As excited as we are about the new edition of Warhammer 40,000, we were even more excited when Games Workshop approached us about interviewing Warhammer 40,000 Studio Manager Stu Black. We sat down with Stu to ask him about the plans and thought behind the new edition, what players can expect, and what goes into relaunching the biggest miniatures game on the market.
Hi Stu, thanks for joining us! Let’s kick things off with a big one: What was behind the decision to start over fresh with a new edition vs. carrying over the 9th edition books?
As we began to explore our design goals for the new edition it became clear that to achieve what we wanted we would need to start fresh. As you know some previous editions have been backwards compatible with previous Codexes etc, but we felt this wouldn’t be possible with what we wanted to do this time.
An example of this is overall lethality in the game – as time has gone on the overall damage output or lethality has increased and it would be hard to decrease that over time as some factions or units would exist in a different paradigm to others. This level playing field is also something we have thought hard about with the indexes – players may remember from 8th Edition Indexes, there was a difference when playing with a Codex vs an Index. Players with a Codex had access to stratagems and Warlord traits etc whereas the index player was using only datasheets. With the new style Index cards everyone will have a full detachment with stratagems etc.
What were your biggest lessons learnt from 9th edition, and how did these influence your key goals for 10th? Were there any particular successes you wanted to bring into the new edition – or any aspects you felt had not worked where you were keen to try a different approach?
The previous edition was very successful with hundreds of thousands of players around the world and we knew we wanted to build on that success – no throwing the baby out with the bathwater for us! Matched play, both Chapter Approved and Tempest of War were very popular and so we wanted to bring the two together and combine the best of both elements. Crusade is also one of the big successes of the last edition and we’ll be building on that in the months and years to come. We felt that there were certainly things that didn’t work as well as we wanted; in the game the Morale phase wasn’t as exciting or impactful as we wanted and the psychic phases could be all or nothing. Both have these have been completely changed with psychic abilities used throughout each player’s turn and morale being reimagined as battleshock. Battleshoc incorporates the concept of morale but also combat readiness, pinning and other related concepts that represent a unit’s ability to perform vital battlefield functions. It will be an exciting and interesting part of the game for players to explore and master.
What’s your favourite mechanic or change for 10th edition?
There are a few including the increased range of toughnesses, etc. that help differentiate infantry, tanks and monsters and necessitate players bringing a range of tools to the battlefield, simplified army construction, but the main one for me is Battleshock.
What was the process like on building the indexes, and which index or rule are you most proud of? Are there any armies in your personal collection that you’re excited to dust off and get back on the table?
The Index project was of course huge – we have around 2000 units in the game that all need recreating from scratch with a clear role, purpose and reason for players to be excited to field them. One of the first things we did was establish our boundaries – what was the strongest thing, the toughest, the thing with the most wounds etc and then we could calibrate everything within a known design space. We also created a rules library as part of an overall design system – these tools have helped us with consistency as well as always being able to reference a unit or datasheet within the wider context of the game – then came lots of testing and late night calls to our amazing volunteer testers around the world!
I am excited to try out all my armies in the new edition – I have been playing a lot in the previous edition with Space Marines and Necrons and their new mechanics are great fun. I have also just started an Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marine force and the Dark Pacts mechanic is really flavourful – do I beseech the Dark Gods for aid? It always comes at a price in the end! I am also really pleased with the Genestealer Cult Index and Army rule – they are a great looking army with really characterful miniatures and the new rules really reflect the guerilla war/cult uprising vibe.
Reading the 10th edition rules, there’s some very strong reminders of the second edition of Kill Team in there. There’s also some clear cross-pollination with the Boarding Actions rules from Arks of Omen: Abaddon. Can you talk a little bit about the design process here and how these things interact – is there a conscious decision to look at what’s been successful in other GW games (or game modes) and bring it across to 40k?
It is much more organic than looking at our other games and taking the best bits. Once we are clear on the design goals for an edition the Games Design team begin sketching out mechanics and rules to meet those goals, sometimes on of our other games has an elegant solution that it is appropriate to use in 40k, sometimes a previous edition dealt with something really well and other times we need a new solution we’ve not used before. We developed Boarding Actions at the same time as much of the core mechanics of the new edition and so we could share some of the ideas, this also helps make Boarding Actions more compatible with the new edition – it is a great game format and we want to continue to build on it in the future.
