40K Editorial: Embrace the Horror
It is a time for change and 8th edition Warhammer 40,000 is nearly upon us.
It has been an interesting month for me, gaming-wise. I’ve found myself in uncharted territory. What I mean is, I’m normally pretty upbeat about new game elements, factions or whatever in my games, particularly 40k. But this has not been the case with the coming new edition of 40k. I’ve resisted. I’ve protested. I’ve argued. And I’ve generally been pretty negative about it.
For example, see my last article here. And I even carried this attitude with me to my local Games Workshop (GW) store when last I visited (and where I’m sure I seemed far more unhinged and less persuasive then in that last article). All in all, this has really left a bad taste in my mouth and I’ve really felt out of sorts. It’s forced a tad bit of introspection upon me and I’m left wondering one question. Why? Why have I been so opposed to the new oncoming edition?
It’s a complex question, once I really try to answer it — or is it? At first I thought the answer was obvious. GW just gave the Thousand Sons (my favorites since 1989) their first and only real spotlight of their own — new rules, models, spells, daemon Primarch, the whole shebang — and then a mere six months later they pull the rug out from under me and POW! It all goes away. The same could be said of chaos space marines (CSMs) in general — and I AM a Chaos guy — with the launch of Traitor Legions. We finally get respectable rules, and just like that, GW yanks them away.
But is that what is really happening? Do I really believe they’d just take it all away, just like that? The jaded CSM player me says “yes.” But … the super awesome Thousand Sons models are still there, Magnus at the forefront, and I just can’t believe that. In addition, the hints we’ve seen so far of Chaos on the ascendancy once again and the galactic map GW leaked that shows the Planet of the Sorcerers in realspace now say otherwise. There is a real feeling in the air, that this time, Chaos won’t be forgotten.
So then I thought, perhaps it’s because this edition, despite all my warnings a couple years back and the denials that GW would never do such a thing, is basically an adapted version of Age of Sigmar (AOS). And make no mistake, this new edition of 40k will be basically an AOS 2.0. But aside from feeling lied to and being maligned for being ‘ultimately’ right (hey, I am a prophet of Tzeentch after all), what does this matter?
If I’m honest with myself, and I’ve been forcing myself to be, my problems with AOS have all largely been fixed. GW put points back into the system, they’ve added depth back to (some) factions with the new faction books such as the Disciples of Tzeentch book and they’ve really reigned in the abusiveness by imposing points-costs on formations and imposing restrictions on summoning. It really is a new GW, indeed, and I’ve mostly been impressed with the overall decisions they as a company have been making lately.
Just look at the General’s Handbook for example. A yearly book that fixes and updates all armies, with an aim at correcting overpowered issues that crop up? That’s an amazing and so, so welcome change. And it doesn’t stop there. They are listening to us. The players. Yes, us. And they gathered to them people (players) to help playtest and hash out issues before they release the games to us, and then again in those yearly updates. It’s so amazing, I’m not sure I really believe it. Of course, that’s probably just the CSM player in me talking again.
So if it’s not kicking CSMs while we’re down again or the AOSization of the whole system, then what is it? What’s bothering me? Is it that GW is blowing up everything and all my books are becoming obsolete again? Naahhh… I’m been playing a long time, I’m used to this. I get it. Books become obsolete and the game marches on. Besides, GW is apparently putting all the dataslates for every unit in the game online for free when the game launches next month (which, while this doesn’t impress me, I’m sure thrills all you kids who play now).
Even more importantly, they’ve promised to drop three faction books that contain all this material at that time as well that’ll be reasonably priced for guys like me that must have it in printed form. Based upon what similar books were priced at when AOS launched, this means that the players should be able to replace every codex in the game in this new edition for about $100 or so total (or even less if you’re like me and refuse to soil your fingers with the Imperial book). That softens the blow quite a bit and makes me feel a lot less salty.
Despite all this, I don’t really feel any of these is the real reason I’ve been so resistant to change. Talking with my brother, as I always do, he thinks that it’s because I really like choice and customization. I am after all the guy that refuses to field a character that is the same to any other in my army, names all my characters and really tries my best to make sure units are armed, outfitted or just different than all the others in my army (where I can). 7th edition 40k allowed for such flourishes perhaps more than any other edition except maybe 1st edition.
Looking at AOS as a template in this regard, such choice will likely be severely curtailed in 8th edition in favor of streamlining. This seems very true, with my Thousand Sorcerers likely dropping down from the choice of 70 or so spells each to just a few dictated options. I’ll miss that aspect of the game, so my brother is probably right there. But, that too, doesn’t feel like enough. Ultimately, I’m not really sure what it was. I just know that I was wrong.
I’ve been deceived, my eyes cloaked with lies.
But I see truly now, and I’ve chosen to embrace the horror. I no longer fear the future. I welcome it.
A Great Epiphany
Even amid all these swirling thoughts, the gaming must go on. So with the impending 8th edition looming on the horizon, I decided to do something I never do — play a tournament with an unpainted army. Despite being a Thousand Sons player, I’m a pretty slow painter, so my current version of the army is still mostly unpainted. I also figured this would be my last chance to play with Magnus’ current rules, so despite him being only partially painted as well, I decided to make him the star of the show. So I threw together an army crammed with Exalted Sorcerers on discs (they’re gonna look so bad-ass once I paint them) headed up my Magnus himself and marched to war.
