8th Ed debut game

As the Manta drew close to the drop zone Shas’O Kho’Lyn prepared himself for battle. The Guer’la colonies were being torn apart by civil war, since the emergence of the cultists. This meant both an opportunity and a new threat for the forces of the T’au. It left the planetary defences disorganized, allowing an easier attack, but it also meant that the planet was at risk of being overrun by tyrranids; something which the T’au could not risk.

An alarm klaxon sounded, signalling the drop and Kho’Lyn plunged into the abyss below, followed by his strike team. Relayed information from the fire warriors below showed that the Guer’la had a tank batallion moving through the drop area. A stealth team was located nearby. 

“Shas’O Kholin to Shas’Vre Aum’ka, I need a beacon close to that armour. We are inbound.”

“Roger that.” replied the Shas’vre. 

As the battlefield drew closer, Kho’Lyn’s suit registered a marker beacon and he fired his guidance thrusters, to manouver towards it. They were coming in fast, but kicked in the landing thrusters, just in time, to bring them to a stop within a few dozen meters of the tank column. Immediately, he and the supporting crisis squad opened fire with their fusion blasters, turning the first tank into molten slag before the guer’la knew what had hit them. The tanks tried to retaliate, but the gun drones supporting the squad jetted forward, to screen the suits from weapon fire. Several of them were incinerated by bolter and plasma fire, but neither Kho’Lyn or his Crisis squad took any damage.

Hitting their thrusters, they jetted forward, closing with the other tanks and causing the closest to explode in a gout of plasma and flame.

This battle would not take long.  

I have been very excited by everything I had read about 8th Edition and so, although I was bust preparing to move country, I desperately wanted to have a game of 8th Ed before I left. My opponent was the same GSC player who I had overwhelmingly defeated a few weeks earlier. We were playing a quick power levels game, with 50 points each.

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My force was led by a commander and a Cadre Fireblade. The fireblade started in a Devilfish, with a breacher team. I had a stealth suit squad infiltrating and a pathfinder team with rail guns. My commander had four fusion blasters. Each crisis suit had two fusion blasters. One had adrone controller and the other had a flamer each. I had a squad of 12 gun drones and both the commander and the crisis suits had marker drones. The commander, the crisis suits and the drones were held for a manta strike.

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My opponent had 3 Leman Russ tanks armed with lots of plasma. One of them had a tank commander. He also had a very large conscript force led by an officer, a commissar and a lord commissar. His force was rounded off by a squad of armoured sentinels armed with plasma. Although themed as part of his GSC force, they were using the regular Astra Militarum rules.

Turn 1: This was a learning game for both of us. I think it was Leon’s third game and my first. I’m really not sure if we did the set up properly, but I managed to finish deployment first. I think that we should have set up each squad, one at a time, rather than allowing my Devilfish and passengers to be set up as 1 unit. All Leon’s force was placed on the board and my army had 3 units in reserve and just over half on the board. We did have a scenario with objectives, but we both quickly forgot all about them, being more interested in seeing how the armies can fight under the new rules.

I got to go first and moved my stealth suits forwards, staying in a building, to set up their beacon. My devilfish also raced forward. Then my crisis suits and commander dropped down, close to the stealth suits, but within 9″ of the closest tank. My drones also came down close to the tanks, and the sentinels.

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My marker drones got 1 hit on a tank and then my crisis suits opened fire. They scored 3 hits on the tank and rolling twice for damage, destroyed it outright. The commander fired at another tank, damaging it, but not badly. The drones targeted the sentinels, but only inflicted 1 wound, despite a huge number of shots. The rail rifle pathfinders killed 1 of the conscripts.

My opponent retaliated, overcharging his plasma weapons and blasting my crisis suits. He rolled badly and only scored a few hits, but 2 drones got in the way, taking the damage. His sentinels advanced on my drones, firing their plasma weapons and then assaulted, destroying 3 drones and routing 2 more. His conscripts advanced an fired at the Devilfish, but only inflicted 1 wound.

Turn 2:

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My drones fell back from melee and my crisis suits and stealth suits advanced. The remaining marker light drones got 1 hit on the closest tank and the crisis suits blasted it, causing it to explode. The Cadre Fireblade, from the right flank, was able to score a marker light hit on the sentinels. The remaining drones fired at the sentinels, destroying One. My commander blasted another sentinel, causing it to explode, damaging another and killing a drone. The stealth suits shot the last sentinel, but didn’t quite destroy it..

Across the battlefield the breacher team and fireblade deployed in front of the conscripts and moved forward. The pathfinders scored 1 hit on the conscripts. I only then realised that the cadre fireblade could not give extra shots to the breacher time. His ability only worked for pulse rifles and carbines, such as the drones had. Despite this, they opened fire, killing many of the 30 conscripts. The rail rifles killed a few more and the devilfish, with it’s drones boosted by the fireblade, killed many more. The Lord Commisar shot a single man, preventing the last few conscripts from running.

