Warhammer 40,000 News Data Slate: The BIG FAQ 3 Review – Core Changes
Hello and welcome back to The Kitchen, with me The Chef, and well, they did say April and here we are! A big one, it certainly is! I’m sure you’re all sick of every man woman and xenos writing and talking about this, but tough, you’re gonna get some more!
You’ll have to forgive my lateness on this one, but there’s a lot to digest here and I wanted to ensure we cover the vital points and get them right. In fact there’s so much to cover, this is gonna be a two parter – Part 1 here will discuss the more core rules based updates, or the big meta shaking changes, and Part 2 will delve into the individual erratas for each Codex. There will of course be some overlap here as somethings will be relevant across both the main changes and the individual, but these will be noted as such.
So enough preamble, now there is only Rant!
It is only when you fall, if you learn you can Fly
So Fly was a contentious rule for a number of months, with horror stories abound of 0” charges and other such things. So a knee was jerked, and it was jerked hard. But now we have some semblance of thought put back into the Fly Keyword, giving it (and its Special Rule equivalents such as Flip Belts and Wraith Form) the ability to charge over intervening models once again. This is a much needed change to many, often elite, units that suffered from no longer being able to ignore the simple screening that all too easily neutered their combat effectiveness. Whilst not entirely defeating the purpose of screening altogether, now you have to screen a lot more carefully. Flying units can now be used far more effectively and also used to punish ineffective screening. All told this is a simple change, and really shows what constant feedback and design tweaking can do over an initial gut reaction change.
On the topic of Flying stuff, another quite elegant change that is similar to what I had been theorising for some time is the updates to Flyers, specifically the Aircraft Keyword. Now I’ll preface this now, although I like the change, it’s not perfect. The implementation is well done – it’s simple, its effective, and it’s a great example of the positive attributes of the Keyword system. So Aircraft (i.e those with a minimum move characteristic) now can no longer completely block off units. Instead, you can essentially ignore Aircraft for moving any other model, provided you don’t finish your move on their base or within 1” as normal.
Now whilst this does make blocking with a Flyer far more difficult than before, the ability to do so is still there – some units will simply not have enough Movement to clear the Flyer’s base by an 1”, and a skilled player with good placement is still able to still able to block units hundreds of feet below…somehow. However I can accept this is an abstract to the rules in order to prevent models being misplaced due to trying to remember where they were “meant” to be before the horde of Orks ran underneath them, and also to prevent damage to said Flyers base by models being on top of them. Regardless, it’s better than it was before, and a step in the right direction.
Now you see me, now you don’t
The next big change is in regards to Re-deploying existing units. There was always a lot of confusion caused by this, and a lot of it stemmed from there not really being an explicit ruling of what arriving “as if they were Reinforcements” actually meant. Well now there is, and whilst it looks a little intimidating to read, it’s all fairly simple –
- Abilities and Stratagems like Auspex Scan work on units that Re-deploy – I think a lot of people played it like this anyways as it was explicitly FAQ’d in an earlier release, but now it is definitive and across the board.
- You always count as having Moved your max distance when you Re-deploy – again, this was already in place.
- No moving for any reason after Re-deploying, except for Charging, Pile In or Consolidation – There were FAQs for things like Warptime arriving directly from Reinforcements, but now we FINALLY have an answer to Dark Matter Crystal and Warptime.
- Units don’t count as Falling Back on a Re-deploy – this was something that felt obvious to me, as you explicitly had to Fall Back if you moved away from an enemy unit, but now its super clear, so great.
- Advanced already means you’ve Advanced if you Re-deploy – a niche case, but good to know.
- Destroyed Models remain destroyed, and still count for Morale – I’ll be honest, I’ve not encountered anyone ever doing this, but clearly someone has, so at least that’s clear.
- Wounded Models remain Wounded – Same as above. Seriously who was doing this?
- Rules and abilities affecting models before they Re-deploy still apply – To all thosetimes people called me wrong for keeping MWBD on a unit of teleporting Immortals just because it was an ITC rule, ha! HA I SAY!
There is also the distinction made that 5-8 don’t apply for Stratagems like Tide of Traitors or Unstoppable Green TIde, which is where a lot of the confusion for some things came from, as these were essentially brand new units joining the battle. This is part of an overall theme of this FAQ – namely that common sense should be applied, but now that its written, there can be no arguments about it. Whilst I dislike the notion that every single variation and possibility needs to be enshrined in rule form, this at least gets rid of many ambiguous situations.
