[40K] Sixth Edition and Cautious Optimism

I’ve made little secret of not really giving a toss about 40K. This might be why I’ve spent the last fortnight of Blog Time sitting around with my fingers in my ears, as everyone who hasn’t been talking about sexism in gaming and game culture has been talking about the impending/imminent/just-gone-by release of 40K’s sixth edition.

Then, though, word started trickling in from the blogs I was still paying attention to; the Oldhammer crowd started to say a few words of cautious commendation. Apparently, 40K.6 is very much about encouraging narrative play, going to far as to point out ways and means by which this might be done; attempts have allegedly been made to flag up the Imperium as the dystopian nightmarescape it is; some have even gone so far as to say that the new Big Green Book doesn’t so much lay down the law as encourage you to shoot big holes in it in the cause of exploring a galaxy full of crazy notions.

Oh, and apparently there are Allies. Now, there was of course such a thing as Apocalypse before, but you can stuff that up your jumper, because Apocalypse didn’t just afford crossover between armies – it escalated the scale of the game into something vast and ponderous and frankly turned it into an expensive version of Epic that I’d never have the space, time, money or inclination to play. Of course, there was nothing in the rulebook that said you couldn’t ally together stuff across books; there was just a prevailing culture of one player, one force, one list, one book, and it’s easy to talk about creativity and ambition and slightly harder to actually do it when everyone in the room’s looking at you like your bum’s on fire because you’ve come to them with notions that a game might be played in ways other than the usual way that ‘everyone’ does it.

Anyway. The point is that if the core rulebook says you can mix and match stuff across books, and if it says you can agree on crazy rules for exciting stuff to happen in space, people will be cosseted and reassured by having been given permission to use their sodding imaginations and therefore might actually do it. Which is handy for me, since most of my favourite 40K-playing people who I’d actually trust to be creative and interesting live in other parts of the country, and so we’re back in the usual, awkward, talking-to-strangers-and-negotiating-our-objectives-in-play-oh-fuck-it-let’s-just-play-a-pickup-game territory. I’m confident I can find a few interesting people to play interesting 40K with, though.

There’s another advantage to a version of the game which sanctions the use of allies, beside the tactical aspects that my learned colleagues are naturally all over. For people like me, who are chronically incapable of settling on an army and happen to prefer small games, they afford a means by which we can engage with 40K again; a collection of small, interwoven allied forces, which can be played against each other with trusted friends and stooges, or aligned together in pairs to form playable standard-size-game forces. Or, far more likely, bolted onto the fairly-decent-sized Necron collection I already have and am secretly quite attached to.

It’s the sort of idea you have to do the legwork and weave some narrative around, but I’d be doing that sort of thing anyway. A few concepts are already starting to topple into place, chiefly concerned the tired old sci-fi trope of the war-torn planet with Something Nasty (TM) at its core. I’d have to come up with something that was open enough to slot other people’s armies into – something a bit like Jennifer Reitz used to do. It’s nothing outlandish, lots of people do it, but somehow it still feels a little bit unorthodox, thanks perhaps to the e-crowd I’ve rolled with and the generally impermanent nature of my gaming groups over the last few years. Maybe the good work done over at Vox Diaries of the Imperium will encourage more of it. I hope so.

The other day, James S. asked one of his insightful questions – he was wondering if there could ever be another game that has the same sensibilities and the same impact as the original 40K managed to have. I don’t know. It does look like 40K wants to be the new 40K, though; there’s a sense of something stirring, an awareness that there is more that can be done with this barking mad universe than has hitherto been managed.

I do know that it’s down to us, though. It’s one thing to create a game and a setting and point out how the playing of the game and the setting can coexist and interact. It’s quite another thing to take ownership of your experiences and actually do it.

Though I still balk at the thought of buying, assembling, painting, playing, revamping, and ultimately discarding another army, an allied contingent is something small and workable. A project I might actually be able to take on and see through ’til completion, particularly since a long-term contract is in the offing for the next teaching year. And most of what I’m hearing about sixth edition makes me want to do it. The notion that I’ve seen come up here and there that ‘transports for everyone!’ is no longer at the fundament of sound tactics makes me twitch and shiver in my money-parts, too.

Sixth sounds like a version of the game I might be interested not just in playing occasionally, but in inhabiting, like in the good old days. I’ll have to take the ‘crons out for a walk around the rules, at some point, see if it lives up to what I’ve heard. We’ll see. All I know is that I didn’t give a toss last week, and this week I’m feeling curious, and creative, and have Ideas about things. That’s generally a good sign.

8 thoughts on “[40K] Sixth Edition and Cautious Optimism

  1. Within the rulebook are smaller sidebars that are titled “forging the narrative” and those occasionally have a few tips for potential use. Where the real narrative stats (in my opinion) is within the actual rules. Much more cinematic, plenty of opportunities to take away our change what you don’t like. I personally love the archeotech terrain and exploding barrels. In the back of the book are about give non standard missions that can be used to help people design their own missions,our just tweak those ones. I think you’ll really enjoy seeing everything that has been brought to the table in sixth (pun not intended though it is kind of funny). Glad to sw your interest rekindled!


    1. Destroyable terrain? My word. I love that sort of thing, you know. Always makes me sad when people don’t use those rules when they turn up… maybe being able to buy buildings as part of your army will help encourage that.


  2. I’m definitely starting to get interested, just when I was totally losing interest in standard 40k.

    Like you, I’m excited about playing a version of 40k with plenty of narrative options. I think the fact that the book (from what I hear) specifically goes to great pains to get people to understand that the spirit of the game is creative and open, not competitive, will probably – hopefully – create a bit of a shift in the culture back in a direction I happen to like!

    Also like you, I’m not excited about the actual work of creating an army, so allies are looking pretty damn good right now. I think the St. Arkham Rifles are about to be ret-conned from pious ecclesiarchal citizens to the private army of an ambitious warlord who isn’t afraid to risk his soul by rubbing shoulders with xenos…


  3. Well, I’m going to paint up a detachment of Squats to go with my Orks – lost in the far reaches of space, they never had the big barney described in the Rogue Trader books. Do you think that’ll go down well?


    1. Depends where you’re trying to send them down. I hear the Squats get a mention in the new core book, so that might make the concept a little more palatable. You’d probably get more hate from the people who remember the Squats, and can’t accept Space Dwarf and Space Orc fighting side by side because of THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF THE GENRE and all that rot.

      Personally, I wouldn’t give a shit. Squats, y’know. They’re cool.


  4. They lost me at 3rd ed totally. That ruleset took everything good in 2nd ed… And threw it away. It fixed a couple of things, but the bad outweighed the good, 4th was a step in the right direction, then 5th, well, I tried returning it on the grounds it was not fit for the purpose for which it was bought.
    The biggest niggle, despite reading they have brought back elements of 2nd ed (which they discarded “to speed the game up”) it didn;t bring back those armour save modifiers which I feel adresses the skewed AP system.
    The next biggest is that 40k all just comes down to lists now apparently. The couple of GW’s I have wandered into briefly the past few years have all been united in this consesus too. Kind of defeats the point of codexes, may as well list each “optimal” army at the back of the rulebook ;)

    Ofcourse it doesn;t help that at the dawn of this edition I have eldar and Dark Angels, the latter who suffered “don’t bother playing them” all though 5th ed from the regular marine codex hitting.


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