Thursday, 20 July 2017

Guest Post- 8th Edition 40k as a Tournament Game

Recently, I attended the Caledonian Revolution tournament, the first one that I had attended for 8th edition. I had been to quite a few tournaments in the past edition and was interested to see how I would perform with such a drastic change to the rules of 40k. 

Since the release of 8th edition, many players have spend time building new lists for their armies and testing out what units worked and what units were less effective. Caledonian Revolution featured around 100 players, with many top level players from the UK attending, so this seemed like a good place to check out where the meta might be heading. Going round the tables at the tournament, there were quite a few trends that I noticed. Flyers were very popular, with many lists featuring multiple flyer units. Vehicles were back in a big way too, with many list featuring a lot more tanks than you would expect under 7th edition, and even Dreadnoughts were being taken. In fact, many lists had up to 5 or 6 Dreadnoughts in the army. Guilliman was also a common sight on the table, as well as veritable hordes or Razorflocks!

I was interested to see what tournament players thought of 8th edition and how it might shape the tournament scene going forward. I asked previous contributor Innes to put together some thoughts of his experiences of 8th edition so far. 

I used to play against Innes when I attended Dundee Wargames Club. He was very much a big fan of tournament games and would be frequently trying out the optimal combinations for his army that stretched the rules of 7th edition to breaking point. We had a lot of fun games, some not so fun games against his Deathstar army, and I learnt a lot about making fun lists for my White Scars that could also be competitive in a tournament. 

Innes attends countless tournament each year, is a member of the ETC Scottish team and is a co-host of the awesome Caledonian Deathwatch radio, a great podcast for getting information on 40k from a competitive viewpoint. Check out their facebook page for all the up to date information on the podcast. 

So, here are Innes' thoughts on the 8th edition of 40k so far:

8th Edition as a Tournament Game
by Innes Wilson

Hi everyone, Innes here. Following Caledonian Revolution, Michael asked me to put together an article about what I thought about 8th as a tournament edition, so I’ve put together a short piece on the strengths and weaknesses of 8th Edition for tournament play.

For me personally, I was a massive tournament player in 7th, and I very much enjoyed all the game had to offer in terms of list building, tactical depth and options available; whether it was in the psychic phase, or the intricacies of multi-charging and list design. Moving into 8th then, it became obvious from the articles that Games Workshop were attempting to reduce the level of over complication in the game. As a person who thrived on that over complication, I’ve been very much concerned about where 8th edition would be as a game for tournaments. 

Now, 4 weeks into 8th Edition (and 6 weeks after we’ve had rules), I’ve played around 40 games, and 3 events, and I think a number of general trends have emerged, both positive and negative. 

One positive aspect of 8th Edition is that the game is much faster, and easier to just get on with. Over 3 events, I have only consulted the rulebook once, and I don’t even think it was for my own game. I’ve spent a lot more time checking indexes just to make sure I have my unit rules down, but as more games are played by everyone, that time slowing factor will go down. The speed of the game is also helped out by the following:

Everything dies. I’m not sure if this is a positive or negative factor, it’s just how the game is now. There are absolutely no units with even close to the resilience of 7th Edition, between Ironstar, Veil of Time, Invisibility and even Jink, all units go down to firepower at a much easier rate. The change in Twin Linked, combined with the easy access to rerolls means that many units can put out twice the effective firepower than in 7th. 

Alpha Striking is almost certainly a problem that exists because of how easy everything is to kill. By going first, as most armies have such high firepower, they can absolutely rinse opposing armies in a single turn, crippling their effective output. Whether it’s 5 Stormravens, 6 Dreadnoughts and Razorbacks, 50 Plasma Guns or 10 Tau Commanders with Fusion, Cyclic Ion Blasters or Missile Pods, all of these armies possess the capacity to table opponents in 3 turns, and it often comes down to simply whoever has fewer deployments, or if you seize. I played two games in an hour and a half with Ravens vs AdMech Gunline. In both games, it was over by the end of the first player’s turn 2. 

