40K: 7th Edition Swan Song: The Good & Bad

The end is nigh for Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition. Let’s talk about the good and the bad…

Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition is arguably one of the most popular editions of 40k ever made. If you look at the large tournaments they had record numbers of attendees. Now that could have been a factor of event location/tradition/spectacle/other but that’s a whole other article. But based on pure numbers, it’s still hard to argue that folks weren’t playing 7th Ed 40k! But now that 8th Edition is days away from release let’s take a step back and talk about some of the good and bad of Warhammer 40k 7th-Era Gaming.

The Good

Collector’s Paradise – If you wanted to buy, build, paint and play with any model in the range you could do that with your current army. It was called Unbound and while it never really took off on the competitive scene it allowed for some insanely fun and entertaining beer-and-pretzels Warhammer 40k.

40k Community Engagement – I don’t think we’ve ever had an edition that has been this thoroughly discussed, dissected, and tweaked by the community. We’ve had FAQs in the past, but between the community generated ITC ruleset (thanks to a lot of hard work from Reece & Frankie over at Front Line and their crew) and the return of the “Official GW” FAQs, it’s been a crazy ride to watch! 7th marked a BIG shift in the way GW engaged the community and that’s probably one of the BEST things to come out of 7th.

Army Combos Galore – I know this won’t be a “good” thing for everyone, but there are a subset of players who legitimately liked how army construction and combo units worked. They enjoyed the [insert name]-stars, the summoning shenanigans, and the “Big-D” weapon lists. They appreciated the ability to finely tune their army for what was arguably one of the most competitive editions ever. I, personally, wasn’t one of those people but that doesn’t invalidate their “fun” any more than mine. If you wanted to play that way you could and you could always find other that wanted to play that way, too.

Game Mechanics – 7th Edition (with all it’s issues) will end up having the “benefit” of being the last edition of a game that had been refined from the same core rule set for 5 editions. Starting with 3rd, which broke off from 2nd and created the core of the rules, all the way through and including 7th, it’s been worked on for a LONG time. I’m not even counting the weird 3.5 edition – but all those tweaks over the years helped to refine the game to what it ultimately ended up as. Now, for a lot of folks, those rules felt bolted on to a clunky system – but they functioned. By the end of it, Warhammer 40,000 7th did become a massive beast of a rule set that was almost unknowable – but it still worked. I think that’s a testament to GW’s rules team and their ability to take that Frankenstein-like monster and get it to be an actual game.

All The Codexes – We saw a return of some old school favorites and we saw the birth of some new armies. But one of the coolest things about 7th is that it ended up being a “finished” edition. Heck, even Sisters of Battle ended up with a functional updated codex – that’s saying something! 7th will go down as a completed editon of 40k and if you’re a collector who has all the books, first off you’re crazy, but secondly you’ve got an amazing wealth of rules, lore, and art for a complete (and massive) game system. Be proud of that. In 20 years you could start your own Youtube Channel and run Retro Videos of your collection!

The Bad

The Allies Chart – Oh boy…where to begin. While there were players who really enjoyed using allies there were many folks who did not. The Allies Chart led to some of the biggest “abuses” the game had to offer. I won’t go into all the gory details, but let’s just say I was not a fan and will be glad to see it go. Especially as a Tyranid Player who never got to play with any real allies…

The Detachment/Formation Bloat – Towards the middle of 7th Edition, I had this crazy idea: I wanted to make-up a formation, bring it to a tournament, and see if anyone would notice that it was fake. I wouldn’t even have made the formation GOOD. I didn’t want to do it to win, I wanted to do it to prove a point about the number of formations/detachments in the game. That was in the middle of the edition and I was feeling confident I could have gotten through a tournament. By the end of the 7th, I’m almost positive it would have worked. 7th had too many formations and detachments that just added a ton of rules bloat and bogged down the game. I’m glad we’re getting a reset button with 8th.

