Warhammer 40,000 – Coping with Change

So most of us have had 8th edition for a little while now and have likely invested in an Index or two.

Aside from ditching the 3rd edition mechanic almost entirely which has served as a rebirth for a number of weapons and tactics,  there has been a conscious effort to redress the balance for certain armies. Armies that, no matter how hard the design studio tried, were consistently mugged off by every codex that came out for them.

The main victims were the Imperial Guard, Tyranids and Orks who for years never quite lived up to the potential, despite a consistent top up of new and groovy models. Arguably Eldar and Dark Eldar occupied the other slots in the ‘Top 5 Most Mugged Off Armies’ chart but they are less of a focus.

anti_tyranids_by_lathander1987-d4hkcrc

Speed

One of the biggest changes from 7th to 8th edition was reintroducing different move rates. Back in 1998 I actually really liked the change because it made things simpler and made the game feel faster.

Back then it probably did play faster too but as the years and the editions wore on more and more special rules had to be introduced to cope with the dizzying array of faster units, including flyers the game introduced.

It became clumsy, awkward and completely deballed the argument for having flat movement values in the first place. So they’ve gone.

This is extremely good news for Eldar armies but it’s utterly terrifying for another fighting Tyranids. Because by the Emperor’s shrivelled nut sack are they quick.

Whilst the majority may shrug because they should be, it blows all army compositions and battle plans that rely on gun lines clear out of the water. Some units under 8th edition can more or less assault on turn 1. That’s 2nd edition levels of crazy and I love it.

This is the 41st Millennium after all where either insanely advanced tech, unholy powers of the Immaterium or super fast, super agile alien life forms exist. Of course shit should move that fast.

Those who relied on whittling down enemy units with shooting and then weathering the inevitable assault with superior stats need to think again because you no longer have that kind of time.

For Guard players the change in movement coupled with the move towards treating vehicles like infantry has turned the Leman Russ variants into hilarious and incredibly hard to kill, fast-moving flanking units as opposed to the armoured pill boxes of yesteryear.

Survival

As if blinding speed wasn’t bad enough, the flimsy base units aren’t so flimsy any more. With the change of AP from a value weapons can ignore to a modifier – ala 2nd Edition – Imperial Guard, Hormagaunts and Ork Boys all get a save against most basic weapons.

orks-vs-marines

This is a major change because up to now mobs of Orks could be culled with almost impunity by Space Marines unless the Ork players coughed up for the ‘Ard Boy upgrade. Which, again, completely undermined a big advantage for fielding Orks: numbers.

The same was true for Imperial Guard. Take Grenadiers or storm troopers or be prepared for a very static game.

Whilst standing still and shooting (or attempting to) everything that moves is a tried and tested tactic of the Imperial Guard, it doesn’t take long for that way of playing to get old.

With how modifiers work: Tyranids, Orks and Imperial Guard become a lot more dynamic. Of course leapfrogging form one building to another will still keep your blokes alive for longer because of the +1 to armour save, but they now stand a fighting chance when they’re forced to run across open ground too.

It’s hard to say who benefits the more from this as all of the flimsier armies benefits. The only armies who don’t are the Space Marine derived. But on the upside they get a more gripping game.

Power

In 8th edition a lot of things got a lot more power from units to weapons.

The move to flat rolls over tables means that Orks, who have suffered for years with a statline that never really reflected the sheer brutality of the army, are now horrendous.

Broadly speaking 8th edition favours horde armies over any other but Tyranids and Orks definitely come out on top.

The durability when combined with higher to hit and wound rolls have turned the lowly Ork boy in to a combat monster. Whilst I’m of the opinion this is a positive and needed to happen, a lot of gamers are about to get smacked around by opponents that historically posed no real threat.

Orks are now fucking mental.

Anyone who read my review of the core rules will start to see that the apple cart his so much been upset as been shelled from space.

But it goes further than that. Guard’s traditional utter mediocrity is no completely offset by the fact that everything can wound everything.

Whilst you’re unlikely to lose a Land Raider to concentrated lasgun fire, it is now possible.

But for the Imperial Guard it isn’t just the fact that infantry units are now incredibly worthwhile, it’s the sheer variety of special and heavy weapons you can cram into the army.

For example Plasma weapons have always been handy but now they are more or less the go to ‘everything killer’. Although there are more powerful weapons out there, point for point – especially as the plasma gun is as destructive as a plasma cannon – they can tackle most things.

A plasma gun and a plasma pistol in every squad and suddenly you have units that can overwhelm small elite units and chip away at medium and light tanks with ease.

Brace, Brace, Brace!

Whilst Space Marines make out okay in 8th edition, not least because of the addition of Primaris marines, it’s the horde armies that are the ones to watch. Especially with the introduction of power levels.

Asymmetric gaming overwhelmingly benefits horde armies simply because they get the most pop for their points. If you’re using the Open War deck (which everyone should because it’s awesome) then you can be in for some really fun and very messy games.

Of course the real prize-fight will be seeing one horde army face off against another. Especially Orks vs Tyranids. Speed and aggression vs savagery and unrelenting toughness.

 

Warhammer 40k 8th Edition – A Review

The time is upon us. The moment when I wade in on arguably the biggest game release of the year.

I’ll be honest, I’m not known for being a shrinking violet when it comes to my opinions but on this occasion I wanted to take my time to form an opinion on what is essentially a totally new game.

For those new to the Warhammer 40,000 Universe – either you started playing 7th edition in its twilight months or 8th edition is your first foray in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium – you may not see what all the fuss is about, but fuss there is. And lots of it.

The fuss comes in the form of both new rules and new background. It’s a fuss because Games Workshop aren’t really known for moving things forward. Although since Age of Sigmar all bets were firmly off.

But why should they? They’ve spent 30+ years cultivating an incredibly rich background with 10,000 years of history they can draw on whenever they feel like it. Change is unnecessary, messy, often complicated and can upset the proverbial apple cart.

But change it they have and they apples, they be everywhere.

