Warhammer 40,000 is a miniatures war game that allows players to control forces of good or evil to engage in battle against opponents in the grim darkness of the future, represented on the tabletop by miniatures that players collect and paint. The newest set of rules, Warhammer 40K 7th Edition, has just been released, updating the game to ensure it stays fresh for players both old and new. Overall reception has been fairly positive from the player base.
The first thing to note is that this is a book only release. Traditionally there have been starter sets to accompany previous iterations of the rules. This edition however is a core set of three hardbound books in a slipcover. The individual books are A Galaxy of War, Dark Millennium, and The Rules. They weigh in between 128 and 208 pages, which is comparable to the size of most army codices. Notably, all three of the books are done in a lay flat style so when you place them on a table the book will lay perfectly flat without creasing the spine or pages.
The first book of the set is A Galaxy of War, which is intended to be a celebration of the hobby. This book is all about showcasing the models of Citadel Miniatures fully painted miniatures by the Games Workshop studio painters, and they are beautifully displayed to serve as inspiration for the hobby painters and modelers out there. One of the things I did notice in the book, however, is that all of the models are presented in up-close or detail shots. While this is very good for those that are using the images as a reference point for their own work, it misses out on the mood of the time game. There is a distinct lack of of diversity in the images used, as all of the pictures follow the same format. Hobby tips beyond simply showcasing the studio work are also missing from this book. There are no mention of proper assembly, or even beginners guides to painting and color schemes. In place of these, there is a number of advertisements showcasing the various paints, tools and other products that Games Workshop produces. While I can appreciate the desire to show the various products available, there is too much advertising with little to no context or explanation to the products and why one would be interested in them. It is the same complaint that has plagued other Games Workshop publications such as White Dwarf. This book is by far the weakest of the three, and greatly misses the mark of what it set out to be.
The second book of the set is Dark Millenium, which is completely devoted to the fluff of the game. Warhammer 40k has a very rich history that has grown over the years. This book endeavors to give you a background on each of the factions and why they fight. It also covers the big events from the creation of the imperium of man and before all the way up to the 41st millennium, where the current battles of the game take place. The book tends to focus more on the view of the galaxy from the eyes of the humans, or Imperium of Man. It is an interesting choice, and there are well over 70 pages devoted entirely to the Imperium. Another choice that is intriguing is that the rest of the alien races are lumped under “The Alien Menace”, while the forces of Chaos, both traitor marines and demons, are lumped under “The Greatest Threat”. It is here we see the focus shift back to the eyes of the Imperium, which hasn’t really been the case since 3rd Edition.
This book is more for those that are new to the game world and the universe at large, explaining what a space marine is and the various space marine chapters, as well as offering background on the various races. For veteran players, there is a lot that you will wind up skipping. New to the book, and a surprise to me, was the inclusion of the Pandorax Incusion. This was one of the Black Crusades in which Abbadon took the planet of Pythos in order to secure a gateway into the warp. This allowed him summon hordes of demons. This was a bloody and brutal campaign fought to shut down the gateway and liberate Pythos. A lot of page space is devoted to this, and while at first it seems like an odd choice compared to all of the fluff that exists in 40K, it will likely be the one section that most veteran players will not skip over. It gives you a breakdown of time lines, specific characters and even the camo patterns used by the forces involved in Pandorax. It seems as though this is primed to be the new default backdrop to the 40K universe, but it is not explicitly stated. Probably the most useful parts of the book though, as odd as it may seem, was the explanation towards the end of the book on how to make sense of how dates are written in 40K. Even as a veteran, having that break down is incredibly useful when attempting to make sense of any of the lore and back-story.
The third, and arguably the most important book of the set is simply called The Rules. The pages are very simple aesthetically, opting to remove watermarks and background images as well as use a plain block text in black and white. The red accents present are reserved for differentiating sections of the book. One of the largest complaints about 6th Edition was that the rule book was overly stylized, making it hard to read certain rules and making the digital and small companion versions of the rule book incredibly difficult to read. Opting to not use a plethora of images and watermarks has made the rules you are looking for very easy to find. For those that bought the eBook there will be no difficulty reading it, even on smaller screens and at lower resolutions.
The main section of rules stays the same for the most part, and a turn is broken down into its component pieces just like previous editions. Movement, shooting, and assault phases are all present and accounted for. There is the new addition of the psychic phase, now back as a separate phase all of its own. The last time the pyshic phase was presented close to how we see it here was 2nd Edition in the mid and late 1990’s. Players now generate warp charges which they must spend during the psychic phase to manifest their powers. To generate warp points, the player whose turn it is rolls a D6 and both players receive that number of charges. Each player then adds the mastery level of all their psyker units and add that many to the pool of dice. This gives you the total of available Warp Charges for this turn. Once that is done, the player whose turn it is can begin to attempt to manifest psychic powers. Only the player whose turn it is gets to attempt to manifest powers.
In previous versions, you needed to pass a leadership test in order to successfully cast a power. In the new edition, however, you have to harness the Warp Charge into Warp Points, which is done by allocating a number of points and rolling that many dice. For each dice that is a 4+, you get a warp charge. Then you spend those points on the power you are trying to manifest. If the psychic test was passed, an enemy target gets a chance to expend a Warp Charge to attempt to deny the witch. If the psychic power does not target an enemy unit, the opponent can still attempt to deny the witch, but does not get any bonuses from blessings or gear. This is an important change, as it balances the psychic phase so that you have to pick and choose what powers to manifest or when and what to counter. It also allows players a chance to stop buff spells such as Iron Arm without having to have a special counter power. Denying the witch has also changed, so that if you attempt to do so, you must pass the same psychic test, but you must have an equal number of successes to the number of successes the casting psyker generated.
