Thursday, 31 March 2016

40k Rule books - a short history

So here's a post I have been thinking of for a while - why do I love 40k rule books?

Now I'm a geek in many ways: wargames, board games, science, engineering and BOOKS.
I write that in capitals because above all else I love a book. It can be on any of the above subjects or it can be on something completely random. Old and dusty ones are my favourite, because I'm also a history geek and I am drawn to anything that is remotely historic, or at least smells of the dust of long dead owners.

To cut a long story long, when Helen and I first moved in together we were in a two bed flat with two flats worth of stuff and were seriously considering signing up to appear on Hoarder Next Door. We carted that stuff through 3 house moves, a marriage and having a kid (which brings a whole new level of utter clutter in itself!).

We've started de-cluttering, almost to the extreme where we are almost minimalists now. It's like an extreme backlash to our previous existence. But as I have started paring everything down to the bone I found I am left with a handful of 40k rule books and asked myself "why did I save these and not the rest"? The answer is obvious when thinking about it, they are my favourites, and so I want to share them with you.

First up is the Rogue Trader Rule book. The copy I have now is not the one I originally had, but it looks and smells the same and is in slightly better condition. Why do I love this book? Because it's the daddy of them all of course. It is a true style icon.

I never played a game using this rule book, but then, playing 40k has never been my driver. Collecting, painting and fluff is what keeps me ticking along (see above for 'hoarder'...).

This book has everything in terms of the origins of so much of what we have today. And Space Marines are so much closer to human in their habits than they are now; drinking, fighting and swearing in bars!

The art is good. Maybe not good, maybe interesting is the right word? It was good for its time and really embraces the artistic style that was popular in 80's and early 90's sci-fi (see above for shear randomness...)

Even now I like delving in to it to see what nuggets of fluff I can find. The 40k we have now is so far yet so close to this embryonic vision released in 1987. I was only 5 then and didn't pick up my copy until 1991, but by then I also had....

Space Hulk. Space Hulk is what got me in to loving 40k. It was easy to play and the imagery was strong: man verses alien in close quarters combat. I loved it and still own and play with my original set from all those years ago. One day, yes one day, I might get round to painting those bl**dy genestealer miniatures!

The first edition of Space Hulk is still the best in my opinion. The expansions that came a long later were a testing ground for what was to come in 40k as a whole in terms of psychic powers, but they made the core game overly complex, taking away the quick and simple game play.

Although don't think 'simple' means 'easy'. As a marine player you need to be really tactical in that game because it is not easy to win by any stretch of the imagination. Chess is simple to play but no one would say it was easy.

Space Hulk was a classic, it spawned several sequels, Space Crusade and a couple of computer games. One could argue that it even spawned Betrayal at Calth, in terms of game play, all these years later. They are extremely similar (which is probably why I like that too).

After these two iconic releases came a boom for 40k. 2nd edition is where we inherit a lot of the core principals of the game, pulling it firmly away from the complex, fantasy-esque system used in Rogue Trader. I think as a marine player I have been rolling 3's to hit and 4's to wound since this edition!

2nd, 3rd and 4th edition is when I did most of my playing, but I didn't keep any of these rule books. None of them were iconic enough, or fluff-laden enough to catch my imagination, to make me keep them when the next edition came along. I don't even have my 5th edition book, which as a rules system cemented many of the 'local' rules we had been playing for years anyway (such as 'true line of sight'... who out there ever used the height chart thingy for buildings? no one, that's who...).

Then 6th edition came along, and man, at the time I was blown away by the quality of the rule book. Double page spreads of gorgeous Neil Roberts art work, weapons schematics, fluff to knock your socks off, plus only a slight tweaking of the rules and a re-introduction of the psychic phase (I never use psychers because I don't like this phase, just so you know). I thought "this book is it, the pinnacle of 40k-dom". One book to rule them all!

But less than a year later 7th edition appeared. Split into 3 books it still doesn't feel as complete or have as much of a 'special' feel about it as that 6th edition book had. I think I remember them releasing it because people weren't happy about 6th edition for some reason, but as a casual player I can't really tell the difference. Nope, I wish they'd left it at 6th, I would have been happy. Now I have a 7th edition set in the cupboard which I am loath to keep just so I can play the game!

Since then though, we have had FW bring us the geeky goodness that is the Horus Heresy. These books make keeping that ugly little brother called '7th' in the cupboard worth it. Anyone who has been in to the hobby for as long as me has been waiting for this for about 20 years! ha ha. But the rule books? They are my dream book come true: huge leather-bound tomes full of Space Marine fluff, with amazing artwork and fairly simple army lists. These are the pinnacle of 30k-dom!

The Horus Heresy Collection

So, which is your favourite 40k rule book?


No comments:

Post a Comment