WarComm-Cover-DarkImperiumLogov2-1600x800

The Background

If you’ve read the Gathering Storm supplements for 7th edition much of what’s discussed in the book won’t come as a big surprise. For those that haven’t, I strongly recommend making the purchase. It’s quite a big investment especially as half the books are effectively useless, but it really helps to bring the 8th edition 40k Universe to life.

For reasons I can’t go into, I knew about a lot of the background changes that were coming as far back as the release of 6th edition. They’ve been on the drawing board that long.

It’s changed a bit since then because frankly what they proposed then would have upset way too many gamers (especially Blood Angel players) but the core of it is still the same.

So in the new 40k universe everything is basically stuffed. The galaxy has been ripped in two and the Imperium to the galactic North of the rent is blind to the guiding light of the Astronomican. This not only makes for some very interesting games but some incredible plot developments along the way too.

Not to mention the Black Library novels that are no doubt being penned furiously by Messrs Thorpe, Abnett, Wraight, Kyme et al.

Roboute Guilliman is running the Imperium in his father’s stead and has introduced a shattered Imperium to the Primaris Space Marines – the secret experiment to end all secret experiments.

The superist of super soldiers.

The badassest of badasses.

The tits, basically.

I’m not going to review the Primaris models here because the review would simply be too vast but suffice to say, they’re mental.

New40kArtContent4

A lot of gamers, this one included, are slightly concerned that this is a subtle precursor to Games Workshop phasing out the current Space Marine range in favour of something a little truer to scale. However, there are little tidbits in the background that hint at the existence of the Primaris so perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom on that front.

Although we have bugger all say what Games Workshop do so there’s no point in worrying about it.

The other cool thing about the new background is the opportunities it presents for gamers to create some fantastic gaming boards. Historically fighting on demon worlds was limited to Chaos and Grey Knights or underpinned by the flimsiest of justification.

Thanks to the massive tear in the fabric of reality, the baleful influence of the warp is slowly infecting worlds nearby. That means games can be played on worlds that are twisted shadows of their former selves. From a hobby standpoint this is very exciting.

As one would expect from Games Workshop these days, the book is beautifully turned out and the background is realised with a host of artworks both old and new. Some of the classic artwork is a nice touch to make us old buggers feel loved.

There’s a marked improvement in the quality of the writing compared to some of the recent codices too. There’s flailing at gravitas and a lot more focus on getting the material to resonate. It’s not perfect though and all the new stuff is pretty clunky and a bit confused.

Much like Age of Sigmar and other games before it, it doesn’t really know what it is yet. Whilst I can understand the concrete being a little soft on this particular foundation I don’t excuse it.

The Gathering Storm did an awful lot of heavy lifting and if the writers couldn’t get the Primaris to set right in the background they should have:

a) tried harder
b) not bothered
c) put Robin Cruddace back in his box and let someone else take a swing.

Personal vendettas aside, overall the background still feels like the Grim Dark we all know and love but realistically we’re not going to really know where these changes are heading until 9th edition.

The Rules

One of the reasons this review took me a while to publish is because I needed to get a few games under my belt to form an accurate opinion.

This isn’t like the previous editions where it’s essentially the same game with a few tweaks, juicing the psychic phase or throwing in flyers.

This was a whole new beast and it wasn’t until I played the first game a couple of days after getting the boxset that I cottoned on to that fact.

Unlearn What You Have Learned

I’ve been playing 40k a long time. Since the twilight moments of Rogue Trader to be exact, some 27 years ago. I mention this because I’ve been playing what is essentially the third edition mechanic (with the aforementioned tweaks) since 1998.

Almost twenty years of everything moves 6 inches and even longer of using tables (although I had them all memorised) to determine what I needed to hit and what I needed to wound.

All that has gone. Along with most of the other rules.

Warhammer 40,000 has undergone the wargaming equivalent of liposuction and bitch be looking skinny.

The rules are, essentially a pamphlet.

Everything has been streamlined to such an extent that, as a veteran gamer, I found the first few games genuinely uncomfortable. My first game against Lee lasted hours because we kept checking the book because we couldn’t get used to the absence of rules.

Deep Striking for example is now just a thing you can do as opposed to gut wrenching, anxiety inducing test or nerve and dice rolling prowess it once was. Whilst simple and much quicker, I kind of miss the peril.

And that really is the issue with 8th edition.

At its core the mechanic is brilliant. Games play is slick and fast. The new tables make dice rolling simpler and making vehicles effectively behave like infantry cuts out a lot of wanky nonsensical rules that both crippled rate of play and frustrate gamers.

But despite all that, it’s lost a little bit of its charm.

I’m sure it’ll come back as the Codices are released and special rules are inevitably reintroduced, but in Games Workshop’s efforts to make a game that pleases both narrative and tournament gamers, the rules that made it 40k have fallen by the way side.

That said, broadly the changes are positive.

The most positive being variable movements are back! No longer are fast armies limited by magical powers, strong winds or name calling by their opponents.

Units are once again as fast as they always should have been. It’s also made the game far more strategic and far harder for armies that use to just sit back and shoot.

Tau players especially are in for a very rocky ride against the likes or Orks and Tyranids

Speed Rolling

The tables to determine hit and wounds rolls are gone and I couldn’t be happier. The design studio had been tinkering with them for years to try and make them work with the burgeoning array of units and weapons in an effort to make them all unique whilst keeping the game balanced.

Depending on who you talk to, they never really got it right and I was constantly irritated by having weapons becoming more or less reliable with each iteration.

Now stats are a dice roll: 2+, 3+ 4+ etc. Simple as that. It’s such an agonisingly obvious approach I’m kind of amazed that it took them (and us) 30 years to figure it out.

It redefines the playing field as 2+ in combat is back making certain units and characters absolutely terrifying.

New-40k-Infantry-TableSimilarly wounding is now determined by a simple comparison (see right). And that’s it.

You may notice that it is also possible to wound everything. And I mean everything. A Lagun toting Guardsman can now wound a Titan. The truest of true facts.

This is made possible by the other major change – vehicles are treated exactly the same as units in so far as they have a toughness and wounds.

