Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Praise of 8th Edition

The Warhammer World has been in a bit of a funk of late. The uncertainty of what the future holds coupled with the injection of End Times has resulted in a worldwide paralysis. Blogs have stopped, podcasts have gone and in some areas tournaments and events have seen falling numbers - yes, there are exceptions (but let's be serious in cities with populations of multi-millions if you can't attract at least 100 people you are doing something wrong).

Key to this malaise, is what we risk loosing - 8th Edition.

I started playing WHFB in 2006 - towards the end of 6th Ed. I only played a few games before 7th arrived and I've been here ever since. The jump from 6th to 7th was relatively small and so wasn't a great culture shock. The move to 8th from 7th was much greater and the shock waves resonated across the world - though the Ragequit Epicentre was most publically evident in Australia.

The difference between the editions was significant. 7th was the "Carpenter's Edition" where one of the key skills was spatial awareness - the ability to correctly differentiate between 15.9" and 16.1". With fixed charge distances and no premeasurement this ability was paramount. The skill was reinforced by chargers having ASF and there being no stepping up.

With the introduction of 8th the new paradigm didn't suit everyone. The game introduced more random factors which meant that risk management (e.g. Probability analysis but more importantly the need for a risk weighted Plan B) became critical. As noted it didn't suit everyone and some left - in some cases, prematurely I think. Still those that stayed felt the game was both different and more "fun".

One of the biggest problems with 7th was the variety in the relative strength of the books - who remembers Tier Comp? Four books were released in a short period of time that would dominate the game - Vampires, Daemons, Dark Elves and less spectacularly Lizardmen. Most tournaments spent significant focus trying to balance the books - usually to no evident avail.

And then 8th arrived. Interestingly there was eight months between the drop of the new edition and the release of the first Army Book, Orcs & Goblins. Over the years from 2011-14 we had all but three books drop - Skaven, Beastmen and Bretonnians - and most people will tell you that coupled with the rules we have the most external balance in recent (10 year) memory. Yes, problems exist with internal balance - except if you are Dark Elves and probably Daemons - but generally people can take most books and have a competitive game. There is still varying amounts of comp being used - none, Swedish, ETC, SCGT, FoB-Lite etc - but it is FAR less an issue than it was.

For me, 8th is the most balanced and fun GW game that I've played over the 14 years I've been in their hobby. The fact that I still want to play WHFB at least once a week testifies to that.

So there is the sweetness and light, the rainbows and unicorns. What about the darkness? Well there are three areas where I think GW erred (dropped the ball) over its life.

Firstly, after starting so well with regard to rules support it suddenly stopped. From regular FAQs - and timely after new releases - GW suddenly stopped dead. This means a far number of the latter books have no FAQ. The unfathomable thing with this is that typically there were only 2-3 key things which required clarification with each new book e.g. Remember Predatory Fighter for supporting ranks. Yes the world continued to turn but GW could have made it easier.

Secondly, when GW committed to a five year cycle for the edition, it would have been so much easier to complete the Army Book cycle. It would have been great to have the final three books updated to fit with the twelve they released between 2011-14. They didn't and instead we got the End Times

Finally, the End Times. I loved the fact that the story progressed and that we didn't know the fate of characters and places that had existed for 30 years in the fluff. I really enjoyed the "story" in Nagash, Glottkin and Thanquol - though the actual writing accompanying the storytelling often left an awful lot to be desired. While I liked the "screw job" in Khaine - that Malekith was right all along - I found the whole Kumbaya Elf story a stretch too far while the whole of Archaon was pretty chaotic (no pun intended).

The models that accompanied ET were great - and demonstrate GW has daylight between it and its competitors - but the rules were problematic. It was mildly amusing how some of the biggest fans of ET rules when Nagash was released were its biggest critics at the end (I guess shoving a Terrorghiest in TKs didn't make up for HotEK!).

But worst the End Times release scared off 8th's core support. The uncomped game became unplayable and some fluff bunnies hated the thrust of the story progression. And that was before the end - Ka-Boom!

So we now have a situation where we wait and see what GW does from here. Personally I hope we get some sort of situation where the rules - at least - are a form of v8.5.

Because for those there for the five years - WHFB 8th Edition made a great game!


  1. Well put mate all I can add is this is the best edition I have played better than 3rd 4th 6th and 7th by miles. I never go in to a game knowing it's a forgone conclusion (in almost all cases)

  2. I only had a few games of 7th ed WHFB, but 100% agree on everything regarding 8th Ed WHFB. Compared to any other system I have played, it's just overall better. "Overall" better mind you, not better in every way, but the complete package is a great wargame.

  3. So far I have found that every edition of Warhammer has been better than the previous edition. (since 4th in my case)
    So if we all sing along together with the power of positive thought "We can work it out" and 9th will be great.
    "Always look on the bright side of life. Da doo, da doo, da doo da doo da doo."


  4. 8th was certainly head, shoulders and torso over 7th edition, the only other one I've played. 8th was very good, and it would have been great if they'd done as you'd suggested; better FAQs, updated all army books, as well as more care with rules writing, and better internal balance.

    But overall a hell of a lot of fun, and worth the scarce money and leisure time I put into it. I really do hope 9th is as good a mass-combat game, and possibly even better.

  5. Great post Pete - I agree 8th Edition is an awesome rule set. Nothing more frustrating than playing 7th and knowing the game was over (with dwarfs) before it even began a lot of the time. I think its far more balanced now and definitely a lot of fun to play. Dice and carnage everywhere - I still don't think I have seen or played a game of 8th where at least one army wasn't completely destroyed makes it a lot of fun.

    As far as 9th Ed goes I am not holding my breath for it to create a resurgence in interest for WHFB not unless GW makes some hugely dramatic changes to its pricing structure. Compared to X-Wing it is still prohibitively expensive to get into 40k/WHFB. Hopefully any changes result in it being easier for new gamers to pick up WHFB so we start to see an influx of new faces at events.