There has been a steady progression towards armies becoming more similar, let’s take a look at what this means.
Warhammer 40,000 has a ton of armies in it. This is one of the strengths of the game, as it allows for a ton of diversity and different types of armies. This should be something that the game builds on. 40K is to some degree an asymmetrical wargame. The different play styles and weaknesses of armies open up a lot of fun and allow for each battle to be radically different. Sadly there seems to be a trend towards getting rid of a lot of these differences. Let’s take a look at whats happening.
Space Marines Are, Of Course, The Biggest Offenders
Space Marines have always been a jack-of-all-trades army. It’s one of their core concepts, that they can do pretty much everything. This comes with two caveats. Firstly while they can do everything, they’ve still often done it differently and had their own style and feel. Secondly the main downside of a Jack-of-All-Trades army is normally that while they do everything, they aren’t the best at anything. Thus, while they could be a shooting army, they wouldn’t be the BEST shooting army, but they would be a decent one, while also being able to fight in assault well.
The problem is over the years Space Marines have seen so many additions that they are in essence several armies in one. That’s not just thanks to all the different chapters adding a ton of rules and units and play styles. It is also thanks to the Primaris line effectively adding a whole 2nd army to the Marine book. This means that they have pretty much gotten everything. I’ve talked before about how they’ve stolen the T’au’s shtick, but they’ve also gone a stolen a lot from Guard, Eldar and other armies. On top of that they not only do everything well, but they can often build a list to be the best at anything. They can build some of the best combat or shooting lists. They can be fast or slow, horde(ish) or super elite. There isn’t a thing they do poorly. And because of that, they’ve lost some of their specialness.
All Armies Need To Be Good At Everything
9th Edition more than others seems to be working to cover up armies’ weakness with the new books. Take Necrons for instance, an army that normally isn’t great in assault, but is strong at shooting and surviving. 9th Edition introduced a number of new units and rules to make the army better in combat. Or how about Orks? They are traditionally a combat army, with poor and very random shooting. Well 8th, and now 9th, have both worked to make Ork shooting better and more reliable, so much so that in 8th, shooting-based lists, were a major part of the Ork army. A lot of the newer books are getting new units to fill up their weaknesses.
Massed Light Vehicles?
Another strange thing I’ve noticed is a lot of armies being pushed, or at least able, to run massed light vehicle lists. Now Orks and Drukhari have always done this, and in many ways it was one of their unique and special play styles. But by the end of 8th and now in 9th we’ve seen lots of armies get this style pushed. Marines got more light vehicles, Storm Speeders and Invader ATVs, while also seeing older ones like their Dreadnoughts buffed. Necrons got more light walkers to use. Death Guard have seen Bloat Drones and Blight Haulers pushed, Sisters saw Penitent Engines made lighter and pushed and now have gotten Paragon Warsuits. All of this is pretty similar, and thanks to the changes in vehicles, feels very one-note, while also overlapping with traditional T’au and Nid play types.
Having choices and options is all well and good, but when you start to get too many options everything starts to feel very similar. Just look at 4th Edition D&D. Part of this has to do, I think, with wanting players to be able to do things in more phases of the game, leading to a very active turn. That’s well and good, but it comes at the cost of weaknesses and individuality. I can build the majority of 40K factions in almost any direction, and that feels like too much. It’s starting to feel like units themselves no longer really tell armies apart. Now it is this arbitrary collection of added on faction rules and stratagems that make an army good or bad. It feels like overall the game has lost something.
Let us know if you think all the armies are starting to feel the same, down in the comments!