Kill Team: Pariah Nexus – A Review

The latest Kill Team expansion – Pariah Nexus, has been unleashed onto the world with a mixed reception from the Warhammer Community. It’s easy to understand why.

This boxset is so problematic that it’s difficult to know where to start.

It’s not a bad boxset per se but bearing in mind it’s a Kill Team expansion – not a starter set, it makes little sense.

Not least because it contains two of the most coveted new releases for Primaris Space Marines and Necrons in addition to some scenery and additional rules for Kill Team.

So who is this boxset for exactly?

Copyright Games Workshop – all rights reserved

Collectors of both Space Marines and Necrons will feel the magpie like pull of the new and shiny models. Especially as both the Primaris Heavy Intercessors and the Necron Flayed Ones have been eagerly anticipated since they were first revealed.

Games Workshop, up until recently, has also been deliberately evasive about when we could expect their release. We now see why.

Kill Team players want the book because it contains rules for the new units introduced with the updated Space Marine and Necron codices, as well as some additional rules for CQB and a cool narrative campaign.

But unless you’re a Kill Team player who collects both Necrons and Primaris Space Marines, this box is very expensive – £95 – for what it is. Especially as there are no core rules in it, at all. Not even starter rules to whet the whistle of a potential new gamer.

To be candid, the reason I bought the box was because my eldest daughter is now collecting Necrons so it made sense for us to go halves on the box. Between that and the generous discount of an independent stockist, it actually made it a reasonable purchase for both of us. She got some Flayed Ones and some cool scenery. I got the Heavy Intercessors and the book. Everyone’s a winner. At least in our house.

THE BOOK

As mentioned, the Pariah Nexus is the fourth expansion for Kill Team and the first book that’s been given a narrative title. Compared to Commanders, Elites and Kill Zones.

The book – as one would expect from Games Workshop – is a premium, full colour affair full of lush artwork, clean layout and clear diagrams.

It covers the Pariah Nexus from a fluff perspective then proceeds to introduce Space Marines and Necrons to the reader. I’m a little confused by this as having been deliberately positioned as an expansion, it’s reasonable to assume players would have some idea who these two warring factions are.

If it were a starter set then, by all means, set up the exposition. But also include the core rules.

The rest of the book covers the additional rules which – with the fold out game board – essentially turns Kill Team into Space Crusade. That’s not a complaint – Space Crusade was a fantastic game and was the very first time Necrons were introduced to the 40k Universe. Although they were referred to as androids and it’s more hinted than explicitly stated that they were Necrons.

In fairness, the new rules are very cool and add a sense of claustrophobia to Kill Team that I’ve wanted since the original book came out. It also gives gamers the opportunity to make Kill Team as portable as it always should have been and highlights my biggest bug bear with it as a game.

Kill Team games are meant to be short, snappy and intense. 40k in 40 minutes in all but name but with some cool character progression and campaign stuff thrown in for good measure.

But rather than focusing on keep it short, snappy and intense, the development team seem hell bent on making it as bloated as previous editions of 40k. Failing to learn the lessons of 3rd, 8th and 9th editions of Warhammer 40,000.

That aside (for now), the rules for doors, walls choke points and ‘ultra-close confines tactics’ like Point-Blank Overwatch all help to add a layer of desperation that players of Space Hulk will be familiar with.

It’s a nice change of pace and players who like the idea of Necromunda but can’t be bothered with the faff of collecting a gang will like the depth this supplement brings.

Also included in the book are scenarios specifically for use with the double sided board included in the box. This is good from the point of view that the board has a genuine purpose. Although I suspect the book will be released on its own eventually forcing games to buy the board as well to get the most value.

The board itself looks very pretty, managing to convey the brooding malice of a Necron tomb, despite being entirely 2D. The production value isn’t great though. My board tore the first time I folded it back up and I can’t imagine I’m alone in this. Repeated use of the board will wear it out very quickly.

