Tuesday, 4 July 2017

8th edition thoughts - a few games in


Greetings all! I know things have been pretty quiet on the blog front recently - let's blame having been away on holiday then having a lot of work to catch up on when I returned shall we? It probably also doesn't help that I'm working hard on getting some scenery painted up and trying to get my head round 8th edition as well.

That's what I wanted to talk about today however, my first impressions of the new edition after a few games.


List building

Wow, what a difference. I'll admit to having enjoyed building lists in 7th edition, looking for ways to build thematic collections and armies whilst still remaining effective on the tabletop.

I'll be honest, in 8th edition I'm finding list building much more difficult. I've been concentrating my efforts on space marines, as they form the lions share of my collection, and I've found that we're probably looking at around a 30% increase in the cost of my armies over their old incarnations.

In particular, I think some of my favourite unit from the old codex have seen a massive price hike - Now I've got to take that as a compliment to an extent in that I'd obviously gravitated towards using stuff that when 8th was tested was considered to be more effective than its points would indicate.

Particular extreme examples of this would be the lascannon centurions that have jumped from 260pts to 420, and the stormhawk which increased by about 50% for the weapon loadout I use.

Consequently, what I'm finding is that even though we're seeing the game speed up and therefore allowing larger games to take place, my armies are overall smaller in terms of models on the table.

I haven't really got my head around writing lists for 8th yet and properly balancing the different elements of a successful army, but it's clear that this is an area where I'm going to need to put significant effort in if I want to win games. All choices seem far more viable now than they used to, however it's also clear that getting a truly balanced list out of things is trickier than before.

Gameplay

I really don't have many complaints here. the rules allow a very smooth game, with most of the stoppages I and my opponents have experienced being more to check that there weren't any rules covering something than because we didn't understand a thing. Definitely a hangover from 7th where there would almost certainly be a rule to cover a situation if only you could find it.

I do have a few little niggles though, some you'll probably recognise, some may not be so familiar, and please if I've misread something then let me know in the comments!

  • Re-rolls and modifiers. I'm sure you've heard about these, but if you haven't then let me give you an example. The developer's commentary states that re-rolls are to be taken before any modifiers to a roll apply. The effect of this is that if you have an ability to re-roll a die or dice, you might not get the chance to use it For example a heavy bolter firing within 6" of Pedro Kantor can re-roll misses. Its 3 shots all come up with a 3 on the die, so they all hit. But you're firing after moving so there's a -1 penalty. You don't get to re-roll because the initial roll would be a hit, but it's then modified down to a 2 so they all miss. Now that's fine and dandy, and it's clearly stated that's how it works, but it makes me feel like I'm being cheated, because having paid the points to get Kantor into my army for this ability, I'm not allowed to use it, and that penalty only applies to the army getting the re-rolls - if they had applied the opposite logic and applied modifiers before re-rolls then the army that applies the modifier still gets the benefit. Taking our earlier example those 3's would all have missed, so I'd re-roll them all, but the -1 modifier would still apply. This sort of thing is frustrating and I really hope they take another look at it and reverse that decision, because to my mind it's counter-intuitive, and 8th edition seems to have tried really hard to be quite intuitive in its design.
Edit - having thought about this one some more and following some comments made by my readers, I think the following would be the best way of 'fixing' this issue. If aura abilities that currently (for example) allow re-rolls of 1 to hit were re-written to allow the re-roll only on unmodified rolls of 1 to hit, and re-rolls were then taken after modifiers, it wouldn't penalise someone for having a positive to hit modifier, but would still allow the benefit of the re-roll included in the cost of the model as one of its abilities.
  • Mortal wounds. Not in principle, but in terms of sheer availability. It seems a little strange to me that smite is allowed to be cast any number of times by characters in the game, but other psychic powers can only be cast once. It's relatively easy to spam several psykers in a list and several instances of D3/D6 mortal wounds every turn with no recourse other than your own psykers (which obviously not every army has access to) has the potential I think to unbalance things. I've not played a game where it's been done yet, but I can certainly see it being so.
  • 'Deep strike' - or not as it doesn't strictly exist any more. Nice as it may be that I can now set up my own units exactly where I want them to be on the table, there's always a downside, and having watched some terminators with combi meltas pop into existence exactly where they wanted to be and vapourise my aforementioned extremely expensive unit of Centurions, I felt a certain potential for abuse of that rule. Sure, you can argue that the answer is to bubble wrap them so they're out of range, in cover etc but that is now more difficult than ever. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I do like the idea of a 2d6 roll-off with your opponent and if the opponent wins then they can move the unit by the difference in the dice rolls in any direction.
Overall though I'm really enjoying the gameplay in the new edition, in particular the fact that units intended for a particular role seem to excel at it when compared to all-round units. For example, you can no longer throw a 5-man unit of marines in the way of a combat unit and expect them to hold it up for any significant time.

