Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Crotchety Marine's Hopes for 8th Edition

"Back in my day, we didn't need bling to be Space Marines."

            A new version of Warhammer 40,000 is on the horizon, and I’m sure everyone has their hopes for what will be coming in the next edition. As a Space Marine player who was first introduced to the game when Warhammer 40,000 2nd edition hit the shelves, my perspective on what I'm looking for is probably different from many. When I think about the things that I want to see in a revamped 40k, it’s 2nd edition which I look to most often as a source for inspiration. It's entirely possible that I'm looking at certain elements of 2nd edition rules with rose-tinted glasses (After all, when you’re wearing rose-tinted glasses, red flags tend to look like regular flags), but I like to think that my appreciation for those elements is based on their being examples of good game design rather than simple nostalgia. I'll also be focusing primarily on my wants as a Space Marine player. Apologies to any Xenos/Chaos/Heretic filth reading this, as well as my fellow Imperials, who just aren't quite as good as humanity's finest warriors. So without further ado, here’s my wish list for the coming edition.

Was it time-consuming and complex? Yes. What is heaps of fun? HELL YES!


As we’ve seen in many of the previews recently released by GW, several elements of 2nd edition have already found their way into the updated rules, whether it’s movement values, armor save modifiers, or multi-wound damage on weapons. Had I written this blog two weeks ago, I would have included all of the above in my wish listing, so seeing that all of that has already found its way into the new edition is part of the reason why I'm feeling incredibly optimistic about the upcoming edition. To add to the above, I would like to see Games Workshop add the following:

Split Fire as Standard

I'm sure we've all seen a scenario like this before. A 30-strong mob of Orks, supported by a Killa Kan, are heading towards your Tactical Squad, one of whom is carrying a lascannon. So naturally, you fire your lascannon at the Killa Kan in the hopes of scoring a one-shot kill on it and eliminating that threat before it gets locked into melee with your Space Marines. Smart move. But here's where it gets dumb. What does the rest of the squad do in this scenario? They also fire on the Killa Kan with their bolters, even though they have no chance of harming it whatsoever, instead of opening fire on the more logical target of the Ork Boyz who are about to charge in.

We've seen situations like that play out repeatedly, not just in the current edition, but in many of the previous editions. The Marine with the missile launcher fires a flakk missile at the Heldrake 30" away, while his Battle Brothers fire ineffectually at the same out-of-range Heldrake, which they couldn't possibly harm anyway, rather than taking aim at the Khorne Berserkers screaming their heads off just a few yards away. The mob of thirty Orks fire their Sluggas at the Fire Warriors, while the three Orks with Rokkit Launchas also target the Fire Warriors, rather than firing at the nearby Crisis Suits. The blob of five merged Astra Militarum Infantry Squads direct the fire from their five lascannon weapon teams at a Wraithknight in an attempt to slow it down, while the other 40 Guardsmen in the unit waste their lasgun fire on the Wraithknight when they could instead shoot at the Striking Scorpions bearing down on them. Trained soldiers, whether they be Space Marines, Imperial Guardsmen, or even Orks, would know better than to use their anti-personnel weapons on a vehicle or a flyer, or use their anti-tank weapons on infantry, especially when there are more appropriate targets in their line of sight and within range of their weapons.

Can you remember the last time an Imperial Guard player
chose to arm his Leman Russ Battle Tank in this manner?
The same is true for vehicles, which are forced to direct all their fire at the same target, rather than being permitted to split their fire as needed. If anyone should be able to freely split their fire, it should be vehicle crews, whose weapons often have different fire arcs and, depending on their positioning, can't always draw line of sight to the same target. Limiting vehicles to having to fire all their weapons at the same target has had a two-fold negative effect on vehicles in 40k as a whole. First, it ensured that turrets served no real purpose in the game, except for the rare instance where you were willing to sacrifice your full firepower in order to maintain a front facing against a certain target while firing your main gun at someone behind you. The second and biggest issue, though, was that it severely restricted the combinations of weaponry which we saw on vehicles. Gone were the days where a Leman Russ Battle Tank would rumble onto the battlefield with a hull-mounted lascannon and sponson mounted heavy bolters. Instead, tanks would be equipped for either anti-infantry killing power or anti-tank effectiveness. There was no middle ground.

