This is a topic I’ve thought about for a long time. I last played Warhammer 40K around March of 2018, not all that long after the release of 8th edition. During that time I’ve had a lot of time to think on the subject and why I just can’t play the game again.
Me and Warhammer 40K Over the Years
I started playing Warhammer 40K in 2006 near the tail end of 4th edition. By that point the game was in a weird place because it was dated and codex information from some armies just didn’t line up.
Still, I played my Orks enthusiastically and tried to get in as many games as I could. That equated to about 6 games a year but I loved it regardless.
We saw 5th edition drop in 2008 and it came as a much needed update for the game. I really think 5th edition was a solid set of rules and I know others think back to them fondly.
Of course since then we’ve seen 40K jump up to 8th edition at the time of writing this, with the
rumored confirmed 9th edition on the horizon. It was those 9th rumors that served as the catalyst for this article.
Codex Creep is Real and Unforgivable
Anyone who has played any edition of the game will be familiar with the term codex creep. It’s where each subsequently released codex throughout an edition eclipses the previous codices released.
I’m not talking meta or player perception here. Legitimately, codices released later in the life of an edition are stronger than those released earlier.
It’s honestly unforgivable of Games Workshop to do this. I know GW plans for an edition years before we even hear a rumor of it. Years. They know the path their system will take and when it will be reforged.
Why then can’t they keep a relative power level consistency across all armies during an edition? They know what’s to come after all and this includes other codices to be released. There’s a roadmap they have and it’s like they’re completely disregarding it.
While codex creep is annoying, it’s ultimately not the biggest downfall of Warhammer 40K. No. That’s something else.
Games Workshop Lacks Vision
I feel this is the crux of the matter, so no sense raking GW over the coals on every little thing I take issue with regarding 40K.
The earlier editions of the 40K that were released were done with no support from the gaming community. GW decided that edition was what they wanted and they published it.
The occasional FAQ or errata would adjust things as the community responded to an edition, but by and large it was driven by GW and their vision of what the game should be.
Now, the problem with that is that while the writers of the game are players of it, they very seldomly share the outlook that the player base does. This results in GW writing something fun and fluffy that becomes exploited by players.
GW thought it (whatever it is) would be a fun addition while everyone else saw it as a loophole and a way to force something into the game that was not intended.
Remember the arguments of RAW (rules as written) vs RAI (rules as intended)? I do. I don’t miss them.
The Failure of 8th Edition
For years this was how the game of 40K operated but 8th edition changed that and not for the better.
With 8th edition GW listened to the community. They worked with well known gamers and honed the game to be something that would sit well in the competitive environment. That was their flaw, their lack of vision.
What became of 8th edition was a game that worked well in a competitive format but leaves behind anyone who is not interested in that scene. This isn’t a power gamer vs fluffy gamer debate either.
8th Edition was not created for your average, casual wargamer. It was meant to be played at Nova Open, Las Vegas Open, etc.
Games Workshop wanted to throw their weight behind the game and push it into the US market as they never had by putting it on center stage at competitive events.
It’s an Abusive Relationship I’m Done With
At the start of each edition everything is great. Then there’s something that drastically alters the game. Be it a codex, a supplement, an errata, etc. From that point the game of 40K either doesn’t recover or does so too slowly. Worse, it just shifts the power from one thing to another.
I’ve grown tired and old. I don’t have it in me to continue the vicious cycle that ensues every iteration of the 40K. It really is like an abusive relationship.
rumored upcoming release of 9th, it creates a clean break for me and the game of 40K. I won’t buy the next edition no matter how much better it’s supposed to be, regardless of all the things they fixed.
There is a long defined cycle with the game that has remained unbroken since my time in it from 2006 to now. I’m smart enough to realize that nothing is going to change despite promises contrary.
This wasn’t intended to offend anyone but to simply share a realization I had when I saw rumor of 9th edition. These are my own personal feelings and not intended to sway anyone or encourage argument.
If you enjoy Warhammer 40K and you’re looking forward to 9th edition, then that’s fantastic. Seriously. I’m never one to knock someone for their enjoyment of anything.
I’m also not here to debate the shortcomings of the game as I see it, or dive into meta arguments. There’s a lot to be said about 40K that’s positive. Also, much can be said that’s not.
