Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition: A Returner's Review, Part 2

Where we last left off, we'd covered the basics as well as the Movement and Psychic Phases. We now move onto the meat and potatoes of the game: shooting and close combat, as well as the new Morale Phase...


Hmm... what to shoot, what to shoot... how about everything? Split between both units if I want? Sound good?

Pages 5-7 cover the various aspects of Shooting and weapons, although Page 7 applies equally to close combat attacks. The core is basically the same, although the Snap Shot rule introduced in 6th is gone. An important but easy-to-miss line states that all models, unless otherwise noted, attack with ALL of their ranged weapons. For example, a Razorwing Jetfighter is armed with two disintegrator cannons, a twin splinter rifle and Razorwing Missiles (the four one-off missiles thing is gone, instead each Shooting Phase you pick one profile and fire it). All of that fires. No faffing around with combat speed.

Ballistic Skill now works like Armour Saves in that the stat is a dice roll rather than a number. Again, this is good streamlining, as the number of models with BS greater than five under the old rules could be counted on two hands and therefore could just have an individual re-roll rule in their sheet. Meanwhile, the To Wound table is no longer a mess of numbers but instead gives you five possibilities that ultimately amount to the same thing. The major change here is that having a certain level of Toughness no longer makes you immune to small arms fire, which means that once again a Grot Blasta has the unlikely ability to sink a Land Raider. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but in practice it's not going to happen very often so I can live with it.

Weapon types changed a bit again. Most notably, no weapon type precludes a Charge. Yes, including Heavy weapons on infantry. Naturally, this means Assault Weapons changed significantly, now being the only type of weapon that can fire after an Advance move (albeit at a -1 penalty). Meanwhile, Pistols went into their own little world, becoming the only weapon that can be fired in combat at the cost of you being able to fire only Pistols or non-Pistols. Heavy weapons fire at -1 if you moved, which gives heavy weapons units a smidge more flexibility than the Snap Fire rule allowed.

Wound allocation is back to manual selection from the 'closest first' rule, which is good news for anyone holding a flamethrower. We also now have a new weapon stat: Damage, which is mostly relevant for anti-tank weapons since that's how you're going to get most of their Wounds off. Things like melta guns and fusion blasters now inflict D6 damage, which means vehicle destruction randomness is now back to more of a 'will-it-die-won't-it' with an ultimate end point rather than 'it takes three glancing hits and falls over.' Whilst I think being a bit tougher is fine, a melta gun should really have a bottom line above 1 damage. You can live with D3 being a 1, but a D6? When you have 20 Wounds of Monolith to get through? 2D6 and pick the higher one would be better, surely?

Damage is also relevant for that classic of units: the multi-wound non-vehicle squad. Every edition of 40k without fail has some sort of issue with multi-wound infantry units. To prevent sharing the wound love, this edition forces you to allocate Wounds to already-wounded models first. This means that if only one model in the unit is wounded, you must allocate individual wounds to it until it dies before allocating any more.

This Plague Marine squad just wounded an Intercessor with its blight launcher. If the bolter wants to do anything, it's going to have to take the wounded one down first...

 Fortunately, if it has the same profile as other models in the unit, like an Intercessor Squad, you could still roll a group of saves at once and then just kill off the weakened one first. Characters aren't an issue either as they technically don't join units anymore, just become harder to target from further away. However, if it is a unit of Meganobz, each of which has 3 Wounds, a 2+ Save and is armed with a different gun and weapon loadout to the other Nobz, you could be there a while unless you've got some decent AP.

Right, yes, AP! It now actually penetrates armour instead of just ignoring certain types of it! This is a thing I like, because suddenly things like heavy bolters actually feel like they're doing a bit more against 3+ base saves. Also, grenades that can be thrown for a bit more close-range punch are neat. I'd say more but look how many paragraphs I've used up here.

Verdict: Still as effective as ever, I see. The game will always be built around this phase, and nothing here changes this.

Charge & Fight

Sub-phases no longer! Charge is the same as it was in the last two editions, except that Overwatch can now be performed multiple times in a turn. This seems sensible enough to me, recalling that one time in 6th that I got charged by two different Tyranid monsters except the first was less likely to make it and really only being used to waste my Overwatch. The other key difference is that Characters, no longer part of units, must make their own independent charge rolls as well as personally intervene to get into fights started by the enemy. It seems like an oversight that they can't latch onto the charge roll of a nearby friendly unit, really, since it seems to work on the same logic that Heroic Intervention does (i.e. wanting to get stuck in alongside their troops). Still, it's not like we couldn't get a rules patch on that since it's up for free- ahaha wait no I forgot which game I was talking about. House rule it it is.

