Warhammer 40k: 8th Edition Rules and Changes

Welcome to the Age of 40k!

Warhammer 40,000 is about to enter its 8th edition this coming this month and looks to shake things up. If you are like me and haven’t played 40k for a while due to power creep and the over complication / saturation of “special” rules, then you might want to dip a toe back in.

I’ve had a read through the core rules, perused the advanced and poured over the army details for my faction of choice. Below I present my initial thoughts and feelings on the new edition.

The new ruleset is strikingly similar to that of Games Workshop’s (GW) other main franchise Age of Sigmar. This was a ruleset which I didn’t like when they (GW) applied it to the fantasy setting as it over simplified a very turgid tome of rules and changed the fundamentals of how the game worked. When attached to 40k however, it seems to fit quite nicely.

The game has been broken down to its simplest form with the complexity coming from each army’s individual units. This is a great start.

Here’s how the new rule set works (in an even more simplified fashion than what GW offer for your convenience). The game has six phases, starting with:

1- Movement Phase

Move units up to the amount listed in the unit profile. You can give the order to Advance which adds 1D6 extra movement and disallows shooting (unless otherwise specified). You can’t move units closer than one inch to the enemy. There are units that have to move a minimum amount (mainly flyers).

2- Psychic Phase

Magic users *cough* I mean Psykers can use one psyker ability listed as per their profile. Every psyker has access to the default “Smite” which is a simple range damage ability.

To cast, roll 2D6. If that is higher than the “warp charge value” of the ability than it works. E.g. Smite has a value of 5.

If you roll a double 1 or double 6 the caster takes D3 mortal wounds (term for un-saveable) and if that kills them, the ability fails and everyone nearby also takes D3 mortal wounds. Psych!

If there are enemy Psykers nearby, they can attempt to stop the cast by also rolling 2D6 and getting a higher result than the caster (only one attempt to dispel for the enemy).

3- Shooting Phase

The meat and ‘taters of 40k. Pick a unit that didn’t advance and isn’t too close to the enemy. True Line of Sight is used to determine if a model can “see” a target (friendly models in the same unit are effectively invisible for determining sight). A unit with multiple weapons can shoot all types at the same time and can split fire to as many eligible targets. Roll the amount of dice indicated on the unit profile x for each model firing.

The roll needed to hit is marked on the unit profile (usually a 3+ or 4+).

Roll to wound with all successful hits. To find what you need to roll for a successful wound, take the strength of the weapon (again, on the profile) and consult the small “wound roll” chart (if the strength is equal to the enemy toughness a 4+ is needed. Weaker = 5+. If more than half the toughness = 6+. Same goes the other way, so if it is stronger a 3+ is needed, more than double the toughness and a 2+ is all you need). Simple and easy to remember.

Take the wound pool and allocate to whatever models in the target unit you like, sight be damned (the only exception being characters – no touching characters unless they are the closest visible unit).

The enemy then attempts to save some wounds. Take the armour value of the model (on the profile) and modify it by the armour penetration of the weapon that caused the damage. Roll higher than the modified target and you have a success. Roll of 1 always fail.

Apply damage as stated on the weapons’ profile. Each point of damage inflicts one wound and any excess damage is lost if a model is slain. So a two-wound model taking a hit from a damage six cannon will die after the second wound is applied, wasting the remaining four – it doesn’t flow over to the rest of the unit.

Cover is treated differently in this new edition. If the unit is entirely within or on any terrain feature, its models armour saving throw is increased by 1.

A unit with Invulnerable saves and armour saves can only use one of these, not both! This is a big change which will make those uber tough characters with stupid high armour and an additional invulnerable save not so invulnerable now.

4- Charge Phase

If you have a unit within 12 inches that didn’t Advance or Fall back, they can elect to charge.

Pick an eligible target. That target can fire Overwatch – a reactionary round of shooting where only 6’s hit.

