Warhammer 40K 7th Edition – What Happened to this Game?

Any regular reader will have noticed that since Blood Bowl came out I have said very little about Warhammer 40K. I have still been playing 40K, though less frequently. I just haven’t been chatting about it. So, today I figured I’d chat.

I also want to preface this by saying that I don’t complain lightly. Meaning, I’m a positive person, and complaining isn’t something I do for fun and attention.

The Evolution of 7th Edition

I’m not going to go on a long tirade about the game – I still like it, but suffice to say that 7th edition has worn me out. To play a game of 40K these days you need 2-3 source materials for your army (codex, supplement, campaign book, dataslate, etc.), a rulebook, Maelstrom of War cards, psychic power cards, templates, dice, ruler…it’s just endless. Granted, those at the end of the list aren’t new to the game, but just trying to show how much material and preparation the game now requires. It might not seem like a lot of stuff when you’re used to it, but try another game where all you need is a few dice, a handful of models, and a thin rules manual and you’ll see it.

I can live with the extras you have to tote along, it’s not game breaking or anything, just annoying. The thing that has really started getting to me though is the pure free-for-all this game has become. When I got into 40K in 4th edition, the only thing you needed for your army was the codex. That remained true until 6th edition when they began introducing supplements and dataslates. Now, I wasn’t a fan of playing my Orks in 5th edition with a codex that had not been updated since 3rd edition, however, I also didn’t need 5 different books and a White Dwarf to support my army either.

I like that Games Workshop is updating stuff at an amazing rate, but I hate that there is no single source for an army any longer. It seems GW has realized this a bit, and they do push out compilations of sorts, like Traitor Legions. Yet, that seems to only be valid as a compilation for about a month before more new stuff gets released. I seriously can’t drop $60 every few months to get the latest supplement or campaign book for my army to stay up on the newest detachments and formations.

Detachments, Formations and Bloat

With all of this has come some of the most dickheaded lists I have ever seen. I love the concept of detachments and formations, to reward fluffy game play. However, it’s become anything but fluffy game play, and only serves to fuel power gaming nerd boners. The endless possibilities of some of the cheesiest shit possible is abound in the game right now and I hate it.

The game itself has also become too bloated in my opinion. There’s no one thing that’s slowing the game down, but a collection of things that should be trimmed and streamlined. I know there’s mixed feelings on 5th edition, but it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t the fastest version of the game we’ve had. That’s what I hope to see out of 8th edition; it taking the time to optimize the game because it seriously needs it.


All of this coalesces into a very cumbersome game right now. It used to be that I’d play a 1,500 game with around 30 models, and we’d get in 7 turns and be done in 1.5 hours. Often on a Wednesday night (40K night at my FLGS), we’d play 2 games in a night. That is no longer a possibility, and it’s not uncommon to not finish a game before the store closes. I’ve seen pre-game preparations take 20-30 minutes, and psychic phase takes 30 minutes – just the psychic phase! It’s insane. The game keeps getting bigger, and it’s not doing itself any favors by doing so.

Final Thoughts

While I love 40K, I’m currently not in love with it. The few games I’ve played lately have just not been fun – no offense to any of my opponents reading this. Financially I can’t keep up with the game any longer. Mentally, I don’t care to either. I have a hard time investing my time and money into what 40K has become, and it’s too bad. If I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure that Games Workshop can steer this beast back on course either, and that saddens me the most.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that 7th has grown too big?

Note: I have since played a game of Warhammer 40K 8th edition if you’re interested.

  • Richard Cowen

    Sadly, as much as I love the 40k setting, I’ve reached the point where i seems like every single other wargame ruleset I’ve picked up, at whatever scale, does what it does far, far better than 40k does 40k.

    I’ve effectively retired several thousand pounds worth of 40k models in order to play smaller, neater games like Dragon Rampant or (if I can find a human opponent) Warpath or Afterlife, solely because the rules for 40k have become a frustration rather than a support net for playing the game.

    I hold out hope for future editions streamlining the game and having the courage to jettison unnecessary bloat that’s only there because it’s -always- been there (why are to wound rolls and armour saves still separate rolls, and why do the vehicle rules use a different mechanic for penetrating armour when Armour Values are exactly the same as Toughness, e.g. Armour 10 is Toughness 7, Armour 11 is Toughness 8, and so on, and why do we still use blast markers instead of hitting a unit x number of times instead?).

    I hold out hope, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • You’re right, and that became clearly apparent to me when I started playing Blood Bowl. The setting is amazing, but the game is a 900lb gorilla, and not in a good way.

