share a wargear option it can’t be priced differently for the two units. So the price of a gun takes no account of the BS of the model firing it.

            • Yeah. That’s my big gripe with it as well.

      • Also, Power Levels are harder to game than you might think. They’ve

        been assigned on the assumption that you’re taking a fair amount of gear for everyone. Most lists I’ve written up or seen come pretty close to an average of 20-22 Points per Power Level, regardless of whether I start from Points, Power Level, or just pulling out Models.

        If people are gaming it, I’m pretty sure it’ll be fairly obvious. If anyone shows up with an Army consisting entirely of Acolytes with Storm Shields and Combi-Meltas, ask to play Match Points ;)

        • Jervis had said, in that interview I mentioned above, that they basically took a unit as the cheapest, and at the most expensive, and set the power level as the average. That was my assumption on gaming it, that you could go all-in and push beyond that average pretty easily.

          Either way, I like them. List building was such a chore under 7th. You were always trying to maximize effectiveness, and that meant shaving 5pts here, 2pts there, etc. With power level it’s more about playing what you like, which suits me just fine.

          • Interesting. Because I’ve actually tried to break it, just out of curiosity, with a couple of Factions (Space Wolves, CSM, Nids) and couldn’t really find anything too bad that wasn’t blatantly obvious.

            Regardless, I do really like them, too. It’s so nice to just be able to pull stuff out of the case and go “10 CSM, 10 CSM, 5 CSM, 5 Terminators” instead of having to work out all the details of every little bit of gear they’ve got. Especially for things like Chaos or Wolf Guard Terminators, who have a zillion options.

            • Yeah, I’m sure power level is pretty balanced. There may be an exception, always is, but it sounds like GW is going to play referee more now and fix things as they arise.

      • Oh, also, not including basic wargear gets rid of the issue there used to be when Units with different base weapons paid the same upgrade price to get a given upgraded weapon. The most egregious case was Tempestus Scions, who already paid through the nose for their Hellguns, and then had to pay the same to replace them with a Special as a regular Guardsman did to replace a Lasgun.

        • Kenneth Raymond

          I like the fact that weapons are now separate. My gaming group has already determined that 8th edition can be a Vehicle design sandbox. (We tended to allow VDR vehicles to be used before so now that everything looks like the old school VDR design notes we are hyped to get kitbashing.)
          Now with paying for a base vehicle say a leman russ. You can add whatever weapons you wish provided you pay the points for them. (Take the hellhounds melta cannon and a hull mounted multi melta for instance) [We are also getting the FW indexes for even more options to fuel our vehicular mayhem.]

          A Chaos predator with a hades autocannon? A defiler with a demolisher cannon? And more shall be possible.

          • It does lend itself very well to VDR.

        • I see what you’re saying.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        I suspect they did this on purpose to make power levels more attractive to use than points. Part of GW’s agenda that ‘wooly and random is fun’. Now building a list on paper is a chore with points. Luckily there are some good army builder apps out there.

        • I think they did too, but also for that granularity that tournament players want as well, or need anyway.

  • It really sounds like the changes were, in most cases good. I haven’t had the chance of reading the rules yet myself but from what you wrote, I would be very surprised if I didn’t agree with you on the changes. Have you heard anything on how future releases are going to work, if it’s going to be codex’s like before or if they are going the AoS way on it with broader books?

    • They have said that we’ll get codices again. What we have now with Indexes is temporary. Hopefully the codices keep the balance they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

  • I got my first Game in on Friday. More fun than I’ve had playing 40K in a long time. And yeah, I found that it took about the same time to finish as a Game of similar size would have in 7th, but that’s comparing a couple of years’ experience in 7th with our very first Game of 8th, so it’ll probably speed up quite a lot once we get the hang of our Armies better.

    • Good to hear.

      I feel like 8th is the edition many of us needed. I would have stopped playing 7th edition altogether except I really had no choice at my FLGS. The one night I go out and and play is the 40K night at my FLGS, and a lot of other players aren’t playing anything else. So, if I wanted to get out of the house then it was 7th edition. Last week was my first game of 8th, and my last game of 7th though.

  • Good to read. I have to say that I am liking the sound of power points, but that may be just because I have found the Age of Sigmar points system robust enough to deliver good games.

    In terms of the length of time, I think it is positive that as you say first time with a new system takes the same length of time as a game with a system that you know really well.

    • I don’t mind long games as long as the game is meant to be long by design. I feel like 7th created long games unintentionally by some clunky elements. Games I played under 5th went pretty quick, but 7th slowed it all down. So, it’s nice to be back to a game of 40K that plays the way it’s intended.

  • Great article. I played a testing match with my Eldars i also think almost all changes are good.

    • Thanks.

      Glad to see you’re liking the changes as well. I don’t think 8th is for everyone, but I feel like it’s for most people.

      • And simplicity. I wanted to play Ynnari, but carrying with codex craftworlds, harlequins, dark eldar, death from skies and the rules was too much weight. Now one little index and a few sheets of rules.

