We’re rounding off our three-part crossover feature on Games Workshop titles in the board game realm and what they mean for videogames by looking at Warhammer 40,000: Dark Imperium. It was last year’s biggest board game release, and I’d say it’s right there where board games and creative hobbyists meet – read on to find out why this is where passionate board gamers turn to and why it’s inspired so many videogames already.
Warhammer 40,000: Dark Imperium
This one was hard to miss – Warhammer 40,000 is probably the biggest title in the Games Workshop stables and it got a brand new core set release last year. Thirty years old already, Dark Imperium marked the eight major revision for the game. It’s a core set that’s incredibly complete and offers a lot of versatility in how to play, yet at the same time the Warhammer 40,000 core sets are some of the most demanding and daunting ones out there.
Included in the core set are, as is so often the case, two miniature armies – belonging to the Primaris Space Marines and the Death Guard. They each have their own faction-specific book and there’s an eight page book with the core rules as well, but the heart of this set is the full hardback book that explains everything you need to know about the game’s (advanced) rules in detail.
This is where Warhammer 40,000 becomes daunting for novices, as the book is no less than 280 pages long. You also have more miniatures to assemble than in most other games, so there’s a substantial investment up front required if you’re new to the game. Your best bet? That’s to play with an experienced player who can walk you through the game’s rules and intricacies in a way that allows you to rely solely on the eight page reference book.
Out of all the board games that Games Workshop has put out, the Warhammer 40,000 line is probably the richest one in terms of lore – there are even fiction books out there that play out within the universe, although I haven’t read them. The board game itself allows for a ton of versatility because of this as well, with games ranging from straight up skirmish battles to narrative-driven campaigns that can go on for several rounds.
At the same time, however, it’s a game that doesn’t come with an actual game board. This is exactly what allows players to have such versatile experiences but it also requires you to bring a certain degree of imagination to the table or – better yet – craft your own battlefields. In that sense Warhammer 40,000 isn’t your typical “let’s grab the box and play” type of game, and an experience better suited to hobbyists who enjoy getting creative – this one goes beyond the assembly of miniatures and the optional painting process that follows.
I’ll readily admit that I never played with any of the previous seven core set editions, but I did come into the game with plenty of Games Workshop experience and had played plenty of Warhammer 40,000 games and videogames. This definitely helps in getting to grips with the rules and gameplay dynamics and in getting through the otherwise daunting rulebooks. On the plus side, some more experienced players have also told me that the rules for this eighth edition have been greatly streamlined for a smoother experience.
Although it’s not played with a traditional game board, the game plays out much like other titles – it’s turn-based, dice rolls factor largely, and unit placement and scenery matter. For the latter, it helps to have a surface made into a game board that includes buildings, obstacles and height differences. Distance and line of sight factor into attacks and rules as well, so much so that the core set comes with a ruler included to measure how far units are apart from each other.
So there’s quite a bit of setup involved, and the pre-game involves both players agreeing on how big armies are and how they should be set up – but once you have all the right conditions Warhammer 40,000 can bring you some of the most riveting games you’ll ever play. One game can revolve entirely around a military goal, while the next can be the start of a multi-round campaign completely with a storyline – the possibilities can easily be expanded with the many materials that are already out there.
Even though the Dark Imperium core set is excellent in its own right and more streamlined than previous editions, I would still say that it’s a game box for those looking to “take the next step”. Games Workshop titles require a certain amount of commitment from players, both in terms of assembly and in getting to grips with their rules. Buying the Warhammer 40,000 set means you’re going one step beyond that, as it’s best enjoyed if you craft your own game world to play in and are willing to invest in add-ons that allow for more even diverse experiences. It’s incredibly rewarding when you do, but it’s not going to be a good fit with everyone’s time and budget. If you’ve played and enjoyed games like Shadespire and Necromunda though, then you’ll already know if you’re ready to go to the next step. I know I was.
It almost feels silly to write this section, since the Warhammer 40,000 universe is one of the most prevalent ones in all of videogaming. One of my favorite real time strategy series, Dawn of War, is completely built around it. It’s perhaps one of the best known recent examples of 40K videogame conversions, but my experience with them goes all the way back to Space Hulk in the early nineties (the Warhammer 40,000 universe spans many different settings and games).
If you’re looking for more videogames to play within the same realm, then look for Space Marine, Sanctum Reach, Space Wolf, Armageddon or Regicide. If you’re the kind of die-hard fan that’s already played all of them, then look out for Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, due out later this year. But as a die-hard fan, you probably already knew that 😉
In case you’re the type that starts at the end, you can still read part 2 of our three part feature on Games Workshop to read about Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire or go back to part 1 and read about Necromunda: Underhive.