This is an issue that I’m not sure can actually be resolved given the games current state. Firepower outclasses defensiveness by such a margin that there’s no way to restate that balance. If you put that balance in psychic powers, only some armies have access. If you change twin linked, armies that don’t rely on it such as Knights or Tau remain powerful. There are possible solutions like increasing the cost of ranged weapons across the board, etc., but they’re large changes that will drastically affect how the edition plays, and at 4 weeks in, how likely are such changes to occur?

Unbound in 7th Edition was practically a dirty word, you’d never see an event use it, and even casual games generally stayed away from it. In 8th Edition, however, unbound feels like the order of the day. Take whatever units you want, pay a 30-100 Point Tax for a HQ if that unit is an Elite, Fast Attack or Heavy Support, or none if they’re Fliers or Superheavies, and laugh as you deploy 1500 points of the same 2 units with some buff characters and scoring. 5 Stormravens and Guilliman, 3 Knights and Scoring, 10 Commanders and 7 Squads of Drones, all of these armies come across as formations from 7th. You have very few downsides and almost no restrictions due to the wealth of detachments available which make spamming not only the best option available, but also the easiest way to go about playing 8th.

Another thing that arises due to the lower complexity is that many armies and characters feel the same, or similar. With Characters in Imperium, Chaos and Xenos having very similar rules, a small buff, generally Reroll 1s or to hit or wound, or a buff like +1 to hit. This complexity could very well be added back in with Stratagems, Relics, Warlord Traits, etc. in the upcoming codices, but at present the game sorely lacks depth. For example, the Dark Apostle and Chaplain differ only in And They Shall Know No Fear versus Death to the False Emperor. At a tournament level, what this means, is that since armies are so homogenised, it’s very easy to dismiss entire sections of armies due to their options for units, allies and such being so much weaker. Any Chaos list wishing to use a Dark Apostle and Chaos Marines may as well use a Chaplain and Space Marines as the support available to the Imperium is so much better

Obviously, with the state of 8th being as it is, comp systems have already arisen. No duplication of detachments is a big one that helps to limit spam in a lot of ways. Another is mixed Maelstrom and Eternal War missions which give armies multiple avenues to compete. 

An interesting mission development we've seen from the ITC is using Power Levels as a unit’s ‘kill points value’. While I like the idea behind the system, rewarding players for killing tougher units, I don't think the power levels system is developed enough to support it, and has some glaring issues such as 10 brimstones having a PL of 5 and a points value of 20, well outside the normal 20:1 conversion rate. Another such issue is the fact that Imperial Knights suffer greatly compared to Renegade Knights, as all Renegade Knights have the same power level of 23 compared to IKs which range from 23 to 27 for the same loadouts, punishing certain armies. With further development to get rid of certain edge cases, it could certainly be turned into a viable and interesting system.

Another change that ITC have made is modifying the first turn system to being a dice roll, with an advantage if you finish deploying first. While I understand the idea behind this, having neither player know who's going first until after deployment removes any ability to plan for the eventualities, effectively meaning players have to hedge their bets. I don't think that removing the list building criteria for going first is an appropriate way to curb the alpha strike problem, as it effectively means that players can freely spam units with very little punishment. Combined with the kill points system benefitting MSU armies as their units are worth less VPs, the ITC system definitely moves towards punishing mid-sized armies, rather than accommodating for them, as there are benefits to being only at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Expect to see armies with either 5 or 20+ deployments take the lead in ITC. (Especially things like 8 point acolytes that can deploy in any vehicle that don't give up very many VPs at all). 

Overall, I think 8th Edition has a long way to go to become the same caliber of Tournament Game that 7th Edition was, whatever the flaws of 7th. The game comes across as much simpler, faster and more deterministic than armies of 7th Edition did. Even in the worst matchups, at a competitive level, powers, random rolls and in game mechanics could allow you to win a poor matchup, whereas in 8th, it feels like it’s purely down to list composition and seizing, and I’m not sure how much long term viability that will have. With the European Team Championships coming up in just a few weeks, we’ll see exactly what lists rise to the top, and start seeing exactly how well balanced this edition is. 