I hold nothing against Games Workshop either. I’m not a bitter or jaded person who wants to see the game fail. That’s not something I take enjoyment from.
I’m also not angry about any of this either. The game is what it is. It just happens to no longer be a game for me; that’s all.
Of course this means nothing for the blog. I long ago shifted the site towards hobby oriented pursuits and moved away from writing about gaming. That is unchanged.
I’m also still playing Blood Bowl. In fact, it remains the only game I’m playing. God I love that game.
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I think codex creep is worse than you make it out to be. It’s long been an offensive sales strategy. I don’t agree with some of the harsher things you say about 8e, I think it is a big step up from 7. 8e is way more coherent than any other edition.
But it is a bit distressing to observe the Marine codex 2.0, and how that parallels the Angels of Death book in 7e. Now over two editions, planned obsolescence, Marines to be power creeped away and then get a second codex. That’s the part of codex creep for sales that offends me
You’re right. Codex creep is pretty abhorrent. Maybe it’s not a lack of vision by GW and it’s simply they value sales over all else.
Either way it’s a vicious cycle and I don’t see it changing. The only way I see breaking the cycle is by removing myself from it.
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of ev’rything that stands
I can understand your reasoning buddy, 8th has been the worst edition of 40k for me but the rot started at the beginning of 6th edition IMO. GW’s Codex Creep (read cash grab) became more and more blatant after 5th edition to the point where they stopped even trying to conceal it in 8th. I could have lived with that if the game had been exciting but 8th is the most boring game going at tournament level.
I’ll buy the rulebook and have a good read of it but I suspect that I’ll be sticking with Necromunda.
I think I started realizing it in 7th. That edition started so well (I thought), and then dissolved into madness with countless supplements and formations, each one outdoing the previous.
They do very well with their smaller gaming system. There’s just a lot less unwieldy things to deal with. As I’ve said before, I feel Blood Bowl is their best game ever. However, I do also enjoy their other small games for the same reason: well thought out and balanced. You can play, be competitive if that’s your thing, and have fun without anybody walking away from the table pissed off, unlike 40K.
I get what you’re saying here, however I’ve seen so many editions come and go that as long as it takes my fancy I’ll keep playing. I am somewhat insulated against the rules and codex changes, because my armies (6 for 40K) are big enough that I can generally adjust what I use to suit what works. I’m not I danger of finding myself with an ‘unuseable’ collection. All I sometimes do is grab the odd new unit or model just to grab what I like the look of adding to my collection.
Most of the games I play these days are against very easy going players or against my son who is still very new to the hobby, so there is little in the way of stress in my games. I do think however that if the arrival of 9th suddenly invalidated all my codexes, I may be thinking twice about that investment, as I play several different systems and don’t get enough games of any one of them in to warranty a complete new buy-in every time there is a new edition. I did it once when 8th came in, and once with Age of Sigmar, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.
I get that. The environment you play it honestly makes all the difference in the world. Playing with buddies and family tends to be a more casual affair, where I think 40K truly thrives. Where I play though is far more competitive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I do, despite my lack of skill with the game, enjoy competition. However, I just can’t keep up with it and my desire to do so isn’t there. Not with 40K.
The buy-ins on new editions is rough. The big collection certainly helps. I can’t blame you for not wanting to make that investment yet again.
Dude, this is fine. just paint fun looking minis. I don’t play since like 5th, but i still like to paint up the odd GW mini or set. I like the small games like lost patrol and space marine adventures or space hulk but the big system? Pffft! Why bother and who has the time to sink 3+ hours into a game that gets broken so fast. I’d rather paint.
Agreed. I totally plan to pick up the new Ghazgull model because that thing is sick. I just want to paint that beast and take my sweet time doing it, having no use for it at all.
The smaller games are definitely more my style lately. Fewer models, cheaper to get into, and just more fun. Even if you have a bad game you just play another. It’s not like you’ve lost 3+ hours, as you said, and now are going to play for another 3+ hours to try and redeem yourself.
Wait… You can play games with these models! I have played less than 10 games in two decades, still love the lore and models.
Paint what you like, regardless of system.