Special Rules For All – Speaking of rules bloat, how about those special rules?! And how about how they interacted with Special Characters? And how about your ability to pass those off to friendly units they joined? Good times, right? No. No they were not. Sure, it wasn’t ALL Special Rules – but a lot of the best ones transferred over. Again, different strokes for different folks, but there were a LOT of players who found this to be one of the most un-fun aspects of the game. They did not enjoy crazy combo units and would actively avoid games where you had [Cool Name Goes Here]-stars.

Game Mechanics – I think that’s a testament to GW’s rules team and their ability to take that Frankenstein-like monster and get it to be an actual game. By the end of it, Warhammer 40,000 7th had become a massive beast of a rule set that was almost unknowable – but it still worked. Now, for a lot of folks, those rules felt bolted on to a clunky system – but they functioned. I’m not even counting the weird 3.5 edition – but all those tweaks over the years helped to refine the game to what it ultimately ended up as. Starting with 3rd, which broke off from 2nd and created the core of the rules, all the way through and including 7th, it’s been worked on for a LONG time. 7th Edition (with all it’s issues) will end up having the “benefit” of being the last edition of a game that had been refined from the same core rule set for 5 editions.

Side Games – I have to GW some credit. At least they were willing to try. Death From the Skies was an attempt to make Flyers relevant again. Giving them more rules, special stats, and basically a mini-game that you could play was an interesting idea. I think Flyers in general had a lot of issues but that mostly had to do with scale and scope of the game. Having super-sonic jets zoom around the battlefield just didn’t seem to fit. But DFtS wasn’t the only side game. What about Kill Team? Assassinorum: Execution Force? Space Hulk? Gangs of Commorragh? Stormcloud Attack? Lost Patrol? Deathwatch Overkill? Shadow War: Armageddon? Wait, scratch that – some of those games were actually really good. My point is that 7th Edition-Era had a LOT of other side games. And while some of those games do stand on their own, some of them felt like distractions to keep players interested in the Grim-Dark.

By no means are these list comprehensive. There are a lot of things you can add to either side. There are some that could be both – but hey, that’s just like your opinion, man.


Let us know your list of Good & Bad in the comments below!

  • The Worst: Power Gaming and the skyrocketing dimensions of the game.

    • LeroyJenkinss

      We’ll always have that. Just dont play with douchingtons.

      • That still doesn’t change that the scale of the game went to ridiculous levels. Remember when a Land Raider was the big thing on the table? Or a Greater Daemon? Now you have Knights all over, flyers, Riptides, Centurios, you name it.

        • Karru


          The main problem I always had with 7th edition was the extremely f’d scaling they did. Top tier armies were playing Apocalypse-lite while garbage tier was trying to compete with their “normie” units.

          • But 8th is not going to change that. Remember Goat-boy saying: “Magnus +3 Renegade Knights is the new hot stuff in 8th” just two weeks ago?

          • Karru

            My Guard army doesn’t really mind too much about that kind of thing any more. Magnus + 3 Knights goes down pretty fast against my Infantry horde.

          • Koonitz

            I think it might be the general effectiveness of these weapons against the big things and the fact that so many people had lots of them because of how many big things were brought in 7th.

            Because of the prevalence of anti-tank weapons in 7th, and how useless every horde army was, causing their representation to be insignificant, horde armies are going to be strong at the start in 8th, because people just don’t have the anti-horde weapons to handle large mobs of light infantry.

            After all, personally, if I bought a predator, it was always going to be a quad-lascannon Annihilator (of course, I have a biased love of the lascannon, too, but that’s beside the point).

            Give it a bit of time, however, and people start re-modeling, magnetizing, or buying new models, and horde armies will balance out a bit.

            Then, when people start bringing more anti-horde weapons, there’ll be fewer anti-tank weapons, so the big targets won’t evaporate quite so quickly anymore.

            Give it time, I think.

          • Karru

            The problem I see with that prediction is that horde armies counter horde armies best. There really is no such thing as a “anti-horde” weapon any more, at least not in my opinion. As horde armies are usually running around with bad saves, using just basic weapons such as Lasguns, Shootas or Fleshborers is enough to damage them, once you have enough of them.

