Warhammer 40,000 Dark Imperium Review

Dark Imperium (Games Workshop)
Don’t just sit there! Grab that bolt gun, throw on your flak jacket and get out to the front lines, soldier. The emperor needs you!
Warhammer 40,000 is back with a new edition and Games Workshop seems to have done the nearly impossible, mostly satisfied its gamers! Having suffered some dissatisfaction during the murky transition from the incredible End Times series for Warhammer Fantasy to the… wholly different Age of Sigmar, lessons seem to have been learned and applied. Point values are here right from the beginning and no new bases for all of your old models – bonus!
Dark Imperium is the new box set that introduces this edition and includes a nice starting force for the Primaris Space Marines and the Chaos Space Marine Death Guard. A pretty much undisputed leader in the field, the models are beautiful (and hideous, respectively) but what about the new set of rules?
Let me quickly say that the thing about Games Workshop’s games is that modeling is a large part of the hobby. Buying a boxed game or a box set of soldiers is just the start of weeks (or months) of basing, painting, and assembling. Of course you don’t need to paint your army, but the spectacle of a battlefield filled with painted models is a pretty amazing one!
As I’m still midway through assembling and painting my new army, I spoke with three longtime Warhammer 40,000 gamers from my local store to get their take on the current state of the Grim Darkness with the latest edition.
Why do you play Warhammer 40,000?
Eric: I enjoy every aspect of the hobby; collecting, building, painting and playing. 40K is a great setting, with interesting characters and story.
Taylor: I play Warhammer because I’ve always enjoyed where the narrative intersects with player interaction. In books and movies we can only be spectators to the actions of heroes and villains. In video or board games we are usually given a set of shoes to fill and while the level of depth those shoes can have, whether player or studio created, there is a ultimately a path to follow when you come up to the invisible walls that remind you that this is someone else’s sandbox. With Warhammer the player is given freedom to play and explore the game as the wish. Create the army you want, play the way you like, experience the story you want to tell.
John: I play for a few reasons. First foremost I like to build and paint the models. As a child I loved to build model cars and tanks so when I heard about Warhammer it seemed perfect. Cool models to build, and then a game to play with them instead of just putting them on a shelf like a model car. I think the next big reason is the strategy aspect. Real time strategy video games have always been some of my favorite games, and 40k seemed like a perfect live action alternative.
What have you enjoyed about the new edition’s ruleset as compared to the last?
Eric: The game is easier to play; you no longer have to keep looking up rules.
Taylor: By and large I do enjoy the simplified rule set. Having any applicable special rules for a unit written in its entry is nice, as opposed to flipping through the main rulebook to find the one rule you need. The new strength vs toughness factor is great so that any unit can (potentially) damage any other unit with varying degrees of ease or difficulty. Broader army composition criteria allows for more varied and characterful armies. A lot of common sense rules have been added such as infantry being able to negotiate terrain largely unimpeded or squads and vehicles being able to select different targets. I understand that the setting is a grand space opera in a constant frantic pitch where post human super soldiers are battling sorcerer poets of a long dead empire, or dystopian aliens on a mission of cultural assimilation, or an other dimensional being who’s name is every sin you’ve ever committed and face is every nightmare you’ve ever had. There’s going to be a bit of abstraction in playing a game, but I also think even 40,000 years into the future guys know how to climb over a fallen tree.
John: I love the new datasheets. Every thing I need to know about how to play and use a given unit in on the data card. I no longer have to consult several different charts to see what a weapon does or what I need to roll to hit or to do damage. Everything is just on the card.
What do you miss from the last edition?
Taylor: I do miss a few of the more complex aspects such as the weapon skill (WS) and ballistic skill (BS) matrices going the way of the dodo now that all units hit on a static number. Things like that have the impression that certain elite troops and heroes were more deft and swordplay or crack shots of commensurate skill. I liked some of the randomness provided by things scattering such as late arrival units potentially being sent off course, though that one is a double edged sword since that same scatter could eliminate the same unfortunate squad. So it’s all give and take.
Eric: The only thing I miss has to do with vehicles. Vehicles no longer have a weaker rear armour, so there is no point in trying to maneuver around a vehicle to get a better shot.
John: I honestly don’t miss anything from the last edition. Starting toward the end of 6th edition I was getting fatigued with 40k, and was switching to smaller easier to manage and play miniature games like Warmachine and Hordes.
How have you felt about the new releases, rules and models, for the new edition?
Taylor: As you might be able to tell I’m a bit more of a hobbyist than a “gamer” in that I prefer the overall experience to simply chasing a competitive win:loss ratio. So I’m happy that all of the rules, for all armies, have been released simultaneously putting everyone on relatively equal footing where no one has figured out an “optimal” build for most or any armies. Related to that I like how habitually over performing units were brought a bit more in line while underperforming units were substantially increased alleviating pressure to lean on a single or handful of units and instead emphasizing the cohesion of an army as a whole rather than a delivery system for the all-stars.
Eric: The new edition is fantastic. It has brought people back to the hobby, which is great for small gaming stores.
John: Rules-wise I love the new edition. It seems faster and easier to play, which is fantastic. The models are still high quality and great, and this edition has done something I thought impossible. It makes me want to play 40k again.
Are you excited about the direction that Games Workshop seems to be going with Warhammer 40,000?
Eric: Very excited. Now the story is advancing, making it a much more dynamic game.
John: I do not like the direction that Games Workshop is taking parts of the 40k universe.Games Workshop has always seemed to favor Space Marines both from a rules and model sense. The new Primaris Space Marines are the latest examples of Space Marines getting better newer stuff and everyone else not or at least not until Space Marines get it first. Space Marines also got to keep all of their factions, but Chaos Space Marines got cut down again. That being said though this is a vast improvement over what they did to Warhammer Fantasy which got almost completely gutted and turned into a worse (in almost every way) version of Warhammer 40,000.
Taylor: Overall I’m very excited for the future of Warhammer 40,000. The level of involvement Games Workshop is showing to the setting, product and community is unlike any other point I’ve seen in the 18 years I’ve been a part of it. Support is moving at a fantastic clip, the narrative is moving forward but not sacrificing the “five minutes to midnight” feel for which the setting is renowned. As I said earlier players have more options than ever before when assembling and coordinating their armies due to the new keyword <faction> organizational system, which is very exciting for the plethora of different combinations and background options this makes available. This edition has greatly encouraged me to get my old models off the shelf, knock of the dust and grab the dice. It’s a great time to come back if you’ve been away or jump in if you’re brand new!