Something like the Space Hulk/Blackstone Fortress tiles would have been a more robust solution but most likely would have jacked the price up.

The rest of the book is made up of Kill Team lists for Space Marines and Necrons. As far as I can tell it’s a comprehensive list, rather than a bolt-on. All the units are in there along with Chapter tactics, psychic powers, Adeptus Astartes tactics and Deathwatch tactics.

Similarly the Necron section includes all the units you can take and Dynastic codes to spice things up a bit.

So if you collect either Kill Team, this boxset is more or less an essential purchase. Which is sort of my problem with the entire box. £95 is tough to justify if you only want half the contents and it shouldn’t fall to the individual to find a buyer for the rest.

The MODELS

As stated, this box comes with a unit of Heavy Intercessors, a new Primaris Captain in Gravis armour, a unit of new Necron Flayed Ones and a Chronomancer. You also get some groovy Necron scenery.

There’s little that can be said about the scenery other than it’s very cool. It’ll make a nice addition to any gaming board. More so if you’ve already purchased the Convergence of Dominion set. The various bits and bobs serve a practical purpose in the Pariah Nexus scenarios to break up the board, provide cover and objectives etc.

They’re great but they’re not why anyone is going to buy the boxset.

Copyright Games Workshop – all rights reserved

Primaris Captain with master crafted heavy bolt rifle

Hardly a catchy name but this model more than makes up for it with its imposing bulk. I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by all the Primaris captain models thus far. While I appreciate these characters are meant to be heroic and inspiring, they all fall a little flat. Notably so when compared to the energy of Librarian in Phobos armour, the Indomitus Chaplain or the thousands of Lieutenant variants.

Generally speaking, the only discerning details that a captain has over any other model is the ornamentation on their armour, rather than the excitement captured in the model. All of which is quite at odds with heroic deeds they’re meant to be achieving on an hourly basis.

This new Primaris captain is no exception. It looks great and will no doubt be fun to paint, but as an army commander in the thick of the fighting it’s very out of place. Ranked up on a shelf with the rest of the army, a model like that looks awesome, and there’s a lot of detail on that model to keep most painters happy.

It would be just to have a captain model that feels like it does some actual fighting. As opposed to dramatic effect.

Feet planted with heavy bolt rifle levelled would have looked infinitely cooler. I suspect there will be more than a few hobbyists who use the Heavy Intercessors to convert a captain of their own doing just that.

As a kit, though, it’s fine. It goes together well and all the pieces help to build strength within the kit so the finished article feels robust.

The only thing to watch out for is the rebar poking out of the obligatory rubble is quite flimsy. I bent it a couple of times during the building process. As it turns out it adds to the authenticity but be warned it’s pretty easy to break.

Primaris Heavy Intercessors

One of the most pleasant surprises about the Pariah Nexus box is that all the models are the same multipart kits that will be released in the coming months. As opposed to easy builds as with the Indomitus box. I don’t know why I assumed they’d be easy builds but it was pleasing all the same.

Not least because Heavy Intercessors have a similar level of flexibility with their heavy bolt rifles and heavy bolters that regular Intercessors do with their load out. Getting that choice is definitely something I wanted as I’d already decided I wanted to give my Heavy Intercessors the Hellstorm variant.

Image taken from the Warhammer 40k app – all rights reserved

Although multipart is a relative term with Games Workshop’s move to wards fixed builds. Like their Intercessor brothers, the Heavy Intercessor bodies can only be built in one way, leaving you with only the arms and heads to pose with an freedom.

It’s a minor bug bear when compared to how insanely cool the models look when built and ranked up together on the table, but a shame nonetheless.

They are seriously meaty models with weapons that look like they were inspired by the Morita Assault Rifle from Starship Troopers. Not a complaint, just an observation.

They go together nicely with the only mild annoyance being to remember to glue the pistol grip hand to the right arm more or less straight away so it’s properly set when you stick the arms on. Otherwise the weight of the heavy bolt rifle can cause everything to droop. And no one wants a droopy bolt rifle.

