I managed to get my hands on the full version of the 6th edition Warhammer 40,000 rulebook the other day because although I’d read (and played) the new rules I’d yet to cast my eye over the fluff.
Something Ian of The Chaps always moans is about when it comes to buying a new edition of the rules is that you have to pay a premium for a load of fluff and hobby advice that you already know. It’s a tough one because he actually has a point. The stripped out version is ideal for veteran gamers but it’s only available in the starter sets. Which doesn’t make all that much sense. Especially as it’s the beginners that need to bedded into the universe. This could be an intentional marketing ploy by the Games Workshop but dimes to dollars if they released the stripped out version as a stand alone item for £20-25 it would sell like the proverbial hot cake. Especially as most of the gamers I know are either strapped for cash or tight.
That said, this time round Games Workshop when promoting 6th edition (if anything they do can really be called marketing) made a huge fuss about not only the array of new artwork but the extent of the fluff. Regular readers will know how I feel about fluff and, indeed, I have spent an unhealthy amount of time musing on said 40k fluff, drawing conclusions about the Horus Heresy and the like. More on that can be read here. So I was really interested to see what the Games Workshop had done and see how many minutes it had edged closer to midnight for humanity.
The first thing that struck me was the amount of stuff they’d crammed into the rule book. When you break it down the rules don’t account for all that much of the full version of the book. This is by no means a complaint. Granted, from a gaming point of view it’s a bugger because it does mean lugging that big book around when you only need a third of it (at most) to play the game. Another argument for making the smaller version available.
On the whole the background is very well presented. It explains everything in the right amount of detail so novices will understand just what the hell is going on with the universe and experienced gamers can take on any tweaks or changes that have come about and adjust their knowledge accordingly.
One of the biggest changes – and it is a biggy – as I understand is the Astronomican. As I understand it always use to be that the Emperor was the Astronomican. He projected a psychic beacon in space that navigators used as a navigational waypoint to extrapolate their relative position in the galaxy. 5th Edition made a big deal of the fact that the Golden Throne was failing and the beacon was growing dimmer with each passing year.
Now it seems that the Astronomican is a completely separate piece of technology powered exclusively by 10,000 psykers at a time. Although a big change it’s a good one for this simple reason. The Emperor wasn’t always interred in the Golden Throne but had always been the Astronomican. The Horus Hersey novels made it quite clear that the Emperor was a very busy bee and as such was not on Earth the entire time. This would have meant that the Astronomican would have moved about which presents obvious and potentially disastrous problems when navigating. It would be impossible for all elements of the gargantuan crusading fleet to know where the Emperor was at all times and therefore using the Astronomican as a point of reference would have been all but meaningless.
The other good reason for changing that part of the fluff is that it stops the Emepror from technically being a warp entity as the Chaos Gods are, essentially, sentience in the warp. Which is basically what the Emperor was. So now the Emperor isn’t a Chaos god what is he doing with his time? Well, something a bit peculiar. As with all fluff penned by the Games Workshop is vague and left open to be explained at a later date.
It also finally kills the argument about the Emperor allowing 1,000 psykers a day to be killed powering the Golden Throne as that particular detail is now nowhere to be seen.
This time round it seems the Emperor, instead of being a living navigation buoy, is keeping the galaxy from being swallowed by the warp. I’m struggling with this development because it strikes me it’s something he should have been doing in his mortal life as well. It seems like a bit of a random thing to decide the Emperor has been doing for the last 10,000 years. I suppose the implication is that things would be a lot worse had he not been protecting the Imperium projecting a lovely big cuddly psychic blanket.
Two questions that quickly come to mind is; to what end and why has no one noticed? If the Emperor is stopping the Eye of Terror et al from spilling ever more into the material universe then the psychic fall out would be felt the galaxy over and it wouldn’t take long for someone to figure out what was going on and round-up a couple of million psykers to lend a hand. I would have thought. Equally a psychic force that great would rival that projected by the Tyranid hive ships and cause disruption to their fleets. And I’m sure the Eldar would have something to say about it too as it would essentially equate to psychic static. It’s just a really peculiar thing to write into the fluff.
I can only assume that there’s a point to the change but I’m at a loss to know what it is and seems to be a conscious move away from the whole ‘is he dying, is he healing’ thing. I suppose if the Dark Angels are going to do him in any way then it doesn’t really matter.
Moving on from that, the rule book covers the warp and warp travel as well as the various factions sufficiently but in such a way that the Codices will continue the story. The interesting bit is the introduction to the aliens as it hints at a lot of cool shit in just the artwork alone. Could the Games Workshop be ready to introduce another race to the game? My thought are…no, but it’s still fun to speculate.
I have to admit, I didn’t feel like the story moved on enough in 6th Edition. In some respects it’s been reigned in a bit, but there does seem to be a far greater emphasis on the warp and daemonic being the greatest threat rather than Chaos Space Marines. I suppose because, although the Chaos Space Marines are powerful, they are finite and unless their numbers are continually replenished they will eventually run out. Arguably it’s reasonable to assume that some traitor legions have few, if any, original Legionnaires left.
What they have done, however, is ramp up the stakes to the point that the Imperium stands on the very brink of destruction as with each new codex the games will become bigger and more destructive. Which means that it’s all pointing towards the second coming of the Emperor and the return of the Primarchs. Whether or not this will actually happen as part of the canonical timeline or as a supplement (Forge World or otherwise) remains to be seen, but as Forge World are producing Primarch models already it’ll be little surprise at all if rules and revised fluff make it to the masses.
The Warhammer 40,000 rulebook is available from Firestorm Games priced £40.50