Warhammer 40K 8th Edition: The Variance Hammer Hot Take

I’ve been resisting posting much on 8th Edition until I had a chance to play it, because despite my fondness for Theoryhammer (it is, after all, the entire purpose of this blog) I think it’s best to have actually played at least one game before the pontificating begins.

This reasoning is also why I went to a fair number of tournaments last year – one should at least see what they are working on.

So, how did 8th Edition fare on first contact?

First off, this is just my play experience. There’s not stats breakdowns here, either of individual units or of tournament performance – that is yet to come. This is just me, a game, and my take-aways. Which means this also focuses on my army.

8th Edition Is Fast

Like, super-fast. I played a 2000 point game with a member of the club, got what for me was a late start on the night, and finished early. And while we weren’t goofing around, we also weren’t exactly playing at tournament cadence, especially when you factor in the “I really have no idea how many wounds a War Walker has…” index lookups.

The reworked Psychic Phase has a lot to do with that.

really like the new Psychic Phase. Fast, fun, and it’s helpful without being overwhelming.

The Armies Got Small

When I sat down to make my 2000 point list (and in the process utterly sold myself on Power Levels  for casual gaming) I was expecting to be able to field everything I might be interested in. Instead, it was a pretty trim list – while I included some units I normally don’t (War Walkers and Rangers) I also dropped a ton of units that would usually feature in my list – two Crimson Hunters, a unit of Dire Avengers in a Wave Serpent, and a Warlock to keep my jetbikes company.

I’m not going to talk about the performance of the list at all (save that I lost) because it’s a direct adaptation of a 7th Edition list meant to see how things changed, not necessarily perform well on the tabletop – not that my Eldar armies are powerhouses at the best of times.

The Forge World Indexes Are A Mess

I appreciate the folks at Forge World are currently under a lot of pressure – while 8th Edition was in development they were busy putting out Inferno which is a phenomenal bookthey’re at a slower pace of development generally, and they’re dealing both personally and professionally with the untimely passing of Alan Bligh. And if we’re being honest, Forge World’s quality control in terms of copy editing has always been a little touch and go. “Forge World” and “RAW” should never be used in the same sentence.

This means there are Tau fliers that legally can’t shoot, they only made rules for the Eldar Corsair models they actually make – meaning the entire structure of the Corsair army is gone, there are no rules for the HQ units, and you’re once again better off using a mainline army to represent to Corsairs.

And that’s just two armies in a single book.

Again, I’m super-glad that we have what is as nearly complete a set of rules for every model in the game as we’ve ever seen before, but if I was an event organizer, I’d be bracing for some on-the-fly rulings and “use your best judgement”.

The Space Marines Are Out Of Control

8th Edition was an excuse to jettison a bunch of technical debt that had accumulated over 7th Edition of 40K. Many people have commented that the rules had gotten bloated, unwieldily, etc.

The new edition largely took care of that – except for the Space Marines, and the unfortunate combination of the excellent Horus Heresy plastic sets and the Primaris marines.

In the sleek, new, trimmed down 40K there are:

  • 14 generic HQ choices
  • 24 elite choices
    • Four of them are some flavor of Terminator armor

Alongside the usual options. And that’s before the Primaris releases that weren’t initially available start showing up – so at least another infantry unit, two HQs, another Dreadnought…you get the idea.

In the svelte 8th Edition era, this is especially jarring. And I’m nigh positive those choices aren’t going to be well balanced and free of rookie traps – right as a bunch of new players come back, and in the most popular faction in the game.

The Tables Turn on Scatter Lasers

Shuriken Cannons being assault weapons, and always having some armor penetration to them is a genuinely big deal, and I think has shifted the pendulum entirely away from Scatter Lasers back to Shuriken Cannons for the “mow down swathes of infantry” role.

I Really Like Wave Serpents

I think Games Workshop might finally have gotten the Wave Serpent right (though potentially at the expense of the Falcon). The Serpent Shield is now genuinely a primarily defensive item, and it makes the Wave Serpent durable as hell when coupled with all the other vehicle changes. And when it does fire, while D3 Mortal Wounds isn’t the most awe-inspiring thing in the world, it does feel flavorful and will give whatever unit is disembarking a slight edge. But I felt no urge to fire it at the first opportunity to do so ala 7th Edition, where for many armies you were just going to die to glancing hits anyway so why worry?

Crimson Hunters are Weird

I’m not sure if the Crimson Hunter got more or less durable, because the entire environment it exists in has changed. It used to be that, especially in the Crimson Death formation, unless my opponent had dedicated Anti-Air units, they just wouldn’t bother with the Crimson Hunters, accepting a few exploded vehicles in exchange for a large chunk of my army not reliably showing up and being unable to score.

That’s changed. They take fire. Can they withstand more of it? Yeah, but they’re also getting shot more with it.

And part of me will miss Vector Dancer hijinks. Yes, they’re still technically there, but only really relevant if someone is playing Death from the Skies, and that happens maybe once a year? Maybe?

