Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Warhammer 40k - New Dawn Fades

"New Dawn Fades" was one of my favourite songs by one of the few good things to come out of Manchester, Joy Division. In 1981their lead singer Ian Curtis topped himself leaving behind two albums and a string of truly memorable songs. From the ashes of Joy Division rose the more commercial New Order who while occasionally hitting high points never received the critical acclaim of Joy Division.

This all a long-winded way to introduce a metaphor for the Warhammer 40k game.

Now I loved 3rd and 4th Edition 40k. For me it was a golden age where the rule set was strong and most of the design out of the Studio was driven by the fluff rather than commercial decisions. I loved the Index Astartes rules, the Eldar Craftworlds and the Ork Klans. You had variety of armies  - note I say armies as they had rigid rules around what could and could not be included. This golden period ended for me with the Gav Thorpe Chaos codex, the late 4 ed Ork codex and the coming of 5th Ed in 2008.

I didn't buy the Kool-aid of a new cinematic dawn where armies became liquorice all sorts. And so I walked away and played Fantasy. A lot of people loved 5th but here in NZ you saw as many people fall away from the game as you saw join it. Maybe it was just people got old and had different priorities but there was a seachange in participants. Over the course of the edition I kept and eye on things and we saw the introduction of further vanilla books eg Eldar and the expansion of flyers and a general increase in vehicle size e.g. Dread knights. This was coupled by the game expansion Apocalypse and the rise of the internet which gave rise to instant net-lists eg nob biker, leaf blower, Draigo-wing, Venom spam etc.

Still to me it was still an interesting looking game. It was the New Order to my Joy Division but I understood the attraction.

Then in 2012 6th Ed arrived. Now your army choice was less important because you could have Allies to paper over your weaknesses - unless you were Nids. And the fluff behind the game didn't seem to matter. Lists began to look less like an army and more like a series of unit choices. Backing this up was the introduction of fortifications and a further expansion of flyers.

And recently we have three new additions to the mix. Escalation letting your Apoc toys in - yay D-cannons, Strongholds and the Data Slate. The upshot of the last of these is that a lot of the constraints of the Force Organisation Chart have gone by the wayside. You like Riptides, hell go for your life! Like the Wraithknight model, sure your Space Marines can have one. Want some Warlord traits from this list and others from another book...well you get the picture.

The really interesting thing with this was that 40k players were all drinking the Kool-Aid until suddenly they weren't. It's hard to pick the exact date but sometime in Q4 2013 something changed. The internet suddenly blossomed with threads, blogs, casts on how the game is broken. Schisms developed where some groups wanted to ban things, others wanted to change the rules while still others wanted to sit in a circle singing Kumbaya and embracing the wonder and freedom that was 6th.

And in the last week we've had rumours emerge that the much forecast Fantasy 9th Ed has been pushed back to 2015 to allow a new version of 40k to be released in 2014. What isn't known is whether this is to overhaul the edifice or to bring all the disparate parts into one new core rule book. I hope it's true as Fantasy is currently in a good place and I'd be more than happy for GW to release the last five books before a new edition. I know it's a forlorn hope but if it keeps Allies out of the game a bit longer all good by me.

So 40k seems to currently be on the edge of a cliff. I'm glad my investment is in the aesthetics of 30k and the Heresy rather than the game system itself.

As I said New Dawn Fades.


  1. Same here Pete. Since TO's won't let me use my Pre-Heresy Worldeaters in their natural form anyway, its casual games & the hobby aspect for me these days. That & Kings of war.

  2. the current state of the game resembles 40K at the end of secnodn edition, you have allies in any combination you like, heroes and monsters dominate the game and units are irrelevant. The introduction of 3rd edition streamlined and simplyfied the rules and put the emphasis back on units.

    Everthing since then has been the grand journy back to the madness of second edition. lets hope 7th brings a change to the cycle.

  3. Gosh it's such a negative nancy niche we live in isn't it?:P. you"can" have a choice of allies which are usually pretty fluffy and allow for some unique combinations. some of which are pretty bad and some are netlistingly good.

    You "can" finally use a forgeworld superheavy model in a game of 40k without playing apocalypse. Most of the choices and the downsides of playing them are just fine. one notable exception that does require a lot of new legwork is the revenant. but the rest? one large blast D shot at best, that costs victory points to field.

    You "can" finally play a proper siege with the hordes vs the few tucked up in bunker complexes etc. Some really fun missions and rules included as well.

    40k has never been a garaunteed "fun time" between two strangers. talk to your opponent and find out what sort of game you both want to play. free for all every book carnage? no expansions? some? Tourney practice, narrative assault?

    I freakin love the current slew of options available in 40k at the moment... what game can't I play? There was a call in 5th to have more updates faster, and when we finally get them there is this uproar that it's too much too soon.

    Good players can make just about any list work they put thier minds too. Just look at the masters this year, the current boogey men of the meta are seer star and screamer star and they didn't even make the podium.

    and finally, people who approach the game in a mature respectful manner, can make the game fun in just about any scenario.

