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The Tiger Roars 

Why 8 Is Great by Kenton Kilgore
Eighth Edition 40K has been out for a while now, and we’ve all had plenty of time to play it and mess with it.  Having played every version of 40K, from “Rogue Trader” to 7th, here are several reasons why I think 8e is the best ever.

It's Easier
The rules are simple.  Some would say, “too simple,” but there’s no such thing in game design.  As a long-time Dungeon Master who also ran the Marvel Super Heroes RPG and did some Stormbringer adventures (back in the '80's and early '90's), I constantly tinkered with the game systems (you can see some of the fruits of my AD&D work here).  Trust me: any idiot can add more tables and dice rolls and make a game more complicated.  It’s much, much harder to make something fast and easy to play while still being interesting to veteran gamers. 

Advancing in the Movement Phase.  In 7th Edition, your guys Ran in the Shooting Phase, which—if you strictly followed the rules—meant that you moved your figures twice.  This could be a colossal PITA and time-sink if you and/or your opponent played Tyranids or Orks.  As a house rule, my gaming buddies and I agreed that one could announce in the Movement Phase that certain units would be Running in the Shooting Phase; roll the die for each unit; and move that unit once.  Eighth Edition has wisely incorporated that idea.

Streamlined Psychic Phase.  Nothing was as bad as how 2nd Edition handled psychics—“Let’s take a break from playing a miniatures game to temporarily play a card game”—but 7th was close.  I’m not quite sure why we couldn’t just go back to incorporating psychic powers into the appropriate phases—if you teleported, it was during Movement; if you blasted someone, it was during Shooting—but so be it.  Psychics may still have their own phase, but it’s much easier and much less confusing to do now.

Vehicles are just like other models.  If you thought vehicles were complicated before, with Armor Values and facings and fire arcs and such, it was actually much, much worse in the Bad Old Days (especially late in 1st Edition, where firing at a vehicle required a template that you held over a drawing of the vehicle, and you rolled dice, and moved the template, and…my God, just remember it is exhausting).  Now, a vehicle moves, shoots, fights, has a Toughness, makes Armor Saves, and takes Wounds just like any infantry figure or creature.  No more instantly getting destroyed because of one lucky shot (I once had a Monolith bite the bag under just that circumstance), no more damage results like Shakes and Stuns and Immobilized, etc.  Why didn’t anyone think of this much, much sooner?

Speaking of vehicles, let’s talk Transports.  Under the new rules, you get in the ride, it takes you where you want to go, you get out of the ride.  No Fire Points, no Access Points, no ill effects on passengers when the transport gets damaged (except when one Explodes, if it has that rule).  Is it realistic?  No.  Do I care?  No, I do not.      

New "to hit" number replacing the old BS/WS.  Determining what you needed “to hit” using Ballistic Skill wasn’t hard—6 minus the BS number indicated what consisted a miss—but it was easier to remember that for BS 3, for example, you needed a “4” or higher.  Figuring out what you needed “to hit” in close combat was tougher to calculate, because you had to compare Weapon Skills (you always needed at least a “3”).  Instead of all that noise, how about we just go with always hitting on a specific number?  It doesn’t get easier than that.     

Simplified "to wound" rolls.  The old way to remember what you needed “to wound” was similar to what you needed “to hit” in close combat, except this time you were comparing Strength vs. Toughness.  Depending on what weapon you were using against what opponent, you could need a “2,” or you could have no chance.  No thanks: I prefer the new “to wound” parameters.  

Simplified terrain.  +1 to a model’s saving throw, no effect on Movement or Charging.  No looking up—or negotiating with your opponent—what each terrain piece counts as and what save it gives.  No adjusting Movement and charge distances.  No tossing frag or plasma grenades (“or wishing you had them,” said Tyranid players) to affect who fought in close combat when charging into terrain.  But if you prefer, there are expanded rules for terrain on pages 248-254.    

The Fight Pase is so much easier.  No matter which edition it was, close combat was always complicated.  No more.  And what’s my favorite part of the new Fight Phase?  Three words: “No more challenges.”  I liked the idea of challenges, but they were a pain in the ass to run.   

Simplified Morale.  No Morale check at the end of the Shooting Phase, and then another one at the end of close combat.  No catching and destroying units that attempt to flee (my buddy Pat always hated that).  No units running off the board. 

It's Better
"Voluntary Fall Back"--sorta.  Third Edition had a rule where your units could leave close combat if they wanted to (like, say, they were going toe-to-toe with a Bloodthirster).  Later editions had you stuck, because why would disciplined firefight specialists like Marines do something as intelligent as falling back to unleash their boltguns, when they could box with the enemy instead?  Eighth Edition doesn’t fully bring revive VFB, but the new Falling Back rules on page 177 are a big step in the right direction.

