Warhammer 40K 3rd edition
I remember a friend a long time ago telling me how "not cool" it was to like Games Workshop. How high prices and "unrealistic" rules made the Warhammer Fantasy and 40K systems "okay", and how GW was going to lose business as people went to better miniature lines and game systems.
Did I mention that we were playing 40K 2nd edition at the time, and that he had just lost to my Space Marine army? "Coincidence", I hear you cry. Of course. But let me continue....
Cut to last year. During a demo of the new 40K 3rd edition, a gentleman at my table proceeded to tell me how expensive the new system is, how terrible the new system is, and how he likes playing the old system more. Full of self-vindication, he then waddled off to the counter with a copy of the new 40K under one arm, and enough lead figures to poison a small city under the other (But wait, they're using pewter now, aren't they. Pewter is MUCH safer to swallow than lead. My bad). Hmmmmm....what's going on here?
Now, for those of you who are waiting for some sort of review to start, steady yourselves 'cause here it comes. The above two stories illustrate an incredible phenomenon associated with Warhammer 40K; despite how much people complain about the system, the figures and the prices, no one has quite been able to get past the fact that Warhammer 40K is a simply a great game that is a lot of fun to play. In fact, the 40K 3rd edition is, if anything, an improvement in a lot of areas.
Before I go much further, I am going to assume for this review that the readers have:
a) At least heard of 40K before, or at least seen it played, and
b) Aren't interested in a discussion of company pricing or practices, since that's what you have the internet for.
If you have read this far and have never played or seen a Warhammer game played, STOP READING RIGHT NOW, run to your local game store, and demand a demonstration. Words are NOT going to be able to convey how much fun this game is (It would be like trying to describe tartan to a blind man). Go. Now. Hurry.
Okay, for the rest of you let me start by saying that the changes to 40K3ed are significant and, for the most part, welcome. Gone are psychic powers, overwatch and multiple die damage systems. What has been brought in their place is a faster, more streamlined game that can be played without multiple glances at datafaxes and well-thumbed pages through the rulebook(s). The vehicle datafaxes (which the astute among you will remember covered an entire wall at the GW studios) have been replaced with a simple penetrating/glancing hit chart for all vehicles. The point values have been dropped on most troops, so your small games will be even more fun.
Some have pointed to this as an attempt by GW to require more figures and make more money, but I would look on this as a way to finally bring more troop types that many long time gamers couldn't within one army without blocking off a weekend. On top of all of this, the figures contained in the box set are really some of the best marines that Games Workshop has come out with, and the addition of the Land Speeder in the box is a welcome and excellent addition and helps make the box set a good deal.
"Okay", I hear you cry, "What about drawbacks? We wanna hear the BAD stuff about the game!!". Weeelll, let's discuss the rulebook itself for a second. It is HUGE, and chock full of rules, background, gorgeous artwork (although there needed to be more pieces from the incredible Mark Gibbons) and of course the tentative army lists. The problem is that the binding just isn't up to the task. My copy of the book fell apart after only three readthroughs, and although Games Workshop was more than quick about replacing my book (Don't let the hype fool you, the GW customer support people are top notch), the replacement copy did the same thing even sooner! I finally had to spiral bind my copy to keep it together, and it works fine.
Along the same lines, the recent army list codicies (half the price of the 2nd edition army lists), in particular the Chaos Marine Codex, have been plagued by occasional discrepancies and mistakes that have detracted slightly from the game itself, but these have led to tighter editing and improvement in later editions.
So what's the verdict? Games Workshop is known for re-releasing their games every five or six years, in an attempt to both revitalize and improve the product. To their credit, they have nearly always succeeded in making actual improvements to the game and making the system better with each new edition. Warhammer 40K 3rd edition is definitely an overall improvement, hands down. However, this is not to say that 2nd edition 40K or even "Rogue Trader" were bad game systems at all; quite the contrary, in fact. But not settling for what is "good" and instead striving for what can be "better" is what sets Games Workshop apart from it's competitors (And let's be honest here for a second. If what "works" was good enough and was never changed, bellbottoms and ABBA would still be in fashion. I don't think any of us really want that, now do we?)
To close, allow me to share an experience at a recent convention I attended. A group of gamers walked up to the 40K tournament tables and began to loudly discuss the "problems" with 40K 3rd edition with the game judge. They spoke at length (obviously hoping to sway the players with their thoughts) and then as they prepared to go, one of them turned and summed up their whole argument.
"There are lots of cheaper game systems out there", he said to the guy running the game.
The tournament administrator looked at him and smiled benevolently. "Yes I know", he replied. "And that's why I play 40K".
Enough said. Buy this game. You'll have fun, and that's the point.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)