Sunday, September 21, 2014

Predicting the Future of 40K

Curse my lack of Prescience
About two years ago I started posing my multi-part C:SM 6th Edition Codex Wishlist (see here, here, and here). Granted, these were more wants than predictions, but when the codex finally came out, it was obvious that I wasn't particularly good at forecasting the kinds of changes that we did see (here and here). Despite that, it's still fun to try to predict the direction of 40K.

The Current State
As is becoming apparent, GW is likely to bring all of its codexes up to 6th/7th Edition standards within the next year. The Dark Eldar codex is expected to be released later this month, leaving only Necrons, Blood Angels, and Sisters of Battle without a hardcover 6th/7th Edition codex (I don't count Inquisition since it's not one of the classic, established armies). I would guess that new codexes and the associated models are GW's primary source of income, meaning that they'll have to keep producing something to stay in business.

The 'rule set that was here to stay', 6th Edition, was replaced within two years. But 7th Edition was essentially a slightly revised and expanded version of 6th Edition, which suggests to me that GW saw some things they didn't like with 6th and decided that they wanted a more polished rule set to be 'the one to stay'. Seventh Edition also left the door wide open for army builds (e.g., Lords of War, Super-heavies, Formations and non-traditional Detachments, non-traditional allies), giving GW little reason to revise the rulebook anytime soon and all the reason in the world to encourage gamers to build enormous armies with an unprecedented amount of variety.

Models, Models, Models
This is a safe bet. There are still a lot of resin and metal models out there, some of which are for popular units; e.g., the Space Marine Thunderfire Cannon, the Zoanthrope, all Sisters of Battle). Even the fancy Inquisition and Assassin units that GW is pushing are predominately in Finecast or pewter.

I would buy this model in a heartbeat if it were made of plastic

In most circles, Finecast still has a bad reputation, with many gamers like myself simply refusing to buy the stuff. Thus, I expect GW to keep pushing out kits to replace as many Finecast/pewter models as possible. I also expect them to continue producing mono-pose HQs and/or named characters (complete with dataslates, where necessary). As much as I hate the price tags on these models (the Librarian I just bought has a retail price of $30), they look great. I would be even more willing to buy a jump pack Chaplain or a Librarian in Terminator armor for the same cost. I'd probably pay even more for a plastic Master of the Forge.

Oh, and I want a plastic Thunderhawk.

I would easily spend $200 for that

Contrary to my expectations, 7th Edition codexes ended up being different from the 6th Edition codexes. The biggest changes include reduced opportunities for shifting units from one Force Organization slot to another (this is most notable for Grey Knights), alternate Force Organization charts (probably intended to compensate for the first change), and the movement of major HQ choices into the Lord of War slot.

Where's your Draigo-wing now?
That leaves several 6th Edition codexes with a few less restrictions than the newer ones (e.g., Deathwing Terminators, Wraithguard, and Space Marine bikes can still be made troops with the right HQs while beasts like Marneus Calgar are still HQs) but a bit less flexibility (the older codexes are still restricted to the traditional Force Organization chart).

I would guess that GW will start revising the 6th Edition codexes, possibly aiming for a release within three years after the last update (e.g., a new Codex: Chaos Space Marines before October 2015). The bulk of the changes would simply bring them in line with the 7th Edition codexes by eliminating the shifting of certain units from one Force Organization slot to another, adding new and fluffy alternate Force Organizations, and moving characters like Calgar into the Lord of War slot.

This would also be the perfect opportunity to fix the problems that have become apparent in certain codexes. The consensus seems to be that Chaos Space Marines and Dark Angels could use a few strategic points adjustments or some boosts (I'm no fan of the Ruinous Powers, but Chaos Space Marines should not run away if they lose combat) while Eldar could be toned down a bit.

Dataslates and Formations
That GW will keep producing dataslates seems obvious. They're cheap and easy to produce and distribute. To GW's benefit, they encourage gamers to buy models they wouldn't have bought otherwise or to buy them in previously unthinkable quantities. An otherwise undesirable model might get special rules that make it worth taking or a dataslate might allow a player to bring more HQ, Elite, Fast Attack, or Heavy Support units than would normally be allowed (and therefore purchased).

So many Terminators...
For example, until he got Dataslate: Helbrutes, the 40K Cabal's Chaos Space Marine player was very unhappy with his underperforming multi-melta Helbrute (any C:SM player will tell you that a multi-melta Dreadnought without a drop pod is pretty useless). Now the other members of the Cabal have to worry about a trio of Deep Striking Helbrutes showing up in their rear lines.

As for me, with five Terminators, eight Assault Terminators, and a Terminator Captain, I figured I was done buying Terminator models. Now, thanks to the Strike Force Ultra dataslate (20 Terminators plus a Terminator Captain), I've found myself buying even more of them.

While being a cash cow for GW, I think dataslates also benefit the gamers by keeping existing codexes fresh and allowing the development of new strategies and an endless variety of builds.

I'll take an Ultramarines 1st
Company Supplement, please
I'll finish with the dataslate's big brother. I had thought that GW gave up on these when the rumored Raven Guard and White Scars supplements failed to turn up and GW started cranking out dataslates. Now that the two existing 7th Edition codexes have supplements (Waaagh! Ghazkull and Champions of Fenris, respectively) and the Dark Eldar codex is rumored to have at least one supplement, it looks like GW may be dedicated to producing them after all.

These are also no-brainers. Like dataslates they keep a codex fresh and encourage gamers to buy more models, but with their expanded scope, they inspire fluff-minded gamers to build entire armies around the Supplement rather than just one or two smaller detachments.

I suspect that a 7th Edition Space Marine codex would be more generic in its builds while Supplements would allow more specialization than was previously available; e.g., Mounted Assault would be removed from the parent codex and a similar rule or a Force Organization that promotes the use of bikes would be provided in a White Scars Supplement. A Raven Guard Supplement, on the other hand, could allow the use of more jump pack units.

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