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My opponent shot at my breacher team, killing 2 of them. The sentinel killed 1 more drone and the tank commander’s shots were soaked by another 2 drones.

Turn 3:

By this point it was hardly worth continuing. My forces advanced again. The breacher team finished off the last few conscripts. The fireblade lit up the sentinel, allowing the commander to easily kill it. Before the rest of my units had fired at the remaining officers and tank my opponent surrendered.

Result: Overwhelming T’au victory

Analysis: There are probably some things that we were doing wrong. For example, I definitely forgot to add the +1 to hit to my marker drones a few times and forgot about Montka etc. My opponent decided to give his tanks more infantry support in later games and found them far more effective that way. Despite any mistakes, the battle was clearly one sided. If we were playing a points game, I probably had about 40% more than my opponent, which shows that the power levels are not an accurate way to balance games for units with lots of upgrade options.

The army I used was very similar to the sort of force I would generally use and it worked extremely well. Previously my commander would usually have acted as a shield for the drones and boosted them a lot. Now it was the drones serving as a shield. Fusion blasters are still the best weapon for tank hunters and having such effective drone bodyguards keeps the crisis suits alive a lot more. I love the way drones work in the new rules. 4 shots each. 6 is close to a fireblade.

Despite them doing badly, there was a lot I liked about my opponent’s army. The armoured sentinels were very hard to kill. I think they would have done really well if they were armed with flamers instead of plasma. The lord commissar’s ability to stop a route by only killing 1 person was very cool and worked very well with his cheap troop option. 

I had heard a lot of speculation that T’au would be nerfed in the new edition. The crazy overpowered deathballs are gone, crisis suits are more expensive and more tactical play is needed, but it seems that T’au work very well fighting exactly the way T’au should. Shooting, falling back and shooting some more.

 

 

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Thoughts on 8th edition

GW has put a lot into hyping up 8th edition and inevitably there is a lot of chat about it. I feel that I may as well post a few of my thoughts on what we have heard so far.

teasers: The first obvious difference is that way the rules are being slowly revealed. With 6th edition the store owners only knew a release was coming just before it happened and had almost no idea of content. 7th was really just a much needed patch job on 6th edition. This time it is different. It is the biggest rules change in a very long time and they want people to be ready. Instead of a surprise reveal, they are letting people understand the core mechanics a little at a time, which is a great idea.

All new codexes: This is necessary for a big rules shake-up, but frustrating for people who have just bought a new codex. However, it is definitely good for game balance. Some of my friends play Sisters of Battle and are still using a 4th edition codex, while I use my 7th ed Tau codex, with lots of juicy formations. When 7th ed came out, the first few formations were very balanced, but then the demons got a very powerful codex and then Necrons got all their cool, special decurion formations and things got worse from there. there is a tendency for new codexes to be overpowered, to encouraging buying the models. A fresh start means we get a balanced playing field. It also means nobody is left behind. When 6th ed brought in flyers, they were a game changer. Unless you had a new codex your army probably had nothing that could hurt them. People needed new codexes, with their own anti-aircraft weaponry and upgrades in order to fight them. They forced a rush to buy new models, but they destroyed game balance for years, while people waited for new codexes. With a clean sweep and a fresh start every army should, in theory, be on an even footing.

New armour rules: The combat rules all seem to follow quite closely to Age of Sigmar.  Clearly this was used for testing what worked well and what didn’t. The things people objected to, like no toughness, are being changed. The things that worked well are remaining. The armour save modifier for weapons is a good idea. You no longer have the all or nothing armour save. Your AP 6 does nothing, your AP 5 does nothing, your AP 4 does nothing, your AP 3 ignores the armour. Hardly. Much better to have an improved chance of punching through, but still allowing some save.

Cover saves: In the old game having marines in cover was utterly useless, except against heavy weapons. Standing a few feet away or hidden in a building. It made no difference. You had the same chance to hit or wound. A tank blows up the building, suddenly the armour is useless, but it’s ok. I’m hiding… really?

Under the new rules the shots are as likely to hit, but the walls might get in the way, so the cover save is a bonus to armour. I was expecting cover to give a penalty to accuracy, but when you see how it works with heavy weapons, it makes sense why it was added to armour. The tank blows up the building, blasting the walls apart, rocks fall, suddenly your armour is not as much help. A las cannon hits, melting through the wall in front of you, along with the armour. It makes sense and seems like a good mechanic to use. It also encourages everyone to use cover more.

No initiative: This rule was probably more for balance than any attempt at realism. In reality a charging person has no real advantage. The defenders have a tighter formation, can shoot the attackers. In an ancient army they can lock shield and set spears. Charging downhill can be good, charging uphill is stupid. Charging on the flat gives no real advantage.