But it gets an armour save. As do most things against basic weapons now because save modifiers have returned. Although it slows play slightly because it effectively increases the number of dice rolls in the game, it’s a good thing because it increase the number of dice rolls in a the game.

Plus it has the added benefit of being much fairer. It gives units that thematically can shrug of major damage a chance to do so, rather than being turned to so much fine mist.

All these changes aren’t to everyone’s taste, it makes total sense and shrewdly pleases both narrative and tournament gamers.

How it does this is simple:

Tournament gamers like fast games with the minimum of cocking about flicking through rules. 7th edition was not that game. 8th edition, with this new mechanic means that rule flick is kept to an absolute minimum. Tournament gamers around the world must be positively dancing around their parent’s basement with glee.

Narrative gamers on the other hand get to re-enact all the heroic shenanigans from their favourite Black Library novels. The heroic Guardsman spotting a weak point in the Titan’s armour and squeezing off one last shot before his certain demise, only for the Titan to explode before his stunned eyes.

It reflects the simple fact that if you through enough firepower at something it will eventually die. A lucky shot through a vision slit, damage to minor systems that cause a cascade reaction…

Whatever it may be, it makes for some pretty interesting games.

Whilst not everyone is a fan of the change, personally I like it. It’s made vehicles more vulnerable but harder to kill. Gone are the days of having your much-loved Dreadnoughts glanced to death.

The other

Lean and Mean

Amongst the wallowing, bloated frame of 7th Edition was rules that I could never get to grips with. I suspect because the studio struggled to make them balanced amidst the 20 or so armies vying for an edge in a 30-year-old mechanic.

Principal amongst these were the assault phase and the morale.

Now whilst this may make sound like a simpleton, bear with me and hear me out.

The assault phase had become, over the years, more complicated especially when it come to resolving the combat because it bucked the system completely.

Initiative meant that no matter how well executed your strategy was, if you were low initiative you were going to struggle in combat. Even if you were a close combat focused army. Which was mental.

Then when it came to figuring out who won, it didn’t follow the standard ‘test to bugger off’ method of old.

Similarly with morale checks, if something failed a morale test you had to role to see if it ran off, but depending on the unit type it rolled different dice. Unless it had a special rule, then it didn’t. Or it did but you could re-roll. Or it didn’t give a toss and stood there smirking at you because…reasons. Or science. Or magic. Or magical science. Take your pick.

Now the assault phase works as one would expect. You run up to someone, punch them really really hard in the face, they fall down. Whoever is left tries to do the same to you. Simple as that. Initiative has fucked right off and with it the prayers of Ork players have been answered. Who have become one of the most lethal armies in the game.

Morale checks as we knew them are gone and it’s a genuine game changer. Units no longer run away. Really thing about that. How many times have we hinged a strategy or an entire win on an enemy unit failing a morale test and legging it?

Now a simple test whenever you suffer capitulates (no more 25% business) determines if you lose any more models, either because they’re succumbed to their wounds or simply lost their nerve and abandoned the rest of the unit.

This rule is awesome because it gives low leadership armies a fighting chance, it’s far more thematic (and realistic) and allows things like And They Shall Know No Fear and Commissars to serve a real and decisive purpose.

It also means that perseverance, chipping away at heavy infantry and the like, will be rewarded.

And now for the But

It’s not a terribly big but – liposuction will do that to you: it’s not quite the lean mean Grim Darkness machine Games Workshop would have us think.

Although there is a lot to be pleased about – not least of which being split fire making a triumphant return – but there are, much like an op gone a bit wrong, complications.

For one thing, the rules aren’t terribly well written and hopelessly laid out in places so even though there’s less to learn you’ll spend ages trying to find specific rules.

You’ll find it an age later written in greyish text in a grey box on a grey background, tucked off to the side in a grey border. Only to find the explanation is vague to the point of retarded.

It’s deeply irritating and alarmingly reminiscent of the crap Spartan Games used to pull.

Now admittedly, this comes back to unlearning what I have learned. I’m used to things being far more complicated (and well written) than they now are. But I’m also used to properly structured sentences and games designers who have a fucking clue what they’re on about.

For all the posturing and bottom wiggling by 8th edition about how lithe and sinuous it now is, the reality is it has just palmed all the cakes (and extracted fat) on to its once slimmer siblings: the Codices.

You army book is now the conveyor of all your army’s special rules.

On the upside the debate of the need for Codices is well and truly over. With the rules so utterly stripped back, each Codex is now the sole repository for what all the special rules and the various ‘keywords’ do.

Except it doesn’t really explain them all that well. The new and very cluttered layout of the unit profiles means that I forget to use my special rules/keywords more now than I ever did with 7th edition.

The keywords – aside from a stupid name – are supposed to act as categorisations.

So anything with the Fly keyword is subject to the flying rules. However, whereas in the past the rule book provided you with an explanation, each unit has its own explanation including how fast it can move and how many turns it can make.

Again, it’s just a very different way of doing things but its inelegant and makes having keywords arbitrary becomes no two definitions are the same.

Admittedly this is likely a transition thing for someone too stuck in their ways but there is no getting away from the fact that feels fairly unnecessary and is as annoying to remember as all those wanky special rules on the reverse of the Dystopian Wars data cards.

However…

For all the things that bug me about 8th edition, I know they are largely because I’m still getting to gripes with it. It takes a lot to forget 20 years of rules and replace them with something that is, at its core, a totally different game.

Whilst in isolation the rules seem a bit sterile the game is still very good and the thought of Apocalypse games no longer fill me with a sense of dread.

The biggest change is anchoring the rules in both the core book and the Codices. Doing away with the compendium of special rules is huge so gamers can expect to rely on their codex more and more once they’ve got the core rules nailed.

Anyone on the fence about 8th edition shouldn’t be. Whilst Games Workshop seems a bit scatter brained at the moment they’re getting use to things the same as we are. Which is a very weird place for us all to find ourselves.

Why I’m Keeping My Old Codices

Tomorrow poor Mister Postie will be lugging an awful lot of very heavy boxes to the front doors of a lot very over excited geeks.

I am, of course, referring to the release of the much-anticipated and much debated 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000.