40K long ago pushed me away. Every edition seemed to invalidate my army choices. That box you bought a couple of months ago to make an army. It can no longer do that. You need this and that, oh, and we have these new models for your army that are so much better than your existing ones. Dropping new edition after new edition every 2 to 3 years says you cannot write a good game.
I agree. Also the fact that you have to keep buying supplemental books for your army and the game as the edition continues is frustrating. Showing up with 4-5 books just to play a game of 40K is not for me.
I played one game of 7th, just before 8th came out. And that was the last game I played. I miss 40k and I can always come back to it, but for the time being I’ll read blogs and check out cool pics of painted miniatures. Maybe even pick up a paintbrush now and then.
I don’t think I’m the target demographic anymore.
I fear many of us…more mature folks aren’t the demographic they’re after.
Funny because I came on here to reply to a comment on a 30k article and ended up at this post.
It strikes me that Horus Heresy gaming answers a lot of the issues you have with 40k. The rules churn is glacial, there is pretty much no codex creep, and the community works together to keep the game balanced rather than find rules to exploit.
Gaming is a great hobby and I hope you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water :-) There is bound to be some game that you’ll love with less faults. There is a reason many gamers ‘grow up’ and graduate to historicals. The reason is that GW sucks in many ways! And other sci-fi and fantasy franchises have a way of vanishing, burning out, never building up a head of steam or going bust.
Horus Heresy gaming is an odd bridge between the GW/40k world and historicals. Its aimed at mature gamers, generally non (or less) competitive, and has more of an emphasis on personal creativity.
If HH doesn’t float your boat do consider historicals or generic fantasy gaming. With both historicals and classic fantasy your army is system agnostic which saves you from the vagaries of games companies. Its a new way of doing things from the GW way that I’m really enjoying at the moment. I am building the undead army I’ve always wanted. I’m concentrating on the models and I am making it useable in Oathmark, Oldhammer, Kings of War and maybe the new WHFB game from FW. Likewise seeing how my WW2 Soviets work in Chain of Command and Bolt Action is liberating!
Oh, I’m not giving up on gaming, just 40K. Blood Bowl is a passion of mine. I run a local league and have a blast doing it. We’re into our 6th season but have stalled out on account of everything going on.
I was, until recently, also playing Warhammer Underworlds, which is a great little game. Interest died out locally though so I haven’t touched it in a while.
Basically, I’ve come to realize that I really enjoy smaller games. It gives me an opportunity to spend time painting my stuff to a higher level because there’s so few models to deal with, which I really enjoy. I also get to breathe life into each and every model. I’m talking lore, fluff, and narratively.
Rules wise, I find smaller games have a tighter set of rules, but also lend themselves very well to letting players explore and adapt them to suit their needs.
Not on the table, but did play the video version of Mordheim for a bit and loved that. I could totally get into a game like that for all the listed reasons.
That’s where my gaming is at. I’m also not a GW exclusive gamer either, it’s just how it’s worked out :)
Just found this blog site and couldn’t resist reading this post. I really feel your pain with Wh40k. I started playing during 3rd Ed and it’s the game that got me into tabletop gaming. I thought I’d stick with it for a long time, but I gave up before 7th Ed. Rules creep, pseudo-magic phases, competitiveness, the sheer cost of models and books and terrain…
I like the universe for its epic-ness, but that’s about it and the epic-ness is “alright”. I like the look of their models but not enough to buy them. I mistakenly bought the new Tau XV8 suits only to find their poses are so dramatic that you cant actually do much interesting with them. So, I felt like that was a waste of money. I think the Citadel paints are great, but again costly.
Once I “graduated” from GW, I’ve found that, compared to the rest of the gaming world, there are far better games and companies. My favourite is Catalyst and Battletech, next to no rules creep there (models are in desperate need of modernisation mind you)!
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Yeah, you saw the writing on the wall sooner than I did. I suppose I saw it, but I was a hopeful optimist. If after 4 editions of the game (for me that is) they can’t figure it out, it’s just time to move on.
I agree about the setting. I really do love what they’ve created with their universe. It’s familiar yet distinct and has its own flavor.
Battletech has mildly interested me. My hurdle with it has been local interest, virtually non-existent, and the rules just seem so overwhelming. The models are definitely in need of some love too but that’s not a dealbreaker.
