What major problems exist in each edition?

Mar 12, 2011
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Disclaimer: I'm not looking for crapping on any edition. I'm also not looking for rants.

I mentioned that I've been contemplating trying to make a sort of Frankenstein version of 40k. There are elements of 2nd edition that I just can't let go, and some of these have shown back up in recent editions (grenades as weapons, combi-weapons not being useless, save modifiers). But my group is hardlining about staying at 6th edition, which was apparently just a hot mess and emblematic of everything that was wrong with GW and 40k at the time in terms of release practices and rules bloat.

This has me thinking... if we step through each edition of the game, what do you think are the biggest problems that lead the game to fail? If one were to try and address rules changes for a given edition of the game, what is the biggest problem that you think needs to be addressed because of the way it holds the game down?

2nd Edition:
My main squeeze is 2nd edition, so I'll start there. I think the two biggest problems are hand-to-hand combat and the psychic phase. Don't get me wrong. I love both of these. But as the game grows from a small, few-unit affair, these simply break the game. 2nd edition's hand to hand rules work great in a game like Necromunda or Gorkamorka, where you are only going to have a few models in combat at a time, but it simply cannot work on a squad or army level. It would take a good hour to resolve that one phase in any game played at the modern scale.

The problems with the psychic phase are similar but go beyond that. Aside from basically stopping the game dead for a while, these rules grossly overpower psykers and make the game all about having the most psykers. I've never entirely understood the "Herohammer" criticism of this edition, since special characters in later truned into ridiculous snowflakes of special rules. But I can definitely see that criticism making sense if you're talking about psykers.

Ultimately, what both of these sets of rules do is make them game disproportionately about those phases. Hand-to-hand needs to be mechanically on par with shooting, and psychic powers need to be on the same level as other mechanics. These rules overpower other elements though, and that's a design problem.

1st Edition:
I've never played Rogue Trader, so this is purely speculation. The biggest problem of this edition is that it's not a wargame. This is addressed late into the edition, but it still seems to leave a game that is still more about the GM/roleplay experience. Similar with 2nd edition, this can work really well on a few squads scale of game, but doesn't work in large scale.

3rd Edition:
This is the other main edition I played and the one I'm most critical of, due to how it changed things. But looking back at this edition and what came after, I think there's one clear problem and that's special rules. I think it got worse as editions came out, but I really stopped playing around 5th edition, so I'm not sure. Anyways, what 3rd edition started was this race to the finish line for the model that can have the most special rules. Everything was about special rules. Catachans had special rules. No name Space Marine chapters had special rules. Special characters were a big deal because of all their special rules. I know that by 6th edition (having watched friends play), this hits a breaking point because these rules were getting fragmented across multiple books and had multiple other special rules affect them. But from a metadesign standpoint, this never sat well with me back during this edition. Armies, in my opinion, show be differentiated by the unit choices you have and the strategies you use, not by who has the most special rules attached. This also causes a huge legacy problem when a new edition comes out and a special rule is missing, causing the rules of the game and thus the entire experience to be totally different for you.

That being said, I understand why would would take this approach, as it makes it easier to reference specific rules and to ensure that those rules have consistent wording. But what seemed to happen by 6th and 7th edition was that it was a contest to see how many special rules you could add to something, and all of that started in 3rd. All that did was hide the bloat elsewhere rather than deal with it. Just because no one can see the fat doesn't mean it's not still there.

If I had to pick a runner up, it's how Assault can be used to move further. There seem to be a whole bunch of free moves you get when and after Assaulting that ultimately favour hand-to-hand combat above over sections of the rules. Kind of like with 2nd Edition, it seems like hand-to-hand is still the thing to do, and shooting is just kind of just there in the background for when you're not Assaulting.

9th Edition:
Again, this is pure speculation, as by group largely refuses to even think about 9th edition. The issue that seems to be encapsulating this edition of the game more than any other is power creep. As Syndrome from the Incredibles said, "If everyone's super, no one is." Following updates on YouTube, it seems that every release is getting a power boost to deal with Primaris Marines being just better. Everything gets more wounds. Everything does more damage. In the short term, what that does is mean every other army is wildly underpowered. In the long term, this turns into a neverending arms race of models constantly getting better so they are more competitive, leading to making every other model better so they can deal with that threat.

There's a Starship Troopers (I think) roleplaying game that shows off the rules bloat side of this. The weapons and armour the troopers had where awesome. The weapons did a ton of damage and the armour was very protective. The characters looked great on paper. But then you introduce the rules for all of their opponents. All of the bugs had incredibly dense armour that ignored the weapon effects, and their attacks were so strong they ignored all the special rules the troopers' armour gave them. If everything is just going to ignore other rules, why even have those rules to begin with? Going back to the Ork release, if Orks need to get Strength and damage boosts to deal with the Toughness boosts models have been getting, why are those models getting Toughness boost? This only makes the problem worse and just bloats the rules with things that are just getting ignored.

What do you think? What sections of the rules do you think prioritizes certain play-types a little too much? What parts of the rules bring the game to a dead crawl? What objective problems exist within an edition of the game that really are for the worse (regardless of how fun they are)? If we were to make a Community Edition(s) of 40k (to steal that term), what clear problems exist that need to be addressed?
 

