8th Edition’s twilight is upon us and the new dawn of 9th is visible on the horizon, and there’s no better time to indulge in a bit of nostalgia. 8th Edition is what got me to try the game again having been out for more than a decade, and given that I’m writing this on the website that now consumes pretty much all of my spare time, you can probably infer that I quite liked it! I’m definitely not the only one – the growth in the size and enthusiasm for the game over the course of the edition has been delightful to see, and that increased engagement is what has made running this site possible for us. That’s both because there’s an audience who want to devour material about the game, and a team who are sufficiently enthusiastic about it to put in the hard hours to keep the articles and media flowing.
From everything we’ve seen, it looks like things are going to get even better with the advent of 9th Edition, but we’ve still got a last handful of weeks before we see it in its full glory, and one of the things we want to do in that time is look back at 8th edition. It’s meant a huge amount to a lot of people, and it’s nice to take this moment to reflect on the highs and lows (especially as there’s limited point writing our normal strategy content). We’ve got a few retrospectives in the pipeline, but I thought I’d start with something purely positive – talk about my five favourite games from the edition, why they stand out among the probably 100+ games I’ve played, and see if there’s anything we can take away from them about what I think makes for a great game of Warhammer.
These are, naturally, only a fraction of the great games I’ve played in the last year, and I can only apologise to the many opponents whose games didn’t make it in here. One of the nicest things about getting really into the tournament scene has been the discovery that the vast, vast majority of players are there to have a good time and play a fair game, and that means I’ve got a long, long list of matches that could have made this list. In the end though, I had to set a limit somewhere, and five was where I landed – let’s get into them.
Chris Gent at the Glasshammer Open 2018
From the mists of the distant past of 2018, this is the game that still sticks in my mind.
I played against Chris as my first game on day 2 of the Glasshammer open in the 2-1 bracket. I had a mechanised Eldar list sporting planes and Wave Serpents (this is uh, going to be a theme) but also including some Drukhari Scourges, as at that time you could use Doom to turbo charge these against Knights – this was in the period where super-powered Castellans were very much all the rage.
Luckily (?) for me Knights was what Chris had – but not a loyalist Castellan, instead packing Magnus and three large robot friends. We were playing with the 2018 ETC event pack, something that list was especially well suited for, as it tended to score maximum differential kill points. The format also awarded max points for tabling your opponent – something this list was quite capable of doing it.
This game swung wildly back and forth, eventually building up to a tense finale. I got the first turn, which should have been a huge upside, as it gave me a window to try and take out Magnus before his buffs went up, which would have ensured psychic supremacy for the rest of the game. Unfortunately my army whiffed it, and that combined with a positioning mistake to allow Chris to take my Farseer out. I would like to say that I learnt my lesson, but the problem with putting all my tournament reports on here is that I can at best say I’m going through a learning process on this one.
However, my army decided the game was not over on the spot by overperforming massively on turn 2, taking out Magnus and a Knight to put me firmly back in the game. We were playing a game with progressive scoring, and I focused on maximising my points from that, forcing his remaining two Knights to stomp around the board prising my stuff out from ruins and using all the now-departed flyer move blocking tricks to lock them in place.
I got ahead on scoring, but was rapidly running out of stuff, risking giving up a max point loss by getting tabled. I managed to down his second last Knight by throwing absolutely everything at it, and the game came down to two final rolls – we pre-measured what his Castellan needed on an advance to get in sight of my Rangers (who were hiding behind an L-block) and he missed it by one and the random game length roll ended the game on 5, letting me take a win by the narrowest of margins.
Why Was it Great?
First up, the game itself was epic. Fortune swinging hard in both directions at various points kept it live and dynamic, and there’s very few feelings better in 40k than throwing a hail mary play and having it land, and the last few turns of this game were that back to back.
