Again it has been far too long since I have posted anything. Most of my gaming and hobby time has been focused on the new edition of Warhammer 40k, and it has taken me some timer to get my head around the the rules, and the over state of the game and hobby. I haven't played 40 since 1st edition, probably 20 years, so my take on the rules is a bit different than those who have been playing the more recent editions.
The Book: The 6th edition rulebook is rather nice, if a little pricey. $75 for a 450 page hardbound book in full color is fairly expensive in my opinion. I would have expected to pay between $50 and $60 for something this size, but overall the I still feel that you are getting your money's worth. I'll be interested to see what sort of rulebook comes with the new starter set that will be released late summer/ early fall. The book is divided into sections covering the rules, story, miniatures showcase, hobby information, battle examples, and appendices. Each section is pretty hefty and deserves a bit of an individual review.
Story: GW does a really good job with what they often refer to as "fluff". For a wargamer that came from the Roleplaying community, the "fluff" is a lot more important to me than it might be to others. I really enjoyed reading through this section. It describes each of the main factions in the galaxy, spending most of the section on the human faction (aka the Imperium). What really set this section of the book apart from other 40k books I had seen in the past was the timeline, and explanation of specific events. The older books gave you a great sense of mood and what type of events could take place, while in contrast this book does a good job of detailing the major events of the last several millennia.
Miniatures: This is pretty much what you'd expect from GW at this point. Lots of pretty pictures of their miniatures, often engaged in gigantic battles. While nice, this section is fairly redundant. We see plenty of miniatures throughout the rest of the book, and these sorts of showcases are in even codex and in every issue of White Dwarf.
Hobby: This section is nice for the new player that is just starting to learn how to paint their miniatures, as well as introduce other parts of the hobby such as the novels. It doesn't go into too much detail, and is actually fairly short. GW did the right thing here, and left the details to their "How to Paint Citadel Miniatures" book. I really liked seeing the Golden Demons winners in here, but again, you can see these sorts of things in White Dwarf every month.
Battles: I haven't really had the chance to dig deep into this section, but it looks really nice. Here GW gives some excellent examples of narrative battles with all sorts of custom rules and neat terrain ideas. I'm glad that they included this in the book, and we'll probably see more of this in White Dwarf. There is one problem with this section, which I'll mention in the rules section.
Rules: The Rules are the first 130 pages of the book, but I saved it for last because there's much more to say about the them. I can't really compare them to 5th edition, as I didn't play 5th (or 4th, or 3rd for that matter). The are fairly well written for the most part. The are organized, clear, and there a a decent number of examples and illustrations. However, there are times when certain concepts are not clearly explained, or examples are not given. The "special rules" is of special note, as this some of these rules refer to other special rules, which then requires a lot of page flipping. The game is complicated, and lends itself to "Rules Lawyers", as they are fairly well written, but you have to know how to read the language precisely, and know where are the rules are in order to interpret them correctly.
Overall, to me, the rules are better than the old 1st edition rules I last used. It is more complicated however, and there are certain areas of the rules that I don't. I think that rules should be "Fun, Fast, and Fair"; Fun so we can all enjoy the game, Fast so that we don't get bogged down in the details, and can actually get the game moving and completed in a reasonable amount of time, and Fair so that we can have good, competitive games. These rules are fun, but there are times when I question how fast they play, and how fair they will be. The rules surrounding character models, picking targets, and wound allocations are particularly problematic. Rules like "Look out sir" and "Precision Shots" can really slow down the game. In addition, some of these rules are not explained clearly enough, and no examples if there use are given. The Battles section of the book would have been a great place to do "An Example of Play" section. Instead of describing what is going on in general terms, the details of the game, down to the dice rolls themselves could have been documented to show exactly how the game should play. Almost every RPG book since 1st edition AD&D has done this, so it's about time that a wargame rulebook does so as well.
One of the major changes to the rules is the inclusion of Allies to the army lists. As an old 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy player, I really like this. I enjoy having small collections of various armies that I can mix and match together for particular uses. The use of Allies will serve to bolster some of the weaker army lists, but some think that it will leader to broken combinations and "Uber" lists. We'll have to wait and see about that, but it is certainly a possibility.
I think GW has done a good job with this book, but they had a chance to do a great job and missed it. The rules are clear but could have been clearer, and they don't play quickly enough once you factor in character models. For a friendly game, I think they'll be fine, but these rules are not tournament ready right now. Of course, that's not really GW's (or my) main concern with the rules, though I understand that tournament and competitive play are big part of the hobby. GW does a really good job of representing their hobby, but they still could learn a thing or two about organizing and presenting their rules.