In addition to crippling postal workers across the globe (Dark Imperium weighs a stonking 2.5kg), the new edition of 40k is about to change the game and the background in some very dramatic ways.

40KDarkImperiumENG01

Anyone who follows the Warhammer Community page on the Facebooks will no doubt have seen the rule changes, the new – erection inducing – Primaris Space Marines and the galaxy map showing how royally fucked the Imperium is.

In the same way that Age of Sigmar rewrote (read erased) the Warhammer Fantasy universe, 8th edition Warhammer 40,000 is about to do something similar to the canon we know and love.

For new gamers this is no big deal. Total novices will enter Warhammer 40,000 with the galaxy already looking like someone spilt ink on a picture from Hubble. Or they’re new enough that the universe doesn’t mean as much to them as it does to more experienced gamers.

For us venerable old war dogs who have invested countless hours learning about the background – and 7 previous rule sets – we’re about to feel more like old dogs given new tricks.

That’s not to the say that the changes aren’t exciting (I actually knew about a lot of this for some time but more on that another day). I’m really pleased that the story is finally moving on and the freedom that can bring for narrative game play as well as future novels.

However, the background that I’ve spent the last 28 years learning is amazing and really rather precious to me so it seems a shame to cast out my old codices and supplements just because the rules aren’t relevant any more.

For me the background serves as a prologue for everything that comes next. Games Workshop have already stated that the previous books are still relevant from a background perspective.

The Gathering Storm books are especially worth hanging on to as they detail a lot of what’s referenced in the new book. Reading those before diving into the new edition will no doubt answer a lot of questions for the veterans gamers taking the leap from 7th to 8th.

I’m a little late to that party if I’m honest so let’s just acknowledge the fact that I turned up at all.

But there’s a few really simple reasons why the old codices and other books are worth keeping:

The Background is (in most cases) Really Good

The background has always been what made 40k and so walking away from that just seems crazy to me.

Change is good (you may as well embrace it because you’ve got no choice) but so is the journey so keeping a record is well worth it.

They give 8th Edition Context

The old source materials – particularly books like The Wrath of Magnus of the Gathering Storm trilogy – help to ground the new fluff so being able to refer back to that will be helpful.

GS-header

Plus according to a few sources there’s some easter eggs in the background that allude to all the mental shit that goes down. Finding them is proper nerdy fun.

The Books were Expensive

Let’s not kid ourselves, the rules, codices and supplements represent a significant investment.

I don’t begrudge that investment because a codex, per use, works out as one of the best value books you can own but that doesn’t mean you should just bin them every 5 years.

7th Edition isn’t Dead

As far as I can tell, the Horus Heresy will still be using the 7th Edition mechanic so there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t throw in some Orks or Eldar into your HH games.

We know the Imperium tussles with the other races of the galaxy before everything goes tits. To be honest, I’d love to see some games along those lines but I appreciate it would rather dilute the concept.

 

I cannot wait for my copy of 8th edition, or for the new Indexes or the new models. I’m excited to see where this is all headed and how many Primarchs will be returning to the fold.

But I’m also going to be looking back and marvelling at how far it’s all come and just how much fun it was getting there.

Deathwatch: The Space Marine army we’ve all been waiting for

Followers on Twitter will know that I’ve started collecting Deathwatch.

It wasn’t entirely planned. When I picked up a copy of Deathwatch: Overkill it was to have a natty boxed game that could be whipped out of a games night and  to collect Genestealer Cultists.

The plan was to collect a small Deathwatch army afterwards to compliment my unnecessarily big Ultramarines army. Made more unnecessary by my Forge World purchases last year… #sorrynotsorry

Then I read the codex.

60030109002_deathwatchcodexeng01

For the novice or the oblivious, the Deathwatch are a dedicated chapter of alien hunters made up from all the other Space Marine chapters. Yes, all.

They deviate from standard Space Marines in a number of ways – how they’re recruited being the most notable. But more than that, they have specialist equipment that flies in the face of Adeptus Mechanicus doctrine which would be enough to brand them heretics in the eyes of many.

The amazing Corvus Blackstar and the highly effective Frag Cannon being just two examples of this particular brand of non-conformity.

They don’t follow the Codex Astartes in any meaningful way in so much as they don’t use Battle company formations and they’re squads not only have diverse armaments but they also attach members from other unit types to their standard Killteams to bolster their strength.

This lends them extra punch either at range or up close (or both) allowing you to make some very focussed, very powerful units. The other very that should go with that is expensive.

deathwatch-hor

It does, however, make them interesting.

Anyone who has read the multitude of Black Library novels about Space Marines (which is a lot of them) will no doubt have experienced a degree of disappointment over the comparative blandness of the models and rules to how they are portrayed in the books.

Depending on the chapter the novel is about, there’s all sorts of subtle armour variations, minor modifications and other distinguishing features that make the armies feel markedly different from their brothers that can’t always be reflected in the army.

Especially when the practicalities of model making dictate that the more generic a model the broader the commercial appeal. Obviously there are always exceptions to this – Blood Angels and Space Wolves most notably – but those ranges are justified through a significant divergence in game play and a large enough customer base to justify it.

But more than that, in the books the Space Marines are absolutely devastating.

Whilst Space Marine armies are hardly limp wristed in the fisticuffs department, they are also hugely watered down to allow for (a) Marine players to take more than a squad and (b) to give other players a chance.

A few years ago White Dwarf published, for bants presumably, the movie marine rules. Essentially a fairly tongue in cheek set of rules to demonstrate how tough a Space Marine should be in a game of 40k.

They started at 100 points a model, had multiple wounds, a 3+ invulnerable save with a re-roll and their profile had lots of 5s and 6s in it.

A bit of fun for some, an eye-rolling annoyance for those who feel Space Marines get too much of the attention already, it’s a reminder that Space Marines are absurdly tough. They were, after all, originally intended as a single squad ally for Imperial Guard armies. But Space Marines are cool and only an idiot wouldn’t want capitalise on that opportunity.

