It looks like a new era of Herohammer may be returning to the tabletop.
Warhammer 40K, and indeed many GW games, have long swung between two extremes. On the one hand, you have a wargame, which is dominated by units of common soldiers and tanks grinding across the table. On the other hand, you have a game that is dominated by a handful of massively powered heroic leaders that cut through the chaff and determine games. When the game swings this way we call it Hero Hammer, and it looks like it’s making a major comeback.
8th Edition Represented a Middle Ground
40K has always swung back and forth between characters being too good, and not good enough. For all its flaws 8th Edition actually managed to walk somewhat of a middle ground. In general you had some characters that could be includible powerful, but they were limited and most characters felt like they were in a good place. The major exceptions were the early days of the edition when Morty and Magnus, two massive characters were a potent combo. However changes to the game and newly introduced units soon toned them down, often making such huge characters a liability. Guilliman also stood out as an early overpowered hero, but he lacked the army to really back him up in 8th’s early days.
Later in the edition Smash Captain stood out as a sign of quite literal hero hammer rising. These hammer-wielding heroes dominated games and the meta, and it often felt they were the main players in any army with them. Overall it felt like 8th did a decent job of toning down herohammer, with the Rule of 3 helping and introducing some limits on heroes.
At first glance 9th almost seems to do more to fight hero hammer than 8th did. The changes to the supreme command detachment for instance make it a lot harder to take as many HQs. In addition, most 9th books have some limitations on how many of the “best” characters you can take. This seems to fight the herohammer trend. On the other hand the introduction of the command phase, and the need for things to act during it, has placed more rules and power in the hands of heroes. On top of that most books also have some sort of upgrade, such as Chapter Commander, to make heroes better. You are going to have more characters in most armies than before and they can do a lot of stuff.
The arrival of Magnus, followed by Guilliman, introduced what I’d call the new super hero. These are new and massive centerpiece heroes. They are powerful enough and game changing that you build an army around them, and they can decide the fate of a battle. There is nothing more Herohammer than these characters. 7th introduced two of them. 8th added two more with Morty and Ghaz (Yes Ghaz was around before, but he only really got upgraded to a super character in 8th). 9th has already introduced three with the Silent King, Vahl, and Be’lakor. It’s also given some massive upgrades to characters like the named C’tan and Magnus, as well as Dark Eldar heroes.
Overall it seems like 9th is doing a lot to power up heroes, while at the same time introducing more large “super” characters. All this points to more and more heroes that can dominate a game and a game that increasingly revolves around heroes. In short it looks like Herohammer is back with a vengeance.
Let us know if you think we are living in a new age of Herohammer, down in the comments!