None of that would be an issue under the kind of split fire rules which existed in 2nd edition, though, as units and even vehicles would be permitted to split their fire when appropriate. A Tactical Squad could direct its bolter fire at a mob of Ork Boyz while the Marines with the multi-melta and meltagun could fire at an encroaching Killa Kan. Guardian Defenders could fire their Shuriken Catapults into a nearby Hormagaunt Brood while their weapon platform with a missile launcher could fire at a Harpy soaring overhead. And a Leman Russ Battle Tank could take aim at a Monolith to its front with its hull-mounted lascannon, open fire on two squads of Necron Warriors on either flank with its sponson mounted heavy bolters, and swivel its battle cannon around to take aim at a unit of Canoptek Wraiths sneaking up behind it.

The rumors for 8th edition seem to support the notion that everything can hurt anything, but one would imagine that the odds of a lasgun or even a boltgun harming a Wraithknight are practically nil, even if you fire 40 of them at a Wraithknight. In which case I would still hope that units in 8th edition of 40k will be able to split fire because, as I said above, trained soldiers should know better than to waste their fire against certain units. Particularly squad leaders or trained specialists, like the kind who are assigned special and heavy weapons. So while it's interesting that a lasgun could potentially harm a Wraithknight, an Imperial Guardsman should only be firing his lasgun at a Wraithknight as a last resort, because the situation is desperate, or because there's nothing else to shoot at. He shouldn't be forced to fire at one or hold his fire altogether just because the heavy weapon team in his squad is firing at a Wraithknight, especially when he has more appropriate man-sized targets nearby, like a unit of Howling Banshees, or when the Wraithknight is out of range of his lasgun.


"I wish I'd taken a grav pistol, instead."
          Currently, combi-weapons aren't a very enticing choice for the Space Marine Captain who wants to deal some serious damage to the enemy force. Sure, a boltgun with a special weapon attachment sounds good on paper, but the reality is that it isn't very effective, given that the special weapon in question can only be fired once per game. And Space Marine characters aren't allowed access to standard special weapons, either. With no truly viable shooting options available to a Space Marine character, the tendency has been to outfit them wholly for close combat and disregard their high Ballistic Skill. After all, what's the good of having a Ballistic Skill of 5 if you're going to spend the entire game, save for one turn, shooting a boltgun? The boltgun portion can't even be equipped with the special issue ammunition available to Sternguard Veterans, something else which would increase the utility and usefulness of a combi-weapon. Better to simply take a plasma pistol or grav pistol, which can be used on occasion to provide some much need punch as a ranged weapon, while granting the +1 Attack bonus in close combat.

My 8th Edition Wish:
To not be a subpar build.
            However, back during 2nd edition, it wasn't a one-shot weapon, nor were you forced to decide whether you wanted to fire one gun or the other. That made the combi-weapon a much more useful option, as your Space Marine character, most likely a Captain, could not only fire his combi-plasma or combi-melta every turn of the game, but he could also blaze away with his boltgun as well. Combi-weapons with unlimited ammunition for their special weapons would suddenly make ranged Space Marine characters a much more viable option. The addition of special issue ammunition as an option would likewise make it likelier that we'll see Space Marine Captains with combi-weapons on the battlefields of the 41st millennium again, as it would give Space Marine characters a reason to fire the boltgun portion of their combi-weapon.

            I should note, as well, that a special issue ammunition option would make even the humble boltgun or storm bolter a more appealing option for a Space Marine character.

Twin-Linked Weapons

Overcompensate much?
            I remember a time when a Land Raider was truly an engine of destruction on the battlefields of the 41st millennium. It was a time when the Land Raider Terminus and its ill-conceived lascannon emplacement wasn’t considered necessary, due to how twin-linked weapons used to work during 2nd edition. Nowadays, when a weapon is twin-linked it simply rerolls the failed To Hit roll. But in 2nd edition, it was treated as two weapons which were simply connected, and so forced to fire at the same target. So, the Land Raider wasn’t armed with two lascannons and a heavy bolter which allowed for rerolls. It was armed with four lascannons and two heavy bolters which were limited in the number of different targets that they could select. Suffice to say, when your vehicle can fire four lascannon shots, it packs quite a bit more punch than an equivalent vehicle which only fires two lascannon shots, rerolls or no (Nevermind that it wasn’t forced to Snap Fire two of its guns if it moved, or one when Power of the Machine Spirit was introduced later on). My hope is that GW brings back twin-linked weapons as they used to be. Below is an example of what I mean, using the previewed weapon stats from the Warhammer Community articles.

