Its been a little over a year since I first heard rumors about the possibility of 6th edition being only a couple of years off. At first, I just said its someone trying to get out their own cheesy version of what they want to see in the next edition, but as every month has passed, I have seen more and more rumors and possible rule changes posted. Now, before you read any further, this is not going to be a cut and copied post about the latest rumors on what the new rule changes will be. This is a discussion about whether or not the hobby and its fans are ready for 6th edition, and if by releasing this new edition, it will help or hurt the hobby. I will discuss some things to expect, and of course I might go off on some tangents about other things, but for the most part I want to focus on the timing of 6th edition and its potential impact on what we know now about the game.
Its been only three years. Three years and some change to be more innaccurate about the timeline, since we saw 5th edition hit the shelves. There were many changes, some subtle and some quite important (true line of sight...), but ultimately it created more than just new rules, it made it necessary for everyone to once again buy new rule books, as well as forcing Games Workshop to update all of its codexes. More than anything else, all players had to adapt to the new impacts that the rules changes caused to their respective armies. Some armies where not effected (such as Orks) while others where pushed even further into obscurity (Dark Eldar, Grey Knights, Necrons). While I will admit that adapting to new rules adds more fun challenges, it also nullified certain strengths for specific armies. Games Workshop should have updated all of its codexes right away, making sure that all armies got to benefit from the new rule changes immediately. Some armies will undoubtedly get left behind, leading to another lapse in consistency amongst the rules between different codexes from different editions. I think that before a new edition is released, all of the codexes should be brought up to speed, to at least ensure a level of consistency amongst the rules for different armies. I wonder if bringing in a new set of rules in a brand new edition is going to help the hobby, in terms of keeping the game fair and balanced so that all armies have the chance to compete on the tabletop.
We have already seen new models being released for updated codexes, and the money that has been generated from those new releases, as well as from the new Citadel Finecast line should be keeping the profitability of the present game quite high. The new Dark Eldar and Grey Knights codexes has led to the release of countless new models, brought on undoubtedly by the boost in sales that where generated after the armies were updated. It doesnt seem likely that the release of 6th edition is supposed to revive sales, or spark new interest in the game, as the new codexes and models being released seem to suffice for most gamers. Is Games Workshop hoping that they will make money off of it? OF COURSE. They are a business, and like all businesses, they must try to maximize profitability within their brands, while finding a way to keep customers returning to buy more things. I think, however, that an increase in profit can be obtained by merely updating all of the codexes, and possibly adding some new models for each army. I dont think that a brand new edition is necessary, and I think that it will not expand the hobby in its current state. The only positive thing that can come from a new edition is that people may have the opportunity to try new tactics with new armies, creating new lists and possibly challenging the hobbyist to come up with new conversions, paint schemes, scenarios and terrain. However, I still think that such things can be done with a full update of all the codexes to 5th edition. There is one more component that needs to be ready as well, and that is the everyday fan, wargamer, 40k fanatic, and weekend "general."
Are we ready for the new edition? Are we ready to sit down with another 60-100+ page rule book and try and re-learn how to deploy, move, shoot, and assault? I think that the answer cannot be fully given without the knowledge of whether or not 6th edition will be completely different from 5th, or whether or not some rules will be "tweaked". I personally like the tweaking of some rules, but I dont think that a complete overhaul is necessary. There are definitely rules that need to be addressed and re-written, if only for clarity (tank shock for instance). But to completley change all of the rules may seem more malicious than challenging. I love a good challenge, and I think that some rules changes would add some new possibilities and some potentially exciting gaming experiences, but learning how to walk again is never fun. I know that some of my fellow wargamers are dying for some new complexity and depth to the game, but cant that be accomplished with a simple update instead of a complete overhaul? This debate of complexity vs. ease of gameplay will always be a factor that all game systems will have to address, but I think ultimately, Games Workshop will need to find a comfortable balance between the two. Some rules could be made more complex, and some depth can easily be added with slight changes, such as different levels of universal special rules (ex: Eternal Warrior level III is better than Eternal Warrior level II). I guess it boils down to whether or not Games Workshop is ready make all of us buy new rule books, and wait patiently for FAQ's to fix and update current FAQ's that were meant to update older rules in codexes that will still be obsolete.
I usually try and stay pretty objective and impartial, but I must say that I dont think a new edition is necessary right now. There are still many 5th edition rules that need to be clarified and dealt with, and there are still many parts of 5th edition that need to be explored and utilized. I think in another couple of years an update would be great, but a complete overhaul in the next year is unnecessary. I dont think that it will increase their sales, and I think it will upset many gamers who are patiently waiting for their codexes to get updated. For me, I was playing Grey Knights before they got updated, and I know how challenging it can be to play an army that is so out of date. Adding a new edition will only create more of a rift between the codexes, instead of properly updating and reparing all of them so that they are competitive in the current edition. I only hope that when 6th edition is released, that it creates more fun than headaches. I want to be able to effectively slaughter my enemies in the 41st millenium in a fun and challenging way without having to worry about learning a whole set of brand new rules every couple of years. Plus, its never fun trying to compete with someone who has an out of date army, knowing full well that the only challenge will be to keep your beer from spilling while your opponent pulls model after model off the gameboard. 6th edition will be necessary in its own time, but I dont think that time is now.