Saturday, June 17, 2017

8th Edition Impressions: Core Rules

by SandWyrm

Since I now have my 8th Edition hardcover in hand, I'm going to start going through it and posting my thoughts on this new version of 40K. What I like, what I don't, and what I just find interesting.

We'll start with the Introduction and Core Rules.

Much Better Production Quality

During 6th and 7th Editions, GW was really cranking out the books as fast as it possibly could. As a result, the quality of the writing and graphic design really suffered. Some of the eBooks, like the one for Kill Team, were almost laughable. Looking like they'd been spit out of Microsoft Word or something.

Not anymore. The graphic design is solid, the illustrations plentiful, and not only are the eBook versions of the army Indexes cheaper than the printed ones, but they are much easier to use thanks to the proper use of iBook glossary entries. Just touch a weapon or other keyword, and the definition pops right up. As opposed to the softcovers, which have to list EVERYTHING out in each entry.

All you have to do with the iBooks is swipe left or right to skim through the unit entries, and then touch whatever you need to know. Easy! Nice job GW!

They even cleaned up the digital Kill Team book to be much more professional looking. It's so nice when a company starts taking its product production seriously again. It's like I'm watching Apple start to recover after Steve Jobs returned to the company.

Solid Writing

Overall, the rules writing is 1000% improved over ALL previous editions. There are some things that I think are missing, and some concepts that I don't think will work the way GW intended them to. But I was (almost) never confused by the wording of a rule, or scratching my head at its meaning. This in itself is a minor miracle.

About all I can complain about here is the continued use of the silly new "copyrightable" names that GW came up with for all its factions. But I guess we're stuck with them. Now that GW feels "safe" legally, at least they're not wasting management attention on legal BS anymore. That's a plus.

Game Breakdown

Let's go through the differences in how 8th will play compared to 5th, which was the last 40K edition that I gave a toss about.

1) Points Costs

Every unit in the game now has a data sheet that defines all of its options and special abilities in one place. This is pretty nice, especially with the digital indexes. Index cards will be coming in each box of miniatures in the future.

Now... See that "power" number in the upper-left hand corner? That's the "averaged" cost of the unit (min + max options divided by 2 and reduced by some factor) for casual play. It doesn't matter what options you take for this Battle Sisters squad, they will always cost 4 "power". This is fine for casual play, and makes it easy to just throw down some minis for a particular power level. Players I've talked to say 75 points is roughly equal to 1500 or so points in previous editions.

OK. But what about competitive play?

The good news? There is a more traditional "points" system available. But the bad news is that it's... well it's a bit of a pain to use.

An army that's built using one of the force organization charts, and precise point values, is called a "Battle Forged" army. But the points values are not anywhere on the data sheets. Rather, they're in a series of tables in the back of each Index book.

So Buy a unit... Add up the points for each of its models, weapons, etc. Or build a spreadsheet to do it for you. Is it balanced? Who knows? Supposedly these point values will be updated every year.

Some of the weapons have a cost of zero, meaning... I guess... that their cost has already been factored into the price of the models or something. I see a LOT of potential for confusion here, and I would NOT want to be the guy at Nova or Adepticon that has to vet everyone's lists before the event.

Hopefully we'll see a "Battle Forged" app appear soon, or a reliable 3rd party option. I guess GW figures that us competitive types are big boys who can handle this needless level of complexity. Why it all couldn't just be included as a box at the bottom of the unit cards, or a pop-up in the digital Indexes, I don't know.

Maybe we should count ourselves lucky to have this option at all. Battlefront, after all, took it away from Mid-War games in Flames of War. Where you HAVE to use their version of GW's "Power Levels" instead of a more precise pointing system.

2) Keywords

These cards do contain an innovative feature: Sets of Faction/Unit keywords that special rules can specifically apply to. It's a nice addition.

3) Movement

Every unit has a movement value, and that's how far you can move each model on a "Move" order. An "Advance" order adds a +D6 to this movement, and keeps it from shooting later. Why it wasn't just called "Running" is a mystery to me.

Terrain does not, by default, affect your movement speed. Moving vertically is measured vertically, and coherency is 2" horizontal, and 6" vertically.