The Deathwatch provides the faithful marine nerd with the variety and customisation options we’ve all craved. The fact that the entire army is made up of Veterans gives the army that super elite, against all odds, feel. A base level model is an eye watering 22 points, plus upgrades.

codex_deathwatch_art_tau_battlesuits

Moreover the mixed squads of Killteams, terminators, vanguard veterans and characters fits really nicely with some of the more dramatic moments in the books. Especially where the fighting is at its most desperate and the heroes of the Imperium are moving through the lines to support where they’re needed most.

I had the opportunity to play a 1500 point game with a standard Codex Space Marines army. Whereas I took a fully kitted out army which, excluding the Corvus Blackstar and the Dreadnought, was made up of 25 models.

My opponent, on the other hand took a captain, 30 Tactical Marines, 10 scouts, 10 assault marines, 5 devastators, 5 terminators, a predator, a rhino and two dreadnoughts.

Whilst there were very few (almost no) upgrades in the army, that was still 61 infantry models and 4 models with armour values. Considering the average cost of my models were weighing in at 37 points a model, being out numbered over 2:1 was about right.

However, despite my early apprehension that I was going to get absolutely slaughtered, I actually went on to win the game by a very narrow margin. The butcher’s bill was high but considering how I thought it was going to go I was content that the tithes would replenish the losses in good order.

The formations, because who takes an army without formations these days, actively encourage you to take the Space Marine army of your boyhood dreams, complete with re-rolls to wound differing units types depending on the formation.

Throw in Killteam Cassius and an absurdly good Watch Master (who is mental for the points) and you have the hardened, individualistic, monsters of war I’ve certainly always imagined space marines to be.

Seeing that translated onto the board is really quite something. The Deathwatch look and feel like the super elite army many (if not all) of us have always imagined taking. The models are imposing and the load-outs diverse. The heavy thunder hammer is hilarious.

The rules make them a small but highly effective team when used correctly (and sparingly). But more than that, the additions of things like the Corvus and the Infernus Heavy Bolter also make them elite because no one gets to play with their toys. Much like Grey Knights.

The background is also rich, interesting and tells of a force relentlessly committed to the cause unto death. They are the hero’s hero. They are the bending, but unbreakable line that pushes back against the alien.

They are the Deathwatch.

Kill Team – A Review

warhammer-40000-logo

So in the spirit of getting back into the swing of things I thought I’d revert to type and do what I’m good at: being very opinionated about other people’s shit.

And what better way to kick off than a game I lost at the night before. What could possibly go wrong?

So, Kill Team – Warhammer 40k’s remedial little brother.

Kill Team is one of a growing number of ‘route to entry’ boxes that Games Workshop is churning out at a fairly prodigious rate.

Whilst those without a bottomless hobby budget may well be struggling to find £100 every couple of months, Kill Team offers a genuinely affordable (by modern standards) route to entry into the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

60010699008_engkillteam01

In the box you get a Space Marine tactical squad, a Tau Fire Warrior squad, a groovy tactical turret and everything you need to play, including a data sheet for both squads with points values and the mini rule book.

The models are as you would expect from the individual boxes rather than the okay (yet slightly disappointing) push-together’s we’ve seen in the past which really enhances both the value of the box and the gaming experience for those new to the hobby.

Games Workshop has finally remembered that short-changing new gamers is a great way to make them fuck off and never come back.

The truth is, for the money this is really quite good. The only things missing is some form of measure and a few dice but I guess you need some top-up sales somewhere.

But the fact that the rules are in there too means that novices are getting a proper introduction to the game rather than a bullshit stripped down version of the rules that means they’ll have to buy another version 3 months down the road.

Obviously for the seasoned gamers it represents a fairly hefty outlay when the only thing they’ll need to play Kill Team is the Kill Team rules booklet. For those of you who just want the booklet I suggest eBay or the fair trading group on Facebook.

The booklet itself is, for all intents and purposes the main event. Whilst the models are all good and groovy, they can (along with the rules) be purchased by other means.

Whilst far from the majesty of Mordheim or Necromunda, Kill Team does give you the merest taste of those long past glory days allowing you to take 200 points worth of your chosen army against your opponent.

There are certain restrictions of course. Such as no HQ choices, no vehicles with more than 4 hull points, nothing with a 2+ save (so no Terminators) and a smattering of others.

The idea is it encourages you to be incredibly careful with how you choose your force. For a season gamer and an Ultramarine player, I actually found this quite difficult as I’m so used to structuring my armies around the teachings of Guilliman.

Because, you know, nerd.

Whilst 200 points doesn’t seem all that much, depending on the army you can actually be pretty creative.

It’s a tooled up tactical squad, or a basic 5 man squad and a slightly tooled up Dreadnought.

Or 30 Ork boys plus a couple of upgrades.

Never before has the differences in points and unit composition been so starkly demonstrated as it is with Kill Team and it’s easily one of its best-selling points.

It so aptly highlights what an immensely diverse universe in which we game and how desperate even the smallest scale engagement can be.

Had I put my list together in plenty of time, rather than in a Burger King on my way over to Jezza’s I could have taken a small, but tooled up, unit of Sternguard which would have been hilarious. And short-lived.

Unlike Mordheim and Necromunda, beyond models being able to act independently of one another, the rules work more or less the same as standard 40k. Which means stuff dies just as easily as it always did. Or not.

This highlights Kill Team’s one glaring flaw. It is, essentially, 40k without unit coherency. Which means splitting up your models gets them killed. Which rather defeats the point.

You’re almost better off playing a 500 point game and have the freedom to take what you want.

However, what Kill Team does offer is specialists. In a nutshell, three of your models can be made specialists from a number of lists which gives them access to one of a variety of special rules.

Things like Feel No Pain, Armourbane, Infiltrate, Fear, Eternal Warrior and a host of others feature, all designed to give you a tactical edge if used correctly. There is undoubtedly some trial and error in selecting the right skills for your Kill Team.

It was very much more error on my part when I played Jezza but that was because I tried to be too clever and failed to consider how a lone Space Marine, whilst tough is still just a lone Space Marine and he’ll die just as easily when mobbed.

Looking at the skills on offer, the likes of Scouts and similar units can become hilarious broken, especially if you use them as a team. Which sort of defeats the purpose of Kill Team but there we are.

