As Games Workshop’s remarkably useful Warhammer iOS app (I was as surprised as anyone) has reminded me, we’re at the one year anniversary of the latest edition of Warhammer 40K, following fast on the heels of the short-lived 6th edition.
I think it’s an appropriate time then to look back on 7th so far, think about the new edition a bit, and ponder about things to come. As a disclaimer, this is entirely my opinion, having played a ton of 40K since 2nd edition.
Fine Tuning. People were a little annoyed with the swift pace of the 6th to 7th transition, which I think it quite valid – in spirit, they’re very similar, and there’s no major changes in the rules that would elicit the idea that everything is different now. There wasn’t some major shift from ranged warfare back to melee or anything like that. I think this is what we can expect from a mature rule set. That things are fine-tuned, tweaked, and the core of the rules are fairly stable. But at the periphery, there have been some huge changes.
The FOC is Dead. Long Live the FOC. The “standard” way to build a 40K army is long gone – the early experiments with messing with the FOC like Elite-heavy armies for the attacking side in Planetfall have given way to a plethora of different options. The free-for-all of Unbound, allies, every codex with coming with a half-dozen formations, and now a number of books coming with custom detachments so far removed from the old FOC as to be unrecognizable.
That being said, “Two troops and an HQ” is still alive and well. Regardless of my thoughts as to whether or not it’s a better or more balanced way to play, the “Combined Arms Detachment” grants Objective Secured, which is a particularly powerful trait. It’s not always the one I take, and the newer formations and detachments are definitely getting strong enough to tempt me away, but there’s just a solid, reliable, general use utility to Objective Secured that’s hard to come by anywhere else.
Apocalypse in Every Game. Whether its because it sells large, expensive kits, or just because giant robots are awesome, there’s a growing ubiquity of Apocalypse-type kits. The Imperial Knight, the Baneblade and it’s brethren, the Gorka/Morkanaut, C’tan and Tesseract Vault and the Wraithknight. They’re everywhere.
It’s felt for several editions that Games Workshop was injecting larger models into the game, pushing the game to higher points values, etc. This is the edition where I think it’s finally clicked. I think the Knight did it – ushering in not just the possibility, but the expectation that these kind of large figures could be used in “ordinary” games.
Play Maelstrom. Seriously, just play it. Sure, there are definitely some issues. And for tournament play, you want to do some tweaking, though even then I think dynamic objectives are worth exploring. But for ordinary games, Maelstrom is far and away my preferred way of playing the game. The one necessary tweak I’d suggest is adopting my local store’s “If it’s impossible to do, discard and redraw” rule.
But Maelstrom objectives add a dynamic aspect to the game, and some internal balance – it pushes it away from trying to table your opponent, and favoring the armies that do that well. I’ve been beaten by less powerful armies that could manage the objectives well, and I’ve pulled out wins that I had no right to because I stuck with it and kept up with objectives. The race-specific tactical objectives are somewhat hit-and-miss, but just the core set makes for good games.
The More Things Change… I occasionally encounter things on the internet that suggest that 7th has a particular problem with X or Y. To be frank, this has always been true. There have always been particular builds enjoying their time in the sun, certain combos that are manifestly unfun, and some problems trying to shoehorn the game into a tournament setting.
Carl over at The Independent Characters likes to talk about the conversation you should have with your opponent before the game begins. It is excellent advice, but it’s also not new advice. It’s always been possible to bring a fun, fluffy, themed list and have it cross with a no hold’s barred tournament list, resulting in an absurd blowout. Some of the most vivid memories of this come from the storied past of previous editions – my Sisters of Battle were definitely tossed around like rag dolls in 3rd Edition. Which builds do the stomping changes, but you need to have that conversation, set the social contract for your game/store/club/event, and stick to it.
Because regardless of the edition, there will always be problems, and there will always be “That Guy/Girl”.
In my mind, 7th edition is the best edition yet – it’s strong, it promotes a variety of types of play, and it’s resulted in closer, more dynamic games than some games I’ve experienced in the past. It’s definitely imperfect, and there’s room for improvement – and while the new release schedule is a little brutal, there’s definitely a path forward for iterative improvement consistently making things better.
Enjoy what you read? Enjoyed that it was ad free? Both of those things are courtesy of our generous Patreon supporters. If you’d like more quantitatively driven, positive writing on 40K and miniatures wargaming, please consider joining them.