            The only thing I see really “changing” is people taking more Snipers in their army. Backbone of most Horde armies is rolling around characters. That way they can avoid losing loads of models to Morale. That’s why I am actually concerned when it comes to ‘Nids as they are rocking both Characters and non-character Synapse Creatures, making it quite difficult to remove their “Fearless” bubble.

          • I introduce you to my friends formerly being equipped with Hellstorm templates. I doubt hordes will like them very much.

          • Koonitz

            Yes and no, but right now, do we have an example of a model that had a hellstorm template and, as such, do we know how they’ll work in 8th?

            If you look at the Guard Baneblade, which was fantastic at obliterating multiple bunched up infantry units, now only hits one unit. A hellstorm template may be stuck to hitting a single unit, which, against Guard, means you’re probably killing, at most, 10 guys. I can assure you the guard player won’t care that much about that loss.

            Personally, I think flamers have lost some effectiveness against swarms (being, on average, 3-4 hits instead of, often, having an easy potential of 6 or more), and gained some effectiveness against single models (with multiple hits now possible). The hellstorm, I suspect, will be no different, becoming terrifyingly effective against single models but less effective against large numbers of infantry.

          • We haven’t seen the new incarnation of the hellstorm yet and it might indeed suffer from only being able to hit a single unit. I doubt it very much though as it’s the definition of a mass killing weapon. I’d not be surprised if other units nearby could suffer damage from hellstorm weapons and/or if they’d deal a ridiculously big amount of hits.

          • Karru

            Actually, my horde cares very little even at that point. As I haven’t seen a single Hellstorm template weapon yet, so I am going to assume that they are 2D6 hits?

            My Guard army of 1850pts has no less than 19 targets, 3 of them Hellhounds, 8 of them have 9 models each, 2 has 20 models each, 4 have 3 models each and the 2 remaining units have 6 models in one and the other has 10. This doesn’t include any characters. That is 140 Infantry Models and 3 Tanks. In total, that army contains 158 wounds before Characters and Tanks.

            Considering that most Super Heavy vehicles usually start around 400pts without upgrades and can easily reach 500pts, I’m not looking at that many weapons against me. Even with split firing, unless my opponent invests on Snipers, my army isn’t going nowhere on the morale phase, so my opponent has to wipe out my units through shooting or assaulting.

        • rtheom

          Amen to that. When your “models” start to look like they belong on the shelf with the “my buddy” super heroes at WalMart, you got a problem…

  • LeroyJenkinss

    That article is exactly what I was thinking before I read it. I’ve been playing since 3rd edition and it really was such an amazing rule set (that I hated). Way to many details, but it had so much depth. I’m glad games workshop did a reboot with 8th. Just wait until 13th edition! It’ll be just as bloated as 7th. With the reboot any special rule will be amazing since there are barely any. It starts the power creep back at 0!

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      I really enjoyed 7th, my favourite edition by far. Yes you could abuse it, Battle Brothers was a terrible idea and some formations were broken. The psychic phase could be a chore.

      I think between friends it was great though if you got some ground rules down and both wanted the other to have fun too. Some of the books were awesome. Ad Mech,Gcult, T legions, fantastic stuff.

      • Koonitz

        I do agree with this assessment. The core rules, while there were a lot of them, were really nice once you got a hang of it (though it did have the bloat effect making it very difficult for a new player to settle in). They added some depth that can really draw you into a battle (though I think vehicles VS. Monstrous creatures needed some work)

        The problem wasn’t in the core rules. It was with faction rules. Balance wasn’t there.

        It’s why, while I’m disappointed Forge World isn’t updating Horus Heresy to 8th (because now I’ll never get to use my 30k Thousand Sons army as no one around me actually collects a 30k army), I accept their choice. 7th works very well with Horus Heresy because, like stuff in 8th now, a lot of stuff in Horus Heresy is incredibly expensive, making for smaller model-count armies, overall. In addition, since most armies have the same core (Legions), there’s an internal balance between the armies.

