I wasn’t going to do a review on the new Chapter Approved book, but I have had some time to digest it now and it is an important publication for Warhammer 40,000, so here goes…
The idea is, like the General’s Handbook for Age of Sigmar, that the game gets shaken up every year with a book like this, giving points tweaks for Matched Play (which, I fear, is why most people will buy this book, and they are so missing the point) plus a bunch of ‘cool things to do’ in your games.
Like Age of Sigmar, it does this by following the three lines of Open Play, Narrative Play, and Matched Play.
Open Play has two sections, the first of which brings Apocalypse games ‘back’ to 40k. This is less about rules (as is proper for Apocalypse, too much stuff getting in the way does not make for an easy-to-approach mega-game) and more about how to organise things – basically, if you have not tried doing something like this before it might be easier than you think, so give it a go.
However, there are three Apocalypse missions, plus some ‘cool things’ to try out once you have got a few games under your belt, such as multi-table games (we have tried that, a lot of fun!) and using referees to keep players on their toes.
The second part of Open Play is all about Kustom Land Raiders – actually building your own with your own choice of weapon fits.
If you were expecting something like the old vehicle design system in the White Dwarf-that-was, it ain’t that. Basically, you choose one of the standard sponsons (Godhammer, Hurricane Bolters, or Flamestorm, of which Chaos Land Raiders only get the Lascannon), add secondary sponsons (from Predator choices), and then the Hull-mounted weapons (twin Lascannon, Heavy Bolters, Assault Cannon, Helfrost Cannon – Space Woofs only – and Reaper Autocannon for Chaos). Work out what your transport capacity is from all that, and you are good to go.
All Land Raiders created under this system are Power Level 30, and there are no points for Matched Play (if anyone has their nose put out of joint on that, they are not only missing the point but also two-thirds of the entire game…).
Some sample Land Raiders are provided, one of which makes the Terminus Ultra available to all chapters (no longer just for the Ultramarines, which is how things stood in the Index) and, a nice surprise for me, a dedicated Dark Angels Land Raider, the Solemnus Aggressor:
Stick a Storm Bolter on that, and it is chucking out 44 dice at short ranges – that is Repulsor territory!
Narrative Play also gets two sections, adding Planetstrike and Stronghold Assault games to the mix – and, you know, I really think they have got these games right this time.
The basic ideas behind these modes of play are simple (again, as they should be). There are a handful of core rules that get added to the game, such as Firestorm attacks that bombard the enemy before the game or Deadly Defence rules that add +1 to hit rolls from Buildings (which is great for Plasma Obliterators…). You then build armies to specific defender and attacker detachments, and gain access to specific Warlord traits and Stratagems, again both divided between attacker and defender.
And that is it. That is all you need. Just jump into one of the 12 new Planetstrike and Stronghold Assault missions and you are good to go!
However, they did not stop there. A two page introduction to linear campaigns puts together all the Planetstrike and Stronghold Assault missions into a simple but effective storyline that could keep you going for a month or three and link your games into, well, a narrative – if you have not tried this type of gaming, I would encourage you to give these two pages a try. You can even use Matched Play Points for the missions!
And then we get to Matched Play.
First up are 12 new missions, split between Eternal War and Maelstrom of War which, it is possible, will become the new ‘tournament standard’ missions for the next 12 months, before they are replaced with new missions in Chapter Approved 2018 – which is a really nice way of keeping the game fresh for those who refuse to go beyond the standard missions (don’t take that personally, I used to be one of you…).
A small section on making your Objective Markers does not actually add anything to the game per se, but is presented more as a ‘this is cool, try it’ kind of thing. Which is the whole angle of this book, not just the 8 pages of points updates at the back.
Please, please, please do not buy this book just for those points updates. You really would be missing out on so much.
Those factions (well, most of them) that do not have a Codex yet each get a page granting them a Warlord trait, Relic and a Stratagem or two (Thousand Sons also get a Psychic Power).
I have already seen some criticism for these on the various forums, most of which seems to amount to not getting all the toys right now but, you know what? I like these rules.
It will be the Space Woofs that I face more often than not, and they get a Warlord trait that allows him to fight first, the Krakenbone Sword which is no slouch in close combat, and two Stratagems, one of which allows Space Woof units to use rapid firing Bolters in close combat.
Nothing to sniff at there.
An Appendix section adds a few more bits and pieces – specific terrain from the Death World and Sector Mechanicus sub-lines get updated for 8th edition, and there are Battlezone rules that can be added to games to help create specific environments.
They have been quite clever in the way these Stratagems can be used – for example, the Supercharged Obliteration allows you to doublefire a Plasma Obliterator (ouch!) if it is close to a Haemotrope Reactor. Very characterful but, because it is tied to a Stratagem, never overpowering.
There are some pages on tweaked points for Matched Play, which will be done to death elsewhere, and then the book ends on some notes for Battle-Forged Armies. This is mostly some reiteration on the use of under-strength units and reinforcements (likely nothing you did not already know), but it also adds a Detachment Roster for your forces:
Now, is it me, or is there just not enough room on that sheet for anything other than a small Patrol. Sure, you can print out more copies, but even mid-sized Battalions are going to need more than a few sheets.
Can’t help thinking that could have been done a bit more efficiently…
And that is the book. Like the General’s Handbook, the regular publication of this book every year provides a good way to shake up the game and keep it current, with few downsides. Even if you get a bum year where something is, shall we say, less than optimum, you may only have to wait a year for it to be properly reversed (rather than just FAQ’d) as opposed to waiting several years for an entirely new edition.
And for those of us who have embraced the Open/Narrative Plays, the material in these books will always be current and, over the years, will form a nice little library of ‘cool things to do in 40k’ that we can pull out again and play down the road.
I applaud this approach.