Wednesday, July 16, 2008

40K 5th Edition Review

I had my first game of Warhammer 40,000 5th edition today, and I got my ass handed back to me by a Nurgly fist.

The game itself is awesome. There’s so much more going on, and so many more tactical maneuverings it was almost confusing, only because I had no idea how to play my army anymore.

One thing I want to say to begin this is that anything you may have looked at in the new rules and said to yourself “Hmm, that looks like it wont work/is too powerful” doesn’t/isn’t. Everything from the true line of sight, to going to ground, to infantry being the only units to hold objectives works.

I also want to say that I wont really go through all the rules step-by-step as that’s pretty boring, and pretty long to write. Also, there are a few podcasts that do a better job of this, thus I’m just going to review everything at once.

What I like most about the new edition is that it’s added some of the interesting bits from the first two editions that they just discarded in the 3rd edition switch because they deemed them cumbersome. Now, it seems they’ve found a way to incorporate them better without sacrificing playability. My favorite being the vehicle ramming rules. Now you can ram opponent’s vehicles just like you could in the old editions. There’s also the inclusion of line of sight being ‘what you can see, you’re able to shoot at’, and the addition of running rules again.

My philosophical interpretation with these changes may differ from that of the games designers but with these changes I feel that they’ve changed purpose from having a streamlined tournament rules set to having a rules set that’s primarily fun to play with casually. Since 3rd edition 40K has always been secondary to me in my gaming pursuits because, while I thought it was a good tournament rules set, I hated playing it one on one, because it seemed so sterile and abstract. Even abstract miniatures games like AT-43 have interesting bits like command points, or orders. 40K 3rd and 4th editions didn’t. They were just abstract sets of rules that weren’t much fun to play other than in Cleanse mission type scenarios. The only 40K games I’ve played in the last two years have been using the Cities of Death and Apocalypse rules. Both of those rules sets deviate from the norm quite heavily, and are amazingly fun.

Now, 40K is fun to play again. There’s more for me to do against your vehicles than just plain ‘ole shoot at them. I can ram them, or I can go into combat with them head on and use your back armor to damage. Hiding out behind that forest, all game bombarding me/casting psychic powers? Not anymore you’re not! I can clearly see you, and though your cover save is quite high (most cover saves have been boosted at least +1), I can still harm you. You might want to hide behind that tree. Shooting at my Eldar Rangers that are sitting on an objective in the woods? Well, I’ll go to ground and get a +1 to my already 4+ cover save (let’s not forget the +1 I have for having the Stealth ability!). If I get shot by a Demolisher Cannon, then with a Go To Ground order I can either increase my cover save by +1 or take a 6+ cover save if I’m out in the open. This increases survivability (though I didn’t make ONE Go To Ground save the entire game). This is good, because with everything else out there that can now see and kill me; it’s good to have even a little insurance.

Combat is also way more deadly. After chargers have moved in the defenders must move their movement in order to get into contact with any chargers that able to be attacked. This guarantees that more models are in combat and also lessens the chance of combats being big slugfests for 6 turns. Combat resolution is also much easier to resolve, being more like the Warhammer Fantasy set of rules. For each kill you score in excess of your opponent, you force your opponent to take a -1 on a leadership test for losing the most casualties. In the event of a failed Leadership Test, you do the 4th edition Initiative roll-off and the winner consolidates (but is unable to engage another enemy unit that turn). Easy! In real game terms this resulted in some pretty decisive combats, as my Banshees destroyed a unit of Chaos Terminators on the charge but were then wiped out by Lesser Daemons the following turn.

Here’s another shocking change, Victory Conditions. Now only TROOPS (infantry, bikes, whatever… Unless it’s a vehicle) can capture objectives. Not only that, but because of the way you choose missions and deployment (that’s right, choosing missions is independent of choosing deployment types) 2/3 of the time you’re going to play a mission that uses NO VICTORY POINTS. It’s all Apocalypse-style: Whoever has the most objectives at the end of the game wins. Other units can contest objectives, but it’s up to the grunts to move in and hold them. After all, Saving Private Ryan has shown us that infantry are way better holders of towns than that sorry tank.