On the board Heavy Intercessors effectively replace the heavy firepower element that Terminators use to provide, with Aggressors providing ordnance and the ability to punch things very hard. Pairing these units will provide a very durable mobile gun line and punch-things delivery system.

Image taken from the Warhammer 40k app – all rights reserved

Three wounds and toughness five makes Heavy Intercessors (and Aggressors) tough to kill. Coupled with the range and power of the heavy bolt rifles, more than makes up for the inch of movement they have to sacrifice.

They are pricy for what they are, however, and they will inevitably draw a lot of firepower. Especially if you partner them up with a unit of Aggressors. Although if your opponents is pouring fire into them then they’re not shooting at anything else, so there’s an upside.

Copyright Games Workshop – all rights reserved

Necron Chronomancer

One of the coolest things about the Necrons is the variety and look of their characters. They have a character to meet almost every need. Like an evil iPhone. Or a regular iPhone…

Chronomancers are the Apple Necron App that allows you to manipulate time. They have a cornucopia of gadgets that basically makes it super easy for the model to duff up everyone else while making it a considerable inconvenience for anyone to duff them up in return.

Like all the Necron character models, the Chronomancer boarders on the insane, walking around of tendrils and wielding various temporal weaponry and frozen moments of time. Because why not?

Despite appearances, the model goes together very well, with the tendrils forming a robust base so there’s no real risk of the model bending or warping. You also get the choice of building your Chronomancer with either the Aeonstave or Entropic Lance.

You can also choose if you want to have the cube from the Time Mantle open or closed. You also get three heads to choose from with varying chin lengths. So if you don’t want your Chronomancer to look like a mechanical Waluigi then you don’t have to.

They’re small things but it allows you to give your Chronomancer some variety, unlike the Primaris Captain.

As one would expect from Necron characters, the Chronomancer’s weaponry makes it formidable both at range and in close combat. The only real drawback is the strength and toughness of 4 and a 4+ save as with other ‘mancer models. But it also benefits from an 8 inch move so it’s an agile model to have. Its Chronometron also allows you to reroll a charge move from a friendly unit within 9inches – and give them an invulnerable save.

So used correctly, the Chronomancer is a really powerful addition to a Necron army.

Flayed Ones

Who doesn’t love a unit of Flayed Ones? Apart from the people whose skin they’ve borrowed. Flayed Ones in some ways, dictated the slightly more mental direction some of the Necron units have taken over the years.

The idea that a mechanical Edward Scissorhands could infiltrate an enemy camp by wearing the shredded remains of their victims was as laughable as it was gruesome. But spoke of a deeper corruption that the developers have expanded upon.

Now they are deranged killers, consumed with a desire to consume the flesh of the living, but forever incapable of doing. They’re actually quite tragic – as is much of the Necron background – albeit largely self-inflicted.

The new models are a huge improvement on past versions. Not least because they’re plastic. The metal models from back in the early noughties were cool but they’d fall apart if there was so much as a strong breeze.

The new multipart plastics though are super fiddly and with so many thing pointy bits you need to take care building and storing them because they will snap.

Also some of the feet have Velociraptor style hooks on them which frankly look ridiculous and I’d clip them off.

That aside they are very cool models and evoke the corrupted mindset the unit possess.

In terms of game play, the Flayed Ones on their own aren’t that much to write home about.

Image taken from the Warhammer 40k app – all rights reserved

They’re reasonable in close combat – with 3 attacks making them nasty enough if an entire unit is able to make contact with most opponents. The 4+ save will make it hard to keep them all up and running. However, it’s the special rules that make them worth taking…

Image taken from the Warhammer 40k app – all rights reserved

The ability to deploy 9 inches from an enemy unit and the ability to score additional hits makes them particularly nasty. Any opponent will have no choice but to deal with them rapidly or face either expensive heavy infantry or close combat units being bogged down in gruelling rounds of close combat or entire units of light infantry being swallowed whole.