Heavy 1
Twin-Linked Lascannon
Heavy 2

            It's a very simple change which I truly hope GW will implement, not just for the Land Raider or the Predator, with its twin-linked lascannon turret, but for every other twin-linked weapon in the game which was shorn of its original firepower.


            Truth be told, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Age of Sigmar, for several reasons which I won’t go into here. However, there’s a difference between unreasoning dislike and reasoned critique. When it comes to the latter, a person can parcel out those things which they don’t like about something and separate them from what they do like, and Age of Sigmar most certainly has several great ideas, many of which I can point to as examples of great game concepts which I think work very well and would like to see ported over to the 40k system. The big one in this case would be individual unit abilities as seen in AOS. Particularly, I’d like to see those kinds of rules be employed to truly transform Space Marines into Humanity’s Finest Warriors.

Does anyone really fear the Terminator and his storm bolter?
The big issue with the Space Marines, whether it’s the standard Battle Brother armed with a boltgun, the elite Terminator armed with a storm bolter, or even the Captain armed with a boltgun or storm bolter, is that they’re just not a very lethal threat. A boltgun isn’t that much more impressive than a lasgun, and the only improvement Space Marines have over Guardsmen is they receive a +1 to hit, neither of which resolve their big issue, which is that games are often determined not by slight accuracy or strength differences, but by the weight of fire being produced by a unit. How often has the fate of a battle been determined by the eight storm bolter shots fired by a standard Terminator Squad? More often than not the weight of the damage comes from the single heavy weapon being carried by the squad, which reduces the other four squad members to incredibly expensive meat shields for the heavy weapon trooper, which is a poor use for what are supposed to be the elite of the elite. In my view, every single Terminator, including those armed with a storm bolter and power fist, should be a deadly threat which can’t possibly be ignored by the enemy. My solution to that would be to take a page from the Stormcast Eternals and give Space Marine units and characters abilities which allow them to be truly superior when they wield the boltgun or the storm bolter, beyond a simple +1 to hit, and give them harder hitting offensive power when wielding those weapons.

Now HIS firepower?
That's something to fear.
A good example would be the Vanguard-Raptors with Hurricane Crossbows. These models come with six shots as standard, and if they don’t move they can fire an additional three shots. That’s an amazing nine shots per model. I very much doubt any opponent would be willing to ignore a Terminator armed with a storm bolter if he could put out that kind of massive fusillade of shots. That unit also has a rule called “Suppressing Fire” which subtracts two from any charge move that unit might make against the Vanguard-Raptors. Now, I’m not saying that Terminators or Space Marines should have those exact rules ported over and fire an equal number of shots, but they serve as an example of how individual rules can be implemented to make Space Marines far more effective at wielding their bolt weapons than any other army. Simply give Space Marine units rules which allow them to fire a greater number of shots with their bolt weapons than they otherwise would be able to, and Terminators an even greater rate of fire than that with their storm bolters, perhaps throw in one or two more characterful rules similar to the Suppressing Fire rule mentioned above to again show how devastating Space Marine bolter fire can be, and Space Marines, particularly Terminators, would resolve their weight of fire issues in a way which would truly make them Humanity’s Finest Warriors.