Shooting at characters.  You can’t do it unless they’re the closest model (page 179).  Now your Main Guys don’t have to hang out with squads to use them as ablative armor.  No more need for “Look Out, Sir!” (though TBH, that rule was fun). 

Shooting at different targets.  Before 8th, you wouldn’t, for example, include a lascannon or melta gun with your Tactical Squad, because why would you bother shooting it at, say, Chaos Cultists?  And if you did use it against tanks, the other 9 guys stood around uselessly.   Now, it makes sense to bring along a mix of weapons, because the guy with the vehicle-hunter can take potshots while his infantry-killing pals do what they do best.    

Assault weapons can fire after Advancing.  Move + Advance (like the old Run rule) + shoot (albeit at -1 “to hit”).  Orks with shootas enthusiastically bellow, “Yes, please!”  Okay, Orks never say “please,” but you get the idea.

Move and fire heavy weapons at -1 "to hit."  Mo’ betta than 7th, where if you moved your heavy weapon guy, he could only fire Snap Shots, hitting on a “6.”  Much mo’ betta than in older editions, where one couldn’t fire a Big Gun at all if the dude packing it--or anyone in his squad--moved a 1/4 of an inch.  

Throw grenades.  Hey, look!  You can actually use grenades the way they’re used in real life, instead of the nonsense way they were handled before (so a frag grenade chucked in guys in cover doesn’t hurt anyone, but it gets them to put their heads down so as to help you out when charging?).    

Charge no matter what you shoot with.  Conditioned as I am by 30 years of playing 7 different editions, it’s practically ingrained in my DNA that one can’t charge after firing rapid fire-weapons, and certainly not with heavy weapons.  Except guess what?  That’s no longer true.  I didn’t believe it at first, but page 182 of the rulebook (under “Charge Phase”) doesn’t have any restrictions on who can charge after shooting.  Mind blown.   

Fire pistols even when in close combat.  Another real-life practice brought to 40K.  Yes, I dissed realism earlier in this article, but “a foolish consistency” and “hobgoblins” and “little minds,” etc., etc., whatever.  Being able to fire pistols even when you’re up close and personal makes them much more useful and so frickin’ frackin’ awesome.  I think all of my Space Marine leaders will be hitting up the quartermaster for plasma pistols….   

Tougher vehicles.  Yes, vehicles are much more expensive, but they’re much, much more durable.  In the first 8e game Pat and I played together, his Orks knocked one of my 5 Leman Russes down to half its Wounds, scratched the paint on two, and didn’t do skadoosh to the others (on the flip side, my battle cannons did only slightly more than skadoosh the whole game—gone are the days of taking out whole squads at once with a well-placed shot).  

No more Universal Special Rules.  Raise your hand if you thought there were too many USRs.  I had so much trouble keeping of track of which of my units had what, and what they did, that I wrote them down on all of my army list sheets.  When you combined the USRs with the inherent special rules that each unit type had, you what you got was a lot of page flipping.  For example, Monstrous Creatures under 7e had the Fear, Hammer of Wrath, Move Through Cover, Relentless, and Smash special rules, in addition to their inherent abilities of shooting two weapons at the same time (though at the same unit), and never being able to Go to Ground.  Never mind the mental flustercluck that were the rules for Flying Monstrous Critters.   

A great example of how the game works.  Pages 184-185 run through all phases of the new game by depicting a unit of Space Marines engaging a squad of Death Guard.  Simple, easy to understand, and perfectly written. 

Games Workshop has hit the "reset" button on codices.  “Codex creep”—the phenomenon where the more recent army books are much more powerful than those published earlier, making some armies wildly popular while others become undesirable—has long plagued 40K.  Seventh Edition was particularly bad about this, with overly-generous Formations giving  Craftworld Eldar, Necrons, and Dark Angels all kinds of nasty tricks for free. 



In a rant I posted back in 2010, I said that at the start of the new edition, GW should put out revised lists for all armies all at once, just like they did when 2e gave way to 3e.  And so they have, with the Indexes.  We’ll have to wait and see if the new, 8e codices continue the cycle of codex creep, or if GW has finally broken it.     

You can just use the free core rules and the Index you need.  There’s no way around 40K being expensive, but with 8th Edition, it just got a little bit less so.  You can download the core rules for free from the GW site, and you can pick up the Index you need for your army at about half the price of a hardcover codex (plus, you get other armies included in your Index). 

