Its been a while since I've thrown down an op ed column and honestly, there is a lot I've had on my mind lately. The hobby and gaming world is upside down at the moment and its a pretty exciting time. Today I'm going to focus on the coming 6th Edition 40K, and I apologize for jumping around a lot, but bear with me.
Some people are all up in arms about the rumored changes and scream like the sky is falling. I've been playing Dark Angels since 2nd Edition and this will be my 5th changing of editions and all of their successes and failures. In the early 2000's I lived through the "Intractable" rule for Dark Angels. It was 3rd Edition and sometimes we'd decide that the enemy was too close and we'd refuse to advance, regardless of what the objective of the mission was. I still played 40K and I still played my Dark Angels, never cried or "counts as"'ed them. It was just what I had to deal with as a Dark Angels player even if it could be frustrating at times. Its kind of like real life. I have a bad knee and I play in a punk band where I jump around a lot. Sometimes I land funny and my knee hinges a way it shouldn't and I drop like a sack of potatoes. I get up, have a painful couple of days, and then have to take it easy for the next few weeks. Its frustrating, but its just something I have to deal with. Playing 3rd Edition Dark Angels sort of felt like that and I didn't mind too much. Sometimes I'd get a bad break and things didn't go my way. One of the big worries about the next edition is the rumor of "more randomness" like that and universally people seem to be arguing how it ruins the game for everyone whether they are tournament or campaign players. I disagree. Let me share a memory with you...
Tom Smith* and I were playing a game against John Burke** in John's basement. I don't really remember the mission but John was playing Chaos Marines, and Tom was playing his Sons of Midnight Space Marines. Tom and I needed to get to an objective in John's deployment area. It was the last couple turns of the game. Tom's remaining squads were way too far away to be of assistance and I was the only hope. We measured to see if I had to make a check so I could advance and I was unfortunately too close to the enemy. I promptly failed my Intractable roll and couldn't advance. Why would the Imperium's 1st Legion feel it would be better to stand back and pour fire into the enemy rather than advance on the objective? I cursed the dice and the Emperor - but not too loudly, that would be Heresy - but that was my fate. Maybe they had bad intel, or maybe a commander other than myself gave them orders I could not override. Ultimately, they did not do what I wanted them to do and I had to accept that.
It's over 10 years later and I still remember that moment. Tournament players often spend a lot of their army list building time finding ways to limit randomness. I don't necessarily seek it out, but I am the guy who went on a 6 month or so long Ork kick where playing with two Weirdboy Warpheads for my HQ's seemed like great fun. When I lost, I lost big and when I won, I won big. Sometimes those random elements are the things we remember long after the battle has been fought. It can be too much for sure. Back in 2nd Edition I remember seeing entire Imperial Guard armies wiped out before the 1st turn due to a Virus Outbreak card being played and that sort of sucked, but things like that sometimes made for strong memories. I remember when I worked for GW during the end of 2nd Edition and I attended the Staff Tournament outside Toronto, and this guy deployed his entire army in a building. Buildings then were a bit more dangerous, and on the first turn his opponent shot at and destroyed the building killing his entire army in one go. His last name happened to be Murphy so they coined it the Murphy's Luck award and began giving people a prize for their atrocious luck at every tournament thereafter. It wasn't even my game but it went down in the history books anyway. Few things in 4th or 5th Edition 40K (for better or for worse) conjured those sorts of memories except playing my Orks. Getting lucky and having my Weirdboy teleport onto an objective on the last turn of a game is awesome fun - a shot in the dark surprise win. Some would say it doesn't take any skill but you have to constantly adapt to changing circumstances when you have Warphead's in play - its a skill in itself. Then again, I was always a fan of the early version of the Patrol mission when almost your entire army came on as reserves whether you liked it or not. A lot of people hated it but not me. It sometimes gave me the edge I needed when playing the armies that gave me a really hard time. Other times I came in so piecemeal that I got cut to shreds. So be it I say. Those are the breaks.
Tangent time... Did anyone watch Game of Thrones last night? Between the traps laid, the backstabbing, the secret tunnel used for the surprise flank attack, and everything else that went on, the only thing that could be counted on during last night's battle was unpredictability! And in my mind that's kind of cool and sort of how I see things on the wargaming table.
Back to my Dark Angels though. A few years into their 3rd Edition Codex they released a replacement Codex and FAQed 'Intractable' to make it more playable. I was fine with the change. It was never a good rule, it was just something I had to deal with. Then a few years after that they got a whole new book. Then that got FAQed when the newer Space Marine book made some of the wargear rules obsolete. In all likelihood the Dark Angels will get revisited again in the not too distant future and they might get their moment in the sun. Everything is always in flux in the worlds of Games Workshop's games, and if people aren't stoked on the changes to the game or to their favorite army - give it time, because every 4 years or so you're going to see everything turned on its head again, so you might as well get used to it.
Okay, enough about that. Let's look at some of the things I've painted in the last week.
Well that's it for today. Thanks for reading!!
*Tom Smith - Buffalo, NY gamer. Left the GW hobby around the early 2000's. He played Space Wolves and also developed his own Chapter of Astartes called the Sons of Midnight. He was a fantastic hobbyist and I mourned the day I heard he gave up on the hobby.
**John Burke - Buffalo, NY gamer and maniacal collector. He could have walked right into an Apocalypse game and thrown down 10,000 points including a Gargant in 2000 if Apocalypse existed back then. I recall he moved further east for his job and I don't know if he's still involved in the hobby at all.
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