The scenarios in the book are broadly very good. They work well with the limitations of the both the size of army and lend themselves well to beginners.

But beyond the specialists and the scenarios, there’s not much more to Kill Team. There’s no progression to speak which is a real shame. Something that slow expands the engagement size as a way of scaling gamers up to a full game of 40k would have been really cool and a missed opportunity.

As a starter boxes go it’s not bad for the cash. For someone who wants to ease themselves into 40k without a huge outlay, this is pretty much on the nose. It has plenty of replay value for the beginners and lots of nuance for the veterans.

It’s also brilliant if you’re pressed for time or fancy dabbling in a spot of 40k in 40 minutes over a lunch break.

Kill Team suffers from being neither one thing or another which as a long-term investment makes it a bit of a waste but, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, Kill Team at its heart bloody good fun.

Codex Craftworlds – A Review

warhammer-40000-logo

Another year another Eldar Codex.

At least it seems that way. Eldar have been a headache for the design team ever since the first Codex that came out for second edition 40k. They’re a fascinating army in terms of background, army composition and game play. Not even the Tau can match the Eldar for how well all the various units work in concert. Granted it’s very much the case of easy to learn, difficult to master but that’s true of armies like Space Marines. No really. No really. Shut up.

I’ve been frustrated with Eldar for a long time because the books are always brilliant until you get to the army organisation and then it all comes unstuck for one reason or another so I wasn’t surprised that another Codex was released so soon after the previous one despite the fact that the previous version was actually pretty strong.

But onto the current version. Which could have been superseded in to the time it took me to read it and write this review for al I know…

CodexCraftworlds01

Like the previous version the cover art is splendid. Not quite as dynamic but has veiled menace which I dig. It’s interesting that the Space Marine and Craftworlds codices both have junior officers on the covers rather than cool and groovy leader types. Not that they’re any less cool of course.

The production value has increased just as it did with the latest Codex Space Marines and there is lots of splendid new artwork. Not as much as I expected in light of Codex Space Marines but still plenty to make you boy parts and your girl parts (delete where appropriate) feel all warm and tingly. But like Codex Space Marines the artwork dominates double page spreads making the book incredibly thin in terms of actual content. Throw in 36 pages of photos and hobby section and the 160 page Codex Craftworlds doesn’t feel like…well a book. The artwork is beautiful, especially the newer stuff, but there’s just so much of it.

What content there is, however, is broadly well written. There’s still typos of course, but I’ve all but given up pointing those out because all it’s going to result in is an ulcer. There’s been a very well paced step forward in terms of the background for Codex Craftworlds. As with the previous version, this version seems to understand further still what it means to be an Eldar be it the path of the warrior, the outcast or balloon animal maker. Wait, what?

However some areas have been neglected either through space or the assumption that they won’t hold people’s attention. The biggest victim being the timeline. There’s fewer events and they just don’t feel as tightly written. The nice thing though is, overall, Codex Craftworlds does feel quite well written. I still feel at risk from hyperbolic overdose but nothing to the extent of Codex Space Marines. Although that was just poorly written rather than repetitive. Although it was that too.

There are some parts of the book that do feel rehashed and slightly lack lustre but overall all the Craftworlds have been given a vibrant lick of paint. Even Ulthwe has more going for it now than being stuck at the very edge of the Eye of Terror. Which is nice. I guess, more than anything, there feels like there’s a point to it all. The previous Codex did an awful lot in making the Eldar feel more tangible but this Codex builds on it and makes the Eldar feel like a people. More to the point a people that does actually interact with one another.

Weirdly that was always the thing with the Eldar: you never really got the impression that the various Craftworlds would have much to do with one another seeing as they have pretty different outlooks, ideologies, fighting styles and even agendas. This book does a lot to clarify that and to its very great credit. The Craftworlds feel more like nations now. Similar but yet different. Working towards common goals in very different ways that can cause friction, resentment and mistrust.

There’s also a general easing off the gas on the matter of the species dying out. Yes the race is the cusp but the emphasis is on that fact, not that they’re beyond saving. It’s an important distinction as one of the common grumbles was the point of playing as a species that was already doomed. Although if you really read into the background that can very much be argued for the Imperium. But I digress.

Broadly speaking the background in the Codex is great to read. Maybe it’s just me not remembering it much from the previous book but there seems to have been a lot of work done around the Wraith constructs and how Wraithguard, Wraithlords and Wraithknights fit into the grand scheme. I particularly like how unsavoury, yet necessary the entire situation is and that Spiritseers are treated with the same disgust as necrophiliacs.

The rules don’t seem to have changed…at all. A few things have gotten cheaper – like Howling Banshees. Presumably because everyone moaned that they were expensive die all the time. Now they’re less expensive and die all the time. So yay… That said the way Howling Banshees perform in this and the previous edition is a huge improvement on how they use to be.

The other tweak is that Dark Reapers get skyfire now which was badly needed.

The big deal in this Codex is, as with some of the others, the formations. Which are fucking mad. If it’s not free weapons platforms, it’s special rules or adding +1 to ballistic skill or weapons skill. Fire Dragons and Dark Reapers with a BS of 5 is just horrid. And wraith hosts make me want to vomit in terror. They get to re-roll failed hits against any enemy within 18 inches of the Spiritseer. I mean really?

Broadly speaking there wasn’t huge cause to redo the Codex. The points changes are convenient but I very much doubt they kept many Eldar players up at night. They will however be kept up masturbating furiously over the formations. There’s literally not a one I wouldn’t take. They’re all amazing. Dire Avengers get 3 shots. What the hell?

Of course the cynic in me would argue this entirely to sell all the models. But you know what? Who cares? Eldar range is gorgeous. Even the Eldar Guardians which must be around 17 years old now, are still awesome. And the bottom line is this:

The Eldar army has had significant weaknesses since 3rd Edition. Weaknesses that made the Eldar a real challenge to use. I’d go so far as to say that they’re one of the hardest armies to use. I’m certainly not the best gamer in the world but I’m certainly not the worst and I found them a challenge. I good challenge but I found strategy and tactics were tempered with faith far more than with other armies. And I’ve played with them all.

