8th Edition, Early Issues
So 8th Edition 40k has been out for a while now. Things are shaking out and we are seeing a lot of early winners and losers in the meta. Two of the things that I noted when I was reviewing 7th that I hoped would be fixed were invuln saves and re-rolls. IMNSHO re-rolls and invuln saves draw the game out, either by making dice rolling take longer mechanically, or making units last longer. Neither of these things went away and, in fact, have been reinforced with leaders regularly giving re-rolls to their units, while invuln saves have become rather more common in the game, especially with armies like Tyranids getting them for units that have never had them before.
The new issue that has raced to the forefront is mortal wounds. Armies built around applying mortal wounds can just assign large amounts of damage to the enemy using smite, stratagems, or select weapons. Several armies can just spam mortal wounds which makes small, elite armies much less viable, as they cannot defend against mortal wounds. This has given something of a rise to “eternal warrior” type saves as a last ditch invuln save that actually does block mortal wounds, as well as giving a final line of defense against ordinary wounds. The other side of this coin is that the armies that can survive mortal wounds have enormous numbers of models. This has given rise to conscript spam, termagant spam, what have you.
What makes these issues worrying is that GW seems to be building entire armies around them. Death Guard are only remotely viable by spamming the hell out of mortal wound causing units. The tournament I was in a few weeks ago, I got cleaned off the table by an eldar army that was applying more than a dozen mortal wounds a turn. This army would be completely neutered by any real nerf to mortal wounds themselves.
So what’s the issue here? Why is this a problem?
Well, for casual games it’s not a huge problem. These kinds of units are really niche, and you can just avoid playing “friendlies” against people who are building to spam the hell out of mortal wounds. Competitive metas on the other hand, or new players getting started in a meta that is dominated by the tourney scene will see some units being completely worthless. For example I brought several tanks, that I expected to do pretty well with given re-rolls, and a 4+ invuln from Azrael. In one of the matches they managed to set up and murder things because re-rolls and invuln saves are pretty good. However when I ran into an army spamming mortal wounds, things went downhill very, very fast. Imagine being a newish player, getting a bunch of tanks, and watching 1 or 2 a turn just get melted by attacks you can’t do much to defend against at all. Heck imagine being a veteran player and facing the same thing. It wasn’t fun.
And yet, as a gamer I actually like mortal wounds myself. Having the ability to simply assign wounds and skip the “roll to hit, roll to wound, beat the armor save” bit, and replace it with “roll a psychic power” or “roll over X” is pretty darn nice. Look at Biovores for example. 4+ to hit, then roll, 1 you get nothing, 2-5 get 1 mortal wound, 6 get D3 mortal wounds. That’s a very potent attack, especially coming from a unit of 3 (because, who are we kidding, they will never be taken alone) giving you several very consistent wounds throughout the game. Bringing psykers with lots of smite will also give you some real hard hitting mortal wounds, albeit only against the nearest enemy unit.
I know that major changes to 8th are a long way off. Chapter Approved will bring some minor rules changes at the end of this year, but I don’t expect anything to address these issues (assuming GW wants to) until late next year, with next year’s Chapter Approved. Assuming Chapter Approved is an annual thing.
I’m more or less ok with smite being where it is. The power only lets you attack the nearest unit. I do think that some psykers are undercosted however. Malefic Lords, I’m looking at you here…
Attacks dealing mortal wounds will need a bigger adjustment. This needs to be handled on a case by case basis. If you want a really god-tier weapon, sword of the emperor, Drach’nyen or the Avatar’s pigsticker, fine. Allocate an extra wound on a 6 to wound or whatever. Psychic attacks? Give them a weapon profile with an ignore (normal) armor saves ability. Biovores? Seriously, how do these do mortal wounds anyway? Not that I’m complaining given the new box sitting in my basement but… WHY? I’d rather do d6 attacks (with a bonus for attacking large units) with decent strength and -2 AP. Heck give it D2 if you want it to be extra hard hitting.
Finally let’s look at re-rolls and invulns. Re Rolls should be once per turn, or even once per battle for characters. Make the controlling player choose which unit will get to re-roll misses each turn, before the attack. Or let them only use their bubble once per game. Heck give them once per turn boostable to the current bubble for a command point. Either way you cut WAY down on re-rolls and give players more interesting choices to make during a game.
Invuln saves. No invuln save should be better than 4++ and practically nothing should have a 5++. You’d better have a name and 4 or 5 paragraphs of fluff minimum to justify your 4++, and FFS Azrael’s 4++ bubble is an abomination in the eyes of the lord (as well as a nicely painted model I’ve got coming along). You want to make something tougher? Give it a couple more wounds. Adjust the character rule to prevent targeting of models with fewer than 12 wounds and just throw a couple extra wounds on characters. Yes they are more vulnerable to heavy weapons. Don’t block a lascannon with your face.
Still for casual games it’s a damn fun game. D and I should have more time to play shortly, and we should see some more pictures and battle reports soon!