An Unpleasant Future for Warhammer 40k 9th Edition?

by | Jul 24, 2020

It is the official 9th edition release day, and everywhere across the internet folks are making predictions or absolutes about what 9th edition is and isn’t. I typically avoid these kinds of “click bait”, but it isn’t every day we get a new edition of Warhammer 40k, so in with that in mind, I want to give my predictions on the dangers Warhammer 40k 9th edition is facing at launch.

If reading is hard for you, you are always welcome to watch the companion YouTube video to this post linked here and shown below!

The biggest danger going into 9th edition is the implementation of secondary objectives. Taking a cue from the various tournament packets around the world, Games Workshop has added victory conditions you can get progressively or at the end of the game. The list of core secondaries are both familiar and new, but for the most part don’t feel very well thought out, hurting certain armies over others and being overly imbalanced in some cases. 

Now this isn’t such a big deal at first glance because Games Workshop can easily make adjustments to them as we go. The biggest problem though is how things will evolve. Games Workshop has stated new secondary victory condition actions will be in each new 9th edition codex. This is a new kind of codex creep we have never seen before, and one that if history is any lesson will end with terrible consequences. Necrons, Deathwatch, and Space Marines look to be the first new armies to get a codex for 9th, giving them more ways to win games over every other faction. It took over a year for Games Workshop to release new codexes for every faction in 8th, and that was behind a very aggressive commitment. Games Workshop hasn’t made similar commitment for 9th, which makes one believe we could see armies without a codex for at least two years. Games Workshop should instead just release all faction focused actions NOW, or at the latest by 2021 Chapter Approved, to make sure all factions are on a “even” playing-field. As it stands, Games Workshop claims they made the most balanced and playable edition of Warhammer 40k just won’t hold water if every new codex by default has a leg up on ones that don’t!

Second, and related still related to missions, is the system itself. By increasing the possible amount of points scored in games to a max 100 points. While this will allow for more variety in game spreads, it has the untended consequences of increasing the chances of rampant unintentional and intentional cheating at every game. Players had hard time enough properly scoring 42 point games in ITC, but now you can score 100, with many lists and factions having no chance at getting max points. This won’t stop players from tabling or making gentleman agreements to final scores. Dedicated players can do the “maths” to figure out what they need to place higher, earned or not, pressuring or incentivising opponents to give certain scores becoming much easier. This has always been the case, but the new higher point structure will only make it worse. Unintentional cheating will increase as players rush to figure out scores; forgetting points left and right rigging the results without intention. We will also see arguments about when and what was scored, with players asking for take backs in later rounds when they realize they were “cheated”.

Third, relates to the competitive scene as it compares to US vs. the rest of the World. It is clear that a majority of Warhammer 40k players live outside of America, and they are much farther along dealing with Covid compared to America. By the fall non-America locations should be running at least midsize events without much worry, while only certain parts of America will even attempt it. This all means a fractured view of the 9th edition meta, as regional silos rise, leading to disagreements on what is good and bad. This effects Games Workshop playtesting data making it skewed or incomplete, potentially leading to the wrong fixes to the game. It also could mean Games Workshop taking feedback with a grain of salt and not making changes to get 9th edition balanced effectively. 

Taken all together, we could expect a rival mission pack returning to challenge the Games Workshop missions. If the game ends up being broken and unfixed, I can see something like the ITC missions returning. With anything from banning all codex VP actions, to full “balancing” of the core secondaries and/or fixing various rules. I do though feel like most tournament organizers will give Games Workshop the benefit of the doubt in the short term, but I can also easily see this only going on for about 18 if things head south fast.

Adding to the uncertainty, is the new Obscuring and terrain rules. If properly implemented the new terrain rules are pretty solid, but the curve to convert from 8th to 9th is going to lead to a lot of feel bad experiences for many players. Back are arguments on what can and cannot be seen, since part of the game technically no longer uses true line of sight. Figuring out the right combination of terrain to make a balance game is harder than ever, as we now have tons of new rules you can apply. No longer can you just throw five pieces of ruins and be done, you have to consider things like forests and other structures to make sure Alpha strikes don’t dominate. Until we see a standard develop, with all the complications listed above, 9th edition might look unbalanced to the naked eye.

Finally, we have the play testers themselves, having done free labor for Games Workshop for over three years, we should see either by attrition or Games Workshop hand an adjustment their numbers. Especially now that they hired one of them to take over event coordination, we don’t know exactly where his role ends, and how much influence he might have in crafting his own play testing team to fit his views on how Warhammer 40k 9th edition should be played. 

Thanks to Covid and a seemly over done whack a mole approach to designing Warhammer 40k 9th edition, I feel like this edition has a lot of fine turning still to come and without good feedback that was the hallmark of 8th edition, Games Workshop might wait too long or make the wrong choices when making fixes. Of course, I certainly can be wrong in my assessment, but having played this game since Rogue Trader some things just never seems to change when it comes to Games Workshop.

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