Warhammer 40K 8th edition playtests

   We spent last two weeks playing new edition of Warhammer 40 000. We’ve tried almost all races (except for small codexes like Harlequins and Deathwatch) Tried matched play and narrative play. Tested old rosters and created some new ones. Our first impression of the new rules was rather negative…So, let’s see if it has changed.

   Narrative play is definitely the best gaming mode. We didn’t try free play since Unbound was never popular. Powerpoint game allows you to use all the abilities of the units, taking all the upgrades and weapons. The game definitely becomes more diverse. It’s also much quicker to build a roster and you can take models as they are before you haven’t adjusted them to the new rules. In general, 100 ppts is 1800 – 2000 usual points, the game scale we all are used to. But there are fewer models since you spend more points on wargear.

   The balance is almost matched. The only problem is that some armies have special upgrades, and some – don’t. So, Tau can use different systems for all the battle suits, which really improve them. And they are free in narrative play. Daemons can summon unlimited hordes in this mode (it’s the only way to play them now since in matched play they are totally helpless with new magic and summoning). However, for example, spacemarines don’t have such upgrades and possibilities. So, there’s an obvious handicap.


   Speaking about the balance… It’s not that simple. As we told you before, the promise to make everything play is broken. Yes, things have changed. A lot of stuff that used to play great is now almost useless (obliterators, scatter bikes, etc.) Gamedesigners tried to equalize all units by weakening the powerful ones until they meet the average level. And it isn’t equally right to everything. Some armies have lost their only power but didn’t get anything in exchange. So, now it’s not obvious what units to use.

   The role of heavy weapons has risen greatly. Now lascannons, missile launchers and any other guns like them rule this galaxy. It’s almost universal way to solve any problem if your army lacks interesting and powerful units. This leads to one expected problem – big guys don’t live long. It’s quite obvious that if you have something like Imperial Knight or Baneblade in your army, your opponent will try to eliminate it first. And it’s not a big problem if he has a couple if lascannon squads. It can be done in one turn. Moreover, he doesn’t need to completely destroy the unit. Due to the new «weakening» system, big vehicles become almost useless when lost half of the wounds. So, we were totally right. However, vehicles in general now are more solid. It can take the whole army’s turn to destroy one ork wagon. That’s great for orks, since now they have much more chances to get into close combat.

   The only alternative to heavy weapons is using a lot of vehicles.  You won’t take a lot of imperial knights due to the high price. But using a lot of predators, for example, is real. Multiple targets will create a challenge for the opponent and he will struggle to destroy all of them at once. Also, you can refuse of using expensive units and spam unlimited hordes of cheap meat which will swallow any roster, targeted against heavy armor. So, it’s «rock-paper-scissors» classical scheme. It’s nice, but the choices are too straightforward. Yet versatile rosters always lose to the single-target ones.

   Another prediction came true is useless flyers. In fact, only transport modifications can be of use. To deliver the squad to enemy lines and die. The others don’t have time to deal serious damage. Flyer targeting system definitely needs improvement.

   The magic is now totally supportive. Forget about mass-psyker rosters. Now they don’t make sense at all.  On the one hand, it shortened the psyhic phase, hated by many. On the other, it almost destroyed the key features of magic armies. It’s really sad to see Kairos and Magnus being more effective in close combat than in casting spells.

   Reserves with no scatter dice are definitely the wrong way (just like in shooting). Scatter dice didn’t hurt anyone. However, now you can’t set your models closer than 9 inches to the enemy. Which forces you to put your droppods in the middle of the battleboard, just under the enemy’s fire if he’s set his forces wisely around his deployment zone. What’s the point in such «air assault»? The mobility of transport has grown and it can take your units in that area at the first turn without any reserves. Even charging after the deployment doesn’t help, since 9 (in fact, 8) inches is still a lot.) And since characters are now separate units, you risk to leave your hero behind even if the unit has successfully charged. And this ruins the whole idea of synergy. So, if you want to be a successful close combat fighter, buy a Rhino. Or a Venom.

   Nevertheless characters can’t join units, they are doing quite well in the shooting phase, Just surround them with many models. But when it comes to close combat… Sure, your enemy wants to kill your character first. And sure, without a chance to allocate wounds into the squad, it will happen really fast. It’ not a problem for the fighters like Kharn – the enemy won’t live long enough to make his attacks. But the characters, who are not the best fighters should better stay away. But how to use their auras then…

   By the way, close combat has become less useful since anyone can leave it. If you are not a special close combat fighter and the enemy has survived your attacks, be ready to be left alone in front of the mass shooting. And prepare to the second round of overwatch before you can meet again. And you will lose some models at the bravery test. Yes. And no bonus attacks for charging. But Tau still makes overwatch with all the nearby units…

   It's hard to say whether games became faster or not since now we spend a lot of time checking the new rules, and even more – arguing about them. There are already a lot of questions about close combat and units special rules. And we have already mentioned increased random factor and the number of dice rolls. It’s more likely that the games remain the same length.

   Sure, the deployment now takes less time. Now you don’t have to think about armor facings, anti-template formations and place your models as you like. However, this has cut out a big part of tactical depth. Now you need to think about the movement only if there’s a character nearby and it’s sad.

   And it’s not the only game aspect which would be nice to see. There’s no pinning, no retreating, no need to defend week points of vehicles and potentially dangerous deepstrike (for both players) and many other things. Sure, the game became more active, you spend less time on thinking and you are totally involved in the action. And there’s still some tactical depth. But there’s still a feeling like you’ve lost a box of tools and now have only a hammer and a screwdriver. Sure, many will say that the game used to be too complicated and you didn’t need the whole box. Yes, it was. But now the simplification has gone too far.

   And of course, sameness. Not permanent, of course. No legions, no chapter tactics, keywords mostly mean nothing, all unique unit’s rules are minimalized. Yes, all the special rules are now called differently. But practically it’s just the same rule but in different words. In previous editions, you had «Preferred Enemy» special rule for re-rolling 1’s to hit. Now you have a multitude of the rules with the same meanings but different names which won’t tell anything to your opponent. In the long run, you have to explain the whole rule. Universal special rules, just as the scatter-dice are the thing which would better be saved. At least in some other way.

   In general, the new edition is surely playable. There’s a point in waiting for the new books which will show the true GW view at the new rules. There’s a point in testing different combinations since the balance has changed greatly. But there’s still a feeling of an understatement. A lot of aspects are lost, and some reasonable questions. The opinions of the players who took part in tests are different. Mostly based on their army’s power. Tau player, whose army has everything it had before and even plays better now, will never understand a CSM player, who has lost so long awaited legions, marks of the gods, summoning, magic, the power of the favorite units and got nothing in exchange. Only complex thoughtful balanced rules will save this edition. Let’s hope it won’t take long to see them.