The Granddaddy of the SciFi wargaming world, and a game I would think most people are familiar with and most likely have played before.
Warhammer 40,000 (40k for short), brings the world of the ‘GrimDark’ to your gaming table.
Super soldiers, aliens, burdened humanity and other-worldly gods. The game has it all… but how does it play?
Product: Warhammer 40,000
Company: Games Workshop
Warhammer 40k Review – Opinion Post
40k is in a weird spot for me. After years of dedicating so much time, effort and energy; of running and playing in tournaments and staying up to date with the latest ‘meta’, codex releases and tactics; I feel Games Workshop has forgotten about, and don’t care about, people like me. Long time gamers with an investment in the hobby, seem to be forgotten.
Now before the whole ‘entitlement’ arguments come up, I am aware about GW being a company and needing to make money, blah, blah, blah. Entitlement is not what I am asking for. I simply want a game that is enjoyable to play, balanced, makes (relative) sense and is supported by the company. I don’t feel like this is too much to ask, yet over the years it seems like GW has moved 40k further away from my expectations.
In turn, I guess I have moved further away from 40k. In fact I have to say, I no longer support the company, or the game. I will absolutely play with my friends and gaming group (and support their gaming preferences), but 40k is no longer my fall back game, and I have no plan to increase my armies or make new purchases.
This puts me in a bit of a melancholy mood when I consider all the good times I have had, and people I have met, due to 40k. It isn’t something to throw away lightly. To that end, I sincerely hope GW and 40k really look at the game and make some awesome changes and improvements in the years to come.
I haven’t written them off, and if they can start making some changes which shows they are interested in gamers again, and not just money grabbing, I’ll be happy to return to the fold.
It may be of interest, or use, to explain the things that currently turn me off 7th Edition Warhammer 40k.
Background and Fluff: The background used to be amazing, it still is to a degree, but it is starting to get old and stale. The work Forgeworld/ Black Library do to support the world of 40k is immense, and this can be seen by the support and interest in the Horus Heresy books (both game books and novels).
This is a great endeavour, but is set in the history of the 40k Universe. I really want to see what my armies are ‘fighting’ for, I really want a storyline progression. I have gotten tired of fighting at the One Minute to Midnight stage for the last 20 or so years. There has been some awesome fan-fiction with regards to progressing the story, I am sure GW can match this.
To add to this background, there doesn’t appear to be any set ‘canon’. Now this is great for authors or designers but just leads to inconsistencies, in my mind, when it comes to representing important characters or historical events. This isn’t anything huge, but rolls into the issues I have with the background.
Probably my largest area of dissonance is the way the background is used in the game. The background is completely ignored in lieu of the latest and greatest miniature or codex.
Space Marines are so rare in the universe, yet the average Marine army doesn’t seem to support this. The legendary toughness and power of the Space Marines, especially Terminator Armoured Marines, is not even closely represented. One of the more famous quotes, “Give me a hundred Space Marines. Or failing that give me a thousand other troops”, is so far from the gaming table truth it makes me laugh.
It isn’t Space Marines that are alone, how do Eldar justify sacrificing so many of their people in battle after battle? It goes on from there in a predictable pattern. I would love to see a full Codex re-write to bring the armies into line with the background, but I can guess the changes that will bring, are opposed to the way GW currently want to run their business.
Cost: The cost of Warhammer 40k is ridiculous. The cost per model isn’t overly bad, but the sheer volume you need to play means it is becoming more out of reach for people. It isn’t just miniatures, the books are also more expensive then other games starter boxes. Even once you have all the rules and miniatures, there are still dataslates and supplement books, all of which are sold at a premium price. 40k simply costs money at every turn, it is like an old car, it just keeps taking more money to keep going.
Yes the quality ranges from good to excellent, but that quality still does not justify the price requested of the items, in my view. Games Workshop has priced me out of the game, I expect that also applies to other people.
Rules: This is just a more personal view. The 40k ruleset is old, I feel it is showing it’s age and it isn’t aging gracefully. There has essentially been little change since 3rd Edition, with 7th Ed feeling like a revamped 6th Ed, and I feel the game could benefit a lot by being brought into the ‘modern’ age.
