Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition: A Returner's Review, Part 1

Once upon a time, there was a blogger who stopped playing 40k a few months into the oddly short lifespan of 6th Edition. Although he picked up the 7th Edition rulebook on a popular internet auction site to see if it had improved on the things he disliked about 6th, it in fact did not. A few years passed, and he largely forgot about the intricacies of the game he once loved... until one day he received an e-mail.

Really, he should have seen this coming. Having never bothered to unsubscribe from GMW's mailing list, he was fully abreast of recent plot developments such as the unlikely resurrection of Roboute Guilliman and how a very similar chain of events preceded the arrival of a game called Age of Sigmar. Honestly, in hindsight the repetition was painfully obvious, but never mind that. A new edition had been announced, one to be different from other editions, complete with a new FAQ about the whole process written in an unconvincingly happy-go-lucky way. A few weeks later, and we all had it. No, seriously. We all did. Your grandmother now has the capacity to learn to move a unit of T'au Fire Warriors. Your grandmother is very tech-savvy. Like the T'au.

Of course, if anyone can get their hands on the core rules, any idiot can review it. Enter the me. Given that the Battle Primer is 15 pages of PDF, I think I can get away with doing this piecemeal, with comparative notes and suchlike, before taking a look at what it all adds up to. Here, then, is the actual review, three paragraphs in, because I had to increase my word count somehow.

The Cover

...It's got a hammer on it. Job done. A vast improvement on the unhammered 6th and 7th. This is a good start on the 'back to basics' theme that seems to be aimed for here.

Obviously I'm talking about the PDF here, the printed copy that came with First Strike has no hammer. Not even on the back.

Verdict So Far: I mean, we've not really started...

Units & The Battle Round

Page 2 (the cover was Page 1) covers three things; Units, The Battle Round and Tools of War. It also notes that the rules for individual models, are to be found on individual Datasheets. Nothing new there.

The stand-out changes here are twofold. One, there is no mention of templates anywhere in the Tools section. Indeed, a cursory browse of the only Index I presently own, Xenos I (Necrons and Dark Eldar are always priority one), shows a lack of templates anywhere. Weapons that used the old Flamer template are now generally 8" range that generate D6 automatic hits, whilst Blast weapons are dealt with more variably. I feel like we're too near the beginning to go into a big tangent on these, so let's get back to that later.

The other big change is that the game has gone from having three phases to six in the space of three editions. I only played a handful of games in 7th so don't have much practice with the Psychic phase, so that's basically new to me alongside the Morale phase and splitting Assault into Charge and Fight phases. Generally, all this seems to have been done to compartmentalise the varied aspects of the game, which in theory should make it easier to learn. A Morale phase in particular seems like a good idea to me, since Morale of old was really just a tacked-on thing that might or might not be triggered, making it easier to forget in the heat of battle. Also, it makes it easier to soften up units before charging them without running the risk of them bolting before you can so much as put your spiky boots on.

Verdict: More phases with less to do is better than less phases with more to do, especially in larger games with more units. We'll see about this template thing.


Stolen Soul Kabalite Warriors (A), Raider (B) and Razorwing Jetfighter (C). All (pretty much) moved the same way.

Page 3 covers the Movement Phase. All of it. Every single unit in the game. Including vehicles. Rather than having a billion subtypes of movement, everything has a Move value and that's its top speed. Moving through ruins and other difficult terrain? Spend some Move to go vertical. Job's a good 'un. Things that Fly ignore terrain entirely, although Fly is quite a universal term here. For example, a Dark Eldar Razorwing can Fly, as can a Reaver Jetbike.  As can a Monolith.

Some units with Fly have a minimum as well as a maximum speed, a carryover from the Flyer vehicle subtype that requires you to end moves X inches away from your start position. Furthermore, the planes of the setting now appear to just have the pivot rule on their sheet instead of cluttering up the core book with it. Dangerous Terrain is gone, units that could Deep Strike and Infiltrate now seem to have this new Reinforcement setup thing going whereby they show up at the end of the Movement Phase at least X inches away from enemy units, with no risk of your 400-odd point Terminator Squad hitting a bush and getting stabbed in the innards.

The old Run rules have also been integrated into Movement as Advancing, which is something I always did anyway and welcome with open arms. As before, you cannot Advance and then Charge without a special rule that lets you do it, so if it's all you're going to do with that unit that turn, why not do it all in one go?

The most notable thing here for me is the addition of Fall Back moves. It is now always possible to get out of combat with enemy models, but as it is literally all you can do with your unit that turn, you have to decide whether it's worth it to do so or not. This also means that the old Sweeping Advance rule is gone, preventing your entire unit of 14 Ork Boyz from dying because they couldn't hit a couple of Wyches. Basically, it turns a roll-off into a genuine tactical decision, especially since the other player has the same option available to them.

Verdict: Far simpler and no random death? Sign me up.


Exercitus Hereticus Psyker and Doom Legion Librarian. At their core, similar, but at last able to select different powers again!

Page 4 covers the Psychic Phase, with some margin notes on indidental things like roll-offs that could have gone anywhere and don't really affect the flow of the book.

The old Psychic Phase, as far as I could work out, was a re-hash of the Magic Phase from Warhammer Fantasy Battle, with Mastery Levels and rolls upon rolls. It took seven pages to explain. Here? One, and as far as I can work out nothing has really been lost. You still have Psychic tests, you still have Perils, which has gone back from a randomsauce table to 'take D3 wounds, no saves at all' with an additional chance to explodinate nearby models, and you still have Deny The Witch, which now needs to be undertaken by an actual psyker and not just Guardsman Steve over there who had a heretical thought last Tuesday and moved a paper cup by an Imperial millimetre. Yes, I am aware I just said Imperial millimetre.

Oh! I worked out what we lost! The stupid Warp Charge points mechanic where the amount of powers you could use every turn was decided by chance. I'd genuinely expunged that rule from my brain, because bugger that for a game of soldiers. Warp Charge is now the value you need to beat to use any given power, and if THAT roll is beaten by the enemy psyker you are Denied. The number of powers you can use per psyker is on the model's Datasheet. There. Done. Simple.

The powers themselves are also much improved. Most Psykers get a basic and easy-to-manifest power, Smite, plus a few powers from entirely race-specific tables. Even better, the Indices explain that, whilst you CAN roll for your powers if you want, you can just pick them instead. This is a considerable improvement on the generic and basically random discipline system from 6th and 7th, especially 7th with its 'oh you can summon Daemons now if you want to and aren't a Grey Knight' deal. The racial tables all seem to have three powers each, which isn't a lot but based on the Eldar table it's probably the ones we all used 95% of the time anyway.

Verdict: We've moved from 'roll a dice to see what you can roll a dice to use if you roll a dice and also your opponent can roll a dice' to 'pick powers, roll to test, roll to deny, if not denied execute.' I'm so much happier with this as a game phase than the weirdness from before.

This concludes Part 1 of the review! In Part 2 we'll discuss the remaining four phases: Shooting, Charge, Fight, and Morale, and then look at the game more generally in Part 3.