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
I don’t know that there are too many people who do not know of (even if they have never played) 40k. I am going to work off that presumption, and not deliver an extensive background or history, but at its basic level Warhammer 40k is a 28mm SciFi wargame. There are a number of good sites with detailed information on the background, which I won’t hope to replicate here. You can find more details at:
I am also not going to mention the cost of the game in this article (or at least keep it to a minimum) other than to say Warhammer 40k is exorbitant at best (ridiculous is another word that comes to mind). Other games may be on par when it comes to cost per miniature, but nothing compares to what you need to outlay to actually begin playing 40k. Cost is NOT a selling point of this game.
40k is an old game, with the first edition being released in 1987. After having gone through many new versions, we are currently up to 7th Edition, released in 2014. This length of time has allowed the development of an extensive background and history, with the original concepts making an excellent setting. With the background being covered in so many different areas both in-game, via Codexes and Supplements, and out of game, through the many forms of books, novels, artwork books and painting guides, it is easy to immerse yourself into the world and really develop your army.
With the ‘Emperor of Mankind’ slowly dying on the Golden throne, and humanity besieged on all sides by enemies. The question (even after 27 years) is still being asked, are the Space Marines Chapters and Imperial Guard Armies enough? Can humanity prevail? Time moves slow in the GrimDark.
As of 7th Edition, there are more than ten different factions, with most factions having playable sub-factions. The most basic way of breaking the factions down are into generic ‘Good’, ‘Bad’ and ‘Neutral’. There is a lot of grey area, but that is the basis of the forces. That all provides a lot of depth when it comes to selecting forces, and allows for a lot of potential variation.
The current Edition also sees the introduction of a speedy release rate. Games Workshop have always had a reputation for slow releases, leaving a lot of armies in a weakened position while they wait for a Codex (army list). Looks like GW have listened and are delivering releases much faster than before. Faster even than peoples wallets can handle. Cost seems to be the limiting factor these days, not release speed. Along with the speedy release rate we are seeing a return of volume. The current plans seems to be Codex release, followed by supplements, dataslates and anything in between.
How long can this be kept up, we’ll see soon as the current run of bringing all armies into line with 7th Edition is nearing the end.
LOOK AND FEEL
Credit where credit is due, Games Workshop books are excellent quality. The new 7th Edition look is clean and crisp, hard cover, colour and glossy. These are show quality books, both rules and Codexes. They look the part.
The layout of the rulebooks is generally fine. Three books broken up into rules, painting guides and background. The rulebook was getting ridiculously large in a combined format, so splitting it up is a welcome relief to ones wrists.
Unfortunately I can’t continue when it comes to the codex layout. These are just awful. 7th Edition Codexes, while of the same quality, have somehow made it even harder to reference rules and find entries.
The change from using art to depict each unit, to showing photos of painted miniatures is bad. I understand it might be for legal reasons, but so much imagination and immersion has been lost. The evocative works of art, making you want to explore the universe of the GrimDark are all but gone, and that is a major loss.
Referencing is a major problem when playing 40k. There are so many special rules, spread through out so many locations it is a nightmare to find everything. To top it off, a lot of rule names are not intuitive as to what they reflect.
Possibly the worst part of all this is the ambiguity of the rules. Given 7 Editions one would think they could finally end the confusion of the rules, for example, ‘Allows No Saves’ versus ‘Always allowed to take Invulnerable Saves’. Which one is it? Don’t check the rulebook, it won’t tell you!
One small saving grace is Games Workshop’s continued investment in E-Books. This is paying off. These interactive books are a decent format and can make referencing easier. Too bad they still cost $45 for a Codex…
Moving on to miniatures, Games Workshop used to be the leading miniature maker, bar none. Other companies have certainly made huge leaps, and the changes in technology seem to allow miniature making to be more accessible than ever. That being said, I feel GW are still the number one miniature designers and makers for plastics range. I am discounting failcast (finecast) because I understand and appreciate GW trying something knew, companies need to take these chances. Now, lets just get rid of it completely and never mention it again. I believe GW plastics are still unparalleled when it comes to details, kit composition, and number of skulls.
When we start looking at metal miniatures, or add resin miniatures, I believe GW are no longer top of the pile. I think other companies have equaled (in some cases surpassed) Games Workshops sculpts, moulds, details and productions when it comes to forms other than plastics.
None of this is a bad thing. Competition is excellent for innovation and improvement, and GW miniatures are still excellent.
GAME SYSTEM AND MECHANICS
Each 40k army has a Codex. This codex is an army list and gives the guidelines on how to create forces, with the numbers and organisation along with any equipment, outlined and with points values. Forces are usually devised to a selected number of points. With equal points battles being the norm.
Armies are created with squads belonging to various areas within the army and can belong to either HQ (Headquarters), Elite, Troops, Fast Attack or Heavy Support slots. There are also some quasi-slots dedicated to Lords of War and Fortifications.