Orcs are a melee army, but are soft and squishy. In the past if Orcs charged Tyranids or demons they would be ripped to pieces before landing a blow. Now whoever managed to line themselves up, ready to charge goes first. I guess this means the countercharge rule is gone. Is this realistic? No. Is it balanced? I don’t know.

In AoS the players alternate attacks, starting with the player whose turn it was to assault. In 8th edition all charging units act first. The difference is that 40K has overwatch. AoS does not. This rule is meant to balance out the combat, but it could skew it in favor of melee armies. It will certainly be good news for the Orcs and Necrons. Since most melee armies already have good initiative, it will probably not change that much for anyone else.

No templates: I liked templates. They gave a great element of luck, but I can see why.  They led to arguments about how many people were under the template. They slowed gameplay and sometimes the rule holes made them absurdly powerful. What do you mean, the template hits every level of the building? But those guys on the top are more than 12″ up. Your template is only 8″ long. Really? Ok. So, your one flamer has just taken out my four squads. Damn you GW! (In 5th ed it was the opposite. The blast hits the building, covering where the whole unit is, but as the unit is split between levels it can only hit a fraction of the unit). The lack of templates will speed up the game and reduce arguments.

No Formations: Really? Ok. Some formations are pretty broken. They give a lot of power to the units in them, as long as you fit the formation. They encouraged themed armies, but they broke the game balance. Scrapping all the existing formations means you still have the same themed armies, but without extra special benefits. However, Age of Sigmar has formations, so I expect that there will be new formations coming back to 40K. The only difference is that we will need to spend points for the special benefits being offered.

Vehicles and monstrous creatures: The line between these was always a bit blurred. A dreadnought is a vehicle but a riptide is a monstrous creature.  Ratling snipers can easily gun down a riptide, but are useless against the dreadnought. Why? Is there really such a difference? Now they are both being merged into having the same rules, like the AoS behemoth. They will have lots of wounds and may have lots of attacks. Getting rid of the distinction is definitely a good thing for game balance and should speed up gameplay. However, the AoS leagues showed that big behemoths and behemoth HQ armies dominated the game. I hope the 8th ed designers have managed to bring a bit more balance to the rules.

Independent characters: This is one that no news has been released about yet, but it is likely to be the biggest game changer. In AoS the heroes can not join a unit. they are always separate. They may offer benefits to nearby units, but those benefits are not usually overpowering. (bonus on attack rolls, bonus on morale etc). In 7th ed an independent character bestows many abilities on a squad. Shadowsun can make any unit have stealth, shrouded and infiltrate. the leaders can be massive force multipliers. They are also great meat shields.

I like to use a Tau commander with viridium armour and a drone controller along with a squad of drones. Not only does this give a 150% upgrade to the drone shooting ability, but it also gives them a 2+ armour save, buy getting him to lead the way. If any AP2 weapons are fired, the drones give him a 2+ look out sir. It vastly improves the durability and firepower of the squad.

If the HQ cannot join a squad then it means no deathballs. No piling on cool upgrades. The opponent can simply shoot past the commander and gun down the drones instead. If the HQ is a squishy summoner they usually need a unit to act as meat shields. Now anybody can pick them off. If 8th ed follows AoS and keeps the hero or HQ out of the unit, then it will make a huge difference to how they are used in the game. I can see a lot more officers getting picked off, not only by snipers, but by massed infantry fire, in preference to shooting the infantry.

I look forward to seeing the final rules, but so far, from what I have read, it really does seem like the GW hype is telling the truth. This probably will be the best ever edition of 40K.

 

Since I wrote this, GW released an update on Independent Characters, showing that they will be treated in much the way I expected. Limiting only snipers and units for whom they are the closest enemy being able to shoot them was also a good decision.

This really looks like it will be the best 40K ever.

Games Workshop are suddenly acting like a games company.

What has happened to Games Workshop?

What is the new CEO thinking?

After years of ignoring their customers, selling increasingly expensive models that hardly anyone can afford, making rules changes that compel customers to pay a fortune or abandon the hobby and selling huge boxed sets that offer no saving over buying the parts individually, they have suddenly started to get things right.

I first played GW games in the 80s and 90s, so I remembered things like Blood Bowl when it first came out. GW used to do a lot of nice, fun, stand alone games. They also did good spin off games, like Necromunda.

These games were fun and popular, but to the managers at GW these games were too limited. You only needed a few models. You bought your team, or your gang and that was it. You might occasionally buy a few new models to update your gang or team, but you didn’t need to keep buying more.

Warhammer 40K offered far better sales potential. Players could spend thousands of pounds or more on an army and then, when a new codex or a new edition came out, suddenly find their army obsolete if they didn’t spend hundreds or thousands more. This made money for GW, but it also cost them customers.