The negative modifier to leadership as well makes squishier units like Guard particularly vulnerable as they’ll almost always lose the combat to models that go snip in the night.

Who should buy this box?

Honestly, I’m not sure. If you want the book, you have to buy the box. If you can’t wait for the models to be released individually, you have to buy the box. If you fall into both of those categories…you have to buy the box.

But it highlights the problem with Kill Team and Games Workshop’s new business model of endlessly churning out expansions. Kill Team is meant to be super quick, super slick gaming using a team of specialists hand picked etc etc etc.

As a core premise this is fine. Putting rules for commanders and elites in separate books ruins the super quick part because instead of occasionally flicking through one book, you have to flick through two. Or three. Or, depending on what you’re playing and what you’re using…five.

This reminds me of a few years ago when some friends of mine and I were gaming at Warhammer World. I looked up and realised that 80% of the gamers in the room weren’t rolling dice, they were reading rules. 7th edition was a fat bloated corpse of a game that crippled game play for the sake of over powered and often confusing rules.

8th and 9th editions stripped all that away but they don’t seem to have learned the same lesson with Kill Team.

Indeed I feel like they’ve missed the point with Kill Team all together. It would make much more sense to consolidate everything into one book – with an emphasis on speed of play – and some cool progression stuff.

Then release specific Kill Team conversion sprues so you can customise your Kill Teams to your heart’s content. You get to have a super cool collection of models for Kill Team that can also be incorporated into a main army, giving it greater flavour and narrative.

And let’s be honest, what self respecting hobbyist would stop at just their Kill Team?

My ramblings aside, each individual component of the Kill Team Pariah Nexus box is good. The models are awesome, the scenery and gaming board look great, albeit with limited use. The book provides Kill Team players with lots of interesting new rules to give the game greater depth.

As a boxset though, I’m not sure it really ticks enough boxes for it to be worthwhile. Working on the assumption that the models are being released separately around May time, some version of the book will likely come out too. In which case I’d hang on and save your money.

Space Marine Bladeguard Veterans – Review

Warhammer 40,000 logo

When the Space Marine Primaris models were first announced I was both sceptical and underwhelmed. It was unclear as to why they had been introduced if they weren’t replacing Classic Marines and there were so few units that they also weren’t really worth taking. Especially as an entire army.

They lacked the unit diversity and firepower to be a contender for almost any other army in the game. Short of forming gun lines and relying on concentrated firepower and that all important second wound, Primaris marines didn’t really live up to their forebears.

Since then more and more units have been added to make Primaris armies both interesting, characterful and – well – deadly. The most recent injections of transhuman mega-killy-death came with the release of the Indomitus box and the new Outriders, close assault Intercessors and the Bladeguard Veterans.

I bought two Indomitus boxes, wrongly assuming that the models were multipart, not easy builds. Foolish of me but equally not the end of the world considering the bulk of the models are rank and file and unlikely to be next to each other on a board.

However having two units of identical Bladeguard Veterans stung a bit so, the release of the multipart kit was welcome news. Not just because they could be taken in units of up to 6 but because I could inject some needed variety as well.

Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Bladeguard Veterans box
Image courtesy of Games Workshop – all rights reserved

Mostly-multipart plastics

When I opened the box I confess to being a little disappointed. While I can’t fault the look and feel of the new Primaris range, the limited poses are a source of frustration for me with the newer models. Although I appreciate there needs to be a balance between dynamism, strength of the model and ease of build to make them accessible to all.

The classic marines – by having separate legs and bodies allowed for more nuanced poses. Although comparing them to the Primaris models they are hilariously bow-legged. Regardless, being able to pose the heads and bodies allowed you to tell a story with every model in the unit.