        So, if you want to continue to play 7th, collect a 30k army, or find a friend who has one where you have an army that would make sense to play against them (ie: Orks or Eldar).

        On the other hand, I’m super stoked to try 8th out and, if my plan works, I may just get to continue using my 30k army as a stand-in for a 40k Thousand Sons Rubric army with Forge World models sprinkled in.

    • There are loads and loads of special rules. They are on all the datasheets of every unit. I don’t know how you got the impression of there being barely any special rules. Every (Dark) Eldar Unit has like 4-6 of them.

  • I think anyone who is trying to claim that ‘special rules’ in 8th turned out any better, is blind. Instead of having a universally defined ‘deep strike’ rule or a ‘stealth’ / ‘shrouded’ rule or a ‘relentless’ rule, we now have a bazillion different rules on a trillion unit sheets of which all are the same and still may not and you always have to check all special rules of each unit in detail when trying to understand your opponent’s (or even your own) army. I don’t like that at all. Not to mention that some vehicles and some monsters (!) explode while other’s don’t and they all explode differently. 3″, D3″, D6″, 6″, 1 mortal wound, D3 mortal wounds, D6 mortal wounds… You will always keep looking up special rules of units all the time.
    (yea, I made myself an app with a simple summary, but that’s cheating)

    • Daniel R Weber

      But it’s all right there on each sheet and (pretty) clean in implementation vs. the bin of generic special rules with all their implications across multiple factions with their own special rules and so on. It’s now case by case, it’s fewer in some ways but in others simply a cleaner way to implement them.

      • I don’t agree. It’s for me much harder to understand that 5 of my units are being able to deep-strike, but each of them has a rule with a different name saying the same stuff slightly different. And the same is true for my opponent’s army. If I ask him for the abilities of his unit XY, he could’ve told me in 7th: “deep strike, stealth, psycher Lv3, jump infantry”. Now he will need to tell me the content of each rule just for me to notice that it’s basically that – or maybe not – as I showed in “explode”, the same rule is different on a lot of sheets and I can never remember which of my vehicles explodes how. Sure, I “only” need to check the unit’s sheet, but how does it make that better than looking up rules in 7th? It just doesn’t. Not in my eyes.

      • ZeeLobby

        Print the USRs on the sheets. BAM, I solved it, right there! Where’s my money GW!?!?!

        All jokes aside. The “printed on the sheets now” argument is not an argument for/against special rules/USRs. It’s an argument for badly formatted unit entries by GW. They could have easily kept USRs and printed them on the sheets.

        • Viper666.Qc

          The reason they got rid of USRs is simple. Now whenever they feel they need to fix a unit, they can modify the rule on their datasheet without invalidating all the other datasheets that would have the same rule. It’s just futureproofing. But that doesn’t mean it makes it faster to learn the rule because you have to check datasheets constantly.

          • While they can fix the datasheet, that also means that a rule which is probably exactly the same on 50 other units either also needs to be changed (so you gotta buy all books again) or it will be different on this one unit only and thus increasing the special-rule-zoo even further.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah, that’s a double sided road. Now the whole “deepstrike” mechanic needs to be changed. Well now they’re fixing 50 independent rules and trying to rebalance all of them based on previous changes. I’m not sure it really gains anything for us nor GW.

      • I don’t think it’s clean to give the same mechanic different names and descriptions. Deep Strike, Stealth and Explode being the worst examples I found so far. Deep Strike is named differently on every damn unit, but always works the same whereas Stealth has different implementations and names on every unit and Explode having the same name, but different mechanics on different units. I will never be able to learn a rule and keep it in my memory because of this shenanigans.

        • woops, I made a double-reply when reading my history. Sorry. 😛

    • Munn

      It’s a million times easier and anyone who doesn’t see that clearly hasn’t played either one or the other.

      • kobalt60

        8th may be easier, but 7th was hardly difficult.