Have you thought about going all the way back to Rogue Trader and/or Second Edition rules and the mentality that went with them -?- playing scenarios with missions and armies, sometimes chosen by an umpire? No more points values armies, no more looking for synergies and combos.
Something like that could be fun. It really is more about those you play with than the edition you’re playing. There’s a good chance I’ll play with some of my buddies who got me into 40K because it would be a casual and fun game. I just have no interest in showing up at my FLGS to play 40K and investing in it in general.
If you find yourself still wanting to break out your Warhammer miniatures and play a game with them from time to time, you might be interested in the Grimdark Future ruleset from https://onepagerules.com/start-here/. The rules are free, and there’s a good intro video to explain how it works. (And the guy who did the intro video has about a dozen battle reports on his channel, so if you have time to watch them you can get a good feel for the game).
The biggest difference from WH40K (as far as I can tell, having never played WH40K) is that in GF, you alternate activating units, so there’s a lot less downtime where you wait for the other player to finish doing everying. The rules are also simplified, so you make fewer dice rolls, which (again, AFAICT) tends to lead to more deadly combat as there are fewer ways to shrug off damage.
Don’t know if it will end up being up your alley or not, but I think it’s worth taking a couple hours to check out.
The lack of unit activation is a HUGE problem I have with 40K. Just waiting for 20-30 minutes for your opponent to do their thing (though you do make a few rolls in the form of armor saves) is not only mind numbingly dull and not engaging, but makes for a very poor flow to the battle itself.
I appreciate the recommendation and I’ll be sure to check that out.
Just stumbled across this article after a week or two of the new IP ban. Ya can’t say I’m not about to set sail for better wargaming experience.
I saw something about that but I haven’t kept up on much GW news for a while. It’s too bad though but I figured they’d get to that point eventually. Oh well. There really are much better games out there, it’s just GW has the name recognition.
Can empathise with this – The editions are just too fast for me, by the time I’ve learned the rules enough to play a game the next edition is not far off and it’s all back to square one again. It doesn’t help the books are 30 quid nowadays either, and I don’t feel comfortable paying for expensive books that have such a short lifespan. Aside from this – when I got back into 40k with 8th, it was with sisters of silence and blackstone constructs which I loved the look of enough to get full armies of, so I feel pretty damn stupid as I really actually thought they were gonna get codexes, doh!
They really do crank out the editions; it’s crazy. I don’t usually mind buying the codex. What I have a problem with is often all the supplemental books you need to buy to make an army function. I remember people playing with 4-5 books just for a single army (codex, expansion books, codices for allied armies and those supplements, etc). It’s all just too much.
It’s too bad. I really love the 40K setting. It’s my favorite setting of any game I’ve played. Such rich lore and the aesthetic of the game is perfect for me. However, that’s just window dressing to a game that really needs a serious rework with the player in mind and not the pocket of GW.
I love GW miniatures and have been collecting them since the company first formed (I was playing wargames back in 1969 and role playing since 1974), but I hate the company, and I don`t use their rules. If I want a 40K feel I use Grimdark Future OPR, but mostly I just use my own rules…. but I love the minis, so use them to create my own adventures… and not a Codex in sight :-)
There’s no argument that their miniatures are second to none. They’re pricey but the quality and sculpting is great. I can definitely see myself buying models just to paint.
Creating your own rules is great and such an old-school approach that adds so much more life to a game. Why be restrained by a ruleset you don’t enjoy when you can make your own? Kudos!
I’m so happy for you! You have finally joined the hobby of miniature’s wargaming, their are so many wonderful rule set’s out their many of them are miniatures agnostic! And guess what they are fun cos that’s what’s it’s all about having fun. You have the lore they can’t tack that away from you…..
Maybe they can age of sigmar anyone?.
At this point I prefer smaller games that aren’t 2-3 hours long like Blood Bowl. I’m sure I’ll look at some other games that aren’t GW as well for the same reason.
Try rogue stars & stargrave
I’ll check that out. Thanks.
I’m a 3rd edition player, as that was the best system overall. after 3rd, there were no more wargear lists. just options for each character/squad…
I jumped in near the end of 4th. I didn’t mind 4th and I thought 5th edition was pretty good. After 5th though it just all went downhill very quickly.