The necessity of weird questions
Speaking of ambiguous situations, there’s also a couple of changes that the designers mentioned as having confused them as to why they’d needed to be asked.
Wobbly Model Syndrome is now clarified that it’s meant to be a way of protecting your models from damage, not to be able to place them in impossible positions such as balancing on a 2mm wide fence. Again, it’s not something I’ve ever encountered myself, and I question the intent of people that were doing this, but hey, it wasn’t clear, now it is. So that’s only a good thing, the oddity of the question is irrelevant.
Another interesting one is in regards to how, technically, there is no rule saying a model can’t hang off or be moved from off the board, so this is now updated to now state that no part of a base or model can hang off the battlefield (so no Flyers skirting within 1mm of the table edge anymore).
There’s more still – The difference between “within” and “wholly within” – simply put, wholly within means the entire base or hull must fall under the range of the effect in order for it to apply, and within just means a portion of it needs to. Again quite simple once it’s put into words, but considering it was never included in the rules verbatim, a required change. The writers know what they mean, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does.
Now I must admit these in particular made me scratch my head as to why they were even needed to be included. Afterall, they’re so obvious. It would be a bit like me saying “Technically there is no rule saying that people named Pastry Chef don’t automatically win every single game.” – sounds stupid when you say it like that right? That’s not to say these strange queries don’t have a purpose, however 40k has never stated outright whether it is a permissive or restrictive ruleset, so we need to use a blend of permissions, restrictions and common sense. Sometimes one or more of these fall by the wayside, so whilst clarifications on truly bizarre things are unnecessary (such as my “Pastry Chef wins all” example), it never hurts to have oddities set in stone. Literally, there are no stupid questions, as its all going to making the game tighter, more cohesive, and overall better.
Sometimes you have to put the brakes on
A couple of niche yet potentially important changes to Transports were snuck into this round of FAQs, one of which clarifies that units must actually move to embark upon a transport.
Whilst this might seem minor, it actually means that you can no longer pull up alongside a unit in combat and pull them into the Transport without them moving.
As you can only elect to Fall Back from combat, this means that certain abilities that affect or prevent Falling Back (such as Fiends of Slaanesh) apply, and conversely it means that units that embark on an open topped transport (like an Ork Trukk) cannot shoot out of it unless they already had the ability to Fall Back and shoot.
Another change is the inability to now declare a charge from a destroyed transport. Whilst this is a case I’ve not seen come up, the logic is sound – it prevents units from getting an extra 3”-4” on a charge, and fits the narrative of a unit clambering out of a burning wreckage in fear for their lives as it grinds to a halt, rather than using it to catapult them into the enemy lines.
If you walk without rhythm…
In addition to clearing up some interactions Transports have with Movement, there are some extra scenarios called out. Starting with coherency, it is confirmed that you can elect to stay stationary and thus out of coherency, however if you are unable to return to coherency at any point during a given move, you cannot make it, so no Pile Ins if you cannot end within 2” of a friendly model as well. Personally I prefer the AoS method of broken coherency, which is namely if models aren’t in coherency in the Battleshock Phase, the player has to decide which models die. This limits the “pick and choose” conga lining that sees a single unit zigzagged across the board over 12” apart from each other, unable to move, yet still holding Objectives and such. Alternatively for 40k, I’d like to see a “Squad Broken” mechanic – namely if you aren’t in coherency at the end of your movement phase, you cannot do anything else this turn other than attack back if in combat, and you cannot hold or contest objectives at all. Next turn you must move (and Advance if required) to get back into coherency, or suffer the same, until you get back in squad range.
There is also the clarification that if you Advance in a different phase to Movement (such as a Guardsman’s Move! Move! Move!) you must roll the dice again. This just clears up a little confusion over if the Advance roll remains consistent throughout the turn.
Three + Three + Three = Nine = Three
An interesting turn around is the nature of the Rule of Three in Organised Play, mainly around the nature of Daemon Princes, but also for some other units that have multiple, very slight variations on what is essentially the same Datasheet. Now these units, namely Princes, variations of Regimental Weapon Squads in Imperial Guard armies, and Genestealer Cult and allied Guard armies, are all considered the same thing for the purposes of maximum number of units allowed in a single army. This is important for a number of reasons – One, primarily, it limits the spamability of these units, some of which are certainly strong units. Two, it makes overt mention to the fact that whilst the “letter of the rule” was being followed by the original ruling, it wasn’t following the spirit – this to me says a lot about the intent of the designers when it comes to the ruleset (hint – it’s a game. For fun.) Third, it shows that despite an original rule being one thing, GW are not afraid to flip it on its head, and this is important both for the game to grow, but also for balance to be achieved – sometimes, mistakes happen in design, and whilst some can be tweaked and amended, like Fly and charges, others are eventually realised to have perhaps been a less than stellar idea, like this, or Ynnari (too soon?)
