The changes being discussed are pretty fundamental to the DNA of the game experience. I will simply react to what I learned thus far. Keep in mind that all of what I am reacting to is actually from Games Workshop itself, and not some rumor mill online.
To Base Or Not To base?
The first thing is a tongue in cheek joke about placing the models on square bases. Do not count on this any time soon. It is purely a joke, made reference to in a little video Games Workshop put out. However, I sense that they may be considering whether or not the base itself should be used to measure things. In a round about sort of way their joke, if one reads between the lines, isn't one about the actual bases being changed but about whether they should matter at all. I imagine in the end that they will, but Warhammer Fantasy uses literal model parts for ranges, so it isn't fanciful to think they could do something similar here.
The timing of the 8th Edition surprised me. They make mention that it could be coming in time for Adepticon next year! That gives us a pretty definite time frame to speculate on actually, as we know most of the time they won't use the new rules if it drops less than 30 days from when the tournament is to be! March 22nd 2018 is Adepticon 2018, so given that the release dates are often end of week for delivery reasons, my money is on April 18th 2018 or sooner. A new update from Games Workshop that dropped on 4/22 says this year!
Three Ways to PlayAs some have speculated, they are drawing on the dubious way in which Warhammer Fantasy rolled out and there will be three modes to play in. they describe these modes as open, narrative and matched play.
I think open play boils down to an unbound, anything goes version in which the players determine the forces and they may well not be balanced in the least. While I honestly cannot understand the actual attraction, having played in the chaos (pardon the pun) that was the initial release of Age of Sigmar, there seems no ACTUAL downside to at least allowing it. People will rarely, if ever, prefer it but whats the harm in saying its an option? Not much.
The second version, narrative play, strikes me as a way to play historic battles and set up specific scenarios which are campaign-like, with each battle building upon the previous one and it will allow Games Workshop to sell their campaign books in a more literal way. Much like Dungeons and Dragons modules, they would instruct you in how to run through the story and how to evaluate the effects of the battles on the involved forces and this could be a lot of fun. As I have often said, the models are just stupid awesome, and the fact that there are actually RULES to play with them still blows my mind every day I am in this hobby, so this could be a really fun way to get non-competitive people to play and feel as if their battles mean something without tying as much importance to any one win or less. It is also a lower key way to play so I am intrigued at least.
The matched play will be tournament play and I expect that to look a lot like it does now: regimented rules, standardized missions and so on. I would think that these rules would be presented to give every faction their day in court, whether it succeeds at it or not. The burning question I might have is regarding the Maelstrom version of play. Maelstrom battles are a very fun way to play 40K in a lower key way and while I disagree with the ITC's heavy use of it in competitive play, I do wonder how they will integrate this. Why? Because as per my article on Games Workshop Partners (click to view) they have been listening to us more. In Games Workshops communications regarding the new edition, they directly named the people from the ITC, Adepticon and Mike from NOVA as direct contributors to their thinking on the new edition. So if the people who run the ITC have that kind of pull, is it possible that the basic book missions will address directly how to integrate it? I'd like the answer to that question.
Building Your ForceThe best thing I heard about 8th Edition Warhammer 40,000 was in regard to benefiting entire armies that are actually representative of their factions. For example, as cool as it might be in practice, A Riptide wing next to three Imperial Knights is never going to feel right, no matter what the final score says. Likeways, the absurdity of Chaos Sorcerer Cabals hanging out with their Necron buddies is equally odd. I have seen those forces and a lot like them that are abominations of the fluff. Let's face it, the story is the thing that has made 40,000 rise above its competitors. The entire story is very deeply responsible for the attraction, when the market is filled with other options (good ones in fact!). Specifically, Games Workshop is talking about allowing re-rolls and army specific advantages you will get when you play purer versions of the army. I like this middle ground because what they did before was made the actual army irrelevant, no more than a scrap pile for parts to build your doom engine with. The idea of simply taking the "best thing in this codex and the best thing in that codex" with no regard to the identities of them or the stories behind them was disappointing. This signals a change of direction on that element of the game.
Individualized Movement Rules
An odder change is movement. They are testing the idea of making every units movement quite specific to the unit and eliminating unit types (assumedly as far as movement goes but possibly in general) fro the core book. I dislike this news. It complicates the game and adds a layer of player knowledge that will be hard to keep up with. Warhammer Fantasy used to do this and every model had its own movement statistic. Memorizing that or dealing with codex's you don't know in organized play could get cumbersome if you need to check the movement rates on everything and while I'd love to say no one ever cheats on movement it's just not true. I had a Necron player, a good one, move his Night Scythe 36", disembark and then run. He wasn't allowed to shoot (and therefore could not run) He as an extremely accomplished Necron player who knew it was not legal, but he did it anyways in a fit of frustration to rob me of a few points. Given that this rule would really only be known by the Necron player in many cases, the opponent now would seemingly have to deal with delving into every codex just to make sure there are no shenanigans like this one going on. I guess this core rules change will make the core rules smaller. Movement would be left to Codex's in whatever form those take at that point. That would also signal a complete removal of any value your codex's have for you. Start selling the ones you don't use!