Thanks once again to Michael for allowing me the opportunity to put something together for his fantastic blog, and I hope that this article gives everyone here something to think about going forward!.

A big thanks to Innes for taking the time to write up his thoughts for the blog. Be sure to check out Caledonian Deathwatch Radio to hear more of Innes' thought on 8th edition. Do you agree with Innes' opinions? What has been your experience of tournaments in 8th edition? Comment below and let us know. 


  1. Hi Mike, thanks again for giving me the chance to write for your blog. Hopefully 8thll come around to being a Great Edition in time

    1. I hope so too. Got a couple of tournaments coming up next month, so will be interested to see if I learnt any lessons from Cale.

  2. I suspect we might see some Tournaments only allowing the three "generic" Detachments, or at least cutting off the Flyer/LoW/HQ ones. Still, I have to say, it's disappointing, given how much fun it is on an even slightly less competitive level.

    I'm also not sure how good of a trend indicator watching the ITC is going to be. In 7th, they were revolutionary, but with 8th, they're already starting to feel a bit reactionary. As you mention, re-introducing randomness to the first Turn decision cuts into some of the strategy made possible when knowing you're going second because you're running many Units.

    Finally, I think TOs are going to have to *really* step up their terrain game, or else start House-Ruling basically everything to be LoS-blocking. Possibly in the manner of 3th Ed, where you could shoot into or out of Terrain, but not through it.

    1. Limiting flyers or lords of war could be one solution. However, I wouldn't want to punish players who have been playing Knight armies for years.

      I think LoS blocking terrain is going to be key in 8th. With shooting and alpha strike being strong, this seems a good way to redress the balance. The little LoS blocking stuff at Caledonian revolution had a big impact on my games.

    2. Knights would want an exception like they had in 7th Ed ITC, yeah.

  3. Hi Innes, thanks for the article, very interesting to get a glimpse of the game from a very competitive perspective.

    The difference between the armies will definitely increase once the codex books are released, so I wouldn't worry about that too much.

    The idea with mixing missions and adding kill points is great, I think I'll pick that up for our club, too. By the way, why use power levels for kill points and not just, I don't know, army points?

    I think it's great that vehicles and flyers have a place again, but the rewards for spamming worry me, too. Limiting detachments should help at least a little I hope. In Infinity this is solved by limiting the specific units to a certain number but I'm not sure how that could work in 40K without limiting army building too much.

    Overall I think 8th is great for the game and the community as a whole - streamlined rules help reduce the time played and make it easier for new players to enter, which imo is really necessary with the competition from online/computer games (vs tabletops).

    1. I've been to tournaments where they use points values as kill points. It works well, but does add a little to end of game complexity.

      I don't know how effective limiting detachments would be. With the exception of lords of war and flyers, there are few armies that couldn't be built using three of the standard detachments.

      I would also be against limiting unit types. It would render a lot of armies practically unplayable. My Deathwatch, Guard and Orks would struggle to make 2000 pts if limited to 3 of each unit, based on my current collection.

    2. The limitation I saw that seemed like it might be workable was that no more than some limit (perhaps roughly a third of your Army value) could be spent on copies of a single Datasheet. Number of Units doesn't matter, just the total Points spent on, for instance, Ork Boyz Mobz. That does still get kind of harsh in some situations for the Armies that don't really have full Dexes, like Harlequins, Militarum Tempestum, and, yeah, DeathWatch, tho.

    3. That might work a limit better than simply limiting the number of datasheets. At least then, you could build up a decent sized force for many armies.
      I guess it depends on how good the spam is that limits it. For example, I don't think many people would have a problem with me "spamming" Astra Militarum infantry squads, as they make up the bulk of my army and are easily killed.

