So, last Thursday, the powers that be delivered a big whack of changes to Warhammer 40k. I missed the vast majority of sweeping changes to both 8th and 9th edition, and so this is really the first time I've fully invested, and watching seeing Games Workshop roll out significant changes to the core mechanics of the game.

On balance, I think the changes are good. But I'm programmed to think that, as I've been playing this silly game, on and off, for more than two decades now. There are question marks about if they've done enough to remove Eldar's teeth, and Necrons are looming large to inherit the earth left in their wake.

Before getting to the meat of this article, to be perfectly clear, I'm not a proper sweatlord. I think 40k is first and foremost a hobby, and then a game. For proper, in-depth analysis of all the tweaked components, I would suggest you try Goonhammer, now that 1D4chan is no more.

(Editor's Note: I am in no way affiliated with Goonhammer, it's just a much more comprehensive news site than this blog. Go there, and don't hassle me again.)

Particularly as GW is now giving trusted content creators access to new rules, models and balance documents ahead of time. Goonhammer had their "hot take" series of articles available within half an hour of the balance dataslate becoming public knowledge. They absolutely had those articles prewritten and scheduled to release in short order. Must be nice.

With all of that out of the way, let's talk about the core rules changes first, as they provide important context to the marine changes.

Devastating Wounds

This is, in my opinion, the single biggest change to the game. Devastating Wounds has been re-written to not deal mortals, but instead to ignore saving throws. This is small, but important distinction with a fair bit of nuance.

For a practical example, this significantly changes the output of the Wraithknight and it's preferred loadout in 10th of dual Heavy Wraithcannons. Previously, a devastating wound from one of those weapons would inflict mortal wounds, which are applied to a unit one wound at a time. Now, you can't take a save against the wound, so it's no less lethal, but the wounds don't roll over from one model to the next.

This change means that a devastating wound is still bad news for a vehicle, but infantry fare much better, not getting instantly deleted by Wraithcannons and Forgefiend Ectoplasma cannons. If you take the same unit of Necron warriors in the example above, even if the Eldar player rolls perfect dice, the maximum number of models a Wraithknight can remove is 14.

Naturally, Eldar generals (Autarchs?) have been immediately benching their Wraith friends and replacing them with more lances. The gameplan will change, but the results may not.

Another big loser here are Chaos Forgefiends, who form the backbone of heretic gunlines at the moment - they'll still hand out save-ignoring Ectoplasma wounds like candy, but it's much harder to pick up a unit on the bounce.

Titanic\Towering Changes

Firstly, Titanic models can no longer overwatch. Your brain may immediately be thinking of Imperial Knights, but there's a number of common superheavy units that are caught by this change. Baneblades and Stormsurges, to name a few. Although not the Barbed Heirodule, surprisingly.

Secondly, Towering models interact with terrain similar to the old 9th edition rules. That is to say, you can't see through obscuring unless you "toe on", and as soon as you do, you'll be able to draw line of sight through that obstacle. However, subsequent obscuring terrain features (i.e, ruins) will continue to block line of sight. Towering models do not have x-ray vision anymore.

I'm sure these changes are very significant, however somehow I have managed to dodge, duck and dive out of the way of the Imperial Knight menace. I have had one game against a Shadowsword, and not having to deal with it shooting three times every battle round was nice, although the five rounds it did shoot contributed plenty to my downfall.

Stratagem Changes

This is an interesting design choice. The cliff's notes is that only stratagems that are marked as a "Battle Tactic" can either be made free, or have their cost increased.

There's a laundry list of underpinning stratagems that are no longer free, and cannot be used twice. The flip side is those stratagems cannot then have their cost increased. Off the top of my head, there's Phantasm (Eldar), Reanimation Protocols (Necrons), and Unwavering Sentinels (Adeptus Custodes) that all are changed by this.

This also means that there's no way to kneecap armies that depend on specfic non-battle tactic stratagems with, say, a Callidus assassin.

I'm mixed on this change. Every faction has access to assets that give them free stratagems or extra command points, so making sure that the really strong, underpinning stratagems are always going to come at a premium price, feels like the right call to make. Everyone hates it, and no-one wins.

I know we're not here to talk about Eldar, however, Phantasm lives rent free in my head, so I want to note that it has had a very chunky reduction in power by only being able to be used on infantry. This still allows you to dance with your Wraithguard, however there will be no such tomfoolery with Fire Prisms, for instance.

I can live with that.

For regular boring codex marines, three stratagems are Battle Tactics - Honour the Chapter, Storm of Fire, and Armour of Contempt. This is a respectable selection, but I really wanted Adaptive Strategy, to keep up to two units in Devastator Doctrine every turn.

Finally, the "Insane Bravery" stratagem moves back to once per game, and has to be used before you roll. I'm in favour of changes that make battle shock riskier, and this will certainly do that.

Those are the big rulebook changes. It's a significant shake-up, aimed at the top end of town, and that's without getting into some of the in-faction changes. But we're not here to talk about them.

Farewell, Deathwatch, We Hardly Knew Ye

Deathwatch had the dubious honour of being the best Marine faction, whilst being firmly under the thumb of Eldar - just like everyone else. However, GW has seen fit to draw all of that to a close, handing out a harsh round of changes which has firmly put the faction's aspirations of being "good, not great", six feet under.

