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Warhammer 40K: 2021 – Year of Chaos, or Year of Xenos?

5 Minute Read
Mar 01

As we wait for the upcoming Drukhari codex, let’s take a stab at what Warhammer really needs this year – Xenos or Chaos.

Warhammer 40,000 9th edition has been here since July 2020 and the codexes are dripping, drip, dripping into stores. We have seen the new edition start off strong, then stop, then accelerate, in the fall, only to slow to a crawl in November-December, then perk up a little in January.  People are chomping at the bit to get out and play, and time seems to drag on extra slowly as there is hope and light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. After twelve months in the new normal (REALLY, it’s been a whole year) you can feel even the normal energy of theory-hammering, or just hunkering down and hobbying away the time – starting to wane.  I think folks tabletop fanatics are emotionally tapped out, and just want to get back into the public space, rolling dice.

We decided to go do a little data-mining to see exactly where we are in 9th and compare it to what GW did in 8th to get an idea of what codexes are most in need of updates, both by timeline, and more importantly, by what the game most needs.

9th Edition

The game launched officially in July 2020 and this is what we have been clamoring for since then.

Indomitus Box – July 11

9th Starter Sets – August 8th

Codex Space Marines – October 3rd

Codex Necron  – October 3rd

Codex Space Wolves –  October 31st


Codex Deathwatch – October 31st

Codex Blood Angels – November 28th

Codex Death Guard – January 16th

Codex Dark Angels – January 30th

8th Edition

Now let’s rewind to June of 2017 and look at what GW machinegunned into our eager hands the last time around.


Dark Imperium – June 3rd


Codex Space Marines – July 22

Codex Chaos Space Marines – August 5th

Codex Grey Knights – August 5th

Codex Death Guard – September 9th

Codex Adeptus Mechanicus – September 16th

Codex Astra Militarum – September 30th

Codex Craftworlds – October 21st

Codex Tyranids – November 4th

Codex Blood Angels – December 2nd


Codex Dark Angels – December 9th


Codex Chaos Daemons – January 6th

Codex Adeptus Custodes- January 20th

Codex Thousand Sons – January 27th

Codex T’au Empire – March 10th

Codex Necrons – March 24th

Codex Drukhari – March 31st

Codex Deathwatch – May 5th

Codex Harlequins – May 19th


Codex Imperial Knights – June 2nd

Codex Space Wolves – August 14th

Codex Orks – October 27th


Codex Genestealer Cult – February 2nd

Codex Chaos Knights – July 6th


Codex Adepta Sororitas – January 11th


As you can see there are some numbers to address.

  • In the first 8 months of 9th Edition we are going to get 7 new codexes – 5 of them Space Marines.
  • In the first 8 months of 8th Edition we got 13 new codexes – 3 of them Space Marines.

The Way Forward?

If you take out the codexes already released in 9th, here are the oldest codexes from 8th that have not been updated:

4 Years Old

Codex Chaos Space Marines

Codex Grey Knights

Codex Adeptus Mechanicus

Codex Astra Militarum

Codex Craftworlds

Codex Tyranids

3 Years Old

Codex Chaos Daemons

Codex Adeptus Custodes

Codex Thousand Sons

Codex T’au Empire

Codex Harlequins

Codex Imperial Knights

Codex Orks

2 Years Old

Codex Genestealer Cult

Codex Chaos Knights

1 Year Old

Codex Adepta Sororitas

Age Breakdowns

Taking the oldest codexes that are 3 and 4 years old breaks down like this:

  • Chaos – 3 codexes
  • Xenos – 5 codexes
  • Imperial – 5 codexes

Surprising isn’t it? It’s not Chaos, but Xenos and all the other Imperial organizations that have been waiting the longest for the love.  Now put yourself in GW’s shoes. You’ve just spent over a year rapid-firing over a dozen Marine codexes into player hands in 8th and 9th editions. – and endured a 12-month major business disruption.

Chaos vs Xenos

Do you think you can send any more Imperial books into the market at this time? You almost have to put some of them aside to focus on something – anything different. And that leaves Chaos –  which is quite popular, but to be honest is also a Marine heavy sub-faction. They are also super popular. If you emphasize them – you get a lot of players excited. If you emphasize them you also continue the all-marines-all-the-time run into 2 full years.

Xenos is kind of a mess – and has been for several editions. It’s a miscellaneous bucket for the standalone codexes like Necrons, Orks, and Tau, along with the smaller factions like Eldar and Tyranids. None of these are individually as popular as Marines, or Chaos. But we have a bit of chicken or the egg situation. Some of these factions WERE very popular in the past, and have fallen to the wayside with long in the tooth miniatures and ho-hum rules. Just as we saw with Necrons, if you take the time to really reinvest into a xenos range, you can make it super exciting overnight.

But giant range overhauls are rare for Warhammer 40K these days. It’s mostly Age of Sigmar that gets that type of attention with all new armies. Still, Necrons show us that GW can surprise us.

So What’s the Verdict?

What I would personally want to see is an assertive and utterly confident GW remolding 2021 into the Year of Xenos, with several revitalized ranges, and some big keyword & lore changes to allow more allies – to make them a viable “third-way” counterweight to the Imperial/Chaos uber-factions.

But if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on GW turning back to Chaos to reset the classic Imperium vs Chaos rivalry, and bring in the larger number of players into the post lockdown buying sprees.

But I can always dream of my all plastic Aspect Warriors – Eldar-Tau alliances, and Exodites.

~What do you think 40K most needs – a totally redone Chaos, or all new revamped Xenos?

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