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.

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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.

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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.