No Trust in 10th Edition

TO NO ONE’S SURPRISE, Games Workshop has announced the release later this year of the 10th Edition of Warhammer 40K. For the last few weeks, GW has been releasing sneak peeks at 10e, and it looks really damn good.

And that’s a really damn shame, because even though I played 40K from 1987 up until September of 2022, I’m not going to pick up 10th. Sorry, not sorry, GW. I’ve been burned by you too many times before.

Why am I not going to get aboard the 10e train? Let me count the ways.

1. Flip-flopping rules. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: under the upcoming transport rules, some of your troops can fire from their vehicle. They can also get out in the same turn after their ride has moved, but they can’t declare a charge—unless their vehicle has a special rule which lets them do that. You know, like Assault Ramps on Land Raiders.

Or have you heard this one? They’re getting rid of the Psychic Phase: under the new edition, when psykers act will depend on their powers. You know, like it was in…whatever version that was. Third? Fourth? I dunno.

And hey! Twin-linked guns let you re-roll wounds instead of doubling your firepower! You know, back how it was way before, until it wasn’t. Isn’t that great? Everything old is new again!

GW never seems to build upon their rules from one edition to another. Instead, they just seem to swing from one set of ideas on how the game should be played, to another, then return to the first, then maybe off into another direction, then walk that back. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

It’s part of a larger issue that GW has with designing games. While some versions of 40K are better than others (as I discuss later), I get no sense that there’s any sustained progression or improvement through the editions. GW just seems to throw stuff at the wall and sees what sticks. They craft sparse rulesets, then build them up to unworkable, Brobdingnagian proportions, then pare them down, then pump them up, etc. And it’s exhausting to keep up with.     

What else don’t I like about this upcoming edition?

2. Another BBR. A Big Book of Rules, that is, a hardcover tome of hundreds of pages (most of which are just background material and photos of models) that will set you back at least $75. Unlike other gaming companies, GW doesn’t offer even a basic version of the rules that you could download for free or for minimal cost (unless the Warhammer + app features this, and I just missed it).

Nope, you just have to buy the expensive BBR. Again. But that’s just the beginning.    

3. New army books. The 10e rules will be sufficiently different that your current army codexes will no longer useful, but if you’ve been into 40K for a while, you already know that a new edition means new army books. When 10th Edition debuts, GW will make available, for free, army indexes to tide you over until your new tome is available.

How well will your army that uses a 10e index fare against an army that has a 10e codex? Don’t know. When will your new book be published? Don’t know. How much will it cost? Don’t know*. How easy will it be to use? Don’t know. How balanced will it be against ones that come before and after it? Don’t know.

*But you can bet that they’ll be hardcover books costing $60+ each. If you have more than 3 armies, you can either make a car payment, or buy all new codexes.  

Sure, if you play Space Marines, you’ll be well-take care of, at least in the beginning. Your codex will probably be among the first out of the gate, and will have all kinds of goodies and abilities. Later codexes might overshadow yours, but if you’ve been playing Marines for a while, you’ve come to expect that.

If you collect a less popular faction, like Drukhari or Genestealer Cults or Adeptus Mechanicus, I don’t know what to tell you, other than you’ll get what you get, when you get it, and if you don’t like it, too bad. Maybe your book will arrive a few months before the next edition. Speaking of which….       

4. Eleventh Edition. It doesn’t matter how good 10th Edition is, because it won’t last. GW’s modus operandi is not to make an excellent game that you can enjoy for longer than the time it takes for you to paint all the models you buy from them.

No, their play is to sell you a different version of the game every few years, to keep you ladling out cash to continue to be involved. Because unless you have a dedicated group where everyone agrees to use the same, earlier edition (like you might, say, if you play old-school D&D), you’re going to have to buy the latest rules if you want to keep playing. You can’t roll into a tournament at your Friendly Local Gaming Store and expect to use your well-loved 4e books.    

Not that there was anything wrong with 4th Edition

The longest time between editions has been six years, and that’s happened all of twice: between 1e “Rogue Trader” and 2e (1987-1993); and 3e and 4e (1998-2004). If it feels like just yesterday that 9th Edition dropped, you’re not wrong. Since 2014, GW has released a new edition of the game every three years: 7e in 2014; 8e in 2017; 9e in 2020; and 10e in 2023. Hell, the time between 6e and 7e was two freaking years: 2012-2014.

There’s no reason to believe that the inevitable 11th Edition will not arrive before 2030: if GW stays on schedule, 12th Edition should have dropped by then. And what will those 11th and 12th Editions be like? I don’t know for sure, but one thing you can bet on is….

5. What comes after 10th will not be as good. I was a GW fanboy for many years, but eventually I realized the awful truth: while they often make amazing models, they often make crappy games. Rogue Trader was gonzo and groundbreaking and inspiring, but it was a mess. Second Edition built a structure for the game, but it was overly complicated and wildly unbalanced (Can you say “Virus Outbreak” card?).

Third Edition was the first good, user-friendly version of 40K: 4th Edition elaborated on that. Fifth nerfed some armies (remember that, Necron players?), and “codex creep,” though it had been here and there before, definitely became a thing.

Codex creep ramped up in 6th Edition (Flyers!), and really kicked into high gear by 7e. Remember Formations? Remember all the gravy your units got, for free? Yeah, you do, and it sucked turgid donkey meat.

Eighth Edition washed out the Augean Stables that 7th that made the game into, and all was right for a time. Until 9e showed up, and took a fetid, rule-bloated dump over all the good experience that Eighth had established.

When even long-time gamers like me bailed, GW was like, “What? You *didn’t* want to spend hours putting together an army list, using three different sources? You want gaming material that’s less complicated than Bill Belichick’s playbook? Oh, our bad: look, here’s 10th Edition! We threw out the crap! Well, most of the crap.”

The Rhino under the 10e vehicle rules

So yeah, no

Yes, 10e looks good, but GW is not going to be content to write some good rules and leave them alone, because their business model is to sell us the same books over and over again. They’re going to take 10e and [copulate] with it until it’s broken, or unbalanced, or cumbersome—or all three—and then they’ll release that mess as 11th Edition. And 12e is going to either be a course correction, or it will double down on the suck.

No thanks. I’m going to keep sticking with One Page Rules and their Grimdark Future game. It might not be as cool as 10e 40K, and may not have all the bells and whistles. But it’s free and easy to play, and it’s all I need right now, at this stage in my gaming life.

Kenton Kilgore writes killer sci-fi and fantasy for young adults, and adults who are still young. He also dabbles in children’s books. Follow Kenton on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. You can also catch him on Instagram and TikTok.