The formations in Codex Craftworlds give all the various units a buff that dramatically improves their combat effectiveness. It broadly doesn’t tackle their biggest issues – poor toughness and poor armour – but by increasing the odds of hitting or beefing up the fire power it goes some way to mitegating those weaknesses. Because, if you’re doing your job right, there will be fewer things alive to shoot back. The big revelation is this – it’s going to make the Eldar a challenge to play against.

You’re not going to save killer levels of points with the free support weapons and free upgrades but free guns are free guns. But it’s the special rules and stat buffs that you’re after anyway.

Is Codex Craftworlds going to set your world ablaze? Actually it might just. The formations are so good that no self respecting Eldar player should be without…any of them. The minor rule tweaks and points reductions are an added bonus. The flyers and wraith constructs are still sick and be crammed into your armies wherever possible.

Codex Craftworlds is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

Reflections on an Old World

A week or so ago I reviewed the all new, all shiny, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I reflected on the idea that this game wasn’t Warhammer Fantasy Battles ninth Edition but the first edition of an entirely new game.

It’s fair comment as whilst the models haven’t changed just about everything else has from the army names, to the rules, to the Warhammer world itself. Which got me to thinking: just what are the veterans of Warhammer supposed to do now?

What I mean by this is this some of us have spent a very long time not just learning vast amounts of rules and stat lines but absorbing, remembering, understanding and debating the background. Understanding the background wasn’t just part of understanding why these mighty empires were at war but why the armies and units were designed the way they were. It also gave us insight how best to use them.

Thus far it seems all this knowledge is now broadly surplus to requirements. This is somewhat of a bitter pill for me because I got into the hobby far younger than most and so saying goodbye to the Warhammer World as it was is saying goodbye to 25 years of study in one form or another. It’s left me feeling…homeless for want of a better word. It does feel like that’s slightly the point. The amount I spend on Warhammer Fantasy is slight. I have a large Warriors of Chaos army that requires tweaking rather than investment. Because of its size I’m unlikely to invest in a second army of similar size. Therefore can I be called a Games Workshop customer? Strictly speaking: no.

Fresh, enthused, cash rich, time rich, new gamers are what the Games Workshop are after. The 10 year olds and above who haven’t discovered boobs yet or if they have it’s because they cracked their parent’s password to get to the really good sites on the internet.

Going purely off the back of the shonky book included in the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar boxset there is little or no talk of the time before it all went a little bit Adventure Time. That of course doesn’t mean there won’t be but it seems almost counter productive to go to the trouble of hitting the big red reset button of destiny only to go back to the old stuff.

My question is this: what the hell am I supposed to do now? If any future book references the old background new gamers aren’t going to have a fucking clue what the writer is banging on about. Heaven for fend they reference something from the Time of Legends books. The history before the history if you will.

I feel like I’m going to become akin to a clan elder. In charge of tomes of history and trotted out for special occasions to tut and look whimsical about a place called the Old World. A place where heroes of valour commanded armies of light to hold back towering villains of tremendous power and their hordes of foul creatures, corrupted men and capering daemons.

How do you summarise 30 plus years of history in a conversation? You can’t. It once took me three hours to tell a friend a brief history of the 40k Universe. Three. Hours.

So where does that leave me, The Chaps and other veteran Warhammer players? Do we walk away? Hit the red reset button of destiny ourselves wipe the slate clean and embrace the brave new/mental world and just get on with it? Or do we become living relics? Become those clan elders and gather as much knowledge as we can and guard it jealously against time and the seep of the new canon.

The sad truth is suspect it’ll be somewhere in the middle. Some of the old guard will walk away. Others will play both versions and the rest will become those living relics. I certainly feel like one.

But as I said in my review, the great thing about the re-imagining of Warhammer is that eighth edition will remain forever as it is: the strongest version of that pillar of wargaming heritage and epic fantasy battles. It’ll never be updated, the army books won’t change. And as long as we can find square bases our armies can continue to march in beautiful sharp cornered blocks in numbers that fill the board.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the wargaming world has changed and we, like Warhammer, have to move with the times or become obsolete. I’m certainly not ready to give up on Warhammer Fantasy Battles and maybe that says more about me than I realised.

Codex Adeptus Astartes – A Review

warhammer-40000-logo

I must admit, when I saw a new Codex Space Marines had been released I had to check the date of my last review to make sure I wasn’t going mad. The previous edition was just 2 years old. Now I’ve never been one to stand in the way of progress (stop laughing) but that does seem a little soon and understandably makes people nervous about committing to a £35 book if it’s going to be replaced just 24 months later. It’s little wonder the illegal download underground is getting bigger all the time.

CodexSpaceMarines2015

As with other, more recent, Games Workshop publications, the by line is absent. Presumably to stop the bilious tirade directed at any one person that ensues when a new codex comes out. Bringing a new book so soon is bound to cause a certain degree of justified gnashing of teeth.

As with the previous book it’s just lovely to look at. From the cover art to every picture on every page is glorious and much of it, if I’m not mistaken, is new. Which for us old buggers is a bit of a treat. But there’s also a couple of images realised in colour that I’ve only seen in black and white, which is nice.

The quality of production has been increasedThe lining paper is a better fit and feels less luck it was stuck down by PVA. The hateful fold-in reference sheet is gone and with it the embarrassingly shonky folds.

Sadly the increase in quality doesn’t extend to the writing. There are fewer typos than the last book and they weren’t on the first page but they are still there. There’s also some stellar mixed metaphors, the worst of which is in the opening gambit. The background of Codex Adeptus Astartes feels, if I’m honest, nearly as lacklustre as the previous version. There have been some improvements for but the overarching theme doesn’t have any of the sense of urgency, drama or presence that previous books sweated from every surface. This book kinda feels like the Codex equivalent of the Amazing Spider-man 2: it’s drips with obligation rather than inspiration. It’s fulfilling of an intellectual property requirement rather than a promise of excitement, heroism and valour.