True, you’re not going to get all the cool artwork and “fluff” (background material) and missions like you will with the full rulebook.  True, a codex will give you more options (such as Stratagems) and such than an Index will.  But if you’re on a budget, you’re not planning on collecting new units, or—like me—you’re tired of shelling out $50 for yet another version of a codex you may have already bought three or four times now, this is the option for you.     

It Has Plenty That's New, and Plenty That's Cool
The background story has advanced.  I have waited 30 years—since I began playing in 1987, before many of you Millennial whippersnappers were born—to have the fluff move beyond anything more than, “The Imperium keeps fighting Chaos, Orks, and Tyranids to a stalemate.”  Many years ago Codex: Armageddon, and the Eye of Terror campaign tried to nudge forward the 40K narrative, but nothing much came of it.  Not so with 8e: the Great Rift, Roboute Guilliman’s return, the ascension of the Ynnari—the story of 40K has finally gotten interesting.  

All the newer armies are highlighted.  Once upon a time, back when codices were softcover and cost about $20 each, I used to buy all of them, even for armies I didn’t own, just so I could know my opposition.  I stopped doing that when GW made the books hardcover and $50 a pop, only buying the ones I needed for my armies.  Before 8e came around, I didn’t know much about the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Questor Imperialis, the aforementioned Ynnari, or Genestealer Cults.  Now, I do.

The 3 ways to play.  If you just wanna slap some minis on the board and go to town, there’s Open Play, which reminds me a lot of how we used to do it back in the wild-and-woolly days of Rogue Trader.  Use any combinations of figures and vehicles, and never mind the points (which is how I could play my Fighting Tigers + Harlequins + Squats). 

Narrative Play would be great for campaigns (we could have used it during the original
Auros IX war), and I like the Stratagems that go with each mission.  And if you prefer, there’s still Matched Play, like you’re used to. 

Decent Warlord Traits.  The three sets of “generic” Warlord Traits in the 7e main rulebook varied from lame to cool, and didn’t most everybody just use the Traits from their codex?  The latest versions (page 186) don’t suck, and I like how you have the option of picking one instead of rolling. 

Maybe my favorite thing about the new 40K (aside from the streamlined rules) is the section on Battle-Forged Armies.  I liked the Force Organization Chart (1 HQ + 2 Troops minimum; max 2 HQ, 6 Troops, 3 each for Elites, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support) way more than the percentage minimums and maximums of 2nd Edition, but the FOC was limiting.  The new detachment options—Patrol, Battalion (which I’ll use most often), Brigade, etc.—simply ROCK.  I’m looking forward to organizing my Dark Eldar in an Outrider package.  And you no can be serious about the Super-Heavy and Air Wing Detachments: looks like the Necron Flying Circus™ is still a thing.  

Power Ratings.  Because sometimes I don’t feel like niggling with points.  In going through the various Indexes I have for my armies, I’ve noticed several occasions where a unit comes standard with a certain weapon, but can upgrade to something cooler for the same Power Rating: if I were using points, I would have to pay more.  I also like how you can compare Power Levels (the sum of an army’s PRs) to give the Underdog Command Point rerolls (page 187).  Finally, glancing at Power Ratings gives you a quick idea of how units stack up against each other.      

Factions replacing Allies.  If you ever shook your head at the mental gymnastics required to cobble together some of the loathsome and unnatural combinations of main armies and Allies that you saw, then I need say no more on how 8e Factions are far superior to 7e Allies. 

Old favorites return.  Veterans will remember—and mostly likely appreciate the return of—different deployment maps (Spearhead Assault, Front-Line Assault), alternating units in deployment (I put down a unit, then you put down one, etc.).  The use of Tactical Objectives carry over from the previous edition (can I still use the cards I bought a few years ago?).  Death From the Skies (complete with “Dogfight Phase”), Planetstrike, and Cities of Death (plus the new Battlezones and Stronghold Assault)—what is not to like? 

And hey: Squats and Beastmen mentioned on page 279--too cool!

Summing Up
Eighth Edition has its detractors, but I’m certainly not one of them.  Okay, not everything about it is sunshine and light: I was not pleased when the new Codex: Space Marines came out about a month after the game arrived, when I had already dropped $25 on the Index: Imperium 1.  But I do like how it’s easier to play, it’s gotten rid of a lot of crap from the previous two editions, and it has some pretty cool new stuff.   8 is great! 

Which reminds me: I have some Fighting Tiger lists—8, as a matter of fact—to convert.  Where’d I leave my Index?       

Comments? Questions? E-mail me

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a dark fantasy novel, to be published in 2018.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring nature. 

Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.


Posted October 2017. All images are used for editorial purposes. 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle