Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wait, another edition?!

Well, I said that I would reserve judgement about the new edition until the new book was officially in my hand.  All of my buddies asked relentlessly what I thought and all I could do was relay the same rumours we all know and express how cool or uncool they would be.  What were some of the rumours I was looking forward to?

Ballistic skill -2 for Overwatch.  That would make my Eldar and Space Marines especially happy.

Psychic Phase.  Ah, like I was back in middle school...

Consolidating into combat.  Finally, a way to defeat that pesky overwatch!

And from quite a while ago, Percentage-based FOC.  Seriously, how would we NOT want that?!

But alas, they were not meant to be.  These rumours were too good to be true anyway, and I don't expect GW to have everything I want.  I just play the game with the rules they give me and then reserve the right to complain later on, like any self-respecting gamer...  Yeah, I said it!  What?  What were my thoughts when the book was confirmed to be released?

Like everyone else, I was surprised that it was coming out so soon.  I was also under the impression that it was already 3 years, but my buddy pointed out that it was only 2.  So really, only 2 years?  Really?  I mean, really!?

But hey, if they feel like this was a 'transitionary' edition and they were ready to release the real game, so be it.  It must be a complete rewrite.  A hardcore departure from the last edition the same way that 3rd edition was different from 2nd, and 6th was different than 5th, right?  Well, let's see what they do.

I heard about the neat format of the books- 3 booklets in a hard cover-case.  That was cool!  I love the special-style format that they release stuff in.  I bought the special edition with the ammo can, the Apocalypse one in the ruck-sack, and even the fantasy set with the satchel!  If this is the cool way that this edition was going to be released, I couldn't be unhappy.

So what happened?  Well, the book was coming out regardless of whether I thought it was appropriately timed or not.  Besides, the possibility of a complete paradigm shift in the game was too intriguing to ignore.  But that didn't happen.  There was a prevailing opinion that this was little more than a '6.5', and I now confidently refer to it as '6.15'.  It changed so little that I was rather disappointed.  I was hoping for a rewrite, but that didn't happen.  Jay was sad...

I will get back to the positive very quickly here by noting that the 3-book format was rather good.  It is really cool and means that I can carry a single book to the store with me.  That means I took a codex and another codex-sized book and can call myself equipped with everything.  Here's another thought- GW has set it up that they can sell just the rulebook now.  You see, they could produce, let's say... 2000 of each of the 'Galaxy at War' and 'Dark Millenium' books and sell those each for $30 or something.  But they could produce 20,000 of 'The rules' and sell that at $35 and be able to make a great deal of money.  This is not different than buying the complete DnD set, only cheaper (and two of the books are about the hobby instead of more rules).  I think that it can be a brilliant business move.  I don't expect GW to take advantage of it, but I'm hoping all is not truly lost there.

As far as the rules themselves...

The BIGGEST change to the game is the fact that everything is scoring now.  Unless it's an immobilized non-walker, a swarm, or stated specifically, it can control objectives.  This is a very welcome change to me indeed as it means that competitive games aren't simply 'who kills the enemy's troops first' and becomes more of a decision-making game.  I am now worried that this will mean the disappearance of Troops because Elite and other units are more powerful and can fulfill the same purpose.  A buddy pointed out that Troops in battle-forged armies trump non-Troops in controlling versus contesting.  That matters, but damage output is so much more important than it ever was and Troops typically fall behind in that category.

Related to that is the 'Tactical Objectives'.  Basically, you can play missions where you always lay down 6 objective markers, numbered 1 through 6.  Then, at the beginning of each turn, the players draw cards or roll on a chart to randomly determine new objectives.  You can achieve these objectives and earn the victory points at the end of each turn, and you can discard and ignore objectives that you can't achieve to try and draw new ones.  Most of the time, these objective points are earned by controlling a specific objective marker (numbered 1-6), while it's other conditions at other times.  It adds quite a bit of variety to the game scenarios.  I actually rather like this and could see it mutated into a very effective tournament format.  More importantly, it really adds an element of randomness to the battle that can offset some of that imbalance in armies.  Probably not, though.

