With the announcement of 8th and the previews that followed, many people had the same fear. The AoS-ification of 40K. Was this fear justified? TL:DR – not likely. We are over a month into the new edition and I think it’s safe to say that the fear of a simplification of 40K, and potentially turning it into something akin to Age of Sigmar, ran a bit too wild in the community.
I am not going to argue that the game hasn’t become more streamlined. The elimination of pages of universal special rules (some of which were only applied to a handful of select units or weapons) certainly did streamline things. No more rolling for reserves, elimination of the vehicle stat line, and a more linear way of casting and denying psyker powers all lead to a more simplified set of core rules. But was this a bad thing?
A lot of people correlate complexity with quality. This may be true in some cases. Complexity allows you to have more options available to work with, more tools to outwit and outplay your opponent. But at what point does complexity turn into bloat? Having a large stockpile of universal rules available to all can be a good system. But once you introduce codexes and rules for individual armies or units that overrule those universal rules, now you are breeding confusion. Unless every person knew every rule, and every codex, and therefore every exception, this could easily lead to disagreements at the table. And I’m sure everyone loves stopping the action with their plastic soldiers to look up a rule, exception to the rule, or some other obscure bit, to back up their claims.
Now, the only real universal “rules” are simply classifications. Infantry, Vehicle, Fly, Character, Assault, Heavy, Rapid Fire, ect. All these do is give you a classification to let you know what kind of object you are working with, that are concrete and clearly defined. I have not found an instance where one of the above words changes its meaning. Sometimes they are swapped under certain circumstances, such as a dark lance for Dark Eldar changing from Heavy to Assault when mounted on a vehicle, but in those cases the meaning of Heavy and Assault have not changed. This streamlining should improve the quality of the game quite a bit.
“But what about all my special rules? The things that make my army unique? Everything is so watered down!” That is true to some extent, but it is being corrected. And its being addressed two fold. The first are unit datasheets. This was another thing that made people cry out in terror, “Datasheets?!?! But that’s AoS rubbish! Burn all your models in protest!” Come on now Chicken Little, it’s not that bad. Unit datasheets are one of the more praised things in the AoS community. A nice sheet with all the rules and options for that unit all on one handheld page, including all those special little details that make it awesome. Why is this a bad thing? The only holdup I can see with this at the moment is it makes printing a roster with an army building program such as battlescribe a monstrous usage of paper if you want all those details right there with your units. So until GW releases its own, or a more convenient option rolls around, looks like you’re shackled to that Index. A very minor inconvenience though considering the benefits of having all your rules easily on hand.
Which brings us to point number two, Indexes versus Codexes. Indexes were always meant to be just a stopgap, a baseline to get everyone playing the new edition. “Why didn’t they just release all the codexes alongside the new rules?” There are probably multiple reasons, and some of these are just speculation. With the overhaul of the statline itself, EVERY unit needed to have its stats changed. Indexes were a very graceful way to handle this. It allowed them to create a tome with multiple factions in one small, condensed, easily portable volume. People with multiple armies may get lucky and some of their armies are included in one Index. This lifts a bit of financial burden off of the player. These indexes are only $25. Even if you needed all four you’re looking at $100 to have everything you need to play EVERY army in this edition. Once you factor in that the average Codex is $50-$60, assuming that same person has 4 armies (justifying the purchase of all four Indexes), that person is looking at $200-240 for a fraction of the information available in the Indexes by comparison.
Indexes are also very new-player friendly. A cheap book that gives you the lowdown on not one but typically five different armies in one book, just in case the one you were really interested in at first doesn’t strike your fancy as much as you thought it would. Also the more simplified version of the rules makes it far easier for new people to join the hobby. GW is a business after all and making the game accessible to a new batch of players means a new rush of income as whole armies are being bought.
Codexes are also on the way, with the Space Marines Codex hitting shelves first, naturally. From the previews and peaks that we’ve gotten, much of the uniqueness is coming back. Relics, full psyker tables, unique warlord traits, and a slew of new stratagems are all inbound. This also will bring about rules for new models as well, giving more variety to models like the new Reavers in both pose and wargear options over their current push-to-fit counterparts. Makes me excited to see what all is in store for all the other factions.
So wrapping this whole thing up here. There are a lot of other points that could be made but the bottom line is, 8th Edition is a complete overhaul of the game system. That does NOT mean that this is now Age of Sigmar: 40K Edition. Some things may have carried over like the datasheets, but why wouldn’t a company pull ideas from its own IPs to help improve its other systems? Indexes, while watered down, were just to get everyone comfortable with the new system and how it all fits together. These are not long term solutions and should not be viewed as such. Codexes are on the way and look to bring some of the complexity and uniqueness back to the game.
When you look at it as a big picture, 8th Edition was a major undertaking. Is it perfect, of course not. Is everything rainbows and sunshine? No, but it’s not raining brimstone either. With as large a change in direction that 8th Edition is compared to the recent ones, I’d say it has really gone about as smoothly as can be hoped for. Once more Codexes hit the shelves, we will start seeing 8th Edition as the beast it is intended to be. So buckle in for the next bit of choppy water as some armies have Codexes while others are still using Indexes. But once we brave that storm, only then can we take in all of 8th as it is intended. We are still in that transition, growing pains, but overall I would wager that things are going to be just fine.