      The size creep really gets to me too. Making everything cheaper in points means more toys. Some people applaud that, I groan. A 1,500 game now is like what a 2,000 game used to be in 5th. I love painting, but being forced into it frustrates me. It’s been a HUGE appeal of Blood Bowl for me. I’m working on painting the last model for my team, model #13. A fully painted “army” is only 13 models for me in Blood Bowl. I don’t have the time to paint multiple squads of 10 any more.

  • I think a lot depends on who you play and what is decided before hand, which really shouldn’t have to be done. But then I have never gotten a big amount of games in.

    • 40K has always been a social contract kind of game. Where I play has always been really good about it too, but lately it’s just gotten out of hand. I show up and see list after list that I have no chance against. I can handle that part, I don’t play solely to win, but lists that are just not fun to face too. It’s kind of like being the only sober person at a party.

      • As a non drinker I know that feeling ;)
        Plus I am guessing my army will have a complicated psychic phase. But at least it is from one book?

        • You can play Thousand Sons from a single source, yes. Your psychic phase won’t even be that bad. To give you an example of bad, I have seen players bring lists that are 20+ warp charges before you roll the D6 to add to the pool. Those are the lists that take 30 minutes to muddle through a psychic phase.

          • Zack Chabot

            Honestly a lot of it still depends on the opponent. The list I have run the last few weeks is one of those 20+ warp charge monstrosities and while set up took a bit longer then everyone else we still got a 6 turns in a reasonable ammount of time. Too many people over think that and the psychic phase which is what I think leads to these 4 turn 2.5 hour games.

            • Yeah, if you aren’t trying to cast every single power you can manage is fast enough.

  • Berman

    40k almost requires a conversation before you meet to play a game these days. On the flip side the options to play all manner of game styles and armies is huge and the fluff in the mechanics is great, albeit with so much choice disparity is similarly large in some cases.

    I found it really odd that at the 2000pt tournament day we had more games finish on time than we did at lower point level days like the standish. (Hit a lethality level?)

    I hope that we will see you up this way for the April event Thor. Might help get you back in the mood with a lower point narrativeish tournament and overall change of pace for you.

    • I do have to get back to you on that as I have no doubt I’d have a great time.

      • Berman

        Please do you’ll be #14. :-)

  • Sorry to hear you feel this way about 40k. I had seen this issue before you and moved on to several other games for many of the reasons you listed. For me, the biggest issue is the unfair use of rerolls by several armies compared to other codex’s. It really shortens the failure of rolling when a d6 is your margin and I have never understood their CC mechanic in any edition. As you also stated with every new release of rules there is a new weapon that kills off marines making their value fluffy and thus the drastic need to reduce points and buy more models. I have down sized my 40k collection down to a few armies and it may continue to spiral down to one. The other game systems just put out much more fun these days. I recommend Infinity to you, the models are so well sculpted and would look great with your painting skill!

    • There’s much about their mechanics that leaves something to be desired. The ease with which you can get re-rolls in the game is staggering. You’re right, the weapons always get bigger and “better”, meaning you need more bodies to keep the game going. It’s circular and never ending.

      Smaller games are definitely more appealing to me these days. We’ll see if I start branching out more soon.

      • Berman

        As for smaller games. I’d suggest looking at Victory is Vengeance. From Horus Heresy book 3. It’s like kill team but more emphasis on your leader. Really neat form of slightly larger kill team but has mixed units.

        • I’ll have to check it out. Quick question though, does it feel like a smaller game crammed into 40K, or an actual small game designed for what it does?

          • Berman

            It feels like it’s own small scale version of 40k. It uses unit of 3-10 guys. Can be mixed units and has rules to deal with that. Action points for your heroes that make a 2 wound model feel like a death star. It is pretty slick. Not turns based, time limit based games. Recommended time 30-40 minutes.

            • Interesting. I’ll check it out.

          • Berman

            Also from what I’ve read and heard on the interwebs 30k is a much much more balanced and solid version of 40k without a lot of the crazy. The whole single CAD with a possible ally CAD but no formations thing helps to curb a lot.

  • ming2005

    First off, who wrote this? Thor? Positive? Haha, the only way I know it is you because of the Bloodbowl references! (btw I’m having fun just playing Rogue Assault on my iphone)….

    I agree on one thing, trying to get in a “tournament style”, blind match-up, on a game night at the FLGS can be crazy. As for me at the moment – it is ski season and i got so much stuff going on I’m just lucky I have time to read all the new stuff coming out! I bet I have not played a decent game since December.