The next biggest change is the reincarnation of the Psychic Phase.  It's a bit different now.  All powers are cast by psykers in this phase (unless stated otherwise until FAQs are released).  The phase starts after the movement phase and takes place before the shooting phase, and doesn't affect any of it.  That means that a psyker can fire a witchfire power and then shoot with his normal weapon and then charge in the assault phase!  That's right, psykers basically gain an extra action in the game.  At the start of the phase, the players roll a d6 and add their Mastery levels to the score- that's how many dice they get.  Much like the White Wolf system, the ability to cast powers is dependent upon rolling a number of 'successes' on a number of dice.  The psyker attempting to cast the power chooses any number of dice and rolls them, looking for a target number of 4 or higher.  If the number of 'successes' equals or exceeds the Warp Charge cost of the power, it is successful.  So 'Smite', a primaris power with a Warp Charge 1, would typically be cast by a psyker using two of the dice from the pool.  As long as one of the dice shows a 4 or higher, the power is successful.
On top of that, Denying the Witch is significantly changed.  The enemy player can choose to Deny the Witch against any power attempt, regardless of whether he's the target or not (that includes Blessings and such!).  They simply choose a number of dice from their pool and roll, looking for 6s as the 'success' dice.  In order to stop a power, the enemy player must equal or beat the successes of the psyker's roll straight out- 3 successes of 4+ will have to be stopped with 3 successes of 6s.  There are ways to modify the Deny the Witch roll, like having a psyker in the unit and them being a higher Mastery level.  The average Space Marine player will have a single level 2 psyker, averaging 5-6 dice a turn, while the Grey Knights and Eldar can really beef those numbers up.
I worry that this will lead to those Psychic armies to really own that phase and cause some serious damage.  I shouldn't be too upset, considering that I own Grey Knights, Eldar, and Blood Angels.  But a buddy has play-tested his Grey Knights already and assures me that it's not nearly as bad as I think.  If it comes to that, I'm prepared.  Let's hope that I'm wrong in this prediction.

Finally, the last effective REAL change was the order of resolution with weapons fire.  A unit with multiple types of weapons has to separate and fire and completely resolve each group.  So a Space Marine Tactical Squad would have to fire the Sergeant's bolt pistol and completely resolve wounding and saving before moving on to the 7 bolters and starting over.  This slows the game down, but no more than the Psychic Phase already did, so nothing really lost here.  What that means is that different ranged weapons need to be fired in order of that range- short range weapons first, then longer, then long-range weapons.  When range is tied, template and blast weapons should be fired first to get more models before they are killed by other weapons.  Oh, something tiny in here- the effective killing range of a shooting weapon is it's max range, regardless of the mode it's firing in.  So a bolter firing in rapid fire mode can wound and kill a model up to 24" away.  Sweet, right?!  This adds a very specific tactical consideration to the shooting phase for those multi-weapon units.

After that, there's some weird changes.  Characters no longer come with Precision Shot and Precision Strike.  I don't know if that's going to be FAQ'd, but I thought that was interesting.  Those rules, and even 'One shot/One use only' were listed in the Special Rules Appendix.  I mean, wow.

Vector Strike is limited to one strike at base strength and AP 2.  We knew this one already.

Difficult terrain is no longer a dice game.  Any unit charging into difficult terrain rolls charge range as normal and subtracts 2 from it.  We knew this one as well, but it bears noting.

Night fight is no longer range specific, only happens in the first turn and only on a roll of 4+.  The effect is that all units on the table have the Stealth special rule for that turn.  Pretty simple.

