Saturday, 26 July 2014

Warhammer 40k: Revenge of the Sixth or Seventh Heaven? Part Three

First of all, apologies to all concerned that this third part of the 7th edition review has taken so long to arrive, unfortunately I have been somewhat incapacitated in these last few months so have actually been unable to play any 7th at all! Mind you it was always the plan to make this a joint effort as the rules part of the hobby have never been as important to me as the background and models themselves and the rules are an undeniably huge part of the whole shebang. 

Therefore it is fortunate that my erstwhile co-author of this review Matt Clarke, has gone far and beyond what was required and submitted such a comprehensive overview of the new ruleset and changes within that there is really very little need for me to add anything further! Tempered by the fact that Matt actually has a few games under his belt it seems to make sense to give him the centre stage before I return at the end for a few missed bits and summary of the rules and the release as a whole. So without further ado I bid ye adieu and hand you over to Matt! See you in a bit. 

So, the seventh edition of Warhammer 40,000 has plonked out of the GW chute and a whole two years earlier than expected. Sly attempt to bump up sales figures before the end of the financial year, or just straight-up rules update to fix niggling issues?

I don't really care; the newer ruleset has a slew of updates, some fixes and a  new phase to expand psykers' shenanigans to a whole new level, and most welcome a fair few of the changes are too. The allies matrix has been made more restrictive, and the FOC has been pwnt wide open: the old 6th ed. primary detachments are now known as a Combined Arms Detachment, with no limit to the number of detachments a player can take. The standard core requirement of 1 HQ + 2 Troops choices are still there, but with the new template you can build a legal list of equal numbers of HQs to Troops, over a number of CADs if you wished. Sounds a bit off, spamming HQs with the minimum Troop requirement, right? The flipside is that focusing on HQs usually costs a fair few points, the minimum Troop units end up being minimum sized to compensate and thus more vulnerable to breaking when taking losses. Details for Lord Of War are also in with rules and FOC choices. Oh, and all CAD units are now scoring; not just Troops, all models, Swarms, vehicles, everything. 

Allied detachments are pretty much untouched from the previous book and slightly more funky detachments like Knights now get a mention as part of a legal force. A force with these standard detachments is now known as a Battle-forged army) which comes with a few bonuses which allow you to re-roll an unwanted Warlord trait and control objectives even when contested by a unit from an Unbound list. What's an Unbound list? Well, if you want to bin the FOC completely you now can and field whatever you like in whatever numbers, points allowing. The new allies matrix still applies to these armies and, more importantly, it's stated in black and white that an Unbound list has to be agreed upon before the game starts so Cheesemongers beware; turning up with an exotic combo cheesefest army will likely net you zero games, but if you agree to field a thematic force like an all-Dreadnought army then you now have the framework to do so. 

The number of Battle Brothers in the matrix has taken a hit, which slaps Taudar combos a tad, but Battle Brothers now have a few more benefits than before. Come The Apocalypse allies can now actually take "allies" but there's significant deployment and proximity restrictions that can make some tactics impossible. The turn sequence has also changed with the addition of the psychic phase. Scootched in betwixt the movement and shooting phases this is now where the glowing-eyed kill-you-with-my-mind/eyes stuff happens. 

Before deployment psychic powers are still generated as normal, with the new bonus of obtaining the Primaris power for free of any discipline that your psyker dedicates to completely. Nice for the poor ol' Tyranids who only get to roll their own discipline, so all gribbly psykers get Dominion for free, including the Broodlord (giving him synapse). Once the psychic phase begins the controlling player rolls a D6 and adds the total mastery level of their psykers to the result to give the total number of warp charges for that turn for both players. Each charge equals a dice to use when casting powers, a roll of 4+ is needed for each warp charge listed on the power's description. No more Ld check. Perils Of The Warp is still a real danger, any pair of sixes results in a roll on the Perils table, the LD-based results of which can range from the psyker and any attached unit taking a serious hit, to taking wounds with gammy side-effects to unexpectedly powering up your caster. Statistically it's best to roll three dice to get the best chance when casting a WC1 power with Ld having no impact on the process, so lower Ld psykers are slightly better off than they were, roll too many dice and your chance of hitting the Perils table grows along with your chance of casting, which is where the lower Ld psykers can really suffer. 