The crew at Games Workshop are testing the idea of Armor save modifiers in the shooting phase. That was pretty vague. Their end goal is to make ranged weapons "better represent how you imagine them working in your head", to quote them directly. This could mean a lot of things. Some will recall that armor save modifiers used to be a thing in Warhammer Fantasy. The way it has been handled in other Games Workshop products is to reduce the armor save of the victim by any STR over 3. For example, a STR 5 creature would inflict a -2 armor save penalty to its target. In other iterations of the rules, such as Age of Sigmar, some weapons simply apply a penalty to saves in general. In this paradigm, the STR is irrelevant and the weapon specifically and simply does modify it. We have had an Armor Piercing (AP) stat for every weapon for quite a long time. It already represents how little armor matters to some weapons.
Imagine a World in Which Your Ranged Cannons Actually Did Something...
An "armor modifiers" approach would treat it as less like an on/off switch. It would instead inflict a penalty to the armor save. I took a little time to imagine how that could work using current mechanics and I was somewhat at a loss. Take the example of an AP 4 Autocannon against Terminator armor. In our current understanding of it, that would essentially be the same as AP -. The massive power coursing through that shell does not translate to much of anything and is "turned off" by the enemy armor. But that is not really how you imagine it in your mind. Its a frigging auto cannon! 75mm guns firing into a dude should hurt, right? May as well be a STR 7 stick for all it matters against Necron Immortals. If the goal is to make a weapon like that be a little cooler when it lands in a guys belly, what do you do against say a Terminator?
I think that when you get hit with a STR 10 Manticore, you should be filling your pants with unpleasant waste. If anything I am thinking they will set a base number in shooting like they did in Fantasy and anything over that number is a modifier. For example if they set it as 6, then any ranged weapon over STR 6 will reduce the armor of its victim by one or even one per point of difference so that a STR 10 Manticore dropping shells dead on is going to reduce the save by 4 (for example). A Tactical Terminator caught in that blast would then be a 6+ armor and still a 5+ Invulnerable save. AP would still apply only to the base armor of 2+ and thus the 6+ does not negate his ability to take the 6+ he's been whittled to.
This enhances the value of Invulnerable saves, as I imagine those will be as inviolable as they always have been. Again all guesswork based on what they have said. Fun to think about.
Sweeping Assaults Swept Aside...What Does It Mean?Another development is the direction of assaults. They want the mechanic to favor the charger and perhaps even have the charger always going first. As happens in other games, you run into this absurd situation where certain armies simply are cut down before they strike as they charge and then with the full weight of their momentum they get cut down again in melee. this makes the charges a completely untenable idea, for armies that should totally be able to assault like Orks. Lets face it: Fire Warriors charging bravely into the fray when their enemies are upon them is pretty cool, and you gotta root for the little guys even if they are ultimately going to get their lunch money taken away. Why would a charging unit not have the momentum? Even Hammer of Wrath is sort of a rule that recognizes that the sheer force of a battle front hitting you can have some initial value. Opening up the tactical option of giving the charging unit initiative in the first round of combat sounds good to me as it always did in Warhammer Fantasy. This also gives armies that use speed instead of sheer awesomeness as a weapon a little boost, like Dark Eldar. Assault has already been diminished in importance, so what better way to spice it up than giving aggression a chance? And Terminators everywhere will be cheering for their resurrected value. I like it.
Deserters Will Be Shot!
For morale they are taking a page out of the Age of Sigmar playbook and looking to install the "morale = deserters" paradigm. In essence, they propose rolling D6+casualties taken - Leadership score and removing that many more casualties. I can only speculate that these losses would happen win or lose which leads to some strange situations where you've killed all your foes and then explode and die in a second or subsequent round of combat. The way they worded it made it seem as if this would be wounds dealt, not models removed, which is an important distinction indeed! So if I lose 6 wounds, and roll a 6 (LD is 9) then I lose three more wounds. It feels like a daemonic instability check except I don't need to know how many wounds my opponent took, just my own.
One impact of this is that you would certainly value leadership more than you do now. Paying points for upgraded Sergeants has definitely fallen somewhat out of vogue in many forces. I would foresee many more people taking them moving forward.
Monstrous Creatures like a Riptide will be virtually unaffected though, as even a roll of a 6 after taking 3 wounds would do nothing to him in close combat and he only has 5 to begin with! In fact such a contest might be more favorable to the Riptide in the long run other than insofar as the fact that it virtually guarantees that in order not to get caught out in the open the following round, the Riptide will want to charge more often! Wouldn't that be a funny quirk of such a rule?
Attrition hurts hordes. Low armor means they will assuredly take a far worse toll from the rule. Tyranids and orks hordes already don't need help being terrible so if a unit of Orks loses 6 guys no matter how much damage they did, exploding ork parts will be everywhere after almost any close combat. I foresee this as the greatest argument against such a rule. Now keep in mind that orks charging would be going first in this brave new world of Warhammer 40,000, so some of that would absolutely be fixed, but it is worth noting. Even the best Ork charge may find itself losing a lot of fellows to a volume of attack type of a unit like Flayed Ones which are also very hearty, but I suppose that was always the case.
I also observe that this would mean that you are fighting to the death and sweeping advances would literally go away. That is an enormously important statement. Sweeping Advances are one of the mechanics that make assault a tenable thing to do in a futuristic game like Warhammer. Not being able to do it changes everything. Charging and getting clogged up by say...one Fire Warrior... is going to end well for the chargers and badly for shooting forces.
I think just in the dribbles that Games Workshop shared we can see that a very different game is coming.