It was also a tremendous learning experience. On refreshing my memory as to how the game had gone my immediate response was “stupid past Wings, should have tried to dunk a Knight at the far end of the board from Magnus instead” but from reading my post-game notes it looks like that was also the lesson I learnt at the time. This particular match was a big eye-opener in how the choice of deployment zone can massively change the dynamics of a game in some matchups. Late 2018 was when I really started “getting it” about how the dynamics of the game work, and this match was a formative moment.
I should also, of course, say that Chris was a wonderful opponent, and took my two Fire Prisms randomly managing to blow half a Knight off the board turn 2 with exceptional grace.
Nathan Whitbred at the Last Chance Open 2019
The Last Chance Open was my first ever ITC event, which frankly tells you both what a massive amount of Warhammer I played in 2019 and also just how much of the edition had passed before ITC evolved into being the norm outside of America.
This game took place in the 3-1 bracket after four great rounds of play, and saw me face down against several of the big menaces of the time – the House Raven Castellan, (backed up by two other Knights), three Shield Captains and a Guard battalion. All pretty vicious stuff, but I had my own nasty tricks up my sleeve, using the pre-nerf rules on Vect to get access to it while still bringing along a Succubus and Haemoculus to maximise the payoff from my Drukhari Battalion. That would potentially stand me in good stead too, as we were playing Crucible of Champions, so having extra characters would be a big advantage.
The game started well for me, as Nathan’s firepower underperformed substantially, only just managing to kill my on-board Raider off the bat and very much leaving me with a full deck to play with. However, my army was extremely determined not to make use of that, and the first two turns of this game were harrowing, as I failed to do the damage I needed to the enemy Knights and looked like getting rolled over in short order, especially as the first turn and his fast characters let him get onto the bonus quickly and my Crimson Hunters getting blasted – I ended turn 2 100% sure this was over.
However, improbable though it seemed my army did manage to get a foothold in the game, with the Drukhari gank squad and my psychic firepower combining to take out two wounded Knights, and my lists’s strong ability to waste shield captains who got too close paying off. Once I’d eliminated two of his shiny bikes I suddenly had a much more mobile remaining board presence, and was able to use it to squeeze as many points out of each turn as possible while forcing his Castellan to waste its firepower on incidental units.
From a match that looked like a goner, this ended up being an extremely narrow loss, with only a few points separating us and an incredibly tense final few turns and score count.
Why Was it Great?
This was the game in which I “got” why ITC-style missions were popular, because the score and near-comeback I managed to rack up would simply have been impossible in pretty much all the ETC-style missions I’d played prior to that. While there have always been some elements of them I’ve not been so keen on, the ability to play a materially weak position intelligently and still put up a strong score has always been one of their best features, and something I hope the 9th edition missions manage as well.
The game itself was also a blast – the whiplash from failing my Knight kills on turns 1 and 2 but then managing to absolutely deck stuff turns 3 and 4 was exhilarating, and the strategic depth in the last few turns very satisfying. It’s also one where a big shout-out has to go to my opponent, who remained magnanimous through a game where we were both sure I was getting crushed turn 2 through to one where it looked like there was a real threat of me stealing the win around turn 5.
This also reminds me that I really, really miss that little gank squad. Stupid Vect nerf.
Kyle Grundy at St. George’s Champion 2019
Kyle and I played at 3-0 at St. George’s Champion in 2019, using Glasshammer Gaming’s odd hybrid ETC/ITC missions and 20-0 differential scoring. Quite a lot was on the line in this game, as we both knew we would need a huge win to have a chance of catching up with the event’s leaders, who had been putting up max point wins all weekend.
I had a refined version of my mechanised Eldar/Drukhari lists, featuring two (here largely useless) squads of Scourges as a nod to the number of Knights in the metagame, while Kyle had a Shadowsun castle Tau list featuring two big units of Broadsides and a lot of drones. Could I smash the castle open?
