Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The 8th Edition 40K Rulebook Review - Part 1 of 3

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll be aware that the latest edition of 40K is being released on Saturday. If, for some reason, you still haven’t pre-ordered your copy why not do it here now

You’ll also likely be aware that it’s a pretty dramatic shake up of the game we know and (mostly) love. My longer serving readers will know that I used to do detailed reviews of every new rulebook and codex that was released. This started to become impossible to achieve with rules coming thick and fast from various sources. I think I gave up around the time Skitarii was released but 8th edition sees all those many source materials merged so it seems a great time to start full reviews again. 

I’m going to try and avoid too many comparisons to the old edition but they’ll inevitably creep in but I think the key to enjoying 8th edition is not to worry about the things your army used to be able to do and not to assume that units that used to be terrible still are (and of course, vice versa). It’s probably better to forget everything you know from previous editions too. If the new rules don’t say you can’t do something then assume we can until told otherwise. I’ll give some examples later. 

I’m going to work systematically through the rulebook. It’s not going to be completely exhaustive of course but once you get your hands on the book you’ll be able to fill in the blanks.

One last thing before I start. I’ll talk in general terms about the rules but, from reading through the indices, for every rule there’s a unit that breaks it in some way. For example, you can’t Advance and Charge but Orks under a Waaagh! can. That means I'll nearly always say "in general", "for the most part", etc. since some units bypass the restrictions. Right, onto the review:

Ways to Play
The first thing you’re presented with (once you’ve got past some gorgeous artwork) is that there are now three “Ways to Play”.  I’ll cover these in more detail in the next post but for now: 
  • Open Play is essentially Unbound from previous editions. Bring whatever models from whatever army you want and fight it out. There’s some basic scenario/deployment rules in there but the aim is to get you rolling dice quickly.
  • Narrative Play is pretty self-explanatory. Power Levels (more on them later) are used instead of points and there’s a multitude of fluffy scenarios to play through that help set the scene for more cinematic battles. These come with their own stratagems to really help theme the battles and differentiate between playing attacker or defender in some missions.
  • Matched Play is essentially the game as it was before 8th. Units cost points. as do their upgrades. and armies need to conform to detachments to be legal. This will be the basis of tournament play and, from what I’ve read at least, early tournaments won’t need to worry so much about “comp” as the rules laid out here seem to make for a pretty solid rules pack. I can imagine tournament organisers (TOs) will still limit the number of detachments you can take but the missions, deployment and army selection criteria will mostly be left alone. 

From this point forward all of my discussion will be based around matched play. I’ll also be basing my faction reviews on the assumption that you’re playing in a points based system with a reasonably competitive atmosphere.

Before I start talking about the core rules phase by phase it’s worth noting that they’ve finally started to call them “Turns” and “Battle Rounds” no more confusion between “Turn” and “Player Turn”. The turns themselves are pretty similar to previous editions with Movement, Psychic, Shooting, Charge, Fight and Morale phases. The key differences being that Charge and Fight are deliberately separate phases and the Morale phase is the only time you check leadership.

Veteran players will be relieved to see that the statlines are, for the most part, similar to what we’ve had before. The key difference is that Initiative is completely gone (more on that in the Fight Phase) and the Movement value has returned. Stats are no longer capped at 10 which is worth thinking about when we consider things like power fists doubling Strength 7 up to 14. Vehicles now have wounds instead of hull points and often well into double figures to make them tougher to take down. I’ve not played much 8th yet but I’m in favour of this so far as I think it’ll make tanks feel tough to stop and prevent some of the flimsier vehicles e.g. trukks from feeling like they're made of cardboard.

Finally, WS and BS are no longer a number but rather a roll. These can be modified by various in game effects but it takes an extra step out of working out what roll you need. Not a big deal for veteran players but nice for new guys. Not to mention that it means that your characters will often be hitting everything on 2+ rather than comparing WS. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of this on first glance because it seems a bit strange that really skilled combatants aren’t any harder to lay hits on (in general at least).

Age of Sigmar players will be familiar with them but for people like me who’ve never square-based these are a new way of grouping units together to determine how they’re affected by various in-game effects. For example, some weapons are better against INFANTRY and units with FLY can ignore terrain. Again, there are a lot of exceptions to these things but for army selection purposes, choosing units with the same faction keyword will make things more straightforward and, once the codex comes along for your army, it’ll be clear which units benefit from specific special rules.

Movement Phase
Not the most complicated section but there’s still some important changes. The most notable being that, as I’ve mentioned above, units can now move at different speeds. There’s quite a range of values here too so slow lumbering units will actually feel like that and quick nimble units will too. As they FAQ’d in previous editions, they’ve clarified that no part of a model can move more than the movement value. No sneaky pivoting of my Dark Eldar Raiders then!

Might sound daft but they’ve even clarified that you can’t move through walls. Well, in theory at least. The rules for Ruins muddy the waters a little here. In general though there’s no rolling for difficult terrain and moving straight through a wall. Speaking of which, Difficult and Dangerous Terrain are no longer a thing. Some terrain types will slow your movement by a set value but there’s no longer a random element to it. They don’t specifically clarify it but to me you still can’t move your model through a gap its base can’t fit through. Common sense will hopefully prevail.

There’s a multitude of ways in which armies can be deployed (e.g. Infiltrate) or arrive from Reserves (e.g. Teleport) but most things have to remain 9” away. In general these units arrive at the end of the movement phase so can’t move any more but they can shoot and charge as normal. That means roughly a 1 in 3 chance of getting a charge off with a teleporting/deepstriking/whatever unit. Remember you don’t have to get into base contact anymore.

