Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book & Product Review: Warhammer 40K Rulebook (4th Edition) Rules Section

(Image: WH40K 4th Ed. Rulebook)
I've known about Warhammer 40K since the late '80's, but I've never delved into it.  Despite museum-quality artistry like this...
(Image:  Chaos Space Marine Sorcerer by Games Workshop Catalog)

...I always thought this range of figures to be a bit over-the-top.  Then there's the "parking lot effect" when using 28 mm figures for sci-fi gaming:

(Image from Librarium

Yes, it looks impressive.  But the battlefield is very congested, like a metropolitan highway during rush hour with every motorist and pedestrian afflicted with an extreme case of road rage.

That being said though, it turned out that 30 years of resistance proved futile.  Several weeks ago, I bought a copy of the Warhammer 40,000 (WH40k) 4th Edition Core Rulebook, because my daughter's boyfriend, Dallas, is into it and--it only cost me $7 plus tax at Half Price Books.

After reading the book, I now understand some of WH40k's  appeal.  The folks at Games Workshop came up with such an easily understandable set of rules with their Warhammer Fantasy Battle that they used the same game mechanics for the 40k version (along with their now unsupported Warhammer Ancient Battles, or "WAB").

The WH40k 4th Ed is divided into two main parts:  The Rules Section and the Background Section.

The Rules Section takes up the books' first 86 pages and provides concise and understandable instructions on how to play the game.  This is broken down into the following subsections:  Introduction, Movement, Shooting, Weapons, Assault, Morale, Characters, Unit Types, Vehicles, Universal Special Rules and Organizing a Battle.

Each unit, which can consist of one character/vehicle or a squad of soldiers, in the WH40k universe consists of nine stats:

Weapon Skill (WS), Ballistic Skill (BS), Strength (S), Toughness (T), Wounds (W), Initiative (I), Attacks (A), Leadership (Ld) and Save.

Basically, when one player attacks another's unit, a handful of 6-sided dice (d6s) are rolled and the results are compared to the appropriate stat, along with any battlefield modifiers, like units being under cover, to determine if the target is hit, and if so, how badly it gets damaged.

This is often disparagingly called a "buckets of dice" game system.  But it's easy to understand, which is probably why it appeals to younger generations of wargamers, especially to anyone brand new to the hobby.

The Background Section takes up the rest of the book's 270 pages and contains information on WH40k lore and history, along with guidelines on running missions (scenarios) and campaigns.  In game terms this material is often referred to as "chrome," "color," "fluff," "BS," etc.  Whatever gamers call this material, it can provide an entertaining, big-picture perspective for every tabletop battle.

But before I get into WH40k's big picture, I'll pause here and make some final comments on the rules themselves.

The Warhammer class of rules have been around for about 30 years now.  They're fun and easy to learn which is part of what puts them into being more of a game system, as opposed to simulation--even the true-blue historical WAB.

Once a gamer learns one version of Warhammer, this knowledge is easily transferable to the other varieties.

And not having to "learn new tricks" is definitely appealing to some (all?) of us old-dog gamers.

(Image:  Wallpaper from Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War)

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