Better Beta Balancing
Most of the Matched Play Beta rules from the past 12 months are now finalised as well, which can put to bed any issues with people not using them. Bolter Discipline now includes Dark Angels Fallen, and with balancing limits for Deathwatch, but at the loss of all non-Dreadnought/Helbrute Vehicles. Whilst I understand Hurricane Bolters benefited greatly, I’m not sure if it was really all that powerful to remove it entirely. It also has the unfortunate side effect of essentially confirming that Astartes equivalents will never get Chapter Tactics for their tanks and vehicles. The reasoning being given is that the Dreads etc fight closer to flesh and blood than a battle tank. Just like an Alaitoc Grav Tank fights in the same camouflaged guerilla style as the Infantry do I guess? Perhaps this also an indication that possible changes to codexes are coming with regards to these traits, but for now, there is at least a confirmed and welcome buff to the Marines. There is also the confirmation that armies such as Custodes and Sororitas will not get Bolter Discipline. Let the Marines have something guys!
More previous Beta rules have gone through their final iterations and are now fully 100% game legal, and indeed should be adhered to in Matched Play. Prepared Positions is also confirmed, with a slight tweak to prevent Aircraft/Flyers and Fortifications from getting the cover bonus, as this quite rightly made no sense. Tactical Restraint, the rule limiting CP regeneration, has also been modified slightly in ruling but significantly in effect, with the ability to refund CPs outside of a Battle Round completely removed. This means no Deployment based Stratagems can be refunded, such as Webway Strike.
Tactical Reserves has now also been finished after many changes, but is otherwise identical to the previous iteration, and essentially the current way it is played. Whilst I would have liked to have seen a little more work on this being done, in order to grant some additional tools to certain melee armies, as it stands the rule is otherwise robust enough for use, and has been in play long enough for it to be understood. This is not to say it won’t be revisited in the future, and I’m hoping GW will look at playing around with some Stratagems or similar that will allow some armies or units the ability to arrive turn 1 and charge. There is also an addendum to the errata of the Strike From the Shadows and similar Stratagems, just to state no unit can benefit more than once. Finally there is the clarification that Tactical Reserves do not apply to Summoned units or Re-deployed units, they are eligible to be brought onto/moved around the board from Turn 1.
As an aside, all previous Beta Rules that were confirmed to be finalised, such as Psychic Focus and Battle Brothers are still in effect, but not included here. Yes, that means you will need all 3 Big FAQs to play the game. This is more evidence to the piling mound that a digital platform is sorely needed for 40k, as currently there is a lot of bookkeeping and cross referencing to be done. Don’t mistake me, I’ll take this over no clarity and updates at all, but one can but hope that a digital, truly living system comes along soon.
Movers and Shakers and Meta Breakers
So that covers the big core stuff. Before we move onto the individual codexes, we need to talk about the stuff so important it was included in the Big FAQ itself. These fall under the Interim Balance Changes, and will definitely shake up the game in a significant way in my opinion.
First up, the elephant in the room. The Castellan. It’s dominated the scene since it’s arrival, and for good reason. It’s a terrifying beast. But even the mighty must fall, and what a fall he’s taken. Not only did he receive a 100pt increase, but the ubiquitous Rotate Ion Shields has now been capped at a 4++ for all Knight variants, Imperial, Mechanicus and Heretic alike. But now it’s time for some controversy.
I like the changes. But I feel like neither of these changes are well considered when it comes to overall game balance.
A points increase, whilst many will argue necessary (and I would tend to agree), will not impact the main culprits all that much – mainly Soups. Ahh there’s that word again. Yes despite the rumours, Soup has been by and large untouched. There is no CP cap or limit, or any trait removal or Stratagem restrictions. So once again, Soup is here to stay. I think that’s something that will need to be lived with. However, back on point. The Castellan receiving a points increase means mono-Knights will suffer more than a Castellan plugged into another army. The Souped Army needs to lose maybe a squad or two. The Mono army will need to lose, on average an Armiger to make him fit now. Which is huge in a pure army that will already be struggling in missions. The Mono army has suffered, due to the Soups overuse. Which is sad, quite frankly. The other end of the spectrum, with regards to Ion Shield, is another odd one. The cap at 4++, again I feel is warranted, as it is a big dip in survivability and thus makes the Castellan not so frightening however this was an irrelevant change to Questoris non-Bulwarked Knights, who are still able to enjoy it at 1 CP, and to a souped Knight, they will either have more CP to spend on other stuff now, or will continue to do so and get more offensive Warlord Traits to offset the defensive loss. Ok, it’s not as much of a ‘no brainer’ now, but I think the overall change still might not be as impactful as expected, but only time will tell.
