Well it finally came to pass, the Big FAQ is here. As per my write-up on the first FAQ I'm going to do a deep dive into what was done and my thoughts on how it impacts the game as a whole. It should also be noted that there were no Points Changes this time, likely because we're close to Chapter Approved '18, although I will make some inferences about likely changes based on the FAQ.
As the title says, this will also be my retirement from Competitive Warhammer 40K. I'm not a big name player so no one is going to care and the game will go on perfectly fine. I will be pursuing Kill Team and, if you missed my other posts, Infinity as competitive games. My apologies if you liked my Warhammer 40K content, it's difficult for me to continue taking a game seriously that I feel marginalized by. In any case, let's have a potentially last look at Warhammer 40K!
The Big FAQ 2
Starting from the top we got the finality of some rules that have been tweaked in the past. Psychic Focus, Battle Brothers, and Targeting Characters are all set in stone. These were all well received changes so it makes sense that Games Workshop would keep them. Solid addition to the game.
After that we go into murkier waters. Tactical Reserves has been, at least to my ears and eyes, a very unpopular change that also had a huge meta impact. GW seems to agree and they've reigned it in a bit where Power Level is no longer considered. This is a great change to a bad rule because Power Level is not balanced and shouldn't have anything to do with Matched Play. They also clarified how things like Da Jump, Wings of Fire, etc. work with the rule.
Sadly the rule is still dog shit and accomplishes nothing but harming melee armies. Ever since Tactical Reserves was changed melee armies have declined, there are other reasons for this that combine with the rule but it's a major contributor. For the moment it also cements that armies like Grey Knights and Genestealer Cults (who had their exemption reverted for now) are not to be played seriously. As a competitive player I think one of the strengths that 40K had was positional play, being able to drop in from an unexpected angle made Deployment, screens, etc. more skillful and helped to control gunline armies. The only counter to shooting that I've seen since the change are Blood Angels and Ynaari Shining Spears and that is only because of FLY and being in Factions who can remove chaff in the same turn as they go.
This is the first of the changes that, to me, signal a problem within the GW Design Team. 8th Edition felt like a very complete product at launch but as time went on the community figured out how to break the game. Since then GW has been making very BIG changes to SMALL problems. For example it's public knowledge that after NOVA Open the design team though Smash Captains were broken. Instead of nerfing just them, they change the entire game. But we'll get to that. My point is 40K feels like 8.5 Edition right now and marrying the old with the new is causing huge issues.
Moving down we have a nerf to all the Infiltrate Stratagems. I'm a big fan of this because those created very binary games, if you went second against an army all in on that style then you probably lose and if you go first you probably win. This was extremely boring so now you just get a pre-game move. Still very useful and strong but not what it was. This is how nerfs should be done!
Rangers also got a kick in the ass, which was very much needed, in that they cannot Deploy until the end of the Movement Phase. This makes them more reactionary but also stops them from discouraging Turn 1 Deep Strike and Charges. Aeldari Players will have to bring other units for immediate chaff and won't be able to have as strong a Scenario presence, overall a minor nerf but a good one. Finally there's the ability to deploy Yncarne on the table normally, that's a small buff to Ynaari that they didn't need but overall I don't think it will have much impact. Yncarne is very frail so putting him at risk like that is unlikely to be popular.
New Matched Play Rules
Staying with new business we have some additional Matched Play rules. The first is Prepared Positions, a new Stratagem for the person going second to use. This grants Cover to all non-Titanic models that are completely within your Deployment Zone during the first turn. I really like that GW has realized first turn is a huge advantage is many games, so much so that the specialist Missions have had to deter people from just always going first. However this change isn't nearly good enough in my opinion. For one it costs CP, so it's not just a buff as it comes at a cost. The bigger problem is some armies gain very little from Cover. 3+ and 4+ Save armies get a decent benefit but anything past that the bonus isn't quite great.