    All across the blogosphere of 40K-dom, there are many similar complaints – games getting more complex and taking too long.

    I think we need to be reminded that the recent campaign supplements are just that – they were designed to be components of campaigns – they even come with campaign style scenarios. They were not really designed to be much more than that. The game designers admit that they do not design the game changes and supplements for anything other than that. All of the added new shenanigans were not thought of in mind for anything else, and are likely skewed to get the faction that won the story line to be superior in the campaign.

    Anyone want to play a campaign? I got the beer if you have the pretzels. Fitting terrain, a story line, and time. In a proper campaign game, I would not care if you rolled up the spells and such before you arrived, unless you are just WAAC and cant be trusted.

    As for how it impacts the world of tournament play, the local organizer just needs to set boundaries for the event that they create. Be clearer on what FAQs to follow, what is allowed for army construction, and what the players need to do to keep things moving along. You might not like the constraints, but why not? A good player can always win within the constraints that are set. A good tournament organizer can set the boundaries so that everyone can have a good time and games be played fairly and on time. Takes balls to do it.

    Interesting sidebar – I’m reading book 2 of the current three-book campaign, and comparing what i read to the discussion in podcasts on clarifying the new Ynnari faction rules. To me the intent is that the new special rule they discuss – in the first sentence – is just missing the word Aeldari, which would actually put it in line with the storyline. The Ynnari don’t get high on any souls except for those of their Aeldari brethren. And not from vehicles either. That seemed to be the intent that was somehow dropped in editing. Note how the special characters themselves have special rules that require the casualty to be Aeldari to take effect. Now we see the WAAC players coming out to get free actions from just popping soul-less Dark Angel Rhinos? Now that is something to comment about…

    I’m getting ready to get back into playing 40K with a vengeance, as soon as my skis are in storage for the warmer months…ya’ll better get ready. Roboute G’man ain’t the only thing rising up from stasis…I’m seeing green hordes on the horizon….


    • It’s like GW has no idea what they’ve unleashed, and they aren’t sure how to contain it at this point.

  • Thor, I wish I had written this article, because I am with you on so many points (in fact, all of them). I am completely fed up with what the game has become. It encourages filthy list from even the most narrative games, and has really become incredibly bloated and imbalanced. I have found the last few of my games incredibly unfun, and that was against friends who I enjoy their company. I really too hope for change, as I have invested a lot, and love the setting and hobby opportunities that the setting offers. Alas the game right now is not for me

    • The nasty lists I’ve seen, played against, and read about, are all fluffy lists. That’s what bothers me; that these power gaming lists are fluffy and over-the-top. Fun and fluffy lists were few and far between a few years ago. I, among many, craved a fluffy list that was competitive. Now, it’s like GW took that dream and turned it into the nightmare it’s become :(

      I know what you mean about unfun games against people you like. I don’t fault anyone I play, I don’t blame anyone I play for nasty lists, it’s just not fun right now.

      I also don’t want to lose what I’ve put into the game in terms of time and money, but at the same time it’s not like it was wasted either. It’s been fun while it was fun, and the money spent, the time invested, contributed to all those years of fun regardless of what the game is now.

      • Yes it’s the fluffy ones that are some of the worst offenders nowadays. I can’t fault the people bringing those lists, as it is just the evolution of the game, but it has left me behind frustrated, as I do not enjoy it . Games like drop zone offer far more balanced tactical play, and malifaux has the quirky character and thematicness that I enjoy in a game now. Definitely a dream turned into a nightmare!

        I don’t think I will ever abandon my collection, and will continue to work on it as it is a hobby project in itself, but the desire to game has almost disappeared at present. Crossed fingers for the future I suppose

  • gits2

    GW has a very clear template in front of them to revitalize 40k, if they choose to take it. Age of Sigmar. In spite of the vitriol thrown at that game, especially in the first year, it is easily their best game system and a good modern solution to the problems you have done a great job of outlining. While I’ll set aside the decision to reboot the fluff of Fantasy, the mechanics and accessibility of the free rules has done a lot to create a new vibrant community around it in my area. If they simply followed this rubric for 40k, there would be some initial anger (inevitably!) but I think they would save the game in the long term. The question is whether they have the guts to do it. It’s one thing to rebuild a whole game when it is in the red, and another if the game is your main selling product.

    • I completely agree. I fear that GW won’t take that approach though. Sure, they’ll tweak a thing or two that will make us happy, but I just don’t see an overhaul coming – despite the fact it needs it. As you said, it’s easy when it’s dying, it’s another story when it’s still floating along.

