As 7th Edition is winding down one thing is clear – the Warhammer 40,000 ruleset has become unknowable.
Something has been troubling me of late regarding 40K. I’ve been playing this game for well over 30 years now, since it first arrived on the scene as Rogue Trader. Across the editions, I’ve had my ups and downs with it, and have been a better or worse player as my interest waxed and waned.
But today something is different. It not that I feel I don’t know the rules – it’s that I feel NOBODY KNOWS THEM.
Take a look at just the three month span we are moving through right now:
January: Fall of Cadia
February: Fracturing of Biel-Tan
March: Rise of the Primarch
A mere fraction of the rules out there…
That’s about $150 of JUST RULES (the minis are phenomenal however) headed into March. When I go to the local game store, I am already seeing the first two out there and struggling to keep up with the changes. Now factor in the absolute wackiness of the new faction wide detachments such as the Eldar Reborn Warhost, or Castellans of the Imperium army building options and all the stacking special rules that you can add into an army. Note how allies encourages you to have all the rules for multiple factions that you may combine in your force. I know many players now who just throw up their hands and focus on their single army, or set of closely related ones – not even wanting to try to keep up with what else is out there. Over a year ago, the cost of the full set of GW 40K rules was about $2500, and it’s only gone up with all the campaigns, books, and dataslates. Don’t even get me started on Forgeworld…
In this room, how my army list works…
Into the Darkness
What this means is that as a whole Warhammer 40,000 is entering a phase where the majority of its players don’t know the rules. When you walk up to a table, there is a very likely chance that some unit, formation, or part of the opposing army will do something you are completely unprepared for. It goes the same for the guy across the table from you. And if there are grey areas, you have to trust them. Often looking up the finer point of how an army is constructed, or what benefits can be gained from formations would completely derail a game if one player pressed the issue and wanted to verify the opponent’s list. There is even a school of though that says you want to design your army with rarer untraditional units, to give yourself a tabletop advantage over your opponent who will not easily understand your list.
Those do what exactly???
I think of this situation and can’t find another game counterpart out there. Think for example of something on the extreme other end of the rules-stability scale – Chess.
When you walk up to a chess board – both players know the rules inside and out and one of them has been practicing and studying the game more than the other – usually leading to victory. What would happen if the International Chess Federation changed the rules for say pawns every now and then… Lets say they changed how a piece functioned EACH WEEK. Now let’s say that you had to pay $50 to learn the rules for that change. You can see the problem…
How would that affect your ability to play chess, and how do you think it would affect the ability of the game to even be played by members of it’s community.
Most of the bigger games out there (say Warmachine, X-Wing), do have changes and evolve – keeping them fresh. However they tend to do it in large steps (an upgrade book, or wave of new models), followed by a period of calm, so the players have time to take in and digest the updates.
Not so with the Grimdark and it’s lightning pace of change as it barrels toward’s its next edition during the summer.
WS:4, BS:3, ….
Living With Ignorance
At the end of the day I feel a bit like a man blindfolded and trying to feel his way around in a familiar space. I think I know how this game should play and I can identify all the major parts by feel, but the details become more vague and uncertain by the week. I’m certainly never going to give up on the Grimdark, but part of me is going to have to get used to playing with my fellow gamers – in darkness.
I truly hope that the new edition will give me some way to illuminate all the game’s and unit’s rules, or at least point me in the right direction.
~How important is knowing ALL the rules of a game to you when you play?