Ben_S

Hive Lord
Yak Comp 3rd Place
Honored Tribesman
Jul 26, 2015
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I don't know enough about 40k to say much here. (I played a fair bit of 2nd edition, but only in a casual manner, and then had a brief return around 5th/6th editions but never managed a full size game.)

However, one thing I notice is that your comments sometimes focus on the core mechanics (e.g. melee in 2nd edition) and sometimes on army lists and power creep. That's fair enough if you're looking for the biggest problm in each edition - it might be in a different place. But it's worth noting that a given edition could have solid core rules only to be let down by codexes (too much power creep, whatever) and that has implications for the necessary fix.
 
Mar 12, 2011
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I don't know enough about 40k to say much here. (I played a fair bit of 2nd edition, but only in a casual manner, and then had a brief return around 5th/6th editions but never managed a full size game.)

However, one thing I notice is that your comments sometimes focus on the core mechanics (e.g. melee in 2nd edition) and sometimes on army lists and power creep. That's fair enough if you're looking for the biggest problm in each edition - it might be in a different place. But it's worth noting that a given edition could have solid core rules only to be let down by codexes (too much power creep, whatever) and that has implications for the necessary fix.
That's a good point. That seems to be the issue with 9th edition; the problems seem to be coming from the regular errata and power creep within each codex release.
 

The_steve

Juve
Aug 18, 2021
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That's a good point. That seems to be the issue with 9th edition; the problems seem to be coming from the regular errata and power creep within each codex release.
is that a game problem or a meta problem? I find warhams to toxic as heck. I played in a teaching meta for warmahordes(hear me out) the game has a crazy stringent player base like I have a physical disability my hands are difficult to work with. on tournament the tournament runner chastised me infront of 20 others throwing my game in the last round of a tournament and stripping me of the joy I had for making it to the top 2 with a player I respected.

my issue is not the game persay it is the culture. WAAC is toxic stuff.
Now, 40k, first tournament I had the nerve to go to was a "beginners" tournament. I studied all the lists, we were required to presubmit all lists, so I was a wreck for weeks building the meanest army I could think up. Submitted fairly early. Then spent the build up studying what each list does then my first opponent CHANGED his list day oF. I felt it unsporting but I was greatful and he was nice. I wasn't able to do a thing. next match My experience was being rushed by the host of the tournament and being told to hurry up. I played like I was playing wmh. Playing with the player with a lot of BOIS who was actually nice but he had so many dudes to run, he ate most of the time. Now look, I didn't point figures I was there to get a feel for the warhammer tournament life, hopefully learn something from the players but I left feeling like a piece of human garbage, despite trying to tell the to I was having cognitive issues. I knew I was gonna be lost as a goose, but despite being a bad day, I showed up, KNOWINGLY to spend all of saturday getting dunked on. Glad I still went next tournament I tried to go to, I was fresh out of the hospital and skipped out. Then COV. so I have the chance to play 1 tournament all of 8th. Point is despite many bad experience in wmh tournaments. They didn't make me feel bad for being new(I mean FFS it was a beginners tournaments, the experienced players didn't give many tips or advice, it was hey, hit up this creature, it drops easy loot. That is probablem with 40k, Experience players are jerks to new people. When I played back in my old meta, I organized a group of new guys who met up on saturdays and bumble around with the rules. Warhammer players in my experience have no chill or patience. It is like they don't understand the new blood is what keeps the meta alive. I like a good few people in my local metal but honestly, I hate making all the effort to blow through 100s of models spend weeks going through the rules and being treated poorly buy a bunch of WAAC jerks

the issue I have with the game is coming from wmh, I think the rules went from streamlined to convoluted as all get out going from 8th to 9th. I only ever tinker with 40k in 2nd-3rd but honestly don't remember there being a brazillion movement types like there was in 7th. but that also goes to community problems I think. People have been playing 40k since like 20 years ago(when it stopped being rt) and they act like something is wrong if new players find the learning curve difficult to surmount. Now here is where my years of wmh comes in. Look I get it. for much of mk3 I have barely got to play but when I do, it is like riding a bike, 1 or 2 games and I back up to speed. SO I understand that your home rule set is like breathing. The 40k community seems to think that is a bad thing to help people get the rules straight and the game DOES poorly at small scale so you have to amp it up to around 1000-1500 pts to get started so it drowns a player. gw need to back off the rules creep. ex: I played ironwarriors, at the end of 8th, I played out of 5 books and 1 was the core book.

so give a little patience to us, we are learning uphill the company just keeps adding patch work rules and retiring models(legends)

It might be a bit long winded and I am sure many of you will attack me out of hand with adhoms to say 40k has a single problem. but I am hoping my experience may be value. I don't really have a single simple answer, I just see a lot of issues. but IMO gw makes a good game, imperfect and not a good competitive game. With my one friend in the meta, we sometimes would spend all saturday farting around and throwing bolts but people who don't know another player and that player tells you they are new. PUMP THE BREAKS ffs or you will find yourself bored with the same few faces that you have stared at for the last 10-20 years