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Warhammer 40K: Games Workshop Is Rebalancing the Game

6 Minute Read
Aug 13 2020

Let’s look at how GW is stealthy rebalancing the game with 9th Edition.

Balance is hard, and yet players always ask for it. In the rush to get a host of new Codecies released in a short period under 8th, so that players would have functioning armies, it seems that major balance changes were put aside in favor of converting everything to the new format. This meant that fundamentally the stats for most weapons and units didn’t change much from 7th to 8th, and indeed hadn’t changed much for editions. All this however seems to be changing now. Lets dig in.

Few Changes

You didn’t think we were done talking about the Indexes did you? 

8th was all about getting used to a new rules system. As such units seemed to undergoing a lot of changes, when in fact they didn’t. Most weapons for instance, despite the changes to AP and the inclusion of damage, and losing blast for random shots – stayed functionally the same as they had in the prior edition. Moreover over the course of 8th, when books were updated few weapons actually changed. It looks like GW had a fairly simple formula to convert everything from the old system to the new (i.e. if you had AP 5 in 7th, you got AP- in 8th). It was overall pretty static once the Index books came out.

Likewise, units didn’t change all that much, though new ones were introduced. The one major change was with vehicles, which got a significant overhaul. In both the cases of units and weapons however the changes were about converting things to the new system, not reevaluating how they worked, what they did, or really how they should be balanced.

9th Edition seems to be, in a rather unannounced fashion, changing that.

Case Study- Space Marines

Just the over the past few weeks we’ve seen a lot of changes to Space Marines, both units and weapons. Take for instance the list of Marine weapons we’ve seen both older versions of, and versions of in newer publications, and what all has changed:

  • Chainsword – change to Astarte chainsword, AP-1
  • Frag Grenades – no change
  • Krak Grenades – no change
  • Plasma pistol – minor change to wording- overheats on unmodified 1, instead of any roll of 1 now.
  • Heavy Bolt Pistol– increase from 12″ to 18″ range
  • Power Sword – increase of +1s
  • Master-crafted Power Sword – increase of +1s
  • Storm Shield – changes to +1 save, and 4+ invulnerable
  • Bolt Pistol – no change
  • Absolver Bolt Pistol – adds +2″ range and change to D2
  • Bolt Rifle – based on twin bolt rifle, no change
  • Crozius Arcanum adds +1 to S (now +2 S)
  • Thunderhammer – add +1 d to go to 4d
  • Relic Blade – changes from d3 damage to 2 damage
  • Grav Pistol – no noted change, possible change to special rules
  • Lighting Claws– no noted change, possible change to special rules
  • Power Fist – changes from d3 damage to 2 damage
  • Power Axe – changes from S +1 to S +2
  • Assault Cannon– no noted changes
  • Cyclone Missile Launcher – frag verson goes from 2d3 to 2d6 shots
  • Heavy Flamer – increase from 8″ to 12″ range
  • Storm Bolter – no noted change
  • Chainfist – change from 2 damage to d3 damage
  • Fragstorm Grenade Launcher – no noted change
  • Heavy Bolter – changes to from 3 shots to 1 and from 1 damage to 2 damage- this could be limited to the Invictor Warsuit version.
  • Incendium Cannon – gains +1s
  • Ironhail Heavy Stubber – based on profile for Twin Ironhail Heavy Stubber gains one heavy 3  to heavy 4
  • Twin Ironhail Autocannon – changes from AP-1 to AP-2
  • Invictor Fist– no noted change
  • Las-talon – based on Firestrike turrets twin las-talon no noted change
  • Accelerator Autocannon– based on Friestrike turrets twin accelrator autocannon, changes from heavy 2 to heavy 3, but drops an AP from AP -2 to AP -1
  • Multi-melta – changes from heavy 1 to heavy 2 and a reworked special rule, with increased damage
  • Onslaught Gatling Cannon – changes from Heavy 6 to Heavy 8
  • Auto Bolt Rifle – based on Invader ATV twin auto bolt rifle, no change.
  • Demolisher Cannon – no noted change
  • Hunter Killer Missile – changes from S8, to S10

Out of 36 weapons we know there are changes being made to 23 of them, and its possible some of the ones we’ve seen have changes to their special rules that aren’t listed yet. This means that about 2/3rd of the Marine weapons we’ve seen are changing. Many of these weapons affect other Imperium armies as well, meaning the changes aren’t just limited to Marines. In addition, we’ve seen changes being made to two Marines units, Terminators and Vanguard getting an extra wound.

If we assume these changes continue as we see more of the new Marine book, and there is no reason to assume they won’t then this looks like a major overhaul of the Marine units and weapons. A major rebalancing. The past several books, both the Marine Codecies and the PA and Vigilus books have shaken things up mostly by adding more and more special rules on to armies. 9th however looks to be avoiding that, to a degree, and going for a deeper and more fundamental rework.

Not Just Marines

Of course these changes aren’t just being made to Marines. From what newly reboxed Necron units we’ve seen they too are getting reworks, with changes to weapons and stats incoming. I assume their army is also do a major overhaul. Likely, we should expect this from each new Codex as it comes out, as the first couple normally set the trends. Changes to Marine weapons and units will likely be mirrored, or effect both Imperial and Chaos factions, as they share units and gear. That alone would be major shake ups, but it seems likely GW is willing to redo units and weapons to achieve some kind of new balance.


It’s still early days, but the one trend I am noticing is an increase in anti-vehicle firepower. Multi-melta’s got a LOT better at killing tanks. Both the new Eradicators and the Lokhust Heavy Destroyer heavy anti-tank weapons with a much higher output then most weapons we saw in 8th. We’ve also seen Thunderhammers, everyone’s favorite anti-tank weapon, and Hunter Killer Missle get better. If we see this kind of thing continue tanks may be in real trouble, but on the other hand infantry based heavy weapons might be worth it again. So that would be nice. Overall We will have to see how things shake out. I don’t know if GW will be able to ” fairly balance” the game, or if they even care to,  but it’s clear that big things are changing.


Let us know where you think all these changes are heading, down in the comments! 


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