Opinion: 8th Edition’s Increasing Lack of Imagination

So recently, GW has been wheeling out previews for the upcoming Deathwatch book. I have to say, I’m interested, especially since I’ve always liked the background of the Deathwatch (ie, why choose which Chapter to play when you can play ALL the Chapters?), and have toyed with the idea of including a Deathwatch detachment to support my other Imperial forces. However, in the aforementioned previews, I couldn’t help but notice one of the Warlord traits the Deathwatch had access to:
40kdeathwatch-may3-hiddenknowledge1r
Now where have I seen this warlord trait before? I must say, it bears an uncanny similarity to:
-Adept of the Codex (Ultramarines)
-Fate Reader (Ulthwe Eldar)
-Monitor Malevolus (Adeptus Mechanicus)
-Grand Strategist/Kurov’s Aquila (Astra Militarum)
-Labyrinthine Cunning (Kabal of the Black Heart)
-Helm of the Third Eye (Thousand Sons)
And the list goes on and on. Though there may be slight differences here and there (such as some of the aforementioned only working on a 6+, and/or having the ability to steal the enemy’s spent command points), but the fact remains that we are now seeing the same basic mechanic being copied and pasted across several codexes, usually as a warlord trait or relic.  And it’s not just this one ability, either: I’ve noticed quite a bit of repetition in a lot of the subfaction abilities of many armies. For those of you who like lists (I know I do), here’s a lengthy one of subfactions that just so happen to have the same ability:
Advance and shoot:
Black Legion, Tallarn Desert Raiders, Metallica, Vior’la Sept, Sautekh Dynasty
 
Advance and charge:
Renegade Marines, Cult of the Red Grief
 
+1 attack on the charge
World Eaters, Cult of Strife
 
+1 strength
Catachan Jungle Fighters, Cult of the Cursed Blade
 
Ignore wounds on a roll of 6:
Iron Hands, Graia, Ulthwe Craftworld, Hive Fleet Leviathan
 
Range increase of guns by 6″
Vostroyan Firstborn, Bork’an Sept, Kabal of the Obsidian Rose
 
Reroll 1’s to shoot if stands still:
Cadian Shock Troopers, Nihilakh Dynasty, Hive Fleet Kronos
 
May charge after falling back:
White Scars, Hive Fleet Kraken
 
Enemy has -1 LD for every unit in 6″
Night Lords, Dark Creed
 
Reroll 1’s to wound in Fight Phase
Ryza, Hive Fleet Gorgon, Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue
 
+1 to cover save if does not move (or does not advance or charge):
Dal’yth Sept, Hive Fleet Jormungandr
 
Enemy has -1 to hit at long range:
Raven Guard, Alpha Legion, Alaitoc Craftworld, Stygies VIII
 
Hit on 5+ in overwatch:
Mordian Iron Guard, Agripinaa, T’au Sept
 
Half damage from morale:
Valhallan Ice Warriors, Iyanden Craftworld
 
Reroll failed charges:
Black Templars, Saim-Hann Craftworld, Hive Fleet Behemoth, Cult of Red Grief
This trend seems, to me at least, to be somewhat counter-intuitive. When 8th ed first came out, one of the things it billed was the end of universal special rules: instead of having to remember about two-dozen universal rules throughout the game, instead every single unit would have its own unique special rules that could easily be found on the datasheet. This was meant to mitigate the endless searching (in theory), and also foster a greater sense of uniqueness between armies and units.
But now it feels like universal special rules are creeping back into the game, now that the same freaking rules mechanics are popping into every single codex. The thing is, in the case of a lot of these repeated rules, I can’t help but wonder if GW could have taken the time and effort of coming up with something new instead of copy-and-pasting a previous rule mechanic (even if that mechanic is particularly useful). In the case of the Lord of Hidden Knowledge trait, for instance, the vast alien-slaying knowledge of the Deathwatch warlord could be represented by “marking” a single enemy unit for rerolling wounds, or conferring a reroll wounds on 1’s bubble in shooting (to represent his knowledge of enemy weakpoints), or even allowing him a free extra CP on top of what is already being generated.
I am not saying, necessarily, that the “recycling CP” trait that Lord of Hidden Knowledge trait, as is, is a bad thing, nor am I necessarily saying that the re-use of this particular mechanic is bad either. And I am fully willing to admit that I am looking for copy-and-paste similarity at the expense of any rules mechanics that genuinely are unique and novel. But I am wondering if this is a pitfall that GW ran into from a games design perspective: whether they set out to eliminate universal special rules…and then, when pressed for time in coming up with good rules mechanics, found themselves slowly but surely gravitating towards them again.
Personally, I hope that GW finds a way out of this pitfall: from my own personal perspective, I always like it when it when Codexes and army rules feel distinct from one another. This recycling CP’s ability, however, is so prolific that you can almost anticipate it being in every upcoming codex in some form or another, especially since it is almost always a go-to option in competitive lists. Beyond just this particular ability, I don’t see the replication of rules as a problem yet, but I do hope that it doesn’t become more and more excessive in future– otherwise, we may as well say that generic universal special rules never left.
That’s my two cents, anyway.