I understand that people still love the simplicity of the rules, and find challenge in designing the killer list, with the latest Codex, but that isn’t for me anymore. Personally the simplicity the rules bring are overshadowed by the complete lack of options present when playing the game. Laying traps, setting ambushes, denying fire lanes, yeah not in 40k. Added to that is the awful writing and (what feels like) the complete lack of ability to proofread or cross reference rules, this adds confusion to the game (always take invulnerable save V never gets a save) and never seems to be addressed in FAQ’s (which are rarely updated).
An IGOUGO system also facilitates the ‘total control’ style of gaming, where as an omnipotent leader you know exactly what your troops will do, how far they will move and what range they have with their weapons. There is very little left to chance, or the vagaries of war. Again, this is a personal preference and people aren’t wrong to like it, I am just not a fan of the style anymore. After playing games which use a lot more friction in their systems, I have come to prefer games where the absolute is not know.
Having to make a house rule document just to make the basic game playable (in my opinion), and to remove things that look like complete oversight in the rules, is not the sign of a healthy set of rules. Adding insult to injury is the fact we need to pay over $100 for said rules to start with.
I subscribe to the motto, ‘A balanced game benefits everyone’. Please GW. Just do it…
Lack of community interaction: After dealing with so many good companies, like Corvus Belli, Hawk Wargames and TooFatLardies (to name a few), who do actively listen and talk to their players, GW’s complete lack of interaction with their customers shocks me. I feel GW are completely out of touch with large sections of the player base, and they seem happy that their business plan can account for that lack of interaction. That may well be the case, but personally I am happier taking my business to companies who at least show an interest in their customers and players.
What can other companies use their player base as a test run for rules and GW can’t? They are missing such a HUGE amount publicity, goodwill and playtest ability.
This is possibly the largest issue I have with GW, and hence 40k, I can no longer support a company that doesn’t support it’s players.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. As it stands I think GW have rested on their laurels too long, and isolated an area of the player base. I include myself in that. Do I hope GW and 40k folds up and dies? No way. In a perfect world I would like them to put the vast resources they have to use and make a fresh set of rules, the best SciFi massed wargame on the market, and straighten out and make use of that kick arse background. Here’s hoping they can take the game out of the ashes.
As it stands, with 7th Edition Warhammer 40k:
- Background: 6
- Core Game/ Basic Game rules: 4
- Codexes/ Army Lists: 1
- Gameplay adding House Rules: 5
40K remains the staple game for me. This is partly because I’ve poured so much time and money into it over the years, but also because it remains one of the more ‘freeflowing’ of the systems out there.
I enjoy the rapid movement, rapid resolution that happens for the most part (one of the reasons I dislike fantasy is the lack of ‘flow’) and of course my familiarity with the background means I can look over a battle and rapidly assess the units I’m facing. I’m still slowly finding the capabilities of units in ‘Infinity the Game’ for example and it will be many games until I can do that at a glance.
Also, let’s face it, the background remains one of the best ever crafted. Now if only the unit stats would reflect what the fluff says (marines, I’m looking at you)!
I am having problems with 6/7th edition though. The base rules are playable, but filled with frustrations. Our house rules were built to address that, but this is the first time I’ve felt I’ve had to alter a ruleset to enjoy a game, and I’m usually a bit of a purist who doesn’t like mucking with the rules as intended. I haven’t felt bad about it this edition though, as GW seems to be messing with their own rules anyway, adding formations seemingly at a whim which add rules to models with no real regard for balance.
The additional problem with their current release model is keeping up with what is released, and which rules new units may have. Sure, their company line is ‘bring the rules to show your opponent first’ but who really sits down and digests what special rules a formation brings with it, in the few minutes before a game. “It does WHAT?!” is a common cry in 7th.
