Friday, 9 February 2018

Is 8th edition the most abstract edition we've ever played?

Greetings all, feels like an age since I've written a piece like this for the blog! I was reading a post the other day on the excellent March of the Damned, and in adding a comment to the bottom of the post, I got to thinking about 8th edition and how its rules represent things on the tabletop, and what really struck me was how the rules across the editions change, and how they represent the conceptual parts of the game overall.

So, what do I mean by this? Well, let's start from the beginning shall we? I started playing 40k during 2nd edition (though I didn't play all that many games under that ruleset if I'm honest, and much of my knowledge of it comes from Necromunda, which used the same system essentially).

To any of you who have never played 2nd edition, it was a ruleset designed to represent small clashes between forces, skirmishes really, and so the rules were very detailed, and really conveyed the 'reality' of the action very well indeed. There was a real problem however, as the miniature range expanded, people added more models to their collections and games began to take longer to finish - let me give you a few examples.

Overwatch - a term that anyone that has played 40k is familiar with, overwatch was a very different beast in 2nd edition, and disappeared completely in 3rd. Overwatch was an action that your squads took instead of shooting, and meant that they could instead shoot at an enemy unit that moved within their range and line of sight during the opponent's turn (shock! All those cries about the you go I go system of 40k meaning one player stands around doing nothing and they used to have rules like this!😉). The problem was of course that it was often more effective to do this (due to hit modifiers for enemy units being in cover) and so much of a player's turn simply consisted of units going into overwatch and doing nothing else all game!

Modifiers - as I touched on above, modifiers to hit with shooting meant you had to adjust your hit rolls all the time, as well as armour save modifiers, cover, damage rolls etc meant that even marines could stand very little chance of hitting their target much of the time, and working out the actual hit roll was a nightmare!

Combat - Wow, this system was clearly designed to be a detailed representation of a one-on-one fight, and it worked well in that respect. One dice for each attack, adding weapon skill and other modifiers (critical hits, fumbles etc) and the difference between the highest numbers being the number of times the opponent was hit, blah blah blah. Yes, great in a system like necromunda where any one combat will probably only have a couple of participants, but in 40k where you could easily see squads of 10+ hammering away at each other, it became a nightmare to resolve very quickly indeed.

So, 3rd edition ripped all of that up and introduced the idea of a weapon skill comparison, and a fixed value resulting in a hit. It also got rid of movement values, calculation of movement distance during vehicles turns etc, and as a whole simplified the system a lot.

In essence, it took the detailed system of 2nd ed and threw it in the bin, coming up with a simplification to allow for faster games, with a system that abstracted the detailed concepts and came up instead with something that represented what had happened, but without going through all the individual details.

Sound familiar?

Yep, you guessed it, 8th edition has done something very similar, and abstracted the detailed concepts (like templates and blast weapons, and comparison of weapon skills etc) of 7th edition to more simplified methods. In essence, the concepts the rules represent are the same, but the method of achieving the end result becomes easier and quicker.

It's the same thing with vehicle shooting, something I see waved as a 'classic' example of 8th edition rules being too simple.

No. It's simply another abstraction. The rules don't represent a flyer shooting out of its arse at the vehicle behind it, it's simply the abstraction of the concept that the shooting occurred part way through its movement and the rest of that movement has resulted in the 'end' position being somewhere else. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying 8th is a perfect system (drop pod rules for starters get me highly vexed) but for every issue you have with it, I would strongly suggest that you have a look at the rule and decide if it's actually simply an abstracted concept rather than a 'stupid rule'.

Personally, I really enjoy 8th edition, but I am firmly of the opinion that it's the most abstract edition yet!