Next Projects

With the new year looming ahead, I’ve found myself practically bursting with various hobby ideas and things I either want to get start or get into…and finding said ideas running up against things I’ve already started, or a limited budget. Here are some of the projects I’m considering getting into over the next year or so.

Thousand Sons

One of GW’s newer releases, the standalone Thousand Sons codex has caught my eye as of late. At first I was leery of it because of the emphasis it seems to place on Tzaangors over the actual Thousand Sons themselves, especially since all of its “new” units have actually been ported over from Age of Sigmar. But the more I look at the book, the more I find myself seriously considering collecting them as an army– while I see a lot of the new units as odd choices, at the same time they haven’t put me off. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’m currently reading the Horus Heresy book A Thousand Sons, or the fact that I always found a legion of sorcerous scholars, philosophers and librarians to be extremely cool. Furthermore, they serve the coolest Chaos god (don’t let those Khorne or Nurgle-worshipping fools tell you otherwise), have fantastic models, and in all honesty, given how they were wronged by the Imperium, I don’t see them as ‘bad guys’ to the same extent as the other Chaos legions.

The problem is, if I were to get into Thousand Sons now, it would be a case of bad timing. The Drukhari codex is coming, and with it will come plenty of playtime for my favourite spiky space pirates, which means I’ll have to seriously choose between taking them or the KSons out for games. Furthermore, if I do go for Thousand Sons, I would have to decide between their 30k and 40k versions– given the metas for both games, it will be difficult to collect a force that can do both, and this isn’t helped by the fact that 30k has gained serious momentum in my area. This is all, of course, to say nothing of how Thousand Sons might in turn lead to Daemons and/or Disciples of Tzeentch for AOS if I’m not careful.

I may end up putting Thousand Sons off in favour of updating my languishing Drukhari, but at the end of the day, I still feel the almost gravity-like pull of the Ninth Legion calling to me. I am making no commitments as of yet, but I can only resist the lure of heresy for so long…

Imperial allies?

(Illustration by DiegoGisbertLlorens at Deviantart)

A safer, and less costly option for me is the inclusion of new allies for my Adepta Sororitas army…and given how wide-ranging the armies of the Imperium are, the possibilities are endless. One of the most obvious candidates are Space Marines: I have an old, and somewhat neglected Crimson Fists force from when I first started Warhammer aeons ago, and it would be no big task to pull them out of their box, touch a few of them up, and field some of them to bolster my Sororitas (or vice versa, to field my Sisters in support of my boys in blue). Of course, if I do that, then I run a very real risk of temptation…namely of caving in to those nice new Primaris characters, or Hellblasters, or Aggressors, or aaaarghitsbeginningalreadystooopp….

Ahem. Alternatively, I could run Astra Militarum; a few cheap Infantry squads with some character backup would not only give my Sororitas a lot of cheap scoring units, but would also be an easy way to bulk up on command points (heck, I could easily run a brigade of pure IG infantry for less than 500 points). I also admit, I’ve been toying with this option because the current and forthcoming Necromunda models have given me the idea of a Penal Legion guard army, which would be incredibly fun to paint, convert and play.

Finally, there are certain Inquisitorial specialists I could add. At present, I have about 10 Grey Knight Terminators sitting unused in my cabinet, crying out to be painted. In addition to them, though, I’ve been toying with the idea of a squad of Deathwatch: just a simple kill team of 5-10 Veterans, all from a eclectic variety of chapters, led by a Terminator Captain or Librarian who can deep strike and then make use of their teleporting relic for extra cheesiness. I will admit, I’ve been kind of chomping at the bit to use Deathwatch ever since their codex came out in the tail end of 7th, since I’ve always felt they were one of the coolest “specialist” forces out there.

Of course, the big danger of any sort of ally force is that, if I’m not careful, it could turn into a new army in its own right– and thus the endless money pit that is miniature wargaming grows ever wider…

Age of Sigmar?