Once Overwatch is resolved, the charger checks if they make the distance by rolling 2D6. If you fail to make it, no models move. Another big change.
Having played Kings of War since the death of The Old World (Warhammer fantasy) which also had random charge distances, this is not a thing I like. The uncertainty of charges can, at times, be so frustrating (your unit is only 5 inches away and you roll a 3 – failed charge. What?! *metaphorical table flip*).

This is also compounded in a more melee focused army as it becomes more about luck than tactical acumen. Anyway…

5- Fight Phase

Once charges are successful you can then “Pile In” to make an additional 3 inch move to fit more models into the combat. Any model within 1 inch of a model in combat can attack.

Now make attacks like in the shooting phase but with melee weapons profiles instead of ranged. The Attack characteristic on a unit profile is used for each model.

Once all that is resolved (hit, wound, damage dealt and saves made) the unit can consolidate to move another 3 inch, much like Piling In.

6- Morale Phase

Now to see if any units you shot at or thumped with your battery powered lightning stick in combat chicken out and flee.

Roll a die and add the amount of models removed from play this turn. If it exceeds the Leadership value on the unit’s profile (or character in the unit if it is higher) then remove a model for each point of difference. Have Leadership 7 but your roll + casualties totaled nine? Lose an additional two models.

And there you have it, the new ruleset in a very basic form. There are a few details which I’ve not included but if the above seems like something you want to look further into, you can read the extra stuff yourself.

What I also like about the new rules is to do with army composition and the inclusion of “Command points” (CP). Every army starts with three CP which can be spent on Stratagems in game. These stratagems range from being able to re-roll a single dice (failed charges anyone?) to automatically passing a morale test (could be clutch for an important combat).

You can also accrue additional CP but taking what’s called a “Battle-forged army”- a structured list following certain guidelines. Battle-forged armies are made up of detachments which have their own structure and suitability at different game sizes. Smaller detachments grant fewer bonus CP.

While the rules are simplistic in design, as I’ve said earlier, the complexity comes from the units within an army. Like Age of Sigmar, every unit has both standard and faction keywords attached. These keywords group units under specific umbrellas to allow clear cut, synergistic unit abilities to be applied without error. E.g. the bog standard Necron Lord has an ability to allow re-rolls of failed morale tests for friendly <Dynasty> keyword units within six inches of the lord. You may assume that every Necron unit would have the required keyword, but that is not the case. The absence of the specific Keyword makes it crystal clear that the Lord’s ability would not affect that specific unit.

Where there used to be pages of weapon options, supplementary equipment choices, and loadouts there is now just the unit profiles (which are now called Datasheets… terrible name). Each profile clearly points out how many models can be used in a unit, the equipment it can use, options available and any abilities that they may have. There is very little need to search through the rulebook for further explanation. Excellent.

I’m not sure how I feel about the need to purchase at least one of the new Indexes for the update in army rules. When Age of Sigmar launched, GW popped all the army unit profiles online for free. Now I’m forced to pay for an extra book for the 20 or so relevant pages if I want to use my Necrons. It’s just that extra cost atop of the rulebook which feels a little dirty.

The scenarios offered in the rulebook are passable but nothing special. In fact some of them are clearly exploitable. I would imagine most gamers would identify these issues and make amendments for a more balanced game. I can’t really say much more without testing them myself though.

I’ll leave it there for now. Like I’ve said, there’s a host of nuanced details I’ve purposefully left out so you’ll just have to grab the book when it’s released. Will this new edition bring me back to the future of constant war and skulls? Probably. My local gaming group seem pretty excited and I’m sure I can be easily persuaded to dust off the ‘Crons. It’s certainly more inviting than previous incarnations.

For me, the future is looking a lot less grim-dark.



PS. Just to clarify my last line, I meant that my relationship with 40k was on an indefinite hold, it was a dark future (used the term “grim-dark” here, which is often used to describe the aesthetics of the 40k universe). Not that my future is less grim-dark, with the meaning that the 40k setting was to be removed from the list of games I play.

Looking to pre-order some Warhammer 40,000 – 8th Edition goodness? Head over to our friends at Vault Games! They have some special pre-order pricing and ship Australia wide.

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