There’s a frequent reply to people complaining about the changes in 8th Edition: “If you don’t like it, just play 7th.” This advice makes intuitive sense – after all, it’s not like the police came to your house and impounded all your books or anything, right?
Unfortunately, it’s also bad advice.
The reason for this is two-fold, and both of them are things I’ve discussed in previous posts: The dynamics and evolution of the “meta”, and wargaming’s collective action problem.
The key to understanding all of this is recognizing one simple fact: 7th Edition changed the moment 8th Edition came out (or more accurately, once GS:III was released) because that marked the end of 7th’s development.
Which means 7th Edition is now stagnant.
What Stagnation Means
Back in the “The Math of the Meta” post, I showed a picture of a healthy meta, where releases, updates, etc. provides periodic shocks to an otherwise stable equilibrium, encouraging people to adopt new tactics, try out new units, etc.
That’s what 7th Edition looked like. There were hot armies for awhile, then counters were developed for them, or new armies stepped into the spotlight (see: Magnus the Red). And while in many ways it wasn’t healthy toward the end, it was at least dynamic.
Now? It’s neither healthy nor dynamic. Eventually, the surviving 7th Edition players will settle into a new meta that exists at stable equilibrium. Wraithknights will always be undercosted. Invisibility will always be amazing. Vespid will always be horrible. Terminators will always be too fragile.
And when you have a stable meta like that? It becomes easy to head toward the optimums, settling into a dynamic where everyone is unhappy, but no one can really change it.
Eight Edition Made Seventh Edition Worse
Criticism Isn’t Bad, and Mourning Isn’t Wrong
As much as I like the attempts by some people in our community to be relentlessly positive, this can at times come off as it’s own form of sanctimony, especially if it’s coupled with a suggestion that if you don’t like it you should play something else. There are reasons to dislike 8th edition. There are changes that one might not like. There are armies that really don’t play like they used to anymore. And not all of those things were overpowered, broken nonsense. Nor are the things that you liked that stayed axiomatically good things.
But the productive way forward is not to try to lock someone into a stale edition. That guy with the drop pod heavy army whose not sure how to make that work anymore? Don’t insist on Matched Play rules, and come up with a narrative scenario where Space Marines dropping from above is exactly as awesome as we all imagine it would be.
Be welcoming. Be helpful. And be understanding that at times, the things they used to love about their army won’t work right and yeah, that sucks.
But don’t try to drive them out.
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