      • It’s the core rules that are easier. The Special-rule-hell isn’t any smaller than before. Even bigger I’d say.


    Well some of the other games aside, shadow war armaggedon was pretty good and I can definately see it stick around for awhile. Which, judgeing by the rule mechanics of it, that was the intent.

  • memitchell

    The sheer number of “side games” was awesome. And, many of them are damn good. With more to come. These are very good times for 40K.

  • Nyyppä

    The only good thing about 7th is the fact that it is a cautionary example of how to not handle game balance. Otherwise it’s just crap.

    • LeroyJenkinss

      It’s French. It’s all crap

      • Commissar Molotov

        If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.

  • Davis Centis

    The rules towards the end of 7th were truly as bloated as only an Imperial bureaucracy can be. I felt like I needed my own servo skull to navigate the pages, and a cyber cherub to wave incense over the tombs I carried to coax the rules to be what I remembered them to be.

    • ZeeLobby

      It is nice that they’re all on the sheet now. I think they still could have printed USRs on the sheet as well. I mean they made faction and unit type clear with the tag system, a universal system for organizing units. I don’t know why they didn’t just use it for special rules as well.

      • Yea. Exactly that. If 5 units have the same rule, give it the same name and same description and I can easily understand what an opponent’s unit is capable of without first reading all its rules just to notice that they are the same as some of my own units.

        • ZeeLobby

          Yeah. Clearly the GW propoganda has worked, though usually when pressed to think about it, most people don’t have a real good logical reason for why USRs are bad. They just remember having to look them up in a book, and books are bad (or so the newer generations tell me :D)

          • LeroyJenkinss

            8th is a reboot so they can build everything up again on a new platform. They can start the codex creep all over again.

          • And now they still have to look them up. And even more often, because the units don’t share the same special rule you can have on a cheat-sheet, they all have different ones that may or may not work the same way.

        • Munn

          And then you make one army special rule that interacts with that rules and oh look, you just broke 5 units. Or you never give any rules that interact with that rule and then we keep the ‘blandness’ so many people complain about forever.

          • But the special rules are all still there! Every (Dark) Eldar unit has like 4-6 special rules! The only thing that makes them bland is that the rules have barely any impact. At least not as big as in 7th. So why having all this rule-zoo on the datasheets if it doesn’t make a difference anyway?
            If all the stats of all vehicles and monster are nearly the same and the guns have all the same profiles, that’s where blandness comes from.

  • AircoolUK

    Never played 7th. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever drank beer and eaten pretzels whilst gaming. You funny americans, what are you like?

    • Hu. I thought beer and pretzels was a German thing.

      • Commissar Molotov

        We got a lotta ex-Germans here in the ‘States. And we love their beer und pretzels.

        • GreyPanthers

          Pounding beers back was the only way I could play 7th. “Oh you think you have cover? suuuuuuuure!” *shotguns beer*

          • eMtoN

            It’s like its own mini-game.

            Take a drink every time there is a conflicting rules issue. Last person standing wins.

  • Ben Koschnick

    As a collector and a fan of the narrative, formations where great fun even if they did not translate well into a competitive environment. Maybe we will get them back in the future, but they need to be less powerful and restricted to open or narrative play. I know that I personally will continue to try and build 7th ed formations in 8th ed even if they have no in-game use simply because its a fluffly, fun way to build a collection.

  • The narrative was fun.

    The powergaming in this edition was off the chart. It made the 5th edition powergaming days look benign. The points being so far off the mark were the majority of the reason for this.

    I didn’t really mind the allies chart. I minded the broken psycher powers combined with some grossly undercosted power units.

    The free units via summoning etc was another thing that I couldn’t stand.

    Burn the **** with fire until it dies.

  • deuce1984

    Thank the Lord in Heaven for the 8th ‘Reboot’. The game has not been fun (I mean REALLY fun) since the 5th Ed. Ward books skyrocketed the power levels. Beginning and middle of 5th was the best this game has ever been. 8th is looking to do big things!