The new Intercessors make that harder and the Bladeguard Veterans have the same issue. Admittedly the sheer amount of detail would make building a truly multipart version a colossal pain in the arse. Especially for less experienced hobbyists. A little bit of variety would have been nice though. Because you only get three bodies in the box, if you intend on taking units of 5 and/or multiple units you will end up with very similar looking models. It won’t be as bad as having two units of the Indomitus easy-builds, but it’ll still be pretty obvious.

Space Marine Bladeguard Veterans sprues
Copyright Games Workshop – all rights reserved

However, where the Bladeguard Veterans box really shines is the variety of arm options. If you want a model pointing their sword in the general direction of the enemy, fill your boots. Want him cleaning his blade after a kill? Sure. I mean, hardly practical in a war, but why not? Hand resting on the pommel of a sheathed power sword while defiantly snapping off shots with a bolt pistol? You got it!

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t give them the same kind of dynamism that the close combat Intercessors have – not by a long shot. But as centrepiece models they abide wholeheartedly by the rule of cool.

And cool they are. The arm swaps make for some suitably heroic poses and the option of having the storm shield mag-locked to the backpack or in hand is a really nice touch. It allows for even greater variety so you can make your Bladeguard Veterans look as unique as possible, even if their poses really aren’t.

You’ve also got the choice of helmeted or un-helmeted heads. Personally I try to avoid un-helmeted heads as much as possible because, well, war. But if you like a suicidal edge to your heroism, the Bladeguard box offers three suitably mangled and/or grizzled heads to choose from.

Again, it would have been nice to get a little more variety on this front as, again, anyone wanting to take larger units or multiple units are going to struggle to keep that variety. Although heads from other kits should fit well enough.

Built Space Marine Bladeguard Veterans models
My built Bladeguard Veterans destined to become Silver Templars

Bladeguard VEterans in Game

As one would expect from a new Primaris unit, Bladeguard Veterans are suitably tough. With 3 wounds each they are capable of soaking up considerable punishment in the slog to close with the enemy. Especially if you take them in units of 5 or 6.

Bladeguard Veteran datasheet entry from Warhammer 40k app
Image taken from the Warhammer 40k app – all rights reserved

Moreover the storm shield provides a much needed extra layer of protection, especially as in most instances the Bladeguard Veterans are going to be horribly outnumbered. No matter how squishy some units are, the sheer weight of numbers means a 3+ armour save and 3 wounds will only keep you going for so long.

Fortunately they have some decent weapons to hit back with. Aside from the heavy bolt pistols they come with as standard (note the chunky holsters they wear), they are also armed with master-crafted power swords. The extra point of damage along with 3 attacks (4 for the sergeant) means that a full strength squad will chew through most infantry without too much bother.

Bladeguard Veteran weapons entry entry from Warhammer 40k app
Image taken from the Warhammer 40k app – all rights reserved

The introduction of the Neo-volkite pistol is also a welcome addition, especially with it’s not to the volkite weapons of the Horus Heresy. It loses 2 points of strength and the AP compared to.a standard issue plasma pistol. But, it benefits from a second shot and the ability to inflict a moral wound on a roll of a 6 in addition to any other damage which can make it pretty nasty if the dice are on your side. It also doesn’t blow up, which is definitely worth considering for your 35point model.

I confess, my motivation for getting the Bladeguard Veterans is to plump out squads in an army that is primarily destined for my display cabinet. Their battlefield role is entirely secondary to how they’ll look nicely painted on a shelf.

However, Bladeguard Veterans manage to look impressive and provide quite considerable punch for the money/points/power. The lack of variety in some areas of these models will make owning more than half a dozen of them a little annoying. But mixing them with Indomitus models can offset that.

Equally, the Indomtius Lieutenant model fits in perfectly as a Bladeguard Veteran sergeant which is would I’m doing with mine to give me two units of 5.

Space Marine Primaris Bladeguard Veterans are available to buy now from Warhammer stores and independent stockists.

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.