Games Workshop War on 40k Gimmicks

by | Oct 15, 2020

Now that we got the first 9th edition codexes in our filthy hands it is time to take stock of the direction of the game. The Space Marine and Necron 9th edition codexes are a great examples of the current direction for Warhammer 40k. They showcase a new slick looking style very reminiscence of Wizards of the Coast RPGs. The look though while infinitely more navigable, also does provide the clear change in how Games Workshop approaches the Warhammer 40k. In past versions, you could expect any codex to be devoted more to background and showing models, with rules making up at most around 1/3 of a codex, in contrast the first two new 9th edition codexes have around 50% pages worth of rules. 

Personally, I am happy to see this kind of devotion to the rules; background can often feel repetitive, especially if you played game for any amount of years. Though placing more rules in the hands of Games Workshop has it own sets of concerns. Thankfully, beyond the still chronic typos and a few manageable issues, the new codexes seem internally balanced. Reminder, I am not though talking about balance between them, but if you look at each by themselves nothing screams, “HOW COULD THEY POSSIBILTY MISS THAT”. Sure ATVs being Bikes and being able to field 3 C’tans could pose some problems, but overall those kind of issues demonstrate something completely different from pervious balance issues for armies. 

Games Workshop has been on a full court press to remove loopholes, exploits, and gimmicks from the game. It has not been since 5th edition that we have seen codexes this internally consistent. Unlike, 5th edition the first two 9th edition codexes are not burdened by a core rule set that sabotages the effort. Then we had 6th and 7th edition which went the complete opposite direction, by not only having insane core rule problems, but included ridiculous codex rule interactions creating a mass exodus from the game for much of that time period. 

8th edition on the other hand was the first part of what could end up being a beautiful formula. 8th edition cleaned up most of the core rules bloat that had built up, one could some could say from all the way back to 3rd edition. The the resetting and streamlining of the rules has really set the table for things to come. This though hasn’t been totally clear sailing, as things like the rule of 3 and other abuse restrictions still had to be put in place, but within 18 months thanks to the Warhammer 40k community provided enough feedback to force continued clean up. This left Games Workshop’s pension for out of whack codexes, forge world, and supplemental rules as the real bad actors left to fix.

Unlike the before mentioned 6th and 7th edition, 8th edition players were no longer using exploits within the core rules to find unintended combos. Instead, 8th edition became just about exploiting the most cost efficient unit and leveraging it, minus some complex machinations of certain players really digging deep to use out place Forge World units to broken extremes. The divide in what a “whack” player had to do to create unfun and brutal lists between 6th to 8th was massive. The reduction in gimmicks or what lots of player call “gotcha” moments is huge blessing. 

So when I opened both 9th edition Necron and Space Marine codexes, it becomes harder to find rule interactions that might give me edge on the tabletop outside my skill level. Little things like what does and doesn’t have the core makes a huge difference. Limiting certain stratagems to specific keywords is another fantastic way to force players into certain new or previous underused units, but also has the fringe benefit of stopping edge lords from breaking the game for the LOLs. The tension though will be if the game designers can maintain the consistency. They have done a generally good job so far, by toning things down. The obvious  next big hurdle is Forge World which is coming soon, because we have seen the most competitive douche baggary often come directly from Forge World. We will also have this weird space where 8th edition codexes will be either really bad or really good until they are updated. At least the Warhammer 40k designers are not afraid to unleash FAQs to fix any problematic gaps.

The intention though is clear, 9th edition is the interesting shift in paradigm for where Games Workshop wants to take Warhammer 40k, and it is away from players exploiting the edges of the rules to win games and instead actually just have players win the game on their merits. The question is will the GW accountants and executives allow this to happen, because the pressure to make every new unit that much better is always around the corner, forcing players to pay to win, but instead hurting the overall health of the game in the long run. Of course this is naïve, but here is to hoping!

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