It's notable that units can "Fall Back" out of combat. Meaning that unless you surround them, your enemy's bubble-wrap units will be able to exit combat and shoot at you again. (EDIT: Only if you're a flier.)

4) Psychic Phase

I was never a big user of psykers, but this phase seems to be massively toned-down in importance. Any psyker within 24" of a "manifested" power can attempt to block it. Does that mean 24" from the casting Psyker, or 24" inches from whatever the power was cast on? This is one of the few ambiguous wordings that should have been more precisely defined.

I'm still not a fan of having to roll to cast a power though. Kings of War's "it just works" system was much better, and if there's any rolling to be done, it should be firmly on the dispel side. Perils of the Warp also needs to go. It doesn't really fit in with how the rest of 8th seems to shy away from the traditional LOLsy extreme results for random high/low rolls.

But hey... Overall it's better than it was.

5) Shooting Phase

There is one HUGE thing missing from this section. How do I determine if a unit is visible? There is no method for this described at all. Cue pre-game negotiations on using true Line of Sight vs. more abstract systems.

(EDIT:) My bad. The rule is there on page 179 under "Choose Targets".

The rest of the section is pretty simple. You have a to-hit score on your unit card, and if your target is in cover, you get a one-point penalty.

Weapon Types:

Assault Weapons – You get to shoot after running.
Heavy Weapons – You have a -1 to shoot after moving (even for vehicles).
Rapid Fire Weapons – Double shots within half range.
Grenades – One model per turn can throw these in a unit.
Pistol – You can fire these at units that you're engaged with in melee. Which is nice.

There are no templates anymore. So the only real reason to spread out is to keep from getting instantly surrounded in melee. I'm not crazy about this, but at least the alternatives they came up with are fast. Unlike... cough... Antares.

Wounding works differently now. There is no chart anymore. If Strength and Toughness are equal, you need a 4+ to wound. If Strength is higher, you need a 3+ (or a 2+ is it's double). If Toughness is higher, you need a 5+ (or a 6+ if it's double). In theory there is no longer any limit at to how high Strength or Toughness can go. This also gives a big boost the the effectiveness of mid-Strength weapons. And yes, lasguns can hurt a tank.

The garbage AP system of previous editions is gone! (happy dance!) Instead weapons now have armor save modifiers (happy dance!).

The defending player removes whatever models they like as casualties.

I really think that there should be some mechanism in place to let the attacker pick 1-2 of the casualties. Melee uses the same system, and so there is no way to pick out models with special weapons, power klaws, leaders, etc. Rolling 2D6 and allowing the attacker a pick for each 5+ would have been a very easy fix.

6) Transports

There are some important changes to how vehicles, and especially transports work. The biggest is that transports, once they lose all their wounds, only explode on a 6+. And that when they do explode, you roll a die for each model, and each 1+ kills a model chosen by its owning player.

So... That Chimera full of Guardsmen probably won't blow up, and if it does, the guys inside are just as likely to survive as a Marine was in 5th Edition. Plus, units aren't pinned for being blown out of their transports anymore.

Hello Chimera-Spam! We missed you so!

7) The Charge Phase

Yep. Charging gets its own phase. "Overwatch" is automatic now. Whatever unit(s) you charge get to shoot at their full rate of fire, and hit on 6's.

I'm not sure that I like that design decision in general, but as a Guard player I'll enjoy the heck out of it. Note that this edition, despite the pistol boost in melee, is not very friendly to assault-centric forces.

8) The Fight Phase

This phase gets some very interesting changes.

First the current player attacks, one at a time, with each of his units that charged.

Then, the current player picks an already-engaged unit to attack with. The other player then picks one of their units to attack with, and this selection alternates until all engaged units have fought.

Each unit, when selected to fight, gets to consolidate 3", perform its attacks, and then consolidate another 3".

I really like this... Except for one very important problem. The defender is still picking all of the killed models. Added together with the results from shooting, this means that there's no way to push-though a combat. Or to fall back from one once you're surrounded. Which, with 6" of movement from 20+ Ork Boyz, you will be. Unless you spread out your defending unit so that they can't be fully surrounded in the same turn that they're charged. But I don't know yet how well that will actually work.