It wasn't drastic price increases that made Deathwatch, but instead the change to Desolators (keep reading), the new rules for Battle Tactic stratagems, and also the nerf to the special ammunition types only affecting bolt weapons. There will be no more Desolators with anti-infantry 2+, or Eradicators returning to 24" range and ignoring cover.

It also doesn't help the best thing about the Watch Master was the ability to Vect a stratagem, however he has retained his high cost. It's a perfect storm of fortune reversals that have conspired to send the men in black back to the cheap seats.

This set of changes is a shame, because Deatchwatch genuinely looked like a good option for those wishing to wear power armour and throw hands with the best of the best.

Even I was considering sourcing some 3D printed components and turning some intercessors into Deathwatch Veterans. Some small part of me is glad I didn't give in to temptation until after this round of changes and the codex, as that ship has officially sailed.

Desolation Marines have been... Desolated.

Apparently the folks at HQ were also listening to the whingers everywhere, because Desolation Marines have been officially cut off at the knees. They copped a 30 per 5 points hike to 200 for 5, and are capped at squads of 5. This is bad for marines, as they lose a blue-chip shooting threat.

I am a card carrying member of the "I like Desolators" club, and I will defend them until my dying breath - which should rock around fairly soon once the frothing nerds beat me to death for not having an opinion which aligns with their own.

One silver lining from this change is that every army list doesn't start with 10 Desolators, which opens up more of the book to be used, even if it's begrudgingly.

I think five Desolators is still ok to babysit your objective, though it's a much more even contest between it and the Whirlwind, which is 50 points cheaper. You also don't want to be going overboard and sticking bolter discipline on the unit anymore.

Points! It all comes down to points...

Lastly, as with every round of balances and nerfs, there are adjustments in the points. Always points.

For increases, there were Desolators (see above), Infiltrators going to 100, whilst Incursors dropped to 85. There's now a genuine choice between Incursors and Infiltrators. I think Infiltrators still win because Incursors don't clog up your deployment zone.

The Lancer, hereby referred to as the "strictly worse fire prism" has moved to 160. I don't like it, because I'm biased, however after conducting some field tests with it, I can understand why that increase is there.

Storm Speeders increased, with the Thunderstrike now clocking in at a hideous 170, the Hammerstrike not far behind at 160, and the Hailstrike at an "ok" 140. With the Hailstrike seeing the most play (albeit in Deathwatch builds), the original land speeder is still cheaper and offering a nicer buff than any of the big brothers, so they'll continue to ride the bench for now.

And of course, the cuts. Most chadmarine units that aren't seeing play and never will, such as Intercessors, Bladeguard, and the less useful unit of Scouts (i.e, the one that doesn't have lone operative) saw chip decreases.

Aggressors, which are gaining a bit of traction as a unit to sink all of your resources into, dropped from 220 to 200. This widens the gap between them and a fully loaded unit of hellblasters, to the point where if you're cutting corners and want a unit that provides similar enough firepower, without all the bells and whistles, they might just do enough.

Dreadnoughts also saw small drops. The Ballistus is now a comparatively tiny 150, making a Storm Speeder more expensive, depending on its equipment. The Brutalis also dropped, but unless its close combat weapons get better, it doesn't matter how cheap it is, it's going to continue to ride the bench.

At 210 points, the Redemptor doesn't set the world on fire. However, I did use one as a big dumb fire magnet, chucking out ok damage with its Plasma Cannon and trundling onto an objective, something it was very successful at. It's not going to underpin your offensive output, and I'd like to see it drop to 200 or even into the 190-180 range, but it's not a bad option, particularly when Marines don't have any really tough targets to absorb hate.

Another potential option if you're really cutting costs is Eliminators, which hit 75 points for three. They don't really care about the change to Devastating Wounds, because their job is to infiltrate onto an objective and not die - something which having a man-portable lascannon doesn't really have an impact on.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I like the changes to the game. I'm not a fan of everything GW has done, particularly around Desolators and free stratagems. But the change to Devastating Wounds feels clean, and doesn't kneecap weapons that use the rule in a fair way, like Tau Railguns. It is a big hit to Adeptus Custodes, but, apart from the fact Captain-General Tim loves them, I don't particularly care for that army.

On the whole, Marines have come out marginally better than when they went in. I was considering Deathwatch prior to the changes, and I am glad I didn't pull the trigger on a stack of 3D printed Frag Cannons, Hammers and Shields, as I would've been spewing.

For codex-compliant chapters, losing the Desolator brick does hurt, but the other crutch units, such as Hellblasters, Aggressors, Apothecaries and Eradicators have stayed in place. Marines hanging around the middle of the power curve means they're not likely to see sweeping changes that put the army into the dirt - I wouldn't want to be playing Eldar right now, constantly looking over my shoulder for the next round of points increases, army rule changes, and everything in between.

If, every round of changes, Marines keep getting marginal drops and increases to power - noting we are due for a codex not too far down the track - I'll be very happy. As it stands I'm still very happy with Marines, and the way they've left the huge internal variance of 9th edition behind. They feel fun, and interactive - and even in a shooting edition, they can do the "always outnumbered, never outgunned" thing.

Catch you next time,

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