            The biggest hurdle to changing the way Space Marines play, however, has always been the Codex Astartes. For six editions, now, there have been limits to what could be added to a Space Marine army, what units they could have, what weapons they could employ, and so on. Some new units, like Centurions, stretched the bounds a bit, but very rarely were the limits imposed by the Codex Astartes ever broken, unless it was for a chapter which wasn't 100% codex compliant. That can all change, though, now that the author of the Codex Astartes itself, Roboute Guilliman, has returned to the 40k universe. A practical man, he wrote the Codex Astartes to serve a practical purpose and meet the needs which he saw in the aftermath of the Horus Heresy. He didn't intend for the Codex Astartes to be taken as unalterable holy writ which must be obeyed at all times, and there's no reason that the Imperium under its returned Lord Commander should continue to be beholden to it. So whole this suggestion may be a heretical one, I’ll say it anyway: it’s time to rewrite the Codex Astartes. Between Guilliman’s assessment of the needs of the Imperium in the closing days of the 41st millennium, which are very different to the state of the Imperium Post-Horus Heresy, and his alliance with the Adeptus Mechanicus courtesy of Belisarius Cawl, the time is ripe to rethink how a Space Marine army is constructed, what it looks like, and what weapons and equipment are available to it.

            It's time to rethink the chapter structure and perhaps mandate that the thousand chapters of Space Marines across the galaxy become a thousand legions. It's time to rethink Battle Company organization, if Reserve Companies are necessary, and if new roles can't be created within the company structure (Such as the long-lost Space Marine Lieutenant from Rogue Trader days, who would fulfill a much needed role between the Veteran Sergeant and the Captain, or the Moritat from the days of the Horus Heresy). If Tactical, Devastator, and Assault Squads really need to be limited to ten men, or if perhaps they can be expanded to twenty men or some other number, with a new transport capable of carrying a larger number of men. If Devastator Squads must really be limited to four heavy weapons, or if instead every squad member should be permitted to carry heavy weapons. If jump packs must be solely restricted to Assault Squads, or if they can't be used for dedicated close-ranged special weapon squads wielding meltaguns or similar weapons. If conversion beamers, volkite weapons, disintegration guns, and other weapons shouldn't be added to the Space Marine arsenal. If Space Marines shouldn't regain access to their old jetbike technology and reintroduce jetbike units into their armies. And if, perhaps, the growing Space Marine Legions need larger and more powerful war machines at their disposal to effectively support their growing numbers, whether it's the return of old super heavy tanks previously available to the Space Marine Legions during the Horus Heresy, or a giant walker equivalent to both an Imperial Knight and a Dreadnought, featuring the size and power of the former, while serving as the tomb for a fallen Space Marine hero like the latter. Those are just some of the many changes which can and should be up for consideration when it comes to rethinking Space Marines for the next edition.

            It's also time to look at chapters like the Blood Angels and the Dark Angels, which are mostly codex adherent, and decide if certain units or pieces of wargear really need to be unique to those chapters, or indeed, if they should really be separate armies with a separate codex at all. For example, are Librarian Dreadnoughts, hand flamers, inferno pistols, overcharged engines, and the Baal Predator really something that only Blood Angels should have? Aren't the Sanguinary Guard simply Honor Guard with jump packs? Ultimately, can't a Blood Angels army simply be a standard Space Marine army with a different Chapter Trait and the addition of the Death Company? Likewise, shouldn't Dark Angels also have access to Stormtalons, Stormravens, and Stormhawks? Again, with the new edition, and Guilliman being a major force behind the scenes driving changes, this edition change offers a golden opportunity to rethink many of these separate Space Marine armies and perhaps combine them into a single Space Marine list, thus cutting down on the need for an ever growing list of differences between the various chapters with each of their respective codex books.

Roboute Guilliman, Lead Game Designer for Imperium, 2nd Edition

            Judging from the daily articles being released by Warhammer Community, the 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000 looks to be off to a strong start, and I'm anxiously awaiting its arrival this coming June (Just in time for my birthday, too!). My hopes for the next edition as a Space Marine player, though, are that they restore those elements of 2nd edition which made it a tactically complex yet fun game, adapt the best elements from AOS and, most importantly, use the narrative opportunities offered by the return of Roboute Guilliman, the very author of the Codex Astartes itself and now Lord Commander of the Imperium, to reboot the Space Marines in such a way that they better represent the idea that they're humanity's finest warriors, take Space Marines in a wholly new, never before conceived of direction, while retaining everything that Space Marine players love about their army.


  1. Nice article. I'm guessing like me you'll be thrilled now theyve declared split fire is a throng. I hadn't remembered how twin linked weapons worked in 2nd but that would be amazing if so. Fingers crossed.

    1. Happy birthday man:

    2. Happy birthday man:


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