    1. >Good players can make just about any list work they put thier minds too. Just look at the masters this year, the current boogey men of the meta are seer star and screamer star and they didn't even make the podium.<

      I think that is more a reflection of the guys driving them than the strength of the lists. I suspect the respective skill levels were heavily concentrated in those who did make the podium.

      In an environment with a larger breadth of competitive players I think it would be a problem.....as has been seen overseas.

    2. All the things you talk about are wonderful Pascal but as you are well aware that level of social contract does exist to the same extent in the tournament (or competitive) gaming world.

      People tend to bring the list that gives them the best chance to win and your "fluffy" little world falls by the wayside pretty quickly.

  4. Sorry, this stuff got a bit long[need better editing].. I'm not the best essay writer:P

    In a tourney, sure, you expect people to bring nasty stuff, that is part of "that" social contract. just like when I go to club and want tourney practice I expect hard bastard lists played with a vengeance:). If someone asks me to play a fluffy bunny list, I have a bunch of pretty things I love playing with that aren't exactly optimal and I'll enjoy the challenge of either fighting a nuts list or, having a hilarious narrative game.

    It's only when people come to a game with completely different expectations that friction arises. With mature gamers you kinda hope you are both on the same page and that if someone does get a thorough hiding they will take it in stride instead of investing all their ego in a game of dice. It says a lot more about the person than the game when it comes to handling a loss. A sore loser at xwing or warmahordes will still be a sore loser at 40k most likely and none of those games will be fun.

    Overseas tourney's are an interesting bag, a lot of them are vast, and you can easily spend 4 rounds not really hitting anything nasty, or first round you get a nasty counter list and a good player.
    A lot of the best players over there feel that they have to take the "net list" of the day to ensure they will at least get to the final tables which skews what seems to be the best leading to even more people believing it's the only way to play. the good players only get about 3 or 4 really good opponents in a tourney.
    The masters in NZ is a wonderful experiment each year. there is usually a selection of nasty net lists and then lists that have been tailored more to the player, which can lead to a few more esoteric forces.
    as a player you get at least 6 hard games vs good opponents. and there are no ranking points on offer, you can afford to not play safe and try something new.
    when 6th dropped there was a huge backlash against flying circus lists decreeing them to be auto win, masters turns up, the 7 or 8 flyer cron list gets smashed, by the end of that tourney, everyone knew how to handle flyers.
    same thing happened this year, the "star" lists all got beaten, even Charlie playing a lesser feared[not a 2++ rerollable] star, made a single mistake and got minced in a game.
    By the end of the tourney everyone knew how to deal with "stars" if they didn't already.
    For me it's always been about knowledge and skill more than a list and that any well rounded army can beat some crazy bent monster list and I think masters proves that.

    It's been how it's always been, there's always a boogeyman, the sky is always falling. Welcome to the grim dark:P

    1. Thanks for all your considered replies.

      I understand your point but I am always wary to draw too many conclusions from a player pool as small as NZ. While the Masters draws the "best" tournament players - and admittedly NZ performs well in Australia - I think the larger markets of the US and UK are more representative of the top end of tournament gaming. Look at the lack of variety in list selection at the Nova Open in 2013, read the threads on Dakka re Feast of Blades and LVGT. There has been a power creep in 40k throughout 6th (reminiscent of that in 7th Ed Fantasy) which is heightened by the use of Allies and the intro of Flyers.

      It is interesting that there is a pronounced schism into the "Skyfall" and "Kumbaya" camps. What is doubly interesting is how fast it went from non-existent to evident.

      It is great that you are enjoying 6ed and that you and your gaming group see it as liberating. You are the glass half full guys. What you can't deny is that there is a rapidly growing proportion who not only see the glass as half empty but also it's cracked and subject to leaks.

      I'm looking at this as an outsider. My last serious game was 5.5 years ago. They lost me with 5ed and Gav Thorpe's bastard child. I no longer have a dog in the fight. However there is a real difference in perception between 40k and Fantasy. Having suffered the rage quitters at the start of 8th Ed you now hear Fantasy described as the most balanced it has ever been and it's "best ever edition". The contrast is stark.

      Why is it important to me? Well we all know 40k pays the bills so no-one wants to see it flounder.

  5. I think the groups have always been there, it's just the sky falling peeps in earlier years didn't have that much to hold on to once the furore of the latest offering from gee dub died down, it's just before it was every four to sixth months and now it's every few weeks.
    Though I haven't played fantasy in forever [skaven;P] I did read some of the reviews of things like empire and high elves and the amount of butthurt I witnessed was incredible…. until it too eventually died down.
    I think it's the rate of releases and the size of the community that keeps the angry ones shouting in 40k.
    So I think there isn't a rapidly growing proportion of half empty guys, I just think they have more to complain about and the shouting is closer together. It might inadvertently make more people negative but most positive people I know are always such and the same with negative outlooks, about pretty much everything.