After playing my first game of 40k, I thought i’d post a few thoughts on my impressions.
The first thing that comes to mind are how simple the rules are compared to the last Edition. I suppose being used to a more complicated ruleset made these easy to pick up. They also worked very well.
This simplicity is offset by the number of types of units and weapons available and more importantly by the missions and objectives you play. These really are key to giving the game its depth. To expand on this, as a fantasy player I was used to having just 6 scenario types and deployment was part of each scenario. In 40k, out of the box, you have 2 different mission styles. Each of these then has 6 separate missions under them. So straight away the options are twice that of 8th ed. fantasy. You then roll for the deployment type separately (from 6 choices), which gives you a shed load more variations. On top of that, the Chapter approved book gave you another however many variations of mission. Now many of the missions are variations on the same theme and a fair few are not suitable for a rank and file style game but still, I do think the lack of scenario variations are part of what stifled each edition of fantasy. It’s one thing Kings of War has done well (and why I stole some of their objectives for our comp’).
I will say I’m not such a fan of having all the weapon prices separate. I understand it makes updating costs etc. easier in chapter approved but it was the one daunting part of the list build using the army codex and I didn’t find it the easiest thing to follow (downloading battle scribe fixed this though!).
The game was fast and bloody. We finished the game within 3 hours but it only took that long due to my faffing and lack of rules knowledge (I called it after turn 5 as at that point I had just scouts left and no way of achieving any of the objectives I had in my hand in order to take the lead).
The model count was low. Now granted this is compared to 8th ed. fantasy and if I was playing guard or Orcs, then it would be a different matter. Still, being able to transport all the infantry in a Roses tub* and the dreads in another small box, it felt like I was missing half my stuff.
The psychic phase is much improved on last edition and works quite well. It would have helped if i’d read up the rules on it a bit more as only being able to attempt to stop 2 powers each turn (out of the 5 he was able to cast) came as a shock to the system the first time. I’m still not convinced the Space Marine ‘spells’ are that great. Smite seems to be the go to power with a few of the others being not bad but definitely second rate to Smite.
I like the moral phase, it works well but does mean you are pushed towards a more MSU style. With Marines, this doesn’t make too much difference as you tend to take smaller units anyway but it will be interesting to see it on armies with larger units.
The big question is would I play it again? Well I’ll start by saying I still think it is inferior to fantasy but it always was going to be. I have many decades of blood, sweat and tears invested in that game system. That said, I did enjoy it and will definitely be revisiting it. I’m also likely to replay it before I touch Kings of War again. The main reason for this is because of the list building element. 40k retains this (for me) crucial element of the game and much as I enjoyed KOW, I really feel the lack of it in that game.
*approx 10″ round plastic box that previously contained chocolates
40k vs AOS
For a fantasy player, seeing how well 40k works has actually frustrated me even more. You can really see how the fantasy reworking was completely a dry run for 40k and where they learnt from their mistakes. Instead of totally revamping the rules they have taken the best elements from last Edition and also from fantasy and worked them in, whilst simplifying other bits (the way strength rolls are calculated is simple but effective and isn’t really any different to the fantasy table but is presented in a much better format). I hope that for the sake of 40k that they don’t keep releasing new books every year, as they have with AOS, that you need to buy to remain competitive and that keep piling on special rule after special rule so the system becomes just a bit too bloated.
On the other hand it’s made me appreciate the wealth of scenarios in AOS and how they are utterly integral to making the ‘beer mat’ rules work. I only hope that down the line (and not too far), AOS learns from 40k and gets a second edition (as such), or a reworking of the rules. I’m not saying that it would get me playing it necessarily but they at least need to do something about the shooting when within 3″ rule.
It has made me want to see if we can simplify the old 8th edition fantasy rules in a similar way. Combining some of the 40k/AoS stats whilst maintaining the rank and file.