Warhammer 40,000 First Impressions
By Ray Snyder
The new edition of Warhammer 40,000 came out and I could not wait to see how it played. I’ve played every edition of 40K, from Rogue Trader to sixth edition, only missing out on the seventh edition of the game as its gameplay did not appeal to me. So I was super excited to see that the new edition harkened back to the early editions of the game, being smaller in scale and having both more granular statistics and abilities but with a greatly reduced core rules set. I recently managed to get my first games in, so here are my impression of the new edition.
The rules are faster and more dramatic than I remember it every being. Models move quickly, more dice are rolled, and, with less core rules to worry about, the game feels great. I also feel as if there is little room for arguments, as the rules are so concise that the few misunderstandings can be quickly sorted out. With only eight pages of core rules and the advanced rules primarily focusing on army construction and scenario rules, it’s the easiest version of the game to learn.
However, the depth of gameplay becomes evident as you play your first few games and you see that the different units and models all have different abilities that interact in dramatic ways. Each of the scenarios change the way you play and the choices you make on how to spend your Command Points if you’re playing a battle forged army. The Command Points are one of the newest features for the new edition and really increase the decision-making tactical depth of the game. Command Points allow you to use Stratagems to “bend the rules”, allowing you to re-roll dice, change the order of melee combat, pass any morale test, and activate scenario-specific abilities like mine fields or artillery strikes.
I’ve been using the new Primaris Space Marines from the Dark Imperium box set. Primaris Marines are a new plot development that has allowed Games Workshop to sculpt and release “true scale” marines. These new guys are how space marines should have always been, both in scale to other figures but also in elite combat prowess. Due to the Primaris storyline, they can be used with existing Space Marine models and operate differently enough to bring new tactics and choices to Space Marine generals, but also work as a stand alone force. In-game, they consistently performed well under fire and in melee combat, enduring both the ravages of the battles and dealing it back. Overall, I’m really happy with the Primaris Space Marines, both in how they look and how they play.
I played two missions in my first playthroughs: Meat Grinder and No Mercy. Meat Grinder is a narrative mission, it’s a fun but very tough mission where one player has unlimited reinforcements but must eradicate all the other players models. It’s a blast to play as it can be very hard to root out the last few survivors hiding in hard to reach corners of the battlefield, but is both dynamic and entertaining with very easy to understand victory conditions. No Mercy is a matched play mission that focuses on both players trying to eliminate enemies, kill the enemy Warlord, and break into the enemy deployment zone. It’s also a fast and fun game without too many complications or required objective markers. I enjoyed both! In a casual game, I’d love to play Meat Grinder again, but No Mercy is better for competitive players, as it’s much more balanced and uses deployment to decide who get the first turn, making it less random and more about player choices.
Gameplay-wise, some things have changed in big ways. However, despite a few exceptions, it feels very similar. The biggest change is that vehicles no longer have their own special rules, as they use the same core rules as every other model; this has resulted in some surprises for players used to the last five editions’ vehicle rules. Vehicles are very resilient now – almost never being destroyed in one hit – and bigger tanks will take several big hits and still motor onward. Basic infantry also is more survivable, as weapons that once wounded on a roll of 2+ on a d6 and allowed no armor save now often require a 3+ to wound and will receive their armor save or at least attempt a reduced save. Bigger models now have to worry about troopers that they used to be immune to, as you can now always cause a wound on a roll of 6. It’s a great gameplay change to go from having no chance to a slim chance, but the slim chance just feels good.
Finally I’ve used the Power Levels method of creating and balancing an army instead of the traditional Points Value. Power Levels have been a quick and easy army construction tool; it allows you to easily assemble an army out of your collection with out doing all the heavy math and accounting required for Points Values. Power Levels do limit you in some ways, such as rigid squad sizes or potentially overpaying for a unit if you’re not using upgraded weapons or optional characters that the squad allows. However, for most people who enjoy Warhammer as a casual game, Power Levels will be a huge boon, allowing you to spend your time modeling, painting, and playing instead of devising the ultimate army list combo. Using Points Value makes sure you get what you pay for, allows for much more versatility in squad construction and the challenge of maximizing your army. While I’ve been really enjoying 50 Power Level games, some of my friends are looking forward to continuing to use the Points Values instead, but they have tended to be more competitive players, so that makes sense.
Overall, I’m really happy with 8th Edition; it did something I didn’t expect and brought me back to both Game Workshop and Warhammer 40,000. This is a game I’ve been playing since my teenage years in the late 80’s, but I had written it off as a game that just got too big for it’s own good, both in price increase, size, number of models on the table, and number of rules spread across dozens of pages and books. The new edition has fixed most of that, new affordable entry points including the new Dark Millennium box set, smaller model count armies, and short, concise rules have won me back. I’m be spending much of my upcoming gaming time in the Grim Dark Future, I hope to see you there too.