Rulebook

This one is probably just me, but is anyone else still having issues finding things in the rulebook? This was a major problem in 7th, because there were so many potential places for rules to hide. Now it's not so much an issue of which section is that rule in, but more 'where the hell are the rules anyway?' The rules themselves form such a small part of the book it's sometimes tricky to actually find them in the book, added to which the matched play elements are in a different spot, warlords etc have moved. I'm sure I'll get used to it soon but it's still a niggle that the rulebook contains all that fluff in the front. I'd have preferred a similar solution to 7th edition here, with one book for background and one for all the rules, scenarios etc.

Skill

Interesting one here. I'd say I'm a decent player of 40k - sometimes let down by rules, sometimes by the odd rush of blood to my head. 

I've now played 4 games of 8th, 3 at 750pts with the Primaris models from the box (not all of them) and one at 2000pts with a mixed force from my existing collection of marines. I've yet to win a game. Now I'm not crying about that too much, 3 of those games have been against the toughest opponent I play on a regular basis using either new forces or semi-experimental combinations, often doing things just to see if they could (charging a tactical squad into an angry contemptor probably wasn't tactically sound - might have been more so if you could still use melta bombs in combat!).

That being said though, it has become very clear to me that if there's one thing 8th edition is, it's the edition of the right tool for the job, with the wrong one being a very bad idea. those first 3 games with the primaris marines felt very much like they were outclassed by the dedicated units I was facing. game one I faced slaanesh and khorne daemons, which were simply too quick and too powerful in combat for the intercessors, then the other smaller games went much along the same lines, not enough shooting to take down the combat units heading my way, and not enough punch once they arrived. I'm sure this will change when we start to see other units for the primaris boys, but for now they feel very limited in effectiveness.

When I escalated to 2000pts and used my normal marine collection, things definitely went better, and despite being tabled on turn 4, I had at least taken his knight down to a couple of wounds, his daemon prince only had a single wound left and his scorpius just avoided having to use its worst profile. That being said, it was still a tabling, something I've not had for a long time, and it wasn't easy to take - on occasions it was my dice that let me down though and I have to say that is something that is also very obvious from this edition so far - with the increased number of wounds of so many things, and the random damage inflicted by weapons, 8th edition may very well leave us more at the whim of the dice gods than ever before - I'd tested the lascannon centurions at home before including them in my list and on average they'd taken around 18 wounds off a knight, and on occasions, as many as 22. In game, my rolling of course let me down and I stripped 11, not even forcing it into its middle profile.

Command points

This is an interesting one. I must admit, having read about them beforehand, I thought they'd be a bit of a gimmick. Having used them in my first couple of games, I figured that occasionally they'd really just even out performance a little, knocking off the really unlucky dice roll here and there.

That's not quite doing them justice however. That 2000pt game showed just how effective careful use of your command points could be, as my opponent saved them till late in the game. That turn, I'd managed to charge both his knight with Pedro Kantor (who actually survived a turn of getting stepped one surprisingly) and his daemon prince warlord (down to 1 wound) with my unit of 5 Cataphractii. Now, I figured I'd fight with Kantor first and see if he could take out the knight before he got mushed by the contemptor next to it, and he did ok. My opponent however then used the stratagem to allow him to fight a combat out of order, and I watched in horror as from the 8 wounds that the daemon prince managed to cause, I failed 5 of my invulnerable saves, each of them doing multiple damage and from a position of being reasonably confident I could threaten a board quarter with them supported by some vanguard veterans, the terminators disappeared before getting to fight and the veterans were overwhelmed in short order.

So, gimmicky they may be, but waste them at your peril!

Troops

I think it very much depends on the faction you're playing, but to be honest, with marines I see very little reason to take troops units at the moment. Getting rid of obsec I believe has been a mistake, and as was feared the need to have more models within 3" of an objective to control it grants a distinct advantage to horde style armies. At the moment, I've not played any horde armies in response, but from the games I've had, I'd rather take a specialist detachment than use a battalion and pay for three troops units that aren't going to be massively effective. Yes, it's not the biggest pile of evidence yet, but I think there are plenty of ways of getting horde firepower into my army without picking up and using tactical squads. Equally, having to get out of a transport before it moves really limits a tactical squad's ability to claim objectives, as you can't do it on the turn you draw it if they need the extra movement.

Codices to come

This is a big one for me I think.

What I feel having played only space marines so far, is that whilst they are, as ever, a tough army and capable of holding their own against almost anything that is thrown against them, they are really lacking flavour at the moment. Hopefully that will come back in once a codex is released and we get things like army specific detachments and stratagems, and fingers crossed chapter tactics remain (possibly one of the best ideas I think GW have ever come up with). At the moment, the generic re-rolls from auras and the 'default' powers they get from the index feel a bit lacklustre in comparison to some of the other factions, and ATSKNF is either not necessary or at best, occasionally useful and certainly doesn't feel like a faction-defining ability anymore.

So there you have it - sorry if it was a bit wordy, and well done if you managed to get this far!