Even just requiring that models within 1" of the attacking unit be removed first would go a long way towards making combat a more fluid, dynamic affair. As it is now, two blobs (because there are no templates anymore) will rush into each other and just beat one another to a pulp. To me that's not ideal.

9) Warlord Traits

Thank you GW! There are only 3 of these now, and none of them are clearly superior to the others. Though some armies will prefer certain traits.

10) "Only War"

With this edition, GW is clearly doing its best to try and accommodate all styles of play. Just how well this works out for them remains to be seen. I have my doubts, but they've at least got the balls to try something new.

So... We have not one, not two, but three separate mission sections. "Only War" is for the pure casual players. Then there's Narrative Play, which is more like how Flames of War does its missions. With fixed deployments and rules for each scenario. Then there's "Matched Play", in which you roll up a mission and a separate deployment, like in 5th Edition. Except that there are now six missions and six deployments.

Then, in the Advanced Rules, there are "Tactical Objectives" which seem like a mutation of the extra objective systems used at big tournaments like the NOVA Open. Mike Brandt did just fess up to being on the beta test team. Did you dream this up Mike?

Anyhow... "Only War" has three scenarios where you place the objectives anyplace you want. The the attacker splits the table in half (how is not precisely specified) and you fight.

There's a mention in one mission that you really should put a building or something tall in the middle of the table. But there is nothing in any of the 3 tiers of missions that mentions anything about minimum table coverage, ample LoS-blocking terrain, etc.

One of the Narrative Missions – "Ambush at Dhorak Pass" does have a deployment diagram with a lot of buildings on it, but that's it. All of the other diagrams are bare of any scenery.



  1. Cover is mentioned on a sidebar (of page 7 in the PDF) of the core rules - its the page that starts with resolving attacks.

    1. You're correct, but that only applies to units in regards to whether or not they are completely within terrain features (they have to be completely within for cover). There are no rules that I can see for determining cover for a unit that is... say... behind a terrain feature instead of in front of it.

      A good example would be a unit that is behind a wood or area of rubble. Are they in cover? I would say so, but there is no actual rule that covers that situation. Just as there is no rule for determining if a model peaking over a hill is in cover or not.

    2. To add more... There is nothing in the rules that says that I unit I can't see, from the model's view, with my eye or a laser pointer, can't be shot at. If a Guard infantry unit is completely behind a 4" high hill or building, can I shoot at them? Strictly speaking, the rules don't say. It's a gaping hole in what is otherwise a fairly well thought-out system.

  2. Units that fallback cannot shoot according to the fallback rules unless they are a flyer.

  3. For shooting it says to get down at the table level and look to see if you see any part of the target so that is TLOS to anything (weapons, wings, flags).

    1. Ah, fair enough. It's on page 179 under "Choose Targets". I missed it on my first read-though.

  4. Overall from reading just the free core rules download, to me it looks just like old 40K with some marginal changes. Certainly not an adult game. 40K has long be a game about Strategics and not Tactics. Find the optimally priced units and spam your way to victory. Probably not fair to the really talented players but you could be it in the way people talked about the game spending almost all the time talking about units selection and very little about table top choices.

    1. What I'm hearing from those who've played 8th more than me is that unit choice isn't as critical as it used to be, and that very few units are useless anymore.

      I'll weigh-in on that properly once I've played some more games.

  5. I just want to know when the hell Tau became T'au. Was there a Goa'uld infestation at GW?

    Anyway. Biting the bullet and doing a reset was a good call. I think they didn't go far enough though. To much trash in the game. Units needed to be paired down and consolidated. Vanilla Space Marines have 14 HQ choices, not counting special characters. That's a lot of entries for an angry bald dude with a bolt pistol and a sword.

    There's potential here. I'm willing to pay some games. The real test is what happens when they start releasing new codexes.

    1. When they realised calling a race after one of the world's oldest religions wasn't a good (i.e. copyrightable) idea...

    2. You're irked over an apostrophe? Have you seen what they did to the Guard and Eldar names? :P

  6. I love reading your rules analyses, they're always very instructive. Is there any chance you could post something about how Flames of War went wrong?