What this is a great bonus for is Vehicles. Normally Vehicles (and Monsters) get blown away immediately but most of them have a 3+ Save, now going to a 2+. That is a big deal in some matchups, particularly if you're trying to use Transports. I would have liked to see some additional functionality, maybe -1 to Hit instead of Cover, but the rule is a start I suppose.
As everyone in the world predicted CP Farming got nerfed, although not in the way I expected. Most CP Regeneration is very weak, happening on a 5/6+, only allowing one roll per Stratagem, etc. Having the best CP Farm in Imperium was what really broke the game so I was hoping to see a targeted nerf towards that. Instead you can now only ever regain one CP per Battle Round. I think that's a fine change because it does smack down some of the ones that can go crazy, like the Dark Eldar ability, and most Factions were used to getting 1-2 back if that per Round. Looking at the big picture all that had to be accomplished was shutting down the inter-play of Guard with things like Knights and Blood Angels, which is what happened.
Further Stratagem Nerfs
Not sure why these are sprinkled throughout the packet but in any case here we are. Warp Surge was long on the chopping block as it's clear GW doesn't want strong Invulnerable Saves running around everywhere, dropping it to a maximum of a 4++ is curious since Chaos does not get Storm Shields, I would have liked to see a 3++ be the maximum. You already have to layer several things together compared to just slapping wargear on a guy like Imperium can do.
All the costs increases are justified albeit a bit lazy to me. Oathbreaker Guidance System always seemed like a horrible ability to me as there is no counter-play unless your army has Bodyguards, I think it should have just been re-tooled. On the flip side I like what they did to Agents of Vect, not only is it more expensive now but they added counter-play in the form of killing the Black Heart models. Another minor change to remove the dice roll, have it always work on the 2-5 roll, would have been the icing on the cake but it's livable as is.
My overall grade for The Big FAQ itself would be a D+. It fixed some things in a targeted manner but didn't go far enough in some places, some rules were also untouched. The inability to fix Deep Strike, or admit failure to do so, is what drags everything else down the most. Unless the Ork/GSC Codex is bonkers the game is going to exist in a world where, competitively, only Ynaari can make use of Close Combat. Blood Angels are now too costly on CP to work with, Knights will still be hoping that their skew works, and everything else has delivery problems.
Most of these changes are nothing worth talking about. However I will highlight the standouts, to me, and how they may impact the game.
Strategems and Auxillary Detachments
This is detailed in the Dark Eldar FAQ but it's confirmation that having an Aux Detachment of a specific Legion/Kabal/Chapter etc. will unlike their specific Stratagems, but not Faction Stratagems. This is how it's been ruled for awhile but now it's codified for all to see.
One Use Weapons
In the Imperial Knight FAQ it's codified that you can only fire one Shield Breaker Missile a turn. They didn't seem to touch on if they must be fired in Overwatch or not, which has been a point of contention.
Small nerf as the wording implied you could check your Hits, Wounds, and Armor Saves before declaring it. Probably how most people played the Stratagem anyways.
Codified that you do not get a free Relic but you do get a vanilla Warlord Trait. Most people played Ynaari like this as of a few months ago but it's good to know what's what. Sadly they also specified that Ynaari get all the Stratagems for Dark Eldar/Eldar/'Quins, etc. if their Detachments are correct, which should not be the case.
Guard received several nerfs, mostly to the unkillable Ogryn/Bullgryn. You can't improve their Invulnerable Save anymore via either their Wargear nor by using "Take Cover!", which pretty much makes the unit useless. Again, probably a needed nerf but they need a cost reduction in Chapter Approved to compensate.
Harlequins were already a bad army in their pure form, I'd venture to say they're now unplayable. Not being able to Charge through models with Flip Belts, in a Faction that has problems clearing chaff, sets them up to just get mowed down after cutting through screens. 'Quins were also hurt by the FLY change, pretty much invalidating their entire play style and purpose for existing.
As for Space Wolves I have no idea if their changes are big or not since I haven't been keeping up with the game as much since slightly before they dropped. Sorry!