In 9th edition we often felt like the game’s core rules were very strong and the codexes well balanced internally, but both were let down by the balance across factions being out of sync. How is that being addressed in 10th edition?
There are a few tools we have in place to help us with the new edition – we have in place a full design system which defines the play space we want to use in the new edition [including] a full rules library and baselining tools to help us more accurately assess the power level of a particular unit or interaction. All of these tools as well as the solid base the Indexes form will help maintain a good level of balance between factions and within Codexes. We’ll also continue to actively balance the game through quarterly points reviews and 6 monthly dataslates if needed.
Between the missions and removing Power Level, it seems like there’s more of a concerted effort this time around to not split casual and competitive play. Is that the case, and if so, what drove that decision?
We want there to be as few barriers as possible so as many people as possible can enjoy playing Warhammer whilst also acknowledging that the community has a broad base and people enjoy different aspects of the hobby and have different priorities when it comes to the game. So we’ll still have Matched play mission packs as well as Crusade Campaign books but as much as possible we’ll all be playing the same game.
Let’s talk about the 10th edition missions for a moment – what went into the decision to switch to a Tempest-style setup for 10th edition missions?
Throughout the last few editions we’ve had two different matched play experiences- Maelstrom/tempest of war style missions which encouraged a broad army selection and play style which could deal with emerging challenges and the Grand tournament style missions which rewarded planning and army lists more tailored with specific goals in mind. Players of both types enjoy the game and we wanted to be able to unify the two – the card based Missions from the Tempest style school were fast and easy for players to quickly deal out and get playing and we wanted to bring that speed and flexibility to all types of matched play – there is a vast number of possible mission combinations with the different deployment maps, primary missions and mission special rules. We also wanted to have players be able to choose how they wanted to approach each game – were they planners, who would prefer to think things through in advance and tailor their list with a particular set of secondary mission goals in mind, or a gambler who relished the challenge of thinking on their feet and adapting to a changing battlefield.
The Mission set we have created enables all of those things. It is worth mentioning we’ll also be releasing an online set of guidelines for hosting competitive Warhammer 40k events using the new missions. This will include advice on things like table layouts with suggested terrain maps as well as a set of suggested ‘prebuilt’ mission card combos that work particularly well for event play. The aim is for players to be able to transition seamlessly from casual play to event play and back again -playing the same missions with the same rules, but events work best when everyone in round 1 is playing the same Mission. We’ll update this event play pack every six months to help keep the event scene fresh – this is all intended as guidance, there are loads of great TOs out there running fabulous events and we want to support that not dictate how it should be done.
What sort of gameplay are you trying to encourage with the Leviathan Mission Pack?
The Leviathan Mission pack should provide a variety of approaches to the game, the previous edition was often about efficient trading of units and objectives, this is still a valid approach but the role differentiation of units will shake this up as different tool are needed to shift a Leman Russ than a unit of Infantry, also things like battleshock open up different approaches to scoring or denying your opponent control of objectives. We have found players choosing to play Tactical missions (randomly drawn secondaries) benefit from having mobile units that can adapt quickly, and transport has played a much bigger part in the games we have been playing.
Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about Crusade. It seems like it was a surprisingly popular game mode in 9th edition, and has received some adjustments in 10th. What was the plan there, and what can we expect going forward after Leviathan?
Crusade was one of the big success stories of the previous edition and we want to build on that in the coming months and years. In the new edition we have tidied up some of the ‘fun paperwork’ aspect of crusade to mean players are tracking the most important things and focussing more on the really impactful stuff. We’ll be releasing dedicated Crusade Campaign books throughout the edition building on the campaign books and crusade mission packs from the past – but the Campaign books will be for Crusade and won’t contain content for other game modes and everything will be in one book not split between a book and mission pack. There will also be updated Crusade content in each codex as they are released.
That wraps up our interview but once again we’d like to thank Stu Black for joining us today and taking the time to answer our questions.
For more great coverage of Warhammer 40,000’s 10th edition, check out our landing page here. And in the meantime if you have any questions or feedback, or think there’s anything we should have asked, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.