    1. Yeah... I've been avoiding that one because it's complex, and I didn't want to be posting only negative stuff when there was nothing else encouraging to talk about. Maybe I'll get around to it eventually (my next 40K piece has been held up by my basement having flooded on Father's Day). But basically Flames has the following major problems:

      1) Battlefront wants to shift to a card-based rules system, like GW has with 8th Edition. Presumably because model sales are down and they want to sell us cards now. So Mid-War has moved to cards-only. While late-war is now a mess of old and new rules that need proper updating with new books. There is literally one rulebook for early/late war, and a another rulebook for mid-war with lots of small annoying differences.

      2) Because of the desire to sell cards, they moved a lot of rules to the cards and out of the book. The first problem with this is that they added needless random complexity and multiple stats to the movement phase (to justify the cards).

      3) All fast units (Jeeps, Motorcycles, Pumas) got nerfed hard. So bye-bye to the kind of fast-moving lists that I prefer to run. A scout car is only 2" faster than a tank, and with the random rolling for movement orders, the tank could actually move faster in a given turn. Infantry now moves 8" to a tank's 10", and a scout car or jeep's 12". Add in the rolls for an additional 4" of movement, and Infantry can easily run down vehicles.

      4) Since the 4th Edition version of Stormtrooper requires a German unit to first pass an order in the movement phase, you only have a 44% chance of success instead of the old 66% chance. This is just one example of how national differences are less distinct than they were. The game is less "bad" than just plain boring to me. It's Candyland with tanks now.

      5) Their new mid-war points system is similar to 8th Edition 40K's casual "power levels", but without a detailed points system for competitive play. Play-testers have been coming out and saying that they screamed to Battlefront that the new points system sucked, but were ignored.

      6) For all of the game's dependence on the new cards, Battlefront has failed to ship their promised card-packs (typical logistics failure for them). When some card packs did arrive at the local store, we honestly couldn't figure out what they were for, as they were a mix of what looked like strategems, X-Wing style upgrades, and a few cards here and there that listed stats, or point costs for units, but not both. That's when I officially bailed and started watching the 8th Edition 40K games instead.

      7) The missions, and the competitive scoring system, still suck.

      8) The Flames players I know all admit that 4th sucks, and isn't that fun, but are still playing because they like the community. I understand that feeling, but we all know how that worked out for 6th Edition 40K in the long-term. The short of it is that Flames, the game, is no longer worth my time and money.

      8th Edition 40K though? It's fun. Flawed, but fun.

    2. Thanks, that's exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for!

      Do you think there's any chance of them salvaging this edition, or is it done for until they make a 5th? Meanwhile, I hope 40k 8th avoids falling into the same 'card rules creep' trap you mentioned...

    3. I don't think there's any chance of Battlefront salvaging Flames short of an immediate admission of their error, and an announcement of a "4.5" or 5th edition that will fix most of the current problems.

      As far as points, their old system used 5-point increments on everything, so 1000 points in the old system could easily reduced to 200 with zero effect on granularity. A 1500 point game under the old system would thus be 300 points. Instead of trying to cram similar-sized forces into an X-Wing like 75-100 point range.

      I do like the new detachment system, to a degree. But it needs more polish.

      As far as gameplay, they need to restore the old movement phase rules (keeping the new American Tank Destroyer fixes). There are some positives in 5th as far as how artillery now works. But the random movement BS is only there to sell cards that Battlefront can't reasonably deliver to us because of their gimpy logistics situation.

      The company is simply stretched too tight, and I think that they blew a lot of money on the Dust Kickstarter debacle, and the sentimental purchase of Wargames Illustrated, that they really needed to instead invest in a faster shift to plastics (so they wouldn't be 3-4 years behind competitors), and a more robust worldwide logistics system.

      Making everything in Indonesia simply isn't working. Even before TANKS!, Team Yankee, and the new cards, they were FAR behind on their shipments of existing Flames of War items. It's time for BF to start investing in US/UK production plants, but I don't think they have the cash to do that.