Rotate Ion Shields isn’t the only Stratagem to have been given some fairly important adjustments. Death Grip, which was potentially an auto kill scenario for many characters, has now been amended to allow automatic escape should the victim roll a 6. It’s still unlikely, and with multiple d3 mortal wounds it’s still very scary, but now there is at least always hope. Further on the Imperial side is the change to the Operative Requisition Sanctioned to obtain an Assassin. Not only has it increased to 2 CP (which remember you are no longer eligible to refund as its before a Battle Round), but it can no longer be used if you already have an Assassin in your army (no more ideas of 4 Vindicares Lawrence). This is overall a nice change, as whilst it will certainly not stop you from using it (you’ve paid the points already afterall in Matched Play), it has a bit more of a cost attached to the flexibility, which coupled with the Restraint update means you actually have to live with the tradeoff. Closing off ways to get past the Rule of Three is also important, especially given the changes previously mentioned for things like Daemon Princes. The final Stratagem to be balanced is Mob Up, with a simple fix to limit the usage to Boyz only. No more Loota Bombs, or…well no, it was pretty much just Lootas. And note I say balanced, not a nerf. Clearly these were too powerful, the interactions were not foreseen or considered a reasonably niche occurrence (oh how they underestimated you, Competitive Scene), and yes they should’ve been caught in playtesting, but isn’t that the beauty of these ongoing updates and interaction with GW – to keep the game moving towards better balance? Buying into a strategy like this is becoming more and more of a 6 month pony – it’ll be fine for around half a year, then it will get amended as the balancing act comes around. This is the game we have right now, and one that I am grateful for, regardless of how slow it may take in some areas.
Psychic powers didn’t escape this time round either. The same “6 to escape” caveat as Death Grip was also incorporated into the Mental Onslaught power of the Genestealer Cult, as again whilst only really possible through a wacky, but frankly hilarious, set up of buffs, debuffs and abilities, an auto kill button is not good for the game. No matter how much you “need” it to kill a Knight or Flyer (which as mentioned aren’t quite as much of a problem anymore, at least to some extent), you cannot objectively argue it was healthy for the game for such a thing to exist. The same principle applies to the Asuryani Powers of Doom, Jinx and Reveal, which now actually only affect Asuryani – unintended side effect of the Aeldari Keyword, RAW and clearly design intent for the last 2 years, it is no longer the case of working on Drukhari, Harlequin or Ynnari units. This is a good change, as this was again, not healthy to the game. I cannot think of an ability that so widely affected another separate army quite to the level that these did, and so bringing them in line with other unique army abilities and powers is appropriate. Again this is not about nerfing, or even me being giddily joyful at the thought of an army’s tricks and strategies suffering, but rather about seeing the game coming to a closer sense of balance.
Tell us what you really think Chef
Ok look, I’ll be honest. I did not hold out much hope for this FAQ. But GW have really hit the nail on the head here. Lots of big and small changes that are all going towards the overall balancing of the game. Yes, there are still a few things that I would like to see changed. There are some things that make me utterly bemused that they even needed to be queried. And whilst I will not hide my disappointment that Soup did not receive any explicit changes, certain underlying factors have come together to make it a little more palatable. Is the game there yet? Of course not, but this is 100% a step in the right direction, and will hopefully pave the way for even better refinements and improvements to the game. Based on last year we shouldn’t expect too many changes in the Autumn FAQ, and there are plenty of events to come for all those ingenious and innovative tournament players to break their teeth into and find the new hotness.
Let’s see what comes in the coming months, and how the meta and overall feel of the game changes, and don’t forget later this week I will look into the individual codexes and see how they’ve fared in this latest batch of updates. So until then, have a chew over these thoughts and join the conversation in the comments below!
If you have a list with some unique tactics, a Tactica or hobby article that you feel would make an interesting read, or maybe you just want to give Chef a topic to rant about? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org and you might see your topic discussed in a future article!