Similarly to the last FAQs, this is where the meat is. Unlike the last FAQ round it's pretty much all negatives for me. But let's start with FLY.
In a reversal of the clarification to how FLY works per the Big FAQ 1, you may now no longer benefit from FLY when Charging. This means you cannot put FLY models on top of buildings for short distances, you cannot Charge past models, and you cannot Charge over terrain.
While that seems like a small change, it's going to cause a huge chain reaction within the game. As I said earlier, melee has been on life support for some time now. I'm not saying melee is dead. This nerf, coupled with the 'Quins nerf, means that there is no good way to deliver models into melee as the game currently stands. You're forced to Deep Strike and try the 9" Charge (about a 50/50), run across the table, or use Transports. In turn you're either heavily tempting fate and likely losing the unit for free if a Charge fails, taking losses while losing offense both in the list building phase and Turns 1-2, or paying points and giving an opponent choice of target priority. All those options are horrible.
To be a true melee threat you are now likely looking at models that can cheat Movement while being either very fast or durable, very reliable Deep Strike Charges AFTER clearing chaff, or playing against someone who is bad at the game. Only Aeldari (Quickening) and Chaos (Warptime) can do the former but I would say that Chaos lacks a strong Warptime target currently. Only Orks, Black Templars, and some other Chapters/Units can re-roll Charges but many of those Factions don't have a strong melee unit to deliver.
Onto something positive they changed the targeting timing with shooting so you can no longer "bait out" defensive abilities. This came to the forefront with Knights are people would say I'm shooting x, y, and z targets but not announce with what guns, leaving the opponent to guess on how to use abilities. Solid change that should have always been around.
We also got clarification on how re-roll 1's for Damage works, which is nice, and confirmation that same name Stratagems cannot be used in the same turn in the same way Psychic Powers work. Both of these are good as they just make things smoother going forward but most people already played them correctly.
Other small clarifications are how anti-Deep Strike Stratagems interact with Characters (you can't shoot them unless they're the closest) and Heroic Intervention. Not being able to Intervene on your own turn is a small nerf to some armies, and another melee nerf. Mostly it impacts Yncarne who just should have gotten an update to disallow it but again we see overreaching on changes that don't need to exist.
Of the final important things it was confirmed that models like Leman Russes can be taken up to nine times by only using three of the Data Sheet and models with same names but different Data Sheets do not count against each other. I disagree with this and think the flat three of a model should be in effect no matter what, the other part I'm fine with. The only exploitation of the same name portion is with Demon Princes and even with that Chaos still sucks. It's not changing the meta much and it's not a bad game experience so I have no issue with leaving it as is.
Summing It Up
The fallout from the FAQ is going to be very obvious to begin with. Imperial Soup as it was is no longer viable in any type of competitive play, you will not have the CP to power both Blood Angels and an active Knight. Blood Angels have also taken an extreme viability hit and will not be as popular. To keep the same composition you're looking at playing the Captains as more of a counter-puncher and loading up on CP via a Battalion and Brigade while also leaning much more on the Knight. While that is viable it's likely not competitive.
You're going to see more Guard in Imperium as they're now probably the strongest Faction with Catachans and Cadians not being touched. Taking a Brigade/Battalion or two Battalions seems like it'll be very good, you can use the Catachans to screen and take ground while the Cadians provide covering fire and watch your back. This can be complimented with Blood Angels or Space Wolves for punchiness against big targets, Tallarn Baneblades, and so on. While that type of build has always existed it was previously overshadowed.
Custodes are also in for a rough time as they're extremely CP hungry and a nerf to FLY really hurts them. I don't expect to see much of a Custodes focused army like Geoff Robinson is known for as it cannot keep up the pace anymore although the Bikes are still great at clearing chaff.