I have had no luck keeping up with all the dataslate releases and have totally given up. Most games now I shrug and accept whatever my opponent says. “Oh, buying 14 trukks allows orks a free stompa with 12 D weapons mounted on one arm? Sounds right, have at it” A shark has been well and truly jumped and there is no going back…
Let’s not take shots without offering a bandage. What would make things better? Well, I really don’t like playing without house rules now, and they have helped, but I think the best thing would be for GW to directly engage the gamers, much like ‘Infinity’ does. I know we can be a rabid lot, but surely there is a way to listen to the players and sort the gretchin from the orks. What would I tell them? PLAYTEST. REVIEW. PLAYTEST AGAIN.
With that all in mind, I still love a game where 2 players take mostly even armies and play with modified rules. Some of my best games in any system have happened there.
- With house rules and careful army selection: 9
- As is, per GW/ 40k rules: 4 (drop that to 2 if my opponent brings a 5 knight titan and 5 hellchicken army and doesn’t tell me beforehand)
[If you think 40k is amazing and the best game out there, then I’d advise you to stop reading it now. Your mind may be blown by the revelations below.]
Warhammer 40,000 pretty much established science fiction miniature gaming. There will be historical players that pipe up and claim their hobby has existed for decades/centuries/aeons more (and they may be right) but they ain’t no sci-fi.
Games Workshop has created a vivid and expansive universe for their flagship game, involving half a dozen or more human factions, four distinct evil gods, and a handful of alien races all struggling to get their piece of galactic pie. Humanity had been elevated to the most powerful race around by one man: The Emperor. Alas, his plans went south when his favourite son decided to rebel and fall under the sway of those aforementioned evil gods.
Pretty cool stuff. Just don’t read any more into the background, otherwise it all falls apart.
Reading the books of the Horus Heresy it is apparent that the Emperor is stupid. Not just “well that was a dumb idea” stupid, but mind-blowingly idiotic. He is essentially a god, yet does the most inane things possible. He creates super soldiers (Primarchs) with power only second to himself, then loses them across the galaxy. When he finds them he shows clear favouritism to some, while disregarding others. He doesn’t even tell them about the evil gods that exist, so they’re completely unaware and defenceless when they apply their wiles. Because that’s not enough, the Emperor starts an incredible plan that will make everything easier for everyone. He hides this plan from his Primarchs, because reasons.
So I think I’ve established that this “godlike” man does particularly ungodlike things. He hides his plans, he biases his behaviour and he does generally dickish things. There. I said it. The Emperor is a dick. A supremely powerful, but ultimately stupid dick.
The universe is on the precipice of ultimate doom. At least from the human perspective, because that’s all that is talked about. It’s been this way for the past 25 years or so – “one minute to midnight” etc. The term “grimdark” has been coined because everything in the setting is so damn depressing. Skulls adorn everything. Death is but a sweet release. Push that barrow ad nauseum for more than two decades and see if it gets tired. Hint: it does.
Space Marines ©™ Because woe betide the person who combines those two words without proper acknowledgement that Games Workshop owns both “Space” and “Marines”. Sigh. These are the pinnacle of human engineering – super soldiers beyond compare. Faster, stronger, better equipped and more tactically proficient than anything else alive. They’re immortal, providing they don’t die in battle. They have two hearts, multiple redundant organs, they can sleep while still working, they are faithful to the Emperor to the point of psychopathy, and they spit acid (well, they used to). They are an eight foot tall bundle of warrior monk, and there’s so very few of them.
Space Marines are separated into Chapters such as Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Black Templars and Imperial Fists. Then there’s the crème de la crème: the Grey Knights, an order so secretive and elite that nobody who encounters them are allowed to live.
Imperial Guard Now with a pig Latin name. The teeming masses of humanity drafted into service. They are the empire’s blunt instrument. Poorly trained, poorly equipped grunts are backed up by astoundingly huge artillery pieces.
Sisters of Battle. Formerly the militant arm of the Emperor’s church, they were purity refined into girls with guns. Now though, we don’t talk of them, because Games Workshop has decreed it so. Unless of course, they’re used as sacrificial pawns for [mumble, mumble, stupid reasons].