  4. Hey Innes - something I've seen suggested elsewhere is introducing an "interrupt" mechanism for first turn shooting, similar to what happens with assaults i.e. If you're going second you can spend command points after your opponents first unit fires to allow you to interrupt their shooting phase. After that, each player alternates unit activation. This would only happen in turn one, to counter alpha strikes. I have no idea if this would work (haven't played any games of 8th yet) - what do you think?

    1. Alternate unit activation would certainly alleviate a lot of issues with 40k, but I think it's such a drastic change that we wouldn't see it for another edition or two at least, although now that we have it for the combat phase it's certainly a possibility.

  5. 8th is heavily influenced by games like X-Wing, except that the lack of alternate activation completely buggers it. Igoyougo is responsible for the Alpha Strike issue and many other problems.

    The sameyness of units and armies is a built in problem. FW decided there wasn't enough granularity in 8th to reflect the differences between units and chapters. This lack of granularity as well as the loss of things like vehicle damage charts makes everything feel the same.

    Spam is worse than ever because the last limits on army construction have been removed. Spam lists always have an advantage and counterintuitive rules such as the ability for flyers to get out of combat and shoot just ensures today's spam is flyer flavoured. The CAD was a safeguard against excess.

  6. interesting article. it would be good to know why the following was done

    1. why 2000pts? personally for tournaments i think 1500 is a lot better as it's quicker so games go the distance and harder to get loads of detachments (so no need for 3 detachment ruling). at 1500 you aremy is normally missing something where at 2k you can have everything and a bit more
    2. why did they change the first turn? such a bizarre tweak for what is a fundamental rule. you have loads of units you go last simple. now it is back to a roll. very odd
    3. why do they make hybrid missions and not stick to the 12 in the book. also why have KP in every mission. personally i done mind playing an eternal war and a maelstrom but why always add in KP? surely that make the mission's a little one dimensional

    a good point about terrain. i have played too many events where there has been a scarce amount of terrain and shooty/static armies have done well. static armies have been mitigated with malestom missions but a lack of decent cover always favoured shooty armies.

    i think with the newness of the 8th rules set, not sure why any tournament needs to move away from the matched play rules yet. GW seem to have done a good job with understanding tournaments and the rule set seems good so far (it's only been out a month)

    1. 1. I think 2000 pts has become the standard for games that were previously 1850 pts (most tournament games). Given that some units (particularly vehicles) have become more expensive, I think it is a good level. As for the detachments, they allow you to build more variety. I reckon most 2000 pts armies could fit in a single Battalion detachment.

      2. I think the ITC changed the first turn mechanic as they felt it may have been too powerful for an automatic first list. The flyer-heavy armies generally always go first and put out a ton of firepower to obliterate their opponent. Rolling off may give other armies a better chance, but I agree that the original mechanic seems to work well at the moment.

      3. Caledonian Revolution has always used hybrid missions. I do like them in some respects. They were particularly useful in 7th edition, where you knew you had no shot at kill points against certain armies (Deathstars and Decurions), so I could focus on getting as many maelstrom points as possible. Adding kill points is tricky, as you sometimes need to choose whether to sacrifice a unit to grab the objectives or try and keep them alive so as not to give up the kill points. The problem with kill points is that armies can be so uneven as to make the amount you can score drastically different. They do limit it to an 8 pt differential, but in some games you know you are automatically giving up all the kill points.

    2. i suppose size of games is really dictated by the time available at the venue. in the past i have seen loads of people complaining games struggles to get to 5 turns and yet TOs never reduced the point sizes (they generally complained about rule bloat)

      ITC do some funny things and sometime i think they do it for the sake of being different to the rules. i'm not sure how they can decide that this change is correct when the game has just come out. i suppose if they didn't make up a load of new rules and stuck to the core ones they would be out of business!

      i like all the missions, not sure i like hybridising them as much and especially not having KP in each one.
      it would be interesting to mix the mission at an event. e.g. this one could have been 2 malestrom, 2 eternal war and a "special one"