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Clayton Lin: Weighing In

Adventures in Plastic: Warhammer 40,000- 8th Edition

Andrew Ryan

The Flesh Tearers (Space Marines) engage in melee against Tyranids.

The Flesh Tearers (Space Marines) engage in melee against Tyranids.

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

The Imperium of Man is beset on all sides by the mutant, the alien, and the heretic. Warp storms threaten to destroy thousands of worlds and billions of humans. The hordes of those who serve Chaos gods- traitor and daemon, threaten to descend and consume all of mankind. The Orks launch more WAAGHs!!! than they've ever done. The fey and arrogant Aeldari, watch ever closely, whilst their darker cousins, the Drukhari, launch swift and deadly raids on unprotected planets that enslave millions of all species and leave as fast as they arrive. The dynasties of Necrons are rising from their quiet slumber threatening to drown all under a tide of living metal.

In response, Roboute Gulliman, the Primarch of the Ultramarines has declared the Indomitus Crusade, with the aim of repulsing all the threats to humanity to once and for all destroy Chaos wherever it may lurk. Alongside his mighty countenance, are legions of Space Marines, those already in the front lines, and fresh reinforcements in the form of Primaris Marines. Alongside the Space Marines, are the Astra Militarum (Imperial Guard), who are the ordinary human soldiers facing the horrors of the galaxy with only ordinary courage. The agents of the Imperium help, in their mysterious ways, combating their foes in the shadows.

The long war has just begun.

For those who don’t know what Warhammer 40,000 is- it’s the grand daddy of tabletop wargames, by far Games Workshop’s most popular and best-selling product, on and off the tabletop. It’s iconic 'face'- the Space Marine (by the way, it’s trademarked, as a children’s book author found to her peril not long ago), is an eight foot tall encased entirely in armour, and armed with what is equivalent to a miniaturized rocket launcher, in the service of an intensely draconian regime that protects humanity from the others. To put in our frame of reference, imagine if we responded to today’s terrorism, not with hashtags and prayers but retaliation and pogroms.

The story of this brutal unremitting universe is told by 32mm models (which you can paint), dice, a big book of rules, and on the pages of its many, many novels, which have increased in quality (in terms of literature) to the point where the Horus Heresy novels (set ten thousand years before) could often be seen in the hands of 9-5 workers on the Joondalup line (and presumably other lines).

I used to, and still do, have a small collection of Warhammer 40k lying around- of Chaos Space Marines, which I thought were cool at the time, but as I learned more about game mechanics, they clearly weren’t the army for me- as I remember the experience of my poor deployment obstructing my entire army’s movement (and subsequently butchered piecemeal and wholesale). Edition after edition added more and more rules (and the books it came in) that were poorly worded and open to exploitation, and my interest in the game itself slowly faded, but I still bloody love this cruel, cruel universe.

But then 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000 dropped, with the accompanied gnashing of teeth amongst some long-time collectors. The Games Workshop company itself had a change in CEO in response to seeing plenty of red in their account statements due to competition against other tabletop games of its ilk, such as the extremely popular Star Wars: X-Wing (Fantasy Flight), and Warmachine / Hordes (Privateer Press), whose clear (and free) rules and streamlined gameplay basically stole the target market away. Warhammer had to respond to the competition, by firing the nuclear option, they blew up their existing games (Warhammer Fantasy Battles became Age of Sigmar, the success of which laid the template for 8th edition) and then rebuild the rules from the ground up.

The core rules of the game are now simpler (reduction from 60-70 pages to 12), with some significant changes. Firstly everything now uses the universal profile- stats like Movement, Strength, Wounds, Attacks for example, from the poor bloody infantry, to battle tanks and big giant monsters. When vehicles take more wounds, they become less capable, to represent targeting systems and engines failing, which replaced the old damage chart and armor system, which was very binary- either the vehicle dies the first time it gets shot at or it comes out of a full barrage with just a scratch- and can be confusing as it operates on a different angle. The game also made other tiny little changes that made more common sense (in context)- such as your units dropping in from the air arriving delivering death from above in close combat can be done on the turn they arrive, rather than taking a short coffee break first before getting to work. In addition, the rest of the rules are free and accessible online on the day of release, which is handy for the wallet (considering our state is pretty high up there on unemployment charts).

To put it in short, things kill faster and die just as fast, as this universe is meant to be.

The contents of Dark Imperium. Paint sold separately.

The contents of Dark Imperium. Paint sold separately.

With the new edition, comes the big introductory box set, titled Dark Imperium, at about $220, containing two pre-built starter armies- Primaris Marines- Space marines that are harder, faster, better, stronger, and the Death Guard, the bad Chaos Space Marines who spread disease wherever they go, complete with the full and proper rulebook that you can buy separately, as well rulers and dice. $130 is for the models, which are jaw-droppingly crisp, which I got to look at whilst at Games Workshop in Carillon City on Saturday (when the box could be pre-ordered). Previous starter boxes had fewer models and a trimmed down paperback rulebook, so this is a step up. Not that I’m getting a box because neither force interests me.

I ran a test game with my brother, playing at 1,000 points levels. He took his Space Marines and I borrowed his Tau- and whilst I got blown to smithereens thanks to a daring if poorly thought out gambit, the game finished in one and a half hour (including delays for checking rules etc.), rather than nearly two and a half the last time we played using 7th edition rules.

That said, the new edition has given me a real compulsion to pick up some fresh plastic and pick up the paintbrush, and I haven’t done that for a decade.

Warhammer 40,000: Dark Imperium is released on the 17th of June.