      • gits2

        The reason I hold out a shred of hope that they might actually follow through with a reboot of the rules is that GW has never been afraid of ignoring their player base’s wishes (for better or worse). I believe that while more and more people are getting fed up with the 40k status quo, a majority still seems to think that a reboot is unwanted. And if the powers that be come to the same conclusion that we have, I don’t think they will be afraid to piss off their player base. I’m currently in a rules boycott for 40k. No buying codexes or rules supplements of any kind until they fix the game to the point of AoS. Once Codexes are on the same model as Battletomes i.e. useful but not mandatory I’ll dive back in. I might be waiting a while, but I have a lot of stuff to paint while I’m waiting.

        • They have been doing a far better job of listening than years past. Still, with their track record, I’d be inclined to agree with you.

  • sonsoftaurus

    Absolutely. So much bloat. We have multiple newer/returning players coming around our group, and while I encourage them to get involved, I dread discussions about “how do I build an army?” Egad. Well, there’s detachments and formations and detachments made up of formations or you can slide in these other data sheets stand alone, you can do an allied formation or you can just take one of those formations as allies but they’re not an “allied formation”, etc etc etc. With my most recent project (IW run as IF) I decided to try to join the present and break out of the old FOC mold, building an army out of the IF Sternhammer formation, with 1st company and other support. So. Many. Special. Rules. Honestly, I forget to apply half of them in any given game. Oh yeah, those guys have tank hunters, that dev squad is obsec but those others aren’t, are those 1st co guys Fearless? Yeah, oh I forgot to nominate a unit they’re after, etc. etc. Too much. And all things considered it’s very simple – single source, one chapter.

    • Yep. We had a player last night, who has been playing since 7th dropped – just not super frequently, trying to wrap his head around the whole army organization mechanic. Hell, I still get confused at times, and I’ve been playing weekly games (on average), since 7th hit.

      Yeah, when you get into decurion style detachments (a detachment composed of formations), the rules get insane. Each formation has a rule, sometimes specific units in said formation have their own rules, and then the detachment gains a benefit/rules, sometimes conditionally…it’s so much to remember.

  • I feel you’re comparing apples to airplanes when you contrast Blood Bowl with 40K. Blood Bowl is fun, but it’s a board game. It’s not anywhere close to 40K in complexity or source material. There’s no narrative behind the game, no universe in which it lives.
    With that being said, 40K is indeed out of control. I think it started with Knights. A switch was thrown, and armies started to contain huge, all powerful models that only compare to one another. Superheavies and Gargantuan Monsters didn’t just rock the boat, they blew the boat out of the water.
    I liked formations at the start, but once they invented the “Decurion” style detachment that piled rules on top of rules, things got out of hand. I fixated a lot on the rules and bonuses that various formations gave, grudgingly building and fielding models and units I hated to have other bonuses. It is why I quit Ultramarines, because the rules made people zone out when I was explaining them. Rerolls for this, that and the other thing, but only for Unit X now, but Unit Y later. Blah blah blah.
    Sadly, I’m seeing the same thing happening again with Raven Guard. Too many Chapter and Formation rules. It sucks, because I finally laid out my “dream army” list. It relies on using three formations, not for the rules, but because it allows me to run a lot of jump troops and Landspeeders, while minimizing the boring stuff like Tactical Marines.
    “Codex creep” has morphed into “source creep.” Every book has some new, devastating build that kicks someone’s army in the balls. Traitor Legions is great, until you’re the guy with no transports playing against Emperor’s Children with a metric ton of Ignores Cover, or the guy with Imperial Guard infantry against Death Guard.
    There is no fix for this. The genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going back in. Eighth is not going to simplify the number of books, and it’s not going to Sigmarify the game. There are simply too many books and armies now, and waiting for new codex releases with an entirely new rules format will be worse than waiting for books during Fifth Edition. They can’t even do a big “rules reference” for all the books because of all the formations in every book! Those rules don’t just go away.
    I think locally we need to change things up from month to month. We’ve run Maelstrom every month for…two years? Armies like Imperial Guard cannot play Maelstrom missions and win, so they don’t get played. Maybe one month we play old school Eternal War missions. Another month we play CAD-only army lists. Facebook event pages seem to be well followed now, so no one can really complain they weren’t prepared.
    My hope is that a new edition will provide more options for play modes, like Sigmar got with Matched and Narrative play, or a greater variety of non random missions to play.