Chaos. The original bad guys – the evil gods sit here, as do those Space Marines who fell into depravity and corruption. They also have Daemons (because you can’t spell Demon without an “a”) who are the soft parts of the faction. Four gods rule them all: Slaanesh (temptation of the flesh), Nurgle (pestilence and decay), Tzeentch (knowledge and change) and Khorne (RRRRAAAAAGGGEEE!). Slaanesh and Khorne hate each other as do Nurgle and Tzeentch.
Eldar. Easily and quickly summed up by the phrase “elves in space”. Split into two factions: the good guys and the bad guys. It’s easy to spot which ones are which because the bad guys are covered in spikes and call all their weapons “Dark” in contrast to the good guys who call their weapons… wait for it… “Bright”. Incredible.
Necrons. Another borrowed element, these are the undead in space. A mixture of Terminator and Egyptian mummies with some flying bicycles added. They have their own gods who are pretty much impotent compared to the Emperor and the evil gods.
Tau. Communists in space. Assimilate or die, sort of thing. Technologically advanced enough that they look like Gungam. They preserve their own lives so much that they think their drones are more than mere defensive equipment.
Orks. Cockney speaking barbarians, hobbling together technology so crude it shouldn’t work, but it does as their belief is so strong. They come with their own gods too, who are insignificant even to the Necron gods. These guys are the Mad Max crazies of the universe. They’re also fungus based, but that isn’t spoken of either.
Tyranids. Have you seen any of the Alien films? Yes? Then you’ve seen the Tyranids. Wave upon wave of little beasties followed by bigger queens. Hell, one of the species even breeds by inserting eggs down people’s throats. How Games Workshop got away with such a blatant rip-off is beyond me.
The factions, disconnected
Space Marines ©™. They’re rare enough that only the “lucky” few see them. Unless they’re on the table top, because every second player has at least one Chapter in their collection. They’re also only slightly better than the Imperial Guard grunts, and die in droves. All those extra organs and abilities don’t count for squat (ha!) when it comes to designing a game. Remember the Grey Knights I spoke of? Yeah, in many cases they’re worse than standard Space Marines, and just as numerous.
Luckily, Space Marines are adorned with many, many (many) skulls. On their armour, their weapons, their banners and their equipment. You can’t miss them. Because of all the Grimdark.
Imperial Guard. Actually, this faction is pretty well represented. Lots of squishy guys backed up by tanks. So many tanks. If you like WWII style themes, then this is the team for you.
Sisters of Battle. Relegated to a small range of metal miniatures designed in the 1990’s, the Sisters have been severely undernourished for many, many years. Games Workshop slap Sisters players in the face with rehashed rule sets that offer nothing substantial to the way the army plays, and actively undermines their ability to win a game.
Chaos. Those gods who hate each other? They don’t really. There used to be special numbers for each and antagonistic behavior against their counter-part but now they’re just all besties and want to party together. As long as you collect Khorne or Nurgle armies you’ll be well served by Games Workshop. Tzeentch and Slaanesh get forgotten about.
Oh, and if you wanted to make a Chaos Space Marine army that follows a specific god, then good luck. Games Workshop, despite their background of whole chapters falling under the power of one of the gods, continually ignores requests for the players to come up with rules for them.
Eldar. The slowest elves in the universe: they move just as quick as a human courtesy of the removal of the “Move” stat back in the 90’s. Typically lightly armoured they are pretty much a mixture of Space Marines and Imperial Guard with some funky technology.
Necrons. They even have a rule called “We’ll be back” because stealing from movies is what Games Workshop does. These relentless robots are essentially just skeletal versions of Space Marines, again with some interesting technology.
Tau. Remember the bit where I said they valued lives so much that drones were important to them? Yeah, the latest iteration of the rules now has the Tau as the suicide faction – a strong development of Ion weapons means that if you roll enough dice you’ll kill yourself by accident. It made no sense when I wrote that, and it will make no sense when you read it either. Essentially the Imperial Guard with Gungam and technological tweaks.
Orks. These guys aren’t too bad. Masses of ramshackle equipment wielded by green soccer hoodlums all itchin’ for a fight. Too bad the clans were left in the distant past. Every Ork army is a generic one now.