For the most part things were tidied up. Rules were clarified and certain aspects of the rules that may have been there from the beginning were reiterated. Such as the rule that you cannot move through your friendly or enemy models at all! Even in the same squad. The vehicle damage tables were consolidated into one table with modifiers on the roll depending on what weapon you’re using and what type of hit you got.

As much as I love the rules I do have a few complaints. In a few regards I thought they could have gone a step further to bring more detail into the game without sacrificing playability. I think the running rule is cool; but I really wish they’d just bring back Movement Values. I miss having Eldar move 5” and Marines move 4”. They don’t even have to touch the old codices; they can just print a table in the rulebook stating the different movement values for models. This is the most unreasonable of my requests, they get better.

I also wish Tank Shock was deadlier. I’ve always found Tank Shock to be just useless. I want more punishment for failing a Leadership Test when confronted by a tank charging into you. Finally, I’m still waiting for a decent Psychic System. I understand the want to move away from the mini game that was Dark Millennium back in 2nd edition, however I think a Warhammer Fantasy-Style system would be far superior to what they have now. I think the original thought behind scaling down the Psychic System in 3rd edition was because they didn’t feel Psychic Powers should play such a big role, or be too powerful. I just think that in a Space-Fantasy type setting there should be some destructive supernatural powers, and some epic psychic dueling.

Like I said, I love the new system. I was never this excited about 4th edition, and I sure as heck wasn’t as excited about 3rd edition. I’m looking forward to finishing my Eldar army and getting some painted games in. I also need to add more troop choices… With an average of 4 or 5 objectives per mission, what’s a three troop choice army to do?



Noah said...

5th blows

Steel Rabbit said...

Interesting comment Noah. Must be nice to hide behind the anonymity of the internet and write such creative dreck as this.

Gomez said...

Hmm obviously you are too young to have ever played 2nd edition.

It has perhaps started to move in the right direction again but come on it is still way behind 2nd for tactical play.

There is still no Overwatch, cover is next too useless, you can still shoot at anything you can see which removes tactical manouvre.

As said earlier has moved in the right direction but will still require some hefty house rules to bring it up to spec (some things just cant even with house rules by the way it is now).

40K went from an interesting game to a childs game, this has perhaps uped the target player range from an 8 year old to a 10 year old.

Steel Rabbit said...

Hey Gomez, I played 2nd edition. I started playing 40K in 1996, and while I was only 10 at the time, I was still a 10 year old who had a fully painted army, all his own rulebooks, and showed up every week to play with older gamers. Of course you couldn't have known that; but that's usually why people don't go out on a limb and make such accusations.

I never said it was 2nd edition; nor was it close; but that it contained some fun bits from 2nd edition that I don't think were as cumbersome as they let on when they made the switch to 3rd (WD 227 (I believe... I don't have my issues in front of me) has an article talking about those things.

Overwatch is an oft lamented "loss" in the 40K universe; but not so for me. Overwatch, the way that it was done in 1st and 2nd edition (I have amassed a collection of 1st edition books) was, indeed, cumbersome, and led to standoff style gameplay that I wasn't looking for in a 28mm Science-Fiction, tabletop wargame.

Perhaps something like that is best left to plodding (yet still enjoyable) historical wargames.

As for the comment on the 'childlike rules' of 40K these days: So what? We push around model soldiers and toss handfuls of dice. While I wont demean the art and work that many adults have put into the game and IP, I will say that there's something enjoyable in 'childlike' things, and I wouldn't want my tabletop game to not be enjoyable.

Whatever... If you don't enjoy 40K, fine. That's perfectly fair, but say so. Often people's criticism of the game is hidden behind some philosophical argumentative veil.

Anonymous said...

Its funny how all the imperium armies benifited and all the alien species were nerfed. Hmmmmmm...