Just about, yeah. I was helped a lot here by getting the first turn and my list being extremely well tuned to blowing away shield drones – all thirty something and quite a lot of Fire Warriors were dead by the end of my second shooting phase. This, of course, cleared the way for the true hero of the hour, perhaps the greatest hero the Eldar have ever produced – the little Wave Serpent that could.
After my first one got blown apart on overwatch, the second managed to make it in to shut down both units of Broadsides for a turn, giving me breathing room to try and take over, despite running a bit short on firepower. The rest of the game became an incredibly tense almost chess-like affair as I tried to order charges from my other units correctly to bait out Greater Good firepower, and Kyle positioned his castled characters to heroic and stop me from piling into his shooting units, all while both of us sat level on the scoreboard most of the way.
The game ended up turning on two little things – me managing to position one of my Archons to burst through a corner ruin and tie up a Riptide, denying a key overwatch piece, and my Raider making three back-to-back 4+ saves to survive a turn of combat with some Broadsides that were trying to kill it in melee. After that, despite Kyle’s Coldstars bursting out of the bubble to seize some end game objectives, I took this by a hair.
Why Was it Great?
The mid and late game here are, I think, the highest my adrenaline has ever run in a 40K game, and trying to work out the charge orders on turn 3 possibly the most intense set of calculations I’ve ever had to do. I also thought it was important to include it because castle Tau is perceived as a bit of a “boring” army to play against and I just don’t see it – this was one of the most strategic games I’ve played all edition, and I’ve generally found playing against Tau really forces me to flex my mental muscles to work out how to maximise my score while experiencing an inevitable managed decline of my forces. This game is the standout example of that, and thus worth highlighting – and also another with an excellent opponent!
David Burdett at LVO 2020
My LVO event experience was definitely mixed. Between changing my list too late and not practicing enough, some bad dice, pairing delays and me playing just horribly in one of my games, I wasn’t super thrilled going into the last round. I was also in that awkward head space where I wanted a good game but I also really wanted to win to at least play to an even record, which is never the right mindset for a game.
My last match promised to be an interesting one at least – Magnus and a bunch of super-powered character friends, backed up by some Rubricae and Cultists. All stuff I’d played and beaten before, but also an army you can never feel 100% safe against.
This was 100% the game that made LVO worth it for me, because it was just an absolute blast. That largely came down to the dice deciding that this was going to be a game where absurdly wild swings would happen in both players’ favour to keep us guessing and kept the game live every time it looked like one player might run away with it.
The big culprit here was, of course, Magnus himself, who was on absolute fire. He started strong by dropping a 12 wound Smite onto one of my Wave Serpents, and did just an appaling amount of damage through the mid game because he was everywhere. On both of turns 3 and 4 I managed to high-roll a deny for his Warptime and breathed a sigh of relief – but then both times he managed to make an 11″ charge to get to a unit and stay live.
That’s not to say the luck went entirely his way – Fortune on my Shining Spears overperformed to a staggering degree, allowing them to stay live for at least a turn longer than was reasonable and pick off several characters, after also acting early on to cut off his scoring for the King of the Hill secondary.
That turned out to be the deciding factor – the incredible performance from Magnus let my opponent build up a good score, but cutting out an entire secondary early on in a game that was fairly level throughout was enough to secure me the win.
Why Was it Great?
This game was a fantastic one on its own merits, and also a great mood lifter at the end of the event – if you’re having a rough time at a tournament there’s nothing that’ll quite compare to an absolutely smashing final game to let you walk away with a smile, and this delivered that in spades. The huge dice swings both ways made this an absolutely wild ride, and the depletion of both of our forces meant that damn near every model in both armies got a chance to do something important, with the whole of the board also being “in play” for much of the game. If I go back to the LVO again (and with NOVA cancelled that’s looking more likely this year) this game will be a part of why – it was that good!
Marley Lines-Diamond at Winter Tides 2019
This is where we break chronology a bit, because there’s a reason I want to end on this one. Casting our way back past the list three games to the final round of what was, relatively, a very low stakes event, playing for 3-0 at a 1500pt 1-day Maelstrom tournament.