So Codex Adpetus Astartes isn’t worse than the 2013 Codex Space Marines. Hooray! Although I’m fairly certain there’s a smaller word count despite it being a thicker book (200 pages to 180). The artwork, splendid as it is, occupies a half page apiece on average. Sometimes more. The timelines in the previous edition were not only far prettier to look at, but more substantial. Each of the first founding chapters got fluff and timelines, that’s all been replaced by three of four paragraphs. It’s shame because the Ultramarines end up dominating the book more than they did before which does nothing to smooth over the – by this point – fairly mean-spirited bitching and belly-aching that is abound within the 40k community towards them. It would be good news for Ultramarines if the their background was written with any personality what-so-ever.

That said there’s some interesting tweaks to the background, one of which actually makes the Iron Hands interesting. Like: Horus Heresy books interesting. Like they’re all a bunch of repressed, self mutilating, sociopaths that are all one tin-man joke away from losing their shit and killing everyone. It’s brilliant. The best bits about the Heresy Salamanders is also evident, emphasising their compassion and their place as leaders of humanity rather than rulers. So whilst Codex Adeptus Astartes does condense, it does work harder to draw gamers towards the more exotic adherents of the Codex Astartes.

Overall though the layout of Codex Adeptus Astartes is strong and brings it in line with Codex Orks, which is a fantastic book. The army list is long but clear. The variety of Space Marine units available means there’s going to be a fair bit of flicking backwards and forwards for the purposes of army list writing but the upside it that you shouldn’t miss any notes or special rules with everything right there in front of you.

It does get a bit woolly in places and the Imperial Fists and their successor chapters are relegated to tertiary chapters whose histories focus around Lysander, Helbrecht and Grimaldus. But the good news for Black Templar players is they get an apology by way of really good Chapter Tactics. The Black Templars used to piss me off royally with their bullshit list of special rules. Whilst this list is thankfully a thing of the past, they still fare far better than most benefiting from bonuses to running, bonuses to Deny the Witch rolls, they get Counter Attack and Rage and all its cost them is the use of Librarians.

The rest of the rules are largely unchanged with a few points changes here and there. There’s been a subtle push towards flyers and anti-flyer units as the Stormtalon’s weapons systems have been halved in points and they get +1 to their jink save when hovering which makes them a massively more appealing option albeit at the cost of the Escort Craft special rule (this has been thrown into a formation instead). Equally the Stalker’s gun has lost a shot but can now split fire with its remaining three shots at Ballistic Skill 4 or, if it shoots at a single target it’s twin-linked. That’s nasty.

One of the changes that’s tickled me and is up there with equipping Havoc squads with plasma guns and a rhino as something to try is you can turn Tactical Squads into Wraightknight hunters. All you need to do is equip the squad with a grav-cannon, grav-gun and a grav-combi bolter. Although you could do similar with Devastator squads in a Rhino. You’d need to pick your moments wisely but it’d certainly make a real mess.

Master of the Forge appears to have gone the way of the Dodo and instead the humble Techmarine has had a 15 points increase but got an extra wound for their trouble with the option of all the cool and groovy upgrades. This is by no means the end of the world as you can still have a Techmarine leading your army but you’ve saved 25 points and it’s cost 1 point of Ballistic Skill.

The formations are no doubt what will get many hot and hard as it affords lots of big delicious bonuses for taking certain combinations of models. I deliberately missed out the word ‘expensive’ because it was obvious. Unfortunately it’s those with the deepest pockets or the biggest collections (they’re not necessarily the same thing) that will really benefit from these formations and they’re bonkers special rules.

Regular readers will know that I have two full companies of Ultramarines – 1st and 5th. This means I can, and often do, field a full battle company. This means I get all my transports for free. Hurrah! I can also field a Land Raider Spearhead the bonuses of which means I get to ignore everything but immobilised and vehicle destroyed results on the damage table as long as they stay in formation. Oh, and re-roll failed rolls to wound or for armour penetration. I mean really? I would actually feel embarrassed fielding that. I mean I’m gonna, but I’ll blush slightly as I kick the shit out of whoever I’m playing against.

Although there’s still no way to take a legal 1st Company army list which is such a shame, especially as the 1st Company formation feels more like they’re trying to push expensive models than because it’s accurate. It’s not the end of the world as gamers can just use an unbound list, it just would have been nice to give the option.

The hobby/showcase section in this Codex is huge. A fairly indulgent 43 pages compared to the previous 28 pages. So 15 of the extra pages in this version have been given over to pictures basically. Although I shouldn’t be surprised as most of the pages in the book have been given over to pictures. That said, because of the way the images are presented it’s going to make painting and marking Space Marine chapters are less painful experience now which is an extremely good thing. Thinking back to my staff days, one of the hardest things younger gamers had to deal with was getting that stuff right and it’s nice to see the book written inclusively rather than targeted at one audience or the other. I just wish it wasn’t quite so much of the book.

The reality of Codex Adeptus Astartes is that it’s essentially the second edition of the previous one. The background is blah rather than bad. The rules have had a review and there’s been a few interesting changes. Some subtle, some not so much. The presentation of the army list is clear and concise. The irritating things about the old book, like the folded reference sheet, are gone. It’s a nicer, better put together book.

I do still yearn for the days of Chapter traits because they made them all far more interesting. The tactics are fine and being an Ultramarine player I certainly can’t grumble but it still doesn’t quite grab me by the hobby spot. This said, there is still some improvements in there that’ll please one or two of the wargaming community. Unfortunately this book is, again, very much aimed at gamers that use Codex chapters. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing in there for Salamander players etc but there’s just not as much. Actually I’m pretty sure there’s less than before but I suspect that’ll be remedied with supplement books.

Overall Codex Adeptus Astartes is an average offering fixing many of the bugs in the previous books whilst introducing some interesting – albeit Easter egg sized – changes that will have far more impact than some appreciate. The formations are interesting enough that people will want to take them and broken enough that they’ll feel guilty doing it. But with some of the combinations out there, they won’t be alone. The background is a little stale but it is better but there’s still huge room for improvement. It is, end to end, beautiful. It’s also a big book about Space Marines.

Codex Adeptus Astartes is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.