A typical combat between some Ork Boyz, some Kabalite Warriors and... a Raider? Yeah, vehicles can all charge now. Same statline type, remember?

 The removal of the Initiative stat has changed the character of the phase into an I-go-you-go deal, starting with the turn player, with the exception that charging units, rather than gaining bonus attacks, strike before anyone else. In practice, this means one-on-one combat will go A-B-B-A before going back to normal, with a bonus pistol round in between the two Bs. What I'm saying is, charging another combat-focussed unit might be risky if you don't do some serious damage with your opening round. Orks, meanwhile, are loving the fact that they no longer charge and subsequently forget what it was they were supposed to be doing again.

One thing I didn't talk about in the Shooting bit above, mostly because paragraphs, was that every unit is now able to split fire between targets, on a by model and by weapon basis. This flexibility also carries over to assault, as units with multiple CCWs can use some of their attacks on each weapon as well as split them between eligible units. The Plague Champion in the First Strike box is like this, being armed with a plague knife and a power fist (which now strike at -1 to hit rolls as opposed to striking last) and having 2 attacks to split between them. This all seems to be a move designed to cut down dice wastage and increase model death, which in turn hopefully makes the game shorter.

These pages also contain the Transport rules. The main thing here is that you can assault out of Transports but only if they haven't moved yet. In fact, you can't disembark at all if the transport moves during the turn. This means you've got a turn of hoping your armoured box holds up before you can do anything, but in exchange, you've got 3 extra inches of movement the turn you disembark from the transport. This is pretty significant, especially for things like Incubi which can theoretically charge up to 22" ahead if they are extremely lucky. That's terrifying. If your box holds up...

Verdict: I feel like I'll need to play a few more combats to see what this has really done for the game. Let Lelith and Drazhar back out the box and such. The removal of Initiative is probably one of the biggest changes in all of 8th and that needs time to sink in.


Morale is crucial to the health of your squ- oi! Where do you think YOU'RE going?

Previous rules on Morale? Several pages over two different game phases. Here? Two paragraphs. Both players test any unit that lost models that turn. 2D6 plus models slain, if you exceed Leadership you lose another. Chances are this won't be a game-breaking loss type deal, but it makes big damage hurt a tiny bit more or lucky chip damage hurt a lot more. Again, this seems designed to help the game end faster, and unlike with the old Fall Back rules, there's no continuous upkeep.

WAIT HOLD ON, I MISREAD THAT. You lose a model for EACH point you fail the test by. Change the words 'tiny bit' to 'lot' in the last paragraph. Yep, the game is definitely going to end faster with them big guns. And it's not going to be fun for small low-Leadership squads like... ummm... what were Imperial Guard Veterans at again? 8? Although I suppose this does mitigate the 'one man unit hangs on' effect. I seem to remember a similar mechanic to this being in Mantic Games' old Warpath ruleset, although that game handled squad management very differently. Amusing, the alpha rulebook for that game was only 16 pages long and at that time (July 2011), I said I'd be impressed if they could fit a decent core book into that space. Oh how times change.

OH WAIT, STILL MISREADING. It's not 2D6 at all. It's 1D6, and it took two games for me to realise this (I blame the fact that it's placed in an afterthought of a text box instead of having a proper subheader). This means that chip damage isn't going to bother LD7 squads as much, which is better than an essentially 50/50 chance to lose two models instead of one. It also means that it's not possible to lose more models than you did from the actual shooting, which happened to me in a game I misplayed, because you will (most of the time) never be able to exceed your base Leadership with the dice roll, giving you a point or two of cushioning before you start losing troops. This means that Morale will only ever be relevant for big damage, which seems a bit more just and proper.

Really though, I find this phase a bit tacked on. It's like they realised they had to do something with Leadership, or that they were told they could scrap a maximum of one previous statistic. This and the fact that you can run away from a unit of Khorne Berzerkers that are literally right in your face without penalty seem off to me.

Verdict: Having finally worked out how to properly apply this rule, I guess the closest equivalent would be the old No Retreat rule from 5th Edition. I guess it's nice to not lose your entire squad if it flees below half strength, but this feels a lot less developed than Morale in previous editions.

Once I've played a few more games you shall have Part 3, where I might actually have to write a lot more reviewy bits.  In the meantime, you'll get a few session reports and maybe some unrelated to 40k stuff. See ya!