As this was my first game in the new edition, I thought it would be fun to kick it off with one of the most classic matchups around (well, for me anyway); Chaos Vs. Tyranids!
It might seem like an odd combo to some, but my brother and I have been playing these two armies since 4th Edition, so by now the battle is familiar ground. We both know the forces really well, and despite all of the edition changes, the armies are as valid as ever thanks to the fact that we've never been "power players". Lets just say that a lot of people laughed at my all autocannon Havoc squad, but not anymore as at S7 with a -1 armour modifier and 2 wounds a hit they are face-poundingly good. My noise marines had some improvements too, so all in all it is beginning to look like Chaos might finally make it out of the Codex Dog-House.
Rather than go through a full battle report, I'd just like to share a few pictures from the game and my thoughts on some of the new rules; as a few things surprised me. There were even some things that I thought I would hate, but that I actually thought were a lot more balanced than I originally suspected.
I don't know about you, but I was really dubious about this system. Essentially "Power Levels" are a very basic points system that simplifies the points values and includes the upgrade costs all in one number. A basic example is a unit of Chaos Cultists are now 3 "power levels" or my unit of Daemonetttes were 5. The Predator was 10. I thought this would be horribly unbalanced, and I'm still sure that you could abuse it, but I was willing to give it a go. We played 50 power levels, which seemed to be roughly equivalent to about 1000 points, or maybe a bit less.
Interestingly, we put the armies on the field and they looked balanced. The balance stayed all of the way through and it was a very close game that ended in an equal 5 points each from the new objectives. I just about sneaked the victory as I had more units left, and we called it quits before the last few Tyranid Warriors were killed. It was also nice to play absolutely WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) without feeling like I was taking it in the pants for having picked some non-optimal options.
While I'm still sure that you could abuse the power levels to squeeze out some power, for friendly games I think it could be a winner, and it certainly was simpler. As most of us have been playing for some time and have a lot of odd options that we've built over the years, it is nice to be able to get them back on the field again without worrying too much about the cost.
Full points costs are still included at the end of the Index, so that is still an option, and I think for tournaments it would be necessary, but I think a lot of less competitive games will benefit from the "pick up and play" style that power levels provide.
Opposed Ability Checks for Weapon Skill and The Combat Phase
Yep, the ability chart is gone, so hitting in combat is the same as shooting now; with just one flat roll. I really wasn't sure about this one, so I was relieved to find that it didn't make much difference in game. Things that are good in combat are still good in combat, and maybe a bit more reliably so.
I was more concerned about the removal of initiative; especially as a Slaanesh player. Handily my Daemonettes had a rule that basically gave them "always strikes first" like the old days. I do wonder how this will pan out for other armies though; particularly Dark Eldar and others that relied a lot on initiative to make the effective in close combat. I guess we'll see as I doubt they'll keep handing out strike first rules to everything.
On the upside, challenges are gone, which to me is a great thing, as I never saw them used once when it wasn't a foregone conclusion, or just a way to circumvent a dangerous weapon (If you don't know what I mean, then you haven't had your power-fist wielding sergeant challenged by a hive tyrant just to get rid of the only weapon in the squad that could feasibly give you a chance of fighting back). Good riddance I say!
Faction Keywords and Formations
Formations are gone, praise Jesus for that one. They were a good idea, but in practice were so broken and confusing that the game was mostly ruined. I also never liked the push to include "more" of everything all the time and go bigger constantly, as it was a bit much for the kind of games that I enjoy. In their place we have standardised constructions from the rulebook that still allow you to do some interesting things (like load up on Fast Attack or HQ choices). They don't give massive bonuses though, so they seem fairly balanced and more aimed towards being thematic.
The Keywords system seems to be lifted entirely from Age of Sigmar. Handily, for my purposes it seemed to work really well, and I finally got the chance to add some Slaanesh Daemons to my list without bothering with the old rules for Allies. I knew that working on those would be a good idea eventually.
Well, I have to say that my first game was a very positive experience. It seems that things are back on track, with decisive combat and good in-game balance. The new miniatures that they've released are really nice too, so although I didn't buy one, the box set is probably a good place to start if you are new to 40k, or just like the minis.
I'll be interested to play a few more games, but I get the feeling that the fun factor will be higher and that at least for the moment things will be a lot more balanced. We'll see whether any rules gaps emerge, but for the moment, I think this could be the best edition yet.
I'd be interested to know how other people are finding it though, so leave a comment below with your thoughts.