      If you can't deliver what people need to play your game in the first week, then don't bother. Right now, game system problems aside, I have every reason NOT to play Mid-War, my favorite period, because they haven't delivered all of the cards and plastic sets needed to play it. It's frustrating instead of exciting. Why they would set themselves up for failure like that bewilders me, and I can only assume that they did it out of a desperate need for new players and new sales. Because 3rd Edition, in terms of player growth, was flat. Though much of that can be attributed to a few GW-like moves such as trying (and failing) to force tournament players to buy only BF models.

    4. Yikes. So, they have bad rules designed to justify the existence of products that they can't even make or ship, and they don't have enough money to fix their production line, and they can't earn money from things they can't produce... That's one heck of a vicious cycle.

      How much trouble are they in? It sounds like even a great set of rules would only bandage that flesh wound. On a business level, are they diversified enough to lean on their other products while they sort this out?

    5. How much real trouble are they in? Who knows. They're a private company.

      They are getting more diversified over time. Besides Flames, TANKS!, Team Yankee, and their other miniatures games, they've been putting out some good licensed board games like Firefly and Sons of Anarchy. I'll make a guess that the board games are their real cash cow right now, based on how they've focused exclusively on them for years now at GenCon. In that respect, they're in a healthier product position than GW, which pretty much depends on 40K for the vast majority of its sales.

      But buying Dust was also a part of that push to diversify, and it exploded in their face because they didn't do their due-diligence prior to the acquisition. I assume that they're carrying a debt load right now because of that, and that's probably what's hobbling their ability to expand and mature their supply chain. Which isn't a death sentence, but then they went and designed a version of Flames that depends on new stuff being delivered through that supply chain, instead of making it work out of the box with their existing product lines.

      Why? Because Team Yankee sold far better than expected. So they made Flames more like Team Yankee, without considering their logistical constraints first. If you order something from GW, you get it in a few days. But orders from Battlefront will routinely take 3-6 months to get to you from Indonesia. Our FLGS has back-orders for Flames stuff that hasn't been delivered for most of a year. And that was before 4th Edition hit.

    6. Interesting. Well, I hope they pull out of this and fix Flames, however long it takes. Thanks for letting me pick your brains like this!

  7. Tactical Objectives have been a thing since 7th ed, I believe. The NOVA and ITC missions are actually mutations of GW's system called Maelstrom of War. They're quite fun, bringing a new dynamic to the game where new mission objectives (capture objective X, kill 3 units etc) pop up as the game rolls on.

    1. Yeah, the tactical objectives bring a "new dynamic" to the game, but that's only perceived as a good thing because the base rules aren't complex/interesting enough to maintain long-term interest without another random-LOLsie layer thrown on top. It's a lazy solution to a deeper design problem, and it hobbles real competitive play.

      Imagine, if you will, that objectives could only be placed in your deployment zone, and that capturing ANY of the other player's objectives automatically won you the game. The game then becomes an interesting contest. You have to keep him away from your objectives, while trying to get to his. There's a back-and-forth to the game as you attempt to execute the strategy you chose, and see whether you can pull it off. Which involves having to actually move around and thing about what you're doing.

      But not in 8th. Because the "tactical objectives" are constantly moving the goal posts around, you can't really plan ahead. So you grab the objectives closest to you and hope that you draw the card that give you points for them. If the other guy gets a better draw? Sorry about your luck. Even all-but tabling them can still leave you a few points down with a loss.

      This is the kind of BS that will keep me playing casual-only for the foreseeable future. In casual play you can just make up any rule you want to fix the stupid. Like area terrain blocking LoS so that moving around is required during the game.

  8. That's a really bad way to play Maelstrom. There's two better ways to play Maelstrom: (1) Build your army to cover objectives. You need both units to smash the other army, and units to hang around near objectives, and of those you need objective holders and objective takers. (2) Build your army to re-deploy. You need units that move fast, fly, or both, and a big distraction like a Knight or a Super-heavy Tank.

    Essentially you're not at the mercy of the draw in Maelstrom unless you're stupid enough to ignore how the scoring works when you build your army. I personally prefer a mix of Maelstrom and Eternal War because how it hybridizes ongoing and final scoring.


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