Warhammer 40k Seventh Edition: First Impressions

Warhammer 40k Seventh Edition

I still consider myself relatively new to Warhammer 40,000: I came to the game near the end of Fifth Edition’s lifespan, and though I owned that ruleset Sixth Edition is really what I learned with and know. As such I lack the perspective of a long-tenured player as how the game has developed over time. Nevertheless, with a new Seventh Edition having just been released, I thought I’d give some first impressions.

It’s early. Historically, according to Wikipedia, the game has gone through a major revision every four to six years. It was first released in 1987, and was revised in 1993, 1998, 2004, 2008, and 2012. This new edition, in contrast, follows its predecessor by a mere two years. Admittedly my focus is more on the hobby side than the wargaming side, but I haven’t heard of any gigantic problems with Sixth Edition that would justify putting it out to pasture prematurely. This release is a bit of a surprise.

It’s expensive. Sixth Edition retailed for US$74.25. Warhammer 40k Seventh Edition retails for US$85. That’s a 14% price increase in two years, which seems difficult to justify all things being equal.

It’s three books rather than one. Sixth Edition was a single 432-page hardcover, the first third of which contained the game rules. A hundred pages or so were given over to detailing the game setting, then another hundred to describing (and showing off, in a series of color photos of studio-painted models) the hobby. The remainder of the book presented some pre-packaged scenarios, and talked about how to link individual games into campaigns.

Warhammer 40k Seventh Edition, in contrast, is three separate hardcovers packaged together in a slipcase. “The Rules” contains what you’d expect, though at 208 pages using the same typeface it’s about 50% larger than Sixth Edition’s ruleset. “Dark Millennium” describes the game setting, and at 128 pages is about 25% larger than Sixth Edition. Finally, “A Galaxy At War,” clocking in at 144 pages (about 45% larger than Sixth Edition) describes and shows off the hobby.

One of the three books is perplexing. Specifically, I’m disappointed by the “A Galaxy At War” book in roughly the same way that I’m disappointed by the evolution of White Dwarf magazine. While the Sixth Edition book had no shortage of color plates displaying studio-painted models, it also dedicated a good thirty pages to practical information about the hobby. For instance, it talked about paints and tools, described how to assemble and paint models, and even touched briefly on kitbashing. All of that material is omitted from “A Galaxy At War”: it’s almost entirely color plates, with no information about the hobby other than a few pages of highly-general information and a passing reference to the How To Paint Citadel Miniatures book (available separately for an additional US$49.50). “A Galaxy At War,” in other words, is basically a coffee-table book that I would never have paid money for were it a standalone volume; I thumbed through all 144 pages of it once, ooh’ed and aah’ed at a few of the pictures, and then put it back in the slipcase where it’ll remain until Eighth Edition rolls around some time after 2016.

Force selection is significantly changed. Sixth Edition required every force to include a primary detachment consisting of a fairly specific mix of compulsory and optional unit types. Seventh Edition, in contrast, provides two methods of force selection. Using the “Unbound Armies” method, a player takes whatever units he wants, in whatever combination he wants, as long as the force includes a Warlord and comes in under the maximum point value for the scenario. Using the “Battle-forged Armies” method, a player selects one or more detachments to include in his force, and then populates them with units as required by the detachment types. The advantage of the Unbound Armies method is total flexibility; the advantage of the Battle-forged Armies method is some added benefits that apply to all units in a given detachment.

Vehicles are harder to kill. Penetrating hits only destroy a vehicle outright on a 7+, now, so tanks are more likely to be killed by weight of fire or dedicated anti-tank weapons than by chance shots.

Psykers have a larger on-the-table role. I’m still trying to get my head around this, but there’s now a dedicated Psychic Phase which resolves each turn after movement and before shooting and assault. Mephiston salivates.

More as I read further.

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