Warhammer 8th Edition is here!

So I received the new Warhammer 8th edition rulebook this week – and it’s a beast! Weighing in at 2.2kg and with 512 pages, I suspect it’s the biggest rulebook GW has ever released. It looks great as well -it even has a red ribbon bookmark.  So it’s a good start, but this is slightly marred on opening it up for the first time when an errata leaflet falls into my lap explaining a mistake on page 243 regarding the victory conditions…  Games Workshop’s proof-reading department has come a long way recently, but it’s clearly still not perfect. On the other hand, flicking through the book, it’s clear GW has really tried to up their game with regard to production values. Everything’s in full colour, with lovely art. I dug out my previous rulebooks and this one genuinely makes them feel second rate by comparison. This may be a response to Privateer Press’s products and the challenge they’re presenting in the lucrative US market. Who would have thought a bit of competition would produce better products for customers?

Unfortunately, the book’s most obvious attribute is probably its biggest failing as well – it’s size. It’s not ideal to take to tournaments or carry with your army case. And at a Recommended Retail Price of £45 (although obviously, we’ll be charging less), it’s not cheap and whether potential buyers decide whether the frills and extra stuff in the book justify the outlay remains to be seen.  Many may wait for the boxed game with the smaller format rulebook likely to be included there.

Onto the book itself!

The book is divided into several sections: The first is the rules, followed by the background to the Warhammer world. There’s a section of painted models from every army and in a break from tradition includes plenty of non-‘Eavy Metal models – these are mainly Golden Demon competition winners from around the world and are certainly inspiring. Towards the back of the book is all the ‘crazy stuff’, with rules and scenarios for a variety of battles, some very cool ally rules and ideas for campaigns. Again, inspiring stuff and clearly intended towards hobbyists rather than hard-core tournament players. The book is rounded off with a reference sections (which includes new magic spells and generic magic items) and a decent index.

Well, I guess what most of you experienced Warhammer players are interested in is: what changes have happened to the rules? Some are obvious, some are more subtle, but all will change the way you pick and play your army. The following are the highlights:

  • Pre-measuring. All ranges can now be pre-measured, which will certainly change the way people play. Less annoying mistakes and hopefully less of those disagreements over fractions of an inch when it later becomes important.
  • Charge is now no longer double movement, but your move characteristic plus 2d6. Cavalry roll 3d6, pick the highest two and then add their movement. A relative bonus for slower troops and infantry in particular! Chargers no longer strike first either – everything is now in initiative order.
  • Combat now favours large units of infantry – the second rank now gets a single supporting attack for each model and having more ranks than the enemy makes you stubborn. Also, if your unit has a frontage of 10 or more, then the third rank gets supporting attacks as well! It’s more difficult to cancel ranks through flank and rear charges as well now – rather than unit strength 5, you now need two complete ranks at the end of combat. As an example, previously three Chaos Hounds were capable of cancelling ranks – now it needs to be at least ten.  You also don’t lose attacks for causalities any more – it’s assumed the next rank step forward and fight.
  • Monsters are somewhat improved now, with an additional ‘stomp’ attack after normal attacks and the ability to get all their attacks when supporting, rather than just one. They can also form a ‘Monstrous Horde’ to get a third row of attacks.
  • Magic has changed – the allocation of power and dispel dice is very different now. The eight lores of magic are subtly different now as well. Some spells are ‘boostable’, for example the Bright magic fireball can be cast at two different levels of difficulty with appropriate bonuses. The main change I see is the large scale inclusion of ‘Augment’ spells which boost the abilities of units. This seems similar to the spells in Privateer Press’s games, where many tactics come down to improving the abilities of the right units at the right time. Combining a charge with a large unit of infantry with a spell that gives you additional strength or toughness seems a winner to me. Similarly, ‘Hex’ spells perform the opposite on enemy units. There’s also an optional magic card pack for reference that you can buy separately.

There are plenty of other changes to the rules too; the above are just the ones that I’ve picked out. It’s going to be an exciting time for Warhammer players, I think!

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