I was kicking around with a Wraithhost I’d used to motivate myself to get some models off my backlog, but my opponent had a rather ferocious Knights and Guard loadout that looked like giving me a tough game. Still, I’d built with the ability to kill Knights in mind, and was ready to see if my ghostly bois could slam them off the table.
Honestly they made a pretty good attempt out the gate – I got my Wraiths into a position to pull off a gank on a Knight and badly hurt another, and things looked pretty good until, inevitably, one of them exploded, dropping the maximum 6 MWs onto several of my units and leaving me thin on the ground. From what had seemed a strong start that flipped me right round to being on the defensive, desperately trying to kite the remaining Knights long enough for a volley of MWs from my characters to add up.
They did, though, and combined with some very lucky saves on my Hemlock, which was having one of those games where it just wouldn’t die, things suddenly flipped around to going my way – I managed to finish off the Knights, and while I had an incredibly light board left (something like a Farseer, Spiritseer, two Wraithblades and a Hemlock) he had basically nothing left that could threaten them – the Wraithblades were lurking in a middle ruin and thus essentially indestructible to lasguns and Guard fists, and on my final turn I was able to fly my Hemlock into his deployment zone and pick off a unit to put me just ahead, including Linebreaker.
He still had one chance left though – he flipped up Big Game Hunter from his deck, so if he could kill that Hemlock (which was hovering on a single wound near a couple of depleted Guard squads and a Company Commander) he could take the game. I held my breath as the two infantry squads had a go, knowing that math-wise I was probably due a couple of saves, but they messed it up, leaving just the Company Commander left the fire.
Readers, that noble hero said a prayer to the Emperor and blew the Hemlock out of the sky with his bolt pistol, and I couldn’t even be mad.
Why Was it Great?
I’ve played a lot of great games, and there have been plenty of memorable moments, but if I had to pick one that ending would be my favourite in the whole edition – the literal last shot of an incredibly close game being what decided it, and a very cinematic one at that.
It also resonates especially hard for me because it calls back to what got me to get over my misgivings and try 8th out after so many years out of the game. In the interim I’ve done a reasonable amount of amateur game design, and when I went into a GW store and picked up the Eldar Index to have a look, the design choice that pushed me over the edge to buying it and playing some games was the complete re-imaging of the vehicle rules, because it seemed so clean and clever.
The rest is history, as it were, and I like that the epic conclusion here was directly enabled by one of 8th’s best changes – when anything can hurt anything else, it ain’t over until the last bolt is fired.
Reading through all of those, there are some clear factors that draw these games together. All of them were:
- Close – I think the biggest VP margin in any of these games was 5.
- Interactive – both players got to make meaningful decisions that influenced the results.
- Broad in scope – the games tended to be ones where almost every unit had a part to play, and often swept to encompass the whole board.
From what we’ve seen of 9th so far, I’m hopeful that it’s going to deliver more of this. With smaller armies and a smaller board, I think there’s a better chance of the kind of game where the whole table and whole armies come into play. I’m certainly a bit apprehensive about not having as much space to play with in games where I want to play keepaway, but willing to give it a chance. The adoption of secondaries and capped primaries into the mainstream missions is also something I’m keen on.
Ultimately though, what’s going to really matter to make this land is the balance – games being close is probably the key factor in determining how fun they are, and ultimately if the balance isn’t right then everything else is window dressing on top of that. This is where my biggest hopes for 9th lie – with a whole edition of lessons behind them, I’m optimistic that the design team are ready to deliver a tight, balanced experience. If the do, then there will be many more great games to remember!
Was this a nostalgia-fest? Absolutely, yes – but ultimately this site is here to celebrate what we love about the hobby, and great tournament games are the thing that keeps me coming back for more. We’ll have a few more 8th retrospectives in the next few weeks, otherwise stay safe, keep counting down the days until Indomitus, and if you have any comments, questions or suggestions hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.