GW customers tend to fit into 3 groups. The teens who think the models look cool and get their parents to buy then an army. The geeky students for whom this is their main social activity (along with tabletop RPGs). The 30 or 40 something professionals who got hooked as teens or students.

The  trouble is that parents don’t want to fork out hundreds for something the child might quickly bore of. Students generally can’t afford to keep going when the editions change. This leaves the professionals who never grew up as the core customers. They could afford the big Knights, Titans and other giant war machines, but they were a limited market. GW needed more new players.

When they were criticized by customers, their response in the past has been “we are a first and foremost a model company, not a games company”. This is an utterly idiotic stance, because without the games, nobody would be buying the models. The models from the last few years may have looked great, but they did nothing to enhance the experience of playing the games.

What they seem to have forgotten is that it was the simple, easy, cheap games which attracted customers. Warhammer has often been called “plastic crack” and the stand alone games were the gateway drugs of the Warhammer worlds. They were the thing that got you hooked and made you want to keep playing more and more.

I played 40K as a teen in the Rogue Trader era and returned as a mature student in the 5th edition age.  Most of my friends abandoned 40K as soon as it changed to 6th ed. Their Orc and ‘nid armies became less effective and it would cost too much time and effort to try to build new armies.

As a teen I played the Warhammer fantasy RPG, but didn’t have money for the wargaming. I loved the flavour and the details of the Old World. I started collecting a Fantasy army around the time that fantasy was scrapped for copyright reasons. Instead we got the very vague and shapeless world of Age of Sigmar, which seemed a lot like 40K without the guns.The models are very detailed, but the introductory box was about £100 and there was no sense of who could play what models. Players needed to have gentleman’s agreements on what sort of game to play, or it could quickly prove absurd.

Then it all changed:

First it was the start collecting boxes for £50. A nice, small army at a bargain price. HQ, troops and something else at a discounted price. In the past GW had done some nice, bargain battleforces and it was a welcome return to the good old days. Instead of having to advise parents on several boxes to choose, the child just needed to pick an army and they had a perfect starter set, ready to assemble.

Next they brought in points values for AoS models. something which the community had desperately been screaming for. The rest of the General’s Handbook was a disappointment, but it was another step in the right direction. The objectives for battles did change the game considerably. Players with lots of weak squads having more versatility than those with a small number of unstoppable elite heroes and troops.

Then, tied in with the release and promotion of Deathwatch kill teams, 40K got the Kill Team game. A version of the 40K game which only used 200 points of models, with a few extra rules. A single squad of brave veterans against another small, elite force. It was a perfect entry game for Warhammer 40K.

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The Battle for Vedros boxes, which news leaked out about last year, are finally out, allowing children to have a cheap, easy to learn, introductory way into 40K. By using the old Black Reach snap fit models it kept costs down and made assembly easy for kids.

Then Blood Bowl returned. A fast and dynamic fun game, that did not need players to keep buying more models. The rules are relatively simple and it is more tactical than simply beating the opponent into submission. The turnover rule also means you need to think about what order to make moves, as a failed throw or a tripped player will end your turn.

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Now GW have brought out a series of boxes with a squad and a transport for little fore than the cost of a transport. £35 for a squad of marines in a drop pod, or Pathfinders in a Devilfish. Bargain. It is things like this that make people want to buy more.

My friend often complains that his wife can’t stop spending money. She goes out for some milk ans spends hundreds on things that were reduced, because she couldn’t resist a bargain. GW have suddenly noticed that bargains means sales.

It even looks like Sisters of Battle are finally getting plastic models and a new codex, after a decade and more of people crying out for both.

For Age of Simar they have done two great things.

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The first was Storm of Sigmar. A smaller introductory box for AoS, with just a few of the Stormcast Eternals and Bloodbound, along with dice and rules. Importantly it is only £20! That means that new players are getting to try the game for £20 ($33) instead of £95. They have also got starter paint boxes for both bloodbound and Stormcast for £10. Parents will happily put that under the Christmas tree and even better is that the best way to expand either force is with the pre-existing starter box. They have also got easy build boxes for the models in Storm of Sigmar, although buying the Storm of Sigmar box would get you the same models at half the cost.

In short, they are making it easy for kids to get into Age of Sigmar.

They have also brought back Island of Blood, albeit under a new name. Two full armies, with 74 models for just £50 (or $80). That is less than it cost when they discontinued the old boxed set, but this time you get twice as many bases, giving you a choice of what shaped bases to use. Spire of Dawn is a much better introduction into Age of Sigmar than the Age of Sigmar starter set.

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By bringing back some classic fantasy races this also makes AoS more accessible to people conceptually, than with the eternal, and pretty pointless, celestial struggle between the immortal warriors of Order and Chaos.

Well done Games Workshop. Well done Kevin Rountree.