This is also a good point to talk about Coherency. You still have to stay within 2” of other models but with Blasts and Templates gone there’s no need to spread out your models. My 30-strong mobs of Ork Boyz have suddenly become a lot more bearable to play with!

Advancing (formerly called Run) now happens in the movement phase but it’s still D6 extra inches. It’s going to be an important decision though whether to Advance or not as it still (for the most part) prevents shooting and charging. That means you’ll no longer find a unit suddenly without a shooting target and decide you may as well run them. It also means no more running a unit that just arrived from reserve (as they can’t move any further). Most of us would let our opponent move and run in the Movement phase in 7th to speed things up but having it in the core rules will certainly move things along quicker (pun intended).

A final note on Movement, the rules for ruins say that only INFANTRY can end up on top anything but the ground floor of ruins unless the models have FLY. There should be a semi-colon in there somewhere (page 248 - GW again struggles with punctuation) to make it clear that you can still put a flying Hive Tyrant on the top floor but can’t get a Rhino up there.

Psychic Phase
There are again some pretty major changes here. Firstly, they’ve clarified how many powers a psyker can cast per turn (and attempt to deny). In the indices at least, there doesn’t seem to be a way of increasing “mastery level” by paying points. A Rune Priest can cast two powers for example. Everyone gets Smite plus a varying number of powers from their Index entry. There are no other psychic powers in the rulebook so, for now at least, armies will have to stick to their faction specific powers. That means no Invisibility for all and no Summoning for non-Daemon armies (again, for now at least).

You can choose which of those your psyker knows though. Frustratingly an army can only attempt to cast each power once per turn (in Matched Play). Even if you have several psykers who all have the same power you can only use it once. That’ll be pretty frustrating for Tyranid players who want multiple units casting Catalyst. It does mean the psychic phase won’t go on for hours though as you’ll quickly work through the limited number of powers your army can cast. It’s worth noting here that Summoning (now Daemonic Ritual) is no longer a psychic power but I’ll talk more about it when I get to Daemons.

I’m a big fan of the new mechanism for casting powers. No more piles of dice for psychic armies. Each power has a set value you have to achieve on 2D6 to successfully manifest it. Your opponent has to roll more than your roll to Deny it. Simple but effective. Smite for example has an 83% chance of a successful cast without modifiers (although remember you can’t pick your target). 

I’m also a big fan of Deny being limited to Psykers only but being able to block buffing powers too if you’re in range. It always seemed daft to me that Guardsmen could prevent a psyker from targeting them with a power. It means it’s probably a good idea to include psykers for defence purposes as well as for their offensive power. Also worth noting that if you get your power off on a double six (and don’t die in the process) it’s nearly impossible to cancel it.

Perils now happen on a double one or double six again but there’s no table to roll on to see what happens. Just a pretty good chance the psyker will die from it and if they do every unit nearby will suffer too. Should make for some dramatic psychic phases and saves you looking up the Perils table because who could remember anything other than 1 and 6?

It’s worth talking about Mortal Wounds here. They ignore absolutely everything, invulnerable saves included. That makes for a pretty simple mechanic and makes anything that can cause them pretty damn effective against everything! It seems to me that the variously named versions of Feel No Pain can still be taken against Mortal Wounds though.

One last thing here, the ranged effect powers will, unless stated, affect the psyker too. The same goes for Characters with aura effects. It was one of those things that was always assumed but wasn’t explicitly stated in the original rules.

That'll do for today. I'll be back tomorrow with the Shooting Phase, Assault Phase & Morale Phase then some more on the missions, army selection and terrain etc.


  1. A nice smooth run down Alex:)

    Only point to make is that you perils on a double 1 as well as a double 6!

    I am loving everything about the new edition so far.

    I think some people need to make an active mental effort not to see what they now can't do but see what they can do with the new system.

    1. Thanks Rob. Fixed it!

      It'll be difficult. I found it particularly hard in the switch from 5th to 6th as a lot of stuff changed but nothing drastic. Maybe the sweeping changes will make it easier to adjust if anything?

    2. I think if you can leave 7th at the door, the lack of USR in this edition will help picking it up really easy.

      It might even be easier for people new to the game in some respects, if they don't have any hangovers from earlier editions!

  2. Nice summary mate - there's an issue with what you've said about charges though - arriving from reserves you have to stay "more" than 9" away, so even only having to get within 1" to fight you'll still need to roll a 9 or more to get a successful charge, which means the odds are 1 in 6 without a reroll.

    1. Might not have worded it perfectly but the maths is still right. You have to make a 9" charge. Have to start more than 9" away but only have to get within an inch.

    2. Still not quite 1/3. !0/36 not 12/36. Gets almost up to 50/50 when you can get re-rolls, tho. I'm looking at running Shrike with a couple of Units of Vanguard Vets to take advantage of that.

  3. Sorry yeah, dunno where that came from - it's basically 1 in 3.6, so close as I can get it you're looking at two successful charges from every 7 you declare at that range - casualties are no longer a factor on overwatch as you can take models from anywhere.

    I've already had to have a debate with someone though who thought they only had to make an 8" charge because they'd read the reserve rules as deploying 9" or more away instead of simply more than 9" - it's a subtle but important difference that will catch a few people out I think - I'm planning on getting a template made to make sure I get it right each time and there's no arguments I'm placing guys too close.

  4. Nice overview Alex! Can't wait to pick up my copy on Saturday and get some games in this weekend.

  5. Perils of the Warp isn't actually as nasty as it seems at first look. Even a lowly Astropath has 3 Wounds now, and most Psykers have 4-5.

    Not needing to spread out to avoid Blasts and Templates is wonderful. In my game this afternoon, I was able to just clump up my big Broods of Gaunts, and it really got the look of a wave of chitin and claws breaking over the DeathWing Termies, rather than some more diffuse swarm.


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