Ynaari is without question the most powerful army and will likely stay that way until at best Chapter Approved. The nerf to FLY did hurt Shining Spears but they can just double or triple move over screens and their shooting is excellent against chaff. The lack of Heroic Intervention on the friendly turn may shut down Yncarne builds because that was the big trick with him but good old Yvraine + Shining Spears + Gunline is as good as ever. You'll still take Agents of Vect as a counterspell even though a lot of the powerful Stratagems were heavily nerfed because being able to say no to a re-roll wins games. I expect more Dark Eldar stuff from Ynaari until Chapter Approved with Rangers not being as useful or as needed anymore.
I don't see any of the other Xenos Factions doing anything without points changes. Orks get their Codex soon but unless they have much better gap closing tools they'll make no waves. GSC are interesting as it was strongly implied they'll regain their access to "good" Deep Strike with a Codex and obviously will be buffed up as well. If I were to bet on the meta I say Aeldari/Ynaari run everything until Chapter Approved at the most competitive level, a Guard focused Soup takes second place, and the rest is who cares as it was before. The game is going to become even more focused on gunlines which might allow Tau to sneak into some top placings but with how bad they are at Missions that remains to be seen.
Kill Teams FAQ Overview
With all the negativity purged from my body, let's move onto greener pastures. Kill Team got both a Designer Commentary and an FAQ. I was pleasantly surprised to see not many changes, more clarifications, but the changes that they put in I liked quite a bit.
Starting with the FAQ we have some clarification on Wounds and Injury Roll interactions, this is how I'd been playing the game but it is a bit wordy in the Core Rules so it can be hard to understand. They also added Flesh Wounds as a drawback for things like Falling, which was likely just an oversight to not have from the get go.
Scouts were buffed as their Tactic was useless, now I expect them to see a lot of play as +2" Movement is very powerful. They also nerfed Comms/Leader a bit which is good because their Auras could be a bit too strong and offered no counter-play. Some Specialist Roles have been moved around with a lot of models gaining Medic and Guard losing access to super easy Comms.
Chaos pick up Combat Specialist and the all-mighty Flail for Death Guard gets a nerf, both of these I like. The Flail was the best weapon in the game for melee and it was odd that Chaos didn't have a Combat Specialist. Much of the remainder is really small changes to Keywords and things like that but two big changes remain. One is that Fusion Pistols for 'Quins now always get the Melta Bonus, this gives them some viable shooting in what was a one-dimensional Faction. The other is Necrons Tesla always works on a unmodified 6, that keeps it consistent with other rules and buffs a Faction that many see as a bit weak.
Much of the Designer's Commentary is just clarifying very specific interactions but how some Stratagems work is very important. Another big clarification is that Line of Sight can be drawn from ANY point on a model, this allows for extremely defensive positioning while only putting out a model's hand or foot. That doesn't seem super important but it can totally hide the model from other enemies, allowing models like Gunners to only have one model in their sights and vice versa.
Necrons got another buff in that the highest Injury Roll MUST be used, that's a bigger chance of Reanimation Protocols activating. With all the changes to Necrons they seem to be the tankiest Faction now and Tesla gives some needed offensive punch, I'm curious to see how they play. Speaking of tanky Death Guard got a massive nerf in my eyes as Disgustingly Resilient no longer mitigates Injury Rolls from Multiple Damage, it either blocks all of it or none of it. This doesn't hurt as bad with the clarification on how Multiple Damage Weapons work but it is a big blow to their durability.
Kill Teams Summation
My only disappointment with Kill Teams is how much Plasma is running the meta, particularly with Guard and AdMech. While there are counters to Plasma I feel like the amount of access to it should be reigned in, it should cost more, or it should blow you up on a 1 and not an unmodified 1. Honestly I didn't expect the Kill Team FAQ to drop with the General 40K stuff but it makes sense and I expect that to be the norm going forward. That means it's likely Chapter Approved will have Kill Team changes unless there's an announcement I missed.
