When I was dreaming up this article, wanting to cash in on 10th edition whilst it was hot off the presses, I thought about opening the column with "once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, I used to play warhammer 40k."
But then I remembered the angry hit piece I wrote about GW's supply chain troubles and foolish decisions around matched play, and I decided to move on with my life.
As it so happens I've rediscovered league play at my local game store - you know, when I haven't been sick, as my daughter is now soaking up every illness known to man in childcare. I've notched up close to 20 9th ed games under my belt in a little over five months, which is a tremendous result for me personally.
Shoutouts to Jolt Games - if GW could stop fucking them over and let me order a Leviathan box from them instead of the evil empire, that'd be immaculate.
Personal axe grinding aside, almost all of the content up for discussion will be derivative - I recommend visiting the 10th edition hub for current and upcoming news about the new edition. What follows is uninformed opinion from a filthy casual.
As a convenient soundbite, I'm a fan of the simplified direction the game is taking. I am looking forward to 10th edition, and I have certainly supped of the kool-aid in the font in the lobby of Warhammer World.
Not literally, mind you, I can't afford flights to the UK right now.
Changes for a New Edition
It appears that GW will be keeping the same general gameplay structure as 8th and 9th. Which I like. Previous editions (that I give a shit about) like 4th and 5th were very involved with advanced mechanics like facing, weapon arcs, armour values, etc.
Those systems weren't bad - infact, I remember most of them fondly - but the rose tinted glasses are certainly covering some flaws that became apparent by 7th edition. 8th and 9th are more open in terms of rules and flow, and the nuts and bolts moment-to-moment gameplay became smoother.
Which means that on the chopping block of 10th edition, are overlaid mechanics. Stratagems, warlord traits, relics and army special rules are either being cut down, or removed entirely. Space Marines in particular are having a big chunk of their rules cut down - looking at what they're getting in exchange, it's hard to argue they're getting depowered, at least in a vaccuum.
Based on the faction previews, you can expect one faction-wide rule and one detachment rule. I am in no doubt that this will increase over the edition, but for three months, we should be in for a rules-light experience with a focus on the nuts and bolts of moving miniatures around and rolling dice, which I'm very much in favour of.
I am on record as saying that 9th edition is a fantastic version of the game, but it is tricky to play competently. If you're playing against someone who's been around the block, the weight of additional knowledge they have will crush you. 9th has tremendous depth, but the requirement to put as much power on the board as you can, means a lot of that depth is never used.
Furthermore, whilst I've certainly drunk a lot of kool-aid about 10th, I am not of the opinion that the ultraviolence level of the game will decrease. Having seen some of the particularly pointy weapons available to vehicles (and Obliterators), I expect the game will still be a terrain-heavy, hide-or-die experience. Which is fine, provided you have the terrain required.
Blocking fire lanes and staying out of sight is definitely important because of a big change to overwatch. It's not been confirmed yet, but it appears you'll be able to use overwatch during the movement phase. Where this sounds really nice is dropping a flamer-equipped unit into your opponent's territory, shooting, and then flaming another unit that tries to move out of range.
Another significant change is the return of universal special rules, or "USRs".
As a practical example, a plasma gun in 10th has the "Hazardous" keyword now. It doesn't function any differently to 9th edition - an unmodified d6 score of one will still kill the bearer - but the trick is that the text doesn't have to be printed on every weapon.
I am mixed about this change. As a pro, it's very easy to combine multiple beneficial or negative effects onto a single weapon. And, infact, they have - meet the new boltgun:
What is a problem, at least initially, is that you need to learn what all these keywords do. Granted, it will only be an issue once, but it's a lot to try and learn all at once. Maybe if we're lucky, there will be a handy quick-reference sheet. Or I'll make one for games with new players.
On balance, I think these changes are good. A big focus for me this edition will be to put to the test how difficult it is to teach new players (and returning players who only dabbled in 9th) how to play the game effectively and efficiently. Myself included.
Take us to your leader
Characters are getting a chunky overhaul this edition - mostly, which merits its own subheading.
What's old is new again, with some (not all) characters having the ability to join units. Some leaders have unit restrictions - the primaris lieutenant, for example, can only join primaris infantry units. This change is not universal, mind you - Big Bob G is a monster, and cannot join infantry units. The trade-off is that Bob G has the replacement word for Look Out Sir, Lone Operative, provided he's within 3" of an Ultramarines unit.
There's two significant parts to how this rule functions. Firstly, you join a unit at the start of the game. Once your meat-shields die, it's open slather. Two, your characters are under no obligation to join units, but if they don't, and they're not Lone Operatives, your opponents are free to try and snipe them out. Enjoy.
With this alteration comes another, smaller change, which is that the leader in question (sometimes, not always) will confer a buff onto the specific unit he's leading. Of course, this is not a blanket rule, as Abigail the Despoiler shows us.
Whilst this overall is a reduction in power generally, preventing you (sometimes) from building a big death-ball of force multiplication, it's a cleaner implementation for leaders on the whole - now you can pick an individual unit and staple a leader to it to add-on just a touch more power, or survivability.
Some of the buffs promised from fearless leaders, at least for space marines, look very interesting. Your primaris lieutenant now gives his unit autowounds on a hit of a 6 on D6, an ability very difficult to find in marines previously, but very potent. Autowounding on 6s, rather than rerolling 1s like the Lt.'s 9th ability, also cuts down on the total number of dice rolled, which is another small perk, which GW looks to be implementing across the board.