I still have abput 2500-3000 points of Lizardmen (based on old WHFB point values) from back when Warhammer Fantasy was a thing. I was one of the many who watched in perplexity a few years ago when Fantasy was brought to an apocalyptic end, and then morphed into Age of Sigmar. I did not jump on the Age of Sigmar bandwagon back then, and for the most part still have not now, but a few things have been steadily changing my mind:

  1. An active community– AOS has grown in my area (downtown Toronto and GTA) over the past few years, to the point where there is a very active player community.
  2. The rules have had time to evolve– according to the AOS players I’ve met, the rules have come a long way since their first inception, and are much better now thanks to the various iterations of the General’s Handbook.
  3. The AOS rules and 8th edition 40k rules are both rather similar, so I’ve already gotten an introduction of sorts through my main game.

I am sorely tempted to one day break my beloved lizards (or Seraphon, as they are called now for some reason) out of their long hibernation and resume upholding the ineffable will of the Old Ones, though if I do that, I will first need to familiarize myself with the AOS rules, and more importantly, with the Seraphon rulebook. Doing so will mean committing the time to doing so, though, and given how I’m lucky if I can get a game once a week due to my busy schedule, I’m not sure if that’s doable.

Infinity

I actually got into Infinity a few years ago because my girlfriend currently plays it. I have to admit, I rather liked the minis, and found the cyberpunk setting and the small scale a refreshing change from 40k (especially since the lower model count meant for a cheaper hobby). However, I have never been able to dive into it half as much as I was expecting: while I have started up on an Ariadna force (a faction of scrappy underdog colonists with modern-day technology in a future-tech setting) a few years ago, I have repeatedly had difficulty assembling many of the models– quite a lot of them have joins that are difficult to glue together, and some require a degree of pinning that seems beyond my modelling ability. At the moment, my Ariadnans have been on indefinite hiatus because (1) Toronto’s foremost Infinity group meets on a day that is rather difficult for me, and (2) whenever I turn back to Infinity, something 40k always grabs my attention instead. It has honestly gotten to the point where I wonder whether I should even persist with Infinity.

I hope to get a few more games of it in this year: then I may be able to make a more informed decision of whether to abstain while I’m ahead, or whether to dive headlong into a force of mechsuit-riding werewolf GI Joes.

X-Wing

X-Wing is another game that my girlfriend and I got the boxed set for, on the grounds that it is very easy to simply pick up and play: the models come pre-painted, there are terrain and markers readily available in the boxed set, and the game itself is quite small, with only anywhere between two and five ships per side, realistically. As of yet, we have yet to get a proper game in, but I can see keeping X-Wing as a nice casual side game for both of us to steadily expand. That being said, I doubt I would ever get into competitive play for X-Wing: aside from the fact that I already don’t participate in tournaments in 40k (more on that in a future post), what little I’ve seen of the X-Wing tournament meta speaks to a dizzying array of cards, gear and manoeuvres, and more than a few ships and combos that have roundly been decried as OP. At this stage, I feel somewhat unready to step into that…and beside which, I am reluctant to buy entire ships that I’m never going to use only because they come packaged with particularly competitive cards.

Fallout: Wasteland Warfare

I feel it needs to be said at this point that I am a big Fallout fan. Fallout 3 ranks as one of my favourite games of all time, and I absolutely love the grim humour and retro-future aesthetic of its post apocalyptic setting. It is for this reason that, ever since Modiphius announced they were doing a Fallout miniatures game (complete with beautifully rendered models), I have been awaiting this game eagerly.

Well, semi-eagerly. Before I dive into this game upon its release, I want to see, firstly, how popular it becomes in my area, and secondly, what the rules are like– both of which will dictate whether I get games in or enjoy said games. Modiphius’ premise of narrative campaigns, and of a settlement-building system akin to that in Fallout 4, intrigue me, but I want to see some games in action before I commit to it. Furthermore, while the models look amazing (those Brotherhood of Steel minis in particular demand to be painted), at the moment all of the factions appear to be from Fallout 4. This is not a bad thing, but I am hoping, further down the line, that Modiphius releases models for other factions from other Fallout games (the Enclave and the NCR, in particular).

Anyway, the year is still early, and I still have some time to decide what’s next (and beside which, I have other major life goals, like finding a new job and/or getting a place of my own at long last. Hopefully, when I have more space to dedicate to myself (and my manifold hobbies), I’ll be able to make a more informed decision…but regardless, I do intend to start something new this year. It is only a question of what.