In this second and final part (find part 1 here) of our big review of the new 6th edition rulebook of Warhammer 40k we will have a look at the miniatures showcase and the hobby and battles section. Also Sigur and Stahly will draw their personal conclusion of the new book, so don’t miss out this epic wall of text and hit “more after the jump”.
I get that a rulebook of a miniatures game has to have pictures of models. But like the recent codex and army books, I always find those pages quite boring. Back in the late 90s it might have been different, but now where you can just go to the Games Workshop website and have a look at models, often with 360° views, too, it feels a bit unnecessary. The miniature showcase of Warhammer 40k 6th edition is no exception. 72 pages of models you have seen many times before. Nothing new to see here, go on… At least the Fantasy rulebook had a couple of new paint jobs, here I could only spot Fabius Bile and Ahriman painted like I haven’t seen them before. I would have liked if GW would use their colour pages to systematically show different paint schemes of army sub-factions like Ork Klans or Eldar Craftworlds and to show various insignias garnered with some flavour text and painting guides, like they did in the codex books of late 3rd edition and early 4th edition, but oh well.
The hobby section is pretty much what you know from the in the Fantasy book, just slightly updated for Finecast and the new paint system and of course with 40k models. In the 38 pages of this section you will find a brief overview of how to assemble, convert and paint your miniatures, what tools you’ll need and
how to build a gaming table how to buy a Realms of Battle board and Citadel terrain kits. There is also a nice Space Wolves army by Spikyjames on display, as well as a couple of other player painted models and a Golden Demon showcase. This section also talks about hobby centres, Games Days, Warhammer World and such stuff. All in all, a pretty well rounded hobby guide, even though I would have liked more army showcases, the Fantasy book and the 5th edition book had a couple more and even there I thought there could have been more.
So what do I think of 6th edition 40k. Let me start with my first impression which of course was the book. Garfy already talked about it but I’ll happily repeat: This book is huge. Today I took it to my local gaming store and back (along with an army case, the camera and so on) and, while I usually am not the type to complain about big rulebooks – that thing gets heavy. At 430+ pages hardcover it almost seems like this tomb was mainly produced for being eyecandy and for looking up rules when your’re at home.
That said, it does the eyecandy party really, really well. I’m not awfully fond of the term “wargamer porn” but when you spread out those four page sized fold-out pictures (which you might be familiar with from the Apocalypse book already) it does look pleasing. For the first time the book is full colour, lavishly ornated and full of artwork, pictures of miniatures and battles and so on. All pictograms for explaining rules have been replaced with full colour pictures of real models. Huge part of the book are the background fluff of 40k and, most interestingly, there is a fair number of pages devoted to miniature galleries and explaining painting and modelling techniques. All in all, this, more than any GW publication before, is the quintessential work on what 40k currently is. Of course they also got the 2nd edition box artwork in the book on a very early page to win the hearts and minds of the older crowds.
It’s now pretty common for printed wargaming rulebooks to have high production values. GW started it, Privateer Press is said to be very good at it as well, Battlefront likewise. Also the historical wargaming rulebooks look stunning nowadays. Just look at the likes of Force on Force, Tomorrow’s war or the books Warlord Games release. Very pretty books but once again GW topped that. This very much is a “coffee table book” just as much as it is a rulebook.
However the size of it and the number of illustrations, artwork and photos doesn’t mean that it’s light on actual substance. Quite on the contrary. There is information, rules, stories, suggestions and optional rules without end. When I first openened the book I noticed that the font is pretty small. Sure, older wargamers (I’m talking 55+ years here) aren’t too likely to read this book anyway but it might be kind of eye-straining at times. On the other hand, this is just one indicator of how much stuff they crammed into this book. The layout is pretty clear and it has an index in the end for quick reference (less common than one might think). There also are four quick reference pages in the back.
Now let’s look at the rules themselves. Other than what some rumours indicated, they didn’t change much about the core mechanics. In my opinion that’s a missed opportunity but then I can see why they just can’t do that. It’s just a shame that we are stuck with this kind of inflexible and clunky core mechanics with things like an AP value on weapons or cover saves. It’s appearant though that the rules designers put much effort into improving the game within the boundaries of the core mechanics and adding bits here and there.
