40k 6th Edition Rumors: What do they mean?

The 40k blogosphere is vibrating from the recent rumor mill output. Warhammer 40,000's 6th Edition is rumored to be a massive step away from the streamlined principles we came to know in 3rd, 4th, and 5th. I'm therefore interrupting the scheduled Shawn Abreu Treasury program this week to share some thoughts on the rumors while they are still fresh.

The overall tone of the rumors suggests a far more complicated tabletop game. Being able to control your units beyond the move/shoot/assault basics is a HUGE leap toward realism. Maneuvering will actually mean something now with units switching between flying and non-flying states and passive actions such as overwatch negating enemy advantages. 

From a design perspective this is incredibly challenging. How can you playtest and ensure balance across millions of possible interactions without resorting to global beta testing? Software-borne games have veteran Quality Assurance teams working around the clock and they've only recently managed to keep players from escaping the map in multiplayer. That's with real-time "invisible" updates available to them through the internet too. 

It's great to have choices and to feel that those choices reflect what you might expect real combatants to do or feel at any given time. Yes, a flying rocket-powered motorcycle should be more difficult to hit than a Monolith. Yes, there are battles taking place apart from the one in the immediate area that affect the arrival of fresh troops. 

But have you ever played one of those games against someone who is constantly second-guessing themselves? Have you ever had a seemingly straightforward player turn degenerate into a 40 minute movement phase that sees a paranoid Ork player agonize over the placement of every Boy? 

What if we doubled the phases in each turn as the rumors suggest? Add variables that require the full spectrum of characteristic tests and odds of success or failure that goes beyond the simple computations that one can make on the spur of the moment. Simple possibilities of being pinned spiral out of control with new modifiers to shooting, cover, wound allocating, possibly characteristic tests and tiered leadership tests. 

Certainly knowledge of the rules - both codex and main rulebook - would have to be impeccable (they seldom are even "good" in my opinion) and the game would be virtually off-limits to those players that don't roll dice often enough  to get a feel for complex probabilities. The tiniest diversions from the main book (house rules) would widen into gaps that two players playing a pick-up game will never be able to solve.

I am comfortable with a ruleset that strains even the best players to their limits whilst providing a cinematic tabletop experience. Such things as mainstream flyers and implacable tanks speak to the wargamer in me - I want the tabletop  to feel like an Abnett novel. Stratagems even give me a way to respond to the army across from in a meaningful way before the fight begins - just like a real army!

Sadly I just can't see how these rumors could be true. There's virtually no hope of selling such a franchise to the casual gaming market or even the short-attention-span/short-tempered "core" gamer screaming obscenities into his XBL microphone. With so much choice the average game length would stretch far beyond the capabilities of the one-game-a-month player. 

We've been asking for more complex rulesets for a while now. It really has felt as if most of GW's recent rules attempts have been aimed squarely at 15 year old boys to the exclusion of even the 20 year tabletop veteran. But this rumor post is just unlikely. It's difficult for change on this scale to be made successfully to begin with. Large scale change with a view toward realism is a recipe for disaster. 



sabreu said…
I honestly couldn't believe the rumors when I heard them. Too much change, too soon. Considering Games Workshop's consistent statements they would never make such a radical transition after moving from 2nd to 3rd edition, it seems very unlucky when taken as a whole. I see fliers, super heavies, and stratagems as certain to be true. Everything else is highly suspect to me at this time.
Ahrimaneus said…
Very well thought out and thoroughly explored post as usual Atrotos.  I agree on the fact that these changes are just too much too fast.  A lot of VERY complex things, at least when taken into account with the rest of the game, are just a recipe for failure.  Fliers, check.  With the big-time push towards large kits, and the inclusion of the Valkyrie, Stormraven, Razorwing, and Voidraven, This is clearly a step in the right direction, particularly taking into account the popularity (and price!) of the kits.  I rather doubt superheavies will be included as part of the core game, and believe they'll remain an expansion/fringe thing.  However, they may have a rules section thrown into the BRB, in order to make it look more and more like a Psyker's tome of lore and jack up it's price further.  Variable Instant Death, Veiling, Feel no Pain, etc i find to be a little unlikely.  It's an awful lot of things to take into account and retroactively FAQ/clarify in older codices.  Possible, but again unlikely.

So overall, I think Fliers, Stratagems (awesome!) and possibly rules levels are a step in the right direction.  I would be SHOCKED if they made the turn-phases more expansive and complicated.  It already takes long enough as it is to finish a game!
Master_Bryss said…
As a 15 year old boy, (OK, fine, two years older than that) I strongly demand everything be simples. Sort of. I tried to learn Necromunda once and gave up because of all the variables. That said, I grasp complex stuff well if taught by someone, so...
I'm generally not paying attention to early rumours, but the general push should be towards efficiency but with more variability. I'd be happy if Flyers and stratagems made it in, with more mission types. I'd be even happier if a formation system made it in, something I might have as my summer project.

Oh, and for the love of feth integrate Running into the Movement Phase. 90% of the time you know what units will run from turn start and moving them twice is a waste of time.
Atrotos said…
How do you feel about strategems?
Atrotos said…
I think superheavies seem like they would wreck the game but once we get used to them it'll just be business as usual. Remember when an army of scoring, shooty TH/SS Terminators seemed ridiculous? 

If any of the relevant rumors are true I  predict a multipart rulebook - that's how they get your money.
Atrotos said…
You really think superheavies are certain? I don't think they'll ruin the game but it doesn't seem as if folks are ready for them yet. 
sabreu said…
I think so. It seems reasonable to believe GW is going to include the rules for Super Heavies in the core rule book: whether they are going to incorporate them into the main rules, are allow a dynamic allowance based on types of games is to be seen. I can see it now: one or two pages dedicated to the super heavy units and in the mission sections an outline for standard battles, apocalyptic battles, skirmishes, etc. Or at least I'm hoping for that.
Master_Bryss said…
It depends on the stratagems. The current lot in expansions can be a bit of a mixed bag. Any core rulebook stratagems would have to be fairly weak advantages, and it would still make the game harder to balance.

As for formations, I'm in the brainstorming phase of something for Battle Companies that may or may not see the light of day...