    • Apples to airplanes, I like it. My point was simply that you don’t need a big complicated ruleset to create a fun game. A better direct comparison would be Age of Sigmar, which by all right is a huge hit. It’s outnumbering 40K certain large events, and we know that’s a very simple set of rules.

      I dare say this all started back in 6th with flyers; our first new unit type in how many years? It snowballed more when we got Knights, and then just kept on going.

      Yeah, wishing for a simplified set of rules and reigning in the source material is a fool’s wish. However, it’s my hope that they do something to rectify the mess the game has become.

      I can get behind the tournament idea. I’ve honestly grown rather tired of Maelstrom and I’d be all for doing something different.

  • I wholeheartedly agree. I can keep up with it because I have no other hobbies or anything, and a deep enough collection from 20 years in the hobby that I can jump around as things go in and out of favour, but it’s still starting to get overwhelming. Heck, it’s now at the point where it’s pretty much possible to make a fairly nasty list essentially by accident, at least for some matchups. Particularly with Eldar, Tau, and Knights.

    I really don’t see any way out other than a hard reset, like 2nd to 3rd Ed 40K, or WHFB 8th to AoS. There are too many contributing parts, in too many different places, to fix it piecemeal. A new Core Rules Set won’t do the trick alone.

    • Rules alone won’t fix it, no argument, but it can certainly help. Without a solid set of rules, a balanced set of rules, everything else is exacerbated.

      • Even then, you’re looking at a minimum of a new Core Rule Set and at least 8 or so Dexes to get everything on an even footing with nothing pushing the limits of the system (6×4 Table, 1-10 Statlines, d6 mechanics). And a bunch of those Dex re-writes are going to be nearly as hard a sell as a hard reset.

  • Patiently waiting here for them to wipe and reset everything, so we can have an edition where everything is on the same playing field for once. Oh the tear buckets that will be needed if that occurs!

    • The operative word there being “if” I fear.

  • Turkadactyl

    Bloat sums it up. With the release of 7th edition I planned on staying with that edition. I was tired of buying new books. At first it seemed fun but I am just tired of it now. Too many books. Too many models. Too many rules. Sigmar has been a breath of fresh air for me. Thursday nights have been dedicated to 40K but I haven’t played the game in store for months. I’ve played my Badab War campaign games and that is it. I’m enjoying the painting still so that’s a plus I guess.

    BTW, I re-posted the Drycha WIP post. It was incomplete so I fired the editor. Then I realized that I was the editor so I re-hired myself.

    • How do you find AoS in regards to strategic and tactical gameplay? I don’t know anything of the mechanics.

      I’m always firing myself. Usually every other day or so.

      • Turkadactyl

        It is easy to catch on to the mechanics. It took me three games to feel comfortable. The rules are simple. I guess the complicated part is the special rules of the units but they are on the units warscrolls so no flipping through pages of rules.

        I like the activation of units in assault. It doesn’t go by initiative. If it’s my turn I activate a unit in combat. They do their swinging and cause wounds. Then my opponent activates a unit and so on so forth. You try to decide who can deal the most damage and who can sustain an attack and hope your decisions can pay off. Weakening monsters ensures they deal less damage as well.

        There is strategy involved. It’s easy to pick up but that doesn’t mean there is no strategy and tactics. Movement is huge as close combat attacks have a range. Charging a unit can have a consequence if sucking other enemy units into the combat depending how close they are.

        There are still elements that have to be fine tuned but the game is smooth. Doesn’t feel bogged down like 40k. With the new books there are formations and decurion detachments (good heavens 40k reference for sigmar). They cost points though thank goodness. So running a decurion will be extra expensive because points have to be spent on the detachment as well as the formations.

        • That’s what I figured.

          See, 40K should also have a cost on detachments, and even certain formations. It would really help mitigate some of the problems.

  • jack shrapnel

    Age of Sigmar in many ways feels alot like a testing ground for what 40k could become. With the special rules attached to the units themselves, you can have a very simple base ruleset for people to learn the game, and still have the complex rules and feeling of unique units. People sure freaked out at the beginning, but I think in the end they came up with a very solid system that is alot of fun, easy to understand and play, but still complex enough that there’s alot of variety. Don’t get me wrong, I love 40k and play a couple games a week, but sometimes I just shake my head at some of the cheese lists. Streamlining is needed and I think a good balance reset that levels the playing field. Oh and take a hint from AOS – don’t let formations be free. Put a point cost to it and suddenly it’s not so easy to just “insert riptide wing here” for example.

    • The points cost for detachments & formations would be a pretty significant balancing factor if pointed appropriately.

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