Warhammer 40k 6.5 Revised Edition News Summary

The latest news is that the 7th Edition update is infact a revised version of the current 6th releasing on the 24th May. This should include the new publications Escalation & Stronghold Assault, D-weapon rules, errata changes and potentially some tweaks to existing rules. A consolidation of the last couple of years of additions to the latest ruleset.

It seems we will be getting a new started boxed set too, with the two main contenders being Orks vs Blood Angels or Astra Militarum vs Eldar. The latter of which I find particularly exciting prospect. Some more detailed rumours hit Natfka a while back about BA vs Orks: Beachhead Stygia, small kit containing 5 scouts, 5 Blood Angels, a command with jump pack, 5 meganobs, 10 armoured ork shootas including a nob with two0handed axe and 10 gretchins. It remains to be seen how accurate this is.

The Right Direction

To me this is a good move. Getting a new starter kit with some snap fit models sooner than waiting for a complete edition is great on its own. Games Workshop are developing a bit of a reputation for high quality snap fit sculpts (that are good value for GW too). The current 40k and Warhammer Fantasy boxes Dark Vengeance and Island of Blood are testament to this. These boxes contain some of the most beautiful models available for those particular armies right now.

Secondly it seems GW has been experimenting somewhat over the last couple of years with a plethora of expansions, supplements, dataslates and an increased rate of codex releases too. Coming with this is the vast array of errata documents that inevitably follow the release of any publication. I think this is great for the hobby, opening the system up to a whole range of new possibilities although really cutting into the delicate balance of the competitive scene (more on this later). However it does become a daunting prospect for a new comer to the hobby who buys the current rulebook only to find he really needs a codex, a codex supplement, two expansions and print outs of a dozen errata pages from the net in order to see the full range of rules.

Before Games Workshop move forward with more publications and advances to the ruleset we need to stop and take a breather. Gather everything that is out there right now and put it one place again. Not doing this now is just going to make turning up to your local hobby center more and more of a headache as the rules one might be turning up with becomes a bigger and bigger unknown.

The other side of this is that smaller, more frequent rule updates allow for balance tweaks. Rather than revamping whole swathes of the game and resetting the whole meta there is an opportunity to look at what we already have and refine. I'll let the reader decide whether or not you think GW are capable of this. All I want to say is that the potential for this is there and more frequent rulebook updates could help to address balance in a better way.

Speaking of balance....

Competitive Balance vs The Entire Hobby vs Starcraft 2

The sheer weight of publication releases, new rules, new models happening every week now is on a truly impressive scale. The only greater item I can see is...balancing it all!

I think there is an incredibly high standard set by the online community for balance in the 40k rules and armies which although is highly desirable is completely unreasonable. Let me explain by giving you the example of Starcraft 2.

To the few that don't know this is the real time strategy game created by Blizzard that holds the reputation as being the most balanced RTS on the market. It is regarded as a sport in Korea, with dedicated tv channels, sponsors, and sporting superstars of the game. People making a living out of playing it professionally. It's a pretty balanced game, it has to be, it's a sport with millions of dollars at stake.

It's not perfect though. Blizzard periodically release balance updates every few months to tweak and refine, they go in with a scalpel delicately trimming and changing where necessary, every decision meticulously though through. Even then they are not always successful. In addition to this careful approach they have certain advantages:

  • There are set maps with known distances, terrain, features and starting points.
  • There are only 3 races and no new races are ever added.
  • There super fun overpowered units are limited to single-player campaign only.
  • Matches are short 15 minute affairs that can be setup and replayed instantly making testing a doddle.
  • Getting new testers is easy, the cost and time required barriers to entry are far lower.

Now compare this to the task Games Workshop have.  There are a myriad of combinations of armies that could meet each before even bringing in allies. Who knows what terrain people might use, let alone if they set it up equally or even if they use the recommended board size! Games have large setup, pack away and play length times that make extended testing difficult. The rulebooks can't easily be patched in the same way as a game can where everyone is automatically on the same version due to playing online.

Now this hasn't been a very fair comparison, I am certainly not looking at like for like. However what I want to point out is a game system that is designed  to be balanced from the outset still gets it wrong with ideal conditions. This turn based, tabletop game we play has no hope of getting a competitive level of balance established, especially when rules can't be patched easily every few months.

It would required a drastic change on Games Workshops part. Moving to digital only rule sets that are updated regularly. Locking down a huge amount of options so that there are less unknowns for GW to balance. Applying a lot more restrictions to the tables we play on and reducing the amount of releases so the meta isn't constantly changing. That would only be the tip of the iceberg, far more changes would have to be done to achieve an acceptable level of balance. 

I think this would damage the hobby as a whole.

I have no problem with a competitive mindset, the desire to win and for that win to be down to your personal skills not the random roll of a dice or some favourable piece of terrain. I myself have an exceedingly competitive personality that I satisfy through the sport I play. I just don't think 40k is the place for hyper competitive play. It's not designed for that. 

40k is designed for the spectacle, for the stories that come out of the games we play. It has an incredible backstory and is an immensely satisfying hobby on the building, painting and converting side. It is not a sport. The games themselves are challenging. They provide stimulus through choices and decisions made through list building, deployment and the options you are presented with during each turn. I find the decision making in these moments interesting and fun to work through. You can still do everything right and lose however. We just have to understand that that is fine. 

Let me know what you think, this is quite a sensitive topic and I am by no means right about this. I have thrown out my opinion on this page and covered this article with subjective thoughts. Tell me if you disagree!

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