Change is coming soon for our shared hobby. How should you be trying to approach this shift? Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
If you’ve never been around for an edition change before, you might feel a bit lost right now. Games Workshop has announced the coming of a new edition, but the information on what it will actually be is a bit scant as yet; they’ve said that it will be similar to and semi-compatible with 8th Edition, and that does seem to be broadly true, as most of the general mechanics more or less resemble the mechanics we currently know and effects such as stratagems, command points, detachments, etc, are all still around.
However, I’m here to tell you know: this is a trap. Not an intentional one, as I don’t think GW actually wants to make people be bad at the game (anymore), but it is a trap none the less. If you go into this new edition expecting it to be simply 8E but with some tweaks, you are going to be in for a very bad time.
For quite a few players, I imagine that the edition change they remember best is the 7E- > 8E shift, which was arguably the single largest alteration of the rules the game has ever seen and was a tectonic overhaul of how every single game system around worked. No one could mistake that for a simple game update, and while a few things were the same (bolter statline, still unchanged after twenty years) most of the player base quickly realized that they would have to completely reevaluate how they assessed the game. Of course, this resulted in quite a lot of hot takes that later turned out to be comically wrong, but such is the nature of humanity.
However, this time around we have a very nearly diametrically opposite situation- this edition shift is being sold to us as a quiet one, an update of the core rules to result in a better game overall but not a fundamental change in how we play. And I’m not here to tell you this is untrue- as I said earlier, it does mostly seem to be the case so far. We obviously don’t know the full extent of things, but the broad strokes are all there to indicate that many things are similar or the same.
However, if you are a competitive gamer and care about doing well in tournaments, this is where we reach the trap, because the devil is always in the details. Games are won and lost on technicalities, fractions of an inch, and tiny differences in wording, and it is important to know all of these things if you’re trying to play competitively.
So as this edition breaks upon us, you’ll need to remember: no matter how similar things look on the surface, you need to be approaching it as a totally new game and assessing everything from scratch. We can guess with good assurance that an Intercessor will still be pretty much the same- T4/3+/W2 and with a somewhat-increased price that lines up with price changes in every other unit, and probably carrying the same gun as before. And we know that Battalions are all but unchanged, which means the Intercessor will be serving essentially the same overall role, but woe betide the player who assumes that means they will still function the same in the new edition.
Let’s take some hypotheticals: since detachments cost (rather than give) command points, it may be that Intercessors and all other troops will suddenly go from being incredibly valuable core parts of many armies to an unpleasant tax you take because you are forced to. I don’t expect this, but it has been the case in many previous editions, so it wouldn’t be shocking for it to be the case again. Or, alternatively, it may be that only troop units can score objectives, which would mean that they are useless but paradoxially critical to winning games, another situation we’ve seen in the past. Or it may be that non-troop infantry are all capable of scoring, which would make elite units suddenly spike up in popularity as they are often just strictly-superior version of troop units, even if those troops themselves did not change at all.
Similarly, although command points are, on the surface level, still pretty similar, the details of the changes there would be enough to create a completely different environment even if every other rule stayed the same. With command points being a fixed resource that is identical across all armies to start with, lacking cheap troop/HQ units is no longer a huge strike against an army at the outset, and it means that armies such as Imperial Knights or Custodes have a very different set of choices to think about in terms of allying in other factions in. And no longer can armies take a triple-battalion or even double-brigade to give themselves a massive stock of command points to start- instead, such detachments are an actual disadvantage as they cost you command points rather than granting them.
These are a couple examples from what we know so far, but they are the absolute tip of the iceberg for this sort of thing. Although core concepts- such as mobility, firepower, scoring, etc- will all remain, but how they are implemented, how the function, and how you balance them will be utterly different in 9th. I will hazard a guess that no currently-existing army will carry over into 9th at all, even if you ignore the issues of points scaling- the very concepts that drive most of them are unlikely to persist, which will in turn mean the dissolution of those lists entirely.
This isn’t a bad thing. Not only is it important to overturn the meta periodically to keep the players engaged with innovating and experimenting, but it’s a chance for those players who felt overwhelmed to get a fresh start. Keep the broad lessons you picked up before, but let go of the details. Now, more than ever, look at what the best of the players are doing- we have an absolutely unprecedented level of access to the thoughts of top players like Nick Nanavati, Brandon Grant, Skarri, the Goonhammer crew, and others who have platforms where players can see what they are doing and what they think is important. This is everyone’s chance to step in on the cutting edge of the game if they wish to do so, and if not it’s your chance to try out whatever weird-ass personal list you’ve always wanted to try without needing to psych yourself up because you’re already aware of how bad it is. Soon, the doors will be flung wide open and anything will be possible again, until it isn’t of course. But for a brief time, we’ll all be able to revel in being equally-ignorant about the new game we’re all playing, and that’s a good thing.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to pick up the new edition or fill out a collection you’ve been building for years.