40K Op-ed: 8th Needs More Weak Characters
Almost 2 years into 8th Edition, and we have more and more very killable characters – and that’s a good thing.
Do you remember characters back in 7th and previous editions? I do. These is a good reason some editions of the game were called Herohammer, and 8th has been a welcome improvement – for the most part. Sure characters get some protection against being shot unless they are the closest unit, but overall characters are a much more balanced position in the game than they have been for many editions.
40K has had a long uneven dance with the power level of characters across editions. Some editions they were useless sitting ducks and some they turned the game into Herohammer, with all kinds of tricks to prevent them ever being targeted or killed.
7th Edition was way way over towards the Herohammer side of things. Just look at the ways of protecting characters in 7th:
- You hid them inside of units.
- Casualties are pulled for the closest, so you can position ICs to put plenty of suckers in front of them to die first.
- Look Out Sir – last ditch protections when you do finally get a shot at them.
Add this up with the amazing abilities IC have and their effectiveness in the assault / psychic phases and you can see why the “herohammer” label returned in 7th.
What’s the Problem?
Many ask exactly what’s the problem with super powerful ICs. The issue is the imbalance it causes to the rest of your forces as well as the bigger picture of why we are even playing a company level game.
Imagine a company level game with average powered ICs. You have 50-100 models per side and half a dozen ICs on the board. Sure they are powerful and will help their side in localized areas – but the game ISN’T ABOUT JUST THEM. Those 95% other models you lovingly bought, assembled, painted and deployed get a voice. It will be a game of maneuver, tactics, luck and drama. Some of those ICs will make a difference, some will be out of position, and some will make the ultimate plastic dudesmen sacrifice. It’s that tabletop drama I really enjoy.
Now imagine the a game where those half a dozen ICs are what matters. They dominate lesser units all around them and are really only balanced versus each other – or ridiculous amounts of firepower from non ICs. As an aside, how may of you have thrown more than half of your “normal army” at a single IC in a turn and had them walk out unscathed – that’s frustrating, un-fun a BIG DESIGN PROBLEM. Because where that leads to is a game where you star to wonder – “Why aren’t I playing a Skirmish Game” If you want a game where 4-5 badasses face off versus 4-5 badasses – go play Kill Team.
I want to play a company level game. The little guys should matter.
Of course these guys and their 32 friends matter a LOT these days for entirely different reasons…
Overall, I’m happy. I want ICs to be heroes. I want ICs to make a difference. I want ICs to add drama and flavor to a battle. But all is not well in the kingdom.
8th has given us a new problem… What to do with Mega characters (and units). While all the normal sized guys like Calgar on down to the scores of support characters feel right – 8th Edition has rolled many of the previous “Apocalypse-Only” units like Stompas, and Baneblades to new uber units like Castellans and Daemon Primarchs. These units are all about spectacle and make fantastic army centerpieces – but again, they drag us back to the dark days of Herohammer.
When lists like Smash Brother (those two brothers up there) get too effective, it circles us back to roads we have trod before. So GW has to thread the needle to ensure they give their customers the giant, sexy army centerpiece models they eat up – WHILE making them just as fair and killable as they can. Sometimes they have erred in both directions in this task.
Things like the Imperial Assassin updates help – as do the game’s various tricks for targeting characters.
Because at the end of the day – giant tanks, walkers and Daemons are great for the company’s bottom line, but GW has to make sure these guys down below matter just as much for the health of the entire game.
~ How do you think the power balance of the Characters in 8th is so far?