Things like the introduction of snap shots of any variety I think was a good thing and as close to to-hit modifiers as you can get in this system. I like firing as a charge reaction and I like the changes to vehicle damage (the table as well as the introduction of hull points). The new way of wound allocation I welcome as well. No more allocation shenannigans with mixed units. I’m also fine with the introduction of random charge ranges. No problems with randomness in wargaming and having the luxury to measure distances at any point now makes up for that in my opinion. New Psyker powers? Sure, why not. I can see how they took many things from Warhammer Fantasy Battles (from whose loins 40k sprang of course) that work and put it back into 40k. Speaking of which – there are challenges in close combat now! And tons more stuff for characters too.
About the further bump of rapid fire weapons and heavy weapons (which allows to you fire heavy weapons on the move, albeit at very much reduced efficiency) I’m not entirely convinced. I can see that GW are trying to make the game more mobile so to speak. That’s probably a good thing but how important is that, especially with the regular old 6’x4′ table? I recently read an interesting complaint about 40k (a new one, not the regular stuff) – the more or less standard sized 6’x4′ table is getting very crowded lately. In the days of 2nd edition the table was pretty big. Then came the extreme point costs cut and the continuation of making units cheaper. Not necessarily faster overall but the table definately becomes more crowded. Add to this increased mobility of rapid fire troops and of course fliers.
Fliers have “officially” been introduced as proper unit type now as well. I have to admit that I haven’t used any yet, nor seen any in action but the rules as they are look pretty okay. The only thing I’m cautious about is the number of anti-air units that will become avaialable to all armies. Let’s just hope that they aren’t too few, otherwise flyers will become a real pest. Personally, I do like the flier models they released so far. I don’t think that fliers are required in or an essential addition to 40k. As I said, they severely add to an increasingly claustrophobic feel to most standard-sized tables.
Buying fortifications for points and allies both are pretty clever stunts by GW to sell more plastic kits of course. On a more positive (or less jaded) note though the first allows armies which have little in the way of anti-air to acquire some AA guns which is nice. On the matter of allies: This is quite a big change of course. I can see some gaming groups or tournaments just outruling them and I can understand why they would. Apart from that, the main concern probably is the way some people will exploit this rule (by that I mean finding out the “strongest combo” of your army and allies or just reading it on the internet) but then some people will always exploit/min-max rules. This shouldn’t stop the general population of gamers from using the allies rule because we’ll see a lot of colourful armies with this rule and it will allow people for very interesting army themes and counts-as armies. I mean it’s now easier than ever (at least easier than ever within the past almost 20 years) to make a proper Squats army with all the things you need in it! Or…there probably are some more possibilities but mostly Squats. It’s all about Squats and if it isn’t the first question should be “how can I turn it into Squats”, right?
I digress. Anyway, my general thoughts on the book: It’s expensive, it’s huge but it’s worth it because it’s pretty. If you’re not okay with the price don’t buy it or get a small rulebook off ebay once the starter box comes out in September. Perfectly reasonable and simple. It’s a stunning achievement in terms of rulebook design and content in general. Apart from the rules, the picture galleries, the modelling and painting tips, the background, missions and so on you get optional rules, campaign suggestions, suggestions how to organize games and tons more stuff. This book is big but it’s all substance (that is if you’re into the background and pretty pictures as well as into the rules of course. But come on, nobody plays 40k because it’s such a darned fine set of wargames rules 😉 ).
If I have to think of something that to me is a bit of a letdown it’s maybe the lack of campaign rules. There are so many optional rules in this book it would have been nice to have campaign rules in there. Because I can’t see Planetary Empires scratching the players’ itch for proper campaigns. 6th edition 40k definately shows a change in design philosophy, going from an approach of “let’s keep it as simple as possible and add stuff with the codices” to “let’s make this a fun game that works with less abstraction than before”. Which really is a kind of return to how GW used to design games. I’m happy with this ruleset so far and have yet to find a major point I don’t like. Weirdly enough, 5th edition has probably been the edition I played the most so far (maybve even more than 3rd but I really hated third edition and still do) and I hope to continue this trend with 6th. But, as always when GW produce a good ruleset, we will have to see what the codices do to it and if the ruleset can support this insane range of different armies and units without breaking. It’s off to a good start though.
