Good morning, noon, or endless night of asteroids and chunks of dead planets where Cadia used to be. Facebook click bait victims, it’s time for another editorial courtesy of Spikey Bits.
Today’s easy question- Are we being set up for a new edition of 40k?
The obvious answer, yes.
But the tougher question- How long have we been being set up, and what’s going to survive the new edition? What’s going to translate? That’s a little more complicated.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The day the Necrons stood still.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away, there was a Necron codex written by Matt Ward. It came out near the end of fifth edition and was by all accounts a strange book- Not just because it was a twilight-edition codex at the end of the line, or because it was a completely new army with a completely new model range. At the time of the update, the only plastic models in the Necron range were warriors and monoliths, the C’tan were pewter, and everything had those awful green rods. But it was also strange because the book was more cherry-pick, and awkward in a lot of ways than your average 40k codex, which is saying something, because 40k army books always seem to be parades of winners and losers.
However, suddenly, when 6th edition flipped over, models that were once awkward and useless became good. Some of the wackier stuff in Ward’s late edition army books started to make sense. The book flipped upside down. Was Matt Ward a creative genius with Tzeentchian powers of foresight?
No, he definitely wasn’t. But was he briefed on the new edition that was being worked on while he was writing those books. Did he design those armies with the intent of riding out the edition flip? Absolutely!
What does that mean? It means that we’ve seen GW do this before. They’ve built books into edition flips, and they know when they’re doing it.
Warhammer End Times
The last major overhaul was the switch from the massed-infantry rank-and-flank game of Warhammer over to Age of Sigmarines. The game that Drew Carey wrote where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter. Kirby said we only cared about cool models, and we told Kirby we already owned marine armies, why didn’t the new rules have a points system?
Slow down for a minute there. We can come back to Rage of Sigmar anytime we want, let’s get back on topic.
Leading up to the flip to Sigmar, we had a narrative plot event where everyone died, killed God, became God, blew up the planet, etc and some new units and characters were introduced. Old ones got new models, everyone got cool new toys, for the most part, except for the redhead stepchildren Brettonians, and then suddenly everything stopped existing.
But let’s take a look at those toys, because I want to illustrate a point. Leading up to the reset button, we had the Khorne Jugger Cav, the Nurgle Blightkings, Nagash and his trick-or-treaters, Archaon’s horse evolved into Charizard, and those are just the bad guys.
Now follow me on this… None of those models were fundamental game changers. Big new one hundred and twenty dollar character model? Yea okay he’s a badass and he kills everything, got it. Doesn’t change the game, just costs more points and makes your wallet sad. What about the units like the Jugger guys? Oh yea, they’ll kill everything, but again, just a fundamentally bigger, flashier, kill button. Not re-inventing the wheel.
Got it so far? Of course you do, this part is obvious. The Blight Kings, the Nagash bone Demon Prince guys, the Jugger-nuts, and Archaon’s My Little Pony… Of course they were all headed for an edition flip and would take center stage in a new army structure. But let’s look at what you might not have noticed while you were rushing out to buy giant new plasti-crack.
GW was condensing lists. All the elves went into one pile, all of chaos went into another, all of the undead united under Nagash. But here’s where that gets interesting- A lot of that didn’t fundamentally change much. Did it unlock new potential for list building when you were allowed to take models that were previously faction locked? Were some prices tweaked and new artifacts introduced? Yes. That happened, but the thing to notice here is that aside from one-stop-shopping, the army structure didn’t change much, because they knew they were about to flip the editions, re-write the rules, and they didn’t want or need to go back through every army and completely change everything when the world was just going to end anyway.
NOW BACK TO 40K!
Take a look at the current trends in the 40k narrative and everyone thinks it’s obvious we’re being buttered up for an edition shift. We’re getting big fat high-price models, Primarchs are returning, planets are exploding, the Eldar are getting off their butts and doing that thing they said they’ve been going to do since 1997. Big things are happening!
But here’s the twist… I don’t think we’re going to see the whole delete button we saw in fantasy, especially because 40k is GW’s workhorse product line.
Taking a risk on Sigmar was an easy decision for GW to make. Fantasy sales were in the hole, no one was buying spear men instead of space marines, and the company lost nothing by going for a full reboot on a product line that already had one foot in the grave. If Sigmar flopped, then no big deal, because fantasy was already a dead man walking. If Sigmar succeeded, then win/win.
