As I promised at the end of my Warhammer Fantasy review, this is a series of articles on 40K 6th Edition- as a first impression. Doubtless, very few of any conclusions I draw will be proven 100% wrong within 1 year, but hopefully this will be worthwhile exercise in the meantime.
So, I'll be covering the various rules sections as they appear in the rulebook: Movement, Shooting, Assault, Morale, USR's and Unit Types, Weaponry, Characters, Vehicles, Vehicle types, Terrain, Army Selection, Scenarios, Background, Battles Section, Psychic Powers. So that's a lot of ground to cover! To start with though, I'll talk about the quality of the book itself.
Well, at time of release the hardback book is £45. That's a hell of a lot of cash.Compared to Privateer Press hardback core rules (£30), Flames of war (£35), Infinity (£30, unusable without FAQ due to poor translation), Warlord's Historical books (£30) it's the most expensive offering out there right now. I suppose the big question is do you get value for money? Well, I'm going to steal Frontline's judging system for this bit, and see how it turns out.
This is Games Workshops latest offering for 40K, and it's definitely the biggest yet running at 432 pages- you definitely don't want to be carrying this beast around for games if you can avoid it (£20 digital download of the rules section please GW!) However, quantity doesn't beat quality... That aside for the moment, it's 40K- GW's flagship product, and the game that most Tabletop wargamers play. the good news is that they've gone backwards slightly from 5th ed, and put in loads of little ideas about extra games, scenarios, ideas to throw in to your games and so on. This feels much more like a guide than a Book of law, as 5th felt (for me at least.) There's as many pages given over to the background as to the rules, and the artwork and page spreads are absolutely stunning- the quality is at least as high as Black Library's art books.
This is a little hard to judge (I've only had one game so far.) For old-time 40K players, this is a shuffle. there are some big changes from 5th (wound allocation, vehicles, flyers, psychics, allies) but the core rules remain the same. I think that the overall gameplay will be affected, as to if it will be improved.... time will tell. The one strong opinion that I'm left with after the first week is that this is more of a game than 3rd, 4th or 5th, which tried to be balanced, tournament style wargames. This does not- it seems to be far more focused on narrative and action- it does a really good job of immersing players in the game (so far!) but the risk/reward of a true tactical wargaming isn't strong, so keep that in mind.
It's also worth mentioning that, as Frontline pointed out in 40k's sister product Warhammer Fantasy, there is a core inconsistency in the rules. Charges are a random distance, Shooting and Movement are not. This puts the emphasis strongly in favour of ranged attacks- which in a sci-fi wargaming isn't such a bad thing, but it is a bit of an odd design choice, we'll see how it plays out over the coming years. In short- assaults are a gamble, shooting is not.
I've gone for a conservative score on gameplay out of a sense of fairness. I am aware that I am looking at 40K as my go-to-game. It's the one that most people play, and so the one that I will probably play the most. I've tried to look at this section from the point of view of an independant product (if this was a new product by Warlord, say, would I rate it as highly?) I think that 40K will give a great game if played in the right spirit, I also think that tournament players and tactics/strategy lovers are going to feel let down by it. In any event, you will be able to get a lot of games of it for the forseeable future.
GW can rightly come in for some praise here. Full colour, satin finish on the pages, gloss on the cover, strong binding, a handy built in bookmark- they haven't skimped on production values. I've had good use out of the book so far and there's no dog-ears, blurring, smudging or binding coming undone. They've also put in some gatefold pages, for really big atmospheric 'photos, and so far even those pages have remained intact.
OK, GW have started to learn some lessons. Everything is well laid out, easy to find, and the index and Glossary are well laid out. The book includes plenty of diagrams (full colour) and page references, even so I haven't found myself needing to skip around the pages a lot. There are a few obvious omissions though- the table of who can use the new psychic powers isn't included in the rules, which is a hell of an oversight. I've already identified one rules query (although at time of writing, the FAQ's aren't up.) I also wish that the Battles section had a table of reference at the start, that's a little omission which I'm finding irritating, but not really a big thing. That said, the Appendices do include a brief background of the 40K universe, which I really like- it's a quick-glance guide for new players, and I think a really nice touch for older players (plus, it includes the Imperial Dating System explanation again.
Final quick note for detail- the credits for the rules are given at the back, rather than the front. the authors are Adam Troke, Jeremy Vetock and Mat Ward- so none of the old big-guns are involved in this edition, for the first time. "Additional" rules and Playtesters include Jervis Johnson, Phil Kelly and Robin Cruddace, so there have been some strong advisors- and a really nice touch; Alessio, Andy and Rick are given credit for the previous editions.
Not much to say- I ordered the book on the first day of pre-release, it was in my hands 4 days later (3 days before the official release.) Stores got their copies on time, as did Independants in the UK (not sure about elsewhere). I would have liked it to arrive in a separate box, but I did order it into my local store so can't really complain- there was no problem with the packaging (each was wrapped individually and clearly labelled). In fairness, GW do a good job of delivering goods normally, and still managed to beat my expectations (which were to have to wait until Saturday), so well done!
Overall, it's a good offering. I'm not saying that this is the best version of 40K ever, or the worst- it's another step on 40K's evolution. I didn't factor in the price for 1 simple reason- in comparison to the other offerings listed above, it's in line. For example, Hordes has 70 pages of rules, 247 pages. So from a cost breakdown, it runs at 8.2 p/page (23p for the rules.) In comparison, the new 40K runs at 9.6 p/page, 29p/page for the rules. So it's not too far out of whack. You are also likely to get a game of 40K 6th ed, so it's hardly a wasted investment- you will be able to play this game. as to how much you enjoy it... that's down to you!
So there we have it- a brief introduction to set up my next "Endurance Review Challenge." Comments, as always, are welcome.