The perils of the warp have also been reworked to be something players should truly fear. If a player rolls two 6’s on their warp charge dice, they suffer a peril of the warp and must immediately roll on the perils table. Effects range from completely removing the psyker from the table upon failing a leadership test and dealing wounds to any units linked to the psyker, to forgetting a psychic power, to even becoming super charged. It will make you think very carefully on how many dice to spend when generating charges.
Psychic powers have also changed quite a bit. All powers now have a cost associated with them, and in several cases have been reworked to remove variables or to streamline the functionality of spells. An example would be Iron Arm, which instead of giving a variable to strength of D3, gives a flat bonus of 3 when successfully cast. Psychic focus allows a psyker who has chosen all of their powers from a single discipline access to the Primaris power in addition to the powers they have generated. If a level 3 psyker chooses all Telepathy powers, for example, they would gain access to Psychic Shriek giving them four powers instead of the normal three. It is powerful incentive for players to focus on a single discipline. There are two additional disciplines that have been added which revolve around demonology. Sanctic powers are primarily used by the Grey Knight faction, and revolve around buffing units and purging demonic forces. Malefic powers are those used by Demons, and revolve around possession and summoning more demons into the battle. Any psyker can take these powers, however only Grey Knights and Demons can use them without penalty. Normal psykers will suffer a perils of the warp if they roll any doubles when activating the powers, not just the normal double 6’s
This crafts the Psychic Phase into something that is much more tactical for both players. You have to plan your expenditures accordingly, as well as your counters. It makes it a far more engaging and interesting phase than previous editions, and really fleshes it out to rival the psychic phase from the old days. These are very good changes to how psychic powers work, and will lead to more involved battles when determining which powers to use and which to counter. It also allows psychic powers to come into their own, where in 6th Edition psychic powers were mostly underwhelming.
Missions have also gone through a bit of an overhaul. The classic missions from 6th Edition are still present, but there is a new selection of of missions from the Maelstrom of War. These are dynamic missions that make use of the new Tactical Objective deck and table. Each mission dictates how the tactical objectives are generated, either at the beginning of the mission, or throughout the missions as conditions present themselves. The cards and objectives range from successfully manifesting psychic powers, to taking a specifically numbered objective marker, and the conditions are always public so your opponent can tell which conditions you are going after and can attempt to respond in kind. You must check at the end of your turn if you have achieved any of your objective, and if you have you must turn them in and add them to your victory points. You cannot choose to ignore them and not turn them in.
These add quite a lot of variance to the missions, and a lot of variety to the existing missions. It forces the game to become more tactical instead of just wiping out the opponent, which is a welcome change and one that has been sorely needed for many editions. It moves the game back towards being a tactical wargame instead of an exercise in rolling dice. There is also very strong encouragement to create your own scenarios and missions utilizing the Tactical Objective cards. This is something that many gaming clubs have done in the past and Games Workshop is officially acknowledging and encouraging players to do in the 7th Edition rules. The addition of these dynamic missions works very well to keep players engaged in securing the objectives early and making those tactical decisions, where as in 6th Edition a player could ignore the objectives for several turns before having to concern themselves with securing them.
As well as adding the dynamic missions and the Tactical Objective Desk, all units are now scoring units, with some exceptions. Flying, swooping and zooming flyers cannot score. Units that have special rules stating that they are never a scoring unit, obviously, cannot score. Units falling back, and buildings or fortifications that remain unclaimed cannot be used as scoring units. This frees up players to make more varied army lists instead of worrying about having to meet a certain number of scoring units to ensure that you won’t lose due to not being able to score. This is a fantastic addition to the game play of Warhammer 40k, and feeds into the final big change: Force Organization.
There are now two methods of building an army list. First is Unbound Armies, which simply means bring whatever models you want. This allows players to bring an entire force of tanks or elite troops. It’s a very quick way to get into the games, and without having any structure requirements is an easy way to lower the barrier for new players to learn the game. The second method is Battle-forged Armies. A player using the battle-forged method has to organize their army into detachments, and is very similar to the old force organization chart. Each army that utilizes this method must have a primary detachment, which is whatever unit your Warlord is assigned to. Choosing a battle forged army allows you to re-roll your warlord traits, and all of your troops get priority for objectives. What this means is that Battle-forged Armies, when holding an objective, can only be opposed by other Battle-forged Armies. If a unit from an Unbound Army is trying to hold an objective and a unit from Battle-forged forces are both on an objective, the battle-forged army earns the victory points. While that may not seem like a large advantage over unbound, when combined with the Tactical Objective cards it’s exactly what wins or loses the game.
Allies have been revised. First, the large selection of Imperial forces have all been combined under one listing, the Imperium of Man. This includes all Space Marine chapters, Adepta Soroitas, Astral Militarum, Imperial Knights and the Inquisition. They count as battle brothers for themselves, and opens up a lot of possibilities in what you can bring to an engagement. Tau and Eldar are now allies of convenience, and Tau are now desperate allies to the Imperium. While some will lament the loss of some of the fluff alliances, such as Dark Angels and Space Wolves no longer being at each other’s throats. The new Allies Chart allows for some very interesting armies to be built, and may be a hint at forwarding the narrative of the game world.
Overall, the game has been brought back closer to its roots, and had reintroduced much more tactical game play. The new edition definitely focuses more on the concerns that players both casual and tournament level have been voicing for quite some time. It is very evident that this set of rules is very much player focused, and that is something that 40K sorely needed.
Bottom Line: Warhammer 40k 7th Edition adds more tactical decisions and broadens game play to new and interesting levels while introducing easier ways to introduce the game to new players.
Recommendation: If you are a veteran of the game, this is a must have and a definite upgrade from 6th Edition. If you are a new player, play a few games with the new rules before making the large investment for the core books and an army.[rating=4]