Flying Monsters changed quite a bit.  First, they got more powerful by now only having to take a 'Grounding' test once a phase, and only if they're wounded.  It's bad to roll 1 or 2.  But it's now not possible to ground FMCs with laser pointers...  Then, they got less powerful as they are no longer allowed to charge in the same turn as switching flight modes from swooping to gliding or vice-versa.  That's right, flapping around the battlefield takes more time, so know what's up right now.

The vehicle damage chart is different and transports actually became a little better (in a very tiny way).  The damage chart is now this:
1-3:  Shaken (vehicle fires only snap shots)
4:  Stunned (vehicle can't move and fires only snap shots)
5:  Weapon destroyed
6:  Immobilized
7:  Explodes
That's right, you need a 7+ to blow up a vehicle now!  If your weapon isn't AP 2 or 1, you're creating another wreck for the battlefield.  That's a nifty little change that makes Land Raiders that much more awesome.
As far as transports- now, if the vehicle suffers any of the non-'Explodes' effects on the chart, the crew simply takes a LD test.  If they fail, they may only fire snap shots round, but passing means everything is normal.  Nowhere did I see anything preventing them disembarking!  Of course, only Assault Vehicles allow a disembarking charge still, so it's not that huge.  But still, a LD test or no effect.  Perfect!

We all know the Allies chart changed.  But the new edition went even further and stated that any number of any kind of detachments can be used as well.  Taking two Macharius detachments and a GK detachment is very tempting with my IG...

Smash has been reduced to a single attack.  No longer to monsters 'halve' their attacks- they just get one super-strike mega-blast uber-punch now.  

Of important note is the absence of 'Area Terrain'.  I personally preferred area terrain as it made it easy to just roll the dice and keep the game moving.  This whole idea of 'model by model' from the perspective of the shooters' can be tedious.  I like it well enough, but I'm a fan of simplicity.  Now, nothing in the game has the rule, and only a few of pieces of terrain listed in the appendix even have the effect (Imperial Copse, Battlescape, and Moonscape).  Woods and Ruins and such no longer grant the generic cover saves anymore, and claiming cover from barrage just become much more difficult.  I don't mid this change too much, but I can certainly see where it removes the gross reliance on cover that certain units had.  So, good job, I guess?

Oh, now any model that can 'Jink' may choose to do so and get a 4+ cover save, but may fire only snap shots next time it shoots.  This applies to bikes and such too.

And now, the most irritating to me- D weapons got nerfed!  I don't understand why.  I NEVER agreed with people who believed that those weapons were too powerful- they're Titan weapons, for Emprah's sake!!!  Now, Abaddon and Marneus, and anyone else with a respectable invulnerable save can ignore my Knights giant-freakin' chainsword!  That change just made my 375 point Knight worse than a 225 point squad of Thunderhammer Terminators.  I call BS.  I am sooooooper upset.  One of buddies understands as he literally bought the rulebook and Knight the same day and had his bubble burst instantly.  Boooooo, GW, booooooo!

As far as aesthetics, I really like the new edition.  As noted above, I love the three book format.  I'm focusing on 'The Rules' because that's what all gamers want to know about.  That book is laid out very efficiently, but may be a bit cramped.  There are tons of black 'sidebars' with special rules in them.  That can be overlooked.  Luckily, it's just a repeat of the appendix.  And that's the coolest part right there- 

The Universal Special Rules are now just in the Appendix.  The weapons listing and stats are now in the Appendix.  The Psychic Powers are still in the Appendix.  In other words, a competent player need only look in the newly-formatted Appendix to find everything they need.  It's awesome.  Great job on this part, GW!

There are other tiny changes in there, but these are the only ones that actually separate the 7th edition from the barely 2-year old 6th edition.  How do I feel about the edition?  Well, I don't really have a feeling right now besides the one I'll mention below.  But, I liked 6th edition, and since this is only '6.15' to me, I can't dislike it.  I think that most of the changes are welcome changes, if not more tactical.  But it's not different enough to really warrant a change of opinion from last edition.

