One year of 8th Edition, Looking Back, Looking Forward
8th Edition Warhammer 40k has been out for a year, and I really think this has been the best year of 40k ever. In fact I don’t think it’s particularly close. GW had a perfect storm of plans, events, and actions that created an amazing year for them. It wasn’t all roses and love but things did play out very well for them. At the same time there has been a lull recently in 40k content and I, for one, am very ready for that drought to end and have been bending a lot of thought to what they probably will do, what they could do, and what they should do.
First the bad. Mechanically 8th edition needed to cut down on re-rolls, and invuln saves. It increased them and added mortal wounds. Which it has spent a year fixing and still has some fine tuning. I think doubling down on these mechanics and adding another one to try to balance things hasn’t worked, and is unlikely to work. We will see how this plays out but I think this is still a case of “less is more” from a balance standpoint, and a speed standpoint. Spam and army variation has been a problem, it’s hardly new but it actually makes me long for the days of formations. This is as much a factor of information access. Everyone can find the good builds very quickly and there’s nothing GW can do about it.
Storywise, nothing has happened since release. The Konor campaign spun the wheels and since then there’s been a deafening silence. To give you an idea how little things have moved, the Crimson Fists destruction was retconned forward to happen right before Guilliman brought out the Primaris. So LITERALLY the first major lore event in 40k is also now one of the most recent. That is actually pretty representative of things since 8th has come out. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Line wise things were very good for certain people. If you liked the Imperium you probably got something you really liked. Primaris marines are generally good models. Death Guard have some fantastic models. None of the Aeldari races got new models, just new names. Tau, Nids, Grey Knights, Non-Death Guard CSM, Necrons, got no new models. There have been some “Wow” models but a lot of missed opportunities as well.
Finally communication has been really uneven. GW likes to try to keep the hype train running. This has resulted in some forced hype moments. Like the Blood/Dark Angels “BIG” announcement that was… a couple non special character Lieutenants. This after the previous chapters to get a codex had Primarchs. Similar hype surrounded the Eldar, with dismal results. I think GW would be better served to stick to the facts rather than creating bubbles of disappointment. If we aren’t getting anything, at least don’t lie to us about it.
Now on to the good.
Mechanically 40k is MUCH easier to play and understand than before. Both because of streamlining of the rules and a steady stream of FAQs and Errata clarifying and balancing things on the fly. This system has worked great for companies like Privateer Press and GW’s adaptation has generated great results for the company. There’s not a lot to really add to this, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of improvement. This is a great time to play the game, it’s simpler than ever, straightforward, and fun.
The story moved. It may have stopped again, but for the first time ever, the story moved in a meaningful manner. I think a lot of people would like to see it move more, and I’m one of them, but we have to remember it has moved.
We’ve gotten a LOT of new models. More than a dozen types of Primaris Marines, including troops, characters and vehicles. The amazing Death Guard Line. Some of the most intricate and interesting models. Some new Thousand Sons models. The entire Custodes line. The new knights. There’s some really amazing models that have come out, and that doesn’t even cover all the terrain that we’ve seen.
Now GW has done a complete 180 on communication. They used to communicate only in the vaguest of terms and generally in a very high handed manner. Now they’ve completely gone the other way, they communicate through people who love the game and want to push information out to us. The rumor sites have more or less been relegated to trying to extrapolate from the pretty simple straightforward announcements GW puts out themselves, and their predictions have gotten even less accurate as time has gone by. This has also included participation by a lot of staff in social media. Gav Thorpe and ADB can be found on Facebook and Reddit, and they are engaging with fans in a way I find to be very positive, especially on the topics of decency and inclusivity. Of particular note is their response to the angry clutching of pearls concerning the Warhammer Adventures kids books. I’ll share a tweet from Gav regarding the snide comments about Slaanesh:
For those wondering how Warhammer Adventures ‘will deal with Slaanesh’ remember that Slaanesh is god of all types of excess. For any ‘kid-friendly’ version just go trick-or-treating with a hyped 4-year old.
The results of all this are pretty straightforward. More people playing 40k than ever. My FLGS has basically got 2 dedicated 40k nights (Sunday and Monday) the Warhammer store has gone from being a nearly forgotten basement dwelling mall store to a destination that nearly always has people in it, even during the week. GW has reported its highest profits ever, and has chosen to spend a good portion of that rewarding their employees, which is nice to see these days.