I also think Kill Team is in a great spot right now. Initially there was a bit of a power gap between some Factions, Harlequins, Necrons, Eldar, and Dark Eldar were very meh. Death Guard got some nerfs, people learned how to play against Death Watch/Space Marines, and some of the other Factions weren't as bad as they looked. Now Necrons got a few buffs and 'Quins got a big one, I still see Aeldari as being pretty low on the ladder though. With some of the higher up Factions being taken down just a bit I don't see any matchups that are unwinnable and the Command Roster certainly facilitates that. Sadly I have not had time to look over the two new Kill Team Factions but from what I hear they don't upset the balance and are pretty much in the middle of the power-curve.
Why I'm Quitting 40K
I left this for last because frankly I doubt many people care. I am not a star in the 40K scene beyond having a very successful Battle Report thread on DakkaDakka and I truly thank everyone who took some time out of their day to read my content. While I never got beyond more than a few hundred views per post it's very encouraging to see people enjoying what I write and how I write it. I will continue to make content for the games I enjoy and who knows, one day I may come back to 40K proper.
My desire to shelf 40K as a game started long before the FAQ dropped, I'd say it came on strong after the Imperial Knight Codex. Prior to Knights the game had large models but there were poor competitive choices, I liked this because it made the game more aesthetically pleasing and prevented skews or an overly centralized meta from forming. Knights shattered all that and turned the game into a binary experience: Can you kill 1 Big Knight or 3 Little Knights? The Knight Codex also made me see how little understanding Games Workshop has of their own game. They don't know what's good or bad until the community tells them, this means their play-testing is an objective failure. That's even more shocking when you realize how many top tier players are involved in testing the game and it's been strongly hinted that GW ignores a lot of the feedback they get.
That's the part that is the current design team's fault. What is not their fault is how big the game is. 40K has too many units, too many armies, and too many combinations to balance effectively. I don't know the inner workings of the team but with Allies having been around prior to 8th Edition it was likely they couldn't remove it even if they wanted to for fear of mass invalidating purchases. That gave birth to Soup which has been the top way to run an army since Day 1 and always will be. I'm going to say this now, Warhammer 40K will never experience anything close to balance, to parity, until soup is completely removed from the rules. Except for the very beginning of the game all three soup armies have ruled with an iron fist, Chaos only fell out of the running due to repeated nerfs.
Finally, Warhammer is a very low skill game. I reached my peak, I can't get any better at 40K than I am now. I would always make mistakes but everyone does that, you can watch any high level match and they make mistakes all over the table. Other than those small mistakes you make due to stress, fatigue, misunderstanding, etc. I know as much as I can know about the game rules, tactics, and meta. In 40K you reach a level where you're at that top level and there's no where to go but work on theory, that's the only part that never interested me. I'd say on the whole I'm as skilled of a PLAYER as you can be with only a wider presence and constant Theory-Hammer keeping me from that extremely top level. I say none of that to brag, 40K has a very low skill ceiling compared to other games and it's very easy to reach the top if you want to.
My final realization to leave the game was when I picked up Infinity. I am a very middle of the road Infinity player because of my wealth of experience with other games. But people who have been playing Infinity for a year, three years, five years? I can't touch them yet. The skill ceiling in some games is so high that there's always something to learn, something to work on and refine. That's what I want from the games I put time and money into. It makes me laugh that 40K players jerk each other off obsessively now that I've seen how much deeper a game can be. It's honestly humbling which I am very happy about because I was starting to turn into one of those guys too, applauding that I'd reached the pinnacle of a game that's the base of a mountain compared to others. My only regret is that I never won a Major Tournament but honestly I know I was good enough to and that's all that matters to me. Now I have other things to focus on.
If you're reading this and you're a competitive 40K Player, I'd say leave. Grow other games that deserve your time, money, and fandom more than Games Workshop does. Warhammer and Age of Sigmar are supposed to be casual games, there's no argument against it. Pretending that they're anything else, as I did, is a waste of time and shouldn't satisfy anyone who truly wants to learn and grow as a tactical thinker. I play miniature games to learn and grow, otherwise being good or even the best is meaningless.
As always, and for perhaps the final time to some, thanks for reading.