Army creation in 7th Edition is actually quite complex. With so many Codexes, Supplements and Dataslates (small 1 or 2 page rules for special units or formations) to choose from, forces can be arranged in many different ways, giving a variety of benefits depending on what is chosen.
The biggest change in 7th Edition is that of Unbound armies. Unbound is essentially a ‘take what you like and put it on the table’ type of arrangement. No rhyme or reason is required. Pick anything, from any arrangement of armies, and play it. This really opens the board.
After selecting your army and getting it to the table, 40k is simply an IGOUGO (I go, You Go) set of rules, with one side having the entirety of their turn before handing over to their opponent. An opponent may be required to roll armour saves when it is not their active turn. Close Combat/ Assault is the one area where both players can participate in the game at the same time, with models from both sides participating in assault each turn they are engaged in close combat.
The phases in each turn are, Start of Turn, Movement, Psychic, Shooting, Assault, End Turn. This fits more into line with Warhammer Fantasy, where psychic powers have been moved into one dedicated phase. Personally I don’t mind a Psychic Phase, but I am not a real fan of the way the system for casting psychic powers works. The sheer mass of information also easily allows things to be forgotten. I think the Force power is one of the worse for this.
40k uses a basic d6, beat a target number system. Unit statistics range from One to Ten. Unfortunately there is a large number of double dipping when it comes to unit statistics with multiple stats being used for the same, or similar tests. This can easily lead to unbalanced units when things aren’t playtested correctly. An example is a ‘tough, hard to kill’ unit has high toughness, high wounds, and strong armour. There are three stats to take advantage off, you don’t find this sort of replication when it comes to other facets of the game.
There is only a tiny amount of friction in Warhammer 40k. You are supreme commander and have absolute control over your guys on the table. Pre-measuring is also allowed. The one area where you lose control is when charging. Charging distance is determined by rolling 2d6 (modified by special rules). As a consequence, I often find this is often one of the most ‘nail biting’ areas of the game. Still, total control is a valid playstyle, and if you enjoy it, 40k is one of the best for it.
A standard board is 6′ x 4′, and weapons have limiting ranges. 24″ is the standard range for the most common rifles. At that board size, using 28mm miniatures, this really puts a lot of confusion on the scale and representation of things. The play area equates to a 70m by 100m rectangle. Not a lot of space for an army. This has a weird flow on effect when it comes to weapon and movement ranges, so to get around it all I work on the presumption that a 40k battle is a projection of the real battlefield, and we are commanders sitting in orbit, or at a headquarters position somewhere watching a representation of a battle.
I’ll break this into two sections.
Sales support, or support for faulty products. This is actually quite good. GW seem to go out of their way to make sure any problems are rectified, in as quick a time as possible
Now, the rest. Warhammer 40k has to have the worst support for a game I have ever seen, ever! No forums, no interactions, no way to discuss rules except through third party websites. All we have are late and infrequently updated FAQ’s. Books are often printed with typos. Now these thing happen, sure, but it takes so long for an FAQ to be released it causes chaos and confusion. Even when an FAQ is released it often doesn’t even correct questions that desperately need an answer (again I’ll cite the Always allows a save, Never allows a save’ argument).
Players need to house rule, or decide amongst themselves, the answer to so many rules questions. A premier, expensive game should not need this!
The Games Workshop website isn’t really even a website, it is a shopfront. All support material has long since gone, except the FAQ’s which you need to go to a subsidiary site, Black Library, to obtain.
The feeling I get from GW, as a player, is that they don’t care one little bit about me as a player, or as a customer. All they want me to do is buy the latest, expensive toy. This is supported by rules in each Codex release.
It is probably easier to say that outside faulty miniatures, there is no support for Warhammer 40k. Zero.
This review has been a long time in coming. Truth be told I am still not sure how I feel about the game, and it is difficulty to write an unbiased review. I know a lot of people have a lot of thoughts on it, both good and bad. Being such a large part of our gaming history, it is impossible for it not elicit emotions in people. That in itself says something about the game.
40k is the game that started it all for us, got our gaming group together and helped form strong friendships. I can’t simply forget that. However the game, and the company, really has changed, in my opinion for the worse. It will be interesting to see what the future brings.
7th Edition really pulls out all the stops. As an ‘improved’ 6th Edition, it is hard to really say it is an improvement. I can’t really think of any area where 7th Edition improves on 6th Ed. There seems to be a lot more ‘busy work’ involved in playing now, with so many references required in so many locations, it does bog the game down. The flip side though is that there are so many options. This edition easily has the most options for players and gamers, out of any release yet.
I intend to share a number of views, opinions and ratings of the game. Added up, they are lengthy, and will need to form their own opinion post. I expect that to be up by the end of the week and will link it when it is ready.
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 and this review? Share your thoughts, experiences and ideas in the comments section.
Some of our various Warhammer 40k pictures below.