It appears that Games Workshop’s futuristic tabletop miniatures game is due for a new edition sometime this year, likely in the fall. Thanks to Warseer and The Bolter and Chainsword for this information.
As with the release of 4th edition, all existing codexes will remain valid, and new codexes that are more ‘in line’ with the new edition will be released over the course of (probably) several years. Thus, this edition uses the same basic system as 4th (and 3rd) and does not represent a complete re-write of the whole system (as was the case when the transition from 2nd to 3rd was made).
A new boxed set featuring Space Marines and Orks is due for release along with the new edition. The boxed set supposedly includes far more models than have been included in recent 40k starter boxes: 10 tactical space marines, 5 terminators, 1 commander, 1 dreadnought, 20 ork boyz, 5 ork nobz, 1 warboss, and 3 deathkoptas.
I will highlight a few of the many rumored rules changes.
First, troops are the only units that qualify as “scoring units” for missions (missions are now the “standard” way to play, by the way), and troops will count as a scoring unit even down to the last man (previously a scoring unit needed to be at least 50% starting strength). This will obviously force players to use more troops choices, which on the surface I have no problem with. But I wish that instead of restricting scoring units to troops only, that they had simply made it easier to score with troops or limited scoring units to troops + a few other units. Are we to believe that terminators, hardened veterans and fire warriors are incapable of holding objectives just because they are taken from the ‘elites’ section of the force organization chart? I think that allowing all units to count as scoring if above 50% but troops to count even to the last man would have been enough.
Secondly, true line of sight is back: all models, friend and foe, block line of sight. Vehicles and monstrous creatures may still be targeted over intervening infantry. “Area terrain” (e.g. forest/jungle, ruins, etc.) does not block line of sight automatically based on its height/level, but instead only if it ‘truly’ blocks line of sight (i.e. model’s eye view). I don’t like this rule at all, as I believe that true line of sight tends to create arguments that a more abstract means of determining sight lanes would easily avoid. One of the things I liked about 4th was that line of sight was more abstract, so players could simply look at the table from above and determine whether things had line of sight to each other without having to bend over and say to each other, “I think he can see your troops”, “Well I don’t think he can, let’s roll a die.” Some players have even suggested using a laser pointer to determine line of sight in the new edition.
A while back I spoke to you about the new direction Games Workshop is heading in. Apparently GW decided that, rather than release the remaining armies’ codexes using the ‘new style’ that represents Jervis Johnson’s approach in the existing 4th edition framework, they have decided to just start things over now and go from there. The Dark Angels codex and the Blood Angels update (which is essentially a codex that can be downloaded for free from the Games Workshop website) are said to be previews of the new direction of the game, at least for Space Marine armies.
The “new style” represents a more new-player friendly army book, with more limited choices as to units selected and upgrades, and extremely limited choices in terms of wargear (the armory that each army previously used is being scrapped). Instead, many units will come automatically upgraded with certain things (e.g. tactical squads will always have frag grenades, bolt pistols, and veteran sergeants). Also, mandatory squad sizes are back, at least for Space Marines (if the DA and BA codexes are any indication), but aren’t as strict as the 2nd edition Ultramarine restrictions. This simplified approach is an attempt to make armies more balanced and ensure that every option in the codex is viable.
I suppose that Games Workshop realized that if they wanted to start a new style of codex in the middle of an edition, it would create problems, as the “new style” codexes are, by any rational examination, clearly less powerful than the older 4th edition codexes – particularly the Eldar, Tau and Tyranid codexes (and to a lesser extent the existing Space Marine and Chaos Space Marine codexes). So they decided to create a new edition that goes along with their new approach and used the change of edition to nerf the armies that would be too good using the existing 4th edition codexes.
This to me is a bad approach to game design. Granted, some of the new rules represent good, quality changes for the direction of the game. Others represent a step in the wrong direction (at least in my opinion). A change in edition will likely have some of each of those. But then there are rules changes that you know were made as an attempt to balance the armies – and that just seems like a bad way of going about balancing the armies.
There are three ways of balancing armies in a game like 40k.
- Change the point costs of the units,
- Change the stats/abilities of the units or how their abilities work,
- Change the basic rules of the game such that some units will become better or worse simply by the way they interact with the new rules.
Approach 3 is the worst because it produces ripple effects throughout the game, oftentimes creating new imbalances that were not foreseen – and thus creating a never-ending cycle of imbalance/rebalance. It is much better to take approach 1 or 2 whenever possible, and only resort to approach 3 when doing a complete rules re-write.
Unfortunately, Games Workshop has chosen to use approach 3 for the last two editions of 40k. Now to be fair, GW also wanted to make fundamental changes in the way the game played in both editions, and to be honest I really liked a lot of the changes made in 4th edition. Hopefully when 5th edition comes out, even though there will inevitably be game balance issues, the fundamental aspects of the game will be improved. We’ll just have to wait and see.