So here we are, GW has pumped the brakes a bit, pushed AoS for a while, and now we hope they turn their focus back to 40k. We know the next two books are going to be Space Wolves and Orks. This will leave only the Sisters Codex for next year in the “known but unreleased” category, and that is safely down the road. Which means we are mostly off the map when it comes to future releases.
I’m going to guess Orks will get some new models. We’ve seen some hints with pictures of blurry models so far, similar to the kinds we saw presaging Mortarion’s release. I doubt they’ll get anything that big, but a Prime-Ork version of Ghazghkull Thraka would be amazing. I hope we see another couple of other units as it leads into something I hope GW does in general going forward. We’ve seen less in the way of clues for the Space Wolves. I don’t think we’ll see Russ. There’s been no buildup, no hints, no hype. This close to release they would have completely changed the playbook to have a Primarch show up with so little lead time. I imagine we’ll see a Primaris Lieutenant but it seems unlikely they’ll get much more than the Dark Angels and Blood Angels got. I do think we’ll see points updates and stratagems that should put them on par or even slightly better than the other non-vanilla marines given the increased importance of melee in 40k and the generally fantastic mobility and melee ability Space Wolves have organically.
Beyond that the map is pretty blank. I think we’ll see another campaign. It has been about a year since the Konor campaign. I would love to see another and better support for it. Models similar to the ones for the recent AoS campaign would be nice, maybe a bit more tightly focused given how factions work. A nice example might be a free for all with Orks and Nids overrunning a Tomb World with Eldar attempting to meddle and Tau caught in the crossfire. Each faction gets a unit, maybe the Doom of Mal’antai for Nids, a new lord for the Crons, maybe a crazy Big Mek for the Orks, Harlequins can get a special character, and maybe a kroot character for Tau. Something that mixes things up without being a necessary centerpiece for the army, similar to AoS.
Around Christmas I’d like to see an ACTUAL big release. A Primarch would fit the bill perfectly and I really would be scratching my head if GW doesn’t have one for us this holiday season. This time the script has been flipped between the Lion and Russ. They won’t do a Russ model after the codex, they’d do it WITH the codex. Even though 5 months could separate the codex from Christmas, that’s still an awkward gap with very little filling it for 40k. I think another campaign, this one between the Imperium and Chaos would be very nice during or after the holidays. And GW really needs to have some nice big models to put under the trees/bushes. I’d love to see the Lion, Abaddon and Lorgar. Preferably as part of 3 new triumvirate boxes. The Lion, with Lion El’Johnson, Ibrahim Gaunt, and a new Cannoness for the Sisters. The Bearer of the Word with Lorgar, Erebus, and Argel Tal. Yes I realize he’s dead. Do you think the Ruinous Powers care given how many times various other heroes have been brought up? Could you imagine the fun that would come from having Tal return as a rival to Erebus? Narratively I think it’s a very fun idea. The final box has Abaddon, Kharn, and Honsou.
This is a lot more space marines in a game flooded with them, but it gives a very wide spread of characters. The Lion gives the DA a beat stick with some buffing (think super-Azrael) while Gaunt could play some fun buff/debuff games and, hell a new Cannoness to boost those acts of faith sisters get could be amazing. Lorgar would be the Chaos version of Guilliman, lots of buffs, meh in combat for his power level. Erebus makes Asmodai seem tame and sane, while Tal hands out small buffs but also has the ability to throw out serious damage when possession strikes. Kharn is Kharn, and Honsou gives the Iron Warriors some badly needed love. Abby needs an update, not just a new model, a new raison d’etre. Whether they make him a super buffstick, a super beatstick, or an endless CP battery, he needs to have something unique and distinctive, as well as some fluff explaining how all the Chaos Primarchs haven’t just gotten tired of his miserable failures yet.
Finally, GW has gotten a lot better at communication. There’s still issues. No one outside the family has any idea what the hell is going on with Forgeworld paring down its lines. Mid to Long-term plans aren’t being put out there, and all the communication is one-way. There’s no back and forth, either we communicate with them and we don’t see action (although things may change) or they communicate with us and any response we generate seems to hit a wall. However this is worlds better than the old regime, which seemed to consist of the company treating their customers and fans like an annoyance rather than a stakeholder. We are getting great videos on a regular basis helping with the hobby and gaming side. We are getting announcements (a week out) regarding upcoming releases and both a website and social media presence that seems to be much more in line with the customer service reps in GW’s mail-order service.
So here’s to a good year done, and here’s to another one. Let’s hope they continue to improve!