Let’s talk about why the next edition of 40K could be a more significant change than we suspect.
Warhammer 40,000 has had eight epic editions to grow and expand. At some point, it will likely get another edition to refresh the game (though it’s possible it could restart rather than refresh it). Some people already feel that 8th is a played out edition and that we should get a new edition soon. I’ve even said in the past that it kind of feels like the end of the edition is approaching. Now, I know at this point some of your are most likely saying “ugh, not ANOTHER article talking about why we need a new edition, can’t you just let this one live a little, I just bought all these books!” This is a sentiment I can understand, so today I want to talk about not why or even when we should get a new edition, but what it will look like when it comes around, be it in 1 or 8 years, and why it might not be what we are expecting.
The general expectation from a lot of players (and Larry covers this is his article here) is that rather than a “new” edition we need a refinement of what we have. 8th edition had a great start; it offered to use some major changes to a game that was vastly simplified and more accessible than ever before. It might not have been for everyone or perfect, but it did what it set out to accomplish, and presented a clean slate of rules. It was the biggest set of changes to the games since 3rd Edition came out in 1998. It was a bold move, and it paid off. BRAVO GW!
However, those early days are gone. 8th can still deliver on the fun, but it has some problems. The biggest of which I think is the massive bloat. I think even the most die-hard fans of the game can agree – if you are trying to keep up with the game there is a lot of bloat. From rapid-fire codices, to a slew of FAQs, Chapter Approved releases, Indexes, Warzone Books, White Dwarf Updates, PDF updates, and datasheets coming in boxes the game has grown by leaps and bounds. It’s clear the design team had a ton of great ideas for 8th, and some of them have needed a little working out. Because of this I think most people expect the next edition to be a minor change. To codify all the changes and clean up the game, while tweaking little things here and there. Much like the recent Chaos Space Marines Codex 2.0 did.
I think this is something pretty much every player can get behind. However, while this may be the expectation, this does not mean it’s going to be the reality. To see why I say that let’s take a look at the last time Warhammer had an 8th Edition.
Lessons From the Past
Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th Edition, released in 2010, was a major refresh and change of the game. It was the largest change to Warhammer Fantasy since the release of 6th edition in 2000. It introduced major changes and worked to streamline and simplify the game. It was at attempt to make a more accessible, and successful game. It saw a rapid (for the time) release of new updated Army Books, included some that hadn’t been updated in editions. It also saw the release, towards the end of its lifetime, of a number of campaign books that moved the overall story along.
WFB 8th Edition didn’t as well as anyone wanted it to. When rumors started going around that a new edition or version of the game would be coming out a lot of players still thought it wouldn’t be a huge change. 8th, for a lot of players, was a better game that just needed tweaks and had gotten a bit bloated. A large number of players expected 9th to be a refinement of 8th. Wisdom held that 8th had been a major change and GW wouldn’t make major changes to the rules back to back. People still held on to this belief when rumors of just how big the changes might be started to go around. In 2015 the changes came, and rather than minor refinements, GW blew up the Old World, ended WFB and replacement it was Age of Sigmar, about as big a change as can be.
So what does this tell us about the next possible edition of 40K? Well, I think you can draw several parallels between 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy and 8th Edition 40K. The biggest difference is simply that 8th 40K is a financial success and 8th WFB wasn’t. That alone most likely means that 40K isn’t going to get blown up and everything is thrown down a warp-storm, though who knows in the end.
What it doesn’t mean is that GW won’t make major changes to a game two editions in a row. In fact, in some ways making changes twice is a row is more accessible, people have already been shocked out their old habits, and haven’t gotten too attached to the new ones. We know that when they were making 8th Edition 40K they originally had a vastly different rule set, that was scrapped in favor of the current rules. Could this ruleset return one day? Let’s say that 8th goes on for another three years, to give it a full five-year run (as long as 8th Edition WFB had). At that point I could very well see GW releasing a 9th Edition that rule wise, was radically different form 8th rather than an update and refinement. In the end only time, and maybe the Emperor’s Tarot, will tell.
Let us know if you think the next edition will be a minor update or a major change, down in the comments!