OK, I realise that the seventh edition of Warhammer 40000 has been out for a while, but I have only just picked up my copy, and a review is required.
In fairness, I was questioning if I would even bother with 7th edition. Warmachine is my game of choice at the moment, however I have a soft spot for the grim darkness of the far future, so I picked up a copy while visiting Warhammer World. I’m pretty sure the Rhino wasn’t in the parking lot the last time I visited…
Anyway, I will admit that I’m really annoyed with Games Workshop releasing yet another version of the core rulebook as Sixth Edition was only two years old before its retirement. This comes across as a GW milking a core release periodically solely to boost their turnover and makes the game a very unstable platform compared to its direct competition such as Warmachine or Flames of War.
While I understand Games Workshop is a business and need to generate income, this does not sit well with me and I think its bad for the larger hobby. Still, that’s my rant out of the way, on to the review…
First impressions of the book are good. In fairness, that should be books, because the main rulebook has been split into three, all held in a rather nice cardboard slipcase. These are very slightly bigger than the Codexes, but done with the same embossed effects and matt finish. All in all, very slick.
In the first two books we have pretty pictures and background (fluff) and the third book is the one everyone cares about, ie The Rules. This might seem a little retro to 2nd ed players, but this is a HUGE improvement from the previous edition. My single biggest bug point with the 6th edition book was that it was simply too cumbersome to haul about, and the vast majority of the pages where unnecessary during a game.
The Rules are now contained in a book slightly fatter than one of the new hardback codexes. For old farts like me, this means we get portable and readable. I approve.
I also like the artwork on the slipcase and the new graphic look of the books which looks cleaner than previous editions.
The first of the three books, entitled “A Galaxy of War” is the introduction to the ‘hobby’. This book is all about showing off pretty miniatures. Very very pretty miniatures. Apart from some pages of adverts (too many), most of this book is made up of full page plates of miniatures, al la Warhammer Visions, just done better and with more dry ice. This is all very nice and all, but has very little re-read value so I will move on swiftly…
The second book, “Dark Millennium” is where things get more interesting. The greatest strength of the Warhammer 40000 universe has always been its background and this book sets the stage for players new to 7th edition.
As should be expected, it is stuffed full of gorgeous artwork. In a similar vein as the previous rule books, the history of the 41st millennium is told from a human perspective, starting with the Imperium of Man. There is no continuation of the narrative, however there are plenty of holes for players to place their own stories in the Warhammer 40000 universe.
One thing that I like and comes across in the new book is the idea that the Imperium’s territory is a bit like Swiss cheese with no real borders and riddled with non-Imperial worlds, and even regions of space that are impossible for Imperial starships to navigate through. This fits very nicely and allows any faction to fight any other without worrying how it fits in the fluff.
Unfortunately the background for the various Xenos species is a little lacking, for example both Tyranid and Tau receive just two pages each, and one of those is the cover art from their codexes (granted, it is very pretty artwork). This leaves the emphasis is on Chaos being the real bad guys of the setting which again humanises the background so new players can relate to the universe.
We also have some background on a specific campaign which is a nice touch and provides a different perspective from the overview of the factions and the Imperium; and finally an appendix including some nice tidbits of information on other elements of the background. For all of the ‘meh’ of bigger first book, Dark Millennium has plenty to recommend it and is a great little read.
And then we come to book three, simply entitled “The Rules”. This is the thickest of the three tomes at 208 pages but critically, it is a damn sight smaller that the previous rulebook. I may have mentioned this before, but I think this is single biggest improvement of 7th edition over its predecessor.
The main chunk of the rules are covered in the Core rules and Unit Types sections and describe the basic mechanics of the game and what things do. One nice touch throughout the book is that certain sentences are highlighted in bold to highlight the key concept of a rule. We also have a lot of design notes and punchout boxes describing specific interactions or the intent behind a rule. As 40K is a complex game, this is very welcome. While the ruleset is not as tight as Warmachine or Hordes, it seems significantly better than previous editions of the game.
This is the thickest of the three tomes at 208 pages but critically, it is a damn sight smaller that the previous rulebook.
In terms of core rules, the biggest change is the (re)introduction of a dedicated psychic phase. I’ve heard from some players than this makes the game feel a little like Warhammer Fantasy (WFB). As I’m not a fan of how magic works in WFB, I’m not sure this is a good move. However I will reserve judgement until I actually get a game in with the new rules.
Beyond these two sections of the book, we have Battlefield Terrain and Preparing for Battle. Battlefield Terrain does what it says on the tin describing how terrain works in the game, but the Preparing for Battle section is more interesting. In here, GW have allowed for different army construction methods, so we have the Standard Force Organisation and Allies charts as before, but there is also the concept of Unbound armies. This is included to allow players to use whatever they want in there force, throwing game balance out of the window but allowing for some great themed armies and encounters. This clearly has no place in tournaments, but I like the concept for casual games.
After this, we have all of the standard missions which look much clearer than the 6th edition missions and the addition of Tactical Objectives adds a new layer of complexity.
The final section of the book, The Appendix, is the reference section. In here we have all of the Special Rules, Psychic powers, Terrain stats and Reference tables. Putting all of this information in one place is another smart move. Interestingly, we also have all of the super heavy rules from the Escalation book integrated into the core rules for the first time.
OK, I going to start by saying I have been pleasantly surprised by this edition of Warhammer 40000. While I am not normally a fan of splitting rules into separate books, 40K needed this to happen because combined, 6th edition was too much of a behemoth. It’s a little tricky to comment on the rules themselves without playing a few games first, so I won’t. However the books themselves are in full colour and look utterly gorgeous, and as far as I can tell, the rules are more of an evolution than a revolution compared to 6th.
In terms of value for money, £50 isn’t too bad for this set, especially considering the codexes are £30 each. And better still, as The Rules are separate, so there is no reason to even consider the starter set due out later this year.
Well done GW, you did good this time.