Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Quick Thought on the Style of 7th

Hey everyone and welcome back.  Though it's been a while since our last real hard look into some of the newest books brought out for 40k, that doesn't mean we haven't been having some fun collecting and reading them.  Quite a few new codexes have dropped recently, and they've given us some insight as to what we can expect from those to come.  To be honest, I'm actually fairly happy with where the releases are in so many respects, and if not for a few little hiccups in the core rules, I could easily see this rule set and it's codexes being the most balanced and the most healthy the game of Warhammer 40k has ever been.  After nearly 3 decades of existence, that's saying quite a bit.

I many cases, a game reaches what I feel to be it's pinnacle climax not long after it's first official release.  This isn't to say that it's always the case, but as a game ages, we see the developers begin to introduce more and more concepts, abilities, areas, rules, etc. to their world.  While it's not inherently a bad thing, and I fully understand it is necessary to keep these games new and interesting for the players, it can take away from a game's overall experience.

Take World of Warcraft for example.  A caution before I go on, the following is opinion.  WoW was a great game with scores of things to do, a pretty solid engine, and still continues to this day.  But as it continued to move from one expansion to another, the core of the game moved further and further away from it's origins in terms of balance and intended focuses.  Azeroth was once a booming place, filled with many hundreds of players all fighting for their faction.  The world was huge and open, but never so much so that someone would never see anyone else.  However, after two expansions in a row opening the doors to "new worlds" the original world space became a barren wasteland of low-level toons grinding their way to the upper levels to access the new areas, or simply out for chivo hunting.  That in itself basically killed the perfect feel it had of two warring factions constantly at the other's throats.

In the end, the dev. team at Blizzard must have realized this, and brought it all back with Cataclysm... but not without a huge overhaul in the state of the old world.  Territories changed, flying mounts became a thing, and gobs of new quests were introduced.  This is in my opinion what salvaged what was once a great game, and kept it going.  Had it been another "new world" experience, I feel it would have crumbled under the dev team, and the game might have disappeared.  But it didn't.  And while it will probably never again reign as the host to it's former strength, it still offers the broadest experience of any MMORPG out there.  It's far, far from perfect, but it's still one heck of a game.

This is where I am going to draw a vague parallel to 40k.  The game really did go through what, to me, feels to be a "new world" experience through 5th and 6th, which really shook up the game we all knew before that point with mixed reviews and results.  The advent of the Mega Units upon new releases (i.e. those units the book made great to create a new focal point unit), ever falling point costs to allow for larger and larger forces, and a drastic alteration to the core rules in 5th set the stage, much like Burner Crusade did for WoW.  It altered the core system and games became vastly different than those of the edition's predecessor's.  Likewise in 6th, we saw the trend continue, but with even more new concepts, abilities, wargear, unit types, and more introduced.  Combined with the breakneck speed of releases at the time, and it was all anyone could do just to know how to play their own army.  This to me was a time of great change for the game... and not all of it strictly for the better.  Like WoW's expansions, it's altered the basic principles of what one should expect, and how you combat those new obstacles.  The best examples here would be the Stronghold Assault and Escalation introductions.  Never before had the lines of standard and Apocalypse been so blurred, and it was quite possibly the breaking point for many players.  But after a few years, the dust has settled, and from the advent of all that change, the game found it's footing on some familiar ground: the old foundations of the game.

7th didn't bring the game back to it's pre-5th era, but it did a lot to reel in some of the huge issues we saw unbalancing the game for two editions prior. It also provided it's own new tricks, like the much needed psychic overhaul. Like WoW, the new game isn't at all perfect, and still has some real issues grounded in the era of sweeping changes that will never be undone.  It also has its fair share of poorly balanced rules.  The most glaring being Corvus' big gripe on ruins.  These come about through an attempt to keep dense rules streamlined, and it comes down to balancing depth vs abstraction.  In this case, it didn't work out too well, but it kept things simple to allow for more stuff.  Though that idea is a topic for another time.

The real purpose of all of this is to understand what is going on with the new codexes.  At this point we have started to see GW's trend for this edition.  Most every codex has gone through the same process:

1.  A new book, which includes current rules, Warlord Traits, Relics, Armoury Style (now Dataslate Style) entries, and new lore and artwork.

2.  Personalized periferals such as Army psychic and objective cards.

3.  The removal of almost every unit or character which didn't have a model beforehand.

4.  A new Character/Model for one of the aforementioned model lacking choices, and/or a new model which has amazing rules.

5.  A brand new "Colossus" class unit.

What this creates is a series of books which are basically identical to their previous incarnation, but without much of the horizontal options.  It's often sad to see some of the options disappear, but it cleans up the book, and keeps things simple.  Alongside their release, we are starting to see a supplement to the core, which is one of my only worries right now.  These supplements are drastically different in what they offer, and some armies out there have wondrous supplements (Tau, Eldar), while others leave us scratching our head as to why these things were's just put into the core book (Wolves, Orks).  But that aside, these books are easier than ever to understand and get into.

As a side note, I personally love the new dataslate style the Orks codex has introduced.  With Grey Knights following suit, I'm happy this is the new norm. It's so darn handy.

But The chief complaint or worry that seems to be coming about is that these books "feel so bland compared to the previous ones."  To me this is probably a good thing.  It means the books are being written not so much as a means of introducing huge numbers of new units, but as a way of allowing an army to have rules which follow and are designed for the current edition.  It gives the game and the players a chance to breath and take it all in.  Sort of like when Wow returned to the original world spaces.  A lot has changed, and there's so much new to explore in that a chance to actually do it without worrying about missing too much is right before us.  GW still introduces new units... and yes some of them are still "too good to ignore," but the core of the system feels like its a welcome mat for new and interesting ideas.

I'm really excited to get back out there and play in this new imagining of an old world.  Gripes and grudges aside, I have to say that this game has a lot of potential that isn't lost, but is in fact celebrated by this new system.  There's enough room for lateral thinking here that not every game becomes a boring, grinding experience, but one of exploration.  Even if you don't own the models, proxying in free play and trying new things is always a great way to just let loose and enjoy what we have before us.  With my new army firmly under way, I can't wait to hit the battlefields!



  1. Completely agree. 7th has got me pretty excited about the game and where it is going in the next year/two years

  2. Thanks (to you and Sin).

    I think the next two years, if the trend continues will be just what this game needed. There's still some issues which come about in top-tier play, but good God Emperor does the free-play have options. I snagged a really cool new table at GenCon, and I can't wait to use it for games.

    It's basically a space hulk table. I'll put up an article reviewing it when it comes in, but I just can't wait to see how that type of map will alter the games. I love that there is the freedom and the expanse of rules (like Zone Mortalus in this case) to draw from and use in the game.

    Armies are looking far more balanced these days ta boot. Pretty excited for that myself XD