Tyranids. The masses of little guys have fallen away. Now it’s about the biggest bugs that can be put on the table. I suppose I should give Games Workshop some credit for moving away from the Alien references.
What a steaming pile of excrement. Games Workshop have used the phrase “Forging the Narrative” for the past few years, which is essentially their way of saying “We don’t care about gameplay, balance, well written rules, or the players”. Instead of fixing problems, they say that you should just roll a dice for it when they inevitably occur. Whole forums revolve around rules interpretations, and there is no consensus because those very rules are so ambiguous and poorly written that there cannot be a single solution. Rules lawyers love it and argue “Rules as Written!” as if Games Workshop are the avatars of grammatical excellence. Normal people argue “Rules as Intended!” because having stuff that makes sense should be important. Alas, nothing ever comes of these arguments because of how bad the rules are to start with.
In saying that, the basic rules aren’t too bad from a fundamental point of view. Move, use psychic powers, shoot, punch is the order of activity. This is fine except for the fact that it is I Go You Go: one army does everything they wish to do, then the other army follows. There are virtually no reactions other than armour or cover saves, with the one exception being Overwatch – shooting at a unit that is charging. Then you hit on 6’s.
This IGOYGO process is dumb. It enables the player who goes first to gut the opponent entirely in the first turn. It also means that the inactive player has nothing to do but watch events unfold.
One of the worst parts of this game lie in the multitude of codexes (army books), “dataslates” (special additions to the army books), allies, and the “take anything” mentality that Games Workshop are pushing. It’s really disconcerting when every other game system known to mankind is doing what they can to hone their mechanics and bring balance to their games.
- clear and apparent removal of balance;
- poorly written rules;
- total disregard that Games Workshop shows its customers (which is another rant altogether);
- fact that we’ve had to come up with a 5 page house rule document just to get the game playable;
- way that one player is entirely dependent on the opponent to not bring a stupidly min-maxed army; and
- complete disconnect between the background and the game…
Warhammer 40,000 is broken.
It is the fallback game however because our group (and many like it) has poured tens of thousands of dollars into collecting models and terrain, and tens of thousands of hours into putting those models together and painting them.
Why u so sad bro?
I used to love the game. Even now there is some residual desire to play it, but that is more about an emotional attachment than the fun I have playing it.
Since myself and a few others in our group began trying other games (Dystopian Wars, Infinity, Dropzone Commander, Malifaux and a few others) the sheen has been stripped from Warhammer 40,000. All the bad parts now seem worse because we know other rule sets manage things far better. We don’t need house rules for other games as they’re all pretty well written (even the ones that aren’t really our bag).
The background is wearing thin. There’s only so long I can live with the cliffhanger, and the setting really needs to change. Grimdark is cool for a while but it’s gone for me. And stop putting skulls on every. Damn. Thing.
I think I’ve mentioned a while ago that this game has the potential to be great. The greatest, even. But while Games Workshop ignore customers, unbalance the game and continue to be obstinately resolute in the fact that nothing ever changes, then I’m out.
Play something else. It will be so much more satisfying.
- Background: 6
- Gameplay (core rules): 6
- Gameplay (with codexes): 2
- Gameplay (with codexes and houserules): 4
Publisher: Games Workshop
Contents: Rules Boxed Set, 3 rulebooks containing Rules, Background and Painting Guide.
There is also a Starter Box, Dark Vengence, which contains 49 miniatures allowing you to field Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines. There is also a small format rulebook (A5), quick play reference guide, datasheets, dice, templates and a 6 scenario booklet.
Game Style: 2 players, is possible to play with more. IGOUGO system, where one entire side is active at a time. D6 based, roll and beat target number, with modifiers.
Price: get a price on Warhammer 40,000 Rule Boxset at Amazon.
get a price on Warhammer 40,000 Dark Vengeance Starter Box at Amazon (currently 23% off).
Long time player? New player? Never played before?
What do you think of Warhammer 40k? Share your thoughts, experiences and ideas in the comments section.