It does line up with a pledge GW did make, which was to cut down on the number of rerolls in the game. I'm not sure how well they're doing with that, as there have been plenty of spoiled mechanics and characters who have either innate rerolls, or an ability to gain rerolls from other units - case in point, the Ballistus dread.
However, this will need to be examined at a later date. Practically, there will need to be some data generated from the game in order to fully examine if GeeDub has been successful at reducing the number of rerolls in a game, and in the game as a whole, which are two entirely different things.
Whilst there's been a lot of design work on the table, GW has looked into army construction off the table too. Which makes sense to me. Building your army in 9th can be nightmarish for new players.
With what we know so far, you can build your army from whatever you like. You can have a maximum of three of the same unit - and anything marked as a "battleline" unit can be selected a maximum of six times. This is simple, effective, and punchy.
It's also very easy for new players to understand. If you, the reader, are wondering why I keep coming back to "new players", it's because it's important the game is uncomplicated. Both for the growth of the game, and for effective gameplay. The more layers you add to the cake, the more disgusting fondant you have to eat before you start to taste anything else.
This also does give me hope that GW will finally release a proper army builder online. Where this always falls down is providing rules to go with your army list to make it useful. Because the rules cost money, you're either going to have to pay GW upfront, or pay to use a suboptimal listbuilder. Not ideal. Sadly, I think Battlescribe will once again rule the roost in 10th.
The big important change for me is the detachments. At a surface level, this looks somewhat like a rebrand for subfactions. Your detachment comes with a special rule, alongside a warlord trait, relic and six stratagems. As they promised, it's likely it fits on a page.
Without knowing if or how GW plans to implement previously seen mechanics like subfactions or chapter-specific bonuses, it appears that marines will forfeit identity for power. Which is absolutely fine, for the above-mentioned reason that inevitably, people will gravitate towards the powerful options in their subfaction, and so much of the depth that exists in the 9th edition system is wasted.
Particularly for me, as a long time marine simp, it will be good. Yes, my Salamanders will no longer have a fetish for flame and melta weaponry (maybe), but they'll gain an overall power boost as a result of being able to access any and all space marine detachments. As opposed to the current state of affairs where Iron Hands rule the roost. Or at least they did, until GeeDub stomped on Codex Warfare. And Inner Circle. That's another hit piece for another day.
What isn't clear yet, is if there will be multiple in-faction detachments with a different special rule and stratagems. I would imagine a way to expand the options a faction has without adding complexity would be to create additional detachments from parts of the new story - say, for example, a blank-slate first company detachment. They don't have the advantages of doctrines like the Gladius strike force, but maybe have more terminator and veteran-centric stratagems to add flavour.
The key for me, for marines, will be to make sure that the detachments are not gated behind being a specific chapter. Let every marine have the power - or lack thereof, when GW cuts them off at the knees because hating marines is trendy.
Tanks for Coming
Last, but certainly not least, I can't forget to mention that vehicles and monsters are getting a lot tougher this edition.
Even the humble Rhino, and the land speeder replacement in the Storm Speeder are toughness 9. Yes, some weapons have caught up in power - Railguns and the Heavy Laser destroyer have high enough strengths to comfortably wound all vehicles on 3s or less, but the majority of weapons, including melta guns, missile launchers, and lascannons, have not.
This boost in defensive stats is accompanied by a boost to the transport rules. Once again, you can disembark from a vehicle after it's moved. You can't charge, like the good old days, unless you're in an assault vehicle, but for those shooting-centric armies, you'll be able to move, disembark and move as part of that disembarkation, which is a significant boost to mobility.
Even better is the return of fire points to some vehicles. Have two good weapons in a Rhino that you want to fire? Well, meet firing deck, your new best friend.
Some of the more brutal open-topped vehicles, like battlewagons, apparently have double-digit firing deck numbers, so get excited to get torched by 15 burna boyz in a battlewagon you have to chew through before you get close to them. Even better, no doubt if you charge the battlewagon, they'll get double duty. Probably.
To wrap this stream of consciousness into a coherent package, I'll restate what I did at the beginning. It looks good, and I'll be there to play it and be part of my local hobby community. Barring some silly, product-driven rules like flyers in sixth edition, I'll be there.
Personally, there's plenty of marine stuff I'm excited for. The awkward green light given for primaris to use firstborn equipment means Terminators, Drop Pods, even Land Raiders now. Awkward aside, I'm very much looking forward to fielding an all-terminator Firedrake force, even though it'll probably be garbage.
Elsewhere, looks like some variants of Marines are finally going to get combi-weapons. Particularly Sternguard, which look like they're going to be good value as a flexible unit in a Spess Marine army. I have no doubt the ones in the box will have a preset combination of weapons, but once you have access to the multipart kit with all the weapons the squad needs, look out world. As it stands, they're very pretty and will find a home tucked away in a drop pod.
My concern really revolves around the starter box. Long-suffering readers will know the indomitus launch was a no-holds-barred shitshow, where I nearly died of hypothermia waiting for a box at midnight. With all the drama regarding limited release matched play books and intentionally starving local game stores of product, I do not have high hopes for the product launch.
And believe you me, when they inevitably fuck it up and I have to wait in the cold for a box instead of being in the warm at my local game store, I will be there to tell you, theoretical reader, all about it.
Catch you next time,
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