“It’s Only 15 Pages of Rules” Joins “For Sale, Pro Painted” as a Great Lie of Our Time

First, the number of pages of rules is an absurd way to judge a game. Would 12 be better than 15? 10 better than 12? Is CandyLand a superior product because the rules can be printed on the box top?

But more than that, it’s also not really true. By distributing the rules of the game to unit entries rather than the core rules, while you technically have less core rules, I’m not convinced there’s actually less looking things up, and I definitely found myself spreading multiple books out. It might be a leaner game, but anything that produces this…

Maybe shouldn’t get too smug about complexity. And before you note that you’re unlikely to see all of those books used in a single game, it’s definitely possible for three or four of them to appear in a single game, and because special rules are now farmed out to the units, tournament players and organizers will need to know all of them.

So yeah, there’s only 15 pages of core rules. Technically. And the fact that your miniatures are being sold on Ebay for money makes them professionally painted. Technically.

That is not to say the game isn’t vastly streamlined. It is. Lets just not get carried away here kids.

I Have Concerns About the Movement Phase

I have, I admit, not played very much 8th Edition. But in 6th and 7th, I loved movement shenanigans with my Eldar. The sign of a good game was when there was no coherent battle line, just Space Elves zipping all over the map making pew-pew noises.

So far, I have felt no pressure to move. With the penalty to shoot on many vehicles and the loss of armor facing and weapon arcs, I was mostly able to find a good bit of cover, hunker down, and send shots downrange. Unless you’re a “I want to hit them with my sword” army, there’s very little reason to move at all.

That worries me a little.

I’ve noticed in games at my club of AoS, things often end up with two armies lined up and marching at each other. And while this looks really badass, I don’t know that I’d call it tactically interesting. I’m a bit concerned that GW’s work on making it easier to get in assault had ended up conflating “Movement” with “Movement Across the Field to Stab Someone”.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

It’s Missing Some Character

This is purely my opinion but…honestly, some flavor has been pulled out of the game for me. Things just didn’t feel quite right, and in some ways, I think GW overshot “Streamlined” and started straying into “Dumbed Down”. I’m hoping part of this is that everyone is running the equivalent of a codex in White Dwarf, and some more flavor will be put into units as their codexes come out. I’ll be watching the first few codex releases eagerly for exactly that.


So that’s it – my unprompted, somewhat unguided feelings on 8th Edition as it stands. Overall, I’d call my feelings “lukewarm”. I’m enjoying it, I’m looking forward to playing it more, but if it took Forge World awhile to convert Horus Heresy over (or if they never did…) I’d be alright with that.

And I miss templates. Because I love a good army-specific acrylic template.

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  1. What did you play against? Was it another shooty army? I think the lack of movement is probably only a problem in those sorts of matches- if the enemy is coming to put their sharp pointies in your squishy elf bits, you’ll probably feel more motivated to maneuver.


    1. A Space Marines army that was fairly shooty. There was some advancing, but honestly, those units got annihilated pretty quickly. I could see being compelled to move in order to scamper away from enemies with pointy objects – which is better, but I’m still not sure it’s *great* given I used to motor around even against other shooty armies.


  2. Your lack of a feeling of a need to move may have something to do with the lack of Battlefield Objectives you were using. Fighting over objectives and sending units in hold them is a big part of missions in 8th edition.


    1. You can’t see them because I forgot my big, obvious objective markers, but we were playing Maelstrom.


  3. I’m hoping and expecting that the codexes will restore some of the flavor to the game. The indices are clearly trimmed intentionally.


  4. Couldn’t agree more with your points. So much doesn’t make sense in 8th… Just some of my observations:
    So much is over costed now for Eldar. Wraithknight will now be sitting on a shelf until they get a price drop. Knight Gallant, 389pts (Stock) vs Wraithknight with sword/board, 487pts… EXACTLY the same stats. (Actually, the Gallant gains a stubber.)
    Further nerf bat with the Star Cannon (Now D3 and not 3)
    Hemlocks and Dark Reapers now actually better at killing fliers than the Aspect warriors of the Crimson Hunters, you know, those jets that are actually meant to kill fliers…
    Because of the whole ‘heavy’ weapon causing a -1 BS if you move, and you can’t even shoot if you ‘Advance’ I can’t see the point in taking anything tank wise other than a Waveserpent.
    It’s got to be the one rule that irks and vexes me… An Army that has vehicles that struggle to fire the very weapons designed to go on them!
    Hornets, for example, are just pointless – designed to be zippy, but can’t shoot the Hornet Pulse Laser if it advances. Can’t work out what to do with them.
    Dark Eldar Darklances become ‘Assault’ when put on vehicles… Why?
    No point going Craftworld any more.. Ynnari every time.


    1. The vehicle rules really stretch the believability of abstraction I have to agree. I had the tip of Pasks command vanquisher sticking out from the corner of cover and sent his turret weapon, hull weapon, and sponsons downrange. It’s a little nuts for sure. I found not only there needs to be LOS blocking terrain in no mans land but in deployment zones as well to break up terrain.

      That being said I think the people who think 8th is balanced straight out of the box are nuts. The pre game is totally broken. It will need heavy revision to be playable competitively.


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