So, I guess by now you have heard the rumours that 6th Edition will either be replaced or updated at least in part by the end of the month.
On the one hand, I am fairly concerned by this, as I have noticed that I am developing a sort of update fatigue at the moment. In the last couple of months, we got swamped by updated codicies, variant codicies, completely new armies and not to mention the pile of dataslates that completely modify the way their armies are played (looking at you, Skyblight dataslate, not at you, Helbrute dataslate, you still suck the big one). Some of those were major game changers, like the new Guard giving everyone a re-roll to hit and ignore cover or Crimson Slaughter reversing all the acquired knowledge of Chaos Space Marines by giving them a 2+ armour and access to Divination. So the flurry of releases has made it difficult for me to keep abreast of things. Which is scary for me as I have not felt like this since the start of 3rd edition. It might be a refreshing experience as it might make it more challenging going into a game without having full knowledge of what to expect, but it comes at a time where I am re-evaluating my game style to be more laid-back, so I am curious as to how the two interact. But as I have also stopped regularly buying White Dwarf and am even giving most Black Library stuff a miss these days, I also can’t help but wondering if I am slowly but certainly giving up on 40k or GW in general. I have made plans to play a game of Warhammer tomorrow and I was shocked to find out that it took me ages to write up a list, even though that came absolutely natural to me in the past. I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to equip my Vampires, let alone what their spells are these days. It also made me realize that I hadn’t played a single game of Warhammer since November. So how is the new 40k going to affect my motivation to play 40k if Warhammer 8th Edition has killed off my urge to play Warhammer?
On the other hand, I hope that this is a sign that GW is finally coming to terms that it is Games Workshop, not Model Workshop and tries to actually make a ruleset that is suitable for competitive play. Now, some of you might say: ‘Who cares about competition, I just want to have fun.’ But this is a poor argument for two reasons: a) This is the age of the Internet. People write about tactics, combos and so forth and it is so easy even for a novice player or a player who doesn’t have a lot of time to invest to pick up new tricks and tactics. As I also play Magic, a game with a much bigger player base and much bigger Internet presence, I know that even casual players who only play Friday Night Magic or the occasional pre-release have a strong grasp of game concepts such as tempo, card advantage or mana curving due to the number of websites and articles on Magic. The same goes, albeit to a lesser extent, for 40k where you have http://www.frontlinegaming.org , http://www.belloflostsouls.com and others publishing daily articles. Thus, the player who only experiences the game in his own garage and has no outside influence is an ever-shrinking minority. So 40k becomes increasingly more competitive as players look up the latest tournament trends and so forth. Players might not turn into WAAC players over night or might not even want to go there, but I definitely feel that most players today have a much better understanding of basic tactics and army composition than 10 years ago. And this is why a game like 40k must have cleaner rules to match the more competitive player base.
Secondly (b), poor rules writing just looks terrible and unprofessional, as well as leading to negative play experiences, especially for new player. A set of game rules is in and of itself just a set of guidelines, as GW is still prone to say, but they are also a social contract or they guide our expectations on how the game is going to be played. However, if your opponent has a different outlook on the rules because they are poorly written, this might lead to a situation where you both have different expectations and as a result one of you is going to be disappointed if your way of deciding who is right is simply rolling a dice because that’s the designer’s lazy solution. What I am trying to say is, yes, it is possible to interpret most texts in different ways (that’s what discussing literature is all about), but a rulebook should be an instruction manual and thus written clearly enough, so if problems arise, they can be solved quickly and in a logical way that shows why one interpretation is wrong and one isn’t. Rolling a dice does not do that, it only pisses off at least one player because his expectations were not met. Let me give you an example: A long time ago, in the darkness that was 4th Edition, I was still playing in the Caverne du Gobelin in Luxembourg, even though the shop assistant was a moron. So he decided to run a tournament and design his own missions, without consulting the players. The result was a catastrophe as he had simply not taken players’ armies and the rules into account. I played one game on a crashed space hulk kind of table with a small patch of empty terrain (the outside) leading to lots of corridors and so forth to a computer control room where you had to stay for a round, then leave the table with the information. The basic problem was that it would have been impossible in a game of less than 12 rounds to get to the computer and back, so the mission per se was hugely flawed. But then the fact that he hadn’t taken armies into account came into play. I was playing an Alpha Legion army where everyone could infiltrate and my opponent was playing a Kult of Speed Ork list with 2 Battlewagons and lots of Trukks. See where this is going? Yes, I infiltrated next to the computer terminal and none of his vehicles could actually fit into the corridors, even though I allowed him to do so despite the size difference, just with dangerous terrain tests. So the rules themselves made it an extremely poor game for either of us, as his expectations (driving up to the opponent with his fast vehicles) were immediately shattered and I got a free win which kind of defeated the purpose of going to a tournament. Better rules or at least listening to me demonstrating who I was hugely favoured to win that game barring a heart attack or brain aneurism and suggesting to swap tables would have given us a game. As it was, this was a game best forgotten. If he had been a new player, this might have been the tipping point for him leaving the game even. So, even if you are just playing for fun, clear rules increase your fun by eliminating arguments on the table.
Having said that, I really hope the reboot will solve 6th edition’s big problems. In my opinion, these are:
– Battle Brothers and allies in general leading to combohammer or death star armies.
– Divination being miles better than all the other disciplines.
– Shooting being far too good compared to assaulting.
– Ignore cover being given to everyone and their mum. Why should I bother playing strategically if my guys will be gunned down even in terrain?
– Tau in general having too many exceptions to the basic rules (spamming Interceptor and skyfire, overwatch on multiple units, ignoring cover or even line of sight at will, night vision…) with the new Guard also getting there I think with orders and psykers.
– Eldar also need to be toned down, at least their seer councils.
– Flyers and Flying Monstrous Creatures in general seem to be extremely good for their points. Just look at how many Flyers Tyranids can run and how good the Vendetta is even after a 40 points raise. Maybe you should be able to get more skyfire or have a way to gain skyfire by not moving or something of the sort.
And you? How do you feel about a reboot of 40k? What things do you wish to change?