Personally I like this take this approach to drawing on the power of the warp to bend to your will, but drawing too much can be seriously detrimental. This also makes WC3 powers, not that there are many, appropriately a lot harder (and more risky) to cast than previously. Any successful cast can be countered with a Deny The Witch roll from the opponent using dice from their own charge pool, with the chance increasing if the target is an opponent's unit containing a psyker, and further bonuses for a higher level psyker and Adamantium Will. Psychic powers themselves have been overhauled in most cases; most Witchfire powers have a 20-33% increase in range, Puppet Master has been shown the door, one or two powers have changed discipine and a few like Endurance and Haemorrhage have gone up in cost. 

The addition of the two new Daemonology disciplines have upset the apple cart somewhat: while Santic powers offer some utility via Gate Of Infinity, Sanctuary & Banishment they do also offer several offensive powers, but it's mainly Malefic powers that have gobs flapping and sweet panicky tears falling. While some Malefic powers are offensive, or increase a daemon's save, the main concerns are the half of the discipline that tweaks the dangly parts of decency and make us 40k geeks weep. From dropping in a unit of lesser daemons to trading your psyker for a greater daemon, players are concerned that this discipline is prone to unbalancing a game by spawning several hundred to even over a thousand points of models into play. Both Daemonology halves are inherently more dangerous to cast given that they will imperil the caster on any doubles rather than just sixes, but two forces are more adept with Grey Knights blocked from Malefic and only getting a Perils on sixes, and daemons are the opposite. I've seen a few battle reports where grossly imbalanced daemon armies summon sufficient numbers of additional daemons to raise eyebrows, but when you can build a Tzeentch army where 80-90% are psykers then what do people expect? 

Charges used on summoning can't be spent on ranged attacks or empowering units so there's a bit of give there. Highly mobile opponents and those with plenty of barrages will be able to bypass LOS blocking terrain and hassle the summoners for two potential counters and it's a bit too early to tell if summoning will be a general issue or not. In my game vs daemons today we had two psykers per side and my opponent didn't manage a single successful summoning.

Shooting has a fairly significant change with firing now being done per weapon type in the firing unit. Instead of all hits being resolved at the same time now a unit with a missile launcher and bolters, for example, can now fire a frag missile to get the best effect against a bunched-up target, remove the models from those wounds and then fire with bolters after to hit the models around the sides of the blast. Wounds can no longer be passed along to models that are out of sight (unless using a blast or template) or out of range, with models at the back of a firing unit being unable to contribute if lacking the range. This can make some engagements slightly more complex with rapid-fire weapons but really it will just be the difference of a dice or two where the further firers just fire one shot if over half-range. 

Vehicles became more survivable; armour can now only be one-hit and explode via a roll of 7+ on the vehicle damage chart. A penetrating hit needs to be AP1, AP2 or hit an open-topped vehicle to destroy it from new with a single shot. Jink saw a bump up to a 4+ save, but now has to be taken between shots hitting and rolling for damage and forces the jinker to fire snap shots in the following turn. Passengers embarked on/in a transport can ignore shaken/stunned results via a Ld test (but the crew cannot). Chariots got fixed to within an inch of their lives so the rider can fire without penalty and they are still gits in assault. Flyers & FMCs can now start the game deployed on the table as hovering/gliding or can still deep strike from reserves as zooming/swooping. Ramming is no longer speed-based, just armour, type & dozer blades help. Medium to light vehicles are still best dealt with by glancing hull points off them, but these changes go some way to helping armour making it's way back into games. A whole bunch of USRs have also been updated, rejoice! Templates now do D6 hits against passengers on an open-topped transport. Marines no longer get their lil' bonus 3" move when regrouping. Defensive grenades still deny attacks from charging but now can be used as 8" blind grenades instead of conferring an 8" stealth bubble. Charging through cover is now a flat -2" from 2D6. Walkers now get Hammer Of Wrath. Poison now only re-rolls when the target's toughness is lower than the attacking strength, not equal. Excess wounds from a challenge now spill over into the loser's attached unit. Characters no longer have precision attacks. There's a load more but a fair few things have changed to make the game mechanics more logical. 

There's a bunch of new Maelstrom Of War missions added to the original Eternal War missions from the old book. They involve tactical objectives that are drawn from a deck, to a maximum of three cards per player. One can be replaced per turn to rid yourself of any undesirable or unobtainable tasks. These should serve to counter the static objective-taking of the original six missions, as units mobilise to move from parts of the battlefield to others with the aim of fulfilling the objectives on the cards. I've not yet played any of these missions so I can't comment beyond that but they look like fun as long as the objectives picked up are within a player's remit to achieve. In finishing, I'd say that most of the changes in this new edition are mostly positive. I thoroughly enjoyed my game today; the new psychic phase probably added a minute or two to each turn with my Tyrant & Zoanthropes vs my mate's Great Unclean One and Heralds. Shooting was fine, assault was pretty much unchanged. 