        • Absolutely! Related to that, I have status marker tokens – the ones GW sold years ago, and I realized I can lighten my load by removing almost all of them from my bag. WIth no shaken, stunned, wrecked, etc., I don’t need 10 different tokens to mark various statuses, and I’m all for that.

  • Which mission did you play?

    • We rolled randomly on Eternal War and got Relic, which is the same as it was in 7th.

  • Some great thoughts there. Can’t wait to get some 8th games in when my rules arrive. On that note, how are you playing already?

    • Well, you can find the information you need if you look ;) Plus, my FLGS has an advanced copy of each Index and the rules as part of the lead-up to release.

    • My local store organice demos.

  • You have no idea how pleased I am to read this dude! You were/are in a similar position to me re 7th ed, and have the same outlook on gaming in general, so this is a litmus test for 8th for me :)

    Really excited to play this now. Got to say I am pretty fed up with the bucket loads of negativity I have read (mainly from competitive players tbh) about the new system. Bring on 8th ed for me :)

    • I was surprised honestly that 8th brought it all back for me. When we knew 8th was coming, and GW started the hype-train on their site, I was meh about it. What the hell could they do to fix the game I once loved? Then BAM! It’s all gone, rules and codices. I knew they were serious at that point.

      I was hesitant, but 8th has proven a breath of fresh air. I got in my second game last night, and I stand by what I said here still.

      Negativity comes every edition, but of course you know that. I haven’t seen much of it, but I also make a point to avoid that crap. If someone dislikes 8th because it’s not the game they want to play any longer then that’s fine; I get it. When people dump all over something because they can’t pull their bullshit any longer, that I have no patience for.

      Anyway, I definitely feel you’ll enjoy the game. It’s very Age of Sigmar like with that grim dark feel that makes 40K what it is.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        I am glad you are happy with it.

        Personally I don’t like it, because of three things I think- unnecessary simplification of things like armour facings and casualty removal and templates removing tactics- the ‘gameyness’ of a lot of the rules and procedures (I like my games to feel like more of a simulation than an abstract board game) – and the sheer blandness of most of the units. My Iron Hands and various chaos armies felt really individual in 7th, now they have lost all their character. some of my favourite units have been severely nerfed too for no reason, like Obliterators.

        I will give 8th a few more games, but I am just not feeling it so far. Luckily 30K is staying with a new version of 7th so I will carry on playing that, and probably strip and repaint a lot of my vehicles for 30K. Other than that I think my GW minis are going on the shelf and I’ll be concentrating on SAGA, Bolt Action and maybe starting Gates of Antares if I can find opponents.

        • I understand. It’s too bad, but I get it.

          We will get codices though, and one would assume the flavor back with them. However, if the game mechanics don’t speak to you then it’s a moot point.

  • Great write up, buddy!

  • JD Brink

    I was all ready to fax GW a picture of my ass for coming out with yet another edition. Then I started checking stuff out, and I’m actually more excited for 40K than I’ve been in years. Gunna see if I can find any books tomorrow, though I get the impression I’ll have a wait a couple more days. I like the idea of simplification. I also expect to like the take on vehicles and MCs. I came back to 40K in 5th ed, where vehicles lasted a lot longer and you could decide which of your guys died. I missed that and it sounds like those aspects are back in this edition. Can’t wait to check out the full rules. Also exicted because I can pay just $25 and get the stats on several armies in a single book! Amazing! Where did the greedy bastards I love to hate at GW go off to???

    • I hear you. They really have learned a lot and come a long way the past year. Most importantly, they listened to us and that really shows in 8th edition.

      For now you can get all that for cheap, but we will see proper codices eventually. Still, I get the feeling that the codex prices will be much more reasonable than prior. It’s as though they want us to like them or something…

      • JD Brink

        Yeah, they must have gotten the word that we were preparing our pitchforks and lighting our torches. It took them long enough!

  • Nice write up, and very promising news for the new edition! I’m really looking forward to trying it myself.

    I’m curious to see if the indexes become part of the annual update cycle. Even after the full Codex books are out it would still be nice to have a cheap way to get all of the data sheets without having to buy a codex for every army. Now that you can put anything with the “Imperium” key word into the same detachment I think it will be quite common for people to be sprinkling odd units into their army. If the Indexes go away we’ll be right back to lugging two or three Codex books around.

    • I also rather like the Index concept, and I’d also love to see it continue. Even if they don’t, at least players won’t have campaign books, and supplements to carry around on top of the codices they need. So, they’ll still be lugging around less than 7th ;)

  • The Warlock

    A little late to the party, but thanks for the write up! I skipped out on Day 1 shenanigans as I wanted to paint some stuff first before deploying onto the battlefields. Will attempt to line up a game this coming weekend and see how DG fare

    • Enjoy. It really is a great game now. If 7th fed you up then 8th will make you smile I think.

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