The only thing that I can say is that I'm not sure it is worth the price point.  I don't need the other two books (I am already a ridiculous repository of 'fluff' information and I already paint at a good level), so the fact that the rules aren't that different don't really convince me that I needed to spend the money.  I will say that the format, layout, and appearance are really cool and that makes it worth the price as I said above.  But rules-wise...  Meh?

Let me know what you guys think and make it good.  After all, new editions only come once every...  nevermind.  In the meantime, Happy Gaming!


  1. Out of the three psyker-centric armies you mentioned, the new rules actually benefit Grey Knights the least. Brotherhood of Pyskers/Sorcerors units only count as a single psyker of their mastery level when determining warp charges. So, for example, two units of 5 Grey Knights with ML1 and Brotherhood of Psykers only give two warp charges.

    10 Warlocks who are all level 1 psykers that happen to be part of the same unit, on the other hand, give 10. This makes Daemons and Eldar in particular pretty scary.

    New Invisibility is also pretty broken (Bel'akor in particular can give a unit of demons with 2+ invuls Invis so that they can only be hit on 6's in shooting or melee, making the chances of wounding them infinitesimal without templates). I'm expecting a near-immediate FAQ nerf.

    Another big change is that Smash gives all the model's attacks AP2, regardless of whether he's using the single Smash attack or not. This is pretty huge for Monstrous Creatures and psykers, since Iron Arm is now +3S, +3T, and Smash (not to mention almost everyone gets Biomancy now. Iron Arm Mephiston, anyone? I know I'm going to try it.)

    Overall.. psykers got a massive power boost and I really think it's only going to become obvious after some playtesting (which I don't think GW did).

    Speaking of Blood Angels, Mephiston with Biomancy period is pretty scary. Sure, Blood Angels' own brand of psychic powers got FAQ'd into non-existence this week, but. S9 T9 Mephiston with an AP2 force sword? Or 8 attacks at Initiative 10? (Warp Speed is a flat +3A and +3I now..) Or 4+ FNP and Eternal Warrior and Relentless? (New Endurance) Sign me up. The only downside is, even with a regular ML2 Librarian, Mephiston, and a Furioso Librarian, Blood Angels are only clocking in at 7 + d6 warp charges and they have no way of getting substantially more.

    Armies with cheap Elite Psykers are going to benefit hugely in this edition because most armies have a similar hard Psyker cap like Blood Angels and can't compete with 10 Warlocks + 2 Farseers (16 + d6, plus Ghost Helm, plus Runes, plus Spirit Stone of Anath'lan).

    I'm surprised you didn't mention Malefic Daemonology. As a Vampire Counts player.. I gotta say, that stuff is pretty crazy. I've been seeing all these reducto ad absurdum lists on the internet of like.. 'nothing but Heralds of Tzeentch'! for 30+ warp charges. I think they're missing the point. The scary lists aren't going to be non-stop Jedi Mind Tricks, it's gonna be a mixed list with 5+ ML2 or ML3 psykers plus supporting elements that can summon 300 or 400 points of brand new demons per decent psychic phase.

    Just the psychic phase has huge repercussions and honestly I'd say it's a complete rewrite of the game to include it. Nothing else is different, really, including lots of issues carried over from 6th, and that's very disappointing. FOC issues were made worse because they threw the baby out with the bathwater and said take everything! But that's fine. Aside from writing themselves into a corner because now every new release has to be balanced against literally every other model in the game, not just its codex and generally other codexes... it doesn't affect my list-building at all.

    The problem with the psychic phase is that you're essentially rolling dice to acquire more actions, and this has a geometrically scaling advantage the more psykers you have.

    I'll continue to play 40k, and honestly I'm not surprised that GW has taken this particular route with the new edition, it's just colossally disappointing that it was sloppily put together mechanically and could have used a different design team and a few more months of lead time, minimum.