Only two years have passed since GW rolled out 6th Edition. Why would they release a new main rule book? The cynical will say that it is just to make money and, while that has to be a component of it, I (in this instance at least) will give GW a little more credit than that. While it may be a good idea in the short term to release a new book to drum up some sales, that plan comes with more than just a few downsides and the cynics are breezing by.
The main drawback to releasing a new main rule book is that producing such a tome takes money. A lot of money. You have to pay writers, proofers, artists, binders and distributors. It takes a lot of money to get a book from the brain to the page to the printer to your hands. That is a considerable investment that is not easily thrown away. It is that investment that dictates the schedule of releases for the rule books. Have they made enough money from the last edition to recoup their investment.
I would be willing to guess that rather than the almighty dollar, GW's motivations are more likely due to their plans for the future. I think that GW has some big changes in store for 40k and they needed to make tweaks to the main rules in order to make better changes to future armies and books in the future. That I think is a better reason for releasing a new core set of rules rather than wanting a bump in stock prices.
I am eager to see what these changes are. Judging by the types of changes they are making, they may change the way 40k is payed entirely. Below I am going to detail changes from 6th to 7th Editions and what those changes seem to imply to me about what we have to look forward to in the future of 40k.
This has always been in 40K in some way but now GW has made it a point to spell out how to select a random model. This implies to me that there are going to be more casualties encountered in your own phase like psychic tests gone wrong or weapons blowing up.
2. Bigger Blasts
Also given some special attention are new larger sets of blast markers. Each are given names and exact parameters. In 3rd Ed, "blast" could have meant the larger or small blast depending on how it was used. Later, they tried to specify between the large and small blast but were never very consistent. In Apocalypse, they introduced two larger sizes and made sure that from the start they diferentiated them. Apocalypse 2dn Ed introduced a massive 15" template. Now for the first time, all of these templates are mentioned in the main book. This seems to imply that we are going to see some larger templates used in normal games of 40K.
3. The Psychic Phase
There is enough here to change 40K forever and far too much for me to detail or speculate on. What I can say is they have leveled the playing field in terms of psychic powers like never before. Everyone now has access to the same types of powers for the most part and they are generated int eh same ways. The only thing separating armies from each other in terms of Psykers now are the choices int eh codex and even that is pretty loose due to allies.
4. Shooting, Assault And Mixed Weapons
This is a big change that no one has talked about with all of the sexy news about Psykers. Shooting is now wildly different. Gone are the days of rolling all of your shots at once. Gone are the days of the person getting shot at being able dictate where those high Strength or low AP shots go. Now what you do (according to page 30) is select all of the weapons of the same type and resolve all of those shots in one go. This means that now the shooter gets to decide where those valuable shots go rather than letting them get soaked up by grunts.
Similarly the Assault phase also gives the power back to the one swinging the blows. According to page 51, the player making the attacks decides what order each type of wounds are saved against. The owning player does get to decide what order the models in base contact die in though.
5. Focus Fire
Gone. I don't think that anyone will miss it as it was rarely used. It was not really broken but it was a needless complexity.
6. Charging And Difficult Terrain
Apparently GW wants more charges and 3d6 drop the highest was too much of a stumbling block. Now you only remove 2 inches. This is deceptive in that 2" is still a lot when charges are concerned bit it is a lot better than 1/2 of your roll.
All through the 7th Ed mail rule book, GW writers pay special attention to the 3rd dimension by stating specifically distances not just horizontally but also vertically. Ruins and buildings were shoe horned into 4th Ed and slowly clarified over 5th and 6th. GW seemed to want to churn out terrain kits faster than solidifying rules for them. Now, we are getting a little more guidance with how to treat vertical terrain.
8. Run, Commander!
According to page 59, any unit with an IC can now test to regroup regardless of its size. I am not 100% sure this is a change but I can not find it anywhere in the 6th Ed book. This change seems like a no brainer and I am glad for it.
9. Nice Bike
Bikes all now have the Very Bulky special rule. The only reason for this inclusion would be that they are thinking of being able allow transports to carry things like bikes and the lot. This will be up to the codices to specify as the transports section still says that only inf entry models can ride.
Also notable on the Bikes is that they can not be Pinned or even voluntarily go to ground. That is huge and makes those bikes worth their high post cost and hefty price tag.
I still think that the crew being T 7 is insane. It is especially insane for armies like Orks that use T 3 Grots (can lot of them) and gunners. Unfortunately for me and my definitions of sane, this rule is still in. Let us hope that the forthcoming Ork Codex will address this.
Another minor rule change that is completely overlooked is that Artillery can now move and shoot. The little section in the 6th Ed book that says that they can now is missing in the new book. Interesting.
Failing a Dangerous Terrain test now means you are Immobilized and lost a Hull Point. WTF? This may provoke a serious discussion as to what will make a vehicle take a dangerous terrain test. It also makes those Dozer Blades worth the points.
The vehicle damage table just got a lot more forgiving. Now if you suffer a Penetrating hit, you have a 50% chance of just not shooting next turn and only blow up if you are hit really really hard. This fixes some problems with Vehicles being a little too delicate in my opinion but does nothing for the "glance to death" problems with Hull Points. It is my opinion that every vehicles needs 1-3 more hull points than they are listed with. That or a save in addition to armor that is not a cover save.
Small change but Wrecked Vehicles are not just difficult terrain and not dangerous. I don't know that I ever used that rule so I am not sad to see it go.
I'm going to call a premature end to this post. There are lots more changes to 40k that need to be detailed. I just played my first game of 7th and it is a very different game.