Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or are one of those “normies” just not interested in miniature wargames..) you’ll have heard the big news – Games Workshop, the Evil Empire of the games industry, are releasing a new edition of Warhammer 40,000. This makes it the 9th – although it feels like 8th only came out five minutes ago, but I guess that’s just me.
Needless to say, the forums have been full of speculation about what will be on offer, and some of these discussions have become a bit… heated, shall we say. Particularly with the news that GW will be sticking with the IGOUGO activation – this discussion thread on Dakka got very salty very quickly, and it got me thinking.
I’ve already posted some thoughts about game design and support, but I got to pondering the reasons why GW stick to this core idea for 40k but get so much more imaginative for other systems – and I’ve come up with a few real world analogies.
Consider the Porsche 911. Evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle, air cooled engine in the back way out behind the axle. Undoubtedly iconic, but also a bit of a handful, and well recognised as a yuppie-killer during the 80s. Over the years Porsche have tried all manner of drastic – stuffing the front bumper full of lead – and less drastic measures to even it out and from all accounts it now truly is a brilliant, balanced driving machine.
And if I ever get the chance to drive one, I’ll let you know my thoughts.
However, a few years ago they introduced the Cayman – lighter, cheaper, mid-engined.. and a fundamentally better design to the point where they’ve had to hobble it by not letting it have a limited slip differential (thing that makes it go faster) and slightly detuning the engine to produce 15-20bho less than the 911. Because it can’t be seen to be faster than the 911. Although several of Porsche’s designers have gone on record as saying that f they designed the 911 now, it would be the same as the Cayman, that moment has passed – the Cayman is fundamentally the better sports car, but the job of the 911 isn’t to be the greatest sportscar anymore – it’s to be the 911. It’s to be an icon. And you can’t f*ck with an icon.
See where we’re going?
OK, now to the world of guitars. Consider the Gibson Les Paul. Great big slab of mahogany, two big humbuckers (big fat sounding pickups), only one cutaway so top fret access is limited (tough to get the high notes).
And then Gibson’s arch-rival, Fender, introduced the Stratocaster – whammy bar (wiggly thing that changes the pitch of the notes), THREE pickups, lighter and more versatile..
A couple of years later, Gibson retired the Les Paul and brought in the SG – lighter, easier top fret access, more versatile:
The SG was supposed to be the lighter, more affordable, more versatile replacement for the Les Paul (as the Stratocaster was supposed to be for the Telecaster). You can still buy a Les Paul. You can still buy a Telecaster. What does that tell you?
Some people – a LOT of people – don’t want objectively good. They want the classic. They want The Icon. And that’s what 40k is.
Wait, 40k a design classic? But there’s so much wrong with it – IGO UGO, turn phases, list building… yes, but if you want better rules play Kill Team or Necromunda or Apocalypse or Blackstone Fortress or Betrayal At Calth or Epic (which I always dug as a kid more than 40k) . BUT 40k is no longer designed to be an objectively great game – it’s job is to be 40k. See the comparison?
Just as there are designers at Porsche who would LOVE to redesign the 911, just as there are designers at Gibson who would LOVE to redesign the Les Paul, I’m sure there are designers at GW who would love to redesign 40k from the ground up – look at Blackstone Fortress, or Kill Team etc. In fact, Christ , look at Epic back in the day! But they’re stuck. 40k has been around since 1987 – it has players who have been playing that long. They have certain expectations of how the game will play, and have done for 30+ years. And IGOUGO sits at the heart of that. These players have been around since Rogue Trader (more or less… we came in at the end of the RT era, ater GW had patched the hell out of it with Compilations, Compendiums, Vehicle Manuals and Battle Manuals) – you cant just ditch them, that would be a real betrayal of the fanbase. So what’s the answer?
I suspect 9th – at least to begin with – will be a pretty good answer. I anticipate a bodge of 8th with bits of 7th to add a level of detail.. I must admit we’ve only played a few games of 8th but there were a few bits of it that didn’t feel quite right to me, almost like they’d thrown the baby out with the bathwater in search f streamlining. So will we be buying it? No. No chance. But that’s because we’re cheap. Should YOU buy it?
Honestly? If you want to get into 40k and you have £100 or so to spare.. actually yes, I reckon you could do worse. As well as the box set usually being a (relatively speaking) good deal in terms of miniatures, 40k as a game always seems to get a lot of love when new editions drop, before power creep happens – and as 9th is being posited as an evolution, not a revolution. I think 9th could be a great time to get into 40k. For three or four months.
Meanwhile, we’ll grab what minis we can on eBay and play Grimdark Future and Future Force Warrior with the intent of someday getting the bastard finished and published!
Hmm.. I reach the end of this post with no clear conclusion… but I am curious to see the new box… what do our friends out there in the blogosphere make of it all?