Thursday, October 16, 2008

Warhammer 40k: 5th Edition

Well these days it seems Games Workshop can't go more than four or five years without deciding to rehash it's core rules. What with one thing and another though I decided to forgo the hardback release of the rules as they were I considered, very poor value compared to the previous edition.

Your £30 bought you 300-odd pages but only less than half that was actual rules. The rest was what gamers commonly call 'Fluff'; background on the races and so forth, a chunk or two of fiction and a section on 'The Hobby' (not wargaming though you'll note, just 'Warhammer'). Given the previous version of the rules fitted in two distinct alternative ways to play the game (Combat Patrols and Kill Teams) this was in my mind not worth the asking price.
The same could not be said of the new boxed set however.

Firstly the latest boxed edition contains one of GW's now standard slimline rulebooks, printed at half size granted, but with a surprisingly sturdy cover and importantly, ALL the rules needed to play, with almost no wasted space on 'Fluff'. For those who need it, an A4 booklet contains basic background, painting tips and the like, and in some respects does a better job than the hardback rulebook. Though I'm sure there will be those who miss one hundred pages eulogising the Imperium/Space Marines/Games Workshop themselves.

The other obvious boon to the boxed set is the figures. Now the previous box supplied a disappointing amount of figures, of admittedly high quality, and a lot of scenery. This set skips scenery in favour of what the buyer really wants, lots of nice figures! And lots there are; 46 pieces in fact, including a small horde of Orks, a neat Dreadnought, some terminators and the unique Deffcopters. To buy the available alternatives to all these figures would cost somewhere around £150; when you consider the price of the boxed edition is only £40 it seems almost ludicrous, but on the other hand, what a bargain.

Also these are by far the nicest plastic figures Games Workshop have ever released in a boxed game, good detail and a real effort made to provide a variety of troop types. Both forces easily produce a 500 point force when their equipment is taken in to account, and I can speak from having already painted them that the Orks are delightful little models to work on.

Aside to that you also get the required templates, a handful of dice and the usual useless bendy red measuring sticks - mine went straight in the recycling bin.

All this would be for nothing if the game had become a stinker in the process though. So to get to grips with it, me and old adversary Chris arranged a game a week or two back. 1200 points was agreed as being enough, but not too much to get to grips with the changes.

Chris had a surprise for me however, since our last game he had done a burst of painting and instead of the expected Blood Angels or Tau, a largely complete Tyranid army face me. Chris claims to have been using some of my painting tips and techniques, if so then they've served him well, as his 'Nids are really nice, so much improved over his previous work! I particularly liked this chap, rearing up to some six inches tall.

The gig looked to be up straight away, as I found myself outnumbered three to one. We'd ended up with a simple 'kill everything' mission, essentially the same as the old Cleanse mission. The first notable change in the rules for us was the 'True line of sight' rule. If you can see it you can shoot it, and that includes through what would've once been blocking cover - most notably through woods. This meant at all time we were firing hard at each other, but the amended cover rules also allow most forces a cover save at all times, which is often a 4+ Better certainly than the Tyranids base save.

Reserves and the like had changed too, becoming optional in all missions IIRC. Sure enough, Chris' Genestealers turned up behind my lines (despite this being a chance roll it felt inevitable). The new rules allow units to engage several targets at once, great for Tyranids and Orks certainly, with their large units. Vehicles assaulted are always attacked on the rear armour; you can guess what happened to my stationary Predator Tank on its' first foray to the battlefield then!

With my rearguard destroyed I was reliant on my own reserves, my terminators turned up and made short work of the Genestealers, but then found themselves being sniped through a doorway in that long wall. Damn line of Sight!

Gaunts attacked my other infantry unit across the wall, Whilst my Dreadnought dispatched the giant Carnifex; who couldn't hide anywhere at all. Foolishly I allowed my Dread to get tied up in a melee rather than staying back and giving covering fire.

The game ended randomly on turn 5 to my great relief. We totted up Kill points - a simpler system than victory points - and found the game was a draw. Immediately KP appeared inferior (if easier to calculate) compared to VP; as by any other assessment I was losing, and another turn would've secured total victory for Chris.

All in all though, in this small game 5th edition plays much like 4th, only with some, largely acceptable tweaks. Many don't seem to like the line of sight rules, but with a simple agreement of what constitutes a target they seem fair enough. The casualty distribution for saves is an excellent rule, though one which favours generic armies facing specialists like the Marines or Tau. And although we didn't use them here, the concept of objectives should bring a new dynamic to the game and about time too.

Overall it's a good refresh, but buy it as the boxed set, not the hardback book.

1 comment:

  1. A few years back I vaguely remember reading a GW annual report where they stated their intention to renew all rules on, I think it was a 4 year cycle. It sounded a bit like profiteering at the time but now I'm quite pleased because I enjoy the changes they bring out.

    Sigmar's WHFB Blog