But 40k isn’t like that. 40k drives the bus. GW isn’t allowed to kill Space marines unless Aaron Dembski-Bowden writes a 12 volume Horus Heresy series explaining how it’s possible for an Astartes to actually die. The Emperor isn’t going anywhere. Even if he actually dies and the Golden Throne runs out of batteries, he’s still not going anywhere. GW would never cash out their cash cow.
Then there’s the Horus Heresy- The thing that turned Forgeworld from the back-of-the-bus resin dust sniffing weekend project, to a giant Great Crusade powered sales machine. Is GW gonna screw with their formula? No, the rumor mill is already saying there’s going to be a dual system in the new edition. The cleaned up training wheels 8th edition, and the adults only Horus Heresy system… Because let’s be honest, if GW makes all our leather bound gilt page Horus Heresy books obsolete, we’re going to declare Exterminatus on Nottingham, and burn it to the ground.
So there’s a lot that should be saved… But how are they saving it?
The answer is in the supplement codex books. These are the “new” Ward Necron codex I told you about at the start of this article, the ones that were designed with a shift on the horizon in mind.
But not just the newest supp-dexes like Traitor Legions, I mean all of them. All the way back to the flat-on-their-face crap ones like Sentinels of Terra and Black Legion, before they really figured out what they were doing with the supplement dexes.
Case in point- Codex Chaos Space Marines is limping across the finish line. It’s the oldest “current” hardback codex in the game, it came out at the start of sixth. But even though Tau have somehow managed to get 2 codex updates, the Demon Primarchs can’t get a price check on Cult Marines to save their immortal hides, which are now coming out in plastic. What’s a traitor to do?
Notice now that GW has had at least 3 opportunities to massively correct the aging codex CSM, but they didn’t. They could have done it in Traitor’s Hate, Warzone Fenris, or Traitor Legions. You can argue that GW doesn’t want to do invasive work under the cover of a codex because of the existing print run of books already in play, but that’s demonstrably false. The CSM codex was errataed almost immediately after printing to lower the cost of the Helbrute, and fix Terminator weapon options. Also, more recently, all Dreadnoughts (including the now renamed Helbrute) were errataed to have more attacks. So GW isn’t afraid to open up an already published book and tweak it, that’s not an issue.
The issue is that GW is trying to complete a library. They rushed out a new codex every month all through 6th and 7th in attempt to catch up their product range. So every army (except sisters, cough) had a hardcover book on the shelf. Then, when they got all their base faction books done, they put the foot through the floor, started hammering supplements, and Warzone books.
This is the point… GW knows they have to re-write the army books when they flip editions. They’re committed to that. But my theory is that THE SUPPLEMENT CODEX BOOKS ARE SHIFT PROOF. THEY ARE PRIMED FOR THE NEXT EDITION.
Let’s use chaos as our example again, they received the most work. The Chaos Marines went from having the oldest, most dried up 6th ed codex in the game, to having a shiny new supplement that gave us new material for all the legions to bolt on to the tired old book, but without actually fixing the aging issues of the old book. What’s the obvious conclusion? That we’re going to be able to pull the nails out and bolt the Traitor Legions onto a new book in 8th edition.
How am I so sure of this? Because of what they added, and what they refused to change. No price adjustment, no re-balancing, no making overpriced models more functional. Every model in the army that received a value upgrade with their new legion rules did so in a vacuum. The only thing in the supplement books that actually cost points are artifacts, which are optional, and are wargear. Wargear, more than any other item in any codex, tends to remain consistently priced throughout the history of the game. Take for example a generic power weapon… It’s been 15 points in almost every Marine book since 3rd edition. The Power Sword is the 41st Millennium gallon of milk, it is the means by which we measure the point economy.
Granted, artifacts tend to be wobbly in terms of pricing. Some are amazing because of value, and some are just too niche, or too expensive to be useful. But at the end of the day, artifact wargear is consistently priced. Consistently good or consistently bad, with no in between. You’ve never heard anyone argue that artifact cost has ever been middle-of-the-road.
So if GW won’t mess with existing published army books, even though they have a demonstrable history of doing so, and they won’t risk disenfranchising the fan base, or disrupting Forgeworld’s resin drug cartel, what else does it make sense for them to change or not change? The answer is the supplement books. Supplement books that are evergreen regardless of edition, because they don’t invasively change the core value of the models that they affect. The supplement books are being primed for edition shift, to stay useful even after you have to replace your $50 hardcover army codex.