I played 40k for the first time in years tonight. And I liked it. Really, really liked it.
This is actually the 3rd article I’ve started writing about this – I keep getting sidetracked into talking about my history with 40k. They’re articles for the future, but I’m going to keep this a lot more concise:
- I love Orks. Best fictional race ever.
- I played 40k in 4th edition extensively.
- Mostly dropped out because of HURRRR RAPE JOKES and other lovely socially obnoxious twats.
- 6th edition didn’t sit well with me – too complicated.
- Fuck the 7th edition mob rule. Fuck this mob rule entirely. Worst mob rule rule ever written. Killed 40k for me.
- I thought GW was on an inevitable downward spiral to either bankruptcy or irrelevance.
- I played other wargames, even helping to write Kings of War and travelling to the Czech Republic and the US (twice) to play in tournaments.
I think that about covers it.
The rise of 8th edition
8th edition 40k has been causing a bit of a stir. Even from the very first teasers from GW, it was clear that something was different this time.
Kings of War owes a lot of its success to the completely and utterly fucked up launch of Age of Sigmar. Games Workshop not only scrapped a game that was still, by the industry standards, very successful to make way for a half baked and uninspired game, but it seemed keen to actively piss off its fans and tell them to feck off to another game system. I’ve never seen a company show such contempt for its customers and I felt that the company showed no sign that it would learn from its mistakes. The annual shareholder reports just showed more internal groupthink and active hostility towards its customer base. We were more than happy to accept the Warhammer Refugees into Kings of War, even releasing an expansion book with additional army lists so that they could use their old armies in Kings of War officially.
So things looked different right from the start for 8th edition 40k. Games Workshop revealed that they were writing a new edition months in advance, as opposed to remaining completely tight lipped on the subject like they had previously done with any new release. They began community engagement, they not only spoke to but listened to the community. A company that 12 months prior had a PR guy tell a group of fans that they had intentionally written shitty, embarrassing rules to get the fans to stop using old models in the new game.
The turnaround was incredible. They had my attention.
How did they keep it? They previewed the rules extensively and released the rules for free online.
This was the Games Workshop that seemed to think the Internet was a passing fad! The Games Workshop with groupthink, groupthink that infects Mantic to this day, which said that “hardly any of our customers have the Internet”.
Previews. Rules free online. Interaction with the community. Unthinkable 12 months ago.
I read the rules. I liked them. They were a reboot.
I went into it in more depth in one of the previous articles that will be published in the future (if that’s clear enough), but 4th edition 40k felt like the pinnacle of that particular game engine. The last major reboot of 40k was in 3rd edition, and since then it was just a few small tweaks and a ton of additions to the same core ruleset. A game engine can only last so long before it falls apart under the weight of add-ons and retcons, then you should scrap the engine and rewrite it from scratch. It wasn’t just creaking at the seams by 6th edition, it had ripped apart and there was an ever shrinking group of enthusiasts desperately holding the seams together proclaiming “look the seams aren’t too bad – you just have to beer and pretzels it”.
40k needed a reboot at the start of 5th edition in my opinion. Rumour has it that Andy Chambers wrote a reboot of the 40k rules, took it to the bosses at GW who promptly told him nope. He quit, taking those rules and publishing them as the excellent Starship Troopers game, and Alessio Cavatore tweaked and retcon’d 5th edition 40k. Starship Troopers certainly felt like “If they were to write 40k from scratch today, this is what they would write”, much like Kings of War feels like how Warhammer Fantasy would be written if they rebooted and rewrote the rules without any of the baggage or backwards compatibility requirements.
I don’t think anything exemplifies it more than the movement stat. 1st and 2nd edition 40k had a movement stat – how far each model could move. 3rd edition removed the movement stat and said everyone moves at the same speed, but a few rare special rules allowed extra movement. These extra movement rules became more and more common, until by the time of 6th edition nearly every single unit in the game had a special rule (many of them unique) for movement. The system was far more complex than the movement stat had ever been.
The solution? Scrap the “everything moves at the same speed*. *except for every single unit that has a unique special rule” rule, and replace it with a movement stat. They couldn’t do this without a reboot since all of the previous codex’s wouldn’t have a movement stat. So reboot it was.
Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked again but I’m going to plough on since it’s 4am and I want to get this written now.
So I dug out an Ork army. Or rather I cobbled one together from several Ork armies – I appear to have misplaced fairly substantial portions of my main Ork army. I went down to the local gaming store to play 40k for the first time in years.
And I really enjoyed it.
Firstly, the GW community support was excellent. Entry into the global campaign, register at the game store and get a whole host of goodies:
A sheet of really nice quality counters. Strategem cards for use in the campaign (specifically noted that they’re only legal for the campaign, so this isn’t a “collect to win” situation). A very, very nice quality dice bag. The other stuff I could personally give or take – wrist band, roster sheet, badge, sticker not my cup of tea – but my god that dice bag is great. I just wish they had an Ork variant instead.
Regardless of anything else, GW committing to this level of community engagement is fantastic. Again 18 months ago GW seemed almost hostile to the idea of supporting their community, so this turnaround is incredible – and this doesn’t even show off the goodies that the store got for running the campaign.
And I played my 1000 point game. Even though my opponent was fairly new to the game as well, we got through it at a relatively quick pace with very few rules clarifications needed (mostly about embarking/disembarking from transports).
I was reminded of why I love Orks. Their surprising level of toughness. The look on my opponents face when I picked up 38 dice for shooting for a basic unit. The look on my opponents face when a unit of just 11 Orks put out 33 attacks in combat.
Then the incredible and always awesome moment when my opponent breathes a sign of relief at a couple of guys surviving the initial Ork onslaught, only to see the colour drain from their face when I say “And now for the Nob with Power Klaw…”. Simply magical.
And the best part?
The mob rule is back. Leadership is now equal to the number of models in the unit, as it should be. Fuck the 7th edition mob rule. Proppa mob rule is back (a little ironic perhaps that I’m staunchly against the idea of mob rule politically).
I have my reservations about some parts of the rules, sure. However, I had a great game against a great opponent (thanks Phil) and I’m looking forward to playing in the rest of the league. The reboot works out great, the game is smoother than in any of the previous 3 editions and that fucking 7th edition mob rule has gone. Perfect? No (other than the removal of that goddamned mob rule). But a masterpiece compared to previous editions, and very fun to play.
40k is back.
And also fuck the 7th edition mob rule.