Arches of Omen: Abaddon, the latest playbook for Warhammer 40,000, does an amazing job of pushing the franchise’s heavy storyline forward. The 88-page hardcover book went on presale earlier this month and is currently making its way to fans around the world. Inside, you’ll also find rules for an all-new style of play, a game mode called Boarding Actions. As Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team, it uses relatively affordable small sets of miniatures for extremely satisfying small-unit skirmishes. But it is absolutely not for newcomers. In fact, the way its rules are written makes it very clear how high the barrier to entry is for this particular miniature wargame.
Following pages and pages of glorious fluff, AbaddonThe boarding action rules start on page 50 and extend to less than 20 pages. The rest of the book is filled with pre-generated maps and scenarios carefully tailored to a specific set of terrain – the $210 Warhammer 40,000 Boarding Action Terrain Set.
Of course, if you kept pace with the release of Kill Team— both Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team: Shadowvaults ($185) and In the dark ($210) – you already have the plastic components you need to get started. But you don’t have the game boards, unfortunately. kill team uses a single card 30 inches long by 22 inches wide. Boarding actions instead use two planks 704 millimeters long by 607 millimeters wide (about 27.7 inches by 23.9 inches). They’re not sold separately, so if you don’t want to buy the big box, you’ll have to make your own – or wait for aftermarket accessories from third-party vendors to go on sale. Or, I guess, just play without a board.
Boarding action rules refer to the Warhammer 40,000 Core Book, indicating both generally and specifically which rules of the latter you are permitted to use. To be honest, it’s impractical and will require a lot of page-turning and arbitration at the table. The basic book is also expensive, at $70.
Finally, you will have also need a codex book for your specific army. These $55 supplements contain the rules for each specific unit of each faction in the universe – essentially the character sheets needed to actually fire your weapons and use your special abilities in battle. And, if you’re playing a specific chapter of Space Marines – Dark Angels, Blood Angels, and anything other than the standard Ultramarines – you’ll also need the appropriate Codex supplement, which will cost you an extra $33.
This puts the total retail cost for two players to enjoy the new Boarding Actions game mode between $390 and $423 – plus the cost of Arches of Omen: Abaddonwhich is $60…plus paint and miniatures.
There are plenty of ways around this cost issue, of course. You can buy MDF walls and neoprene play mats at a relatively low price. You can 3D print your own miniatures or buy off-brand minis to use as a proxy. But the rules are the rules, and the game just won’t work without these books. So even if you want to work your way into the hobby, you’ll still need at least $185 single player books.
So now we’re talking about an investment comparable to that of a Nintendo Switch, an almost six-year-old console that continues to deliver high-quality games. It is therefore necessary to take into account the lifespan Warhammer 40,000 as a platform. The 9th edition officially started in 2020 with the launch of the Warhammer 40,000 Indomitus box. Judging by the rate at which the last three editions have been released, that means we’ll likely be hitting the first teasers for the 10th edition launch late this year or early next. This means that your $185 investment in hardcover rulebooks will in all likelihood only be out of date for a few more years, at most. Given that the company pushed cross-compatibility between 8th and 9th editions, at least initially, it’s probably not as bad as it might seem for most gamers. Still, that should be part of the calculation when making big purchases like this.
There is a great way out of this money pit, however, and it’s one that’s being modeled to great effect right now on the pages of White Dwarf magazine – the gaming club. a series of articles that began in 2022, White Dwarf staff played a five-person narrative game of kill team on a single and shared ground. Gaming clubs are common in England, but relatively rare here in the United States. The closest approximation is to find a bunch of like-minded gamers at your friendly local game store.
Of course, that same game store also sells stuff. The situation puts US-based retailers, already struggling against big-box retailers and online giants like Amazon, in a tough spot. While a thriving community of gamers will likely drive more traffic to a given store and sell lots of miniatures and books, it can also limit sales of high-end items for playing at home – things like the Arches of Omen: Abaddon book and the Warhammer 40,000 Boarding Actions land set – if a single set is shared by multiple players in store.
It’s a situation further complicated by the fact that Games Workshop is pushing consumers to make online pre-orders on its own website.
Arches of Omen: Abaddonthe first in a five-book series, is available now from Games Workshop and should soon be available at friendly local game stores.
Arches of Omen: Abaddon is available now. The book was previewed using a pre-release PDF document provided by Games Workshop. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.
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