While the 7th edition of 40k is an overall improvement, it isn't perfect. Rule for specific buildings have been removed and are now found in Stronghold Assault or some of the fortifications boxes. While models can charge into assault from building disembarkation points models still can't charge into assault from a stationary transport. Blasts are still worked out from the firer instead of the centre of the blast as an explosion should be. Also, some of the codices need a bit of FAQing, even some of the more recent releases: the Tyranid's Shadow In The Warp which traditionally disrupts casting no longer disrupts casting. Beasts Of Nurgle have defensive grenades but no BS characteristic to throw them with. The Dark Angels' Nephilim flyer has Missile Lock in the codex which now actually works with non-blast missiles but the Dark Angels FAQ still has that rule removed. Just stuff like that which is bound to creep in when any complex core system is changed. We've seen some FAQs already, we just need a few more. All in all, I think that Games Workshop have done good work with this new edition but I could do without shelling out for a new rulebook every two years.

Wow, that pretty much says it all. Cheers Matt!

Ill echo the could do without an update every two years sentiment. BUT I feel that there is just enough here changes wise to warrant a new edition. After all this essentially is the reintroduction of the Psychic Phase after a 4 edition absence and lets not forget that when that last happened the Dark Millennium was a whole new expansion! Overall this is not a seismic shift for the game although it is a shake up of sorts. Unfortunately I see this as a stop gap to still further updates as GW continue to experiment with the meta. As Matt said vehicles are back in and psykers will be a big part of the game from now on but I wonder if we will ever see anything like an orthodox army again? 

I remember the days of yore when an army would be reasonably formulaic and it would be the wargear and weapons that would dictate the tactics. Thus spam lists were not often seen and it was evil combinations of wargear and special characters that would win the day. That and strategy cards and the like. Chance would either deal you a kindness or knee you in the balls when you least expected (and needed) it. This is something that I feel has been lost with each successive iteration of Warhammer 40,000 and it has been in danger or becoming a case of victory will go to he (or she) whom can afford the best toys. Thankfully with 7th I feel we have taken a step in the right direction. For sure this is the most like 2E the game has ever been. Certainly it has given myself and Lee pause for thought in our ongoing Second Editition Revival Project. 

The variable objective cards are definitely an interesting idea to mix up the tactics a little. Flexible and fluid objectives should mean the static nature of take and hold is nullified a little, already partly achieved due to variable objective points in sixth. The major rejigging of the FOC is another point of contention that many have thrown up in yet another ‘the sky is falling’ proclamation. The way I see it, TFG has always existed, the win at all costs player that some will identify with and others will abhor. By introducing unbound lists GW has given this type of player free reign. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. Now they are labelled as such. Should you agree (and as Matt said you do need permission to field Unbound lists) then you will fully understand and expect the levels of cheese that may be levelled at your force. Likewise, if two like minded players wish to go at it with the most outrageous and broken combos they can devise in an effort to out powergame each other then they now have that capability. What the Unbound DOES deliver however is a way for all those players who desire to use their fluffy bespoke forces but have previously not had the framework to do to play their games too. Games workshop have delivered us great power with 7th Edition, but remember with great power comes great responsibility. 

And that just about wraps it up for the rules. After the disappointment that the other two books have been it is pleasing to see that the heart of the game at least has received some attention. With just enough content to justify a new edition it still feels like a stop gap to another version of the game, almost like a beta or something similar. Will we see 40k progress to living rulebook status or will GW push their luck and unleash 8th in 2016? One feels that they weren’t ready or were unwilling to redo Fantasy this year and went with a guaranteed money spinner instead. We will probably never know if 7th edition was rushed out of the gates to this end. Overall although the three book format is a welcome move and the quality of the product is high, as a set it doesn’t really warrant a purchase. Even to a newcomer it fails to provide as much of an insight to the hobby as it should and all the material of worth can be gleaned from just the rules section. Certainly as a verteran hobbyist I feel quite aggrieved by the £50 set and overall I’d say just wait for the mini rulebook which should be arriving in the updated Dark Vengeance any week now. 

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