The battles section explores the many ways you can enjoy Warhammer 40k through narrative gameplay. First there are a couple of crazy tables along with suitable scenarios to get your creative juices flowing. To be honest, I found most of the boards a bit underwhelming, as almost all of them are Realms of Battle boards densely packed with a non-affordable amount of kitbashed Citadel terrain kits painted brown and grey. A bit samey. The Fantasy book and especially Storm of Magic had some more creative boards for sure. But one of them is pretty cool, a floating space section on some kind of meteorite, with Grey Knights purging a Deamon infection. You definately have to check this one out, even though the pictures are a bit small.
You can find more cool stuff in the 64 pages that make this part of the book. There are scenarios for small 500 pts games as well as for doubles games, ideas for creating your own mission specific rules with lots of example rules. There is also a table for environmental effects. They also introduce the various 40k expansions like e.g. Spearhead and Apocalypse as well as running campaigns, simple selfmade ones or ones based on Planetary Empires or Forgeworld books. Finally the section concludes with “Iconoclasm!”, an illustrated conflict where Chaos Space Marines clash with Imperial Guard and Space Marines. It’s kind of a campaign but it’s written purely from the fluff point of view, so quite a nice read with a huge battle scene on a fold-out page. All in all, a nice section, even though it must be said that the Fantasy book (with it’s higher page count) had a little bit more material here.
The last part of the book has has two parts. The first, Dark Millenium, has some random bits of background like explaining the imperial time system, explaining STC templates or how to treat lasgun wounds in the midst of battle. Neat, but the layout is a bit boring – they could have designed those pages as “official” imperial documents for example. Now it seems like those pieces are kind of leftovers, but interesting reads nontheless. There is also a star map of the Empire.
The second part is the reference section. There are updated unit and weapon profiles, the new psychic disciplines, a game summary (which I found incomplete) and a index.
What to I think of 6th edition? I’m very indifferent. As I compiled most of this review some of my criticism already comes through. The book is pretty nice with lots of new views on the background to clench your teeth into, even though I found the Fantasy 8th Edition book had a little bit more of everything – more pages, more new artwork, more hobby. For the rules, some of them sound pretty fun, some of them add more (maybe unneeded?) complexity, but with some changes I just wonder why as it was perfectly fine and hardly game-breaking before. For example, why can’t you no longer assault after disembarking when the transport didn’t move this turn or when outflanking or coming out of a webway portal? I agree transports needed some kind of nerf, but not in a way that it takes away valid tactics and gameplay mechanics some armies depended on. Other head-scraching moments for me were the nerf of power weapons. Now there is more variety, but all sorts are worse than before now that they lost their biggest selling point – negating armour. With a max of AP3, this makes one of the more overpowered units of 5th edition like CC terminators even better. Were power weapons so powerful, I mean on Marines people hardly took them and how many times have you seen all those Guard officers and Eldar characters going on a killing spree with their mere strength of 3? For me this is just game design that hasn’t been thought through the end. Hull points are another such thing. While I welcome that this mechanic negates the boring tactic of stopping vehicles from firing by stunning them, in the end they make low-armoured vehicles even more fragile while Land Raiders, one of the best vehicles in 5th, almost more sturdy and reliable. This makes the game hardly more balanced in my book and in the end it’s just like 5th edition but different, you’ll have the stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t.
Of course, you have to understand that GW sells models, not perfect game systems. They want to push people to buy stuff that they haven’t added to their armies yet, like flyers or terrain kits, so the rules reflect this. For now, I don’t want to deliver my final judgement of 6th edition, I’ll say let’s wait for the next couple of codices to see in which direction we’re heading with this latest incarnation of Warhammer 40k.
So, what do you think of the new book and specifically the new rules and background section? What do you think Sigur’s and Stahly’s opinions? Have you even already played a game with 6th edition? Drop us a comment and share your experiences and views. Also don’t forget to check part 1 of our review where we have a look at the rules and background sections.
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