It was a small tournament at our local GW store run by a buddy of mine (Hail Tzeentch, Aaron!), but it was still an ITC tournament and what I’d call very competitive. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive, and I genuinely think Magnus is a pretty powerful and competitive unit as well, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Despite two of my opponents being great guys that I always have a great time with, I just felt that all the games were more of a chore than anything else.
I went 1-2 in that tournament and was tabled in that last game (but only because I just had had enough and chose to land Magnus and let my Tau 8-riptide opponent blast me off the table — up until then (turn 6) he had shot everything at Magnus for 2-3 turns and yet the daemon Primarch remained unwounded). I never mind losing, but those games really ran the gambit of how the current system so often plays out.
Game 1, I smoked my opponent. Game 2, was a closer game, but the mission objectives were stacked against me, and I was smoked this time. And game 3, well as I said, I was tabled. But what I really took away from the tournament is that I’m just tired of this edition. Every army was a specialized force that really didn’t feel like a 40k army, not even mine. An all riptide force, an all landspeeder Dark Angel force, Magnus and four exalted sorcerers, and an Ynarri force with dark eldar characters attached to D-template-wielding wraithguard, and on and on.
The experience also reinforced upon me how tired I am of having to roll up all my psychic powers before each game — and this is that I’ve developed a card system that makes it very easy and this particular army had a rather limited number of rolls to make compared to the typical Tzeentch army I’d played during 7th edition.
The whole thing just gave me flashbacks to LVO and reminded me just how bloated 7th edition 40k really is. I mean, I knew it was. I knew. I had to have. But somehow I’d hypnotized myself into believing it was all okay. Somewhere along the line I’d fallen victim to my own lies. Perhaps it was because I’d worked at a GW store in the last couple years. Or perhaps it was that I’d defended the game as okay ‘under the right circumstances’ to my brother for so long that I’d talked myself into it.
Ultimately, I do believe 7th edition was a great game when it first launched, but with the advancement of formations and the craziness of the Necron Decurion format, the game has spun totally out of control. Somehow, I’d convinced myself that it could be fixed if they’d just turn back the clock and right those wrongs. But you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and I just couldn’t see that.
That tournament opened my eyes.
I see clearly now.
So here I am, a man completely changed in opinion. Looking back on my whole reaction, it really doesn’t seem like that could have been me. How did I become the guy defending the unholy bloated mess that 7th edition 40k currently has become? Though I run with a competitive crowd now — we’re the Unbound and out of Arizona, if anyone’s interested — I’m only semi-competitive myself if I’m honest.
I try to win of course, but only on my terms. That means I personally have to think my army’s cool and fluffy, and I often make the lesser competitive choice if that’s what I feel the army calls for. That often means I lose. A lot. Still, I can surprise now and then. But given this, how was I the guy refusing to accept the truth while all my more competitive buddies were welcoming it with open arms? It boggles my mind.
But as I’ve said, I’ve changed my mind. I’m really looking forward to the new edition and all the tidbits GW has been doling out to us are getting me more and more excited. While I admit that some things still fill me with a bit of trepidation, such as some of the changes to assaults that we’ve seen. In particular, the fact that everyone hits in melee on a fixed number seems to diminish the overall combat prowess of the true masters. Allowing mighty warriors such as a Bloodthirster to be hit on say a 3+ by troops that though perhaps elite in their own way, should be far less proficient against such a beast, overall I’m keen to see more.
Actually, I’d just prefer it if they release it already so that we can sink our teeth into the new edition and get the games rolling. Honestly, I can’t muster up any enthusiasm right now to play any more 7th edition, so I can’t wait to just get started with 8th. Sadly, it appears the course is set and there’s nothing we can do about it. So no 40k for me for another month. In the meantime, I guess there’s always modeling and painting to do, and perhaps some Shadow Wars as well.
Given all that, I think that perhaps the most appealing change to me that we’ve seen so far is the way vehicles will play now. While I admit to being unsure about abandoning the whole ‘armor value system of vehicles’ that prior editions used in favor of the simple ‘everything has a Toughness value now and is basically treated the same’ of this new edition, upon reflection, it really does seem for the best.
I really like the idea of vehicles not being one-shotted off the board before they can do anything. And it’s really looking like this might be the first edition in seemingly forever that walkers might not actually suck. I’m almost salivating at the thought of my daemon engines romping over the board and perhaps being truly feared for once. This system change, along with the whole ‘everything can hurt everything else (in theory)’ rule and the concept of ‘diminishing stats as it takes damage’ that at least some vehicles will have, really feel like they’ll make all vehicles viable any worthwhile. Everything depends upon point costs, of course, but I find it very encouraging indeed.
So what about you? Are you looking forward to 8th edition as much as I am now? Or are you still unsure? If you are looking forward to it, what’s your favorite upcoming change? And if you are still holding out, remember what I had to learn the hard way. Resistance is futile.