In the last few weeks I’ve managed to play a couple of games of 40k, which is a big step for me – the first games I’ve played since my son was born six months ago. I thought I’d write a little about how it went and what I think of the new edition.
You might think I’m being a bit presumptuous making judgements about the entire edition after playing two small games, but my attitude is basically this: I’ve been playing this game for 21 years, and besides, it ain’t rocket science. If you think Warhammer 40,000 needs deep and complex analysis then I put it to you that your brain needs to get out more!
So, the two games were actually really, really fun. I think Games Workshop has nailed it this time for narrative play. They’ve done what they’ve set out to do, which is explicitly and unashamedly design a game that can’t really be played competitively without heavy modification. This is a brave and interesting decision when other companies seem to be moving in the opposite direction.
I was cautious going in about a few things, but I have to say that overall I enjoyed the crap out of it, and we only scratched the surface of things you can do. I’m looking forward to throwing grenades into a building to clear out troops, or even melta-gunning a building so it collapses on the enemy inside. I’m also looking forward to flying around and bombing people, or manning a big gun and shooting down enemy fighters.
Here are some more detailed impressions of some of the new elements:
Challenges I really thought this seemed like a bad idea, but having played it, challenges were very cool. It’s just much more cinematic to have your two heroes smashing away at each other, and the grunts fighting the grunts. It’s satisfying. I liked combat in general, the piling in at every initiative step worked well I think and it was all pretty easy if you played 5th edition.
Snap-firing This is the best thing I think in the new edition. We’re in the future, so it makes sense that guns are better than swords. The snap-shooting mechanic means you are hardly ever unable to fire your weapon, so it increases engagement with the game immensely.
Vehicles So everyone was bitching and freaking out about how vehicles are weak now or whatever. I think they are weaker to assault, but overall, I didn’t notice much difference at all in their survivability to shooting. This just means you have to shield your tanks from infantry, which feels more natural anyway. All good. You can even snap-fire when stunned, which is much more fun than looking sadly at your worthless Leman Russ when it gets shaken every turn.
Casualty removal Wow, who would have thought it would be so easy and enjoyable just to take away the model closest to the attacker, and to only be able to kill models that you can see? This is way better than the twisty 4th and 5th edition mechanics contrived especially to allow you to save your special guys till last. My battle sisters lost their superior and then fled, which they wouldn’t have done had she still been alive. Far from annoying me, this made me feel a lot more like I was seeing a real battle unfold with all the uncertainties of war. People who gripe about Look Out Sir should remember that the previous edition basically allowed an automatically successful Look Out Whoever I Feel Like Whenever I Feel Like It.
Random charge length OK, so this is one I thought I wouldn’t mind but I have to say, it kind of sucks. I guess they did it to increase drama, but in nearly every case it seems to decrease it. The first game we played my Rough Riders failed to charge my opponent’s assault marines, and then they failed to charge me. For two whole turns our dedicated assault troops stood there looking at each other because of the dice. In the second game my heroic infantry squad led by Uriah Jacobus failed to come to the aid of my Lord Commissar who was fighting assault marines alone, despite being about three inches away. It seems to me that if you are going to charge you’re going to want to get close to make sure it works, which means that you are either going to make it (which you knew was likely anyway) or fail against the odds (which is annoying). Either way, not much drama. A situation where you make a long charge against the odds is going to be pretty uncommon compared to the other two situations I just mentioned. Unfortunately it seems pretty fundamental to the game, the other assault mechanics (like the continuous pile-ins) work assuming you’re using it, so it’s not easy to house-rule away. So random charge length: not a fan I have to say.
Flyers I need a flyer now. They seem to be game changing. With their speed, unusual deployment and movement, and the difficulty ground troops have hitting them, you really feel like your tanks and grunts are sitting ducks. My opponent fielded two and it was only because I rolled a lucky Mysterious Objective (heh heh) that they didn’t decimate my army more than they did.
Allies So in the first game I took Eldar allies with my Guard, and in the second Sisters of Battle allies. Capn Stoogey took Guard allies in the second game to give his Ultramarines air support. The allies were great, everything I hoped for etc. It was good to have my old wacky Ecclesiarchy friends back in my Guard army with a vengeance.
I’m keen to play some more. Just ordered some cavalry from Perry Miniatures to make into space cavalry…